Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £4,832,026, 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 Public Education in Scotland, and for the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, including sundry Grants-in-Aid."—[NOTE: £2,750,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. EDE
On a point of Order. I understand that Scotland is allowed eleven-eightieths of the money allowed to England for these services. Is there any procedure whereby we can secure that Scotland shall also have only eleven-eightieths of the Parliamentary time devoted to these matters? During the past 48 hours we seem to have devoted about eighty-elevenths of the available time to Scotland, thanks to the activities of Scottish Members.
§ Mr. GEORGE HARDIE
Further on that point of Order. May I ask whether it is not a fact that, if Scottish affairs in the House of Commons were given a larger proportion of the time, it would tend to raise the standard of intelligence?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Dunnico)
Neither question is one within the jurisdiction of the Chair. The allocation of time is determined by the Committee itself and not by the Chair.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. William Adamson)
I wish to present briefly to the Committee the main features of the Estimate in respect of public education in Scotland. The net total asked for is £7,582,000 which is an increase of £384,000 on last year's figures, or, roughly 5 per cent. When we come to analyse the elements which contribute to this result we find some very interesting facts. As hon. Members know, about 98 per 875 cent. of the amount in the Estimate is determined automatically through the operation of the 11–80ths arrangement, and the portion of the Estimate for which I am directly responsible amounts only to about £146,000. When we turn to that part of the Estimate we find not increases but decreases. The total of £146,000 falls under three main heads namely administration, inspection and the service of the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh. I shall give the position in round figures. The sum required for administration in respect of offices in London and Edinburgh is £59,000, which is a decrease on last year of £2,500. The sum for inspection is £61,000 and is down this year by £2,000. The sum for the Royal Scottish Museum is £26,000, and is down this year by £600. These reductions are due in the main to the decline in the bonus on salaries for the cost of living. The number of staff is practically stationary. It is interesting to note that the number of the administrative and inspecting staff is practically the same as it was in 1922, and is actually less than it was in 1914. All this shows that in these difficult times we continue to have due regard to reasonable economy in administration, though I want to say quite frankly that education is one of our national services on which we cannot afford to economise too rigidly.
We have now completed the end of the first year of the administration of education in Scotland under the new conditions brought about by the 1929 Government of Scotland Act. It comforts me to know that about 42 per cent. of the members of the education authorities throughout Scotland are drawn from the old education authorities, so that, in the difficult times of change to new conditions, we secure continuity of experience and tradition. I earnestly hope that the new authorities for education will carry on their important duties as effectively as did the old education authorities, but it will naturally take some time until they are able to fit into the new machine.
The number of scholars on the registers of the schools amounts to 818,000. That is 1,500 less than last year and is lower than any of the last 10 years, with the exception of 1925 when the figure 876 amounted to only 813,000. The present figure reflects at the upper end of the school the reduced birth-rate of the War years and at the lower the falling birth-rate of the last nine years. The "bulge" due to the exceptional birth-rate of 1919–20 is now found in the 10 to 11 age group, and has, therefore, still three or four years to go before it passes out of the primary schools. Education authorities have to study the course of the birth-rate in order to plan for their future requirements on a reasonable basis. In this connection, I may quote some rather remarkable figures which were given in the Report of the Department recently published and which have been available to Members in all parts of the House. In the five years just before the War the annual number of births in Scotland amounted to about 122,000. The corresponding figure has now fallen to 92,000; a reduction of nearly 25 par cent. The number of teachers employed is higher than it has ever been. It amounts this year to 27,840 as against 27,250 last year and 25,200 in 1924. I am more than pleased to be able to call attention to this increase, but we must not forget that there is still room for a reduction in the size of classes. The present upper limit of 50 pupils habitually under the charge of one teacher is only a resting place on the way to a further goal, and I hope that a further reduction will be effected when circumstances permit.
The question of the reduction of classes reminds me of my own experience as a school boy in a mining village many years ago. Perhaps the Committee will bear with me if I tell them about it. I was one in a single room containing 100 pupils or thereabouts. We had only one teacher—a very heroic woman, I can assure the Committee. We were not a class of about the same age or the same level of attainment. We were of all ages, ranging from four to 11 years, and of all degrees of ability. Looking back in after life on the experience that I then had, it has strongly impressed me with the need for classes being cut down to a manageable size, so that teacher and child may get the full benefit of the opportunity that the country has pro-vided for them.
The building activity to which I referred last year has been well maintained 877 throughout 1930. During the year loans in excess of £1,000,000 were sanctioned for the improvement of the existing schools or the erection of new ones. That represents a most gratifying improvement in the material conditions under which our children are being instructed. As I go about the country, I am constantly struck with the steady advance of our schools in comfort, in amenity, and in convenience. The rooms are brighter, lighter and more airy, the sites are more extensive, there are more spaces for playground and playing fields. Not all our schools are of the standard that one would like to see. Some of those that I have seen myself—and I take whatever opportunity avails me of seeing what our schools are like in the various parts of Scotland—are defective in more than one respect. Numbers of the schools built in the seventies and the eighties, some of them built even later, fall far short of modern standards. We have a long way to go yet before we have provided the perfect school for our Scottish children, but our inspectors are aware of the facts, and the worst schools are being steadily superseded. I am hopeful that our new education authorities will continue to do their duty in this most important matter.
I now want to turn for a short time to some more purely educational problems. In last year's Debate on these Estimates a good deal was said about simplifying the curriculum and adapting it more closely to the capacities and interests of the average child. That is the greatest problem that confronts educationists, not only in Scotland, but elsewhere; and it is not a new one. More than 30 years ago we saw clearly that we had to get away from the cast-iron system more or less enforced by the earlier codes, and very wisely we began with the youngest children. The infant departments were the first to get freedom from the dead hand of bureaucratic control, and everyone who knows anything of these matters is satisfied that they have made excellent use of their opportunity. The process of emancipation from the external domination of the curriculum has spread upwards through the junior and senior divisions. Our teachers have now freedom to shape their courses to suit the children. They may now stress those elements of school life which do not lend themselves to statistical assess- 878 ment by means of written examination. I refer to such things as intelligence, manners, conduct, physical training.
The actual content of the various subjects in the primary school has been under exhaustive review during the past year, and all the inspectors in Scotland have been invited to give their views on the lightening of the ship. I hope soon to be able to issue a circular on the whole question, and I am confident that it will indicate various way in which the curriculum may be made more practical and sensible. We have no intention, in making these changes, of encouraging slackness in any shape or form. We are as eager as we ever were for thorough workmanship, but we want to remove a certain amount of material which is of no practical value and is of very little educational value either. In particular, we aim at securing a more interesting and a more useful course of study for the not inconsiderable proportion of our scholars for whom the pace hitherto set has been rather too fast. In one form or another the qualifying examination at or about the age of 12 has been a feature of our educational organisation for about 30 years. It was introduced about 1903, for financial, not education reasons. Higher grants were paid for scholars who were in supplementary courses or higher grade and secondary schools, and a bar had to be set up. When the grant system was changed about 10 years ago, that bar was no longer needed. The Department, accordingly, gave up the qualifying examination and the process of transference from the primary to the post-primary school was left to the authorities.
Now we feel that we may take another step. This examination, it is generally felt, is open to many objections. There is no doubt that it has put too severe a strain on teachers and on pupils. It does not test the whole of the manifest activities of the school—far from it. It keeps a certain number of pupils grinding away at uncongenial tasks, instead of giving them the opportunity of finding salvation through the more attractive and more varied courses of the post-primary school. It is surely possible for the teachers themselves to arrange the transference at this critical stage of a child's career. I should just say that for entry on a secondary course of an academic type it is essential that there should be 879 some guarantee of fitness for that particular type of work, for everyone is aware that in Scotland and many other countries the secondary schools are clogged with pupils who would be happier and who would make better progress in schools that gave more scope for practical activities. Whether the guarantee can be secured without a written examination of the usual kind is a question which it would be unwise for me to debate at this juncture.
