Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £4,497,422, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931, for Public Education in Scotland, and for the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, including sundry Grants in Aid."—[NOTE.—£2,750,000 has been voted on account.]
Mr. W. ADAMSON
In a discussion on the Estimate for Scottish education, I may begin by directing the attention of the Committee to one special feature of our education finance. The total sum asked for is nearly £8,000,000, but over £7,750,000 of this sum, Grant-in-Aid is determined automatically by the 11/80ths formula prescribed by the Act of 1918. That is to say, the sum is calculated at 11/80ths of the corresponding English Estimate, subsequent to certain adjustments of a very minor character. On the remaining quarter of a million, there is an increase of only about £4,000 over the corresponding figure for 1929. In this residual part of the Estimate, the expenditure is almost entirely for staff, mainly for small annual increments in the scale of existing officers. If hon. Members will look at the figures, they will see that the total increase in the staff is only four, a very modest figure when we consider the additions to the work of the Department consequent upon the Local Government Act of 1929, and the attention which has been given to the problem of raising the school age. The increase in the Grant-in-Aid amounts to a little over £1,000,000, but I must point out that £586,000 of this sum is not a real increase; it is due to a change in book-keeping, so to speak. Up to this year, this sum was paid from the local taxation account into the education account. It is now on the Vote, and the change marks the end of the historic system of assigned revenues. The real increase in the Grant-in-Aid is less than half a million pounds.
The abolition of the assigned revenues was brought about by the Local Government (Scotland) Act of 1929, and this gives me an opportunity of referring briefly to the great changes in local administration of education made by that Act. On the 15th May this year the ad hoc system disappeared in Scotland, 28 years after the corresponding change was made in England and 58 years after thebeginning of that system in Scotland itself. We have reached the end of an epoch, marked at the beginning by Lord Young's Act of 1872 and at the end by the Act brought in by the late Secretary of State for Scotland. Hon. Members will be aware that my colleagues and I were strongly opposed to that change, but it is my duty to carry it into effect, and I 1024 think I may say that with the good will and energy of members and officials of local bodies we have made the change over as smooth as possible. The new authorities are now settling down to their work. They have set up their education committees, and their school management committees and formulated their administrative schemes, and the work of the schools is going on as before.
I will now pass to more purely educational matters. Within the last few weeks the hon. Member for Kincardine (Mr. Scott) has put at least 24 questions to me relating to the work of the Education Department. Arising from these it may be useful if, within the larger scope of the present Vote, I try to explain certain of the principles which have guided the Department for many years. I choose three outstanding points raised in these questions. First, I noticed with surprise the hon. Member's desire for more examinations. Surely the general feeling among well-informed critics nowadays is that the less we have in the way of rigorous, formal, external examinations the better. Examinations are perhaps a necessary evil, useful for certain limited purposes, but we must closely scrutinise the claims of each to continued existence. Any proposal to add to their number is surely to be regarded at least with a certain amount of suspicion. I hope we have progressed beyond the days of Victorian Codes and payment by results, and have reached a less mechanical conception of the way to assess our educational work.
In the second place, I have been asked for statistics and more statistics, so as to reveal what the hon. Member called the "real results of education." Can the real results of education be verified by statistics? Personally, I gravely doubt it. They are very useful within limits, but they must never occupy more than a subsidiary place in any attempt to put a value on results. They appeal, no doubt, to the bureaucratic mind, which likes tidy columns and balancing totals. But surely we judge by other things as well. In both these demands, for more examinations and more statistics, there lies a profound fallacy. The material conditions under which teachers do their work—salaries, the size of classes, attendance, buildings—can be described in figures, but the essence of education is a thing of the spirit. You 1025 cannot reduce it to neat and manageable percentages, and if I am told that the intelligence, behaviour and manners and health of the present generation of young people are worse as a consequence of our school system, frankly I do not believe it. Nor will any disinterested observer of our social system who takes any rains to find out what is really being done in the schools day by day.
There are the views expressed by the Salvesen Committee, a very representative body which so recently as 1928 examined the relations of our Scottish education to industry:Most of the witnesses representing trades and industry have little or no fault to find with the character of the boys and girls leaving primary schools for employment. Dundee employers, for example, say that immense progress has been made in the building up of character between the ages of five and 14 years, and this view is supported by other witnesses. ….As regards physique there is evidence of improvement during recent years, due to periodical medical examinations, the inclusion of physical drill and organised games in the curriculum, and the establishment of clinics. No witness would suggest that the physique of children leaving school at the present time has deteriorated….The general level of intelligence of boys and girls from the primary schools is said to be high….It will be seen from this outline of the evidence of the representatives of trade and industry, that the average Scottish employer would probably state that he is fairly content with the primary school system as it stands and does not demand any radical alteration….The Committee also makes a number of specific recommendations for improvement, but I find in their report nothing to contradict the belief that Scottish education is in a thoroughly healthy and progressive condition.
My third point is the place and value of practical work. I have been asked why I do not reduce manual occupations in the schools so as to give more time to reading, writing and arithmetic. Such a step, I am sure, would be condemned by those who have given most attention to educational problems. We are continually being told by the students of education that what is wanted is more practical instruction, not less, that such instruction engages the interest and develops the mind of many children who have little aptitude for book work, that it should find a place in the curriculum 1026 even of the normal and bookish child. I agree with these views. Let me give one illustration. Is arithmetic to be taught only by doing theoretical sums on paper? If a boy is taught wood work properly he must necessarily do arithmetic as part of the work, and it is an arithmetic which has a real appeal to him, for he sees its value in the constructive work that he is doing. I think it will be a very long time before we need become apprehensive that too much practical work is being done in our schools. The tradition of Scotland is too academic for that.
I now pass to a few significant figures, and in doing so I am not forgetting what I have already said about statistics. The number of scholars on the registers of the schools is 819,000, a figure lower than any during the last 10 years except 1925, and 50,000 lower than the 1920 figure. We all know the causes of this. On the other hand, the number of teachers, 27,200, is higher than it has ever been, and is now 2,500 in excess of the 1920 figure. In other words, scholars have gone down by 6 per cent. and teachers have gone up by 10 per cent. in the 10 years' period. I do not think we can criticise this contrary movement. In the big towns classes are still large—very large compared with the standard adopted in private schools. Only the cost would make anyone hesitate to carry further the reduction decided on by myself in 1924 and carried into effect by my right hon. Friend in 1928; but we have to remember that teachers mean salaries and pensions, and that both those items account for over £8,000,000 of the total of £12,000,000 expended annually on public education in Scotland by our local authorities. In the planning of schools there has been great activity. During the year 1929 loans for new buildings, sites and extensions, to the extent of over £1,000,000, were sanctioned. During the first six months of this year the corresponding figure is £970,000 and the average for the previous 10 years was less than £500,000. These are remarkable figures and, I think, they speak for themselves.
No doubt I shall be expected to say something about the raising of the school age, but there is very little to say that has not been said before on this question. Hon. Members will recall that this sub 1027 ject was very fully discussed on the Motion for Adjournment before the Easter Recess. To what I said then may add that I have circularised the new authorities asking them for more precise estimates and impressing upon them the need for carrying on the preparations of their predecessors. I have, in particular, pointed out to them that in framing their estimates it is desirable to distinguish, as far as possible, between what is the direct result of the raising of the school age and what, in any case, would be necessary or desirable for other reasons. I admit that it is very difficult to draw the line especially where, as in so many cases, general schemes of reorganisation are involved. In considering and comparing estimates we must bear this difficulty in mind.
I have also, quite recently, met a representative gathering of the new authorities and have discussed with them the questions of buildings, of teachers and of maintenance allowances. My general impression from this discussion was that the new authorities are as zealous for the cause of progressive education as were the old authorities. In this connection I may just add an interesting figure that out of 1,070 members on the new education committees, 448 were members of the old education authorities. The necessary Order under the Education (Scotland) Act, 1918, for raising the school age is ready and when the English Bill has become an Act I shall sign it. In Scotland, as in England, the question of maintenance allowances will have to be dealt with by legislation. For Scotland I wish also to narrow or, it may be to abolish altogether the power which education authorities have to grant exemptions from the obligation to attend school at certain ages. All these matters are engaging my close attention and I do not think I need go into them at such great length as I did just before the Easter Recess when the Noble Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl) and I, had an opportunity of discussing Scottish educational matters very fully.
