HC Deb 12 July 1933 vol 280 cc1083-154

Motion made, and Question proposed That a sum, not exceeding £26,561,901, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1934, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Education, and of the various Establishments connected therewith, including sundry Grants in Aid."—(Note: £15,500,000 has been voted on account.)

3.16 p.m.


The Committee will appreciate that the year that has just gone has not been a particularly easy one for the administration of education, and I have no doubt that the Committee will regret as I do that my noble Friend, the President of the Board, is precluded from presenting the Estimates of his Department. His functions lie in another place, where it so happens that a Debate on an educational topic will be in progress shortly. I think that is evidence that, such is the popularity of education, it is able to attract two houses nightly. Had my noble Friend been in my place, he would have given, if I may say so, a lucid and masterly analysis of a difficult subject, but the lot falls upon me, and I should like to take the opportunity of saying how much the cause of education in these difficult times owes to the President. The Board of Education is under a deep sense of obligation to its late President, for in presenting the Estimates last year he laid down a policy of moderation designed to enable the Board to steer a course midway between the whirlpool of extravagance and the rocks of parsimony.

When the national finances justify an ample expenditure, it is a comparatively simple task to make a display of statistical, if not of educational progress, and to bask in the warmth of the plaudits of enthusiasts. When, as is the case today, those finances require the most careful nursing, it, would be equally tempting to elicit the cheers of those to whom expenditure on education is at best a regrettable necessity and often an unwarrantable extravagance. I hope to be able to show to the Committee that the Board has steered a middle course, courting neither the favour of those who measure advance by expenditure nor of those whose main idea of education is that there should be less of it. I hope that the picture which I shall present will in the main appeal to those who realise the vital importance of educating our young citizens, but who, at the same time, do not expect a coat to be cut in excess of the cloth available, and appreciate that the service of education is only one of many social services, and that within the limits of the resources at the disposal of the State it must be content with its fair share. Of course, if in the immortal words of an ex-Minister of Health "a nation can always afford what it wants," most of our difficulties would disappear, but in the absence of any confirmation of that comforting doctrine, I think on the whole, and I think the Committee will agree with me, that it is wiser for a. nation to confine its wants within the compass of what it can afford. I shall do my best to show the Committee that we have kept intact the fabric of education, have kept up the level of efficiency, have made considerable progress and, at the same time, have secured considerable savings.

The Committee will remember that last year the Board's Estimates showed a reduction of some £5,500,000. In point of fact, the actual economies were in the neighbourhood of £6,000,000, but were reduced by an increase in the sum for teachers' pensions amounting to £350,000. This year the reduction shown in the Estimates amounts to £830,775. There, again, the actual estimated economies are in the neighbourhood of £1,250,000, but they also will be offset by the automatic increase in teachers' pensions, amounting to nearly £500,000. So it is clear that such economies as the Board may be able to make are rendered less conspicuous by the increase in pensions to which I have alluded. Mention of the word "economy" brings me to make one or two points in regard to the possible, though not necessarily practicable, sources of large economies. I hope to prove to those—and they include occasionally some hon. Friends behind me—who seem to think that education presents an illimitable field for economy that the possible area is strictly limited, and by no means so large as some of them seem to think.

There are four substantial sources of possible though not necessarily practicable economies—reduction of teachers' salaries, reduction in teachers' pensions, reduction in the number of teachers and reduction in the number of schools. Those are four items of potential economy. Take the first, teachers' salaries. I am not sure that it is always realised how very large a part of the cost per pupil in our elementary schools is attributable to the cost of teachers' salaries. In point of fact, it is about 63 per cent., or nearly two-thirds of the total cost of a pupil in the public elementary schools. The Committee will be well aware that after the events of 1931 teachers, along with other classes of the community, suffered a 10 per cent. cut in their salaries, and for the most part they made their contribution in the national emergency with very great loyalty. Leaving that field aside, what remains? There is an area of only 37 per cent. of the cost per child, and it is obvious that in such a narrow and restricted field anything in the nature of drastic economies is very likely indeed to interfere with the efficiency of education, and I am convinced that no economist, however stern or unbending, desires to do that. Therefore, broadly speaking, it is clear that large economies are: dangerous, and though I may be exhorted to continue to "cut out the dead wood" in doing so I may be getting dangerously near to the living tree.

The second item is teachers' pensions. That is a statutory item. This year pensions amount to a total of £6,500,000, involving a net charge on the Board's Vote of about £3,000,000, or 7 per cent. of the total Vote. On account of the increasing number of pensioners this sum will rise in the next 35 years until the cost is pretty nearly double, and I am informed that in the next five years we may expect the cost to increase by about £1,000,000. Then I come to the third item, the number of teachers. Just before the Whit- sun Recess there was a Debate on the staffing circular issued by the Board of Education, and the matter was fairly thoroughly gone into then. I would only repeat that the Board have no intention whatever of reducing staffs so as to impair efficiency, and intend to retain the standard at present in vogue, and which has been in vogue for some time, under which there will not be more than 50 pupils in a class in a junior school and not more than 40 in a senior school.

On the other hand, as I pointed out in the Debate before Whitsun, investigation during the last year or two has disclosed a considerable variation and discrepancy in the standard adopted by various authorities, and the Board thought it right to review this standard with a view, as it were, to levelling the position and securing more uniformity, not on the basis of the worst local authority, but on the basis of the best. It is particularly desirable to carry out this review on account of the prospective fall in the number of school children in the next few years. As the Committee probably know already, by 1936, according to the Government Actuary's report, we may anticipate a fall of something like 350,000 in the number of school children, and by 1948 that number will have risen to 1,000,000. Clearly a factor of that kind is bound to affect the staffing in the various areas. I say "various areas," because we do not know how it will be distributed, and that makes it all the more necessary to have a, careful survey and to draw the attention of the local authorities to that point, because, after all, it is the business of an administrator in regard to the supply of teachers, to avoid if he can an over-supply, and to make, as far as he possibly can, a reasonable balance between wastage and recruitment.

Our past experience has shown that most of those failing to get employment in the year of leaving college succeed in obtaining posts in the course of the next few months of the ensuing year, and I see no particular reason to think, as regards those who left the training colleges last July, that I need make any exception to that statement. At any rate, at the present moment only a comparatively small percentage of teachers are unemployed—very much smaller than is the case in any other profession. But there is the future to consider, and that involves the future of the new entrants. The number of those who left training colleges last July was smaller than the number in 1931, but larger than the number in 1930, and this year will also be larger. We frankly admit that this problem is giving my noble friend and myself very great anxiety. We have considered it for a very long time. The Board have used, I think, all possible prescience to reduce over supply by the limitation of entrants into the training colleges, and I can only assure the Committee that that matter is under constant and careful consideration, and that, as far as I can see, by 1935 the number leaving should be reduced to something like the normal—below those of the years before 1929, when the numbers were increased in the expectation of the raising of the school-leaving age which, as the Committee know, did not mature.

The fourth item is the number of schools. Undoubtedly the closing of redundant schools is a field of economy. The Ray Committee estimated that by closing redundant schools £1,000,000 per annum would be saved. That committee postulated full freedom of action throughout the country to close schools irrespective of the denominations concerned. To adopt such a proposal would involve raising the religious issue in an acute form, and would plunge us into controversy. The Government are not prepared to do that, particularly at a time when there is increasing good will throughout the denominations. As the Committee are aware, assent has been given by the House to the Education (Necessity of Schools) Bill, which does not go anything like as far as the Ray Committee proposed, and does not abolish Section 19 of the Act of 1921, which is the Section that safeguards denominational schools. What the Bill does is to make it possible, in the case of dispute, for the Board to decide the closure of a school where the attendance is over 30, provided that transfer can take place to a denominational school of a similar character and easily accessible.

In a review of economy, not only the major but the minor economies must be considered, and I do not propose to go at length into them. There is one ques- tion to which hon. Members often draw my attention, and that is the disparity in school costs. It has been pointed out to me that there are cases where that cost works out at £45 per child, and that in another area in the neighbourhood, which appears to be similar, it works out at £30 per child. The obvious answer is that, without further knowledge of the circumstances, it is difficult to pronounce in the matter, and that there are many factors which go to cause the disparity, such as difficulties of the site, difficulties of transport and so on. I can assure the Committee that the Board have this question of economy in school buildings under careful consideration. They make suggestions to local authorities and the sum, which they regard as the approximate figure to aim at, is £30 per school place. The local education authorities are co-operating with the Board's recommendation, and a circular has been issued, since when we are able to take, as the average figure for brick-built schools, a cost of £29 per place, and, for schools of lighter construction, £22 per place.

We are now in a position to make a survey of the Estimate for 1933. The important figure to note is upon page 8 of the Memorandum to the Estimates, where it is stated that the estimated expenditure of local education authorities, upon which the Exchequer bases the grant, is £77,620,000, as compared with £79,000,000 for 1932, a reduction of £1,380,000. That is the real measure of the economies which it has been possible to make. The reduction consists of £1,095,000 for elementary education and £285,000, for higher education. The saving is shared between the Exchequer and the rates, as to £791,000 to the Exchequer and £589,000 to the rates. The Board also make direct grants to certain bodies other than local education authorities for the training of teachers, and in respect of direct grants to certain secondary schools, for scholarships, and for maintenance allowances. Those grants total £1,620,000, and the items range from £733,170 for the training of teachers to £150 for the Chelsea Physic Garden. That makes a total saving of £101,000 in direct grants over 1932.

I will now give, very shortly, an analysis of the expenditure and, on the principle that economy like charity begins at home, I will start with the Board's administrative expenses, in regard to the cost of inspection and of officials and so forth. The saving on those amounts to £18,000. That may not seem very large, but it has been made in a field which has been gleaned and re-gleaned. As a matter of fact, in 1914 the administrative and inspecting staff of all grades numbered 1,542, while to-day it numbers 1,287. Since 1914, we have been able to make a reduction of 255 in the personnel, or 16 per cent. in the total numbers. Nobody would suggest that there is less administrative work to do in 1933 than there was in 1914, and I think the Committee will agree that the figures which I have given are a striking tribute to the energy and efficiency of the Board's staff in being able to carry on the administrative work with such reduced numbers.

With regard to local education costs, the figures show a reduction of £315,000 and, as local education authorities provide 80 per cent of the cost of most of their own administration and inspection, they have a considerable stimulus to reduce the cost, and that stimulus appears to have been effective.

I come to the third item in the analysis, which is that of "other expenditure". It is the largest item in the estimated savings of the local education authorities, and amounts to £450,000. That figure covers the day-to-day maintenance of the schools, other than teachers' salaries, and represents 15 per cent. of the cost per pupil. It comprises items such as the repair of buildings, furniture, books, apparatus, care-taking and so on. Obviously, those figures cannot be reduced without very greatly damaging the efficiency of the schools, and I should not like to encourage the suggestion that reduction can go on in that direction to anything like the same extent as in other directions.

The fourth item is "capital expenditure." The substantial reduction with which I shall deal affects public elementary schools, and includes a saving in regard to lower loan charges. Those charges show that the approved capital expenditure has decreased by about £2,750,000, in respect of public elementary schools. There is an idea in some quarters that there is a kind of blockade or embargo upon new school buildings, and there is also the idea that the Board of Education is adopting, in that regard, a policy in conflict with, or at any rate different from, the policy adopted by the Ministry of Health. I hope to show the Committee that both those ideas are erroneous. In the first place, in regard to the idea that there is an embargo or blockade, let me point out that by the end of March, expenditure on new buildings of all kinds was sanctioned amounting to nearly £4,250,000. I shall be told at once that in 1930 the Socialist Government sanctioned buildings up to the 'amount of £13,000,000. I do not think that the Committee, in these times, will expect me to rival the figures of the care-free and opulent days of the Socialist Government. A truer comparison can be made with the years prior to 1929, and if that comparison is made, it shows that last year's approved expenditure was about the same as the average for 1919 to 1929, not excluding 1924, when, if I recollect rightly, the Socialist Minister of Education announced that it was his intention to go full steam ahead. In that year, however, he appears to have recollected that a steam engine runs on rails. Five year's later he forgot that, and met with the inevitable accident. As a matter of fact, I make this comparison with the years 1919–29 with some diffidence, for it may not be altogether palatable in the opinion of some of the economists who sit behind me.

As regards the second allegation, that the policy of the Ministry of Health with regard to the sanctioning of loans for public works is less restrictive than the Board's policy. I would say, in the first place, that that is not the case, and, even if it were, there would be a very good reason for differentiating between the two policies. In the case of the Ministry of Health, the charges fall, with the exception, I think, of housing, on the rates, whereas in the case of the Board of Education the charges fall as to 20 per cent. on the Exchequer in relation to public elementary schools, and as to 50 per cent. in relation to secondary schools.

The second point of differentiation is that the cost of new public buildings is mainly confined to the cost of loan charges, whereas in the case of schools the loan charges form but a very small proportion of the total costs. It is the maintenance, which is mainly represented by salaries, that really makes the large bill. I hope it will be clear to the Committee, in view of the figures I have given, that the Board are perfectly justi- fied in their policy as laid down in Circular 1413, which gave ample discretion to deal with urgent repairs, black-listed schools, and urgent needs such as those created by new housing schemes and the need for reorganisation. I will give figures shortly to show how justified the board are in still maintaining the policy of that Circular. As regards higher education, we have been helping forward various important developments, especially in connection with the new technical colleges at Dudley and Coventry, and I foresee a number of similar projects this year.

Part of the Board's expenditure on new buildings is concerned with reorganisation under the Harlow Scheme. We attach immense importance to this programme of reorganisation, and I think I shall be able to show the Committee that we have made striking progress in connection with it. The increase in the reorganised senior and junior departments during the year ending on the 31st March, 1932, is the largest since the Hadow Report was issued in December, 1926, and we have made progress since March, 1932. At that date there were about 37 per cent. of the children over 11 in senior departments, and I am informed that the number by December last had increased to a figure somewhere between 40 and 50 per cent. In the case of black-listed schools, considerable progress is being made in repairs and replacement work. During 1932, 154 of these schools were removed from the list, as compared with 145 in the previous year; that is to say, they are being removed at the rate of three a week. That seems to me to be some answer to those who airily say that education is at a standstill or is being put back 50 years.

