HC Deb 13 November 1929 vol 231 cc2067-125

4.0 p.m.


I beg to move, That this House urges the Government to bring forward without delay the details of its scheme for raising the school age, especially the financial proposals connected therewith, so that local education authorities may know what their obligations are likely to be; and further urges that any changes in the existing law that require legislation shall at once be put in the form of a Bill and presented to this House. As a rather old observer, I have noticed in connection with this matter indications that some denominational wagons have been hitched to the educational star; but I think I express the general desire of the House when I say that we all hope that this discussion will not be switched off on to religious issues. If I briefly sketch the position of what is called elementary education in this country perhaps the time will not be entirely wasted. In 1833 this House, in what was then regarded as an unusual access of generosity, voted a sum of £20,000 to assist in the building of schools in this country. The estimated expenditure of the country this year is no less than £61,500,000, of which £34,000,000 is paid by the Treasury and £27,000,000 comes from the rates. Obviously, there has been a very great change, and that change has been accompanied by a periodic rise in the age at which children are able to leave school without getting exemption. It interested me on looking into this matter to note that the age of 13 which was fixed in 1870 remained without alteration and subject to very wide exemptions until 1880, and the raising of the school age to 14, without exemption, lasted until 1922.

4.0 p.m.

The Motion before the House deals with the decision of the Government, announced after some hesitating delay, to raise the age to 15 in April, 1931. That shows rather jerky but on the whole satisfactory progress in the conception of what view the State should hold with regard to education. I think it can be said that the proposal before the House is not due to any sympathy or any philanthropic idea. It is, I hope and believe, due to the rising sense of the citizenship of the child. The poorest child in this country ought to be, and legally is, as much a citizen as the oldest, richest and most powerful man in it. I hope that it is with that view that the House will approach the consideration of this most important question. Undoubtedly the best interest of the nation is the well-being of its childhood, looking, as this House must at all times, not four or five years ahead, but taking the long view of the effective existence of the nation itself.

Let me make a short reference to the facts relating to our competitors—if one may call them so—who struggle with us for a share of the world's trade. What is their policy with regard to the education of their children? Many countries are far in advance of ourselves, and no one who contemplates the commercial and industrial future of this country can be otherwise than alarmed at the prospect for the future leaders and workers in industry unless they are equipped for their tremendous task in facing those with whom they have to compete. However, something must be said in fairness to ourselves. Education up to the age of 15 has been attained in Norway, Switzerland, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, but when we come to the United States of America we find the greatest conception of what the education of children should be. In 43 of the States, I believe, there are provisions for the education of children to the age of 15 and upwards. If the House implements the undertaking of the Government to make 15 the school-leaving age, without any exemptions, it will place itself on a level with most of the other countries in the world, notably with the general rule even in America itself; that is so long as it is thoroughly understood that in raising the school age from 14 to 15, you do not only mean to keep the children in school for an extra year, but that in the right and full sense of the term you carry out a conception of education referred to in what is now a classic on the subject, the Hadow Report.

The raising of the school age from 14 to 15 means far more than a raising of the age from 13 to 14. Primary education is supposed to cease at about 11, but adolescence in both boys and girls cannot be overlooked when you come to the age of 14 or 15. It would be far better to leave the whole matter alone than to stop short at providing buildings and an additional number of teachers. Our system of education must be reorganised in such a way that the whole conception of our schools will be changed, and it will be recognised that the schools are established as a training ground not only in very elementary subjects but to enable the children to take the full duties of citizenship. A sound secondary education should begin shortly after 11 years of age. That being so, I cannot see how, in view of the resolution passed by this House as far back as 8th April, 1925, we have any option but to see how our ideals can be put into practice. I would like to read the very remarkable Resolution which was passed, without a Division and after a limiting Amendment had been withdrawn, on 8th April, 1925, when the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) was Minister for Education. This is the Resolution: This House is of opinion that local education authorities should be called upon to prepare schemes by which, within a reasonable period, adequate provision may be made for secondary or some form of full-time post-primary education for all children up to the age of 16, for a progressive increase in the percentage of free places maintained in grant-aided secondary schools, and for the development of maintenance allowances on such a scale that no children may be debarred from higher education by the poverty of their parents."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th April, 1925; col. 2350, Vol. 182.] Shortly after that remarkable Resolution was passed the Hadow Committee was set up. I will quote only the first part of its first recommendation: That primary education should be regarded as ending at about the age of 11. At that age a second stage … should begin, and should be envisaged so far as possible as a single whole which will be marked by the common characteristic that its aim is to provide for the needs of children who are entering and passing through the stage of adolescence. That word "adolescence" covers the problem. Unless the conception of the preparation for this new and great advance and the fact that you have to prepare your education for the adolescence stage is the predominant consideration, you will fall very far short of what the House and the people really intend. In other countries there have been, as I have indicated, very considerable advances. It is a fact that Scotland has already the power, by order of the Secretary of State for Scotland, to bring at once into operation a school-leaving age of 15. But we in this coun- try cannot take that step without legislative action. No doubt other Scottish Members will speak in the Debate, but I can say that the problem in Scotland is relatively easy compared with the immense difficulties that have to be faced south of the Tweed. For many years in Scotland they have envisaged this question of the adolescents, and the preparation of them for the duties of citizenship. It should be mentioned that there are four areas south of the Tweed—East Suffolk, Carnarvonshire, Cornwall, which I have the honour to represent, and the City of Plymouth—which have made an excellent start. I wish I could say that in the full sense of the term the education of the adolescent was in full operation in those places. It must be admitted that to no small extent the raising of the school age has been accompanied by so large a measure of exemptions that to make it effective it will have to be brought within the ambit of a Statute.

Passing from that, let me refer to the circular which was issued in September by the Government. I want to ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education some questions. Is it proposed to retain the children for only one year without a corresponding readjustment of the whole of the educational system? What preparations has he made for advising the education authorities on such points as these: First, there will be the need for more accommodation, and that means more buildings and more extensions. How; does that matter stand? It really lies at the root of this part of the problem. I know that the education authorities have been allowed until the end of December for preparing their programmes, but what response has my right hon. Friend got from the education authorities? Have they really settled down to prepare their programmes as if they knew for certain that an Act was to come into operation in 1931? There is a second very important point. In many parts of the country, as we know, there are two separate authorities, one dealing with what is called the elementary school, and the other with secondary education. Which of these authorities is to be charged with the duty of erecting the new buildings that will be absolutely necessary? Are there to be two authorities so charged or a single authority?

After that there is the most important question of the teachers. You can erect or extend buildings but you cannot improvise a skilled teacher. For this tremendous task, you want skilled teachers of both sexes to achieve any degree of satisfaction and success in the education of the adolescent. That is a matter on which I really think my right hon. Friend must give us some information. There is another very important question, and that is in regard to equipment. What preparations, if any, are the great education authorities making to deal with this most important question? Then, what about the rural schools? The right hon. Gentleman's. Department has been good enough to give me some information on that subject, from which it appears that there are 7,000 civil parishes in England and Wales with only one public elementary school, and only 5,000 parishes in which the only school is a Church of England school. In practically all the remainder the school is a council school. The right hon. Gentleman really must grapple with this question of the rural schools in a wise, statesmanlike, and businesslike manner. In regard to maintenance, it is impossible to ask the parents of the children of this country to undertake without financial aid the very heavy extra expense involved in an insistence on retaining children in school for a year longer.

Another point is this: Has the right hon. Gentleman thought out the question of the effect of his proposal on the labour market, the unemployment question, the insurance question? The Hadow Report, issued in 1927, I think, said that the school-leaving age ought to be raised within five years from this date, but the Government, with great courage—and, as far as I am concerned, I am going to support them in their great task, and I think I can speak for my hon. and right hon. Friends as well—have said it must he done by 1931. They have 21 months in which to do it. 'When will the right hon. Gentleman let the House, the education authorities, and the country as a whole know when his Bill is going to be presented? He may give us some information on the subject this afternoon, but that is not enough. The country and the House are entitled to know the specific details of the Government's plan for this tremendous educational advance, and as speedily as possible. I suggest that, in view of the fact that this notice was given in July last, the least the Government can do is to introduce the Bill next week and give the House a chance of debating the whole question before Christmas. I know the right hon. Gentleman has sent circulars to the local education authorities, but these authorities have well-grounded suspicions of Governments of all parties—and, indeed, who can tell the fate of this House electorally?—and the local authorities will not move until they know for certain what are the statutory obligations to be placed upon them. There are some education authorities which are progressive and some which undoubtedly are rather slack, and the right hon. Gentleman will get nothing out of those who do not want to do anything.

In conclusion, I want to mention the question indicated by two Amendments on the Paper, with regard to non- provided schools— (1) In the name of the hon. Member for South Eastern Essex (Mr. Oldfield), in line 4, after the word "be," to insert the words: to convene a conference of those specially interested in voluntary schools with a view to meeting their admitted difficulties; (2) In the name of the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle), in line 4, after the word "be," to insert the words: to take cognisance of the fact that the Hadow Report is adverse to the existence of dual control in our national educational system, and to recognise that any extension of the principle of providing public money for sectarian teaching by extending or building sectarian schools would be contrary to the wishes of the great majority of the people, and would arouse bitter controversy calculated to harm the cause of education. I should prefer that this discussion should be strictly related to-day to the practical, aspect of the question of raising the school-leaving age, but, after all, there is no good in minimising the facts. They are there. There was an answer given in this House by the President of the Board of Education on 31st October, in which he stated: I have already made clear in my reply to a question on 4th July that His Majesty's Government are not prepared to alter the settlement of 1902 or to propose legislation to give building grants to voluntary schools, unless and until the main parties interested have reached some sort of agreement. While the settlement of 1902 has failed to satisfy some ardent denominationalists and some of those who want complete public control, it has for the last 25 years freed educational progress from the bitterness of religious controversy which marked the preceding decade. I have not yet been approached by the representatives of any important interest suggesting any conference of responsible representatives. But the House can rest assured that. I shall at any time be prepared to do anything in my power to facilitate an agreed solution."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st October, 1929; cols. 323–4, Vol. 231.] I do not want to bring in any controversial note that I can possibly avoid, but I was a Member of the House in 1906, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) took a very active part in the discussions on the Bill which became the Act of 1902. It is hardly fair to say that all religious differences were settled by that Act—


I have come to the conclusion that the two Amendments on the Order Paper are not in order, being really outside the form of the right hon. Gentleman's Motion. If the right hon. Gentleman is going to speak with reference to those two Amendments, he equally will be out of order and outside the terms of his own Motion.


I have no doubt that if I utilised the training to which I have been subject for a good many years in this House, I might succeed in not mentioning the Amendments on the Paper, but I am heartily glad, if I may say so, of the Ruling which you, Mr. Speaker, have just given, and I will make no further reference at all to that question. While from the point of view of the actual legal situation there has been no change since 1902, there has been a change in another direction, and that is a change in the spirit in which this most difficult question of denominational education has been discussed. I am sure I am expressing the hope of the whole House when I say that when these questions do come up for discussion, as they must, the lessons we have learned since the Debates of 1906 and 1907, both in this House and in the country, will give wisdom, guidance, and sympathetic understanding in seeking a working solution of that most difficult question. I will conclude with this hope, that in all our discussions, whether connected with technical, administrative, educational difficulties and with those very deep religious convictions which are held in all parts of the country, the dominating thought will be, not party advantage, not denominational advantage, but simply and solely the welfare of the child.


