HC Deb 06 June 1912 vol 39 cc398-421

Postponed proceeding resumed on Question, "That a sum, not exceeding £9,254,765, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1913, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Education, and of the various Establishments connected therewith, including sundry Grants-in-Aid." [Note.—£5,250,000 has been voted on account.]


When the proceedings were interrupted I was congratulating the Government upon the position taken up by the President and the Secretary of the Education Department that teaching of a more practical nature should be given throughout the schools. The teachers in the schools are now imbued with a different spirit to that in which they used to carry on their work, and they no longer move in that somewhat narrow groove in which they moved in the time when Grants to the schools depended upon the results of examinations. It is quite true that we still find traces of the old narrowness. Sometimes we hear of head mistresses teaching girls in the fifth standard algebra, geometry, and things of that kind which are of little practical use to them; and occasionally you hear, as I heard the other day, of a head teacher in a school giving instruction to girls on home management and complaining that the dietaries did not deal enough with hydro-carbonates and carbohydrates. I do not know what those various things may be. I have no doubt they have something to do with dietary, but they are not terms I myself understand very much about. Those are survivals of the old system of teaching subjects with a view of getting scholars up to a certain standard and of earning Grants by scholars passing that particular standard. I am not sure that the present system of payment on attendance is really very much better. It at any rate has its disadvantages. It certainly leads in many cases to children going to school when they are quite unfit, and it even leads to cases of teachers scouring the countryside to fetch children into the school. I know of a case in which a child was brought to school in a perambulator, wrapped up in a shawl, merely that it might count in attendance. That is not a good state of things, and cases of children who never miss attending for six years are not at all desirable in my opinion. It would be far better, now we have the system of medical inspection and treatment, that the Grant should be paid to those authorities who make proper provision for that inspection and treatment; and that it should be made on the number of children in the district and bear some fixed proportion to the amount spent by the particular authority.

The President of the Board of Education began his speech by saying that all money spent on education was money well spent. I am sure when he said that he carried with him everyone who is interested in the subject of education. He did not, however, go on to tell us from where the money which is spent and which could be so well spent on education was to come. The difficulty of all education authorities at the present moment is one of finance. The question of educational progress is one almost entirely of finance. The President of the Board of Education, however, comes here to-day and the only contribution he makes towards this financial difficulty are two Grants, one of £60,000 for medical inspection work, and another special Grant for increasing the pensions of teachers. That is all to the good; but those are two things which do not really touch this part of the problem which is before the education authorities of the country. The education authorities want a Grant towards their building programme, and until there is some Grant made on some fixed proportion of the expenses on building forthcoming from the Treasury, we shall not get that progress in education which everyone is anxious to see. The President asked Members of the House to make suggestions. If there is one I could make, it is, at any rate, an extremely simple one. It is that the Grant should be based upon some fixed proportion, say the old proportion of 50 per cent. of the expenditure. The local education authorities should have the right to a Grant at that rate, and the Board of Education should keep up their sleeve, as it were, another 10 per cent., which they should make to the authorities who behave themselves as good children and carry on their work properly in the opinion of the Board and its advisers.

At the present moment there is an enormous debt for buildings put up in the past, the interest on which, according to the "Westminster Gazette," amounts to something like £3,000,000 a year. Loans in the past have, as a rule, been for a period of thirty years. It does not seem to me impossible that those loans should be taken up and extended over a longer period than thirty years. If that were done, there would be a much smaller amount to be paid in interest year after year, and there would to that extent be a relief of the burden which these authorities have at present to bear. I do not know whether such a suggestion is practical, but I think it is, at any rate, one worthy of consideration. Of course, loans are now granted for longer periods than thirty years for buildings and the land; but all past loans were granted for that short period. I do not see any reason why they should not all be amalgamated. I should like to recommend to the attention of the President of the Board of Education the example of the President of the Board of Agriculture with regard to farm institutes, the Grant in connection with which to be made by the Treasury is, I understand, going to be as much as 75 per cent. of the cost of the building. I do not expect the Board of Education will make Grants for new buildings on such a liberal scale as that; but it is important and necessary, if progress in educational work is to come, especially in such counties as that in which I live, where a great amount of new buildings and repairs to old buildings has to be done that there should be some Grant in some form or other on some fixed proportion. The Grant of £60,000 for medical treatment and medical inspection is no doubt all to the good; but I am not sure the Board of Education should have absolute discretion in the giving of it. The President told us that so far as they are able they mean to give £l for £l of the expenses incurred by, the various education authorities. If he can give an assurance to that effect to the education authorities concerned, then no doubt they would know where they are. That is the important point. Unless they can have some assurance of that sort, it is quite impossible when they are drawing up their scheme of medical treatment to know to what extent they can depend upon a Treasury Grant for assistance, and not knowing that their scheme is bound to suffer. If they knew what they could count on they would be more ready to extend their work.

