HC Deb 18 July 1916 vol 84 cc869-984

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £9,736,732, 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, 1917, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Education, and of the various Establishments connected therewith, including sundry Grants-in-Aid." [NOTE.—£5,450,000 has been voted on account.]

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. A. Henderson)

In presenting my first Estimates I propose to give the Committee some idea as to how we stand after nearly two years' experience of a great War. This, in my opinion, is most important in view of the many statements which have been made regarding the comparative failure of our educational system during this great crisis. We are far from claiming that the machine is perfect or that it is free from limitations or anomalies. But we claim with a great amount of confidence that if we take our educational system as a whole, thanks to the staff of the Board of Education and to the valuable assistance of local education authorities and to the teachers, it has stood the stress and strain of what has probably been its most trying period in a manner calculated to give a great amount of satisfaction. I desire publicly to express my sincere appreciation of the invaluable and devoted services of my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, and also of Sir A. L. SelbyBigge, the permanent Secretary. Unfortunately both these valuable officials are laid aside by illness, and I feel sure the Committee will join in an expression of sympathy and of hope that they may both have a speedy recovery.

It has been suggested that widespread efforts have been made to prejudice efficiency in education by a process of unwise economies. No doubt evidence can be produced in isolated cases in support of this contention, although the figures of the Board, and I think also the figures of local education authorities, show that, generally speaking, this is not the case. The estimated expenditure of the Board of Education for the year 1916–17 amounts to £15,186,732. This sum is less by £294,646 than the sum provided by last year's Estimates, but it is not less than our expenditure for last year. It may interest the Committee to have the expenditure of the previous five years. In 1911–12 it was £14,302,859; in 1912–13, £14,332,018; in 1913–14, £14,368,794; in 1914–15, £15,096,235—the large increase between these two years was caused by special Grants to necessitous areas—in 1915–16 it was £15,174,300; and may I repeat that for 1916–17 the Estimate is £15,186,732. The first year of the War, 1914–15, saw our expenditure on education greater than in the previous year. In the second year of the War this level was maintained, and in the third, as the figures show, we expect to do likewise.

Let us take the case of the local education authorities. The complete Returns, I am sorry to say, are not yet available, but the figures which have come to hand go to show that in the year ending 31st March, 1916, the local authorities raised their expenditure by about £300,000. It has to be admitted that this increase is not nearly so large as the automatic rise that follows from year to year, and which, on the average, works out at about £1,000,000, nor does the increase apply to all local education authorities. We are not prepared to say that in no case has there been untimely or indiscreet economy; but, broadly speaking, the authorities have shown themselves ready to discriminate between what is essential to maintain efficiency and what can, without permanent loss of efficiency, be dispensed with or postponed. In connection with the principal economies effected, that connected with building operations is the most important. The suspension of building operations was inevitable, but, fortunately, for several years before the War great efforts have been made to improve the condition of school buildings throughout the country, and I am happy to say that the Board has no evidence that the health of the children has been adversely affected by the temporary postponement of improvements. On the other hand, overcrowding and the temporary use of inferior premises have been inevitable. The authorities, especially in the towns, will have arrears of school building, both enlargement, improvement, and new construction, to work out when peace comes. It is most desirable that they should prepare their plans well ahead and formulate a programme which can be taken in hand as soon as the conditions once again become normal. Then there have been other postponements, such as redecoration, and there has also been economy in stationery and equipment. This is especially important owing to the rise in the price of paper. But these economies apply only so far to the fabric. As regards educational facilities, the principal economies are—first, that some evening classes for low-grade technical instruction have been shut down; and, secondly, that men students in training colleges having proceeded on military service, the colleges have had consequently to be closed down, and the remaining students, unfit for military service, have been transferred to other buildings.

I think it may safely be said that there has only been one serious and substantial reduction in the expenditure on education strictly speaking, namely, the exclusion from the elementary schools of children under five years of age. The Board has always recognised this to be a matter for local education authorities to decide. Under proper conditions the best place for children under five is a good home, but where the mother cannot attend to the children, in our opinion they should be in a school. It has to be recognised that there has been a great increase in the employment of women in consequence of the War, and this may result in children at home in many cases being neglected. The Board strongly hope that in such cases the education authorities will not try to economise. In the case of London there is no general admission of children under five, but allowance is made where home circumstances are unfavourable. Speaking generally, therefore, in spite of the War, local education expenditure has gone up, and the expenditure of the Board has risen simultaneously. Before the War the problem of local education finance was getting very serious. Local expenditure was rising, and the Government Grant was almost stationary. The Board had its plans for readjusting the incidence of local cost in education, involving large additional subsidies from the Exchequer. I venture to hope, and I think the Committee will agree with me, that those plans may be given effect to as soon after the War as possible.

Coming to the Estimates in detail, I think only a very brief explanation is necessary. Under Subhead A, administration, the position is almost normal, £203,667, this year, as against £209,551 last year, a decrease of £6,284. Under Subhead B, covering inspection and examination, we have £222,578, as against £252,458 last year, which shows a reduction of £29,880. This reduction is caused mainly by the absence of inspecting officers on military service, and the consequent restriction of inspection. The reduction has also been effected by the national competition in art having been temporarily discontinued.

Under Subhead C, I come to expenditure on elementary education. The amount stands at £12,640,528, as against £12,696,815 last year. Here we have a reduction of £56,287. We could have expected an increase due to the automatic increases in pensions and in Grants for the education of blind, deaf, defective, and epileptic children, both items of which do show an actual increase, the increases in pensions amounting to £13,963 and Grants for education of blind, deaf, defective, and epileptic children amounting to £60,000, or a total increase of £73,963. These increases, however, were more than balanced by the decreases under two heads, one being the Grants to public elementary schools based on attendance. It may be interesting to Members of the Committee to know that if they will turn to page 22 of the printed statement they will there find explanatory notes regarding all the conditions of the Grants referred to. We estimate during the year 1916–17 a decline in the attendance of children of something less than 1 per cent., involving a saving of £53,000. This decline is due to three causes, the first of which is the declining birth rate in recent years. There was a noticeable drop in the birth rate in 1911, which, of course, determines to some extent the number of children entering our elementary schools in the year 1916. The second cause is the exclusion of children under five years of age from our elementary schools, and the third cause is the extension of the employment of children at an earlier age.

On this aspect of our educational problem, namely, the employment of children at an earlier age, I feel compelled to ask the attention of the Committee as I deal with the subject in fuller detail. It may safely be said that no subject has given the Board so much concern, or caused educationists generally so much apprehension, as this question of child labour, especially its extension in agriculture. As the Committee are aware, the employment of children is no new problem. Several measures dealing with the subject are already on the Statute Book. These include, in addition to the general education Acts, the Factory and Workshops Act, 1901, the Mines Act, Acts dealing with particular trades such as street trading and public performances; also the Employment of Children Act, 1903. May I trouble the Committee with a statement of the actual position of the child under the law with regard to employment: (1) Children aged thirteen may be employed full time under the Factory Act, provided that they are entitled to fulltime exemption under the local bylaws. (2) Children aged twelve may be employed halftime under the Factory Act up to the time that they are entitled to work full time. (3) Children aged thirteen, if entitled to exemption under the bylaws, may be employed, under the Coal and Metalliferous Mines Act, either above ground or, in metalliferous mines, under ground. (4) Children aged twelve, if entitled to exemption under the bylaws, may be employed in metalliferous mines above ground. (5) Children aged twelve to fourteen inclusive may be employed full time outside the Factory and Mines Acts, if entitled to total exemption under the bylaws. (6) Children aged twelve may be employed under a system of partial exemption from school attendance in miscellaneous occupations outside the Factory and Mines Acts, if entitled to exemption under the local bylaws. (7) Children aged eleven may, in some agricultural districts of England, be employed halftime in agriculture. (8) Children attending school full time may be employed out of school hours in miscellaneous occupations, subject to the general provisions of the Employment of Children Act, and any bylaws which happen to exist.


Does it mean children aged eleven, and not twelve?


Yes, children aged eleven and under twelve. I think the Committee will agree that it is most unsatisfactory to have children who are really eligible to attend school under laws so diversified as those which I have mentioned, and I think that one of the reforms that we ought to try to obtain as early as possible is to sweep away this state of things, and try to put the whole of the children under one uniform provision. It is estimated that at the outbreak of war considerably over 500,000 children under fourteen years of age were employed as wage earners in the United Kingdom. This works out at about one child in every twelve of those of all ages who might be in attendance at our public elementary schools.

Having thus referred to the general question, I desire to notice the position in its relation to agriculture. It became obvious in the early stages of the War that demands would be made upon local education authorities in agricultural areas to relax their bylaws. The policy and attitude of the Government was stated to the House by the Prime Minister in statements which leave no room for doubt as to the meaning and intention of the Government. These conditions were subsequently brought to the notice of education authorities in a circular issued by the Board, which said: The employment of children of school age should be regarded as an exceptional measure permitted to meet a special emergency, and should only be allowed where the authority are satisfied that no other labour is available, and in no case should children be excused attendance at school if older children, who are under no legal obligation to attend school, are available. The circular also went on to say: In considering the available supply of labour, the authority should satisfy themselves that all reasonabl efforts have been made to secure adult labour—for instance, by applicatian to the Labour Exchanges, and especially by the offer of adequate remuneration. Every case should be considered on its merits, and there should be no general relaxation of bylaws. The employment should be of a light character, and suitable to the capacity of the child. Permission, if given at all, should be given for a definitely limited period only. The Board sought to impress upon the local authorities the importance of their making full inquiry into each case and the need for careful supervision over the children employed.


Will the right hon. Gentleman informs us whether these cases that he is referring to now are only in agricultural districts or did this warning apply to all cases of child employment?


I thought I had made it clear to the Committee that I was dealing for the moment solely with agriculture. If I did not make that clear, let me say that that is the position. It was clearly the intention of the Government that the employment of children should be minimised as much as possible, and should only be approved as a last resort and under favourable conditions. May I invite the Committee to note the extent to which the employment of children in agriculture has grown owing, as it is claimed, to circumstances connected with the War. Up to 31st January, 1915, 1,400 children were thus employed in the counties, and up to 31st May, 1915, 3,800 children in the counties were thus ememployed. The number was still small, but we found great variation in local practice. Special inquiries were made in eight counties where there appeared to be ground for investigation and the Board were satisfied that there was not at that time, on the whole, excessive laxity in dealing with the question. A little later, in July, 1915, I addressed a letter to all local education authorities on the subject of wages, in which I pointed out that, apart from all considerations of humanity or fairness, it appeared to me to be indisputable that, unless a boy was worth a reasonable wage, his services could not be of sufficient use to the farmer to justify his withdrawal from school. Early this year, however, we found that the number of children employed in agriculture had risen to over 8,000, and the Board, in concurrence with the Board of Agriculture, issued another circular repeating the conditions, and drawing special attention to a new and somewhat alarming symptom, namely, the exemption of children under the age of twelve. In that circular we said: The Board of Education consider it very doubtful whether children under twelve who are excused for agricultural employment will ever return to school, at any rate for an effective period, and they regard the interruption or discontinuance of the education of children at that age, whether regarded from the point of view of the children themselves, or of the general interests of the country, or of the interests of agriculture, as entirely lamentable. They have consulted the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries upon this point and are assured that the policy of that Department in the matter does not differ from the policy of the Board of Education. The Board of Education would regard it as a very grave misfortune if large numbers of children in rural districts under twelve years of age had their education permanently interrupted. The Board of Agriculture also expressed the opinion that if the women of the country districts and of England generally, took the part they ought to take in war work in agriculture, it would be quite unnecessary to sacrifice the children under twelve. I am consequently to point out that authorities in considering, in accordance with the requirements of Circular 898, whether any other labour is available, should turn their particular attention to the question of whether the labour of women is available, and should not sanction the employment of children in any case where it appears that the work required could be performed by women. I desire to take this opportunity of expressing my gratitude to the Board of Agriculture, especially under my late colleague, for their cooperation and valuable assistance in this matter. I would further point out to the Committee that the Board were anxious that the local education authority should retain proper control over all exemptions from their own schools. Recommendations were made to them with a view to securing that the exemptions were not to be granted by comparatively irresponsible committees. In spite of our recommendations and admonitions we now find that the number of children employed in agriculture has nearly doubled, the figures being 15,750, and I regret very much to say that 546 of these children are under twelve years of age.


Are all these cases children who are liable to attend school?


Yes, I am dealing only with those who are liable to attend school. These figures, if not alarming, are sufficient to justify the inference that the bylaws are being relaxed without that proper care and inquiry which both the Board of Agriculture and the Board of Education intended should take place in each case. It is necessary, I think, to point out that in this matter the Board must rely on the good will and progressive spirit of the local education authority. Happily, in many districts this has been forthcoming, and the exemptions have been minimised, if not altogether refused. But this only makes worse the case against the other authorities. For instance, a great agricultural county like Devon finds it necessary only to exempt 159, and this makes it more difficult to understand why Kent should find it necessary to exempt 1,668. Huntingdonshire has excused 122 boys between eleven and twelve years of age, and this is about one-fourth of all the boys of that age who have been excused throughout England and Wales. The total number of boys excused in that county amounts to 44 per cent. of the number of boys on the books of the elementary schools on the 31st January, 1914, and so far as I can judge, the schools must be completely depleted of boys between thirteen and fourteen years of age. The Soke of Peterborough is an even worse offender. It has only 191 boys between eleven and fourteen on its registers, and it has exempted no fewer than 104, or 54 per cent. Of these twenty-two are between eleven and twelve years of age. The mischief, however, is not entirely confined to small counties. Bedfordshire has exempted 22 per cent. of its boys, Kent 9 per cent., Lincoln (Kesteven) 18 per cent., Lincoln (Lindsey) 12 per cent., and West Sussex 14 per cent. Worcestershire has exempted 10 per cent., and 143 of these children excused are between eleven and twelve years of age. The Committee, I am sure, can only regard this extension of the employment of children of tender years with considerable apprehension. None of us, I am sure, desire to ignore the national need during this grave and unprecedented crisis, but the employment of children should only be accepted when it is proved to be an imperative national need. We have, therefore, in consequence of what has taken place, addressed a strong remonstrance to the worst areas, and if satisfactory explanations are not forthcoming, we are determined to do all. in our power to prevent any further abuse of the concession which was granted under the strictest conditions only to meet a very special emergency, and I am authorised to say that if the powers we possess are insufficient, the Government will ask Parliament to extend them.

As regards employment other than in agriculture, I am pleased to say that the position is much less serious. There has undoubtedly been an extension, but with rare exceptions the extension has been within the law. In other words, while advantage has been taken of the early leaving age which is, unfortunately, characteristic of our education, the authorities in industrial areas have for the most part resisted proposals to go below it. I may just cite two cases of what has taken place in our industrial areas. In the county of Durham a demand was made for boy labour for surface work at the mines. Conferences were held between the colliery court and the local education authority, and I am very pleased to say that it has been arranged that there shall be no general exemption and that each case should be considered on its merits with due regard to the amount of adult labour available and to the nature of the work in which the child has to be engaged. The second illustration is supplied to me from Bradford. An agreement has been reached between the local education authority and the employers under which those employers who agree to give up the halftime system may, during the War, employ children at thirteen instead of fourteen. The Board felt that in securing the abandonment of the halftime system in the city of Bradford such a substantial advance was worth a temporary reduction in the leaving age.


Is the abolition of halftime immediate or after the War?


After the War. At the end of the War there is to be no more halftime.


How can that be enforced?


The agreement is made by the employers themselves. An employer need not employ a child halftime if he does not want to do it. If all employers agree there will be no children employed halftime, so far as Bradford is concerned. I only wish that other districts would do the same. Another item in the Vote which shows a reduction is Grants for the feeding of school children. It may be said that the boom in trade which led to the employment of school children has reduced the estimates for feeding school children from £175,000 in 1915–16 to £100,000 in 1916–17. The figures show that in 1912–13,19,500,000 meals were provided; in 1913–14, 14,500,000; in 1914–15, 29,500,000, including the first months of the War; and in 1915–16, 11,500,000, and a further reduction is expected during the year. During the first two months of the War the number of meals given rose until they reached 1,200,000 in the last week of September. The restoration of trade caused a reduction, and this has continued progressively. It had sunk to 427,000 in April, 1915, and to 157,000 in April, 1916, and it is now much below normal. On the other hand, the increased cost of food renders the actual cost of each meal larger. It will be gratifying to the Committee to know that the provision of Grants-in-Aid of meals which was first undertaken in 1914–15 has had a beneficial effect, far better food being served and greater cleanliness and more orderly habits resulting. Then it has been discovered by experience that if school feeding has to be given at all and is to have its proper effect, it must be regular. The Provision of Meals Act, 1914, gave the authorities power to provide meals for school children during the holidays, and many authorities in poor areas especially availed themselves of this provision, with marked benefit to the children. On this topic I might inform the Committee that in July, 1915, the Board issued a pamphlet on economy in food, and asking the authorities to grant instruction on this subject. We also offered Grants to aid a course of instruction for housework. As a result, 400,000 copies of the pamphlet were distributed and a large number were sold.

With regard to the other branch of medical service, medical inspection, there is no reduction. The amount continues at £200,000. This, with £22,000 for schools for mothers and the £100,0001 have already referred to for the provision of meals for necessitous school children, makes a total under that subhead of £322,000. School medical service includes not only medical inspection of children, but also treatment, principally of teeth, eyes, throat, and skin. Three hundred and fifty school clinics are now in existence, and seventy-five authorities have arrangements with their hospitals, and contribute accordingly. The Board have power to pay up to 50 per cent. of expenditure where arrangements are satisfactory, and the expenditure for 1915–16 reached the sum of £192,000. No doubt in recent years arrangements have become increasingly efficient. As must be expected, the effect of the War was somewhat alarming to this branch of the service. Down to March, 1915, the school medical service was practically unimpaired. By March, 1916, out of 850 school medical officers, no fewer than 300 had joined the Forces. The Board are urging the essential importance of maintaining as the minimum of treatment hitherto given and the careful inspection of children who appear to be ailing. So far we have secured this minimum standard which is of vital importance to the health of the rising generation. As the Committee can realise, substitutes being no longer available, any further release of medical officers would in some areas involve the total abandonment of the school medical service, and can only be regarded as deplorable.

As the Committee will notice, the Grant for the training of teachers shows a reduction of £168,000, the total being £408,202 for 1916–17, as against £577,000 for the previous year. Sixty thousand pounds is accounted for by the stoppage of Building Grants. The balance, £108,000; is due to the reduction in annual Grants caused by the withdrawal of men students for military service. In the early days of the War large numbers of students joined the Forces as Volunteers. Then the King's Appeal in the autumn of 1915, and the introduction of compulsory service, led to further depletion, so that by the end of this term all students of military age who are fit for general service will have left.

As far back as the autumn of 1914 arrangements were made for concentrating the colleges. These arrangements, were extended in 1915, and, at the present time, out of eighty-nine colleges, twelve have been temporarily closed, and their students transferred elsewhere. This has led to a great saving of the cost of upkeep, besides setting free members of the staff for military and other service. We expect that some further measure of concentration will be necessary during the coming year. The Board's Grant is paid on the number of students in attendance, and the withdrawal, therefore, of students would have led to a serious financial crisis. The Board received the consent of the Treasury to pay supplementary Grants where necessary, to enable the colleges to meet their necessary outstanding commitments, and in the past year, for this purpose, we have paid out the sum of £15,000. The Board has given special consideration to the future of students whose course of training has been interrupted. We hope that, where possible, they will return to college and' complete their course there. Where this is not possible we have made special arrangements which the Committee may be interested to hear. First, students who have spent a year in college and a year with the forces will receive temporary certificates at the end of the War. These certificates will be confirmed after two years if the local authority and His Majesty's inspector report that the teacher's work is satisfactory. Secondly, students who have spent less than a year in college will be required to take a special sixmonths' course on their returning from the Army, and will then receive a temporary certificate, subject to confirmation, as in the other case.

The depletion of the training colleges brings into prominence a subject which is always a matter of great anxiety to the Board, namely, the supply of teachers. Many of those who have left will not comeback. We have, therefore, to study the number of boys and girls preparing as business or pupil teachers to enter the training colleges in a year or two's time. Unfortunately the outlook is anything but encouraging. We are not so badly off as we were in 1912–13, when the number of entrants sank to 5,232, but in 1915–16 the number was only 7,270. This year we expect it will be 1,200 less. The decrease no doubt is due in the main to the great demand there is for labour of young people in other occupations. Whatever the cause, the effect is somewhat disquieting, and brings into greater prominence one of the most important questions connected with educational reform, namely, the necessity of fixing the emoluments of the profession at a rate which will ensure an adequate supply of men and women, qualified by character and attainments to discharge their very responsible duties. This must be an essential and indispensable feature of any scheme of educational reform.

With regard to secondary education, we cannot say that there has been any special developments, although we do report with gratification that the increase in the number of pupils in secondary schools, after a sharp drop at the beginning of the War, has been maintained and enlarged. There has been an increase in the actual amount of £57,000—that is, £37,000, being an automatic rise, and £20,000 for special Grants for training intending teachers. Naturally there has been a great development during the war period in Officers' Training Corps and Cadet Corps, a movement which the Board has always regarded with sympathy. If I do not say any more it is not for want of interest in this subject, but because the whole question is one which will have to be considered in any plans for reconstruction. At the present time the War Office, having more serious preoccupations, have neither leisure nor equipment with which to undertake serious developments on these lines. Another question which will have to be carefully studied is the question of facilities for poorer parents. The Board have been pressed in many instances on grounds of economy to reduce their requirements for free places. This they have always refused to do. On the other hand, in one or two instances the local authorities have met the increased cost by raising the fees of the fee paying scholars. In this connection I would like to call the attention of the members of the Committee to the Report on Scholarships which has been presented by the Consultative Committee of the Board. This Report is now available for Members. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the members of that Committee, and particularly the chairman, Mr. Arthur Acland, for producing one of the most valuable and at the same time most interesting contributions to educational literature which we have had for some years past.

May I say a word with regard to the scientific and industrial technical schools? This is found under Sub-head (f). Here we have a decrease of £62,000, the total figure being £576,000, as against £638,000 last year. The reduction here is chiefly due to the closing down of the low grade evening classes. As regards technical education, the most striking fact I have to record is the part which the technical schools have taken in ammunition work and in the training of ammunition workers. In July, 1915 at the request of the Minister of Munitions, I called upon the technical schools to develop training classes. They responded so readily that in a few months 1,700 men and women were in training, and 400 were waiting for vacancies. This has continued, and, apart from this, many of the schools, actually used their machinery for the manufacture of munition details, and others transferred their machines to munition work. Nearly all the reports I have received show that the services rendered by the schools have been of the highest possible value. What I have said of the technical schools applies in even greater measure to the universities. It is well known that they have supplied to the New Army some of their finest fighting material. Next to that, ever since the outbreak of the War their scientific staff has been occupied on special work, mostly of a very confidential and technical nature, for the Admiralty, War Office, and Ministry of Munitions. Indeed, the services they have rendered to the State during the War period have undoubtedly been of incalculable value, though not, I think, greater than the services they will render when peace comes, especially, I hope, during the period of reconstruction. There is, I believe, a growing recognition on the part of manufacturers of the importance of applying science to all industrial problems, and in the growing intimacy between the university and the industrial world I see the promise of incalculable developments in the future.

