HC Deb 16 November 1932 vol 270 cc1152-271

I beg to move, That this House reaffirms its belief in the principle of free secondary education and, being opposed to any policy calculated to arrest its development, condemns the Board of Education Circular No. 1421, which seeks to restore or raise secondary school fees, restrict the number of free places, and introduce a harsh means test. We are to-day debating a famous Circular which, I believe, will become historic. By an administrative Order, by, as it were, a stroke of the pen, without previous discussion in the House, there has been effected a revolutionary change in State policy as far as education is concerned. Since 1902, when we had the famous Balfour Act, the effort of the State has been directed, although in a slow and halting manner I agree and not so fast as many of us on this side would have it go, towards the co-ordination and unifying of all forms of education. The effort of the State and the efforts of many local education authorities up and down the country ever since that Act have been directed towards making the education system, from its very earliest beginnings until the child passes through it, one co-ordinated, unified system. We on this side of the House have always maintained that the distinction between elementary and secondary education has been an artificial one. We have always held that, not only the exceptional child, but the normal child has as much right to full and free secondary education as it has to full and free elementary education. We have held that view on many grounds. You cannot have fair play for the children in our schools unless you have that system, you cannot have the most effective education system unless you have free secondary education, and you cannot secure the best result, not only for the individual but for the State itself, unless the preliminary work begun in the elementary schools is completed in the secondary schools of the country.

The party to which I belong has for years held very tenaciously to the idea—indeed, it is more than an idea, for we took some steps when we were a Government to get this effected—that the normal child should have full and free access to secondary education. I would point out, in passing, that we have not, of course, said that every child shall have the same kind of secondary education. We have not said that every child, for instance, has a literary gift or bias. We have pleaded, not only for the unifying of the system, but also that the system shall be diversified and that it shall provide an opportunity for the growth and development of the particular capacity with which the normal child happens to be gifted. That has been our position. The State, since 1902, has very slowly put the emphasis more and more on ability to profit by the education given. More and more, as a matter of State policy, we have said that poverty shall be no bar and that the non-ability of the parent to pay fees shall not prevent the child having secondary education.

The Circular which we are discussing this afternoon cuts right across the whole trend of State policy as it has been carried out in this country since 1902. If we look back, we shall find that we have had, not only free places in our secondary schools, but also free secondary schools. The progressive authorities said: "We will allow all children to enter our secondary schools on the basis of their ability to profit by them." And we have about 74 or 78 absolutely free secondary schools. What does the Circular do as far as those schools are concerned? This is of vital importance from the point of view of State policy. It abolishes all those free secondary schools. After the application of the Circular, which will come into effect, I believe, next year, there can be no free secondary school. Every school will have to have fees. We believe that that is a retrograde step which will be injurious to the children of this country and will also result in injury to the best interests of the State and the nation.

Not only have we had the free secondary schools, but we have also had the extension of free places. Figures are somewhat difficult to get, but I do not think that the Parliamentary Secretary will say that I am far wrong when I state that there are somewhere round about 200,000 free places in our secondary school system. In principle at least, and as a matter of State policy, all those 200,000 free places are to be wiped out by Circular 1421. As I see it, the Board of Education and the Government say: "We will attach a label to every place in every secondary school, and on that label there is to be a fee which at the normal figure is to be nine guineas." The Government have accepted as their policy that every place in the secondary schools in this country must carry with it normally a minimum fee of nine guineas per annum. That is a radical, and, I believe, I am correct in saying, revolutionary change in the secondary school system of this country.

What has happened hitherto? The local authorities, with the sanction of the Board, have said: "Here is an examination test." As a matter of fact, I thought of bringing some of the papers down to the House this afternoon. I believe I could have said without being disrespectful at all that not many of us could have passed the scholarship examinations for the free places without special preparation. The standard of many of them is absurdly high. Any child who has passed a scholarship test in order to obtain one of the free places must be a child of exceptional ability and capacity. The State has said: "Here are these places. If this exceptional child has the ability, then that exceptional ability of itself carries the right to a free place." That is now altered. Under Circular 1421—there are a good many circulars coming from the Board in these days, all meaning economy, of course—that is reversed, or rather, added to, and the State now says: "Before you can get a special place" —not a free place—"you"—the child—"must be exceptionally clever and your parents must be exceptionally, if not degradingly, poor." [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Anyone who studies this Circular is bound to realise that it brings into State practice not only the question of the ability of the child to profit but also the poverty of the parent. Before the child can get—I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary can deny this—the advantage of a special place, he has to be not only able but he has to have great capacity, and the parent has to be exceptionally poor. The income limit of £3 to £4 a week is an extremely low one. If the child is to get a special place there has to be an inquiry into the means of the parent, and the parent has to be proved to be exceptionally poor. The change of the word "free" place to "special" place has a tremendous social and political significance. The word "free" had a social and political significance, and I need not ask the Committee to accept my word for it. I will read from a document issued by the Board of Education, Educational Pamphlet No. 50. In a pamphlet, "Recent Development of Secondary Schools in England and Wales," the Board says about free places: While there were temporary difficulties which, in the main, have been removed by the passage of time, the beneficial effects of the free place system have proved permament and increasingly obvious. The political idea behind the Free Place regulations was that State-supported schools must be accessible, and not he "class" institutions. It was not thought expedient to abolish fees, though schools with high fees were looked at askance. Free places were required instead; it was emphasised that they must not be regarded as scholarships awarded for exceptional merit, but that they should be open to any public elementary school child who reached the ordinary standard of entry. Therefore, the growth of the free place system in this country is associated with a movement to break down class distinctions and class barriers inside the secondary system. The free place system is admitted by the board in its own document as being associated with a movement to make our secondary system a democratic one. It is associated with an effort to give equality of opportunity within the national system. The political idea between circular No. 1421 is entirely opposite from that. The political idea behind 1421 cuts right across the philosophy behind the free place movement in this country. As far as we on this side of the House are concerned we stand for a full, free secondary system, equality of opportunity for every child, and we resist and resent the iniquitous means test that is now going to be employed. We say quite definitely that through this circular the Government are inflicting an injury upon the children and doing great damage to the State itself.

Let us look at Circular 1421 in some little detail. I would direct attention to the first paragraph, (a): The system of admitting pupils free to secondary schools without any regard to the capacity of the parent to pay is needlessly wasteful of public funds and runs counter to the principle now generally accepted, that where educational awards are made by public or quasi-public bodies the amount of any assistance given should vary according to the circumstances of the successful candidate. It is perfectly clear in the first place that that statement in itself abolishes the free school and that it also abolishes the free places. It says that the existing system is wasteful. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us what he means by a wasteful system. Is it not a fact that from the point of view of the State the expenditure of public money upon the fee-payer is far more wasteful than the public money spent upon the free-placer, that the educational result from the free-placer, from the boy or girl who has won a free scholarship, are superior educationally to the results obtained from those who pay fees. I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary would deny that. I think it can be proved by statistics and all the tests that we can apply that public money spent on those who have won scholarships and on boys and girls in free places has been far more economical to the State than the money spent upon those who have got their places by paying fees.

4.0 p. m.

The Committee has to make up its mind. The Liberal party in the past made up its mind on this point, and even the National Labour people, before they became supporters of the present Government, made up their mind. We have said, and I understand the Liberal party have said, that when we look at the education that we give to the children it is not so much from the point of view of the benefit to the individual child, not from the return the child may get in the sense of securing a job, not from the personal point of view, but from the point of view of the benefit to the nation and to the State as a whole. The nation has felt the need for intelligent and highly trained people and has said that from the point of view of good citizenship and social stability and from the point of view of the economic health of the nation, indeed from the trade and commerce point of view, it is the duty and obligation of the State to provide full education for those children who are fitted to profit by it. It has been a State obligation, and, from the point of view of the State, we have not been so much concerned with the boy wanting to get on in the world. The State has said in the past, "It is our duty, nay, it is our necessity, to provide secondary education for all those children who are fitted to profit by it." Is it not true to say that that outlook, that philosophy, that State tendency have now been given up in Circular 1421? All that has gone, and we say now that it is the responsibility of the parents. In the past we said that the State should see that brains and capacity should he developed, but now we are looking upon this as the asset of an individual, and, looking at it from that angle, we are saying, "If you, the parent, can afford to pay, in the words of this Circular you must pay, and if you do not pay there is a needless waste of public money." As a matter of fact, Circular 1421, with its means test and its imposition of fees, is a tax on the married man who happens to have clever children. If a man is a bachelor, or if a man has no children, he does not pay, but if a parent happens to have children who are able to pass the examination to go into a secondary school, the State comes along with this circular and says, "Here is a tax on the married man." [Laughter.] Yes, it is the married man with clever children who has to pay. If he has not clever children, they cannot enter the secondary schools.

I cannot understand the Government on this point, because it is not only the working man they are hitting now. They are hitting the lower middle class, and the upper artisan class, and, indeed, the Government already know, as is seen by the way that they have tried to smooth over the difficulties, that this Circular is extremely unpopular and resented among a section of the community to whom they usually look for political support. This is the state to which we have come—British capitalism driven to a means test for the unemployed, and driven to this miserable means test, which is calculated by the Government to save only £400,000 in a period of five years. That is the state to which the Government have been driven, and I am very much surprised that, for a trifling thing relatively to the enormous sums in the Budget, they should seek unpopularity among that section of the community which usually supports them.

I would like to look for a moment or two at paragraph (5), which says: the fees charged often hear hut a small proportion to the cost of the education provided, and are frequently not adequate having regard to what parents can afford to pay. The fees are not big enough; they do not pay the whole of the cost, says this Circular. It is perfectly correct. I believe it is calculated that the cost of educating a child in a secondary school is, on the average, about£35 and if you get a. fee of £15 the State has still to pay £20. I admit that, but why do not the Government follow up the logic of their own principles? Why do not the Government say, "We will make all the places special places. We will have examination on ability, and then apply a means test, and those who can afford to pay the whole cost of their education shall pay the whole cost"? Why do not the Government follow out the logic of their own principles and say, "The nation is in dire difficulty and you, the individual, with, say, £1,500 a year with one or two children, must pay the whole of that £35 "? Up to now the Government have refused to follow that up. Why 7 The Government are still tied—and I say this quite sincerely—to class distinctions and class privileges. They dare not open the whole of the places merely to ability. They would offend their own supporters, and, indeed, be untrue to their political philosophy.

The fact of the matter is that the fee which is being charged, and which is to continue to be charged at a higher rate, is only a means whereby the relatively—I want to emphasise that word—inferior pupil can get a State subsidy. The standard of ability demanded of the special placer, as we must now call the old free placer, has always been higher than the standard of admittance for the fee-payer, as anyone who has any practical knowledge of our educational system knows, but the Government say in this Circular, as I understand it, that they are still going to reserve 50 per cent. of the places for fee-payers, that is, half of the places are still to be reserved for class privileges, and are still to be given to pupils who are not so able and have not the capacity which the free placer has—all in the interest, I maintain, of class privilege and class distinction, and, as a matter of fact, all to the detriment of the proper educational organisation of the secondary schools of this country.

The Government will find that the number of those who are going to pay fees will drop. The parents have already had, in this crisis, a great increase in their Income Tax. If I remember rightly, the first Budget of the crisis put a tremendously increased burden in direct taxation on the backs of the married people. There was, I believe, an increase of from 200 to 300 per cent. in Income Tax. These people are subject to unemployment and to the depression, and now the Government come along and add another heavy form of taxation. The result will be seen in a lowered number who are paying fees in the secondary schools. Here is the subtle point that has not yet been grasped. I hope the Minister will note this; he is very keenly interested in education. The reduction in the number of fee-payers will automatically result in a reduction of the number of free placers, or as we shall have to call them in future, special placers. If by raising your fees you reduce the number of pupils who pay fees, automatically, as a result of that, you lower the number of those who will come in free. Why is that? I notice that some hon. Members seem to doubt that, but if they will read the Regulations they will find that the percentage of special placers depends upon the total number admitted in the previous year. It is a fraction of the total number; it is not a fixed number. It changes each year according to the number of students who came into the school in the previous year.

I would like the House to realise what happened after the Geddes Committee. In 1922 the Geddes Committee pointed out that up to July that year 500 secondary schools had raised their fees, and 270 had increases under consideration. The following year the number of fee-payers in the schools fell by 4,000 as the direct result of increasing the fees. The next year the number of fee-payers fell again by 2,000, and the year following the number went down another 1,000. That ground was lost after many years of steady expansion, and the remarkable thing is that the ground which was lost then has never been made up. There are to-day 3,000 fewer fee-paying pupils in our secondary schools than there were 10 years ago. That is a direct result of the raising of the fees.


Can the hon. Gentleman tell us the figures with regard to the free placers?


According to the May Committee Minority Report, there is a not inconsiderable number of secondary school places unoccupied, or occupied by elementary pupils below the age of 11. The decline of 4,000 fee-payers in 1923—this is the point to which I want to direct the attention of the hon. Member—according to the statistics I have got out, resulted in the next year in a fall of 3,000 in the number of free places. That is, in 1923 there was a drop of 4,000 in fee-payers, and in 1924 that automatically resulted in a further drop of 3,000 free places. That is bound to happen because of the regulations admitting students to secondary schools.

I want to direct the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary—and I hope that he will be able to give us some consolation on this point—to another bad effect of this action. This will not only injure the students in the elementary schools by preventing them from passing into the secondary schools. It will also cause a great deal of unemployment among teachers. A couple of years ago I remember the Minister, then Sir Charles Trevelyan, asking the teachers' organisation to co-operate with him in securing increased admission into the training colleges and universities in view of the prospective raising of the school-age and in view, also of reorganisation, I understand. I am going to tell the Minister quite frankly that I was one of those who were very sceptical. We were rather chary of increasing the supply of teachers without a definite guarantee of employment.

The attitude taken by the National Union of Teachers was that we must have no regard to the political colour of the Government, whatever it may be. The President of the Board of Education has approached us, and we must meet him as a Minister of the Crown. He has asked us to co-operate with him. The organisation of the teachers agreed and the whole influence of the National Union of Teachers was used to help the Minister to solve the difficulties in regard to the raising of the school age. We, therefore, had these students in the colleges and I am afraid that this Circular, with its restrictions and curtailments, will have the result that there will be no posts for a number of these students when they come out. Has the President of the Board a crumb of comfort for these students It is the most extreme form of waste to spend public money and for students to spend their money and their time in getting fully qualified, and then to find that there are no jobs for them when they come out of college. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to reassure us on that point, and will say that there will be no form of restriction which will cause these teachers to be unemployed in the future.

To sum up, this Circular, far from being an enonomy circular, will produce waste. It will produce a waste of ability, because tens of thousands of pupils will not be able to remain in the secondary schools. The parents will not be able to pay the enhanced fees demanded. It is true that the Government say they are going to administer it very gently, to allow liberty here and there, but it is quite evident from the speeches of hon. Members opposite that the Government are out to save money at the expense of the parents of intelligent children. From the speeches of the President of the Board of Education and the Parliamentary Secretary one would think that no harm is going to be done, that the Government are going to be very gentle 'and allow a lot of liberty to local authorities, but one thing is certain, and that is that the Government are out to save money at the expense of intelligent children.

The Parliamentary Secretary seems to disagree with that statement. Let me draw his attention to a speech which is reported in the "Western Mail," by the head of the Welsh Department. I do not know whether I am allowed to mention this, but I am bound to do so. We greatly appreciate his services but I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that it would be a good thing to keep a civil servant out of the arena of social and political controversy. It should not, in my judgment, be the duty of a, permanent servant of the State to make speeches and argue the case for the Government. That is the Government's work; it is the work of the Parliamentary Secretary, who should go down to Wales and talk Welsh. He would then realise the educational zeal of Wales. But the head of the Welsh Department, as reported in the "Western Mail" of Tuesday, 18th October, said: We want £35,000 from Wales in fees. As examples he gave the following as the additional income which would be required from Wales: Cardiff, £3,425, Swansea, £2,436. Evidently, the Board of Education has already decided how much they are going to have out of each authority. There is to be a process of rationing. While the Government say they are not going to injure the child, nevertheless it is a process of robbing Peter to pay Paul; and if Peter and Paul are in the same school one will have to pay higher fees to let the other off. It will apply to the whole educational area in Glamorganshire. Is it the intention that a school in Penarth shall pay additional fees in order that a school in my Division shall pay a lower fee, or no fee at all? Evidently this is rationing at the expense of the clever and able children in our schools. Talk of economy! It is time for us to realise that savings not only consist in building up factories and workshops, not only in developing our capital assets, but that there is an equally real saving in building up and developing the mind and bodies of our children. That is sound economy.

The schools of our country will stand comparison with those of any other country. Our secondary system has been developing and those who are interested in our educational administration are proud of the contribution which is being made to education to-day by the secondary system in this country, and particularly by the secondary system of Wales, with its glorious history of struggle and sacrifice to build up its fine intermediate system. Now the Government say that we must have economy, economy in the sense of mere saving of money, economy in the sense that it is unproductive economy. One would imagine that money left in the pockets of the individual is going to fructify more than if it is spent by the State. That s not true. If you put a fee on the married man it may result in a saving of Income Tax to the bachelor, but does it necessarily follow that the bachelor is going to spend the money you save him in a, better manner than if it was spent by the State in the education of the married man's child? State expenditure in this respect is the highest form of economy. What are the Government going to do with the money that they may save? They are already saving more than they can accommodate; they have more money already than they can re-invest comfortably. There are millions lying idle; there is no productive investment for vast sums of money in this country, and here they come along and stop a productive investment in the secondary schools of our land.

It must not be forgotten that Circular 1421 is operating at a moment when the Government have already decided that not one single secondary school shall be built. There has been a complete stoppage of the building of secondary schools, and yet within that curtailed and restricted system the Government impose a greater burden. We definitely take our stand against this Circular. It is reactionary, and before it was issued Parliament should have had an opportunity of discussing it. From the evidence I have there is a large section of hon. Members behind the Government who are very uneasy with regard to it. It has been conveyed to me in the Lobbies and smoking rooms of this House that many hon. Members opposite are deeply perturbed as to its effects, as to its effects on their electoral prospects, and they are also concerned that the State should have stepped in and said that a child must not only have ability, exceptional ability, but exceptional poverty before State aid can be given to the fullest degree in our educational system.


I beg to second the Motion.

One would have thought that a question like this would have been an issue at the last election, but not a word was said by the leaders of the present National Government or by any other party on the question of education. It was not an issue, and, therefore, no mandate was given to the Government to deal in this way with education. On the question of transitional payments Parliament was dealing with a temporary Measure, but in this case it is a permanent one which will take four or five years to fructify. It is a determined attempt by the Government to interfere with a policy which has been in existence in this country for a considerable time. The number of protests that I have received from Wales is enormous. Never during the whole of my experience have I had so many protests about any matter than on the question of doing away with free secondary education; protests from teachers, headmasters and headmistresses, from churches and various organisations throughout the length and breadth of Wales, who feel very disturbed by the step that has been taken by the Board of Education.

4.30 p. m.

There is no doubt that Circular 1421 abolishes absolutely free secondary education. Whatever may be said about special places, whatever may be argued in its favour, and whatever the Parliamentary Secretary may say, free secondary education is abolished. That is a policy and a, principle which we in Wales oppose. We fought tenaciously in this House for many years to extend the facilities for education in Wales. Let me refer to two reports on the subject. The first, known as the Bruce Red Report, urged us to develop education, to give greater facilities for it, to provide improved education for our boys and girls. We were asked to continue at this great work. But this proposal of the Government does away with the whole of it. The Circular of the Board interferes with the general principles laid down in the report. Then there was the Hadow Report. We have spent a considerable amount of time and money in trying to fit our general education into the recommendations of the Hadow Report; but this new Circular is going to impede our progress.

I would plead especially for the depressed areas of Wales. The House should realise that there are areas in Wales which are absolutely derelict. In our valleys we have our elementary and secondary schools. In many areas all the industries are practically closed down. But the people are still residing there, and there is no opening for them anywhere. The Government ask us to deprive the children in those areas of secondary education. For this Circular insists that a certain amount of money is to come from each area, and that money cannot be obtained. The Board of Education say definitely that a sum of £400,000 must be secured to the Treasury. They say to Wales, "You must provide £35,000." From the county of Glamorgan a sum of £8,000 is required. To raise that sum of money will be quite impossible, because of the depression. There are areas like the Rhondda Valley, Merthyr Tydvil, Ogmore, Maesteg and Bargoed where the industries are practically closed down. In effect, therefore, we are asked to take away the rights which the children have possessed in the past.

I would draw attention to a report issued as the result of an inquiry in the year 1898. It is a very interesting report on educational subjects, and I would refer to one or two passages. The report describes the distinctive characteristics of Wales, bearing upon its claim for special treatment in the matter of secondary and higher education. It lays stress on the sentiment of nationality. I do not want to argue about that, although I am an ardent Welshman and believe that Welsh should play a very prominent part in our schools. The report refers to the poverty of the country, taken as a whole, and particularly in respect of charitable endowments, in contrast with England. If we were poor in those days, we are poorer now. But the population has considerably increased. I wish to pay a tribute to one of my countrymen, the late Sir Hugh Owen, who did so much for education not only in Wales but in this country. I feel that this scheme of the Government does an injustice to those who have fought so nobly for us in the past. The number of pupils in secondary schools in Wales is 28,600. Of that total there were 9,222 in the County of Glamorgan in October of last year. We have seven free secondary schools, and 2,068 pupils who are paying no fees at all.


Do these figures include the boroughs?


None of the boroughs, but only the administrative county of Glamorgan. Two other schools have been added, and in two years' time from now those two schools would have been completely free, which would have brought the total of free schools to nine. Those seven free schools were not given to us by any Labour Government, but are due to the fact that since 1920 we have made representations to the Board of Education. In 1921 we had a number of free secondary schools, and from that time onwards we have added to the number. There are 2,068 free places at present. In the other two schools I have mentioned there are 497 pupils, and in a very short time those also would be free schools. But now the Board of Education say that pupils must pay fees, that we must get a certain revenue from the county. There are 6,488 pupils in the intermediate schools. One-third of those pay fees, subject to a remission of fees if circumstances demand it. Under the regulations we cannot remit fees until the children have been in the schools for a certain period. Then they can send in an account of the income of the parents and there is power to grant a remission of fees. To what extent I do not know because it is not clear yet. The secondary school regulations issued in 1904 sanctioned a remission of fees. From that date up to the present time we have increased the number of remissions of fees every year. Originally we had 25 per cent. of free places. Then the percentage increased to 30, then from 30 to 40, and when we became more distressed it was increased to 50, and ultimately to 60, and there was a right to remit fees even up to 90 per cent. of the places. Now the Government are taking that power of remission from us. We shall be absolutely in the hands of the Board of Education, and if we cannot secure the revenue that is demanded we shall not be in a position to remit any fees at all. Our children will then be deprived of their education.

Here are some figures showing the number of pupils in secondary schools in the Glamorganshire administrative area. In 1920 we had 6,504, in 1923 the figure was 6,950, in 1926 it was 7,885, in 1929 it was 8,741 and in 1931 it had grown to 9,222. Those figures show a gradual increase in the number of pupils entering the secondary schools. Under this new scheme we shall not be permitted, without the board's approval, to give bursaries to intending teachers in training colleges. We have that power and right now, and we are not by any means extravagant in this kind of thing. The cases where help has been given have been cases that demanded some assistance, and the amount that we have given has been very small, varying from £1 to £25. But that right is taken away by these new regulations, unless we first secure the approval of the Board. That is an injustice. Since 1908 we have been able to assist poor pupils who are being trained in domestic science. That right has been taken away. In cases of that kind we have given grants varying from £10 to £40 per annum according to the circumstances of the pupils' parents.