We hope, then, to effect the "clean cut," as it is called, with all possible despatch, but with due regard to the circumstances of the various education areas. All children will proceed to a post-primary school, there to receive a post-primary course at 12—some of them before 12, for we must do all that we can for the child of exceptional ability. That done, suitable courses must be provided and due account must be taken of the great variety of human gifts, interests and capacities. This is not a new problem. It has been in our minds more or less since 1903, when the supplementary courses were instituted, and more definitely since 1923. In that year advanced divisions providing a variety of courses for scholars between 12 and 14, and in some cases 15, were instituted. They were devised with definite reference to the ultimate raising of the school age. They supplied a framework into which we could easily fit the curricula when the statutory age is raised to 15, as it will be some day.
Pending that event, I would ask all concerned, education authorities, teachers, parents, pupils, to do all that they can to raise the age voluntarily. Only in this way can children at present receive full advantage from these advanced division courses which have been set up. One cannot but deplore the waste which so often occurs when the pupils, starting well on a three-year course, have to break off, either because of the economic conditions of the home or for any other reason. In the eight years that have elapsed since 1923 great progress has been made in the establishment of these advanced division courses, both those of two years and those of three years. The material equipment has increased greatly. Up and down the 880 country new schools, admirably housed and equipped, have sprung into being, and others are being built. The teachers have been forthcoming, and the courses have developed in scope, variety and interest.
But here again the dead hand of the past is to be seen and felt. Too many of these courses are of the old academic type. Too many of the candidates for the day school certificate are studying languages, to the neglect of subjects for which they have more ability and which will be of more use to them in after life. We have spoken of this subject in general terms for many years. We have discussed it again and again on our Scottish Education Estimates. Now we are taking it up in detail, district by district, and we have asked our inspectors to use their best endeavours to secure more varied and suitable instruction in the advanced division centres throughout our land. In some counties, the fondness for academic subjects for all and sundry is specially marked, but a different spirit is abroad, and we will do all that we can to encourage it. In the secondary schools themselves the same spirit is moving. By a contemplated change of the regulations we hope to introduce greater variety into our leaving certificate courses. Music, art, domestic subjects, applied science, domestic crafts will receive the attention which they have been too long denied.
That, in brief, is the trend of our policy. I claim that it indicates a healthy stirring of the waters as far as education is concerned. I shall be gravely misunderstood if it is taken to indicate any serious fault or flaw in our Scottish educational system, but we must not be complacent. If we are to hold the place among the nations that we have held in the past, the place that I believe every Scottish Member would like to see us hold in the future, we must constantly criticise and modify our educational system so as to meet the calls of our changing civilisation. That way, and that way only, lies safety and lies progress.
§ Mr. COWAN
The Committee has had from the Secretary of State for Scotland a more than usually interesting 881 pronouncement. With regard to the first part, the statistics given were interesting, but they had little bearing on education per se. It must have been a great pleasure to hon. Members to listen to the enunciation of so many sound educational principles as the right hon. Gentleman made in the latter part of his speech. We have always known the Secretary of State to be keen on this subject, and the difficulties which he had to face, and which he so well surmounted in his earlier years, have given him an understanding of the work inside the schools that perhaps comparatively few administrators have had the opportunity of gaining. There is little to criticise in the work of the Education Department during the past year. The year has been more a year of beginnings than a year of achievement; that is to say, the ordinary routine of the schools has gone on, but in the matter of administration we have come under a new regime.
We have had a period of transfer from the old ad hoc bodies to the municipal or county council bodies. It is well known that, when the Act of 1929 was going through, there was a very marked division of opinion as to whether it was a wise step or not. Some of us took one side and some another, and it is still a matter of opinion. It must always be beyond argument, however, because these new bodies are now in operation. It is too early to give any considered judgment as to whether the change is for the better. I believe that it has great potentialities, if they are taken advantage of, but no matter what may be the character of the local authorities, the Education Department, as representing Parliament, must see that in no district in Scotland is any child penalised by any weakness in the local authority. It is the duty of the Department through its officers to see that no child is penalised. I am a little afraid that they are not always exercising such powers as they possess.
There are far too many unsatisfactory schools in Scotland. The Secretary of State, in speaking of the size of the classes, said that the present figure was only a resting place. I wonder how much longer he is to allow it to remain there. It has been there quite a long time, and, unless there are special circumstances where, owing to difficulties of accommoda- 882 tion, it is impossible to reduce classes, no class should be allowed to have more than 45 or 50 on the register under the care of one teacher. I have said that it was a year of beginnings; they have been very promising beginnings, and I should like to pay tribute to the great service rendered by the Secretary to the Department in making public pronouncements adumbrating policy which has been fresh and stimulating, and has caused administrators and teachers everywhere to try and re-value the work that they are doing. The Secretary of State in the latter part of his speech gave us an indication of what the policy of the Department is to be. He trounced the examination system as expressed in the qualifying examination, and, as a Scotsman, I listened to that part of the speech with particular pleasure, because it seemed to me that a good part of the argument of the President of the Board of Education this afternoon was devoted to supporting the claims of examinations.
Examinations of one kind or another have become a fetish in nearly all schools, and it is time we were getting away from them. It may not be possible to depart from all kinds of examinations, but certainly the stereotyped examination, universal for the whole country and all pupils, is a thing of the past. It was brought into being in the old days of payment by results; you had to get so much work done, and so much of it was appraised and so much paid for. Those times are past. As the Secretary of State has said, there is now a new spirit moving right through education. We have to re-value what we have done and to get an idea of what we are seeking to achieve. I believe that the policy of the Scottish Education Department is becoming more and more a practical one, and is aiming at sound citizenship, sound mentally and physically.
Our schools have gone about as far as they can with the children of tender years in the kind of book instruction that they get, and I feel that very much more should be done on the physical side of education. It is pitiful to see children in our large schools, and many of the children in our country schools, growing up with infirmities or weaknesses of physique that might well be cured, and I hope that medical inspection and treatment will be carried very much further 883 than it has been hitherto. The Department has shown its sympathy with the provision of playing fields, and that is a movement which is all to the good. One of the most educative influences is that gained through organised games. It is impossible for the children in our city schools to have games organised unless there is proper provision of playing grounds. That is one of the reasons why we are glad to have municipal bodies in control of our public parks and open spaces, so that they may be in charge of the children and enable them to take full advantage of the facilities at their disposal.
It is well known that in anticipation of the age being raised, larger numbers of teachers were admitted into training colleges than were required. That has given rise to a very serious position. We have now well over 1,000 teachers in Scotland who have completed their course and for whom there is no prospect of employment. For that the Government are largely responsible. With regard to the raising of the school age, I should like to put a direct question to my right hon. Friend; I am sure that he will give it sympathetic consideration and, through the Under-Secretary, a direct reply. Legislation is necessary for raising the school age in England and Wales, but not in Scotland. The Secretary of State for Scotland has simply to name the day. I would like to ask him whether he has discussed in a friendly way with the Treasury the possibility of getting some money for Scotland outwith this 11–80ths, seeing that Scotland is ready to use the money. We ought not to have to wait in Scotland, as we are waiting, for the settlement of religious difficulties in England which have nothing to do with education. My right hon. Friend should not be content to let things go on as they are in the matter of the financial arrangements of the two countries. In view of the great need there is for raising the school age, he ought to discuss with those in authority whether there are not some means by which. Scotland could get this great reform carried through without having to wait for the rest of the country. As others are wishing to speak I will not take up more time, but will only say that the speech of the Secretary of State will, 884 I am sure, give as much pleasure throughout the country as it has given in the House to-night.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Like the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Cowan) I should like to say to the Secretary of State for Scotland that I listened to his speech with much interest, particularly to that part of it in which he gave some of his own childhood's recollections. They brought before us as nothing else could have done the extent of the progress made in education in Scotland in the last—well, I will not venture to say how many years. I also read with great pleasure more than one pronouncement in the report of the right hon. Gentleman's Department. The first statement, of which there was an echo in his speech this evening, concerned the smoothness with which the change over has been made from the old education authorities to the new education authorities, and I was glad to note that the right hon. Gentleman feels that the good proportion of members of the old authorities who are on the new ones will ensure a continuity of policy. I was also pleased to see the stress that was laid upon the improved prospects of health organisation from the fact that one local authority will now deal with the health both of school children and children of pre-school age. That is clearly pointed out, but it is remarked that that is still not the case with regard to the large burghs in the counties. Otherwise, there is now complete unification of this service throughout Scotland, and that should bring great progress in health matters.