This is a private Member's afternoon, and I am therefore going to be, I hope, very brief indeed. In a short Debate like this, it is impossible to do more than barely touch on one or two of the problems involved in England alone. The Scottish problem, to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean) referred in passing, is in some respects more acute, for in Scotland, I would remind the House, there is no system of State building grants at all, and moreover the school-leaving age can be raised by administrative order, so that the House will not even have an opportunity, with regard to Scotland, of discussing a Bill. It is obvious, therefore, that we must at some early date have a full day's discussion of the whole problem in England and Scotland, and this can only be regarded as a preliminary canter. To put very briefly the situation in England as it appears to me, it is a very puzzling situation. The Government propose to raise the school leaving age in April, 1931, but while reversing, as they are fully entitled to do, the policy of the late Government in this respect, they appear to have retained unaltered the construction programme of the late Government.

The right hon. Member for North Cornwall spoke about the necessity of this reorganisation of schools as an essential part of the raising of the school leaving age. I want to acknowledge at once that the right hon. Gentleman opposite has asserted that himself in the Circular he has sent round to the local education authorities, and he has entirely allayed any disquiet I might have had about that, but this reorganisation was laid down as the definite aim of local education authorities by a Circular which was issued by the late Government in 1927. Local education authorities were asked to draw up programmes for the period 1930–33 with a view to completing the reorganisation by April, 1933, and roughly speaking, though the figure was not mentioned in the Circular, the standard set to the local education authorities for the country as a whole was about 2,100,000 senior school places. So far as I can see, the Government in proposing to raise the school leaving age from April, 1931, have neither shortened the period in which that programme is to be completed, nor increased the amount of accommodation to be provided. All that they have done is to say, "We will give to local education authorities a special higher building grant for a very limited period"; but they are giving that building grant, as I understand it from Circular 1404, to all schools which are commenced, so that they can be completed approximately by April, 1933. That is to say, the construction programme on which local authorities have been working under the late Government's policy, has remained unaltered.

I have no doubt, now that the school leaving age is to be raised, that education authorities will try to add a certain amount to their programmes, and will perhaps try to speed up their programmes, but essentially, we are still in the position of working for 2,100,000 places by April, 1933. While that would have been enough in 1933 if the school age had remained at 14 plus, these places will be required in 1931 if the school leaving age is raised to 15. They will be required two years earlier, but they are only to be completed two years later. Therefore, the senior accommodation is to be completed two years after the senior children are to be compelled to stay longer at school. These 2,100,000 places would be enough in 1931 even with the raising of the school leaving age; they will be enough in 1939; but they will not be approximately enough between 1931 and 1939. The result will be that for every 100 of these senior school places provided, you will have to accommodate 120 children roughly on the average of the whole country. The right hon. Gentleman has recognised that. He has not said, as I think that some of his followers are inclined to say, that no education authorities will have any difficulty in doing this, but he showed that he recognised that there would be serious difficulty when he met the local education authorities. According to the report of that meeting The President said he was aware of the difficulties which the policy imposed on the local education authorities during the years when the number of elder children in the schools would be swollen, owing to the high post War birth rate. He urged that they should aim at a system which would operate with full efficiency when the school population became normal a few years hence. In the meanwhile, emergency measures would have to be adopted and concessions would have to be made. What does that mean? The right hon. Gentleman wants the new system fully operative eight years after the children are compelled to stay at school. That can hardly be regarded as satisfactory, but he proposes to get over it by emergency measures and concessions. What is in his mind? What emergency measures and concessions does he mean? Is he going to grant large exemptions? Is he going to keep the senior children one year longer in the junior schools so as to relieve the pressure on the senior schools? Does he mean by emergency measures simply accommodation in army huts and so on? During the difficult period when the whole thing is being organised we are to be content, for seven years practically speaking, with makeshifts. My first question is, what are the emergency measures and the concessions which the right hon. Gentleman has in mind during this difficult period, and can he assure us that these measures will be sufficient to prevent an enlargement in the size of the classes. In an answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave to me the other day, he showed that between 1928 and 1929 there had been an unprecedentedly large decrease in the number of exceptionally large classes. In the four years 1925 to 1929 we have more than halved the number of excessive classes. Can he assure us that we are not to have a recrudescence of that evil during the emergency period?

My second question is, what effect is this going to have on juvenile employment? In the next six or seven years we shall have a great fluctuation in the number of young persons seeking employment between the ages of 14 and 18. We shall have a drop of about 350,000, or about 20 per cent., in the supply, and then a sudden increase in about two years of no less than 450,000. The raising of the school age in 1931 will accentuate the drop; it will more than double the decline in the number of young persons available for employment, and it will do nothing whatever to even up the steep rise of 450,000 thereafter. These fluctuations are bound to cause a great deal of juvenile unemployment. The Minister of Labour, I understand, recognises that, and says that the situation is so serious that she is initiating an inquiry into the problem. Has not an inquiry been initiated already? Was it not present in the mind of the Minister and the Government when this decision was made, and this date of 1931 was taken? Was there any consultation with the Minister of Labour on the choosing of this date, and what was the policy in the mind of the Board of Education and the Ministry of Labour in choosing this particular date? What is going to be the effect on juvenile employment, and in view of all these facts, what was it that induced the Government to pick this date in April, 1931, a date which has never before been suggested, which is 18 months before the Hadow Committee suggested, and two-and-a-half years before the Association of Local Education Authorities recommended that it should be.

What were the considerations in the Government's mind? I know that it is said that whenever the school-leaving age is raised, there will be difficulties of this kind. I think that, however, is not the case. I am not now going to argue whether it is a good or a bad thing to raise the school-leaving age by general compulsion, but if the Government were resolved to raise it by general compulsion, there was a course open to them which would certainly have avoided all these abnormal difficulties. It was the proposal made by Sir Arthur Balfour's Committee on Trade and Industry that the school-leaving age should be raised gradually by one term a year for three years. If the Government were to do that in the period 1935–37, they would even out the supply of juvenile labour, they would prevent these fluctuations, and would assure that the leaving age would be raised at a moment when the local authorities would be ready for it; they would, too, avoid any violent fluctuations in the school population. The Government might say that that was too late for them, but in taking that decision, they have exposed themselves to these problems, which have to be actively dealt with. If I may make one criticism of the right hon. Gentle- man, I would say that he is a little inclined in answer to questions, which are not meant to be unfriendly, to say, "You can leave it to the local education authorities. They are quite happy about it, and are getting along with their programmes." Of course they are; they have been getting along with them for the last year or two. They have been considering the problem for some time past, but these problems which I have been bringing forward are problems which require an active policy on the part of the right hon. Gentleman for a solution, and I hope that he will be able to tell us how he expects that he and the local education authorities will be able to surmount these difficulties.

I must say a word on the question of non-provided schools. I warmly endorse what was said by the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean). We do not want to discuss here the 1902 Settlement, or the ethics or advantages or disadvantages of sectarian or nonsectarian teaching, but we have to deal with the problem especially of the rural areas. The situation is that as the law stands, the Government can compel children in a non-provided school to be transferred to another school of the same denomination. They can transfer compulsorily children at the age of 11 from one Church of England or Roman Catholic school to another Church of England or Roman Catholic school, but they have no power to require the non-provided school, which becomes a central school or senior school, to improve its accommodation to take senior children, or to provide practical instruction and so on. They have no power to compel the children from a non-provided school to go at the age of 11 to a new central council school, and no power to assist a non-provided school to enlarge its senior places. There are counties where 80 per cent. or more of the schools are non-provided. That may or may not be desirable; it is a matter of opinion, but it is the position at the moment. Here is the raising of the school leaving age only a year and a half off; what measure does the right hon. Gentleman propose to see that the children who are compelled to remain on in school are properly provided for?

The right hon. Gentleman is really in this dilemma. He has either to change the present law in the direction of com- pelling children in non-provided schools to go to provided schools, or he has to face the fact that he is unable to assure the House that these children, though compelled to remain in school, will receive proper and adequate education. That is a dilemma on the horns of which I do not want to impale the right hon. Gentleman. It is quite clear that a solution must be found if the school leaving age is to be raised. I will say nothing as to the direction in which I think the solution can be found, but perhaps I may say that I do not think anybody in this House, and perhaps few outside it, can have had such a wide experience as I in the last 4½ years of the views on this subject of representatives of all sections of the Christian Church, Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and the Free Churches, or a wider survey of the possibilities of agreement.

I do not think agreement will be facilitated by arguments in this House for and against, but I do think there is a possibility of agreement, if the right hon. Gentleman is able, actively, though informally in the first instance—I do not ask him to call a formal conference until he knows where he is—to try to seek it. I feel sure that if the Government came and asked for new powers necessary to provide, in the words of the right hon. Member for North Cornwall, for the interests of the children, it would not be refused those powers by the House, if there were agreement between those who are interested from the point of view of the Anglicans, the Roman Catholic Church and the Free Churches.


Also the teachers, I take it?


We must, as the hon. Member for North Cornwall said, look at this from the point of view of the individual child. When I am asked to put my trust in the local education authorities generally being able to work out programmes and so on, to be a good boy and not worry, I think of the schools in every part of this country that I have visited. I think of the child in the slum school at Liverpool in a grossly overcrowded area, and with no possibility of replacing the premises because of the Rent Restrictions Act, and the impossibility of finding a new site; of the child in the small school in Westmorland, miles from any possibility of being able to be transferred to a central school. I am thinking of children in the areas of progressive local education authorities, and I can tell the right hon. Member for North Cornwall that it is not only un- progressive authorities with which you will have difficulties. I am thinking of progressive authorities like, say, Manchester or Durham.


I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, when he speaks of Westmorland and goes on to speak of unprogressive authorities, whether he connects these two?


The hon. Member must not assume anything of the sort. I do not know any authority that I would trust more to face a difficult question than Westmorland. But I think of authorities like Manchester and Durham, which have only just come round to the idea of reorganisation; Manchester, which said spectacularly recently that it had not made up its mind; and Durham, which was opposed and has only just come round. I am thinking of children in schools in all these varying geographical conditions and varying standards of local administration. You have to think of all these children and provide an active policy which will cover all their cases. I am very much afraid of a policy which substitutes for that active consideration and that application to the individual needs of children in all sorts of diverse conditions, a policy of indiscriminate compulsion without forethought. I do not apply these words to the Government policy yet. I hope we shall have an assurance that theirs is not one of mere indiscriminate compulsion and that the right hon. Gentleman has ideas in his mind of how he will solve the difficult and complex problems which he has raised by this decision.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Sir Charles Trevelyan)

I know that there are a great many of my hon. Friends who are anxious to speak, but I think it is fitting that I should speak early, because I know what is exercising the minds of Members in all parts of the House. I am, fortunately, in this matter, not called upon for very much argument in general justification of raising the school age. In the past, acute and strenuous opposition has always been shown to any such proposal. In this case, there may be wide differences as to date and to detail in this new experiment, but on the general proposal there is no great body of opinion which has shown itself to be opposed to it. The fact is that the party to which I belong made it perfectly clear, beyond any doubt whatever, that it was going to raise the school age if and when it obtained power in this country. What I found, and I am perfectly certain all my hon. Friends found, was that there was no substantial objection from any body of the working class whose children are going to benefit by it, on the perfectly understood and reiterated condition that maintenance allowances were going to accompany the raising of the age in order to meet the present poverty of so large a part of our population.