I think I ought to refer to certain matters affecting all branches of education generally. First, there is the difficulty we have experienced in consequence of the occupation of schools for military purposes, including hospitals. Schools have certain advantages for these purposes which are not shared by other buildings, such as chapels and picture palaces, the use of which is sometimes recommended. Schools are solidly built, the rooms are spacious and well-lighted, they have efficient heating, and, above all, their sanitary arrangements are good. For these reasons it was quite impossible for us to refuse the use of the schools. Arrangements were made with the War Office that they would not ask for any school except when absolutely necessary, and in return, when it was absolutely necessary, the Board could not refuse. The result of this arrangement is that, on 31st May, there were some 200 schools in occupation for military purposes. The pressure has been particularly great in certain parts of the North, where there have been large concentrations of troops. Local authorities and the Board's staff collaborated in making arrangements for continuing, as far as possible, the education of the children toy distributing them in other schools, and in some cases by what is known as the double shift system. These arrangements have been so far effective that no children remain un provided for, though in some cases the school hours of the younger children have been unavoidably reduced.

Then we would notice the effect of the Military Service Act. The object of the Board has been to minimise, as far as possible, the inconvenience caused by the "withdrawal of teachers and students for military service. We have always been moved by two considerations—first, the necessity of maintaining the highest possible level of efficiency of schools; secondly, maintaining a supply of students for the future. With the assistance of the War Office we have arranged the following plan: Teachers and students who are not fit for general service are not being taken into the Army. Teachers though fit for general service, who are held by the local authority and the Board to be indispensable, are also retained, whether temporarily or permanently, in order to carry out the work of the schools. Students reaching the age of eighteen will be Allowed to remain at school or college until they have completed the term, and students in scientific and technical subjects who are certified to be of special merit, will similarly toe retained on grounds of national interest.

I must take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the patriotism of the teachers. Some 20,000 teachers are now, or shortly will be, serving with the Colours. A great majority of these, I am happy to say, have volunteered.


Are these teachers in elementary schools only?

5.0 P.M.


No; I am taking the teachers as a whole. There is general testimony from the Army authorities as to their efficiency Their high standard of education, physical training, and practising organisation have made them specially valuable as soldiers and officers. Local authorities, I am happy to say, have done their best to help the teachers to join the Army, and their posts are kept open for them, and in nearly every case the balance between military pay and civil salaries is toeing paid toy the local authority. The Committee must be concerned to know what has been the effect of the withdrawal from the schools of so many teachers. First, then, there has been increased employment of women. A large number of qualified women leave the profession every year on marriage, and remain available. The authorities are largely adopting the practice of placing younger boys up to eleven under women teachers. In the second place, a certain number of superannuated teachers have either returned or are allowed to remain in the profession. We also found it necessary, in view of the emergency to allow local authorities to make temporary appointments of persons possessing good general education, though without any special qualification. We have made it clear that this concession is temporary only, and must terminate after the War. It is most fortunate that improvements in recent years have given us a considerable margin on which to draw. This applies to the number of the teachers and also the size of the classes. Between 1911–1914, the number of posts for certificated teachers was increased by 9,000. There are only a few hundreds of schools out of 20,000 in which the number of qualified teachers employed even now falls below the minimum required by the Code. The maximum size of classes permitted in peace time was sixty. Some progressive authorities like London and Bradford, were aiming at forty. The withdrawal of teachers has led to an increase in the size of the classes, but there is hardly any case in which they have been increased, I am happy to say, above the peace maximum of sixty. Naturally the withdrawal of so many teachers has thrown a very heavy burden on those who remain, and especially upon head teachers. Our thanks are due to all those who with zeal have shown their willingness to undertake the additional duties and responsibilities. The same applies to the administrative staff of the local education authorities which have also been depleted. As to my own staff at the Board of Education, before the War the Board employed 2,135, including women. Now I have to report that 542 members of our staff have joined the Colours. It is with great regret I have to announce that no less than thirty of them have already fallen. The inevitable consequence of this is that the Board has had to give up much routine work which in time of peace has proved indispensable if the machine has to be kept running with perfect efficiency, and will be absolutely necessary again in the time of peace.

From what has been said, however fragmentary it may have been, it must be obvious to the Committee that in spite of the embargo which the present crisis has imposed upon our educational system that system is not the failure hinted at in some quarters, nor does it deserve to be spoken of in such terms of depreciation as are sometimes heard. There are two things which the War has clearly demonstrated. First, I think the War has demonstrated the general soundness and solidity of our educational system, which, in spite of heavy disadvantages, is steadily developing. The War has, I think, also shown, and the demeanour of the people has dispelled, the fallacy that education was sapping their moral strength. Such stories of heroism as that which was displayed by Jack Cornwell give striking testimony to the patriotism produced by the teaching of our public elementary schools. What the Army owes to the universities and the public schools is almost universally recognised; what it owes to the elementary schools is not so often mentioned. I have particular gratification in quoting the judgment of a distinguished officer to a former member of my staff. He says: If it had not been for the discipline and influence of the elementary schools it would have been impossible to have raised and trained the New Armies. Thirty years ago nothing of the kind could have been done. At the same time, the War had brought home to the people what has long been common knowledge amongst those who concern themselves with education, and that is that our national prosperity and security demand greater concentration of trained intelligence on problems of industry, of commerce, and of public administration. I have felt during the year I have been at the Board of Education that there was imposed upon us a twofold duty. The first is to maintain, as far as possible in the midst of great difficulties, the standard which had been reached before the War. In some respects it was a very high standard and in others it was low, and I think the War has demonstrated that in some respects it was almost dangerously low. Then our second duty was—and when the time comes to declare our plans for the future I think it will be found that we have not failed in it—to prepare not only for a re-conquest of any ground we have lost, but for an advance which will carry us far beyond. The Committee will remember that the late Government, under my right hon. Friend, had actually announced and were taking the first steps to effect a general reorganisation of our educational system when war broke out, and, as the Prime Minister has stated, the present Government are again instituting a general inquiry into our education. The Committee may rest assured, therefore, that the plans prepared before the War will not be wasted, but will be reviewed in the light of the experience and, I hope, prosecuted with the energy derived from the War itself.

As part of that general inquiry we have decided to appoint Committees to investigate three branches of the subject. The first, which has already begun its work, and over which my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary presides, will investigate the whole problem of the education of young persons after the War with special regard to those who have been abnormally employed, those who cannot find advantageous employment, and those who require further training. We cannot doubt that the period after the War will bring the problem of youthful employment very forcibly before our notice. We hope that this investigating Committee will furnish us with useful information for dealing rapidly and effectively with the unforeseen problems that must undoubtedly arise. If there is one point to which my experience, both at the Board and out of it in the Labour world, with which I have been associated for so many years, leads me to attach special importance it is this problem of the education of children between the elementary schools and the university, or, broadly speaking, those years between thirteen and eighteen. We need an extension and reorganisation of education so as to secure closer cooperation and continuity between the elementary schools and the college through our technical continuation and secondary shools. At present our children leave school too soon and those who would undoubtedly profit by further education cannot always get it, either because a suitable school is not available or because the parents cannot do without the earnings of the children. The problem of longer education and higher education, to a much greater extent than many politicians imagine, is an economic problem which cannot be solved on educational lines. This being so, we should at least endeavour to secure that when we have a capable child and a willing parent means should be found for continuing the child's education.

That education is also a problem of character which is far too often overlooked. Then in future the teaching of science must be a greater feature of our educational system and we must secure closer cooperation between science and industry. We do not mean by scientific teaching specialisation upon any single branch, but a more scientific temper in all branches of education, in history as well as in chemistry. We mean larger facilities for scientific teaching and research, the recognition, if you will, of the claims of physical science to a position, not of exclusive privilege but equality in the curriculum of schools and as a qualification for the public service. With this in view it has been decided as a first step to appoint two further Committees to inquire, respectively, into the position of science and modern language teaching in our educational system. But if these projects for the future are to be successfully accomplished, the public generally and employers in particular must recognise the economic importance of higher education, if not on higher grounds, to enable them to have an opportunity of drawing their industrial skill and directing ability from an ever increasing supply. They must also consider whether in the past they have suffi- ciently recognised science in its application to industry, and whether they have set a proper value on the services of scientists. We do not overlook the fact that many employers and business men have shown by their great generosity to our universities that they do appreciate the industrial importance of science, but there must be a more general recognition of the value of a larger inflow of students capable of doing, or of being permitted to do, university work. It would be to the interests of the employers themselves if, instead of trying to secure the quickest returns by employing boys of premature age, they would look for the largest returns coming from the greater intelligence of those employed.

Educational reform is obviously a question of national finance. In this respect I would remind the Committee that the plan of educational reform announced before the War included a revised system of Grants for elementary education, for further Grants for technical and secondary education, and for the training of teachers, the cost of which would have involved some millions of new money. This scheme, as I have already hinted, was arrested by the outbreak of war. But still, Sir, I would emphasise the fact that our primary need at the moment is not, may I say with respect, a President who would be more industrious in connection with educational matters; it is not even the devising of new plans. It is a question of money—more money—and still more money. I think it may be safely said with satisfaction that this War is, at any rate, assisting in the creation of a greater body of public opinion in favour of a more liberal expenditure on education. I think it may be said, too, that the essential importance of a comprehensive and efficient system, of education to the progressive development of the national life and in the solidifying of the Empire is coming to be more universally recognised. But this spirit must be fostered and encouraged, and on no account should the nation in consequence of its expenditure on war, high though that may be, be deterred from making its proper investment in education. Not only should this be done in the interests of the nation and of the Empire, but, may I suggest, I think it ought to be done as an act of gratitude to those men who have fought, suffered and died for their country. Surely no more appropriate memorial could be raised to the memory of those who have fallen in this War than that the children of those heroes should commence life equipped by an education that would inspire in them an undying love for their country, made sacred by their father's blood.

May I say, in conclusion, when finance adequate to our educational need and commensurate with its importance is forthcoming, when the country recognises the teaching profession in all its branches as an essentially important part of the public service and thereby continues to attract to it the best brains, when Parliament itself determines to place education on a national and in some respects on an Imperial instead of a sectarian basis, the Committee may rest assured that we possess in our teachers today, and in the permanent officials engaged in educational administration, both national and local, a body of men and women with vision, with enthusiasm, and with capacity sufficient to make a comprehensive and unfettered scheme of education what it ought to be, a powerful and effective instrument in promoting the physical, social, and shall I say the moral life of all sections of the community.


I think every member of the Committee will feel the force of the inspiring words with which the President of the Board of Education has concluded his admirable address, and if, in reviewing his statement, I have to make some remarks which may not be altogether in consonance with every word of his speech, I am sure he will recognise that I fully appreciate the very great efforts which he as President of the Board of Education has made in order to improve our existing system of education and to keep it on the right lines during a very critical period of our history. I think our thanks to the President are the more due, seeing that he has at the same time undertaken duties of a most onerous character, which have been of the greatest advantage to this country in the prosecution of the War. I should like to join with the President in expressing my regret that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education is unable to be present today, and equally so that the Permanent Secretary of the Board of Education, one of the most broadminded and intelligent of the permanent Secretaries which we have had for a long time, is unable to discharge his duties at the Board of Education. The remarks of the President have been very largely con- fined, and rightly so, to the financial statements connected with the Vote that is before the Committee. He has told us that we are now spending a sum exceeding £15,000,000 of money on our education, and he pointed out directions in which some amount of economy during the past year has been effected.

Personally, I do not think there is any reason to apologise for economy, even in the matter of the administration of our education, so long particularly as it does not in any way injure the education of those children who are at present receiving instruction in our schools. He pointed out that one of the economies effected was the closing down of some of our evening technical schools. This I regret. If it was necessary to close down any classes during the War I should think that some of the classes on literature or history or other subjects of that kind might with greater advantage have been closed down than those in which instruction was being given to young persons in the application of science to industry. I agree with him entirely as regards the possible disastrous results in some cases of excluding young children from the benefits of education, but at the same time I noticed particularly his remark that children under five are really better educated in their own homes than in any school, provided they have a mother or friend or guardian who will look after their education. He pointed out also that a sum of about £60,000 was being saved on administration, and £30,000, I think he said, on inspection. I do not regret altogether the amount of money that has been saved on inspection, because I should like the Board of Education to consider the fact that the inspectors appointed by the local authorities very frequently overlap in the discharge of their duties the inspectors appointed by the Board of Education, and I think it will be found that some part at least of that economy may be continued even after the War is over.

As regards the employment of children under a certain age in agricultural and other pursuits, I think we shall all agree that where the local authorities have not carefully attended to the conditions laid down by the Prime Minister under which children of these tender ages should be employed, a remonstrance from the Board of Education ought certainly to be made. I am hoping, and I am sure Members of the Committee will share that hope, that children who are employed on merely agricultural pursuits will not suffer as much as if they were employed in industrial work. The opportunities for open-air exercise which they will receive, and the possibility of coming into direct contact with the processes of nature, may not be altogether disadvantageous to them, and if only endeavours can be made when the War is over to secure to those children who have lost a year or two years of education an opportunity of attending classes in agricultural subjects, possibly the loss which they have suffered may not be as great as is generally supposed. But I do very strongly agree with the President of the Board of Education as to the desirability of some uniform provision, instead of the miscellaneous provisions which at present exist for regulating the conditions under which child labour may be employed.

The President referred at some length to the question of elementary education, and I agree with him entirely that the elementary education of this country is not, I should say, in any respect inferior to the elementary education in very many countries abroad. I have no doubt he was referring to the important speech which was made by Lord Haldane, in another place, only a few days since. As regards that speech, I should like to say that I think Lord Haldane has rendered a great service to the country in sounding the loud timbrel and inducing people to see the importance when the War is over, and even before the War is over, of doing what we can to improve our educational system. I must own I do not agree with every word he says. I think he has a tendency to exaggerate the advantages of foreign education over that which is carried on in our own country. Personally, I agree with the President of the Board that our educational system is nothing like so bad as it is sometimes pointed out to be. As regards our secondary schools, the figures which were quoted by Lord Haldane, which were probably given to him by the Board of Education, seem to him appalling. He pointed out that of 2,275,000 of boys and girls only about 250,000 went to proper secondary schools. Of course, it is very difficult to know what anyone means by a "proper secondary school." There is a great deal of very good secondary education which is not given in proper secondary schools, and I cannot help thinking that those who minimise the amount of secondary education given in this country, do not always take into considera- tion the benefits which young people beyond the age of sixteen derive from the splendid organisation which we possess in this country of evening instruction. The results of that evening instruction are that our artisans and workmen are certainly in no way inferior as regards their ability to those who are found in any other countries. Moreover, many of those who attend these evening classes ultimately graduate at one of our universities. Therefore, certainly the thousands of persons receiving instruction in our organised evening classes must be included amongst those who are receiving secondary education in this country. I have ascertained from a large number of distinguished educationists abroad who have visited this country that they recognise the enormous advantage which our system of evening instruction confers upon our rising generation.

I do not know—I say it advisedly—any country which possesses opportunities for sound scientific instruction in the evening in well equipped laboratories equal to those which are obtainable in this country. When one speaks of the very large number of boys abroad—in Germany, for instance—who attend secondary schools as compared with those in this country, one is liable to forget the strong inducement which is held out to the boys in Germany to attend. It is not because of any great love of learning for its own sake, or even, I believe, from any patriotic considerations, that the parents of children in Germany make immense sacrifices in sending their boys to what we may call a proper secondary school. It is, as everybody knows, that they may escape one year's compulsory military service. I do not know whether the most pronounced educational reformer in this country would be prepared to introduce compulsory military service after the War in order to afford that special inducement to parents of children to make the sacrifice of sending those children to a secondary school! The President of the Board of Education has referred to the fact that some inducement must be held out to parents in order that the number of children sent to the secondary schools may increase. I agree with him. But I do not agree with him altogether in his concluding remark, which was that the whole question of educational reform depends upon financial considerations only.

In this country we are too apt to think that money will do everything. Before we spend money we ought to give that amount of thought and consideration to the necessary improvements in our education which will ensure that the money spent shall be well and economically spent. As regards the neglect of science of which we have heard so very much of late years, I should like to say this: No additional amount of money will necessarily secure improvement in the teaching of science in our secondary schools. I should like to point out the difference—and the very important difference—between the arrangements which are made for the teaching of what we may call humanistic subjects, and those which are in force in the teaching of science in our secondary schools. To this difference I certainly invite the attention of the Board of Education. For instance, the late headmaster of Rugby, who was formerly headmaster of Clifton, now has a seat in the House of Lords. I am not sure that any inducement is held out to science teachers by means of which they can attain, or hope to attain, to so elevated a position. A new headmaster has been appointed for Eton. He was formerly assistant master at Marlborough College, and he was afterwards at Shrewsbury. I am not aware that any assistant master in a secondary school, that is to say, one simply or almost exclusively engaged in teaching science has any chance of becoming a headmaster in one of our great public schools. Indeed, I do not think that at the present time there is a single Fellow of the Royal Society who is acting as an assistant master in a secondary school. In these circumstances, the President of the Board of Education will see that it is not so much a matter o£ finance as a matter of holding out inducements to eminent scientific men to accept posts in our secondary schools as science teachers. It is not that there is less science taught in our secondary schools than there is in Germany. It is, I believe, that our science is not so well taught here as there. For that reason I do hope that in any reform of our education it will be seen to that the science masters in our schools are regarded as being in an equal position to the classical masters; that they shall have the same opportunities of advancement and shall be paid adequate salaries. In this way the science teaching of our secondary schools will be very greatly improved. Moreover, I do not think it will be improved in any other way. The President has told us that the Board of Education are appointing certain Committees to in quire into the different branches of our education, to suggest improvements, therein. The President may know that I have advocated the appointment of a Committee composed of persons altogether independent of the Board of Education.


A Committee or the Royal Commission?


Either a Royal Commission or a Committee—and altogether independent. The question, to my mind, is whether the recommendations which these' various Committees will make will satisfy public opinion in the same way as if a Commission of independent persons, were appointed. The Board, it seems tome, do not appear to realise that what the public at the present time require is not so much a series of Committees appointed by the Board itself as an independent tribunal in which the officials of the Board shall appear as witnesses rather than as judges. The Board have done so much good work, and are doing so much good work at the present time, that I should be surprised if I thought the Board themselves were raising any kind of opposition to an inquiry in which the operations of the Board themselves might be taken into account. One of the thing we have to fear in this country, and to which reference has been made by many distinguished speakers, is that the Board of Education should have too firm a grip upon our educational activities. Many of us believe that it is owing very largely to the fetters which are imposed by the State itself upon German teachers in the schools, and upon German professors in the universities, that the conduct of the War by Germany has been attended with results so deeply deplorable. It would be fatal to any improvement in our educational system here if the Board of Education were enabled to obtain a still stronger grip upon our educational movements than it possesses at present. I was very much struck with a passage in a very able letter of Dr. Sadler, which appeared in the "Times" of Friday. Dr. Sadler asks: Upon what principles shall we determine the relations (now often unwholesome) between the Board of Education and the local authorities? One of the objects of an independent inquiry would be to put these relations between the Board of Education and the local authorities on a firmer footing than they are at present. We know quite well that friction has existed between the Board of Education and certain local authorities, and, moreover, that friction occasionally exists between the Board of Education and the managers of schools, and between the Board and the governing bodies of large institutions. I cannot but think, therefore, that the Board of Education themselves should be most anxious that the inquiries which they, propose to institute should be undertaken by some body entirely independent of themselves. What we are entitled to ask in regard to these Committees which the Board propose to set up is, first, will the persons who are to compose these Committees be appointed entirely by the Board; secondly, will the meetings of these Committees be conducted in public; thirdly, will witnesses be examined, and will their recommendations, whatever they may be, be submitted to Parliament before the Board decide as to which of them they will refuse or accept? It is quite certain—I say it advisedly—that the public will not be satisfied at the present time with any hole and corner arrangements in which they have not the opportunity of knowing "what persons are inquiring into our educational system, what witnesses are being heard, and what recommendations they are making. There is one other consideration. Lord Haldane and Dr. Sadler both pointed out that time is an essential element in the consideration of these matters. I think it was Lord Haldane who said that a Royal Commission was simply an opiate. If that be so, it is no good taking the opiate proposed by the President of the Board of Education who, In setting up a large number of different Committees each dealing with a different part of the subject, is dealing out an opiate in excessive doses, for the work must necessarily occupy a larger amount of time than the proposal that I am making.


Take all the doses at once!


Even if you take all the doses at once time will be lost. Let us consider the Committee appointed to take into consideration the neglect of science. They may exaggerate, as I believe they will, the importance of science in all our schools. Another Committee is dealing with the question of the humanities. They will possibly exaggerate the advantage of literary teaching in our schools, and so on. Afterwards these various Committees' recommendations must be brought before a coordinating Committee which will have to consider them in relation to one another. An endless amount of time will be consumed. For that reason I do not believe, personally, that the proposal of the President of the Board of Education will meet with that general approval that he seems to consider it will receive. I sincerely hope, therefore, that this proposal of the President of the Board of Education may be reconsidered. At the present moment, what the public look for is an inquiry of a public character into our educational system. After all, we must remember that our present educational organisation has not been reconsidered for the last fifteen years. It came into existence about the year 1900 or 1902, and since then it has worked extremely well, and the country is very much indebted, I think, to the Educational Act of that period. But, at the same time, fifteen years have elapsed, and, moreover, a war has taken place in which all our ideas have undergone some change. Surely this is a time for the reconsideration of the organisation of the Board of Education itself, for the consideration of the conditions, among other things, under which the members of the Board, the officers of the Board, are appointed. Surely all these matters ought to come before an independent Committee who would take them into consideration, and, as I have said, I think the Board of Education themselves ought to be the first to desire such a comprehensive inquiry. I only wish to conclude by expressing to the President of the Board of Education my appreciation of the work which he himself has done since he has held that position, and also to thank him for the very full account which he has given of the work of the Board of Education during this critical period of the War.


