HC Deb 16 July 1918 vol 108 cc965-89

It shall be the duty of a local education authority for the purposes of Part III. of the Education Act, 1902, to make adequate and suitable provision in order that full benefit may be derived from the system of public elementary schools, and for that purpose, amongst other matters—

  1. (a) to make adequate and suitable provision by means of central schools, central or special classes, or otherwise—
    1. (i) for including in the curriculum of public elementary schools, at appropriate stages, practical instruction suitable to the ages, abilities, and requirements of the children; and
    2. (ii) for organising in public elementary schools courses of advanced instruction for the older or more intelligent children in attendance at such schools, including children who stay at such schools beyond the ago of fourteen; and so much of the definition of the term "elementary school" in Section three of the Elementary Education Act, 1870, as requires that elementary education shall be the principal part of the education there given, shall not apply to such courses of advanced instruction for older scholars.

Amendment made: In paragraph (a, ii), after the word "fourteen" ["the age of fourteen"] insert "(b) To make adequate and suitable arrangements under the provisions of paragraph (b) of Sub-section (1) of Section 13 of the Education (Administrative Provisions) Act, 1907, for attending to the health and physical condition of children educated in public elementary schools; and."—[Mr. Fisher.]

Bill, as amended on recommittal, considered.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."


I rise to oppose the Third Reading of this Bill in a purely formal spirit. It is obvious that the Bill has been accepted by the House, but I think I may be permitted, before that is imposed on the country, to recapitulate the objections which I have previously expressed to the passing of this measure. It becomes ever more obvious that this House of Commons is not qualified to deal with any revolutionary legislation. We are utterly out of touch with the electorate. Even the Members who have been elected during the War to join us in the House have not stood contests into which practical domestic politics entered, and there is not a single Member sitting in this House who has ever either put in his own election address or seen in the election address of any of his political opponents one word authorising the Government to pass this legislation. The Press is naturally unable at such a time as this to voice our Debates or the opposition expressed to this measure. My first objection is that we are quite unfitted to deal with such a revolutionary proposal as this. My second point is that we are using a time when party strife is at an end to pass legislation which is essentially controversial.

My third objection is, and I think that hon. Members must share with me the feeling, the almost disagreeable feeling, that here we are, as usual, legislating for other people's children, imposing a burden on other people and entirely leaving their opinions out of account. We are inflicting a burden on all the parents in this country, depriving them of the right to employ their children, enforcing enducation upon people, who very often do not want it, without their consent and not applying that same rule to our own children. I must say I always am very loath to act as a deus ex machina and impose legislation upon other people. I think we ought to be more careful of doing that sort of thing now we are all out of touch with the electorate, and without any sort of mandate for the legislation we are imposing. Those are the general reasons why this House ought not to pass this measure. I come down now to the practical objections that I, as a Radical, have to the measure itself, and should have whenever it was brought in, even under the most authorised circumstances. My objection to it is largely that the agitation behind the measure has been an agitation engineered by big businesses in this country by firms like Tootall Broadhurst Company, who have taken pages for advertisements in the "New Statesman." These people have in view the production of a working-class proletariat, who shall be drilled, disciplined, and efficient tools for the purpose of production. There is no doubt that that is at the back of the advertisements which have been paid for so largely by these different financial concerns. That is at the back of the agitation in the Press throughout the country—the desire, cloaked under a patriotic guise of producing a proletariat which will be able to beat the German proletariat on the German proletariats' own lines. Well, I, for one, do not wish the production of a proletariat which will beat the German proletariat on their own lines. I want the production of a race which may be as unlike the German as possible. Therefore, when I see legislation brought forward by the Government, urged upon the Government by people who wish to compete in business by having a proletariat as efficient tools as are the German proletariat, I am particularly suspicious of any such legislation. But I am bound to say that the more I listen to the Debates in this House, and the more one sees of the revolution in this country on so many questions, the more I am inclined to believe that these people may be selecting a weapon likely to recoil upon themselves. I am not so convinced as I was that they will get very efficient tools. I think it is quite possible they will get efficient rebels instead. They may get people who will be self-disciplined instead of State-disciplined. This more or less describes my fear of what this Bill was meant to do.

I think, however, it will not be as bad as it was expected, partly because the administration of the Education Office is a good deal more liberal than it was. But this desire for efficient tools is not the only objection that I have to this Education Bill. I have also a profound objection to increasing the range of compulsion throughout the State. Compulsion is always bad for every citizen. Compulsion wants justifying very strongly before we impose it on any citizens. In case of compulsory military service we did all we could to work by voluntary methods first. In the case of compulsory insurance we tried for years on voluntary lines before we came to compulsion. It is only in a case of education where you are dealing with the children of the working classes you say, "We will straight away adopt the compulsory system." Now, one of the reasons why I think we ought to look very carefully at any extension of the compulsory system, particularly in education, is that what we want to give by education, as a great many people have urged, is a better disciplined proletariat. I want to have discipline, but not discipline in the Army sense. I want them to be self-disciplined. We ought to enable them, by the education they get in our schools, to acquire the desire to choose the right and eschew, the wrong. You can only teach that form of self-discipline by giving people the option of doing right and wrong. Directly you take from people that option you deprive them of one opportunity of self-discipline, of training themselves, so that in the battle of life they may have the opportunity of choosing between right and wrong. That is the main reason why we ought always, in every case of compulsory legislation, whether it be imposed upon ourselves or on the working classes, to take care that the justification for it is sufficient to overrule our instinctive objection to anything that deprives the citizen of the right of deciding for himself instead of having it imposed upon him by a Government Department.

