HC Deb 18 April 1932 vol 264 cc1319-76

Again considered in Committee.

[Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]

Postponed Proceeding resumed on Question proposed in consideration of Question, That a sum, not exceeding £26,892,676, 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, 1933, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Education, and of the various Establishments connected therewith, including sundry Grants in Aid.

Question again proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £26,892,576, be granted for the said Service."


I fear that, in addressing the Committee for the first time, I may have expressed myself, if not at undue length, at any rate, somewhat strongly. I only want to say, in conclusion, that in looking back, as one whose privilege it was as a younger man to be a school manager to two elementary schools and who since being returned to the House has had the honour of being placed on the council of one of the great northern universities, in my opinion the basis of our education is a sound basis. Relying on the loyalty of the teaching profession, which has done so much for the country in the past, I can see nothing in these economies which will in any way be detrimental to the cause which Members of both sides of the Committee have so greatly at heart.


I want to bring the Committee back to a point of view in regard to education which I came into this House with the deliberate intention of putting forward when the opportunity presented itself. In doing that, I hope I may congratulate the hon. Member who has just sat down and who gave expression to the idea which I desire to express. He said he believed that the opportunity should be given to every child to pass from the elementary school to the university. It is true that every child would not be able to take advantage of the opportunity even if it were presented, and it is equally true that it has not been the intention of any Government in my time to open that ladder of free education right through to the university. There may possibly have been the intention in one or two Governments behind which I have sat, but the opportunity was not there. There has never been a Government which had the opportunity and the power to open that ladder in the way which the hon. Member suggested. I hope he will get many more opportunities and will accept them, as I hope to exert myself in putting that point of view forward.

We have been told by a number of speakers—I have heard it expressed on many occasions recently—that there was a need for economy and that one of the things that had to suffer was education. If there is that need for economy, why is it that the class that is least able, because they have been compelled to economise all their lives, is, in this matter of education as in all others, harder hit by the economy axe than any other class in society. I have heard it said in this House—as far as I can gauge, with no truth in it at all—that the education provided for the average working-class child in the elementary schools is of such a high character that many of the middle-class are not able to give an equally good education to their children. Similar expressions have been used today, particularly by an hon. Member below the Gangway on this side in a maiden speech and by the hon. Baronet the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir B. Falle). If that is so, the obvious thing for the middle-class people to do is to take advantage of the opportunity that is provided for them and to send their children to the elementary schools. It is obvious that very few of them do so. They are in a position to give their children a, private education which they consider is better than can be obtained in the elementary school; otherwise, I do not think they would be foolish enough to spend money on privately educating their children and keeping them away from the opportunities that are open and free to them in the schools to which the ordinary working-class child goes.

I am particularly interested in re-organisation. I have played some part in the re-organisation of the schools in my division and have watched the whole course of the re-organisation and have seen the results of it. It has been of very great value indeed to the children, who have benefited very materially in many parts of the country. I want to ask the Minister why the opportunity is being denied to other educational authorities which have not re-organised their schools. It may be said that they did not take advantage of the opportunities which they had in the early days, and it is a sort of punishment for them now that the opportunity is no longer available in the same degree. It is not the education authorities you are punishing, but the children who are unfortunate enough to live in the area where a very reactionary education committee has control. The children are to be penalised because the opportunities that their education committee had to reorganise the schools were not taken advantage of in the early days of the movement. The special building grants have been cut down and every opportunity is taken to prevent the building of nursery schools.

Children in the special schools and in the schools for physically and mentally defective children are all suffering because the education committees in their areas have not taken advantage of opportunities that were offered them. Is it fair to inflict on children a punishment which they will carry all their lives because their education committees happen to be reactionary? The Board believe that the re-organisation system is essential, because they have sanctioned and encouraged it, and they have encouraged the building and equipping and staffing of special schools. If that is so, why on earth do they expect those children who have not been given the opportunity to be punished as they are? In areas very close to the one in which I live the children are not getting the same advantages as those in my area.

I was interested in what has been said about the school site of nine acres. Complaint was made by the hon. Member for North Portsmouth that they actually built this school on one floor. I have had some experience of school buildings and, if I had my will, I would not build anything in any part of the country except one floor schools. It is impossible to do it in overcrowded areas in London and big industrial towns, but to complain that in one place where apparently there was plenty of room they should build a one-floor school is to be hopelessly out-of-date and reactionary.

I should like to have an opportunity of saying, "Hear, hear" to the hon. Member for East Islington (Miss Cazalet) and the remarks she made about teachers. I have been in pretty close contact with the teaching profession and I have the highest admiration for their work in the schools and for what they do for the children outside the schools. I can understand the point of view of teachers who entered into a contract as binding as any contract can be; and, when that contract is broken, they had a right to complain, and they did complain, although it has been said by one or two Members that they took it in the right spirit. I agree that they took it in the right spirit, but I do not think that my view about the spirit would be the same as that expressed a little earlier in the Debate by certain other hon. Members. The right spirit to take in regard to a cut in our standard of conditions is to fight it and to protest against it. An injustice was done to the teachers, and the only thing they could do, in justice to themselves and to what we often call in this country the sacredness of a con- tract, was to protest and to fight against it as vigorously as they could. The injustice was recognised to the extent of 33⅓ per cent. in the earlier days of the conflict between teachers and the National Government, and the cut which it was intended to make was not inflicted. It has been said that the cuts in education are not to be permanent. I have heard that sort of thing said about other things. We were told that the cuts were made on account of necessity and that they were not necessarily permanent.

I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman, who, I am glad to see, has returned, that childhood is not permanent, and that any injustice which is inflicted upon the child to-day will be felt through the whole of the child's life. Is it fair when we realise that there are plenty of rich men and women in the country? The hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) made reference to the fact that almost every loan, in respect to which the security and rate of interest are good, is subscribed 10 or a dozen times over. I have read to-day with considerable interest, without having any personal knowledge of art, that certain pictures have been withdrawn from auction after bids have been made, for one picture of £95,000, for another of £23,000 and for another of something over £8,000. If there are people who can go to an auction and offer such sums for pictures for their own private galleries, I am sure that there are plenty of sources still to be tapped without tapping the source of education and inflicting an injustice upon children for the remainder of their lives. I am afraid that the present Government will go down in history as the Government who robbed the children of their childhood. I do not think that there is anything in this world I should dread more than to be charged with having robbed a child of its childhood. Everybody appears to agree to give lip-service to education, and to say that every child ought to have an equal opportunity, but if hon. Members opposite had to express their view by voting in the House of Commons nearly every one would vote against such a, proposal. In other words, they are more concerned with preserving the present order of society and everything for which it stands than they are for the future of the children or anything else.

You are robbing the children in certain places in the country. You are taking away advantages from some children in some parts which you have already given to other children in other parts of the country. Hon. Members may pay what lip-service they like to education, but the fact remains—and, after all, it is the policy of the Government—that all the cuts and hardships as far as education is concerned are inflicted upon working-class children. Hon. Members talk about the system of education and the advantages it gives and make comparisons with the education of 20 or 30 years ago, but they never make comparisons between their own children and the children of the working classes who attend the elementary schools. There are few Members of the Committee who would be satisfied with the standard of education to be got out of even the best elementary, central or secondary school for their own children. As one who has forced himself up from below, I represent that class which is still looked upon as a class which ought not to have as high a standard of education as that which others demand for their children and the children of their class. I do not blame any man who has the means for providing the highest possible standard of education for his children, but I demand for every child in the nation the same standard as that which, fortunately for them, others are able to demand for their own children.

We shall not get very much from the present Government. I had some hopes in regard to the right hon. Gentleman when I heard that he had been appointed to the Board of Education, but my opinion changed when I found what cuts were to be made in education and when I realised the consequences of those cuts. Speaking as a practical administrator in a district where the majority of the people are ordinary working class people, and where we have taken advantage of every possible opportunity presented to us by successive Governments to advance education, we are still very far from the standard of education which many of our children if they were given the opportunity, could use to their own advantage and for the advantage of the nation. The free places in our secondary schools have been reduced in number, and the cost to the parents has been increased. Most of the parents who send their children to the secondary schools to-day have to make very great sacrifices. The fees have been increased at a time when taxes are heavy, and when wages and salaries and other possible sources of income have been reduced.

Hundreds and thousands of children all over the country who have the ability, and have proved it by passing examinations, to take advantage of the opportunities in the secondary schools, are prevented from doing so because there are no places for them. In 1924 the then President of the Board of Education permitted an increase in the number of free places, and I hoped that that step would be progressive, and that a further increase might come in the near future. Instead, we have had a reactionary step. We have had a reduction of the number of free places in many districts, and an increase in the fees charged. I hope, if there is any surplus knocking about after the Budget has been presented to-morrow, that the President of the Board of Education will make a persistent attempt on behalf of the children who have been robbed of the opportunities of childhood to restore them in the interests both of the children and of the nation.


The hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) made reference to my absence from the Committee. I only wish to say to him and to the Committee that I have been engaged on important Government business; otherwise I should have been present throughout the Debate.


I happened to see the right hon. Gentleman coming into the Chamber, but I was not making any complaint.


I have listened with great interest to the very varied Debate. There are many points upon which I might be very much tempted to dwell, but I shall resist the temptation and speak specially upon one or two points which I wish to bring before the Committee. I join in the congratulations to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education for his very helpful and able statement in introducing the Estimates. I am sure that all sections of the Committee will agree that we are fortunate in having a man of such sincere sympathy, exceptional ability and know- ledge at the head of our educational affairs. The President has made out a good case for the reduced Estimates which he presents. The country realises the necessity of strict economy, even though the hon. Gentleman the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) and other speakers on the Opposition side did not seem to realise the urgency of the matter. If they did not realise the exceptional crisis which existed in the autumn of last year, they are the only persons in the country, I think, who did not. The country at large realised that we were faced with a tremendous financial crisis which required very drastic treatment, and which, happily, received the treatment which was necessary in order to save the situation.

8.0 p.m.