The spectacle which the Treasury Bench presents at this moment is one with which I am very far from finding fault. That the two Ministers there should be men who have known in boyhood the grudging parsimony of a system of national education is a good prospect for the way in which this subject will be dealt with in future, and it explains to a large extent the fact that no speech from a Minister of the Board of Education, so far as I have been able to judge, for I have heard them all, has been abetter speech than the one we have heard this afternoon. It covered the ground; it went into adequate, but not too much, detail; it dealt with the past, the present, and the future, and I beg to be allowed to congratulate my right hon. Friend upon the nature and the manner of his speech. I will also congratulate him upon the plans he appears to have laid for the immediate future. I was delighted to hear that he gave no countenance whatever to an uprooting policy—to what is called a plan of root and branch reform. I was also delighted to hear that he gave no countenance at all to those claims one sees in certain portions of the Press, and one hears from certain speakers, and which appear in certain correspondence of the Press, that we should denationalise our education and adopt a plan of education which has been in existence elsewhere. I may fairly claim to protest against any adoption of foreign methods in our own education, because I remember quite well that on the last occasion of the Education Estimates, before the War began, I joined with my hon. Friend who has last spoken to deprecate too high a praise, or, indeed, praise at all, of what was being lauded—the German system of education—and I am glad that the President of the Board of Education proposes, as he says, to extend and develop more than reorganise the system which exists. I suppose any national ideal or any national tendency of anything is the natural gowth in the nation itself. You may prune, you may sometimes graft, but it must be a thing which is racy of the soil, which arises and develops, and flowers and fruits, according to the nation itself; and I am far from wishing that in science, or any other thing of the kind, we should import into the country the methods which, in the opinion of many Englishmen who write in the newspapers, have been so successful in Germany. So far as I have been able to understand, the German professors and teachers taught patriotism as though it were an arrogant bombast; they taught language or literature as though it were a science; they taught science as though it were a trade, and they taught trade as though trading meant swindling. Any proposal to import ideals or methods of that kind into this country is one which, I think, every earnest patriot here ought strongly to condemn.

I agree with my right hon. Friend that we must extend, develop, and, to some extent, reorganise. I agree also that extension and development in this country are almost now entirely a matter of more money to be spent upon the school. Reorganisation may be necessary to some extent. There may be one branch of the Board of Education itself that requires reorganisation. If you are going to develop in this country a greater scope for scientific teaching, and the application of scientific teaching, then you must have in your technical branch of the Board of Education men who are acquainted with the subject and in sympathy with the subject. But I would not carry reorganisation too far. I do not sympathise with my hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Sir P. Magnus) in his desire to have a public inquiry into the system of local government in education, which only came into existence in 1902–3. As a piece of local organisation, as a. system of machinery, putting aside entirely other matters of dispute in this House, I am bound to say that the administration of education itself under the Act of 1902–3 has, on the whole, been very satisfactory.


I did not propose to make an inquiry into the administration of the local authorities. It is the relations between the Board of Education and the local authorities. I recognise fully the work done by the local authorities.


There, I think, perhaps the relations between the Board of Education and the local authorities could be improved in one respect, and that would be by the Board of Education being a little more powerful and independent, and a little less timid towards those local authorities. I may here pass on to a point which occurred to me in listening to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He was dealing with what I feel quite sure was particularly unpleasant to him to have to mention in any guarded or official terms—the employment of child labour in this country with the countenance and with the patronage of local education authorities. He gave us some figures with regard to the number of children who, with the assent of the local education authorities, have been employed in agriculture since the outbreak of the War, and I think he quoted the figure of 15,000, and expressed a view that that was far too many. I beg him to inquire into the actual circumstances, and to discover if those 15,000 are not a gross underestimate of the fact. There are two ways of exempting children from school for farm labour. There is the open and unblushing method adopted when returns have to be made to the Board of Education, and there is the indirect method, far more effective, which consists in not prosecuting parents or employers who make use of child labour in an illicit and illegal way, and I am very much afraid that if my right hon. Friend inquires into the circumstances—the real circumstances—he will find that his 15,000 is very much beneath the mark. Having again and again called the attention of the rural local authorities to this grave defect in their operations, he proposes to use such powers as are now possessed, or, if such' powers are inadequate, with the assent of the Government as a whole, I understand him to say, he proposes to take new powers to coerce those local education authorities into doing their duty in this matter. I would like to see him empowered to say to a local education authority, if necessary, "Very well, if you yield to the popular clamour of the farmers in your locality, and rob from those children what ought to be their birthright of, at any rate, a modicum of education from the age of eleven to the age of thirteen, we will fine you by withdrawing the whole Grant or a large portion of it."

6.0 P. M.

There is the remedy. It is again money that lies at the bottom of the whole matter. The demand for these children is a money matter—a sordid motive in every case—and a sordid motive which requires sordid punishment, and I suggest to my right hon. Friend that his chief weapon is to obtain power, if he does not now possess it, to withdraw from such local authorities a very large portion of their Grant. But when I listened to him in his anxiety—and a proper anxiety—lest the censures of the educational system we have heard of late should be true—when I heard him describing, on the whole, how our educational system had stood the strain, I recognised the motive, and I know the need there is, to justify the country in the eyes of those violent critics who are finding fault with everything in this country, to justify to the country that our educational system has produced a patriotic, law abiding, earnest, devoted race of men and women. At the same time, I thought in that part of his speech the light he was casting upon his subject rather resembled the struggling moonbeams—that misty light which seems appropriate to the romantic beauty of a ruin, because in ruin at the present moment a large portion of our elementary educational system is. And beautiful and romantic as a moonlight beam may be, I am not going so far as to say that the English educational system now resembles the ruin of the university buildings at Louvain, but there is to some extent a parallel.

We have had schools closed by the hundred. You have children by the hundreds of thousands not at school, and who will never go there again. You have your schools depleted of teachers who will never go there again because they are falling in battle, many of them, and others are dying in hospitals. The local authorities, having cut down their rates by 3d, 4d, 5d, 6d., and 7d. in the £, as many of them have done, will never impose those rates again. The excuse for getting clown the rates is the mounting up of the Income Tax, and that will remain ft years after the War, and they will say that they must reduce the local rates if they are called upon to pay so much to the Exchequer. So far from being able to get the leaving age of children increased I am afraid we shall have great difficulty in keeping up the age which was fixed before the War began. The elementary school system of this country is in ruins, and the way to remedy that and build it up again is not to send round persons prying into all these conditions and putting down on paper plans for reconstruction which can never be realised; the way to rebuild the system is to grant plenty of money, and only in that way can it be done. Take the falling off in regard to staff which the President referred to. Not only are teachers out of school with the Forces, many of them never to return, but there are scarcely any men teachers employed at the present moment, and the number will get less and less. If we proceed along the present lines you will have the whole of the elementary schools staffed by women alone. That may be an admirable thing up to six or seven years of age, but after that you want the masculine mind. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the one remedy for this is to increase the male staff and to improve emoluments which the teachers receive.

When the right hon. Gentleman referred to the strain upon the labours of the teachers who are now left in the schools I inquired as to what his plans are during the next six weeks or so, from the middle of July to the end of August, which hitherto have been holiday weeks. What are the right hon. Gentleman's views with regard to the school holidays? The right hon. Gentleman has been strenuous and wise I am sure in the efforts he has made for the munition workers to induce them to postpone their bank holidays again, and perhaps he will make some statement as to the school holidays, and whether he thinks the public service would be helped by keeping the schools open during those weeks. I know the right hon. Gentleman has earned a right to speak upon this matter, and I hope before the Debate is over he will express to the Committee, and through the Committee to the country, his views upon that point. I would beg my right hon. Friend to continue in the path he has adopted of demanding more money for the needs of elementary and secondary schools and appointing his Committees with wisdom and not overloading them with duties. That is a wise and proper way to proceed, and I am glad to see by his speech this afternoon that he is proceeding upon lines which will help us to build up the ruins of our educational system to the footing on which it stood before the War, as soon as the War is over.


I am certain the Committee will agree with me when I say that one of the most important parts of the interesting speech made by the hon. Member opposite (Sir J.Yoxall) was the somewhat exaggerated, but nevertheless substantially true, statement that a large part of the elementary education of this country is at present in ruins.Ithink we might very well begin on that assumption and see what it means. There is a very considerable temptation to discuss details about the action of the local education committees both regarding children and teachers, details regarding teachers who have come into adverse contact with military authorities, who have been taken away from the schools and sent into the forests and fields to fell trees and cultivate land while their places have been taken by incompetent people very often not belonging to the teaching profession at all. But we are faced with a very much more difficult problem than these things now. There is an attempt going to be made—it has been referred to several times in the Debate this afternoon, and we shall hear a great deal more of it as days go by—to make .our education more practical, and by that is meant that our schools are to be made more the adjuncts of our workshops than they have hitherto been. We had that voiced in another place not very long ago, and if we start to rebuild our educational system and to make our new developments in educational policy in that sort of way and in that frame of mind, and approach our educational problems in the frame of mind in which we approached our economic problems at the Paris Conference, so far from improving our education and industry we are going to seriously damage both.

I begin with the elementary school. There is nothing that is more misleading, or which leads us into a more deplorable culdesac than confining our attention to secondary schools, technical schools, and university schools. If there is any deplorable thing which is a clearly marked failure in our educational system to-day it is at the bottom. I do not blame anybody for this, and I do not think anybody ought to be blamed for it. At a time when religious and moral convictions and the social cohesive forces were all undergoing a very severe testing, as they have been doing since 1870, I doubt very much if any educational system could have been completely successful. Since 1870 we have been experimenting with certain books, certain subjects, and a certain organisation of schools and teachers, and although I have not associated myself with those who have asked for a Royal Commission, because I do not think it would be wise, I think that no greater service could be done to education now than that an impartial and able inquiry should be conducted into the whole of the results of our elementary education, and its position in a complete unity of an educational system beginning at the elementary schools and finishing at the university. I am certain that we have far too much subdivision between elementary education and secondary education, and there has been nothing in my time which has done more damage to elementary education than the unfortunate attempt to skim off the cream at the top and send the smart boys to another set of schools—I do not care whether you call them schools for higher elementary education or secondary schools.

During all these years, when everybody has been talking about the superiority of German education, I have repeatedly said that I detest the German system. I have always said: look at home first and build up from your own national experience rather than go to Berlin and copy methods from the Germans. If you want to go for a good example I think you had better go to Scotland. In the Scottish education system nothing has been proved more conclusively than this, that if you differentiate your elementary education from your secondary education you are starving your elementary education and taking away the foundation for a successful secondary education. I do not know what success has attended the policy of recent years when we have more and more proceeded in the direction of starving elementary schools by withdrawing the most promising school children and handing them over to secondary schools. I hope in the rebuilding which is about to take place we shall have the courage and wisdom and sagacity to retrace our steps in that direction. From the point of view of the teacher this is very important. There is a class of teacher who unfortunately is almost now disappearing. I happen to be one of those who was blessed by coming under the influence of the old type of Scotch teacher known as the Scotch dominie, and I owe much to his methods and the encouragement he gave me. To the Scottish agricultural labourer the old-fashioned dominie held out a helping hand, but I am afraid that that type of schoolmaster has gone, and if he has not gone, he is going. I wonder how far our education departments have ever regarded the disappearance of that man as a problem, or how far they have considered that it was their duty to train teachers so that they could take that man's place. They will never replace the old' Scotch schoolmaster if they give him an elementary school to teach in and take his best boys away when they reach the higher standard of elementary education. The whole secret of that man's success was that he always had some boys going to the university after they left his school. The unfortunate developments in Scottish education recently is the result of this fine subdivision, which is admirable on paper but is totally valueless, by which no single schoolmaster and no single instructor can possess himself of the pride of producing a boy who has been of some use in the world after he has passed through his hands.

There is a fundamental point on which I somewhat disagree with my hon. Friend (Sir J. Yoxall). Perhaps, as a matter of fact, we do not differ in substance, but I disagree with the way he put it. I do not believe that you are going to produce a good education system founded, on money considerations alone. I do not think my hon. Friend meant that either, but he expressed himself in such a way as to somewhat lend himself to misconception on that point. Certainly money is required. Your teacher must be better paid, he must be better looked after and, above all, your teacher must have more social honour given to him than he has hither to received. If you are going to produce qualities as well as quantities as regards pupils, then you must put something else on an equal footing with money and bring to the training of these men those subtle influences which make them proud of their work and make them feel that they are themselves educated men apart from their work of educating others. You will never do that by the present system.

With regard to elementary education, I should say that English education has one very characteristic and deplorable fault. It has never tapped the brains of the rural districts. It has failed to do that. The characteristic of the Scottish education system is that it has always tapped the brains of its parish. There may be exceptions, but taking the whole I think that is the case. This fault of the English system is particularly due to the unfortunate religious controversy. Coming from Scottish schools into English schools, we find at once a new atmosphere created by that, controversy. When you have the schools subordinate to the church, however liberal the church may be, you cannot get the same free educational atmosphere in those schools as you get in the schools that are not subordinate to the church, and where the schoolmasters are freely chosen on account of their purely educational qualities, without any other considerations. That, however, is not the point I was going to make. The point I wish to make is that the problem of tapping the rural brains is the fundamental one, and is going to be essential to the struggle of this country in the future. You cannot depend upon your town brains. You must get the fresh, vigorous, and to a certain extent the grosser brains, that are able to do heavier work with more continued application than the somewhat attenuated and finer brains which you get through two or three generations in the towns. You must make the rural school a part of the large social amenities of life. In a large town you can almost afford to have a low-grade elementary school, because facilities for higher education are so great that if by hook or crook you can bridge the little gulf between the poorer elementary school and the secondary school, with a little trouble during that bridging time, the ascending pupil can at last take his place in the world.

The country school, however, is very often the final school, even with a good system of education. So far as intellectual contact between the country and the big outside busy world is concerned, it must come from these schools. Now, these are precisely the schools to which your poorer teachers gravitate. That is a problem the Board of Education ought to solve. These teachers are poorly paid, the committees are not always the best, and the people with whom they have business relationships are not always the easiest to get on with. Moreover, if they have children, they think they are sacrificing their children's future far too much by remaining in these country districts, than if they can possibly obtain an appointment in towns like Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham, or London, they do so. There is the problem staring us in the face. How are we going to put this better type of teacher into these country schools—teachers such as we have put into the schools in the large towns which are more common, more numerous, and better backed up by other institutions. That problem has not been solved. It has not been very much considered; at any rate, I have not come across anything which showed that it was being considered. If we are going to build up our education system in the future as we ought to do, undoubtedly that problem must be solved. I come to the next problem. When .you have put your elementary education on a sound footing, then and only then are you able to take advantage of secondary and university education. Some years ago, when I was a member of the Technical Education Board of London, when we were laying the foundations of that system which is now in full working order, we constantly found that one of the great obstacles to the successful working of the mono technics and polytechnics which were established was that the elementary education of the pupils had been so much neglected. Let us get our elementary education right and then go on.


It has enormously improved.


I know we have enormously improved it since then. I hope that someone talking ten years after me, as I am talking now ten years after the time of which I am speaking, will be able to say it has been enormously improved during those ten years, because nothing less than that ought to satisfy the nation. When we come to the technical and scientific side, I hope the Board of Education will not encourage those scientific gentlemen who are presenting petitions at the present time, practically telling us to clear the humanities out of our schools—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, they are not!"]—and who have the idea of turning education into the teaching of science which is not scientific. I should not mind if it were science scientifically taught, but, if some of these statements which I have read are accurately worded, they have not even that conception of teaching science. To urge the teaching of science for the mere purpose of producing a chemist, who is to enter a workshop to invent new dyes, is not carrying out the principles of a scientific education. It is merely a technical education, and it is the most absurd proposal anybody posing as an educationist has ever made to an Education Department. The facts are all wrong. They tell us that we lost our dyeing industry because we had not enough chemists and because our scientific education was not sufficiently good to enable us to carry it on. Those are not the facts at all. We lost our dyeing industry because our manufacturers did not employ the chemists turned out by our educational system. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I have a statement made by Sir James Dewar. Nobody will dispute his authority on the subject. He said: The first makers of coal tar products did not encourage good men to enter their works. The salaries offered were insufficient, the laboratory equipment was limited, the opportunities for research were not favourable. Suitable men were available, but the manufacturers would not employ them. There is no doubt that this industry could have been maintained here, had the manufacturers adopted the same process as in Germany. I also happen to have had the pleasure of the acquaintance of Sir William Perkins, who discovered the process, and also of Sir Robert Pullar, who was a very respected Member of this House and who very often told me of interesting pilgrimages he had made round Lancashire and the dyeing districts of Yorkshire and the turkey-red dyeing districts of Glasgow with Hoffman himself, when they tried to persuade manufacturers to employ men whom they named—chemists who, they said, were qualified to assist them in their work—and appealed to them to use the dyes and to use industrially the scientific researches that had been successfully accomplished. Sir Robert Pullar always ended his description of those pilgrimages by telling me how heartbroken he was at the end, and how he had to give up all hopes of British manufacturers using the synthetic dyes. That was the reason why we lost our dyeing industry. Take the manufacture of scientific glass, in regard to which the case for our education is not so rosy as it is in the dyeing industry. You have in London an exhibition of glass made by a King's College professor since the War. There is no earthly reason why that glass should not have been made before the War if we had had sufficient industrial activity, enterprise and vitality to encourage the experiment. At all events the scientists who make that glass were not made after the War. I emphasise that point, not because I am at all satisfied with the present condition of scientific training in this country, but because that side of the matter ought to be stated as against the other, and in order to appeal to the Board of Education not to abandon what scientific training is being given, but to be careful not to degrade it and deteriorate it until it becomes a mere adjunct of the workshop. Science must be part of a liberal education. It cannot be an education standing apart by itself. It does not matter whether a man is going to be a parson or a chemist; if he does not know a good deal about things he does not use in his industry, he is neither a very efficient parson nor a very efficient chemist. The whole aim of our reconstructed education should be not merely to make people able to do certain things, but to develop them all round, so that they are really liberally educated men, able to do these things on account of their general knowledge, and not particularly because of special training.

Take the question of art. What is the position in Germany? Those who have been to German exhibitions of handicraft must have been struck by the enormous improvement in German art and with its underlying vitality and force. You see it in the architecture in Berlin. In many cases they succeed most delightfully in showing beauty and vitality, and there is no example of art more interesting than recent developments in printing. If you went to a German printing exhibition you would have to admit that within the last ten or twelve years the German improve- ments in the art of printing—the designing of the lettering, and so forth—were simply enormous. It was all ours. If you take the German letterpress design you see the hands of two of our masters in it—the first William Morris, the second Emery Walker, whose improvements of printing types are known so well. Here you have it again. You could not get our printers to do it. You could get no revolution in the output of books in this country from the printing side. In Germany you get it, and it has been a perfect delight to handle some of the books printed in Germany immediately before the War. But they borrowed the art from us, and therefore it is simply a case of our own manufacturers and producers not having the energy and the foresight and the nimbleness of mind and taste to adapt themselves constantly to new conditions, and to take into their industries all the new movements of invention and design available to them. Therefore we ought to take an optimistic view of our past in this respect, and not a pessimistic view. We do not require to copy here German methods at all. We only require to go straight ahead upon our own; lines, and to remember that as soon as the humanities go out of education then education ceases to be education altogether.

I should like very much, if the Committee would allow me, to refer to one other point and that is universities. It is much too big a subject, and I cannot trespass on the time of the Committee to say much about it but I lay down this principle, which I am certain will be regarded with approval, that our system of education must be a unit right from the bottom rung of the ladder up to the top. If there is any break in it, any difficulties, or differences, or any hiatus, they ought to be eliminated as soon as possible. There is one thing about the English university which is in many respects the curse of English culture, and that is that it has never represented the nation. It has been a thing apart. It has never represented the struggling, hard, acquiring life of the nation. It has got for itself almost exclusively, quite exclusively till comparatively modern times, men of leisure, middleclass men, men above the middle class, and even now it is a little bit pathetic to those of us who value the universities, and very properly always will value them, regarding them from that point from which the uneducated, those who feel their deficiencies, always regard these and other institutions that they would have liked very much to be able to attend in other circumstances—it is a little pathetic when we see working men going up to Oxford or Cambridge, and gradually drifting away from the simple, democratic, spirit which they had when they went there. So many of them give one the impression you get in reading a novel like George Gissing's "Born in Exile." They go away, and go into exile. They have never accepted in their new position for some reason or another, and they never can come back to their own fireside and feel at home. While that is true of the two old universities in this country, there must be something very wrong somewhere in our educational system, and I hope that in this respect the Board of Education will take a favourable view of a Royal Commission. I hope that a part of the programme of educational reconstruction is that we will have a Royal Commission inquiring into university education in this country. That was the view of the late Canon Barnett, who has worked so much for education, and whose love for it will always be a memory to those of us who came into personal contact with him, and I hope his great desire that a Royal Commission should inquire into Oxford and Cambridge with the idea of making those universities the embodiment of the whole life of the people, and of using the educational facilities of those universities so that every boy and every girl who has the ability can make use of them, on the old Scottish University style, will be realised, and that a Commission will be issued for the purpose of doing that.

I am afraid I have been general. I feel this is a time for generalities. I feel that in stretching out into the new time that is ahead of us, as the War has reconstructed and recreated Europe just as though a huge earthquake had redistributed the apportionment of land and water, and of plains and hills—for that is going to be the effect of the War on the social life of the people of Europe—in those circumstances it is not enough to say what you are aiming at, but you must have a clear idea of where you are starting from; and, consequently, before we begin to consider aims, we ought to survey the past and see where we stand, and, from the knowledge of where we are, begin our pilgrimages into the future. I therefore suggest, first of all, that the Education Department itself should consider its own reorganisation, and I do that for many reasons, though I mention only one. The Education Department is not, in its present state of organisation, a good Department for dealing with elementary education. The Education Department is far too much a university organisation. Its paper knowledge is admirable; its practical knowledge is very defective. It is still too weak on its elementary side, which requires infinite experience. It is not enough to put down elementary schools on paper, and apply some fine ideas as to their working: you want to know your teachers and your children, the families from which they come, and, with that fullness of knowledge in your mind, set your Education Department in order, and devise your education scheme, and set it working, not through gentlemen who are all, or nearly all, university men, but through the masters of elementary schools, who know more, and, indeed, have forgotten more, about elementary education than any of the inspectors ever knew in the course of their lives. Then the next thing is teachers. The training of teachers, and the status of teachers, must be reconsidered for the purposes, of the change. I hope we will restore width and liberality of education in our primary schools, and that we will resist the temptation to pursue, and undo a good deal of the evil that has been done by, the differentiation between primary and secondary education. I hope we shall link up every grade with adequate systems of scholarships, and that we shall draw upon the Exchequer for the money required. But when we do that we must remember that a system of scholarship is not alone adequate, that the education ladder is not to be a ladder up which selected individuals are to walk, but that the idea should be that education should raise the whole mass up to higher and higher levels of efficiency as time goes on. Then in every system of schools, however technical they may be—and there are splendid French models for this—we should keep the atmosphere of a liberal education, and tone down those materialistic and utilitarian ideas which have been the curse of every educational system of which they have taken possession. Finally, I hope we shall be able to open the university doors, not only by scholarships, but by cheapening the cost of education in the universities as has been over and over again recommended by Commissions and educational experts, so that the university really will become the gathering place, the great spiritually democratic gathering place, of the talent and the genius of the nation.


