HC Deb 03 July 1918 vol 107 cc1765-7

The staffing of an elementary school shall provide for not more than forty scholars being taught by any teacher, and the staffing of a secondary school shall provide for not more than twenty-five scholars being so taught.—[Mr. King.]

Brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

I move it on these grounds: I want to assert the right of this Committee to deal with these questions.


That might form a precedent, and I have to assert the right of the Chair. It is a very doubtful question, introducing administrative matters into a Bill, and, therefore, I reserve the full right of the Chair to decide on those matters.


Entirely, Sir. I hope you quite understand that in claiming the right of Parliament I do not in any way wish to traverse the right of the Chair?

5.0 P.M.

I beg to move this Clause in the hope that we may have from the President of the Board of Education some indication that he intends, with the immense amount of new Grants he is giving to the schools, to reduce the size of the classes, especially during this war-time. Has he been into some of the London schools, where there is terrible overcrowding, and where classes of fifty or sixty are being taught? This, of course, is incidental to the times and conditions under which we are living. I want him to say that something like the standard I have here should be adopted—that in elementary schools forty scholars and no more shall be taught by any one teacher, and that in secondary schools twenty-five scholars are enough for one teacher. Will he, at all events, state that this is the ideal to which he is going to work? We are giving him an immense increase of funds. Do not let us take it out of the teachers and out of the children by overcrowding the classes, by putting a great number of scholars under the care of one teacher. I wish to add only one other remark I was brought up in a public school under one of the greatest educationists that this country has produced in the way of headmasters. One of the principles with which his teaching was always associated was that "every child has as much right here as any other child to individual attention from the teacher and a fair chance to make something out of the teaching that he is receiving." He deduced from that that you must have a limited number for each teacher, or else those who were inclined to lag behind, or who wanted a little more personal attention to be brought up to the standard of the class, would not be looked after. I believe that to be a sound educational principle. If you are going to do justice to the child and justice to the classes, you must have a practical limit placed upon the size of the classes. With that object I beg to move my Amendment.


I think I may refer to what I said before the hon. Member for North Somerset made his speech on his Amendment. His speech has convinced me that I was right in my caution. This is really an administrative matter and hardly conies within our present purview.


The Committee realises, and I believe the hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment realises, that this is a class of Amendment which cannot be accepted by the Government. I gather that he wishes me, if I can do nothing else, to make some declaration of policy in relation to the size of glasses. It is obvious that I cannot commit myself to any precise figure. At the same time I can assure the hon. Member that the Board of Education is fully alive to the point. The influence of the Board will be consistently and continuously exercised in the direction in which the hon. Member desires that it should be exercised.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.