Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £3,423,485, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the
sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1930, for Public Education in Scotland, and for the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, including a Grant-in-Aid."—[NOTE.—£2,750,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. D. M. COWAN
I take it that it is a fortunate circumstance that to-day we have had a discussion which includes education in England and Wales and education in Scotland, and it is another happy circumstance that the reply for the Board of Education for England and Wales has been given by a Scottish Member and one who has had a large experience of education in Scotland. It is true too, as has been already stated in this Debate, that no one political party can claim the sole interest in education. We believe that all parties have the subject really at heart, and while there may be some difference as to methods, there is none as to the objects which we seek to attain. It is to the interest of all parties that we should have an educated people. Before touching on one or two matters connected with the administration of Scottish education, I feel that it is my duty, as well as my privilege, to pay a tribute to the work which was accomplished by the late Secretary to the Scottish Education Department, Sir George MacDonald. Sir George brought to his high office not only great scholarship but great administrative ability, and he also brought qualities of courtesy, of sympathy, and of appreciation of the point of view of others which made for harmonious working; and he has done work during the last seven years which must stand as a lasting memorial to his holding of this high office. The policy which he consistently carried out will, we have every confidence, be carried out by his successor, to whom, in the name of all interested in Scottish education, I would offer a welcome to his high office and our best wishes for his happiness and success in it.
There are perennial questions connected with the administration of education alike in England and in Scotland. We have with us still, unfortunately, the question of accommodation. From the reports which have been issued, we learn that at least fair headway is being made in the way of providing suitable accommodation, but still there are, over the length and breadth of the land, far 802 too many buildings to which it is quite unfair, to ask children to go, and especially in the poorer quarters. Children who have little advantage in the way of healthy homes are really entitled to have the best schools which we can possibly provide for them. I hope, therefore, that, while I do not charge the officers of the Education Department with anything like remissness in this respect, they will put such pressure as they can upon all backward authorities in order that this first essential of real education may be provided everywhere. Then, too, we have the question of the size of classes. It is a matter of satisfaction that within the last year the number has been reduced from a possible 60 to a possible 50, but anyone who has had experience of dealing with classes of that size, with children from different social surroundings, of different mental capacity, and of different temperaments, will know that in many cases such a number as 50 is absolutely absurd; and, indeed, it is the wonder of people from many foreign countries that such a state of matters is allowed to persist in a country which has an educational tradition such as Scotland has.
Apart from those two things, there are certain gratifying features in connection with the administration of education in Scotland. First of all, I would put it that there has been a very real and serious attempt made to find a suitable curriculum for children between the ages of 12 and 14 or 15, children who are not naturally inclined to the more academic and bookish education which has been always the position in Scottish schools. It is too early yet to speak of the success which has attended those attempts, but we do know that there have been put into them great thought and great enthusiasm, on the part both of the officers of the Education Department and of the teachers who are engaged in that particular work.
A second matter which also gives us reason for gratification is the constant and, I believe, successful attempt to link up day school continuation classes with the Universities, central institutions and technical colleges. No system can be considered satisfactory in which there is a definite break, and it is all to the good that there has been a systematic attempt made to ensure that it will be possible 803 for children to go from the earlier stages to a completed course in one of the higher educational institutions. In reading the Report issued by the Privy Council, I was specially pleased to note that the number of students over the age of 18 attending the continuation classes was equal to the number of those under 18. It is to the credit of the country and to the students themselves that there should be such a large proportion who are pursuing, often under difficult circumstances, the knowledge which will enable them better to fulfil their duties both in their own occupation and as citizens.
One matter, however, in which very much more ought to be done is the provision of means of recreation for our children. Many of our city schools have nothing more for a playground than a few square yards of concrete, and at home the children have little more than a back court in which to play. I believe that the next great movement in education must be along the lines of care for the physical well-being of our children. That is a matter which, in my view, has been far too long neglected. I am not complaining that nothing has been done, because within recent years a great deal has been done, but we have neglected this aspect of education so long that it should now receive more than a proportionate share of attention. I know that the Secretary of State is an open-air man, and that his sympathy is with this movement to provide playing fields; I am certain also that the Under-Secretary, whose professional knowledge must make him fully aware of the many defects attending our educational system, will in this respect be whole-heartedly with those who want to provide better means, it is an advantage that our administrative bodies in this country are linked up so that in this provision of housing schemes care will be taken that adequate grounds are provided for recreative purposes both for young and old.
The features which I have mentioned are features in administration which must give us all satisfaction. Apart from these, there are two developments in Scotland upon which the country is to be congratulated. We have heard from the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Sir M. Conway) that he would like to see the day when every 804 teacher was a graduate. That is an aspiration which we have long cherished in Scotland, and it is a gratifying fact that it now seems to be very nearly within the scope of realisation. At the present time, we admit to the training colleges each year something like 1,200 or 1,300, and of these this year the proportion is something like 11 graduates to two non-graduates, so that in a very short time we believe that in Scotland no one will be admitted to the teaching profession who is not a graduate, or does not hold some equivalent qualification.
The second matter is more outwith the school question, but it has a very important bearing. Samuel Johnson is reported to have said that all that could be known about education or teaching was already known. That is one of the foolish sayings which foolish people take for wisdom. We know better than that, and I am sure that the Under-Secretary knows better, for we not only do not know all about the body, but we know still less about the mind. In recent developments in science, no more marked progress has been made than in the comparatively new science of psychology and allied subjects. It is therefore a matter of distinct gratification that we have had set up recently in Scotland a Research Committee. This committee receives its income in equal parts from the teaching-profession and from the school authorities. For the first year, it had at its disposal something like £1,500, and it has formed a committee of representatives of these two bodies and of the universities, of technical colleges, and the medical profession. In the matter of research we have been backward for a long period. We have been living somewhat on our traditions, and it is all to the good that we should have this enthusiastic body devoting itself to the study of educational methods and the child's mind. The object of the committee will not only be to provide a good normal course for the normal child, but to find out, if it can, wherein the backward child can be specially helped. It would be impossible for the Education Department to become a direct partner to this Research Committee, because it might be thought that they would be bound by the findings of the committee, and not even its worst opponent would like to bind the Scottish Education Department to anything. 805 These two distinct departures or achievements with regard to Scottish education, namely, the improvement of the status of the teacher and the inquiry into educational methods and possible improvements, are matters on which the Scottish Education Department and the Scottish people are to be congratulated.
There is the other stock question of the raising of the school age, and I am not going to enter into any of the arguments in favour of that movement. They are known to everyone, and it is common knowledge that the three parties are generally agreed that, could the thing be done, it would and should be done. In the discussion on the English Estimates, it was hardly permissible to enter into this question because it would involve legislation; but we are under no such difficulty in discussing the Scottish Estimates, because we have already legislation which allows it to be done. The Secretary of State for Scotland has only to name a particular day, and from that day every Scottish child would be required to stay at school until the age of 15. I appreciate what the Noble Lady said, that it would be quite impossible to bring the raising of the age into operation all at once, for there might not be the accommodation or the teachers; there would also be other requirements which would first need to be met. But I would ask the Under-secretary if he can give us, on behalf of the Government, some undertaking that a request will be made to the authorities to show what is required to be done in order that this most beneficent provision may be put into operation. It is no good saying that it cannot be done now. We want information which will give us some idea when it can be done. Otherwise, it will be left to the Liberal party in the next Government to put this into operation. Those are some of the points which strike one about our Scottish administration.
