HC Deb 16 July 1918 vol 108 cc902-43

(1) No fees shall be charged or other charges of any kind made in any public elementary school, except as provided by the Education (Provision of Meals) Act, 1906, and the Local Education Authorities (Medical Treatment) Act, 1909.

(2) During a period of five years from the appointed day the Board of Education shall in each year, out of moneys provided by Parliament, pay to the managers of a school maintained but not provided by a local education authority in which fees were charged immediately before the appointed day, the average yearly sum paid to the managers under Section fourteen of the Education Act, 1902, during the five years immediately preceding the appointed day.

(3) Nothing in this Act shall affect the provisions of Section nine of the Elementary Education (Blind and Deaf Children) Act, 1893, or of Section eight of the Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Act, 1899.

Adjourned Debate resumed on Amendment [15th July], to leave oat Clause, 25.—[Sir F. Banbury.]

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'school' ['public elementary school'], in Sub-section (1), stand part of the Bill."


I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend who moved my Amendment last night, as it enables me to offer a few remarks upon it now. I am not usually in favour of raising again upon the Report stage a Debate which has taken place fairly fully in Committee unless it be a subject upon which there is strong feeling, and upon which the sense of the House has not been adequately taken in Committee. These reasons apply to raising this question again now. I desire, therefore, to support the omission of Clause 25, which proposes the abolition of all fees in public elementary schools. In doing so, I do not in the least question the general excellence of my right hon. Friend's Bill. I am anxious to improve the system of education for all classes alike, and not for one class or another in particular, and I support the Bill cordially because it attains that end. But, as regards this particular matter, there are very distinct objections, and in certain quarters of the Kingdom they are very decidedly felt. I am not speaking, nor did I speak on the Committee stage, with any object of raising the denominational question. It is not upon that ground that I am impugning the propriety of this Clause. There are three or four excellent reasons for the omission of the Clause, which, perhaps, I may again summarise, as they were to some extent dealt with on the Committee stage. In the first place, there is the broad question of national economy. I know that this Clause does not apply to very many schools. It applies to very few schools. We were told that it was something like 437 out of 20,000. That makes it all the more desirable that these 437 schools should be allowed to continue charging fees if in the opinion of the locality it is desirable, if the parents of the children themselves desire it; and if there is sufficient free education in the area. We are not asking for very much. If parents desire that their children should be educated in schools that charge fees, and are ready to pay them, why should not the public purse be relieved to that extent? It is a perfectly good argument It is a sound argument from the public point of view, and I cannot conceive why the President of the Board of Education should not give it full weight. I have never been in favour of cheeseparing in education. If we get an adequate return for our money, by all means let us spend it. Here is a case where you may get an adequate return for the public benefit, and where the parents are ready to pay; why should you take away their right to do so, for it is a right? There is one argument. Sometimes parents desire to remove their children from a particular school, because they find that the children in it are, I am sorry to say, dirty or use bad language, and that in general the surroundings are not all that they should be. That seems to me a case where the parent's wish might perfectly well be respected. I feel strongly that if I had a boy going to a school where I knew that bad language was prevalent and where the whole atmosphere was dirty and unsavoury, though I have no doubt that the President of the Board of Education would do his best to get the school into better trim, I should still desire to remove my child, and I cannot see why, on that really convincing public ground, I should not be allowed to do so. There is a third reason which was pointed out very briefly in Committee. In the Scottish Education Bill, which is now before this House, there is a Clause which expressly makes the provision for which I am pleading for England. Let me read it once more to the House. I do not want to be accused of omitting anything, and therefore I will read it in full: It shall be the duty of every local education authority within twelve months after the appointed day to prepare and submit for the approval of the Department (a) a scheme for the adequate provision throughout the education area of the authority of all forms of primary, intermediate, and secondary education in day schools without payment of fees, and, if the authority think fit, for the maintenance or support in addition, and without prejudice to such adequate provision as aforesaid, of a limited number of schools where fees are charged in some or all of the classes. That is exactly what we are asking for in moving the omission of this Clause. We do not want to do it where you cannot get free education sufficiently otherwise. We only ask for a limited number of schools, exactly as is proposed in Scotland, and only where the local authority think and have thought or may think in the future that it would be to the advantage of that district that such a school should exist. I cannot see why, if the Government are going to allow that Clause to pass in the Scottish Bill, which they themselves have brought in, we should not be allowed to have similar schools for England and Wales as well, if we should wish it. My right hon. Friend, in resisting the omission of this Clause in Committee, put forward the argument that there were various administrative difficulties. He told us that it was the opinion of the inspectors of the Board that the existence of fee-paying schools militates against the proper organisation of higher education; that it might be difficult to organise them; and that it was very difficult for the Board of Education to make a demand upon the local education authority to sanction the existence of fee-paying schools. Why? There is no adequate reason whatever. I would remind my right hon. Friend that we have heard that kind of argument before. I recall the Debates that used to take place on the question of the Income Tax in 1907–8–9 onwards. I recollect perfectly well that many authorities, including the Treasury, which was the Civil Service Department concerned, used to argue that it was quite impossible to graduate the Income Tax, that you could not differentiate, that it would lead to endless administrative difficulties, and that really the thing was not practicable. I confess that I was at that time—I do not mind admitting it—rather inclined to agree. I thought there might be a great many administrative difficulties, and that the thing might not be practicable. But we have lived and learned, and we all know now—I daresay some of us much to our cost—that the Income Tax is graduated, and graduated severely, and that the whole thing is administered without any serious difficulty or friction. Does my right hon. Friend really mean to say that, if he does put his hand to it, and if the Board of Education started with a will, they would not find a way? Of course, they would. It is all very well for the inspectors of schools to generalise and offer opinions of this character. It is just as feasible for Members of this House, for the right hon. Gentleman himself, for myself, and for hon. Members around me to form an opinion equally well. For myself, I entirely disagree with these inspectors of the Board of Education, and, if I were President, I should tell them to find another opinion, or else go about their business.

Another argument used by my right hon. Friend, whose charm of manner and persuasive eloquence always impress me, was that if you take away the more cleanly children from among their playmates in the school who are less cleanly, you are losing one of the more important levers for social improvement. That may be quite true. But let me suggest to him that I could argue exactly the contrary. If you leave these cleanly children there, the net result may be that, instead of exercising a good influence on their dirtier playmates, they themselves become dirtier in turn, and you are really establishing a lever for social deterioration. If the one argument is a speculative one, so is the other. There is really no very strong argument why this suggestion we are making, which is a very modest request, that this Clause should be omitted, should not take effect. I have always felt, rightly or wrongly, that the existence of these higher grade fee-paying schools, where the parents desire it and where there is room for free education otherwise, has a tendency to level up the standard of education in the district. They are necessarily good schools. Those concerned in their welfare and in supporting them and who are proud of them, are determined to keep them up to a high and excellent standard. Their very existence has the general effect of levelling up, rather than levelling down. If they are to be abolished, I believe the general effect will be a levelling down rather than a levelling up. That is another reason why this Clause should be omitted. I would not have raised this question again on the Report stage, were it not that in many districts of the country, and among many people who are interested in the welfare of these schools and the general success of our educational system there does exist a very strong feeling on the matter. As it has very little effect on the broad system of national education, and in view of the limited number of the schools to which it is applicable, I would ask my right hon. Friend whether, if he cannot see his way to accede to my request, he would not, at any rate, refrain from putting on the Government Tellers in the Division, and let us see what is the real mind of the House on the question.


Old prejudices die hard. This subject was discussed fully in Committee, and the Committee then gave a very decisive vote. This is the last struggle of an antiquated and out-of-date system. The arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aston Manor (Mr. E. Cecil), will not stand very much looking into. He put forward, as his primary argument, the question of national economy. The amount of money which would be saved to the ratepayers by the collection of fees is infinitesimal. It would not bring any adequate relief to the ratepayers and would not affect the total amount provided by the Board of Education to any marked extent. As for the question of dirty children, the right hon. Gentleman seriously put forward the argument that fee-paying schools should obtain because some children in a dirty condition attended the schools provided by the local authorities. If he had had any serious knowledge of educational work, he would have known that all the good education authorities do not allow children to attend schools in a dirty condition.


They are not all good.


