Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £28,014,665, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1922, for the salaries and expenses of the Board of Education, and of the various establishments connected therewith, including sundry Grants-in-Aid." [Note.—£23,000,000 has been voted on account.]
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Herbert Fisher)
The last time that I had an opportunity of addressing the House of Commons upon the Estimates of the Board of Education was in April, 1917, shortly after I assumed my present office. In each succeeding year I have hoped for an opportunity of bringing the Estimates of my Department before the notice of this Committee, but in each succeeding year the pressure of Parliamentary business has been such as to deprive me of that opportunity. Last Session, as it was clear that no opportunity for an Educational Debate would be afforded, I circulated a White Paper upon the cost of education and its causes, and now, in order to assist Members, I have included in the Estimates a larger body of notes than is usual, and I hope that these notes may be found useful. I will begin by referring to the accounts for the year 1920–21. As the Committee know, the Vote for the Board of Education consists chiefly of money being spent as grants-in-aid of the expenditure of local education authorities, and the amount of the Vote consequently depends upon the amount of local expenditure. This system was adopted deliberately as the basis of our grants to education and was incorporated in the Act of 1918. Of this great change I would say only these three things: First, that it was pressed upon me eagerly by 964 local authorities and by Members in this House; secondly, that no alteration in the system of grants has ever been more fully explained to this House or has received completer authority from this House; and, thirdly, if the grant system had not been changed in the way that I have indicated, local education authorities would have found it impossible during recent years to meet their obligations. I say that if the new system relating to grants towards expenditure had not been adopted by the Board our system of elementary and secondary education would now be in ruins.
This change on the whole has been popular. It has had the effect of distributing the burden of educational expenditure more equitably as between the State and local authorities. Everybody knows that it is easier to raise a sovereign from the taxes than from the rates, and one of the consequences of the new system of grants has been that, whereas in the year 1913–14 46 per cent. of our educational expenditure was borne by the State and 54 per cent. by local authorities, the proportions are now reversed, and for the year 1920–21 we estimate that 56 per cent, of our total educational expenditure will have been borne by the Board and 44 per cent, by the local authorities. However beneficial this system of adjusting grants to local expenditure may be, it is open to this comment. It makes the task of framing an Estimate harder than it was before. We got through our last financial year without a Supplementary Estimate, and, although we took a Vote of £45,750,000, our Estimate was so nearly correct that we finished the financial year with a balance on the right side of the account, amounting to £205,976, a divergence between the Estimate and the expenditure of less than half per cent. I fear that it is too much to expect that the Estimates now laid before Parliament for the year 1921–22 will be found in the event to correspond so closely to the expenditure, but I think it is proper to mention the figures of last year in order that the Committee may see that in laying our Estimates before Parliament we have not up to the present time been unable to cope with new difficulties arising out of the changed system of grants.
The Estimate for the current financial year a total of something over £51,000,000, being a gross increase of £5,879,948, and a 965 net increase of something over £5,000,000, as compared with the Estimates of 1920–21, but this total contains two elements which are abnormal, namely, the grants for ex-service students, Sub-head H, which stands at £2,248,350, and the unusually large amount, £5,400,000, carried forward from 1920–21 to 1921–22 to complete the payment of grants to local education authorities for elementary education for the year 1920–21, This amount we may say is abnormal to the extent of about £2,000,000, so that we have in our present Estimate a total of about £4,250,000 of abnormal and temporary expenditure. Let me advert very briefly to one of the two items to which I have alluded. I refer to the expenditure upon the education of ex-service students at university and technical colleges. This, I say, is a temporary feature, and in a few years' time the taxpayer will be altogether relieved of this charge, but, though the grant is temporary—the average length of the approved courses for these students is two and a third years—the effect of this act of public beneficence will not, I venture to think, be transitory. More than 25,000 students are beneficiaries under this scheme.
They are serious students, their work is well reported upon, and I believe I am correct in saying that there have only been four failures. They will help to maintain the standard of trained intelligence in the various professions and avocations into which they will shortly pass This is not all. Fifteen thousand of these students have come into the universities straight from the ranks, and all the students, whether they were commissioned officers or whether they had no commissions, were required to satisfy the Board of their real need for pecuniary assistance before they were accepted as students under the scheme. I have had a statement of the family circumstances of every one of these 25,000 students submitted to me, and I can tell the Committee that very many of them, the vast majority of them, have been brought up in humble circumstances, belonging to families that have never before been represented by any one of their members at any of our British universities. I think we may reasonably conclude that this wide extension of university influence will have the effect of spreading the university ideal throughout England, causing it to take deeper root, and giving 966 to our universities south of the Cheviots something of that popular and universal appeal which has so long been characteristic of university life and influence in Scotland. It used to be said of the peasant families in France, I do not know whether it is still said, that the cleverest member was generally designed for the priesthood. It may be one of the unforeseen circumstances of the War that the desire to secure a university education for a clever son or a clever daughter may be spread far and wide through the artisan families in this country.
Let me now give the Committee the chief component parts of the increase of £5,879,948 to which I have already alluded. They are as follows: Increased grants to local education authorities for elementary education £3,798,213, increased grants, chiefly to local education authorities for higher education, £1,677,953, teachers' pensions, £236,350, administration and inspection, £80,497, other increases, museums, students, etc., £86,935. The main form of increase in the present Estimates is the increase, realised or expected, in the expenditure of local education authorities. The total increase in the expenditure of local authorities on elementary education in 1920–21 was 30 per cent. There was a similar increase of 30 per cent, in 1919–20 as compared with previous years. Thus we have had two years in succession in which the expenditure of the local authorities has been increased by 30 per cent. Our problem in framing the Estimates for the present year has been to find the probable rate of increase in this year's expenditure as compared with the last. Here we are bound to resort to conjecture. You have on the one hand to consider that prices have reached their height and are beginning to decline, and you have on the other hand to consider, first, that the salaries of teachers are being standardised on scales which are being gradually brought into effect, so that the total cost of the new scales has not been felt in the past year but will be felt increasingly in the present year and in the next year. Then we have also to take into account the large arrears of work to be overtaken, which have been piled up during the War, in the shape of necessary repairs to premises, and replenishment of exhausted stocks. Accordingly we have framed our 967 Estimates for an increase in the expenditure of local education authorities on elementary education in the year 1921–22 at the rate of 7½ per cent. over the expenditure of last year.
§ Mr. MARRIOTT
Can the right hon. Gentleman give the total expenditure of the local authorities last year?
§ Mr. FISHER
The total amount was £59,000,000. We have estimated for an increase of 7½ per cent, over the expenditure of last year; that is to say, an increase amounting to £4,225,000, and we have had to estimate for a possible increase in the cost of higher education. Here we have provided for a further expansion of £3,000,000 in 1921–22 to be borne by the rates and taxes in the expenditure of local authorities. So much for the estimated increases. Now I will invite the attention of the Committee to the governing factor that has produced this large figure of £51,000,000. My first observation is that the growth of educational expenditure in recent years is not confined to this country. Both in France and in England the Budget of the Ministry of Education has more than trebled itself since the War, and the governing factor both here and in France has been the same, the rise in general prices or, in other words, the devaluation of money. Everything has become more expensive, books, school furniture, stationery, buildings, repairs, and the cost of sweeping out the schools. I was informed the other day that the charwoman who sweeps out the London schools used before the War to receive a wage of 15s., and now she values her services at 40s. a week.
Undoubtedly the main cause of the growth of expenditure has been the need for providing better salaries for teachers. In April, 1917, when I introduced the Estimates, I pointed out to the Committee that the educational system of this country would never be satisfactory until we had succeeded in making better provision for teachers in our schools. They were at that time grossly underpaid. There was a great shortage of teachers, and for a long 968 time past the Board had been very anxiously considering the supply. One of the considerations present to our mind when we effected a change in the system of grants in aid of elementary education was the need of supplying some other inducement to local education authorities to treat their teachers with liberality. When I remind the Committee that 68 per cent, of the total expenditure of local authorities on elementary education in the past financial year was expenditure upon salaries, and that the salary expenditure of local authorities has increased since the War by a sum of £26,488,962, I have, furnished the measure of the importance of this factor in our educational Estimates. These salaries have never been attacked. We have had an elaborate investigation into the expenditure of the Board of Education conducted by a Parliamentary Committee. That Committee made many observations, to which I shall recur, but they fully admitted the need for paying adequate salaries to teachers. They realised and expressly stated in their Report their sense of the importance of this factor in our educational expenditure. Indeed, when it is remembered that the maximum salary proposed for a certificated male teacher in an elementary school in a large industrial town is not more than £380, I do not think that it can be said that there is any grave extravagance there.
It may, of course, be argued that, as so large a part of the teachers' salaries is now contributed by the State, the State should fix the salary. There is an attractive simplicity about such a proposition, but I need hardly point out that it would effect a complete revolution in the relations between the State and the local authorities, and I tremble to think of the difficulties which would confront the Board if they were responsible for fixing the salary of every teacher in the country. On the other hand, certain obvious disadvantages attach to a system under which 316 separate local authorities compete with one another for teachers, and bid against one another for teachers, with the result that you have a great sense of disparity and injustice as between area and area. It seemed to the Board that there was, therefore, room for an organisation intermediate between the local education authorities and the State which might provide for an orderly and progressive solution of the salary problem in our 969 grant-aided schools. Accordingly, in August, 1919, I was instrumental in obtaining the formation of a Standing Joint Committee representing the local education authorities on the one hand and the teachers on the other, to deal with the salary problem in elementary schools, and I was fortunate enough to secure Lord Burnham as chairman of that Committee. Similar Committees were established in May, 1920, for dealing with salaries in secondary schools, and in December, 1920, for dealing with salaries in technical schools. The Committee on elementary school salaries is now engaged in allocating appropriate scales in several areas, and when this allocation is completed—I shall do it in consultation with the Chancellor of the Exchequer—such an allocation of scale when approved would be taken as the basis of payment of grants in aid of the local education authority salary expenditure. I cannot pass from this part of my subject without expressing my gratitude to Lord Burnham for the tact, judgment, and patience with which he has presided over this Committee, and to the members of these Committees for their public spirit in undertaking a very difficult and thankless task. I hope that the Committee will agree that the establishment of some organ for the purpose of negotiating on a national plane for rates of salary appropriate to separate areas is a great step in advance. [HON. MEMBERS: "National wages."]
I have said that the main cause of the great increase in educational expenditure since the outbreak of the War has been the diminished purchasing power of money and the demand of teachers for better salaries. But there is a certain element in these Estimates which is due to legislation and I propose to ask the Committee to measure for a moment the importance of that element. There is no difficulty of course in assigning what is due to the Superannuation Act. The Estimates of the Board have been remarkably exact in this regard and the Committee may confidently accept the figure of £1,260,000 which is assigned to this purpose in the Estimates which we are now considering. The costs due to the Education Act of 1918 are not so susceptible of exact measurement. In the first place the Act transformed into duties a certain number of powers 970 previously performed by the local educational authorities, and it is impossible to estimate with any approach to accuracy the extent to which any local education authority would, but for the existence of the Act, have been spending less than it is spending on the discharge of these functions. It is a difficult calculation to make for another reason. The Act of 1918 redistributes the burden of educational expenditure. It provides that the Board shall bear at least fifty per cent, of the approved expenditure of local educational authorities, and the extent to which local authorities have been encouraged to increase their expenditure by reason of that is incapable of exact measurement. Nor can we say with any confidence that if that provision had not been inserted in the Act it would have been possible to continue with the old grant Regulations. I believe that the pressure on the Board to alter those grant Regulations in a sense more generous to the local authorities would have been irresistible.
We cannot, therefore, expect an answer to this question how far the increased cost is due to the Act of 1918. The best way of answering the question is, first, to separate the expenditure arising from the Act, and to ask ourselves what part of this new expenditure is due directly to the Act, and second, to consider what forms of expenditure have been stimulated by the passing of the Act. The increase in the Board's grant attributable to the first cause may be estimated at £435,000, of which £350,000 is to be assigned to continuation schools, £50,000 to the extension of the school medical service in the field of higher education, £25,000 to nursery schools, and £10,000 to miscellaneous developments included under the heading of physical and social training. Those are forms of expenditure directly due to the provisions of the Act of 1918, but there are other forms of expenditure which have been stimulated by the Act. The sum assigned in our Estimates to maintenance allowances has been swollen through the influence of the Act. It may be conjectured that the increase in the general grant under this heading should be estimated at £400,000, and, taking those two figures together, that the increased educational expenditure borne by the State as a consequence of the Education Act, 1918, amounts to the sum of £835,000.
§ Mr. ACLAND
The total seems to me to be only £400,000 under G.2. Is that the item to which my right hon. Friend is referring?
§ Mr. FISHER
Yes, the total due to the Act. The sum which we are asking as grants to local authorities for higher education is £6,647,000, being an advance of £1,310,000 on the sum voted by Parliament for this purpose last year. The phrase "higher education" covers the training of teachers, secondary schools, technical schools and continuation schools, and some minor items. But I am now proposing to ask the Committee for a moment to consider that part of the expenditure which is devoted to secondary schools. The Committee will remember that in the reign of Queen Victoria the cause of secondary education in this country was advocated by Matthew Arnold. He was not only a great poet and a fine critic, but as an inspector of schools under the Board of Education he had a wide experience of educational methods in this and other countries, and his contributions to educational theory and practice are of permanent value. Matthew Arnold considered that the great defect in the educational system of this country lay in the sphere of secondary education. We possessed in the public schools incomparable instruments in their way, as good as any secondary schools in the world, if education is to be interpreted in its broadest sense. But the public schools appealed to a limited class only. There was in England, he complained, no system of cheap, good secondary education available for children of the poorer members of the middle class or the best products of the elementary schools, and accordingly he urged us to organise our secondary education.
He considered it essential that the country should provide itself with a great system of cheap secondary schools if the middle class was to be imbued with large and magnanimous ideas, and to be delivered from the bondage of a coarse and narrow materialism. I think that if Matthew Arnold were alive to-day he would agree with a great deal that we have done to organise secondary education in this country. He would find that, in addition to the old public schools, 972 no fewer than 1,157 secondary schools for boys and girls were now in receipt of grants from the Board of Education; that these schools were educating 334,000 children, some of them paying small fees and others coming from the public elementary schools with free places. He would find a very general desire in all parts of the country to profit by the advantages offered by these secondary schools. He would find that every secondary school has a long waiting list, that year after year numbers of children are turned away unsatisfied. If he visited any one of our great industrial towns in the North and interrogated local authorities, he would discover that there was not one of them which could not easily fill one, two, or three additional secondary schools. He would discover that the number of scholars in these secondary schools has increased by 50 per cent, during the last four years. He would, indeed, criticise the very general tendency exhibited by the parents to withdraw their children before they had derived full advantage from the general course of education offered by these institutions. But he would find that the local authorities were increasingly alive to this defect, and were pressing parents to enter into engagements to keep their children at school at least to the age of 16, and that there had been an improvement in the response to this attitude.
He would also note certain improvements introduced by the Board of Education in the last four years, improvements in the salaries of teachers and a better organisation of studies due partly to the establishment of two State examinations, one at the age of 16 and one at the age of 18, and partly to the establishment of advanced courses aided by grants from the Board and specially devised to improve the working of the upper parts of our secondary schools. I think also he would be struck by the fact that the highway from the elementary school to the university had been considerably broadened and that more had been done in that respect by the deliberate action of the State in this country than in any other country in the old world. He would note that 67 per cent. of the students in the secondary schools came up from the elementary schools, and, again, that of the 200 pupils to whom State scholarships to the universities were awarded in 1920, 973 152 were previously educated in public elementary schools.
§ Colonel Sir C. YATE
What is the percentage of boys sent up for scholarships from the elementary schools who fail to remain in the secondary schools for more than a year or a few months?
§ Mr. FISHER
I will attempt to give an answer in the course of the Debate, but I have not the figure at the moment. There was a time when the sphere of the Board of Education was limited to the elementary school. That is no longer the case. There was a time when the part played by the State in educational matters was not considered to have any direct bearing upon the higher learning of the country. That, again, is not the case now. I had the curiosity to investigate the educational antecedents of the Fellows of the Royal Society and I found that in that illustrious body there are no fewer than 261 members who have received their education in institutions which are now aided by the State. Four hundred and sixty-four cases were investigated. In some cases no antecedents were to be found.
§ Mr. FISHER
I think there are between 450 and 500 Fellows. The Committee will probably desire me to make some observation on the Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the expenditure of the Board. That Report contains some errors which perhaps may be excusable in so rapid a survey as the Committee was forced to make, but there was one phrase in the Report of the Committee which has given rise to misapprehension and to which I think It necessary to advert. The Sub-committee was impressed "by the atmosphere of financial laxity in which questions involving education are apt to be considered." If that phrase means simply that the Board is anxious to promote education, I accept the compliment, but if it means that the Committee is of opinion that there is any financial looseness in the administration of the Board, I wish to say at once that the Committee found no irregularity of any kind in the financial proceedings of the Board or in its expenditure, and that there is no foundation for the charge.
§ Mr. FISHER
I fully agree with what I consider to be one of the prevailing ideas animating the Report of the Committee. I agree as to the great importance, at the present juncture, of husbanding our resources with the utmost care. With this end in view the Board have issued Circular No. 1190 to local education authorities, indicating the general lines on which they will conduct their administration under present financial conditions. It is pointed out that, while, in the view of the Government, the strictest economy must be observed in the administration of the public system of education, it is incumbent to avoid the imposition of restrictions which will tend to prejudice efficiency. I hope the Committee will agree with the view that the Board is bound to meet cases of overcrowding, to see that all the children find places, and to take measures with respect to structural repairs. We shall, of course, scrutinise very closely every proposal for expenditure coming from a local authority. The Board will satisfy itself that the proposal is practicable and desirable in itself, but it would be the worst possible economy to refuse to meet grave deficiencies prejudicial to the health of the scholars. The Select Committee made certain positive suggestions. They recommend, in the first place, that those parts of the Education Act of 1918 which involve increased expenditure should be suspended; and, secondly, that the financial provisions of the Act should be revised and amended. On those recommendations we do not propose to take action, for both of them would require amendments of the law, and we do not propose to amend the law. The third recommendation was that the Board of Education should be empowered and instructed to limit strictly the amount paid from public funds towards the cost incurred locally in respect of educational services.
That is an invitation to the Board to make a fundamental alteration in the system established by the Acts of 1902 and 1918. Under those Acts it is not competent for the Board to ration the public service of education. There are 975 many administrative reasons which make it impossible to do so. It is, on the other hand, competent for the Board to impose limits to different forms of expenditure, and some such limits are in fact imposed. For instance, there is a limit to the expenditure on maintenance allowance. The Board has announced that it will not recognise or grant salary scales in advance of a certain standard. Further, under Circular 1190 the Board are subjecting proposals for new expenditure to careful scrutiny. The fourth recommendation of the Committee was that the erection of new buildings should be discouraged and limited to cases in which accommodation is very urgently required. That limitation has been and is being carried into effect. There has been practically no building, or very little building, during the last seven years, and we are suffering considerably in consequence. The other day I was taking a walk in the country, and I saw a handsome Gothic building in course of erection. I said to my companion, with a legitimate sense of pride, "I think that is one of my schools going up." But on approaching the edifice I discovered that it was not a school, but the pigsty of a noble lord which was being constructed on the latest and most scientific lines. The fifth recommendation of the Committee was that the Board should encourage persons to enter the teaching profession who are already educated and require training in teaching only. That is an admirable suggestion, but it is a suggestion which has been present to the mind of the Board. The Board endeavoured to do this, and we are considering what further measures are practicable in this regard. We are recommended in the sixth place to effect a careful revision in the fees charged for secondary and higher education. On this I have only to say that the Board do not fix those fees. They are fixed by the school authorities, and there are many of the school authorities which are coming to the Board for leave to raise their fees. In many cases an increase has been sanctioned.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
Has the local authority any power to raise the fees of a secondary school without the sanction of the Board, and has the sanction of the Board been refused in certain cases?
§ Mr. FISHER
The local authority has no power to raise fees without the sanc- 976 tion of the Board. Recently in every case the Board has given its approval to moderate proposals for an adjustment of fees in an upward direction.
§ Mr. FISHER
It was the policy of the Board before the recent financial stringency to keep the fees low, and we still think it desirable in general that they should be kept reasonably low. Recently we have sanctioned a moderate increase.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
What proportion of the cost per pupil of the secondary schools do the fees represent?
§ Mr. FISHER
It is difficult to give an exact figure, but approximately it is estimated that some £2,000,000 may be raised in the shape of fees from the secondary schools.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
I do not think you will get any applications. They are much more progressive in Wales.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. FISHER
Many of the Welsh secondary schools are in a very bad financial position. The next recommendation of the Committee was that the advantages of the teachers' superannuation scheme should be made available for all teachers in efficient schools. If this recommendation means to extend the benefits of the Act to schools conducted for private profit then no action has been taken or is proposed to be taken by the Board; but I think it is impossible to suppose that Parliament would sanction the expenditure of public money upon educational institutions conducted for private profit. If it does not mean this, then the benefits of the Act are already available for all efficient schools in England and Wales which comply with the conditions named in the Act.
