HC Deb 22 July 1926 vol 198 cc1430-515

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £28,300,000, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1927, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Education, and of the various Establishments connected therewith, including sundry Grants-in-Aid." — [NOTE: £16,000,000 has been voted on account.]

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

Last year the Committee were good enough to allow me to inflict upon them a somewhat long speech containing a more or less comprehensive survey of the progress of education. I do not propose to repeat that speech to-day, especially as the time for Debate may be curtailed, and the more so because my last year's speech still represents my views and intentions. But I have a certain number of things to say, and some information which I think the Committee will wish to receive on various points. I will try to be as brief as possible, and my speech will take the form rather of notes on various points than of a connected survey. First, I will say a word about the figure of the present Estimate, and, in doing so, I assume that Members of the Committee will have before them the Memorandum on the Estimates which, as usual, we have laid before the House. We are asking the Committee this year to vote, comparing like with like, £1,129,233 more than the actual net expenditure of last year, and practically the same amount more than the actual net expenditure for 1924–25. This amount is based on an assumed expenditure by local education authorities of £710,000 more than last year, and £2,017,000 more than the actual expenditure by local authorities in the year 1924–25.

I may also tell the Committee this, which I have already stated outside, that the figure of the present Estimate is the figure which I indicated approximately to representatives of local authorities as long ago as 17th December last, and it was the figure upon which the famous document called Memorandum No. 44 was based. As the Committee know, I had hoped last November that we should have been able to carry out the work this year for somewhat less money, but on the same date as I have alluded to, 17th December, I told the House that those hopes had been upset by the Estimates which I had received from local authorities, and since that date the Board has not had in mind any figure for the total Estimates but that which is now in the Estimate before the Committee.

In approaching educational administration, I think that the country ought to understand and face two facts clearly. The first is that education is an expanding service and must be an expanding service. The second thing is that that service should not be assumed to be equally expansive in all its parts. The right hon. Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) two years ago laid before the House in general terms a programme of educational advance which all parties accept, and at the last Election, some months after that, a similar programme was laid before the country by the party to which I belong. But I am impressed by the fact that hitherto we have not made nearly as much progress as we should have made in defining the actual implications of that programme by a survey of the work actually needing to be done, and also we have, perhaps, ignored the fact, which is forced more and more upon our attention, that we are not in this programme building a new structure upon a stable foundation, that as a matter of fact the existing services of education are in a state more or less of flux, that changes are taking place in the groundwork upon which we are building, and that it is of vital importance to survey accurately the respects in which increased expenditure upon our existing establishments is required.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle took the first step in that direction by initiating a survey of defective elementary school premises in urban areas, and we have now completed a survey of the whole country both urban and rural areas. I have tried to carry on the same kind of survey by the three year programme procedure, and by the investigation of the authorities' plans which I have been carrying out this spring. The programme procedure, as I anticipated, has proved somewhat slower in execution than it might have been, and at the present moment I have only received about 200 programmes out of 318 authorities. They are coming in steadily now, and, I hope, by the end of the year we shall be in a position to judge what are the programmes required for the years 1927 to 1930. A good deal of apprehension has been expressed that any survey of this kind, any careful investigation of what needs to be done, will have a depressing effect on a number of authorities, and will encourage them in undue economy. Whatever may be my merits or demerits as President of the Board of Education, I think the Committee will agree that I have been about the country a good deal in the last eighteen months, and what impresses me is that, so far from that being the case, a survey of this kind has had and is having a definitely stimulating effect on all types and kinds of authorities throughout the country. I have no hesitation in saying that in the way of concrete plans and actual work initiated, there is more going on throughout the country in the local education areas at this moment than there has ever been at any moment since the War. That fact is very encouraging.

In conducting any survey of this kind—a comprehensive survey of our system of education—we come up against certain obstacles, and to a considerable extent they are statutory obstacles. Parliament in its wisdom, as the result of a course of development, has divided education into more or less watertight compartments for the purpose of administration and other purposes. Apart from statutory restrictions, which I cannot discuss on these Estimates, the difficulties of making an adequate survey have been enhanced by administrative restrictions, and administrative Rules and Regulations. For that reason I have tried to do two things in the past few months. I have tried to revise the regulations for elementary, secondary and technical education, and the training of teachers in such way as would wipe out, as far as possible, unnecessary distinctions and unnecessary detailed requirements, and would enable us to survey and to care for educational needs according to the actual facts, with our minds free from cramping, detailed Regulations. I think these new Regulations, while they have given rise to a certain number of criticisms, have been generally approved.

The other thing I have tried to do is to reorganise the inspectorate. A Circular—No. 1382—went out yesterday on this subject. I am sorry I could not get it out before, but it was published in the Press this morning. We have these different types of education, and we have, especially at the age of 11, boys going to various types of schools, some of them coming within the compartment of secondary education and others within the compartment of elementary education, and our inspectorate was divided on the same lines so that you had one set of people responsible only for looking after elementary schools, and another set of people responsible only for looking after secondary schools. It was very difficult for the inspectorate, who ought to be the main advisers of the Board, to get and to give to the Board a comprehensive view. Our reorganisation of the inspectorate has, therefore, proceeded on the lines of amalgamating the three branches of secondary, technical and elementary education in their higher stages so that in each division there will ultimately be one divisional inspector with his assistants responsible for surveying the needs of their area as a whole, in co-operation with the local authorities, and reporting to the Board upon the nature of the education as a whole and its efficiency, and upon the further provision required in all types of school. I think those two things will contribute in a considerable degree to removing some of the obstacles to a comprehensive and close survey of what is actually required. It may remove some artificial barriers and bring us more closely to the real facts.

Let me make one or two remarks in relation to the survey which we are trying to carry out of elementary education. The first thing with which we have to deal is the size of classes. That is the starting point, in my judgment, for any survey of elementary education. What is the position? I may say at the outset that there is no change, and will be no change in the Board's general policy in regard to the size of classes. If I may take up an ill-informed remark, which I have heard going about outside, there is no intention of bringing classes up to a standard of 50 in infant and junior schools. We are being guided by the same maxima and the same standards as those which guided the right hon. Gentleman my predecessor, and previous Governments. What are the facts in regard to the size of classes? On 31st March, 1924, there were 24,972 classes with over 50 children on the roll. All these figures relate to children on the roll and are not average attendances. They do not mean that actually 50 children are being taught in all these classes, but that 50 children are on the roll. On 31st March, 1925, a year later, there were 21,345 such classes, or a reduction of more than 3,600. I cannot give the figures for 31st March, 1926, which are not yet available, but on that date, as compared with 31st March, 1925, there were 17,000 more children in average attendance, and, on the other hand, we had 1,129 more teachers.

Therefore, according to those figures, there is little doubt that there has been a further considerable reduction in the number of classes with over 50 children on the roll. This means that on 31st March, 1925, 14 per cent. of all the classes in the elementary schools in England and Wales had over 50 children on the roll. What about the remaining 86 per cent.? While 14 per cent. of the total had over 50 children on the roll, 56 per cent. had not more than 40 children on the roll, and 28 per cent. had actually not more than 30 children on the roll. Of course, the rural areas are responsible for the greater part of those small classes: 84 per cent. of the classes in rural schools have not more than 40 children, and 60 per cent. not more than 30 children. But even in the urban areas the figures are remarkable: 46 per cent. of the classes in urban areas have not more than 40 children and 17 per cent. not more than 30 on the roll: that is to say, there are 46 per cent. of the classes in urban areas where from day to day and week to week and term to term there are less than 40 children being taught together, and 17 per cent. where there are actually less than 30.

4.0 P.M.

Compare those figures with the proportion between the children over 11 in the elementary schools and the total number on the roll. On 31st March, 1925, about 32 per cent. of the children on the roll were over 11 as against 46 per cent. of the total number of classes having not more than 40 children on the roll in urban areas. Moreover, as will be seen in the Memorandum, in the next three years you will, as compared with to-day, have a fall in the number of children over 11 in elementary schools of upwards of 20 per cent., so that by 1930 there will not be more than something in the neighbourhood of 28 per cent. of the total number on the roll over 11. I think it is obvious from those figures that, so far as the number of teachers to children is concerned, we have every possibility with our present staff of eliminating classes of 50 or more altogether, and establishing a maximum of 40 for children of over 11, which are the two things that we have been chiefly trying to do.

Let me say a word about the teaching staff. In a paper, which a good many hon. Members have seen, and which the authors have very kindly communicated to me, I see it is stated that since 31st March, 1922, there has been a decrease of 2,501 in the number of teachers. That is perfectly true. In the same period there, has been a decrease of over 230,000 children in our average attendance. At the beginning of that period there were, on the average, throughout the country, about 30 children per teacher. We have only reduced our staff of teacher, in the ratio of one teacher for every 92 children less in the schools, so that, as a matter of fact, to-day the proportion of children to teachers is smaller than it has even been in the history of this country. In the last two years, since 31st March, 1924, while there has been a decrease of 74,000 children in average attendance, we have increased the number of teachers by 2,368. I think it is broadly true, taking the country as a whole and only taking the country as a whole—there are many areas where a considerable increase in the number of teachers is necessary in order to reduce the size of classes—that the reduction in the size of classes has gone now as far as it can go without a reorganisation of the actual material accommodation for the children. An increase in the teaching staff to-day will not lead in any appreciable degree to a further reduction in the size of classes. What is the matter with the school organisation to-day is buildings rather than staff. That is why, taking again the country as a whole and subject to one disturbing factor which I shall mention in a moment, I do not regard the expenditure on teachers' salaries as a factor which is likely to, or which need, expand to any considerable degree in the near future. I do not think that is one of the expanding factors for the immediate future. Let me say a word about my present discussions with various authorities as to teaching costs.


The Noble Lord has made a very important statement with regard to the expansion of the teaching staff. He said, as I understood him, that there was no need to expand it. May I ask him whether the Board have considered any policy in relation to that statement—for instance, whether there is any policy of the Board for controlling supplies, and so on.


The hon. Member had better wait till I have finished my statement. I shall have a little more to say regarding that matter. If hon. Members will consult the Memorandum they will see that one thing is clear, namely, that local authorities this year are estimating, in the aggregate, for an increase in teaching staff which is wholly impossible, quite apart from any question of policy. There is no prospect of local authorities realising the increase in the teaching staff implied in their estimates, and many of my discussions with the local authorities are concerned—I suspect mainly—with the inherent over-estimating of the salaries needed for teachers. But besides that, there is nothing more clear than that in a certain number of cases, at any rate, a very high teaching cost is the hall-mark of a badly organised elementary school system. You have a number of areas where, owing to bad organisation, owing to a number of very small schools and no provision for central or senior schools at all, you have a large teaching cost without providing any advanced instruction for the older children corresponding to that cost, and that is a very frequent cause of high costs of teaching That appears quite clearly if you take one or two figures.

I want to show the Committee quite frankly how my mind is working. Take authorities who are spending more than 190 shillings per unit of average attendance on teachers' salaries. There are 52 of them in the country. Twenty-two are on Scale 4, and I will deal separately with those. A higher expenditure than 190 shillings is probably necessary in the great majority of Scale 4 areas. Five are rural areas with a very sparse population. There special difficulties arise, and I will not deal with them. But 24 are Scale 3 urban areas, or semi-urban areas, and one is actually a Scale 2 area. If you compare these Scale 3 areas with the expenditure on teachers' salaries in admittedly progressive areas of various kinds—take two counties, Kent 176 shillings and Surrey 171 shillings; and two county boroughs, Manchester 178 shillings and Norwich 173 shillings—it is quite clear that these figures require investigation. If I may come to Scale 4 areas for a moment, the figures are rather interesting. Let me give a selection. London spends about 204 shillings on teachers' salaries per head. It is a gradually ascending scale: Erith, 211 shillings; Tottenham, 221 shillings; Bromley, 233 shillings; Hornsey, 253 shillings; and almost at the head we get a Scale 3 area in the shape of Barry with 250 shillings. Those are figures which obviously require investigation. The question of Hornsey has been mentioned. I am discussing not only those figures, but the larger bulk of their elementary education figures with Hornsey. I have given them a figure for their consideration, and I think if the right hon. Gentleman has now read the letter he will see that I have not issued any final ultimatum.

I think it is clear that areas of that kind are very often in a position, owing to the type of educational organisation that they have adopted, where any change, a change which may very often lead to a great improvement in education, can only be taken gradually. No one wants to dismiss existing teachers. The change may have to be spread over a number of years. What I think one can do is to say that the change shall begin now and that a definite plan shall be adopted for a better organisation of education. Apart, of course, from the question of the number of teachers, there is the question of the qualifications of the teaching staff—the proportion of certificated and uncertificated teachers, and so on. If hon. Members will look at page 21 of the Memorandum, they will see that an increase in the proportion of certificated teachers and a very considerable decrease in the number of unqualified teachers has been accompanied by another change, which is a decrease in the number of head teachers. To a certain extent, the cost of those two things balance each other, and it is with those and many other considerations in mind that I say we need not, and I think should not, look upon expenditure on teachers' salaries as a highly expansive part of the education system.

I must say one word on the question of the training of teachers. I will not deal with the question of the Board's recent draft Regulations, except to say that I think in the final form of those Regulations I shall be able to meet most of the criticisms that have been directed against them. The Board's general policy in regard to the training of teachers, I think, is now fairly well understood, namely, that while maintaining the responsibility of the State and the local authorities for seeing that the children whom we compel to go to school are taught by fit persons, we desire increasingly to enable training colleges to take their proper place in the general educational provision of this country in co-operation with the universities and to give them the freedom and the right to exercise their academic judgment in regard to the education they give to candidates for the teaching profession.

I am anxious to relax control by regulation over training colleges for this reason, among others, that for a certain type of teachers—for instance, for rural teachers—I feel pretty sure that we need to consider very carefully what is the type of training best suited to maintain a supply of teachers for our rural schools. The pupil teacher system has done that to a certain extent, and I think we should be careful not to discard any source of supply of good teachers before another method of supply has taken its place, but we are all agreed, whatever we may think of pupil teachers, that that system is not adequate to the purpose, and I believe that we should approach that problem of the rural teacher afresh. We must, indeed, remember that probably nowhere in this country are general education and general culture more important than in the rural areas. Probably nowhere is it more important, for instance, merely from the point of view of keeping the children on the land, apart from anything else, to create the taste for good reading. Yet, at the same time, it is of great importance to give teachers in the rural schools a training which will fit them to command the confidence of rural communities, and will enable them to be leaders in rural communities and to represent the type of education of which rural communities chiefly stand in need. That is a problem which, I am sure, we have to consider increasingly in the future.

