§ (1) Subject as provided in this Act no exemption from attendance at school shall be granted to any child between the ages of five and fourteen years, and any enactment giving a power, or imposing a duty, to provide for any such exemption and any provision of a by-law providing for any such exemption, shall cease to have effect, without prejudice to any exemptions already granted. Any by-law which names a lower age than fourteen as the age up to which a parent shall cause his child to attend school shall have effect as if the age of fourteen were substituted for that lower age.
§ (2) In Section seventy-four of the Elementary Education Act, 1870, as amended by Section six of the Elementary Education Act, 1900, fifteen years shall be substituted for fourteen years as the maximum age up to which by-laws relating to school attendance may require parents to cause their children to attend school, and any such by-law requiring attendance at school of children between the ages of fourteen and fifteen may apply either generally to all such children or to children of a particular sex, or to children other than those employed in any specified occupations:
§ Provided that it shall be lawful for a local education authority to grant exemption from the obligation to attend school to individual children between the ages of fourteen and fifteen for such time and upon such conditions as the authority think fit in any ease where after due inquiry the circumstances seem to justify such an exemption.
§ (3) The question whether a child, who is not attending a school recognised by the Board of Education as efficient, is under efficient instruction within the meaning of the Education Acts, or any by-laws relating to school attendance made there under, shall be determined by the local education authority, or, in the case of a child attending a school or educational institution which the Board of Education or the local education authority are enabled to inspect, if the parent of the child so desires, by the Board of Education, and any such determination shall be final and conclusive.846
§ (4)A local education authority may with the approval of the Board of Education make a by law under Section seventy-four of the Elementary Education Act, 1870, providing that parents shall not be required to cause their children to attend school or to receive efficient elementary instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic before the ago of six years:
§ Provided that in considering any such by-law the Board shall have regard to the adequacy of the provision of nursery schools for the area to which the by-law relates, and shall if requested by any ten parents of children attending public elementary schools for that area hold a public inquiry for the purpose of determining whether the by-law should be approved.
§ (5)The power of a local education authority under Section seven of the Education Act, 1902, to give directions as to secular instruction shall include the power to direct that any child in attendance at a public elementary school shall attend during such hours as may be directed by the authority at any class, whether conducted on the school premises or not, for the purpose of practical or special instruction or demonstration, and attendance at such a class shall, where the local education authority so direct, be deemed, for the purpose of any enactment or by-law relating to school attendance, to be attendance at a public elementary school:
§ Provided that if by reason of any such direction a child is prevented on any day from receiving religious instruction in the school at the ordinary time mentioned in the time-table reasonable facilities shall be afforded for enabling such child to receive religious instruction in the school at some other time.
§ (6) In Section eleven of the Elementary Education Act, 1876, (which relates to school attendance) for the words "there is not within two miles" there shall be substituted the words "there is not within such distance as may be prescribed by the by-laws"
§ (7) Nothing in this Section shall affect the provisions of the Elementary Education (Blind and Deaf Children) Act, 1893, or the Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Acts, 1899 to 1914, relating to the attendance at school of the children to whom those Acts apply.
Sir F. BAN BURY
I beg to move, to leave out Sub-section (1)
The effect of this Sub-section would be that children under fourteen could not give any—shall I call it temporary—assistance either to their parents or to employers, as they are able to do at the present moment. Whether or not this is advisable after the War I do not know. I am inclined to think myself it is not, but that is a matter of opinion on which there might be considerable difference. But, in view of the great shortage of labour at the present moment, to introduce a Sub-section to this effect is, I maintain, a very great mistake. There is a very useful work being done, especially in the country districts, by boys of thirteen or fourteen, who at odd times can give 847 assistance—and very valuable assistance— to farmers, and, as I understand it, the result of this Sub-section will be to prevent anything of the kind.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am not casting any doubt upon the undertaking of my right hon. Friend—I am sure he will acquit me of any such desire—but it must be remembered that we may not always have the good fortune of having him President of the Board of Education, and another President may take a different view. I am rather glad of the interruption on the part of my right hon. Friend, because only yesterday I received a letter from a firm of solicitors concerning a question which has been in the Courts of Law, and which turns entirely upon a statement of a Minister — a member of the present Government—in a debate last year on a question raised by myself. It was held in court that you must not allude to any undertaking given in Parliament. Under these circumstances, I think it is absolutely necessary that we should go a little bit further than an undertaking, and, at any rate, have words put either into this Clause or into Clause 45. That Clause says:This Act shall come into operation on the appointed day, and the appointed day shall be such day as the Board of Education may appoint, and different days may be appointed for different purposes and for different provisions of this Act.I think that is much too vague, and, personally, I would much rather have this Sub-section left out altogether, but I do not know whether I shall get any support in Committee for it. I think I shall move the omission for the sake of getting an explanation from the Minister, as I think I should be prepared to accept an Amendment further on, or at the end of the Subsection, providing that this Clause shall not be brought into operation during the continuance of the War. If my right hon. 848 Friend will give some undertaking that he will put in words of that sort—and I would prefer them now to on Report—possibly I shall be prepared to accept it.
I will consider the point which my right hon. Friend raised, to see whether I cannot put something into the actual face of the Bill which will make it clear what is the intention of the Government.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The point I am most anxious about is that the age should not be made compulsory up to fourteen until they have got the provision for giving the children proper and efficient education up to that age. We all know at the present time the education which the clever children get in the last year or two of their school time is lamentably inefficient. They practically waste their time during the last years of school at the present time, because no provision is made by most of the educational authorities for any advanced education for the cleverer children. For the last year they stay at school, instead of at home, reading or otherwise wasting their time. If that is simply to be extended now to all the children over the age of twelve, who at present can get back home and get to work, then you are not doing anything for education; you are merely harassing the parents of the children. I do not think Members of this House realise what this Bill is going to mean to most of the poor parents of the country. With the present high price of living, they have their time cut out to make both ends meet. Anyhow, they are more dependent than they were upon the earnings of the children. The wages of these children are much higher. If you are going to raise the age to fourteen everywhere, and at the same time not provide more efficient education, you are committing not only a piece of interference with the whole life of these children, which is uncalled for, but you are pretending to provide an education which you know perfectly well the local education authorities are incapable of giving. In the first place, they have not teachers enough to train these children, and, in the second place, if they had the teachers, the education authorities are not willing in most parts of the country, and, particularly in the rural areas—they are not capable of giving the children this better higher education that is contemplated under the Bill. We are pretending to ourselves, and pretending to the country, that we are 849 really making a great educational reform, and, at the same time, we are merely providing machinery of coercion which in itself cannot produce better education. I therefore support my right hon. Friend opposite in his opposition to the compulsory raising of the school age.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Would my right hon. Friend the President now consider whether we could not add words achieving the object suggested? This could be very easily done if the words were put at the end of the Sub-section. I would much rather have it done now than later, because one does not know when the Report stage is coming, and these matters are apt to be forgotten. Very simple words would meet the case. They should provide that this Clause should not come into operation until the end of the War. If the words were put in now we should have the opportunity of considering them in the interval, and they could either be withdrawn or altered. I do not much like putting off these matters.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
The following Amendment stood on the Paper in the name of Colonel WEDGWOOD: At the end of Sub-section (1) insert the words,
Provided nevertheless that this provision shall not have effect until after the provisions required under Section two shall have been made, and the facilities for education are available.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman comes more properly at the end of Clause 45, Sub-section (3)—
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I do not want to dispute your ruling, Sir Donald, but it seems to me that this is the proper place for a proviso dealing with a possible alteration of this Clause. This portion of the Sub-section says that certain education shall be compulsory, and I wish to say, "Provided that this provision shall not have effect until after the provisions required under Section 2 shall have been made."
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I have some doubt about the matter, so perhaps I had better give the hon. and gallant Gentleman the benefit of it, and allow him to move his Amendment
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I beg to move at the end of Sub-section (1), to add the words,Provided nevertheless that this provision shall not have effect until after the provisions required under Section two shall have been made, and the facilities for education are available.Obviously no part of this Bill can be brought into operation until after the end of the War.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
We have no guarantee, that is true; but I think it is generally so understood. What I am anxious for is that even after the War we shall not have this raising of the school age, because we shall not have the teachers or the curriculum prepared. If it is—as it surely must be—the intention of the Education Minister, not that he should have his compulsory powers, and then get his teachers, but that he should have his teachers first, then I think he might accept this Amendment. However, T will not press it unless the President says that he will agree to it.
§ Sir J. D. REES
May I inquire whether this discussion will in any way prejudice an Amendment which I have a little later, to leave out the words "between the ages of fourteen and fifteen"?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I think we ought to have some statement from the Education Minister on the point I put: What is the intention of the right hon. Gentleman?
I do not see my way to accept this Amendment as it stands. Of course it is quite obvious that the local authorities will have to consider the matter before the preparation of an adequate standard of instruction and higher education as projected. But it must be remembered that this Clause does not impose any new obligation. The existing obligation is that children should be educated up to the age of fourteen. What the Clause does is to abolish two classes of exemptions—half-time and partial exemption.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg to move, to leave out Sub-section (2).
This Sub-section increases the age from fourteen to fifteen at which children shall 851 be compelled to attend the elementary schools. The local education authority can force them to attend if they think well. There is perhaps no obligation on the part of the education authority to do so, but if they think it necessary they can do so. That is how I understand the Clause, and I gather that my right hon. Friend so far agrees. It is pretty certain to my mind that a majority of education authorities will consider it necessary.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Then why put in this Sub-section? Why put it in, if it apparently is not to have any effect? By omitting it you shorten discussion. I think this Sub-section is a great mistake. I venture to disagree from the Minister for Education in thinking that the majority of education authorities will not enforce these powers. I think they will. They may not just at first, but as time goes on they are quite certain to say that all children must attend the elementary schools up to the age of fifteen. Is that wise? Is it wise in the interests of the children? At the present time boys and girls leave school at the age of fifteen. In the case, especially of the boys, they are enabled to learn a trade which is not only useful to them in after life, but is extremely useful to the country. After the War, when the male population will unfortunately have been very much diminished owing to the loss of life on the battlefield, it will be absolutely necessary that we should have all available labour, if we are to recover our position in the commercial world and in the agricultural world. To me this is one of the most inopportune times to say that for the future boys of fourteen are not to be able to go and learn a trade or assist in earning their own living as they have done in the past. No one knows what the actual condition of matters will be after the War. There may be very great distress. I trust not. There is certain to be a very great shortage of labour. I fail to see one advantage to be gained by compelling the majority of children to stay on at school after they are fourteen. There may be something to be said, where you have an exceptionally clever child, who shows an aptitude for learning, why such a child should continue, for he would perhaps gain by staying on. I do not, however, 852 think that that applies to the average of the children, and I really do hope that the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to leave out this Sub-section. After all, this age has been in force for a great number of years, and before it is increased I should like to have some really cogent arguments in favour of the increase. Secondary schools are to be improved. Facilities are to be given to school children to attend secondary schools. It does, therefore, seem to me that, under the circumstances, the raising of the age from fourteen to fifteen is quite unnecessary. It is still more unnecessary if, as my right hon. Friend says, the majority of education authorities are not going to enforce it. I trust, therefore, on this particular Amendment I shall have some support from all sections of the House.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I should like to appeal to the Minister for Education to consider the argument of the right hon. Baronet opposite. It seems to me to be quite clear that not a few of the education. authorities will immediately avail themselves of the permission given to them in the Bill. I never knew a taxing authority that in a case of the kind did not avail themselves of their powers, and I do not think that any education authority is going to be more modest. All educationists—I daresay greatly to their credit! —are enthusiasts, and I really believe that this Sub-section will be carried out in the manner suggested by my right hon. Friend opposite. What will be the result? I myself, and I dare say other hon. Members of this House, have received a memorial from the news agencies who say they will not be able to carry on if they are deprived of the services of boys up to the age of fifteen. There is the age, too, represented in the Amendment which I have mentioned, and there are the children who work on the films to whom some consideration should be given. This provision seems to me to be a drastic one. I most heartily agree with the right hon. Baronet that, whether it be good or bad, this is not the time for dealing with this age question.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I do not agree with either of the last two speakers, but I do wish that this Sub-section should be left out. We have no mandate whatever to raise the school age to fifteen. Some of us will probably lose our seats if this thing is passed. Members of local authorities will, I think, inevitably lose their 853 seats too. Anyone who knows anything of working-class feeling on this question knows that this suggestion of raising the compulsory school age to fifteen is going to meet with very strong opposition from the voters and parents of this country—and I think quite rightly so. They do not see such success attending the teaching in the elementary schools that they are very anxious to see that education extended for a further period. If the teaching of the school improves still more, if they get a subsistence allowance to enable them to keep their children at school without going short time, then you may find enthusiasm for education and get a really satisfactory education, but as long as they are dependent upon the earnings of their children you will not find elected representatives too anxious to raise the school age which will prevent the children of the electors from earning money. I doubt whether there is in the whole of England a single authority where the proposal to raise the age to fourteen or fifteen would get more than a handful of votes. The electors themselves know perfectly well that to raise the school age to fourteen or fifteen would be inflicting a hardship on the parents.
I join in the appeal that has been made to the President not to put this Sub-section into the Bill. In my Constituency we had a ballot of the people who were at home, apart from the younger members of the trade unions, and they decided against any increase in the age at all. This Bill makes provision for extending the age beyond anything hitherto attempted in this House. There may have been good reasons for giving this permissive power when the age was eleven, twelve, or even thirteen, in cases where the inhabitants really desired it or under special circumstances. In those circumstances you gave them permissive power to increase the age by another year, but under this Bill that hardly applies. I think the age should be definitely stated in the Bill, and you should give nobody any power to override either an Act of Parliament or the Board of Education when it sets the age limit down.
It may happen in the working of the Bill that the local education authorities or the local authorities may have agitations to put this Clause into operation. Under certain circumstances they may get a majority of the local authority to 854 put it into operation, but I think if the whole of the people were consulted in the area they would not put it into operation. Arguments of that kind will be set up, and this makes the parents more uneasy, for they will have to face more difficulties than those provided for in the Bill at the age of fourteen. It was intended that generally fifteen years should apply. If that is so, I am of the opinion that a Clause ought to be inserted that after a certain time fifteen years should apply rather than give power to local authorities, who, by the genuineness of their position from an educational point of view, wish to put on another year. I think it would be infinitely better had it been stated that this could be done at some time or other, but I am quite sure that the best course would be for this House to say that if the age is to be increased to fourteen, let that be the limit, and I shall submit the same argument when we come to another part of the Bill. I believe in a clean cut. I think the President has got on exceedingly well with the Bill so far, but I do not think he ought to insist on this power being placed in the hands of these people. I am not going to say that the power will be ill-used, but it is not the proper place to put a question of this kind.
§ Mr. CHARLES ROBERTS
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not accede to the appeals which have been made to him—in fact, I should be prepared to ask him whether he could not see his way to go even further in the sense of the Amendment which is down on the Paper to leave out "fifteen" and insert "sixteen." It seems to me that in regard to the policy of putting in a maximum to which various local authorities can work up there can be no real difference of opinion in this House. There may be special difficulties in the district for which the hon. Member for Clitheroe speaks, but there are other districts in the country which I should imagine would be prepared to go further. I am afraid the hon. Member who contemplates that all the local education authorities will at once raise the age to fifteen does not realise the composition of these various local authorities. I do not think they are likely to take that very drastic action, but I do think it is desirable to give free play to the initiative of the different localities, and where you do get a progressive body of opinion ready to educate the children and give them something more than the very scanty modicum 855 of education which you are able to get into a child's mind at the age of fourteen, you ought not to prevent that authority going further. I know there are economic difficulties and prejudices. A very strong opinion has been expressed by my right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) that the chief effect of education seems to be to divert people from their natural occupation in agriculture, but you can get public opinion beyond that stage, and certainly other countries are prepared to go beyond it. How anyone can expect to face after-war problems unless we are prepared to cultivate our brains in a way which we have not done hitherto, I fail to see. I press my right hon. Friend to stand by this Sub-section and to improve it by increasing the age limit. I should like to see a higher maximum put before the local authorities of the country, to which, in course of time, they may be able to work up.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
May I also express the hope that the President of the Board of Education will not yield in regard to this particular Clause? I know there are special difficulties with regard to Lancashire, but the hon. Member (Captain Smith) who represents one of the Lancashire Divisions knows very well that the party with which he himself is identified has often asked that the age should be put up to sixteen—in fact, that has been part of his party programme.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
The hon. and gallant Member said he was quite certain that no local authority in Lancashire would adopt the idea of raising the age to fifteen, and, if that is so, why should he try to put a stumbling-block in the way of some other education authorities who are prepared to adopt a more progressive educational policy? Apparently, there is no danger to Lancashire by this proposal, because the hon. Member says the local authorities will see that the age is not raised to fifteen, and, if that is the case, surely the interests of Lancashire are properly safeguarded, and the hon. and gallant Member very well might withdraw his opposition in the case of other authorities who are not faced by the same problems as Lancashire, and who are perfectly prepared to see the age advanced up to that point. The hon. Member said the age should be definitely stated in the Bill, and 856 that there should be one age right across the country. If there are towns where they are prepared to go in for a more advanced policy, I do not see why they should be held back by the more conservative parts of the country. The only other arguments advanced are of the kind which would depress the standard of education down to thirteen years. The hon. Member for Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) seems very concerned about the interests of children, and he thinks that they may be taken away from the films and the singing of Christmas carols if this Clause is put through. It will still be possible for the children to sing their Christmas carols even if the age were fifteen, and there seems to be no substance in that kind of argument. That is really only the argument of people who take a very reactionary view of education. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not listen to that kind of argument, but will realise that the majority of the people are behind him in regard to giving the local authorities this special power.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. E. DAVIES
As I understand this Amendment it merely proposes to give to the local authority the right to raise the age to fifteen under very special circumstances. The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. C. Roberts) says that too much use it not made of this power. Many local authorities who are interested in the claim for better education object to this proposal because of the hardship that may be inflicted on the parents in being compelled to keep their children at school until they are fourteen or fifteen years of age. I intend to raise a question as whether some assistance could not be given to the parents of the children who desire to send their children to continuation schools. If local authorities are going to be given the power to compel children between fourteen and fifteen to attend continuation schools—this may be very desirable in the case of brilliant children—then there arises the question how far the local authority can assist the parents of those children. I see that by Clause 20 power is taken by which, with the approval of the Board of Education, assistance can be given to parents in certain circles, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether assistance could not be given where children between fourteen and fifteen are compelled to attend school. We all know that the local education authority will be faced with the fact that children on. 857 the one hand will not be allowed to be employed, and that in some cases parents, on the other hand, will be put to very considerable expense. The right hon. Gentleman would be meeting a great difficulty which will be felt by the local authorities and by those parents who are anxious for their children to have the education if he could make provision for the local education authority assisting parents, and if he could go further and say that the Government would repay any expense thus incurred. We know that the reactionary elements on the local authorities will object to any expenditure which is not compulsory, and, in view of the fact that the expenditure incurred under Clause 20 can only be incurred with the approval of the Board, I would ask him to make a similar provision here so that the money may be repaid to the local education authorities.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman (Sir F. Banbury) who has moved this Amendment will carry it to a Division. If he does, it will be very interesting to see how many Members are prepared to support an Amendment which is so far behind the public sentiment of the day. What would be the position if this sub-Clause were omitted and if local authorities were prevented from raising the age for full-time attendance above fourteen? The only form of education that could then be provided compulsorily for the great body of the children of the working classes would be attendance at a continuation school on an average for one hour each day. There is not a single member of this House who will say that compulsory attendance at continuation classes for an hour per day can be regarded as an adequate or a satisfactory solution of the problem of education for the adolescent portion of the nation. We can only regard this attendance at continuation classes as a temporary expedient during a transition period in education. We have to face frankly the fact that a solution must come through raising the age for full-time attendance at school far beyond the age of fourteen. After all, this is the principle upon which we should act when we consider the education of children of the working classes. We should not think about the claims of industry in any special part of the country or what children can benefit by a narrow ladder. We should go frankly on the principle that fourteen is too young for children to enter industrial life, and 858 we should keep them in school longer and surround them with every kind of ennobling influence. We must ultimately observe that principle with regard to the children of the whole nation, and I earnestly hope, so far from omitting this Sub-section, that the right hon. Gentleman will be prepared with much sympathy to consider the Amendment which will be moved later with the object of strengthening this Clause and giving local authorities power to increase the age for full-time attendance at school beyond fifteen. So far as it is possible to collect the opinion of the people affected, they are all in favour of this change in our educational policy. The hon. Member for the Clitheroe Division (Captain Smith), I am sure, would not claim that he in any way spoke for the Labour party, because the Labour party has repudiated the views that he expressed and has demanded that the age for full-time attendance should be increased even beyond the provisions of this Bill. That is the demand that is also put forward by the Workers' Educational Association, who desire the local authorities to have power to increase the age for full-time attendance to sixteen. On every ground it would be a great calamity if the more progressive educational authorities were to be prevented from pointing the way to further educational advances.
