Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £28,056,787, 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, 1936, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Education, and of the various Establishments connected therewith, including sundry Grants in Aid." [NOTE: £16,500,000 has been voted on account.]
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Ramsbotham)
A very useful and instructive publication called "The Year Book of Education for 1935"contains an admirable article on "Events and special features in education in England and Wales," contributed by ray noble friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy). In it he writes:If that country is happy which has no history, education in England and Wales has had a happy year.I do not quarrel with that summary, and, if history still means to any one a series of exciting conflicts, emotional decisions, and drastic decrees, I am thankful to say that we have had very little of it. We have certainly had a happy year compared with 1931, and I look forward to an even happier one.
There has been, as I indicated last year there would be, a solid, continuous and steady development of our educational services. We have not had recourse to any startling enactments, but we have advanced by means of careful and considered administration, and have made substantial, if comparatively unobstrusive and silent, gains on all sectors of the educational front. It would not be true to say that the Board during last year refrained even from good words, or rather from good circulars, but I am sure that 34 the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) will admit that we have succeeded this year in limiting the issue of those circulars which he used to find so difficult to comprehend and still more difficult to appreciate.
Last year the Estimates amounted to £42,104,108. Those Estimates had been prepared on the assumption that the 10 per cent. cut in teachers' salaries would continue throughout 1934, but the decision of the Government to remit one-half of the cut as from the 1st July last entailed a Supplementary Estimate of £1,506,000. Therefore, the Board's Estimates last year totalled £43,610,018. This year the Estimates amount to £44,556,787, showing an increase of £2,452,769 on the original Estimate of last year. Of this increase the sum of £2,340,000 is accounted for by the remission for a whole year of half the cut in teachers' salaries. Apart from that, the increase in the Estimates amounts to £112,769.
I am sure that Members of the Committee who participated in the remission of half the cuts last year will not grudge the teachers their share, and there is no doubt that all those who are interested in education, financially or otherwise, will welcome the decision of the Chancellor of the Echequer to restore the balance of the cuts as from 1st July this year. They will also welcome the recent solution of the pensions question. I am, however, likely to be reminded that the restoration of over £2,250,000 for salaries this year and another £2,250,000 next year will mean that I must advance with some degree of circumspection in other directions. Apart from salaries, the increase of £112,000 appears to be a small one, but it must be remembered that it is calculated there will be 85,000 fewer children in the public elementary schools this year. There is, therefore, a decrease in the number of children accompanied by an increase in expenditure. In so far as increased expenditure is an index of educational progress, that increase of £112,000 is not without significance.
I stated to the Committee last year that the intricacies of the Board's grant formula made it difficult to obtain a true picture of educational expenditure and of educational progress in so far as that progress can be measured in money. The 35 principal spending bodies are the local educational authorities, and it is from their estimated expenditure that we can best judge the true position of affairs. If we turn to page 12 of the Memorandum on the Estimates, we find that if we leave out of account expenditure on salaries and pensions the expenditure of the local education authorities for elementary education alone will be £825,000 more than last year. In that figure the main item is a sum of £600,000, an increase of nearly 7 per cent., on what is known as "other expenditure," which means, broadly speaking, the general upkeep of school buildings, the provision of books, equipment and so forth. It may be fairly taken that the increase in that item implies considerable improvement in the conditions and amenities of the schools. The other outstanding item is an increase of £175,000 on the provision of meals and on the school medical service. That is an increase which I am sure the Committee will welcome. With regard to higher education, referred to on page 17 of the Memorandum, the expenditure of the local education authorities has increased by £820,000. The bulk of this increase is due to the remission of the cuts in the salaries of teachers in the secondary and technical schools, and in the training colleges.
I said that I hoped to be able to show notable improvements in all sectors of the educational front. I will begin with capital expenditure. The total of the proposals which we approved in 1934 amounts to £7,500,000 compared with £3,500,000 for 1933 and £4,200,000 for 1932. Therefore, we have in the past year sanctioned capital expenditure nearly equal to the total of the two previous years combined. The Committee will remember that it was necessary in 1931 not only to impose a 10 per cent. cut on teachers' salaries but also to issue Circular 1413, restricting somewhat educational developments. Those were emergency measures to be reviewed when the financial situation warranted it. During the past year it has been possible to relax considerably the restrictions imposed in Circular 1413. Those restrictions would have borne very heavily on the educational authorities, considering the expenditure we have approved, but I am very glad to be able to announce that 36 the restrictions in Circular 1413 are withdrawn. Therefore, I hope that, subject to the general financial situation of the country, the local authorities will be able to look forward to a period in which, with the co-operation of the board, they will be able to make unimpeded progress in educational development and reorganisation.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
Has the Department notified the local authorities that the circular has been withdrawn.
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
The restrictions of Circular 1413 have been withdrawn, but the circular itself is not withdrawn, because there are certain financial arrangements which stand. I shall be forgiven for revealing that the withdrawal of the circular was one of the last beneficent acts of my Noble Friend who has now forsaken a peaceful avocation for a martial career.
As regards elementary education, we have continued to keep, as we have in past years, reorganisation in the forefront of our programme. In my judgment, and in the judgment of the board, reorganisation is a condition precedent to the realisation of a reform which many of us think desirable, but which under our Rules of Order we cannot discuss on the present occasion. I do not assert that reorganisation, even so far as it has gone, is in every case all that it should be. There are inherent difficulties in many districts, difficulties connected with school buildings and equipment and the various amenities which reorganisation connotes. Hon. Members are familiar with the problems peculiar to the reorganisation of voluntary schools, their lack of funds and in rural areas the great distances which separate schools. I am confident, however, that before long, with the good will of all concerned, we shall overcome the main obstacles which now stand in our way. At present the position is that less than 30 per cent. of the children in council schools are still in unreorganised departments, whereas in voluntary schools 60 per cent. of the children are in unreorganised departments. It is fairly obvious, therefore, that if, as we believe, reorganisation is an essential feature of any great educational development it will be difficult to realise that reform until a satisfactory solution of the non-provided school problem has been reached.
37 Let me say a word about black listed schools. During the year we have removed 73 schools from this black list and at the present moment have got rid of more than two-thirds of the worst schools. I am well aware that the figures I have given reflect the reduced capital expenditure of 1932 and 1933, and no doubt we should have done much better in this direction had it not been for the financial crisis of 1931. Therefore, we are entitled to hope that in the interests of educational progress the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) will spare us another. At the moment we are providing nearly twice the capital expenditure of 1933, and it is not unreasonable to hope that we shall see a much more rapid disappearance of the worst of these black listed schools. Already we have approved plans for the reconstruction or replacement of 148 of them. In this connection, I must again remind the Committee that over two-thirds of the schools are voluntary schools and are not eligible for Government assistance. While dealing with this matter, let me make a further observation which concerns council schools. At a recent conference of the Association of Education Committees the President of the Association drew attention in critical terms to the existence of these black listed schools. I hope that local education authorities will take his words to heart. I can assure the Committee that at no time have the Board ever placed any restrictions on the reconstruction or replacement of the worst of these black listed schools. From the remarks of the President of the Association we get this Gilbertian situation, that local education authorities, through the mouth of the President of the Association, are urging the Board to urge local authorities to do their duty.
The fall in the number of children in the schools has undoubtedly helped local education authorities to reduce the number of large classes. I have not yet got the figures for the year ending 31st March last, but in the preceding 12 months we succeeded in reducing the number of classes of over 50 children by 2,000, or 25 per cent., so that these large classes now constitute only about 4 per cent. of the total number of classes, and I am confident that we have made further progress since the last figures I was able to announce.
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
Classes over 50. I know that there are areas where the conditions are not equally satisfactory, but, unfortunately, this problem of large classes cannot always be solved by the simple, if costly, expedient of appointing more teachers. The problem in many cases is due to the existence of old-fashioned schools with a few rooms, and those rooms full. Sometimes you can partition such rooms and sometimes you can get over the difficulty by adding new class rooms or by building a new school. But if the school is a non-provided school the last two expedients can only be realised from voluntary sources.
I now turn to the sphere of higher education. Our secondary education is undoubtedly the touchstone of our whole educational system. On it depends to a remarkable degree the destiny of our country. The destiny of our country will depend, even more than it has done in the past, upon our ability to educate in our secondary schools young people competent to play a responsible part in after life in politics, commerce, science and the professions. The pupils in our secondary schools are mainly selected children, and, if the method of selection is wrong or the education given is ill-conceived and unsuitable, the whole prospect of a successful future for our race is jeopardised. At the moment the Board's consultative committee is engaged in reporting upon the framework and content of the education of children over 11, and particularly of children who do not remain at school after the age of 16. I hope that their report will throw light on such important questions as to whether, and how far, the education of young people who leave secondary schools at 16 should differ from the education of those who stay on until 18, or whether it should be, as it is mainly at present, the same kind of education. There are two other topics connected with secondary education to which I should like to refer. We have recently issued a circular calling the attention of local authorities to Article 5 of the Regulations, which provides that:The number of pupils taught together at one time must not without the concurrence of the Board exceed 30, and must never exceed 35.About eight years ago it was recognised that owing to the higher birth-rate at the 39 end of the War there would be a large increase in the number of children likely to seek admission to the secondary schools in 1931 and 1932. Accordingly, during the past few years we have not taken any specific action in regard to classes containing between 31 and 35 children, but we have now informed local authorities and governing bodies that we can no longer acquiesce in the continuance of the practice of admitting more children to the schools than can be accommodated in classes of the normal size. I am sure that the hon. Member for St. Helens (Captain Spencer), who drew attention to this matter last year, will receive this statement with approval. The estimated cost of higher education would have been substantially greater but for the operation of Circular 1421, which laid down what I think was the simple and honest proposition, that those parents who are able to do so should contribute something towards the cost of their children's education in a secondary school. I think it is often forgotten outside that the education of each child in a secondary school costs the taxpayer and ratepayer over £30 a year, whereas the parent paying the full fee, or part of the fee, contributes on the average to the education of the child less than £7 per annum. The Committee will recollect that the policy of Circular 1421 was very violently attacked by Members of the party opposite. I can quote from a speech in the last debate on the Estimates, when the hon. Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. West) said that the Board of Education had—succeeded. … in making secondary education still more impossible to the vast majority of working-class children."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th July, 1934; col. 1028, Vol. 292.]And in the policy report of the Socialist party called "Labour and Education," it is stated that—The opportunities of the workers' children have been curtailed as a result of the sinister bias given to educational policy by the class prejudice of the Government.It is a curious theory that to expect some payment from those who can afford to pay something is evidence of class prejudice. In any event, the facts will show how far the Board has succeeded in making secondary education still more impossible for working-class children. I will give the Committee the facts. Between March, 1933, when the 40 Circular came into operation, and October last, the number of pupils in secondary schools increased by 25,000. The bulk of that increase came from public elementary schools, and the number of those who paid no fees increased by 8,000. At the same time, the proportion of pupils paying fees diminished. The facts are that the cost has been more equitably spread, that there is an increase in the number of those paying no fees, an increase in the proportion of those getting some remission and a decrease in the preparation of those who have hitherto paid full fees.