There is only one other point on which I should like to say one or two words, and that is the question of the shortage of teachers. The President suggested that as a remedy the salaries should be increased. That is all very well. I dare say if we increased the salaries more people would join the teaching profession. There the same point comes up again. Where is the money to come from? Anyone who knows anything about the working of education committees knows that teachers' salaries have been going up quarter by quarter ever since 1902, and they constitute one of the main charges on the education rate at the present moment. No doubt if salaries were increased more people would join the profession. It has also been suggested that if pensions were increased that too would have an encouraging effect. But that is not quite the point. The shortage, I think, is very largely due to the new requirements of the Board with regard to teachers. Take the case of the pupil teachers' system. There is a period between when these pupil teachers leave school and when they begin to earn money, and the parents of many of them cannot afford to have these young people at home bringing nothing in.

The hon. Member for Stockton suggested that the pupil teacher centre system should be re-established. I, for one, agree with him, because under the present system we are losing the children of what I may describe without offence as the working classes, and we are becoming more and more dependent for the supply of teachers on the lower middle class. The ideal system is one which will embrace both these classes. We cannot afford to do without them, and I think we are more likely to get teachers from these teaching centres than from children of the lower middle class. Many children of the middle class go into the secondary school, but do not take advantage of the opportunity to become teachers. They simply use these secondary schools in order to further a career in a quite different direction, and they never would become teachers at all. I hope some remedy may be found for this. I have figures here from various councils in the North of England, as well as from the big boroughs. The district comprises Cumberland, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, and parts of Yorkshire. In 1906 there were 2,024 pupil teacher entrants, but that 2,024 was reduced in 1911 to 844. In the county boroughs the totals fell from 510 in 1906 to 223 in 1911, and for the whole country the figures in 1906 which were 11,008, came down in 1910–11 to 6,137. I believe that, according to the Board's calculations, it is necessary to secure something like 11,000 entrants per year in order to obtain the necessary supply of teachers. But we are only getting about 50 per cent. of this total, and we shall, I fear, be placed in a very serious position before long. The responsibility to some extent rests on the Board of Education, and it certainly ought to devise some means of ensuring that, in the future, there should be a proper supply of teachers.

I should like next to refer to what has been described as one of the greatest blots on our educational system, and that is the gap between our elementary and our secondary schools. The figures which have been put before the Committee this afternoon show the falling off in the number of children who pass into the continuation schools. It has been suggested that we should have a grouping of the schools with what may be termed a higher top—or upper top—in which more advanced subjects can be taught. That is a solution which I think might be encouraged. It is one which I have seen in actual practice in Derbyshire and it has been successful to some extent, although I agree that there is difficulty in getting the managers of schools in surrounding parishes to allow their children to come up to the secondary schools. The difficulty may in part be accounted for by the fact that the people in one village will not allow their children to go into the next village, and much depends on the action of the inspectors. I think that by their influence a good deal more might be done in this direction. But it certainly will take some time before it can be accomplished.

I wish to raise three local points in regard to Derbyshire. One in connection with the discretion of the local educational authority. There was a school at Melbourne the teacher of which was dismissed by the local education authority on "educational grounds." There has been a good deal of correspondence on it, and I believe that the Board has not yet come to a decision. I will ask the right hon. Gentleman to remember, if he is going to override the decision of the education committee of the county concerned, the question will at once arise whether the discretion of the authority in dismissing this mistress on "educational grounds" is well founded. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not give his decision without due consideration. Another question of a similar character arose in connection with a school known as the Whaley Bridge School, a school which the education authority concerned wished to run as a mixed school. The Department has refused to pay any Grant to this school, on the ground that there is no special head mistress for the infants to be taught. There, again, the authority concerned has, after considering all the circumstances of the school—and one of the circumstances is the personality of the headmaster of that school, who, in addition to having done excellent work in the school, has an evening continuation class of a larger number than any other continuation class throughout the county— the authority has decided to keep the whole of the school, including the infants, under this headmaster. I hope that in this case the Board will be prepared to reconsider its position. The President, in his speech this afternoon, ended by wishing all those who were interested in education in the localities more power to their elbow. I think it is those who are interested in education in the various localities of the country who should wish the President more power to his elbow, because the question is one mainly of finance and of a struggle between the Board of Education and the Treasury, and unless the President of the Board of Education can bring sufficient pressure upon the Treasury to get a different system of Grants, and a more extensive system of Grants in the future, T am afraid we shall have to mark time with regard to education.