§ Sir J. D. REES
Would the right hon. Gentleman be so kind as to state, for the information of the House, what cost will be involved in raising the age?
§ Mr. D. MASON
I appeal to my right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) not to press this Amendment to a Division.
§ Mr. MASON
The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. Probably there will be a shortage of capital, but there will certainly be a surplus of labour after the War. There may be some temporary shortage, but surely the right hon. Gentleman will see that when you demobilise a vast Army and a great many munition workers you will have a large surplus of labour?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Unfortunately, a large portion of the male population will have been killed, and there must, therefore, be a less number of males in the world after the War.
§ Mr. MASON
It is quite true that by the number of killed the population will have decreased, but a great contraction of trade must follow from the impoverishment of the world by reason of this War, and all authorities agree that there will be an enormous surplus of labour seeking employment. You have to remember that a vast number of munition workers of all classes, young and old, will be seeking employment. May I therefore appeal to my right hon. Friend on the grounds of political economy, apart altogether from the higher ground of giving to the youth of this country the very best possible education, not to press his Amendment? After this War you will be faced with an enormous interest charge, and instead of reducing this age we ought to increase it, and give to the youth of the country the very best possible education, including technical education, so that the artisan will be a skilled artisan, and so that we may be able to pay the enormous charge on the debt which will result from this War. My right hon. Friend would reduce the age to fourteen, and keep our youth in a state of ignorance, and I would appeal to him not to divide the Committee. The Amendment goes to the very root of the Bill, which is for the purpose of developing and increasing our educational facilities and of giving our youth that which is their birthright—namely, the very best education that the country can give them. I appeal to my right hon. Friend on economic grounds, and in the interest of the conservative classes, to allow the youth of this country to have the very best possible education. I hope he will not press his Amendment to a Division, but will recognise that it goes to the very root of the Bill which the President of the Board of Education is so ably conducting through this House.
I have been pressed in two opposite directions in the matter of this Section. On the one hand, the right Gentleman (Sir F. Banbury) has moved the omission of this Section, and, on the other hand, I understand that an Amendment will be moved to enable a local authority to raise the age to sixteen. I do not' propose to accept either Amendment. I propose to adhere to the terms 860 of the Bill. As has already been indicated in more than one quarter, there is no reason to believe that this option will be at all widely made use of. I myself have served as a member on two local education authorities, one an urban authority and the other a county authority, and I can assure the Committee that the interests of the ratepayers are by no means neglected by these local education authorities; in fact, very often it is a criticism upon the local education authorities that they are perhaps a little too careful of the pockets of the ratepayers and a little less interested than they might be in the fortunes of the schools. It is not for me to say whether that criticism is just or not. I believe the Committee can safely assume that this is an option which will not for some time to come at any rate be very widely made use of, but it will be made use of, we hope, just in those directions in those places where it will really be useful. There are two classes of employment in this country, roughly speaking, from the point of view of education. There are the employments which recruit labour early, and there are the employments which recruit labour late. If we take engineering as an instance of the second type of employment, that is an industry which recruits its labour comparatively late, simply because boys are. not physically strong enough to do the work at the age of fourteen. It is a current complaint among engineering employers that their boys go down physically and morally in the period which intervenes between their first leaving school and their permanent entrance into the working life. It would be a considerable advantage if that particular type of boy could be kept in the school till the age of fifteen. Again, in certain industries you may have a girl who would be better for being kept at school between fourteen and fifteen. There are some districts which I could mention where, as it is, most children do, as a matter of course, remain in the school after passing their fourteenth year. There is a great deal of variety in that respect. I believe that this option, if it were granted, would be sparingly used. The Committee will observe that the Sub-section is accompanied by safeguards. We empower the local education authority under the operation of this Sub-section to make individual exemptions in all cases where exemptions may in their opinion be required between fourteen and fifteen. I believe, therefore, 861 that the Sub-section can safely be adopted by the Committee without any fear that it will be worked unjustly or to the injury of industry or in any other way but to the benefit and progress of education.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am glad to have had the support of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Clitheroe (Captain A. Smith), who made an extremely powerful and interesting speech. He said that this House ought to be the tribunal to decide whether or not children should remain at school until the age of fifteen, and that it should not be left to a local education authority to say whether or not the age should be increased. I certainly agree with him upon that point. It is said that very few education authorities would raise the age to fifteen. The President of the Board of Education made that statement twice over, and the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe said that no education authority would dare to raise the age. The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) said that every Member who voted in favour of raising the age would lose his seat either in this House or on the education authority. In these circumstances it is clear that there is a very strong opinion, if not in this Committee certainly in the country, that it would be a mistake to raise the age from fourteen to fifteen. At any rate, if it is a good thing to raise the age from fourteen to fifteen, why not do it, if it is the proper thing? I am glad to see the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Wilton Division (Sir C. Bathurst) in his place, and I should very much like to know his opinion on this subject, which raises a very important point with regard to agriculture. My contention is that if this is going to be done it should be done by Parliament, and not left to isolated authorities, who may or may not raise the age. It would create a very bad feeling certainly among the parents of the children if in one district the age is raised to fifteen, perhaps against their wish, and in another district it is not raised. It cannot be right to have these different principles running in different parts of the country. If it is right to raise the age to fifteen, the right hon. Gentleman should have the courage of his opinion and do it in the Bill. I have much greater faith in the right hon. Gentleman than apparently he has in himself. I have much greater faith in him than I have in the local authorities who manage educa- 862 tion. If the thing is right, let us have it in the Bill; if it is wrong, let us leave it out; but do not leave it undecided, so that possibly a local education authority which may not entertain advanced views may decide to leave the age at fourteen, while another education authority, holding different views, decides to put the age at fifteen. I am glad that the Committee is fuller now than when I moved the Amendment, because there is undoubtedly a very strong feeling outside the House, certainly in the agricultural districts, that it would be a fatal mistake to put a Sub-section of this sort into the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry (Mr. D. Mason) said something about the necessity of endeavouring to pay off the National Debt. I would point out to him that all people in the community cannot be brain workers; there must be some people who work with their hands.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
That all depends. If a carpenter has been well trained he will be skilful at carpentering, but it does not follow that he will work better as a carpenter because he has read Aristotle. People sometimes rather suppose that everybody is going to wear a black coat, and sit on a stool in an office, or become a don at Oxford or Cambridge. There must be a large number of people who have to work with their hands. In these circumstances what is the use of extending the age in this way? If it is good, let us put it in the Bill; if it is bad, let us leave it out.
I desire to say a word or two in support of the President of the Board of Education, who, indeed, during this discussion does not seem to have required much support, for the Committee generally has agreed that this proposal, so far from going to extremes in one direction, is so tender and gentle as scarcely to go far enough. The right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) wishes to have it cut out on economic and trade grounds. His doctrine of the use of manual labour is a nineteenth-century doctrine and not a twentieth-century doctrine. The truth is that manual labourers in almost every trade are the more efficient the better they are trained. There are, of course, notable exceptions. Even in this House there are men who have had singularly 863 little education but who have been extraordinarily successful in commerce, industry, and even in statesmanship. But the truth remains generally true that the skilled workmen in all trades are on the increase. The tendency to eliminate: unskilled labour is greater and greater. The use of machinery is spreading rapidly and will spread more rapidly after the War. The whole tendency is for the demand for skilled labour to be on the increase. In any case, whether we think in terms of skilled or unskilled labour, the necessity for having intelligent men and women is on the increase. I go further than my right hon. Friend in testing this question. I would ask whether we are going to have happier boys and girls and happier men and women as a result of increasing the length of their school life? There is no manner of doubt on that point among those who take any interest in, or have any knowledge of, the social conditions of our people. The only regret I have in regard to this Clause is that it is left so much to the local authorities. I would rather have the age level raised throughout the whole country than leave it to the local educational authorities to raise the age. It would be a far better thing in counties like Lancashire, for example, that it should be impossible for the borough of Nelson, represented as it is so admirably by my hon. Friend, to have a lower age standard than some of the other boroughs where the feeling against the higher age is not so pronounced. The tendency even in industry itself will be all to the bad if the counties have a patchwork system of age limits. It would be far better to have them all levelled up to the same level, and for this House to take the responsibility of raising it.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) said that those who voted in favour of a higher age would probably find that we should lose our seats in consequence. I have not that view of my Constituents. I believe that my Constituents are quite prepared to get as much value as they can out of the schools, even at the expense of giving up something of the earning capacity of their children. I have only one anxiety in regard to these proposals. We are giving the local authorities the option of raising the age limit and thereby increasing enormously the demand for school places. In the first place, we have 864 not enough school places in this country now. The lack of building operations during the War has accentuated that evil very much. Secondly, the tendency to have small classes instead of large classes has been absolutely checked by the War, and in most of our big towns the number of children in the hands of a single teacher is so excessive as to make the teaching inefficient. The final necessity is a larger supply of teachers. In regard to all these proposals I must confess that I think far more of the teachers than I do of anybody else. Local authorities are all very well in their way, and the Board of Education, of course, is excellent—there was never an ex-President who said anything else—but the truth remains that the success of the schools will depend not on the Board of Education nor on the local authorities, for. in the long run, it is the teachers who make it. The only anxiety I have, as I see these proposals going through, is that we are legislating along lines which are progressive at the same time we shall have a smaller number of teachers to deal with a larger number of children. I hope that my right hon. Friend in putting these proposals through will have that thought uppermost in his mind, and that he will satisfy the House that not only will the Regulations be screwed up, but that the facilities given for teaching the children will be improved.
§ Sir J. D. REES
May I repeat my question to the right hon. Gentleman to inform the House if any and, if so, what extra cost will be involved by this provision increasing the age to fifteen, if it is availed of?. That is all I wanted to ask, but I should like to explain to the hon. Member (Mr. Anderson) that he unwittingly misrepresented me. My remark referred not to the prevention of children singing carols, but to the picture called "A Christmas Carol," which I instanced on account of its pious and peaceful character. I would also point out to the hon. Member, who is in favour of the representation of Labour by labour, that when he hears the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Smith), representing a Labour constituency, enunciate a certain view with which he does not agree, he says he does not represent Labour—a piece of special pleading which, I am sorry to say, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Runciman) also indulged in his speech.
§ Colonel W. THORNE
I am sure the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) would not 865 apply his doctrine to his own children, if he has any, and would not allow them to go to work at fifteen years of age, or even sixteen. For many years past organised Labour, through the Trade Union Congress, has passed a resolution in favour of the school age being raised to fifteen. The union that I represent, for the last fifteen or sixteen years, has had before the Trade Union Congress, I should say, one of the broadest forms of education that has ever been presented in this country, and by a very large majority for a good number of years we have carried resolutions in favour of the age being raised to sixteen. I understand the right hon. Baronet is afraid of competition in other countries. I believe we allow our children to go to work at a lower age than many countries which are our biggest competitors, so I do not think there is any ground for suspicion in that direction.
§ Colonel THORNE
No; but I think that was at the back of the right hon. Baronet's mind. I was not in the House when he spoke, but I think it was running through his mind all along the line that he wanted children to go to work at a very tender age so as to produce cheap labour with a view to competing in the markets of the world against other countries. I am one of those unfortunate fellows who never had any education, because I had no chance of going to school in my life, and that is the reason why I have always pleaded for a better system of education. I recognise that there are difficulties that we have to face. There are some parents who are very anxious to allow their children to go to work at a tender age for the purpose of supplementing their income, but it is the competition between members of households and between the child and the father which prevents us from allowing children to remain at school to a later age. There is not a father or mother in this country who would not be prepared to allow children to remain till sixteen if economic conditions would allow it. It is the duty of legislators to see that our children get the best form of education that we can possibly give them. I believe if a vote of all Lancashire were taken they would be quite in favour of this Clause. I should say that what was at the back of the mind of the President was to allow a little elasticity in order to meet the views of Lancashire, where there are a good number of people in favour of their 866 children going to work at a tender age. But so far as industrial workers are concerned, their views are in the opposite direction. It has been suggested that some hon. Members would lose their seats if they attempted to fight an election upon this. I am prepared to contest my division on this question of raising the age to sixteen. I have fought three Parliamentary elections on the Trade Union Congress educational resolution, and I am prepared to take that stand again. I trust, therefore, that the President of the Board of Education will stick to his guns.
§ Sir C. BATHURST
I should not have addressed the Committee if my right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) had not appealed to me to intervene. I have not the smallest sympathy with him. Assuming that the Clause were mandatory I should have some measure of sympathy, but as this is a matter which is left entirely to the discretion of local education authorities I feel absolutely certain that as regards the agricultural community those authorities are not likely to err in the direction of putting too great a strain upon the leading industry of this country. I have some little recollection of the operation of the so-called Robson Act. Some latitude was in fact given by that Act to enable the juvenile workers in agricultural employment to be released from elementary schools at the age of twelve instead of the age of thirteen. I had an opportunity of conducting a somewhat extensive inquiry before giving evidence before an inter-Departmental inquiry on partial exemption from school attendance as to the actual operation of the Robson Clause as affecting the agricultural industry, and I discovered to my regret that a very large proportion of the boys who were, in fact, being exempted under a similar Clause to this because of their assumed beneficial employment in agricultural processes, were, in fact, running messages for the farmers or blacking their boots. I came before that Committee absolutely convinced that I could not honestly put in a claim that farmers' juvenile employés should receive special treatment in the matter of earlier exemption than other boys in elementary schools. I share the right hon. Gentleman's apprehension that the difficulty in all these cases is going to be to find not merely the buildings, but particularly the teaching staff, to enable these extensions to be made, and I really very much fear he is going to be a little 867 disappointed if he thinks the extension of the age to fifteen is going to be made widely. The local education authorities at present simply cannot find the material out of which elementary teachers are to be made, and they see no prospect in the early future of finding such material, even with the enhanced salaries which are being offered. I have great apprehension as to the possibility of carrying into effect not merely this Clause, but Clauses like No. 10, which is to many of us the inspiring part of this Bill, owing to sheer lack of teaching material.
The experience of Belgium, Denmark, and other countries where juvenile agricultural labour is far better equipped educationally than in this country, goes to show that if the education in the elementary schools is of a sufficiently practical character, and the literary work in the school is properly co-ordinated with the practical work, you have as the result a far better equipped workman, who is capable of doing his work not merely more efficiently, but far more economically, and with far less expenditure of manual labour, than those who are not equipped so well in the elementary schools, not merely in the matter of theory, but, so far as is possible, in the matter of practice also. That more practical class of elementary school is increasing in almost every agricultural area in this country, and I hope and believe that as the result we are going to get the support even of farmers in carrying the education of the school children in agricultural areas to a far more advanced age than is dreamt of at present, because, in fact, whatever wage it may be found possible to pay them they will be found far better value to their employers than they have been found in the past.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
It seems to me that the Committee is under some misapprehension as to what is being done by this Clause. It is not a Clause to empower local authorities to provide facilities for educating the children of the working classes up to the age of fifteen. It is to give them power to compel them to go to these schools up to fifteen without paying their parents the wages which those children would earn. That seems to be unjust to the parents of this country. I and the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Smith) and all those who are in favour of real education are anxious that every facility should be given for it, but we do 868 not see why the children of the working classes should be compelled to attend school when it means direct loss to the economic power of the family to subsist under the present industrial system.
§ Mr. ARTHUR RICHARDSON
Speaking for a very large area, that is for Rotherham, Sheffield, and Chesterfield, some two months ago I received a letter which I handed to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fisher) in which the railwaymen—not the best paid workmen of this country—covering the whole of that district had a special meeting on the question of education. They sent to me, to be handed to the right hon. Gentleman, the educational programme that they desired should be carried into operation, and one of the Clauses that they insisted upon more than any other—I distinctly remember how pleased the right hon. Gentleman was—was that there should be compulsory education up to the age of sixteen.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I beg to move to leave out the word "fifteen" ["fifteen years shall be substituted"] and to insert instead thereof the word "sixteen".
