HC Deb 08 April 1925 vol 182 cc2350-93

I beg to move, That, in view of the grave intellectual and social wastage caused by the fact that the great majority of children leaving elementary schools fail to obtain further education of any kind, a wastage aggravated by the present state of unemployment, and in view of the declaration of the Departmental Committee on scholarships and free places that 75 per cent. of the children leaving elementary schools are intellectually qualified to profit by full-time education up to the age of 16, this House is of opinion that local education authorities should be called upon to prepare schemes by which within a reasonable period adequate provision may be made for secondary or some form of full-time post-primary education for all children up to the age of 16, for a progressive increase in the percentage of free places maintained in grant-aided secondary schools, and for the development of maintenance allowances on such a scale that no children may be debarred from higher education by the poverty of their parents. Owing to the good fortune of the ballot, I have the honour and the pleasure of moving this Resolution, and I desire to do so as briefly as I possibly can, so as to give other hon. Members a chance to say something on this very important matter. Let me say that what I have to say will be more from the practical point of view of an administrator and that I will leave it to hon. Members who are better able than I am to deal with the purely educational questions arising. That there is an intellectual wastage is, I think, undoubted, because of the fact that so many of our children who leave school at the age of 14 have no further facilities whatever offered them, coupled with the fact that so many of them are running the streets and cannot find any work to do, and even those who do find work are very often placed in this position, that they are put to do work that ought to be done by their fathers, who are in consequence walking the streets seeking work, all to the detriment of the nation. This is all the more deplorable when we remember that on the findings of a Departmental Committee which sat some time ago, of which I had the honour of being a member, together with the present Minister of Education, we came to the definite conclusion that at least 66⅔ per cent., if not 75 per cent., would benefit by further education, but despite that fact, since that date little or nothing has been done to carry out the intentions of that Committee. I entirely agree with the findings of that Committee, and trust that from to-night onward some greater effort will be made to put into operation its findings.

In proof of what I am saying, may I be permitted to say that in our elementary schools to-day very good work is being done with children between the ages of five and eleven years? The teachers in our elementary schools are sparing no activity and are unsparingly giving themselves to these children, in a very different manner from that which obtained in the elementary schools when I myself, nearly 55 years ago, was in one of them. Little do we see for it, and more encouragement should be given to these spirited men and women, to whom I offer my meed of praise for the work that they are doing. I cannot imagine any body of men or women who would be more pained than they to know that all the good work they have done goes to waste because of the failure of the Board of Education and the local education authorities to do anything further. What is happening is this: I wish to point out that in cur elementary schools, while everything is alright between the ages of five and eleven, after eleven years of age is reached comes the wastage for the very bright boy or even the ordinary boy or girl. After the first year in the highest class very little further education can be given under present circumstances, consequent upon the fact that there are children of at least three different years to be taught in the one class. At eleven years of age they find themselves in standard VII, and there they have to remain for three years, and they must, of necessity, because of the position created by the Board of Education, have exactly the same tuition from eleven to fourteen years of age. A boy arrives in Standard VII for the first year and is offered first-year tuition, but the next year some other boys and girls of eleven come up, and the same education and the same teaching and the same everything are meted out again to the boy in his second year because of the boys and girls of the first year who have come to join him, and that is happening in our elementary schools day after day.

Let me give an example. I know a boy now who is eight years of age and is in Standard V. In less than two years he will be in Standard VII, and he will do his first year, and then will go on as I have indicated, without any chance of further tuition. There he is, with his bright brains wasted because of the lack of accommodation for secondary school cases. May I plead with the Minister of Education to think of these boys and girls? My heart goes out to the boy or girl of 11 whose parents are so poor that no further education, even if it were there, can be offered to them. I want to plead with my Noble Friend that it is our business here in this House to tell the local education authorities that they cannot afford to lose these brains, that the country needs them, and that it must have them, from whatever source they may come. Under such circumstances individual attention is, of course, impossible, for only too often the number in the class is about 50, and in some cases ever 50, and I hope I shall not be told that it is possible for a teacher to give individual attention, for everyone who has had anything at all to do with elementary education knows that it is a sheer impossibility.

In my own County of Durham we have in some of our schools what we know as higher tops, to which a teacher with a degree may be appointed, and for which a class-room is set apart and given some good equipment, so that a different class of teaching may be given to the children there. We have attempted to give to these children of 11 years of age exactly the teaching that they would get in a secondary school at the same age, and the results have been more than gratifying. Take last year. Some 40 or 50 of these children took the Oxford examinations, senior and junior, and many of them passed and took honours, but the thing to remember is that all this ceases at 14 years of age. That sort of thing shows, once again, where the great wastage takes place, because, after all, these children have sat for an examination for a free place in a secondary school, could not have it, and then, despite the fact that they have been turned down because of lack of accommodation, have succeeded in doing in the elementary schools very good work. That again proves that wastage is taking place because of the lack of further education, and I tell the House in no measured terms that to end this the Board of Education and the local education authorities ought to come in with higher and secondary education for all children over 11 years of age. That is a strong order, but it is the only way of meeting this question.

I have here some figures which, I think, prove what I am saying. The number of places at present provided, as we all know, is wholly inadequate, and there is not the opportunity for development that we want. Let me give some of the figures I have taken from the White Paper that was issued by the Board some few weeks ago. First of all, take the Borough of Wallasey, which makes provision in secondary schools for 21 per thousand of its population. That is the very best borough we have. That is followed by Bradford, with 20.4. At the other end, Rochdale has only four per thousand; Smethwick, 4.3; West Ham, 4.5; East Ham, 5.1; Sunderland, 5.1; and Gateshead, 5.3 Are we, as the custodians of the people's interests in this matter, satisfied with that state of things? Taking the counties, it is pretty much the same thing, though, I believe, on the whole, a shade better, but between the top and the bottom a shade worse. In the Soke of Peterborough the figure is 18.2; Bedford, 14.2; Shropshire, 12.5; Middlesex, 12. At the other end, the first I come to is the Isle of Scilly, 1.7; then, East Sussex, 4.8; the Isle of Wight 5.1; Durham, 6.3. In Durham, thanks to a Labour party being in power, a year ago it was raised by 1 per cent., the figure having been 5.3 prior to the Labour party coming into power. So that at least we can say we did something for secondary education in Durham. In Norfolk, the figure is 6.5; Lindsey, 6.8; Lincoln, 6.8. The figures for the country are, I think, alarming. For 1921, the figure was 8.8; 1922, 9.2; and 1923, 9.1. Wales, I am glad to say to my Welsh Friends, is much better. Wales, in 1921, had 10.6; in 1922, 11.5; and in 1923, 11.5.

The figures I have given, I am sure, show that the children have not a chance of being educated. I do not accept elementary education so-called as education; it is merely the foundation on which an education can be built. Where the population is most dense, the least number of children receive secondary education. Let me compare the purely agricultural county of Westmorland with my own county of Durham. We find that Westmorland can afford to have 11.5 per 1,000 of its population in secondary schools, as against Durham's 6.3, which we raised from 5.3. May I mention, also, this great City of London? According to a circular issued by the London County Council quite recently, we find the same circumstances surrounding the position, namely, that where poverty is highest, education is worst. The figures for secondary education are, in Shoreditch, 1.3; and Bethnal Green, 2.2, as against 14.5 in Hampstead and 12.6 in Stoke Newington, showing that there is the same tendency to keep back poor areas, so as to give better facilities to those more able to provide them for themselves.

Again I am going to refer to my own county, about which I know most. I do not take 1921, when the position was rather different, but I take the last three years. We had leaving our elementary schools in 1922, 13,994 children, out of whom 1,217 found their way into secondary schools. In 1923, the figures were 16,643 and 1,131. In 1924, the numbers were 16,246 and 1,192. In the elementary schools in those years the numbers were 53,178 in 1922, 51,736 in 1923, and 50,678 in 1924. In Division I and Division II secondary schools we had 5,578, 5,722 and 5,840, respectively. We have in Durham an order that all children over 11 years shall be examined with a view to the hest being selected for free places in our secondary schools, and this is how it has worked out in the last three years. In 1922, 14,277 children were examined at Part I of the admission examination, and 6,666 were brought to a further examination to decide which should have an opportunity of getting to the secondary schools. Of these, 3,299 were interviewed, and we found places for 695. That is to say, out of 14,277 children, we finally found we could place 695 children. I say to my hon. Friends opposite that to me it is most undesirable that when we have selected our pupils for the free places, the fee-paying pupils, whose parents are residents, get the preference. Many of the parents do not allow their children to go forward, not because they do not want them to receive education, but because they cannot afford it. That, then, is the position that we are in Durham. In 1922 we took a census of the people in this respect, and only two out of a vast number of parents said they had no desire for further education for their children so that, I think, we may take it that the parents in Durham at least are unanimously in favour of secondary education.

