HC Deb 16 July 1931 vol 255 cc811-74

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £29,862,377, 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, 1932, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Education, and of the various Establishments connected therewith, including sundry Grants-in-Aid.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Lees-Smith)

I have to ask the approval of the Committee for a sum which amounts to a little over £48,000,000, which is an increase of about £3,000,000 over the Estimate introduced last year. In giving an account of the educational record of the year, I must explain that the period which came under my administration was actually only about three weeks. For the greater part of the year the progress which I shall describe was under the administration of my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Newcastle (Sir C. Trevelyan), whose energy and zeal on account of education I have found in all directions. The Board of Education during the year has also suffered the death of Sir Aubrey Symonds, the late Permanent Secretary. He was very ill when I came to the Board, and he died a few weeks later. He was a great civil servant. His was a personality which showed that a civil servant can be not only an efficient administrator, but a lover of manly sports, a very shrewd man of affairs, and one who won the affection of his fellow men. Mr. E. H. Pelham, who will be familiar to all who have visited the Board for many years past, has been appointed to succeed him.

In giving a review of the progress of education during the year, I think that the most convenient course for me to follow will be for me to take the ordinary child from the moment when he or she enters our charge, trace their careers till they leave us for the university or for the work of life, and say something of the main issues which arise at each stage. I found, on going to the Board, that the first gap in our educational system which came to my notice was the gap between the years of one to five. Up to the age of one year, the ordinary working class child does receive some guidance and care from the State, because the mother takes the child to the maternity centre, but most of them cease to attend at the end of the first 12 months, with the consequence that when the children come to the infants' school at the age of five, no less than 20 per cent. of them are suffering from physical defects, which in hundreds of thousands of cases impair their vitality and poison the rest of their lives. One method of dealing with this evil is the establishment of nursery schools. At the present moment there are 44 of these nursery schools, plans for 35 more have been approved or are under consideration, and there are a further 35 which are proposed to be built within the next two years. Of course, this is progress, but, in point of fact, the total number of places in those schools is only 3,300, and this does not give a very broad basis of experience of the system.

The Consultative Committee of the Board of Education, the committee which produced the Hadow Report and the Junior School Report has now turned its attention to the whole problem of children under the school age. They are going very closely into the proposal for nursery schools, and into the corresponding alternative proposals for nursery classes in infant schools. I will await their report, but I would like to take this opportunity of saying that it is already quite evident that the life work of Miss Margaret MacMillan, who died in March, will, in some shape or another, leave a permanent mark upon the health of the children of our land.

Nursery schools, in my opinion, are not really part of the educational work of the Board so much as part of its medical and physical work. I will, therefore, take this opportunity of saying a few words on that part of the general work. It seems to me to be practically impossible to waste money if it directly increases the physical efficiency and the stamina of the race.

As the Committee is aware, the backbone of the medical work of the Board of Education is the system of medical inspection, which takes place three times in the course of the school career of a normal child. In looking through the various reports of local authorities, I have got into the habit of taking as one of the tests of a progressive authority the provision it makes for following up this medical inspection by nurses, medical officers, clinics, specialists, hospital treatment, special schools and orthopaedic schemes. I may say that I did get out some figures as to what was the record of progress in all those directions, but I do not think I will give them to the Committee, because they are rather long, and we have only four hours. But, broadly, they show a steady and continuous progress in all those directions for some years. The progress has not been in any way retarded, but has continued quite rapidly, even during the financial stringency to which local authorities have been subject during the last 12 months.


Will the right hon. Gentleman give us figures as to dental treatment?


I have not those figures, but I would say that, in my opinion, the dental treatment is not one of the most successful parts of our work. I have come to the conclusion that when you come to the actual details of physical training and physical culture in regard to children, it is not so much a matter of teaching them as a matter of habit and practice, which depend upon how the school is run from A to Z, and this rests with the teachers. But—and this is a point I wish to emphasise—I think it also rests very considerably with the actual buildings in which the children are located. The new type of open-air school building, with its sides built of glass, which open and shut in accordance with the sun, and the air and the breeze, is an inspiration to the teachers, and has a wonderful effect on the physical health of the children. I had a very interesting discussion with one of the new inspectors of the Board who, a short time ago, was a master at one of our great public schools, and he told me that he had already come to associate the alert, happy and bright-eyed children with those new-open-air school buildings, and they do make a sharp, pathetic contrast with the dark and cheerless buildings you often find only a few hundred yards away. On new school buildings—of course, it is partly as a result of the special grant given by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Central Newcastle—the capital expenditure last year, put forward by local authorities and approved by the Board of Education, was a sum of over £9,000,000, which is the largest sum ever spent in a year.

In reviewing the elementary school work the question which overshadows all others is the revolution which is taking place in the system of reorganisation on the Hadow plan, and it may interest the Committee to hear how this plan strikes one who sees it for the first time. I remember some years ago being told that if you are a professional man or a university man you will either succeed or not by the age of 30. If you do not succeed by that time you will never succeed at all. In the life of the worker the fateful and decisive year appears to be the age of 11, a terrible thought. They are stamped for ever at the age of 11 when they are selected or not to go on to a secondary school, or, mostly in London, to a central selective school; they become one of the comparatively select few or they remain in the ordinary elementary school and take part in the mass life of their class. I wish to encourage those boys and girls to go on. Education exists for the normal as well as for the exceptional individual, and the highest standard of general proficiency is just as important as an intensive cultivation of unusual ability.

The whole principle of the Hadow report is that the educational system is for all sorts and conditions of children, for the ordinary and backward child just as much as for the clever child and, therefore, under that system, when it is complete, every child at the age of 11 will go to a fresh school and, if it is an ordinary elementary school, it will be a school which is adapted for children who have a practical rather than an academic bent of mind. These schools will contain some of the very finest material in the country, the kind of boys and girls who may not pass an examination but who will manage to do well in after life, and they are being so arranged that for every year instead of there being only one class there shall be two or three alternative classes, each with a different curriculum, different teachers and a different time table, suited to the needs of children of different types. Let me take an example of the difference you will find from the school of a few years ago. These estimates have increased by £3,000,000, and a considerable part of that sum is due to the special provision which has been made in these schools for practical work for teaching in handwork, woodwork and metal work for boys, cookery, laundry and dressmaking for girls, elementary science and rural pursuits.

I do not want the position to be misunderstood. This is not intended to be vocational or industrial training. The worker is a human being with interests and desires and needs which are outside his ordinary work, and we have no intention of regarding him as an instrument of industry from the age of 11. But they are methods of teaching which are not too remote from actual life. It is following the modern doctrine of using realistic studies as instruments of education. I may say that there is great economy in the system because this practical instruction is very costly, the classroom is fairly elaborate, the classes are small and a necessary larger proportion of teachers to the number of children is required, but as the schools are only for children over the age of 11 there is considerable economy in being able to concentrate it in a number of schools for those children who have passed the age of 11 years.

I have been greatly interested by one feature of the schools which has not been very widely discussed so far. It is a feature which, I think, in the long run will prove to be the most important of all. Education is a thing of the spirit, and in these schools there is now developing a corporate spirit, the meaning of which will be well understood by those who have been at schools which possess it and who know that its mental and moral influence on the boys and girls is perhaps more potent than any other influence. That is what is developing in these senior reorganised schools. You cannot develop it in schools where the majority of the children are under the age of eleven and amongst whom any really strong community sense is not developed. If you take these schools you will find that they are divided into houses with competitions between houses; and one of the features is that they have broken away from the traditional public school system. It is not only a competition in games and house matches but in work, on account of which shields and cups are awarded. This balance between work and play is a great improvement on the traditional public school. They have systems of prefects by which the discipline of the school is largely maintained by the boys themselves. They have school magazines and old boys' associations, and, particularly, there is to be seen that camaraderie between masters and boys which is one of the most remarkable changes in the development of education since the war.

I am convinced that within 20 years these schools will have produced in this country a new and remarkable national type, healthy, practical, self-reliant and responsible, more capable than any previous generation and better equipped to meet the tremendous problems of the next generation.

It is difficult to get any exact figures to indicate how far this process of reorganisation has been carried, but the figure which summarises it best is that there are, I estimate, at the present time between one-third and one-fourth of the children over eleven in these senior re-organised schools. If I am asked to predict at what rate this re-organisation will proceed, or whether it will ever be complete, I am not able to do so, and one of the reasons is the voluntary schools difficulty. It is a difficulty which has not only postponed the raising of the school age but it is standing in the way of this reorganisation which is necessary for the proper education of the children of the present age. I cannot pursue that subject, and I would only say that I am having conversations with all the denominations and interests concerned and I am not without hope that some agreement, a fair and just agreement, will be reached.

May I go on to secondary education? There is an increase of £900,000 in the Estimate for higher education. The number of pupils in secondary schools is about 400,000 and the proportion of these pupils who come from elementary schools is now about three-quarters. Perhaps this can be put better in this way. About 10 per 1,000 of the population to-day are in grant-earning secondary schools, and that is a proportion which is about four times as great as it was 25 years ago.


Is that the proportion of the school population or of the general population?


Of the general population.

Captain PEAKE

Can the President of the Board of Education give us the proportion of the school population?


No. This increase in the proportion of children in secondary schools is already having a very far-reaching social consequence, of which one evidence is that there is now a continually increasing invasion of the monopoly which the middle-classes and the traditional public schools have hitherto had of the higher professions and administrative positions.

I have tried to get some measure as to the nature and capacity of mind which is now emerging from secondary schools. I have made some inquiries as to what has been the result of the system of State scholarships given to children in these secondary schools. As the Committee knows, the Board of Education for many years gave 200 scholarships a year to elder boys and girls at the school on a certain plan and in accordance with the results of what is called the second school class examination, that is an examination for boys and girls who stay on at these schools until the age of 18. The 200 scholarships were increased to 300 last year by the right hon. Member for Central Newcastle. I think it is generally realised that that increase has been completely justified. Practically all the State scholars go on to the universities. I have had an examination made of their records since the system was established 11 years ago, and I find that, taking all the State scholars together, 52 per cent. of the men obtained first-class honours at the universities, and 28 per cent. of the women. Anyone who knows what first-class honours at the universities mean—there are many university men in this House, but not many with first-class honours—will realise what a remarkable result this is. It indicates what a fund of ability is now being unlocked for the benefit of the State, and it suggests what an amount of ability undoubtedly remains still untapped.

In connection with this subject I have been asked a question and suggestions have been made, I have been asked whether there is any means of testing the relative capacity of the free-place pupils and the fee-paying pupils—those who win scholarships and those who can afford to pay fees. It is not an easy question to which to give a reply, but I have the best reply that is available. I admit that examinations are not a test of everything, but, after all, it is one of the main purposes of these secondary schools to prepare children for the school-leaving examinations, and the results of the examinations are the best test that we have of the quality of the children and the work of the school. Taking the results of the school-leaving examinations I find this: Of the foe payers only 39 per cent. of those who left over the age of 14 took the examination and 29 per cent. passed, whereas of the free-place pupils 63 per cent. took it and 54 per cent., or nearly double the proportion, of the free students passed. Although there are limitations to examinations, this does indicate that, according to the best test we can get, there is a great difference both in the capacity and the willingness to work of the two sets of pupils.

I must say a few words about technical schools. In the discussions and literature on this subject I have noticed a great deal more attention given to elementary and secondary schools than to technical schools. Yet in point of fact the technical schools are one of the most cheerful and vigorous parts of the whole system. Anyone who goes to a technical school will immediately notice the intense concentration of the students upon their work. They are the schools for ambitious youth, but although they come from ambition they stay for interest. One also notices the position of the teachers in the technical schools. They have pupils who do not come to them compulsorily, whom they have to hold and whose interest they have to maintain because they are voluntary. If they do not maintain it their class will run away and their position comes to an end. My broad impression is that technical schools are producing men, of the grade of works managers, who are equal to any in the world. But they are not producing the same number of men and women for the higher positions still, as, say, in a country like Germany.