Finally, let me invite the attention of the Committee to the general character and tendency of the institutions in aid of which this Vote is sought. We hear a great deal now about class antagonism, and class consciousness. There should, however, be nothing sectarian in a sound system of public education. On 977 the contrary, its purpose should be to afford easy passage from class to class to spread elementary notions of science through the community, and to convey to the spirit of the time that knowledge which will be an influence for good on the ideas of the country. In proportion as our schools and colleges conform to this end they deserve encouragement and support. My belief is that recent changes bringing as they do the different spheres of education into closer connection with one another, linking the elementary school with the continuation school, the technical school, the secondary school and then again with the technical colleges and universities, will enable more value to be extracted from our educational system and that we have now made provision for the only form of equality which should attract the allegiance of thinking men, and that is equality of educational opportunity. I venture to claim for our system, not perhaps as it is actually administered to-day, but as it is embodied in the Statute Book, that it is one of the most liberal in the world and that in no other fully populated and long settled country is a career so freely open to talent or so lavish a choice of intellectual opportunity offered to ambition. The system, of course, is far from perfect. It has many defects, some of them remediable, others incidental to human imperfections. It has undergone great improvements in the past. In fact there is no sphere of social work in which, in my opinion, there has been, in the last generation, clearer improvement than in the elementary schools. If we only do not lose heart and courage in the midst of our economic difficulties, but keep the torch of faith alight, it will provide a great inheritance for the generations which are coming after.
§ Sir P. MAGNUS
I need scarcely say that everyone has heard with deep interest the speech which the President of the Board of Education has made in introducing these Estimates after a lapse of four years. He has very wisely dealt largely with the increased cost of education and with the circumstances and conditions which have led to that increase. It is something, I must own, to have to defend an expenditure of over £51,000,000 on the education to be provided in the coming year. I do not think anyone will doubt that this expenditure is largely due 978 to the causes enunciated by the President and consists mainly of the increases in the salaries of teachers—increases with which every Member of the House, I am quite certain, will sympathise. He has not said very much about the improvement, in education consequent upon this large expenditure of money. After all, we cannot judge of the value of education entirely by the amount of money expended upon it. One would have liked to hear a little more about the various improvements made in the instruction afforded in our several schools, as justifying this increase of expenditure, which I have no doubt we shall sanction. The President referred to the Act of 1918 and to the continuation schools, which form the chief feature of that Act, but he did not tell us what kind of instruction is to be given in those continuation schools, whether it is to be of the character of secondary education, giving pupils further opportunity of obtaining what may be called a liberal education, or whether it is to be—as so many desire—in the nature of vocational instruction. On that point one would have liked to have had some information.
The President gave a very graphic and interesting picture of what Mr. Matthew Arnold would probably think if he had the opportunity of inspecting our schools at the present day and comparing them with what they were over 50 years ago. Of course, he would expect a large amount of improvement in our education during the last half century. When Mr. Matthew Arnold was inspecting our schools he had only recently visited the schools of Germany on which he wrote a very interesting report, and. it is not quite certain that 50 years ago he was not very much influenced in his views by what he saw in Germany. He might make a different estimate of the character of our education if he visited our schools at the present time. He certainly did raise the cry "Organise secondary education," but I would like to point out that organisation is not the most important factor in any system of education. Much more depends upon the character, the ideas and the ideals of our teachers.
I have not risen to propose a reduction in any of the numerous items which appear in this Estimate. I should be sorry to do so, because I am not one to deprecate expenditure on education so long as it improves education. I desire, 979 however, to call attention to two or three items with reference, not so much even to the question of the instruction to be provided, but, if I may say so, to the policy underlying that expenditure. I wish to explain why that expenditure, in my opinion, must automatically increase, not only with the natural growth of the population, but also on account of the policy inherent in the Vote that is being asked for. I propose to restrict my remarks to the grants to secondary schools, on page 12, under the headings E (1) and Gg, and to some of the details given under the latter heading in pages 22 and 23 of the Estimate. Before entering upon this subject, I should like to have an opportunity of thanking the late Chancellor of the Exchequer for the additional grant of £500,000, referred to on page 56 as being given as a "special grant to universities, colleges and medical schools." This grant, I may say, was given owing to the fact that many of the senior members of the staffs of these universities were unable to take advantage of the means afforded by another arrangement in regard to the matter of pensions. It may be regarded strictly as an exceptional grant to meet exceptional circumstances, and on behalf of the large number of universities whose representatives I had the honour of introducing, when this grant was partially promised, I desire to offer sincere thanks to the present Leader of the House.
§ Sir P. MAGNUS
It is a Treasury grant; it is mentioned in these Estimates, and I think I am right in my reference to it. However, what I wish to point out is that the grants now given to university education are by no means sufficient to meet the demands for increased salaries for the professorial staffs, demonstrators, lecturers, and other teachers, and I sincerely hope our new Chancellor of the Exchequer may be able to increase considerably the grants to our universities so that they may be able to carry on their important work. I now pass to one or two subjects which I admit are a little more controversial. The President has referred to the Teachers' Superannuation Act which was passed in 1918. During the two and a half years since then the benefits accruing under that Act have been widely and greatly appreciated by 980 the teachers in receipt of these grants. At the same time, the undoubted defects of that Act have been realised by a very large number of teachers who, so far as I can see, have been excluded without any sufficient reason from participating in its benefits. Now the exclusion of whole classes of teachers rendering efficient service to the State, which is described in the Act as "qualifying" service—a term, I should say, that raises expectations which have been only partly realised—seems to me to be very unfair and, I venture to think, very unwise, but what is more important is that it cannot fail to have the effect of increasing unduly, without any corresponding advantage to education, the cost of education and of removing from our national system some of its most cherished characteristics. On page 23 of the Estimates we read:The superannuation allowances and gratuities under the Act of 1918 are payable under the conditions therein prescribed, to teachers of grant-aided schools and to certain other classes of teachers in other schools described in the Act. They are based upon the length of recognised service.The total sum awarded to the end of last year for these allowances and gratuities amounted to £1,321,369, but of this sum the amount allocated to teachers in secondary schools is not, I think, specifically stated in the Estimates before us. It is true that the pensions are open to teachers in all grand-aided secondary schools and teachers in some few other schools which are not grant-aided. From the latter schools teachers in so-called private schools are expressly excluded. Teachers in other schools not grant-aided are also eligible for pensions, but they are eligible only on the recommendation of the Board of Education and if approved by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This regulation, it will be seen, gives very large powers to the Board of Education by enabling the officials to decide in which schools of the country, not grant-aided, but nevertheless efficient, teachers shall receive pensions. Moreover—and this is important—the Act provides that no teachers in such independent schools, that is schools which are not grant-aided, shall receive pensions unless they shall have spent a certain number of years in a grant-aided school. This qualifies very considerably the statement of the President that all efficient secondary schools other than 981 private schools are able to receive pensions. It will be seen that the effect of the Act, as interpreted by the Board, is gradually to bring all non-State-aided schools, which are now supported by endowments and partly by the fees of pupils, and without therefore any charge on the Treasury, under the direct control of the Board.
According to the Act, there are two distinct classes of service, one of which is described as "recognised" and the other as "qualifying." In a measure, both qualify for pensions, but the amount of pension to teachers rendering what is called "qualifying" service is calculated only on the years spent in recognised service, that is, in service in a State-aided school, so that the pension of a teacher who may have spent several years in one of these non-grant-aided schools is calculated only on the years that he has spent in a grant-aided school. That makes a very great difference between the pensions given in the State-aided and the non-State-aided schools. The effect of this, to my mind, anomalous arrangement, which is perhaps a little difficult to explain to those who are not conversant with the Clauses of the Act, is, first, gradually to increase unnecessarily the cost of education to the Treasury; secondly, to bring all secondary education under the control of the Board; thirdly, to prevent the passage of teachers from one class of school to other classes of schools; and, fourthly and lastly, to destroy some of the very best features of the secondary school educational system. These, I know, are very serious defects in the Act, which may, I think, be appropriately raised in considering the Education Estimates, seeing that these defects tend largely to increase the expenditure on education without any corresponding advantage—indeed, I venture to think, with a distinct loss of efficiency. The immediate effect of this Act has been to discourage some of the best teachers from seeking service in schools which receive no grant from the State. No increase of salary even in a private school that might be offered can induce a teacher to serve in a school if his years of service in that school do not count as pensionable years, and owing to this cause, a number of good schools, inspected and pronounced efficient either by the Board or by the Universities, have been compelled already either to close down or to accept grants which were not needed from the State. See what this 982 means. Without increasing in any way the efficiency of the education, the Treasury has to provide money grants which would not have been needed, in addition to the pensions. Therefore the effect of the Act is gradually to increase the cost of education.
I have here a list of several schools which, since the passing of the Act, have found it necessary to accept State-aid in order to satisfy the required conditions of pensionable service for their teachers, and these schools are some of our best. What I want the Committee to realise is that if "qualifying" service were identified with "recognised" service, the State would be saved the additional cost of making grants to a large number of schools, and the independence of these schools would be retained. But worse happens, because, having once sacrificed their independence, these schools in many cases apply for subventions from the local education authority, so that not only taxes but also rates are unnecessarily increased by this anomalous arrangement. The disservice to education resulting from the causes to which I have referred is shown in the fact that the freedom and variety of our secondary educational system, which even Matthew Arnold recognised as one of its best features, is seriously threatened by thus bringing a number of good schools, hitherto independent, under the direct control of the State. But that is not all. Efforts in other directions have recently been made to strengthen the Board's grip on our secondary schools. Only very recently the Board have issued Regulations for the award of valuable scholarships, covering fees, maintenance, and cost of books, to pupils of secondary schools, tenable at the Universities. Nothing, in my opinion, can be more desirable than to provide facilities to enable young persons, able to profit by it, to continue their education at our Universities, and all that can be done should be done to link up the education in our schools with that of our Universities, and, as was pointed out by the President, to widen the avenue through which competent pupils, to whatever class or section of the population they may belong, may be able to obtain the highest possible grade of education. But the Regulations provide that these scholarships shall be restricted to pupils in grant-aided secondary schools, thereby strengthening the inducement, already great 983 enough, to throw the whole cost of the education provided in independent schools on the rates and taxes.
Although I have put questions in the House to the President of the Board of Education, I can find neither in his answers nor elsewhere any satisfactory reason for the exclusion from the competition for these awards of children educated in efficient schools which have hitherto declined to accept State aid. The children of the middle classes, of professional men, whose incomes when they are young are often small and generally precarious, are debarred by these regulations from competing for these scholarships, towards the cost of which the parents contribute, and it seems to me that these regulations illustrate and strengthen what I cannot help thinking has been the growing policy of the Board to bring all secondary schools under their direct control and thus largely to increase the normal cost of education. One of the most unfortunate consequences of this policy is the obstacle it raises to the free passage of teachers from one grade of school to another. In the interests of the teacher and for the better instruction of the pupils, such free passage is always regarded as most desirable. A teacher gains valuable experience from serving, for some few years, say, in a private preparatory school, where the pupils are of a younger age, or in any other school not under the direct control of the Board, where educational experiments may be freely tried and tested, but the teacher is discouraged from gaining such experience by passing from one class of school to another, seeing that by so doing he lessens, by every year spent in such service, not regarded as "recognised" by the Board, the amount of pension to which he would be entitled if he spent his whole period of service in a school where such service is technically regarded as "recognised." Take the case of a young man or woman who, before entering on the profession of a teacher, should spend some few years in a university as assistant to a distinguished professor, working under the inspiring and elevating influence of his wide knowledge. Such service is accepted in the Act as qualifying service. The experience thus gained would prove of incalculable value to a teacher, who might 984 afterwards enter a secondary school, but every year spent as demonstrator or assistant lecturer at a university would be a year lost in fixing the amount of pension after, say, thirty years of efficient service as a teacher.
I hear that a "Conference of National Associations of Teachers" is to be held shortly, and that a resolution will be submitted to them in these words:That, in the opinion of this Conference, any artificial barrier to the free circulation of qualified teachers among all kinds of educational institutions is a great impediment to the unification of the teaching profession, and reacts on the progress of education. Certain provisions of the School Teachers' Superannuation Act, 1918, constitute such a barrier, and these provisions should be revised and amended.I support this resolution on behalf of several associations of teachers. Until to-day, no opportunity has been offered to the Members of this House of discussing the consequences of the Act passed nearly three years ago, as affecting our national system of secondary education, and I do most earnestly appeal to the President of the Board of Education, whose enthusiasm for education, whose earnest desire to improve it, and whose interest in the solution of its many difficult problems everyone admits—I say I do appeal to him, as requested by the very influential deputation which I introduced to him last year, to appoint a competent Committee—whether select or departmental, I do not mind—to consider these questions, and to suggest Amendments to the Act of 1918, which, without imposing, as I believe they would not impose, any fresh burdens either on the ratepayer or the taxpayer for the cost of education in the future, would remove some of the anomalies that have been made evident in the working of the Act. By so doing, I am certain he would be rendering a very great service to the cause of education. The President, almost at the close of his speech, made some suggestions with regard to the recommendations in the Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure. May I read one of those recommendations?Your Committee recommends that the advantages of the Teachers' Superannuation Scheme should be made available for all teachers in efficient schools.Here just let me say one word with regard to private schools. When the 985 President says that no House of Commons would never grant subsidies to private schools, I think he is not expressing what is really understood. Any pensions to teachers in private schools would not be grants to the schools, but only the means of enabling the schools to secure the service of competent teachers.
In the recommendation, part of which I have quoted, it is further stated:Evidence was given that many good Secondary Schools are being closed owing to their inability to provide pensions for their teaching staff. It would be more economical to make the suggested concession to such schools than to undertake the maintenance of new schools, and the education of the pupils at present taught in the schools that are closing down, particularly as the opening of new State-aided Secondary Schools must involve a liability in respect of superannuation for the extra teachers engaged.I again make an earnest appeal to the President of the Board of Education, who need not adopt the recommendations of the Committee if they do not find acceptance with the Board, but I am convinced the appointment of such a Committee would relieve the anxiety, to a very large extent, of thousands of teachers.
§ Mr. ACLAND
It is a very great pleasure to the Committee to hear once more the President of the Board of Education speak to the Committee on the subject of Education, and I am sure we quite understand the fact that he has not done so in recent years in the case of Estimates is in no sense his fault, but is owing to the exigencies of public business. I have only one complaint to make which in any way concerns him personally, and I would like to get it over at once before making certain remarks about his Estimates. I would like to put it in this way: There have been Ministers of Education in the past who have not been very specially fitted for their jobs, but have taken the Education Office as an item in the ordinary course of official promotion, and who have been, perhaps, as good at other things as they were at education, and, therefore, there has been no loss to the country, but possibly again, if they gave a good deal of their work to other Departments of Government activity than to their own. But the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Education, is altogether different from the ordinary run of Education Ministers. I regard him as specially designed by Providence, or, you may 986 say, specially selected by the Prime Minister—
§ Mr. ACLAND
I regard him as specially selected to give education a really big and permanent push forward, and to keep pushing it forward in bad times as well as good times Therefore, if I may say so, I am always rather sorry when I see or hear that he has taken charge for the Government of some other question than education, and is interesting himself in that, and giving a great deal of time to it. At any rate, speaking as a Liberal, I do not think that the amount of Liberalism which he seems to bring into other departments of Government with which he actively associates himself—for instance, that of Ireland—in the least makes up for the loss to the country of himself as a whole-time, active and inspiring educational force. That is the real work that he can give to the nation, and I am always sorry when I hear that he is doing anything else. Other people are quite as good, possibly, as he can be in misgoverning Ireland, but no one is anything like as good as he can be in carrying the banner of educational progress through the country, and continually proving to the country, as he could do, so much better than anyone else, at great meetings, and in other ways, that no economy can possibly be so foolish and short-sighted as starving education or limiting the speed of our educational progress. After all what are the main facts of the present position? Surely there has been, and is now being, waged—we shall hear it in Committee to-night—a great attack on educational progress and efficiency by considerable sections of the population who do not really in any way want the people of the country to be well educated. That is going on at a time when nothing is more vitally important to our well-being than steady and, indeed, rapid development of educational facilities among all classes of the people. I cannot help thinking that the greatest possible service my right hon. Friend could render is by perpetually, in season and out of season, making it quite clear to the country and to the Government that they ought not to accept, and that he will not accept any slowing down of the great wave of educational progress which he set going in 1918 and the preceding year.
What is actually going on? I was glad to hear in his speech figures, which it is 987 quite impossible to get from the Estimates, showing that there is going to be in the present year a certain amount of expenditure owing to the passing of the Act of 1918. But, as a matter of fact, the main provision of the Act of 1918 with regard to continuation schools is almost entirely held up in the great mass of our counties and county boroughs. Even where they had their schemes ready, they have had to postpone them indefinitely. We have not even done some of the things which we ought to have done years ago; we have not abolished half-time, and we have not raised the school age to 14 years. It is rather a remarkable thing, but the only progress in that direction was made, not by any Act of the Education Department, but by the Home Office Act of last year, in which we had the grace, at any rate, to come up to the standard to which we had promised to come up in agreement with other nations under one of the conventions which we have signed, owing to the work of the League of Nations. But for that we should have been in the same position as we were when the Act of 1918 was passed with regard to half-timers and with regard to the school age. So that I do not think in any sort of way we can flatter ourselves that we are making a great educational progress. There has been a frightful retardation and damping down of the educational progress which we hoped a few years ago we should be enabled to make.
Let me come to the Estimates themselves. They are rather difficult to understand, though I quite admit my right hon. Friend and his officials have done their best in the notes appended to the Estimates to make them intelligible. But it seemed to me, in making such analysis as I could, that of the total increases of, roughly, £5,880,000, which is balanced by a decrease of £800,000, mainly for training ex-service men, no less than £5,714,000 is automatic, and due only to the increase of students or the increased expenditure on salaries, towards which the Board of Education has to make a considerable contribution. I understand from what my right hon. Friend has said that in that calculation I have been, to some extent, in error, because of the expenditure under Sub-head (G), that is, for secondary education. He reckons that £835,000 is due to the beginning of 988 the coming into operation, at any rate, of the Act of 1918. As I say, that is not an appreciable fact. You cannot find that out from the Estimates themselves. All the large increases there seem as if they were automatic, and in no way due to really fresh schemes of expenditure. I would like to make a suggestion or two, if I might, for improving the intelligibility and interest of the Estimates, in spite of the good work which has been done in these notes. I think, for instance, we might have figures showing the total expenditure of the nation on education.
§ Mr. ACLAND
Why not? The main object, or one of the objects, of Estimates nowadays is to give figures really to help to illuminate the subject, and I think that more might be done in showing us the grand total. I am thinking of England and Wales. For the Departments which really come under my right hon. Friend, I work it out to be something like £98,000,000, State and Local Authorities together, but it is rather hard to get at it on the Estimates, and I think we might have more figures with advantage. We do not find out, except by making a rather difficult addition, the total expenditure of the State on secondary education. It is divided into different sub-heads, and I think a statement for each year—if possible for a series of years—as to the total expenditure of the State on secondary education, would be useful. We do not get any estimate of the grant per child in our elementary education, or on the average attendance; we do not get an estimate of the cost per school place available. These are the sort of units in regard to which useful figures might be given over a series of years if they could be got out without any great difficulty. Neither do we get an estimate of the cost to the State of the training of each teacher, and that would be a thoroughly interesting figure if it could be worked out over a series of years.
§ Mr. ACLAND
Yes, the teachers in the elementary schools, or any education aided by the State. May I deal for a moment with the very difficult question, undoubtedly, which my hon. Friend touched upon, and that is the general basis of the grants. It is perfectly true 989 that the new method was adopted, after very full consideration, in the Act of 1918, and that Parliament quite deliberately relaxed its control over expenditure on education. I am not quite sure that we were right, but I would like the Committee to understand—possibly they do understand—that that has been a long and progressive process.
In the old days after 1870 there was a pretty tight control over what the State spent. Gradually, however, the various safeguards which were imposed on behalf of the Treasury, and the taxpayer, were abolished, and you could roughly say that before the passing of the Act of 1918 there was no statutory security for either efficiency, or economy, or local contribution towards education. There was still something. There was Parliamentary control over administration, and the Treasury had a definite control over the amount of money issued, although it had very little control over the way that money was spent. All that was swept away by the Act of 1918, and the simple principle was established that whatever the local authorities spent the Treasury must find half the grant. The grant might be indefinitely more, but in any case it was not less than half the expenditure. I turn from that to something the President said on this matter, because I think the Committee might well consider it. The right hon. Gentleman came before the Burnham Committee, which he told us he had set up, and he had to confess— I quote his words:Under the present system of grants-in-aid of elementary education, for which I was responsible, the contributions of the State are related to and determined by the expenditure of local authorities.… It is essential that arrangements to meet increased expenditure should be consistent with the presentation of proper and reliable Estimates to Parliament. … So that I may not have to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to include in the Board's Estimates a sum designed to cover unascertained and unascertainable increase in the expenditure of the local authorities.The right hon. Gentleman is practically confessing there that under the present system, under which he has to give his grants-in-aid, he is unable to make reliable estimates or to present to the Treasury anything like a reliable estimate of the cost of elementary education of any particular year. We all know it is extremely difficult really effectively to control the expenditure of the local 990 education authorities on which our expenditure finally depends. But the main point I want to make, if I may, is in regard to the still frightfully inadequate provision which this country makes for secondary, and higher, and adult education. Take the question of adult education. There is here still a real inequality of opportunity between those who can afford education and those who cannot. I believe this is at the bottom of a very large amount of the present unrest in labour matters. How many working men who take an interest in education, as many hundreds and thousands of them do, must not realise this fact that the Federation of British Industries, which are very strongly represented in this House, has selected as the two first and main things on which they wish to reduce expenditure, housing and education. They put these in the very forefront of what ought to be attacked.