We ought to re-organise our educational system so as to provide for our children going into the secondary schools. I have quoted what we are doing in Durham. We ask that the children of the workers should be educated so that they may take their fair share as citizens of this country. I do not ask more for the children of the poor than I would ask for the children of the well-to-do. I hope that I am pleading, and with some hope, that something will be done in this matter. An hon. Members opposite asked what we propose.

First of all, let me say that what is standing in the way is insufficient secondary school accommodation. May I offer a suggestion to my Noble Friend the President of the Board of Education? In some of the larger urban areas we have sufficient accommodation, and a little to spare, for elementary education. One school might be well taken and reorganised on the basis we suggest. At present there is not sufficient variety in the types of education provided. We desire that every opportunity should be given to every child to get his chance. I know that by some people a secondary education is looked upon as the right rather of the well-to-do. It means at the end a black-coated job. I want that, idea dispelled, not only from the minds of the children, but from the minds of the parents. For I am convinced, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the better we educate the child, the better will it be able to take care of itself, not only generally, but in many of our dangerous occupations. From actual experience, and a long connection with mining—it is one of the most dangerous occupations which we have in this country—I say that the better educated men we have in our mines the less liability will there be to accidents. That has worked out in actual fact. I put it this way to my Noble. Friend that if, at least, we can reduce the accidents in mines, or in other industrial pursuits, then it follows that we have done a great thing. I want, therefore, more provision for secondary education. I want to get on with the building of the necessary schools. I do not want the start to be put off for 10 years. I should like to see a considerable portion of our programme accomplished in that time, and I think it may be possible. Schemes that have been put forward by local authorities might go forward if helped by the Board of Education; some, at least, of the local education authorities would gladly get on with the work.

May I refer to a recent Circular issued by the Board of Education? Many people know that we of the Durham County Education Authority had agreed that our secondary education there should be entirely free. That was turned down. But we were sufficiently unanimous that even the Moderate majority on the council decided, with the Circular in their hands, that they were still willing for a free scheme, and the resolution that was passed stands on the books of the education authority of Durham to-day. We want more generous awards and maintenance grants by local education authorities.

The Education Act passed on the initiative of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher) is all that is required if put into operation. No new Act is needed for many years. That Act, well applied and administered by any local education authority, will forward education in this country, and will be sufficient, I believe, for many years. I want the Noble Lord the President of the Board of Education to adopt that Act—and before long! We want to give our boys and girls every opportunity to broaden their minds, and to see to it that they get a real chance to become worthy citizens of a great country. We want them to get that education that will fit them to play a worthy part in life, so that they will not get into blind-alley occupations, selling newspapers or matches, and ultimately being cast upon the human scrap heap. I want the future men and women of this country to have such an education that they can turn their hands to industrial pursuits as well as to those pursuits which are, so to speak, naturally associated with higher education. At the same time, those who are fitted for it should have their chance in the secondary schools, and the higher sources of education, so that if they are able they may get their share of the higher posts—if their brains are equal to it. If we adopt such a system as I have endeavoured to outline in my poor, halting way, I believe that the wish of Members like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond) may be attained, and that he will, as a matter of fact, get some of his £10,000 a year men coming from among the children of the workers of this country.


I beg to second the Motion.

This Resolution enunciates a very clear-cut principle and states the position of the Labour party on education in no unmistakable terms. That principle is just this, that the place for all our children up to the age of 16 is in our schools, and not in our factories or workshops. We say in this Resolution that neither the needs of particular industries or particular employers, nor the poverty of the parents, should prevent all our children having full opportunities for secondary education right up to the age of 16. We say that secondary education ought not to be regarded as a provision for the super-cultured or super-normal child, but ought to be the normal provision for the normal child of every home in this country. We say it is a wrong conception of education to think that the elementary school can fulfil the functions of education. We say it is wrong to expect the complete product from the elementary school, and that it would injure elementary education if you expect or try to get from it the complete product, the finished product, demanded by any employers or any industries. Elementary education is essentially a preparatory education, and ought to be organised with regard for the growing reeds of the child. In elementary schools we ought not to fit the child into the system, but fit the system for the child. There are some people, very sincere friends of education, who believe that the normal average child has not the capacity to benefit from secondary education. No less a distinguished educationist than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher), in a Debate on the Education Estimates in July last, I believe it was, stated that opinion very clearly, as far as I understand it.


May I remind the hon. Member that what I said was that it is not every child who would benefit from full-time secondary education. As a matter of fact, I made provision in my Bill that every child should have either full-time or part-time secondary education.


I am not going to quarrel with that. I was taking the expression used by the right hon. Gentleman in order that we might discuss it. On the 22nd July the right hon. Gentleman said this: 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 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 that 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd July, 1924; cols. 1168–69, Vol. 176.]


They ought to send some as Members over here.


That quotation expresses doubt as to the capacity of the normal child to be fitted to benefit from a course of full-time secondary education in our schools. I find that a number of people who believe in mental tests are of the same opinion. I myself have never believed in mental tests. I have never believed you can apply a foot-rule to the human intelligence. I have never believed that you could state at the age of 11 what mental age a child would attain at the age of 20. Mental tests also do not test capacity of character, do not test capacity for perseverance; they do not test character in any degree whatever. Therefore, I say, as far as I am concerned, I regard the application of mental tests to the capacity of children as thoroughly reactionary, thoroughly unscientific and unreliable in results. I find there is one gentleman amongst these people who apply these tests who is more optimistic than the others as to the results. A distinguished psychologist employed by the London County Council, Mr. Cyril Burt, in 1917 carried out a series of investigations into the capacities of 31,000 ordinary normal children in a borough in London. He investigated the capacities of these children and found that out of that 31,000 children the level of attainment with 37 per cent. of them was on a level with their chronological age; in the ease of 25 per cent. it was one year in advance of their age; and in the ease of 6.4, more than one year in advance of their age. He also tested over 3,000 children from 10 to 11 years of age, and of these, 32 per cent. were judged to be normal and 36 per cent. were above the normal. That is to say, of these ordinary normal average children who go to our elementary schools, Mr. Cyril Burt, the distinguished psychologist of the London County Council, discovered that two-thirds to three-quarters were above the normal. Therefore, I say, the vast bulk of our children, the ordinary normal children, are quite capable of benefiting by secondary education.

I have been interested a lot in examinations, and as a result my post bag has been overloaded with tests of questions to put to certain persons. I have been applying some of these tests to Members of this House, tests that have been set to children of 11, 12, and 13 years of age, and I do not think that a single Member I have tested this afternoon with these, questions passed the examination. [HON. MEMBERS: "What party?"] All parties. As a matter of fact, I think I tried my Conservative friends first in the Library this afternoon. I would like to read to the House one or two of these questions to show the standard which is being demanded from our ordinary elementary school children in order that they may get into the higher secondary schools. The difficulties and the range of knowledge demanded is simply amazing. I will quote one or two instances, which I have not selected because of their particular hardship, but I have hundreds of them, and hon. Members must hear in mind that these are set for children varying from 11, 12, and 13 years of age. Here is a case I quote from Northampton: 1. Write as full an account as you can of one of the following: Stonehenge, The Canterbury Tales, The Great Fire of London. 2. What do you understand when you read the following words: Monastery, outlaw, republic, cathedral, cavalier, Parliament? 3. Write the following names in a column, putting them in the order in which the persons lived. Then tell what you know of any one of them who wrote books. Thomas a Becket, John Bunyan, Boadicea, Cardinal Wolsey, Charles Dickens, Columbus, Julius Caesar, Nelson, William the Conqueror, George Washington, Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth.


They ought to end up with Charlie Chaplin.


Here is another good one: 4. During the past year you have probably heard people talk about: A General Election; ballot box; Parliamentary candidates; Protection; Prime Minister; Capital Levy. Explain briefly and simply what you think these terms mean. I do not see Free Trade in this list. Those are a few questions set at a Northamptonshire examination demanding a very wide knowledge from children of 11 12 and 13 years of age. I am sure that all the children who could pass that examination are children who would benefit by the extension of secondary education. Here is another example. (a) Write an original story making use of the ideas suggested by the following outline: Bull in a field—little girl in danger—distracted mother—stranger saves girl—who was the stranger? (b) Write a short conversation between a spider and a fly. Here is one relating to the knowledge of drama which is demanded. (a) Imagine that you are dramatising Jack and the Beanstalk.' Write out the scene which takes place in the widow's cottage when Jack returns from the market after selling the cow for a bag of beans. Put in stage directions. There is just one other on arithmetic, showing the standard demanded as to the range of knowledge and the imagination of these children: A brass cylinder is sent from a foundry in a wooden rectangular box which measures internally 14X8X8 inches and weighs 4 lbs. The length of the cylinder is 14 inches, the radius of its base 4 inches, and its weight is 203.4 lbs. The space in the box not occupied by the cylinder is filled up with sand. Find the weight of the whole, the volume of the cylinder being π r2l, where r is the radios of the base, l the length, and π=22/7 (A cubic foot of sand weighs 110 lbs.). 9.0 P.M.