I also read with satisfaction of the increase there has been in the number of pupils attending continuation classes, particularly in the type of continuation classes which lasts for no fewer than four years. Everyone who has thought about education must realise that one of the best things it can do for anybody is to send him away from school asking for more, and there can be no better test that young people are asking for more than that they should go back to evening classes on some nights of the week, after a day's work, and continue their attendances over so long a period as four years. It shows keenness and perseverance in pursuing a course, and it speaks very well for the teaching given in those classes. May I also say that I read with consider- 885 able satisfaction that the Department has been able to arrange for the granting of a Scottish national certificate in plumbing? I had occasion, a few years ago, when presiding over a Departmental Committee, to realise the high standing enjoyed by these national certificates in various industries; and the fact that our young men will be able to take a national certificate in this very important trade should help to raise the standard of skill. Now I come to the very important pronouncement that the control examination is to be abolished.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. Westwood)
The qualifying examination.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Well, I do not know that the word very much matters. It is the examination at the same stage, and to very much the same effect. I will confess to the right hon. Gentleman that 11 years ago I was a member of a committee that arranged an examination of that kind when the Department dropped the examination they had formerly carried on. At that time I felt very anxious to have some test by which to measure the progress in primary schools. It has been borne in on me since then what a great variety of ability develops in children as they reach the adolescent age, and that if justice is to be done to that variety of ability we must have a variety of courses at the stage of adolescence. If we have this barrier in front of every child in the lower school—in the senior school as we call it in Scotland—which it has to pass before it can get into the post-primary department, it means that children who are not very good at their books but who may have practical forms of ability, and therefore most need to get into the post-primary schools, may be debarred from doing so, and may spend the whole of the last years of their life at school struggling in vain to pass an examination hold entirely in book subjects.
I feel very strongly with the right hon. Gentleman the need for a more effective variety of courses at the adolescent stage. If one puts aside the question of the health of the small children, it is, to my mind, the greatest need of Scottish education—to have a much clearer recognition of that great variety of 886 ability which is one of the fundamental things, one of the greatest things in human nature. It is one of the most wonderful things that every human-being has got his own particular type of ability, and therefore there will be many children to whom no real justice will be done unless we provide a reasonable measure of variety at the adolescent stage, which is when variety of ability begins most to show. I am very glad to hear the stress which the right hon. Gentleman has placed on the need for more practical instruction in the advanced division courses. I read with considerable concern of what is said on that subject in the report, much of which he repeated in his speech to-day, namely, that the courses taken for the higher day certificate which carries a child over three years up to 15 is still too purely academic in character. There is a considerable amount of handwork in the two years' course, but the children entering for the three years' course seem to be doing entirely academic work. That was not the original purpose of those courses. They were intended as an alternative to the purely secondary course. Therefore, I welcome the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that practical work is to be encouraged in secondary schools.
I have heard, however, with satisfaction the announcement that there will be an examination for entrance to the secondary school. It would be a disaster to education if we let down the standard of the secondary schools. There is great danger of that standard falling, and of admission to those schools becoming too easy. There is not now an effective entrance examination, and the Secretary of State for Scotland will do a real service if, when he makes a "clean cut" at 12 years of age, he makes it clear that there must be some effective test for what is a difficult curriculum to ensure a really good standard. I think those interested in this matter should help parents to realise the value of these varied courses.
The secondary school course is something which has come down to us from the middle ages, and it was the only type of education available until a few years ago. This may have been a very suitable type of education for those going into the learned professions, but it, is too narrow to cover the needs of the children 887 of the country. We must help parents in Scotland to take an interest in education, and we shall not foster that interest unless we provide instruction in some one subject in which they feel that their children can do well. For this reason we must provide practical instruction for the children whose abilities are more of the practical than the literary type. The right hon. Gentleman will do a very great service to Scottish education if he will help parents to realise that something much broader and more varied is required than we have looked for in the past.
I pass now to the question of the teachers. I was pleased to see in the report that there are now more handicraft teachers than we had formerly. We have been rather deficient in the past in that respect. I was also very glad to know that some of the teachers who have not been able to get full employment have been able to take some shorter courses in practical teaching. I do not think there is any wiser step which teachers could take in the circumstances. It means the acquisition by them of a particular kind of skill which is very much needed in schools, and therefore such teachers it means do a real service to Scottish education, and give us hope that it will include more practical instruction in future than in the past.
The question of surplus teachers is a very serious one, and one which must cause us concern. I was pleased to note in the report of the national committee that they are asking the authorities to keep the teachers in the colleges for three years, or else allow them to remain at school another year before proceeding to the training colleges. I hope that appeal will be liberally responded to, although I am not sure that it will be sufficient to meet the difficulties. The national committee discussed the possibility of restricting for a period entrance to the training colleges, but they seemed to fear that that could not be done without some injustice. I should like to remind the Secretary of State for Scotland that a step in that direction was taken in England and Wales 10 years ago when financial difficulties showed themselves, and I think that restriction lasted for some three years. I do not think that that restriction led to any great injus- 888 tice, or at any rate I have never heard it stated that it did. I feel that the national committee would be wise to face that problem in the near future. The national committee state that they have sent out warnings to local authorities on this question, but the result only indicates how much those warnings have been disregarded. If the national committee would definitely restrict the numbers for the next year it might help the local authorities to realise better that it is not wise in a time like this to help as large a number of young people as usual into the teaching profession. I agree with the report that the action mainly rests with the local authorities, but it may be difficult for the local authorities to realise the position unless the national committee take some fairly definite action.
There is a further consideration. Warnings should be sent to young people about entering the teaching profession at an early age. There is, of course, a preliminary period in training, and it seems to me that advice ought to be given to young people and to their parents before the students embark upon that preliminary training. When, however, I make that suggestion, I find myself faced by the fact that in some secondary schools very little guidance, if any, seems to be given to young people as to the careers on which it will be wise for them to embark. I remember that the Salvesen Committee some years ago asked that a special committee, consisting of representatives of the Ministry of Labour, the education authorities, and employers and employed, should be set up in the four large cities of Scotland to advise children about careers when leaving secondary schools. The right hon. Gentleman knows that we have a great many secondary schools in areas where there are very few openings for young people on leaving those schools. Therefore there is a need that their parents should have advice as to the prospects which are open to them in different occupations. I believe that for lack of guidance of that kind young people go as a matter of course from our secondary schools into the teaching profession, and I do not think it is fair to the young people or to their parents, particularly those who live in rural districts, to leave them without guidance in this matter. Of course, the right hon. 889 Gentleman may say that this is more a matter for his colleague the Minister of Labour than for himself, but I am sure he cannot fail to take a deep interest in the question of the placing in employment of young people leaving our secondary schools, and, since consultation of that kind should precede the entry into preliminary training of pupils in secondary schools, it seems to me to be a matter within his jurisdiction, and I should like to suggest that he might discuss the matter with his colleague, in order to see if young people in the secondary schools in Scotland, not only before leaving school but before they might possibly take up a course of that kind, cannot be given more guidance than they sometimes get at present.
Turning to the question of restriction of teachers entering the training colleges, I should like to ask if it would be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to remind the National Committee, if they take any restrictive step, of the great importance of ensuring a sufficient supply of teachers trained for infant work. As we all know, the tendency has been, during the last 10 years, for more and more students to enter the teaching profession through the universities. That ought to mean a rising standard of general education and academic attainments among our teachers, but we cannot expect that students will receive at the universities the specialised training which is necessary for infant work. There is a special technique for that matter, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, and it cannot be acquired at the university. I would ask that that matter be kept carefully in view, because we cannot afford to leave ourselves without efficiently trained teachers for that very difficult and special work of teaching children when they first enter the schools. I do not want to detain the Committee any longer, but I would say once more how interested I am to hear of the pronouncement with regard to the removal of the examination at 11 or 12, and how much I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able, through the instruction that he has sent out to his inspectors, to ensure that there is that wider provision of alternative courses at the post-primary stage which is so necessary if education is really to call out and develop the infinitely varied capabilities of the children in our schools.