I have said that this survey of the size of classes brings us down to the question of buildings and accommodation, and that is the main problem that we have to consider at the present moment. Now I come to the Black Lists, which are our main preoccupation this afternoon. I call them Black Lists for short. We have schools on these lists with something over 500,000 children at present on the roll. Of these, 27 per cent. are council and about 73 per cent. voluntary schools. What progress are we making? Of 219 council schools on Black List A, 62, or about 30 per cent., have either already been dealt with or are dealt with by proposals contained in the revised forecasts for this year, and the revised forecasts also provide for 30 more schools to be built by local authorities which will take the place of black listed voluntary schools. The other council Black List A schools have, generally speaking, I can see by the programmes already received, been dealt with in the programmes, and the programmes give every hope that we shall really have tackled that part of our problem completely, or more or less completely, by 1930. The total amount of elementary school buildings provided for in the revised forecasts for this year, leaving out building proposals which have been dropped in the course of discussion and consideration is 244 new schools and 111 enlargements — a very large programme. Now, coming to the voluntary schools, their progress has, needless to say, not been so great, or, perhaps hon. Members opposite would prefer me to say, has been even less great. Some 21 voluntary schools have been removed from Black List A since the original lists were prepared, and 30 more, as I have said, are being dealt with by local authorities this year, making a total of 51, or about 10 per cent. of the total number of voluntary schools on Black List A.

On this problem of voluntary schools, I would like to say two things, and to say them with emphasis. I have evidence from many parts of the country that the authorities responsible for voluntary schools are seriously tackling this problem in co-operation with the local authorities. I think it is obviously inevitable that we should leave the voluntary bodies a considerable time in which to complete any programme of improvements which they may draw up, but what we say, especially now that the local authorities, so far as the council schools are concerned, have brought forward in their forecasts for the present year and in their programmes for 1927–30, proposals which will deal with, at any rate, the vast majority of the schools on Black List A, is that it is essential that we should have, as soon as possible, a definite programme in each local education area for dealing with the voluntary schools, spread over a number of years, no doubt, but a definite programme, so that we may be able to see the end of the work, and I would appeal to voluntary school authorities to get those programmes prepared and decided upon as early as possible.

The second thing I want to say is this: I have a certain amount of evidence that those responsible for voluntary schools, particularly perhaps in the case of schools which are in individual ownership, would undertake the necessary repairs and structural improvements, but they say: "Who knows that the Board's inspectors may not make a new set of demands two or three years hence? Then we shall have spent all this money, and we shall be no further forward." I want to say, with the greatest possible emphasis, that the purpose of the preparation of these lists was to have a definite list of requirements instead of precisely that vague threat and criticism hanging over the heads of the schools, and, having produced those lists, they are, so far as we are concerned, and so far as those schools are concerned, final, and there is no danger—and I think, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman opposite would associate himself with me in this—of the Board of Education now, or at any future time, coming forward with a new set of demands relating to those schools. We are trying to define our needs, and, having defined them, we certainly shall not introduce further confusion into the problem by a new set of requirements in the future.

I must go somewhat rapidly through the remainder of the remarks I have to make. In elementary education we have to deal with the vitally important point of surveying the accommodation and equipment for advanced instruction for the older children. There we come on the building problem again, but I want to say one thing in this connection. The one subject on which I feel a certain amount of apprehension at the present moment is the question of books. It is always on books that a local authority finds it easy to economise. It is always easier to blue pencil the requisitions for books than to go in for any more systematic method of economy, and there is, moreover, a widespread tendency in all kinds of education in this country, university, as well as secondary and elementary, to attach more importance to furniture and equipment, and especially equipment, than to books. That may be seen from the figures, which are also contained on page 24 of the Memorandum, of what happened during the Geddes period. During the Geddes period you had a reduction in expenditure on books and stationery of no less than 25 per cent. You had an increase on the other hand, during that period of two years, in furniture and equipment, and at the and of the Geddes period the proportion that was being spent on books and stationery, as compared with furniture and equipment, or as compared with the upkeep of the buildings, was smaller than it was at the beginning of the Geddes period.

That represents a real danger, and I cannot help feeling this. I do not think that the amount of money which we are providing this year, the amount of expenditure which we are assuming the local authorities will incur on "other expenditure," which includes books, among other things, is inadequate to provide for a considerable, steady improvement in the provision of books in the schools. I do not believe that it is inadequate, but I think that the question of the kind of book which requires most to be provided has been taken too little account of in the past and has been given too little systematic consideration. I think there is a tendency for a large proportion of the money that is spent on books and stationery to go on the provision of text books of second-rate or even third-rate quality very often. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are cheaper!"] I know they are cheaper—and far too little to go on the provision of standard books, the sort of books which may create a real taste for reading in the older children, and also the standard books which the teacher very often himself requires to read for the purposes of the lessons which he is giving. I feel that we need the advice not only of teachers and local authorities but in particular of learned societies on the kind of books which ought to be, and can be, provided in the schools. I would urge local authorities not to devote their first economic impulse to books, and I would ask them to consider whether some measure of systematic conference with teachers and with learned societies, with the assistance of the Board, on the whole question of the provision of books in the schools is not now urgent.

I come now, for a few moments in my survey, to secondary schools, and here the position is this: Next September there will be about 13,500—not 1,350, as I have seen my words quoted recently—more places available in secondary schools than in September two years ago. During the past financial year the Board approved plans for about 7,000 new places in the secondary schools, and judging from the revised forecasts I should think it probable that the Board will approve in the current year something in the neighbourhood of 8,000 further places. That does not represent the main expenditure on secondary school building, for perhaps nobody realises the large number of secondary schools which need new buildings. Very often, the new buildings thus required do not result in increased accommodation but the inspectors of the Board will very often advise that new accommodation for existing schools is more urgently needed than new school provision. I am now trying to estimate the new secondary school buildings thus required. It is a much more serious liability than, perhaps, anyone realises, and will probably delay the provision of new secondary schools in future years. I have already given several times the figures of the present number of pupils in secondary schools. There are more than ever before. There are more free places than ever before. Here, again, is another thing which I am trying to make the subject of a detailed survey and which, again, has excited too little attention, and that is that this increase in the net number of secondary school pupils has been made in spite of a serious local fall in the number of pupils in some schools. In one school in London since 1921 the number has fallen by no less than 170. In the south-western counties, and in at least one western county which I know, there has been a very considerable falling off in the number of pupils in particular schools. Hon. Members may ask the reason. There are several reasons probably. There is bad trade locally, to which I shall hereafter refer. There is the competition, to a certain extent, of the central schools, but I think in various types of areas—


Is that falling off not due to a general increase of fees?


Not, I think, since 1921; I do not know what value can be attached to it but I think that in county areas there is evidence to show that when we approach a proportion of about 12 secondary school places per thousand of the population, we get to a position in some areas where there is an appreciable difficulty in maintaining the supply of pupils in the schools. I only mention these facts for the purpose of showing that I am trying to carry out a systematic and detailed survey with a view to estimating what is really important for us to know in the matter of secondary school buildings.

The facts which I have tried to lay before the Committee, at any rate, lead to the conclusion that we have this year a very considerable programme of expenditure, and are endeavouring to provide for a considerable and steady advance. If I had been presenting these estimates to the Committee two or three months ago, I should have felt fairly certain that the programme of building would be well maintained. The position in which I am now talking to-day differs owing to difficulties, which makes the position more uncertain.

I should just like to say one or two things in respect to three disturbing factors that we have to face in the carrying out of our programme which largely depends upon building. In the first place there are the building costs. The costs of building both elementary and secondary schools are, to my mind, out of all proportion to what they really should be. I am convinced that far more economical building is possible without any harm to the efficiency of education. I think it has been very clearly shown that the newer type of elementary school is a great deal cheaper than the older type, which is still being built. In the matter of secondary education building costs are quite peculiarly high, in fact almost prohibitive, costing anything from £100 to £120 per school place. It will be for the Board of Education and for the local education authorities to consider very carefully whether there cannot be effected a substantial reduction of building costs.

The second disturbing factor is one which touches the point put a few moments ago by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Cove). In my observations this afternoon, in surveying our educational schemes, I have assumed the possibility of a systematic reorganisation of schools, but in many areas we are faced by a great movement of population which makes it difficult for the authority to make such a plan. They are having to provide new schools for the population moving outwards from the centre of the towns. This kind of new school accommodation to which I am referring accounted for 83 out of 140 elementary schools which were approved last year. That sort of movement of the population does mean a considerable increase in teaching staffs, because you have to transfer the school population from one school to another gradually. You are having to provide as you go along more new teachers for the new schools than you would have to provide if you had a systematic reorganisation. That is one of the disturbing factors you have to take into account, and it is difficult to estimate its consequences and results.

The greatest difficulty is the present industrial crisis, which affects everything, including work on school buildings. It affects the resources of the local authorities which can be devoted to school buildings. At the present time the local authorities are spending each week on the feeding of the children enough money to provide out of revenue new accommodation for 1,000 children. You also come across a number of instances where workmen are thrown out of work or placed on half-time as the result of the present crisis, and their sons have to be withdrawn from the secondary schools where they have won free places. I can only hope that these effects will be only temporary, but it has thrown into uncertainty the whole programme for this year. I can only hope that these disturbing factors will soon pass away, and we shall be able to realise that kind of progress which I have endeavoured to indicate.


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

I have observed much too large a tendency on the part of speakers in this House to try on these occasions to traverse the whole educational field. The right hon. Gentleman has shown a wisdom which I shall try to follow in the way he has made his statement. What I shall do is to make as short a statement as possible of our main objections to his administration. I am sorry I cannot take the course which we took last year. I only wish I need not have moved any reduction of this Vote. What a happy family we were when we were sailing along in the good ship "Continuity"! The right hon. Gentleman was then the rising hope of educationists, the local authorities and the teachers. I am afraid that happy time has passed now, and that the best that can be said is that all education is now on its guard against the Noble Lord. I am very sorry for that, because there is something of tragedy in the Noble Lord's position. We have listened to-day to the speech he has made. He shows his interest in many questions in a way that very much disarms criticism—his keenness about schemes, his hopes about the schools and the black list, his objection to economising in school books. It makes it all the sadder that his general policy is so exceedingly discouraging to local authorities and to the country at large.

Local authorities and teachers watch with apprehension each new move of the Noble Lord. For he has shown versatility and perseverance in a remarkable degree in the campaign of parsimony to which he has vowed himself. I must remind the Committee of the history of this year, and of what are the great educational facts. First of all, there was the execrated Circular 1371, which was withdrawn. Then there was Memorandum 44, which was so unpopular even amongst Conservative local education authorities that it was superseded. What is the right hon. Gentleman's present position? He is working under Clauses of the Economy Bill, and is exercising over local authorities a policy of detailed restriction. That is what we have to deal with. Private and confidential letters are going out to local authorities stating the views of the Board. It is because of what is going on now that I am moving the reduction.

Everything goes to show that there is a change of attitude on the part of the Board. The Board is no longer primarily the patron of progressive authorities. It is no longer primarily engaged in encouraging enterprise on the part of local authorities. It is no longer chiefly concerned in insisting on a minimum of efficiency, but is chiefly concerned in restricting expenditure. It reserves its most vigorous criticism for the active and enterprising authorities. It is inclined, as far as we can make out, to insist on a maximum not being exceeded rather than in insisting on a minimum being maintained. There has been a revision of all the Regulations. It is impossible to deal with them to-day except in the most general way, but the main characteristic of the changes in the Regulations is the sweeping away of all definite standards. The excuse given for this is that local authorities ought to have great latitude in their operations. Everybody will have a good deal of sympathy with that point of view. I do not deny that a great many of the Regulations under which the Board has been working may have been in some respects too detailed, or that there might be a curtailment of them; but that is a very different thing from giving local authorities absolute latitude, subject only to the supervision of the Board, exercised not in relation to standards which are laid down and which this House knows, but standards which the Board keeps to itself and which are not announced to the public. It is quite right that local authorities should have latitude, but not latitude to do ill. Why is it necessary that all the minimum standards under which local authorities have been working hitherto should be swept away? Those minimum standards might have been kept, and, outside them, the local authorities might have been allowed considerable freedom. In the case of a remarkable number of local authorities the way in which this new latitude exercised by the Board is being used is to repress progress.

I will take one or two examples of what appears to be going on. I will allude first to a question which I wanted to have discussed, though I am not now so sure that it is necessary to discuss it, because I rather think from what the Noble Lord said that he has had better second thoughts on that question. I refer to the Training College Regulations. The whole movement of opinion in regard to the training of teachers is in the direction of university training for all teachers. We know we are a very long way from achieving that, but that is the direction in which the best educational opinion is moving. As it will be a long time before we can attain to that standard, we accept as second best the training college system, under which teachers in training get a certain amout of what I may call second-class academic training as well as a year or so of pedagogic training. It may very well be a national ideal that the training colleges ultimately should become merely places for a short pedagogic training at the end of the academic training, but that implies that there has first been a thorough academic training at the university. The right hon. Gentleman appears to have begun at the wrong end. Before there has been any very great expansion of academic training at the universities, he has said the training colleges may, if they like, give only the one year of pedagogic training. We object to that. If they are to give only one year of pedagogic training, they must give it to people who have had a thorough academic training first. It is not enough to say that it should be given to children who have gone through to the second examination in the secondary schools. The training colleges universally oppose this proposed change, and I very much hope from what the Noble Lord has implied to-day, that he is going to give way to these objections.


Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, could not the Noble Lord tell us just what he is going to do in this matter, because a great many of us are extremely interested in it, and what is the use of discussing a hypothetical case?


