HC Deb 24 March 1927 vol 204 cc611-713

I offer no apology for taking this early opportunity of recalling the attention of the House to the whole question of the administration of education. It is a source of steady and continued anxiety to those who are interested in education, to the local authorities, and, more than anything else, to the teaching profession. The more they see of the present administration, the less they like it. We have had this year one Debate already, which turned largely on the action of the right hon. Gentleman, which was typical of his methods. A report was recently issued from a most expert committee on the education of the adolescent, and, before studying that report, the right hon. Gentleman rushed into print with a repudiation of the principal proposal put forward, which was that the school age should be raised to 15. It was evident that on that occasion there was considerable disappointment on the other side of the House as well as on this side at the action taken by the President of the Board of Education. He seems to take a special pleasure in running counter to the opinions of the educational world.

Since then, another Report, to which I must refer for a moment, has come up for consideration—the Report of the Malcolm Committee on Education in Industry. This Committee made a recommendation to hand over from the Board of Education the whole administration of juvenile unemployment to the Ministry of Labour. Here was a case where it might have been expected that the Board of Education would have hesitated before permitting its powers to be circumscribed. On this Committee the one educationist reported against the proposal, and all the education authorities, every one connected with education, the Executive Committee of the Association of Education Committees, the Education Committee of the County Councils' Association, the Education Committee of the Association of Municipal Corporations, all passed resolutions protesting strongly against the Committee's recommendation of transfer to the Ministry of Labour. Yet the Government have decided to surrender the powers of the right hon. Gentleman's Department to the Minister of Labour. I presume that the right hon. Gentleman has acquiesced in that, and sees no great objection to it. This is the kind of spirit of detraction and derogation of his own Department which seems to me to be very unfortunate.

But I come now GO the larger issue. We have had long enough to survey and understand the permanent character of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman. It has taken many forms, but the spirit has always been the same—a passion for economy. It suits a few people. It began with a blare of trumpets in the great economy Circular No. 1371, in December, 1925. That Circular was found to have no friends anywhere, except perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it was withdrawn. Then came Memorandum No. 44. That was superseded because it had a great deal more against it than the normal political opposition. These Circulars had the utter disapproval of at least half of the hon. Gentlemen who addressed the House when the matter came up for discussion here. They had the disapproval of the whole of the educational world. So the right hon. Gentleman dropped Part I of his policy, which was wholesale restriction of expenditure on education. That policy had failed. The right hon. Gentleman has fallen back to a more cunning and detailed niggardliness, which we have now to discuss. What is the character of Part 2 of his policy under which we are now living? Last year he took in hand the Code of Regulations governing elementary schools, and he simplified it. There is not much harm in simplification in itself, but what it did in fact was to abolish all the old standard requirements of local education authorities. Of course, anyone who has had to do with the administration of the Code in times past is well aware that some of those requirements were not definite enough, that some of them exacted from the education authorities too low a standard. There was no reason why those requirements should not have been altered and strengthened and raised. Instead of that, they have been swept away. Take the question of the staffing of schools. All that the present Code lays down is this: The authority must maintain an approved establishment of suitable teachers for their areas, and must satisfy the Board, if required, as to its distribution. That is all. The whole thing is left entirely vague. If there is one thing that is required more than another in administration, it is to take special eases, to take individual schools which are below standard, and to see that they are brought up This adopts a policy which only requires an authority to deal with their schools as a wholes, and does not require from them any definite standard with regard to individual schools. I dare say it may be said that a standard has been reached below which it is not likely that the local authority will drop. But who is to see about that? We are to depend entirely, not upon any standard which is accepted by Parliament, but upon a quite vague discretion of the Department. I say that that is going the wrong way. We want to be more precise and more definite in our requirements as to a minimum national standard. Take building. All the detailed building requirement? have been swept away, all the special requirements as to what floor space there ought to be, what playground space there ought to be, and what lavatory accommodation there ought to be. That is gone, and a quite vague phrase is inserted— The. premises of a school must be sufficient, convenient and healthy. That is to say, the local authorities are now left to build as they please, and, in the case of authorities that do not want a high standard, to try it on with the Board, and it will depend upon the discretion, care and efficiency of the Board whether any standard at all is maintained. This is done, I understand, in the name of freedom for the local authority. Freedom for the local authority, of course, is a platitudinous phrase which is liable to lure people into satisfaction. The Code Regulations were never a restriction on local authorities to do well; they never prevented local authorities from doing well with their obligations. The existence of a minimum standard did not prevent experiment on the part of local authorities in good school building or in superior staffing. The local authorities are no freer to-day than they were before this, no freer to make improvements. The only thing that they are freer to do is to do ill, to remain laggard, to relax their standards, to spend less. The definite guarantees have gone, and the only guarantee that remains is the inspection and the enforcement of views of the Board of Education. Everything now depends on the supervision of the Board. I would like the House to notice this.

4.0 p.m.

This new policy coincides with a very serious weakening in the effective administration of the machinery of the Board. During the last year or two there has been a very serious pruning of the office staff and also of the inspectorate. With the office staff partly dismantled and the inspectorate decreasing, the Board have now a more absolute authority than they ever had before. They are working without standards, and this is the moment when they ought to have been strengthened and made more efficient rather than less efficient and weaker. To my mind, the tendency of the right hon. Gentleman is a practical abdication of the most important function of the Board of Education, which is that of pushing on with national standards of efficiency in. education. It is a substitution of a new role, that of thwarting progress and discouraging experiments. What is the latest circular that has been issued. Circular 1388? It is very difficult to understand, and it is admittedly very difficult to say how that circular is likely to operate. But it does reveal the main objective of the Administration. It is not freedom for the local education authorities; it is restriction and limitation.

This circular, like all the other circulars issued by the right hon. Gentleman, is a limiting circular. It says so in perfectly plain words. It is for the purpose of limiting standards. There are a series of restrictions. As far as I can understand it, it is an attempt at automatic restriction to a kind of average in a series of directions. In the case of administration and other elementary expenditure, it is expected to be coffined to 45s. per head of average attendance at public elementary schools, and I think the right hon. Gentleman has said that the average expenditure on these things, taking the whole of England, is 43s. l1d. Therefore, not much harm is going to be done. He is giving 45s., and the average is 43s. l1d. Yes, but there are 72 areas which spend more than 45s., and of course they are the best areas. Most of them are the most active-minded and progressive authorities. The right hon. Gentleman laughs, but he knows perfectly well, exactly as I do, that year after year since the Geddes cuts began these particular things he is trying to restrict further by this 45s. limit are the very things which have been cut and cut until they cannot be cut any more. I suppose anybody who is interested in education is perfectly well aware of the restrictions on the opportunities of teachers resulting from the very small allowance which even in the best of places they are able to give for books, stationery, and that sort of thing. It is wretchedly low. That is one of the things which is going to be cut by this limitation. The ordinary school repairs come under this head. Arc the local authorities, as a rule, extravagant in the matter of heating the schools—in the expenditure on coal? That is not my experience up in Northumberland, which is not an extravagant authority. I do not think that there is any real case for this restriction.

The point on which I want to insist is that the restriction is operating on the better authorities and is a restriction on improvement. It is freedom to the inferior local authorities to go on giving an inadequate supply of these things, but it is a restriction on the better authorities and an attempt to make them give a less good supply. What is the consequence? The right hon. Gentleman will tell me that this is not a rigid limitation. Of course, it is not a rigid limitation. These standards are not to be regarded as fixed and invariable minima. It means that local authorities which come above the standard have got to come up in forma pauperis to the Board of Education and have got to stand on the doorstep of the Board to get an audience. If they have sufficient political pressure or a strong enough personality in the Chairman of their Committee, they will very likely be able to get what they want, but, if they are not determined, their expenditure will be cut down. Those who do not want to spend will have the excuse of saying: "We are above the standard of the Board of Education, and we are not going to press for any further expenditure."

I am extremely sorry that I was totally unable to rear the right hon. Gentleman's reply with regard to secondary education restrictions to-day. There was so much interesting tumult-going on that I could not hear what he had to say about Bradford and Durham. Perhaps he would not mind amplifying his reply when he speaks. I do not like this other provision limiting further expenditure on secondary education to £25 per additional pupil. I have got from one local authority figures which have been corrected under the supervision of the right hon. Gentleman. As a matter of fact, his correction has not made very much difference. The corrected figures produce this result, that in Surrey. which after all is a Conservative local authority and a local authority which does care about education and is doing a great deal for secondary education the result, they maintain, will be that they will be £2,000 down owing to the new regulations of the right hon. Gentleman. It is a very serious matter if local authorities that are trying to do their best for secondary education are to find themselves in every way discouraged from making any further provision, and, although I have not had time to look at them closely, yet it seems to me that the Estimates this year show that the right hon. Gentleman is succeeding and is practically putting a stop to the expansion of education which began as the result of the changes which were brought forward during the Labour Government. The new policy is having this effect. Its intention was to stop expenditure on education, and its result has been to stop any increased expenditure on education. There never has been so widespread a keenness as there is at the present lime throughout the country, to get on with education, but, if you want to get on with education, you have to pay for it. It is no use supposing that it can be done for nothing.

Take one subject, the question of the education of adolescents. I do not very much like the word "adolescents," but children from 14 to 16. Everybody is impressed by the waste of child life and child energy in children going prema- turely into industry. Everybody is impressed with the absurdity of every year sending 500,000 children out into industry when we have 1,500,000 unemployed. Everybody is asking—everybody does not give the same reply, and the right hon. Gentleman does not give the same reply that we do—whether we cannot raise the school age, whether we cannot build secondary schools, and whether we cannot give maintenance grants to make it easier for parents to keep their children at school. Everybody knows that you cannot begin dealing with the question of these children just over the school age unless you spend money and unless you are ready to spend it tolerably freely in different directions.

What ought the Board of Education to be doing? We maintain that it ought not to be issuing economy circular after economy circular, but it ought to be dealing with things like the black-listed schools. There are 623 schools that have been absolutely condemned and which have not been replaced, and we were told in an answer the other day that they have 160,000 children in them. In making this list of really insanitary and unsatisfactory schools which could not be tolerated any longer, the Board adopted a very moderate and merciful standard. That was deliberately done. I know it because the standard was laid down when I was at the Board. Yet there are 600 schools which have been absolutely condemned by any conceivable standard that we have got. In a reply which we had the other day, we were told that some provision had been made in the case of provided schools. I have not the words here, but it was hoped that arrangements had been made for dealing with most of them. I should like a few more details with regard to them. But it was also made abundantly clear that in the case of what must be the majority of these schools, mainly, the non-provided schools, practically nothing had been done. I should have thought that it was the business of the Board of Education, not to issue circular after circular telling the local authorities that they ought to economise, but rather to have been pressing mercilessly the local authorities during the 2½ years which the right hon. Gentleman has been at the Board to get on with replacing these schools, most of which ought to have been replaced before the War began. That is our idea of what the Board of Education ought to be doing. It should be bringing pressure to bear on local authorities to reduce the size of classes. Last year, in July, I got an answer from the right hon. Gentleman which let me know that there were then still 21,332 classes with over 50 children on the roll.

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

Was it not the year before?


Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us at what it stands now. I shall be much surprised if it is under 20,000 now but I shall be glad to hear what is the figure. I am perfectly aware that the right hon. Gentleman does not like these large classes; he has said so and we all give him credit for disliking the fact of other people's children being brought up in classes which, I think, he would consider unsatisfactory for his own. But from all we know about the pressure which is being put upon local authorities by the Board of Education, the pressure is being put upon those authorities who have a high standard to start with, to induce them to increase the classes and lower the staffs which they have at present. We have had many cases in which local authorities have complained that the right hon. Gentleman has been making protests to them that their staffing is too good. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has written as many letters telling local authorities that some of these 20,000 classes containing over 50 children should be reduced in size. The right hon. Gentleman ought to have been waging a campaign of that kind for the last 2i years. If he had spent his time denouncing these classes and stirring up the local authorities in this matter it would have been a good thing; but you cannot do it, if all you care about is economy. If you are going to bring down the size of these 20,000 classes, you will have to employ more teachers and that is quite incompatible with the economy campaign which the right hon. Gentleman has made his own and his principal purpose.

The truth is the Board of Education cannot play two roles. It is bound to make a choice. It can act as a Department of the Treasury and, if economy is its primary motive, then education can- not progress very much. If education is to be regarded as a luxury, only to be indulged in during good times and when the nation is industrially prosperous, you have to discourage enterprise and expansion in local education authorities. It is that general attitude which we combat. We radically disapprove of it. We think that the President of the Board of Education who follows that policy is a sheep dog worrying the flock which he ought to be defending. The other course, which is incompatible with that course, is that the Board of Education should be the patron of progressive authorities and of educational extension. We have never for a moment attempted to conceal the fact that such a course means very considerable and at times very rapid expansion of the national expenditure. We are prepared for it. We believe that that is the attitude which the Board of Education ought to adopt. It was the attitude which we adopted—I do not mean merely myself but my colleagues as well—and my right hon. Friend who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer was quite ready to allow and to encourage a steady expansion which, under our system, would have gone on to this day. He was prepared for that and we were all prepared for it. We wish to return, and I am certain if we get a chance we shall return to that idea of the duties of the Board of Education.


I wish to discuss Circular 1388 and also the fruits of the Minister's policy in the constituency which I represent. Circular 1388 is a very difficult subject. The Board of Education has learned a certain protective cunning and the chief instrument which it uses to protect itself is obscurity of language. I know of no circulars more difficult to understand than the circulars of the Board of Education and none in which the English language is more discreetly used for the purpose of covering up the facts. The circulars of the Board improve from year to year in this respect, and I think this one is, of all, the most difficult to understand. My first general point is that the Board has adopted the financial heresy of the unitary system with regard to an important part of educational expenditure. It has applied a standard of 45 shillings maximum to what it calls "Administrative and other expenses." That is a very happy phrase. You cannot excite a great public audience-about "Administrative and other Expenses," but the Board have lumped into that item a number of things which are extremely important. I hope the Minister will tells us what he means by administrative and other expenses but, as far as I can find out from a study of the accounts, it includes repairs to buildings, fuel, light, cleaning, books, equipment, rates and taxes and also the expenses of swimming, school journeys, organised games, educational libraries, the conveyance of children for training in cooking and such matters. There is quite a long list of such matters included under the heading "Administrative and other Expenses." The unitary system applied to the greater part of that expenditure is thoroughly fallacious.

I take the upkeep of school buildings and the rates and taxes. How far is that expenditure voluntary or not? The upkeep and repair of school buildings and the rates and taxes paid upon the buildings, both of which are very important items, depend upon the proportion of provided to non-provided schools in the district concerned. As in provided schools you have to do all the upkeep, and as in non-provided schools you have only to provide for fair wear and tear, there is a great difference in that very important item according to the number of voluntary schools in a district. For example, London has 20 per sent. of non-provided schools, whereas Manchester has 42 per cent.; Hull, 30 per cent.; Sheffield, 23 per cent.; and Wiltshire, 78 per cent. That is the first reason why the unitary system is inapplicable to every area and why the average is an injustice. The second point is that districts where the population is either growing or decreasing have to pay a very great deal more on their school buildings on their attendance officers and on unkeep than others. Everybody knows that repairs to a school are not diminished by the fact that the attendance has fallen, say, by 40 per cent. You cannot close a school on account of depopulation until the depopulation has reached a very considerable extent. For administrative and other expenses a half empty school is nearly as expensive as a school which is quite full. In the same way. when you have a new district developing you have to build three or four years ahead and make your arrangements beforehand for the growth of the district.

We find that London is suffering both from a decrease in the number of children and from an increase in the number of children. If the number is going down very rapidly in certain areas, at the same time in selected districts, particularly where the London County Council has its housing estates, you have new schools going up and increased expenditure. Generally speaking, with a movement out-wards from the centre such as you have in nearly every industrial city, the number of children on the outskirts is doubled and they leave half empty schools behind them to go to new schools. That is the reason why the unitary system is grossly unfair. Where you have, as in London, 20 per cent, of non-provided schools, and where you have, as in Wiltshire, 78 per cent. non-provided; where you have a mobile and increasing population as in London, and, what I believe is a stationary population in Wiltshire, then to estimate so much per head per child is unfair. To take the average for England and apply that to all administrative and other expenses is to adopt a system which every educational authority has declared to the Board to be the wrong way. London is still negotiating with the Board of Education. London has 80 shillings per head in administrative and other expenses. It will be a pretty thing for the ratepayers of London if their 80 shillings per head is reduced to 45 shillings. That is the foreshadowed cut. They are still negotiating on the matter but I recommend the consideration of that foreshadowed cut to everybody who either represents London or is a ratepayer in London. It is a very big thing indeed and I hope the Minister will have some kind words to say to us, in promising that he will take into consideration the special difficulties of London.

Further, the heading "Other Expenses" include the bulk of those amenities of education which cost so little in themselves but which are so stimulating to the minds of the children. For example, school journeys for educational purposes, if I understand the Board's accounts are included in "Other Expenses." It is a very little thing, to pay for the conveyance of children to see sights which enlarge and expand their minds. Every Member of the House knows about the educational visits to this House. Every Member who has taken parties round knows that for the children to come here to the centre of government, introduces a very useful impression into the minds of those who are the future citizens of the country. Swimming and many other little extras which are so good for the children will be cut down under this proposal because, of course, obviously you cannot cut down repairs to buildings, and you cannot cut down rates and taxes —I wish one could. It will be on these other little things that the cut will be made. This business of trying to take the costs of education and add them up is a thing which Board after Board has tried to do and which the authorities have uniformly repulsed. It is not a proper way of calculating the cost, because there is so large an element which the local authorities cannot help.

I wish to speak now of the administration of education in East Ham. East Ham has a very good Education Committee. It is not a Labour committee, if it were it would be a little better, but still it is a good and very careful committee. This district is honourably distinguished by a very high demand for secondary education—I know of no district where the unsatisfied desire for secondary education is greater—but the times are hard and rates are high, and the Education Committee have spent painful hours in working out a scheme by which superior education could be given in the elementary schools. They worked out a very ingenious scheme so to reorganise most of the schools that there shall be junior schools and senior schools instead of having schools with junior and elder departments. That is a very difficult bit of organisation, but the advantage to education in proportion to the cost is enormous, because by keeping together the junior children and keeping together the senior children you can have more classes and better classification and do a very great deal to improve what is the weakest part of our elementary education system, the education of the children between 13 and 14. Thoughtful parents continually say, "The last year at school does not do them much good." That is true in many schools where you have pupils of 13 years in the same class with those of 12. The children get dis- couraged and they lose the benefit of what should be the most fruitful year.

To avoid that East Ham planned a very elaborate scheme for the re-arrangement of the children so as to be able to have separate classes for children in their 13th to 14th year. To do that they wanted to build a central school and another elementary school. The whole re-organisation was very complicated. Now the Minister has turned that down. There cannot be any extra building. There cannot be an extra elementary school.


So far as I know we have approved the re-organisation of the elementary schools.


You have approved of a re-organisation, but you have forbidden the building of the new school which was necessary to such re-organisation—


indicated dissent.


Yes; yes. A letter was sent the other day. The letter was before the East Ham Council. The Minister has forgotten. If he will ask his officials he will know that they have refused approval of the building of an elementary school, which will upset the whole scheme. Is the Minister going to let us have that school?


I will reply later.


This is very joyful news. It is a great surprise to me. If we are going to have that school and have the central school, we shall hold meetings of congratulation to the Minister. I am infinitely touched, I am infinitely delighted, and the moment I sit down I shall get on the telephone and tell East Ham that the whole thing is a misunderstanding, that the Minister has entirely repented, and that we are to have the two schools and the re-organisation which will make our scheme possible.