I want to say only one other general word. Only a very short Bill will be required for carrying through this change, but I want to be sure that the House feels how great a change it is going to be. One year more of school life to 400,000 more children is so big a thing that it is worth facing difficulties and spending money and taking risks. Here in our country, in spite of some shortcomings, we have evolved one of the best elementary school systems in the world, but at 14 we let nine out of 10 children go, just at the receptive age, just at the blossoming age, just at the age when fathers and mothers who have the means begin to be acutely interested in the education of their children. The waste of it all! In the present situation of our country, 400,000 more children go out to join the crowd grabbing for a pittance in a labour market where there are more than 1,000,000 unemployed. The folly of it!

I want the House to bear in mind that that is what is at the bottom of it all, and when we take the difficulties, which we know there are, we are going to get over them because of the big thing that we want to get done. At the same time that the country generally approves of the raising of the school age, it has become acutely conscious that a great deal of the teaching of older children in the elementary schools is not advanced enough or interesting enough or as valuable as it should be and ought to be for widening their minds and moulding their futures.

5.0 p.m.

There has been a splendid outcry against the marking time of the older children. Some of my friends have been accustomed to gird at the Noble Lord the right hon. Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), who has just spoken. Nobody coming into my position can fail to recognise what he has been trying to do. His effort to get the local authorities of the country to put forward thoughtful programmes for the reorganisation of the work throughout their schools was an effective administrative advance by which we are profiting. We are trying now to give all the children over 11 a real chance of advanced education. It is a new plan to make a break at 11. Of course, there is no magic about 11, but what it means is that you start to set a vigorous idea going in the minds of all the administrators of the country to get them to provide really effective higher education. I am going in a few minutes to give the House considerable reassurance as to the rapidity and zeal with which the local authorities are applying themselves to the task of reorganising education. But I want, first of all, to make one thing clear. I am not going to hold up the raising of the school age, because in some parts of the country the reorganisation is not going on as rapidly as it ought. I am not going to ask the House to hold up the raising of the school age, because for a year or two there may be gaps in some areas. I am perfectly certain that the position of hon. Members behind me, if not of the whole House, is that children are better in school than in industry. For boys and girls in their early teens a poor school is better than the best coal pit or the most sanitary kitchen. We are going to do our utmost to be ready for the change, but I do want to say that we must not allow pleas of imperfection to be an excuse for not acting.

I now go on to tell the House what as a matter of fact is happening. We are making this great national effort to give the children a better chance; to provide more schools in many places, more teachers in many places, and a better class of education for the older children in most places. It is a great deal to ask local authorities to do, but it is not too much. The Government have given earnest of their belief that the local authorities can do it and will do it, by giving them the encouragement in building grants which we have done by raising the building grants from 20 to 50 per cent. How are the local authorities responding? Of course it is extraordinarily difficult to make generalisations for the whole country and over hundreds of authorities, but I have made very careful inquiries from the inspectors of my Board all over the country, and this is roughly what I am told; that already considerably more than half the local authorities of the country are providing programmes which are well sufficient to deal with the problem; they are providing enough places, and are providing over most of their area a reorganisation which gives a better chance to the older children.

I have reports here, and I will mention just a few places in order to show over how wide an area this preparation is extending. I am not trying to make my list exhaustive; these are only a few of those places which have made the best start and have practically got their arrangements ready already: Waltham-stow, Twickenham, Chesterfield, Keighley, Blackpool, Croydon, Leicestershire, Lancashire. Now this is a profoundly interesting fact about these places. Except one, where there happened to be a very few voluntary schools, there is complete understanding with most of the church schools in those areas, and they will come into the reorganisation. That is to say, in all those places which I have mentioned, good will has conquered the difficulties. I have here a statement which is made to me about Lancashire. There is very large co-operation in these schemes of reorganisation between the authority and the Church of England managers. In several cases the senior schools in the new schemes are to be Church of England schools, and in other cases the senior schools, whether Council or Church of England, draw their children from the Church of England and Council schools alike.

I am not telling the House that that is a settlement that has been arrived at by all local authorities throughout the country, but what I do say is that if in Lancashire, Leicestershire, Waltham-stow, Croydon and the other places I have mentioned the local authorities can get a settlement, with good will on their part, good will on the part of the local clergy, and good will on the part of the local bishop, then they can do it in the rest of England. I myself have no doubt that the good feeling which is marking these adjustments is inspired to no small extent by the attitude of some of the leaders of the Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury, in speaking the other day, said that: The Church could, he thought, adapt some of their existing schools in the towns, and they could, with the encouragement of the education authorities, group together some of their country schools and equip one of them as a higher tops school, as the phrase went. In that and other ways they could make themselves a very real and, he hoped, eager-hearted partner with the local education authority. I do not see why that spirit should not go on all over the country. Let it not be thought that I do not realise the problem which the right hon. Gentleman has raised. Of course, the dual system is a difficult system; but equally, of course, I cannot offer building grants for voluntary schools unless there is a very definite movement of agreement in the country. What happens to voluntary schools is an important part of the arrangement of future years; but I have been here long enough to remember the bitter and dreary controversies of a quarter of a century ago, and as far as I am concerned I shall do my best to keep education out of the Serbonian bog of religious controversy. That does not mean that we, as a nation, as time goes on cannot get some better settlement than we have got now. We are a nation of compromise; we know all about compromise and we have had a compromise for 25 years—a compromise in a sense.


On a point of Order. Mr. Speaker ruled two Amendments on the Paper out of order, and as I understood his ruling it was that subjects of religious controversy should not be discussed in this Debate.


I apologise.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

On that point of Order. May I put it to you, Sir, that while Mr. Speaker did rule those two Amendments out of order, it was indicated that the subject matter of the difficulties inherent in the raising of the school age referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean), who moved the Resolution, could be touched on by speakers as long as they did not raise any controversial question.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Robert Young)

What Mr. Speaker ruled was that subjects of religious controversy must not enter into the discussion at all, and accordingly I must ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education not to raise such a question.


I think the attitude of the Government is understood; I think it is clear; and I very much hope that any opportunity will be taken by those in authoritative positions in any section of this community to come and meet me and discuss the question. I have not very much more that I want to say, but I propose now to deal with the central point, if I may call it so, of the Resolution which has been brought before the House. The main demand of the Resolution is for the production of the Bill, and I think we all feel that it is a reasonable demand. It is not that there is any very great hurry for the actual passage of the Bill, if its passage is guaranteed in the course of the next 12 months or so, but it is important that local authorities should know what the legislation is going to be. It is quite true that some local authorities have been professing to believe that legislation is not going to be passed. There is a certain amount of unintelligent anticipation that there may not be the same Government in power in 1931. I want to make it quite clear that if the Labour Government continues, the school age is going to be raised, whatever the difficulties are; and I propose to introduce a Bill and print it before Christmas. It will be very short—I hope a Bill of only one Clause.

At the same time I shall make a statement on what the Government will propose as to maintenance grants. I am still discussing the matter with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but it is an integral part of our policy, and in view of the new charge on the local education authorities, the House may rely on a reasonable contribution from the Exchequer. I want now only to express the hope that as there is no great opposition to this Measure, whenever it comes, it will pass fairly easily. There are one or two reasons why the House should look favourably upon it. First of all there is the fact—I may mention it as there are not many Scotsmen present—that we Englishmen are behind Scotland. Why should we be? Scotland to-morrow could by the fiat of the Secretary of State for Scotland raise the school age by a year. We ought to be in at least as good a position.


Does that mean that there is any intention that the Secretary of State for Scotland shall do that without any previous Debate in this House?


I did not suggest that. I was merely putting the general position which ought to make English people feel small as compared with Scotland?


May I put a rather important point to the right hon. Gentleman? Is it intended that the Bill shall give to the right hon. Gentleman the same powers as are now possessed by the Secretary of State for Scotland, that is to say, merely the power of fixing an appointed day?


No, we are going to do a better thing; we are going to do it outright. Another factor is this: I do not want to lay too much stress on the question of getting children out of the labour market, but it is a factor, and necessarily a factor. If there are 400,000 children going into the labour market, and we remove them from the labour market and keep them in school, we are spending money far more wisely than we should do by paying money in unemployment benefit. I do not care whether someone says that those 400,000 children are keeping only 50,000 adults out of the labour market or whether they keep 200,000 adults out of the labour market. If it is the lower figure it is a good thing to do, and still more so if it is the higher figure. But really I think there is another reason: I do think that the country has, since the War, been disappointed in the progress which we have been able to make in education.

One of the most remarkable things that happened when the War was over was the way in which parents sent their children to school, trying to get them higher standards of education. The secondary schools were flooded, the parents were disappointed, and the rush for higher education on the part of the parents began to stop, damped down by the lack of opportunity. I believe that anxiety is still there. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Noble Lord knows it as well as I do. When we go about opening schools we see the extraordinary keenness which exists among parents all over the country and the local pride in schools which is growing up. If only they are given the chance we are bound to go forward. I admit that there will be some authorities who are not completely and properly ready when the time comes, but would they be ready whenever the time came? The fact is, most authorities are trying, and trying hard, to do it, because the parents are interested and because the country at large wants this change.


There are one or two questions I should like to ask my right hon. Friend. First of all, I suppose I have no right to assume that my right hon. Friend will accept the Motion. Then, I should like to be clear on this point. Do I understand that the Government, when they introduce this Bill, say, within the next fortnight or 10 days, will lay before the House a fairly complete statement of the financial proposals in connection with the Bill? Those are most important, because unless the whole thing is properly financed no speeches or resolutions in this House, or keenness on the part of local authorities, will make the thing work. It is most important that the House should know to what it is committing local education authorities, and to what extent they are going to be covered. When this Bill is introduced, say within the next fortnight, there will be ample opportunity for a Debate, and in particular we wish to know the financial proposals of the Government.


I said that I would introduce the Bill before Christmas, and that in doing so I would make a statement on the financial point, which is a very important point and which is really only the new point, of the maintenance grants.


When the right hon. Gentleman says he will introduce the Bill and make a statement, does he mean the Bill is to have its Second Reading—




—or that it will be debatable—


I shall make an announcement. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that the business of the House is already very crowded, and that we cannot have a new subject brought up for debate in Government time, but the Bill will be introduced and I shall make a statement with regard to that material question. As to the other points raised by the right hon. Gentleman, there is already a circular giving information on that.


Will the Bill be printed and circulated amongst Members of the House of Commons?




I would crave the indulgence which this House always accords to those addressing it for the first time. I have listened with great interest but with mixed feelings to the speech from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education. While he told us a great many things which I had hardly hoped to hear from him to-day, there are certain points which I regret he failed to elucidate; notably, he hardly answered one of the questions addressed to him by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy). As he told the House, he is fortunate in having a certain measure of agreement on the general principle of this Measure. I think the attitude of this party is probably best summed up in a few words written by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings: Everyone knows that it is good for most children to stay at school continuously until 15, provided the school gives them an education suited to their age and to the life they will have to lead. I was delighted to notice that the right hon. Gentleman not only realised, as we knew that with his experience he must realise, the enormous difficulties of the task which he has taken upon himself, but also the fact that reorganisation is an essential part of the scheme. Certain questions occur to us on this side of the House. The first is, Why has the right hon. Gentleman found it necessary to confuse, to mix up, the two things of the organisation and the raising of the school age? Reorganisation was being arranged for by the local authorities. It is perfectly true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that practically all local authorities are doing their best to get out the programmes for which he asked by the 31st December, but they have been hurried, and the work has been made more difficult for them by the speed with which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to introduce this reform. It seems to us that it would have been better if he had allowed the reorganisation to go some of the way, anyhow, before he saw fit to complicate it by the raising of the school age.