If they do their duty they do prevent children attending school in a dirty or verminous condition, and they make arrangements for their proper cleansing, so that that objection is removed. If we have the whole of the children using the public schools, it will raise the general standard, and an example will be set to the people of the poorer classes of which they will be quick to avail themselves. I have a very intimate knowledge of education in London. I find that if a few children attend with collars, clean faces, and well-brushed hair, such is the force of example that the others very quickly conform and will not be behindhand in the standard of cleanliness and appearance. Nor need I pursue the question of Scotland. Scotland is quite able to look after herself. The Scottish system is different in many respects. To commence with, private schools are largely conspicuous by their absence. They have not the same percentage of private schools, and fee-paying schools have largely taken the place of grammar schools. In London this problem was thrashed out in 1904. Before then, there was a very large number of fee-paying schools. The London County Council took its courage in both hands and decided to abolish fees. There was a tremendous outcry, and great opposition was organised against the so-called tyrannical action of the council in depriving the parents of the right to pay for their children's education. The council was firm, and I do not believe a single voice would be raised for a return to the old system. On the contrary, the abolition of fees has been a complete success. We want the rest of the country to toe the line and follow the example of London. We do not want London to be in a privileged position. We want the people throughout the country to have the advantages which have proved such a great success in London. The great thing we have to aim at, if we are going to prevent any revolutionary movement in this country, is the discouragement of class consciousness—the feeling that the nation is divided into sections.


Hear, hear !


I am glad I have the approval of the hon. Member. I know he aims at the same purpose. Nothing causes more class feeling than the idea that certain schools are confined to people who claim to belong to a superior class, and that poorer people are prevented by the charging of fees from sending their children to those schools. The children grow up with the feeling that they belong to a separate section of the community, and that they are different from their black-coated brothers. The brotherhood of the trenches that the nation has learned in the last four years has helped to destroy that feeling. Do not let us revive it in the next generation by retaining these privileged fee-paying schools, which still exist in isolated districts in various parts of the country. This problem has been thrashed out in America. One of the great reasons why education in America has made such great progress during the last fifty years has been the common school, where the children of all classes assemble and work together, rich and poor, working class and middle class, learn to understand each other and see that they belong to the same people and the same nation, and that there is no real difference in the temperament, the instincts, and the ideals of all classes, and that they are all American people. We want to have the same feeling in this country, and until we have common schools, where parents feel that they can send their children irrespective of any barriers, so long can we not expect to have a real democracy in fact as well as in theory. Of course, in the Colonies the idea of special schools for people who can afford to pay fees is quite unknown. The consequence is that there is a true democratic spirit. So I hope the right hon. Gentleman will stick to his guns. This Bill aims at setting up a national system of education, and a national system of education is one which must apply to all classes irrespective of wealth or position. It is most important to retain this Clause an integral part of the Act of Parliament which will soon be on the Statute Book.


The President of the Board of Education spoke as to his zeal for the progress of education. I recognise that, but our zeal for education is as great, even if we oppose this Clause, as that of those who stand for it. The arguments which were mentioned in Committee were based on the fact that in 1901 there were 610,000 children being educated in schools where a fee was charged of 10s. or upwards. Where the shoe pinches and where a feeling of injustice has been aroused is on the ground that the buildings in which those 610,000 children were educated were practically, under the agreement of the Education Act of 1902, handed over for public use without any charge for rent, and I should like to ask the hon. Member (Mr. Harris) whether in the London County Council action due regard was taken to those schools where there are still ground rents to be paid and where liabilities as to structural changes still remain on the manager's hands. Can he tell me whether the London County Council took over those liabilities when they abolished the fees? He does not reply. As far as I can see the point of this Clause is that the Government recognises that there is an act of justice to be done with regard to those schools. If the places for 610,000 children had to be found it would have cost the ratepayers £6,000,000 to buy land and erect and equip buildings. £10 a head is a very small estimate, in fact, I think it has gone up to nearly double that now. There are charges on some of these schools for ground rent and for the upkeep of the building, and this is where I claim that the generosity of the managers of the non-provided schools is not recognised. Whereas they presented to the country property which would be worth £300,000 a year on a 5 per cent. basis, the recognition was that not any rent should be paid, but simply the cost of the upkeep of the buildings.

In the Amendment which was moved in Committee these were the actual words which were asked to be inserted, that the local authorities should repay to the managers such portion of the fees as might be necessary to cover the cost of the upkeep of the buildings and other expenses of maintenance which had hitherto been borne by them. They do not ask to make money out of these fees, but they ask that this part of the understanding of 1902 shall be maintained. On the debit side was the use of all these buildings free of charge. On the other side there were three items. There was this right to charge fees and hand them over to the local education authorities on the understanding that it met the reasonable demand of the managers for the portion of the fees which they could show cause why they should receive. The managers were to be allowed to have three-quarters of an hour each day in which they organised the religious teaching of the schools and they were to have the use of the buildings on Sundays. If the Bill breaks one of these two points what groundwork of understanding or promise is there that the other two will not be broken, which are perhaps very much more important than the one with regard to fees. The right hon. Gentleman, in reply to my Amendment, used these words: I admit that if you could satisfy me on this point, that is, that you were tearing up a solemn treaty contracted in 1902, I should be the last person to press this Clause. 4.0 P.M.

My right hon. Friend pointed out that under the 1902 Act the local education authority had the right to abolish these fees, and, therefore, that this Clause was not a breach of the 1902 agreement. If I may point out to my right hon. Friend this is just what we want; we want the 1902 Act to remain where it is with regard to this matter. The fact is that the local education authority had the power to abolish them and the London County Council did it in practice. We desire it should still be in their power to do so. The managers know that if they appeal to a body of gentlemen elected to sit on a public body and if their claim is a fair one, it will be recognised. Therefore we say, Leave the Act of 1902 where it is, and the local education authority where circumstances in their judgment arise to justify it will abolish these fees. Leave the power in the hands of those who have been administering it for so long. This Clause takes the power out of their hands, it says that the local authority, recognising that reconsideration is due, will for the next five years, pay the same fees as the managers have received for the last five years. That, to my mind, is not quite what we expect in an Act of Parliament. May I refer to the expression which has been used with regard to the zeal for education. It seems to me I might quote an adaptation of the words used by one of old, which ran: The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. This zeal of the President of the Board of Education is eating up the non-provided schools. They are dying gradually. Why cause their sudden death in the way proposed in this Bill? Why provoke this criticism and agitation? Why not let the matter stand as it does now? My right hon. Friend believes that in time these schools will assimilate with the other schools; that they will fall in with the advanced education that is to be given to all children in all our great towns, and that when these matters have been assimilated then these schools may die a natural death. The demand among our constituencies is that we shall press this matter, and demand the deletion of Clause 25 of the Bill as it now stands.


Reference has been made to a balance-sheet. I do not see where it comes in. The local authorities must maintain the fabric of these schools and must keep the buildings in good repair, inside and out, at the public cost. There is also the ground rent or some small charge of the kind which may exist on the freehold. The quid pro quo for that from the point of view of the managers is that they still have a right to continue at the public cost this school as the school of a certain denomination officered and manned and taught by persons belonging to that particular denomination. Therefore, I suggest it is quite fair to regard the present proposal as a breaking of the covenant, or, rather, a breach of a balance sheet which presented a fair balance to each side. But I do not want to go into that, neither do I desire to go into the question of the democratic demand for this change. Indeed, I doubt if there be any such democratic demand. I would be content to leave things as they are, but if it be held, as I conceive it is, not only by the Board of Education, but by the local authorities, that administratively this is a most inconvenient arrangement, then it is fair to inquire whether this change can be made without injustice on the one hand, and on the other hand without educational injury. I beg hon. Members to endeavour to argue this matter according to the actual facts. I heard, with great regret, my right hon. Friend the Member for Aston Manor (Mr. Evelyn Cecil) make statements with regard to certain schools in the country, and being bound to know recent facts as, perhaps, other hon. Members are not bound to know them, I must say I heard those statements, as I heard similar statements by other hon. Members when this matter was being discussed in Committee, with, shall I say some indignation, because of the aspersions cast on the average elementary school in this country?

What are the schools which we are talking about now? They are schools which fifty or sixty years ago were voluntary schools. We had at that date particularly able schoolmasters, ambitious men who pushed ahead in the ordinary work of the school which was restricted by the regulations of the Education Department. In so pushing ahead they formed special classes, students attending which paid an extra 3d. per week. The persons who were educated in those schools remember with gratitude the teaching they got there and their feeling of loyalty has prompted in them an anxiety that their own children shall enjoy similar advantages. All along this class of school has been a good school. In the interval the other schools in the country have been improving in the same way, and, as far as I know, the average council school—the ordinary elementary school—is now quite as good a school as the ones we are talking about, and give quite as good an education. We were told that the reason why parents desire to send their children to these schools is to prevent their being brought into contact with dirty, verminous, foul-mouthed children. I venture to say that there is not an elementary school in this country in which such children are allowed. Go into the schools as they exist to-day. Go into the city or the country school; go into the non-provided school, and what do you find? You find cleanliness, you find order, you do not hear foul language. It is looked upon as one of the worst things to use such language. The "Spectator" and other publications have of late contained much discussion with regard to the conditions in this respect which obtain in some public schools in this country. I do not want to cast any aspersion on any school, but I think it likely you will find that in the ordinary elementary school of this country there is a comparative absence of strong, not to say bad, language There is a comparative absence of something which it has been suggested has made parents unwilling to send their children to the ordinary elementary schools. Let hon. Members who speak with a knowledge of educational matters as they existed twenty or thirty years ago, believe me when I say, speaking with more recent and necessarily with more perpetual knowledge, that the arguments which may have been used twenty or twenty-five years ago now cease to apply. The best argument for this kind of school is that you have in them the grandchildren of the people who attended them fifty years ago, and who are sent there out of a feeling of loyalty. It is the only claim which this kind of school possesses. I hope the House will not decide this question on grounds which would exalt these schools into a special position in regard to cleanliness and the use of objectionable language.