In his case I do not think that a case has been made out for compulsion. I do not think that the alternative has been even considered for one moment by the Government Department concerned. It is so natural when you have a Government Department which has been built up on the compulsory system, which depends on the compulsory system, which has, as it were, vested interest in the compulsory system, for it to find it difficult to look the fundamental facts in the face. They have got an instinctive objection to considering the possibility of a system which would scrap their job. Throughout the whole of the country, not only in the Board of Education, but in every one of our working-class towns, you have got a system built up on compulsion which makes it almost impossible for officials to look at the other side of the question. I think that that is what has prevented us from considering the alternative. Yet we have only got to go into the country to see the alternative working very well, to see continuation schools, and places like Cadbury's and other places all working admirably. As I pointed out on the Committee stage, we have the pleasant Sunday afternoons which are on a voluntary basis admirably attended. In some cases the genuine unselfishness of the employer, and the affection of the people for their employer, have a great deal to do with it. In other cases there is the incentive of the prize at the end of the session. Those things have developed a voluntary system, and though you have not got everybody in, yet those who have taken the trouble to get this education are better citizens, because they have made some sacrifice to get that better education.

We all know that when a workman manages to send his son to a secondary school, both the son who goes to the school and the father who makes the sacrifice to send him there are more improved by making that sacrifice than they are as the result of the education itself. The boy works hard and the father is proud of him, and he is proud of the self-sacrifice which he has made. Those are facts of human nature which have made Scottish education so good as it is. You have got the sacrifice of the parent and the instinctive struggle of the youth to show that, sacrifices having been made for him, lie will do his best to justify the sacrifices of the parent. Wherever you can get the voluntary system the product must be infinitely better than the product of a compulsory system. That is so far as the scholar himself is concerned. But it must be obvious that if you could by any means get a voluntary system you would also be bound to have much better teaching, because the teachers who know that their classes will be there whether they teach well or badly, who know that there will be just the same children there, or that if they are not there the school board attendance officer will be visiting the home and bringing them there, have no incentive except the casual inspection by the Board of Education inspectors, to give the beat teaching. The promotion goes on steadily year by year, whether the teachers are good or bad. But once you introduce the voluntary system the bad teacher will show up at once. The bad teacher's class will go down and the good teacher's class will go up. The sanitary, decent schools will go up, and the in-sanitary schools, where the accommodation, lighting, and heating are bad, will go down. The natural result of voluntaryism is competition among the teachers to give the best article, and competition among the scholars to make the best use of the opportunities which are offered.

All these things are commonplaces. Everybody knows that they are true. The difficulty is that this possibility has not been considered by the Board of Education before the Bill was introduced. I think that it would be interesting as an experiment, and well worth while because of the possibilities of the result, to attempt at any rate to have these secondary schools in some particular selected district, say Birmingham, as they are at present, worked upon a voluntary basis; or this might be done in selected parts of the Potteries, where the better-class working people take a keen interest in the education of their children. These schools could be taken as samples to see whether it might not be possible to get the schools going on a voluntary basis, and still keep them sufficiently full to make it worth while to carry them on. I believe that we might get half, or that it might be possible to get three-fourths of the children to attend these schools under a voluntary system, and you would get an example of what could be done in this way. Even under your compulsory system it is notorious that you cannot enforce attendance. When you pass your law you have got to take the child before the Police Court to enforce attendance at school. It is really only a brutum fulmen. It is not meant to punish these children but to hold over them as a warning against failure to obey the law. Instead of doing that you might get the voluntary system going in certain selected areas. I do not say that the rest of the Bill, having been passed, you should interfere with the restrictions on young persons' labour and other restrictions. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Because those are of a general character, and you could not impose them in one area and not in another. But you could easily, even in a working-class area like Stoke-on-Trent, have your schools on a voluntary basis and see whether they would be full or not.

I am quite aware that teachers would be against such a system. It is natural that teachers should like to have their classes provided for them. They do not want the competition of attendance to come in at all, but I am quite certain that if you could by this means get better results the teaching profession itself would before long know that it gave a chance for merit to show itself and not a chance merely for incompetence to climb up the ordinary ladder of promotion. That is what I wish to urge on the Government. They have got compulsion. It is going to be enforced upon the people of this country against their will. Could you not make a start and get it on really sound, liberal lines by dropping, in certain areas, this compulsory principle as applied to boys and girls between the ages of fourteen and eighteen? The Bill will not be in force for several years. I do not suppose that it will be in force for four or five years after the War, because all the teachers have got to be trained, schools have to be built, and schemes approved. That is a very long job and will take many years before it can come into force, and I do think that the Board of Education might appoint a Committee, if it cannot decide the matter itself, to see whether it might not be practicable in certain areas to graft on to the compulsory scheme a voluntary system which might, if successful, absorb the whole thing and provide us with an infinitely better system of education, and with that free system which we as Englishmen would like to see established.