I do not know whether the Noble Lord will be any more explicit than he was, and I should be very glad if he or the Noble Lady the Parliamentary Secretary would say something about it either now or subsequently. I come now to another part of these Regulations, to the Code. Very important changes have been made, and one of the most important is that the detailed building regulations disappear. In future local authorities erecting school buildings have to work under a quite vague clause. In future the premises of the school or centre must be safe in the case of fire, must have suitable and sufficient sanitary and cloakroom accommodation for teachers and children, must be adequately lighted, warmed and ventilated, must be kept in proper repair, and must be suitably arranged, furnished and equipped for instruction. That shows, in vague phrases, all that a school building ought to be, but what does it mean? All the details of the existing Regulations disappear. I cannot see what the objection is to having minima in the Regulations of the Board. I do not see why it should be left to local authorities to provide less than a certain floor space or air space. I understand the local authorities are already beginning to take advantage of this freedom, and to say, "We will go back to the 1914 standard in our new schools as regards floor space." What is the objection to saying in the case of new schools that there must at least be so much air space for the children and so much playground space? There is on foot to-day a movement, patronised by Royalty and all the great ones in the land, to provide playgrounds for the people. This is not the moment for cutting out any details of the miserable minimum which now exists as to playgrounds in connection with schools. I do not understand why the right hon. Gentleman should have got rid of these definite standards. In any case I do not think it is a desirable thing to substitute absolute Departmental discretion for what were really Parliamentary standards, laid down in the Code. I think this House ought to be very jealous of permitting that. There are some Ministers of Education with whom the House might have been ready to leave absolute discretion, but I am not quite certain that that would apply to the Noble. Lord.

I come now to a very serious matter, the policy with regard to staffing, and what seems to me to be a very formidable campaign which is developing against the more progressive authorities. All definite standards of staffing appear to have been swept away. This is how the new Code runs: The authority must maintain an approved establishment of suitable teachers for their area and must satisfy the Board, if required, as to its distribution. All the Regulations requiring so many teachers to a given number of children are swept away. I do not say the detailed Regulations were the best that could be devised, nor do I say, although they were a minimum, that they were by any means the standard down to which the local authorities were working, Far from it. They were not satisfactory as minima. But there they were. The idea that the Board were going to insist on a certain definite standard—all that has gone. The Board, in future, are going to say to local authorities whether this, that or the other school is sufficiently well staffed. I should have thought it would have been far better to agree upon a minimum standard of staffing, and to see that all local authorities did not go below that. It becomes important to see how the Board are interpreting their new Regulations, and the plan on which they are working. The new Economy Act enables the Board to restrict the expenditure of local authorities generally by comparing the standard of a given authority with the standard of some other authority, and saying to that authority, "Now you have got to adjust yourselves to the standard of this other authority which we (the Board) think more reasonable." The Board, apparently, are beginning to go to authorities and to say, "You are spending an awful lot compared with this, that, or the other authority. You are spending an awful lot on your teachers. I am not going into details with you, but, somehow or other, you must bring down your expenditure."

5.0 P.M.

There is the case of Hornsey. It is typical of a good many. I have not the least doubt that Hornsey has a very high standard of expenditure. The Noble Lord showed us that that was the case. Hornsey is a very progressive authority. It is not progressive because it has got a very large Labour majority; it is rather the other way. There is no reckless Labour majority of members on that authority. [An HON. MEMBER: "There is not one!"] It has a very high staffing standard. It, apparently, has very small classes, and it has a very high proportion, of certificated teachers. This, of course, means expense, but Conservative Hornsey thinks that it is worth spending money, and knowing that, hitherto, it was safe in getting its half out of taxation, even from a Labour Government, it goes ahead, but suddenly comes up against a Conservative Minister, and he demands a great reduction. It is true that the question which I, with only partial knowledge, put to the Noble Lord to-day was, in a certain degree, inaccurate, inasmuch as I suggested that he had asked for a definite reduction of teaching staff which would have involved the dismissal of 67 out of 210 teachers. He said he has not required the authority to make any specific reduction in their teaching staff, but what he has done is to compare their expenditure with London, and to say that he does not see why they should spend more than London What I want to know is, why they should not? I want to know why on earth Hornsey, if it be a more progressive place than London, should not have small classes? I do not know why any authority which likes to have them should not have classes of 30 throughout its elementary schools to-day, without any criticism from the Government. In fact, if an authority says that children of the working-classes may be taught in small classes, I do not know why the Government should not say to that authority, "You are to be put on a pinnacle, and set up as an example to the other authorities, and we are not going to do anything whatever to depress your exertions."

What is happening at Hornsey, as far as I understand, is that the local education authority is being asked to make an enormous reduction in its education expenditure. It is being asked by the Board to reduce expenditure by £10,000 more than it has already reduced it. What the authority says is, that if it reduces that expenditure, as the Noble Lord wants it to do, the only way in which it can do it is by dismissing 67 out of 210 teachers. I believe that this policy is entirely and fundamentally wrong. I do not believe local authorities, like that of Hornsey, ought to be discouraged in any degree. What will happen if this kind of thing goes on, is that, first, of course, the progressive local authorities all over the country are going to be discouraged. The second, and even more important, thing is, that the teachers all over the country are going to be discouraged. I, really, do not understand the right hon. Gentleman's position with regard to the question of the reduction of excessive classes. He says, first of all, that he is still in favour, as I understand, of the process of reducing the size of classes, according to the policy of Circular 1325, which was issued during our Government. I understand that he still says he wants to reduce the number in all classes from 50, and I suppose he would subscribe to a maximum of 40 for the higher classes. Although he is anxious that this should take place, when he finds an authority which has risen to that standard, he goes to that authority and says, "You are overstaffed." He says it is true he does not want to drive up the small classes into big ones, but he takes the measure which makes that necessary to the local authority which has gone below those numbers.

I am bound to say, from what the Noble Lord has actually said himself, it is clear to me that what he intends is, as far as possible, to make 50 both the maximum and the minimum. That appears to be the policy, and I say so, because it can be the only real meaning of some rather enigmatical sentences in the last big Circular which he issued. In that Circular he said: The Board are committed to the policy of reducing the size of classes over 50 as the first call on the available supply of teachers, and on public funds available for the payment of salaries. If, moreover, the Board are to recognise the need for an increase in staff in areas where the average attendance has substantially increased, they must expect some reduction in areas where the average attendance has substantially diminished, and where the size of classes was not previously excessive. Of course, that is not the complete policy, but one sees the direction. He says he must have something to compensate for requiring certain local authorities to spend more on staffing and to bring down the size of classes, and he is going to compensate by driving up the classes in other districts. He is doing that in the case of Hornsey and a number of other places, to whom he has been sending letters, and giving this new policy of the Board. I sncerely hope that policy is not going any further. I say that it discourages local education authorities, that it discourages teachers, and, if it be carried much further, if local authorities like Hornsey have to dismiss a large number of their teachers, you are going to have a large overplus of teachers; you are going to have the old teachers thrown out of work, and very likely the older ones unable to get fresh places; and you are going to have a large number of new teachers coming into the profession from the training colleges out of employment and unable to find it.

There is only one other matter about which I wish to say a word. It can only be one general word, and, I hope, a fairly cautious one, but I do say it with all seriousness. There has been a great reduction in the Board of Education itself. The right hon. Gentleman said he was going to tell us about those reductions when he brought in his Estimates, but as I did not ask him, I do not complain.


I have them here.


There have been great reductions. Several assistant secretaries have gone, the best part of 100 clerks, and five inspectors, I believe, and, unless rumour be a lying jade, there are a good many other inspectors who will be going fairly soon. It is very difficult to relate efficiency to numbers, and nobody will be justified in saying for certain that the work of the Board cannot be effectively done with rather fewer staff than formerly. I cannot say it is my own feeling or experience that it is very much overstaffed, but I suggest at this moment when the right hon. Gentleman is expounding a policy, the operation of which in the country is going to depend more upon the discretion of the Board of Education than it did before, if the local authorities are to be kept up to an efficient standard you want more rather than fewer officials to carry out such a policy. Considering the general policy of economy which the right hon. Gentleman has adopted, I very seriously suspect the reductions he has made in the one sphere in which he is directly able to do it himself. In that connection I think I ought to say that there are one or two retirements in the higher branches of the Board of Education of exceedingly valuable public servants before pensionable age at three months' notice. That is a very rare thing if not an innovation in the public service, and it is causing profound pertubation in the Civil Service and creating a feeling of uncertainty. Whether the Noble Lord knows it or not it is the talk of the public service and not of his Department alone.

I want to say one final word. A great many of us are extraordinarily uneasy about the policy being pursued by the President of the Board of Education. We do not very much mind whether the right hon. Gentleman is pursuing this policy of his own volition or the volition of the Treasury, but we are uneasy, and I am perfectly certain that we represent uneasiness in the country which is not merely on this side of the House. I do not think the Noble Lord fully appreciates the amount of feeling there exists on this question. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of this as being a sham battle, but it is nothing of the kind, and it is far from it. It would be difficult for some of us to express how much we deprecate the general policy, which seems now to be the accepted part of the present regime. If ever I use strong language, I like to shelter behind respectable and if it may be ecclesiastical authority. I will not use my own words, but I will use the words recently uttered by Bishop Gore in a speech he made on education and in which he quoted the sentence from Memorandum Number 44 as follows: It is essential that expenditure on education should be reduced. Bishop Gore's comment on that was: It is the very devil of a sentence, and it is the very opposite of the truth. I subscribe to that. The Government are in financial difficulties and the President of the Board of Education has found it necessary to have a year or years of delay, and reaction, and we are told we have to wait for a revival of trade. Let us make it clear that we challenge the whole position that educational expenditure ought to depend in any sense upon the general condition of the trade of the country. We challenge that basic policy which has been laid down by Sir Eric Geddes, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Noble Lord. When good times come, if ever they do recur, you will not be able by the expenditure of money to improvise an educated generation of the children who are now losing educational advantages. We are inclined to say that in times like these when the gulf between the rich and the poor is greater that is the time when the nation ought to try to bring the two closer together by providing the thing which a nation can provide and that is a national education.


I was asked by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Sir G. Butler) to make a brief statement about one-year courses in training colleges, and I have decided to do this. I still believe that we must have freedom to consider in many connections the length of the course or courses for teachers in certain classes of training. It is primarily a question to be considered by academic judgment, and I have set on foot in a circular a proposal which is now the subject of consideration that the Board's examination functions should be devolved on bodies representing co-operatively the training colleges and the universities, and I think that when we get those bodies set up they will consider the whole question of the length of training college courses, their extension, and possibly their reduction in certain circumstances. I do not want to prejudice that decision by making any statement before the bodies to be set up have had opportunities of considering this question. I propose during the intervening period to keep on with the present system, but I propose to leave out of the Regulations for the training of teachers all that would make the recognition of a college dependent upon its giving a two-year's course in every case. I propose, therefore, to leave the position quite unprejudiced during the intervening period until the new arrangements contemplated by Circular 1377 are settled.


At the commencement of his statement the President of the Board of Education seemed to advocate one-year courses, but towards the end of his remark he appeared to go back on his original position. He went out of his way to say that he was not going to object to colleges which required only one-year courses.


I said we should continue the present system until the new arrangements were set up, and then I stated that the whole subject would have to be considered afresh.


I am glad to hear that, and it only shows that the right hon. Gentleman is willing to listen to reason. I am willing to leave this matter to the experts, because I am confident that they will recommend that the training course should extend over two years. When this question is referred to an expert committee, they are bound to recommend a long and not a short course. I would like to say that I was very pleased with the statement made by the President of the Board of Education. On educational matters I am rather an optimist, although the right hon. Gentleman himself is somewhat of a pessimist about the future. I can understand people being a little suspicious about the professions of the right hon. Gentleman, because we were so buoyed up 12 months ago by the splendid call to arms which he gave to the teaching profession, but afterwards he ran away from his own battle cry, and then we began to lose faith in his sincerity. I am willing to believe that constant criticism from above and below the Gangway has converted the right hon. Gentleman, and that in these matters he has seen the error of his ways

The right hon. Gentleman has been very prolific in the publication of memoranda. I would suggest that his speech should be published in all quarters for the public to read. If the right hon. Gentleman circulated his excellent speech to all local authorities, then they would take it as embodying his sincere opinions. Really, the trouble in regard to the policy adopted during the last three months is that it creates an atmosphere of suspicion among the teaching profession and our educational authorities. The result is that education authorities say to me, "We do not know where we are. Everywhere there is a feeling of uncertainty. Are we to go on with our work, or is the Board going to sweep down upon us and reverse our policy?" What the President ought to do is to endeavour to restore confidence, and I believe the speech he has made to-day will do something in that direction.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take the First Lord of the Admiralty as an example. I know the First Lord is not nearly so eloquent as the President of the Board of Education, but he knows how to take a firm stand, and when he wants ships he gets them. I want the President to take up the line that if he wants schools he must make up his mind to get them; and if more expenditure is necessary, and he means business, the £ s. d. must be found. Is the policy of the Board of Education going to be to egg on the local authorities to do their duty, and, when it comes to footing the bill, is he going to run away and refuse to pay his share? If that is so, then it is a very unsatisfactory state of things.

I am very glad to hear the Noble Lord's reference to central schools. We know that there are in the country great gaps, especially in rural education. There are great difficulties in connection with the different kinds and types of voluntary schools scattered over the country, with old buildings, unsatisfactory staffing, and out-of-date plant, and it has been suggested that the real solution of some of the difficulties of rural education can be found in the spread of the central school. In my experience in London, the greatest promise of any educational experiment lies in the central school, but it is very largely spasmodic. In London, we are fortunate is being well provided with central schools, but whether you have a central school or a secondary school is, as the Noble Lord knows, largely a matter of accident. It depends on whether you have an education authority that is able to provide secondary schools, or whether its powers are limited to providing merely elementary education, so that it has to put up with a central school because it conforms to the Act of Parliament and comes within the category of an elementary school. I want to see, and I believe every educationist who is really keen on the development of a democratic system of national education wants to see, all these artificial divisions between central schools, secondary schools, and elementary schools done away with. We have to aim at a great national system of education very much on the lines of that of France. In France it is often said that, just as every soldier has a field marshal's baton in his knapsack, so every elementary teacher has the chance of a headship at the highest lycée in the land. That is what we want to see in our own country. We want to see all these artificial divisions done away with.


Could that be done by the administrative act of the President, without legislation?


I am, perhaps, getting a little outside the province of the Estimate, and I will not pursue that matter any further, except to say that I believe something of the right kind of economy can be got in these directions. At any rate, in the training of teachers it must always be borne in mind that, if only university education can be spread in the training of elementary teachers—which would not involve legislation—it would make it possible for the elementary teacher to reach the very highest posts in the country. As it is, the university degree is conspicuous by its absence. I think I am right in saying that an inquiry made some time ago showed that the number of teachers with degrees in elementary schools was only some 3 per cent. in the case of men teachers, and ½per cent. in the case of women teachers. On the other hand, in Scotland, quite recently, a university degree has been declared essential for every elementary teacher.


That refers to men only.


