HC Deb 27 April 1922 vol 153 cc814-58

Again considered in Committee.

[Mr. JAMES HOPE in the Chair.]

Postponed Proceeding resumed on Question, That a sum, not exceeding £27,900,000, 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, 1923, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Education, and of the various Establishments connected therewith, including sundry Grants-in-Aid.

Question again proposed.


In the Edinburgh "Quarterly Review" for January, there is a very able paper, written by one of the greatest authorities, I suppose, on these mental questions in the Kingdom, Sir Archdall Reid, and it refers to this question very much in the same terms as does this gentleman in the States, from whose book I have been quoting. He also says that there is only one remedy for this kind of thing, and that palliatives are no good at all. In his very last words he says: I believe that the method indicated in these pages, the sterilisation of the natural defective, is the only practical remedy. It is a very strong order to ask the Minister of Education to sterilise all those who are supposed to be mentally deficient, but I do ask that a Committee should be set up in connection with the Ministry of Health as well as the Board of Education. In my own county we have flatly refused to take up the charge of these feebleminded. Although we have been told it is our duty under the Act—as it is—we found the cost so excessive, running into many thousands of pounds, that we absolutely refused to take it up. The consequence is that these girls are living at home. Sir Archdall Reid gives the case of one mentally defective girl who had 11 illegitimate children. These will go on breeding like rabbits. Unless something is done, we shall be a nation in which the majority are defective before another 100 years have passed over our heads. Therefore, I do urge that the Ministry of Health and the Board of Education should see if they cannot set up a Commission to go into the whole thing, remembering that in 15 of the United States of America they have put in force the sterilising of members of both sexes with the greatest possible benefit.


I am sure that many Members feel a large measure of sympathy with the President of the Board of Education in his difficulties, but we should watch with some amazement his efforts, if he attemptel to adopt the prescription of my hon. Friend who has just sat down. I shall wait to see what response my right hon. Friend makes to this courageous invitation. In the meantime, I will turn to what, I think, are more, practical questions. Several time* during this discussion reference has been made—and very justly—to the real personal enthusiasm of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education. I think I can say, without revealing any official secrets, there was a time when some of us made the suggestion—in fact I made it myself—that it was time we had somebody at the Board of Education who knew something about education. The result was that my right hon. Friend was invited to occupy that post. He does not occupy a very enviable position at the present time, and I am sure he will acquit me of any desire to add to his difficulties by any criticisms I want to make. But, after all, the subject is beyond the question of his good intentions. The matter before us is, What does the. Government propose to do I In the first place, generally speaking, I welcome his suggested scheme of dealing with grants—I will not say the specific form. It has been clear for some years past that some simplification of the grant system was inevitable, and, indeed, necessary. The percentage system tended sometimes to stereotype methods, left insufficient room for local initiative, and was, I fear, very often at the same time an incentive to extravagance. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend two or three questions. I understand that one of the economies proposed is the closing of a certain number of small schools. I wonder where those small schools are.


I am afraid I cannot have made myself clear. What I said was that the Geddes Committee desired to strengthen the Board's hands with a view of enabling them to close small schools, but the Government were unable to accept that suggestion for various reasons, and I am afraid we shall be able to do practically nothing in that respect.


I thought my right hon. Friend, in referring to the administration economies, classified that as one.




I must have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman. One recognises his difficulties with the smaller schools, but there is no question that the state of many of our schools, especially in country districts, is a disgrace to our educational system. Many of them are grossly overcrowded. Many of them are in a very unsatisfactory condition, considering the number of children that attend them. The right hon. Gentleman's difficulty is that the schools are vested in an authority over which he has no control. It arises out of the system which was set up some years ago, and I know that various methods have been devised for removing the obstacles to unification, which is necessary for improving this class of schools. The fact is, the managers of these voluntary schools in these days have not got the funds, and the buildings get more and more derelict, though the managers are often as anxious as my right hon. Friend to improve the buildings. I do hope he will not allow considerations of economy to prevent his using his best efforts to help those who are seeking to find a way out of this difficulty. I am not going into any details to-day, but he ought not, on the ground of economy, to diminish his efforts to promote a settlement which will bring an end to this lamentable system—I mean, lamentable to a large number of old country schools. This matter cannot be escaped from by either party.

The Committee will turn to the Memorandum of the Board of Education and they will see that in it there are two or three very striking features. There are two items in which there are small increases and others where considerable saving is suggested. It is on these latter I wish to speak for two or three minutes in particular, and I desire to ask some questions. It will be observed that the Special Services Estimate is reduced from £4,154,000 to £3,400,000—nearly 20 per cent. Further we find that Administrative and other expenditure is reduced from £13,000,000 to £12,000,000—about 10 per cent. There is a big reduction in the proportion of grant for the Special Services expenditure. What is that expenditure? We see below (page 4) that it is, school medical service, provision of meals, special schools for defective children, organisation of physical training, evening play centres, and nursery schools. The grants for these services are to be cut down 20 per cent. I regard that as—and I say it without any disrespect to my right hon. Friend—as a most discreditable proposal. If it were shown that there is real waste in any of these services, then of course cut it down, but my right hon. Friend did not suggest that as a reason—because he cannot.


May I point out to my right hon. Friend that out of the total saving of £754,000 on special services there is to be a saving of £730,000 due to the limitation of grants for the provision of meals, leaving, therefore, the saving to be. effected on all the other branches of the special services of only £24,000. It appears to me that the Special Services get off very lightly, practically with a reduction of £24,000.


I was coming to that in my very next sentence. What I want to do is to bring the Committee to ask how this will be brought about? It will be brought about, as the right hon. Gentleman has reminded us, by a reduction of £730,000 on the provision of meals. How are these children fed? How does it come about that in the elementary schools the children are fed at all? What is the process? The children are observed, in the first place, or are known to the teachers, and the entrants undergo, I think, a medical examination—a matter which has not been mentioned at all. We have at the present time about half a million of children certified to be suffering from mal-nutrition. If the teachers or officers set apart for the purpose are satisfied that the children really need meals they are given a ticket, or marshalled at dinner time and taken to the place where meals are provided. Very often they are provided in buildings attached to the schools, or buildings close at hand. In any case, as a rule, the education authority make the arrangements. It is part of the routine of the day in connection with these children who nerd meals. What is going to happen to those children?

If it were suggested that last year or the year before so many hundred thousand children have been picked out otherwise than as they are, and by some mere casual application of somebody outside, not by the people who know them in the schools and who know the circumstances—if I say it were suggested that 600,000, or 100,000, or 200,000 children last year or the year before have been regularly fed who ought not to have been fed, or who could afford to pay for their meals, or who were not hungry; if it had been suggested that there was waste or maladministration, that would be a different matter. That is not suggested. I think the right hon. Gentleman does not suggest that?


I do. My point is that I am very doubtful as to whether these grants are in effect properly administered. I have, of course, no objection to necessitous cases being fed. It is also possible that there has been no maladministration. I do not say there has been. I do not know. But I am very uneasy at this very large expenditure which I cannot adequately control or justify to this House on the Education Vote.


I cannot understand my right hon. Friend's argument. I could understand it perfectly if he applied it to the whole of the services. There might then have been a good deal to be said for it; or that the matter should be under the Poor Law guardians or the district council. Half a dozen suggestions might be made on that point. They are quite arguable. But such suggestions do not apply to the mere arbitrary cutting down of £730,000. How is it arrived at?


I have explained that. As I have explained, one of the main objects of the Provision of Meals Act was to enable children who travel some distance to school to obtain meals at school, and it was expected that in these cases the children would be able to pay the cost of the meals, apart, of course, from necessitous children. For these we are taking the normal expenditure in times of no great wave of unemployment.




Higher than pre-War. We have made, I think, liberal allowance. It is higher than any expenditure before 1920–1921.


With great respect to my right hon. Friend there is something which is of greater importance in this matter than his Vote, and that ie what are these children going to do? This is not a proposal to put the amount on to some other Vote, but an arbitrary figure is taken. The real reason was that stated by my right hon. Friend with his customary frankness—an educational reason. What is going to happen as the result of it is this: the education authority, when it happens to be in a poor district, will have to take its share of the grant—no doubt special allowance will be made—but in the main the grant will have to be made on a population basis. Having done that the district will have to be rationed and make the best of it, and in the poor district the ration will be less than now. To ration these children in these particular localities, and to give the simplest kind of mid-day meal at a time like this is a big problem. You are going to make this reduction on the ground of economy. That is not going to be an economy, and I claim that it has no relation to education. You are going to have a much more wasteful system established or else the children are going hungry. One of those two things must inevitably arise in every poor district. What happens now? The children are known individually to the teachers who select them and give them the ticket to go to have a meal. In future the number of children who can get these tickets will be limited either by so many days a week or to so many children just as the amount of cash will provide. The result will be that there will have to be applications to the guardians in respect of some of these children and they will have to set up a mid-day feeding centre.