§ Mr. G. HARDIE
When we began to discuss the subject of Scottish education, the question was raised by an English Member as to the proportion of time that we were entitled to for this Debate. I would like to draw attention to one outstanding feature of this Scottish Debate, and that is the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pollok (Sir J. Gilmour), the hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Major Elliot), and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), who in recent times have not been slow to comment on the absence of Ministers on this side when they have been engaged elsewhere. I hope that those Members to whom I have referred may read in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow the remarks that I am now making, because I think that some explanation is called for as to whether or not they have engagements elsewhere which compel them to be absent.
The hon. Lady who has just addressed the Committee always interests me when she speaks on education, because you get there the point of view of one who has never been through the conditions which she is trying to apply to others. When I was a member of a school board, as it was then called, I was always interested in people, especially ladies, who were always wanting to be able to lay down conditions on a class of which they had never had the slightest experience. It is much like an examination such as a doctor might make to detect some lice on the body of a dog—
§ Mr. HARDIE
That has always been the attitude that brings that kind of relation. For instance, we had from the hon. Lady three things to show that that is the case—
§ Sir P. FORD
On a point of Order. Is an hon. Member really in order in making provocative remarks of that kind, and casting aspersions on the acts of people who are trying to do their best in the interests of education?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I understood the hon. Member's reference to be to persons outside this House, and I fear my powers do not extend so far as to rule the expression out of order.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I was making no reference to the hon. Lady, but to the doctor who does that kind of thing to find out a disease. He has not understood it, and examines—
§ Mr. HARDIE
He is a dog doctor. The hon. Lady was giving warnings. The first was that people who were intending to take up the education necessary to enable them to be teachers should be warned now that they might not get a job; and the second was that parents who were ready to take advantage of these educational facilities for their children should also be warned. The third was a warning in regard to the spending of time and money on education at all. What I am getting down to is this, that it is evidence that the hon. Lady does not consider education for itself; that is what was meant by her statement.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I really must protest against the hon. Gentleman twisting what I think was my very obvious meaning. I was dealing with unemployed teachers, and was saying that we knew that there was a considerable number of unemployed teachers in England, and that we should try to avoid adding to their number. I have had many letters from unemployed teachers asking me if I could help them to find jobs, and I wanted to avoid others having to go through what some unemployed teachers are suffering.
§ Mr. HARDIE
What else could they go into? So far as work is concerned, every profession is full. Is education to be stopped because it happens at the moment that you cannot reduce the size of the classes? If the classes were of the size that they ought to be for efficient teaching, there would not be a surplus of teachers. The hon. Lady knows that perfectly well. If knowledge is to be imparted on a proper basis under the control of the teacher, you cannot have a class of the size that you have to-day, because no teacher, however efficient, can, with the distractions entailed by a large class, give that form of education that he can impart when he has a small class. The reports show the result of the size of the classes. If you follow 892 the life of a teacher of the same subject, tracing his career from one school to another, and compare it with the size of his classes, you find that, just as the numbers in his class are reduced, so his efficiency is increased.
Duchess of ATHOLL
Surely, the hon. Member realises that usually the size of the classes is conditioned by the number of class rooms in the school?
§ Mr. HARDIE
Just as a cheese-box takes the number of cheeses that it is built to contain. It follows that, if you are to have smaller classes, you must have more accommodation; I should have thought that that would have been understood. The question of the size of classes must be faced if education is to be put on a proper basis. The President of the Board of Education himself gave a picture of what was taking place from the nursery school upwards, and said that things were going to develop and there was going to be a tremendous production of a new kind of article, so to speak. That may be so, but what I want is some provision for a continuation of that mental activity. What is the use of going on to a certain distance and then coming to an end? It is that continuation that I am fighting for so far as education is concerned. If we were a sane nation, we should see that we got a return for every penny that we spent on education. It seems the quintessence of stupidity to see money spent on making people teachers and to deny them the right of expressing the power that they have to the children.
§ Sir P. FORD
I do not want to make any unnecessary interruption, but I should like to ask the hon. Member, when he is talking about the numbers of teachers and the buildings, whether he does not realise that it is a matter of mathematics, and that, according to the number of children in existence to-day, there will be a decided shortage in a year or two as compared with what we have, and that we are simply asking that you should not speed up until it is necessary to do so. I should like an answer to that question.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I can give an answer quite plainly. What I say of the majority of the schools to-day is that they are finished. That is the answer to the last part of the question. As to the 893 first part, it never pays any nation to stay its hand in any education for any excuse.
§ Mr. HARDIE
No, it is not. If we were in a country where we were short of materials and of men, it would be impossible. But we have them. We want a national law to express that of which I have been speaking. All that results, surely, from examinations. Examinations are not fair things. I have never known an examination yet to be a fair thing for the individual. They can only be fair if you have sitting on your benches to be examined exactly the same quality and type of mind and temperament. I have watched examinations going on in various things. You can always tell by actual contact and study the type of individual who is not disturbed and who can get through on paper, and who can stand up and get through on oral, while a better man gets left. Examination never proves to me that you have found what is called the beet of your class. I have had some personal experience. I have had under my control bachelors of science and people with other degrees in science and engineering. One came with a gold medal and wondered why I did not get excited about it. A fortnight later they gave him a free ticket back. There was nothing wrong with him. He was fitted for the things that he was mentally suited for. He could pass any kind of examination. He could suck it up like a sponge. That shows that you cannot measure by examination. The President of the Board of Education to-day had to accept this view of what was going to take place. I hope it can take place. The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Cowan) was taking a very gingerly attitude in regard to the change from the ad hoc authorities to the town councils.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The first people to be able to realise the fact that it has not been a success have been the teachers. The hon. Member said that it had only been working for a short period and that we ought to wait a little longer. I can tell him now what I told him when the 894 Act was going through the House, that it will not be a success. He knows in his heart that it cannot be a success. The people whom he represents know that it is not, and can never be, a success. If they had been fighting for real education instead of advantage to a class, they would not have fought for taking elementary education outside an ad hoc body.
§ Mr. SCOTT
We have had an interesting statement from the Secretary of State. He spoke of the healthy stirring of the waters in education. I should like to ask the Under-Secretary whether I am correct in believing that there has been an increase in the cost of education during the past two years of roughly £1,500,000. The Secretary of State for Scotland referred to certain decreases in expenditure, but there is upon the Estimate a proposed increase of £384,604 and I shall be glad if, when he replies, the Under-Secretary of State will tell us the purpose of that additional expenditure. The sum in the Estimates before the Committee at the moment is £7,197,422, but that is not the total expenditure on education in Scotland. The, total expenditure upon education is about £12,000,000. That is, roughly, the sum which education in Scotland is costing. I should like the hon. Gentleman, if he can, to tell us what proportion of this money is represented by contributions from Government grants, from rates and from local sources other than rates. We have some reason to complain of the apathy and want of interest in education. Our Scottish education would have greatly improved beyond what it is at present if there had been more interest shown among the parents to see what kind of education their children were getting and whether they were getting the kind of education they required. I might also add that one would like to see greater interest taken in Scottish education among members of all parties in this Committee. Education is the basic industry of all industries, and unless we see that it is on right lines, it will have a repercussion upon every sphere of our industrial life.
Who has the supervision of education in Scotland? We were told in the House recently that there were four persons who through their official position comprised the main part of the Council of Education in Scotland—the Lord President of 895 the Council, the Secretary of State for Scotland, who is the vice-president, the First Lord of the Treasury and the Lord Advocate, and I understand that Lord Craigmyle has been a member since 1920. That is a council which has not the slightest executive control over, or interest in, our Scottish education. It has been judically decided, I have been told—and I do not quarrel with the decision—that the powers of the Scottish Education Department may be delegated to the Secretary of the Department. In point of fact, he has the main supervision of education in Scotland. The Secretary of State for Scotland cannot possibly be expected to have close supervision of education because he has to control and supervise some half-dozen State Departments in Scotland, and accordingly the power must be delegated. I wish the Committee to observe the position. In addition to the Secretary of the Department, there is an Advisory Council of some 12 individuals who, I understand, give their services in an honourary way, and give advice when they are asked to do so upon any definite question which is put to them. They have no responsibility whatever, either to this House or to anyone else. They have, for example, made no report to this House. I have suggested—it will not be permissible for me to do more than mention the fact—that there ought to be some rearrangement with regard to the supervision of education in Scotland. I should like to know whether the Secretary of State is satisfied that he has, under the present arrangement, an entirely Scottish supervision representative of all spheres in our national life, a democratic supervision and one which is in constant touch with Scottish life and opinion? In my view, the supervision is not of that desirable character, and it is that which I should like to see attained.
