§ 11.53 a.m.
§ The Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Paul Channon)
I beg to move,That the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1972, a draft of which was laid before this House on 10th July, be approved.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
On a point of order. For our guidance, Mr. Speaker, will you kindly tell the House how long we shall have for discussing this first draft order which the hon. Gentleman is now moving?
§ Mr. Speaker
The length of the debate will of course depend on the number and length of the speakers, but under the Standing Orders debate on this order can go till 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Channon
We have had a long discussion about the extremely serious security situation in Northern Ireland and I know that there may be some hon. Members who will not necessarily wish to turn from that to the more prosaic subject of the reform of education and libraries in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, I believe that it is extremely important to do so. It is the aim of the extremists to destroy all progress in normal life and they must not be allowed to do that. Therefore I think it right that this House from time to time should turn its attention from the day-to-day security situation to the reforms set out and being considered, particularly in local government, which I think will have major significance for the life of Northern Ireland.
Before coming to the order perhaps I may be permitted to tell the House that since I have been entrusted by my right hon. Friend with the task of looking after education in Northern Ireland I have had an opportunity of visiting a great many schools in the Province. I 2047 would have visited many more but for the fact that their holidays begin a good deal earlier than school holidays in the rest of the United Kingdom. I have been most impressed by the standard of education in Northern Ireland and, as I told the House last Thursday in reply to a Question, attendance in schools has been astonishingly high during the past three years. Considering the appalling situation which the people there have had to put up with during that period, I think it reflects remarkable credit on the teachers, parents and the pupils themselves—on all those concerned with running the schools in Northern Ireland. I have written personally to every school in Northern Ireland to thank the teachers for their work during the past three years and I know that it would be the wish of the House to thank them for carrying on in what, especially in certain areas, have been extremely difficult and trying circumstances.
The order which I am asking the House to approve is one of the major changes recommended as a result of the Macrory Committee's reforms of local government in Northern Ireland. I am sure that hon. Members, those who represent constituencies in Northern Ireland and also those who represent constituencies outside Northern Ireland, will be aware of the far-ranging reforms suggested by Sir Patrick Macrory in his paper in 1970, which were accepted by the previous Government in Northern Ireland and which, I think, have had general acceptance by virtually all opinion in the community.
To tell the House how things are running in education in Northern Ireland at the present time, I should explain that public education, apart from university education, which is a separate matter, is administered centrally by the Ministry of Education and locally by eight education authorities. These are the six Northern Ireland county councils, Belfast County Borough Council and, at the present time, the Londonderry Development Commission. The powers and duties of the Ministry of Education and of the local education authorities are determined in the main by the Education Act (Northern Ireland), 1947, and subsequent amending Acts.
2048 Responsibility for the administration of the public library service, with which the order also deals, lies with 16 library authorities. These are the six county councils, Belfast County Borough Council, the Londonderry Development Commission, five borough councils and three urban district councils.
The schools can be divided into three categories: county, voluntary maintained and other voluntary schools. I do not propose to go into the details of these categories. They are extremly complicated. I am sure that the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) has mastered this subject in great detail. If anybody asks me questions on the organisation of the schools I shall do my best to answer, but for the present I leave it at that.
It is exceedingly important that there should be close contacts—and I am glad to say they exist—between the schools of all the denominations in Northern Ireland. These are not as close as one would like to see but they are much closer than many people suspect.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the comprehensive system in education which, as he and the House are aware, are not contained in these proposals, would go much further in bringing the communities together?
§ Mr. Channon
Perhaps I could come on to the point of comprehensive education in a moment or two. All I was saying at this stage was that I have been most impressed by the extent of those contacts between the schools. I have had a list compiled of activities and projects currently shared between the schools of the various denominations. I have been very impressed by the friendliness and co-operation of the teachers in the different kinds of school in arranging joint events. The education service in Northern Ireland has been a shining example of co-operation and good sense during a very difficult time.
Since I have been asked to do so by the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme), I will deal with comprehensive education. The hon. Member is right in saying that there is nothing in the draft order relating to comprehensive education. I suspect that the question 2049 of comprehensive education will be just as controversial in Northern Ireland as it proved to be in the rest of the United Kingdom.
The advisory council which was set up to advise the Minister of Education on education matters is at present considering the whole question of comprehensive education. A report from the advisory council will be forthcoming, I hope, in the fairly near future. I do not know what that report will contain. When it is received it must be seriously considered and there will have to be discussions with all those responsible before decisions are made.
There is nothing in the order to stop comprehensive education, nor is there anything in it to create it. The question will have to be considered at leisure. The decision which will have to be taken is an extremely important one which will be fraught with complications. The existence of this order will neither retard nor accelerate that matter.
§ Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)
In this context, does not my hon. Friend agree that the Dixon plan which embraces the Craigavon area and part of County Down represents one of the best forms of comprehensive education?
§ Mr. Channon
I have studied the Dixon plan; it is a most interesting experiment and there may be a case for further experimentation on differing lines in different parts of Northern Ireland. There does not necessarily have to be a uniform system of secondary education. The area boards can decide to have different experiments. That is for them to determine and not for me or my successors to lay down from the centre. Speaking off the cuff, I might say that the Dixon plan is not an entirely comprehensive system—selection is at 14-plus rather than 11-plus—although there are elements of comprehensivisation in it. I should like to tell my hon. Friend how much I have enjoyed visiting the various schools in Armagh and how impressed I have been both with the county and the voluntary schools which I saw in his constituency and in his town.
I will tell the House why I think it is necessary to change the system. As a result of the recommendations of the Macrory Committee, it was agreed by the previous Northern Ireland Govern- 2050 ment that there should be changes in the structure of local government. Those recommendations were widely welcomed in Northern Ireland and here. The changes were due to come into operation on 1st April next year. My right hon. Friend, when he took up his present duties, had to decide whether it would be right for him to continue with this reform. He took the view, and I am sure it is right, that it would be wrong to delay the reform any longer. Indeed, to have done so would have caused widespread uncertainty and dislocation to many thousands of people who have been preparing for the changes over several years and whose whole futures and careers would have been thrown into complete confusion had a different decision been taken.
The Macrory Committee recommended that education and the public libraries should be a regional service as opposed to a local or district service, but there would have to be some degree of decentralisation and delegation. The committee therefore recommended a two-tier system of administration. The central tier would be the Ministry of Education, which would retain responsibility for policy, finance, law and standards as well as programmes and priorities within the regional, economic and physical plan. The committee recommended that for purposes of local tier administration area boards should be established and the membership of the boards should represent effectively the communities which the boards were to serve. The draft Order in Council gives effect to those proposals.
At the same time, it is a comprehensive measure covering the whole education and libraries systems in Northern Ireland. It repeals virtually all the existing legislation dealing with education and the library services. It has in it a great deal of consolidation. I will comment on those provisions which are not re-enactments or consolidation of existing Northern Ireland law.
Parts I and II of the order provide for the establishment of five area education and library boards. The boards will take over responsibility for the administration of education and public library services in April, 1973. The board areas will be formed by amalgamation of local government districts which were established under the Local Government Boundaries 2051 Act (Northern Ireland), 1971. Hon. Members will see from schedule 1 the boundaries of the boards.
Provisions for membership of the boards are setout in schedule 2. Teachers will be given representation on a board by the appointment of three teachers serving in grant-aided schools or institutions of further education in the area of the board. Forty per cent. of board membership will be allocated to members of district councils in the areas of the boards. The remaining members will represent specific interests such as transferors of voluntary schools, maintained voluntary school authorities and persons appointed by reason of their interest in the services for which the boards are responsible. Three of the persons so appointed must have a special interest in the library service. There is, therefore, effective local involvement in the administration of the service through which public opinion can be brought to bear on the administration, and in the education service that is particularly important.
A new development is the requirement that each board will have a teaching appointments committee. That committee will have the task of bringing greater expertise to bear on the making of senior appointments in schools under the management of the boards and of providing for adequate teacher involvement in these appointments. Towards that end the committee will include two principal teachers in schools under the management of the board in addition to six other board members.
Boards will also have a responsibility in relation to recreational, social, physical, cultural and youth service activities. The order consolidates and rationalises the existing law by bringing together the provision for these activities.
The boards will also be responsible for integrating the already related services of education and libraries so that in addition to its wider functions the library service will operate to the benefit of the education service without being subordinate to it. Whereas at present local authorities are empowered but not required to provide libraries, the order imposes a duty on boards to provide a comprehensive library service.
The order makes provision for development schemes for the library services just 2052 as there are now for primary and secondary education. It will be the responsibility of the board's library committee to prepare these schemes and the committee will also be required to prepare estimates of library expenditure. Premises provided for library purposes will have to conform to standards set out by the Ministry and will be open for inspection by the Ministry. The remaining provisions relating to libraries are based on the comprehensive legislation enacted for England and Wales in 1964.
I would draw attention to article 70 and schedule 11 of the order which provide for the establishment of a Staff Commission for Education and Library Boards. The purpose of the commission is to exercise general oversight of matters connected with recruitment, training and terms and conditions of employment of officers of the boards. Its functions are mainly advisory; executive authority to ensure that advice is taken will rest with the Ministry. One of the commission's functions will be to make recommendations in relation to the appointment and promotion procedure for officers of boards and to this end the commission is empowered to appoint an observer to attend any meetings of a board at which the appointment of officers is being considered.
I emphasise that the order is largely based on the Education Bill which received a Second Reading in Stormont in March this year. The Bill was broadly welcomed, and I think it would be fair to say that there was no attack upon its general provisions, although there were a few points of difficulty which, naturally, I have had examined.
Perhaps the most important issue raised on the occasion of the debate in Stormont was the question of the school leaving age. That issue was raised by almost every hon. Member who spoke on that occasion. As originally drafted, Clause 34 of the Bill—which is article 36 of the order—provided for two school leaving dates, summer and Christmas. At present there are two school leaving dates, spring and summer, and the change to Christmas was originally included in the draft Bill to facilitate apprentice employment as envisaged in the 1970–75 development programme. Strong representations were made that the Christmas date was not educationally acceptable.
2053 I took note of these representations which were made and I authorised the discussions which the Ministry of Education had with interested parties. It will be seen that the draft order now provides for the continuance of the present Easterand summer school leaving dates, except that in 1973 and 1974 there will be special arrangements whereby a limited number of boys may be permitted to leave school at Christmas to take up approved apprentice training.
These arrangements will apply only for the remainder of the current Northern Ireland development programme—that is to say, 1973 and 1974. They will be confined to pupils who in those years attain the age of 16 between 1st September and 31st December and whom the Ministry of Health and Social Services has accepted for entry in the following January to a Government training centre or other training centre approved by the Government for a course of full-time training leading to skilled status in a recognised craft. Such young people will be deemed to have reached the upper limit of compulsory school leaving age at the end of the autumn term and will thus be free to leave school at the beginning of the Christmas holidays. I believe that this compromise has been widely welcomed by Northern Ireland opinion. I hope it will prove to be a satisfactory solution to an extremely difficult problem which gave a great deal of concern when the Education Bill was drafted in Northern Ireland.
I turn to two other points and I do so with some trepidation in the presence of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). However, since the hon. Gentleman raised a number of points on Second Reading of the Education Bill in Stormont, I must now refer to them.
The hon. Gentleman will know that in the order the provision for religious education in schools is substantially the same as in the 1947 Act. This matter has a very long history. It has been influenced on the one hand by the wishes of the transferors' representatives of schools and on the other hand by Section 5 of the Government of Ireland Act which prevents the Government of Ireland from passing any law which would give any preference, privilege or advantage on account of religious belief. These provisions have been in operation since 1947 without there having been any serious
2054 criticism of them, but in view of the criticism made by the hon. Gentleman on Second Reading of the Bill in Stormont I have given this matter considerable thought.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Will the hon. Gentleman make clear to the House that my criticisms were also expressed by the Leader of the Northern Ireland Labour Party, the Leader of the Alliance Party and by a prominent ex-Cabinet Minister, Sir Robert Porter? Therefore, I was not alone in my views.
§ Mr. Channon
I was not suggesting that the hon. Gentleman was standing alone on this matter; if it appeared that I did, I apologise to him. It was merely that he is alone among hon. Members of this House in having voiced these views.
I am advised that little criticism has been voiced about the arrangements during the 24 years which have elapsed since the 1947 Act. In view of that fact, it appeared right to continue with the order in the same way as it was originally drafted. I have had no representations from anyone to the contrary.
I wish to inform the House of one small change in paragraph 2 of article 17, where there is a slight amendment to the Bill. This deals with teachers who wish to be excused from their duties and who, instead of being excused on grounds of religious belief, can now be excused on grounds of conscience. This is a modest improvement. I do not put it forward as a major change but it may be of some help.
The third point of substance which was raised by hon. Members in the debate in Stormont and which has given me a great deal of anxiety is the whole question of the transferors' representatives, and in particular the composition of school management committees and the number of transferors' representatives who are to serve on them. In order to explain what transferors' representatives are, I must go briefly into the history.
Before the Government of Northern Ireland was established there were no local education authorities with any general responsibility for education, although urban districts had been empowered to provide technical education. In 1923 local education authorities were introduced on English lines through counties and county boroughs. 2055 Among other functions the local education authorities were enabled to establish and maintain their own schools and also to manage schools transferred to them by voluntary managers. It was some years before they could get a building programme under way to provide their own schools and the number of voluntary schools transferred to them remained small.
At that time the Roman Catholic Church authorities declined to transfer schools at all and the Protestant churches were almost equally reluctant. The Government reached the conclusion that the major obstacle in the way of transfer of schools was that the voluntary school authorities were not satisfied that after transfer there were adequate safeguards to ensure on the one hand that religious and ethical teachings repugnant to the parents of the pupils would not be imposed upon the pupils in the schools at the wish of the education authority, and on the other hand that religious and ethical teaching which accorded with the view of the parents would be positively provided for the pupils.
To meet this difficulty the Government proposed in legislation in 1930 to protect the character of the education provided for pupils attending particular voluntary schools by ensuring that, if a school was transferred or superseded by a new county school, the transferors of the voluntary school, irrespective of denomination, should have the right to nominate at least half the members of school management committees and that parents should have the right to nominate a further quarter of the members.