I expressly said that we contemplate that the local education authority will make the necessary arrangements for the meals at the schools, and the service will be such as they are able to provide. The only question is from what source the meals are to be financed, and I suggest that the cost of the meals should not be borne on the Education Vote.


I am not satisfied with that. I had a great deal to do with the initial organisation of this system, and I know the reasons why the school authorities undertook this work. A whole series of administrative conundrums presented themselves, and the result was that in course of time we came to the conclusion that the only people to have charge of this business were those who knew all about the children and who could pick them out. If you like to say that two-thirds of this charge shall be taken off the Board of Education Vote and put on to the Ministry of Health Vote, or the general rate of the local authority or anything else, that would meet the case from your point of view, it might be fair, but by this proposal you are simply slicing off £730,000 from this particular service without a vestige of suggestion as to what is to be done in place of it. It is an utterly indefensible proposition, and I am sure my right hon. Friend cannot maintain it for three months. It cannot be worked in that way. The proper way is to say that a certain percentage of it is not an educational charge and should be allotted to some other Vote, but simply to cut it off and make no other proposal in its place is an improper and discreditable suggestion. I am most disappointed with this proposal, and I hope my right hon. Friend will set to work to think out some way of avoiding this method.

I want the House to recognise that £750,000 on this service is the biggest cut in the whole Vote, and nine-tenths of the economy is to be made at the expense of the poor children's stomachs. I sincerely hope that the Committee will express its disapproval of this proposal which I think is most unfortunate. The other suggestions on Special Services really amount to this, that you are simply marking time. Personally I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman is not going to cut these services any more. The hon. Member who spoke last and those acquainted with our school system know that what my right hon. Friend has described as a revolution in the health of our children has been brought about by this system of services, and the general scheme under medical inspection of clinics and all the rest of it, and this has brought about in the health of the children better results during the last 20 years than almost all our other Acts dealing with the physique of the children. That is much more important than any amount of school work. I am still quite unorthodox in that respect. I believe it is much more important that a child between the age of six and nine should have its body kept in a good condition, and for this reason I am thankful that there are no other serious diminutions of these services. I do not want to make my right hon. Friend's task more difficult than it otherwise would be in that respect, but if you want to improve the efficiency of the British nation that is the worst place to begin, and the history of the last twenty years has illustrated this to the most convinced apostle of anti-waste.

There is one other feature which calls for comment. I am not quite clear as to what my right hon. Friend proposes to do in regard to the size of classes. I gather that he wishes to keep things from getting worse, and that is what it practically amounts to.




With that assurance from the right hon. Gentleman, I can say we are glad it is no worse. Then I come to the question of secondary schools. I am glad my right hon. Friend has been able to withstand some of the clamour which arose in consequence of the Geddes Report, because although it is, and must be, true that there are a large number of children who are sent to a school who are not intellectually capable of making the best use of the education given—and that must be the experience of all actively interested in education—there are still vast numbers of children outside these schools who cannot be squeezed in at all as things are, and they would immensely benefit by the secondary education if they could have it. I am glad to find that the numbers of these schools are not going to be reduced. It appears to me, however, that the day continuation school movement, a movement for the improvement, training, and education of adolescents, is in abeyance. If there is one thing my right hon. Friend stands for in British education, it is the education of adolescents.


Hear, hear!


I am glad to hear that cheer. I honour my right hon. Friend for it. I think he himself must feel the greatest possible disappointment that in the year 1922 an Act which was passed in the year 1918 to give this education is in abeyance, and that facilities for the training of adolescents are being withheld. Most of us will agree that one learns more at the age of 15 or 16 years than for years previously.


The number of pupils in grant-aided secondary schools has been doubled.


But I am speaking of the day continuation schools, in regard to which there is practically no advance, nor are we encouraged to look for any in the near future. If there was one thing those of us who were behind the scenes found during the War, it was that we were very short of trained ability in young people. In every direction that fact cropped up. Whatever the crisis with which we were confronted, we always found ourselves short of people who had been trained in their youth, and we had to fall back on those who were gravely handicapped by that lack of training. We do hope that that training will be forthcoming in the future' and that there will be real instruction in the various technical, scientific, industrial and other spheres. I know it is of no use pressing my right hon. Friend to tell us anything as to the likelihood of progress in the future, but I do want to point out that the absence of these day continuation schools is a great defect in our educational system at the present time, and will remain a most serious defect until we make arrangements adaptable to provide for the training of adolescents according to their capacity. No one expects that all children will be able to take advantage of this continuation training, but the nation will be enriched eventually by a- system of this kind. I hope, therefore, that all interested in education will do what they can to support the right hon. Gentleman, first in resisting any reduction in secondary education, and secondly whenever the opportunity occurs in promoting as far as he can some modicum at any rate of the continuation system of education of which we stand so sorely in need.


I listened, as did the Committee, with attention, interest and sympathy to the lucid explanation and complicated figures presented by my right hon. Friend in his statement, and I realised that minute criticism of details on a large and intricate subject like this is of very little use. Our educational system is not a system of recent manufacture; it is one which has gradually grown up. It has spread in many directions, it is complicated, and, on the whole, it has been enormously advantageous to the health and welfare of the people of this country. At the present time we are faced with the necessity for national economy on an unprecedented scale, and it is reasonable to consider that every branch of our national activities must submit to some retrenchment. Unfortunately we are not in the same position as the individual who has to retrench his personal expenditure. We have never been told what is the total revenue that this country can afford to raise, but if we did know the total amount beyond which we might not healthily go, but up to which we might healthily rise, we could decide that this or some other branch of our national activities should suffer retrenchment until the general expenditure was brought down within the national income. If we knew that, it would be the desire of everyone that where retrenchment was necessary we should make it, not at the expense of the young, but of the old. If we have to retrench, if we have to give up useful activity, if we are obliged not to spend money in many directions in which we would like to spend it, surely one would say that, whatever else we gave up, the expenditure on the education of the young should be the last branch of national expenditure on which we ought to retrench. Granted that we have to cut our expenditure to the bone, I would say, cut it to the bone first of all in matters relating to old people rather than to children. Let the children, be the last to be penalised. That is the general attitude in which I, for one, should approach the question of educational economics.

The use of the word "education" has come to be almost a superstition. We talk of education as though everyone knew what we meant. The sort of idea that is prevalent is that if you have a man or a woman whom you call a teacher, if you have a building which you call a school, and if you have children, and put the children into the school in the presence of the teacher, you get education, and that the more of these schools you have, and the more of these people called teachers, so much the more you have of education. That is entirely fallacious. There is a great deal more than that in education. Teachers, for instance, can- not be created in unlimited numbers. The teacher is born, and not made. In this country there only exists a certain definite number—one cannot say how many—of people who are born teachers; and by no process can that number be increased. There is a sort of idea that, if you take ordinary intelligent young persons, put them through an establishment called a training college, pass them through all sorts of examinations, and bring them out with a certificate, you get teachers; and that you can secure that those teachers shall do the work that teachers ought to do by putting them into a kind of harness, as though it were to a cart, and driving them along a fixed road. You inspect them at particular definite intervals, you give them a curriculum which they are to follow, and then, it is thought, you have got an educational machine into one end of which you can push the children of the country, and, by grinding the handle, get out at the other end educated people.

9.0 P.M.

That is an entirely false idea. You have to find your teachers by some system, and I dare say the Board of Education does operate as well as one can, in this imperfect world, expect it to operate in searching for teachers. The assumption is that you find them; the assumption is that the people you put into schools to teach your children are, in fact, teachers. You have to go on that assumption. Then, I would say, treat them accordingly. How would you treat the ideal teacher? If you are to make them ideal teachers, you must treat them as such, and the way to do that is to give them freedom and confidence. But you do nothing of the kind. You are all the time inspecting them, and reporting on them, and going to look into them, and opening the watch to sees how the works are going. All that has one tendency, and one tendency only, and it is to make a good teacher into a bad one, and not to make a bad teacher into a good one. All of us who have had to pass through that ghastly thing which we call education, and who look back upon those dark days when we were pupils in schools, may ask ourselves how many teachers did any of us come in contact with in that time? Personally, from the age of ten to the age of one-and-twenty, I encountered three, and those three taught me everything I ever knew, all the rest being absolute futilities. I am afraid that that is a very common experience. I hope it is less common in our day than it used to be more years ago than I care to count. Let me urge that, broadly speaking, the first thing is to put confidence in the teacher; and the second thing is to put confidence in the local authority. The local authority knows more about the needs of the locality than any central board can, and all of us who have had experience of local authorities know how keen they are, in the main, on doing their work well. You put your teacher in a school and inspect him, and then, in a sense, you inspect your local authority; but why should you not inspect the Board of Education? There must be an end to it somewhere. Should not the end be at the beginning? Why not give more freedom and more confidence, in the hope that, broadly speaking, good results will come, and, indeed, better results in proportion as you give this freedom and confidence?