Reference has been made to the cuts in expenditure, and especially to the cut in the capital expenditure, since the National Government took office. It seems to me that there, if anywhere, was just the point at which a cut could be made without undue hardship. I agree that it has had a serious effect in preventing the completion of new schools, and, in other directions, the improvement of buildings. But we are assured that it is only of a temporary character, and I sincerely hope that as soon as the finances of the country get into a better condition we shall be able to go forward with building as we have in the past. At the same time, I feel a great deal of sympathy with what has been said by many speakers with regard to the teachers' salaries. There is no doubt that the cut involved the breaking of agreements between the teachers and the local authorities, and it could only be justified by the very serious financial crisis. I join in the appeal to the Government to consider the very strong claim of the teachers for the reconsideration of the matter at the earliest possible moment. Notwithstanding some of the things which have been said in the Committee to-day, I feel that education is no longer the Cinderella of the social services of this country as it used to be. I am very glad to note the great improvement and the better feeling in the country with regard to education than existed in the past. I hope that the interest will be maintained, and even increased, as the years go on. We have made wonderful advances in education since the War. We are deeply grateful to all those who have been responsible for the development that has taken place in education since the War. Education is more needed to-day than ever before. It is our greatest safeguard against Communism and revolution, and if we realise that, we shall know that we are not spending money in vain when we spend it on education. I wish to speak specially with reference to education expenditure as it affects the local authorities. While it would probably be generally admitted that, ideally, the burden of expenditure on social services should be equally distributed throughout the State, at the same time the system which has obtained for many years in this country—that a proportion of local public expenditure should be met by funds raised locally—has been shown by experience to be fundamentally sound.

Generally speaking, perhaps, the best means of equalising public expenditure burdens throughout the country is by meeting the cost of such expenditure from central funds. It would seem, therefore, that the two principles which I have just enunciated are to a certain extent in opposition. It is the task of those responsible for framing grant formulae to endeavour to reconcile these two conflicting principles. In effect, as contribution from central funds means equalisation, the task is to equalise rate burdens. The somewhat complicated grant formula for elementary education which existed prior to September of last year, and even that which is in effect to-day, represent an attempt at this equalisation. The deduction of the sevenpenny rate is an attempt at equalisation, but the effect of this deduction is at the present time comparatively feeble.

In the memorandum prepared by the Board of Education for Lord Meston's Committee it was set out as the Board's opinion that grants should vary with the ability of the locality to meet the expenditure. In other words, that there should be an attempt to arrive at some measure of rate equalisation. Let us see how it is working out. I have been looking through the Board of Education's List 43, which is a return showing the cost per child for elementary education in England and Wales for the year 1930–1931, the latest year for which figures are available, and comparing it with the return showing rates levied for elementary education covering the same period, I find three county boroughs where the rate for elementary education was less than 1s.—Bournemouth 8½d., Eastbourne 10d., and Blackpool 11½d. Yet these towns were able to spend £12 19s. 8d., £15 2s. 4d., and £14 1s. 3d., respectively, per child, as against the expenditure in my own constituency of £11 10s. 9d. per child and a rate of 3s. 9⅞d. I quote my own constituency because it is the area with which I am naturally most familiar. I could, however, quote with equal effect Stoke-on-Trent, where a rate demand of 3s. 10⅞d. allowed an expenditure of only £10 4s. 11d. per child; St. Helens, where the cost per child is £12 4s. 2d.—less than in any of the three lowly rated towns which I have cited—and the rate demand is 4s. 10⅜d.

Admittedly, the withdrawal of the 50 per cent. minimum limit of grant will mean a slight rise in the rate demand in the three towns which I first, mentioned, but the position as I have set it out will not be materially affected, as the corresponding rate increase, as I see it, will in each case be something round about 5d. only. One feels that this state of things merits the serious attention of the Committee, particularly as it is an industrial area—where elementary education is most needed—that the burden falls most heavily. The recent change in the grant formula relieving the taxpayer at the expense of the ratepayer will tend to magnify these discrepancies, except in the case of the few areas which formerly received grant under the 50 per cent. minimum grant Clause of the Fisher Education Act. One realises that central funds had to be relieved, but one cannot help wishing that at the same time there might have been inserted into the grant formula fuller provisions tending to equalise the burden on local rates. I hope that this point will receive fresh consideration from the Minister.

As Member for a necessitous area, in which I am also chairman of the Education Committee, I have felt it my duty to bring before the House the question of the glaring inequalities of rate burdens in the hope that steps may be taken to lighten the heavy financial load which rests on willing but weak shoulders. Might I also plead for more generous provision for the building of new schools as soon as the financial situation improves? The 50 per cent. grant by the late Government has been of untold benefit to highly rated local authorities like ours, and the sooner it is restored in some measure the better it, will be for education in the necessitous areas. I am sorry to have taken up so much time, but I do feel that this is a very important matter, and I wanted to make an appeal on behalf of necessitous areas like our own. The great Napoleon put it on record at St. Helena, near the end of his life, that There are only two forces; the spirit and the sword, and in the end the sword is always conquered by the spirit. I think I shall have the Committee with me when I. claim that education is a great spiritual force in this country and that our aim should be to expand it on sound lines in every way we can, even if we have to do it by further reductions in the expenditure on the forces that represent the sword.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being present


I think it is worthy of record that the attempt, innocent in itself, to cut short an important Debate on questions of education was initiated by an hon. Member whose chief contribution to this very philosophical subject was to apply to those very decent men who carry the responsibility of Government the most unpleasant epithet of "robbers." We have heard of the robber council of Ephesus—a title given by history—but I do not think that even the whole of Walthamstow could pin the title of "robber" across the history of the present Government. I do not imagine that the cause of education, so dear to the hon. Member's heart, will be furthered by dropping into the Debate the very acid comment of lip service. Lip service is paid by rogues; lip service is paid by vagabonds, but lip service is never paid by honourable or honest men, and to suggest that the party which the last hon. Member represents is the one honest party and that his speech was the one honest speech, is surely a claim that can only be rewarded by making him, by universal acclamation, the one sole person fit to be Minister of Education in England. I gathered that the party that the hon. Member represents have a contribution to offer which we have not. I heard a statement made by one hon. Member that the Minister of Education speaks through his teeth and not with his heart. An hon. Member who can diagnose this anomaly with such ability is an hon. Member who has an inner fight denied to most. If he has had an education which enables him to possess an inner light so that he sees a discordance in function between what issues from the Minister's teeth and the movements of the Minister's heart, then lie has had an opportunity of education which the Minister and myself have missed.

This Debate would be incomplete unless there were a chorus of thanks from every hon. Member to the teaching service. Whether it be in a country schools or in the still overcrowded frowsy atmosphere of our town schools, a life's vocation is being carried out. Perhaps the only false note struck in this Debate has been the suggestion that good education can be obtained in return for cash, and that if cash be not provided good education will not be provided in return. A good teacher is beyond price, but a dull "child-minder" should be excluded from the schools at any price we can afford to pay. The pouring out of unlimited money, which makes parents' hearts wither, will not produce either character, ability or good education. All those teachers who value their calling know that, and this is always expressed with full hearts when at old boys' associations, boys now grown to men, and girls grown to women, return thanks to those teachers who have put an indelible hall-mark on them. If this Committee recognises that, it will do something to encourage teachers in their vocation, and we shall be no party to the rather insulting suggestion that the more the money the better the teacher.

There has been one happy note struck by the Government. They have never suggested that children and their education are simply a pawn in the problem of adult unemployment. That is a very happy note which was missing from the discussion on the last Education Vote. It is strange that so many hon. Members, particularly those before me, are convinced that the beginning and end of education rests with the teachers. From the mother to the motor omnibus, education is going on. The motor omnibus tells you that if you are not spry the forces of gravity or of crushing weights will put an end to your existence. The newspapers are educating us daily, and even Members of this House from their party rostrums, at the street corners and in the market places are carrying on the same work of education, and to put the whole responsibility upon the shoulders of the teachers is false to nature, false to facts, and the teachers would be the first to disclaim it. But there is another form of cruelty. We have heard in the past of the cruelty, almost unbelievable, of children being confined to factories from their early years. Those who put this responsibility upon the teachers are guilty of equal inhumanity and cruelty. To force heavy studies upon children who are not cast in an academic mould, to force those who abhor Latin to go through the conjugations and verbs, and those who hate Greek to look at a lexicon; to force those who are artistic to try and grapple with geometry and algebra, may be a mental cruelty, as real as the cruelty, continued for so many years, which confined young children to our factories. It is hard to say whether or not the mental cruelty of ambitious parents is greater than the cruelty of poor parents who, unfortunately, had to send their children too early into industrial life.

We have been asked: what need is there for economy in education. Surely a lesson which we have all learnt is that economy should be a note of personal and private life, and a note also of the administration of the country, because economy is a virtue and extravagance a vice. Education is not starved because we have a Minister who in handling these astronomical millions has the awful responsibility of trying to see that the poor harassed taxpayer gets the utmost value for the minimum expenditure. If economy be practised in the educational world it may do good if we realise that neither buildings nor directorates nor inspectorates necessarily help the cause of education. If it concentrates professional feelings amongst the teachers and makes them realise that they must stand more on their own legs, that no real help will come to them from those who con- sider themselves superior to educational work but born administrators, then good will be done.

I hope the time will come when the teaching profession will be as conscious not only of its responsibilities but of its powers as my own profession. No one kicks harder than doctors at orders from Whitehall, and if only the teachers were inoculated with this mulish virus it would be better for education. A submissive educator can only produce a submissive people. We want a kicking people, a people who will always kick against oppression. It will be a good thing if teachers are freed from those eminent and amateur legal gentlemen who achieve high positions in the educational world by drawing subtle distinctions between what is a school building, what is a school place and what is a school playground, and making the administration of public money depend on spinning these subtleties which eventually occupy the attention of the highest courts of the land. If only that side of the work can be suppressed and teachers undertake the full responsibilities of their own profession then the few moneys still left at the disposal of the Minister may be used for the advancement of education and the advancement of teachers' salaries.

Economy might be exercised with no educational disadvantage if the first year were cut out. The first year of education is largely that of creche work. I was touched by the speech of the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones), who said that many people have to bring up families in single rooms, and that, even if we extend school creches, we are not grappling with the problem of the slums. We are not making an educational advance when we conceal a slum. It would not be popular with the hardworking mother who likes to know that her child is safe and out of mischief, but that is no reason why the home work should be done by the expensive machinery of the Board of Education. We cannot undertake a review of our educational services without paying a tribute to the great work of the school medical officers and the efficient work of school nurses. But these are dreadful dead ends of professional life, and unless more openings are made by which the keener members of these services can rise to better positions they will cease to attract the best of our nurses and the best of our doctors. For the best doctors and best nurses, though content with their pay, desire bigger fields for their energies and abilities than the school medical service affords.

Let me throw out this idea for the consideration of the Committee, that we should not take pride either in the magnitude of our school clinics or in the number of our school doctors; they represent the extent of our borne failure. If we need many school nurses to insure that our children are free from ringworm and parasites and minor disorders it is evidence of a deficiency in the home work. In concentrating upon academic education in our elementary and secondary schools we are in danger of losing that valuable instinct which is suggested by the word "mothercraft." It would tend to make much of our school medical services unnecessary if our mothers had the instincts of the race and had better homes in which to bring up their children.

