§ (1)If a child why is attending or is about to attend a public elementary school or a school certified by the Board of Education under the Elementary Education (Blind and Deaf Children) Act, 1893, or the Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Acts, 1899 to 1914, attains any year of age during the school term, the child shall not, for the purpose of any enactment or by-law, whether made before or after the passing of this Act, relating to school attendance, be deemed to have attained that year of age until the end of the term.
§ (2)The local education authority for the purposes of Part III. of the Education Act, 1902. may make Regulations with the approval of the Board of Education providing that a child may, in such cases as are prescribed by the Regulations, be refused admission to a public elementary school or such certified school as aforesaid except at the commencement of a school term.
§ (3)For the purposes of this Section, a school term shall be deemed to be the term as fixed by the local education authority.
§ Sir J. YOXALL
I beg to move, in Subsection (2), after the word "that" ["that a child may"], to insert the words "except when change of residence from one district to another has taken place" The object of this Amendment is to secure in the case of the removal of the parents of a family, say, from Hammersmith to Southwark or from Halifax to Huddersfield at any time between the beginning or the end of a school term, that their children may go to school in the district to which they have gone. I think it is an essential Amendment, and it 1082 appears to so commend itself to the view of the Parliamentary Secretary that I need not dwell upon it.
§ Mr. LEWIS
The Bill proposes that a local education authority may, with the approval of the Board of Education, make Regulations providing that a child may, in such cases as are prescribed by the Regulations, be refused admission to a public elementary school except at the commencement of a school term. Now this Amendment proposes that children may be admitted in the middle of a term in cases where a change of residence from one district to another has taken place. The Board of Education recognise that there must be many exceptions to the rule that a child shall not be admitted to school except at the beginning of a term, and the case of a change of residence is only one of several possible cases. It is just for that reason that the Board of Education propose to make Regulations on the subject. I submit to the hon. Member that the matter can be much better dealt with by Regulations than by inserting an Amendment in the Act, as that course will give us very much more elasticity. That is my main reason for suggesting that this Amendment is unnecessary. It is doubtful whether there should be an exception in all cases. For example, if the change of residence takes place within the last few clays of a school term, it would be very inconvenient to the organisation of the school if the child was admitted during the last few days even if it came from another district. I think all that is necessary can be done by Regulation.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill"
This is the second stage in the hardship that is inflicted by this Bill. Clause 8 fixes the age of leaving the day school at fourteen and this Clause makes it on an average fourteen years and two months. The local 1083 authority may make by-laws fixing a school term, and I take it they may do so without the sanction of the Board of Education. Sub-section (3) says that "for the purpose of this Section the school term shall be deemed to be the term as fixed by the local education authority" I understand the President of the Board of Education some time ago to say that the school term would be four months. The local education authority may disagree with that, and, unless the Board of Education insist on four months, the local education authority may make it six months. I will take it at four months and assume on the average that they leave midway. That will make the age of leaving fourteen years and two months. That is an additional burden, and you do not do away with the evil although you keep the children at school. You may have a child, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for Nottingham (Sir J. Yoxall), removing from Hammersmith to another part of London or from Huddersfield to Halifax or from Liverpool to Manchester, and it cannot be admitted to the new school unless it is the end of the term. If it is admitted in the middle of the term, provision has to be made. These cases will be multiplied considerably. While I realise that fourteen years is a very good advance in our educational methods, I want it to foe fourteen and no more.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I desire to associate myself with the observations of my hon. and gallant Friend. In view of the strong opposition in the industrial districts of the North of England to the raising of the age for compulsory attendance at school to fourteen, I think my hon. and gallant Friend and myself, and others who represent northern constituencies, have conceded a good deal to the Government in not pressing the opposition to the proposal to raise the age, and that we are entitled to ask and indeed to press the Government not to go beyond the proposal to limit the age for full-time attendance to fourteen. This talk about school terms in elementary education is something new, but, as my hon. and gallant Friend has pointed out, it means that in many cases children will not be permitted to leave school for outside work until they are getting fairly on for fifteen years. There will be a good many cases where children will not be able to leave school till four 1084 months beyond the age of fourteen. That will cause a really serious grievance, and the parents of those children will feel that they are unfairly treated in comparison with neighbours whose children are able to leave school and go to work four months earlier. There would be something to be said in favour of keeping children at school as long as you could beyond fourteen if their education was going to stop altogether, but it is not. They will be able to take up their education at continuation schools at the point at which they left the day schools. For these reasons I support what my hon. and gallant Friend has said.