The hon. Lady the Member for North East Ham (Miss Lawrence, who has just sat down is, I suppose, one of the greatest authorities on education in the country. I remember her in her early days, when she was a hide-bound Tory, and I think that what converted her to different views was contact with education. Anyone coming into contact with the realities of education cannot ulti- mately help having his sympathies broadened. I hope the Noble Lord the President of the Board of Education, as he gains more experience in education, will also undergo a metamorphosis—that his views will become wider, more human and more sympathetic, and that perhaps he will follow the example of the hon. Lady the Member for North East Ham (Miss Lawrence). Daring the last two and a-half years his views have been very fluid. Whatever quarrel we may have with him, no one can say he has been consistent. He will be known as the "Circular Minister," I suppose he has sent out more circulars than any of his predecessors. The other day I suggested that they should be bound in book form. They would provide interesting reading. I do not know whether the President studies them himself, but certainly he would get profit from doing so. He started well. In his earlier circulars he was not slow to express opinions; he was very ready to rush into print. In Circular 1358, dated 31st March, 1925, he said: There is now a general agreement that continuity of educational development is essential. Those are very sound principles, but unfortunately the right hon. Gentleman has not been constant to them. I am not going to remind him of all his circulars, because that would be wearying to the House and rather trying to him, but I am concerned about one in particular. In that very same circular he dealt with the important and delicate problem of special schools and the training of those most pathetic children, the mentally defective. When he was in favour of a continuity of policy he said: My obligation is to ensure that every provision should be made for the ascertainment and treatment of children suffering from incurable infirmities, or infirmities the effect of which can in some measure be mitigated by special teaching, so that they may not become a permanent burden on the community to which they belong. Those are very excellent sentiments in principle. After the lapse of two years the right hon. Gentleman changes his attitude. In his latest Circular, No. 1388, dated February of this year, he has discovered that the whole subject needs inquiring into. He says: In regard to the provision for mentally defective children authorities will be aware that this very difficult problem is now being explored by a special Committee, and save in exceptional circumstances it would not seem desirable to incur any expenditure on new schools, and such children ought to be provided for in existing schools. What a pity he did not think of that two years ago. What a pity he did not appoint a committee of inquiry then, if he were not conversant with the problem; it would have saved a lot of time had he gone into the matter earlier.


A Committee was appointed by my predecessor.


The right hon. Gentleman ought to have been conscious of that when he sent out his Circular in 1925. He suddenly remembers this Committee in 1927, when he wishes to make an excuse for discouraging local authorities to do their duty in providing for these most pathetic cases. We see very much the same kind of attitude with regard to the education of the adolescent. When the monumental report on that subject first saw the light the right hon. Gentleman, with his usual haste, at once rushed into print to inform the public that he was not prepared to accept their recommendations, after mentioning in parenthesis that he had not yet read the report. It was a discouragement to those very able persons who had given so much time to the production of that remarkable report. If he had spent more time in reading some of those reports instead of writing voluminous Circulars it would have been better for education, and perhaps better for his reputation. A few weeks later, following his Circular process, for which he is becoming notorious, we found that be had had time to think better of it, and I notice that at a meeting at the Middlesex Guildhall yesterday he made a very interesting and, if he will allow me to say so, a very excellent speech. A funny thing about the President is that he alternates between being a good President and a bad President. Sometimes he comes out as a forward and progressive educationist, and the next week he comes out as the mere handmaid of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It may be that the Chancellor reads his speeches and has him brought into his sanctum, where he is rapped over the knuckles as a naughty boy and has to wear a white sheet and withdraw the statement he made the night before.

I hope this speech, which appears in the "Times" this morning, will escape the notice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In that speech, which I hope is correctly reported, the President says The local authorities should do all in their power to make it worth while for the average child to continue his or her education up to the age of 15. Those are excellent sentiments, and for my part I should have no very serious quarrel with the Board if those were their intentions. But it is no use the Board putting the whole responsibility on the local authorities. If the local authorities are to do their duty they must be certain not only of the sympathy, but of the substantial financial co-operation, of the Board. If the local authorities do all in their power to make it worth while for children to continue their education up to the age of 15, will the Board foot the bill; will a percentage of the cost be found by the Board? We would like to have enlightenment on that point.

It would be out of order on the Consolidated Fund Bill to go into all the details contained in this report, because they involve legislation, and I am not going to attack the Minister for anything he has or has not done in foreshadowing legislation. With a little encouragement great things can be done to help the education of the adolescent under the legislation already on the Statute Book, under the great Act of 1918. That Act gave power to local authorities to require the attendance at school of children between the ages of 14 and 15, and it also gave them the option of exempting them when they are employed in certain specified occupations. It is common knowledge that only two local authorities have taken advantage of these provisions, and I am informed that those authorities have given very liberal exemptions. The advantage of that is obvious. It has enabled local authorities to get control of the young people after they leave school. That is required more than anything else. If children are going into a trade or occupation, where they will learn a craft, and be well looked after, where they are going to be so trained that when they become adults they will be useful citizens, it is not a bad thing if they leave school at 14. But the tragedy of our industrial life is that thousands of children who leave school at 14, under the pressure of economic necessity, go into unskilled trades, into blind-alley occupations, are employed from 14 to 16, and then thrown on the economic scrap heap, become unemployable without any skill or training, of no use to the industrial organisation of society, and ultimately swell the great ranks of the unemployed, and very often, I am afraid, become unemployable.

That is the tragedy which this House has to face, and to face now, because it is going on under our very eyes. If the President of the Board of Education, who is responsible for our educational organisation, would encourage local authorities to take advantage of the Act of 1918, and raise the age to 15, allowing them under its provisions to give exemptions in cases where it can be shown that the child has a chance of a really beneficial or useful occupation, then the cost will be comparatively small, and the needs of the case will be largely met. But the right hon Gentleman has got to do his part. He cannot shift the whole responsibility upon the local authorities. That is not fair and, unless the Board is to find the money, to bear its fair share of the cost, such a scheme is not practicable. I say that that is the kind of way in which the President of the Board of Eucation can shoulder his repsonsibilities.

There is one other thing to which I would like to refer. I have questioned the right hon. Gentleman on one or two occasions as to what he is doing for technical education. I have asked him about the Committee. He informed me that the Committee was composed of friends of mine and was not official. I was not conscious of that. It only shows what good friends I have, and how keen my Liberal friends are about technical education. I thought that Committee had his official blessing. If it has not, I hope he will appoint some kind of Committee to inquire into the whole position of technical education in this country. Other countries, as he knows, are doing it. We have for a long time, in many parts of the country, lagged behind, and that at a time of great industrial progress, when the chemist, the engineer and the electrician more and more are coming to play a big part in industry. It is right that our young people should have every opportunity for technical education in the largest, and not in the narrowest, sense. In places like Nottingham, in the lace trade, and in Lancashire in the textiles, where design is becoming more important every day, our opportunities of training young people artistically are singularly behind the necessities of the case. Our textile manufacturers have to go to Paris every year in order to get designs for their colour prints, and very often Nottingham manufacturers have to go there for a similar purpose.

When you are dealing with the education of the adolescents, it is important that the Board, which is responsible, should give a guide, and lend encouragement and financial assistance in the direction of developing our technical education. I hope I am not so pessimistic as the right hon. Gentleman who spoke first. I believe the right hon. Gentleman opposite is thoroughly well-meaning, and if he will only have the courage to aim at being an educationist first and a party man second, he may yet leave a good name as head of his Department. Time is so vital. Time lost now, educational opportunities let slip by,, can never be made up in the future. A generation goes by very rapidly. Teachers have to be trained, buildings provided. The children themselves, once they have lost their opportunity when they are children, very rarely get the change later in life. So I do hope the Minister will listen to sound advice, will repent of some of his reactionary moments, will keep to the early hope he promised us when he started as President, and depart from the reactionary periods that have, unfortunately, blackened some of the months of the last year or two.


This. Debate has opened with three tirades against the President of the Board of Education. The speech which came from the Front Labour Bench was a terriffic indictment,, based, as far as I could gather, upon two main propositions. The first relates to the matter of expenditure. I wondered, as I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) elaborating his case, if he realised that at this moment we are spending on education nationally, in rates and taxes, £3 for every £1 we spent in 1913. Therefore, when you look at the matter in that broad way, I cannot see that as a nation we can be regarded as niggardly and I do not think the record of the present President of the Board of Education can be judged in such a harsh spirit. This is a peculiar moment to suggest that we should,. as the right hon. Gentleman said, here and now proceed with a very heavy and rapidly increasing expenditure on education, regardless of the national position in which we stand. In a few days we shall have the Budget, and I wonder whether if the right hon. Gentleman were Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would view such a programme of immediate expenditure on education with the same complacency if he were at the Treasury Box trying to balance the Budget of the nation. The indictment of the hon. Lady the Member for East Ham North (Miss Lawrence) rested to a large extent on the extreme difficulty West Ham is in, as other districts are in, because of the extreme burden of the rates. The rates are high, she said, and they cannot do this and that. But the programme of the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Labour Bench is a programme to increase rates and taxes, and make the difficulties greater than they are. I can suggest one way in which the right hon. Gentleman can help us,, and that is to use his great influence with those beside him to get us more together in industry, and to get more wealth produced in this country. We might then face with more complacency the spending of more money on education.

The other matter with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt was contained in the allegation that the present policy of the President of the Board of Education is to retard progress and produce stagnation. That is not true of education on its rural side. It is quite obvious that on general agricultural policy we have acute differences with other parties in the House, and I do not suppose it is possible to contemplate bridging the gulf between us. We, on our side, will never contemplate State ownership of land in place of individual ownership; nor will we go in for farming from Whitehall. But there are points in regard to agricultural questions upon which we can all stand together and work together. We have all the same end in view, and that end is a revival of rural life, a quickening of interest in the countryside, and a larger share of our English countryside in the produc- tion of the foodstuffs of this country. This can be brought about to a very large extent by the co-operation of those who differ upon other political questions. and through the agency of the schools. There is no more necessary and helpful means to this end than bringing school work into more direct and practical touch with the industry of agriculture. I suggest that that is a matter of justice to the rural residents. For years the rural resident has been heavily burdened for the education of those who, when they reach the school-leaving age, are lost, or very largely lost, to the countryside, and go to swell the population and wealth of the towns.

I believe it is true that upon the child, by the time he or she reaches the school-leaving age, the taxpayer and. the ratepayer spend something like £130. That £130 has been spent very freely all through the rural areas on children, many of whom, when they reach the school-leaving age, are lost to the countryside. This finished product moves to the town. Agriculture is denuded of the cleverest. They go to strengthen the life of the towns, and it is a very great strength. You have only to go outside this House to see how many policemen, how many men in responsible positions in London came from the countryside, after passing through country schools at the expense of the country taxpayer and ratepayer. It is as true to say of London to-day as was said a generation ago by Sir H. Llewellyn Smith, that London is kept up in bone and sinew by the country element flowing in. For all the position requiring special steadiness, a special sense of responsibility, you will find there is preference given to those who come from the countryside, and a section of the population which is very largely reared, as far as education is concerned, at the expense of the rural population. I suppose we shall all agree that this drift from the country to the town is an excessive one. Take this House. Five out of six Members of this House now represent urban constituencies as against one representing a rural constituency.

The lure of the city is very potent wherever you go through the countryside. I was walking on the Wiltshire Downs the other Sunday, and came across two fine, healthy boys. I asked them if they were going on the land like their father, a smallholder, and the boys said, "No." One was going to Swindon, and one to Beading. That tendency is not good for England and the towns, any more than for the countryside, because the towns must rest very largely upon the expansion of our rural industries and the population there. I hope there are influences at work which will tend to offset this lure, and I want, if I may, to congratulate the President of the Board of Education upon the steps he is taking to help to counteract this lure. There is, undoubtedly, in agriculture a reawakening. We heard from the hon. Member who has just spoken of the importance of research. I wonder if he realises what is going on in the matter of research under the President of the Board of Education, as well as under other Departments of the Government. We have a new influence at work in agriculture, and this is reflected in education. It is quite true the old type of dominie has gone. We have just lost in this House the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities. He was of that old type. He used to delight us here on the Education Estimates year by year by recollections of the old Scottish deminie, and what a kind, genial, autocratic, forceful and effective guide he was to the youth of that day.

5.0 p.m.

We have in our public life to-day many fine products of that old system of education. But that has gone, and in its place we have a new system which has been working through a good deal of the difficulties of centralisation, the rigidity of Whitehall, and things of that sort. But these tendencies to uniformity are passing, I believe, especially in regard to rural education, and we have now a broader tolerance of differences when those differences respond to the needs of the districts concerned. I think it is very true to say that the strengthening of a reasonable agricultural element in the instruction given in the elementary schools is not a thing to be done rapidly and by order from above. It will require a great deal of judicious attention from the county education authorities and from the county direction of agriculture in concert, and a great deal of think- ing out by those responsible for the training colleges. The Agriculture Tribunal, in their Report, said that nothing would contribute more to making agricultural education the real thing than the multiplication of those who care for country life and country work. I am sure, from inquiries which I have made in my own county and in London, that the Minister, so far as rural education is concerned, is following the wise guidance which has been given by the Agricultural Tribunal- He should not attempt to impose greater restrictions upon the freedom of the local education authorities than is necessary, hut give them the fullest latitude, so that, whatever initiative there may be there, can be cultivated. He is also paying special attention to the training colleges.

If you want the rural schools to respond to their environment, and to be useful to the nation as a whole, as well as to agriculture, this question of the training colleges must be faced. It is not an easy thing to turn out of the training colleges, which are largely under the atmosphere of towns, teachers who are able to respond to the rural environment. I am glad that that problem is being faced by Ministers, and that my right hon. Friend has set up a Committee of which the Chairman is my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Lamb) which I believe will come to real grips with the fundamental parts of the problem. I do not believe it is to be done by the scaling down of salaries. What we must see more and more is that we get value for the money that is spent. A question was put by an hon. Member above the Gangway as to what the Minister was doing to carry out his own precepts. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education said yesterday: No one wishes to bind prudent administration in the swaddling clothes of paper formulae. I am persuaded as a result of inquiries which I have made, that it will be found that the Minister is carrying out his own precepts. He is giving freedom for local initiative, which is productive of the best results. Take an education authority such as that of Oxfordshire. There a very valuable work is being done in bringing lads from 11 years of age into touch with farming. For example, there were two boys who had been encouraged to enter into partnership in running a kitchen garden and sell their produce, which they sold very well. They were encouraged in practical arithmetic through the costing system introduced in connection with the kitchen garden, and I was very interested to see one little item in the inventory which they drew up to be handed on to their successors, "Unexhausted manuriai value, 6d."

In Herefordshire you have a similarly useful system applicable to the conditions of the place, and in Wiltshire and Dorset you have the same kind of relationship between the elementary schools and such centres of agricultural education as are to be found there. They may be linked up with the Young Farmers Clubs which are springing up and with agencies for the development of rural handicrafts. In East Anglia you have the Soham experiment, and there you had the Minister of Education opening a rural secondary school, one of the most hopeful experiments that is now being carried on, in a purely rural area. In other places you have experiments, such as that in Cambridge, the village college at Sawston, where the Carnegie trustees have given £3,000. But there is a real examination difficulty here. There is all the difference in the world between the kind of academic education that may be suited to other places and the examination that is best fitted to rural secondary schools. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education has any scheme in hand for examinations which are suited for these secondary schools of the rural type. If he has, I am sure they will be very welcome, so that we can get away from the narrow academic basis of examination. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will go on in his policy of encouraging each county to submit its own schemes to him, and getting the advice of his experts on schemes that are specially suited to each area. In elementary schools especial regard should be had to the last two years before the children leave school, so that if possible their education in those years may be made to link up with the occupations which many of them will enter.

I have no pessimism such as was expressed by some hon. Members in regard to education, any more than I have in regard to agriculture. We are passing through difficult times nationally and financially, and far from being backward in this country, seeing the enormous burdens we are bearing, I think our progress is one upon which we may well congratulate ourselves. In regard to rural education, one has only to observe such organisations as the Rural Community Councils. It is a pleasure to see how they are getting into touch with the local education authorities, because the more co-operation between them we have the better. We have the Rural Industries Bureau, a very useful body, which is carrying on parallel work in regard to education of a secondary type for the development of rural industries. We have the Women's Institutes, which in my own county are doing wonderful work in broadening the horizon of rural communities. A new spirit is coining into our educational world as well as into the agricultural world. Instead of the tirades which we have listened to against the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education, I wish to congratulate him on the lines on which ho is carrying on his policy.


I want to draw the attention of the House to a subject which is not unconnected with the speech which has just been delivered by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hurd), but which arises more directly out of the very interesting Debate to which we listened last night than out of the Debate of this afternoon. No one who listened as I did very carefully to the Debate of last night could fail to have been enormously impressed. I, at any rate, was enormously impressed by the educational value which had been derived by hon. Members who took part in the tours of the Empire Parliamentary Association. I am very well aware that the expenses of these tours are not borne on the votes of this House, but a suggestion was thrown out, I think by the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Bondfield), which I thought was a very fruitful one, namely, that it would be very well worth while, from a purely educational point of view, for some of the funds which are at present voted under the Empire Settlement Act to be devoted to enabling people to visit Canada or the other Dominions for a limited time and permitting them to take part in seasonal occupations, harvest operations for example, and to go out with return tickets. I observe that the hon. Gentleman who is seated on the Front Opposition Bench treats that suggestion with derision.


May I explain that I was not laughing at anything which the hon. Member was saying, but that I was exchanging observations with my right hon. Friend on my right.


I beg the hon. Member's pardon. But I observe a smile of derision on his face, which does occasionally come over his countenance when we are discussing serious matters of Imperial concern. What I was saying belongs to the sphere of adult education, but the scheme which I really want to bring to the notice of the House belongs entirely to the sphere of elementary education. I am not going to ask my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education to go to the Treasury for one additional penny. I should be entirely untrue to my economic traditions if I were to do that. What I want to suggest is that the President of the Board of Education should intercede with his and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Dominions, to obtain an enlargement and an amendment of the Empire Settlement Act for purposes which I want to disclose to the House. That Act, by general agreement, has been, not a total failure by any means; I should be the last person to describe the results obtained under that Act as a failure, but to those of us who were concerned, four or five years ago, in the enactment of that statute, there is no doubt at all that the Act has been rather a grievous disappointment.


On a point of Order. May I ask whether it is in order for the hon. Member to deliver a speech upon Empire settlement and kindred subjects during this Debate when there was an opportunity for that last night?

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)

I do not think the hon. Member is out of order in what he says.


I can assure the House that I have not the slightest intention of delivering a speech on the Empire Settlement Act. What I am saying is merely to lead up to a point. I am to put to the President of the Board of Education a practical educational scheme. We are all very well aware that the Act to which I was referring when I was interrupted by the hon. Member authorised a very considerable expenditure. It authorised an expenditure of £1,500,000 the first year and of £3,000,000 a year after that. Down to the present time, we should have been authorised to spend under that Act a sum of £10,500,000, but, as a matter of fact, the amount actually expended has been less than £1,500,000. In the speech which he delivered last night, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Dominions made the best of the Act, declaring that he had never looked for immediately large results, but the fact remains that when that Act was being discussed by this House it was calculated to provide, on the 50–50 basis—50 per cent. from ourselves and 50 per cent. from the Dominions—preliminary training and passage and landing money for something between 60,000 and 80,000 settlers a year. As a matter of fact, the total number of settlers who had taken advantage of that Act up to the end of the financial year 1925–26 was 116,500.