Hon. Members know that the degree of freedom which you can allow to a people or a country consistently with ordinary Government and State efficiency is an accurate measure of the stage of civilisation to which they have developed, and the more freedom you can give people without their injuring each other, the higher those people are developed in civilisation. The child wants looking after and carefully restricting to prevent it from doing things which it should not do. As children grow up into young men or women they want less restriction, and they become more and more able to control themselves and their relations with other people without the need of restrictive legislation or interference by the parent. As the young men or women grow up so gradually you can release the swaddling clothes and the restrictions, so that they can expand themselves and develop. We want to see a new State where everybody is orderly and people require no legislation, no police interference, no parental control to make them good, decent citizens of the country, but merely are such because they have learned that it is possible to carry on and respect other people's feelings and interests without self being trampled under foot or suffering from the interference of other people. That is the ideal development of civilisation—gradually to do away with compulsion in order to achieve the results of compulsion by the free will of the individual. Here, during the War, we are piling up compulsion. All I ask for is a loophole which, in the future at least, will allow the relaxation of some of this compulsion and the possibility of the blooming forth of citizens who will do what is right and eschew what is wrong, not because of reward, but because their conscience and their own knowledge that the ethical, moral, and physical results of your conduct will react upon yourself. Anybody who believes in the perfectibility of human nature knows, we hope, that as their powers develop people may be able to act towards each other in accordance with the principles of the New Testament, but you do not give them a chance when you try to prevent them by law from doing wrong. You can only give them a chance when the laws are gradually enacted and when people are strong enough in self-discipline to follow their own conscience in spite of the absence of some law to force them to do so.


I do not think that the House wishes to part with this Bill——


On a point of Order. Did not the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme move the rejection of the Bill, and do you call upon the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cleveland to support or to second the rejection?


I did not hear the rejection moved.


I moved it at first.


I thought that the hon. and gallant Gentleman thought better of it.


I said that I formally moved it.

Amendment moved, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—[Colonel Wedgwood.]


Will the hon. Gentleman second it?


Yes; I beg to second it. I consider that the Motion which has been made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman ought to be considered, even though I do not agree with everything that he says. I have brought forward a number of Motions on this Bill which I do not expect will be carried, and I do not expect that the Third Reading will be refused by the House, but there are many points of view from which I think this Bill has been insufficiently discussed and insufficiently understood. But I do not know whether I agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down in saying that this Bill is being carried against the wishes of the people. I think that if the people were asked to vote upon it they would feel that they were mystified and uncertain, and I agree with him that the great majority of people, had this matter been brought before them, probably would not have understood it. It is so, however, with many things that we pass in this House. It was certainly so with the great question of Conscription, which was suddenly brought before this House and carried quickly—I do not say carried against the wishes and will of the people, though I do not think it was carried with the wish and will of the people; I think they had very little feeling or strong conviction one way or another. I think that is especially the case in regard to questions connected with our education that have formed so prominent a feature of our former discussions and appeared so largely in election contests. Many of these questions are entirely omitted from this Bill. For instance, the tests of teachers and the rights of parents to choose the religious education of their children are topics which have been discussed ad nauseam, to the exclusion of really much more important questions. The addresses of hundreds of candidates were filled with these questions, and dozens of hours, at least, were wasted in this Chamber in their discussion. This religious question was one on which public opinion had been excited, and it is altogether omitted from this Bill. No one is more glad that it is so than I am. I do not attach great importance to it and it does not fill me with tremendous enthusiasm to think that some children are being educated on special religious lines which happen to suit me. I do not care whether they do or not. I want the children of the country to be made fine men and women, and I do not care whether their orthodoxy agrees with my orthodoxy or not. I value my own opinion, and hold to that opinion, but I do not want other people to conform to my particular orthodoxy, nor do I care if they think that I am not orthodox. That does not come into my educational ideas at all. Education is quite apart from orthodoxy. But you cannot settle the education question while you leave the religious question as it is to-day——


There is nothing about the religious question in this Bill, and the hon. Member must confine himself to what is to be found in the measure; otherwise, I must point out to him that he has got precedence to speak under false pretences. The hon. Gentleman should show to me that he opposes the Bill, and, having seconded the rejection of it, I want to know what his reasons are for taking that course.


