Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £25,900,000, he 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, 1925, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Education, and of the various Establishments connected therewith, including sundry Grants-in-Aid."—[Note: £16,000,000 has been voted on account.]
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Trevelyan)
I am anxious to-day, if I can, to keep the interest of the generality of Members of the Committee. I shall, therefore, avoid as far as possible the recital of statistics. I shall assume that the Memorandum on the Estimates and the Report of the Board of Education has been studied by those who have a thirst for detailed information, and I shall not attempt to give to the Committee an account of all the activities of the Department over which I preside. My object will rather be to deal with the present and prospective policy in education which I should like to see followed by this and succeeding Governments.
All that I need to explain in regard to the Estimates is the reason why they stand at the same figure as last year, namely, £41,900,000, although they have been calculated to allow of considerable expansion in educational activities. The situation is this: the expenditure by local education authorities on which all the main grants of the Board of Education depend has of late years been contracted and was, when I took office, showing signs of continuing to contract. This has operated to reduce the Board's expenditure, and the Board's Estimates are also being relieved by the disappearance of a post-War service, the 1150 scheme for the higher education of ex-service officers and men. There is another factor which still operates. The child population of this country is still declining. In 1903 the births in this country were 948,000, whereas in 1923 they had fallen to 758,000, a reduction of about 20 per cent, in 21 years. Thus, in spite of the changes in the law with regard to school attendance, the number of children in schools is decreasing. Putting these various factors together it is fairly clear that if there had been no change in policy at the beginning of the year the general Estimates might have undergone some considerable reduction, while fully providing for the services to be maintained on the same scale as last year. By asking Parliament, therefore, to vote the same amount as last year, I am leaving rope for some considerable extension and improvements. I reckon that these Estimates contain a sum of from £500,000 to £750,000 which will allow for the beginnings of a new era of productive expenditure.
In asking the Committee to sanction these Estimates I wish first of all to express my gratitude for the friendly way in which members of all parties have so far received my administration. I do not claim any credit for myself, beyond the fact that I interpreted correctly the prevailing discontent, which was becoming very widespread, at the financial parsimony which had stopped the progress and was threatening the standard of education to which we had already attained. I do not claim any credit, because I believe that my two predecessors would have been glad enough to act as I have done if they could have succeeded in getting the consent of the Governments and of the Chancellors on whom they had to depend. They may be secretly jealous of my better fortune, but they do 'not disapprove of my taking advantage of the opportunity which has been afforded me.
I feel specially anxious to say this in relation to my right hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Fisher), for the fact that it has been left to his successors to put into administrative force many of the things which he desired to do cannot now deprive him of the transcendent credit of having provided the legislative instrument by which progress is now made possible. But it is not my right hon. 1151 Friends or Members of this House only who have responded to the new policy. It has had the approval of nearly the whole of the press of the country, and, what is very much more important, the local education authorities have shown their willingness to make a real effort to put the policy into operation. What are the principal things for which I first of all ask? I have asked for a determined effort to reduce the size of the classes throughout the country. I have asked for higher standards of staffing in elementary schools, a steady increase in the use of trained teachers, and a progressive decrease in the use of untrained teachers, especially in the supplementary grade. I have also asked for replacement of the worst class of school buildings. In many cases I have already found local education authorities showing considerable alacrity, first in making a general investigation into the position of their districts, and, secondly, in putting their schools into order.
This process is of course for some of them a comparatively simple thing. A little re-arrangement has been all that has been needed. I may mention the case of a largo county borough in the neighbourhood of London which, within a week of the issue of the circular 1325 by the Board, had taken action for the reduction of the size of the classes throughout the schools under its Jurisdiction. They had at this time 10 classes with 60 children or more on the books, and 33 classes with from P5 to 60, but partly by reorganisation and partly by partitioning classrooms, in order to reduce their size, they have secured that after the summer holidays there will not be in this area more than two classes with more than 50 children on the books, and these two will be reduced as soon as a new school now in course of provision is completed.
But there are, of course, many local authorities, especially in large cities with whom crowded elapses are the rule in whose case school has instead of being left vacant for special purposes are occupied for ordinary class work, places in which school accommodation has been in arrear since the beginning of the war and where little has been done since. In such cases there is a difficult, and at first sight, an even despairing problem for the local authorities. But even in such cases I find 1152 in these places a readiness to grapple with the difficulty. Many local authorities are considering a programme of development which in a few years should put even those who are most backward at present into a comparatively satisfactory position.
I may take as a sample of what is being done, a county borough in the North of England where only two schools have been built since 1902, and where, in the opinion of the Board's inspectors, a large proportion of the schools should be condemned. Strong representations have been made to the authority to build at least two new council schools, and also to the voluntary school managers to set their house in order. I am pleased to say that in both directions we have been mat most fairly. The authority has agreed to proceed with the two new council schools forthwith, and the managers of the Church of England schools have met and drawn up a scheme to remedy, as far as possibe, the defects in the premises of their schools. That is a, sample of a great deal of what is going on throughout the country.
I may say a few words more upon the subject of the worst kind of school buildings. There are many schools which were in process of condemnation before the War which are still in existence, and have remained untouched and unimproved. Many of these schools are ill-ventilated, ill-lighted, over-crowded, and even insanitary, and they have, some of them, barely any playground, and some of them have even no playground at all. I am at this moment having n complete survey made by my inspectors, and I intend in the course of the autumn to make clear what school buildings can be allowed only a limited period for their continued existence. Some of them will have to be condemned outright and the reconstruction of others will be required. I want to make clear that I do not intend to set up too high a standard. Many poor sorts of schools will still remain in existence, for if we wanted satisfactory school buildings everywhere, we should have to condemn schools in droves in every county. I am going to do no such thing. What I am going to do is to get rid of the worst, and I think that this is a right limitation for wood reasons, which I think will commend themselves to the wisdom of the Committee.
1153 4.0 P.M.
First of all, our greatest national need is for more school buildings rather than for perfect school buildings. We want more school places to meet the needs of our increasing industrial centres and mining areas, and to make up for the long deficiency of the war years. We want our local authorities to be able to provide many more secondary schools, and it would be a great mistake to divert the energies of local authorities solely to replacing bad schools. That is the first thing; but there is another reason why I am unwilling to be too exacting, because I should be at once accused of trying by administrative means to get rid of non-provided schools. I shall pursue no such policy. Many of us remember how education 15 years ago was suffering in that period of religious quarrelling. I value far too highly the atmosphere which exists to-day, and it is not I who will disturb the present religious peace which fortunately broods over the land. I must, for educational reasons, give a time limit to the existence of a certain number of the worst schools. But I have the clearest indication that this will not be resented by a great part of the leaders of the Church of England and of the Catholic community—
§ Mr. FERGUSON
On a point of Order. It is not the Catholic community, but the Roman Catholic community—
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
—who recognise the responsibility which the present system places upon them, and will, I am sure, make the necessary effort where their schools are really below a recognised national standard. I may, in this connection, Bay that in one large county borough in the South of England, where the state of elementary school accommodation has for many years given the Board a good deal of anxiety, we have laid our views about it before both the authority and the managers of the voluntary schools, and we have been met very fairly. The Church of England managers have undertaken to consider the whole problem sympathetically, and they will bring before us in the autumn proposals for making a beginning both by the improvement of building and by the grouping of schools for the purposes of organisation.
In general, there has been a bound forward in educational activity, as the pres- 1154 sure was released six months ago. Educational progress is necessarily slow. It takes several months to build a school, and it takes several years to train a teacher. But already the progress which is going to be made can be put into statistical form. To give the Committee some idea of the increased activity, in the whole of last year the approved expenditure for the building of elementary schools amounted to £1,097,000, and for the first six months of this year it has amounted to £838,000, or only £200,000 less than the whole of last year. That shows the increased activity in the elementary branch. When we come to the secondary schools, in the whole of the financial year 1923–24, 30 new secondary schools were approved, and in the six months since the beginning of this year, about 40 new schools have been added to those already approved, so that it is quite obvious there is a great and general increase of activity among the local education authorities
The very general approval with which the ending of the reign of parsimony in education has been received has led me to entertain a hope, which I will now develop to the Committee. I am wanting, if I can, with the common consent of all parties, to map out a plan of advance to the next great stage in national education. It is less possible than usual with us at the moment to estimate the fortunes of our three great parties, but it would be a happy thing if, during the political vicissitudes of the next ten years, there could be no difference in the main objective in education of succeeding Governments. I ask to-day, therefore, for criticism and suggestion on the main lines of a continuous national policy. The present Government feel that the central need is a great expansion of secondary education or of equivalent types of advanced education. The thirst for advanced education after the War was frustrated. At that time the secondary schools of the country had to refuse thousands of pupils for whom they had no room. What a misfortune that the opportunity was not there for those boys and girls! The habit of longer schooling might have been acquired by that generation and would have been passed on to the next and so on to the next.
There is no reason to suppose, even if the immediate demand at this moment 1155 appears to be rather less because of the higher fees and the strain of the economic situation, that the real desire is not there still. In many districts, the secondary schools are still over full and still turning away scores of applicants. I think it ought to appear to us as a great tragedy that at the very age when most boys and girls begin to show their maximum development, nine out of ten of them are thrown into the industrial world. Almost all the parents in this House, who have the opportunity of educating their children, there are lots of fathers I am sure who only begin to get interested in their sons when they go to public schools at the age of 13 or 14. They expect nothing of them before that. They know that that is the moment when their intelligence begins to blossom and their character begins to grow. I do not believe that there is any real dispute between us. Shortly after the War a Secondary Education Committee, presided over by Mr. Hilton Young, reported that it was of opinion that 75 per cent, of our children could profit by advanced education. I think all parties are agreed. I noticed, in the recent statement of Unionist principles and aims, these words:The party would maintain a close co-ordination between elementary, secondary, technical and higher education, so that secondary and university courses should be brought within the reach of every child in an elementary school who might be desirous and capable of taking advantage of them.I therefore propose to encourage a deliberate advance to a new national standard, and I suggest that, whereas now there are less than ten per thousand of our population in secondary schools, We should set before ourselves the objective of doubling that number in the next decade, so that there may be 20 per thousand in the secondary schools. I should like to see throughout the country a standard of at least 40 per cent. of free places instead of the present 25 per cent., and I should like to see largo areas in the next few years experimenting with complete free secondary education. If we could agree upon some such objective as this, we might in the next few years follow the same lines whatever Government was in office. One Government might go faster and another might go slower. One Government might not enlarge the grants for education, but still pursue the same policy. The next 1156 Government might encourage a more rapid effort by a larger expenditure of public money.
When I speak of a great extension of secondary education. I must make it clear that I am not contemplating a lowering of the standard in order to obtain greater numbers. The standard at the present time is steadily and slowly rising. The number of children who stay till the age of 16 in the secondary schools is steadily increasing. We ought also in any extension of secondary education to be ready to offer a variety of type of school and to encourage local authorities to provide, for instance, schools with a technical or a commercial bias or an agricultural or art bias In accordance with the needs or desires of the population in the different areas. One of the virtues of our system, as I see it, lies in its variety, and we ought to welcome experimental efforts by the local education authorities. For here, if in any range of human effort, it is difficult to be dogmatic about the best forms of school. I am, therefore, prepared to encourage local authorities to try other means than ordinary secondary schools for advanced education. I am fally prepared to encourage them to adopt the continuation school system, from which my right hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities expects so much. I frankly say that have not so much faith in the value of education as he has for the young person half in industry and half in school. When hoys and girls first leave school their minds become wrapped up in the new world of industry and life into which they have been plunged, and half-time education is less than a half-value education. It is only later, when they become penetrated by a sense of the need of improving themselves, which characterises so many of those who, a few years later, clamour for an adult education, that schooling and industry can be most effectively combined. Nevertheless, I am prepared to welcome the efforts of any local authorities which think that on the lines of continuation schools progress can be made. Most of all, however, I welcome any extension of full-time school life of children.
All that I have been saying has a close relation to a matter of grave concern to us all, namely, the entry into industry of 1157 young people between 14 and 16. A few weeks ago the House decided that it did not want even to seem to give any mark of national approval to an early industrial life for our young people, and therefore it refused a proposal for insurance. That clearly makes it imperative on the House to try and keep continually more children within our educational system. I have consulted with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I find that he is prepared to agree that some of the money which might have gone to the insurance project-should go to education. He is prepared for a sum of £440,000 a year to be spent in England, Wales, and Scotland in this respect. I have not yet finally settled all the details of the methods to which this money may be put, but I hope to have settled them with the Chancellor before the end of the Session. I am able at once, however, to offer to local authorities the opportunity of beginning some of those things for which they might have had to wait longer.
I am enabled, first of all, to allot a sum of £20,000 for expenditure, for one year in the first instance, on local juvenile associations. The Committee will remember that under a valuable Section, Section 86, of the Education Act, 1921, local authorities may promote physical and social training either themselves or through voluntary agencies. There was a Committee of the Board a few years ago to organise and stimulate these juvenile associations. I have now brought it into existence again, and I am glad to say that my friend the Right hon. Sir Herbert Lewis has consented again to take the Chair. I hope that with these resources at its disposal it will be able to do a good deal for young people between 14 and 16 in our cities. Next, I propose to remove the present limit on maintenance allowances given by local education authorities in higher education. The London County Council and several other authorities have reached that limit and would like to go beyond it, I am now in a position to permit them to raise it from 6s. to 9s. per unit of average attendance in the elementary schools of the area. I think that raising of the standard will enable local authorities to go as high as they want in the matter of higher education maintenance. As the Committee knows, we are anxious to get children to 1158 stay longer in our elementary schools. I cannot discuss on the Estimates the question of the compulsory raising of the school age to 15—
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
Because it would be out of order. As always before, we must prepare for the next advance in the school age by the more progressive authorities showing the way for the future. Every raising of the school age has been heralded by local advance first. I am, therefore, anxious to encourage local authorities to utilise Section 4 of the Act of 1921 to raise the compulsory age to 15. Some scepticism has been expressed as to whether this is likely, but several local authorities are already considering it and two—Bath and East Suffolk—have practically arranged to do it and are making their by-laws. No one will be inclined to say that what Bath and East Suffolk are able to do should be impossible for other areas. There is a growing feeling in all parts of the House that maintenance allowances ought to be more freely available for elementary education, and that, if they were, many children would be kept at school by their parents for an additional year. I sympathise strongly with that feeling. At present, unfortunately, the local authority only gets 20 per cent. of the grant from the State for maintenance allowances in elementary schools, and many local authorities are, no doubt, deterred from offering them by the fact that 80 per cent. falls on the rates. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has consented to allow 50 per cent. in the future to be borne by the State and that will, I hope, give some encouragement to local authorities in this direction. The aggregate expenditure recognised for this purpose in any one year will be subject to a limit of one shilling per unit of average attendance. I do not intend that these allowances shall be given merely to enable children to wait in school until they can get employment, and I should propose to steadily maintain the provision which exists at present that the parents of children receiving them must undertake to keep the children at school until the end of the school year. That is to say that maintenance grants ought to be used in order to open the doors of learning to children and not 1159 merely to turn the schools into convenient employment bureaux. The, Chancellor of the Exchequer has also given his general approval to the application of a large part of the sum for the provision of free places in secondary schools. The exact method of the disposal of the grant for the encouragement of free places is not yet decided in detail, but I hope to be able to make an announcement on the subject before the Adjournment.
I want now to say a few words about the teaching profession, on whom the whole structure of education depends. I am precluded from discussing the question of salaries to-day for the scales are at present the subject of negotiation. The Committees of teachers and local education authorities over which Lord Burnham presides are still sitting. It would be unwise for me to do more than express my conviction that neither party would be any better if they fail to come to a national settlement, and if in consequence the question of salaries has to be fought out separately in each borough and county. I wish most earnestly that a lasting settlement of salaries could be arrived at on broad and liberal lines. The profession is so important to us that I want it to be made attractive, and material considerations of salary should not be constantly forced into prominence both in the minds of the public and of the teachers themselves. There is a growing appreciation of the work of our schools which is rapidly making the teacher a person of greater social importance, and better men and women will, I hope, be constantly attracted into the profession.
I can see no reason why the best educated men and women in our country who are anxious to do the best social service for their fellow citizens should not many of them teach in elementary schools. There are many villages in this country where one first class man or woman as a teacher might stir up and change the whole life of the place. I wonder more people do not see this as a patriotic and social mission to say nothing of its interest. In any case we want a steadily improving standard of attainment in education in our teachers. Of the supply of certificated teachers last year about 850 passed into the teaching profession out of the Universities, having obtained a degree 1160 there. The largest proportion of these University trained teachers go into the secondary schools. Out of the training colleges not attached to Universities about 6,000 teachers come every year, while the rest of the profession is recruited by the addition of some 3,000 uncertificated teachers.
I do not want to commit myself to any detailed statement about our system of training teachers until the Departmental Committee has reported, as I hope it very soon will. But I should like general agreement in my statement that we ought not to be satisfied until all the teachers in the country have a training in which the Universities play a part. That a quarter of those entering the profession should have no training at all is a very serious matter. A two years' course in a segregated college is not ideal. There ought to be attained some closer connection between the colleges and the Universities in every case, which I believe would be generally welcomed by the colleges themselves. I am not prepared in all things to hold up the Scotch as perfection, but a I least they are so far ahead of us that an immensely greater proportion of their school teachers have been educated at Universities. I think there should be an increasingly wide conception, of what the influence of the teacher can be. There are signs that this is begun to be appreciated by our people. Teachers are appreciating the advantage, of a much closer relationship with the parents. One recent new phenomenon are the education weeks which are being held in very many towns to enable parents to see what is being done in the schools. In some of our towns crowds of parents for several days have visited exhibitions of the children's work, and large and successful public meetings have been held to popularise educational ideas. The truth is there is no limit to the extent to which the habits and though of a district might be changed in a short generation through the influence of the kind of effort which the teachers are using in their class teaching and in other ways.
I may mention some other activities, great and small, which are making our schools more human and civilising. Numbers of our teachers in our cities now plan school journeys for a week or a fortnight, and take a band of from 30 to 50 1161 children to places of natural beauty or historic interest, where in a few days they very often learn as much as in the duller round of school life they could learn in as many months. The crowds of children now coming to London, attracted in the first instance by the great exhibition at Wembley, are a phenomenon with which many of my fellow Members delight to be troubled. It may interest the Committee to know that I have information, upon which I can rely, that while Wembley is the source of great and hectic amusement, what numbers of the children appreciate oven more is their visit to the different sights of London. It makes me feel that in future years we must manage to make it easier for troops of children to come to the Metropolis in years when there is no abnormal attraction.
Then, again, I should like to call attention to the teaching of local history and folk lore to children in the rural schools of Wales. This development has had the effect at once of broadening the basis of local patriotism and giving reality to lessons in history and geography. I only wish that we might see a similar development in English rural schools. Then there are the musical competitions, which are beginning to be very general throughout the country and which imply a high standard of musical attainment and interest in the schools which compete. Then there is the growth of folk dancing, which I sincerely hope is going to show a continuous development, in spite of the fact that the original and ingenious spirit of Mr. Cecil Sharp, who rescued from oblivion the folk dances and tunes of our country, is no longer with us. My predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. E. Wood) issued a few months ago a suggestion to local education authorities that they might consider making the League of Nations more familiar in the schools. I agree with him that teachers night exercise a great influence on the future of peace in the next generation by implanting in the children's minds an understanding of the meaning and structure of the League of Nations. I am contemplating, in the autumn, issuing a further memorandum to the local education authorities on this subject.
There are two other sides of the work of the Education Department which I am most anxious that the Committee should 1162 appreciate and be ready to develop if the opportunity occurs. The grant for adult education was increased this year from £20,000 to £30,000. Since the War the thirst for knowledge has become more apparent among men and women who have been in industry for some years and whose experiences and disappointments have made them realise the insufficiency of their early education. Thousands are undertaking three-year courses of study of a University standard. There is a great demand for lectures and shorter courses, and there are several settlements in our great towns where education for adults is being promoted. A very able Committee appointed by the Board is advising me on the development of this form of education. It is through their representation that I have become aware of the situation in regard to public libraries generally in our country. We now have many local libraries, but there is a great want of organisation. There are many blank spaces, and such resources as there are are probably not used to their best purpose. I am proposing to have a Departmental Committee to inquire into the best way of perfecting our library system, without which our educational system is not complete.
The other subject to which I want to allude for a moment is the relation of the Board of Education to Art. We are very chary as a nation in concerning ourselves with Art in any form. There is no Ministry of Beaux Arts, as in France. But we have the magnificent Victoria and Albert Museum with its priceless collections. I am glad to say that it is appreciated more and more every year. Largely owing to the ability of the present Director, Sir Cecil Harcourt Smith, whose services, I am sorry to say, the country is losing this year, the educational value of the Museum has been becoming every year greater. Since the War, it is used very much more for children and schools, and parties of adults are guided round it every week. I have taken steps to open it twice during the week in the evening. I have also obtained a larger grant of money for purchases for the Museum, but I want to take this opportunity of thanking publicly those generous benefactors who have come forward so readily to help to add to the collections. In spite of the fact that we now 1163 have £16,000 to spend in purchases—and, as a matter of fact, I am coining to the House for a small increased Supplementary Estimate—many invaluable Art objects are still being carried away to America and elsewhere, which ought to be in our collections if they are not in private collections. I, therefore, venture to appeal to anyone whose means and tastes make the task possible and attractive, to co-operate with us in this excellent work. Suppose, for example, any individual should decide to make a collection of early English silversmith's work or English furniture, on the understanding that it should, during its formation, he exhibited in the Museum as a loan, and ultimately be added to the permanent collections, it is difficult to conceive of any form of public memorial which would be at once so attractive and so durable.
The Committee have been very patient. There are many other ranges of the work of my great Department about which I might speak, and in which I am profoundly interested. If I have omitted to mention them, it is only because of a deliberate intention on my part not to overload the speech of one man on an occasion when everyone is apt to speak too long. For instance, I have said nothing about university education. You have already spent a considerable time in exploring the possibilities of getting a statutory settlement of the problems of London University, in which I had considerable help from the late Member for the University, Sir Sydney Russell-Wells. Moreover, one of my first acts as a Minister was to restore the national scholarships which send to the universities students who could not otherwise afford to go from State-aided schools. What I have attempted, however, to do to-day is to map out a main line of policy. I have placed emphasis on an advance in secondary education. I have done so, first of all, because everything cannot he done at once, and this is what is most needed. It is easier to inspire a public and universal interest in one special need which affects the whole population, than to expect enthusiasm for every form of education. But an advance in secondary education carries with it this advantage, that it is bound to influence the education which comes before and the education which conies after. If we wish to see increasing numbers of young and able 1164 men and women having university training, nothing can bring that quicker than the natural and irresistible demand which would arise if there were twice as many secondary schools. In the other direction, the efficacy of secondary education depends on a sound elementary system. We shall all the less tolerate in children physical deficiencies and mental poverty if we find that at 12 and 14 they are unable to profit by higher education. The best lever we can have for improving elementary education is to have a complete system of secondary education.