The appeal that X am going to make to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education is this—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—I am glad to hear that in advance my appeal is endorsed by hon. Members opposite. The appeal is that he should bring pressure to bear on the Secretary of State for the Dominions to adopt a scheme which would naturally be put to him by the President of the Board of Education, because I have long been convinced that in all these matters of social reform, whether it be in the matter of education, in matters which are provided by the Ministry of Labour, in matters of housing, or whatever it be in social reform, we in this House have got far too much into the habit of treating them from a departmental point of view and failing to envisage our social reform as a whole. We want in social reform far more co-ordination. We do not want these Departments of Education, Labour, Health, and so on acting in isolation. We want to look at our social problem as a whole, and that is my excuse for bringing forward, under this Vote, the matter to which I want to direct attention this afternoon.

I have lately received from the Committee of a Society which I lately initiated in my own constituency —a Society which has been formed to co-ordinate. the efforts of the education authorities and 15 or 16 other authorities in the City of York in order to promote the work of migration—a scheme which they are anxious that I should press upon the attention of the House of Commons and, in particular, of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education. The suggestion is that a small party of scholars from the elementary schools, or rather boys who are just about to leave the elementary schools, boys of about 14 years of age, should be enabled, out of funds which must be publicly provided, to go on educational tours to the nearest parts of our Dominions. The immediate suggestion is that in the summer, say, of this year or of any subsequent year half-a-dozen boys, selected on the recommendation of their headmasters, from the elementary schools of a city like the City of York, should be enabled to spend three or four months in one of the Dominions, preferably, of course, those which are nearest ourselves, and that they should be encouraged, if they think well, to do a certain amount of work on farms, if there is such work available at the time, in order that they may get a practical knowledge of the sort of life that is led in the Dominions.

At the request of the Committee to which I have been referring, I brought this matter to the notice of the High Commissioner for Canada in London, and I have a memorandum from the Director of Migration to the effect that the scheme to which I called his attention appears to be purely a travel and educational scheme and not an emigration matter. That is why I am bringing it to the attention of the House when we are considering the question of education and not the question of migration. But he proceeds to point out that last year, and again in preparation for this year, parties of such boys have been and are being sent out from secondary and public schools on educational tours at the expense of the boys and their parents and their local school authorities. Precisely! Then he goes on to say: so that it does not seem that there is at the moment any special need for a Canadian Government subsidy in favour of these travelling scholarships. But my whole point is this: it is perfectly true—and it is a thing which I most cordially welcome—that boys from the secondary and public schools, boys who are able or whose parents are able to pay the expenses of these tours, are today undertaking them, but what I want my right hon. Friend to do is to try to secure for the boys of the elementary schools precisely the same advantages which are to-day being enjoyed by the boys of secondary and public schools. That is the whole point, and the suggestion which I am making to him, on behalf of the Committee which has been formed in my own constituency—and, after all, it is to the boys and to the girls who are educated not only in the public or secondary schools, but in the elementary schools of this country that we must look to form the future citizens of the British Commonwealth—is that he should take into consideration the suggestions which have been made by a very responsible Committee in the City of York for travelling scholarships, available for the boys leaving the elementary schools, to enable those 'boys to enjoy the educational advantages of travel in the Dominions, advantages which are at present enjoyed by the boys from the public and secondary schools.


I am perfectly sure that the suggestion that the hon. Member for York (Sir J. Marriott) has just made will not meet with any opposition from those who sit on these benches. I had some difficulty in following the argument by which he arrived at the suggestion. He prefaced it by saying that he had no intention of asking for a single penny piece from the President of the Board of Education, but he then led up to his suggestion that there should be these travelling scholarships instituted, and I will leave it to him afterwards to explain how he manages to square the two points.


May I explain it at once? My suggestion to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education was that he should induce my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Dominions to propose to the House of Commons—and I am sure it would have the support of ray hon. Friends opposite—such an extension or amendment of the Empire Settlement Act as would permit the funds, which are actually authorised already but not utilised under that Act, to be applied to the object that I have in view.


I am glad to have given the hon. Member an opportunity of still further elucidating the suggestion that he has made, and I can assure him that I think I speak on behalf of everyone on these benches when I say that there will be no- opposition to that suggestion. The attitude that we have always taken up in regard to education is that the children of the poorest person in the land are entitled to as good an education as the children of the wealthiest person in the land, and we interpret education in its very broadest sense, not merely as education in the schools, but from the point of view of travelling round the world. The danger of a Debate like this seems to me that it tends to become of a scrappy nature, and speakers flit from one subject to another. I want to return to the original charge made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) against the President of the Board of Education.

Our complaint is that, while loudly professing, when he undertook the post of President of the Board of Education in the present Government, and on every possible occasion informing the public that he proposed to apply the policy of continuity, and while saying in this House with very great emphasis, and with a loud thump on the Box in front of him when he was saying it, I remember, over two years ago: When I say 'continuity' I mean continuity"— while doing that, his policy has been quite different, and we want to know exactly how he can explain his policy during the last 12 or 18 months with these declarations of continuity. I suggest, on the contrary, that so far from continuity he has kept the educational world in a state of uncertainty ever since he took office. Not only teachers, but local authorities and everybody interested in education have gone in a state of uncertainty, and nobody appears to know what is going to happen from week to week or from month to month. His policy has been the very antithesis of stability.

We make this further charge, that particularly during the last two years the Noble Lord has concentrated the full strength of his Department upon curbing and holding back the advanced and progressive authorities, while the backward authorities have not been interfered with at all. I notice in a speech delivered, I think it was only last week, by the Chairman of the London County Council Education Committee, who is, I believe, a member of the same political party as the Noble Lord, that in introducing his Estimates he announced a reduction of £350,000 for 1026–27, and used these very significant words in announcing that reduction— owing to pressure from Whitehall. The London County Council have always been recognised as an advanced educational authority, and why is it that all the advanced educational authorities have been admitting; that, owing to pressure from Whitehall, they have had to make drastic cuts in their educational systems, while one never hears anything except absolute satisfaction from the representatives of some of the agricultural districts, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hurd), who, we were all delighted to hear, was the one Member in the House who appears to be thoroughly and entirely satisfied with everything that is going on educationally?


Not at all.


I want to direct the attention of the Noble Lord once again to the question of the subnormal children in this country and to the effects of this policy in regard to them during the past two years. This point appears to be forgotten by the Noble Lord, that under the law as it stands local education authorities are required to make educational provision for all children who are defective within the meaning of the various Acts that have been passed and who are capable of receiving benefit therefrom. It is compulsory by Act of Parliament that local authorities must make provision for all these children. The figures given in this House nearly four years ago on this subject were quite alarming, because they showed that many authorities were not carrying out the law. The result was that a good deal of pressure was brought to bear on the Board of Education, and my right hon. Friend who initiated this Debate and was President of the Board of Education at that time, issued Circular 1341 dealing with special schools for mentally defective children. In that Circular my right hon. Friend pointed out that— The problem, however, is too urgent to be left till it is solved in its entirety in the manner which the Statutes contemplate, and which alone can provide a satisfactory solution. What are the local authorities doing now in regard to that matter, and what action is the Noble Lord taking in regard to the local authorities who are failing to observe their statutory obligations? Let me give the figures which have been given by the Noble Lord within the last few weeks. Take the case of the blind children. According to the Noble Lord's figures, it has been ascertained that there are 2,000 blind children in this country, and out of that total there are 262 children not attending any school at all, and 63 who are actually attending public elementary schools. That is an extraordinary state of affairs, and it seems to be not only a waste of money, but also a very serious handicap upon the teachers who are compelled to teach classes of ordinary children together with some totally blind children.

I will now deal with the statistics relating to partially blind children. These arc frequently children who are gradually growing blind and have to look forward to a very unhappy future. The total of the children who are partially blind is 4,692, and out of that number 2,069 are in public elementary schools and 339 (tire not attending any school at all. That makes a total of 2,408 children out of 4,692 who, in the opinion of the Board, might benefit by admission to special schools, and who are either in public elementary schools or not attending any school at all. In this House we have all heard of the wonderful work done at St. Dunstan's for the soldiers who were blinded during the War. There is no work which has produced more wonderful results, and nothing has gained the sympathy of the people of this country more than the excellent work done at St. Dunstan's. I suggest that if it is possible to do that work for the soldiers blinded in the War the same organisation and the same specialised training, if applied to the partially blind children, would produce more wonderful results, because the institutions would get charge of the children at a much younger age. Experience indicates that 50 per cent. of those trained in special schools for blind children can be equipped to earn a useful livelihood. Surely the Noble Lord ought to try to extend that work instead of hindering it.

With regard to deaf children, it has been ascertained that there are 4,154 totally deaf children in this country, and out of that total we find that 319 attend ordinary schools. These children are stone deaf and could not even hear a gun go off. Of this total there are 247 totally deaf children not attending any school at all. In this connection I might mention that the annual meeting was held last week of the National College of Teachers, and a resolution was passed viewing with apprehension the possible consequences to deaf children involved in the Circular dealing with these children issued by the Board of Education. They say that these deaf and partially deaf children, if they do not receive a specialised education, are frequently taken to be insane in later life, when they are really not insane at all, the real reason being that they have not had this particular kind of special education. There are 2.170 partially deaf children in this country and 1,632 of that total are in ordinary schools at the present time. and 80 of them are not in any school at all, consequently there are 1,712 children out of a total of 2,170 children who might benefit by education in special schools, and who are not at present receiving that education. These figures are under-estimated and that is shown by the answer to a question which I put to The Noble Lord in which he says: In a number of smaller areas no children have been ascertained. That does not mean that there are no children of that type there, but it means that up to now they have not been ascertained. With regard to physically defective children, including cripples, those suffering from tuberculosis, and delicate children who require open-air schools, the Board of Education figures show a total of 142,889, and out of that number the Noble Lord told me that 94,332 were in public elementary schools and 18,931 were not in any schools. That shows that there is a total of 113,263 physically defective children who are not receiving the specialised education which their disability requires, and whose chances of earning a living are seriously endangered thereby.

I wish to deal now with the pounds, shillings and pence side of the question, about which the Noble Lord has been talking. I suggest that any economical proposals applied to physically defective children in the way suggested is a penny 'wise and a pound foolish policy, because unless those children receive a specialised education during their school life it is difficult to give it to them afterwards. 'The result is that in those circumstances they have very little chance of ever being able to earn their own living, and they have to depend on charitable institutions for their maintenance during the whole of their lives. Mentally defective children are referred to in Circular 1383, which shows that out of 33,000 mentally defective children in England and Wales, 5.2,470 are attending elementary schools who should not be there at all because in the first place they cannot get there the education they need, and, secondly, they are a serious handicap upon the other children in the class, and it is not fair to ask the teacher to take a normal class of children which may contain one or two mentally defective children. Included in the total of 33,000, there are 3,872 who are educable but not attending any school at all. I wish to draw the Noble Lord's attention to the fact that, in spite of the laws on the Statute Book, we have still 110 authorities who have made no provision for teaching these children, although they can be compelled by law to make that provision. Yet the Noble Lord, not only does not bring any pressure to bear upon them to make this provision, but actually issues a Circular telling them that they must not do anything. I think this is really the meanest form of economy that the mind of man ever conceived. Again, in Circular 1388 there appears the following passage: It would not seem prudent to incur heavy expenditure at the present moment on new schools for such children or on enlargements of existing schools. Yet the records of the existing schools for mentally defective children show that from 60 to 70 per cent. of these children are at work, and this has been accomplished during a time of industrial depres- sion when thousands of people are out of work. The figures show that between 60 and 70 per cent. of the children who pass through these schools are actually at work two years after leaving those schools. I would like to ask the Noble Lord if there is a suggestion behind this Circular that there should be nothing further done by the local authorities to provide for mentally defective children, or is the suggestion that the Noble Lord's officials are working out some new idea under which the mentally sub-normal children should remain in defectives schools until they are 11 years of age. I think we ought to know this. If the Noble Lord has something of that kind in mind it will mean an entire reconsideration of the question of staffing. These children will have to be taught in separate and smaller classes if any results are to be obtained. I am afraid the Noble Lord does not appreciate that this is not merely a question of keeping these children off the streets because they require a special education entirely different to the kind of education given to normal children, and they cannot receive such education in an ordinary school sitting side by side with ordinary normal children. Besides this the presence of these defective children in the ordinary classes will hamper the progress of the normal children. The provision I have suggested is absolutely necessary if these boys and girls are to be able to have a sporting chance of earning their own living after leaving school.

I have now conic to the last of my figures. Out of 33,000 educable mentally-defective children in England and Wales the accommodation on the 31st of March last was for 17,154, which is only half the accommodation required by the number of educable mentally-defective children in England and Wales. This is the time when the Noble Lord issues his Circular, the effect of which will be to hold up indefinitely all provision for dealing with one of the most urgent and serious educational and social problems which we have got before us at the present time. A previous speaker has referred to the special Departmental Committee and the Noble Lord said that a Committee for dealing with mentally defective children was set up during the time the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) was President of the Board of Education. I understand that the Noble Lord announced the other week the names of the Committee which had been appointed to go into this question.


I referred to the previous Committee which has been working steadily and continuously since its appointment.


I understand that there are people outside the Noble Lord's Department on that Committee. May I take it that those people outside who are not connected with the Department have been on that Committee ever since the Labour Government was in office?


I do not think the composition of the Committee has changed during that time, but I should want notice in order to answer that question definitely.


That explanation seems to make the situation more confused than ever. I understand that the Noble Lord has had a Committee sitting since the end of 1924, and we have now arrived at March, 1927. That Committee has been considering this subject and after 2½ years have elapsed the Noble Lord issues a Circular, in which he says this Committee is dealing with the matter, and in the meantime nothing else should be done by the local authorities in the direction of providing any more special schools or any enlargement of special schools. Surely, if the idea was that some new system could be devised, this announcement of the Noble Lord's ought to have been made at least two years ago. If the Committee has been at work since 1924, surely they have arrived sufficiently near the end of their labours to be able to publish some conclusions, and. if they are so near to that, why need the Noble Lord go to the trouble of issuing special instructions to local authorities not to proceed with the erection of any more special schools for mentally defective children, and not to proceed with the enlargement of any more of these special schools? Could not he have waited a little longer? If the Committee has been dealing with this matter since 1924, I should have thought that that would have been a better plan to adopt. I would like to suggest, further, that this Circular 1388 is a plain hint to the Committee not to report on the lines of special schools, because, if they do, no notice will be taken of them. I apologise for having given all these figures to the House, but we do not get so many opportunities of discussing problems of this character as we do of discussing the Army, Navy and Air Force, and there are so many people, including, I may say, the Noble Lord, who are anxious to cut down the education of blind, deaf, mentally defective and crippled children, but who hold up their hands in horror if anyone suggests that any money should be saved on the Army, Navy, or Air Force. I say that to stop the increase of provision for these children is the most foolish and dangerous step that has yet been taken by the Noble Lord. In the Circular he goes further, and suggests that the needs of these children can be met by increased zeal on the part of the school medical services. If I may say so, with all due respect to the Noble Lord, it is sheer nonsense to suggest that the situation just now can be met by increased zeal on the part of school medical services in ascertaining children with these disabilities.


When did I ever say that?


In the Circular. I am afraid I cannot delay the House by reading through the whole of the Circular, but, as I understand the Circular, the Noble Lord points out the necessity for increased zeal on the part of the medical officers.


If I may interrupt the hon. Member, I think this is the passage to which he is referring: It will be understood that the Board do not underrate the value of special schools, but, while no rule can be laid down which is universally applicable to all areas and to all types of physical defect, the completion of the School Medical Service would appear to be of primary importance. There is nothing about zeal there.


One of the troubles that we have in this House is that, when the Noble Lord has issued a Circular, we find, when we have a Debate in the House, that he is the only person who understands what it means.


Perhaps I am the only person who has read it!


That does not apply only to Members of Parliament, who are to be excused in these matters, because of the multiplicity of their duties, but, in the case of every Circular the Noble Lord has issued during his term of office, almost every local authority up and down the country has had to ask for an explanation of what it meant. Circulars have been issued, and have been withdrawn and re-issued, and explanations have been issued. It seems to me, therefore,, that I am only falling into the ordinary mistake that is usually made in connection with these Circulars, of not quite understanding what the Noble Lord is driving at. The point I wish to make, however, and I hope the Noble Lord realises it, is that the doctor, so far as mentally defective children are concerned, can never do the work of the teacher. I am not going so far as to ask the Noble Lord to withdraw the whole of this Circular, because I have only dealt with one particular paragraph, concerning a class or children in which I have always been particularly interested., and whose case I have endeavoured to put before the Noble Lord. May I conclude by asking Km whether he cannot reconsider his decision in regard to these children; whether he does not think he has acted with undue haste in putting a stop to the work of local authorities throughout the country after they had just got under way with making provision for these children by special schools, by special classes, and by enlarging special schools, while, as he says himself, he has had a Departmental Committee sitting on the question since 1924, who must have reached some conclusion; and whether, in view of that, he could not withdraw this part of the Circular,, and allow the local authorities—many of whom are now anxious, as a result of the pressure brought to bear upon them by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan), when he was at the Board of Education, to make some provision for these unfortunate children—to get on with their good work.


I do not intend, in the few remarks I wish to address to the House, to add to the criticisms which have been levelled at my right hon. Friends administration from the other side of the House To he quite honest, I am not sufficiently versed in the technicalities of educational administration to say whether those criticisms arc justified or not. I hope and believe, or the other hand, that my right hon. Friend, when he rises to reply, will adequately dispose of those criticisms. It may be that, in difficult times like the present, a period of marking time is necessary, but the appeal I wish to make is that this period of marking time educationally shall not be prolonged a minute longer than is absolutely necessary. It is perfectly true that there is a great educational awakening in this country, and the Hadow Report has opened up a vista of real national advance educationally, which will be of enormous benefit to the great majority of the children of this country; and, if I might presume to say so, my right hon. Friend and his colleagues, when the Great Assize comes to be held at the next Election, will be judged in proportion as he has been able to eliminate the waste, inefficiency and social injustice involved in our present educational system.

When I speak of waste and inefficiency in education, I speak in a progressive spirit, not in a reactionary spirit. My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hurd). in the very delightful speech which he made just now, said that he for one did not object to spending money on education if he could get the money's worth. Unfortunately, unlike my hon. Friend, many Members who make that declaration make it quite impossible that we shall get value for our money, because, when proposals are made for educational advance which entail the expenditure of money, they all rise up in arms. The waste and inefficiency against which I desire to protest is that, in the case of the great majority of the children of this country—some SO per cent. or 90 per cent. —the education terminates, and, in the second place, that for a great number of children the education given, as the Hadow Report pointed out, is not suited to them, and, in fact, they cannot possibly benefit by it. The fact that 80 per cent. of our children leave school at the age of 14 is to my mind a deplorable waste of human material, and also a deplorable waste of money and a grave social injustice. Therefore, I believe it to be the duty of everyone who cares for the social welfare of the people to take every opportunity of protesting against such a system.

The excellent education given in our secondary schools. and the equally good education given in our central schools, merely serve to accentuate that social injustice, because anyone who knows anything of the children of this country knows that children who go to our secondary schools and our central schools benefit so enormously, both mentally and bodily, that they start the race of life at a tremendous advantage compared with those children who are forced to leave school at the age of 14. A further cause of waste and a further cause of injustice is that the type of education given in our schools is inappropriate to very large numbers of children. Children are given a literary education merely because it is cheaper, when everyone who knows anything about those children knows that they are incapable of responding to a literary education; whereas, if we took steps to provide for them an education which appeals to their eyes and their hands, their minds would be enlarged and their characters developed just as much as in the case of those children who do benefit by a literary education. If we are going to stop this waste, there is nothing for it but to follow the recommendations of the Hadow Committee, and so to organise our education from the age of ll½, which is the period when children begin to show what interests they have, and what their aptitudes are, that every child shall receive the form of post-primary education which is suitable to its interests and its aptitudes. Our education, as the Hadow Report says, must be founded on sound principles, in that it must be based on the interests of the children. What we have to provide is not merely a highway along which we drive all children when they have reached the age of 11, but powers suitable to the interests and aptitudes of every child, in order that they may pursue those powers along the upward slope of mental development.