Surely there can be only two reasons for that action. One has reference to the question of unemployment. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is much better that children should be in school than in industry, but when he talks of the iniquity of 400,000 children going from school into industry every year I would remind him that they will still go into industry, only after the school age has been raised it will be one year later. The same number of children will flow steadily into industry each year, only they will be a year older. The other possible reason is that the right hon. Gentleman could not wait. He said not another day must pass, so far as we can help it, before the school age is raised. That is a very laudable sentiment, but I suggest that it would have been better and wiser if he could have assured us that the children are getting the full benefit of the reorganisation before they are kept in their schools for a year longer, because no sane man wants the rural children, at any rate, to stay a day longer in the schools under rural organisation as it is at present.

I want to dwell for a few moments particularly on the rural side of education, as it is that with which I have had something to do. There has been talk of the Hadow Report, and I would claim the indulgence of the House to remind them of what that means in rural areas.


I understand that is one of the points which Mr. Speaker has ruled out of order.


I did not understand so, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.


Maiden speech!


I know it is a maiden speech, but Mr. Speaker has ruled the Amendment out of order, and one of them deals with the Hadow Report. If the sectarian controversy is raised, that will be out of order.


Surely the Ruling which Mr. Speaker gave does not apply to the whole of the paragraphs of the Hadow Report, but only to those parts of the Report which are referred to in the Amendments on the Order Paper? I submit that there are many considerations in the Hadow Report which are not dealt with in the specific Amendments on the Order Paper which were ruled out by Mr. Speaker.


I did not propose to say anything with reference to the controversial points which Mr. Speaker has ruled out of order. I was only going to remind the House, that, in the rural areas, it is proposed that after the children have reached the age of 11 they shall be sent collected from the villages in central schools, where it is hoped that the best possible education will be given them in book-learning and, above all, a much better practical education. To reorganise on these lines in the country is much more difficult than it is in the towns. The education authority of which I have the honour to be a member have for the last two years devoted themselves seriously to this problem of reorganisation, and they will submit a programme to the right hon. Gentleman which I have every hope he will approve. I believe it will be a good programme, but I know it would have been a very much better programme if we had had five years and not two years in which to do it. There is this consideration in connection with rural reorganisation, that when you have built your central school in any one place, if it should prove unsuitable then, by reason of the expense, it will be practically impossible to move it anywhere else. Therefore, it is essential that the scheme should be thoroughly well thought out and arranged before the building is erected.

There are two other points which I wish to submit. The right hon. Gentleman gave us no information at all regarding teachers. If this reorganisation is to succeed, the teachers for these new schools must be the very best and most progressive which this country can produce.

I have not been able to find a complete estimate of the number of extra teachers which will be needed, but it has been stated as being anything from 10,000 downwards, and I see that in his Circular 1404 the right hon. Gentleman proposes to secure these additional teachers from the increased entrants into training colleges and by getting back some of the married teachers who have been or are to be dismissed or superannuated. We local education authorities had hoped that reorganisation, instead of giving us back some of the teachers who, in our opinion, are already too old, would give us an opportunity of getting rid of them—those who, by reason of age, are not in tune with modern ideas and modern conditions, and I do not believe this scheme can possibly be a success if it is to depend on teachers weary with years of work who are to come back for five years as a concession.

An answer which was given by the right hon. Gentleman to my Noble Friend stated that the annual increase of teachers in the training colleges was about 800. That would give us about 1,500 new teachers above the normal by 1931. It will need a great many more than that to make this scheme a success, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to doing something drastic to meet this need for the very best teachers we can produce. I may say that personally I should welcome it if the right hon. Gentleman could see his way, when he is spending more money in maintenance grants and one thing and another, to spend a little on drawing the best educated brains of this country into the teaching profession. With regard to the question of non-provided schools, I want to say straight away that I approach this question without any feeling, and almost without any interest, as to sectarian or non-sectarian education. I can imagine no more awful disaster than that subject cropping up again in connection with the proposed Bill. I only want to speak with regard to the organisation, and I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman a hypothetical case and to ask him how he would deal with it. There are, as he knows, all over England, what are known as single-school areas, that is to say, areas where there are now nothing but voluntary or non-provided schools. In these areas we have to set up central schools. The counties cannot afford to build entirely new schools. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the two bodies are getting together in a most commendable way—


On a point of Order. I regret very much having to interrupt a maiden speech, but I do not want there to be any misunderstanding on this point. I submit that the hon. Member is now referring to precisely the same point to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean) was referring when Mr. Speaker said that he ought not to discuss that point.


I was not in the House when Mr. Speaker referred to what was being said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall, but I thought that the hon. Member was just going to ask a question in relation to the number of schools on either side.


The only point that I wanted to make on that matter was as to how, with the best will in the world on both sides, the organisation is to be carried out in those areas. In my opinion, the best statement made on this matter during the Election was made in an address by the present Minister of Labour, and I should like to read it to the House, because it states the point of the whole matter as far as rural areas are concerned. The right hon. Lady said: Labour would take immediate steps to raise the school-leaving age to 15, and would provide adequate allowances for maintenance where necessary. Our present system permits a grave waste of the intelligence and character, qualities upon which the nation will depend in the next generation. Labour will not tolerate the continued neglect of the village child. It will develop a system of primary and secondary education in the rural areas. One word more, and I have finished. The rural areas have been neglected in the past as compared with the town areas. We in rural areas realise that this is our chance to get our children a square deal. I know and appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman is out to help us, but I do ask him to do everything in his power not to keep us in suspense when these difficulties face us, and to tell us as far as possible just how far we may go to ensure that the full advantage of this re-organisation is obtained for the rural child. I want to close with an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. We on this side of the House, together with hon. Members below the Gangway, are absolutely sincere in our desire to improve education. As I have already tried to indicate, we disapprove in many ways of the method of introduction of this reform, both as regards time and manner; but, since we are going to have a Bill now, we are just as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman that it should be the very best Bill possible. We cannot, unfortunately, always achieve unanimity as to details, and doubtless things will be said in the Debates on the Bill with which the right hon. Gentleman will disagree entirely. But I do ask him to look upon our suggestions and criticisms as made with an honest desire to help and to contribute something from our side to the great task which he has set himself, If he will do that, if he will look at our suggestions fairly and with an eye free from party bias, I am absolutely sure that we shall be able to help him very much in the great task of fulfilling the desire of all parties in the House to give our children in this country the very best education that is procurable with the means at our disposal.


The President of the Board of Education has told us that the financial provisions of the proposed Bill are now under discussion between himself and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He also reminded us that by far the most important part of the Bill, as regards financial liability, will be that concerned with maintenance allowances. I hope, therefore, that I shall be in order if I put before the House some considerations which I trust the right hon. Gentleman and the Chancellor of the Exchequer may regard favourably when they are preparing their proposals concerning maintenance allowances. Many of us have been thinking a good deal on the subject of the way in which the Government intend to fulfil their promise to provide "maintenance allowances on an adequate scale," and to make the necessary financial provision to ensure that the cost of such allowances shall be met from national funds. I am quoting from "Labour and the Nation." But we have some fears that the Government may yield to pressure which I know is likely to be put upon them from some quarters to introduce, in connection with maintenance allowances, the very principle which they have spent the last two days largely in repudiating in connection with widows pensions. We are anxious to know, therefore, on what scale the maintenance allowances are going to be, and whether they are going to be maintenance allowances for all the children included in the new year of schooling, or only for children whose parents suffer some sort of means test.

The objections to such a test have been very often alluded to from the Government side of the House, and sometimes from this side, in the course of the last few days. We have been told that a means test involves costly and elaborate investigations which are very odious to the recipients and often demoralising. Are the Government going to take the same stand when they deal with maintenance allowances in connection with the promised Bill? May I give my reasons very shortly for hoping that they are going to take the same stand? I suggest, first, that there is no need for a means test in regard to maintenance allowances, because the very fact that a parent has a child at an elementary school practically implies a means test. The well-to-do classes do not send their children to elementary schools, and even the moderately well-to-do rarely do so. I wonder how many Members of this House have children at elementary schools, and, if any have, whether the reason is anything but that they cannot afford to do otherwise. Perhaps some day the time will come when, as in the United States and in Holland and some other Continental countries, the child of a Cabinet Minister, a doctor, a lawyer, or a well-to-do merchant, will sit side by side with the child of a working man; but that day is far ahead of us, and it will not come, I believe, while the standards of equipment, staffing and structure of our elementary schools are what they are at present. Therefore, I suggest that we need no means test in relation to the parents of these children of 14 to 15 who are to enjoy this extra year of schooling. It may be said that there are degrees of poverty, and that, if resources are limited, we had better confine maintenance allowances to those whose need is the greatest. The answer is that, if we attempt to introduce a means test, we are up against just the old dilemma that either the means test is put so high that the saving involved by it is negligible, or it is put so low that it causes great hardship and demoralisation.

Think of the machinery that would be involved in enforcing a means test on this new school population. An estimated number of 400,000 children has been mentioned. No parent not blessed with twins can have more than one child at a time between 14 and 15 years of age, so that that means 400,000 married couples. We were told that the cost of merely adding a few supplementary questions to the investigation which is already going to take place with regard to 500,000 elderly widows would be something like £50,000. That, however, would be a once-for-all expenditure, and the number would be diminishing, but this would mean an annual inquisition into the means of the parents of all the children who arrive at the age of 14 or 15. It would mean an inquisition, and, if it is to be of any use, a close inquisition, into the means of practically the whole working-class population as their children reach the stipulated age. It may be said that the maintenance allowance might be given to those who make application, thus diminishing the amount of investigation necessary. Yes, but what would be the result? It would be that the prouder and more scrupulous parents who were on the border-line would not make application, and that the less scrupulous would "wangle" their means somehow or other.

What sort of inquiry would be necessary? A very able paper was read before the Liberal Summer School by the wife of the hon. Member for Withington, Mrs. E. D. Simon, in which she put forward what I am sure was the very best plea that anyone could put forward in favour of a means test, from her experience on education committees, namely, that, if a means test were imposed, the money would go farther and more ample allowances would be given to those who now have less. The argument that she used was that it is being done already, that it is being done in Manchester in connection with the maintenance allowances given to children who receive scholarships at secondary schools; and she described the method thus: The cases are all very carefully investigated. In addition to a calculation of the income of the family, after deduction of rent, account is taken of the size of the family, ages of the children and the number who contribute to the support of the family, nature of the occupations of the wage earners, i.e., whether it is work that necessitates a ' respectable ' appearance, whether pensionable or not, distance from home to work, and from home to school. Is that the sort of inquiry to which every decent working man and woman who are the parents of a school child are going to be subjected in this country, in order to see, forsooth, whether the occupation of the wage-earner requires a black coat and a bowler or fustian and thick boots, and what are the relative costs of the two forms of raiment? On the other hand, if the investigation is a very simple one such as can easily be applied, taking no account of the size of the family, whether the work is regular or irregular, questions of transport, the nature of the occupation, and so forth, then the result is going to be most unjust. A man with £4 a week, with six children, having to pay 15s. or 16s. a week rent and tram fares backwards and forwards to his work, would be considerably worse off, and more in need of a maintenance allowance, than a man with £2 a week and one child, paying 8s. a week rent and living close to his work. Again, wages are a fluctuating quantity; wages, unfortunately, do not "stay put." What about such things as overtime, emoluments and tips? Who can assess things of that kind?

