§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Sir G. Hennessy.]
§ Mr. AMMON
I crave the indulgence of the House, in order to raise a matter of great importance and great interest to all who are concerned with education. For the past three months my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Dalton) and myself have put questions to the President of the Board of Education with reference to the proposed new scheme for Dulwich College. The effect of that scheme would be to debar large numbers of lads from the London County Council elementary schools from gaining scholarships of entrance to Dulwich' College. Perhaps a hurried sketch of the history of Dulwich College may be helpful to the House. Dulwich College was founded out of a bequest by Edward Alleyn, the Elizabethan actor, in 1619, and is known as the College of God's Gift. The bequest was left originally for six poor sisters and 12 poor scholars, to be found equally from the parishes of St. Botolph's Without, Bishopsgate, St. Saviour's, Southwark, and St. Giles Without in Cripplegate, and Camberwell.
So certain and determined was the original founder that this bequest should be for the benefit of poor persons only, that he stipulated that certain sums of money should be set aside for the clothing and feeding of the lads, and the very first person to benefit by it was a lad so poor that he had no home, no known parents and no name, and consequently he was given the name of the founder, Edward Alleyn. The bequest took the form of a parcel of ground in Dulwich 2059 which by the passage of time, and through a process which has often been explained in this House by the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) and the hon. Member for Burslem. (Mr. MacLaren), has increased in value so tremendously that it now yields a very large annual income. In the original bequest it is worth noting that this was the stipulated idea and intention of the founder. He said:Preference is to be given to orphans or children of people receiving parish alms, and failing a sufficient number of children with either of these qualifications, any other poor children of parents residing within one of the four parishes may be chosen.These poor children were to be chosen in equal proportions from the four parishes. He also said:The 12 poor scholars, every one of them for the time being, as he shall attain the age of 18 years, shall then be sent out of the said college and preferred to the Universities, or some trade or occupation as his capacity shall be fit, at the charge of the college, provided there are to be not above or under the number of four of the said poor scholars at one time maintained in the University.At Dulwich College, as in the case of many other educational institutions in this country, the rich, during the process of time, have robbed the poor of this foundation, and they are now in absolute possession. The foundation was reconstituted in the year 1857, and a college was built with a wing for a lower school, the term "lower" being used in the social sense, but it was never used by such scholars. It was kept wholly for the richer persons; and so it went on until the year 1882 when the Royal Assent was given to a new charter founding Alleyn's School. The school was so inadequately endowed that it had to receive assistance from the funds of public education authorities. Coming to the present period, in 1920 the college, finding itself in difficulties, made an application for assistance from public funds, and the corollary of receiving that assistance was that they had to set aside a certain number of vacancies in the college for poor scholars who should win scholarships in the London County Council elementary schools. That was complied with, and in the year 1925 no less than 107 scholars were in Dulwich College who had come 2060 from the London County Council schools, and in 1927 as many as 170.
It is worth noting that most' of the extra college scholarships and prizes and bursaries have been won by boys from the elementary schools, and that somewhat accounts for the attempt that is being made at present. The proposal now put forward will have the effect of depriving those capable lads of entrance by means of scholarships into Dulwich College, and I want to put it to hon. Members, irrespective of party, that it is a waste of the highest national resources to deprive the country of the services of the very best brains it can get. The lads who have come from the elementary schools have proved to possess the best brains as they have won scholarships in the college itself. The agitation has been very strong and has attracted so much attention that the governors of the college, through the chairman, Sir Arthur Hirtzel, have made some concession by intimating that they are willing to allow scholarships up to 50. We say that this is not sufficient, and that the President of the Board of Education should not give his consent to this scheme which is going to deprive these lads of their scholarships. Fortunately the London County Council support the view we have taken, and at a meeting a week ago passed the following resolution:That the Board of Education be requested, before agreement to the management scheme for Alleynes College of God's Gift, Educational Foundation, Dulwich, to obtain from the Governors of the Foundation assurances that it is their intention to provide facilities for county council scholars at Dulwich College broadly equivalent to those enjoyed in the years 1926 and 1927.I again call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that in 1926–27 there were 170 scholarships in Dulwich College from the London County Council's elementary schools; so that, if this Resolution means anything, the education authority for London is asking the Minister to withhold his consent to the scheme unless he gets an assurance that not less than 170 scholarships are available in Dulwich College. That is what we want to ask the right hon. Gentleman. He has the power in his hands either to withhold consent or to agree, and I suggest that, in the interests of London education, and in view of the difficulty that 2061 there is in finding sufficient places for scholarship winners from the London elementary schools, he must not consent to any scheme that will reduce in any way the number of scholarships available to capable boys from our elementary schools. I ask him that he will, in the interests of the Department over which he presides and the responsibility that he has for London education, tell the House that he agrees with the London County Council Education Committee, and that his consent cannot be given until he has an assurance, perfectly definite, that not fewer than the scholarships now tenable in Dulwich College will be available to boys in future.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Lord Eustace Percy)
I ought to apologise, perhaps, to the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Dalton) and my hon. Friends who represent the Governors if I get up before they have had an opportunity of saying anything. But this is, after all, a request, and indeed an attack on my Department, and I feel that I ought to have the 10 minutes that remain to reply to it. The hon. Member has repeated what he has said in the Press in recent weeks, reviving the ancient and oft-exploded fallacy about the robbery of these foundations. What are the facts? I will dismiss them in a very few words, because I want to go to the real merits of the case. In 1619 a gentleman set apart a certain part, not the whole, of £800 a year for 12 poor scholars. The hon. Member's argument is that the whole of the unearned increment on that sum, 300 years after, should be set apart for London County Council scholarships.