Perhaps the main reason for this is that our system of secondary education has developed to a considerable extent only lately, whereas Germany has had an efficient system of secondary education for about 70 years. The result is that our technical schools hitherto have drawn their pupils mainly from those who leave school at 14, but from secondary schools they have hitherto drawn only a very small stream. Now this is coming to an end. The great expansion of secondary education is affecting our technical schools and our industry as well, and in some of the technical schools I visited I found that the majority of the students came from secondary schools. This is raising a number of problems which I think we cannot yet answer—problems of the recruitment of industry. If industry now wishes to retain the clever boys who used to leave school and go into the factory at 14 but who now go on to the secondary school and stay until 16, industry will need to adjust its methods of recruitment to a later age. That is one of the problems.

There are a great many problems of that kind to which we have not yet got an answer, but which up to now have not received sufficient attention in proportion to the other problems of education. For that reason I appreciate the action of the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) in his appointment of the two very powerful committees on education for engineering and education for salesmanship. I propose to follow up that policy. There has already begun an inquiry, in conjunction with the Joint Industrial Council, into training for the printing trade. I have discussed with my new art adviser how far our schools of art might be made more useful to those industries whose sales and whose power of holding their own is influenced by the artistic character of their goods, and I think a very useful series of inquiries with practical results will follow. I have also been very considerably impressed with the small part played in this country by trade schools and by part-time day schools, in comparison with the very important place that they occupy in the educational and industrial systems of the Continent. I am not sure that we have not something to learn. I have, therefore, asked our chief inspector of technical education and one of his colleagues in a few weeks to go to the Continent and visit Germany, France, Belgium, Holland and Czechoslovakia, in order to see whether there are not some lessons which we may very well learn.

That is the broad survey which I propose to make. I have no doubt that a good many proposals will be made today for further educational improvements. I doubt whether there is any one of them with which I shall not myself agree. But I must point out that I am now constrained by financial difficulties, and by more than financial difficulty—by financial perils which affect every country in the world. The ultimate hopes of many may have to he postponed. But the central aim of this Government has been to take our people through this period of difficulty without permanently impairing the social services on which their standard of life depends. That is the test by which these Estimates must be judged. I must summarise in a few words a large amount of material which I have not time to develop. The number of classes with over 50 pupils has been reduced from nearly 11,000 to nearly 9,000. The number of black-list schools has been reduced in the last two years from 2,000 to 1,500. The number of certificated teachers has increased by 3,000. The number of un-certificated and supplementary teachers has diminished by 1,800. The great revolution of the Hadow scheme has steadily progressed. There are more new buildings than in any previous period. Nursery schools, secondary schools, technical schools, and senior schools have all steadily developed, and by every educational test the social services of this country have not only been maintained but have been raised, and the central purpose for which the Government exists has in the educational sphere been carried out.


I would like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his maiden speech as President of the Board of Education. I think it is the first opportunity he has had to show the Committee the mettle of which he is made. If any justification were wanted for my hon. Friends having selected education for discussion on one of the small number of allotted days, the right hon. Gentleman's first appearance would certainly justify it. Even if it were not his maiden effort, I think we are entitled to at least one day to discuss the great question of education. The right hon. Gentleman's Department has got off very lightly. When my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) was President of the Board of Education, every year he had to go through a very severe gruelling. Every action of his was severely scrutinised, and we always had a very full Debate. It is about time that we turned the searchlight on to the work of the Board under the present administration. Two years ago when the change of Government took place, great expectations were aroused as to the probability of a change in policy. Indeed it was said that a change of spirit was to take place in the Board and when the right hon. Baronet the Member for Central Newcastle (Sir C. Trevelyan) was appointed President, we thought that at any rate we would have vigour and a new outlook at the Board. Of course most of the right hon. Baronet's time was occupied and his attention concentrated on piloting legislation through this House.

I see a great number of educationists here, and I would say to them, that we can do almost as much in administration, by putting vitality into existing Acts of Parliament as by introducing new laws. I hazard the statement that under the Act of 1918 as consolidated in the Act of 1921, if the local authorities were willing, and the Board prepared to cooperate, everything on which we are keen could be put into operation, with, of course, some important exceptions. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman who has made such a modest speech is going to be a great success as President. At any rate, he shows enthusiasm and the willingness to listen to criticism, but I offer this comment to him—that there has been no great change at the Board since the change of Government. I do not think it is too much to say that, except for the speed with which certain work is being done, there has been continuity of policy. It is the same old Board, with the same old traditions, and though, perhaps, it moves a little faster than it did formerly, there is no revolutionary change in its attitude towards education.

I was glad that the right hon. Gentleman started at the beginning, with the babies. I agree with him that much of the work of the teachers in the schools and of the medical service is handicapped by neglect of the children in the preschool age. We are now accustomed to look forward to the reports of Sir George Newman on the medical service. They are such excellent documents, that the) have a world-wide circulation, both are read in the Dominions and in foreign countries. He pointed out, I think in 1929, how the school medical service is burdened in this respect, and I mention this to the right hon. Gentleman with special reference to his concluding remarks and his warning about economy. Sir George Newman says: The school medical service is burdened financially and administratively with the physical and mental defects and impairment of the pre-school child. It is because of neglect of the child before the child enters into the care of the educational service that much of our expenditure is necessary, and if we could co-ordinate the work of the Board with the work of the Ministry of Health, instead of divorcing them as we are doing at present, much of our expenditure on the medical service would be spared. The right hon. Gentleman seemed pleased about the nursery schools, but I hope that he will not be too pleased, because at present there are only 44, and I do not think that the total of the figures which he gave would come to much more than 100. If nursery schools are such good things, if they mean such advantages to the child, if they save so much expenditure on medical treatment, surely we are entitled to something on a larger scale than the right hon. Gentleman has indicated.

I realise the difficulty of finding convenient sites in the centres of big towns, but where there is a will there is a way, and, if the right hon. Gentleman means business, then nursery schools will come into being. I hope that he will not be hindered in this matter by tradition. These schools are wanted urgently, and I believe that a lot could be done to meet the need by alterations and additions to ordinary infant departments. Of course, where the ideal site is available, the ideal thing is to have a separate nursery school, but where a site is not available, I believe that by adding a kitchen and making open-air arrangements in the school playground, and by various other alterations, it would be possible to bring the nursery school—which the medical officer says is so necessary—within the reach of every parent whose child requires such treatment and such opportunities.

I was interested by the right hon. Gentleman's sketch of the medical service and even more interested by the very acute interruption of the Noble Lord. He brushed aside, when he was asked about it, the one real difficulty—the difficulty about teeth. I do not imagine I shall make myself popular with the children by preaching the importance of the dentist. Nothing is hated more by the children than dental treatment, but nothing is more important. The Noble Lord asked for statistics. I think he will find statistics in the annual report of the Board of Education and also in Sir George Newman's report. They require to be brought up to date, I agree. The latest figures which I have show that only a quarter of the children who require treatment are getting treatment, and the present figures are much more serious than that. In some areas there is an official organisation with proper clinics and proper hospital centres, but there are also areas where such a system is conspicuous by its absence.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will throw himelf into this important work, because it means much for the health and well-being, not only of the children, but of the race as a whole in the future. I would direct his attention to an interesting report on the dental treatment of school children in New Zealand where, owing largely to the energy and ability of Colonel Hunter, a distinguished dentist, they have in that Dominion, where there is a scattered population, an almost complete system of dental treatment. I am all for learning from the Empire, when I get the opportunity of doing so, and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should get a copy of this report and see if it will not help him to complete his dental system.

When the right hon. Gentleman came to the elementary schools, he—perhaps wisely—kept the unpleasant figures to the end. I suppose as a novice in his job he did not feel prepared to elaborate and explain those figures. I do not know whether it was with satisfaction or with regret—he made no comment—that he told us there were now 9,000 classes over 50. But is it true to say that there are in the elementary schools 60,000 classes over 40? If so, that is not a reason for satisfaction and it does not show that there is much room for economising on school buildings. I was glad to hear his reference to school buildings. It is a bold statement, but I do not think it would be far wrong to say that at least one-third of the school buildings in the country could do with rebuilding or alteration. We have discovered a new conception of what the school building ought to be. Instead of being, as at present, three or four storeys high, with elaborate Gothic decorations, the new school tends to be a building of large windows, freely admitting the air and presenting no barriers to keep the sunlight from the children.

In his enthusiasm, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not concentrate entirely on new buildings but will see that some of the old buildings in the slums and the crowded areas of great cities are remodelled and brought up to date. The children in the crowded areas require the sun and bright modern conditions and comfort even more than the children in the new garden suburbs which are springing up round our cities. While on the question of the size of classes, I should like to know if it is true that the Board is still sanctioning buildings for junior schools with classes of 50 on the roll. I am informed that such is the case and if so, it is a very reactionary idea. My informant tells me that it is due to the exceptional year through which we are passing now, in which there is what is termed a "bulge," owing to the increased birth rate after the War. It is a very poor consolation, however, to the children who are now being taught in overcrowded classes, to know that they are suffering because of this special "bulge." I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to be more careful in passing plans providing for these very large classes.

His next reference was to reorganisation. That word is becoming like the blessed word "Mesopotamia." It is being regarded as the secret of all educational policy. It has become the beginning and end of all discussions on education. Like rationalisation, it is the cure for all evils. Of course, I accept entirely this remarkable document issued by the Consultative Committee—"The Education of the Adolescent"—and I know what a lot we owe to the Noble Lord for his driving power in forcing on reorganisation. I accept the principle that it is right to provide, wherever possible and convenient, schools with junior and senior departments. But I add the proviso—where the site and the buildings lend themselves to it. I am told by people in contact with the Board, and I say this most respectfully, that the Board has gone mad about reorganisation. Not a plan or proposal or scheme will they look at, I am told, hardly an alteration to a window, unless it is part of a reorganisation scheme. I happen to be in close touch with the schools in my area and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to be careful and to Judge each scheme on its merits.

5.0 p.m.

I have seen schemes where the good achieved was almost more than outweighed by the disadvantages involved. I have seen the breaking up of schools which had fine old traditions. I have seen a school which had a separate boys' and girls' departments with separate head teachers, turned into a mixed school, the departments merged and the boys and girls placed under one teacher and then the old traditions disappeared. In some cases, although you got a nice airy senior school, with comparatively small classes, yet owing to the circumstances of the district, the result has been overcrowded classes in the junior department, causing great inconvenience. Thus, whatever good has been done, has been counterbalanced by disadvantages. I would say to him, if I may, with very great deference, that reorganisation is not the end but the means, and we should be very careful about forcing it on every area irrespective of local conditions. Those of us who believe in reorganisation want it to raise the general level. In the Hadow Report, page 308, it is stated: The standard of staffing in proportion to the number of pupils in the schools as well as the qualification of the teachers should approximate to those required for the corresponding forms in secondary schools. It is further stated: The education of children over the age of 11 in Modern Schools or in Senior Classes is one species of the genus "Secondary Education." It is not an inferior species, and it ought not to be hampered by conditions of accommodation and equipment inferior to those of the schools now described as secondary. We attach great importance, therefore, to ensuring that, so far as possible, and with due allowances for differences in the character of the curriculum and the age range of the pupils, the construction and equipment of modern schools should approximate to the standard from time to time required by the Board in schools working under the regulations for secondary schools. I am heart and soul with that. But many of the senior schools are far below the standard of the secondary schools. There is often very little equipment in the science rooms, and there is insufficiency of implements for boys to do their work. Very often these schools are insufficiently staffed; there are not the necessary teachers with the proper qualifications. If these are to be made a real success it must be recognised that these senior schools must carry out the ideal which was in view when they were established. There are the same old schools, the same old classes, the same old equipment, the same absence of school hall as in the old elementary schools. It is really the old show under a new name. It is like a Ford car masquerading as a Rolls Royce. It has got a new body and a new chassis, but it is still the old Ford. The old tradition of the Act of 1870 still clings to education. The word "elementary" was embodied in that Act to placate the mid-Victorians who were shocked at the children of ordinary people being forced to get education, but were persuaded to adopt compulsory education by the adjective "elementary." I remember the struggle that took place when the Cockerton decision surcharged those local authorities which attempted to expand the syllabus and to introduce all sorts of subjects beyond the three R's. We all recognise now that the Balfour Act was a brave, bold attempt to bring in a new spirit and to recognise that the people were entitled to more generous education. But very small progress has really been made.