I do not see on the Paper any notices of reduction, which is a pleasing testimony to our general agreement. Two lines of criticism I can imagine may be offered. In different ways I should welcome either of them. I think it may be said, "Well, but there is nothing new about all this. It is what we would have done, or it is what NN e began." I am not going to spend time in discussing who is responsible for the present atmosphere of progress. I have no sense of proprietorship, and if everyone thinks himself responsible for it, everyone will go on with me to realise our common objects more fully. It may also be said that I am not going fast enough. That attitude, too, I welcome, for I intend to go as fast as I am able, but my ability is bounded by public opinion probably more than in any other Department of the State. I am so far from being an autocrat that I cannot build a single school or employ a single teacher myself. To a limited extent I can promote progress by advocacy. To a limited extent I can exert pressure. To a limited extent I can offer inducements. But the fulfilment of any policy which I suggest lies with my fellow-countrymen exerting their will on Governments, and on local education authorities. I have done already the biggest thing that I could do, which has been to create a new tone of activity and hope in the world of education. It now remains for my fellow-countrymen to co-operate in applying the new spirit to a new notable advance.
§ Mr. FISHER
The Committee have listened to a speech of unusual interest and suggestiveness from my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education, and if I rise it is not, I need hardly say, in any critical or hostile spirit, for I am in complete agreement 1165 with the general tenour of the speech to which we have just listened. But in order that I may touch upon some points, and suggest some special directions in which, I think, my right hon. Friend has indicated the true line of progress. We have had, as my right hon. Friend has reminded us, a very full and helpful White Paper from the Board of Education, and that document, coupled with the speech to which we have just listened, dispenses me from the necessity of asking many of the questions which I had it in my mind to put to the Government upon their Estimates. There are, however, one or two questions which I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary, who will, I understand close the discussion. The President of the Board of Education gave us some very welcome illustrations of the manner in which the local education authorities all over the country were setting to work to improve the fabric of national education. He told us, I think, that schemes for the erection of no less than 40 new secondary schools had already been approved by the Board. I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he can tell us how many plans for new schools for defectives how many plans for new secondary schools, how many plans for new clinics have been or are now, under consideration of the Board, or have been approved by the Board since my right hon. Friend took office
There is another question to which I should like to direct attention. When I. was at the Board, I was somewhat concerned by the relations sometimes difficult, between the Welsh Department of the Board of Education and the Central Welsh Board. I understand that some negotiations have been going on with respect to the inspectorate, and if the hon. Gentleman has any information to give either as to the Welsh inspectorate, or as to the present condition of secondary education in Wales, I, for one, should be very grateful to him.
The kernel of the President's speech consisted in his appeal for co-operation in all parts of the House in a continuous plan for the development of the national system of education, and I heartily echo, his appeal. I remember, when I was piloting the Education Bill through this House in 1918, I received the most generous assistance from every quarter of the House—from the Liberal party, from 1166 the Members of the Labour party, and, I think I may say, from the greater proportion of the Conservative party. It is, quite true there were certain Members of the Conservative party who did not, approve, but, on the whole, I received most generous assistance, and I think we may regard the policy of the progressive, development of our national system of, education which is embodied in the Education Act of 1918, not as the work of one party only, but as the work of all parties; and, therefore, we may confidently look upon the assistance of Members of this House, whatever may be their political allegiance, in forwarding, the task of national education.
I am glad also to note the observations which my right hon. Friend made with regard to the attitude that is now taken up by many of the responsible leaders of the Church of England with respect, to the necessity of making the Church schools efficient and worthy of the organisation with which they are connected. In the course of my period of office, I had often occasion to meet leading churchmen when questions arose with reference to the closing of a Church school which I regarded as unnecessary, and I do not think on any occasion I failed to meet with a very sympathetic response to my appeal I therefore believe that my right hon. Friend will find far less difficulty than the President of the Board would have found some years ago in an effort to raise the standard of efficiency in the Church schools of this country. I am a great student of the speeches of my right hon. Friend, and I note in them a sanguine, early sunrise effect, which is refreshing to my spirit. But I must admit that on the face of it, the rosy-fingered dawn shines very faintly upon the surface of these Estimates. I think he is fortunate. Here he is asking of this Committee £34,000 less than his Conservative predecessor, and £3,000,000 less than his Liberal predecessor, and yet, by reason of a fortunate turn of circumstance, he is able to offer not only the prospect but the certainty of a very welcome educational advance.
My right hon. Friend is not proposing—and I do not blame him—any very serious revolution. These Estimates read to me very like the Estimates of previous years. The system of education is not to be revolutionised. It is still to be 1167 administered by 318 local authorities of varying degrees of zeal and efficiency, the authorities engaging the teachers, paying the teachers, anti dismissing the teachers. The grant system is not changed, and some features in our recent administration which excited a considerable degree of criticism when they were proposed are continued. I notice the proposal that teachers should pay a contribution of 5 per cent to their pension, a proposal which excited very lively indignation among members of the Labour party when it was first made, is now being continued by an Act of special legislation and finds a place in these Estimates as an Appropriation-in-Aid. Well do I remember the amusing vehemence with which my right hon. Friend, the present Secretary of State for War—whose absence through illness we so much regret—denounced the President of the Board of Education at that time, but my right hon. Friend, I am glad to say, still draws his salary. So changeable and inconstant is man and so short is human memory.
A few weeks ago we were debating a very important educational proposal which came from the Government it was the proposal that children between the ages of 14 and 16 should come under our insurance law and should be able draw unemployment benefit in certain circumstances on condition of attendance at instructional centres. That suggestion was resisted by the House, and I think everybody will agree that the Government have very much improved upon their first proposal. I must say I greatly welcome the announcement of the President of the Board of Education. He has obtained from the liberal hand of the Chancellor of the Exchequer an adequate sum, adequate at any rate for the present moment, to deal with the difficulty. He is going to put into operation, I am delighted to hear, Clause 86 of the Education Act of 1921, and he is further going to increase the proportion of the Board's grant towards maintenance allowances. I think the Government's second thoughts are, thanks to the action of the House, altogether better than their first, and I most heartily congratulate my right hon Friend and the Government on the course they are now taking.
1168 Nobody could listen to my right hon. Friend without feeling that he put the accent in the right place. He is conscious, as we all are, that the great unsolved problem, not only of British education, but of education in every industrial country in the world, is the problem of adolescent education. Here we have every year hundreds of thousands of children going out to make their living in industry after the age of 14, absolutely exempt from any educational direction or control and too often going to waste both morally and intellectually, to the undoing of the work of the elementary schools. Is it not altogether irrational that a great civilised country should spend millions on elementary education, and should not take steps, far less expensive, to secure the results of that elementary education during the period of adolescence?
The proposal of my right hon. Friend is that during the next few years we should concentrate our attention on the secondary schools. I agree with him that the secondary schools should be multiplied. There are I think at the present moment something like 465,000 or 467,000 children undergoing education in our secondary schools, and I remember suggesting last year that we should not be content until we raised the number at least to 600,000. That I think would bring us upon the level of the Scandinavian countries, and I submit that a country like Great Britain ought not to be content with a place lower than Norway or Sweden. At the same time, as my right hon. Friend pointed out very truly, we must be very careful not to debase the quality of the secondary school. The secondary school system cannot be expanded very rapidly. You have to get buildings, you have to get teachers; the teachers have to be on a high level of qualification, and I think there will be general agreement among educational experts that if you can add something like 10,000 fresh secondary school places a year, you are going on the whole at a very good pace, and the time will come 10 or 15 years hence when you will reach the limit of the number of children able to receive and profit by a full time education in these schools. Perhaps we friends of education are somewhat too apt to exaggerate the intelligence of the human race. I was reading the other day some observations 1169 by an American psychologist with regard to the results of the intelligence tests for the American army. It appears that 170,000 young men in the prime of life were submitted to these tests with the somewhat distressing result that it is the opinion of American psychology there are 45,000,000 people in the Union who will never reach a standard of intelligence higher than that of the normal child of 12 years of age.
§ Mr. FISHER
We, of course, may be more advanced, but, in any case, I think my right hon. Friend would agree with me that however much work and zeal we put into the development of our secondary schools, the secondary schools will not cover the whole adolescent problem. I wonder if you went to Lancashire and suggested to the great mass of parents in the cotton industry that the time had come, or would soon come, when ail their children would be expected to go for full-time education to a secondary school until they had reached the age of 16, what response would come from the working parents in that county? I suspect they would be opposed to it. I suspect they would say to that proposition, "We are quite prepared to give our children some further measure of education. We fully realise that to turn our children out into the industrial world at the age of 14 and give them nothing further, inflicts an injury upon them, but at the same time we are sensible that the whole industrial structure of our county depends upon the labour of children or young people between the ages of 14 and 16, and that you are asking us to undertake an industrial revolution." It is for that reason, I think, we cannot look to the secondary school alone for solution of the major part of our problem. I wish we could, but I believe that if we look facts in the face, and take account of the, industrial circumstances of our age and of our country as they really are, we are driven to the conclusion that owing to poverty and industrial pressure the, great mass of the children of this country must go out into industry after the elementary schooling is over; that it is necessary for them to add to the slender household budget of the family, and that the problem before us is therefore how 1170 to effect a combination of learning with earning.
That leads me to the day continuation school. I believe it is here we shall find the solution for our greatest difficulties. I know many feel that the experiment which was tried in London was not altogether successful. It was tried at a very difficult time—at a period of great unemployment. The teaching was good, the employers as a whole worked in very well with the scheme, and before the end of the schools came some 60 per cent, or rather more than 60 per cent of the children who were in attendance at the school were in regular employment. I should like to read to the Committee a short extract from the Annual Report of the London County Council for 1923.—The compulsory day continuation school attained a considerable measure of stability. The initial opposition both from the employers and firms had, to an appreciable extent, been overcome. The policy of suiting the organisation of the school in respect of curriculum and hours of attendance to the convenience of employers had been pursued with success. In many cases the schools and employers had so arranged matters that they might almost be regarded as partners in a joint undertaking. In cooperation with the Ministry of Labour, employment bureaux had been established at each of the centres, and this arrangement had secured in an increasing degree that close relationship between individual aptitude and suitability of work which is so vitally necessary to juvenile employment. The suspicion on the part of certain parents that the attendance is inimical to a child's start in life was rapidly being removed, and the schools were becoming recognised as employment agencies for most kind of juvenile work.5.0 P.M.
That is the report of the London County Council. The fact that the policy has a future is, I think, sufficiently warranted by the popularity of the voluntary day continuation schools which are now working in London, and axe attended by no fewer than 5,000 young people.
Another suggestion which has been receiving a great deal of attention lately is that the President of the Board of Education should press local authorities to extend the school age to 15 years. I notice that Alderman Jackson, who has done so much for the promotion of education in Yorkshire has expressed himself in favour of this proposal. He has urged upon the President of the Board that he should put pressure on the authorities to submit schemes for the ex- 1171 tension of the school age by 1927, and he has offered very substantial arguments in favour of that course. From these benches not long ago a question was asked as to the expense involved. It is quite obvious that the adoption of this course would mean great additions to our educational structures, great additions to our teaching personnel, and that even without any provision of maintenance allowances, it would be a costly policy. The outcome of the President's reply was to the effect that if the school age was raised to 15, and if maintenance allowances were granted at the rate of 5s. a week for 40 weeks in a year to half the pupils attending these schools, the cost would exceed £8,000,000. That is a very large sum, but if our adolescence problem could be solved for £8,000,000, it would be money very well spent. I should certainly not resist the proposal on the score of expense alone, but I doubt very much whether that course is, from the educational point of view, the best course. I have been struck, in talking to directors and secretaries of education and teachers, with the very wide impression that prevails in present circumstances many children are sick of school by the time they have reached 14 years of age.
§ Mr. FISHER
I do not say that that is a complete argument. But the argument points to smaller classes, and, so far as it goes, it is an argument against the immediate prolongation of the school life to 15 years. I think the Board should pursue more than one policy. The Act of 1921 laid down many alternative lines of advance. It enabled local education authorities, where they desired to do so, to raise the school age to 15 with the approval of the Board. I am glad to know that some authorities are willing to take that step, and I hope that more will do so. At the same time I think we would be shutting our eyes to the probabilities of the case if we supposed that such policy would be very widely adopted in this country. I do not believe that it will, however much pressure is put on local authorities by the Board. I think also that my right hon. Friend is wisely inspired in pressing on his secondary school policy. I note with pleasure that 1172 he has resisted a proposal which has come to him from some quarters that he should abolish the fees in secondary schools. Free secondary education is never an ideal which has appealed to me. I have always felt that it would be very foolish to dispense with £3,000,000 of good educational revenue, paid by parents who are willing to pay it and can afford to pay it.
All that we ask is that no child who deserves to receive a secondary education should be debarred from it by reason of poverty. The remedy is not the abolition of fees, but the multiplication of free places in the secondary schools. That is the second line of advance. The third line of advance is the development of continuation education under the provisions of the Act of 1921. My submission is that the Board should take an early opportunity of inviting local education authorities to prepare schemes for the development of secondary education, whether it be whole-time education or part-time education, upon these alternative lines. I should hope that by 1927 the most flagrant deficiencies in our education system will have been remedied, and that my right hon. Friend may be able to see preparations for an advance on the lines which I have suggested.
I would not like to pass away from the consideration of these Estimates without expressing my warm approval of certain features in them. First of all, I greatly welcome the opportunity which my right hon. Friend has found, and is finding, of increasing the help which the Board is giving to the special services—to the school medical service, the play centres, the provision of meals and the organisation of physical training, as also to secondary education. Then the increased scale of grants for university tutorial classes and other forms of adult education will be generally welcomed throughout the country. I only wish that the late Master of Balliol, who threw so much of his vivid energy into the promotion of this form of education, had been alive now, when the Workers' Educational Association is celebrating its 21st year of existence, and when the Government of the country has given this further and well-merited mark of recognition to the admirable work which has been done in the promotion of enlightenment and learning among members of the working classes. Although it does not come on 1173 the Estimates, there is the grant to the British Academy—an excellent innovation—and the restoration of the purchase grant to the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Science Museum. Finally, I am very glad that my right hon. Friend has renewed the State scholarships which were suspended for a period of two years, very largely because of the somewhat unsatisfactory report on the first examination. There are not too many scholarships in this country for men, and the provision of scholarships for women at the older universities is deplorably deficient. These State scholarships, divided as they are equally between both sexes, are, therefore, additionally welcome.
My right hon. Friend spoke very kindly of my own efforts to improve the system of education when I was at the Board. Shortly before I came into this Committee, a friend of mine suggested that I might take this opportunity of meeting some of the criticisms which have been levelled against me from time to time in various educational organs. I am unable to do that, because I have not read the criticisms, feeling reluctant to think worse ether of myself or of my fellow human beings than I am obliged to do. But I may perhaps make three observations which have some relevance to the educational Estimates. My first observation is this. When I first came to the Board, the Estimates for public education in England and Wales stood at the figure of £15,000,000. When I left the Board they stood at She figure of £45,000,000. I should be much surprised if my scholastic critics, or their children, or their grandchildren, live to see a Minister who will propose, or a Parliament who will vote, subsidies on any comparable scale for the development of public education. My second observation is that the Act of 1918 is still in effect upon the Statute Book, unaltered, unabridged, unrepealed and that every part of that Act is exercising, directly or indirectly, a beneficial effect in some part or other of the country. My third observation is that, although I was compelled in the last two years of my administration to practise some distasteful economies, I was careful that those economies should not injure the general fabric of our education system, and that they should be such that, when the favourable occasion came, they could be easily and 1174 rapidly removed. The favourable occasion has come, and the man has come. My right hon. Friend has used his opportunity, and has used it well, and I wish him all good fortune.
§ Mr. EDWARD WOOD
The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken always intervenes in these Debates with the authority of one who held the office of Minister of Education for three or four years and who, as has been stated, in the course of holding that office was instrumental in effecting great reforms. He, therefore, speaks with a wide measure of authority, and, as always, he has made to the Committee a speech full of suggestion, information, and value. To some of his points I shall recur a little later. I only, in passing, note the contrast of position between both him and the Minister and myself. I am unable, as the right hon. Gentleman, to stand at this Box and say that I was able in two or three years to raise the Education Estimates from £15,000,000 to £45,000,000, just as I am unable to stand at this Box, as the right hon. Gentleman the Minister, and say that I was able to reduce the Education Estimates by £35,000 and at the same time to increase the educational service. I may envy their fortune, but I am not able to rival their achievements. The Minister concluded his speech with what struck me as an observation of surprise that there was no Motion on the Paper for the reduction of his salary. Apart from the fact that anybody who has ever enjoyed that salary will know that it is much too small to reduce, I think that, as he himself, indeed, was conscious in his speech, there is really no big ground of controversy on the educational field at the present moment by which we are divided Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman made, what I may term, a most disarming speech.
I state quite frankly to the Committee that when I came down to the House this afternoon I had it in mind, as I think my right hon Friend below the Gangway had it in his mind, while, of course, sympathising with the reforms or advances that the right hon. Gentleman has been able to make, certainly to suggest to the Committee that a perusal of his outside-the-House speeches would have led me to suggest that he was perhaps painting his actual achievements in too favourable a light. I recall, though I 1175 have almost dismissed it from my mind, a speech that struck me very much et the time, when, no doubt encouraged by the exuberant atmosphere of Newcastle, he gave wings to his fancy and announced to a no doubt enthusiastic audience that he visualised himself—this was the inference, I suppose, of his actual words—as the commander of allied armies repulsing Ludendorff-Geddes forces and sweeping on over new Hindenburg lines to bigger conquests. When I read that, I confess I rubbed my eyes a little bit and wondered where the new policy, and all the rest of it, that would justify so warm a description of language, was in fact to be found. But, as I say, he disarmed my criticism, and I do not dwell upon points that might otherwise have tempted a reference.
I come directly to what the right hon. Gentleman has been able to tell us in his extremely important and singularly lucid and, if I may humbly say so, well-arranged and also, let me add, short speech. He made me jealous of the skill with which he compressed all he had to say. I only want to make one observation, with which I do not think he would differ, by way of preserving a just, balance of perspective, in our judgment, with regard to deficient and bad school buildings. No one defends them or would wish to maintain them, but I think it is only fair to point out that throughout, since the War, there has been a steady replacement of the worst buildings, not indeed as fast as either he or I would like, but, I think, one that can fairly be claimed to have been continuous, and it is right, I think, to remind the Committee of this, to which I remember drawing their attention last year, and that is the fact that, owing to the gradual fall in building costs, the fact that local authorities were precluded from undertaking large building schemes for a year or two has, in a great many cases, inured to their extreme financial advantage, by enabling them to secure their buildings at a vastly reduced cost and at a much more real value. I am not competent to say whether that continued fall in the cost of building is going to be maintained under the activities of the right hon. Gentleman's colleague, the Minister of Health, but it certainly was maintained until the present Government came into office.
1176 I was extremely glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he had no intention at all, as, indeed, all his colleagues in this House who know him never thought he had, of reviving by any hostile action the denominational issue and difficulty in our elementary system I can, I am sure, speak for all those with whom I sympathise in these matters in saying that, in my judgment, no denomination can complain if reasonable pressure and reasonable demands are made upon it to bring its buildings up to a state of reasonable efficiency, and, indeed, I would go further, and I would say that I believe that by doing so every denomination strengthen its claim upon the nation, which is so vitally concerned with the preservation and maintenance of religious teaching, to extend the fullest impartiality of treatment in giving any support which they may be able to give to all forms of religious belief who are doing their work efficiently and well.
That brings me to say something with regard to the secondary side, upon which the right hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend below the Gangway dwelt at some length. I have no doubt in my mind at all that they are both right in laying the principal emphasis upon that part of the educational system. While, however, here again we are all able to agree in deploring a shortage of secondary provision, we ought, I think, in fairness to the facts, to remember that that has in part been due to the fact that the secondary school life, satisfactorily enough, has been growing progressively longer. Pupils have been staying longer in the schools, and, as I ventured also, I think, last year to tell the Committee, we need not forget that, I think between the years 1912 or 1913 and 1923, we had, in fact, succeeded in doubling the provision of secondary school places, and in doubling the total number had also doubled the provision of free places that were available for those who required them there, and along with that had also been growing a steady improvement in the quality of the teaching, as represented and expressed by a steadily increasing proportion of graduate teachers in the secondary schools. But there is no difference, of course, between us as to the great need of increased provision in this direction.
1177 The right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway quoted on e figure on this head, and I would like to quote another, and, of course, we can all quote many. I am told that quite recently there were no fewer than 320 candidates for 18 free places at a London secondary school, and those who were competent to speak said that, of the 320 candidates, 100 at least would have been very good material to receive secondary education. Therefore, as I say, there is no argument, and there can be no effective argument, as to the necessity of providing an increased number of and an increased accessibility to our secondary schools to meet those needs. My own ideal in that matter is the same, I think, as that which actuates both my right hon. Friends. I have never myself been able to see, any more than the right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway—and I think this is also the view of the Minister—that there is any magic in, or indeed that it was a wise catchword to employ, the phrase "free secondary education for all." That ought not to be the educational ideal to which we should work. Rather would I work with the ideal of seeing that in no grade of society should there be a child who, possessed of the adequate intellectual merit and ability, should be debarred, by reason of his or her poverty, from obtaining the best education that the State is able, right the way up, to afford. That I believe to be a great deal sounder than the other.
I come for a moment to say a word about adult education, and in that connection my attention is claimed by the Parliamentary Secretary, who also, the other day, fell into an error with regard to the actual achievements of his predecessors that I am sure it is in the interests of accuracy, as in the interests of his own reputation for scrupulous fair-mindedness, that I should correct. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Education, speaking in the very stimulating atmosphere of the annual conference of the Labour party last year, proposed the longest Resolution I have ever seen, and with which I shall not, therefore, trouble the House. It was divided into 20 parts. I shall only deal with that part in which he condemned the then Government—which was myself—for the serious restriction of the provision, if not the practical stoppage, of the increase of adult education in all its varied forms if the right hon. Gentleman likes to 1178 refresh his memory as to the Resolution it is here. I have no objection to reasonable criticism, but, in point of fact, I felt the injury of this very much, because I thought that that was one of the good things I had done, and with regard to which I had received warm letters of thanks from those connected with the organisation of the Workers' Educational Association. I want to take the thing a little bit further than that. I have always thought that the development of adult education was one of the directions in which, with the least possible expenditure of money, you could get the greatest possible results. I think there is no field which produces so satisfactory or so rapid a result as this. Therefore, I was extremely glad to hoar that the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to carry on the good work in which I was able to lend a hand last year, and, in this field, extend support to the Workers' Educational Association and other kindred branches of the-movement.
There are two particular points that I want to put to the Minister of Education, if I may, under this head. I am inclined to think, and I believe it has been impressed upon him from other quarters, that there is a case for special consideration; that, where you are trying to organise the adult movement, a very strong case could be made out for giving special consideration, by way of grant, to such organisation in rural areas, where the movement is very much more expensive, very much more difficult to encourage, but where there is real soil to be tilled if the work can be undertaken. The other point is this: I am sure that there would be a general consensus of opinion in the Committee if the right hon. Gentleman found his way to extend the grant to encourage the extra-mural work of the universities, As the Committee knows, in the last Parliament action was taken in regard to a Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Fisher), and which resulted from the Oxford and Cambridge Commission Report. I think it would be a complement to that Bill if, while you are endeavouring to deal more satisfactorily with the universities, you should also strengthen the extra-mural work of the universities in the way I suggest.