I was going to say that that is as regards men, but the women have petitioned that the same standard shall be required of them, and I know that the Noble Lady will agree with that. That is a happy state of affairs, and it does mean that there is the possibility in Scotland, which I believe has nearly reached the condition of actual fact, of the teaching profesion being regarded as one profession, and all these artificial barriers between elementary school teachers, secondary school teachers, and central school teachers, being done away with. I think that much can be done by the President on those lines if he takes the right steps in reference to the training of teachers now, when he is trying to reform and reorganise that training, to make the teaching profession one great profession devoted to the training of the young, whether it be the poor man's child or the rich man's child, whether it be in the middle class school, the ordinary elementary school, the great public school, the secondary school, or the central school.

There were several omissions from the President's speech, but that was justified by his desire for brevity What I and, I think, most people in London are concerned about is the education of that great army of young people who leave school at the age of 14. There are, I believe, every year, something like 600,000 pupils leaving the elementary schools, and, out of this large army, only about 60,000 attend any place of education or social supervision afterwards, in spite of all the attempts of local authorities to provide evening classes and other kinds of training. That is the serious problem that we have to face. One of the remedies advocated by many people is the raising of the school age. That is an ideal that we should like to see, but, at any rate, in the present state of public opinion, in the present state of our finances, and with the present attitude of the Board, we cannot hope to bring it about in the immediate future. That places upon educationists, and particularly upon the Board, the responsibility of offering every inducement for continued education in some form that will bring into the schools those children who go out to work at the age of 14.

It is very sad to see, in Memorandum No. 44, which has not been withdrawn, a special attack on these evening schools. It will be remembered that it was pointed out that the attendances at these classes were not up to the requisite numbers, and it was suggested that economies could be obtained by closing a number of them. If the Noble Lord will listen to those who have had experience of this matter, he will learn that those are the very classes which should be encouraged and stimulated, instead of being closed down, because they are the most important for the education of the young, Of course, classes that offer social inducements, such as gymnastic classes, music classes, art classes, or dramatic classes, are naturally popular, and there is no difficulty in keeping up the attendance, but in the case of the educational classes the problem is extraordinarily difficult. It is difficult to get young people who have been working all day at business or in a factory or office to sit down at a desk and do educational work, and I would say to the President that, in his desire for economy, he should not discourage in any way whatsoever the evening school movement, which has done more for the people of this country than, probably, any other social scheme for the betterment of young people.

Another thing with which the President did not deal is the question of technical education. I am very glad to see that the Annual Report of the Board for 1924–25 in its opening chapter deals with technical education. May I say, in passing, that I think it is unfortunate that the issue of this Report should always be so belated, because, although it really deals with current problems, it always appears, from its date, to be dealing with stale problems. I suggest that an improvement might be made in that direction. The Report would be read with greater interest and more authority if it were brought out at a date nearer to that of the Estimate. We have a very complete history of technical education, but it is classed with the whole problem of continued education. I think that that is unfortunate. What the country wants to know is what is the present position with regard to technical education throughout the country. An inquiry is long overdue. I believe there has been some kind of joint inquiry between the Board of Education and the Ministry of Labour, but, at any rate, there is a growing public opinion, not only among educationists but also among industrialists, both employers and employés, that our technical education is not all that it should be.

It is quite accidental what technical education we have in a particular part of the country. There may be large areas where it is up to date and efficient. In London, far various reasons, our technical education is fairly advanced, and in some other parts of the country very satisfactory provision is made; but there are large areas where there have not been any public-spirited citizens prepared to provide the necessary buildings, where the education authorities have been backward, and where, in consequence, the provision of technical education is most inadequate. I am told, for instance, that in Nottingham, where there has been great trade depression and where the lace industry has had a great set-back, the provision for art training is most unsatisfactory and much behind-hand. Everybody knows that what Nottingham has been suffering from more than anything else is the want of artistic development in the design of lace, as compared with many other trade centres throughout Europe, especially in Germany and France. That is a kind of subject which the Board, responsible as it is for the training of the young, should be considering. We are told in the Report that in large areas the provision is most inadequate—that the buildings are most unsuitable and that, owing to their unsuitability, it is almost impossible for the work to be properly carried out. Paragraph 46, on page 30 of the Report, says: At the same time it must be admitted that the accounts of technical school premises given by Your Majesty's inspectors show that the work is sometimes carried on not merely under serious disabilities, but even under conditions of material invironment which must be distasteful to teachers who have known the amenities of study at the universities and cannot but repel those students, at least, who have had recent experience of modern secondary schools. A large number of examples are given in the Report, and I can speak from some knowledge of the matter myself. I am on the Advisory Committee of the Central School of Arts and Crafts. That is one of the finest schools, not only in this country but in the world. It draws to itself visitors and students from America and even from places as far away as India, China and Japan. That building, however, is most inadequate, not merely in the smallness of the classrooms and so on, but even in such necessaries as lavatory accommodation. Of course, the main difficulty is lack of funds, and I say that this is the kind of thing that the President should take in hand. He should not only survey the buildings provided throughout the country for technical education, but should inquire how much the needs of industrialists are being catered for by the training of young people in all the ramifications of technical education—not vocational education, but technical education, including design, chemistry and other sciences, and all the subjects that are so essential in modern industry. Both employers and employés are waking up more and more to the need for the application of science and art to industry. It is very remarkable that in the coal inquiry both sides called out for education and for the application of science to the coal industry. It is no use, however, talking about that if you have not the essential technical schools, and, what is even more important, the necessary technical instructors. There is a great need, as the Report points out, for the training of the necessary teachers. It is not everybody who can teach. It is all very well to bring a chemist out of the factory and ask him to train a lot of young people, but, if he has not learned the art of teaching, he cannot really do that work properly. No doubt Germany, at any rate before the War, was a long way ahead of us in regard to the development of technical education as a whole, though there are places in the country which vie with any part of the world in their provision for technical education.

Another matter that was omitted from the President's statement—it may be a small matter to some, but to my knowledge it is a very vital matter—was the provision of special schools. There is nothing more pathetic in our great cities than the large number of mentally defective and physically defective children — cripples, short-sighted and blind children, children suffering from all kinds of disabilities. It is one of the curses of civilised life, of overcrowded streets and had housing, that they seem to breed these puny, miserable, mentally starved children. In London we have done great work in giving these children a chance by giving them an extra two years in special schools. Not only do we in that way give a chance to the child, but we save the State in the long run, because these children, instead of becoming a charge on the State, and ultimately coming on to the Poor Law, become, in nine cases out of ten, breadwinners able to earn their own living, as the result of some special craft or skill which has been developed in them by this special instruction. I see that there is still a very large number of areas in which no provision whatsoever is made in the way of special schools. There are whole areas—27 county authorities and 102 non-county authorities—who make no provision whatever for special schools. I know the President is conscious of this deficiency.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present, Committee counted; and 40 Members being present—


I know the small attendance is not due to lack of enthusiasm for education, but to a more picturesque ceremony outside the precincts of the House. I was calling attention to a rather significant paragraph in the Memorandum accompanying the Estimates on the cost of special schools. It says: In view of the very high cost which would be incurred by providing special schools on existing lines for every child who is defective within the meaning of the Education Act, 1921, the Board are constantly considering in the light of past experience of special schools and of advances in medical and surgical knowledge, by what means a satisfactory scheme for all these children can be brought within reasonable financial limits. I am all for economy and against waste, but for God's sake do not economise at the expense of these unfortunate children. Do not let us hold up their training while the Board is going on inquiring as to some ideal method. This is a matter that cannot wait. Once a child has missed his opportunity, has missed those precious two or three years when he can get training, it is too late. The training must be when the child is young and susceptible to training and discipline. While the President is inquiring do not let local authorities get off their responsibility and their duty to these children, who have a special claim on the State and the nation. I am full of optimism. I hope the President is going to turn over a new leaf. If he does—it is never too late to repent—I can assure him that he will have the good will and support of educationists all over the country. We know the Chancellor of the Exchequer is a hard nut to crack, but if the President will see that he is provided with the necessary funds to enable local authorities to go on and carry out their duties, he can be assured of the support of all parties in the House. Do not try to discourage the progressive educational authorities. It is his duty to stimulate the backward ones. That is his responsibility and his duty to the nation. If he will take that as his responsibility he can be assured that he will have the united support of all parties, irrespective of politics.


The practice of using Committee of Supply for discussing, questions which relate solely to one's own constituency is one which, I suppose, is justifiable, but which I think ought not to be encouraged. It is tedious for everyone except the Member who is speaking and the Minister who may perhaps deign to reply. My excuse, if excuse be needed, for trespassing on the time of the Committee is because I believe the situation which has arisen in Hornsey is so serious and of such importance that it is of interest to education authorities all over the country. I need not refer to the issue of Circular 1371 and its subsequent withdrawal. Those circumstances will be fresh in the minds of the Committee and of my noble Friend. It is enough to say that as a result of a conference which took place last December between the Minister and the local education authorities the President agreed that he would continue the percentage grant for the present financial year; secondly, that he would attempt to obtain the co-operation of the local authorities and that if he was going to bring in a block grant scheme, he would try to bring in an agreed one, and thirdly, and perhaps most important so far as the case of Hornsey is concerned, he said he would in any case give local authorities ample time to make the change. In return for these very substantial concessions local authorities all over the country agreed that they would send in revised estimates. On 22nd January Hornsey submitted an estimate of £115,750, representing a reduction of 2½ per cent. upon the previous estimate of £118,413. No reply was received from the Board of Education until 29th March, and by this time there were only two days left before the beginning of the present financial year. Also, as is not unnatural, the local education authority rate had already been passed by the council. Moreover, this letter when it came on 29th March was in no sense final. Approval was withheld from the estimate but no indication was given as to what further reduction was required or how that reduction should be effected.

The Hornsey Authority continued to press the Board of Education, in so far as local authorities are able to press the Board of Education, during the ensuing weeks, but no further reply was received until 10th May. On this occasion the Board still declined to indicate what reduction was required and stated that the method of carrying out any reduction was a matter for the local authority to decide. At the same time the Board said they would be happy to discuss the matter on the return of more normal conditions, this communication, of course, having been written during the time of the General Strike. On 4th June, a deputation met the Board, but no further reply was received with regard to either the amount or the method of reduction, and the only practical suggestion the Board of Education had to offer was that Hornsey should adopt the central school system. At this meeting the Hornsey Education Authorities said they would arrange to make a further cut of £2,000 in the Estimates, making a total reduction of £4,633 on the original Estimate sent in, or 4 per cent. on the total. It should be observed that the President of the Board of Education had accepted a reduction of 2½ per cent. on the original Estimate from the London Education Authority. Hornsey also agreed, when making this further offer of £2,000, that they would co-operate with the Board in exploring the possibilities of applying the central school system. On 19th June a conference took place between the Inspectors and the Chairman of the Education Committee and certain other local officials, and the Inspector said that the Board were not now prepared to adhere to the establishment of staffing which they themselves laid down in 1923, and intimated that the Board now aimed at classes of 50 for children up to 10 or 11 and of 40 for children over 12 where accommodation of the rooms would admit of such a course. It was again proposed that the central school system should be established. On this occasion the local authority pointed out that even if they were to agree to the establishment of this system it could not possibly affect the expenditure for the current year. They also reminded the Board that by this time more than a quarter of the financial year had gone.

On 2nd July the Board communicated their decision. That is the letter about which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) asked a question to-day. Their decision was that upon the two items, Loans and Special Services, which amounted to only £13,000 odd in all, the expenditure should be approved; but as regards the very much larger items of Teachers' Salaries, Administration and Other Expenditure, the Board intimated that they would reduce the amount to be recognised for grant from £103,486 to £93,086, a reduction of £10,400. In considering the problem with which this progressive authority is faced there is also to be added the sum of £3,300 in respect of preliminary expenditure on a new school, the construction of which the Board had ordered to be postponed. This expenditure was incurred last year with the Board's full approval. Why they refuse now to sanction it I have so far been unable to discover. Compared with the main question it is a subsidiary point, except that the provision of £3,300, in addition to the £10,400, makes the position of the authority much more difficult. The effect of this decision of the Board is in reality to establish a system in Hornsey this year which, if it is not actually the block grant, is something very like it, in so far as it relates to Teachers' Salaries, Administration and Other Expenditure. In that case, I submit that my Noble Friend is violating the assurance he gave to the local authorities in December that he would not bring in the block grant system this year, that he would not bring it in in any case without consultation with the authorities and, more particularly, that he would give time to allow them to adjust their expenditure to the new conditions. The result of the decision is that since more than one-quarter of the financial year has gone, it is impossible to effect any reduction in the staff before September; therefore, Hornsey will be obliged to carry out in six months a reduction which should have been spread over a year, and, in any case, should never have taken place without due notice.

6.0 P.M

I do not deny that the expenditure of this local authority upon teachers' salaries, administration, and other expenses, is 315s. 2d. per annum per unit of average attendance. I do not deny that it is the highest with which the Board has to deal. Whether we have received value for our money or not is not a question for me now to go into. While we claim that we have received value, I admit that it is open to the President of the Board of Education to claim that an equally satisfactory result could be obtained by better administration with less expenditure. The only question with which we are concerned this afternoon is whether the President of the Board of Education has been justified in going back upon the promise which he definitely made to the education authorities. If the Board persist in its decision, and if the letter which was written on the 2nd July is their final word, I should like to explain to the Committee what will be the result of that decision. A sum of £13,700 will have been disallowed. The town council must therefore choose whether they will pay half that sum out of the rates, and thus abandon the whole principle of equal payment between the central authority and the local authority, or whether they will limit their expenditure as they are legally entitled to do, to 50 per cent. of the approved estimate.

I do not know what the local authority will do. I imagine that they will be bound to adhere to the fifty-fifty principle, and in doing that they will be supported by local authorities of every kind all over the country. In that case, it means that the full sum of £13,700 has to be saved somehow from education in Hornsey during the next six months. We have endeavoured to effect every practicable economy short of dismissing teachers. As a result of these economies a further reduction was proposed to the Board two days ago. The saving in expenditure was increased from £4,600 to £5,650. That is the present offer of the local authority. That means that £8,050 has to be saved somehow. That can only be done, as I think my Noble Friend knows, by a reduction in the cost of teachers' salaries. In other words, it can only be done by the dismissal of a number of assistant teachers during the second six months of this year. The average salary of all assistant teachers in Hornsey is £310 a year. If we take that figure, a simple piece of arithmetic will show that it will be necessary to dismiss 52 teachers in order to save £8,050.