I think the Committee and the President of the Board of Education are to be congratulated upon the more placid waters in which we steer today than we did in the corresponding Debate last year. We are now discussing real educational matters, and to me, at least, it is a delight that we should be doing so. I wish to deal with two or three points which have been mentioned in the course of this discussion, both by the hon. Member who has just sat down and other Members on both sides of the Committee. First, with regard to the matter raised by the hon. Member for Herefordshire (Mr. Wright) with regard to the dismissal of the teachers. If the county council has good grounds for that dismissal they can have no possible objection to an appeal being made by the teacher for a hearing against unjust dismissal. We must remember that the teaching profession is a branch of the State service to all intents and purposes, and that in other branches of the Civil Service there is the right of appeal. The teachers do not possess that right of appeal, except under certain authorities who, by their own volition, have set up subcommittees to which teachers may appeal for rehearing in the case of suggested dismissal or, shall we say, removal to a less onerous position. With regard to the question raised both by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. J. Samuel) and the last speaker, the question of the supply of teachers, there is no doubt that it is a most important question. I think the two hon. Members who have suggested the re-establishment of pupil teachers' centres should remember that if those centres were hastily closed with considerable difficulties on the part of the staff, who were in some cases transferred to positions of inferiority, we should beware of setting them up again, unless we take away from any corresponding institution some of the evils which were associated with the old pupil teachers' system.

10.0 P.M.

There was the system of segregation, and one of the weaknesses of the present system of training teachers is to place our future teachers in a groove of their own. Although the pupil teachers' system, from the professional point of view, had much to commend it, from the broader educational point of view the course in the pupil teachers' centre was too short to be of considerable advantage to those who were in it, and it had this added disadvantage, of segregating the young teacher, instead of allowing him, in the secondary school, to mix with those preparing for other professions and so enlarge his outlook on life, men, and matters generally. With regard to encouraging the supply of teachers, without a doubt the emoluments do weigh considerably in stimulating a proper supply. I suggest to the President that it is a matter which concerns his Board, and I was sorry to hear him disclaim much responsibility in that direction. As a matter of fact, the President of the Board, through his inspectors, does take note of that kind of thing in secondary schools, with excellent results. In the reports on secondary schools you will find continually mentioned the amount of the salaries of assistant masters and mistresses in secondary schools which receive Grants from the Board. The effect of that has been to encourage the managers to treat assistant masters and mistresses in secondary schools in a better way, and the further effect has been to stimulate the better supply of teaching material for our secondary schools. The consequence is that the secondary schools to-day are doing better work. A school is dependent in the main for its success upon the type of staff, and the action taken by the Board of Education in calling attention to the low salaries in secondary schools is having the effect of improving the type of education in those schools. The extension of that system to elementary schools would have the effect, first of all, of improving the low salaries of teachers in those schools, and would also help to solve the difficulty of the teaching supply.

As to the threatened dearth of teachers, I think it will be found on examination to be a dearth of uncertificated teachers, and it arises from the fact of the local authorities, because of their financial difficulties, not being in a position to advertise for the services of fully-qualified teachers. Where they do advertise for qualified teachers, and pay rates similar to those paid in the county boroughs, the number of applications which come along, even to-day, would prove that the shortage is one of uncertificated teachers, and not of certificated teachers, in the main. I would remind the Committee that when the late President of the Board suggested that there was a dearth in certain localities, some individuals with whom I am associated looked into the matter of the advertisements of those authorities, and found that almost every one of them in advertising for teachers suggested scales of salary which were totally inadequate, and that the authorities in the larger boroughs, who were also advertising at the same time for teachers, were getting as many as they required. If the President of the Board will follow up his admirable suggestion to the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to superannuation—and I would desire to associate myself cordially with the thanks that have been tendered to the President in that regard—and will further press upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer the necessity of coming to the assistance of local authorities, so that they may stimulate a proper supply of teachers by offering salaries commensurate with the work, I believe the threatened shortage will be of very short duration, if it ever arises at all. I want to warn the President of the Board against setting up higher elementary schools. Higher elementary schools strike me as being pseudo secondary schools, the intention being to divert those who ought to flow naturally from the elementary into the secondary system into a kind of cul de sac, from which there is no exit into the university. The higher elementary school is not needed in our system. Our system naturally falls into three chief heads, the elementary, the secondary, and the higher, the higher including the technical and the university It is easy for us to differentiate our types of secondary schools and avoid the higher elementary school, which was suggested by the report which the consultative committee set forward as a means as it were of diverting the clever boys of the artisan class into schools from which there was no exit on the proper side instead of diverting them into the secondary schools where they might get the full benefit of the instruction given in them. The hon. Member (Sir Philip Magnus) in my view has suggested the right remedy for the evils which are associated with our secondary school system. Free the secondary school system and allow admission to it on merit alone and abolish the fee system, which allows the children of the privileged to get there, while cutting out a good many of the children of the artisan class who would benefit by a course in the school, and would also add to the general efficiency of our great labouring population.

I wish further to congratulate the President on the changed attitude of the Board towards the local education authorities. I happen to have met representatives of the authorities quite recently, and the opinion has been expressed to me, and with pleasure I reiterate it in the House, that there is a changed attitude at the Board of Education towards them, and it is being, recognised that on our great local education authorities we have many individuals who know something about education and how to administer it, and they are not being kept, and it is not proposed to keep them, in leading strings to the same extents that they have been kept. They welcome very cordially this proposal that they shall be consulted with regard to the regulations which they will be called upon ultimately to administer. This betokens a flexibility and a suggestion of initiative in the authorities and a power to them to experiment which is, in my view, all for the good, and they are to be relieved of an excessive amount of minute tabulation and the making of returns, which will be a very great relief. Even to the extent of the official correspondence—it seems a small matter, but it is a fact that the change in the tone of the official correspondence is greatly welcomed in the offices of the local authorities. There is less suggestion of autocratic assurance about it than there was, and there is a desire to work more in harmony and meet the wishes of those who are responsible in the main for the carrying on of the work.