Let me first of all congratulate the President of the Beard of Education on the admirable speech he made today. He explained his annual Budget so well that he has left very little for us to say. I notice, however, that the pensions to teachers are increased by £13,963, and I am exceedingly glad to see that, because I know no body of public servants deserves better of us than the school teachers. I regret very much indeed that it has been necessary to reduce the Grants for medical inspection. The experience in my own county teaches me that it is impossible to spend too much money on this. In the first place, the expenditure on school children is very small, and I know that the feeding of school children in Lancashire has dropped to a minimum. With regard to the staff, which before the War amounted to a total of forty-six, I see that in consequence of enlistment, both of our doctors and also of our nurses, it has been cut down to five doctors, nine nurses, and three clerks, three of whom are only temporary. I regret this very much, because I do not know any measure which has ever been passed by this House which has been productive of so much good as the medical inspection of school children, and I am afraid that we shall feel the effect of these losses of our doctors and our nurses in the future. With regard to the Estimates themselves on the secondary side, the principle point on which I should like to lay stress is the big general question of the improvement of the whole organisation of technical instruction, which I do not think we can too often press on the attention of the Board. I think a system which permits 70 per cent, of our children of thirteen years of age to escape all educational examination is one which calls for redress as soon as that is possible. It was bad enough before the War, but certainly, in view of the enormous competition we shall have to face after the War, it is necessary that attention should be paid to it now. I well remember when sitting on the Consultative Com- mittee to the Board of Education that the question not only of evening continuation schools and classes was raised, but also the question of examination referred to in the House today, and I have always been surprised that the recommendations made in that very exhaustive Report have not borne greater fruit than we know to be the case.

We went very fully into the question, and I am only sorry that our recommendations with regard to the halftime system, and also with regard to compulsory attendance at evening continuation schools, have not been brought before this House in a practical manner. The Board to-day are reducing their total expenditure on technical work by £62,000, or by about one-tenth. I know the official explanation. It is, of course, that there has been a diminution during the last Session in the amount of instruction given, and therefore under the present Regulations the payments must also naturally diminish. Though it is singular that the diminution of attendance in my own area last year, with 42.202 students, only amounted to something like 357, showing, of course, that it is not common to the whole of the country. This reduction of £62,000 seems to be indicative of the Government's general attitude, and I differentiate between the Government and the Board of Education, because I do not think we all realise that the Board of Education cannot do everything they want to do. There is always the Treasury to be reckoned with, and in this particular case there is sometimes the Local Government Board also.

I will give you an instance now from my own county. We have been almost bombarded by different Departments of administration to economise, and we have economised to the extent of something like £12,000 on the secondary side of our education. That was not sufficient for the Local Government Board. I dare say it will be within the knowledge of every Member of this House that the county authority cannot spend more than 2d. in the £ on secondary education without the consent of the Local Government Board. The amount to which we were committed for higher education was 3 9–16d. We accordingly applied to the Local Government Board for permission to expend this money. After a great deal of negotiation—it is not yet ended—we were told that we could have permission to spend 3 9–16d. in the £ if we were prepared, in addition to the £12,000 we had saved, to effect a further economy of 1–16d. in the £, or £2,225. Here is a case, therefore, in which a Government Department have practically compelled my authority to economise to an infinitely greater extent than we wanted to do or than, in my opinion, it was wise to do. I hold economy in education to be about the last economy which ought to be effected, and I hold that not only ordinary technical instruction, but also agricultural instruction in my county has had to suffer because the Local Government Board insists on our saving more money. I am very glad to see from the Estimates that the Grants for secondary schools have been increased by £56,600.

It seems to me, as the result of my own commercial experience, that the ideal education which we ought to give in our secondary schools is that which will thoroughly equip the boy or girl for the trade or profession he or she intends to follow. I believe, speaking of the humanities, that Latin is essential, for it is the foundation of our language, and without some knowledge of it it is difficult, of course, to grapple with Continental languages; but for a student to take Greek—the time for which would be much better employed in the study of modern languages and science—is, in my opinion, a wicked waste of time so far as the commercial man is concerned. Then, again, time is a very great factor. The leaving age in all but the public schools in this country leaves very much to be desired, and it therefore becomes imperative that the nonessentials should give way to the essentials. I have had some experience of the leaving age in our secondary schools, and I find that out of thirty odd secondary schools in my own area that the school life over twelve in only two schools exceeds three years for1 boys, and in seven schools it is under two and a half years. Our schools are perfectly up to date. They have cost anywhere between £10,000 and £22,000 each. They are adequately equipped and splendidly staffed. In two schools only is the leaving age over sixteen; in one it is seventeen; in twenty-nine it is under sixteen; in thirteen it is under fifteen; and in two it is only fourteen and a half. We have the lowest fees in England. We charge in our secondary schools only £3 3s. per annum, and we have something from 32 to 33 per cent. of free places. Therefore, I naturally ask, why do children leave so early? A great deal has been said about the facilities that ought to be given to children of poor parents. You cannot give them very much greater facilities.


Will the hon. Gentleman tell us whether the students who secure free places are those who leave early? Is it not his experience that they stay longest?


It is certainly my experience that they stay longer, but then they not only have free places, but they are allowed a bounty for books, free travelling expenses, and £5 per annum in the three and subsequent years in order that children of poor parents may not be ashamed by not being able to dress as well as the other students. I say, therefore, that there is every inducement in our schools for children to remain. Why do children leave so early? A great many reasons have been given today, but I do not think anyone has yet touched the spot. I am going to try. I make bold to say that there never was a period when education was more necessary than it is today, and when people who have seen the defects of our education are so ready to abuse the Board of Education and the local education authority. Someone today, I think the President himself, said that it was a question of money, more money, and still more money. Money is a very useful thing with which to go to market, but money will not do everything. An hon. Gentleman opposite spoke of the superiority of the Scottish educational system. It is not the superiority of the educational system in Scotland which makes the Scottish people better educated than similar classes of people in this country. It is the Scottish people themselves. They have a real enthusiasm for education which does not obtain either in England and Wales or even in this House. We have got the people to blame, and until you educate the people of this country as you are trying to educate their children you will never get value for the large amount of money you are spending on education.

I have spoken about the duration of school life in the secondary schools. I have exactly the same complaint to make about the duration of school life in the technical schools. I do not believe that our system, either of elementary, secondary, or technical education is behind the education of any other country, but here is some rather useful evidence. In my own area there are 42,202 individual scholars in our technical schools, and, as I have said before, the number is only 357 less than last year. What are these scholars doing? I find that 14,488 of them take only one subject; 3,673 take two subjects; and 1,151 take three subjects. Then, again—and this is infinitely more important—whilst 5,214 take the first year preliminary technical course, they dwindle down in the second year to 2,033, and, if you take the preliminary commercial course, which is a very favourite course in my own county, you find that the 2,723 in the first year have dwindled down to 1,627 in the second year. What is the educational result? It is a mere smattering of knowledge and a waste of time.

We have been told from these benches that the boys are too tired to go to these schools at night. I have had very considerable experience in education, extending now over pretty nearly forty years. I instituted the first technical school in my own place, and I do not hesitate to tell the House that the boys who walked three miles to my school after a hard day's work, and did it twice or three times a week, and walked back again, are the men who have made their mark. There never was a period in the history of this country when it was more possible for a boy to rise from the bottom to the top. I am speaking commercially. The whole history of Lancashire proves that; but it is the triers who do it. It is the boys who are prepared to foreswear pleasure in order that they may educate themselves, who have got on and who are the backbone of the cotton spinning and cotton manufacturing industry of Lancashire.

7.0 P.M.

There are just two other points to which I wish to allude. The first is the desirability of the Board placing greater emphasis on the teaching of physical training in all types of schools. In evening schools where I think its wider introduction would be very beneficial, the present rate of Grant is very much lower than it is for any other subject. As a matter of fact, the Board during the last few years has shown an increasing interest in this subject, but they might be urged to do still more, and I think that if any argument were wanted in order to enforce the opinion that physical training was more necessary in our schools it would be found in the great number of rejections in the Army, in the enormous improvement in physique of men who have enlisted, owing, at any rate, partly to physical drill, and in the vital necessity of using every means to bring health and strength to the coming generation. The other point is in regard to the encouragement of research in technical schools, especially the larger ones. It is understood that the Board has some scheme for aiding the more important schools to carry out research in matters relating to the application of science to industry. Some indication of this is given in a speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. H. Lewis), speaking at the Stanley Technical Trade School, South Norwood, in February this year. A most admirable speech it was. He said: It may be of interest if I quote some passages from the Board's regulations for these schools. A junior technical school is described in the Regulations as 'a school organised as part of the system of higher education and providing a continued full-time education under school conditions for pupils from public elementary schools in preparation either for artisan or other industrial employment or for domestic employment.' The Regulations go on to say that 'the curriculum of the school must provide for the continuance of the moral, intellectual and physical education given in the public elementary schools. Practical work under the charge of teachers with actual workshop experience must form a prominent feature in the curriculum, while visits to works, museums and other places connected with the subjects of the school course may form part of the instruction. Then he goes on to say: The reports which the Board have received from their inspectors and the opinions of prominent employers of labour indicate that, these schools are playing a most important part in the educational machinery of the country, and there are indications that this type of education is one which is peculiarly fitted to the conditions existing in this country. I merely mention this and make this rather long quotation to call attention to the fact that the Board has reduced this Vote from £22,000 to £16,000, which I think is a mistake. I wish to thank the Board for the scheme to simplify the payment of Grants for technical schools and classes based on the number of hours of instruction given instead of, as formerly, the number of attendances made at the classes. The proposal involves the payment of a block Grant in view of Grants assigned to each school. This scheme tends to diminish the loss which authorities would otherwise suffer from a decreased number of students in the more advanced classes.


I will not follow the hon. Member in his very interesting speech concerning the details of education. I did once think of putting down a Motion to reduce my right hon. Friend's salary, but the House having unexpectedly risen, I failed to find an opportunity. It would only have been to stimulate him and not to deprive him of money so honourably earned. Indeed, I hope he will long occupy the position he now fills. I am quite sure he is quite competent to do it, and I should like to see him there for a long time, for this reason amongst others. For the first time this great position has been filled by one who has an intimate knowledge of the lives of the mass of the people of this country. It is for them that the great Department is mainly carried on and their special wants, needs and requirements should be the chief object of its administration. I have sat for eleven years in this House, and I have heard during that time no fewer than five Ministers make their statements on educational matters, and just as we were becoming accustomed to them and getting to understand them they soared away to some other office, either the Government of Ireland or it may be the Post Office, and new Ministers took their place, who, I will not say had a lesson to learn, but whom we had to get to know and to understand. I think this has one disadvantage. A new Minister comes here and talks to us and we feel in Debate that we have to talk to the gentlemen who are in the House but not of it, the admirable drivers and managers of this great machine, and we should really like to talk to a Minister not for one year, but for a second year and a following year so that we might be able to compare notes in subsequent debates as to how far suggestions have borne fruit in the year that had passed. I think that this constant change of Ministers really militates against national education. I have the greatest respect for permanent officials. I know the value of their work, and they must do most of the work that belongs to educational administration. But there is one thing that they cannot do. They cannot popularise education in the country. It is only the Minister who can do that. He must get to be looked upon in the country as the representative of the country in this great office, and it is only by having a Minister of experience and long association with the work that education will ever be popularised in this country. The great drawback to the progress of education is that it is not popular with the bulk of the people. They use the schools, it is true, but they only use those schools which we make them use and they neglect those schools where attendance is voluntary. They do not use the schools more than they can help because they do not believe in them. At the very earliest possible moment they take their children away to such occupation as they can find for them. I believe the nation is awakening a little in its interest in education, and1 in my opinion there is no class of the community where the interest is awakened so rapidly as the commercial class. I am bound to say something for the employer because he is so little taken notice of and so generally lectured. My right hon. Friend read him a very nice little lecture. He said it was all the fault of the employer, who did not understand the importance of education in the carrying out of his business. I do not know where he got his knowledge of employers. I am sure he must only know a limited class.


I have worked for them.


He can only have worked for a limited number. I know a great many, and the commercial class in this country is awakening rapidly to a great and growing interest in education. The hon. Member (Mr. Macdonald) warned us not to be pushed along too rapidly by those people who would materialise education; in fact he warned us not to follow those who recommend Prussianising our institutions. I join with him in his warning on that point. We shall be wise if we develop education on our own methods and our own foundations. We have in this country, far as our system falls short of what we should desire, at any rate, an excellent foundation upon which, to build the creation of free men with expanding minds and strong individuality. I hope on a foundation like that we shall build and perfect our educational progress. I am glad to notice how much attention has been devoted to the importance of improving our elementary schools. These schools are and will always remain the chief schools of the people. Technical schools and secondary schools are all excellent. There is sufficient interest in high quarters to look after them and develop them. For the bulk of the people it is most essential that we should develop and improve, as far as we possibly can, our elementary schools, which are the schools of the bulk of our population. I suggest that we might also consider how to make the elementary schools more interesting than they are to-day to the children, and hew to link them up, to some extent, at any rate, with the practical life the child will have to follow when it leaves school. You can only make the elementary schools more interesting to the children by largely increasing the number of those teachers who have charge of them during their school life. If I am asked where the supply would come from I should probably fall foul of some of my friends, but I would suggest that until you can get a full and sufficient supply of really trained, certificated, educated teachers, until you can staff the schools with teachers with higher qualifications, you must take the best material you can get. Just now every class of work is wanting labour. We cannot commence too soon suggesting what might be done when the War has been brought to a conclusion. There are thousands and tens of thousands of women who are now doing work—educated women, useful women—who have never worked before, and I say that until you can get a full supply of highly trained expert teachers I would like to see these women asked to come into the schools, at any rate to assist in the supervision of the children and the management of classes already too large. I believe it would be possible to get 50,000 decent, intelligent young women, who love children, to go into the schools to help in the interests of the children.

You may have most palatial edifices, you may have the most superb equipment and you may have all your teachers trained and highly qualified, but if your classes are too large for the teacher you will fail in everything you attempt. You will not get education. You may get discipline, you will get restraint, you will get repression of the young energy, but you will only get the merest smattering of instruction. The children so controlled, so dominated, so disciplined—for absolute discipline is necessary before anything can be done—will leave the school and look to the factory as affording them the freedom which they most desire. We have been told to-day that we ought to raise the age for school attendance. I would be very glad to see that done. I think it most necessary in order to satisfy even our most modest educational ambitions. But you have no right to detain children in the schools unless you are prepared properly to deal with them when you get them there. You have no right to detain children in the schools unless you can give to every child some individual attention from the teacher appointed to instruct. I would ask the President of the Board of Education to consider some way by which parents might be got to believe more in the elementary schools than they do at the present time. It is so easy to call the parents unworthy, to accuse them of selfishness, and to say that their only object is to make money out of their little children, but I am not so sure that these accusations, often so lightly made, are right. I believe that the parent often takes his child away from school at the earliest possible moment, not because he grudges the sacrifice necessary to extend its school life, not because he wants a few shillings from that child in wages, but because the parent is anxious to see the child established, at the earliest possible time, in some position where it can see before it hope of constant employment and a reasonable livelihood. I think if we could get the parents to believe that the school would be of practical use to the child in after life, and that the child would be more sought after and more profitably employ so if its education were better, that would be the greatest stimulus in getting the parents to allow their children to remain longer in the school. I think that could be done.

The advocates of secondary schools are enthusiastic and eloquent. The President of the Board of Education this afternoon once more referred to that link between school and school, where the child can go to the infants' department of an elementary school and rise standard by standard to the secondary school, the technical college, and the university. That is a very pretty picture, but there is no real link between these schools. I wish there were. Such a link would be extremely difficult to establish for the majority of children. I would ask the President to consider this, that for one reason or another, it may be a mere geographical reason, not one child in a thousand has the chance of reaching the secondary school. That proportion may be lightened, but the difficulty will never be entirely removed. I would urge the President of the Board of Education, as I urged his predecessor, to see if we cannot have either in every elementary school, or in some convenient centre of every school district, an elementary school with good higher-grade upper standards. I think that is a thing that would be of more advantage to a larger number of children than any reform we could bring about. I heard it said two or three times to-day that the status of the teachers ought to be improved. I am heartily in sympathy with that suggestion. I look upon the profession of the teacher as being as responsible and as honourable as any profession, and I think every good citizen in every locality ought to go a little bit out of his or her way to make the teachers' social position better, and their lot happier in the district in which they live. That is a small matter; but I should like to see the Government doing something in regard to it. I should like to see some distinction or honour offered to teachers which would show that not only are they honoured by their neighbours in their own locality, but that the Government or the State they serve thinks so well of them that it places at their disposal some little honour or distinction.


I congratulate the hon. Member (Mr. G. Harvey) upon a speech full of interest and certainly full of earnestness and thorough enthusiasm for education. I would like also to congratulate the President of the Board of Education on his statement. I have heard many statements of the same sort, and I can say that his statement stands high for its appreciation of the difficulties which surround him, and by the fact that he is thoroughly awake to the necessity of keeping a watchful eye on the course which is to be steered in the future. Perhaps it is because I am an old gamekeeper turned poacher that I do not feel inclined to accept all the orthodox beliefs which generally emerge in these educational debates. We have had the advantage or disadvantage of having an immense number of the newest nostrums for dealing with educational difficulties. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, in the midst of that wealth of nostrums, to avoid certain pitfalls which long experience in the education world makes me think are not unlikely to occur. There is a very great danger of a certain fussiness and a certain exaggeration in regard to education. We must not shut our eyes to the fact that while education is a very useful thing, there are an immense number of faculties, of powers, of great assets to the nation that develop themselves entirely independent of your educational processes, and are all the better, perhaps, for being independent of those educational processes. There is no nation that has become great merely by its education, although perhaps it is equally true that there is no nation which has neglected its education without risk of a very serious fall. But do not let us act, as too many educational bodies have acted, as if the sole way to national energy and national efficiency lies within the walls of the school. Above all things, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will beware of constant resort to Commissions and Committees, which present so many pitfalls and waste so much time. In my own exeprience I often have found that the power of laying out a well-adjusted scheme of organisation, by what is called scientific method, is almost in inverse proportion to the practical knowledge of education as it goes on within our schools. It is very easy to lay down some general scheme, but it is very difficult to carry out that scheme in practice, and it is impossible to do so without studying the most minute and very often uninteresting details.

I am apt to think that a nation develops its educational facilities not by means of Commissions, not by great schemes, not by arguing for one system of education against another, but because it is the education for which it is fitted, and which it deserves, just as it has the Press, the pulpit and the Government that it deserves. A nation has the schools it deserves, because it makes its own schools. In a single sentence I would like to notice two epochs which I think in our history stand out as epochs where the school did more for the country than it ever did at any other time; two epochs where education really was instrumental in working national regeneration. The first of these epochs was in the earlier part of the sixteenth century in England, when the schools were opening out and the nation was expanding towards the spacious times of Queen Elizabeth; and the other epoch was the development of the Scottish parish school in the middle of the eighteenth century, when Scotland was seeking a place in the sun for herself, determined to find a place amongst the greater nations, developing from being merely a poor country with hardly any commerce, and living under a burden of poverty, into one which was within a generation or two to take a prominent place in Colonial work, and in the development of our Empire generally. These two epochs—the development of the English school in the sixteenth century and the Scottish parish school in the eighteenth century—were not created by Commissions or by schemes or by scientific organisation. They came because the country was moving forward and because the country was determined to have them, and was fitted to have them. Does anyone doubt that the country at the end of this War, without any of those Commissions or this talk of scientific organisation, will be alive in every fibre of its being, and will seek, if it has the choice, for some schools that will develop its energy in the best way?

There are two or three things which I hope the right hon. Gentleman, if he has any part in that development, will keep in mind. First, I trust that he may not be inclined to follow too many will-o'-the-wisps of new subjects of education. The longer I have studied the subject, and the greater the experience I have gained, the more I have thought that the first principle of our education should be simplicity in our curriculum. There is no maxim that ought to be more closely practised in our schools. The second is, Leave initiative to the schools. Do not attempt to curb them by a fast rule, or to make them the mere creatures of an official system by driving them into one single mould. It is only by leaving initiative to the schools, by allowing them to develop their own different methods, that you give them the power of developing character in their pupils. No school that is merely made to follow one fixed line, to conform itself to certain trammels, and to mould itself to certain prescribed formulas will ever be able to develop character in its pupils. It is vain to have a pretentious curriculum, a specious organised system of education, a curriculum that seems to be expansive and comprehensive, if you cannot develop that character upon which our nation has been built, and on which my own country above all, in that eighteenth century, developed to such an enormous extent through the work of the parish school. If you can give the schools the power, however simple the curriculum, of imparting to their pupils the sense of the one thing needful, thoroughness and determination, and the stiffening of their sinews to any hard task, if you can impress them with these words of Kipling, so full of meaning— If you can force your brain and heart and sinew To serve your turn, when all of them are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you, Except the will that says to them 'hold on.' then all will be well. That is what we have to impress on the new generation. What the material is we see in the War. We know it by our experience. No belief has "been impressed upon me in my older years more strongly than this, that the new generation which is coming forward is fitted to take its place with the best that ever went before. It has developed itself in this War. It will come back full of new purpose. Do not trust all that is best in it to any scheme, however well devised on paper, by any number of Commissions. If you send to your schools men who are filled with the missionary enthusiasm for their task, who will seek to impart to their pupils that enthusiasm, that force, that determination, that perseverance, then, whatever your scientific scheme and your organisation may be, with that spirit your future education will be worthy of the best that has gone before.


The Committee is to be congratulated on the Debate which we have had to-day so far. The hon. Member for Glasgow University (Sir H. Craik) has made not the least notable contribution to the Debate which was so eloquently inaugurated by the President. It was rather as gamekeeper than as poacher that the hon. Member warned my right hon. Friend against the nostrum of Commissions and Committees.


I said that I had been a gamekeeper who had turned poacher.


I am referring to the hon. Member's game keeping days, when I am sure that as an official he had some suspicion of Committees and Commissions which may obtain in a certain Department which is near this House. But while some of the things which have been said about the Board of Education and its staff may have been true of earlier days—and, as one of its critics, I very probably said some of the hardest things myself—yet from my recent experience I am bound to say that there is a welcome change in the attitude of the Board of Education not only towards teachers, but towards members of local education authorities, and the suspicion, expressed, for example, by the hon. Member for London University (Sir P. Magnus) in his desire for an independent Commission, as though he could not trust the Board of Education, is not quite in keeping, as I believe, with the present attitude of the Board of Education. I am glad to have my opinion reinforced by the hon. Member for Chorley (Sir H. Hibbert), who has been so active in educational matters for many years. I desire to say with what interest I listened to his speech. I believe that it is the labours of men like himself, who have unselfishly devoted themselves to the public good, which have placed our education system on its present modest level. There is one point as to which I do not quite agree with the admirable speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester. Under the scheme of my right hon. Friend's predecessor, quite a considerable number of teachers in elementary schools have been promoted to the position of inspectors. This is a very happy change, and one which I hope will not be lost sight of during the term of office of my right hon. Friend. What my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester disclosed was unhappily the case in days gone by, when the inspectors, recruited almost solely from the ranks of university men, were placed under the care of one or two of elementary origin, and learned their business at the expense of the people on whom they practised, and partly under the direction of men who were expert in elementary schools, and then proceeded with their work and became divisional inspectors. A happier regime now prevails.