With great respect, I was trying to show that this Bill does not solve the education question, and that a great Bill such as this should make some attempt to do so. That is my line of argument, and I have very good reasons for seconding the rejection of the Bill. Looking at its defects, I see many to which I wish to call attention, and I will proceed to do so. The great defect of the Bill, in my opinion, is that it is a bureaucratic measure from first to last. It is leaving an indefinite and an extraordinarily large amount to be decided at the special will or decision of the Board of Education. That is entirely contrary to the spirit of previous legislation on the subject of education. Parliament in its wisdom has always said there shall be definite educational rights, and that duties or obligations shall be placed upon the authorities. In this Bill we find something very different. We find at the beginning, for instance, that each education authority is to form a scheme, and, according as that scheme is made, so the law is to be carried out. The scheme must be made by the education authority, it then must be approved by the Board of Education, and, as soon as it is approved, it becomes the law for the particular area for which it is made. What is the result? You will have one scheme for one part of the country and a totally different scheme for another part. I admit that may have its advantages; it may enable the Board of Education to suit particular local demands, but it is a totally different principle from anything we have ever had before. Whereas before, every parent knew that there were certain schools provided to which in the first instance they would send their children—and to which later on they were compelled to send their children in default of other education—you leave practically everything, including the provision of schools and other important matters, the kind of teaching, and so on, to be decided practically by the ipse dixit of the Board of Education. We are discussing a system of bureaucracy for education such as we have never had before in this land. The only land I know that has a similar system of education is Prussia. The name of Prussia is synonymous with efficiency, and I hope you will get efficiency out of the Bill; but Prussia is also synonymous with the surpression of liberty, and I think that is a thing to be guarded against in all the attempts to carry out this Bill. Let me point out that the previous history of the Board of Education is not satisfactory from the bureaucratic point of view. There has been a time in the history of the Board of Education when it was under a weak Minister, who had other interests, and possibly no very great energy and knowledge, but when the real motive power of the Department was exercised by a dominant official. For instance, Sir Robert Morrant——


That has nothing to do with the Third Reading of this Bill. The hon. Member must confine himself in the Debate on the Third Reading to the contents of the Bill, and not proceed to discussions which are apart from them.

8.0 P.M.


I want to warn the President of the Board of Education against any officialism or bureaucracy. He has got enormous powers, and so long as he is in his position he will have a great deal of sympathy and support which other Ministers do not hope to get; but this officialism is a real danger and difficulty which I foresee in the working of a Bill so bound up with the official or bureaucratic administration of the law. There are several other things which I find in the Bill which are rather serious defects. One is the Clause relating to parish charges. That Clause deals with a very grave injustice in a most inadequate way. It might have been framed in such a way as to secure equalisation of rates between poor and rich districts in the same county. You have already introduced that principle in the education rate for the whole of London; in other counties there is no equalisation of the education rate. The result is that whereas in London you have the same rate paid in St. George's, Hanover Square, as you have in Poplar, making the rich parish pay for the much greater requirements of the poor parish, you do not do that in other counties. If you had the rate in London on the same basis as you have the rate in Yorkshire. Lancashire, or Somerset, you would have St. George's, Hanover Square, paying one-tenth of a penny in the pound, while, on the other hand, you would have Poplar paying many shillings in the pound. I made some attempt in Committee to get equalisation of rates, and I appealed to the President of the Board of Education to endeavour to get this gross injustice modified. He recognises the injustice and he knows the obstacle that it is to efficiency. But what was his answer? Why would he not deal with it? He did not deal with it simply because of the county council. The county council did not approve. The President of the Board of Education must have more courage in administering the Act that he has shown in dealing with some of the Clauses in the Bill There is another question which I would point out, and it has connection with the financial Clauses for assisting building. They are very inadequate. I have tried to have them enlarged, but unfortunately in vain. If Amendments are contemplated in another place, there is grave reason for saying that suitable facilities should be provided for the erection of buildings, for they are absolutely essential to the carrying out of this measure. That is a point which must be considered. Another thing is that the provisions in the Bill for the training and maintaining of teachers are inadequate, and the Bill as it is does nothing to provide, though it makes possible, the solution of these two questions. In conclusion, let me thank the President of the Board of Education for the very patient and courteous way in which he has met us over some points and for the really adequate way in which some of our proposals have been met. I gratefully acknowledge that the Bill has been made better by one or two Amendments which he has accepted from myself, and in this connection I would like also to recognise, what has been stated by the hon. Member for Chorley (Sir H. Hibbert), that we have been allowed and privileged to be in touch with the permanent officials of the Board of Education. There are some Departments of the State which do not allow us ever to come into touch with any of their permanent officials, and I appreciate all the more strongly the fact that those of us who have taken an intimate interest in this Bill have been allowed to have conferences with the permanent officials of the Board, and in that way I think it has been to our mutual assistance.