There is not only a great feeling in the country in favour of raising the age to sixteen, but also a very strong case can be made out for this change on educational grounds. There is nothing mandatory about my Amendment. This is simply a proposal to give local education authorities the power, if they so think fit, to increase the age for full-time attendance to sixteen instead of fifteen, as proposed by the Bill. The President has already said that he agrees in principle with the proposal to further extend the age for compulsory full-time attendance, but I gather that he does not think the time is ripe to give local education authorities this power, and he prefers to stand by the more moderate proposal in his Bill. Therefore, there is no question of principle between us. I need not argue the principle, because it is demonstrable. It is the principle we follow in arranging any scheme of education for our own children. I would point out the real difficulty which will arise if the right hon. Gentleman goes on with the provisions of this Bill. The Bill will make compulsory attendance at continuation schools between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that one effect of this proposal will be that parents will be 869 tempted to keep their children at full-time attendance at school till the age of sixteen in order by that means, if for no other reason, to escape liability to attend continuation schools after the age of sixteen, because under the Bill children who have been in full-time attendance up to the age of sixteen are relieved from the necessity of attending a continuation school after the age of sixteen. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that one effect of the Bill will be to encourage parents to keep their children at school until the age of sixteen. A serious difficulty will arise by local education authorities having only the power to increase the age to fifteen. If the right hon. Gentleman's prophecy is right that there will be a great increase in the number of children who remain in full-time attendance up to the age of sixteen, it will mean that the local authorities will have to make very extensive accommodation in order to provide for the new demand for full-time attendance up to the age of sixteen.
Under the Bill, if it remains like it is, what will be the position of a child of the extremely poor who wants to remain in full-time attendance at school until the age of sixteen? He will want to do that, amongst other reasons, to be on an economic equality with his wealthier neighbour at the age of sixteen. I am assuming that the child is the child of very poor parents who cannot pay fees. There will be no provision for the full-time attendance of that boy. He may not be able to pay the fees of a secondary school, and the right hon. Gentleman well knows that practically every secondary school at the present moment is overcrowded, and there are no facilities for any increase in the number who may require secondary school education. The boy will, therefore, in many cases be excluded from a secondary school either by poverty or insufficiency of accommodation. As regards the elementary schools, there will be no elementary school that can receive him and keep him up to the age of sixteen, because they will not have the facilities to do so. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman is faced with this real difficulty that will arise: If the proposal to compel attendance at continuation schools until the age of eighteen is going to result in keeping children at school until sixteen, the poor children who wish to remain until the age of sixteen will not be able to do. They will be debarred in many cases from the secondary schools, and the 870 elementary schools which could keep them and give them proper education up to the age of sixteen will not exist. I submit, with great respect, that my Amendment will meet this very real difficulty. Apart altogether from the question of principle, which I take it most of us are agreed upon, and that is keeping children at school until the age of sixteen, if we give the local education authority power to raise the age to sixteen, it necessarily follows that the necessary school accommodation will be provided. It will be no use for the most progressive education authority raising the age for full-time attendance to sixteen unless it reorganises its educational machinery and provides schools and the teachers to keep these children at school. That is a point which the right hon. Gentleman has not referred to in speaking in anticipation of this Amendment. I trust the Amendment may receive his assent.
I sympathise with many of the observations which fell from the hon. Member. He is perfectly right in drawing attention to some observations which I made, saying that I regarded it as likely that there would be a considerable increase in the number of children desiring to continue full-time education up to the age of sixteen, as well as the continuation school proposals in this Bill. The point raised by this Amendment is whether or not it is educationally desirable that education up to the age of sixteen should be given in elementary schools. Is it not a fact that if children continue their education at an elementary school up to the age of sixteen, there is considerable danger that you will be injuring your secondary school system
This is a Clause which is dealing with elementary schools, and I think it would be undesirable—except in the case of exceptionally backward children—to keep children in elementary schools beyond the age of fifteen.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I am very glad. I doubt whether hon. Members who make these proposals consider it worth while 871 to think of the financial effect of their proposals. I asked the right hon. Gentleman what would be the effect of raising the age to fifteen, and he said it amounted to £5 7s. 6d. per head.
§ Sir J. D. REES
That spread over many thousands of children is a considerable sum. It is characteristic of those who make these proposals that they think it is proper to discuss them and that it does not matter about the cost. We have heard the cost of raising the age to fifteen. If you raise the age to sixteen the cost would be much greater. I suppose the hon. Member would be equally happy in raising the age to seventeen or eighteen. I think that at every stage of the Bill the cost of each individual Amendment should be properly brought before the House.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. KING
It is rather trying to sit here and to restrain one's self and to hear hon. Members speaking about the various Amendments in a way that shows that they do not understand at all, while those who are restraining themselves do know and do understand. The speech we have just listened to is an instance of that sort of thing. The hon. Member (Sir J. D. Rees) assumes that by this Amendment we are proposing to add a great deal to the expenditure of the country on education. We do nothing of the kind. All this Amendment would do would be to permit by-laws to be made which would contemplate the age for elementary education being raised to sixteen instead of fifteen. Of course, if you get a large number more pupils in the schools up to the age of sixteen instead of fifteen, it will cost more. But what is the alternative? A large extension of education is the object of this Bill, and the alternative is whether the children will continue in an elementary school up to the age of sixteen, or whether they will go to a secondary school up to sixteen, or whether they will go to a continuation school up to the age of eighteen. On the mere question of which is the most economical of these three courses—and one or other of these courses is enforced by the Bill—the proposal in this Amendment to continue elementary education up to the age of sixteen, is the more economical, because the cost of education in an elementary school, even a higher elementary school, is several pounds less than in a secondary school. To keep a child in an elementary school up to 872 the age of sixteen would be a considerable economy, instead of sending that child into a new continuation school up to the age of eighteen. Therefore, when the hon. Member talks about this Amendment as if it would entail additional expenditure, and when the right hon. Gentleman (Sir F. Banbury), who talks so often but really does not know much about education, regards these sort of Amendments as adding to the expenditure of the country, one must point out that the object is to carry out this Act in a way which will be a distinct economy. If you take the iron industries in the north-east of England or the coal districts, you do not want boys in those industries before sixteen. When you do get them to work at sixteen you want them to be full time. The result in these districts would be in regard to the male population that the object both of the parents and employers would be—and generally it would be essential to the industry—to keep the boys at school until they are sixteen, at which age they will be able to go into industry. Where you have that applied to the whole male community you want elementary schools up to the age of sixteen much more than you want secondary schools or continuation schools. Therefore, I do not think that the full force and importance of this Amendment was seen by the President of the Board of Education, and I do not think that justice was done to it by the hon. Member who moved it, because his theory is to have more secondary schools. My argument here is rather that we should support this Amendment in order to make the most of our elementary school system, especially in those cases where children are not able to go to a secondary school and where an elementary school, in its higher classes, will suit their circumstances very much better than a secondary school. In my own Constituency, in the coal mining centre of Radstock and Midsomer Norton, the Somerset County Council established, only a year and a half before the War, a splendid higher elementary school which would take boys, and was taking boys, up to sixteen years of age when many of them would go into industries like mining and metal working. At the beginning of the War they reduced the age. The result was that they had to close this higher elementary school. I am told that in Germany the ages for attendance of children are advancing, and education is progressing with even more 873 energy and completeness than before the War. But here is an instance in which education has gone back seriously and most distinctly. As soon as the conditions of war are over and this Bill comes into force, as I hope it will, you have got in an institution like that an opportunity of carrying out this Act in that particular district where there is such an important mining industry. Therefore, I appeal earnestly to the President of the Board of Education to reconsider his decision from the point of view first of the higher elementary school, which can be so easily developed and which is more economic to the rates and taxes than the secondary school, and also especially from the point of view of those districts like the iron and coal districts, where they do not want boys before sixteen, but where, when they do want them, they must have them as well educated as possible and have their whole time. If we have any more speeches on this matter I hope that this Amendment will not be regarded as an attempt to spend more money, because if it is accepted it will mean that there will be much less expense.
§ authorities is found to be beneficial surely that is a good argument that local authorities should have facilities for extending the school age to sixteen. Up to the present we have had elementary education in our schools, and when boys or girls reach the age of eleven or twelve there has been no practical education for them in the elementary school. As I understand this Bill, there are going to be set up different schools altogether for juveniles over this age which will be in advanced type of elementary schools. This requires to be understood. If this is not understood and is not carried out you may put twenty years in the Bill, and it will not have the slightest effect and will be no use in any shape or form. What is wanted is to advance the education for boys and girls, when the age of eleven or twelve is reached, and to give facilities to those parents who desire to do so, if the expense of sending the children to secondary schools is too great, to keep the children at the elementary schools and get some advanced education.
§ Question put, That the word "fifteen" stand part of the Clause.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 168; Noes, 24.875
|Division No. 42.]||AYES.||[7.8 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, E.)||Hope Lt.-Col. J. A. (Edin., Midlothian)|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Currie, George W.||Jackson, Lt.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Davies, Ellis William (Eiflon)||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Davies, Timothy (Lincs.,Louth)||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G.||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydyll)|
|Barnett, Capt. R. W.||Denniss, E. R. B.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Jones, W. Kennedy (Hornsey)|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs)||Elverston, Sir Harold||Joynson-Hicks, William|
|Barran, Sir R. Hurst (Leeds, N.)||Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Kenyon, Barnet|
|Barton, Sir William||Fell, Sir Arthur||Larmor, Sir J.|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)||Fisher, Rt. Hon. H. A. L. (Hallam)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)|
|Bathurst, Capt. Sir C. (Wilts, Wilton)||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes (Fulham)||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Fletcher, John Samuel||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Foster, Philip Staveley||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Gardner, Ernest||Locker-Lampson, 0. (Ramsey)|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh|
|Bigland, Alfred||Gilbert, J. D.||M'Curdy, Charles Albert|
|Bird, Alfred||Gilmour, Lieut.-Col. John||Mackinder, Halford J.|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Glanville, Harold James||McNeil!, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Gretton, Col. John||Maden, Sir John Henry|
|Boyton, Sir James||Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Mallalleu, Frederick William|
|Brassey, H. L. C.||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds.)||Marriott, J. A. R.|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||Marshall, Arthur Harold|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Holme, Sir Norval Watson||Morton, Sir Alpheus Cleophas|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Cator, John||Henry, Sir Charles (Shropshire)||Needham, Christopher T.|
|Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Hermon-Hodge, Sir R. T.||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Cheyne, Sir W. W.||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfleld)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Higham, John Sharp||Nuttall, Harry|
|Cory, James Herbert (Cardiff)||Hills, Major John Waller||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Cowan, Sir W. H.||Hinds, John||Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Pease, Fit. Hon. Herbert Pike (Darlingt'n)||Samuels, Arthur W.||Wardle, George J.|
|Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur||Wedgwood, Lieut.-Commander Josiah C.|
|Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Pratt, J. W.||Smallwood, Edward||Williams, Aneurin (Durham)|
|Pryce-Jones, Col. E.||Spear, Sir John Ward||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Pulley, C. T.||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert||Williams, Thomas J. (Swansea)|
|Raffan, Peter Wilson||Stewart, Gershom||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Stoker, Robert B.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W (Worcs., N.)|
|Rea, Walter Russell||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)||Wilson. W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Rees, G. C. (Carnarvon, Arfon)||Sutton, John E.||Wilson-Fox, Henry (Tamworth|
|Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, E.)||Swift, Rigby||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Sykes, Col. Sir Mark (Hull, Central)||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Thomas, Sir A. G. (Monmouth, S.)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Robertson, Rt. Hon. John M.||Thomas-Stanford, Charles||Wright, Captain Henry Fitzherbert|
|Robinson, Sidney||Tootill, Robert||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Roch, Walter F.||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Rowlands, James||Turton, Edmund Russborough||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord|
|Royds, Major Edmund||Walker, Col. William Hall||Edmund Talbot and Mr. Dudley|
|Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dewsbury)||Walton, Sir Joseph||Ward.|
|Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Anderson, W. C.||Hogge, James Myies||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Arnold, Sydney||Hudson, Walter||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||John, Edward Thomas||Richardson, Arthur (Rotherham)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Jowett, Frederick William||Smith, Capt. Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Dickinson. Rt. Hon. Sir W. H.||King, Joseph||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Finney, Samuel||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Harmood-Banner, Sir J. S.||Parrott, Sir James Edward||Whitehouse and Mr. Chancellor.|
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), to leave out the words,and any such by-law requiring attendance at school between the ages of fourteen and fifteen may apply either generally to all such children, or to children of a particular sex, or to children other than those employed in any specified occupations.This Amendment raises a point of great importance, as well as an economic question of very great importance. The Clause as drafted allows the education authority, in raising the age for full-time attendance, to make a difference, not only between sexes, but between classes of children. The words of the Sub-section require the most careful examination in considering their economic effect. Personally, I think it most undesirable that the local authority should be able to say all children employed in a certain industry shall be exempt from school attendance, or all children employed in other forms of industry shall be required to attend school to a later age. That is my first objection. I believe the proposal to be unsound on economic grounds, and open to the most serious objection. The second objection, and I think it is a very serious one, is that the power taken in this Clause differentiates between the sexes, and the local authority would be able to say that boys shall be released at a certain age, and that girls shall be released at a later age from school attendance, or the other way about. This proposal is viewed with the utmost concern by practically the whole of the societies 876 representing social questions, especially as they affect women in this country, and the right hon. Gentleman himself, if he cares to do so, will be able to tell the Committee that he has received innumerable communications from representatives of the organised labour of women, and from representatives of societies that have concerned themselves in giving expression to the opinions of women on social questions. I submit that in this House, which has now enfranchised women, but which has not yet been able to have the benefit of the result of that enfranchisement, we must consider an economic position of an unusual character. If the Amendment I am moving is carried, it will take away from the local authority the power to make these sex distinctions, by ordering boys to be kept at school and girls to be released or girls to be kept at school and boys to be released; but it does not take away the power of the local authority to consider individual cases of exemption, and I would call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that a later paragraph makes it lawful for the local education authority to grant exemption to individual children on any grounds they think proper. I, therefore, suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that if he omits the words, the deletion of which I move, he still retains adequate power in his Bill to give whatever exemption to individual children the local authorities may think fit, when they have raised the age for 877 compulsory full-time attendance. The subject is difficult and complicated, and raises economic issues of the utmost importance.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
I notice that the hon. Member has covered in one speech the two Amendments he has on the Paper.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I did that to save the time of the Committee, and if my second Amendment is reached I can move it without repeating my argument.
This is a matter in regard to which I should be quite willing to be guided by the sense of the Committee. If the Committee desires that the Amendment shall be adopted, I shall acquiesce in that position. My only feeling is that it would limit the Clause. I am very anxious that this option which we are offering the local education authorities, to raise the age if they think fit, should be widely operative, and it is more likely to be widely availed of if the words of the Clause are retained than if they are omitted.
May I ask, Sir, whether it would be in order on this Amendment to discuss the selection which might be made by the local authority of one sex or the other for the higher age limit, or shall we have to wait for the next Amendment to be moved in order to discuss that question?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I reserve the possibility of moving the second Amendment. I think it would be more convenient— although I cannot say it is out of order on the present Amendment—to leave out the words down to "occupations" ["any specified occupations"]. If this Amendment succeeds, the decision of the Committee may be taken on the separate question, and therefore it may be discussed now.
I think that in the by-laws there should be elasticity, and against the proposal of differentiating between the sexes I propose to say a few words. I can see the advantage, and I think there are many advantages, in making the by-laws so elastic as to commend themselves to the peculiar local conditions which exist in various parts of the country. The case of agriculture and its safeguarding of course at once comes into one's mind. But in making a difference between the two sexes we 878 get into difficult economic and social problems which are far outside the interests of various industries. I can see no reason why boys should be kept at school up to the age of fifteen, or why girls should be released before that. The idea of a smaller education being given to girls than to boys has passed out of date. It is quite possible that the local authorities may arrive at the decision of placing the sexes on exact equality with regard to education, but that girls should be at school longer than boys would be a great injustice to boys. I can imagine nothing more calculated to have an injurious effect, where men and women in the same walk of life are in competition—if there be any value in education than to give to girls greater educational advantages than are given to boys. Every women's organisation in the country regards any differentiation between the sexes as being contrary to social justice, and that is a view which has been discussed, printed, and upheld for a long time past. A case no doubt which is in the minds of the Board of Education, and in the minds of the local authorities, is that of the textile trade, in which there is greater necessity for boys and girls, but if the age of the girls is raised in this industry, surely that must be extended to the boys as well. As regards agriculture, I can see no advantage whatever in making any difference between boys and girls, and the case to be made out in some districts for such a differentiation surely must be on other grounds, it may be, in many directions more on social than on industrial grounds. I am glad that the President of the Board of Education has an open mind on the subject, and I hope he will allow no differentiation as between the sexes.
I quite sympathise with the arguments that have been addressed to the Committee. The reason for the differentiation between the sexes is indicated in this Clause. It is that there are many more girls who are not occupied at the age of fourteen. The figures show that the number of girls unoccupied at the age of fourteen is 211,000, as against 120,000 boys. Therefore, it seems to me to be worthy of putting before the local authorities the question as to whether there may not be in parts of England local education authorities who would be willing to raise the age of girls. However that may be, we may assume that there will be a greater number of girls between fourteen and fifteen unoccupied than there are boys. 879 At any rate, that is the ground upon which these words were inserted in the Clause. My only desire is to induce the local authorities to avail themselves of this offer, and I should be very sorry if that opportunity were affected by the form of the Clause, so as to prevent them from extending the education of girls. I did, of course, receive these memorials from women's organisations, and I was interested to notice that they all assumed that this discrimination would be a discrimination used adversely to the interests of their own sex. As a matter of fact, I inserted these words in the Bill from the opposite point of view, with a view of securing more facilities for the education of girls. However, I am perfectly willing to leave this to the sense of the Committee. If the Committee desires that the words should be omitted, I am perfectly willing that they should be
§ Colonel SANDERS
I do not want to speak on the question as between the boys and girls. I think it is a pity we are discussing the two points together, and I wish we could have separate discussions on the two points. But on the other point I hope the President will keep these words in the Bill. I think it is very important that this Clause should be used as often as possible, and, if we leave these provisions out of the Bill, I can assure the President that he will very rarely get it used in the agricultural districts. You will not get it used by the county councils of counties which are agricultural counties You will not get them to apply this Clause at all if you make it a hard and fast rule. If you want to get it largely used, do trust your county education committees as far as ever you can. After all, they are elected bodies, and the spirit of the age is to have a certain amount of trust in elected bodies. All the arguments that are used about differentiation between classes and between the sexes may be perfectly good arguments, but I say that they are arguments which should be applied in specific cases before county education committees rather than in this House. I do hope that the President of the Board of Education will keep the Clause in the Bill as it stands—at all events on the larger question. On that, as between the sexes, it has only just been raised, and I have not looked into it closely enough. But I hope there may be some opportunity of dividing the two 880 questions, and let us have one decision on the general principle and one on the question between the sexes.