1179 On these matters all parties, as I have said, occupy common ground, as also with regard to the aspirations of the right hon. Gentleman as to teachers and the teaching profession. Nobody who has had the opportunity of knowing anything about it can, or would wish to, underestimate the value of the hours of unpaid devoted work that the vast majority of teachers give outside teaching hours to those who are brought under their charge. It is vital that we should continue to draw, or, if we are not drawing it, that we should draw the best material into the teaching profession that we can. One of the potent influences in that connection is, obviously, the matter of salary. The President was, as he said, precluded from saying anything about the discussions of the Burnham Committee which are still proceeding, and in regard to which those of us who are outside them, and have no sure means of knowledge, would certainly wish to say nothing to make those negotiations in any way more difficult than they are necessarily bound to be.
I will only say two things. First of all, I am sure the general sense of all people who have had the opportunity of studying it must be with the right hon. Gentleman when he emphasised the extreme importance, whether from the point of view of the local authorities or the point of view of the teachers, or the point of view of the State, of doing everything that we can to preserve the principle of national agreement. I am sure it would really be disastrous to education once again to revert to all the evils that must follow disorder in the field of salary regulation. I would add this further observation. Speaking for myself, I have quite clearly come to the conclusion that once an agreement has been arrived at between the local education authority and the teachers, and has been approved by the Board, the interests of education demand that such an agreement should be adhered to, and in such circumstances, the administrative powers of the Board should be used to secure the observance of it. I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary, when he comes to reply, will be in a position to say anything as to the progress or otherwise of these negotiations. If so, the Committee will be pleased to hear it. If he cannot, he may rest assured that he will not be 1180 pressed on the matter at this stage. Can he tell us, when he comes to reply, also about a matter which the right hon. Gentleman did not refer to—when he expects the Report of the Departmental Committee on the Training of Teachers. It was in this subject that our late colleague, the Member for London University, the late Sir Sydney Russell-Wells was so very much interested, and some of us remember his singularly well-informed speech last year. I only say at this stage that I concur with others in thinking that the system of training of teachers at present need not necessarily in any quarter be regarded as ideal or permanent, and that whatever steps we can take to bring the training arrangements of the teachers into closer connection with the universities, I suspect, are likely to be well advised.
I want to say a word about the third part of the triple partnership of the State, the teachers, and the local authorities. The right hon. Gentleman more than once in his speech emphasised—for he recognised it—that no Minister of Education by strokes of the pen or by issuing ipse dixits can possibly manage to do the work of the local education authorities for them. The case that he spoke upon, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities, was the question of raising compulsorily the school age. I confess that after all I had been led to suppose would have followed in this field from the advent of the Labour Government to power, however good I may think their reasons to be, it is a little bit astonishing to me that, after all these months, there should only be, as I understand it, two definite proposals before the Board at this moment, from Bath and East Suffolk. I confess I am not quite clear haw the matter stands, and perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary may be able to give us some information as to whether Bath and East Suffolk have applied for permission to raise the school-leaving age to 15, or whether they have applied for permission to raise the age by by-law until such time as the child obtains employment, which was, as a good many hon. Members will be aware, the policy and the proposition that had been advanced. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to enlighten us on this point.
I welcome the statement that the right hon. Gentleman was able to make in 1181 regard to the action that he proposes to take as an alternative to the proposal which the House rejected a week or two ago in the matter of the insurance of juveniles. I am sure that whatever money he can get from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which would have gone to, the insurance fund, for such educational purposes generally, and the local and, social advancement such as he has outlined, will be very warmly welcomed by all sections of this House. I conclude what I want to say about that with a general observation. However much it may be possible to guide and assist the formation of education policy from Whitehall, it has never been the English fashion of mind either to create or to suggest the creation of a bureaucracy effectively operating over the country. Therefore, I am quite certain that the real results of educational achievement will always principally depend upon the spirit that the right hon. Gentleman, or whoever may stand at that box opposite, is able to infuse into local administration. I sometimes think that we take that so much for granted that we are a little bit apt to overlook the debt of gratitude that we owe to the local unpaid, voluntary, indefatigable administrators.
I want the right hon. Gentleman to keep his mind open as to the advisability of devising a plan by which, without sacrificing the just interests of the, taxpayers, he can contrive to extend a greater measure of liberty to the local authorities and local administration in order to spare them the irritating necessity that both my right hon. Friend and I am afraid, laid them under, and which, although my right hon. Friend has proposed to relieve them to some extent from, they are still laid under, of having a great many things, as they consider it unnecessarily reviewed and overridden be the Board of Education in London. The fact is, I think, that in the general structure of the educational system, as a result of the War, both the theory of what real education is, and an appreciation of what education may moan, has outstripped the development of the external frame work around which the system has to develop. I am not satisfied that we have succeeded, in spite of all the efforts of the last few years, in effecting an ideal juncture of all the different stages and joints of the whole system of elementary, secondary, 1182 technical, and university education. I do not think there ever was, looking at this matter as a whole, a greater need than there is at the present time for standing out for establishing real unity and harmony right through the whole system, and unity of conception should be the first sheet anchor of a really forward educational policy such as that which the President of the Board of Education invites all parties to co-operate in.
My second point is one that I rejoiced to hear the President emphasise not less strongly than any one on this side would have wished to do, and that is the necessity for having a genuine and thorough diversity of treatment. The right hon. Gentleman recognises that this is an age of experiment; in which we should encourage and welcome this policy, because it is by experiments that we, may find the truth. That I am sure is profoundly true. It is most certainly true, and more and more we appreciate it, that what feeds one child suffocates another in matters of the mind, and therefore you need to aim at as wide a diversity as your curriculum, within limits, will permit. We want a great deal of hard thinking in which the members of all parties may very well put their minds. Let us he certain, however, that the mere expenditure of a large amount of money will not be enough unless we know exactly what our system is and what we want to get out of it.
Personally, while welcoming the extension secondary education, and regarding that for the moment as the main key of the position that we want to make good, I join with the right hon. Gentleman in saying that it is necessary to maintain your standard in your secondary system, and that there is need to make considerable provision for those who are not intellectually fitted for the secondary school course as well as for the large number who will remain. For these I hope the right hon. Gentleman will develop the Central school idea. I will not follow the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last in detail into his consideration of continuation schools. I am not so sanguine about their future as he is, although I recognise that until you can realise your ideal they may have a useful part to play, but I do not put them quite as high as he does. I might perhaps mention that almost the last thing that it fell to me to have the oppor- 1183 tunity of doing before the late Government left office, was to give what I conceived to be a very important and valuable reference to the Consultative Committee who are now considering this matter, and I hope, in due course, that they will furnish the Board with their judgment about it. What I asked them to do was:(1) To consider and report upon the organisation objective, and curriculum of courses of study suitable for children who will remain in full time attendance at schools, other than secondary schools, up to the age of 15 plus, regard being had on the one hand to the requirements of a good general education and she desirability of providing a reasonable variety of curriculum, so far as is practicable, for children of varying tastes and abilities, and on the other to the probable occupations of the pupils in commercial industry and agriculture.I mention that to show the very wide measure of agreement in the desire to find a really scientific solution for all these problems with which the right hon. Gentleman has shown himself so well fitted to deal. One word with regard to the right hon. Gentleman's appeal. He made to us this afternoon an appeal for continuity of administration in matters of education. There is no service in which continuity of administration is more vital because there are few services in which organisation moves so slowly, and in which therefore results follow more gradually, and therefore the right hon. Gentleman can certainly depend upon it that his appeal will fall upon very sympathetic ears. It is most certainly true as he said, that in these days no Government can rely with assurance upon longevity, and it is also most certainly true that on what we make of the children in the schools will depend what they make of England the day after tomorrow. As long as the right hon. Gentleman or any other Minister can convince this or any subsequent Committee that he is pursuing his task with a due regard on the one hand to inspiration and vision, and on the other to practical steps by which a sound purpose may be brought into execution, so long I am satisfied he will be able to count upon the ready, willing, and ungrudging cooperation of all parties.
§ Mr. COVE
I desire to congratulate the Minister for Education upon what he has done and upon some of the things which 1184 he proposes to do. My congratulations are all the more vivid and sincere because during the last few days I have had occasion to peruse the circulars issued to the local education authorities during the last two or three years. Although I am sorry to intrude with a note of this kind, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher) induces me to refer to some of the things which were done under his regime, and under the regime of his successor at the Board of Education who has just sat down. I wish to refer to the famous Circular No. 1190. That circular stopped all progress in school building. It stopped all the tendency towards a reduction of classes, and all efforts towards an extension of secondary education, more especially secondary free education. It also stopped all continuity of policy between the Coalition Government and the Government which followed it, which adopted a policy of restriction for educational services.
§ Mr. FISHER
Will the hon. Member substantiate that observation, because I remember distinctly that I gave my permission for the erection of several secondary schools after that.
§ Mr. COVE
There may have been some exception, but in Circular 1190 issued on the 11th January, 1921, I find the following words:It must, however, be clearly understood that for the present the Board's approval to any general scheme cannot he given in such a form as would commit them to recognising for the calculation of substantive or deficiency grants, expenditure incurred under it.As recently as 26th September of last year, I find in Circular 1317 the following passage:I have to request that the authority will furnish the Board not later than the 15th November next with a forecast of their expenditure in the year 1924–25 on the form enclosed herewith.In framing their forecast the authorities should not anticipate any relaxation of the financial stringency, or regard the necessity for economy as less urgent than in the two preceding years.I presume that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Wood) found at the Board of Education an era of restriction and stringency that began under the regime of his predecessors. I should not have referred to this point but 1185 for the remark made by the right hon. Gentleman about the sun rising. I have recently refreshed my memory with regard to these education restrictions—
§ 6. 0 P. M.
§ Mr. COVE
I think I had better not. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Read it. '] Undoubtedly these restrictions exist, and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fisher) will deny it. He has said himself this afternoon that the President of the Board of Education is much more fortunate than he was, because he has come into a new era, and has a better chance, having regard to the reduction in the number of children in the schools. I say that for the last two or three years every member of every local education authority is ready to tell you that buildings have been restricted, secondary education has been restricted, and the feeding of necessitous school children has been denied, and, therefore, I am all the more gratified to hear that the President of the Board of Education has deemed it wise to remove the restrictions imposed, and restore the system under which the grants were paid. There was instituted what was generally called the principle of rationing in our schools—a new departure in educational finance. I am glad that the new President of the Board of Education has gone hack to the system which prevailed before the rationing system, and is considering every proposal on its merits. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the general outlook of his speech and the new atmosphere which has already realised itself. His forecast of a secondary school provision of 10,000 places in a single year is a good commencement. Forty new schools have already been approved, and, taking them at an average of about 250 places in each, according to the calculation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities, the Minister is already going at a very good pace. Having said that, however, I should like to ask him one or two questions, and, perhaps, if I may, offer one or two criticisms.
I should like to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that now is an opportune time for insisting that all the local education authorities should get on with 1186 their schemes. The Act of 1921 provided that every local education authority should make a forecast of its educational requirements over a term of years, and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that now is an opportune moment for securing those schemes. You cannot develop in educational system piecemeal. You cannot develop it unless you take long views, and it is time that the local education authorities were asked to take long views as to their requirements, and that the Board of Education, with its expert advisers, should aid, suggest, and co-ordinate the schemes of the local authorities, in order that they may get the fullest benefit from them. Then I want to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to what, I am afraid, will develop into a very serious menace in the educational world unless it is carefully watched. I am willing to admit that, as yet, it has not assumed very large proportions, but I find that the spirit prevails at the Board of Education, and that the words contained in this Report are being taken advantage of, even by what are generally known as progressive local education authorities. I refer to the new emphasis that seems in the mind of the Board to be laid on the examination of children in schools. I find that on page 13 of their Report for this year the Board say:Indeed, the importance of a definite written test … is coming to be increasingly recognised in elementary school inspection to-day.No educationist or teacher will, I am sure, deny the right of this House, of the Board of Education, and of the public in general, to be satisfied that the work that is being done is being done efficiently. No one will deny the right of the public to know that the work going on in schools is bearing fruit and is effective work; but I want to suggest to the President that the system of written examinations is attended by very grave dangers. If you are going to insist, as appears to be the case in some local authorities, upon a written examination in the three R's, with arithmetic looming in front of all other subjects, I am afraid we are going to get some of the effects of the old system of payment by results. Unless we are very careful, written examinations are going to prevent educational development and experiment, and nothing is more necessary in the educa- 1187 tional world to-day than freedom to experiment. We have not solved our educational problems, in spite of mental tests in the United States of America, and I would quite definitely ask the Parliamentary Secretary, who, I understand, is going to reply, is it the policy of the Board to insist upon written examination in the three R's of all the younger children, say of the age of 11, in all the elementary schools of this country? If that be not the policy of the Board, will my right hon. Friend advise the local education authorities of the dangers arising from the continual holding by inspectors of examinations in the three R's in all the schools under their jurisdiction?
I notice that the inspectorate forms a special feature in the Report, and, although it is, perhaps, a very dry part of the subject, I feel that it is a very important and necessary part, so perhaps the Committee will hear with me. I want to know a few other things from the Board, because this has to do with my social outlook and my political philosophy. How many elementary school teachers have been promoted to the inspectorate? What proportion of the inspectorate consists of men who have had no practical experience of elementary schools, but who have been through the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge? I find that the Board, in their Report, say a few nice things about inspectors in general, and rather lay emphasis on the wide outlook and broad experience of men who have gone through the older Universities. It does not, however, necessarily follow that men who have been through the older Universities have a broader view and a wider outlook as far as elementary education is concerned. I do not say that they have not got it, but it does not necessarily follow as a result of their having been through the older Universities, and that is what I want to emphasise. Inspectors, like teachers and like education authorities, are all human. This is only an isolated instance, but the other day I was speaking to a headmaster, and he was telling me of a man who had been through one of the older Universities and who had suggested to him that formal grammar should be taught in the schools. "It seems to me," said the headmaster, "to be rather out of date to insist too 1188 much upon formal grammar." "Well," said the University inspector, "I suggest that you take one formal grammar lesson a year."
That is an extreme and isolated case, I know, and I am merely using it to suggest to my right hon. Friend that, after all, we not only want university experience, but we want experience of actual teaching in the elementary schools to a large degree in the inspectorate of this country, and I hope he will be able to satisfy me that it is still the policy of the Board to grant promotion to competent and qualified men and women who have rendered service in the actual elementary schools of the country. The next thing I want to know is, again, perhaps, technical, but I think it is a very serious matter, and that is, what is the policy of the Board regard to classification by age? I am afraid there is a tendency in the educational world at present to put children in certain standards because they are of a certain age, driving them up mere quickly than they ought to go. This means that those children may get into classes for which they are not educationally fitted. There are many things that go towards the standard of education of the child, and you might, by undue pressure of what is called classification by age, and pressure of examination, rob the child of what, to me, is most vital in the school, and that is that the child should be happy in school. There is something far more important in the school than getting sums right. Right conduct is far more important than getting sums right, and if we are going to have this pressure, the danger is that drill will be brought back into the schools, that we shall have the drill-sergeant instead of the teacher.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Wood) said that he did not agree with or was never enamoured of, free secondary education—that free secondary education did not appeal to him, and that what he wanted to see was an opportunity for all children in ail grades of society to gel this secondary education. I do net agree. Fee-paying secondary education is anti-democratic, and if you are going to have fee-paying in the schools, with the present provision continuing for a good many years to come, you are going to cut out the child who, by capacity, ought to be there. There is not enough secondary school provision, and 1189 there will not be enough for a considerable number of years. There are thousands of children who have qualified to enter the schools and cannot get in, and that means that the people who can afford it are able to pay, not for their children's education, because they do not pay for more than about one-third of it, but for a chance to get their children into the secondary school, to the exclusion of other children. The true democratic principle in secondary education is entrance by capacity. Even the Geddes' Committee were right in that respect, and that is the only thing in which I agreed with them. The Geddes Committee suggested that there were a good many children whose parents could pay for their education in secondary schools, but who were not fitted for it; but the Geddes Committee did not say that there is a large number of children who are not in the secondary schools though they are fit to benefit from them.
I want to ask the Minister another practical question or two. Is he going to do anything in regard to the preparatory secondary schools? There are about 26,000 children in the preparatory schools, and they are there because their parents can pay for them. If they were out, there would be more room for other and older children. The Minister has suggested that he is going to welcome the, raising of the free places to 40 per cent. There is too much persuasion about that, too much permission to the local authorities. I want to ask him whether he is prepared to say, not that they shall be 40 per cent. but that, as a minimum to begin with at once, there must be 40 per cent. of free places for grant-aided children in the secondary schools? With regard to the Education Act of 1918, I was sorry—this is only a personal opinion—to hear my right hon. Friend state that he was going to allow education authorities to experiment with continuation schools. Continuation schools are a misfit in modern industrial society. You will not get even the employers to agree with them, and a great number of them have already pronounced their opposition to them. Further, I am of opinion that less benefit will be obtained from continuation schools for the money expended than would be obtained by raising the school age for all children.
1190 When I left school at 12 years of age and went down to work in the mine, I was, after I had been a very few months amongst the colliers, a very different lad, and every boy who enters industry becomes a very different lad. He becomes a man quickly, objecting to the restraints and discipline of school life—not while he is in school, because I do not agree with my right hon. Friend that children are sick of being in school. As a matter of fact, the general evidence is all the other way. School life has been radically changed during the last 10 or 15 years. There is more sunshine and happiness, because there is more individual freedom. Continuation schools are going to be a failure, if only because of the tremendous psychological change that takes place immediately a boy has gone to work. The straight line for the Minister to go upon is not to give 50 per cent, for maintenance grants. It is to give 100 per cent. for maintenance grants and to get powers to raise the school age compulsorily all up and down the country.
May I say one or two words about higher education. I believe I speak the mind of a great many who are interested in education when I say that I am tired of names. It is time to get rid of "elementary" and "secondary" and to visualise the thing as one complete whole. The key is not the secondary system any more than it is the elementary, neither is it the elementary any more than it is the secondary. The whole structure ought to be visualised as one. In all educational developments which the Minister envisages, I hope he will give money for local authorities to experiment in a great number of ways. I am not afraid at the moment of bias as long as it is not a black coated and vocational bias. I am not afraid of vocational education if the word "vocation" connotes a wide enough horizon. I am inclined to think sometimes that in this industrial society of ours tire most useless education is the most useful. What is the tendency I have here some figures from Cardiff of the tragedy of the unemployed child. I have said before that by the very operation of the machine in industry you are tending to make the large bulk of our labour unskilled work, repetition work, monotonous work in which there is no room for human personality to expand. 1191 You cannot get to-day, for tens and hundreds of thousands of our people, education in and through work; therefore, you have to get it in some other way. You have to get it in the schools. You have to bring the arts and the crafts back into the schools. Give your biases, but do not give them too young. A liberal, broad education, an education in the arts in the crafts, in the humanities—that is the education that I think is going to help us in this industrial era.
§ Mr. P. HARRIS
We have heard a very interesting speech, with most of which I entirely agree, and which represents, I think, the right kind of attitude that ought to inspire the President of the Board of Education. Before the last speaker intervened we had a very harmonious atmosphere—perhaps in some ways too harmonious. Any stranger who wandered into the place might have thought that controversy was quite absent from our Debates. That, perhaps, marks the fact that at any rate in the general aspect towards education there is no party division. It is purely a matter of degree and of difference of opinion as to what particular line we should march along in educational progress. I have been working for many years in an East End district doing a great deal of work amongst the schools, and one thing that has impressed me is the enormous progress, in spite of all the limitations and disadvantages of our present educational system, which has been made as the result of the efforts of educationists during those years. I was very glad the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Wood) went out of his way to pay a special tribute to these men and women who give so many years of their life in the local work of education, not merely education authorities, who have, of course, to do important work, but also the school managers and the care committees, who do so much to make our schools human institutions in touch with the needs and requirements of those who are in them.
I hope the President of the Board in the big work before him will make it part of his duty to have a complete survey of buildings. I do not want to overrate buildings. I have seen good, efficient teachers in the most inadequate buildings get better results than rather ordinary 1192 teachers get out of a perfect building. We all know that buildings are not everything, but they are very important, and it is a great handicap to keen teachers who find themselves in antiquated buildings without school halls. I want to impress on the President of the Board—it may seem small and trivial, but anyone who has been in touch with the schools will bear out what I say—the immense importance of the school hall for the effective work of the school. In the East End of London, in ninny of the very old buildings, there is a complete absence of the school hall. That means that it is impossible really to carry on the unified life of the school. It becomes a detached building with separate school rooms instead of one school, of which the head teacher can keep complete control. I will put it to the Minister in this way. There is likely to be great difficulty in getting the necessary materials and labour for building schools owing to the competition for houses. There has been in the last few years a really feverish battle between the educationists and the housing enthusiasts who were going to get the capital, the labour, and the materials for the necessary building. But many of our old buildings are capable of reconstruction, particularly in the direction of constructing a school hall, and the right hon. Gentleman is likely to meet with greater and more rapid success if he concentrates, with the Treasury and the local authorities, on bringing antiquated schools up to date rather than on the more ambitious scheme of building entirely new schools.
I want to congratulate hire particularly on the new attitude which has been adopted towards the whole teaching profession. Undoubtedly, there has been very grave discontent and unrest in many branches of the profession. Sometimes it may be thought that too much was made out of the five per cent. reduction in salary and the five per cent, contribution to the superannuation fund. As a matter of fact, I think the teaching profession have submitted to this reduction very patiently and with comparatively small complaint, but it has caused a feeling of unrest and uncertainty, and I think all parties should aim at giving the teaching profession a proper professional status and save them from con- 1193 stant irritation in the revision of salaries in a downward grade. Let them feel that the teaching profession is recognised by the State as the noblest and most important of all professions, and let it take its proper rank among the learned professions. Everyone who is keen on education also welcomes the new campaign against the uncertified teacher. But hope the President will not limit his efforts to London. We are duly grateful to him for the disappearance of the infants' assistants, not so much because of their particular work, but because it was a suggestion to the profession that it was not absolutely essential for teachers to go through the necessary course of training and qualify for their work. Unfortunately, in other parts of the country there are still thousands of men and women who are not really qualified for their particular job. We talk a lot about quacks and unqualified people in the medical profession. It is equally important that education should be in the hands of people who have hen through a proper course of training and know their job.