I venture to assert that a child who could answer a question like that ought to be predestined, not for a secondary school course of education, but ought to be sent up to the University. I want to deal very briefly with education in relation to industry. Some people assert, and it was asserted very strongly the other day by Lord Banbury in another place, that it is a good thing to get children out of school as soon as possible, and it is claimed that this is better for the children and better for industry. I would like to ask, however, when you get them into industry where are the jobs? On this point it is difficult to get figures, and there are great differences of opinion as to the number of children who are unemployed, more particularly between the ages of 14 and 16. I have seen, however, the following estimates. In London it is stated that there are 14,000 children unemployed between the ages of 14 and 16. I have also seen the estimate, although I do not believe that the Government spokesman in another place accepted the figure, that there are 200,000 juveniles throughout the whole of this country unemployed. I notice from, a report of a discussion in the "Western Mail" of the same problem, in Newport, that there were about 30,000 children from 14 to 18 years of age unemployed in the town of Newport.

My point is that these children are being neglected in what is the most formative period of their lives just at a time when they are entering into roan-hood. That is the period when for the first time powerful dominating instincts appear, and. when the life force seems to be struggling to free itself. At this stage remarkable changes occur, and when these new instincts are formed you arrive at a period more than any other when you are actually forming the manhood of those particular children. There is no more hopeful and, at the same time, no more dangerous period in life, than the period of adolescence, and yet at this period wt find that thousands of our children are unemployed. They are in and out of industry, and you are teaching them the principle of living from hand to mouth, with no clear path to follow and no definite aim.

The other day I had the privilege, owing to the kindness of the Minister of Labour, of visiting some of the juvenile unemployment centres in London where I talked to some of the children. They told me that they could get a job at the age of 14 or 15, but when they reached the age of 16 they got out of work, and the reason they gave for this was that at that age the masters had to pay unemployment insurance for them. I want here to pay my tribute even to the juvenile unemployment centres. They are undoubtedly saving in a number of cases that rapid depreciation of human life which would otherwise occur if it were not for the juvenile unemployment centre. I saw, for instance, some girls in one of the centres where tine teacher had got them to adopt a proper uniform, a sort of secondary school uniform that they have seen the secondary school children wear; and the very fact that they had that dress on seemed to lift them up and give them a greater idea of their own value, and to prevent that depreciation in their standard of living which otherwise would have gripped them.

Therefore, the juvenile unemployment centres are performing a useful function in helping to stave off that depreciation; but the juvenile unemployment centres, I want to say quite frankly, do not fill the bill. They are not enough, for the problem with which we are dealing goes deeper, and is more abiding, I think, than the mere problem of unemployment It is not only a question of the unskilled and blind-alley occupation; we have to ask ourselves, Can industry train and absorb its apprentices? Is it wise, is it economical, to give our children an apprenticeship to any particular trade? That is the definite question we have to ask ourselves. Recent reports that I have read throw considerable doubt upon the economy and wisdom of giving children, in many of our industries, a definite apprenticeship to a definite and particular trade.

I have been reading only to-day a very interesting Report of this kind with which I am sure the President of the Board of Education will be acquainted, and, if the House will bear with me, I should like to read a quotation from it, because I think it is exceedingly important. It is the Report of the Departmental Committee on Juvenile Education in Relation to Employment after the War, and this is what it says: The range of employment open to juveniles is a wide one, and any general statement of its conditions must be prefaced by the warning that these vary considerably in detail from industry to industry, from locality to locality, and even from business to business. At the top of the scale come the apprentices; at the bottom, many factory workers and others engaged in blind-alley occupations. Apprentices are employed, not for their immediate commercial utility, but in order to maintain or increase the supply of skilled workmen. These, in theory, get a training which is of a practical kind, and has the advantage of being acquired in an atmosphere of business, not of a school. The fact that the age of apprenticeship is in some areas nearer 16 than 15 years of age, unfortunately causes a considerable gap to intervene between the time when juveniles leave school and the time when they settle down to learn a trade. During this interval, they have nothing but more or less casual occupations to fall back upon, and, when they finally enter their industries, are in most cases less well equipped than when they left school two years before. Moreover, an apprenticeship does not of itself give a training which fits boys for modern industrial conditions. As a system of training it was developed when industry was stable, methodical; and regular, and it is not fully suited to an age when it is unstable, changing, and irregular. A boy undertakes to serve five or seven years in order to acquire a trade, but, after his skill has been laboriously obtained, it may at any moment be rendered entirely unnecessary by changes in the organisation of industry. What is required, in addition to manual dexterity, is industrial knowledge and intelligence which will enable him to adapt himself to changing industrial conditions. But such general adaptability apprenticeship of itself does not give. That Report seems to emphasise the fact that, even so far as the technique of industry is concerned, what is wanted is a broad, generalised, liberal education that will give the child initiative, self-reliance, manual dexterity and adaptability—as broad and as liberal as it can possibly be made. That does not mean that it is to be merely a literary or bookish education. We have too long made the mistake of thinking of secondary education merely as literary and bookish education, but secondary education must be something far wider than that, something that is organised for a secondary status. It must include all the manual exercises that are necessary to carry on the great manual traditions of our industries in this country. Why do we emphasise secondary education? Why not central school education? Why not this type or the other type? I want to say quite clearly that I am not condemning the work that has been done—magnificent work, under the conditions—in the great central schools of London and the provinces; but I want secondary education because it is far better to get a unified system. It is far better to simplify your administration.

It is not only that. Secondary education not only means status, but it also means far better physical conditions for our schools. I forget the exact figures, but I believe—the President will correct me if I am wrong—that the floor space and the amount of air available are nearly double in a secondary school what they are in an elementary school. The classes are much smaller; the teachers are better paid—[An HON. MEMBER: "Ah!"] Why not? I am not ashamed to ask for good pay. As regards playing fields, I do not think they are necessary for elementary schools, but they are necessary for secondary schools. We want all education, as far as possible, not to be regarded as literary; we want all education above the age of 11 to be on a secondary basis, with as great a variety of types as can possibly be obtained. I am not afraid of there being—in fact I even welcome—a bias, but it must not be introduced too early or over-emphasised, gradually leading the child on to its future occupation in life. Further, I want manual occupations to be associated with secondary education, running side by side with the arts and literature, in order to give in our secondary schools what I would term a secondary status to manual occupations themselves, dignifying labour in and through the status that is given to it in our schools. I want all these various kinds of occupations to be within the category of secondary education.

The Amendment differs very little, as far as I understand it, from the original Resolution. It differs, perhaps, in this respect, that, whereas we would emphasise getting the children into a secondary system, with gradual development until all our children over 11 are absorbed in secondary schools, the Amendment seems to have this underlying philosophy, that not all children are fit to profit by that education. There is a limitation in the Amendment. That limitation we on these benches entirely deny. If that limitation is true, if it is a limitation of unfitness, we say that it does not merely apply to the working classes, but applies also to those who can go to Eton, Harrow and our other great schools. If that is to be the principle, it must be applied right through, to rich and poor, to those who can afford it and to those who take the benefit from our grant-aided and rate-aided secondary and municipal schools in this country. Therefore, what we seek in this Resolution is a wide variety of type, manual occupation freely entered into, relating the school activity gradually and increasingly to the needs of the wider sphere of life in citizenship and in industry. We want to dignify labour in and through bringing these children into the secondary schools and giving them a course which will fit them for citizenship, for workmanship and for the enjoyment of the art and literature of life, so that they may have a fuller and freer life as our citizens in this country.