I desire to refer to one or two subjects in closer detail than has been the case in the speeches which have been delivered—for instance, this question of secondary education. There I would that we had such a leaving age that boys and girls in elementary schools could be kept in association with the same school until the age of sixteen was reached. That, unfortunately, is not the case, and that accounts for the fact that we are not able to build lip in the elementary schools that corporate spirit which is such an admirable part of the organisation of the best secondary and public schools. Unfortunately the central school, the junior technical school, and the secondary school, admirable institutions in themselves, all take their tone from the elementary schools and prevent the development of that corporate life which comes from the influence of the top .class on those below, and I observe, not with any satisfaction, that the Report of the Board of Education discloses the fact that more children under twelve years of age, quite a number of them at the immature age of ten, are passed into the secondary school, and, if I may, I would warn my right hon. Friend against development along that line. It seems to me to show that a number of parents, recognising the advantage of the secondary schools and of early association with it, are from their more favourable financial position able to place their young children in the secondary schools, and authorities are prepared to take them, because they are all fee payers, to the exclusion of those boys and girls who ought to go from the elementary schools, about the age of twelve, to fill those invaluable places in the secondary schools, and the consequence is that we are passing out of our elementary schools, in an enormous number, children a proportion of whom at least should be represented in the secondary school, where their places are occupied by these children of the age of ten and eleven.

And the Report of the Board of Education seems to comment with some favour on the fact that there has been a considerable increase in the number of entrants into secondary schools drawn from children of about the age of ten. My view is that secondary education cannot begin about that age with any distinct success, that education given about that age must be primary, because of the age and the activities and the abilities of the child, and that far better would it be to prevent the parents of these children, possibly from some extraordinary idea as to what happens in elementary schools, segregating their children from elementary school contact, and taking the places which ought to be reserved for children from elementary schools. And in this connection I may call the attention of the parents to another point in the Report, which has been recently alluded to, regarding the number of exemptions which have been allowed in secondary schools being permitted to vary the 25 per cent, of free places normally demanded from secondary schools who receive the full scale of Grants. Out of 808 secondary schools which receive the full scale of Grants 108 were permitted to offer less than the normal 25 per cent. last year. That seems to me an unfortunate proceeding. It may be that the poverty of the school is pleaded. That is no reason for varying this excellent provision—rather is it a reason for finding additional financial assistance for such schools, so as to keep them to the level of efficiency. In that connection I do not wish to suggest that fees ought to be increased to make up the additional income, and I am in accord with my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley, who suggested that £3 3s. would represent the maximum fee charged for secondary schools in Lancashire. I am afraid that there has been a disposition to increase the amount of fees in State-aided secondary schools, making therefore the percentage of free places more valuable to the children from elementary schools who have not the necessary financial opportunity of going forward without rate or State aid. Wales in this particular connection has a very much better record. Of all her secondary schools there is only one which has varied from this 25 per cent, of free places kept for children from elementary schools, and the one school in Wales which was allowed to vary is a school of a non-local character. If Wales can afford it, and if it is good for Wales, surely the practice should be extended in England, and the financial difficulties of the school met by increased Grants rather than by a diminution of free places or by an increase in fee.

There is another point to which I would like to call the attention of the Committee. That is the question of the junior technical school. It is a recent development, and in many respects an admirable development, of our educational system. It gives what the hon. Member for Rochdale would greatly approve of, the opportunity of applying what may be termed the practical method to the teaching of the subjects in the curriculum, but as I see the development of the junior technical schools, and as I read the Regulations of the Board of Education regarding them, I fear that there is a disposition to make them more vocational than technical. And there we come against the difficulty pointed out by the hon. Member for Leicester, the attempt to make our education vocational at too early an age, and an indication ought to be given as between the practical method developed and the application of the vocational theory at our schools. Technical schools take pupils at the age of twelve or there abouts. I find in the Regulations that the parents of boys or girls who go to those schools have to sign an undertaking that the children who go to those junior technical schools will subsequently follow the vocation which the school is expected to serve. In Shoreditch there is a very excellent junior technical school associated with the furniture business. The parents of the children who go to that school are expected to sign an undertaking that the boys who follow the course of the Shoreditch Technical School will become cabinet makers. Surely there is something wrong there. Surely boys at that age may not be quite sure as to what their vocation is to be, and that is where I think the junior technical school is on the wrong lines at present. It is desirable to make the junior technical school a real school and not a pre-apprentice stage, intended to relieve the employer of the necessity of training his apprentices. On the other hand, it was delightful to me to observe that so far as ordinary literary subjects are concerned, there was no lack of power in the children, and it seems to be the experience that the method of students making, as it were, their own practical deductions from arithmetic or mensuration stimulates the activities of the brain in other directions. It is a very remarkable tribute to the type of work that is undertaken there that the pupil teachers trained to be manual instructors were able, notwithstanding some limitation as to the amount of literary work they do, to hold their own with the pupil teachers trained on what might be called the more literary basis. Therefore, I see no reason why there should be a very interesting method of development in our schools; there is no reason why, with the aid of the authorities and the Board, there should not be more practical work done in these schools. But let it be understood that this practical work is not intended to give a vocational bias. Vocational ability may be developed, but there should not be organisation in the school to make boys better carpenters and better joiners; what we want to see is the manual method for developing hand and eye, without regard, at that age, to the vocation which the boy may subsequently be called upon to follow. I may turn for a minute or so to a very important question which the President of the Board dealt with in his speech—the question of the employment of children. It must have come with a shock to the' House to learn that, even according to the figures accessible to the Board, something like 15,500 children have been released from school for agricultural employment in contravention of the existing bylaws. I share the view of the hon. Member for West Nottingham that more power should be put into the hands of the Board to bring to book any recalcitrant authority, and, for my part, I should be glad to see power placed in the hands of the Board to make a reduction of Grants, so that it would become more expensive for an authority not to administer the bylaws than to administer them justly. The education authority has power adequately to carry out the bylaws as they are intended to be carried out, and they should not be inadequately administered so as to release more children for labour. In this particular matter I think something more could be done than is being done, especially in view of the problems which will arise at the close of the War. There is in existence a useful little Act, called the Choice of Employment Act. Very little use is being made of that enactment in a number of districts. I believe, as a matter of fact, twenty county boroughs, ninety-four municipal boroughs, and thirty-six urban districts have not taken advantage of their powers under that Act—powers which would enable them to advise, through their subcommittees, as to what avenues were open to the children. These committees could act in accord with the Labour Exchanges to keep employers in touch with the schools, and I invite my right hon. Friend to do something to stimulate the activities of the local authorities in the direction of making better use of the Choice of Employment Act.

I heard with great pleasure the suggestion that something must be done—and I hope at an early date—to clear out of the way the all too many kinds of exemption which allow children to slip out of school, even under existing bylaws. The time must rarely come—and I think the President agrees with this—when the minimum leaving age of at least fourteen years should be adopted by this, country, and when there ought to be no fancy exemptions by means of what is called the "dunce" certificate," or by means of labour examination, and all that kind of thing, to allow children to get away. I hope we will not have any repetition of the concession which has been made to Bradford. It seems to be thought that something has been gained there. I have very grave doubt about that. Three thousand children will be released probably at a very early date, and something like sixty or seventy teachers will probably be released; and we know that means, with three thousand children released, that sixty or seventy teachers will find themselves looking for jobs outside Bradford. This is a great danger, and the shame of it is that at the age when children can be made most of, and at the time when the influence of the teacher counts for most, the top classes of the elementary schools of Bradford, in the period after the War, are going to be denuded. There is no guarantee, even though certain manufacturers have pledged themselves that halftime will not be adopted in their mills after the War, that this will be carried out. It is a question of bylaws, it is a question of the law, it is the question of the application of the Factory Acts, and, as to these particular manufacturers, however they may now pledge themselves, they may not be able, after the War, to carry out the pledge which they have made. The local authority may vary, and may put before the right hon. Gentleman a set of bylaws in agreement with the existing bylaws, going back to the age of thirteen, instead of fourteen, as the age of exemption. So far from regarding it as a concession made by the authority and the Bradford manufacturers to the Board of Education, I have very grave doubts as to whether it is not a concession on the part of the Board to the spinners of Bradford, and I hope there will be no repetition of it during the War.


After the eloquent speeches we have had this afternoon from expert authorities on the subject of education perhaps a layman, one who speaks on behalf of the parents of the children who are in our elementary schools, may be permitted to say a word or two. We have had the privilege this afternoon of listening to the President in the clear, concise and comprehensive speech which he delivered, and if the parents had been present to hear him they would have been encouraged by what they would have heard. We felt, as we listened to the right hon. Gentleman, that his was the speech of an enthusiast in the work of education, and he gave us matter for reflection when referring to some things which we all deplore. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that little children of five years of age are now being debarred from attending the elementary schools. I think that is very sad. I wish the President and the Board of Education could use their influence now, even before the War is closed, to go back to the old system, and allow these little children to go to school again. I speak with some experience as an old council school manager. I used to visit the schools, and I saw how these little children really loved to be at school, where they spent the best hours of their day. These dear little children were in school, and the teachers loved them, and I must say it seems to be a great grief to these teachers to give up control of these young children.

8.0 P. M.

The President referred to the fact, and I agree with him, that the best training ground for little children in their tender years is the home. But I know too many places in this great London of ours and in our large towns and cities where there are homes not worthy the name, and where children are brought up in one or two rooms. In this London of ours there are tens of thousands of homes where there is no comfort, where the family is confined to one room, and where the mother has, perhaps, to look after half a dozen children. Perhaps the mother goes out, and what are the little ones to do? I do not know; none of us can tell; but we do know that it must be very sad. I think this is a very serious question, and I hope the President of the Board will take it to heart and see if he cannot rouse up the local authorities, or compel them to take these little children back where they can be taught and loved. The first impressions made upon the minds of these little children of tender years are lasting and grow with them as they pass through life. I trust the President will find himself able to consider this grave question seriously. In relation to the children referred to by the hon. Member who has just spoken, the 15,000 who have already taken up occupations, we have had the confession from the President that nearly 500,000 of our children under fourteen years of age are not attending school. That is a sad, I would almost say a shameful confession. I question whether any other great country in the world has to make such a sorry confession as that. In our Dominions, where there are fifteen or twenty children gathered together, there is a school provided for them. We know the difficulty in our agricultural districts, but I must say that many of our agricultural people are no friends to education; many of the farmers are no friends of education. They hate the Education Act. I say this sorrowfully, but I say it truly, and that is why, as stated by the President, so many of the children in our country districts are taken away from school so early to work on the land. We know their difficulties, but what a contrast in Scotland! We heard the speech from the hon. Member for Leicester, who referred with pride to the advantages Scotland has in the way of education, and in keeping children to school. I heard a celebrated divine the other day refer to Scotland, and he also made this statement, which I really believe he had ground for making, namely, that in Germany, where the war spirit was so strong, he did not believe a child had been taken away from school or had received less education in this time of strain and stress of war. If that is true in Germany, why should we not be able to do the same in this country? The cost is spoken about, and the President said that even if there had been no war, most likely there would have been a serious increase, but I suppose what he meant was great increase. I believe the expenditure for education now is £15,000,000 per year, which, let us remember, represents only three days' expenditure in this War. I would say to every Member do not let us grudge what we pay for education, for whatever we pay it is cheap. I believe in what I have said I have spoken on behalf of the parents and of the infant children and of those children who are taken away too soon from school. Members who have to do with agriculture know the truth of what I am saying. I congratulate the President on the enthusiasm of his splendid deliverance, and I hope that we shall all feel more impressed with the value of the education of our children.


I listened with very great interest to the clear and able statement of the President of the Board of Education. There are only two points to which I wish to refer. The first is with regard to the temporary check on the building of new schools which has been mentioned. I would draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that during the last few years a very large number of schools have been scrapped for what even the local people allow are very inadequate reasons. We are at war, our expenses are very heavy, and the bill after the War will be very heavy, and therefore I wish, with all due respect, to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the advisability of using again many of those buildings which have been scrapped and which, with very little alteration and at very small expense, could be rendered adequate for the purpose of education. The children would receive no less efficient education in those schools than in the new ones. The buildings in many cases are excellent. We see in many of the large towns buildings which have been put on the scrapheap for no other than some small technical reason about lavatories or suchlike, and the local authorities will tell you that those buildings could be put right at very small expense, and would be just as efficient as many of the modern schools. The other point which I wish to mention is as to boy labour. I have listened to one hon. Member after another, and it seems to me that they all lose sight of the fact that we are at war. The Chancellor of the Exchequer came to the House yesterday and asked to be permitted to break through the practices of the House and to be allowed to get two stages of the Finance Bill through on the one day, because he pointed out we are at war. That argument is always used by the Government when it suits them, but when it does not they choose to forget it. Here we are in the middle of the greatest War that has taken place for centuries, and at a time of the year when it is of the greatest importance to get all the labour possible for the hay and the harvest generally, and yet one hon. Member after another gets up and objects to children being taken for a short period from school in order to serve those two great national interests—forage for horses and food for the people. We hear about the necessity of providing cheap food for the people from the benches opposite, and yet, when it is absolutely necessary to have all labour possible employed on the farms, hon. Members come down and say, "No, you are not to take those boys," who are strong and healthy and absolutely fit for the work. What we ask is that children should be allowed to be employed on this work, which is healthy work, and which is an education in itself.

I entirely disagree with those hon. Members who say that children's training should not be begun at an early age. My own practical experience in the Colonies and at home is that those people who make the greatest success in their trade are those who begin to work at an early age when they are receptive, and when the minds are easily trained. If this was a dangerous occupation, or one that was liable to injure the health of the child, I could quite understand the argument, but agricultural work is the healthiest occupation upon which children could possibly be employed. I therefore venture to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that it is an absolute national necessity at the present time that children should be employed in light work on farms where they are so much needed, and I feel certain it will do good to the children themselves. The President astonished me very much by saying that if necessary they were going to coerce the local authorities in this matter, and that if necessary he was coming down to ask the House to give additional powers. I never heard such a thing from a democratic Government, as this Government is supposed to be. You appoint local authorities who understand, or are supposed to understand, local conditions, and the moment they exercise any independence you say, "We will compel you to do as we want, and not to exercise your independent authority." [A Laugh.] An hon. Member laughs. He laughs at everything which is sound and practical. I have had a long experience of him in this House. I venture to say that mine is a very practical suggestion. I think it is a monstrous thing coming from those Benches and from Members of the Labour party to say that we are to appoint local authorities, and as soon as they begin to exercise powers given to them we are going to pass legislation to stop them doing so. What could be more absolutely absurd? Either have no local authorities, and accept the responsibility yourselves, but for Heaven's sake do not appoint local authorities and then give them no power whatever. I hope the Committee will believe that what I am saying is not for the purpose of being disagreeable, or because I in any way underrate education. I have simply pointed out what I think to be practical and useful, and I hope the President will allow the local authorities to exercise their genuine functions in regard to those exemptions which they think necessary.


I agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken that we cannot afford for a moment to forget that we are at war, but I congratulate some of my hon. Friends on their ability to forget it in some of the speeches, interesting and important as they were, which have been delivered this afternoon. For my own part, I cannot forget that we are at war, and on that account I must resist the temptation to discuss some profoundly interesting educational problems which have been the occasion of many excellent speeches. I wish to refer to two points. First, I would ask the representative of the Government, and I would impress on the Board of Education the extreme need, particularly during the War, of getting the different Government Departments to co-relate and unite their actions. The hon. Member for Chorley (Sir H. Hibbert) pointed out how in Lancashire expenditure which they had wished to incur, and which was in accord with the policy of the Board of Education, had been stopped by the Local Government Board. I know a case in connection with the local authority to which I belong, where we have been unable to get from the Board of Education anything like a definite direction with regard to the limits of economy and of expenditure. It is not business, and it is not fair to the local authorities to have one Government Department urging expenditure, and another Government Department refusing to sanction it. Take this problem of boy labour. I cannot see why the Board of Agriculture and the Board of Education should not together agree upon certain directions and policies which would be of the greatest value to local authorities. The local authorities have most difficult work to do. We who sit on county councils and town councils are not merely interested in education, and I hope we are not merely interested in economy only in war time. We have to keep a fair balance between these different interests, and unless we get unity between the Government Departments and guidance and help from all the different Government Departments which are concerned in the various branches of our expenditure, it is impossible to adjust, particularly in educational matters, the needs of the country to the special emergencies and exigencies of a time of war like the present.

I hope the Board of Education will realise, particularly during the next year, that England after the War will not be the same place as it was before the War. Among other things that this War has taught us there is this fact, that under modern conditions, with aeroplanes, submarines, and other machinery of war, the insular character of this country is largely lost for ever. We are brought into contact with the Continent in ways which some of us may well regret, but the fact is one which will have to be reviewed throughout the whole area of our national education. It will affect the way in which the duties of patriotism are taught, and the perspective in which history is to be seen, and it will affect the curriculum of national education in many ways. It may even be connected—I should not be surprised if it were—with the great problem of national training. It may be that the country after the War will be attracted to the view that national training is, or might be, quite as much a part of education as it is of specialisation in matters of national defence. My point is to ask the Board of Education during this next year to face the varied problems which will come about owing to what the War has revealed as to the position of our country and its relation with other countries. While neither this House nor the nation are likely to take altogether from any Government Department its prescription on matters so wide-reaching and important, still these questions are such that we have a right to ask the Board of Education carefully to consider them, because I, for one, believe that problems of great complexity and difficulty will arise, and I take this opportunity of pressing their consideration upon the Board of Education, so that they may help the House and the country when the time to decide them comes.


Those of us who are interested in education have certain topics or problems which we are anxious to press on the attention of the Board of Education and its distinguished President. I speak to a certain extent under a handicap in that I was not able to be present when the President made his speech. I have, however, listened carefully, and have gathered the general course of his remarks. Before speaking on more general topics, I should like to ask whether we can have any information with regard to the Director of the National Gallery? It is true that that body is not directly represented in this House, but as far as it is represented at all it is represented by the Board of Education.


I do not know whether that is on the Vote or not.


Then I will not press the matter.


May I call your attention to Vote 3, Class IV., page 35 of the Estimates?


The hon. Member may continue his remarks until I stop him.


If any information can be given about the appointment it will be received with great interest. With regard to more general topics, the President has referred to the outlook for the future, and generally to the attitude of the country as a whole towards the great educational problems which are thrust upon us as the result of the War. We have heard a good deal about the appointment of Royal Commissions and Committees. There is throughout the country a certain uneasy feeling that all is not as well as it should be with our education, whether elementary, secondary, or university. There is a general feeling that something must be done. I think it was Lord Palmerston who said that when people said something must be done, it usually meant that they were going to do something foolish. I hope it will not be so in this case. There is the point of view of the experts; there is the point of view of the children; there is the point of view of the parents; and there is the point of view of the country at large. I hope that in this matter we shall not sacrifice the great things which, for good or for evil—I believe very much for good—we have in our national education to a greater extent than any other country. We shall make a very poor exchange if we sacrifice certain special splendid products of our schools in order to get a certain amount of mere technical efficiency or more minute knowledge.

It is extremely important that any changes should be made only after the most careful consideration and after an attempt to visualise the problem not only from the point of view of the narrow school curriculum, but also from the point of view of the national character, the national position, and the national life as a whole—which, after all, began many hundreds, and possibly thousands, of years before we appeared, and will, we hope, go on for many hundreds if not thousands, of years after we have gone. It it too big a thing to be settled in a short space of time by any body of experts, however skilled or dignified they may be. Take, for instance, the problem of the secondary schools. The old charge against those schools was that they were too strictly classical. There is now no school, not even a public school of the most conservative kind, against which that charge can any longer be levied. In all the public schools you have three parallel lines of curricula, and you have in universities a large number of parallel lines along any one of which a student can travel. But for some curious reason the connecting link between the public schools and the universities still remains a very narrow one, and though I would like to see that bridge made broader and the restriction with regard to Greek and so on swept away, I think that the questions involved are much wider than merely educational questions. Therefore I ask that the problem, when it is considered, should be considered by some Commission or authority consisting not merely of educational experts, but also of those who see the problems of national character and national life broadly and as a whole.

I do not say that without a certain, amount of realisation of the special difficulties. I understand that the Board are appointing or inviting Committees to deal with special portions of the problem. For instance, there is Lord Crewe's Committee, the object of which is to deal especially with the question of scientific education and how far it requires development. I believe there is a Committee to be appointed to deal with modern languages and the attitude of the schools generally towards that subject? In fact, I have had the honour of being invited to serve on that Committee. It may be all very well to have these small Committees dealing with various parts of the problem which must be considered from the educational point of view; but what I would much rather have had is a bigger body to start with to consider the whole problem from a broader point of view. What I am afraid of is that each Committee may run its own point of view without sufficiently keeping in mind the coordination of the. different parts of the problem—modern languages, science, literœ humaniores, and so on—and still more without keeping in view the much wider question of the national character and national conditions which, personally, I value extremely highly. Therefore if the Board are deter mined to proceed by Committees dealing with different portions of the problem, which Committees I take it would be large1 j composed of experts, I hope they will secure that afterwards there shall be some larger body of a coordinating character, consisting not merely of educationists in the special sense, but also of others who perhaps have the wider aspects of the national life more present to their minds. So far as the general contribution I have to make to the subject this afternoon is concerned, that really finishes all I have to say. There are, however two special points to which I wish to allude quite shortly. They are these: We have not yet, I think, had the Report of the Board for last year, therefore I have not been able—


Yes, we have; it has been out a fortnight.


If that is so, I have not received it. I inquired in the Library for it, and they had not got it. Therefore I was under the impression that it had not appeared.


Would you like to look at it now?


I must decline, I am afraid, for the moment, for reasons which will be perfectly well understood by my hon. Friend. Up to a point, however, I know how they are working in the country, and I do not know that the Report of the Board would give me much more information than I already possess. The first question to which I want to refer is that of homes for mothers; the whole question of the relation of the Board to all these questions of child treatment, and so on. The matter was just alluded to in the speech of the hon. Member on the other side, who put in a plea that the policy, which, after all, is not a war policy, which has been adopted by the Board of Education and most local authorities for a long time, that that policy—I will not say of the absolute exclusion of the "three to fives," as we used to call them—is not an educational problem. It is a maternity problem, a nursing problem, and it is not right to use the expensive machinery of the elementary schools for a problem which is not, properly speaking, an educational problem. That is a justification and an explanation of the attitude of the Board—of the attitude which now has been adopted, after very careful consideration, for some years, now. Just in proportion as our education authorities say. We are not prepared to deal with the "three to fives," because their problem is mainly a nursing problem, and to a certain extent a maternity problem—


May I ask the hon. Member a question?


Allow me to finish my sectence first. Just in proportion as you do that, so does it become essential that some authorities should be constituted, and some machinery set up, to deal with the "three to fives."


What I wanted to ask the hon. Member was this: Take a child, say, from three to five years of age, who has been in a lower school. Is it not in a much more fit condition to go up higher than if it starts right away from the so called "home"?