I cannot close, however, without acknowledging the interest which the Noble Lady has taken in my educational thoughts and doings. I gather 1028 that she is concerned in the main about two things, first, the adequacy of the preparations for next April, and, second, the financial aid which the Scottish authorities will receive. As to the former, no reasonable person expects that a complete and perfect organisation of post-primary education can spring into being on 1st April next. There must be a gradual development of the new system when the conditions for it are firmly set, but I do not agree that we must, therefore, give notice extending to a period of years after the Act has been passed or the order has been made. As I have said before, the best way to get a thing done is to fix a definite and not too distant date.
The intention to raise the school age in Scotland has been on the Statute Book for over 10 years, and the date which we have fixed was announced two years in advance. I would recall again the facts that the 1872 Act came into operation immediately after it was passed and the 1901 Act came into operation only lout months after it was passed. The former Act introduced compulsory education for the whole child population between the ages of five and 13, and the second raised the school-leaving age lay one year—surely, changes as great as that which it is sought to make on the present occasion. During the past year local authorities have done a great deal of work in the preparation of plans. The figures given earlier are proof of that fact. If the authorities have not actually put stone to the ground as much as I would have liked, owing to causes of which we are all aware, we must just make the best of it. But that does not justify any further postponement of a reform which has long been accepted as desirable and even urgently desirable. We shall have set the conditions for the new work, and I am confident that, with the good will of local administrators, it will soon be carried to a stage at which it will be one of the most valuable elements in our system of education.
As to the financial side, the Scottish authorities will receive a contribution from the Exchequer fixed on the 11/80ths principle. Scotland will receive her share of whatever is given in respect of English expenditure. I must point out once more that there is very great difficulty in distinguishing that part of the cost of 1029 schemes of reorganisation which is due to the raising of the school age from that which is due to other causes. But the English grant will be paid in respect of the total expenditure of the authorities. It will not be paid in two parts, one for the raising of the school age and one for the other causes of expenditure, nor will the Scottish grants be so divided, so that for the purposes of our grants it does not greatly matter whether the line demarcating those estimates is drawn accurately or not. The total English expenditure will determine our grant, and I have no reason to think that the two countries will not keep step in this matter. It will be well, therefore, to await the actual outturn of the two expenditures before we think of questioning the 11/80ths principle, which has operated in such a simple, effective, and equitable manner for so many years. One could have taken more time and touched more subjects on such an interesting question as this, but there are others who want to speak, and for the time being I have touched as many points as I want, to do. I therefore have much pleasure in moving the Estimate which you have just read from the Chair.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I am sure the Committee has listened with great interest to the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, and I think it is clear that in what he said about practical instruction he has the sympathy of many Members of the Committee beside myself. But in what he has said about the raising of the school leaving age and in particular about the attitude in which I approach this subject, he has once more made me feel that he is not facing the realities of the situation, and that he does not realise the grounds by any means fully on which we, on these benches, say that it is premature to act now; and I hope he will forgive me if I devote my speech mainly to that question.
It is clear that under any circumstances the raising of the school age is a question of cardinal importance for any country at any moment. To prolong by a year the school life of every child of school age in the country must always be a very momentous step, but I claim that it is a step of special moment and one that requires special consideration in regard to Scotland, because it is a step 1030 which cuts right into and, I say unhesitatingly, intensifies one of Scotland's biggest educational problems—the education of the adolescent. The right hon. Gentleman told us that he felt that more practical instruction was needed, and in saying so he referred to the demand of the hon. Member for Kincardine (Mr. Scott) for more uniform and rigorous examination of children at the age of 12.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I am very sorry if I have misinterpreted the hon. Gentleman, but I leave him to explain what was in his mind when he put that series of interesting questions to the right hon. Gentleman. Personally, I am very glad he put those questions, because I think they focus attention on a very important point, and strengthen a position which I personally hope to maintain in the matter. This question of practical instruction is not merely a modern question, or a temporary or passing question. It is something that seems to me to arise out of Scotland's whole educational history. As I look back on the centuries of the history of Scottish education, it seems quite clear that a distinctive feature of that education has been the fact that for so long we have had universities, well distributed at different centres in our country, accessible to students of small means; and leading up towards those universities, we have had a widespread system of secondary schools, aided by grants from public funds.
Therefore, the special pride of Scottish education is that for so long we have had a more open and a wider avenue of approach to university education than has been the case in some other countries, notably England; we are all proud of it, and we recognise it as a distinctive quality of Scottish education. But qualities are apt to have their defects, and in the case of Scottish education the defect of that great quality of the avenue for the poorer children to the university has been that the needs of the university student have too much dominated our secondary schools and our education in general. Secondary schools 1031 are always apt to be dominated by the university, but I venture to say that in Scotland there has been more than a usual measure of that domination.
The eyes of school boards and education authorities have been so fixed on the child of literary ability, who was obviously able to profit by secondary and university education, that there has not been enough thought given to the best means of developing the children of less literary types of ability, but possibly with gifts of equal use to the community, if they could be developed. Surely variety of capacity, variety of taste and individuality, is one of the fundamental facts in human nature. It seems to me one of the glories of human nature that there is this variety. After all, we daily marvel at the variety in the animal creation and in the plant creation, and surely the variety in the human creation is not less wonderful. But probably in all countries, though I think rather specially in Scotland, we have been so anxious to do our best for the children of one particular type of ability that we have been a little slow to recognise the great variety of ability that there is in children, and I think that in that field it is established now by pyschology that variety of type, variety of capacity, begins to show itself at the adolescent stage in a way in which it does not show itself in the earlier school years.
Therefore, while you may educate children of different types of ability together, say, up to 11 or 12 years, after that age, if you are to do them justice and really help them to bring out what is in them, you have to have varied types of courses side by side in each centre. What Scottish Members know as the system of advanced divisions, introduced in 1923, was a recognition of that fundamental principle. It was intended to offer varying courses with a common core of the main class subjects, but with a fringe that may vary from a foreign language with higher mathematics at one end, to some form of practical instruction, indoor or outdoor, for boys and girls, at the other. It is very interesting to remember that that principle was the main point of what is known as the 1032 Hadow report, the report of the Board of Education's Consultative Committee in 1926, which therefore recommended the reorganisation of the education of the senior children which my right hon. Friend the late President of the Board of Education had already begun to carry through.
The report issued by the right hon. Gentleman's Department tells us that in Scotland advanced divisions are extending. I do not think that they are extending very fast, but they are extending. The reports of His Majesty's Inspectors and of the Department alike tell us that there is still too little practical instruction in the advanced divisions; indeed the right hon. Gentleman has told us so to-day. We are further told that there is too little practical instruction in the secondary schools. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman in what he says, and I want to see practical instruction a part of the instruction of every child, indeed of every young person who is going from a secondary school to a university, because education is not complete unless there is some development of the hand as well as of the head. Let us also be quite clear that, when we are developing the hands of children who are perhaps rather slow in the first instance with their books, we are probably developing their brains as well. Through some form of practical instruction, the child may be given a real interest in his work; he will gain a new confidence, and he may be sent back with fresh heart and hope to the lessons in which he was making little headway before. Of course, the provision of practical instruction means special equipment, expensive and bulky equipment, which needs special premises and extra classrooms; therefore, widespread development of practical instruction means centralisation, and more teachers able to teach practical subjects.