It will not be altogether lamentable if a reduction in the grants from Whitehall lead to a greater independence on the part of local authorities. Independence is a characteristic feature of the English race and it is not necessarily good that local authorities should be so dependent on grants from Whitehall as to lose their freedom of thought and the initiation to start new advances in education. One does not like to think that directors of education have always one ear at the Whitehall telephone, nor does one like to think that the local school service is always anxious as to how it will impress the inspector from London. In any county there is a sufficient resource of common sense and experience to start exments in education, not necessarily subject to criticism from Whitehall, and if individuality comes to the fore from the foregoing of grants from Whitehall such economy is not necessarily harmful. I have received one and only one lamentable circular, and strangely enough it is from an association of head masters. It says: The sense of injustice occasioned by this treatment is very intense and no matter how loyal the teachers may be it will unconsciously but surely re-act upon their pupils. How can teachers teach that an Englishman's word is his bond with such an example from the Government? Besides, a worried teacher can never do the wholehearted work necessary to train England's future citizens. That letter to me is lamentable. How can a worried mother look after her children when she has all the worries of an impoverished household on her shoulders? She does it; and she does it brilliantly. How can a doctor, pressed by debt, save his patients life, put this interest in front of his own? He does it, and always will do, and we know that in the days of teaching poverty the teachers gave their whole hearts to those children whom parents entrusted to them. I think that this letter, well-intentioned though it may be, is nevertheless a most lamentable instance of zeal in office that does not represent facts in practice. Headmasters and men teachers will do their best, whatever be their grievances against any Government and whatever be their grievances or private worries.

The hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. Morgan), who made a maiden speech, touched a high moral note that should be maintained in any discussion of education. We might properly say that, of all the parts of a school curriculum, religious instruction is by far the most important, as its subject matter, God's honour and service, includes the proper use of all man's faculties, and affords the most powerful inducements to their proper use. We must assume that religious instruction is a fundamental part of the school course. The teacher, while careful, in the presence of children of different religious beliefs, not to touch upon matters of controversy, should constantly inculcate, in connection with secular subjects, the practice of charity, justice, purity, patience, temperance, obedience to lawful authority, and all the moral virtues, but as the subject matter of religious instruction, the examination of it, and the supervision of its teaching are outside the competence of the department of education, no syllabus could be set forth.

We were told by the hon. Member for Silvertown that education as he conceived it would offer a broad highway by which men might learn to redress their social inequalities and wrongs. Let us see what that means. It means that he, in fact, would tune the pulpits as Cromwell did so, that the children of England might grow up to be aggressive and angular politicians, demanding always their rights and without any knowledge whatever of their duties. Can we conceive how happy would be the life of a teacher instructing young children how they should be young and active proletarian agitators? When the hon. Member had achieved his ends by the form of education known best to him, so that the whole of the children were anxious agitators for their rights, he, I am afraid, would of necessity become a ruler who would argue with nobody, because the crowd of trained agitators, who would then be the population of England, would be entirely unmanageable under any conceivable form of social organisation.

There is one sad thing that I notice as I travel from school to school, and that is the gradual elimination of local interest and local control. Children belong to parents first of all; the State has an interest and the teachers have a professional interest in them, but that regulations should be so multiplied that school managers become nonentities is no sign of efficiency. My own profession is, by its very nature, expert. It owes its public trust to the fact that it is always responsible to the lay mind. We are always under the criticism of interested relations; we are always under the criticism of hospital committees. If teachers are to be shielded by educational organisation so that they stand behind the State, with a civil service between them and the parent, there will be an uprising of parental feeling that will be very unpleasant for those responsible for such organisation. I speak from knowledge when I say that managers of schools are being eliminated from all sense and feeling of power and of local interest. One hopes that one of the marks that the present Minister will leave upon our educational system will be a notable development of local interest and local management of the schools.

8.30 p.m.

If local education—if education at all—is to prosper, greater attention must be paid to the training schools. Whatever has been poured out on the schools themselves will be a waste of money, unless we provide brains as well as places. A true professional training is achieved in training schools in which there is full professional freedom. I express the hope that the Minister will give the closest attention of his heart and mind to the universities and training schools, which are the mother and mistress of English education.

Lastly, if there is anything that is going to destroy our modern civilisation, it is not Capitalism, Socialism or human perversity, but a general mass neurosis. If you watch carefully the writings of my own profession, you will gather we fear a development of mass neurosis, more than we fear the growth of cancer or consumption. If you look at the school records and the records of the school teachers you will find that nervous maladies predominate and reach a greater figure than in almost any other human occupation. If the teachers develop neurosis the pupils are bound to contract it. A study of the lower tone of the children in our elementary and secondary schools is most urgently called for.

I will finish my short contribution to the most important Debate that I have listened to in this House, on the note, again, of thanks to the teachers. Owing to the inadequacy of parents we call in teachers' help. A parent should teach his child his religion. A parent in ideal circumstances is the best educator; but we parents fail. The State cannot control a man's religion, and should not control a man's education or his health, but the State can help all, and for the Minister's help to the parents and for the work that the teachers never cease to do, I most gladly record my thanks.


I propose to confine myself in a very few sentences to trying to impress upon the representatives of the Board of Education the duty which I feel they ought to undertake in the very difficult time through which they, like all of us, are passing. I join with the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) in saying that I do not think that the speech which has been made by the Minister of Education is the sort of speech that the Minister would really like to have made in presenting his first report, and I express my disappointment with it. There are certain things that the Board of Education can do in these difficult days, and one is to guard against what the hon. Member who has just spoken called "mass neurosis." There is a mass neurosis which applies to the educational service. There are a large number of people who, as soon as they hear the word "economy" spoken, say: "Ah, let us get down to the Board of Education." They remind me of a young man who recently got engaged to be married. In order to celebrate the event, he presented the lady of his choice with an engagement ring, which was received with charm and even with rapture. She thanked him for it profusely, and she said: "What I like most about it is that in the ring are the stones of my particular choice, and none of the others ever did that for me." His reply was: "That's all right, my dear; that is the one I always use." So it is with regard to the speeches on economy that are delivered in this House or in the country. Education is the one subject that so many people always use.

I appreciate the difficulties of the President of the Board of Education at the present time. I realise that there has been, naturally an arrest in much of the progress which some of us expected to see accomplished. There is, for instance, the question of extending the school age. Everybody has taken for granted the postponement of that policy but most people will regret in a few years time that it was not carried out because it was a far-reaching policy, affecting not only the education of the child but the moral of the nation and I think it would have made a greater contribution than most people imagine to employment. Therefore, the appeal which I make to the Board to-night is this: that if expenditure has to be curtailed, let excessive reaction also be curtailed.

If some of the proposals which are now being made in different parts of the country are carried out it will take us a generation or two to get back to the position which we occupied before there was any talk of economy in the education services. The truth is that the need for economy, in this as in other services, is in danger of being used as an excuse for accomplishing purposes which are not essential to the scheme of economy provided for by the Government. Reference has already been made to a case which is known to many of us and which I hope will be notorious, the case of Salford where this plea of economy is being used, not to affect the sort of savings which I credit the Government with thinking were necessary, but to effect savings of quite a different kind. This has been done not by the education committee of the council but by the finance committee of the council which has used economy as an excuse for imposing those savings. In many other parts of the country the same sort of thing is being accomplished.

We have heard about the size of classes. I have been interested to hear some of the complaints which have been made, as to the results of the education services of this country, by hon. Members who at the same time seem to be supporting the idea of economy even as applied to the size of classes. We do not advocate a reduction in the size of classes for the purpose of making the teachers' task easier. We advocate it for the very purpose which was mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir B. Falle) who referred to the number of children unable to read and write. The wonder is that so many children are able to read and write in view of the facilities which were provided in the past. Then there is the question of unsuitable buildings. I gathered from the manner in which the last speaker referred to the profession to which he belongs, that he must be a doctor because no other profession talks in that way about itself. Let him apply his mind to this phase of educational expenditure in which the need for economy is, I suggest, being exaggerated. If he has knowledge of public health and experience of work in health services as he probably has—[An HON. MEMBER: "A great deal!"] The more be has, the more he will agree with me in this statement—that the larger the number of insanitary buildings in which children have to be educated, the greater will be the bill which the country will have to meet in ill-health. These are matters which we mention not because we are fanatics in the cause of education as we have been described, but because they are matters which affect the lives of the children.

There is another respect in which the excuse of economy is being unfairly used. We used to hear a great deal about the association of education and efficiency. We know that in recent economies a real threat is involved to the work of our technical schools and continuation classes. The experience of the whole of Europe emphasises the great need for a continuation of technical education. It has greatly helped foreign countries and we must rely upon it, increasingly, as competition with foreign countries grows. The result of recent Measures taken in many parts of the country is, I am afraid, a considerable diminution of the interest taken in the education services. There is a diminution of the interest of the local education authorities, who had plans in mind, who had schemes and ideals which weighed with them, and for which they had been working. There is a diminution of the interest of parents who see their children deprived of opportunities for which they had been struggling. There is a diminution of interest on the part of the teachers, and in this connection I would, in one sentence, emphasise the eloquent appeal made by the hon. Lady the Member for East Islington (Miss Cazalet) in regard to the teachers. There is a great danger of a lack not only in numbers but quality of that supply of teachers which we need if the interests of future generations are to be safeguarded.

Education we believe consists of two parts. The first is imparting knowledge to children, and to adults as well, because I am afraid that in the case of some adults it is just as necessary as in the case of children. But in addition to the imparting of information to students, whether they be children or adults, education consists also of drawing out the qualities possessed by the students. That is as important a feature of education as the first. People often fail to appreciate that fact, and when some hon. Members ask, "Can we afford what we are expending on the education services," I feel inclined to ask them in turn, "Can we afford to do otherwise with the world in the condition in which it is today?" For that reason, while appreciating the difficulties of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary, both of whom I know have their hearts in the right places, I beg the Government to bear these considerations in mind. I wish in the presence of the Committee to utter an emphatic protest against the action of people who, when there is any talk of cuts in expenditure, immediately look to expenditure on education; and, with equal emphasis, I would remind them that the training of future generations of citizens of this country is one of the surest and safest economies which we can effect.


I rise as one who believes that education is the most important service in the world and that the teacher is the most important person in the world, and though I must say, in the presence of the President of the Board of Education, "We find you not guilty," I also say, "Do not do it again." I do not very well see how, in the circumstances, the right hon. Gentleman could have avoided the economies. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Because we have not got ideal Ministers. We have a very good one in the present President of the Board of Education, but when we have the ideal President, he will resign or refuse to take office if there is a suggestion that education should not take first place in the country's regard. However, in the circumstances—and those circumstances include the people of this country—he has done his best. I am sorry to say that education is not valued as highly as it ought to be by the people of this country.