If I may say so, that is not the point. The point is: What is the proper authority and machinery to deal with these children of three to five who cannot be properly dealt with at home? Is it proper to send them to the elementary school and to use all the expensive and elaborate machinery of education for them? Really, they are only in the nursery condition and more fit for the crèche, or something of that sort. At that age they are not really capable of using to the full the elaborate and highly developed educational machinery which the elementary schools require. That is the problem, and I venture to say that in proportion as the education authorities decide that they are not the proper people to deal with the "three to fives" in the schools, so, in my view, it becomes incumbent on the Board to assist to the utmost of its power with the whole question, by medical inspection, by crèches, by homes for mothers, for the family in its early nursing stage, and so on. The Board can assist us enormously by co-ordination in the areas, by advice, by stimulating local authorities, and so on, especially as to medical inspection—which it can do much to develop—and which if it refuses to take the "three to fives" into the schools, in my view, it is bound to develop to the best of its ability. Both in the Report, I am glad to say, of the Board of Education, still more in the Report of the medical inspector which follows it, this whole question is now dealt with. There is the question, first of all, of mortality in the first year, about which it tells us so much; then afterwards the life of the child in the crèches and homes. All that work has got more and more space in the Report of the Board of Education. I rejoice to see it. I should like to know this definitely when a reply is made on behalf of the Board: What attitude and what share are the Board taking with regard to the developments which have been made, or set up, by the Local Government Board with regard to the Grants for homes for mothers, and so on? I believe these Grants were developed partly as a result of pressure due to the War, but they do constitute rather a new state of things, and I should like to know what attitude the Board, as a Board, is taking up in regard to this work, which at present comes mainly from the Local Government Board and not from the Board of Education.

On the other hand, I wish to say a word about the question of the Workers' Educational Association. This is a voluntary association, and is a work which those of us who are interested in the future in our great industrial centres have, I believe, very much at heart—at any rate, I know I have. I should like to know what the position of the Board exactly is in regard to the Workers' Educational Association. The association has all the advantages, and to a certain extent the disadvantages, of being a voluntary association. Like many associations of its kind, its work, certainly in the initial stages, was probably better by being unhampered by official rules and regulations of any kind; but I think the time is rapidly coming when, at any rate, in the well-established centres we might hope to have some recognition and some help from the Board of Education. If at a certain stage in well-established centres we were to get Government recognition and, to a certain extent, Government help, I believe the Board would be doing real work in the cause of education. Many well-established centres are doing excellent work, work of a real educational kind, and work which, I believe, the Board of Education, if not this year or next year, at any rate in the near future, will see their way very properly to help That, then, is the conclusion to which I wish to come tonight; and I can only repeat what I have said, that I hope that the problems due to the War will be dealt with in the spirit not of the narrow educational expert, but from the broad point of view of the national life—the national character and the national conditions. Any improvement we make in our education—and I think many of our blunders in the past have been due to the fact that we have not recognised this—any improvement made in our educational system must always have in view the assets we have in this country in its character and traditions. Any attempt to strike out with any newfangled system—I do not care whether it is from Germany or any other country—will be a mistake. Our system must be broad, based on the national life; in close touch with the national life. Therefore I nope that we shall not have merely watertight compartments of Committees with, it may be, the necessary adjustments, but that we shall have the problem considered from the point of view of the national life


This Debate has had several very hopeful and encouraging features. I remember taking part in the Education Debate of twelve months ago. It seemed to me at that time that there was no particular interest of the matter in the House. There is a great deal more interest taken in education this year, and that is, I think, because we realise that in spite of the War—and, indeed, because of the War—how tremendously important education is from the standpoint of the future of the country. There have been a very great many interesting speculations this afternoon as to the future of education. I should like to develop some of these speculations, but I do feel that it is perhaps more practical at the moment to make quite certain that we are maintaining, as far as possible, the foundations of the system which has been built in the past, because, unless those foundations are maintained to the best of our ability, there is not much good speculating about the future, because the future will not be of the character that we will desire. I do claim that in not a few districts to-day a serious position is being created because of the continuous retrogression in educational affairs. Everybody knows that in war time there must be sacrifices in this and that direction. In regard to many domestic affairs there will be a tendency towards reaction and stagnation. I do submit, however, that the very last thing we ought to sacrifice in war time is education, and the educational welfare of the children. The problem that we ought to set ourselves is what is the very last we can sacrifice, but I am afraid that in certain districts, where the authority is not keen in regard to the education of the children, or does not realise fully the importance of this matter, they are rather asking themselves how much they can throw overboard at the present time in regard to educational arrangements.

I say that we ought to have economy, certainly at the present time, but let us economise in regard to the right things. We still go in for horseracing in this country in the middle of the War. The Government itself has become the owner of racehorses. Surely we might begin to look to economy in directions of that kind. If any one of us were to go to a West End restaurant in London tonight, the sort of dinner that one would get would only be limited by the extent of his purse. And so with regard to the purchase of jewellery. In Bond Street you can buy as expensive jewellery as you like. I say it is there we ought to lop off in luxuries and unnecessary things. In spite of that, many of the educational authorities, in a matter of this kind, begin to say, "What can we cut down with regard to public health? Can we stop sweeping our streets, and can we cut down at every point the education and the welfare of our children?" I do say that if there is stagnation in these districts the stagnation will continue for a long time to come, and it will not be a case after the War of improved education, but a case for years after the War of trying to get back to the point where we stood before the War broke out. I think that is really a very serious matter, and I am quite sure that since the Board of Education by its official declarations has placed on record that it believes the War renders more necessary than ever a progressive impovement in the development of public education, and if that is true, as it is true, the preparation must begin now, and the thinking-out must begin now, because, if the system is allowed to run down, we cannot look for any improvement for years to come, and in those years other nations will be forging ahead in regard to education and matters of that kind.

I do not say that all these things could be avoided, but I do say that if you take a group of things together the cumulative effect has been very serious indeed. First of all, there has been the enlistment of some 20,000 teachers, very largely from the elementary schools. There has also been a very large enlistment of students in the universities and colleges. That means that both with regard to present arrangements and in regard to the future supply of teachers the position is being endangered, and however ardent may have been the desire of these men to join the forces I do think that an effort ought to have been made from the national point of view to decide how many of the teachers could be spared, and to impress upon the others that just as good battles could be fought inside the schools against ignorance as in any other direction. It may not be easy to realise that at the moment. It will be easy to realise it afterwards, when we begin fully to understand how much has been lost. I quite realise that at the moment large numbers of people are not troubled very much about education, but it is true that a good system of education is a far better entrenched defence of a nation, and if those trenches are neglected or forgotten those who are responsible will certainly in the end be held to blame.

With regard to teachers who have gone away, their places, as we have been told to-day, have very often been taken by women who had been teaching before they were married, by superannuated teachers, and so on. But that will mean, and does mean now, that there is a lowering in the general standard of efficiency, and not only in regard to the teachers, but in. regard to the accommodation in the, schools, large numbers of the schools having been taken over, either for hospitals or for billeting rooms, and I am afraid that sometimes the military authorities have not always been as considerate in this matter as they might have been. I have a case here of the Wellington Road School, Liverpool, which was on the point of being opened, and which was taken over by the military in May or June, 1915—more than a year ago. That school has never been used by the military. It has stood in that condition ever since, and I am afraid that that has happened in more than one direction. What happens in the case of the children who are disturbed and displaced in this way? I believe I am not exaggerating in saying that at least 100,000 children, in greater or less degree, or for a longer or a shorter period, have been so disturbed and so displaced. In a good many cases it has led to overcrowding. It has meant that children have been taken to mission halls and places of that sort, where very often the arrangements and lighting are not in the least suitable for classes of children; and in other cases it has become necessary to develop a sort of double shift of the children, one batch from 9.30 till 11.30, and the second batch from 11.30 till 1.30, the first batch coming in again at 1.30 and being replaced by the second batch at 3.30 and remaining till 5.30. Where that is done, as the Board of Education admits, it is apt to be done in an atmosphere which becomes vitiated, and the children become dull, sleepy and tired, and the best is not got out of them. That is with regard to teachers and with regard to the accommodation.

The third point is in regard to the scholars themselves. Far too many of the boys and the girls are being withdrawn from school for employment. We have heard from the President himself to-day the situation .as it is in many of the rural districts. But I entirely agree with the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Sir J. Yoxall), who said that the official figures given by the President did not disclose the full extent of the problem. Perhaps I may read a sentence from a speech recently made by Mr. C. W. Crook, President of the National Union of Teachers: Unfortunately, they were not where they were two years ago, and their first duty would be to come back to prewar conditions in the schools and use them as the stepping stones to further progress. With regard to the figures given in the House of Commons as to the number of children in rural districts who were away from school, they were by no means true figures, as they only dealt with the children who had been exempted by the authorities, and not with the very large number who stayed away weeks and months on end, and whom the authorities refused to prosecute. That is really a very serious position. These children are being drawn into the towns by the lure of present high wages into various employments. These employments lead to nowhere and will stop with the War. Is this going to be a permanent educational loss? Are these children ever going to regain the educational advantages they are now losing? This is an important matter. As the President of the Board of Education knows as well as anyone, there is going to be a tremendous economic and social reconstruction in the future, and to a large extent it will have to be undertaken by those very children who are now being robbed of their educational chances and advantages. Mr. H. A. Mess, the secretary of the Mansfield House Settlement, said quite recently in referring to the demand for boy labour: Thousands of boys in London at the present time are exhausted physically after their day's work. They are getting no technical training and attending no evening classes. Boys under school age are going to work, and it is no use the authorities bringing prosecutions. After the War we can look forward to a great outburst of the hooliganism, for the labour market will be choked with boys physically and morally damaged and without any training. The same thing is going on with the girls. That is not a pleasant picture, and if it is realised in any degree we are going to pay a very high price for the so-called economy which is being practised in this direction at the present time. The Prime Minister said on 8th May this year: The Government are instituting inquiries into the whole problem of education after the War. We shall be glad to know more fully what result these inquiries are likely to have and who is taking part in them. I would like especially to know to what extent the working people and their representatives are being represented in regard to these various investigations. Undoubtely there is general dissatisfaction with the present system. I know it is not permissible to discuss the legislative methods and measures that might be necessary to establish a democratic national system connecting the elementary with the secondary and the university educational system. The people of this country have not taken the interest in education which they might have done, and this is very largely due to the fact that education has been far too much the cockpit of sectional wrangles in which the real welfare of the children has been sacrificed. I think the War has revealed the gravest defects in our national system, and we are anxious to know whether the Board of Education has learned the lesson and is clearly thinking, out a new policy. We know that there is a growing necessity for technical education, but in this matter there is a danger that may take us on the wrong lines altogether. There are people advocating education to-day because they think there is money in it, and they are going to advocate technical education in order that they can capture this or that trade. Education based on those lines will be lopsided, and it is not going to attain the end in view.

I believe the real aim of education should be first and foremost to produce good citizens and then efficient wage-earners, and that will be an after consequence. Whilst I believe in scientific and technical education, I think that the basis must be a general liberal education, devoted to cultivating and developing a vigorous and sincere mind in a strong, clean body, and to quickening in the child the power of observation, fostering the power of sound reasoning and sound deduction. Technical education and scientific instruction, if reared on that basis, could do a great deal to make the country enduring and strong. I also believe that the real way in which the country can hold its own in the world is far more by improved knowledge than by systems of tariffs and all such artificial changes. Many of those tariff changes and so on are mere quackery in comparison with the results of improved skill and knowledge. I desire to say that in my opinion the working people themselves in the future must have far more say as to the kind of education they want and need. In the past it has far too much been the privileged and ruling people who have arranged how much education was good for the working people, and the sort of education they should have. In the future, I hope that the masses of the people outside will demand for themselves equal educational opportunities. Nothing grieves me more to-day than seeing among the working people so many bright children who will never have the chance of developing their mind or making use of their great gifts. Science, literature, and all that goes to make up a well-trained and cultured mind and a real education ought not in its truest and widest sense to be the prerogative of a privileged class, but ought to be common to all and shared by all. I feel that the whole future of the country is at stake in this matter, and I say that whatever other sacrifices are made, we are not going to sacrifice our child life and our elementary education. If we do, we make the postwar problems enormously more difficult to deal with.

There is another matter which has been mentioned several times to which I wish to allude, and it is the question of the health of the children. There is the School Medical Service, which has done such excellent work, and here I am afraid we are allowing a dangerous slowing down. I believe that in this respect things are slowing down, and the Official Reports speak of the partial disorganisation of the School Medical Service. Sir George Newman, the chief medical officer of the Board of Education, says: Many school medical officers have been called away, and their assistants have been called away, on military duty, and this prevents not only their cooperation with juvenile employment committees, but imperils the foundation upon which this part of the work is based. Side by side with that slowing down on the part of the medical service, we have a largely increased number of children slipping away from school too early, and, if examined, many would be found to be suffering from such troubles as malnutrition, heart and lung troubles, diseases of the ears, throat, and nose, bad teeth, and defective vision. The inspectorate is lessened, but the number of children gainfully employed out of school increases, and these long hours of work in addition to school hours tends to make the children dull and stupid, wasting the child and the public money spent upon him. Sir George Newman says: The European War, with its terrible burden of destruction and loss [of life, makes more, rather than less, necessary the preservation and nurture of child life Indeed, it is probably true to say that there is now no ultimate need of the State greater, more imperative, or more urgent than that of securing the health and physical efficiency of the rising generation, with a view to its all-round practical education. These are really matters of very great moment. I would like, in conclusion, to quote one paragraph out of the Report of the chief medical officer of the Board of Education, and I think it might form a very practical ideal for the Board of Education itself, because the whole spirit and pith of the matter is here. He says: If we are rightly to equip the children of the nation, it is necessary to give to them all, whether normal or defective, whether rich or poor, a sound and liberal education of body and mind. It does not seem too much to aim at that every child shall be clean, well-nourished, and, as far as possible, healthy; that its systematic physical training shall be taken in hand thoroughly and efficiently; and that its future employment shall be properly foreseen, safeguarded and prepared for. The whole problem of the health, equipment and subsequent training of the 'leaving' child demands further attention in each area, and is essential to the wellbeing of the State Given a healthy body, the development of both muscle and brain is dependent in large measure upon nurture and physical education in its widest sense. On such a broad foundation the mental and spiritual growth of the child and its upbringing in effective citizenship will be secure. Conceding all the limitations imposed by the Board, I do think, and I agree entirely with the hon. Member for West Nottingham {Sir J. H. Yoxall), who is such a great authority on this matter, that in many districts we are needlessly drifting away from the ideal and are making the future reconstruction of our educational system more difficult. The Board of Education itself for many months has tended to drift along saying "we are a Board, and we must not bring too much pressure to bear on the local authorities." The result has been that many of these reactionary local authorities have gone their own way and have done exactly as they liked. An hon. and gallant Member quite recently criticised the President of the Board of Education very severely for daring to put any pressure on these local authorities at all. Surely the President is fully justified if they are not doing the work that they are required to do in return for the money that they now receive. There is need for increased vigilance and direction, and, if we economise, we ought to economise in luxuries and war profits. The whole of the future is largely dependent upon this matter. I hope that one thing that has emerged from this Debate will be strongly insisted upon. I hope that the teachers who are going to take a great hand in this work in the future will be properly paid and recompensed, and, as the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. R. Macdonald) so well said, will also be given the additional honour and status to which they are so fully and justly entitled.

I regard education as enormously important in this standpoint. These problems, in making this country great and strong and enduring in all the matters that really count can only be solved if we have an educated democracy. Only an educated democracy with a wide outlook can put aside natural prejudice and selfish passions and uphold the ideal of the public welfare, the public advantage, and the public good. If we are going to have a nation great in its love and justice, great in its hatred of oppression, and great in its desire to conquer poverty, wrong and pain, we must lift up our whole system of education, and we must love education with a whole heart and pursue it as the path towards the true and lasting good.


I have had the pleasure now of sitting here for seven years, and every Session I have sat through the whole of the Debate upon the Education Vote. I have tried to speak on every occasion, though I have not always been successful in catching your eye, but I am perfectly sure that of all the discussions on this Vote to which I have listened this is by far not only the most notable but the most encouraging. First of all, we have got as President of the Board of Education a member of the Labour party, and in view of the immense influence and importance of this Department to the working classes I hope that this will not be the last occasion that we shall have a President of the Board of Education belonging to the Labour party. Then, again, I have been struck by the fact that for the first time, I think, more than two speeches in the course of the discussion have been delivered by members of the Labour, party. [HON. MEMBERS: "Three!"] Not only have we had a speech from the President of an hour and a quarter's duration, but we have had three other speeches from members of the Labour party. I believe on no other occasion have we had more than two. What does that mean? It means that at last the working classes or their representatives in Parliament are rising up and are waking to the fact that education means a very great deal to them. One of the things which has bitterly disappointed me in the past has been the fact that representatives of the Labour party have been so constantly absent from these discussions. I congratulate them most sincerely on the eminent part they have played in the Debate tonight, and I trust that on other future occasions, when I may be privileged to sit here and listen to these discussions, I may have the opportunity of listening again to speeches so weighty, so wise, and so full of promise as those delivered today.

9.0 P.M.

Next to the great and important part played in this Debate by the members of the Labour party one other thing will remain with me, and I think with everybody. That is, the utterance of the hon. Member for Nottingham (Sir J. H. Yoxall), that our educational system to-day is in ruins. That is what he said, and that sentiment has been reechoed and adopted by others I am inclined to think it is right, and I am especially inclined to think it is right because it has been the burden of my own remarks for the last seven years. I thought that I was a pelican in the desert or a voice crying in the wilderness, but to-day I am glad to find men of more weight and authority in this House voicing the view which on more than one occasion I have, with more than great temerity, ventured to express. We have to face this fact: Our educational system, in its elementary portions and at its base, is in ruins, and though what we build upon may be beautiful in design, composed of fine material, and have promising teachers, it cannot stand and be effective if the foundation is in ruins. Why is it true to say that the foundation, the elementary educational system in our country, is in ruins? It is not due to the War. It is due to disintegrating influences which have been going on in elementary education ever since 1902. I do not want to introduce contentious or party matters, but let me point out that for the last ten years or more the deficiency in our school accommodation, in the buildings, has been getting worse and worse. You are constantly getting behindhand in the actual provision of school places for your children, and that is the reason the educational system is in ruins. Was it not the case that a few years ago the London County Council was fined, I think, £20,000 or £30,000 for being behindhand in actually building the necessary places? Why is it that at the present moment, or, rather, it was the case just before the War began, that the Board of Education had a big arrangement with the London education authority to go on building and building for a scheme which was spread out over, I think, five or six years—in order to make up the admitted deficiencies then, that is two years ago, in the places necessary to supply the elementary school children of London? Again and again we see that the school accommodation, the places for our children, are in many places lamentably deficient.


Other parts of the country are not all like London.


No; they are not all like London, and I believe that in Durham they are wise enough to know that you cannot have a healthy or intelligent population without good schools to bring them on. In many places it is very different, and that is one of the problems with which you will have to deal after the War. There will be after this War, as there were before, vast movements of the population. In London alone many districts which were the habitat of large numbers of the population are immense office and warehouse districts, and there is no population. There schools stand stranded, and some of them have been sold or pulled down. But school accommodation in other parts has to be provided in those places to which the population has gone, and there are schools in London to-day overcrowded, and the real reason why we are having so much difficulty in keeping the children on to the proper age of fourteen, or even more, is because the local authorities have made every effort, as soon as the children get to thirteen or fourteen, or are able to get a dunce's or a labour certificate, to encourage them to go out of the school.




In Lancashire, possibly not; but I know of more than one case. At any rate, I shall have something more to say about Lancashire later on. I am going to take the liberty of pressing this particularly upon the attention of the President of the Board of Education. Our school building accommodation is deficient. The right hon. Gentleman knows it, because he has a paragraph in his Report referring to it, in which he says that he has encouraged the local authorities to send in their plans, so that those might be now approved, and that they could get to work very shortly after the War. That is very good. It is on page 23, paragraph 55, circular 903. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman to do something else: to give a distinct inducement to these authorities that are deficient in school accommodation to send in and get passed their plans now. That was actually done in the year 1870, when the first Education Act was passed and when school buildings were encouraged to be put in hand at once by the fact that if the authorities sent in their plans within six months of the passing of the Act they were to get a building Grant. I know that to go back to the policy of building Grants is possibly a very difficult and a very radical proceeding, but I believe it ought to be done, or if you cannot go back to the policy of building Grants, you might offer to give to those schools which will now get plans passed, and which will be under an obligation to start immediately the War is over, or as soon as called upon by the Board of Education, the prospect of getting loan money at a reduced rate of interest. I believe some sort of inducement of this kind would be most valuable to education, and, moreover, most valuable to the building trade and unemployment, which will want a stimulus of some kind or other as soon as the War is over. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider that proposal.

I should like to say a few words about another aspect of our elementary school system, which really shows that the elementary system is, as my hon. Friend says, in ruins. The fact is this. We have now this year many thousand children fewer in our elementary schools than we had a year ago. I only asked the week before last a question upon this subject which, strikingly enough, is not dealt with in the Report of the Board of Education. The Report of the Board, interesting as it is, does not answer this vital question: Compared to a year ago, are there more or fewer children in the schools? Why cannot the right hon. Gentleman put such a plain and obvious fact in the Report? I will tell him why. Because he is afraid to answer the question; because, naturally, he is ashamed to have to admit that there are something like 40,000 children fewer in our schools than a year ago. In view of the statement he has just made of the many thousands being abstracted at the present time and since those figures to which I have called attention, which are the figures of January last, and as he has. called attention to the fact that 15,000elementary school children are taken away by a breach of the bylaws, that does not really represent the whole case. The fact undoubtedly is, that we must have at least 60,000 children fewer in the elementary schools of England to-day than before the War I am sure my estimate is a very moderate one.


Does not the Report show that there was an increase of 25,000 on the last year?


If the hon. Gentleman will do me the honour to look at the OFFICIAL REPOBT of the 6th of this month, column 1684, Vol. lxxxiii., he will see the figures given.


I am taking the Annual Report.


No, as my hon. Friend says, it is undoubtedly an underestimate of the fact to say that there are 60,000 children fewer in the schools now than there were. Someone in the course of this Debate has said that Germany has prided herself on the fact that during the War not one child the less has gone without its education. I wish we could say the same. I should feel more entirely confident not only of victory in this War, but of victory in the terrible struggle which eventually we must face in days of peace. The fact is, as I said, that the elementary education system is in ruins, not only with regard to its buildings, which are far from being kept up to what they ought to be, not only with regard to a declining school population, though all the time the actual number of children in the country shown by the Registrar-General is increasing, but also with regard to many other aspects. I am going to mention, very shortly, two. Why at the present time does the Labour member, President of the Board of Education, go and put fees on infants in elementary schools? I will ask him to look at pages 07 and 98 of his Report. I see he is putting 3d. a week on all children in Standard I., taught in the infants' department. This is a new fee put on, and that is in Lancashire, I think.


made a remark which was inaudible in the Reporters' Gallery.