We are tempted to ask "In what does it all result?" The work of the schools is open to criticism from many quarters, much of it not well-founded criticism. We are told that in the old days children were better educated, were better mannered and had many qualities which are now so common among children. If those old days were so good and the schools were so good and the teachers 806 were so good one is tempted to ask why the generation which had all those advantages did not turn out to be a good deal better than they have proved to be. But I would venture to say, from a fairly long experience that the children of to-day are stronger physically, are better trained mentally and are much better mannered, on the whole, than were the children of a previous generation. We cannot apply to young folk of the present day the standards which were current years ago. Manners and customs have changed. The young people of to-day have a confidence in themselves and a self-reliance which were not possible to those of an older generation, and while these things may not always give us cause for complacency I do think they give us reason to go forward in the faith and hope that the efforts made for the better instruction and care of our children will not Be without their full reward.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
I think the situation in which we find ourselves is an amazing one. In regard to English education, we had a statement from the Minister for Education, but it is apparent that as regards Scottish education we shall have to wait until the discussion has almost reached its close before we hare a statement from the Under-Secretary of State, who, I understand, is deputising this evening for the Secretary of State. That is most unfair to us. We are entitled to have a statement from the representative of the Government as to the work which is being done. I expected the Under-Secretary would give us such a statement, and I would give way now to allow him to make it, as I really want to hear what he has to say about the work of the Government during the last four and a half years, particularly after the promises that are being made, the pledges that were given previously and the claims made by even the Prime Minister himself as to educational progress in Scotland. Apparently the Under-Secretary is not going to accept the invitation.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Major Elliot)
I am very sorry if there has been any misunderstanding on the point, but I understood that the Vote was asked for by the Liberal party, and that they would make a statement in criticism of the 807 Government, after which I should reply to any points raised. I certainly had no information from those hon. Members that they desired that a statement should be made by the Government at an early stage of the Debate. I am sorry if there has been any misunderstanding, but that was my impression as to the course the Debate was to follow.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
After the explanation made by the Under-Secretary it seems that the Liberal party must bear the responsibility for arranging for the Minister of Education to outline the work done in England but making no arrangement to get a similar statement in respect of education in Scotland. I want at the outset to compliment the Department and also the education authorities in Scotland upon having carried out so successfully the work started by the Labour Government in 1924. I notice that in a report which has been issued particular credit is being taken for reducing the size of the classes from 60 to a maximum of 50. I know that the Prime Minister in a speech he made recently, took all the credit that was going for that reduction in the size of classes in Scotland. That credit is not due to the Conservative party, however, but to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson) who, when he was Secretary of State for Scotland, directed the Department to issue instructions to the various education authorities in Scotland giving them four years' notice that by a given date, September, 1928, classes with a maximum of 60 must be reduced to 50.
I cannot say that I altogether agree with what the representative of the Scottish Universities (Mr. Cowan) said about a general reduction in the size of classes. I would be prepared to agree to the size of classes at the top of the school remaining as they are, for a time, if the size of the classes in the infants' department were cut down. I know there are those associated with the administration of education who are always talking about reducing the size of the classes at the top of the school, but after giving this matter careful consideration I believe that the teaching profession meet with the greatest difficulties arising from too large classes when imparting the foundations of education, those foundations 808 having to be laid in the infants department. I would far rather see the classes at the head of the school remaining with the present maximum and classes of, say, 30 or 35 in the infants' departments. I merely mention that because I know that a number of teachers' representatives stress the general reduction of classes.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
Now that we have got a maximum of 50 fixed so far as elementary pupils are concerned, I am making a special appeal for a further reduction, but I say that rather than have a reduction to 35 in the senior or advanced division let us have a cut almost of a half, certainly a cut of one-third, in the infants' department.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
The next question I want to deal with is that of the qualifying examinations. I know the Department have been issuing instructions to try to cut out, as far as possible, most of the qualifying examinations which take place in our schools. I believe we have to give more and more responsibility to our teachers in regard to the advancement of pupils in the classes, but I am not one who believes that the teaching profession is yet perfect enough to have full responsibility in connection with the transfer from elementary or primary departments to advanced division departments, but I believe that something has got to take the place as speedily as possible of the present qualifying examination. I want to quote the opinion of a headmaster in the County of Fife who, speaking for the teaching profession against the present system of qualifying examination, pointed out,That the effect of that system was injurious. If a teacher's work and the efficiency of a school are to be judged on the basis of the passes in the qualifying examination then you are in danger of getting a type of education that is of comparatively little value.Under the present system of preparing children between the ages of 11 and 12 for the qualifying examination their minds are merely being speeded up for the purpose of acquiring the necessary 809 special knowledge. I have been told of cases where pupils secured 190 marks out of a possible 200 in a qualifying examination and yet in the secondary schools they were miserable failures. Great trouble is taken preparing the children to pass the qualifying examination, but very often they do not benefit by the higher instruction which the local authorities are prepared to give them. The headmaster to whom I have alluded gave a typical illustration of what happens so far as testing the children or preparing them for a qualifying examination is concerned. He mentioned the case of a school where a very successful lesson in history was being given to a qualifying class by well selected material, graphic material and pictorial illustrations, and the past had been made to live, a sense of contact with remote realities had been given and curiosity had been aroused. But the qualifying examination was imminent and although the teacher had aroused the real intelligence of the children in the history they had learned and had created in them a desire by asking questions to get more of the real education which had stirred up their imagination, the teacher had to set all that aside in order to prepare those children for a qualifying examination.
Therefore, instead of making a real live class anxious and desirous of getting education, with no desire to leave school, that teacher, knowing the type of question usually put at qualifying examinations, dealt with "The Petition of Right" and "The Bill of Rights" and other constitutional questions, had to drop the interesting subjects and give this "dry as dust" instruction to the children. Consequently their real interest was killed. If we want to get a really good system of education then we must stop this system of qualifying examination. Why should a child always possess a fear of qualifying examinations? I remember in days gone by that the children used to be spruced up and specially dressed for examination. They were always afraid of making mistakes, and because of that fear they generally made 10 times more mistakes than they would have done if they had not known that they were being examined. We must get rid of this system and there should be some system substituted of testing the children 810 over a period of three or four months, and as a result of that test the children should be passed from our primary schools to the secondary schools. In that way better material could be passed on to the secondary schools than is being sent at the present time.
I hope the Education Department will go on with this good work. I know that they are placing no obstacles in the way in connection with these matters. When I first suggested a new system of centralisation they said it was a scheme of "a young man in a hurry," but the scheme of "the young man in a hurry" is now being broadcast throughout Scotland as the ideal system. I hope the Education Department will go on encouraging the education authorities to get rid at the earliest possible moment of the qualifying examination, and adopt in its stead a new system which will test the ability of the children instead of the present system which may ultimately destroy the real initiative and the real ability of many of our children. I am sure that the system I suggest would pass on the better material into the higher division and secondary schools.
At the present moment, it is merely as a result of the qualifying or control examinations that our children are passed on to the advanced division schools or secondary schools. I would like to see the suggestion of the Hadow Committee applied so far as Scotland is concerned. The English Education Department have issued a pamphlet entitled, "The New Prospect in Education." This is to be found in the English Report on page 8, where they point out that, instead of the qualifying examinations being the test for the passing of the children to the advanced division school or the secondary school, we ought to have in England a clean cut at 11 plus. So far as the Scottish system is concerned we ought to go in for a clean cut at the age of 12 or 12 plus when the transfer should take place. I think that at the age of 12 years and three months education of all our children should be passed on from the elementary schools to one or other of our advanced division schools. When you get older children being kept back amongst the younger children, they feel their inferiority, and consequently they do not make the progress they would 811 be likely to make if they got another type of education.
It does not follow that a boy or a girl who fails to reach the necessary standard in connection with arithmetic or English or mathematics, is not as clever a child in some other direction as the other children. Therefore, there ought to be a clean cut at the age of 12 years and three months, and the children should be passed to the advanced education centres where they can get the education best suited to their capacity. To accomplish this it will be necessary to do more and more in connection with centralisation so far as the advanced division schools are concerned. I find that the county to which I have the honour to belong and is held up for the approval of the rest of Scotland because of the success which has attended its efforts with regard to the centralisation of the advanced schools. If that policy were pursued still more widely, I am sure there would be less of the difficulties which are being met with by our various authorities at the present time.
I think it would be a good thing if the Education Department could set aside one or two individuals to meet the parents in different parts of Scotland in order to explain to them how they are dealing with this question of centralisation. Under this system more courses are open to the pupils, and it costs the ratepayers less. In the county of Fife, where centralisation has been a great success, very few of the parents would seek to go back to when they had the advanced division at the head of each separate school. I am sure the ratepayers there would not go back to the old system because the administrators have realised that it is a cheaper and more efficient system and that it is better from an educational point of view to have the schemes that have been given effect to in the county of Fife. Here, again, I would plead with the Education Department and those responsible for educational administration in Scotland that they should go in for more and more work in connection with schemes of centralisation, because they are all in the interests of education, of efficiency, and of economy.
I now come to a point which was raised by the hon. Member for the Scottish 812 Universities (Mr. Cowan), namely, the raising of the school age. Here no legislation is required so far as Scotland is concerned; it is merely a question of naming the day. I agree that, as has already been said, if you were merely to state that three months hence the school age would be raised to 15, it might place the education authorities in difficulties, but the present Tory Government received a lesson from Labour administrators and legislators in 1924, when four years' notice was given with regard to the reduction of classes. Can we have a statement from the Under-Secretary to-night as to when it is proposed to name the appointed day for raising the school age in Scotland? I submit that two years from now would be the very best date, because then, as a result of the reduction in the birth rate during the War years, there will be sufficient available accommodation in Scotland to meet the requirements in 1931 or 1932.