§ Mr. ACLAND
Perhaps scattered, but I believe they are still in very strong force. They have a considerable influence with the Government. My point is that not one single one of these men have themselves personally felt either the housing difficulty or the lack of educational opportunities for any of their children. We are giving this year in aid of university tutorial classes £14,450, as against £10,024 last year. That is really horribly inadequate as an assistance to adult education. May I for a few minutes quote from a very interesting letter which appeared recently in the "Times" from Clement C. Egerton, who has had experience in this matter of adult education, first in the Army, and secondly in connection with tutorial classes. He says:The Board of Education at present recognises the value of adult education by making a grant to classes where organised by the tutorial classes committees of different universities and such institutions as the Workers' Educational Association. … This provision does not merely fit the case. In localities where the shift system is in operation it is almost impossible for most working men and women to meet the requirements of the Board. Consequently, in North Staffordshire we have no financial assistance whatever for the majority of our classes; we have to rely upon voluntary teachers, and it is impossible to satisfy one-tenth of the demand for classes and courses 991 of lectures. That there is a demand is evidenced by the fact that when I was asked to lecture on a Sunday morning some time ago, at the Working Men's Club in the Potteries, 150 working miners turned up to listen to a lecture on Psychology.You would hardly think that psychology would be a very attractive subject for them! The writer continues: —The present attitude of the authorities forces the working man into the belief that the governing classes are afraid of his becoming too-well educated. It is perfectly natural that if real education is withheld from the worker propagandists should step in and fill the gap in their own way.
§ Mr. ACLAND
Circumspice! I think that is an answer to the question of the hon. Baronet. At any rate, they are not those who represent the workers in the House at the present time. But I do not know that I want to labour my point further by more quotations from this letter. I say this, instead of the £14,000 in aid given now to aid this adult education 10 times that amount would be very, very well spent, and would go far to enable the members of the working classes who are feeling keenly anxious, if they are to be our governors in the future, to be better governors than they would be without this education of which they are now so much deprived.
We have not before us just now the University Vote; therefore I cannot refer to that. But it is really semi-starvation of higher education. I should like to refer for a moment to the Report of the University Grants Committee, under the chairmanship of Sir William S. McCormick, in which over and over again is brought out the present deficiency of our provision for higher education. Firstly, it points out that our universities are frightfully overcrowded, and secondly, that there are many people trying to get into them who have to be crowded out altogether. Then it goes on to deal with the serious underpayment of the teachers of almost all grades at the universities. It deals also with the under-supply of teachers in our universities, as well as their underpayment, and the point which has been referred to by the hon. Gentleman who preceded me—the inadequate pension arrangements at present existing in regard to these teachers. But more remarkable than all, it testifies to the 992 fact that wherever this Advisory Committee went they not only heard evidence from universities and university colleges, but they heard evidence from the representatives of trades and industries of the country that there was an ever-increasing and insufficient supply of the demand for the product of these universities to aid in the development of the industries, and making the whole Empire more productive, profitable, and stronger than it is at the present time.
I pass to the question of secondary education. Nothing I think was more remarkable to those in touch with secondary schools during the War than to see how the great body of parents of quite limited means used the better salaries and higher wages that in some cases they received during the War, in order to send and keep their children at the schools. People sometimes talk as if the whole of the increased earnings of the working classes had been mopped up in riotous living and that sort of thing. It was not so. There was a great development of the endeavour to obtain better education for their children. I happen to be chairman of the Council of the London School of Medicine for Women. We have quite a small scholarship and exhibition fund to administer. We have had to raise our fees. In going through the applications of students for such scholarships and exhibitions as we are enabled to give one comes across case after case in which families are making the most amazing sacrifices in order to get something like higher education and a medical training to their daughters. It is the same right through. There is a tremendous demand for the very best education at the present time and there is an under-supply.
The Board has before it at the present time a very able and excellent Report of a Committee presided over by the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Lieut.-Commander Hilton Young). It is called the Young Committee. The Board have had that Report before them for 10 months. I do not know anything that they have yet done to carry out any of its recommendations. I hope when a reply is given by the Secretary to the Board of Education he will tell us something about this. The main recommendations of that Committee were quite simple—that the number of free places in secondary schools should be raised from 25 per cent, to 40 per cent.; that there should be an exten- 993 sion of maintenance allowance, so that the full value should be gained from these free places; and in regard to the interruption that was made during the speech of my right hon. Friend it is worth noting that holders of free places in secondary schools, namely, most of those who come from the elementary schools do stay at the secondary schools longer than many others. I think the general attitude towards the elementary school children in connection with secondary education is very much misplaced. I think the whole class who come from the elementary to the secondary schools make very good use of the secondary school provision that exist for them. There should be a very considerable provision bf secondary schools. At the present time we have only something like ten places in secondary schools for each 1,000 of the population, and the Committee to which I have referred recommends that it is necessary at least to double the provision of secondary school places by making the proportion 20 per 1,000 instead of 10. They estimate that there is a demand representing the attendance of something like 720,000 pupils in secondary schools, but there are now only 300,000 pupils in those schools. They also recommend something which I am afraid has been postponed almost indefinitely, that is, that the discontinuance of fees in secondary schools should be carried out as soon as the conditions of national finance will allow. I know this last provision has been postponed, and the tendency now is to increase the fees and not discontinue them at all. I would like to know whether anything has been done to increase the number of free places, and to extend the maintenance allowance or increase the number of places available in secondary schools in different parts of the country?
My last point is in relation to the provision of scholarships. The Minister for Education may say that he is not able to obtain from the Treasury a proper consideration of the Report of the Young Committee sufficient to translate their recommendations into Estimates and real progress. The Consultative Committee of the Board of Education reported nearly five years ago with regard to one particular aspect of the encouragement and increase of secondary higher 994 education, namely, the question of scholarships and exhibitions. That Committee was asked as a matter of urgency to report upon the question of scholarships for higher education, and they reported in May, 1916. Their proposals were quite extraordinarily modest, and at that date they took no account whatever of the increased cost of living arising through the War, and they recommended that £100,000 a year should be given in order to strengthen the educational work of selected secondary schools, and that £240,000 should be devoted to scholarships from secondary and technical schools to the universities. I suppose that sum would represent about £500,000 now, and I do not see any real sign of that amount of money to encourage these scholarships being effectively included in the Estimates. I see under Sub-head I that there has been an increase from £130,000 to £192,000 in aids to students, but that amount seems to me to fall very short indeed of what was recommended by that Committee nearly five years ago.
There is now in nearly all classes a very intense desire for improved knowledge and education, and that represents a very great power of helping the community if only adequate encouragement is given to it and adequate provision made for it by the existence of secondary schools; the enlargement of provision for education in universities, and a real provision for students to step forward by scholarships and maintenance allowances from the elementary to the secondary schools and from the secondary schools to the university. If anyone has had an opportunity of ascertaining the views of the professors of the science of technology, it will be found that they bear out that there exists a demand for the highest trained students of technical questions, and there is an immense demand for the highest possibly trained students, which at the present time cannot be satisfied.
I agree with those who say that we owe an enormous amount to the work and ability of those who are at the present time finding places in our public schools of this character, but there is beyond that an immense reservoir of ability waiting to be of service to the State and the Empire which at the present time does not really get an adequate chance, owing to the fact that the scholarship system is so inadequate, and owing to the great lack of provision for secondary and 995 university teaching now. That is my main point. At the present time we are going through a state of considerable slump in education and the expectations which many of us formed when the present President of the Board of Education entered office of a really rapid advance have been very much disappointed, and if the right hon. Gentleman would once again, as he showed signs of doing some years ago, institute a really great educational campaign of educational progress, I think it would be the wisest expenditure this country has ever engaged in.
§ Sir EDWARD CARSON
I apologise for interrupting to some extent the very interesting and important discussion that is taking place on these Estimates. I congratulate England on the fact that they have the present Minister of Education. He has devoted himself heart and soul and, be it always remembered, at a very difficult time, when the finances of the country are low, to vastly improving the organisation and machinery of education, and especially the position of the teachers. I do not think the House can over-estimate how important it is that you should have proper teachers, and well-satisfied teachers, who are bringing up the youth of this country. I can speak with all the more knowledge of this subject because I believe in my heart that a great deal of the misfortune in my own country has happened through the absolutely negligent way in which you have acted in Ireland in regard to education. There you have allowed, with the full knowledge of what you were doing, the education of the youth, certainly all through my time, which now extends to over 30 years in this House, to go on with a discontented, under-paid, half-starved body of teachers, and you have expected them to produce loyal, contented citizens when at the time these children are being taught they have an example in the very teacher who is teaching them of those who are disgruntled by reason of the inadequate means provided for that class.
I say with that experience before me, now that I am a resident in this country, and I suppose I am likely to be for the rest of my life, do not do anything to retard the betterment of these people to whom the youth of the country are entrusted, but make it one of your aims, as the President of the Board of Education does, to make your teaching profes- 996 sion one of the greatest and most highly-esteemed of any of your great Departments in this country. I look around me to see where the Anti-Waste party are on this occasion. I read in some of their organs with astonishment that you can easily bring back and reduce your education grant to pre-War figures. I do not know how any sensible man can sit down and write such rubbish. The man who is saying that with a view to economy, and with a view, perhaps, to having a weapon against the Government, and, perhaps, to protecting the property of the rich, is doing the greatest disservice to those who have property and possessions in this country, because, please God, this country never will stand still in its efforts to promote and give chances to those who are young citizens who would be capable of fulfilling the very highest offices in the land. I hope my right hon. Friend will not be discouraged by that kind of criticism. There are some things you cannot save upon, and one of them is education. Having said so much, I want to make a bitter complaint against the Government as regards the Estimates in relation to Ireland. I believe the Irish Estimates are included in this Vote.
§ Sir E. CARSON
Then I am not entitled to deal with that subject, and if that is so, I have said all I want to say. I can at least say that your advance in education, and the position in which you have placed your people in relation to pay and pensions should never have taken place without doing the same thing in Ireland. By your policy you are absolutely at the present denuding Ireland of every one of her best teachers who are coming across here to fill places in your schools, both primary and secondary, because of the higher pay and pension. That is a great calamity to my country, although it may be a benefit to yours and to your system of education.
§ Mr. FISHER
Is the right hon. Gentleman correct in saying that there has been any substantial migration of teachers over here on account of the pension?
§ Sir E. CARSON
It is because of the pay and not the pension. As to the secondary schools, as I am informed, it is very likely that they will have to shut up altogether for want of teachers. I am 997 also informed that at least 60 per cent. of the teachers trained in my own university are coming across from that country to this. I cannot go into that matter further: I would be out of order in doing so. I am thankful indeed that I have been allowed to say so much. I will only add this. Let me commend to the Irish Government and to my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary this—and it is the only way in which I can make myself in order—that they should study what the Minister of Education here is doing. I would further appeal to my right hon. Friend—he knows I have also done so privately—to try and arouse some interest amongst his colleagues in the Cabinet in Irish as well as in English education. These questions, believe me, are far more important than political questions, and they will settle in themselves, if handled in the right way, either in the long future or in the near future, many of the difficult problems with which my country is now faced.
§ Mr. D. IRVING
I beg to move that the Vote be reduced by £100.
In doing so, I hope it will not be thought that I am in any way addressing the Committee in opposition to the Department. Probably wrongly, I took it that the only way in which I could raise a discussion from the point of view which concerns me with regard to education was by moving this reduction. If I had an opportunity of expressing my views generally I should probably ask for an expansion of the Vote. I would like to double, or even treble, the present amount of it, because any man who thoroughly understands a national system of education must know very well that we are not going to get such a system until we do spend something like that amount of money. The Minister for Education spoke of the Circular which his Department has issued and which, he suggested, embodied the spirit of the administration by the Department of educational expenditure, and of the Vote for which he is asking. To my mind that Circular is an extremely clever one. It is clever inasmuch as I find that if educational advance is not accomplished then, quite obviously, the blame will lie with the local authority, and not with the Department which issued the Circular as embodying their policy. As a matter of fact, the whole tenour of the Circular is 998 provocative of that kind of spirit which prevents altogether progressive movement along educational lines.
It seems to do much more than that. It appears to me that it abrogates the Act of Parliament which we have been discussing—or, rather, parts of the Act of 1918—altogether. There certainly is within the four corners of such a Circular, and within its scope, power assumed by the Department to prohibit expenditure of any kind and in any direction that does not meet with its approbation. Yet it is quite certain from the Act itself that certain mandatory obligations are laid upon local education authorities to incur expenditure in the way of perfecting their local educational system. From the point of view of the Act that duty devolved on the local authority, and the Department quite obviously should be responsible for seeing that the money is expended, and should not try to prevent it being expended. I was a bit surprised on reading the Circular to find it possible that it should have emanated from the Education Department, because, if there is one curious and silly conception of what educational economy means, it is that referred to by the right hon. Member for Duncairn (Sir E. Carson) a moment or two ago, when he asked where were the anti-waste folk. I presume they are probably looking after affairs in Mesopotamia, or something of that kind, but certainly the utterances of these people would lead one to imagine that economy is bound to be of educational value in so far as it is a national saving to prevent expenditure on education. In my humble judgment, if there is one thing the nation cannot afford to save money upon, it is expenditure on this particular subject. In so far as you do save expenditure in any one year, you can never recover the loss.
The Circular talks about arrears that are to be made up. Unfortunately, in the area of education particular losses are never made up at all. I myself, never having had much education, have yet taken a keen interest in the subject for a very long number of years, from the point of view of the national welfare and from the point of view of the common people of this nation. A very ancient writer long ago said that education is that which gives to human nature all the worth and all the beauty of which it is capable. That sentence was written hundreds of years ago, and during these intervening 999 years we have been striving more or less to an approximation of that ideal. In these years of civilisation—and we have had a good many even of these—and without leaving the borders of our own land, let us, when we are inclined to sing songs of praise in Ministerial Budget speeches about the wonderful growth of education and educational opportunity, let us cast our mind's eye on the population of this country as we know them, and measure them by that standard of excellence which ought to be the result of a properly organised educational effort. If we do that we are up against the simple proposition that, not only have we not arrived at a decent approximation thereto, but in regard to the overwhelming mass of the population, they are still uneducated, and the national loss in any one generation of bodily power not properly developed, and of mind not well informed and equipped to the fullest extent of their possible development, is a loss that cannot be measured in money terms at all, and a loss that all of us realise, if we are honest with ourselves. In so far as we reduce further educational expenditure, we are perpetuating in the future, despite experience, the loss which we have incurred in the past.
I think the educational system of this country from the point of view of scholarships—which were always far too meagre in number and too narrow, at least has done this; it has proved that, given opportunities, the great masses of the ordinary people of this country—not those who have been born in more favourable conditions of life, but those who in the mass are represented by the term "ordinary working classes," can provide material of educational quality of great value to this nation, because as a matter of fact even under these arduous conditions, and in my own day and generation, I have seen working men and women under intense difficulties rise from the low position in which they have been born into the highest positions which the nation can hope to allow us to aspire to. It that is true—and I do not think anyone will care to deny it—you should ease those conditions. I have in mind at the present moment one such case as I have mentioned. One of the evils of that system is that the student has to overwork himself, he has to work in order to secure the reward in front of him in 1000 a way which, in the first place, impairs his physical qualities and capacity; he has to live in such stinted form that he injures his physique, and he has to bend his energies solely upon the point of view of winning a specific scholarship which is only offered in certain directions, and which, in the long run, lowers the point of view of educational value that he ought to be able to acquire. In the main the scholarship often is not given for educational reasons at all, but is given to the most successful aspirant; and in very many instances he attains possession of this prize by the exhibition of qualities which are not educational or even human in the best sense of the term at all. Therefore, personally, I am prepared widely to expand the amount we are spending on education.
We are told by the Ministry that, under the pressure of economic circumstances, they are granting powers to various governing authorities of secondary schools to raise their school fees. What is the effect? Already there is a demand from thousands of young men and women of the working classes for admission to the secondary schools. In most cases there is no opportunity, because there are no places for them. In my own town of Burnley there is an examination in which children from the elementary schools are allowed to sit once a year with a view to obtaining scholarships in the two secondary schools in the town. At every examination a large number of children, both boys and girls, prove their capacity to receive secondary education with advantage to themselves and the community; but they are ruled out altogether because there are only a certain number of places. My feeling with regard to education is that it is a whole. If education is free in this country, all parts of it ought to be equally free to those who are fitted to take advantage of it. What sense is there in making an elementary school free and charging fees which close the door of the secondary school to a large number of children who are fitted from an educational point of view to take advantage of it? If there is any form of educational waste that is more fatuous than that, I have yet to find it. Elementary education is the mere beginning of education. It is an attempt to take the child in its early years and equip it, as it were, with the language of observation and the powers 1001 of perception and expression which are necessary to educate it. To cut short the child's school career, as that of the overwhelming mass of the children in this country is already cut short, is to a large extent an utter waste. You might as well throw into the sea many of the millions that you spend upon elementary education which is cut off short of the secondary school. To enter the secondary school should be just as easy and as organic a part of our educational system as it is for the child in the so-called infant school, when it arrives at a certain age and efficiency, to pass without let or hindrance into the next stage, which is called the primary school.
I would not care to stop even there, but, not wanting to get the moon all at once, I at least would be satisfied with some educational advance. But what advance has there been in my lifetime? I quite admit that an advance has been made during recent years along what I conceive to be right lines—lines which tend towards the building up of a national form of educational organisation which would be much more complete in the future than it is to-day. We have been hearing something about schools and school buildings. In one part of the circular to which I have referred there is a prohibition, except under extraordinary circumstances, of the building of new schools of almost any description. One would imagine from the discussion, so far as it has proceeded, that that prohibition had arisen only out of the scarcity of means caused by the late War. I know, however, schools in existence to-day which were condemned by the Board of Education 20 years ago, and they are still being used for the upbringing of little children. There are thousands of schools in this country to-day which, as the Board of Education know as well as I do, are a scandal and a disgrace to them as a Department; and it is inhuman on our part to tolerate the existence of those places and call them schools for the purpose of educating the bodies and minds of the children of this country. I want to see something in a man's lifetime which is different from progress of that sort. I have heard of things progressing like crabs. That is not a crab-like progress, because crabs do get somewhere sideways, and in this case we have not got anywhere at all in twenty odd 1002 years. Many of the reasons which have stood in the way of this possible advance are well-known. I appeal to the Committee to realise that their duty is not even to make it easy, as the Minister for Education phrased it, for men to pass from one class to another—from the lowest to the highest class of the community; but so to educate the people that the idea of class will fade from their minds altogether, and we shall realise, as members of one community, as the citizens of one nation, that there should be no question of class at all. We are members of one community, in which the possibilities of the development of the body, as the foundation upon which all education rests, and the building upon that foundation of the super-structure of educational attainment, should be open and free to every person in the community who is fitted to take part in it; and so, in the real sense of the term, life itself. There are many avenues of intellectual attainment along which life can be enjoyed, and they should become free to all people in the community, so that the mere possession of money should have no effect upon the social status of a man or woman at all.
I would urge upon the Minister for Education to consider what he must know already. I should be content to leave the administration of the Circular and its Regulations in his hands, but he must know, as I know, that the work of an Education Department has for years, in most instances, been necessary, not to prevent local authorities from spending money on educational advance, but really to compel them to do that which they have always resisted to the full extent of their power. There will be a few bright examples to whom what I am about to say will not apply, but in the case of the education authorities who will read that circular, it will stop educational progress in many respects, and in respects that will never come to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman's Department at all. You have on most of these bodies, from an educational point of view, anyhow, a reactionary element, generally pretty strong, if not in the majority—people to whom the question of saving expenditure is an all-important consideration. I have myself been somewhat successful against majorities during my lifetime. I think I can honestly say that, as an old member of the School Board of my town, and as a member of the Education Authority 1003 to-day, I have had as much as one man's influence can be supposed to count, and that I have left behind me a work of which I am exceedingly proud in that town. I could have done much more if I had not had these impediments to fight against all the way. Whilst it is comparatively easy to find two or three comrades—I do not mean comrades in the sense of being of like status with myself, but men of all classes of society who will cotton to that idea and work with you for all they are worth—you are always up against that narrow, ignorant, selfish majority to whom the giving of an education to other people's children, as they put it, is a thing that they are not called upon to do from the point of view of citizenship, and from the ratepayers' point of view they refuse to spend money upon the education of those children. That is a spirit which still prevails, and a circular such as this plays distinctly into the hands of that retrograde element upon local authorities. I would ask the Board to abolish those Regulations. Let them see that money is wisely expended, but, where a community is willing and can find the means to extend its organisation by the erection of new schools to take the place of played-out buildings, and by the erection of new secondary schools and the provision of playing fields—aye, and the provision of maintenance, without which very much of your education is valueless to the great bulk of the people—those are lines upon which all the money that we can scrape together can be well and wisely spent. It is in no sense an extravagant policy, but is in the truest sense the highest form of national economy for which you can hope. I know that there are men in the House of Commons who receive cheers on all matters about the expansion of the Empire or the extension of the power of our Army and Navy, but to whom education is probably a very small matter indeed. I have heard many men, who are fairly entitled to be described as educationists, place education as the third line of defence of this nation. I never put it anywhere else than the first line of defence and I never shall.