In view of the comments made on Second Reading in Stormont, I have discussed this matter with a number of people. I have discussed the problem with the leaders of the main established Protestant Churches and with a wide variety of people. In view of the undertakings given in 1930, and in view of the strong feelings which have been expressed to me, I came to the conclusion that it was right that there should be no change in the 50 per cent. representation accorded to transferors and superseded managers on primary and secondary intermediate school management committees.
2056 Those were the three major issues raised with me during my discussions on the Bill.
§ Mr. Channon
The legislation dealing with oaths in Northern Ireland is exceedingly complex. It is contained in a number of Statutes and is conflicting and haphazard. My right hon. Friend and I came to the view that, rather than make the situation more haphazard, it would not be right to include the Clause which was originally in the Bill since it would have made the officers of boards subject to the requirement about the taking of an oath. That is the only sense in which the requirement has been changed. This does not affect the position.
§ Miss Bernadette Devlin (Mid-Ulster)
In view of the fact that the members of education boards will be no longer required to take oaths, may we look forward to the prospect of teachers no longer being required to take oaths, because this would help greatly towards the integration of education, especially on the part of teachers?
§ Mr. Channon
The teachers' oath is not dealt with in this order. It is contained in the Promissory Oaths Act (Northern Ireland), 1923. It would raise an entirely new issue to consider changes, repeals or extensions of that Act at the moment. There are many anomalies in the situation about the oath in Northern Ireland. All that my right hon. Friend and I are doing at present is not to increase the anomalies further by extending the oath to the officers of the new education boards.
Since I have been in Northern Ireland, apart from my other duties I have thought it right to discover whether these proposals in general have widespread support before asking the House to approve the order today, especially in view of the unusual circumstances in which we have to proceed by means of an order. I have discussed the matter with many people—teachers, parents, leaders of the main Protestant churches, leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, education committees, existing local government bodies and many others concerned with and interested in education in the Province. In a reform of this 2057 size obviously there are many points of detail on where there may be differences of opinion. But I have been pleased at the general reception that these proposals have had. I think that the reason for it is the enormous measure of consultation which took place in the drafting of the Bill before it was originally presented to the Northern Ireland Parliament.
It is fair to say that there is no major disagreement about the general principles enshrined in the order from any substantial section of the community, as far as I know. They are widely recognised as an advance by the overwhelming majority of informed opinion in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
The hon. Gentleman will be aware, however, that discussions about detailed points will be continuing now that we have the order. Will he undertake to consider the representations which are being made by the ATTI about the possibility of teachers being represented on the governing bodies of institutes of further education?
§ Mr. Channon
Yes, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice that he intended to raise this point. I have been in touch with the ATTI. I wrote to Mr. Driver several days ago. The points raised by the ATTI are not affected by the order. I have suggested to that body that discussions should take place, and in September or at any rate later this year there will be opportunities for the ATTI to make its points. I am advised that the terms of the order do not preclude any settlement at a later date. The ATTI need not be worried about the passage of the order.
To embark upon a programme of major local government reform takes a great deal of time and heart-searching and raises a great many problems which have to be overcome. In order for this operation to work as smoothly as possible and to be in operation efficiently on 1st April of next year, it is essential that this and other related orders should be passed into law at the earliest possible moment so that people may be appointed, so that contracts may be entered into and so that all the thousand and one matters of detail can be considered so 2058 as to arrange matters efficiently before 1st April of next year.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
On page 65 the order, which refers to the appointment of people to the proposed boards, says that a person shall not be considered for appointment if he has been convicted by a court in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the British Isles of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for a period of not less than three months. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are at present offences in Northern Ireland which in ordinary circumstances would not carry prison sentences but which under the mandatory offences automatically result in six months' imprisonment? There are many right-thinking people in the community not engaged in any activity which would tell against their serving on a board who, because of the terrible situation prevailing, are receiving sentences of six months' imprisonment with magistrates actually saying "I will sign an appeal to the Governor of Northern Ireland to get you out of prison", and with the police saying that they will countersign such an appeal. Ought not that paragraph to be looked at again? As it stands, it disqualifies a section of the community which could help in these matters.
§ Mr. Channon
I note the point which the hon. Member raises. It is not one that has been raised with me before. I shall consider what he says and reply to it when I wind up the debate, assuming that I have leave to do so.
If the order is to be approved, it is essential that it should be approved at the earliest possible date so that education in Northern Ireland next year may be administered as efficiently as possible. I hope, therefore, that the House will allow this draft order to be approved.
§ 12.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees (Leeds, South)
The Minister of State has explained the purposes of the order, the main one being to set up five education and library boards as part of the reorganisation of local government. It is the latter point which justifies the procedure under the Temporary Powers Act where, if it were not for a Friday, this would be a debate lasting one and a half hours. The wide-ranging 2059 matters which arise out of what the hon. Gentleman has said illustrate the problem facing this House if direct rule continues and if there are not appropriate methods devised for this House to deal with matters of this kind. Certainly when we come to the next Session it will not be appropriate to proceed in this manner.
We on this side of the House support the order. I note what the hon. Gentleman said about the general agreement that there is in Northern Ireland. I personally acknowledge the extra time that the Government have made available for this matter today because, despite the agreement, there are matters concerning education in Northern Ireland that this House should consider. As a general matter, that is the purpose of this House, and it may be that there are changes which will be made by this Parliament or by some other Parliament in the future.
In recent weeks the hon. Gentleman has assisted me greatly by providing a considerable amount of factual information. There are wide problems concerning education in Northern Ireland about which most of us know very little. I wish to raise a number of them, not in any definitive way but in order that I might play a part in the discussion.
We on this side support the order because it simplifies administration. However, in that connection perhaps I might ask the hon. Gentleman one question. What is the size of population in each board area? Perhaps that is an appropriate matter to deal with after the debate.
We support the order because it associates libraries and education. That is a sensible step to take because the two go closely together. We are glad that the order provides for teacher representation on the area boards. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) has raised one aspect of this.
I note that the order makes provision for nursery education. Can the hon. Gentleman tell us what it means? Provision is one thing. Money is another. What is the Government's view on nursery education? I presume that, as in this country, there are some forms of nursery education already in Northern Ireland. But what does the order do?
2060 The Minister of State has referred to the valuable change in Article 17(2) where the word "conscience" has replaced the expression "religious belief". We think that that is an excellent idea.
With regard to the declaration of allegiance, of which I have obtained a copy for greater accuracy, the hon. Gentleman has cleared one point; that is, that all that is happening here is that from the order, unlike the Bill, the oath of allegiance for the officers of the board has been removed. In the context of education because it still remains in this form, or something like it, for teachers—we ought to know what it says. It says:I"—whatever the name is—hereby declare that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office"—no doubt that would be different for a teacher—to which I am appointed … and that I will render true and faithfully allegiance and service to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Her heirs and successors according to law and to Her Government of Northern Ireland.That latter part is something that we should not even begin to ask a teacher in this country to sign. We do not owe allegiance to a Government of this country. That is the whole point of the political system and this place.
The hon. Gentleman has explained very clearly. He has done the right thing with regard to the Bill. The next step is to get that removed in other parts of Northern Ireland life. While I see the difficulties, when it comes to next Session and the hon. Gentleman has given the name of the Act concerned, it and the Special Powers Act will need to be looked at urgently.
I shall not go into detail about the school leaving date. The hon. Gentleman has made the point. The Northern Ireland Labour Party made the point in Stormont. The hon. Gentleman has changed it, and now the time for leaving school is spring and summer. The hon. Gentleman has explained also that it is a compromise.
This problem is the clash—if that is the right word—between education and training, between apprenticeship and education. The hon. Gentleman has explained that it will end in 1974. I hope that I can assume that after 1974 there will be a uniform leaving date. It must 2061 be in the summer because, except for children who are not involved in examinations and who are in a sense forced to stay to the end of the school year, it means a fragmented last year at school. When people have achieved a certain amount of adulthood and maturity, at almost whatever the leaving age is it is a valuable thing to get the whole of that last year in. It is most important.
I turn now to the question of the transferors and schedule 4(2)(a). I note that it is to be 50 per cent. of the members. The hon. Gentleman has gone into the history of this, from 1930 to 1947 and 1968. He has had discussions. But since those days, particularly since the 1930s and 1947, there are bigger schools, there is a higher school leaving age, there are new schools on new sites with the old schools having become church halls. New churches have been set up where there is no representation. Mr. Vivian Simpson, who was an NILP Member at Stormont, suggested that it would be far more appropriate to have 25 per cent. representation by the transferors.
The view he put forward was that one-quarter should be representatives of the transferors, one-quarter representatives of parents and chosen by an entirely new method, one-eighth representatives of teachers, one-quarter representatives of business, industry or agriculture, and one-eighth representatives of the local district council. I do not stand, and neither would Mr. Simpson, by that precise proportion, but this needs looking at.
I have had a memorandum, as have many right hon. and hon. Members, from the churches, the Presbyterian church, the Methodist church and the Church of Ireland. They make the point about the existing system of transferors representing continuity. I agree. They speak of the calibre of transferors' representation. These members are chosen with regard for their connection with the school. I have no objection to that and can only take the statement as it is given. I am sure that the pastoral link is of value.
They go on to say:It may be that the time will come when the religious integration in schools in Northern Ireland may be envisaged as a desirable development"—and so on, I take the spirit in which we received the document. We could not and would not seek to alter it today 2062 because there has been agreement. But it is one thing that ought to be looked at carefully.
§ Mr. Rees
There are many problems on this question of transferors which will need to be examined, I hope by the House of Commons or in some other way. There is the question of the performance of church schools educationally. I should like to raise a number of matters here, and, because I have no direct knowledge of it, I am not speaking from experience, which makes a great difficulty.
I raise these matters because I have read with interest a document by Mr. J. M. Malone, published in June, 1972, called "Schools Project in Community Relations". Mr. Malone was seconded for a year from the headship of Orange-field Boys' School to investigate the contribution schools might make to improve community relations. He was responsible to the Ministry of Education. This brief publication is not a report to a committee. There is no longer a committee to which to report. Therefore, it is published in a personal way.
I must make it clear that I am taking what Mr. Malone said as a matter which we ought consider rather than just quoting an article by a Mr. Malone whom I have never met and assuming that he has found the truth. But he was working for the Ministry of Education and it was not just an odd article. He says:The churches, Protestant as well as Catholic, have had an excessively instituttional interest in education which has manifested itself in concern about management and control, rather than the quality of learning experiences which are offered to children. (The failure during the last 25 years of all the churches to be concerned about the segregation of children on social and intellectual grounds at 11 is relevant.) For many years, for instance, the Protestant churches expected secondary schools to follow the primary school syllabus in Religious Education, which in fact amounted to no more than a list of Old Testament and a list of New Testament passages, and continued to expect 'repetition'. And they have exercised control by an annual 'inspection' 2063 which it would be difficult to justify on either educational or moral grounds.Inspection is one thing. I have many quarrels with the system of inspection that has grown up over the years. But with inspection of religious education what is one measuring? One cannot measure the end result, until, God willing, 70 years later. But I am on dangerous ground.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that in State education—and these schools have been transferred; they are State education schools and no longer Protestant schools—the happy way would be to allow ministers—who are allowed in this building—the clergy of the various churches or people appointed by various churches, to go in and teach their particular type of religious education, and take the whole of religious education out of the hands of teachers and let teachers get on with the secular part of education? Would not that be the happy way to deal with the matter? As this is supposed to be a reforming Bill, why does not the House do a little reforming instead of accepting the rubber stamp Bill printed by the Stormont Government, which never even had a Committee stage?
§ Mr. Rees
Next time round when we get to this there will be an intresting discussion. I note the hon. Gentleman's point about school chaplains, as opposed to teachers, getting involved.
About the Catholic Church it says—the 'rain falls on the just and on the unjust':The Catholic Church emphasises that its schools exist not only to ensure that appropriate instruction in religion is given to children, but to enable a Christian atmosphere to pervade all the work and activity of a school. This broader aim…may be little more than a wish, a hope, and aspiration, when set against the reality of schools, with their confused objectives, their differential treatment of pupils according to ability, the rise of sub-cultures which reject the school ethos, and the hatred with which many pupils view their political religious opponents.It addsIntolerance is not a product of Catholic schools: indeed Salters in his unpublished research has shown that on the whole Catholic children tend to be more tolerant than Protestant children.We are not getting the fundamental truth in this article. I am saying that, having 2064 considered Catholic schools, the report says that intolerance does not arise there.
§ Mr. Simon Mahon (Bootle)
Is my hon. Friend able to tell the House about the educational standards achieved in church schools in this country? Their educational standards are sometimes higher than those of county schools and sometimes lower, but there is a good balance between the two. There is little proof in this country that church or religious education has anything but a good effect on the whole of the education system.
§ Mr. Rees
I lifted what I said out of the Malone paper. This is a question which the House ought to consider. As well, attention ought to be paid to the valuable work done by church schools over-all. Earlier this week I was at the prize-giving day of a church school—a Catholic school—and I can only agree that, as a generality, what my hon. Friend said is true. Now that we are involved in the functions of Northern Ireland, if these matters, are raised they should be discussed not only outside this House but in it.
§ Miss Devlin
Would my right hon. Friend accept that, while one is criticising the Northern Ireland education system, one is not making attacks on religious schools? But what is not the case in this country but is the case in Northern Ireland is that, whether we like it or not, religion has become a political and prejudicial factor, and, therefore, to continue to treat religious schools in Northern Ireland as though we were talking about religious schools in this country is to ignore the facts. Religion is a prejudicial factor in Northern Ireland, in the same way as colour is in America. We have systematically to set about bringing in a coherent policy for integrated education. My belief is that integrated, comprehensive education is the only way forward, but it is not something that will happen by accident. We must recognise the rôle of religion as a prejudicial factor in Northern Ireland and legislate to remove it.
§ Mr. Rees
My hon. Friend has raised a matter about which I know little, but it is a matter in which I am interested, which is different. It is easy to look from 2065 this side of the water at the problems of Northern Ireland and try to find a simple answer. As I find from my post bag, simple answers cover a variety of matters.