I am sure the House will admit that this question has been presented to its consideration this afternoon with studious moderation by my right hon. Friend the Member for Aston Manor (Mr. Evelyn Cecil), and that the whole Debate has been conducted on similar lines by both sides. In regard to what has fallen from the last speaker—one who must be recognised as one of the primary authorities on elementary education in this country, I would like to be allowed to say a few words. The right hon. Gentleman has deprecated the discussion of this question, as if it were a question of clean and dirty children and clean and dirty schools. I have not the slightest desire to enter upon that controversy, but I would like the House to consider this question. If there is nothing to be said for these fee-charging schools, why, in the name of fortune, are parents so anxious to retain them. My hon. Friend near me says they are not anxious, but he must know that there is not one of these schools which is not to-day full, and that very few of them have not a waiting list, children are so anxious to go into them, and guardians and parents are so anxious to be allowed to pay the few pence weekly which is charged. We have not heard from anyone in this House any explanation other than the one we have put forward of the anxiety of parents to retain the schools that are in existence. The House must remember that it is not a question of establishing these schools. All we ask is that they shall not be abolished by the Clause inserted in this Bill. Clearly, I submit, the onus for justifying the abolition of these schools rests upon those who have inserted this Clause in the Bill, and not upon us.

I am sorry to see that the hon. Member for Leicestershire is no longer in his place, because I want to say one word in regard to the argument he advanced. He said that these fee-paying schools stand in the way of the establishment of a really national system of education. On the one hand, we are told that these schools are perfectly insignificant in regard both to finance and numbers, and on the other hand we are told by the hon. Member opposite that these survivals stand in the way of a national system of education. The point I want to put to any who are inclined to adopt his argument is how far are you going to carry it. The hon. Member spoke strongly in favour of the American system of the public schools, which is not what we understand in this country by public schools—the common schools. He said that we want all people of all classes brought into a common system of education. Is he prepared to propose that for the children of the rich, and why does he draw this distinction with a particular class of the poor? From the first moment that I brought this matter before the House in the course of these Debates I have put it on the ground that you are attempting to deprive a certain class of poor parents of a privilege they highly regard and value.

There was another point made by my hon. Friend. He said there was a real hardship involved in some cases on account of the distances which parents have to send their children. As a matter of fact, where there is any such difficulty or hardship involved provision is made, as is known by every Member of this House I suppose, in the fee-charging schools for the admission of these children without any fee whatever. Where, then, does this hardship exist? It is an imaginary hardship in the mind of the hon. Member for Leicestershire; I submit it does not really exist. On the contrary, I have evidence here to show that as a fact parents are prepared to send their children considerable distances in order to procure for them admission to this particular type of school. I have in my hand here a letter from the head mistress of one of these schools in the South of England, and I would remind the hon. Member for North Somerset that he has himself provided us, in the Return for which he moved some three or four years ago, with exhaustive evidence as to the permeating character of these schools, indicating that they are really spread throughout great parts of England. Here, for instance, is a letter from the headmistress in the South of England: My experience is that there is a class of parents who are not only willing but anxious to pay some fee for their children's education, but who cannot afford the fees of a good private or public school, and must therefore send their children to the small and cheap private schools if no fee-paying elementary school is available…. Many pupils come from long distances, several by train from the villages around and from (a neighbouring town), simply because their parents wish to pay for them. That, I think, really disposes of the hardship of the distances to which my hon. Friend complained. Then there is the argument which was used by the President of the Board of Education himself when we were discussing this matter in Committee. He used an argument to which I desire to draw his attention now as well as the attention of the House, because it sums up a great deal that I would wish to say, but will not say at greater length. The President said: Where education is compulsory it should be given without charge to the parent, but where it is voluntary—where the parent has the option whether or not to send his child to a particular type of school—there the parent shall be at liberty to pay fees."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 2nd July, 1918, col. 1593, Vol. 107.] The whole argument I and my friends have been desiring to put before the House is really put for us in that sentence by the President of the Board of Education—that is our whole point, that where education is compulsory and where there is no alternative, then we do not desire to press for the continued existence of these schools, but where, as the President said, it is voluntary, where there is an option open to them, then we do press that he should allow this option to be exercised by the parents of poor children. There is one other point put by the President of the Board of Education himself, which has been dealt with most fully and adequately by my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead. The President told us that if we could convince him that the proposed abolition of these schools meant the tearing up of a solemn treaty—I think those were his words—contracted in the year 1902, then he would give us, I understood him to say, what we want. I ask the House whether the hon. Member for Birkenhead has not convinced the President, or at any rate everybody in the House except the President, that this is the tearing up of a solemn compact concluded in 1902. If the President was not convinced by the words of my hon. Friend. I do not believe the Angel Gabriel himself would be able to convince him.

With regard to the point of my hon. Friend on the financial aspect of the question I would like to say that I have never laid any stress upon that, and I do not wish to do so at this stage, but, as a fact, the relief which is in certain towns granted to ratepayers by the continued existence of these fee-paying schools, although it is small, is not wholly negligible. For example, in Oxford, they receive £1,100 a year; in Blackburn, £1,144 a year; in Derby, £1,677 a year; in Birkenhead, over £2,000; in Manchester and Salford, over £6,000; and in Liverpool, over £12,000. These figures, in relation to the total, are small, but in certain of the smallest towns they are not negligible. But it is not on that point I would wish to rest the case for the retention of these schools. I rest it mainly on two others, which I will merely state without argument. The first is on the ground of the paramount necessity of maintaining some educational variety. The President of the Board of Education himself deprecated in the strongest possible manner over and over again, in the course of the discussion, any desire for mechanical uniformity. Of course, we know that with his zeal for education he has disavowed it with the completest sincerity. We are entirely at one with him on that point. We also disavow and deplore the idea of any mechanical uniformity, and it is because these schools do present a certain variety that I, for one, am very anxious to retain them. But, above all, I am anxious to retain for the children of the poor that which is open to the children of the rich—some opportunity in the choice of their schools.


The right hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment and opened the Debate was under no necessity, I am sure, to make any defence of his having raised this question upon the Report stage. It is an important question, and one in which a number of Members of the House take a considerable interest, and the hon. Member for Birkenhead may rest assured that we desire to make no reflection of any kind upon his zeal for education, or, indeed, upon the zeal of any of the hon. Members who are opposed to this Clause. But I should like, without going over the whole ground that was traversed by the former Debate, and which was very adequately covered by my right hon. Friend, who made a full presentment of the case for the Clause, to refer to one or two of the questions which have been raised in the course of the Debate. Some of them have already been dealt with, and, I think, adequately dealt with, by the hon. Member for Market Harborough and the hon. Member for West Nottingham. The hon. Member for Birkenhead spoke in the course of the Debate of the agreement arrived at between the Government and the managers of these fee-charging schools in the year 1902, and he suggested that the terms of that agreement are now being broken. What occurred in 1902 was that the schools in which fees were allowed to be charged would continue to charge fees upon certain terms, but that the local education authority might at any time put an end to their power and take away entirely their distinctive character as fee-paying schools, and that is what has actually taken place in relation to four-fifths of the fee-charging schools which existed in 1902. The number of these schools has declined rapidly and continuously, and we are now dealing only with a small remnant of them, which chiefly exist in certain districts of Lancashire and Cheshire, and, as I am reminded, in certain other parts of the country.

These schools have no vested interest of any kind whatever. If the local education authorities may take away their fee-charging powers at any time, surely it is within the competence of Parliament to do so if Parliament in its wisdom decides to take that course! May I remind the districts interested in the maintenance of fee-paying schools that since the year 1902 the Grants to the local education authorities have increased enormously? What is known as the Supplementary Grant of last year provides large additional resources which enable these localities to bear the cost of education. So much with regard to the interests of the local education authorities. I ask, further, is it really a financial grievance to the managers? It certainly is not, because at the time of the Act of 1891 managers were under an obligation, not only to provide school buildings, but also to provide a considerable share of the cost of maintenance as well. The Act of 1902 relieved them from the burden of maintaining the voluntary schools, and, at the same time, placed it in the power of the local education authorities to abolish in these schools the right of charging fees.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford referred to the statement by the Member for Market Harborough that the existence of these schools stands in the way of the establishment of a national system of education. I have one or two comments to offer upon that. One of the objects of this Bill is to establish a complete system of national education. I would like to ask whether the existence of these fee-paying select schools is likely to contribute to that end? The best advice that we have been able to obtain in the matter is that the policy of retaining schools of that character is inimical to sound educational organisation. Children drift into these schools at varying ages and stay there for varying periods, in some cases far too short a time to obtain any real educational benefit at all. The authorities concerned, if they wished to do so, might lay down rules for admission to those fee-paying schools. For example, they might lay down a rule to the effect that children must not be allowed to attend a school until the age of eleven, and must be prepared to stay there for a three years' course. But it is practically impossible to enforce rules of that kind when parents pay fees, and if it depended on an examination for admission, if the examination wore a strict one, the number of fee-paying scholars might be so reduced that the school would be only half filled.