§ The CHAIRMAN
On that point I would point out that it is quite open to the Committee to negative the first Amendment, which proposes to leave out the whole of this proviso, and then I should call the Amendment to leave out the children of a particular sex. In that way the object of the hon. and gallant Member could be arrived at
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
May I try to assist the Committee by offering to withdraw the larger Amendment I have moved, feeling, as I do, that the sense of the Committee is against that, and move instead the next Amendment, to omit the words "or the children of a particular sex"?
§ Mr. KING
I do, Sir. I am sorry to differ from my hon. Friend (Mr. White-house), but I allowed him to speak, and I had attempted to speak several times. As I have also exercised a great deal of self-control, I must insist on pointing this out, that I object to these provisions altogether, and I object to them on this ground, that they give to certain employers and industries the opportunity of advantage to themselves. I object to any employer of labour, if he is a member of a county council or an education authority or an education committee, being able to say, "If we give an exemption to our industry, or an advantage to our industry, we can do so within the law." Really this provision is not one that you can safely or that you ought properly to give to any authority. They should not be able to give a superior advantage in respect of child labour or youthful labour to one industry above another in their district. If that advantage is to be given at all, I say it should not be given by a local authority, but should be given by some central authority, because the local authority is one which can appeal to influences and to electoral advantages which are very undesirable to introduce into the matter of exemptions and advantages of this kind. Therefore I am sorry my hon. Friend wishes to withdraw, because, objectionable as work schools may be— 881 not all, of course, are objectionable, but it has been admitted that they may be objectionable—I think it is still more objectionable to give to local authorities like county councils, which are very largely, and must be, composed of rich and wealthy men, certain advantages which they can confer by their by-laws. I object to the principle altogether. If certain exemptions have to be made, let them be made by the central authority. Now I should like to say something further, and that is this: I very often agree with the hon. and gallant Member for the Bridgewater Division (Colonel Sanders)—
§ Mr. KING
Oh, yes, very often, and I recognise that in some ways he is as worthy a representative of the county of Somerset as I am myself, but certainly I did not like the tone of his remarks on this Amendment. He evidently had the idea that you were not to consider education first of all, but you were to consider the agricultural interest, and he adduced the action of the Somerset County Council. Well, now, the Somerset County Council—
§ Colonel SANDERS
The hon. Member must not misrepresent me. I did not adduce the action of the Somerset County Council at all. I said nothing about it.
§ Mr. KING
Well, the hon. Member did, to my mind. He referred to county councils, and, of course, I knew he was thinking of the Somerset County Council. However, I will not quarrel with him. But the point still is clear, and it is this, that many county councils have really shown in this matter of child labour a very undesirable influence and really a very retrograde inclination, and they all the more confirm my belief that these exceptional provisions which you are going to allow to certain districts by these words are not desirable. I am very glad indeed, therefore, that the President of the Board of Education has left it to the Committee. I suppose he means by that that if there is to be a Division the Whips will not be put on.
§ Sir C. BATHURST
In these days, when devolution is being so largely advocated, 882 the centralising tyranny of the hon. Member (Mr. King) fairly staggers me. I am rather interested to know to what extent he himself has served on these local bodies either in Somerset or elsewhere.
§ Sir C. BATHURST
I am bound to say this. The local education authorities in the South-west of England, which the hon. Member should know something about, are not the reactionary and over-wealthy people which he imagines they are; and while I very much regret that the right hon. Gentleman is going to leave this matter to the discretion of a large number of Members of this House who are not present here to listen to the discussion, and though I entirely agree with the reasons which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bridg water has urged in favour of leaving this Clause intact with the possible exception of the words my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Runciman) would like to see eliminated— although I agree with his argument, I am far more apprehensive about a county which is preponderantly urban in character, and yet has a considerable agricultural population, than I am about a county—Somerset possibly is of that description—which is almost wholly agricultural. What I feel is that such an education authority as that of Lancashire, for instance, might be induced under considerable urban pressure to extend the age as applied to the whole county. If that is so, not industrially merely but educationally the children of the agricultural areas would suffer. I should like to remind the Committee that these young people, if they are really going to be efficient agricultural workers, have got to learn how to handle stock between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, certainly not later than sixteen if they are ever going to handle stock at all. For that reason if for no other—and it is an educational reason—I should ask the Committee to deprecate the omission of words leaving the discretion as between one class of workers and another to the local educational authorities. At any rate, we must trust these duly elected local bodies to carry out not merely the letter but the spirit of the Act, and if you are going to leave it to the Board of Education to decide in every case how in such a matter 883 discretion should be exercised, if you are going to leave it to them to decide as to what should be left for local industries, you are going to bring the central department into an odium which they do not deserve, and you are going to widen the gap between the central bodies and those who are working most loyally and with true regard, in nine cases out of ten, for the progressive interests of education.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
I desire to support this Clause as it stands, subject to the point raised by my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Runciman). It is really heartbreaking for those of us who have given time and consideration to the interests of education to hear these dogmatic axioms brought forward as if you could deal with so subtle and complex a matter by altering five or six lines in an Act of Parliament. It cannot be done. When I hear my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. King) speaking of county councils being composed of wealthy men anxious to give privileges to certain classes I desire to utter my strongest protest against it. The chairman of the Somerset County Council, Mr. Henry Hobhouse, is one of the most distinguished educationists in the country, and to say that that council is run to get special privileges for certain classes of trade is so ludicrous as not to have the merit of even that peculiar form of humour which sometimes adorns my hon. Friend's speeches. It is the hardest work for any local educational authority to act justly and fairly in great difficulties. The local educational authorities should be encouraged. They should be given increasing powers to promote education, and they should be given the widest possible discretion, subject to the minimum not falling below what is indispensable in all parts of the country. That is why, as one intensely interested in all details of education, I appeal to the Committee to trust the local authorities, to encourage them, and to induce them to apply their minds to these problems, feeling that they are really given a voice in settling them and not merely the underlings of any Government Department, still less that they are there to represent the mere financial interests of any class. That is why, when once you have got a minimum high enough, the difference between that minimum and the maximum should be left to the discretion of the county councils. If I may say so, being in a position to correlate evidence coming to me from many county councils, 884 I say that they are trying to work through their education authorities in the spirit in which this Act is framed, and anything which looks like general distrust of them will in the long run work against education and not for it. My hon. Friend opposite (Mr. King), if he took half the pains to help local authorities that he does to criticise them, would forward the end we all have in view. As to the point raised by my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Runciman), I think you should give some discretion to local authorities. but it should be subject to the approval of the Board of Education, and in that way it could be brought before this House. When you are dealing with differentiation of sexes, and when the economic spheres of the sexes are constantly widening and changing, I agree that that is a matter of a national character. Therefore I hope, on that point, if possible, the power of the local authority will be made subject to the sanction of the central authority. That, in practice, would mean that the question would come before this House if there were any grave errors of administration. I hope we shall support the draft of the Bill, and I do so purely and simply in the interests of educational efficiency.
§ Sir J. D. REES
The case has been argued as if the omission of these words would deprive the local authority of power to make this provision. But if these words were omitted, I take it what would happen would be that the local authority would be able to make a by-law, and the point whether the by-law was within the Clause or not would be a legal question. It is not the fear that the omission of these words would tie the hands of the local authority, but the general permission to do certain things includes anything which legally falls within the Clause according such permission. I do not think the particularities of the words sought to be omitted matter much. What is desired is to enable the county council to take such action as they wish. I am well aware it is the intention of the hon. Gentleman to tie the hands of the local authorities. He wishes to show distrust of the local authorities by enabling them to interfere with local industries, but whether he will attain his object by this means I am not prepared to say.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Perhaps the Committee will allow the Amendment to be disposed of, and then the question of sex can be dealt with.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am putting it down to a point which will keep the way open for any subsequent Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I beg to move to leave out the words "or to children of a particular sex."
I have already put the case, as far as I can, against the inclusion of these words, and I was gratified that the President of the Board of Education offered no objection to the Amendment. I will, therefore, simply formally move it.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
Would it be in order for me to move, after the word "or," to insert the words" subject to the sanction of the Board of Education "? Or, if it be not in order, can those words be moved as an Amendment to my hon. Friend's Amendment if that is adopted? I have already stated the issue which I want to raise.
§ The CHAIRMAN
No; it could not be moved as an Amendment to this Amendment, because this Amendment proposes to leave out the words entirely. It could only be moved if the present Amendment is withdrawn.
§ The CHAIRMAN
No; if the present Amendment were negatived, the result would be that the words would stand part of the Clause.
§ Sir J. D. REES
As there are only two sexes, would it not be better to alter the Amendment to children of either sex?
§ Mr. KING
I should like to point out the peculiar nature of the remarkable suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Middleton (Sir Ryland Adkins) that this should be made subject to the approval of the Board of Education. The whole gist of the speech he delivered just now was that we should trust the local authorities. We ought not, he said, to interfere with them, because they know best, and if we leave matters to them it 886 will be all right. Now he wants to propose an Amendment providing that the action of the local authority shall be subject to the approval of the Board of Education.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
If the hon. Gentleman had done me the honour to listen to me he would have realised that what I was advocating was that we should trust the local authorities in issues that are local, and I carefully differentiated the sex question as one having a national aspect.
§ Mr. KING
And I have advocated that we should not interfere with the local authorities, that we should deal with this as a national system of education. My whole argument was that we should not involve ourselves here in petty local issues, but should remember that we are dealing with a great national system. I hope the Amendment will be carried. Let us no longer discuss parochial or even county questions; let us remember we are dealing with national education.
§ Mr. BOOTH
As I understand it, the retention of these words would leave a loop-hole for some possible ill-effects from this Bill. It seems to me there is great danger of our manufacturing a lot of lazy boys and girls. To keep either sex at school when they would be much better trained elsewhere is, I think, a mistake. I take it that these words are intended to apply largely to girls. I do not know on what other ground the Government could have put them in. If they are meant to apply to boys, then I think nothing is to be gained from them. Girls do not run the same dangers as boys do at a critical time of life when they go wild and waste time. They have sense enough to know it is wrong, their parents know it is wrong, and the people in their particular neighbourhood know it is wrong. But it is realised very often that it is not desirable to tie boys to school where they are not learning anything and when they could be gaining much more valuable knowledge outside. But with regard to the girls, as I have said, they do not run the same dangers as the boys. If they are not kept at school they are retained at home to do household work, and they do not run the risk of becoming idle and shiftless. As to boys, unless the education is going to strengthen them, I do not think it is of much real service to retain them at school. I hope that in time to come we shall see this education question 887 tackled in a much more vigorous spirit than it is in this Bill. I repeat that in regard to girls I see no necessity for these words at all, because a girl at home is not likely to fall into laziness such as this Bill largely foreshadows; but the boys we know look upon attendance at school as a waste of time. They feel they are learning nothing likely to be of value to them in future life, and therefore they go out and play. I take it these words were simply put in as a sop to the county councils. It was a compromise between two contending principles—Centralisation and Evolution. This Bill is meant to be a centralising Bill. This particular paragraph means evolution. If we are to have a division on this question, let us have it on a clear issue, the one now before the Committee seems somewhat confused.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I hope it will not be necessary to have a division on these words, because the opinion of the Committee, so far as it has been expressed, has been entirely against their inclusion in the Bill. The only qualification has been the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Midleton (Sir Ryland Adkins), who seemed to think it better to take a middle course by suggesting that the by law should be subject to the sanction of the Board of Education. But all these by-laws have to be submitted to the Board of Education. I have taken the trouble to look the matter up. Legislation by reference is always a matter of some difficulty, but I find in the Act of 1870—
§ Mr. JONES
Yes. I find in that Act there is a Clause providing that every school board may, with the approval of the Education Department, from time to time make by-laws. Of course school boards have gone, but the question as to by-laws still remains. I think we had better agree to leave out these words and get on with the business of the Committee.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has taken up a rather strange attitude. He suggests that because two or three hon. Members in a very thin House has expressed an opinion upon this extremely important point their opinions should be taken as an indication of practical unanimity on the part of the House. The right hon. Gentleman reminds me that quite a 888 number of hon. Members have spoken, but I think that probably my own attitude of mind is a not uncommon one. I at first agreed with the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway (Mr. Whitehouse); on principle I was inclined to agree that there was no possible reason for differentiation between the sexes, and that view was strengthened by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dews-bury (Mr. Runciman). But then, when the President of the Board of Education made his speech, and when he gave us his reasons for differentiating between the sexes I was tempted to alter my mind. In dealing with these educational questions I always try to apply one test. I want to see the greatest possible amount of education provided for the greatest possible number of children. How does that come to be applied in this particular ease? Primâ facie, we are all, of course, against any differentiation between the sexes, and especially should I be against it if it implied any differentiation of the female sex that suggested that they were inferior. The right hon. Gentleman explained to us that precisely the opposite is the reason for this differentiation, and surely the effect of adopting the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman below me (Mr. L. Jones) and accepting this Amendment would be that a considerable number of girls throughout the country would be deprived of a certain amount of education which they otherwise might get. I am not prepared for any doctrinaire reason, to get uniformity or to support any logical social principle or for a mere consideration of that sort, to deprive a large number of girls in this country of educational advantages which they may get under the Bill as it stands, especially as the right hon. Gentleman has told us that there is a very considerable majority of girls in the country unoccupied; and I think the same will be the case after the War. Surely there is no possible reason why these girls, not required for any very important work, or even if they were who are not employed, should be kicking their heels about their homes and be deprived of the educational advantages they may have because some Members of this House have a cut and dried notion that it is very wicked to differentiate between the sexes. The practical view seems to be in favour of the words being retained in the Bill. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not be inclined to accede to the suggestion that 889 he should accept this Amendment, and if there is a Division I hope the words will be retained by the Committee.
As we have been challenged in this matter I think it best to say that I thoroughly agree with what the President and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Augustine's (Mr. R. McNeill) have said. This is an enabling Clause which enables the Board of Education to give an advantage, perhaps, to the female sex over the male sex in certain conditions where it would not be possible for the male sex to have it. I am quite sure the male sex do not envy that differentiation in favour of the female sex. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not in favour!"] I have said, if hon. Members will allow me, that this is an enabling Clause giving girls a possible advantage over boys, not necessarily a disadvantage at all. The object of the Clause is to give them an advantage. In the case where a boy cannot have this advantage and a girl can, I am sure that the boys or men of this country will not envy the women their privileges. That is what the Clause does. The right hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. L. Jones) comes down here, rushes into the Library, hunts up the Statute of 1870, and gives us a legal opinion. He says that by-laws are already only made with the approval of the Board of Education. If the Board already have that power, why do they put these words in the Bill? It is because they have not the power, and the power in the Act of 1870 is not to make by-laws on any subject and to differentiate between the sexes. If the right hon. Gentleman had considered the matter a little longer, he would have come to that conclusion. It is necessary that this should be in the Bill. It is an enabling Clause in favour of women principally, and therefore I shall support it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Runciman) said women were opposed to any differentiation between the sexes. Surely he meant any inferiority in the treatment of women as opposed to the treatment of men. He surely did not mean that in no circumstances were women not to have any advantage over men, or girls over boys. Surely they do not oppose an advantage being given to the girls which is to the benefit of the girls in circumstances when that benefit could not be extended to boys! It would simply shut out from an extended education a large class of people for whom it is intended, 890 namely, those who are unoccupied at home after the age of fourteen. I shall, therefore, support the Clause as it stands.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I beg to move, in Subsection (2), to leave out the words "or to children other than those employed in any specified occupation"
I wish to ask for an explanation from the Government, because I think we ought to have it a little clearer than it has been made as to what is the policy of the Department towards, say, the cotton trade in Lancashire, or agriculture. Is the Department going to allow the education authorities in Lancashire to deal in a special way with the premier industry in that country as against the other children? That seems to me to be where the interest will lie. There is no doubt that the cotton trade dominates the trade of Lancashire as does no other trade in this country, and it seems to me that this is a concession to certain capitalists. I object to a Bill framed on those lines. If this thing is honestly done let us say so, but to make concessions to particular interests —I would almost say cliques—in a general Education Bill is altogether wrong. We know these words will not be used in the greater part of the country, and I suppose it will depend on the Education Board. I am perfectly certain that if ever by-laws are made which use these words you will have confusion and almost rioting through the country. I will take Lancashire, where I was born and of which I am aware, and I say that even there, powerful though the cotton trade is, if by-laws were made dealing with those attending cotton mills and treating the rest of the children in Lancashire in a different way, you could not obtain them in that county, valuable as the trade is. That being so, I do not see that it will be of any use anywhere else. There is no illustration, I think, that will occur to anyone where you will have so potent a force coming into the field as the cotton trade.
I should like to know to what this will be applied. In my opinion you will enable authorities all over the country to drive a coach-and-four through this Bill. I do not think anyone will be able to deny that. In some counties the education borders are very sharply defined, and you will have spectacles of people moving across the boundaries if you attempt to put this into operation, as well as the changing of industry and occupation. I do not see how 891 that is going to benefit education, and I think it will bring it into disrepute. If the right hon. Gentleman has put this in as a compromise to someone in the kind of way that is becoming painfully familiar in this House—whenever a Minister thinks of bringing in important legislation we hear of this, that, kind the other interest being consulted, and then finally a paragraph appears in one of the papers that all these rival people have been squared and the Bill is expected to be passed unanimously by the House, before Members have seen a line of it—he should say so. It may be that I am unduly suspicious, but that is taking place so much now in Government Departments that I want a frank statement as to whether that is the reason these words appear here. I am quite prepared to give the utmost consideration to what the right hon. Gentleman will say, and I do not say that I shall pit my judgment against the Minister for Education on this point. All I am pleading for is to make it clear that I feel very strongly that we should know why these words were put in. if they were put in with a good object, well and good, but if the right hon. Gentleman has been compelled, in answer to some interest, to put them in order to silence it, I think we ought to know it.