I was a little disappointed by the complacency of the right hon. Gentleman about secondary education. After 30 years of the Balfour Act 10 per cent. of the child population are getting secondary education, after all the efforts which were made. The distribution of the schools is very uneven. The child in Manchester has more chance of getting secondary education than the child in London or in some of the other cities. We want to stimulate the local authorities to come to a common level. I saw in a paper which came into my hands accidentally the other day that a deputation from East Ham waited upon the Minister of Education. The people who live in East Ham have great enthusiasm for education. They are largely composed of the class who are foremen and skilled workmen and who believe in education, but their incomes are very modest. They have got a secondary school which they are very proud of, and they found that very much more use could be made of it if fees were abolished. The right hon. Gentleman, or I believe it was one of his officials, received the deputation and was firm in his refusal to permit the abolition of fees.


May I ask the hon. Member whether the London County Council are not charging full fees for every child who goes to a secondary school in London?


That is a matter between the London County Council and the Board of Education. It was the policy of the Labour party at the last election "Secondary education for all." I am not a great believer in phrases. I think these catch-phrases are always dangerous. The Labour party have a good many memories which, after those two years of responsibility and difficulties, it would be cruel to remind them of. The majority in the London County Council are not prepared to adopt that policy, and on the principle of local economy that is their responsibility. But where a local authority, with local knowledge at its disposal, is prepared to shoulder the burden it is rather a tall order for the Labour Minister to refuse to foot the bill and pay his half of the share. I believe the Noble Lord would have been a little more sympathetic, as he is a great believer in local autonomy. What we have been asking for for many years is the abolition of the distinction between elementary and secondary education. It is utterly artificial and unreal as a dividing line. The only dividing line which I recognise is that between good education and bad education. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that if he wants to translate into fact his theory of secondary education for all, the right way to set about it is to level up the conditions and standards of all senior schools to those of the secondary schools.

I am surprised to find that the inspectorate at the Board of Education is divided into two classes, one who inspect secondary schools and the other who inspect elementary schools. The right hon. Gentleman is no doubt impressed with the need for economy, and he could coordinate the work of those two branches and they could inspect areas according to their need instead of inspecting the schools according to their classes. The consultative committee pointed out that the senior schools should not become inferior to the secondary schools and that to many of the children practical work in science or the domestic arts might be a stimulus to intellectual effort. There should be the same status for boys at a senior school as for those who have literary bent and who have the gift of passing examinations. I was interested in the right hon. Gentleman's remarks that the future life of a great many children is determined at the age of 11. How very few children can be judged as to their character and ability at that early age? Many of our ablest men and women do not start to mature until they are 14 or 15. In a previous Debate, I referred to the brilliant career of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). Recently the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping told us that he was longer in the bottom form at Harrow than any other boy. He did not start to mature until he was 16 or 17 years of age. [An HON. MEMBER: "Has he started yet?"] Whatever hon. Members may think of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping nobody can question his literary gifts and scholastic attainments. Fortunately, he was in a position to acquire these in later years. If he had come from a poor home he would have been turned down at the age of 11 and would not have been able to get a scholarship.

A more generous conception of education is required. We have been making interesting experiments in classes of unemployed juveniles. When these were started the young people came very reluctantly, but not only have these classes been a complete success but the young persons have come to recognise their utility. Although they have left school probably for a year or two years, in many cases they have been able to get an industrial training and to enter the category of technical or skilled workers. I happened this morning to be down at the docks. I had to see a son off to New Zealand, and it was an interesting lesson to me on the importance of technical training. Here was an ordinary cargo boat, a motor ship. There was not a single stoker on board. Practically not an unskilled man was required, but there were 15 engineers, and every man on the ship, except perhaps a few of the deck hands, were skilled men, who not only required but had to have some form of technical education. In other words, the old idea that there was room for a large number of' untrained, unskilled, or uneducated persons is going. "Hewers of wood and drawers of water" made the argument for keeping education elementary but they are no longer required or required in such small numbers that the unskilled labourer is largely a drug in the market. Therefore, you have to level up the whole standard of education in this country. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will remember, when he attends his next Cabinet meeting, and is told to go slow, when they will probably remind him of the financial stringency due to Germany failing to keep her engagements and carry out the Young Plan, that Germany, since the War a debtor nation and in a financial state very near bankruptcy, has been developing, with all the energy, imagination and capacity for which she is notorious in educational matters, her technical education, not for a privileged section, but for the whole nation. Her system of continuation schools that was voluntary before the War has now been made compulsory and complete.


indicated dissent.


The Noble Lord corrects me. Certainly in the districts that I visited a couple of years ago, in Prussia, in Bavaria, and in Saxony, I saw being put up a comparatively complete system of compulsory continuation schools. Provisions on those lines were made in the Act of 1918, but they have never been put into operation in this country, partly because of the opposition of labour, partly because of the opposition of employers, partly because of the abortive effort of 1921, and partly because of financial difficulties, but if it had not been for the financial difficulties of Germany, I think that that country as an industrial competitor, owing to what she has been doing in universal, not spasmodic, technical training for her workers, would have been a very much more serious competitor even than she was before the War.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will apply his mind to these problems. There is a Board of Education. We have often asked questions about it. I believe the Board never meets. There are all sorts of members, including the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Noble Lord the Member for Hastings knows all about it, and perhaps he will tell us what the Board is, whether it is really a Board, or largely a phantom. I think it is time that the Board came into line with other Government Departments, The War Office has its staff college and reasons out the military problem as a whole. The Admiralty does the same thing, and I suggest that now that great changes and great economic upheavals are going on throughout the world, with the increased importance of science and mechanics in our industrial life, the Board might very well be made a real Board, and have on it, say, a technical member, a scientific member, a commercial member, so that the Board of Education would really represent the life and activities of the nation. It may be that this would require legislation, but I make a present of that suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman, who was a distinguished university professor before coming to this House, with a great scholastic career behind him. I hope he will show that he is imbued with a really progressive spirit, that he is open to new ideas, that he will break away from many of the old traditions, and mark his time as President of the Board of Education as one of innovation and a new spirit in education.


I feel sure that the right hon. Gentleman will be duly gratified by the pat on the back, not unmixed with a slight paternal reproof, given him by the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris). But there was one remark of the hon. Member of which I hope he will look into the full implications. The hon. Member sought to draw a parallel between this country and Germany. If it is true that Germany in her financial stringency has gone into considerable educational expenditure, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will consider whether this financial stringency might not have been less if the educational expenditure had been less, and whether, in the event of starvation setting in in Germany, the technical education of the people who cannot get work to do and bread to eat will be of very great use to them. But subject to those remarks, I feel that on all sides of the House we must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the presentation of these Estimates, and congratulate him too that he has managed during his period of office to keep party politics as far as possible out of education.

Perhaps I may be pardoned in my doubt as to whether changes of policy, the revolutions that appear to be urged by the last speaker really conduce to the benefit of education, and, when in the heat and anger of Debate we fling educational insults across the Floor at each other, whether the cause of education is much served thereby. I commend to the right hon. Gentleman the policy of development as far as possible by administration. Even those of us who still have doubts as to whether the making of education compulsory was as great a service to the State as it is sometimes made out to be, even we agree that, having done that 60 years ago, the only possible course is to develop the education of the country to the full, and get as soon as is reasonably possible into such a state that the best abilities of every child in the country are developed to the full.

That is the object of all of us. We differ as to methods. Some of us adopt the attitude that we see things that we dislike going on in the schools, and say that it is intolerable that children should live under those conditions for a day longer. There are others who say that all alterations in educational policy should be for the next generation but one, and it is between those two points of view, which I have deliberately put as extremes, that the President of the Board of Education should steer a middle course. I think I may congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having so far done that very successfully. It is a very difficult matter to debate the whole of the educational Vote of the year in the short time at our disposal, and if in my few remarks I seem to produce more criticism than commendation, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will realise that that is not in any carping spirit, but simply because I think it is generally recognised that we can see the good work we do, but it is sometimes necessary to point out the bad work.

I did welcome the right hon. Gentleman's statement that education is a thing of the spirit, because that is the great difficulty now. He dilated, and very rightly, on the wonderful increase that is going on from the passing of examinations and the social change by the children of the elementary schools coming into the more intellectual professions, and taking their place in what has previously been the monopoly of those with more money and who have possibly been better educated. But I ask the right hon. Gentleman to remember the enormous class of children who are as useful to the State as the others, but whose mentalities do not lie in an academic or intellectual direction. That brings me to the first point where I believe that the Board of Education, under all administrations, have for many years past been lacking, and that is in the question of rural education.

The advantages of reorganisation were put forward by the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green and by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke of the opportunity of getting the children out of the junior schools into specially trained, specially selected schools, where their own special abilities could be best utilised. Yes, and in the urban areas it is hoped very soon that it will be possible in a big town to have various schools—this is one of my dreams, and I am sure it is a dream also of the right hon. Gentleman opposite—adapted to various types of children; but you cannot do that in the country, because you have in these scattered rural areas only one central school to which the children can all go, and that is too often, as the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green said, the same old school under a different name. The rural child is absolutely different in mentality from the urban child. He is not inferior, but he is different, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman in his policy—and I feel sure that he will do it to the best of his ability—to concentrate on getting the rural children a square deal, to develop as far as is possible the central schools with a rural bias, and to see, when the Hadow report is carried out, that the reorganisation is done not merely to comply with the letter of the Hadow report, but in such a way as to give those children the best possible chance of developing and learning to live the life that they have got to lead.

I know my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education is always terrified by the theory, which he rightly condemns, of saying that a child, because it is a working-class child, should be condemned to a working-class life. I quite agree and I am all in favour of giving the child who can develop and get out and get on, every chance to do so. It should be remembered, however, that these children are after all the minority. The greatest fault of what are known as the traditional public schools, the schools of the wealthy, is that they are too apt to push as far as possible the academically minded, and to teach the less academically minded that they are only fit either to sit on an office stool or, if they have money, to waste their time in amusements which may be very sound as amusements, but which, as a life's work, are useless. I am terrified that that danger will come into our State education, and that the normal non-academically mind child, who is not going to rise very far or fall very far, will not get the education which will teach him to live the life he is actually going to have. I am afraid that we shall press on the best child instead of developing to the full the average child and teaching him to make the best of the conditions in which he lives.

This brings me to another point in which I feel that some action is urgently necessary. That is the question of the mentally deficient child in the ordinary elementary school. The hon. Gentleman has probably got the figures of the number of certified or uncertified mentally deficient children who are in the ordinary elementary schools because there is not room for them elsewhere. Everyone will agree that that is not good either for the child or for the other children in the school, and I ask the hon. Gentleman to press on local authorities as much as he possibly can the necessity of enlarging the number of places in special schools and special institutions for mentally deficient children in order to take that disgrace out of the elementary schools.

It would not be advisable at the present time to go into the question of teachers' salaries; but I want to pay a great tribute to the work that is being carried on by the teachers of this country, particularly by the teachers in the small rural schools, who peg away year after year under heart-breaking conditions and do "magnificent work. I also want to ask the Minister, with confidence, to do everything he can to destroy the idea that the teaching profession is a sort of refuse dump for inefficient children. Not long ago I asked a mother of an elementary school child what she was going to do with her youngest daughter. She replied, "Our Maudie has not been very much good, and we are going to make a teacher of her." That is an attitude that everybody will deplore, and I urge that everything should be done to kill it. When the question of salaries comes up, it should be remembered that salaries are not everything for a teacher. But I was reading the other day some words of that great American novelist G. H. Lorimer, who said: Money is not everything, but remember that a 10,000 dollar man will stand more work and worry than a 1,000 dollar man. He has 9,000 good reasons for doing so.