I have met with much scepticism about education. When we talk of the crime wave, many people say, "It is due to your education." Education is on its trial, and very unfairly on its trial. For one thing, the ideal of education is much higher than it used to be, and therefore we demand a much higher standard of results from our children, and, secondly, the forces that are making against education are much stronger than they used to be. There is no doubt that the forces of commercialism and materialism have risen to a peak of power and that humanity is not yet strong enough to fight against them. We are not well enough educated, and the forces against education are so great that education often appears to fail. That does not mean that education is a failure, but that it is more and more necessary, if we are going to control these powers of commerce and materialism.

There is one important thing that has been mentioned by several speakers, namely, that education is not merely a matter of book-learning, but that it is largely a matter of the formation of character, of the drawing out and strengthening of ideals. I think this country stands alone among the nations of the world, or far worse than any other of the great countries, in having no national ideal of character to be formed by means of education. That ideal may be used in one way or another, and I will take two extremes of the present day—Russia and Japan. In one case, that of Russia, we have the ideal of Communism, and in Japan we have the ideal of Imperialism; and both those ideals are being wrought into the texture of the life of the country, by means of education. If we have an ideal for this country, we must do our best to bring out that ideal by means of our educational system. We say that it is difficult because we believe in liberty and that people should develop their own individuality. That is true, but our present failure to form character means that our children are all more or less alike, all wanting the same amusements, all reading the same type of newspaper. We have mass production going on, just because we have said that it is too difficult for us to set about forming character in our children.

It has been done to a limited degree in our public schools, but it has not been democratic enough. We have not done it enough in our schools all over the country. One good thing that I will say about Japan is that in Japan the whole system of education is essentially democratic. We pride ourselves on being a democratic country, but the only schools here in which we have any education in forming character are the few public schools, not in the great mass of elementary and secondary schools. In Japan, in the elementary schools, all classes come together, and it is not a case of one school for the rich and another for the poor. All come to the same elementary school, and all receive the same kind of education. They lay great stress in Japan on teaching what we might call, very broadly, mariners or etiquette. If this were done in other countries, you would be taught how to behave according to your position in society, but in Japan the poorest labourer's child is taught etiquette and manners along with the daughter or son Of the governor of the prefecture or the son or daughter of a nobleman. They are all taught together how to behave properly, and so you get an ideal which is widespread and forms a national character.

I would suggest that our schools afford us a great opportunity of forming more than a national character—what we may call an international character. Through knowledge, we can make our children awake to the needs of the rest of the world and to their place in the community of nations. I do not think that any Englishman will quarrel with that idea of internationalism. In the schools, while they are young, children can be brought to realise that; and there would be less difficulty in dealing with the world's great crises than there is at the present time, if only our children were internationally educated. If we have the system of education that we ought to have, it will cost more and more. We never ought to hear of economies in education. The only time when we may hope for our education to cost us less is when our children and the public generally have been so well educated that there is so much wisdom and beauty in the homes that more work can be done in the homes and less in the schools. That time has yet to come, and until it does come we cannot reduce the cost of education.

I would put in a special plea for the teacher. I was myself a teacher for a little time. Thank goodness, I had only a few months' experience of what it was like to be a teacher, and that convinced me that teaching is the hardest job that one can possibly undertake. I have worked with the Workers Educational Association, and I have learned that education is a thing greatly to be honoured. I have worked abroad as an educationist and have learned how important education can be. So I say that the teacher ought to be regarded as the most important person in this country. When one thinks of how little interest the public at large takes in education, one almost despairs for the future of education. It depends on the teacher. The teacher is the second creator of the child, and if you have poor teachers, you will get poor results in your children.

I was talking the other day to a friend who is a senior classical master in a very important secondary school, and I believe that his salary, with cuts, is at present less than £500 a year. He is a most able man. If he were in any other profession, he would get between £1,500 and £2,000 a year, and if he were in business, he might be making £5,000 a year, yet the utmost that he can hope for, unless he becomes a headmaster, is about £500 a year. Think of the many able teachers who are working for much less than that. It is a scandal that teachers should be so badly paid and that the public generally should laugh about it. Not only is the teacher's job the hardest, but the most important, and I hope that the President of the Board of Education will never again have to come forward and suggest economies. If he does, I for one will have to say, "This time you cannot be found not guilty." I hope that in future more and more money will be spent on education so that this country can be raised to greater heights.


The disappointing thing about this Debate is the small attendance of Members. When one realises, as has been said by other hon. Members, that education is one of the most important, if not the most important, consideration in life, it is disappointing to find so few people who take that point of view. I agree with other hon. Members that the Continental view of education is apparently quite different from ours. There they take a high opinion of education and attach a high value to it, and they value an educated man judging by the amount that they pay him. Those who hold the highest positions in industry on the Continent are usually those who have been the best educated in the technical sense. In such a time as the present, when economy is so necessary, we have to look at education from a rather different point of view from that to which we have been accustomed in the past. We should look at it from the point of view of quality rather than of quantity. We should in our plans lay stress upon provision for the particularly bright students, so that they will get additional help and an additional chance to carry their work through to the end. The training of their brains is, in fact, our insurance for the future. While it is not necessary, perhaps, to spend great sums upon training the mass of the country, it is essential to spend money on training the bright brains.

9.0 p.m.

Reference was made by the Minister to the Czechoslovakian technical schools. That country, which is probably the most alert of the new countries, is turning out an extraordinarily large number of technically trained students. With a population of 13,000,000, they are turning out a greater number than France with four or five times the population. The reflection naturally arises: Can Czechoslovakia make use of these students? The numbers seem to be disproportionate to the size of the population and the industries of the country, and it seems as though it would not be possible to find berths for them after training. It is one of the great disappointments of life to find the large number of highly-trained men who are poorly paid and the large number who are out of a job. I am afraid that this country, unless the students emigrate, will ultimately find that it has a huge class which will get little more than workmen's wages. The conclusion to which one is driven is that we must specialise still more on quality as against quantity. Germany is the highest technically trained country in the world; it is a generation before us, and the technical training is intensive to a degree. We find that the quality side is greatly developed, and in the technical high schools the research equipment and laboratories are very wonderful, and some remarkable work is carried on in them. Much as I believe in education, I believe in the specialised side of research. Research is the greatest and best insurance that we have for the future, and it is false economy not to spend all that can be wisely spent in that direction. I admire those universities or technical schools in Germany where the research side is so well developed, and I suggest that the Minister should consider making provision to send schoolmasters from this side to Germany much more often than is done now in order that they may see what is going on and take advantage of it. We cannot afford to stay at home in days like this. I spend a good deal of every year abroad, and it is my experience that on every occasion I pick up something which I failed to find here. When so many of our well-trained men have not the means to avail themselves of this chance, it ought to be part of the Minister's care for them to provide the means so that they can go not only to Germany, but to countries like America, where technical training and research work are carried to an abnormal extent.

With all this, we must have a practical side to education. We must think of what is to happen to the student when he leaves school or a university like Cambridge, and endeavour to find an appointment for him. It is the duty of the Board to find places for students when they have finished their training. Nothing is so disappointing to a young fellow who has spent years in intensive training to find, when he has finished, that he cannot get a job. We must therefore relate technical training more closely to industry. We must bring the industrial leaders more closely into touch with the technical colleges. They must take a part in them and be part of the organisation. They must work closely together, for it is only by team work that success will be achieved in this direction. I believe in technical training being carried out to the greatest extent that we can afford; we should vary our methods in order to work for quality rather than quantity; and we should provide still greater means for research than we have done, and see that research laboratories are connected with industry more actively than they are now. It must not be said or felt that there is a lack of close connection between research and industry. Apart from the measures which have been taken by this House to improve technical training, there still remains the question of how our best brains are to be used in research to open up discoveries in many directions. If we all work together with that object in front of us we shall achieve our ends more certainly than will any other nation.


The hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Chorlton) expressed his disappointment with the paucity of the attendance during this Debate on education. I am not at all disappointed, because I expected it. We have a National Government returned as a result of an appeal based on the effect of fear on ignorance, and its supporters cannot be expected to have any interest in education at all.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

Like the Opposition.


The numbers of the Opposition here are about ten to one as compared with the supporters of the National Government.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

About 8 per cent. of your party are here.


Well, the hon. Member's mathematics are not mine.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

There are seven out of fifty-four.


If the hon. and gallant Member were to analyse the attendance of his party, I think he would find the position to be very much worse. At any rate, those of us who are here are interested in education, whilst hon. Members opposite are here to support a Minister who has introduced a, reduction into his Education Estimates. The policy of the Government is not based on a yellow book or a blue book or a pink book, but based simply upon the golden book of Mammon, sometimes known as the May Report. If I remember aright, that report stated that not only was too much money being spent upon education, but that the children of the workers were being educated too highly. The people who are behind the Government do not want the children of the workers to be educated beyond a certain level, enough to make them efficient wage slaves. They do not want a, really educated people, because they know perfectly well that if once we got a thoroughly well-educated people in this country there would be an end to the economic and social evils which we have endured for too long.

That is why the Government have adopted the policy of cutting down the number of teachers, and leaving the classes of children so large that they cannot possibly be educated by the teachers. Everyone who has been to a public school knows that the limit of a class there is 30 pupils, if not fewer—at any rate that was about the number of boys in my form. Elementary schools now have classes with 60 children and. more, and when a teacher was asked by an inspector some time ago what she was teaching her children, she replied, "I am not teaching them anything; I am earning my money if I can keep them from breaking up the furniture." That is the sort of thing the present Government are perpetuating and increasing. Not only have they stopped the process of reducing the numbers in a class, but they are perpetuating a system under which schools condemned long ago as absolutely unfit for children, to be educated in are still being used. In Nottingham, for example, as a result of the policy suggested by the Government, the local education authority have reduced their education programme, including the reconstruction of schools, by no less than £121,539; and the same thing is happening throughout the land. I have here a whole list of reductions and so-called economies, and the example. I have given is not the smallest.

The hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Pickering) made a very pleasant speech just now, but I was rather alarmed about his future, because I could see from his speech that the differences on policy in the National Government are not now confined to the Cabinet, but are spreading among the supporters of the Government. He actually threatened the Minister of Education that if he dared to bring in Estimates of a similar kind next year he might be forced to vote against him. He told us that in Japan there is a system of education in which all children go to the same school—the children of the workers and capitalists alike. We should like to see that system introduced into this country. It would be a very good thing for the children of all people, the miners and the mine-owners, the millionaires and the workers, to have to go through the same schools and sit side by side in the same classes. Then we should get rid of the terrible social snobbery which divides one class from another and is a very bad thing for the country.