I come now to the question of large classes. These are being steadily reduced. In the 12 months up to the 31st March, 1932, the number of classes containing 50 or more was reduced by 585. The problem is admittedly a peculiarly difficult one, because of the "bulge" due to the children born in the years immediately after the War. This has caused exceptional difficulties. That "bulge" is now passing through the senior schools, and in the course of two or three years it will, I think, be much easier to cope with. At any rate, over two-thirds of the classes containing more than 50 have been got rid of during the last 10 years.

Turning to the subject of higher education, the Estimates show a saving in the expenditure of local education authorities of some £285,000. Here again the salaries of teachers form a very considerable proportion of the cost per pupil, amounting to about 60 per cent. We have given careful attention to the question of staffing, and before Whitsuntide we issued our Circular No. 1428, drawing the attention of local authorities to various factors which in our experience make for large staffing. We have not laid down any ratio; the problem is far too complex for that; but we have drawn attention, as the result of our experience, to certain factors which may be overlooked, and I think that local education authorities welcome the assistance which we are giving them in that respect.

I should like here to say a word in connection with another Circular No. 1421, which occupied the attention of hon. Members for a certain period. Six months ago there was a very large number of extremely gloomy prophets as to the effect of this Circular, and as to the general conflict and disorganisation that would ensue. At the present moment I think those prophets are very much in the background, but it is clear that there are still some persons who are unconvinced. I am sorry to number among them the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones), because I observe that in March he stated that the money saved by this Circular was to be found at the expense of depriving secondary school children of the poorer classes of legitimate educational opportunities—a deprivation, he said, practised in the name of economy. I shall be surprised to be confronted with a single case where that has been the result of the Circular, and, if the hon. Member, when his turn comes to speak, is able to point out to me even one case where that has happened as a result of the Circular, I promise that I will give it my very earnest consideration.

I think the Committee will bear with me for a few moments while I say something about the relation of education to the unemployment problem. The steps that are being taken in this connection can be divided into two categories. The first is to prevent the ill effects upon the children of the unemployment of their parents, and the second is to mitigate the effect of unemployment on the children themselves after they have left school. With regard to the first category, if hon. Members will turn to the Estimates, they will see that we have somewhat increased the item for special medical services, and I would say now that the Board are prepared to approve of any urgently needed extensions when the medical arrangements are obviously incomplete. Another measure is concerned with the provision of meals. The Committee will see from the Estimates that we have made the same provision in this regard as was made last year. The reason is that, after the most careful examination, we do not find evidence of increasing malnutrition. There again, however, if the local authorities have good grounds for extending their arrangements for the provision of meals, they will find the board very sympathetic.

I would like to say a word about the question of malnutrition among school children, because, obviously, this is a, question that must interest Members of all parties, and it is one to which the Board have given very close attention, because it is a field in which one might expect serious difficulties to arise. I observe that the Leader of the Opposition speaking in the House last February, said that Medical officers of health are reporting a steady deterioration in the children attending the schools. That has been repeated in this House and no notice has been taken of it whatsoever."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th Feb., 1933; col. 1205, Vol. 274.] I have not had an opportunity in the House of taking notice of it until this moment but I propose to take notice of it now and to say that this statement that the medical officers of health have reported a steady deterioration in the children attending the schools in quite inaccurate. For instance, the Board's Chief Medical Officer, Sir George Newman, in his report last Autumn said that there was as yet no evidence of a lowering of health or of impaired physique. The report of the Chief Medical Officer was borne out by the reports of the school medical officers which we are receiving, brought up to Christmas, 1932, and, in point of fact, out of 268 reports which have been received up to date only 17 give any instances of increasing malnutrition. Take London. The report of the School Medical Officer for London has recently been published. According to it, only one more in a thousand children was found to have sub-normal nutrition compared with 1931, and the report points out that this fractional increase was due to the effects of a widespread epidemic of measles which lowered the vitality of the younger children.

The report goes on to show that the decrease in the percentage of sub-normal nutrition for 1932 is quite substantial as compared with 1925. In other words, 1932 shows a substantially better position as regards this problem of malnutrition than 1925. The report points out that the children of over seven were found to be in better condition in 1932 than in 1931. These figures include all children with nutrition below the average. They are not confined to children suffering from severe malnutrition. Figures are given showing that, out of 180,000 children examined, only 29 were found to be very ill-nourished. Malnutrition in a good many cases, is due to organic defects and not necessarily to inability to obtain food. With regard to other areas, many of them have suffered more distress than London, but none the less there is no evidence of diminution in health. For 1932, as compared with 1931, some areas show increases and others decreases and on balance there is practically no change. It is interesting to observe that decreases are shown in Glamorganshire, Monmouthshire, Cardiff and Newport.

Broadly speaking, my information goes to show that, throughout the country as a whole, the number of cases of malnutrition have fallen from 11.2 per thousand in 1931 to 10.7 in 1932. I mention that percentage because only a week ago the ex-Minister of Health quoted percentage figures for 1925, 1930 and 1931 which showed that the incidence of malnutrition was on an ascending scale. It is rather a pity that he was not aware of this figure of 10.7, which completely destroys the whole of his argument. It appears on the whole that the tide has definitely turned.

The next point that I will take is with regard to the second category of unemployment after leaving school. In many quarters one solution of this problem is to keep the children longer in the schools, and that proposal is often supported on the ground that it will provide more em- ployment for adults. I think that argument should be received with the utmost caution. It is by no means certain that such a result would follow. Admittedly, the unemployment of children between 14 and 16 has a very bad effect, but that matter is engaging the most careful attention of the Ministry of Labour, co-operating with the Board of Education. The Board itself, when suitable courses and suitable accommodation are available, would be pleased to allow the children to remain. It is suggested sometimes that this problem could be solved by day continuation schools under the Fisher Act but, apart from the cost which would amount to millions, you could not limit it to unemployed juveniles only without special legislation. As regards the method at present in vogue, the method of juvenile instruction centres, the Minister of Labour is responsible and centres are conducted by local education authorities and so are brought in contact with the Board of Education. Where sufficient numbers do not exist to justify forming a centre, the Board and local authorities can and do arrange for evening classes to be available to those juveniles. The Minister of Labour has stated that the matter is under his earnest consideration, and I will leave it there.

I am now able to review what I might call the key positions in the educational system, beginning with the organisation of the senior schools for three or four year courses, with a definitely practical bias. A striking instance of that practical bias was shown me yesterday in the reorganised rural schools in East Suffolk which I visited.


The best example in the country.


If bon. Members are nervous that the reorganisation of rural schools is going to urbanise the children and draw them away from the country to the town atmosphere, this area provides a demonstration exactly to the contrary. So far from encouraging the children to go to the towns, it provides a definite stimulus for them to remain on the land and they are given a definite education to enable them to earn a living on the land. I hope hon. Members who are interested in this problem of rural education will look at a pamphlet issued by the Board of Education dealing with this experiment—it has only been in operation for three years—entitled "An Experiment in Rural Reorganisation." I should like to pay a tribute to the East Suffolk Local Authority, to the inspector of the district, and to the teachers, who have co-operated magnificently in working out the scheme.

The secondary school is the core of the educational system. My Noble Friend the Member for 'Hastings (Lord E. Percy) has described it, rightly, as the spinal column of any educational system. The secondary school is a school for the pick of the boys and girls, the eventual leaders of commerce and industry and the professions. From the most academically gifted of these boys and girls the universities will draw a large number of their members. To a large extent these boys and girls enter the secondary schools as the result of competitive examination, the area of which has widened since the issue of Circular 1421. But one cannot help asking oneself the question: Is the method of selection of school children at the age of 11 working well? Is it an adequate test of the aptitude of the child for admittance to a secondary school? If it is not, then very serious results will eventually ensue. Readers of Professor Valentine's recent book describing investigations which he carried out, although those investigations cover a very limited field, will know that he found that there is very little correspondence between the order of merit in passing into the secondary school and the order of merit in taking the school certificate. He also examined the order of merit after the children had been in school a year or two, and found it corresponded closely with the order of passing out at the school certificate stage.

The statistics are very limited, and we must not draw too much inference from them, but, according to these statistics, there is very little correspondence between the order of merit on passing in and on passing out, though there is very close correlation between the school order of merit in the first year or two and results in the school certificate. If that conclusion holds true over a wide field, it is a very serious matter, and the Committee will appreciate the importance of having the subject very widely and carefully investigated. It might, perhaps, be worth bearing in mind the possibility of transfer from secondary schools to junior technical schools, for example, after a year's trial, and possibly of transfer of late developers from junior technical schools to secondary schools.

At all events, I do not believe that the secondary school examination very often misses the really clever child. Evidence of that is shown by the record of the secondary school pupil in the field of academic scholarship. For instance, last year, out of a total of 565 open scholarships and exhibitions awarded at Oxford and Cambridge, no fewer than 305 were won by pupils from grant-earning schools, that is, nearly three-fifths, and of these, 58 per cent. were educated at public elementary schools. As regards the winners of State scholarships, all of these came from grant-earning schools, and about 70 per cent. from public elementary schools. Last year, 195 State scholars sat for degrees at the various universities, of whom 104 took second-class and 77 first-class honours. Practically the whole of them took either first-class or second-class honours. Of course, a comparatively small fraction of the secondary school population go to universities. Out of 450,000 pupils in our secondary schools, only some 4,000 to 5,000 a year go direct to the universities. The great majority leave the schools not later than 16½ years of age after taking the first school certificate examination.

Last year, the Secondary School Examinations Council authorised the carrying out of an investigation into the first school examination, and the body of investigators appointed by the council have produced a report. They say two main things: First, that the first examination though passed at 16, or often much younger, is accepted by the various universities in place of matriculation, provided that it is passed up to a certain standard and in certain subjects. As the Committee knows, this matriculation certificate seems to have made a great appeal to employers, though I cannot quite see why, because many of the subjects are very wide of the needs of the employer, who would do far better, in my judgment, to select his pupils by paying more attention to the advice which the headmaster would give him. It is also alleged that the energies of the secondary schools are too much directed to fulfilling the matriculation requirements of the universities, regardless of the fact that of those who matriculate, not one in four proceeds direct to a university.

The report recommends, first, that the school certificate examination should no longer be an alternative to the university matriculation examination, and that pupils in secondary schools should not be allowed to take an external matriculation examination unless they are genuine candidates for admission to a university. But I shall not be expected to express an opinion upon that now. It is good to know that the matter is still receiving close consideration not only by the Secondary School Examinations Council but by the universities, local authorities and other persons concerned. As regards the school certificate itself as distinct from the matriculation certificate, in my judgment, and I think in that of the Committee also, that certificate should continue, because not only does it enable the Board to assess the general level of the boys and girls taking the certificate, but also avoids the evil of a multiplicity of external examinations by professional bodies, who at present accept the school certificate as a step in the preliminary qualification for admission.

The fourth key position, in my view, concerns technical education. I think that there is no doubt that this country is becoming increasingly alive to the importance of that form of education. In the past, it used to be relegated to a position of inferiority, but that, I am glad to say, is a thing of the past, and we should now realise clearly that the technical colleges to-day provide a route parallel and alternative to the route of the university, and in many cases technical college diplomas are recognised, as they ought to be, as having equal status with the degrees awarded by the universities. Every child should have some training for the hand as well as the brain, no matter how academic his bent may be. It is good to know, that although secondary schools are sometimes charged with being over-academic, a charge which may be sometimes true, the further education of ex-secondary school pupils in technical colleges is rapidly increasing, and in some cases no less than 50 per cent. of the pupils in the technical colleges come from secondary schools.

If I may sum up, the key positions are these: First, the careful organisation of the senior schools, not only in the interests of the older but also of the younger children; secondly, the problem of the selection of the children best fitted for a secondary school education; thirdly, the lightening of the load of examinations; and fourthly, the growing importance of technical education and development of the power all through school life and after to use the hands and eyes as well as the brain. I know that the interest I take in the furtherance of technical education may provide material for accusing me of caring only for vocational education. At the same time, I think the Committee will agree that if education is not vocational, if it does not train for some calling in life, it is a poor, useless and anaemic sort of education, a skeleton devoid of flesh and blood. Suitable it may be for a few cloistered, sequestered individuals, but ruinous to an active and industrious race like ours. Yet I am well aware that the function of education is to train for leisure as well as for work, and I do not believe that either craftsmanship, citizenship or culture each by itself can reasonably be treated as the sole aim of education. On the other hand, no one can be considered to be adequately educated who has not learned to combine within himself good citizenship, good workmanship, and the mastery of his leisure.

4.11 p.m.


I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.

I am sure that I may offer, on behalf of all Members of the Committee, without distinction of party, our most hearty congratulations to my hon. Friend opposite on the very delightful way in which he has discharged a very onerous task. He has made the Estimates of the Board of Education, and the story which surrounds those Estimates, most entrancing to us all, and, as his predecessor in his present office, I offer him my warmest congratulations. Having offered that by way of bouquet to the hon. Gentleman, I am afraid that I have exhausted my supplies. I fear that I am not able to accept the somewhat comforting story which he invited us to accept this afternoon concerning the work of the Board of Education, and, if it would be con- venient to the hon. Gentleman and to the Committee, I should like to follow briefly the story of the board's work in chronological order, as it were.

In the first place, I would like to say that I am very sorry that the hon. Gentleman, in the course of his remarks, made no reference at all to the nursery school movement. He will know that we on this side of the Committee have paid very considerable attention to this movement, and attach considerable importance to it. I daresay his answer to me at a later stage will be that in times like these we cannot afford this, that and the other. I anticipate the answer at this point by saying that the nation cannot afford to be indifferent to the require-merits of children, not merely on the educational side, but the requirements of children at a delicate age before they enter upon the more formal course of instruction in the elementary schools. When I use the phrase "nursery school," it is not so much the school part that I emphasise as the nursery part, and if I understood the message that was given to the world by those two distinguished sisters Rachel and Margaret Macmillan, it was that children ought to be taken away at an early age, and put into some sort of association with their fellows, when their bodies might be cared for at an earlier stage than is now possible, and where they might be able to lay the foundations of a good, sound, healthy body.