I should like to congratulate my hon. Friends who sit below the Gangway for choosing education for discussion on this Supply Day. I am only sorry that they did not ask for a whole day instead of half a day because I can see that hon. Friends on this side are bursting to give my hon. Friend the Minister of Education that advice for which he has asked. We have a good many experts in the House on education, and I am sure they are only too willing, not so much to criticise the work of the Board, but to help the Board to come to better decisions and to find the nigger in the wood pile, whoever he may be—


We are willing to go on for the whole day, but I understand that the Government are anxious to get on to an urgent Measure.


I thought perhaps that the hon. Member's party had not enough speakers. This Vote gives us a great opportunity. It is difficult to get any sort of legislation through this House, and it appears to be quite impossible to get it through another place. Therefore we must squeeze all the goodness we can out of existing legislation through correct administration. This Vote, therefore, gives us an opportunity of suggesting to the right hon. Gentleman some of the ways in which he might squeeze a little more goodness out of the legislation which he already has. My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Beaumont) and I have had a good many conversations on the question of mental deficiency, and we are at least in complete agreement that the best is not being done for the mentally defective child. I shall say a good deal more about this than the hon. Member, because it is a matter of the greatest gravity to this country that the mentally defective child has been completely neglected.

I hope that when the Parliamentary Secretary replies he will not deny that, because I have taken the trouble during the last two or three weeks to question the Minister on the subject. I have asked for the number of schools which have been erected for the education of the mentally defective child during the past few years, and have received the reply that in 1926 the number was five; in 1927, four; in 1928, none; in 1929, four; and in 1930, one. The Minister told me that he realised the difficulties which the local education authorities had in this matter, so I asked him to-day how many local authorities have been turned down. I find that in 1926 one local education authority was turned down; in 1927 no less than eight were turned down; in 1928, two; and in 1929, one. The hon. Gentleman said that in 1930 the Board did not refuse any education authorities. In turning back to his last answer, I found that only one had applied, and that that one had not been refused. That is not good enough in the face of what is a really grave problem.

It is not easy to discriminate the amount of money that is given to special education by this Vote. I find that the increase for special services is £475,000. I am sorry that the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) is not in her place, because I know that she will be as delighted as I am to see that £375,000 of that will be spent on school medical services and nursery schools. The other £100,000 is for the provision of meals. That means that there is to be nothing spent on the poor unfortunate mentally defective child. I do not know whether the Committee realises the gravity of the situation, what this problem means, and how vital it is to future generations.

The most disquieting report which has been published during recent years is the report of the committee set up by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) on the position of mental deficiency in this country. I am sorry to say that the Noble Lord was rather a sinner in this respect, because the Wood report was made the excuse why these schools were not opened. When the local authorities went to the Board and asked to be allowed to open these schools, they were told that the Wood Committee was still sitting, and that they must wait until they reported. The reactionary authorities who did not go to the Board excused themselves by saying that the Wood Committee was sitting and that they were waiting to see what the report said. When the report was published, it was seen to be the most disquieting report which has been published within recent years. What are we told now? My hon. Friend informed me the other day that this requires legislation, and that until legislation has been passed nothing really can be done; everything must hang fire.

It is necessary that hon. Members should have some sort of picture of the position. Do they realise that there are 340,000 mental defectives in this country; that from 1906 to 1929 mental deficiency doubled; that there are 55 per cent. more mentally defective children in rural areas than in urban areas; that the incidence per 1,000 school children in urban areas is 20.7 and in rural areas 39.7? [Interruption.] I am prepared to show that this investigation was carried out very much more thoroughly than could possibly have been the case in 1906. We had one of the most patient investigators of mental deficiency that this country has ever had. The report says that, taking everything into consideration, there cannot be the least doubt that mental deficiency is greatly increasing—


How are you going to deal with it?


I am coming to that. [Interruption.]


I spoke most courteously.


But I would rather develop my case in my own way.


I was trying to help the hon. Lady.


I do not need the hon. Member's help. I can develop my own theme quite easily. I have made a very complete study of this question. There are going to be very drastic measures proposed in the House shortly in regard to mental deficiency, but I want to say that teachers up and down the country feel that there is a patient, hopeful method of dealing with mentally defective children, and that is the educational method. Mental deficiency of the type which we know is best dealt with as a social and not as a pathological question. Of course, I am not dealing with the congenital idiot. We know that congenital idiots are to be found in every class of society—both here and in the other place as well. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] The grave social problem of the sub-cultural mentally defectives is to be found in the very poorest homes in this country and not in well-to-do homes. The report tells us that 61 per cent. come from homes below the average and 25 per cent. from the poorest slum homes. That is why I say it is a social and not a pathological problem. We find these cases associated with the worst of our social problems—chronic pauperism, habitual crime and illegitimacy. Surely the Minister of a Labour Government, realising that, will say, "We must not wait. We must deal with the question." One school for mentally-defective children per year is not enough; it is a disgrace.

I feel very strongly about this matter because I have taught mentally-defective children, and I know how hopeful a thing it is. I know that you can take a child who appears to be entirely antisocial and by careful, patient methods of education can give that child a place in society. You can help that child to earn its own living, and a child who can earn its own living and who marries and has a decent little family can raise itself socially, and does not sink, as the uneducated mentally-defective child does, who cannot earn a living, does not know how to earn a living, and has a large family of children, even more mentally defective than himself, so increasing the problem. This is not a matter that can be neglected. The right hon. Gentleman has said to me before, "We require legislation." I am going to tell him that if his legislation is on the lines suggested in the Wood report every teacher in this House and in the country will fight it. We do not agree with the recommendations of the Wood report. We believe that administration could give us all the results we want. In view of the gravity of the position, and the fact that these children are a burden in the elementary schools, that they are a drag on the progress of the other children in a class, and that they will become a burden and a drag on the community—and an increasing burden and an increasing drag—I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give this question sympathetic consideration.

I will turn to the children at the other end of the scale, our boys and girls who have a high intelligence standard, those who ought to go on to get secondary education. [Interruption.] I know the Noble Lord knows what an intelligence test is. I am quite prepared to test his at any time, if he wants me to do it. A great deal has been said this afternoon about reorganisation and the Hadow Report. I like the Hadow Report, and I agree with reorganisation, but I am not in agreement with the hon. Gentleman opposite who thought we could have reorganisation in some places and not in others. I believe in thorough-going, thorough-paced reorganisation; but I was very much touched by what the right hon. Gentleman said about the futility and the tragedy of stratification at the age of 11. I do not believe in the stratification of our children at the age of 11. There are no means of telling at that early and tender age what a child is going to be and I hope the Noble Lord, who has visited the United States of America and has told the House how much he learned in the time he was there, learned the advantages of the multiple-bias school. I wish to commend it. I should like to see my right hon. Friend pressing upon local education authorities the absolute necessity of experimenting with the multiple-bias school. We cannot take a child at the age of 11 and say, "This child is academic," or "This child is commercial," or "This child is practical." It is ridiculous. If the child is put into a school which provides various courses, then if it is found to be taking the wrong course for it, it can be diverted to the right course. The Noble Lord must have seen many junior high schools and senior high schools in the United States of America which were arranged on that plan. There are a few secondary schools in this country which have that system, but, generally speaking, they are not quite large enough.

Another very old trouble is that we have not free secondary education. May I plead with my right hon. Friend to fight those enemies of reaction, whoever they may be, who tell him there is not enough money? He should "go for" the people in the Cabinet who tell him "You cannot have the money." What is he there for? He is the champion of education. Other people scramble for money, and why should not he scramble for money? I know what I would do if I were in his place. The Ministry would not stand it for more than a few months if I could not get what I wanted. The great thing for which we of this party stand—my right hon. Friend the late President of the Board of Education mentioned it in his letter of resignation—is free secondary education. Answers such as were given to the East Ham education authority will not do, as coming from a party pledged to free secondary education. It does not need legislation to bring it about.

My right hon. Friend gave the best argument in favour of free secondary education when he told us that 29 per cent. of the fee payers in secondary schools were passing examinations and 54 per cent. of the free placers were passing examinations. We have had a lot of talk about anomalies lately, but municipal secondary schools in which fees have to be paid are an anomaly in a State system of education. The children who are paying fees are filling places which could be better filled by children with a greater ability to profit by the teaching which is given. Why should fee-paying children be subsidised to the extent of two-thirds of the cost of their education when we have boys and girls in the elementary schools waiting on the doorstep to push forward into secondary education? The position is a very grave one this year, something has been said about the bulge. With the jump in the birth rate in 1920 there will be hundreds upon hundreds of boys and girls in working-class homes who are 11 years of age this year and who, because our reactionary education authorities will not increase the number of free places, will be disappointed of the scholarships they thought they would get.

It is no good my right hon. Friend telling me that he is sending out circulars. What happens to the circulars? If what he advocates does not suit a local education authority, the circular is pigeon-holed and nothing is done. I know he will say he has raised the free places from 40 to 50 this year. That means nothing. Any local authority could raise its free places from 40 to 50 last year, and the year before, if only it applied for the sanction of the Board. I beg my right hon. Friend to follow up his circulars by demanding of the local education authorities that they shall do something in this critical year, when so many more boys and girls at the age of 11 are crying out for secondary education. When I was not a Member of this House, but used to sit in the Gallery and listen to the Debates with bated breath, I have heard hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite say, "We will do everything for the clever boy and girl; we do not mind how much we spend on them." I do not like to hear it said from this side that we will not spend money. We are dealing with a most valuable asset, and we have got to capitalise it. I do not agree that other boys and girls are not equally valuable.

The burden of this world's work is carried on the shoulders of average boys and girls, and that is why I plead for the multiple-bias school, because I want the average boy to have as good a chance as the boys and girls who can pass examinations. The ability to pass examinations does not mean very much, and I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman, who believes that the spirit is the thing which is all important in our secondary education, should say that the main object of the secondary school is to enable boys to pass the leaving examination. We shall get the spirit when we get rid of examinations. Examinations are not education. However, I cannot go on in this way, I admit that I am an idealist in these matters, but those are two of the main points on which I want to advise the President. He asked for advice, he said he was willing to take advice, and I ask my right hon. Friend to be guided by me, and to look at the two ends of the scale—at the poor children who are uneducated and neglected because their intelligence is not as high as it might be, and at the bright boys and girls at the other end of the scale for whom a great deal could be done by making secondary education free to all boys and girls. As an hon. Member for one of the Buckinghamshire divisions said, he should see that every child in the country has an equal opportunity of developing the intelligence of which it is possessed.

6.0 p.m.