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
If any hon. Member believes that there is a sinister bias or class prejudice in that result, or that it has become still more impossible for working-class children to get a secondary school education, I can only reply to him in the words of the great Duke of Wellington:Sir, if you can believe that, you can believe anything.Whatever other criticism may be levelled against the Board's administration during the past three years, I think it will be generally conceded that we have worked very hard to develop our system of technical education, and to relate it more closely to the ever-changing requirements of industry and commerce. A great deal has been done; a very great deal more remains to be done. There are three points to which I would draw the attention of the Committee. The first is this: I do not think that we can hope to reach the full benefit from our system of technical education if the conditions of many of the buildings remain unsatisfactory. Many of the buildings in which technical institutes are housed are unworthy of the importance of the subject. There are large centres in this country where the technical institutes are still housed in makeshift premises or, where the branches are separate, making the task of the principal and the work of administration one of great difficulty. I say that we have done a great deal to remedy this. Since the present Government have been in office, we have authorised expenditure on buildings for technical education to the amount of nearly £1,500,000, and in at least 12 41 important towns new technical institutes have been erected or planned.
But if we mean to possess technical institutes for technical education which give a reasonable chance to the teacher and the student, and if they are to be comparable to the kind of provision made by some of our industrial competitors on the Continent, we need new provision in a great many cases. It seems to me rather curious that such an ingenious, technically-minded and industrious people as the English should in many cases be content with unsatisfactory buildings for technical education which they would criticise were they in use for elementary or secondary education. Anyhow, as a result, we have instituted a comprehensive survey of the buildings in all areas, and we shall not fail to urge upon the local authorities concerned to do what is necessary to replace unsatisfactory institutes or to fill gaps where gaps are discovered. In that connection, I would like to express the gratitude of the Board to the Association of Principals of Technical Institutes and the Association of Technical Institutes for their assistance in setting up a committee to advise the Board on the subject of planning and equipment of technical institutes. I should certainly think that the report of such a committee will be of the greatest advantage to us.
The second point is this: During the past year a most beneficial system has grown up of granting certificates on a national basis to students for proficiency in various industries such as gas, electrical, mechanical engineering and building. These national certificates are highly valuable and highly prized by their possessors, and are evidence of a very high standard of attainment. For some time we have realised the need for a national certificate for young commercial employes who hope to fit themselves for positions of responsibility by taking advantage of technical institutes for the study of advanced subjects. There, again, largely owing to the initiative of the associations concerned, I am glad to be able to report that a scheme has been launched. It is not yet a national scheme or recognised as such, but, at any rate, it is a first step in the right direction, and I confidently hope that we shall be able to develop it into a form of national certificate comparable with the certificates awarded in the various branches of 42 industry. Thirdly, an Advisory Council for Technical Education has been formed in South Wales and Monmouthshire on the lines recommended by the Committee on Educational Problems of the South Wales Coalfields, over which the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) presided with such ability and distinction. This council has been set up to view the development and co-ordination of industrial, commercial and agricultural training in the area as a whole, and to improve and develop facilities for technical education in South Wales. I am confident that it will have a successful future, and I think the Committee will be glad to know that Lord Plymouth has consented to be its chairman.
Closely associated with technical education is the subject of education in art, and not only art in the sense of "fine art," but art in its application to industry. The estrangement between art and industry is a long story dating right back to the beginnings of the industrial revolution, and I believe that our main effort to-day must be to do all we can to reconcile the artist and the manufacturer so that industry and commerce may make use of art, not as something to be "stuck on," but as something inherent in the object and its design, and part and parcel of its make-up. This reconciliation, it seems to me, must begin in the schools, and there we have to distinguish between the appreciation of art and its production, between, as it were, the consumer and the producer. I do not think it is making too high a claim to say that practically all children are naturally artistic. Their early work is creative and unspoilt by any attempt to imitate the style and workmanship of some other person. I think it is therefore of great importance, that while they are in school children should be given, as far as possible, full freedom to express themselves in the matter of art, and that their art should not become "tongue-tied by authority."
It is a regrettable fact, however, that as they grow up only a comparatively small percentage are able to retain their freshness or originality, or are able to contribute anything really worth while in creative art, or to become producers of fine designs and fine objects. It is, however, of very great importance that the majority should be able to appreciate what is artistic, for in that way, I think, is the public taste formed. I believe that 43 appreciation does not come best by teaching and talking, but by the children learning for themselves. In other words, it comes best by doing and making, and I do not think that the children can begin too young. If they once learn to make the simple, and, in my judgment, very beautiful colour patterns that can be seen in our public elementary schools, I think they will have begun to learn a natural and spontaneous comprehension of good colour and fine design. If they have begun to learn how to make fine designs, then I think they can never, either as producers or consumers of art, be content in later years with what is really ugly or vulgar.
As regards what I call the producer of art, I think we may say that more attention has been paid in the last three or four years to the training of students in our art schools than in any previous period. Public interest has been stimulated by the report of the Gorell Committee on Art and Industry, and since then exhibitions of industrial arts have been held at Dorland House and at Burlington House, under the supervision of the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of Arts, and quite recently there has been an exhibition at the London County Hall of work done by the students in the London County Council art schools. Those students are the modern equivalent of apprentices in the old-fashioned organisation of industry. There is also to be held at Oxford in August a World Congress on Education, and there will be organised there an exhibition by the Association of Education Committees and the National Union of Teachers, with the ready co-operation of the Board of Education. At that exhibition specimens of work will be shown from elementary, secondary, technical and art schools all over the country. There will also be demonstrations of the use of the film and of wireless in the schools, as well as a display of physical training.
But a revival of interest is one thing and solid achievement is another, and we have a great deal to do to make up for the neglect of education in art in past decades. Quite recently the board sent out to the Continent two of its inspectors to investigate what is being done there by way of training for 44 industrial art, and their extremely interesting report has been published under the title of "Industry and Art Education on the Continent." It follows upon, and supplements, the well-known report by the board in 1932 on Trade Schools on the Continent. It is very clear from that report that we are in many respects considerably behind our neighbours, not, I think, in natural ability, for I believe that our people have just as much innate talent as any others, but in the encouragement and training we give to it. I will mention only three points. Our inspectors report:There is no comparison between the spacious and lavishly equipped art schools on the Continent, notably Czechoslovakia, Germany, Zurich and Milan, and our schools at home.Secondly, they say that in several of the countries visited the apprentices are required by law to attend the classes generally for one full day a week for three years, and that the elaborate system of day continuation classes which has grown up to meet this requirement secures the attendance at art schools of the whole of the apprentices in a given locality, and not only of a small band of enthusiasts, as is generally the case at evening classes in this country. A third point to which they draw attention is the ease with which regional organisation and co-operation between schools of art can be planned on the Continent under a system of centralised control. We have no such system here, and on the whole I think we are probably better without it. But under our system as it is we ought to be able to get a much greater degree of regional co-ordination of our art schools than we have at present.
We have already taken steps which, if successful, should knit the art schools in this country more closely together, and we hope that arrangements will be made to concentrate the most advanced work at the most important schools. These will be known as colleges, and the small groups of classes in arts and crafts will be recognised as art classes and form an integral part of the whole scheme. We are anxious that the boundaries which exist between local education authorities shall not become obstacles in the way of relating the work of neighbouring schools to one another and to industrial requirements. We have just set up a Committee, under the chairmanship of Lord Hambleden, to advise as to how the work 45 of the Royal College of Arts can best be organised and related to that of the other great institutions of the same kind in London. I should add that a powerful auxiliary has entered the field in the shape of the new Council of Arts and Industry set up by the President of the Board of Trade under the Chairmanship of Mr. Frank Pick.
The purpose of all this activity is to bring the schools and the industrial and business community into closer and more sympathetic touch with each other, and to build up a system which will give to our industries the highly trained designers and craftsmen of which they are in need, supported by a population taught and encouraged to appreciate and to demand things of good design and workmanship. I think I am entitled to claim that the prospects of improvement in the standard of industrial art and public taste in this country are higher to-day than they have been at any time since the advent of the industrial revolution.
A short while ago I made a brief reference to an educational topic which is now occupying the attention of a great many people, namely, the merits or demerits of raising the school-leaving age. The Committee are aware that we cannot discuss the subject to-day, and I mention it now only because there is a real danger lest it should not only engage general attention but practically monopolise it, until too many people may come to recite the slogan, "Raise the school-leaving age," thinking that until that happens nothing else very much matters. But I can assure the Committee that pending any change in the school-leaving age there are more than enough tasks of first-rate educational importance to keep all educationists busy, and sufficiently costly to absorb all the money that is available. I propose to indicate a few of them.
First, there is rural reorganisation. I have already said something about the progress of reorganising in general, but there is also the very important question of the type of education given in reorganised schools in country districts. Our object is to make the reorganised rural school a vital force in country life, and not just the first step or stepping stone to the towns and the cities. Sometimes the fear is expressed that this policy of bringing children to the schools 46 in the towns may result in unduly urbanising them and giving them a taste for town life. But our idea of reorganisation is something very different from that. We envisage a school where the curriculum is specially devised in the interests of country children, where special attention is given to rural interests and where the school in its premises, garden space and equipment, has real facilities for giving the teaching a definite, live rural bias. I am speaking of rural reorganisation where the school is an area school in the country, and not of sending country children into the nearest market town.