With regard to the training of teachers, to which, I see, special reference is made in the Report. I would ask the Under-Secretary to state, when he comes to reply, if he can justify curtailing the number of entrants without giving notice to the parents and to the pupils. The various authorities in Scotland have protested most vigorously against what happened 12 months ago, when, without any previous notice, those who were receiving in our secondary schools preliminary training for the teaching profession got word that there were no places for them. There was a desire to make the teaching profession one for graduates only, but, while graduation may be desirable so far as teaching generally is concerned, there can be no justification for demanding that all teachers should be graduates, particularly those engaged in teaching infant children in our schools. Surely, if there is to be a curtailment of the number of entrants to the teaching profession, it is only just to the education authorities, to the parents, and also to those who have started on a secondary course leading to the teaching profession, that at least they should receive two years' notice that the number of entrants to that profession is going to be curtailed.
I also want to make a special appeal for the development of adult education. We have made some progress during the last two or three years, but more encouragement 813 ought to be given to our education authorities, and, so far as some of them are concerned, more driving force is required from the Department to compel them to carry out their duties, particularly in connection with the new ideas as regards adult education. I now come to the relationship between agricultural education and general education. A plea was made, either by the Secretary of State for Scotland or by the Under-Secretary, during the passage of the Local Government (Scotland) Bill, that there was no relationship at the moment between agricultural education on the one hand and the work of the education authorities on the other. I, for one, have a very serious complaint to make against the Secretary of State for having given us no encouragement in one county where we were prepared to expend no less than £5,000 for the development of agricultural education. We approached the Secretary of State. If I remember rightly, I have approached him three times on behalf of that authority, but up to the present we have received no encouragement in regard to the development of agricultural education. Therefore, the responsibility for agricultural education being the Cinderella of the various departments connected with education does not rest altogether on the education authorities; it is mainly due to the action of the Secretary of State himself in the past.
I hope that, despite the fact that in 12 months time we may have a new body of administrators in education, they will go on with the work which the existing education authorities have been doing. Good as was the work done by the late Secretary for Education. I trust that his successor in Office will still carry on that work. I know that he has the good will of the education authorities and of the administrators in Scotland, and there are many associated with educational administration who will look for the same good will from him when they are carrying on their experiments which have proved to be so successful. We hope that the Scottish Education Department under its new head will allow still further experiments to be carried out, and that, if they are successful, as past experiments have been, they will be passed on to other authorities, with 814 the object of improving education in Scotland.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I want to raise a point which particularly concerns the question of school accommodation in the City of Glasgow. I do not know if the Under-Secretary received a note, but I left a note for his chief saying that I intended to raise this now time-honoured question—
§ Major ELLIOT indicated assent.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
For the last three or four years I have been raising the question of school accommodation, particularly on the South Side of Glasgow, with a certain degree of success, and to-day I return to the same subject. With regard to the congratulations offered by the hon. Member for Peebles (Mr. Westwood) to the new Permanent Secretary, and his promise of support from the education authorities, while I do not want to be taken as disagreeing with my hon. Friend, whose knowledge of educational matters is wider and greater than mine, I would say that, if the new Permanent Secretary is going to pursue a really progressive policy, if he is going to make advances in educational ideas, I am afraid, from my own knowledge of education, that he will not have very much support. My knowledge of education is confined to the West of Scotland, and I am sorry to say that almost all the authorities there are dominated and controlled by reaction from one end of the year to the other. I hope that the new Permanent Secretary is going to be much more resourceful and bold in his educational methods than, possibly, those authorities would desire him to be.
I want to point out to the Under-Secretary of State that there is a very grave omission from his Report. The hon. Member for Peebles was perfectly right in his plea for a reduction of the size, particularly, of infant classes. The large and, indeed, unwieldy size of the classes, and particularly the infants' classes, in our elementary schools throughout Scotland, is shocking and disgraceful; but the point that I want particularly to raise is that, so far as I can see, there is no mention in the Report of what I think is the most important educational development of recent years, namely, the development of the nursery school. 815 It is a grave and serious omission from this report. To think that this is the latest and perhaps the greatest development—and to me, at least, it is one of the biggest experiments taking place—in education in Britain, and we cannot have a paragraph in the report telling us how many nursery schools there are and how many new nursery schools have been started! I read the English report, and in that there was at least some reference to this new development. I say, frankly, that, as far as we are concerned in Scotland, there is no doubt that we lag far behind in this new and important development of nursery schools. I want to ask the Under-Secretary of State to see if he cannot, along with his new permanent Secretary, awaken a new activity in regard to the establishment of nursery schools in Scotland. There ought to be more driving force behind this matter than hitherto has been the case.
I notice that in the report of the Education Department there is a paragraph dealing with playing fields. When we were boys the streets of the City of Glasgow were to some extent playing grounds, but in recent years the development of motor transport has deprived the children of the streets as "playing fields." One anxiety constantly arising in the City of Glasgow, with its terrible tenement dwellings, is the fact that there is no playing accommodation, especially for children under five years of age. This was not so serious 10, 15, or 20 years ago before the coming and development of motor transport. Slow going traffic had not the same dangers to the children, but now with the speedy motor car the side street in Glasgow has largely disappeared. The only playing places for the children which formerly held sway have now been taken from them, and the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary ought to state what the Government have done and what they intend to do in regard to providing nursery schools for the children throughout Scotland. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State and those associated with him in education who are constantly boasting to us of our advanced ideas of education in Scotland will not allow Scotland to lag behind England in this matter, but will rather supply the driving force and make Scotland in 816 this matter even more advanced than is the case across the border.
I turn from that to a subject which I have made almost a hardly annual, namely, the provision of school accommodation, particularly on the south side of Glasgow. The provision of school accommodation in Glasgow is taking on a colour which I, to some extent, deplore. Some time ago, in an answer which I received from him, the Secretary of State for Scotland stated that higher grade schools were being provided in certain parts of the City of Glasgow. It must here be noted that in almost every case new higher grade schools are being provided in areas where new housing accommodation is also being provided. It may be said by the Under-Secretary of State, "Oh, you have to provide schools for the children in your new areas." We have this position. Certain classes of our population can get subsidised houses, homes in a good, decent, wholesome locality, and now the education authorities come along and give them the best schools with the best equipment and the best staffs. On the other hand, the poor areas, where the school accommodation is even more important than it is in those well-to-do areas, are being, comparatively speaking, starved for the want of new school accommodation.
I represent the most thickly populated Division of Glasgow, and in my Division there is not a single higher grade school provided. Children have to go a considerable distance in order to attend the higher grade school. In the Pollok Division, which is represented by the Secretary of State for Scotland, there are at least three or four higher grade schools. Why? Because there you have the well-to-do population. To-day, we have a Scottish Education Department, instead of turning its attention to the poorer localities where schools are much more required, spending a great deal of time and money in the development of schools in areas where schools are not so much needed. Schools ought to be provided first in areas where the population is the poorest and not in the areas where the population is better off.
I want to call attention to one particular school, known as the Greenside or Clarence Street School. Some time ago, I raised the question of this school constantly in this House with the result that 817 the Secretary of State for Scotland agreed to visit the school. As a result of that visit, even he, perhaps the most outstanding example of reaction in this House, was compelled to admit that the school was absolutely of no use as a modern school for the education of children. He came to the conclusion that the school must be closed. After the lapse of some little time all the pupils were taken from that school and gradually, by one means or another, they were transferred to other schools in the area. I thought that I had accomplished something. As I have stated, nobody in the House could make a defence of the school. It was situated by the side of the main railway line from Glasgow to Kilmarnock and by the side of stables and motor garages. It had no playground. It was an indefensible school from every possible standpoint.
What do I find now? I find that this school, condemned a year or two ago by the Secretary of State for Scotland as unfit for the education of children, has been re-opened. Previously, it was what we called a Protestant school. Now, however, the Secretary of State for Scotland, who condemned the use of the school for Protestants, allows Catholics to go there and be taught.