The next question is, How are we to get a complete survey of education? The criticism which I have frequently heard levelled against our reports is that you have, with regard to Scottish education, reports upon all its departments comprised in some six or more different annual or bi-annual reports, and that you cannot in any one volume get a 896 complete survey of our education. That ought to be rectified. I should like to give the Committee this extraordinary information. When you turn to the report of the Council on Education in Scotland which purports to be for the year 1930–31, it is dated 8th May, 1931, and contains the statistics for the year ended 31st July, 1930. In page 4 of the report, the case is given away in these words:Most of the statistics are for the year ending 31st July, 1930, which is also the period covered by the last general reports of His Majesty's chief inspectors, but some are for the year ending 31st March, 1930, some for the year ending 15th May, 1930, and some for the calendar year 1930.That is absurd, and the reports ought to be remodelled and brought up-to-date. We ought to deal with one definite period, either from 31st March in one year to 31st March in the next year or some other date, and present it in that way to the House.
Some reference has been made to the new education committees. I hope that they will prove to be new brooms which will sweep clean. I should like them to make a clean sweep of one or two things regarding education to which I want to make reference. There are two comments I wish to make about the new authorities. After all, it is too soon to criticise them. Out of 1,070 members, there are only SO women. Something requires to be done there. There ought to be a greater proportion of the mothers of Scotland having some direction in regard to the education of their children. The other remark I wish to make is that there, apparently, seems to be a diffidence on the part of the Secretary of State for Scotland to make any recommendations to the education committees. When I have put questions to him in the House making a suggestion that he should bring certain things to the notice of the education committees, his reply repeatedly has been that he does not consider it necessary. I hope that he is not afraid of them. I suggest that he should deal with those education committees just as he deals with the other local authorities under his supervision.
The question of examinations has been raised. I think that possibly a misconception has arisen with regard to examinations. Very confused statements 897 have been made with regard to that subject here to-night. I make no fetish of examinations, but I observe that there are others who do, and others who make a fetish of no examinations. I suggest to the Committee a middle course as the course of common sense. It is not at all clear from the announcement made by the Secretary of State for Scotland to-night, whether he means a clean cut at 12, and that all the children will pass at that age from the primary departments to the advanced divisions, or only the secondary schools with or without examination. The right hon. Gentleman kept an open mind upon that matter, and, accordingly, I suggest that other speakers have perhaps too hastily concluded that he intended that there should be no qualifying examination. I sincerely hope that the other speakers were wrong, and that I am right in believing that he has still an open mind upon the question. It is a curious commentary upon the whole situation that earlier this afternoon we had the President of the Board of Education for England arguing strenuously in favour of examinations, and many of them, and the Secretary of State for Scotland now comes down to the House and announces as a great achievement that he has decided, or means to decide, that there will be an end to the qualifying examination.
Now the commonsense view—and I submit it with great respect to the Committee, because it is in opposition, apparently, to the official view—is that, while no one would dream of subjecting young children to an examination year after year during the years between seven and 12, while we make them welcome to the fullest variety of education conducted on the most enlightened methods, I do say that when the time comes for them to pass, or to be considered for passing, into the higher division or the secondary school, a test of a very simple kind should be applied. It is commonly called the three "R's," but anyone who understands that expression knows that it is a short way of expressing, in its fullest content, the ability of the child to read, write, and do simple sums, and also to have some little knowledge of history and geography. In consequence of my having mentioned that before in this House there has been a most violent criticism on the subject. The purpose of examinations—and this is 898 a point which you will never hear from the official statement of the case—that the public who, after all, are providing some £12,000,000 per annum in order to give efficient education to the children of Scotland, are entitled to know by some public test whether, in point of fact, their children are receiving full value for the money that is being paid for education. That is the first purpose from the public point of view.
The next point is in regard to the children themselves. I think there is a great deal of disciplinary value in an examination at the age of 12, for it can be of a quite simple description. There is no use blinking the fact that examination at the age of 12 is necessary for other reasons, and I cannot accept the complacent view with regard to Scottish education which I find set forth in the Council's report, and which was reflected in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to-night. There is no use blinking the fact, and after the Debate last year the House may be interested to know I was furnished, without any request from myself, with ample evidence from a variety of sources that the view I ventured then to state was the correct one. I should like to tell the Committee the nature of that confirmation. The President of the Master Printers Association published a letter in the papers in which he said that primary education in Scotland was so defective, as shown in the examinations which his association conducted, that he had to report on the matter in terms which were far from complimentary. He said that out of the first 14 boys tested, only one had achieved a reasonable standard of education. Writing was poor, and in many cases execrable, capacity for expression was very weak, spelling was bad, and sometimes very bad, and perfectly simple arithmetic was beyond them.
§ Mr. SCOTT
Whatever the reason may be, the hon. Member can have his own explanation. What I wish to impress upon the Committee is that they must not think that primary education in Scotland is all that could be desired, because this was followed by evidence of a similar character from a banker in Dundee, from another business man in 899 Dundee, from a trader in a wholesale house dealing with shops all over Scotland, and so on. I will not trouble the Committee with details, but they can take it from me it was all to the same effect. I, therefore, say that that is a condemnation of the results of our system of primary education. It might interest the Committee to know whether the official reports correspond to those which were made outside. They do. For example, the inspector for the Southern Division of Scotland says:The obstinate fact remains that less than half of the children in the schools, even of so favoured a district as Edinburgh, complete the primary course successfully in the time allowed.The Western Division inspector reports in somewhat similar terms, and also the inspector for the Northern Division. Those admissions, though somewhat veiled by the inspectors, do show uneasiness on their part with regard to our system of education. I put the question to the right hon. Gentleman whether it was still true that 60 per cent. of girls and boys sent forth from the day schools had failed in various degrees to reach the normal goal in education, and the only satisfaction he could give me was that that figure had been reduced by 2.9 per cent. It is still a very serious situation, and I am apprehensive as to whether the position will be improved by the mere dropping of the qualifying examination or whether it does not mean the root-and-branch clearing out of the curriculum in primary schools. That is a matter which, I think, has not so far been cleared up. The only other matter to which I want to refer is that of secondary education. On this matter the lead has already been given by the Secretary of the Department in an important speech which he delivered at Leith in January of this year. We have had from the late President of the Board of Education a very complimentary speech in regard to Scottish secondary education, but I am afraid the information in his possession is not quite so recent as this. Speaking at Leith the Secretary of the Department said:He would indicate one of the main facts about their secondary schools. He would take Leith Academy as an example of what occurred in many, if not most of the secondary schools in Scotland. In 1925, 350 900 pupils completed the first year of the secondary course. This number fell in the following years to 222, 123, 46, 18 and 15. In 1929, and again in 1930, the number of leaving certificates gained was 14. That was 350 starters, and only 14 who really finished the race.The Secretary of State was good enough to send me, and also to publish, a list showing the corresponding figures for other secondary schools in Scotland, and it showed the same deplorable leakage and waste in secondary education. I want to know what remedy the Under-Secretary of State is going to offer for this deplorable leakage. Is he going to refer the matter to the Scottish Council for Research in Education. If so he will find in their report, published in April of this year, absolute confirmation of what I have said. They say:One of the greatest educational problems of the present day is the wastage in secondary schools.And they give figures which are staggering, showing that while you begin with a total of 30,944 that figure has dwindled to 6,631. I ask the Committee to consider the disappointment this must be to the parents of the children and to the pupils themselves. Various explanations and excuses are offered in this report for this wastage. They refer to the economic necessity, to the parents of the children being dissatisfied with the progress made, and to the children not liking the school. They also make a most extraordinary reference to a state of low intelligence. I hope that does not refer to Scottish children. One explanation which is not offered in this report is a mistaken curriculum. I should like the Under-Secretary to say whether he is satisfied that the curriculum is all that can be desired and whether it is in any way responsible for the state of affairs. The ideal of all those who think about education is that there should be a ladder from the primary school to the secondary school, and to the university.