I want now to turn to a further point made by the President on the question of school clinics. The proposal is that there shall be a Grant of £60,000 in aid of medical inspection and treatment, and it is not before the time that this proposed Grant is going to the authorities to assist them in this work. The unfortunate part is that, remembering the evil to be treated, the amount is almost microscopic. Remembering that there are 6,000,000 children in the schools, it works out at 2½d. per head, which is not a great amount, but I realise that the President is making claims on the Chancellor. There are £6,500,000 now in the Treasury—a sort of floating balance—and I hope the President will knock at the door of the Treasury and ask for a little more money on behalf of the medical inspection of school children. With regard to the method of allocation, I think, in the way of experiment, the President ought to be allowed a free hand for his first year, but the effect is going to be—and I hope that this will be watched—that the authorities which are most progressive are to get most money. Will he remember what the effect will be on the children tinder the control of the non-progressive authorities who do not propose to spend a penny? These are the children who are going to be neglected, and the probability is that under these authorities where this great question is ignored you have probably the greatest amount of child suffering from diseases and small ailments, which might be easily removed. Therefore there ought to be some pressure exerted on the authorities who are doing nothing, and they ought to be whipped into action and stimulated by some benevolent compulsion in the way of aid. There ought to be some standard set up by the Board below which it will not allow authorities to fall. I recognise, of course, that they must come along, too, with the assistance which is necessary to help these authorities out of their difficulties.

The President quoted the figures, but I doubt whether the House recognised the significance of them. He said there were 10 per cent. suffering from serious defects of vision. Ten per cent. probably appeared a small matter, but it is 10 per cent. of 6,000,000 children, which means that 600,000 children in the schools of the country of school age are suffering from defects of vision. Four per cent. is small, but 4 per cent. suffering from defective hearing means 240,000 children, and again 8 per cent. from adenoids means 480,000, and the appalling number of 2,400,000 children are suffering from unclean heads and the like, and a similar number from defective teeth, so that the evil of child suffering in the schools must be in the main enormous. Medical inspection, good in itself, is only making a diagnosis of the trouble, and to stop at medical inspection is to ignore the application of the remedy. Medical inspection without medical treatment is of no avail, and therefore the school clinic, which some people appear to dread because of the name and their ignorance of what it means, must come along to supplement medical inspection if medical inspection is to be worth anything at all. The school clinic. What is it? Not an expensive school infirmary where major operations are commonly performed every day, but a small central building or a room in a selected school, which may be equipped at small expense to perform minor operations and to give that medical treatment which will prevent the tiny ailments of youth becoming permanent disabilities in age. As a matter of fact, I find Miss Margaret Macmillan, who has done magnificent pioneer work in this connection at Dept-ford, is able to treat the children there at something like 3s. 9d. per head per annum, and she is fortunate enough to be able to do her work without any expenditure from the rates. But she estimates that any authority can do the work adequately for an amount of 4s. or 5s. per head.