Colonel BURTON

I beg to move to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words this House adheres to the policy laid down by the Prime Minister in October last, namely, the provision of sufficient secondary schools with an adequate number of free places, the provision of central schools to accommodate all those primary school pupils between the ages of 11 and 15 (16 where possible) who are not accommodated in the secondary schools, and facilities for transfer from central to secondary schools. The Resolution has a very familiar ring about it—a ring which is familiar to all pious aspirations. It is rather peculiar to find such a ring at the moment when the Mover of the Resolution might, in all human probability, find himself in the wilderness in the shape of opposition for some considerable time, when he will be able to watch the working out of the Government plans which are now being brought to fruition. I do not know even that we might not towards the end of the evening find that the Minister will tell us that the Resolution after all is abortive, even as I know from a Sunday paper last week. I find that the Plymouth education authority, acting in conjunction with Other authorities of a similar nature, have propounded a scheme, and I should like to read one or two of the items which they put forward in it. The main features of this scheme, which has been put forward by a series of education authorities who consider that perhaps after all we have advanced since the year 1870, are as follows: Re-classification of the schools into junior and senior schools, abolishing the present infant school departments altogether, or perhaps substituting for them nursery schools, making the age of 11 the dividing line between the two classes of school, providing two types of senior schools, one for children selected by examination or other test as specially fitted for a special curriculum, the other type for all other senior children, the course of education in the senior schools to be a four-year course—this involves raising the age to15—greater emphasis to be laid on practical work in the senior schools, and each school to have its own practical department, e.g., wood and metal working, etc., for boys and domestic teaching for girls, the present central schools to become secondary schools, for which the general selection will take place at the age of 11, but with provision for entry at a later date when necessary, special provision for backward children and also for defective children. This is to be rather like the scheme which the Mover of the Resolution would have and which appears to be carried out by the Board of Education without his knowledge or consent.

My objection to this Resolution is rather more deep-rooted than that. It would appear that the Labour Benches give a publicity and credence which is wholly unwarrantable to the idea that theirs is the only party that has the welfare of our educational system at heart. Further, while I cannot bring myself to agree with that, I should like to see a more general, and perhaps a more meticulous scale laid down for the examinations of children for secondary schools. At present the tests are somewhat haphazard. In one place the teachers will set their own papers and correct them. In another the directors will set the papers and the teachers will correct them. The Burnley test is more difficult than the Blackburn, both tests are less easy than at Durham, and all tests are less difficult than those in London. The consequence is that we have a great diversity of children who get into the secondary schools. I should like to read one or two of the tests that were made by a director of education in the North. He said in an area which he would call D, at the first examination 932 pupils sat. In an easy test 134 did not get a single sum right, 45 per cent. had less than a quarter a the marks and 67½ per cent. had less than 40 per cent. of marks. In the second examination, of 458 candidates only 3.2 per cent. got half marks or more, and a quarter of the candidates had less than 10 per cent. of the possible marks. At an 11 year old examination, with 14,234 children eligible, 50 per cent. were kept back by the teachers as unfit, 7,047 were marked by their own school teachers, 25 per cent. obtained half marks, and only 1,763 reached a satisfactory standard. In 28 departments, with 861 children eligible for examination, not a single child reached a satisfactory standard. Therefore it seems to me that unless we have some uniformity of standard to see what children shall get into the second grade we are liable to get a number of children getting secondary school places who should not be there. Our objection is not to the provision of secondary school education, it is not to the provision of sufficient places, but it is to the wholesale increase of secondary school places to be filled, perhaps, in such a manner as I have indicated. Therefore I beg, with the utmost humility, to move my Amendment.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I confess to the House at the outset that I am not an expert on educational matters, nor am I well-informed thereon. After the sincere and eloquent speeches of the Mover and Seconder and the Mover of the Amendment, I am sorry to have to come down from those dizzy heights of educational consideration to the mundane level of s. d. I do feel that it is a good thing that a man who is not an expert on a subject such as this should intervene in the Debate, because my experience in the House and elsewhere has been that where men are experts on any particular subjects, they are carried away with their own enthusiasm on that particular subject, their heart is in the thing they are discussing, and ways and means find no place in their calculations. Our country is a more heavily taxed country than any in the world, more heavily taxed than we ever dreamt our country would be taxed, and yet we are here to-night considering schemes which, however desirable they may be, would add to the burden of expenditure on the National Exchequer and burdens on the rates of local authorities.

At the present time the expenditure which is being borne by the National Exchequer and the local rates amounts to £74,000,000 per annum, of which some 40 odd millions is provided out of the National Exchequer. The corresponding figure in the year ending March, 1901, was £17,000,000, and 10 years later, in the year ending March, 1911, it was £29,000,000. So that we have had progressive figures of £17,000,000, £29,000,000 and £74,000,000. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members opposite applaud those figures, and they would like to double them. While they are doubling them, or keeping them at their present figure in order to benefit the children and give them a better education, possibly one which we on these benches would welcome also, they will put an additional load on British industry which will result in unemployment being worse than it is. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr Lansbury) affords an additional proof of my remarks about experts. Experts on the Navy want certain things for the Navy; experts on education want unlimited expenditure on education; other experts unlimited expenditure on widows' pensions and old age pensions—things which all the Members of the House would welcome if the country could afford it, but there must be moderation, and it is time our minds were brought down to cold facts. In 1901 the cost of education amounted approximately to 10s. per head of the population. The present figure is just under £2, and I do say that, whether or not we can afford to continue spending the £74,000,000 which we are at present spending, we are not justified in rushing to additional schemes which will add to the figure of £74,000,000.

A further point is this, that the cost of secondary education, which is what the Mover and Seconder of the Motion wish to develop particularly, is infinitely higher than the cost of elementary education. The cost of elementary education is only about £11 per annum per child, whereas the cost per child for secondary education is £28. Therefore, it behoves the House to scrutinise any additional development of secondary education even more closely than they do elementary education. The cost of elementary education has grown from between £4 and £5 to £14. Under the London County Council the cost of elementary is £15 per annum per child, and secondary education £39. The Seconder of the Motion referred to certain tests that the children were subjected to, and read out some of the questions put to them. What he did not tell us was that 50 per cent. was the number of marks required to pass examinations. In some towns the proportion is 50 per cent. I can give the House a few figures relative to just one town which show that the number of children admitted to secondary schools was far in excess of those who obtained the minimum number of marks that were supposed to qualify for such entry. Of 943 who sat for an examination, 284 reached the satisfactory standard, but 551 were awarded places in secondary schools, or nearly twice as many as those who qualified for the tests. It is a fact. that a certain number of children in Lancashire, whom we should call rather "gormless" children, reached the secondary school where possibly they would not be able to get that benefit which the schools intended. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion referred to children acquiring self-reliance as one of the benefits they would get during the period of secondary education. I can think of no better way of a child acquiring self-reliance than by a child going out to earn its living and helping its mother and father. [Interruption.] The Noble Lady the Member for Sutton (Viscountess Astor) has possibly never experienced what it is to earn her living, but I can well remember that I left school at 15.


I left at nine.


I well remember how very proud I was when I brought home my first month's salary, which was 16s. 8d. for one month's work—£10 a year. I quite agree also that plenty of sons of the wealthier classes go to Eton, Harrow and other schools who are not fitted to benefit. They do not go at the expense of the State or local authorities, and we have got to consider that a well-to-do family might as well spend their money in that way as in any other way. I do not think we are justified in criticising that. I have much pleasure in seconding the Amendment.


I am very glad that the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. R. Richardson), who has done so much excellent work for education in the county of Durham, should have selected this subject for discussion. Not only is it my opinion that the President of the Board of Education will welcome, or should welcome, the kind of criticism which the hon. Gentleman has addressed to him, but because it is well that the President of the Board of Education should realise that there are in different parts of the House hon. Members who take a keen interest in the advance of our system of public education, and desirable that from time to time that interest should be manifested; but also, I think, the hon. Member has been happily inspired in selecting the subject of secondary education, because by the confession of all who have given any serious attention to the study of our education at this moment, far the gravest of the unsolved problems which concern the legislator and the administrator is the problem of adolescent education.

There is no one who gives any close attention to the subject of education who is not appalled by the wastage which goes on through the neglect and loss of education which takes place between the ages of 14 and 18. It is, in my submission, the primary task of the Legislator and the administrator to cope with that situation. The hon. Member who seconded the Resolution in such eloquent terms, rather called me to order, if I may say so, for having ventured to express an opinion unfavourable to the general intelligence of the human race. I do not hold a very serious brief for American intelligence tests; I never have done, hut, on the other hand, I have had too much experience of the lugubrious occupation of examining youth, to have failed to notice that it is one thing to ask a question and another thing to get an answer. Consequently, when the hon. Member read out a number of very difficult and perplexing questions which were administered to the children of our elementary schools, and invited the House to conclude that those children were all infant geniuses, I venture humbly to differ. Everybody is agreed that there are far too few secondary school places in this country. Everybody is agreed except, I think, the hon. Member who seconded the Amendment.


I am also agreed, but the only thing is that the money is lacking.