Apart from that consideration, I would like to add that, if I am not misinformed, the statistics which Sir George Newman so admirably presents to the country year after year indicate that children at the early stage of formal school life—I mean elementary school life—are often found by our very beneficent medical service to be in a condition, which, if attended to medically at an earlier age, would have avoided a good deal of subsequent expenditure of public money. I am very sorry, so far as I understand the situation, that this very mistaken policy of economy, which I call educational waste, has arrested the development of the nursery school movement, though, I hope, only for a very short time. I was interested in the observations of the hon Gentleman in regard to the degree of malnutrition which is said to exist among the elementary school children in the country. I have never vet, either in this House or outside, committed myself to the statement that there is a very large amount of malnutrition among our children, partly because I have not the information at my disposal, but I confess that I am surprised at the statement made by the hon. Gentleman this afternoon. I will make him a present of the fact that I was agreeably surprised, because I happen to know the area of South Wales pretty well where there is, as everyone knows, a very great amount of poverty and economic distress. I confess that I find it difficult to believe—and I do not throw any doubt upon the certificates received by the board from medical officers—that there is no distress or need for special provisions for feeding the children hi those areas. Last Friday the Minister of Health spoke in this House, and a passage of his speech is not inapposite to this discussion, namely, the reference which he made to the problem of malnutrition. It does not concern the Board of Education, but it is related to the subject, and that is why I make reference to it. This is what he said: I will say one word which deserves the attention of local authorities. When you are looking for a place in the family where malnutrition will show itself, and where the bad effects of unemployment and depression will show themselves, look at the mother, look at the woman. It is impossible and beyond the power of any man to prevent a mother from depriving herself for the sake of her children."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th July, 1933; col. 657. Vol. 280.] The malnutrition of the mother does not concern the Board of Education primarily, except to this degree, that, if the case exists for the provision of nutrition for the child through the medium of the local education authorities, the feeding of the child in that way would save this degree of malnutrition on the part of the mother. This is how I relate the two points for the purpose of this Debate. If it be true—and I say, "if" advisedly, and I find it hard to believe, I confess—that the children in those schools are not suffering from malnutrition, no one is more glad than I, speaking, as I do, as an old teacher in those depressed areas. I pass from the nursery school movement and the question of the feeding of school children, hoping that the hon. Gentleman and his advisers at the Board will keep their eyes upon the question of the physical necessities of these children. I cannot believe that the future holds out any immediate hope in South Wales of a speedy improvement of financial conditions. Therefore, it is essential that a constant watchfulness should be exercised with regard to their physical condition.

I come to the next stage in intellectual and educational progress, namely, the elementary schools. Here, straight away, we come up against the subject of the buildings or the housing of the children. The hon. Gentleman modestly said that he could not compete with a. Socialist Government in its exhibitions of exorbitant spending. The hon. Gentleman cannot compete with us in local government at all, so that he had beter give it up, but I think that he might attempt a little rivalry in the matter of school buildings all the same. At least he might show a little desire to compete with us, for rivalry in some things is not altogether undesirable; and rivalry in the matter of adequate school buildings is desirable. The hon. Gentleman will know that when we were in office from 1929–31 we stimulated, as best we could, the provision of school buildings, and that we did it in a very definite way. He has already this afternoon borne testimony to the fact that our device was very successful. We said that, "Up to now you have had a grant of 20 per cent. in respect of your school buildings, and in respect of the particular things which you contractually undertake between 1st September, 1929, and 1st September, 1932, we will raise the grant from 20 per cent. to 50 per cent." As a result, all sorts of endeavours were made by local authorities to get in on the ground floor, so to speak, with their plans and schemes for school building development, and the figures which the hon. Gentleman has given this afternoon show the remarkable success which attended that effort on the part of the then Government.

I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he should still continue to encourage local authorities in the matter of school building development, because no one can argue even to-day that we have achieved anything like perfection in the matter of school buildings up and down the land. I cordially and gladly admit that some of the new buildings constitute a revolution in school building provisions. One is filled with a sense of pleasure and pride as one looks upon the new buildings which local authorities have provided in various parts. I do not see why children in all parts of the country should not be able to participate in benefits of that sort. I need not enumerate the points which go to justify the case for adequate school building development at this point, but it is still well known that there are large numbers of small village schools in many parts of the country shamefully inadequate from the standpoint of modern standards. There are no drinking facilities, lavatory accommodation is scandalously inefficient and out-of-date, and class room accommodation is also subject to the same criticism. The case is doubly strong at this moment, for the reason that it is a time when we ought at least to be meeting as far as possible, the cry for work for our unemployed building workers. It is an odd policy to be throwing large numbers of men on to the unemployment market, when public necessities will compel us, in a few years anyhow, to provide more adequate school buildings than is now the case.

I turn now to the size of classes. I frankly admit that the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary is undoubtedly true, that in the last ten years there has been a substantial and a gradual fall in the number of classes of over 50 in the country. But when we speak of a class of 50 we are not speaking of a standard of super-excellence, are we? Do not let us preen ourselves with the reflection that 50 is a desirable number. I know that we have to aim at some figure for the time being, but when we have reached that figure we must get another and a better figure if we can. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the figure of 50 cannot be accepted as a decent standard for the size of any class. Therefore, the Circular to which he has already referred, and which was discussed here on the day before the adjournment for Whitsuntide, was a particularly ill-timed circular, because surely at this particular moment of all times we ought not to be encouraging people to think that we are extravagant in the matter of staffing in the country.

I know that the explanation of certain figures which were given to me on the Thursday before we broke up is probably to be found in the fact that we have a bulge in population. What a delightful fact that is. Every educationist belong- ing to the Tory party has referred to the bulge with the utmost enthusiasm as if that explains all attempts at any sort of economy that may be undertaken. I dare-say that the bulge in population explains in some degree the figures which were given to me the day before we broke up, but having regard to the large numbers of students who emerged from college in the year before last, some of whom have not yet had work to do, and who emerged from college last year and are still unemployed, and who will undoubtedly emerge this year and will be unemployed, I suggest that now is a most inappropriate time to do anything but to proceed as rapidly as possible with the reduction in the size of classes in our various schools. I would like in passing to say this upon this point. The hon. Gentleman is perhaps not responsible and does not feel morally responsible in this matter, but I confess that I do. He said to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove): We come to the point mentioned by the hon. Member for Aberavon Mr. Cove) as to the effect of staffing upon the supply of school teachers. I do not wish to make a merely party point. But he did not forget to make it all the same. We are much too good friends for that, but I am bound to say that the Administration of 1929 to 1931 'handed the baby' to the present Board of Education to carry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd June, 1933; col. 2307, Vol. 278.] "Handed the baby!" Why, they snatched the darling from our arms, and they did it for the most base reasons too, because we were giving it too good' nourishment. Since then they have been busy reducing its stamina and physical well-being to such a degree that it is now a mere starveling.


You were making it sick.


I did not know that there could be such a thing as feeding it with food which was too good. I do not think that that was the case with our bantling. The Government in 1929, not merely invited—the appropriate word is a stronger word than that—but even brought a certain amount of governmental pressure to bear upon training college authorities to expand the accommodation of their colleges. We used Government prestige to induce young people to go into colleges, and, after all, when a Government deliberately invites young people to go to college, it implies that there will be some sort of security of a job on emerging from college. As a result of this inducement in 1929–30 thousands of young men and young women, it is no exaggeration to say, went into colleges at great expense to themselves and at great sacrifice in their homes, in order to qualify for the large number of posts which the Government said or implied would be available. Now, the Government have thrown them on the scrap-heap. The Parliamentary Secretary says: "I am not responsible for that. That was the work of your Government." That is true in a sense up to a point, but the hon. Member will not object to this observation, that my right hon. Friend Sir Charles Trevelyan indicated that he was busy making the engine work a little more easily in order to drive the machine a little faster along the road. Then the hon. Member came along, as a. political gangster, and put some boulders on the lines and our train was derailed, not because of bad driving but because of the dreadful and iniquitous impulses by which the hon. Member and his friends are sometimes moved.

I feel strongly that the Government inveigled these young people, almost by false pretences, into the colleges in 1929–30. I should not be able to make such a point to-day were there no means of finding places for these young people, but seeing that so many large classes still exist it ought to be possible to find room for far more of them. I shall be told that you cannot put more than one class into a room. I know that that is sc, but as a shift for a time it ought to be possible to make certain adjustments, because every classroom is not occupied all the day long. With adjustments, we ought to be able to absorb these young people and make use of their services, if only to save them from the unemployment market.

I turn now to the secondary schools. The hon. Member trailed his coat a bit on the question of the secondary school fees. He seemed to think that we had become ominously silent about their policy in regard to secondary school fees and invited me to give him a case or two. He said that if I would give him a case or two he would attend to them and verify them. I am much obliged for that generous offer, but I do not want to miss the wood for the trees. Let us look at Circular 4358, which gives the standard rate of tuition fees which have been agreed upon as a result of the famous or infamous Circular 1421. I travelled last Friday with two people engaged in educational work. They happened to be teachers. I cannot give their names and I did not take the precaution of taking down the details, but they told me that they knew of cases where children had qualified for places in secondary schools, but in view of the fact that certain fees must be paid the parents had abandoned the hope of enabling their children to prosecute a secondary school career. I give those facts for what they are worth.

Let me deal with the general principle. Here is a case taken from page 3 of Circular 4358. Wallasey formerly charged no fees in two of its secondary schools, but now they have to pay fees of nine guineas. I shall be told that there are special places. That may be so, but I am not so much concerned to argue what may be the immediate scheme adopted by the Board of Education to avoid the worst effects of this Circular. I am mainly concerned with the direction which this policy is taking. Hon. Members opposite flatter themselves, I hope with justification, that we are facing a period of reviving prosperity. Let us hope that that is true. I make this proposition—I am open to correction and I am prepared to hear the argument against it—that this Circular makes it quite clear that we have left, finally, the principle of free secondary education in this country.


I hope so.


That is the hon. Member's point of view and he is honest and open enough to say so, but the Parliamentary Secretary will not say so. I give him the chance. He will not say that that is the policy of the Government, and yet it is so. Suppose we do get revived prosperity in this country, what will happen? Let me take an area like Merthyr Tydvil or an area like Glamorganshire, or any other area where grave depression exists, and where, because of the grave depression, unemployment is so rife, and where even the earnings of people who are still at work are so low that they are well below the margin of fees imposed by the Board of Education. The moment parents come above the margin of fees imposed, the tendency will be to depart from the principle of free secondary education. Hon. Members opposite may say that is right and justifiable, but from my point of view it is going entirely in the wrong direction.

I see no difference whatever in principle between the provision of free elementary education and the provision of free secondary education. I hope to see the day when all the schools in this country will be made free but not compulsory to all who desire to avail themselves of the schools, whether they be elementary or secondary. In so far as this Circular indicates the imposition of a system of fees, the board has gone back from the policy of free education. That is amply proved in the case of Glamorganshire, where there are 27 schools, in nine of which no fees were charged. Now, they are to pay £7 10s. In Swansea there are four schools which have not charged fees, and fees are to go up to £12. In Wiltshire the fees are five guineas and six guineas, and they now go up to 12. guineas. In Sheffield no fees were charged in five schools, and now the fees go up to £7 10s. In Durham no fees were charged in 20 schools, but in those 20 schools fees of six guineas have been imposed. That is driving the progressive authorities backwards. It is putting a brake not upon the recalcitrant or reactionary authorities but upon those that want to go ahead. You are imposing fees in areas where for the most part parents cannot afford to pay them.


And those o cannot afford still do not pay.


The right hon. Baronet is entitled to speak of what he knows in Devonshire.


In other places too.


The right hon. Baronet is entitled to speak of what he knows in Devonshire, but I can assure him that in areas in many parts of the country it is possible for people, because of their poverty, to refuse to contemplate secondary school education under the new conditions if only because, even if fees are provided, maintenance allowances have gone.

I come now to my final point. The Parliamentary Secretary made reference, and I was glad to hear it, to technical education. He has worked hard upon this matter, and I have followed with interest his speeches in the country on it. He has followed in the tracks of the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) who also took a very strong line in regard to technical education. I am absolutely sure that if there be a gap in our educational system at this moment it is on the technical educational side. Many people have strong views concerning what is called vocational education. They have an objection to a system of education which implies that because a child happens to belong to a certain walk of life it should be fitted for that walk of life which happens to be that of its father or its family. In the long run, we all of us have to follow some form of occupation or other, or we all ought to do so, which is perhaps not the same thing, and our education ought to enable us in some degree to discharge our vocational duties more completely and also to discharge our civic duties more completely. Perhaps I would put the civic interpretation on the value of education more highly than on the vocational side.

There are authorities who have made valient efforts to preserve their technical colleges. There are a number of such authorities in Lancashire, Yorkshire and, other parts of the country. There ought to be a much more comprehensive survey of our technical instruction facilities, having regard to the immediate future that lies ahead of the country. We aria living in an age of mechanisation, when there is almost an industrial revolution taking place before our eyes, and I am not at all certain that unless this country equips itself more adequately on the technical side that Britain is not going to lose her place of priority amongst the nations of the world. Some sort of comprehensive survey ought to be undertaken, either regional or national.

Some time ago I had the privilege of presiding over a committee which examined the situation in South Wales, and we discovered there—not for the first time so far as some of us were concerned —that our technical education provision was hopelessly, almost shamefully, inadequate. There are one or two fine institutions, perhaps three at the outside, and advantage ought to be taken at this particular moment of the powers available to the Board of Education to survey the field by a competent committee, which might advise the board and prevent, what I apprehend may take place presently, the creation of innumerable small district committees each duplicating their functions and without any correlation of activities. I say more. I have a feeling that even where there are technical colleges doing the best they can under the help and guidance of the local authority, they are likely to be hampered by inadequate financial resources if they have to depend on the resources of one particular local authority. There ought to be correlation over a larger field, and I hope the hon. Member will be able to say that the Board of Education will examine this matter in the immediate future.