I know there are hon. Members opposite who think we are not fit to govern anything—not even ourselves. They too are not fit to govern themselves and never will be until they are prepared to take 1004 their share in making the whole people fit, irrespective of where they come from. What hon. Members opposite who represent roughly the classes while we represent the masses do not understand— [Laughter]—It is so. At any rate that is my opinion, and I am entitled to it. I want to abolish the so-called classes because after all it is an inhuman thing that they should belong to such an organisation, I want to make them part and parcel of the whole community—[An HON. MEMBER: "So they are!"]—Then how on earth can. you walk about the streets of London without going anywhere else and see the men whom in common parlance you call your brothers, your fellow citizens, and your sisters, and realise the condition in which the whole mass of the working population of the country still are and realise that a very large section of this community have no need to take thought for to-morrow because the wherewithal to find them in purple and fine linen is secured for the next thousand years, unless some change takes place, without any atom of attainment being called for from them. I want to get a condition of society in which you will enjoy yourself by the absence of those visible things which ought to stir the humanity in all of us to a desire to remove them from the path of human kind. Money spent in expanding and making quicker and more effective the ideas which even the Departments are possessed of is not money lost because it returns in results greater than money can possibly purchase in many forms, in the diminution of crime, in allaying discontent by giving wider outlooks upon life and other aspirations opening up before the educated mind, and better methods of enjoying what are called the pleasures of life. In a broad sense every million spent upon education is the finest investment in human happiness from which the result is as certain as that to-morrow follows to-day.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
The last speaker seemed to be suffering from the delusion from which the late Lord Young suffered when he introduced the Education Act in Scotland in 1873, namely, that all poverty, all drunkenness, all crime were to disappear as the result of that Act. I question very much if the education of Scotland has improved from the scheme which John Knox designed for it. What 1005 these hon. Members opposite do not understand, and a good many people, do not understand, is what is education. It is not expensive school buildings. It is not what you get out of books. Education is the building up of character, and the difficulty we have arrived at from the State taking part in it is that instead of our schoolmasters being members of an independent profession, as one would wish them to be, ruling themselves, we have made them all into Government officials. That is the effect, and it has been the effect for many years. The result is that instead of their being able to give real education—for education means bringing out what is in a boy—they merely cram and to a large extent have a dulling effect upon the minds of the pupils. You very often see a bright boy go to school, and the only effect is that he conies out duller than he went in. The recent raid that schoolmasters and education authorities have made upon the purse of the public is an unfair one. I do not think, if the people of this country had been consulted, the Act that the Minister of Education has to administer would ever have been the law of the country. I think it would have been strenuously resisted, and I believe with the mass of the people of the country no Act is more unpopular. Its corresponding Act in Scotland has excited the greatest possible indignation, especially in the rural districts. I read from an eminent Scottish farmer. [Laughter.] Notice how these hon. Gentlemen laugh at one of the noblest and most skilled professions in the world—the foundation of all our national life. This gentleman writes with a wit and skill which very few Members, if any, are capable of rising to. It is a curious thing that there are a great number of people to whom education has become what Mesopotamia used to be before we spent so much money on it—a blessed word—and all sorts of people proceed to smite their breasts and orate about the benefits of education who do not really have the elementary knowledge of what education is.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
No, it is not. A man must educate himself. Every man has to educate himself. No man need think that what he gets from the schoolmaster 1006 educates him, for it is life itself which is one continuous education and opportunity. You find at the head of all great businesses, all the great industries, and all the important walks in life, except the learned professions, who erect artificial educational walls to be surmounted—nearly all the men in the very highest positions in this country are not indebted much to schools or schoolmasters for the positions they are in, but to their native talent and force of character. A leading Labour Member of this House once said he bitterly regretted that he had not had a university education. Supposing he had, do you think he would ever have been able to shake Governments as he does? No. His parents would never have allowed him to go about with an oily rag in his hand. They would have put him into a bank, where he would probably have remained as a clerk till the end of his days. There is no greater delusion than that the training that a boy gets in a State school is real education. Why is it that so many people rush to public schools independent of State control? Why are they so anxious to get their sons in there? It is because the teachers are not Government officials. They are not hidebound. They are more like the old teachers that John Knox had in Scotland, who were able to pick out the boys who could really benefit by higher education, independent of what class they came from, because, after all, the theory of all education should be to pick out the best from any ranks. But you do not do that in the State-governed schools. You cannot do it because the teacher has not the independent initiative or personality that enables him to do it. This is what my agricultural friend says, speaking of the serious way in which agriculture will be affected by the raising of the school age. He says:If bairns are not taught to work till they are 15, they will never learn. If they have to attend continuation classes in town centres till they are 18 they will be a long way above doing any manual labour. I never knew one who got a secondary bursary and attended classes till that age that ever came back to work on the land."[Laughter and cheers.]What an astonishing thing that work seems to be something that ought to be derided and to be jeered at. Where is your education when that is the theory? The theory of the modern education enthusiast seems to be that you are to do as little work as you can and get as much 1007 as possible for it. Then this gentleman says:Let the State provide such an education as will enable the pupil to manage his own affairs capably, and take an intelligent interest in current events—in fact, bring the child to the stage that he knows the value of education—and then he may be safely left to find his own teachers and complete his own education in his own way. To compel the whole lot to attend school for years after that stage has been reached on the off chance of getting one or two capable of benefiting by higher education is not only silly, it is idiotic.This is a good agricultural simile:What would you think of a man who started to bring out his whole herd of 50 cows, or a whole hirsel of 30 score of sheep, for the show, on the off chance of getting a prize with one or two of them? You would say he should be shut up in Bedlam, and you would be right. Well, that's what our education authorities are doing, and that's where they should be shut up. It's right enough to electroplate the teapot and the jelly-spoons, it would be absurd to electroplate the swing ploughs and the harrows. As it is, in many country schools they are merely marking time, and acquiring bad habits after they are 12. The new Act only makes them mark time for another year. It is a new Act, but there are the same teachers. It is bad enough keeping the whole scholars till they are 15, but it is worse when we consider that the whole system is a town system designed mainly to turn out teachers, clerks, and typewriters. It is more a town system than ever, because on the new authorities the rural members are in a helpless minority. So very much depends on the personality of the teacher. He has the moulding of the scholar at a very impressionable period of his life. And the teachers are all either town-bred or those from the country with no liking for country life. They infuse into the bairns the idea that manual labour is something to be despised. The whole school atmosphere is impregnated with that feeling. The very books perhaps don't teach it. They aid and abet it. There are lessons about Titus Oatts, Cromwell, Boadicea, and Julius Cæsar, but never a word about Jethro Tull, Bates or Booth, Cully or the Collings. There are chapters about leopards, elephants, and hippopotamus, but there is a dense silence about the Clydesdale horse, Shorthorn cattle, or Cheviot sheep. There are readings about tea and tobacco, coffee and cocoa, but you look in vain for one on turnips, ryegrass, or wild white clover. There are the counts to work out about so many hogsheads of wine at so much a gallon, but none on how many acres a man will plough in a week when this eight hours a day tomfoolery comes into force. The teacher and the school books are backed up by the minister in his pastoral visitations. What a smart boy, he says; you will surely be going to make him something! It would be very wrong to turn a talented lad like 1008 that out to earn his own living. They listen to his twaddle. He gets a secondary bursary, and eventually blossoms out into a full blown bank clerk, and comes back to his native glen wearing Sunday claes in the every days, and speakin' fine to the verra dogs; or he soars to the height of a counterlouper, and sells slipbodies to the auld wives and patent stayes to the young lasses. Oh, aye, they have made him something, but they have spoilt a gude hind or a herd. And don't let us forget that a man that can draw a true and deep furrow, and does not dawdle at the landends, is a greater asset to the nation than a whole gross of professors. Depend upon it, the whole tendency of this new system of ours will only be to turn out a lot of feckless, thowless creatures too conceited to work and too lazy and sack-less to fend for themselves. They will be a degree lower than the unjust steward. He could not dig, but to beg he was ashamed. They will have no such scruples. They will demand a maintenance dole as a right. When they meet the slightest difficulty, instead of setting a stoot hert tae a stey brae, they will clap themselves down, curl up the whites of their een, and rax oot their loof for another gratuity.7.0 P.M.
Then again he says—we must understand that the vast majority of mankind expresses itself in the work of their hands and not in words at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Do not they use brains?"] Yes, but if you examine it you will find that even among the great captains of industry there are not very many who are what you would call gifted with any great powers of speech or expression. Many of the capable men of this world cannot make speeches; the greater number of them are not capable of very great expression, either with the pen or with the tongue. The power of exposition and of practical capacity do not cohere. What I complain about with regard to this education, on which all this money out of the pockets of the ratepayer and the taxpayer is being spent is that it is not real education for the training of character, it is merely books, mere words. Go back to mediæval times—[Mr. J. JONES: "Before your time."] Yes, before my time, and even before Jack Cade was thought of. You will find that great numbers of the men then were, in the modern sense, of no education at all. Yet they were capable of very great things, of very great action and statesmanship. The education then was left entirely to the priesthood. They were both the scriveners and the lawyers of those days, and people then thought no more of a man who wrote in longhand than people do now of those who write 1009 in shorthand. They were very great men, very distinguished soldiers, thinkers, and architects in those days. They had not got this clerical education, which is being inflicted on vast numbers of our population to-day as if they were all going to be trained for clerical employment. That is what our civilisation suffers from very largely. We need to recover if we are trying to escape from the cul de sac into which we have got. I believe a great deal of it is due to our system. This gentleman asks: "What kind of a world will it be if we are all educated into Members of Parliament, and play-actors, preachers, and Labour leaders?" He says:, "We would have to sup their kail if we had to earn our living by preaching yin another's bairns."
He sums it up in our immortal Scots poet's lines, where the latter sums up the whole question of so-called secondary education in six lines. It applies to all classes, because the education of a great many of what you might call the comfortable classes is just as futile as the education of the poorer. That is why you find so many of them—[HON. MEMBERS: "So stupid"]—sent away to the colonies as remittance men. The comfortable people endeavour to train up their sons for the learned professions and for positions in life for which they are not fitted. They do worse, because they have money at their back, and ultimately they get disheartened, and are exported to the colonies. There is one thing, we have no trouble with the remittance men in Scotland, because when the Scots father sends his son who has misbehaved abroad he does not remit him anything, and he recovers his manhood and prospers. The poet Burns sums the matter up in these lines:What's a' your jargon o' your schules,Your Latin names for horns and stules,If honest Nature made you fules,What sairs your grammars?You'd better taen up spades and schulesOr nappin' hammers.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Translate!"]—There is a want of education in not knowing these lines. I resent the putting of this Act on the rates and taxes, and I wish to encourage the Minister in the afterthought that he took in sending out the circular deprecating expense. After all, the fundamental of human life, as the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Irving) said, is 1010 bodily development. It seems to me the most absurd thing that when, for at least a good long time, we are going to be face to face with want in this country—all classes more or less of the community—and with hardship, that the children of this country should be fed with the east wind of book learning. You want to develop the body and train the character, and you will only train the latter in the university of life. That is the true university. You may go in for technical education if you are going in for some specific employment. In Oriental education they begin differently from what we do. They begin with the particular and end with the general. In the East you will find a boy whose father is a carpenter. The lad begins to be a carpenter at most tender years, and at 12 he is a highly skilled craftsman, and goes to school still. In the Orkney and Shetland Islands, up to 15 or 20 years ago, little boys were taken as herd boys at very tender years in the summer time. They turned out to assist the farmers, and they got back in the winter time with their physical energies and their powers of observation quickened. They were able to beat in school the boys whose parents would not allow them to become herds, and they became natural agriculturists, with a love of the land. They spread themselves all over the colonies of Great Britain because they got this real practical education. Then the school board authorities enforced attendance until they were fourteen years of age. Now they do not like farming. You take them out at 14 and they are terrified at a cow. They will not go and cultivate the land; they all want to go and sit at a desk and drive a quill.
It is very lamentable, and that is what our system of education is bringing us to. It is very demoralising. I am not a reactionary. [An HON. MEMBER: "I am glad you are saying it. I did not know it before."] There are a lot of things you do not know that I know. These gentlemen are the reactionaries, they have the narrow-minded view of the mid-Victorian nursery governess. They do not look at life as a whole. There is a great deal of this shouting about education which is mere snobbery. After all, what is the remedy —"spend more money on it." They have not got beyond the view of the 1011 Laird of Dumbiedykes who said, "Will siller dae it?" They seem to think you will get everything by spending more money. You will not get it, nor with all these large bodies of officials running about supervising education. Do you think you will make a better teacher of a man by having him supervised? No, you will spoil his initiative and you will make him more and more a Government official. You have made him a mere Government official by these pensions to which he does not contribute. Why should a man who has a constant job, and now a well-paid job all his life—he has only got to behave himself to keep it—have a pension, when you and I, if we fall into want get 10s. a week when we are 70? Why should a teacher have a pension? Cannot he build up his own pension? I have no sympathy with this Government system of pensions at all. They should take their lot with the rest of the community. You have destroyed their usefulness as teachers very largely by this Act; and this attack which you made on the voluntary schools, indirectly, and which my hon. Friend spoke of, is a part of it.
I believe that if you want to make a true and a real system of education in this country it will be done by diminishing State control and by endeavouring, as far as possible, to allow freedom, in which the human soul and intellect blossom. You should get as much freedom into the school and as little interference by the State as possible. Then it will be possible and practicable to cherish and nourish that real growth of character which itself is education far more than the learning which you get in any class or through any State-aided teaching.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
Since the time when Satan was represented as rebuking sin, I do not think there has ever been a more remarkable spectacle than that of a Scotsman denouncing education.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
Might I point out —[HoN. MEMBERS: "Order!"]—that I am grossly misrepresented. I cherish education, and it is because what we are getting under this Act is not education that I object.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I listened with great enjoyment to the speech of my hon. and learned Friend, and I hope he will extend to me the same courtesy. If you go to any part of the world, especially where finance is the chief occupation, you will find Scotsmen. Every bank in the world, nearly, even in Ireland, is dominated by a Scotsman. They have, with a somewhat inauspicious climate, a rugged soil, and a. small population, got a place in the world which is not disproportionate to their merits, but is disproportionate to their size and national numbers. The reason is that they had education three centuries befor England.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
My hon. and learned Friend managed to put his observations in such a way that he could twist out of it by saying that it was not education. His attack, however, was on education. I would like to know the name of the author of that letter.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
Like many other great authors, like Junius of old, he has surrounded himself with a veil of anonymity. I hail him as the modern Junius who produced that letter.
I think I should be wasting the time of the Committee if I were to examine, with anything like seriousness, what really is meant to be a pure piece of delicious paradox by my hon. and learned Friend. I agree with him, everybody does, that mere book education is not all education. Herbert Spencer, long before my hon. Friend, said that book education is only education at second hand; but education to-day is not confined merely to books. Every technical school, every good school, tries to impart education by other means than by mere book learning, but anybody who says that you cannot get a great deal of education from books, which represent the collective wisdom of the ages, really does not know much about education. The hon. Member's jeu d'esprit is really nothing but a contribution of characteristic Scottish wit and humour which the House is always glad to hear.
I deplore, like my hon. Friends who have spoken, the action of the Minister of 1013 Education in preventing expenditure on education by means of his circular. No doubt his hand was forced, as no doubt his hand has been forced on other matters besides education; but when gentlemen are. members of a Coalition they leave themselves little freedom for carrying out their own convictions. I am very sorry that education is not getting the full amount of financial support that my right hon. Friend intended to give it. My hon. Friend (Mr. Macquisten) spoke about the bad financial position to which this country had been reduced and in which, according to him—I do not dispute the statement—it is likely to remain; but I ask any man in this House if we are going to face the world in competition, and, above all, if we are going to face that great country, Germany, how are we going to do it? No doubt my hon. and gallant Friend behind me (Sir Charles Yate) thinks that we should do it by gunpowder and the gun. I suppose those things are necessarily part of civilisation in its present stage. I would point out, however, that the superiority which Germany was able to get over us was not due so much to her great army as to that other army of great educated men who often took up inventions that were due to the genius of this nation, such as aniline dyes, and by means of their army of chemists were able to rob us of what belonged to us as our birthright because of the genius of our own men. We shall fight in vain against German competition in future if we do not regulate our finance and education in such a way that we get into our trade all the resources of education which Germany has by education been able to bestow upon her trade.
I do not believe that anybody who does not belong to the working classes, or who is not by profession or other reasons in contact with them, knows the burning thirst for education that there is among the working classes of our nation to-day. Some people know it. One of the countrymen of my hon. Friend opposite knows it, because I see on all our bookstalls to-day, and in all the booksellers' shops, cheap editions of great classics, not merely of this nation, but of every other nation, and these cheap editions are bringing large revenue to the Scottish publishers who had the sense to realise the situation, because of that thirst for education which is prevalent among the 1014 working classes of this country. I have been brought for professional reasons in contact with the working classes, and I believe that in most of the black, miry miles of streets that you find in our great cities there are thousands of men and women who want to bring that cheer and consolation into their lives which education can give. I am an enthusiastic educationist, and I am inclined to be garrulous when I touch the subject, but I must resist the temptation to speak further on the question in general because I have a special grievance to bring forward.
I may as well warn the House that when they have the Irish question settled in Ireland, which I hope will be soon, they have another Irish question, and that is the question of Irish education in Great Britain. There is no race in the world that has a greater desire for education than the Irish people. Their attitude on that question is known to all the students of history. What is their position? Their fathers or their grandfathers arrived in this country after the famine, and started here with every disadvantage that could beset a race starting life in a new country. They have not progressed as much as I would have liked, but the very first thing that they did when they got here was to find funds to build a chapel of their faith, and the second thing they did, long before their fellow-countrymen of other religions in this country, and of other races, was to collect their weekly pence for the creation of their schools. I do not know of any higher testimony to the fidelity of the Irish to their convictions than the creation of their schools in England and Scotland. They are everywhere, and they built them when they got very little money from the State. These are two racial instincts which are entitled to the respect of everybody. My definition of the truly religious man would be the man who upholds his own religion very strongly and has an equal respect for the religion of every other man, and I think I can claim that those two qualities are equally true of my own people An Irishman, as a rule, is at once the most devout and the least sectarian of all the community of Christians in the world, as is proved by the fact that we have always been glad to have Protestant leaders.
Let me deal now with the education of the Irish Catholics in this country. I am not concerned for the moment with 1015 the position of the English Catholics, because they belong to the wealthier classes. I was rather shocked about 18 months ago to be asked to go down to a parish in my constituency to open a bazaar, because the bazaar was Hot the best method of raising money for education from the State point of view or the national point of view. In this parish, one of the very poorest of the whole country, it was necessary to raise by a bazaar £10,000 to build a school, to improve or get rid of a bad school, to give a good playground and a large playground instead of a small playground, and to give good equipment instead of indifferent equipment, and this £10,000 for the education of your citizens had to be raised by the subscriptions and appeals of the Irish people themselves. Let me give two or three cases drawn from Liverpool. In the Parish of Holy Cross in my constituency the debt on the mission for their school is £6,000. The site cost £6,500, making a total expenditure of £12,500, paid by the poor people of that parish for their school. An additional sum of £25,000 is required to demolish old buildings and to erect schools and provide playgrounds for 900 to 1,000 children. In the Parish of St. Sylvester, also in my constituency, the old school buildings cost £6,000, additions to old buildings £5,000, new senior school £8,000, various incidentals £1,000, making a total of £20,000. For 20 years this parish has been labouring under this debt. £10,000 has been wiped off and £10,000 has yet to be met, exclusive of £500 for yearly interest. In Eldon Street Parish in my constituency the cost of the school, up to 1902, was £25,000, now reduced to £1,000. I believe I do not exaggerate when I say that altogether there has been no less a sum than £350,000 spent by the Catholics of Liverpool on their schools.