The people behind this Government dislike education because it is worse than a bomb to the present social system—much more permanent in its destructive effect. But if they are thinking of the future of the country they are mistaken in making cuts in education. If our wealth is to increase and our industry is to develop—I doubt whether it will under the present system—however wealthy we may be our greatness will be of a very impermanent character unless it is built on the foundation of a well educated people. In these great storms which are upon us we shall be left, as Matthew Arnold said: As on a darkling plain Swept by confused alarms of struggle and flight Where ignorant armies clash by night. We do not want ignorant armies or an ignorant people in this country. We want to have education going right through the whole social system, so that children from the poorer schools shall be able to work up from the elementary schools to the secondary schools and go on to the universities. When we on this side are in power we shall see that that is done and then we shall not have an electorate swept away by a bogus currency crisis, but a people that will stand foursquare to all the winds that blow.

Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE

The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) is a little bit mistaken in his estimate of the interest which we on this side take in education. So convinced are we that the National Government and the Minister of Education are right in their estimates that we do not find it necessary to be hero to say what we feel on the subject or to refute what is said by the Opposition. If the Opposition have a real point of attack against the Government they assemble in force and the fact that only one out of six of their Members have been present during the past hour shows that they do not feel that there is any substance in the criticism they are making against the Estimates. The hon. Member for Broxtowe said that on the Government side of the House we were not interested in education, but we contend that the more educated the people are the fewer will be those in the ranks of the Labour party. We believe that the more the people are educated the better it will be for the country, and therefore, on that point, the hon. Member for Broxtowe and myself are agreed.

We have heard a good deal about the advantages of education, but I am afraid a good deal of what is said is somewhat hollow. The general statement that money poured out like water on education is the right policy carries us no further. The hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Pickering) told us that education was the highest thing in the world, but I have always been taught that that applies more to faith, hope and charity, and education ought to deal with all those points. The hon. Member for Mile End (Dr. O'Donovan) emphasised the point that the medical profession are not simply looking after the health of the children, but that the education of the spirit has been the guiding line for the individual, while the body is merely the machine through which the spirit is able to take effect. We want education in the wider sense. We are responsible for the education of the body and the mind, and we want to educate children in such a way as will lead to the development of the right spirit.

The hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) used to gibe which requires a, little analysis. He said that hon. Members supporting the Government believed more in the waving of the Union Jack than in education. We believe that as long as infants are taught to wave the Union Jack that is sufficient, but the hon. Member for Silvertown, with his usual sense of humour, exaggerated that point. The hon. Member for West Leicester semed to think that the one real line on which education should proceed was international and not national, but I think that is wrong. The international idea is perhaps the greatest in the world, but you can only lead up to the international through the national, and to the national through the local. The proper ideal is to make little mention to children of internationalism, because that will come to them if they are taught in the proper spirit. You have to imbue the child with a sense of loyalty. First of all, comes loyalty to the family, and that is very important. We want family authority, and a child should be taught to be loyal to its surroundings. In the average village or town loyalty is essential to the different societies to which the child belongs. The waving of the Union Jack is quite right if it is used in a right sense. Internationalism means nothing to a child's mind, and in my view it is out of place in an education Debate.

There is one particular point on the more technical side, and it is something about which I am naturally more concerned. As an old medical officer of health, I am particularly concerned with the health side of education, both mental and preventive. The hon. Member for Mile End, in regard to crime, said that the medical side was important in relation to the inspection and rectification of defects in the children. There are two particular sets of people engaged in education who are responsible for the preventive side—one is the teacher and the other is the parent. We have done everything we can to interest those two sets of people. The teachers have a great responsibility in this matter, and I wish to pay my tribute to the way the teachers responded in the early days of medical inspection, and helped not simply with the uninteresting work of the medical side and sanitation of the schools, but in trying to inculcate a proper knowledge of prevention in the children themselves. That is a great responsibility. What is more important is the development of family health.

Attempts have also been made to develop the relationship between the schools and the mothers. In my view, the home and the school are too much divorced. Many parents send their children off to school, and when they come back the mothers know nothing of what goes on in the school, and the teachers know nothing of what goes on in the home. It is difficult to get any association in these matters. In a country village very often the teachers know the parents and visit them in their homes, and there is a good deal of association between the two. That is impossible in a large town, but I think we ought to extend that relationship in some way. In the country we used to invite the parents to the inspection of the school children, and that is being done now to a considerable extent in the towns. There are prize days to which the parents are invited, and the more parents can be associated with school work the better. In some schools there are occasions an which the parents can meet the children, and the discussions which take place on different problems at those meetings will help the parents to fulfil their part, and it will help the teachers as well. Until this suggestion can be carried out more fully we are not getting proper education for the children.

The mental side is liable to be forgotten in considering the health of school children. The other day we had an interesting discussion on the Home Office Estimates on this question, and I put in a plea for the better coordination of the work in connection with crime between the Home Office, the Board of Control and the Board of Education in studying the whole question of mentality. It is useless for one Department to be con- sidering its own side of the problem. It is necessary that all the different sides should be considered. The question of the school for mentally defective children has to be associated with the mental hospitals and the work of mental treatment under the Board of Control. The work of the Ministry of Health comes in with it, and the work of the Home Office as well.

It is useless for us to be considering simply the crimes unless the making and breeding of crime in its earlier stages is also considered. That is what I am thinking of in connection with this mental and health work in the schools. Just as we talk superficially of research on education, so we talk rather superficially of research in this matter. Research means the use of all the different avenues to the knowledge of any particular subject. You have to look into the causes of the growing neurosis in the population of which we have heard this evening. We have got the birth-rate down to a very small figure, the death-rate reduced to a minimum and the infant mortality rate perhaps down to the lowest point, but we have a generation grievously afflicted with nervous maladies. We have to consider what are the causes, and one of the chief causes is the appetite of the children for an unnatural amount of movement and activity. A great deal of it is natural, and it is difficult to know where to stop. You have to give the children themselves the seeds of a love of quiet which may afterwards be a valuable influence in order that they may try and resist the tendencies which make for neurotic troubles.

I do hope we shall see in this kind of thing a greater co-operation between the different Departments of State. When we have definitely got a result which is so prominent before us as juvenile crime, the causes of which we ought to be discussing to-day, we must link the two things together. You can only do that by having some superior combination. I do not know what it should be—whether it should be built up upon the Committee of Research set up some time ago, which is out of the reach of this House altogether, and which was formed in the inner circle of the Cabinet, or whether it should be a special committee under the Privy Council. Whatever form it takes, you do want somebody to co-ordinate these subjects without interfering in the work of administration with which the Board of Education is fully occupied. I do hope we shall consider this thing as one of the main future problems with which we are concerned at the present time.

9.30 p.m.

I can see no signs of the health side of education being in any way deteriorated by the present economies. There have been cheap allusions to economy as if in itself it must be a cutting down, retrenchment, and backward step. Some speeches recently made, even by those who should have known better, have suggested on the other hand that we always known enough and can very often make some economies which will not do us harm. We must and can make economies at the present time, and, although they mean hardship to many teachers—for which I am very sorry myself—I do not think the education side is suffering at all, and I hope that side will be continued to the credit not only to the local authorities but to the teachers themselves. I trust that as long as the country requires this saving of expense that work will continue and that we shall continue to get the efficient service which is still being carried out by the splendid educational system of this country.


The Debate has been characterised by the sparse attendance of members, by some excellent maiden speeches and by the somewhat disquieting speech of the President of the Board of Education. The sparse attendance, which is a disquieting factor, seems to indicate that the Members who are behind the Government must be satisfied that the President of the Board of Education is carrying out the wishes of the majority of those who form the supporters of the National Government. The majority is not composed of members of the same political party or the same political affinities as the right hon. Gentleman. The majority is composed of a party that is quite opposed to the party to which he belongs. I should imagine that had the majority of the Members of the National party been dissatisfied with the economies of the President, we should have had them here in great numbers to-night, pressing on him still further economies above those already effected. The maiden speeches which we have heard have been very much nearer the realities of education than the general Debate. The speech of the President was disquieting to some degree, and I would like the Parliamentary Secretary, who is going to reply, to try to remove that disquiet and to assure us that our feelings of anxiety have no foundation in fact.

For instance, I am not quite sure whether the President is a friend or an enemy of the teaching profession. I felt to-night that, perhaps, he was trying to be a friend, but I was not quite reassured in my own mind that he was really a friend, because the picture he painted was one in which the English teacher was better off than any teacher in Europe in regard to his salary and his pension, that he had greater security than any other people and that, in fact, he—and "he" includes "she"—was a person who should be very well satisfied. I think he left out of consideration a good many disabilities as far as the teaching profession is concerned. He forgot to mention that if you are going to compare teachers' salaries you must not leave out of account the fact that the average salary prior to the War was round about about 36s. per week, nor the fact that, deliberately and by resolution, the organisation representing those teachers told the rank and file throughout the country that in the emergency of the War they must not press for an increase in salary. He forgot to mention that his predecessor, Mr. Fisher, when he considered the whole situation, came to the definite conclusion that teachers were grossly underpaid, and that that was bad for the profession, and the Fisher formula, which included the 60 per cent. grant for teachers' salaries, was arrived at in order to attract entrants of a good quality into the teaching profession.

I am prepared, and I believe that the teaching profession is prepared, to let the curtain drop, as it were, on the 10 per cent. cut—to regard it as a contribution to the national emergency. The teaching profession, and the National Union of Teachers as voicing the opinions of the profession, are prepared to agree that that 10 per cent. cut was imposed on teachers because of the national emergency, and to let it pass; but the question which the profession are asking, and which the President of the Board of Education himself asked, is: What of the future? If the President of the Board and his Parliamentary Secretary have been watching, as I am sure they have, the tendency in the ranks of the teaching profession during the last few months, they will have observed that teachers have become much more politically minded and politically active than they have ever been. They have been driven to politics because of that cut. They have said that it was imposed on the political field by political agencies, and that the only method of alleviation is by exercising the maximum political power that they possess.

That political tendency has been thrust upon teachers by the necessities of the conditions in which they find themselves. It is not a tendency which they like, or to which they would naturally bend their thoughts and activities. For the past 10 years or so, the National Union of Teachers, clearly and definitely, as far as regards material benefits to teachers, has been drifting away from what I would describe in general terms as political action, and has been relying upon negotiation and conciliation through a body and structure erected at the express invitation of the Government of the day, namely, the Burnham Committee. That committee was set up as a negotiating and conciliating body, on which the various sides were represented. It was, if I may correct an impression which appears to exist, a body which, far from not being controlled by the Government of the day, was a body whose decisions and findings had to be accepted by the Board of Education, presumably by the Treasury, and generally by the Government in power at the time. It is a body of which both the authorities who are the direct employers of the teachers and the teachers themselves have been justly proud, whose work in regard to conciliation and arbitration has been eminently successful, and whose awards have brought peace and satisfaction and quietude to the whole of the teaching profession. The teachers are now asking the President of the Board of Education, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to satisfy us on this point: Is it the deliberate policy of the Board of Education that this conciliatory body shall function freely and truly in future so far as the remuneration of teachers is concerned?