Religious segregation is one part of the problem, but it cannot be the whole of it. I am taking up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) and also by my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) with whom I have discussed these matters outside the House.
I must accept the various agreements made with the churches. In any event, when one looks back to 1944 and realises the problems in this country of getting agreement, one has to face the fact that there are powerful forces at work here, as there are in Northern Ireland, of which we have to take account. The existing system is not easily swept aside, and nobody here is arguing that is should be.
The Scottish Council of the Labour Party looked at the problem in Scotland where, on the West Coast there are sectarian schools, and it made two recommendations. It said:We urge the Secretary of State to provide funds for research into the social effects of separate provision in respect of Catholics and non-Catholics.We urge Universities and research bodies to consider undertaking allied research."
We ought to take this idea further and learn much more about the matter in Northern Ireland. When we refer to Northern Ireland we use the words "majority" and "minority" because we do not want to use the words "Catholic" and "Protestant". Religion is an issue in Northern Ireland, and a little research in a narrow field would give us more information about it.
On the question of comprehensive education, the Minister has explained that, unlike our 1944 Act, there is no general statement—which was the wording of the Act—which spelled out in a longer phrase the Tawney concept of "secondary education for all" which had been worked out over the previous 30 years. I should like to make it clear that I thought that the statement made in the Leeds University Journal on Educational Administration and History by Lord Boyle, who was previously the Secretary of State for Education, summed the matter up. He said: 2066It now seems reasonable to predict that by 1974 or 1975 in many areas of England and Wales the non-selective transfer from primary or middle school to secondary school will become the norm and what may then surprise us is not that this change has taken place but that its implementation waited so long.We have heard this morning of the Dickson plan in Armagh, which is not fully comprehensive. There are still grammar schools and selection at 14. My educational tenet is to believe in the comprehensive principle and allow children to get on in a variety of different ways, and implement the principle according to the needs of local areas. It is not worth arguing about different methods now. They ought to be looking at the problem in that way in Northern Ireland when there is talk about being part of the United Kingdom. Taking the words of Lord Boyle, that is what happened here over the years, and we ought to be looking carefully to see that the same thing should happen in Northern Ireland. When I look at the ghetto areas of Belfast—Protestant or Catholic—it seems to me that the comprehensive principle has a social rôle to play in the future.
I know that the matter of religious education was raised at Stormont by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), when he explained the difference between evangelical and ritualistic Protestanism and the relative claims to authorisation of the King James and New England Bibles. All this arises out of article 16(2), because in this order there is to be undenominational religious instruction based on some authoritative version of the Holy Scripture. I should hate to have to teach Christianity based on some authoritative version of the Holy Scripture. It is a pity that it is put in that way, but I realise that this is the result of discussion.
§ Mr. Channon
If the hon. Gentleman can think of another version that will be more acceptable, he is a better man than I am.
§ Mr. Channon
The provision has been in for 24 years, and I understand that it has caused no problem. However, I agree that it is a difficult issue.
§ Mr. Rees
Perhaps I could leave the matter by simply saying that I hope it will be considered and further discussed, because it is important.
I think that there was ready for publication a report on moral education in the Province, called "We live in Northern Ireland", which went to the Schools Council and the Ministry of Education. It would be a good idea if it were published as part of our wider thinking about education in Northern Ireland.
The Minister has met the point about parents. I ask whether any thought had been given to representation on area boards.
How does Ulster compare with the rest of the United Kingdom in educational expenditure? I have been told—I cannot get the exact figure—that the expenditure per head seems to be below that in the rest of the United Kingdom.
I note from my researches of the past day or two that teacher qualification, if graduate studies matter in this fundamental respect, is better in Northern Ireland, and that there is a smaller turnover of staff.
I am glad that libraries go together with schools. Books are the most important liberating force in education. Is the Minister happy with the number of staff available? Is the expenditure on libraries in Northern Ireland greater or less than the norm for the rest of the United Kingdom? I hope that there is no question of censorship on anybody's part of books going into libraries in Northern Ireland.
We learnt last week, in a reply to a Question, of the great attendance record in schools in Northern Ireland—90 per cent. That is remarkable, in the situation, and a tribute to parents, teachers and the LEAs. I add my tribute to their work.
Raising the issues we have raised today is in no sense a criticism of the fundamentally good work that is obviously being done, particularly in the face of the troubles, by schools of all kinds. I only wish that we had far less of the kind of discussion we had after the statement earlier today, and that now that there is direct rule we could spend much more time discussing the sort of topic we are now debating. It is a rewarding subject to consider. Whilst I have questioned what may be done in Northern Ireland, I 2068 know from what little research I have done that I have much to learn from Northern Ireland education, and we could all have very fruitful debates. Let us hope that we have more of them, and not more statements such as we heard earlier.
§ 12.53 p.m.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)
I share the view of the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) that it is rewarding to discuss matters like education and libraries. This debate presents us with a hope for a better future in Northern Ireland. However, the disabilities under which the House discusses Ulster affairs makes the significant discussion of education difficult. However much we may talk, whatever views we may express, whatever proposals attract the attention and sympathy of the House, we cannot amend an order. We are powerless to make changes however desirable they may be. Today we are debating education, which all will agree is the mostvital social and community question in Ulster. Yet we suffer the same restrictions as we had when debating the electricity service, as we did last week, or fertilisers, as we did a few weeks ago.
This is not the first time Irish education has been discussed in the House under restrictive procedures. For over a hundred years until 1920, when responsibility was passed to Belfast and Dublin, Irish education could be discussed in the House only on a Motion that the total amount of Vote money should be reduced. John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Nationalist Party, is recorded as having had to do that on two separate occasions to draw attention to certain details of education in Ireland, then the second of the three Kingdoms. Indeed, Parliament has had little influence on education in Ireland since it tended to leave it, as it did other matters, to the Lord Lieutenant of the day.
Perhaps the most noteworthy thing an Irishman can claim for education in Ireland is that a national system was introduced in the Pale around Dublin in 1537, 130 years before Scotland enacted the Parish Schools Act and 330 years before the great English Act of 1870. That was an early beginning, but there was a very slow advance thereafter, for by 1788 there were only 361 parish schools in Ireland and by 1826, when the population topped the 6 million mark.
2069 1½ million more than the combined population of both parts of Ireland today, there were still only 782 schools. Of the 37,000 children in attendance at them, about one-third were Roman Catholics.
Hon. Members will forgive a very short look back. The parish schools led to the nineteenth century's famous Commissioners of Education and eventually to the national schools. These were translated in Ulster, after 1920, into public elementary schools catering for all school age groups. Unfortunately, the Roman Catholic Church refused to co-operate with the new local education committees, so the only schools which were handed over to the committees were the Protestant schools. The result is that today Northern Ireland has a dual system of education—voluntary schools, for the most part Roman Catholic, and county schools, catering almost exclusively for the Protestant majority.
The Irish education system, both in the Republic and in Northern Ireland, reflects the cultural complexities of the country and the social and political realities. It is a tragic story of a rampant denominationalism. The hon. Member for Leeds, South mentioned religious instruction. I intend to leave it to my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) to deal with that subject, authorised versions of the Holy Bible and the vexed question of access by the clergy to primary and secondary schools. Other hon. Members, I trust, will deal hopefully with integration and zealously with the comprehensive principle. I hope they will, for I am sympathetic to both concepts.
§ Mr. Mahon
The hon. Gentleman mentioned John Redmond and his contribution in this House. John Redmond was a man for whom I have the highest possible regard, but it might put the hon. Gentleman's argument into perspective if we went back as far as Daniel O'Connell, a liberator of the Catholic Church, who brought about Catholic emancipation. His interest in education was not limited to the Catholic people. He said in the House in 1827, talking about Liverpool schools, the forebears of public education, long before London and Manchester:I do not hesitate to say in the presence of the hon. Member for Liverpool, that the 2070 experiment in common education has succeeded there. Will you refuse to the poor populations of other great towns the same advantage?That does not show any partisanship on the part of Daniel O'Connell.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
I am delighted to have given the hon. Member an opportunity to quote Daniel O'Connell. Although I have referred briefly to the historical position, I am not going to be tempted into a discussion about early Irish education. Since this Measure has already passed the Second Reading stage at Stormont, I shall confine myself to a number of specific issues.
I am sure that hon. Members, accustomed to the democratic basis of most committees in England and Wales, will be astonished to find that the area boards for education and libraries are to be comprised of persons all of whom are appointed by the Minister. They have to be appointed by somebody, but a close examination of schedule 2 leads me to the conclusion that between 40 per cent. and 50 per cent. of the total membership is not only appointed by the Minister but nominated by him.
We do not know how big in membership the area boards will be. However, we know that both the maintained schools and the transferred schools are to have representatives on the area boards. Looking at the maintained schools' representatives I hope that the order will not operate to prevent the authorities of maintained schools from choosing a person other than a trustee to be a representative on their area board.
Transferors' representatives have had a long and honourable history in Northern Ireland education. They were the persons who established the education system by voluntarily transferring their schools to the education committees. Had they not done so, it is doubtful whether the progress of the last 30 or 40 years would have been possible.
Under the order it is theoretically possible for the transferors' representatives to be one-quarter of the membership of the area board. However, since there is no area in which all the schools have been transferred or are likely to be transferred, that theoretical proposition will never be achieved. I can see no circumstances in which the Roman Catholic Church will transfer its schools to the area boards.
2071 No one seriously objects to the maintained schools being represented on the area boards. These schools receive 80 per cent. capital grant from the Ministry and 100 per cent. of running costs, provided they accept a modest measure of public representation on their governing bodies—the famous or infamous "2 and 4" committees. The "2" refers to the representatives appointed by the education committee and the "4"to the representatives appointed by the Roman church. For the most part the schools are under Roman Catholic management and they are usually referred to as Roman Catholic schools.
Under the order the maintained schools are to get three-quarters of the representation to which they would have been entitled if they had transferred their schools. That must be regarded by the Protestant churches, which voluntarily surrendered their principal interest in education by transferring their schools over 40 years ago, as an over-generous response to intransigence.
The House will be interested to know that in evidence to the Public Accounts Committee, the former Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Education, Mr. Benn, who is now the Parliamentary Commissioner for Complaints, stated that 96 per cent. of all expenditure on voluntary schools was met from public funds. That was before 1968, when maintained schools status was introduced with a higherbuilding grant. How in those circumstances the Roman Catholic Church can claim that those schools are its schools is beyond my comprehension. They are almost completely paid for from public money.
I do not think it is prudent either to entrench the voluntary principle by enhancing substantially the amount of public money which is paid to voluntary schools' management committees, or by providing a very generous measure of representation on the area boards. At the very least, surely my hon. Friend would require maintained schools and perhaps even the ordinary voluntary schools to undertake to accept more than one-third public representation on their governing bodies.
Unfortunately, it is often the case that the two public representatives on the 2072 management committees of the maintained schools are nothing more than witnesses with little to contribute to the management of the schools. All too often, they appear to be excluded from all the vital decisions, particularly those in relation to the appointment of teachers. These important matters seem to be dealt with before the management committees actually meet. I should like to think that my hon. Friend would make a special point of examining the complaints which one hears from the public representatives on maintained schools committees that they are not allowed to play their full part in the management of the schools.
I am glad to see that three teachers are to be included on each area board. But I wonder why practising librarians are not also to have their representative. Since they are not mentioned in the order, I presume that it would be open to the Minister, when appointing the three persons with an interest in the library service, to include a professional librarian among the number. They should not be less well treated in this respect than school teachers.
I welcome, too, the proposed teaching appointments committee. This is a new departure and is a response to criticisms made over a number of years that teachers are frequently subject to unprofessional questioning by inexpert appointments panels. One has often heard complaints that questions were posed which appeared to the teacher to have little relevance to the school-room situation. I should like to know what is meant by "senior appointments", to which my hon. Friend referred in his opening speech. Does that include, for example, vice-principals of primary schools or assistant teachers with posts of special responsibility? I assume from Schedule 3—perhaps my hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong—that the proposed appointments committee will not be concerned with ordinary teaching appointments. I would hope, however, that if the scheme is successful it will eventually be extended to include assistant teachers.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Paragraph 2 of Schedule 10, states:Subject to the provisions of any regulations made by the Ministry, a board may, without advertisement, appoint a teacher to a vacant post …".2073 Does not my hon. Friend feel that instead of being the rule it should be the exception to the rule, and that the rule should be that all teaching appointments should be advertised?
§ Mr. Kilfedder
I thank my hon. Friend for drawing my attention to that matter. It is a matter worthy of consideration. I shall be interested to hear what he has to say if he has the good fortune to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
The quorum arrangements for the teaching appointments committee of one person from each of the four groups could be a difficulty. One person from one group failing to turn up could prevent the Committee from transacting any business. Ill disposed persons could easily arrange a boycott of the meetings. All that would need to happen is for, say, two district councillors to refuse to attend the meeting. The difficulty could be overcome by allowing a quorum of four from only two of the categories rather than from the four groups. An arrangement for substitutes is proposed, but a period of bad weather could leave the committee without a quorum. So that the school management committee cannot usurp the power to appoint, I should prefer to see a requirement to submit three names to the teaching appointments committee if there are more than three applications and all the names if there are three or fewer applications. I have only one comment on the membership of the teaching appointments committee. It would be helpful if either the director of education or one of the assistant education officers could be among the members.
The old term "county school" is to be replaced under the order by the new term "controlled school". I am very disappointed at that change. We had an order on the electricity service, in which the former name of the electricity service in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Electricity Board, was dispensed with and anew name substituted. Here again we have a new name brought into the education system. The term "county school" is a well known and respected term in Northern Ireland, and "controlled school" imputes something less good. The nearest equivalent in Great Britain would be the council school, although I know from my own experience that council schools in many areas in 2074 England have a better teaching record than many independent schools. But names are important, and while voluntary schools are to be allowed to retain their existing name, I see no real reason or justification for changing "county" to "controlled". I would put in a plea for my hon. Friend to have a second look at this matter. I should have thought that the teachers in county schools would be entitled to enjoy the same privilege of status and the honour which comes from a long association with a name which has won respect everywhere in Northern Ireland, the name of "county schools".