I have not the slightest difficulty in answering the challenge made to me by the hon. Gentleman who has moved the Amendment. These words have been inserted in this Clause not to conciliate a sinister interest but in order to secure that the option which is conferred upon local education authorities to raise the age to fifteen, should they think fit, should be exercised as widely and as freely as possible. The Board is of opinion that if local education authorities could exercise that option sometimes in respect of a particular group of children occupied in a particular industry they might be willing to do so having regard to the educational needs of these children and the character of their occupation, but that they might not be willing to exercise that option if they were faced, and always faced, by the alternative of doing everything at once or doing nothing at all. That is the sole reason for introducing these words.
§ Mr. BOOTH
Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman thinks that with these words some authorities will put up the age 892 in order to include certain kinds of children? Is it not possible that they may be used the other way, to debar certain kinds of children from education because there is a clamour for them to go into business? I quite see the object my right hon. Friend has. It is a good one, and I hope it will be made to act, but that he will assure us there is not a danger that it will be used in a totally opposite direction.
The option, of course, will be used subject to the Board of Education, who will see that it is not abused by the local education authority. I must remind the hon. Member that this option only extends to one year. This Clause deals with children between the age of fourteen and fifteen, and it does enable local education authorities to raise the age from fourteen to fifteen either with respect to all the children in that area or in respect to certain groups.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), after the word "occupations" ["in any specified occupations"], to insert the words,Provided that where necessary owing to the position of the parents or guardians of young persons over the age of fourteen years, the local education authority, under schemes to be approved by the Board of Education, shall pay maintenance allowances for such young persons who are in compulsory full time attendance at school.I hope that this Amendment may meet with the unanimous support of the Committee and with the support of the Government. I think I can put the case for it very briefly. Educational advance has always been stopped in the past by the poverty of the parents. It has been a very real difficulty, because the burden has fallen upon poor parents, who are compelled to sacrifice the earnings of their children, and that argument has weighed in this House and in this country, and it has also been used with very great effect by employers of labour. It has been used in order that the exploitation of children —their premature and improper use—in industry should be continued. It has only been by very slow stages that, in the face of that argument, based as it was upon real economic conditions, that any advance in educational reform has been possible, and if no such provision as to maintenance allowances for poor children is included in 893 this Bill it will mean that very few, if any, local education authorities will use the option given them under this Bill. We have no doubt whatever as to the opinion of organised labour on this matter. There has been no division whatever of opinion amongst the ranks of labour, and those entitled to speak with regard to the need for establishing maintenance allowances in the case of poor children. I want to ask the Committee to consider the new economic conditions that exist now, and may exist after the War. While it is true that a great number of parents are much better off during the War than they have ever been, yet it is also true that there are a great number of persons to-day who are far below the line that separates them from poverty and real want, and it is those persons who are going to be chiefly affected by the compulsory provisions of this Bill. What may be the conditions after the War? I am sure it is unnecessary for me to more than remind the Committee of the enormous and daily increasing number of orphans and fatherless children created as a result of the War. This means that the problem of the maintenance and education of these orphans and fatherless children will be the gravest possible problem for their guardians, especially, as I hope may be the case, instead of seeking to care for these children in huge barrack-like institutions, we encourage the system of adoption, and the preservation of the family life, and all that it means in the individual live? of these children. That fact alone is, I think, a final argument in favour of adopting the principle of giving maintenance allowances to these children where necessary.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The hon. Member has only to read the Amendment to find out. The maintenance allowances obviously are paid either to the parents or the guardians of the children who maintain them. There is not the slightest room for any doubt. There is no ambiguity in the Amendment. We are not suggesting a salary to the child who goes to school. I feel that merely to state this case is really to carry conviction without any prolonged argument, believing it will. receive the general approval of the Committee.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that there are quite a number of Members who desire to express a view on this Amendment, unless the right hon. Gentleman is going to accept the Amendment, which would cut the speeches short. This aspect of education brings us down to the economic question, and there is no doubt at all that in certain cases the burden of maintaining the children at school can fall with undue severity upon individual shoulders. There is the case of the large family and the small income. My hon. Friend who introduced this Amendment raised the important question of the large number that you will have, say, of war widows, women who have lost their husbands in this War, who are left practically to be the father and mother of their children, and if they are going to be able to give them the extra educational facilities it is wrong that the burden should fall on the shoulders of these women themselves. I say it becomes a far wider responsibility, and provided that you do limit this responsibility to the parent directly concerned, then the temptation will certainly be to put the children to work at the earliest possible moment, in order that there may be extra money coming into the home. Now we claim that, since you are raising the educational standards, we ought to feel more than ever that education ought to be a national burden, and that the cost of education ought to be borne in a national sense. For myself, I believe, without labouring this question at all, that the payment of the extra cost will be a sound national investment, and that the nation will get the money back in every possible way. I also believe that the adoption of this Amendment would go far to remove the opposition of certain districts such as Lancashire to these educational changes. I am convinced that in the long run the exploitation of children, the too early wage-earning labour of children, hurts the parent as well as the child in the economic sense, and brings down the level of wages.
§ Mr. ANDERSON
I am not dealing with the too late employments. We are endeavouring to keep the children from being put too early to work when they ought to be still in school, and when the children of the more fortunate classes are still at school and being armed with 895 all that science and knowledge can put within their grasp. Why should the children of working people have their shoulders bent prematurely with toil and be permanently worn out? I do say this, although it is true that the exploitation of child labour in the long run lowers the wage standards all round, it is very difficult to get the individual to take a long view in a matter of this kind. The burden is keenly felt by many poor families, and most of all in certain classes, and you ought not to ask individual families, or war widows, to bear the whole sacrifice, or a burden of this kind. I am quite sure that if this Amendment were adopted it would go far to remove a great many of the difficulties in regard to any advance in our educational system, and I hope it will be possible on the part of those representing the Board of Education to say that they do mean to have an advance of this kind, which will mean in the long run an all-round advance.
§ Colonel LORD HENRY CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
I hope very much the Government will accept this Amendment. When the President moved the Second Reading of this Bill he said be was determined to establish the rights of the child. If the right hon. Gentleman is sincere—as doubtless he is—in his desire to do so he can have no option but to accept this Amendment. There is nothing that would grease the wheels of education more, and make it more popular—or perhaps I should say remove the unpopularity of it —than a step of this character. The main obstacle to educational advance in this country is the unfortunate idea that prevails in a great many quarters that the child is the property of the parent, and that parents have a right to the labour of their children at the earliest possible moment. It is an unfortunate idea. After all, however, one cannot blame the parent but rather the social system which creates that attitude and that frame of mind. It is an injustice, and a gross injustice, to a great many poor parents that they should have to choose between the ignorance of their children and the poverty of their homes.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
This Amendment, for which I am extremely grateful to the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, is a real educational reform. It is the first we have seen in these three days' Debates. So long as you have parents of 896 children desperately set against any raising of the school age—any educational reform is bound to be slow—much slower than anybody here could wish. The secret of getting any real educational advance is to see that the children at school are maintained so that their parents do not suffer by the children being kept at school. We attempt now to teach children up to the age of fourteen in our schools. Children, often underfed, under clothed, and half-starved. These children cannot possibly assimilate the education given. They cannot take advantage of the physical exercises or even of the brain training that goes on in these schools. Quite unjustly we have said to the parents of children—parents who are none of us!—you shall send your children to school up to fourteen, and there shall be no exception. We have gone further, and said that any local authority that chooses may raise the age to fifteen, and that the parents shall send the children, and so stop any earning or bringing any money into the house. In common justice, then, to these parents, over whom we are tyrannising, and more particularly on account of the children, we ought to see that the latter do not suffer in their stomachs and health by being kept at school by a Government composed very largely of well-intentioned people whose children do not go to these schools.
§ Mr. LEWIS
I apologise to hon. Members who wish to take part in the Debate for intervening at this stage, but I do so on the ground that the effect of this Amendment upon this particular Clause does not appear to have been apprehended by any hon. Members who have so far spoken. I have a considerable amount of sympathy with a great deal of what has been aid, but hon. Members have been arguing the general question of maintenance at the schools—a question in relation to which other opportunities for arguing will come later. What we have to consider now is the effect of this particular Amendment on this particular Clause. I venture to submit that the effect of this Amendment, if adopted, upon this Clause, will be disastrous. After all, we are dealing with a Clause which confers power on local education authorities—a power which it is desired they should exercise if they think that the circumstances of the area make it desirable or necessary. They will certainly be deterred from exercising that power if the exercise is coupled with an obligation of the extremely formidable 897 character of a wholesale maintenance allowance for young persons in the public elementary schools.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The right hon. Gentleman is not quoting accurately, and I am sure he desires to do so. It is not wholesale payment, but a payment where the needs of the parents demand it, and subject to schemes approved by the right hon. Gentleman's own Board.
§ Mr. LEWIS
At the same time the payment will fall upon the shoulders of the local education authority. That local education authority is to have the power, if the Committee accept the proposal to raise the school age to fifteen, to so raise it, and it is now to be coupled with the proposal that they should be called upon to make these maintenance allowances. I wonder really if, in the circumstances, there is a single education authority in the whole country which is likely to adopt this particular Clause? It is because we are in favour of this particular Clause—and my hon. Friend behind me is not—and desire to see this Clause work in such areas where it can be adopted by the local education authority, that we object to this particular Amendment which, if adopted, would, I am certain, have the effect of inducing the local education authorities to reject any proposal of the kind. It is perfectly true that no obligation rests upon local education authorities to give scholarships, but that does not deter education authorities from doing so. Under the Bill every authority is required to prepare a scheme with a view to establishing a national system of public education available for all persons capable of profiting thereby, and the Board of Education will certainly regard it as one of the essential parts of the scheme that a sufficient supply of scholarships should be pro-Tided. Under Section 11 of the Act of 1907 the local education authorities already have the power of providing scholarships and bursaries under the conditions specified, in connection with the elementary schools, where it is found that owing to the position of the parents or guardians of the children scholarships of this kind are needed. The Board will therefore ask why provision has not been made in the scheme of the authority, whether the leaving age is fourteen or fifteen? I suggest that a procedure of that kind would be more effective than the procedure 898 of the Amendment, which really can only have the effect of hindering educational advancement. I ask the Committee once more to consider what would be the probable effect of the adoption of this Amendment upon the Clause itself. I have only too much ground for fearing that it will absolutely nullify it. Other opportunities will arise of discussing maintenance allowances further on, and I ask the Committee to discuss that question when the effect of it will certainly not be so disastrous as that which I have described from the passing of this particular Amendment.
I heard to-day that it was useless to ask for any assistance for maintenance either from the Board of Education or the Treasury on this question, and so it did not surprise me that the right hon. Gentleman has spoken against this Amendment. What is the position? The Board of Education have fixed the age at fourteen years with power to the local authorities to increase it to fifteen where they think it is necessary. The Board of Education did not put fifteen in, because they could not face the music in putting the measure into operation, for the very reason that prompted the hon. Member in moving this Amendment. What are we doing? We are taking away these children up to fourteen years, and the Board of Education must admit that in thousands of cases this will put a big strain on the household to which those children belong. The right hon. Gentleman argues that if this Amendment is accepted, and maintenance allowances are granted where they are needed with the sanction of the Board of Education, it will nullify the Clause.
What will be the result? Up to the present this permissible extension of the age by local authorities has been operative for years, and very few local authorities have taken advantage of it, and I feel quite sure that as time goes on there will be fewer unless some inducement is given to get them to take advantage of this provision. Supposing a local authority does this work and they realise that in the main they can extend the age fairly comfortably, but they find in its application that it leaves out of consideration a tremendous number of people who cannot under ordinary circumstances be expected to keep their children at home until they are fifteen years of age without some monetary return. To-day I feel exceedingly sorry to see so few hon. Members present when we are discussing a most important Bill, 899 and the most important Education? Bill that has ever been introduced here. This is the beginning of one of the most important points in the Bill dealing with how far the Government, in inflicting these hardships on people who are living under circumstances which are no fault of their own, but which are the fault of the industrial system, and here you are going to put this on them all at once, and it is something which they cannot bear. The right hon. Gentleman said that we should hear something about this matter later on, and I hope we shall. I am quite sure, from my point of view, that we shall hear a great deal. Successive Governments up to the present have stood round that box, they have had supporters from all parties in the House on the principle of education and educating the nation's children for years back, yet they have never had the heart or courage to face the problem financially.
Put whatever obligations you like upon the local authorities so long as they have money to do the work they do it, but in many cases, unless they are promised compensation, they will not work the Clause. In that position education is not going to progress very rapidly in this country. If you have a system whereby you can increase the industrial value of the adults in this country in co-operation with any Bill that is passed through this House, it will be taken advantage of, but if it depreciates the industrial value of the household you cannot expect people to stand that all the time. They may stand it once or twice, but not all the time. The widow who is not the product of the War will suffer a great deal more than the widow with a pension. I am speaking not only about the cotton trade, although that will suffer, but so will the coal and iron trade, and all the low-wage trades will suffer tremendously. Under this particular Clause I am not anticipating a very great number of sufferers, because, unless some inducement is offered by financial assistance to help local authorities to put that Clause into operation, very few will adopt it until fifteen years.
If you can get the Board of Education to say that if local authorities will make by-laws to extend the age to fifteen, and then you will help them financially, you will get more extensions to fifteen years of age. If that were done everybody would be satisfied, but so long as the Board of 900 Education sits down and does not make a determined attempt to take Imperial or Government responsibilities for impairing the household resources, and after that giving some counter to bring them to their normal condition, so long will you have bitter opposition to a proposal of this kind. I took good care to keep my own child at home as long as I could, and I never regretted it, and if I had any more children I would adopt the same process and I would not send them to work until I was absolutely compelled. All people cannot do it. There are thousands upon thousands of people who are as willing as anyone to do it, but it is impossible for them to meet their expenses and clothe and feed their children. As long as you sit there and do nothing to help them in their financial troubles so long will they have to suffer needlessly, because the nation, if it were asked properly, would gladly meet this obligation.
§ Sir H. HIBBERT
As chairman of the largest education authority in the country, I would like to say a word or two upon this subject. My authority has dispensed a considerable number of maintenance allowances. It is perfectly true that they were not large, but still they were maintenance allowances, and they were given with the avowed object of making the path of these children easier in the secondary schools. This Amendment reads:Provided that where necessary owing to the position of the parents or guardians of children and young persons over the age of thirteen years the local education authority, under schemes to be approved by the Board of Education, shall pay maintenance allowances for such children and young persons who are in compulsory full-time attendance at school.I want to point out the difficulty from my own experience of doing this. I remember when we first started paying maintenance allowances that we decided to give them to needy parents in order that their children who went to the secondary schools and there met children from a different class should not suffer in comparison. What was the result? The list increased month by month—it was surprising the number of needy parents that there were —until at the finish we were obliged to make the rule absolute and give it to every parent. That, I imagine, would have to be done in this case. It is an extremely difficult and inquisitorial duty to place upon the shoulders of any educational authority. In my district the duty 901 devolved upon me, and I do not think that I ever undertook a duty with greater reluctance than that of trying to ascertain by inquisitorial methods whether parents were in needy circumstances or not.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I was not quite clear as to the statement that the hon. Gentleman made. Did I understand him to say that his authority decided to pay maintenance grants to the parents of the whole of the children?
§ Sir H. HIBBERT
Ultimately, all the parents of a particular section of our children who attended the secondary schools were in receipt of maintenance grants. Of course, they were not large grants. They came entirely out of the rates, and, whatever people may think, there is a great deal of difference between paying rates and paying taxes. With regard to another point which has been raised, I may tell the Committee en passant that my budget this year for the first time has reached £1,000,000 sterling. In consequence of the necessity of giving our teachers more adequate salaries than they have obtained in the past, we have not only used the £94,000 which the Fisher Grant gave to us, but we have added to it a sum of £57,000. The increase in the salaries of our teachers this year alone amounts to £151,000, and that is why the budget, which is generally £750,000, has, with slight additional expenditure in other directions, reached the total of £1,000,000. It would be absolutely impossible to appeal to the ratepayers to give these maintenance grants. A great deal may be said for and against such grants, but if this House in its wisdom decides to give maintenance grants they will have to come out of the Treasury.
§ Mr. BOOTH
This Amendment does not say to whom you would pay the money. Would you send it to the parents by the child as a messenger, or would the parents have to call for it? It is all very well to say that these are small points. They are not. Those who have had experience of Poor Law Guardians' work know the great difficulty there is in discrimination, but no one until the hon. Member for Chorley (Sir H. Hibbert) spoke seemed to have in mind the enormous difficulty of discriminating between different sets of children. I think he made a correct forecast of what would happen. All the parents would ask for it. Discrimination would gradually disappear and then it could not be regarded as anything of a 902 disgrace. It would, therefore, amount to a substantial sum. One hon. Member seemed to regard it as glorified outdoor relief for war widows, but, if he takes that view, he should see that it is added to the pension. This is not the place to subsidise war pensions. I take it that the Noble Lord the Member for Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) does not support the Amendment on that ground. He does it in order to make education efficient and not because the War Office is negligent of its duties to those who have fallen in the War. I do not think we can proceed on that ground. If the Amendment goes to a Division, I feel inclined to vote for it. Very few local authorities will raise the age to fifteen, but I think it likely that any authority that is advanced enough to do it will also meet this bill. I cannot imagine any authority with the necessary courage to raise the age unless they have the requisite courage to meet the bill.