§ Mr. ANEURIN BEVAN
Would those reorganised schools be alongside the secondary schools in the same area, and would they have the same status?
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
I should not like to say that. That is a very much larger question. I am speaking of area schools fed by neighbouring contributory schools. Naturally, where the children live on the fringes of county or market towns it is a right policy to send them to the schools in those towns, and I do not think that the risk of urbanising them is so serious in such cases. New factors are growing up to check the drift from the countryside; for instance, better road transport and the wireless bring the remotest cottage into contact with all the every-day activities of the community, and, apart from that, the increase of mechanical appliances in farming is stimulating a demand for increased mechanical knowledge, usually associated with urban areas and urban schools, and there are no doubt certain compensations which a country boy gets by going to a large school in a county town where the main interests may not be primarily or strictly agricultural but are in manifold ways ancillary to agriculture. I suggest that we ought not unduly to idealise the old type of education in the country school. In the past rural education has been too often little more than an appendage or annex to urban education, but now under reorganisation the country school is going to get its chance.
The second point to which I wish to refer is the use of mechanical aids to education—the wireless and the films. Both are most potent instruments of education, but at present their influence is mainly exercised out of school and 47 to a very small extent inside it. In school we still rely on the text-book and the blackboard. I have little doubt that when printing was invented some considerable time elapsed before printed books found their way into classrooms. I have read in an early report on the inspection of schools, dated about 1846, the complaint that the uses of the blackboard were not yet fully developed. I speak subject to correction, but I think that by now we have adequately explored the uses of the blackboard. I cannot say the same of the film and wireless, as a great deal remains yet to be done.
But there is a substantial difference between these types of educational instruments. Text-books and blackboards seldom retain or attract the interests of the children when they have left school; the wireless and the film hold them constantly and continuously. Therefore in my judgment we should be most unwise if we neglected the use of these educational instruments in school, for surely they will be used as such after school. For instance, at a recent competition at a boys' club in the East End the children were asked to plan a model village out of cardboard and plasticine, and only one of the villages which they designed contained a church, only two or three had gardens, but every village had a cinema, and one child provided a cinema for every two houses.
We need not and cannot dispense with text-book and blackboard, but we shall be most unwise if we do not summon to our aid the wireless and the film. There is a great deal to be learned in the employment of them. Like the blackboard of 90 years ago, their uses are by no means fully developed. At the same time we must remember that they can never supplant the most potent instrument of all—the oral teaching and the personality of the teacher. We have had a certain amount of experience of the use of wireless in our schools, for over 3,000 departments are equipped with sets. It is our rural schools that need most to be equipped and are at present least well-equipped. Incidentally it is no use having a set unless it is a good set and is kept in good repair. But very few of our schools have projectors, and as far as I know we are very much behind other countries, notably France and Germany, in that respect. We have a reasonable 48 supply of educational films, and, thanks to the enterprise and activity of one firm in particular, the supply is being rapidly enlarged. But it is useless and unprofitable to make educational films for schools that have not the equipment to use them. I therefore trust that local education authorities will study this matter more carefully than they have done hitherto, and see whether they can equip more schools with projectors. The British Film Institute has been doing admirable pioneer work, and its services in an advisory capacity are at the disposal of every local education authority in the country.
A further subject to which I wish to refer is physical training. So far the aspects of education on which I have touched have been limited to the training of the mind and the intelligence. If I were to take the old standard definition of a liberal education, in the best sense of that elastic adjective, namely, "an education directed to general intellectual enlargement and refinement," I should not proceed much further. But a very distinguished educationist has put the matter in this way:We think of a liberal education in terms too entirely intellectual, and we do not lay enough stress on the very skilful training of the body in strength, in grace; in balance and in speed, and in accuracy of touch and sight. A liberal education should liberate; it should liberate mind through body and body through mind.Those observations are profoundly true. The training of mind or hand alone cannot compensate for an untrained body, and under modern conditions of living there is greater need than ever for us to call to mind the teaching of antiquity, that no man is educated unless he knows how to manage his life not only mentally and morally, but physically. It is important to secure that the physical training of the school children is as thorough as possible, and we are giving very close attention to this matter. In our elementary schools every child is supposed to have regular periods of physical training. But the success of the system, or a great deal of its success, depends upon the teacher, and in the teachers' training colleges, as distinct from the university training departments, every student has a personal as well as a professional training in this subject. But if our system of physical training is to be efficient, local education authorities should have their 49 own organiser of physical training. Without the help of those organisers, I am confident that the recent marked progress made in our senior schools, particularly in those schools where there is indoor accommodation for gymnastics, could not have been made. In the areas where a competent organiser has obtained the co-operation and confidence of the teachers there has been an obvious and marked improvement in the health, discipline and alertness of the children. In our secondary schools, especially boys' secondary schools, by no means enough time is devoted to physical training.
How many local education authorities have organisers? I have an idea that only about one-third have them.
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
One reason why enough time is not devoted to physical training in secondary schools for boys is the demand made by other subjects in the curriculum. A second reason is that too many of the teachers in boys secondary schools are inexpert and unqualified to give the training. I very much hope that we shall find it possible to reinforce their ranks from the Carnegie Physical Training College at Leeds and I also hope that the university training departments will give attention to this very important matter and supply our secondary schools with more teachers who are qualified to give instruction in this subject. Then there is the vast section of young people who have left school. There is great scope for the organiser of physical training among these young people. Besides their work for the school children, could not the organisers do a great deal to encourage and supervise physical training activities among those who have left school Should they not be valuable as recognised guides and advisers for the community as a whole, and for the voluntary organisations in matters relating to gymnastic training and physical recreation?
The Prince of Wales Appeal on behalf of the King's Jubilee Trust Fund has aroused great national interest in this 50 matter and the British Medical Association has set up a strong committee to consider it. The Press is drawing attention to it, but full success, or anything like full success, is impossible without the requisite teachers and leaders. There are several excellent physical training colleges for women, but for men we need more Carnegie Colleges and more qualified teachers and more organisers. I hope that those local education authorities who have not yet appointed organisers will consider the advisability of doing so. I am certain that, broadly speaking, the cost will not be great. I think it will be inconsiderable compared with the medical and remedial expenditure which will be saved. We have arranged with the local education authorities of some of the largest county boroughs to have physical training displays by young people from all the schools in their areas this year in the open air. This, I think, will serve to stimulate public interest and help the local authorities themselves and the general public to appreciate how much more could be done to extend the opportunities for physical training for those who have left school. I should like to announce to the Committee that an important body has been formed under the patronage of Their Majesties the King and Queen—as a central council for physical training. It is entirely nonofficial and comprises representatives of nearly every important youth organisation in the country. I feel sure that the Board will gain much help and advice from this central body.
I need hardly point out that it is not much good training the mind or the body if the body is ill-nourished. That, of course, is recognised in the Education Act, but nevertheless there is a small—a very small—percentage of malnourished children in the country and probably a larger percentage of children who are under-nourished. This year we have estimated for a higher expenditure on school meals and the school medical service than ever before. In 1931 the expenditure worked out at 17s. 2d. per pupil and it is estimated that this year it will amount to 19s. 11d. During the whole of their period of office, the Government have encouraged local education authorities to make greater use of their powers for the provision of free meals and free milk. Even during the 51 period of economy, proposals for more expenditure under this head were approved by the Board of Education. In November, 1931, when the Government took office, 138 out of 316 local education authorities were exercising their power to provide meals. Last December that figure had increased to 205. Broadly speaking, the exceptions to-day consist of prosperous resorts, small country towns and certain rural areas. Where in our judgment steps of that kind are needed in urban areas we have not failed to take up the question with the local authorities. Between November, 1931 and March, 1935, the number of children receiving free meals of all kinds has doubled and the number receiving free milk is nearly five times as great as in November, 1931.
While encouraging the provision of meals and milk where needed, we are continuing and propose to continue the policy which I explained to the Committee last year of urging local education authorities to limit this provision to children who are found on medical examination to be under-nourished and therefore unable to profit by their education. Let me make it plain that this is emphatically not a policy of economy as, in many areas, the selection of children by means of nutrition surveys would result and I have no doubt will result, in the free feeding of a larger number. But we cannot accept the argument that all poor children should be fed free because they must of necessity be undernourished. Under-nourishment is by no means invariably associated with poverty, for many children of poor parents are well-nourished. In any event, the relief of poverty is a duty of bodies other than local education authorities whose functions should be limited to seeing that no child through lack of food is unable to take advantage of the education provided for it. But the Board has laid down that the slightest sympton of subnormal nutrition justifies the placing of children on the feeding list and that where the head teacher considers there is evidence of subnormal nutrition, a child shall receive free meals or free milk provisionally, pending review by a medical officer. I know that that policy has been misrepresented in certain quarters. I am convinced that it is a sound policy to associate the treatment of subnormal 52 nutrition as closely as we can with the school medical service. I am also convinced that educational funds should be used for educational purposes, and not to supplement assistance which parents may be entitled to receive from other sources.
Apart from the supply of free meals and free milk by local education authorities, there is the voluntary scheme administered by the Milk Marketing Board, with the assistance of a grant from the Government, whereby milk is provided at ½d. for one-third of a pint, for school children. Prior to October, 1934, we estimate that 900,000 children were receiving milk under voluntary schemes sponsored by the National Milk Publicity Council. In March last as a result of the Government's assistance and with the help of the Milk Marketing Board, the number of children receiving milk had grown to 2,750,000. May I say that the teachers have co-operated splendidly in securing this result and I say, frankly, that without their co-operation the scheme would have been unworkable. The Committee must also recognise that the scheme is a voluntary one and the Government have no power to make it compulsory. At the same time we have in our Circular 1437 expressed to local education authorities our hope that they will encourage as much as they can these voluntary schemes in their schools.