I cannot pretend to the Parliamentary Secretary that my friends on this side of the House are satisfied with the trend of the policy of the Board of Education. If I have given that impression it is wrong; but I do not think I have conveyed that impression. The hon. Member may feel that we are making extravagant claims at a time like the present. I cannot accept that point of view. When the Government can afford £16,000,000, as is the case this year, to remove from the Budget the extra taxation imposed on drink and find £900,000 to provide a summer resort for the Territorials, the Board of Education ought not to confront this Committee with a statement in which they propose to cut down what is after all one of the most vital and fundamental services in the State. The Government can cut down education td-day, they can save money to-day, as they have done; but in the long run the Britain of to-morrow will pay for the educational folly of to-day.

4.49 p.m.


I want to add my congratulations to those of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones) to the Minister for his clear, luminating and charming statement. I assure him that that is no empty compliment. It is customary when an hon. Member acts for his Department for the first time to say kind things about him, but his statement, really, was clear, comprehensive and full of enthusiasm for education. I felt when he was speaking—it is the best compliment I can pay him—that he was no reactionary, but a sincere lover of education. He may not go so far as some of us would like, but he is a man whose heart is in his job. It may be unfortunate that the President of the Board of Education is not a Member of this House. This is a great spending Department, which affects the daily lives of the people and the future of the nation, and it would be an immense advantage to have the President of the Board of Education in the House of Commons, but in this case we need not be too critical, because the Noble Lord the President of the Board was in this House for some years, and he has an excellent substitute to act for him.

I hope that the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary suggests that then is to be a lull in circulars; a close time for circulars. Those who are in charge of education have been going through a very depressing time. There was, first of all, the cut, which diverted their attention from their real task; and then we have had the two circulars to which reference has been made. The staffing circular has already been discussed. I objected to both circulars. I was critical; but I am not going to attach too much importance to them now. We must look at the spirit behind the circulars. If the President and the Parliamentary Secretary are sincere in their enthusiasm for education, then their policy will not be a policy of reaction, and we will draw a veil over the circulars for the moment and see what happens during the next few months. I am glad, however, that the President has not listened to the reactionary advice of the hon. Member for Richmond (Sir W. Ray) contained in the famour Ray Report.


He is getting it in bit by bit.


We must keep the Parliamentary Secretary in the straight path; and I think he made it clear today that he has no intention of going back but forward. I must congratulate the Department on their annual report, one of the best we have seen for many a long day. It is comprehensive, full of interest full of meat and information. There is an excellent chapter on Art Education, the kind of thing we want in an annual report. In his speech the hon. Member referred to the striking progress made in the work of reorganisation. The figures given in the annual report show that throughout the country great schemes, at any rate on paper, are coming into life, but I would warn the hon. Member not to attach too much importance to shuffling boys from one school to another, merely separating juniors from seniors. When these schemes are sanctioned they must be real schemes, they must be real senior schools. To break up the old traditions of a school is not good, and you can only justify it when you create a real senior school, a modern school, a new spirit and a new atmosphere, not merely a new building. As the Hadow Report recommended: The instruction and equipment should approximate to the standards from time to time required by the board in schools working under the regulations for secondary schools. A very important thing is proper staffing and facilities for handicraft and science. The hon. Member will be the first to admit that the success of these new senior schools requires a four year's course, as was pointed out in the Hadow Report, who say that to make the scheme efficient and bring about the right results the students should be there for four years. It is no use talking about raising the school age, there is no chance of any Bill going through this Parliament to raise the school age.


Why not?


We must keep them up to scratch.


I do not think there is any possibility, and, at any rate, I cannot-refer to legislation on this Vote. At the moment we are faced with the problem of the bulge, the extra number of boys in schools due to causes beyond the control of the State. In London alone there will be thrown on the labour market at the end of July 63,000 boys as compared with 41,000 last year. They are to be poured into the labour market, already overcrowded; and the problem is how to deal with them in some way or other. It is a problem which will have to be faced by the State; by the Board of Education and the Ministry of Labour. I am glad to see that the London County Council have become conscious of the seriousness of the situation and have issued a circular to parents—


I thought the hon. Member wanted a close time for circulars?


This is really a letter, in which they suggest to the parents that as there will be many thousands more boys leaving this year than last year it will be harder to place them in suitable jobs at once, and they suggest that the best thing for them to do is to retain them at school for the next term, unless employment is obtained of a suitable character at the Employment Exchange. I suggested to the Board of Education some time ago that a letter of this kind should be sent to education authorities throughout the country, especially to those in mining and industrial areas, where there is a large amount. of unemployment. The ordinary parent is not conscious that he has the privilege to retain his child at school from 14 to 16 years of age, and it is most advisable, as far as practicable, that parents should be persuaded to keep their children off the labour market.


In colliery districts they can get employment quite easily on leaving school, but are thrown out again after about four or five months.


I quite agree that that is a very serious problem. We want to find out What the attitude of the Government is towards local authorities making use of their by-law-making powers in order to raise the school age in certain areas. Six authorities have already used these powers, and I think I am right in saying that they have done so with complete success. The hon. Gentleman referred to the great work that the East Suffolk authority has done for rural education, but he did not refer to another interesting experiment by this progressive education authority in using its by-law-making power to raise the school age to 15, utilising to the full the powers of exemption where the child receives a chance of beneficial occupation. The East Suffolk education authority is able to say that the result of using this power of reasonable exemptions has been completely to eliminate all juvenile unemployment since 1925. They have been able to stop boys and girls from going into blind alley occupations. That is the answer to be hon. Member who interrupted me.

A great part of the difficulty of throwing boys into industry at 14, and then their being thrown on to the scrap heap at 16, would be prevented if this power were used. It may be argued that it would add to the cost of education. I do not know what additional cost would be incurred if it was limited to certain industrial areas. Although the hon. Member brushed the argument aside with a certain amount of contempt, I do suggest that keeping these young people off the labour market would in the end save the Unemployment Insurance Fund as well as the Public Assistance Fund. The two items must be balanced one against the other. At any rate the matter is worthy of consideration, and I beg the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education to consult the Minister of Labour, who is very conscious of the problem, and to see whether he is able, at any rate in distressed areas like Durham and parts of South Wales where unemployment is on a tremendous scale, to encourage local authorities, to give them some special stimulus in making use of their powers to keep children at school until they are 15, at any rate while unemployment is so rife.

There is another machine that the Parliamentary Secretary referred to, and that is the machinery of the continuation schools. Great hopes were entertained of the setting up of a complete system of continuation schools. The failure in 1921 gave a great set-back to the idea. But I notice in many directions that there is a revival of a desire for something of the kind, for some use of the powers of the Act of 1921. I was rather surprised that the Parliamentary Secretary did not refer to the Committee on Education for Salesmanship, presided over by Sir Francis Goodenough. That Committee issued a remarkable report. One extract which is quoted in the report of the Board of Education for last year I will read: It is impossible for a young man who attends school on three evenings a week and devotes at least another evening to study throughout the whole of the winter months, to give his best mind to both his work and his education, and where such an effort is made a most unfortunate position is likely to arise and to create bitterness and discontent at the smallness of results from so great an effort. To expect or to encourage such efforts is both unreasonable and uneconomic. If the organisation of commercial work does in fact make it impossible to allow promising recruits to attend courses which are necessary or advisable for the furtherance of commercial efficiency during their ordinary employment for one or more half days a week, we suggest that it should be ascertained whether the relief of promising recruits for continuous periods of some weeks would not present smaller difficulties. The following has special significance: We have, however, to record with regret that hardly any progress has been made in this direction. The only important continuation school in London is that for Post Office servants, while the only one where there is a compulsory school is Rugby. The opinion of this most weighty and representative Committee is worthy of consideration, and I ask the board to take it into account. Meanwhile we are hesitating about any definite policy for dealing with either commercial education or technical education, Continental countries are going full steam ahead. I was surprised that the Parliamentary Secretary made no reference to a visit of two of the board's inspectors to the Continent. The right hon. Gentleman Sir Donald Maclean referred to it in his statement last year, and promised that the result of the inspectors' visit would be taken into account. Their report is a most remarkable document, and I recommend it to the study of every hon. Member. The inspectors visited four countries, France, Belgium, Czechoslovakia and Holland. In every case they tell the same story of a large expenditure of money, great building of schools and activity in every direction. It is difficult to select passages because there are so many passages that are pregnant with ideas and guidance to this country. One passage is very much to the point: In each of these countries technical education is defined more clearly and organised more exactly than in this country. In Czechoslovakia, a new country starting at scratch on its own account, as it were, they were able to show wonderful progress since the War. In France, of course, they have been doing great things. Under the Loi Astier law of 1919 every employer is compelled to release young workers for not less than four hours a week to attend a course of technical in- struction. There are in France many exemptions from that law. But the machinery is there. There is a system of taxation under which every employer is taxed specially and every boy and girl in a factory has to attend some instruction in his or her employer's time.


In regard to technical or secondary education in France, would the hon. Baronet give a single example of a type of education that is comparable with anything that we have in this country?


The best thing the hon. Gentleman can do is to read the pamphlet.


I have read it.


I really cannot give the hon. Member a lecture on French education. I have not the time, even if I had the will.


To the hon. Member's examples of the activities of countries on the Continent there could be added the case of Austria. They are doing great things in the schools in Vienna in spite of the country's poverty


I know that that is so, and I might add also Germany, which I visited six years ago. They are doing great things in Germany. But I am referring to the report of the board's inspectors. The most interesting work of all has been done in Belgium, a very small country with a population of only 8,000,000. The inspectors say: The authorities however regard the training of the artisan as a function of technical education which deserves serious consideration, and lavish expenditure of energy and money. What effect this will have on Belgian industry and its competitive power only time will show. With their population of only 8,000,000 they now have 600 trade schools, with 85,000 pupils and 9,000 teachers. Pupils are brought into contact with the realities of life under the guidance of the State. It is, of course, not under their Board of Education but under their Ministry of Labour, so much do they recognise the intimate association of education with industry and employment. The schools are largely equipped by up-to-date factories with the most modern appliances and the most expensive machines, so that they can be compared with the actual life of the workshop and the factory. In a school week of 48 hours the pupils spend 26 hours in the workshop. That may be contrary to old ideals of education, but it is a recognition of the practical side of life. Their trade schools annually provide 12,000 qualified workpeople for their industries and their écoles industrielles 6,000 men to provide their future foremen. The report points out that our junior technical schools send out only 8,000 annually, and our technical institutes only 8,500, although our population is five times as large as that of Belgium.

The report says there is no doubt that full-time training is more general in Belgium than in this country at the junior stage. But the most important part of the report and the part which I want to emphasise is the recommendation of the inspectors. They paint a lurid picture of what our industrial competitors are doing on the Continent at this time of acute industrial competition. I remember that in 1906 Lord Haldane made a great appeal to the country to concentrate more on science and technical education and less on the tariff controversy. Whatever our attitude may be on the vexed question of Free Trade or Protection, if Protection is to succeed in its purpose we must have efficient and highly trained workers in our factories, men as efficient and as highly trained as those of our Continental competitors. So the inspectors recommend that, first, there should be an increase in the number of junior technical schools; secondly, an increase in the number of junior vocational schools; and, thirdly, that senior elementary schools should have more machinery of a simple kind. In other words, the senior schools should discharge their original function of training children in handicraft and equipping them for industry, and they should be brought up to date. The report concludes by saying: In a modern industrial State it is no longer satisfactory to provide for technical education by means of evening classes attended by students who are tired after a day's work. The Parliamentary Secretary made a sympathetic reference to technical education and emphasised its importance and his words on the subject were very much to the point. But sympathy is not enough. He referred to two schools shortly to be opened in the provinces, but local authorities hesitate to take action when they have before them the various economy circulars issued by the board. If we are to bring our schools into line with modern ideas and Continental standards, the Government must be prepared to take their courage in both hands and to make reasonable grants or reasonable promises of grants and give sympathetic guidance to the local authorities. I believe that the nation is conscious of the need. It is now for the board, in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour, to take action, and, in this matter I would like the board to act as a real Board of Education instead of the responsible Minister sitting alone in solitary glory, divorced from his colleagues. I want to see him sit with the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Labour. There is a great opportunity for educational advance without a large expenditure of money. Some form of capital expenditure obviously would be necessary but the country would be rewarded tenfold for such expenditure in years to come by the increased efficiency of labour, the greater success of industry and, as I believe, a decrease in unemployment.

5.18 p.m.


I have not intruded previously during this Parliament in any Debate directly relating to the Board of Education, largely because I have had an uncomfortable feeling that the reminiscences of ex-Ministers about their own past represent a commodity of which the supply in this House considerably exceeds the demand. As I do not often address it, I hope the Committee will bear with me in a few general remarks on this subject. I do not yield to anyone in the Committee in my admiration of the work which has been done for the last two years by the Parliamentary Secretary. No Minister ever had a more difficult or thankless task to perform, and no Minister that I have ever known or heard of, has succeeded so well in steering among the reefs and shallows on the course which he has had to hold, or has succeeded better in doing, under most difficult and restrictive conditions, a very large work of progress and development in education. At the same time, I should like to emphasise on this occasion, as I have done on other occasions, the obvious fact that in this, as in almost every other department of home administration, the Government have been necessarily, living during the last two years in what, I think, the German Biblical critics call an interim ethic. They have been waiting and hoping that the dear dead days when there was plenty of money to spend might come back again. They have been hoping that we should get back to the happy days of the nineteenth or early twentieth century when the capitalist economic system was going full blast. Especially have they been waiting to see that process started off once more by the World Economic Conference.