I specially welcome the remarks of the last speaker in reference to the whole attitude towards elementary schools. The great bulk of the people go to a school which is limited to teaching the elements of an education to be completed at 14, and the ordinary parent of the ordinary child, when the age of 14 is reached, thinks the education is complete, and they can go out into the world to earn their living as properly educated persons. That is a very unfortunate atmosphere to create. It may seem trivial to quibble about words, but I should like to substitute "preparatory" for "elementary." The great council schools that give elementary education should be regarded as preparatory schools, in the same way that private schools are regarded as preparatory for the secondary or great public schools. That would get into the minds of the parents and the child that all they had been getting up to 14 is the groundwork to fit them to enter into the higher branches of education in the secondary schools. What we shall aim at—and the President has a great opportunity at present, in view of the better spirit in the country towards education—is a really national system. You want to get rid of the idea 1194 that used to be described in the old days as the Board school and the Board school was regarded as an inferior kind of education. In France, though there are many defects in French education, they have a truly national system. The child can go to a private or a State school, but he has to go practically through the same course and submit to the same tests and the same examination. Anyone who knows anything about the many hundreds of private schools where parents pay for the education of their children know how inefficient and unsatisfactory these preparatory schools are. I suggest to the President that he should try to get all these private schools into a complete national system—not to stereotype education, not to put them all into one mould, but whether the child is the son of a rich or a poor man there should be a national system of education, no one should be exempt, the poor child should be entitled to the same advantages as the rich, and the child of the rich parent should not be subject to inefficient education because of the idiosyncracies of the parent and the prejudice towards fashionable seminaries which have the appearance of being something superior to the elementary school, but really, on the educational side, are often infinitely inferior, and would never be passed by the proper inspector of the Board of Education or a local authority.
There has been a little controversy today about the attitude to adopt towards the secondary school. I am inclined to agree that the best system would be that every child that enters a State secondary school should be subject to an examination, and only if a proper standard is reached should any child be permitted to enter. If the parent likes to pay a fee by all means let the parent do so, but do not let the child of the parent who pays have an advantage over the child of the parent who cannot afford to pay a fee.
There is a branch of education which has not been referred to and which has great possibilities, and in regard to which great strides have been made in London and in other parts of the Country. I refer to the central schools. The central school is organised for children who are prepared to stay and continue their education up to the age 1195 of 16. It has to a certain extent a vocational bias, but on the other hand a most generous syllabus is provided. These schools have appealed in a remarkable way to the industrial districts and, what is most significant, children who have had the advantage of a central school education never fail not only to get a good job but also to keep it. Down in the East end of London, and I suppose all over the country, at the present time, there are large numbers of young men and young women, especially between the ages of 20 and 30, who are out of work. These people are constantly coming to me and asking me to help them to find employment. When you ask them what they can do, the answer only too often is, "anything," but when you ask them what they can do in particular, unfortunately, the answer only too often is "nothing."
It is a very curious thing that of the young men and young women who are out of work hardly one of them have had the advantage of training in a secondary or in a central school. That is a great indication of the advantage of continued education from the industrial point of view. It is a mistake to think that machinery means a less demand for skilled craftsmen. On the contrary, machinery more and more is doing the heavy work and is diminishing the demand for unskilled labour, but the demand for skilled labour when normal times are restored will continue, and the industries will get the advantage of having workers who are well educated and intelligent, and more skilled labour will be employed. At any rate, that is my experience. For that reason and even for that reason only, there is an unanswerable case for very much larger expenditure, of public money in the development both of central schools and secondary schools.
When you come to the more difficult and controversial question of the raising of the school age as compared with the continuation school system, my view is that local authorities should be encouraged wherever possible to raise the school age. I am sure the President of the Board of Education is on right lines when he offers maintenance grants. With all the present prevalent unemployment the family wage is such that it is impossible to keep a child out of work after 1196 the age of 14, but if maintenance grants are given with discrimination I believe that much of that difficulty will be got over. By all means encourage continuation schools to go alongside the raising of the school age, but do not let it be suggested that they are a substitute for the increasing of the school age to 15. I think the recommendation of the Bath Education Authority is significant, and one that might be weighed very seriously by the Board of Education. Here was an authority, not claiming to be very advanced in its views, coming forward to the Board and suggesting that no children should be allowed to leave school unless, they could show that they had some occupation to go to, and that they should be induced to stay on until the age of 15 by the offer of a maintenance grant. I suggest that this should be taken by the Board as a sign of the right lines to be followed.
With respect to adult education, one of the interesting things that I have noticed amongst young men and young women out of employment is their realisation of the importance of continuing their education. An interesting experiment has been made in three buildings in London in the way of institutes for working men over the age or 1s. In one case in particular, the Bethnal Green Men's Institute, the County Council, three years ago, placed at the disposal of an energetic man an elementary school building. He started with no pupils, he was merely given the fabric of the budding and told to find the men to till it. In the first two months he had only 13 pupils. At the present time he has 800 working men, many of them employed in comparatively unskilled work. He has plumbers, bricklayers, carpenters, tailors and other men earning their living by their hands. It was found that they were rather suspicious at first in going back to school. They did not like the atmosphere of the classroom and it was necessary to create an atmosphere suitable for adults who had left school and had never entered an educational institute for four years. Therefore, he adopted an ingenious device of providing plebs and societies—art societies, dramatic clubs, wireless societies, an economic circle and so on. By these means he has created in this building a real university atmosphere. He has not only provided these working men with intellectual activities, but he has 1197 given an entirely new outlook to the neighbourhood and made the men feel that there are opportunities in intellectual life that will make life far more attractive and far more interesting than otherwise would be the case.
He has done more. He has assisted them indirectly to get back their industrial self respect. Many of these men have been out of work or in casual employment for the last two or three years, and they have found in this building opportunities for intellectual activities which, though they may not directly have brought them employment, have helped them to get back into industry, and have given them that satisfaction that only an intellectual atmosphere of this kind can create. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that experiments of this kind in adult education should be encouraged. I am all for the Workers' Education League. Undoubtedly it has done splendid work in giving lectures to working men on many subjects and dealing with many problems, but something more than that is required. If adult education is really to be successful we want to get buildings of the character to which I have referred, and to get the men into contact with each other and into an atmosphere something like that which men and women in more fortunate circumstances get in the Universities. I believe the Minister has started on the right line, and that if he continues on those lines he will do useful work and will have the full support of the House of Commons on all sides.
§ Sir MARTIN CONWAY
It is my good fortune as one of the representatives of the United Universities to have as my colleague the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fisher), who has already addressed the Committee. He thoroughly understands all the complicated system of the Education Office. He knows all about the 380 local authorities and their relations to the central body. He knows, I will not call it the jargon, but the vocabulary of education and can talk of all the different technical points which, I confess, are so much Greek to me. The result is that he brings heavy guns to bear on these education debates and all that remains to me is a kind of light skirmishing around. If I may change the simile, I would say that when we adventure together on an education debate my right hon. Friend skilfully 1198 brings down bird after bird at which he has skilfully aimed and all that I can do is to fire into the brown. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Cove) would almost have tempted me to follow him into his historical disquisition. He ventured upon an historical retrospect which would have been more valuable had he possessed the historic mind. The historic mind is one that essentially concerns itself with considering all the factors of a problem with entire impartiality and without any regard to the result which may be arrived at save what arises out of the factors under consideration. I do not think that the historical part of his speech was marked either by impartiality or with a full regard of all the factors. I am entirely impartial in this matter and I confess to a feeling of some annoyance when hon. Members opposite are criticised for not having fully carried out promises that they have made under other circumstances which are raked up from the past. These backward glances are always a waste of time when our sole business is to consider the conditions of the present day and preparations for the future. We should leave the past to bury itself.
I am going to represent myself in regard to education as a revolutionary and an anarchist, and I hope that I may draw some sympathy from hon. Members opposite. To me education consists in a child desiring to learn in the presence of the teacher capable and desirous of teaching. In these Debates we hear a great deal about the Departments, inspectors, education authorities, schemes and apparatus of all sorts and kinds. All these organisations form a vague cloud in my mind—vague shapes which I cannot define to myself; but the one thing that I do not see is the child in the school and the master who is teaching him. I have the greatest lack of sympathy for the whole bureaucratic business as applied to education. All this machinery, all these various authorities and their relations; their employés, their apparatus and the whole business is not education at all. It is merely the means of getting a child into the presence of a teacher.
What does all this educational apparatus mean? If you examine it and look down into the heart of it it means that you do not trust the teacher. The whole of this structure, all these educational authorities exist merely because we do 1199 not trust the teacher. The one purpose is to secure that the teacher teaches. You do not always effect that purpose, but that is the purpose. If you had confidence in the teachers all over the country, the same kind of confidence that you have in the headmaster of a big public school, you would not require this system of inspection, examination, and all the rest of it. Now teachers and inspectors ask the children, "Let us see if you can learn as well as we can teach." The child, in fact, knows more about that than any inspector. The best inspector of a teacher is his own class. They can tell more about a teacher than an inspector can find out under any system of inspection.
The point which I wish to make is that the whole of this elaborate, bureaucratic system has no other purpose except to secure that the teachers teach, and the sole reason of its existence is lack of confidence in the teacher, Why does this lack of confidence exist? Obviously, because we know quite well that we have not made the teaching profession sufficiently attractive to bring into it the best people of the country. If the teaching profession were as attractive as are the other great professions, if it were sufficiently well paid, you would not want all this system of training colleges, examinations, and what-not to produce teachers. You would not want all this examination, inspection, and general looking after everyone to see whether he is doing his job. You would know perfectly well that you had got the kind of men who would do their jobs, and that they would be men whom you could trust, or that if you could not trust them you could not better trust anybody else to look after them.
What right have we to think that inspectors are any better than teachers? Who is going to inspect the inspector, and who is going to inspect the man who inspects the inspector? You must ultimately come to, bed-rock somewhere and put your trust in somebody. I maintain that the real man to trust is the teacher, and if you cannot trust him the fault is in the system of producing the teaching profession. I should like to see the whole of the money that is spent on this bureaucratic construction spent on the teachers, and I should like to see the teachers left in freedom to teach. No 1200 doubt you would have some failures here and there. You have them now. There is no system that can be created that will always work well. You have got to take your chance. You have got to have your failures. But I believe that this country, with the class of people that there are in it who would be wiling to take up the Leaching profession in large numbers, would get fewer failures by entirely trusting the whole of the educated body of teachers than by any other way.
There has been a great deal said about the age at which children should leave school, whether it should be 14, 15 or 16. A great deal has been said about the necessity of prolonging education. I maintain that that is a matter which depends entirely upon the individual. You cannot go by rigid rules. Many of my friends who sit on the benches opposite, and in other parts of the House, have lamented to me that their education was interrupted at an early age, and I have generally found that those are the very men whose broad common sense and wide understanding view of life has been the thing that has provoked in me real envy. What is the good of talking about the year in which education is to cease? Education continues to the very end of life. We are all being educated, at least all except a wooden-beaded section of us who are past salvation.
The best education which anyone gets is what he gets immediately after leaving his teachers, the first me of freedom, when you can apply your mind to the things that really interest you and not to the things in which you are told to interest yourself, when you can use the apparatus of thinking, the development of which is the sole end of early education. There is great doubt whether the bulk of people, including myself, who have been to a public school and a university benefited by continuing our formal education as long as we did. It is a matter absolutely foe the individual. Some children can go on learning until they became adults, that is to say, can go on learning profitably from teachers to an advanced stage. But there are plenty of children who cannot learn from teachers at all. They learn practically nothing from the teacher. They can learn only from life.
Now our system of education is built up on the basis of reading, writing and 1201 arithmetic, and abstractions of that sort. There are people with definite concrete minds who cannot profit by any abstract teaching at all, and for whom the only way by which they can learn fractions is by sawing a board into halves and quarters, and then they know what a fraction means. All abstract teaching is wasted on large numbers of children, whom you hold back from the great school of life where they can learn, in order to keep them in a trammeled school where they not only cannot learn but where they will not. I think that the whole of this discussion as to continuing education beyond a certain age, a definite age to which education shall be carried, is beside the mark. I do not believe for one moment in general rules on this matter. You must deal with every case as it arises. There are many children who are far better removed from school at: a very early age, while others are better kept at it.
A great deal has been said about the establishment of secondary schools, and as to why we do not establish more, and how many we should establish. I wish to suggest that it takes about 100 years to establish a secondary school that is very much good. What you learn at such a school, that is of great advantage, is what you learn from your fellow scholars and not what you learn from your masters. The great merit of our English public schools—and I for one ant a great believer in them, I am not at all one of those people who sneer at our great public schools, which are the wonder and admiration of the world, and which no people criticise but ourselves—is the crowd psychology of them, the esprit de corps that arises in a school, that differentiates one school from another, so that in a given school there is at any given date a certain spirit, a certain moral spirit, which ordains that such-and-such a thing is right, and that such-and-such a thing is not to be done, which particularises often perfectly ridiculous actions as being contrary to the way of the school.
But such a spirit takes a long time to grow in any school. It cannot he produced except after the passage of many generations of scholars, each of them leaving behind some little effect, some little influence, which is carried on until ultimately the school attains, as I say, a 1202 definite character. When once it has attained that character the thing that happens is that any new scholar that comes into the school catches that character just as you catch the measles. It is not a thing acquired by teaching. It is the spirit that is caught, as the esprit de corps in a regiment is caught. It is an emotional effect which the whole organism of a school is capable of producing on the members who form a part of it. That is the most important thing.
Not what you are taught at a school is most important. The civilising spirit that you acquire by contact with your contemporaries in the school which which possesses a definite esprit de corps and has been long enough in existence to have a certain respectable weight of time behind it, is to be acquired in no other way. The spirit of a school is the most important thing to know about a school. We recognise this fast enough in the case of our public schools. We know that certain public schools have a better spirit than others, and parents, quite rightly, are often guided in the choice of a school for their sons by the knowledge of what the spirit in that school is at a given time.
I have asked whether the secondary schools of modern growth which have grown up under the Board of Education do possess tins kind of individual spirit, and I am told that it has certainly arisen among some of them, that it tends to arise, and that one may look forward in time to every secondary school in this country having the same kind of definite individual spirit of its own as the old public schools already possess. The old public schools have taken a long time to create that spirit. It cannot be done in a moment. It is a most important factor in any system of education that schools should possess a fine spirit of infectious character which they alone can transfer to young people, and which cannot be given by any amount of teaching or any number of masters or mistresses or examinations, time tables, and all the rest of it.
There is only one other subject to which I wish to call the attention of the Committee. That is the general state of education throughout the whole country. That is a very large subject, but I shall not treat it in any lengthy way. We have 1203 in Great Britain two totally different ways of life. There are people who live in towns and people who live in the country. There is town life and there is country life. Our system of education is the same applied to both. Our town schools and our country schools teach practically the same kind of thing. They are all, in fact, concerned to bring a boy or girl up to a stage at which he or she would make a good post office clerk. That is the kind of ideal that our schools, town and country alike, entertain. Our country schools are educating children to be town children, giving them a taste for town attractions, giving them the kind of knowledge which could be applied to activities and openings in towns. I remember being told about the Orkneys or Shetland that in the old days the normal boy, as he grew up there, looked to become a fisherman or a sailor. Then came our modern system of education, and now the normal boy in those same islands, instead of looking forward to being a sailor, wants to go to town and become a townsman. That is the direct result of our system of education. A great deal of the tendency to leave the country and to go to town is due to the fact that you give a town education to country children. The whole of this country is overburdened by town interests. Legislation is always from the point of view of the town. The country is always being impeded by the dictation of towns, and in nothing more so than in education. Our educational system envisages town life. That is, I think, a most mischievous thing, and the fundamental change I shall always advocate is that town and country education should be absolutely different from the beginning right up. Town education contemplates producing a good townsman; country education should contemplate producing a good countryman. While the townsman takes an interest in all kinds of business and the works of man, the countryman should take an interest in things in nature. His education should be based on the book of nature rather than the actual works of man.
One of the unfortunate things which arises from our system of education is that our young people are not at all suited to go out into the Colonies. I know that 1204 hon. Gentlemen opposite will regard with disfavour the idea of emigration. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] No! Well, I have heard expressions of opinion that people like to keep their children with them at home, and very naturally, from the point of view of the older generation. In my time the normal youngster who was of an adventurous disposition, ran away to sea. I do not hear of much running away to sea now. I know one hon. Member opposite gave me a most marvellous description of his life based on that adventurous spirit, which led him to run away to sea. I always regard the boy who runs away to sea as typical of our race. Our modern system of education does not by any means help a boy to look forward to starting in life in the Colonies. Our climate is, in one sense, the finest on the surface of the globe. The nature of our soil, its position on the surface of the globe, and other factors unite to make this country the most perfect breeding place for stock—I do not refer merely to cattle, but to human beings. You cannot breed a finer type of human being than in this country. Just as we export our cattle all over the world, so we ought to export ourselves and "replenish the earth and subdue it."
Our system of education ought to be a system that favours the adventurous youth who wants to go colonising and to spread himself all over the world. I maintain that our system has exactly the contrary effect. So long as that is the case, you are handicapping your race in the world. I would have the whole of our system of education, so far as it applies to children in the country, revolutionised I would have a totally different kind of system for the country, and not like the other at all. I would have it concerned with the neighbourhood where the children live, with the nature of the soil, the crops which grow there, the geography of the country, of its surroundings and everything to do with nature there. I would make the children trained in the country so utterly useless in the town that they would not want to go there, and I would make the country the one possible arena for their activities I believe if you did that, you would find a very quick response from the people. Further, I would, in the neighbourhod of every large town, have country schools, so that the children living in towns could be 1205 sent to the schools and trained for the country life, and thus induce them, if possible, to prefer the country to the town, whether in this land or in the Dominions and Colonies. I hope I have not suggested shocking ideas to hon. Members. I will not enlarge upon them in detail. I am merely talking about the broadest generalities. I seldom inflict my generalisations on the House, and I shall not be doing so again very soon.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
It does seem to me that the speeches we have heard, admirable as many of them were, conceal rather than show that something very important has happened, and that there are great possibilities for the future. The right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. E Wood) spoke with considerable courage, and I do not think I could do better than remind him of the dictum of the Geddes Committee with regard to education:We see no way of making the reductions necessary in national expenditure without reducing expenditure on elementary education. This can only be done by reducing the lower age limit, by putting more pupils under one teacher and paying the teachers less.That is a downright plan. Ministers since that date have been inspired by the same idea. It is true that they do not speak with that peculiar directness of that Report. That is not the way in which Ministers of any experience in a Department would speak. They use gentle, friendly words about the importance of education. I would quote the words of Mr. Selby Bigge, the Secretary of the Board of Education:The Board rely confidently on local education authorities to co-operate with them in the difficult circumstances of the present time, in devising means for carrying on the public system of education with the strictest economy, and at the same time in such a manner as to protect the vital interests which it serves and to keep open the lines of advance when financial circumstances are more favourable.His Report further states:It is obviously undesirable at the present moment that local authorities should embark on or proceed to the erection of large or costly permanent buildings unless the circumstances are extraordinary and such a course is unavoidable. Few proposals of this character have in fact been submitted to the Board within the last 12 months and they cannot now entertain them unless a case is made out for their exceptional consideration. To meet a deficiency of school places, or to remedy con- 1206 ditions prejudicial to the health of the scholars, or inconsistent with their efficient instruction, recourse should be had in the first instance to the adaptation and extension of existing school buildings, preferably by means of temporary structures or army huts.Well, those temporary structures and Army huts, inconvenient in character and provision, instead of permanent school buildings, have left the buildings of our country in so backward and deplorable a state that many years will have to be spent in making up for it. You cannot have more teachers and you cannot have a thousand and one things you want to do without altering the buildings. The Board of Education can do something. This year, under the auspices of the Board of Education, a claim was made for putting into our schools in London as teachers 600 utterly unqualified young women who had received a perfunctory training. There are schemes for lowering the number of certificated teachers in London. A proposal has been pressed upon the County Council by the Board of Education for the reduction of 325 certificated teachers in addition to the 600 already mentioned. That was the state of affairs in London when the Labour Government came into office. Since then we have seen troubles roll away like clouds at their very first attempts. The county council, to their credit, managed to put back £56,000 on to the reduced Estimate. If we had had another full year of reaction such as we have had during the past three or four years, it would have been very had indeed for education. I speak of London. It is no small thing that has been accomplished in London. The teaching staff is no longer being reduced, and this Government has already remedied much of the mischief done during the last three or four years. That is not all If we go back to 1917–18 and 1919, we of the Labour party have always stood for the extension of the school age with maintenance. To raise the school age without maintenance is doing something which amounts to little more than an empty reform.
To-day we have been informed by the Minister that educational maintenance is at last to be started on a reasonable scale. We are in future to have maintenance grants representing a very considerable amount from the Board of Edu- 1207 cation. There were such maintenance grants a long time ago, but during the past few years they have been hemmed in with so many restrictions and have been of such a small amount that really the local authorities declined to be troubled with them. If there is once the possibility of maintenance on a large scale for children up to 15 years of age—and I do not care how the cost is divided, whether it is fifty-fifty or any other percentage—and it we can get this question made an issue in the coming local elections, I believe we shall make a very great step forward. This year we shall probably see a very large voluntary expansion of the number of children kept at school until 15 years of age. I believe that next year those numbers will be increased, and in a couple of years or so the raising of the school age to 15 will be much easier and systematic, especially when we have swallowed up those parents who are anxious to do this, and are only prevented from doing it by poverty. Such a change in our policy would be one worthy of the nation.
§ Mr. ACKROYD
As there are many Members who desire to take part in this Debate, I will only occupy the attention of the Committee for three or four minutes. As one who has taken considerable interest in crippled children, I should like to put in a plea on their behalf. It will be within the knowledge of the Committee that for very many years the care and treatment of this particular class of child was left to voluntary workers and outside organisations, and it is only in recent years that the State has realised its obligations towards physically defective children. Private funds had to be raised for their medical treatment and in order to build voluntary institutions to which the children could be sent, and the nation is greatly indebted to those early pioneers in this special work, and also to the many voluntary organisations who helped them in their efforts on behalf of these children.
It is a matter of considerable gratification that Parliament has in recent years given to local education authorities considerable powers for dealing with disease and neglect among school children. It has now been discovered that it is possible by proper treatment and education to 1208 transform crippled and suffering children, with no outlook for a decent future, into happy, hopeful and self-supporting citizens. The establishment of cripple schools, both day and residential, throughout the country has been of immense benefit, and, as a result of this special treatment, the number of children suffering from tuberculosis and infantile paralysis has greatly diminished during the past two years. Nursery schools, too, have very greatly helped towards this diminution, although I know perfectly well they were only established under the Education Act of 1918. Whilst they are rather costly to maintain, I think all workers among the poor are agreed that they are greatly helping to build up the physical and mental development of the children by very careful feeding, by proper cleansing, and also by the formation of good habits. I find from the returns for 1922 that under 317 local education authorities in England and Wales there were 35,477 crippled children of school age, and out of this number there were 11,717 whose condition was caused by tuberculosis. About 60 per cent. of the crippling of school children at five years of age is due to rickets. It has been established now by medical men that from 80 per cent. to 90 per cent. of these cases can be cured if the children are dealt with early and efficiently, and if the right individual educational training is given them.
I am quite aware that a great deal of this particular kind of work, along with other educational services which were included in the Act of 1918, has been retarded through the urgent need for economy, which was felt to be necessary in 1920, but I venture to take this opportunity of asking the Minister of Education if he will not now urge the various education authorities throughout the country to put into operation this Measure under the 1918 Act which aims at the prevention of debility and disease among school children, and which seeks to help the mentally and physically defective boys and girls in the country. I suggest that very much more can be done than is being done at present in the establishment of classes in playgrounds and parks, of holiday and school classes, and by open air treatment. There are only 75 schools in England and for crippled children, and 39 of these are in the London area. It would be very inter- 1209 esting and very useful to know how many of the 317 education authorities in the country are now making any provision for special schools for these physically defective children. The State is under a deep debt of gratitude to the large number of voluntary workers all over the, country for their splendid service in this respect, but still there are a great many places where this work is not being done, and it is because of my deep interest in the crippled children of the country that I venture to urge the President of the Board of Education to press upon local authorities the importance and necessity of this particular kind of work.