Admission of children, based on ability to pay, must—it is absolutely inevitable—result in the inclusion of some children who are not of the proper standard of ability for admission to a course of advanced work, just as it must exclude some children who are. Schools of this character do not come fully into a specified place in the general scheme of education in the area to which they belong. They are a compromise. They are just ordinary public elementary schools which are made select by the imposition of a fee and on to which are tacked frills in the way of science and French in the upper classes. Children come to these schools from the age of eight to fourteen, and it is quite impossible in those circumstances to arrange a definite course in French or science. There are some parents who have a kind of superstition about sending their children to a particular school to be finished, as it is called, and some of them only send their children for this purpose to a school for a single term. These children are constantly drifting in and drifting out of the schools. In circumstances of that kind proper organisation within the school, or of the school itself within the system, is practically impossible, and my hon. Friend the Member for Market Harborough had some justification for saying that the existence of these fee-paying schools does stand in the way of a really national system of education.

But there is another objection which has been voiced to-day, not for the first time, by the hon. Member for Oxford. He says that it is the desire for a practically uniform system which impels us to change the character of these schools. I can assure him that nothing could be further from the intention or the principle of this Bill and the policy of the Board of Education. I have been brought constantly into contact with this problem in recent years, and I can assure the House that the Board has done all in its power to promote variety in the educational organisation of the country and to promote experiments in the schools. The very last thing which the Board of Education would desire to have would be a mechanical, dull, dead level of uniformity. Teachers are encouraged in every way to strike out a line for themselves. The individuality of the teacher and the individuality of the scholar is one of the prime objects of the Board of Education, and on behalf of the Board of Education I must repudiate absolutely any idea of making our system of education one of cast-iron uniformity. The policy of the Board during the last few years has been to emancipate education as far as possible from the trammels of a hide-bound system which repressed originality and initiative. We have been asked why parents should not be allowed to send children to these schools, and we have been told that there is a considerable demand for places in these schools. Probably one reason for that is the kind of traditional feeling which induces parents to send children to the same school as that which they had attended themselves. I am not arguing whether that is a good or a bad thing, but I would venture to say that a very large number of these schools will have established a certain aristocratic tradition, and that parents will continue to send their children to these schools very largely as they have hitherto done.

I would also remind the House that in the secondary schools of this country at the present time there is ample room for those who wish to pay, and that fees in many cases are very low indeed. Parents can send their children to these schools at the age of eleven, and obtain for them a perfectly admirable education. That is in addition to the free places in these schools. But I would venture to urge upon the House that so long as from 90 per cent. to 95 per cent. of the cost of the schools is paid out of Government Grants and out of the rates, there is really nothing to be said for the proposition that there should be one set of elementary schools for the children of well-to-do parents and another for the children of poor parents. It is open, after all, to those parents who desire to send their children to select schools to pay for it. But they do not pay for it by paying the fees at a public elementary school. They pay only a small fraction of the cost of education. Where fees have been abolished, I am not aware that any ill results have followed. The hon. Member has said, in the course of the Committee stage, that the effect would be that these schools would be altogether prohibited within five years, but the fact is that although thousands of these fee-charging schools, containing hundreds of thousands of children, have ceased to be fee-paying schools, I am not aware that a single one of them has been closed on that account. Of course, changes of this kind will inevitably involve a certain amount of friction at the time, but in the course of time the new order establishes itself. We believe that the new order will be to the advantage of educational organisation. We have come deliberately to the conclusion that the charging of fees is never for the educational benefit of a district, and I hope that the House will support the Board of Education in the decision they have come to.


I feel that I cannot give a silent vote on the Amendment that is now before the House, and if I had intended to give a silent vote, I think that I should have been precluded from doing so by the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education. I think that the House will readily admit that when it is proposed by Act of Parliament to abolish a section of the schools of this country which have long existed in this country, some very strong arguments should be used before such a policy is carried into effect. But no one who has listened to the apologia of the Parlia- mentary Secretary can say that any such strong arguments has been used to justify the Clause which now stands in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman commenced by saying that under the Act of 1902 local education authorities had conferred upon them the power of abolishing these schools if they thought it advisable to do so. The present Bill proposes, among other arbitrary enactments, to take away from the local education authorities that power which it previously possessed. The right hon. Gentleman has pointed out that during the last few years local education authorities have exercised that power, and that numbers of these schools have ceased to exist. Is there any reason, therefore, for passing a Clause in an Act of Parliament which will make it obligatory to do what the country appears to have been doing to a very large extent voluntarily, and which, at the same time, the local education authority has the power to enforce? I am quite certain that the House will realise from the speeches which have been made on this particular Clause that this question is a very contentious one, and I would appeal, therefore, to the President of the Board of Education that in this great Bill for educational reform, which all of us who are interested in education has been so glad to support, he will not allow such a blot as the existence of this particular Clause, which, as he knows, is strongly opposed by large numbers of Members in this House, and also by large numbers of people in the country, and which cannot be regarded as anything else but a very contentious proposal. I, therefore, earnestly submit to him the desirability, if he can, of accepting the Amendment which has been proposed.

My right hon. Friend, in the course of his speech, made a great deal of the importance of organisation. I must own that I do not attach that great importance to the word "organisation" which the Parliamentary Secretary seems to attach to it. I know of no country in the world in which organisation has been carried into effect so thoroughly as in Prussia, and I am sure we should not regard the Prussian system of education as a model which we should endeavour to imitate. What we want to do is to avoid as far as possible organisation where it is not absolutely necessary to the improvement of education in this country, and where it is found to interfere largely with the liberty of the subject. It is that sort of organisation to which I object strongly. When the right hon. Gentleman tells us that he does not think that these schools can find a specified place in the scheme of organisation that is being proposed under this Bill, I reply that I am not anxious that they should find a specified place. I want these schools to have a place of their own, doing their own good work in their own good way, and because he cannot find one particular place which they should occupy in his scheme, that surely is no reason why those schools should no longer exist ! My right hon. Friend does not seem to see the force of the argument that we are using in favour of the continued existence of these schools. He further went on to say that you could hot ensure that there should be a definite course of instruction in these schools. But that also we want to avoid. We want to do what, he says, the Board of Education are striving to do—that is to allow a considerable amount of initiative and experiment to be carried out in these schools, and when you are prescribing a definite course to which schools must adhere, then you are taking away the possibility of initiative and experiment, which is one of the best features in the existing system of education.

It is for these reasons that I feel it is very desirable that these schools should remain. The Parliamentary Secretary spoke in considerable praise of the speech delivered by my hon. Friend the Member for Market Harborough (Mr. P. A. Harris), and said he thought there was great force in the argument that these schools stood in the way of the existence of our national system of education. The right hon. Gentleman remarked on the smallness of their number, and the small place they take in the whole system of education. But that is certainly not a sufficient reason that we should be deprived of those schools. I must own, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford pointed out, that the whole argument of the hon. Member for Market Harborough fell to the ground when he said that these schools create class distinctions. Surely the President of the Board of Education, and everybody else, will admit that class distinctions exist throughout the whole system of education ! The rich people are able to send their children to one class of school where the fees are high, while other parents select schools for their children where the fees are cheaper. If you allow a distinction to be drawn among persons of a certain limit of wealth or possessions, why should you deny the same distinction to those who are below that limit? Instead of being an argument in favour of the abolition of class distinction, I should say it is one which supports class distinction, because certan parents are allowed to pay fees for their children as against those who are not allowed to pay fees. For myself, I should be very loath to take away that amount of liberty which permits of a parent, if he so desire, to pay fees for the education of his children. The Parliamentary Secretary pointed out that the whole cost of this education is not defrayed by the parent. For the matter of that, the education which most of us have received has not been defrayed by our parents, and it has been the result of endowments left by pious founders years ago. We only paid for a part of the education we received, and, in that respect, there is no difference whatever in the case of parents who send their children to fee-paying schools.