Then we are all agreed. It may, of course, be true that you may have a school here or there which admits children on an unsufficient standard. I do not deny that, but in the main we agree that there are very large numbers of children all over this country who are desirous of secondary education, who are lit to profit by secondary education, and whose parents are willing to send them to secondary schools, and yet they are debarred from secondary education by the lack of secondary school places. Consequently, if we are serious in our endeavours to advance the cause of public education in this country, we must put pressure upon the President of the Board of Education and request him, very respectfully, to transmit that pressure to the local education authorities, for the building of more secondary schools and for the provision of a greater number of secondary school places.

I expressed the opinion when I was in office, and I repeat it now, that we ought to work up to 600,000 secondary school places. We ought not to be content with less than that number. The Noble Lord the President of the Board of Education told us not very long ago that he had had a scheme submitted to him for, I think he said, 240 additional secondary schools. It will, no doubt, take a considerable time before those 240 schools are built; but even when they are built they will only go about half the way towards the goal which I personally have in view. The hon. Member who seconded the Resolution was very anxious for a very wide and general extension of secondary schools, and he propounded a sound educational doctrine in connection with them. I was not, however, quite certain whether he desired to make attendance at these secondary schools compulsory, or whether he desired that the parents should be free to send or not to send their children to these secondary schools.




Then that clears the issue a great deal. The hon. Member who moved and the hon. Member who seconded the Resolution desire to make a full-time secondary school education compulsory up to 16 upon the children or young people in this country. There, I venture to think, they will not have the support of the majority of the parents of these children. That would be their great difficulty. No Government could come forward with such a proposal as that. It may be right educationally, but I contend that it will be quite impossible for the Noble Lord to come forward this year or next year, or in any future year, and propose to compel working-class parents to forego the earnings of their children and to keep them full-time at secondary schools up to the age of 16. It was because I was so profoundly convinced of that fact that in the Bill of 1918, which I succeeded in carrying through Parliament, I made provision for part-time education.

I believe there are a large number of parents in this country who cannot forego the earnings of their children after the age of 14, but who would appreciate a continuation school which would be compatible with industrial earnings, and for that reason our present education law is so framed as to provide for part-time secondary education or full-time secondary education up to the age of 16. When the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring said that we had only to put into execution the Act of 1918, I thoroughly agree with him. That Act would, if put into execution, solve our difficulty. It offers an alternative between part-time education and full-time education: an alternative of which parents, whether they are comparatively well-to-do or quite poor, would be able to avail themselves.

There is one other point in connection with the hon. Gentleman's speech to which I would like to refer. He desires a system of compulsory education for all young people between 14 and 16 free of fees. I would invite him to reconsider that position. I agree that when you go to a great mining area like Durham, with a large poor industrial population, there are many children who can profit by secondary education, but whose parents will not be able to pay fees, or, at any rate, substantial fees, and there, at any rate, there is a case for a liberal provision of free places.


In Durham they cannot afford to pay the fees. People who cannot afford to pay £5 lose £22. I am entirely in favour of the abolition of all fees. It does not amount to so very much in the bulk.


On that, I have to say that if all fees were abolished to-morrow some £3,000,000 of very useful educational revenue would be lost, and not a single additional school place would be created. If you want to furnish additional school places, your right course is to build more secondary schools, and I fail to see why parents who can afford to pay, and who are paying, fees—some of them quite well-to-do parents—should be relieved of that obligation. I was reading the other day a very remarkable Report written by Mr. James Bryce, a great educational authority, on education in Lancashire in the year 1868. It forms a part of Vol. 9 of the Report of the Schools Inquiry Commission. Mr. James Bryce examined a very large number of the small grammar schools and secondary schools in Lancashire. Some of them charged fees and others were entirely free, and he came to the very deliberate conclusion that the schools which charged fees were uniformly more efficient than the schools which were entirely free.


In 1868.


The reason he came to that conclusion was, he said, that the parents who paid fees, however small those fees might be, for education in a secondary school, took some interest in the school. They were very much annoyed if they did not think that the teaching was up to the mark, and they put pressure upon the teachers, so that you got an intelligent pressure exercised by the parents upon the school, whereas when no fee was charged parents became careless, regarding the education as a form of charity. Children of the better class of parents did not go to these schools. The schools were socially depreciated, and consequently he came to the considered opinion that wherever you could charge fees it was desirable, in the interests of education, that you should do so.

It is true, as the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. T. Jones) reminds me, that that was in 1868, and conditions may have changed since then. I am only asking hon. Members to consider the point. It is the opinion of a great educationist and cannot be brushed aside. It has some value. My view is that the right way to obtain a greater number of free places in our secondary schools is to build more secondary schools and to provide in every one of those secondary schools a liberal supply of free places, granting more free places in poor industrial districts than you would in rich districts like Bournemouth, where most parents; can afford to pay fees. Why we should relieve people in Bournemouth of the contributions which they make to the national system of education, I cannot conceive.

I hope that my Noble Friend will proceed to attack, as I am sure he intends to do, the problem of adolescent education, not on one line only but on several parallel lines. He has already indicated to us that he proposes to bring in a Bill for making attendance at unemployment centres compulsory. I shall support him when he brings in that Bill; I think that it will be a change for the better but, meantime, do not let us close our eyes to the fact that the unemployment centre is not an ideal centre of education. It is only a waiting-room for the unemployed boy or girl before he or she obtains a job. The main problem is to find employment for the child and there are no circumstances which are more desperate for the teacher than those which prevail in these centres. Therefore, though it may be a useful thing to do it is a very small thing to do, and will take us a very short way on the road along which we wish to travel.

Besides that, there are the development of secondary schools and part-time education and the extension of elementary school education, and it is interesting to note that so far from it being the case that part-time education and full-time education are hostile one to the other, each helps the other. For instance when the London day continuation schools were in operation, there were 6,000 additional children attending the elementary schools after the age of 14, and those children withdrew from the elementary schools as soon as this part-time system came to an end. Consequently, if the local educa- tion authorities are encourged to develop part-time education, as well as secondary school education, one of the consequences will be that a number of children who would otherwise leave the elementary school at 14 will stay on. Every form of continued education leads to another form of continued education. There is no need for the protagonists of one form to contest the claim of the protagonists of another.

The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Amendment laid great stress on the point of economy. Large economies have been practised in the field of public education during the last three years. The Noble Lord is going to realise an economy of £1,250,000 on the Educational Estimates of this year, and I think that the time has now come when he may well put a little pressure on the local education authorities to administer the education at law of the country. We, on these benches, are very anxious that that pressure should be applied, but we realise fully that we are only a minority in this House, and that if the Noble Lord is to receive the support, which I am sure he desires to obtain, for the furtherance of public education in this country, he must look for a very large measure of that support to the hon. Members who sit behind him. I trust that the younger members of his party whose minds are not obsessed by the idea of unwise economy, and who realise that it is to the advantage of our country, in the struggle for existence, that we should be at least as well educated as the Americans or the Scandinavians—I trust that a: number of hon. Members on the benches opposite will urge the Noble Lora to go forward. If he does, I am sure that hon. Members on the Labour and Liberal Benches will give him unstinted support.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Lord Eustace Percy)

one of the objects of the right hon. Gentleman's lugubrious task as examiner, I rise with some trepidation to take part in the Debate, and I rise thus early because I think that as an Amendment has been moved from the Conservative Benches to the Resolution moved by the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. R. Richardson), I ought, perhaps, to offer the House such advice as I can as to how it should act. Both the Resolution and the Amendment, the latter moved in a maiden speech which I think the House very fully appreciated and would have wished to be longer than it was, are expressions, I think I may say, of the aims of policy; they do not seek to formulate programmes for the immediate future My right hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher) in his Act of 1918, required local authorities to formulate schemes of educational development. Those schemes were to be schemes—many were actually submitted—extending over a period of a generation or more. They were to be expressions of the general aims of the area in education. The Resolution and the Amendment which we are discussing are of that character. They are pious Resolutions, not pious in the sense of being hypocritical, but in the sense of being very far-sighted and looking very far ahead.


I hope not.

10.0 P.M.


It is very important from time to time that this House and those who are interested in education should recollect what their ideals and aims are, and should lay them down. But there is one danger in that, and a very real danger. The main danger of all democratic forms of government is that the man in the street tends to get an idea that politicians do not really mean what they say, or, at any rate, that they use words in a specialised and Pickwickian sense, not quite the same sense as is borne by those words when they are ordinarily used by the man in the street. That is a danger in resolutions of this kind. I am left in considerable confusion as to what the Resolution really means. The Mover told us very emphatically that for his part he was content with the Act of 1918; he desired no new legislation. But later, in reply to a question from the right hon. Member for the English Universities, he said that he wanted attendance at secondary schools up to the age of 16 years to be compulsory. That cannot be done under the Act of 1918. I know it is not in the Resolution. I merely give that as an instance of the kind of confusion which may result.