Aristocratic Cambridge has given a lead in regard to another matter, the setting up of a dental clinic. Cambridge, by voluntary means, set up its dental clinic before the local authority financed it at all, and when it took it over it found that 75 per cent. of the children of school age were suffering from decay of the permanent teeth. Now that the local authority has taken in hand and supplemented the voluntary work, and a school generation has passed through the hands of the dentist in charge, there has been a complete revolution, and he certifies that 72 per cent. of the children of school age are free from decay of the permanent teeth; and when you remember that something like 3,000 men were invalided home from South Africa through defects of teeth and—probably this is a rather modest estimate—something like 35 per cent. to 40 per cent. of our soldiers are rejected by recruiting officers because of defective teeth one sees the loss of national efficiency—and that is where the Imperialists may come along and assist us—because of the absence of proper treatment in dental clinics and in the clinics of the normal kind. The President has also indicated that the Board is considering the question of mentally defective children. I am glad to find that he has taken the trouble of visiting one of these schools to study the problem for himself. I have visited several of these schools. I hope the President will keep this particular work under his own care and, no matter what the Bill suggested by the Home Secretary may be, it is work essentially for the Board of Education and for the local education authorities. It is most hopeful to find that one-third of the children can be trained to maintain themselves, and one-third to maintain themselves partially. It would appear to me that for the work of administration the local authority are the proper persons to deal with this matter, and not some glorified Lunacy Commission which will dub the children lunatics before they arrive at that stage, reflect upon the parents, and cause untold difficulties by dubbing the children insane at a time when they might be brought into the fighting army of labour instead of being thrown into the scrap heaps of lunatic asylums. The President of the Board of Education has suggested that we might make one or two suggestions for consideration. I would say that his aim should be to bring the elementary school by means of the regulations as near as possible to the standard of the secondary school, that in floor space he should bring the nine or ten square feet into the region of the sixteen or seventeen square feet of the secondary school, that the central hall should be as generous as in the secondary school, that the playground should not be considered sufficient with thirty square feet per child, while it begins with fifty square feet in the secondary school with a minimum of 750 square yards. The classes in the elementary schools are still too large when they stand at sixty, when in the secondary schools the number is thirty, and usually considerably less than that. With regard to the Grant, it is illogical and unfair to the authorities to pay them on the average attendance of the school only instead of paying them in respect of every child who appears on the school book. There again we should bring the standard of the elementary school up to that of the secondary. In the secondary you are paying per child, and books and apparatus are provided for each child. There should be a cessation of the system of pressing children unduly in the matter of perfect attendance. The teachers obey the behests of the authority to get the average highest attendance, that being the basis of the payment of the Grant. Where the medical inspection is most thorough you have a reduced average attendance, and penalise the authority because of its thoroughness. The thing is obviously unfair. One thing which would be welcomed by the authorities would be the payment of the Grant on the basis of the numbers on the rolls in the elementary schools as you do in the secondary schools. As to the small school, it is placed under great disabilities. In the case of the secondary school you say that the Grant shall not fall below £250, but in that of the elementary school you say that an extra grant of £10 or £15 may be given with a reduction if the teacher is not engaged during the holidays according to one hon. Gentleman on this side. One thing I observe with very great pleasure—namely, the encouragement given to the tutorial classes of the Workers' Educational Association. The system is only four years' old, but there have already been 3,000 students, of whom 600 have completed three years' courses. This is the testimony of Mr. A. L. Smith, of Balliol College, in regard to these classes:— Twenty-five per cent. of the essays examined by him after second year's work in two classes, and first year's work in six classes were equal to the work done by students who gained first classes in the Final Schools of Modern History. He was astonished; not so much at the quality as at the quantity of the quality of the work done. I hope the President of the Board of Education will be enabled to encourage this kind of work. Why debar a child at fifteen from continuing its education? If a child is in an elementary school beyond fifteen the Grants are stopped. The age bar should be removed, and where children have not been able to pass to a secondary school, but have been kept by their parents in the elementary school, we should allow the school to retain them beyond the age of fifteen with the parents' consent by giving Grants in such cases. I have to express my pleasure at the course of this Debate, and to thank the President for the admirably full explanation of the work of his Board for the year.


I would like to express to the President of the Board of Education my sincere thanks for one of the most hopeful speeches upon the position of education in the country which I have had the privilege of listening to in this House. I would particularly like to congratulate him upon the encouragement which undoubtedly he has given, with the help of his able colleagues, in making the education in our elementary and secondary schools much more practical than it used to be. I wish to support the appeal made by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) with regard to the Roman Catholic school at Nymphsfield, in Gloucestershire. I have the honour of sitting upon the Education Committee of the county of Gloucester. That committee has on two separate occasions by a substantial majority endorsed an appeal that this school should be recognised as a public elementary school and be in receipt of Grants from public funds. That has been reversed by the county council, which has, contrary to the strongly expressed opinion of the majority of those who are more fully cognisant of the educational needs of the county, appealed to the Board not to confirm this application. Under Section 9 of the Education Act of 1902 the Board are empowered to grant this application, and in support of it I may say that this school is admitted by all parties, whatever be their prejudices, to be a thoroughly efficient school. It is admitted that the majority of the child population at Nymphsfield does attend this school in preference to the school provided by the local education authority, and a very large proportion of the children who are not Catholics are children of Nonconformist parents, who are prepared to admit that there is no attempt at proselytising, and that the children are receiving a better education than they could possibly receive elsewhere. I think that the generosity of the Leigh family with regard to this school ought to be to some extent rewarded, considering the very heavy burden that has been thrown on their shoulders in order to maintain this school under Roman Catholic auspices. I find it very hard to defend the giving of Imperial aid to voluntary Church of England schools if recognition is going to be denied to a school of a similar character which belongs to another religious community.

The right hon. Gentleman has told us, and I am very glad, that he is going to so arrange the training college system that there shall be an output from certain groups of training colleges at different periods of the year. That will undoubtedly to some extent ease the difficult position which results from young teachers not being available at certain times of the year, and a far larger number being thrown upon the market at one time of the year only. While referring to this subject I should like to carry the right hon. Gentleman's interest in training schools just a little further. When he tells us he is going to give encouragement to the teaching of practical subjects, such as school gardening, handicraft, and domestic science he should ensure that the teachers receive some practical training in those subjects in the teachers' training colleges. I happen to know that there are very few training colleges in this country that are giving the teachers any guidance in the matter of school gardening, and that there is a large increase of the managers prepared to appoint teachers with qualifications for giving instructions in school gardening if they were able to get them, but those qualifications are notable by their absence. I hope the right hon. Gentleman has realised that in the purely rural areas, at any rate, the bursar student teacher system has broken down. There is a great dearth, as has been pointed out by several hon. Gentlemen this afternoon, of uncertificated teachers in the rural areas; and this dearth is going to become all the greater when supplementary teachers cease to be recognised in the year 1914. How are these uncertificated teachers to be provided under the existing system? The hon. Member for North Hereford (Mr. Wright) in a well-informed speech told the House that parents in the country districts are not prepared to incur the expense of allowing their children to remain for any great length of time in the secondary schools; but, in addition to that, the children that do go to the secondary schools, if they issue from them as student teachers, they necessarily become certificated teachers rather than uncertificated teachers, so that the dearth of this class of teacher becomes considerably greater year by year.