To turn to a different question, everyone desires that what has been called a ladder should exist that will enable the humblest-born child in this country to reach the highest education that it is possible to attain; that is to say, that every child born with a mind capable of being developed to the highest degree should be able to accomplish that development with all the assistance that educational institutions can give. That does not mean to say that everyone is to be educated beyond a certain point. It is not, in fact, a ladder that we want from the lowest slum to the highest university honour. What we want is a sieve, so that we may be quite sure that not a grain is kept above the sieve that can get through it, and that not a grain large enough to remain in the top of the sieve gets lost. We want to sift the millions of children born in this country, to discover, to isolate, to bring out, to help in every way, all the finest ability in the country, and allow none of it to escape. If you succeed in getting that, you get really all that is required, because the number of really able and most highly developed and educated people that are wanted will never be many. You cannot give occupation to too many. I rather doubt whether in the past there has ever been much difficulty in genius emerging from the crowd. In the Middle Ages, for instance, you will find amongst the Lord Chancellors, or their equivalent in those days, peasant-born children who grew and developed and reached the highest position in the land. It has never been impossible, but it ought to be easy. There ought to be no impediment whatever in the way of rising from the bottom to the top. You do not, however, want to waste education, as we often see it wasted, upon uneducable material. I am not speaking now of the working classes at all. I am speaking of boys—there are heaps of them—who have had quantities of education wholly wasted upon them. It is as true in one rank of life as in any other. You can waste education in the most appalling manner, and I have not the least doubt that of the £88,000,000 which we are spending this year, a considerable fraction—I do not care to guess how much—will be wasted in attempting to give education to uneducable material.

There is a final point I should like to suggest for consideration. The normal development of the individual from the embryo stage to that of a grown man follows the general line of development of the human race. The human race in developing from the monkey and pre-monkey stage up to the present semi-civilised condition of man followed a certain line of development, and that line of development, broadly speaking, is followed by every individual human being between the embryo stage and the stage of fully-developed man. I suggest that we might take a lesson from nature and see whether our educational system ought not more or less to follow the analogy which nature shows us in developing our physical form. Man, if you go back in the past, learnt first of all to use flint implements. He improved his tools and developed his skill, and it was tens, and, possibly, hundreds of thousands of years from the time he first came into existence before he invented the alphabet. Mankind learnt skill first, and went to abstractions later on. He came to writing relatively late. He came to abstractions, such as arithmetic, mathematics, grammar, and all those things later, whereas in our system of education we go to work the other way about. We begin with abstractions, and we go on to the concrete later. We have been told today that the idea is to devote children up to the age of 11, plus—I suppose that means less than 12—to the three R's. I suggest that that is an entirely unscientific method of education, and that the whole system of education is perhaps fundamentally and radically wrong, and that we ought to begin with rudimentary skill of hand before we attempt to supply abstract ideas to the brain.

What is the purpose of education? I have suggested that there are four principal factors in education—first, to build up a healthy body; secondly, to build up a sound character; thirdly, to provide skill of hand; and, fourthly, to instil knowledge. Knowledge is certainly the last of those four things that any child needs. Everyone needs a healthy body. Everyone needs a sound character. It is just as well for everyone to have skill of hand, but as for knowledge—what do any of us know? Therefore I hope some day there may be a possibility of entirely overhauling our system of education. Suppose you had two nations engaged in combat, in one of which every citizen possessed skill and in the other every citizen possessed knowledge. I am inclined to think the skilful nation would win. It would have been an immense advantage to me if I had learnt mathematics a little later and how to plane a deal board a little earlier. I think if skill of hand were an essential part of all education in public schools, and if you were taught vulgar fractions by sawing a board into halves, quarters, thirds and so on before you had to do it on a piece of paper, you would get a much more healthy population. We should have one thing in common, the whole lot of us, and that is skill of hand. We should have far more respect for each other's occupations if we all had that common foundation. I am hoping that some day our whole system of education may be revised in that sense, and along with that revision a considerable diminution in the cost of education might be brought about. The President of the Board of Education has the interests of education at heart and has worked as very few of us have been able to work for national education, and as things are to-day all I can say is that I support his proposals and hope they may work out to the public good.


Without following the hon. Member who has delighted the Committee with his disquisition on education, I agree with him in the desire that local authorities should have greater latitude with regard to the control of educational matters and in the emphasis that he laid on the need for a healthy body. I was rather surprised that he should end up by supporting the Minister in the reduction he is making in the grant to local authorities for the feeding of poor children, because this did not seem to have the logic which generally characterises his arguments. I am surprised also that with his desire that skill should be imparted at school and that children should learn vulgar fractions by sawing wood into various pieces, he is supporting the Minister in his desire to cut down the teachers in the elementary infant schools to those of less trained minds and training than you have at present, because if you are to have a skilled training it is not by cutting down the teachers who are dealing with the youngest children. In fact one rather imagines that the younger the child the more important it is to have a highly skilful technical teacher. It is much easier to teach an older child to learn things. I rose chiefly to ask the Parliamentary Secretary a question or two with regard to the position of local authorities and the economies which he suggests. We find in the White Paper which has been issued that, whereas the reduction in grant which the Board is making is nearly £3,000,000 to the local authorities—about £2,000,000 to elementary and £1,000,000 to higher education—on the next page but one we find that the economies which the local authorities are likely to accomplish during the coming year only total the sum of £967,000 as against £3,000,000 which is to be cut down in the way of grants. How is that £2,000,000 to be accounted for? Is the £2,000,000 of economy going to be an economy at the expense of the ratepayers to the satisfaction of the taxpayers? If that is so, I am afraid it is a very false economy and that you are placing the burden on the backs of those who are least able to bear it. This is a point which is exercising the minds of local authorities to a great extent.

The economies which the Minister suggests in his White Paper, 20 per cent, on special services and 9 per cent, in administration, are less than certain education authorities with which I am acquainted are already making in their Estimates for the coming year. The local authority on which I served for some years in my constituency is making drastic cuts in their administration and maintenance expenses, cuts which are greater than those which the Minister suggests. Whereas the Minister suggests an economy of 9 per cent, in administration services that local authority is making a cut of 22 per cent., and whereas on special services the Minister foreshadows an economy of 20 per cent, my local authority is making a cut of 35 per cent. Notwithstanding these cuts, notwithstanding that many local authorities are doing what the Board suggests, they are likely to be in a, much worse position oven despite these reduced Estimates, because of the teachers' salaries on the Burnham scales, for which the Board is largely responsible and which they advised the local authorities to accept, otherwise the local authorities would have found themselves in a very awkward position. I know a local authority that refused to accept the Burnham scale, and the consequence was that they could not get their secondary schools adequately staffed. Because they refused to accept the scale and they were not adequately staffed the. Board has refused to give them the grants to which they would have been entitled for their higher educational service. Therefore, local authorities are not free agents in this matter. If they had not adopted the scale, their services would not have been efficient, and they would not have got; the grant which the Board have the power to grant or withhold.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give some satisfaction to the local authorities. What is going to be their position if they carry out the economies which the Minister has foreshadowed, and yet, owing to the extra cost of the Burnham scale, their costs are higher? Owing to the adoption of the Burnham scale, the local authority in my constituency will have to meet an increase of 11 per cent, in teachers' salaries, and that 11 per cent, far outweighs any economies that you can get on maintenance or on special services or on administration. Therefore the net result is that their costs for the coming year are much in excess of last year's. How is this sum of £2,000,000 going to be saved? Who is going to bear it? Is it the case that some local authorities will get a bigger grant than last year and certain other authorities will get less? What is the basis on which the grant is going to be made during the coming year? You have a somewhat elaborate formula for the calculation of the existing substantive grants, a formula made up of what is in effect a capitation grant of 36s. per child in average attendance, and then a percentage grant of three-fifths of the salaries of the teachers and 50 per cent, in regard to loans and administration expenses. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the local authorities on what basis the grants are to be made in the coming year? Is the old formula which has been in force during the last two or three years to hold good? If so, I presume that certain local authorities who are carrying out the economies suggested will get the additional sum that will be provided under the grant. The matter is concerning local authorities very keenly, and they are anxious to know what their position will be in the coming year.