I think the House would hardly wish to part from this Bill without expressing to the President of the Board of Education its very cordial congratulations on its passage. He is an educationist of old standing, but a Minister of very new standing. Nevertheless he has piloted this great measure through the shoals and quicksands of the House of Commons with a patience, a tact, and a skill which, if I may be allowed to say so, would distinguish the oldest Parliamentary hand. It is a great Bill, and he is fortunate in having had to sacrifice very little of importance to secure its passage. The whole House has helped him in his task, and it has been possible, I believe, because public opinion outside cordially approves of the general principles and scope of this measure. Our people are more and more recognising that it is only an educated nation that can hold a great place in the world and that can really be termed civilised. I greatly regret that there should have been found even two Members of the House to move the rejection of the Bill on its Third Reading. When I listened to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for New-castle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) it appeared to me that almost the whole of his speech could have been directed against the Education Bill of 1870, and it would almost have appeared that a ghost from those days had come to ours to repeat the arguments which were addressed in this House against the passage of that most beneficent measure. My hon. and gallant Friend said we were forcing education on a great many people who did not want it. Someone has very well put it that in matters of education the greater the objection, the greater the need. He asserted also that we were imposing education on other people's children while imposing nothing upon our own. He would have stated the case more truly if he had said that we were assisting other people's children to secure the advantages which our own have long enjoyed. Education is not a burden; education is a key that unlocks the door of knowledge, and through it much of the happiness of life. I believe that this Bill is taking a long step forward towards a complete system of national education.

Everything, however, depends upon the supply of a sufficient number of well-qualified teachers, and the whole of my right hon. Friend's proposals depend for their success upon that. This, however, is not a matter of legislation, but of administration, and I have no doubt that his efforts, with those of the local education authorities, will be directed energetically to that end. I disagree also entirely with my hon. and gallant Friend with respect to the passage of a measure of this kind through the present Parliament in existing circumstances. On the contrary, it is, to my mind, a great advantage that we should dispose of this urgently necessary measure now before the War is over and before the problems of reconstruction come crowding upon us in numbers with which it will be hard indeed to cope. This Bill and the Representation of the People Bill are great achievements especially to have passed through Parliament in time of war, and I believe firmly that the action of this House of Commons in the stress and anxieties of a time such as that in which we are living in passing into law great measures of this kind will win the approval and the praise of the country.

Sir J. D. REES

I am not at all sure that the strong objections to this Bill are expressed by those who are present and take an active part in the Debates upon it. My objection to it is that it is 'undemocratic and that it is untimely. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. H. Samuel) seemed to think it would be a fair and democratic achievement to push through as many Bills as possible when those most concerned have no opportunity of voting upon them. My democracy is of a purer brand, and I think we should wait until those most concerned have an opportunity to vote upon the measures before the House. It is a commonplace and useless to waste time in referring to the age of this Parliament and to its having exhausted its mandate, but it is an argument, and I merely repeat it without saying any more. I think, however, that while the soldiers, whose votes should count more than anyone's, will have a difficulty in making their opinions known, and while it has been admitted that this Bill will produce something like a revolution in working-class homes, it does not seem, at any rate to me, to be right that it should be pushed through the House of Commons when those two classes have not an opportunity of passing any opinion upon it. I do not know who asked for it. I must assume that there is a strong public opinion somewhere, and of course I cannot deny that that is so, but I do not know where it is, nor can I see the hurry. The hon. Member for West Nottingham (Sir J. Yoxall), who is really an authority on education, said in this House that he never knew any time in his life when children attending the elementary schools were so well dressed, well fed, and well done altogether as at present. Then where is the great hurry, if those who are receiving education are in a proper state physically and otherwise to receive it, and the education is being given?

Where is the great hurry for pushing this measure through? I cannot myself see it, and if I was not sincerely desirous not to take up time I should quote others, like Professor Wallace, Professor of Agriculture in Edinburgh University, who would go much further than I have in his objections to the character of the Bill, as developing a purely literary style of education. Nor does it, so far as I can see, deal in itself with the one necessary measure, and that is, with the pay of the teachers. I am aware that that will be dealt with by administrative order, but it is the case that the most pressing aspect of education at present is such that the Bill cannot and does not deal with it. As to the financial aspect of the Bill, my right hon. Friend the President gave us an estimate at one stage of the proceedings which I think came roughly to £10,000,000, but I think it will be much more, in view of the departure he has made in regard to medical attendance. But why has he wantonly thrown away the fees? For the life of me I cannot understand it. I only came in when he was dealing with that point, and I cannot understand why any Government should have at a time like this, when we are so short of money, wantonly thrown away any financial resources. Nor can I approve his change of front—doubtless, as he thinks, expressing the opinion of the House, although I would urge that it is a section of the House committed to certain views on education—as regards the making compulsory of the provision of medical treatment for elementary school children. I do not know what it will cost, and I have not succeeded in getting an estimate, but, whatever its cost, I think this is not a time for increasing the cost of education, and I should have been glad myself if the President had seen his way to point out that all increases of expenditure of this sort must lead to an increase in the cost of living, and must react unfavourably on those whose interests they are primarily intended to serve.