If those dismissals are to take place, I do not think it would be fair to take the average salary as the amount which would be saved. We must assume that if dismissals are made they will be made according to the least length of service. Those most recently appointed will have to go first. In that case, the average sum saved per teacher would be reduced. It is estimated that in order to save the £8,050 it would be necessary, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle suggested this afternoon, to dismiss 67 teachers. The effect of dismissing 67 teachers out of a staff of approximately 213 is equivalent to a reduction of over 31 per cent. I do not think it is necessary for me to make any comment, either to the Noble Lord or to the Committee in general, as to the effect of dismissing 31 per cent. of your teachers. I refuse to believe that the Board of Education have said their last word on this matter.


Why does the hon. and gallant Member assume that all the saving can only be effected by the dismissal of teachers? There are other items of expenditure on which saving can be effected.

Captain WALLACE:

We have already made a saving of£5,600 upon other expenditure and, speaking with the comparatively imperfect knowledge of local details which almost any Member of Parliament must have, I do assure my Noble Friend that the rest of the expenditure has been combed through very carefully to produce the £5,650.

I should like to acknowledge, on my own behalf and on behalf of the local authority, the courtesy and patience with which my Noble Friend has treated us in regard to this matter. He has been good enough to grant us long interviews, and I particularly appreciate the fact that he has promised to grant an interview next Monday to another deputation. If he accepts the statements which I have made to-day—and I do not think they are statements which can be seriously controverted—I would earnestly appeal to him not to go back on the promise he has made; not to insist upon a policy which must obviously do irreparable harm to the children in Hornsey, and not to be unjust—I hope he will not mind my using the word—to a local authority whose progressive policy has frequently been the subject of praise and commendation from his Department. Finally, I would ask him not to strike a fatal blow at that confidence which ought to exist and which must exist between the President of the Board of Education and those local authorities upon whose co-operation he must ultimately rely.


The hon. and gallant Member for Hornsey (Captain Wallace) has supplied the antidote to the optimism of my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris). The hon. Member for Bethnal Green derived his optimism from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. Had I not known something of the letters that have gone out to local authorities, and something of the regulations that have been issued from the board, and had I not remembered also that it is the strong public opinion which has expressed itself in this country during the past year that has saved education, I, too, might have been optimistic after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I am not going to take his speech as the basis of my optimism, except to say that it was the speech of an enlightened educationist. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman will in future put into practice those high ideals which he enunciated this afternoon. His policy may be summed up in the phrase—if it can be summed up in a phrase—that it gives local authorities permission to be reactionary, because there is plenty of permission for local authorities to curtail education, but as far as his general policy is concerned there is no compulsion upon reactionary authorities to be progressive.

I wish to support the hon. and gallant Member for Hornsey in the case that he has presented with regard to his constituency. The case of Hornsey embodies very vital principles of policy as far as the whole field of educational administration is concerned. Here is an authority that has taken the lead in eliminating unqualified teachers. Surely, no hon. Member, however keen he may be upon having value for money, will deny that that policy has been the best policy in order to get value for money. Here is an authority who have pursued the policy of constantly reducing the size of classes. The right hon. Gentleman said to-day that that was one of the vital necessities as far as a progressive education system was concerned. He said that it stood in the forefront of educational necessity. Here is an authority which has carried out the policy which the President of the Board of Education supported this afternoon, and be is now penalising that authority for carrying out such a policy. Hornsey has not—the hon. and gallant Member for Hornsey will correct me if I am wrong—a single unqualified teacher. It has some classes of 50, but a large number of classes have been constantly reduced. What did the right hon. Gentleman say on that subject?

The Noble Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education will reply, and I would like to ask her for specific information on one or two points. I find in the local press an account of a discussion at the education committee in Hornsey. Here is a paragraph relating to the question of larger classes: The whole question of staffing was considered at a later conference. The Board were not prepared to adhere to the establishment of staffing suggested by itself in 1923, but intimated that they now aim"— this is the important point on which I desire specific information as to the policy of the Board— at classes of 50 for children up to 11 or 12 years of age, and of 40 for children over 11 years of age, where the accommodation admitted of such a course. The details of staffing are gone, and in place of them we have the vague general statement, that the authority must main-thin and improve the establishment of suitable teachers for their areas, and must satisfy the Board, if required, as to the distribution of its staff. That appears to me to be very vague. There is no safeguard in the Code for an authority like Hornsey. There is no safeguard for any authority in this country as to the requirements of the staffing in the school; it leaves the entire decision in the hands of the Board of Education. I am suspicious of that, not only in regard to Hornsey, but in regard to a large number of other authorities. Another circular has been issued by the Board, Circular 1375, which seems to follow up the Code. It says: A settlement of the number of staff in each area would appear to follow naturally upon a settlement of the scales of salary which is now being completed. Obviously, that is an economy regulation, and the Board of Education is now going to decide the question of staffing, not in relation to the number of children or the number of teachers, but by the total amount spent upon staffing in a particular area. It will mean that both in quality and quantity the Board of Education is going to ask for restrictions. I want the Noble Lady to tell me quite definitely and specifically whether it is the policy of the Board to establish the size of the class at 50 for children up to 11 and 12 years of age, and at 40 for children above that age. There is some reason to suspect that this is the policy of the Board, because it embodies practically the policy which has been called the policy of counterbalancing economy. In the staffing requirements at Hornsey you have the application of the principle of counterbalancing economy, and I say quite definitely that this policy will meet with the most strenuous opposition on the part of educationists throughout the country. An old professor, who used to lecture when I attended classes at college, used to say, "the smaller the child, the bigger the book," and the smaller the child, the smaller if anything, not the larger, the classes.

I do not want to bring party politics into this matter, but this is indeed class legislation of the worst character. It cuts right across the principle of equal advantages for the working-class children in elementary schools. You cannot give equal advantages to children in elementary schools in classes of 50 when children of the richer portion of the community are in classes of 10 and 12. [An HON. MEMBER: "What school?"] The hon. Member can criticise my speech later on if he wants to. It is not merely a case of Hornsey. This is a widespread policy, and I have a suspicion that the Board is tackling Hornsey first because it is at the head of the list. Here they say is a good battleground on which to fight for a reduction in the staff employed by the local authority. The local authority says that it may mean a reduction of 67 teachers—it will certainly mean, before we are able to satisfy the requirements of the Board of Education, a considerable reduction in the number of teachers. This policy of the Board of Education will mean that we shall have thousands of unemployed teachers. Is it a wise economy? When the State, through its secondary schools, its training colleges, and its universities, has spent money on the training of these teachers, the President, in his enlightened speech, talks about stabilising the number of teachers employed. He stated that the sum necessary for teachers' salaries would not be expanded during the coming year. That means that the Board of Education is going to restrict the number of teachers during the next few years to the number at present employed, and, if possible, to reduce the number.

Duchess of ATHOLL

indicated dissent.


I see that the Noble Lady shakes her head, but I think she will regard it as a perfectly reasonable suspicion when I look to the case of Abertillery, where I find that the Board are not satisfied on the information that the teachers' salaries might not be further reduced. They do not mean a reduction in the number, and I know that the Board means that the Burnham scales should be carried on, but they want a reduction in the total cost, and you cannot get that without a reduction in the number of teachers. I find the same sort of thing in the case of Anglesey and Blackburn, where the Board are not satisfied, on the information before them, that the expenditure under the head of teachers' salaries might not still further be reduced. There are also Breconshire, Chichester, Enfield, Gloucester, Lindsey, and, as a matter of fact, the President has stated that letters have been sent to no less than 84 authorities in regard to a reduction in the cost. That is about one- quarter of the authorities in this country. The Board of Education is therefore asking one-quarter of the authorities of the country to reduce their expenditure op teachers' salaries. The Noble Lord says that there has been a progressive reduction in the size of classes and that there are now about 21,000 classes with 50 children or over in them. He congratulated himself that the number was so few. But 21,000 classes of 50 children each means that more than 1,000,000 children are being taught in classes of 50 or over. They are not taught, they are drilled. You cannot expect the best possible education in large classes like this, and as long as they exist there ought not to be an end to the progressive policy of a reduction in the size of classes.

I want to ask one question. I want to be fair to the Board in its policy and action. It is admitted that 84 authorities are being attacked and threatened with penalties because they are too progressive. Can the Noble Lady tell us how many authorities have been attacked because they are reactionary, how many letters have been sent, out telling them that the size of their classes are too large and that they must reduce them? I have not heard of one, and I cannot find a single instance where the Board has exercised any pressure on reactionary authorities, and because of that I was rather inclined to modify my optimism when listening to the Noble Lord introducing the Estimates this afternoon. I tried to follow the Noble Lord in his explanation, but I am not quite clear what exactly he meant. It is vital we should be clear on this particular point. Has the Board abandoned the policy of one year's training, or has it not? You cannot get a sense of vocation in one year's training; you cannot get the spirit or the technique of the job in one year; and this policy of one year's training is the most reactionary which can be conceived. I ask whether it has been withdrawn. In the opinion of the Departmental Committee, the normal period of training of young persons who have passed the first school examination should still be two years, and to this period at least one year must be devoted to professional training. For any of those who have passed the second school examination it will be open to the training colleges to provide courses wholly consisting of one year's professional training. has that been withdrawn? Is it the policy of the Board to accept the recommendation made by the Committee to which the noble Lord referred, consisting of representatives of the Universities and training colleges? Is it the policy of the Board to accept those decisions? Have they abandoned finally and definitely their desire for a one year's training? Every educational association throughout the country has condemned the proposal. The Headmistresses Association, the representatives of training colleges, assistants and principals, the National Union of Teachers, have all utterly condemned the proposal. And I hope their opposition will have the effect of inducing the Board to definitely and specifically abandon this policy in the elementary schools.

May I again point out that we on this side, looking at it from a political aspect, say that this is another example of class legislation. We say quite definitely that the qualifications, the length of training, and the academic standard for children in the elementary schools, should be as high as that in the secondary schools. The noble Lord talks about the unification of the educational system. The fundamental necessity for unifying our educational system is to have a uniform standard of qualification and training for all teachers in the various grades of schools. If you get equality of training and academic standards, not necessarily in the same subjects, for teachers of all grades of schools it will make the flow much easier from one grade to another, and much easier to co-ordinate the whole educational system. But I am afraid the policy enunciated by the noble Lord will not lead to that unless this policy is definitely withdrawn.

I would like to call attention to two other matters. The President of the Board referred to the rural areas and stated that there was some discussion going on between the county councils and representatives of the Board as to the qualifications of teachers in rural areas; and he said how vital it was to get the best kind of teacher with as liberal an education and as extensive a training as the teacher in the urban area. With that view we thoroughly agree. I do not believe there is a single educationist who does not believe that teachers in rural areas should be at least as well qualified as teachers in town areas. That was the statement of the Noble Lord. But what do we find in his policy? His policy does not bear out the high sentiments of his speech. The Board has now agreed to what is called a supplementary handicraft teacher in the rural areas. I shall be pleased to be corrected if I am wrong, but I understand that the supplementary handicraft teacher is to be 18 years of age and to have had some job or other—mending doors, I suppose, or putting locks right, or planing a little, and sawing a little. I do not know that it is necessary for him to be vaccinated. I believe there was a qualification for the ordinary supplementary teacher that he had to be 18 years of age and had to be vaccinated. In this instance I do not know that even vaccination is insisted upon.

Here is the supplementary handicraft teacher in the rural area. Is that in line with the fine sentiments expressed by the Noble Lord this afternoon with regard to the quality of the teachers required in rural areas? We are against the employment of supplementary handicraft teachers with no teaching experience or training, no academic equipment, even without craftsmanship and craft experience. Everyone who has at heart the interests of the rural child ought to resist that proposal. I am hoping that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to say that, having regard to the circumstances, the Board will withdraw the proposal, and will insist that the handicraft teacher shall be of an equal standard of qualification to the handicraft teacher in the town centres. Where are such teachers to get their training from? They may be isolated in one or two handicraft centres. I confess that I can hardly believe that the President knows, in some details, the policy of his own Department. I know that it is difficult to get these handicraft teachers, but this is not the way to meet the demand. This is a reactionary method. It will fill the schools with unqualified teachers, and instead of helping the rural child will be a hindrance to his development.

I notice that the Parliamentary Secretary dissents from that statement. I implore her to consider the problem in a far broader way than has been done so far. I want not merely surveys by the Board of the needs of education for rural children, but I would like to see a Commission or public Committee set up under the auspices of the Board in order to explore the whole position with regard to education and its relationship to rural industry and rural life. A short time ago I met a distinguished man from Denmark. I said to him, "I understand that your agricultural industry has been built up and has succeeded because of your application of technical rural education." He replied, "No, the foundation of the rural revival of Denmark on its educational side was a liberalising, spiritual kind of education that quickened the people of Denmark to take a wider interest in life's activities." He was an authority, head of a people's school there. He told me that, economically speaking, the wide and liberal education, with its points of contact with rural problems and life, had resulted in great economic advancement for the rural areas of Denmark. I would like to see a thorough inquiry into the whole of the problem of the rural areas and the urban districts of our country.

That leads me to my last point. I have been looking at the figures relating to the provision for technical education in this country, and I must confess that I was startled at the meagreness of the provision. I did not realise before that the number of local authorities which are providing junior technical schools is only 38, and that the students, both boys and girls, attending the junior technical schools, numbered only about 12,000. When I consider the type of these schools, I am amazed at the lack of provision for the varying needs of an industrial nation. I ask the Board to develop the junior technical schools, but not to develop them as blind alley schools. I know of one school that is mentioned in the interesting Report which I have in my mind. As I shall not mention its name, I can speak freely about it. That junior technical school is merely a glorified manual training centre. It has a very small outlet to industry and no outlet to a senior technical school. It is a great mistake to have junior technical schools with dead ends. There ought to be provision for junior technical students, not only to go out into the wider field of industry, but, if they fail to get skilled jobs, to develop their education still further along tech- nical lines in senior technical schools, and eventually to go to the universities. There ought to be some co-ordination, not only between junior and senior technical schools, but between them and the ordinary secondary schools of the country. I find that the Board in its Report says, in relation to the provision of technical, education: The story of actual progress since 1918 is not impressive. The Report goes on to give some account of the buildings. I do not know how the Board can expect education to be carried on efficiently under such conditions. I find a reference to a room, measuring about 10 feet square, for the principal to carry on his work; and mention made that there is no common room for the teaching staff, no room for the use of students, no rest room for the female staff, and a statement that the sanitary arrangements are much below standard. The Report also states, in reference to another school, that dressmaking is carried out on woodwork benches, and plumbing taught in a cellar; and a lecture room in another school is so badly lighted that it is impossible to see anything on the blackboard. That gives an idea of some of the terrible conditions under which some junior technical schools are working. Educationists hold that education should be as manifold as the needs of life and of society. I may be criticised for this, but I am not wedded to what has been called a literary and liberal education, in the narrow sense of the word. I am not afraid of the word "vocational," though I would not mind if that title were taken off the new Regulations in order to meet people's slight objections. I am not afraid of education that will eventually lead to vocation. I want education to dignify life and work.