My fault with this Amendment is that it does not go far enough. If you are entitled to pay maintenance allowances you are entitled to subsidise the home on account of the wages that the children would have earned if they had stayed away from school. There is no logical answer to that argument. My view is that it is better to state the plain fact and not burke the main issue. If you say to a child, "You shall not work and help your parents," and if that child comes from a poor home, there is a great deal to be said for giving it maintenance allowance and giving it wages. The advocates of this Amendment say, "Make education popular." I do not know that it will make education popular, but it will make going to school and getting paid for it popular. If these proposals are brought forward and they go the whole hog and face the whole thing, I have not the same objection that I have to these compromises. This is a mere compromise, and it will not work. It is no use at all saying that it meets the case. If you can justify this you can justify giving the children wages, paying them to go to schools, so that the home will consist of so many children and young persons at work earning money, and so many children at school earning money. Then there will be enough for them to live in comfort and go to the pictures, I do not object to that, but I am bound to say that there is a good deal in what the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Captain Smith) said. These ideals and these causes are all very well in their way, 903 but only when the Government say, "We are so keen on education that we will have the children at school and see that the people who send them do not suffer because of their attendance at school," shall I believe in the genuineness of their speeches. Until then I do not. Although this is more or less a hotch-potch Amendment, yet, in order to see whether or not the authorities of the Government are genuine, if it goes to a Division I shall support it.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
The speech that has been delivered by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education calls for some reply. Personally, I very much regret that the discussion on this subject, which is of fundamental importance, has taken place in so small a Committee, for I could have wished that the Committee had had the privilege of hearing the extraordinary reply made by the Parliamentary Secretary. The Debate was taken part in from every quarter of the House, Members representing every political party speaking, and the support to this Amendment was unanimous. No dissenting note was raised, nor has any dissent been raised save for one speech. Yet the right hon. Gentleman ignores the unanimous view of the Committee and goes on to set forth arguments and make statements that have no relevancy whatever to the Amendment under discussion. I will try to show why. Let me say candidly that I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has acted quite fairly towards those who have put forward the Amendment or to the Committee itself. He described this Amendment as one which would authorise the wholesale payment of large grants to the children at school. It does nothing of the kind. It limits the maintenance grants to those who should receive them by reason of the poverty of their parents or guardians. Again, the right hon. Gentleman put on one side the further proviso in the Amendment that even the scheme so limited should be subject to the approval of the Board of Education. The description he gave of the effect of the Amendment was, if he will allow me to say so without offence, wholly erroneous, and his remarks were, therefore, without relevancy. The right hon. Gentleman further made a most amazing claim to the Committee. He said, "Do not discuss this Amendment now. Another opportunity will arise later on the Bill. Let us leave it to that period." He distinctly 904 conveyed—I do not know whether intentionally or not—the idea that the Government had an open mind on the question and might themselves approve the payment of maintenance allowances and make it mandatory.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I say that the right hon. Gentleman's appeal to us not to discuss the matter now but to wait until a later opportunity carried with it an implication to that effect. The hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Captain A. Smith) stated that the Government had conveyed to him their decision not to agree to the payment of the maintenance allowance. Let me say to the right hon. Gentleman what he ought to know and what he ought to tell the Committee in making this claim, namely, that the next opportunity to discuss this matter arises in connection with the payment of maintenance grants to the children attending continuation classes—a wholly different matter. This is a question not of paying maintenance allowances to children attending continuation classes for an hour a day, where the allowances may not be necessary, but of paying maintenance allowances to children over fourteen years of age who are required to attend school for full time, and of whose earnings therefore the parents are deprived. It is no good the right hon. Gentleman pretending that if the smaller principle is not going to be yielded, the greater principle may be yielded at a later stage of the Bill. I dissent altogether from the amazing view put forward by the right hon. Gentleman that, if we establish the principle of maintenance grants for those so urgently in need of them, we should prevent any reform in education in this connection. I should have drawn exactly the opposite conclusion from the institution of maintenance grants. I should have said that only by paying maintenance allowances will you give local authorities the necessary impetus to go forward with educational reform.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
What an extraordinary intervention that is! The 905 Amendment does nothing of the kind. It provides that where necessary, and under a scheme to be approved by the Board of Education, maintenance grants shall be paid, but it does not say by whom.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I think I have made what I mean quite clear. I do not want to do any injustice to the right hon. Gentleman. The Amendment reads:Provided that where necessary owing to the position of the parents or guardians of young persons over the age of fourteen years, the local education authority, under schemes to be approved by the Board of Education, shall pay maintenance allowances for such young persons who are in compulsory full-time attendance at school.What is there there to prevent the Board of Education paying one-half or the whole of such allowances? The local education authorities pay certain salaries to teachers. Does the local education authority get no help from the Imperial Treasury? Therefore the intervention has no relevancy whatever, because there is nothing in the Amendment to prevent the Board of Education paying the whole of these maintenance allowances. I am very glad to receive now this acceptance of the principle from the right hon. Gentleman. He wants not the local rates to pay these maintenance allowances. He wants the State to pay them.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
Now the right hon. Gentleman says he does not. Where are we? He first rose to protest against the local education authorities paying them; now he rises to protest against the Imperial Exchequer paying them. What becomes of the right hon. Gentleman's convictions, if he has any, on this subject? I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman will realise that I am not making any personal attack upon him. What is there in this principle we are asking the Committee to adopt that is not adopted in connection with the children of the wealthy? I can show in a sentence almost that what we are now proposing is already an accepted principle in schools attended even by the most wealthy classes. Everyone knows that in connection with the War huge funds are raised in connection with the wealthiest public schools. Eton, for instance, raised a huge fund which forms a new and 906 great endowment which is invested and applied solely to the maintenance at Eton College of the children of old boys. Those are maintenance allowances. Let us then realise that this is a principle which is acted upon in the higher branches of education. I remember that the London County Council has always been most liberal—I am speaking of the time before the War—in paying individual grants to boys residing within its area who are going either to the higher secondary schools or even to the universities. The principle of the maintenance grant by all the most progressive authorities has been already recognised voluntarily, and for the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that this is going to frighten them out of the field of educational advance is to go contrary to the whole of the facts. I shall certainly press this to a Division, and I am not without hopes that it will be carried.
§ Sir P. MAGNUS
I think the Committee will recognise that the hon. Member has acted rather unfairly to the Secretary to the Board of Education, and has occupied unnecessarily on this occasion the time of the Committee. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The right hon. Gentleman has explained quite clearly why it would be impossible—and I think he was right—to accept the Amendment. To begin with, it is by no means clear, and that is perfectly evident from the speech of the hon. Member, who was at great pains to explain it under circumstances which were not even intelligible to the majority of the members of the Committee. The words of the Amendment alone render it such as to make it impossible to accept it. I should like very much to ask the hon. Member what he really means by "under schemes to be approved by the Board of Education." By whom are these schemes to be prepared? By the local authorities or by the parents? And what is to be the character of the schemes? There is no indication whatever of the sort of scheme he has in his mind, and I am not clever enough to be able to ascertain what is in his mind. Then, again, he has himself tried to explain what he means by saying the local authority shall pay maintenance allowances for such young persons who are in compulsory full-time attendance at school, and when he speaks of the local authority paying maintenance grants he means the Board of Education. Of course, that is not quite intelligible. Then he commenced 907 his speech by pointing out that these arrangements are only intended for poor parents, but there is nothing in the Amendment to say they are necessarily poor parents. "Provided that where necessary, owing to the position of the parents." They might be very rich, for all we know.
§ Sir P. MAGNUS
The words of the Amendment fully justified the Parliamentary Secretary in saying that anyone within the area of the local authority might say his position was such as to justify the acceptance of maintenance grants. Therefore, every word in the whole of the Amendment would have to be modified, if not completely changed, before the Committee could be expected to accept it. The Parliamentary Secretary gave reasons, which are absolutely unanswerable, why it could not be accepted. Those of us who are in favour of the local authorities being able to extend the school age from fourteen to fifteen know quite well that if that liberty were accompanied by the obligation to pay maintenance grants still fewer of these local authorities would agree to extend the school age, and if it is desirable that the school age should be extended it is equally undesirable that that extension should be accompanied by an obligation to pay maintenance grants. The Parliamentary Secretary pointed out another matter to which the hon. Member has not referred. Nearly all local authorities give exhibitions to pupils who are capable of profiting by the instruction. These exhibitions can be increased to any extent, and it is far better that the exhibition should be given to the parents of children who show very great ability to profit by the instruction provided for them than that there should be a general distribution of maintenance grants to all persons who, in their own opinion, are in such a position as to render it desirable that they should receive such grants. I hope no more time will be wasted upon the Amendment, worded as it is, but that we may get on with the Bill.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I think we ought to be fair to the Parliamentary Secretary and also to the hon. Gentleman (Sir P. Magnus). They have put a view before the Committee which they think is unanswerable, and it has not so far been 908 answered. It is, that if this liability for maintenance grants is attached to this Clause giving local authorities the power to raise the school age from fourteen to fifteen, that liability will prevent the Clause being taken advantage of by the local education authorities. That is, frankly, their ground, that if this is going to be expensive, if the money for the parents is going to come out of the pockets of the ratepayers, it will prevent this change being made. I think they look at the question through somewhat old-fashioned spectacles. They have the idea that education has always to be imposed upon the working classes, that these schemes have, first of all, to be invented by us here or by, let us say, the Lancashire County Council, and obeyed by the working classes. I want to put a very revolutionary educational idea before them. Is it not possible that in the years to come it will be the people who will demand education? They will say, "Here is a chance under this Act of Parliament of getting education. It will not be expensive to us. We can still keep our families as they are accustomed to being kept. We can still have our children properly fed and clothed because we can get maintenance allowance. Let us press Parliament to increase the school age, or to increase facilities for schooling at any rate up to fifteen, and we need not be beholden to superior people who give us these laws. We will make them ourselves." The right hon. Gentleman thinks this will be a blot upon all educational progress. There is another suspicion at the back of my mind. It is possible that after this War we may see a great many of these local authorities, particularly the boroughs, controlled by the Labour party, and where the Labour party controls boroughs such, for instance, as Bradford or Leeds, they will not be deterred from bringing forward this educational reform and from raising the school age by the mere fact that maintenance has to be provided as well. They will not only not be deterred from it, but they will be induced to do it, whereas otherwise they would not dare to face the parents. I think the arguments of the Parliamentary Secretary and of the hon. Gentleman (Sir P. Magnus) are very double-edged. It may not be that this will prevent this Clause being taken advantage of. It may be that the carrying of the Amendment will secure it being taken advantage of.
§ Sir R. NEWMAN
I claim the indulgence that this House always extends to Members who address it on the first occasion. I do so because for many years I have taken a very keen interest in educational matters, having been on the Devon County Council Education Committee now for several years. Devonshire is a large county, with difficulties, I suppose, like other counties, and having this experience behind me I should like to join in asking the President of the Board of Education whether he can leave this an open matter, because if I were asked to vote according to what I really think is best in my own opinion, I should certainly vote for the Amendment. I understand the reason for raising the school age under this Bill is not merely to benefit the parents but to benefit the nation, and therefore if sacrifice is to be suffered by any particular members of the community I do not see why, if the whole State is to be improved and benefited by this increased education, it should fall merely on the shoulders of the parents and not on other people. I have been for many years, as I have said, on a county education authority. How can I possibly vote for an increase of the age of children compelled to attend school, thereby taking the option out of the hands of the parents, and then at the same time absolutely refuse to put my hand into my pocket and help them to bear the loss which would be entailed upon them by having to send their children to school up to that advanced age? One hon. Member said that if we vote for this maintenance proposal we ought to go further and pay compensation to the parents for the loss of the wages which the children might have been able to earn. I cannot see that argument at all. It is one thing to say to the parents, "For the good of the child and for the good of the State you must send that child to school," but I do not think we ought to go further and say that we shall pay the parents compensation for the wages which the child might earn and the wages which the child ought not to earn. On the other hand, you make the child go to school at an age when it is becoming more expensive to keep. When a child reaches the age of thirteen and fourteen they naturally require better nourishment, and, therefore, when that child is becoming more expensive on the one hand to maintain and more valuable as a working machine, if you may put it that way, surely it is hardly fair to 910 ask the education authority or to ask the parents to send these children to school and compel them to maintain them out of their own pockets.
There is another point. There are some counties, agricultural counties, where the parents are very poor. Some Members of this House may not think it matters very much, Is. here or Is. there, but where a man is perhaps an agricultural labourer, with a wife and a large family to maintain, every shilling is of importance. Therefore, I maintain, that if the State compels these parents to send these children to school up to a greater age than has been the case up to the present time, surely it is time for the Board to realise that they are altering the state of affairs and to consider whether some powers ought not to be given to the local authority to meet cases where it is a necessity. We have been told a great deal this evening about trusting the local authorities-. It has been said that we must trust the local authorities, because they know local requirements, and so on. Under this Clause, I take it, it is proposed to leave the discretion in the hands of the local authority. They are not bound to give this relief in every case. It is only applied to certain cases, and the scheme has to be approved by the Board of Education; so that there is a double security. Therefore, I take it, none of these schemes can be brought into operation unless it receives the approval of the local authority, which ought to know the local requirements, and also of the Board of Education. With that safeguard I do not think that we need anticipate any very great danger. One hon. Gentleman said that it would become very expensive. But we must remember the Amendment, if I read it aright, would only apply to children of one age—fourteen. It is not as if we were going to give the maintenance grant to children of all ages. I thank the Committee for having given me a patient hearing.
I should like in the first place to extend my congratulations to the hon. Member for the very fair and interesting contribution which he has made to the discussion. I fully sympathise with the desire which he has expressed, and which has been expressed by other hon. Members, that the local education authorities should in necessitous cases make use of the power which they already possess of granting maintenance allowances. I do not think there is any difference of 911 opinion among us on that subject. There are many cases in which maintenance allowances are forthcoming. This is an enabling Clause. It enables local education authorities to raise the age of school attendance from fourteen to fifteen, either in respect of all children in their area or in respect of certain groups of children. We are desirous that this option should be as widely used as possible, and the sole question which the Committee have to consider is whether the adoption of the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Lanark will have the effect of restricting the range of that option or of enlarging it. My own fear is that if it were accepted, and if, consequently, the warning was given to every education authority that it could not take this step of raising the age without at the same time embarking upon a very considerable measure of expenditure, that step would not be taken, and there would be on the whole an educational loss to the country. On that ground, and on that ground only, I would ask the Committee to adhere to the text of the Bill.
§ Mr. E. DAVIES
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman cannot see his way to accept the Amendment. He has pointed out that it is possible local education authorities may be frightened from putting this Clause into effect. On the other hand, local education authorities are in touch with their electors, and they may be frightened from putting it into effect on account of the hardship that would be inflicted. I hardly like to say it, but I think it is quite right that a large number of Members of this House hardly realise how difficult is the actual life of the working classes in this country.
§ Mr. DAVIES
On the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out that they very seldom avail themselves of that power. The object of the Amendment is that the payment shall be made not by the local authority, but by the Exchequer. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that if the expense is to be borne by the local education authority, then they would certainly not put the Act into force, for the simple reason that they would be afraid of the expense. On the other hand, I am afraid they will not put the Act into force 912 on account of the hardship that would be inflicted upon the parents. In many cases if the children are retained in the schools till the age of fifteen there will be no provision for their education, and the teaching staff will be inadequate, and in some cases not even qualified. I take it that where these children have to be educated at a distance there should be provision made for the maintenance of the children. I will not deal with the question of travelling expenses, but where a child resides 4 or 5 miles from a school, it is a matter of considerable expense to the parents to keep them. I am told that, unfortunately, the hardship inflicted by the education of children often falls upon the mother. Too often when the parents are poor it is the mother who has to suffer for the education of the child. She has to provide food necessary for the bread-winner and for the children, and I am told that in my own county in particular the better education which is given to a child is often given at the expense of suffering on the part of the mother. I would not have troubled the right hon. Gentleman so often on this point—I think that I have referred to it three times—unless I knew that our educational system as it is at present is really inflicting very serious hardship upon deserving classes of people. It is because I desire that local authorities should put this Clause into operation and increase the age to fifteen that I press upon the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his attitude with regard to the Amendment now before the Committee.
§ Mr. P. A. HARRIS
I cannot help thinking that there is a certain amount of confusion of. thought in the Debate to-which I have listened for the last quarter of an hour. Personally, I am all in favour of maintenance grants, but the discussion ought to resolve itself into the question of may or shall. The powers already exist. It is the custom in the existing central schools of the county council to give maintenance grants in addition to scholarships where the parents are not in a position to maintain the children while they are at school. So I do think that the attitude of the President of the Board of Education is unreasonable. It is undoubtedly a fact that so long as retaining the children up to fifteen is optional, if you are going to force education authorities, whether they will or not, to maintain the child, many education authorities will be reluctant to take advantage of the Act and to provide 913 opportunity to retain the children up to fifteen. Personally, I think it much better to leave the matter to the good sense and wisdom of the education authorities, especially as this Bill does not compel education authorities to extend the age to fifteen.
Mr. E. HARVEY
I wish to join my hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvonshire in expressing regret that the President of the Board of Education has not been able to meet in any way the wish put forward by the Mover of this Amendment. I cannot help feeling that he has not allowed enough weight for the position of the words "if necessary." All that is asked by the Amendment is that it should be mandatory, where the authorities do raise the age, that, where necessary, in cases of hardship, maintenance allowance should be provided. It does not apply to all cases, but it does apply to cases of exceptional hardship, and it would be putting a cruel weight upon those families which can least bear this burden if you insist that it should be only at the good pleasure of the local authority. In some cases no doubt the local authorities will act wisely and will use the powers that they have, but they may prefer not to make use of them, and the result will be that the weight will fall upon the families which can least afford to bear it. It is not asking too much, surely, of all local authorities which make use of this power, that, in cases of hardship, where necessary, maintenances allowances should be provided! I cannot help thinking that the real difficulty is that the right hon. Gentleman, without saying so, is fighting the battle of the Treasury. He would like to see these allowances paid, but he knows that if it is made mandatory there will be a claim inevitably from the local authorities to be paid by the Treasury. Of course, that will come, and the Treasury will not consent to this enlargement of the claim of education upon it. But I very much hope that the Committee, when they realise it, will support this Amendment.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
I am inclined to agree with the analysis which my hon. Friend who spoke last has made of the decision of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education, but is the adoption of the Amendment in this form the best way to grapple with this matter? The problem of poor parents, and of maintenance allowance for children in particular cases, is precisely one 914 of those problems which have both a national and a local side. The proper solution would be that the Board of Education should be in a position, as I wish they were and hope they will be, to offer to the local authorities the payment of a large proportion of the maintenance allowances, which are necessary, because of the poverty of parents whose children will be kept at school an additional year, and ought to have these educational advantages, and if between now and the Report stage my right hon. Friend would bring forward some proposal on those lines, I think that he would unite in its support very varying points of view in the Debate as it is now. I agree with my right hon. Friend that to accept this Amendment as it stands would be to hinder the local authorities from raising the age as they ought to. But if we could have some undertaking, preliminary to some statutory provision, that when the Board of Education were satisfied that it was necessary they would help, then I think that we could get the local authority to share the burden and raise the age where it ought to be raised, without being embarrassed by a vague and contingent liability. Therefore I support most heartily the substance and spirit of my hon. Friend's speech, while at the same time I could not possibly vote for this Amendment as it stands, because I believe that it is the very way of defeating the object which we all want to encourage—to raise the age where it is educationally necessary, and help those-who are most deserving of help when their children will get a better education.