I say that this is a shocking state of affairs. If this was an unjustifiable school for Protestants, it is equally an unjustifiable school for Catholics. Here we have a school in the south of the city of Glasgow, condemned for public use by the Secretary of State for Scotland and ordered to be closed, re-opened for the education of another section of children. If the school was not good enough in the first place it certainly ought not to be good enough in the second place, and it ought to be disposed of as a school altogether. I shall be told that the Catholic school in the immediate neighbourhood is overcrowded and that this transfer must take place. What was there to hinder the local education authority from building a new school long ago? They know of the increase in the number of children attending the school. It is no use saying that they could not get ground. In the division, I have seen all manner of alterations taking place, and I have seen banks and cinemas being built. I am certain that if this school had been in Pollok, 818 which is represented by the Secretary of State for Scotland, a new building would have been put up and every effort would have been made to provide the new school. The Under-Secretary ought to take up the matter with the Glasgow education authority and insist that as the school has been closed for one set of children it is intolerable that it should be opened for another set. He ought to intervene to get the school closed entirely and to have at least a temporary school built for the accommodation of the children, who ought to be taught in a school which possesses decent facilities and adequate accommodation.
I called the attention of the Glasgow education authority, recently, to the provision of clinics in the south side of Glasgow. I visited a school in my Division, known as Gorbals School, and I found that children with all kinds of diseases were taken there. The clinic was situated on the third storey of the building. Children suffering from all kinds of trouble were huddled together in the clinic, and next door a teacher was vainly trying to teach children whilst constant shuffling and talking was going on outside by children who wanted to attend the clinic. Such a condition of things would not be tolerated in any well-to-do school. A clinic for dealing with skin diseases and other diseases ought to be separate from the ordinary school. We hear a great deal about vaccination against small-pox and the need of keeping free from contamination. What could be worse than to bring children suffering from diseases into a school where children are there who are free from such diseases? The clinic ought to be outside a school where children are attending for elementary education. In this case, lack of accommodation cannot be pleaded. Adjacent to the school there are empty houses of considerable size which could have been purchased and would have made excellent places for the establishment of the clinic. I find that every form of economy is exercised in regard to comparatively poor areas, but when one turns to Moss Park, represented by the Secretary of State, one finds there a school, beautiful and extensive, and containing every provision that money can ensure to make it a first class school. In the case of a clinic in a poorer district, a cheeseparing policy takes place which passes my comprehension. The clinic ought to be 819 established away from the ordinary school, in proper surroundings and carried out in a decent manner. I hope that the Under-Secretary will have an inquiry made and will see that something is done to remedy matters.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
There is nothing in this Report of a very startling nature. It is a record of a certain amount of advance, and I have been interested to hear hon. Members dealing with the various topics. Reference was made, some time ago, to the state of education in Scotland by Professor Whittaker and Lord Sands. These individuals took up the position that education in Scotland to-day was not to be compared with the education in their time. They evidently thought that children in our schools to-day or the generation of children that has passed out are somewhat lacking in ability as compared with the previous generation. I do not see anything, from my experience in connection with education in Scotland, to bear out that statement. Scottish schools at the present time are producing as good results as the schools have produced in days gone by. Our schools to-day in many characteristics that are good are an improvement upon the past, and many of the features of school life of to-day that are not progressive are due to some extent to the stricter discipline that has produced a certain rigidity of mind and a certain public opinion which does not make possible that development of experiments in education which educationists would like to see.
Anyone looking through the Report will come to the conclusion that one of the weaknesses in the present administration is that there have not been sufficient experiments in connection with education in our Scottish schools. The teachers who would like very much to have greater opportunities of teaching their classes apart from the stiffness that is introduced or the working to a general plan. The chiefs of the Department and those associated with them in the administration would, no doubt, also like a greater amount of flexibility in connection with courses, both in the elementary schools and in the advanced and secondary schools. One of the greatest difficulties in the way of providing for greater flexibility is due to the fact that 820 public opinion might on many occasions be somewhat unwilling to allow for this greater amount of experiment. I would suggest to the Under-Secretary and the permanent officials that the time has come when in many schools there should be an attempt made to have many of the newer educational improvements on various points tried out, and the teachers given a greater amount of liberty than they have at the present time.
I am not so much making a complaint on that score as making a suggestion that one of the weaknesses that is occurring in Scotland is that, with this definite time-table of work, there is not sufficient opportunity for teachers with personality and with new ideas to try out those new ideas and to allow scholars under their care to have full advantage of their personalities. I simply make reference to that, because for some time in the newspapers there has seemed to be so much general disposition to believe that Lord Sands was right in his conclusion with regard to education. From my own experience, I am quite convinced that the administration to-day is just as successful as it ever was in running our Scottish educational system, and that the product of our schools to-day will compare with that of any time. In my days as a Minister of the United Free Churches of Scotland I had an opportunity of comparing the children in my Sunday schools with those of a corresponding age in my own time. I also had an opportunity, as a teacher before I was elected to this House, of comparing the ability and development of the children in the schools in which I was teaching, with children with whom I had been educated myself in days gone by. It seemed to me that on the whole the children who were under my care were cleverer than I myself was or the children with whom I had been educated.
Another question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) was that of school clinics. These clinics are often part of or alongside the school buildings. I wonder if an attempt should not be made to have these clinics in separate buildings away from the school buildings altogether? Take the case of children who go for examination because of a report that they are probably mentally deficient. There is one case which I have in mind in which 821 a parent bitterly complained that when her child was going in to see the doctor there were many other children going in to the ordinary school at the same time. Noticing these children going in for examination these schoolchildren were overheard by one such little boy to say "Those are the dafts." I do not think that is a satisfactory position, and I would suggest that the Department should take into consideration the location of clinics in order that we may have the children and their parents going there with greater confidence than is the case at the present time. Again, without seeking to be unduly critical with regard to the development which has taken place in this connection, I would suggest it is of importance that every parent, and every child as well, should feel that in going to the clinic they are going to have a great advantage accruing to them, and that the community is seeking in this way to make better opportunities possible for them in the future.
Another point with which I wish to deal is the question of the bursary system in connection with education in Scotland. I feel that while a great deal has been done, there is need for ever so much more. There are those bursaries that are given in connection with the maintenance of children at school in order that they may take a higher course of instruction. There is also the bursary system in the provision made for young people who have passed through the schools and who are going to the universities or colleges. I do not think our bursary is anything like sufficiently generous yet. The maintenance grants to the children to enable them to continue their instruction should be very largely increased. If it could be said that Scottish education is deteriorating one of the reasons would be that there was not sufficient nutrition. I very much liked that feature of the address given by the Secretary of State for Scotland in connection with the Educational Institute of Scotland in which he dealt with the need for increased attention being paid to the physical development of the child. Whether it is for physical or mental development, I believe it is very important that full attention should be given to the feeding of the child. Food, clothing and shelter are the three elements which are the basis of any 822 really sound educational system. We have got to see that there shall be more money going into the working-class homes in order that the children in those homes shall have more food, better food, better homes and everything in the way of clothing that is necessary.
I would point out to the Under-Secretary that while in schools now there is an attempt made to give them so much to spend on a curriculum of games, and a certain amount of provision is made, there is not sufficient provision made in regard to the other things which are necessary for playing these games. Every child who is going to take part in games such as football should have football boots and uniforms. One of the things which strikes me in walking through one of the English parks where games are provided is the fact that so many children in this country seem to be able to get uniforms in so much larger numbers than is the case in Scotland. Scotland may win international football against the best that England can produce, but, at the same time, I think the educational administration and the Department itself should encourage the local authorities not only to provide the bare minimum with regard to games which are becoming a feature of school life, but also the clothes that are necessary for taking part fully in those games and making the most out of them.
Then with regard to the condition of our schools. The hon. Member for Gorbals has drawn attention to a school in his own division. I represent a fairly mixed division, one part of which is fairly well to do. The schools in that part are in a much better condition than those in the other part, which is not so well to do. In the Dennison Ward the schools are in a much better condition than those in the Mile End Ward. The working class districts are very smoky as a rule and more coats of paint might be used on the schools in these areas. In many of the older buildings in the industrial districts a great deal might be done to make the classrooms more inviting. The contrast in many of the schools in Glasgow in this respect is astonishing. Money should be spent in order to ensure that children in these poorer districts are not in an inferior position as compared with children in other districts. There is one point in connection with bursaries which I forgot 823 to mention. Some of the students obtain from the Glasgow Education authority a sum of about £18 or £20 a year in order to enable them to go to the University. That is a comparatively small amount for any young person of 18 or 19 years of age to receive for maintenance, and these grants to pupils at day schools to allow them to continue their education and to those pupils who go to the University should be very much on the level of the average rate of wages paid to young persons about the same age who pass into the workshops. That is of the utmost importance.