I do not think I need apologise for having spoken at such length on the nourishment of school children, but there is another very important subject which I have not mentioned and that is the question of school canteens. There are excellent arrangements in certain rural areas for providing children with hot meals, on payment, at school canteens and thereby children are able to get nourishing food at a low cost and it is also possible to teach them some elementary facts about dietetics and the right use and selection of food. I think that some urban authorities might do well to consider whether they should not extend more freely these school canteens and make it possible for cheap and nourishing meals to be provided, at any rate for children whose parents wish them to have a mid-day dinner in that way. Of course, this suggestion is quite distinct from the feeding of under-nourished children at feeding centres. At the same time, I think the canteen system might profitably be developed to a greater 53 extent. Our policy, as I have said, is to associate the nutrition of the school children closely and definitely with the school medical service and in that connection I should like to pay a very warm tribute to Sir George Newman who has been the Board's chief medical officer for 28 years. As the Committee know, he has just retired. He was the architect of the school medical service and his loss will be greatly felt. We all depended upon him for advice and guidance. I think no man had greater drive or energy or a better gift of expressing himself in lively, comprehensible and unofficial language. Certainly, he possessed the confidence of the Board of Education and I think of a great many of the general public. As far as the man in the street ever does read educational publications, I think he must have read with great interest Sir George Newman's series of reports on the health of the school children. No one will grudge him his well-earned rest, but I, and all those who worked with him, will miss the inspiration of a great public servant.
Before I conclude, I wish to refer to one development which was very largely due to Sir George Newman—the nursery school. In the Debate on last year's Estimates in reply to the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor)—and I hope she will accept a tribute from me for her work in this connection—I said that where nursery schools were found to benecessary the Board were not likely to be adamant. Since I made that statement we have recognised for grant six more nursery schools, and during the same period we have approved proposals for a further six. We have also a number of other proposals under consideration, and I imagine we shall sanction most of them. We have only refused, for one reason or other, not more than two or three proposals. I take this opportunity of emphasising that the Board have no desire to discourage nursery schools where the social conditions make them desirable and justifiable.
I have detained the Committee for a long time, but the subject of education is so large that it is very difficult indeed to pass under review anything like the whole of it in a short period of time. We are dealing with between 6,000,000 and 7,000,000 potential citizens, and each part of our system has to be under constant scrutiny and examination. The 54 relationship of one part of it to another is constantly changing, the nursery school to the infant school, the infant school to the senior school, and so forth. New ideas are developing all the time. It is a kaleidoscope of living elements. Our educational system touches the structure of society at every point, and a review of our educational system is almost a review of our social system, not only as it is, but in many respects as we should like it to be. And we must remember that our purpose is not only to impart knowledge, but to develop character, intelligence and taste, and we cannot found those qualities on any foundations other than that of sound physique.
The social purpose of it all is, I think, threefold. We try to produce good individuals, independent in mind and with sufficient imagination to make use of their leisure; we try to train them to fit into our commercial and industrial society; and we try to make them rational and unselfish members of the community. I hope I have said enough to show the Committee that the educational system of this country is very far from being stagnant. It may not be a torrent, the sort of torrent that floods but does not fertilise, but I would sooner think of it as a hundred springs with a constant and ceaseless outflow, and I would rather that this country were fertilised by these English streams, unpolluted by party politics, than by the turbid cataracts whose echoes can be heard on the Continent of Europe. In the last 20 years, when the whole world has changed, our democracy has stood stable and steady. We may attribute that in large measure to our system of education.
§ Miss RATHBONE
Before the hon. Member resumes his seat, may I ask him a question? He said that encouragement has been given to local authorities to extend the Milk Marketing Board's voluntary scheme. I want to know whether the £500,000 a year at present voted by the Government would make it possible to extend that scheme to the remaining half of the children who at present do not get school milk? Can it be done under the present Government grant of £500,000 a year?
§ Mr. RAMSBOTHAM
I think that would involve me in an abstruse arithmetical calculation. Perhaps the hon. Lady will seek that information by way 55 of question on the Paper. I am unable to answer the conundrum at the present moment.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Sir PERCY HARRIS
We have listened to a very interesting, attractive, and eloquent speech from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. He has now served under two distinguished Ministers of Education, and on every occasion he has shown a development of ability and, what is more important, a power to learn. I have noticed of Ministers who have filled the office of President of the Board of Education that their education proceeds. Perhaps inevitably, in contact with our great system of education, our schools, and our teaching profession, they develop in sympathy, in understanding, and in progressive outlook. I hope the fact that the Parliamentary Secretary has opened the Debate to-day means that he will continue in his present office. There is a "general post" in process, and we do not know exactly, who are to be the Under-Secretaries, but I think I am expressing the opinion of the whole Committee when I say that we hope my hon. Friend will remain where he is and continue his education and his sympathetic work for the schools. Some of us are sorry to see that the Noble Lord, Lord Halifax, has now taken up a more warlike occupation. His occupation of the post of President of the Board of Education was in a difficult time, a time of economy and apparently of financial stringency. It was inevitably, perhaps, a time of educational stagnation, but the feeling of educationists throughout the country was that his sympathies were progressive and that, as far as he was permitted by the Cabinet, he endeavoured to stop any great reaction in the work of the Board over which he presided.
I am very glad to be the first, I think, to welcome the right hon. Gentleman the new President of the Board of Education. I hope his occupation of his new office will be happier than his occupation of his previous post. In some ways I cannot help saying that I wish he had remained where he was. I never thought he was guilty of all the failures and mistakes of his Department. He stepped into other people's shoes, and I would like him to have guided his Department out of the inevitable difficulties of the Act 56 of Parliament which he had to administer. He has been transferred, however, to a new office, an office with great traditions and with immense opportunities for good work, and all of us wish him well. I have a very vivid recollection of what I think was the last occasion on which he took part in an education debate in this House, and I remember it because I followed him. It was on the Bill—the unfortunate Bill, because it had an unfortunate end—brought in by my right hon. Friend Sir Charles Trevelyan. He reminded the Committee or the House on that occasion that he had been Parliamentary Secretary to the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), and he complained in an unmistakable way about the dulness of our educational discussions, about the statistics as to the number of teachers, the number of children in a class, the number of new buildings, and so on. "Figures, figures," he said, "all administrative routine." He ended by saying that he had not heard in the discussion what education was doing.
I hope he will not have to complain on this occasion that we have been inflicting on him too many figures, facts, and details. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, I think, must have been studying his leader's speeches, because he avoided with great skill giving the Committee too many figures, and he did attempt, I think successfully, to get at the heart of education and to make it a living problem. His speech was none the worse for that, but, of course, when we come down to bedrock, we have to face facts and to deal with figures. We are dealing, it must be remembered, with very large sums of money, amounting to many millions of pounds. It rather looked like an afterthought, but at the very end of his speech my hon. Friend did refer to the nursery schools. I thought he was going entirely to overlook them.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
I think it must have been the presence of my Noble Friend the Member for the Sutton Division (Viscountess Astor) that kept him straight. I think there is general agreement now that nursery schools should be an integral part of our educational organisation, that they should not be spasmodic or confined to a few areas, but that they 57 should be available at any rate all through our great industrial areas. Nobody suggests that the school should be a substitute for the home. Where you have a good home, and a mother who can give time to her child and who has not to go out to work, the best place for the child is the home, but as long as our housing conditions are as they are, as long as there is so much unemployment and inevitable neglect of the children, the nursery school is an essential part of our educational system. The Consultative Committee, that valuable committee that endeavours to keep the Board straight on so many problems and that gives such sound advice, pointed out in its report that there were only 58 nursery schools, with fewer than 5,000 children in them, at the time of the report.
I am glad to hear that the veto on the provision of nursery schools has been withdrawn. It existed only a short time ago, and one of the last things that Sir George Newman said in his last report—I would like to join in the tribute paid to those most valuable reports—was that, owing to financial stringency, recognition of these schools had been temporarily suspended. I understand that that veto is now removed, that any local authority is to be encouraged—I think I am right in using that word—to submit schemes for the provision of nursery schools, and that each proposal will be received on its merits and, as I understand, sympathetically received. After all, 5,000 children may be better than nothing, but the number should be something like 50,000.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
Obviously, the figure of 5,000, if the thing is worth doing at all, if the nursery school does fulfil a useful object, is quite absurd and inadequate to meet the needs of the case. In the speech to which I have referred, the new President of the Board, in May, 1930, which is a long time ago—many things have happened since, and no doubt his experience at the Ministry of Labour may have modified his attitude—did not show himself very sympathetic to any extension of the school age. He emphasised the need of quality in education rather than quantity, and I do not entirely quarrel with that point of view. Quality, obviously, must come first. It is no use detaining children at school if 58 you are not giving them a good and suitable education, but he emphasised the necessity of the extension of technical education and the need of eliminating the unskilled, and, to use a good word which he then used, he attached importance to the "twist" given to education. I do not know whether he remembers, or whether he studies his own speeches, but I have paid him the compliment of doing so myself. I thought that was a sound view, and I shall be interested to see the line that he takes now that he is in office and has power to carry out his views and put his opinions in action. I have emphasised for many years the importance of the board studying Continental methods. Some years ago I visited the Continent and saw a lot of the experiments in technical education. My hon. Friend has referred to a visit of two of his inspectors to study what is being done in art education abroad. I need not remind him of the other interesting report on trade schools. There again his inspectors visited France, Belgium, Holland, and Czechoslovakia, and reported that all those countries were miles ahead of us with their trade schools. It would be well if hon. Members interested in education studied both these reports on trade and art schools. As my hon. Friend has quoted from their remarks on art education, it would perhaps be as well to remind the House of what they said on trade schools and technical education:To an English observer the equipment of Continental schools appears to be lavish, for it often exceeds what we have hitherto considered to be necessary for educational work. The industrialisation of technical schools is indeed much further advanced on the Continent than in this country.In another part of the report, they point out:There is room and need for a considerable development of full-time pre-employment schools in this country and that to reject such an extension would be to shut our eyes wilfully to the advantage and benefit which Continental countries are obtaining from such junior vocational schools.My hon. Friend laid great emphasis on the encouragement that is being given to technical schools, but most of them, as he knows well, are either part-time schools or schools of a continuation nature. They do not deal with training the child to any large extent before he enters industry or his occupation. In London there are some dozen of these schools—there are some excellent art 59 schools—but in the Provinces, in many of the great industrial areas, there is almost a desert so far as the provision of suitable trade schools is concerned, and it ought to be the business of the Board to have a complete survey of the country to endeavour to get local authorities to fill up the gap and improve our national organisation for education for industry in these competitive times so that we may compare at least with some of the small countries on the other side of the Channel, like Holland and Belgium. But I do not want to over-emphasise the importance of schools of this character. I do not believe in slavishly copying Continental methods. On the whole, our educational system is on sound lines. It suits the temperament and character of our people, and it would be a pity fundamentally to change it on Continental lines. It is far more important to mould our existing structure to suit modern requirements, and that is why I attach so much importance to the work that has been going on as the result of the monumental report of the consultative committee presided over by Sir Henry Hadow.