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
I wish my hon. Friend opposite could visualise better than he has done the actual conditions of school life. If he could, he would realise how flimsy are the arguments that he has addressed to the Committee. To start with, the fact that children have to leave at the end of the school term—-
§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
It is some years since the hon. Member was at school. Things have advanced since then, and they look like advancing at a more rapid rate. There are such things as school terms, not only on paper, but in reality. Those who are more conversant with educational matters are well aware of the fact, and I prefer to trust those who are in intimate contact with educational administration if I want to get at the real facts of educational life. It is to the supreme advantage of the local education authority to be able to arrange its staff with the minimum of expenditure, and if it knows that there will be a certain number of children right up to the end of a particular term it can make far better arrangements for the proper adjustment of its school staff and for the best advantage of education. The hon. Member for Blackburn suggested that because there was to be continuation education there was no need to put this provision in the Bill. The very fact that there is to be a continuation school system makes this provision all the more necessary. Imagine what will occur if we now reject this Clause and a continuation school system comes along. The children will leave, one on this day, another on the next, and they will be dribbling into the continuation schools, upsetting the whole organisation and waking the 1085 staffing of such schools enormously difficult. May I suggest that from the employers, point of view the fact that he will know that a certain day, which day will recur three times in a year, is the day on which he can reckon that the children will become available for him, will be an advantage to him and will enable him to organise his business better. From the point of view of education, from the point of view of the proper organisation of the schools, from the point of view of the proper organisation of industry, and also from the point of view of the organisation of the continuation system of education, this system of leaving at the end of the school term has everything to commend it. It is now suggested, because it has been applied in Scotland for some time with very great advantage, that we should have it incorporated in the English system. It is a point of minor administration, but one of considerable importance which will add greatly to our educational efficiency in this country.
The two hon. Members who have opposed this Clause are forgetting what is the policy of the Party to which they are attached. I see that does not seem to appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, but it has on other occasions, and I should have thought it did in this case. He possibly forgets, perhaps because he was not present, a recent meeting of the Labour party, which was more largely attended than any meeting I remember since the War began, certainly since its early days, when I brought up a Report from the Education Committee of the party which suggested changes in this Bill, not to weaken it, but which would make it go further than it goes now. I suggest to my hon. Friend that Labour party conferences at least can give mandates, and that the mandate of the Labour party conference on education is far in advance of this Clause. I would suggest to him also that the time is now opportune for a great change, and that he should come into line with his party on educational matters and should not attempt to prevent the Government taking a step which, I believe, has the great mass of public opinion behind it.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I feel personally obliged to the hon. Member for Sutherland (Mr. Goldstone) for replying to the extraordinary arguments suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Captain Smith) and the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden). I listened to their 1086 speeches with surprise and pain, to which I must give expression. They stand here and boast that they stand here as representatives of the workers of this country above other Members of this House. I have never admitted the claim that they make, except so far as it relates to the personal experiences of their lives, to represent the workers more than other Members of the House. Captain SMITH: When did you hear me make that claim?