I ask my right hon. Friend, who is an educationist above all things, on what principle can he justify imposing upon a particular religious communion the heavy burden of building their own schools, when the schools of the other communions, except in the case of many Anglicans, who refuse to come under th? council system, and some Jewish schools —I am not trying to make a case for the Catholics in contrast to other religious bodies; my hon. Friends opposite are very 1016 well able to fight the battles for the other religious communities — are provided out of public funds. In my opinion the only condition which the State, which subsidises education, has the right to put on any school is, that it should give value in secular education for the money which the State gives it. If that value be given, the State has no right to ask by what religious denomination the secular education is given. I would not give a penny, and I do not think any Minister of Education would give a penny, for det-nominational religious instruction as such; all I ask is that we should pay for the article which they ask us to supply, namely, good secular education, and if a Catholic school gives that good secular education, it is entitled to every penny that a school of any other denomination is entitled to. Is that a proposition which anybody can contest? A denominational school is bound to hold its doors open to the children of any other denomination who wish to enter, and if any such children go to the school they are bound to respect their religious differences and to separate them from the rest of the scholars when anything like denominational education comes on. I think the State is entitled to ask that for the protection of any religious minority that may be found there. The Catholics have shown by their generosity that they are ready to pay these awful fines that are put upon them, but I put it from another point of view, and especially to the Labour party, that this is a class question, a question of the equality of class as well as of religious equality. Is it fair that the middle-class man who happens to be a Nonconformist, or a middle-class man who happens to be an Anglican who accepts the council school system, should have the power of dipping into the big purse of the rates for the building of schools according to his particular view of religious education, while, on the other hand, a member of the poorest community in England has to pay for the building of his own schools out of his own pocket, instead of having the school built out of the rates to which he contributes?
I feel strongly on this question for two or three reasons, apart from the terrible burden that is placed on the race to which I belong. It is only in England that this thing prevails. My hon. Friend who spoke a short time ago did a gross injustice to his own people and country.
1017 When this question as to what should be done with the Catholic schools in Scotland arose a few years ago, and when it was pointed out that the Catholics were under an educational disadvantage through having to pay for building their own schools and were compelled to give perhaps an education in inferior conditions, people in Scotland said, " One in every seven of the growing citizens in our- country is a Catholic. It is not fair in the interests of Scotland that one 'in seven of our population should grow up with less educational advantage than the other six-sevenths of the population." "Education," said these wise far-seeing Scottish leaders, Lord Haldane at their head, "is the great necessity of Scotland and we must give it to all the children of all our citizens irrespective of what may be their religious faith," with the result that an Act of Parliament was passed which put the Catholic school and the council school in Scotland in exactly the same position.
I have had an opportunity of examining how this works. I was talking some months ago, on a visit I paid to Scotland, to a Scotsman who happens to be a Catholic. I believe he is a convert, with the usual ardour of the convert, and he was a member of the School Board, He told me that before this Act passed the Catholic schools were miserably ill-equipped, that they had one charwoman where they should have three, five teachers where they should have ten, and poor school books where they should have good school books. But since this Act was passed the members of all creeds met on the School Board and agreed on equal treatment. When an encyclopaedia was bought for council school number one someone insisted that another should be bought for council school number two. Then my friend said they should have one for Catholic school number three. They all agreed and the children of all schools are put in an equal position and get all the resources of education and books to the same degree. I cannot understand why you should put a Catholic, because he happens to be attending a school in England, in a position inferior to that of the Catholic who happens to be in Scotland. I do not know any greater story of sacrifice than the story of the maintenance of these schools. I know priests in England, most of them Irish, but many 1018 of them English, and I have known priests in my own constituency and all through Liverpool, who have gone round for 10, 15, and 20 years every Sunday, winter as well as summer, in rain as well as sunshine, begging for the money to keep up these schools. I know laymen who have done the same thing. I have a dear friend in Liverpool—John O'Shea is his name—who is now upwards of 80 years of age. He came to Liverpool probably 60 years ago, if not longer, and devoted himself to the service of his people. He was a teetotaler, but he went round on Sunday to every public house not asking for drink for himself but in order to get weekly subscriptions towards the maintenance of the schools of his faith and his people.
These are stories of self-sacrifice which I am sure will appeal to the heart of every man here irrespective of whether he is in sympathy with or hostile to the faith of these people. I feel strongly for the English boy and the Scottish boy, as well as with regard to the Irish boy, but I think that the educational difficulty applies more to Irish boys, because of the tragic conditions in which they have to live. Their homes, on the average, are not as comportable as the homes of corresponding classes among the English and Scottish people. This is why I find fault with the jocose treatment of this question by the hon. Gentleman. The worst fact that confronts the teacher of the poor is that their education is so meagre. The education which ends at 14 often proves futile, because it is forgotten, and it is forgotten because it is not continued to a proper age. One result is the production of that kind of intelligentsia which has been the parent of anarchial doctrine, reaching from Russia to England and Scotland and Ireland. But there is another aspect. I do not know anything more fatal than letting a half-educated boy or girl leave school at 14 years of age. The family budget is small. I knew an Irishman once—though he was born in Scotland—who was a Member of this House, the late Mr. McKillop. He came from a small miner's family. He told me at 10 years of age he went down into the pit, or got some little bit of work round the mine, and he got lOd. a week, and he coupled that statement to me with the astounding and touching observation that even this lOd. a week made a considerable differ- 1019 ence in the household budget of his father and mother, who were trying on small means to bring up a large family.
That is what happens in the homes of many of the poor of all races and all creeds in this country. The boy or girl has to go out when the education is only half complete. They have to take the first work that comes along. Many of them go to what I think is the very abomination of desolation, what is called a blind alley occupation—to be a valet, a buttons, a messenger, some occupation which never opens any vista of real prosperity or happiness, and many of those who have the misfortune to begin in this way, unless they happen to have exceptional energy and ability, will remain always in that position. That is what happens, I know, with Irish boys and girls. They go out at 14 years of age, because their home is poor and the domestic budget is narrow. They go into these blind alley employments. The result is that they are ill-paid serfs for the remainder of their days. This is very unfair to the Irish race and to their tremendous intellectual resources, which still are being but slightly developed.
I was talking to a friend of mine who has a daughter who is a teacher in one of the schools in London. She is a teacher in a religious order. There again I have to notice the splendid self-sacrifice shown among the Irish people upon this question, because many of their best men and women go into religious organisations and become teachers. Their money goes to the community. Not a penny goes to them. They give their life to the service of man which, in my opinion, is the highest form of the worship of God. These are the people who enable our schools to continue. But this father was telling me what his daughter told him. There was during the War a little boy who began to talk to her about submarines. She was astounded at the intimate knowledge which this boy had of submarines. He was quite of tender years, and she said to him, "That is so very interesting, you must give a lecture to your class upon it." The boy was as abashed as even my hon. and gallant Friend (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) when he had to make his maiden speech in the House of Commons. However, the teacher insisted. The boy got up at the blackboard, with a piece of chalk, and 1020 gave a lecture to all these little children, his class fellows, on submarines, and made all the machinery of that very complex machine of warfare plain to them, and I could not help asking myself when I heard that story—what has become of that poor little Irish boy? There was the evidence of real instinct for machinery. If it were properly developed in a continuation and technical school with university surroundings, he might make his way to be one of great masters of science in the world, and occupy some great position. But probably at this moment he is earning 2s. 6d. or 5s. a week. This is the noble material which is allowed to go to waste in this country. We do not grudge the money that is given by the State for many other purposes, but money should be given to develop the higher forms of education which would give our people a fair chance of developing their genius so that they may take their fair place among the other races of the world.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I desire to call attention to the question of the training grants which have been given to ex-service officers and men for the purpose of enabling them to get the higher education which they desire. I want to refer not to the principle of those grants but to the administration of them by the Education Department. In principle they are right. They are more than justified if they enable men who have served in the Army, whose education has been interrupted or whose careers have been impaired by their service, to get such an education as will enable them to take their part in life. But it is essential that these grants should be wisely and well made, and from a few facts which I am going to lay before the Committee I think that they will be satisfied that in many cases those grants cannot be said to be usefully or wisely administered. The facts from which I shall quote were those given in evidence before the Select Committee in June of last year by a high official, a gentleman who, in his own words, was in charge of that branch of the Education Department which had charge of the administration of grants for the higher education of officers and men of like standing. The amount of money involved in these grants is enormous. In June last we were told that the commitments of this country for the purpose of these grants were £8,445,000, and to-day I gather they are considerably more, 1021 because I find on page 23 of the Estimates that the number of grants awarded to the end of last year was 27,554, and that the average amount of the grant was £315 for course of 2½ years. If you work that out it comes to very nearly £8,680,000. When you have grants of this enormous magnitude to deal with, you would expect the authority which administered them to take special care regarding at least three points: first, as to the fitness of the men for the studies they were taking; secondly, what openings were available in the profession for which they were being trained; and thirdly, what possibilities of employment there were open to the men after they had been trained.
As far as I can make out, these principles have not been considered in making the grants. First, as to the kind of studies to be encouraged by the grant. We got a list of the various studies. Some of them were admirable. There were engineering, technology, medicine, dentistry and commerce, but when I find that no fewer than 2,439 men were given grants of £315 each on the average for the purpose of studying pure science and mathematics, I cannot help thinking that something was rather wrong. Pure science and mathematics, everyone will agree, are admirable studies, but when the State is making enormous grants out of the pockets of very poor taxpayers it is only fair to ask, are those 2,439 men going to make a livelihood out of it? I find also that 2,041 men received grants for the study of classics, philosophy and literue humaniores. Do not let me decry them. I think they are excellent subjects, but again I say, are we justified in making these enormous grants for studies which may never enable a man to earn a living, without any inquiry as to whether he will be able to get any value from the grant? Nearly 2,300 people were given grants for art and music and architecture. The procedure, I understand, is that an application is first made. That application has to be recommended by the head of some educational institution and by the district committee of the university, if there is one, or by a local education committee. Then it goes to the Board of Education. In the first place the choice of the course to be taken is largely, if not entirely, left to the student himself. How could he know what he was best fitted for? Is the ordinary student 1022 capable of saying, "Teach me Greek philosophy, or German philosophy, and I will make a living"? There should be the strictest inquiry as to the fitness of the student for the particular study in which he wishes to engage. The right hon. Gentleman's own officer told us that the choice of the course was left practically to the student. Let me give a quotation. The right hon. Gentleman will find it in the evidence given before this Select Committee on 23rd June, 1920, page 76. I said to Mr. Swan:Practically the course in which a student is trained is left more or less to the student?His answer was, "That is so." A little later the witness referred to the Ministry of Labour. Isaid:You speak of the Ministry of Labour. They have nothing to do, have they, in deciding for what particular profession a man is trained? That is left to you?His answer was, "It is left to the student." I suggest that a young man, especially a young man just back from the Great War, with little experience of the higher education which he desires, ought to have the most expert advice as to what class of study he should take up.
§ Mr. FISHER
I understand that although the student expresses a desire for a particular course he is very carefully interrogated by the Academic Committee as to his qualifications and suitability, and that unless the committee is satisfied that the student will be able to pursue the course satisfactorily he will not be able to qualify for the grant.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I wish it were so, but I do not find that from the evidence. At the bottom of page 75 it is shown that when the cases come before the district University Committee or the local Education Committee they do not even interview the student. The statement is that "if necessary" they interview the student. I am merely taking the evidence that I have got. I should have thought it was absolutely essential in every case that some skilled education expert should interview the student and find out for what he was qualified in order to recommend him. That course has not been pursued. We have not seen the result yet, but I am afraid that when you leave it very largely to an untrained man to say what study he is to take up, and he takes up Greek philosophy or art or classical studies, you may find that the 1023 sum expended has been of very little use indeed. There is another principle which has not been observed in making these grants. Before you educate a man for a profession you should find out what opening there is in that profession. I understand that the Ministry of Labour does that when it is training a man for a handicraft. The Ministry goes to the trade union and asks what openings there are in that trade, and if the union says there are no places likely to be vacant the man is asked to undertake something else. But here, so far as I can gather, the Board of Education makes no inquiries of that sort. Let me read the evidence on that. It will be found on page 77:
§ Mr. FISHER
I am very sorry to interrupt, but the document from which the hon. and learned Gentleman is quoting is new to me. I have not seen it, and I have had no opportunity of testing it. This is the first I have heard of it.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
I shall be most happy to hand it to my hon. Friend. It is the published evidence taken before the Select Committee on Pensions, which sat last year and the year before. The evidence we were taking was with reference to the training, first of all, of men for handicraft employment, and, secondly, with reference to the training of ex-officers and men for higher education.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
Certainly, all the evidence before the Select Committee was published after we made our report towards the end of last year.
Mr. J. JONES
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this scheme comes within the purview of the Ministry of Pensions?
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
That is wrong We are talking now about the grants made by the Board of Education for the purposes of higher education, and that comes within the purview of my right hon. Friend. It is an admirable thing in principle, but the administration has been unwise, as far as I can see. I was about to read an answer given in evidence to a question put by me. I said:Before you train a man for a particular profession do you not think it would, be 1024 desirable, if possible, to find out whether or not there are openings in the profession or whether the profession is over-staffed.My right hon. Friend would agree that that would be a right inquiry. The answer given to me was:The Board of Education have no means, no machinery, for ascertaining that. The view of the Board is that their function begins and ends in giving the education which a student requires, and that the question of subsequent employment or absorption into an industry or profession is a matter for the student primarily, and if he requires Government assistance for finding employment it is a matter for the Ministry of Labour8.0 P.M.
That is thoroughly unsound. Are we justified in spending nearly £9,000,000 of public money through a Board which never inquired whether there was likely to be any opening for a man or not? If that has been the principle adopted hitherto, the sooner it is altered the better. I would beg of my. right hon. Friend, as soon as he can, to make a fundamental alteration both in the subjects selected for training and also in the matter of looking into the possibility of employment when the training is over. There is one other principle upon which this grant is administered which has surprised me. We were told that, instead of considering the practical question of how a man is to gain his livelihood at the end of his training, they largely considered the general question of culture. Let me give you the quotation. My question was this:I rather suggest to you it is undesirable that the State should grant money to enable a man to read Thucydides, unless the State can see some prospect of this being useful to him hereafter. My point is that the object is not merely to cultivate a desire to learn, but that this training should be of use to the man, and should enable him to earn a livelihood. I suggest that is the only justification for a State grant.I hope my right hon. Friend does not think that unreasonable. The answer given to me was:I do not think that is the whole object of this scheme as originally laid down. There are two sides to the scheme; one side is the interest of the State. It is necessary to supply people of high educational attainment. That is to say, that in the interest of the State as a whole, general education and culture are rather necessary. The other side is to be just to the man who has been fighting for his country.I do want to be just to the man who has been fighting for his country. I want 1025 to give him every help to put him on his feet and to enable him to earn his livelihood. But this is not a time when we are justified in spending £8,000,000 or £9,000,000, or a large part of it, in strengthening and enlarging the general culture of the State. I do ask my right hon. Friend for his consideration of this matter, and I do suggest that this money, as far as the evidence goes, has not been wisely or usefully laid out.
There is one other point I wish to refer to. It is also on the question of what I consider to be unwise expenditure It is the question of erecting central schools in rural districts for children who are taken away from their own elementary schools at the ages of 12 or 14. The ratepayers in the East Biding of Yorkshire were considerably surprised to find there was a scheme on foot for building central schools at different areas in that part of the country, and taking children of 12 to 14 years away from the elementary schools, where they were being taught very well, and transferring them to these central schools for the purpose of what is called a higher education. Just see what that means. It means largely denuding the elementary schools of the parishes which were already being maintained at great cost, and it means sending the children on journeys by motor or railway because in many cases the central schools are 6, 8 or even 10 miles away from their homes. I do not say that the scheme may not be desirable in some cases, but when you consider the cost of erecting these central schools, and of transporting the children twice a day between the schools and their homes, I say this is certainly not the time to incur that expenditure. I wish to ask my right hon. Friend, are those schemes in operation in many parts of the country at the present moment, and, if not, will he see that they are suspended until a more convenient season when there is more money available? I do not say that they may not be good for certain children, if you have the money, but the wholesale taking away of children from their own schools at this enormous cost is a form of extravagance which we cannot afford.
§ Mr. THOMAS DAVIES (Cirencester)
I should like to point out some of the difficulties which are experienced in an agricultural county like Gloucestershire in carrying out this Act, and some of the administrative problems which arise. 1026 Before I do so, I should like to repeat the appeal which I made to the Minister for Education two years ago, that he should consolidate all these Education Acts into one Act. Nothing exasperates the members of an education committee more than to take up the last Act of Parliament, and when they imagine they know all about it, to find that on some point they are absolutely wrong because of something in the Act of 1903, and then when they look at the Act of 1903, to find there the remains of various previous Acts passed from the year 1870 onwards. The Minister might very well put some briefless barrister on to the job—at a very small fee—of consolidating these Acts.
§ Mr. DAVIES
To know that it is being done is very gratifying indeed. Now I come to some of the problems which face those of us who have to carry out the Act. Take, first of all, the question of the"cleanliness of children attending the schools. I say myself it is persecution to place a clean child close to a dirty child. I have known parents to come to me as the chairman of an education committee and protest most vehemently against their children being placed beside children with verminous heads. What remedy have you got in an agricultural county to counteract this evil? In large urban districts you have got sulphur baths and other things of that kind which you have not got in country districts. There, if a child comes to school with a dirty head, the nurse examines the child and causes a note to be sent to the parent stating what the cure is. She returns in a fortnight only to find that the parent has done nothing, and a second notice is then issued to the parent. At the end of the second fortnight the child is excluded from school. Then what have you to do to make the child come back to school? You have to get a magistrate's order compelling the child to return to the school from which you have turned it out. That seems to me to be absolutely ridiculous, and very often magistrates absolutely decline to make the order on the ground that it is absurd. We want something very short and simple which will enable the education authority to send the child in this condition to its home at once, and if it does not come back in a cleanly condition, enabling the 1027 authority at once to take action against parents who have neglected to attend to their children. When children are thus excluded they are very often away for a month or six weeks, and when they return they have lost that period at their studies, and it is a nuisance to the teachers to have to go over the ground a second time to bring these children up to the level of the others. Therefore the teachers themselves in self-defence very often will not send home these verminous children as they should do.
I come to a much more serious point in the administration of the Act. Everyone who knows anything about the Education Acts will know that it is part of the duty of an education authority nowadays to see that children who are mentally defective—and who are sometimes educable and sometimes not—are not only taught, but are maintained, clothed and fed, and the cost of that is becoming prohibitive I have talked over this matter with officials of the Board, and they say they are at their wits' end to know what to do. When we come to inquire into some of these cases we find them very disgusting. I have a case under inquiry where there are three children all mentally defective and we were asked to take these children away from their home and at the cost of the Education Committee, to put them into some other place. On making inquiry we found there was a grown up brother and two sisters, all three feeble minded, and this brother and two sisters had got these children between them—incest pure and simple. Nothing is being done to stop that kind of thing. I have discussed the question with many people and it is agreed that palliatives are not a bit of good. We ought to stop this at the source. This is not a nice thing to discuss on the floor of the House of Commons, but I suggest to the Board that they should have a small committee sitting upstairs to see if it is not possible to sterilise these children. Remember that in nearly every village and parish all over the county of Gloucestershire, and I suppose in every other part of the country, you have some poor village idiot, boy or girl. If a girl, she is the prey of every bad fellow in the place and very often she has illegitimate children—one, two, three, four, or even five—one after the other. If something was done, as I have indicated, to render 1028 them incapable of perpetuating their species it would be good for them and good for the country. If you do not do this, then I want to know what you are going to do? I think the Board might very reasonably have a Committee to inquire into this matter, because in my own county it would cost anything between £10,000 and £12,000 to board, lodge and maintain the children we have knowledge of, and there are many we have not knowledge of.
I come to a further difficulty, one which has been touched upon by the hon. Member for York (Sir J. Butcher), and that is the question of the central schools. This is a most important matter, and I venture to make this statement in the presence of the Minister for Education, that, even if he had all the money in the world at his disposal, he would be absolutely unable to carry out the Act of 1918 to its fullest extent with regard to continuation schools and central schools, for this reason, amongst others. If you take very thinly populated neighbourhoods—and our population is very thin in many parts of Gloucestershire—you find schools attended by very small numbers. I myself recently went to three schools. In the first I found there were 16 children on the books and 15 present. In the second school, only 2¼ miles away, there were 11 children on the books, and nine present. Three miles from that there was a third school, with nine children on the books, and nine present. These small schools should be closed, and we have tried to close some of them, but nobody likes schools to be closed. The parents do not like to send the children further away, the employers say they want to have a school in the village, otherwise workers will not live there, and the managers also like to retain schools. Furthermore, these are voluntary schools in nine cases out of ten, and how can you take a child away from a voluntary school and send it to a council school? The law does not allow you to do so. The parent has got religious rights, and if he does not wish to send the child to a continuation school or a central school you cannot, as the law stands, make him do so.
The next point is, that if you call on the managers of these voluntary schools to let all the elder children, of from 11 or 12 years, go to a central school, you cannot call on the managers of the voluntary schools to enlarge those schools for 1029 those purposes. If they have supplied the wants of their own parish, you have no right to make them enlarge their schools for the benefit of others. If it is a question of building, the idea of building a central or continuation school in any of these country districts is out of the question. It would pay you much better to close your schools altogether and send the children to a boarding school. I have worked that out, and when you remember that in some of these small schools the salaries of the teachers would run into something like £300, and then you add the cleaning and the lighting, and so on, it would really be better to send those children to a boarding school. The President of the Board of Education about a year ago threw out a suggestion as to whether it was not better so to arrange matters that we could bring all voluntary schools into some system by which we could make an interchange of teachers possible, and also by a voluntary arrangement turn some of them into continuation schools and some of them into central schools. I have never known to this day why, when he put his hand to the plough, he turned back. I do not know why, after making one or two speeches in that direction, he then ceased, because it seems to me that to-day is a time when there is general agreement that some system should be enforced by which two things might happen. First of all, the scholars might go from school to school, and, secondly, just as long as you have got various kinds of schools, Church of England schools, Wesleyan schools, Roman Catholic schools, and Council schools, it is impossible to have a properly co-ordinated system of promotion for your teachers. If a person is a Nonconformist, he may be the top man in his college and be looked upon as the best teacher in the whole of his county, and yet, if there is a voluntary school place going, he is not entitled to apply for it or to be appointed to it, so that a great part of our population is absolutely shut out from teachers' appointments of this sort. I have been asked over and over again by managers of schools, "Can you recommend me a good man?" "Yes." "Who is he?" "So and so." "What are his religious opinions?" "I do not know, but he is in a Council school at present." "Oh, unless he is a good Churchman, or a good Wesleyan, or a 1030 good Roman Catholic, he cannot come here."