I propose to deal with the Resolution as it stands on the Paper. Even in the Resolution there is a certain danger that words are used which will be taken outside to mean a great deal more in terms of our immediate policy than the Resolution really intends. To begin with, may I, without any feeling of hostility, for one moment analyse the Resolution. It begins by quoting the report of the Departmental Committee on Scholarships and Free Places, and it misquotes that Report. The Resolution says that the Departmental Committee declared that 75 per cent. of the children leaving elementary schools are intellectually qualified to profit by full-time education up to the age of 16 years. I may remind the hon. Member that the Committee did not declare that. What it said was that without accepting this suggestion as more than a convenient hypothesis—which is hardly the same thing as declaring it.


A very fine point.


I will return to that later, because it is rather significant. In the next place the Resolution, having laid down that 75 per cent. of the children are intellectually qualified to profit by full-time education up to the age of 16 years, proceeds by a rather illogical jump to say that all children must be given an opportunity of such education up to the age of 16 years. Even if the Committee had said 75 per cent., that is not 100 per cent.


May I remind the Noble Lord that of the 25 per cent. many are in other kinds of schools—the mentally defective, physically defective, blind, and all that sort of thing?


I am afraid that the 25 per cent will not be accounted for to anything but an infinitesimal extent in that way. I must not bore the House with statistics. The hon. Member asks that schemes shall be formulated by every local authority for providing for all children up to the age of 16 years within a reasonable period. I notice that neither the hon. Member nor the right hon. Member for the English Universities seems to have heard of a little circular of five pages which I issued on 31st March. I hoped that it might have come to the knowledge of hon. Members who are interested in education. In that circular I call upon all local authorities to formulate programmes, but—I ask the House to mark this—programmes of actual work for the next three years to five years, not general schemes and aspirations. I do not know what the hon. Member calls a reasonable period. He mentioned 10 years in his speech, but he knows perfectly well that industrial conditions, the wishes of the parents, and the needs of the children vary immensely from area to area. You cannot ask local authorities to produce stereotyped schemes for the same kind of education for every area. He knows, further, that local education authorities generally, no matter what help may be given them by the Board of Education and no matter how much money they spend out of the rates, are and must be utterly unable to carry out this kind of programme in anything like ten years or twenty years. I have spoken before of the 240 secondary schools now before me in one form or another. In some quarters it has been suggested that the difficulty of getting on with these schools is in some obscure way connected with the reduction of the Education Estimates this year. I can assure the House that is not so. Not one single project for a new secondary school or an extension of a secondary school is being held up in any way on financial grounds by my Department. On a survey of the present rate of progress, the present building capacity and so forth, I cannot hold out to the House any more brilliant prospects than the provision of, say, an additional 15,000 to 20,000 secondary school places per annum. That may be accelerated, but I am talking now of the rate at which these proposals are being brought forward and at which they can, in practice, be carried out.

Therefore, by all means let us lay down this kind of policy as our ultimate end, but do not let us delude the people of the country into believing that, physically, a programme of this kind can possibly be carried out in the immediate future. I agree that there is nothing, or very little, between the Resolution and the Amendment as statements of general policy of an ultimate kind, and I think it most important on a question of education that we should avoid anything in the nature of a sham battle about words I hope we shall avoid that to-night. Before coming to deal with actual practical policy, I am most anxious that the House should realise one thing. The words "secondary education" have been much used in this Debate, and used in a way which would indicate that any form of further education, any form of advanced instruction beginning at the age of 11 and extending beyond the age of 14, is to be called secondary education. There is a certain shyness on the part of hon. Members opposite to use the words "central schools." That term seems to them to be derogatory and all such schools apparently must be called secondary schools. I do not care what you call them. There are many names in existence. You may call them secondary schools, middle schools, senior schools, or "post-primary" schools—to quote the Resolution—but do not delude the people of this country into thinking that any school with fairly large class-rooms and fairly small classes, taking children of 11 and keeping them until the age of 14 or a little over, is a place of higher education. I would further refer to the Departmental Committee of Free Places. They adopted as a convenient hypothesis for further education up to the age of 16 the figure of 75 per cent. They did not adopt any figure of the kind in the case of higher education, and they laid down a definition of what secondary school education should be: The most definite suggestion put to us"— which they adopted— is that the qualifying standard for entering a secondary school should be understood to mean promise of passing a first examination al the normal age between 16 and 17. That is the standard which they suggest as the standard for the secondary schools, and they say that the estimates they have had of the proportion of children in elementary schools of 11 years of age who could be reasonably regarded as likely to reach the standard of a first examination in a secondary school at the normal age of 16 or 17, varies from about one-third to one-half, as against the three-fourths which they mention as the figure for further education. That in itself draws the clearest line between secondary education in the sense of higher education, and further education or advanced instruction which falls short of that standard. There is nothing more important at present than that we should maintain the high standard of what has been called secondary education in this country, the secondary education which is not merely an extension of elementary education for people who are going to enter industry but which is much more than that. It is the selecting ground for the Universities; it is the intermediate stage between the elementary school and the University. To lower that standard and to induce people to believe that when you provide advanced instruction by central or senior schools, you are necessarily providing higher education in the sense in which we have understood it in the secondary schools, would be to mislead absolutely the parents of this country. I hope when the hon. Members opposite insist on the extension of secondary education and fight shy of the term "central school" they will remember that the attempt to bring all post-elementary education, all post-primary education on to one dead high-school level, as it is I am afraid in the United States, will do far more to prevent any real higher education in this country than anything else. I throw that out as a word of warning.

What we are all agreed upon—and that is why I am so anxious not to quarrel about words—is that the education of our children from the age of 11 onward is, broadly speaking, to-day unsatisfactory. You have got to provide for advanced instruction for all children, so far as possible, from the age of 11 on, and in doing so, in reorganising your schools, in providing secondary or central schools, or whatever name you like to call them, you have got to provide for the increasing number of children who will stay on voluntarily to the age of 15 or more if you provide the education which makes it worth their while. That is the programme on which we are all agreed, that is the programme which we are asking local authorities to work, and that is the programme which local authorities are working out all over the country at the present moment.

As regards secondary education, the right hon. Member for Newcastle Central (Mr. Trevelyan) laid down last year what was his immediate programme. I have said that I entirely agree with that programme as an immediate programme, working up to the 40 per cent. of free places and to the standard of 20 secondary school places per 1,000 of the population. We do not, I think, need any new immediate programme of secondary education beyond that. May I say that the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring seems to be unaware that the request which I received from the Durham County Council for free secondary education in Durham was sent to me after I had withdrawn the super-grant in respect of free places, and he does not seem to be aware that I have already told the county council that I am prepared to agree to their programme, though I have asked for their views on one or two subsidiary points.


The Resolution was certainly passed before you withdrew the grant.


I received it after I had withdrawn it, so it made no difference to the determination of the Durham County Council. I hope that the programme which I have called for from local education authorities will produce a real advance along the lines of making much better provision for advanced instruction, and I should like to re-assure the hon. Member for South Salford (Mr. Radford) on one point, which is, that in many areas, at any rate, reorganisation of that kind and provision for advanced instruction does not involve any large extra expenditure. On the contrary, it very often means many contributive economies, owing to better organisation of elementary instruction. I hope my Circular will result in programmes of that kind. I think we are really all agreed as to the general aims laid down, both in the Resolution and in the Amendment which has been moved to it. So long as we are honest with the country, and realise that progress along those lines must necessarily be gradual, and—this is the real fact—that a great extension of educational facilities in this country will only come when our trade, and the revenue which comes from our trade, begins rapidly to expand instead of remaining stationary, as it is at the present moment, and that meanwhile any advance must be gradual, and, as I say, if we ace honest with our constituents in telling them, then, as a general statement of ultimate aims, there is very little between the Resolution and the Amendment, and there is nothing, broadly speaking, to which I would object. I would suggest that my hon. and gallant Friend might withdraw his Amendment, and allow the Motion of the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring to go through.