In those circumstances, the various home Departments of His Majesty's Government have been rather like the baggage animals in the centre of a square which is fighting in the desert. The square has moved forward and a great deal has been happening, under rather confused and smoky conditions, between the front line of the square and the external gentlemen. Meanwhile, the baggage animals have been huddled in the centre of the square and no one has paid any particular attention to them except the harassed camel drivers and muleteers who have had to try to keep them quiet. But the end is coming of the period of trying out every possible international remedy for our situation. The time is coming, with the end of this year, when, in the sphere of home administration, the Government will have to take a positive line. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary himself must be conscious of the fact that at the present time he is in some danger of falling between two stools. He has not secured any great measure of economy. I think that general expenditure on education, leaving out of account all expenditure on teachers' salaries, is nearly £2,500,000 more this year than it was in 1928–29. It is true that the expenditure of the board is considerably lower, but the expenditure of local authorities and the burden on the rates is considerably greater.

The percentage grant system, which used to be advocated by hon. Gentlemen opposite as the great palladium of educational progress and as a means of relieving the unfortunate local authorities from otherwise intolerable burdens, is now, in the hands of the Parliamentary Secretary, becoming a scientific instrument for withdrawing grants from local authorities and transferring burdens from taxes to rates. I do not in the least complain of that. Indeed, I have expressed the opinion on several occasions that it was necessary and inevitable in the present circumstances that there should be a progressive transference of burdens from taxes on income to taxes on consumption. I have tried to point out to my Socialist friends that if they clamour for production for use and not for profit, they must also contemplate taxation on use, and not taxation on profit. An argument so invincibly logical ought to carry conviction even to my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones).

At any rate, the Parliamentary Secretary has not succeeded in securing a large measure of economy. On the other hand, he has, necessarily, been unable to secure any considerable change in the work of education in this country and what I particularly wish to suggest to the Committee now is that education in this country is becoming increasingly out of relation with the main problems with which we ought to be dealing. What is the most appalling problem among all those which face us? It is the great number of juveniles, of boys and girls between 14 years and 18 years, who are entering or trying to enter industries which are blindly groping in the attempt to adjust themselves to new conditions. The uncertainty which affects all employment at present falls with peculiar force and peculiar danger on the young school-leaver, the young entrant into industry, the young seeker after work. Whatever may be the merits of raising the school-leaving age by one year, and I cannot go into that question now, the great problem which I have just indicated would remain, even if we raised the school-leaving age. In this area between the ages of 15 and 18 we are witnessing at present the most appalling" and permanent wreckage of lives there has ever been seen in this or any other country. This is a problem to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred. He told us that it was under close consideration by the board and the Ministry of Labour.

I cannot attempt within the Rules of Order to cover the whole of that field on these Estimates. I can, however, in order to put what I am going to say into the right setting, declare that, to my mind, nothing short of a policy of controlling the entrance of juveniles into all industry under schemes drawn up by industry; nothing short of the careful protection and regulation of all juvenile employment from the moment of leaving school; nothing short of the regulation of the moment at which the juvenile is to leave the school, by means of some system of labour permits such as is in force, for instance in America—nothing short of that will be adequate for the problem with which we have to deal. A policy of that kind, including the provision of educationry centres for the unemployed juveniles must be mainly in the hands of the Ministry of Labour. What is the part of the Board of Education? It is to see that the school structure out of which the juvenile enters into this hazardous battle is adapted to the life with which that juvenile will meet when he leaves school.

We have made great advances towards that end by the organisation of our senior schools, and I would support everything that was said about the East Suffolk area schools among others in the country, but at the present time those schools are in the vaguest and most indeterminate position in relation to that other type of school which my hon. Friend mentioned, namely, the secondary school. If the secondary school is indeed the spinal column of our system of education, then dislocation between that spinal column and any other part is naturally serious. What is the position about the secondary school? We are told that it is the school which should supply the future leaders and intellectual heads of this country. But what is the good of talking like that about the secondary school as we know it to-day? The main function of the secondary school as we know it to-day is not in any sense selective of the highest talent. I do not deny that it does send up very good talent to the universities and to higher technical studies but the main function of the secondary schools in our social system is not, as it should be, that of a lift or a stairway to the higher storeys of the social structure.

It is an intermediate school devoted to giving education up to the age of 16, an education, in turn, mainly devoted to cramming for a leaving certificate, and that function it performs no better but rather worse, in many instances, than the ordinary central school. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] Well, such a central school as the intermediate schools of Sheffield, which gained a greater percentage of successes in school certificate examinations than the secondary school. If in referring to the function of the secondary school one uses exaggerated words, it is because one must put the matter in exaggerated terms to arouse the attention which it deserves. It is, so to speak, a social factory for turning the sons of clerks and shopkeepers into clerks and shopkeepers.


indicated dissent.


I am afraid my hon. and learned Friend has not been following my argument. If he will recall the Scottish system of education before it was corrupted by the English system, he will remember the rigidly selective ideal of secondary and higher education, and how all secondary and higher education was dominated by the university. All that I am saying is, not that the secondary schools, in giving a very nice finishing education for a leaving certificate to the ordinary rank and file, the general run of the middle class, is not performing a useful function; I am saying that it is performing no function which cannot equally well be performed by senior, central, or intermediate schools, which make no such pretensions as does the secondary school.

I am not attacking any type of school. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] No, I am not attacking any type of school; I am only pointing out that we are moving inevitably, as the result of the reorganisation of our elementary schools, in the direction of one common intermediate school system lasting from the age of 11 to the age of 15½, an intermediate stage of education terminated, no doubt, by some form of leaving certificate, and thereafter, and only thereafter, at the age of 15½ or 16, for the last three years of secondary education, will commence the real secondary school. In other words, we are moving in the direction of a system not unlike the general system prevailing in the Scandinavian countries. I give that instance to show that it seems to me that the Board of Education ought to be thinking out at the present moment not a policy in terms such as my hon. Friend has given us, and very excellently given us, a policy stated in terms of the secondary, and senior, and junior technical schools, but a policy stated in terms of a highly differentiated system of intermediate education, consisting of an enormous variety of schools, with great varieties of bias—rural, agricultural, vocational; academical, practical, and so on—all directed to preparing the pupil who is going to enter at the age of 15 for the actual conditions and work that he will meet.

Here I come for a moment to the question of technical education. I am, as my hon. Friend knows, as warmly in favour of technical education as anybody in this Committee can be, but I do wonder sometimes whether we are not going on repeating in our sleep the things that we heard 10 years ago. My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) mentioned certain foreign systems of technical education, but I do not think he realises to what extent the French system of technical education is determined, not by, as appears on the face of it, the desire to secure better apprenticeship conditions, but by the desire to re-create the village craftsman, who is dying out in France; and if the village craftsman is dying out in France, to what extent has he died out and to what extent will he be required in this country? The hon. Member for Caerphilly mentioned his report about South Wales a propos of what he called the increasing mechanisation of industry, but surely his report was precisely in the opposite direction.


I did not comment on it at all.


The hon. Member did mention the increasing mechanisation of industry, and he also mentioned his report, but I would point out to those hon. Members who may not have read that report that what he pointed out was that South Wales was far too exclusively devoted to mass production on a large scale of primary commodities like coal, and raw iron, and steel, and that South Wales would have to develop in the direction of finer and finer engineering, that is to say, generally in smaller and smaller units of employment, and that technical education would have to be devoted to that end. I feel that there is a tremendous danger at present of our basing our technical education on the. assumption of a continuance of inflation in the size of the employing unit and in the volume of the mass production of industry. On the contrary, I believe that the whole of our technical education—and, therefore, the whole of our education in our senior schools—may very well have to be conditioned rather by the prospect of smaller and smaller units of production for the great mass of our population, units of production so small as to come down in the case of many of our industries in the future almost to the conditions which exist in agriculture and domestic crafts.

If this is the part which the Board of Education has to play in the protection of society from this most imminent danger of the wreckage of the young lives coming on in the next generation and entering the world, surely it is not sufficient at the present moment to carry on as we are doing now, to go on reorganising our senior schools, to carry on with the reduction of classes, to go plugging along on the same old lines of reform which we in this Committee always love so much to discuss, and to cast back and forth at each other's heads across the Floor of this House. Surely we want a very different type of approach to the whole problem of education, and a much more comprehensive one. Surely we need too, even to start with, some preliminary indication from the Board of Education as to how their minds are moving on the elementary anomalies in the present system.

The hon. Member for Caerphilly mentioned the duplication of small technical schools. He is perfectly right. The organisation of our system of technical education in this country, split up among different local authorities, all competing with each other, is a perfectly absurd system. I think everyone agrees, without discussing the general question of percentage versus block grants, that direct block grants to certain central technical colleges, and the creation of those colleges into regional colleges not dependent on any one local education authority, is an absolute necessity. Well, we hear nothing about that, or have heard nothing about it. Perhaps my hon. Friend will enlighten us.

There is also—this is merely an illustration—the question of the Burnham scale. After all, the clearest reflection of the absurdity of the present system is that you have teachers teaching in intermediate schools, preparing children for the half-yearly examination, and being paid on one scale of salary, and exactly similar teachers in an exactly parallel type of secondary school being paid on a completely different scale, the junior technical school being paid on the secondary scale, while the senior school, with a tremendously practical bias, is being paid on the elementary scale. These absurdities in the structure of teachers' salaries have been notorious for the last six or seven years. We have had a cut in teachers' salaries, and that cut has effectually extinguished the Burnham negotiating committee of teachers and local authorities for the moment. At least, it has not extinguished it in the sense of having abolished it, but it has reduced it to an innocuous desuetude, except, I think, for one meeting the other day. But no attempt has been made in the last two years, since this emergency cut was first made—at least, no attempt has been made which has emerged outside the walls of the Board—to consider a reconstruction of those scales, apart from what salaries in pounds, shillings and pence you are to attach to any particular grade in the structure.

There again I think we are living too much in an interim effort, hoping no doubt against hope to get back to a position where we shall be able to restore the cut, and then be able to say to the Burnham Committee, "Now please start off at the point where you left off in the year 1931." Even if we do that, the Burnham Committee will presumably reach the same point as they reached in 1931, namely, a complete deadlock between the local authorities and the teachers. I do not complain of this marking of time up to now, and I do not suggest that the Government could have done anything else, or that it would have been wise to do anything else, but the time has now come when we shall have to construct the main lines of a permanent policy. The first step in that policy will no doubt be taken by the Government in the Unemployment Insurance Bill, in which we hope to see Clauses dealing with the juvenile problem which will adequately carry out the responsibilities of the Ministry of Labour. But what is the Board of Education counterpart to that policy? What steps can they take to prevent, to avert, the wastage and the wreckage of young life which threatens the whole future of this country and will, I thoroughly believe, destroy this country if it continues uncontrolled during the next five or 10 years? That is the question that we ask to-day, and it is a question, I believe, that many of the most loyal supporters of the National Government are determined to have answered.

5.44 p.m.


The speech to which we have just listened from the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) has not been less interesting to many of us here than those speeches which preceded it. We found ourselves on this side very interested in the Noble Lord's speech, if only for the reason that on many occasions while he spoke we wondered what he really meant. As far as we were able to gather some of his objectives, we felt that he was clothing a thoroughly reactionary policy in many respects under a clever exposition. He said that he did not attack or say a bad word about any of our schools, but I should have thought that he did really say some very nasty things about our secondary system. I cannot imagine a much worse condemnation than he made of the secondary system of education of this country. I should like to ask the Noble Lord to explain one thing to us. Does not his policy mean a big contraction in the provision for secondary education? Does it not mean that at the present moment we are providing far too many places in the secondary schools, and, further that behind his educational lay-out to which he referred is a social policy of privilege?

Secondary education, in the Noble Lord's mind, has to be more and more the preserve of the privileged few. He said: "Let us have an extension of our central school system; let us have this intermediate system," but I would have hon. Members remember that the central school system does not provide the opportunity and the amenity of the secondary school system. There are larger classes in the central schools; there are poorer buildings and less provision for literary and scientific teaching. There are exceptions, but I think it can be said that the process of reorganisation in the senior schools is a mere process, under the present administration, of mean economy rather than of educational efficiency. The board has prided itself on the rapidity with which reorganisation has taken place and that it has been faithful more or less to the Hadow suggestions, but in reality the board are not carrying out the suggestions of the Hadow Report because fundamental to the carrying out of that report is a full four years' course, which implies the raising of the school age. The Hadow Report also suggested that the size of the classes should be lowered, that the general amenities, such as playing fields, should approximate, if not be equal to, those provided in the secondary schools. So that, as far as reorganisation is concerned, the board can take pride in the main only in what has been done from the point of view of an economy which has been effected very largely at the expense of true educational development and higher educational efficiency.

The Noble Lord seemed to jump into the future a great deal and suggested, as far as I could follow him, that our educational system should fit in with the new units of industry that he foresees. I understand from what he said to-day and from what he has previously said in the House and elsewhere that he envisages much smaller units of industry. I am not in a position to prophesy, but I would suggest that the Noble Lord is making a fundamental mistake if he thinks that, even if we get a smaller unit in the organisation of industry, that unit will be less technical and will use less machinery than the present unit of organisation. I should imagine that if we do develop into smaller units in the industrial world our technique will develop more and more, we shall have to use machinery more and more, and we shall have exactly the same problem as far as the people are concerned, namely, the problem of the unskilled labour which will be demanded even by the smaller size of the units of industry. I cannot see the force of the argument, unless it be looked at purely from a reactionary point of view, that the smaller the size of the unit of in- dustry the less education of a literary and cultural character will be required for our future citizens.


I did not say that.


Perhaps the Noble Lord will talk it over somewhere else, for I admit that it is a subject rather for a lecture than a discussion on the Floor of the House. I want to congratulate the Minister for the exceptionally able way into which he introduced the Estimates, but I do not agree with him that he unfolded a story of progress during the past year, nor did his Estimates give us any hope of progress in the future. Let us take one or two items. I will take, in the first instance, the question of school buildings. The Minister made reference, and the Estimates make reference, to the black list of schools and the progress that has been made in eliminating the bad schools on that list. Let me remind the Committee that about 1925 an inspection took place at our schools, which were divided into three categories—A, B and C, for the black, the blacker and the blackest schools. In these three categories a total of 2,827 schools was black-listed. In category A, which were very bad, which the Board agreed were absolutely incapable of improvement and of no earthly use at all, and should be razed to the ground, there were 679 schools.