I also think that the measure is not conceived in a thoroughly friendly spirit to our public schools. In fact, so far as the Bill goes, no one would know that there were any public schools in existence. Is it really the case that our great public schools are a small factor in the public life of this country? I believe them to be one of the very greatest factors. The atmosphere of these schools, I think, is priceless. The boys who are educated there have provided the Army with officers, who have proved to be in the most friendly relations with their men, and I think the results of the War have been a triumphant vindication of the education given in our public schools. The atmosphere of these schools is positively priceless. The tradi- tion which they enshrine gives every boy a standard to which to live up, and from which, I believe, he would most regretfully depart, and which accounts, I think, in large measure for the class of public men in civil, military, and private life who are turned out by our public schools.

Where else in the world can you walk through the cloisters of a public school and find the description of a boy who died over 250 years ago, in which it is stated that he was killed by a thrown stone, and as he was the first boy in the college of Winchester it is to be hoped that he is not the last boy in the kingdom of Heaven to which he has proceeded. It seems exceedingly beautiful, so much so that I would like to have the words on record in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the House. If I am not out of order, I would like to quote them: Hoc sub marmore sepultus est Tho. Welsted, quem calculi ictu mors prostravit, in hac schola primus erat, nec, ut speramus, in Cælo ultimus est, quod pro oxonio adiit, 130 die Januarii, Anno Domini 1676, anno ætatis suæ 180. This may seem not immediately relevant, but it seems to me to be most relevant. This Bill, to my mind, being throughout a bureaucratic measure, it seems that, instead of fostering our existing system, with all its surpassing merits, the traditions of our public school education, which are of the utmost practical utility, and have been proved to be so in the struggle of our lives in which we are now engaged, we are launching a horrible iron Prussian system which is to grind our boys' bones down to a pale unanimity. My right hon. Friend disclaims that intention. It may not be his intention. It is my duty to say with respect that it is the effect of his measure. I will pass on from that, not being anxious to occupy the time of the House, to another matter to which I must refer. I think the Bill is harsh in its application to children, and for that reason much harsher to poor parents' children. I cannot understand why, at a time like this, my right hon. Friend could not accept the new Clause which I had the honour to bring before the House, and designed to save the cinema industry of this country. After all, the saving of trade is a proper consideration for an education or any other conceivable Bill. If our education is not going to preserve our trades and make our boys better tradesmen, away with our education! Why could not my right hon. Friend accept the Amendment I put forward, endowing local education bodies with power to grant exemption to children to sit for the production of cinema films? You must, if you are going to be amused anywhere, whether at the pantomime, the cinema, or elsewhere, introduce young people. It is a very large industry. I do not know whether hon. Members know that many millions of pounds are invested in it in this country, and if children cannot sit for the production of these films, away goes that industry to the wiser United States of America. I wish to record my regret that my right hon. Friend has not been able to accept the Clause I put forward. I was advised it was of no use to endeavour to get any aid from the theatre people, because, with a short-sighted view, they did not wish to be associated with the cinema industry—a piece of pride which, I think, will come before the downfall. The cinemas are infinitely more powerful. They count by millions, those who see them; their educational power is immeasurably greater than that of the theatre; and I hope that, even at the eleventh hour, when he comes to recommit the Bill, as regards the compulsory provision, which I wholly deprecate, with regard to medical inspection, my right hon. Friend will consider the modest new Clause which I ventured to lay before him. There is only one more remark I want to make. It was stated also by the President of the Local Government Board that the new Education Bill afforded opportunities of instructing boys and girls in certain physical matters which would tend to redeem England from the curse of a certain class of disease. I hope that will not be done. I recognise the good intention. The late head master of Eton wrote and circulated among his boys a letter on this subject which I thought deplorably ill-advised, and a most unfortunate production. I sincerely hope that no effort will be made to deal with the subject, which may, unfortunately, be obtruded on the attention of people as they go on in life, and which, in my opinion, should not be intermingled with school instruction. I am obliged to the House for listening to what I have had to say. I am not joining my hon. Friend in voting for the rejection of this Bill, because I admit others may be wiser than I am, and I am unwilling at the present time to oppose any Government measure.


My hon. Friend the Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) has expressed to us conflicting views. He inquired what was the value of education, and, immediately before that, expressed regret that this Bill was not a Bill to carry on the magnificent system and traditions of the public schools. It seems to me at first sight impracticable to combine those two. I think that the ultimate result of this Bill will be to provide for the children of this country something of the spirit, the inspiration, the tradition and the feeling of the public schools, and also to make them better tradesmen and better craftsmen, not because of technical instruction alone. I look forward to the effect of this Bill as being more influential and more beneficial on the future of this country than any Education Act of the past. The Act of 1870 was a great constructive measure. It set up for the first time in this country schools publicly provided and publicly managed. I do not desire in the least to underrate the immense importance of that Act or to belittle the value of its effects upon the life of England and Wales. The next great Education Act was that of 1902, which I am proud to remember as having supported in this House. That was not an Act of construction in the same sense and degree as the Act of 1870. It was an Act which co-ordinated and brought under one and the same local authority all forms of elementary education, technical education, and so forth.