§ Lord E. PERCY
London County Council scholarships—that was the hon. Member's contention. What, are London County Council scholarships? They are scholarships given to boys who have passed a public examination and whose parents have not more than £450 a year if they have one child, and not more than £800 a year if they have eight children, and rateably between those limits. I do not know that it is worth arguing or considering what were the intentions of the founder in 1619 as to the relations between the poor scholar for whom he was providing, as the hon. 2062 Member has remarked, and the parent with £450 to £800 a year.
§ Lord E. PERCY
The hon. Member is wrong. If he would deal with facts he would be more worth listening to on this subject. If we are to have interruptions of this kind, let us examine the question. I have stated the income limits, and these are the income limits which the London County Council has laid down as proper for persons who receive their scholarships.
§ Lord E. PERCY
The hon. Member must allow me to finish my sentence. I do not think I should be overstating the case if I said that 20 per cent. of the fee-paying pupils of Dulwich College are children of parents who come within those limits.
So much for the argument about the robbery of the poor for the education of the rich. This small foundation for 12 scholars has grown to-day, excluding entirely Alleynes School and the 267 free places at Alleynes School under this scheme, to not less than 250 scholars of the same economic status as the London County Council scholars. I leave hon. Members to work out the relation between the original part of the £800 left to the 12 poor scholars and the amount of the endowment of Dulwich College to-day which goes to the maintenance of these 250 scholars, who are just as poor as the London County Council scholars for whom the hon. Member is speaking. That is, so far as the ancient gibe about robbery is concerned. Now let us come to the merits of this case. I do not want to ride off on the fact that the position of the Board of Education is not, in this matter, the position of a public Department administering public policy. It is the position of a trustee administering an ancient foundation, and an ancient foundation which Parliament has interpreted by a Parliamentary scheme in 1857.
I am perfectly sure that the hon. Member opposite, if he were in my place acting as trustee, would have no option to-day but to pursue the course which I shall take, which is to grant the application 2063 of the Governors of Dulwich College. But that is my position as trustee, and I do not want to ride off on that. I want to deal with the merits. We are all at one in this, that we want to manage our educational system so that all our educational institutions for higher education shall be open to all pupils capable of benefiting from them and capable of contributing to them, irrespective of their means. That is a common object, and I think I have defined what hon. Members opposite are really aiming at. The question is, how is that to be carried out in practice? I say not only "capable of benefiting from," but "capable of contributing to." You cannot run any system of higher education except on this basis, that every secondary school is an entity in itself, and has its own character. You have to maintain that character. You cannot run schools for higher education merely as so many departments of a system of local administration.
§ Lord E. PERCY
Why not? That is exactly the thing which makes hon. Members opposite such bugbears in the matter of secondary education.
§ Lord E. PERCY
If the hon. Member interrupts me he must let me reply to his interruption, and I say that is exactly the sort of question which makes everybody interested in secondary education in this country so much afraid of hon. Members opposite. They have no conception of the character of an institution for higher education. They think it can be run simply as a department of local administration.
§ Lord E. PERCY
If hon. Members do not want to be insulted, they ought not to interrupt. Dulwich has always in the past voluntarily, before it was in receipt of a Government grant, admitted scholars from the London County Council, for many years past. In 1920, when it was in financial difficulties, it agreed to a scheme by which it was bound by a particular 2064 percentage. The experience of that arrangement has been a very obvious one. Dulwich school, as a public school, is a school whose age-range runs from 13 to 17 or 18. Under a junior scholarship scheme it has to admit pupils at 11; the consequence is that the lower part of the school is overcrowded, and that is quite clearly not the way to get the proper mixture, to get the maximum admission of pupils to a school like Dulwich. If you want to get the maximum admission of poor scholars to such a school, you have to pursue a very different course. You have to make a voluntary arrangement with that school that they will take in the maximum number of pupils which they can absorb, and their power of absorption greatly depends on the age of entry of those pupils.
That is the position now. Roughly speaking, as I understand it—and I am not committing the Governors—they propose to admit about 15 junior scholars of the London County Council a year. On a six-years course, which is about the course that those scholars will pursue, that will mean a total number of 80 pupils up to sixteen. The idea that the present 153 pupils of Dulwich College are going suddenly to fall to 50 is perfectly absurd. You are going to have a steady admission of at least 15 pupils a year. If you put a school like Dulwich in this position, they will admit at least 15 scholars, and they will admit as many more scholars who come to them as they think can be a credit to the school. You will get a very much larger number of pupils in Dulwich on that basis of voluntary self-government than you will get by any scheme of State regulation. This is the only way in which you are going to get that leavening of the public school system with ex-elementary schoolboys at which we are all aiming, and I implore hon. Members opposite to have a little confidence in the powers of self-government of secondary institutions in this country.
§ It being Half-past Eleven of the clock, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.