What has happened? In spite of the fact that it was then said that these schools were in too bad a condition even to be repaired, one-fifth of them have been patched up. The carpenter and the plasterer have been round, as it were, and have patched up these schools that were condemned as absolutely unsuitable for children to go into. Only two-fifths of these schools have been closed since 1925, and the other two-fifths, with their unremedied defects, are still in existence. Is that a tale of progress Schools dangerous to the health of the children, absolutely unfitted for them to be taught in, are still in existence by the hundred. I will take category B. I may shock hon. Members by the details which I am going to read, describing some of these schools. The schools in this category were supposed to need substantial improvement. Only one-half have been remedied since 1925. Category C needed minor alterations, but 60 per cent. of them have not yet been done. The bulk of the problem provided by the blacklisted schools has, therefore, still to be faced.

I am going to read from an inquiry which has taken place with regard to these schools. I cannot read the whole of it, but I will read some of the reports that have come to me from various areas. Hon. Members will not expect me to give the names of the schools for many reasons, nor shall I say whether they are non-provided or provided schools. It is rather surprising to find that, as far as repairs and so on are concerned, these two classes of school are about keeping an even keel. This report says, referring to a case of dilapidation: Some years ago H.M.I. put this building on the black list but took it off on account of the size of such list. In 1930 strong complaints re building were made to the local education authority following H.M.I.'s visit. Each year the county medical officer in his report condemns Rooms C and I) and the lavatory and cloakroom accommodation. The boys' cloak room is 11 feet 8 inches by 5 feet, and has window 18 inches by 24 inches which does not open. Sixty-two boys are on the roll. Room D has been added to at some time and is so badly built that a draught is felt in the corner where the joint is formed. The doors are in such state of disrepair that rats can easily run under them and children sit right by them. In windy weather, dust, straw and paper are blown through, covering desks, books arid everything. The spouting in broken away all round the school. The roof leaks so badly in the girls' cloakroom that a bucket is placed to catch the water. All floors need renewing. That is one example of a large number of badly built schools that exist in the country. I will give a report about the heating of a school, and I would like to impress on the Committee that, although this is seemingly a simple matter, ft is a matter fraught with great consequences to the children. I myself have taught in class rooms that were far too cold to be comfortable and in which it was not reasonable to expect the children to do their work. This report says: Rooms seldom above 50 degrees on wintry days. Infant room charts have shown 32 degrees F. Ink has been frozen in ink wells once or twice in last seven years. No fault of caretaker—fires lighted early. These are extracts from the log book: 25th January, 1929. the classrooms are all very cold, 45 degrees average tempera- tore. 14th February, 1929, temperature has been 38 degrees only at mid-day. Ink was frozen in all class rooms. Attendance adversely affected on account of poor heating in the class rooms. I turn to what to me is almost revolting to read, but I am going to screw up my courage in order to do it. It almost makes me sick when I read some of these reports, but in the interests of the children I hope that the Committee will bear with me while I read one extract. This is the place to expose these things in the interest of the health and the good behaviour of the children. There are beautiful schools in this country where the children can be happy and do their work effectively, but there are other schools where the buildings are disgraceful and the sanitary conditions absolutely inhuman. Here is one extract describing the lavatories: They have at some time been whitewashed inside and out, but are extremely dirty in appearance now. They are horrible little hovels and such that any clean child would avoid. The school cleaner empties the buckets once a week, throwing the contents over the wall not many yards from the house door of the school house, and while the process is going on an objectionable stink pervades the premises. The excreta remains to be removed every four or six months by the neighbouring farmer. In the meantime, a thin layer of dust only in the summer, and a few ashes in the winter, are thrown on to conceal the heap. Frequent complaints by the head teacher and several visits by the sanitary inspector have so far produced no results. I have other examples. The figures I have quoted show that there are numbers of schools where the buildings not only do not provide the opportunity for successful education, but where there is a positive menace to the health of the children, and where children have, as a matter of fact, owing to the bad sanitary conditions, refused to leave the classroom and have suffered dire physical results in consequence. I ask my hon. Friend to speed up the removal of all these schools from the black list. He should put his foot down, and say that those who are responsible for repairing them have had plenty of time in which to do it since 1925, and that the work must be undertaken speedily in the near future.

Another topic raised by the Noble Lord was that of teachers' salaries. During the crisis, as he said, a 10 per cent. cut was inflicted. That 10 per cent. cut was not inflicted with the sanction or, I might even say, so far as I know from official reports, with the approval of the local education authorities. The board have taken up the position all along that teachers are in the employ of the local authorities, that they have control, and I think I can definitely say that the local authorities have by no pronouncement whatever sanctioned that 10 per cent. cut. It was expressly stated, in fact, that they had no part or lot in it, and that they disagreed with the amount and the manner of its infliction.


For the purposes of accuracy, may I ask the hon. Member a question? Where have they said that they disapprove of the amount and the manner of its infliction? I would like to get that quotation. The hon. Member seems to be implying that the local authorities thought it was too little and disapproved of the whole thing.


On 15th September, 1931, the Association of Education Committees sent a letter to the Prime Minister. It is signed by J. H. S. Aitken, President, and Percival Sharp, Honorary Secretary. In that communication they say they desire to place on record that they cannot accept any responsibility for the amount of the reduction Which was then 15 per cent., I admit which local authorities will be required to impose upon the teachers, an amount which in the opinion of the Executive Committee is unduly severe. In another paragraph the Executive Committee express the conviction that the cut should be of the shortest possible duration, and that decisions thereon should be reviewed not later than 31st March, 1933. I think that justifies my contention that the cut was never sanctioned by the local authorities. There is an impression abroad that teachers are—well, paid like lords, that they earn a tremendous salary. There are still 34,000 teachers—22,000 of them fully qualified—who receive less than £3 a week. Take a young man coming out of college in London, where there is the highest scale in the country. He will be a young man who has been to a secondary school and has been three or four years in a college or university. He comes out at the age of 21 or 22, and he earns £3 3s. 2d. per week. Then he climbs, and the climbing is a very long process. In his 20th year of service, when he is over 40, that assistant master, climbing up the scale in London, will get £6 14s. 1d. I do not think any hon. Member will say that that is a fabulous salary, even at the maximum. I do not think any hon. Member would really say that the minimum in London is high enough to meet the conditions which obtain in London.

I went into the budget of a teacher earning £3 or so a week. I found that he had bought a house. If I criticise teachers on one point it is that they are too careful; they are a section of the community prone, perhaps, too much to saving rather than to spending. This man had bought a house as a way of saving, and was paying for it at the rate of about 18s. a week out of his £3. His travelling expenses in London were 5s. or 6s. a week. I will not go in detail into all the items, but I think the Committee will agree that that minimum not only is not a princely salary but that it is rather on the side of being a beggarly salary. Anyhow, the cuts were inflicted, inflicted by the Government. I want to ask the Minister a specific question this afternoon. There is a great deal of fear about, and the fear is legitimate, because in the report of the Board of Education it definitely says that the Minister is taking into account the recommendations of the Ray Committee. Effect has been given to some of the recommendations—1421 was the result of one of the recommendations, and the Necessitous Schools Bill is a small instalment of the Ray recommendations.

Now we are told the board are considering the recommendations of the Committee. One of those recommendations is directed to suggesting that there should be a further cut in the minimum scales of these teachers, that increments should be stopped and bars should be inserted. I want to ask the hon. Gentleman whether the Government still have the recommendation about teachers' salaries under consideration. Can we rest assured that there will be no further cut? Can we have it specifically stated this afternoon that the view of the Government now is the view which was expressed officially on behalf of the Government at the time of the cut, namely, that it was an emergency cut, that it was a cut which was not justified on the merits of the case, that it was a contribution to the national emergency Can we have it from the Government now, after these two years have passed, that they still take the view that it is an emergency cut? Another specific question I would like to ask is when the Government will provide such conditions as will allow the Burnham Committee to meet as it used to meet before the crisis, with the power to negotiate salaries as between local authorities and teachers, with a representative of the board there, and the Treasury, as it were, behind the scenes taking care that Treasury interests are fully looked after? Can the hon. Gentleman tell the teachers, through this House, that the cut is an emergency cut, and that the Burnham Committee will be able to meet under pre-crisis conditions?

We have heard a lot about raising of prices. It would not be a bad thing, would it, to raise the price of a teacher? We have heard a lot about wise economy in spending, of an inflationary policy. It is said that purchasing power is wanted. Why not give a practical example in the salaries of teachers? If there is to be an economic revival I understand it is absolutely essential that prices should be raised and purchasing power increased. I put it to the Government that here they have a splendid opportunity of putting into practice the principles which they have enunciated from the Treasury Bench, and which have been subscribed to by their hon. Friends behind. I would like to combat another statement of my hon. Friend. I am not so satisfied as he is that there is not malnutrition. As a matter fact I am afraid that malnutrition does exist in an appreciable degree. I am disturbed owing to the fact that I have been in touch with a number of people and have been reading all the reports about it which I could find. I would refer only to one report, "Unemployment and the child," giving the results of an inquiry made by the Save the Children Fund. That is a non-political body, and apparently a very moderate and careful body, because the language is very carefully chosen and there is no over emphasis. I would direct the hon. Gentleman's attention to this: The inquiry committee cannot get away from the feeling that there are many schools in which children really require extra nourishment and the arrangements for pro- viding it are either inadequate or nonexistent. I ask the hon. Gentleman not to rely—I say this without casting any aspersion—solely and wholly on the reports of local medical officers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I ask him to tell his central officers to examine the position. He has some very fine men; I know some of them and they are exceedingly good men. It is the business of the central Government to see that malnutrition does not take place in the child life of this country. The responsibility is theirs, and they cannot shirk their responsibility or hide behind any local report. They themselves must be satisfied. Not only is it a central responsibility to examine the position, but a central responsibility to find the finance. The burden of feeding the children should not be thrown on the local rates. I am not with the Noble Lord. His view is in line with his general reactionary attitude.

It is the responsibility of the Government; they must see to it that children get a breakfast, get a dinner and get a tea. On schooldays and holidays, right throughout the year, these children must be fed. It is a prime responsibility of the Government to feed these children. It is no use anyone telling me that the marks of continued unemployment are not to be seen on the children. Go up our valleys. The hon. Member for Neath (Sir W. Jenkins) will agree with me. You can see there the marks of this prolonged unemployment in the shoddy boots, the poor clothes, the pale faces. I am going to ask the hon. Gentleman to treat this as a most serious matter and not placidly to tell us that all is well, that there is no malnutrition except, as I understood from him this afternoon, to the extent of 10 per cent. He must get rid of that 10 per cent. It is his responsibility to get rid of it. I know that that would mean legislation, in order to make the raising of the school age compulsory. It is still the law of the land that it may be done. It is legally enacted that the school age can be raised by local authorities, and five or six of them have done so.

I ask the Parliamentary Secretary what he has done to inspire the local authorities to deal with this problem, which they can deal with under the law as it exists at the present moment? It is a burning question, especially in some of our industrial areas. I would like to read a quotation which, I believe, gives the whole case for Government interference. It is an extract from an inquiry conducted by the University of Liverpool which has made a series of inquiries in various areas. I have been through the report and I have made one extract which, in my opinion, gives the whole industrial and economic case for the interference of the Board of Education in order to stimulate local authorities to do what they legally can do, that is, to raise the school-leaving age. This report says: It is clear that a vast problem of unemployment will weigh on Merseyside for many years. But the most serious feature of it has yet to be stated. If the number of persons of pensionable age leaving industry be subtracted from the number of young persons due to enter industry from school over the five-year period 1932 to 1936, it is found that Merseyside industry will have to provide scope for the employment of some 76,000 new workers. This figure is about equal to the whole present labour surplus on Merseyside due both to world depression and to local conditions. Thus, even assuming an extensive recovery during the next five years, a recovery sufficient to permit shipping and distribution to reach their 1929 position, and all other groups to absorb their entire present labour surplus, there will still, at the end of the five years, he a surplus of labour greater than that which exists at present. That is the case in a, nutshell. There was a time a few years ago when child labour, coming out of school to take jobs, was not faced with a permanent problem of unemployment in the adolescent period, but that time has gone. There is now a problem of permanent unemployment, so far as large numbers of children are concerned. There are ins and outs, but the out period is getting longer than it used to be. Children used to get into blind-alley distributive occupations, but even those are now contracted. The blind-alley occupations are getting fewer, and the numbers that go into it are fewer and fewer. There is a huge problem of increased unemployment between the ages of 18 and 24. I ask the Minister this afternoon to face the problem—if he likes, in conjunction with the Minister of Labour—of demoralisation and tragedy with which tens of thousands of children leaving our schools are faced, of either having no occupation, or going into a blind-alley occupation.

This Debate may have seemed empty and dry to many hon. Members, but I do not believe that there is a Department of State which shows more clearly than this Department the main policy of the Government. What the Government are driving at can be shown clearly in their educational policy. Educational policy should be directed towards securing full equality of opportunity, and should be a gradual drive towards an equalitarian State. No child should suffer in an educational manner because of the poverty of its parents, and it should be cared for physically and culturally. What do I find in these Estimates? It is no exaggeration or pictorial description to say that privilege is more entrenched and that secondary education is restricted and limited. Cuts are made even on the copy books of the children, in the amount of ink they use and in the furniture. There is reaction in the broad sense and in detail. The hon. Gentleman need only look at his memoranda and he will find a saving of, I believe, about £400,000—I am speaking from memory—on furniture and so on, and on repairs to schools. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Those are reactionary cheers. The Parliamentary Secretary voices the opinion of those behind him, and it is reaction. We believe that this is a thoroughly unsound and uneconomic policy, and that the result will be seen in the deterioration of the physique, the crippling of the mental powers and the starvation of the general outlook of the children, youths and manhood of the future.

6.22 p.m.