I am very pleased to think that my right hon. Friend fully realises the need for reform. He fully realises the imperfections of our educational system. Speaking only yesterday, he said that that system of education could not be regarded as in any sense complete or satisfactory until they could offer, not merely to the picked student but to the average boy and girl, the opportunity of entering upon a definitely new stage of education at about the age of 11. He goes on to say: We should do everything in our power to develop a course of study and standards of teaching which will make it worth while for the average child to continue his or her education till the age of 15. 6.0 p.m.

I know I am not much versed in the technicalities of education and therefore, it passes my comprehension how we can advance the interests of the average child unless we follow the recommendations of the Hadow Report. It is not enough to provide excellent secondary education. It is not enough to provide a good system of central schools, so long as your central schools are selected. It does not help the average child to be submitted to an examination once a year, because only the children of ability pass into the secondary school and the central school. You cannot improve the quality of milk by skimming the cream off it and that, as far as I can see, is what the right hon. Gentleman proposes to continue to do. He proposes to advance the interests of the average child by taking away from the average children in the elementary schools a certain number and sending them to secondary and central schools. That, I submit, leaves the average child to stagnate in the same way in the future as he has stagnated in the past. Perhaps he will enlighten me on that point and explain what he really proposes to do to advance the interests of the average child. I hope my right hon. Friend will take his courage in both hands and not appeal in future to the reactionary section of the House of Commons, which is always against educational advancement, but to the mind of the nation, and go forward with a really great educational advance. The country is looking to him as it has never looked to any education Minister for an educational advance and I hope he will not disappoint them.


A discussion on the subject of education gives rise to very mixed feelings. There is no doubt there is abundant evidence of a vast amount of activity in various directions of educational effort in the country. That activity is a sign of a real enthusiasm on the part of members of local education authorities and on the part of a considerable proportion of the people. I believe it is true that there is a real revival of interest in and enthusiasm for education. We regard it as the sacred duty of the Board of Education to do everything in its power to foster that enthusiasm and encourage that activity. I am sure sometimes the noble Lord and his colleague recognise that obligation. I wish I could feel equally confident that the recognition of that duty found at all times unyielding and unhesitating reflection in their administrative action. I appreciate their difficulties. They have to face a reactionary spirit in certain sections of the House. They have cannon to the right of them and cannon to the left of them and a few pop-guns behind them, and we are here to try to give them courage to withstand the attacks that are threatened. Reference has been made by the Noble Lord to the reactionary spirit which is against the expenditure of public money on education. It is often said in regard to our expenditure on education nowadays, that we cannot afford it, or in a more subtle or more specious form, that we are not getting value for our money. I find as a rule even the most zealous economists are willing to spend money lavishly on subjects in which they are themselves interested, and their wail in regard to education is only the audible expression of a mentality which, in regard to education, has made little if any progress during the last five years.

I wonder how many Departments of the Government could stand those two tests, whether we can afford the expenditure and whether we are getting value for the expenditure for which they are responsible. How would the Admiralty and the War Office stand the rigid application of those two tests? But if they are to be made, I believe a better answer could be made in regard to expenditure on education than in regard to any other Department, and certainly if we are to make the greatest use of our educational facilities and to get the greatest possible value for the money we expend on education, that mentality to which the Noble Lord referred must be challenged and fought, and in issuing that challenge and conducting that fight we expect the Board of Education to be taking the lead. Reference has been made to various-matters which give rise to a certain amount of doubt as to whether the Board is really taking that lead. I should like to reinforce the eloquent appeal of the Noble Lord who has just sat down. The number of pupils between the ages of 13 and 14 in our elementary schools in 1923–24 was 584,212. The number of pupils between 14 and 15 was 137,453. That is a drop of 450,000. The great majority of those who leave at 14 are supposed to have completed their education. They are called upon to face the issues of life with such mental equipment only as they have been able to acquire from instruction in their Homes or at school during a few early years of their life.

I agree with the Noble Lord that that represents a real deplorable waste in every respect and that in view of circumstances like this, to talk about education being a failure as so many people do, is not only ludicrous but even hypocritical. I agree that improvements are taking place, and in this connection I read with considerable interest that part of the Annual Report of the Board of Education which deals with practical and advanced instruction. The experiment is a most interesting one, and although it has not been in operation long, it is already producing good results. It is clear that this aspect of educational work is of great benefit both to pupils and to teachers. In that part of the Report which deals with this instruction in Wales, there is a paragraph which says: It seems to have lad to a change of attitude on the part of the teacher to his work. The breaking of fresh ground and something of the sense of a new adventure have resulted in a livelier interest, and teachers have felt more than ever before their responsibility towards the pupil of 12 to 14 who is not going to a secondary school. The wider scope of the work and the greater encouragement to individual tendencies have led to the discovery of formerly unsuspected capacity on the part of many pupils who might otherwise have left school with the reputation of being dull or backward. Speaking generally, your Majesty's Inspector has no doubt that a large proportion of pupils now leaving these schools are more widely read and can express themselves more freely than before, and they are more interested in literature, art and music. The general effect of the changes in aim and method has been to pro- duce a senior scholar stronger in initiative and self-reliance and more likely to develop his own powers to advantage in after life. I think that is a great tribute to the work that is being done in this connection after the very few years that it has been in operation. While I say that, I would also impress this, that that education is not a substitute for education in the secondary school. Reference has been made to a ladder. That is a phrase we are fond of using in connection with our educational system, but in education, as in other matters, a ladder in many people's minds only seems to convey something under which it is not safe to walk, and the more we examine our system the more we find that there are a great many rungs absent in our ladder which ought to be filled up. I observe, for instance, that in reply to a question recently by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Cove), the Noble Lord said the total number of pupils recorded as having left public elementary schools in England and Wales during 1925 and 1926 to enter secondary schools was only 62,226. I think that is a lamentable fact and one which really represents a deplorable waste of effort, of energy and of expenditure. The Noble Lord has expressed his disappointment, and I should like to express mine, at the attitude the President of the Board of Education takes on that recommendation of the Committee on adolescent education which recommends raising the school age to 15.


It will be very unsatisfactory to discuss a question of that kind when we know that within the limits of order it cannot be properly discussed. The hon. Member may refer to it in passing, but I cannot reply, because it will be out of order.


I am aware of the rules of Order, and I shall not enter into any details which would involve the Noble Lord finding himself in conflict with the Chair. I am merely using, as an illustration of my point, the precipitate manner in which he hastened to announce that the Government are dropping that particular recommendation of the Committee. All I was going to point out was that the Committee were just as well aware as he is of the practical difficulties which would render it impossible to raise the age to 15 immediately and it is for that reason that they inserted the pro- vision that there should be five years' notice. If he is really keen on this part of the work, it would be perfectly possible for him to say he would accept that recommendation subject to the extension of the preparatory period. In that case he would have given us some satisfaction that he is really in earnest on the matter. As it is, I doubt whether if he were to retain his present office for five years, or even 10, it would ever be possible for him to say the raising of the school age was the definite and declared policy of His Majesty's Government. But if it is not possible to enter on that larger question, I want to use it for another purpose. We should like to see signs of greater enthusiasm on his part for the project of raising the school age where the experiment is now being made. In this respect I should like to ask him whether he has yet arrived at any decision in regard to the proposal submitted from Carnarvonshire in regard to the giving of maintenance allowances where necessary in order to carry out their declared policy of raising the limit to 15.

As I am dealing with Wales, I should like to refer to two other matters. One is in connection with the National Library of Wales, which is not only performing a very useful function to those who are engaged in carrying on research but is of material assistance to the movement for adult education, which is one of the most promising features of our national life in Wales. In 1921, the authorities were informed by the Treasury that they would receive a grant in aid of £17,000 per annum, and they based their estimate of expenditure on that promise. Last year the sum was reduced by £2,000. They acquiesced in that reduction the more readily because they understood it was a temporary measure owing to the stringent financial difficulties of the country at the time. Now that the Board of Education Estimates are available, I find, and they find, to their surprise, that it is only the reduced sum that is still available. Why is it only a body like the National Library of Wales which has its grant-in-aid reduced? Will he also be able to assure me that it is only a temporary reduction and that after this year the Government will revert to the state of affairs which existed as declared by their communication received in 1921 that the annual amount, was to be £17,000.

Another matter on which Wales is aggrieved is with regard to the Committee which has been set up to consider the training of teachers who are going to practice in rural areas. The problem of rural education is becoming increasingly important. The pamphlet which the Board of Education published last year dealing with rural education was one of the most interesting documents which I have read for a long time, and we in Wales desire to be in the forefront of any movement which is coming into operation for improving the facilities in rural areas. I agree with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hurd) on this subject. The Noble Lord was not quite as candid with the hon. Member for Merionethshire (Mr. Haydn Jones) and myself as we usually find him, in reply to the question which we addressed to him last week. We asked him why no Welsh representative is put on this Committee, and his reply? as that he did not want to enlarge the scope of the Committee and that he was going to ask a delegacy of the University of Wales and Welsh Training Colleges which was shortly to be set up, to consider this question. Similar delegacies are to be set up in England in connection with the English Universities and Colleges and, therefore, his reply had no relevance to the question which we were addressing to him. His answer did not carry the matter any further. It is clear that the Committee has a function to perform other than that which will be discharged by the delegacies.

In regard to the Welsh delegacy, its constitution has not yet been decided, its terms of reference have not yet been determined, and the Noble Lord will have no locus standi in the matter at all. The delegacy is to be set up by the University of Wales and the Welsh training colleges, in consultation. They will settle the constitution of the Committee, they will settle the form of the reference to the Committee, and the Noble Lord will have no power either in the appointment or in the terms of reference to the delegacy. If, therefore, a Committee is necessary to consider this aspect of rural education in England it is equally necessary in Wales, and I would beg the Noble Lord to reconsider this point and put on the Committee someone who is conversant with the special conditions which obtain in Wales. Rural education is an increasingly important sphere of educational activity.

What I feel at the present time is that there is little if any co-ordination between the various authorities and agencies engaged in its direction. There is little or no co-ordination between elementary schools, farm institutes, secondary schools, central schools, university colleges, and universities and the Noble Lord would be well advised to set up a Departmental Committee to inquire into the whole question of education in rural areas with a view, in particular, to facilitating greater coordination between those who are engaged in the work. That co-ordination is a typical factor of our national system. The Board of Education, the War Office, the Admiralty, the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Health, and the Privy Council are in some way or other connected with some part of education. I wish it were possible to devise a system whereby it would be easy or, at any rate, possible for us to form a comprehensive and concise survey of the whole of our national effort in the sphere of education. It would be interesting, illuminating and helpful.

I know that questions of education give rise to mixed feelings. There is a good deal of satisfaction on one side, and there is ground for misgiving on the other side. Those to whom the Noble Lord referred, who regard our schools really as institutions for the production of wage-earners, and cheap wage-earners, will continue to raise their lamentations, while those who take a wider, nobler and more humane view, those who believe that it is a secret duty of the State to help to nurture the souls and train the minds of our children, and to give them more fair play and equip them for the responsibilities of citizenship, will never grudge any expenditure which the Noble Lord asks us to undertake, expenditure which is of a truly productive character, in connection with this service, which is undoubtedly one of the greatest and the most essential of all our public services in this country.


I would like to draw the attention of the House and the President of the Board of Education to the staffing of our schools. The point to which I would draw particular attention is the fact that in the secondary schools the proportion of scholars to teachers is about one teacher to every 18 pupils, while in the case of the elementary schools it is one teacher to about 28 pupils. Something should be done for the elementary schools so far as teachers are concerned. It would be quite unnecessary to have such small classes in the secondary schools if you properly staffed your elementary schools.

It is quite clear to anyone who studies the question of the child mind that the one thing it wants at the beginning of its education is individual attention. If we are going to get value for the money which we are spending on education, the first thing we have to do is to see that our elementary education is absolutely perfect. Unless we have our elementary education perfect, it seems to me to be absolute futility to go on with secondary education. We have no right to have secondary education at all, unless we can afford to have our elementary system absolutely perfect, because that means that we are seeking to put up a building with no foundation under it. Therefore, I appeal very strongly to the President of the Board of Education to consider in every way the importance of this question, and to see that we have smaller classes established for the youngest children. At the present time, when one gets one teacher in charge of a large class, it means very often so far as the individual child is concerned that you are teaching that child to do nothing, that it is kept in the school for so many hours and for a large part of that time the one thing it has to do is to learn how to do nothing without the teacher noticing that it is doing nothing. If the younger children were taught in school how to learn to do something, then when they got older they would be able to go into much larger classes and it would be much easier for the one teacher to teach a larger number I would like the President of the Board of Education to see his way to do something more for these infant classes. So far as the training of the infant life of this country is concerned, it is important that more and better teaching should be given in that respect. It is the most important matter in the whole of education. If we could only get the right person when the child is young to give it four or five years of proper education, under that proper person, it would then be able later the better to assimilate the education given in the higher schools, and we should have the best results.

There is only one further point to which I wish to refer and that is the general education in this country. It is an admitted fact that it is our duty as a nation to educate our children. When we have taken upon ourselves that duty, our first duty is to ask ourselves: "For what are we educating the children? What do we think is the best thing for which we should educate the children?" At the present time we hear a great deal about the literary education given to the children. I should have thought that the natural thing for this country to say would be: "Here we have this enormous problem of unemployment, which becomes worse and worse, because so many children come out of the schools every year. How are we going to help them?" A certain amount of help can be given in regard to education. The one thing that I should have thought the Government would have said would be: "Where are the best openings for the children after they have left school? Are there more openings in the industrial centres, or in the rural parts, or are there more openings for them in the Empire overseas?" The most openings that there are at the present time and that there will be for some years to come are in the Empire.

Therefore, our object should be so to educate the children as to fit them for going out into the various Dominions of our great commonwealth of nations. We educate our children more with the idea of becoming clerks, and we educate our children in the rural schools to fit them for town life. I would like to see lie Board of Education going on the lines that when a child comes into a school, whether in the country or in an industrial area, the idea should be to fit that child to emigrate. Of course, I suppose the Labour party will disapprove of that. But I say, first, that we should start with the idea that the child shall be made fit to go to the Dominions and be given a proper education so to fit it, but if it appears that its special apti- tude and ability is more suited for other lines, then give it education accordingly; but let us start off with some idea fixed in our mind of what we think is most required for the future welfare of the children and let us see that we do the best in our education to give them the knowledge which they require.


I have been waiting patiently for the last five or six weeks for this opportunity to discuss the action of the Board of Education in cancelling the certificate of a teacher, and to draw attention to the power which the President of the Board has in regard to the cancellation of certificates; a power which is enormous. With the majority of men it would be perfectly safe to entrust that power, but the present President of the Board of Education has proved that it is unsafe for him to have that power. No teacher who is in a school to-day can be sure, with the present Minister of Education in power, that he will be in school next week, unless he is a Conservative. If he belongs to the Labour movement, there is a big danger that the present Minister of Education, without consulting the local authority, and quite lightheartedly, will cancel the teacher's certificate and close the doors of the school against him.

On the 17th February on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House, I debated this matter with the right hon. Gentleman, when I drew attention to the case of a teacher whose certificate the right hon. Gentleman had taken away. That teacher was connected with a school in my division. The right hon. Gentleman took away that teacher's certificate without consulting the local authority. Had he consulted the local authority and had he been guided by the local authority, he would not have done such a foolish and brutal thing as he did in taking away that certificate, thereby debarring the teacher from the school and, after long years of training, making it impossible for him to earn his living. The only offence, the only mistake which the teacher had committed had been that he caned two children for attending a canteen when he had given orders that they should not attend the canteen. That is not in itself a serious offence, although I admit that it was a mistake. I am not going to attempt to defend the teacher for caning the; children, but, at most, it was simply a mistake that he committed. For that he was taken to Court, not by the father of the children. Money was provided for the prosecution, and I would like the right hon. Gentleman to say who provided the money for the purpose of taking the teacher to Court. He was taken to a Court where it was well known that he would be fined. Not only was he fined, but he was heavily fined. There is not the slightest doubt that the taking of that teacher to Court and the fining of that teacher was purely a political prosecution.

Will the President of the Board of Education tell the House who found the money for the purpose of taking this man to court? One would have thought that for the mere mistake of caning two children he had been sufficiently punished, but the President of the Board of Education thought it was not sufficient, because this teacher belonged to the Labour movement, and he used a power which ought to be very guardedly used, the power of cancelling a teacher's certificate. It is not a power which any Minister should wish to use, and it should only be used when everything else has failed. Although this teacher had been heavily fined, the President of the Board, most lightheartedly, cancelled his certificate, debarred him from the school, and so far as the right hon. Gentleman was concerned left him to starve. When we were debating this question on a former occasion the President of the Board of Education said: I am not going to pretend to lay before the House all the corsiderations which decided me to take this decision. I want him to-night to take the House into his confidence and tell us all the considerations which led him to take this decision. He dare not do it. He dare not tell the House all the considerations which led him to take this course. He knows that local political pressure was brought to bear upon him.' Local people brought political pressure to bear on the right hon. Gentleman as they could not succeed with the local education authority. They failed there, but knowing that they had a Tory Prime Minister and a Tory President of the Board of Education—and a narrow-minded Minister —they approached their bosom friends and had little trouble in getting the President of the Board to do what they wanted and take the teacher's certificate away. The President of the Board tried to justify his action on the last occasion; he gave one reason for it. He said it was in the interests of the children attending the school. He said: Where there is any balance of consideration between what might be too harsh for the teacher and might be too risky for the children, one must decide in consideration of the risk to the child. He based the whole of his action on the protection of the children who attended that school. But who is the best judge as to the danger to the children attending that school: the President of the Board or the parents of the children who attend there? The parents of the children have signed a petition, unknown to the teacher, and I am going to read what they say, because it explains the position far better than any words of mine. It says: On behalf of the rank and file of Hedley Hill and Old Cornsay village"— Those are the two villages from which the children come— we send this petition to you which is practically every house and householder with children attending school, there is only two householders, one in Hedley Hill and one in Cornsay village, that is against him"— And they give the names of the two— if any information you require the Canteen Committee are quite willing to give, as Mr. Towers was not to blame in their opinion. They go so far as to add this as a postscript: Would you give us any information if we were to keep all our children off school as a protest would we be right or wrong? please to reply. That is a petition from the parents whose children are attending the school, and they are far better judges as to the danger to the children than the President of the Board ever can be. I want the right hon. Gentleman also to tell us whether he consulted the local education authority before cancelling the certificate. Did he ask them for a report, not on this one particular incident but upon the whole career of this teacher? If he had done so he would have found that this teacher is a far better man than the President of the Board of Education, and he would not have received any encouragement from the local education authority to the cancellation of his certificate. I want the House to keep this fact in mind, that when the President of the Board cancels the certificate of a teacher, the teacher has no appeal, no method of redress. He has to accept the decision. I am certain that if the right hon. Gentleman had had any training in industry he would not have taken this action. One cannot imagine anyone who has had any training in industry and has had to deal with men committing such an arbitrary action. In most industries an employer of labour would scarcely dare to take such action. If he did and dismissed men on such small grounds as this, he would find his industry stranded. But the President of the Board has used his power because he knows the teacher has no appeal, no redress from this high-handed action. I was amused on the last occasion when the right hon. Gentleman said this: No moral stigma should necessarily attach to any teacher whose certificate we may decide to cancel….We do, not impose penalties on teachers when we cancel their certificates. What greater moral stigma can be thrown on a teacher than to say that he is no longer fit to enter a school, that he is no longer fit to be a headmaster of a school or teach in any school whatever? What greater moral stigma could be attached to a teacher than that? The President of the Board must remember this, that although he has cast this moral stigma on the teacher he has this satisfaction, that since then he has stood for the local board of guardians and has been elected by two votes to one. It shows what the people of the district think of the teacher, an altogether different opinion to that held by the President of the Board of Education. And what greater penalty can be imposed upon a man, after long years of training, than to cancel his certificate as a teacher and make it impossible for him to earn his living? Let me sum up this matter to-night by saying once again that this man's offence does not warrant the punishment that has been meted out to him. The extreme step of cancelling his certificate ought to be the last step the President should take. At least he should try every other avenue and get the local education authority to deal with the teacher. I know it is no use pleading with the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his decision, I understand he means to stand by it, but I submit that he is doing this man a grave injustice, that the teacher is not getting fair play. The right hon. Gentleman is hiding behind his power knowing that the man has no means of redress. I hope, however, he will say this at least, that he will give this man fair play and justice.