The fact that we have not more practical instruction in our schools seems to be one reason why there are not enough children taking advantage of the two years' advanced divisions. The way is barred by an examination which, His Majesty's chief inspectors state, is apt to be of too scholastic a character, and the child who ought to get on to practical instruction in some advanced division finds his way barred because he is not good enough 1033 at his bookwork. In England a system has been adopted of making a "clean cut at eleven plus, whereby the child gets moved up automatically at that age, examination or no examination, and thereby gets the chance of practical instruction which very often brings him on in his bookwork too. We should not lose sight of the fact, that if a child's lessons have been of a kind that he could not master, or which did not arouse any interest in him, his education has largely failed. It may have taught him discipline and manners and some mechanical routine; but, after all, the main thing at which we must aim in education is that interest should be aroused and that the pupil should leave his school or college with a thirst for more. Unless his education has been of the type best fitted to develop him, he probably leaves school thankful to see the last of it, and possibly with a distaste for learning. It is obviously the most urgent need of Scottish education to give the nonliterary child a chance of development, in order that he may gain confidence, that his interest may be aroused, and that he may be encouraged to continue studies of some kind after he leaves school. To put the matter in a sentence, the need of Scottish education at the present is for education of a particular type and of a particular quality in order to give more variety of opportunity in school. What are the Government doing? They are not concerning themselves in the first instance about the type of education which the children are getting, or whether there is any practical instruction in school or not. I am glad to think that the right hon. Gentleman has given practical instruction his blessing, but the policy which he is pursuing is a policy of putting quantity before quality. The raising of the school age means that every child from next spring has to spend a year more in school, whether the education is the type that is most suitable for the child or not. One of the reports of His Majesty's senior inspectors indeed suggests what seems to me obvious, that the raising of the school age may throw back this greater differentiation which we agree is so necessary. It is pointed out in this report that more practical instruction means more centralisation, 1034 and that, if to the children of the present age range are added the children up to 15, the central schools to which the children must go if they are to get practical instruction, will be swamped. The "clean cut" at 12 to enable the child to go on without a set examination and after the age of 12 to get the kind of education necessary, will probably be deferred by the raising of the age. If the central schools are swamped as is suggested in this report, it means crowded classes, and that means less chances of good teaching both to the children of the new age and the children of a younger age. It will make it impossible to divide the pupils up into different classes, as they must be if you want to have varying instruction; you may be keeping the children a year longer at what they dislike, and thereby you will risk sending them away more than ever disheartened and discouraged. Even supposing that the authorities will have their central school buildings planned and ready by the time stated, what about the practical teachers? It is obvious from the report issued by the right hon. Gentleman's Department that there are not enough teachers of practical subjects even now. The report says quite clearly that the number of practical teachers must be increased.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. SULLIVAN
There is no difficulty about the increasing the number of teachers or the building of new schools.
Duchess of ATHOLL
If the hon. Gentleman will be kind enough to listen, he will see that so far the right hon. Gentleman has not given any indication of how he is going to increase the number. The right hon. Gentleman told me, in reply to a question on 3rd April, that he thought he would require some 2,000 more teachers when the school age was raised. I could never prevail on him to say at what particular date he would require that number. The President of the Board of Education has tried to be more explicit in regard to his needs, but I have never succeeded in drawing from the right hon. Gentleman anything but that figure of 2,000 at same unspecified date. He said, however, that more than a half of those additional teachers would be class teachers. Therefore, we may infer that something approaching 1,000 will have to be teachers of practical 1035 subjects. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the average number of teachers of practical subjects who completed training in the last three years was not more than 271, and I have not been able to get him to give me any indication of any step he has taken to bring about any material increase in the number of practical teachers to be trained, except that, when I pressed him about the need for more teachers of commercial subjects, he told me that some 38 teachers had entered to be trained for commercial subjects under the authorities of Glasgow and Aberdeen. Providing 38 teachers of commercial subjects does not carry us very far towards the additional 1,000 required, and the Committee would be glad to hear what steps have been taken to train the 1,000 additional teachers of practical subjects which we are told will be necessary.
Physical training is another subject of very great importance. In several places in these reports there are statements to the effect that not enough physical training is given in the schools, that it is only taken on two or three days a week, whereas the inspector feels that it should be given every day. When I was a member of an education authority I understood that it was the Department's rule that physical training must be given daily in Secondary Schools. If physical training is not being given as often as inspectors think necessary, that points to a shortage of teachers. We asked the right hon. Gentleman how many teachers of physical training, on an average, complete their course in a year, and the answer given was 35. In the event of the raising of the school-leaving age, Glasgow alone will require 45 additional teachers of physical training. That is 10 more than the whole output of our physical training college in a normal year, and no intimation has been given to us that there is to be any increase of accommodation or of staff for training more teachers.
Then the reports state that it is difficult for graduate teachers to find time to gain instruction in physical training, and that means that class teachers who will be competent to give this instruction are likely to be fewer in the future than in the past, as we are coming to depend more and more on graduate teachers in 1036 our primary schools. Again, the fact that there is so little instruction in practical subjects in secondary schools means that the young people who go up from those schools to the training colleges may have, in some cases, too academic an outlook; they take very few practical subjects in their leaving certificate. From whatever angle one approaches this subject one sees an insufficiency of teachers of practical subjects and teachers exclusively of physical instruction, and, as matters are proceeding, that shortage is likely to grow.
I will close what I have to say with regard to teachers by pointing out that though there are more men teachers going into training now than formerly, a fact which I am sure we all welcome, the number of women teachers is disproportionate to the number of men. In saying this I have no wish to belittle the services of women teachers, because women should always be the teachers of young children as well as of the older girls; but the question is whether we can expect that the boys who will be kept in school for an additional year will have men as teachers. It is frequently difficult for a woman, perhaps a young woman, to deal with boys of 12 and 13, and boys of 14, Who possibly may be kept at school against their will, not being interested in their work, will probably be more difficult still to handle. From the point of view, therefore, of the provision of men teachers, of teachers of practical instruction and physical training, the right hon. Gentleman is pressing on towards an important step in a very unprepared state.
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the Act of 1872, which set up school boards, and under which a great many schools were built, and also to the year 1901, when the school age was extended, but is it not the case that on both those occasions a large number of uncertificated teachers were engaged? Is he prepared to have unqualified teachers coming into the profession? Uncertificated teachers have been gradually eliminated in recent times. It seems to me that Scottish education suffered for many years as a result of the steps taken in 1872 and 1901—more especially in 1872—without sufficient preparation. To-day we are not satisfied to have uncertificated teachers in our schools, and quite obviously this problem needs more thought and preparation 1037 than either the Department or the Government have given to it. I should not have touched on the question of exemptions if the right hon. Gentleman had not done so, because I imagine that legislation may be necessary if, as he suggested, he isgoing to change the powers of local authorities. According to a statement in the public Press, the right hon. Gentleman told a meeting of local authorities that in no country in Europe were children exempted for agricultural work below the age of 14—or words to that effect. Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that in Denmark, which is often held up to us as an example both in agriculture and in education, it is a recognised part of the system that children from about the age of 10 are exempted for so many days—sometimes for so many weeks—in a year, in order to help their parents to work their farms? It is a complete mistake to suppose that Denmark has a whole-time system of primary education, as we understand it: and I believe the right hon. Gentleman would find it very difficult to produce an instance of any country in which so high a standard of school attendance is required as in the case of this country.
On the question of finance, I wish to ask whether the £1,500,000 which the right hon. Gentleman has told us will be the cost of raising the school age in Scotland will include the cost of reorganisation. I put that question because the figures given for England and Wales in the Financial Memorandum to the English Bill do not include the cost of reorganisation, but are merely the cost of raising the age. From a reply given to me by the President of the Board of Education, it appears that the combined additional cost of raising the school age and of reorganisation will by 1933 be something like £7,000,000 in England and Wales, exclusive of the cost of the maintenance allowances, which will raise it another £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. That is to say, the cost of raising the school age, plus reorganisation and maintenance allowances, in England and Wales by 1933, is likely to be £10,000,000 or £11,000,000 additional, instead of £5,500,000 as stated in the Financial Memorandum to the English Bill. If that is so, Scotland will get eleven-eightieths of the bigger sum, but I am doubtful whether even this will 1038 equal the two-thirds grant to be given to the English authorities. The point, however, that I wish to make is that if educational expenditure is so greatly increased in both England and Scotland as a result of the raising of the school age it follows that for many years to come it will be very difficult to get sufficient money to make educational advances in other directions.
Take as an example the question of the health of the pre-school child. In the past, Scotland has not devoted much attention to this, and nursery classes and nursery schools are in their early stages in Scotland. The chief medical officer of the Board of Education has frequently pointed out the large number of children entering school with physical defects and has stressed the importance of doing something more for these children through nursery schools, day nurseries and an extended child welfare service. We have to remember that in Scotland infant mortality is higher than in England, and therefore the probability is that the childrenin Scotland need more attention than in England. It seems to me inevitable that the great cost of raising the school age will keep back developments which otherwise might take place, affecting the health of the pre-school child. Improvement in the health of children between the ages of 1 year and 5 years is of greater importance to the nation as a whole than the additional year of school life for all.