I wonder how many of those Members of this House who urge a means test in connection with widows' pensions have ever had experience of enforcing a means test. I have had that experience. During the War, my particular piece of war work was to report on claims to supplementary separation allowances and similar grants, which were based on the desire to bring the war-time incomes of serving men up to pre-War level. We had elaborate investigations, we had first-class workers, and this was the result. As time went on and as people found out that by simply evading this question and misrepresenting that, and persuading a son who was in the habit of giving a regular allowance to give it in the shape of a cash gift at Christmas they were getting the allowance, the standard of truthfulness went down and down. Many people, I know, think that is a trivial consideration.

At the risk of being thought a prig and an adherent of that rather discredited school, the old-fashioned Charity Organisation Society, I would suggest that, after all, the greatest asset of this country is national character. Over and over again, I have been told by people who have been in such places as the South American Republics that the word of an Englishman is the very synonym of truthfulness. Do we mean to sap that kind of reputation by putting before members of the working class a strong temptation, if their need is great, to misinterpret their circumstances, because it is a strong temptation. Suppose Mrs. Smith's son Jack wants to claim a maintenance allowance and, her husband having just got a rise owing to his superior ability, his income is just beyond the point which entitles him to a maintenance allowance, and there are children suffering in health who want cod liver oil and summer holidays and she badly needs assistance, she is living in a crowded house in the centre of the city and wants to get on in the outskirts, even that 5s. a week, or whatever the maintenance allowance is, will just make the difference to get what she needs. Who is going to cast a stone at a parent who yields to that temptation? There is one prayer that every citizen in the country has a right to address to the State and the nation, "Lead us not into temptation."

There is one other consideration. There is a broad principle at stake. The Government is making a bigger decision than some of us realise when it decides between means test and no means test. To my mind the question is this. Are they, a Labour Government, going to add one item to that long series of semi-eleemosynary provisions we are intended to blunt the sharp edge of poverty and so to lessen the danger of rebellion of the victims of poverty, or are they going to set their feet firm upon a new path and accept the new principle that the children of the community are the concern, first and foremost of their parents, but are the concern of all of us, and that it is not fair to put upon the backs of parents the increasing burden involved by our own steadily rising standard of education and maintenance.

For whose benefit are we giving this extra schooling? Is it in order that the better educated child shall be better able to help to maintain his parents in old age, with the incidental result that many of them will heave a sigh of relief when the parents pass out of existence and will be no longer an incubus upon the slender means of their sons and daughters, or is it in order that they may become more efficient producers and more effective competitors in the world markets and, still more, important citizens more capable than before of bearing the immense weight of responsibility which democracy places upon the shoulders of every man and woman in the country. If the latter is our object, shall we promote it by making still heavier that burden of parenthood of which one of the results is that, the more ambitious and the more far-sighted parents are, the more they are saying to themselves day after day, "We will not bring children into the world, or we will bring only one or two, if the result of bringing another into the world is merely that it pinches a bit of the money available for the food and clothing of its brothers and sisters."

I know the argument. That is all very well, we would all like to give maintenance allowances to all the children, but the cost is going to be too great. I believe Mrs. E. D. Simon, taking the children at 500,000, estimated the cost at £6,500,000. The right hon. Gentleman has not yet given us any estimate. Suppose the allowance were 5s. a week, are we to be told that is a sum that the country cannot afford to pay? Remember that we are committed to adequate maintenance allowances. The only question is whether there is going to be a means test, or a destitution test, or whatever you like to call it, and it comes very badly from any party in the House to say the country cannot afford £6,500,000 and cannot afford maintenance allowances except on a destitution basis. It comes very badly from those who sit on this side of the House and above the Gangway who have constituted themselves the defenders of Imperial responsibilities. Are we going to breed an Imperial race by encouraging the recruitment of the slum population? By all means give maintenance allowances to the slum parents, Heaven knows they need them badly enough. But it is not the children in the slums who are going to maintain the traditions of an Imperial race, and it is becoming more and more a great danger that we are less and less recruiting our population from the more fortunate and more ambitious citizens and those who have high standards for their children. The argument comes badly from the members of the Liberal party, who urge the importance of initiative, enterprise and ability and the undesirability of discouraging thrift in any way. Are they going to promote those qualities by letting every working-class parent know that, if a man gets a rise, the value of it is going to be taken out of the wife's pocket? Is that the way to encourage thrift, enterprise and ability?

It comes worst of all from hon. Members opposite if they are to set the example of introducing this great new experiment on a destitution basis and if they are going to give as their reason that the nation cannot afford to do otherwise. I should like to read a few words from an article by the right hon. Gentleman opposite before he was a Minister, but when he must have known that high office was likely to be conferred upon him in a short time. He wrote: Of all methods of spending the surplus wealth produced by the workers, immeasurably the most remunerative is to devote it to education. Life, knowledge, recuperative energy are added to it by the national capital. We shall not hesitate when the chance comes to us again to use the vast resources of rents and profits for the coming generation. I trust that represents the views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as well as the right hon. Gentleman.

In accordance with the custom of the House, may I offer my very warm congratulations to the hon. Member who preceded me, who made such an admirable maiden speech? We all recognise that we have in him a new contributor to the Debates of the House, who draws his experience from the best nursery for debates on education, practical administrative experience on a local authority, and who speaks for that great body of rural workers whose needs are too little known. We shall all look forward with great pleasure to his further contributions to our Debates.


I crave the indulgence of the House in addressing it for the first time. Before I approach the subject I should just like to say that my name was at the head of a list of names that were put to the Amendment that you, Sir, ruled out of order, but before I and the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle), who also has an Amendment down, knew that you were going to rule our Amendments out of order we had decided, under the circumstances, to withdraw them. In the first place, we felt that the Amendment somewhat sidetracked the general purpose of the Debate, and, secondly, there was a fear in my mind of reviving old and unhappy memories of the days of long ago, not that my own memory extends back to those days. When the champions of 1902 were waving their dialectical swords in the air, I was gnashing my toothless gums in my nursery, and there are many Members in the House who had probably not arrived on the scene at all by 1902. But I can realise that for the older Members of the House these Debates might awaken memories which some of us do not share and might have a poignancy for them which we ourselves do not experience. There is not one of us who does not most heartily congratulate the Minister on his very courageous Measure for raising the school-leaving age. We welcome it as in some measure putting an end to that appalling waste of juvenile ability which we have now in the continual pouring in of children into perfectly blind-alley occupations.

6.0 p.m.

I do not imagine that this measure will entirely deal with the evil, but certainly it will very much mitigate it. We welcome it from the point of view of general moral control. The sudden relaxation of the control of school has a very disastrous psychological effect upon boys and girls of 14, for in practice at the age of 14 they move from a position of great restraint and subordination in the school to what is, in practice, very frequently a state of almost complete freedom. Above all, I would welcome it and congratulate the right hon. Gentleman in that this Measure is a great educational advance. I do not think there is any educational advance which has been made by the working men and women of this country which has not borne beneficent fruit both in the better organisation and the more intelligent running of the workers' organisations in the country, and also in giving to them a better opportunity, through the increased educational facilities provided, of holding their own and getting for themselves a jester share of the good things of this world. For all those reasons, I would very much congratulate the right hon. Gentleman, and I fully see—as I think everybody in this House does see—the very great difficulties which the right hon. Gentleman must inevitably face on account of his courageous Measure and which any right hon. Gentleman in this House would have to face if he produced a similar Measure, and which the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) would have had to face had he, five years ago, produced the constructive progressive Measure which the right hon. Gentleman has now explained to the House.

The right hon. Gentleman says that he does not wish these children who are to receive an extra year's education to mark time. Hon. Gentlemen who have spoken have emphasised the danger of the rural child, owing to the peculiar difficulties of the case, being unable to get that advantage out of the Act which perhaps with some better organisation he would be able to derive. I feel the same anxiety for the slum child for other reasons. I cannot help that feeling, if we are to get the full educational value from the raising of the school-leaving age. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, I would do it anyway, but obviously we wish to get the best value possible. I cannot help feeling that the raising of the school age is going to entail a universal break at 11 or something corresponding to that, the adoption of the Hadow Report or something like it. I cannot help noticing that so far, the financial proposals only deal— and perhaps the difficulties of the situation justify it—with the help and the aid to be given to the schools of the Local Authorities in order that full value may be got out of the raising of the school-leaving age. More than 50 per cent. of the schools in the country are schools which are not owned by local authorities at all. A third of the children at present in our schools are in schools which are not owned by the local authority. In Circular 1404 the right hon. Gentleman has admitted that in practice a very great burden is going to be placed upon local authorities which bring their schools up to the necessary efficiency so that full value may be got out of this reorganisation.

The right hon. Gentleman called the local authorities before him and very rightly, in my opinion, had a discussion with them, a discussion after he had decided upon the raising of the school-leaving age. Clearly that is not a matter for the local authorities to decide in principle; that is a matter of a Government pledge. After his decision he called the local authorities together to discuss financial matters, and in point of fact the local authorities have not done too badly. Local authorities have made quite a good deal with the right hon. Gentleman, but I only use that to show that where there is an admitted extra cost or extra burden to be put upon the local authority, there is in practice going to be a similar or corresponding burden placed upon those responsible for the non-provided schools. At present, owing to difficulties which hon. Members on all sides of the House perfectly well understand and appreciate, there are no financial considerations, as far as I can see, for dealing with this question of reorganising the non-provided schools.

The right hon. Gentleman dealt with the fact that a good deal of reorganisation and a good deal of accommodation had very fortunately been achieved between certain non-provided school authorities and certain local authorities. He gave a number of instances, but I have an uncomfortable feeling that these are not quite all the difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman, for instance, quoted Croydon. It is perfectly true that there has been a settlement which is a very satisfactory feature at Croydon, but there is also one feature which is not nearly as satisfactory. The settlement is not a complete settlement. It is a settlement into which the local authorities have not been able to induce the Roman Catholic schools.

Viscountess ASTOR

On a point of Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman while he is delivering a maiden speech, but in a maiden speech from this side of the House a right hon.

Gentleman was called to order when dealing with a subject which was outside the scope of the Motion. He was called to order for introducing exactly the same question which the hon. Gentleman has introduced.


I am bound to point out to the hon. Member that if he goes outside the Ruling which I have laid down, I shall have to call him to order. The hon. Member is getting very near to the point which I ruled out of order.