I was glad that the Parliamentary Secretary was able to tell us that such fine progress has been made in reorganisation. In London nearly 90 per cent. of the schools have been reorganised, but the gaps are significantly serious. My right hon. Friend will be dealing with the difficult problem of rural education, but the difficulty is no reason why it should not be faced and dealt with. The question of denominational schools is a real difficulty which must be faced with courage and imagination. Whatever our predelictions and prejudices may be, we ought not to allow them to be exercised at the expense of the child. While we are quarrelling over denominational education the child is suffering. It is not right that the child who has to attend a denominational school because of the sentiments or feelings of his parents should be handicapped for the rest of his life owing to inferior opportunities for education. I think I can say, on behalf of my friends and of the great volume of opinion in the country who are opposed to the privileged position that the denominational schools are in, that if the Government come down with a practical scheme for an emergency grant and 60 really secures for us a complete national system of education on the right lines in the interests of the child they will not receive unreasonable opposition. There have been many criticisms of the National Government. I have never been over sympathetic to these coalitions, but it will be an argument in their favour if they take the opportunity of their exceptional position to grasp this nettle effectively, and I am sure they will earn the gratitude of educationists and of the whole nation.
We talk vaguely about reorganisation. The new President of the board objects to words and technicalities about staffing and building, but in my view this reorganisation is an effective attempt to build up a real national system of education. Under this scheme there are to be three stages. First, the infant school, which is well established and which is so much our pride and is so particularly British in its character; secondly, there is to be the preparatory school for children up to 11; and, thirdly, the idea behind the report was that all children when they reached adolescence were to proceed to some form of secondary education. There was to be abolished the differentiation in favour of the privileged few. We were for the first time to sweep away class consciousness. The peculiarity of our British system of education—it does not exist abroad—is that there has been this class consciousness in education. One of the aims and purposes of this great scheme of reorganisation was to make it possible for all children on reaching the age of 11 to proceed to some form of secondary education. The clever child was to go to what we have hitherto called the secondary school, which is now to be rechristened the "grammar" school, and those who were not likely to benefit by a prolonged course and go on to 17 or 18, were to go to "senior" schools, with a practical bias, to be re-christened "modern" schools. I do not attach too much importance to new titles or names. There was also to be a change in the whole spirit of their organisation. They were not to be inferior in staffing or equipment. The buildings the teachers and the equipment were all to compare favourably with other kinds of secondary education. The Committee said:In our view, the education of children over the age of 11 in modern schools or in 61 senior classes is one species of the genus of secondary education. It is not an inferior species, and it ought not to be hampered by conditions of accommodation and equipment inferior to those of the schools now described as secondary.My hon. Friend quite rightly attached great importance to the size of classes in secondary schools not being above 35, and I congratulate him on his circular to local authorities in favour of that principle, but do not let him, in his desire to make the secondary schools efficient, overlook the large classes in various industrial areas where there are still something like 45 or 50 on the roll. I have said that I do not want to attach too much importance to the word "reorganisation." If it is not going to be a reality, if it is not going to be effective, we had beter leave the children in their old schools undisturbed. It is no use rooting them out of their local environment unless there is going to be a real improvement in the character and staffing of the new schools when transferred under the reorganisation. To make this scheme a success, in every decent sized senior school there should be at least one practical room and there should be a craft master. Great progress in that direction has been made in London. I have known cases of boys who have shown great obstinacy in the process of acquiring knowledge and great unwillingness to take advantage of the schooling offered but who when once transferred to a practical room and allowed to exercise their natural skill have had their hunger for knowledge stimulated and their whole attitude to attendance at school revolutionised.
I am very glad that my hon. Friend referred to that, but there is one very substantial difficulty which he merely skirted on the ground of the rules of order—the difficulty of the period of time for which the ordinary senior schools provide. The whole value of the Hadow scheme was that there were to be four years in the preparatory school and four years in the senior schools. I am not going to suggest or to hint at any legislation but the right hon. Gentleman must not overlook the fact that the local education authorities have by-law-making powers and that they have exercised them successfully and effectively. My Noble Friend the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth has seen it at work in her own town. We have a right to know what is the attitude of the Board toward 62 local authorities which seek these bylaw-making powers. Is it sympathetic? Is it prepared to go partners and find half the cost? There are many industrial areas with tremendous unemployment and very heavy rate burdens. It would be a great assistance to them, and particularly to those in the North of England, if the Government gave a lead in the matter and said that they were prepared to foot the bill if the authorities came to them for approval in their exercise of the by-law-making powers. If reorganization is to be a success and fulfil its purpose and justify the heavy expenditure which it involves, it should be completed by a four years' course being substituted for the present three years' course.
We ought to know whether the Board is satisfied that the seven or eight authorities which have taken advantage of these powers have justified the expense and whether it has proved effective in practice. The time is now opportune for the addition of the extra year, first because the financial stringency has been largely removed, but secondly and more important, because the decline in the school population which the Parliamentary Secretary emphasised means that no more fortunate time could be found for an experiment in this direction. In most of the industrial areas, particularly in the North, there are thousands of empty school places; children are pouring out of the schools, and there are empty schoolrooms. The result is that there has been down grading, headmasters have suffered decreases in salary, and many teachers have had to be dispensed with. A real problem has arisen with regard to the number of surplus teachers, for hundreds are walking-the streets in some of the industrial towns unable to find jobs because of the decline in the school population. The existing Board is not responsible for the large surplus of teachers. It is partly due to the lead given by Sir Charles Trevelyan when he aimed at increasing the school age. I am not arguing that local authorities should be encouraged to utilise these by-law-making powers because a large number of teachers are out of work; that would be an unsound argument. I am pressing on the Board the fact that as school places are available in many areas and a large number of competent men and women 63 are unemployed, it is a particularly opportune time for the Board to give encouragement to the authorities to make use of powers already embodied in an Act of Parliament.
This question has a distinct relation to unemployment, but I do not want to over-emphasise it. It would be a pity to inter-marry too closely education and the unemployment problem. I would not, for instance, say that if you kept one boy at school it would necessarily mean that an extra man would be employed. It does, however, seem criminal at a time when there is an immense surplus in the labour market in the areas where educational facilities are available, where it is so easy, often by a stroke of the pen, to reorganise schools, that this contribution to the problem of unemployment should not be taken advantage of. I suggest to the new President that, with his short experience of the heart-breaking problem of unemployment, he ought to apply his mind to this practical contribution—at any rate, in some parts of the country—to keeping children out of the labour market, and to enabling them to become more efficient by the extra training they could receive at school. In a speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day which was very much criticised the startling statement was made that there was an actual shortage of skilled labour. Now that we have the reports of the visit of our inspectors to continental countries as to what they are doing to make their labour more efficient by trade and art schools, does it not seem reasonable at this time to endeavour to do everything, by training and education through our schools, to make our labour more efficient, so that the Chancellor of the Exchequer a few years hence will not have to say that the unemployed have not had the necessary skill, that they have entered industry too soon, and that they did not get the pre-employment education that other countries give?
I will conclude as I began by wishing the new President well. He has a great opportunity, a better opportunity than his two predecessors had. He is starting under better auspices and in brighter times, when a good spirit is abroad and the nation is thoroughly stirred to the necessity of an advance in education.
64 The character of the advance will depend on circumstances and some things beyond the discussion of this Committee, but when the right hon. Gentleman comes to the House and asks for the extra money required, I can assure him that he will be received with sympathy, and that he will not receive much criticism anywhere. We are spending an immense sum on education. It amounts to well over £80,000,000, taking together the money spent by local authorities and the Board through State funds. These are big figures. I would like to see the Committee as crowded to discuss that £80,000,000 as it would be to discuss the expenditure of £80,000,000 on the Air Force or the Navy. The time would be well spent. A very little more money spent here and there and a few months extra education would mean that the nation would get a far better return for its money than it is receiving at present. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that if he comes to the House with his proposals next year—if he is in office, and I think he will be—he will receive sympathy from all parties.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. COVE
While the Parliamentary Secretary was speaking I had occasion to make an interjection, and it seemed to me that the hon. Gentleman rather resented it. I would like to assure him that on a number of occasions I have been able to congratulate him on the statement that he has presented to the Committee, and I can assure him that I have never appreciated him more than I have to-day in the speech which he delivered. It was a speech made under great difficulties and it seemed to assure the Committee, as he said, that solid and steady development of our educational services had taken place, and that we had registered substantial gains in every sector of the educational front. Those who know the facts know full well that to establish that statement was a difficult task. Although there was efficiency and ability in the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary, he did not establish that substantial advance had been made. Anyone who looks at the educational service, whether from the point of view of educational expansion, or of new development, or of necessary money spent upon that service during the last three or four years, is bound to admit that 65 stagnation and reaction have reigned in the educational field.
§ Mr. COVE
Even the Noble Lady is not such an authority as the president of the Association of Education Committees. I do not think that she would presume to know as much as that gentleman. I am sure that the president of the association not only knows more about education than the Noble Lady, but is far less political than the Noble Lady. The president of the association stated at Whitsuntide that the policy of the Governmenthas been a policy merely of marking time and the long awaited order to advance again appears to be postponed.Let us look at the leading article of "Education" of the 14th June, 1935. Hon. Members who are intimate with the educational world will agree that this is a non-party publication, that it is the official voice of the education authorities of the country, and that no political party has anything to do with it. Let us listen to the non-party and authoritative voice of the education authorities in this leading article. It was written owing to the fact that Lord Halifax had left the Board of Education—and I may say that we welcome very heartily the new President; that is quite sincere. The article said:Lord Halifax leaves the Board of Education to our regret. He has been unfortunate in that the two periods of his office as President of the Board have synchronised with periods of financial stringency and administrative repression.Where are the substantial gains there? Where is the spirit of progress?These periods had been marked by many substantial developments in the system of education, in which he occupied the position of greatest responsibility. On the contrary, the developments which were in swing were suddenly arrested.Therefore, in the official opinion of the education authorities the function of the National Government has been to arrest development, to stop progress.Bad housing conditions of school children were, in express terms, allowed to continue. The financial position of teachers was for a period—happily now closed—sub-stantially injured. But, worst of all, a new spirit in the central administration has unfortunately developed—a spirit of repression; a spirit deadening in its effect on local initiative;66 That is not the voice of any political partisan. That is the official voice of responsible people administering education. That is the voice of a body which, as far as I know, has no political affiliations of any kind, a body which comprises representatives, I suppose, of every shade of political opinion. It goes on:—a spirit tending to the denial of local autonomy and to the undue exercise of overrule by the civil servant. These characteristics of the last period of the presidency of Lord Halifax are in the main, his misfortune, not his fault. It may be said with truth that the repressions and curtailments of education—Note, all the time there are these references to repression and curtailment of education, not substantial progress.