That being so and taking into consideration the need for practical teachers, and the question of finance being so very serious, can we be surprised at the opposition of the new education authorities to the proposals put forward by the Government. Even the report of the Scottish Education Department recognises how much redistribution of school population will be necessitated by the raising of the school age. It may well be that local authorities hesitate, because they know that if the school age be raised before 1935 they will require to provide more accommodation than will be needed after that date, and they will get no assistance under the grant system for doing so. Therefore, it is not surprising if local authorities seem to make very little progress. Perthshire and Moray-shire have passed resolutions against the raising of the age, and in Dundee new buildings are being held up until the Eng 1039 lish Bill passes. That Means- that for several months nothing will be done. Glasgow is enquiring into the extra accommodation that will be necessary if the school age is raised. That merely means that the officials have been instructed to prepare another elaborate report.
Edinburgh is delaying consideration of this problem until it receives a further report as to finance, and the additional buildings that will be required. Roxburgh is obtaining further information before taking any definite step, and the attitude of other counties on this question is much to the same effect as Roxburgh. They are all obtaining further information, and even the Secretary of State for Scotland did not go further than to ask the authorities to let him know the cost that would be involved after the school age has been raised. Does that look as if the education authorities were making the necessary preparations? [Interruption.] If the hon. Member who interrupts me inquires into this matter, he will find that the Scottish authorities do not wish to commit themselves to any extra expenditure which can be avoided until the English Education Bill has been passed. What the Government have proposed has already been described as a leap in the dark, but it seems to me that it may well be a leap into a morass. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will face the situation, and not encourage the Scottish education authorities to take a leap which, it seems to me, will throw education back in regard to the essentials which it needs most, instead of helping it.
There is one other subject I would like to mention. I do not think that enough assistance is being given to children in the matter of choice of occupation. In England and Wales in each of the 318 areas there is a choice of employment or juvenile advisory committee which includes representatives of the education committees, the Employment Exchanges, the employers and the teachers, and they advise children as to the occupations for which they seem to be most suited. In Scotland, according to the right hon. Gentleman's report, there are committees of this kind in only 15 of our educational areas. Speaking as one who, at least, spends the holidays in a rural district of Scotland, I never see or hear anything of any machinery for 1040 giving guidance to young people, and I very often find parents very much in the dark, and needing help and advice. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he does not think it would be possible for school management committees in rural areas to form the nucleus of committees which might be very helpful to parents and young people? I do not think the school management committees as they are constituted would be sufficient, but if they could co-opt representatives of employers and employed in local industries, they might be quite useful bodies. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he would confer with his colleague the Minister of Labour upon this question? I am sure that there are many parents who are very concerned when their children are leaving school as to the best occupations for them to enter. In the rural areas they have very few means of getting information, and I think that something of that kind would be really very useful, might avoid rather long, weary waits for young people, and sometimes prevent them from entering into occupations which they do not find congenial.
§ Mr. COWAN
In common with other hon. Members, I listened with great interest and a very large share of satisfaction to the speech of the Secretary of State. He has many departments of Scottish activities for which he is responsible, but I am sure there is no one department among them, the success of which is nearer to his heart than education. I listened, also, with very great interest to the contribution made by the Noble Lady who has just spoken, whose knowledge of Scottish education is reinforced and her outlook widened by her experience of English administration. I think it was inevitable that the right hon. Gentleman should begin his speech by a reference to my hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine (Mr. Scott). The hon. Member has been the subject of much interest and admiration for the pertinacity with which he has sought information, with varying degrees of success, from the Education Department. I am not going to try to explain, even if understand it exactly, my hon. Friend's attitude towards examinations. I am perfectly certain he has no desire to go back to the old rigid system of payment 1041 by results. His scheme, I take it, is rather a more moderate one. It is that there should be at the age of 12 something in the nature of a uniform test for all Children in Scotland to discover whether or not they are able to advance to something higher of one sort or another.
Things have advanced very considerably since my hon. Friend and many others of us were at school. The old-fashioned examination has fallen into very great disrepute. The scientist and psychologist have been at work and now, instead of putting down a few questions on a few subjects, we really try to get at the mentality of the child and the intellectual force which animates it. I am sure my hon. Friend has read with great interest of such things as intellectual quotas, though I am not quite sure where he and I would stand if the same process were applied to us. But, really, this question of examinations is one that goes very deep into all education. It is not a matter on which we can altogether dogmatise. I know not a few educationists of high repute do attach value to examinations such as my hon. Friend referred to. At the same time, the real test is not to be found in anything of the mechanical nature which he suggests, because examinations of a set type are mechanical and haphazard at the same time. We must go further than that, and I am glad to say that in Scotland we are approaching the question from quite a different standpoint.
As I mentioned in Committee last year, on the occasion of the discussion of the Estimates, there has been formed in Scotland a representative research committee. On that committee we have got members selected from education authorities, education associations, universities, training colleges and other sources. That body is doing its very best to discover what should be the real nature of the test applied to children, to see whether or not they are able to take advantage of such further education as may be offered to them. That body is not content simply with determining something with regard to examinations of that sort. It goes further, and is attempting to solve the problem referred to by the Secretary of State and by the Noble Lady. It would, indeed, be a misfortune if children 1042 were kept at school for a year longer doing things in which they had no interest, but there is no reason why that should be. It is the duty of the Education Department, and of this House and of everyone who has any connection whatever with education, to see that the children do get proper education at school. It is to that duty that every educationist of any real standing is devoting himself at this present time. I have not the least doubt that when the age is raised, it will be possible to take the fullest advantage of it, because there will be curricula devised to meet the varying abilities of these children.
This is not the occasion to enter upon a purely pedagogic discussion. I repeat that I believe the next great advance in Scottish education will be along the physical side, accomplished partly by practical work in the schools, but more by development of the medical services and the provision of playing fields where children can give vent to their natural activities. I listened with particular interest to what was said about the milk experiment in Lanarkshire, and I hope full advantage will be taken of any theories which may be found to be well grounded as a result of that experiment. There was another part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech to which I listened with somewhat mingled feelings. I was at one time quite proud to know that in the Education (Scotland) Act, 1918, there was a Clause which said that the Secretary for Scotland, by Order in Council, could raise the age to 15 at any time he pleased. That was at one time a matter of pride to me. I happened to be, as a member of the public, one of the spectators upstairs while the Bill was going through Committee. I was also present in the Gallery in this House when it received its Third Reading, and it seemed to open a new era as far as Scottish education was concerned. But 12 years have passed, and nothing has been done, and another 12 years may pass if a certain condition is not fulfilled, namely, that England takes this step first. I do not know that it is a matter of any particular pride for Scotland that she should have the right to do this simply by the fiat of the Secretary of State for Scotland, if that fiat cannot be exercised until England has taken the first step.
§ Mr. COWAN
I am not quite able to recognise that humble position for Scotland—for it may be taken from the Act and from the right hon. Gentleman that Scotland is in a humble position, since she cannot or will not exercise that power of raising the age until the age has been raised in England. I put the question to the Under-Secretary when we were discussing this matter before, and he stated specifically that the age could not and would not be raised in Scotland until it had been raised in England. Where is the pride of being given the power to do a thing which you dare not do?
I now come to the point raised by the hon. Member opposite, when he said that it was the financial arrangement. That is quite true, but the right hon. Gentleman said he hoped that nothing would disturb the 11/80ths arrangement, because it was probably a good arrangement for Scotland, and it had worked well. Whether that is a proper financial nexus between the two countries or not, the fact that we are shackled to England by this 11/80ths arrangement throttles all advance in Scotland. I cannot enter into that now, because it would involve legislation, but the fact that it is so rather destroys my satisfaction with the right hon. Gentleman's treatment of this question.
I was somewhat surprised that one other point was not mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. He gave us a very hypothetical account of the raising of the age in Scotland. He pointed out that, although there were difficulties, those difficulties could be overcome. I quite agree with him, and I should like him to repeat here and now, in order to dispel some of the fears that have been aroused in Scotland, that it is the absolute determination of this Government to raise the school age before the end of the school year. That statement has been made on more than one occasion. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that he has had interviews, conversations, and discussions with the members of local education authorities. Those are all to the good, but, at the same time, these pronouncements from the Government and from the Secretary of State 1044 for Scotland have brought a very heavy responsibility upon the right hon. Gentleman.