The whole aim of this Circular and of the regulations is ultimately to deprive working-class parents of privileges and opportunities of education which they have enjoyed hitherto. I cannot understand any Government bringing forward such a scheme. Boys and girls leaving school at the age of 14 have no employment to go to in the depressed areas, and it is now said that they must be put on the road. Their parents may be very poor or unemployed, but the children are to be deprived of the opportunities of secondary education. A Noble Lord said in the House of Lords many years ago that the Government should be compelled to provide work for children at the age of 14 instead of allowing them to be put on the road. The Government should do that now. It is also suggested that the means test shall apply in such a way that children will be grouped in several classes in the schools. One grade will pay full fees. Then the first grade of paupers will pay half fees, the second grade quarter fees, and the full-blooded pauper no fee at all. It is most unfair and unreasonable.

The Board are trying to save a sum of £400,000. Let them look at the list of insanitary schools given by the Parliamentary Secretary in this House recently in reply to a question. There are such schools in Wales. The Government are making to provision for the abolition of those schools and the building of new schools. The hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) asked a question the other day about Bradford, and the reply proves my case. There, last September they had 793 entrants as compared with 1,034 in September of the year before, or a decline in the number of pupils of 241. I ask the House to realise that the amount of money in the Estimates this year for education is £52,000,000 and that in the same Budget, for Army and Air Force the amount is £106,000,000 or more than double what is provided for the education of the children of the country. The Education Estimates for 1932-33 have already been reduced by 10.8 per cent. and as a result of the cuts that have been made the Government have secured £5,000,000 in respect of education in this country. In the case of the Army, Air Force and Navy the reduction is only 4.7 per cent. Those figures show how inconsistent the Government are when asking for these economies. They also show other directions in which economies could be secured instead of at the expense of the education of the children of this country.

This view is strengthened when one notes the amounts that are paid in other special services. For instance in the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, it costs £505 a year for the average cadet. In the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, the cost is £353 per head, whereas in the elementary schools the cost per pupil is £13 2s. 6d. and, in the State-aided secondary schools £29 to £30, or at the outside £35, is being charged for each pupil. If the Government are asking for a saving of £400,000, it could be secured in that direction instead of depriving children of their right to secondary education. I appeal to the Board and I put it to them, that the honourable and right thing to do would be to withdraw this Circular. They would be well advised to do so at the present moment. Let them go to the country upon it. Let it be an issue at the next General Election and I am cer- tain that the supporters will not be returned in such numbers as they were at the last Election.


I am grateful and I think the House is grateful to the hon. Member who moved- this Motion because it gives me an opportunity of explaining and the House an opportunity of discussing a Circular which has caused a certain amount of misconception and misunderstanding. I do not complain in the least that the hon. Member who moved the Motion gave it the somewhat harsh and forbidding form of a Vote of Censure and I appreciate the manner in which he put his points, but, before I come to the Circular itself, I propose to make one or two observations upon the terms of that Motion. It asks the House to "reaffirm" the principle of free secondary education. I am not clear as to when the House ever affirmed that principle. It is possible that the hon. Member had some recollection of a private Member's Resolution, passed I think in 1925, which might he interpreted in some sense as endorsing a policy of that kind but to a very limited degree. Whether the House did or did not endorse the policy of free secondary education I think it is pertinent to inquire in passing what steps were taken by the Socialist party when they were in office—these stout advocates of free secondary education for all—during the two years from 1929 to 1931?

I think the hon. Member did refer to some steps which were taken at that time. To what did those steps amount? Simply to this; they increased the percentage of free places which could be awarded in secondary schools from 40 per cent. to 50 per cent. But that increase was permissive and not mandatory, and, as a matter of fact, the actual increase attributable to that permission was in the neighbourhood of 5 per cent. Yet we are asked to-day to endorse a policy of free secondary education for all, when the very advocates of that policy, during their term of office, could not advance it by more than 5 per cent. It may interest the House if I recall the attitude of my predecessor in office, the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) when some of his colleagues prsesed him very hard to increase that 50 per cent. to 60 per cent. he definitely refused. He said: My right hon. Friend does not at present propose to increase the present normal maximum limit of 50 per cent. for free places in secondary schools."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th July, 1931; col. 1723, Vol. 254.]


Can the hon. Gentleman give the date?


Yes, the date is very relevant indeed. It is 6th July, 1931, or within a, month of a very serious time for the hon. Gentleman and his friends—within a month of the approach of financial disaster. I am not surprised that the hon. Gentleman, when he was asked to make that concession—trifling in cost compared with the £400,000, which I am told is a niggardly sum—resisted the efforts of his own party, in 1931, to increase the percentage from 50 per cent. to 60 per cent. He heard the breakers. He knew that the ship was nearly on the rocks. But now that the hon. Member is safely on the beach his view has changed. He is calling out to us from the shore asking us to cram on all sail when he would not put on even the miserable little stitch to which I have referred. But I cannot dismiss the matter quite in that way, because, although this phrase in the Motion asks us to reaffirm a principle the House ought to bear in mind that, if hon. Members opposite confined themselves to the affirmation of a principle they would get into grave trouble with their party outside. My attention has been drawn to a meeting of the Labour Conference, I think at Leicester a short time ago, and I have here what I think is the authentic record of those proceedings in the report in the "Daily Herald." The ex-Minister of Education said: We ought to make it clear that we stand for free secondary education for all, immediately we get back into office. Free secondary education for all would, at a conservative estimate, cost between £50,000,000 and £60,000,000 per annum to rates and taxes. If that is to be the immediate policy of the party opposite when they get back to office, I suggest that they ought to be extremely careful in their choice of their next Chancellor of the Exchequer. But it may be that free secondary education for all is merely a suggestion—something to be included in "Labour and the Nation" as a policy to be carried out 500 years hence.


Does the hon. Gentleman visualise compulsory secondary education for all? Is that the point?


Free secondary education for all, as I understand it, would involve compulsory secondary education. But to come down to a less ambitious programme which I think probably hon. Members opposite would desire to put in force if they could do so, there is the policy which may be described as that of free selective secondary education, that is the abolition of the fees now paid. That in itself would cost something like £3,000,000, and of course hon. Members know that that sum would be very difficult to raise even if it were desirable to take that step. But again I think we are entitled to ask, in passing, why for a relatively small sum like £3,000,000, a comparative bagatelle to hon. Members opposite, they did not take this step when they were in office instead of contenting themselves with the degree of alteration which I have already mentioned.

In any event such a course would, in my judgment, not be desirable. I would like at this stage to suggest that, after all, the parent has and ought to have very considerable responsibility for the upbringing of his children. The upbringing of the child involves the education of the child, and a policy which would put the child, as it were, on the State, would to my mind be a retrograde policy. The State's business is not to supplant the parent but to supplement the parent. Where the parents' resources are not adequate for the educational requirements of the child, it is for the State to intervene, but, so long as the parent has those resources, it is his business to look after his own child and to be responsible for it. It would be a disaster if we should go very far from that principle.

5.0 p. m.

Now I come to the Circular. In reviewing this question of admission to secondary schools and the fees which ought to be charged there were three possible policies-three possible things to do. The first was to leave things as they were and as we took them over from the Socialist Government. They were apparently content with things as they were and we could have gone on with things in that way. Perhaps I may remind hon. Members of the actual position when we took over. The schools maintained and aided by local education authorities affected by the Circular number 1,138 and of these 78 are and have been for some time free. The school population involved is 360,000 and the average cost per pupil is £35 including cost of loan charges and administration. There was and there is to-day a considerable lack of uniformity in the fees. They vary from three guineas in some areas to 30 guineas in others. About half the number of children are fee payers and the average fee paid is £10 17s. per fee-paying child. As a general rule they obtain admission to the school without competition and generally speaking on a lower level of attainment. There is another feature to which I draw attention. In regard to the free lacers, they obtain admission by competition—by examination—at the age of 11 years, and in about 100 out of 115 areas there is no income limit for the free placer. There are one or two criticisms of the existing situation which suggest themselves to hon. Members. First of all, as regards lack of uniformity, where fees vary so largely, the present system in effect produces a levy on the taxpayer in a high area in favour of the taxpayer in a low area. Secondly, in the case of fee payers, the fee paid is on the average less than one-third of the cost. If a child is not a scholarship winner, it is not in school as a result of competition with its fellows, but it nevertheless in effect gets a scholarship approximately of an average value of £25, and the test of admission to the school in the case of the fee payer, broadly speaking, is not only or entirely merit, but ability to pay a small fee. A third' criticism is that in the case of free places, these are scholarships. A free place is a scholarship, and a scholarship is meant for the poorer classes. For hundreds of years the meaning and intention of the scholarship system has been to provide free education for children whose parents have not had the resources to pay for them. That, as I understand it, is the meaning and intention of a scholarship.

If I may digress for a moment, it is interesting to see from the Board's regudations in 1907 the beginning of the free place system: The Board have also taken measures to secure that all secondary schools aided by grants shall be fully accessible to children of all classes. It is accordingly provided that in all such schools where a fee is charged a proportion of places shall he open without payment of fee to the scholars for public elementary schools applying for admission. In 1907, broadly speaking, membership of a public elementary school was a fairly good criterion of poverty. To-day, I am glad to say, it is not a good criterion of poverty, and a fair indication of that can be ascertained from the Board's last Estimates, where hon. Members will find that half the fee payers in the secondary schools, or rather over 100,000, come from the public elementary schools and that that figure of 100,100 has been pretty constant for the last 10 years. Therefore, it is not unfair to say that a system such as I have shown, which would substitute some rather more scientific basis for ascertaining the need for a scholarship than the original basis, instead of being condemned, should be commended, because at the moment, where there is no income limit in force, there is no guarantee whatever that the scholarship goes to the child who needs it. The parent may be well-to-do, he may be very well-to-do, or he may be well enough off not to need the whole scholarship, but to be able to do with half, and that is the whole purpose of the Circular.

The Circular has been called revolutionary, but, as a matter of fact, it carries out the educational policy that has been in existence for the last 10 years and is the present policy of His Majesty's Government. It is to be found in the Education Act, 1921, Section 14, and I would remind hon. Members of its words (4) In schemes under this part of this Act adequate provision shall he made in order to secure that children and young persons shall not be debarred from receiving the benefits of any form of education by which they are capable of profiting through inability to pay fees. There is no endorsement of free secondary education in that paragraph, otherwise the words "inability to pay fees" would be completely meaningless. The suggestion there is that there should be payment of fees by those who can afford it and non-payment of fees by those who cannot afford it. So far from saying that the Circular is revolutionary, it is in the direct line of existing policy and does not deviate from that Section in the Act by one hair's breadth.

What conclusions can we come to from the few criticisms which I have ventured to put forward on the existing system In my judgment, and I hope in the judgment of the House, the existing system is haphazard, confused and inequitable. It satisfied the Socialist Government, but that is no reason why it should satisfy the National Government. It is absolutely right that no child who is able to profit by secondary school education and who wins a free place in competition, a child whose parents are too poor to pay the school fee or any part of it, should be charged, and no such child will be charged. It is not equally right that a parent of a child, entered without competition, should on the average pay less than one-third of the cost of its education, nor does it seem to me to be absolutely right that the child of a parent admitted by competition, who is able to contribute the whole or part of the standard fee, in other words, able to dispense either with the whole scholarship or with part of it, should be exempt from fee. When the resources of the taxpayer and the ratepayer are so much reduced, subsidies, scholarships, public assistance—call it what you like—should be bestowed, as far as possible and consistently with financial considerations, where they are needed, and should not be diverted to those who can do without them. Therefore, the board took the view that it could not leave things where they were.

I said there were three possible policies or solutions. The second policy is this, that admission to secondary schools should be entirely by competition, 100 per cent. competition, that all places should be special places, and that when awarded an income test should be applied to the parents right down the scale, and contributions required from the parents appropriate to their capacity to pay. If there is no capacity to pay, then there should be no fee. Incidentally, it is suggested that the Circular abolishes free places. Nothing of the sort. There may in fact be a free school, as a result of the income test applied, and not one child, whose parents cannot afford to pay, will contribute 6d., and the school will therefore be as free as ever it was in the past. It is most misleading to suggest that where there is the abolition of a free school, you abolish the free place.

This second solution is, I frankly admit, an ideal solution, and if the House ask why it is not adopted, the frank answer is that we cannot afford it. If such an ideal were made mandatory and universal at this time, the financial effect over the country as a whole would be very uncertain, and it is impossible to take the risk. In certain areas, in many areas, it would undoubtedly cause an additional charge on the taxpayer and the ratepayer, and further charges are impossible at this time. In fact, a reduction of the present charges is imperative. On the other hand, if there are areas where what I call the ideal solution can be adopted, where the area of competition can be widened and extended and the area of the fee payer as such is correspondingly reduced, and where that can be done with satisfactory financial results, the Board is not likely to offer any opposition.


What does the hon. Member mean by "with suitable financial results"?


What does my hon. Friend mean by this second possible solution I do not think some of us quite understood what he meant it was.


The hon. Member for Caerphilly has asked what I mean by satisfactory financial results. I do not think it is possible to arrive at a formula. It must depend on the local circumstances hut, broadly speaking, if the financial result is something which approximates to what would be the financial result by putting the Circular into operation as it is now, without disturbing the proportion of special places to fee payers, then I think that would go through.


But you must have your financial result?


Yes, on the whole we expect to have our financial result, and I hope we shall get it. I have pointed out to hon. Members the practical difficulty that stands in the way of making a scheme of this kind mandatory. Circular 1421 itself is admittedly a compromise, and it is not logical, but no compromise ever is logical. I claim, however, that it is a step in the right direction. Paragraph 5 of the Circular deals with the fee payer and states: The Board do not desire to lay down any uniform standard, but they consider that it would not be unreasonable to look for some increase where the fee is at present below 15 guineas a year; and while regard must necessarily be had to the fees at present charged, they will ordinarily hesitate in future to approve a fee of less than nine guineas. The word "ordinarily" must be a great comfort to hon. Members from Wales, because it enables the Board to give Wales separate and, I hope, tender treatment. The actual cost of the education is £35, and the average fee is £10 17s., but many fees are lower, and it does not seem to be unreasonable to ask for some increase, within the limits of between nine and 15 guineas, in view of the heavy cost and the low average. At any rate, it is quite reasonable to ask that the gap between those figures should he lessened.

A point has been made as to the reason for not making the maximum £35. It has been asked, why not get the whole cost from the fee payer if he is able to afford £35? There are three answers. The first is that very few—I doubt if there is 1 per cent.—of the fee payers could be called upon for such a sum. The second is that if you fixed your £35 maximum, you would inevitably have to grade your fees all the way down, and you would be faced by considerable administrative difficulties, the cost of which might well outweigh the additional receipts from fees. Thirdly, and most important of all, it would have a bad psychological effect, both on the schools and on the parents, because the £35 would tend to be regarded as the normal fee and would deter many of the parents from sending their children, although in point of fact the fees might be much lower. A rise from the average to £35 would be startling. Not many schools have in fact charged over £15.

It is said that too high a fee would deter people from sending their children to school. The Board and the local education authorities are vitally concerned to secure that schools are filled, because with a half empty school the overhead charges go on, and, if we lose fees, the result will be an extra charge upon the ratepayers and the taxpayers. I can assure hon. Members that the Board and the local education authorities are concerned to avoid that, and we shall take care to prevent fees being raised to such a point as definitely to deter parents from entering their children as fee payers. It has been said that this will fall hardly on the middle-class. In 46 out of 116 areas there is a means test for free places. In those areas a middle-class child might win a special place, and he might be toad, "Your parents' income is over the limit for a special place, and therefore you ought either to pay the full fee or not come in," and that would exclude him entirely. Under the circular, he will often be able to come in on a part fee. To that extent, the position of the middle-class parent is eased.

With regard to past results of raising fees, the hon. Member for Neath (Sir W. Jenkins) mentioned Bradford, and said that there was a falling off in the figures, which he attributed to the decision last summer to institute fees in what had hitherto been a free school. That is a case of the fallacy of post hoc, propter hoc. As long ago as January the Bradford authorities decided to reduce the number of secondary scholars, and it was not until four or five months later that they decided to institute the policy of charging graduated fees. The reduction the number of students and the charging of the fees, therefore, are not connected, because the one preceded the other by four or five months. There are many cases of the same kind. Paragraph 3 of the Circular deals with special places. I see nothing wrong in that term. Special places will continue to be filled by open competition as in the past, and there will be no reduction in numbers. The 25 per cent. minimum and the 50 per cent. normal maximum will remain. If the financial results warrant it, there may be an increase.

The special place holders will continue to be free except where the parents' circumstances enable the standard fee or a part of it to be paid. Therefore, if the parents' circumstances are such as to allow it, not a sixpence will be charged for special places. It depends on the parents' circumstances. Where he is able to pay the whole or part there is nothing wrong in requiring him to pay. The free places are scholarships and intended for poor scholars. There must, therefore, be a method of deciding whether parents are able to contribute. We cannot put parents' names into a hat and draw them out. We must have some standard of ascertaining the parents' ability to pay for their children's education. That being so, it is necessary to have scales, and paragraph 4 deals with that. The Circular contemplates for complete exemption from lees an income limit of £3 to £4 per week in the case of family with one child, plus an addition of 10s. for each additional child, or any alternative scheme having equivalent effect. These figures of £3 to £4 a week are guiding posts. They are rather like the direction posts which exist on a golf course: I believe that on certain courses you may go either side of the direction posts and still remain on the fairway. The Bradford authority of its own volition, before the Circular saw the light of day, decided to alter its free school into a fee-paying school, and it used these limits, which are operating now: up to £190 per annum, that is £3 14s. a week, a free place is granted. From £190 to £270, £3 3s. is charged; from £270 to £350, £6 6s. is charged; and over £350, the full standard school fee of £9 9s. is charged. I am not defending the Bradford position or otherwise but I am bound to say that knowing the conditions of Bradford, I am not sure that the figures of £3 to £4 as laid down in the Circular was such a bad shot after all.


Can the hon. Gentleman give us the London scheme which is now obtaining?


I do not know what it will be in London. All these matters are being discussed by the authorities concerned. It is impossible to have uniformity. London and the industrial areas may reasonably claim a higher limit than many rural areas would think of claiming.


I understand that in London a parent who earns £250 can get a maintenance grant and a free place for his child. I understand that under this Circular instead of having a maintenance grant and a free place, the person earning £250 a year will have to pay a fee. That is a complete change. Does it follow that the maintenance grant is swept away as well?


I cannot give the London figures because I do not think any decision has been taken. Maintenance allowances will be retained, but before giving such allowances I imagine that authorities will first remit fees. A question was raised as to the income of the family. In very many cases, free places in secondary schools are subject to a means test already. In most of them, I believe, that they prefer a parental test. The Board in their Circular have laid down two tests, parental and family, and the authorities have a choice. Local authorities have great experience in dealing with the question of income limit. Practically all have operated maintenance grants and made the necessary inquiry into means, and nearly one-third have operated income limits in the award of free places. I suggest, that generally speaking, this Circular is a step in the right direction. I look forward to the time when the area of competition may be widened and the area of free places as such increased. For the moment, I suggest that an ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory. We have heard what Bradford has done. I have here the experience of the headmaster of a secondary school which he has communicated to the "Manchester Guardian." He states that he has worked under a scheme in a school such as that implied by the Circular for a number of years. He says: Seven years ago my governors introduced a scheme of graduated fees by which parents paid fees according to their means. At first, there were all sorts of objections—theoretical, of course—to this scheme. Letters appeared in the local Press and for a month or so there was something of a hullabaloo. I myself neither talked nor wrote, but settled down to work the scheme. It has been an unqualified success. May I suggest to hon. Members opposite that the present position is like that spoken of by this schoolmaster? We all know that there have been plenty of letters, and there has been something of a hullabaloo. Hon. Members have contributed to it. May I suggest that in future, as the schoolmaster hints, we talk and write a little less and sit down to make it a success?

5.30 p.m.


I congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education on having discharged a difficult task with skill and a measure of frankness. He has not attempted to camouflage the situation, and has placed his cards on the table. He did not defend the wording of the 'Circular, and I do not think anybody defends it. Even the President of the Board in the House of Lords, in an interesting speech, did not defend the wording, but gave a commentary on its interpretation. The hon. Gentleman said that the Circular is not logic, and admitted that it is liable to misconception and misunderstanding. I do not know what is the matter with the Board of Education. They should be extremely skilful in drafting circulars. I have had considerable experience with the circulars of the Board, and I remember particularly those of 1924 to 1929. The Noble Lord the right hon. Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) was an artist in sending out circulars; he sent them out with almost monthly regularity. They always led to Debate, and were always liable to two versions. I have to go by what is in the Circular. The position is the same as it is when Bills are before this House. In the last two or three days we had a long discussion over what a particular Bill meant, and the Minister in charge made long speeches explaining it, but, all the same, we have to go by what is in the Bill itself. It is not the Board of Education which will administer the Circular. The Board will guide, direct, check, penalise and fine, but the Circular will be administered by the local education authorities. The position is that there is a partnership between the State and the local authorities, with the Board acting as director and adviser. Its power conies in as the holder of the purse-strings.

I have said that the Parliamentary Secretary was frank, but there is one thing he did not tell us. It has been common talk as to what this Circular aimed at securing in the way of economy, but I do not think he even mentioned any figure. [interruption.] Oh, yes, £400,000. I think he might have dwelt more upon that point. What is behind this Circular? We must not mince words about it: there is a desire for economy. If there were not, does he really pretend that the Circular would ever have been issued? I have a shrewd suspicion that the great report on national expenditure known as the May Report has something to do with it. Paragraph 502 of that report says: Since the standard of education, elementary and secondary, that is being given to the child of poor parents is already in very many cases superior to that which the middle class parent is providing for his own child, we feel that it is time to pause in this policy of expansion to consolidate the ground gained, to endeavour to reduce the cost of holding it, and to reorganise the existing machine before making a general advance. Rightly or wrongly, educationists have been expecting a circular. They have been in fear and trembling in anticipation of some circular based on that paragraph. I am afraid that many local authorities, many teachers, people who have given their lives to education, have interpreted the paragraph—perhaps wrongly—as being at the bottom of the Circular. They have felt that the Circular was inspired not by the Board or by the President of the Board, but by the Treasury. It may sound strange—for I have not got a reputation for economy—but I do not believe in wasting money. I am all in favour of economy as long as it can be achieved without decreased efficiency. Then I notice that no reference has been made to the next paragraph in the report of the May Committee, paragraph 503: First among the changes that we consider necessary in the interests of efficient administration we would place the reduction in the number of authorities by the concentration of all educational functions, as far as local authorities are concerned, in the hands of the county and county borough councils. It is not for me to say that that proposal is a good one, but before we indulge in economy at the expense of educational efficiency we ought to see that the machine is made as economical as possible, and that there is no waste in that direction. Before the Board asks to cut down education—and this does mean a cut in education—the Government ought to have tackled that problem. If we cannot afford this multiplication of authorities and this division of responsibility, there should be an economy in that direction instead of the cutting down of facilities for education in our schools.