I have repeatedly asked how many pass up the ladder from the secondary school to the university, but so far I have not received the information. It is information to which the people of Scotland are entitled. They should be told how many certificates have been obtained in each county and by each school. Unless education authorities generally have that information they cannot deal with their educational problems efficiently. I offer 901 these remarks to the Committee not as a Jeremiah on the subject of education but because I believe that the best service one can render to the cause of education is to examine it carefully, to look the facts in the fact, and, where there are deficiencies, to point them out and thus improve the situation throughout the whole country.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
The hon. Member for Kincardine (Mr. Scott) has taken a very pessimistic view of Scottish education. He has given us figures, and as I listened to him I was reminded of the old statement that statistics could be used to prove anything. But I really think he is a little too apprehensive as to the position of Scottish education. Hon. Members who represent Scottish constituencies will have had the experience of meeting the products of the Scottish educational system. It may be that things are bad to-day, they always are bad in the present. It has always been the custom for people to deplore the terrible state of things in their own time, they are always going steadily from bad to worse, whereas the truth probably is that the present is in many respects ever so much better than the good old days of the past. From my experience of our educational institutions and my intercourse with my follow countrymen, I am confident that the present state of education in Scotland will compare favourably with any period in the history of Scotland. The children of Scotland to-day are just as intelligent as ever. They are as capable of making their way as the children of my own generation, or of the previous generation.
There is a wastage in the matter of secondary education, but there always has been this wastage. As I listened to the hon. Member for Kincardine it seems to me as if his great idea is to get a leaving certificate. That is an entirely wrong view to take. A certificate may represent a certain attainment in examinations, but that is not the thing that really matters. What does matter is the development of a decent cultural level, and I believe that at the present time we are in a very favourable position as compared with the past. One of the great improvements in our educational system is the care that is taken of the children and the opportunities which they are getting. I am not altogether 902 in agreement with some of my former teacher associates in idealising the conditions in the schools of the present day. I do not think there has been anything like the development in the jolly idea of the school to the extent that some of them would have us believe, but, on the whole, the school to the children to-day is a comparatively happy environment, and they have fairly good opportunities for the development of their mental capacity and for fitting themselves for the future tasks of life.
One great weakness to-day is the tendency to adopt and defend the utilitarian idea in education. For example, children go into the advanced course or secondary course and they get a certain training in languages. They begin to learn French. They never become really efficient in speaking French. Someone then says "Look at the waste of it. They have got nothing from it." But have they got nothing from it? They have gained something in the little association they have had with the other language, something real, and something that I believe will be of value to them and will enrich their lives. But because they are not in a position to carry on a conversation with other people in that language the common idea is that it has all been waste. It will be said that they might have spent the time in training for engineering or for some other industry that they are to enter. We have people who are very highly trained in their respective industries. The workpeople in the industries of this country are well skilled. I think it would be a great pity if one were to visualise the ideal education as simply one which enables a person to become skilled in a particular handicraft. The ideal is to give each individual as many interests as possible, to broaden mental outlook. I hold that in the development of Scottish education we shall make a great mistake if we try to concentrate on a few things to the exclusion of the development of a proper mental outlook.
I am not quite happy regarding the reduction of the size of classes. A great deal more has to be done in this matter. For some years now there has been a tendency to try to take the necessary steps for the reduction of classes, but always there has been also an attempt to get round the matter by considering how 903 many there are on the register and the average numbers in the classes. If you get a register with 55, possibly you are told that there are seldom 50 present. I think we have to aim at much smaller registers and work on the basis of what is on the register and not on the basis of what we are told will probably be in a class on a certain date. We must take the figure on the register as the figure on which to work. In elementary education we must seek to get the numbers in the classes ever so much nearer to the numbers in the classes for secondary and advanced education. The elementary teacher must have more consideration shown to him with regard to the size of classes in comparison with his colleagues in secondary schools. The hon. Member who preceded me is worried because £12,000,000 is being spent and because we have not got the juvenile population reaching the standards in education that he would like to see. Perhaps one of the factors in this connection has been that the elementary classes are still far too large and do not give sufficient opportunities to the teacher.
One other point I want to make relates to administration. A boy or girl leaves a school and applies for a job. The employer has many applicants. An applicant is told that he cannot write a letter and cannot count. Possibly the employer who talks in this way and is carrying on his share of the business of the British Empire, cannot write a letter and cannot count. Always, ever since I can remember or since I have been interested in education, the same thing has been said. It is so easy to say that a lad or girl is not able to write a letter or to count. I believe that the lad or girl is able to write and count and to prove himself or herself adequate, taking everything into consideration. Of course we will improve things in future. I believe that in this business of education the fundamental factor is the economic factor. If the incomes going into the homes of the parents were increased very largely we would get a greater improvement than by any other method. There would be an opportunity given to parents to provide the material environment in the homes of the children.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
It is quite true, but when one is dealing with educational ideals and the spending of £12,000,000 there arises the question whether value is being obtained for the £12,000,000, taking into consideration the economic circumstances of the parents of the children. I was only suggesting that that factor ought to be taken into account. The children ought to have in their own homes a sufficient measure of comfort; they ought to have in the schools sufficient accommodation and bright and airy classrooms, and we ought to see to it that the children attending school are properly nourished. If all that is accomplished, then you have highly experienced and skilled teachers to carry out the work. I believe that at present there is everything to show that the standard of education in Scotland is as high as ever it was, and I believe that the children who are now in the schoolrooms of Scotland will show in the future that they have profited by their educational opportunities and will prove themselves just as capable as efficient and as good citizens, as any of the generations of the past.
§ Sir SAMUEL CHAPMAN
Reference has been made to the working of the education committees under the Act passed by the late Government. I was one of those who supported that Act through thick and thin and I desire to see it a success. But there are a great many new members of these education committees throughout Scotland who have not served their apprenticeship in educational matters. I was a member of one of the old education authorities. I knew very little about the administration of education when I entered that body and when I came out of it, I knew a little more, but not as much as I ought to have known. On the surface, the present education committees appear to be working in a fairly satisfactory way, but there are underground rumblings, and trouble may come to the surface in the future, if things are not worked in the right way. As I say, I wish to see the committees under the new system a great success, but I think some of the committees in Scotland have not yet grasped the fact that there are two partners in 905 education in Scotland. There are these education committees on one side and the Department on the other.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Sir S. CHAPMAN
I am speaking of the administration of education. During the next two or three years, whoever is in power, I desire to see the Education Department being asked to adjudicate in many instances throughout Scotland, between the education committees of the county councils, and the school management committees which have not the power possessed by the education committees. I would suggest—though I do not know whether "suggest" is the right word, because I am sure the present education authority is thoroughly alive to the fact—that in many instances the Education Department will have to inquire very minutely into the actions of the education committees in Scotland on two points. One is as to whether they are keeping up to date with regard to new buildings. It will be necessary to see that there is not too much limitation on expenditure on new buildings. The second point is that it will be necessary also to safeguard the interests of the teachers. The old education authorities got on extremely well with the teachers. They consulted the teachers with regard to salaries and everything was arranged in an amicable manner, and there was no grumbling. I never saw such a change come over Scotland in 10 years as during the régime of the old authorities. It is almost an insult to mention the fact, so well known is it, that the teachers threw themselves heart and soul into education then, as they do now, and everything went smoothly. We shall have to guard against this danger—that some of these committees may desire to look at one side of the question only, that of economy, and the cutting down of teachers' salaries, and then the Department, as the other partner, will have to come in and redress the balance. I think that that statement ought to be made in this Committee by one who was a staunch supporter of the Measure of my right hon. and gallant Friend the former Secretary of State, and one who worked very hard to get it through Par- 906 liament. We must make it a success, and we look to the. Education Department and to the activity of the hon. Gentleman opposite, who is one of the most active, able and cheerful Under-Secretaries we have ever had in the Scottish Department, to keep a vigilant eye on these committees and to see that the new Act works as well as the old Act did.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
I have been rather interested in the speech of the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir S. Chapman). I cannot help feeling that we have only to wait for another 12 months and hear the hon. Member make another speech on this subject, then we shall find him as convinced as I was before the change took place, that in the interests of education, in the interests of the children of Scotland, it would have been far better if we had had no change under the Local Government Act of 1929. I shall not pursue that subject, however, because the proceedings up to the present have been harmonious that I would not like to disturb that harmony. As one who fought strenuously against the change in 1929 I am convinced that it was a mistake in the interests of educational administration. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are now responsible for the administration of the Act which we both did our best to keep off the Statute Book. However, it is there, and as long as we have any responsibility in connection with its administration, much as we hated that Measure when it was passing through the House of Commons, we shall do our best to make it a success as far as administration is concerned.