§ Mr. SAVERY
May I ask of the Committee that indulgence which it always so generously extends to those who address it for the first time. No one can deny that our system of education suffers from being subject to Parliamentary majorities. Any change of Government will almost certainly affect the prospects of every child who comes under our national system of education. The lack of continuity in policy is a real danger, and in view of that I was very glad to hear the tribute which the right hon. Gentleman paid to his predecessor at the beginning of his speech. I think his graceful remarks will help to remove and correct some impressions which have got abroad. A great deal has been said lately about "soulless savings" and "stinginess," which has been directed, towards education during the last three years. Even the right hon. Gentleman himself went so far as to say that in the name of economy the whole of our system of education had been starved. With all modesty, I venture to submit that there was a certain amount of exaggeration in that statement. To refer to stinginess and soulless saving is in itself a reflection on those who were in authority at the time, because it is known that the anxiety that was felt for our general financial position made economy necessary. The right hon. Gentleman himself admitted that in the same speech, and therefore to call that economy parsimony is not, in my opinion, either correct or considerate.
There has certainly been a cry for economy with regard to education on the part of some people who have doubt whether in return for the expenditure made we are receiving what we are asked to pay for—that is a national system of real education. If the right 1210 hon. Gentleman finds himself capable of supplying the genuine article, then he may be assured of the conviction, the consent, and the co-operation of all sections of his countrymen, and if he is to engage in struggles, as he anticipates, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I will prophesy that he will always be the more popular of the contestants. The modern conception of education is that our schools should not be cramming institutions, that their aim should be the development of intelligence rather than the acquisition of knowledge. The field of knowledge in these days is far too vast to be covered by any student, and it is extending every hour. Therefore, the instruction given in various subjects must be more for their training merit than for their intrinsic value. I think that two things have operated upon education to hamper this great aim. For the first of those influences, I think, the State must take the blame. It resides in that central and bureaucratic control which is exercised over our schools. Educational conferences are unanimous in declaring that that control results in wastefulness, and in a stranglehold on progress and initiative. Mechanism is the essence of bureaucracy, and that characteristic in education has taken the form of an inspection which is far too elaborate. The teachers have been harassed by that inspection unduly, and they have been faced with the temptation to sacrifice to the demands of inspection what they know are the true interests of the children.
The other influence which hampers education in its true aim must, I think, be laid to the charge of the parents. They place a very watchful and rather improvident eye upon the future. Anything in the curriculum which does not tend to industrial success they are inclined to resent, and, therefore, education, which has too long been confused with instruction, is left outside the door. So long as self-advancement is regarded as the be-all and the end-all of school training, so long will this country be kept waiting for an educated and a spiritualised generation. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman declare his belief that not one way, and one only, is right in education. There are individual methods of approaching the problem of life and its development. Therefore, encouragement should be given to all those who are engaged in the 1211 work of education. They should have a certain amount of scope and liberty in their work, and especially encouragement should be given to those who emphasise the development of intelligence rather than the attainment of mere scholarship. Nothing is more promising for the future of education than the change in public opinion with regard to the work and status of teachers. For far too long their work has been undervalued, and their influence on the community has been almost ignored. It is not many years ago that I heard the teacher's life described as just learning things until you are 23, and then teaching them until you are 63. Can anyone imagine a more depressing prospect? But to-day the view is changed, and I find that teachers are described as the captains and the guides of democracy. Could any vocation be more inspiring than that? Of all the suggestions which may be made to the right hon. Gentleman to-day, I should like to ask him to bear in mind that the development of a scheme for ensuring and regulating a supply of teachers is the crux of the problem of education to-day. Buildings, equipment and modes of administration are all subordinate to that one great factor, the supply of able and faithful teachers.
§ Mrs. WINTRINGHAM
I would like to congratulate the last speaker on his maiden speech. I think his conception of education expresses the situation very well in most respects. In one or two details I differ from him, but I strongly agree with what he has said as to the teaching profession. They are, indeed, the captains of the industry, and it is most important to have the proper kind of teacher, the properly-trained teacher and the suitable one to take charge of the children in their education to-day. I would also like to congratulate the Minister on the programme that he has been able to carry out since he undertook the office of President, of the Board of Education. He has given us to-day a list of different reforms to which he has been able to give effect, and I am sure those who are interested in the education of our young greatly appreciate the fact that he is going in the right direction. Of course, like Oliver Twist, one wants rather more than one has had, and I do wish to refer to a subject which was just 1212 touched on by the hon. Member for Moss Side (Mr. Ackroyd), and that is the question of nursery schools. It is a comparatively new subject, and, because of that, the real value of nursery schools is little known. They were officially brought into being in 1918 by the Fisher Act, but before that there had been very successful voluntary attempts by people to attain that end. They were very successful, but it was not until 1918 that there was official recognition.
The object of the nursery school is to provide a centre for children between two years and five years of ago, and more particularly should they be established in slum and congested areas, because the children who are to benefit from them ought to benefit both physically and mentally. Their health, nurture and welfare in general are helped. Unfortunately, in 1921, the economy campaign, although it did not entirely do away with the nursery schools, curtailed them, and no new ones were started. But I am glad to say it has given at least satisfaction to those interested in this branch of education that in the last two months the Minister has shown a very favourable attitude, and, indeed, has almost given these schools his blessing. I hope if he going to be a godfather to these schools, he will give a handsome christening present, and, further, encourage the local authorities to provide more of such schools. I am not going to deal with the question this evening from a human aspect—we have heard a good deal of that—but I propose to deal with it from the point of view of common sense, and as a matter of far-reaching economy. The child under five is rather an unknown quantity. No, or very little, recognised place has been given him in the national system of education, and yet we have a quarter of a million children whose home life does not provide for health and education. Sixty per cent. of the children in poor areas, it has been said, suffer from rickets, but I have heard that it is 80 per cent. That leads to the most tragic conditions, and in one of the reports we read that 20 per cent. of children suffer from visual defects, 12 per cent. suffer from nose and throat complaints, 70 per cent. from dental defects, one in six is not able to benefit by the educational facilities provided, and one in 10 is mentally backward. This all means that, instead of getting an A1 population, unless we alter the basis of 1213 our education, we are going to have a C3 nation. We look for the remedy in the institution of more nursery schools than there are at present. Sir George Newman, a very great authority on these things, says thatOne reason for the provision of nursery schools is, indeed, to reduce the number of preventible defects now observed in the entrants to the public elementary schools.For these reasons, I wish to press for the nursery schools to be increased, because in all education, it occurs to me, prevention of the ill is far better than trying to cure it. It is better to begin at the bottom rung of the ladder.
The Minister said it was his desire to have a continuous education policy. It is most important that that continuous education policy should have a good foundation, and this good foundation could be in the nursery school. The method of coping with this problem is that these nursery schools are not just nurseries, but are institutions where children are educated as well as looked after from a physical point of view, where the environment gives sunlight and air, and provides for sleep and feeding, and it is, indeed, the whole conception to provide the child with better surroundings, and so educate him in that manner. We have talked a great deal about housing in the last week. At present it does not seem possible to remove our slums as quickly as some of us would wish. While we cannot do that, why not try to improve the slums by introducing children's gardens and nursery schools in the slum areas? The Government could do that. It has been tried in some cases most successfully. In our London area we have most successful results, and I think if more authorities both in London and the country attempted it, it would have beneficial results. There are certain essentials necessary, one being that the site and buildings should be near the homes of the children. They want to be planted in the middle of these industrial areas, where there is plenty of open air and sunlight, and where the children can easily get to the school, and where, above all, the parents can see the work, the improvement of the children and the school itself. It is the co-operation with parents that is going to make education successful in the future. If parents are interested in what their children are doing at an early age it 1214 means they will be interested in the children throughout life, and not alone is a parent's interest good for the child, but it is also good for the parent. As the last speaker said, one of the most important considerations is to have a staff of suitable people fitted to take care of children in nursery schools. The work, in these schools is work for experts, and the key to success is to have the right kind of experts to do the work. They must have special qualifications, a knowledge of child life, a knowledge of psychology, and the ability to awaken in the child the desire for knowledge. The argument of finance is generally used against the proposal for the institution of these schools. That argument seems to be always used against the provision of anything which we want. Financially I submit there is no extravagance involved in this proposal, because if we spend a little more money on these children at present we are going to save it in the future. The larger the school is the less the cost of running and equiping it, and with larger schools we shall find the expense less and the benefits greater. In conclusion may I point out that I ask for no innovation. We have heard about public opinion moving things. I feel sure the President of the Board of Education could arouse public opinion by more propaganda on this matter. We want no serious dislocation of the present system of education for young children. We want no new departure on the Statute Book. We simply want a larger measure of something which has already proved precious to parents and to children. We want to embrace in this work more slum areas, so as to solve the problem of the health of these children at the base. By doing so we will find that in the future these children will be assets, because they will be well-nourished and well-fitted for citizenship instead of being burdens on the community, which there is every tendency for them to become nowadays.
§ Mr. NICHOL
I should like to raise a point as to the conduct of the Debate. Up to the present it seems that the speakers have been called in rotation from each of the three parties. I should like to know if there is any rule to that 1215 effect, and if that arrangement is to continue?
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN
There is no such rule as that, suggested by the hon. Member. The discretion as to calling speakers is in the Chair. As a matter of fact, this Vote had been called for by the Liberal Opposition, and it is customary to give a slight advantage to the Opposition, at whose request a Vote is put dawn. I have here an exact list of the Members who have spoken up to the present, and it does not indicate that the Members of the Opposition—of the Conservative and Liberal parties—who have been called upon far exceed the number of members of the Labour party who have been called upon.
§ Mr. NICHOL
As far as opposition is concerned, there has been no opposition either from the Liberals or from the party opposite.
§ Mr. TURNER-SAMUELS
With reference to the statement that this Vote was called for by the Liberal Opposition, does that mean that because the Liberal party asked for this Debate, members of the Labour party who desire to make protests regarding particular acts of administration are to be delayed in taking part in the discussion or excluded from the Debate altogether.
§ Mr. BECKER
With regard to the remark made just now by the hon. Member for Eastern Renfrew (Mr. Nichol) that all the speeches were in favour of this Vote, may I suggest to you, Sir, that there are certain members Who are only too anxious and ready to give very strong opposition to this Vote and to condemn it root and branch.
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN
When hon. Members have been longer in the House, they will recognise that this matter is entirely in the discretion of the Chair. The hon. Member who raised the point first was wrong in making the statement that my predecessor in the Chair had called on Members in exact rotation. I find, for instance, that the hon. Member for North East, Ham (Miss Lawrence) was called from the Labour Benches, and that the hon. Member for Moss Side (Mr. Ackroyd) was called from the Liberal Benches—one virtually after the other.
§ Mr. TURNER-SAMUELS
I was not raising any objection to the exercise by the Chair of its discretion. All I wanted to know was whether, because this happened to be a question raised by the Liberal party, Labour Members should be under a disadvantage as to taking part in the Debate.
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN
Nothing of the kind. As a matter of fact, I have counted up the time occupied by Members of the Labour Party in this Debate, and it compares very favourably with the time occupied by the Members of the other parties. Of course, there is no point of Order in the question at all.
§ Mr. A. A. SOMERVILLE
The sympathy and intimate knowledge of educational matters always shown by the hon. Member for Loath (Mrs. Wintringham) render her speeches on education very attractive. I was rather alarmed to find myself sitting next to the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir M. Conway), who declared himself an educational anarchist, but I was in hearty agreement with his concluding remarks when he expressed a robust belief in the British stock and in the wisdom of peopling as much of the Dominions as possible with that stock. It reminded me of a remark by a well-known Scotsman. I had just been listening to remarks by Sir Halford Mackinder, who said that in times to some New York or Montreal might become the capital of the English-speaking race, and when I repeated this remark to the Scotsman, he said: "It may be so, but they must always come back to these islands for the breed." The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. P. Harris) mentioned the subject of central schools, which is a subject capable of great development, and I desire to offer some remarks upon it. Before doing so, I ask to be allowed to refer to what may seem a comparatively small and matter, but one which is of considerable importance and interest to certain associations of teachers, whose aggregate membership comes to some 15,000. Early in 1921 the Rhondda, Education Authority passed a resolution declaringThat no person shall hereafter be employed by this authority who is not a 1217 member or does not undertake to become a member of the National Union of Teachers through the local branch.I may say I should not bring up this matter here were it not that it is the only opportunity I have of doing so, and the associations are anxious that this matter should be brought to the attention of the Committee. Some of my best friends are members of the National Union of Teachers, and I bring this forward in no spirit of opposition to that great body. There is a body called the Teachers' Registration Council, which is the teachers' parliament, and represents 72,000 teachers. It contains representatives of every section of the teaching profession, 11 from each—elementary, secondary, technical and university—and I very much doubt if any of the wise and able representatives of the National Union of Teachers on that body would get up in the council and defend this Resolution, because,Who would train free minds must himself be freeand it is not right to bind any teacher to belong to any association or organisation. What is necessary for a teacher is that he should have the required qualifications and the necessary training to fit him for teaching the young. The sequel was that in April Lieut.-Colonel Hurst asked a question of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher), who was then President of the Board of Education, and the answer of the Minister was:I am strongly of opinion that a teacher should have full liberty to join or not to join any union or association of teachers as he thinks best. … The particular resolution of the Rhondda Local Education Authority strikes me as very unfortunate, but I understand that it is to be reconsidered."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April, 1921; col. 100, Vol. 140.]Apparently it was reconsidered, for in May of that year the authority altered its resolution by adding the wordsor of some other recognised trade union or association.That made it a little better, but still the authority has no right to require the teacher to belong to any association, and I might remark in passing that as far as I know there is no association of teachers that is a trade union in the strict sense of the term. As a matter of fact they take particular care to keep outside trade union law. In January of this year the Rhondda Education Authority went back 1218 to their original resolution. I do not know whether or not that was due to the advent to office of the Socialist Government. A question was put in March on the subject by the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Clarry), and the answer given by the President of the Board of Education was:The Board have not been asked to sanction this resolution."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1924; col. 642, Vol. 171.]With all respect to the Minister, that is a mere evasion of the difficulty. On 1st May I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman, and received this answer:I am not prepared to intervene in the matter as I have no reason to suppose that the operation of the rule is prejudicing the efficiency of the schools."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st May, 1924; col. 1820, Vol. 172.]There again is an evasion of the point. It may be that the efficiency of the schools is not impaired, but if the example of the authority be followed, there will be debarred from employment under the authorities who follow that example a very large number of teachers. Thousands of the best teachers will be deprived of the chance of obtaining employment in such areas. I hold it is the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to intervene in this matter, and to see that the Resolution is rescinded. If it is not done, we shall have one more reason for believing that Socialism is not consistent with liberty. I hope the Minister will look into this matter and insist—to use his own word—that this Resolution should be rescinded. The other day he told us that the Board could insist, obstruct, forbid and resist as well as stimulate and encourage. I ask him in this case to insist and forbid.
With regard to central schools the hon. Member for South West Bethnal Green referred to their success in London. The crying need of the present day is to provide for the children who leave school at the age of 14. We have 45,000 boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 16 unemployed. There was a proposal the other day to provide a dole for those children thereby hall-marking the age of 14 as the age at which children should leave school, and it was very surprising that the Socialist party with its professions of belief in education should have been the party to bring forward that proposal. They propose free secondary edu- 1219 cation for all, but nothing could be more wasteful. I believe absolutely in secondary and university education for all boys and girls who have the ability to benefit by it, and there should be ample assistance given to boys and girls who have the brains and the power of work to benefit by the highest form of education, in order that they may receive that education. When we have provided for all these, there are many thousands of our boys and girls who leave school and who at present are not provided for, but if the system of central schools were extended we could, very largely, provide for those children.
8.0 P. M.
What is the matter with the education of this country? The people do not believe in it. We shall never make a success of our education until we succeed in making the people of the country believe in it. Why do they not believe in it? Between the ages of 11 and 14 there is very little progress in the pupils of our elementary schools. I am speaking now of the average, and what is perhaps below the average, pupil. They go round and round doing the same things, and they do not make progress. Their parents know it and do not believe in the education that their children gain. I am speaking now of what happens often in the case of the average child. Suppose we take the case of the country districts, and in a country town we establish a central school, which would have a vocational bias with regard to rural matters, in addition to teaching in English and elementary mathematics and also training in gardening. Farmers and labourers would come to believe in that training and the central school would be supported in the country. The difficulties of transport for the pupils from the surrounding parishes are much more easily overcome at the present time. The people in the country districts would come to believe in the central school, just as the people in the industrial districts, in the east end of London, are beginning to believe in their central schools. If that system could be gradually extended all over the country we should have gone a long way to solve the problem of education and employment between 11 and 15 or 16 years of age.
I ask the Minister to bend his energies to the provision of more places in 1220 secondary schools. There is undoubtedly a sad lack of such places. I know of one school where there were 18 vacancies for free places, and there were 320 candidates for those places, and of the unsuccessful candidates at least 100 would have benefited thoroughly by secondary education. We want to provide more places for secondary education, and we want also to solve the problem of the general education of children between 11 and 15 years of age. I believe that a system—which would be voluntary to begin with—of central schools would go far to solve the problem.
§ Major CHURCH
We have heard a plea from the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir Martin Conway) for a more generous attitude towards the members of the teaching profession from the Board of Education and the Government. He objected to the over-inspection of the teachers in the schools of the country. He stated that it is unnecessary, if you get the right type of teacher, that you should superimpose on the teaching profession this police system of supervision. With many of the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman I heartily agree, but I think that he was looking at education and at the system of inspection which existed when I was a child at school, and not at the system which exists at the present time. I believe that the police inspector of schools is a thing of the past, or, if not entirely a thing of the past, that the type is but a relic of a misbegotten age. The function of the Inspector of Schools now is to go from one school to another, taking the best ideas from one school to another. If he is performing his duties properly, the schools should be assisted by the help that he gives to them and to the teachers in them. It is true that occasionally the inspector is apt to be hypercritical, and that that enrages the teachers. It is equally true that if the attitude of the Board of Education to-day were that of the unhappy days of the Holmes-Morant Circular, there would be very little hope of the teaching profession ridding itself of the incubus of the police inspector.
The hon. Member for the English Universities suggested that the remedy for inspection could be found by producing a better type of teacher. With that one must agree. But I suggest that it is rather difficult to find all the teachers 1221 —after all, they are only human beings—superlatively good. In the first place, we pre-determine the teacher in large measure. We take children at the age of 13 years and we say to their parents, "Your child, in return for the money which is spent by the State on its education, shall be a teacher." That is one of the blots on our educational system. It is one of the reasons why an inspectorial system is needed. You cannot hope to have happy, contented, efficient creative minds in the teaching profession while you determine the whole career of a teacher from the age of 13. I plead for the absolute freedom of a boy or girl to determine his or her profession, not at the age of 13, not to have it determined for him or her by parents, but to be given full liberty after they have completed their university course at 19 or 20, to determine whether they enter the teaching profession or not. If you give them that free choice, you will get teachers who will maintain the highest ideals of the profession, who will have the right spirit, the missionary spirit, in education.
I appeal to hon. Members opposite, many of whom have had the advantage which comes from a public school education, to spread the idea among the public schools that the best place for missionary efforts is not necessarily in the wilds of Africa, but in the schools in our slum areas in the big cities of this country. There is a field for endeavour, and no field will produce finer results than the schools of that type. You have there raw material which, everyone of us who fought side by side with these men during the War knows, is the finest material procurable. We can get the very best out of such children. Some slum children are no whit inferior in intellect to the children of people in much better circumstances and much sweeter environment. There is a field for missionary effort of the very best kind. I suggest also to the teachers themselves that if they wish to raise their status, if they wish to find salaries on the up-grade, if they wish to be treated more as human beings than as mere cogs in the machine, if they want to improve themselves in every possible way and to get the best, not only out of the profession for themselves, but the best out of their own endeavours among the children, they should protest, and their organisations should protest—
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, 40 Members being present—
§ Major CHURCH
When attention was called to the sparseness of the attendance, I was saying that the organisations which represent the teachers have a great opportunity now, if they will protest in season and out of season against this pre-determination of the whole future of a child. There is no reason whatever why, with the growing demand for universities, with nuclei of new universities all over the country, with the whole machinery ready to absorb large numbers of new teachers, the whole of the present training college system—I refer more particularly to the denominational training colleges, which are not attached to universities—should not be swept away entirely. We could in a very few years increase the number of students at the universities by such numbers that we could supply the whole of the needs of the profession with people trained at the universities.
If there is anything in a university education it is that it gives people a breadth of mind. They are not for years segregated with people who are to follow the same walk of life as themselves. Give them the freedom of choice when they have finished their university career, and you will give them what everyone desires for a teacher, namely, liberty of entry in to a profession, and that will re-act in the most favourable way upon the profession. In that respect I would draw attention to the poverty of the Universities and to the remarkable fact that the University grant, although it figures in the same class of Estimates as the Board of Education Votes, is a thing apart and has to be brought up on the Treasury Vote. Even under a Labour Government the Treasury does not differ in any marked degree from the Treasury of former Governments. The Treasury attitude of mind with regard to expenditure on all matters is precisely the same at all timed. If they can cut down the expenditure they will cut it down. The tradition of niggardly thinking cannot be overcome in a few years. That is what one feels about the control that the Treasury has over these University Grants. Only two years ago the University Grant was cut down by £300,000. The Royal Commission on Oxford and Cambridge recommended that 1223 these two Universities should be given £100,000 a year each. Have they got it? Not at all. In this year's Estimate we are given for the two Universities £60,000 and £68,000 respectively. The attitude of the Treasury towards University education is what might be expected from—
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Morgan Jones)
On a point of Order. I submit that this particular part of the hon. and gallant Member's speech is not strictly in Order.
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Rawlinson)
Speaking off hand, I think it is the case that the University Grant is not under the Board of Education Vote, in which case the hon. and gallant Member would not be in order in referring to it.
§ Major CHURCH
It was the intimate association of the University Grant with the Board of Education Grant under Class IV of the Estimates, the almost logical sequence of the Votes, that was responsible for my dragging in this question, and I regret to find that I am out of order in so doing. I hope my calling attention to the way in which the Treasury are behaving towards the universities will result in the fault being remedied in future Board of Education Estimates. If we are to have a national educational system, it is obvious that the University Grant should be part and parcel of the Board of Education Vote, and we should be able to consider the universities and the secondary and primary school education as a whole. I should like to ask, while we are dealing with a national system of education, why it is that we have four or five different Departments of State, each with its own system of education. I refer more particularly to the system of education, which is existing side by side with the primary, secondary, and university education, which is under the direct control of the Ministry of Agriculture. There you have agriculture—
§ Mr. BECKER
On a point of Order. Surely the hon. and gallant Member is out of order in talking about the Ministry of Agriculture on this Vote?
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN
The hon. and gallant Member was out of 1224 order, in referring to the University Grant, as the University Grants were not included in this Vote. I ruled him out of order then, although I was very grateful to him for assisting the universities. He is quite in order in what he is now saying.