I happened to read in a newspaper yesterday that a Baptist minister had just delivered a ser- mon lasting 48 hours. It is needless to say that the sermon was not preached in this country, and it is interesting to observe that the report did not say how many people remained at the close of the sermon. The defence for preaching a sermon of that length was that it dealt with the subject: "What is wrong with the Church?" To-day we are dealing with the question of what is right, or wrong, as the case may be, with education, and it may be there are some persons who think that that subject is worthy of an equally long and searching examination. However, I do not propose to emulate the example of the American divine; but there are two or three observations which I should like to address to the President of the Board of Education, whom I congratulate on making his first appearance as head of that important Department. He will forgive me for saying that I think his speech caused some disappointment, and not the least to the real friends of education in this country. The most significant part of his speech was embraced in the sentences towards the end when he talked about the financial perils, and gave a warning that many hopes must be postponed. We have heard that statement for years, and I am wondering whether the present Government, under his administration, are going to do even worse than happened under his predecessor in the previous Government, and under the predecessor of that right hon. Gentleman as well. I appreciate that the position of the President of the Board of Education is a difficult one. He is at the head of a Department which is concerned with a very great number of matters of detailed administration, and to which, if he gives full attention, he must devote a very great part of his time. I wonder if the speech which he made to-day had any reference to a paragraph in the "Schoolmaster" which referred to a deputation from the East Ham authority, which deputation was not received by either the President or the Parliamentary Secretary. I think it is very unfair that a deputation of this importance dealing with the educational policy of this country should be received by a person who is not responsible to the House of Commons when we come to deal with the objects of that deputation. Deputations on policy, I think, should be received by the President or the Parliamentary Secretary. In connection with this point, this is what appeared in the "Schoolmaster" on 2nd July: The Government intend to adopt the policy of the abolition of fees, the reason being that the country cannot afford it, and therefore no application from authorities to increase charging fees would be granted. I am not so much concerned with the general policy which says that the abolition of fees is a matter which the country cannot afford, but I think the Board of Education goes beyond anything it has said before when it declares that: No application from authorities to increase charging fees would be granted. Further than that, Mr. Bowles hinted that any increase in free places would involve a decrease in maintenance grants to children under 14. Irrespective of the merits of that policy, it is remarkable that a declaration of that sort should be made to a deputation, not by any Minister responsible to this House, but by an official of the Board—I agree that he is a very responsible and trustworthy official—on a matter of such grave importance. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will explain what is the exact policy in regard to a matter of such tremendous importance. I think we must regard this year as more or less marking time in educational administration. There is no doubt that local education authorities are in great difficulties. They have to prepare their schemes for future policy, and they do not know what is going to happen. They do not know what will happen to the Bill dealing with the raising of the school age. Apart from that, there are money difficulties of an administrative character with which the local education authorities are faced at the present time. One of those difficulties is pointed out in the statistical figures given in the report of the Board of Education which show a reduction in the number of pupils attending the schools. Does that arise out of the reduced birth-rate of the country? The reduction in numbers presents a problem of great difficulty in itself, and it adds to the difficulties of the local education authorities in framing their budgets and policies for the next few years.

While I appreciate that there are many difficulties of a practical character in the way of education authorities at the present time, that does not excuse them, or the Board of Education, from the necessity of proceeding with the preparation of schemes for the future. One of the great arguments which has always been used, and which will always be used, against any proposal to raise the school age is that local education authorities have not had sufficient notice of it. But there is no doubt that some time that policy will be put into operation, perhaps in the course of a few years. One of the main objects of all those concerned in the administration of education is that the local authorities should proceed with their schemes, so that they will be ready to meet the position which I have stated, and when the time comes to put their schemes into operation, they will be ready to do so under conditions which will give them a fair chance of success.

Then there are the wider schemes of reorganisation. I should like to refer to a matter which was mentioned by the President. As far as I understand it, a great many of the present reorganisation schemes are based upon the definite acceptance of the 11-plus age as the area of demarcation between one type of education and the other. For the purpose of securing facilities for secondary schools and other branches of that sort of education, the scholarships are entirely provided for children under the age of 11. I ask the Minister to consider whether it is not possible in all these schemes to give a little more latitude in regard to that matter. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) referred to what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) but I do not want to call in the aid of the right hon. Gentleman in this case, because it is well known to everyone that his interest in education is not in the case of a child that developed special abilities before 11 years of age. Up to the age of 11, when a boy or girl qualifies by a special scholarship he or she goes to a senior school, but that boy or girl has no chance of going from that school to a more advanced secondary school which gives a more advanced type of education. I know the 11-plus test has been adopted, and we know the grounds on which it was adopted. I do not quarrel with that principle as a general rule but I confess that I am not at all sure that part of the argument for the adoption of that figure is not opposed to all our educational history.

What I wish to suggest is that there are several boys and girls who may not qualify before 11 years but who may at 12 or 13 years develop powers which they perhaps did not display before that age, and I think it is important that the Board of Education should keep those rather exceptional cases in mind and make some provision for them. I understand that in London provision is made for this by supplementary scholarships, but the examination is of a very high standard. I ask the President of the Board of Education to examine this matter in order to see whether in reorganisation schemes some provision may be made for the children who may not have shown exceptional ability up to the age of 11 years.

With regard to the large number of pupils in classes, the report of the Board of Education seems to take credit that the number of large classes has been reduced. I would like to ask how far that reduction is actually due to schemes of reorganisation, and how far it is due to the automatic reduction in the numbers attending the schools which has taken place as the result of the reduction in the birth-rate. If it is due to a real and marked improvement on the part of the education authorities, then it is a matter upon which we should be given more information at the present time, when we are talking so much about reorganisation and maintenance grants, improved premises and all the hundred and one different questions of administration. I believe it is one of the most vital things for the education of this country that we should attack this system of very large-sized classes. After all, one of the great tendencies amongst all those who have taken an interest in education in recent years has been in the direction of emphasising the importance of developing the individuality of the pupils and at the same time recognising the variations in their character. If a teacher has a class of, say, 50 or 60 pupils, how can he or she be expected to give the children any individual attention? To those who say that we are not getting full value for the money spent on education, I reply that one of the safest and surest ways of increasing the value of the money spent on education is to be found in a reduction in the size of the classes, so that the teachers may have the opportunity which they so much desire to develop the individual capacities of the children.

Now I should like to say a word or two about the position of education in Wales. This year represents the 50th anniversary of the publication of what has been described as the educational charter of modern Wales. It is the report of the committee which was presided over by Lord Aberdare in that period. That report drew attention to the inadequacy of the education provided at that time, and it supplied the foundations for the new facilities which have since been created in the fostering of a new outlook in Wales in regard to the possibility of dealing with the educational life of the country. It may interest the Committee, if I tell them that, in the course of the 50 years since the publication of that report, very remarkable changes have taken place. It is true that in the case of the elementary schools development has proceeded more or less on what I might call normal lines, but, as regards secondary education, while in 1881, when this report was published, there were 1,800 pupils receiving education of a secondary character in Wales, to-day there are over 40,000. As regards higher education, in 1881 there was only one college, with 50 students. That college had been established about nine years earlier, with 25 students; it conquered difficulties of an unexampled character, through the unparalleled determination and devotion of its friends and supporters; and it has now developed into the University, consisting of four colleges, with 3,000 full-time students—a university which claims to be a national university, and which bases that claim, not merely on territorial and geographical considerations, but on the services which it is rendering to the nation to which it belongs, and on its increasing association with the life of the people of that country.

These are two or three illustrations out of many that I might cite of the very remarkable development which has taken place in the 50 years which have passed since the publication of this report. We take pride in the fact that it shows, not merely an increase in the educational facilities which now obtain in Wales, but much more—it shows the increasing appreciation of those facilities by the people for whom they were intended. These are some of the encouraging features which we Welsh people take to heart when we are reviewing the last 50 years at this convenient moment.

All the features of our educational system are not quite so encouraging. There are other matters which require attention. No one who knows the schools in a great many rural districts of Wales can have failed to appreciate the fact that many of the premises are unsatisfactory, are insufficient, and in a large number of cases are absolutely insanitary, and that they do not provide those facilities for play and the amenities of school life to which the President of the Board of Education referred in his speech when he spoke of the remarkable development which has taken place in the elementary and secondary schools of our country. We have had in the last few years several reports dealing with matters affecting educational activities in Wales. My plea to the President, and, if I may say so without disrespect to him, more particularly to the Parliamentary Secretary, who knows a great deal about these things from his own personal experience and from his membership of the same nationality, is that some of these recommendations, which vary in interest and importance, should not be regarded as the prerogatives of the pigeon-holes of the Board of Education, but should be put into operation as the privileges of the people who desire to see them in operation.

There are many very devoted servants of education in Wales who are anxious to see developments on certain lines, but, before I mention those lines, I should like to make a reference of a personal character—not personal to myself, but to someone else. It is a well recognised Rule of the House, I understand, that we are not allowed to criticise a civil servant. I do not know whether the Rules prevent us from paying a compliment to a civil servant when he deserves it, but if they do not, I should like to pay my personal tribute—and in doing so I know that I am speaking on behalf of a very large number of the people of Wales—to the services of Sir Percy Watkins, the head of the Welsh Department of the Board of Education. He has given great guidance to local education authorities, and has been an inspiration to a great deal of educational activity of the very best type in Wales within recent years. There are certain things which I know are very dear to his heart, and I would venture to appeal to the Board of Education to encourage him in the development of those ideas.

We are proud of our educational system; we think there is a good deal to be said for it; but we think it can be developed still further. There are people in Wales who are very anxious to see our schools, elementary and secondary, as well as our University, giving greater opportunities to their students and pupils in the direction of art, music, Welsh history, and the Welsh language. These are things on which we feel very keenly, not merely as a matter of narrow pride, but because people who are devoted to them believe that a great achievement can be accomplished for the future of Wales by the encouragement of the Welsh character and the development of the Welsh culture. We hold that belief because we know that the principle of nationality, when it is properly understood, can be the instrument of the spirit, not of boastfulness in ourselves, but the spirit of service to ourselves, to our neighbours, and to the world.


In the first place, I should like to add my word to those of the President of the Board with regard to the late Sir Aubrey Symonds. I could not express better than the right hon. Gentleman has expressed it the debt which education owes to that great civil servant, but I should like to add this: It was commonly supposed by many people, and is commonly supposed by many to-day, that, because he had not served at the Board of Education, his services after he came there were of a purely administrative character, and that he was not an expert or very much interested in education itself; but no teacher who met Sir Aubrey Symonds on those occasions, which interested him more than any of the rest of the work of the Board, when he visited the short courses for teachers at Oxford and Cambridge in the summer, would ever make that mistake. In him the Board has lost, not only a very statesmanlike administrator and sound adviser, but a man who would have left increasingly, in the next five years, his mark on education itself and on educational ideas in this country.

In the next place, I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and to welcome him on the first occasion on which he has stood at that Box as President of the Board of Education, and also, if I may be so impertinent, to give him a word of advice. It is this: Let him not fall into the fatal error, into which I think both his immediate predecessors have fallen, of getting lost in what I may call the purely housemaid's work of the Board of Education. During the last six or seven years we have had Debate after Debate on these Education Estimates, and they have all ranged round things like the size of classes, black-listed schools, and so on. These matters are of immense importance, but, after all, they, and the reorganisation of the break at II, are administrative matters which have been decided, and can now run on their own account with a minimum of administrative pushing. They are no longer the important things. They go on from year to year without showing much change—[Interruption]—I mean without showing much change in the rate of progress. In the last two years there were 2,000 fewer classes with more than 50 children, which is rather less than the average rate of reduction in the preceding five years, because, of course, the nearer you get to the bone the more difficult it is to reduce still further.

These things, however, are not the important things. The important thing at the present moment is that, having made our schools better equipped, better housed, better staffed, better organised and standardised, and better examined, we are increasingly running the risk that we shall wake up and find that into these empty halls we have no educational ideals and standards to put. The outstanding fact of the present day is that in every country the best authorities will tell you that education in its true sense is deteriorating. Whether you ask a Scotsman, an American, a Frenchman, or even a German, they will all, except perhaps a Russian or an Italian, tell you that the standards of education are no longer what they were. I hope that the President of the Board of Education, who has had a life of university teaching will show himself to be a president who devotes his attention above all to these questions. There were certain gleams of that point of view coming from his speech.

Let us frankly admit that there is nothing more depressing or exasperating than the steady resistance to new ideas shown by every educational reformer. We have had two instances of it to-day. I said in my last speech on the Estimates when I was in office that there were only two questions of administrative policy which were not yet decided, and on which this country had not a policy, namely, those of nursery schools and of the mentally deficient child. Apparently, we have made no great progress during the last two years towards having a policy on either of those question, but they have both been the subject of very interesting reports. In the case of the nursery schools, a very interesting consideration of the subject was included by Sir George Newman in his annual report, I think for 1928, in which, in diplomatic terms, he expressed his view that nursery schools were really a blind alley, that they could not meet the problem, and that there must be a wider policy, combining the nursery school idea with the health centre idea, if any serious inroad was to be made upon the problems which face us. Nursery schools have been mentioned to-day, but that aspect of the matter has not been mentioned at all.