The Parliamentary Secretary tried to brush away the figure of £3 or £4 a week. I would like to know why those figures were chosen. I see no necessity to put in a figure. He spoke of Bradford. Bradford has been going through a kind of revolution in local government. There has been a swaying battle between the two parties, with at one time the success of Labour and at another time of the Tories. If they would only take the middle course of ordered progress we should not see violent changes backwards and forwards. I do not think we can pay too much attention to Bradford. There seems to be no particular reason for choosing £3 or £4. It is not surprising, when such a figure appears in a circular, and economy is aimed at, that it is taken by the local education authorities as a direction as to the figure which should provide the maximum. Someone asked a question about London. I happen to be able to tell the House something about London. London has a Conservative council. I have been on that council for 26 years. We have been dominated by a Conservative majority. Their inspiration was economy. They were originally elected to cut down the old "wastrel," extravagant system pursued by the previous majority. They have been very careful. They have been looking after the rates, they have a very efficient finance committee, a splendid organisation and competent and capable officers, and in the light of their experience they fixed the limit—which may be too high—at a figure of £450. It is a big drop from 2450 to somewhere about £200 a year.

If the Circular had dwelt on the necessity of more uniformity, of levelling up in some places and lowering in others, there would have been no great quarrel about it. There has been no proper survey of secondary education. It may come as a surprise to some to know that in London the number of free places actually provided has been very much below the average, but we have been concentrating more on the central schools than on the secondary schools. I think there is a case—I do not want to be merely destructive—for a complete survey of secondary education, for levelling up in some places and lowering in other places, but no really serious attempt to bring that about is made in this Circular. On the contrary, all the Minister has sought to do is to cut down, to say, in effect, "All we want is the money." When somebody challenged him about Wales he said, "We do not want to be severe on the poorer districts," I think he is shirking his responsibility. The Board must take a national instead of a local view. We ought to extend opportunities for education and make them suit the needs and requirements of the country, so that in future we may have a generation of competent and capable people able to run our highly organised industrial system.

I am going to make this statement, though I do not suppose it will be acceptable to hon. Members on the Labour benches. If it had been possible to carry the Bill of 1930, carry out the proposals in the Hadow Report and organise a complete system of senior classes—it was described as "the modern school"—dealing with children who were preparing to become manual workers and on the other hand Grammar schools for senior children who had a literary bent, the necessity for the expansion of our secondary schools would have been largely diminished; and it might have been practicable to economise on our secondary schools. But it is common knowledge that in many parts of the country there is no central school system, and, owing to the fact that the school age is not raised, it is not possible to have four-year courses. I have looked up the speeches of hon. Members of the Conservative party in the long discussions on the Bill of 1930 for raising the school age. All were loud in their professions in favour of giving greater opportunities to the child, of allowing every child whose parents desired it to continue his or her education, but they said that this must be voluntary, that there must he no compulsion. They said they would not allow money to stand in the way, but objected to forcing all children to stay on at school to the age of 15. Now that they are in office, and have the opportunity to carry out their policy, they are curtailing the facilities available to parents to whom it is unnecessary to apply compulsion, those who are prepared willingly to allow their children to continue at school.

Mention has been made of the free places. I attach great importance—perhaps it may be said that it is an exaggerated importance—to the retention of the words "free place." The phrase is a charter to the working classes. There is a growing feeling of class consciousness. Many people think that the children of the rich have better advan- tages than the children of the poor, and our answer to that view has always been "Free places," the educational ladder, the opportunity of a full and generous education for every competent, capable child. The removal of the phrase "free places" from our educational language is an unfortunate and a retrogade step. A right hon. Friend behind me was in Parliament when a former President of the Board of Education put forward the policy of requiring all aided schools to provide at least 25 per cent. free places. It was much objected to at the time. The democratisation of the aided schools would, we were assured, destroy them. I happened to look at a very interesting little book published in 1927 by the Board of Education when the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) was the President. It pointed out a very remarkable thing. It said: The beneficial effects of the free place system have proved permanent and increasingly obvious. The political idea behind the Free Place regulations was that State-supported schools must be accessible and not class institutions.' It was not thought expedient to abolish fees though schools with high fees were looked at askance. Free places were required instead; it was emphasised that they must not be regarded as scholarships awarded for exceptional merit, but that they should be open to any Public Elementary School child who reached the ordinary standard of entry…There has been competition to get the places and the quality of the holders has been in general very good; in fact, though it was not so intended, free places have largely become scholarships. Finally it went on to say: At first many anticipated that the free place holders would he indifferent material and would leave school early. Many of us anticipated that. The contrary proved to be true; it is the common experience both that they stay longer at school than other pupils and that they form a large proportion of the other pupils, with the result that in the higher forms they tend to preponderate. I have another very interesting book. That one is rather old. I am going to read from a book of which the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings is the editor. It is a very fine new publication which I recommend all Members of the House to study. I am going to give him a free advertisement; he thoroughly deserves it. It is a standard book on educational matters not only in this country but in Europe and throughout the world. The book is the Education Year Book. There is a report of a headmaster on the subject of free places. The headmaster says that the obligation to provide free places came as something of a bombshell, but is now acknowledged to be in an indispensable part of the State system, an invaluable link between the primary and secondary school and, on the whole, a source of strength and stability to the secondary schools. That is by the headmaster of a school. I would like to quote from the Noble Lord himself. I am sorry to do so in his absence. I assumed that in an education Debate he would be here. I looked up what he said in his own article, in the introduction upon page 122. He said: Examination is severely competitive, and he goes on to say, Where there is only a single examination the candidates who come out highest in the list are awarded free places. The remaining fee-paying places available are awarded to the candidates next highest in the list, but it commonly happens that a number of these are unable to take advantage of the awards owing to inability to pay fees, so that the final awards are by no means necessarily given to the ablest candidates. I am afraid that in practice that is exactly what will happen. It is not merely a matter of Whether the parents can afford the fee. Unfortunately—and we have to be frank in the matter—it is very often a question of the willingness of the parent. We are providing the scholarship system not merely for the parent, in regard to whom it is a secondary consideration, but for the child. Unfortunately, through want of foresight, from meanness or from lack of understanding, only too often in England parents do not appreciate the advantages of secondary education. When they have to make a sacrifice in order to provide fees for the first time, they are not pre-pared to face the responsibility. In common justice to the parents, this is an unfortunate time to call upon them to make special sacrifices. The middle classes have their rights. I know that they have very few friends; they are not looked upon by political parties as important because they have not a large voting power. The small shopkeeper and the struggling professional man have a great struggle to make two ends meet. The black-coated workman is far more hit than many people realise. Very often he is outside the insurance system, and he has been very heavily taxed. His Income Tax has been increased, and in some cases he has been brought into the Income Tax system for the first time. Now you are asking him to pay this extra amount. That demand may have a very unfortunate effect.

It is a very remarkable thing that the Government should remain silent about Scotland. I should have expected to have seen the Secretary of State for Scotland here. Scotland is in advance in education. They have something very near a free system of education. Have they had a Circular 1421? Are they going to have a Circular 1421? If they do have the Circular, will they tolerate it? Will they accept it arid carry out the policy? Why should England, which is the richer part, be put in a worse position? I hear a good deal about Home Rule for Scotland. Under this proposal, Scotland is not going to be called upon to make a sacrifice such as is called for from England. There is a very old story, which has very often been told in Scotland, of a young Scotsman, fresh from a secondary-school course, coming to London to get a job. He was asked what he thought of the English people. He replied that he never saw them because he only saw the heads of departments. It is becoming too common that all the best jobs go to Scotsmen because they have had the advantage of a full, free system of education.

This Circular is unfortunate, to say the least of it, in its wording. I am going to ask the Government to withdraw it. If that is too much, and I suppose it is too much to ask the Government Department to admit that the wording of a Circular is unfortunate, let them issue another, Circular 1422, putting some of the wording of Circular 1421 right, and making it clear that the Government do not want to curtail the opportunity for education for the people of this country. Let them review the whole problem, in order to see if they can pick upon something more scientific that will provide England with a really national system of education worthy of the name, and equal to that provided in Scotland.


It is quite apparent that considerable apprehension has been aroused, in regard to the possible effects of Circular 1421. Although the Circular may not yet be applicable to Scotland, I can assure the House that considerable apprehension is felt, rightly or wrongly, in regard to it in Scotland, and for the reasons which were indicated to some extent by the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris). As in Wales, so—only more so—in Scotland, we are particularly proud of our system of education. Since the time of the great preacher, John Knox, the people of Scotland were putting their available savings away for the education of their children, believing that that was the best possible form of family insurance. They are proud, and not without justification. They have been prominent—some hon. Members may consider too prominent—in the Government of this country and in the building up of our Empire. Hon. Members who have travelled a lot know that wherever you come across Scotsmen you find them in positions of prominence, and a credit to themselves and the country which gave them their education. It may be that the fears of my friends in Scotland are premature or unjustified, but I have had several representations from responsible bodies in my constituency asking me to look after their interests in this respect.

It is just possible that some of their apprehensions are misapprehensions, and that some of their fears are groundless, but I should like to have confirmation of that. A case in point reached me this morning from a very able man, and his case was that to-day the cleverest pupil in Broxburn left school, the eldest child of a family of six. The father is working seven days a week as a boiler fireman, with total wages of 42s. per week. The rent is 12s. The mother admitted that with 10s. more per week she could have managed to give the girl a university education. He asks whether the provisions of the circular are to be applicable in a case such as that. I take it that in that case there is some misapprehension, because the income limit, as I read the circular, is between £3 and £4 per week. The same cannot be said as to the application of the circular to the children of what are known as the middle-class or the lower middle-class families. I am speaking particularly about special merit places, one might almost say scholarship places. The same cannot be said about the limit put in the circular as it will be applied to the children of lower middle-class families, some of whom are artisans or shopkeepers, or, rather, higher-paid officials and the like.

It is the class whose vote apparently is not very much sought or considered, but unfortunately it is that class that is particularly hardly hit by the Snowden Budget and by the economies which have ensued. In those families, and they are admittedly thrifty as a class, they should, and probably do, provide for a heavy life insurance for the wage-earner and frequently they must pay for mortgages. They must provide for their own sickness and for the period when they are unemployed. Naturally they have a few additional costs such as providing a suitable background of books. At the end of the day, the week and the year there is-nothing to spare. It may be a platitude to say that the children of to-day will be the leaders of enterprise to-morrow, but it is true, and I ask the Government and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education whether they consider that it is right, in such a time as this, to diminish the ratio of the educated people of the country.

6.0 p. m.

I suggested just now that Scottish people in the past have put a great store by the insurance value of education. I set great store by education as a form of social insurance. If I may exemplify the point which I am trying to make, would only have to recall the attention of hon. Members to the reply of the country as a whole to the call of the subversive agencies in the General Strike of 1926, or I could go back only to August of last year, and remind hon. Members of that great manifestation of sanity which put the National Government where it belongs now. There is one more point. Take the position of Ireland. Take the tragedy of Ireland to-day. I would like to ask the Government whether they consider that that tragedy is due to over-education or to want of education. I could answer that question myself in one word: the tragedy of Ireland to-day is ignorance. I am therefore a little fearful that the operation of the instructions contained in this Circular, as regards free places to pupils, will aim a very terrible blow at those families in England and Wales—and also in Scotland, if the Circular is to apply to Scotland—who are striving to-day to better themselves. That is an instinct in Scotland. The problem of the hour is that of the family and of the individual who, through no fault of his own, has lost ambition, and, incidentally, has lost the willingness to help himself along. I am very fearful that certain parts of the instructions contained in this Circular may give rise to a tendency in that direction. I was very pleased to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that the Government are vitally concerned that secondary schools should be filled, and should not be empty. In a message received yesterday from the Director of Education in West Lothian, he said—I quote from memory—that, if the instructions contained in this Circular are made applicable to West Lothian, it will mean that the secondary schools will have to close down. I am not suggesting that he may not be under some misapprehension, but at least the apprehension is there. It may be said that under the present system there are dull boys in the secondary schools. There are also dull bishops, and, indeed, there are dull Members of Parliament, but that does not mean that anyone would suggest that Parliament should be abolished, or that we shall all have to pay fees for our Parliamentary training here—[Interruption.]

I admit that many of the apprehensions which have reached me are without foundation, and I agree that, in the national stringency in which this country finds itself to-day, the principle of the Circular is a good one, namely, that those who can afford to pay must contribute towards the education of their children. My only fear, here again, is that the line of demarcation drawn in the Circular between families that are held to be able to afford to pay and those who cannot afford to pay has been drawn too low. If I support the Government to-night, as I propose to do after the, to some extent, comforting speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, I do so in the belief that the instructions which have been issued to local authorities will be considered by the Board of Education and the Government to be flexible, and that wide powers of discretion will be given to the local authorities. I shall support the Government in the hope, also, that they will pay special heed to the suggestion, originally made by Sir Michael Sadler, which was supported in another place by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and which was referred to, I think, by the hon. Baronet who spoke before me—namely, that the line of demarcation should be raised, and, in particular, that the limit of exemption in scholarship cases should be a family income of £5 a week, with an additional £1 for every child involved. With these hopes in my mind, I shall support the Government to-night.


I rise to support the Motion. In doing so, I should like to compliment the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Sir A. Baillie) on the expression of his apprehension with regard to this Circular, and of his fear that it may ultimately be put into operation in Scotland. May I appeal to him, after that expression of his apprehension as to how it would affect Scotland, to support us here who are already affected in England and in Wales by a Circular which, as he himself recognises, although it comes from a Government which he says he will support, will prevent many children in this country from going forward with their normal education? The Circular will affect at least 200,000 children, and it seems rather strange that at this time of day we should be discussing a Circular the effect of which, however the Parliamentary Secretary may desire to brush it aside, will be to reduce the opportunities of education for working-class children in this country, when all the other countries of the world, with very rare exceptions, are preparing from their national point of view for advancements in facilities for education. While that is going on, we in England, the richest country in the world, are discussing a Circular that is going to rob thousands of children in the years to come of their opportunity of getting higher and secondary education.

This Circular, whatever the Parliamentary Secretary may say, cannot he detached from the general policy that has been pursued by the present Government ever since it took office. It is said that the Circular is an innocent thing in itself, and will not affect many hundreds of children, but we have to view it as attached to the general policy that has already been pursued by the Govern- ment, and we have to see how that general policy has affected our educational system in the country as a whole. I would call the attention of the House to the fact that in the West Riding of Yorkshire, where the education authority is looked upon as a very progressive authority, the educational facilities, as a result of the Government's economy campaign, have been reduced in the case of the poorest children in the county who sit for our county minor scholarships. The number of those scholarships has been reduced by 511. In the West Riding, 17,000 children sat for the scholarship examination, and it was only possible to award 2,080 scholarships, or 511 fewer than in the previous year. Again, our bursaries—very important exhibitions given to intending teachers—were reduced by over 100 last year. The foundation scholarships, also, were reduced by 100, and our county major scholarships—the premier scholarships which have been given in the county for many years—were reduced from 58 to 45.

In addition to all this, the grants which for many years have enabled boys and girls from the poorer homes to proceed by way of the secondary schools to the universities and colleges have been discontinued, and, however poor a child may he, he or she now gets not a penny piece from the West Riding education committee. The policy which the Government are pursuing, and have pursued since they came into office, has robbed thousands of working men's children from the humblest homes in the country of the opportunity of going forward to our secondary schools. The allowances that have followed our secondary school maintenance grants have also been cut down, and meal allowances have been reduced. That is the case throughout the West Riding, and I am sure that many other parts of the country are similarly affected. The opportunities which a few years ago were enjoyed by children from poor homes, whose genius and capacity fitted them for secondary education, are now being withdrawn, and we violently protest that, in 1932, a National Government containing all the leading statesmen of the country should come forward and ask us to submit to further reductions in the educational facilities for working men's children

It is all nonsense to suggest that this Circular will not affect the general situation. I have had sent to me, with hundreds of protests, a circular that has been sent out, for the consideration of governors of secondary schools, by the West Riding Education Committee, and ft is apparent that the economies which they are endeavouring to exercise as the result of Circular 1421 do not stop at secondary schools, but are affecting also our technical schools and our art schools in Yorkshire. Our junior technical school at South Kirkby, which has been set up largely with money that we have contributed as miners through the Miners' Welfare Fund, is going to be affected, and also our senior technical mining colleges; and it is clear, from the report which has been before the West Riding Education Committee, and which they are sending out to the governors of secondary schools, that they intend to make some reduction in the travelling allowances and book allowances to the students at our technical colleges. There is no suggestion that these are middle-class or wealthy people; the great majority of the students who attend these colleges come from the poorest homes in the country—in many cases the homes of miners who are not working more than two or three days a week.

I freely confess that I myself only received a very meagre education, and for many years, ever since I felt able to take part in public life, I have devoted myself to assisting the development of education and the broadening of educational opportunities for the children of working men. During recent years I have watched with tremendous interest and pleasure the opening of that gap, and the results which it has had in bringing forward from the humblest homes in the West Riding of Yorkshire some of the best genius that the country now possesses. While from a material point of view the members of the National Government may possess a lot, let them always bear in mind the fact—and I thank God for it—that He has not given them all the brains and genius; and we are anxious that no child, whether from a poor or from a rich home, shall be debarred from coming forward to the full blossom of the best possible education that the universities can give.

The free places are bound to be affected by Circular 1421. It is delightful to know that last year 73 per cent. of the students who won scholarships at Oxford and Cambridge were boys and girls who had been filling free places in our secondary schools. If it is a question of having to cut down, there are other ways. The Circular is to effect an economy of £400,000, but you will do £400,000,000 of damage. If economy is going to be forced on the education committees, why not give attention to the tremendous number of children in secondary schools under 10 years of age and let them go into elementary schools? I remember in my early days as a member of the West Riding Education Committee finding 1,141 under 10 years of age in our secondary schools, at a cost of £35 per head per annum. My complaint is that at the age of 10 the child is not mentally or physically sufficiently developed to be in a secondary school. We found, and we can find now if we make investigations in the big residential towns, there is a tremendous number of children who belong to wealthy homes under 10 years of age in secondary schools, at very great cost. If there is going to be any economy, do not stand in the way of the miner's boy who is sitting for a scholarship for secondary education. Go in the direction of not taking children who ought to be in elementary schools.

I want to add my earnest appeal to that of other speakers that the Government withdraw the Circular at once and recognise that, if they desire to have a trained generation in the future, as other countries do, this is not the time for curtailment of educational opportunities, and a Government that claims to be acting in the national interest, both now and in the future, should be the very last to issue a Circular of this kind restraining our educational activities, which were never more needed than to-day. Education, learning and knowledge is the birthright of every child, and no Government has a right to deny it. This Circular will deny to thousands of children the birthright that is theirs, the privilege of further education, and I appeal to the Government to endeavour to economise it a different way. Look to the money you are spending on armaments in preparation for a future war rather than this. I am quite satisfied that, if the Circular is withdrawn, the nation as a whole will receive the decision with acclamation.

Duchess of ATHOLL

I am sure that everyone will sympathise with the hon. Member's desire that every child should get the opportunity of education to help him or her to develop his capacity to the utmost that is possible. I also think that the great majority of those who heard the very lucid speech of the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that, when the hon. Member has had time to read that speech and to reflect a little further on the explanation which it gave of the Circular, he will see that his fears are really groundless. He has, perhaps, omitted to notice that in paragraph (5) of the Circular the Board appears obviously anxious that space in the secondary schools should not be unnecessarily taken up by the younger children, because it is proposed that the fees for these children shall be higher than for the other children. I think, when he realises that the income limit that is suggested in the Circular as a rough guide has actually been in operation at Bradford, and that the experience of putting it into operation has been an increase of children in the secondary schools, he will be ready to give the Circular a trial over the country as a whole. It should not be forgotten that the income limit mentioned in the Circular is for a family in which there is only one child. If a family is taken of a more normal size, of three or four, the income limit becomes £6 a week, and it seems clear that in these circumstances the great majority of those whom we are accustomed to describe as the industrial classes will have their children admitted absolutely free to the secondary schools.

I am very glad to know that the principle of grading the fee according to the income of the parents has been adopted. It seems to me a very distinct advantage that there should be gradation and that it should not be merely a case of no fee or the whole fee, but that an attempt should be made to relate more nearly what is paid to the capacity of the parents to pay. I feel sure that there are many parents who will prize the education all the more if they can feel that they have contributed something, not necessarily the whole fee or half the fee but something, towards what I think most of them desire.

This principle of not giving the monetary value of a scholarship or free place to those who win it in the examination their circumstances render it unnecessary to receive that aid is no new principle. I know of it having been in operation 40 years ago in a college in this country. It was not resented. Those who were fortunate enough to win scholarships, and whose parents had no difficulty in paying the fee, might be asked to give up the value of a scholarship in order that some other student, who probably could not otherwise have continued his education in the college, should be able to do so. I understand that that system is now in operation and is generally recognised in our universities. I think it is a very just system, and, after all, those who gain the special place or the scholarship and who, if asked to do so, give up the money or are not awarded the value of the scholarship are still left with the honour of having won what is regarded as a distinction.

The wording of the Resolution goes beyond the Circular itself in enunciating and approving the principle of free secondary education. That is a policy which has never been deliberately adopted by any Government. It is a principle which has been acted upon, it seems to me, quite sporadically in certain areas in England and Wales and, of course, in Scotland. The first thing that occurs to me about it is that, particularly in England and Wales, where we have the percentage system of grants in operation, if one area, or a few areas adopt a policy of free secondary education, it is really putting a rather unfair burden on the taxpayers in comparison with other areas. It means that some are drawing more than others from the pool.

There is a great deal of difference of opinion as to what form of grant is best for education. I would say to those who are in favour of the percentage system of grants, the great merit of which in my opinion is that it only gives money where value is received in return, that they do not do it a service but a disservice if they allow such obvious differences in expenditure to exist in various areas as follow if some areas adopt free secondary education and others have a system of fee-paying secondary education. Therefore, I think the adoption of the principle of the Circular throughout the country would mean our financial resources would operate more fairly over the whole country, and I think that would be a great advantage from the financial point of view. Obviously, in these days we must make the money that we have go as far as possible, and as far as possible do equal justice to all areas.

6.30 p.m.

I cannot help feeling also that there are certain disadvantages from an educational standpoint in a system of free secondary education. If there is one principle which in recent years has come to be recognised as of paramount value among educationists all over the country, it is that, particularly at the adolescent stage, there is a great variety of capacity. Differences in capacity and types of capacity begin to show themselves at that age which do not show themselves in earlier years, and if education is really to develop the varying capacities of these pupils, you must have varied types of instruction at the post-primary stage, and you must provide in some of those courses for more work of a practical type than we usually find in our secondary schools. As a matter of fact, the hon. Member who moved the Motion spoke of the need for variety and yet failed to see that the secondary school, which he was so anxious to uphold, is a school that gives only one type of education. I believe that it is in a well-planned, well-contrasted and well-linked-up system of alternative post-primary courses that you get that equality of opportunity which we on all sides of the House desire to see the children of this country obtain. But in working out those alternatives to be placed before children of different types of ability we have to recognise the fact that the secondary school as we know it—the school of the academic type preparing children for academic examinations and leading towards the university or training college—is something very much older than the other types of post-primary education which we are now trying to offer. The roots of secondary schools are centuries old. They go back to the grammar schools of the middle ages. They have a prestige which our central and reorganised senior schools have not yet acquired. For that reason, they do, I think, in all areas, tend to attract to themselves a certain number of children whose ability would perhaps be better developed in a central or senior school—children of a more practical form of ability. It stands to reason that they are more likely to do this if no fees are charged in those secondary schools.