At the present moment we are engaged in the last stage in this House of a Bill which, I think, will be reckoned in the future by the social historians of this country as even greater in its effect than either of the former Acts. May I have the pleasure of expressing to the President of the Board of Education and to the Parliamentary Secretary the very warm congratulations which they deserve, first of all, for the ability, tact, temper, and wisdom, and the Parliamentary skill with which they have piloted this great measure through this House, and, secondly on the fact that their names will be associated in future with a Bill, which, I believe, is more promising, and will be regarded in the future as a greater Bill than either of the other two? I have listened to many speeches upon the various topics which are enclosed in the four corners of this measure, and what has struck me more particularly, and with a certain amount of regret, has been that many Members of the House who have supported this Bill and the proposals in the Bill, and particularly some who have opposed them, have not been conscious, or only aware to a very small degree indeed, of the immense progress made in this country in our public elementary schools. I have heard this question discussed in Committee as if nothing like a nursery school existed. Accusations have been make against ordinary public elementary schools, and as to the language and general effect of some of the scholars upon decent well-bred children. May I say, without any assumption of authority or special knowledge, that all that has passed away? It has passed away for years. If you find a child using language of a bargee order, or a child of the tramp class who brings into a school a verminous condition of body, and perhaps disease, those are the occasional accidents. But I will challenge any Member of this House to go into the ordinary school, anywhere in city, town, or village, and discover, if he can, these great defects which have been raised in these Debates as being characteristic of and inseparable from the public elementary schools. Then there have been accusations as to the mechanical and wooden nature of the teaching in these schools. That has ceased to be true since the date—not so long ago, I am sorry to say—when the Education Department ceased to insist that the teaching should be of a mechanical order. I venture to say that for fifteen years past that has ceased to be the rule, and is now the exception.

In my belief this Bill has been laid upon a splendid foundation, and again I congratulate those who drew the Bill, drafted it, framed it, and piloted it, and watched over it very carefully in the Board of Education and this House, and have brought it to such a success. It has been suggested to-night, and even in the past, that this Bill is opposed to the wishes and the views of many outside, particularly our gallant sons who are fighting at the front. On the contrary, the public have shown good-will towards this measure. The Government would fall short of their duty in the reconstruction for the future if they did not prepare while they could for the future development which the whole country demands and desires, but, so far from the soldiers in the trenches being opposed to this measure, let me relate the experience of two very distinguished men, who, in the last few months, in response to a request, went to lecture to the soldiers in the rest camps, canteens, and so forth at the front, taking with them a large variety of subjects. Again and again, the one desire of the men was, "Let us know about this Education Bill—what it is going to do for our children; what it is going to do for the future of our land?" I can assure my hon. Friend he is wrong when he thinks the men at the front will look with any regret upon what we are doing in the House to-night. Again, I thank the President and the Parliamentary Secretary for all they have done for education in this Bill.


I do not rise for a controversial purpose, or to deal with the objections against the main principles and against many of the details of the Bill to which the House has recently listened. I rise, in the first place, to express my heartfelt acknowledgment of the very kind and indulgent words which were used by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Mr. H. Samuel), and also to express my thanks to the House for the help which has been given me at every stage of this Bill. Before the Bill passes to another place, I should like to acknowledge in all sincerity the gratitude which I owe for the forbearance and the fruitful suggestions from hon. Members in all quarters of this House, and not least from those who sit on the Front Opposition Bench. A Bill so large and complex as the Bill which we have recently been considering, touching national life at so many points, and comprising within its scope not only great educational developments, but also a code of administrative provisions, and a complete and much-needed revolution in elementary school finance, is a measure which could not possibly have reached the stage which has been reached by our Bill unless it had been received with cordial goodwill, and with the general sympathy of the House. I confess that it was not an easy Bill to draft, but, thanks to the forbearance of the House, it has been a very pleasant and an easy Bill to conduct. A Minister for Education treads upon ground seamed with the scars of ancient controversies. These Debates will be memorable in the history of English education. There have been very little signs of any desire to reopen old wounds, or to aggravate long- established differences of principle upon educational matters. The House, with a single mind, has dedicated itself to the great purpose of enlarging the intelligence and knowledge of the children of the nation.


After the speech to which we have just listened, it would seem a work of supererogation to say any word of commendation of the Bill to which we are at present giving a Third Reading. But a somewhat long experience of this House has convinced me that if a Member desires to make his views known he stands no chance unless he is prepared to take La belligerent interest in a measure in Committee, or if he cannot on the Second Reading get his opportunity, to wait and get the only opportunity he then can, which is upon the Third Reading of the Bill. That is why I have remained here to this somewhat late hour, in order that I may express my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman, or rather to give expression to views which have already been conveyed to him at his having got this measure up to this advanced stage. It is not every talker in this House who knows what he is talking about. That is another thing I have found out in my somewhat long experience. There are Members who are experts in various directions, and to whom it is a pleasure to listen. There are also a great number of members who are prepared to talk upon every subject. Often it is those who do not know, but who do not want to make an undue parade of the knowledge they possess, that consequently are pushed into the background for the time being. I venture, however, to say this: that I think I know enough of matters relating to primary and secondary education to welcome this Bill with both hands. I am quite convinced that it is a step which could possibly only have been taken at a moment when we are all at one in the prosecution of the War, and in everything else, perhaps, that makes for the betterment of the nation, and the better state of things that we hope to see created afterwards. The way in which this Bill has been accepted in the country as a whole is an indication of two things. The one is a general desire that the rising generation may get a more extended knowledge of what really is comprised in education. The other is a firm conviction, by close study of our present enemy, of the necessity for making this country "wake up," so as to get the mind of the young into a condition of receiving and retaining the valuable information which may materially aid them in their daily task.