Then the hon. Lady the Member for East Islington (Mrs. Manning), who, I am sorry to say, has now left the Committee, rather naively attacked the President of the Board of Education for not having a policy on the subject of mental deficients, and quoted the Wood Report, with its startling revelations. She then informed the right hon. Gentleman that, if he presumed to carry out the recommendations of the Wood Report, he would be fought by every teacher in the country. I am afraid that that was rather letting the cat out of the bag. The world of education has not yet got a policy about mental deficiency, because it is faced with a very authoritative report stating that the old policy of segregation is in some respects a bad policy, at any rate an inadequate policy, and that, if you are going to tackle this problem on the scale on which you must tackle it, you must get away more or less from this idea of segregation, except for the most deficient children, and develop on other lines. The teaching profession as represented by the National Union of Teachers has set its face, I understand, against that recommendation. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Beaumont) that it is high time that the Board did have a policy in spite of the National Union of Teachers on that question. I give those as instances of the difficulty of getting educational progress out of the groove of certain old ideas. Educational reform is far too much an affair of pushing a little further along the groove of old ideas.

I come back to the fundamental question of standards of education. What has been happening? In the old days, 60 years ago, when the system of compulsory education was started, we had a clear educational idea for the elementary schools, the idea of the three R's—the theory of grounding and grinding in the three R's. That may seem a very tame and reactionary idea to many at present, but remember what it accomplished. Remember that there are men who habitually sit on the Front Government Bench whose skilful use of classical English, better than many better educated men, is a testimony to the kind of teaching that they got in the elementary school. It may have been a narrow ideal, but it was an ideal, and because it was an ideal strongly held as a standard, it has accomplished its work. Then there was the standard of our higher education, especially in Scotland, a standard of severe mental braining, a sharpening of the mind, on perhaps rather a narrow-range of subjects, but a sharpening of the mind on the ancient languages, and on the study of philosophy. It was a mental training as such, and we all know how very sadly education in Scotland to-day compares with that ideal. That, again, may have been the ideal for too few people. It may have been too selective. But it was an ideal. It was a standard and, therefore, it accomplished great things. It accomplished this, that in- tellectually the Scotch led the world for a century.

Again, you have the ideal and the standard that you find in Germany or Holland to-day. It is all very well for the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) to talk about Germany's expenditure on technical education, but if you compare the fine product of the German secondary school, and technical high school, you find a very highly trained technician who is also at home in at least two foreign languages. What comparable accomplishment to that do you find in the best technicians turned out by the engineering departments, say, of our universities? There it may be overweighting again. I think it is. But we in England have always, in business and elsewhere, leant rather to the academic, and there is nothing more remarkable to-day than the resistance of many of our leading and most progressive business men to any idea of making university training anything but an academic training, an insistence on the idea that it does not matter for the purpose of the future requirements of business what a man takes his degree in as long as he takes a fairly good degree.

I am not deciding between those two ideas. I am pointing out that it is an absolute waste of time to go on talking about the arrangement of your schools, the internal economy of your schools and the buildings and the teaching and so on, unless you have an ideal of what you want to produce, and you must have a standard of the highest education. It is useless to have a standard for any education lower than that. I agree with the President of the Board—I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury—we want to think of the average child, the rural child and so on. But the lesson of all education is that your advice and your guidance to the normal child is a derivative of your educational ideal for the ablest child who is going to rise highest on the educational ladder. Unless you have that, you will not have a sufficient ideal to give the more practical education that your average student needs.

Let me bring this down to a practical question. The President of the Board has spoken of State scholarships. He has said that his predecessor increased State scholarships from 200 to 300 a year. That is a proposal which wag before me, which I did not carry out, though I might have carried it out in my last year of office, and I do not criticise it at all. But a mere multiplication of State scholarships ignores entirely the very real and very damaging criticism that may be made upon the whole system not only of State scholarships but of university scholarships supported out of public funds. I am sure the President of the Board will agree that the fact that a certain percentage of State scholars have taken first-class honours is not in itself a demonstration of the success of the system, unless you have a far more touching belief in the standards of honours examinations of universities than, I am afraid, I have.

The whole question of honours degree examinations is another of the things that urgently need looking into, as every progressive teacher in a university will agree. But almost every university teacher who is dealing with these scholars, whether State scholars or scholars holding a local authority scholarship, or teachers under a four years' course of training in university training Departments, will tell you that a scholarship being given not by the college or university itself, the amount of it not being controlled by the academic institution in which the student is getting his examination, but being provided by the Board of Education or a local authority completely outside, tends to a system of means limits, income limits, a maximum amount which the student may draw from all sources, and a limiting of the conditions of tenure of the scholarship, especially in the case of teachers. I give two actual instances. Take the maintenance allowance granted to a teacher in training. That is subject to the condition, not I think legally enforceable, that the student shall teach in a grant-earning school, and there are very many of your best and ablest men who go to a university on those conditions who come to doubt whether teaching is, after all, their metier, but, holding the scholarship on this condition, they must go on. You may out of that system simply get a bad teacher and lose a real leader in some other profession.

Then take the ordinary State scholarship or local authority scholarship. In order to control them, we have built up a system, with the universities, of scales and limits and maxima, so that an undergraduate studying history for a history degree may have one maximum, and a student who is studying for a science degree a slightly higher one, because the science student has to get apparatus. But no one thinks that the history student may need to buy books and, that for the student who has grown up in surroundings where he has never owned a book of his own, the one essential thing at the university is to get into the habit of owning books. I came to this clear conclusion about this summit of the educational ladder represented by scholarships, that you would have no satisfactory system, you would not get the best men from your secondary schools into the university, and you would not get the best out of them at the university, until you put the administration of these scholarship funds to a far greater extent than at present in the hands of the universities themselves to distribute according to their judgment and according to the needs of the students under their charge, undertaking, if you will, in return, so far as teachers are concerned, to turn out a certain minimum number of teachers with their diploma every year. I was in negotiation with the universities on that subject in the last two years that I was in office. Only one Vice-Chancellor of one university opposed the idea. All the others were, I think, very keen on going further with it. [Interruption.] No one opposite need indulge in the sneer that the universities were going to get money out of it, because they were not.


We never impute motives, though I suspect many things.


That idea, however, ran underground. I give that as an Instance of what I feel very strongly that the weakness and danger are that we do not care enough about what education really is. We have got away from the old and rather narrow ideas about the three R's and the training for a livelihood and so on. We have left the old idea of a training based upon languages, whether modern or ancient. We are sploshing about with what the right hon. Gentleman calls the school-leaving examination. That examination enshrines in itself the sploshy, indeterminate, halting-between- two-opinions atmosphere of the whole of our higher education. These are the things which the Board of Education ought to be considering, and not all these administrative details. The President of the Board of Education is the supreme education authority in this country or, shall I say, the supreme focus of education in this country. I know how the hon. Gentleman feels, but I would ask this Committee to approach these and future Estimates far more in the spirit of asking what is the aim and standard behind all this paraphernalia of schools, and far less as to whether there are 10 or 20 fewer, or more, classes containing over 50 children.

I will conclude with one more practical point. Education at the present moment is very much more expensive than it was two years ago. It is, I think, some £6,000,000 more expensive, as judged by the Estimates. I know that the annual Estimates are a bad guide in this respect, and that you can under-estimate or overestimate slightly the amount of grants that you will pay to local authorities within the financial year. I rather underestimated, and therefore left to my successor a certain amount of arrears of grant to pay up. But even so, the increase in these Estimates is greater than can be accounted for by any of the facts which have been put before this Committee either in print or by word of mouth this evening. A net increase of 1,200 teachers, even allowing for the fact that that means 3,000 extra certificated teachers and 1,800 less supplementary and uncertificated teachers, does not account for much more than £600,000 a year, upon which a grant of 60 per cent. would be £360,000. All the expenditure upon building schools during the last four or five years, even if they had all come into bearing, so to speak, in the last two years, would not in the loan charges account for more than perhaps £1,800,000 or £2,000,000 at the outside. I should think that it is very much less than that, taking into account old loan charges on old school buildings that were falling in.

The disturbing thing about these Estimates is that a very large part of the increase in educational costs consist of a million little trickles at various points. It has always been the case, and I know how difficult it is when you are trying to estimate and control in some small measure the expenditure of over 300 local authorities. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the first step towards that attitude of cautious economy which he foreshadowed in his speech is to devote a great deal more attention to accounting for the actual reasons for the growth in educational expenditure during the last five years. It must be reduced to some clear outline if we are to be able to judge how far we can carry even such a policy as the policy of reorganising the schools. I would seriously press that point upon the right hon. Gentleman.

I have dealt with rather broader things for the most part, but I would ask the Committee to remember that popular education is a great ideal, though only if you are sure that you are not asking more and more people to come and drink at a stagnant pool. The supremely important question before us is, How are we to keep our educational ideals alive in the secondary school and in the technical school, and in that multiple-bias school of which the hon. Lady the Member for East Islington spoke? It can only in this country, if she will consider it, be built up round the technical school, and cannot be evolved out of the present secondary school.


Like most of the Members who have so far spoken, I do not want to level any general criticism against the work of the Board of Education. I desire rather to bring forward certain specific and perhaps minor details in regard to which I think that improvements could be carried out. I will begin with the State scholarships of which the Noble Lord was speaking just before he sat down. I cannot agree with him that it is a disaster that 52 per cent. of these scholars obtained first class honours.


I did not say that.


I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I cannot agree with his suggestion that this fact, at any rate, has to be criticised. I think that it is a very desirable thing that such a stage of education has been attained by individuals who, almost certainly without these scholarships would not have had the advantage of a university education. But I am more concerned with what happens to these scholars when their university career has finished. I should like the President of the Board of Education to inquire as to what walks of life they enter after they leave their university. I cannot help feeling that most of them will go into the teaching, secretarial and perhaps journalistic and similar professions, but I should like to see these scholarships made a port of entry not only for certain vocations but made applicable to all.

A month or two ago I asked a question in the House as to whether these scholarships would enable individuals to obtain degrees which would entitle them to practise in some of the other professions. I specifically asked about medicine and dentistry, and I was informed that as these scholarships were only tenable for a maximum of four years it was not possible for scholars to obtain such qualifications. I look upon it as a great disaster that certain professions can only be recruited from certain classes. Six out of seven children in this country go to the elementary schools. There is, as far as I know, no maintenance scholarship to allow such children to become members of the medical or dental professions. Elementary school children can get to the secondary schools by the help of scholarships and they can then reach the universities. I suggest to the President of the Board of Education that it would indeed be a useful thing if some of these scholarships were made tenable, so that boys and girls who desired it and who appeared to be suitable could be enabled to enter not only a few professions, but all professions for which they might show ability.

I wish to say a few words about the school medical service. I know of the excellent work that this service is doing in some places, but I feel that it is a service which has to deal too much with treatment and too little with the prevention of diseases. For the most part the school medical officers seem to me like the grocer in a village store who sorts over the oranges from time to time and picks out the bad ones and puts them aside. I do not think that sufficient care is taken by the school medical officers to prevent diseases, although they are very busy in curing them. It is well known that inspection is carried out very differently in different parts. I asked the hon. Gentleman some time ago what was the amount of time that was taken on the average by a school medical officer in inspection of each pupil, and I was told that it was only six minutes. That seems to be a very short time.

I wish to criticise especially what is being done with regard to the dental treatment of scholars in the elementary schools of this country. I looked up the last report of the Board, and I found that last year there were eight local educational authorities that had made no provision at all for the dental treatment of their scholars. I also found according to the same official report that less than one-third of those in need of dental treatment received it. I cannot help feeling that this is a disaster. In some places, although the dentists tell us that teeth should be inspected every year, in the years in which medical inspection takes place, the dental inspection is generally omitted. I know that I should be out of order if I attempted to criticise the statutory provision that necessitates the making a charge to parents for medical and dental treatment of scholars, but I feel that the Board should see to it that the charge is not made a deterrent. I understand that in some places a higher charge is made for the stopping of teeth than is made for their extraction. That has a tendency, I think hon. Members will agree, to induce parents of scholars to be more ready to have their children's teeth extracted than to have them stopped and therefore saved.