I repeat that the pronouncements made by the Government, the pronouncements made with regard to Scotland by the right hon. Gentleman, the conversations that he has had with representatives of local education committees and others, and the circulars that have been issued under his authority, have brought about a serious state of affairs, for which he and others in the Government must take the responsibility. The point is that at present there are something like 1,000 teachers who are unemployed, and not likely to be employed, in Scotland. That, I understand, is partly due to the fact that, trusting to the statement that the age would be raised and additional teachers would be required, the training colleges have admitted a larger number than was required to meet the ordinary wastage year by year. At the present time, these authorities are in a difficulty. They would like to be ready for the raising of the age in 1931, but, at the same time, with the withdrawal of two Bills before them, they are wondering what is going to happen, and I say here and now that they are not justified in training one additional teacher until they have some certainty that these teachers will not be allowed to go on to the streets. Therefore, I say that the Government, as represented by the right hon. Gentleman, cannot rid themselves of the responsibility that there are now many teachers unemployed and likely to be unemployed, and very possibly the number will increase if the word of the Government is not carried out and the age raised with certainty before the end of this year.
While I have said these things, and have attributed responsibility to the right hon. Gentleman, he knows perfectly well that I am not attributing any special responsibility to, or finding fault with, himself personally. I am only saying here what has been said with regard to England—that the indecision of the Government on this matter has led to the raising of difficulties where no difficulties were necessary. We all regret that the Government, for reasons into which I cannot enter, but which I suppose were perfectly satisfactory to the Government, or, at least, were perfectly cogent 1045 in their view, had to withdraw the Bill, but I say that it will, if anything, put back the educational movement unless the Government are now determined to do it, and to do it without delay.
There is one other matter in regard to which I come to the right hon. Gentleman with rather a different tone, and that is, not to ask a favour for myself, but to ask somewhat generous consideration for others. I have noticed in the Press and elsewhere that the right hon. Gentleman has received deputations and representations on behalf of a very deserving class of teachers in Scotland. We are very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors for what has been done for some of the teachers who retired before 1929 on very inadequate pensions. Something has been done for a large number of them, but there are still others for whom nothing has been done. I have gathered from answers to questions in the House that the right hon. Gentleman has been giving this matter his serious consideration, and I would ask him whether his consideration has allowed him to arrive at any decision, and whether he could intimate that decision to the Committee. The plea is put forward on behalf of only a very small number, whose average age must be, I should think, something approaching 80, but, however that may be, I have been asked to inquire whether the consideration which the right hon. Gentleman promised has been given, and if he can tell the Committee what the decision was. I conclude by saying that I am quite sure that, under the guidance of the right hon. Gentleman himself, the officials of the Education Department, and the new authorities, Scotland has every reason to hope and believe that its educational future will be worthy of its past.
§ Mr. SULLIVAN
The latter part of the hon. Gentleman's speech impressed me. I was on a school board for longer years than I care to count, and in my time the teachers got no pensions at all. Another speech I want to follow up is that of the Noble Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl). I always take pleasure in listening to her speeches on education, but I wonder if she has had any experience outside Perthshire, because she advocates things and tells the Government to do things 1046 that we have had in operation for years, and she seems to know nothing whatever about it. We have had most of the things she has been advocating to-day working for years. She wants to enlarge her mind and look beyond that area. I assume from her speech that she is willing to increase the number of years during which the child goes to school, but she wants to begin at two or three to make certain of them beginning work at twelve. If she went to Scotland and made that part of her speech that she has made here, she would get a great deal of criticism from members of local authorities, because I have heard them talking very strongly about turning the schools into nurseries. It is not my opinion, but I have had to meet criticism of that kind.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I said that I wanted to use the money either in an extension of child welfare or day nurseries.
§ Mr. SULLIVAN
I am glad the Noble Lady has made that explanation, because I do not want to misrepresent her. If she will read the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow, it may help her. At any rate, she wants to do something for pre-school children. If we spend the public health money on the child, what is the difference between that and spending the education fund on looking after the child? The big thing is that the child is to be taken care of. The difficulties in raising the school age are three. The first is the scarcity of male teachers, the next is the scarcity of teachers for practical subjects, and the third is the scarcity of physical instructors. How would the Noble Lady meet arguments of that kind? The hon. Gentleman who spoke before me gave the figures of unemployed teachers for last year—874. We do not know how many are still available in addition to that. The Noble Lady seems to think that because fewer men are going into training—
Duchess of ATHOLL
On the contrary, I mentioned that rather more are being trained now than formerly, but I said that it was not enough.
§ Mr. SULLIVAN
I should much prefer if the Noble Lady would take some pride in her country. Scotland is a bigger place than Perthshire. We have nearly 1047 a thousand teachers unemployed. This scheme would provide work for them. She wants to say that nothing should be done because there are fewer men likely to go through ten years hence than now. We can let that period look after itself. I should like the Noble Lady to define what she means by practical instruction. The boys can get manual instruction and the girls domestic science at 12, but there is no provision made for their further education. They potter about a shop. The idea of raising the age is to give three years to complete the intermediate course, and it is possible to do that. It gives something for the child to work for.
Duchess of ATHOLL
The hon. Member has referred to Perthshire. That is not what happens there—that when a child has passed the qualifying stage it potters about a shop. They have considerably more advanced bookwork than before, but the Secretary of State wants them to have more practical instruction.
§ Mr. SULLIVAN
I have told the Noble Lady the system under a more advanced education authority than Perthshire. I do not want to be unkind, because I might say they are gathering potatoes in Perthshire, and I do not want to say that. There are various forms of manual instruction. If I were on the Front Bench, responsible for education, I should try to get them to teach the science of agriculture, because I believe in that direction lies the solution of most of our troubles. There is something that we do not seem to think about. I do not condemn it, but I would riather see the children continuing their education, and, if they did so until 15, we should be likely to see the standard of education raised. [Interruption.] I understand education. It is something in a school. But I did not think you sent boys to school to learn to be blacksmiths, miners, or steelworkers. They are none the worse for getting some manual training, but, if you turn their thoughts to some occupation after they leave school, where are they to get the work? The thing is absurd. Unless you develop channels in a different direction you are only going to put them on the streets earlier than you would otherwise do. I know exactly how much time it takes for a joiner to become a manual in 1048 structor. The test is very simple. I am sure that with the scarcity of work at present in the joinery trade, there would be no difficulty whatever in getting men qualified to teach boys to make boxes and to use a saw. I would like to go a little further than that. We think that there is no difficulty whatever in meeting the demand for practical instructors. It is no credit to any Government that we have not had a recognised place for training these persons, but, at any rate, it is possible to get them when they are required, because when we advertise for them we have plenty of applications. The year 1901 marked the last addition to the school life of the child. Hon. Members on the other side ought to be supporting us, trying to help us to extend the period of education and training. If I wanted to do something for unemployment I should select this question relating to the schools, because it is necessary to make additions to schools everywhere. I hope that we shall be building new schools in order to provide work. It is a much better way of spending money than the present method of spending money at the bureau and getting no return at all. We have no right to go back; we ought to be advancing. I would like this country to take the lead in education, and I hope that the Government will press forward with the raising of the school age and in addition, make provision for every child. Wherever there is an overcrowded school, the school should be dealt with. Wherever there are too many children in a class, the matter should be dealt with, for by so doing we shall not only be helping the child but raising the general standard of education.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Sir FREDERICK THOMSON
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland has told us that he and his colleagues were strongly opposed to the Local Government. Act of last year. Many of us remember the gloomy forebodings expressed by the right hon. Gentleman. After all that, it is indeed a great relief to take up the report of the Committee of the Council on Education in Scotland for the year 1929–30 which is signed by the right hon. Gentleman as Vice-President of the Committee of Council on Education in Scotland, and to find that in matters of greatest immediate importance from an educa 1049 tional point of view in Scotland he looks forward, as he tells us in the report to the great advantages which will be derived from the Act. One might deal with the question of the preschool child referred to by the Noble Lady. We know that the doctors tell us that a large number of children come into the schools in a condition of health which is not what we should like. The maternity and child welfare schemes cover only about one-third of the children in Scotland. There are provisions under the Act of 1919 for nursery schools for children between two and five whose mental and physical condition necessitates attention. These provisions have not been greatly used. There are excellent maternity and child welfare centres in Scottish cities, and some of these are supported or aided by local authorities under schemes prepared by the Department of Health. It is stated in the report of the committee of the Education Department:There is no matter that calls more urgently for more earnest and practical consideration than the provision of healthy conditions of development for children in the poorer quarters of crowded town areas before they come under the protection of the ordinary school service.And the right hon. Gentleman goes on:The step forward will be facilitated by the operation of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1929, under which the powers conferred on education authorities by the Act of 1918 and those possessed by local authorities under Statutes relating to Maternity and Child Welfare will … be vested in one authority, who will be responsible for all the schemes affecting the health, education, and well-being of the child from its birth to the end of its school life.I am glad, indeed, to find that the right hon. Gentleman is already appreciating the benefits which Scotland will gain from the Act which was passed last year. I will pass on to the question of physical education, which all will agree is a matter of the highest importance for Scotland, one which is regarded by the Scottish Education Department as of immediate importance, and about which all educational authorities in Scotland are unanimous. As regards physical training, we know that Scottish education of the olden times, while excellent from the intellectual point of view, neglected the physical 1050 side. One has seen in one's own lifetime a great change, especially in secondary schools, where they now lay the greatest stress upon physical training. I can remember when no physical training was carried out, and when it received no encouragement from school authorities. In reading the report of the last Education Authority of Aberdeen, one of the Divisions of which city I represent, I find that it was only in 1924 that, apart from the secondary schools, a ground was acquired for the other schools for use for organised games and sports during school hours. A further advance was made last year, when another field was obtained in which 300 children could at one time take part in various games. That is a great advance. I am glad to know that last year the Scottish Education Department sent round a circular to all education authorities asking them to examine what facilities for physical training and organised games were provided in their locality and how those facilities were being used, and to enter into communication with voluntary bodies carrying on work on these lines, to see that these facilities were used to the greatest possible extent. I find in the report that a great deal of interesting information was obtained in answer to that circular. The right hon. Gentleman says in regard to it:We propose shortly to pursue our inquiries further"—and he goes on:but as the playing fields service is one that will be directly affected—and, we hope, to material advantage—by the unification of authorities under the new Local Government (Scotland) Act, we have thought it advisable to defer further action until after that Act is in operation.It is obvious that this Act will be of benefit as regards physical training, because in the utilisation of parks, open spaces, playgrounds and swimming baths, it is of advantage that all these things should be under the control of one great authority.
