HC Deb 26 April 1928 vol 216 cc1053-6

asked the President of the Board of Education what is the nature of the Board's grants to the Workers' Educational Association; and if he is satisfied with the manner in which these grants are expended by this association?


The Board do not pay grants to the Workers' Educational Association as such, but to the district organisations of that Association in respect of the salaries of tutors conducting one-year and terminal classes approved by the Board under their regulations. These grants are limited to a maximum of 75 per cent. of the salary of the tutor, exclusive of his expenses. Where the classes are conducted under the direction of the local education authority the authority's approved expenditure in aiding them is recognised by the Board for grant. In addition to compliance with the Board's regulations, classes assisted from public funds are required to satisfy certain general conditions which were laid down in 1920 by the Associations of Local Education Authorities and accepted by the Workers' Educational Association. I will circulate a copy of these conditions in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The classes are visited and inspected by the Board's inspectors, and I believe these conditions are generally observed by the tutors and by all those directly concerned with the organisation of the classes. Members of the Association not directly concerned with the organisation of classes in the district will, I am sure, realise, on their side, the desirability of abstaining, in the pages of the "Highway" or otherwise, from expressions of opinion on matters of current political controversy which may give the public a wrong impression of the character of the Association's strictly educational work.


Has the Noble Lord at any time received reports from his inspectors making complaints about the work done by this Association?


I have received criticisms from my inspectors in the same way as I have received criticisms of all classes of education, but, as regards any serious complaint of political bias in teaching, I have received no such complaints.


Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the Workers' Educational Association was at one time intimately connected pith the National Council of Labour Colleges, which is avowedly an extremist organisation; that comment has been aroused by the fact that in one class a Communist, teacher is employed; and that considerable doubt exists in the minds of Members on this side of the House as to whether the educational classes are conducted in the way in which he has said they were.


As regards the last of these supplementary questions, I hope that, if there be any doubt in the minds of the people, it will be allayed by the answer which I have just given; these classes are carefully inspected. As regards the second supplementary question, if my hon. Friend has any instance where he thinks a class is not properly conducted, and he will give it to me, I shall be glad to go into it. In reply to the first supplementary question, I really think that my hon. Friend is misinformed. So far from being closely connected with the National Council of Labour Colleges, an organisation which is not concerned with education, but with pure political propaganda, the Workers' Educational Association has always, in its published aims and in its activities, tried in every way to dissociate itself from the ideals of the National Council of Labour Colleges.

Following is the copy of the Conditions:

"The following conditions should be satisfied before financial assistance is given to W.E.A. classes by local education authorities:—

  1. (a) Courses of study assisted out of public funds must aim at freedom from party bias and from any flavour of political propaganda.
  2. (b) Such courses must be conducted by teachers who have a thorough knowledge of the subject and have the experience and training, as well as personality and understanding of the students' needs, necessary to impart that knowledge. It is by these tests alone that the qualifications of teachers should he judged.
  3. (c)Such courses must he open to all students who desire to take them and are able to profit by them.
  4. (d) In order to ensure the proper observance of the foregoing conditions, it is essential that each class aided by a local education authority should be 1056 open to inspection by the authority and that the syllabus and tutor should be approved by the authority or by such other body as the authority may consider qualified to exercise those functions."