I have read most carefully the case to which the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) has referred, and I read the speech of the Noble Lord. There was only one statement in that speech which I regarded as being absolutely correct, as far as this subject was concerned, and that was the statement that the House of Commons is not a very good place to discuss a matter of this kind. Although I agree with the Noble Lord in that statement, I want to say emphatically that the responsibility for bringing this case to the Floor of the House of Commons is one that rests upon the shoulders of the right hon. Gentleman. While my hon. Friend was discussing this case, I noticed hon. Members on the other side smiling somewhat incredulously. They seemed to regard the case, and the Noble Lord also gave me the same impression, as a matter which could be treated with some degree of flippancy, that it was of no consequence, or very little consequence.

The case, while it involves only one teacher, involves a very great principle. For the first time in the history of the teaching profession politics have been brought in to decide the fate of a teacher, and the politics have been brought into this case by the President of the Board of Education He has disturbed—and I invite him to inquire—not only Labour teachers in the country, and Liberal teachers in the country, and Conservative teachers in the country, but he has disturbed the National Union of Teachers, a. body representing all shades of opinion, which has no politics, to this extent, that it has decided that the punishment meted out to this man is so extreme and severe that they will sustain him as far as his salary is concerned for a time. Perhaps the rank and file of the National Union of Teachers would say that it would have been wiser if this man had just met the situation which was put to him by certain people in the case, but without any distinction whatever all the teachers whom I have met, teachers of all poli- tical colours, say that the decision to cancel the certificate and to throw this man on the road is unwarranted, is extreme, and is not of a judicial character at all.

Let me deal with one or two points in the case. What was this man punished for in the Court? For a technicality. He was punished for punishing a child in his capacity as headmaster for something which had happened in his capacity as Secretary of the Canteen Committee. He voluntarily took or the job of helping to feed the children because he obeyed the natural instincts of a humane man and the request of the local 'Education Authority. He was concerned in a more technical assault. Because it was a mere technical assault, and on no other ground, was the decision given by the Court. If he had given the same punishment for something that had happened in the school the Court would not have touched him. There is no charge of brutality; that is specifically stated. There was no brutality—just one cane on each hand. There is no complaint that the headmaster had ill-treated these people. Simply and solely because he did something in his capacity as headmaster which had happened, as it were, in his capacity as Secretary of the Canteen Committee, that constituted a technical assault, and the President of the Board of Education comes in and says, "I am acting in my judicial capacity," and he arrives at a very injudicious decision and he takes away the man's certificate. He does not say to the man, "You shall not teach for 12 months." That would have been severe punishment.

As a matter of fact the Noble Lord has inflicted a greater punishment on this teacher than he has in the three or four other cases that arose during the General Strike. I am subject to correction, but I believe that during the General Strike the Noble Lord had to deal with about four cases of teachers who were convicted and subject to penalty in regard to the organisation of the General Strike. I do not believe that the Noble Lord can get up and say that in any of those cases his sentence has been as severe as in this case. My opinion is that in each of those cases he has given some intimation that they may be reviewed, I suppose upon good conduct being observed to the satisfaction of the Noble Lord. But this man has not a chance to re-establish himself; he is put on the road for ever. I put this serious aspect of the matter to the Noble Lord. Does he think that teachers up and down the country are going to perform this voluntary work if there is any danger of their certificates being cancelled because they do the work? This man has not lost his certificate because of his work as a headmaster but because of his work as a Secretary of the Canteen Committee. As a fact this man was doing a job, and there were hundreds and thousands of teachers doing the job, from which they are specifically exempted by the Education Act. It is illegal for any Education Authority or even for the resident of the Board of Education to ask teachers to take part in school feeding. That is stating it very briefly. It is illegal to compel teachers to supervise or collect the money for school feeding. It is illegal to put a teacher in the position of having to refuse to administer the school feeding. This man did it.

I ask the Noble Lord, does he think that teachers will accept this voluntary work, which they are asked to undertake by local authorities up and down the country, if there is this danger of the cancellation of their certificates hanging over their heads? It has done a great injury to the administration of the Act relating to school feeding. It has unsettled the whole of the teaching profession. What were the other facts of the case? I notice that the Noble Lord smiles. I would reiterate that the Executive of the National Union of Teachers, as far as politics is concerned, is a colourless body. As a matter of fact its main drift is against me. Yet it has regarded this case as a very serious case and it has taken action accordingly. The case is of such tremendous importance that I hope the Noble Lord will face up to it and tell us what has actuated him in coming to his decision.

At a public meeting this man was elected to be the Assistant Secretary of the Canteen Committee, which had control over the school feeding in the canteen. The Canteen Committee laid down certain rules and said that if a man returned to work the feeding of his children should stop after he had been at work a week, and that if feeding was required after that week certain forms must be filled up. In these forms a man had to state his earnings, the number of his children, and, in short., to state the necessities of his case. Prior to this particular case 14 or 15 men who had returned to work had filled up the form and made a request for the extension of school feeding. Every week the schoolmaster asked, "Who has returned to work?" One child or another would say, "My father." "Very well,' said the schoolmaster, "I want to tell you that your feeding will continue for one week under the regulations of the Canteen Committee, and after that your fathers must fill up a form asking for relief." The present Government ought to support a system of that kind, having regard to the administration of the Minister of Health. It is crude,, parsimonious administration. The parents had to fill up a form. They refused. Here is the significant fact which I get from the local Press. The schoolmaster said, "Fill up this form." Instead of the man filling up the form or coming to see the head master, what happened? A man behind the scenes came, and came with a policeman. I submit that the very fact that the man brought a policeman with him was indicative of the motive behind this business—the motive of political persecution, to which the Noble Lord has committed himself in this case. I do not make that statement without foundation. I see here that during the trial of the case Geoffrey S. Watson, manager of Hedley Hill Colliery, said that in consequence of a complaint made to him he went to see Towers (the schoolmaster) on 9th November, and he was accompanied by P.C. Read. He told him of the complaint, and Towers said that he had acted on his own authority. He had not consulted anyone. Witness asked him if he had any authority to do such an action, and he replied, 'Yes' That is my point. Why on earth should a colliery manager come in at all? He did not come in in the 14 other cases that had preceded this case. It had been settled; the children had been fed in the other cases. But here comes the colliery manager and with him a man representing the law. I say deliberately that a prosecution was entered from the very beginning of this case. This teacher's politics were known, and because of that an effort was made to get him out of the school. I am sorry that the President of the Board of Education has come to this decision. He is trying to tell teachers that if they happen to do a little wrong, instead of having justice they are going to have the full weight of penalties placed upon them. Is this a hint to Labour teachers that if anything happens to them in the slightest degree, if they are summoned for a technical assault and a Conservative President is on the Government Bench, they are to be visited with the maximum penalty? This case cannot be isolated from the Liverpool speech of the Noble Lord. The Noble Lord did not lay much blame on the teaching profession. He seemed to lay some emphasis on the local authority, and in this case I wonder how much he loves the local education authority which is involved? It happens to be a Labour education authority.

7.0 p.m.

This case cannot be divorced from the Liverpool speech, nor from the speeches of other hon. Members.* I say deliberately that if Members of the Conservative party are prepared, outside the House, to make the definite and specific statements that are made in general terms and by suggestion inside the House, if they dare to make them personal and specific, we will test them in the law courts of the country as far as political teaching is concerned. There was a great deal of talk at one time about politics in the schools. There was one hon. Member, the hon. and gallant Member for Coventry (Sir A. Boyd-Carpenter) who made a specific statement about a teacher in Llanelly. When it was brought down to hard facts, the result was that the hon and gallant Member had to pay for an apology being put into the papers up and down the country. As a matter of fact, our schools are free from political teaching, and the teachers are definitely opposed to political teaching. As this man said in a letter to me: People cannot understand that I can have my politics outside and still have no politics in the school. This man has been prosecuted simply because all this has been going on. My hon. Friend the Member for Spennymoor asked the Noble Lord to get up and say who instituted this prosecution. You cannot in this case get away from the colliery agent and the colliery company and the Conservative party in that area. All are combined to rob this teacher of his livelihood. I have never met such a case of injustice in the whole of my career in the teaching profession.

The Noble Lord may smile. He would not smile if he understood working-class people at all. Has he realised what he has done? I do not think he has. He has destroyed the whole professional career of this man and thrown him on to the scrap heap—no salary, no good will. I see the Prime Minister here. The Prime Minister has preached good will in industry. If ever there was an example of spitefulness and victimisation in industry, this is one. I am sure that if one had a confidential talk with the Prime Minister, he would not be very happy and comfortable over this case. Instead of helping to keep the schools free from politics and helping us to get along without any political bias at all, the action of the President of the Board of Education has thrown party politics right into the middle of a professional discussion.

This case will not end here. It will be preached as an instance of the injustice of the President of the Board of Education up and down the country. The profession has been waiting, hoping that the President would revise his decision and that he would do common human justice to this man, but I believe they have come to the conclusion now—at least they have had no intimation that he is going to change his mind—that they have waited long enough. They have been quiet because they were hoping he would change his opinion, but they will keep quiet no longer and up and down the country, in the teaching profession, we shall have meetings of protest, demanding justice for this man. Although they may disagree with what he has done, they will stand by him and say definitely that what he committed was not a crime for which he ought to be punished in this manner. It might have been an error of judgment, but there was no immoral or criminal action nor anything which branded him as being unworthy of remaining in the profession, and yet the Noble Lord comes along and takes his whole livelihood away from him. Can he defend it on any other ground than that of political expediency—a sop to the wolves of die-hardism in the Conservative party?

I have watched the development of this matter most carefully in the questions put by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Major Kindersley). I watched the further questions of the hon. Member in the Autumn Session and afterwards. I saw it developing, and the Noble Lord. in order to please his die-hard people, who believe, or pretend to believe, that there are politics in the schools, has thrown this man as a sop to the wolves. Is that judicial administration or is that common humanity? Is that deciding on a case? No, having been into every detail of this case, I submit that no unbiased man or tribunal could but say that so far as this man is concerned, politics has been the dominating factor. I was not anticipating going on with this case, but the hon. Member for Spennymoor has brought it before the Committee and, as I happen to know most of the details and have been through them over and over again, I thought I would help him in trying to bring some touch of—I will not use the word "decency" for the moment—statesmanlike administration into the Board of Education. I would like to ask the President of the Board, if he wants to get rid of the impression that he has been actuated by political motives: Is it not possible for him to give at least some indication that within some reasonable period of time this certificate will be restored? Why say, "For ever"? Why put this man in such a position that he can have no hope of getting back into the profession? He is a man with a. splendid career, and in his last place, Conservatives, Liberals and Labour united to give him a public testimonial before he left them, and that was only a very short time before this incident took place. Good will! There is going to be no good will on these benches. The Noble Lord may smile. It is he who has made this decision, and it is he who has compelled us to take up this attitude. I had refrained from entering into any discussion of it in the hope that he might have given us some indication that he would revise his decision, but I feel that we must now have it out in the House of Commons.

I want to say a few words about his administration. There has been no President of the Board of Education who has forfeited confidence more than the right hon. Gentleman. Everybody who watches his administration agrees that we have at the head of the Department a very clever President of the Board. They are very much impressed by his intelligence, but they are not so overwhelmingly impressed by his administrative stability. As a matter of fact, I do not want anybody to accept my view. Those interested may have read this week's issue of the paper called "The Educationalist," the organ of the Association of Education Committees, which is not a teachers' paper at all, and this is what they say, as being their latest judgment on the President of the Board: The present administration of the Board of Education will become famous amongst other things for the oft-repeated assurance of a desire to consult and co-operate with local education authorities after the decision upon which consultation is desirable has already been made by the President or the Government. After! Take the case of the teachers. The same thing obtained there—no consultation. Before the President of the Board came into office the teachers were consulted, and there was representation on various Committees. I would like to ask the President definitely and specifically whether the Committee relating to mental deficiency has or has not been changed since it was set up by my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan)? Is it the same Committee or have people from outside been added to it since it was originally set up? If so, why is it that a practical teacher has not been appointed to it? The experience of teachers is wanted on these Committees, but they are left in ignorance of the practical experience of the teaching profession. The Noble Lord has had a grand chance to get cooperation. Salaries are out of the way and pensions are out of the way, and every matter which could disturb the profession is out of the way. Instead of getting co-operation he has got suspicion because he is ignoring them on all these committees.

Then comes along Circular 1388. That Circular is in line with the restrictive policy of the President of the Board ever since he has been in office. Limitation, curtailment and crippling of every branch of education will be the result of the Circular. It is a very clever Circular. It is not so blatant as Circular 1371 was. It is much more cutely done, with the hope of avoiding a lot of public criticism. The President says: "It may have limited things, but you can come to me and talk about things if you want to do more." I should like to ask how can local authorities go on with their three years' programme if they are to be subjected to these changes every year? How are the authorities to look forward for three years and plan their schemes for the. next year when they do not know what is going to happen after? We do not know, for instance, whether there are going to be block grants and whether the percentage system is to be abolished, and as to these block grants, nobody knows how much they are going to be. Financial insecurity is the basis on which the Board of Education expects the authorities to go on. Instead of helping authorities and giving them a chance of progressing, the Noble Lord is crippling them.

Let us examine it a little in detail; I hope we shall be able to go into it more in detail on the Estimates. Take his limitation of expenditure upon what is called "Other Expenditure"—namely, the 45s. What is included in that? Repairs, heating of schools, copy-books, pens, ink and so on, and apparatus—all that is included under that head. The Noble Lord comes along and says: "You must save on copy-books and ink," and he cuts down the supply of reading books. What else is involved in all this? The local authority, which is progressive and has no power to erect secondary schools, has the power to erect central schools. I know a number of progressive local authorities who have no control over secondary education and who have erected central schools. These central schools have done magnificent work. They have brought the schools much more into direct line with industry and so on than the normal secondary schools. At any rate, they have done very good work indeed. The operation of the 45s. limitation means that the whole movement among progressive authorities for the establishment of central schools will be curtailed and crippled, and, instead of having an expansion of our central schools up to the age of 16, we shall have them limited and curtailed. This 45s. for elementary education is to be the limit imposed by the Board. You cannot run central schools efficiently on a 45s. limit; you cannot get the apparatus necessary nor the books. They are naturally, for various reasons, more costly than the other elementary schools, and yet, over the whole broad sphere of elementary education, as well, the President of the Board of Education comes along and proposes this limit. I say definitely that the central schools under progressive authorities will not have a chance to develop.

Then you come to the secondary school. What is the meaning of it there? It means that it will be extremely difficult for new secondary school free places to be provided under the limitation of £25 as laid down in this Circular. It will cripple the extension of free secondary education. That is the meaning of it. The Noble Lord has claimed credit for the expansion of secondary school education and the increase in the number of pupils. If this were an Estimates Debate I could show to the House that the increase in the number of children in secondary schools was due to the policy of my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Newcastle. He said to the local education authorities, "For every free place you give, above 25 per cent., you shall have a grant of £6 per head." The first thing the Noble Lord did in his zeal for secondary education was to abolish this super-grant of £G and the figures he is now quoting in speeches up and down the country showing the impetus given to the number of pupils in secondary schools are the result of the policy of my right hon. Friend on this side. If the Noble Lord stays in office long enough, issuing these limiting Circulars., then instead of increases being quoted by him, we on this side will be able to show a considerable decrease in the number of pupils attending secondary schools. The hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. E. Morrison) contradicted a point made with regard to special schools. I have since looked it up. The Circular under this head says that the Board feel that the first aim of policy should be (he completion of the school medical service. That is clear. The first aim, then, is to complete the school medical service. What about the special schools? It will be understood that the Board do not underrate the value of special schools, but while no rule can be laid down which is universally applicable to all areas, and all types of physical defects, the completion of the school medical service would appear to be of primary importance and the Board suggests that the authorities should concentrate on this definite end. What is the meaning of that? If English means anything, it means, "Do not develop your special schools."


indicated dissent.


Since the Noble Lord dissents from that, let me refer him, not to my reading of the Circular, but to the meaning imported into it by the executive of the education authorities. The education authorities referring to this particular paragraph in the Circular say. Finally, the executive committee dissociates itself from the policy laid down in Paragraph (3 of the Circular. In the opinion of the executive committee, the carefully-considered provision of special schools for the blind, the deaf and the physically dedective may properly and indeed 6hould proceed side by side with the improvement of the school medical service itself. A sudden arrest of the provision of special schools, as would appear to be contemplated in Paragraph 6 of Circular 1388, would be to hurt the child life of the community. It is quite clear what the local education authorities understand by that paragraph of the Circular. They understand it to mean that there must be no further development of the special schools. If the Noble Lord in this Debate can disabuse their minds, he will have done something of service to the education system in this country. My final indictment is this. We hear from the Conservative side speeches which say: "We are just keeping things as they are; there has been no tremendous or drastic cut in education." But you must relate all these matters to the needs of our education system. Expansion is needed—expansion in the sense of raising the school age and of bettering the equipment in our elementary schools. The hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Smith), speaking on the other side of the House, mentioned smaller classes as a fundamental and necessary reform in the elementary system. I am glad he did so. It is absolutely necessary for good education to get the classes of the "kiddies" down to the size of the classes in our public schools, and in the Cadet Corps of the Army and Navy. Hundreds of pounds per year are spent on those; and £10 or £ll is spent on the elementary school child. I agree with the hon. Member that a reduction in the size of classes is absolutely necessary but this Circular will prevent it.


May I make an explanation. I said I would rather see smaller classes in the elementary schools than in the secondary schools. I did not say anything about the need for smaller classes altogether. What I said was that we ought to have the smaller classes in the elementary schools and the larger classes in the secondary schools.


I accept that part of the hon. Member's statement in which he says he wants smaller classes in the elementary schools I do not think he need quarrel with me upon that. I agree with him. He has touched upon something which is absolutely essential in our elementary system, namely, the need for smaller classes. But this Circular proposes staff establishment, and so open and clear is the policy of the Board, so enthusiastically educational are they, that we cannot get at what that establishment is. There is evasion all the time. There is uncertainty all the time. All we are certain about is that a number of authorities with smaller classes are very unsettled, while other authorities with large classes are not being urged by the Board to reduce the size of the classes. Here we have this whole field in front of us. Take the child between the ages of 14 and 16. These children arc not educated in large numbers, nor are they insured. The Ministry of Labour has no supervision over them, neither has the Board of Education. Yet instead of protests against this position; instead of constructive schemes, occupying the attention of the Board of Education, the Board are merely occupied from the first day of the year to the last in thinking of circulars to limit expenditure, to cripple our education service, and to perpetrate grave injustice upon the working-class children of our country.