Then there is the question of grants given to necessitous areas. The Board has, during the last two or three years, raised the limit which qualifies for the receipt of the grant. When originally instituted, if the Education Bate was over 20d. in the £ the authority got what was known as the Necessitous Areas Grant. Last year I think it was raised to 40d., and this year it is 48d. in the £. To what extent is that grant benefiting local authorities, because there are comparatively few authorities whose Education Rate amounts to 4s. in the £? Is it not rather a fiction and a delusion to offer local authorities assistance if they reach an expenditure which it is almost impossible for them to reach? Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many local authorities during the forthcoming year will qualify through their rate of 4s. in the £ for educational purposes in order to receive the necessitous grant? A criticism was made by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Marriott) as to the disadvantage of the percentage grant. He quoted the Geddes Committee in favour of abolishing the percentage grant, but he did not give any argument. He seemed to assume the percentage grant to be a grant by accident rather than by design, when, as a matter of fact, the Minister and the Committee well know that the present form of grant was designed particularly to assist areas where you have a big school population and a low rateable value. You have extreme variations. The Education Authority in Middlesbrough had last year an education rate of 3s. 5½d., whereas a purely residential area like Bournemouth had an education rate of only 1s. 5½d., yet they are providing equally a national service. The cost of such education is essentially a national service. The responsibility is imposed by Parliament. The Board lays down lines on which local education authorities must act, and local authorities have practically no discretion with regard to expenditure. Take the question of teachers' salaries laid down by the Burnham scale. That is a national responsibility, fixed by the Board through the Burnham Committee, and it accounts this year for 78½ per cent, of the total rate in my town. That is fixed by Parliament, therefore it is only right that this should be a national burden. It is unfair that areas with a low rateable value and a big child population should have to bear through their rates charges which are more than double the charges in other parts of the country.

To-day the Minister is reducing the assistance in regard to school feeding, which will simply mean a transfer from the education authority to the board of guardians and add to the burden of the local ratepayers. You are, therefore, adding tremendously during the coming year to the charges which during the last year have been practically unbearable, from the point of view of the local authorities. Can the Minister tell us in what way the local authorities are going to make up the £2,000,000 loss which, he says in the White Paper, is to be granted to them during the next year? Can he say whether a local authority, provided that it carries out these economies in administration and special services which he foreshadows, will get the grant on the same basis and formula as it did last year? I will content myself with expressing the importance of industrial areas not being penalised, as foreshadowed in the White Paper, and I trust that when the hon. Gentleman comes to reply he will give an assurance that they will not be penalised, provided they carry out the Regulations as foreshadowed in this White Paper.


This is a Debate upon the Education Estimates. Therefore one must reconcile oneself to the fact that there will be far more talk about Estimates than about education. True to the lesson of the series of speakers who have preceded me, I will begin by referring to a particular estimate regarding the city one division of which I represent, namely, a difficulty which has arisen in Leeds because of the action of the Board of Education with respect to the recognition for grant of advances made by the Leeds Education Authority to the teachers in October, 1920, and in April, 1921. The Leeds Education Authority, like the London Authority, desired to anticipate and arranged, the Board of Education taking no objection, so far as I know, to pay the carry-over to the teachers in two parts, 50 per cent, in October, 1920, and 50 per cent, in April, 1921. In doing so, they assumed, having no evidence or any reason to the contrary, that the Board of Education would recognise these payments for grant, but in January of this year the Board intimated that it would not recognise for grant the second 50 per cent., completing the whole increase, which they had paid since April of last year. I do not wish to go into the matter in more detail, but having mentioned it in this House I will wait and see what explanation the President of the Board of Education can give of the action of his Department in creating a situation in Leeds which has given much trouble and thought both to the teachers, the education authority, and the city council.

It is really very difficult in a debate of this sort to get away from money. The hon. Member for Camberwell (Mr. Ammon), at an earlier period of the Debate, rebuked the President of the Board of Education for having abandoned the idealism of his Oxford and Sheffield period, and for having come here an enemy of education. I wonder how much the hon. Member knows about Oxford, and the finances of Oxford, or the finances of Sheffield University either. From a long experience of Oxford University I can tell him that it is a place where there is never money enough for the work. Some experience of provincial Universities, not Sheffield, leaves me with a strong belief that the great difficulty in those Universities is the same, namely, that there is not enough money for the work. It is precisely the same position in which the Minister of Education finds himself to-day in this House, namely, that there is no money for the work to be done. Consequently, for the hon. Member for Camberwell to blame the President of the Board of Education personally, as if it were his fault that there was no money, or that what there was was not being fully devoted to education, is merely to travesty the present situation.

I was much struck by what I heard of the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) regarding what is called at the Board of Education the "O" Branch, namely, that Department which supervises the expenditure of the £8,000,000 which has been set aside, for the training of ex-service men. I noticed that the hon. Baronet, speaking in the best Balliol manner, though claiming not to be a university man, brought only general charges against the main idea and the detailed working of the scheme, and therefore I shall not enter into details in that matter. I will simply say that, as I was able to see the working of the scheme from several points of view, I found it promising, good, and not wasteful. I happened to go as a member of one of the Civilian Advisory Boards sent to the Army in 1919 to tell the young men of the facilities being provided for them, to advise them, and to make the arrangements by which they afterwards went to the colleges and institutions of their choice. No one who shared in that work could have helped being struck by the impression the scheme made on the Army, or the, attitude of the men in particular who wore going to he benefited, and who were crying out for something of the kind. Later, in Oxford, I saw some of these young men, the work they did, the spirit they put into it, and the satisfactoriness of the whole experiment. Later it was my privilege at the Board of Education to have something to do with the administration of the scheme, and if a general commendation based on experience from these points of view may be held to counteract to some extent the general charges of the hon. Baronet, I hope my commendation may be taken in that sense.

I was impressed with the. speech of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), who was all in favour of examination, although I do not agree with him quit?, in the way in which he put his points. He wanted to re-establish the examination régime for the elementary school. I suggest, on the other hand, that while children are still at the proper age for elementary schooling such examinations as used to be carried out are wholly unsuitable, and, further, that his suggestion that the modern method of inspection is the opposite of examination simply defies the facts, because no inspector of the Board of Education is excluded by his regulations, or is discouraged by the Board, from examining anybody he likes. In fact, his method, in practice, consists of a skilful combination of inspection and examination. If the hon. Member for East Edinburgh means that in the later stages of education, the secondary stages, where you wish to be sure that boys or girls are really making some use of their opportunities, examinations ought to be imposed and re-imposed, then I agree entirely with him, and I regret the general tendency of the country at this time to suppose that at that age you can dispense with examination. I believe, whether you look to intellectual standards or to the bracing of the moral character of these children, examinations are good, because they are the epitome of life. We are always engaged in an examination, having to do the best we can on the spur of the moment without too careful preparation, which is precisely what an examination is.

I could not help observing one point of inconsistency in the speech of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh and in the very remarkable speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington (Major Gray). The hon. Member for Central Edinburgh was sorry that so many Oxford men are included among the inspectors employed by the Board of Education. He thought these posts ought to be kept for the teachers themselves, whereas the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington was very anxious to have all classes of the population brought together in the same classes in school. I want to suggest that if we are to have any chance of reducing the social differences of the country by assimilation in the class-rooms we must be prepared to bring Oxford, or any other university of first standing, into close touch with the elementary teaching of the country, and one good way of doing that is by appointing a number of Oxford men to be inspectors of schools. Furthermore, I know a number of cases of men appointed from Oxford in that way, and I remember two of them who were required to go and teach as a preliminary for a period in an elementary school in order to qualify to be inspectors. So far as the qualification of teachers goes, I think that there is no practical difficulty in getting Oxford or Cambridge men who are keen about the work of inspection to take the trouble to qualify themselves by previous teaching.

I was struck by the remarks of the hon. Member for Oxford City (Mr. Marriott) about training colleges. He was all for the abolition of training colleges, and requiring those who wished to take up the work of elementary teaching to take degrees in universities. I am all with him. In Scotland it is so, and in some other countries educationally in advance of this country on certain points. At the same time, though the proposal is educationally sound, it is extremely surprising to find it coming from the hon. Member, for this reason. At present, a man or woman can become an elementary teacher by going for two years to a training college. It polishes them off in two years. The period is rather short, but the process is completed in that period. If the training colleges were to be abolished, and a university training substituted, it would mean three years at a university and a fourth year of special training as a teacher. So the hon. Member, who has distinguished himself as an economist, is proposing, in reality, to double the cost of preparing elementary teachers for their work. Right educationally, but scarcely suitable, I think, for the hon. Member for Oxford City to utter at the present time.

The abolition of training colleges would be an extreme step. They have good qualities. They have an esprit de corps. They have a character of their own. They cultivate the social graces to some extent, and provide an opportunity for the humanities, which, without them, might be entirely lacking. But there is nothing to prevent the training colleges working in close co-operation with the universities. There is nothing to prevent the nearest university being well represented on the governing body of a training college. There is nothing to prevent university professors in the nearest town doing the examining at these colleges. There is nothing to prevent students in the training colleges from attending classes and taking out studies at a neighbouring university. I believe that in Liverpool this system of co-operation between training colleges for elementary school teachers and local universities has been carried to a very laudable degree of closeness and perfection, and anything which the Board of Education could do to bring the training colleges into touch, as external or quasi-external bodies, with the nearest university would be for the good of the training colleges, and also for the good of the university.