I feel that this Clause certainly ought not to remain in the Bill, and I sincerely hope that the President of the Board of Education will find some way of withdrawing it. I attach no importance whatever to the arguments that parents do not care for their children to consort with other children in the free schools. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Nottingham that the condition of these schools is so perfect that every parent might really send his children to them without any fear of contamination; but we have not arrived at that stage of, if you like, democratic progress that parents are all willing to send their children to schools which are free. That state of things does not at present exist, and so long as it does not exist I am very desirous indeed that the same freedom that is given to the richer children should also be accorded to the poorer parents. It is mainly with the view of establishing this liberty of the subject and of further emphasising the importance of diversity and variety in our educational system that I support this Amendment. My right hon. Friend said, why not allow these children to go to the secondary-school, where the fees are very low, but only yesterday the President of the Board of Education advised the maintaining of the higher elementary schools, where children could continue their education up to the age of sixteen or seventeen years. That would again be to throw a disability upon the children of the poor that you are not willing to cast upon those who are better off. I myself see no reason whatever for the retention of this Clause. If I thought that it made in the least for the progress of education I would be one of the first to support it. I understand that even now the local educational authority has power to enter a school and to require—by an Amendment introduced only yesterday by the President of the Board of Education—that a register of attendance shall be kept; and, if these schools are found to be ineffective, if they are not giving an education up to the required standard, then by all means abolish them. But so long as they are giving an efficient education, I say, in the name of the liberty of the subject and also for the sake of giving the same advantages for the children of the poor as for the children of the rich, that this Clause ought not to remain in the Bill.


I have listened to this Debate with some feeling of impatience, for I do not think that the facts have been fully or fairly stated. It has been repeatedly asserted in the course of this discussion that these fee-paying schools are scattered all over the country. I cannot imagine anybody who is not grossly ignorant of the fact making that assertion. As a matter of fact, those schools are in distant places, and are confined to two areas, or two classes of places. First of all, more than a quarter of them are found in Liverpool, Manchester, and Salford, and more than half of them are found in the cathedral cities of this country. If you add the cathedral cities to Salford and Birkenhead, you find more than half of these schools in those places. But I would point out that there are immense districts of England in which there are practically no fee-paying schools. In the whole of Wales there are only two fee-paying schools, both in Monmouthshire, and both very high-class elementary schools, where fees are paid for certain special and peculiar reasons.


Hear, hear !


Yes, only two in Wales; but if you take that proportion there would be only five in England. There are a few of these schools in Cornwall, and not one in Devonshire, except in the cathedral city of Exeter, which, of course, is not under the county authority. There is not one under the county authority of Dorset, there is not one under the county authority of Somerset, and there is not one under the county authority of Hampshire, nor of East Suffolk, nor of West Suffolk, and, coming round the coast, not one in Kent, not one in the North or East Biding, nor the West Riding, or the county of Durham. So you may go on. As a matter of fact, fee-paying schools are confined to very few districts or cathedral cities. Why is that? I will tell the House. It is because in those places and those districts, what are called reactionary educational influences, have had sway, and you have found supporters of what is called the non-provided schools—I prefer to call them voluntary schools—schools which, finding it impossible to get out of their voluntary subscriptions the amount of money that they want to carry on, not only charge high fees, but take the whole of the Government Grant, which was given in 1891, because all schools at that time were supposed to be given up, and this Grant was given in order to make up for their abolition. These schools, however, continue to charge fees and to take the Government Grant. I call that a distinctly discreditable proceeding, and it is one of those things which makes one grieve to think that in cathedral cities, where one expects light and intelligence and Christian and brotherly love and charity, one gets in its worst form and to the greatest extent this iniquity. Why is it that they have not abolished fees? Let it be remembered that any local education authority can abolish fees in its area by a stroke of the pen—that is, by resolution—but only in one or two cathedral cities, where they have been abolished, it has been by the chance or temporary success of a progressive or radical educational authority.

You are faced by this fact, that fees are being gradually abolished everywhere, and, therefore, they are not a great danger in many cases, and now we have this Clause, which is going to give the coup de grace very quickly to fee-paying schools, which for five years are to have an amount paid to them equivalent to the annual amount of the school fees. Yet you have these cormorants of education, who have charged these high fees, and have taken the whole of the Parliamentary Grant without any hesitation, complaining about the abolition of fees, though for five years ahead they are guaranteed those fees. There never was a more hollow debate, or a more specious or unfair claim, or a more discreditable manœuvre than this. That is why I am extremely pleased, and I say it candidly, that we have the representative of the Board of Trade putting down his foot firmly. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on that bench have not been very firm or very decided always, but they have on this occasion shown their firmness, and I venture to say that whatever may be done in another place, we shall see this Bill carried into law with this Clause contained in it as it is to-day.

5.0 P.M.


The hon. Member for North Somerset (Mr. King) has not contributed to a satisfactory settlement of the question in dispute by using strong language, and by imputing discreditable motives to those who support his Amendment. The question as to the number of schools or the manner in which they are distributed over the country is one of no great consequence. It is a question of principle which we are discussing here—an important principle. I do not care for the financial aspect of the subject at all, for what we are now discussing is a question of importance as affecting the education of the country. I submit that we ought to make our system of education to suit the various social conditions which obtain throughout the country, and follow the wishes of the parents. I was much struck by the fact that the right hon. Gentleman omitted one argument which had been adduced, and that was the argument from the action of his own Government in connection with another Bill. We have a Bill in regard to the education of Scotland where not only are these fee-paying schools admitted, but they are expressly enjoined as part of the system of education to be provided. They say it is to be the duty of every local education authority to submit a scheme for giving primary, intermediate, and secondary education without payment of fees and also of a limited number of schools where fees are charged in some or all the classes. Surely in a question like education we cannot have the principle varying by topographical considerations ! If the Government have a certain view in regard to this question, why do they hold it in one Bill and abandon it in another? The question is not a new one in Scotland. Scotland is not a reactionary or undemocratic country. I notice that the hon. Member for Market Harborough when he spoke last spoke of the evil example of Scotland in this matter, and that it was probably due to a reactionary influence, but I think I may safely say that my own country is impervious to the charge of being reactionary. More than twenty years ago we had this question of fee-paying schools fought out. Extremists at that time wanted all the fee-paying schools abolished, but democratic feeling in Scotland refused to have that uniformity of free schools, and since then the view which the extremists put forward has gradually died out. There is no jealousy against and no wish to abolish all these fee-paying schools now, and I think I may adduce as a sure proof of what I say the fact that the same Government to which the President of the Board of Education belongs has, in the Bill which it is now putting forward for Scotland, proposed by express enactment to continue these fee-paying schools in that country. I think the right hon. Gentleman, in his speech in defence of this Clause, might have taken some note of the discrepancy between the two Bills.

Colonel GREIG

I should not have intervened if it had not been for the remarks of the last speaker, a repetition of arguments which he adduced on the Committee stage of this Bill. Again I have to point out, as I ventured to point out then, that the hon. Member has not been quite fair in representing to the House what actually is the position in Scotland and what the present Bill does. Section 7 of the Scottish Bill, which has been referred to before in this Debate, says: It shall be the duty of every local education authority…. to prepare and submit for the approval of the Department…. a scheme for the adequate provision throughout the education area of the authority of all forms of primary, intermediate, and secondary education in day schools without payment of fees.… That is the primary and overriding obligation which the education authority has to perform. It has to provide enough of these schools of all grades without payment of fees. The Clause then goes on: and if the authority think fit for the maintenance or support (in addition and without prejudice to such adequate provision as aforesaid) of a limited number of schools where fees are charged in some or all of the classes. Hon. Members may be under the impression that that deals with voluntary schools, but it does not, because here is what is done in the Scottish Bill with regard to voluntary and denominational schools. Clause 17 says: It shall be lawful at any time after the first election of local education authorities under this Act for the person or persons vested with the title of any school which at the passing of this Act is a voluntary school within the meaning of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1897, with the consent of the trustees…. to transfer the school, together with the site thereof… by sale, lease, or otherwise to the local education authority, and then there is a provision that any school so transferred shall be "held, maintained, and managed as a public school"; and then there is a Sub-section which says: After the expiry of two years from the passing of this Act no Grant from the Education (Scotland) Fund shall be made in respect of any school to which this Section applies unless the school shall have been transferred to the local education authorities, and as from the expiry of that period the Education (Scotland) Act, 1897, shall cease to have effect. It is quite true that there are provisions protecting certain denominational religious beliefs in the school. All teachers are to be appointed by the local education authority, but they are to be approved as regards their religious belief and character by representatives of the denominational body. Those are the proposals of the Scottish Bill, dealing entirely differently with the denominational schools and applying to them certain conditions. But let me turn for a moment to what is the actual position in Scotland as to fee-paying schools. I am sure the right hon. Member for Glasgow University (Sir H. Craik) will confirm me in what I am about to state.


I did not treat the subject as one between denominational schools and others. I have no interest in that question at all. I advanced the argument that on educational grounds a certain number of these schools are admitted.