May I preface my remarks by assuring the Noble Lord that I had previously heard nothing of the case of Mr. Towers, who has been referred to by the hon. Members for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) and Wellingborough (Mr. Cove). But having heard what they have said, I appeal to him very carefully to consider whether it is not possible to mitigate the severity of the sentence which has been inflicted upon this teacher. It appeared to me that an exceedingly powerful case was made out. As I say it was new to me. I knew nothing of the details previously, but a strong case has been made out for some term being put on the withdrawal of this teacher's certificate. If the Noble Lord is anxious to clear himself of any suspicion, whether just or unjust, of political bias having entered into this matter, and to get rid of the very disagreeable atmosphere which surrounds this case, by reason of the intervention of the colliery agent, and of Conservative politicians at a time of very inflamed feeling, and very natural indignation on both sides in that part of the country, I hope he will be prepared to do the generous thing and to mitigate the punishment inflicted upon Mr. Towers.

May I turn from that subject to the question of London education. Not much has been said about the way in which London has suffered and still suffers under the administration of the Noble Lord. The County Council across the water has a Conservative majority. Their rate of educational progress is not as fast as we would like to see it. None the less, it is true that London is one of the most forward education authorities in the country. The Conservative majority in the County Hall, although not going as fast as we would wish, are going too fast to suit the wishes of the Noble Lord. Since his entry into office, there has been a continual haggling and carping going on with regard to the programmes put forward by the London County Council. Last year a reduction of £350,000 was demanded and secured in the Estimates which they submitted, and this year in the latest Circular which has been referred to, Circular 1388, the London County Council is to be called upon to"justify"—as the expression goes—more than £1,000,000. which is included in its estimate for the present year. It has been said that every spring there is a danger of a war in the Balkans, and every March there is a danger of a Circular from the Board of Education. We had one last year, we have one this year. If the Noble Lord is still in office, I suppose there will be another one next year. I cannot imagine anything more discouraging to the administrative staff.

I am not now speaking of the public representatives. So far as the London County Council are concerned, I will leave the Noble Lord to sympathise with them, because the majority is of his own political party. But turning to the administrative staff and the teachers—to both of whom I wish to pay a tribute for the splendid services they render, a tribute which is based upon some degree of personal knowledge of a number of those concerned—I cannot imagine anything more discouraging than this continual output of limiting and crippling circulars. Something has been said of the general effect of the limiting standards in the latest Circular. It has been pointed out that the minimum limiting standards have disappeared and that everything is new left to the discretion of the Noble Lord. I had occasion a few days ago to ask a question on quite a small point, which none the less illustrates the general tendency of things, and the Noble Lord could not give me a satisfactory reply. That was a question as to the plans for two new schools which are being built by the London County Council and in which, as regards lavatory accommodation and in various other respects, pre-War standards are being departed from, or are not being lived up to. With regard to limiting standards of the minimum kind, there is no longer any safeguard at all. With regard to limiting standards of the maximum kind, such as are laid down in Circular 138S, we are; quite in the dark as to how firmly they are going to be enforced. Limiting standards are laid down and authorities are told that they will be invited to endeavour to justify any excess above those limits.

In the case of London the total cost required to be justified is £935,000 under the first limiting standard—that is upon administrative and other expenditure in the elementary sphere—£10,000 under the second limiting standard, and £63,000 under the third limiting standard, the second being in respect of secondary education and aids to students, and the third in respect of administration in the higher sphere. The total is something over £1,000,000. It has already been pointed out—and the comment calls for an answer from the Noble Lord—that the application of the limiting standard in the first sphere, namely elementary administrative and other expenditure is bound to fall almost wholly upon books, equipment, and all the apparatus of educational efficiency in the schools, except in so far as it is possible to economise upon repairs to and upkeep of buildings. If that be delayed—and I am perfectly clear from what I know of London schools that such delay would be disastrous—some economy may be got, but nearly all the items under this first head are outside the control of the county council. They are such items as rates and taxes. The Noble Lord's friends are largely responsible for the high rates and, taxes, and not the London County Council through the repercussions of national policy. The county council have a partial responsibility for the rates, but they have by no means complete responsibility, and most of these items under the head of "other expenditure" are outside their control altogether.

It is also perhaps known to the Noble Lord that in London the case is particularly hard because, in the first place, the methods of accounting of the London County Council are different from those of certain other bodies. Part of the debt charges in respect of the County Hall are classed as educational administration in the elementary sphere, and in other respects the methods of accounting-adopted here differ from those adopted elsewhere in such a way as to make it appear that the London expenditure is higher than it really is. I do not propose to labour the details, but I will say two things. First, I hope that, so far as London is concerned, the whole of this excess is going to be justified in the judgment of the Board, and I hope and believe that an overwhelming case can be put up for its justification. But in the second place this whole procedure of justification is preposterous. It is most unsettling to the parties concerned, and it is bound to prevent the elaboration of any continuous programme for some years ahead. The education authority of the London County Council has been invited to elaborate their future three years' programme, extending to 1930, but how can it be done on any intelligible basis if there may be, as I have said, another Circular next year contradictory to that which has been issued this year? So much for the special position occupied by London.

More generally, of course, this Circular No. 1388 falls most heavily on a small section of authorities which have been doing their duty to the rising gene- ration more completely than the rest of the country. All these backward authorities, many of them in agricultural areas dominated by farmers and other people whose indifference to education is notorious, are in no way spurred on to perform their duty, and the Noble Lord apparently is quite content to proceed very slowly so far as any forward advance in that part of the country is concerned. We are inclined more and more to regard the Noble Lord as the tool of the Treasury and little more. I read a speech which he made yesterday, in which he said, speaking at the Middlesex Guildhall: "All administration must be a balance between the finance and spending Departments." That, of course, is true, but we do, at any rate, look to those who are in charge of the spending Departments to endeavour to keep their end up, to justify the expenditure which is to be undertaken in their particular Departments, and not to be continually giving in to the perpetual demands of the Treasury for economy in any and every direction.

The Hadow Report has been referred to, and I notice that in the same speech delivered yesterday by the Noble Lord, he paid considerable lip service to the recommendations of that Report. In particular, I was interested to see that he praised the proposal contained in that Report for a definitely new stage in education at about the age of eleven, with a more or less definite break comparable to the break between the preparatory and the public schools. I welcome that, because that is a proposal which was put forward long before the Hadow Report was issued. It was put forward by members of this party and particularly by Mr. R. H. Tawney and others, and we are glad to see it gradually working its way into the commonly accepted ideas of educationists. It is all very well to pay lip service to these ideas, but we are anxious to know what degree of encouragement the Noble Lord will give to any local authorities to move forward along the lines recommended in this valuable document issued by the Committee on the Education of the Adolescent.

Some reference has been made to the raising of the school age, and it is, of course, true, as the Noble Lord was in a great hurry to point out when the subject was being developed by the hon. Member for the Welsh University (Mr. Ernest Evans), that legislation would be required to raise it all over the country, and that that would be out of order to discuss in this Debate. But I do not propose to be driven away from all discussion of the matter, although that might suit the Noble Lord very well, because it is plain that the administrative policy of the Board will have a good deal to do with the action of authorities which may be in some doubt as to how far they will move towards a local raising of the school age or towards the less ambitious plan of multiplying free places and scholarships. I wish to submit to him that, whereas two authorities only at this moment have raised the school age to 15, there are a great-number of others who, if they were not continually hampered and pestered, "cribbed, cabined and confined" by these administrative decrees, would be only too delighted to move in the same direction. The responsibility for preventing that forward movement is a responsibility lying within the sphere of his administration and can be discussed without any reference to legislative changes.

The case developed in the Hadow Report and elsewhere for raising the school age over as wide an area as possible on purely educational grounds is, to my mind, absolutely overwhelming, and that view is shared by, I think, the great majority of those who have had any experience of teaching in the elementary schools. The educational case is, of course, that that is the particular period of a child's life when the greatest developments and changes take place, and that many a child who, up to the age of 14, may have displayed very little ability or attainment, may after that age make exceedingly rapid progress. That is a view to which, I think, practically all teachers will subscribe, but that is not the only ground on which we would ask the Noble Lord to do his best to facilitate the raising; of the school age to 15. Quite apart from and in addition to educational grounds, though I have been careful to stress them, because I know that otherwise he will say it is not his business to have regard to what I am now going to say, there is no doubt, I think, that a raising of the school age or a movement in that direction would be the most direct attack which could be made on the present volume of unemployment. The facts are simple and yet are neglected. Every year you are pouring out from the schools of the country over half-a-million children into an overstocked labour market, and, if you could completely stop the outflow of children from schools to industry for one year, you would reduce unemployment by nearly half-a-million I do not claim that you would reduce it by quite half-a-million, because in some agricultural districts, for instance, if the children were not there, the work would not, be done, but, so far as industrial districts are concerned, you would diminish unemployment by practically the full number of children kept at school.

If you consider that the total amount of unemployment in this country now is less than three years' output of the schools, you will see the extremely close connection between the volume of unemployment and the policy adopted with regard to the school leaving age. I do' not want to develop this beyond one or two brief sentences, but I cannot imagine any policy more sure, more direct, and more simple in application in reference to unemployment than the policy of keeping children at school, involving, of course, the making of proper provision— I am not suggesting that it can be done in a week—for their education while they are there. There is no policy more likely to be effective in that way. With regard to the payment of maintenance allowances, which would be involved in that-which was greatly encouraged by an administrative change made by my right hon. Friend the ex-Minister for Education when he raised the Treasury grant from 20 per cent. to 50 per cent. of the cost of maintenance allowances—with regard to the provision of maintenance allowances, and chiefly from national funds as distinct from the rates, that would be money very-well expended even from a purely cash balance point of view, because you would be able to set off against any increased expenditure in that direction diminished expenditure upon unemployment benefit, Poor Law relief, and the like. In fact, I am very doubtful whether there would be any adverse balance at all so far as. that particular proposition is concerned.

One word, and only one word, about the universities in relation to this problem. There has been a considerable movement of reform in the last few years with regard to the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and London. The two first have had and the third is about to have a statutory Commission, and the Oxford and Cambridge Commissions have achieved some useful results. But the main fact which still remains is that our Universities are a stunted growth, that they are not yet as fully developed as the needs of the country require, that the grants and assistance given to them from the Exchequer are still grossly insufficient, and that, apart from any really large scheme of educational development, further grants should be provided and encouragement given to the Universities to undertake to provide for every intending future teacher the opportunity of a full university course, not segregated for the greater part of the time with other intending teachers, but for the greater part of the time mixed' up with other undergraduates, male and female, without regard to their future careers, and only subsequently segregated. I believe that if they had a three years' course at a University and a one year's course at a vocational training college afterwards, it would be sufficient. This particular aspect of the educational system has not been mentioned to-night, but I hope that, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has shown himself a little less unwilling to grant money to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge than to other educational institutions, he will perhaps be led on, under the pressure of the Noble Lord—and the Noble Lord has given away a lot to him in the past, so perhaps he could persuade him to give him something in return now—to make further financial assistance in connection with schemes for the training of teachers at other Universities, in addition to those which have benefited up to now.

My final word is this: The course of this Debate, which has been chiefly conducted from this side—a fact which does not reflect very great credit on the interest in education taken by the much larger number of Members of the Conservative party—the general tendency of the Debate has been to emphasise a certain fundamental difference of view between the two sides of the House with regard to education, which is further illustrated by the difference between the record of the Noble Lord since he assumed office and the much too brief record of my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan), who held the same post in the last Government. Whereas we, on this side, are anxious to see an impetus given to education and an all-round development, expansion, co-ordination and improvement, because we are satisfied that education is from a certain point of view, already a Socialist enterprise, seeing that it is managed by public authority, that there is no element of private profit in it, and that, in our judgment, no fundamental change is required in it, excepting changes of expansion, development, and the like, whereas we look with great satisfaction upon the growth of educational arrangements, institutions, and so on, the hon. Members on the other side of the House are still inclined to regard them as a luxury which can only be afforded if there is any money left over after the Super-tax has been reduced and if provision has already been made for a number of other objects which, in our judgment, would come long after.

There is also one other difference. We look forward with hope to the development of a new generation which shall have profited by ampler educational opportunities than the present generation has had, to a new generation which will be more alert, more critical, more self-respecting, and less submissive—[An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"]—to a new generation which, having enjoyed educational opportunities denied to the constituents of the hon. Member who interrupts me will produce considerable repercussions upon the future structure of our social and economic life. We believe that if only we arm men and women with knowledge, and throw open wide the doors of educational opportunity, a young generation will march through those doors to conquer a far finer destiny than ever their fathers knew.


I think the first thing the House will expect from me is a reference to the loss the House has suffered in the death of the senior Member for the Scottish Universities. Sir Henry Craik was not only deeply respected by everybody in the House as a great public servant, but he was held, I think, in real affection by everyone, and was no unworthy representative of that great tradition of Scottish education which has done so much for this country in the past.

This Debate has ranged over a fairly wide field, but its real point has been a restricted one. I do not know whether it is inevitable that all Debates on education in this House should give an uncomfortable impression that every Member of this House, with very few exceptions, who speaks on education, including usually the Minister himself, is unable to lift his eyes beyond the details of administration, or, indeed, to talk in language which is generally understandable by the people. I am afraid the subject of educational administration is all too technical, and the result is that our Debates on this subject are apt, perhaps, to be somewhat uninteresting to the outside public, if not to ourselves. But that is no reason why such a Debate should not be conducted in a spirit and a temper of seeking for information and acting upon it. I do not think I am being unfair to hon. Members and right hon. Members opposite when I say that I think any impartial observer would have had a feeling throughout this Debate that they were desperately, and somewhat laboriously, trying to make a case. Their criticism is that, after this Government had been in office for a year, during which time education had been treated as a non-controversial subject, a year and a half ago the President of the Board of Education was defeated in a great battle with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the policy of the Government changed, and that since then a policy of restriction has followed on a policy of continuity.

When hon. Members first raised that thesis rather more than a year ago, I warned them in a phrase which, I think, gave a great deal of offence to the right hon. Member for Central Newcastle-on-Tyne (Mr. Trevelyan), that they were engaged in a sham battle, and they immediately proceeded to predict the evil effects of my circulars and my policy. None of those effects have resulted. On the contrary, in the last 12 months we have had steady progress in most respects, not at as great a rate of progress as in the previous year, but at a much greater rate of progress than in the year 1924–25, and that I propose to show in a moment by figures. But hon. Members, having engaged in a sham battle, cannot break off the engagement. Like the gentleman in the poem: The pikes were all broken or bent, and the powder was ad of it spent, But he said 'Fight on fight on!' And that is what they are doing this evening.


That was not a sham fight.


No, but I am afraid literary quotations would become almost impossible if analogies were too strictly pursued. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite have taken up as the next point round which the battle is to wage, Circular 1388. What a very unfortunate ground on which to choose to fight. For what is Circular 1388? It is a proposal to fix experimentally for one year, and subject to modification even during that one year, certain standards. Now whose policy is that? At the end of the Summer Session of, 1925, this side of the House was lectured by right hon Gentlemen opposite on how we ought to secure economy. The right hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) explained that there was great weakness in the relations between the central Government and local authorities, and that what we ought to do was to attempt to lay lown standards of expenditure for the local authorities. I was a little surprised by that, but it was very soon explained. A little later, when we were having our fight over Circular 1371, I was induced to publish the evidence given before the Meston Committee by the Board of Education, and that evidence, as all the House knows, was that standards should be fixed. Here is a policy announced by the Labour party, backed up—indeed, preceded—by a similar pronouncement of policy by the Liberal party, enforced over and over again in Debates in this House, and then when the Board of Education adopts that suggestion in an experimental way it is the most reactionary thing you ever heard of.

I ask hon. Members opposite, is an argument of that kind a testimonial to any sort of spirit that ought to be associated with an education debate? Is it really worthy of this House that that kind of argument should be used, considering the history of this matter 2 The right hon. Gentleman opposite had no hesitation in fixing standards when he was in office. Of course, he inherited a standard which he raised—the standard of maintenance allowance. But he also fixed a standard himself, the standard of which we have been reminded by the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans), relating to maintenance allowance for children between 14 and 15 in elementary schools. That was to be confined by the right hon. Gentleman to Is. per head of average attendance which, for the country as a whole, would be a matter of £250,000. Now the right hon. Gentleman, with the greater freedom he enjoys out of office, says that £250,000 would not be enough for maintenance allowances, and asserts that £1,000,000 would be necessary. May I, in passing, say to the hon. Member for the Welsh University that, if, I recollect aright, the Carnarvon County Council have already been informed that I am prepared to sanction their expenditure.

The whole argument against the method of controlling expenditure by approximate standards is an argument so thin, that I really warn hon. Members opposite that they had better not waste their time over it. There may be some argument no doubt about any actual standard fixed—the point about the 45s. for instance. It has been said, Are you prepared to impose that on local authorities if the only thing that they can do is to cut down the provision of books? My only answer is this—and I only wish hon. Members who take an interest in this question would go into the subject with local authorities—that in many districts local authorities who exceed the 45s. limit are by no means the authorities who usually have the highest provision for books. On the contrary, many authorities within the 45s. limit have a substantially higher provision for books than those authorities who do not keep within the 45s. limit. What happens in a county like Glamorgan? You have the assessment committees in that county raising the assessment of all the schools, thereby affecting the grant from the Board of Education, and the local education authorities tend to cut down on their provision of books for schools in order to meet the higher rates. That sort of thing is happening now, and hon. Members opposite must realise that it is liable to happen. I think, therefore, the best thing that could be done would be to fix a standard which would operate as a standard of proper provision on all these different items.

8.0 p.m.

May I go over the head, as it were of a good many of the detailed criticisms which have been made, by-giving the House a statement of what is the real position of our educational administration. Two years ago I issued a Circular, not so usually referred to as my other Circulars, namely, Circular 1358, calling for programmes. It has taken one and a half or two years to prepare those programmes. These programmes now are practically all in the hands of the Board. At the same time as Circular 1388 was issued, the Board issued a letter to practically all the local authorities telling them that in principle the Board was prepared to approve their projects for the next financial year 1927–28. Therefore, every local 'authority knows its programme is actually about to be begun, and the local authorities have received sanction to go forward with their next year's programme. I would ask those hon. Members opposite who are capable of a dispassionate judgment whether that is or is not continuity? That is the position as it stands at the present moment. There are some exceptions. There are some areas where I have beer unable to give that general approval, namely, those areas which have been specially hard hit by the industrial troubles of last year and where the rating position is such that I am advised by the Minister of Health that the credit of those authorities renders it necessary to go slow until their position and their assessable value are re-established in some measure. [Interruption.] I do not think that interruption is a very great help towards a real understanding of the present position, and the hon. Member who made it is welcome, after consideration, to give his own reply. What I am trying to do now is to make the position clear. In those areas we have, therefore, had to come to a special arrangement with each individual local authority. We have been able, I hope, to come to an arrangement with Durham which will allow Durham really to go steadily ahead with the very grave problems with which it is faced. Gradually, I hope, that in all those areas we shall be able to get a programme fully launched. The hon. Lady the Member for East Ham North (Miss Lawrence), who is not now in her place, reminded the House of the difficulties of some of those authorities at the present time. May I just on this point interpose an answer to her question? I am afraid that she was not fully acquainted with the scheme of her own authority. The fact of the matter is that the East Ham authority has a scheme of elementary re-organisation which we have approved, but they wish under that scheme to convert their existing central school into a secondary school. That scheme, if it were carried out, would have necessitated the provision of another central school in its place, and that was the additional school to which the hon. Lady referred. The Board disapproved, on purely educational grounds, the proposal to turn the central school into a secondary school, because we did not think that the buildings or the grounds were adequate to make a proper secondary school. With the disapproval of that proposal, the necessity for an additional central school lapses. That is the complete answer to the hon. Lady opposite.