7.0 p.m.

I said a moment ago that I was mainly criticising the school medical service because it did not, in my opinion, sufficiently go in for the prevention of disease. That is not altogether the fault of the Board, because when the school medical officers were appointed instructions were served out to them and they were requested to provide an annual review of the hygienic conditions of the schools and also of the way in which hygiene was taught. With regard to the first point, I have by me the report for 1929 of the largest educational authority in this country and practically the only thing I can find about the hygiene of the schools are plans and details of four new open-air schools. This is the report of the Medical Officer of the Board of Education for the London County Council.

I should like to turn to the second and equally important point—the question of how hygiene is taught in the schools. I feel very strongly that it is important that there should be a great deal more teaching of hygiene in the schools than there is at present. I know the Board will agree with me in this because they have issued a very useful syllabus, "The Hygiene of Food and Drink," dealing with the effects of alcohol and other questions, and also a "Handbook of Suggestions on Health Education." They direct that instruction in hygiene should be given in the schools at least once a week right throughout the child's school life. An inquiry was made the year before last by the medical officers of the Board as to how much teaching actually took place in certain sample schools, and I should like to give some figures on this point. In the secondary boys' schools there was no systematic health teaching in 84 per cent. of schools. Girls' schools were a little bit better. In the senior boys' schools there was no systematic health teaching in 31 per cent. of the schools. I feel quite sure that everyone will agree how important it is that children should have definite health teaching in the schools. The hon. Gentlemen opposite have been telling us that we are spending a good deal of money in changing the environment of the people, and that much money is being spent on housing and medical work and so on. I think they will agree with me that it is a very good thing, indeed, to teach people, and especially to teach the children, how to maintain their health, and how to make the very best use even of things as they are. I should like to suggest to the Board of Education that it would be a very good thing if health teaching could be made a definite school subject.

There is just one more subject I should like to mention before I sit down, and that is the question of the school records. I know that in some schools at any rate very careful records are kept concerning medical history of the children attending these schools. What becomes of those records? Are they kept, and is any practical use made of them? I feel that use might be made of them by having them passed on to the insurance committees so that they might be of value to the children after they leave school. One's medical history is naturally very difficult to remember. Most of us in this chamber could probably give the date on which we were returned to the House of Commons or the date on which we were married and we could give some details of each of these events, but if we had to pass an examination on the date on which we had measles, mumps, or influenza, or to give details of such illnesses as we have had, we should find it very difficult indeed. Moreover, the details that we should provide might not be strictly correct from a medical point of view. I feel very strongly that it would be a very valuable thing for the health of the people if a continuous medical record could be kept.

We know also that in medical research we are needing to get more accurate knowledge of the very beginnings of a disease, and such records would be of value here also. Some local education authorities have applied to the Board of Education and have asked for permission to transfer the medical records of the children to the insurance committees when they leave school at the age of 14, so that they may be passed on to the children's panel doctors when they reach the age of 16. Unfortunately the Board has refused. I cannot help feeling that this is a very short-sighted policy. If the Board needs the records copies could be sent to the insurance committee instead. These records would be retained by the panel doctor with the records of the individual in an envelope such as I have in my hand. They would be confidential as all such records are. I am sure that is going to help the individual concerned in the future to have a complete and careful record of his medical history. Therefore, I ask the Board to reconsider its decision, and I am sure it will never regret having done so. I am afraid I have dealt in a desultary fashion with a good many minor points, but my excuse is that the President of the Board of Education asked far suggestions and so I have given them.


I understand that an arrangement has already been arrived at between the parties that this discussion in regard to English education should come to an end at half-past seven so that our Scottish friends may be able to raise points in regard to Scottish education. I regret, therefore, that our discussion must at this point be brief. In the course of the Debate this afternoon a number of interesting points have been raised to each of which I should have liked to give some more time, but unfortunately the time is somewhat short and so I hope the Committee will excuse me if I apply myself to the main points raised. I am glad to acknowledge that the discussion has been conducted in a helpful spirit. There have been criticisms, it is perfectly true, but in the main there have been no severe adverse criticisms. Some little regret has been expressed on one point or another but, generally speaking, the Debate has been complimentary to the work of the Board.

I will take the subjects in the order in which my right hon. Friend took them in his opening speech on the Estimates and I will begin therefore by making reference to the criticism in regard to nursery schools which was contained in the speech of my hon. Friend who opened' the Debate on behalf of the Liberal party, the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris). He seemed to entertain the idea that there was ground for some disappointment in connection with the story which my right hon. Friend had to unfold concerning the development of nursery schools in the country. All I can say is that it may very well be from the hon. Member's point of view an inadequate story but from my point of view I think we need not be ashamed of the fact that in the course of two years we have increased the number of actual, approved and prospective nursery schools from something like 28 to the modest figure, as the hon. Member called it, of 100. That is progress which is not at all unsatisfactory. I heartily agree with him, of course, when he says he would like to see many more such schools, but in the time which we have had at our disposal in the last two years I think progress has been fairly substantial.

I turn now to the subject which has occasioned a good deal of criticism from the opposite side, as well as from some of my hon. Friends behind me, namely, the question of provision for the mentally deficient children in the country generally. Nobody, of course, with any heart at all would wish to be understood to imply that the provision which is now made for this class of child is adequate as things stand. I heartily agree that the facilities provided for these most unfortunate children ought to be expanded as early as possible but in the course of the discussion some rather severe observations fell from the hon. Member for East Islington (Mrs. Manning). I think we ought to look at this question with a due sense of proportion. The hon. Member directed attention to the fact that over a certain number of years 1926–7–8–9, there was what she would regard as being virtual stagnation. The Noble Lord opposite (Lord E. Percy) will agree that the committee which he appointed sat from 1925 to 1929, or thereabouts, and the view held by the Board between those years was that while this committee was examining the question they did not feel they could embark on a very vast development until they knew what the findings of this committee would be in regard to this most difficult and important problem. In due time the committee reported.

I think my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington is under a misapprehension in regard to one simple point. It is not strictly true to say that only one scheme has been approved. As a matter of fact there have been several since January, 1929. That however is a small point and the question which is really at issue is what is the real impediment to a substantial development of this service. Perhaps I may put it something like this. The committee which examined this question came to the general conclusion that it was not at all an easy matter—indeed one might put it more strongly—to apply the law completely as it now stands. The law lays it as a duty on local education authorities that they should make provision for mentally deficient children, but if you look at the distribution of this most un- fortunate defect amongst children you will find that it is more present amongst the rural population than it is amongst the urban. Anyone will realise that when you are discussing this problem in relation to the larger urban areas it is a comparatively simple job for them to provide special schools for the children under their administration, but that when you come to consider it in relation to rural areas you are up against a rather more difficult and challenging proposition.

To maintain a residential special school costs something like £90 per place; and that is a pretty stiff undertaking. It is perfectly clear that if you are going to insist upon special schools of a residential character—and they must be residential in character if you are going to provide for children spread over a very large rural area—it is going to be a costly proposition. There is another difficulty connected with this problem, and that is the power of a local authority over these children. It may be a regrettable and unfortunate thing, but it is quite understandable, that the parents of these children are indisposed and reluctant to let them go to schools of a residential character, and in law you have no power to compel them to go. Therefore, when we consider this proposition we really must have regard to the limitation of the law as it now stands. The Mental Deficiency Committee which sat from 1925 to 1929 visualised this problem in relation to the probability of the raising of the school age to 15. That is a point which the Noble Lord will not accept, but I think they viewed it in that relationship, and their idea was that it might be possible so to readjust the law that you might deal with a larger number of children, not only those who are of low mentality, but also the children who are very backward, dull or not as alert as the normal child. How can you, by the way, describe these children? There are infinite gradations and varieties of conditions. If you are going to have rural special schools for dealing with them, the schools will be inappropriate and inadequate, I would almost say not worth while, unless they are large enough to allow for satisfactory classification and organisation.

Those were the points which my right hon. Friend had in mind when he said that if you follow out the ideas of the Mental Deficiency Committee and transfer some of these children to some type of special school, but still in association with ordinary elementary schools, there would have to be a change in the school leaving age. If these schools are to be part of the elementary school system there will have to be a change in the law if you are to be allowed to retain the children up to the age of 15.

On the general question as to whether it is wise or unwise to accept the general conclusions of the committee, I admit that there is room for profound differences of opinion. After all, it is a problem in regard to which there is a place for a genuine divergence of view, and for my part I agree to some extent, but not fully, with the Noble Lord that in this matter we ought not to be too hidebound as to what should or should not be done concerning these children. I hope this will be accepted as an indication of the attitude of the Board of Education. As regards the desirability of expanding the provision I am heartily in agreement with my hon. Friends.

Let me say a word on the question of reorganisation. This matter has been discussed so much in this House during the last 12 months that I do not feel called upon to enter into an elaborate examination of the problem. All I will say, all I need say, is this, that we are not perhaps as mad as we seem to be on this question. I am heartily in favour of the application of reorganisation to the whole of the country. There will be no "pockets" left unexamined and un-reorganised. I want the whole educational system to be so completely changed that all children from the age of 11 or thereabouts shall pass from the primary form of instruction to some more complete form of post-primary instruction, and apropos of what the hon. Member for the Welsh Universities (Mr. Evans) has said, I must say—and I speak for the Board in this matter—that I should feel grievously disappointed with the results of reorganisation if there is not in that system more adequate provision for the development of interests and tastes, whether musical or artistic. We must recognise, whether we are teachers or administrators, that the one thing which is obvious is the infinite variety of gifts you find in a class of children.

I pass over the point mentioned by the hon. Member for Reading (Dr. Hastings) in regard to earmarking State Scholarships for students who are intending to go in for a certain profession. It would be a great mistake to begin to earmark State Scholarships in that way. I would rather leave it to the individual State Scholar himself to determine what particular walk of life he may ultimately enter, without earmarking these scholarships for this profession or for that.

I turn to a subject which has been ventilated a good deal on all sides of the Committee in regard to secondary education, and particularly the question of free secondary education. I would like to remind my hon. Friends who have quoted "Labour and the Nation" to me of what "Labour and the Nation" did in fact say. It is true that there is a paragraph in "Labour and the Nation," the programme of the Labour party, under the heading, "Secondary Education for All"—and I yield to no one in my loyalty and fidelity to the principle embodied in that phrase—in which there is this statement: If returned to power it will use every effort to accelerate the process of carrying it into effect. I submit that no case can be made out to support the charge that this Government is not proceeding upon the lines of providing as early as possible secondary education for all, and as free as possible. What are the facts in regard to our activities in connection with secondary education? When we came into office 40 per cent. of free places were allowed, but on account of the incidence of the "bulge" and other considerations we have authorised local education authorities to raise that percentage from 40 to 50, and in addition we have told them that if on account of the exigencies of their own problems in their own areas they feel that they have a case upon which they can confidently approach the Board of Education in favour of increasing the 50 per cent. to, say, 60 per cent. or to 70 per cent. we do not taboo it. On the contrary, we say that we will consider every application on its merits. What happened in regard to East Ham? The hon. Member for the Welsh Universi- ties seemed to imply that there had been something improper in the way that deputation was received. I have made inquiries and I do not understand that the local education authority made any application to be received by the President of the Board or myself. They did not stipulate for it and, therefore, we took it as a part of the ordinary routine of the Board's administration.