I am very glad to hear it, but it is in your county. There are other schools where they have had an increase of from 9d. to Is. a week in the case of scholars whose parents live outside the borough. An elementary school charging Is. a week fee! It is unworthy of any Labour Minister at all, and especially a Labour Minister who is President of the Board of Education. There is another question I am going to propound to the right hon. Gentleman which is worth his attention. What is his view of the question of mixed departments and co-education—the teaching of boys and girls to gether? I have looked in vain for any reference to this question in the Report of the Board of Education. It is a very important matter, especially at the present time, when there are far fewer men teachers and, probably, after the War you will find great difficulty in filling up the ranks of the male teachers. I ask the President of the Board of Education what is the policy of the Board with regard to mixed departments? They are being discouraged at the present time. In some places, notably in London, for various reasons into which I will not go, but which I could specify, it is the policy to discourage mixed departments and, if possible, to separate boys and girls from being taught together. That is altogether a wrong tendency, especially at the present time. If the right hon. Gentleman does me the honour of making any reply to my remarks, I hope he will give me a word or two of encouragement and enlightenment as to his views upon this question. Another question in connection with our elementary education is the problem of the children under five years of age. We had to-day a speech during the temporary absence of the President to which I wish he had listened. It was made by the hon. Member for Newington (Sir S. Collins), who spoke not as an educationist but on behalf, as he repeatedly said, of what he knew was the feeling of the parents of London. He asked, "Why do you turn all these children under five out of school?"


I heard the speech.


I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. He will agree that it was a very generous and sincere utterance and, as far as my experience goes, it expressed what is very widely felt, for at the present time, when you have women occupied in work of all descriptions as they have never been before, to prevent them sending, as they have done for a year or two, their children between three and five to the infant schools, is nothing less than cruelty both to mothers and children. What is the case in London today? I have just been privileged to see the last Report of the London Education Department. It gloats over the fact that in a few weeks time it will have reduced the infants in infant classes to 25,000. A year ago in London there were 55,000 children in the classes under five. Now the Department is gloating over the fact that in a few weeks they will have reduced that number to 20,000, and that thereby they will be saving in Grant—what they will be saving to the ratepayers I do not know—a sum of £37,000. That is false economy and it is cruel economy, because it is cruelty to these children that they should be compelled to be about the streets or under inefficient care and control when they might be in the healthiest place—alas! it must be admitted it is the healthiest place that many London children have—the infant schoolroom. I bitterly regret to think that this ruthless and sweeping reduction in the numbers of children under five in the schools of London is being carried on under the name of the President of the Board of Education, apparently without any protest or warning on his part.

Another point I wish to make in connection with our elementary schools system is with reference to the statement given to us by the President on page 29 of this Report, where he calls attention to the fact that there are nineteen areas—not nineteen schools—in England where no instruction is given in domestic subjects, while in fifty-seven there is no instruction given in handicraft, and in the case of eleven areas no provision of any kind has yet been made for the teaching of special subjects. I am very sorry to find that there are several Lancashire places in this list where no provision whatever is made for the teaching of special subjects. There is Middleton. We had a speech just now in a very high and dignified strain from the hon. Member for Middleton (Sir R. Adkins), yet he comes from a place where education itself is sadly lacking, because, apparently, there is not a single school in his area—I do not say in his Parliamentary Division—which makes any provision whatever for special subjects. The same is true of Mossley. What about Swinton and Pendlebury? I believe they are in Lancashire. We have Clitheroe, Middleton, Mossley, Swinton and Pendlebury. The fact is, that here in the county which advertises itself as being the wealthiest area per head of population of any portion or district on the face of the globe—I believe that is Lancashire—you find no less than six large places in which the elementary schools have no provision whatever for handicraft, domestic subjects or special subjects of any kind. That is a disgrace to Lancashire. I am very glad to see the eminent chairman of the Lancashire Education Authority here. I hope that when he goes back he will say to those who are, I know, independent of his authority but over whom his influence must indeed be great, "Let this stain on the county of Lancashire be wiped out at last, and let us give a little better education in the schools of our county."

I hope I have helped to prove, what hardly needed proof, that our elementary system of education is in ruins. There are many ways in which it might be improved at the present time. One thing we must have is, of course, good school buildings. If you have good school buildings, which should be a pride to the district, you will start from good ground. Beyond that you must also have good teachers. I am sorry to see that the accounts we have in the Report of the right hon. Gentleman and in the Reports that I have from various places at the present time about the training of teachers are far from satisfactory. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has given his attention lately to the proceedings at the Leeds Training College. The right hon. Gentleman has evidently not read the "Yorkshire Post."


Oh, yes, I have.


Then he knows what a scandal there is at the Leeds Training College, and that you have resignations and the washing of dirty linen at the Leeds Education Committee. I hope he is going to institute an inquiry into it, and I hope the way in which the women students there have been treated, as if they were inferior beings, as if they were mere children who could be ordered about, will be made the subject of a public inquiry by the Board of Education and that we shall have things set right. Evidently this great training college, which ought to be the centre of the training of teachers for the North of England, has got into a very bad way, and it is very discouraging indeed that we should have disclosures like this at the present time.

I will now say a word upon our secondary and technical schools. I might say something about the number of free places, but hon. Members have already alluded to the fact that there are 108 schools where the Board of Education has allowed them to have less than the required 25 per cent, of free places, so that in the secondary schools, which are supported out of the rates and ought to be democratic, there is not the proper number of poor scholars that there ought to be. I was sorry to see that the number has actually increased during the last year under the presidency of the right hon. Gentleman. He ought to reduce the number of these schools which have special privileges given them to have less than 25 per cent, of free places. There are only a few more than last year, but there is an increase, and I hope before next year, if he is still in that post, he will be able to say he has reduced the number. But the whole of our secondary education is suffering from the fact that it is not sufficiently worked as a great system in the national interest. At the present time we ought to be retaining as many scholars as we can in such departments as chemistry, engineering, science, and the higher instruction in what may be called technical and practical subjects. The University of Bristol has a very adequately equipped engineering school. I have just learned that though the students in the last years of their engineering course are being encouraged to stop, yet at the present time all the students in the engineering school of Bristol University are two Hindus, one Chinese, and one Englishman. That is not the way to prepare a number of technical and efficient workers for resuming our operations in the field of competitive commerce and industry after the War, and I very much wish that the President of the Board of Education would abate a little of his recruiting zeal in order to put strength into the movement for retaining the superior students—let them not be only very superior students, but any promising students at all—and allowing them to finish their course. I should suggest that such students might have a special badge given to them. Then they would not be under any sort of reproach and would not be liable to any sort of undue and unpleasant interference because they were remaining on.


I have not risen to continue the discussion of the broad aspects of the education question and the great questions which will await solution after the War. I have rather risen to take up one small matter for which I wish to secure the sympathetic attention of the President of the Board of Education. It is a small matter compared with many of the great issues which we have been discussing, and yet it is a great thing to those whom it concerns, and when we remember what the President said in his opening remarks this afternoon as to the importance of bringing into the schools the best possible teachers for that purpose, and paying them well, it is a great matter also in the interest of the efficiency of our schools. Moreover, it is a matter of justice in which all of us as ratepayers and as public men have our consciences involved. I mean the question of the salaries paid to the teachers, and more particularly I wish to dwell upon the salaries paid to the uncertificated assistant teachers, a class which, of course, does not attain the highest rank in the profession and which is not so well organised or able to look after its interests as those who are more highly educated and better paid. But nevertheless it is a class which is relied upon still in considerable numbers for the teaching of our children, and although the number has been much reduced of late years there are still large numbers of these uncertificated assistants, especially among the women teachers. Many of them are teachers of long experience, who are uncertificated because there were not good opportunities for getting the certificate when they were young. Many of them have not tried to gain the certificate, or in other cases they have failed to pass the examination, but in many cases, even when they have failed to pass the examination, they are by long experience and natural aptitude able teachers. I am not going to attempt to exaggerate their position or their claims. I feel as strongly as anyone the desirability of having highly-trained teachers in our schools and having certificated teachers, and where possible teachers with university degrees, and it is still possible, should be encouraged by all reasonable means to get their certificates.

what I am suggesting is that as long as we rely upon these teachers to a considerable extent we ought to pay them a decent living wage, and I think I shall be able to show that in many cases now even the men are not getting what you would call ordinary labourers' wages, and the women are getting very much less. Men, I think, consider themselves pretty lucky if they get up to £70 or £75 a year, with perhaps a war bonus thrown in, in these times of very high wages. In many cases they are getting less than that. I heard of a case the other day where one of the uncertificated assistant teachers considered that he was benefiting himself in leaving work in order to take a clerkship at 30s. a week. The women are getting very much less. In many cases they are getting £50, and they are doing pretty well if they get £60 a year. The statistics are not, as far as I know, available for any very recent date, but I have seen a large number of interesting figures with regard to the payment of these teachers dating from about four years ago. At that time there were in some counties male un certificated teachers employed at as low a figure as £50 a year. In one case the rate had actually begun at £45 a year. In the best county the figures ran up to a possible £80, but as a general rule the salaries started at about £60, and by annual increments go up to about £70. The wages for women in one case were down as low as £30 a year. I did see one case where it was about £70, but that was quite exceptional for an un certificated teacher. The average ran to about £50, going up by annual increments to about £60. Probably the figures are rather higher now. There has been difficulty in late years in getting teachers, and there has been an upward tendency for wages. Moreover, in the last two years prices have risen so much that war bonuses have been given in some cases. I submit that so long as we decide to employ these uncertificated teachers it is very undesirable that they should be paid such very low wages. I know a reason is given that the Board of Education specify that an uncertificated teacher is not to teach more than thirty-five children, whereas, I believe, a certificated teacher is at liberty to teach classes of up to sixty. Therefore, it is worked out and shown that even at a very considerably higher salary it is cheaper to teach with certificated than with uncertificated teachers. That may be an excellent reason for employing all certificated teachers, but it is not, in my opinion, a sufficient reason for paying these uncertificated teachers such very low wages, when you do employ them. We all, nowadays, believe in the principle of a living wage for everybody, although we may not all call it by that name. We believe that everybody ought to have a decent wage on which they can live in comfort, and surely that applies to people who have a fair standard of education and who are employed in imparting that education to the children of the country.

The argument as to the size of classes is one on which I have very grave doubts. I would not like to dogmatise about it, but I would ask the President of the Board of Education if it is not a fact that, in spite of the regulation, uncertificated teachers are in very many cases teaching much larger classes than thirty-five, partly owing, I believe, to the difficulty of getting sufficient teachers at the present time? I know it may be said that in many cases these uncertificated teachers are only uncertificated for a year or two, and are then going on to gain their certificate, when they will get higher wages. Even in those cases I think it is hard that they should be paid so little at the time; but in many cases these uncertificated teachers are not going forward for their certificates, and, unfortunately, they are permanently employed at low wages. I think we can hardly regard that fact without some feeling of shame. I know that the Board of Education has very little direct power in this matter, because the fixing of the salaries rests with the local education authorities. At the same time, one is bound to look to the Board of Education in dealing with questions of this sort. We cannot in this House deal direct with the education authorities, and when we have any reforms which we think ought to be carried out we can only get them carried out by bringing pressure upon the Board of Education as the authority over the education authorities. I recognise as much as anybody the importance of getting good teachers, and I recognise the necessity of paying good salaries in order to get them. By all means let us level up the standard of education of our teachers, and let us get as many certificated teachers as we can; but so long as we do employ uncertificated teachers on a large scale in the educational work of the country, we ought to pay them fairly good wages, and we ought to recognise that many of them, although uncertificated, have proved themselves, by long experience and long practice, to be very useful teachers, especially for the younger classes of children. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give this matter his sympathetic attention.


I hope that the President of the Board of Education, before he ceases to occupy the honourable position which he now holds, will impress upon the Government the fact that nothing can be so disastrous, in view of the industrial struggle that awaits us after the War, as to allow this country, at such a crisis, to economise in the matter of national education. Nothing will encourage our great competitor Germany more than our economy in the matter of education, and nothing will strike greater terror into Germany than if we double, I as I would like to see this country do, our educational estimates immediately on the termination of the War. No money could conceivably be better invested than the spending of an infinitely larger amount of public money than is now spent upon the improvement of the education of every class of the British community. I would like to add my voice to that of others who have spoken in favour of a Royal Commission being appointed at the earliest possible date to consider the whole question of education throughout Great Britain for every class and for every grade of education, and in favour of the suggestion that that Royal Commission should be specially instructed to consider this question with the greatest rapidity, and to report not later than the date of the termination of the War. I cannot believe that this piecemeal method of inquiring into various aspects of the education problem is likely to achieve the results desired. Nor is it calculated to impress the public at large, still less our competitors overseas, as would the unanimous Report of a carefully chosen Royal Commission.

I have always read with interest the speeches delivered by Lord Haldane in another place, as well as on the public platform, on the subject of education, and I am bound to say that he seems to me to always soar in altitudes far above the practical educational problems that we have to face at the present time. Certainly, those of us who, as members of local education authorities, have to consider the daily problems of elementary and secondary education, are still far, far away from being able to deal in any sense with those problems which Lord Haldane from time to time presents to the country. Lord Haldane is always urging us to begin at the ton. I, on the other hand, firmly believe that we must make our foundations sound before we can build up the great superstructure to which the eminent educationist in another place is perpetually referring. I think that the Workers' Educational Association is doing infinitely better work with a view to getting a sound practical system of education in this country, and one that is popular among the masses of this country, than anything that Lord Haldane can do by speeches in another place.

I would like to congratulate the Minister of Education on the perfectly admirable appeal which he made about a year ago to the patriotism of the local education authorities, and the managers and teachers in our schools. No document which has ever been issued from the Board of Education during the last ten years in which I have served on the local education authority of Gloucestershire has appealed to that education authority to anything like the same extent as that admirably-worded document which pointed out to the education authorities what their patriotic duty was throughout the whole of this great crisis through which we are passing, and what were the various activities in which those connected with our schools might usefully take part. I take the opportunity of saying that, at any rate in my own environment, the teachers particularly have more than acted upon the appeal which the right hon. Gentleman made. The patriotic activities of the teachers during the short time at their disposal when they were not employed within the walls of the schools, certainly in the rural districts, has been beyond all praise. The teachers have fulfilled all the duties of their position in such a way that, if they never did it before, they have deserved during this War the status which we would all like to see them enjoy, by the lead which they have taken, particularly in our rural districts, in all the most patriotic activities which have enabled the War to be carried on so far with success. There is one particular aspect of this to which I would like to refer. In many districts the British Red Cross Society has undoubtedly encroached upon the school premises. The school premises in many cases are at present the only suitable buildings which can be utilised for wounded soldiers. The teachers have met this very difficult problem with extraordinary courage and devotion to duty, and at the same time, a due sense of proportion. I take this opportunity of thanking the teachers in my own district, particularly teachers of secondary schools, for the way in which they have suffered considerable personal inconvenience, and, so far as space is concerned, considerable inconvenience to the classes, by opening their doors, so far as is reasonable and proper, to admit wounded soldiers in this time of national emergency.

I would make a special appeal for the education of our girls. For many years past I have participated in various projects for the education of our boys. But the longer I live, the more convinced I become that it is far more important to improve materially the education of our girls than that of our boys, and I am inclined to think that one result of the War, during which our women are doing such admirable work for which many of us previously thought them quite unfit, a great demand will be made for giving our girls a better and far more practical education, particularly in our country districts, than they have received hitherto. Four years ago I went on a visit to Belgium to find out what was the secret of the success of the small holdings movement in that country, undoubtedly the most successful of all countries, in establishing a prosperous colony of small holders. I sought for it in the small holdings, and could not find it. I sought for it in the boys' schools, and found some indication of it. But it was not until I was brought into contact with the wives and daughters of those small holders, and eventually sought for it in the girls' schools, that I discovered the great secret of the enormous success of the small holdings movement in Belgium, a movement which has brought immense wealth to that country, considering its size and its former poverty, wealth which alas, for the time being, has been dissipated. But it has brought a greater keenness for self-improvement on the part of the peasant agricultural class than is to be found, so far as I can gather, in any other country in the world. I think that in every class of society in this country there is enormous scope for improvement in the education of our women, and I hope that the President of the Board will take this into careful consideration in conjunction with the various problems which he will have to solve as a result of the War.

The hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Somerset—I am not quite sure whether he is from Somerset or Lancashire from the remarks which he made—wanted to impress on us the importance of buildings. I think that there are many things in the educational world which should come before buildings. Many of us undoubtedly would set teachers first. If I were asked to choose whether more public money should be expended on buildings or on teachers, I should plump, without the least doubt, in favour of the teachers. In view of what awaits us after the War I am sure that they want a much longer and a more thorough training, particularly in practical subjects, than they have today, and having received it they will require and deserve higher remuneration than the bulk of them hitherto have enjoyed. Some hon. Members have been trying to discover the reason for the early age at which students leave both the secondary school and the elementary school. Reference was made to the enthusiasm of the Scot in requiring that his children should remain longer at school than they do in other parts of the United Kingdom. The Scot is a very canny person, and I am not at all satisfied that his enthusiasm alone explains his great desire for more prolonged education. I am sure that the reason why we find this enthusiasm in Scotland particularly is that they are essentially a commercial race of people, and that they realise that there is money in it. I do not think that you are going to induce the children in this country, or the parents, to prolong the education unless you can show to children and parents the commercial value of the education which they receive.

In reference to continuation schools, I hope that we are approaching the time when continuation instruction will be compulsory. But as long as it is not compulsory you have got to instil into the minds of those children the enormous commercial advantage to them of prolonging their education beyond the compulsory period. I was very much impressed, some three years ago, when helping the Education Conference of the Boards of Education and Agriculture, to take evidence from various witnesses from overseas, on the subject of continuation schools, to hear what our chief experts from Canada had to say. They pointed out to us that children in Ontario and Manitoba were quite keen, after a hard day's work, to walk five miles to a continuation school, and five miles back again, rather than forego the advantages of that education. I do not know how you are going to get that greater intensity. I believe the best way of dealing with continuation instruction is to make it compulsory, or to urge employers to put a premium upon employing the child or young man or young woman who has received a prolonged education. I am not sure that under existing circumstances an appeal made by the Board of Education to all the leading employers of the country might not produce very great results, but at any rate I should like to see public opinion so improved on this subject that employers who deliberately take children at the age of thirteen, and some of them I am afraid take them at twelve in our rural districts, or at any rate take them at an unduly early age, into their employment, would be regarded as unpatriotic, and as doing the children as well as themselves a real injustice. I think the Government have great scope in this matter. There never was a time in which the Government could appeal to employers throughout the country with more chance of their appeal being effective, and I particularly want them to make that appeal to agriculturists.

10.0 P.M.

I am not going to take up time on the question as to whether it is or is not advisable in the present emergency to employ small boys out of the elementary schools, except to say that I do not think any boy should be relieved from school, as some boys have been relieved, under the age of twelve. We have got somehow to educate employers as to the value to their industries of the well-educated and useful employe, and I hope that an early appeal will be made particularly to agricultural employers to realise the great asset that they will possess in the more highly-trained employe. The only other thing I should like to say is this, that something ought to be done to bring our great public schools—and I use the term in the old sense—and our universities into one great national scheme of education. It seems to me that this gap which now exists between the old public schools and what we in these days call public schools—the elementary and secondary schools—is a very great obstacle to the greatest and most promising development of education in this country. I am chairman of a secondary school in Wiltshire, which contains the children of farmers, tinplate workers, and miners, and I am bound to say that the education that is being given in that school to-day is of an infinitely more practicable character, and more calculated to be useful to those children in after life, than any education which I have received myself at one of the great public schools of this country. I have hesitated very much in spending, as I am doing today, £250 a year on the education of my son at a great public school when I see these children for £6 annually receiving as useful an education as my boy is receiving. I think it is all wrong. I think, n the first place, that these boys, if they were mixed in the same schools, or in one great national system, would learn a great deal from each other. They would develop in character, and have a desire to develop to a much greater extent than they do now, when they are being educated in separate watertight compartments. I believe there would be far less difficulty in pushing them forward if you had one scheme for the whole country, in which it would be in no sense derogatory to any boy, whatever his social position, to take his part, and so let him have the enormously beneficial effect of feeling the competition with himself of boys drawn from every class of the community, and an enormous incentive would be given to every child to develop his best self, and become a really valuable educational asset to the country.


We are discussing the Education Estimates to-day under circumstances of great gravity, from the educational standpoint. I want to remind the Committee what the prewar position was. There had been a great number of weighty inquiries into the various aspects and problems of education and of social reform—an inquiry into the employment of school children, an inquiry into the Poor Law, and inquiry by Departmental Committee after Departmental Committee into every aspect of this matter, and the whole of these expert inquiries resulted, without exception—I think I am right in saying—in the condemnation of our present system of education. The minds of leaders and experts and of educationists all over the country were directed towards pressing upon the Government schemes of far-reaching educational reform. The War brought all these discussions to an end for the time being. But now that the stupefaction has passed away, there is again a great revival of educational inquiry and discussion, and the Government is being pressed to institute far-reaching reforms. But while this demand for reform is taking place, and whilst there is an increasing realisation of the vital need for these reforms, we are creating during the War a new set of evils, a new set of avoidable evils, which will still further, unless the Government intervenes with great sternness, increase the difficulties of educational reform after the War. I do not think I am using the language of exaggeration when I say that the system of education such as it was before the War, built up through thirty or forty years, in some vital aspects is almost entirely destroyed. Large numbers of school children are leaving school at an age sometimes less than twelve, sometimes twelve, sometimes thirteen, and these children, who now number a very great total indeed, have left the school for good. It is idle to imagine that many of them will return to the school. Some perhaps in the earlier months of the War, those who left in 1914 and 1915, at the ages of twelve or thirteen, have already reached now the statutory age of exemption, and it is idle to imagine that they will come back.

The President of the Board of Education to-day in a very eloquent speech, and if he will allow me to say so a speech full of most admirable feeling, has justly condemned this unwise policy that has been adopted of allowing these children to leave school at these early ages for use in agricultural or other industries. I want to ask who is responsible for it. After all, the responsibility is the Government's responsibility, and the fault is with the Government. I remember sitting in this House in the early autumn of 1914, and I heard the present President of the Local Government Board, who at that time sat on the Front Bench opposite, rise and demand that the Government should allow the statutory law to be defied, and that school children should be immediately released for service in agriculture. I remember that Mr. Chaplin rose from that bench and made the same appeal—indeed, if my memory serves me correctly, the hon. Member for Wilton (Captain Bathurst), who has just made a wise and eloquent speech, also asked that school children should be relieved in order to help in agriculture. The Government gave way. The Government assented to the statutory law of this country being defied. When the Prime Minister announced in response to the appeal of the present President of the Local Government Board and Mr. Chaplin his decision and indicated certain conditions, somewhat vaguely expressed, it was quite obvious that the mere statement of any conditions would not prevent, after the Government surrender, the wholesale withdrawal of children from the elementary schools. That has taken place and has greatly intensified the educational problem, because it means that a large body of citizens in the future who have got to face the reconstruction of this country as part of the reconstruction of the world will be uneducated and will have been denied even the benefits of that limited system of education which was in operation before the War. The right hon. Gentleman spoke with feeling on this question. It is in his power and that of his Department with the assent of the Government and the Prime Minister to prevent this withdrawal of school children continuing. There is no greater work that he could do whilst President of the Board than to see to it that these unwise economies are brought to an end and that the statutory law so painfully and so laboriously built up is obeyed.