I think there is a growing movement in favour of this application of new ideas. My main criticism against the Board is that, instead of organising this new movement, instead of encouraging it in a great constructive effort, the energies of the Board are now directed to repression and curtailment. It is not an activity which is getting value for money, but an activity which is meant merely to cut down and to save pounds, shillings and pence. It is an unwise economy. I do not want to spend more money merely for the sake of spending more money. [HON. MEMBERS: "Most of you do!"] No. We want to spend more money in order to remedy the evils which exist—in the large number of bad schools, the lack of provision for secondary education (a miserable provision for 12,000 students in the, junior technical schools of a great industrial nation). Will any hon. Member say that that is an adequate provision for an industrial nation like ours? Mr. Filene, a business man of Boston, sent me a book called "The Way Out." In that book he says: We want to Fordise America. Here we are in this country. We have been very fortunate in having an internal market in which we can sell our goods. Speaking as a great business man in Boston, the head of a tremendous concern there, he says also: More and more, we in America will be thrown on the world market to compete with other nations, and how are we going to meet that competition. There is one way in which it can be met, and that is by improving our technical equipment and securing progress and greater productivity through technical and scientific application. If that is the outlook of the American business men, surely we may say that if this nation is to provide a standard of life for its people, it cannot afford to curtail education. Our material, mental and spiritual prosperity rests upon an education which is freely watered, not merely by nice words, but by cash from the Board of Education, in order that the education authorities may carry out a progressive policy.


A good deal has been said about education generally in rural districts and we have also heard something about central schools in rural districts. As an old schoolmaster, a member for many years of an education committee and chairman of a county education committee, I should like to point out what our experience has been and what drawbacks we have encountered, in carrying out a system which we would like to see proving efficient, of secondary education and continuing education for children after the age of eleven. In my own county of Gloucestershire we have something like 400 schools, and of these about 100 have an average attendance of less than 50. Furthermore 100 out of the 400 are council or provided schools and 300 are voluntary or non-provided schools. In many parts of the Cotswold Hills and in Wiltshire and other places, we find small schools of 30, 35 and 40. The mistress of that school has to take the whole of the sixth standard and also has to take the infant classes, and the work of the mistress of these small schools is far superior to anything that is done in the London schools.

Anyone who knows these schools will admit that the mistress of a small country school does work which entitles her to a big salary, but she does not get it. I have often thought that the best salaries ought to be paid in the smaller schools. That may seem a strange thing to say, but that is my experience. The children are sent to school at an early age. The parents are not bound to send them until they are six, but most parents like to send them as soon as they are four or five in order to get them out of the way, as they say, and to keep them out of mischief. The result is that in these small schools which are situated far apart from each other, you find young children and also children from 11 to 14—some of them big boys—in charge of a mistress, and it is an unsuitable thing to have a great lump of a lad under the care of a mistress who has so much other work to do. While she is teaching needlework, which she has to do on certain afternoons, she is at her wits' end to know what to do with these big lads. Very often they are put down to copy writing or to do some drawing without any supervision, because the supervision cannot be given.

It will be said at once, "Why in the world do you not send these bigger children to the central school?" Here is the difficulty. Nearly all these small schools on the hills are voluntary schools. Some of them are Church schools. All honour to the Church people for building them and maintaining them. Do not think for a single moment that I am running them down, because I think they have done magnificent service in the past, when the cause of education was not quite so popular as it is to-day. They took it up in those days, and the result is the existence to-day of these voluntary schools. Now not one penny-piece of public money can be used on these schools to improve them or examine them. I ask the Committee, having this in mind, to consider a case where there are five parishes together—four parishes situated round a central parish. Now a central school does not mean a school which is central in the sense of giving a better education, but a school which is situated in the centre of a district. If they are all voluntary schools, even though the children can all get easily to a particular school, how are you going to put that particular central school into such a condition that the bigger children from the other schools can go there? It means £ s. d. You cannot ask the central parish to do it, because the central parish says, "We have already enough school accommodation in this parish for our own children; why should we have to pay for the education of other children outside our own parish?" Again, each one of the surrounding parishes will say, "We have sufficient accommodation in our own schools for our own children, and why should we spend any more money?" If you ask the county council, they will reply, "We have no power."

That is one of the difficulties in country districts, and, while we are anxious and more than willing to have these schools established for the better education of children between 11 and 14, the present dual school system practically prevents that being done except in favourable places here and there. You may get a wealthy townsman, who has, perhaps, bought up the estate of an impoverished landowner, and who will provide a school. Sometimes—not very often I am sorry to say—such a man will follow the example of America, where they spend money like water on education, from voluntary as well as public sources, and will put up a brand-new school, probably much larger than is wanted for his own place. That is a perfect God-send, but such cases are exceptional. One of the difficulties which I have never heard discussed in the House of Commons is what is to be done in our rural districts to give rural boys and girls an equal chance with the boys and girls in large centres of population. As long as you have the dual school system, I do not see how it is possible to get over those difficulties. As the law stands, if there is a Church school or a Roman Catholic school—and the Roman Catholics have made even more sacrifices in this respect than the Church people, and that is saying a great deal—even though that school has only an average attendance of 30, the Board of Education cannot close it. Nobody can close it provided it is being properly conducted and the instruction given in it is all right. You cannot close that school and send the children to a bigger central school, because the law does not permit it.

Another difficulty in regard to the dual system of schools is that, whereas we talk of a national system of education, in fact a national system ought to mean that teacherships in those schools should be open to all the nation. I speak as a strong Conservative and a strong Churchman, but I say that my Nonconformist neighbours have a grievance, and it is this. All these Church schools, which are far and away the most numerous in practically every agricultural district of England and Wales, can be manned by Churchpeople, but, at the same time, these Churchpeople have also the right to be appointed in the council schools. The Nonconformist has merely got the chance of going into a council school and has not the chance of a teachership in a voluntary school. Therefore, I say that under the dual system one particular class is better off in this respect than the others. I myself believe strongly that if you are to have religious instruction at all, that instruction should be given by people who are qualified to give it and who believe in it. I am sorry to say in many of our schools, not only council schools but Church schools, religious teaching is looked upon as being of the least value in the school instead of being of the greatest value.

We want a reformation in that respect and we want a system which in some way or other will give real denominational teaching to those who want it, whether it is Nonconformist, Church of England or Catholic. As long as the religious scruples of the parents are observed and the teaching which they wish to have given, is given in some shape or form, I think by getting rid of the religious difficulty you would solve a large part of the problem. There is no use in appointing committees to consider better education in our country districts as long as the dual system goes on and as long as the voluntary school managements, while responsible for their own schools, have, equally with the rest of the population, to pay rates for the council schools. They are paying rates twice over. With regard to the training of teachers, as an old schoolmaster myself and chairman of the county authority in Gloucestershire, which is one of the biggest in England and Wales, I am perfectly convinced that while you may have a few teachers who are not up to the mark the professional standard is high. What profession is there in which somebody or other is not up to the mark? Even on the Bench of Bishops some are better than others; and that applies also to the Treasury Bench.


They are all equal.


They may be all equal in one sense, but they are not all equal in brain power, and the Lord never made us all equal in that respect. But we go on in our elementary schools as if people were all equal, as if all the teachers were equal and all the children were equal in brain power. Nothing of the kind As I have said before, I am not at all in love with the system of segregating our prospective teachers from other classes of students in training colleges, where they talk about nothing else but teaching and become perfectly neurotic. What they do is to talk about their grievances. To-day, teachers are paid decent salaries. They are not overpaid—I will not say they are even generously paid—but they are decently paid, and can look forward to decent pensions. We put prospective teachers into these training colleges, where they are in a narrow groove and where they get the idea that all they have to do is to go to a particular school and, as far as possible, teach all the children in it alike, whether they are the children in the smallest country schools or the children in the biggest London schools. That is a mistake. I would send every one who is going to become a teacher to one of the University towns, to mix with those who are going to be lawyers or doctors or parsons or scientists or engineers, and then they would know that they are not quite such "little tin gods" as they may think they are.

We want specialists in elementary schools quite as much as we want them anywhere else. You cannot take a teacher out of the City of London and send him or her down to the Cotswold Hills and say, "Here is your school. Take a particular interest in gardening and have a gardening class in the afternoons." That is impossible if the teacher does not know a swede from a turnip. We are doing our best in the country districts, through the county councils, backed by the Ministry of Agriculture, to establish small holdings and cottage holdings and, in my part of the country, large market gardens. What is the technical education wanted for this purpose? You do not want the sort of technical education which is required in Leeds where they make cloth, or in Birmingham where they turn out machinery. You want technical instruction in such things as pruning, grafting and planting. You want to teach them to do something more on the allotments than the growing of the ordinary potatoes and cabbages. You want to encourage them to go in for such things as asparagus, black currants, rhubarb and those things which pay remarkably well. How in the world can you expect a master or mistress from a training college in the city to go into the country districts and give that kind of instruction?

One of the first things you want to do to improve the education of the country districts is to have men and women teachers who also have a thoroughly good literary education. I want the standard of the teacher to be raised. I want the teacher to have such an education that he or she can be on terms of absolute equality with the squire or the doctor or the parson. I want the teacher in the rural districts to be high in the social scale. You will not get it under the present system.

Let me take another point. Do remember that what this country wants to-day, as far as its industrial position and the happiness of the people are concerned, is to develop the raw material which exists in agricultural children, quite as much as in any other section of the community. While it is there untaught, it is the same as the raw material in the ground, iron, gold or silver. What we want to do is to develop that raw material from amongst the children. Give them all, as far as possible, a good general education, but pick out the best and the brightest and give them a thoroughly good education. We are not talking about this simply for the sake of talking. Within five miles of where I live we are going to have on Saturday next an address from Sir Michael Sadler, one of the best educationists in the country. It is one of the most unwise things the Board of Education did to let that man go. If ever there was a man who has done well for education it was Sir Michael Sadler. His reports on schools abroad was a wonderful work. He is going to give an address to whom? To about 50 or 60 boys, sons of the poorest parents in Gloucestershire. Owing to the great liberality of the family of Wills, of the Imperial Tobacco Company, who have so much money, I was going to say, that they do not know what to do with it—this particular Mr. Wills has bought an enormous mansion situated in one of the most beautiful places in England, and is giving it over to the education of the boys of the poorest people in Gloucestershire. They must be the sons of working people or he will not take them in at all. He boards, lodges and feeds them, and gives them pocket money. The proportion of those children from this school who go to the universities beats any secondary school in Gloucestershire. That shows there is ability in the poorest of the poor in this country.

7.0 P.M.

What we want to do is to provide such an education that will give the average boy a good average education. Do not think education stops when the boy is 14 and leaves school. He has just had the A B C of his education. We want to end that deadening that we used to have—4s. for passing in reading, 4s. for passing in writing, 4s. for passing in arithmetic. If it was a very good school you had 3s. a head extra, if it was a good school 28. a head extra; if it was a middling school 1s. a head extra; and if it was a poor school nothing extra. The poor schoolmaster depended very largely on that. He drilled, round and round, reading, writing and arithmetic into the children until the poor beggars could not take in anything else. What is the consequence of that? Those children 30 or 40 years ago, when they left school, hated the sight of a book. Nowadays, that kind of examination being swept away, you are getting the system estab- lished by Miss Mason which proved to demonstration in Northumberland and Westmorland that the children of the poor, when they were taught in the right way, showed wonderful aptitude for good English composition, and, having plenty of books to read, the whole position has been changed. We have so educated, not only the children, but the parents, in other parts of the country, that we have free libraries established in practically every parish in Gloucestershire through the Carnegie Trust, in addition to which we make a small collection out of our rates. Those books are looked forward to by the parents to-day with quite as much interest as by the children themselves. That I look upon as doing away with the old system of examination, and having a much superior system.

Some of us are optimistic to-day. I am myself. Looking back 30, 40, or 50 years ago, as I can, I can assure you the advance in education is little short of marvellous. Apart from the things I have mentioned and the alteration of this duai system, while preserving the religious views of the parents and giving them every opportunity of being taught in the schools, I want to see one system of schools throughout the country. I want to see such a well-educated body of teachers that, a teacher having once started, nothing need stop him getting to be head of the biggest college in the Kingdom. I want the Board of Education, when they have smart schoolmasters, to make them inspectors. We are told that the old poacher makes the best game-keeper. I want to raise the level of teachers all over the country, and I have great faith that the future of this country will be very much better than the past. There is such a thing as wasted money. If you think that by spending £2 on a boy instead of £1 you are going to make him twice as smart you are wrong. You are going to do nothing of the sort. Spend money, but do not do it foolishly. To spend money does not mean you get better education. Before the school board days in Scotland you had the best system of teachers in the world and the best scholars. They did not pay their masters much in those days. To-day our march is upwards. If some of those reforms I have pointed out could be carried, and some of the difficulties swept out of the way, and we could start right forward, we should be the foremost nation in the world as we have been in the past.


I am sure everyone has listened with interest to the remarks of the last speaker. I am wondering how sad he must be, with all those ideas and all those great wishes to further education, to have a Front Bench from whom it is absolutely impossible to get what he wants. It is perfectly true that if you spend £2 instead of £1 on a child's education you will not necessarily get twice as much value, but you will give twice the opportunity to him. I listened with great interest to the speech of the Noble Lord (Lord E. Percy), and, had I not been in touch with the local education authorities and teachers and parents who are deeply interested in education, and had I not known what is going on up and down the country, I should have been very delighted indeed at the remarks and with the principles which he enunciated. How splendid the words, but how deplorable the deeds! When we turn to Command Paper 2688, we learn that the local education authorities have reduced their November forecast by nearly £1,500,000. The Board has still further reduced those revised Estimates by £976,000, and in the latter reduction elementary Estimates have suffered by £752,000, of which £266,000 is on salaries alone. It is sometimes said you can spend less money on salaries without harming education. It is impossible for this to be done. I put it to hon. Members if they heard of the schools which their children attend, say Eton and Harrow, having such wholesale reductions would they not be alarmed? We, too, whose children are dependent on our elementary schools, are thoroughly alarmed at this wholesale reduction in the cost of running our schools. If you are going to reduce the amount of money spent on teachers' salaries, you are either going to reduce the number of teachers or their qualifications.

