HC Deb 17 April 1930 vol 237 cc3186-208
Duchess of ATHOLL

I desire to take the opportunity which the Motion for the Adjournment of the House affords of drawing attention to a subject of very great importance to Scotland, which it has not been possible to discuss in this Parliament, and the discussion of which has been far too long delayed. The subject which I wish to raise is that of the raising of the school-leaving age to 15 as it affects Scotland. The Education Act of 1918 includes a Section which enables the Scottish Education Department to name the appointed day for raising the school age to 15 as and when it thinks fit, and I think that was a power so wide that the Special Committee which is inquiring into what we now know as "the New Despotism," might very well examine this particular instance of Government by delegation. We have been too much apt in Scotland, because of the power conferred on the Secretary of State by the Education Act of 1918, to conclude that the raising of the school age in Scotland was a very much simpler matter than to do so in England, where, of course, legislation would be necessary. That, I venture to say, was the frame of mind in which many members were elected to the education authorities set up in 1919 by the Education Act.

When these authorities began to come to grips with the problems which confronted them, they found so many and such urgent problems facing them, that the question of this easy raising of the school age began gradually to assume a new form. They found that they had to improve the salaries of their teachers. Rural authorities in particular found themselves faced with many buildings in their areas which were very inadequate and needing improvement; they found many of these schools very deficient in necessary equipment, and they found a school medical service, which had been practically shattered by the War, and which had to be built up again. Therefore, it was not until 1921 that any question of bringing this matter before the Scottish Education Department was even raised by any education authority, and it was raised in that year by a very important education authority, that of Glasgow.

At the instance of the Glasgow authority, the Association of Education Authorities invited various Scottish authorities to make some estimate as to what would be the extra accommodation involved by raising the school age, and some estimate of the financial cost. Only a few of the authorities replied that they had the staffs with which to make the estimates, but the replies that were received from these few authorities were so alarming that the question was hastily dropped by the association. I think that I am right in saying that from that day onwards no request has ever been made to the Scottish Education Department to raise the school-leaving age, either by the Association of Education Authorities or by any single authority. I wish to stress this, because here there is a considerable difference between conditions in Scotland and in England. In England, the authorities have this grievance, that whereas in 1927 they told the then Pre- sident of the Board of Education that if the school age were to be raised they must have not less than six years i[...] which to make their preparations, they were asked in 1929 to make all these preparations by the spring of 1931. That is to say, they were given one year and three-quarters, when they had specifically asked for six years, and the step was taken without any consultation with them; but at least one of the associations of education authorities in England and Wales had asked for the raising of the school age as from a certain date.

The Scottish education authorities, though from the legislative point of view the step could much more easily have been taken than in England, have never made any request. This decision, as we know, was hastily come to, and apparently arrived at as a result of the deliberations of a committee appointed jointly by the Board of Education and the office of the Lord Privy Seal. It was understood that the discussion of this question was hurried on because of the relief which it was hoped that the raising of the school age would give to unemployment. I think that the Secretary of State for Scotland, when he first met the Scottish education authorities, and intimated to them the Government's decision on this matter, informed them that one of the main reasons for arriving at the decision was the hope that it would relieve unemployment. Everyone will sympathise with the anxiety of the Government to explore every possible measure that might help towards a solution of that great problem, but I submit that the hope of relieving unemployment was not sufficient ground for so hasty a decision to take such a far-reaching educationa1 step, and certainly not to take such a far-reaching educational step without prior consultation with the authorities who would have to administer the decision.

Shortly after the decision had been arrived at, the relief that this step could be expected to give to unemployment appeared to be negligible. It was shown by figures furnished by the Ministry of Labour to the National Advisory Council on Juvenile Employment that, far from juvenile unemployment being a serious issue in the years immediately ahead of us, there was likely in any case to be a shortage of juvenile labour between the years 1931 and 1937, even on the existing basis, and that if the school age were raised in 1931 as proposed, that shortage would vary between 400,000 juveniles a year and over 700,000 a year for as long a period as the figures had been worked out. If there were hopes that this raising of the school age would not only help to solve the problem of juvenile unemployment, which was really in the immediate future likely to be manageable if not non-existent, but would help in the solution of adult unemployment, they were dashed by one of those engagingly candid utterances which the Lord Privy Seal is wont to give. He assured a conference of the Labour party that they must not assume that the raising of the school age was going to do much for unemployment because it should not necessarily be supposed that an adult would be employed where a young person had been employed before.