When the announcement was made by the Ministry of Education some months ago that another 25 or 30 nursery schools would be built, I do not think anyone realised that they were to be divided along the traditional sectarian lines. I find to my dismay in Article 8 and in schedule 4 of the order that nursery schools, like grammar, primary and secondary schools, are to suffer the same sectarian divisions. One would have hoped that at that tender age, up to the age of six years, the churches would not object to all children being educated together, but apparently that is not to be the case. We can only regret it and I think that most hon. Members in the Chamber today do regret it. I do not know whether the Minister would consider having a round table conference with the heads of the various Churches to see whether a new relationship specially for nursery schools could be hammered out. Surely some measure of desegregation could be achieved.
I also welcome the change in articles 25 and 26. It is long overdue that a child should be examined by a child education psychologist as well as by a medical officer when some question arises about special education treatment and whether it is necessary. It is good to know too that the legislation requires that the basis of the determination shall be the child's physical, intellectual, emotional and social development. I welcome the change because it will result in more flexible attitudes towards dyslexia, the hard of hearing children who are not actually deaf, and the partially sighted children who are not actually blind, all of whom are frequently found in ordinary classes in ordinary schools, sometimes to their disadvantage and sometimes admittedly to their advantage.
2075 I wonder whether the teacher, who knows the child very well, should not also be present at the examination, and perhaps the parent should not be overlooked. I agree, and I think that most people would accept, that the experience for the parents of such children can be emotional and that they naturally tend to interfere, but they should be given an opportunity to attend such an examination.
I should have liked to have seen provision including the Youth Employment Service. Although the Youth Employment Board has been extremely successful in Northern Ireland, it has rather lacked the immediacy of direct and continuous contact with the intermediate, grammar and technical schools. This is a contact which it would be easier to bring about if it were organised on an area board basis.
I think, too, that the real work of the Community Relations Commission and the Ministry of Community Relations is education and there is a sense in which responsibility for community relations should be a part of the functions of the area education boards. The work of the Ministry of Community Relations ought to be absorbed into the Ministry of Education, and I hope that my hon. Friend will look seriously at that suggestion.
With the raising of the school leaving age to 16 we may expect more boys and girls to be stimulated to undertake further education courses. I expect therefore that there will be a demand for financial assistance, and I am glad to see that article 43 makes provision for that. I wonder whether any consideration has been given to the level of financial assistance which is regarded as suitable for boys and girls between the ages of 16 and 18. I presume that the parental contribution criteria will remain unaltered although I am conscious that there is widespread criticism of this. I expect that it will be some time before the general policy decision is taken.
I welcome the proposal to set up a supply teacher pool. One can envisage many circumstances when teachers from a supply pool would be of enormous benefit to the education system. More and more attention is being paid to "in-service training"; and courses usually 2076 require the full attendance of the teacher, so that the availability of a teacher from the pool is very desirable. Perhaps the Minister could say whether voluntary maintained schools are to have their own pool or whether they will be prepared to take teachers from the central pool. There has been difficulty in the past with Roman Catholic voluntary schools preferring to employ teachers of their own faith, teachers from the Eire or Ulster Catholic colleges of education or, secondly, a college of education in Great Britain.
To achieve absolute fairness and impartiality in the appointment of teachers it is essential to devise elaborate and carefully framed provisions, and this is what I think we find in part I of the schedule. But these arrangements, I notice, apply only to teachers in controlled schools. This is a great pity, because the charge of discrimination is made on all sides in Northern Ireland. Should there be a charge of bad administration or discrimination, the complainant can always go to the Parliamentary Commissioner or the Commissioner of Complaints. But this cannot happen if the complainant is dealing with a teaching appointment in a voluntary or maintained school. Not only have those schools not got the elaborate and carefully framed provision set out in the schedule, as an ordinary safeguard imposed on them by Statute, but the Parliamentary Commissioner has no function in relation to them. Thus, there is neither an official nor an unofficial sanction to encourage them towards a fair and impartial method of appointments, and apparently nothing is available to the aggrieved.
The Down County Education Committee has been giving clothing grants to children at school on a generous scale for a number of years. Under the order it becomes the duty of the area board to provide clothing for children, and it will have to get the Minister's approval to its proposals. There is no objection to the grants becoming mandatory, but the difficulty for the area board is in assessing the cost for the payment of the grant. Account has to be taken of the total amount which the family is receiving from State funds, including supplementary benefit and family income supplement. As we all know, the Ministry of 2077 Health and Social Services in Northern Ireland is very skilful and knowledgeable in working out these things, and it has all the information. The case for transferring this responsibility to that Department seems strong.
I deeply regret the decision made a number of years ago—nothing to do with the Minister—to abolish junior technical schools in Northern Ireland. Many of our technically trained managers received their initial training in those schools. It was in the junior technical schools that they aspired to go after their higher national certificates and diplomas, and many of them eventually obtained degrees in technical subjects. The schools were non-sectarian, and there was no question of selection at 11-plus to hinder their progress.
The latest movement among the voluntary grammar and intermediate schools is, I regret to say, to include technical subjects in their curricula. The reason for this is that the Roman Catholic bishops have no control over the technical colleges in Northern Ireland which are non-sectarian and they prefer their students to remain in schools under the control of their church for as long as possible.
If this movement goes unchecked, it will reduce the number of students going to the further education institutions, which are non-sectarian, as I have said; and it could eventually lead to a smaller proportion of children from those voluntary schools gaining admittance to higher national certificates and technical degree courses at the Northern Ireland Polytechnic, or the Ulster College, as it is also called.
I appeal to my right hon. Friend to stop the spread of a religious apartheid in education in Ulster. In South Africa the white minority practises racial apartheid to separate itself from the black majority. In Northern Ireland it is, I regret to say the Roman Catholic minority which insists on religious apartheid for its schoolchildren, keeping them separate and distinct from the majority. I would not say that this applies to all members of the Roman Catholic minority but it applies in particular to the church. The Government have taken drastic and dramatic measures in Northern Ireland since 24th March; they have taken away the Stormont 2078 Parliament and imposed a neo-colonial rule. There can be no question of an improvement in community relations in Northern Ireland, which we Unionists want to see, until boys and girls can learn together and play together.
Surely a Government which have suspended Stormont will have the courage and wisdom to eliminate religious apartheid in the Ulster school system? Bus-ing in the United States has assumed an importance which has allowed it to dominate part of the Democratic Party presidential nomination. At least in the United States bus-ing has a justification; it is an attempt to desegregate the schools, to encourage a greater racial mixture.
We have bus-ing in Northern Ireland, of which we hear little in this House. It has been going on since 1947 and costs £1½ million a year and it is getting more expensive all the time. Unlike the United States, however, this bus-ing in Northern Ireland is meant to maintain segregation. Its purpose is to divide the pupils and to separate them. If the Government do not have the courage to move immediately on the question of integrated education in Northern Ireland perhaps at least they will look at this question of school transport. If we imposed stricter control on the use of free transport for this purpose—bus-ing children past a number of other schools to their own church school—then that might go a long way to encourage integration. This is what we all want. This is the real hope for Northern Ireland.
I should like to pay tribute to the directors of education and the staffs of education committees in Northern Ireland, and particularly Mr. Frank Ebbitt, the Direction of Education for County Down. Anyone who survives as a director of education in Northern Ireland has qualities of character and ability above average.[Laughter.] I think that the laughter from the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) means that he agrees with me. The director of education has to keep the peace between warring factions and deal with awkward problems of administration at a time of rapid change.
I understand that between 5,000 and 6,000 local government officers have to be redeployed as a result of changes in local government. Many of these will be in education. I wish these people well 2079 in their new jobs and trust that the transition will be a welcome one. If it is any consolation to them, I cannot see the new local government system lasting more than 10 years. There is much too little democratic participation to warrant a longer life than that. This is perhaps something to which they can look forward, along with many other people in Northern Ireland.
§ 1.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Simon Mahon (Bootle)
After listening to the tragic news this morning from Northern Ireland I said to my self—even though I intervened briefly after the statement by the Secretary of State—that I would not make another speech on Northern Ireland until after I had made an up-to-date visit to that area. While there was a little hilarity from an hon. Member this morning, I felt more like crying than smiling. I listened to some of the pessimistic remarks of the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder)——
§ Mr. Mahon
They sounded that at the time. I would rather have listened to the more constructive remarks he has to make about the position in Ireland. I am not knowledgeable about the whole situation there but I know a little about it. If there was the possibility of taking a party of Members to look at the schools in Northern Ireland and to discuss them, it would be beneficial, if not to everyone, then certainly to the hon. Member for Bootle.
The hon. Member for Down, North spoke about the confusion over controlled schools, voluntary schools, county schools, maintained schools, direct grant schools and so on. It is confusing but these are the embellishments of education. Although I support comprehensive education I have never believed that it is possible to bring it about in one fell swoop. All my life my job has been to keep open doors for people and not to close them. There were so many doors closed against the Catholic and the Orange people on Merseyside that it has been incumbent upon people like myself to try to open as many educational doors as we could. When people recommend the closing of certain types of school I am loth to do that quickly.
2080 I would advise the hon. Gentleman to be patient. He mentioned the Scottish system. My father was an educationist and politician and one of the saddest times of his life was when the hierarchy of England and Wales turned down the possibility of going into what was generally called the Scottish system. There were two reasons for that. One was that we always felt that we were financially deprived, and the other was that in Scotland all church schools—I do not like the words "Catholic" or "Protestant"—all voluntary schools received a 100 per cent. grant on capital building and full maintenance.
I was surprised recently when an hon. Member opposite asked me whether voluntary schools in this country received any capital grant. I thought everyone knew we received 80 per cent., and I believe that it is 80 per cent. in Northern Ireland, too. The fact that there is the 80 per cent. grant does not take away the right of recognition from those who built the schools. I have been a manager of different kinds of schools all my life. I feel that the management of schools in Ireland and in this country has been reasonably good.
I do not like to hear it said that the clergy responsible for these schools are indulging in some gerrymandering. Where I do take issue and umbrage is over the remarks of the hon. Gentleman when he seemed to say that all that was wrong was that there was a segregated system of education. If that was all that was wrong and was all that was stopping peace coming to Northern Ireland, would not Cardinal Conway, Dr. Paisley, would not I, would not the hon. Member do this in a morning? Why did the hon. Gentleman not talk about discrimination in housing? Why did he not talk about the discrimination in jobs?
§ Mr. Kilfedder
If we wanted to discuss discrimination in housing, as the hon. Member alleges, we could take up considerable time in the House, but I do not think that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would allow us to do that. The tragedy is that young children in Northern Ireland believe that children who go to different religious schools are distinct and that they have nothing to do with them. That is the sadness of the situation. Corruption begins at an early age. It does not much matter what happens after the age of 16.
§ Mr. Mahon
I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would not wish me to discuss segregation in other aspects of society. We would be less than honest, in examining the education position, if we did not examine what happened to children when they left school. I do not agree with the suggestion that Christian education is the trouble. I believe that it is the lack of the application of Christian principles which is causing the trouble in Northern Ireland.
It was at a Catholic school. I was at an elementary school, and an Irish Christian brothers school later. I was not indoctrinated to hate anybody. I joined the British Army, one of five brothers, and we served in the best regiments of the British Army. We wanted to love people all our lives. If I were to apply to my fellow men the things which were taught to me in my religion, I should be a far better man and I would be more tolerant.
Suppose the Government were to accede to the request made by the hon. Gentleman and we had a particular type of secular society. Does anybody say that, in view of what has happened over the last five or six years in our country, with the departure from the Christian principles to which we all adhere, we have very much to be proud about? Despite all the mistakes which Christianity makes and has made, and despite the lack of perfection, I would rather see society develop in that tortuous way than in the way to which the hon. Gentleman and I are opposed.
Suppose we were to get rid of the church schools. What would we put in their place? Would we have a nothingness? Would we create an educational and social vacuum? Catholic and Christian schools have made a positive contribution to progress in this country.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the difficulty could be solved by the clergy of the various denominations going into the schools and teaching the Christian ethic according to their conception? I do not advocate secularism. I believe that the door should be open to all religious bodies in the State schools so that the clergy of the various denominations might go into them and teach religion.
§ Mr. Mahon
I am delighted by that intervention. May I recommend to the honourable doctor, without patronage, a book which I have with me called "The Crucial Experiment"? It deals with the question of religion in English education from 1827 and was written by an English lecturer at Liverpool University, Dr. Murphy. It deals with the situation which the hon. Gentleman describes. The experiment failed.
I should like to give the history of this matter. In 1827 the Liverpool Corporation decided to do something about the problem and it set up two schools—a North school and a South school. The purpose was to do precisely what the reverend doctor suggests. I should have no objection if it could be done today. I do not say that it would be of help in the immediate situation, with the growth of ecumenism. There is not much difference between us. We in Liverpool have long since forgotten the difference between Orangemen and Catholic. The reverend doctor knows that; he has been there. We live in perfect tranquility. The only difficulty we experience arises on Saturday afternoons when we have to make up our minds between the Liverpool and Everton football clubs. I wish that that was the only question to be decided in the north of Ireland.
§ Mr. Frank McManus (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)
May I point out to my hon. Friend that he has perhaps lost the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) now that he has started talking about ecumenism, because we all know that the hon. Gentleman is a dedicated opponent of ecumenism in any form?
§ Mr. Mahon
As is said, there is hope for everybody in the Kingdom of Heaven.
As I have said, schools were set up in the north and south of Liverpool. Children of different religions went to them. It was a bold and crucial experiment. Had it been a success, it would have altered the whole structure and we would perhaps not be talking in the way that we are talking about the establishment of one sort of school or another. The experiment failed because people could not agree.
Since then many years have passed. We are at fault for the fact that we have not been able to agree. I always want 2083 to throw an olive branch to anybody, but it is an indictment of all of us—Catholics, Protestants and people in other parts of the world—that we cannot agree. This is the sort of imperfect world which we have inherited. For anyone to blame the establishment of Catholic schools in the north of Ireland for the segregation of the people is wrong. I have been in schools in this country. We have had our difficulties in this country. But is there any difficulty between a Catholic school in Birmingham or in Liverpool and another school? Of course there is not. We have always been able to live together and to get on with each other.