Therefore, I cannot help feeling that, partly on the grounds of the expense which free secondary education means—it is the most expensive form of education we offer—and partly because free secondary schools tend to attract to themselves some children who probably would be more interested in their work and really get on better in a central or senior school, free secondary education may well tend to be an impediment in the provision of that variety of courses which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) wants and which has been recognised by all political parties in this House as being what we must strive to attain. Therefore, I cannot help feeling that the hon. Gentleman had not thought this matter out very clearly and that, in fact, he is really striving for a name rather flan for a reality. Moreover, possibly one reason which may weigh with him is that that name does connote a higher scale of salaries for the teachers of whom, I believe, he is regarded as the representative in this House.

There is another matter in which I feel that free secondary education is not always in the interests of the young people of this country. Young people entering a secondary school know that, if successful at that school, they may have the chance of going on to a university or a college and thereafter of entering professional employment. In these days, all types of employment may be difficult to obtain, but probably the most uncertain of all is the professional type of employment. We have heard that in ale last few months some 200 new factories have been started or are about to start in this country. That means immediate employment when those factories open for a considerable number of manual workers of different kinds. A result of that kind may follow quickly on improvement in trade, but improvement in employment for professional workers is something which is likely to be very much slower. Everyone knows what very great difficulty people accustomed to professional employment, or who have been trained to enter professional employment, are experiencing in finding work of that kind. There are many young people who, because they have been to the secondary school and the university, or to the secondary school alone, have naturally been led to believe that they will find employment of that type, and who to-day are suffering bitter disappointment because that employment has not matured. Any disappointment of that kind occurring at the outset of life must be very hard to endure. It may well give a somewhat embittered outlook on life, a thing which we should always try, as far as possible, to safeguard the young people of this country from experiencing.

I feel that it is a very important matter to the individual and to the State that we should have a variety of instruction at the post-primary stage rather than to over-emphasise perhaps one type of education, particularly when it is a type of education which tends to be most suitable to a minority rather than to a majority of our young people. The State, let us never forget, needs to develop all varieties of ability, because the State needs such a variety of capacity in the various services necessary to carry on the country. The two things correspond. You must train children to develop varied ability, because a great country like this, with an infinite variety of industries and occupations, offers an infinite variety of opportunity in normal circumstances, and education must seek to minister to that variety by providing a variety of courses which will correspond with the variety of ability.

I should like to say a word of reassurance to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Sir A. Baillie), who I am sorry not to see in his place. I should like to reassure him, or any Scottish Members who may be in the House at this moment, that the Board of Education is not the Scottish Education Department. It is a point we do well to remember. Therefore, his fears, and the fears expressed by his correspondents, that the Circular applies to Scotland are groundless. But, of course, Scotland may have to make economies in her education ser- vices, as I fear that the financial difficulties of these times require all Departments of State and all forms of local government to make economies. I can reassure my hon. Friend that Scotland's education system will allow the Scottish Education authorities and the Scottish Education Department to make their economies in their own way.

But, as he has touched upon this subject, I would say that Scotland has a very old system of grant-aided secondary education, a system much longer aided in that way than is to be found in England or Wales. I believe that Scotland in developing, as she is, this system of secondary education and making it free over a very large part of her area, has too often sacrificed the educational needs of the great majority of her children to the form of education that was necessary for the child of academic ability. I believe that Scotland is beginning, rather tardily, to awaken to a recognition that she, too, like her sister of the South, needs above all things greater variety of courses at the post-primary stage. It is along the path of trying to turn out varying and infinitely valuable types of ability instead of concentrating upon one particular type of school suitable for a minority rather than for a majority, that both countries will be able to give a real equality of opportunity to the children for whom they are responsible, and so enable the great service of education to be of the highest value to our country.


The House is certainly indebted to the Noble Lady the Member for Kinross and Western Perth (Duchess of Atholl) for a speech which was both authoritative and convincing. Those of us who may have had doubts, especially hon. Members from over the border, about the effects of the Circular will certainly feel that it is not as dangerous as we thought. Her speech also contained one feature which has not distinguished any of the preceding speeches in that it regarded the Motion before the House as a whole. Were the Motion before the House merely a commentary upon Circular 1421 I do not think that it would have been necessary for me to intervene, still less should I have thought it worth while to put down a possible Amendment to the Motion. The Motion starts by reaffirming, as it says: The principle of free secondary education. I was hoping that we should be told when it was affirmed, so that we should know what precisely we are asked to realise from an interchange across the Floor of the House in the earlier stages of the Debate. I understand that there was a semi-affirmation in a private Member's Motion in 1925. In the Amendment which stands in my name—in line 1, to leave out from the word, "House," to the end of the Question, and to add in-stead thereof the words, approves the principle of charging fees for secondary education to parents who can afford to pay them; relies on the Board of Education to secure that a child likely to profit by such education shall not be prevented from obtaining it by reason of its parents' poverty; and reaffirms its desire for a system of compulsory attendance at day continuation schools"— and which I do not propose to move that which I say as being worth re-affirmation is something which was worked out by the Board of Education over a long period and introduced by a Minister of Education—one of the best Ministers we have had in modern times—and carried through the House and is now on the Statute Book. That is what I mean when I ask the House to reaffirm something. I am rather surprised that the Labour party should find it necessary to disapprove of the idea of charging fees for secondary education for parents who can afford to pay them. The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Price), whose speech must have impressed the House by the sincerity of his enthusiasm for education, was quite off the subject of the Motion. He should have welcomed the Circular. He was objecting to the different economies, the effect of which was to reduce the possibility of education to the children of the poorest people. The prime effect of the Circular, whatever else may be said about it, is obviously to charge fees to parents who can afford' to pay them, and, in so far as that is achieved, obviously it will give less excuse for economies in any other area of education. As far as that goes, it should be welcomed by the other side rather than disapproved. The principle of giving free secondary education to a child of the relatively well-to-do is surely not one which has ever been accepted in this House as gospel.

The Noble Lady and another speaker have pointed out the manifest injustice of the present system as between different localities. In Manchester secondary education is free. In Leeds fees are charged. Why should my constituents who are themselves paying fees to have their children educated also be contributing to the taxes with a view to aiding the education of Manchester children? They would not, I am sure, have the least objection to assisting in the education of the children of necessitious areas in Glamorgan and that kind of thing, but why should they assist in the education of the children of Manchester, where the parents can afford to pay That is a point to which I ask the Opposition to address themselves and to give us a satisfactory answer.


That is easy.


I shall listen to hear the easy answer. My constituents are generous with their money in good causes, but if they have to pay money for education they prefer to pay it for their own children rather than the children of Manchester. No one has referred to the fact that the relatively well-to-do, for whom some people speak with so much sympathy, are getting a remission through rebates of Income Tax. I have not worked out the figures, but I see it stated that an income of £250 a year gets £6 5s. remission of Income Tax, and that an income of £450 a year gets a remission of £10 12s. Surely, if those relatively well-to-do people, relative well-to-do as compared with the poorest people, are getting remissions to that extent from their Income Tax, it is a very reasonable demand that they should contribute fees in the secondary schools.

I want to deal with a subject on which the Noble Lady touched, namely, the merits of free secondary education. Free secondary education as an ideal is not particularly attractive unless it forms part of a scheme of compulsory secondary education. In the case of elementary education we compel every child, for the good of the State and for the good of the child, to receive a certain minimum education, and because we compel them, we say that that education is free, whatever may be the circumstances of the parents. I have myself taken advantage of that free education in an admirable village school, for some of my children. Surely, no one would seriously argue that what we know as secondary education is desirable for the whole population. We do not propose to make it universal and compulsory, because it is appropriate to one type of person, perhaps a large type, but not to everybody. If I may take the analogy of schools which, curiously, are called public schools with a capital "P," I believe that those schools and the children who go to them alike sometimes suffer from the fact that it is thought that the indiscriminate sending of children to those schools is the normal and right thing to do. To get an impression that secondary education as we now know it is the normal route for the average child does no good to the cause of education.

There is a second reason why I object to free secondary education, and that is that it is manifestly impracticable. I remember the time when the continuation schools were under discussion in the Board of Education. I remember very well Mr. Fisher pointing out that universal secondary education was off the map but that his scheme of continuation schools was carefully devised to give that universality, and would give the kind of education that was appropriate to the great mass of scholars who had left the elementary schools. Those of us who are interested in education have talked for many years about the broad highway of education. We profoundly believe in a broad highway. We want it to be broad, but it is not necessarily the broad highway to the university. The university is not the fate of the mass of the children of this country and is not likely to be for a long time, and not likely ever to be so long as university education is what we know it to be at the present time. The broad highway is the highway from education into industry, mainly manual, and it is not the way via the secondary schools into the professions.

I wish the Labour party, instead of pursuing an aim which is quite impracticable within any reasonable time, would pursue something that can be achieved. I think I am not the only person who while a member of that party was sorry that that party had the habit of rejecting what was available, for the sheer delight of advocating what seemed ideal.


You did not say so then.


You were swindled into our party. The only recommendation that we got of you was a lie.


I do not think that is strictly relevant to this Debate. Perhaps we can talk about it in the Lobby. I invite the Labour party to remember that the compulsory continuation school was something which at one time they agreed with and welcomed. I notice that the eyebrows of the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) show extreme doubt.


You are highly imaginative.


I should like to refer to something which was quoted by Lord Henry Cavendish Bentinck, in a Debate in 1924, from a memorandum which was issued by the Advisory Committee on Education of the Labour party, after the Fisher Act had been passed. That memorandum said: It is no exaggeration to say that, for good or evil, this will be the most powerful educational influence to which the nation has been subjected since the nationalisation of elementary education.…Almost the whole youth of the nation will pass, at the most plastic period of their development, from the new continuation schools. They will enter them little more than children and they will leave them ultimately as young men and young women. In the interval their character and intelligence will have received a bias which must often be decisive. That was the view of the Labour party when they first considered compulsory continuation schools. Experience shows that where they were tried they were doing a very good work. I need not quote from the reports of the London County Council showing that where the continuation schools were tried they were achieving what they were devised to achieve, nor do I need to quote from what Mr. Fisher said on the subject. I ask the House to realise that by setting up for education an aim that is impracticable at the present time hon. Members are doing no good to the cause of education. Let me refer to what would be the position if we had had continuation schools set up throughout the country. Think of the problem of unemployment. What do the secondary schools accomplish with regard to the unemployment problem? The present figure of unemployment between the ages of 14 and 18, according to the latest return in the Labour Gazette, is 135,000, and we know that there are about 20,000 in attendance at juvenile centres. Is there any hon. Member who would not be happier if he knew that these unemployed boys and girls were attached not merely to the tragic army of the workless, but also to a band of fellow students with whom they would be enjoying the interests and activities of school life? The Labour party has missed an opportunity of bringing about a good thing in that respect. I ask them not to hold up an impracticable ideal but to support those things that are more possible and much more valuable.


I notice that the hon. Member who has just sat down devoted his remarks, and I think wisely, rather to attacking the actual terms of the Labour party's Motion than defending the terms of the scale set up in the Circular. I suppose that the Circular affects the constituents of university representatives in a larger measure than those of any other type of representative. Especially is that the case in regard to the representatives of the younger universities. All the universities, but especially those universities which I have the honour to represent, being very democratically constituted, draw a very large proportion of their students from those who come from the elementary schools via the secondary schools. In the last Parliament, when the Labour party made an attempt which, fortunately, was defeated, to abolish university representation, I made inquiries which showed that something like two-thirds of the graduates of the eight combined English universities—rather less in some of them and rather more in others—came from the elementary schools via the secondary schools. At Oxford it was then reckoned that over 45 per cent. of the students there would not be able to enjoy their education without financial assistance from public funds.

It is plain, therefore, that any step which tends to bar out from the secondary schools a perceptible proportion of the abler children of the higher paid artisans and the lower paid professional men, and commercial men, who are the groups that seem likely to be affected, will have a very serious bearing on the universities themselves. The question is whether this Circular will have that effect. The Gov- ernment deny that that is either intended or that it is probable. As a defence against the rigorous application of their own Circular, the Department seem to depend upon the discretion of the local authorities. The Noble Lord, the President of the Board of Education, in defending the Circular in another place, laid great stress, as did the Parliamentary Secretary to-day, on the amount of elasticity that is proposed to be allowed. But is that consistent with the admission that was made by both that whatever variations are allowed the financial result must be the same—a saving of £400,000 must be accomplished. If that is to be so, it is clear that if there is to be a little elasticity and a little generosity in one direction there will have to be a little more pinching in another direction.

7.0 p.m.

I find it very difficult to reconcile two assumptions or statements that were made in the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to-day. He laid it down distinctly that it was the intention of his Department that no child who was fit to profit by secondary education should be deprived of it because of the working of this Circular, merely because his parents were unable to pay fees. How is that compatible with the principle that a saving of £400,000 approximately has to be achieved? It is clearly a matter of speculation whether the working of this Circular will produce anything like that saving, without causing the exclusion from the schools of a great many children whose parents cannot be expected to pay. After all, if the Board lays down a particular scale, even if it does not lay down a hard and fast rule, it presumably expects it to be followed by the great majority. The question, therefore, is whether in the great majority of instances the scale is going to work out successfully. The test of success, as laid down by the Ministry, is whether it produces the desired economy while allowing to pass into the secondary schools all the children who ought to be there. That is question of future fact as to which there can be no certainty, and we can only take opinions. It is significant that practically all the organised bodies of teachers have pronounced, almost unanimously, against the terms of the Circular. The Parliamentary Secretary quoted with satisfaction one headmaster who had written to the "Manchester Guardian" defending the Circular. How many have written to the same newspaper attacking the Circular? What is more significant is that the organisations of headmasters, assistant headmasters, assistant masters, headmistresses and assistant mistresses have issued a circular of practically unanimous opinion of the other order.


Does the hon. Lady realise one essential difference? The headmaster had tried the scheme and the others had not.


The headmasters and headmistresses who have expressed their opinion have been able to see the actual effect of raising scales. A headmaster in an important town only the other day pointed out—I am speaking from memory—that, when the 1922 scales were raised, there was a very serious falling off, and so the scales had to be lowered again. Then the Workers' Educational Association, who perhaps more than any body in England may be expected to be in close touch with the working-class opinion, have been conducting a very active campaign against this Circular. A very large number of education committees have also been doing so—Lancashire Education Committee, Middlesex County Council, Derby Borough Education Committee—I will not go through the long list of education authorities who have protested. These bodies, many of whom are in daily contact with the schools, and with the pupils, and know the circumstances of their own districts, are in a better position to judge of the effect of the proposal than any official at Whitehall, or even inspectors whose contact with the schools is much less intimate.

We have also the fact that, quite recently, where the fees have been raised at the technical evening institutes of London, they have already resulted in a falling off of no less than 14 per cent. of entrants. This raising of fees has had the same effect on the day continuation schools. The crux of the difference of opinion as to the probable effect of the Circular turns on the scale. We have varying opinions as to the general principle of whether there ought to be complete free secondary education. I do not believe that in the present economic circumstances any protest would be raised against a scale, if those who had to work it were convinced that it would allow the entry of all the children who ought to be let in, without producing special hardship upon their parents. We have had many criticisms of the scale which has been laid down, and there has been little attempt to defend it. Those who are defending the scale have always fallen back upon the blessed word "elasticity"; if the scale works harshly it can be modified, but, of course, the same economy has to be produced.

I will not discuss detail as it is very difficult in a Debate to give a clear notion of the effect of figures. I have spent a considerable part of my life on this very question of the cost of living and household budgets as affecting different classes of the community and, as I see the scale, it is amazing it could have been produced by experienced officials of the Board of Education, presuming that the President of the Board of Education was acting upon their advice. It seems to be considered that the class of parent who mainly supply the scholars for the secondary schools are able to live at an incredibly low rate. It is not an impossible rate, and a very large proportion of the working-classes have far less to spend on rent, food and clothing, than would be left to the parent with an in-come of £3 to per week, after he had paid the fees indicated as possible in the scale. But, after all, in reckoning what the actual effect of this Circular is going to be upon the schools, and upon the type of children who pass into the schools, we have to consider not merely what is theoretically possible to parents willing to keep their families at a bare sustenance level. It is necessary to allow something for the customary standard of life, and amenities which bulk as necessaries in the lives of parents belonging to the occupational group from which secondary school children are mainly recruited.

The secondary school child's parents cannot, usually, inhabit a slum or an overcrowded cottage. The child must have privacy for his studies. He will mix with children of a superior social grade to himself, and he must be able to enjoy some opportunities and amenities—access to books and opportunities for holidays such as his fellow students enjoy, if he is to compete fairly with them. One notices that the defenders of this Circular in many cases belong, themselves, to a very much higher grade of income level than those represented by most of the parents of children in rate-aided secondary schools. One notices a tendency to expect from these parents austerities and a willingness to make sacrifices of a very severe character. It is assumed that parents should not look for State aid for their children if they can by any means exist without it. Let me, therefore, use the argument which I think has most weight in my own mind. I think it should have weight with the defenders of the Circular, most of whom come from the dominant party of this House, a party which arrogates to itself the defence of the British Empire and almost the monopoly of the Union Jack.

My strongest objection to this Circular is that it forms part of a policy of which we have already had several instances in this Parliament; a policy which is attended with grave dangers from the Empire point of view. The special irony of it is that it should have for its author a President of the Board of Education who will always be associated in the public mind with the great services he has rendered to the Empire as Viceroy of India. There is a link between this subject and India. India is a country where the population, in spite of great poverty, has increased in the last decade by 10 per cent. Ours is a country where the population has almost reached a stationary point, and will shortly decline. In populations, they say, it is the quality that matters and not the quantity. If there is anything in heredity, environment and education, what do the figures teach us as to the probable future quality of the British nation and its capacity to produce the kind of leaders who have made us good pioneers and colonists in the past?

The birth-rate in all the brain-working and directive occupations—clergy, doctors, teachers, civil servants and so forth, has steadily and steeply declined. The results of the 1931 Census are not yet fully known, but we do at least know that the fall in the birth-rate bas begun to affect the artisan class. We are recruiting our population from Irish dock labourers, ill-fed and unskilled; agricultural labourers, factory workers, and ill-fed, although not unskilled, miners. I ask those who believe in the white man's burden, the Imperial mission, and the rest of it, whether this eugenic fact is a safe one. I look upon it not as a failure but as a triumph when our subject peoples claim to themselves the right of freedom and democratic institution about which they have learned the value from the inspiration of our own writers and the education we have given them: In everything we are sprung Of earth's first blood, have titles manifold. What is the use of a nation having titles manifold if it is of barren stock with no children fit to inherit its title? As fervently as any flagwagger in the House, I believe in the quality of the Anglo-Saxon race and its mission to all backward races.

Some Members may think the educational Circular we are discussing to-day is very remote from this particular eugenic consideration. I maintain it has a very practical bearing on the eugenic problem. Although its bearing is not perhaps discernible to those living in the high places of statesmanship, it is discernible to those who see what is going on in the minds of men and women of this country who are living on low or moderate levels of income. They represent a high quality of education and a capacity and ought to be encouraged to make their contribution towards the equipment of a future generation. This Circular is a step, only a single step, but not an inconsiderable one, in a policy which is quite steadily and perceptibly discouraging the production of more than one or two children in a family among just those occupational grades which should be encouraged to produce themselves most freely.

Rightly or wrongly, it may be wrongly, these people, the lower paid professional man, the middle grades of commerce and the skilled artisan, have standards of comfort which they are not willing to forgo beyond a certain point. They will make sacrifices for their children but they are ambitious for their children and for themselves, and if they cannot see their way to do justice, or what they consider justice, to a family of more than one or two or three children they will limit their families to that level. When families are as small as that emigration and enterprise are discouraged. Parents want to keep their one or two sons and daughters at home to look after them in their old age. It was the younger sons of big families that built up the colonies, and our overseas commerce. These big families are now a thing of the past, but there is a grave danger that we are going too far in the opposite direction. The French, with their clear if somewhat narrow view, take a much more realistic view of these problems. 'They have chosen this time of economic stress for the inception of free secondary education. As late as 1930 it was announced that they intended to free all secondary schools progressively, beginning with the lowest class in the secondary school course to the highest, so that there might be in the words of M. Herriot, The same access to knowledge to every child in France. They have gone much further. At the beginning of this year, in January, when France was beginning to feel the full blast of the economic blizzard they passed into law, practically without opposition and with the consent of all the great federations of trade unions and employers, and all parties in the two Chambers, a statute requiring every employer to pay cash allowances to their employés for all their children, with no income limit. Belgium has taken the same course, and in practically every continental country except our own and two or three of the more backward and poverty stricken countries, the State has set an example with regard to their own employés. There is practically a universal system on the Continent in State and municipal services for the payment of cash allowances for all employés in the public service. That represents the conception of a danger to which we in this country seem to resolutely shut our eyes.

It has been said that the Motion means that when the Opposition are in power free secondary education will immediately be brought into effect. I do not think that is so; and probably it is not even possible. Whatever form of free secondary education is desirable a much longer preparation will be required for bringing it into full effect. I intend to vote for the Motion because the Circular in my view represents a step in the wrong direction. It represents the most short- sighted and most dangerous of all forms of economy. It is economy in the educational opportunities that are afforded to the rising generation. I hope that the Government will be convinced by the rising tide of indignation against this Circular and will withdraw it or greatly modify it. It is true that the classes affected, the middle and professional classes, are less able to make their electoral weight felt immediately, but in the long run they carry great influence. This Circular, and other steps which have been taken to make it more difficult for the head of a middle-class household, has done a great deal to alienate their sympathies from the National Government, but I hope that in time, and for their own sake, the Government will set their foot upon a different course.


I regret that the subject of education has not been made a non-party question. If there is one subject which should be removed from party politics it is that of education; and I am quite certain that if we had divorced it from party politics to-night there would have been a great deal more support for the Motion from this side of the House. Some of us are placed in a rather difficult position. Excellent as was the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary there are one or two things upon which I should have liked him to have been more direct. He does not seem to be aware that it is not only this particular Circular which is causing some apprehension, but what it denotes and connotes. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us how far this policy is to go. Is it only a temporary policy on the part of the Board of Education and, if so, what is their larger policy. You cannot possibly keep on with a policy of what are called non-detrimental education cuts. The acid test which we must apply is this; can we at this stage in the nation's crisis afford to make any cuts of any kind in our educational services. In other words, are we going to accept the principle that the best brains of the nation, the finest raw material we have at our disposal, shall receive the best possible education the country has at its command. That is the acid test, and I rather feel that Circular 1421 is a slowing down of the engine, and is defeating that object. The President of the Board of Education has said that it is a slowing down of the gears. This is not the time to slow down the educational gears, but rather the time when we should emulate the French and see whether we cannot lay down a five year or a four year plan for our educational system.