Apart from this, and this was the main reason for which this decision was made, I submit that there was a special reason why it should not have been made as regards Scotland at the present time. As soon as the Government came into office, they considered the Local Government Act and its bearings on the educational administration of Scotland, and they decided to retain the Sections in that Act which transferred the powers of education authorities to town and county councils as from May, 1930. Surely, the least appropriate period of time in which to ask authorities to undertake an obligation which they had shown no anxiety whatever to undertake, was a period in which their existence was going to come to an end. The first of several questions therefore which I wish to put to the Secretary of State is this: Were the Scottish Education Department represented on the Joint Committee of the Board of Education and the Lord Privy Seal's Department, on whose advice it was understood that the Government acted? If the right hon. Gentleman replies that his Department were represented, I am afraid that we can only wonder whether the representative brought before the Committee these very weighty reasons for not bringing so far-reaching a Measure into operation in Scotland at a moment when the authorities were about to become defunct.

We find therefore that the decision was a hasty one, that the main purpose for which it was alleged to have been made was speedily shown to be of very little moment, and that the decision was made without any prior consultation with the authorities concerned. They were, I understand, not even allowed to express an opinion on the principle of the raising of the school age when they met the Secretary of State. He informed them that the Government had made up their mind, and that no discussion on the question of principle could be allowed. That was a very dictatorial action, which really strikes at the root of local government, because surely these services, in regard to which powers are delegated to local authorities, are services which should be regarded as being in the nature of a partnership between the central and local authorities.

After that very dictatorial action had been taken, the next thing that happened was the delay on the part of the Scottish Education Department in giving authorities guidance as to the steps which they would have to take to carry out the Government's decision. Everyone, I can imagine, was desirous of having a holiday in August last year, but I would remind the Secretary of State that his colleague the President of the Board of Education, was ready to curtail his holiday in such a way that it was possible to issue, not later than September, a circular to the English education authorities, pointing out what the Government were going to do, and asking them to inform him at the earliest possible moment as to the additional accommodation that would be needed in each year, the additional number of teachers, the expense involved, and so on. The Scottish authorities had to wait until November for any corresponding circular to reach them from the Scottish Education Department, and the right hon. Gentleman must have had occasion to realise before he issued his circular how much in the dark many of the authorities felt in regard to what they had to do.

A further disadvantage appeared when the circular was received by the Scottish authorities, because, while the English circular had announced to the English authorities an increase of from 20 per cent. to 50 per cent. in the grant which was given under the English education grant system, for all buildings and equipment provided by a local authority between the date of the issue of the cir- cular and a date in 1932, the Scottish circular could offer no hope of any building grant, no grant, that is, for any of this special expenditure which would be entailed by the raising of the age. It is quite true that the circular very properly intimated that the Scottish authorities would receive as a whole eleven-eightieths of the additional grant given in England, but I submit that, when a Government Department wish a local authority to take a step that involves a great deal of thought and expenditure, it is a great help if the Government Department concerned can say, "If you carry out that particular piece of work, you will get a particular amount of assistance for it." It is not at all the same thing to say to an authority, "Your grant as a whole may be eleven-eightieths bigger." It is a definite help in getting a specific piece of work done if you can get specific grant assistance for it. There again the Scottish authorities have been at a disadvantage compared with their English brothers.

When at last they had some guidance from the Department as to what they had to consider, and when they began to consider the accommodation needed, and to plan, as the circular asked them to do, suitable courses for the children who were to be retained in school, and to consider how many teachers were needed, they began to realise the magnitude of the problem confronting them. A little more light on the magnitude of that problem is thrown by an answer given to me by the Secretary of State in November last, when he told me that in more than 1,500 of our primary schools, that is, in more than 50 per cent. of them, children of the ages of from 12 to 14 years are being taught together in the same class by the same teacher, and that in some 600 or 700 of those schools children of those ages are being taught in the same class and by the same teacher with children of all ages down to the age of five. I do not say that the children involved in that answer form 50 per cent., or more than 50 per cent., of the Scottish children. I am quite aware that that is not the case; but even if it does not refer to more than 50 per cent., but to a much fewer number, it does show how widespead is the problem of bringing the older children from tiny schools to some centres where they can be taught with children of their own age and have some chance of receiving instruction specially suitable to their ages.

Any problem of that sort calls for a great deal of deliberation. An authority has to select the schools which will be suitable as central schools or centres for classes for these children. An authority has to add to a centre or it may be build a new one, and to plan special alternative courses, if possible, for children of differing aptitudes coming to the central school. Above all, the Scottish authorities were asked in a circular to give special attention to the need for more practical instruction. The need for practical instruction was clearly shown by figures published in the Department's last report. That showed that out of 2,919 primary schools woodwork is taught in only 1,038, needlework in only 1,163, cookery in only 1,429, and gardening in only 648. I am not blaming the right hon. Gentleman for this position of affairs.