§ Major CHURCH
One is allowed to express one's opinions regarding a national system of education on a Vote of this kind, and I think it is perfectly in order, if I may say so, to suggest that we do not need this dual machinery for the control of education in this country. Agricultural education is an essential part of any educational system. We were told by the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir M. Conway) that we have at the present time essentially a town system of education, but we have a country system of education being developed under another Department of State, and that, I consider, is dual control of the very worst kind. It is quite true that the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin) last year defended the dual control of education on the ground that there was an inter-departmental co-ordinating committee to co-ordinate the efforts of the two Departments, but he might have gone further, and he might have said that the Air Ministry have their own system of education, the War Office their own system of education, and the Admiralty their own system of education My plea is for one system of education in this country, that these various Ministries could very well leave the destinies of future entrants to the Services to the ordinary secondary schools of this country and to the universities, and that the officers would be better if they went straight through. Again, I object to this early determination of a child's career. I think it would make for the efficiency of the agricultural service, the air service, the war service, and the naval service if we had education so linked up and consolidated that we had a free choice on leaving the university.
I should like to urge upon the Minister of Education to provide the opportunity in next year's Estimates for greater freedom for the teachers with regard to a sabbatical year. I am all in favour of the system, that has been adopted in parts of America, of giving teachers a year free from the humdrum of school 1225 life. Anybody who has taught in a school for any length of time will appreciate the arduous nature of the task. I know there are plenty of cheap sneers on this subject, even among, I will not say Members of my own party, but among followers of my own party, against the wonderful holidays that the teachers as a class may get from the State, but it is not realised very often that the holidays are not so much for the teachers as for the children. There is a necessity, I think, apart from holidays, for granting a sabbatical year, at the end of, say, 10 years, or, at the most, 12 years, for teachers who have taught for that time continuously in the schools of this country. It would not cost such a lot, and it would be of great advantage, particularly if the teachers were encouraged to travel and to travel extensively (hiring that sabbatical year. They might even take it at an earlier stage in their career, should it be found possible and practicable, say, at the end of five years. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not two years?"] It would be a perfectly sound scheme and would give a wonderful return to the nation. I plead for this sabbatical year seriously, but if we could not give a year, let us give six months, so that a teacher should have a complete change of surroundings and environment. It is only by seeing things that the teachers of this country will get real hold of the creative teaching that is so essential to the people of this country.
We as a country think we are doing remarkably well in education, and we are extraordinarily complacent about the progress that this country has made in education. Of course, we have progressed, but I think it is not unfair to say that we had a nasty set-back three or four years ago, owing to a right hon. Gentleman who is no longer in the House dabbling in a matter of which he knew nothing, and we have not progressed nearly as rapidly as we should have done. It is obvious to anybody who cares to look that there is far greater progress being made in education on the Continent than there is in this country, and I can attribute a good deal of that progress to the insistence, in many of the countries abroad, on the necessity upon many of their teachers to go to the Universities for their training, and also to their insistence 1226 in not making it compulsory for a child who has received any State aid in education up to a University stage to enter the teaching profession whether or not he or she likes it. This matter of the Sabbatical year I do urge the President of the Board of Education to give his earnest attention to, so that he may in the near future bring some proposal before the House.
§ Mr. SYDNEY JONES
If I might be allowed to add to the congratulations to the President of the Board of Education, I should like to do so, for his speech which seemed to me both generous in spirit and wide in outlook. I was very glad to hear him express the hope that we might be able to keep our educational system entirely outside party politics. It seems to me it is only by doing so that we shall be able to carry on our work in educational matters in the way in which we ought to do, and to view the matter not in the light of parties, or officials, not even so much from the point of view of the teachers as of the children, with whom we are mainly concerned.
It is unfortunate that our education is still carried on too much in two water-tight compartments—elementary and higher education. That is due, no doubt, to the fact that our secondary and higher system was put last into the map of education between the elementary and the university system; it is a most unfortunate cleavage; I do hope that we shall get out of this idea that the elementary side of the profession is a self-contained system of complete education with just a few children pouring out of it, a few children who may be more fortunate than the rest, or more abnormal, pouring out of it into the higher schools of this country. I do hope that at any rate, will live to see the day when the whole of our educational system will be one system, beginning in the very early years of child-life and ending, certainly so far as tuition or teaching is concerned, when the boy or girl leaves the school, or the university, but in reality never ending, but going on through the whole of life for which the early days are merely preparation.
If we had this one system of education recognised, we should be able to look forward with some hope to the teachers being also organised into one system with- 1227 out the social distinctions which so often, unfortunately, exist between the elementary teachers and the higher branches of the profession. We should have one system of education, with some teachers teaching the younger children, a work which I admit women are specially fitted to do—though many men feel themselves specially called to it—and others teaching the elder boys and girls who are working up towards higher education and the universities. If we can get this ideal, this one system of education, we should be able to make an endeavour to have all our teachers, so far as possible, trained at the universities. I do appeal to the President of the Board of Education that he should work for this, because I feel that it, is an immense advantage to those entering the teaching profession, not only to have the education which is given at the universities, but also the advantage, during the early years at the university, of working alongside those who are going into other professions and other walks of life; they will not feel, as they do now, that they are kept in a more or less monastic seclusion in the training colleges away and apart from their fellows. If we had one system of education, one system of teacher training, so far as possible, at the universities, then I think it would be possible to reach that ideal which I like to think is aimed at.
First of all, children should be trained in the junior schools. I agree with the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. P. Harris); I do not like the word "elementary." I would rather call it the preparatory school to which the boys and girls should go to the age of perhaps 11 or 12, and that then they should be diverted to other schools, partly, no doubt, by examination in actual learning and knowledge, and partly chosen by character and personality, and divided up into other types of schools. There would be three types of schools. First of all, what we know as secondary schools, where the more humane studies are taken, where some boys and girls go from into the learned professions, others into the teaching profession, others into commerce, or other similar types and branches of life, and, secondly, alongside these schools, and of equal importance, the technical schools, where the boys may learn the science of 1228 engineering or other technical work, which certainly does appeal very largely to a certain type of boy or young man, and where the teaching of the secondary school would make little appeal.
The technical schools for which I would plead are those like what we have in my own city of Liverpool—junior technical schools where the boys and girls of 14 to 16 get a real education in technical know o ledge which enables them later to take very good positions in the engineering world. If that work began at 12 years of age, then these technical schools would be placed on a parallel with the secondary schools, and you would get those boys who are going into the engineering profession equally trained in the same humane studies that we get at the secondary schools, while, of course, there would be a large number left over who would stay on at the preparatory schools—or the elementary school—I should hope to the age of 15. No doubt a large number of these are going to be what I may call the hewers of wood and drawers of water, but I do not think if we have these three branches that these boys and girls would be in any inferior position, for, after all, the boy or girl who hews wood well and draws water well and does their work well, whatever it may be, is equally as good as any of those who are trained in the other schools and do their work equally well. It is the value of the work that we want, and to see it well done. It does not really matter, I think, what branch of work we actually take up. The position may be no less honourable for the boys and girls under the age of 15 who go out into the world than for those who stay on. But I believe we should have this system, whereby those who are left in the preparatory schools for three years should be trained, not to feel that their education is going to be complete at the age of 15, but that when they go our at 15 they will be able by means of adult education, continuation classes, and other means, to have that self-education which is so possible nowadays; that they should feel just as the other boys and girls, that their education was going on and continuing. If we can have this system we should have the boys and girls who are going into the higher schools having a four years' course and the others having a three years' course, leaving then, to 1229 continue some day, if not this year or the next; and that would be a great encouragement to those who are in the teaching profession, who would feel their work was not done when the boy or girl left school, but that they were giving a knowledge to the boys and girls which was merely preparatory to the great work of their life.
I think in this case there would be much less of this deplorable loss of knowledge which we all know goes on to-day after the boys and girls have left school, that loss of knowledge which makes a great deal of the education which we are giving to-day a sheer waste, and it would enable us, this House of Commons and the country generally, to realise that education is a great tree of which the trunk consists of all the children from their early years until the age of 11 or 12, and that afterwards they grow our into the great branches of that tree, which are always growing and expanding, growing upwards to that light and that knowledge which they have been first taught at school, and which light and knowledge they will seek to use, not selfishly, but for the benefit of the community and of mankind.
§ Captain EDEN
I should like to ask questions upon a matter in regard to which I have found the method of question and answer in the House not very satisfactory, and not very successful. What principle is it that the Board adopts with regard to the fees payable in the preparatory department of the secondary schools? I understand that quite recently the fees have been raised. I would point out to the Minister that that has placed a heavy burden upon people who are not in a good position to bear it. I asked a question, and I was told that the principle upon which the Board acted was that of uniformity between the ages of the children so as to avoid any higher fee being charged as the child got older, but I was not very much convinced with the sanctity or inviolability of that principle. The only principle on which I would judge the regulations is whether it produces the standard of education which we require. I suggest that as this principle does not have that result it would be a great advantage if the Minister could reconsider it, and reduce the cost of the preparatory department of the secondary school. On this point I only want to say that those parents who are now handicapped by that 1230 increased charge would not in any case send their children to the elementary school if they could possibly avoid it, and the only effect of increasing the charge is that those children are sent to private schools where they get a less satisfactory education. Cannot the Minister reconsider that regulation, or at any rate try to discover from the local authorities what their views are on this matter?
We were all glad to hear the suggestion which the Minister hinted at of what is apparently a new departure in making part of the education a rather wider knowledge of our art treasures and what art means to us. He spoke very strongly about the work which is being done to prevent some of our greatest art treasures leaving this country, and he made an appeal to private enterprise and those people with means to save these works of art from leaving this country. I suggest that it is possible that we are asking too much in this respect from private enterprise. A great deal has been recently done to save national treasures from leaving this country, and I would suggest that the real action this Committee should take is to do what is done in Italy, that is, make it absolutely illegal for any possessions for the instruction or joy of the people of this country to be sold to another country and to be taken abroad. We want to keep these treasures for the enjoyment of our own people, and we should make it illegal to allow them to pass to other countries. I was wondering what was exactly in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman when he was talking about art education. I agree that we are extremely backward in that matter, and it might be a great advantage if those children who now come to London to see the attractions at Wembley were given an opportunity annually of seeing something of the kind for educational purposes. I hope the right hon. Gentleman has not in mind the trying of something like a national art movement, because we have tried it once or twice with calamitous results. The Gothic revival was, I believe, a national movement, and we want no more national disasters of the type of the Albert Memorial. There are methods and means by which we can avoid that result. I hope the President of the Board of Education will not do what we have seen so much of, that is, try to ram down the children's 1231 throats that this and that is good for them all of a heap and a muddle.
I remember once being in Italy in a famous gallery, where I was sitting quietly. I was rather sleepy at the time, and there entered a party who woke me up and disturbed me, and I heard the guide say to the party, "This is the famous Titian room. This is the famous picture of Venus, and the lady was 17 years of age when she was painted. Now we will pass on to the next room." That is not education at all. The only way to pursue that kind of education is to make it as easy as possible for our children to see valuable art treasures and pictures, not too many at a time, and allow them to see them as long as their eyes care to rest upon them.
§ Dr. HADEN GUEST
I heard the speech of the Minister of Education this afternoon with the very greatest pleasure, because it indicated the certainty of a real advance on educational lines. The speech of the Minister was devoted entirely to education of an intellectual kind, and did not deal with the health of the children, on which the possibility of their successful education so much depends. I should like to ask one or two questions on that side of the subject as to whether there is going to be a corresponding advance in dealing with the physical side of education and improving the health of the children. Hon. Members generally are no doubt aware that when medical inspections are carried out it is found that about 10 per cent. of the children are below par. With regard to nutrition, the children are usually divided into three groups, those of average nutrition, those of very good nutrition, and those of very poor nutrition. The latter are a very small group, and exist not only in towns but in the country as well, and their condition is generally duo to poverty, bad housing, and bad social conditions.
The result of those conditions is that in practice the children are very difficult to handle in the school. To begin with, they are generally very small and are not properly physically grown, and the brain and nervous system have not properly grown, and do not react in a proper way to any educational influence brought to bear upon them. The question of feeding is, of course, one of the chief factors which influence the growth of the child, 1232 and it seems to me that the question of feeding has never been looked upon from a sufficiently far-seeing point of view. The idea that the feeding of necessitous children is relief is, in words, rejected by the Board of Education. It is stated in the Report that the feeding of neccessitous children is done for educational purposes and not as a matter of relief, but, in fact, the feeding of children in schools has never been done from a really educational point of view, that is to say, the feeding has never bean really adequate to put these children on a par with other children in more fortunate conditions. I do not want to exaggerate the size of this problem, but, supposing that it only affects 1 per cent. of the children in the schools—and that is distinctly an underestimate—it affects, in the aggregate, a very large number of children in this country; and those children, in fact, constitute in our schools a large number of the children who have to be provided for by special means.
A great many of these children, because of their lack of proper nutrition, develop diseases of the ear, diseases of the throat, and so on, and have to be provided for by an elaborate arrangement of clinics and hospitals. Others of them, because, of their sense defects, are not able to learn, and these children are found in institutions and schools provided for children classed as medically defective. Interesting investigations have been made by medical officers in the past, showing that, of the children grouped together as below the normal in intelligence, quite a large proportion of them were, in fact, not merely below the normal in intelligence, but were below the normal in physical efficiency, and their apparent low level of intelligence was really due to their lack of adequate sense faculties. Their hearing was impaired, their eyesight was impaired, their sense of touch was impaired. I would suggest that, in talking about the feeding of children, it is rather illusory to take any hard-and-fast standard as to the amount of food, weighed in ounces or grammes, that a child requires. In practice every child requires, it appears to me, a surplus of food, that is to say, every child ought to be able to get a little more food than, if you like, is really good for it.
Hon. Members in all parts of the Committee will realise that at every good 1233 public school there is an excellent institution, adjacent to it or, sometimes, within its borders, called the "tuck shop." The tuck shop—a place where a child can go and get extra food—is really a necessity of child growth. For many children living in towns, and especially in such poor parts of towns as that which I happen to represent, that kind of extra nourishment is impossible, and not only is it impossible, but they do not get an ordinary adequate amount of nourishment. The difference is a very simple difference. A child which has only just enough food to keep it going is like an engine fed with only just enough food to keep the steam up. It goes rather feebly. If it is sitting down, for instance, it will sit rather stolidly. If it is in a playground, it will stand by the wall holding its hands together, huddling by the wall, and not playing with other children. It has not the surplus energy: I remember, years ago, living in a country village, where I had two children of my own, next door to an agricultural labourer, who was receiving a very inadequate wage, and who also had two children, and I remember noticing the difference between my own children and his when they played together in an adjoining field. My children dashed about from one thing to another the whole time, but the agricultural labourer's children to a large extent remained stolidly looking on. In a large degree that was simply because my children had plenty of food, while the agricultural labourer's children had an inadequate supply of food.
§ Mr. HANNON
It is possible that the agricultural labourer's children may have been a little bit shy.
That is a possibility to be considered, but I think that, if the hon. Member considers the question seriously, and thinks of children of the age of four or five, he will come to the conclusion that social distinctions are not likely to be operative to any large extent at such an early age. I do not think that, in fact, that argument really holds good. The real thing is that, if children get a sufficiently large amount of food—and they really need a large amount—they are active, they are constantly going about the world making new contacts, using their eyes, their ears, their arms and legs, skipping, 1234 fighting, shouting, and learning and expanding their lives. If they do not get enough food, none of these things happen and their lives are restricted; and it is in the earlier part of life that what I call the surplus of food is really necessary. I do urge upon the Minister that the whole question of the feeding of school children, and especially the feeding of necessitous children, requires looking into again and considering from the paint of view of bringing these children up to the normal—the normal, that is, of what they might be if they were properly fed.
There are, of course, hereditary differences between children. There are differences between one family and another in different parts of the country. But, while I do not want to bother the Committee with abstract discussion, I do want to point out that these hereditary differences are not the marks of any particular class—they are spread more or less equally over all classes of the community. Children may be born in a slum, and born of exceedingly poor parents, but may have within themselves the possibility and potentiality of growth into very big, strong, capable beings. If they do not get a proper amount of food, they do not get that opportunity. There are, I believe, something like two per cent. of the children in the country who are so badly underfed that they are not able to be sufficiently responsive to their environment. This matter requires looking into and studying to see whether we cannot do something to improve the condition of these children. I would suggest that it be done in this way, namely, that, instead of the responsibility for asking for assistance to get meals being on the parent of the child, or on the child itself, the responsibility for certifying that all the children in a school are in a proper condition of nourishment to be educated should be placed upon the teacher of the class, or upon the headmaster, that then the question of the child's condition should be referr0ed to the medical officer of the school, and that the medical officer should certify whether the child is in a condition as regards nutrition which makes it fit to be educated. I can assure hon. Members that, if that change were made, it would have a very great effect indeed in improving the nutrition of the school children. It would have the effect of bringing to light a very large number 1235 of cases in which children at the present time are not getting an adequate amount of food.
There is another matter, which may seem to the Committee to be of smaller importance, and that is the medical treatment of school children by the various clinics which are set up now all over the country. Unfortunately, by a Section in the Act of 1921, it is compulsory on the local education authority to make a charge for that treatment. The charge is a small one, and in the area of the London County Council and many other areas it actually costs more money to collect that charge which is levied on the parents than the charge itself brings in; that is to say, the apparatus set up for the purpose of collecting the money causes a loss and is of no advantage. The only reason for keeping up that charge is that it is supposed to be morally goad for the parents—though why it should be I have difficulty in understanding—and also because it is an actual part of the Act of 1921, which incorporates a Section of a previous Act. I suggest that that Section ought to be repealed, because the medical treatment of school children has done an immense amount of good in improving the physical condition of children all over the country. The payment which has to ho imposed is very often collected by the school attendance officer in small instalments in a very vexatious manner, and after a lot of investigation, and the fact that the machinery of collection exists causes many people to refuse to take their children to be medically treated.
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN
What the hon. Member is now proposing would require legislation. I rather gather that he is suggesting that a Section of an Act of Parliament should be repealed. It is not, of course, in order to discuss that on this Vote, and the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Vote is not responsible for it.
A good deal can be done actually by administrative action, but I am afraid I should not be in order in following any further along those lines. Another point I want to mention, one which has been brought very prominently before my attention during the last few days. My mornings are usually occupied in seeing a large number of very small children, and at this time of the year 1236 the question of holidays becomes a very serious one. A great many children in the poor districts have never had a holiday at all in the country. I came across a girl of 13 the other day who had never been into any of the London parks. She had never been across the river. She had never been to St. James's Park or Hyde Park. The Board of Education might consider whether they could not take more active steps to promote the giving of holidays on a very much bigger scale to children in the schools. This could be done by helping the Children's Country Holiday Fund and other funds, and it could also be done by kindly disposed people, hon. Members opposite and below the Gangway and in every part of the House and their women folk, helping to get children away into the country for at least one week in the year. I should like the Minister to add to his educational ideals the ideal that no child in the country shall have less than one week's holiday in the country or at the seaside every year. To Members in all parts of the House whose children go away, not for a week or a month, but often for two months and more, and who think very little even of travelling abroad, that may seem to be a very little thing, but I can assure them that for children living in the poorer districts of the big towns, it would be almost like the opening of the gates of Heaven for them to get away into the country. I took down this last week-end a small child into the country who had never been to the country before. I watched her wandering about in a beech wood in Buckinghamshire amongst two or three acres of beautiful flowers—big foxgloves—and to see the child there was a perfect revelation of human happiness. The Minister of Education might add that to his other ideals and try to give the children at least one week in the country each year.
I should also like to suggest whether it would not be possible for those on the other side of the House, for instance, or some of their friends, to help people in the poorer parts of London by helping to take children out into the parks during the holidays. It is going rather a long way, but it is a thing which would be of great help and service, to very poor districts. To my thinking, part of education must depend on the different classes of the community getting closer to each 1237 other and exchanging the good things they have. I believe many people could do more by kindness and sympathy and help than they could ever do by tons of money, and I hope the suggestion I am throwing out of giving children hop holidays may fructify, not only through action taken by the Government, but by private institutions—it may be through Girl Guides or through Boy Scouts. It has always been one of my ideals to have the whole child population of London camping out in the beautiful country quite near London during the summer holidays. It would make a very great difference in their health, it would make a very great difference in the reduction of the bill you pay for hospitals, it would make a very great improvement in the physique of the children, arid, therefore, in the advantages they get from their education.
I was for many years a Medical Inspector of Schools, and I got a very definite impression that the standard of physique in the elementary schools was very much lower everywhere in the country than in the secondary schools. I am not quite sure that it will be fair to say that has been statistically substantiated, but should like to ask the Minister whether it would not be a very suitable opportunity at present to institute an inquiry through the medical department with regard to the physical condition of children—a comparative inquiry—as to what was the actual physical condition of children in the elementary schools as compared with the secondary schools. My impression is, age for age, the children in the elementary schools are many pounds lighter and some inches shorter in stature than children in the secondary schools—children, I mean, coming from the same social strata. That may appear, to those who perhaps do not realise the medical importance of it, not exceedingly significant. To the medical mind it is extraordinary significant, because it means that those children who are so much less in weight and height have so much less chance of living and being educated and responding to those fine ideals and those opportunities which the Minister is putting before them. He has suggested that we should take, in the next few years, the ideal of raising the standard of secondary education to at least 20 per cent., instead of the present 10 per cent. 1238 I am afraid in some areas it is by no means 10 per cent.
May I suggest another ideal which will be of great advantage also, that we should attempt to raise the physical standard of child life in the elementary schools to that now prevailing in the secondary schools. That would really make a tremendous difference. It would mean a very great increase in physical and mental efficiency and would wipe out the necessity for a large number of the special schools, which are very expensive and which exist to treat very elaborately deficiencies which ought not to have been allowed to come into existence, and it would give you a very much larger number of capable and efficient people at the end of your educational experiment. I have drawn attention to this aspect of the matter because, although it affects a comparatively small number of children, while that number of children is not dealt with adequately you have, as it were, a hole through which all the educational advantages you are piling up are likely to run away. It is part of the general slum problem, part of the general misery problem, and so long as you are not treating it and stopping up that wastage you are perpetually creating more inefficiency which goes on and on, and a wider spread of inefficiency, and you are preventing the growth of healthy, vigorous childhood such as I hope we shall have in the future. I hope the Minister will add to his ideals the ideal of changing the physical condition of the badly-nourished elementary school children of the present time into one comparable with the condition of nutrition of the secondary school children. I assure him that is a thing that can be done by administrative methods at present under his control, and it can be done without an expenditure of money amounting to more than perhaps a few hundreds of thousands a year.
§ Mr. RATHBONE
The Committee has listened with great interest to what the hon. Member has just said. Indeed, we have all listened with interest to the speeches that have been made this afternoon, and I rather agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. P. Harris) that perhaps there has been a little too much harmony. It strikes me, as a new Member taking part for the first time in a debate on education Esti- 1239 mates, that it has been a little wanting in sincerity. I make no personal aspersions, but if the whole Committee is, as it appears to be, fully in accord with what the President of the Board of Education has put before us, and the whole Committee is urging my right hon. Friend to go much further, would it not be possible to so support the right hon. Gentleman that even the most inexorable Chancellor of the Exchequer would have to give way and do what he wants. As one hon. Member said, there is a lot of hard thinking to be done, and certainly there is a lot of hard cash wanted.