§ Mr. JONES
If the hon. and gallant Member contradicts me, and says he did not make the claim, I accept it, but unless he denies it, although I cannot fix a date, I shall hold I am in the light. The hon. Members have stood up as the champions of the workers in this country. What is the greatest wrong done by our system to the workers of this country? It is not an industrial wrong or an economic wrong, but an educational wrong that has been done. For that reason it is a monstrous thing for representatives of the workers in this House to stand up and champion the wholly bad system that has existed in Lancashire and other parts of the country. We are far behind other countries in this matter. The hon. Member for Blackburn talks about the wrong done to the parents when the parent of one child gets him home at fourteen years of age, because the term ends on a particular date, and another parent has to suffer the injustice of his child remaining at school until fourteen years and four months. What about the injustice to the. child? Why did not the hon. Member look at the other side of the case? Why did he not think that, but for the unfortunate accident of birth, the child would have remained until he was fourteen years and four months? Let me threaten the hon. Member for Blackburn. We are not going to stop at fourteen years or fourteen years and four months. It will not be long before in this country all children will receive compulsory education up to something like sixteen. This Bill is a step in advance, but not a very long one. It does not bring us up to the level of the en- 1087 lightened nations of Europe even now. We shall still be behind in education. This is the second or third time during these Debates that I have heard the hon. Member for Blackburn and the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe dwelling on the economic wrong suffered by the parents owing to the children being kept at school. They are really looking at the wrong side of the case. They are gazing at the parents and observing the injustices and wrongs suffered by them, when they ought to look at the children, and nothing but the children, in connection with this Bill. If our economic system is such that it is upset by removing the children from the control of parents at this age and keeping them at school, I say that our economic system is wrong. My hon. Friends will not deny that. They must not bolster it up by keeping the children from school. If the industrial system is based upon the child's heart, let us withdraw the foundation and upset the system. Let us keep the children away and get our economic and industrial system right, if we can, but do let the children be factors in the settlement of the problem. Fix your eyes on the next generation, not on the one that is suffering the wrong, and prevent another generation growing up which will suffer. Then you will find your economic wrong put right by a more educated generation than that to which we belong.
§ Mr. BOOTH
The speech to which we have just listened is all very well, but it has no reference to the Clause. The right hon. Gentleman talked at large in a sort of encyclopaedic style, but did not deal with what the Clause says. People are accustomed to things maturing at a certain date. It has been the basis of our legislation in the past. The right hon. Gentleman has never got up and made speeches about the monstrous injustice of children leaving school at a particular age and going to the mills.
§ Mr. BOOTH
That has nothing to do with the subject. I was speaking of things maturing on a birthday. In all past years it is the birthday on which things have matured. It is an inheritance; it is the date of the maturing of policies. 1088 What has been more common than for children in many districts to be waiting, whether it be for half-time or full-time work, for their birthday? It it one of the proudest things in the lives of children, say, when they are thirteen years of age, to come and demand that they should take their share in the work of the country. The right hon. Gentleman, perhaps, has not had the experience of those he is rebuking. I know that as a manager I have refused to take on children on their thirteenth birthday. I have begged them to go along to school, and have begged the parents to keep them there. There has been no eager rushing for them and dragging them into the mills. As a matter of fact, we did not want them so young. What was the answer of the parents? They said, "It is time the girl is working, because she has started courting" It is quite common to find keenness. Equally, in Sunderland, the working people expect to be treated fairly. What will happen under the Clause? The suggestion, as I understood it, was the smooth working of the Bill. In some cases the birthday will occur in the holidays, and in others it will mature a week after the term starts. What will the parents think when you keep the child at school for four months? You may talk about the benefit to them. Why is that assumed? If my hon. Friend is sincere in what he says, he should have put an Amendment on the Paper to keep all the children there for four months. Why has he not done it if he is convinced that they are lucky children who happen to have their birthday in the first week of the term?
He talked about depriving the children of some right. The only point is that a date is taken which the working classes understand, and they will not understand any other, and when a certain age matures they have certain rights. That runs all through our legislation. I should have preferred to hear what the Department has to say about it. I do not know what line the Government will take or whether it has come to a decision upon it. It is apparently a conflict between the necessities of the home and the convenience of the school. I am not at all impressed by the inconvenience of the child leaving. If the child can leave if the birthday occurs a week after the term has started, the common-sense way would be, unless this Clause is passed, that the child would not go to school at all that week. I am not much impressed with the child at the end 1089 having to stop the last few weeks. There may be something in it, but not much. It was a powerful argument that was used about them dribbling into the continuation schools at odd times. That would be an inconvenience to the continuation schools, but the parents now are going to have a heavy blow. The Government does not realise the way in which this will be felt and the mortal terror which will comedown upon the parents. The position of those of us who are in more or less comfortable circumstances is a different thing. I am perfectly sure the Lancashire Members, who have spoken again and again in this Debate, were right. This will come as a great surprise upon the homes in the North and will be a terrible blow financially. You refuse to meet it by a maintenance allowance, and those homes will be faced with economic disaster. You are going to add a few more months. It is one of those little things which will set everyone quarrelling. They will go to school and tell the wrong age. The mothers will instruct them to give a wrong age. Those who are familiar with it— [Interruption.]
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
We have this system in Scotland, and it has produced no such difficulty on the part of the parents. It is absolutely in the interests of the schools and of the children. Think for a moment what it means. A school session has its work arranged. It begins at a certain time for all children, and finishes at the time when the holidays take place, when they have gone through a certain course. What can be more unfortunate than for a child to have to break off all this work, and, in addition to that, to confuse entirely the organisation of the school and the arrangement of the classes? I hope the hon. Member will take my assurance that this, having operated for several years in Scotland and having been demanded by the local authorities, has been found to work well, and is not objected to by the parents.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
It must be agreed in the first place that all the parents 1090 will be against this change, and in the second that all the children will be against it. I do not think you can possibly base a sound educational system or a sound educational reform upon the hostility of the parents and the children. They are the people most concerned. I admit the convenience to the teachers and to the Board of Education, but the children and the parents are going to be against it.
§ Mr. L. JONES
Will my hon. and gallant Friend tell me whether he left school in the middle of a term?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
My parents were not compelled to keep me at school because of some Act of Parliament. A war has a very curious effect upon people, and makes them have much less respect for human life And for the laws of any country. You are selecting a time just in the middle of this War, when people are naturally inclined, not only to damn the Government, but to be opposed to most of the Acts of this House, including the one known as the Defence of the Realm Act, to impose upon people a law which it is admitted all the parents and all the children, who are primarily concerned, disapprove of. That is a. most unfortunate time for making this change. Does anybody deny that the parents will be against this? [Hon. Members: "Yes!"] I shall be very interested if any meeting of parents was in favour of this. At present they can keep their children at the school until the end of the term if they desire; but this is compelling them to do so whether they like it or not. It has nothing to do with facilities for education, but is absolute compulsion, and I cannot believe that any parent will welcome the change. We are making the change in order to facilitate the working of the schools. Would it not be possible to secure both objects by providing that if the birthday happens before the middle of the term the child need not stop till the end, but if it occurs after the middle of the term he must stop until the end? In. that way you secure smooth working and the smooth supply of children for the continuation school, and you would not run counter to the entire wishes of the parents of the children, and would not risk the very grave possibility of an enormous number of people deliberately breaking the law and telling lies because they do not wish to accept any law from a more or less moribund Parliament.
The hon. Member for Sunderland made reference to the fact that certain resolutions had been passed in favour of this. That is quite true, but at the same time when those resolutions were passed, resolutions were passed advocating that while the process of education was going on there should be maintenance for the children attending the schools. That has been refused. The right hon. Member for Rushcliffe attacked me. I did not move the rejection of this Clause with the object of retarding the progress of the Bill. Personally, I want to see as much of this Bill put into operation as possible. The Noble Lord (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) laughs. When Clause 10 is debated statements may be made as to the economic burden on a great mass of the population in the manufacturing side of the cotton trade that will perhaps make him think a little as to the hardship that will fall upon these people, who must have some concession in some way or other. This matter has been considered by the people with whom I am connected in Lancashire, and they have taken a certain course. They know as well as I know that it is a very distasteful thing, and it is a very distasteful thing for me to have to put their views before the House, and nobody feels it more than I do. Still, they have balloted, and there can be no doubt that those connected with the trade will be vitally affected if Clause 10 is put into operation as it stands. Some alteration must be made. All that I claim to do is to stand up in this House and take responsibility for expressing the views of the people concerned.
§ Mr. LEWIS
After the reply of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Goldstone) to those who oppose this Clause it is hardly necessary that I should say a word, particularly as my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities has shown how smoothly the system which we recommend for adoption in England has worked in Scotland in the past. The Member for Sunderland and I were members of a Committee which made very considerable inquiry into this question. We received evidence from all parts of the country. Much of it was labour evidence and, so far as I can recollect, without a single dissentient voice all the evidence we received on this particular matter, asked 1092 us to put an end to broken terms. That is the reason why this provision is being put in the Bill. References have been made to the hardship on persons in certain parts of the country. I would ask hon. Members to think of considerable parts of the country where the leaving age is fourteen at the present time and where this slight addition to it is being accepted without the least protest. Take, for example, London. There are poor people in London, as well as there are poor people in Lancashire and other parts of the country, and these people for years have been obliged to send their children to school up to the age of fourteen. I feel sure that from the representative authorities of London we have not received any protest regarding this further extension. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will assent to it.