The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. William Adamson)

The Noble Lady and her friends will have to take a part of the blame.

Duchess of ATHOLL

I never had the honour of being associated with the administration of Scottish education as a whole, but I am very glad to think that it was a Unionist Secretary for Scotland who in 1923 instituted that scheme of advanced divisions which began to ensure some progress in the provision of more courses with some practical instruction in them. The authorities in Scotland were not, however, very quick to take advantage of the new scheme, and progress has been very slow, particularly as regards bringing in more practical instruction. Still, I only emphasise that now because it does serve to bring out what a great deal has to be done in the way of arranging suitable courses for these children at suitable centres in, I imagine, every area of Scotland.

Then an authority has to arrange for the conveyance of many of these children. Here, again, some rural authorities have been very backward in making arrangements. In Scotland, of course, we have always to reckon with distances, and we have also had to reckon with a grant system which, until my right hon. Friend the last Secretary of State altered it, not only gave no help towards the cost of conveying children to a centre but provided special grants for small schools. That system tended to discourage the conveying of children from the small schools to larger ones, and, in fact, encouraged not only the maintenance but the increase of very small schools. The Secretary of State gave me figures showing a really substantial increase in the number of these small schools during the last few years when I asked him a question on the subject last November. I am very glad to know that the grant system was changed by my right hon. Friend in 1928 in such a way as to allow local authorities freely to use the money which they had formerly received for their small schools upon conveying children from small schools to larger ones, but the grant system does not give an authority any specific assistance towards the cost of conveying children; and if the raising of the school age is to prove any real educational benefit to Scottish rural children the authorities will have to arrange these special courses at selected centres and will have to arrange to convey them to those centres, and that may mean a very largely-increased cost for conveyance.

The result of all these difficulties which stand in the way of the authorities is that, as I believe, they are really behind the English authorities—or many of them are—in schemes of reorganisation. It may be difficult to test the truth of that statement, and I do not wish to be too dogmatic, but at any rate they have not been so pressed to give their minds to schemes of reorganisation and they have not had a grant scheme to help them in the way that English authorities have had now for several years past. Therefore, we find that to-day the schemes of the Scottish authorities are not at all in a forward condition. Take Edinburgh. There, I understand, a scheme has been adopted, but the authority expressly recognised when it sanctioned the scheme that before being put into operation it must receive the sanction of the Town Council of Edinburgh, to which all educational affairs will be transferred next month; and it was stated at a recent meeting of the authority that as a result probably no building can be begun before July or August on a scheme which involves a great deal of building. Take Glasgow. A very careful report has just been submitted to the authority, and adopted by it, a report which, in passing, estimates that the scheme will mean an increase of £182,000 per annum, without counting the cost of maintenance allowances, a very serious consideration for anyone resident in Glasgow. There, again, the fact that this report has only just been adopted by the authority shows that no steps can have been taken actually to carry it into effect. The Glasgow authority also have to wait for the confirmation of the Glasgow Town Council.

Then we have Ross-shire frankly saying that a scheme of centralisation is impracticable even if it were advisable, except in isolated cases, and therefore Ross-shire proposes to do very little. That means that the raising of the school age will, in the main, mean marking time for Ross-shire children; and marking time may not only mean a negative position, mean not only that a child gets no advantage from the additional school year, but may bring some actual disadvantage, in that if a child is kept in school without being given a course that is likely to arouse his interest and afford him some chance of self-development and self-expression, he may very well leave school less inclined to value education and books than if he had left the year before. That is the danger that faces all systems of retaining children in school for an additional year unless we can be sure that we shall give them something worth while. In Dumbarton we find plans submitted but no resolution to proceed with them. In Fife we hear that plans have been delayed, and in Kincardine, Perthshire, Peebles and Argyllshire we get resolutions definitely against the raising of the school age at this time; while Banffshire has made no secret of its opposition to the raising of the age.