One point more, a financial point. I am very much interested in a good many of the things which appear in these Estimates, new things in particular—those schemes of medical inspection, of which we have heard so much, which cost so little, which are an immense propaganda for medical care among a class of the population that never naturally think very much of those things; such studies as housecraft for girls, most of whom will have to live in homes, and for the promotion of handicraft among boys, most of whom will have to work with their hands, also because many girls have their intelligences best trained by housecraft or things allied with it, and still more because many boys have their intelligences best trained by handicraft or anything that goes with it and not by books or study of the ordinary kind. I put forward these points not as class points, but as education points, because housecraft and handicraft are intimately connected with the building up of intelligence and character in a certain large proportion of human beings.

I am very much interested also in the tutorial classes for working men which receive the admirable sum of £17,500 in the present Estimates. I am also interested in secondary schools. I think that the chief weakness of our educational system is the small volume of secondary teaching. I should like to see the State launching out into a large scheme of subvention for things like these, for the new things in education, many of the experimental things about which the nation at large has not yet quite made up its mind. I should like to see very large grants given to tutorial classes, and those other purposes, and why not now? The answer, of course, is that at present the nation is extremely hard up, and, besides, the nation is already carrying through its central Government very heavy burdens on behalf of local education. I ask the Committee 'what should be the function of the State in defraying the cost of education?

We have slipped far too easily into supposing that, because the State is interested in having an educated proletariat, therefore it ought to pay wholly for that education. I doubt it. I think that the business of the State is, where there is a great venture that ought to be taken up and that will not be taken up well, advantageously, and hopefully without such action, it should take up that venture, but not that it should have to maintain that venture for ever. I want to ask this Committee and the nation, so far as I can reach it, does it really believe in the elementary education of the children of the poor? If so, then the localities should educate all their children because they believe in it, and not because they are compelled to do it or bribed to do it from here. I want the State to keep its money in reserve in order that it may subsidise and encourage the pioneer things, like tutorial classes for adults and secondary education, because secondary education is still a pioneer thing in this country, and I want the State to keep its money in reserve for another purpose—to afford special help to the poor districts.

At present practically all districts of the country get very much the same subvention towards the expenses of the primary education. I know that there is a little formula at the Board of Education. It is very involved, and I cannot write it down or explain it. I know that it makes a slight variation in the total grants according to the amount of money that is yielded by a given local rate. But I should be surprised if the President of the Board of Education would himself maintain that that differentiation between the poor and rich districts is anything like sufficient for the needs of the present day. The hon. Member for Camberwell (Mr. Ammon), I think it was, said that the cost of all primary education must be put upon the taxes, as the poor districts cannot pay. That cannot be done until the present system, which sends so much money down to defray the cost of elementary education in each district, is reformed The business of the State is not to undertake for good and all the burden of elementary education. We have had elementary education since 1870. Why not make it compulsory, and cease to pay? Let the localities pay. Let the State subsidise by special grants the exceptionally poor districts, which will be in a minority. Let it pay nothing at all to the richer districts. Let it also subsidise by grants those newer and rather more expensive ventures indulged in by some local authorities and omitted by others which really mark out the lines of progress for the nation in education.


I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.

I have listened with very great interest to the Debate, and I have observed that throughout, with one exception, not a single speaker has yet given expression to the demand which is latent outside for an examination, for the purpose of economy, of the expenditure upon education. I am not going to do it myself, but I think the fact I have stated is indicative of the lack of courage of those who criticise expenditure upon education, that they have not got up to give expression——


We have not been called; you must wait.


I am sorry I forgot the right hon. Baronet, but I give him an opportunity of moving a reduction of the Vote by £100.


I shall vote with you.


I move the reduction in order to call attention to certain items upon Vote number one. The economists in education are insistent that the time has come for cutting down our expenditure on education. We have heard a good deal to-day relative to some of the statements made by older critics of educational expenditure, but that ought not to deter us from making the point that when we consider educational expenditure we ought to consider it in the light of the England after 1918. In 1918 an Act was passed which sent a thrill of joy through every educational circle in the country. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Vote that the fact that the Act of 1918 has in some measure been laid aside, has, rightly or wrongly, brought his own name into some measure of disrepute. Perhaps from some points of view that is unjustified, because there is not the faintest doubt, in my mind, anyhow, that if the right hon. Gentleman had his own way he would be glad to see all the provisions of the 1918 Act put into operation. I believe the right hon. Gentleman is still as keen upon educational reform as he was when that Act was passed. But the fact remains that this Act of Parliament, a sort of charter for the young of the country, is scrapped in the interests of what we call economy.

I will apply my mind to some of the lines along which economies are being proposed. Let me make one criticism, in the first place, as to the general outline of these Estimates. There is a division of expenditure under various heads, such as elementary and higher education. That presupposes an entirely wrong attitude concerning education. It has been accepted in this country, unfortunately, for too long. There is no justification at all for dividing education into elementary and secondary. The underlying conception of the definition is that elementary education is just good enough for a certain type of child drawn from a certain circle in society and that secondary and higher education are in the nature of things destined for those who belong to a totally different section of society. Fortunately, by the provision of certain scholarship schemes and so on, people who belong to what are called the lower orders are enabled to avail themselves of higher education. But the conception is there, and we ought to look forward to the time when we can entirely remove this unfortunate and entirely artificial barrier between the elementary school and the secondary school. I would be very glad indeed to see the whole scheme of scholarships, good as those scholarships are, utterly removed, and I would like to see it possible for the child of the elementary school who gives evidence of intellectual capacity, to go as easily from the elementary school to the secondary school as he goes from a fourth to a fifth or from a fifth to a sixth standard. A system which does not admit of that fails in its purpose.

One word by way of commendation of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that he does not propose to economise upon the provision for physically and mentally defective children. I hope there is some measure of substance in that promise. I can only say that I am obliged to feel a little doubtful about it, and for this reason: I happen to know that the Glamorgan Education Committee, of which I was a member last year, has placed proposals before the right hon. Gentleman for providing a school for blind children in that county. The Committee had the offer of a building at an extremely reasonable price, and yet on account of the campaign conducted in the country this institution has been allowed to pass, the Education Committee has not been allowed to buy it, and provision for blind children has not been made as adequate as it ought to be in Glamorganshire. If the right hon. Gentleman promises that applications such as that will from now on be favourably considered, I for one will be among the first to rejoice. I want to make one other protest concerning the most unsatisfactory statement as to the feeding of school children. I followed with the greatest possible keenness the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman. I ask frankly whether the right hon. Gentleman has yet made arrangements with the Ministry of Health or some other Departments to take over this particular work, for if no other Department is to take it over the only conclusion we can draw is that this particular activity is to be reduced to an absurd degree. I suspect I am correct in my assumption that the real objection to the feeding of school children arises from what happened last year in various industrial districts during the coal lock-out. I have not the faintest doubt in my mind that the objection is this—the Government have discovered that the putting into operation of the Act providing meals for necessitous school children strengthened the power of the working classes to maintain their opposition to the employers, and in order to deprive the working-class people of the power of resistance which they possessed in having their children saved from shortage of food, this privilege is to be taken away from education authorities. That is a most sinister move, and I tell the right hon. Gentleman quite frankly, if that is the move, it is one of the most unworthy moves I have observed made in this House since I came to it. [HON. MEMBERS: "An unworthy charge!"] I daresay it appears unworthy to hon. Members opposite Still, I stick to it until it is formally denied