If the Committee is, as I believe it is, unanimous in asking for more and more education and better and better education may I as a trader—there are not many real traders in the House—say that as an ordinary commercial man I have found as the years have gone by that there is more and more demand in commercial life for well trained minds. I recollect in my early days, my then senior partner upbraiding a young man, whom he had sent out to a country market, for doing something a little different from that which he was told to do. The young man began his explanation and apology by saying, "Please, Sir, I thought—." My partner interrupted him by saying, "You were not asked to think." Twenty years later, the same gentleman said to me, "Why do you think that that young man in our office is better than an ordinary clerk?" I said that I did not quite know what my partner wanted me to say, and he replied, "I will tell you why he is better. It is because he thinks."
A leading shipowner told his sons when they left school that they might either go to the university or go into his office, but not both. If they were going to the university he had done with them. Ten years afterwards that great shipowner came to me and said, "How is it we cannot get the bright young men that there are in some offices? I want really intelligent well-trained kinds in our port authority." I reminded him of the change of mind that had come over him. That has been the trend of mind amongst commercial people. All through the business world now we want trained minds. If we are all in unison that we want better education, and if the people who are carrying on the affairs of the nation out- 1240 side want well-trained minds, cannot we make our influence felt? I have particularly mentioned traders and commercial people because, hitherto, we have been considered to be outside the pale. Barristers and doctors we have been led to understand are recruited from trained minds, but it has been assumed until comparatively recently that the more stupid a man was in business the more likely was he to get on. One leading shipowner told me, "I do not want my men to be trained, because if they are trained they will be dissatisfied with their position. The less they are educated the more likely they are to stay with me without demur."
If we are all of one mind that we want more and better education, and that we want trained minds in business, cannot we impress upon the President of the Board of Education that we want next Session a Bill that will go miles further than anything that bas ever been produced before along the educational path? I want to make one plea in respect of the Emmott Report which is being considered. May I make the plea that this Report will not be held up until 1926, but that it will come into force in 1925, and that my friends the teachers will then find that their contributions are protected and not swallowed up by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the ordinary expenditure of the nation?
§ Colonel Sir CHARLES YATE
I listened with very great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for North Southwark (Dr. Guest) and especially when he mentioned the question of camps for children. I was very disappointed that the President of tits. Board of Education did not touch on the question of physical training. Those of us who served on recruiting committees during the War will remember the terrible distress we had in regard to men who were required for service in 1914. We found that those men could not pass the very low standard that was then demanded for admission into the Services. I, as a member of a recruiting committee, along with other members of the committee, organised physical training for these men, and in two or three weeks many men who were below the standard were brought up to the standard and passed into the service. That shows what physical training can do in a 1241 short time for young men. Although the President of the Board of Education did not touch upon that subject to-day, I would remind him that the right hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Fisher), when he was President of the Board of Education, did touch upon that time after time in 1917. I have looked up a speech he made on 10th August of that year, and I should like to call attention to some of his remarks. He said:In the first place, attention has been increasingly directed to the close connection between educational and physical efficiency.The right hon. Gentleman will remember the old Latin phrase, Mens Sana in corpore sano. I would pass now to the series of proposals:I pass now to the series of proposals which are designed to improve and strengthen our existing fabric of elementary education so as to secure for every child in the Kingdom a sound physique.Those ideas were carried right through the right hon. Gentleman's speech, viz.:I confess that I am a great believer in the value of school camps for boys between the age of 14 and 16.I hope that the President of the Board of Education to-day will take into consideration this question of school camps for boys up to the age of 16.I trust that this Bill may pass into law in sufficient time to justify the acquisition by the local education authorities of some of the material and equipment for camp life which the War Office has so plentifully provided us.I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is to-day doing anything in that direction Finally, the right hon. Member for the Combined English United Universities said when he was Minister of Education:As I have already explained, the Government is desirous of taking this opportunity of assisting the physical education of the people in every possible way. Physical training is already an element, perhaps not a sufficient element, in our elementary school curriculum, and grants have recently been sanctioned for organisers of physical training in our public elementary schools. The present Bill gives to physical training a place in our continuation schools. Every boy and girl in those schools will receive physical training.I would urge my right hon. Friend to carry out all these proposals. I was once told that there were seven inspectors of physical training. I went into the ques- 1242 tion and I found that five were women inspectors, and only two were men. How are two men going to inspect the physical training of boys in all our elementary schools? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me how many inspectors of physical training there are at the present time? What does the right hon. Gentleman know about the physical training of our boys at the present time? There may be five women inspectors but two inspectors for the boys are not sufficient. The physical training of children is just as important as their mental training. Unless we are going to give physical training in our schools we shall remain a C3 population as we were when war first broke out in 1914. I especially recommend this point to the right hon. Gentleman.
I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he hoped to get a superior class of teachers in our elementary schools, and that we should get university graduates. I would ask him to take into consideration that our public schoolmasters do not go through training colleges. They come straight from the universities. Why should we not have the same system in the case of our elementary schools? A man appointed from a training college is a man who has got only one idea in his head, which he has got in that little college, but he has no knowledge of the world such as the university man has. Instead of having these training colleges, on which an enormous amount of money is spent, we ought to send our teachers to the university. The increased pay which is given now is sufficient to induce men to come in, and we ought to have regular university men. A certain number of training colleges may be necessary, but a considerable amount of what is now spent on them is wasted. It would be far better for us not to have men brought up altogether in that way, but to get men with a wide knowledge of the world, who will make better teachers for the children than men brought up in that narrow sphere. A man with large general knowledge and a knowledge of the world is a better teacher than a man who has merely the knowledge that he has got from a training college.
With regard to secondary schools, the right hon. Gentleman told us that he was going to increase the number of free places from 25 per cent to 40 per 1243 cent. We would all like to see our boys and girls sent on to secondary schools, but before a boy is given a place in a secondary school he should pass a higher test than he passes at present. The master should be able to know what boys are able to profit by a secondary education. The test at present is very low. My experience is that masters of colleges would like to have a higher test than is imposed at present. I hope that this point will be taken into consideration.
§ Mr. ROBERT MORRISON
This Debate on education has been a very pleasant change, and I look forward to a time when there will be as many debates on education in this House as there are debates on the Navy. The general feature of the speeches up to now has been a note of thanksgiving to and congratulation of the Minister, and from these benches I can assure him that that note is sounded in all sincerity. Some of us felt during the last few years before the Labour Government came into office that, on this question of education, we were fighting a retreating battle, slowly giving ground all the way. Apart from every other question as to what has been done by the Labour Government, the record of the right hon. Gentleman during the last few months, as revealed in his speech this afternoon, would be sufficient by itself to justify that Government. I hope that the local authorities will follow the excellent lead given by the right hon. Gentleman.
In that connection it is interesting to note that the London County Council at a special meeting of the Education Committee on last Wednesday decided upon a three years' programme, which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will do all in his power to see carried through with as little delay as possible. I do not think that there will be the slightest difficulty in getting the larger authorities to follow the right hon. Gentleman's excellent lead, because of the effect of public opinion upon these authorities. Trouble is more likely to come from the smaller authorities. In that connection I may touch, upon the position of special schools, particularly under the smaller authorities. For the benefit of those Members who do not know exactly what a special school is I will give the definition of the Board 1244 of Education itself, which is an excellent definition:A special school is an institution which by the provision of a particular system of education, of manual training, of nurture and of medical supervision, seeks to meet the limitations imposed by prolonged serious physical or mental defects.
In the last Parliament I obtained from the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman, in answer to a question, some remarkable figures. In England and Wales there were 28,500 mentally defective children and accommodation for only 16,000. Ten thousand five hundred mentally defective children were in elementary schools, where they ought not to have been, not only for their own sakes but for the sake of the normal children, and 2,500 mentally defective children were not attending school at all. The figures for the physically defective children, or as I might call them the cripple children, were more startling still. Out of 109,000 physically defective children, who in the opinion of the Board's own medical officer would profit by a special school, there was accommodation in this country for only 14,000. Seventy-four thousand physically defective children were attending elementary schools, 7,000 were in institutions, and 14,000 were not attending any school at all.
The right hon. Gentleman will agree that although these figures were given a year ago they are probably substantially correct to-day, and, to adopt the language of the ex-service man, I would ask, "What about it?" The difficulty of providing accommodation for these special children was dealt with last year by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor. The principal reason which he gave was the cost, particularly in small towns and sparsely populated areas. There is a great deal in that, because in small towns and sparsely populated areas the net has to be spread very wide to get enough of these physically or mentally defective children to make a school, or even a class, and the cost of conveying the children to and from school, and other charges, are, of course, correspondingly high. In reply to the Supplementary Question last week the right hon. Gentleman said:We are continually encouraging local authorities to make, provision for these special children.1245 I was very pleased to hear it, because under the last Government a number of local education authorities were actually refused permission to establish special schools.
Replying to a further question by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Combined English Universities, the President said that he was prepared to consider any proposals for encouraging local authorities. May I hope that the President will not wait for the local authorities themselves, but will himself take the initiative in this very important matter. I submit to the President that special schools have now been established sufficiently long to have passed the experimental stage and to have had their value fully realised. I submit the time is ripe for the Board of Education to bring pressure to bear upon the local authorities who have not established these schools and see that they make provision for this very large number of children who have not special schools to go to. I would ask that a special circular be sent out to the local authorities who have not made this provision, directing their attention to the fact that they are not fulfilling their statutory obligations. A circular of that sort would open, the way to a general discussion, and if it is the heavy cost standing in the way of smaller authorities, the President, might find some way to meet them. I do hope that in the coining year the deplorable deficiency of accommodation for these children will receive special attention.
I would refer to another class of children—the deaf children. As far as approximately can be ascertained there are 5,700 deaf children, and accommodation at the present time is found for 4,500 only. The first point I want to make is that for 20 per cent. of these deaf children there is no provision made at all. I suggest to the Committee that the teaching of the English language to the deaf mutes, whether by the finger alphabet or the superior and far more difficult method of lip reading, is comparable with nothing known in the training of a teacher. To be a teacher of the deaf the qualifications required are an elementary teacher's certificate plus the certificate of the National College of Teachers of the Deaf. There are not enough teachers with these qualifications, so that for teachers who 1246 are taking up this work the qualification of the National College is taken in two years after appointment. There are 426 full-time teachers of the deaf in England and Wales just now—206 certificated teachers—and 220 uncertificated, and others. Two-thirds of the 220 are classified as "others"—a very vague and unsatisfactory term. This means that there are classes of deaf children under partially or utterly untrained teachers. Children in those classes cannot make effective progress with such an inadequate knowledge of the English language that cuts them off, from ordinary human intercourse. They suffer the unspeakable loneliness of not understanding a book or a newspaper. Because of the insufficiency of their special education their mistakes are so pitiable that they are always in danger of being taken as people of unsound mind.
In reply to a question I put, the right hon. Gentleman said the teachers who had not been trained were expected to qualify by passing an examination. Does he believe there is no shortage of fully qualified teachers for this special task, and that any local authority would deliberately appoint people who had no qualifications for this special work? There must be a shortage. The Board should consider first the immediate provision of schools for the 20 per cent. of deaf children for whom at present there is no provision, and take the steps necessary to supply the specially trained teachers. I make these suggestions in the interests of these afflicted children who in a few years will be men and women, and to whom a special education by properly qualified teachers will decide whether they are to take their places as citizens of the country, able to earn their living, or whether, unable to understand or to be understood, they are to go through life dependent upon charity and the Poor Law.
§ Mr. GRAHAM WHITE
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member who has just spoken further than to associate myself with the speech he has made on behalf of these specially unfortunate children. It would be interesting to know what has been done since last year. It would be interesting to know what is the actual position to-day. It will not be satisfactory as long as these children are 1247 not receiving adequate teaching. I wish to join in the expressions of congratulation to the President of the Board of Education on the speech which he has made this afternoon. I listened to his speech with particular pleasure, because it was devoid from start to finish of anything in the nature of party politics. I think the sooner we get education free from politics the sooner we shall make progress. We must find the greatest area of common ground. From the point of view of local authorities, I would thank the President for having restored the hopeful atmosphere from the abyssmal depths to which it had almost sunk. He has taken the brakes off the educational machine. The progress has been progressive. Last year my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon said he did not find it necessary to amputate the estimates of the day. This year my right hon. Friend has said that the Board would reverse their previous practice of considering proposals on their merits. I hope the Board of Education will never depart again from that practice. In this country we have established now a general principle that there shall be continuity in our foreign affairs. It is just as important that we should have continuity in educational policy, whatever Government may happen to be in power. It is because we have to-day a feeling of hope restored that we feel specially grateful to the Minister for what he has said this afternoon.
I want to take the discussion back to a subject which has not received quite the attention it should have had in the course of this Debate. It is the problem connected with the raising of the school age. To my mind that really is the greatest and most serious problem with which we are confronted now in education, and it ought to be treated as a national emergency. It is impossible to estimate the loss which is being inflicted at the present time on scores of parents of children who are coming out of school at the age of 14, are becoming inefficient, and are forgetting the little knowledge they have acquired. While we may attempt to estimate with some degree of accuracy the cost of raising the school age to 15, it is impossible to estimate the loss we are suffering by not raising it. I am convinced that those who are familiar with the Report of the Poor Law Commission 1248 will agree that the expense necessitated by our present policy in regard to Poor Law hospitals and other institutions far outweigh the cost necessitated by raising the school age to 15.
The special point I want to make at this stage is that it is impossible to say what the actual cost of raising the age would be unless and until an estimate is made by the different local authorities. The fact that two authorities can see their way to do it without incurring an overwhelming increase of cost leads one to suppose that there must be more authorities who are in the same position, and as a practical contribution to thin Debate, I would urge that the local authorities be invited to make an immediate investigation into the cost and the resources available, in order that we may be prepared definitely to raise the school age, if we cannot do it at once, in at least three years' time, I was glad to hear the announcement that the sum of £440,000 is to be devoted to this special object. There are one or two points I would like to mention in connection with that. It is a very desirable improvement on the proposal which emanated from the Minister of Labour and which I am glad to say was turned down by a majority of this House. Under that proposal, £1,500,000 was to be set aside, and £100,000 was to be devoted to educational institutions which no one attempted to define. We are pleased now to know that we have got £440,000 which is to be devoted especially to this problem of leaving school at the age of 14. I think every possible effort should be made to explore the possibilities of establishing vocational classes in our Technical schools. There is a good deal of work that might be clone in that way by setting up day classes, as in many cases teachers are not even fully employed daring the day.
I am very glad indeed that a grant is to be made—although £20,000 does not seem very much—towards putting into active operation what. I know as Section 17 of the Education Act, 1918, which re-established what we used to know as juvenile organisation committees in our larger industrial towns. There is a great scope of possibilities there. Much excellent work indeed has been done by existing organisations which have buildings available, and that work might be greatly developed. I would like to ask if anything is being done in connection with the 1249 education settlement attached to some of our universities, such, for instance, as that in my own town in connection with the Liverpool University? I should like to ask what is the policy of the Board of Education with regard to libraries in elementary schools? Is it their policy to encourage the different schools to set up their own libraries, or is it their policy to establish juvenile libraries in connection with our public libraries which have greater resources and which are available during the holidays as well as during the school term. I would like, in conclusion, to emphasise what I believe to be a direct national emergency. We are piling up trouble for the future by allowing opportunities to go to waste at the present time. We know from bitter experience that we cannot abolish physical and material destitution in a short space of time, but I think we can do much to arrest the manufacture of what are known as mental defectives; and that is what, I submit, we should attempt to do.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
I wish to associate myself with what has been said by several hon. Members in favour of the more generous treatment of our crippled children. It is a fact that owing to improved conditions a large percentage of these crippled children are now curable, and it is for us to avail our selves of the opportunity of curing them. There can be no great general advantage in an improvement of our educational system which leaves those children behind. I desire to congratulate the Minister on his speech. I am glad there is going to be an advance in education, and I was very pleased to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. E. Wood) associate himself with the sentiments of the Minister and promise a benevolent regard for the Government proposals. I am afraid I cannot claim to be an educational expert, neither do I think my brain could stand the hard thinking which the right hon. Member for Ripon deems to be necessary for dealing with our educational problems. But I have long been connected with social work among the people, and I confess I have been at times during the last three Parliaments rendered profoundly unhappy by the thought that we were not, as representatives of the people, fulfilling our duties towards epileptic children. There was a great outburst of idealism and 1250 enthusiasm for educational reform after the War, and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Education at that time was able to place on the Statute Book an excellent Measure. But unfortunately the spirit of idealism lasted only too short a time. A cloud of misled parsimony settled down on the nation, and the "Daily Mail" established the sole right to govern this country. That had a bad effect on our educational and social system. The educational system which was then established has proved not only wasteful, but most unjust. It is wasteful, inasmuch as it enables all the children who leave our schools quickly to forget all the education imparted to them, and it is unjust because it condemns a vast number of our population to the condition of economic under-dogs.
I do hope we have arrived at a time when all parties in this House will cooperate to stop this waste and injustice by improving our educational system. After all, it ought not to be a party question, and I hope we shall all return to the good spirit which prevailed when the Fisher Act of 1918 was passed, with the general approval of the House, with the exception of a very few reactionary Members. The Minister of Education has said that our educational advance should be in the direction of a great extension of secondary education. I am quite prepared to see a greater extension of secondary education, but I doubt whether he and I in our lifetime will see such a great and quick advance in our secondary education as will embrace the great wage-earning community of our country, and, if we are to leave a great many children untouched, we must either proceed by way of raising the school age or by continuation schools. In this Debate there has been controversy between the merits of raising the school age and the merits of continued education. My right hon. Friend the late Minister of Education, the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Fisher), advocates continuation schools, while the Minister of Education thinks it is quite wrong to try to educate children in industry. I cannot see anything antagonistic between the principle of raising the school age and the principle of continuation schools. Surely one district might have one method, while another district might have the other method. Lancashire, probably, would not prefer to 1251 raise the school age, while, on the other hand, Yorkshire might do so.
Looked at from the point of view of helping to cure unemployment, I cannot help thinking there is a good deal to be said for raising the school age. I believe the question of juvenile unemployment is not quite so acute as it was some time ago. Speaking of that part of the world I know best, the proportion of unemployment among adults is far larger than the proportion of unemployment among juveniles, which shows more and more that industry is organising itself on the basic of juvenile labour, and that when one series of juveniles reaches a certain age, it is replaced by a series of still younger ones. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Combined Universities quoted the Chairman of the West Riding Education Committee, and I saw the other day he stated that we have a million unemployed, and no lees than 41,000 of that million are young people between 16 and 18. Surely, he said, we have no right—and I heartily agree with him—to add to the number of unemployed by letting the labour market be flooded by young people from 14 to 16. But there would be another advantage in raising the school age, and that is that it would facilitate the reorganisation of our educational system.
I remember the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, in one of his eloquent speeches, saying it was one of the principles of the Labour party that there should be no division in our educational system, and that education should be all one; but we are bound to consider the necessity of raising the school age. If we took, say, 11 years of age as the typical period, we could really organise our elementary education for the children of 11 and under, while we could make the period of 11 and over one of preparation for the secondary education. We could organise our preparatory education, as it were, in three classes. For those who have literary tastes, we might have classes for literature and languages. For those who have scientific and mathematical proclivities, we could have classes in mathematics and science; while for those who have got no peculiar proclivities at all, we could have practical classes, with a proper modicum of scientific and literary education. But we cannot get 1252 away from the fact that this raising of the school age would necessitate a very large expenditure. For instance, in London, I believe, it would necessitate an addition of no less than 65 extra school places, and the engagement of no less than 2,500 teachers. That would, of course, necessitate some considerable outlay, and, therefore, some areas in this country might prefer to proceed by the method of continuation schools, as being on the lines of least resistance.
I cannot help feeling that if continuation schools were established, they would be accepted by both employers and parents, because the obligation would be imposed upon a sufficiently large area. I consider that continued education would be accepted loyally by employers, and would have immense influence upon the children. It would keep the windows of their souls open to educational influence, and the things of the spirit, and we want to get that self-discipline, which is the great barrier to apathy and indifference. I was interested to hear some hon. Members on the Labour beeches denouncing continuation schools. One hon. Member said that they were a misfit nowadays. That, I think, shows a considerable change of opinion in Labour circles as to the proper policy to be pursued. I hold in my hand a Memorandum issued by the Labour party, I think soon after the passing of the Fisher Act in 1918. It was prepared by the Advisory Committee on Education, and in it I read:It is no exaggeration to say that, for good or for evil, it will be—that is, the Fisher Act, and the Section which deals with continuation schools—the most powerful educational influence to which the nation has been submitted since the nationalisation of elementary education in the seventies of the last century. Almost the whole youth of the nation will pass, at the most plastic period of their development, through the new continuation schools. They will enter them little more than children they will leave them ultimately as young men and young women. In the interval their character and intelligence will have received a bias which must often be decisive.… Wisely directed continued education may become the greatest training ground of democracy which the world has seen.I do not wish to advocate continuation classes as against raising the school age, or raising the school age as against continuation classes. As long as the President of the Board of Education "gets a 1253 move on" I shall be quite happy and I shall do my best in my humble way to support him. I think much more is necessary than excellent speeches in this House. We want an active policy. An hon. Member who spoke from the Labour benches said what was wanted was for the right hon. Gentleman to issue circulars to the local educational authorities asking them to prepare schemes. I associate myself heartily with that sentiment. It is the duty of the Government to do more than talk. They should get on with their job and ask the local education authorities to prepare schemes either for raising the school age or for the establishment of continuation classes.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
After what has been said by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education, hon. Members will forgive me if I presume to add an expression of my views as one who has taken some share in the work of an education authority for many years. I cannot, help recalling what happened three years ago when progress in education was arrested, and when the order "full steam ahead" in educational matters was reversed. I regretted that very much, and I deeply regretted the action of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. Wood) and of his predecessor in office, in accepting the suggestions of the Geddes Committee in so far as they related to education. There can be no standing still in educational matters. We must either move forward or move backward. Every authority in this country has found to its cost that instead of simply marking time retrogression has set in and much of the leeway will have to be made up under the regime of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education. We are now seeking to go forward, and I was glad to hear the speech of the President of the Board of Education and glad to know what he has told us upon this subject. May I be permitted to make one or two suggestions. I want him, if he can, in his administration to go still further, and I am giving him this advice as a result of nearly 30 years' experience in connection with educational work. I say that the sooner he gets the children inside schools of some description the better for the children themselves and for the nation. It is impossible to build up a 1254 real educational system on an imperfect foundation, and if we can get these young children into nursery schools or such other schools as can be provided, then we are laying a foundation which will be of real value, and in the end it will cost us very much less than education is costing us to-day. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give some consideration to that aspect of the question. I also suggest to him that merely "motherly" people are not the people to teach the younger children. They should have the very best teachers who can be found because upon this early education much will depend. Unless the child of the working man gets a chance from very early days, there is little hope when that child reaches the age of 11 or 12 he or she will succeed in securing a place in a secondary school.