I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman to supplement a little more specifically an answer which his Under-Secretary gave me yesterday when I asked him how many Scottish authorities have told the Department that they can be ready with their plans for raising the school age by April, 1931. And it is dawning on the Scottish authorities, or many of them, that not only is the period between now and April, 1931, a very unsuitable one for raising the school age—unsuitable on account of the shortness of time and the change over of powers next month— but also that the period between now and 1937 is a very unsuitable one to have chosen for this step. It is now two years and more since my right hon. Friend the late President of the Board of Education issued a circular to the English education authorities pointing out that owing to the high birthrate in 1920 there would be a bulge in the number of children of 12 to 15 years of age between the years 1932 and 1935, and it was for that reason that he was not ready to consider the raising of the school age in 1933, which was the date suggested by the English Association of Education Committee.

Looking at the figures supplied to me by the right hon. Gentleman in reply to a question, we see that there will be about 40,000 more children between the ages of 12 and 15 in Scottish schools between 1931 and 1933–34, and that after 1933–34 the numbers will begin to fall until after 1937–38 they will be back to about the same figure at which they will stand in 1931–32. That means that if the school age is raised before 1937 the Scottish authorities will have to provide accommodation for something like double the number of children they would have to provide for if the raising of the age were delayed until a later year. Those figures mean that either you will have in every area in Scotland, and more particularly in the cities, overcrowded classes during those bulge years—which will not be of benefit to the children—or else that the authorities will be obliged to provide accommodation not all of which will be required after the bulge is over. If they build up to the accommodation necessary during the bulge period, is it fair to the ratepayer and the taxpayer?

I come to the question of teaching. Here, I admit, that at the present time there is a surplus of teachers in Scotland. It is a very unfortunate circumstance, and I regret very much, that we have not more machinery in connection with our secondary schools for giving guidance to young people as to the professions on which they should enter. If we had had more machinery of that kind, we should not have had so many young people flocking into the teaching profession, without any knowledge as to whether their services would be required when their training was finished. It is to be regretted also that no limit to the number of teachers in training was adopted by the respon- sible training authorities in Scotland. The Secretary of State for Scotland has told us that he estimates that 2,000 teachers will be required when the school age is raised in Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman has also told us that he thinks that, with the surplus teachers who are at present unemployed and those in training, those 2,000 teachers can be found without any special steps being necessary.

I would like to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he feels sure, in view of the number of schemes which he must be receiving from various authorities in Scotland, that 2,000 teachers will be enough. The Glasgow Education Authority require 707 teachers to complete their scheme, and Glasgow has about one quarter of the children of Scotland in its schools. Four times seven hundred is nearer 3,000 than 2,000, and we know that in the rural areas of Scotland a relatively higher proportion of teachers is required than in the area I have mentioned.


indicated dissent.

Duchess of ATHOLL

The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but, if he would come to some of the areas which I have in my constituency, he would realise haw small are the classes as compared with some of the industrial areas of which I have not the same knowledge as the right hon. Gentleman. And is the right hon. Gentleman sure that among the teachers whom he has in view there are enough teachers with a knowledge of those practical subjects, the teaching of which we so badly need to develop? It is admitted that there are not enough teachers for wood-work and commercial subjects, and I understand that special classes for teachers have been instituted for those subjects. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House the number of teachers who are attending those classes, and if he is of opinion that there will be a sufficient number of them? Does the right hon. Gentleman know yet what the needs of the authorities are [...]or teachers of other practical subjects? in view of the notices which have appeared in the Press in connection with meetings of education authorities, it seems difficult to believe that the right hon. Gentleman has really got in his hands the full details of all that the authorities will need to enable them to deal with this question. Then I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is sure that the graduate teachers who are unemployed, or in training in the training colleges, after going through a university course, are always able to teach all the subjects necessary in a primary school. There was a complaint made not long ago by one education authority that very few of these teachers were qualified to teach needlework and class singing. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to inquire into that matter when his well-earned Easter holiday is over, and, if he is not satisfied that these teachers have the necessary qualifications, will he suggest to them how very desirable it is that they should acquire them, and perhaps he would hold out the hope to them that they might obtain appointments more speedily if they would remedy this defect.

I would like to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to another specially important question. I want to know to what his figure of 2,000 teachers applies. Does it apply to the year when the school age is first raised, 1931–32, or to 1933–34, when the children will be some 40,000 more, or does it apply to 1937–38, when the numbers will have fallen more or less to the level of 1931–32. If there is to be this additional number of children in the schools, they will want additional teachers, and, if the additional teachers are not supplied in those areas, the classes will be too large and the teaching staff will be overworked. If a sufficient number of teachers is not supplied, we shall find a large number of unemployed teachers once more in our midst.