I want to say how glad I was to hear an hon. Member say that you cannot possibly reduce the number of teachers without injuring tremendously the sort of education given, and that, because schools happen to be elementary schools, that is no reason why a teacher should be less qualified. In fact, my whole experience is that the more difficult the type of child you are teaching the more skill is required. I was also glad to hear a protest against that idea that the older the child the lees number in a class. I think if you ask any practical teacher you will learn that in their experience it is in the lower standards and the infant schools that you require a smaller number of children in the class with present-day methods particularly. I want to get the numbers right down. An hon. Member opposite showed great dissatisfaction with the remark made by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Cove) about 13 schools with one teacher for 10 children. I know a school where there is one teacher to seven children. If that be best for that type of school it is also best for the type of school to which we send our children. The whole idea of the Board of Education should be not to encourage education authorities to increase the number of children in a class, but to encourage, nay to press them to decrease the number of children which any teacher has to teach.

I was very interested indeed in hearing the Member who last spoke refer to rural schools, and I am glad to hear some on his side put in a plea for the single-teacher school, that is, where the teacher is responsible for the whole of the children in a school. There are thousands of those schools about. I could not help thinking of how the Noble Lady (Duchess of Atholl) would like the job of going to school in the morning and facing 30 children alone, the youngest five and the oldest 14, and having to be responsible, not only for keeping those children quiet, but also for teaching them a dozen subjects. It cannot be done. Surely we should concentrate on getting more and more teachers and fewer and fewer children in each class for them to have to teach.

I was also very glad to hear the Noble Lord express a wish for highly capable teachers in the rural schools, and he even mentioned the word "culture" in this connection. In my own experience, and in this year, before coming to this House, I had a young pupil teacher, a girl with ideals, who had deliberately chosen teaching as her vocation, who was keen on her job, and anxious to render service, not merely for what she could get out of her profession, but more for what she could put into it, who, having studied very hard, applied for admission to a training college, but was turned down. That is the third case in three years of pupil teachers turned down that I have had brought to my notice, and I want to suggest that there is something very wrong, that we should have a great number of young teachers, at the very beginning of their career, full of enthusiasm and ideals, meeting with that great blow, just when they are going to leave their pupil teachership and get training at a college, of finding they are not wanted. The result is, of course, that as they cannot be without occupation, but must earn something, they are sent back to school as supplementary teachers. I hope an endeavour will be made to make it possible for all those teachers to get into a training college, but it is very difficult to square facts like those that I have just mentioned with the ideals enunciated in that connection by the President of the Board of Education.

Then, again, I want to refer to a point mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough with regard to handicraft instructors. I suspect that the policy which is being followed is based upon the idea that the instructor may be merely a person who may have some connection, more or less remote, with handicrafts but no teacher, and who can now be employed through a school as a supplementary handicraft instructor. I would suggest that it is based upon the fallacy that anyone who knows how to do a job can also train children for that job. That is an absolute fallacy. With regard to handicrafts, nothing requires greater skill to teach. Handicrafts is not a subject, but a method, and there is a very great difference indeed. I want to stress that point. The hon. Member who last spoke will, I think, bear me out when I say that in our rural schools, if we are going to give the sort of education which the Minister says he desires, handicraft instructors in woodwork, gardening, and other subjects too are absolutely imperative. I know of no better method of giving a child the opportunity of really getting the most out of school than through gardening, woodwork, and so on, not as ends in themselves, but as, so to speak, the sugar on the pill.

I have known cases of boys particularly whose interest in school has been absolutely non-existent until they have been put into the gardening class. At one school in my own experience I deliberately chose the boys for the gardening class from the "duds" among the other boys, boys with whom the average teacher would say it was practically impossible to do anything at all. Reading, writing, arithmetic, composition, drawing—in all these subjects, hopeless. But after a short time in the garden, he finds that such things are essential to successful gardening, and of his own volition, he desires to read in order to discover from the text book given him why his onions are drooping, or his potatoes a failure. He realises that there is something in arithmetic when his rows of parsnips are all over the place, because he failed to measure accurately. That applies to all subjects, reading, writing, arithmetic, and so on. Therefore, I submit that it is a tragedy when you find a path being made into the rural schools for the type of person which seems to be suggested by this type of handicraft instructor who has no idea whatever of teaching. I hope we shall have an assurance from the Minister, before the Debate finishes, that this is not so.

Again, I am alarmed at the idea of the one-year training for teachers. We have had a plea this afternoon for culture, and the hon. Member who last spoke mentioned how essential it is for teachers not to be segregated. I hope that in the near future we shall not have training colleges where those who are trained for a profession shall be thrown into an atmosphere in which teachers only are trained. The atmosphere in which teachers are trained cannot be too wide, and how can we possibly think we are on the way towards that end when we find that this great economy stunt is being practised more and more in education every day? Economy in education is a three-fold tragedy. It is a tragedy for the child, in the first place. Millions of children get the best time of their lives at school, and it is true that the school, as some of the older people know it, is not at all the same sort of place with which we who know the schools of to-day are acquainted. Whereas it used to be that parents had the greatest difficulty in the world in get- ting their children to school, now a teacher often has a complaint from a parent that a child cannot be kept at home, and away from school.

In my 26 years' experience in schools, I have never known the teachers as a whole to be so devoted, and enthusiastic, and keen about their job as they are now. We all know cases of many teachers, not exceptions at all, but average teachers, to whom nothing is too onerous, who do hours and hours of work over and above what they are paid for, and who never question it at all. So long as it is for the good of the children, they never question their hours. Yet here they meet with this rebuff in the present policy of economy. Do not let us forget, either, that the nation will lose tremendously in the long run if this policy is carried out to its logical conclusion. I ask hon. Members opposite (who are not present at the moment) to drop the question of party loyalty. This is a perfectly serious Amendment, and we wish to register our protest against the policy of economy in education. I ask hon. Members opposite to drop their party loyalty for once, and to deal with this question, not merely as people carrying a particular political ticket, but to think of it as parents who are keen to give children the best possible chance. Loyalty to our children is much more important and infinitely more sacred than loyalty to our party.


I want to take up a remark that fell from the hon. Member for Cirencester (Sir T. Davies), who said that what we wanted was one system of education. I was very glad to hear that from an hon. Member on the other side of the House. It is really a fundamental defect of our present educational system that there is such a tremendous difference between the publicly-supported type of education and the education of the private schools. It does, in effect, divide the nation into two classes more effectually than any other single measure could possibly do. I am quite sure the Noble Lady who represents the Board of Education does not desire it, but she must agree that the difference between the educational outlook of those who attend what are called the public schools and those who attend what are called the elementary schools does make them have quite a different point of view, and the real place at which to begin the reconciliation of the people of this country, if it be really desired, is in the schools, and not afterwards, when people are separated by years of different education. These two different systems that we have are shown, perhaps, most clearly when we come to realise the differences that there are between the education of children belonging to the classes whose parents can afford to send them to the public schools, which are, of course, expensive schools, and those whose parents send them to the educational authority-supported schools, and who have to take advantage of what opportunities are provided there.

When one realises that the total number of children who have scholarships and free places in secondary schools, and institutions of a secondary type, including universities, in the whole of London, with its 800,000 children, is only 15,777, it is really a terrible comment on conditions existing at the present time; and when one realises that in a district like that which I represent, which is a very poor district, out of a child population of 36,000 between the ages of five and 14 years, there are only 400 children holding free places in secondary schools, one realises that that is a very low percentage indeed, and in fact, though not in desire and not in intention, perhaps, that is a very terrible class division of the population beginning in the schools. If you will take the calculation still a little further, you will find that when the children are leaving the elementary schools at the age of 14, those in the public schools are just beginning the most important part of their education. Take London. At any time there are 75,000 boys and girls between 13 and 14 attending the elementary schools. A year later that number has not remained the same, but has gone down to 50,000 in all kinds of educational institutions. A year later that 50,000 has gone down to 25,000. Six years later the figure has fallen to 10,000.

What it amounts to is this: The older the elementary school children get, the more and more they fall away. While it is said—although it is not true, except very roughly—that the education of all kinds of children up to the age of 14 is, roughly, the same, from the age of 14 onwards education diverges more and more and stamps that unfortunate difference of class that some of us deplore. Perhaps the Noble Lord the President of the Board of Education may not think it so, but it is so, and this unfortunate difference of class is worked into the minds and fibre of the children of this country. A fortunate child, who goes to Eton and Harrow, has a different mental outlook, quite different from that of the child who is going to work at the age of 14, and who gets what further education he or she can by attending evening institutes. I hope very much, by the way, that these evening institutes and educational institutions of that character will be improved, increased and strengthened. They do not, however, supply the place of a really satisfactory and a really good education.

Realise that in many districts of London there are only about 2 per cent. of the child population attending secondary schools, and hon. Members should feel that that is a figure really which calls for a good deal of alteration. I do not wish to be too utopian in this matter. I know perfectly well that it is quite impossible to radically and immediately change all social conditions and these very terrible divergencies and divisions. But I do think we might equalise the conditions in the secondary schools in the different districts of London. Take, for instance, the district of Lewisham. There are 18.8 per cent. of children attending the secondary schools. In Southwark district, part of which I represent, the figure is 2.3. In Shoreditch the figure is 1.3; in Hampstead 14.5, and in Wandsworth 15.7. There are these divergencies in London. It is well known that these school children are of the type that attend the elementary schools. I do suggest that an endeavour should be made to see that in, say, places like Southwark, Shoreditch, Stoke Newington and other areas of the sort, which have a very low percentage attendance in the secondary schools, that condition ought to be remedied as far as possible at the present time. There is really no occasion for this very serious difference. I should like to go very much further. I want to have one system of education in this country in every sense of the word. I want to see every school in this country open to every child. I do not now exempt from that the schools which are called public schools, or the universities.

In London, following on the Education Act, 1918, a scheme was prepared which actually brought into the sphere of the education authority in London any educational establishment of any importance, I think, with the exception of some six schools. I believe that if the Board of Education had themselves either enough imagination or prevision in this matter, they might bring a large proportion of what are called the public schools inside the ambit of the education authorities and make them available to the children from the elementary schools. Take, for instance, that great school, Eton. It has a great political tradition. A large proportion of the boys who attend that school definitely intend to make politics their career. At the present time there are, for all practical purposes, only two political parties in the country—the Conservative party and the Labour party. There are very few connected with the Labour party who are able to send their boys to Eton, and there are very few boys either in that school who are making towards the Labour party, though probably there are a great many probably making for the Conservative party. I was glad the other night when I was there to see that some of them were not quite so satisfied with the Conservative party as some hon. Members opposite would wish. I should like to see the advantages—such as they are—and there are advantages at Eton—open to any child coming from the schools of Southwark or Shoreditch. The principle of scholarship places and free places, in my judgment, and in the judgment of a large number of other Members of the Labour party who are interested in education, should be extended to schools like Eton, Harrow, and Winchester. If there are any advantages about those schools, they require to be shared in a national pool.

There is another thing which has not been mentioned to-day, although it has been referred to on other occasions. I frequently noticed during the years I was a medical inspector of schools that teachers were a very, very lonely tribe. Teachers live very lonely lives. They go to their schools. They do their work. They go away again and live in their rather isolated little lodgings or little houses, and really never come into contact with the universities, with other teachers, or with people leading wider lives. I do think the Board of Education might make some provision to try to link up the teachers in London and in the big places in the country with the university institutions in the country and make them participators, to a certain extent, in the university life. I recognise it is not at all an easy thing to accomplish.

There is another matter which I wish to mention, that is the question of research. It seems to me that if this were linked up with the educational institutions of the country, if our schools were linked together, the teachers with the universities, and the universities were really linked up with research scholarship, for which at present there is no adequate provision in this country, it would be well. We should then have the opportunity of firing the imagination of the child, and opening up for the child the possibility of showing it more of the greatness and interest of the world. I must confess that I do not share the optimism of the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris). That is not because I have not known the Noble Lord longer than he has, because we have had experience of the Noble Lord when we served on the London County Council with him, and when we were all members of the Education Committee. The Noble Lord always struggles very hard to be a Progressive. But he has the unfortunate condition of his upbringing and origin always dragging him back into reaction. He cannot help it. One only regrets it and is sorry that that should be so. The Noble Lord cannot possibly be progressive however he tries. I must confess that I think the Noble Lady the Parliamentary Secretary has always seemed to be very much more progressive than her Parliamentary chief. But I want to say that we require greater imagination in some of these things, although I do not hope for it from the Noble Lord. I realize, as has been mentioned several times in this Debate to-day, that there is a necessity for a very much better system of education than we have at the present time in order to equip our democracy to tackle the tasks of our national life.

We are no longer a nation ruled by a governing class. We are no longer a nation ruled by a people equipped, however effectively up to a certain limit, at the public school. We are a nation ruled by an immense, democratic many-headed majority; and unless that democracy is really well-educated, in the best sense of the word, we shall not be able to solve the tasks that are coming before us. In the immediate future our tasks are going to be enormous. Our tasks are political tasks, and are difficulties of the mind. Foreign policy is a question of understanding and misunderstanding. Our Empire policy is the same thing. It is really pathetic at the present time to see the rather fettered mind of the Conservative party struggling to express itself in an Empire policy. In home affairs too. Take, for instance, the coal dispute. The whole difficulty of the coal dispute is misunderstanding between the one side and the other, a difficulty accentuated by the education of the two sides, both of them equally badly educated, with the balance against the mineowners who seem to be worse educated than any other class in the community so far as I can make out. But in any case what we want is more and more education and better education. You cannot get that unless you have a really national system which shall take in all the schools and all educational institutions and pool all our educational resources.

For my own part, I shall be glad if we can get a real improvement in the general health in the population. A general improvement in the standard has been going on, although there has been reaction in the last year or two, though probably we may be able to get over that. If we can get a real high level of health, and a really national system of education which will put all to a certain extent on the same level, then, I believe, we shall be able to solve the problems that are before us. Let me emphasise once again this point: That if we are to have in our nation the common mind; if we are to have the possibility of all co-operating together—and people are always talking about that—you must have a common background in the mind of the children of the nation. You cannot have that common background in the mind of the children of the nation unless there is a common school experience through which they have passed. If there are advantages in the great public schools by all means let them have the benefit of them. Do not confine those advantages to the children of the rich. Let us by scholarships and free places open up the mind of the children of the poor. If we do that we shall have, not a complete national system, but at least the beginning of a national system on education.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Dennis Herbert)

Captain Bourne.