People in the north of Ireland talk about loyalty. That hurts me as a Catholic, because I wonder whether they are inferring that since I am a Catholic and have an Irish background I am not loyal. Even though my family and ancestors have been in this country for 150 years, I am still Irish and a Catholic. Does anyone suggest that my loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen or to my country is impaired because I am a Catholic? I know many Catholics from the north of Ireland who are loyal, upright people. They have inherited a situation and they have no control of it. They may even hope for a united British Isles with the complete accession of the people of the Republic. But hoping is no good.
I am always prepared to work towards greater unity, and if we can achieve it through the schools, then all the better. But let us not blame the establishment of certain schools for what has happened in adult society.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
The hon. Gentleman is not comparing like with like when he compares English Roman Catholic schools with those in Northern Ireland. The great problem in Northern Ireland is this. Apart from the religious segregation—to which we must be opposed, which schools encourage, bringing up children within a particular religious sect and teaching them only that religion and not to favour children of opposing religious beliefs—the history books which the children study are very different. I have studied some of the history books with which children in Catholic schools are taught, and they are loaded with republicanism, not with loyal thoughts. That is taught 2084 to the children at a very early age and instilled into them and leads in later life to the sort of emotionalism which is one of the root causes of the present disturbances.
§ Mr. Mahon
The hon. Member is on the essence of the argument. I am not an historian, as much be apparent to the House on occasions, but I have been told by historians that most of this history is not true. That might be appreciated by people both in the North and in the Republic with their respective opinions and history books, and I would imagine that, with good Irish generosity and imagination, a lot of the things which have been said and written will be understood to be not true. However, there is recent history, and it is true, and readily understandable.
I would like it to be possible for there to be an agreed syllabus, but it can come only through slow and natural growth of favourable opinion among the people in Northern Ireland. Certainly that depends on getting rid of the violence of the moment so that people can sit down together quietly and responsibly in a dignified fashion to discuss these problems. I would like to see changes. I can see no difficulty about little children going to school together. The order itself, on page 18, speaks of religious instruction being given in schoolsother than a nursery or special schoolbut children in nursery and special schools can come together and that is what the order means. It could be arranged between the Churches, but it will have to be a slow and natural growth brought about through an extension of mutual understanding.
Why cannot this take place when children are in different sorts of schools? It has been encouragingly said by the Minister today that there are contacts between the different schools. He said he found those contacts most encouraging, as also he found the figures of school attendances. I have always looked at the encouraging things. It is easy to find depressing things. I set out to find and to say encouraging things. I have spoken long enough, but I would point out that in different parts of the world, America, Holland, and certainly in this country, church schools are not associated with antagonism between people on religious 2085 lines, and to blame the troubles in Northern Ireland on the church schools is to evade the truth about the deep differences which have long existed there. To suggest, as some do, that common schools would work wonders shows lack of understanding. The people who say that there should be common schools must be able to show some reason in the educational process why they would be so successful. I know from long experience that schools are not necessarily a wonder drug, and if they are to exert unifying influence, those responsible for running the common schools would need to be themselves united.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
The suggestion for integration does not come only from Unionists and my hon. Friends on this side. It came from the hon. Lady for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin), who is not here at the moment, but who, in an intervention, said she favoured integration. Would the hon. Member not accept that united approach?
§ Mr. Mahon
My own party knows of the stand I have taken over a long time, and I have been responsible for Amendments proposed to Education Bills in this House. I have not been speaking of Unionists and Conservatives specifically in Northern Ireland. It is not only Northern Ireland people who are opposed to Catholic schools. There are lots of people in this country whose avowed intention is not only to get rid of Catholic schools but to get rid of Almighty God in schools. That has to be understood. That is the sort of world in which we live. I have been to the Far East and to other parts of the world and I have seen what has happened and what is happening, and I have spoken of this over and over again. I have not been speaking of people belonging to my religion or to the hon. Gentleman's religion. There are in this world people who are opponents of all religion, and there are some people who use parliamentary influence to see that this comes about and who have already made tentative attempts to see no further public money given to the voluntary schools.
I would make this suggestion—I do not know whether the Government will agree with it or not—that they give 100 per cent. grant to the voluntary schools, and in that sense we equate them with the county schools. In my own church we pay 20 2086 per cent. of every bill for building a school. We are grateful to successive Governments for the help which has been given, but all the time we are conscious of the fact that our schools are special schools because we have to make for them a contribution extra to the contributions made by ourselves and our fellow citizens towards education. In Scotland it seems to be all right, but I think that in England and Wales and in Northern Ireland we could go some way further yet in having an equation in finance for the schools. It is not only a matter of money; it is not only that one wants more money; but the making of money available would show a promise of a wider equation between the different schools and those to whom they belong. Why should not we start off on that financial consideration in Northern Ireland?
I think that I have said more than I intended to say, but I think I have made my point that simply to blame the schools system for the differences which there are among the people in Northern Ireland is an exaggeration. Faced with the tragic and dreadful situation we have in Northern Ireland, I would ask the churches and the education authorities to look at the educational position to see what can be done in the immediacy of this dreadful situation to bring the two communities closer together. We can start with the children. Where the parents have failed, where else can we start, except with the cradle
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
This debate today is of the utmost importance because not only are we shaping the new education system in Northern Ireland but that education system will help to shape the lives of the boys and girls of the present day who will be the men and women of tomorrow. Therefore, it is of vital importance that we discuss this order in all its details.
It is to be greatly regretted that in the present system of the administration of Northern Ireland there is no opportunity for any representative of Northern Ireland in this House to move an Amendment or in some way alter some of the details of the order. He would have to be a very proud Minister indeed who would say that an order of this nature with all its ramifications in education should go through without having regard 2087 to its detail and without opportunity for the House to amend parts of the order as perhaps we would be able to amend details in a Bill. It is in a spirit of hopelessness that we take part in a debate which, when it is all over, will not alter by one iota the shape of things to come in education in Northern Ireland. This is regrettable. There is a spirit of hopefulness also that perhaps the Minister will take cognizance of some of the things that are underscored in the House today so that in future some force may be given to the suggestions that are made.
I fully sympathise with the Minister of State. He is in a difficult situation. He has received a legacy in the form of legislation that must be enacted to ensure that Northern Ireland keeps pace with local government legislation in England and Wales. The legislation arises out of the Macrory Report, but that report was first and foremost an investigation into local government. As the education system of Northern Ireland was tied into a series of county education committees, which were statutory bodies and not just education committees of the county councils and of the County Borough of Belfast, any change in local government necessitated a change in the administration of education.
The Northern Ireland Government failed in its duty by not issuing a White Paper on the subject. If there was to be a drastic change in the education system, surely it was the responsibility of the Government of the day to issue a White Paper outlining the proposals which it had in mind. Instead we had the Bill, which has been transformed into this Order in Council. There are to be massive changes. When those of us who know the education system in Northern Ireland ponder the facts set forth in the Order in Council, we know exactly what those changes are.
Before I deal with the Order in Council, I should like to pay a tribute to parents in Northern Ireland. In answer to a recent Question by the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) the Minister gave us the remarkable statistics of school attendance, which should impress every hon. Member. In spite of all the commotion and troubles, the parents have been sending their children to school. I 2088 include in this tribute the teachers. The teaching profession has risen to the full zenith of that honourable profession by encouraging confidence in the pupils attending classes which has resulted in such a high percentage of attendance during this difficult period.
I pay tribute also to the people who have given their time to school management committees and county education authorities. Those of us who know something of their work would be lacking in good manners if we did not pay a public tribute to those people for the time they have given and the zeal they have shown in furthering the interests of education in Northern Ireland.
The history of education in Northern Ireland is different from the history of education in this country, a point which we often fail to understand. Can the Minister tell me of one voluntary primary school that is a Protestant school? In the early days the Northern Ireland Government wanted to set up a Stale system of education. They approached the Roman Catholic hierarchy and the various church bodies which had schools in Northern Ireland and asked whether they would come into this system. As the leaflet which has been distributed by the churches tells us. for a time the Protestant churches resisted, for the simple reason that they thought that if they held out they would get grants for their schools. I might differ from other hon. Members on these benches about this, but I think that if the Roman Catholic Church wants to have its own schools it is entitled to have them, just as any other religious body which wants its own school is perfectly entitled to have it.
But the Roman Catholic Church was wiser than the Protestant Church. When the Protestant churches handed over their schools—and this is an historical fact which is resented by many Protestants today—the Government moved in and gave larger grants for voluntary schools, and the whole system of grants was reorganised. Today there are no really Protestant schools and Roman Catholic schools. There are voluntary primary schools, but I do not know of one voluntary primary school that is a Protestant school. The other schools are State schools which have been handed over and which are run and controlled by the education 2089 committees set up by the State. Voluntary schools which are under what we call "two and four" committees receive only an 80 per cent. grant, but teachers' salaries are paid wholly by the State.
When it was announced in the House that we should be dealing with this subject today, the draft order was not available in the Vote Office. All that was available was the Bill, and many of us had to do our homework on the Bill rather than on the draft order.
Article 14 provides that the transfer of voluntary schools shall be a matter for arrangement between the trustees of the schools. That envisages, perhaps in the future, the handing over of the schools. Will the Minister enlarge on this? The Stormont Minister of Education, Captain Long, when questioned on this, in the usual ministerial style skated upon very thin ice and did not deal with the matter. On transfer will all the liabilities of the schools be taken into account?
In article 16 we come to the most important part of the order, namely that dealing with religious education in schools. I do not wish to lend my voice to the idea of the putting out of any particular piece of religious instruction in the schools but I wish to draw attention to the wording of article 16(7), which says:Ministers of religion and other suitable persons, including teachers of the school, to whom the parents do not object shall, subject to paragraph (8), be granted reasonable access at convenient times to pupils in any controlled or voluntary schools".I believe we have there something worth developing in terms of the school system in Northern Ireland. That might be the key in dealing with integrated education. This will not happen overnight. We shall not go to bed tonight and tomorrow wake up to see an integrated system in Northern Ireland. Nor will the Republicans wake up tomorrow and find a united Ireland, certainly not if we have anything to do with the situation. This is a matter which, if fully developed, could lead to integrated education in the fullness of time.
Children who play in the street together are not segregated. Willie plays with Pat and Seamus with James, but when the time comes for them to go to school, instead of the children enjoying the sort of companionship they have been used to, they attend schools which work under entirely different rules the one from 2090 the other. One child will attend a Church school and his companion a State school.
I would not like to see any segregation in the nursery schools and I would oppose any such move with all the vigour at my command. If the Government intend to pursue that line, it will be a course which will bring no blessings upon them. That would be a terrible road to follow in any new system of education.
We must remember that other religions are involved which cannot be put into either the Roman Catholic category or the Protestant category. A number of people have come into Northern Ireland who belong to the other great comparative religions. Is it not right in these circumstances that children should be taught together and that, when the time comes, they should be taught the religious tenets by leaders of their own religion? This would be a happy way out of this difficult problem.
What amazes me is the form of religion which is to be taught. I can understand the Roman Catholic hierarchy saying "In our schools the dogmatic religious teachings of our church will be taught." They have every right to say that, but let us look at what is to be offered in the State schools. I refer to article 16(2):In a controlled school the religious instruction required by paragraph (1) shall be undenominational religious instruction, that is to say, instruction based upon the holy scriptures according to some authoritative version or versions thereof but excluding instruction as to any tenet distinctive of any particular religious denomination".The order suggests a form of religion which it is impossible even to comprehend.
Let us take the simple doctrine of the Trinity. There is a denomination known as the Unitarians. They do not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity as a specific doctrine of the Christian religion. To teach Trinitism to them is to seek to teach them a denominational tenet. I absolutely disagree with them, but I would point out that they are as much entitled to say that that is a denominational tenet as somebody else is to say otherwise.
Why should teachers have such an impossible burden imposed on them? How can they teach such a liquorice-allsort, dolly-mixture type of religion which they themselves cannot possibly understand? 2091 No wonder they welcome the fact that a conscience provision is written into the order. I personally welcome that provision, because if I were a teacher I would want nothing to do with any suggestion of trying to give this sort of religious instruction.
The paragraph refers to "some authoritative version". Who is to say what is an authoritative version? Is it to be the Jerusalem Bible, the New English Bible, the Authorised Version, the Revised Standard Version or the Version to Modern Man? Who is to decide? The Government are seeking to include in the order things which it is impossible to teach. Had the Government been a true reforming Government in the matter of education in Northern Ireland, they would have deleted that provision and would have allowed the Ministers of the various denominations to handle these things for themselves.
I do not want to go deeply into matters of theology but there are one or two points I should make. We might consider the bearing of these provisions on the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, for there are certain forms of rationalistic Protestantism which would totally reject that doctrine. Surely one has only to look at this order, to see that it is impossible to teach such undenominational religion. However, it appears that the Government intend to do nothing about the situation and therefore are failing in their duty.
I turn to the appointment of teachers and to the question of their suspension. This is a difficult matter. Some teachers in Northern Ireland have had differences with their school management committees and it has taken two years to clear them. It has meant that for two years the question whether they should be allowed to continue in their profession has hung in the balance. The hiring and firing of teachers is not properly safeguarded in the order. However, I must say that I welcome the safeguards that are already written into it.
I wish to draw attention to schedule 10 to the order, on page 80, paragraph 2 of which says:Subject to the provisions of any regulations made by the Ministry, a board may, without advertisement, appoint a teacher to a vacant post.2092 Everyone in Northern Ireland knows that the practice of appointing people without advertising the posts has been a great bone of contention.
§ Mr. Maurice Foley (West Bromwich)
Can the hon. Gentleman assist us? When he refers to page 80, is he using the authorised version or a different version?
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Certainly I am not using the Jerusalem version. This is the authorised version, and the passage to which I have referred appears at the top of the page. I am glad to be able to put the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) on authorised lines.