I really do protest. It is such a bore to have the hon. Member always talking about "the Noble Lady." Will you, Sir Dennis, ask the hon. Member to get on with his speech? I am not interrupting; I am not even interested in his speech.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I quite sympathise with the Noble Lady, but possibly if she did not interrupt the speaker she might be saved from such embarrassment.
§ Mr. COVE
The article says further:It is certain that the thumb-print of the Treasury is to be found on every page of every regulation issued by the Board of Education during the last four years. And in all these things Lord Halifax deserves and has our sympathy in being the voice of a policy born outside his department.That is the opinion of the official representative of the education authorities. Let us examine the position a little 67 closer. The period of the National Government has been marked by the complete abolition of the free secondary schools. For years progressive authorities had been more and more bringing into being the free secondary school, to which every child in the community was able to go without paying fees.
§ Mr. KENNETH LINDSAY indicated dissent.
§ Mr. COVE
We are at a disadvantage at the moment in having to rely on a report that was issued a year or two ago. I have here the report of the Board of Education for 1933, and, as far as I can ascertain, that is the latest issue. On page 19 it says, after giving figures relating to fees in secondary schools:It will be seen that there are no longer any schools entirely free, and that the number of schools charging fees of 6 guineas or less has now been reduced from 239 to 88. Full particulars of the old and new rates of school fees were given in the White Paper presented to Parliament in June, 1933.Therefore, the period of the National Government has been marked by the complete abolition of free secondary schools. On that issue we differ fundamentally from hon. Members opposite. We say as a Labour party—and while we were in office steps were taken to give effect to our view—that all education for children above the age of 11 should be secondary education; that is, that every child over 11 should have the same amenities in the school-room and outside the school-room, and have secondary education free of fees. We say that for a large number of reasons, into which I do not wish to enter this afternoon. The National Government has taken pride unto itself for having abolished the free secondary schools and thus robbing a number of children of poor parents of the education which they ought to have. But, even far above that, are the social implications of this business, and, far above that, too, are what I would call the organisational implications.
68 We heard the Parliamentary Secretary refer this afternoon to the reorganisation that has taken place. On behalf of the Department he took pride, of which I would not like to rob him, for the amount of reorganisation that has been undertaken, but reorganisation of our education system tends to be empty of reality, indeed tends to be a make-believe and a farce, unless two essential conditions are embodied in that reorganisation: first, that the school-leaving age is raised, and, second, that in the reorganised schools the conditions should pertain to those in secondary schools. It is perfectly true that in a large number of areas children have at the age of 11 been brought from their old schools into old buildings or into new buildings, but we say, from the Labour party point of view, definitely and categorically, that all these children should be brought into reorganised schools which have secondary conditions within them, and that a reorganisation which allows children to leave school at 14 years of age is not effective reorganisation in the fullest sense of the term. I should like to know what stimulus the Government have given to the movement for raising the school-leaving age. There is an overwhelming educational case for it and an overwhelming social case. As the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) said, it does not necessarily follow that when a child is taken out of industry an adult fills its place, but it is true to say that if we shorten the working life of the people by raising the school-leaving age at the one end and by lowering at the other end the age at which workmen can retire on pensions, the tendency will be to ameliorate unemployment. I know the new Minister of Education is interested in this problem, because he has come from a Department which has had some direct concern with it. Not only is it clear that the number of unemployed children in various areas provides a strong case for raising the school-leaving age but, to my way of thinking, the nature of the work to which a large number of those children go provides an overwhelming case for it.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think the hon. Member is now getting on to a matter which definitely would need legislation. It is true that the hon. Baronet made a reference to it, but he did so with a 69 certain amount of ingenuity, but it must not be extended to the point where legislation would be necessary.
§ Mr. COVE
There is power to raise the school-leaving age by passing by-laws, and the Board of Education have power to stimulate or to check authorities in adopting such by-laws, and I only wanted to try to convince the new Minister with one or two observations. I was saying that it is the nature of the work to which the children go which seems to me, even more than the amount of unemployment, to provide the overwhelming case for raising the school-leaving age. I read somewhere recently some statistics which show that the distributive trades absorb as many children as any other five industries in this country; that is, a blind-alley occupation is the destiny of a large number of those children. Even if the new Minister will not accept that view, I think he will agree that a large number of those children will not get the necessary technical training and craft skill in the occupations into which they are going, and that very large numbers of them—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is now going beyond the scope of the Minister of Education, and seems to be discussing matters connected with a Ministry no longer under his charge.
§ Mr. COVE
I will soon leave the point, but I was under the impression that one might try to stimulate the new Minister to deal with this problem. I will put it in a nutshell. The new Minister has a chance of making good a deficiency which now exists, as far as these children are concerned, by effective reorganisation, which includes raising the age, and raising the status of those schools. Within the educational system those schools could provide for what is lacking in our industrial experiences. If the Minister would look into this, I think he would find a great deal of truth in what I say.
The administration of the National Government has been marked by a period of reaction and stagnation in secondary education. What about the black-listed schools? The Parliamentary Secretary took pride this afternoon in the number of such schools that had been wiped out, but there is not much reason for pride and self-satisfaction in that direction. The black-listed schools were black-listed into A, B and C categories about 10 years 70 ago, and we said even then the general standards were very low. Category A included schools which were impossible of renovation, but somehow or other it has been found possible to renovate some of them. There are still large numbers which have been left undealt with. My information leads me to the conclusion that the rate of deterioration in the other schools is quicker than the pace of the Government in renovating the blacklisted schools, and if a new survey were made at the moment, instead of the black list being less, owing to renovations having taken place, it would be longer than it ever was.
I was interested in a statement made by Mr. Salter Davies, Director of Education for Kent, who said that out of 233 church schools in the diocese of Canterbury, 138 for children of 10 to 12 years of age were built before 1870. You still have in this country hundreds of schools that are unfit for teachers to teach in or for children to go to. I have taught in them myself, and I know what they are. I taught in a classroom when I was a teacher and a miner, working in the coal-pit part of the time and teaching part of the time. I have taught in a classroom which an inspector dubbed "the black hole of Calcutta" because it had no sunlight. It was in an industrial area. You still have filthy, insanitary conditions in hundreds of schools. I was recently looking at Paton's list of schools, and was comparing the schools with the ordinary elementary schools. Here they are: Eton, Harrow, Uppingham, Winchester, with acres of playing-fields and with amenities of this sort and another sort—
§ Mr. COVE
The children do not spend enough time in them to be hurt by them. It will take a long time to convince me that there is not a good reason for the upper classes of this country paying £200 a year for fees in those schools, with their acres of playing-fields. Hundred's or thousands of elementary schools in this country have only little, miserable backyards for the children to play in. It will be time to talk of progress when a large number of the children have been lifted out of the slum school, which is rampant in many of our industrial areas. Such schools are a danger to the physical health of our children.
71 Now I would talk on a subject which will interest the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth—nursery schools. I would ask what is the attitude of the Board towards the infants' schools of the country. I have heard it said, in complaints that have been brought to me, that although the Board stated a year or so ago that they were in favour of maintaining the identity of the infants' schools, a policy is now being pursued in some areas of wiping out the infants' schools. If so, that is a fatally wrong educational policy. If I know anything about the educational system, no part of it has brought more life, vigour and new ideas into the educational world in the last decade than our infants' schools. I imagine that more progress in educational endeavour and experiment has been made in the infants' schools than in any other section. A free and happy life is lived in large numbers of our infants' schools. I hope it may be clearly enunciated by the Minister, who, it is understood, is to reply this evening, that the Board are not in favour of absorbing infants' schools into the junior schools.
One reason why I say that is that in the junior schools, which have children up to the age of 11, there is a danger—I will not put it any higher—that the freshness and freedom of the infants' schools may be adversely affected by such absorption. In a large number of areas, the junior school has still to justify itself by the number of scholarships it can get in the scholarship examination. It is entirely wrong to test the value of a school by the number of scholarships it can get at the secondary school. It is a wicked and vicious system, that of examinations, especially in the lower sections of the educational system.
In some of the depressed areas in particular, where the school population has been declining, some authorities, I am informed, have been adopting that policy of wiping out infants' schools and absorbing them into the junior section, on the ground that there are not sufficient children, and that there are empty places in the infants' schols. That may be true, but I would like to hear from the Minister that those schools in the depressed areas might be used as open-air nursery schools. That could be done without expense. I hope the Minister 72 will make it plain that, where the child population has dropped and infants' schools have become depleted, the Board will step in and tell the authorities to fill up the schools and to rearrange them as nursery schools. From what the Parliamentary Secretary said, the performance in that direction is not yet, good enough. There are six now approved, and six on the stocks. Here is a chance in the depressed areas, where nursery schools would be of great value. Children would go at the age of three. I am told that the Board are not now looking with favour upon children going into school below the age of five, but I hope that, in the areas where there is a declining population, they will take steps in the direction of nursery organisation.