I can assure my hon. Friend who has just addressed the Committee that the whole subject of local scholarships and maintenance allowances-is engaging my attention and the attention of the Board of Education, but I am not able to make a statement on it at present, because it is a very complex, difficult, and big subject.
§ Mr. D. MASON
I hope that my hon. Friend will press this Amendment to a Division. The Amendment, if carried, would involve a Financial Resolution. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I am inclined' to think that it would, but I do not want to argue the point. The principle involved is so important that I trust my hon. Friend will press the matter to a Division. I agree with my hon. Friend 915 behind in thinking that the whole difference is involved in the distinction between "may" and "shall."
Sir M. BARLOW
I cannot agree with the Amendment in the form in which it stands, but with its underlying principle I believe there is a very much larger feeling of sympathy in this House than the President of the Board of Education possibly is aware of. I do not want to put the right hon. Gentleman in any difficulty, but I would urge upon him very strongly whether he cannot see his way to give us a somewhat more definite assurance than he did in his speech. He told us that ho was giving serious consideration to what is admittedly a very difficult question, but I submit that now is the time that he should give us some definite assurance, seeing that we have really come to grips with the bargain, so to speak. I have the honour to represent a very poor industrial Constituency which I am proud to say is immensely interested in the question of education, and the welfare of the children, and to their credit, be it said, whoever else suffers in these times of stress, the children do not suffer. It comes to be a very difficult question where you have large families, and when you are extending the period of education at a time when it is reasonable to expect that the children shall begin to co-operate in bearing the expenses of the household, for the parents to go on with the education of the family in order to raise them to a better outlook in civic life, which we all hope in the future they may be able to do. Surely the only way to deal with this matter is—I do not say compulsorily—to make possible provision out of State funds for hard cases. I do not agree with the Amendment, because I believe it would defeat the very object which the Mover has in view. But somehow the problem has got to be dealt with. I am no convert of recent date to this, because I put this point forward when the Education Bill was previously before the House. I believe that where there is a large family, if you raise the age of children for education at a time when they should be bearing some of the burdens of the household, you will be confronted and will have to deal with cases of difficulty and great hardship. I am quite sure that the President of the Board of Education will give this matter his sympathetic consideration, but the point I wish to impress 916 upon him is that the burden upon the poorer parents is a very real one, and it is one which calls for sympathetic consideration and an assurance that something will be done.
To urge upon me the desirability, even the necessity, of a further extension of the maintenance allowance for children, and the obligation of attendance at school, is to hold an open door. I admit the desirability of an extended allowance for maintenance, but at the same time I would call attention to Clause 38, under which one-half of the expenditure incurred under the Bill is defrayed by the State.
At least one-half, and it may be more, of the expenditure incurred either for elementary or higher education will be defrayed by the Exchequer, and consequently, if it is approved by the Board of Education, part of the expense now under discussion will be defrayed upon that principle. The Board will expect when a provisional scheme is introduced that there will be an adequate scheme of maintenance allowance, where necessary. I do not think, therefore, that it is desirable; I think, on the contrary, it would have the effect of really retarding the object of the hon. Member that this Amendment should be adopted.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I only want to ask my right hon. Friend whether he can give the Committee any idea of what is to be the cost of this. In one speech the President of the Board of Education calculated the cost of this Bill at a certain figure, and I think that Amendments like this exceedingly comprehensive Amendment, whose Mover does not care in the least what anything costs—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"]—I have never heard him mention any one Amendment in regard to which he has asked what the cost would be or has even considered it. I will withdraw the words that he does not care and substitute the words "practically does not care" what the cost is to be. [HON MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Surely I am entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman, or I hope the House will allow me to ask him, to tell us what the cost is likely to be of this proposal! Is the right hon. Gentleman, or is he not, departing entirely from the rough-and-ready estimate he made of the extra cost which this Bill will impose 917 upon the State? That is a vital consideration, and vital at any time in any country in the world, and is vital at this moment to this country in regard to this Bill.
Mr. T. WILSON
I am not surprised at the speech which we have just heard, for the simple reason that the hon. Member is absolutely out of touch with the working classes of this country.
The hon. Member disputes it; he will dispute anything. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not rule this Amendment out without further consideration. If he could put himself in the place of parents whose income is anything from 20s. to 30s., 35s., or even £2 a week, he would recognise that unless there is some maintenance allowance made this Bill will not be acceptable in any shape or form to the working classes of the country, for it will make the position of those people even worse than it is now. The right hon. Gentleman has got to recognise this fact, that it is not the parents of the children who are going to reap the benefit of the education to be afforded to the children, but it is the nation that is going to reap the benefit of these young people being educated in a better manner than they are at the present time. I hope that in spite of what has been said the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment, or, if he cannot do that, that he will do something that will be acceptable to the House and also to the country. If he is not prepared to accept this, I ask him to postpone the consideration of this Bill until after a General Election, because the people who will be most directly affected by this Bill are people who just now have not got votes. When the next General Election takes place the women will have votes, and therefore the opinions and views of the women of the country ought to be recognised in connection with this question of education. It is not because the working classes are against their children having a better education, but because poverty will be intensified unless there is an allowance. Speaking as a working man and as a Labour man, in spite of what has been said by some members of the Labour party, I suggest that in the meetings which the right hon. Gentleman has addressed throughout the country he has not been able to get the true and real opinion of the working classes. I say that, in dealing with any 918 Bill of this magnitude, affecting the economic conditions of the working classes of the country, he and the Government will be well advised to withdraw certain Clauses under present conditions.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman what is the position in the countries that compete with us in the industrial and commercial world, so far as the age at which children are compelled to go to school is concerned? If he will read the reply given by the Foreign Secretary to a question I put yesterday he will find that he is going to handicap the people of this country in the race for commercial supremacy in the world, and that being so, I suggest that a Bill of this magnitude ought to receive a great deal more consideration, not from the right hon. Gentleman, but from the Government, before they attempt to press it through the House. What is more, we have to recognise the fact that the abolition of half-time under the age of fourteen is an extremely important step, and unless he is prepared to get the Treasury to grant some financial assistance to the parents who are poor, to assist them in their struggle, for it will be a struggle, to maintain their children whilst they are attending school, losing time and income, he can rest assured that instead of being blessed by the working classes of the country he will be damned by them.
I hope he will give real consideration to this point. It is no good passing over questions of this kind lightly and saying we must be here or there in our educational effort and also preserve the trade of this country, without which a number of people would have no income. If people are unemployed owing to there being no trade, then Part II. of the Insurance Act is going to suffer severely, and not only that, but the funds of the trade unions are going to. suffer severely by the fact that people will be thrown out of employment by our not being able to compete successfully with the countries which are our competitors. He must not dismiss an Amendment of this kind lightly and think he is going to satisfy the people of this country by saying that the boys and girls are going to be better educated than they have been in the past, if the fathers and mothers and younger children are going to starve. In such a case not only will he be condemned, but the Government will be condemned for passing a Bill of this kind. I hope, therefore, that he will postpone the Clause with regard to continuation schools until a 919 later period and until after the General Election, and, if he likes, allow the question to be made a test question at the next election. Otherwise he should accept the Amendment on the Paper, and I appeal to him to give further consideration to it, and not to dismiss it as easily and glibly as he has done.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is not prepared to give an undertaking that, at any rate, between now and the Report stage he will bring up some Clause which will modify Clause 38 to the extent of making it perfectly clear that there will be both a Grant and encouragement from the Board of Education to all local authorities to give maintenance allowance based on the position of the parent, rather than, as most allowances are, on the particular character of instruction? What many of us feel is that the Bill as it stands does not meet the situation, and that for some practical reason this Amendment does not. We believe in the right hon. Gentleman's absolute bona fides, and I ask him to give us an undertaking that between now and the Report stage he will consider the question of introducing some such Clause.
Sir M. BARLOW
I would just like to ask the right hon. Gentleman how far the answer he gave me went. He referred to Clause 38, which provides for half the cost being borne by the Treasury and half by the local authorities. I take it he had in
§ view Section 11 of the Act of 1907, which says that the local authorities may make grants or give bursaries. But the dominating word in that Section is the word "instruction." The difficulty I feel is not assisting the local authority to benefit by instruction, it is the burden on the family I am thinking of. If you could get the word "maintenance" as well as" "instruction" in Section 11 of that Act of 1907, then I think the President's answer that the Treasury is to bear half the cost would clear us, but the emphasis in the Act of 1907 is laid on "instruction"—it is laid on the clever children. You may get a clever child of a parent who has only one child and can afford to educate it properly, and as long as the education authority has the emphasis laid on the word "instruction" we shall not get what we want. If the President will somehow give us the word "maintenance," all that we want will be secured.
The hon. Member has raised a very interesting point, but I think it is a point which would be most conveniently considered in connection with our Financial Clause, and I suggest that if my hon. Friend would put down some such word as he suggests we would consider it on that occasion.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 36; Noes, 94.921
|Division No. 43.]||AYES.||[9.54 p.m.|
|Adamson, William||Hogge James Myles||Rowlands, James|
|Anderson, W. C.||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen||Smith, Albert (Lanes., Clitheroe)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||John, Edward Thomas||Sutton, John E.|
|Bowerman. Rt. Hon. C. W.||Jowett. Frederick William||Tootill, Robert|
|Buxton, Noel||King, Joseph||Wedgwood, Commander Josiah C.|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.>|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eiffon)||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Finney, Samuel||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Needham, Christopher T.||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Goddard, Rt. Hon. Sir Daniel Ford||Newman, Sir Robert (Exeter)|
|Goldstone, Frank||Parrott, Sir James Edward||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Whitehouse and Lord H. Cavendish Bentinck.|
|Helme, SirNorval Watson||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Henderson, John M (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Bull, Sir William James||Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Cator, John||Fell, Sir Arthur|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G.||Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Fisher, Rt. Hon. H. A. L. (Hallam)|
|Barnett, Captain R. W.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Fletcher, John Samuel|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Foster, Philip Staveley|
|Barton, Sir William||Collins, Sir W. (Derby)||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)||Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Gilmour, Lieut.-Col. John|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Greig, Colonel J. W.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Cory, James H. (Cardifo||Harmood-Banner, Sir J. S.|
|Boyton, Sir James||Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, E.)||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Hermon-Hodge, Sir R. T.|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Denniss, E. R. B.||Hewins, William Albert Samuel|
|Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Higham, John Sharp||Nuttall, Harry||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Hinds, John||Parker, James (Halifax)||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Stoker, R. B.|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Pease,Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike(Darlingt'n)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray||Swift, Rigby|
|Jones, Sir Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pratt, J. W.||Thomas, Sir A. G. (Monmouth, S.)|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey)||Pulley, C. T.||Tickler, T. G.|
|Larmor, Sir J.||Rees, Sir J. D. [Nottingham, E )||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||Roberts, Sir H. (Denbighs)||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Robertson, Rt. Hon. John M.||Williams, Thomas J. (Swansea)|
|Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Robinson, Sidney||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Samuels, Arthur W. (Dublin, U.)||Worthington-Evans, Sir L.|
|Maden, Sir John Henry||Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur|
|Marriott, J. A. R.||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)||Dudley Ward and Lord E. Talbot.|
|Morgan, George Hay||Shortt, Edward||TELLERS FOR THE NOES. —Mr.|
|Mount, William Arthur|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (3).
The point of this Amendment may be stated very briefly indeed; it is connected with the general purpose of retaining non-provided and private schools and abolishing the final appeal to the Board of Education. Many of us feel very strongly indeed that the Clause as drafted deprives parents of a right they have hitherto enjoyed, and which has been very much prized by them—the right to appeal to a Court of law. I know we shall be told by the Minister in charge of the Bill that this is neither the intention nor the effect of the Clause, and that, as a matter of fact, punitive measures will still rest with a Court of law. That may be so, but the practical effect of the Sub-section as it stands is, I suggest, to place the ultimate authority in the hands of the Board of Education. That we desire to avoid. I desire to avoid it on the ground which was so fully stated by the Bryce Commission on Secondary Education when it reported, I think, in the year 1895. The Committee and the President of the Board will remember that the Bryce Commission reported very strongly indeed in favour of maintaining a variety of secondary schools.
§ Sir P. MAGNUS
On a point of Order. May I ask whether this Sub-section does not refer to elementary schools only, and not to secondary schools?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that is so, but it does not make the Amendment out of order. The hon. Gentleman who is moving it may be under a misapprehension.
§ Sir P. MAGNUS
I did not say that the Amendment was out of order, but that the argument, based on the supposition that this Sub-section referred to secon- 922 dary schools was out of order, and I rather hoped that the Mover of this Amendment would restrict his arguments to questions concerning elementary schools, with which this does deal.
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
I submit that that was rather a matter for the Chair than for the hon. Gentleman by whom I have been interrupted. I will, of course, restrict my arguments to elementary schools, but the argument in regard to the variety of schools applies with equal force to them as it does to the secondary schools, and in some respects with even greater force. What is the position, as I conceive it, under the Sub-section as it would stand in the Bill? It would be this, that a parent who was sending a child, we will say, to a Roman Catholic school, or an Anglican school, or any school that might not be approved of by the local education authority in the particular district in which they happened to be, would have under the Clause as it stands only on appeal to the Board of Education. My argument is directed to the general point and not to the question of elementary or secondary schools. I submit that in the interests of variety and liberty of education it is desirable to delete the Clause as it stands.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I object to this Clause upon the ground that it comes within the attempt to make the administrative body a legal and final body. I submit that is quite wrong. It was introduced to a considerable extent in the Insurance Act, whereby the Insurance Commissioners, who had to frame Regulations and send them out, were the sole judges, like the Court of law, in administering them. It has now become the fashion among the would-be legislators on the Front Bench to attempt to get round the decision of His Majesty's judges, and I am perfectly 923 sure they will not accomplish it by this Clause. I think the weight of the legal Bench will be quite sufficient if this Clause is in for them to defeat it. It seems to me to be clumsily worded, and that is my one hope of it if it goes in. We find again and again that the decisions of these Departments are upset when they come before a judge if equality, rather than technicality, prevails. I want, on the general ground, to take the strongest objection to the Board of Education following in the wake of other Departments in the bad example of trying to put themselves up as a Court of justice. I do not think they should. They should be content to frame their own Regulations correctly and to have their own powers, and I do not like to see that their decisions should be final and conclusive. I am perfectly certain that these words are in to prevent someone getting their rights. It may be that it is aimed at the voluntary schools, and one only has to look at the names to see that there has been a great fear aroused in some quarters, while I have information that that is well-founded. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman not to be misled too much by the Government draftsmen and the usual permanent officials, who always like not only to get large administrative powers, but not to be challenged, for the very good reason that they have been challenged frequently and the Government have been found in the wrong. They have been compelled to come forward with short amending Bills to indemnify themselves against the mistakes they have made. We have had one or two this Session, and we may have one or two more. I cannot see what purpose this has unless it is to set up the Board of Education as a last resort as a Court of justice, and on that ground I object to it.
Before the right hon. Gentleman replies, will he consider how far he would like to proceed this evening? I think it would be quite possible for the President to get Clauses 8 and 9 before the House adjourns to-night. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh !"] I think we ought to facilitate matters as much as possible, and I hope, therefore, that the Committee may consent to taking Clauses 8 and 9, if the right hon. Gentleman would say whether he would be content with that progress. If he would, I think it might facilitate business.
§ Sir P. MAGNUS
I am sorry to have interrupted my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Marriott) when he was speaking, but I really wanted, before he made his speech, to obtain from the President of the Board some information not contained in the Sub-section itself as regards the class of schools to which this particular Sub-section refers. The Sub-section speaks of the question whether a child who is not attending a school recognised by the Board of Education is efficient. Having regard to the fact that the schools referred to in this Sub-section are only elementary schools and not secondary schools, I was very desirous of ascertaining from the Board of Education a statement as to what classes of elementary school it refers to in this particular Sub-section which are not under the inspection of the Board of Education. It is really because I am rather ignorant as regards what the Subsection means, and what class of elementary schools there are at present in this country which are not under the inspection of the Board of Education, that I ask for that information. I think it very desirable that the Committee should know to what extent the Board of Education at the present time is able, if it should be able, to inspect all the elementary schools in the country, and if it is not able to, or does not inspect those schools, I think the Committee ought to be informed before passing this Clause what are the particular classes of schools it is not able to inspect. I also want to know what exactly is meant by the educational institutions referred to in this Sub-section. It is for that reason that I ventured to interrupt my hon. Friend, and I apologise for doing so.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
With every disposition, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, to support this Bill and facilitate its passing, I am compelled on educational grounds to take very strong objection to 'this Sub-section. I agree with the views laid down by the hon. Member for Ponte-fract (Mr. Booth) with regard to the growing desire on the part of official organisations and Departments to assume to themselves judicial functions; but let us sec exactly what this change involves. It is a very largo and a very wide change, and it is quite independent of what the hon. Baronet below me (Sir P. Magnus) speaks of. It goes far beyond 925 that. When the Education Act of 1870 was passed the injunction and the obligation laid on parents was to provide efficient education or instruction for their children. They could do that in the way they pleased, and that is the very valuable buttress of individual liberty and freedom of choice. It becomes a totally different thing when you say it must be given in a particular manner, and that particular manner is not to be decided in the open Court before a judicial tribunal which can hear the evidence on one side or the other, but merely by a Government Department. That is the essential fault that I have to find with this Section, and I am quite sure my right hon. Friend will not misinterpret what I say, as one of the fundamental supporters of the Bill, if I object to this as a new, and, as I think, a subversive principle introduced into our legislation.
Compulsory education is, no doubt, a good thing to meet a neglectful part of society, but those who introduced compulsory education in the Act of 1870, with which my first acquaintance with educational administration began, always felt that compulsory education would best prove its success by the fact that in a few years it would show itself to be unnecessary. I am very sorry indeed, looking back upon nearly fifty years now, that that has not been the case, and that the pressure which seems to increase in this House to make more and more stringent rules with regard to obligations has not increased the anxiety, the ambition, and the personal interest of parents, but has diminished it, and it is just as well we should recognise it. Human nature is a very cantankerous and difficult subject, and very often things we are quite ready to do when we are left to ourselves, as soon as they are made obligatory we begin to kick against them. Compulsory and obligatory education was, no doubt, necessary for neglectful parents. In my own country of Scotland, except for the criminal classes, there was not a parent who was not proud to have his child educated. That has rather died out than increased under compulsory education, and now you are giving in this Clause a new and very serious turn to the screw. You are going to tell the people not only that they must educate their children, but that they must educate them in a particular way, that they have no right to go before a judge in a Court and say, "I have educated my child. Here is the 926 proof; test it if you like," but they must do it in a particular manner, and the determination as to that particular manner, and the school in which it is to be given, is to rest not with the Court, not with any proof or argument which the parent may bring forward before the Court, but in the judgment of the Board of Education as to the efficiency of the instruction. The right hon. Gentleman may say that they have an appeal to a Court of law, but what is left to the Court of law? If it comes before a judge he will say, "Who is the judge of what is efficient instruction? I have looked at this Sub-section of the new Act, and it tells me that efficient instruction is only that instruction which is pronounced by the Board of Education to be efficient." He has no judgment in his own hands at all. I do not think any choice would be left him but to convict in such a case.