I want to say something about the reconstruction of the future. The right hon. Gentleman has departed from the custom of his predecessors, and, very wisely I think, has given us some sort of outlook on the future and certain constructive suggestions. What is the great weakness of our system of education? Hon. Members to-day have spoken of our system being in ruins. It has never been anything else but a ruin. We have never had a national system of education. The great tragedy of our system of education has been the fact that it has been a class system under which a great section of the community have no education in any real sense at all. We have considered the elementary school, and the right hon. Gentleman's own advisers have considered it, as a system complete in itself. I venture to suggest that to-day at least we have got past that, and that we now realise that a system under which the children leave all educational care at the ages of thirteen and fourteen and enter at once upon the battle of life immature in mind and in body is not a system worthy of being called a system at all. We have had an entirely unrelated system of education. May I attempt to state the case in figures which, I think, are convincing? There are at present over 6,000,000 school children at the elementary schools. Before the War the average number leaving those schools each year was 600,000, and that is larger now owing to the wholesale withdrawal which has taken place. Of that number, over 200,000 leave before or at the age of thirteen, and over 400,000 leave on attaining the age of fourteen. How many of those children receive any secondary education? Not more than between 8 and 9 per cent. The greater body of them are swallowed up prematurely into the industrial life of the nation, to be thrown aside a few years later when they demand men's wages, and ultimately become members of the unemployed. The system under which those hundreds of thousands of children are turned adrift at that early age, to receive no further form of education, is, of course, unsatisfactory and is the first thing to alter.

I suggest that what we want is a unified system under which we should entirely get rid of the class system of education, and under which elementary education would mean not the education appropriate to a certain rank of life, but the education appropriate to a certain age, and under which secondary education would mean not education appropriate to what is deemed to be a certain higher social class, but under which it would stand for education appropriate to the children of a certain age. We want, therefore, this sweeping reform in our educational system. We want to cease regarding elementary schools as schools which can give a complete education by the ages of thirteen or fourteen, with a possible coping stone in the form of evening continuation schools. We want to see that every child receives secondary education. [An HON. MEMBER: "HOW can you?"] I Tenture to think it can be done, and if my hon. Friend says it cannot be done, I can only say in reply that the sooner we set about doing it the better. I do urge that we want to secure a great increase in the type and character of our secondary schools, and that our ideal should be that every boy and every girl should pass from the elementary school at the age of eleven or twelve and should go on to some further form of secondary education, using the term in its widest sense, and should not be allowed to enter upon industrial life until a far later age than that which at present prevails. These are sweeping reforms but they are necessary reforms, and until we have a related system of education under which every child receives a proper education we have got in no sense a national system. The right hon. Gentleman was alive to the need of reform, and he told the Committee of the steps which he proposed to take in the future. He deprecated the appointment of a Royal Commission and suggested the appointment of various Departmental Committees. I agree with the hon. Member for the University of London (Sir P. Magnus), and I am one of those who greatly regret the decision of the President and of the Government not to appoint a Royal Commission, because it does appear to me that we are still far from united as to certain vital principles of educational reform We want through the appointment of a Royal Commission to secure unity—the unity that comes from the findings of such a body on these great principles. Therefore, I hope the Government are not going entirely to reject the idea of a Royal Commission. I believe that such a Commission is almost a necessary preliminary to any real constructive reform. There is no reason owing to the War why such a Commission should not be set up. There is no reason why such a Commission should take a long time to report—a longer time, in fact, than the various Departmental Committees that are suggested. Through a Royal Commission, if the reference were adequate, we might hope to have presented to us the foundation for a national system of education, showing particularly how we can have a national system of secondary education closely related, to which the elementary schools would be the appropriate steppingstone.

I want to remind the right hon. Gentleman of one aspect of educational reform which has been only hinted at in the course of this Debate, and that is the reform of the universities. Let us remember that, after all, the curriculum of the public schools is largely dominated by the requirements of the university examination. Let us remember also that in turn the public schools dominate the curriculum of the private schools. Therefore, in any national system of education, it is the duty of the nation to find the appropriate place for the university. It is quite obvious that in some respects the universities cannot reform themselves. They want to be given the power to reform themselves in certain vital respects. The problem is so large, the vested interests are so great, the schools of thought on the subject of reform are so divergent, that I think the President will see that at least there are good grounds for advocating the appointment of a Royal Commission. I believe that the appointment of a Royal Commission would really be the quickest way of securing reform. I earnestly hope that we shall not be told that a final decision has been come to in that respect, but that the Government will preserve an open mind on the subject. Finally, the right hon. Gentleman has had to-day an experience which I think his predecessors will find unique. Not one word of criticism has been uttered on the subject of educational reform. Every speaker in the Debate has admitted the need for and the urgency of reform. Every speaker has urged the President to go forward. He can, therefore, go forward in the work of educational reform feeling that he has behind him a united House of Commons. I trust that when he delivers his annual address next year he will be able to say that he has acted on the exhortations which he has received, and that he has taken vigorous steps towards carrying out some of those reforms which are so urgently needed in the best interests of the country.


I am sorry to detain the Committee for a few minutes longer, but I have sat here during the whole of this Debate, with the exception of perhaps half an hour. I desire, in the first place, to congratulate my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education upon his excellent speech. For many years he and I worked upon the same county council, and I am glad to find that the experience he gained on that council has stood him in good stead in his work in his present office. I trust he will continue to have great success, and that he will carry out the ideals to which he has given expression today. Before I embark on my main subject, I should like to say a word or two in regard to what was said by the hon. Members for Lanarkshire and Wiltshire. Both recommended that the Government should appoint a Royal Commission. I myself have grave doubts as to the wisdom of that course.—to deal with the whole question of education. Indeed, I am one of those who believe that the Departments now have overcome a very large number of the difficulties by the appointment of Committees. They have solved many problems and set aside others to be dealt with, almost immediately by the reference of these matters to Committees. I am old enough to remember the great stir caused by the appointment of a Royal Commission upon Education, which presented its final Report in 1888. I remember reading the two Reports—for there were two—a majority and a minority Report—and also a very large amount of the evidence given before that Commission. When my hon. Friend says that we will get unity from a Royal Commission, I say that you have there, arising out of that important Commission, great disunion. You have the two Reports which were divergent. Further, very little of those two Reports have been carried out. A very large number of Royal Commissions have been appointed have got a large amount of evidence, and have presented their Reports, and nothing has been done to carry out their Reports, or to carry into effect their recommendations. I have with me here a Report in regard to scholarships. It is an excellent Report. I have read a great portion of it. But it will probably take years for the Department, or the Government, to carry it into effect, because it means an expenditure of money. I believe of about £325,000. These Commissions make recommendations and they are never carried out. It is a waste of time to appoint further Commissions. If it were a matter of business, of a proper business Department—and I will make one or two suggestions before I sit down where I think there is a great waste of money going on—the heads would never call in an Advisory Committee, or a Commission, to advise them. They would do the necessary work themselves and rectify the errors and see to it that they brought success to the business.

I was very much struck by the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester. It was an eloquent speech. There have been some other speeches delivered like it. But hon. Members spoke from a theoretical point of view, without practical knowledge of what is going on in the country. I am one of those who believe that the elementary education of the country is not ruined. I am a member of an educational authority myself, and have been for many years. I have been a pioneer of a great deal of the work in my own county. I venture to say, with due regard to what was said by the hon. Member for Leicester when he spoke about the need of education in our country districts, that if he will come to the county" of Durham, where I live and work, and where also lives and works the hon. Member for MidDurham, he will find that there is not a single boy or girl in that county today, let them be as poor as one could imagine, be that boy or girl the son or daughter of an agricultural labourer, that is not within reach of some of the best secondary schools in the country. We have so established secondary schools within that county—something like seventeen or eighteen—that they are within the reach of every boy and girl in the county, and they are going on from the elementary schools, right through the secondary schools, and sometimes on to the universities. Therefore, when men talk to me or talk in this House that nothing has been done in this country, I say there is a great silent work going on, and, although I was an opponent of some aspects of the Act of 1902, I am bound to confess that that Act has done a great work, especially in the secondary aspect of education; and if the county councils and the borough councils, who have the power, will utilise that Act in the way it should be worked, I venture to say a further improvement will take place in this country out of our educational system. I was very delighted to hear the practical and very suggestive and instructive address of the hon. Member for Chorley (Sir H. Hibbert), who since he has been in the House, and with his practical experience, has made very good suggestions to the Department as to how they should proceed with regard to this educational work. I want to tell him that he was very much better treated by the Local Government Board than the county in which I am. It is a very remarkable thing. Here is the Education Department, which is responsible for placing very large and grave responsibilities upon the education committees, urging them to carry out certain work, and then you have the Local Government Board coming down and pressing the committees to economise, and we, like him, were under the responsibility of expending up to our 3d. in the £. An inquiry was held. They cut the rate down to 21/2d., and then they would only allow 21/2d., and by that means they were able to stop the whole of the technical education of the county for one year. I say that is false economy. When the Education Department come down and press for this work to be carried out, and then you have another Department coining down without knowing what the Education Department is exacting from those committees, I say it is false economy for one Department to interfere with the other in that respect.

I should like to draw the attention of the Department to a very important aspect of what I consider to be a great waste of public money that is going on at the present time, and in this we do not require a Committee or a Commission to stop it. I refer to the enormous leakage that is now going on with regard to our continuation schools and technical schools. It is not in the Report this year, but I refer to the Report for 1914–15, because that Report is a very full one, whereas the Report this year is a very meagre one, on account of the War. Those figures have caused those who take an interest in education very great alarm. Now, what do those figures show? There are 734,510 students in our continuation and technical schools; 423,000 are boys, and 310,960 are women and girls. There are 243,000 over the age of twenty-one, and you have practically only 490,000 between the age of twenty-one and the age when these boys leave school. The most remarkable thing in connection with these figures is that in the group courses taking more than one subject you have 261,000 entries. In the single subject course you have 908,000 entries. To qualify for a Parliamentary Grant to the Committee those in the group courses must attend fourteen hours during the session and in the single courses ten hours. I find that there were no less than 22,000 in the group system that failed to put in fourteen hours, representing 9 per cent, and no less than 365,000 failed to attend the qualifying number of hours in the single subject group. This means a great loss to the Education Committee. In Wales it represents no less than 21,000 of those who have entered into these groups for various subjects. This means that the local education committee have to prepare for the classes, advertise them, organise and employ teachers, and have to bear the cost of maintenance of the permanent staff and central organisation, and all this depends more or less upon the Parliamentary Grants, and yet we find this large leakage. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman ought to do what great business firms would do in a similar case—that is, send a man down to investigate. I suggest that an inspector should visit every county and meet the teachers and practical men in conference, and see if they cannot overcome this great leakage. If they can overcome this difficulty in the attendance in our continuation and technical classes, it will do a great deal to remove some of the great difficulties we have at the present time. I know the President of the Board of Education is anxious to reply, and I should like to have referred to the work of our secondary schools in connection with the universities. I believe there is a great need of reform in the classification and the preparation of subjects leading on to the university, but I believe that all these things can be done by Departmental action, and there is no need for a Royal Commission. I hope that during his next year of office that many of these things he may work out himself by some practical suggestions to rectify the great waste that is going on now, and if he does this he will add further glory to what he has done already.


I feel highly gratified at the course which the Debate has taken since my opening speech. There has been one outstanding feature, and that is the desire manifested by all sections of the House in favour of some scheme of educational reform. If there is any difference of opinion on this point I think the difference has really manifested itself rather in regard to the measures and as to whether we should proceed in this way or that. I do not propose to attempt to deal with the almost innumerable points that have been raised. I have endeavoured to follow the Debate during the hours the Debate has run, except for the absence of a few minutes, and I have been somewhat handicapped without my Parliamentary Secretary to take the second part of the proceedings. But I will promise that all the suggestions that have been made will be very carefully considered. One of the valuable results of this long Debate will be the material which it will provide my Department for thought, for consideration, and for laying further plans for carrying out the work that we have in hand. It is no mere empty phrase when I say that the suggestions that have been made will be very, very carefully considered. I think I indicated by what I said in my opening remarks that I was personally exceedingly desirous, as long as I occupied my present position, of assisting to the best of my ability in advancing education. We have just been reminded by my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. J. Samuel) that I have been long associated with educational work, or at any rate with the administration of education. It is twenty-two years since I first became a member of an education authority, and I was, as he reminded us, for some time connected in my Division with one of the best educational authorities in this country, the Educational authority of the county of Durham.

There are a few points that I would like very briefly to mention. The first speaker in the Debate, my hon. Friend opposite (Sir P. Magnus), suggested that I was trying to make too much of the question of money. Here I must take leave to differ from him. I have not come to the conclusion without a considerable amount of thought. I happen to know that for years and years inquiries of one kind or another have been held and in the pigeon holes of the Department, as we usually say, there are any number of schemes. We are not short of schemes. The best brains of the country have gone into this matter before, and I venture to say that effect could be given to no plan that I could bring out of the piles that have been made in days gone by without a considerable sum of money. I purposely emphasised this in my speech, because a number of speakers have paid me the compliment of expressing the hope that I may be in a position again to make a speech at this box as President of the Board of Education. I do not mind saying that in many respects I hope that I do not, because that would be an indication that the War was over. After all, we have to have some regard to the fact that I am only here because I am a Member of the Coalition Government—and when the War is over it is possible that the Coalition Government will come to an end. Probably next year, when this Vote comes up, I shall be sitting here at the corner doing what some of my hon. Friends have been doing this afternoon. That is the position. Therefore I purposely emphasised the fact at the only real opportunity I had that we really need money. If this machine is to be made to go better, if it is to go faster, it can only be driven with money. I hope that my hon. Friend opposite will bear with me when I say that I have very seriously come to the conclusion that that is the only way that we are going very greatly to improve the position. He also raised the question of method. I know that for some time he has been feeling very keenly on the question of a Royal Commission. I have talked it over with him, and I know the part he has taken in presenting the case for the appointment of a Royal Commission. I do not mind saying that after giving very full consideration to the subject I came to the conclusion that the appointment of a Royal Commission was not the best method of investigation in the interests of education itself. I have been myself on more than one occasion a member of a Royal Commission. If we had a Royal Commission it would be a fairly large one, because it would have to deal with every aspect of the subject, and I can imagine five or six experts interested in university education—as we know the hon. Member for London University is—sitting alongside five or six experts on the elementary side, and perhaps five or six experts on some of the intermediate stages of education, and I will venture to say that whilst the part of the inquiry more directly concerned with the universities was really being made, it would be in the way with which, I am sorry to say, education in this House sometimes is dealt with, namely, that when it is Scotland, Scottish Members are present; when it is Ireland. Irish Members are there—and so it is in connection with the Commission. We have four or five Members more deeply interested in one aspect of the case than in another, and they attend very very closely to that part of the case in which they are most interested. Royal Commissions do not, I think, commend themselves very strongly to the public mind. I think Royal Commissions have been used on the public platform, whatever party has been in opposition, to make great fun of the party in power for sheltering itself and its side in politics behind a Royal Commission; and I know of no means of inquiry that is held in such disrepute in the country—among the great rank and file of the country, whom we describe at times as the Man in the Street—as a Royal Commission.


May I say that I was a member, and another hon. Member sitting in the House was also a member, of a Royal Commission in which we were unanimous on education, and that great reforms resulted from the recommendations.


Yes, but I think the hon. Gentleman will permit me to say that it was a Royal Commission on one aspect of education, and not on all, and I think that makes a considerable difference.


It was on all aspects.


Then the question of time has to be taken into consideration. If the case is so bad as has been represented here to-day—I admitted at the very beginning of my speech that there were deficiencies, limitations, and anomalies in connection with our system—though I cannot go so far as my hon. Friend the Member for West Nottingham (Sir J. Yoxall), who, if he will permit me to say so, did employ an illustration which somewhat exaggerated them. I cannot believe that in his heart he thinks that the elementary education system in this country is in ruins, and that is the phrase he himself used. I admitted that there were vast limitations, but I venture to say that with all those limitations there is a danger of depreciating and decrying our own system, and I regretted to hear the system spoken of in such terms of depreciation as those in which it was spoken of today. The element of time enters into the question. We are appointing a Committee to deal with the aspect of the case to which I referred in my speech, and the Prime Minister has decided—this is the reply to the point raised by the hon. Member for London University (Sir P. Magnus)—to appoint two more Committees, one to deal with modern languages and one to deal with the neglect of science. Those Committees are being appointed by the Prime Minister as part of the inquiry for Reconstruction. He is the Chairman of the Reconstruction Committee, and he has appointed a number of Sub-Committees, two of them being those I have just named, with regard to those important aspects of education. A fourth Committee is going to be appointed, which is going to be a Reviewing Committee. That is going to be a Committee of the Reconstruction Committee also.


Are these Cabinet Committees?


Yes, they are.


No. The Reviewing Committee will be a Committee selected from the Prime Minister's Reconstruction Committee. The other Committees which are to be set up to deal with modern languages and modern science will not be Cabinet Committees, but committees of experts very carefully selected by the Prime Minister after consultation with the Board of Education. I feel quite certain that in proceeding in this way by means of those Committees we shall do the work more effectively and more speedily than would be the case if we appointed the Royal Commission, to which reference has been made so often.


Will any Committee be appointed to consider the provision of secondary education?


I rather gathered that my lion. Friend is one of those who object to too many Committees. I have only named these Committees because that is as far as we have got. If we find another Committee is necessary on the subject he has named, we will give the matter very careful consideration.


I only wanted to show their inadequacy.


It is a question of a difference of opinion as to method. There is a very strong feeling, as I have tried to point out, with regard to Royal Commissions. They are considered by a number of people to be altogether too clumsy, inadequate, and ineffective. We are proceeding by the other method, and we shall take a good deal of convincing that we ought to change that method. The hon. Member for West Nottingham brought up the question of the condition of elementary education and referred to it in very striking and graphic language. When he made his statement I felt very much condemned, because I know he is such an expert upon this question and knows the ins and outs of it as very few men can do. But when the hon. Member for North Somerset (Mr. King) rose he opened with a statement that gave me a great amount of satisfaction. I gathered from the speech of the hon. Member for West Nottingham that the calamity and ruin that had been brought about in connection with elementary education had occurred during the War.


Hear, hear!


I get consolation from the hon. Member. (Mr. King) because he told the Committee that he had for seven years been a pelican in the wilderness telling the Committee, on the speech of every President, that the education system was in ruins. I am rather glad to think the responsibility does not lie at my door, because I prefer to take the hon. Member behind me as against the hon. Member (Sir J. Yoxall) on this point. But if the hon. Member can produce any evidence to show that things are really so bad as he made out in his speech, I shall be delighted to talk it over with him. I am always glad to see him at the Board of Education. I shall be glad if he will present we with a memorandum on the subject, and point out really what has brought us to this position, and you may depend upon it, coming from him, it will receive from me the most careful consideration.

The hon. Member also put a question with regard to holidays. He reminded the House of the position I had taken up in regard to the suspension or postponement of holidays. I announced, at a very important and very successful conference on this question this morning, that, so far as the school holidays were concerned, I had decided not to interfere with them. I will give my reasons. I am exceedingly anxious to keep down the holiday spirit, but I felt that so far as the children were concerned it would be a mistake to interfere with them. But I had another reason. Apart altogether from physical reasons, and the effect upon the children, I knew that many teachers had already arranged very bravely to sacrifice their holidays and give their time to some form of national service. I know, too, that some children enjoy themselves immensely by having their holidays in the fields, giving a little assistance here and there. I believe it does them good. If I only satisfy myself that hundreds of thousands of these children in cities like London and our great manufacturing centres can in some way be sent out to run about in the fields and do what little they can, I can conceive them spending their holiday in no better way and in no better circumstances. Therefore, I hope that the Committee will agree with the decision which I have come to with regard to the children.

One or two other questions have been very prominent. We have had the question of child labour. I said at the beginning of my speech that it gave me a great amount of concern. That was to be expected. I have tried to deal with it. Some speakers seemed to think we had all the power as a Board that we needed to deal with this question. The hon. Member (Mr. King) said all these things are being done under a Labour President, and he rolled that off his tongue like a sweet morsel. He seemed to think it was a grand thing that we had a Labour President. He seemed to think a Labour President had nothing to do but to rule the Board of Education and rule the local authorities, just as if he were carrying on an agitation as an irresponsible outsider. There are very few Members who know how limited our powers are on this question. We have gone thoroughly into it. I did not want to say this but I am compelled, by the statements which have been made, to say that if we had to proceed we could proceed, first of all, by public inquiry. If we do not get the local authority to accept our decision, then we could proceed by mandamus. Surely that is not a very good prospect for the Board of Education in time of war. I wonder if the hon. Member (Mr. Whitehouse) thinks that if we proceed by mandamus we are going to get a conviction because they have taken 15,000 children to work in agriculture. Large as the number is, and much as I deplore it, they could come forward and say that they had taken these children to work in agriculture, and that no other form of labour was available. I wonder whether the hon. Member thinks we could get a conviction under those circumstances?


May I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should exercise financial pressure, and also that the statutory provision should be put into operation?


I have told the Committee that we have considered this matter very carefully, and we have concluded that our powers on this point lie in the direction that I have already named. When happier times come and we sweep away all those exemptions that I gave to the Committee this afternoon, and which are a disgrace, in my opinion, because they simply make a perfect system of education an impossibility, I hope we shall then be able to have some uniform age upon which the Board of Education can work. The hon. Member for North-West Durham (Mr. A. Williams) raised an entirely separate point, on which I feel that I must say a word. He pleaded the case of the uncertificated teacher, and informed the Committee that it is a case of low status and low pay, and that the question of pay was a matter in the hands of the local education authorities. I do not see how I can interfere. I have looked into the matter, and I have discussed it with the hon. Member for North-West Durham, and I have tried to show him that it is a matter for the local education authorities. However much I may regret it that there are teachers in an honourable profession like the teaching profession getting the small salaries to which the hon. Member referred, I have no power to deal with the Durham County Council.


I did not refer to the Durham County Council.


The hon. Member informed me that teachers for his Constituency had approached him on this question, and therefore I must come down to the concrete, and if it is in his Constituency it is the Durham County Council that is concerned, and the Durham County Council is the only authority, acting through its committees, that can increase the salaries of the low-paid teachers whose cases the hon. Member has brought before the Committee.


I think that it is unfair to deal with it as a question of one county council. I dealt with it as a general question.


I am sorry if the hon. Member takes exception. However, the position is as I have stated, and I hope my hon. Friend will do what he can to get the local authority to take the matter up. I desire to thank the Committee for the consideration they have shown to me to-day, and for the very sympathetic references that have been made to my statement.


The right hon. Gentleman has not dealt with the question I raised in regard to the employment of boy labour in agriculture?


I did refer to it.


Then it must have been when I was not here. It is a very important matter.


I have met a number of persons who are very much interested in this subject, and I have attempted to defend the position taken up by my right hon. Friend. I have pointed out to them that, when all is said and done, he is not absolutely responsible for the policy of the Education Department.

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

Committee report Progress; to sit again tomorrow (Wednesday).

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

Whereupon Mr. DEPTJTTSPBAKEE, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 22nd February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at One minute after Eleven o'clock.