Colonel GREIG

All I am attempting to do is to clear up the exact position in regard to Scotland, because it has been used in the Debate to the disadvantage of the English Bill, and we do not want our system in Scotland used as a stick with which to beat those who are supporting the President of the English Education Board in his efforts to carry what we consider to be a very good Bill for England. In Scotland, as regards fee-paying schools, a Grant in relief of school fees is distributed at the rate of 12s. per child in average attendance, subject to the conditions laid down in Articles 133 and 134 of the Day School Code. Those Articles are as follows: Article 133.—The following conditions shall be observed by the managers of all State-aided schools sharing in the Grant in respect of such schools, and by the school boards in respect of the school provision in the public schools of their district:—No fees shall be exacted from scholars who are between three and fifteen years of age. Article 134 is as follows: A school board, with the sanction of the Scottish Education Department, and after supplying a sufficient number of schools in which relief from the payment of fees shall be given in accordance with Article 133, may maintain a certain number of schools in which fees are charged to infants in all or any of the classes. Nearly all schools receive this Grant, and, therefore, charge no fees in respect of children between the ages of three and fifteen. There are, however, a few schools in which fees are charged, and those are given in a return which is available to anybody who likes to get it—namely, the Education (Scotland) Return of 1915. It gives a list of sixty-three fee-paying schools, out of which number forty-seven are public and sanctioned under Section 134 of the Code, and on looking at that list I find that they are all higher grade schools with the exception of a very few. There are schools like the Campbeltown Grammar School, the Ardrossan Academy, the Kilmarnock Academy, the Alloa (Town) Academy, the Glasgow (Kent Road) Higher Grade School, the Govan (Bellahouston) Academy, and so on. There is one which may be an elementary school, and probably the right hon. Member for Glasgow University may know. It is the Callander, McLaren High (Elementary) School. I imagine those are largely what we would call, in England, old grammar schools which have been permitted to exist. What happens with regard to these schools? It is to be noted that even in the schools where fees are charged the average fee is not more than about 25s. per head per annum. Although these schools do not receive the fee Grant they receive other Grants from the Department, and it is a condition of these Grants that the ordinary payments in respect of the instruction, from each child, must not exceed 9d. a week on the average number on the books, or such other sum as may be approved by the Department. I think it is quite clear that it is a very small matter indeed in Scotland, that it is a mere discretion to the local education authority in addition to the primary obligation, and matter of fact the amount of school fees paid by the scholars in these forty-seven public schools is altogether about £17,000. The number of scholars is 14,000, and, in addition, there are a number of free scholars. There are also sixteen elementary schools which get no fee grant at all. They are the Roman Catholic and Episcopalian schools, and they get from fees about £2,000, so that the whole amount of school fees in Scot-land is about £20,000.


We have had a very interesting dissertation on Scottish education, but I confess it seems to me rather like the smoke clouds that lead us into battle now in order to conceal something which is rather more important than the attack itself. We really want to know about the principle which is involved in this question, and we do not want to know what are the special needs of Scottish education. We have the actual fact that in one Bill you have the abolition of fees and in another Bill you have a distinct encouragement of fees, as affecting elementary education. I do not think the Government have given us an answer in any way upon this question, which has been raised again and again. There has been no explanation given to the House as to why the two countries should differ in this respect, and I think we are justified in pressing upon the Government that they should give us some explanation as to why one condition should prevail half a mile on one side of the border and another condition half a mile on the other side of the border. An explanation is necessary in order that we may deal with the question of principle, as I understand they put it forward as a matter of principle, and in order that we should get into our minds the reason why there are different principles affecting different lands on exactly the same point.


Although I am one of those whom my right hon. Friend claims as a supporter of the Education Bill, I give notice that I shall have to vote for the Amendment. I cannot do otherwise. I happen to be one of those who fought through the 1902 Bill in this House and in the country and supported it. It was only tolerable on account of the compromise which we then obtained. I fought as hard as I could in the country against the lamentable Bill of 1906. How can I, who fought for the one and against the other, be now asked to support a Clause which tears up all that was best in the compromise of 1902 and perpetuates all that was worst in the Bill of 1906? I cannot help thinking that there is a great deal of sham fight here this afternoon with regard to the Clause. It would be very different if people understood that we are fighting for such as remain of the denominational schools of the country. I see no reason for hiding that either from the House or from the public. I am sure my right hon. Friend knows very well that, excepting for these abnormal times, he would not have a House as empty as this House is this afternoon in order to take away from the denominational schools of this country that which was sealed and delivered by the Government in 1902.

It is no good saying that you can get rid of a religious controversy simply by not talking about it. That religious controversy exists, and those of us who feel as we do about the denominational schools of this country say that the fewer there are of them left the more we must go on fighting for those that remain. I for one make no secret about that. I agree with those who say that it is a misfortune there should be so much uniformity about the education of the present day, but that is a side point in the discussion of this Clause. The hon. Member for Market Harborough invited the whole country to toe the line with London, and yet the hon. Member (Mr. Lewis) says that there never was such a variety of education as there is at the present time, and his greatest supporter whom he quoted as if he were a voice from heaven told us to toe the line with London. I suggest that we should toe the line with Scotland, which is not an undemocratic country. He will find a great deal of support if he will toe the line with Scotland and leave our denominational schools alone, leave the compromise alone which allows local authorities if they so choose to withdraw this right, and not to go to what I think is the illegitimate and dishonest extent of using the whole force of the Government to tear up the compromise which has existed for the last sixteen years.


I hope the right hon. Gentleman will stick to his guns. I have had some experience of educational work in one of the Northern counties, and I would point out that within six months of the Act of 1902 coming into operation we had abolished fees in the county of Northumberland, just as the London County Council had done with regard to the London schools. We have never regretted the action which we then took. My purpose in intervening is to give the House the reason that actuated us in coming to the conclusion that we ought to abolish fees in our schools. We came to the deliberate conclusion that the existence of these fee-paying schools meant, and must mean, a certain amount of compulsory payment on the part of some, at all events, of the parents who send their children to these schools. The class of parents who send their children to elementary schools move from place to place. A parent moves out of a district in which he has been sending his children to school without the payment of fees and comes into a district with a school near by where fees are charged.

It is quite true, as has been said, that no local education authorities and no managers can compel parents to pay fees for their children, and if the parent says that he desires to send his child to the school as a free scholar he must be taken in as such. That is quite true; but what is the position of the child when he is in the school? It is that if he does not conform to the usages of the school he is pointed at by the other children and is in a class by himself. The great bulk of the children are paying fees, and if the parent has the courage to stand out and sends the child to a school without paying fees a distinction is drawn to the great detriment of the child. The consequence is, almost in every case, that although the parent does not need to do it, rather than have his child singled out as being something exceptional and out of the ordinary he pays the fee. That is very often done by parents who can ill afford to pay them, and it was the principle reason that induced us to abolish fees in the North. I do not think that point has been made today, and it is my reason for rising. With regard to some of the arguments used by the right hon. Member for Aston Manor that some parents desire to send their children to schools where bad language is not used and where there is greater cleanliness than in the elementary schools, I would mention that no one who has read a rather well-known book dealing with school life in our public schools is likely to come to the conclusion that the payment of fees abolishes bad language in those schools. My experience of going into a large number of schools is that it is not always from the largest and most pretentious houses that the cleanest children come. Some of the cleanest, neatest, and best cared for children come from the humblest homes, and therefore there is no necessity to make any further reference to that point. My purpose in rising was to point out the distinction that is made and the compulsion which is enforced upon parents, the reason which, among others, will induce me to support the Government if the Mover of the Amendment goes to a Division.


I am sorry the hon. Member for North Somerset thought fit to use unnecessarily strong language in dealing with this matter. We have always tried in the course of this Debate to avoid language of that kind, and it certainly does not assist matters suddenly at this late stage to alter the atmosphere of the House with regard to this Bill. If I may say so, he defended a weak case by extraordinarily strong language. He referred to the case of the county areas, and said it was very significant that in the county areas fees were not charged, and he tried to attach some odium to the cathedral towns in connection with that. But the explanation is quite simple to anyone who knows anything about education so far as the counties are concerned, namely, that in the counties you have, generally speaking, single-school areas, and it is quite obvious that within those areas it would not be a reasonable thing to charge fees. The justification for charging fees is where there is a right in the parent to choose, and that is a justification which has not been fairly met in the course of this Debate by anyone. Take, for instance, the case of Scotland. It surely is beside the point to try and ride off on an issue as between one sort of school and another sort of school ! The issue we have now to discuss is simply whether it is undemocratic—by which I take it is meant whether it is unfair—to say that in some schools where there is a choice the parent shall be allowed to pay the fee if he likes to. Surely, if it is reasonable to give th parent the choice in the towns of Scotland, whether in a provided or non-provided school, he should have a choice in England ! Or is it a good moral lesson for the Scottish to encourage them to spend a little money and not a good lesson for the English! That occurs to me as the only possible suggestion which I can venture on for this discrimination. Surely if it is reasonable in Scotland to allow this choice it is reasonable in England.