I come to the question of maintenance allowances. The right hon. Gentleman says that he estimates the total additional annual expenditure, including maintenance allowances and charges on capital expenditure, at £1,500,000. Will the right hon. Gentleman say how much of that £1,500,000 will be applied to maintenance allowances? May I also ask what is the basis of the right hon. Gentleman's calculation, how many children it will apply to, and what is the average sum per child? Is the basis going to be the same as in England? If so, are the Scottish local authorities represented on the committee of English authorities who are advising the President of the Board of Education on this subject? If not, is the right hon. Gentleman going to set up a committee of Scottish authori- ties to advise him on this question? This question of maintenance allowances is an entirely new one. It must not be forgotten that we have in Scotland a very generous system of assisting young persons attending secondary schools, but the system of maintenance allowances proposed is entirely new. For the first time, it is proposed that a part of the education grant should be devoted to maintenance allowances for children who are still within the limits of compulsory school attendance, and irrespective of the ability of those children to profit by the classes to which they are to go. Then I would like the Secretary of state for Scotland to tell us what will happen in regard to exemptions when the school age is raised? In England I understand that no exemptions are to be allowed, in spite of the fact that in the few areas where the school age has been raised by the action of the education authority very liberal exemptions have been given.


I understand that no exemptions exist in England at all.

Duchess of ATHOLL

I would like the right hon. Gentleman to look at an answer which was given to a question which I put last November, and he will see some very interesting figures. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that, under the Scottish Education Act of 1918, it is provided that exemptions will be allowed from the age of 13 when the school age is raised to 15. The right hon. Gentleman has given an estimate of £1,500,000 as the additional expenditure that will be entailed by these charges. I doubt whether that figure will be a final one. The right hon. Gentleman did not commit himself specifically to that figure, but he safeguarded himself very judiciously. I am afraid that that sum of £1,500,000 will have to be added to very considerably in view of the large number of recently adopted schemes, and in view of the fact that many of them are very incomplete. I know how formidable are the figures being put forward for this purpose by the English authorities, who have had a rather longer time to consider the question.

In Somersetshire, the Education Committee estimates that the raising of the school age, and the system of centralisation considered to be necessary, if the children are to benefit by the change, will add £40,000 to the cost of conveying the children to school. At the present time the committee spends £6,000 a year in Somersetshire conveying the children to school, but when the school age is raised, the amount necessary for that purpose will be £46,000. Somersetshire may contain a number of scattered areas, but the areas are not so scattered as they are in some of our Scottish counties like Inverness-shire, Ross-shire and Argyllshire. When the Scottish authorities have had time to get to grips with this question, and realise how much organisation will be necessary, if the raising of the school age is to be effective, they may well find that they are committed to a very much larger expenditure than that which has been estimated by the right hon. Gentleman.

3.0 p.m.

I should like to know how much reorganisation has been allowed for in the £1,500,000, and particularly how much of that sum has been allowed for conveying children to school. And I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what grant he expects to receive towards this expenditure of £1,500,000. Is the right hon. Gentleman confident that he is going to get the same proportion of their expenditure for the Scottish authorities as the English authorities are going to receive? No doubt the right hon. Gentleman has studied the figures given in the financial memorandum on the English Bill. If so, the right hon. Gentleman will remember that the total expenditure, including maintenance allowances, is said to be £5,500,000 when the scheme is in full operation. In that memorandum it is stated that the Exchequer grant will be £3,900,000, which means that the English authorities are going to receive about two-thirds of their expenditure in this direction in the way of grant. If we get our proportion of eleven-eightieths of the additional State expenditure, I make out that the Scottish grant will be about £536,000 as compared with £3,900,000 for the English grant. That is just a little more than one-third of the expenditure which the Secretary of State for Scotland has stated will be incurred. Whereas the English authorities will get a proportion of two-thirds, the Scottish authorities will not receive more than one-third. Of course, the English figures may now be out of date, because fresh details have been furnished by the authorities since the Bill was presented, and at the present moment the relative cost of carrying out the scheme in Scotland appears much greater than in England. Unless the right hon. Gentlemen can satisfy us that the English figure is likely to be much larger than £5,500,000—in Which case, although that may not be a very happy piece of news for the taxpayer, at least the Scottish Education Fund will benefit—it seems to me that there will be a storm of indignation in Scotland when it is realised that the grant which at present we stand to expect is not more than one-half of the proportional grant that is going to the English authorities. But I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, is this the moment, when unemployment is so bad, when Scottish agriculture is labouring under such difficulties, at which to put so great a burden upon both rates and taxes for a Measure which, as we have seen, has very little chance of fulfilling the main purpose for which it was decided upon, and which, if it is carried out hastily, may well achieve very little in the way of educational results? Would it not be a policy of statesmanship to get clear of this terrible unemployment first, and to set Scottish agriculture more on its feet, before we think of carrying through so costly a change? Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise, as the Minister responsible for education in Scotland, that, if so great a burden is put upon Scotland at a time such as this, when trade is so bad and unemployment so severe, it will tend to handicap educational advance in other directions?