10.0 P.M.

I want to pass on to another question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am quite sure hon. Members opposite must feel a sense of relief. I pass on to the proposal to add to the size of the classes in elementary schools and I would like to invite the Committee to consider exactly what the enlargement of the classes to50 or 60 will mean. Let mc take the Committee for a moment to an elementary school where some new principle is being taught. [Interruption.] I am afraid I cannot make this sufficiently interesting to some hon. Members opposite, but I will make it clear to those hon. Members who are prepared to listen with some measure of decency and respect. The time for the lesson is reduced to half-an-hour. There are 60children in the class. It will take the teacher half that time to expound the principle and there is only a quarter of an hour left, and with 60 children that gives exactly a quarter of a minute for each student in the class. The tendency of education obviously should be to establish close contact between the teacher and the pupil, and unless that contact is developed and made more intense, obviously the effectiveness of the teacher is reduced. What, chance has a teacher to get even a full return of the labour he puts in when the number of separate individualities and separate personalities which he has to deal with in his class is increased to this extent? It reduces him from being a careful, clear-thinking teacher, applying himself to the mind of each separate child, and makes him a mere lecturer to children who cannot understand. That is where this proposal as to increasing the size of the class will fail. There are something like 2,500,000 young persons in this country between the ages of 14 and 18.Thereare6,000,000children in elementary schools, and of these only 270,000 over11 years of age pass into recognised secondary schools. Out of the 270,000 only 37,000 ultimately pass from the secondary schools into training colleges, and90percent, of the 2,500,000 children between 14 and 18 get no further education whatever. If we are to reduce the number of free placers or limit them to 25per cent, of the total number, obviously we are going to make no effort whatever to bring secondary education to the vast proportion of these young people—the adolescents, to whom reference has been made earlier in the Debate. While there is that very large proportion excluded from the secondary schools there are 26,000 children under the age of 10 in State-aided secondary schools. If we ought to have economy, then I assert the time has come to remove these 26,000 children under the age of 10 from the secondary schools so as to provide 26,000 more places for children over 11who are capable of winning scholarships and ready to sit for scholarship examinations. Regarding training college accommodation, I have received "nee the last education Debate in this House, letters of two kinds from various young pupil teachers. One kind refers to the pupil teachers who have spent years at elementary schools, and have also spent year sat secondary schools, and who have come out possessing certificates such as those of the Welsh Central Board or the Oxford Senior or equivalent certificates, and who have been told on application to the training college authorities that because of the economy campaign there is not to be anyplace for them in the training colleges for the next two or three years. That is a terrible hardship upon young people who have fitted themselves, or hope to fit themselves, for the teaching profession. There is another type. There are the persons who have spent two years of training in the colleges, and are now being told by education authorities on making application for post sin the coming August, that places cannot be found. Their two years' training now turns out to be useless—temporarily, at any rate. They may havetowait12 months or two years—it depends on the financial condition of the country. These young people, at the most difficult time of their lives, find themselves unemployed, after having made serious financial sacrifices in order to fit themselves for the teaching profession. I suggest the economy campaign is being carried rather too far when it involves such young people in an injustice of this kind.

I want to make one or two references to the speech of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Marriott), although I am sorry he is not here at the moment. He made references to the speech of my friend the President of the National Union of Teachers at Torquay last week. I have not the right to speak for my friend, nor indeed ought I feel called upon to reply for him, as he is quite capable of looking after himself and will doubtless take an opportunity of replying in another place, but certain reflections were made on his speech, and some of us here, by our interruptions, appeared to agree with some of the strictures he made on the Geddes Report. It is because of that that I want to make some observations concerning the speech of the hon. Member for Oxford. Our objection to the Geddes Report is this. We feel that the Geddes Committee has betrayed, intentionally or otherwise, an obvious bias as against what are called the social services. If hon. Members will refresh their minds by re-reading that Report, they will find that it comes down with an extremely heavy hand indeed upon what it calls the social services, even in regard to education itself. Take the instance which I gave in the Debate on the last occasion, the instance of the Dartmouth cadets.

When the Geddes Report comes to discuss the reduction of expenditure upon these cadets it makes the suggestion that the £462 per head spent upon those cadets should be reduced by £150. Why by £150? So as to reduce them, they say, to the public schools' level. I have no objection to the public schools' level at all. Indeed, I should be very glad if the public schools' level became the general level of education throughout the country, but we object very seriously to the impertinent assumption that some children of this country are to have a public school educational standard and that other children are to be brought down and, indeed, to be grumbled at if they get a £12 10s. 6d. standard. That is our objection to the Geddes Report, and I have not yet heard in this House any adequate defence of the impertinent assumption that children of the people who do the hard toil in this country should be called upon to do without educational facilities that are granted, without question at all, to the children in other departments of life. I do not begrudge them education, far from it—I congratulate them upon the fact that they have got education, and I would be very glad to have it myself—but while granting it to them I assert, without fear of contradic- tion that that right belongs to every child in this country, and it is because of the implied acceptance of that contrast in society by the Geddes Report that we make the strictures we do upon that Report.

I observed in the somewhat curious remarks of the hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. J. Murray) that he is entirely in agreement with the habit of appointing Oxford people as inspectors of schools in this country. I have nothing to say about Oxford gentlemen as inspectors of schools, but I have this to say, that oftentimes Oxford gentlemen have no knowledge whatsoever about elementary schools—none whatsoever. They have never been there, they know nothing at all about it, except from books, and, as far as practical education is concerned, they know infinitely less than most of the teachers in the elementary schools; but in order to establish that contact between the universities and the elementary schools, I am willing to see some of the inspectorates allowed to Oxford men. I would, however, suggest a better thing to the hon. Member. Suppose we sent some of our elementary school teachers to Oxford and allowed them then, after having had the value of Oxford training, to qualify for inspectorships I Would not that be better? They would then have the value of this social distinction that Oxford confers upon them—[An HON. MEMBER: "And Cambridge!"]—and Cambridge too—with also the advantage of practical knowledge of elementary school work. I object to this assumption that people who belong to Oxford and Cambridge are the only people who are capable of judging what educational work in this country is. Throw it open to all, to people who have been trained in the schools as well as to the gentlemen who have been trained in the universities. Let me say quite frankly that I do not speak with any envy at all. I speak with no malice or bitterness at all. I would like to see a greater spirit of comradeship grow up between the people who attend normal colleges and those who attend the universities of the country. That is all I wish to say on this Vote. I object strongly to some of the economies that are involved in the Vote, and for that reason I move its reduction by £100.


The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) stated that no one during this Debate had got up to urge economy in the expenditure proposed by the President of the Board of Education. That is true, but one of the reasons is that hon. Members who are in favour of expenditure on education have all spoken at such enormous length that it was almost impossible for anybody else to be able to interject a few sensible remarks on the side of economy. The hon. Gentleman is quite right. The majority of speakers this evening have given their views upon how it would be best to educate the children of this country, apparently under the delusion that the question of cost did not matter. That is not an unusual habit when Estimates are discussed in this House, whether for education or other things. The majority of Members of the present Parliament are no doubt sympathetic on platforms in favour of economy, but when Estimates come up they one and all have some reason for thinking that these special Estimates are good, and that there should be no economy, but that there should, on the contrary, be an increase, and as long as hon. Members have that opinion I am very much afraid that no economies of any real importance will be obtained. The time is so short—and I know the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary wishes to reply—that I must cut my remarks equally short. Therefore, I will not attempt to discuss at any length the question as to whether or not the education which is given at the present moment to the children of the people who receive it: is doing any good. I very much doubt it, in view of the fact that a large number of people in this country must be manual workers. You cannot get over that. Everyone cannot have a black coat; everyone cannot sit on these green benches; nor can everyone have a sufficient income to be here, presuming he can get into this House. A very large number of people must exist by manual labour. It has been so from the beginning of the world, and it will go on until the end of the world, and it is no use giving people who have to exist by manual labour education which is only good for them when they become clerks in banks or offices, or Members of Parliament, or professors at Oxford, and people of that description. The world would come to an end if all that anybody had to do was to carry out what is learnt at the great public schools or universities.

What good, during the last few years, has this enormous increase in expenditure on education done? In 1919–20 the total expenditure from taxation for England and Wales was £32,757,000. Last year it was £51,000,000 and a few odd thousands, and this year it is £47,210,000. Have we benefited during those few years by this enormous increase of expenditure on education from £32,000,000 to £47,000,000? I do not think we have, and I do not think that anyone can show that we have. Unemployment has increased. In nearly every direction, we are worse off than three years ago, and yet my hon. Friends opposite think this enormous increase of expenditure ought to have made everyone prosperous. It has done nothing of the sort. Therefore, as we are in such straitened circumstances, I think the least we can do is to go back to the expenditure of 1919–20, namely, £32,700,000. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend a question as to finance. On page 7 of the Estimates the gross total expenditure is shown at £47,210,000, as against a total expenditure last year of £51,014,178. Now the reduction this year—and this is the point I want to make—is not £6,389,000, as stated here, but £3,800,000, which is the difference between £51,014,178 and £47,210,000. Supposing my income be £3,000 a year. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Well, anything you like. Supposing it be £2,000 a year, and that I spend the £2,000 a year. Next year someone leaves me £500 in addition. I do not then say that my expenditure is £1,500 a year. It still remains at £2,000, and my right hon. Friend's expenditure still remains at £47,210,000. It is true he has got appropriations-in-aid of something like £2,300,000, but they have no business to be in this account at all: they do not touch the gross expenditure. What we want to see is the gross expenditure reduced, and then the appropriations-in-aid, if ho likes, can come in; but he cannot take the appropriations-in-aid and call them reductions in expenditure.


I made it perfectly clear that the appropriations-in-aid were not a reduction of expenditure.


I am very glad to hear it. But that does not follow from reading the newspapers that support the Government. In these the reduction is always stated to be £6,385,000, and that is not what appears to be the case. On page 7 of the Estimates, in the last column, hon. Members will see the figures: net decrease, £6,104,653. But it is nothing of the sort. My right hon. Friend says that he has already told the House that that is so; then why does it appear in this Paper which the members of the Press Gallery have and on which they have formed their deduction of this net decrease of £6,104,000? It is only £3,800,000.