There are some things which we can grant very readily. One is that the Circular does not attack the very poor child, it does not injure the poor child, provided there is the necessary generous maintenance allowance. I agree with the authors of the Circular that the exigencies of the times do not permit us to go in for a free secondary education for all. I will grant that, but it seems to me that the Circular is based on the principle that those who can afford should pay. If you carry that to its logical conclusion there will come a time when you will have to ask the very rich parent to pay for the lot. At any meeting which I attend somebody always says that they have to pay for their child's education and also to pay rates and taxes for the education of somebody else's child. I never go to a public meeting but what I am up against that fallacy. The truth is that the child in a secondary school is often having a greater secondary State grant than the amount the parent pays in rates and taxes. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) has said that we are in danger of being governed by Government circulars. That danger is all the more obvious because we are going in a circular motion which brings us back to the point from which we started.

The Parliamentary Secretary will not dispute this, that whatever may be the merits or demerits of the Circular it does have a tendency to raise secondary school fees, and it institutes a means test. I should have thought that we have had quite enough discussion of a means test in this House for some time. There are one or two questions I want to put to the Parliamentary Secretary. Can he say what objections the Government have t: the proposals of the Association of Education Committees? Is it not possible that the opinions of the Association of Education Committees might eventually save as much money as it is intended to save by this Circular? It is a question of saving £400,000. The point is this, that you cannot have a stretching of the elastic and a contracting of it and still have the £400,000, and, therefore, I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether, as there is a doubt about getting the money, the Circular is really worth while. It has been suggested that there are ulterior motives behind this Circular. We have heard some talk about class distinction. I can only say, and I know that the Parliamentary Secretary will bear me out, that we should despise any such base motives, and roundly condemn them.

7.30 p.m.

With regard to the means test, let me say this. I was for 10 years a member of a local authority, and I know something about administration. It has been part of my lot to administer a means test, but it was a far more generous means test than the one in the Circular. In the district in the Midlands from which I come we were not blamed for throwing money about or being over-generous, but it certainly was a much more generous scheme than this. It seems to me that we are going back at a time when we ought to go forward in secondary education. In my experience some people got out of the test. It was difficult in some cases to find the exact means of a man. The Board of Education in 1910 said that attempts to define the poverty qualification are apt to be uncertain in their application, liable to evasion, and not very satisfactory in working. That was my experience. Some classes of the community, if they wish to be dishonest, find it easy to conceal their total income or to hide some of the sources from which it is derived. These obtain preferential treatment under any scale which could be devised. Those are not my words, but the words of the Board of Education. I should be glad if the Parliamentary Secretary would reply to a question which was put to him earlier, as to what the Board intend to do when they are faced with the great crisis of a mass of unemployed teachers. An hon. Member said he would like to hear some expert on this question. I do not claim to be an expert. I know that an expert has been defined as "one who knows more and more about less and less," but if the Parliamentary Secretary does want an expert, one with real knowledge of education, let me refer him to a letter I have here, written by one of our most successful directors of education. It was the reading of this letter that convinced me that the Circu- lar was wrong. This one sentence appears to be unanswerable: Under the new regulations it would appear that the ability to pay rather than merit would be-the main factor in keeping schools up to their full complement, for these measures will entirely put an end to free secondary schools, while the means test, combined with the increase of fees, will eliminate from the secondary schools the children whose parents earn too much to qualify for special places but not enough to pay fees and to face the expenses incidental to a secondary school course. This is the problem. Such a result would be highly disastrous to the welfare of the nation. At present schools like our own contain children representing practically all degrees of the social ladder, and such an arrangement makes for mutual understanding and the removal of class prejudice. It is because of those things that I am reluctantly compelled to support in a way the main feature of the Resolution that has been proposed. I know that the Noble Lady has said that we cannot afford it. We have been told that so many times, and we have heard so much about Scotsmen to-night, that I shall conclude my remarks by quoting a very successful and very shrewd Scotsman. He was appealed to by a young man, who said that he could not afford this thing and the other thing, and his reply was, "My lad, there are some things you must have whether you can afford it or not, and you must afford it afterwards." One of the things that this country must have is education of a higher and better type. If you slow down the engines there is someone in the present generation who will miss the car, It is our duty, as the protectors of the nation's children, to see that not one part of the present generation misses its rightful heritage.


I do not feel satisfied that the part of the Circular relating to the limit of exemptions was considered sufficiently when the Circular was issued to the local authorities by the Board of Education. I know that it has given rise to considerable apprehension among many poor parents. It is on account of that apprehension that I interpose in this Debate. Let me say quite clearly that the means test in the case of parents who can afford to contribute towards the secondary education of their children is to my mind not only just and fair, but absolutely necessary in the proper administration or the Education Acts. The principle of the means test has long been accepted in London, and I do not see how anyone can take exception to it, except of course when the extreme view is taken that all education should be free. The principle of free secondary education has never been adopted in this country by any Government, whatever its political bias. Elementary education is compulsory, secondary education is optional. So long as that distinction exists there must obviously be some difference of treatment.

The only point I raise is that the income limit of exemption is too low, and I shall welcome an intimation from the Government that they will devise some means by which this figure may be raised. As a result of correspondence, interviews and very careful inquiry, I have come to the conclusion that there is considerable alarm in the minds -of parents in this matter. According to paragraph 4 of the Circular, the income limit is rather loosely fixed at £3 to £4 per week in the case of a family with one child, with an addition of 10s. for every additional child. After all, £3 a week is a very meagre fund out of which to find even the ordinary necessities of life. The difficulty I foresee is that if the Circular in its present form is approved, the Board will not be able to go outside the figures mentioned.

I am quite aware that the circular speaks of regard being paid to the particular circumstances of each area, but some unfortunate parent in some area must run the risk of being assessed at £3, otherwise that figure would never be mentioned in the circular at all. Would the Parliamentary Secretary mention any area where he thinks the income limit of £3 could be applied without hardship? It is necessary that parents should be convinced that the Government are proposing a fair deal. I feel that a fair deal is intended, but I do appeal most earnestly to the Government to raise the income limit. With that alteration and the willing assistance of the local education authority I am convinced that beneficial results will materialise in the interests of all concerned.


At any rate this Debate has given rise to several very interesting speeches. We welcome the expression of dissatisfaction to some degree with the circular of the hon. Lady who has just spoken. She can see that in some respects the circular may have very serious consequences. The hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. Morgan) seemed to be in a difficulty as to what he should do. I suggest to him that if he wants a free vote of the House on this question we can take off the party Whips if he will persuade the Government to do the same. We can then try to measure the extent of the hostility to this particular circular. Let the hon. Member get busy on the subject. We had a very interesting speech from the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman). To me it was a very remarkable speech, coming from him. The change he has made in his political associations allows him now to treat the most reactionary Measures as progressive. It is remarkable how the new influences have so soon had an effect on him. I recollect that during the lifetime of the Labour Government he was attending secret meetings and caucuses of all kinds to bring pressure to bear on the then Minister of Education to raise the school-leaving age to 15. I suggest that he get busy in that direction among those who are now his associates, if he ardently desires educational progress. lie will find plenty of opportunities for his persuasive powers. I would remind the hon. Member of the case of Leeds. Surely he ignored the point, in regard to secondary schools, that if in Leeds they want to reduce the fees they can do so, but that under this circular they will not have that power. That is the essential distinction.

Let me turn to the speech of the bon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone). It was very interesting, but some of us here do not share the pessimism she expressed in regard to those people who are right down at the bottom of the social scale. She seemed to have very great fears in regard to their powers of propagation and what may happen in future if they are left uninterfered with. The great mass of those people are victims of economic circumstances, and the fact that they are at the bottom of the social scale is no indication that their potential abilities, given proper opportunities, are not as great as those of any other class in society. Many of us on these benches resent people in the lower strata of society being spoken of as we heard them spoken of a few minutes ago by the hon. lady, though at the same time we welcome her general criticism of the Government. I am sorry that the Noble Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl) is not in her place. She criticised the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) on the assumption that support of free secondary education necessarily involved approval of our present system of secondary education in all its details and all its forms. The Noble Lady argued that because, in some details, the present, system was unsatisfactory, it was inadvisable to advocate free secondary education. She said that the educationists of to-day wanted greater diversity in the educational system. But even if the system is unsatisfactory, and many of us regard it as unsatisfactory, that is not an argument against free secondary education for all who can profit by it. It only means that you want to alter the system and bring it more into line with what you think it ought to be.

I turn my attention now to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary. He began, as is usual among his colleagues on the Treasury Bench, by talking about what the Labour Government did not do. He mentioned however that what they had done represented an advance of 5 per cent. in a certain direction. But he is not making any advance at all. He is going backwards and I do not know why he should sneer at the Labour Government of 1929. In some ways we are prepared to say, that Government was a halting, hesitating, vacillating sort of Government, the like of which we hope we shall never see again. I do not think we shall see its like again. The next Labour Government will be a real Labour Government, which will not halt or vacillate. Circumstances will be changed. But the reason for the vacillation of the previous Labour Government ought to be obvious to the hon. Gentleman if he thinks of some of those who sit beside him occasionally on the Treasury Bench. Its principal figures now sit over there as the leaders of another Government. How could he expect that Government to have been other than it was when its leaders have since gone over bag and baggage to the Tory party? It could not have acted very much differently from what it did with such a personnel. I was particularly interested by the Parliamentary Secretary's indication that, later on, there is to be another surgical operation, this time in regard to maintenance grants.


Perhaps the hon. Member would quote my words. I do not recollect saying that.


That was how I understood the hon. Gentleman's remarks, but if I am wrong I am glad to be corrected. I took it from him that there was likely to be, in certain circumstances, surgical operations on maintenance grants and in other respects, in the not distant future. But the great point in the hon. Gentleman's speech was that he stressed what he called parental responsibility in regard to secondary education. He must, however, realise that if you are thinking of the highest interests of the State, you cannot leave this question of secondary education to the vagaries of parents. Of course if the hon. Gentleman is merely thinking of this matter in terms of money his argument may be all right. Leave it to the parents. Let the parents pay. But surely the business of a Minister of State is not merely to think in terms of money. It is for him to think in terms of the highest interest of the State, a part of whose destiny has been placed in his hands. He ought not to leave a matter of such importance as secondary education to the vagaries of parents if he has regard to the general well-being of the nation.

Another part of his speech which did not seem convincing was that in which he attempted to refute the argument of the hon. Member for Aberavon in regard to the effect of the increase in fees. The hon. Member for Aberavon made it clear that the special places, as they are now called, will always be in a certain ratio to the fee-paying places. He went on to show that the fee-paying places, owing to the raising of the fees, would probably be fewer in number and that consequently there would be fewer special places. I wish to quote a few figures in that connection. In one case in which fees were raised by a local authority from £10 year in 1921, to £12 and £15 in 1922, 16 schools suffered among them a loss of 295 pupils and a drop in income from fees of £393. In a school of 308 pupils the fees were raised from £9 9s. to £15 and the numbers fell in eight years to 174. In a city school in Yorkshire in 1921 fees were raised from £6 6s. to £9 9s. and the numbers dropped year by year from 405 to 269 in 1931, and on the fees being lowered again to £6 6s. the numbers rose to 309. That is evidence that recent events will involve a diminution in the fee-paying pupils and it follows that there will be fewer free places or as they are now termed special places. Consequently, we are driven to the conclusion that the Circular is bound to have detrimental effects on secondary education.

I turn to the general argument which is put forward in support of the policy of the Board. This is all being done in the name of economy. The Parliamentary Secretary was in a difficulty, because he tried to reconcile the irreconcilable. He wanted to assure himself that the Circular would do no harm to education. He was trying to make himself believe that, but at the same time he was insisting that these were necessary economies and must be made whatever the consequences. The minds of hon. Members opposite work curiously on this question of economy. In the name of economy they do all sorts of contradictory things. The hon. Member for Central Leeds told us that in asking for free secondary education we were crying for the moon. He told us that it would cost under present arrangements about £3,000,000. That is half the cost of a battleship.


The proposal that there should be free secondary education for practically the whole of the available population would cost something like £50,000,000. Even taking any figure in between that and the £3,000,000, such as £35,000,000, that is still outside what will be paid in the course of the next 10 years or so by the people of this country in that particular direction.


We have always spoken of free secondary education for all those who can profit by it. Those are the terms in which we have always put forward this case and I think the hon. Member did use the figure which I have just mentioned in reference to the position at the moment. In that respect surely we cannot be accused of crying for the moon. Surely it is not beyond the bounds of possibility for the State, even now, to provide £3,000,000 more for secondary education. In my view what is happening in regard to this Circular and in other directions is that a process of development which has been going on in this country in recent times is now being challenged. I cannot help feeling, in view of some of the speeches which I have heard and some of the literature which has come into my hands, on the subject of education and its cost, that the drive for economy in this respect is largely motived by class prejudice. That point came out. incidentally, in the speech of the Noble Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross. She spoke of the professions being overcrowded. There are people in this country who regard the professions as the special preserve of those in a certain stratum of society. The encroachment into those spheres of young people from the bottom of the social scale is, in many quarters, greatly resented. I am forced to the conclusion, by criticisms which I have heard of expenditure on education by the State and the municipalities, that there is a class bias in this respect.

8.0 p.m.

I am astonished at the attitude of hon. Members opposite on this subject. Let it not be thought that I consider our State educational system, elementary or secondary, to be all that it ought to be. It is far from that. When compulsory elementary education was established 60 years ago I do not believe it was out of any desire to lift the people from the darkness of ignorance into the light of knowledge. It was very largely because changed economic conditions demanded workers who could at least. read write and count. We have had compulsory elementary education for 60 years. We have had a certain amount of secondary education and in the result, it has not, up to now, weakened the hold upon the community of hon. Members opposite or the political views which they represent. Rather has it strengthened their hold, because State schools, both elementary and secondary, training institutions for teachers, colleges and universities are the main bulwarks of the existing economic system. For the life of me, I cannot understand why hon. Members opposite should object to the extension of an edu- cational system which has made their position more secure and firm than ever before. I could level very serious criticisms, from my point of view, against the educational system, but that is not the business before us to-day. Perhaps I shall be able to do it on another occasion.

I want to say, in conclusion, that you are thinking of a future for this nation, and you must realise that in the world to-day the real struggle, however much you may be prepared to vote money for the use of force, is a battle of brains, the battle of intelligence with intelligence, of knowledge with knowledge; and in the highest interests of the State, and particularly of the children, surely you should not, by any action that you may take, deprive even one generation of children of any educational opportunities. They cannot live their lives over again. Remember that what you do in this Circular, depriving any children of educational opportunities which they might otherwise have enjoyed, you will not he able to undo, and you will have permanently injured those children. If, as you claim—and I have every respect for your sincerity—you are a patriotic party and think first of all of the highest interest and well-being of the State, I cannot reconcile this Circular with that point of view. Therefore, it is to me all the more amazing that the board should have issued this document.


I would very earnestly ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education if he cannot see his way to postpone the operation of this Circular for something like six months, and I base that appeal on the ground that it is obviously an economical problem which has not been sufficiently surveyed. There are two Economy Committees now sitting, one appointed by the Government, which is looking into local expenditure, and a very expert sub-Committee of which is considering the special question of economy in education, and the other a Committee of private Members of Parliament, which I understand is to report in a few days. I submit that we might wait for these reports. Those of us who are interested in education cannot but point out that the Estimates for education in the last year have already sustained a cut of 10.8 per cent. The operation of this Circular must be very ominous, and I want to point out some items in which I think it would have perhaps unexpected results.

First of all, with regard to the extent of the change contemplated, figures have been given to me, which I understand are correct, showing that no fewer than 1,128 schools out of the total of 1,367 will be expected to increase their fees. Four hundred thousand pounds must be found somewhere, and I submit that it will be found or extorted from the one class of the community which is the most defenceless, and that is the lower middle class. In another place the other day an excellent summary of the effect of this Circular was given, which I should like to read. It was stated: This means test will, undoubtedly, hit very hard a class which has already been very hard hit by recent economies. It will hit a class very many of whom have within the last year been brought under the income Tax. It will hit a class whose children's allowance have recently been cut down, and whose own salaries have been cut down. It will hit the better-paid artisan, the small professional man, teachers, clerks, shopkeepers, and the lower grades of the Civil Service.


What is the hon. Member quoting?


It is from a debate in the House of Lords, Lord Sanderson's speech, the first in the debate. He points out that in the case of a man whose income is £4 a week and who sends his two children to school and has to pay nine guineas for each, that is equivalent to imposing an additional Income Tax on that man of nearly 2s. in the pound; and if he has to pay a fee of 15 guineas, it will be equivalent to an additional Income Tax of 3s. The operation of this Circular, I submit, will affect the middle class, and it is a very extraordinary fact that in any period of great distress it is the middle class that goes under. Au interesting illustration of that fact is afforded by an inquiry which was made, under the auspices of the Royal Society, into the position of Germany immediately after the War. The middle class in Germany was practically wiped out, and the reason given for that circumstance was largely that they were undernourished far more severely than any other class of the community, and the reason for that again was that they had to keep up appearances more than the persons who were receiving much the same income but were not under that necessity.

A paper has been published lately in which an attempt has been made by a distinguished professor of industrial physiology to compute the minimum expenditure required to secure the minimum physiological dietary at the prices which ruled at the beginning of the year, and that very interesting summary demonstrated that something like 30s. a week would be required by a family of four persons. The tendency for a middle class family is to economise upon food, and I fear very serious results from any further burdens laid upon that class. In a very interesting speech from my right hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) in this House last week, he drew attention to a change which he himself had observed as coming over a large section of the unemployed, and he used the expression that they were "rotting" in body, soul and spirit. I submit that the reason which he gave for that perfectly obvious phenomenon is not so much the mental factor, which he stressed, as actual undernourishment. What broke the German people at the end of the War was nothing but lack of food. The mortality of children between two and six years in Germany during the War was 50 per cent. more than before, and the mortality from tuberculosis was too terrible to contemplate. It is that element of undernourishment which would follow upon any further burdens which might be placed upon a people who are struggling very hard indeed to provide adequate nourishment for their children that I fear in this connection.

I am personally in a considerable difficulty in this Debate, because I do not agree with the first part of the Motion moved from the Front Opposition Bench, and I regret very much that that affirmation was made. I think it would have secured a very much larger volume of support without that preamble, but if there is no other means of persuading the Government to withdraw or postpone the Circular, I shall feel compelled to vote with the Opposition on this occasion.


With much that has been said by those who have so far taken part in this Debate, many of us will agree, but few of us, I think, will agree with the suggestion of the hon. Member for Neath (Sir W. Jenkins), who I regret is not now in his place, that this Circular on secondary schools should be an issue at the next general election. I do not think the hon. Member was serious when he made that suggestion. Again, with regard to the statement made by an hon. Member that we on these benches ought to thank God for all the brains and all the genius, I do not think we wish to thank God for that, but we do sincerely thank God for the faculties that we have. We are not greatly concerned with the duel between the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown) and the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman), but I would like to point out to the hon. Member for Mansfield, who referred to those at the very bottom of the scale, that they are not affected by the Circular.

I am not opposed to a means test in this matter of secondary education, because I have known of many exceptionally well-off parents who have had all their children educated at the expense of other people, but I rise chiefly to make an earnest appeal to the Board of Education to raise the income limit. I do so because of the position of the people in my own constituency, Lincoln City, and in like engineering centres, where industrial depression and distress are most acute. It is true that the parents of most scholarship holders at present in our four secondary schools are so poorly paid that they will not be called upon to pay fees, but there are many parents who are making sacrifices to pay six guineas, and it would be adding a heavy additional burden on those people to make them pay a fee of nine guineas.

I will not repeat the statistics that various other speakers have given during the Debate, but Lincoln parents who will be called upon to pay fees, or a proportion of fees, are already living within a very small margin, and in many cases are in uncertainty as to whether their employment will cease this week or next. The suggestion which appears in a "Times" leading article that in future the children who have hitherto passed into the secondary schools with scholar- ships shall be educated in the new senior schools, which are being organised as a result of the Hadow Report, would, if adopted, be in the opinion of many educationists nothing short of a disaster. Surely the object of the Hadow Report was to urge the further education of all adolescents, not to shut the doors which have been opening wider since 1902. Hitherto the comparatively well-to-do scholars have served to bridge the gulf between them and the poor scholars dependent on maintenance grants. If, as the result of this new scheme, those disappear, there will be a marked difference between the two classes, and the social mixture which has been so valuable to all will be in danger.

The adverse effect of this Circular will not be felt so much by the children at present at school, but schools will suffer in that many able children will in future not be able to accept the special places because their parents are unable to shoulder the additional costs. An easy passage into the secondary school for bright children has been one of the biggest assets in making for content in very troublous times. The money saved by the policy of this Circular will not be enough to justify the stirring up of such widespread disappointment. In fact, I am informed that in Lincoln it is doubtful whether any money will be saved at all. I hope that the Minister will realise that the opposition to the suggested income limit is not confined to the Official Opposition. I have received, as many other hon. Members have, letters of protest from people of all political parties and from many who are attached to no political party at all. I have had protests from headmasters and headmistresses, and from practically every individual member of the local branches of the Workers' Educational Association. Only this morning I received the following resolution, which was passed on Monday at the half-yearly meeting of the Lincoln Co-operative Society: The Lincoln Co-operative Society, representing 26,285 members, strongly objects to the implications contained in the Board of Education's draft regulations for secondary schools and the accompanying Circular 1421, and asks the local education authority and the Member of Parliament to offer strenuous opposition to them. In addition to pleading on behalf of these worthy citizens of a worthy city, I plead on behalf of the great army of the lower middle-class who, on salaries of £5 or £6 a week, have in this conventional country to maintain an outward appearance that is perhaps not so essential to manual workers. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) speak on their behalf this evening. I also speak on their behalf, because, in my opinion, the lower middle-class, who always seem to be struggling against odds, are the salt of the earth. Their patriotism, national and local, is never at fault, but to-day they are having the greatest difficulty to exist.


I propose to confine my remarks to an examination of the proposals contained in Circular 1421 as they affect Wales. Forty years have elapsed since the passage of the Welsh Intermediate Education Act. Up to the passing of that Act, Wales had few secondary schools, but, as a result of the Act, we have to-day upwards of 100 secondary schools dotted all over the principality. It was no small task to establish those schools. In the main, their sites and buildings had to be provided by voluntary effort, but my countrymen were keenly alive to the value of education and overcame all the difficulties. To-day Wales can boast of one of the best systems of secondary education in the world. I attribute the success of the schools mainly to the fact that the governors had a free hand in their management. They were able to formulate their curricula and no one interfered. But to-day what do we find 2 After 40 years' successful administration of these schools, the Board of Education, for the first time in their history, are laying down conditions. The conditions are that we must increase our fees and adopt a means test. These proposals are a retrograde step. They have been vigorously opposed in Wales, they are still opposed, and they will be opposed to the end. I am not one of those who deny the necessity for economy in every direction, nor am I prepared to deny that the expenditure on secondary education has increased enormously.

Let me give a few figures to show the growth of expenditure in my constituency of Merioneth. For years after their establishment, the six schools of Merioneth had to depend on the halfpenny intermediate education rate, the twopence contributed by way of the technical education rate, and Government grants. In other words, the ratepayers maintained their schools on a 2½d. rate. To-day the grants have been increased enormously, and the 2½d. rate has actually mounted to 2s. 2½d. In the year 1913–14 the gross expenditure on secondary education in my county was £4,382; last year it amounted to £27,579. It is only fair to say that 75 per cent. at least of the additional expenditure is explained by the fact that teachers' salaries have also advanced in that time. I know that in these times of depression we must try to economise, but I feel that we are seeking economies in a service which is of vital importance to the country.