I am not pleading to-night for a restoration of the 10 per cent. cut; I am not expecting the Parliamentary Secretary to say that the Board will either restore a part or the whole of the 10 per cent. cut; but I wonder whether he could not tell us that what was said in the crisis is in fact and in spirit true, namely, that the 10 per cent. cut and the alteration of the Fisher formula was an emergency imposition due to the crisis, that it was not a permanent cut, that it is the deliberate policy of the Board of Education in the future that the alteration of the formula and the stranglehold which is put upon the Burnham Committee will be removed, that free negotiations will take place, and that conditions will be assembled whereby the Burnham Committee, representing the authorities, the teachers, and the overriding power of the Treasury, shall have freedom to arrive at fair remuneration for the teachers in the schools of this country That is all that we ask.


I do not think that the hon. Member can have heard what I said in my opening statement. I would refer him to the answer which I gave in September, and which was repeated here to-day. It was most clear.


I must confess that I am not clear yet. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would help this Committee and the teachers throughout the country if he would not merely say that he has given a clear answer, but would he tell us exactly what that statement is?


That point will be dealt with by the Parliamentary Secretary.


The right hon. Gentleman has suggested that I had not heard his speech, but I can assure him that I did hear it, and was much interested in it and noted it carefully. It would be a good thing if he himself, as the responsible Minister, were to state categorically and clearly what is the position of the Board of Education in this matter. Is he prepared to assemble the conditions which will allow the Burnham Committee to operate freely, and to operate forthwith, and to arrive at a fair remuneration for teachers? This is a matter of first-class importance, and, if he is prepared to answer that, I am prepared to sit down, because his statement is much more important than mine and will be read with much more interest by all those who are engaged in education on the administrative and teaching side. All I want is freedom for the Burnham Committee to operate. I want the Burnham Committee to have an opportunity to do what the right hon. Gentleman himself said ought to be done, and that is to consider the remuneration of the teachers on its merits. Is he prepared now to state categorically that the Burnham Committee shall work under such conditions as to allow the remuneration of teachers to be considered on its merits?

I was very interested also in his description of the general work of the Department. There is not a Member who heard his speech who can say that it was an analysis of the Estimates that he presented. We heard of milk at a 1d. a bottle, for which the parents pay. We heard of the Carnegie Trust pouring American money into the country. One would have thought, instead of it being a matter of pride, instead of it being something that one could have glorified over, there was some little amount of shame in the fact that we had to rely upon American money in the development of certain phases of education. The right hon. Gentleman talked of gigantic increases in the cost of education. I believe he went back even to 1906. You cannot come to any reasonable judgment on the increase in the cost of education unless you relate it to increases in the cost of other Services and to the proportion of the national income that it took prior to and after the War. I thought the right hon. Gentleman was at great pains to show that he had out-Heroded even the May Report as far as economies were concerned. When it comes to expansion in the Social Services, it is always related to pre-War figures, but, when it comes to expansion in Debt Services and the Navy and Army Services, there is always a tendency, not to go back before the War, but to compare the figures with post-War years. Let me put education in its national setting. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will listen carefully to this and see whether he has a reply to it. I take the May Report. I do not take the anti-social, class-ridden majority report, because I hope—though I am beginning to be very doubtful about it, as are many others—he is not accepting the philosophy of the majority report, which says that we must cut down elementary and secondary education for the workers' children because they are now getting a better education than is being received by middle-class children.

I am puzzled by the right hon. Gentleman. A year or two ago he moved a Resolution, not pleading, but definitely stating that the school-leaving age should be raised. He said the future of our citizens and the future of the industrial life of the nation depended upon the development of education. The curious thing about it is that he was also the Mover of the Resolution which set up the May Committee and he seemed enthusiastic not merely in carrying out the recommendations of the May Committee but even in outdoing them. Let us put the figures into some setting. As I understood him, the cost of education mounted higher and higher. There was a gigantic increase, and he was proud of it. I turn to the minority section of the May Report—obviously, figures drawn up by experts in the Civil Service. I find, first of all, that the increase of budgetary expenditure from 1913–14 to 1930–31 amounted to £633,333,000; in brief, that there was an increase of expenditure through the Budget over pre-War of no less than £633,000,000. Admittedly, that is a gigantic increase. There is a tremendous step forward in expenditure. But the minority of the May Committee analyses that increase, and I beg the right hon. Gentleman to have some regard to it in his administration. What are the factors making up that increase? In 1913–14 the War Debt and Sinking Fund amounted to £24,000,000. In 1931–32 the War Debt and Sinking Fund amounted to £354,000,000. Analyse it by percentages, and it means that the increase of post-War expenditure over pre-War runs in this way: 60 per cent. of that increase is due to War debts and the management of War debts; 17 per cent, of it is due to an increase in the expenditure on the Social Services; 6 per cent. alone is due to the increase of expenditure upon education. There you have the relative expenditures over the pre-War period: 60 per cent. or more due to the Debt on War Services, 17 per cent. due to Social Services and 6 per cent. due to Education.

Can it be said, if economy is needed, that education should come first for cutting dawn? If there is to be economy, or what the phrase in the May Report continually says, namely, if fair relativities are to be the principle of economy, then, surely, that 60 per cent. ought to suffer the major decrease before you touch the expenditure upon education. Look at it in another way. Let us relate expenditure and education to the national income. Here, again, I have only to go to the Minority Report of the May Committee. In 1913–14 the budgetary expenditure of this country amounted to only 7.4 of the national income. In 1929–1930, the budgetary expenditure had increased from 7.4 to 18.93 of the national income, that is, there was an increase of just over 11 per cent. Let me examine how that increase is made up. Debt interest, 7 per cent.—I am leaving out the decimal point—Sinking Fund for the debt.87 per cent., War pensions 1.36, and social services 1.41. Broadly speaking, therefore, 9 per cent. out of the 11 per cent. of the increase absorbed of the national income is due to war and the causes of war. Nine per cent. of it is absorbed by debt interest and debt charges. Practically 2 per cent. of it is absorbed by social services, and out of that 2 per cent. only.46 per cent. is absorbed by the service of education. I do not think, having regard to those facts, that it is fair, right or proper that education should suffer the axe of economy to the drastic degree it is undoubtedly suffering at the present time.

10.0 p.m.

Let me take another set of figures, again from the Minority Report of the May Committee—the distribution bf Government expenditure. It is analysed from many angles in the Minority Report of the May Committee, and it would he a very useful thing if we could make the people study the Minority Report. The War Debt in 1913–14 absorbed 9.94 per cent. and in 1931–32 it absorbed 37.71 per cent. The social services in 1913–14 absorbed 8.56 per cent. and in 1931–32 14.25 per cent. Education grants in 1913–14 absorbed 9.7 per cent. and in 1931–32 7.06 per cent., a decrease, as far as education itself is concerned. I will give the Parliamentary Secretary plenty of time in which to reply. I should like him to relate the economies which are undoubtedly embodied in the Estimates to that national situation. I should like him to consider, not merely the post-War increases in a detached way, but to apply the principle of fair relativity as far as the Civil Services are concerned. I am certain that if he will do that, he will realise that the burden, as far as taxation in this country is concerned, is not the burden of the social services. If taxation is breaking the back of British industry—I said the other night that I disputed it, and I still dispute it—it is not the taxation which is levied for the purpose of education, and it is not the taxation levied for the purpose of social services. If taxation is breaking the back of British industry, it is the taxation which is levied for the purpose of paying the interest on the War Debt and the War Loan. If there is to be fair treatment of the problem the Government of the day, including the President of the Board of Education, cannot give that treatment unless they direct their attention towards this end. What is embodied in these Estimates? Stagnation! But one would think, after listening to the President of the Board of Education and some of the other speakers, that stagnation is not reaction.

One speaker said that he could not presume to have all the detailed knowledge of the Board of Education, but I have here a long list of what is happening all over the country. I find that local authorities are considering their education estimates. What is being done? A suggestion for a nursery school—cut it out. A suggestion for a new building—cut it out. A suggestion for free places or an extension of free places—cut it out. A suggestion for development as far as this part and the other part of the education service is concerned—cut it out. The impression obtained by a study of what is happening up and down the country is not merely that we are standing still and taking stock. It is not merely that education authorities and the Board of Education are sitting up and saying, "Let us see in what direction we shall go." They are sitting up and say- ing, "Where can we cut down? Cut down all free places. Cut down the secondary provisions. Cut down all the movements towards reducing the size of classes. Cut here, cut there and cut everywhere as far as the education services are concerned." The President of the Board of Education very astutely, but none the less disquietingly, took our attention in the direction of technical and practical education. Will the President of the Board of Education, or the Parliamentary Secretary say, "I am convinced that the right direction and the right bias for education in this country is towards technical and practical education, and that we on behalf of the Board of Education will see to it that there is a great expansion in practical and technical education"? Will either of them dare to get up and say that? They must know that a practical education, a technical education and the bias for practical and technical education is much more costly than what is called a bookish and literary education. The Board of Education dare not, in their responsibility to-night, unless they are going to break through the irons of economy, say that.

I am very pleased with the Parliamentary Secretary in many respects in connection with his work at the Board. He takes a great interest in it, and many people have been pleased with the interest he has taken in it. They realise that they have a jolly good man as Parliamentary Secretary. I am not so doubtful about him as I am about the President of the Board of Education. I am much more convinced that the Parliamentary Secretary is straining to develop the education system than I am about the President of the Board of Education. I have much more anxiety about the President who, I believe, is causing much more anxiety through the ranks of the educational world than is the Parliamentary Secretary. The Parliamentary Secretary has been talking about practical education and the technical bias. Will he say to-night that the policy of the Government is and will be to expand and extend practical education? Will he say that all the facilities that are necessary will be provided and that all the conditions that are required will be put into operation, so that the children shall have all the requisites for practical education? Will he say that all the provisions for technical education will be forthcoming? If he will, I shall be much surprised, because practical and technical education is expensive. This nation will need expansion along those lines but I am afraid that this Government will not meet the needs of the situation.

To sum up, these Estimates mean stagnation and mark reaction. You cannot stand still in the educational world any more than you can stand still in the business world. You have to go forward or you must inevitably go backward. These Estimates mean going back. Will the Parliamentary Secretary answer this question? Has the President of the Board of Education gone back on his word so far as the employment of teachers is concerned? We understood that he would see to it that as far as possible there should be no unemployed teachers but, as I understood him to-night, and others have understood him, he means that if a local authority, under the conditions of financial stringency, press for larger classes, which means more unemployed teachers, the weight of the Board of Education will not be used on the side of smaller classes.I should like a definite assurance upon that point. I should like to know whether the beneficent influence of the Board will be used to see that the teachers who were invited into the training colleges at the express invitation of the Government will not be thrown on the scrap heap of unemployment when they leave the colleges.