Captain BOURNE



On a point of Order. Ought there not to be a Scottish Member called upon? The Scottish Estimates depend entirely upon these Estimates, and we protest because no Scottish Member has taken part in this discussion. Our educational expenditure is dependent upon that of England. I ask you whether a Scottish Member ought not to be called upon?


The hon. Member must not make a speech. This is a matter which depends upon successive Members catching the eye of the occupant of the Chair.

Captain BOURNE

I think those who have been present during to-day's Debate on education and recall other Debates on the same subject will agree that the discussion to-day has dealt much more with education itself than with the dry bones of the subject. Debates in this House are apt to be so taken up with details as to floor space, teachers' salaries and other things that we lose sight of the education itself and forget to ask what is the education we are giving, what it is designed for and whether it is really the best type of education in the interest of all classes of the community. The hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. H. Guest) has made a plea for wider education, and I should like to support that, because I feel it is most important nowadays to teach people to use their brains. It is true that all have not equal brains, but I am sometimes very doubtful whether the present system of education, in either the public or in the elementary schools, is really designed to help us to make the best use of our brains—to teach people to think which, after all, is more important than learning.

In my belief what one learns does not very much matter, but to learn how to learn and to learn how to use the information one gathers is of the utmost importance and, once acquired, will stand by a man throughout life. Those who have had the good fortune to meet people who were educated at public schools many years ago, where they received an education mostly classical, admittedly narrow, and, in the light of our present ideas, very limited, must have been struck with the thoroughness of that education, the way those people remembered the things they had learned in their boyhood days and the very great power they acquired of using their brains. It has seemed to me when I have been brought into contact with people older than myself that their education when at school must have been more thorough and have stood them in far better stead in after-life than mine has done. I think it would be well worth the consideration of my Noble Friend to see whether our present curriculum, our present system, is really the best for getting the most out of the brains of those who go through it. Sometimes I think the tendency of modern education is to teach too many subjects and to teach none of them thoroughly, so that when boys or girls go out into after-life they find that for their own protection and to make their own way in the world they have to sit down and learn something thoroughly, if only their own trade. As the result of the education they have had they do not always find it easy to give in after-life the concentrated attention to their job which is necessary to make a real success of their lives.

Another point which is also worth attention is whether our education, in many of its branches, is that most adapted to the needs of the nation. It struck me very much during my time at Oxford that very few of my contemporaries intended to take up afterwards what I may call productive work. The tendency of most of them was to go into the Civil Service, to go into merchants' offices; very few whom I knew intended to take up a career which would mean contact with all classes of their fellow-creatures and the production of something for the use of the community. That tendency appears to be general and is not confined to the great universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Whether it is a result of our modern education, I do not know, though I rather suspect it is, but there is a tendency to look at the clerical side of life as being of more importance and better than the manual, to look upon a man who does useful work in an office as nobler and greater than a man who labours with his hands and produces things which are essential to the community. I think we ought to show a little more bias towards the productive side and make people realise that the man who produces something is doing a greater national service than the man who merely sits and writes. We want to feel that there is no snobbishness in their relations one to the other, but that all are bound together and doing useful work for the nation, and that the man who takes up a productive career is a great asset to this country. Especially do we want to encourage those whose brains are above the average to go in for a productive career rather than, shall I say, a purely sedentary career. I do not wish to weary the Committee, but I did wish to make these few points.


As a preliminary to my other remarks I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that the grants for higher education are down this year by £532,500. Local authorities were very much frightened as to what that might mean. The Memorandum states that On the other hand, exceptional relief, amounting to rather more than £500,000, is obtained in this year's estimate by a retardation of the instalments of grants to local authorities for higher education. That is an entirely new departure in budgeting I know that the financial year and the education year do not coincide, and that, in consequence, some part of the Budget of one year is always made up of the grants for another calendar year; but this is a transfer from one Budget year to another. The money which in normal circumstances would be spent in these estimates has been deferred to next year. The retardation of payments is a device well known in private life. Many people who find money a little tight have an ingenious expedient of paying a little on account; but this is a quite new financial proceeding for this House to adopt. If it became general, any Chancellor of the Exchequer might make his Budget look extremely pretty by deferring 10, 20, 30, 40 or 50 per cent. of what should properly be paid in one year to the following year; but it would be a very bad financial proceeding If other Ministers imitated the President of the Board of Education, Parliament would be pledging the revenues of the following year, which, I think, is an altogether unheard-of financial expedient. I thought I ought to draw attention to this novelty in finance.

Now I come to what I rose to say. The Board of Education has been engaged in a plan, and have been partially successful, to reduce the number and the qualifications of the teachers. I know that when the Board of Education writes to a local authority it merely asks for a general reduction in the Estimates, but the Board knows better than anybody else how predominant is the cost of teachers' salaries in educational expenditure. Taking the average cost of elementary education for children at £233 per head, £166 represents payment to teachers. One cannot possibly make a great reduction in the items which go to make up the remaining £66 and leave untouched the £166. With the reduction in the numbers of teachers the Minister has already achieved an appreciable success, though the point was a little obscured by his taking the date 25th March for the purposes of comparison. The truth of the matter is this: During the election the Minister made most beautiful speeches about education, and repeated those speeches for six months or more after the election, and during that time local authorities believed that the great doctrine of continuity held sway. Local authorities went on increasing their staffs until 30th September, 1925. The Minister of Education changed his attitude about that time. Staffs had increased from the 31st December, 1923, up to 165,997 teachers in September, 1925. In that quarter they began to fall. One hundred and seventy or so teachers went off in that quarter, and in the next quarter 408 teachers went off. We were told to-day, in answer to a question, that 84 education authorities were recently told to reduce their teaching staff.

That is the drop in quantity; but what is much more dangerous is the drop in quality. I say the new Code has deliberately prepared the way for the substitution of uncertificated teachers for certificated teachers. The old Code laid it down that the uncertificated teacher was not to be in charge of a class of more than 30; that if there were a group of 70 children in a school, one at least of the teachers was to be certificated. The new Code wipes that away. It is perfectly competent for education authorities, if they get the blessing of the Board of Education, to substitute uncertificated for certificated teachers on a very great scale, and in that way, without altering the size of classes, they can make a larger saving in salaries than by almost any other means. The last President but two of the Board of Education allowed that very thing to happen in London. Under the pressure of the Geddes axe London was allowed to employ, in the infants' schools of London, persons who were utterly unqualified, except that they had had six weeks' intensive training; and to my knowledge those persons were put in charge of classes of well over 30.

When I see steps taken to do precisely the same thing as was done under the last spasm of economy, I cannot but feel that this sweeping away of the restrictions upon uncertificated and supplementary teachers is a planned thing, and can only be taken in conjunction with the exhortations to education authorities to reduce expenditure. I know of nothing more cruel than to tempt unqualified persons into the Service. We shall, I believe, one day have a forward policy in education, and the first thing that will be done will be to try to replace these people by certificated teachers. It is a necessary operation, but it is a horrible and a cruel one. I know, because I had something to do with the re-staffing of the voluntary schools after the Act of 1902, and there could be nothing more distressing than knowing that what you were doing meant taking the bread out of the mouth of a perfectly respectable person, whose only fault was that she had not been properly educated. That is one of the most painful things that any education authority can undertake.

We are to have stabilisation of teachers. That means saying good-bye to our hopes for education in the next four or five years. We are not in the position of being able to get children to stop on in school after the age of 14. In nearly all urban districts the spread of population has left convenient classrooms where one could have separate classes for the boys of 13 and 14 and could keep the boys of 14 to 15 in school. One of the most important things to be done just now is to induce boys of 14 who are not likely to find a job to stay on at school. We had a system by which scholarships could be given in the elementary schools for children over 15. We ought, I think, to renew that system, but all those proposals are useless if we have not got teachers. We could do a great deal more for the education of the older pupils, and everybody who knows the schools knows that to be a most desirable and needful thing. By means of scholarships we could do a great deal to keep out of the streets all the juveniles who have not got a job and who go into the streets of our great urban centres and. in most cases, undergo a serious intellectual and moral deterioration. Just now we can make, from the material circumstances of the urban districts, a great step forward in reform. Teachers are not made in a day. If we check the supply of qualified teachers, it will take us four or five years to undo the mischief which the present President of the Board of Education has been doing. I have never seen a time when education authorities all over the country have been so distressed an so angry at the falsification of the hopes with which they started in 1925.

8.0 P.M.


This is not a very exciting occasion, apparently, judging by the empty benches, to attempt to say anything upon the important subject of education, and I do not intend, in the circumstances, to occupy the time of the Committee for more than, I hope, a few minutes. But, as a business man, reading the Education Estimates now before the Committee, I see that in 1926, compared with 1913–14, the Estimates have trebled, and I ask myself, as everyone must ask himself, do we get three times the value we did in 1913–14? I cannot see it. I see that the national expenditure amounts to £44,000,000, and the total expenditure on education to £76,000,000. There is no one in this country who appreciates education more than I do, but I cannot help thinking that some our friends on the Opposition benches believe that it is only by extravagance that you can get efficiency—at least, that is the impression I have gathered from some of the remarks I have heard to-day. For that £76,000,000, there are 4,900,000 children to be looked after.

Some remarks have been made to-day about the educational system in America. I had the pleasure of going through the Washington Irving School of New York, which is largely a technical school. Because the Technical Education Vote is so small to-day, America has been given as an example of what ought to be done. At the Washington Irving School, they have the finest equipment that can possibly be imagined, and they have the very best teachers; but it should be borne in mind by all those who compare the American system with the system here, that at that particular school they work three relays, beginning at 8 o'clock in the morning, and finishing very late at night. It is mostly attended by people who are engaged in business. There is one great difference between the after school idea in this country and that in America. It is that a youth goes into business in the United States of America to get on, and he means to get on, and he uses the technical school as a means of helping him to get on. The same remark, I think, might apply, to a very large extent, to our friends from Scotland and the North of England, who come to London with a firm determination to succeed. We ought not to rely upon State education. We should study that which we know is going to help us in business, and one of the great troubles I find, in dealing with schools and interesting myself in schools, as I do in London to-day, is the lack of utility education—call it vocational, if you like—enabling first and foremost a youth to earn a decent living. There is a great deal going on in the schools to-day which one might call spoon-feeding. We have heard from one hon. Member opposite, who has been a schoolmaster, of his experience of schools, and how the children are not getting what is essential for them in order to make their way in the world. That is my experience to-day.

A little while ago we issued a Circular, No. 1371, on block grants. I know the Minister has tried his best to give value for money, by getting local education authorities, if they wish to increase superficial education, to pay for that part over and above what it is reasonable for the State to expend. But if we treble our expenditure in 10 years, what are we going to do in the next 10 years? My feeling is that the country is in such a position that it cannot afford extravagance of any kind. There is, unfortunately, in connection with our educational system, a great deal of political jugglery, and I think the educational system of the country is being used as a political weapon, not altogether by one side. Business, unfortunately, is being treated as a somewhat low profession, instead of being the backbone of the country. We ought to study on every possible occasion to get real value for all the money we spend. I believe in equal opportunities for all. I think that all youths in this country should have equal opportunity, but it is no good thinking that they are all equally energetic, that they are all equally possessed of brains, because they obviously are not, and to spend money equally on all alike after 14 years of age, when they either will not or cannot use their brains for the benefit of themselves or their country, is simply wasting money, and wasting it badly. I heard the hon. Member for North Southwark (Mr. H. Guest) to-night express the hope that the children at the various schools might have the advantage of the public school and the university. There is one thing, however, to remember, and that is, that when one has passed a certain age in life—14 or 15 years if you like—first and foremost utility must be considered.

Education should be directed towards some object or aim in life. Education in its basic sense to-day, as the Headmaster of Rugby said a little while ago, should be to open the pores of the mind to the impressions of experience. That is a very good description of what education should be. There are youths who, after getting certificates to pass them on to higher schools, forget the main object in life, and gradually find themselves, at the age of 21, what one might call educational derelicts in life. I was talking to a man in Canada a little while ago on that very subject. He was a man connected with education in the Free State, and he ventured to say he was a specimen of that class, because when he left the university, he did not know which way to turn or what to do; in other words, he lost sight of any vocation that might have come his way until too late. He was too proud and too big to start at the bottom in an office and work his way up, because the boys from the public elementary schools, who had begun at the beginning, had passed the stage where he could reasonably expect to start.

Misguided education is one of our troubles. I do not think anyone on these benches would object to spending money which could be spent wisely and well. There is nobody, I think, who, in reason, objects to paying teachers well, and who would not do everything to encourage the children in the very best possible way to make the best citizens. Teach them what Sir James Barrie wrote—courage and honesty. Before you can effectively study the principles of co-partnership and general peace and well-being in business, you must have courage, you must have honesty and you must have education, but it must be education of the right common sense sort. As long as we carry our system of education on a utility basis by the use of technical schools, and teach youths how to earn their living as a primary object, we shall be properly using our money, and using it for the benefit of the individual as well as the State. I know it is very unpleasant to see these constant increases in the Estimates, especially in these difficult days, but if money be spent wisely, no reasonable person will object. But I believe a great deal of our money is spent, not to the best advantage. It is the President's duty—and I hope he will pursue it to the utmost possible extent—to find out those avenues through which money is wasted, and have the courage and determination on each and every occasion to cut it off ruthlessly without fear and without favour.


I hope the Noble Lady will have enjoyed the speech delivered from the almost empty benches behind her a little while ago, and I hope when she is contemplating the very difficult problem of how to bring the Noble Lord the President of the Board of Education back to the path of rectitude in educational policy, and wanting to keep him there, if an Under-Secretary might be of use to her, she will know where to look for that individual. I regret I was not able to hear the whole of the Noble Lord's speech this afternoon, on account of an important Committee upstairs, but I gather he has not had anything to say this afternoon about adult education in relation to general policy. I would therefore like to draw attention to that aspect of the Board's work, and, for that reason, I will spend no time in following up the various lines of criticism with regard to elementary and secondary education, which has been the main feature of the discussion to-day I would only say one thing, in passing, with regard to that more general aspect of education, and that is with regard to the problem which has been raised again and again this afternoon—

It being a quarter-past Eight of the Clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.

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