I was dealing with the actual case given by the right hon. Gentleman. I should not have mentioned the question of Croydon at all had not the right hon. Gentleman dealt with or mentioned it. It was only an illustration to show that although financial satisfaction has been achieved partially in some places, there are certain interests which will find it very difficult under the present circumstances to make any kind of financial bargain at all. That is a factor which we must take into account when we consider the Government's proposal for raising the school-leaving age, for it is a very substantial difficulty. I do not propose to refer to it much more, except perhaps to make a reference to a suggestion which came from the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings. The Noble Lord suggested to the right hon. Gentleman that possibly the best way to get over these difficulties was for the right hon. Gentleman actively to work—I think those were his words—behind the scenes towards reaching some kind of settlement and agreement between all the parties concerned. In view of the attitude which the right hon. Gentleman has taken when he has answered questions upon this matter, I should like to add my opinion to that of the Noble Lord, for I feel that any other method of approach at this juncture would land us perilously near those horrible and bitter controversies which we, all of us, most anxiously seek to avoid. I agree with the Noble Lord and I would be perfectly satisfied if the right hon. Gentleman, in the first place behind the scenes—these things have to be done—and in the second place, openly, when he sees where he is, would take steps towards ameliorating the lot of those who are at present left out of the financial provisions for the raising of the school- leaving age in the only non-controversial way in which the right hon. Gentleman can do it.

The alternatives are not very alluring. In these financial proposals, there is one line of action which the right hon. Gentleman can take if he wishes to get his reorganisation through and the raising of the school-leaving age to become effective at all. For Heaven's sake do not let us have bitter controversy, but there is something the right hon. Gentleman must do. One would be prepared to leave it at that, but if nothing is done thousands of children will be at a permanent and serious disadvantage, to put it mildly. Thousands of children will have their educational progress blocked all through the time. Thousands of children will have to languish year after year in top standards when really they should be getting on to something better. The whole machinery of educational advancement will be clogged if something is not done to meet this very pressing problem. I dread administrative pressure being used as an alternative to the agreement suggested by the Noble Lord. One has to think of the kind of people who are really going to be pressed. It is all very well to talk about pressing authorities and pressing organisations, but if those organisations are to be pressed it will probably be the very poorest and the very humblest people in the community who will be asked to pay the bill. At the present time the Roman Catholic schools, if they are to be put into proper order—


The hon. Member is travelling wide of the subject.


It is very difficult to make the point which I wish to make without treading upon the dangerous ground upon which practically everybody has, unfortunately overstepped, at some time, and I apologise if I have done so. Without making any further suggestion, I would like to leave the matter there. The attention of the right hon. Gentleman has been directed to a very important aspect of this matter of the raising of the school-leaving age. I want the right hon. Gentleman to feel and I want the House to feel that those of us who put our names to the Amendment which has been ruled out of order, and those of us who are concerned with certain diffi- culties regarding the raising of the school-leaving age, are whole-heartedly in support of the right hon. Gentleman, and behind his policy, and it is only the desire that not only a section but all the children in the country shall get the full advantage of the Measure that has influenced us to bring forward this particular aspect of the case to-day, and to air the grievances to which I have drawn attention.


I hold very strongly that hon. Members who take part in a discussion of this kind should confine what they have to say within the briefest possible compass of time. I therefore do not intend to ask the attention of the House for more than a few minutes. The Motion put forward deals with the educational policy of the Government. That policy must embrace Scottish education as well as the educational policy for England and Wales, and I understood that the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Under-Secretary of State was to be here in order to make some reply to what was said in regard to Scotland. I have listened not only with very great interest but with very great satisfaction to the speech made for the Board of Education by the right hon. Gentleman. We know now exactly what is the intention of the Government in regard to the school-leaving age, but, unfortunately, there is a qualifying phrase, namely, that if there is a Labour Government in power for a certain length of time this piece of legislation will undoubtedly be put through. It is satisfactory to note that statement, but I wish the Minister had gone further than merely to give a promise that the Bill would be printed and circulated before Christmas.

If, as he anticipates, it will be a matter largely non-controversial, then I think it would be all to the good if it were placed on the Statute Book at the earliest possible moment. The uncertainty which exists has been causing very considerable difficulty amongst the authorities in England, and I can assure the Minister, and through him the Government, that Scotland, so far as the educational authorities are concerned in the preparation of their schemes, is in a position of suspense. The authorities do not know exactly where they are, and very many of them who are inspired with the very best intentions and thoroughly in favour of the proposed Measure are saying that they have no right to expend the money of the ratepayers in buildings or in other ways unless they have a definite assurance that this Act will be put into operation on the date that has been specified.

The problems of Scotland are practically the same as the problems in this country, but there is a consideration of primary importance in regard to Scotland. The Minister stated that so far as Scotland was concerned the matter was comparatively simple; that the Secretary of State for Scotland has merely to name the appointed day, and the thing comes into force. It is true that the Secretary of State for Scotland has such a power, but there is all the difference in the world between having a power and exercising that power. Therefore, I would join in the pertinent question which was put by the Noble Lord. I do not suppose that the Secretary of State for Scotland has gone out of the House in order to avoid the question, but I should have liked him or the Under-Secretary to be here in order to give a specific answer. We are told again and again that the Secretary of State for Scotland has simply to name the appointed day, and the thing is done. Is the Scottish Office contemplating putting into force its powers of fixing the appointed day, irrespective of whether legislation for England is passed or not? That is the question that we are asking in Scotland.

I am very glad that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is now in his place. We are fortunate in our Under-Secretary of State because he has as large a knowledge of educational administration as any person I know. If I am not trespassing upon the rules and customs of the House, I would like to repeat the question which I have already put. We have been told that the Secretary of State for Scotland can by a single stroke of the pen fix the appointed day. We know that, but there is no use in having a power unless he is going to exercise that power. Is the Scottish Office contemplating, in regard to the school-leaving age in Scotland, making specific provision that the change shall come into operation from the 1st April, 1931, irrespective of what may happen in England before that day? There is a financial nexus between the two countries inasmuch as the money necessary for the carrying out of this step in Scotland will only come when a similar sum has been expended in England. As the Under-Secretary of State knows and as the House knows, it is impossible for Scotland to take the steps now in contemplation unless they have first or at the same time been taken by England. I trust that the Under-Secretary will give a specific answer to that question.

This is an occasion on which we deal only with very broad issues, and not with details. We are all exercised as to what is to be the policy in regard to maintenance allowance, and whether it is to be a flat rate or is to be dependent upon some circumstances of poverty, or something of that kind. In regard to what was said by the hon. Member for the Combined Universities (Miss Rathbone) it was not justified to make reference to the Liberal party as being tied to one system of maintenance grants. The Liberal party, as far as I know, have not declared in favour of a flat rate nor of a differential rate. It may be that some individual members of the party have views of their own, but the Liberal party as a whole have expressed no opinion. We await the proposals of the Government, and will give them consideration.


I did not intend to imply that any of the three parties were committed to the principle of the destitution test, but I merely suggested that they should not so commit themselves.


To make that suggestion was rather like putting evil into the child's head. So far as I know, they have no intention of doing anything of the kind. We have all the difficulties in Scotland that we have in England on this question. You can hardly expect the authorities to come forward with their schemes until they know that they can make preparation for a thing which is certain to come. The teaching profession in Scotland is whole-heartedly with the Government in this matter and are anxious to do everything possible in order to bring about an advance. They are ready even to go a good distance in the way of large classes, and are prepared to make sacrifices, but there are certain things that they cannot do. It is quite certain that if this Measure goes through, there will be required a very large number of additional teachers. In Scotland there is quite a large percentage of unemployed teachers, and we cannot expect the teaching profession or the training colleges to come forward and to provide for increased staffs if there is not a certainty that the staffs will be needed. I thank the House for giving me an opportunity of stating the position of Scotland, and I hope that the Debate will allow of a few minutes for a reply from the Under-Secretary.


Can the hon. Member give us the number of unemployed teachers in Scotland who have got their two years' certificate endorsed by the Education Department?


I have not the exact figures.


The hon. Member stated that there were many unemployed teachers.


I simply stated that, according to the returns issued by the Scottish Education Department, and other statements which have been made, there is at the present time quite a large number of unemployed teachers in Scotland.


Unemployed students.


No. Those who have completed their training, and are quite eligible for appointments.


I understand that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education in England has given a very specific statement on behalf of the Government, that he proposes to introduce a Bill before Christmas and to make a statement thereon. The hon. Member asked me whether or not in Scotland it will be possible to go on with separate legislation in the event of the English Board of Education being unable to proceed with their legislation. The answer is the one which he gave himself, namely, that if this Government remains in office it will fulfil the pledge which the right hon. Gentleman has given, but if it does not remain in office it will be impossible for the Scottish Department to proceed with separate legislation.

Duchess of ATHOLL

In view of the short time at the disposal of the House to-day and the many important questions which have been raised in regard to English Education, I do not propose to raise the several important questions in regard to Scotland which I should very much have liked to bring forward; but I would like to ask the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland whether he can give an assurance that before the Scottish Education Department names the appointed day for the raising of the school-leaving age, there will be a full opportunity given for discussing in the House this very important matter in regard to Scotland.


That is a question which ought to be put to the Secretary of State for Scotland or to the Prime Minister, through the usual channels, because it deals with the allocation of time, but I can say that as far as the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself are concerned, we should welcome the opportunity of discussing the educational position in Scotland at as early a date as possible.


I understand that it is the general desire of the House that those who intervene in this Debate should be very brief. I am pleased to meet the wishes of the House in that respect. It is easier to be brief because of the pronouncement of the President of the Board of Education, which has been received with general approbation on all sides of the House. I would, however, ask him to seriously consider whether he could not go a step further as a result of this Debate. The Bill, I understand, will be printed before Christmas, and he is to make a general statement upon the financial arrangements particularly those relating to family allowances. The agreement which seems to be shown in the House is a very strong reason why the Bill should be introduced and placed upon the Statute Book. I understand that the Noble Lord opposite has abandoned his policy—


The hon. Member must not understand that at all.


I am glad to have had that admission from the Noble Lord. As I understand it, we are now to expect opposition.

Viscountess ASTOR

Not from all of us.


This is very important. I should like to know what is the policy of the party opposite? If they have now abandoned the pronouncement of the Noble Lord, made a year or two ago, and agree that the school age should be raised, we have a stronger lever for urging that the Bill should be brought in and time provided for putting it upon the Statute Book. I congratulate the President of the Board of Education as far as he has gone, and, speaking on behalf of a large number of teachers, they will rejoice in the pronouncement he has made this afternoon. The teaching profession is looking to this Parliament to completely bridge the gap which now exists between the ages of 14 and 16, and as a profession we are prepared to see that gap bridged by raising the school age to 15 and lowering the insurance age to the school-leaving age, but what we are not prepared to agree to—and I say this very definitely—is to see a lowering of the insurance age a definite fact and the raising of the school age an uncertain fact. Our representatives on the Advisory Committee which is advising the Minister of Labour have agreed contingent upon the school age being raised to 15 to a lowering of the insurance age to 15, but it must be definitely understood, and I hope the President of the Board of Education will bear it in mind and acquaint the Minister of Labour, that we are not prepared to see a lowering of the insurance age unless we are definitely certain that the school age will be raised.