I am not satisfied with the Estimates. This country will have to say that it is in the interests of the nation and in the interests of the individuals that an increasing amount of education shall be at the disposal of our people, that there can be no equality of opportunity, that there can be no democratic Government and no fair play in the present industrial society unless the poor lad, equally with the lad of parents who are well-to-do, has free, full access to a full and free secondary education. Hon. Members opposite do not ask, "Is my child at the age of 13 fit to profit by secondary education?" The President of the Board of Education would not ask that about his own children, any more than I do about mine. What we say is, that it is natural that children at the age of 13 and 14 should go on to secondary education; secondary education not of one particular type but of a varied type, that secondary education is a normal requirement of normal children, and that it is a provision to meet normality. That is the position of the Labour party and it is the position which I am proud to proclaim to-night on behalf of the party which I represent.


The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) made such kind and charming remarks about myself that if I could relieve his feelings of anxiety I naturally should do so. Unfortunately, to do so might involve me in filling the role of prophet and I should be much more competent to do that the day after to-morrow than I am to-day. He asked my right hon. Friend to state the view which he expressed a short while ago on the question of the reduction in teachers' salaries and with the Committee's permission I will read an extract from what my right hon. Friend said. Speaking in this House last September my right hon. Friend said: The reduction in teachers' salaries is occasioned by the national emergency, and is not to be regarded as the view of the Government of what should be proper rates of remuneration of teachers under less abnormal conditions. The position should be reviewed on its merits when the financial position of the country allows."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th September, 1931; cols. 1006–7, Vol. 256.] I do not think the Committee can expect me to add anything to that statement. As regards the position of the Burnham Committee, the position is the same to-day as it has been under preceding Governments. There is no change in its function and there is no desire that there should be a change. There is no difference in policy whatsoever. The Burnham Committee consists of two panels, one from the local education authorities and the other from the teachers, presided over by an impartial chairman. They make recommendations after agreement. Those recommendations come before the Government. In the past they have been accepted, and I hope they will be accepted in the future, but no Government responsible for the finances of the country can abrogate its position or avoid having the overriding power to accept the recommendations or otherwise.

We have had a long and very interesting Debate with some valuable criticisms and suggestions. We do not in the least complain of criticism. Criticism is good for the political health of a Minister just as salt is good for his physical health; and it is in that spirit that the criticisms have been received. Before dealing with the various points that have been raised, may I thank my right hon. Friend for the generous reference he made to me at the commencement of the Debate? If I may say, with all modesty, a subordinate is what his chief makes him, and I can say that educationally we have not yet agreed to differ and I hope we never shall. The hon. Member for St. Helens (Captain Spencer) in a very admirable maiden speech raised the question of examinations, and the same point was touched upon by the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Goldie) in another excellent maiden speech. They will both find me sympathetic because I am very much in the position of an examinee; and I recollect that when I used to sit for an examination and there were a number of questions on the paper, the advice given me was "do not attempt to answer too many; answer a few as well as you can." With the permission of the Committee I shall endeavour to follow the advice given me many years ago.

The question of examinations is a rather difficult subject and at the moment the secondary schools examination council is considering the whole position and I hope before long they will come to some conclusions and then the Committee will have the advantage of reading their report. The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) raised the question of capital expenditure, and drew attention to the memorandum issued by the Board of Education on the Estimates. He pointed out that the expenditure in 1931 from April to September was over £5,000,000 and from September to December of that year a comparatively small sum. He also pointed out that in 1930 the expenditure was over £9,000,000; much in excess of previous years, and that this enormous expenditure seems to have created extreme fright amongst educational administrators. It created fright amongst those who were responsible in 1931, because the President of the Board of Education in that year, Mr. Lees-Smith, speaking on the 16th July, 1931, said: I have no doubt that a good many proposals will be made to-day for further educational improvements. I doubt whether there is any one of them with which I shall not myself agree. But I must point out that I am now constrained by financial difficulties, and by more than financial difficulty—by financial perils which affect every country in the world. The ultimate hopes of many may have to be postponed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th July, 1931; col. 820, Vol. 265.] There must have been fright in the mind of the late President of the Board of Education when he uttered those words, and the position to-day is very much the same. That was the writing on the wall, when hon. Members opposite were enjoying their banquet, their educational repast. I do not grudge them that; indeed I look with some envy on those spacious, halcyon days which they enjoyed as educational administrators, when questions of finance and economy were in abeyance. The hon. Member for Caerphilly dealt with the question of secondary schools in certain rural areas and the fees, which he said were very high. He might have remembered that there are free places in rural areas just as there are in urban areas and if the Committee will turn to the memorandum they will see some interesting figures as to the free places in secondary schools in rural and urban districts. For instance, the total secondary school population on the 1st October, 1931, was 439,000, and 224,000 of them paid fees and 215,000 did not. That is, that nearly 50 per cent. of the secondary school population did not pay fees; which is very satisfactory.

Read the comparative figures of the preceding table. They show an increase from 177,000 in the preceding year, and, going back to 1920, they are more than double. As regards the amount of fees, the Committee perhaps does not realise what secondary education costs. Including the amount attributable to loan charges on the buildings of the secondary schools, the average cost to a local education authority of a pupil attending a secondary school is about £34, and the receipts in the way of fees average nearly £7. Those who go to the secondary school with free places, get an education of the value of £34, and those who pay fees get an education considerably in excess, as measured in money, of the fees that they pay. On the whole that posi- tion is not unsatisfactory. The hon. Member said that he required secondary education for all, and he held the view strongly. I shall deal with the question later on, but I want to say that we are building intentionally a parallel system of secondary education. I hope to develop that point a little later, but it is one which I mention now, because it comes in the order of his argument. He mentioned the case of Salford. All I can say is that, in diplomatic language, conversations are still proceeding, and as regards Bristol I understand that the situation is very much more satisfactory and causes much less anxiety. The policy of reorganisation stands, and we are keeping to the Hadow Report. We shall go on until the reorganisation is complete throughout the country.

The hon. Member then mentioned technical education. I want to detain the Committee for a short time on that subject, because it refers to what I believe to be the most important feature of educational administration, and that is the relation of our system of education to industry and commerce. I am not in the least afraid, nor I think is the Committee, of the criticism that our education is too vocational. It is more likely that it is not vocational enough. All education is vocational, and it always must be, if it is to be worth its salt. There is far more danger that we shall educate our children in a vacuum from which all the industrial and commercial air has been exhausted. There are cases in which there is a more or less rarified atmosphere that would be none the worse for a good dose of vocational oxygen. In some of the rural areas it would be a good thing if more of the pens were beaten into ploughshares and pruning hooks. The main question is how far does our present system of education fit pupils for their occupations? Between 500,000 and 600,000 boys and girls complete their education every year and the vast majority of them go into either commercial or industrial occupations. These boys and girls are the problem and will remain the problem for a good many years. Various committees have considered various aspects of the problem in the last few years, such as the Hadow Committee, the Dugald Clerk Committee on Engineering, and the Goodenough Committee on Salesmanship and the South Wales Committee. There is one finding common to all and one strand which runs through all their reports, namely, the lack of co-operation between industry and commerce on the one side and education on the other. They stress the need for closer contact. The study must influence the market place, and the market place the study. The scholar whose study lamp lights up the world is ineffective if there are none who know how to work in the light of that lamp. The teachers themselves suffer from the separation of the school from industry and industry itself suffers by its separation from the school.

We must break down the barriers which now exist and have existed for generations between the schools and industry and commerce. The committee on salesmanship was presided over by Sir Francis Goodenough, a most able chairman, and it presented a most able report in which specific attention was drawn to the question of recruitment. They pointed out that business leaders, and the same applies to industrial leaders, should insist on the most careful recruitment from school for their concerns, and the committee found, in effect, that a substantial number of firms in this country know little either of the schools from which their recruits come or of the work done in those schools. I think it comes to this, that many firms are still using pre-War recruiting methods, the methods which were in vogue 30 years ago, regardless of the immense advance which has taken place in our education. Before the War the majority of recruits to industry and commerce were drawn from the public elementary schools and the school leavers of 13 or 14 years of age. There was no other source because the secondary school population was very small.

10.30 p.m.

The position to-day has immensely altered. For every boy and girl in the secondary schools in the decade from 1900 to 1910 there are four to-day. The secondary school population has increased fourfold. It is obvious that if the policy of recruiting from the public elementary schools is continued, a large number of the most able boys and girls will be missed for the simple reason that at the age of 11 they have been drafted from the public elementary schools to the secondary schools, and in certain cases to the central schools, on the ground of merit and ability. That is a fundamental point which employers throughout the land might consider. There is, I know, a great diversity in these recruits, but there is a great diversity of jobs to fill, and employers might find it difficult to grasp thoroughly the intricacies of the scholastic system. I find it remarkably difficult myself. At the same time they might try, and I suggest that this report should be carefully studied by all employers throughout the country. We are taking steps to do our best to give it all the publicity possible, with the help of Sir Francis Goodenough, the chairman. Conferences have been arranged and are taking place, the co-operation of the Association of Chambers of Commerce has been obtained, and a questionnaire is now practically on its way to all chambers of commerce in the country, asking for their assistance and for information. This is a case, I might appeal to the Committee, in which they might give signal assistance by getting into touch with their local chambers of commerce in their constituencies and endeavouring to see to it that attention and, if possible, operative force are given to this report.

There is another point raised by this report to which I will draw attention. It affects the question of part-time release for further education and technical education, and in the daytime. I do not want to weary the Committee with figures, but here are one or two that affect this matter. With regard to school leavers between 14 and 16, there are rather over 200,000 getting further education for themselves in the evening classes; and of those who are older, from 16 to about 21, there are something like 750,000. That is to say, nearly a million boys and girls in this country are educating themselves in evening classes and, in the vast majority of cases, when their day's work is over and they have had a full day's work in a factory or in a shop. All honour to them; and the nation that can produce figures like that can be proud of itself. At the same time, it is a wasteful process, it is a weeding-out process, and sometimes a ruthless process, and many good ones must fall by the way who are not capable of the strain of attending evening classes for a year or for two years or more, and doing their day's work at the same time.