The hon. Member for Peebles (Mr. Westwood) suggested that there should be a definite date fixed for the raising of the school age to 15. There will be general agreement with him in that respect, but it is absolutely essential that in connection with the raising of the school age there should be adequate maintenance grants for all children. It is the duty of the State to make adequate provision for every child, and if we could get adequate maintenance grants I believe that there would be a great development in our secondary education. In this Report there is an obvious feeling that there is so much waste at the end of the school curriculum. This is not because the people of Scotland are not interested in education or that the children themselves would not like to have an opportunity of continuing their education. It is all due to the fact that there is to-day so much poverty in the home that the children feel that it is their duty to go out and help their parents, and the parents themselves feel that they are in such a position that they must have the income which can be earned by the child. Look at what occurred in the boom years at the end of the War, when wages were so much higher. During that period the children from many homes in working-class districts, where poverty in previous times had been greatest, were sent to the secondary school and had the advantage of a, secondary education, but when the period of boom passed and wages fell, when conditions became so difficult and the volume of unemployment spread, there came a lessening of the demand for secondary education by these people. The only way by which our children will 824 be able to finish their education and take full advantage of the opportunities for higher education is to see that they are put in possession of a sufficient income.
I am not very much enamoured of the advanced course, and I hope the Under-Secretary of State will tell us, when he replies to the Debate, what is the cost of educating a child in the advanced course, and also give us the comparative figure for educating a child in the secondary course. If I find that the cost of education in the advanced course is as great as the cost of education in the secondary course, I shall have much more faith in the advanced course than I have, but I am convinced that that is not the case, and that one of the reasons for the introduction of the advanced course is the fact that it was felt that by this means a considerable saving would be made; so many of the children would not complete the three years' course and the five years' course and, therefore, this advanced course was introduced because it would be cheaper, and would give the child something in the nature of advanced education. I had the privilege of seeing one of the new advanced schools in Stirling the other day, and I frankly say that I have nothing but praise for it. They have a very fine building, and both staff and scholars were very enthusiastic about it, and felt that their surroundings and opportunities were good.
One has the feeling that if there were similar institutions on the same scale throughout the country, and that if the teachers in the advanced course were paid on the same scale as teachers in the secondary schools, there would be a greater measure of satisfaction. One thing can be said for the advanced course schools, and that is that they are some improvement on the old supplementary course which was very largely a waste of time. The cleverer children got through the ordinary elementary course by the age of about 12, and then for two years, when taking the supplementary course, they were very much marking time, going over a lot of things that had been gone over before and getting slack and indifferent. While the advance course is a certain improvement on the supplementary course I do not think it compares with the intermediate course of the secondary school, and I shall not be 825 content until I see it made an improvement on the intermediate course.
As I have said, I have not risen in any hypercritical mood. On the whole I think there is a good spirit in connection with the administration of the educational system of Scotland; there is a desire to do all that is best on behalf of the scholars, and people of the different parties are very much alive to the need for making the most of the educational opportunities available. I hope that in the coming year we shall see great advances made. Now that we have got to the 50 class I hope it is not to be assumed that we have attained to perfection, but that the Department will look to a constant reduction of the numbers in classes for many years to come. Think of a teacher taking 50 pupils and of how little opportunity there is of giving what is best in that teacher to those 50 children! Different gifts are embodied in those children, and I do not believe that you can bring the best out of them when one teacher is in control of so many. I hope that the Department will set before itself in the next two years a reduction to 45, so that the classes of the elementary school will compare in numbers with the classes of the secondary school.
There is possibility of great development. There is no doubt as to teachers being available, for many are unemployed. Could the Department not do now what was said to be impossible in 1924? The Permanent Secretary to the Department assured us then that if the three years course were adopted there would not be a sufficient number of teachers. There are sufficient teachers unemployed to-day to suggest that we have again reached the stage when we can make developments in connection with the training of teachers. I hope the Department will go forward boldly, prepared to spend money and more money, and more money, on maintenance grants and in giving to the children all that is best in educational opportunities. Some children have hundreds of pounds per annum spent on their education alone. I say that every child in the country is entitled to an equal education, and I hope that the Scottish Education Department will make the realisation of that ideal its object in the future.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I would like in a word or two to reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) has said as to the necessity of adequate maintenance grants. Everyone in this House, every educationist, urges the raising of the school age as speedily as possible to 15 years. The reason why there has been hesitation in carrying this change into effect is that vast masses of our people are in such poverty that when a child reaches the age of 14 it is a terrible struggle, particularly if that child happens to be the eldest child of a family, to keep it at school any longer. Surely, after years of the experience of exemption committees, and reports from chairmen and members of exemption committees, the Department of the Government might have been taking the necessary steps to provide adequate maintenance grants, so that working-class children should not be robbed of the last and most useful year in their educational life. It is not a matter of party politics. Anyone who has been a member of an exemption committee of an education authority will agree that it is absolutely heart-rending to hear the pitiful tales told by men and women who, while anxiously desirous of giving their children a decent education, are compelled by sheer poverty to take their children from school and to send them to a blind-alley occupation, to stratify the classes and to hand on the poverty which they have inherited from their parents. Every educationist knows of such cases.
Instead of this House uttering pious exclamations of hope that we shall soon see the age limit reached, it should realise that the necessary first step is the provision of adequate maintenance grants. I believe that in many directions the Education Department in Scotland is making marked improvements but, like the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), I regret that the Government seem to be so little in accord with the idea of nursery schools that no mention of it is made in this report—and that despite the fact that the Prime Minister made kindly and eulogistic references to the work of Miss Margaret McMillan. Yet after all these years we find a Government Department making no mention whatever in a report of this kind of nursery schools, What is said in the report regarding the health of the 827 school children is, in some respects, amazing. It is admitted that over 6 per cent. of the school children examined by the school medical officers are below the average in nutrition. Apart from medical terms, that means that the children are suffering from hunger. What does the Department propose to do with these insufficiently fed children? During the past 10 years they have gone back in this respect, because 10 years ago there was a better system for the feeding of school children than there is now. Then the onus was on the education authority, but now the education authority only steps in when private charity has failed. Even then they make arrangements with the Poor Law authorities, and it is only as a last resort that the education authority, appointed to deal with the education of the child, comes in to see that the child is in a fit physical condition to receive the education that is provided.
The hon. Member for Camlachie raised the question of the cost and he differentiated between the cost of educating the secondary school child and the cost of educating the primary school child. In this Report we get a figure of over 22s. a week as the cost of educating the average school child in Scotland. Why can we not, for the sake of 2s. or 3s. a week more, deal with the case of the 6 per cent. of hungry, insufficiently nourished children in order to see that the 22s. is wisely spent? No teacher can teach under-nourished children. No teacher can get results from such children and it seems painfully obvious to me that if we do not spend our money to see that the child gets a decent start in life physically, we shall have to pay for it later on in the upkeep of sanatoria hospitals and other remedial institutions. I would ask the Under-Secretary if he cannot give us some encouragement and some hope that this 6 per cent. of undernourished children shall immediately be looked after by the appropriate authority. In this Report of 60 pages only six miserable lines are given to the whole question of medical inspection and treatment and even then, we are referred to the Tenth Annual Report of the Scottish Board of Health. When we go to that Report we get figures showing that 73 per cent. of the children attending our schools—three but of four—suffer from 828 defective teeth. Our dental services are inadequate. Examinations take place but weeks and sometimes months elapse before the dentist can deal with the cases, and there are two whole counties in Scotland in which, after all these years, there is no provision for a dental service. Then we have the cases of rickets—a poverty disease—and the cases of defective eyesight—over 5 per cent. and increasing. All the time, the feeding of the necessitous children is dependent on charity. These facts do not seem to warrant any enconiums from this side on the work of the Education Department in regard to the health of the school child. Sir George Newman in one of the most remarkable Government publications I ever read—a little book published by the Health Department which hon. Members can get for sixpence and which is, I think, entitled, "The Science of the Prevention of Disease"—shows clearly how, for an almost infinitesimal amount of public expenditure, and by taking the right kind of diseases first, we could wipe out great blocks of pain and disease. I am sure every party in this House is prepared to go further in this matter than we have hitherto gone and yet the Education Department not merely "stands pat" but goes backwards in regard to the feeding of school children and hands us out a Report which is without any encouragement for further development and which leaves us, indeed, worse than we were before. Many of our schools were designed and built many years ago and it is my considered opinion that a large amount of children's troubles arise directly from bad heating arrangements and bad ventilation. The ventilation most frequently has to come from the window-tops and when a crowded school becomes overheated, particularly in winter time, the teacher is compelled to let down the window, and the children catch colds from the draught. Not until our heating and ventilation arrangements are changed are we likely to wipe out any considerable proportion of the ailments which unfortunately seem to afflict so many children.