I think that this should be the exception rather than the rule in regard to teaching appointments. I should have thought that instead of putting right at the beginningAppointment of principals and certain other teachers in controlled schools",this should be the exception rather than the rule——
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I am afraid that I do not agree. I feel that the only two exceptions arethe school management committee of the school to which the appointment is to be made has given to the board its prior consentandthe teacher is either a teacher in the school to which the appointment is being made or is a person employed either in a controlled school under the management of the board".I do not think that that should be the rule in filling a teaching appointment. There could be people outside an area who would want an appointment in a school in the area. Why should such people be debarred from the chance of securing that appointment? That is a vital point. Many people in Northern Ireland believe that the advertising of posts is only a farce and that they have no chance of getting such an appointment. I feel that when we deal with this matter the exception should not be made. It is a very important matter, and the Minister of State cannot get out of it as easily as he imagines.
Another point that I wish to make concerns the transferors. In order to help 2093 the hon. Member for West Bromwich, I ought to say that I begin with schedule 2 which deals with the constitution of the boards. In an intervention earlier I drew attention to the provision on page 65 dealing with the resignation and disqualification of members, and I wish to emphasise what I said about it.
Paragraph 6(l)(c) says:A person shall be disqualified for being a member of a board or of a committee or sub-committee thereof if … (c) he has within the five years immediately preceding the day of his appointment or at any time thereafter—(i) been convicted by a court in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the British Islands of any offence and ordered to be imprisoned for a period of not less than three months without the option of a fine".In ordinary circumstances probably it would be useful to write such a provision into an order of this kind. At present, however, we have the Mandatory Sentences Act in force. There are offences in Northern Ireland which if committed in England would result in a small fine but which in Northern Ireland result in an automatic sentence of six months' imprisonment.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) only just escaped as a result of a series of amnesties, otherwise he would have found himself eating porridge in a certain place.
There was a case recently where a magistrate said to a man who appeared before him "I have to send you to prison for six months. But I will now write out a petition to the Governor and you will get out. However, under the Mandatory Offences Act I must put you inside for six months." That is a matter that the Government ought to have borne in mind when they were drafting this provision. On both sides of the political fence there are people with deep convictions who are caught up in the present troubles and who for five years must repent. Only after that will they be allowed to be appointed to an education board. Of course some, like the hon. Member for Belfast, West, will never repent.
§ Mr. McManus
I am sure that the House is following the hon. Gentleman's argument closely. To demonstrate whether he has been consistent, will he say whether he supported or opposed the 2094 Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill when it was considered at Stormont?
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I am happy to answer that. Members of the Opposition at that time made a deal with the Government to allow it through if in return they got another piece of legislation concerning incitement to hatred. I tried to strengthen the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill. I called the bluff of the Government party and I kept the House sitting from 2.30 p.m. until 8 o'clock the following morning.
§ Mr. Fitt
Is it not a fact that the hon. Gentleman tried to double and in some cases treble the mandatory sentences? Will he say why he opposes this legislation when he refused to go into the Division Lobby when the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill was passing through Stormont?
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I welcome the opportunity to do that. Reports of the debates are available in the Library of this House. I said that the Bill would not do what it was supposed to do. I said that it was a foolish Bill and that I intended to move a series of Amendments to double the sentences and thereby to call the bluff of the Government party. The hon. Member for Belfast, West went home to bed, but I continued the argument throughout the night, It ill behoves the hon. Gentleman, having absented himself from Stormont and taken a long holiday, to come here today suggesting that there has been anything inconsistent in my behaviour. I am surprised that he should try to make an issue out of this matter.
§ Rev Ian Paisley
I voted against the Bill every time I moved an Amendment, which is more than the hon. Member for Belfast, West did. He did not move even one Amendment. He cannot get away with that argument.
I come back to the appointments to those education boards. I find myself in agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) who says that democratic principles have been superseded. I feel that there ought to be stronger representation on these boards from the district councils. What is more, 2095 the appointment of three teachers to such a board is quite inadequate. It is under-representation to have only three people representing the teaching profession on a board which supervises the education system in an area. I feel that there should be better representation.
I turn to the constitution of the management committees and perhaps I might ask the Minister of State a few pertinent questions. Can he tell us, for example, how many school buildings which were transferred originally are now being used by the education authorities in Northern Ireland? I am not talking about the schools as entities. I am inquiring about the properties that were transferred. Can the hon. Gentleman say how many of these schools were handed back to their original transferors and are now being used for other things connected with the various churches? How many of these transferred schools are now ruins? How many are in the possession of other interests which were not originally connected with education?
Today I find it very hard to believe that it is good for the education system of Northern Ireland that half of every school management committee should represent the original holders of this particular school property which was transferred in the early 1920s. That was a very long time ago. As was said at Stormont, the ghost of the past still has its hand on these schools.
Let me make a criticism of the Protestants who on the education committees represented the transferors' interests. The people who attended the Belfast Education Committee for the appointment of teachers were representatives of the Protestant churches. Their purpose was to see that their particular adherents were appointed to certain jobs. That is a fact. I can illustrate it. I know a gentleman who belongs to a group of people known as Plymouth Brethren. He was trained and he went to the Belfast Education Committee to get a job as a teacher. He was refused, not because he was not qualified but because he did not belong to the Methodist church, the Irish Presbyterian church or the Church of Ireland. It was those churches which had the representation. I do not know how many times that young man was dis- 2096 criminated against by the education committee because of his religion.
Let us make no mistake about it. There will be 50 per cent. representation. Every hon. Member for a Northern Ireland constituency, especially the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder), knows something about this problem. But let us not blink it in this House. We are to have 50 per cent. of the representation on every school management committee reflecting one particular denomination. Because these schools were controlled by particular denominations they were not mixed schools but Church of Ireland schools, a very few Methodist schools and many Presbyterian schools. In a district with children of Church of Ireland, Presbyterian, Methodist and other religious denominations attending a school that is the direct descendant from the original transferred school, the management committee will have a 50 per cent. representation of one religious denomination. That is wrong and the House should take cognisance of that.
It is all very well for the churches to hand out a sheet of paper saying that it is essential, that this is a right, that it is not a privilege and so on. When the education system was built, no one envisaged that we should come to the present situation when the structure of the schools would be so radical and totally changed. I am not saying that these people should not be represented. They should be represented, but they should not have a 50 per cent. representation.
In the Stormont House of Commons, a House known for polarisation for years, there was a debate across the whole spectrum of religious thought. I am aware that hon. Members from the Republican Opposition or the minority Opposition were not present at that debate because they had left the House. I was not the only person who said this. Others in the House pointed this out. I give respect to the transferors of these schools. The people of Ulster give respect to them. But they should not have a 50 per cent, representation.
§ Mr. Fitt
I have listened with a good deal of interest to the hon. Gentleman's case. While not agreeing with him about everything he has said, may I ask whether he could not be interpreted as expressing 2097 something in the nature of sour grapes when he makes an attack on the transferors? By "transferors" I mean the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches and the Church of Ireland interests. They certainly are represented on the Belfast Education Committee in terms the hen. Gentleman has already stated. But his own church was not in existence at the time. It has been only a latter-day sensation in Northern Ireland. Could it not be interpreted that because his church is not represented to the same extent as are the others, he is expressing sour grapes?
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I am surprised that the hon. Member for Belfast, West should come up with that sort of allegation. In North Antrim I represent the strongest Irish Presbyterian constituency in the whole of Ireland. These are the views expressed to me by ordinary Irish Presbyterians, Church of Ireland people and Methodists that when they go to a school they are immediately faced with this problem. I am talking of a constituency matter. That the hon. Member should drag in a personal note is unbecoming to him. I should have thought that in a debate of this nature he would not have stooped so low as to reach the depths of the guttersnipe.
Coming to the Bill that deals with schools, in regard to the rural technical education dealt with briefly by the Minister of State, it is sad that technical education is being phased out in Northern Ireland. The technical schools did a very good job. In my constituency, Bally-castle technical school closed three years ago, Portrush school closed this year and there is now a question mark over Bally-money technical school. Can the hon. Gentleman say what he has in mind for technical education in Northern Ireland? This matter is troubling many people in rural districts. It seems that technical education has been almost obliterated in certain rural districts.
Another matter is applicants who apply for training as special care teachers. They were sent to train originally at Muckamore Abbey. Then the training course was made available at the polytechnic or the Ulster College of Jordanstown. But the students who completed their course at Muckamore Abbey found themselves at a great disadvantage because 2098 those trained at the new college will be recognised all over the United Kingdom but those who did their training at Muckamore Abbey will be recognised only in Northern Ireland. Because they entered training prior to the courses in the new college, certain advantageous posts which would have been open for them had they been trained in the new college are no longer available to them. Yet those who instruct in the new courses are the same and the curriculum of the new course is the same. Students who entered this course prior to the new college taking it on, although having done the same course under the same tuition, now find themselves at a disadvantage. I hope that the Minister will tell us something about that.
Another problem arises over those who have taken their preliminary examinations and wish to go forward as medical students. There is a great dearth of places in the medical faculties in Northern Ireland, and those who have applied to various colleges in England have found themselves at a great disadvantage, some of them not even being asked to come over for an interview. If we are to have a solid system of primary and secondary school education we must make available places for those who, having completed their courses at the lower schools, wish to go onto university.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)
I have allowed the hon. Member to make his point and it has been heard. It would be out of order for him in this debate to pursue the question of university education.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I am sorry for having transgressed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I hope that I can now come back to order.
What is the use of having sound education in primary and secondary schools if there is no opportunity to channel those students forward to universities? This is important to me, it is important to the people of Northern Ireland and it is important to the welfare of the children of Northern Ireland.
I welcome the opportunity of saying some of the things that I feel reflect grass-roots opinion among the Protestant people in Northern Ireland. I trust that the good things about the order—and 2099 there are many good things about it—will go forward in such a way that the education system of Northern Ireland will be second to none in the United Kingdom.
§ 2.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank McManus (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)
I wish to make only a brief intervention, because the last time I intervened in a debate it caused some confusion in the ranks of my political opponents from Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) has made an equally long intervention on this occasion, but nobody on this side of the House has decided to walk out in protest.
There are one or two points which I wish to pick up. The first is about better representation of teachers on the area boards. This was mentioned by the hon. Member, and I agree with him that teachers are under-represented. I speak here with some little experience. I was a teacher—be it good or bad—before I came to the House. I have always felt—and I know that most teachers agree—that teachers are under-represented on the boards as they are now, just as they were on the former local education committees.
In most cases those who were deciding the shape and future of education were totally ignorant of what went on. They were totally ignorant of what it was like to be in a classroom teaching children. I have no doubt about their good intentions, but those who were sitting in judgment on curicula and courses to be followed, and telling teachers what they should and should not do, had not the faintest idea of what it was like to be a teacher. The nearest that they could get to it was their memory of what things were like when they were at school, and in some cases that was 50 years ago. The position has, I am glad to see, changed in that there is to be teacher representation on these boards, but I believe that there are not nearly enough teachers on them.
It is bad enough to have directly elected representatives in charge of education. It is worse when appointees of a Minister or some like person are in charge. Surely to goodness there is a need for practical knowledge and advice. If these boards—which I do not think are 2100 a good idea in the first place—are to function at all they need the expertise and practical knowledge of teachers. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will find ways of increasing the teacher representation on these boards and on any future bodies which might emerge to control or direct the course of education in the different localities.
A minor point arises out of what was said by the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster). The hon. Member for Antrim, North will probably display his usual hilarity, but the hon. Member for Belfast, East referred to the type of history book used in schools in Northern Ireland and lamented the fact that they were loaded with Republican thoughts. He thinks that it would be better if they were loaded with Loyalist thoughts. That is indicative of the views of at least some of the Unionist representatives here.
My attitude is clear. When I was a teacher, I had a great struggle with the local education authority to allow into the schools history books of all kinds so that we could arrive at a situation in which young people passing through schools would get a balanced view of Irish history. Until recently there were two types of history books—those written by people who thought that Ireland was the best country in the world, and those written by people who thought that England was the best, and never the twain would meet. Recently, however, a better and more objective type of history book has been written. Many seminars have been held—I have attended a number myself—and the improved quality of the history books bodes well for the future.
Nevertheless, I had the greatest difficulty in getting the local education committee to sanction the new history book for the schools in the area. The committee said that the book was too expensive, and found a 101 different ways of putting things off. If the Minister agrees that integration is a good idea—and much has been said about integration—one way in which we can immediately begin integrating the young people of Northern Ireland is by allowing them access to any of the history books that are available and letting them make their own judgment about which is the proper story or which is the story that suits them best.
2101 The vexed question of integration has occupied a good deal of the days debate. Integration is a good thing and I hope that it will come about, but I want to place the argument in its proper context. There are those who take the view, or promote it, that most of the ills of Northern Ireland—this is a favourite Unionist point of view—stem from the fact that it is the Catholic schools which breed rebellion, and, that if only we could get rid of the Catholic-controlled schools we could get rid of the breeding ground for rebellion, and things in Northern Ireland would be happier.
That is nonsense. Those who lay such emphasis on the need for integration and suggest ways in which children could come together and be educated neglect to say that there are two great influences on young people. One is the home, and the other is the school, and most people agree that the home is probably the more influential of the two in the early stages.
The truth of the matter is that it is not the minority's fault, because the minority has never had the power. The Unionists have ruled Northern Ireland for 50 years, and they could have done pretty well what they liked. Their conscious policy was to segregate the communities and erect ghettoes in various areas. What is the point of sending young children to the same school, where they have a chance of better intercourse with each other, when, on leaving school, they return to their ghettoes where the family influence comes into play and when they return to school the following morning they take with them the sectarian feeling which was instilled into them the evening before?
Therefore, an attempt to integrate education quickly would mean transferring the ghetto mentalities into the schools. Heaven help the teachers if that happens ! They have enough problems. The young boys and girls will be repeating to their opponents what their fathers and mothers told them the night before in the ghettos. If we place in its proper context the codswallop often talked about integration, it will be seen that those Unionist politicians who have talked down the years about integration in schools have consciously and studiously followed a policy of segregation in housing, and the one negates the other. What is the point in forcing children to go to school to- 2102 gether if they are forced to live apart for the rest of the time?