When it comes to the figures for the day time, in which employers do release their boys and girls for one day or more days in the week, these figures, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, are negligible. I think they amount to under 15,000, and he pointed out with great force that in the case of a certain foreign country, if the figures of our population were compared with it, the number released by our employers for day time education would be in the neighbourhood of 500,000. I am very well aware of the industrial and commercial difficulties involved but here again I make an appeal to employers to give this thing more of a trial than it has had, to make a beginning, it may be, with selected apprentices for one or two days a week, on the condition that in the other part of their time they attend evening classes. It would give this scheme a far better chance so as to make it more feasible for boys to get an education in the day time, when they are in a better condition bodily and mentally, to receive it. There are Members in this House who are employers, and perhaps they might consider the question and find out whether, in the organisation of their works, it is possible here and there to release selected boys and girls for part-time education in the day.

I need hardly stress the value of this part-time education. It enables the work of the boy or girl to be carried on pari passu with what he is doing in the shop or the factory. In the shop he is learning how; in the school he can learn why, and it does enable him to take far more interest, and it gives him far more purpose, in his work if he is carrying on part-time education at the same time as he is carrying on his daily avocation. In the old days before the War, the theory was that it did not matter what you taught a boy so long as he disliked it. To-day we have changed that. By part-time release, so that pari passu with his work and livelihood a toy can have one or more days to learn in school the why and wherefore of his work, he is given a purposefulness in his learning which otherwise it would be difficult to impart. The State is now taking the place of the employer in the training of the apprentices. It is increasingly difficult to train apprentices; works are so large and complex that employers cannot do it.

That leads me to the question of junior technical schools, which definitely take the part of the training of apprentices. We should probably concentrate still more on making them definitely trade schools such as the printing school in London. In any event, it is satisfactory to note that they are on the increase. In 1920 there were 15,000 pupils in junior technical schools whereas to-day the number is 21,500. I hope that it will be possible to increase these schools. On the whole, there is little difficulty in placing boys in work when they have been to these schools, and I hope that it will be possible in selected areas to make more of them. As regards technical training generally and the progress since the War, there again there is a large and gratifying increase in the number of students. In 1919–20 the number was 788,000; in 1930–31 it was 950,000 in evening classes. But technical training must be based on a sound general education. Otherwise we shall find ourselves in the same difficulty as the old mechanics' institutes, which had to adopt a system of continuation schools in order to fit boys and girls for technical training.

I would like to endorse and emphasise the point of the hon. Member for Caerphilly which he made in connection with the South Wales Regional Co-ordination. There are nine local education authorities in South Wales which provide technical education for the coal industry. Similarly in Lancashire and Cheshire 17 authorities provide education for the cotton industry. In Yorkshire there are seven for the woollen industry. It would be a great advantage if some effort to make this provision more compact was set going. The area of a local education authority is not coterminous with the area of industry but something is being done in that direction and I should like to pay my tribute in this connection to the Yorkshire Council for Further Education. I hope that action will be taken on the lines of the report to which the hon. Member referred.

We have experienced great educational changes since the War. If ever there was a time when the nation was thinking educationally I believe it to be now. The Hadow Report is itself a part of a great forward development, and if full value is to be got from the re-organisation under the Hadow scheme we must make full use of our technical colleges and institutes. In my view there are three lines of approach to technical education—first through the secondary school, second through the senior school via the continuation classes. I say in parenthesis that I hope that increased attention will be given in these new and experimental senior schools to manual training and manual skill. It is just as illiberal to be untrained in hand and eye as it is to be untrained in brain, and manual training is an essential educational vitamin—I call it vitamin M. The third line of approach is through the junior technical school, and the junior commercial school or the junior art school.

The general scheme seems to be this: You have your system of primary education up to 11 plus. After that it branches into two forms of secondary education, the post primary or the senior school, where the leaving age at present is 14 plus, and the secondary school where the leaving age at present is about 16. They represent a parallel system of secondary education. If one is asked to distinguish one from the other, the answer would be that on the whole the secondary system is more academic and less practical in character, and the post primary is more practical and technical in character. I would like to see them both culminating in what I will call a tertiary system—on the side of the secondary schools in a university, either the old or the new universities, and on the side of the senior schools in technical colleges. If the universities are to be the coping stone and complement of the secondary schools the technical colleges must be the complement of the senior schools.

The general position is, of course, governed by financial considerations. We are expending to day three times what we spent on education prior to the War, and I wish I could think that education was three times as good. That is one of those things which cannot be measured by money, and statistics very soon prove to be fallacious. There is a considerable danger of overlooking the big issues in admiration or criticism of detail. I admit that financial stringency retards expansion, hub, on the other hand, it does, I believe, bring certain benefits. I doubt whether easy money is particularly good for educational administration, any more than it is particularly good for the individual. The experience of other countries has shown that crude experiments and loose thinking accompany extravagance, and expenditure can quite easily outrun preparation. So many trees get planted that we cannot see the wood, and there is no social service in which it is so difficult to see the wood. We require time to take stock and think out new lines of advance.

We must be ready for the better times when they come. We have a most difficult problem before us. We have to consider the relation of industry to commerce and other vital subjects like the balance of technical education, both practical and academic, the future of the senior schools, which are now in the experimental stage, involving immense responsibility for the teachers, who have a very important task to perform. I only hope that by experiments and wise judgment they will succeed, and that each school will be an experiment in itself and that we shall gradually evolve something better than anything we have yet experienced. About 100 years ago we had an industrial revolution, but to-day we are in the midst of an educational revolution. I wish the educational revolution could have preceded the industrial revolution. It is too much to hope that the fortunate circumstances that led to our pre-eminence after the Napoleonic Wars will recur. We are no longer pioneers and other nations have drawn level with us. In my opinion, our future, our hope, lies no longer in the production of better machines but better men and women, and it is upon education working hand in hand with industry and commerce that we must rely, remembering that the nation which does not value trained intelligence is doomed.


I hope I shall be allowed to intervene in this Debate for a few minutes to allude to some of the points which have been put forward in the statement to which we have just listened. I want to know what the Board of Education proposes to do in the near future in regard to new elementary schools in newly-developed suburbs. In the Estimates the Board of Education has already laid down a limit, but I hope it will not apply to the new estates. I want to make a suggestion in all humility about the classes in salesmanship. The general complaint against our salesmen is that they expect all Continental nations to understand them in the English language, whereas every foreign traveller who comes to this country is supposed to know our language.

Reference has also been made to technical education. I have come in contact with the problem myself once or twice. I hope the hon. Gentleman is not going to lay it down that a boy who has an aptitude for technology who desires to enter a higher educational institution for technological training, must, of necessity, have already passed the matriculation standard. I was once on an education authority which had a very large technical college of its own, and we had a great contest on this point. Some would have it that we should not allow children who attended our own junior technical schools to pass on to our own college of technology unless they matriculated. A boy with no technological aptitude at all but who had matriculated, could enter the college, but another boy with all that aptitude but who had not matriculated, could not enter it as a day student. That is a very important point. In that contest I am glad to say, my side won, as is usually the case.

The schoolmaster of the right hon. Gentleman is of course the Treasury and I am not sure that I quite agree with the criticisms passed on the President of the Board of Education, because to-day all he has done is carry out the decisions of his Government. He belongs to a very doubtful Government, and I am a little astonished sometimes that he still maintains his position in it. He did however his very best with the Estimates as a good Radical embroiled in the toils of Toryism. I will leave that point because it hardly belongs to the subject of education. I hope the Board of Education will stand firm against one tendency which, I believe, is governing in the land. Once upon a time we succeeded in making all places in secondary schools in Manchester free without any fee, but I believe the tendency now is backwards. I trust the Board of Education will do its best to prevent any local authority which has already adopted complete freedom without payment of fee in secondary schools sliding back to the old fee paying system. Where one town has secondary schools which are absolutely free and another town nearby charges a fee up to 50 per cent., it is very unfair on the children of the one town as against those of the other.

One word about the very burning subject of teachers' salaries. There is an aspect of the problem to which I should like to draw serious attention. I am told that there are caretakers of schools in this country who are paid better wages than the teachers. I am not familiar with all the details, but if that really be the case I think it is a disgrace. I know a young man who is a bachelor of science and a bachelor of arts who has served seven years as a teacher and his wage at this moment is only £4 5s. a week or thereabouts. I really do not think those wages are a credit to us as a community.

There is one other subject which I have not heard mentioned. I am very interested in the question of backward children—those who cannot be exactly regarded as mentally deficient but who are backward mentally. There is the deaf child, too, the blind child and the crippled child, and I am informed by those who study the problem closely that there is a tendency towards an increase in their numbers in the community. If that be so, I sincerely trust the Board will keep its eyes on these little children who are by nature not endowed with all their faculties. Having said that, may I join with those who have spoken well of the value of our system of education. I conceive education not merely as a means whereby a young boy or girl may be able to earn a livelihood, but as something which develops the brain power so that boys or girls when leaving school shall be capable of thinking correctly; be able to read newspapers or books of any kind, and having done so be able to say to themselves that they can determine from that reading the difference between right and wrong. That is what I conceive to be education. Although I think the Estimates do not go far enough, I hope to see the day come, and I am optimistic enough to believe it is coming, when a better Government will deal with education on a more generous scale than the right hon. Gentleman has been able to do to-day.


I should like to ask the President of the Board of Education two questions. In the first place, I understand that the deaf and dumb child is nobody's responsibility. As the right hon. Gentleman will know, deaf and dumb boys and girls must remain at school till they are 16, and, therefore, they start in life with every disadvantage that can be imposed on them. They have their physical disability, and they are not available for work till two years after the ordinary child who leaves school at 14; and it is natural that the average employer will prefer the boy at 14, who only requires a 14-years wage. Therefore, unless some person or body is responsible for providing opportunities for deaf and dumb boys and girls who have to attend these special schools, they will, when they are available for the labour market, suffer a tremendous disadvantage as compared with ordinary children. I know that there are some voluntary organisations which do this work, but there are many districts, including Yorkshire, where there are no such organisations. Has the advisability been considered of trying to make what seems to be everybody's job, and which is nobody's job, somebody's duty and obligation? My other question is as to why so many children between the ages of 17 and 19 who are ready for entering a college or university have been denied the opportunity this year. Is it due to any phase of economy, and, if so, which, and has the right hon. Gentleman that problem in mind?


Deaf and dumb children are, of course, the charge of this Department until they reach the age of 16. I will bear in mind what the hon. Member has said with regard to their after-care and opportunity, and will give him an answer privately or publicly, as he may wish. As to the other point, the opportunities for employment of those who are already in training colleges, and those who are leaving the training colleges at the end of this year, will, of course, be subject to the fact that educational development must be to some ex- tent restricted, and the entrants into these colleges, as I said at the beginning, will be restricted by 1,000 as from the end of July of this year.

Question, "That a sum, not exceeding £26,892,576, be granted for the said Service," put, and negatived.

Original Question again proposed.

It being Eleven of the Clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

  1. ADJOURNMENT. 16 words
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