Scotland has done well, on the whole, by her elder children, anyhow, so far as her secondary schools go. That makes the problem different in Scotland from what it is in England, because, whereas in England, although the number of children in secondary schools is steadily and rapidly increasing. it cannot be said that every child capable o[...] profiting by secondary education to-day in England gets it, I think that that can be said of children in Scotland: and, therefore, Scotland can claim to have done more for the older children than England has done. But Scotland has done very little, so far, for the pre-school child. If the right hon. Gentleman has read the reports of the Chief Medical Officer of the Board of Education, he will know that for several years past that very able officer has been impressing on the Board of Education the number of physical defects found in young children on entering school, and we know only too well that it must be the same in Scotland, because in Scotland we have not succeeded in bringing our figures for infant mortality down to the level at which they stand in England. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he really thinks that the raising of the school age at this moment is the most urgent thing in Scottish education? Should not the authorities have been given the chance to consider whether they would not rather, for a time, anyhow, concentrate on trying to secure better conditions of health for young children entering school? A co-operation is possible now between the child welfare authority and the education authority which has never before been possible, and which should be the best augury for advance.

I cannot help feeling, in view of all that I have said, that, in this matter of raising the school age, Scotland has been dragged at the heel of England; but, even so, Scotland may yet hold back her too boisterous neighbour. The task that has been set Scottish education authorities is one which they cannot carry out in the time given. It is one which, if carried out in the next few years, will either fail to give the children all the benefit that they ought to get from it or will involve either unnecessary expenditure on teaching staff or unemployment of teachers, either unnecessary buildings or overcrowding. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider these matters very carefully, to realise how much more serious the unemployment and trade position is now than it was when this decision was taken, and to see whether, before it is too late, he cannot postpone a step which promises to be neither in the interests of education nor in the interests of the country.


The House has listened with great interest to the speech of the Noble Lady, and I can assure her that I share to the full her zeal for the true interests of Scottish education. The Noble Lady put a great many questions to me, and I am afraid that it would take me as long to answer them in detail as it took her to put them. I must, however, compress my answers into a shorter compass than that. As to the effect of the Government's decision on education in Scotland, we take different views, but I believe that both inside and outside this House there is a very considerable measure of agreement regarding the proposals which have been so critically examined by the Noble Lady. As to the date, the Government have come to a definite decision, as has already been intimated, and I have ready the Order necessary to give effect to that decision. Legislation is required in England, but not in Scotland, so far as instituting the final age is concerned, but obviously I must wait until the English position is brought into line with our own before I launch the Order. [Interruption.] The hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot) will admit that the financial aspect of the question alone makes that necessary. The two countries must keep in step in a matter of such high importance.

As to the suggestion that the local authorities have only been given very scanty information regarding the raising of the school age, I would mention that on the 12th September last year I met the education authorities and discussed the matter very fully with them. Since then I have formally intimated the decision to the Scottish Education authorities, and have told them that they must make their plans accordingly. That intimation was contained in Circular No. 81 of the Scottish Education Department issued in September. Since then the officers of the Department have from time to time been in touch with the various education authorities on particular aspects of this question—

Duchess of ATHOLL

May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that his Circular No. 81 was issued in November? I have a copy here, dated the 8th November, not September.


The Noble Lady has misunderstood me entirely. I said that I met the authorities on the 12th September, and that later I issued a circular. I did not give the date, but gave the number of the circular as 81. In that circular I outlined the various aspects of the problem—buildings, equipment, teachers, curriculum—which they would have to consider, and I have received very care- fully drawn up proposals from the education authorities on all these points. In very few cases was any opposition to the decision expressed. I think the Noble Lady, in referring to those that were in opposition, gave the total number of those who have expressed any disagreement with the decision. The great majority, including the large towns and thickly populated counties, have set themselves to the task with knowledge, energy and good will. And I may add that I received from a considerable number of representative bodies interested in education strong support for the decision. In particular the teachers of Scotland are unanimous for the change, and indeed they have pressed very strongly for it from time to time. We may well ask—Who should know more about this question than the teachers? They work with the children from day to day, they know the waste consequent upon an uncompleted education and upon a premature entry into the business of life, and some of us who, because of economic reasons, had to leave school when mere children can fully appreciate the anxiety of the teacher about an uncompleted education prior to the child entering into the business of life.