On the other hand, where you have managers of council schools—and a wise education committee will leave as much power as possible in the hands of their managers, because if you centralise all your powers and insist upon one kind of uniform administration you destroy all local initiative, and that is a fatal blow to education—you may have managers of a council school who are largely Nonconformist. Is it any use to ask them to appoint a Roman Catholic headmaster or a Churchman there? Nine times out of ten they will say, "No, we are in a majority, and we will have a Nonconformist." I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take his courage in both hands and apply to all the voluntary bodies, as well as to the council people, and see whether it is not possible to take action now, as I believe now is the time to do it. I believe there is a better feeling among Churchmen and Roman Catholics now than ever before in regard to the question of an interchange in the schools, and if that was done you would have two great improvements. The best teacher would get to the best school, irrespective of his religious views, and the children would be able to go to the best school in the neighbourhood without in any way violating the religious convictions of their parents. As the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. O'Connor) said, he did not see any earthly reason why Roman Catholics should be barred from having the best education simply because of the religious opinions of their parents. If some concordat can be arrived at, it should be arrived at, and I think the best efforts of the Board ought to be directed towards getting one uniform system, respecting the religious convictions of all parents. I do not see that that is a very hard thing to do. You have it in Scotland, and if it were done here you would have for the first time in the history of England a national system of education, and a proper flow of promotion for the teachers which you cannot have under the present system, by which you are discouraging many of your best men from putting forth their best efforts.
I have been a schoolmaster and a pupil-teacher myself, so I know a little bit about the difficulties we have to go through. To-day we were told that 1031 teachers were very well paid, but they ought not to have pensions at the cost of the State. I put this point to the Committee. With all your good salaries and pensions, you still cannot attract enough men into the profession, so that there must be something wrong, and the something wrong has been that you have not made it attractive enough. I venture to say that the President was absolutely on the right lines when he appointed the Burnham Committee to go into the whole question of salaries, and when he added the question of pensions. In your small country parishes and all your agricultural counties you have got this difficulty, that if you want to get boy pupil-teachers you must compete with other people who want them for apprentices or errand boys, and what is the consequence? A parent is approached who has a bright boy or girl, and the parents as a rule are people in very humble circumstances, such as village shoemakers, or carpenters, or gamekeepers, or small shopkeepers, or village carriers. You very seldom find farmers' or the better tradesmen's children coming into the schools as pupil-teachers. A parent comes to me and says: "Mr. Davies, I want my boy to be a pupil-teacher." I say: "I should not be satisfied with him being a pupil-teacher, but I would send him to a secondary school for four years." "And what will be the fee?" If he is a bright child, he may get in on the 33 per cent, free basis, and when he is 14 or 15 he will cost a lot to keep at school, but we have in our county a system by which we can pay the school fees and give money for the maintenance of a child; we can buy them a bicycle or pay their railway fares. When they are 16 they become a student teacher, and for 12 months they will learn their business of being a teacher, and then they have to go to a training college for two or three years. What is to pay? The Government give a certain amount, but that does not cover it all. The money that is given for training colleges does not anything like pay for the cost of their maintenance and teaching.
In our county we do this. We have entrance fees for our colleges both for men and women, but if you ask the ordinary parent, such as I have mentioned, to plant down a sum of £30 as entrance fee, to make up the money which the Government has not made up, you might just as well ask them for £3,000. 1032 They have not got it. We cannot ask people who are as poor as these parents to pay for other people's children. We have a system in our county which works admirably. We say, "Let your child go to the training college, and we will advance you a sum up to £50 as a loan. When your child comes out, as he may be at 19, a fully certificated teacher, and will not think of getting married, surely, for the next three years, and during that time we ask you to pay back £17 a year for three years.' It involves no charge to the ratepayers and does not involve charity. If that system were extended all over the country it would bring far more men into the teaching profession, and they are wanted very badly. If you want to get men into the teaching profession you must encourage them in all the ways I have mentioned.
It is a question whether great training colleges in the next twelve months will not be closed. There have been deputations to the Board of Education pointing out the difficulties under which they are suffering. I myself have visited quite recently one of the biggest training colleges in London, and there the principal told me they did not see their way to go on because at the end of the financial year they would be £3,600 in debt. There is also a college in the West of England, I believe, which will be closed. It is perfectly useless to ask people, especially boys, to enter the profession of teacher, and when you have got them in, you cannot let them go to a training college, first, because of the expense, and, secondly, because there would be no training colleges to which they could go. I am not an advocate of sending them into training colleges in country districts, segregating 70 or 80 young people for two years, seeing no one else from day to day, and being made very narrow-minded. If those 70 or 80 were in some university town, not necessarily Oxford or Cambridge, but such places as Bristol, Leeds, or Birmingham, where they would mix with other men who are going to be doctors, engineers, lawyers, and so on, they would find out that, after all, there is someone else besides the schoolmaster who knows something. They would be able to move among their fellows when they went to their schools, and be able to talk to anyone in or out of their profession. They would feel they were a very important part of the community. 1033 They would be able to take their part in any crowd, stand up against anyone, be able to hold their own in any discussions, and give addresses and lectures because of their university training. Small and humble as these various improvements I am suggesting may be, I am sure if they were carried out we should see a more contented profession and a far better education given.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
Some eminent educationists in this House have taken part in the Debate to-night, who have had the advantages of a good education. It may seem presumptuous on the part of one who has had little advantages of an education to take part in a Debate of this kind, but I think there is a point of view in connection with education that the working-class representative can put, which is probably not properly understood by those who have not the opportunities and advantages of mixing amongst the working classes. The Minister of Education, in bringing forward the Estimates, did to some extent make excuses or apologised for the increased expenditure. I do not think he had anything for which to apologise. It is rather the reverse. With still 20 times less being spent on education than on war, I do not think that any Minister has any reason to apologise for the amount of money that is spent in connection with education. A great deal has been said about university and secondary education. I am going to turn my attention, in the first place, to elementary education. It has been said here in connection with this matter that it is a matter of class. I hope no one will misunderstand me when I make comparison between the advantages of the rich man's son and the advantages of the poor man's son. I would not by a single hairbreadth reduce the advantages that the sons of the rich and well-to-do have. My object in dealing with this question of education would be to raise to the highest possible level, and to give to every section of the community the advantage of a good, sound education.
I am prepared to admit that a great deal of the money that is spent on elementary education is entirely useless, and might as well be thrown away, until we improve the environment of the children, until we improve the homes from which the children come. When I 1034 go round the mining villages and see the miserable dens in which the people are compelled to live, and when I see the miserable housing conditions and environment in many of the towns, and think of these little mites coming from their homes into the elementary schools, I wonder how you can expect to put a sound education into them. In my opinion, in endeavouring to educate we begin at the wrong end. We must have a very low ideal when we allow future citizens to live under conditions of that kind and endeavour to educate them. I have been making some inquiry amongst teachers in connection with this question of elementary education, and I hold in my hand the result of an inquiry in a large school in one of the cities of England from an eminent educationist, who has had nearly thirty years of teaching, and who is now in charge of a very large elementary school. He says that because of lack of money the schools are inadequately staffed, which results in the breakdown of a large number of teachers. During their absence there is no special supply staff, and teachers have to take more than 60 children. In that school, if he has a teacher off, he has either to take the class himself and let his own work go, or the class has to be divided between the rest of the staff, or a teacher be borrowed from another school.
Something was said during the discussion to-night about pupils going from the elementary to the secondary schools. I hold that the most important part of education is probably the elementary part. The desire is then created in the mind of the child. If it is brought into the school where there are classes of 50, 60 or 70, and among the different temperaments of those children, it gets a bias against education in its early childhood, there is a difficulty often in interesting that child in education in the after years. What are the conditions in regard to the schools for the children of the rich and well-to-do people? An hon. Member opposite referred to the terrible expense of children being brought in motor cars to school. Irrespective of what may be said to the contrary, a vein of economy has been running through this Debate. I have been in a town where there is a very large academy and the grown-up sons and daughters of the well-to-do go there. They come by train 10 or 12 miles, probably. If it is possible for one 1035 section of the community to have these opportunities of the very best possible education, it ought to be possible for every section of the community Here are the specifications for schools of the well-to-do and the schools of the poor:The central hall of the school should have a floor space of at least 6 square feet for each scholar. In the case of the poor man's child's school the central hall shall have a space not more than 4 square feet for each scholar, though 3½ square feet will be sufficient. In the case of the rich man's child no class room shall have places for more than 30 scholars, with a floor area of from 17 to 18 square feet each will be required. In the other case the class room should not be planned to accommodate more than 50 to 60 scholars; in special cases a somewhat larger room may be approved.… The grant to the elementary school is paid on the average attendance, whereas in regard to secondary schools it is not paid on the average attendance, but of the average number of children on the roll.I contend for the very best possible conditions for the elementary schools as well as the secondary schools; and I say that the working class child does not get the same chances of education and the same environment as the child of the rich and well-to-do parent.
Do not imagine for a moment that I would put any barrier in the way of the child going from the elementary school to the university. I was sorry to hear tonight, even from men who are considered educationists, that the central idea in connection with education was that the bright boy or girl might go to the elementary school and pass on to the secondary school, and up to the university. I am afraid the people who reason in that fashion have missed the main idea of education. The most important matter in education—whilst I would not neglect the individual—is to raise the general level of education. The bright boy and girl can in most cases look after themselves, and are able to push their way ahead. An hon. Member opposite, when we were discussing the coal question the other day, pleaded for a charitable view to be taken of the miners' attitude because, he urged, the miners had probably not had the same advantages of education as other sections of the community. I contend that if you raise the general level of education first and foremost it becomes a national asset, whereas by merely spending money on the bright scholars you have more an individual 1036 asset than a national asset. Until we recognise that the nation as a whole being educated ought to be the main purpose in spending any money on education, we will not get much further.
Comments and observations have been made as to the amount of money raised in taxation, and reference was made to a circular that was sent out from the Board of Education recommending economy. I am astonished, when one considers the small amount of money which the education of each child costs, at anyone claiming to be an educationist advocating economy under conditions of that sort. Take the comparison of the education of the child with the keeping of a criminal. An hon. Member opposite endeavoured to drag Scottish education into the discussion. He referred to Lord Young in the early "Seventies" in connection with the Education Act. He went on to say that he did not think we were much better even as an educated population than we were at that time, when we were an uneducated population. If we take the criminal statistics for several years in Scotland after the passing of the Education Act what do you find? From 1878 to 1914 the population of Scotland had increased by 30 per cent., while the criminal population had decreased by 17 per cent. I would further say to the hon. Gentleman that if he cares to investigate the matter he will find that of some thousands of prisoners in the Scottish prisons on a given date only seven could be said to have had a fairly good education. All the others were either illiterate, or very badly or indifferently educated.
I contend it is much more economical to spend money to keep men and women out of prison by spending that money on education than by subsequently keeping them as criminals. Complaint has been made of the £5—I think that was the amount—that is spent on the education of a child. In 1914 it cost £30 a year to keep a convict and £44 to keep an ordinary prisoner. In 1918 it cost £84 to keep an ordinary prisoner and £138 9s. 6d. to keep a convict. Until we recognise that we have got to spend at least as much, comparatively, on the education of the child as we have to keep a convict, and that it is more economical to spend money on the former than the latter we will not make very much progress in regard to education. On the question of 1037 secondary education it has been stated that the elementary school is good enough for the working class child. It has been stated also that the education in the elementary school is all the education that is necessary for one belonging to the working classes. In my opinion the education given in the elementary schools should only be preparatory to a secondary education. When you have spent the money on an elementary education, unless you are prepared to give an opportunity for a secondary education, then a great deal of the money will be entirely thrown away. In regard to secondary education I may differ from some of my hon. Friends. I would let a child toddle abouts its mother's knee and play in the fields and enjoy the sunshine, and I would send it to school until it was sixteen years of age, and then I would give it opportunities of learning a trade when it was fully developed physically. I sincerely hope that when we come in future years to discuss this question of education no Minister will require to apologise either to the House or to the country for spending the amount of money now spent on education.
I believe there is a very general desire on the part of workers for education. In three of the technical colleges in Britain the professors at the head of the Mining Department, of which there are three, worked as pit boys in the mine, and found their way through the elementary and secondary schools to their present positions. I admit that when everyone has an opportunity of education there will be many who will not reach the high paths of mental development or achieve great heights, but from amongst the working-class population we shall certainly discover some very bright gems which will be an adornment to the nation. If we cannot produce great scholars, at any rate we shall have raised the general level of education. With a nation of that kind the country is much safer and sounder, having its foundations upon an intelligent population, than the strongest Navy that ever guarded the shores of Great Britain.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
I have no complaint to make in regard to the expenditure upon education as shown in the Estimates, but I should like to draw the attention of the Minister of Education to the difference which exists in the distribution of university grants to the Scottish uni- 1038 versities and to the Welsh universities. I find that for the year 1919–20 the total annual grant to the Scottish universities amounted to £84,000 for the year.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Herbert Lewis)
It has already been ruled that the University Grants do not come within the scope of our discussion We are now discussing the Board of Education Vote. Vote 1 and University Grants do not come under that head.
This question comes under the next Vote on the Paper, and it will not be in order until we reach that point.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
Then with your permission, Mr. Chairman, I will reserve my remarks until we come to that Vote. I thought the Minister for Education was allowed to speak on the general question, because he referred to the broadened highway to the universities, and I thought I might be allowed to follow in his wake. I submit, however, to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, and if I am allowed I will raise the question on the next Vote.
§ Major GRAY
To those of us who are keenly interested in the development of national education the Debate this afternoon must be a source of very great encouragement. I had almost feared that when this first opportunity was given to us of discussing the Education Estimates we might find substantial evidence here of views largely expressed outside in favour of a reduction of our expenditure upon national education. I have been delighted to find that, apart from the idiosyncrasies of my hon. Friend the Member for Springburn (Mr. Macquisten), there has been no deprecation of educational expenditure, and I am always doubtful whether we ought to take him quite seriously or not. The fact therefore, remains that with every opportunity given to those who desire to curtail expenditure on national education, there has been no evidence of that feeling in the House this afternoon. That is a great source 1039 of encouragement to us, and I hope it will be to the Minister of Education, who has done so much for popular education and who has so well earned the gratitude of all interested in the subject of education that I fear to offer the smallest adverse comment upon the very interesting statement which he made this afternoon.
I wish to say that I thought he was far too apologetic, because I do not think he had the least need to apologise for what he had done. On the contrary, I think that if any apology were due it was for the circular which put a stop to much of the work of education. I believe the right hon. Gentleman has the country behind him if he will pursue the campaign lie initiated some years ago, of which the Education Act of 1918 formed a substantial step. If he will pursue that policy I think he will have all sensible men and women throughout the country fully behind him in his endeavours. There has been, it is true, a Motion for a reduction, moved by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Irving), but there is no bigger enthusiast for education in the House than that hon. Member, and, therefore, we all know and understand it is a mere matter of form. The hon. Member has not the least desire to reduce expenditure on education by even £100.
It is very usual in a Debate of this character to move a reduction in the salary of the President of the Board. I wish the forms of the House had allowed me this evening to move that the salary of the President be doubled. I would gladly do that. Really I wonder whether the Committee has grasped the fact that we are continuing to pay the President of the Board a salary which was paid years ago to the Vice-President of the Committee of Council on Education, paid at a time when the Board of Education dealt with nothing whatever but elementary education, and that in a very restricted form. Now the responsibilities of the Board have increased in every direction. It has become one of the large spending Departments of the State, and yet the salary of the President remains at the miserable figure of £2,000. [An HON. MEMBER: "Quite enough"] That depends on the calibre of the Member who might be called upon to fill the post. I could understand that certain Members of the House 1040 would be amply paid at that salary. But it is less than the salary paid to some of the officials of the Department. I do not think that can be justified. It is much less than the salaries paid to other Cabinet Ministers with no greater responsibilities. That cannot be justified. As a matter of fact, a Bill was introduced some time ago to rectify the position and to remove the anomaly. It met with some opposition and was brought in in the midst of an economy wave, and progress was not made beyond the Second Beading in consequence, but I venture to hope that at no distant date the Government will give us an opportunity of attaching to the post of President of the Board a salary commensurate with the duties the President is called upon to fulfil, and commensurate with the importance of that Department in the public service. I for one, having watched closely the development of the Board of Education during the last forty years, cannot rest content with the payment to the President of the salary which appears on the Estimates, and I venture to hope that the only persons who can make a move in the way of increasing it will do so" and that the Government will take the matter in hand at the earliest possible date.
Considerable reference has been made in the Debate to-day to the fact that there is a large and, I am glad to say, a growing demand amongst the people of this country for a form of education higher than can be provided in elementary schools. There is a demand, and an increasing demand, for secondary education. It is a demand which we ought to welcome and try to meet by every means in our power. Instead of that, there is a stay in the building of secondary schools. There is no accommodation for applicants waiting outside the doors. It is a position which is altogether unjustifiable. It is false economy, and will produce most untoward results in the years to come. The President himself admitted in the course of his speech that nearly every secondary school has a long waiting list. What does that mean? Boys and girls whose parents are anxious that they should go into the secondary schools, boys and girls not only willing but anxious to go in themselves, wait term after term, and years pass by, the age for entry is rapidly passing, they fail to gain admission, they go out to industry and commerce, and they 1041 will never forget throughout the whole of their lives that they have lost the chance which might have been theirs if the State and the local authorities had given them the opportunity. What will be their attitude? What is the attitude of their parents now? Their parents freely express discontent with an organisation of society which denies to their children that educational progress they are anxious to obtain, and of which they are willing to avail themselves. I urge the Board to remove all obstacles to the provision of further accommodation for secondary school children. Let them build schools. I, for one, refuse to believe that the country is so poor that it cannot afford to pay for the education of the children. It can so pay, and it will readily pay if given the opportunity, and the last person on earth to put a stop to it should be the President of the Board of Education.
The circular says:Where it is not possible by the adaptation or extension of existing school buildings to provide accommodation for children who by law are required to attend school, or to find room in secondary schools or other institutions of higher education for children and young persons who are qualified for higher education and are asking for admission, the erection of new buildings may be imperative.
§ Major GRAY
I am very glad to have that interpretation of the circular. I can tell my hon. Friend that that circular has been interpreted by local education authorities throughout the country as the expression of a wish, I will not say simply on the part of the Minister of Education, but the expression of a wish on the part of the Cabinet that building operations in regard to schools should for the time being cease or be restricted to the narrowest limits. If that is not so, no one will be more thankful than myself, but it will be very unwelcome news to many members of local educational authorities who are taking refuge behind the circular to avoid building any more schools.
In the circumstances of the present time of course it is possible, as the Circular says, that certain extensions or improvements of school accommodation can be more cheaply effected by 1042 the purchase or hire of existing buildings, and the authorities are encouraged in that course. They are also encouraged where they can obtain on reasonable and moderate terms existing buildings to do so, but, as I have already said, there may be circumstances under which the erection of new buildings for secondary schools may be imperative, and the Board of Education would, of course, consider every case of that kind upon its merits.
§ Major GRAY
I should like to get this perfectly clear. It is a matter of supreme importance. Am I to gather from the statement which has just been made, putting aside the terms of the Circular, if there be a demand in any locality for further accommodation, and if there are pupils desiring to obtain secondary education the local authority may proceed to meet that demand by taking temporary accommodation, or by new buildings, and will have the approval of the Board in so acting. If so, I for one shall be delighted. I believe that at present—at all events such are the reports which reach me from various parts of the country—there is a general impression that they may not now construct new buildings, they may not now incur capital expenditure, but must postpone the provision of further accommodation for the present. If that is not so, how do these long waiting lists arise? How is it that there are so many children outside the secondary schools who desire to enter? I gather from the statement which has been made by my right hon. Friend that the intentions of the Board and of the Cabinet are not as drastic as they have been interpreted to be in the country, and that, therefore, those of us who are keen on this subject are free to urge local authorities to make full provision for those who can profit by secondary education. I hope that that is the position.