I have a case here which I almost hesitate to raise so extraordinary does it seem. It is the case of a child who was to receive an orphan's pension, as long as it was maintained at school, until the age of 16. This child, according to the testimony 829 of the chairman of the school management committee, and the indirect testimony at any rate of the clerk of the education authority, has been absent from school because of illness and lack of sufficient clothing to enable it to attend school on very cold days. Although certificates of the ill-health and poverty of the child, and of the lack of clothing, were supplied to the Department, it would appear that the orphan's pension has been cut off by the Department, despite the protests of the school management committee and the education authority. There may be some explanation of which I am unaware, but I hope that this is not a common practice. It is the only case I know of, and I am sure if it is a unique case, the Under-Secretary will look into it. I will send him the papers relating to it, and I hope he will take steps to see that the pension is restored. It is an extraordinary state of affairs that a Government Department should insist, despite protest from the local education authority, who know the facts, on taking away the full child's pension because it was unable to attend school through illness and lack of clothing due to poverty. I trust that this is not common, and that if a new practice is going to be initiated, the Under-Secretary will take immediate steps to put an end to it.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not know how long the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be in his reply to the various questions that have been raised. I do not want to take up time which I am sure he could use more effectively than I could, though I have seen Ministers on previous occasions who were quite glad to have a very small time left to them to reply to criticisms. I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman will agree with me that the criticism to-day has been of a kindly and helpful kind to which he will be only too delighted to reply at considerable length. I want merely to reinforce one or two points which have been made by my hon. Friends, in particular that one which has been urged by my three hon. Friends who have spoken, about taking some steps to make it possible for working-class parents to maintain their children through the years of a secondary education and through university, technical, college and other central institutional training. It is a very pathetic thing to think that we have 31,000 children entering our 830 secondary schools in 1928 and, at the end, only some 2,818 complete the full secondary course. All these 31,000 children have been certified by their teachers, the headmasters of the schools and the visiting Government Inspector as being capable of taking full advantage of the secondary education so far as their mental attainments are concerned, and yet only about 3,000 of them, or 10 per cent., have the opportunity of completing the course. I am certain from what experience I have had as a member of the education authority and a teacher, that in a very large proportion of these cases it is the economic factor pure and simple that decides whether a secondary training is going to be completed or interrupted by the necessity of the child having to go out and become a wage-earner to help to increase the family income.
I also add my word to the plea of my hon. Friends who have urged a greater reduction in the size of classes. I note that again statistics show that the birth-rate is still declining. The figures are only given for the half-year of 1928. I assume that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will have the completed figures in his Department. If the second half-year corresponds with the first half-year, the total birth-rate will be something like 93,000, which is a drop of 3,000 on the previous year, which in turn was a drop of 3,000 on the previous year. Every year since 1924 the birth-rate has been steadily declining, which seems to me to leave school accommodation and teaching power available for further reduction in the size of classes.
I want to associate myself with the protest of my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) in the very meagre reference that is made to the medical and health side of education. To have a mere half-a-dozen lines in the educational report seems to me to be putting the subject in a wrong perspective. I remember very well a very fine speech made by the Under-Secretary on the Second Reading of the De-rating Bill when he used, as one of the strong arguments for it, the possibility of great developments in taking care of the health of the children. I hope when the Department are co-ordinated in this matter very much greater attention will be given to the health side—not merely to the 831 medical inspection side but to the work of actually building up the children. I know how very much interested the hon. and gallant Gentleman is in the question of child nutrition; I should have hoped that in the Educational Report there would have been some very definite reference to the progress that had been made with this experiment. After all, I am fairly well satisfied that the mothers know very well how to feed their children in a wholesome and intelligent way.
It is interesting to know that the school attendance for nearly a dozen years has averaged just under 90 per cent. When one considers that in that percentages are tiny tots of four years of age, who have to be turned out in all sorts of weather, sometimes to travel long distances to school, and when one knows of all the various ailments which afflict children, when one knows of the raging epidemics of influenza which have struck a large proportion of the adults and child population, to maintain a steady regular percentage of attendance of 90 in the elementary schools shows that the mothers have a genuine, deep-seated anxiety for the welfare of their children, which is manifested in the care and attention that turns those youngsters out to school regularly every day. The problem is not one of getting better mothers, nor is it one of getting better teachers. It is a problem of putting at the disposal of parents the finance that will enable them to provide for the children the things that the mothers know they need and want to give them. Guidance as to the nutritive value of various foodstuffs would certainly be welcomed and made use of by the intelligent parents of Scotland.
I was very interested to read in the Board of Health Report about a statement made by the supervisor of domestic economy in West Lothian, who has supplied some interesting details as to midday meals, and she states that a feeding scheme was operated in nine centres and that excellent soup was provided, the cost of the meal being Id. That is useful and valuable information. I am quite sure the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Shinwell), who has a fairly large team to look after at home, would be very glad to know how it is done, 832 and I also, although not blessed to the same extent, would be glad to know how an excellent meal is provided for 1d. But I do wish that in all these Reports a little less stress were put on how cheaply it can be done and a little more stress on how well it can be done.
There is a paragraph in the Report dealing with playing fields. The Report makes reference to the inquiries that the Board of Education have made about playing fields, and they make reference to the work of the Playing Fields Association in this connection, but they do not make any reference to any one playing field that has been provided anywhere in Scotland for the youngsters. I am glad to pay tribute to the work of the Playing Fields Association. I think that these posters they have put on the walls are wonderful bits of work. There is a poster that I have seen showing a youngster standing at a wicket, and underneath it says "It is not cricket," the youngster showing evidences of malnutrition and being poorly dressed; and the Playing Fields Association regard it as not being cricket that he cannot get a field to play in. I agree with them, and I am glad of the propaganda they are doing in this direction, although I also think it is not cricket that the youngster has not got a physique to play with, but I hope the education authorities of Scotland, or the local government body that is responsible for the administration of education in the future will not wait until the purse-strings of private charity are loosened to the extent of making playing fields available, and that, having the power and the resources of the nation at their back, they will recognise that an adequate field for the youngsters to play in ought to be a first charge on the public purse. I hope that, when the next Report comes to be presented to this Committee, it will give not merely a record of inquiries that are being made about playing fields, but a list of playing fields that have been actually acquired for the use of the youngsters of Scotland.
One other thing. I notice that the reformatory and industrial schools of Scotland are still having a large, although, I admit, decreasing, number of boys and girls committed to them. One does not follow all the cases that come before the Courts of boys remitted by associations 833 and others to reformatories, but some cases have come to my knowledge. I have just been approaching the Secretary of State for Scotland about two lads in Kilmarnock who have been sentenced to five years in a reformatory school for a very trivial first offence. To send boys—
§ The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)
I think that the hon. Member is now trespassing on another Vote. I am a little hesitant, but I am under the impression that this comes under the Vote for the Secretary of State for Scotland and not under the Vote for Scottish Education. Perhaps the Minister will correct me if I am wrong.
§ Major ELLIOT
As far as the hon. Member was going, I think that it is covered in the General Health Report.
§ Mr. MAXTON
It would probably be wrong for me to criticise the Judges who committed the boys to the reformatory, but I think that it is within my power to suggest under this Vote that the education authorities should pay special attention to the young delinquents who are brought before the courts, and to use all their influence to prevent the pupils for whose education they are responsible from being convicted and branded as criminals at the age of 11, 12 or 13. When a school-master or a master in a school is prepared to go into court and pay testimony to a boy's character and capacity, it is particularly a shocking thing that any sheriff should be allowed to send that boy for five years to a reformatory. Therefore, I ask those responsible for the administration of education in Scotland to try and rouse the interest of the authorities in the question of juvenile offenders, so that at the very earliest, when he is tending to go along wrong tracks, influence may be applied to keep him along sound lines educationally. I do not think that any of my remarks have been unfriendly. The general tenor of my criticism is to the effect that, if Scottish education has decent sums of money placed at its disposal to stimulate and develop it, the possibilities of getting speedy results from that expenditure are practically unlimited.