I wish to reinforce an observation which fell from the Parliamentary Secretary on the subject of secondary education. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) seems to require us to measure our enthusiasm for secondary education by the number of chairs provided. He gives us the impression—I hope it is a false impression—that he and his colleagues on the Labour benches are measuring their enthusiasm for secondary education by the number of secondary-school scholars, rather than by the character of the secondary-school education and the purpose for which that education is provided. I have not had the advantage, which he has had, of professional association with the schools, but I have had considerable experience of what happens to secondary school scholars when they leave school and in endeavouring to place them in situations, and the few observations which I am going to make are the fruit of that experience.

I do not know the latest figure of the number of secondary schools scholars who left school in the last year, but I know that it is a formidable one. I believe that the majority of those who leave secondary schools conceive the ambition of entering either a clerical or an administrative profession, and I cannot resist the suspicion that social status is the magnet which impels them in that direction. While admitting that it is a perfectly venial ambition for any young man to wish to raise himself in the social scale, I have never been able to understand why he should decide that it is only by entering the clerical professions that that desirable ambition is to be achieved. Be that as it may, there is no question that the type of education which the secondary schools provide fits scholars for very little else but the egregiously over-worked and underpaid professions upon which the majority of them can only just afford to depend for a livelihood, unless, as is the case with very few, their salaries are reinforced by private means or by the assistance of relatives.

Furthermore, they have acquired little or no skill in that combination of hand and brain to which the Parliamentary Secretary alluded in his speech, and which is so desirable now. Those who have a wide and bitter experience of endeavouring to place applicants in clerical situations have known how difficult it is, in existing economic conditions and in view of the fact, to which I draw the Minister's attention, that accountancy is threatened with mechanisation, to find situations, in what are called the black-coated professions, for the deserving cases of boys who have worked their way up, by their own native ability, from the elementary school to the secondary school, and even to the university. I am afraid that that difficulty will persist, even if economic conditions improve. The great majority of those young aspirants ultimately have to be content, as I know, with situations for which the ordinary elementary school is competent to fit them, at a younger age and at a much lower cost to the nation. We are therefore confronted with a very serious difficulty in connection with secondary education, quite apart from its expense or the adequate supply of fully-equipped teachers.

Nobody who has the cause of education at heart would wish secondary education to assume a purely utilitarian form, but when we are faced with facts which are sufficiently patent to-day, and which enforce our correlation of the expenditure on any social service with our financial conditions, it is surely more than ever legitimate that those who contribute to the expenditure should endeavour to discover whether that social service is wisely administered and, if not, what the alternative may be. Members of the Labour party on both front and back benches have announced—I shall be corrected if I am wrong—that it is part of their programme that every normal child shall have full and free access to secondary education. We ought to discourage this forecast of their programme, to the extent of remembering that it may be some time before they are called upon to redeem so reckless a pledge. I remember the Minister telling us, in the Debate which took place on the subject of Circular 1421, that that programme would cost £60,000,000 a year. I am not concerned to argue the possibilities of such a programme coming into practical politics now, or at any distant date, but it is germane to our purpose to determine whether secondary education is an end in itself or a means to an end, and if the latter, what that end may be? If the Government regard it as a means, we must ascertain whether the end justifies the means.

The supply of clerical and administrative situations is already considerably disproportionate in amount, and is likely to remain disproportionate. There is no purpose in the State increasing its commitments towards secondary education unless the characteristics of that education are modified. The only alternative seems to be that secondary education should be made to cater for much wider needs and also—which, I think, is still more important—for the encouragement of ambitious and able young men to take a less narrow view of what is considered a respectable career. The respectable career is too often mere drudgery, and per contra those careers which are considered derogatory to our social standing are very often of supreme importance to the community. Surely, in view of this fact, secondary education, which now seems mostly to tend towards preparing boys for clerical situations, should be made to serve a different order of trades and professions.

If my premises are correct, our whole sense of values as regards social status in relation to employment should undergo a change. Certainly, there has been a very marked change in this respect in what used to be called the governing class, many of whom now go from public schools into trades and professions, which not very long ago would have been considered inappropriate to their social standing. It is very difficult to understand why youths who sit in offices all day long mechanicaly making entries in ledgers, an many of whom stand very little chance of ever being called upon to do anything more useful than what is called donkey-work, should consider themselves to be of higher social standing than skilled mechanical workers who are far better remunerated, who are much more indispensable to the community, and who probably have a higher degree of intelligence and skill. There is more cant talked about social status than about anything else in the world. The drain from the skilled manual trades to the unskilled clerical professions should, therefore, if possible, be obviated.

The solution is that higher education should take a much more practical turn than appears to be the case at present. I am aware of all the arguments against higher education assuming too technical, too practical a bias, and I am not unmindful of the provision that is made by the commercial and technical schools, evening classes, and so on, to which reference is made in the report which has just been placed in the hands of Members; but it is questionable whether the State, in existing circumstances, should be called upon to shoulder the burden which remission of fees entails, unless the curriculum in secondary schools is altered on the lines I have suggested. Mrs. Leah Manning, with whose views I am not generally in sympathy, but who represents the opinion of a large number of teachers, recently said in a public speech that she thought that the secondary school education was of too academic a type, and that no one would be more pleased than the teachers themselves if they were allowed a more variable course.

In conclusion, let me remind the Committee that we live in a mechanised age. Nowadays a youth with a specialised training is much more in demand than one who has merely had the sort of academic culture which is acquired at the ordinary secondary school. Many inventions have opened up unexplored fields for those who seek a career through the medium of scientific instruction. If I may cite one extreme case, only a few years ago specialised training would hardly have been required for a youth who enlisted in a cavalry regiment, but to-day the Lancers and Hussars have both been mechanised, and a profession which, only a short time ago, demanded the very minimum of intellectual attainment, now requires a high standard of skill. That is some indication of the remarkable revolution which modern science has effected in our daily life. I hope that the Minister, if he replies to the Debate, will give us some assurance that the curricula in secondary schools will take on a more practical bias, in view of the circumstances to which I have referred.

6.35 p.m.


The Parliamentary Secretary, in his excellent and lucid statement, referred to the State scholarships to the universities, and to the very remarkable success which the State scholars have attained in the schools there. I can bear out from my own personal knowledge what he said in that respect. On Monday last, the 3rd July, I had the honour of introducing to the President of the Board of Education a deputation of university Members on the subject of certain regulations which affect these State scholarships. We were very grateful for the kindness with which he received us, and the patience with which he listened to our representations, but I should like, if I might without discourtesy to him, to take the present opportunity of bringing certain points before the attention of this Committee.

Of the regulations affecting these State scholarships, there are two which are particularly in point. One is that only those boys and girls are eligible for State scholarships who have attended secondary schools in receipt of grants from the Board of Education; and there is a further regulation which says that the award of a State scholarship, and the amount of the award, shall be dependent upon the financial resources of the parents. The point that we wished to urge upon the President was that this latter regulation in itself should be completely effective, and that there was no reason or justification for limiting the eligibility of the boys or girls who apply to schools which are grant-aided.

List 50, published by the Board of Education, sets out the names of all those schools which are inspected by the board and passed as efficient, and in that list a distinction is made between those schools which are grant-aided and those which are not. The list is exhaustive. It contains the name of practically every public school and practically every grammar school that I have ever heard of, as well as the names of a great number of schools where the fees are quite small, and which are attended by boys and girls whose parents cannot afford to send them to more expensive schools. The list discloses some very remarkable anomalies. In the same county there are schools where the fees are practically the same—schools which are largely attended by day boys; but, on the one hand, a school may be grant-aided, and its boys or girls eligible for these State scholarships, while other almost similar schools are not grant-aided, and, therefore, the boys and girls at those schools are not eligible for these State scholarships. As I have said, the President of the Board of Education was most kind in listening to the considerations which we placed before him, but he said that there were certain practical difficulties which prevented him from acceding at once to our request. I feel, however, that I cannot allow the opportunity of this Debate to pass without mentioning the matter.

I think I shall receive support from the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove), who said that children should not suffer because of the poverty of their parents. That is the only point that we wish to urge—that no distinction should be drawn between a child who is sent to a grant-aided school, and who thereby is already receiving some help from the public purse, and a child who is sent to a non-grant-aided school, provided that the parent shows the necessity for a grant, but that there should be a perfectly open competition and no favour should be shown. The State scholarships are most valuable in encouraging and helping boys and girls who could not otherwise afford to go to the university. The Parliamentary Secretary has indicated the remarkable success which these boys and girls have attained, and all that I would urge is that this point of view should not be lost sight of, but that equal opportunity should be given to all candidates, whether from grant-aided or from non-grant-aided schools.

6.41 p.m.


Before I enter into the waters of controversy which have risen during the Debate, I should like to add my small nosegay to the bouquet of flowers which has been thrown to the Parliamentary Secretary. Unquestionably, his presentation of the Estimates to-day, whether their contents are gratifying or the reverse, has afforded great pleasure in all quarters of the Committee. I want to take up the challenge which was thrown down by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones). The Parliamentary Secretary has most skilfully, in very difficult times, steered the ship of education between two very dangerous rocks—between the sentimental idea that there must be more education at whatever cost and the foolish and, I believe, entirely erroneous notion that to spend more money is necessarily to increase efficiency, and to spend less is necessarily to decrease efficiency.

I would not go as far as my hon. Friend does in believing that no further economy is possible. On the contrary, I believe that further extreme economies, of a different nature, are possible and desirable. I always regret that, when the great opportunity came in 1931, the economies effected took the form of a flat-rate cut in the teachers' salaries. Strange as it may seem to hon. Members opposite, I believe, on general principles, that there should be better paid teachers, though I believe that there should be fewer of them. I would like to see the salaries of the teachers increased, and their numbers decreased. I have always regretted the fact that the economies took that form, instead of taking the form of a revolutionary change in our educational policy, which I believe was then possible.

Before I come to the basic point of difference in principle, I should like to add a word to what was said by my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), and by my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan), on the subject of the secondary schools, and to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to realise that we are coming to a parting of the ways in this matter. I have never been a great believer in the Hadow Report. I thought that the enthusiasm for that report was greatly exaggerated. I was much relieved by what we were told about East Suffolk, but in my view, if you are going to establish a form of central school differing only in very small respects from the present secondary school—it is nonsense for the hon. Member for Aberavon to point to the difference in the size of the schools and in the buildings; that has very little to do with it; the curriculum will be very little different—it will simply mean that you will have two different schools doing identically the same work. The board has got to make up its mind whether it wishes to have the secondary schools as another step up the educational ladder, that is, as entrance schools to the universities, in which case they have got to be radically changed—a great many fewer secondary school places will be needed, because you will only want them for those children who are likely to go on to the university—or whether it will have them as a form of intermediate education, in which case the whole of the Hadow Report falls to the ground.




If you have both doing the same work, it is a complete waste of time and money. You want one or the other, and you have to make up your mind which. I hope the board will turn its attention to that at an early date.

Now we come to the point raised by the hon. Member in his impassioned speech, greatly to the detriment of the brass-bound Box, telling us that this was a reactionary policy in that it meant less free secondary education, and that we were damping down the progressive authorities and encouraging only the backward and reactionary ones. The only progress of the kind that he has in mind is progress towards bankruptcy in pocket and ruin of character. [Interruption.] It is a statement no more wild than many that I have heard from the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), and a great deal truer than many of them. I am willing to accept the name of reactionary if that is true of my policy. I am not frightened of words. I want to see the country get back to the old principle that the education and the upbringing of the child are primarily the duty of the parent and that the State should intervene only where the parent is too poor or, for any reason, unwilling to provide that education. I believe, in contradistinction to hon. Members opposite, that parents are only too willing and anxious to shoulder that responsibility. I am just as keen as the hon. Member to see that no child who would really benefit from them shall be deprived of educational facilities because his parents are too poor to afford them.


How can you tell whether the child would benefit?


I think it is up to the parent to prove that the child is worthy of being educated at the State's expense.




The hon. Gentleman a great believer in competitive examinations. He greeted with loud cheers the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary that so many academic successes had been gained by children from secondary and elementary schools, apparently believing that those successes are a justification of our educational policy.


I really cannot allow that. I merely applauded because of their remarkable triumph over the obstacles in their way.


I am afraid, as on many other occasions, I must leave the hon. Gentleman with a complete difference of opinion from his point of view. I believe that Circular 1421 was a very good step in the right direction. I should like to go further. I should like to see it made possible—not necessarily obligatory—for every parent who can do so to pay fees in elementary schools. I believe most firmly that that is the way we can best help education. The crisis that we are talking about is not a temporary but a permanent one, and we have to cut our coat according to our cloth. Agreeing that a reduction of taxation and the utmost economy are urgently necessary, I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to investigate the idea of making more and more parents responsible for the education of the child where possible and putting less burden on the State, and, if what I may call the frills of education are wanted, they should be paid for by those who want them. If he will examine that line of argument instead of confining himself to cuts in teachers' salaries, he will attract into the teaching profession the best he can get, he will not skimp the payment of the people who have this most important work in the country, but will try to raise the money from those who get the benefit of it.

6.52 p.m.


The Parliamentary Secretary made a very excellent speech, showing that he has his heart in the work. I have had considerable experience of local administration, and I find that the meaning of circulars which have been issued by the board does not always coincide with the arrangements between the board and the local authorities. In this great and important Department one looks for greater reliability and continuity of policy. Unless we have continuity of policy in the Board of Education, I do not know in what other Department we should look for it. If we are going to have changes such as we have had, we are bound to suffer considerably as the result. One instance of the change that I have in mind is in connection with the capitation grant to Glamorgan and, although the board made a considerable saving in one year on teachers' salaries, the authority had an additional expenditure of 2977. We are asking the board to meet the additional cost that has been put on the local authority. The closing of schools is rather an important matter, and it is sometimes considered that in that way some saving can be effected. An arrangement has been made in Glamorgan to close a school, but the conveyance of the children to another area means additional cost to the ratepayers. It is a small school. The estimated annual cost of maintaining it, including the salary of the head teacher and an uncertificated teacher, is £285 6s. and the grant amounts to £112 13s. The total cost of running the school is £172 13s. If it was closed, it would cost £218. The additional net cost to the ratepayers if the school is closed will be £45 17s. The ratepayer and the taxpayer combined would save the difference between £112 and £45 17s., namely, £66 13s. 6d. The taxpayer is safe, but the ratepayer would have to meet an additional cost. Why should the ratepayer suffer because we have not been able to get the board to meet this added expenditure?