I should like to suggest to the President that, even without further expenditure, it might be possible to secure accommodation within existing secondary schools for a large number of pupils of 12 years of age and over who are seeking admission if the Board would encourage the exclusion from secondary schools of pupils under the age of 11. I have not been able to obtain any return for a year later than 1913–14, but in that year about one-eighth of the children in secondary schools were under 10 years of age. I have by me the figures for 1043 Cheshire for 1920, and I find that in the secondary schools of Cheshire there is the same percentage, and that about one-eighth of the accommodation in those secondary schools is taken up by children under the age of 10. Can a child at the age of 8 or 9 or 10 be said to be receiving secondary education? It is purely elementary education. If I may quote the Board of Education against themselves, in a preface to one of their sets of regulations for secondary schools some years ago, they described this as a concession to social prejudice. I had hoped that all these concessions to social prejudice were things of the past, and need not be considered to-day; but children of 9 or 10 years of age are filling places which ought to be occupied by children of from 12 to 16. There are thousands of those young children in these so-called secondary schools who are not receiving secondary education. They are there as a concession to social prejudice, which the man in the street would call pure snobbery—the desire to have a class school for certain children who may not be sent even to a thoroughly efficient elementary school in the near neighbourhood. I believe it would be for the benefit of all concerned, rich and poor alike, if the education of children up to the age of 11 were given in the public elementary schools of this country, the child of 11 or over being then transferred to the secondary school. The adoption of that principle would set free some thousands of places in so-called secondary schools, and would overcome much of the difficulty which is experienced at the present moment owing to the inability of children to obtain admission to those schools, while at the same time it would tend to destroy class prejudice. If these children while they are young can be taught together, when they grow up they will learn to work together. If they are separated in class and class while they are young, you cannot be surprised if they maintain that distinction when they grow older. Therefore, those of us who are keen, as I am, in the desire to remove all these class prejudices, must look with great discontent on the present system, under which children obtain admission to these schools—often paying fees, it is true—and exclude, as a consequence, bright children who would profit themselves and bring profit to the 1044 State if they were able to reap the advantages of secondary education.
I want to say a word or two upon one other subject which has hardly been mentioned this afternoon. I want to make an appeal to the President of the Board that he and the Board over which he presides should take into very serious consideration, and at once, the position which exists in the large majority of the village schools of this country. Many of the buildings which are inhabited for school purposes by village school children are not fit to house them. They ought to have been razed to the ground years ago. I say nothing about their inconvenience or about their general structural condition, but they are not healthy. Some of them are absolute death-traps for both children and teachers, and ought to be condemned. I sent to the Board only this morning a report from a medical officer of health upon a school, and it is so horrible and so disgusting that I would not dare to read it here. A condition of things prevails under which neither teachers or children can possibly hope to enjoy good health. We must bear in mind that the children are compelled to attend, and that, if they do not, their parents are prosecuted. That being the case, we ought to provide healthy schools for them. It is not one case only; I have here a number of reports from one county alone—reports in which the buildings, and particularly the sanitary conditions, are condemned over and over again. There was some excuse during the War, but the exercise of the most stringent economy cannot justify the continuance of these schools in this condition at the present time. The time has come when the Board's inspectors should report upon the buildings of many of our village schools, and the Board should take steps to shut them up at once rather than allow them to continue in this dreadful condition. May I read from one Report?The premises are in a poor condition, and require overhauling. The ventilation of the main room is not sufficient. The playground, offices, and cloakroom are very unsatisfactory, and the roofs and floors of the shelters require immediate attention.Here is another:The work of the cleaner of the school is very unsatisfactory, and the school is in a very dirty condition. The offices were in a most disgraceful condition, and filthy beyond conception.And so I could go on. I have in my office hundreds of reports of this 1045 character upon the insanitary condition of schools. I was in one a few weeks ago—a village school some 10 miles from the nearest railway station. As I stood talking to the head teacher in the school, the rain was pouring through the roof, and formed a little puddle between our feet. I went into the single classroom which they possessed, and the water was pouring down the walls inside. The teacher said to me, "We can never put any children in that room during wet weather." The building had one stove in the centre of the large room.
§ Major GRAY
I am almost certain that it was. I cannot be quite certain, but I can let the right hon. Gentleman have the name of the school, and shall be only too glad to give it. I have taken the liberty of sending a few of these cases lately to the Minister of Health in the hope that I might get some satisfaction there. It is not the character of the buildings in all the village schools—I know there are some that are excellent in every respect—but I am speaking of hundreds which may be found in the rural districts where the buildings are unsatisfactory and the equipment beggars all description. I was in one. I will tell the Committee what was on the walls of the school for the education of the children. A chart, apparently forty years old at the very least, of the metric system. It hardly hung to the wall and the bottom roller hardly hung to the chart. If I had not been familiar with that sort of thing forty years ago, I should not have known that it was a chart. That was in a Welsh county village school. That was the only wall decoration, if I dare to call it a wall decoration. But let me talk of matters which are not so bad as that. Many of these village schools are absolutely devoid of anything in the way of pictorial decoration, devoid of everything which would cultivate an idea of beauty, of comfort or encouragement to aspire to be surrounded with beautiful things. Four white-washed walls, at the best often all too dirty. Not a picture. Nothing at all! And these are the buildings in which you compel the children to spend five or six years of their lives. The most rigid economy will not justify the continuation 1046 of that kind of thing. Children absorb influences without any active effort on the part of the teacher. If they are surrounded with things ungainly, coarse and uncomfortable it will exercise an influence upon their lives which will be' shown in years to come. You can surround them with things which are beautiful and which will exercise a marked influence upon their lives. I wish the Board would turn some attention to this and see that the equipment of these schools, I will not say is more liberal, but is at least decent and could be described as in some way educational. The buildings and equipment are deplorable.
I want to put in a small plea for the village school teacher. Few people realise what it means for a man who has come from a training college with high ideals on education to be placed in charge of a village school, where month after month he will meet no society whatever except the villagers, and have no opportunity of conferring upon professional or educational matters with anyone at all, called upon to train a little handful of children and, I would hope, to exercise an influence on the whole life of the village. The isolation of these men and women—they are often women—is something terrible to contemplate. Can my hon. Friend, whose whole life has been in the midst of educational surroundings, bring himself to think what it would be to be buried in a village of some 700 or 800 population, 15 miles from a railway station, with no' chance of meeting his own profession, or other educated people, and teaching day by day the same task with hardly any relief? It has a very deadening influence upon the teacher who is so placed, and if anything can be done—and I know it can—by the Board of Education, and by the local education authorities under the influence of the Board, to relieve that position I am sure it ought to be done.
It would be most unfair of me to indulge in criticism of this sort without venturing some suggestion. There are the inspectors of the Board, and the local education authorities often employ their own inspectors. If, instead of so frequently inspecting the schools, they would occasionally have friendly conferences with the teachers in the schools, much greater good would be accomplished. I meet these teachers and I meet local education authorities. I have been a 1047 teacher myself, and for fourteen years I have been a member of an education authority. Therefore I can see it from both sides, and I am perfectly certain that the relations between the two would be strengthened and improved if they met for friendly intercourse on educational questions instead of looking at each other, the one from the inside of the office and the other from the inside of the school at a great distance. I believe the education authorities would profit largely. The teachers would regard such meetings as red letter days in their lives, and would go back encouraged to the task they have to discharge in the village community. If the members of the authority cannot do that themselves, instead of everlastingly inspecting classes to see what progress the children are making, do let us get hold of the teachers and try to revivify their interest in education by free discussion with them of what is being done in other places than the village in which they are vegetating. When one village school is closed all the schools of the county are closed. They cannot, therefore, interchange visits during school time. The holidays are their only free time, and then the other schools are closed. Therefore they have no opportunity of even professional intercourse. Their professional organisations do not always concern themselves with educational matters, I regret to say, but those meetings might be used for free interchange of opinion. I feel very strongly on this subject. I have looked at these schools in Cumberland, in Westmorland, in Wales, in the south-west of England, in Hampshire, and in Wiltshire. I have looked at the village schools up and down the country, and I know there is nothing a village school teacher yearns for more than intercourse with other men of education, anxiously desirous of having some relief from the perpetual monotony of his daily task, and if he obtained this relief it would be immediately felt inside the school by a better tone and a more healthy life amongst the children he is called upon day by day to teach.
I hope no one will regard the time we have spent this evening as wasted. It is the first opportunity we have had for some years of discussing one of the most important features of our national life. I hope what I have said has not been expressed without discretion, and that my 1048 enthusiasm has not led me away. I would that even we could do something more for the artistic side of our education, and cultivate amongst our children a keener perception of beauty of form and colour. Instead of putting upon the walls mural decorations which are made in Germany we could put some decent reproductions of Turner, or even of Claude Lorrain, some of the landscapes and seascapes; and if we could put up the "Fighting Temeraire" for some of our children to look at, and have a few little chats from the teachers to get the spirit of the pictures, what an influence it would have on the lives of our men and women in years to come. Little of that is done in school. We are so strongly utilitarian that the spiritual side of life is almost entirely disregarded in our schools. I may be forgiven if I put in a plea this evening for the larger development of that spiritual side in the schools, so that boys and girls may be taught, not merely how to earn their livelihood, but by their own effort learn how to attain the maximum of happiness through life.
§ Lieut.-Colonel POWNALL
I speak with some diffidence, after the most interesting speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Accrington, who speaks with a lifelong knowledge of these educational problems. I want to criticise at the outset a few of the figures of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education. He began by telling us, in justification of the greatly increased educational expenditure, that France had also increased her educational expenditure. I think he rather overlooked the fact, perhaps, that while money is of much less value now in this country than it was before the War, in France the spending power of money is far less relatively than it is in this country. I hope other Government Departments are not going to take this as a precedent, or we shall have Ministers comparing their expenditure to that, we will say, of Czecho-Slovakia or Poland, where the spending power of money is now one-hundredth of what it was before the War, or to Mr. Lenin, whose rouble, we understand, is now one ten-thousandth part of what it was before the War. I mention that in passing. The right hon. Member for Camiborne (Mr. Acland) rather pressed the question as regards how much was being spent out of the rates in addition to the sum of £67,000,000 1049 which we are spending out of the taxes. A very simple rule-of-three sum gives the figure which is being spent out of the rates. I do not think it has been mentioned to-night in the Debate. My right hon. Friend stated that the expenditure this year was being borne as to 56 per cent, upon the taxes, and as to 44 per cent, on the rates. The rule-of-three sum gives one the total of the rate of expenditure, apart from the taxes, as £53,000,000. I add that to the national expenditure of £57,000,000, and I reach the total of £120,000,000 being spent by rate and taxpayer in the course of this financial year on all forms of education. £120,000,000 is a very, very large sum. It is considerably more than was spent on all the services of the Crown in the last 20 or 25 years. It is the more incumbent on the House of Commons to see that this money is wisely spent.
There is one criticism I would like to make with regard to the administrative expenses. I understood that the policy of the Board was more and more to decentralise, and to pass on to the local authorities the responsibility, so far as ever they could, of control of expenditure, and to decentralise the central office of the Board of Education. We find that £77,000 extra, over and above last year's large sum, is being spent on the administrative expenses at headquarters. I hope my right hon. Friend or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education may, when he replies, give us some reason why the extra sum of £77,000 should be spent on administrative expenses at the Board of Education. It is the more necessary that we should criticise very carefully this educational expenditure when we read in the Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure that the vicious circle of divided financial responsibility is now beyond the control of Parliament, the direct results of the Act of 1918. I am a member of the Select Committee on National Expenditure. I only came after it had had various education officials before it, however, and therefore I cannot speak of their work. The Committee came to the conclusion that this question of financial responsibility was now beyond the control of Parliament. It is the more necessary that my right hon. Friend should keep a very strict control with regard to it.
Various points have been made this evening in connection with the continua- 1050 tion schools. Perhaps I may give a personal experience as showing the necessity for continuation schools. In the last year of the War they were sending to battalions in this country a large number of lads between the ages of 18 and 19 to be trained for six months and a year before, at the age of 19, they went overseas. Part of their training took the form of education. We were responsible for giving them some hours of educational training each week. I was lucky enough to have in my battalion among both officers and N.C.O.'s several professional school teachers, and I took advantage of having them with me to get these many hundreds of lads who joined this reserve battalion between 18 and 19 tested as regards their educational knowledge, and to see how the knowledge they had at something over 18 compared with the standard they had when they left school some four or five years before, at the age of 13 or 14. Of course, the lads varied a good deal in accordance with what they had been doing in the three or four years' interrugnum, but I was advised by those who knew that in the great majority of cases those lads of 18 had slipped back in their educational knowledge to the knowledge which they had some two years before they left school; that is to say, that those of 18, instead of knowing more than they had done at 14, had gone back to the average standard of 12 years old. That gives some idea of the waste that has gone on in the past. Following that rather carefully, it gave one an idea of the absolute necessity of some form of continuation schools, because, if you can only keep that knowledge until the lad is 16 or 17, his brain is much more set and much less liable to lose it than if you let him leave school at 14 and he sags back to 11 or 12 and to a very scanty knowledge of reading or writing. That converted me to the necessity of continuation schools.
There is one other point, and that is with regard to the Burnham Committee. We all agree in principle with the idea of the Burnham Committee discussing these very difficult questions of teachers' salaries. Let me say right away, as one who served for some time on the Education Committee of the London County Council, that I am quite convinced that our pre-War standard of teachers' salaries was too low. The mistake, as I see it, with regard to the Burnham Committee 1051 is this, that you have approximately equal representation of the local authorities who are responsible for spending and of the teachers. In so many cases the local authorities, instead of sending, as they should do, their chairman of the Finance Committee, their chairman of the Education Committee, and their educational members, send their own permanent officials. In many cases, naturally, these permanent officials, who are there to represent the ratepayers, are themselves promoted teachers, and, with the best will in the world, are bound, unconsciously, it may be, to be biased in favour of the teachers, the class from which they themselves have sprung. I think it is rather a misfortune that education authorities should send their own permanent staff when they ought to be sending their own members. My right hon. Friend may say that that is not his responsibility, that it is the responsibility of the local education authorities. I agree; but, in view of the Treasury having a responsibility for any sums spent in this way, half the extra sum spent by education authorities falls upon the Education Minister to pay. Therefore, he has direct financial responsibility, and I suggest, if it is possible for him to do so, that representation be made to the education authorities that it is their duty to see that their members should go to take part in these Burnham Committees, and not their education officers.
A good deal has been said this evening with regard to secondary schools and the scholarship system. I understand that in many cases the difficulty is not that there are not enough vacancies at the secondary schools for the lads who win scholarships, but that in many cases lads from 11 to 12 who win scholarships and go to secondary schools are not kept there by their parents as long as they might be kept. They are kept longer than they would otherwise be, but, surely, the reason for sending them there is to give those who have special ability a chance of climbing still higher up the education ladder, and of getting a chance of going on to the university. In far too many cases, it may be for economic reasons or it may be through parental selfishness, these lads are taken away from the secondary schools, to which they have climbed with so much difficulty, before their time there is over, in order that they may drift into callings where 1052 in many cases their scholastic knowledge will be of very little value. Whether it is possible to get an honourable understanding from these parents whose children are permitted to go and take up these scholarships that they shall not be taken away before their time at the secondary school is over I am not in a position to say, but I do suggest to my right hon. Friend that there is at present a very great waste and a very great loss of labour in that direction.
§ Captain LOSEBY
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on having at last secured two or three hours for the discussion of the Education Estimates. I think it is the only three hours that we have had in the last three years. I do not know who is to blame for that, but I do feel it has been a very great: pity that it has not been possible for the Government to give more time to this important subject. I think my right hon. Friend will see from the whole tone of the Debate, and the enthusiasm in the Debate, that he would have been fortified in his difficult task, in regard to which the whole country is in sympathy with him, if he had been able to consult the House of Commons from time to time. I notice there is an increase of expenditure of nearly £6,000,000 on national education in the Estimates, and even the strictest economists in this House would be prepared to agree that in certain circumstances, if that money is really being expended on true education, it is real economy. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us more exactly what his policy is: what instructions he has given to the instructors in the national schools? Is this £6,000,000 going to be expended on the production of potential men and women, fit, mentally, morally, and physically' Are we educating in these national schools, or are we instructing merely, because there is no doubt that if we have been wrong in the past, or if there have been any fundamental defects in our national system of education, as I contend there have, we shall only get them put right at some such times as this, when the whole mentality of the nation is in the melting pot, as it were, and it can only be done centrally, through instructions issued centrally. If such a revolution is to be brought about, and is needed, it can only come from the President of the Board of Education himself. I know of certain instances where the 1053 right hon. Gentleman has taken steps, and if he will only inform the House I can foresee such enthusiasm for education in; this country as we have never had before.
It is universally recognised I take it that education is tripartite, and that it is the training of the mind, the body and the spirit. If we are not educating, but only instructing the mind, we are wasting our money; yet who is there in this Committee bold enough to say that in our national system of education at the present time we are carrying out the function of developing the mind, the body and the spirit? If that elementary fact by some means or other could be got into the heads of the education authorities throughout the country, how great are the possibilities! The health statistics in the year 1914 showed us that 40 percent, of the manhood of the nation were C3. [hon. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Well, something like it. At any rate, it was a very high figure. It may have been at the conscript time, but that is bad enough. If at that time the Minister of Education had recognised the responsibility was his, that those were the people whose bodies he had to train, for whose defects to a certain extent he was responsible, I think he could have got to work to do something radical in that direction; but it never has been done. Suppose we had in this country established some simple rule that one hour every day was to be set aside for physical education of the children in the open air, one hour possibly devoted to scientific physical education, and on alternate days organised games in central schools. Men of experience will agree that there is no work that will counteract this defective national physique better than what might be done in the primary schools.
I am aware that there is physical training at present in these schools, a few spasmodic exercises by bored children, presided over in many cases by an instructor who is not efficient. I know what my right hon. Friend has done in that direction, also that there has been a great improvement, and I am only asking him to tell us the extent to which that development has been made, because I feel strongly that if this physical training in national schools is to be undertaken at all, it must be undertaken in the most scientific manner possible. There should be a director of physical training in every 1054 county, and no man should be allowed to instruct in this most important subject until he is in every respect competent to do so. If organised games are a necessary part of education in the public schools, if they are recognised as invaluable training, not only for the body but for the mind of the pupils, they are equally important for the poor children. I should not despair of education in this country if I could see in an inspector's report that the geography and arithmetic were good, but taking it all in all, the report was bad, because the manners of the children were bad and the football team was beneath contempt. If it were recognised that the system of organised games played such a vital part in the public schools, and if a determined effort were made I have little doubt it could be reproduced in the primary schools of the country. I am aware of the intensity of the difficulty with regard to the training of the children, so as to develop esprit. We were confronted in the Army in 1917 with a problem which was almost identical. It cannot be denied that the fundamental duty of the schoolmaster is to produce morale, character—call it what you like. That is an essential part of the work of the educationist. On the other hand, this is not being carried out.
§ Captain LOSEBY
There is no good saying "No," or saying that there are no defects, when 19 men out of 20 realise it is so. Not only is esprit not produced in most schools in a satisfactory manner, but it is not realised by teachers that it is the very thing at which they should be aiming the whole time. In 1918, I think, it was realised by the Army authorities that commanding officers did not in every respect understand their fundamental duties, and a reform was brought about that impressed itself tremendously on my mind, and I have often wondered if something of a similar character could not be introduced into our educational system. It was realised that, owing to the fact that trained battalion commanders had been killed in large numbers, something must be done to establish schools for commanding officers, and one general at Aldershot was put over a school called the Senior Officers' School, which, in my opinion, did a work that was largely responsible for the ultimate success of our armies in 1055 the field. I went there myself for a short time, and his method was to impress on the minds of the officers who were coming for instruction, that the success or failure of an army depended upon morale, and the method of producing that morale.
The inspectorial system in regard to our national schools, and indeed in regard to the whole of our educational system, is not satisfactory. We take it for granted, at least our inspectors do, that education is instruction. It does not pay a teacher under our present State system to be an educationist. His career depends upon the smile or otherwise of the inspector. If he produces a batch of children whose geography and arithmetic and spelling are satisfactory he will get a good report. He may have opposed to him another man who has been successful in impressing his personality on his pupils, in infusing the joie de vivre into his pupils, who has played with them and given up his spare time to them, but who has not been possibly equally efficient in the minor matter of instruction. The first man will be successful in his profession on every occasion as opposed to the second man. I am saying only what I feel. There are great numbers of people in the country who feel that, through no fault of the President of the Board of Education, who has made heroic efforts, through no fault of the schoolmaster, whose devotion to duty has been extraordinary and beyond praise, but through a kind of general misconception of education we are not getting the true value out of our system. I ask my right hon. Friend to kindly give us some information as to the reforms that have taken place during his term of office. It is true, as has been said by others, that the right hon. Gentleman has a greater responsibility in the solving of our great problem, social, and possibly industrial, than any other Minister of the Crown.
§ 10.0 P.M.