I have to make an appeal on behalf of the Gloucestershire Education Committee that the Article 28 (a) of the regulations for the preliminary education of the elementary school teacher should be modified so that it should not read that the old-fashioned provision by way of apprenticeship in the elementary school under proper supervision should only be available where it is impossible to provide for the instruction of the pupil teacher by means of a centre, and a centre nowadays means in effect a secondary school. If you are prepared to modify that article so as to leave greater latitude to the discretion of the local education authorities, I am quite sure that those at any rate who supervise the education of the purely rural districts would regard the concession as a very great boon. With regard to this Grant of sixty thousand pounds towards medical treatment of the schoolchildren, just as I believe that an enormous amount of money expended is being wasted because we do not provide a superstructure of education for the majority of the children who in the schools have learned how to learn and no more, so I believe that a large amount of money which is being expended by the local education authorities on medical inspection cannot be justified unless the expenditure is followed with effective medical treatment. We hear a good deal about parental responsibility. I do not know whether parental responsibility is a thing of the past or not. I am inclined to think that, to a very large extent, it is, but we have got to face the fact that it does not, to my mind, remove the obligation which rests upon us to see that the children who are defective in health, either bodily or mentally, receive the education which the State is prepared to provide, or to see that their condition is rendered more satisfactory so as to justify the public expenditure upon them. When the right hon. Gentleman tells me that he is going to spend pound for pound, I think it is only fair to ask what is going to happen as regards voluntary agencies at work in the country to-day. How can you estimate the poundage value of their voluntary work. It is just that voluntary work which in my humble judgment deserves every encouragement.

The right hon. Gentleman in answer to a question of mine the other day assured me that he was going to give encouragement to those authorities which had voluntary agencies at work. I should like to ask him how is he going to give that encouragement under the system which he has adumbrated this afternoon. Is there not a little danger of overlapping between the various authorities in this matter of expenditure on medical treatment? You have already got boards of guardians now encouraged by the Local Government Board to expend public money upon non-institutional treatment of persons not merely destitute, because destitution is to be construed in the future in a very broad way, but in a condition approaching destitution, and they are also allowed to expend money on children and others dependent on them in the event of sickness. Is there not a danger of overlapping? I hope unnecessary expenditure of public funds is not going to result from two different Departments carrying on practically the same work with different officers and different material. With regard to the result of medical inspection, we are told that 35 per cent. of the children, and it is a sad fact, are suffering from a verminous condition. May I throw out the suggestion that we might with advantage adopt in our schools what is already adopted in most factories—namely, that there should be a wooden or other partition between the different pegs in the cloak-room upon which the cloaks and hats of the children are suspended. There is not the smallest doubt that a very large number of perfectly clean children, from healthy homes, have conveyed to them this most unpleasant complaint owing to the transference of this disease from hat to hat or cloak to cloak in the cloak-room. If such a system of separation or partition is possible in the factory, surely it is also possible in the schools of the country.

In conclusion, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he cannot say a word in commendation, which I never yet heard uttered in this House, with regard to the perfectly admirable work which is being carried out by the Rural Education Conference at the present time. This Rural Education Conference, which is presided over by Mr. Henry Hobhouse, the vice-president being Lord Barnard, has done more than anybody to prevent this overlapping and hostility between the two Departments of Agriculture and Education. I think, indeed I am sure, they are pointing the way more than any other body not merely to co-operation between the two Departments, but indicating as well the right lines on which alone our rural education can be made continuous and properly co-ordinated. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that this admirable work, for which Mr. Henry Hobhouse is mainly responsible, does deserve a word of recognition in this House. May I take the opportunity of congratulating him and his predecessor on the fact that now at last those absurd squabbles between those two Departments appear to have absolutely ceased. It is only by co-operation that we can get anything like a real and effective system of rural education, from the elementary school right up to the collegiate centre, which is going to be of any real value to the agricultural population in this country. I take this opportunity, for the second time, of protesting against the very small amount of public time which is allocated to this most important subject of education. I think it is a very great hardship that on the one day of the year on which we discuss this subject that a private Bill is allowed to occupy so much of the time of the House.


I beg to move that Sub-head A (Salaries, Wages, and Allowances) be reduced by £100.