§ Major ELLIOT
I am sure that all on this side of the Committee, and particularly the Minister, could do nothing but express gratitude for the helpful and constructive way in which the Committee has dealt with the Vote now under consideration. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) tended perhaps to become a little too constructive at the end of his speech, on lines that it would be beyond the limits of order to reply to, he would be the last to admit that the amount is adequate for the education system in Scotland—and, with his well-known Parliamentary skill, it was not until he was approaching the conclusion of his remarks that he embarked on a course which might have led to their termination by the Ruling of the Chair if he had done so earlier in his speech. The desirability of developing the education system of Scotland is common ground on all sides of the Committee; this extension is not the prerogative or the promise of any one party. Most valuable reforms have been initiated under the regime of all parties in the House, and I pay my tribute to the party opposite for the steps which they took in a reduction of the size of the classes. That advances have been made by all parties is common ground. In addition to reviewing the points which were made by hon. Members opposite, it is desirable to consider the broad general line which has arisen from the discussion this evening of our Scottish education system. The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Cowan), to whose party we are indebted for raising the Vote, and other Members spoke of the desirability of giving more attention in the future than we have given in the past to the health and the physical fitness of school children. We must make sure that the constitution of the child is sound, that the eyes with which it sees and the ears with which it hears are keen and receptive, so that it may take in the instruction provided, and also that the child may benefit by the outside life when it leaves school, both during the school years and when the school years are finished. That is a note in Scottish education which we have not struck so vigorously in the past as it has been struck to-night. I think the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities was right when he said we had tended to neglect the physical side of education, and that 835 it might be necessary to give it more than its fair share of attention for some years to come, because the leeway to be made up is so much greater than on the mental side of education.
I shall return to this subject later. The hon. Member for Bridgeton urged me to speak at great length upon the subject of education, though he ought to know better than to tempt fallible mortals such as myself to dilate upon a subject so congenial to the heart of a Scottish Member. Certain definite questions were raised by hon. Members in various parts of the House, and I would like to deal with them before returning, if time permits, to the more general questions concerning education which the Debate has raised this evening. The question of raising the school age was brought up by the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities and by several other speakers, and it was also referred to in the Debate on Education in England, a Debate to which our colleague from Scotland, the Noble Lady the Member for Perthshire (Duchess of Atholl) replied. It was a singularly happy thing to have the Scottish and the English Education Estimates in one day, so that we could review the subject as a whole, and it was a testimony to our Scottish system of education that the winding up of the Debate on education in England should be undertaken by a Member for a Scottish constituency and one who received all her training in connection with educational matters in Scotland.
In connection with the raising of the school age, surely we must see that adequate opportunities are provided for all who desire to attend school before we apply compulsion to those who, by hypothesis, do not desire to attend school. The response to the greater facilities which have been provided has been an encouraging one. In the year 1913–14 39,000 children stayed on after the age of 14; in the year 1927–28 that number had risen to 70,000. This was accomplished without any compulsion whatever; it shows the advantage which has been taken of the facilities already provided. The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities asked whether I could give him a pledge to fix the day, or else demand from the local authorities that they should make a survey of all the steps necessary 836 to enable the date to be fixed. I am afraid that I am unable to give a pledge on either of those points. I noticed that the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities referred to circumstances under which a Government chosen from his own party might bring the suggestion he had made into operation. However that may be, I am sure we all welcome his cheery contributions to the Debate. It is neither possible for me to give a pledge that all the steps should be taken now, or to give a pledge that the date will be fixed. Obviously, that is something which will be one of the earliest tasks of the new Government. I am certain that the educational record of the Government now approaching the end of its full term is not such as to make us believe that, if the present Government are again returned to power, they will be at all backward in carrying out the surveys, and making further progress in educational matters in Scotland.
The hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Westwood) claimed that the credit for raising the school age was due to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife (Mr. W. Adamson), because he had initiated a policy which other Governments had carried on. I trust the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife will bring to the notice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer this striking example of continuity of policy in our legislation, and let him know that there are at any rate some cases in our domestic legislation where continuity of policy is highly desirable. It is clear that the present Government have carried on a policy which was initiated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Fife, and this shows that these great steps are not subject to reversal by a change of Government. It is of the greatest importance that steps of that kind should not be taken until they have received the assent of all parties in the House.
The hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles made some criticisms regarding the system of examinations in Scotland. I am sure the hon. Member will be inclined to agree with me when I say that this question of the responsibility thrown on the teacher can be very greatly overdone, and it is necessary to have some system of examinations to assist the teacher in arriving at a proper conclusion 837 as to the ability of the children. The fear of examinations and the increased stress and strain which they leave upon us in our early days are things to which we have to look forward in our future life as well as merely answering a few questions which are humanely put under very familiar and easy conditions. The hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles is in favour of a soft examination, but in my opinion the fear which has been expressed in regard to examinations is something which can be easily overdone. Such examinations are occasionally necessary not only for the sake of the child but for the sake of the teachers as well. The system of examinations, even if it does occasionally cause a nervous shock to those about to be examined, cannot be entirely done away with.
The hon. Member spoke more particularly of agricultural education, and on that subject I should like to say that, again, in the course of this Debate, we have had evidence of the advantages which hon. Members themselves feel will arise from the unification of authorities as set out in the Local Government Bill which recently passed through all its stages in this House. The hon. Member said that his authority had been discouraged by the Secretary of State from spending money independently, but he did not suggest that he would have been willing to carry out in that regard the same principle of centralisation to which he gave such high praise in connection with other educational matters, and to subscribe this sum of £5,000 a year to the Agricultural College of the region, which is in fact at present the organisation entrusted with the duty of carrying out the agricultural education of the community. The hon. Member desired to set up a decentralised, independent institution, but I should have thought he would have been the last to complain if the same principle of centralisation which he praised in other spheres were applied in this sphere also, and if it were realised that you cannot have independent agricultural education carried out by a great number of small, overlapping, contending institutions throughout the country, but that the subject is eminently one which must be considered in connection with the broad region which the three Agricultural Colleges of 838 Scotland have already mapped out for themselves.
The hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) came down to the more immediate point of the school accommodation in Scotland, and in Glasgow in particular. I received his letter, and we are much indebted to him for his courtesy in giving us notice of the point that he desired to raise. The case which he more particularly raised was that of the Greenside Street school. In the first place, I should say that, as the hon. Member knows, the school accommodation in Scotland has been considerably enlarged in the past few years, and the Glasgow education authority has had the heavy task of bringing up to date and modernising a great number of Roman Catholic schools. It is quite true that the school buildings to which the hon. Member referred are unsatisfactory, but that is not a question of Roman Catholics or Protestants, but a question of one crowded school. It was necessary to bring down the overcrowding in the adjacent school, and for that purpose, in spite of the unsatisfactory nature of the premises as a whole, six classes were eventually placed in that building. It is not desirable that they should remain there permanently, even though they are not on the noisy side of the building, where, there is the railway traffic of which the hon. Member complained; but the only way of dealing with that situation is to build a new school. The building of a new school has not yet been determined upon by the authority. I agree, as the hon. Member would agree, that the building of a new school will have to be undertaken, but we must allow the local authority a certain amount of time to modernise and deal with the schools in its area.
§ Major ELLIOT
It is only last year that the purchase of the Roman Catholic school properties has been carried through in Glasgow, and it was really only after that had been carried through that the local authority was able to deal with this problem in its proper perspective. The local authority is now the owner of the school premises throughout. It has not been the owner of them for 10 839 years, but, in the case of much of this unsatisfactory school property, it has only been the owner since last year. Our inspectors, although this is primarily a matter for the local authority itself, have paid a great deal of attention to the situation in Glasgow. It was one of the things on which Sir George Macdonald himself spent a great deal of personal time and trouble, and last year, I think for the first time, we had a paragraph of warm appreciation by our inspectors of the work which has been done in Glasgow in attacking the defective school accommodation and bringing it up to date. The Central Committee does realise that Glasgow has had a heavy responsibility laid upon it, and this year for the first time the inspectors have complimented the local authority on the progress which has been made. It is quite true that there is defective school accommodation in Glasgow, but the local authority is showing determination in this matter, and we must allow it time to develop its full programme, seeing the difficulty which this big task has admittedly laid upon it. I cannot expect the hon. Member to be altogether satisfied with that policy.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The hon. and gallant Gentleman can readily understand the position when the Secretary of State for Scotland, who had condemned the building as being of no use as a school, less than a year afterwards says that the school is fit for Catholics. He can realise how offensive it is when a school has been condemned for use by one group that it should then be allowed to be used by another group. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot make proper provision, he should take steps, in conjunction with the education authority, to get a school provided temporarily. I do not see why, if there is a push made in his Department, a temporary school cannot be erected.