After what we have just heard from the right hon. Gentleman, and the advice he has given to the House, there is very little that I wish to say. I am very glad he has advised his hon. Friends to withdraw their Amendment, and I should be very much disappointed if the Amendment were insisted upon. Last year I made an effort, which was. to a great extent, successful, to secure that our educational progress should be agreed upon by all parties. I do not think the hon. Member fully realised that, because, during his speech, he said that we on this side were asserting that we were the only party which had the welfare of education at heart. That, really, is not our attitude, and my objection to his Amendment, among other things, is that it calls on us, in particular, to approve the views of the Conservative Premier. They are not the views of the Conservative Premier we are discussing to-night. They are the views of the educationists of both parties, and I encouraged my hon. Friend the Member for Houghtonle-Spring (Mr. Richardson) to frame this Motion deliberately for the purpose of trying to get agreement by both sides on this occasion. There is nothing in his Resolution which conflicts either with the views of the Labour party or, indeed, I think, conflicts with the views of the Premier. The statement of the Unionist aims was that The party would maintain 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 the elementary schools who might be desirous and capable of taking advantage of it. That, of course, does not cover the whole of the Resolution, but it, at any rate, goes most of the way of the Resolution which has been proposed by my hon. Friend. But there are, besides, other things in the Resolution proposed by the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring which are not in the Amendment, and I think it would be well for the House, on that ground, to stick to the Resolution. In the first place, there is an allusion to schemes. I do not think there is anything that my successor has done of which we approve more fully than we do his trying to get the local authorities to think ahead sufficiently to have a programme for the next few years.

The Mover of the Amendment, the hon. and gallant Member for Sudbury (Colonel Burton), who quoted a proposition from Plymouth, seemed to think it was a proposal of the Board of Education. It is the proposal of Plymouth, possibly, I think, inspired by the Board of Education. The original movement comes from Plymouth itself. What happened originally was—if I am right in saying so—that Plymouth sent in a request to be allowed to give free secondary education. Upon this, the Board of Education asked them to prepare a general scheme improving their whole system of education. They produced what the hon. and gallant Member for Sudbury read out to the House. I am sure that the President of the Board of Education must be delighted at the way in which Plymouth is responding to the request, as I am delighted at the way in which Plymouth is going ahead with free secondary education. I would only ask the President, when he is dealing with the local authorities, to bear in mind that the activity and progress which he may get out of them may depend very much upon the kind of way he encourages them.

Every now and then—I noticed it, for instance, in his speech to-night—he is so very anxious to tell us not to be too idealistic and so very anxious to tell us that we cannot get what we want in the next 20 years. How can he or I tell that? It does not depend upon the humour that we see in the local authorities at present. If he keeps on encouraging them, telling them that these things can be done, he may, in five or six years, get an entirely different mentality in the country in regard to education. If the country feels itself, as it has done in past times, in great danger from possible foreign invasion, there is absolutely no requirements in the nature of military or naval preparation which the country would not grant to the Government. In a few years Parliament, which would only grant so many millions for defence, will grant half as many millions again, because there has been a change of temperament in the country. There may be at any moment a change of temperament in the country with regard to education. Very remarkable changes are going on now. Plymouth is not necessarily the first place from which to expect a development in regard to education. It is proposing to embark on a great advance in the reorganisation of education for which educationists are asking generally. It is, however, a very remarkable development in Plymouth. Why should we despair that, what Plymouth does, all the great authorities in the Kingdom will not do in a few years Therefore, I do say that there is some value in Resolutions like the one put forward from these benches, even if we are all conscious that possibly we are putting demands a little higher than we may immediately expect to see fulfilled? There is reason in looking ahead. I hope, therefore, this sort of movement will be encouraged.

I only want to say one other word about what was said by the hon. Member for South Salford (Mr. Radford) in seconding the Amendment. In regard to advanced education, he seems still to be thinking only in terms of the clever children, and of their getting the benefit. I wish we could open out into a new idea of what advanced and secondary education ought to be, not thinking only of giving clever children their chance. When it is a question of the children of the well-to-do, no man thinks of stopping his child's education at 14 because the child happens to be the stupid member of the family. He does not take his boy away from Winchester, or Harrow or Eton—at any rate, the boy has to be doing very badly indeed if he takes him away. Parents are inclined rather to keep their boys and girls at school if they are stupid, and say they must have something put in their heads.

At the age of 14 many children are only just beginning to develop. I am a Harrow man, and there is one very remarkable instance of a Harrow man who did not begin to develop until 14—the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As the Prime Minister knows, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was bottom of Harrow. That meant that at 13 or 14 he knew very little indeed; if he had been a working man's son he would not have had a chance of going to a secondary school at all. It is not realised how the Chancellor of the Exchequer must have exercised his mind and have utilised his opportunities from 13 and 14 onwards. He would not have had a chance if he had been a working man's child. You cannot have a test of ability at that age. In half mankind ability comes after 13 and 14, and we ought to get out of our minds altogether the idea that secondary and advanced education ought to be for the specially clever child, it ought to be the right of all average intelligent children.

I want to conclude by saying one or two words about the last phrases of the Motion moved by my hon. Friend. It refers to the need for mointenance allowances for children who may be debarred by the poverty of their parents. I think some Members of the House do not fully realise the extent to which the poor are entirely barred, even where there is a great deal of secondary education in our great towns. You have places where there is a great deal of secondary education, where, often, there are a great many free places, and in those places it is fair to say of the comparatively well-to-do, who can keep their children at school, and take advantage of the free places, that not only all the clever children can go, but a great many of the quite moderately intelligent children also. But in a school in the poorer districts of the same town, go into a department where there are 500 children and ask, "How many children do you ever send to a secondary school?" They will tell you "None" or "One." In those schools there are children of obvious cleverness, of obvious mathematical ability, capable of receiving any amount of scientific instruction, children of literary ability, and they cannot go on to the secondary schools. Free places are not enough for them because their parents are too poor. If these children are to have any real chance at all our local authorities must be encouraged in every possible way to provide maintenance allowances, to allow a larger number of children to get the chance which is still out of their reach. This point is covered by the Resolution moved by my hon. Friend. For these reasons I hope that the House will agree to the proposal made by the Minister of Education that the Amendment should be withdrawn. We cannot get entire agreement for the reasons I have given on the Amendment, but I think we can get entire agreement upon the general principles of the Resolution which has been proposed.


As one of the most ignorant Members of the House, I wish to speak on a subject of which I know very little, that is, education. It seems to me that everybody is in favour of education providing that it does not cost too much. On these benches we have always stood for the right of every child in the country, if it has the intelligence and capacity, to go right from the elementary school to the university. Some people go to the university by accident and some get there by design. I come from a district where we have done our best to provide the best possible education for the poorest of the poor at the expense of the rates. No doubt the Noble Lord the President of the Board of Education will tell us that he is sympathetic towards the Resolution of my hon. Friend, but if he asks local authorities to provide further schemes for extended education, I would like to ask how far is he prepared to meet us. We have any amount of schemes. I am pleased to hear that Plymouth is coming along after West Ham in this respect after alt these years of waiting. We have provided special schools and recreation grounds for the children, and football pitches, but in these matters I may say that we have had very little assistance from educational experts. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to ask us to prepare education schemes. As a matter of fact, we are absolutely full of them and bubbling over with them.


But they go off "pop."


We keep "popping" them up, but they keep "popping" us down again. We have 70,000 children on our registers in West Ham, mostly the sons and daughters of men who have a hard struggle to get a living, and a large proportion of them are casual labourers. Nevertheless, we have sent some of them to Cambridge and Oxford by means of scholarships, but we cannot afford to give all the children the chance we should like to give them. Sympathy may be worth a lot in education, but I should like to ask what is it worth in the matter of pounds, shillings and pence. If we have clever boys, the sons of dockers, we claim that they ought to have the same chance as the sons of dukes. Some day we may have a docker sitting on the Front Government Bench in succession to the son of a duke, as the Minister of Education is. The sons of dockers now get a poor chance, because the districts whence they come are not able to afford the financial responsibility that will devolve upon them.

Therefore, we have always claimed that education should be a national charge. It is a national responsibility, which ought not to be placed on the authorities that are locally responsible for huge areas with poor populations. That is where we stand. We know very well that in some parts of the country they can afford to give a large number of scholarships. It would not cost very much to give every child capable of benefiting by a good education the opportunity of enjoying it. In the East End of London there are any number of clever boys who now have to go into the factories, when they can get the chance, or to walk the streets delivering newspapers early in the morning, or to go out delivering milk when they ought to be getting a real education that would prevent their having to go into these occupations, which lead to their becoming the unemployables about whom so much is said when the dole is being discussed.

We, therefore, want, higher education, but we want to know how far you are going. You do not argue about money when you want bases at Singapore, or a new Air Force. The interests of the nation demand that we shall have certain forces for our protection. Surely, ignorance is the biggest enemy we have ever had. If we can use all the machinery of the nation to see that we have proper protection against enemies, surely we ought to be prepared to spend the necessary money to enable the responsibility to be faced by those districts that are least able to hear it. That is my claim against the present position. The local authorities have to foot the bill, and those authorities which are most badly placed have to bear the greatest responsibility. Where there is the biggest number of poor children the cost is the greatest. It is not playing the game, so far as we are concerned, from an educational point of view.