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman may remember that I sent him a copy of a document which three or four years ago was drawn up, and which bore a very substantial resemblance to the measure now before the House. It is, to my mind, in the highest degree important that we should realise that education does not consist entirely—and I think this Bill does that—of the elements which are called instruction, and which are given in the schools which are the subject of this Bill. What we want is to develop—which I hope may be the result of these somewhat vague schemes which are indicated in the early Clauses of this Bill—and I hope that the Education Department will not narrow the curriculum which is to be included in these schemes. I am perfectly sure that experience will teach us that if we handle this matter in the spirit in which it should be handled—and I include the Education Board—that we shall create a demand for still further knowledge. I believe, the stone wall offered by trade unions and trade organisations to anything like the teaching of elementary trade work in the schools will disappear, because I believe that there is a vista before us of such an advance of education of the technical and trade type that we shall get back again ultimately—and I sincerely hope we shall—to something like the perfection which characterised our trades which were protected by the trade guilds in the Middle Ages. This will be accompanied by the greatest possible advantage not only to the individual trades to the country as a whole. I believe that will be the practical result of the great advance which is in this Bill. I sincerely hope it will be. I trust I may live to see the co-ordination and connecting up of the various systems of education, whether it be of the higher university type or the higher technical trade education; whether it be the preparation of our leather for book-binding, or whether it means scientific engineering and matters of that sort. I hope that we shall ultimately have all these co-ordinated so that a child may pass easily through the various systems from the time that he or she first enters the infant school until the time when he passes out either to the university, if qualified, or to the great trade training institutions, so that the brain, which is, after all, a national asset, may be developed by the nation for the great benefit of the nation.


I do not rise to discuss the Bill, but just to draw the attention of the Government to that part of the Bill which deals with economic questions. I very much regret that under the guise of this Bill we have interfered so largely with the employment of children and with the rights of parents in any regard, without making some provision for the maintenance of the home which is in jeopardy from the loss of the wages involved. I feel quite certain that if all were known, the state of things in the country would be very different to that outlined by the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken. Do hon. Members realise that the working people of this country have not the faintest idea of what is in store for them under this Bill? If it had not been for the War the by-elections would, without a doubt, have turned upon this Bill. Very great modifications must of necessity have been introduced into the Bill in passing through this House had it not been for the War. One by-election at Reading turned upon the question of compulsory vaccination. Similarly by-elections would have turned upon this Bill which involves a question much more important than vaccination. One great reason why the country have accepted this Bill somewhat quietly is that people would not believe we were passing it: they could not bring their minds to bear upon the subject. If the hon. and learned Gentleman goes down amongst the people and attempts to discuss the points of this Bill, I think he will find that the people will say, "Surely you are not spending your time with such a measure; we thought you were getting on with the War." I really rose, however, to warn the Government that if they want education to be popular, if they want it to succeed, they will have to bring in an amending Bill to deal with the economic question, which is left by this Bill in a deplorable condition. I hope in putting this Bill into operation it will be gradual and proceed by steps, because any attempt to put it into force hurriedly will lead to the downfall of the Government of the day should they attempt to bring it into force at once. No Government could live over a General Election if it put all the Clauses of this Bill into force at once. We find right hon. Gentlemen who have been in office for years and have brought in Education Bills and they have never attempted anything of this kind in regard to half-timers, and yet they keep getting up here to press the Government to go still further in this direction. Several Clauses in this Bill I am sure will lead to a great detachment of popular support when they become known. This Bill will cause very large numbers of people to become antagonistic to the sacred cause of education. Therefore I plead for tact and consideration to be used during the next six or seven years, and I ask that this great measure shall be brought into operation gradually.

With regard to the constructive provisions, I wish them God speed. I have never been opposed on the question of education to anything of a constructive character. What I object to is forbidding people to do this and that and making them change their daily habits, and all this must lead in the future to a great deal of friction. On this last stage, before the Bill leaves this House, I believe the Government will, on reconsideration, find that they will have to bring in an amending Bill, for it is quite inconceivable that they can leave things in the condition in which they are at the present time. The President of the Board of Education will probably say that those are problems that you cannot expect the Board of Education to solve, but this Bill raises them, and if he will only persuade his colleagues to consider these matters he will be doing a good thing for the cause of education. I wish to thank the right hon. Gentleman and his colleague the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education for their unfailing courtesy and for the efforts they have made to get the feeling and wishes of this House, and if possible to put them into practice and incorporate them in the Bill.

Bill accordingly read the third time, and passed.