I should like to congratulate the President of the Board of Education on having to-day made a most important pronouncement so far as achieving equality in our educational system is concerned. An hon. Member opposite urged that reorganisation should have come first, and the Noble Lord himself seemed to suggest that we should first reorganise our schools and then, having reorganised the schools, we might, at some remote time, raise the school age. We on this side of the House hold that the very foundation stone of reorganisation is the raising of the school age, and that we cannot have effective reorganisation of our educational system unless you do raise the school age. The raising of the school-leaving age will make the education given at the ages of 12 and 13 and 14 effective, but without the raising of the school age you will still have that marking of time in our school which we all deplore. I am glad the pronouncement has been made and I am anxious that the Bill should be on the Statute Book, because it is only after we have raised the school age that we shall be able, effectively, to carry on the fight for equality of opportunity in our educational system. We shall have a chance to get our system organised on a four years' course; a chance to see that our school buildings are made fit for secondary education, and a chance to fight for equality of classes within that extended system of education. In short, the right hon. Gentleman by bringing in this proposed Bill will take the biggest step forward that has been taken or forecasted in this Parliament for getting the Socialist policy of equality put into effect in this country.

I am glad to be able to support him and I doubt whether the Noble Lord opposite will really oppose it. I have noticed that the Noble Lord in his articles and speeches has made a great deal of play with what he called "the bulge." He has magnified the problem beyond all reason. He suggests that there will be a need for making this extra provision which will be no longer needed when a certain number of years have passed. It may look 400,000 or 500,000 all over the country, but if you think of the matter from the point of view of departments, divided into a number of departments, it means about 10 to 20 in each class, and that is quite as reasonable a way of looking at it as the angle of the Noble Lord. The bulk of the local authorities are anxious for this Bill, and the teachers desire it. The President of the Board of Education is asking for some sacrifices from the teachers. I can tell him that the teachers will be prepared to meet him in the most friendly and generous way as far as professional qualifications and status are concerned, provided that they are quite sure there will not be the creation of a large number of teachers without the need for them when the school age is raised. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to bring in his Bill, and test whether the party opposite does really oppose it. By selecting the year 1931 the right hon. Gentleman is going to give a chance to the children of the men who have just returned from the War, that is the ex-service men. I urge him to bring forward his Bill, for which I think he will have the whole-hearted support of all sections in the House of Commons.

Lieut.-Colonel WINDSOR-CLIVE

I think the President of the Board of Education has rather minimised some of the difficulties in front of him in having fixed this particular date for the change, and I do not think he has given an adequate or complete reply to the questions which the Noble Lord put to him especially in regard to the difficulties in rural districts. The President of the Board gave us a list of the places where he said everything was going on well. I can quite understand that it was not an exhaustive list, but we may assume that it was a typical list, and I noticed that with one exception all the places he gave were thickly populated areas. I wonder if he realises the great difficulties there will be in the thinly populated rural areas, such as the county I have the honour to represent. There will be a great difficulty in finding the extra accommodation and a difficulty in finding the money. In the county of Shropshire it is estimated that £94,000 will have to be found from voluntary sources, and it is difficult to see how that sum of money can be found by April, 1931. There will be a difficulty in providing the necessary increase in the number of teachers. All these difficulties can be overcome if reasonable time is given. I believe the work can be done in Shropshire in about 4½ years time, but it cannot be done in 18 months time.

If this decision is adhered to it will be impossible to find accommodation in the reorganised schools for more than 40 per cent of the older children, and the remaining 60 per cent. will have to remain where they are, mostly in the small country schools. What is going to happen there? We know that in the small country schools it is often difficult to get the teaching done adequately owing to the different ages which already exist, and if another year is going to be added it will become an almost impossible task. I have discussed this question with some teachers in small country schools, and while they welcome this change, if proper provision is made, they are appalled at having to carry it out under present conditions. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the decrease in the figures of unemployment. I am afraid it will be only a decrease on paper, because these children certainly will not be usefully employed. They will be only wasting their time and it does not necessarily follow men will be employed in their place. I hope it is possible for the President of the Board of Education to reconsider now the date at which he proposes to bring this change into force.


I think it was quite by inadvertence that those who preceded me in this Debate failed to express their keen satisfaction with the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South-Eastern Essex (Mr. Oldfield) and on their behalf, and on behalf of the House, I think I can say that we shall be delighted to listen to the hon. Member on future occasions. As a new Member myself, my excuse for intervening must be that up to a few days ago I belonged to one of the most progressive education authorities in the country. It was my home town which sent to this House W. E. Foster and from that man and from his personality we gained an educational impulse which we have never lost since. On many occasions that authority has anticipated the Board of Education. I have no wish to deprive the ex-President of the Board of Education of any credit and I join with the present Minister in congratulating the Noble Lord on what he tried to do to help us in our work. The Noble Lord only took a wrong turning on one occasion—he and the Noble Lady the former Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education. That was when the Noble Lord sent out Circular No. 1371, but on that occasion we recognised that whilst his was the voice, the hidden hand behind it was that of the lonely political pilgrim whose present habitat is in the glades of Epping Forest.

I wish to tell the House that we as an authority have put into operation the Hadow Report and we have now had] 6 months experience of it. As an act of faith we put that report into operation throughout an area of 300,000 inhabitants and we did so on one appointed day. We were told that we were making a mistake in doing so and that there would be grumblings from the teachers but the step has proved an undoubted success. We asked the teaching staff if they had any special subjects which they would like to teach instead of taking part in the general teaching, and we were agreeably surprised at the response of our teachers and we feel intensely proud of them. It was also said in connection with our modern schools—our post-primary schools—that we would have trouble from the parents. We took these parents into our confidence and, as a result, in a few weeks we had little or no trouble. We were the first authority to institute free secondary education in this country and after the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education had announced the appointed day for raising the school age, 10 per cent. of the parents who had refused the acceptance of the free education certificate repented and said "We will send our children to the secondary school, not for a four-year course but for a five-year course." In the same way as an act of faith we tried in one of the central schools to have no agreement for the four-year course and two-thirds of the parents did not let us down.

We ask the President of the Board of Education to go on with the good work. In connection with an authority like ours we shall have our difficulties, but we have had 20 to 30 per cent. of our teaching staff coming forward and volunteering to take up handicrafts and other manual work, so that they will be ready for the right hon. Gentleman's appointed day. It is not our duty to give the child a bias to be either a bishop or a burglar, but it is the duty of an authority to equip modern schools adequately, and, so far, we have been able to do it. We shall need additional staff in 1931, but by taking the cream of the teachers who have retired, especially the women teachers, and, maybe, the married women teachers, we shall be able to make our choice and to get over the difficulty of what the Noble Lord has called the "bulge." We shall be able to surmount our difficulties, and we look forward to the future with every confidence. It was my duty up to a few days ago as chairman of a committee to be responsible for the buildings and equipment of all schools in the City of Bradford—about 120 schools, some provided and some non-provided. In every school we as a committee could provide decent equipment and see that the schools were painted, but if a child fell in the school yard and was hurt, owing to the ill-repair of that yard, we could pay the doctor's bill for the child, but we had not power to repair the yard because it was called an "improvement" to do so. I say that indeed "the law is a has" if that sort of thing is going to continue. We as a committee could put a coat of whitewash upon the school conveniences, but we could not take steps to remove the smell arising from the unsanitary condition of those conveniences.

I suggest that in these and all other cases the child has to come first. That is why I have been so glad to listen to the statement of the President of the Board of Trade, and I look forward to that spirit of good will which is evident to-day being the characteristic note in this House in all our discussions affecting the citizens of the future. I believe that this House is not going to arouse the old spirit of intolerance and faction, but that we are going to combine to secure the realisation of the dream of that man whom some people called "Buckshot" Foster, but whose memory we treasure in Bradford as that of a great Minister of Education. We believe that his dream is going to come true in a national system of education, and that this new House of Commons is going to be the instrument to bring it about.

7.0 p.m.


The very eloquent appeal of the hon. Member for East Hull (Mr. Muff) will, I am sure, be re-echoed from all parts of the House. I believe this is a great day in the history of our national system of education and that the coming of what the hon. Member anticipates can be signalled by this discussion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northern Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean) is to be congratulated on having selected this subject. Had it not been for his initiative we should still have been in the dark about the policy of the Government. We were amazed that in the King's Speech there was no mention of this vital problem. Perhaps the pressure of Members in all parts of the House has strengthened the hands of the President of the Board of Education to dip into the slender purse of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In that case I am glad that our efforts have not been in vain. Part of the purpose of this Debate, however, is to get away from generalities and down to details. No one doubts the energy and enthusiasm of the President of the Board of Education, and this is his life work, but, however benevolent and noble his intentions may be, as the law stands he is not able to run the education system of this country. He is at most the accelerator. The Noble Lord during his term of office did quite well for education, but he always acted as a brake. I hope his successor is going to put plenty of petrol into the machine, but it is the local authorities who run the machine. Theirs is the responsibility, and they have to carry out the work.

The first thing which we demand in our Resolution is "Produce the Bill." When the second part of the Session opened, I pressed the Chancellor of the Exchequer, then acting in the place of the Prime Minister, to produce the Bill, and he suggested that there was not time. Now we have the promise of the Bill—which alone justifies this Debate—but the Bill is not enough. We want an Act of Parliament, and as far as I am concerned I am prepared to go full steam ahead. I fear, however, that not all the local authorities are inspired with the same spirit. I believe the majority of them not only intend to work the proposals of the Government, but are getting ready to do so, and have passed resolutions in favour of a date selected by them. They are not, however, all inspired by the same spirit. I happen to represent, in two capacities, the London County Council, and no one will hesitate to pay a tribute to the work of the London County Council, which is a most progressive body. But we cannot get away from the fact that the London County Council with its great area, and its immense child population, is holding back. I have an interesting report here on the provision of teachers, and I may remark that the success of this scheme depends on the provision of the right class of teachers and their training. Nothing would be more disastrous than to make a false start, and nothing would bring about a false start more readily, than that the schools should be inadequately staffed or staffed with inefficient teachers. That is one of the serious problems. In an article in a monthly review Sir A. Selby-Bigge is very pessimistic. He writes: It is therefore pretty clear that if the school-leaving age is raised as from 1st April, 1931, there is hound to be a great mess. He is a distinguished permanent official, but I do not agree with him. The right hon. Gentleman must not, however, trust to luck. He must not keep everything secret and mysterious, but must produce his plans and put his cards on the Table. Here is a report of a conference of heads of the London Training Colleges, and this is what they say: Until the legislation contemplated by His Majesty's Government has actually been passed it is impossible to do anything with a view to attracting students to the teaching profession. It is, therefore, decided not to endeavour to obtain students beyond the recognised accommodation. That is a very serious statement. If the right hon. Gentleman does not get the co-operation of the local authorities he will fail. The first essential for success is to produce the Bill and then to make it the law of the land for all local authorities. That is why I hope that this Motion will be passed, as I believe it will, unanimously. It would be unfortunate if, in our zeal for this one phase, we were to give the impression that that was the only educational problem before the country. I had hoped that on this occasion the right hon. Gentleman would have given a lead on many other problems.

There is the financial side. One of the best speeches I have heard in this House came to-night from the hon. Lady who spoke on maintenance grants, but the right hon. Gentleman dismissed it airily as if it were a detail. It is a vital problem, a question of £ s. d. The first question is who is to find the money, whether the taxpayer or the ratepayer, whether through the Treasury or through the local authorities. The local authorities are entitled to know that because they have to foot the Bill and provide the machinery. The schemes ought to be elaborated, not in April, 1931, but now, so that local authorities can make their arrangements well ahead. There are all kinds of alternative proposals on this matter. There is the means test. Is the maintenance grant going to be universal or on the basis of being only applied in cases of special need? Is it going to be paid on the same scale throughout the country or at different rates in town and country? Money wages, though not real wages, are much higher in London than in a country village, and people would like to know whether the figure is going to vary according to local conditions, or whether the Board is going to lay down one scale for England, Scotland and Wales. Those are matters we want to know, not at some distant date, but without further delay. There are other matters of importance. In the last Parliament we had many Debates on education, and on every occasion reference was made to nursery schools. The Act of 1918, our great charter of education, made special provision for nursery schools.