The position therefore is that the programmes which we called for at the beginning of this Government's administration we are now carrying out. Our policy to that extent has been and is being successful. But hon. Members say "What of the intervening years?" According to the myth circulated by hon. Members opposite, there has been such a restriction on the progress of education during the last year or 18 months that this Government must be classed as reactionary and that, to quote the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck), we have had to mark time. I can assure my Noble Friend that we have not had to mark time at all. We have gone quite steadily forward. May I prove that by giving to the House a few figures? The hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. B. Morrison) will excuse me if I confine myself to a few figures in view of the number which he has put before the House. Let me give the figures for last year, when the policy of the Board. of Education has been said to be reactionary, in comparison with previous years. In 1924–1925 the Board of Education approved the provision of additional elementary school places to the extent of 46,964. In 1925–26, during half of which according to the theory of hon. Members opposite, this Government were engaged in trying to stop local authorities from doing anything, the Board approved new elementary school places to the extent of 71,392 and in this last year of supreme difficulty it is true that, up to 19th March, we have not done so much, but we have still done a great deal better than in 1924–1925. We have approved 64,139 new elementary school places. May I also give a few figures for the secondary school places? In 1924–25 the figures were 15,617; in 1925–26, 16,283, and in 1926–27, 15,275. But now may I come to the point of the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Cove), in regard to one of those excursions of his into the realm of facts where he never is quite at home. He says that, of course, there has been an increase in the number of secondary school pupils, but that that was due to the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle in relation to the super-grant. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle will agree that I have never been chary of expressing my debt, and the debt of the country, to his administration, and I have never tried to make the matter a party one. But, after all, what are the figures? This super-grant finally expired at the end of the financial year 1925–26, and consequently, during the last 12 months, this super-grant has not been in operation. But what are the figures? On 1st October, 1924, there was an increase of 1,090 pupils in the secondary schools over the previous year. In 1925 there was an increase of 7,943 over the year 1924, and in 1926 there was an increase of 9,748 over the previous year, more than in the two previous years put together. I merely give those figures to show that we have not been marking time, but that we have been steadily making progress. To say that we have not is merely a subtle legend spread for obvious purposes by hon. Members opposite. They have had all, or nearly all, of these figures available to them. They know these facts perfectly well, but they do not want to have them quoted.

On this point, may I respectfully make one protest to my hon. Friend the Member for North Tottenham, whose contributions to our educational Debates are generally so candid and so well informed? Referring to this question of making full use of the information at the disposal of hon. Members, he gave a number of figures about the number of blind children actually in elementary schools and so on. He enlarged upon the absurdity and the wrong of such a thing, and he reminded me that I had given those figures in answer to a question. But he might surely have reminded the House that I had also given him an explanation. It was a very simple one. The fact that these children are not attending special schools is due, in the main, either to the unwillingness of the parents to have their children placed in these schools, or to the children having arrived at an age at which the obligation on such children to attend the schools no longer holds good. The hon. Member for North Tottenham is really deflected in his thinking about the whole special school problem by his London experience. In London you have, within a small area, a very large number of these defective children, both physically and mentally defective. You can bring them together easily into schools. You can classify your mentally defectives to a much greater extent than you can anywhere else, but I wish the hon. Member would consider what is the real main problem of the mentally and physically defectives at the present moment. There are areas in this country where you have only a few defective children, not enough for a special school. You can only deal with them either by having a class somewhere in connection with an elementary school or by sending them to a residential institution. After all, the parents have something to say about their defective child, and it is not always easy to deal with those children for that reason. This question of mental? defectiveness has been raised so often. As I have said, London can classify these mentally defective children according to grades. Hon. Members who have had experience and who have been into our mentally defective schools in other parts of the country and have seen the mixture in one room of widely different grades and types of mental defectives, must have asked themselves whether it is really good for those different types of children to be all together, and whether the teaching given has the result that the hon. Member for North Tottenham assumed that it had—that a large number of the children become self-supporting after they leave school. That they are able to do some work I do not deny, but that they become self-supporting, or that those schools are necessarily on the best lines for the good of the children, is, in the minds of everyone who speaks about the subject, a very grave question. I feel that those powers of compulsion which the Board have in regard to mentally defective children constitute about the gravest responsibility which we have got, and if we deal with those children wrongly it might be better that we had never dealt with them at all.

Now I come to another point in the speeches of the hon. Member for North Tottenham and the Member for Wellingborough. They made great play with this mysterious Committee about mental deficiency as if it had been suddenly revealed. But if they had ever read the Report on the health of school children by the Chief Medical Officer to the Board of Education for 1924 they would have found on page 145 a long footnote explaining the composition of that Committee and a considerable passage in which its object is explained. The hon. Member for North Tottenham and the hon. Member for Wellingborough will see if they look at that list that teachers are not excluded from it, and that one member of the Committee was Miss Red-fern, the headmistress of a residential school for mentally defective children. Is it worth while occupying the time of the House with baseless accusations of that kind, which really only show that hon. Members have not read the Reports which are available to them?


Perhaps the Noble Lord would be good enough to answer the point as to why, seeing that a committee had been in existence since 1924, it should be necessary to base the last paragraph of Circular 1388 on the statement that because that committee was sitting no further sanction could be given for the provision of new schools or the extension of existing schools?


Because now for the first time the Board or Education are in a position to present the country with the settled programmes of local authorities, and the question of whether we are going to build a number of new schools for the mentally defective arises on those programmes. That is the whole point of the present position. There is a settled programme which we are going to carry out as far as financial conditions permit. Hon. members opposite are always so critical of my Circulars that perhaps they will allow me to make a statement to them as to certain considerations which the Government and the Board of Education must have in mind in dealing with the programmes. I make this statement of policy more readily, because it covers various points put to me by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. We have given local authorities the necessary approval, in principle, of their programmes for the coming year; but there are three major problems in connection with which those programmes will have to be steadily reviewed and checked over the next three years.

The first of those major problems is the development of post primary education, to which reference has been made. I think it is quite clear mat the large increase in teaching establishments and the large increase in buildings provided for in the programmes could not properly be justified, and the country could not feel it had had value for its money, unless in connection with those new schools and that increase in teaching staff substantial progress were made with improvements in the character and methods of adolescent education on the lines recommended by the consultative committee. The Board will have to bear that consideration in mind in reviewing the proposals of authorities for new elementary school buildings and increased teaching establishments as they come before them. Somebody said there was mystery about the size of the teaching establishments. There is mystery to this extent, that we have not yet finally approved all the establishments for all the authorities. I hope very soon to be able to announce what is the total of the approved establishments of the country, but I can say at once that the total will be very considerably in excess of the total staff employed last year, which in turn was very considerably in excess of that of the year before.

So much for the first of the major problems. The second is concerned with the size of these large classes. I need hardly say that the policy of the Board remains that which was stated in Circular 1325, namely, the elimination of all classes over 50, and a reduction to 40 of classes for pupils over the age of 11. The number of classes with more than 50 children on the register fell from 24,972 at 31st March, 1924, to 19,982 at 3l8t March, 1926. Contrast that with the figures of building and the figures of teaching staffs. In the three years since 31st March, 1924, the Board have approved a capital expenditure on elementary school premises to a total amount of between £8,500,000 and £9,000,000; and between 30th September, 1924, and 30th September, 1926, teaching staffs increased by 2,338. On the face of it, that should ensure a very substantial further decrease in the number of large classes at 31st March next.

Unfortunately, however, projects designed primarily to replace defective school premises or to provide for movements of the population—and those, after all, must represent the bulk of the building going on—will not always be effectual in securing the elimination of classes of over 50 in existing schools. In studying the figures I have been struck by the fact that it is by no means always the authorities whose reaching and building costs are high who have made most progress in the direction of eliminating these large classes. I could name several authorities who might at first blush be called "backward" by hon. Member? opposite who have succeeded in reducing their classes, while much more "progressive" authorities have not succeeded in doing so. In dealing with the programmes of individual authorities, the Board must have regard to the extent to which they are likely to be effective in eliminating classes of over 50 by the end of the programme period; that must be the end we definitely set before ourselves.

The third major problem which must be considered in relation to the programmes of local authorities is that of the Black List Schools. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central New- castle indulged in statements to the effect that nothing, or practically nothing, had been done for the non-provided schools, and asked why the Board did not do something about it. I think if he will look at his own Estimates for 1924 and will contrast his language on that occasion and the very mild and almost gingerly way in which he approached the problem of the non-provided voluntary schools, with his language this afternoon, he will be impressed once more by the extent to which absence from office gives greater freedom of expression. I propose to tell him what, as a matter of fact, we are doing. The programmes show that, generally speaking, the bulk of the provided schools will be dealt with by the end of the programme period; and without laying down a hard and fast date for the termination of recognition, I think every local authority should proceed on the assumption that all the A schools on the list and the bulk of the B schools should have been dealt with by the beginning of the school year—that means September—19;S0. The position in regard to non-provided schools is not quite so clear, but I do not think that the progress up to date has been unsatisfactory. The most complete figures which I possess happen to be those of Roman Catholic schools, and I will give them to the House without, of course, any adverse implication in regard to the schools of other denominations. Out of a total of 60,000 Roman Catholic places on Lists A and B (the Black List) we have now received proposals with regard to 17,000, or more than a quarter of the whole, and of these, 11,000 have either been removed from the lists or plans for reconstruction or replacement have actually been approved.


What is the number of schools?


I cannot give them off-hand. Taking one large division of the country where the problem is the most urgent, of 17 Roman Catholic schools on List A, seven have now been dealt with, and, in the case of two more, definite proposals have been received by the Board. In this area therefore over 50 per cent. of the worst schools have been or are being actually dealt with, and, although I should like to claim credit for the whole of this result, I should like to testify that in at least four cases the managers had already taken action on their own initiative independently of the Black List. That progress is not unsatisfactory.

The managers of non-provided schools have to face the difficulty that they have not compulsory powers with regard to sites which are possessed by local authorities, and that is a great factor when dealing with congested urban areas. They suffer from great difficulties, but nevertheless they are making great efforts. There is one feature of the problem which causes me some concern. Where the managers of non-provided schools definitely intend to take action to replace the schools or to remedy the existing defects, no difficulty is likely to arise. Time must be left for them to raise the necessary money or to negotiate with the local authorities. In some cases where schools are situated in congested parts of great towns immediate building may be impossible owing to the lack of available sites or movements of the population. There are other cases where managers have long bought sites, but cannot get possession owing to lack of alternative accommodation for the tenants. Where again the managers object to the classification of the schools and think the defects are exaggerated, the Board are fully prepared to discuss the matter without prejudice. But there are a large number of cases where the intentions of those responsible for these schools are not clear. I am not referring to cases where an attempt is being made to raise funds, but where the result of that attempt is still uncertain. I am referring rather to cases where there has been as yet no sign of any action of any kind.

It is clear that local authorities cannot proceed with their plans for the organisation of education in their areas in any systematic way so long as they are uncertain as to the intentions of those responsible for voluntary schools. One of the most welcome signs in the last two years has been the increasing part taken both by Central Church and diocesan bodies in assisting the managers of individual non-provided schools, and in attempting to work out a policy covering all the schools in a given area. I have recently had some indication that diocesan bodies would welcome arrangements for systematic and continuous consultation with local authorities on the problem of defective school premises in each area taken as a whole. I trust that such arrangements may now be made in all areas where uncertainty still exists as to the intentions of managers.

I hope that I have shown that I have the fullest sympathy with and consideration for the difficulties of non-provided schools, and that I shall certainly not harry with any unreasonable demands those who are proceeding with their plans as quickly as inevitable difficulties will allow. But where those responsible for non-provided schools do not intend or feel themselves unable to take any action, it is only fair that they should now definitely inform the local authorities to that effect so that the authority may be able to review the whole position. I think such action is only fair and I hope that everyone responsible for voluntary schools will take that action and will not wait for any pressure from the Board but declare their intention where those intentions are still uncertain. I hope I have at any rate given the House some impression of the actual point at which we have arrived in educational administration, and the history of educational administration in the immediate past. That has been my only object. To any impartial person my statement makes it quite clear that there has been and is substantial continuity in the work of education. I do not mean to say that there have not been difficulties last year, I do not mean to say that educational work has not been held up last year, but it has not been held up by the failure of the Board to sanction a large number of building proposals. Hon. Members opposite should remember that from the beginning of last May when all building labour was officially called off all school building, from that time onwards through all our troubles of last year the whole work of school building and the placing of contracts for school buildings has been very seriously affected from industrial causes. That must produce its effect, but so far as the policy of the Board is concerned it is a policy of continuity, however much hon. Members opposite may argue to the contrary.

Memorandum No. 44 was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle as one which has held up every kind of development. The right hon. Gentleman knows that that is not an accurate statement, because there has been a great development, and every single one of those 67,000 elementary school places sanctioned during the last year came within the four corners of Memorandum. No. 44. Hon. Members who were previously misled into misrepresenting Memorandum No. 44 are trying to renew their misrepresentations to-day. I have given them the facts, and I defy them now to continue that propaganda of misrepresentation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why did you withdraw it?"] I superseded it by giving individual instructions to each authority within the general limits of that Memorandum. I do not think the hon. Member makes his case any more plausible by throwing a verbal quip across the Floor of the House in that way. The question of the schoolmaster at Headley Hill has been raised. On that I have already made a full statement to this House, and any hon. Member who was present in the House when that statement was made will be able to judge of the impression the House gathered from my statement. The hon. Member for Peckham (Mr Dalton) had not read that statement. I would advise him to read it, and compare it with the statement which he has made to-day. Having made my statement, I am going to make no other statement on the matter; I must leave it to the judgment of the House and the country whether what this man did was a grave act or not. If hon. Members opposite are prepared to commit themselves to the view that his action was not grave, was net serious, was not gravely reprehensible, I must leave them to their opinion and must ask this House and the country to judge. But I am not going to enter into any further controversy on the subject. I will only reply on two questions of fact. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Cove) said that I had not cancelled the certificate of any other teacher last year for any action taken during the general strike. That is incorrect.


I did not say that.


The OFFICIAL REPORT will judge between us. That is incorrect; I did cancel the certificate of one teacher at that time. Secondly, on one question of fact, I will say this. I am not going to bandy words with the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) about political bias, beyond reminding him that the arguments that may sound well at a rural district council election in Durham do not always impress the House of Commons. I think it is only fair to the Members of my own party to say that, from the moment that I first heard of this case from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hitchin (Major Kindersley), when he put down a question in regard to it—[HON. MEMBERS: "It did not start there!"]—I said, from the moment I first heard of the case, which was when my hon. and gallant Friend put a question down. From that moment onwards, I received no representation beyond the words which were spoken on the Floor of the House; I received no representations, and was subjected to no pressure of any kind from any Member of my party, and I received no communication that I know of on the subject from any Member of my party outside this House beyond the letter, speaking from recollection, addressed to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hitchin, on which he based his question and which he handed to me. Beyond that, I have received no representation, no communication on the subject, from any Member of my party. Having said that, I will leave the House to judge between hon. Members and myself.


Whatever differences we may have with the Noble Lord on the general subject that we are discussing to-night, I think every Member of the House, and certainly every Member on this side, will be heartily in agreement with him in the quite appropriate words which he delivered with regard to the passing of our late friend, Sir Henry Craik. As was known to all Members of the House, his views were not our views, his opinions were not our opinions; but we always listened to him with the greatest possible respect, and admired very much the wonderful record which stood to his credit.

The Noble Lord, in discussing educational subjects in this House, and particularly in his reply this evening, sets himself upon some sort of pontifical seat and delivers judgment upon the conduct of hon. Members on this side of the House. Our offence varies from time to time. Sometimes we are mere propa- gandists; at other times we are guilty of some other crime; but the Noble Lord never forgets to deliver a very elaborate sermon to us upon the subject of what he deems to be appropriate conduct in the discussion of public affairs in this House. He rather flattered himself tonight that we were in the difficulty of having, as he expressed it, deliberately and laboriously to build up a case against the Board of Education. I do not think it is so difficult or so laborious a job as he imagines. I shall develop presently my indictment against his administration under three heads. I am going to submit that the Noble Lord's administration has been inimical to the interests of the local authorities, has been inimical to the interests of the parents of the children, and I want particularly to take up a little time at the end to say a few words about the interests of the teachers from a particular point of view.

The Noble Lord rather complained, as I understood him, that the non-controversial attitude which we were invited to adopt regarding education has disappeared in subsequent Debates in this House. If there is any complaint on that score, it is the Noble Lord himself who is to blame. When he delivered his first speech from that Box as President of the Board of Education, I remember my right hon. Friend the ex-President telling him that, so far as he was concerned, he would be heartily glad to see the Noble Lord follow along the lines of continuity of policy so far as the policy of the Labour Government of 1924 was concerned; and, in so far as he did follow that policy, my right hon. Friend pledged the support of our friends on this side to that policy. But the Noble Lord has not followed it, and, because he has not followed it, he has forced this educational question once more into the realms of very violent controversy. And let me assure the Noble Lord that the controversy is not a sham controversy, either. There is no sham fight about it; it is not a species of shadow boxing that we are having at all, but it is in fact a very violent difference of opinion between hon. Members on the opposite side of the House and those on this side as to what is the function of the Board of Education in regard to our educational arrangements generally.

Before I come to the indictment to which I have referred, I want just to refer to one particular aspect of our educational work which has not been even referred to to-night, and, perhaps, the Noble Lady, the Parliamentary Secretary, if she proposes to reply, will say a word about it. It is in regard to the question of nursery schools. I know quite well that there are certain difficulties attending the provision of nursery schools. There is, of course, the difficulty of providing accommodation in many places. But, in reading the Report presented by Sir George Newman recently, I discovered some facts and figures which I think hon. Members will agree with me are nothing short of staggering. He says that in the year 1900 there were 142,912 children under the age of 15 who died. In the year 1921 that number had been substantially reduced but still it was colossal. It was reduced to 112,906. In 1925 there were still 96,669 children under the age of 15 who died. Let us look at these figures in their true proportions. It is, true that out of 94,669 children under five 81,080 died. It is a staggering figure, and entitles us to argue that some additional provision might be made so as to bring these younger children, I will not say at the very earliest age but say at the age of four or five, into some form of school, not necessarily to receive formal instruction but some sort of nursery school where their physique as well as their moral training might be more amply looked after. There is another point apropos this question of the physical condition of children that I should like to direct attention to. According to the report of the London County Council Medical Officer, Dr. Menzies, there are no fewer than 10,000 children who have suffered or are suffering from rheumatic symptoms. I admit that very substantial work has been done in this Department and I will not minimise it, but having regard to the effects in later life of this particular form of disease, there is a very strong case for intensification of the medical service attached to our educational work throughout the country so as to save the nation in later life an unnecessary financial burden by way of dealing with the after effects.