We are told it is so unfair if a child goes to a fee-paying school whose parent cannot afford to pay, and that there is some sort of snobbish distinction made against that child. A great deal is talked about this word snobbery. I would put it another way. There is an old motto of one of the greatest educationists this country has ever known, the great educationist who founded that school tucked away in a valley in the South Coast, William of Wyckham, whose motto was, "Manners maketh man." Parents who seek a school of rather better type and pay a small fee say to themselves, "It is worth while to secure that advantage of manners and other things which we believe we will get if a few of us join together and get rather a better type of school." The suggestion was made by one hon. Member that abnormally bad language and bad influences occur even in the richest schools. No one denies that; but that is not the point. The point is whether by aiming at a certain type of school for admission to which the parents are willing to pay their fee they are doing good for their children; and, if so, what right have we got to pre vent them? But it is said that we are dealing with the matter in entirely the wrong way, that the parents do not want it, that they are not willing to pay the fees, and that we have no business to ask them to. All I can say, after considerable experience of various problems in regard to the denominational schools for a great many years, is that I can give hundreds of instances of parents who are willing to pay a small fee if by so doing they can secure for their children society with children of a similar kind and secure what they consider a better type of education as a result. If such parents are so convinced and are prepared to pay to secure for a child that kind of school, what right have you to take away from the poor parent the right to make that choice and secure that advantage of a better type of school for his child if he so pleases and thinks it worth while making the sacrifice and effort?


I think we ought to be grateful to the hon. Member for Croydon (Mr. Malcolm) for being candid with the House, because I do think these speeches, coming from high denominational quarters, and referring to a higher type of school, are misleading the House. Hon. Members who are very familiar with these questions get into a certain form of speech, and take certain things for granted, but I am bound to say the hon. Member for Salford (Sir M. Barlow), who has made a very adroit speech now, uses very different language in his own constituency. The hon. Member would not hold his seat for Salford unless he spoke in a very unmistakable way with a denominational accent. If there was a school board in the whole of this country which was fought on denominational lines it was the school board for Salford. Still, if hon. Members will take the point of view of the hon. Member for Croydon, I have rather some sympathy with them. I do not want to see all the schools become of the London type. I quite agree in many ways London has done a very great work, but I do not think it necessary in every village and every small town there should be a kind of London standard of school set up, and I do not think it is at all to be regretted that there are some different types of school in existence. The truth, of course, is that when the Conservative party swung round and followed the lead of the late right hon. Gentleman for West Birmingham, all that has followed since has been inevitable. It is just a march of the schools from the auspices of the cleric and priest to the State auspices. You cannot help it now. This is a very small stage. I always think the real decision was taken then, and that when the Conservative party made up its mind that further money should be given from the State to denominational schools there could be only one end.

What hon. Members think they will get by the prolongation of these voluntary schools with their fees now, I have not been able to make out. I do not think they are a real strength, as worked at present, by any denomination. It has never seemed to me that when it comes under the code, and under State auspices, your elementary school is much strengthened by denominationalism. I understand, for instance, the position of the Wesleyans. They established their elementary schools as a defence against their children being driven into church schools and becoming more and more ritualistic, though I take it now they would be prepared to meet the views of the State. But there is still this remnant. The reason we have the problem here and they have not the problem in Scotland is purely on the religious issue. Why have they not the problem in Scotland? Simply because they are a Presbyterian people, and you cannot get up an agitation in Scotland as to whether a child shall go into one Presbyterian school or another. But here it is very different. The denominations have come into very close conflict. I am not one who welcomes the introduction of this discussion. I venture to submit to hon. Members who are dealing with it that they are twenty years, or even thirty years, too late. All this was pointed out in the "Anti-Jacobin" by Mr. Frederick Greenwood. I am probably in a unique position in this House. I am not a strong partisan one way or the other, having been educated in a Lancashire voluntary school, and I should like to see these schools preserved. But to conduct them almost entirely with State money, and with very little of their own subscriptions, that being the position, I think the President of the Board of Education has made even a generous offer in guaranteeing them the fees for five years.

Captain Viscount WOLMER

It is all very well for the Government to tell us that they are not in favour of dead level uniformity, and that they desire to encourage as much variety in our national education as possible, but directly they get the opportunity they try to stifle variety and to foster uniformity. I listened with astonishment to a large part of the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education. His speech was the speech of a bureaucrat. His objection to these fee-paying schools was that they were different in complexion to the other schools with which the Board of Education had to deal, and he explained what a nuisance and a bother they were. Those are the arguments of a bureaucrat, and it is that we are up against. Where these fee-paying schools are unpopular under the present law they automatically disappear. The local authority can put an end to them whenever they desire to do so. Here you have schools to which the parents want to send their children, which the local education authority, the elected representatives of the people of the locality, desire to continue, or, at any rate, are going to continue. Then the Government comes down and asks the House to suppress them. I must say that, before we agree to their suppression, a very much stronger case for their suppression has got to be made out than the Government has succeeded in making out, and I would like to say this to my right hon. Friend, that he has got to avoid not only injustice to those who care about denominational education and variety in education, but he has also got to avoid the appearance of injustice. He is occupying at the present moment a unique position in the history of education in this country. During the progress of the greatest war history has over known, when the whole interests of the country are absorbed in the prosecution of the War, he has been entrusted with the passing of a Bill dealing with one of the thorniest, most contentious and difficult problems that have tormented British politics for the last fifty years, and he has done it—[An HON. MEMBER: "Jolly well !"]—as my hon. Friend says, jolly well, and he has done it jolly well because up to now he has had the confidence of all those who care about denominational education either one way or the other that he was not going to be unfair or unjust. But that confidence has been shaken in the last few weeks. There is an impression abroad in the country that the Government are—I will not use the word "attempting," because it implies an intention, which would be unjust—but there is an impression that the effect of what the Government are doing will be very prejudicial to the interests of distinctive religious education in after years, and there is a feeling that the right hon. Gentleman in this Bill has—I will not say taken advantage of the situation—but that the conditions of the situation have enabled him to do unchallenged and unchecked what in calmer times would have received more careful scrutiny than it has been possible to give during the last few months.

Therefore, I do appeal to my right hon. Friend, even at this last moment, to reconsider this matter. He is, if I may say so, walking through a powder magazine with a lighted torch. One false step on his part will cause a terrible explosion. We always looked to him to build up a great educational structure that was going to be a settlement of the problems with which we are now faced, and a starting point for further progress in education, but you will never get a settlement of that sort if you leave behind this Bill, suppressed and hidden under the excitement of this War, a rankling feeling of injustice that opportunity has been taken to do what no Government would have been able to do unchallenged in times of peace. Therefore, it is because I ask my right hon. Friend to aveid even the suspicion of unfairness to those who care for a distinctive type in education, both in denominational education and in other departments of education, that I ask him to allow to continue to exist those schools to which, ex hypothesi, parents want to send their children, which local authorities desire to continue, which are not a source of any local friction or of any local difficulty, but are continuing their peaceful existence without causing and disturbance. I venture to say that if he now insists on attacking them, it will be a bad piece of work for the success of his whole educational measure

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Fisher)

I am very sorry that a measure which up till now has met with a very large degree of acceptance from all quarters of the House should appear to raise in some minds an acutely controversial question. I regret that even a note of interrogation should be raised with reference to the justice and equity of any part of the measure which the Government is presenting to the country. I can assure my hon. Friend who spoke last that I myself have approached this problem, which I do not think deserves the importance which he attaches to it, not from any partisan point of view. Indeed, as I informed the House on the Committee stage of the Bill, my inclination was first, and my first instructions to the draftsmen were, to provide for the preservation of fees wherever it could be shown that fees were educationally beneficial. It was only after I myself had looked into the question carefully, after I had informed myself as fully and as impartially as I could of the facts of the situation, that I came to the conclusion that it was impossible for the Board of Education to go on sanctioning the imposition of fees in respect of assumed educational advantages which were reported to me on all sides by those most competent to judge to be advantages which upon examination vanished.