Figures have been given as to the savings that are to be expected in various districts. I am told that my own local education authority in Merionethshire will have to save £1,036. The Board of Education do not tell us that we must curtail our expenditure in any way, they have carefully avoided that, but what they say is that we have to find £1,036 more income. That is their way of getting out of a very difficult corner. The £1,036 which we have to find will mean a saving to the Treasury of £518 and a saving to the rates of £518; but who is to make up that sum? The parents of the children who are at school. Can the parents of those children afford to make up that £1,036? I will cite the cases of two schools in my own county, which differ materially, in order to show the position. One school, Towyn, is in a rural area; the Blaenau-Festiniog school is in a manufacturing or quarrying area. The Towyn school has been particularly fortunate in the matter of endowments. In the year 1931, when there were 313 pupils, 107 of them paid the full tuition fee, which was five guineas. Of the remaining 206 the fees of 76 were borne in full by endowments. There were thus 183 paying full fees out of 313 pupils.

What about the 130 who had free places? I have made a very careful analysis of the parents, knowing them intimately, and I can give first-hand knowledge. I found that 20 of the pupils had unfortunately lost their fathers, 19 are the children of quarrymen who are either on short time or are unemployed, 20 are the children of farmers—and Heaven knows the farming industry is very depressed at the present time—and 71 are the children of artisans, joiners, masons, platelayers, roadmen, and so on. I doubt whether there are 10 among the parents of this 130 who have an income of 50s. a week. In the light of that analysis, what can we expect from the Towyn school as a contribution towards the sum of £1,036? I will assume that the fees have to be put up, and that they are raised from 5 guineas to £7. The result would be this. Ten of these children would be paying half the tuition fees, and that would bring in £35; if the other 107, who at present pay full fees, were able to pay the additional fee of 35s., that would bring in £187 5s., making a total contribution of £222 5s. towards the £1,036. But there is this point to be borne in mind. With the advance in fees the number borne by the charities would have to be reduced, because the total sum yielded by the charity is already spent in maintaining pupils at school. Therefore, there will certainly be a reduction in the number of children attending school.

8.30 p.m.

Let me take the case of Festiniog. The only industry in this district is quarrying and as everybody knows quarrying is in a very depressed state. In 1931 there were 261 pupils, of whom 178 had free places. The fees of 41 were borne by the Technical Instruction Committee of the Festiniog Urban District Council, and the parents of 42 only paid the tuition fee, which was the very low sum of £3. Of the 178 who had free places the parents of no less than 155 have an income of less than £125, the parents of 10 have less than £150, the parents of six have less than £250, and in two cases only is the income more than £250. How much can we expect from a district where the inhabitants are all of the working class and where conditions are so unsatisfactory? In my opinion Merioneth will have a very difficult task in finding even £1,036.

I strongly urge that the Government should reconsider this Circular and if possible withdraw it. Money spent on secondary education is money well spent. Supposing that as a result of the putting up of these fees the parents of a certain number of scholars who now attend the county schools are unable to send them there. What will happen? They will have to remain at the elementary schools, as we have no central school except at Festiniog. All our children from 11, or at any rate from 12 years onwards, who are fit for secondary education go into the county schools, but if the parents cannot pay the fees they will have to remain at the elementary schools, with the result that the local education authority will be faced with the necessity of providing additional teachers and strengthening the upper standards in the elementary schools. In other words, if we gain on the swings we are going to lose on the roundabouts. As one who has devoted much time to education I feel very keenly the necessity of doing all we can for the poorer classes of the community, and I am perfectly certain that the Government will be doing the most popular thing in the world if they withdraw the Circular. I strongly urge them to do so.


I should like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education for the most lucid and clear statement which he has made in regard to the Circular. Although I do not agree with the Motion of the Opposition, I am extremely glad that they have raised this question of secondary education, with especial regard to Circular 1421. There still exists a good deal of misunderstanding as to the true meaning of the Circular. I, as well as other hon. Members, have received numerous letters and resolutions which show that this misunderstanding is only too general. I would like to make a few observations on a few of the statements that have been made in the House this afternoon. The hon. Member for Neath (Sir W. Jenkins) compared what we spent on education with what is spent on the defence forces. If I heard him aright, he mentioned the figure of £52,000,000 for education and £106,000,000 for the defence forces. I do not know to what he was referring when he mentioned £52,000,000, because I am almost certain that if you take into account the rates and taxes in England and Wales, the figure spent on education is over £80,000,000, and that if you include Scotland as well, the figure is nearly £100,000,000. When he says £106,000,000 for the defence forces, it should be remembered, in all justice, that he includes all the defence forces.

I hesitate to criticise anything said by the hon. Baronet the Member for South- West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) because of his long experience in education. He quoted a figure of £450 as the income limit for free places in London secondary schools. It is a perfectly correct figure, but I would like to point out that the figure was arrived at soon after the War, when the value of the pound was very different from what it is to-day. I know that we have gone off the Gold Standard, but, thanks to the National Government, the pound is still worth in this country. I should like to answer the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone). She said in her speech that the party to which I belong has taken a monopoly of the Empire. If that is what you call placing questions of Empire right in the forefront of your programme, then I accept the term she used, but I would like to say to her—I am sorry she is not here, but perhaps she will read what I am saying—that one of the reasons why we are in a majority in this House to-day is because we placed Empire in the forefront.

I do not intend to discuss at any length the whole question of free secondary education. A great many people, and very distinguished people who do not belong to any political party, and whose opinions are rather more worth having than our own, do not think that free secondary education would he in the best interests of the nation. In my very limited experience I agree with that view, provided always that no child of ability is debarred merely on account of insufficient money from climbing the whole length of the educational ladder, as they are able to do to-day. The fact that an ever-increasing number of elementary schoolchildren go on to a higher form of education and to universities should be a great source of satisfaction to us all. I agree with the last sentence in the Amendment, which has not been moved, but which is on the Order Paper. I hope that before long in this country there will be a system of compulsory day continuation schools. When the time comes, those schools must be compulsory to the whole country. The reason why continuation schools failed before was that they were not compulsory in the case of each authority.

In spite of the Motion which the Opposition have moved, I am not sure whether all Members of the Labour party are whole-hoggers on the question of free secondary education. I know that it is a very important point in the gospel of "Labour and the Nation," in which a promise was given that a Labour Government would use every effort to introduce a Bill for free secondary education. During their two years of office, whatever else the Labour Government did, they did not do this. I know that Sir Charles Trevelyan made very gallant efforts to raise the school-leaving age, but neither he nor his successor ever tried to introduce a Bill to make all secondary education free. Apart from the merits or demerits of the case, it would be quite impossible, from a financial point of view, at the moment, as is obvious from what has been said by the Parliamentary Secretary earlier in the Debate. If I believed for one moment that the Circular was what many of our opponents believe it to be, a measure of class prejudice to restrict the number of poor children able to receive secondary education, and intended to introduce a harsh means test, T should not hesitate to oppose the regulations to the utmost of my ability.

It is hardly fair of the Labour party to suggest that the Circular introduces a harsh means test, thereby insinuating that it is mixed up with the Poor Law. That is entirely misleading and unjustifiable. I fail to understand what hon. Members mean when they use the word "harsh." If I may make a digression to illustrate my point, I remember quite well not long ago, when I was a member of the London County Council, that the Labour party accused our side of administering the means test in London in a harsh and brutal manner. On the strength of that, and because I am not a member of a public assistance committee, I visited some of the poorest districts in London and sat through many of the meetings of the public assistance committees. Far from finding them either harsh or cruel, I can only say that the kindheartedness of the Leader of the Opposition could not have exceeded that of those whom I saw carrying on the work.

The intention of the Circular is to try to build up some kind of a standard in regard to the fees paid in all secondary schools; not a rigid standard, but a reasonable standard. It is unquestionably the case that there exist great discrepancies in different parts of the country where conditions are almost identical. The President of the Board of Education the other day gave the example of Wiltshire, where the fee charged is £6, while in the neighbouring counties of Dorsetshire and Somerset-shire the fee is double that amount. He pointed out that it follows that areas which administer economically—and this must by no means be confused with "harshly"—and which charge the highest fees, are subsidising and contributing to the areas which make the smallest charge. The differences, under the Circular, will have to be justified by each education authority entirely on the score of variations in local conditions and circumstances. Hon. Members opposite seem to forget paragraph 2 of the Circular, or, if they do not forget it, they refuse to believe it. Paragraph 2 says: The Board have been principally concerned to maintain the facilities which local education authorities and governors at present offer for poor parents to obtain for their children the benefits of secondary education, and for this purpose will continue to have regard to varying local conditions. I do not see how the Opposition can foretell certain calamity for secondary education before local authorities have had time to submit their schemes to the Board in connection with the recommendations of the Circular. It might be found impossible, in certain areas, to make any alterations at all, and there seems to me to be nothing in the Circular to prevent the Board from agreeing if a good case is made out. The Board have made it perfectly clear—and this is a very important point—that they will not sanction any proposals which they think would be detrimental to secondary education. [Interruption.] I am glad that hon. Members opposite agree with that. This seems to me to safeguard the position of the child who has ability but no money. As I understand it, there will be just as many places for the children of poor parents as before, and the Parliamentary Secretary has said this afternoon that, if the Board think it right, they can sanction up to 100 per cent. of these special places in the schools. It is only suggested that those who can afford to pay something towards the £35 which it costs to educate a child at a secondary school in England at the present time should be asked to do so, and I would remark that no one is being asked to pay the total cost. I was myself at first somewhat concerned for those people whose income comes just above the limit for exemption, and who now pay Income Tax as well, but, under the new regulation, as see it, those parents would only have to pay quite small fees, and the President has given an undertaking, which I am certain is welcome to every Member of this House, that he will keep a very special watch on this particular point. As has been already pointed out, it is fair to remember that there is quite a substantial remission of Income Tax given to parents who keep their children on for a longer period at school. I myself believe, although I know that hon. Members opposite will not, that a great many people prefer to pay something towards the expense of their children's education, and so, probably, in the long run, have less to pay in rates and taxes.

The suggestion in the Circular that the income limit should be from £3 to £4 a week has aroused this afternoon, and outside the House, a good deal of adverse comment and criticism, but the President has said, and we must believe him when he makes the statement, that these figures were put in in order to give a lead to local authorities, who will, as I have said, be entitled to vary them with differing conditions in their different districts. This applies also, as far as I can see, to the suggested increase in fees. In London, practically all free places, as I think was pointed out by the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green, are awarded as part of the Council's scholarship scheme, and are subject to the income limit to which I referred earlier. This, I understand, is the method adopted by the vast majority of local authorities throughout the country, and the principle, I think, is really not disputed by nine people out of 10 in this country.

In conclusion, I would say that anyone who, has had experience of the working of a local education authority will realise that, if this Circular is to work with success, it is of the utmost importance that local education authorities should be given as much freedom and latitude as possible in applying the regulations, and I feel convinced that that is the firm intention of the Board. Of course, any regulations can be administered so badly that they do harm, but I am sure that the keenness of the parents and the interest of the local education authorities in their work will not allow the schools to suffer, while in any event the new President of the Board of Education and the Parliamentary Secretary can be relied upon to see that these regulations are carried out in the spirit in which they were conceived, namely, in the truest and fairest interests of the children of this country.


I am quite certain that the hon. Member for East Islington (Miss Cazalet) has been labouring hard trying to justify her support of the Board of Education in issuing this Circular, but she must know, upon analysis, that her statements cannot be correct. The Minister has already definitely stated this afternoon that £400,000 will have to be found, and, if money has to be found up to a stipulated figure, there can be no elasticity at all. The local education committees cannot possibly have any authority to grant free places or special places if that means that some of the savings which the Government 'expect will have to be lost, so that there can be no elasticity in the matter. I am sure that, when the hon. Member appreciates that fact, she will realise that she has been labouring under a misapprehension. I do not know that we are surprised, because, after all, she is here because the members of her party in particular are supposed to be supporting the Empire, and I presume that she is here because she has been doing a great deal of flag-wagging about the country. Really, it is preposterous for any hon. Member opposite to tell us that the enormous majority behind the National Government are here because they have looked upon the Empire as of the first importance.


I said that that was one of the reasons.


Since it was the only reason mentioned, I have to presume that it was the major reason. If there were others, others would, presumably, have been mentioned. The Post Office trick worked very well last time. The present Government are trying in every way to diddle the people who were misled. The people who believed the posters issued and the statements made by the Conservative party, with the support of the Liberals—some of whom have since left them—have now, I trust, realised that every Bill that has been introduced into this House by the Government has been a deliberate attempt to take advantage of the poor in order that the richer classes may be able at least to be free from some of their responsibilities.

We have heard one or two very interesting speeches to-night. We find that the National Labour Members are the most retrograde in the House. The speech of one of the Members of that very small group was very amusing. He charged the late Labour Government with being remiss in not bringing in some Measure which would permit education in secondary schools to be free. He endeavoured to chide the Labour party for having done certain things. We were under the impression that, when these hon. Members joined the Labour party, they were declared Socialists, who believed in equality of opportunity for all. We have since discovered that they are just birds of passage, that they were in for some particular reasons, and I will leave it to hon. Members to conclude what those reasons were, but they were certainly not to usher in a state of Socialism.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)

May I call the hon. Member's attention to the Motion on the Order Paper that we are discussing?


I trust that I am permitted to reply to remarks that have been made by other Members.


The hon. Member knows perfectly well that he is not entitled, as the result of one remark, to enlarge generally on what occurred at the last General Election. He must direct his speech to the subject-matter of the Motion.


May we not argue that the Government made certain promises and put forward certain policies at the General Election and that this Order is something about which the public had no idea and that, had they had that idea, these right hon. Gentlemen would not be here? The hon. Member for East Islington (Miss Cazalet) and the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) have made very slashing attacks upon the policy of the last Government in a general way and not merely on this Order. Surely we are entitled to reply to that?


Mr. Williams!

9.0 p.m.


I have no desire to get out of order, I thought I should be in order in replying to certain remarks made by other Members. We had some singular remarks also from the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone). It is impossible to follow her into the realms of eugenics, on which she discoursed for about a quarter-of-an-hour. I certainly endorse the remarks of the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown). We deprecate the nonsense that is continually talked, that what is sometimes designated the lower order of society, the working classes, have not sufficient capacity to run this country, or industries for that matter, in the national interest. I have to conclude from what I have heard since I became a Member of this House that there is a volume of opinion behind the National Government supporting any and every cut contained in such measures as this Circular from purely class prejudice. I do not blame them for doing that. After all, it is only a matter of a few days when they will be completely annihilated. They realise that children who have passed through the secondary schools are to-day holding 73 per cent. of the scholarships at Oxford end Cambridge. They realise that their children do not possess greater mental capacity than the children of the lower orders. They realise that the day is not far distant when posts held by civil servants, and other high posts in the State, can be won on merit by children of the working classes, and they are just scared at the possibility that their children, whom they can afford to have educated at the public schools, may not be able to hold these posts which were once the preserves of the well-to-do. In every contemptible and mean way in which they can down-grade the educational standard of the masses, they will continue to do it. We had it from the Parliamentary Secretary himself that there is likely to he another surgical operation. Apparently, this is only the first—the introduction of the policy of down-grading the educational standard of the country.

It is the fervent desire of every parent who appreciates education to give his child as far as possible a better chance than he has had himself, and I believe every person would desire to have the best education at the least possible price. I believe the law of parsimony is one of the most demonstrable of all the laws of human nature—that of trying to obtain the most by the least effort. As a member of an education committee and governor of an intermediate school in Wales, and a group of elementary schools, I know that the lower middle-class is being pressed so hard financially that they are straining every possible means to have their children, whom years ago they could have educated at public schools, educated in intermediate or secondary schools. Applications are coming forward every month.

I want to put another proposition. I believe that every Member of this House regardless of his or her political predilictions is really very happy if he or she can by any means obtain the admission of a child into a secondary school. It is one of the things which gives all of us some joy, but the Circular is deliberately purporting to prevent children from getting free places. In my constituency there are two free schools. The children of Ogmore and Garw get into those schools free. All places in the free schools are held entirely upon merit without payment of any fees. There are six schools in Glamorgan. It cannot be argued that free places are not being abandoned if in each of those schools some special places have to be provided, because that implies that there must be some fee-paying places.

I want to put a question to the Parliamentary Secretary now that he has arrived. Can he tell me whether at the Ogmore and Garw schools, which have been free schools for years, the parents of the children attending those schools in the future will have to pay for the places occupied by their children? They are at present entirely free schools. There are six schools in Glamorgan which will no longer be free schools, and 74 in the country which will no longer be free schools. There may be some free places for the very poor, but they will not be free schools. Some places will be allocated to fee-payers. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies, to explain exactly what will happen in that regard. I should have thought that it would have been the ambition of every Member of Parliament to endeavour to place the national interest before any other interest. Surely it is not to the advantage of the nation to curb the development, either psychologically or physically, of the children of the nation. One would have thought that it would have been the pleasure of every Member of Parliament to have seen that this, above all things, was his or her bounden duty. Progress is impossible unless we are able to transmit to the coming generation the most significant of all immortal things, and that is the achievements of the past. When we talk about theory, it is nothing less than transmitting experience, and if each generation as it comes into being merely has to live its own life regardless of the theoretical conception which comes to it as a result of the experience of the past, we shall be going back to barbarism. One would have thought that the Members of the National Government would realise that the only semblance of civilisation which really exists is that we are able to give to the children, the coming generation, more than we received ourselves. That is the only concrete evidence of progression, and yet this retrograde step is being taken to save a paltry £400,000. I am surprised that the hon. Member on the other side who, I understand, was once a cadet and upon whom, of course, the State may have spent some hundreds, or it may have been thousands, of pounds in order to educate him, cannot realise the necessity of the children of the working people having something free.


If the hon. Member is referring to me—I do not know whether he is or not—may I say that in so far as the State spent money on my education as a cadet, I think it was a great pity, and I think that the more other people's money is spent the greater the pity.


I am glad that the hon. Member appreciates my point. The money spent by people in the upper strata of society is not created there. It is created at the bottom, in industry. The people who spend most are the people who really earn least. I am pleased to know that my hon. Friend is a convert, and I hope that when we put down a vote indicating that no money shall be spent in educating cadets he will come into the Division Lobby with me.


If the hon. Member will accompany it with an all-round cut, I will certainly go into the Division Lobby with him.


There is a further question I wish to put to the Parliamentary Secretary by way of interpretation of the circular. What is to happen to maintenance grants as such, and what is to happen with regard to the provision of meals? In Glamorgan practically £10,000 is spent per annum in providing free meals for children. Is anything being done to tamper with maintenance grants and the provision of meals for the children in the elementary schools I Criticism has been advanced by some hon. Members against my friends on the ground that we are out to support free secondary education as such. That has been qualified by a number of Members by the words, "for all those who would profit by it." That statement was made by Members on these benches as a qualification. I ask hon. Members who oppose that view, What really is to happen to the children who leave the elementary schools at 13 or 14 years of age in the mining communities and whose parents cannot obtain work? Those children cannot obtain employment. I would add to this the apparently violent contradiction put into practice by the Government in Pontypridd and some other areas, where the Minister of Labour is experimenting in sending lads between the ages of 16 and 18 to certain schools. Halls have been required for the purpose of trying to make those lads physically fit for employment when employment becomes available.

There never was at any time a better case for the Government to advance in favour of retaining boys and girls in school as long as possible when the labour market is flooded with adults as it is to-day. When young people of from 16 to 18 years of age are partially demoralised, the Ministry of Labour endeavours to fit and train them to use their hands and their minds after they have been walking the streets for more than two years. Surely there is a case for retaining at school boys from 14 years of age even up to 18. It would be a paying proposition. You are expending money between the ages of 16 and 18 that is not as profitable as it would be if the children of those ages had been kept for the whole period. The Government are endeavouring to conduct an experiment of that kind at Pontypridd and other places in South Wales and I understand that if it proves successful it will be carried throughout the country, in order to fit the young men to become good, potential producers in industry.

When we support free secondary education it does not mean that we are satisfied. We are not satisfied by any means with the type of education, or even with the method, as such. I think I have said before in this House that although I have sat on an education authority in Glamorganshire for some years, I am not satisfied that all our children in the secondary schools have a bent towards academics and classics, towards pure book-learning. Probably 50 per cent. of the boys who enter our secondary schools, as we know boys to be, are more inclined towards vocational training, hand work, rather than purely academic work. In Glamorganshire we have been endeavouring to do something in that direction. We have three technical schools that are free, but we understand that they will not be free, from the interpretation of this Circular. Those technical schools are places where the boys are trained in order to use their hands, to become carpenters, mechanics, etc., and we are hoping to fit them to enter our technical colleges. We understand that there will not be free places but fee places in the future.

The whole of this proposal is nothing else than a pure piece of Convervatism. It is part of the deliberate policy of this Government. From the commencement they have tried to do the best they could to curb the influence, educational or physical, of the masses of the people. Any burden that they can place upon the people, and particularly if they can de- ceive the people in doing it, they have done, and will continue to do. I trust that the expressions of opinion from the supporters of the Government to-night will convince those who propound the policy of the Government that this Circular should be modified, if not withdrawn. Scarcely one single Member has spoken who has not had something to say about the hardship that will fall upon persevering parents. It is not good enough for the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us that the issue at stake is that of parental responsibility. When working-class children are sent to secondary schools it does not mean that their parents are free of obligations. I have two daughters in a secondary school and for each I pay something out of a meagre salary that has been cut down by this House. I say that because, unlike some people, one has to keep two homes going in coming to Parliament.


You need not be here.


I think it is very necessary that we should be here. We do not complain. We do, however, know something about secondary school education. If our children go to secondary schools we have to do something to keep them properly clad and looked after. Workpeople have to sacrifice much to keep their children in secondary schools, even if the place is free. They have to make enormous sacrifices to keep them properly clad and fed in order that they may be as respectable as the children of parents who can better afford it. Therefore, working class families who send their children to secondary schools are not free of obligations. They are fulfilling their parental obligations. If they were not fulfilling their parental obligations they would take their children away from school and try to find a job for them, in order that they might eke out some kind of a livelihood for themselves. It is one of the most remarkable features of the age that we find in ever increasing numbers parents who will make sacrifices in order that their children may be kept at school. Every hon. Member ought to appreciate what that means. It indicates that we are getting a better parental standard in this country and that we shall have an even better standard as these children grow up to manhood and womanhood, because they will realise that the duty devolves upon them to do a little more than devolved upon their parents.

I should like to have a reply from the Parliamentary Secretary on the points that I have raised, and I should like him and the Government to reflect again upon the viciousness of this Circular as it applies to a very large number of people who are struggling, small business people, to whom the bank manager comes along like a bum-bailiff every day, to remind them of their overdraft. The Government ought to withdraw the Circular or, if not, they ought to heed the expressions of opinion that have been uttered by most hon. Members who have spoken to-night, and agree that the Circular should be modified to such an extent that we shall have at least the free places that exist at the present time, even if the number cannot be advanced. Certainly, this hardship should not fall upon the shoulders of the poor people of this country.