Some of the questions which are put in examinations in the secondary schools are unreasonable, and are a tax upon children more than any hon. Member of this House could bear. I have some of the questions here, and I could not answer them and I doubt whether 5 per cent. of the Members of this Committee could pass such an examination. The test is much too high. These questions, which are for children of 11, are cruel to the children, and involve a false social policy. Let me deal first of all with the cruelty aspect of it. Here are questions from an educational authority in Wales—enlightened Wales. I would like to interpolate here that I read with pleasure what was recently stated by the Welsh Department about the intermediate section of Welsh secondary education. I fully agree with it, and I think other hon. Members from Wales would agree. I hope that it represents 90 per cent, reality in the schools concerned. It states that the secondary schools are not overpressed in regard to examinations, but I am afraid they are. I have spoken to university professors who have told me that a number of their students who have come in for their first year, after a period in the secondary schools, are washed out, because the pressure and the strain are too great. If that is true, it is very bad. Anyhow I am very pleased to have read that statement; it shows, in my opinion, a proper conception of what education ought to be, and of what the function of the school is. Here are the questions set in the secondary schools entrance examination in Flintshire. The first 73 paper is in arithmetic, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon—two hours on the rack for children of 11. Here is Question No. 7:By selling a piano for £76 7s. 6d. I lose one-eighth of what it cost me. How much would I gain or lose by selling it for £80?Question No. 8 is as follows:A grocer mixes 11 1b. of tea at 2s. 6d. per 1b. with 15 1b. at 1s. 10d. per 1b. and 14 1b. at 2s. 1d. per 1b. If he sells the whole mixture at 2s. 4d. per 1b., what is his total gain, and what does he gain per 1b.?I could not answer these questions: I should be "ploughed." Here is Question No. 9:A rabbit 40 yards from its burrow sees a greyhound 6 yards away. The rabbit makes for its burrow with leaps of 5 feet and is immediately chased by the greyhound with leaps of 9 feet. The rabbit, however, takes three leaps for every two of the greyhound's. How far from its burrow is the rabbit caught?These are questions set to boys of 11 for scholarships in the secondary schools. I hope that the Minister will give us the answers when he replies. Twelve of these questions have to be done in two hours, between 10 a.m. and 12 noon.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Oliver Stanley)
Is the hon. Member prepared to give me two hours in which to answer them?
§ Mr. COVE
Yes; and there are English authorities quite as benighted. The whole system needs looking into. It is, I believe, full of dangers for a large number of these children. The pressure is too great; the standard is too high; in fact, it is an instrument for the denial of secondary education to the normal child, and I say that the normal child should have secondary education. After the arithmetic paper they get an hour off, from 12.30 to 1.30, and then they start an English paper. They have to write an essay till 2.30, and then, from 2.40 to 4.40 p.m., they have another paper—an alternative paper in English or Welsh. I hope the Committee will pardon me for going into these details, but it is time that hon. Members realised the pressure that there is in the schools. You cannot get into an ordinary secondary school as 74 easily as you could get into Eton or Harrow. The standard is terribly high, and the pressure is very severe. Here is one of the questions in English:State what part of speech each word printed in italics is:There are further long lists. Then we come to geography, in which subject 15 questions are set, three having to be answered. Then there is a paper in history, and another in general knowledge. I do not want to go through the whole of them—
- (a) I have a gold watch.
- (b) The miner digs for gold.
- (c) John is a fast runner.
- (d) He runs fast."
§ Mr. COVE
If the Noble Lady were tested in this way, she would fail at the first point. It is obvious that the whole system ought to be looked into. The Parliamentary Secretary talked about physical education, and the health and well-being of these children. I agree that we should have some concern about their health and well-being, but this pressure for intellectual attainment in the schools is not good for the children. Examinations, at any rate below the age of 11, drive the school out of its proper purpose and function; they are almost an unmitigated curse upon the elementary schools of this country, and I hope the time will soon come when they will be done away with.
The Parliamentary Secretary has earned the respect and admiration of all who are engaged in education. I have always admired the explanations that he has given to the House every time the Board's Estimates have come before it. The hon. Gentleman knows very well in what high esteem he is held. But there is a doubt in the minds of some people about the tremendous emphasis that is being laid on films, gramophones and so on. I would not place too much faith in the mechanical appurtenances of education if I were the Parliamentary Secretary. They are very useful adjuncts. The voice coming over the wireless may help. But it is an impersonal voice; it is remote. It is curious, too, to note what happens when a gramophone, or a radio set, or a piano, or even, in some cases, a sewing-machine is needed. The school has to hold a concert in order to 75 get 50 per cent. of the cost, and the work of the school has to be diverted in order that that may be done. Apart from that, I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister to remember that, after all, broadcasting, the film and the gramophone cannot take the place of the living teacher in contact with the child, nor can they take the place of good schools and amenities within the schools.
When the Parliamentary Secretary was talking about physical education, I was thinking of my own experience. I have taught in schools where there was no playground to which the lads could be taken to do any kind of physical exercise at all. I say quite respectfully, but out of my own experience, that the teachers who are now in the schools have already sufficient knowledge to provide physical education if the facilities are there. Let us have the playing fields. My own boys go to a school where 10 or 15 football teams can play at once. I am glad that they have such facilities, but where are the elementary schools that can put even two football teams on the playing field, or that can put a cricket team on the playing field? I would advise the Minister to look at the existing position as regards amenities. The bad buildings are there; the black list of schools is longer now than it was 10 years ago. I have had private representations about a number of these schools, and the details are too nauseating to describe in this House. The children are taught hygiene and cleanliness, but there are not two clean towels for a whole school. The children are taught in theory what is denied to them in practice. It may be true to say that better education does not necessarily follow from the expenditure of more money, but it is equally true to say that the cutting down of financial aid to the schools of our country has resulted in less educational and social amenities for the children in the schools. I grant freely that the Government have done justly by the teachers in the restorations that they have made, but equally I say that in the sphere of educational endeavour their period of office since 1931 has been marked by reaction and stagnation, and that there is a great deal of leeway to be made up before the children of our country get a fair chance in the schools of our country.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Captain SPENCER
I am sure I am voicing the opinion of all Members of the Committee when I saw how much we welcome another statement by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. During the difficult years through which we have been passing, the Board of Education and education in general have been very fortunate in possessing, as the Minister in this House, an hon. Member who is not only qualified for the position by his own personal attainments—which, if I may say so, is often a rarity in Ministerial posts—but whose enthusiasm for education has helped to save many of the things that we who are also enthusiasts regard as very precious. We are now additionally fortunate in having the Minister of Education himself in this House, where he always ought to have been, in my opinion. I do not think it is any disparagement to say that we who are friends of education are not sorry that the Noble Lord, to whom my hon. Friend was always able to refer in his answers, has been transferred to another sphere. With all due respect to him, we feel that, had an attendance register been kept of his visits to his Department, it would not, perhaps, have been sufficiently high to qualify him for a grant. The Board of Education should now become a very strong Department indeed, for not only have we the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary here, but I shall be very much surprised if the Noble Lord who now figures as Minister without Portfolio is not available to give his advice. There have been occasions upon which I personally, and others, have had to disagree with the Noble Lord on principle, but I think everyone will admit that in the last 15 or 16 years, however much he may at times have departed from practical realities, he has brought to bear upon the problems of education a more original mind than any of his predecessors. That will now be at the disposal of the Members of the Cabinet, and it cannot be otherwise than for their good.
What is the position in the educational field to-day? There has been a great deal of wild talk in the country and in and outside the House, and a great deal of exaggeration. One might be led to believe from what some have said that the educational structure was on the verge of ruin and that from the day the 77 National Government came into power things started to go to the bad and have never turned back. But the truth is that, despite the times of stress and of financial crisis, the educational structure has survived very well indeed on the whole. I am not going to follow the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) very far, but there are one or two things surely upon which he exaggerated. When he speaks of this growing mass of evil buildings, he cannot have seen some of the new structures which have been erected up and down the country during the last few years. Indeed, I sometimes think that some of those buildings are too permanent and too elaborate. When I see these new schools upon which thousands of pounds are being expended—with their elaborate cloisters, wonderful corridors, and wide staircases, they look very nice indeed—I always fear that when research and invention have progressed and we want to alter their structure and bring them up-to-date the local authorities will say, and with some justice, "Yes, but when we have spent all these thousands of pounds upon a school, we cannot afford to alter it again, and there it must remain." We know that primary schools which were the pride of their district some 40 years ago remain there now in the centre of a slum largely because, at the time when they were built, such a large amount of capital expenditure was involved.
The hon. Member for Aberavon, in his attacks upon the National Government, went rather beyond the mark when he said that they had practically slain free education. The figure given by the Parliamentary Secretary surely belies that, for he told us that there are 8,000 more free scholars in secondary schools to-day than there were in the previous year. Further than that—and here I should like to be corrected if I am wrong—there are, I think, some eight schools in the City of Manchester alone and something like 15 in the City of Birmingham and other schools scattered up and down the country where all the places are free. Surely, if that be true, it is an exaggeration to say that the National Government have slain free secondary education. Three years ago, just after the National Government came into office, the then Minister of Education told us that the financial condition of the country would necessitate some slowing down, and that we should not be able to go forward with 78 the rapidity that many of us had hoped. He told us that it would be a time for stocktaking, and I should like to hear from my right hon. Friend, when he replies, whether any results have yet been achieved from that stocktaking, and whether any changes are contemplated in our system of education? Many of us are beginning to doubt whether the system has not in some measure lost touch with the conditions of modern life and whether it is establishing contact with industry and with our social conditions as it should do.
We have often congratulated ourselves as a nation in the past when things have seemed to be rather haphazard by saying that they are particularly and peculiarly suited to the genius of the English nation. But the time has come when we are bound to admit that in some respects the educational system, if it has not broken down, has at any rate begun to creak and groan rather ominously, and in no direction is that creaking and groaning more insistent than in connection with the adolescents both in and out of our schools. They constitute the greatest problem that my right hon. Friend and his Department will have to face sooner or later. I am, of course, precluded from going into the question of the raising of the school age, and I shall not even try to do it by talking about the powers granted by by-laws, because I realise that that is a very poor substitute for what is required. The Minister of Labour has already done something to deal with the problem of the child after he has left school if he is unable to secure a job in industry. The task is a much larger one than that. It is not only our duty to deal with what we may call the juvenile casualties of the industrial army; it is also our duty, and a much greater and a more vital duty, to see to it that before these children enter into the battle of life they are properly equipped and trained to take their part there.