§ Major ELLIOT
The hon. Gentleman will agree that, if it is a question of providing temporary premises, or new premises of a permanent type, or to use again not the whole but a portion of the building previously in use as a school building, one might easily say that those who are likely to take offence can take 840 offence at the provision of that accommodation just as they can at the provision of a school in the old building. They might say, "Here is a community, Protestant, or Jewish, or Christian Science, which has had a glorious new school built for it, whereas our community is only fit for a few ramshackle shanties with open boarding and corrugated iron roofs." I am sure that the Roman Catholic community will be the first to recognise the great efforts in the modernising of the school accommodation in Glasgow. I readily give this assurance to my hon. Friend, that we are keeping the situation under close review, and we have every hope that a new school will be built which will provide permanent accommodation for these schools of a class not inferior to the class provided for the other schools in Glasgow. The hon. Member went further and stated that in regard to new schools, which were so much superior to old schools, it would be a further class distinction between those who had moved to new housing schemes and those still in the centre of the city. Again, we must realise that the new schools are bound to go where the new houses are provided.
§ Major ELLIOT
Obviously, if they could travel either from the centre to the suburbs or from the suburbs to the centre, the hon. Member will agree that it is much preferable that the schools should be in the suburbs and the children go out to them rather than that we should build new schools in the overcrowded, smoke-blackened centre of the city and bring in children from the suburban areas. [Interruption.] That the whole of the school buildings to meet the developments of the next 50 years should be in the centre of the city because of the difficulty of travel would be, indeed, a gross reversal of policy. We must take the schools out to the healthier areas; it is an urgent necessity. The schools will naturally fall to be built more in the outer ring of the city than in the central ring, not merely because that is the best place for the schools to be, but in pursuit of the policy for clearing out the crowded centre of the city to the outskirts where the slum population will 841 eventually find itself moved, let us hope, and where school accommodation will be already provided for them. The school accommodation must necessarily be provided in the outskirts rather than in the centre, and the hon. Member for Gorbals would be the first to admit that, if he were given Glasgow as a clean sheet and asked to work out a plan of school accommodation.
§ Major ELLIOT
The only way to bring the healthier areas into the centres is to decant at least 50 per cent. of the population from the centre into the suburbs. It would be silly to build schools for 100 per cent. of the population in the centre and then to carry out 50 per cent. to the new areas, where there will be no school accommodation, and leave the population which you have just succeeded in bringing away from the crowded centres without the necessary school accommodation. The hon. Member for Gorbals raised the question of school clinics. There, again, we are entitled to state that his silence during the passage of the Local Government Bill we did not misinterpret.
§ Major ELLIOT
They were not what we were accustomed to expect from the hon. Member when he is really roused to indignation by the proposals of the Government. In regard to clinics, obviously, it is a mistake to mix up sound children with sick children, defective children with normal children. It is a mistake to crowd an educational institution with clinical facilities of one kind and another. There is every reason to believe that with the unification of the activities of the local authority, it will not be necessary to overcrowd the educational institution with the school clinic while a street or two away, it may be only across the street, there are facilities for carrying out the examination of the children in buildings designed for the purpose, where it can be done without trenching upon the all too inadequate facilities which are available for the teachers for carrying out the main purpose of the school. Everybody agreed that it was a desirable thing to unify and amalgamate the health services. The 842 break between the school health services and the local authority health services is undoubtedly one of the blots in our education system which the Local Government Bill will remedy, and I am sure that we shall have a very great improvement in this particular defect, of which the hon. Member complained, when the Local Government Bill comes into operation.
The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) asked for greater flexibility to be allowed in our Scottish education system. He certainly raised a point which is very near to my own heart. I have seen this rigidity, this being tied to a system not merely dominating the schools but it has spread its evil effects within the universities. I was horrified to see in the curriculum of medical students a time-table which reminds one of the time-tables from which we used to suffer at school: those little books with which we were familiar, in which we had to tick off one class after another in case, owing to the complexity of the system, we might get lost and miss some class or another. When I find that similar time-tables are being issued to medical undergraduates I feel that it is time that our educational reformers should protest not merely against the present spread of the time-table in schools but its extension into other education institutions. That is a matter of public opinion. I have many friends among the teachers, and I know one teacher who got permission from the education authority to try for two or three days the experiment of allowing, the children to learn what they wished to know. They did some very interesting things. One child spent the time kicking a ball against the wall of the school. I was told that the real reason why the experiment had to be stopped was not because of public opinion or any injury to the children, but because of the terrible strain on the teacher if you got away from the timetables. The strain of two or three days of teaching children by allowing them to learn what they really wanted to learn was so devastating and exhausting that one week of this meant laying up for the rest of the month to recover from it. It seems therefore that a good deal of the education system is not for the compulsion of the child but for the protection of the teacher!
843 The hon. Member for Camlachie dealt with the bursary system and said that the grants were not enough and that more money should be given. Very considerable amounts have been given. In the year 1922–23 a sum of £220,000 was given; in 1923–24 it was £224,000; in 1924–25 it was £237,000, and in 1925–26 it was £261,000. In fact, there has been on the average nearly a quarter of a million pounds a year given for the past four or five years. At any rate, very considerable provision has been made. It may be that the grants are not enough, but we have to consider the expansion of the education system, not in one direction but in all directions. It is necessary to draw up some sort of priority and to decide where the money is to go, first—whether to the raising of the school age, the improvement of school buildings, increased grants for bursaries, or increased nutrition for all the school population. It is not possible simply to agree on what things are desirable, but you have to work out some sort of table of priority as to which increases are to take place. Obviously, that would be one of the tasks of the new Government when laying down the new policy to be carried on during, I trust, another four or five years of sound Conservative Government such as we have had in the past.
Then the hon. Member asked a question, which I regret I have not been able to answer, in which he drew a comparison between the advanced and secondary courses. We have done our best to allow no question of finance to come in. The buildings for the advanced courses are as good as for the secondary courses, and many of the advanced classes are held in the secondary buildings. As far as we can manage, the new schools for advanced education are fully as well equipped as those for secondary education and more numerous.
The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) spoke also on the question of adequate maintenance grants to deal with the health of the child. He spoke with some acerbity of the fact that only six lines were devoted to this matter in the educational report, but I would remind him that some 20 or 30 pages are devoted to this subject in the Report of the Board of Health, and it would be 844 overlapping and a waste of expenditure to reprint these pages again in the Report of the Board of Education.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Other people are interested in education in Scotland besides those who sit in this House.
§ Major ELLIOT
Those in Scotland who are interested in education will do their utmost either to borrow or purchase the admirable Report of the Scottish Board of Health, which only costs 6s., and I am sure it will be found on the shelves of every progressive education authority, and they will find many more interesting subjects discussed in that Report besides the question of education.
§ Major ELLIOT
That is only because we are able to refer inquirers to other Reports. If we included all the other Reports it would cost 10s. or 15s. The question of the education and the health of school children is not a matter simply for the Report of the Education Department. It is a matter for the Board of Health as well, and these two Reports should not be read separately. They must be read together. The lesson of to-night's Debate is that the smaller Report of the Board of Education cannot be considered apart from the larger Report of the Scottish Board of Health. The health of the body cannot be considered apart from the education of the mind; the education of the mind is conditioned by the health of the body. I am not so deeply concerned with the percentage of persons turned out of our educational system not having received the full educational advantage of the 10 years of life which we take from the child during which he is under the educational machine; I am not concerned as to whether the child comes out knowing the four French nasals and the great distinction between them. If the child comes out with two eyes and two ears, a nose through which it can breathe, with 32 teeth, good lungs and four sound limbs; if we can ensure that every child will have this equipment, we are doing more for the people of Scotland than if they come out able to distinguish in their sleep the four French nasals.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Does not the Under-Secretary agree that if 6 per cent. of 845 the children examined are found to be under-nourished that that fact should at least be mentioned in the Report of the Committee of the Council for Education in Scotland?
§ Major ELLIOT
The question there was not under-nourishment, but malnutrition, which may not be due to a shortage of food, and the hon. Member will see that this question is dealt with at far greater length in the Report of the Board of Health. I shall report with great interest to the Secretary of State for Scotland the fact that the Committee in its discussion to-night stressed particularly and emphatically the desirability of greater attention being given to the physical condition of the children. I shall report to him the desire of the Committee that special attention should be drawn to that—
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.