The hon. Member who has just spoken seems to have fallen into an error which has been common to most speakers to-day on that, side, in entirely forgetting what lies behind Circular 1421, and what lies behind the National Government. They imply that the National Government came into being in the ordinary course of party politics and entirely forget that it was called into being for one reason only, and that was to try to undo some of the troubles into which the Labour party had plunged this country. It was very largely their lavish expenditure that made the National Government necessary, and it is on them and on their shoulders that the responsibility for cuts in education, for cuts in the dole and for cuts in other directions must and will be laid. Those who have been responsible for criticising the Parliamentary Secretary for introducing the Circular, which they made necessary, have only shown their complete inability to grasp the fundamentals of British politics to-day.

I read the Motion in the name of the Leader of the Opposition with a good deal of interest. I thought that we were going to have a great display upon it but it is like many large objects that we found at our houses a fortnight ago, which were generally wrapped in red paper, and whose largeness and importance to external appearance did not at all fit in with their subsequent behaviour. Very often the largest and reddest rocket, when the match was applied, only fizzled. This rocket to-day, this Vote of Censure has been one of the tamest efforts at censuring a great Government that I have ever seen in the few years that I have been in this House. There are certain points in the Circular to which I should have liked to refer, but at this late hour I will not refer to more than one.

In the proposed regulations which my hon. Friend is putting before the House he suggests that the remission of fees should be made only after pupils have entered the school. I am referring particularly to paragraph 14 (g) which says that the remission of fees might be made after the admission of a scholar. I do think that is just one little point to which the hon. Gentleman might give further thought, because it seems to me to matter very little whether a man loses his job just before or just after his child has gone to a secondary school. The child might have gone in for the entrance examination in July and then the man loses his job. Is he then to have to pay the full increased fee of £9, or can he come in for less? Under the Circular as it at present stands, he will have to pay his full fee, and thereafter he might get the remission. It seems to me that is a small point which my hon. Friend and his Noble Friend might reconsider between now and April of next year.

I want to address myself mainly to the Motion on the Order Paper. The first charge is that this Circular arrests development. What exactly do hon. Members mean by development? Do they really understand what educational development is, or do they confuse mere growth with development? Some of us are large and some of us are small, but that is not to say that the largest of us are the most clever. I do suggest that whether it is in the individual, or in the school, or in the State or in the scholastic system, mere size is a very very poor criterion for judging the merits of the system. It may well be, and I think it is the case to-day, that we have reached in most districts the limit of useful expansion of the number of places for secondary education. The hon. Member who has just spoken referred at great length about the economic position, but what is the good of educating children and giving them these facilities if you have no economic possibilities to hold out before them when they have finished that education? Surely it is to that problem that we ought to lay our minds to-day?

9.30 p.m.

We have got 411,000 children in the secondary schools and 12.4 per cent. of the boys who leave elementary schools go to secondary schools. That is not a small but a very tremendous number and exactly what equipment have those children got for the lives they are going to have to lead when they leave school? They have good education and they are physically fit, but have they got the right outlook and the right viewpoint for tackling the very, very difficult life that lies before every child who leaves school? Does their training equip them to tackle the problems of life? Do they go out ready to turn their Lands and their brains to any and every useful job? I am afraid they do not, and that the trend of training rather turns them into black-coats. Of course, with 76,000 children leaving the secondary schools each year, it is quite impossible to absorb such a number in the administrative and clerical occupations and so on, but if we can get a rather different spirit in the schools and encourage these children to add to their mental training a manual training it might set up in the work-shops a corps of overlookers, of foremen, of managers and eventually of directors who would in a generation, possibly, alter the whole aspect of industry and commerce. Unfortunately, I am afraid the main ambition—and my fear was supported by the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) who spoke earlier—of children who leave secondary schools is to become schoolteachers. I do not want for one moment in any way to disparage the teachers, for there is no finer body of people in this country, but, on the other hand, a scholastic system which sets out merely to teach children to become teachers of more children does not seem to me to be quite the ideal one.

The hon. Member for Aberavon said those who entered in free places always did best. Exactly what is his test of that? I think his exact expression was that they gave the best return for the national expenditure on them. What was his test of this? I am afraid it was examinations. We in this House know that the part played by examinations is a very small part of life's work, and those of us who have even passed examinations very often find ourselves left in the main race of life. We have to face harder things than paper examinations and the secondary schools to-day do not go 100 per cent. to train children in just the direction which is most necessary. I have said that I have the highest regard for the teaching profession. On the other hand, I must confess that my regard for that profession received a rather rude shock when I found on looking through the list that the late Government had six teachers and ex-teachers among the august occupants of this bench when they were on this side. I rather felt that if six teachers of this most regardable profession could have joined with the very worst Government that ever we had in this country—


What about the right hon. Gentleman who came on to your side?


I should like to remind the hon. Member that When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness…he shall save his soul alive. But the fact remains that there were six teachers and ex-teachers in the worst Government that we have ever had or will have to groan under in this country.

The second charge levelled by the Motion is that the Circular seeks to restore or raise secondary school fees. I should like the House just to examine that from a general point of view. Secondary school education costs the State and the ratepayers something like £35 per head, and it is proposed to raise the fees for that education from, £6 to £9. But that is not the minimum fee. One or two hon. Members spoke as if it was the minimum fee. It is, in point of fact, the minimum maximum fee—the maximum fee in the school in which the minimum fee is in operation. In these schools, of course, children may be graded down from £9 to nothing and there will be still many free places. But how is it that hon. Members can grumble at the fact that £9 is to be paid for education which is worth £35? Is it that they think the education is not really worth£35? Do they think that our system is inefficient for some reason and that the £35 is not properly spent, and is not got back to the child and the family? I do not think that can be so. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power only a year or so ago, and had they thought that then, they would surely have reorganised the whole system and have cut down expenditure root and branch until it got down to such a price which they would have thought represented its worth, say, £20. They would not have gone on spending £35 unless they were satisfied that £35 worth was being obtained. If that is so, is it such a bad bargain we offer to the people? If anyone came to the hon. Member opposite and said, "Here is £5. Will you give me 25s. for it?" I do not think that he would refuse.


Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member will try me.


I am much too cautious. If anyone came and offered 4s. worth of bread or potatoes for 1s., would anyone call it a bad bargain? If anyone offered an hon. Member opposite a £200 motor car for £50, would he not say, "What generosity! We will take it." And here is the Parliamentary Secretary saying "I have £200 worth of education for five years, which I am willing to give to anybody for £9 a year; £200 going for £45. What offers?" It seems to me that on that ground hon. Members opposite are not very strong

I come to the last and the gravest charge against the Government, a new charge, that we are imposing a harsh means test. We have not heard of a means test in this House for some time. I have looked through the Circular, and through the regulations which it is proposed to base on the Circular, and I can find nothing about a- means test. I can find a needs test; but a needs test is quite a different thing from a means test. A means test is what we have to undergo when we pay our Income Tax. The Government go into our means, and assess the tax upon our means, but at the same time they have some regard for our needs, because if you have a wife and children you get some rebate. How is it that the party opposite object so much to a needs test? They are based upon a needs test. I am not a great student of their politics, but I think it was Karl Marx who said: From every man according to his ability; to every man according to his need.


William Morris.


Whoever it was that said it first, the same thing has been said on Socialist platforms all over the country, and it sounds so very well—"from every man according to his ability; to every man according to his need." It is the whole basis of trade union policy. The Miners' Federation, unfortunately, long ago gave up economic considerations and the plea that they wanted a share of the profit being earned in the mines. They have had to come down to the fact that miners cannot live unless they get a minimum wage based on their needs. It is, unfortunately, the same in agriculture, and in many of the cotton districts. It is the needs test. The whole system of trade unions is based on a needs test, and here for four or five days almost consecutively hon. Members opposite have been inveighing against it. They may criticise its administration, but they have no right at all to criticise the principle.

Let me examine how this needs test works and why it is necessary. If there were no needs test at all we should have ale position of a labouring man paying a portion of the education of his employer's children through his rates and taxes. It would be the same with the agricultural labourer. What justification can there be for enforcing a contribution from the very poor towards the education of the children of the well-to-do? No, I do not criticise the Parliamentary Secretary in this connection. I criticise him for his extreme moderation; he has not gone nearly far enough. He should have made his needs test much more general. He should have taken the lid straight off the top of this system—


He hopes to do so.


There is always hope with a National Government. If education is costing £35 a year, why on earth do not people who can afford it pay the £35? We all know of cases, especially in girls' schools, where the girls are sent from homes which can well afford to pay the full cost. The buys are sent to a public school, which costs £200 or £300 a year, and the girls are sent to a secondary school because it is the best school available, and where they can be kept at home. Why should these parents be subsidised to the extent of £15 or £20 a year for the education of their children? I urge the Parliamentary Secretary to reconsider this point and see whether it is not possible at least to make it optional for people to pay the full fees, if they so desire. I think he will find that there would be a great many people who would be prepared to say that they do not want to take State money for the education of their children and are prepared to pay the full amount; and take a pride in doing so.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on introducing this Circular. He is on far stronger ground than he was on the equally necessary cuts in teachers' salaries. It is on the teachers that we must rely for an efficient educational service, and it is to the teaching profession that we want to attract the very best men and women from all walks of life, from our public schools as well as from our secondary schools. We want to get the finest body of teachers it is possible to get. The teachers themselves realise that the cuts of last year were necessary. [interruption.] There are exceptions, of course, but the vast majority of them realise that the cuts were necessary and have accepted them gladly. The vast majority of people interested in education will realise that this alteration is necessary and that as it will not be to the detriment but to the ultimate good of secondary education will support the Government in the Circular.


I have listened to most of the speeches that have been made in the Debate and with particular interest and sympathy to speeches made by hon. Members for Wales, because my mind goes back to the year before the Mover of the Motion was born, 1889, when my father, who was then living in Carnarvonshire, was working for the setting up of the Welsh intermediate education system. He had the good fortune at that time to work in the House with Thomas Ellis and induced the Government to give the whisky money as a grant in aid to the halfpenny rate which was all that the county councils were allowed to levy. It was one of his proudest memories that when the Carnarvon County Council was set up in 1888 he, although a Saxon stranger, was the first man they made an alderman in recognition of his work for Welsh education. It is one of my clearest memories how, on going to Carnarvon, there was a great map of the county on one of the walls of the room and flags were being stuck in in different places every day to show where best the new schools could go.

Although I have not agreed with everything hon. Members opposite have said, it is of course right that, coming from that country with its traditions, they should say how this proposal affects them. It is equally my duty as chairman of the Devon Education Committee, as I happen to be, to say how I think it will affect us. The only way in which I feel about it personally is this: When I am hoping and trying to get the Government to give money to help the unemployed, am I really justified in trying to prevent them making this economy, small though it may be? There are one or two points that came up in the speech of the Mover of the Resolution about which I would like to ask him questions, not in a controversial way, and not for him to give the answers now. But I am interested in education and would like to know at some proper time what are his views. He said that money spent on free places gives better value than money spent on fee-payers. Very likely that is true and I am not questioning it. But I would be obliged if the hon. Member would give me the evidence on which that statement is based, because it it quite interesting and important if it is true. I feel sure he would not have said it unless he had proof of it.

If it is true, it seems to me that the moral might reasonably be that as long as we can maintain facilities for the free places it would not be unwise to make the fee-payers pay a little bit more if they can reasonably be asked to do so. There is this, too: This is really quite interesting, because although very different views have been expressed this evening we may come here together later on the policy which many of us have had in mind. I rather gathered that it was the hon. Member's opinion that if and when all children had to enter schools through the examination door, he would have far less objection to graduated fees than he has now, when there are in the main fee-paying schools two classes, one entering by examination and the other having a right to come in without examination. If we could get a system whereby all were of one class but the fee was free up to a reasonable point, and then became steeper and steeper according to people's needs, that might be the way in future in which those of us who seem to be rather divided now may come nearer together.

In my own county of Devon we have always had this means test, if you like to call it that. Our figure has been for incomes between £5 and £6. The Board of Education suggests incomes between £3 and £4. We are negotiating in a friendly way and no conclusion has been reached, but it is likely that there will be some compromise in the neighbourhood of £4 to £5. I must not give away my committee, because they have not settled the matter yet. Looking at the children in my county, as I know them, I have to consider first those who will not pay anything at all. I am assuming that under any arrangement we made with the Board no one with incomes up to a week will pay. Those under £4 will pay no fees, of course. They will be helped where necessary in bringing their children to the school, because a lot of them have to come from the surrounding country districts. They will, as at present in most cases, get free books, and apparently the Board has no objection to our giving maintenance grants as well in the really necessary cases. So there will be for these children no fee, the possibility of maintenance and transport and books, and it seems to me that that would be all right.

Then you come to those at £4 a week. I ask myself, is a man with 80s. a week being really ill treated—a man with one dependant child—if I ask him to pay one of those shillings for the fee. That would be a fee of £2 for the school year. Upon my word, when I consider what I could do with that shilling a week of his, and with a rather larger amount from those who are better off—when I consider to what purpose I could put it in developing our education system, I do not feel that to ask him to pay a shilling a week is really very hard. I have worked it out in the case of a man with four children, assuming that he was sending two of them to school. I worked it out on the scale I imagined, beginning at £4 a week with a fee of £2. According to the Board's idea the man's income would be as much as £302 before he was charged any fees at all, and he would have some abatement from fees up to an income of £400 a year. There it is. Is that really a hardship on a class of people who, of course, have their difficulties like everyone else in these times? If I can begin a fee system at £4 to £5 a week, and then graduate it very slowly up, and if I can give this grant towards transport and books and so on, I cannot see that I am going to do such a terrible injustice to the children of my county as has been made out.

Let us look at the other end. The Board want counties to increase their fees, which are about £11 now. I think it not unreasonable to ask us to make an increase, but I hope that the Board will allow all counties to be very moderate indeed in the increases they make. In these difficult times if you make any heavy increase in fees, they may lead to a drop in numbers, and that would be wasteful because of the continued overhead charges and the fact that some of the class rooms would be half empty. I would rather try a small increase and see the effect of it, and if it led to a drop in numbers to decrease it, or if it did not tend to decrease the numbers to let it continue, and perhaps to put on another increase of 30s. a year. That would be better than making an increase of £3 or £4 all at once. I suggest to the Board the raising of the fee by only 15s., that is from 11 guineas to about £12 5s., so that we can see how we get on with that.

I see in this Circular the germs of a system which some of us have in mind and on which, as I have said, we might perhaps get nearer to one another on this question, a system by which these secondary schools should be regarded for every pupil as privileged schools, privileged without any reference to wealth, but privileged with reference to brains. I think the education given in them, as secondary education goes, is very often the best you can find anywhere in the country and I do not see that, from the point of view of any democratic theory, it is wrong to expect people who have the privilege of getting that education for their children to see that their children are up to a really good standard and to show that those children are likely to profit by it. Nor do I think it is any harm, when you have done that, to say that having got the children into this privileged school, the parents shall pay as large a part of the cost of the education given as they can reasonably be expected to do. I compare this with the case of doctors' fees. If there was a flat rate it would of course be outrageously hard on the poor people but the system of the Board more or less, and the system that I have in mind, would make the payment which people give for secondary education exactly of the same type as the payment which people give to their doctors now.

Lately, I happened to be unwell in Devonshire. My next door neighbour is a carter and his wife was unwell too. [Laughter.] Hon. Members appear to be amused, but this is a perfectly serious analogy. The doctor charged me a guinea and he charged the wife of my neighbour only 1s. He was able to charge only 1s. in that case because I paid a guinea. I think hon. Members opposite will agree with that analogy. It is the system of doctors to charge, according to the means of their patients and I am perfectly content to be charged a guinea a visit, since I know that it enables the doctor to charge only 1s. or 6d. to people who are only able to afford that amount. Why should you not establish the same system with regard to secondary education Would it be a great crime against democracy to do so? If I have any criticism to make, and I have criticism to make with regard to the results of economy and, if you like, the necessity for economy as regards the education system in the districts which I know, I cannot justly complain about this Circular. What is holding up education is the stand-still order with regard to our senior schools. Our senior schools are better than our secondary schools because they are not under the slavery of the examination system and if I had a child I would rather send that child to one of our senior schools in which I could get the headmaster to teach him what I liked, so to speak, than send him to a secondary school where at once he becomes the slave of an examination syllabus.

10.0 p.m.

It is this hold up which is a hardship on the children in a county like Devon where the schools are small. More than half of our schools have less than 50 average attendance, and in many cases one teacher has to teach the whole lot ranging from eight years to about 14 years. It is a perfect miracle how they do it. Of course, these children are handicapped compared with the children from the towns and the only way to help them is to set up senior schools which we hope to do. If that work should be got on with again, one would have no real grievance, but that is how the country is suffering educationally now, and not on account of the Circular at all. Supposing that after making our arrangements with the Board we increased the fees a little, and brought our means limit down a little, and, as a result got £1,000 or £1,500 in addition to the £22,000 which we now get from fees. This is the way in which it would affect me. My county council does not like rates, of course, but the thing which they hate most is an increase of rates. Provided that I could show them that I would make an economy in one direction, they would allow me to spend the money in another. There, my difficulty is not the Board of Education, on things which they know to be necessary the Board will allow an education committee to spend. It is the county council which is the difficulty now. All the people who hate doing anything for, anything have, of course, got their heads up because of this economy campaign. They have clothed the nakedness of their instincts in a sort of patriotic Union Jack; they are now in charge and it is difficult to get anything of the kind through at present. But if I could get an extra £1,500 out of these fees I could give maintenance grants or I could do other things. I could make good use of that money and make the system of education, on the whole, better from the point of view of the children of poor parents, than it would be if the Circular were withdrawn and nothing was done.

When I was speaking last Monday on allotments I told the House a story which I bad come across in my administrative experience and, as I want to keep the House in that good humour which they showed a few moments ago, I venture to tell another story. It concerns an examination for these children who come in free. In this examination the candidates were required to answer questions on a poem. One of the lines of the poem referred to the shelter given to shipping by Favouring shoal or friendly promontory. The question was "what does 'promontory' mean and why is it called 'friendly'?" One of the answers was "a promontory is a place where nuns live"—I suppose the child was thinking of a monastery—"and it is called 'friendly' because it is a place where the sailors knew they would be welcome."


I am sure the House will have enjoyed enormously the contribution of the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland), and we enjoy very much hearing him participate in an educational debate because of the fondness we entertain for his late father. I am not sure, however, that his father would have looked with favour upon the right hon. Gentleman's contribution to-night. We are discussing now only one item in the Government's economy proposals with regard to education. Some time ago—I believe it was on the first day of this part of the Session—I addressed a question to the hon. Gentleman opposite with regard to certain economy committees which are undertaking inquiries in respect of public expenditure, and I asked whether the Circular which we are now discussing had been issued as a result of consultation between the Government and the economy committee of which representatives of local education authorities are members. I was told by the hon. Gentleman that, in regard to this Circular, the Board of Education had decided to act on its own initiative.

We are apparently to await the recommendations of these various committees with regard to other forms of economy, but education has long since been marked down for slaughter. If hon. Members will look at the May Committee Report, they will find that the Government have acted upon every main item suggested by that committee in respect of educational economy with one exception, and that exception, I have no doubt, will be the subject of discussion by the Economy Committee and may have Governmental attention hereafter. Why is it that education is so popular among the Conservatives as an object for economy? When the Conservative Government came into office after the first Labour Government in 1924, we had a pair of circulars even then, and they did away with certain provisions which the then Labour Government had carried through encouraging the provision of more free places in secondary schools.

The hon. Gentleman asked me to-night what we had done. He had apparently forgotten for the moment that when the Labour Government were in office in 1924 the first thing that the then Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer did was to grant £440,000 for encouraging the development of secondary education, and we did it by way of giving a grant of £2 per head during that part of the year, which was to be £3 in a full year. However, the party opposite followed us, and they simply drew their pen through the whole proposal. Then we came to another stage, when we had the famous Circular 1371 and Memorandum 44. I warn the hon. Gentleman for his good. It is not at all an unusual thing for Education Ministers who have issued unwise circulars to lose their job. I hope that it will not apply to the hon. Member opposite. To-night we are discussing Circular 1421, and we have put down on the Paper a Motion which may be divided into two parts. The first part is declaratory concerning our own faith in regard to secondary education, and it states: This House reaffirms its belief in the principle of free secondary education. The hon. Gentleman has questioned whether in fact the House has affirmed on a previous occasion, in set terms, the principle of free secondary education. I believe it may be taken as a fair statement of the truth that when Mr. Robert Richardson was a. Member of the House and moved the Motion, he did so in a speech developing the case for free secondary education, and on that evening, I remember very well, the hon. Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), who was then President of the Board of Education, did not deem it advisable to divide the House upon the Motion. Whether that is precisely accurate or not is a small point, but we still maintain the position quite clearly—let the House be under no misapprehension about it—that this party is committed, rigidly and irrevocably, to the proposition that as soon as it may be possible we shall have free secondary education in this land.

When I say "free secondary education," I do not mean—and I am not aware that the Labour party has ever declared for—compulsory secondary education for all. The most we have done is to declare in favour of free secondary education for all, meaning thereby that we shall not debar anybody who so desires it from having a free secondary education course. It is also true to say that when we introduced our Bill two years ago for raising the school leaving age, we supported the general case for it by arguing, as was quite defensible, that once you had raised the compulsory school leaving age from 14 to 15, you would then be able to develop a well-considered four years' plan of post-primary education, and we were in point of fact applying compulsion as an element in that proposition.