I would remind the Noble Lady that if you want to get a thing done, if you want to get people busy on it, the best way is to fix a date. So long as there is no fixed date so long will people hesitate and postpone. I cannot agree that Scotland will not be able to do what we are asking her to do under quite reasonable notice. In the past great changes have been made in our educational system on much shorter notice than has been given on this occasion. I need only remind the Noble Lady that the 1872 Act, which introduced compulsory education in this country, was passed on the 6th of August, 1872, and came into operation immediately. The school boards so created were required to provide the necessary accommodation, which to a large extent was non-existent at the time—a much worse condition of affairs than now. No period of notice was then thought necessary, and preparations were made as speedily as possible during the period following the coming into operation of the Act. May I further remind the Noble Lady that the Education (Scotland) Act, 1901, was passed on the 9th of August of that year, and came into operation on the 1st of January following. It raised the school-leaving age from 13 to 14, and abolished part-time attendance. We may contrast this notice of five months which was given in l901 with the notice of nearly two years that has been given on the present occasion.

This question of notice suggests to me that I should remind hon. Members of something that they may have forgotten, namely, that this Scottish reform has been on the Statute Book for 12 years. In face of that, who can say that it has come unexpectedly? If preparations have not been made, where dos the fault lie? Assuredly, not with this side of the House. May I ask the Noble Lady, who as a Member of the late Government may have special sources of information, why was the clear direction of the Statute so long avoided and postponed by those who were almost continuously in office during the period that has passed between that time and now? In Scotland, we have in this matter one special dfficulty not of our seeking. Less than a month from now the ad hoc education authorities of Scotland, which have for 58 years given such efficient and honourable service to education, will give place to new bodies, new to the work of education. This change is bound to cause some delay in our preparations for the 1st of April of next year. Well, we are not responsible for that change. The Noble Lady and her political friends will have to shoulder responsibility for the change that brought that about. The Noble Lady knows as well as I can tell her that we opposed it strongly as a violation of the old Scottish tradition, and as detrimental to the best interests of public education. However, there it is, and we must make the best of it. I trust that the new educational authorities will immediately buckle to the great task that stands in front of them, realising that education is one of the most important parts, if not the most important part of their new heritage.

May I pass to deal as briefly as I possibly can with some of the points that have been raised by the Noble Lady in regard to staff, organisation, and finance? As to building, we already know that something in the region of 50,000 additional places will be required. This, as is to be expected, is mostly in the towns and in the industrial areas. In the country, owing to causes which we all know and deplore, accommodation is more than adequate to the present need, and the additional provision required will be very small. I could almost assure the Noble Lady that difficulties in the rural areas will not be anything like so great as she seems to have in mind. I have received and considered a wide range of proposals for the new buildings, and I hope that the new authorities will lose no time in carrying to a finish their carefully drawn plans.

I may add that none of the present authorities has indicated to me that adequate arrangements cannot be made by the date proposed. As showing the good will of the present authorities in the matter of buildings I may say that in 1929 the amount of loans sanctioned by the Department for new buildings was £1,000,000 while the average for the previous 10 years was less than £500,000, proving, I think, conclusively that the educational authorities are quite busy making the rearrangements necessary for the raising of the school age. I may also cite the figures for the reduction of the size of classes of which I gave notice in 1924. In 1927 there were 1,214 classes with more than 50 children habitually under the charge of one teacher. In October, 1929, that number had fallen to 98. Since then a further reduction has been effected, and we now have general compliance with the requirement. I instance these two matters to show that the dying education authorities have done their duty by their heirs and successors, and will vacate their posts after having made considerable provision for the new order of things coming into operation.

As to staff, it is estimated that somewhat over 2,000 new teachers will be required. Some of these will be class teachers, some specialist teachers of those practical subjects which modern educational opinion regards as so important for children in the last year of their school life, especially those who are not going into academic work.

Duchess of ATHOLL

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to answer the question I put to him as to the year in which 2,000 teachers will be needed? Will that be 1931 or 1933?


I can assure the Noble Lady that the authorities and the Department are fully alive to the importance of this subject. For example, the Glasgow proposals contemplate, in addition to 320 certificated teachers of the normal type, 100 science teachers, 76 handwork teachers, 96 domestic science teachers, 10 teachers of commercial subjects, 60 art teachers, and 45 teachers of physical training. We can thus envisage the rich, varied and useful curriculum which the children from 14 to 15 will enjoy after 1st April, 1931. I may add that the training authorities have in hand the problem of producing the necessary supply of teachers, and I am reasonably confident that, when the time comes, there will be no serious difficulty in this respect.