I want to say a few words about Appropriations-in-Aid. These, with the exception of a very small amount, a few thousands, are what the teachers have contributed to their own pensions. The whole of that sum has been oaken and has been credited as income received during the year. Such a course of accountancy, so far as I know, is utterly unknown in commercial circles. I happen to have the honour to be chairman of the Great Northern Railway Company. We have a pension fund for our officers. I took some little trouble the other day to find out how that pension fund is dealt with. We, the company, contribute nominally 2½ per cent., and out of their salaries the employés contribute 2½ per cent. As a matter of fact, we have contributed more than that, because we found there was a deficiency, and we contributed a larger sum, but our contributions are put in our expenditure account as a debit. We do not take the contributions of our employés on the other side as a credit! A fund has accumulated by which in after years we shall be able to meet the ever-growing increase in the pensions. Has the Pension Fund grown in connection with the Education Department? If hon. Members will turn to page 6 of the Estimates they will see that pensions this year amounted to £1,860,000, and last year £1,575,000, so that there is an increase of £284,600 in one year. The sum which has been paid to the teachers, instead of being taken as an asset, ought to have been put into another and separate account, a Pensions Fund Account. That would be absolutely clear. I think it is a right principle that the teachers should contribute to their pensions, and it should be done in a businesslike manner. In view of the stringent? circumstances of the country, that is an important point. The entire expenditure is not put before the country in such a way as the people can clearly understand. I do not say that there is intentional "misrepresentation, but the figures are put in too favourable a way. In the footnote at the bottom of page 7 of the Estimates it says: Any balances of the sums issued in respect of the Grants-in-Aid included in this Estimate which remain unexpended at the close of the financial year will not be liable to surrender at the close of the year. Why not? The principle, which has been contended for over and over again, is that if there is an unexpended balance it should be handed over to the State for the reduction of debt at the end of the financial year. The arguments for it are undeniable, but I will not go into them now. I want to know why the Education Department should be the only Department departing from this particular principle, because it is one which tends to economy. Why should this Department, which is extravagant enough, depart from this time-honoured custom? I would like to know how long it has been going on, and what the sums amount to which have not been surrendered. I wish to give the Parliamentary Secretary an opportunity to reply, and I will not make any further remark except to say that I shall be exceedingly glad to go into the Division Lobby with the hon. Member opposite, but from quite a different motive. My motive is that some inequality is absolutely vital if we are to maintain our position as a great nation. The hon. Member's position is that he is a little annoyed with the Geddes Committee because they think that some people ought to go to Oxford and some ought to go to the board schools. There must always be social inequalities, and to move a reduction on a trumpery feeling of resentment of that description seems to me to be a little absurd. However, the hon. Member opposite has moved the reduction, and I shall support him for the reasons which I have stated.


The Committee will perhaps allow me, having a sort of hereditary interest in this subject, to occupy just a few minutes before, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education replies, and I will undertake to sit down in time to give the right hon. Gentleman the time which I understand he requires. With the exception of the speech we heard last, the general opinion of the Committee has been that we do not wish to try to make the children of this country pay for the cost of the War. Even though in all other respects we are determined that economies shall be made, we wish to avoid economising at the expense of the child population, which, after all, had no responsibility for the War. Listening to the Debate it has seemed to me there were two or three danger points with regard to the unwise driving of this matter of economy. First I should like to mention the question of the size of the classes. I happened myself to be training as a teacher before the War at the University of Jena, where there were two students from British training colleges who had been given extra aid to get a third year's training at Jena. They were trained on the extremely interesting theory which an hon. Member for an English university just now so charmingly described, namely, that the individual passes through culture, epochs which the human race has passed through. When we had all three come to the end of the period of training and these two young men were going back after this year of theoretical training. I asked them what use they thought they would be able to make of what they had learned—and, as they were both intelligent, it had been very considerable—in the course of the last year. They replied: "None, because when we go back to English schools it is quite inevitable that nine-tenths of our time and attention will be taken up by maintaining discipline in our classes, and we shall have practically no opportunity to apply the theories which we have learned here and which we could never have learnt in England." They were then looking forward to having the ordinary number of pupils in their classes, 55 or 60 or even 65. It is true, and I have had enough experience of teaching to know it, that it is not, as might be supposed, twice as difficult to teach a class of 60 as one of 30. It is about ten times as difficult, and the difficulty of teaching increases extraordinarily rapidly as the numbers of the class increase. I should say it is twice as difficult to teach a class of 40 as one of 30, five times as difficult to teach one of 50 as one of 30, and ten times as difficult to teach one of 60 as one of 30. All the teachers I have talked to from the days I was trained have agreed in putting the question of keeping the classes in elementary schools reasonably small above the question—to them in pre-War days a very important one—of their own salary. If one goes into an ordinary elementary school of 60 or 80 children, it is a perfect marvel to see how the teacher can manage to keep going the three or four different stages of children. I feel the Committee will agree that any real move backwards in the direction of making the classes larger will prove a terrible loss to education in this country.

The second danger point, I think, is with regard to the question of the opportunity of entry into the secondary schools. It is a Very remarkable thing that so great an educational authority as the headmaster of the Manchester Grammar School should have pointed out that in Manchester alone there were 1,400 children qualified to enter secondary schools in that city last year, for whom only 471 secondary school places were available, and that nearly 1,000 children had to be excluded altogether from the secondary schools. I do not object to an examination test, but I do object to an examination test which is higher for the children going into secondary schools with free places than it is for other children going there. It is essential, if there is a test, that one should try to keep out some of those who may be paid for but who have very little brains rather than to keep out those who come from the elementary schools and have to be helped in order to the benefits of secondary education. We have of course the Geddes Committee Report, but we also have another Report which perhaps some of us have not looked at quite recently—the. Report of the Committee on Scholarships and Free Places, under the very able chair man ship of one whose financial authority is, I think, not less great than that of Sir Eric Geddes himself, namely, the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury. He is a good financier and a good economist, and it is worth while recording that that Report, made after the War—I think in 1920—when the Government knew, or ought to have known, how great a financial stringency there was going to be, recommended that there should be——


He was not in the Government then.


No, but he was a Member of the House of Commons who had taken a real interest in national economy and national expenditure.


He was a social reformer.


That Committee recommended that there should be, and that it was urgently necessary that there should be, an increase of the percentage of free places from 25 to 40; that there should be an increase of our secondary schools so that there might be 20 school places in secondary schools to every 1,000 of the population; that free-place pupils should be assisted by maintenance allowances, and they actually went so far as to say, fourthly, that there should be, as soon as the state of our national finances allowed it, a discontinuance of all fees in secondary schools. I have only time to deal with one of these points, and that is with regard to assistance of students in secondary schools by maintenance allowances. I do not know whether it was acting upon the recommendation in that report or previously—I think, just previously—that the Board of Education issued a regulation that one-half of the expenditure of local education authorities on allowances of that kind should be made good to them, in order to make, as they said, higher education generally accessible to children and young persons capable of profiting by prolonged education. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to explain, because I am sure it will be touched upon in his reply, as it has been mentioned more than once, whether the meaning of Circular 143 is that these allowances of £ for £ upon what the local authorities could give to aid this particular type of education are really going to be withdrawn. I do not think that, when the Government, after the War, has had a report such as that to which I have referred, and after having themselves said, in November, 1919, that they would give these grants, it is conceivable, considering what we all know of the really great parsimony of local education authorities nowadays, and the enormous strain that the rates bring upon every payer of the rates, that they should refuse to make a grant of £1 for £1 where the local authority is willing to give something for this purpose.

My last point is that I am not satisfied that there is yet anything like a proper means of access from secondary schools to the universities. My right hon. Friend and Leader on this side, the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) said the other day, when we were discussing education, that in his opinion there were sufficient means of access by scholarships and so on from the secondary schools to the universities. I think, however, that he is rather inclined too much to judge by his own extremely high standard. I have no doubt that people of his wonderful degree of promise and attainment can get sufficient and ample scholarships to take them on from the secondary school to the university; but my experience as Chairman of the London School of Medicine for Women, and as a member of the governing bodies of the East London College and the London School of Economics, teaches me that there is not yet anything like sufficient public provision to help really necessitous and deserving students to enter into places of university education of that type. In the course of my experience in the administration of those bodies, I have come up against astounding cases where parents have pinched in the most amazing way to get for their sons or daughters the advantage of a university education. I come across cases where a widow with, say, a fixed income of £200 or £210 a year has been able somehow or other so to screw and pinch as to send first one daughter and then another to the extraordinary expense of a medical training, and it is heartbreaking that all we can do with the assistance of the State is perhaps to screw out an exhibition of £10 or £15 to help the training of an extraordinarily promising student. The Ministry has had very careful reports from the Consultative Committee and other persons recommending a very considerable increase to the assistance given by the State in the form of scholarships and other forms of aid to students from secondary schools to universities, and unless we make access, not only into, but out of the secondary schools, easier than it is now, we shall be doing great damage to the future of our country. I understand we may have a future day for considering grants to universities, and on that I shall want to draw attention to the question of the present condition of grants to the Imperial College of Science and Technology. At present I carry out my intention of giving way, though there is a great deal more that I should like to have said.