The matter was brought into tragic and dramatic focus by what happened in Lenadoon at the weekend. I have information, which I believe to be accurate, that a man called Watson, claiming to be second-in-command of the UDA in Belfast, was at the negotiations over the houses in Lenadoon and said that no Catholics would come into that part of Lenadoon which was predominantly Protestant.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
On a point of order. Surely it is not in order for the hon. Gentleman to indulge himself on the Lenadoon situation, which has nothing to do with the Order?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The Chair was listening to the hon. Gentleman very carefully and was waiting to hear that some children were being taken to school there, or something like that.
§ Mr. McManus
I was demonstrating, in the most dramatic way that has appeared so far, that the policy of segregation in housing would negate any immediate benefits of integration in education. I was pointing out, when the hon. Gentleman tried to stop me by raising a point of order, that when a man describing himself as the second-in-command of the UDA tells people that the Catholics will not be allowed to live in a Protestant area——
§ Mr. McManus
I will not contest the Chair's Ruling. I believe I should have good grounds for doing so, but I want to get on. The point is that if education is integrated, which is a good thing, the whole benefit of that good thing will be entirely negatived by the segregated housing policy that has been pursued for 50 years in Northern Ireland.
The second point about integration was made forcibly by the hon. Member for Antrim, North. He talked about Protestant schools and Catholic schools; and how there were many Protestant denominations which all seemed to get on fairly well under the State system. It is very good that they can get on so well, but the thing to remember about Catholic 2103 opposition to integration is that, on the pronouncements of the leaders of Stormont, Stormont is a Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people. It is not surprising that the Catholic community would not willingly submit entirely to the control of what was, for 50 years, on the admission of its own Prime Ministers and leaders, a Protestant Parliament, a Protestant Government, for a Protestant people.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) referred to the oath. The oath is a source of insult, and that is all the use it has. My hon. Friend read out the extravagant terms of the oath, which a teacher in Northern Ireland must sign before he can take up his post. I am certain that only lip service is paid to it. The teacher will carry on in his usual way. The requirement to take the oath is only an attempt to humilitate the person seeking employment. If he is trained to the required standard, that should be enough. No education syllabus requires that a teacher shall be loyal or that he shall owe allegiance to a particular Government, institution or set of circumstances, nor do any of the great doctors and masters of education make that requirement. It has nothing to do with education. Therefore, I ask the Minister to set about removing this nonsense as speedily as possible.
I became a teacher and had to take the oath, but I only signed a piece of paper. I believe that I was supposed to take the Bible in my hand and swear to Almightly God—to take a very solemn oath. I did no such thing, but signed a piece of paper which made absolutely no difference to my political outlook or future political activities. I believe that that is the position of the vast majority of teachers who do not happen to agree with the past systems in Stormont or the existing system.
To remove the obligation to sign the declaration or take the oath of allegiance would merely be to remove an insult to those who have to take it. It does not in conscience or morality bind them in any way. I say to the Minister, "Have done with the farce of the oath." If he can do that in education, where it is clearly ludicrous, the way is open for removing it altogether, thus removing one of the sources of irritation and upset in 2104 Northern Ireland, one of the things that contribute in no small way to the trouble and anguish we have known for the past three years.
§ 2.48 p.m.
§ Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)
This is a Friday afternoon and, as usual on a Friday afternoon, members of the staff of the House have made arrangements to get home a little earlier than usual. Therefore, I hope that hon. Members will speak for a reasonable length of time, so that the staff's arrangements will not be upset. I should not like it to be known that when we were debating Northern Ireland matters we kept the House any later than usual at the weekend.
§ Mr. Maginnis
I am only making an appeal.
I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for his remarks about the education facilities in Armagh. I hope that he learnt something during his tour of the various education establishments in the county. County Armagh was a seat of learning when most people in this country were illiterate. Many of the educational facilities there are still unavailable, not only in the rest of Northern Ireland but also in this country.
I should like to raise one parochial point. I have already written to my hon. Friend about the county museum in Armagh, and I wonder whether the matter I raised can be taken care of by the area board.
May I also ask him to tabulate all the amendments to the original Measure which are incorporate in the Order, so that there will be no confusion in the minds of the public about what has taken place. We cannot today change the contents of the order. That can be done only by Ministers, and if my hon. Friend spells out in detail the amendments he has made to the original legislation that will clear up many of the misunderstandings.
A lot has been said by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) about the oath of allegiance. A lot has been said also about the representations of teachers on the various boards. The hon. Member talked about 50 years of Unionist misrule 2105 and a Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people. That is a misconception. It was said by only one Prime Minister, and it was said in a different context. If the hon. Gentleman takes a look at the history books, he will discover that the oath of allegiance was taken from an English Act and not a Northern Ireland Act. It was followed in the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. That is a matter which should be cleared up once and for all.
§ Mr. McManus
Before the hon. Gentleman misleads the House, I ask him whether he is not aware that Lord Brooke borough, who was Prime Minister for 20 years and who lives in the County of Fermanagh, not far from where I live myself, advised his Protestant fellow Unionists not to employ Catholics, because he would not have one about the place. He said things like that on a number of occasions. That is not fiction but fact. It is a statement by a Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, That is what I mean when I talk about a Protestant Parliament.
§ Mr. Maginnis
People say many things in the heat of debate. If the hon. Gentleman had watched a television broadcast by Lord Brooke borough, he would have heard him admit that in making that statment he made a tragic mistake. Lord Brookeborough said that had it been 20 years later he would not have made that statement. People do change. The late Sir Winston Churchill, who was a great Prime Minister, made many tragic mistakes but he lived to regret them, and correct them. We should pay tribute to Lord Brookeborough for correcting his statement in a television appearance.
I pay tribute not only to the parents but also to the teachers for carrying on in extreme circumstances in Northern Ireland. I hope that the move being made by the new education Minister will be to the benefit of all concerned. We have to learn that the youth of today are the people of tomorrow. We have to look to them to guide us in all our directions in future years, not only in Northern Ireland but throughout the world. What we instil into the youth of today will come out in some form in future years. I pay tribute to the teachers who have given their time and talents during the 2106 past three years in trying circumstances to try to maintain a good education system.
There is a case for all types of schools. I have no hard and fast rule on that matter. I was educated at a voluntary school and not in one of the main streams of the Protestant denominations, like the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). It might appear that there is sour grapes on his part because he had no say in the system at the time because the Free Presbyterian Church was not then born.
I was educated at a Quaker school, and perhaps that is why I am more or less a manor peace. The Quaker school was outside the main stream of the Protestant denominations, but we had exactly the same curriculum as any other school. The selection of masters at voluntary schools is perhaps even more stringent than at State schools. We were taught extra subjects and given extra time. I pay tribute to the teachers at the voluntary schools who have given their best in trying circumstances.
Once again I ask my hon. Friend the Minister of State to tabulate the various changes that he has made in the original Measure so that no misunderstanding will arise in future.
§ 2.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
It is not my intention to delay the House for long. I thank the Minister of State for what he said, in reply to my intervention, about consultation with the ATTI about the points which are of concern to it on the government of colleges.
The closure of Magee University College and the creation of Coleraine University have created a problem west of the Bann about senior institutions of further education, and what will happen to areas west of the Bann. Institutions of that type not only help to give status to an area and immediately serve its people, but generate employment, growth and a better standard of living. I should be obliged if the Minister of State could give some indication of what will happen to institutes of further education which are not of university standard, west of the Bann, and about general policy in rural areas where they have an important part to play, not only as places of education, but as places where it is possible 2107 for people from all parts of the community to meet and mingle. They serve as an important centre of influence.
The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) indicated the way that minorities cling to a particular situation as a way of protecting themselves from what they regard as a hostile climate. They do so to preserve their identity, to strengthen themselves and declare their own image in a similar way; for example, as people might join the Orange Order, and for exactly the same sort of reasons. Such institutions mean something to them, they represent history and tradition. We have to understand that this attitude exists in both directions. It is understandable that people should want to cling to institutions which help to give them an identity and status.
I look at this issue as a Catholic parent in England, and from the point of view of Catholic education in England, which has some relevance to the situation in Ireland. All my children go to the local primary school, and they will go to a Catholic comprehensive school. They will be educated in the State system in the way we know it in this country. However, it seems to me, as a Catholic, that if we are burdening ourselves with considerable expense to finance schools we must take not a spiritual attitude to that spending but a materialistic attitude, and see whether there is a cost-benefit analysis that one can do of the value of money invested; for example, in schools which become an increasing and heavier burden upon a community of Catholics or any Christians. One must decide whether that money could not be better spent in other directions of apostolic and charitable work.
By insisting on an education which is becoming increasingly expensive and which may often lead to a squandering of an important part of the nation's resources, certainly at the secondary education and further education levels, are we not getting our priorities wrong? Should we not say that, while the money ought to be spent on primary schools and nursery schools, if we are to invest money in something which we claim will give a spiritual return, we should consider the benefit of that spiritual return and whether as Christians in an increasingly un-Christian society we might not get 2108 better results by spending the money elsewhere?
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Rafton Pounder (Belfast, South)
Under the procedure employed to discuss this draft order it would have been possible, because of the take-it-or-leave-it principle which we have to follow, for the Minister to introduce fairly radical and sweeping changes. It is a tribute to his tremendous dedication, following his many discussions, that the order is a genuine account-taking of the views expressed to him. I am deeply appreciative, as is anybody in Northern Ireland who has taken an interest in this matter, of the generous and understanding approach he has adopted to this complicated subject.
As in British politics certain political offices are regarded as political graveyards, so in Northern Ireland traditionally it has been the Ministry of Education which has held that "accolade" through the years. As has been apparent from the debate, there are many different streams of thought in education in Northern Ireland.
I firmly agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) when he expressed his lack of approval for the description "controlled schools". The word "controlled" is a word to which it should be possible to find an alternative. I agree too with my hon. Friend and with the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) about nursery schools.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North spoke at length on the anomalies resulting from some teaching appointment procedures and he referred especially to the Belfast Education Committee. I had one or two unhappy experiences in this respect, it is true. Where he and I may disagree is that I do not think that it is necessarily the fault of the system. It is the fault of the attitude of some who are members of these committees and who take far too narrow a view of their responsibilities for teaching appointments. It is only the bad appointments that are highlighted, however, and many are absolutely fair and reasonable. Within the framework of the education procedure in Northern Ireland we must strive to get a system which would eradicate these quirks of appointment.
2109 The order stems directly from the recommendations of the Macrory Report. So much of the implementation of that report was dependent upon the existence of a Parliament in Northern Ireland that it seems a little incongrous that we should now be pressing ahead with so much of the consequential legislation when the parent body, so to speak, is in a state of temporary prorogation.
From what my hon. Friend the Minister of State has said, I take it that in a sense the order concentrates upon the Macrory aspects and that a major Education Bill for Northern Ireland will come forward in the not too distant future.
I realise that there is danger in entering into discussion of article 16 of the order particularly in the presence of the hon. Member for Antrim, North. I am glad that, despite the pressures manifest in the Stormont Second Reading debate, religious education is not to be placed on a non-obligatory basis. Had this pressure been met it would have taken us in Northern Ireland away from the mainstream of religious education practice which operates on this side of the Channel. As the hon. Member pointed out, the versions of the Holy Scriptures which may be used, dealt with in paragraph (2), are ludicrous. Surely it would be possible to insert words such as "a generally accepted version" or something like that to tone down what is at present a fairly unhappy piece of drafting.
I come to the question of the un-denominational religious instruction. Again, is it not possible for some form of agreed syllabus to be drawn up? This may be difficult. I do not know, but I offer it as a thought. We want within the context of this order to try to draw this as clearly as possible and to leave as few loopholes as possible. I am particularly glad that nothing was done to alter the long-standing arrangements about transferors' rights. I would like to say how much I appreciated the assistance I received from Canon Eric Elliott of the Church of Ireland who is an authority in this matter.
In the memorandum produced by the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches of Ireland there is one paragraph which has not, to the best of my knowledge, been quoted, It sums up the situation in which we find ourselves and the value of main- 2110 taining the existing procedures with regard to transferors' rights. It says:In the history of education in Northern Ireland, nothing is more significant than the way in which the enactment of Transferors' Rights stilled long and bitter controversies and created a climate in which harmony and goowill have been productive of much Rood. Even in the 'troubles' of the past thtree years, the education field is one area of life in Northern Ireland in which there has been no breakdown of harmonious and civilised usage. It would be tragic, indeed, if such an oasis of goodwill in an otherwise arid landscape were to be blighted by ill-judged experiment, however well-meaning.In the present context of life in Northern Ireland that is a fair and reasonable attitude.
I realise there are problems. A number of months ago—before direct rule—many of us were bombarded by local authorities and teachers' organisations about the suggested change in the school leaving date. Again I am indebted to my hon. Friend for acceding to the educational arguments raised then and ensuring that education reigned supreme over the arguments advanced as a Christmas leaving date was brought in to facilitate apprenticeship schemes.
I wonder whether in this context it would be possible—I have no idea of what the problems may be—to raise the age of admission for apprentices to 17. Someone who claims to know a great deal about these matters, which I do not, told me that such a change would obviate the problems arising over the possibility of a change in the school leaving date.
I come to a subject raised frequently in the debate, integrated education. Some hon. Members may have read the comments last week by a very eminent professor in Queen's University, Belfast, Professor Alwyn Williams, a personal friend of mine, in which he said that Northern Ireland was "an educational Alabama." I dislike emotive phrases but certainly it is the only way to get the breadth of publicity one is seeking in making a genuine and perfectly fair comment about the problems created by segregated education in Northern Ireland.
I listened carefully to what the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) said about integration and the influence of the home and school children. However, most children draw their friends from the school which 2111 they attend. They are the people with whom they are in closest touch. So long as we have segregated education, so long will the barriers and the problems which stem there from continue. I think it is generally acknowledged that in the long term one of the surest and best ways of getting the two communities to work and live together is by breaking down the educational barrier. It is extraordinary that for many people in Northern Ireland their first educational contact with a member of a different religious denomination from themselves occurs when they go to university; and inevitably only a small percentage of the youth of the Province go to university. This problem must be tackled realistically.
The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone spoke somewhat playfully about history books. There is no standard textbook for use in all schools in Northern Ireland for teaching a subject as important as history. Irish people, whether they be from the North or from the South, have almost an obsession with history. It is therefore desirable that the history which people are taught should bear some resemblance to reality rather than to myth. There are very good books dealing with special periods of history, but I have not been able to find a standard textbook for teaching history in general in the schools or one with which children could be taught as being an objective study of the life of the country.