The Noble Lord has been making the claim that so far from the Board of Education having failed to guarantee some measure of progress educationally there has been a substantial measure of progress. The pronouncement that he himself read is indicative of a certain amount of pressure being brought, or about to be brought to bear by the Board of Education upon certain education authorities. When he makes the reference he did and twitted my right hon. Friend about the gingerly way in which he referred to the responsibilities of the authorities controlling voluntary schools when he spoke in 1924—I assume he was then dealing with the question of building schools—he must not forget that in 1924 we were constantly confronted with the argument that the first call upon the finances of the country in regard to building must be in the direction of providing houses, and because of the prior claim of houses we were not able to press the claim in regard to schools to the same degree that we otherwise might. Since then, however, if file claim of the Ministry is a sound one, and I presume it is, the need for providing working-class houses has been gradually met—I do not say completely, but it has been gradually met, and the more that need for working-class house;; is being met the more are they able as a Board of Education to deal with the question of arrears in building schools, an I therefore whatever excuse the Noble Lord may be able to give in regard to the last two years, we warn him that for the next year we shall expect a much greater acceleration of this work than has taken place in recent years.


I would remind the hon. Member in case it should be quoted against him afterwards that in the Debate on the Estimates of 1£24 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) was very emphatic that the Minister of Health was not imposing any restriction on school building in favour of house building.


That may be, but you could not build more houses or schools than you had an adequate supply of builders' labourers for the purpose.


Look at the Debate. It will be rather interesting.


I will look it up. But even though that applied to my right hon.

Friend in 1924 the Noble Lord is not excused thereby, for they have always argued that schools must take second place to housebuilding, and my argument must still apply to him. If he was entitled to argue in 1925 and 1926 that working class houses must still wait, I warn him that it cannot apply in the coming year. I am very glad indeed to hear the Noble Lord declare that it still remains the policy of the Board to reduce classes down to 50, and if possible to the limit of 40 for the above 11 years of age child. I hope very much that policy will be developed as rapidly as possible, for it is undeniable that educational work is being frightfully hampered in many parts of the country through the overcrowding of class-rooms with classes which are infinitely too large for teachers to deal with.

A good deal of our time has been taken in discussing the famous Circular 1388. I think it will be well known to everyone that according to an answer given recently there are still some 72 authorities whose expenditure is well beyond the 45s. limit. It is true that some of them are authorities in very sparsely populated areas. Radnorshire happens to be one. It is an extremely poor county. There are no industries there of any sort or kind. The county expenditure last year was 55s, 2d. per head and they cannot embark upon any vast or comprehensive scheme of educational progress at once. If the 45s. limit is imposed for them it means, I think, that in areas like this it is very probable that their tendency would be to go in for the central school type rather than the secondary school type, partly because it is an agricultural area, and partly because the central school is deemed to be, for the purposes of the Board of Education, an elementary type of school rather than a secondary type; it is a cheaper type of school. Everyone will admit that the central school in many parts of the country is performing a most valuable function. It is providing a sort of technical training. It provides an apparatus and a curriculum which is, very frequently, deliberately couched so as to be specially suitable for the area where the school is erected. Therefore, I fear that if too great an emphasis is placed upon the 45s. limit, it may very well be that these areas will have to bear a burden upon their local rates which they are quite unable to bear.

In regard to secondary education, the Noble Lord this evening has been able to claim, so he thought, that in the course of his administration the number of secondary school places has increased. That may be true, but I am not quite sure that the Noble Lord is entitled to take credit for that. Everyone knows very well, and I do not think the Noble Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education will be able to deny it, that any educational advance embarked upon by the Board of Education in a year does not come to fruition in that particular year; it takes 12 months or even two years. As a matter of fact, the increase in the figures which the Noble Lord was about to cite to-night can be credited accurately and traced back to the advanced programme upon which my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) embarked in 1924. Certainly, the Noble Lord is not entitled to take credit for it, because the moment he came into office he took steps at once to remove the super-grant of £6 per head. At any rate, he indicated that the super-grant of £6 per head, to use his exact words, "was to be taken off at the earliest possible moment." We need not thank him that the earliest possible moment proved to be March, 1926. As far as he was concerned, as far as his policy was concerned, he would have destroyed the influence of that super-grant at once, only the automatic effect of it went on until 1926. The plain fact is that that advance is due not to any progressive policy of the Board of Education as now administered, and to claim that it is, reminds me of Bill Adams' claim that he won the battle of Waterloo.

9.0 p.m.

I want now to turn to another side of this subject. I will leave the question of the influence of the Board of Education's policy upon free places in secondary schools as against fee-paying pupils in secondary schools, because we shall have a chance of discussing that when the Estimates come along. I want to reopen the question of the attitude of the Board of Education to teachers generally, having special regard to their political convictions. We have had speeches from the Noble Lord in the country. I admit that on each occasion he has taken good care to say that he does not charge the teachers as a whole with attempting any propaganda, party or political propaganda, in the schools where they are engaged; but he cannot get away from the effect of his speeches. Week after week, we have had questions put from the other side of the House all of which have been deliberately couched so as to give the impression that the people who belong to our political persuasion and are engaged in schools deliberately abuse their position in the schools to advance political propaganda. The Noble Lord was asked by means of a question if that were true. He was asked whether he had had any instances of teachers who had been reported to him for having committed that offence; if he had received such reports, had he inquired into them; if he had inquired into them, how many had been found guilty; and if they had been found guilty, how many had been dealt with in a disciplinary way? The Noble Lord in his answer was not able to give one. That is a most grave fact.

I venture to assert that there are hundreds of people, thousands, probably, who, as a result of this false propaganda, have come to the conclusion, quit© wrongly, that it is no longer safe for a child to be sent to elementary schools in this country because of the danger of party propaganda inside the school. To show how far this thing has gone, an ex-Member of the present Government, the Chairman of the Conservative Association, made a speech in Lancashire a fortnight ago in which he showed such ignorance that he said that the Teachers' Labour League, which is a political organisation, was affiliated to the National Union of Teachers. He showed such crass ignorance as that in a public speech, and when his attention was directed to it he had to apologise immediately. All this is the result of the sanction, or the implied sanction, which the Noble Lord has given to this campaign in regard to political propaganda in, schools. I happen to know how this sort of thing happens. I know of a school-master not a hundred miles away from my home in South Wales who was suddenly confronted with a charge. One day, a lad walked into his schoolyard during play-time and the lad had under his arm a large number of papers called "The Young Communist." Somehow or other, the headmaster happened to see them, and he gathered up the papers and put them into the tire, or so he thought; but one copy escaped. That one copy percolated outside and someone reported the schoolmaster to the Board of Education, but to this day that schoolmaster has not been told who was the person who charged him.

I ask the Noble Lady this question: If a charge be made, I admit they must inquire into it, and they ought to inquire into it, but if a man is charged then I think we ought to get an assurance from the Board of Education that he shall be informed as to who is the informer of the Board. This is most important, because there is a great suspicion abroad that some of these accusations come through the Conservative headquarters; and it must be remembered that the whole livelihood of the teacher is involved when a charge is made, as was the case of the headmaster in Durham. Therefore, I think he is entitled to ask, when a charge is made, the name of the person who sends the information concerning him to the Board of Education. I do not complain of the Board of Education inquiring into any charge—far from it. They ought to for no one can justify any attempt to use these schools for political propaganda of any sort. The thing is absolute and utterly wrong. But a man may be quite unjustly charged and he is entitled to be brought face to face with his accuser. I hope the Noble Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education will be able to give us that assurance to-night.

We have had a most painful story in regard to a schoolmaster in Durham. I do not know the whole of the details, and I do not want to know from mere idle curiosity any of the details. I can sympathise in some measure with the predicament of the President of the Board and the Parliamentary Secretary, as I know from bitter experience that it happens to be one of the duties of the Parliamentary Secretary to deal with these matters before they go to the President of the Board himself. It is an extremely difficult job which no one wants to have to undertake, but while sometimes diciplinary action has to be taken in regard to cases of misconduct it is right and fair to ask that these cases should be viewed as dispassionately as possible and with as little prejudice as possible. I do not know all the details of this ease, but knowing something of the nature of the cases which came before me, they were few in number, I think the Noble Lady will agree that compared with some cases and the nature of some offences this judgment seems to be abnormally heavy. Let us grant, as the Noble Lord said, that this is a grave offence, admit that if you like; assume it is a very bad offence, I do not think the Noble Lady will argue that however grave it is it is as bad as some of the cases which arise in regard to other forms of misconduct, and the Noble Lady knows that it is very rare indeed to take away from a man his particular means of livelihood.

Up to the moment of committing this offence, and a technical offence as far as the Board is concerned, the man had an excellent record and was held in high esteem by the general public. His past is to go for nothing, it is wiped out; this one error has wiped out his creditable past, and all his efforts to acquire a certificate and fit himself for the extremely difficult position of headmaster go for nought. I hope the Noble Lady will try to get this case reviewed because it has most unfortunate consequences. If there is a feeling that there is political prejudice involved, I do not say there is, then inevitably these questions are brought up again with the changes in the political barometer for review by somebody else, and you get these sort of questions made the plaything of party politics, a most disastrous thing in my humble judgment. I plead with the Noble Lady and the President of the Board for a review of this sentence. It is too heavy, and because of the particular circumstances of the time it leads to the suspicion that it is party prejudice that has made the sentence so great. All of us know the dangers just now of allowing intense party feeling to begin to colour the relations of the Board of Education, the teachers, and the schools. We want to keep our schools absolutely free from our party disputes, and if only for that reason I hope the Noble Lord will have this very severe sentence once more reviewed.


The speech of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education dealt, I think, with all but one of the points raised in the course of the Debate until he rose. I do not propose to detain the House long but I should like to deal with the one point with which the President of the Board did not find time to deal, and also to reply to some of the observations of the hon. Member who has just sat down. The first point with which the hon. Member dealt, and on which I should like to say something, is the question of the health of young children as disclosed by the last report of the Board's principal medical officer. Everyone who has read that report must feel grave concern at the figures given there as to the health of children under five. Anyone acquainted with the work of the nursery schools cannot fail to realise what splendid work they are doing in improving the health and general training of small children but I would like to remind the hon. Member that we do not look for health in this matter from nursery schools alone. We also recognise the valuable work done by day nurseries, and the extent to which voluntary effort is contributing to this task. With the present financial difficulties with which the country is faced, anyone who is responsible for educational administration will welcome every help that voluntary effort can give, because at the moment it is not possible to make as wide an extension of the provisions for young children as in happier times might have been possible.

Then the hon. Gentleman referred to the question of rheumatic trouble. That also is another disquieting feature disclosed in the principal medical officer's report. I would only assure the hon. Gentleman that I understand that children suffering from heart trouble caused by rheumatic affection are to an increasing extent being admitted to our physically defective schools, and a very welcome feature of the problem of the physically defective child is that in some areas—thanks to the provision of orthopedic treatment for the crippled child, which if given at a sufficiently early stage offers hope of a real cure—we are finding that increasing space is being found for the rheumatic children or children who have affected hearts, in schools originally intended for the crippled child. Therefore, I think we may take comfort in the thought that this evil is being increasingly recognised. I think of special provision that has been made recently in more than one area for children either by the local education authority or by voluntary effort, and I think we are doing something in an ever-increasing degree to meet the unhappy case of those children.

Then the hon. Gentleman devoted a few moments to the question of Circular 1388, to which several speakers have drawn attention. I do not think it is necessary for me to add anything to what my right hon. Friend said, further than to remind the hon. Gentleman that at the top of page 2 of that Circular, he will find set out very clearly several reasons which the Board are prepared to regard as justifying an exces3 of expenditure by local education authorities over the limits indicated in the Circular. It is, therefore, for local authorities to state their case, and it will be heard with great consideration and in great detail by the Board. Then the hon. Gentleman reminded us that action by the Board, progressive action, is apt to take time to materialise. He was therefore inclined to claim all the credit for the progress of the last two years, and to attribute it to the effort of himself and of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan).


I did not claim all the credit for my right hon. Friend.

Duchess of ATHOLL

I am prepared to agree with the hon. Member that action by the Board does take time to materialise, and it is one of the very interesting features of working at the Board that one feels that one is helping to lay foundations, the results of which will be seen perhaps several years ahead. It adds very greatly to the sense of responsibility with which one carries on one's daily work. I think that the hon. Gentleman is entitled to claim that some of the progress achieved in the last two years is due to the action taken by his right hon. Friend. But I would equally say to the hon. Gentleman that in the two years that have elapsed since he and his right hon. Friend left office, we have had two record years of approval of capital expenditure on buildings What is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander. The hon. Gentleman, if he cares to share any of the doubts expressed by his friends this afternoon as to whether this progress which we can show in figures really exists, I think will have no doubt in two or three years' time as to what my right hon. Friend has been sanctioning in the last two years.

The hon. Gentleman passed to the question of propaganda in the schools. May I say at once how very pleased I was to hear from him so genuine and frank a disclaimer of any desire to see such propaganda from any quarter in the schools? Nothing, I feel certain, is more important, from the point of view of education in general, than that our schools should be kept entirely outside the divisions which sometimes unhappily separate us. I want to remind the hon. Gentleman and the House that my right hon. Friend, in dealing with this subject in a recent speech, was very careful to say that he did not speak without definite cases having been brought to his notice; he did not speak without facts. But he repeated what he has time and again said in this House and outside as well, that he feels confident that the great mass of the teaching profession in this country are carrying on their duties from day to day in the schools without any recourse to the propaganda which we all deplore. Next the hon. Gentleman referred to a very painful case which has been discussed at length this evening. I do not feel that I can add to anything that my right hon. Friend has said on the subject. But I would like to say, in reply to what the hon. Gentleman said about accusations of propaganda in general which may have come before the Board, that I know of no definite accusation of propaganda in the schools which has been sent to the Board since I have been there. I have seen no such case of propaganda in the schools brought to the notice of the Board.


I am rather surprised to hear that statement. If the Noble Lady cares, I will give Her the name privately—I cannot do so publicly—of an instance like the one to which I have referred, of a headmaster being privately accused of having literature circulated in the school, and of being challenged, and of presenting his statement on the matter to the Board of Education.

Duchess of ATHOLL

I have seen no papers of that kind, and, as the hon. Gentleman knows, that is a matter which at a certain stage would come before me. There were cases in which teachers were brought into court for action outside the schools during the general strike, but that is quite a different matter. I fear therefore that it is impossible for me to give any assurance on what, so far as I am concerned, is a hypothetical question. The hon. Gentleman knows from his own experience how very carefully these cases are gone into, and how the teacher is always in the first instance put on his defence, how he is informed exactly what the charge against him is; and I am' sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me with what thoroughness and fairness the case is examined by the Board's officers.


The point is simply this: If A accuses B, a schoolmaster, of allowing propaganda in his school, will B be notified as to who A is, what is his name, and where he lives?

Duchess of ATHOLL

I can only reply to that by saying that really as far as I am concerned it is a hypothetical case and I do not feel I can pledge myself in the matter. I think the hon. Gentleman will bear me out when I say that these cases are gone into with entire impartiality.



Duchess of ATHOLL

I think the attitude of fairness in which they receive their preliminary examination at the hands of the Board's officials is so complete and unprejudiced that it would really be difficult for a Minister not to consider them in the same spirit.

I wish now to turn to the only matter dealt with by the right hon. Member for Central Newcastle, which was not-answered by my right hon. Friend, and that was his criticism of the decision recently announced on the part of the Government to acquiesce in the recommendations of the Malcolm Committee that local education authorities should in future exercise their choice of employment powers under the Ministry of Labour instead of under the Board of Education. I wish to refer to this case, not because much has been said about it in the House, but 'because we have heard a good deal about it in the educational and general press lately, and the impression seems to have arisen from that decision that it indicated that the Board wished to wash their hands of young people between the ages of 14 and 18, and that they were going to take no interest in their future education but were handing them over bag and baggage to the Ministry of Labour. I think that anybody who has considered the question of young people between the ages of 14 and 18 and more particularly from 14 to 16 recognises that these years, if the child is not giving full time at school, constitute a sort of debatable land between education and industry and that at any moment it would perhaps be difficult to say where the one begins and the other ends, where the functions of the Ministry of Labour begin and those of the Board of Education end, and that it is necessary that the two Ministries should work in close co-operation. I therefore want to try to place this decision in its true perspective. From what has been said and written, we might imagine that until this moment all the activities of the education authorities in this matter of juvenile employment and unemployment, had been carried on under the supervision of the Board of Education, and that we were divesting ourselves of a great responsibility. That is emphatically not the case. What are the questions which, in one way or another, have to be dealt with in regard to young people who leave school at the age of 14? There is, first, the question of finding employment for them; secondly, the question of the administration of unemployment benefit to these young people over 16 who are unhappily out of work, and, thirdly, the question of the provision of juvenile unemployment centres for young people between the ages of 14 and 18 who are unemployed.

With regard to the third of these provisions, the juvenile unemployment centres, these are carried on by local education authorities throughout the country, not under the supervision of the Board of Education but under the supervision of the Ministry of Labour. I think the House will agree that when you examine these three things which have to be done, the finding of employment, the administration of benefit, and the provision of unemployment centres, the third is the only one which is in any way educational in character. Yet this work is at present carried on by the local education authorities under the Ministry of Labour, so that already the Ministry of Labour are in the field in regard to the one thing that has to be done for these young people which is definitely educational in character.

When you come to the other two questions, the finding of employment and the administration of unemployment benefit, you find that over more than half the area of the country that type of work is already being done by the Ministry of Labour acting normally through local Juvenile Advisory Committees on which education authorities and teachers are represented, so that work is already entirely in the hands of the Ministry of Labour and the only work that the Board is relinguishing is the supervision of this identical work of finding employment in less. than hail the area of the country. I think that anyone with any experience of administration and Parliamentary government will realise how anomalous it is, and how inconvenient it is that two Government Departments should be responsible to Parliament for identical matters, where obviously there must be overlapping. Further, I think anyone who has any experience of the Board of Education would realise that in this question of finding employment, we have not the experience which the Ministry of Labour has. We have no industrial Department at the Board of Education, and however anxious we are that the headmasters' advice should be given to the young people or that educational influences should follow them and urge them to continue their education during later years, we cannot claim that our officers or our inspectors who represent the Board at present on these choice of Employment Committees can be expected to have the expert knowledge of industrial questions that would be possessed by the representatives of the Ministry of Labour.

Therefore I really think that when this question is fairly looked at it will be seen that, in the first place, the decision which has been taken is a very small one, and only covers a very small part of the field in question. I think there will be general agreement that the Board, in relinquishing its supervision of this choice of employment, is not relinquishing any educational function or anything it is specially fitted to supervise. I recognise, of course, that there was educational opinion in the contrary sense on the Malcolm Committee—the opinion of the very experienced and able chairman of an important education committee. I recognise also the opinion among representatives of education authorities, but I cannot but believe that when this proposition is fairly looked at in true perspective, the authorities will recognise that we are not handing over any educational function or anything which does not more properly and naturally belong to the Ministry of Labour. If there should be any doubt as to the Board's interest in the educational welfare of these young people, I think it should Have been set at rest by what my right hon. Friend said as to the importance of the provision of post-primary education, and that in considering the authorities' programme for the next three years, he would have in view, before anything else, the question of how far these proposals would improve and add to the existing provision of post-primary education. So I think the House may be quite satisfied that the fears which seem to have been aroused in some quarters that the Board of Education is washing its hands of young people over 14 are really quite groundless. and that we shall continue in the future as in the past to regard the provision of improved and extended education to these young people as one of the most important questions of the day;


Would the Noble Lady deal with the rural question which was raised during the Debate?

Duchess of ATHOLL

The hour is rather late, but I think that perhaps that question is best answered by the remarks made in connection—

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)

I understood the hon. Member was asking one specific question. We cannot have a fresh debate. I have already called on the hon. Member for Dundee. If it is wished to speak on the rural question generally I think that must wait until the. Estimates.


There was a certain specific point raised during the discussion and we have had no answer to it.


I think it is obvious that the answer would involve a further speech, and I have called on the hon. Member for Dundee. Mr. Johnston.