I am glad to see the Minister of Health in his place to-night, for the right hon. Gentleman was in 1920, if he will allow me to say so, a little more enlightened politically than he is now, and when he was in that state of comparative enlightenment he presided over a committee which inquired into this question of free secondary places in schools. He was accompanied on that committee by one of his colleagues now in the Cabinet, the present First Commissioner of Works, and they both signed a report the general tenour of which was in favour of freeing secondary education in this country. I could not do better than quote a short passage from that committee's report in regard to this matter: There are, on the other hand, advantages in the ideal of free secondary education to set against the objections to which we refer that are obvious and important. The acceptance by the State of full financial responsibility would enable it, as we have said, to require from the schools within each locality satisfactory standards and conditions. It would remove the reproach against the present method of financing secondary education that it is based upon no fixed principle as to the distribution of cost be- tween the parent and the State. In doing so, it would put an end to the fallacious notion in the minds of parents that by paying fees they are meeting the whole cost of their children's education, whereas in fact they are meeting only a part of it. I cannot conceive of anybody stating the case more succinctly than it is stated by the Committee over which the right hon. Gentleman so ably presided some 10 or 12 years ago. I will not, therefore, dwell upon the first part of our Motion, which deals with an educational ideal. The second and more practical part deals with the Circular itself. It says three things—first, that the Circular seeks to raise or to restore secondary school fees; second, that it seeks to restrict the number of free places; and third, that it introduces a harsh means test. Does any-one question the accuracy of the first proposition which we lay down? I do not think that the Parliamentary Secretary himself will. It is true, is it not, that the effect of this Circular will be to restore fees to some secondary schools and to raise the fees in others? I do not think that the hon. Gentleman will challenge that submission. Point number one, therefore, falls to us. There is genuine difference of opinion in regard to the second point. I speak as a layman, but I think that a fairly strong case can be argued by anyone that in point of fact the Government are going outside their powers as laid down in the Education Act, 1918. The hon. Gentleman read out the material passage, and I will do it again. It is Section 4 (4) of the Education Act, 1918, which says: In schemes under this Act adequate provision shall"— that is the operative word— be made in order to secure that children and young persons shall not be debarred from receiving the benefits of any form of education by which they are capable of profiting through inability to pay fees. My submission to the Government is that they are embarking upon a procedure which is bound to debar children from secondary education on account of inability to pay fees. That is the point at issue between us. The philosophy which underlies the Circular is stated clearly in paragraph (1), which says: The system of admitting pupils free to secondary schools without any regard to the capacity of the parents to pay is needlessly wasteful of public funds. That is the first test which the Government apply, and in those words the Government have introduced a standard of judgment alien to the Act of 1918. The test under this Circular is not an educational test. It is not what Johnnie Smith can do as a matter of intellectual achievement. It is what Johnnie Smith's parents can do in a financial sense. I submit that such a test is wholly alien to the spirit of the Education Act, 1918. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have been very careful to try to make out that the effect of this is only to discover who is able to pay. There is more in this Circular than that. There is a complete change in the philosophy with which the Government approaches the provision of secondary education. This Circular makes it quite clear that the new rule is to be "All must pay." [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I agree that there are exceptions. I am taking the principle first, and I will come to the exceptions afterwards. Am I right or wrong when I say that the new rule, whatever the exceptions may be, is that all must pay. [HON. MEMBERS: "Wrong."] Well, we will see what the Circular says. Under the new Regulations fees will be charged in all schools"— Will be charged!— and, while places in future to be called special places will continue to be filled by open competition, the parents of pupils successful in the competition will be expected to pay the school fee. That is the rule. [Interruption.] I will do no violence to the paragraph. I am speaking of the rule. Then it goes on except where their circumstances justify its remission either wholly or in part. The point I am making is that this paragraph implies a complete reversal of the attitude of approach of every Government since the end of the War. The whole approach of every Government has been towards increasing the area of free secondary education. And let the House mark that this is not temporary, this is permanent. If the economic conditions of the country improve from now on the more they improve the more effective will be the rule, because the fewer completely free places will there be and the more universally will the fees apply. I submit, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman cannot deny the proposition that the Government are completely reversing the principle hitherto observed in regard to secondary education. That is point No. 2 to us.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite are very anxious to assure the country that a wrong interpretation has been put upon this Circular in regard to its incidence upon the poorer people. First of all, the Circular lays down that there is to be a competitive examination. When you have got your competitive examination in a good area, Devon or Glamorganshire, if you like, there are to be a certain number of what we used to call free places. Suppose there are 30 free places. [Interruption.] I am trying to be fair in my argument and hon. Members will help me considerably if they will not interrupt. I am not doing any violence to any standards of Debate by arguing as I am. Let me take 30 free places. Let us suppose that out of 100 competitors there are 30 or free places. When you have got your first 30 in the order of merit, you go to the parents and you say, "Now you parents, we want to know how many can afford to pay?" Suppose that out of the 30, you discover that 20 cannot pay and that 10 can pay. If you like let it be the first 10 who can pay and the other 20 who cannot. I do not care what the order is; the fact is that there are 10 who can pay and 20 who cannot.

I ask the hon. Gentleman this question: Under the new arrangement, whereas previously there would be 30 free places, there are only 20 free places, because only 20 parents cannot pay. Does he propose to look down the list, from 30, shall we say to 40, in order to find another 10 who cannot pay to take the places of the 10 who can pay in the first 30? If so, how can it be guaranteed that the next 10 on the list will be people who cannot afford to pay? If some of those can afford to pay, you cannot pass them over because they are there in order of merit between 30 and 40. In practice, I submit, you are inevitably bound to reduce the number of free places available—call them special places if you like. I think that is the third point, is it not?

Let me take special places. We are told that there is nothing to be frightened of in the expression "special place." You would not have changed the nomenclature and the word from "free" to "special" unless you meant something by it. Mark you, if you give a free place and call it "special," you give a new implication concerning it to those who take an interest in the matter, especially the poor people. What is a special place? Normally, a special place is a place that has something exceptional in its nature. Otherwise it would not be special. It must be exceptional. The very change from "free" to "special" in the diction which you apply to those places implies a change in policy. Let me refer to the poor people in a county like Suffolk or Devon. There will be 30 places, shall we say, which you will reserve for special places in future. Take an agricultural labourer. An agricultural labourer in those country areas, even though his child gets a free place, has to pay very heavy commitments. There cannot be a secondary school at everybody's door, and oftentimes attendance at a secondary school involves long distances of travel, and sometimes many journeys day by day. In some places it even involves lodgings week by week.


We pay that.

10.30 p.m.


I wonder if you are going to pay that in future. I very much doubt it. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman says "No." Let me get on with my argument. Here is an agricultural labourer whose child, say, is No. 31 on the list. Under the old scheme, the local authority would say, "Your child is not in this list, hut we will provide a bursary or a minor scholarship"—as it is called in some places—"or some special consideration to help you"; but, if the child is outside the list, as in this case, the hon. Gentleman will have to tell him, through the county authorities, "We are sorry, but the fee in future is to be nine guineas," for the Board says clearly that it will not even consider, except in very exceptional conditions, less than nine guineas, and it even says that it is reasonable to raise the fee to 15 guineas wherever it is less than 15 guineas. Where is there an agricultural labourer who can even consider secondary education for his child at anything between nine guineas and 15 guineas a year? The thing is ridiculous.

Inevitably, it seems to me, you are bound to trench upon that area of opinion among poor people where there is grave anxiety to secure increased secondary school opportunities, and the inevitable effect will he that the number of free places in the country will be very substantially reduced. Supposing that my proposition is true, if you tend to shut out poorer people's children from secondary schools to that degree, you will give to the secondary schools in future an implied new social status. They will become more than ever the preserve of comparatively well-to-do people.

On the other hand, if the fees for secondary schools become excessive, the less well-to-do parents will tend to send their children to the central school, and the central school will become more than ever suspect. The hon. Gentleman knows, as I know, how suspect the central school has been. I do not mind saying that I entertained grave suspicions concerning it myself in the early days, though I admit that while I was at the Board I saw another view. If, however, you are going to make the secondary schools once again the special ground of comparatively well-to-do people, and to drive the poor into the central schools, you will inevitably erect. a social barrier between the one type of school and the other—a fatal thing in any educational system, no matter in what way it may be done.

Time will not permit me to cover all the ground that I desired to cover, but there is one more point that I want to make. The hon. Gentleman, while he makes this attack upon the secondary schools of the country, knows that there is one type of school which, curiously enough, is not to be subject to this attack. That is the direct grant-aided school. The hon. Gentleman, no doubt, will tell me that the fees in these schools are already so high that the Government do not feel called upon to do anything in regard to them, but what are the facts I According to the Board of Education's List 60, there are 218 of such schools in the country, with 70,000 pupils in them. I believe the fees of the grant-aided schools range from nothing to £120 a year. Whatever the Government's reason may be, whether it be that the fees are too high or not, I cannot say, but three of those are free—no fees at all—eight have fees of 6s. or less, 25 have fees of 9s., 46 have fees of £12 13s. or less and there are no fewer than 101 of these direct grant-aided schools which have a fee of £15 15s. or less—the very fee which the Government propose to apply to the other type of school. Will the hon. Gentleman assure me that there is no class bias in this business? Why should this type of school have its fees excused while the other secondary schools must have their fees raised to£15 15s.?

The hon. Gentleman will be hard put to it to convince the country that there is not a considerable measure of class bias in this. By a curious chance there appeared on Monday a special supplement to the "Daily Telegraph" dealing with the public schools in the country. I invite any Member to look at this very well-prepared supplement and compare the staffing of these schools—Eton, for instance, with 1,100 pupils and over 80 teachers—compare their housing, compare their physical facilities, their fees, their playgrounds. However bad their buildings may be, they do not compare with some of the elementary schools in the country. Compare them from any point of view you like, and there is the gravest possible ground for suspicion that the schools that equip the children of poorer people in a secondary sense are to be the subject of Government attack, largely because of the inspiration of people who might have understood finance but who could not hide their social antipathy to the elementary schools as disclosed in paragraph 502 of the May Committee Report.


The House has listened to the hon. Gentleman with great interest. The first round that he thinks he scored was in connection with the issue of this Circular, and the complaint that it had been issued before the Committee on economy had reported. There is a very good reason for that, and the hon. Gentleman and his friends provide it. They waited for a Commission to report before they took any action, and we know the result. In this case, where economy could and should be carried out, there is no point whatever in waiting for the report of the Committee. Then as regards his main accusation that this Circular is in direct contradiction to the accepted educational policy of the country for many years, I understand his argument to be that the Circular says that all parents mint pay except where circumstances justify remission. That phrase is apparently a denial of anything in the nature of free secondary education for anyone. I think it would make very little difference if we put it the other way and said that nobody need pay unless their circumstances make it reasonable.

The hon. Member was asking me a question with regard to what will happen in 30 special places selected by a means test if 10 of the successful competitors are above the means limit for the school. That particular case has been considered and I think that I can say that steps will be taken to see that in certain circumstances special provision will be made. Where free places are now awarded on a means test the number of special places may be increased so as to ensure that the number of free places will not be diminished. As regards the third point on the agricultural question, I think he is under a misapprehension. Actually in Gloucestershire, where fees range from to 13 guineas, a scheme has been in operation since 1925 and candidates obtaining 50 per cent. of marks upon examination and whose parents do not receive £3 a week, pay a reduced fee of £4 10s. In the summer of 1932 this reduced fee was being paid by nearly 600 pupils. must therefore deprive the hon. Gentleman of one of his points.

The Debate has taken an interesting course and a great many interesting speeches have been made. As hon. Members know, there has been a good deal of misapprehension and misunderstanding regarding the Circular. I have done what I could in my opening speech—and I only speak now by the leave of the House—to remove certain misapprehensions, and I hope that I have been entirely successful. When the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) complains of the wording of the Circular, and that owing to the wording of it a misconception had occurred, I can only say to him that if there had been a whole volume of words in the Circular, it would have been impossible to provide for every conceivable case that might have been put up. It is not for me to criticise the methods of Parliament in its circular procedure, but whereas in this particular case it was felt necessary and advisable to put it into operation by cir- cular, it would have been an easier task for the Minister if he had had to introduce it by a Bill, as he could have explained it all on Second Reading. There have been one or two main criticisms. A great deal has been said, very naturally, about the income limits laid down in the Circular. I would point out to the House that after stating what the limits contemplated are, these words are added: In considering proposals put forward for approval they (the board) will have regard to the particular circumstances of the area in question and the rate of fee to be charged. That is exactly what has been done. The right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland), with his great practical knowledge of local education administration, explained to the House very clearly indeed how it actually is working, and that the chairman was discussing it with the board and that he hoped that they would be able to arrive at a compromise. I should not be surprised if in that case some new figure will be agreed. The Board does not desire to impose a particular figure on this authority and on that. It was never the intention of the board. It is stated in the Circular not to be so. Hon. Members need be under no misapprehension that these income limits are going to be either unwisely fixed or too rigidly enforced, or dealt with so as to cause the removal of poor children who ought to be in the schools. I have listened most attentively to the Debate, and I have yet to be convinced that a single word in our Circular will have the effect of barring a poor child from a secondary school.

Another point has been made in connection with a possible reduction of the number of fee-payers, owing to the charges in secondary schools being raised too high. Both the board and the local authority are concerned in seeing that that does not happen, because the taxpayer and the ratepayer would lose if it did happen. A question has also been raised in regard to maintenance. The board certainly contemplate the continuance of maintenance allowances for the poorest children in secondary schools. That allowance will be additional to the total remission of fees. For the children who are less poor in the gradation, the remission of fees will be appropriately less, and as they rise in the scale of income the remission will be adjusted accordingly. I would remind hon. Members that local authorities have very long experience of these matters. They have administered maintenance allowances for many years and they have information as to means. In one-third of the cases, that is, 46 out of 145 local education authorities, Part II authorities, means tests for free places have been in force for years. The local authorities have the data and the knowledge, they have the confidence of the people, and there is no reason to suppose that there will be anything but the most careful and most sympathetic administration on their part. Moreover, the close contact that exists to-day will continue to exist between the Board of Education and the local authorities.

The hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) raised a point in connection with eugenics. I could not quite follow her speech. Part of it seemed to contemplate a fall in the birth rate as a result of our Circular. That is a very long shot. As to her second point regarding what France is doing, it is extremely unsafe to compare the educational system of one country with the educational system of another country. There are different terms and different meanings, and what the French would understand by secondary education is very different from ours. In England and Wales—the population of France is a little greater than that of England and Wales—there are more than twice as many children in State-aided secondary schools as in. France, and there are more children receiving free education in secondary schools in England and Wales than the whole school population of State-aided secondary schools in France.

Many questions have been addressed to me by Welsh Members. They have used the Circular as a peg on which to make pleas for free secondary education. Secondary education in this country is not free, and never has been free. There is separate treatment of Wales from England. A separate Circular has been issued for Wales. In Wales the fees are much lower and their historical traditions are different from ours, but the Board has made every effort to meet the different conditions that obtain in Wales. I have not worked it out, but if we applied to Wales exactly the same procedure that applies to England it would not have suited the Welsh people as a whole. In Wales the areas are divided roughly, as far as possible, in accordance with ability to pay, and scales have been worked out on those lines.

Perhaps I may say a word about the general philosophy of free secondary school education It has not been the policy in this country, and it is not now. I would suggest to the House that the number of children in this country who can definitely profit by secondary education is limited. Not every child would benefit nor would it be best for them supposing we could send them all to secondary schools. I was impressed with the argument of the right hon. Member for North Cornwall with whom I agree as to the value of our senior schools. In establishing them we set up a system parallel to secondary education. The unemployment problem and social problem would be greatly complicated if we took steps to flood the country with a very large number of children from secondary schools. After all the secondary schools are for selected children, the gifted and the intellectual, and from these schools we expect leaders of industry and commerce in the coming generation. We cannot make everybody in the country a leader. They cannot all be generals, and there must be privates, and if hon. Gentlemen opposite get their way, instead of having free secondary schools for all, it will end up by there being secondary education for none. [Interruption.] The interruption of hon. Members is really due to the confusion existing in their minds between higher education and further education. If they can get that clear we shall have less interruption. If it were conceivably possible to have free secondary education for all, it might very well turn the whole country into a vast educational soup kitchen from which few would get proper rations, and still fewer people would be able to digest what they got.

There have been a certain number of remarks by hon. Members opposite showing, as might be expected, a tendency to sniff at the saving of £400,000, as being not worth saving. It is just that mentality that led the nation into the crisis last year. It is worth saving, and hon. Gentlemen may like to know that the sum of £400,000 represents the equivalent of school buildings to the amount of £8,000,000. Which would they sooner be without? Under these proposals no school child who will benefit by secondary education will suffer because of inability to pay. A contribution will be required from the parents on the basis of ability to pay. That is an economy which can be defended, and that is the economy which I am defending to-night. I said some time ago on the Estimates that we could not educate the young in a vacuum. We cannot and should not treat the finances of education in a vacuum. They are intimately related to the finances of the State, they stand and fall with the finances of the State. A policy of free secondary education would involve many

millions of money, astronomical figures, and even a policy of freeing existing secondary schools—I cannot understand why it was not done in 1929—would cripple the finances of the State. If persisted in, that policy would do a great disservice to the children, because, though it might educate them, there would be the risk at the end of it of seeing them turned out into a State bankrupted by extravagance.

Question put, That this House reaffirms its belief in the principle of free secondary education and, being opposed to any policy calculated to arrest its development, condemns the Board of Education Circular No. 1421, which seeks to restore or raise secondary school fees, restrict the number of free places, and introduce a harsh means test.

The House divided: Ayes 53; Noes, 353.

Division No. 366] AYES. [10.57 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)
Attlee, Clement Richard Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot
Banfield, John William Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Milner, Major James
Batey, Joseph Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro',W). Morgan, Robert H.
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Grundy, Thomas W. Nathan, Major H. L.
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Parkinson, John Allen
Cape, Thomas Hall. George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Price, Gabriel
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Harris, Sir Percy Rathbone, Eleanor
Cove, William G. Hicks, Ernest George Salter, Dr. Alfred
Cowan, D. M. Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge) Tinker, John Joseph
Gripes. Sir Stafford Janner, Barnett Wallhead, Richard C.
Curry, A. C. Jenkins, Sir William Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David
Daggar, George Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West) Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Edwards, Charles Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Williams, Thomas (York., Don Valley)
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.) Kirkwood, David
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
George. Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n) Lawson, John James Mr. Groves and Mr. John.
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke Bird, Sir Robert B.(Wolverhlpton W.) Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)
Aciand-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Glaker, Sir Reginald Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Borodale, Viscount Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)
Albery, Irving James Bossom, A. C. Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh
Alexander, Sir William Boulton, W. W. Chalmers, John Rutherford
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Christie, James Archibald
Ansley, Lord Crass, Captain Sir William Clarke, Frank
Astinify. Lieut. Com Frederick Wclie Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Clarry, Reginald George
Astor. Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover) Broadbent, Colonel John Clayton, Dr. George C.
Atholl, Duchess of Brocklebank, C. E. R. Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.
Atkinson, Cvril Brown, Ernest (Leith) Colman, N. C. D
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M. Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.,Newt'y) Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Bullock. Captain Malcolm Cooke, Douglas
Bainiel, Lord Burghley, Lord Cooper, A. Duff
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Copeland, Ida
Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey Burnett, John George Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Butler, Richard Austen Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry
Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury) Butt, Sir Alfred Cranborne, Viscount
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.) Cadogan, Hon. Edward Craven-Ellis, William
Belt, Sir Alfred L. Caine, G. R. Hall- Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.
Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Galnsb'ro)
Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B. Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley) Croom-Johnson, R. P.
Bevan. Stuart James (Holborn) Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Cross, R. H.
Birchali, Major Sir John Dearman Carver, Major William H. Crossley, A. C.
Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton) Castle Stewart, Earl Cuiverwell, Cyril Tom
Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery) Joel, Dudley J. Barnato Power, Sir John Cecil
Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovll) Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan) Pownall, Sir Assheton
Davison, Sir William Henry Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton) Procter, Major Henry Adam
Dawson, Sir Philip Ker, J. Campbell Pybus, Percy John
Denman, Hon. R. D. Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose) Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)
Denville, Alfred Kerr, Hamilton W. Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)
Despencer.Robertson, Major. J. A. F. Kimball, Lawrence Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Donner, P. W. Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R. Ramsbotham, Herwald
Dower, Captain A. V. G. Knebworth, Viscount Ramsden, E.
Drewe, Cedric Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Rankin, Robert
Duckworth, George A. V. Lambert, Rt. Hon. George Ratcliffe, Arthur
Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Latham, Sir Herbert Paul Ray, Sir William
Duggan, Hubert John Law, Sir Alfred Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.) Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)
Dunglass, Lord Leckie, J. A. Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Eady, George H. Lees-Jones, John Remer, John R.
Eastwood, John Francis Leighton, Major B. E. P. Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.
Edmondson, Major A. J. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Renwick, Major Gustav A.
Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E. Lewis, Oswald Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey Liddall, Walter S. Ropner, Colonel L.
Eillston, Captain George Sampson Lloyd, Geoffrey Rosbotham, S. T.
Eimley, Viscount Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn.G.(Wd.Gr'n) Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Emmett, Charles E. G. C. Locker-Lampson, Corn. O. (H'ndsw'th) Runge, Norah Cecil
Emrys-Evans, P. V. Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley) Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Essenhigh, Reginald Clare Loder, Captain J. de Vere Russell, Hamer Field (Shand, B'tside)
Everard, W. Lindsay Lyons, Abraham Montagu Rutherford. Sir John Hugo
Fermoy, Lord Mabane, William Salmon, Major Isidore
Flelden, Edward Brocklehurst MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Salt, Edward W.
Fleming, Edward Lascelles McCorguodale, M. S. Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Fox, Sir Gifford MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Fraser, Captain Ian Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.
Fremantle, Sir Francis Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Savery, Samuel Servington
Fuller, Captain A. G. McEwen, Captain J. H. F. Scone, Lord
Ganzonl, Sir John McKie, John Hamilton Selley, Harry R.
Gillett, Sir George Masterman McLean, Major Alan Shakespeare. Geoffrey H.
Gledhill, Gilbert McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Glossop, C. W. H. Macmillan, Maurice Harold Simmonds, Oliver Edwin
Giucksteln, Louis Halle Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I. Skelton, Archibald Noel
Glyn, Major Ralph G. C. Maitland. Adam Slater, John
Goff, Sir Park Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.
Goldie, Noel B. Marsden, Commander Arthur Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Martin. Thomas B. Smith. R. W. (Aberd'n & Kine'dine, C)
Gower, Sir Robert Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Smith Carington, Neville W.
Graham, Sir F. Fergus (Caab'rl'd, N.) Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Smithers, Waldron
Granville, Edgar Merriman, Sir F. Boyd Somerville, Donald Bradley
Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.) Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Graves, Marjorie Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Greases-Lord, Sir Walter Milne, Charles Soper, Richard
Greene, William P. C. Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Grenfell, E. C. (City of London) Mitcheson, G. G. Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Molson, A. Hugh Eisdale Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.
Grimston, R. V. Monsen, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres Stanley Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)
Gritten, W. G. Howard Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr) Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col, J. T. C. Stevenson, James
Gunston, Captain D. W. Moreing, Adrian C. Storey, Samuel
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.) Stourton, Hon. John J.
Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon) Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.) Strickland. Captain W. F.
Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-
Hanley, Dennis A. Morrison, William Shephard Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Muirhead, Major A. J. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Hartland, George A. Munro, Patrick Sutcliffe, Harold
Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Nall, Sir Joseph Tate, Mavis Constance
Headiam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Nall-Cain, Arthur Ronald N. Templeton, William P.
Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur p. Nation. Brigadier-General J. J. H. Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division) Nicholson. Godfrey (Morpeth) Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)
Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston) North, Captain Edward T. Thompson, Luke
Hopkinson, Austin Nunn, William Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Hore-Bellsha, Leslie O'Connor, Terence James Thorp, Linton Theodore
Hornby, Frank O'Donovan, Dr. William James Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Horobin, Ian M. Oman, Sir Charles William C. Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Horsbrugh, Florence Palmer, Francis Noel Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Howard, Tom Forrest Patrick, Colin M. Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Howitt, Dr. Alfred B. Peat, Charles U. Train, John
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Penny, Sir George Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Hudson. Robert Spear (Southport) Percy, Lord Eustace Turton, Robert Hugh
Hume, Sir George Hopwood Perkins, Walter R. D. Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg) Petherick, M. Wallace, Captain D. E. (Homsey)
Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H. Pete, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n,Bllst'n) Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Walisend)
James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. Pike, Cecil F. Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Jennings. Roland Potter, John Wardiaw-Milne, Sir John S.
Jesson, Major Thomas E. Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H. Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Waterhouse, Captain Charles Wills, Wilfrid D. Worthington, Dr. John V.
Watt, Captain George Steven H. Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth) Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Wells, Sydney Richard Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel Geore.
Whyte, Jardine Bell Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay) Womersley, Walter James Captain Margesson and Mr. Blindell.
Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.) Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley

The remaining Orders of the day were now read, and postponed.

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