Surely there are a great many ways in which children may obtain education otherwise than between the four walls of a school One of the most able Members of this House has confessed to me that he thought a great deal of his success in life was due to the fact that he had never attended a school for more than six months at a time. There are all sorts of varieties in the methods of obtaining education. Some parents may think that education at home has its advantages, or that education by travel has its advantages; but here, if you are in a particular school which does not teach in a way that the Board of Education approves as. efficient, you may appeal, as my light hon. Friend may tell us, and the Court of Law will only say, "You are giving instruction in a way that is pronounced by the authority which is constituted the final determining authority to be inefficient." I do think that is a very serious new move. It is-open to the objection of the hon. Member for Pontefract, that it is an extension of official and departmental power at the expense of the Court of law. It is also open to the objection that it introduces an entirely new form of compulsion. In place of saying, "You must educate your child and give him efficient instruction or you must be prepared to be brought up for neglecting him and for it to be proved that he is without efficient instruction "— instead of that you are now told by a Government Department, "We pronounce-this form of instruction, and this school, whatever the results may be in regard to 927 your child, to be inefficient, and because your child goes there, or because he receives instruction in a way we have not pronounced to be efficient, and which we may have no means of pronouncing to be efficient, you here come within the four corners of the law"—which has no alternative but to condemn the parent for neglect of duty. I know that in the Courts of law in years gone by this case was fully argued, and the judges laid it down more than once that efficient instruction did not necessarily mean attending within the walls of a school, but the giving to a child such instruction, in any way you please, as might prove itself in the results to be efficient and satisfactory. I trust that the Committee will not give up on the part of the parents or the children of this country that liberty which has hitherto existed, that we shall not now, at this time of day, allow a new turn of the screw in the matter of compulsory education which will have very dangerous effects.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
I think members of he Committee, or at all events some of them, are reading into this Clause far more than is there. It would appear to me that if there is to be a national system of education there must be some method of, shall I say, erecting a standard by which the education which is given shall be judged. Clearly it would be against the national interest to allow the multiplication of schools of an inferior type which, giving an education of an inferior type, would allow children to come from them inefficiently equipped to engage in the battle of life. We know there are parents who desire to keep their children apart from the public facilities for education, and are prepared, in some instances, to forego the more efficient education given In the public system rather than submit their children to contact with the children in the public schools. That appears to me to be a thing not to be encouraged at all. If we are to have a public system of education with a high standard, let us ensure that all the schools supported by the parents who wish to avoid public institutions shall be up to the standard attained by the public provision of schools. That, I take it, is the object of this Clause. The Board of Education, perhaps not being in the best position for seeing that every small school comes up to their standard, delegates, through this Clause, the right to 928 see whether any small institution is reaching the standard of the general public provision. That seems entirely the right course, and the Board of Education, in the interests of national education, is endeavouring to secure from every institution a standard not lower than that fixed for the local education authorities. That is an entirely good thing and meets the snobbish idea of parents that the public provision of education should be avoided. I think the Board of Education should stick to this Sub-section. In the second half of the Sub-section it is intended to give protection to the parents, because it gives an appeal to the parents of the child in a school which is inspected by the Board against the type of education given. It gives the parents an appeal to ensure that the type of education given is up to the proper level, and will compare in all respects with the public provision made by the local education authority. The cumbrous provision of the law Courts seems out of place to settle whether suitable standards of education are reached in these educational institutions. There is nothing in the Sub-section inimical to the interests of private schools which reach a good standard, and, therefore, I think the Board of Education is well advised in inserting this Sub-section, and I hope it will be adhered to.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
I cannot agree with the interpretation which has been put upon this proposal by the last speaker, nor with the reasons given by him in support of it. By all means have a national system of education supported by national funds under national control, and the more you extend those principles the better hon. Members will be pleased. But to say that the administrative body which properly controls that system is at the same time to be a judicial authority is to confuse what ought to be kept separate in the most important respects. Who is to decide whether a child is receiving instruction whose parents have chosen some other method than the national method? Surely not the administreators who are concerned with the national method. They must be, to a certain extent, zealous of their own type of education, and in the most inoffensive sense of the word partisan. My hon. Friend is an expert, and he knows that education is not so simple that you can apply a standard the same as you would apply to the height of a building. You may have a kind of education so different 929 from the national one that it would be quite unfair for the decision as to whether it is efficient or not to be left to the officials of the national system. It is a judicial duty and function to decide whether a child in being educated in an exceptional way is being educated efficiently. Many hon. Members are lay magistrates with no special knowledge of any special occupation, but the whole tendency of our race is to allow laymen to decide matters of judicial importance after listening to what the experts may have to say on either side. The question whether a child is being efficiently educated is far better decided by the common sense of an experienced Englishman who hears what the local education authority or the Board of Education has to say through their witnesses than by those committed to one particular view of education. As I read history, nothing is more dangerous to the civilisation of a State than to confuse the executive and administrative with the judicial. It marks unhesitatingly the downward step in the growth of a nation. It is a disease which attacks nations at almost all stages, and their power of resisting it is one of the best test of their virility. We have seen a tendency in all sorts of crevices and corners of Bills to make the administrative authority the judicial authority as well, and for my part I will oppose that always, not because I do not care for education, but because I know that education will be better carried out if you keep these fundamental distinctions. Therefore, while I approach education from a very different point of view than those hon. Members whose names are down to this Amendment—I have no doubt that on other occasions we should have acute controversy as to the best methods of education—on this point of demarcation between the administrative and judicial functions I entirely agree with them, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will allow this Sub-section to go out, and that we may get this Bill as quickly as possible. Let him realise that we are in a state in which legislation can only proceed on a very wide basis of consent. This Bill has the vast bulk of public opinion behind it. Why destroy it, why injure it, why spoil its symmetry by bringing in matters of this contentious character? If it goes to a Division I shall have to vote for the Amendment because of the principle involved, but if the right hon. Gentleman took the Sub-section out 930 it would not interfere with the efficiency of the Bill, while it would widen the area of contention.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
When my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Marriott) moved this Amendment, I did not fully appreciate the significance of it, although I am generally in agreement with him, and I recognise that there is no Member more competent to give an opinion upon a question of this sort; but I do realise now that the Amendment involves one of the most important principles in the whole course of the Debate upon this Bill, and I am very clear that I differ as strongly as possible from the opinions expressed by my hon. Friend below the Gangway opposite (Mr. Goldstone). The Amendment brings very prominently to the front the great difficulty, perhaps the chief difficulty, which is involved in any system of national education. There is necessarily in any such system a conflict of great principles. First of all, we desire to give 'the beat possible education to the greatest number of children. We desire that in the interests of the children themselves, and as I feel, we desire it still more strongly in the interests of the State. I do not look upon education as a mere privilege or advantage, which we offer to individuals who form the State, but rather as something which the State is entitled to exact from the people in the interests of the State itself. But along with these principles we have to recognise the inherent right in the parent to bring up the child in the way in which the parent thinks right and to give that child education upon the lines of which the parent approves. It is quite clear that those are principles which it is sometimes difficult to reconcile. If you devise your national system of education upon too strict lines with a view to satisfying the requirements of the State, you must inevitably sacrifice the co-relative right of the parent to direct the lines upon which his child shall be brought up. Those two principles are brought out in this Amendment. In this Clause, as it-stands, it is quite clear that the direction upon which the education of all children is to proceed is subject to the control of the local education authority and of the Board of Education—in other words, the administrative authority throughout the country. These directing authorities may or may not give any value to the opinions or wishes of the individual parent. The words of the hon. Member (Mr. Goldstone) appeared to me to involve the theory that 931 the rights of the parent are to be disregarded. He spoke of schools which might be inefficient and modes of private education which might commend themselves to the parent which, according to him, are to be swept aside as being entirely inefficient, and the Board of Education is in all such cases to say, "Such a school is entirely inefficient; it is not on the lines of which we approve; we do not approve of your educating your child in such a way and you must conform to our system." That appears to me to be entirely wrong. While the State provides a system of education for the child and provides it free, all that the State has a right to do is to say to the parent, "What we insist upon your doing is to give your child an efficient education. We are not concerned to say upon what lines that education is to proceed. You may be, from our point of view, an educational crank. You may have ideas of education quite different from those of the majority and quite different from that which the Board of Education or any local education authority is likely to sanction, and all we have the right to do is to see that you provide your child with an efficient education." Who is to be the judge of an efficient education? That is a difficult point, but because it is a difficult point, in the last resort certainly the very last authority to decide that difficult question is the administrative department itself. You must have some judicial body which is to decide upon a matter of fact. I agree that it is a very difficult point for any judicial body to decide, but that difficulty you cannot get rid of. It is just as great a difficulty, whether you submit it to the decision of the Board of Education or submit it to a Court of law. That difficulty is inherent in the situation. A Court of law is more competent than the administrative body to decide upon a pure question of fact, because they may hear evidence. They are accustomed to deal with evidence and to deal with matters upon which they have no pre-conceived notions themselves. If a parent comes before a judicial body and says, "It is quite true I do not send my child to school at all. I do not wish to send him to school. I do not approve of the influences to which he may be subjected when at school." The parent has a right to say that. I think he has a right to say, "I will not send my son to learn with a number of other boys. I prefer that he should be 932 subjected entirely to home influences." He may give evidence that he and his wife, or persons whom he employs, are quite competent to give a good education at home. He may say, "I prefer that my child should be so educated at home," or, "I prefer that he should gain his education by travel," or in fifty other ways which the Board of Education might consider quite freakish and crankish. But a judicial authority, having heard all the evidence, might say, "This is certainly a very strange method. It is quite true it is off the ordinary lines, but. having heard the evidence, we are not in a position to say this is not efficient." It is quite possible that a boy or girl so educated may be much better educated than by going to an ordinary humdrum school conforming to the ordinarily accepted, steam-roller-ridden lines of education. That is exactly what I think the parent has a right to do, and, therefore, I feel very strongly that on a question of this kind we should be departing from the very best principles of a national system of education and those which have been followed in this country hitherto if at this time, when we are making the greatest step forward which we ever made in the development of national education, we developed it entirely upon the lines of State regulation and gave the "good-bye for ever" to the quite as important side of it of the right of the parent to direct the education of the child, and I feel that it is very important that we should be careful not to override the rights of the family, which, from the social and the educational point of view, are of the utmost importance, in our anxiety to see that the individual child gets what most of us would regard as efficient education. Let us be very careful in this matter to avoid the tyrannical rule of the majority. We have heard a great deal during the last two or three years. sometimes in directions with which I was unable to agree, about the rights of the individual conscience and the rights of individual opinion, but surely, if there is any part of our national life in which the individual conscience and the individual opinion are entitled to respect and support from this House and from the State it is in the education of the children, which is the most sacred right of the people of this country, and therefore I seriously and earnestly urge upon the Committee that they should consider this matter before 933 they refuse to accept the Amendment, which I am perfectly ready to support if the House goes to a Division.
It would perhaps be convenient if I first of all explain the character of the evil against which this Clause is directed, and then invite the Committee to consider some of the misconceptions which have, I think, gathered round the discussion of this point. The hon. Member for London University asks me what was the class of school to which this Clause referred? It refers to private schools, which educate children up to the age of fourteen. Many of these schools are quite good. Many of them are interesting experiments in education with which nobody wishes to interfere. On the other hand there are a very large number of private schools which are frauds, and gross frauds. I do not think the House or the country realise how very serious this evil is and what a grave menace it is to the educational progress and prosperity of the country. Let me give the Committee an instance. There was a school in a county borough in the Midlands which came before the notice of the Board last year.It had seventy-two children on the register, most of whom were between the ages of eleven and fourteen; consequently, of an age requiring instruction or a fairly advanced character and also of the age when children can profitably be employed. The staff consisted of one entirely unqualified teacher, assisted by two elder girls, scholars of the school, neither of whom was fourteen years of age. There was supposed to be six classes taught by this staff. The premises consisted of a front bedroom of a. house, 15 ft. by 10 ft. by 10 ft. and the front ground floor room of another house 50 yrs. away, 10 ft. by 10 ft. by 10 ft. There were no desks; but there were a few forms of various sizes and conditions of dilapidation. One broken blackboard was supported by two chair legs. The children were doing their work on broken pieces of slate. There were no facilities for paper work. The instruction was entirely of a mechanical type—multiplication and money tables up to 10,000 pence. Lists of words, some of which were incorrectly spelt, were copied from a blackboard. Instruction was given in a mechanical way in geography. There was no syllabus of work, nor was the instruction graduated—all classes were served alike. The attendance was supposed to begin at 9.30, but on one occasion, when a visit was paid to the school, the proprietress had not arrived at 11.20, and the children dribbled in, many of them being an hour late. The two rooms were separated by an open field, the soil of which was soft and muddy. The air was very foul. There was no provision of artificial light and the natural light was quite insufficient. The floor was filthy; large pieces of dirt had been carried in on the children's boots. The walls and ceilings were dirty and 934 large patches of plaster had fallen away in places. There was no playground and no sanitary conveniences whatever except in the caretaker's house on the other side of the street and in the vestry in the church. The lavatory was also in the caretaker's house, but had never been used. Substantially, it may be said, that attached to one of the rooms there was no lavatory or sanitary accommodation at all, and that in the case of the other room, it was entirely insufficient. There was ample evidence that the teacher generally did not arrive at the proper time and that hardly any of the children -stopped the full time. On one afternoon when the school was under observation the maximum instruction given amounted to thirty-three minutes in the case of ten girls and nine boys.That was declared to be efficient by the magistrate. He refused to convict. This is not by any means an isolated case. I could give similar cases. That is the evil which has to be dealt with. I am told that we can safely leave this matter to the magistrates. I think in many cases we can, but we have to remember that the magistrates have no inspectors at all, and for many of them it is a physical impossibility to visit the school. They have no machinery for knowing what the quality of the instruction in the school is; what is the physical condition of the school; and what is the sanitary condition of the school. They could ask, but they have not the machinery that is possessed by the education authorities in this country for arriving at a correct decision as to whether the school is giving a reasonable quantum of education. I do not think that my hon. Friend, in his interesting speech, was quite correct in saying that the magistrate would probably be in a better position to reach a satisfactory decision as to the quality of the instruction than the local education authority.
§ Mr. McNEILL
Is there anything in such cases to prevent the local authority from putting evidence before the magistrate in order that he may arrive at a decision in such cases as my right hon. Friend has just read out? Surely, if the facts had been put before the magistrate by the local education authority he would have immediately said, "This is an inefficient school."
He would be unable to enter the school. I was astonished when my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham accused me of violating the principles of the Constitution, which declared that the executive and judicial functions should be separated, and I was still more astonished when that sentence was 935 cheered by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, because surely if there is one characteristic in the History of our magistrates in this country it is that forcenturies—
§ Sir R. ADKINS
It is recognised by all parties in the State that it was a great step forward when they were separated by the Act of 1888.
What is it that this Clause proposes? That the question as to whether the education is efficient should be a question for the education authority to determine. The magistrate will be bound to accept the verdict of the authority which is served by inspectors who can enter the schools and can give presumably a qualified opinion upon the subject, but a magistrate is not bound to fine, and if the magistrate does not fine, and if it is his view that there is a local education authority which is apt to take an unreasonable line in questions of this kind he will not fine, and the local education authority will know very soon that it is useless for it to attempt to bring cases of this kind before the magistrate. Then, again, the magistrate has got to consider what are reasonable excuses for non-attendance, and it has been judicially held that the reasonable excuses for not attending school are the three statutory excuses contained in Section 74 of the Education Act of 1870. Even if the magistrate is bound to hold that the education which is received is efficient, he can still find that for some other reason the child has an excuse for not attending school. This matter was considered by a very strong Departmental Committee, presided over by my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, and they recommended without hesitation that there should be an alteration in the law, and that it should be laid down that the only possible excuses which could be accepted should be the three statutory excuses of sickness, of inefficient instruction, and excessive distance from a public elementary school. I went into the matter very carefully, and came to the conclusion that it would not be wise to fetter the discretion of the magistrate. Consequently I did not adopt the suggestion which was made by the Departmental 936 Committee, but I do think that the magistrate would be helped rather than hindered if on this particular point of efficient instruction he could be guided by the opinion of the local authority, always on the understanding that there is an appeal from that opinion to the Board of Education. I think the Committee have been largely influenced by a feeling, which is very natural, that the education which is provided by our public system is of a very uniform and mechanical kind. I do not think that is the case. I think that in the case of the elementary school there is a very great difference between one elementary school and another. The mere fact that the system of education is administered locally through a local education authority, influenced by all manner of local differences and considerations, does ensure a very great deal of variety of type. I do not share the apprehensions expressed so freely by members of the Committee that this Clause will endanger educational variety in the country. There is no real risk. If there were, I would certainly withdraw the Clause at once. It has been suggested to me by some member of the Committee that the Board of Education should associate itself, in considering the inspector's report, with a panel of independent members not connected with the public system of education. If that would meet the views of hon. Members I would be very glad to fall in with that suggestion.
Sir M. BARLOW
I hope that the President will see his way to modify this Clause. The difficulty of the voluntary school is admittedly a great one. He gave a very alarming instance of a school in the Midlands where local education had been carried on, and where it was very difficult to imagine any child receiving efficient instruction. To all of us interested in education instances of that kind are not unknown, but I think that something in the way of an extension of the Board's power of inspection, coupled with the power of making reports on schools, would meet the evil with which the right hon. Gentleman wants to deal. It should be borne in mind that under the Act of 1876 the compulsory duty is imposed upon the parents to see that the children received efficient instruction. If they do not receive efficient instruction, then the magistrate can impose a fine.
§ It being Eleven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow.