HC Deb 04 August 1919 vol 119 cc115-30

Second Resolution read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution.

9.0 P.M.


This Vote has come forward at a juncture which is all-important, looking to the legislative achievements of my right hon. Friend last Session. But it is impossible that we should pass it entirely without any reference to questions which are so interesting to Scotland in regard to education. The Act of last year marked a great crisis in the history of Scottish education. It opened to Scotland a totally different position, both as regards the Department and as regards the local authorities, on whom an enormous responsibility will rest. But the right hon. Gentleman, although Grants are now to be given on a much easier and more general basis, must not consider that the influence of the Department is any less or its responsibility for the educational progress of Scotland at all diminished. These larger authorities have, in one respect, at the very outset been a disappointment to some of us. We expected that the larger authorities would attract greater interest in Scotland, that there would be a great gathering at the polls, and that the Scottish people, interested as they used to be in education, would gather in great numbers to elect those who were to have larger powers in regard to educational administration. We were seriously disappointed. The section of the voters who went to the poll ranged between 12 and 33 or 34 per cent. This did not show the great interest that Scotland has been accustomed to give to her educational affairs, and that very fact makes it all the more necessary for the right hon. Gentleman, as administrator of the Education Department, to give clear guidance in some of the difficult points that come before these large local education authorities.

There is, to my mind, another point that is a little disappointing. These large bodies, as was only too likely, have to some extent shown a tendency to turn into debating societies for the discussion of socialistic and other political problems, although they have in the administration of what is the most important thing for Scotland—education—an abundant work for their hands to occupy all their time and attention. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, having placed in their hands great powers of providing largely new opportunities for education, will encourage them to develop these as far as possible, and to use all means of attraction to bring pupils into the schools, but will not press them too hard with that fetish that we worship a little too strongly in the educational world—the fetish of compulsion. The older I grow and the longer my experience of education, the more strongly heretical I become as to the advantages of compulsion in education. I took part in the shaping of the legislation of 1870 and 1872, and if those who promoted those measures had known how disappointing the results of nearly fifty years of compulsory education would be, I doubt if they would ever have put their hand to the plough. I am perfectly certain Mr. W. E. Forster, who introduced it first, felt that he introduced compulsion not as the ultimate be-all and end-all of educational administration, but as something which, if it were to succeed, would make itself unnecessary in time. I am sorry to say that I do not find that that is the result. It has rather diminished the ardour of parents, and it has not increased their zeal for the education of their children. Human nature somehow or other kicks against what is compulsory, even if it desired the thing before.

I would like my right hon. Friend to urge another point upon the attention of these new and enlarged education bodies, and that is the necessity that rests upon them, if they wish really to improve education, of being generous in the matter of teachers' salaries. It is not in buildings, in elaborate equipment, or in any of those costly provisions for variegated systems of education that you find your greatest success. The secret of success in our schools—and I trust my right hon. Friend will press this point upon the enlarged educational authorities—is to bring into the schools men of character, energy, sympathy, and power, who will make the schools not only well-built palaces where the children are shut up for a certain time, but really live focusses of intelligence, earnestness, and energy for the growing generation. Let him also remind these larger bodies that it is not in the muliplication of subjects that their success will rest, but in the simplicity and thoroughness of their educational curriculum. We are to-day forgetting that simplicity in education which is the greatest secret of success, and we are piling up long curriculi, adding subject after subject, instead of giving a simple and a most thorough education. I have looked at the educational reports issued under the right hon. Gentleman's Department, and they point to dangers in the educational world, dangers that we should have foreseen, dangers arising from the War, the dangers of interrupted education, and, above all, the danger of that indiscipline which may be troublesome to the rest of the world, which may be a disaster to the rest of the world, but which is most of all likely to be a disaster to the pupils themselves who come under its influence. The inspectors acting under the right hon. Gentleman have recognised the danger of this lack of discipline, and though I think they are right, I do not feel too much of a pessimist in this matter. I feel that the lack of discipline which has grown up in the War is in itself an element of energy, strength, and force if it is rightly guided. These growing boys have seen much that has stirred their imagination, their energies, and their ambition, and they have got out of hand School teachers, school inspectors, parents, and police tell the same story, but do not let us be down-hearted. I believe that in their energy, and in the stirring of their ambitions, you have, if successfully and wisely guided and treated, a great prospect of success. But that can only be done if it is guided by sympathy and the intelligence of a high-class teaching staff.

A scale of salaries has been often spoken of as associated with my name, because I was chairman of the Committee which devised the scheme. I want to say to the right hon. Gentleman and to these great education authorities who have to deal with education hereafter in Scotland that that scale was not a maximum but a minimum, and, though I believe they will be utterly blamable if they fall below that scale. I should be very sorry if they felt themselves in any way bound by that scale. Two years have passed since we accepted that scheme, "which I was able to send in as a unanimous scheme, although the Committee was variously formed. These two years have added greatly to the cost of living. What was an adequate salary then has become a deficient salary to-day. I have had a new experience. I have sat on another Committee which dealt with the salaries of the police, and as I subscribed to paragraph after paragraph of that Committee's Report, I felt a guilty conscience saying to me, "What will the teachers say to this? How do the salaries which you are proposing for the police force compare with the salaries which will unfortunately attach to your name in a certain scale?" I am perfectly certain that we were right in the salaries we gave to the police. We were convinced, after a long, anxious and careful inquiry, that nothing less would serve; but I am bound to say, looking back and comparing my work of this year with my work of two years ago, that if I had to do over again the work which I did in 1917 I would make the scale of salaries attaching to my name rather larger.

There is another point to which I would like to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention, and that is in. regard to a real grievance which Scotland suffers in her educational administration. It will be surprising to Scottish Members—if it is not surprising I hope it will rouse their indignation—that the museum appointments in Scotland are paid on an entirely different scale from those in England for exactly the same work. I asked several questions about this, and brought it before the notice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. who answered very summarily. He said that the scale of salaries for these appointments had always been different in England from Scotland. I would ask my fellow Members from Scotland whether they are prepared to accept a statement that a wrong has been done to Scotland in the past as a reason for continuing it for all time? I trust they will give me their support in pressing what is a very fair claim. There are certain offices in the museum administration in Scotland which must be held by skilled scientists. The director and the keepers must be men, if they are to do the work, of the same qualifications as the men who hold similar positions in England, with the same grasp of scientific knowledge, with the same credentials, and with the same university and general academic position They must be men recognised equally for scientific work. If they are not men of high class, if they are third- or fourth-class men, then the situation will not have the position which it ought to have. I would ask my right hon. Friend is he prepared to press upon the Treasury, and if need be insist, that they should grant this very fair demand that these keepers who have to do precisely the same kind of work as keepers in England should be paid, not as they are paid now on a scale that brings the highest maximum to the minimum of similar officers in England, but that they should be paid on the same scale? I am quite ready to say that at the head of some of the larger English museums there must be a man whose responsibilities are so great that he should have a special salary, but I do not think that a director of museums is adequately paid if he is paid only on the ordinary scale that a keeper in England would receive. I know that my colleagues from Scotland will support me in this very fair claim. I believe that we have the sympathy of my right hon. Friend, and I trust that he will use all his powers of persuasion, and even more than persuasion, upon the obdurate officials of the Treasury, with the knowledge that he has at his back the very strong and cordial support of the Members of Scotland.


I cannot begin without expressing very keen appreciation of the words which we have just heard from the right hon. Gentleman (Sir H. Craik), who speaks with an experience and authority that are unrivalled in this House. Like the right hon. Gentleman, I will in the first place bear testimony to the service already rendered to Scottish education by the Secretary for Scotland and the great Department for which he is answerable in this House. The Act of 1918 did mark an era in the history of education in Scotland. What that era is to be will depend upon the interpretation put upon that Act. The Act has great capacities but still has to be made good in fulfilment. There is no greater mistake than to think that the Act, good as it is, has solved the education problem in Scotland. What it has done is to put into the hands of the people of Scotland the power of solving those problems for themselves. The right hon. Gentleman has expressed keen disappointment with the result of the polling in connection with the new authorities. I am inclined to take a rather more optimistic view than he. One of the reasons why polling in Scotland is so low in matters of education is that the people of Scotland as a whole are very largely satisfied with the system of education which they have at the present time. That is at least a more comforting doctrine than that of the right hon. Gentleman.

Look at one or two of the Scottish education questions in the light of the measure which was passed last year. First with regard to higher education. The Act was intended to bring within the reach of every child in Scotland very much greater educational opportunities than have been enjoyed in the past. It is not sufficient that we should simply put into an Act the possibility of making such an offer to the children of the country, but we must see that the offer is made a reality and that advantage is taken of it. Never at any time in the history of this country was better and more education required than at present. We have within the last year or two doubled our franchise.

If we are to have an educated and intelligent electorate we must have the best possible schooling that can be given. Further, we are anxious at present to secure and have gone some way towards securing shorter hours and better conditions of life for bur people, and we mean to go on securing these things more and more as opportunity offers, but this country cannot afford to give those shorter hours or those better conditions of life to its people unless that people is qualified by higher skill and higher education to do the higher-class work of the world. Only in this way can we keep our people ahead of those nations who work longer hours and live under less comfortable conditions. It will require the wisest efforts of the Department if the new authorities are to do all that we expect in carrying out the intentions of the Act with regard to higher education and the necessity for a very large personal provision. There is no use in giving small allowances to boys and girls going away from home to attend school. In such cases the danger of leaving home and living in unsatisfactory surroundings far outweighs the possibilities of benefit from a higher education. This is a very real matter. The expense of educating children in these days is one of the most heavy items in family expenditure. I am sure that this House appreciates keenly the sympathy which the Chancellor of the Exchequer exhibited in this matter with regard to the Income Tax a week or two ago. That will at least go some way towards giving the necessary relief in the matter of higher education of families. We have in the records of our country many proud achievements of boys who have risen from absolute obscurity to positions of eminence, but behind that there is a prouder record still, a record of self-sacrifice on the part of parents, and I do hope that the Department working through the new authorities will do its best to make smooth the path of those parents, and that while not relieving them of self-sacrifice it can at least make the path as easy and smooth for the children as possible.

There is one other question with regard to education in Scotland which we cannot leave wholly to the new authorities—I refer to the size of classes. That is a matter which must be dealt with nationally. We often hear of equality of opportunity in our educational system. It does not require much courage to say that there is no such thing as equality of opportunity in education or anything else. Nature and our social conditions prevent anything in the way of equality of opportunity as among the masses of the people. We cannot do away with that inequality, but we can at least lessen it; and as regards the school portion of it, it can be lessened by reducing the classes to something like dimensions which can be dealt with adequately by an individual teacher. How can there possibly be a thing called equality of opportunity if on the one side you have a wealthy class able to give to the individual child one or more teachers or governesses, and on the other side children of the people crowded together in sixties, sometimes not under highly qualified teachers, because those teachers are poorly paid? I trust that at no distant date the Scottish Education Department will make it compulsory that, to start with, no class shall number more than forty, and ultimately perhaps thirty or twenty. There is another way in which educational opportunity may to some extent be made equal, and that is by the provision in our public schools of the very best class of teacher. I am not going to follow what has been said with regard to the remuneration of teachers. I had the honour of being on the Committee to which reference was made, and I can assure my right hon. Friend that the scales of remuneration recommended, modest as they appeared in our eyes then and still more modest as he regards them now, have loomed too large in the eyes of those older authorities to enable them to take advantage of them. If there is one disquieting feature in Scottish education now it is this, that the supply of teachers is going steadily down, while the need for them is going steadily up. If this Act is to be made anything like operative, we require thousands of additional teachers, and those thousands are not coming in. Not only are thousands of additional teachers required, but they must be teachers qualified on an ever-ascending scale if we are to keep our children in the schools up to the age of eighteen. Therefore, I hope that every encouragement will be given to the authorities to use a wise and generous discretion in the matter. Unless we get these teachers we fail in everything else. I would like to express my appreciation of what the Secretary for Scotland and his advisers have already done, and to add the hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not faint because this thing will cost money, but that he and they will so frame their policy that the education of Scotland will be carried on in future with ever-growing success.

Major GLYN

I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland whether he can give us some assurance as to the amount of the minimum national scales decided on by the Board of Education. It is absolutely essential that at this period we should attract, as teachers the very best of the people in Scotland, it has been very veil said that in peace time the first line of defence is a proper and genuine education system. With the competition that is now going on for women to enter various trades and callings, where salaries are high, it is nothing less than a scandal that we should have a village schoolmistress earning a pittance that would not be looked at for a moment by any woman worker in an ordinary trade union. In Scotland, in particular, we owe a great debt to the dominies. I certainly learnt more under the schoolmaster in the village school in Scotland than I ever learned at an English public school, and I do feel that it is wrong for us to stand aside and not to support in every way that we can the claims of the teaching profession in Scotland, not only for adequate salary, but, now that a Superannuation Act has been passed, to ensure that the scales upon which the pensions shall be based shall also be adequate. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able this evening to give us some assurance as to the national minimum scale both of pay and of pensions.


I am sure the Secretary for Scotland must share the view of many Scottish Members that the time given to the discussion of these Estimates is utterly inadequate. We have been at it since six o'clock. We have dealt with agriculture. Now we are on education. We want a whole day for education alone. At ten o'clock the rest of the Scottish Estimates are to be closured.


There is the Vote for Fisheries.


There will not be much chance for fisheries once we have dealt with education. I do not quite share the views of the right hon. Gentleman the representative for the Scottish Universities, that there ought not to be compulsion in education. I wonder what the condition of Scotland would have been to-day without it! I rather think that we would have deep cause of regret that the powers of compulsion were not in operation. In Scotland there is an intense love for education among the people, especially in the country districts. Much of the Scottish character, all that is noble and grand and peculiar in the Scottish character, is just due to that intense love of education among the common Scottish people. I use the expression "the common Scottish people" in the good sense, meaning the ordinary country folk. An hon. Friend has made reference to the sacrifices that our people in Scotland have made in the interests of education. Workmen and work-women have stinted themselves in order that their children might receive that opportunity for education that their own poverty handicapped them from obtaining. But I must say this with regard to the new education authorities. I am intensely sorry that the Secretary for Scotland in his first impulse, when he introduced the first of the two Bills, did not adhere to his original intention in making the county councils and town councils the education authority. The new local education authorities, in my opinion, have been very disappointing. We were led to believe that this would present a grand opportunity for educational enthusiasm. In that respect we have been woefully disappointed. So far as my experience goes the men who formed the county secondary education committee have wholly disappeared from this new education authority, and quite inexperienced men have come up. There is little wonder, when one considers these facts, that there is a lack of local interest and such a small poll. I know one county in particular where some of the parishes have not a single representative on the new education authority. In Scotland every parish had its school board ever since the Act of 1872 came into operation, and there was an intense interest taken in the election of school boards, but when these new authorities came into being the old school board districts and many of our parishes had not the slightest chance of electing a representative on the new authority, because the larger boroughs swamped the villages. In many cases the majority of the members on the new education authority are representative of the boroughs, and the country parishes have lost any representation they had. There is little wonder that when the polling day came the country parishes realised that there was not much use in going to the poll when instead of as before they had seven members of the school board only one man put up and he had not the ghost of a chance against the combination of boroughs and large parishes. So these new education authorities have been more or less a failure in enlisting the local interest that has always been manifested in school board elections in Scotland. I am not going to say anything as to the operations of the new authorities. It is too early to judge them. I believe they will take to the work and will do the best they can to promote education, and the fact of dealing with a larger unit will give them an enormous advantage, and I trust that education will make great strides forward. It is a matter to me of intense regret that at this time in educational affairs there has been such a sudden divorce between local interest and the education authorities. With regard to the question of salaries, if we are going to attract the best men and women to the teaching profession, and we must do so, then we must take a great step in advance in the way of salaries, and make the profession so attractive that it will be worth while for men and women of the very best class to come forward to the profession. When we consider the influence the teacher has, not, only in imparting education, but in moulding character, we must see to it that the conditions are such that they will be attracted to this great profession, the best men and women of the land. There is no subject more fruitful for the good of Scotland than this question of education, and I am sorry that time has not permitted us to discuss the subject at proper length. I hope it will be possible to give effect in the future to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Montrose to have these Estimates put before the Scottish Standing Joint Committee.

Captain BENN

There are two questions which I desire to put to the Secretary for Scotland. One is in reference to the teachers of the reformatory and industrial schools. I understand that similar teachers in England enjoy the benefits of the School Teachers Superannuation Act of1918, but, if I am correctly informed, teachers in Scotland in reformatories and industrial schools do not enjoy the benefits of the Education (Scotland) Superannuation Act of this year. That seems on the face of it to be an injustice, and I have never heard any satisfactory explanation on the point, and I will be glad if the right hon. Gentleman will say something about it. The other matter is the question of a national school of training for sea service. This, is a matter which excites a great deal of interest in the ports in Scotland. The War has clearly shown how much we depend upon the efficient service of our Mercantile Marine, and this very day we have been celebrating the services rendered by the Mercantile Marine in the War. As the right hon. Gentleman is probably aware, schemes have been put forward for a system of national training, and a standardised system of training boys with a recognised scale of wages and some means of securing continuity of employment, and generally a comprehensive programme for securing to the service of the Islands for ever a good class of men for the Mercantile Marine. I understand there is a Committee sitting dealing with this matter of which one of the Assistant Secretaries of the Scottish Education Department is a member. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to assure us that the interests of the ports are being sufficiently represented, and perhaps he will also tell us, if he can, something of the progress of the work of that Committee and what hope there is of some such programme as that to which I have referred being carried out, and in the carrying out of that programme what part would be played by the nautical authorities and dock commissioners.


With regard to the point of a national scheme for sea service, as my hon. and gallant Friend knows, a Committee is at present sitting, and indeed, as I understand, is now engaged in drawing up a scheme on that matter. I hope their Report will be presented without undue delay, and I think, pending presentation of that Report, it will be premature for me to express any views about the various questions which my hon. and gallant Friend dealt with. I have no doubt at all that the ports will be duly protected in accordance with the Regulations of that Committee. He has also asked me about the superannuation of teachers in reformatory schools. This is a rather troublesome question. Teachers who are duly qualified in reformatory schools, as in any other school, come under the superannuation scheme for teachers. But I understand there are certain officers employed in reformatory schools who have no proper educational qualifications, and who cannot be held according to the ordinary use of language to come under a superannuation scheme for teachers. We are awaiting some further information which has been promised by the Home Office, which is interested in this matter from the English point of view, and directly the information regarding that class of person is forthcoming the whole subject will be carefully reconsidered. We had some other very interesting speeches, particularly, if I may mention them, from the Members who represent Scottish universities. The first speech which was delivered in the Debate on education struck me as being very impressive, coming as it did from an hon. Member who has unrivalled authority and experience with regard to the subject which he discussed. He said that the election of the new authorities in Scotland had been rather disappointing in respect of the sparse number of electors who went to the poll. It is quite true that the percentage was not high, but it was, I think, a little higher than he stated. The lowest percentage was 12.5, and in some cases it rose to 45.7, the average being 28.9. My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew (Mr. J. John stone) said that the school board elections had aroused a great deal of interest. That is so, but I am told that the percentage was in many cases not higher than it was on this occasion when the education authorities were elected It is quite true that those authorities were elected when the public mind was distracted with other matters and interested in other affairs. I think it is certainly premature to say, as my hon. Friend said, that those education authorities are a failure. Surely it is far too soon to judge them when they were only elected in the month of April last. I think that, although the number of voters who went to the poll may not have been very great, the personnel of these new authorities is, speaking generally, excellent, and that, so far as one can see, they have taken a wide outlook and shown a sense of responsibility which is exactly what one would expect to find from authorities elected on the basis on which they have been elected.

My right hon. Friend and several other hon. Members spoke about the importance of teachers' salaries. I am in entire agreement with that view, and I think one of the most urgent problems which comes before these new education authorities is just that problem of salaries. My right hon. Friend has done invaluable work on the Committee which will be always associated with his name, and which recommended salaries which have in many cases been adopted by the education authorities already. The minimum national scales to which the Act refers have not yet been laid down, but, with a view to their preparation, the Department has already had a number of meetings with representatives, not only of the teachers, but of the education authorities in Edinburgh, and I understand that further conferences are to take place this week. I am not without hope that an agreement which will be acceptable to all concerned may shortly be arrived at. In the meantime many authorities have adopted the Craik scale of salaries either with or without modification. I quite recognise that the suggestions were made at the time when conditions were different from what they are to-day, but I think that has been borne in mind by the education authorities who have dealt with the matter. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stirling and Clackmannan raised the same point about the minimum national scale, and the answer I have given to my right hon. Friend applies to the question he put also. I hope that without delay these scales may be adjusted. At the present moment conferences are proceeding with a view to their adjustment. My right hon. Friend also pressed upon me the position of museum servants. I can assure him that their position has not been forgotten by the Department, and at the present moment communications are passing between the Treasury and the Scottish Education Department on that particular matter. I am in entire sympathy with what my right hon. Friend said, and any appropriate pressure that I can bring to bear upon the Treasury to accede to this, as I think, most reasonable request, will certainly be exercised. One of my hon. Friends spoke about the small salaries at present being paid to teachers. In many cases I agree they are not so large as one would like that they should be, but some improvement at Feast has been effected. My hon. Friend will remember that in a recent Grant £60,000 were set apart for the benefit of the lower-paid teachers, and as a result of that Grant the average salaries of teachers have been raised from £112 in 1916 to £134 to-day. I do not say that that is the ideal, but still an improvement has been effected, and I hope that that may still continue. My hon. Friend who represents the Universities spoke about the size of classes. That is a vital question, and the Department bears it in mind. I do not know that I can give any definite undertaking with regard to it, but we are quite alive to the individual attention which is necessary in order to secure an effective educational training. I have endeavoured very rapidly and very briefly to cover the points which have been raised in this short and useful Debate, and I hope, now that these points have been raised and dealt with, we may be allowed to get the Vote.


I think it quite right that Scottish Labour should be identified with this Vote. We Labour men want education. I think most of the Members sitting on the benches hardly realise the intensity of the feeling of Labour men on behalf of a higher and better education for all the community, and we certainly will be the last to starve education, and what we desire is that education should be lifted on to a higher plane altogether, and that it should attract the very best kind of teachers to the schools, that we should give them some opportunity, and that we should make the path easy for every boy and girl from whatever home to go from the elementary school to the university. Not that we are minding about the great geniuses. In the old days the schoolmaster, of the school that I attended at any rate, took special pains with certain individuals, thereby sending out one or two lads of parts, but we want the whole standard of education raised, so that every child in the land will have a proper opportunity to be educated if he is able to take that education. We desire that the teaching profession in Scotland should not be lagging behind their professional brothers elsewhere. My confidence was almost shaken, at least it was badly assailed, during the last two or three months regarding how we are lagging behind, and I think everyone of us ought to try to get the very best terms for our teachers as to salaries, as to pensions, and as to size of classes, so that when they enter the schools they may have a chance of sending forth the very best material for the consumer. I do not propose to invest money in a better way than by giving it to education. It will come back to you a thousand fold; it will come back to you in the wiser counsels from the people; it will come back to you in a thousand ways that nobody dreams of now, and I trust that every precaution will be taken to see that education in Scotland will not suffer, but that due remuneration will be given and that everything will be done to foster it.

Question put, and agreed to.