I urge these considerations on behalf of the children of the class to which I belong. To know their intense desire for education one has only to go back to the year 1919 and to see the number of applications for secondary education which far and away exceed the number of places available. I trust the right hon. Gentleman is going to help us in this respect. Passing from this matter I would suggest that much more can be done in our elementary schools and I think very much more will have to be done. If we agree to 20 per cent. going from our elementary schools to the secondary schools it means there are still some 60 per cent. fitted for secondary education who can never get it and adequate arrangements should be made for those children who are forced by poverty to leave school and to earn a livelihood in industry. We must have consideration for the children between the age of 14 and 16. If hon. Members had the same work to do every day and the same monotonous routine they would become tired of it and would refuse to go forward and I ask that these children should be given a chance and should be made to feel that there is more in education than they have hitherto appreciated in our elementary schools.
I should like to see a system under which children leaving the elementary schools would pass into the secondary schools just as to-day they pass from the 1255 infant schools into the other schools. I do not see why that ideal should not be achieved. If we extend our secondary school system we are helping to make places in our elementary schools, and I think we should be able to move faster in this direction. My own county of Durham has done very well and is not behind other counties, but I regret to say that its progress does not satisfy the people of Durham, and when we examine the number of children desiring secondary education and the number of places available in the secondary schools in that county it is easy to understand the reason. When we have 250 places and 5,000 children seeking them it indicates the state of affairs which prevails. It is not by such a system that we are going to obtain the benefit of the best brains of this country. This nation must of necessity in the future seek out its best brains for its service if it is going to live. We hope the days of brute force are ended and that only brains will tell in the long run. Let us safeguard the education of the children of our country and we need have no fear as to our future.
§ Lord EUSTACE PERCY
The President of the Board of Education began this Debate with a speech, the key-note of which was an appeal for continuity of policy. He represented himself as coming to this Committee and, as it were, testing the Committee to see whether we were prepared to guarantee—as far as anyone can guarantee the future—continuity of policy. I think the right hon. Gentleman will admit that the character of this Debate in all quarters of the Committee has been all he could possibly expect. From all quarters there has come to him a complete assurance that, while we may have minor differences on minor matters of policy, so far as the main lines of policy are concerned, there is no section in the Committee which is not prepared to carry on a policy generally on the lines laid down by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. Wood) last year and by the right hon. Gentleman opposite this year. Let the Committee remember this. There is no use in a party in this House, or any individual member of a party in this House, pledging himself or herself to a general acquiescence in continuity of 1256 policy unless the past record of the party to which they belong gives a reasonable assurance of that continuity. I am confident in saying that the speech of the Minister to-night represents, so far as I can judge from the short time I was at the Board of Education, a logical development, in the circumstances of the time, of the policy being pursued last year. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would deny that. An hon. Member who spoke from the Liberal Benches admitted it. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would deny that, in fact, we have been for the last year or two gradually getting out of the inevitable financial difficulties in which we were involved as a result of the economic slump following the, War. There has been a steady effort during the last 12 or 18 or 24 months to get nut of that depression and to start again a steady educational development.
I said just now that the right hon. Gentleman had been met from every quarter of the House in the spirit in which his own speech was couched. I must make one exception. That exception was in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman's own Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for East Ham North (Miss Lawrence), who gave us an electioneering speech which has probably never been equalled in the annals of this House. We had the spectacle of a Parliamentary Private Secretary to a Minister getting up and saying that not enough was being made, particularly by her own chief, of the wonderful advance that had been made. Therefore she desired to underline it. She did so in the following way, and I ask hon. Members to take note of this, because it is the kind of argument on which that type of electioneering speech is based. The hon. Lady quoted the Geddes Report, and quoted three things which the Geddes Report said were absolutely necessary. She then added, "These are the principles on which educational administration have been conducted for the past two or three years."
§ Lord E. PERCY
Hon. Members, who ought to know better, say "Hear, hear." Let us see what the three points in the Geddes Report were. They were: (1), raising the school age; (2), classes consisting of more children per teacher; 1257 and (3), paying teachers less. Let the Committee observe that not one of those points in the Geddes Report has ever been carried out. The school age has not been raised and no legislation has been introduced on the subject. The right hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher) did introduce in 1922 a Bill which, I think, never reached its Third Reading in this House. Then there is the size of classes. There are, on an average, fewer children per teacher to-day than there were ever before, and the reduction has been steady and continuous. Nor is the teacher being paid less. The Burnham scales, speaking generally, have not been disturbed. Therefore, the whole basis of the hon. Lady's argument is wiped away. What are the real facts? She conies to this House mid she says in effect, "This is really the dawn of a new era. The Minister has not used sufficiently glowing language about it, and I think it is a matter to be dealt with in glowing language for the purpose of the next municipal election."
Let us see what the case really is. I am not, desirous of making a party attack; I am replying to the hon. Lady, and not to the Minister. I am not blaming the Minister. I am replying to the hon. Lady, and this is purely personal to her. The present Government came into office as deeply pledged as any party could possibly be to the raising of the school age. They decided immediately that they would not do anything of the kind. They then introduced a provision in the Unemployment Insurance Bill for the purpose of giving uncovenanted benefit to children below the age of 16. That proposal was rejected by the House, and rightly so. Now the President of the Board of Education, who acquiesced in that decision, goes to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and says, "This is really hopeless. The school age is not being raised. We cannot even say that we are giving what is commonly known as the dole to children between the ages of 14 and 16. What are we to do about it?" The Chancellor of the Exchequer replies: "I will allow you to have £440,000, part of which you can apply to increasing the Exchequer contributions towards maintenance grants from 20 to 50 per cent." That is all that is left of the great policy of raising the school age. The hon. Lady comes down and makes a 1258 speech in this House, and says: "Do not let us forget what a great step forward this is. We have not done anything that we promised, but let us tell the people at the next municipal election that this was really the necessary first step towards raising the school age." I would say to the hon. Lady that one dishonesty is not redeemed by another. If the accusation commonly made from the other side, that we were recreant in our education policy last year, were true, there is no good our promising a continuity of policy. But the accusation is not true; the reasoning on which it is based is absolutely fallacious.
May I now give another instance from the speech of the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Cove), who has the right hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir M. Conway) said, has obviously not got a historical mind. This is important, not at all as a party point, but from the point of view of future policy. The hon. Member for Wellingborough assumes—and he said it in his speech to-day—that Circular 1190 was responsible for the holding up of the building of new schools in this country. That was not the case. He knows a good deal more about the educational history of this country than that. He knows that London, for, instance, had a policy, the 40–48 policy, which it was pursuing steadily before the War, of building schools so as to reduce classes to 40 for ordinary classes and 46 for infant classes. That building programme, which had been laid down before the War, and had started to be carried out before the War, was arrested by the War, and it remained arrested after the War. It was not Circular 1190 that killed it, but what did kill it? What suspended it, or maintained it in suspension, was this, that the Education Act of 1918, quite rightly—I make no complaint of it—threw on the London county many other burdens, and the atmosphere at the time was to subordinate all these questions of classes and so on to the great new advance on continuation schools and so on. That was responsible more than anything else for the holding up of building programmes, and, as a matter of fact., I think the President of the Board of Education will bear me out in this, that more schools actually have been authorised to be built by the Board of Education since the issue of Circular 1190, 1259 than was the case before the issue of Circular 1190.
§ Mr. R. RICHARDSON
Then can the Noble Lord tell me why it is that Durham are asking the Minister at once to give them leave to build 29 elementary schools to-day? This shortage has not accrued in six months.
§ Lord E. PERCY
We have heard to-day about the Northern borough which the Minister has induced to build two new schools, but here, apparently, is the Minister holding up 29 schools in the county of Durham.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I think the hon. Member will find, if he does not interrupt me, that probably we will get on better. The answer to the hon. Member is this: Why were these 29 schools held up? Because of the Addison building scheme, and because the Ministry of Health put the greatest possible emphasis on the necessity for not building schools, for not taking labour for school building. I venture to say that the Ministry of Health is taking precisely the same line to-day, and that precisely the same conflict is taking place between the Board of Education and the Ministry of Health over the question of building schools as before. However much the hon. Member gets the 29 schools for Durham authorised by the Minister, they will take a very long time to build. That is the history of the building difficulty.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
I think I, perhaps, ought to say that the Minister of Health has made it quite clear that he is not going to hold up schools which are considered to be necessary.
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
That is another point I should like to make quite clear; so far as the Minister of Health is concerned he is not holding up necessary schools.
§ Lord E. PERCY
Really the Minister of Health has no power to stop them. But the effect of the pressure of the two Departments in Whitehall, one telling the 1260 local authorities that they must build dwelling-houses, and the other saying to the local authorities: "Well, what about the schools?" is that the schools have got left behind in recent years. I strongly suspect they are getting left behind today. But I must get on. I have been led into some controversial matter by reason of the attacks which have been made from the other side. I would suggest to hon. Members that if we are really interested in education, the less we have of these mutual recriminations the better, because they inevitably disturb what is, after all, our essential harmony on matters of general principle. Apart from these one or two unfortunate matters there is essential harmony on what should be our future policy.
I want, in conclusion, to say one word about what the Minister said must be the main object of our policy, that is the strengthening of secondary education as a lever of the reform of the whole educational system. He has put forward a rough approximation to the kind of policy which he should like to see carried out over the next decade. I should like to say, following on what my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon has said, that we feel on this side of the House that while it is true that secondary education is to a large extent the lever of our whole educational system, while we agree that an extension of secondary education, as has been suggested, is immediately and urgently necessary, yet we do also want added to that a conception of union and an integration of the educational system which will enable us to view the system as a whole while allowing for the widest diversity in the methods adopted. I believe unless you have this you will not get the benefit you expect from any extension, even of secondary education.
After all, what is the great difference between the system of State education we have built up in the last 50 or 60 years, and what I may call the upper-class system which existed before that time, and which has been the fortunate heritage of a privileged class? The difference has been that the earlier system was built, as it were, from the top downwards, that the universities did control the whole nexus of the educational system, whereas we in trying to build up a State system have started from the bottom with a system of elementary education which ends with two or three years of what is almost 1261 practically a waste of time. I think that is very largely admitted. At any rate, the last two years at an elementary school is not the kind of way in which you ought to employ the child's time.
When I hear hon. Members asking whether it is the policy of the Board of Education to do this, that, and the other in the schools, I cannot help feeling that they are expecting from the Board of Education something which no Government Department can give, that is, the fixing and enforcement of an educational standard. That is the work of a teaching body; that is the work of a university, and it is only when you get the whole of our State educational system really connected with the university, and drawing its life and largely its standard from the university teaching body, that you can possibly hope to get an educational system worthy of this country. I think the most remarkable speech we have had this afternoon was that made by the hon. Member for East Leyton (Major Church) with regard to the training of teachers. It is perfectly true that so long as you spoon-feed the teaching profession by a specialised scheme of training, and so long as that profession does not draw its members from the ordinary educated body of men and women in the country, so long you will have an unsatisfactory educational system. That is one instance of the way you must bring the influence of the university to bear on the whole of your educational system. In other words, the secondary school is only the secondary lever, and it is the university which is the real lever in educational matters.
Let me just mention one thing on that line. While what I have said is true of the country as a whole and of the national system, it is also true of each locality, and what is most needed in localities which are not actual university centres is to encourage the various educational activities to group themselves around some particular educational institution in that area which they can treat as the nucleus of local energy. Very often it will be the local Technical Institute. What you have at the present time is generally a disintegration of educational activities, and you have your secondary school, your technical institute, and your tutorial 1262 classes all working very largely without any sort of co-operation whereas, if you can group those activities around your technical school or something that serves the purpose of a local college you will give a greater stimulus to the education of that locality than you could do in any other way.
Finally, let me just say that, if we are starting out—re-starting out—to build a great educational system in this country, do not let us forget that we are not, building on a clear field, that we are not creating something new, but that we are the trustees of a national culture that already exists, and that no nation in the world has such a strong natural hereditary culture as our people here. It is very easy, by the kind of educational system that you create, to corrupt a national culture; it is much more difficult to improve, it. Our business is to improve what we already have, to see that we do not in any way exercise an influence which might deteriorate the character of our existing national culture. That is a great responsibility. It is not a responsibility which will ever be carried out by debates or controversies or catchwords or party scoring; it is an object which can only be carried out by the very sober and harmonious thought of all parties and all sections of this country.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
In venturing to bring this discussion to a close, I trust that the Committee will allow me to express, on behalf of my right hon. Friend as well as myself, our very cordial appreciation of the spirit that has animated the discussion during the whole of to-day. If I may venture to say so, I will try to imitate the example set by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) in the concluding portion of his speech rather than in the first portion. Indeed, he announced his intention of speaking on this subject in a purely non-party way, and I was wondering, as he proceeded in his earlier remarks, what would have happened to the earlier part of his speech had he not had the good fortune of having listened to the speech of the hon. Member for East Ham (Miss S. Lawrence), for be would have had to find some other reason for introducing purely party remarks into a non-party speech.
Quite a number of questions have been addressed to me this afternoon, which I 1263 shall do my best to answer. I should have liked to deal with them all in some detail did time afford the opportunity, but I am afraid I must omit what seem to me to be the less important of them, and apply my mind to one or two of the more important inquiries that have been addressed to me. May I, in the first place, say that one feels gratified that not only is a helpful spirit manifest towards the Board of Education in this particular House, but that the same spirit animates the education authorities and individual educationists throughout the country. Indeed, were it not that that helpful spirit exists throughout the country, many of the proposals which my right hon. Friend has seen fit to make would of necessity fail in their full purpose. We feel, however, especially having regard to the nature of the discussion here this afternoon, that Education Estimates are being discussed in an entirely different atmosphere from that which has prevailed in previous years.
Like my right hon. Friend, I want to avoid attributing blame either to this party or to that. That belongs to the past, and, perhaps, belongs to another place and another platform. To-night, I think, one may rely upon the cordial agreement of all present when one says that, for reasons which we all appreciate and understand, the gospel of economy has possessed the minds of most people in the last two years during our educational debates, with the consequence that we were hampered in the demands which we felt we were entitled to make, having regard to the serious and prolonged period of stagnation, not to say retrogression, which had prevailed for the last four or five years. Now it seems to me the time has come for us to begin to take long views of this educational problem, and every hon. Member who has taken part in this Debate has in one way or another made some sort of contribution to the discussion of this problem. I wish time afforded me an opportunity of discussing each special contribution, but I am afraid I must be excused.
I come, therefore, to the first question which was addressed to me by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Fisher), and I take the Welsh question first, not 1264 because I am a Welshman, but because I want to dispose of that subject before coming to the discussion of education generally. The right hon. Gentleman asked me what was the present position of affairs in regard to the inspectorate in Wales, in relation no doubt, in his own mind, to the problem which has arisen as concerning the proposals we have recently made to the Welsh Central Board. I am very sorry I cannot enter as fully as I should like into a discussion of that subject. I am due to meet them again on Friday at Shrewsbury, and it might perhaps be unwise and inappropriate if I entered into a discussion of the subject before I met them at the end of the week, but I will indicate the nature of the proposals. The Welsh Central Board is a statutory body and it relies for its finances upon certain sources. There is a Treasury grant, there is a compulsory levy upon the local authorities in Wales and there is a voluntary levy on the local authorities in Wales. In regard to the voluntary levy there has ken, happily, only a limited degree of objection, but still objection, on the ground that some local authorities cannot as well afford to make this voluntary levy as other authorities can, and in the difficulty which overcame the Welsh Central Board on account of the rise of prices after the War period it felt obliged to bring its troubles to the Board of Education. Suggestions were put forward to the Welsh Central Board by way of seeking to help them over their difficulties, and in making those suggestions the opportunity was taken of proposing to them that the time had come for making an attempt to unify the inspectorate in Wales in accordance with the proposals or recommendations of the Departmental Committee on secondary education. It is true that the proposals for a unified inspectorate in Wales were only part of a much bigger set of recommendations of that Committee.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
Can the hon. Member explain to us what was the greater programme? We have not heard of it.
§ Mr. JONES
I am afraid that I cannot now give the whole of the proposals. Unification was part of the proposal which we made to the Welsh Central Board. The Welsh Central Board have had these proposals before them for the last six months and they do not find 1265 themselves as yet able to agree as to whether they should or should not finally accept the proposals which we have put forward. Whether they will do so as a result of the interview at Shrewsbury I do not know. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to leave that matter?
§ Mr. MORRIS
This is a national question. If it had been a question affecting Scotland it would have been discussed, but 'when it is a Welsh question no opportunity has been given in this Debate to discuss the matter at all. It is a proposal to unify the inspectorate now under the Welsh Central Board and to transfer the inspectorate to the Board of Education.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I want to ask, on a point of Order, whether special facilities are given for discussing Welsh educational questions, while no Scottish Member has been allowed to take part in the discussion of these Estimates, although this Vote decides absolutely the money that is going to be available for Scottish education.
§ Mr. JONES
My right hon. Friend also asked me whether I could inform him how many plans of new schools, special schools, central schools, and clinics had been approved. The answer is, generally, that no reasonable proposal either for the erection of a new clinic or the expansion of a building where medical treatment is provided has been rejected by the Board. The number of new special schools actually certified since the 1st April, 1923, is 13, and since the 1st January four of these 13 have been approved. Of the number of new school places since the 1st April, 1923, 55 have been established, and out of that number 25 have been established since the 1st January of this year. In regard to the central schools, I 1266 was asked how many new plans had been approved. The central schools have been established by the redistribution of children in certain schools in certain areas. It has not been altogether a question of new schools, but the redistribution of children in schools already there.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. E. Wood) asked whether I could give any specific information on the problem of adult education. Incidentally, my right hon. Friend took me to task for a speech which I delivered at the Labour Party Conference last year, in which I chided the late Government for its neglect of adult education. I think my right hon. Friend will agree with me that the announcement to which he referred, as to the prospective alterations in the provision of adult education facilities, was made in March last year. My speech was in June.
§ Mr. E. WOOD
What I referred to was the fact that I made a speech in which I made a certain announcement, I think, on the 31st May, and the hon. Member made his speech, which I thought was on the 23rd of June. But we need not quarrel about it.
§ Mr. JONES
If my right hon. Friend feels that I have in any way misrepresented him, I will withdraw. With regard to extra mural classes, if the right hon. Gentleman looks at the estimates he will find all the information which he requires, and there is an indication that we propose to make a big grant for extra mural classes. I am entirely in agreement with him as to the value of these extra mural studies, and the necessity for their encouragement. My hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mrs. Wintringham) has raised a question as to the necessity and propriety of encouraging nursery schools. I need not remind my hon. Friend that, as far as the present Government is concerned, we look with very great sympathy indeed on the establishment of nursery schools, and we have already intimated our intention of withdrawing the circular which was a more or less complete barrier to the development of the nursery school system, and any proposals that are made to us that are reasonable in character will receive our sympathetic consideration.
Now I come to a question which was raised by the right hon. Gentleman opposite as to the raising of the school age of 1267 children to 15. He asked particularly in regard to the two places which had accepted in principle the raising of the school age, Bath and East Suffolk. In East Suffolk the Board has approved for publication the bye-law in that area. Any objections, of course, elicited by the publication will have to be considered on their merits by the Board. It is assured by the authority that they intend to administer the bye-law scrupulously, exercising their discretion to grant exemption to individuals only in cases where, after careful inquiry, the circumstances are found to be exceptional, and where they do exempt doing so as a rule only as from the end of the term. In regard to the Bath proposal, the position is not quite so far advanced. We are still negotiating with the people in Bath as to the availability of the present accommodation for the purpose, but I think that I may assure my right hon. Friend that the Government is perfectly willing to consider any proposal put forward by any authority for the purpose of raising the school age of children up to 15, provided that it is clearly understood that we do not want to embark upon a practice of recommending or approving of bye-laws raising the age to 15, and then finding that children are allowed to leave any time as soon as they find employment. We set our teeth against the practice of regarding the schools as a sort of waiting room for employment.
Now I come to the discussion initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough. He opened the discussion by saying that the time had come when the Department should seize the opportunity of encouraging local authorities to put up the schemes that were adumbrated by them under the old 1918 Act. As far as we are concerned, I think I may say we are perfectly willing to encourage the production of programmes by local authorities so that we might know the nature of the work they wish to carry out in their respective areas. In regard to the question of examination and inspection, I would like to direct my hon. Friend's attention to the report on page 43. My hon. Friend is very concerned—and quite rightly—as to whether the old principle of examinations and payment by results is being slowly reintroduced by our inspectors into our 1268 educational system. In support of his contention, my hon. Friend quoted a passage from page 16 of the Annual Report of the Board of Education. If my hon. Friend would look at page 43 of the same Report, he will find words which will allay any suspicion he may harbour in his heart. The passage is as follows:Passing to another of the general questions raised by our survey it does not appear that any system of external examinations applied to individual pupils can be in any sense a substitute for inspection. We have seen it amply demonstrated by long experience that the method of periodic individual examination and 'payment by results' was, so far as concerns elementary schools, neither educationally satisfactory nor economical of officials.The general tenour of that paragraph shows that there is no ground for the fear which he entertains. He raised another question of some importance—the question of promotion of inspectors. I want to assure him that, in the main, the assistant inspectors of the Board are, with one or two exceptions, at the present moment drawn exclusively from the ranks of elementary school teachers. In regard to the district inspectors no less than 20 per cent. are drawn from the elementary school teacher class, but as the system, of education tends to become unified the necessity for drawing inspectors from any particular part or section of the educational world becomes more and more limited, and I have no doubt that in the course of a short time our inspectorate will be drawn without regard to the particular department of education in which they formerly had served.
I want to say one or two words on the question of central schools. The Committee will know that for the continuation of elementary education there are three kinds of education provided by various school authorities. Some are keen advocates of continuation schools, others are keen advocates of central schools, and still others are keen advocates of secondary schools. Neither of these systems is exclusive of the others. There is something to be said for each of them. I have no doubt that the experience continuation schools have had in London affords reason for believing that an extension of that system might be appropriate to cities like London, but in regard to central schools, we are at this very 1269 moment receiving applications from many parts of the country for the establishment of such schools, and there are cases where central schools are more appropriate than secondary schools. We are heartily in sympathy with all of these schools, and will do our best to promote those most desired in particular districts.
I pass over the problem of free secondary education, because I want to touch on the question of special schools. So far as the Board of Education is concerned, we are extremely anxious that anything we can do within the limits of the money at our disposal shall be done. Indeed, whatever we can do we have done within the time at our disposal to stimulate the establishment of these special schools. We are encouraging medical services being established on a more efficient footing in various parts of the country. We are considering the issue of a new special circular to local authorities encouraging them to provide special schools for the deaf and blind and for other unfortunate children who need such treatment. May I also include the crippled children in whose behalf such eloquent words have been used this evening. Time will not allow me to traverse the whole of the points covered by hon. Members, and I must conclude with these last words. An appeal has been made by Members of the Committee belonging to all parties that all should rally together in defence of a unified and continued policy in education for the next few years. We all know the various warnings which have been issued by leaders of public opinion in different parts of the country as to the great rivalry likely to exist between nations in the next few years. In that rivalry au efficient system of education is absolutely necessary, and we are confident that the proposals we are putting forward and the work we are trying to do will help us to provide an efficient educational system for the country as a whole.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again to-morrow.