I cordially endorse the concluding remarks of the last speaker. I, personally, should like considerably more than the allotted time still available. I am unique in this Debate in this sense: Like many other Members, I was officially informed that reductions were to be moved and that Divisions were certain. Hitherto no reduction has been moved, and as far as I can see the one certain thing is that there will be no Division. I move that the Vote be reduced by £100 in order to separate myself from the unanimous chorus of approval which has greeted the President of the Board of Education. In my heart I believe in the right hon. Gentleman, and I approve much that he has done, but think he might have done a great deal better. In a perfectly amicable state of mind I shall endeavour to suggest ways in which next year he can do better than he has done. First of all, I want the right hon. Gentleman to exalt his office and to come forward with no apology. Personally, I shall not be satisfied with this Government until they raise the status of the Board of Education to that of other Government Departments. At least ten Cabinet Ministers are receiving £5,000 a year. I do not grudge that at all, but I say that if there is one man whose work for the nation and the importance of whose office justify that large salary it is the President of the Board of Education.


And you are moving to reduce his salary!


I move to reduce it by £l00 this year, but I hope that next year it will be augmented by £3,000. I am sorry the Committee have not devoted more attention to the way in which appointments are made in the Board of Education. I know that this subject is being, or will be, discussed by the Royal Commission on the Civil Service, but I am not satisfied that this important question should be relegated to a body which will take probably three or four years to report. On 1st March a series of very important questions were addressed to the President of the Board of Education by the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. C. Duncan), and from the answers then elicited it appears that neither inspectors nor junior examiners, nor other officials in that Department, are appointed by any sort of competition. They are exempted by Treasury Minute from having to present any certificate from the Civil Service Commission. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should begin by opening, at any rate, some of the appointments in. his office to competition. I am constantly receiving protests from different sources against the present system. Let me point out that the result is that if, as is now the case, a large number of these appointments go to Oxford and Cambridge men, it is taken as a slight by the other universities, especially by London University, and the conclusion is drawn hastily, probably incorrectly, but it is arrived at, that the appointments are given by favour and privilege. I consider that a very serious indictment to be able to be drawn against the Board of Education. I want therefore earnestly to suggest to the President that at any rate some of these appointments of inspectors and junior examinerships—probably all the latter— should in future be open to competition amongst those who present a Civil Service certificate.

Let me pass to another point on which, I think, there is room for serious condemnation of the Board of Education. I refer to the fact in view of the President taking pride to himself for the excellently high average attendance in the elementary schools. He did not tell us that at present there are 10,000 fewer children in the elementary schools than a year ago. Perhaps he does not know, because I had to elicit the fact from a Return (21st February) which I had great difficulty in obtaining. From the last year's statistics there available the fact is shown. It is, of course, due to a good many reasons. It is due to the exclusion of children between the ages of three and five, and to the action of the local education authorities who "hustle" the children out—I use the word "hustle" advisedly—as soon as they reach the age of twelve. The pressure upon the schools is so great, and it is made greater by the now average attendance which prevents the authorities taking upon the books as many children as they could previously, and the result is—I know it—that the word goes forth from the authorities that as soon as the child is twelve, even if in the middle of the term, it has to be sent out of the school in order that some younger child may take its place. It really is a most serious indictment in view of the increase of population and the increased value which, I am glad to see, the working classes themselves are giving to education, that we have 10,000 children less in our elementary schools than a year ago. I think I will not leave the President time to reply, for I am perfectly certain he could not give a satisfactory explanation. I would also refer to the spirit in which our elementary schools are allowed to be managed and conducted by the Board of Education, who allow fees to be charged, and charged without any protest, and indeed with encouragement, in many of the elementary schools of the country. I was speaking recently to a very well-informed journalist, and I asked him—and his answer would probably be given by many other journalists or by Members of this House if asked the question—as to how many children are being charged fees in the elementary schools, where those scholars are actually receiving the free Grant. The probable answer from hundreds of thousands of people would be that in this country there are no fees charged at all in our elementary schools. As a matter of fact there are certainly 200,000 children, and possibly 250,000 in elementary schools paying fees and paying fees amounting to £73,000 a year as a tax for education upon those parents who in most cases are badly able to bear that additional taxation.

Let me point out the parts of the country which are the worst in this respect. I am sorry to say the county of Lancashire is responsible for most of the fees charged in elementary schools. In Birkenhead the amounts charged are very heavy, and constitute a most serious tax upon the working classes. I notice that only the other day the Archbishop of York went down to Birkenhead, and at a great meeting on behalf of the Church of England schools prided himself on the number of children at the schools and on the great devotion and self-sacrifice of Churchmen in Birkenhead for maintaining so many Church of England schools. A few days after a return showing all the fees in elementary schools, which was moved for by me at the end of last Session, was published, and a copy was sent to Birkenhead. I understand there was a discussion at the local education authority in Birkenhead upon these fees, which are especially heavy in that town. One after another representatives of the non-provided schools got up and said that if all the fees were abolished they would have to close their elementary schools. What does that mean? It means that the proud boast of the Archbishop of York in praising the self sacrifice of those supporting the voluntary schools, was either ignorance or humbug. He either was utterly ignorant of the state of the case or he was saying things that he knew were not justified, and I prefer to believe he was as ignorant as he ought not to have been about the matter. Seriously, this taxation of the working classes who have children by imposing heavy fees amounting to many shillings a year upon them, especially in the Church of England schools in Lancashire and Cheshire, is a scandal which the Board of Education ought to do its best to stop.