The problem of organisation is difficult. It is a matter that must be solved in various ways according to the special circumstances of each area. In the towns and other populous areas, the beneficial policy of centralisation hitherto pursued by education authorities will, no doubt, be continued. In the rural districts, on the other hand, small numbers are involved, and we can understand that parents in these districts have, in many cases, a natural dislike to letting their children take long daily journeys or to placing them in hostels. Yet, if some form of grouping is not arranged, the cost of specialist teachers and the provision of practical rooms will necessarily be high. I am hopeful that each authority will work out a reasonable compromise, suited to its special circumstances, under which in some parts of the area there will be aggregation in a well-equipped central school, while in others, travelling teachers will bring expert practical instruction and stimulus, and in others the wise head teacher will utilise to the utmost the possibilities of the small and isolated community. In days gone by, the Scottish teacher in the country parts was not found wanting, even though he had to cope single-handed with a group of pupils of all ages, some as high as and even higher than the coming compulsory age. Some of us who had an opportunity of receiving our education under these conditions know what the conditions are. I see no reason to believe that the Scottish teacher of to-day will be found wanting, any more than Scottish teachers have been found wanting in the past.

As to curriculum, I am satisfied that the principles laid down for advanced Divisions in the present Code provide what is necessary in the way of guidance to the new authorities. I have directed special attention to this matter in the circular I have issued. Further, we must remember that educational opinion throughout the country is very much alive to this matter. The days are past when Scotland had to wait for the initial word of wisdom from the Department over whose destinies I have the honour to preside for the time being. The teachers have now very efficient organisations, and they are continually studying all our educational problems. We have the recently formed Educational Research Council, we have the Directors of Education, almost a new profession, and last but not least, we have the very large number of local administrators of education who have been trained under our ad hoc system in the large areas set up by the Act of 1918. From all these sources there will emerge, I am confident, the right direction of the training of the children in that most important part of their school life, the years from 12 to 15.

I come to the question of finance. What I have to say in reply to the numerous questions with which the Noble Lady plied me is that the Scottish education authorities as a whole will receive eleven-eightieths of the corresponding English grant. I will never submit to see Scotland dragged at the heels of England or any other country. As stated in the financial memorandum issued in connection with the English Bill, if the English grant is £3,900,000, the Scottish grant will be about £500,000. The English grant is, as stated in that Memorandum, based upon the expenditure on extra teaching staff, accommodation and maintenance of buildings in 1938 and on maintenance allowances for the first full year. Whatever the English grant may be in any year, Scotland will receive her proportionate share in accordance with the formula which I am satisfied has met and will continue to meet fairly her claims on the Exchequer for educational purposes.

Duchess of ATHOLL

Does not the right hon. Gentleman see that he has just been confirming the figures I gave? Does he not see that the £500,000, which he says is Scotland's eleven-eightieths of the English grant, is only a third of the expenditure which he said is going to be incurred. Is he satisfied that the Scottish education authorities should only get a third of their expenditure when the English authorities get two-thirds?


Whatever the English grant may be in one year, some of us will do our best to see that Scotland gets her proportionate share according to the formula. As I have already stated, it is very difficult to secure at the moment even an approximate figure, owing to the various ways in which reorganisation may work out in actual practice. I think that last sentence very fully answers the Noble Lady's question.

Duchess of ATHOLL

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer about, the 2,000 teachers—at what stage it that they will be required?


These are average figures for the first few complete years. In a matter of this sort, estimates must necessarily be approximate. Very much will depend on the form that reorganisation will take in the various educational areas and parts of such areas. We have here a question to which the general voice of educational opinion has given only one answer for many years, namely, that the school age should he raised. It is a matter on which most hon. Members opposite have no doubt whatever when the education of their own 14 year olds is in question. It is an overdue pledge of all parties. Can we not agree that, as only practical difficulties stand in the way, it should at once be tackled with good will by the education authorities, old and new, by the teachers, by the experienced central and local officials? Even if things are not in perfect shape next April, does that matter in the large view of this great reform? The task will be in hand. If I know Scotland and Scottish administrators, it will not be long before the new arrangements are shaped to a form which cannot fail to produce results of great, and lasting benefit to the youth of Scotland and enable the youth of Scotland d to receive the training which will enable them to maintain the prestige which the Scottish nation has hitherto enjoyed.