This Debate has now gone on since 4 o'clock, and it has dealt with educational administration in bath Scotland and England. I cannot help contrasting the attitude of certain hon. Members on the problems of education, as compared with their attitude on certain other problems which come before us from time to time. I have a feeling that, if we had been discussing votes for graduates for representation of the universities, every representative of the universities in England and Scotland would have been in this House, but because we are merely discussing the sacred question of education, and particularly the education of 907 working-class children, we have only had during the whole of the Debate two university representatives. Those who were responsible for educational administration in Scotland for 4½ years are conspicuous by their absence, although they put me through may facings some time ago because my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate did not happen to be in his place.
I want to take several of the points which were raised in the Debate. The hon. Member who represents the Scottish Universities (Mr. Cowan) referred to the amount of money available for education. It is a lucky job for some of us, perhaps particularly for me, that money does not always mean education. On the other hand, if you are to get efficient administration in education, a little addition to the money available is not out of the way. In Scotland we have been fairly lucky, because, under the administration of a Labour Minister in England who has spent more money, Scotland under the 11–80ths principle has £384,000 more available. It is too early to pass final judgment on the change-over and the new regime, and I repeat that, much as we dislike that Act, my right hon. Friend and I, responsible as we are for administration, will do our best to make it a success because it deals with educational administration as well as other problems. Reference has been made to the need for reducing the size of classes. May I recall that it was in 1924, under a Labour Administration and under the guidance of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, that notice was given to the education authority in Scotland to reduce classes from 60 to 50. I am more than pleased to emphasise the fact that, while there are 1,500 less pupils in our schools, we have 540 more teachers. I am not satisfied, nor is any educationist satisfied, with the size of the classes. We shall not be satisfied until we have a system under which the teachers will be able to understand each child in the class instead of having to undertake, as now, mass instruction.
The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities asked whether it would not be possible to approach the Treasury and get grants for raising the school age in 908 Scotland, while leaving it as it is in England. No one knows better than he does the great difficulties in the way. We would have to provide for maintenance grants. I had better not pursue that matter, because the raising of the school age would mean new legislation to provide the finance, although all we have to do, so far as administration is concerned, is to name the day under the Act of 1918. The Noble Lady the Member for West Perthshire (Duchess of Atholl) spoke about the continuation classes and the good work which they do. I hope to see that good work continue. I left school at the age of 13, because they would not allow me to leave at the age of 12, and the limited education I received after leaving the day school was received in the continuation classes. Since those days there has been a rapid development in continuation classes. From this Box I would appeal to the education authorities in Scotland to do all they possibly can to encourage attendance at the continuation classes, particularly in the four years' course, because they will be helping to supplement the education provided in the day schools and further improving the education of the young people who can take advantage of those classes.
One of the faults of our education system has been that we have one mould and that we have attempted to put every child into it. If we are to have real progress, we shall have to get the variety which was referred to by the Noble Lady the Member for West Perthshire, so that we shall have the moulds necessary into which the children can fit instead of having only one mould. Reference was made to the three years' courses in our advanced division schools being far too academic, and they are. It is the responsibility of the education authorities themselves. To the best of my knowledge, no proposals for the widening or extension of the courses have been sent to the Department that have been turned down. They are willing to give every consideration to a widening of the courses for the purpose of seeing that an opportunity suitable to the child is provided which will fit that child for the battle of life and make its life easier, if we provide that variety of courses which ought to be provided by the education authorities.
Then the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. G. Hardie) made special reference 909 to examinations, and so did the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities, and the only adverse criticism that I have heard during the Debate to the suggestion that we were going to abolish the qualifying examination came from the hon. Member for Kincardine (Mr. Scott). For fear that there may be some misunderstanding as to what is proposed, I would repeat what my right hon. Friend said on this subject. He pointed out that there had been a process of transference from the primary to the post-primary school, which was handed over to the new authorities. Certain of these qualifying examinations had been reduced to a minimum, and then my right hon. Friend said:Now we feel that we may take another stop. This examination, it is generally felt, is open to many objections. There is no doubt that it has put too severe a strain both on the teachers and on the pupils. It does not test the whole of the manifest activities of the school—far from it. It keeps a certain number of pupils grinding away at uncongenial tasks, instead of giving thorn the opportunity of finding salvation through the more attractive and more varied courses of the post-primary school. It is surely possible for teachers themselves to arrange the transference at this critical stage of a child's career.I want to emphasise that, so far as the qualifying examination is concerned, what we can do to abolish it will be done during our period of office.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
After all, there are sometimes revolutions from the Front Bench as well as from the back benches. I would emphasise the fact that all the arguments are in favour of abolishing this examination. Many of us trust ourselves on ships, but we never seek to interfere with the work of the captain. There are many here who are quite well educated, but who would fail to pass an examination on test papers set by children of 13 years of age. It is no test of education merely to sit for a written examination. I have sometimes thought I would get some children out of the Fife schools, of 12 or 13 years of age, to set the test papers for some of those who are so desperately anxious to have examinations, but I am afraid 910 the pass marks would have to be about 0.01.
A good many of us on these benches who were in the mining industry knew very little if anything about winding machinery in the mines, and we never interfered with the work of the winding engineman; we trusted him. Many hon. Members cannot drive a car, but they trust themselves to the one who can drive. If you can do this so far as trusting those who have control of the machinery of driving for your safety is concerned, if we can trust ourselves to those whom we have educated to be captains of our ships, we are entitled to trust the teaching profession, on which we have spent so much money in training them for the job, to see that the children are passed on according to their ability instead of having an examination such as we have given them up to the present time. I am not in favour of examination, but I am in favour of education.
I was put two other questions by the hon. Member for Kincardine. He mentioned the fact that the total expenditure on education in Scotland was not the sum of money which my right hon. Friend had to get voted by the House to-night. That is perfectly true, because we are dealing only with the sum of money provided from the national Exchequer. The total expenditure on education in Scotland is estimated for 1930–31 at £12,847,000; of this £6,790,000 is paid in grants, being equal to 52.8 per cent. of the expenditure. A sum of £5,854,000 is raised from the rates, being equal to 45.6 per cent. The other 1.6 per cent. comes from sources other than these two. A question was asked as to the Council of Education in Scotland. I do not think that we had better pursue that subject too far. They last met in the year 1913. The composition of the committee is the Lord President of the Council, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the First Lord of the Treasury, the Lord Advocate, and the right hon. Lord Craigmyle—[Interruption]. They do not need to meet, because the work is being done so well under the control of my right hon. Friend and his staff.
Let me sum up our policy in education. We want to have a curriculum suited to 911 the ability of the children so that we can get the best out of the children instead of providing for only a limited number and doing that at the expense of those who cannot benefit by the limited curriculum which we have had up to the present time. The best test of our educational system is not the number of students or pupils who pass examinations; it is the complete change in the outlook of the children now attending school as compared with even the days when we attended school. Then you used to have to drive children to school, but now they are anxious to go. This year we have had the highest percentage of attendance that we have ever had. It is the best test of educational efficiency when children are anxious to go to school instead of having to be driven, as some of us had to be. Our aim is to abolish the qualifying examination, and to see that new schools with adequate playgrounds are provided. When I was at school, about the only time I remember receiving punishment, from the finest old headmaster that ever had been in Scotland, was when I had to climb over a wall on purpose to play out in the street because of the limited amount of playground accommodation.
It is a fact to-day that under the new system of administration, if they want to get a piece of ground for the purpose of a war memorial, or anything of that sort, they do not try to get a new site, but just pinch a bit out of the playground. [Interruption.] I have had to deal with cases during the limited period I have been in Office, in which I have had to go down and see a site where they have not only fenced a limited playground for war memorial purposes, but have pinched a piece for public convenience purposes. [Interruption.] Yes, even stolen at the expense of the children. It was in Dumbartonshire. We want to provide new schools with adequate playground accommodation. Not only have we to educate our children intellectually but to give them an opportunity for games and physical instruction; for mass playing, if you like to put it that way, so that we can have the whole school playing games.