Our schools will bear comparison with any in this country from the public point of view. We have done our best. We have put the rates up, and we are called squandermaniacs for doing it. Other parts of London have starved education, and they are economists. All that we ask is that our children shall have equality of opportunity. Is the Noble Lord prepared to meet us fairly and squarely? After we have proposed our schemes, is he prepared to meet us in the matter of finding the money to finance them? We may have all the sympathy in the world, but what is it worth when we get it? We know you all want to see children educated if it does not cost much, but you cannot have good things unless you pay for them. The Noble Lord himself cannot buy a decent suit of clothes unless he pays the price, and you cannot educate a child without paying for it.

The only question is, who is going to pay? The chap who has got it does not want to pay, and the fellow who has not got it cannot afford it. Therefore, the child has to go without. We want the children to have this, because the children are the greatest asset of the nation. Therefore, we stand for the Resolution, so far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. Some of my children have had a better education than I have, and I am pleased to be able to say that they have had better opportunities than I ever had. I want to see every child have better opportunities than I have had. What we can do as individuals the nation can do. The nation is rich enough to fight a war through and defeat its enemies abroad, and it ought to be prepared to find the necessary means, by common effort, to see that our children get the chance of developing the best that is in them.


It appeared to me, until the intervention of the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones), that the whole of this Debate was to be taken up by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who are considered to be educationists. I do not think that that is altogether a wise thing in the case of such an important subject. I think there is fairly general agreement on all sides that we do wish to give every opportunity, to children who can benefit from higher education, to get it. But I think there is a great difference of opinion as to the methods that should be adopted, and I am afraid educationalists, as such, sometimes neglect a very practical point as to how the bill is to be footed. I think there is a real connection be- tween industry and education, and although many of these educationists sometimes boast that they are very proud of the fact that they know nothing about industry and do not wish to, I should be very sorry indeed if I had to make the same boast and say I knew nothing about education. I know a little about it, but unfortunately, not like a good many Members of the House, I was not able to stay at school a very long time, not so long as the Seconder of the Amendment, who I gather left school at 15 to earn a salary, as he called it—we used to call it a wage—of 4s. a week. I left school at 10 years of age to work for 1s. 9d. in one week and 2s. 3d in the next, varying according to the amount of half-time that was put in at the mill.

I oppose very much the remarks of the ex-Minister of Education that there was not an opportunity for the sons of working men to improve their education. The marvellous results that are attained in every industrial town in the country by the sons of poor parents proves that that statement is entirely untrue. We have cases in Oldham in particular which disprove it, where sons and daughters of working men have risen to the very highest eminence both in industry and in education. The right hon. Gentleman behind me (Mr. Fisher) also mentioned that when children went into industry their education ceased. I do not think he altogether meant that, because he went on to say he believed in continued education even after children had joined industry. That is a point that I think we ought to stress very much. If, as the Minister said, he is hoping to see a better mentality in the country towards higher education he would perhaps get that all the sooner if people could realise that they were getting real value for the money that is being spent on education. The level of education, although there is nearly three times as much being spent on it as there was 20 years ago, is not so good as it was then, and I am not so sure that the words quoted by the right hon. Gentleman behind me as spoken by Mr. Bryce with regard to education that is entirely free not being appreciated so much as education which costs the parents something have not a great deal of truth in them. There is a danger, if you get things too cheap, of not realising their value, and it applies to education as it does to anything else.

The Seconder of the Resolution talked about blind-alley occupations, and mentioned as low down on the list life in a factory. It is a great mistake that these educationists make who, though they know a great deal about education, know very little about industry, that they do industry a great dis-service by speaking about blind-alley occupations in what is, after all, the second greatest industry in the country, that of cotton spinning and weaving. Education authorities have said that people going to the ordinary occupation of weaving were going into a blind-alley occupation. It is nothing of the sort. It is the regular standard form of labour and it is far better than many of those so-called aristocratic jobs of labour you might find round about a city such as London. If we do not mind, there is a danger of our not trying to teach the dignity of labour. The tendency is to teach them that they ought to get as far away from industry as possible. If we do not mind, we are going to breed a nation, not of workers, but we are going to make a nation absolutely of shirkers and a nation of snobs. That is the danger. I know one great educationist said he would rather have one "rag" than 10 lectures. What sort of mentality is that? I would rather be an industrialist than a man of that sort.


Referring to the remarks of the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Cove) in seconding the Resolution, which puzzled me very considerably and which I am still unable to explain, he quoted an authority on psychology. The moment he mentioned a psychological expert I grew suspicious, because more nonsense is written and spoken on psychology than on any other subject at the present time. This expert examined 30,000 children, and found that two-thirds of them were above the normal. One wonders how he established his basis of normality. Presumably he must have examined 3,000,000 children before he examined the 30,000.

On general lines this Debate has showed an extraordinary amount of agreement between all parties. Personally I agree with the hon. Member for Silver-town (Mr. J. Jones) that we cannot spend too much money on education, and I differ, if I understood him correctly, from the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. W. Greenwood) when he said there was any antagonism between education and industry. I believe money spent on education is as well invested as it can possibly be. In so far as there is any divergence of opinion in the Debate this evening I think it is on these lines: Some hon. Members are in favour of granting a fairly high standard of education and making it compulsory on all the children of this country, while others would prefer that those children who have real ability should have a complete education, the fullest and best that could be given. I am inclined to hold a rather bold opinion that the world may be divided into people worth educating and people who are not. I am fully alive to the fact that the number of people not worth educating is just as large among the children of the rich as among the children of the poor. It seems an injustice to the right hon. Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) that the rich children should have that education from which I do not think they gain benefit and that the poor children should not. I cannot quite agree with him. It is a well-known fact that the children of the rich frequently over-eat themselves, but that would be no argument for compelling the children of the poor to have compulsory bilious fits. Many of my friends who have had every advantage of education that money could afford, have shaken off that education like water off a duck's back. I believe there is a certain mentality in common among the rich and the poor which is education-proof, and so long as we have got to cut our coats according to our cloth, I think we shall do better in saving the money spent on these individuals, and giving it, insofar as we can, to those on whom it would be better invested. The right hon. Member for Central Newcastle said that nobody ever thought of withdrawing their children from school because they showed no capability. I know of a case of one of the greatest intellectual figures of the Victorian age who decided that his son at the age of 12 was not worth educating, and from that moment he refused to spend another penny on his education.

If we proceed upon these lines and snake sure that no single intelligence in this country which is really worth developing should be cramped by the poverty of its parents, we shall obtain a better ideal than if we force a dead-level of education upon all and sundry. The French ideal, started in the French Revolution and carried on by Napoleon throughout his career, was that a career should be open to talent, that any private soldier might become a marshal, and that any French citizen might rise to the highest position in the State. That is an ideal which we should lay before us. We should make it our object that no intelligence shall remain cramped. It is a terrible and tragic thing that any brain should be denied its power of development.

We used to be told that the Chinese tied up the feet of their children because of a mistaken idea of beauty. Therefore, they allowed their children to grow up lame and maimed. I believe that not long ago it was the fashion among ladies in this country to cramp their waists in the same manner. It was a mistaken idea of beauty. I understand that the fashion has changed, and I hope it will never come back again. It is a far more terrible thing to cramp a man's brain than to cramp a child's feet or a child's waist. Let us make it our ideal that every child in this country shall have the power and the opportunity, if it has the capacity, of fulfilling all the capabilities that lie within it, rather than forcing a fairly high standard of education upon anybody, whether or not they desire or deserve it.


I do not want to talk out the Resolution, but I merely rise to ask the President of the Board of Education if he will pay some attention to the necessity for discouraging the establishment of preparatory departments in secondary schools, which prevent children above 11 years of age from getting their opportunity.

Colonel BURTON

By leave of the House, I beg to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Resolved, That, in view of the grave intellectual and social wastage caused by the fact that the great majority of children leaving elementary schools fail to obtain further education of any kind, a wastage aggravated by the present state of unemployment, and in view of the declaration of the Departmental Committee on scholarships and free places that 75 per cent, of the children leaving elementary schools are intellectually qualified to profit by full-time education up to the age of 16, this House is of opinion that local education authorities should be called upon to prepare schemes by which within a reasonable period adequate provision may be made for secondary or some form of full-time post-primary education for all children up to the age of 16, for a progressive increase in the percentage of free places maintained in grant-aided secondary schools, and for the development of maintenance allowances on such a scale that no children may be debarred from higher education by the poverty of their parents.