As I pointed out in Committee, this question was really forced upon my notice by the consolidation of our elementary school Grants, a proposal of the highest possible value, one which had long been advocated by those acquainted with the existing complexities of our elementary school finance, and the value of which nobody in this House has challenged. As I pointed out to the Committee, this involved the abolition of the fee grant, and as the fee grant is a factor which enables the Board of Education to regulate the fees charged in elementary schools, consequently it was necessary for the Board and for the Minister of Education to consider the whole question of fees. You could not leave the question of fees where it was. Once, then, you begin to consider the question of fees, you had to ask yourself one question, On what principle could fees be justified? There are two principles. First of all—it may be asserted—fees are justified because they obtain certain educational advantages for particular types of schools which those schools would be otherwise unable to obtain. That is the argument which is most generally advanced on behalf of fees, but is that argument sound? Is it fair to have two classes of elementary schools, one class providing additional educational advantages to those who can pay for them, and another class providing a lower type of education for the poorer members of the community? That is the first justification. The second justification is one that has been urged from many quarters of the House during these discussions. It is that the parent pays fees to obtain a better social atmosphere for his child. I do not deny that there is force in that argument. But is the Board of Education, is the Government, to recognise that principle as a universal principle running all though the general organisation of our elementary schools? Think of where this would lead you? It would lead you to the recognition of two classes of schools in all parts of the country, one class for the higher type of artisan and another type for the poorer class of artisan. It would mean the stereotyping of a policy of social segregation. I do not consider that that is wise statesmanship.

Viscount WOLMER

Does that arise in Scotland?


I am not concerned about Scotland. I have enough to do with England and Wales. I maintain that this would be bad statesmanship. I am also confronted with another policy. Since I began to examine the education problem, I saw that one great lacuna, one of the great wants in our English system of education was the lack of what might be called higher grade education in our schools. On all sides I had complaints that boys and girls were marking time in the upper standards of our schools, and that the education provided was lamentably insufficient, that it was inconsistent with intellectual progress, and that something must be done to fortify and reform it. All I can say is that one of the great tasks of the Minister for Education in the next ten years will be to develop, upon sound lines, what may be called higher grade elementary education. How is that to be done? Obviously, this higher grade elementary education must be provided for children who can benefit by it. If, on the other hand, you find, from various reasons, fee-paying schools chiefly confined to children not selected on the grounds of policy, but selected because their parents can afford to pay the fee, then to that extent the ground is cumbered and obstructed, because it is only human nature for the local education authority to select the fee-paying school as the higher grade school of its area. That we find all over England. Consequently, if you want to develop higher grade education in this country, the first step you have to take is to stop the payment of fees in elementary schools.

The right hon. Gentleman pointed out to the House one very important fact in respect of recent educational developments in this country, a fact which has not been sufficiently appreciated by hon. Members who have contributed speeches to this Debate. It is the development of a cheap secondary education in this country. There are a thousand schools receiving Grants from the Board of Education, a thousand schools charging low fees, with many free places, and 67 per cent. of the boys and girls of those secondary schools come from the public elementary schools, many of them paying fees. Therefore, the parent who desires to pay a fee and who desires that his child should enjoy higher educational advantages, or higher social advantages, has the secondary school open to him. The child can go in at the age of eleven and receive a good secondary school education at a very low rate or with a free place. When I am told that this measure is inimical to variety, I ask myself whether the critics who have advanced that argument have any know- ledge of the elements of education. If you want to have variety in your schools you require to have some amount of personality, both in teachers and in taught. It is a matter of personality. It is a matter of contact between the willing mind and the stimulating teacher. I want to get life into our elementary school system. If we want this we must have a system under which talent can be selected, segregated, brought on quite irrespective of the economic considerations which lie at the basis of the fee-charging system. At any rate, whether I am right or wrong—and I have always had in mind Oliver Cromwell's adjuration, that it is possible to make a mistake—that is the angle from which I have approached the subject. I

hope I have succeeded in persuading hon. Members of this House that I am not approaching this subject from the anti-denominational or denominational point of view. I am quite unaffected by the old controversies. I have played no part in them myself. I took practically very little interest in them at the time. I am quite unaffected by them. I have applied to the best of my ability, a fresh mind to this problem, and, at any rate, that is the advice which I give to the House.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'school' ['public elementary school'], stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 134; Noes, 52.

Division No. 65.] AYES. [5.58 p.m.
Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D. Hodge, Rt. Hon. John Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)
Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling Holt, Richard Durning Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire) Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Robinson, Sidney
Anderson, William C. Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Roch, Walter F.
Anstruther-Gray, Lt.-Col. Wm. Hudson, Walter Rowlands, James
Baker, Col. Sir R. L. (Dorset, N.) Hughes, Spencer Leigh Rowntree, Arnold
Barlow, Sir John E. (Somerset) Illingworth, Rt. Hon. Albert H. Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Bentham, George Jackson Jacobsen, Thomas Owen Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur
Bethell, Sir John Henry Jardine, Sir John (Roxburghshire) Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Seely, Lt.-Col. Sir Charles (Mansfield)
Blake, Sir Francis Douglas Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, E.) Smallwood, Edward
Booth, Frederick Handel Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Rushcliffe) Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Liverpool)
Boscawen, Sir Arthur Griffith- Jones, W. Kennedy (Hornsey) Snowden, Philip
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Jones, Wm. S. Glyn. (Stepney) Somervell, William Henry
Brace, Rt. Hon. William Jowett, Frederick William Stanley, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (Aston)
Bryce, John Annan Kellaway, Frederick George Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, W.)
Chancellor, Henry George Kenyon, Barnet Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth) Keswick, Henry Thomas, Sir G. (Monmouth, S.)
Collins, Sir William (Derby) King, Joseph Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives) Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Molton, S.) Thorne, William (West Ham)
Crooks, Rt. Hon. William Lambert, Richard (Cricklade) Tickler, Thomas George
Dalziel, Davison (Brixton) Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle) Tootill, Robert
Davies, Ellis William (Eiflon) Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert Turton, Edmund Russborough
Davies, Timothy (Louth) Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury) Walker, Col. W. H.
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Lonsdale, James R Walsh, Stephen (Lancashire, Ince)
Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester) Walton, Sir Joseph
Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir James B. M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald Wardle, George J.
Fisher, Rt. Hon. H. A. L. (Hallam) Mallalieu, F. W. Watson, Hon. W. (Lanark, S.)
Fisher. Rt. Hon. W. Hayes (Fulham) Marshall, Arthur Harold Watson, John B. (Stockton)
Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue Martin, Joseph Wedgwood, Lt.-Commander Josiah C.
Gibbs, Col. George Abraham Mason, David M. (Coventry) White, James Dundas (Tradeston)
Gilbert, James Daniel Mason, Robert (Wansbeck) Whitehouse, John Howard
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. John Millar, James Duncan Whiteley, Sir H. J. (Droitwich)
Goldstone, Frank Molteno, Percy Alport Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas p.
Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough) Parker, James (Halifax) Wiles, Rt. Hon. Thomas
Greig, Colonel James William Partington, Hon. Oswald Williams, John (Glamorgan)
Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William Peel, Major Hon. G. (Spalding) Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald
Hambro, Angus Valdemar Perkins, Walter Frank Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)
Harmsworth, Sir R. L. (Caithness) Philipps, Maj.-Gen. Sir Ivor (S'hampton) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, South) Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H. Wing, Thomas Edward
Haslam, Lewis Pratt, John W. Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)
Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.) Yeo, Sir Alfred William
Henry, Sir Charles (Shropshire) Pryce-Jones, Col. Sir E. Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon Rea, Walter Russell
Hibbert, Sir Henry Reid, Rt. Hon. Sir George H. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord
Higham, John Sharp Randall, Atheistan Edmund Talbot and Capt. Guest.
Hinds, John Richardson, Albion (Peckham)
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte Beach, William F. H. Broughton, Urban Hanlon
Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick Beckett, Hon. Gervase Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James
Barlow, Sir Montague (Salford, South) Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W. Burn, Col. C. R. (Torquay)
Barnett, Capt. Richard W. Bigland, Alfred Butcher, Sir J. G.
Barnston, Major Harry Bird, Alfred Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)
Cator, John Jackson, Lt.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York) Philipps, Sir Owen (Chester)
Colvin, Col. Larmor, Sir Joseph Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Cory, James H. (Cardiff) Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury) Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh Rutherford, Col. Sir J. (Darwen)
Fell, Sir Arthur Magnus, Sir Philip Stewart, Gershom
Fletcher, John S. Malcolm, Ian Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)
Gretton, John Mason, James F. (Windsor) Weigall, Lt.-Col W. E. G. A.
Guinness, Hon. W. E. (Bury St. Ed.) Newman, Major J. R. P. (Enfield) Wilson-Fox, Henry (Tamworth)
Hall, Lt.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich) Newman, Sir Robert (Exeter) Wolmer, Viscount
Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence (Ashford) Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield) Yate, Col. Charles Edward
Harmood-Banner, Sir J. S. Nield, Sir Herebrt
Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E. Pennefather, De Fonblanque TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. E. Cecil and Mr. Marriott.
Horne, Edgar Peto, Basil Edward
Hunter, Maj. Sir Chas. Rodk.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

6.0 P.M.


The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Somerset (Mr. King), to insert in Subjection (1) the word "secondary," is out of order, because it would impose a charge. The Amendment to Clause 28, to insert in Sub-section (1), after the word "teachers," the words "in secondary schools and of all teachers," is out of order at that point, and it should come up as a Clause by itself.