On a point of Order. May I draw attention to the terms of the Motion which deals with raising the school age and not with nursery schools?


I think that, in the short time at our disposal, we should confine ourselves to the raising of the school age.


I did not intend to elaborate the point but only to say that, in our zeal for raising the age, we should not forget to lower it at the other end. We should not forget the advice of Sir George Newman that the development of these schools is vital to the health and well-being of the population. I should also like the right hon. Gentleman to give the country a lead on continuation schools. We had an interesting experiment in 1920, but it was inadequate and limited to certain areas. London was a really progressive authority. The experiment failed partly because of financial pressure and partly because it was not universal but piecemeal and led to all sorts of labour difficulties. Does the reorganisation under the Hadow Report exclude the possibility of the development of continuation schools? The matter is becoming more urgent, because we have just had a report from a National Advisory Committee recommending the lowering of the age for compulsory Unemployment Insurance. If you are going to insure young people between 14 and 16, you must at the same time make provision for their training and education.

That is what is being done abroad. In Germany they have their great education charter of 1918, but it is actually in operation while ours is largely at a deadlock. We are entitled to know the position of the Government in that direc- tion. A false start now would be fatal for our industrial efficiency. This is the opportunity. We have a united House and this has ceased to be a party question. Let us make the scheme, not a half-hearted scheme, but a great educational reorganisation; not one-sided, not incomplete, not dealing with one problem only, but really facing the whole problem of national education on national lines—nursery schools, modern schools, the great grammar schools, continuation schools dealing with young people from 15 to 18. We could then build up a great national scheme so as to make sure that the democracy of the future will be fitted intellectually, mentally, morally, and physically for its responsibilities. The right hon. Gentleman will not succeed if he does not show courage, if he does not realise that the success of the scheme depends upon the co-operation of the local authorities, upon giving them a lead. I hope a lead will be given to the country to-night by the unanimous passing of the Motion now before the House.


During the last Parliament I heard, I believe, every speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman. I heard him impassioned, I heard him indignant and I heard him in sorrow. I never heard him to better advantage than to-day. I assure him that we on this side will not forget his generous references to the work of his predecessor. Having given him his meed of praise I shall now censure him. My right hon. Friend put two specific questions to him in his speech, but to neither of them did he return an answer. The first referred to the phrase, which he used in conversations with the local authorities, about emergency measures which he was going to adopt in dealing with the problem. The Noble Lord asked what they were, but he received no answer. The other question was as to whether the Minister had taken the cycle of juvenile unemployment into consideration in fixing the date for the raising of the school age—whether he had considered the date from the point of view of trying to level out the unemployment among juveniles.

Let me turn to a more specific point, namely, to secure the sympathy and assistance of the right hon. Gentleman for local authorities such as that in the county of Westmorland, which I repre sent and to which I also belong—a very sparsely populated rural district which presents problems entirely of its own. I assure him that the local education authority there is absolutely loyal. I do not mean that some of us, if our personal opinions were consulted, would not have differed from him in the method and the time he has chosen. That, after all, has been decided, and it will be ratified by the House of Commons. It has become our task to see that the best is made of the decision of the House. The right hon. Gentleman, judging at least from what he says, is apt to approach this problem with a town mind. He does not appreciate the difference in the problem in an area such as ours. He used the phrase "grabbing for a wage pittance." That may be quite true of the boy or girl leaving school at 13 or 14 in a slum area of a great city, but it is entirely incorrect in an area like ours where in the schools we do not, to any large extent, even get the children of the farm labourer, but where the large proportion of the children are the children of the actual farmers and, on leaving school, go straight into employment on the farm of their own parents. They undertake work, which is not the soul-killing, dreary, monotonous work a child has who gets employment in towns, but which has some educational value.

I want the Minister to realise the difficulty that we shall be in. Whatever assistance he gives in the way of maintenance grants we cannot pretend that the agricultural community will not suffer an economic loss. That economic loss is bound to be unpopular unless one can convince them of the educational value which the children get out of this extra year and convince them that it more than compensates for the economic loss. It is not going to he nearly so difficult to convince the people in the large industrial areas where the children are largely unemployed or their unemployment anyhow is an undesirable one. It is going to be immensely more difficult in our area to convince the parents, and it is going to be immensely more difficult in our area to put that extra value into that extra year.

We have the problem of widely scattered districts, not only immense distances between the villages but immense distances between the houses which constitute these villages. We have got hilly country and lakes, which make communi- cation difficult from one centre to another, and we have finally a climate which, to say the least, is a little more humid than the normal, which means that you run considerable risk when you transport children for long distances by motor vehicles. We are going to try and tackle that problem. We are going to do our level best to see that that year is well spent, but we shall need the assistance of the right hon. Gentleman, and there are one or two methods which can be adopted. There is the grouping of these schools, with a central school in each area, and we are going to meet there with a difficulty. In some of these areas which will be selected there will already exist a secondary school, but the school population in those areas will not be sufficient or may not be sufficient to support at the same time a central school and a secondary school. Therefore, it is most important, from the point of view of the arrangements we are going to make, that the right hon. Gentleman should define his intentions with regard to secondary schools at the same time that he makes his pronouncement on central schools.

I want to deal with one other point. We are going to be faced with one problem which is almost insoluble. There is a certain number of villages in my district which cannot come into any arrangement. They may be 12 miles from the nearest village, and they may be 20 miles from the nearest suitable centre to which the children, the "11-pluses," could be taken. What are we to do with a school under those circumstances? It is no good just leaving the children in for the extra year from 14 to 15, to sit there being taught by the same teacher who is teaching the others; and the idea of a peripatetic teacher who will go round from distant schools simply giving an hour's instruction to these children is not very satisfactory. You do not get the discipline, and you do not get the change at the age of 11, which is the whole basis both of the reorganisation and of the raising of the school-leaving age.

I am going to throw out a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman, following on something which the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) mentioned. I do not pretend that we, as an education authority, have considered it, or that we should want to adopt it, even if the right hon. Gentleman would sanction it, but I would ask him whether the Board will consider the possibility at least of substituting, in agricultural districts like this, where it is impossible to work a satisfactory system of education up to 15, some form of day continuation schools. It may make the problem much easier, it may enable scattered districts to be much more satisfactorily covered, and at the same time it may enable us to give the children a real advantage from this year of education, which at present I do not see how we are going to do in these isolated villages.

I wish to conclude, as I began, by assuring the right hon. Gentleman that our local education authority is going to tackle this task with determination. He must not think that because perhaps things like this take time, in difficult circumstances, it is because of a lack of good will, and I ask him to realise the special problem of these special areas and to give them sympathetic consideration and help in their task.


We, on this side, could not have wished for either a happier beginning or a happier close of the Debate upon this Motion, on which I congratulate the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean). The House has shown a quite singular unanimity, and those of us who did not get to bed last night and were here till 8.20 this morning are appreciative of the difference of tone in the Debate. The difference between this side of the House and that on this question is really not one of principle at all. Apparently the whole House quite definitely is committed to the raising of the school-leaving age, and it is merely a question of the difficulties in the way. With the diagnosis given by the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Stanley) of the difficulties of that county, I am in infinite sympathy. We are neighbours, and we in Cumberland have identical difficulties. Perhaps I have more practical knowledge of the working of the day school than has the last speaker, and I am cheered from my experience of our own school by the fact that in the old days that school used to contain scholars up to 17, in the days before compulsory education, when they came because they wanted to, and I am sure that in these rural areas you have a potential demand for education if you give them the right thing. I am equally sure that we should like our children to go on only to the age of 14 in the rural schools if the education between then and 15 was merely to be conducted on exactly the same lines. That is quite obvious, and, of course, the problem is a large one for the Ministry of Education to solve.

I am indebted to you, Mr. Speaker, for preserving this Debate from its great snare. Obviously, in every quarter of the House, we are determined if we can to keep the cause of education free from the one great peril to which it is subject, and I hope we may go out from this Debate with a very clear message in one matter that affects the finance very intimately, the finance of the building grants. It is obvious that the Government are not prepared to alter the principle upon which building grants are allocated, and it is equally clear that it is quite useless for any body of outside interests to think that they, can get an Amendment into a Bill in this House—


On a point of Order. May I suggest that this is the very point which we have carefully avoided? I hope the hon. Gentleman is not going to make the very controversial statement which he seemed about to make.


I think we had better keep away from that subject till 7.30.


My observation was merely to enforce what I think we are all agreed upon, namely, that there must be agreement outside this House before the question of building grants can be reopened and brought to any fresh stage. We all of us want to avoid that question. We all know that when we gather together here, raising denominational issues, there certainly the devil is in the midst of us. We all know that the devil is very resourceful in using all-night sittings and other devices, but the House is determined to avoid that kind of thing, and we all support the right hon. Gentleman in proceeding with the raising of the school age and in urging him to introduce his Bill as rapidly as he can, so that we can get on with the practical details.


We have heard a great deal in this Debate about England and Scotland, but I think it is time to ask three questions on Wales. The first question I would ask my right hon. Friend is this: How are these central schools going to affect the secondary schools in Wales? My second question is this: Is he prepared to advance any aid to rural districts such as Carmarthenshire, where they will have to build a large number of schools and, even after the schools are built, will have to spend a great deal of money to transfer the children from the villages into the central schools? My third question is this: How can we hope to have central schools built in the counties when we have the differential system of rating?


I only desire to make two points, which must perforce be very brief. The first is with regard to the point made by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), as to the problem of the fluctuation of juvenile employment due to the raising of the school-leaving age. One of the great reasons why I support this Measure is that by it we dam the flow of that employment into the market for at least one year, and it seems to me that in the present state of the market that is a perfectly sound line to take. Secondly, by keeping the big bulge of which he is so much afraid inside the school, we give to the maximum number of children that our generation will ever see in school the advantage of a year of extended education, and to my mind that in itself is a tremendous justification for the course which my right hon. Friend has taken.

The other point that I wish to make is this: I am one of the few Members of this House who heard the Debates of 1902, because I heard them, certainly not from the Floor, but from another part of the House. I heard my right hon. Friend then tell the House that we had the worst educated peasantry in Europe, and I heard from the benches opposite Mr. Bryce, Sir Charles Dilke, and other giants of those days who dwelt in that part of the land. Then, on that afternoon too, I heard a speech from immediately behind the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings, a speech by Mr. Haldane, as he then was, in which he said that the great thing in that Bill was its establishment of a municipal secondary education system. That was the great thing in the Act of 1902. The great thing in my right hon. Friend's speech this afternoon has been his declaration that every child over 11 is to have a full higher education.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House urges the Government to bring forward without delay the details of its scheme for raising the school age, especially the financial proposals connected therewith, so that local education authorities may know what their obligations are likely to be; and further urges that any changes in the existing law that require legislation shall at once be put in the form of a Bill and presented to this House.