A fundamental change has been made by Circular 1421, and Wales has protested very strongly against it. The board is of opinion that, if the new arrangements are carefully considered and reasonably administered, they will operate without serious hardship. We had very short notice, and we appealed to the board to postpone its operation. The board said it would make no difference at all in Wales, and they sent one of their officers, which is quite an unknown thing, with a view to coercing the authorities. We were told that, unless we agreed, something would happen. I disagree absolutely with that method of approaching local authorities, especially at such very short notice. They say that a satisfactory increase in fee income will be secured without placing any obstacle in the way of the progressive development of secondary education. The fee is a low one, but the people are not in a position to pay for secondary education at present. The Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) on one occasion gave us additional free secondary schools in Glamorganshire, and we were very pleased, but when someone else came to the board there was a change, and the whole of the free secondary schools that we had were taken away from us. Now we have not a single free secondary school in the county. Then they say, in connection with capital expenditure, that we are not going to suffer.

May I remind the Committee of what has been stated in the particulars that have been issued in Command Paper 4366? It says that, in cases where some increase in the accommodation has been inevitable, the work has been allowed to proceed on the understanding that there would be no increase in the number of pupils admitted to the schools annually until the board were in a position to sanction such increases. That is taking away from the local authorities some part of their rights. We must go to the board before we can get any increase in accommodation. That is one of the things about which we are seriously complaining, and it should not be allowed to continue. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give us the same grants. I am afraid that we shall be curtailed in Glamorganshire this year, although that would be a very unfair way to deal with the county.

Let me give an instance of a letter I received yesterday, and of which I feel very proud. Facilities have been given to young men, after they have left the elementary schools, to go to evening continuation schools and here is a letter from a young man who has been through the university and writes to the Education Committee after he has got his degree. He says: For the last four sessions I have held a free studentship and I presume it has now terminated. At the recent degree examination I was successful in attaining a first-class in physics. I have now a double first-class honours degree. Last year I secured first-class honours in mathematics. I am proud to say that only 5½ years ago I was employed as a coal miner. I think that is very creditable. We want to continue to give that kind of assistance to young men who are able to take advantage of opportunities of this kind. We are giving loans to assist young men and women without charging any interest, and 99 per cent. of those who have received loans from the county repay the money immediately they get into employment. I am very proud indeed of that.

Something has been said about raising the school age to 15. We have heard a great deal about the bulge in the number of children of school age, and I want to call attention to the figures given to us by the board's actuary. On 28th April, 1933, the board issued a Circular giving the figures relating to children of school age in the public elementary schools. It proved an over-estimate, and a fresh set of figures had to be prepared. May I call attention to the position of the county of Glamorgan? In 1933, we have in the elementary schools 68,182 children. The estimated number for 1934 is 65,856; while the estimated number for 1935 is 63,220; for 1936, 60,250; and for 1937, 57,920. The estimated numbers show that we shall have a considerable reduction in the number of pupils attending the elementary schools. In reply to a question some time ago, the Parliamentary Secretary said that the number of additional school children, if the school age were raised on 1st April, 1934, would, in England and Wales, be slightly over 600,000, falling to 500,000 in 1937.

I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that now is the opportune time to raise the school age to 15, thus assisting the local 'authorities to help those boys and girls who are now leaving school at the age of 14. We have the accommodation, or we can find the accommodation at very little expense, in the county of Glamorgan. May I suggest to the Minister that he should read carefully and digest the report of the Kent Education Committee, prepared by Dr. Salter Davies? It is an excellent document. I believe the major portion of the education authorities are keenly interested in raising the school age. Steps should be taken to compel every authority in the country to raise the age to 15 years at this very opportune time.

Regarding Wales, I want to put in a plea for consideration of our difficult position. We are a depressed area, South Wales in particular being in a very depressed state. Some consideration should be given by the board to the added expenditure created by our geographical dufficlties. In the mining areas, we have villages in the valleys among the mountains, and the cost of the maintenance of such schools is high. We have an added expenditure on that account, and when we have to build a new school there have been instances in South Wales in which getting the foundations has cost as much as the building of a school in other parts of the country. The cost of removing soil in order to get a foundation has been so costly in some of these cases that we are not in a position to meet additional burdens, if they are placed upon us. I urge the board to give us some further financial assistance.

May I further ask if there is not some other way in which the board can assist rural areas? The rural areas in Wales are suffering from the geographical conditions to which I have drawn attention. For that reason we may not be up to the standard of England. These rural schools should have some further consideration by the board. There is a rural areas report which asks the board, and various Government Departments, to give some financial assistance. I know schools in the county of Glamorgan where there is one teacher for the whole school, with perhaps a supplementary teacher. The children are compelled to remain with that one individual, with that one mind, and they have no opportunity of going outside it. That is really a hardship. It does not give these children fair play. There are other points with which I would have liked to deal, but time is limited. The Minister should really consider what further assistance he can give to Wales. I should have liked to say a word about the good work the board have done in connection with technical schools, had time permitted. There will be, I hope, some further good work done in connection with the report which has been prepared. With the assistance of the board, I hope we shall be able to do some competent work in that connection.

7.10 p.m.


I think it will, perhaps, suit the convenience of the Committee if I make a short reply to the major part of the Debate. If I do not do so, I may not get an opportunity later on, and I understand it is the desire of right hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite that they should take a Division on the reduction which has been moved. I shall he able to deal with only a small number of the points which have been raised, but I will not select the easy ones. I shall take the major points and, if I am not able to deal with the other points, I can assure the Committee I will give them, and all that has been said, very careful consideration. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) raised the question of teachers' salaries. He wanted, I understood, to know whether the cut was still regarded as an emergency cut. There are two authoritative quotations on the subject which I will give to the Committee. The first one is by the President of the Board of Education at the time the cuts were made. He said that the reduction of teachers' salaries was occasioned by the national emergency, and should not be regarded as the view of the Government as to what should be the proper remuneration of teachers under less abnormal conditions, and that the position would be reviewed on its merits when the financial position of the country allowed. As far as I know, nothing has arisen to qualify that statement.

The other quotation I want to mention is the statement by the Prime Minister last February, when he said: The present financial situation offers no hope that it will be possible in the near future to restore the cuts in pay. With these two statements I think the hon. Member must be content. Then the hon. Member made reference to the Burnham Committee. The Burnham Committee is still in being. Nothing has taken place to cause it to be dissolved. Last March it agreed that the salaries of teachers should remain on their present basis until the following April.


Will the hon. Gentleman say whether at this moment there is any intention to override the powers of the Burnham Committee; whether any independent action will be taken By the Government apart from the ordinary way through the Burnham Committee?


As I said, the Burnham Committee met last March and settled the rates of salary for the ensuing year. I was also asked to deal with the question of malnutrition. The hon. Member did not seem quite satisfied with the reports of the school medical officers which we have obtained from the local education authorities. The hon. Gentleman wants the Board itself to investigate each particular area and its own officers to make reports. The hon. Gentleman must realise that such a course is quite impossible. The Board of Education is bound to rely on the best information it can obtain from the most responsible officials in the various areas. The hon. Gentleman went into the question of the black-list schools and buildings. If the hon. Gentleman will subsequently give me the actual names and particulars, I will certainly have the matter looked into. In a number of cases they are voluntary schools, and the Committee is aware of the difficulty with the law as it stands. The power of the State to deal with the non-provided schools is strictly limited. The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones) turned once more to the charge over Circular 1421, a number which will be written upon his heart and upon mine if this sort of thing continues. I was not very much impressed with the evidence, although he qualified the evidence which he produced to justify or to explain his attitude towards the Circular. I learnt from the remarks he made that the matter caused disquiet. It used to be said that what the soldier said was not evidence, and I would say nor is what the teacher said evidence using the some parity of reasoning.


What the parents said.


I will deal briefly with the point raised in connection with Circular 1421. I gather that his argument was that it limited the chances of poor children. As a matter of fact, as regards the operation of the Circular, no single area in the country has, so far as I know, a smaller percentage of special places than of free places. On the contrary, the number of special places open as the result of competition exceeds the number of free places. The result of the Circular has been to narrow the area of fee payers, that is to narrow the limits within which a child can have access simply on account of the ability of the parent to pay fees, and to widen the competitive area to children whose chances of getting there depend upon their brains.


Last week-end I saw a report of a debate which took place in the Norfolk Education Committee. Is it a fact that the Board of Education insist that in the list of special places allowed to a particular authority there shall be included places for the children of fee payers, as well as places for others? There was a very sharp discussion on this point in the Norfolk Education Committee. Are the number of special places limited to children whose parents can afford to pay or to those who cannot afford to pay?


I am not sure that I have understood. Does it not depend upon the number of special places the authority awards? In some cases it is 25 or 50, and in others it is 100. I cannot say what it is in the case of Norfolk. The special places, I believe, are limited to 50 if there is a residue of fee paying places. In South Wales the position, I think, is that in all secondary schools the percentage of special places is 100 per cent. I hope that with that explanation the hon. Member will be satisfied.


It is not 100 per cent. for the whole of South Wales.


I think that in the areas where it was 100 free places before, it is 100 per cent. special places now. I was sorely tempted at times to enter upon discussion with my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), but I am going to remain in a state of quiescence, particularly if it should happen that the hon. Member for Aberavon is right, for the Noble Lord would be wrong.


Obviously, he cannot be right.


I will not continue a discussion of that kind, although I have great respect for the arguments of the Noble Lord. In fact, I regard him as the H. G. Wells of education. The future of secondary education presents difficult problems. His method is to take up secondary schools by the roots and see how they are growing. We want to let them develop gradually. The hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan) referred to the charge of bookishness and over academic education given in secondary schools. There is a great deal of force in what he has said, but I am inclined to think that the fact is becoming increasingly realised and the condition is disappearing. The Committee will forgive me if I make a reference to ancient history. The position to-day seems to be something like that of some 2,000 years ago when the great educational discovery was the importance of the physical culture of the body as a means of developing the mental attributes—probably one of the greatest discoveries ever made. But I am not sure that we are not making now another discovery in some way analogous. In the education of the children, no matter who they may he, in the development of their mental activity, skill with their hands and training of hand and eye are an absolutely invaluable adjunct to the mental capacity which we hope they will develop.


The point I was making was the need to encourage pupils to go in for other than academic subjects in secondary schools.


I remember that point, but I think the hon. Member also made a point of general application that we were not regarding the practical side sufficiently in secondary schools. The position in the secondary schools is being increasingly realised and children are getting more of the practical education. I will conclude by reminding the Committee of a, quotation which I read the other day showing the experience of John Stuart Mill upon this very point, because it is interesting as showing the results which might happen as a result of an academic education. This is what he wrote: I remained inexpert in anything requiring manual dexterity; my mind, as well as my hands, did its work very lamely when it was applied or ought to be applied to practical details. Therefore I think in all our schools, the senior schools and the secondary schools, a great deal more can be done for training the mental capacity of our children if they are given more opportunity of training in hand and in eye.

7.24 p.m.


Perhaps it is not inappropriate that after the secondary school system has been subjected to the incantations of the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), acting as the witch doctor, and the applications of the leech in the shape of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont), the modest voice of one who has bad practical experience of active work in those schools should be heard in this Committee. I think that we may leave the Noble Lord alone for a time. My hon. Friend the Minister has dealt with him. But something should be said about the hon. Member for Aylesbury because he is a phenomenon so rare to-day. He is a picturesque survival of the days to which we shall never return. He belongs, if I may so put it, to the days of Lady Clara Vere de Vere, who thought that education began and finished by teaching the orphan boy to read, or teaching the orphan girl to sew, and then to pray Heaven for a humble heart. Fortunately, we see the hon. Member in action. People outside this House only read what he says, and not having the privilege, as we have, of seeing how the figure works, and it is apt to cause alarm and despondency in the hearts of many of those who have a. genuine interest in the cause of education.

I like better the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan) which showed a really practical interest in the work of the secondary schools and a real and genuine desire that those schools should fulfil their function and play their part in the educational system of the country. He deplored, as I deplore, the fact that practical work does not occupy so large a part in the curriculum as it might well do. Indeed, 15 months ago, speaking on the Education Estimates, I made a plea to the then Minister that more should be done for the child who can do things with its hands rather than concentrate almost entirely upon the child who is quick at assimilating facts and reproducing them on an appropriate occasion.

To get to the root cause of the concentration upon the academic side we cannot overlook the requirements which have been made from the examination point of view. The whole of the work of our secondary schools, it is no exaggeration to say, has been conditioned now for some 10 years by the requirements of the school certificate examination and the matriculation examination. I welcome the report of the Secondary School Examinations Council and their recommendation that the two examinations should henceforth be separated. I hope that the board will lose no time in bringing about that much desired consummation, but that, in abolishing the matriculation examination as far as the schools are concerned, we shall not transfer all the blights and blemishes which flow from the matriculation examination and unload them on the school certificate examination. I hope that with the passing of matriculation we shall see the passing also of the invidious comparisons which are made between school and school, and the plotting of graphs to show the relative attainments of one school as against another and of one class as against another, or of one subject as against another. There is no doubt that such comparisons have resulted in competition which has not been to the good of the schools or to the pupils engaged in working in those schools. It has tended to turn our secondary schools into mass production factories which have concen- trated on the turning out of what may be called 45 per cent. mathematicians, 45 per cent. linguists, and 45 per cent. scientists, merely intent on scraping through their examinations.

7.29 p.m.


I wish to share with certain speakers to-day in the expressions of gratitude to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education for the extremely attractive manner in which he addressed the Committee, but I cannot join in congratulating him upon his speech as far as it affected the policy of the Board of Education. The bulk of his speech was addressed, not to those who are really interested in advocating the improvement of the educational system, but rather to those who have been complaining about the amount of money being expended upon education by the Government of the present time. I think it is singularly unfortunate—

It being half-past Seven of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.