As the President of the Board of Education refused to give me the total of the fees charged in the different classes of schools I have added them up with considerable labour, and had them checked by a better arithmetician than myself, and I shall give the different totals. I am glad to see that in the Roman Catholic schools the fees now charged are a great deal less than years ago; they amount to only £1,272. In other denominational schools they amount to £277; in the purely undenominational schools they amount to £3,660. I am sorry to say the Wesleyan schools are extremely bad in this respect; they charge heavy fees for education which to my knowledge is often no better than what is given in corresponding schools across the way. In the Wesleyan schools £4,629 is charged every year in fees. In the Church of England schools £26,999 was charged last year. In the council schools, where the charge of fees are to a very large extent in the higher elementary schools with their much advanced curriculum, there is a certain justification.

In the council schools charging elementary school fees there is collected £26,095, making altogether a total of £73,945 taken every year in school pence in the elementary schools of England which take a fee Grant. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Wales?"] Wales is practically without any school fees at all, because there are only two elementary schools in Wales in which fees are charged. I want to suggest to the President of the Board of Education that this is really scandalous, because it is taxation upon the poorest of the people, and I think he might do something through the Code in various ways, or through his inspectors, to assist the schools to be in practice what they are in theory, free, and open to all the children that are there. Perhaps the Government will give us another day to carry on this discussion. The rural schools have had several pleas put forward on their behalf. I wish to put forward a new plea, which is that they have been unfairly penalised by the operation of this special Grant for necessitous areas. That Grant was never given unless the area had a population of 20,000. Which is the heaviest burden, an urban area with a school rate of 1s. 7d. in the £, or a rural area where the school rate is 3s. 9d. in the £, and yet all the conditions under which the necessitous Grant was given, and three-quarters of the surplus above the 1s. 6d. borne by the taxes instead of the rates, by those very condi- tions all rural parishes with a heavy rate were ruled out of this special assistance. Here is a case which has not been actually stated here this afternoon, but it is a very serious case in a number of parishes. If the President likes, I could give him a list of a certain number of parishes very highly rated indeed. I have the statistics here, but I will not trouble the Committee with them now, but if the right hon. Gentleman will privately show that he has some sympathy with the rural parishes struggling with a 3s. 9d. education rate, I will send him a list which will help him to form a sound judgment. Although I have moved a reduction of this Vote, I am not very anxious to go to a Division upon it. It really is a pleasure to me to find that Radical opinions in the matter of education are evidently gaining ground, and that Radical administration of education is compelling admiration on the other side of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] We are discussing the administration to-day, and not one of those Gentlemen opposite have dared to move a reduction to-night. It has been left to one who is a Radical of Radicals, and his only dissatisfaction is because the administration is not quite Radical enough.


I am the last person to offer any criticism of the right hon. Gentleman's administration, because my object in rising is to make an appeal to him to give his very favourable consideration to an application which he has received with regard to the Bath Secondary School. The right hon. Gentleman will recollect that the Board of Education have threatened to withdraw a Grant amounting to as large a sum as £l,000 a year from the Bath Secondary School on the ground that the buildings are not wholly suitable. This is an old question. It began in the year 1904. In those days objection was taken to the buildings, not because they were inadequate to the purposes of a secondary school, but on the rather pedantic ground that they were not exclusively allocated to such a purpose, and were at the same time used for the purposes of technical classes and of a school of domestic science and for some other educational purposes. I regret I cannot go into the details of this case, because it is undoubtedly a very strong case indeed. I will only advance one consideration, why the right hon. Gentleman should treat the city of Bath with indulgence and leniency in this matter. Quite recently the boundaries of the city have been extended. The area under the education authority has been very considerably enlarged, and it would have been, I think he will agree, very improper on the part of the outgoing council to have committed the new city council of the larger area to a very large expenditure, amounting to some £6,000 on new buildings for a secondary school, when they were shortly to become extinct. Another consideration is that there is being built outside the old boundaries but inside the new boundaries a higher elementary school. Before the right hon. Gentleman insists on the existing school inside the present city being enlarged, it would be wise for him to wait and see what accommodation there will be in the new higher elementary school within the new boundaries. In the meanwhile I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to withdraw the restriction on the number of pupils permitted to use the present secondary school, because it is undoubtedly hard on the city that only 160 children should be allowed to take advantage of it. I make my appeal not only in the interests of the city of Bath, but also in the interests of education in Somerset.

And it being Eleven o'clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next, the 10th instant.