But what, in fact, happened in this case? A large number of erroneous reports have appeared in the Press. As a matter of fact, there is only one point of conflict between the East Ham authority and ourselves, and it is this. The East Ham authority wanted to abolish all fees, the Board of Education wanted to abolish fees for all those whose parents could not afford to pay. That is the simple point of difference between the East Ham authority and ourselves. It is the difference between saying free secondary education for all, and free secondary education for all those who cannot afford to pay the fees. The Board is quite willing, and has expressed itself to that effect, to entertain applications from authorities who feel that they want to abolish fees in respect of children whose parents cannot afford to pay them, but we do not feel at the moment that we can entertain the proposal for the abolition of fees in respect of children whose parents can afford to pay. That is a difference, which I think will be clear to the whole Committee.


That is the policy of the Board at the moment?


Yes, on the way towards free secondary education for all. But another allegation has been made which is absolutely without foundation. The suggestion has been made that in the interview between the Board's official and the East Ham authority the Board insisted, on its own volition, that there should be an alteration of the condition of affairs in reference to maintenance allowances. In fact that proposition was not raised by the Board at all. Here is a passage from the letter of the East Ham authority: The authority further propose that the abolition of fees for the admission of East Ham pupils to secondary schools shall be accompanied by a modification of the existing arrangements for the payment of maintenance allowances so as to provide that, as from 1st September, 1931, maintenance allowances be not paid in respect of the attendance of secondary school pupils under 14 years of age. My whole point is that the question of the abolition of fees and of the retention of maintenance allowances in respect of children below 14, was not raised by us at all, but was raised by the East Ham authority. It was they who suggested it. It is fair to the Board that that point should be made abundantly clear.


Did the Board endorse the application of East Ham?




Did the Board agree, even if it is accepted that East Ham put forward the proposition? Did the Board accept the policy of taking away the maintenance grant?


The whole point raised has been that the Board has imposed something on the East Ham authority. The truth is that the approach came from the East Ham authority. Granted that the East Ham authority made this application to us, I am asked did we approve or did we not? I say, Yes, we did. All I am concerned with at the moment is to show that the allegation referred to is entirely unfounded so far as the Board is concerned.

I think I have covered the main points raised by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, with the exception of the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings. I think he will agree that I may be excused from discussing to-night the points which he made, because, as he himself frankly admitted, the points were mainly academic in character. They were none the less interesting points, and points on which I should like to have a controversy with him at some more convenient date. But to-night I hope he will excuse me and not think me discourteous. I understand that there is a firm understanding that this discussion should come to an end at 7.30. I thank hon. Members for the kindness with which they have received the Estimates of the English Board of Education, and I hope that our fortunes in the case of Scotland will be equally good.


The Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) made a very interesting and provocative speech, a speech which contained rather sweeping assertions which the latter portion of the speech did not substantiate and which I imagine he would find it very difficult to substantiate at any time. The Noble Lord said that our educational standards had deteriorated. If our standards have deteriorated, a portion of the blame for that deterioration must be thrown on the shoulders of the Noble Lord, seeing that he was in charge of the educational system for the years 1924 to 1929. But I would ask him in what respect have our educational standards deteriorated during the last year? Has the standard of attainment of the children in our schools, according to their age, deteriorated in the last few years? I have had experience as a class teacher continuously, until I entered this House, in an elementary school for a period of nearly 30 years, and I say emphatically that so far from there having been any deterioration in the standard of attainment of children in our elementary schools, age for age during the past 30 years there has been a very considerable advancement in that standard of attainment at any particular age which the Noble Lord might like to pick. The children of the age of 14 in the leaving classes in our elementary schools to-day have a much wider range of knowledge and of interests, and in many subjects have a deeper knowledge, than they had 25 to 30 years ago. There is no justification whatever for the statement that there has been any deterioration, so far as standards of attainment are concerned.

Does the Noble Lord mean that there has been any deterioration in the standard of conduct and behaviour of children? I think he would find it very difficult indeed to bring any proof that would back up that assertion. The Noble Lord went on to say that we must make up our minds what we consider should be the aim and end of education. I say definitely that I consider the end of education should be the production of a nation of cultured men and women, a nation of men and women with sufficiently wide culture to fit them to be the ruling citizens in a State which has for its basis a democratic constitution.

I would like to make a few remarks upon the statement made by the President of the Board of Education in intro- ducing the Estimates. We have heard a good deal about reorganisation, but it does not appear as if reorganisation is progressing with any remarkable rapidity, for up to the present moment only 15.6 of the children over the age of 11 are in senior schools. Only one-fifth of the whole, school population have been reorganised into senior and junior schools. What those of us who are interested in education are particularly anxious to know is, how far has the reorganisation during the past two or three years been a reorganisation in fact or a reorganisation in nomenclature only? How far do these new senior schools approximate to the conditions laid down by the Hadow Committee? It was the express aim of the Hadow Committee that the new senior schools should give to the children education of a secondary character. You cannot give education of a secondary character unless you have amenities of a secondary type. How far do these new senior schools contain those secondary amenities? How many of the new senior schools contain, so far as equipment, staffing and playing fields are concerned, amenities of a standard which is approximately of a secondary character? Unless these things are given, it will be impossible to carry out the aim of the Hadow Committee.

I would like the President of the Board of Education, in any communications that he may make to the local authorities during the forthcoming year, to urge upon them the necessity for equipping these new senior schools so that as far as possible education of a secondary type may be given within them. At the present time there is very often what I might almost call a disgraceful discrimination on the part of local education authorities between their treatment of the secondary schools and their treatment of the elementary schools. Very often the secondary school has only to ask for things in order to get them. Secondary schools ask for additional teachers, additional books or additional apparatus, and these things are freely granted, but if any additional expenditure is demanded for improving the equipment or the amenities of the elementary school, every item of suggested expenditure is jealously scrutinised and more often than not it is vetoed by the local education authority. I would like the Board of Education to do what is possible, through administration, to level up the conditions between the existing secondary schools and the new senior schools which it is now establishing under the various local education authorities.

I want to raise a matter which has been raised before. It is a matter of great importance and I do not apologise for referring to it. It is a matter which constitutes perhaps the greatest blot on our educational system. I refer to the continued prevalence of large classes in the elementary schools. I speak with considerable feeling, because for nearly 30 years I was a class teacher in various types of elementary schools, and during that time I had classes which varied from 50 to 65 pupils. I know what are the educational drawbacks inherent in large classes. At the present time, according to statistics given in the report of the Board of Education, there are 10,000 classes with over 50 children each, and 50,000 classes with over 40 children. So that out of the 5,500,000 children who are being educated in our public elementary schools, there must be a total approaching 3,000,000 who are being educated in classes containing more than 40 children.

Of course it is easy for the layman to see what are some of the drawbacks of these large classes. It is easy to see that with a large class there is eye strain and ear strain upon the children. There is also far more danger of contagion from infectious disease. It is much more difficult for the teacher to give attention to the individual child, and, more especially, the larger the class the greater proportion there will be of heterogeneity of educable capacity. But those are not the main drawbacks to education in our system of large classes. The large class makes it impossible for the teacher to adopt an up-to-date technique of teaching. It is nowadays the practice wherever possible to have free discipline in our schools. The psycho-analysts tell us that undue repression in early childhood will lead to the development of various types of neurosis in later years, but it is practically impossible to have a system of free discipline in a class which exceeds 40. In a class which exceeds 40 on the roll the class teacher is inevitably thrown back upon the old methods of repressive discipline which were in vogue in nearly all our schools some years ago. Then again, the modern idea of education is that the child shall learn through self-activity. The old practice was to treat the child as a sort of receptacle into which knowledge was poured by the class teacher. To-day we believe that the child should learn through the process of self-activity, but it is almost impossible to adopt that method of education in a class which exceeds 40, and class teachers with these large classes are inevitably thrown back upon obsolete methods of pedagogy.

I regard this question of the reduction in the size of classes as the most important administrative matter which awaits the attention of the Board at the present time. Surely the present is a time when it would not be too difficult to secure a considerable reduction in the size of classes. In the past two objections have been urged to a reduction in the size of classes. One has been that the school buildings do not lend themselves to smaller classes; that the classrooms in many schools were originally built for classes of 60, and that it is difficult, with the existing accommodation, to reduce the classes to 40 or under. From my own experience, I think it much better to have two teachers, each with a class of 30, in a room designed for 60 pupils—perhaps with a curtain or partition dividing the classes—than to have one teacher in that room with a class of 60 children. I admit that the question of accommodation is difficult, but the difficulty can be overcome by a little thought and planning on the part of teachers and local education authorities if they have the assistance and encouragement of the Board.

It has also been argued in the past that we could not secure any considerable reduction in the size of classes because we had not enough teachers. During the past two years, however, the training colleges were encouraged to take additional entrants in the hope and belief that the school leaving age would be raised this year or early next year. That reform, unfortunately, appears to be postponed for the present, and there is a likelihood of a surplus of teachers coming out of the colleges this July. The Board and the local education authorities could very well use that surplus in order to secure a considerable reduction in the size of classes throughout the country. I ask the Board not to be content merely with urging local authorities to increase their staffs and reduce their classes. I suggest that they should follow up any memoranda that may be issued on the subject, with even more peremptory demands and constant application, so as to put pressure on the local authorities to employ fully these teachers, many of whom if the classes are not reduced, will find themselves without employment. There is one other matter of some importance, and that is the quality of the teaching staffs throughout the country. I am pleased to see that there is, year by year, a gradual improvement in the quality of the teaching staffs. The number of teachers in our elementary schools who are graduates has increased in the last seven years from 3 per cent. to 8 per cent.


Does my hon. Friend think that the graduate teacher is a better teacher than the non-graduate teacher?


It is not because I think that the graduate is necessarily a better teacher than the non-graduate. The teachers' certificate demands just as high a standard of qualification and attainment as the pass degree of many universities, but the teachers' certificate has not the same prestige in the public mind as a university degree. Therefore, from the point of view of improving the general prestige of education it is advisable to encourage the graduation of a greater number of our teachers. I do not wish, however, to deal particularly with that point, but to refer more generally to the large number of unqualified teachers still employed in our public elementary schools. The statistics furnished in the Board's report show that last year there were 124,000 certificated teachers, but the number of uncertificated teachers was 31,000 and of supplementary teachers over 7,000, so that out of the total number employed in our public elementary schools 25 per cent. are still only partially qualified or not qualified at all. I do not think that there is any other profession in which unqualified and partially qualified practitioners are allowed, and I suggest that an effort should be made to put an end to the system of allowing unqualified or partially qualified people to teach in our publicly owned schools.

It is difficult now for the uncertificated teacher to become certificated—more difficult than it was—because the acting teachers' certificate has been abolished. I would suggest, however, that in the case of younger uncertificated teachers, those who are, say, under the age of 30 years, local authorities might be encouraged, perhaps with some help from the Board, to give loans to those teachers in order to help them to proceed to college and obtain their full certificates. As regards the older uncertificated teachers, who have had fairly long periods of service, say 10, 15 or 20 years, and have by long practice become fairly competent teachers, I suggest that where favourable reports are presented by His Majesty's inspectors, those uncertificated teachers of long experience might be granted certificates, and then after a certain period the Board should say that no more uncertificated teachers would be allowed to practise in our schools.

I also ask the right hon. Gentleman if it is possible for him to bring some pressure to bear upon local education authorities to end what appears to be the stupid ban upon the employment of married women teachers. I do not see why a woman teacher should be forced to resign when she enters into marriage. It seems absurd to make it compulsory for the good teacher to become a bad cook, and it is against the interests of education that the married teacher should not continue to teach. Other things being equal, I should say that the woman who has had experience of marriage and motherhood makes a better teacher than the woman who had not that experience. Further, it seems against the interests of the State to put this bar upon women teachers being married. I think it may be said with truth that, taken as a class, women teachers are among the best-educated women in the community and it is not in the national interest to put a bar upon them becoming mothers. I suggest that the President ought to bring pressure to bear upon local education authorities to remove the bar which exists at present preventing women from continuing to exercise the profession of teaching, after marriage. I wish to express my thanks to the President for the lucid statement with which he introduced the Estimates, and to say that it is the wish of all of us that he will have a happy and successful period of office.


I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.