Let me pass to another service, the unfortunate case of defective children. While our main effort must be to provide the best education, intellectual and physical, for the great mass of healthy children, we have to do what we can for those who come into life heavily handicapped. No one who has visited the schools in Scotland which look after de 1051 fective defective children, mental and physical, can fail to be impressed by the wonderful work done by the teachers in those schools. The success from the physical point of view has been very remarkable. The hunchback was once sadly common in Scotland, but to a great extent these ailments of the crippled child have been eliminated by the work done in schools such as these. The work as regards mentally defective ohildren has less capacity for success, because in many cases little can be done for those whose mental equipment is sadly defective.
The defective children used to suffer from the fact that the responsibility for their care was, under the old law, a divided one. The education authority was responsible for those children who were capable of receiving a certain amount of education. The children who were not educable, were under the charge of the parish council, and if any of these defective children were sent to an institution the District Board of Control came in. When a child was in one of these institutions, if it was an educable child, it was the duty of the education authority to provide for its maintenance, whereas if its father was in receipt of poor relief then its maintenance became the duty of the parish council. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is relieved that these complications have been removed by the recent Act. He says in the report:This division of functions, which is not conducive to the efficient treatment of the general problem of the mentally defective, will practically come to an end under the operation of the new Local Government (Scotland) Act.Therefore, it must be a great satisfaction to my right hon. Friend to have the benefit of the Act which his predecessor passed, after a great deal of Parliamentary toil and trouble. Another important question relates to the continuation classes. The Noble Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl) said that education was to be judged for its success or failure according as a boy or girl left school with a thirst for knowledge. It is gratifying to know that the numbers of those attending continuation classes has steadily increased, so that there is an increase of those leaving school with a thirst for knowledge. The number in Scotland last year was 159,000, an increase of 7,000 over 1052 the previous year. In 1923–24, the number was only 124,000. There has been an increase of 35,000 in seven years. New regulations for continuation classes were passed in 1925, which laid special stress upon general culture, the teaching of English and also, for the first time, physical training.
In the large cities, and I must refer again to the city which I represent, and which I know best, every effort is made to provide in these continuation classes for cultural education and technical instruction, to equip the pupils for various trades, and to fit them to be more efficient in the trades in which they are engaged. Instruction is given in every kind of trade and every branch of commerce when there is demand for it and there is training in domestic subjects for girls. One very important development in these continuation classes is that they are brought into close connection with industry by the new advisory committees, which are composed of representatives of employers and employés in the various industries. By this close contact with the continuation classes the advisory committees are able to give advice which is very useful. The Noble Lady spoke of the advanced divisions. In the large centres the advanced education is given in the intermediate schools. It has been found in my city most advantageous, and I think it is the case in other cities, that the continuation classes should be held in the intermediate schools. The pupils who have left the intermediate schools are able to return to their continuation classes in the evening and find themselves in the same environment and studying the same curriculum which was part of their life in the day school. In these ways education is most effectively promoted.
The steadily increasing numbers of those attending continuation classes is a matter for satisfaction. It shows that those who leave school are anxious to continue their education, in order to fit themselves better for the battle of life. Many of the young people who are engaged in industry are doing their best by technical instruction to make themselves more capable partners in the industrial work of the country. I think we can pay a warm tribute to those who are engaged in the educational work of Scotland in seeing that the boys and 1053 girls are turned out, as evidenced by the report of the Salvesen Committee, well fitted to carry on their work in the various spheres of trade and commerce. Therefore, while our country has difficult times to face we are doing our best in Scotland to enable the boys and girls of the generations as they come along adequately to fit themselves for the battle of life.
§ Mr. SCOTT
The Secretary of State took the unusual course of singling me out for special treatment when he submitted his Estimates to-day. I seem to have incurred the ire if not of himself of those behind him in the Scottish Education Department by having put, as he said, no fewer than 24 questions on education during the past two or three months. I should have thought that he would have welcomed anyone who would show sufficient interest in Scottish education to do that. Is he aware of the little interest that is taken in Scotland in education, and that when the elections for the education authorities took place only between 20 per cent. and 40 per cent. took the trouble to vote? The right hon. Gentleman ought to be grateful to me for having put these questions, because I have provided him with the text for his statement to-night. I think it would have been a very barren statement without the contribution with which my questions supplied him. If he means by what he said to warn me not to put any more questions, then let me tell him, here and now, that while I regret any personal trouble which I have caused himself or his staff by putting the questions, I make no apology for having put them; on the contrary, I intend to continue to exercise my right as a Member of Parliament to ask questions of him or of any other Minister of the Crown. I hold a brief for no one in putting these questions or in speaking here to-night, except that of any ordinary Member of Parliament whose interest is—and I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me in this—three-fold, first, there is the paramount consideration that the children of Scotland should receive the very best education that can be given to them; secondly, to see, in the national interest, not only that the children are well educated, but that the nation is receiving full value for all the money that is spent upon education. In the 1054 third place, that the teachers, in whose hands education really lies, get a fair deal, work under fair terms and conditions, and under a curriculum which will encourage them and give them the best return.
The right hon. Gentleman might be interested to know why it was that I put so many questions to him especially in regard to statistics. The initial reason was that for a number of years I have been more than annoyed by a certain table which I find at the end of the report and which contains, as I think, the vital figures with regard to education. There has been no reference to these figures to-night, nor to this particular table, but on studying it I found that a great many statistics were wanting and that it was exceptionally difficult to arrive at the hard facts which lie behind the figures. May I make my first request to the Secretary of State that in future reports he will deal drastically with this table and, if he cannot withdraw it altogether, that he will alter it. I compliment the inventor of this table. It is like a crossword puzzle, with divisions and subdivisions, sections and cross-sections, parentheses and brackets, until you get into a perfect maze of figures and are reduced to asking questions of the right hon. Gentleman. I would suggest that he should make it into two or three tables, and give in the body of the report the information which he has been good enough to give me in answer to my questions. If he feels constrained to adhere to this table, I hope he will put a few guide posts and marks in it, which will explain to the ordinary man this rather terrifying table.