Although the order does not provide for greater integration of schools, I hope that integration will be brought about as a matter of urgency. I realise that, like so many things, it will not work overnight miracles, but there is unanimity on both sides of the House that this problem must be tackled.
I welcome the order and I greatly appreciate the decision of my hon. Friend the Minuister of State not to alter transferrors' rights, which are so valued in Northern Ireland.
§ 3.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Channon
I have already spoken at considerable length on this matter, so I hope it will not be thought too discourteous of me if I do not speak at length now. If I do not deal with some points which hon. Members have raised, I will write to them.
2112 I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) for his far too generous tribute to me and for his very co-operative and helpful attitude at all times during our discussions on the order.
My hon. Friend the Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) raised the question of the name "controlled schools". It is extraordinarily difficult to think of an appropriate name. It would not be appropriate to continue with the name "county schools" because they will not be county schools. Counties will no longer be education authorities. We do not want to call them board schools, because that would seem to be a very unfortunate name. Many people gave a great deal of thought to this issue and "controlled schools" seemed to be the best name which could be devised.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South asked whether there could be an agreed syllabus for the teaching of religious education in schools. I understand that the three main Protestant churches are at this moment working together on the possibility of devising an agreed syllabus. I do not know whether that will be possible, but I hope so.
My hon. Friend also raised the question of the raising of the age of admission to apprenticeships. That, I think, would cause considerable problems. It has been thought of, but boys who enter apprenticeships at too high an age have found considerable difficulty in obtaining employment in Northern Ireland, and that was a reason why it was decided to make this particular interim arrangement made in the order.
The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees), in his extremely thoughtful speech, raised a whole number of points. I will certainly write to him about them if I cannot deal with them all at the moment. One was the question of nursery education. The provisions for nursery education are virtually identical with those made in the Education Act, 1944, for England and Wales. We wish to expand the provisions for nursery education. Approval was recently given to provide 50 nursery schools in the next five years. This is something to be welcomed. A number of other hon. Members also raised the question whether nursery schools ought to be controlled or voluntary or how they would 2113 be organised. That will be a matter for the people to decide. Certainly no one would be better pleased than I if we could have nursery schools, but not by religious denominations.
On the question of the populations of the area boards I can say that Belfast will have 403,000, the South-Eastern area 293,000, the Southern 284,000, the Western, 229,000 and the North-Eastern 319,000. Those are the approximate figures. I think I am right in saying that the Macrory Report recommended about 225,000 as being the criterion, which is met in some cases, to get the boundaries right.
A great many hon. Members raised the question of integrated education. I understand that, because it is a subject which causes a great deal of interest and a great deal of discussion both in and outside Northern Ireland. I must, of course, make clear what I think is well known to the House; that provisions in the rest of the United Kingdom are not very different in this regard and that if parents wish to send their children to a school of a particular religious background and provided by a religious denomination, those parents in the rest of the United Kingdom have the same rights to do so as exist in Northern Ireland. It would be a very big step indeed, and certainly not one I would wish to take, to remove from parents the right to do that. Perhaps the day will come when integrated education will become part of the education picture in Northern Ireland. It may be that it will in other parts of the United Kingdom, although it is certainly not the case in England or Scotland at present, but if it comes I am sure it will come by consent, by agreement, not by compulsion. I am sure all hon. Members would agree that to proceed by means of compulsion now or at any future time would be disastrous in the political climate which exists in Northern Ireland. We shall have to see how things progress in the future
§ Mr. Kilfedder
Could my hon. Friend tell me whether in England and Wales, perhaps in Scotland, public money is spent on providing free transport to take children past ordinary State schools to a particular religious or church school under the control of a particular church?
§ Mr. Channon
I think the answer is "Yes". I will get the exact position and let my hon. Friend know, but I am pretty sure the answer is "Yes." I think that sometimes hon. Members do not realise what an enormous percentage of Roman Catholic children in England go to voluntary schools—in this country as well. It is a very high percentage. I do not have the figures in my head, but it is a very high percentage.
§ Mr. McMaster
Surely it is foreign to our ideas for the employing of teachers that there should be religious discrimination, and that schools should exclude anyone except one who is a member of a particular religion or that teachers should be excluded on a religious basis from schools.
§ Mr. Channon
I must tell my hon. Friend, who may be interested to learn, that I visited—I was about to say a large number—a certain number of Catholic and Protestant schools, and I found in Catholic schools a proportion of Protestant teachers. I found a number of Protestant teachers in Catholic schools, and a number of Catholic teachers in county schools. The schools are not so exclusive as sometimes the impression is given. There is a certain amount of interchange in these matters, and I think that all of us must work for more integration. That is the way to proceed.
§ Mr. McNamara
I should like to knock on the head the point made by the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder). In the United Kingdom any child who travels to a school approved by the local authority beyond two miles from his home gets free transport. Whether he is Catholic, Protestant, black or white does not matter.
§ Mr. Channon
I thought that was the position and I am glad the hon. Gentleman has confirmed it.
The hon. Member for Leeds, South asked about educational achievements in non-denominational schools. Some are better, some are worse but, as the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) said, the standard is fairly constant and certainly as high as anywhere else in the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for Leeds, South also asked about libraries and their staffing. I understand that close attention is paid to the practice in 2115 the rest of the United Kingdom, so there should not be an enormous difference.
It is not quite true that there are no comprehensive schools in Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis) will know of the one at Fivemiletown. There are comprehensive schools at Newry and Bushmills, and my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh referred to the partially comprehensive system in Armagh. But I accept that there are comparatively few comprehensive schools in Northern Ireland.
We shall await with interest what the advisory council has to say on comprehensive schools. Were there to be changes in the system, with the enormous number of voluntary grammar schools—not only Catholic voluntary grammar schools—the practical complications would be great, but, these will have to be considered in the future if a decision has to be taken. I note what was said about Lord Boyle's remarks. I shall study them, but I do not think that the hon. Member would expect me to take any action in advance of the report of the advisory council.
The hon. Member for Bootle suggested a visit by hon. Members to Northern Irish schools. Nothing would please me more. Perhaps we should defer it until the autumn as the school holidays have begun in Northern Ireland. If the hon. Member remains interested in the idea, nothing would please me more than for such a visit to be arranged in the autumn; I think it would be extremely valuable. A visit to the schools would make a change from the conditions which hon. Members so often see when they vsit Northern Ireland.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) raised several points, some of which were mildly reminiscent of his remarks in the Second Reading debate in Stormont. Those who have had the pleasure of reading what he said then will realise what a powerful contribution he made, and I have taken fully into consideration all he said on that occasion.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North asked about the dismissal of teachers. Teachers have an express right of appeal to the Ministry and their position is pro- 2116 tected in that way. I must mildly draw swords with the hon. Member on what he said about the appointment of teachers without advertisement and his reading of schedule 10, paragraph 2. The exception is made only when two conditions are satisfied. The first is that the school management committee to which the appointment is to be made has given its consent. The second is that the teacher is a teacher either in the school to which the appointment is being made, or in a controlled school—if we are dealing with controlled schools—under the same management. Non-advertisement is intended to be the exception. It is not reasonable that all positions should be advertised. There must occasionally be scope for promotions within a concern or a transfer of teachers who would otherwise become redundant. I accept the hon. Gentleman's point that non-advertisement should be very much the exception rather than the rule. However, I feel that the two qualifications I have outlined are a little deeper than the hon. Member thought.
The hon. Gentleman raised the question of instruction in religious education which, he said, should be given by the clergy and not by the teachers. I understand his point of view. There is already a right of access in article 16(7) of the order given to clergymen and other suitable persons if parents so wish. That does not answer the point but at least it is some help.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the question of technical intermediate colleges. Article 54 makes it a duty for area boards to provide adequate facilities for further education. This imposes a duty on boards to provide technical education sufficient to meet demands. I have no wish to see technical education in any way harmed. I would like to see technical colleges with specialised equipment playing an important part in the education of students of 15 and 16. I have not yet had the opportunity to study in detail the problems relating to technical schools to which the hon. Gentleman referred. I know that there are problems in his constituency and in other parts of Northern Ireland, particularly in the constituency of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus). I should like to look at this matter.
2117 I was then asked by the hon. Gentleman about special care teachers at Muckamore Abbey and I will look at that point. I see no reason why they should be put at a disadvantage, and I will do my best to try to meet the point.
The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone and others raised the question of teacher representation on area boards. I do not believe that such representation is as inadequate as some hon. Members have suggested. For the first time these provisions make it a statutory duty for the Minister to appoint three teachers to the area board. In many ways the Northern Ireland provisions are an advance on the situation in the United Kingdom. In England there is no statutory duty on local education authorities to have teachers on local education committees. Teachers may be co-opted on to these committees but there is no statutory duty for them to be members. Therefore these provisions for Northern Ireland are a great step forward, and I hope that the teachers will regard this as an important advance.
My hon. Friend the Member for Armagh mentioned the question of the Armagh Museum. Museums are not covered by the order, although I am looking at the situation of this museum and its future in conjunction with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. I shall be in touch with my hon. Friend about that matter. I shall see whether I can provide a list of changes from the Bill.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) asked about institutes of further education. I have every wish to encourage them, and I am particularly interested in the future of the Londonderry Technical College and whether it might be used possibly as a regional college to cater not only for immediate facilities but for a wider region. I hope to meet representatives of the college in the not too distant future and I will bear in mind what has been said.
My hon. Friend the Member for Down, North made an interesting speech in which he put a number of important points. I was glad he mentioned articles 25 and 26, which are a step forward.
I was interested in my hon. Friend's comments about the Youth Employment Service and I will study what he said. This service has a most important 2118 function in Northern Ireland and I understand that it has visited every school in the Province. Every hon. Member will feel great sympathy for the Youth Employment Service which has suffered a most appalling series of bomb outrages. It has been bombed seven times and has had an extremely bad time. I pay tribute to that service for carrying on its activities in a very difficult situation.
My hon. Friend said that there were not sufficient local authority representatives on the area boards. I wonder about that. After all, 40 per cent. is quite a lot. I shall be giving the breakdown figures for a likely board presently. However, the position is not too bad with 40 per cent. of the representatives coming from local authorities. I agree it is very difficult to get the balance right.
My hon. Friend asked about senior appointments. That has not been finally decided. My own guess is that it would be principals to start with and probably vice-principals, and that it it could be extended further if the system proved a success. Certainly I assure my hon. Friend that the supply of teachers will be available to the voluntary maintained schools as well. This matter has been raised with me on a number of occasions. There is nothing in the order to prevent that happening.
My hon. Friend then asked about the professional librarians. They may be appointed to boards but not to the boards actually employing them.
The area boards will have between 30 and 36 members. That is the intention Let us assume that the figure is 36. That will mean 40 per cent. being nominated by district councils; up to 25 per cent. by the transferors' representatives and representatives of the trustees of maintained schools; three teachers; three persons with interests in the public library service; and the remainder persons interested in education and libraries in general. Out of the 36; 14 would be district councillors; a maximum of nine representing the transferors' representatives and trustees of the maintained schools—there would never be the nine; the maximum would be seven or eight—three teachers, three with interests in the library service; and a balance of seven. That is not too bad, I think. The Ministry will have no control over the first category and will accept nominations 2119 for the second. The Ministry's control is a little less than some hon. Members have supposed.
I have referred already to nursery schools. Indeed, I think I have dealt with a great many of the points raised in the debate. Naturally I shall consider any thing else that has been referred to——
§ Mr. McManus
There is one very important matter which the Minister of State has not got round to mentioning. It may be that it has slipped his memory, or possibly he prefers not to mention it. It concerns the oath.
§ Mr. Channon
I said earlier that the oath for teachers was governed by different legislation. That is dealt with in the Promissory Oaths Act (Northern Ireland), 1923. It may be that some future Administration will look at the whole question of oaths. It is an extremely complicated and anomalous one. All that I seek to do in this order is not to complicate the situation further. Were we to make the oath in the terms that the hon. Member for Leeds, South read to us a little while ago, the effect would be that all officers of the new area boards would have to swear allegiance to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. One or two might not be very keen to do that. The matter is full of anomalies. All we are doing at the moment is not to add still further to them by including officers of the local boards.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
I quite see the point about the wide-ranging nature of oaths, and I am sure that the matter will be considered in the context of special powers. But on the precise question of teachers, while I see the Government's difficulties because of the Temporary Provisions Act and so on, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will look at it again. He has put right the position of officers. It is a matter of education. If he could see his way to dealing with it next Session, it would be most helpful.
§ Mr. Channon
I will draw my right hon. Friend's attention to what the hon. Member for Leeds, South has said about oaths. I am not sure that it would be wise to deal with teachers in isolation. There is a host of other anomalies. I cannot recall them all offhand, but there 2120 are the questions of the Housing Executive and of employees of the Ministry of Agriculture, some of whom have to take the oath while some do not, and so on. It is a very complicated and difficult matter. I shall note the views of hon. Members on the whole question. I hope they will not press me at this moment to go further. I shall bear them in mind.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North challenged me about Protestant voluntary primary schools. I am glad to tell him that I have found a few. He said there were none. Seagoe school, Portadown, is under Church of Ireland management.
§ Mr. Channon
I hope that it is not dangerous for the school.
There are a number of other such schools but comparatively few. The hon. Member for Antrim, North also raised the question of the disqualification of members of a board on conviction for various offences. I am sorry to learn about the difficulties that will face such well-qualified people. But this is not something that is my fault. This is a provision of the Local Government Act, 1972, passed by the Northern Ireland Parliament before direct rule arrived. Therefore it would be wholly anomalous to exempt the education boards when under the Local Government Act everyone else would be subject to this provision.
I am sure the hon. Gentleman will understand that it was necessary to include this provision to keep consistency with the rest of the local government reform legislation that had already been passed.
With those answers to some of the points raised in the debate, and as the House recognises the importance of the order to the future of education in Northern Ireland, I hope that hon. Members will now feel disposed to approve the draft order.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1972, a draft of which was laid before this House on 10th July, be approved.