Mr. T. THOMSON
Reference has been made to the satisfaction which the whole Committee will feel regarding the change of the basis on which the grants to local authorities are made. Whereas we shall all agree that the basis to-day, as brought about by the 1918 Act, is much better than the old method, the right hon. Gentleman did not tell us that within the last three years he has altered, materially to the disadvantage of the local authority, the basis on 1056 which special grants are made to what are locally called "necessitous school areas." That change presses very heavily on large industrial areas. I will give in illustration the figures of my own district. I have no doubt they are typical of many other districts. Whereas in 1919, with a "Prescribed Education Rate" of 2s. 3d.in the £, we got considerable assistance under this grant, last year the "Prescribed" Rate was raised to 3s. 4d., and we were excluded altogether from that grant. This year the Education rate was to be 4s. in the £ before an area is qualified to receive the special assistance. I hope the right hon. Gentleman may find in the coming year that it is possible to reduce the amount to be raised locally before he grants this special assistance. In my district we lose between £5,000 and £6,000 a year, which is a very serious matter. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman did not refer, to his own credit, to the excellent work under his medical officer of health in the medical inspection of school children. Several most interesting reports have been issued and I have the last of them. In 1907 the medical inspection of school children service was started. The growth from then to the present time has been remarkable. All I can suggest is that the right hon. Gentleman should be encouraged to go forward and do more than he is now doing. In the report for last year it is shown that 49 per cent. of the children attending elementary schools are not wholly capable of taking advantage of the education offered. That is to say, 49 per cent. are suffering in one way or another. Reference has been made to the hugh expenditure on education. Many of us think the money is rightly spent. If a sum of£120,000,000 a year—
Expenditure by the State is £69,000,000 and on page 18 of the papers the right hon. Gentleman has issued it is shown that £58,690,000 is raised by local authorities.
The hon. and gallant Member, like the hon. and gallant Member for Lewisham (Lieut.-Colonel Pownall) makes the mistake of supposing that if the State makes a grant of £1,000 to a local education authority and the local education authority spends that 1057 £1,000, therefore there is £2,000 spent out of the public purse upon education.
Although I referred to the hon. and gallant Member for Lewisham, I was not entirely adopting his figures. On page 18 of the Estimate which the right hon. Gentleman has submitted to the House he shows the total net expenditure provided by the local education authority from the rates amounts to £58,690,385. If you add the amount provided from the national Exchequer of £69,000,000, which is mainly for elementary and secondary education, although you may have to exclude'£1,000,000 more or less provided for museums and art galleries, you will get a sum approximating to £120,000,000 in round figures.
§ Mr. FISHER
I am sorry, but I must correct that. The hon. Member has fallen into the same mistake as the hon. and gallant Member for Lewisham (Lieut.-Colonel Pownall). The total net expenditure for local education authorities on both elementary and higher education together is £69,714,614 for the year 1920–21. The total sum spent by local education authorities partly from rates and partly from grants was something over £69,000,000. £69,000,000 is the total estimate for the whole of the money which we are spending out of the taxes and out of the rates on elementary and secondary education, not over £100,000,000.
§ Mr. FISHER
I was merely speaking of the Estimates of my own Department, which are alone under discussion at this moment.
The figure, at any rate, according to the right hon. Gentleman, for England and Wales is something like £69,000,000.
My point is that when we are spending that huge sum of money in educating the child life of the nation it is surely wise to see that the children are in such a physical condition that they take the utmost advantage of it, otherwise it is a penny wise and pound foolish policy to spend millions on the education of children who are not physically fit to fully benefit 1058 by it. The report of the medical officer for the last available year—1919—shows that no less than 49 per cent, of the children are not in a state to take the fullest advantage of the educational facilities provided for them. 'The report does not suggest that only half the children are capable of profiting by education, but it does state that they suffer in one way or another, and that if their physical health was improved we should get a much better return for the millions we are spending.
Elementary schools only, up to last year. Hon. Members are aware that under the 1918 Act the medical inspection of children is now extended from elementary to secondary schools, and it is very desirable that further efforts should be made in that direction. I hope that the economy which is to take place in certain Government offices will not affect the medical work of the Board of Education because according to the same Report, although it is now obligatory on local authorities to provide for these medical services, they are even yet very inadequately provided for. There are no less than 20 education authorities covering many hundreds of schools which have made no provision whatever for the medical inspection and treatment of children. No less than 36 other authorities have not provided clinics, and in the case of 265 authorities no proper and full provision has been made for treating various defects brought to light under the system of school inspection. It may seem to the Committee that these are minor matters, but I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree it is essential that the children should have sound bodies if we are to have the child life of the nation developed to the fullest extent; it is desirable that full advantage should be taken of this school medical service. It was formerly criticised on the ground that it undermined the responsibility of the parent. But the report, which I have quoted, makes it clear that instead of undermining the responsibility of the parent these school inspections—to which the parents were in the first instance often invited—have encouraged parents to realise their responsibility, and have resulted in the marked improvement, not only in the physique of the children, but 1059 in their home surroundings. I hope it will be possible for the right hon. Gentleman in the near future to see what influence he can bring to bear on local authorities, not only to see that proper provision is made for curing diseases, but that preventive measures are taken, such as giving better air space and providing playgrounds so that those games, which have proved such an important educative influence in our public schools and throughout our national life, shall be shared in the full by these children. He should see if it is not possible to give greater assistance to local authorities.
I am aware that 50 per cent, of the charge imposed by the 1918 Act is borne by the Exchequer, but the Act has made these provisions obligatory on the local authorities, and surely the local authorities have a right to say, "If you put this burden on our shoulders you should pay a larger share than you are paying." Those districts where the need is greatest are the most hardly hit. Take the large industrial towns with big school populations and high education rates, although a national service is being performed by improving the general standard of the children's health the burden is greatest in those localities where the rates are highest. I have a list of comparative education rates for last year We find that in a large industrial centre like Barrow the rate is 4s. 2d., whereas in Bournemouth it is Is. 4½d. Going down the list alphabetically we find that Cardiff has a rate of 4s. 4¾d. and Canterbury's is only 2s. Tynemouth, a large industrial centre on the north-east coast, has a rate of 4s. 5½d., while Tun-bridge Wells, a residential district, has only a rate of Is. 6d. Yet the same burden and the same obligation is placed on all these local authorities. I suggest that, if he is to get the utmost out of his medical services, he must see that the burden is not unduly placed on local authorities, and, as Commissions have reported in the past that expenditure on education may rightly be considered as a national charge rather than a local charge, if it is' not possible for him to increase to 75 per cent, the contribution to these special health services, instead of 50 per cent, as at present.
In this report the inspectors suggest the encouragement of school camps and of various excursions and walks, swimming, 1060 and so on, and at the same time the right hon. Gentleman has recently issued an Order which, although it was not intended, seriously retarded the encouragement of these school camps and excursions. In my own particular town for years the teachers, who have had a real personal interest in the welfare of their children, have organised school camps and excursions, and where the child was able to contribute towards the cost, the child has paid Id. or l½d. per week. Now an Order has been issued by the Department saying that under the spirit of free education it is illegal for the teachers to receive from the children any contribution towards these school excursions or camps, because by so doing they cannot count the attendances in school hours for marking on the register. I submit that it surely was never the intention to take such a pedantic and doctrinaire view of free education as to make it impossible for children and their parents who are anxious and willing to do so to contribute to these extra services. By doing this you are not increasing the number of children who will gain by these services, but making it impossible for the local teachers to raise sufficient funds by reducing the income which they receive. If it is not possible to reverse that Order, I hope it may even be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to bring in a small amending Bill to make it legal for these voluntary contributions to be made, otherwise I am afraid he will seriously restrict this development of school life.
§ Mr. D. M. COWAN
We have had a most interesting Debate during the last six hours. Much could be said with regard to many of the points raised, but in view of the lateness of the hour I shall confine myself to one consideration only. It is this, that for the first time in the history of the two countries, England and Scotland, educational progress in Scotland almost depends on progress in England. Hitherto Scotland has had a world-wide reputation for its educational system and the thoroughness with which it was carried out, but so long as the two Acts of 1918 stand, progress in Scotland must largely depend upon the progress in England. It is therefore with very grave concern that we look to this hold-up of the educational provisions of the English Act of 1918. I would like to explain the position from a financial standpoint. 1061 When the Scottish Act of 1918 was passed, the grant for the year 1914 was taken as the standard grant, and from 1918 onward all the grant that comes to Scotland is eleven-eightieths of the money which is spent in England. Therefore, if England makes no progress in the questions of the raising the age, continuation classes and other educational advances, Scotland will have a stranglehold upon it which will be fatal to its reputation.
This is not a matter for which the Minister of Education is responsible, and, in passing, I should like to say, on behalf of a very large body of educational opinion in Scotland, how greatly we admire the work which the President of the Board of Education has been privileged to do for education in the last few years both here and in Scotland, because his action has" carried over the Border, and has beneficially affected education with us. But that carries with it a very much larger responsibility, and I do hope, therefore, that the President of the Board of Education will not be in any way, almost frightened, I might say, by those cries of economy. The speeches which we have heard in this House this afternoon have really been refreshing after the diatribes we have had during the last few months, but, unless England makes a very considerable educational advance, and that soon, this Parliament will have to decide once again what are to be the financial relations between England and Scotland, because I can assure the English Members present that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Springburn (Mr. Macquisten) does not represent Scotland. He is, if I might say so, an interesting and a picturesque survival in the educational world of Scotland. I have read some of his speeches which he has made to his constituency containing much the same kind of views he makes here, but when he points out the disadvantages of education, I cannot help thinking that, had he himself not suffered from the disadvantages of a university education, there is no saying to what height he might have risen, even beyond his present eminence. I should like to make clear again that the two countries are now bound together as they have never been bound before, and I hope, therefore, all the advanced opinion in both countries will join together to see that the great Acts of 1918 are made effective, and that soon.
§ Mr. FISHER
I can only speak again with the permission of the Committee, and so many questions have been addressed to me in the course of this interesting discussion, that I feel I cannot do justice to them unless I rise at this moment, much as I regret abridging the facilities of hon. Members. I think, in the first instance, I should be well advised in dealing with the financial problems which have been raised by hon. Members in the course of the Debate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Camborne (Mr. Acland) expressed a desire to have an Estimate of the expenditure of the country on education properly distributed into the different parts—training colleges, secondary education, technical education and so on, and the figures of the cost for each part. I think it is a perfectly reasonable request. I think my right hon. Friend is quite justified in asking for those figures. But we can only, under the present system, get them from the collection of figures relating to the expenditure of the local educational authorities. We give a block grant. Consequently, our Estimates do not show the cost separately of the training colleges, secondary, and technical education. But I would have the Committee note the information contained on pages 19–22 of the Estimates. Further information will be collected and laid before Parliament. It is a logical consequence of our new grant system that the House of Commons should see the Estimates not only of the Board, but of the local educational authorities themselves.
In respect to the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) in respect to our grants for ex-service students, I was somewhat surprised at what he said, because I was under the impression that the administration of these—into which work a good deal of energy has been put by the hon. Member for Norwich—was considered criticism-proof. I should now be very surprised to learn that anyone has received grants under this system without having been carefully examined as to circumstances generally by the academic committee, or the head of the institution into which he was admitted, or in most cases by both. I believe it to be true to say that in every case the circumstances of every student have been most carefully examined. There has been a most careful inquiry into their financial needs and also into their academic qualifica- 1063 tions. No one has been admitted to these courses without passing a very careful and serious test. Every case has, in the last resort, come before me personally and I have looked into the statement both as to qualifications and military service, and the particular circumstances of each case, and satisfied myself that the grant should be made. I think if any justification be needed for our administration, that justification is in the reports we are receiving from the academic authorities of the institutions where these students are carrying on their courses. Nothing has been more remarkable, and I may add, more surprising to myself, than the chorus of approval which has come from the heads of the colleges in respect of the conduct and energy of these students. The students, of course, have been invited to express their personal preferences as to the course which they wish to adopt, but they have been amenable to advice on the matter, and I have no doubt that the heads of the academic institution have been satisfied that the course adopted is that suitable for the aptitude of the student. It is, of course, true that no attempt has been made, and no attempt should be made, to estimate the openings available at the end of an academic course which in some instances was destined to extend for five years. Who can say how many lawyers we shall want three years hence or how many doctors we shall require five years hence?
The hon. Baronet the Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) raised the question of central schools, and he sketched a plan which apparently had been discussed by members of the local education committee in the East Riding of Yorkshire for the establishment of central schools in that part of the country. I do not know how far that plan has proceeded, but at any rate it has not been submitted to the Board, and I do not understand that any money has been spent upon it. It may be of use to the Committee if I recall the fact that local education committees are under no obligation to establish central schools, but they are under an obligation to make adequate provision for the proper education of children in the higher standards of elementary schools, but that provision may be made by establishing special classes or other means. The central schools which have proved so 1064 successful in London, Manchester and in some rural areas are not imposed as an obligation, and in that matter authorities must consider the special conditions.
The hon. and gallant member for Lewisham (Lieut.-Colonel Pownall) raised a question as to the increased sum in the Estimates for the administration of the Board, and he asked how can we justify an addition of £77,000 in the administrative expenses of the Board. The Committee is already familiar with the subject of the Civil Service Vote, and there may be differences of opinion as to whether the bonuses in that Vote are justified or not. In any case it is these bonuses which explain the increase in this item. May I say that the Board of Education is placing the very great additional mass of work imposed by the Act of 1918 upon a staff which has hardly been increased above the pre-War level, and I think that the members of the Committee who investigated the finances of the Board of Education would not for a moment allege that the administration expenses of the Board are in any way extravagant.
The hon. Member for Middlesbrough raised the question of the grants to necessitous areas. I am very well aware that the formula which regulates the grants in aid of elementary education does not adequately cover all cases. That formula gives more to the poor areas than the rich areas. It is intended to equalise, the incidence of the burden, but the disparity between the well-to-do parts of the country and other parts is so great that it passes the wit of man to provide a formula which will cover the whole ground. Consequently there are still a number of areas which are disproportionately burdened by reason of their poverty. For some time past the Board has been in the habit of making grants to necessitous areas. We propose this year to make grants on the same scale as those for last year, but, owing to the expansion of educational expenditure, we have been compelled to raise the qualification, and whereas in earlier days the qualification was a rate of 27d. in the pound, now before becoming, qualified for the necessitous grant, the authorities have to raise a rate of 48d.
§ Mr. FISHER
Yes, the total sum will be as much as last year, but we have been 1065 compelled to raise the qualification for receiving the grant. These, I think, are all the financial points raised by various speakers in reference to the Estimates this year. I do not propose to cross swords with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Springburn (Mr. Macquisten). It was said by Talleyrand of the great Napoleon, that he spoke of civilisation as if it were his personal enemy. The hon. Member for Springburn certainly spoke of education as if it constituted a personal affront. He spoke enthusiastically of the university of life. I put to him this question. Is there any Member of this House who is prepared, provided he has a competent balance at his bankers, to throw his children out into the university of life at the age of 14] That test is quite a fair one. There will always be a number of learned gentlemen who go about the world disparaging education, but it is not the education which he is able to provide for his own children that a man disparages, but that which it is proposed to give to the poorer sections of the community. I should have had more regard for the hon. and learned Member's observations if he had shown an elementary knowledge of the education which is actually being carried on in our State-aided schools. I cannot, of course, speak for Scotland; I am only responsible for the Vote of the Board of Education for England and Wales; but when I am told that the education carried on in our schools is a purely literary education, I hold up my hands in astonishment. "Why, if there is one feature more than another which has characterised the educational development in our elementary schools, and also in our secondary schools, in the last 20 years, it has been the development of what I may call the non-literary elements in education—the artistic element, scientific and manual elements, the development of musical training, of nature-study, of manual training, of exercises and games. A little time ago I had a very interesting meeting with 40 elementary school teachers from France. They had been sent over by the Minister of Public Instruction in France to go to see some of our elementary schools here, and at the end of their tour I asked them what were their impressions of our system. They said, "We are inclined to think that your 1066 children in England do not work so hard as our children in France, and that they do not actually learn as much in the way of book knowledge as our children in France; but, on the other hand, we think that your schools have very marked advantages. The children are much happier, the social relations between the teachers and the children are much more wholesome; you have organised, in a way in which we have not, games and physical exercises among your children. We have nothing which corresponds to your manual training for boys, or to your training in cookery and sewing for girls." I do not give these impressions as being a scientific verdict, but merely as the first impressions of a number of teachers.
I do not subscribe to the view that the teachers in our grant-aided schools are more mechanical, more servile, more incompetent, than teachers in private schools. That seems to me to be a perfectly preposterous view, which cannot for a moment be accepted as true by anyone who knows the facts. There is a great deal of life in our elementary schools, and a great deal of initiative. There are a number of talented teachers; there are some even of genius. It is very difficult for anyone, whatever his experience, to make a generalisation which even approximately corresponds with the facts of institutions so varying in type as are the elementary schools of this country. It is of course true that no one can enter an elementary school without finding things which he desires to change, but there is a very great difference between one school and another. Some of our elementary schools are probably the best in the world. Others are very inferior. I would impress on hon. Members who are not specially versed in local educational matters that before forming a judgment on the value of our system of education they should take elaborate opportunities of informing themselves as to the work done in the different types of schools. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. O'Connor) and the hon. Member for Cirencester (Mr. T. Davies) alluded to the administrative and practical difficulties that arise out of our dual system in education. Those difficulties are very real. I do not for a moment under-rate them. Nothing would please me more than to see a solution. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division alluded to the great sacrifices which are 1067 made by the Irish community in Liverpool to keep their schools going. I am well aware of the great interest that Irish and English Roman Catholics take in their own form of education and I sympathise with the efforts they are making, but if what is known as the religious question in the elementary schools is to be solved it must be by common consent. It is not for the Minister of Education to impose a settlement. I believe there is a greater spirit of accommodation, compromise and mutual sympathy existing on this subject now than ever before, but it is for the leaders of the churches to come together. It is for them to suggest the lines on which they think a solution could be found. The hon. Member (Mr. Davies) alluded to some suggestions for a solution which I had thrown out. They were only intended to be suggestions for discussion. I was aware they might be considered to be controversial, and I made it perfectly clear that the Government could not proceed with any plans on the lines of those suggestions unless it were assured of general consent. I wish the different parties to the controversy were sufficiently close together to render legislation for the abolition of the dual system a practical proposition of the near future.
I may perhaps be permitted to say a few words upon the progress which has recently been accomplished in our public system of education. I felt it necessary, in my speech earlier in the day, to confine myself almost exclusively to the financial aspect of the case. I gathered from the general tone of the discussion that there was a feeling abroad that the country was not getting enough for its money, and that educational progress was not advancing at a sufficiently rapid pace.
Educational progress will never advance at a sufficiently rapid pace to please me. I think there has been a tendency to under-estimate the progress which has actually been accomplished. Just think of this. We have placed the teaching profession upon an altogether higher level of comfort and security. That, in itself, is a very great step forward. We have, in the next place, provided a very much broader and more solid highway from the elementary school to the university. We have founded 200 scholar- 1068 ships, which were awarded for the first time last year upon work done in our grant-aided schools. As I have said, 152 scholarship holders have come up from the elementary schools. There has also been a very considerable increase both in the number of free places and in the sum spent on maintenance allowances for children receiving their education in secondary schools. And the number of children receiving their education in secondary schools has been doubled in the last four years.
Is not that a very considerable educational progress? I think it is. More than that, we have already begun to lay the foundations for our continuation school system. I was very much pleased to hear the hon. and gallant Member for Lewisham (Lieut.-Colonel Pownall) explain to the Committee the reasons which led him to believe in the necessity of some form of education continuation. If I may express my own deep conviction, it is that the millions which are spent on elementary education will be very largely wasted unless some provision can be made that the knowledge acquired in the elementary schools is retained during the period of adolescence. I was very much impressed when I was in academic life myself, and had to deal with a great technical college, with the evidence of the great loss of knowledge which supervened during the period of adolescence between the close of the elementary school life and that period in the life of young men when they suddenly begin to feel the stir of a desire to learn. There is a great wastage here, and it is obviously an unreasonable distribution of expenditure that you should spend a great deal on the elementary schools, on your universities and higher and technical schools, and nothing or very little upon education during the period of adolescence. I rejoice, therefore, that the principle of continuation schools is on the Statute Book. I have always realised that continuation schools could be only very gradually built up. I am very glad to see that a beginning has been made. By a very great triumph of organisation the metropolis of the Empire has already established 22 of such schools, and something between 50 and 60 of such schools have been established in other parts of the country. The attendance is 1069 admirable, and the reports which I have had on the work are most encouraging. I look forward to the time when we shall be able, with all due regard to the necessity of taking no rash step, but making every step safe as we go, to fill in the outlines sketched by the Education Act, and give a complete system of education which will provide for future generations the training which is requisite to give to every child in the country the best possibility of development which human enterprise can afford.
I listened with very great pleasure to the praise that was lavished on the school medical service by one hon. Member. I can assure him that the Board are fully cognisant of the value of that part of the Department's work; that progress is being made rapidly along the lines he has sketched out, and that of the 319 local education authorities, 300 now provide some form of medical treatment for their children. The large majority provide for the minor ailments of the children and the defects of vision. I am also glad to say that there is a large increase in the number of authorities who provide organised physical training, and we may look with confidence to a great improvement in the standard of the physical training of the youth of the country. I would, therefore, ask those Members of the Committee who are specially interested in education to take courage. The Circular issued by the Board does not prohibit the educational expenditure of local authorities, but it warns local authorities that every item of proposed expenditure will be carefully scrutinised before it is sanctioned as expenditure in aid of which a grant from the Board can be made. I hope that I have covered most of the points raised in the discussion, and that we may now get the Vote.
§ Question, "That a sum, not exceeding £28,014,565, be granted for the said service," put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.