My right hon. Friend who has just spoken has claimed with justice that he has a hereditary interest in the question of education, and I recall with pride the fact that over thirty years ago I stood with Mr. Arthur Acland, one of the greatest and most distinguished Ministers of Education this country has ever had, by the cradle of one of the most important educational movements of this country—namely, that of bettering the condition and providing education for defective children. We have had several very interesting speeches, and I regret that some of the speeches have had to be locked up in the breasts of hon. Members who have been unable to deliver them. I had one disappointment because I always listen with interest to anything the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Macquisten) has to say, and I was rather expecting that he was about to develop his views upon Chinese education as applied to this country, which he adumbrated on a previous occasion.

We have in the last 18 months had a number of issues of national education very vigorously debated, not only in this House and in the newspaper Press, but also in other places where taxpayers and ratepayers commonly resort. The Board's administration has been subjected to two detailed inquiries—one by the hon. and gallant Member for Burton, as chairman of a committee, appointed by this House, and another by a committee under the chairmanship of Sir Eric Geddes. All I wish to say with regard to those inquiries, and also with regard to the criticisms passed on the Board of Education is that the Board of Education court inquiry in every possible way. We feel that we have absolutely nothing to fear from enquiry. We desire to meet every legitimate criticism which may be brought against us. We are not so foolish as to suppose that the system under which we work is flawless or that the education which it is our duty to supervise cannot be bettered. Our great anxiety is to discharge our obligations to Parliament in the best way possible. Any criticisms which may be directed against us we shall be only too glad to take into account. Every man and every woman who is concerned with children in this country is, or ought to be, to some extent an education expert. It is a matter of general knowledge and one upon which everybody thinks that he or she ought to have an opinion. We welcome all these opinions.

I wish to reply at once to some of the detailed criticisms which we have heard this evening. The right hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) made some criticisms of the form of the Estimate. There is only one criticism of which I need take any serious notice. He referred to the note at the bottom of page 7, and suggested that the Board of Education were being treated differently from any other Government Department in not having to surrender their balances at the close of the year. The reply is that no Grants-in-Aid are ever surrendered, and that the Board of Education are not being placed in any exceptional position in this matter. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) asked me some questions arising out of the White Paper. As he is not here I confine myself to saying that if he reads paragraphs 6, 8, and 9 of the White Paper more carefully than he has done hitherto, he will find that his questions have been answered and his apprehensions largely dispelled.


Can the right hon. Member say what is the total amount of the balances?


It is impossible to give any estimate of the amount at the present moment. The right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) suggested that we now have more inspectors for less detailed and exacting work than we had formerly. The facts are briefly these. In 1900 there were in the elementary school inspectorate 341 persons—chief inspectors, divisional inspectors. His Majesty's inspectors, and sub-inspectors—whereas in 1922–23 the total for England and Wales was 260, or 81 less than was the case in 1900. In 1900 there were 31,234 public elementary school departments and the number of children on the books was 5,686,114. There are now 32,233 public elementary school departments and the number of children on the books on 1st April, 1921, was 5,930,652. It must be remembered also that since 1900 there has been a large development of special subjects in schools which has necessitated the appointment of women as His Majesty's Inspectors in domestic subjects. There is, therefore, a very large reduction in the inspectorate of elementary schools. The hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. J. Murray) brought forward a local complaint. He assumed that the Board of Education would recognise for grant an arrangement which has been arrived at between the Leeds Local Education Authority and the teachers, and he asked me why that arrangement had not been sanctioned by the Board of Education. The reply is that the Board of Education gave the Local Education Authority full notice that they would only pay by three equal instalments, and in spite of their warning the Local Authority took action before the Board had pronounced on the Burnham Scale, and when the Report was still under the consideration of the Board. The Board of Education have carried out their undertaking to Leeds, and they cannot treat Leeds differently from other authorities because Leeds ran ahead.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Mr. Marriott) and the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough raised the important question of percentage grants. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough expressed considerable apprehension lest any action should be taken, the effect of which would be to place the ratepayers in a less satisfactory position than they are in at present. I ought to say that the system of percentage grants, for which Parliamentary sanction was obtained in the Education Act, 1918, is to be the subject of investigation by a Departmental Committee, and pending the report of the Committee I do not propose to embark on an apology for the system, although I believe a very powerful argument can be constructed in its favour. I should like to draw attention to the fact that had it not been for the institution of percentage grants there is no doubt that in the period of expension that followed the Armistice the fabric of local administration would have been wrecked. The ratepayers were absolutely on the verge of revolt. The charges of education increased considerably at that time with the approval of nearly all parties in the country, and had the Board's grants continued upon a fixed capitation basis the charge to the tax- payer, it is true, might have remained fairly constant, but I tremble to think what would have happened to the rates. Every ratepayer ought to be thankful to the percentage grant, because it relieved him of a burden which he could not possibly have borne. The incidence of the cost of education was shifted from 45 per cent, taxes and 55 per cent, rates to 56 per cent, taxes and 44 per cent, rates, and had it not been for the change in the distribution such efforts as our country has been able to make since the War would have been imperilled at the very outset. It is an entire mistake to suppose that the percentage grant has left the Board of Education without control over the local authorities. The contrary is the case.

With regard to the very important question of the feeding of school children, I think the apprehensions which have been expressed are really without foundation. This will be a matter of adjustment between Departments, and I heard with very great regret—although I think he rather qualified it afterwards—the Member for Shoreditch (Dr. Addison) refer to nine-tenths of the savings being on the stomachs of hungry children. I venture to say that not a single child will go hungry owing to this change in the arrangements, and as for the suggestion that it has been made in order to deprive the working classes of their power of resistance, and that it is a sinister move, I have heard of it for the first time and am in a position to give it an absolute, explicit, and emphatic denial.

With regard to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington (Major Gray), whose long interest in and expert knowledge of education is so well known to the House, he put forward some very powerful criticisms of the insanitary conditions of some of the school premises in some parts of the country. Let me say at once that I most heartily welcome his criticisms. So far from resenting them, cases of this kind are just the kind that ought to be brought to the attention of the House and the country. Of course, there are twenty thousand schools in this country, and my hon. and gallant Friend has gone to the very bottom and the very dregs, but, so far as I am concerned, I do not object in the least to these dregs being stirred up. At the same time let us remember that they are drags. I listened to his state- ment of the case and the detailed incidents which he gave. I think I can identify the last case of which he spoke. It certainly was one of the most shocking cases I ever heard of, but I am glad to be able to inform the Committee with regard to that case, that the shocking circumstances to which I have alluded were owing to the obstruction of a certain chairman of managers. He was a very old man and has been in Heaven now for twelve months, and we had better say nothing more about him. The Bishop of the diocese has taken a keen interest in the matter, the money has been raised, and, I am informed, that the necessary work of reparation and renovation was due to have been completed at the end of the holidays My hon. Friend is aware that the great difficulty in this, to a certain extent, is owing to the dual system. The position of the local managers has to be safeguarded. That is why events go so slowly in matters of that kind. I am thankful that my hon. and gallant Friend has raised these cases, and I give the assurance that the Board of Education will be glad to go into them further, and I feel sure that his intervention in the Debate on the point has done a great deal of good.

Three hon. Members referred to the question of foes in secondary schools. I believe that apprehension has been expressed that pupils of inferior calibre will be admitted into the schools as fee payers who have not the natural abilities which would justify the expenditure of public funds on their secondary education. That is a legitimate criticism, but I can assert without fear of contradiction that there is no cause for alarm. I have made careful inquiries into this matter within the last few days, and if that criticism had been substantiated it would have been a serious reflection on the administration of education, both centrally and locally. I find that entrance examinations are necessary, not only for scholarships, but also for fee payers, and that these examinations have assumed a markedly competitive character, with the result, which the Committee will regret to learn, that large numbers of boys and girls who are fitted to profit by secondary education, and have proved themselves so by examination, have to be excluded. I am afraid I have not left myself sufficient time to refer in detail to the case of London referred to by the hon. Gentleman opposite. I regret that any controversy should have been aroused on it. But I have gone carefully into all the documents relating to the matter and my right hon. Friend has received deputation after deputation, and has been in correspondence with the London County Council, and has come to the conclusion, which I think is entirely justified, that the claim of London is one that cannot possibly be entertained. London has gained enormously by the Act of 1918. It is £2,000,000 a year better off in consequence of that Act. I hope London will not put into the mouths of those who object to the existence of percentage grants an argument which can be used against them.

It being Eleven of the Clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

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