I remember when I was pleading for organisation and centralisation I was 912 accused of being a young man in a hurry. I am an older man now, but I am still in a hurry so far as the provision of playgrounds is concerned. The minimum playground accommodation for a secondary school ought to be 10 to 15 acres. We are interested in getting the co-operation of all parties in the State to secure the greatest improvements possible in education. We seek to lighten the primary curriculum, to throw overboard many of those things that do not help education, and to give a good solid foundation on which to build in the higher schools. Let us have the clean cut at 12 years of age, so that we shall not be penalising children who do not take to book-learning but who, by eye and hand, would get a better education in the central schools than they would get if they were retained in the primary schools, where neither accommodation nor teaching of the right kind is available. Last, but not least, having widened the curriculum so far as the advanced division classes are concerned, we have to do the same so far as the secondary courses are concerned, those courses leading to the leaving certificates. Those are the objects we have in view, and which we are seeking to attain.
§ Mr. MACQUISTEN
I am sorry to intervene so late. I did my best to speak earlier but others have been luckier than I was. First I would congratulate the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) on his physical vigour after the proceedings of last night. In the circumstances he might have made a somnambulistic speech, and he is to be congratulated on delivering himself as he did. He said one or two rather sinister things, in a sense, especially in his references to the speech of the hon. Member for Kincardine (Mr. Scott) who had given testimony about a matter which really disturbs me and which is borne out by many employers, and that is the lamentable lack of instruction in the three "R's" which is evident among boys and girls who apply for employment. They are nothing like they used to be. I do not want to say I am one of those of whom the hon. Member for Camlachie spoke and of whom it might be said that he held with the Roman satirist:Aetas parentum pejor avis tulit nos nequiores.913 [HON. MEMBERS: "Translate."] But I think it is undoubted that primary education is not what it used to be. We do not get the beautiful caligraphy of the ancients before 1872. Even the very schoolmasters nowadays do not write the, beautiful handwriting which I remember, and they even call arithmetic something like applied mathematics, because that may seem to justify a somewhat more superior position. They do not give the hard grinding that they used to give, and the children are not taught with the severity they used to be taught. That is why they are so anxious to come to school now, because it is more a playing of games than a place of education. I have listened to the President of the Board of Education, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Parliamentary Secretary, and I have not heard one of them say anything to help us in regard to a definition of what education really is. Education is not a mechanically acquired accomplishment. In mediaeval times the cultured classes left reading, writing and arithmetic to others. I do not believe that Sir William Wallace could ever write his name, and lots of other distinguished men of the past were in the same category.
I was once given an explanation of how education came to spread across the Scottish Border. At one time education was peculiarly a matter for the priests. The Church gathered power and privilege, so that it came about that no clergyman could be tried by any ordinary court for any crime he committed, but only by a court of the clergy. It was then found that if you stole cattle on the Scottish Border, and you could read the Lord's Prayer, you would not be hanged, because it was presumed that you were a clergyman. Whereupon the Scots enthusiastically took to the cause of education. What is education? It is the formation of character. It is not only book education; it is also physical education. That was the Greek education. In times gone by they did not take children into the Scottish schools, but they gave them more or less an open-air education, and there are certain open-air schools to this day. Nothing could be worse for the children than constant study indoors. [Interruption.] It is not a question of climate, but a ques- 914 tion of clothing. That is far more important than any amount of good learning. You want to get mens sana as well as corpore sana. You want a strong physique, and that is far more important than book learning. I remember Lord Russell of Killowen being asked what was the secret of success at the Bar, and he said, "It is physical energy." If a man is not feeling well but is "in the blues" he cannot do justice to himself. I listened with interest to a doctor talking about medical and dental examinations, but really the problem is a matter of training and diet. Children should be taught in these matters. After all, dentists are only called in when the mischief has started. With proper diet there would be no need for dentists at all.
This idea of pure book-learning is not going to give us the educated population what we want. In the great times of the past there were no schools for many things. There were no schools in the great days of art and architects. Two hundred years ago, in Holland and elsewhere, there were great painters, but there were no schools and no training. You do not get the greatest possible results from mere tuition, but there are certain accomplishments that it is desirable to have, and, therefore, I believe that education, in the sense of training in certain arts, is a privilege that should be extended as far as possible. But to believe that merely by learning things you are going to make a change in character, and to make people better fitted for the battle of life, is a delusion.
The hon. Member for Camlachie said that very often an employer who was dissatisfied with the writing of an applicant could not write very well himself, and that is true. I have known big employers, very able men, who were wholly illiterate, but they had that indefinable thing known as character, and they had been educated in the university of life. Take the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). He is one of the most brilliant exponents of the English language that we have, but I was reading about his early days, and I found that he was not considered good enough for the classical course, and went on to the modern side, and yet in him we have one of our finest exponents of the English language, in either writing or speaking. 915 The whole theory of education was summed up by our national poet when he wrote:What's a' your jargon o' your schools,Your Latin names for horns an' stools;If honest nature made you fools,What sairs your grammars?Ye'd better ta'en up spades and shools,Or knappin'-hammers.A set o' dull, conceited hashes,Confuse their brains in college classes!They gang in stirks, and come out asses,Plain truth to speak;An' syne they think to climb ParnassusBy dint o' Greek!This idea of taking all classes right through from the primary school to the university is a delusion, and it will do the mass of mankind a great deal of harm. Mrs. Humphrey Ward once said that it takes five years for a young man to get the better of a university education, and, indeed, it is only a Very small percentage that profit by it. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. G. Hardie) that the more general education a man gets the better he does in the battle of life; that is a delusion. In the Orient they take a little boy of the tenderest years and teach him his trade, and he is a splendid craftsman by the time he is 12, when he goes to school. He begins with the particular and ends with the general, whereas we begin with the general and end with the particular, and if a man is too long at the general he will never settle down to the particular.
I suggest that the Secretary of State for Scotland should consider whether he has not sufficient administrative powers to get the children of the country both sound in body and well trained—to take the children who are willing to go, and whose parents are willing that they should go, from town places into the country, and set them up and give them their education in the rural areas, letting them grow all the food that they need for themselves on their own land in their own school. Then they would be magnificently fed, and would be taught the greatest of all arts and sciences agriculture, while pursuing their useful education. Then you would be giving them a splendid physique and education at the same time, and would be solving the question of raising the school age, 916 because you could keep them at school till they were 16 or 17, as the Aberdeen farmers do with their sons, who work on the farm all the summer and go to school all the winter, and a better educated class of men you could not find anywhere.
I would ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he cannot find it within his powers to start such a system of education, and to give the local authorities a hint to make it voluntary, because otherwise it would be of no use. It could be done if parents and children were willing. The objection to the raising of the school age is that it would be a matter of compulsion. By all means let every boy or girl who is willing to do so stay at school until they are 15, or 16, or 17. We should give them every possible assistance. But do not conscript them; do not compel them. It is no argument to say that there are 1,000 teachers unemployed, and that therefore the children are to be conscripted to give them a job. Children do not exist for the benefit of teachers. There are too many teachers they say, so let us raise the age limit. But then a lot more may come in, because it is an advantageous occupation, and we will go raising the age on another year. I suppose they will stay at school ultimately until they are 21 and get an Old Age Pension when they are 40. That is the object of a good many on the other side. The thing would work out most disastrously. If we took the children into the country and educated them there and made them work for their own living, as they would love doing, it would re-create the whole population of the country. You would have an A 1 instead of a C 3 population in a single generation. They would be taught the greatest of all the arts, and all over the British Empire, wherever there is land to be got for nothing, you could settle men who know their jobs. You would build up a huge Empire, which is at present an unpopulated Empire, of really educated people. There is a real practical as well as theoretical scheme of education. Boys and girls would go to school to be put into a position in which they can earn their daily bread and settle down and make a home for themselves. If we adopted some scheme of that kind I have no doubt that 917 we should have a system of education which would make a great British Empire.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.—[Mr. T. Kennedy.]
§ The CLERK at the Table informed the House of the unavoidable absence of Mr. SPEAKER during the remainder of this day's Sitting.
§ Whereupon Sir ROBERT YOUNG, the Chairman of Ways and Means took the Chair as Deputy-Speaker, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.