One word with regard to the new authorities on education. Education in Scotland is falling into entirely new and untried hands. Except to the extent of the comparatively small number of those who were previously members of an education authority, the present committees are entirely untried. I should like to emphasise this point that, while they may be interested in questions of buildings and scholastic appointments, their real and constant and superlative aim should be the education of the children; that is to say, that they should personally consider the kind of education that is being given and the curriculum under which the teachers are working. It is in that way that the education com 1055 mittees may be able to breathe new life into education in Scotland. These new committees may be able to give us the benefit of new ideas and new methods, which we should all greatly welcome. Let me go a little deeper into this question, as to whether we are really giving our children in Scotland a good education or not. There has been no reference to-night to one of the most arresting sentences in the whole of this long report. I propose to read it to the Committee now:Sixty per cent. of the girls and boys sent forth from the day schools have failed in various degrees to reach the normal goal in education.I would like to concentrate upon that question. I doubt very much whether education committees in Scotland know of that fact. When I asked the Secretary of State the other day how many copies of this report had been purchased in Scotland, it turned out that the number was a little over 400. That fact is eloquent. I propose to draw public attention to it, and to find out how far it is true and in what sense we are to understand it. The report warns us against drawing any hasty conclusions from that statement. It is because I wish to take that warning to myself that I asked the question to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. I was rather astonished that the Noble Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl) made no reference to a reply to a question which she herself put in November of last year on this very vital matter. She asked what was the number of children between 12 and 15 years of age in primary advanced divisions and secondary schools respectively, and the Secretary of State replied that at the end of the school year 1927–28 the number of children between the ages of 12 and 15 in the schools was as follows: In primary schools, 144,000, of whom 66,000 were in advanced divisions: in secondary schools 63,000, of whom 51,000 were in secondary departments, including the advanced divisions. That is the end of the reply.
I wish to proceed to the logical deduction from these facts. Deduct the 66,000 advanced division pupils from the 144,000 in primary schools, and we find that there are in elementary or pre- 1056 qualifying classes 78,000. With regard to the other figure, from the 63,000 in secondary schools, deduct the 51,000, and there remains in the elementary stages 12,000. That is a total of 90,000 in all. I put this question to the right hon. Gentleman: Is this what is meant by saying that 60 per cent. failed to reach the normal? Is it the case that in Scotland last year there were 90,000 children between 12 and 15 years of age who had failed to pass the ordinary test which would entitle them to go into the advanced division? I have been told that some explanation was to be found in the number of mentally defective children, in bad attendance, in reasons of poverty and so on. But the average attendance of the scholars in our Scottish schools is remarkably high: it is no less than 90 per cent. Accordingly, the explanations that have been offered seem to me to fall short of the mark.
I think it is still the case that, if not 60 per cent., at least 45 per cent. of the children leave school without being fully educated. I am not going to attempt to explain this fact in any way or to say where the blame lies. I say that it is for the Education Department and for the right hon. Gentleman to do that. It may be that the organisation is defective, or that the allocation of time given to the main subjects is wrong, or that the subjects taught are too much of the fancy description, or that the curricula may be ill-judged. At any rate it is very like the education described by Mark Twain when he said I had a good education, but the worst of it was that so much of it wasn't so. I do not wish to take the role of a pessimist. I wish to take the role of one who is anxious to get down to bedrock facts with regard to education, and I trust to the right hon. Gentleman's sense of independence and to the personal trouble which he is always willing to take to investigate Scottish matters. I trust to the right hon. Gentleman to pay careful attention to the argument, which I am now submitting in all seriousness, and to see that it is dealt with. I am glad of course that the report shows a gradual improvement. For example, it is stated in the report that the proportion of pupils sent out unqualified from the primary schools or departments is now under 15 per cent. compared with 1057 about 21 per cent. in 1920–21. That is gratifying but I am anxious to improve even upon those figures.
The most interesting documents in connection with this subject, apart from the report itself, are the general reports by His Majesty's chief inspectors of schools, and these reports leave the impression on my mind, of a scarcely concealed uneasiness that a thorough overhaul of primary education in Scotland is necessary. For example, one inspector writes about a clean cut at 12, by which is meant that all children at the age of 12 should be passed on to advanced divisions whether they qualify or not. Commenting on this report from a sub-inspector a chief inspector of schools suggests that even in the case of such a clean cut at 12 a qualifying examination will still be necessary. Going to the root of the matter this chief inspector of schools says that behind all these questions lies one more fundamental, namely, the question of curricula. The right hon. Gentleman will observe that I am dealing with vital matters with which his own inspectors are dealing. This chief inspector puts a pertinent question. He asks if the failure of so many pupils to qualify at 12 may not be due, in part, to imperfections not in the qualifying test but in the primary course itself. The right hon. Gentleman spoke some words of homily on the subject of statistics. He seems to think that I have a voracious desire for more statistics. The right hon. Gentleman is surely cynical in that suggestion. These two reports are crammed from cover to cover with statistics and hardly anything else. Am I to be debarred from testing those statistics and asking for further information or explanation about them? May I say wherein I think the right hon. Gentleman does not quite appreciate the position?
There is a system in Scotland—and he ought to know it—of what is known as picked pupils, and this system renders fallacious many of the percentages which are usually given out to the public. The method is that the headmaster or other teacher in the school selects those pupils who he thinks will have a fair chance of passing a qualifying examination, and these are the pupils who are put up for examination. Accordingly, when the results of the examination are announced, 1058 it is not unusual to find them standing at a very high figure. Of course, they will, if you only pick out those likely to pass. The right hon. Gentleman knows that a few years ago in Edinburgh the education authority had the courage to abandon that system of picked pupils absolutely, and I suggest to him that his Department ought to see to it that that system is given up all over Scotland.
I also ask him to consider this general proposition, that there should be a qualifying test which will be universal, uniform and official. I say that, in spite of any of the criticisms that I have heard from the right hon. Lady to-night or from my hon. and learned colleague. I maintain that I am not for a moment doing what the right hon. Gentleman said I was doing, namely, multiplying examinations. He knows very well that this qualifying examination is in existence to-day through most of the counties of Scotland, but that it is entirely optional with regard both to whether the examination is held at all and to the subjects embraced. It varies in degree and intensity.
I suggest that we are getting a false impression with regard to primary education in Scotland, and in order to give the public a fair knowledge of how the children stand, all of the children ought to be subjected to an examination. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is possible for a child to go through school to-day from the age of five to the age of 12 without being compelled to undergo an examination at all? I do not elevate examinations beyond their legitimate quality and authority, but I say that it would be fair and proper to submit for examination all the children and see whether they are able to pass at 12. At any rate, I am pressing the point that, without that examination, we are not understanding the true and correct position of education in Scotland.
Something was said in criticism of the three R's. I believe in the three R's education, and I also believe in the scientific education, the manual instruction and the vocational instruction advocated by the right hon. Lady, but the matter is surely brought into prominence by a resolution which was passed recently at Duns to this effect: 1059That this conference is of opinion that a rural science course should be an essential part of the curriculum of selected advanced division centres.Of course, that will be only at advanced division centres, and to advanced pupils, and the concentration of education ought to be upon the elementary subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic, history, geography, and I would almost like to add another one which has been specially mentioned by one of His Majesty's Inspectors — the speaking of King's English. This school inspector singled that out as being very necessary. He says that in some districts English is a foreign language to the people, and it is as necessary to teach it as it is to teach French.
It may be suggested that the teaching of the three "R's" is very dull. It is nothing of the sort if it is in proper hands. In efficient and enthusiastic hands, the teaching of these so-called dull subjects may be made of the fullest interest to the pupils, and I maintain that if we are to lay a proper foundation on which the advanced courses are to be built, we must secure that the pupil is well educated and grounded in these essential subjects. I am constantly receiving complaints that handwriting is bad and almost indecipherable, that boys of 14 are unable to tot up lists of figures correctly, and other complaints of the same kind. I therefore suggest that the right hon. Gentleman will, in laying down the curricula for the future, eliminate from the primary classes some of the "frill" subjects. He has ventured the remark that there are not too many of them, and that not too much time is given to the teaching of these frill subjects. I have grave doubts about it, and it is only necessary to remind him of the striking indictment of Primary Education in the report to show that there is something in what I say. My object in putting these quesitons and in laying these facts before the Committee is in the best interests of education.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I trust that the hon. Member for Kincardine (Mr. Scott) will not work himself up into a martyrdom over a jocular reference by the Secretary of State to the number of questions that he has put upon education. I am sure 1060 that my right hon. Friend welcomes the interest taken in education in Scotland by the hon. Gentleman, and no harm whatever can come of repeated questions put in this House on education by any hon. Member who takes the trouble and is interested in the subject. It is all to the good that we should have disputation, for the worst thing that could happen is a spirit of quiescence. The hon. Gentleman drew attention to the fact that in the report of the Council on education in Scotland for 1928–29 there is a statement on page 16 to the effect that 15 per cent. of the pupils leave school without passing a qualifying test, and a statement on page 21 that some 60 per cent. of the girls and boys in day schools fail to reach the normal goal. These are the two points to which he has drawn attention. The Department have anxiously considered what is the reason, and my right hon. Friend is at this moment considering the implications of what are on the face of them rather alarming statements. My own view, for what it is worth, is that the standard of examination is largely at fault.
We are setting up examinations for our children to which children ought not to be compelled to submit. As a matter of fact, if you take the average history examination it is only the stuff that has been taught to these poor children in the fortnight before the examination that they remember—and wisely! If they happen to be questioned upon the material that has been stuffed into them during the fortnight prior to the examination they have a happy pass; if, unfortunately, they get questions on some of the tomfoolery they got six months before, they do not pass at all. I hold very strong views on the nonsense that is being taught to our children, and I believe the time may come when we should ask ourselves whether we ought to have history and geography examinations at all in qualifying class examinations. After all the history taught at that age is realty a mass of intricate detail, very often it is a question of an assimilation of dates, most useless dates, which we do our best to forget when we get older. Therefore, I am not so disturbed as the hon. Gentleman appears to be at these figures, because I do not think they reveal what at first sight they may appear to mean. I think it is the examination that is at 1061 fault, and I am hopeful that the time may come when there will be a change. The hon. Member asked whether a particular table could be reconsidered for next year. I am sure my right hon. Friend will give attention to that point.
The Noble Lady who initiated this discussion put forward such a large number of points that it would take a week to answer all of them, but there were three or four outstanding points with which I will deal. In her long and elaborate argument against the raising of the school age she said that what we wanted was not so much quantity as quality, and that making this additional year at school compulsory upon all the children of the working class was a waste of public money and a waste of effort.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I said that if you insist on quantity at the present time you will spoil the quality.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
That is what I was endeavouring to paraphrase. We ought to ask ourselves if the same standard that is applied to children of other classes in the kingdom is this standard that is applied to the children of the class who go to Loretto—is this the standard that is to be applied to every class in the kingdom or is it, if you please, only to be the standard applied to the children of the working class? We who are on these benches say most emphatically "No."
Duchess of ATHOLL
I do not think I used the expression "working class" in the whole of my speech. If the hon. Gentleman will study the curriculum of schools of all types he will see that great emphasis is being laid on practical instruction.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
What I am dealing with is the necessity of giving the children of the working class a secondary schooling. If a secondary schooling is good for the children of the middle class and the children of the rich, it ought to be good for the children of the working class. Whatever is good in education must be applied to all the children of the nation, and that is the aim and the purpose and intention of the Government. The Noble Lady put some specific points, and she asked how we get over the difficulty of the teachers. I am not certain that some answer has not already been made to that point, but if the Noble Lady will look at 1062 the tenth report of the Education Committee upon the training of teachers, on page 7, she will see that of the students who left the training colleges in June, 1929, over 500 were still unemployed on the 31st January, 1930. While doubtless this number has been diminished since that time, there is still a considerable volume of unemployment. At the close of June, 1930, about 1,400 students will leave the centres and colleges. Over 200 of those are Roman Catholics, and employment will be obtained for them at once. It is difficult to say for how many of the remaining 1,200 students places can be found.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Surely there are class teachers. My remarks applied to teachers of practical subjects and physical training.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I think the Noble Lady went a little further, and she talked about specialist training.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I want, first of all, to put the point that there are somewhere about 1,200 unemployed teachers. That is a considerable number, and when one considers this year's crop, the additional crop that will be available at the end of the last school year, it may be that there is a net unemployment pool in the teaching profession—we will leave the point whether they are practical teachers, specialists or primary teachers—of some 1,700 teachers. If you have 1,700 teachers available, I put it to the Noble Lady that it is not beyond reason to say that some of them would very quickly qualify as specialist teachers.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I asked what steps the Secretary of State for Scotland is taking to give special training to these teachers.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I must first see whether it is technically and physically possible to raise the school age next April in Scotland. I am very anxious to deal with the statement that there are not sufficient practical teachers to do the job.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
Will the Noble Lady say what she means by practical teachers, because among those who are unemployed are many highly skilled teachers possessing qualifications.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I think we need not go into these technicalities. Let me put the point that there are something like 1,700 teachers capable of stepping into the breach. Even if we may not just at the moment be able to fit everything in like a jig-saw puzzle, and there may be a loose link in the chain, we have been assured by the teachers that they will put no unnecessary obstacles in the way, and will do their utmost to make the change over to the new system as easy and as smooth as possible.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Does that mean that graduate teachers are ready to be trained to teach practical subjects? Otherwise, there is no meaning in what the hon. Gentleman says. We want teachers for training in practical instruction.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I was hoping to say a word or two about practical teaching, and to draw attention to what we can do as regards physical instruction. I was trying to show what was the view of the Scottish Office with regard to the teaching profession. I have some sympathy with the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Cowan), who says we ought not to train further teachers unless we can give some prospect of employment to the teachers whom we have already trained. Then the Noble Lady raised another point about physical teaching. We all want to see physical teaching or physical training. It is quite true that we have only one training college in Scotland, and we may require temporarily to take steps to increase the available number, as any Board of Education would require to do when making a considerable change in educational administration, but surely what we ought to do—with good will such as we have from the educational institutions and such as we have, finance apart, from educational authorities in Scotland and from every educationist in Scotland, again finance apart—is to bend all our energies and ingenuity in endeavouring to make the change over as smooth and as simple as possible, and not to magnify the little difficulties that will undoubtedly exist.
The Noble Lady raised the question of school buildings. The local education authorities have been doing something, and the picture is not so black as she painted it. The average expenditure for 1064 loans for new buildings, sites and extensions during the 10 years 1918–1928 has been nearly £500,000 a year, but in 1929 it jumped to £1,000,000, and for the first six months of 1930 it is £970,000. So that, at any rate, the local education authorities are making some efforts to provide the necessary sites to meet the change. It may be that we shall require temporary makeshifts in some districts, particularly, perhaps, in Glasgow, where building has been retarded for reasons I need not discuss now. We may require the use of halls and to accept the offer of the teaching profession to make temporary arrangements regarding the size of classes here and there. But if we do not make a beginning now, when shall we ever make it? Surely, in view of the fact that 60 per cent. of our children are leaving school without passing a particular standard of examination and in view of the fact that only children of certain classes of the community are getting a secondary education, it is time that this House faced up to the urgent necessity of securing as the heritage of every child in the land an opportunity for a secondary education.
With many of the points raised by the Noble Lady I agree. It is quite true that we shall have to train more practical teachers, and we may, as the hon. Member for Kincardine (Mr. Scott) has said, have to change our curriculum. I hope that we may do so; I hope that we shall empty it of much of the rubbish that is now in it; but, surely, what we are facing now is the fact that that the great bulk of the nation gets no adequate secondary education. With all the increase of productivity that is going on, with all the rationalisaton, and all the increased product, surely one of the first means we should take to apportion that product equally over the community is to ensure that every child in the nation shall be given an opportunity of secondary education, and that is the policy of His Majesty's Government. After the very elaborate discussion which has taken place, I trust that we shall now get the Vote.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
Is the hon. Gentleman taking any steps in connection with the teaching of history? He himself, on a previous occasion, has made a statement with regard to the way in which history 1065 is being taught, and I should like to know what steps he is taking in that matter.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I have made some reference to the question of the teaching of history, and have done my best to make known my view in regard to it, though I do not say that it is the majority view in this country. I am, however, hopeful that I may live long enough to see the day when the children of Scotland are not taught the rubbish that is being taught to them now.
§ Major ELLIOT
I would point out that the hon. Gentleman is proposing to increase the length of the time during which they are to be subjected to this process, which he himself says is totally misleading, and against which he has inveighed in public. I should not like to repeat what he has said with regard to Robert Bruce. Our views may be right, or his view may be right, but, until we decide which of the two is right, it is difficult to see how anything can be done in the matter.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.