I should like to hear something before we finish this evening as to what is being done to equip these children for the battle of industry and commerce into which they have to go. The senior schools are doing a lot and the central schools with their various ramifications are also doing a lot. I am, however, much afraid, when I see the central 79 schools becoming impregnated by the poison of the matriculation and school certificate examination. I have referred to this question before, and my only excuse for doing it again to-day is that nothing seems to have been effected meanwhile to eradicate that poison. There is room in our system for both the central and the secondary school provided each school keeps to its own job, but it is certainly no part of the central school to enter into an unhealthy competition with the secondary school and to increase the evils which have already arisen in the secondary school by allowing them to grow up within the confines of the central school as well.
It is no exaggeration to say that the whole curriculum and everything that takes place within the walls of our secondary schools to-day is conditioned by the matriculation examination. I am very disappointed that nothing has apparently been done in the last 12 months to bring the school leaving examination more into accord with what is required and to make it a satisfactory and honest register of the progress and achievements of the child during his school career rather than something which depends entirely upon four or five hectic days in the heat of June or July, when the child undergoes a hit-or-miss ordeal. Last year when I spoke upon this matter my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary told me that I knew as well as he did how it was that reform was very difficult, and he referred to the vested interests. There are two Ministers at the Board, both of whom are in this House, and another Minister in reserve, and I hope that they will be able to face up to these vested interests. Who are the vested interests? Are they the universities? I rather think that they are the vested interests spoken of. There are distinguished hon. Members in this House who will perhaps be able to tell us something about that matter.
In my opinion, the secondary schools do not exist for the benefit of the universities, and one of the most disastrous things in connection with the matriculation examination is that, whereas it is, or was in its origin, purely a passport to the university, to-day something like 7.4 per cent. of the boys in our secondary schools and only 4 per cent. of the girls pass from those secondary schools to the universities. Nevertheless, the old dead 80 hand of the universities is still laid upon that examination. It is no part of the job of the secondary school to do the task which the universities should do for themselves. We have children in the secondary schools to-day who are encouraged to take the higher school certificate examination with the bribe and bait held out to them that, "If you pass in this subject or in that, when you come up to our university, you will be excused part of your intermediate, or preliminary examination." That is wrong. It should not be allowed to influence the curriculum of the secondary schools as it does. I suppose it is true that the universities to some extent derive lucre from the holding of those examinations and that the fees paid in respect of children who enter for them go to swell the general coffers of the universities; and it is always a temptation to anybody whose income is partly dependent upon a certain source to see that that source is not dried up. Thirdly—and this again should not be allowed to stand in our way—we have lecturers and tutors in the universities who derive part of their income from setting examination papers and from marking scripts.
I should like to see the school certificate examination entirely cut asunder from the matriculation examination. Let the universities condition, let them examine, and let them mark in connection with matriculation, but let the school certificate examination be conducted entirely, from start to finish, by those who have practical everyday experience in the schools and who know the conditions and the capacities of the pupils with whom they have to deal. That is one of the vested interests. Then, of course, you have the governors of secondary schools, or education committees in the provinces. They are very much in the position, I suppose, of chairmen of directors of companies, and it is extremely gratifying to them on speech day to be able to get up and, to say, "This year we have so many matriculations, and last year we had only so many, an increase of 15 per cent., which I am sure all parents will be glad to hear." It is all very well, but think of the poor works manager. Think of the headmaster of the school, who, knowing that the local mayor, the local chairman of the governors, or the education committee, likes to make this speech, sets the whole 81 of his plant in motion to produce the desired end, and of the pupils who are driven from morning until night, and often, as the hon. Member for Rusholme (Mr. Radford) will agree, right into the night in order to satisfy the speech of the chairman of the board when he comes to make it to the parents.
Then, again, there is the employer. I referred last year to the great ignorance which exists among employers as to what the matriculation certificate really is. I told the Committee of a case where a young man applied for a position and told his prospective employer that he possessed a first-class honours degree in science, but at the interview the reply of the employer was: "I know all about that, but have you got the matriculation?" That is an attitude of mind which is quite common, and I suggest that those connected with the administration of education might do their best to bring home to parents and others exactly what this wretched piece of pasteboard means. It would be a very good thing if the Minister could get governors, and even university lecturers and tutors sometimes, and employers together, and compel them to submit to a matriculation examination to see whether they would then understand more about it. I doubt whether even one in a hundred would pass it.
There is no doubt that with the pressure from the governors, from the employers and from the head masters, conditioned by the other elements to which I have alluded, we must also take into account the pressure from the parent. If he sees that his child is not going to have a fair chance in competition with other children unless he has passed his matriculation examination, it is not to be wondered at that his energy and his force are added to that of the others in order to impel the unhappy victim on. The result is that both in and out of school the child is crammed with facts and data. Later on we get the complaint raised, and I am afraid there is a great deal of ground for it, that the child leaves his school without having learned the lessons he should have learned. He has learned how to absorb, but he has not learned to think originally for himself. I appeal to the Minister to do something to take this Old Man of the Sea from the back of our educational system.
82 As a nation we are becoming more education-minded, and we have an opportunity now to take advantage of that feeling in the nation and to use it for a good end. I am not in agreement with hon. Members who sit below me in thinking that everything will be solved and everything will be all right if we raise the school-leaving age and make secondary education free for all. I do not believe that even if all our children were allowed to have secondary education free that that would bring us to the end of our troubles. Our education system has always accommodated within itself a great variety of types and a great variety of curricula, and that great variety has perhaps been its greatest strength in the past, and it is a variety that we should seek to continue in the future. There is room for all types of instruction within the scheme as a whole.
We have the juvenile instruction centres, which will play their part, although one is bound to say that it will be of a somewhat cat-and-mouse variety. Then we have our evening classes, which have done specially good work in the past, particularly in the Northern counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire, which I am proud to say were pioneers in that direction. Even so, we must not expect too much of them. A child coming home—and persons of 15 or 16 years of age are still only children—from a hard day's work in mill or factory cannot be expected to devote himself or herself very assiduously to study in the late hours of the evening. The days have gone by when we look upon these juveniles as a mere instrument or a mere machine to work all the hours of daylight and to snatch what sleep they can at night. They are entitled to some recreation.
Then there are the technical schools and the day continuation schools. May I ask my right hon. Friend, when he replies, if he will answer one or two questions about the day continuation schools. The other day I was talking to a very large employer of labour, whose firm employ many thousands of men and some thousands of juveniles, and he was very interested in the question of day continuation schools. He was going to inspect one school that had been in existence in Manchester for something like 12 years. Has any progress been made with these schools, and what is the 83 attitude of the Board towards them? I freely admit, as I admitted to the employer in question, that there are snags in these schools. They are no substitute for really advanced education, but they have their useful purpose, and it would be interesting to know the policy of the Board with regard to them.
There is one minor point in connection with education to which I should like to refer, and I should be glad if the Minister would pay some attention to it. I refer to the training of teachers in our primary schools. The Parliamentary Secretary told us that in the training colleges the teachers were receiving physical education, whereas in the day training department of the universities they were not so doing. I should like to see the training of our primary teachers altered very radically and brought more into line with that which obtains in the day training colleges of the universities. At the present time our teachers are being trained on a monastic basis. They are being taken there and herded into a training college, living a life of seclusion and segregation, with one sex put together without any opportunities of coming into contact with the other sex. There you get people training for one career never being allowed to come into contact and to mingle with men and women who are preparing for other duties. This monastic segregation may perhaps be good from one point of view, seeing that when the time comes for these people to earn their living they will take the other monastic vow of poverty. There can be, and there should be, a great improvement, and the training colleges should be dealt with in the same manner as the day training departments of the universities, in order that the training of these people who are to play such a great part in the lives of adolescents, young people and children of this country should be made more catholic and more in touch with the world. I wish my right hon. Friend well in his new office and, seeing that there will be two Lancashire Ministers in the Education Department, I believe that we shall be able to register this time next year more progress towards the end we all desire.
§ 6.39 p.m.
I congratulate the Minister on his new position, and I 84 congratulate the country on his appointment, because he rendered good service as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the President, and has since had experience as Minister of Labour. He has come to the Department at a time when, as other hon. Members have said, the country is prepared for real educational advance, and I hope that he will be able to persuade the Cabinet, particularly with the assistance of the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), to go ahead in regard to education. I should think that those two Ministers ought to be able to bring to the House, sooner or later, and I hope sooner than later, a five-years' plan for education. We have five-year plans for agriculture, electricity, roads, telephones, pigs, meat and other things, except for the education of human beings. We alone of progressive countries have not a co-ordinated plan for juveniles, and it is time that we had. I am not going to say anything about the raising of the school-leaving age, but the Minister might well remind the local education authorities that in 10 years' time there will be 1,000,000 fewer children in the schools than there are to-day. If we had a five-year or a 10-year plan for juveniles I suppose the reorganisation of schools and the raising of the school-leaving age would have to come into the great national plan for adolescents.
The Parliamentary Secretary made a most interesting speech. We all know how his heart is in education, and he has been congratulated from all sides of the House. I do not agree with the hon. Member below me that the Government came in to put a stop to education. They came in as a stop-gap to national rot. They had to stop the national rot. They were bound to economise in order to improve the state of the country, and they have not done badly in the last three or four years. We have only to look at their record to know that. Within the last year they have reduced the size of large classes by 25 per cent. They were compelled to stop the building grants in 1931, but I hope that the new Minister will see that those grants are restored, because it was a very serious thing to stop them, and we all know that until the grants are restored the local education authorities cannot get on with the re-conditioning of schools or the building of new schools. Now that the country is better off perhaps 85 the Government may be persuaded to restore those grants.
The Parliamentary Secretary spoke of the necessity of the programme for physical education, and I asked him a question, to which he replied. It is true that there are only one-third of the local education authorities who have organisers. I wish the House were more interested in this matter. We all seem to be interested when we are out of the House of Commons, but when we get in we do not seem to be so interested. The reports show that those authorities that have organisers are going ahead and doing great things. Therefore, I hope it will be the policy of the Minister to encourage the local authorites to appoint organisers. It is not a very expensive thing, and the advantages to the health of the young people are astounding. This is a small but very necessary reform.
I hope that we shall hear something about the day continuation classes. The time has come for a forward policy there. There are certain progressive employers who are in favour of it. If those who do not think that it is a good thing would only ask the employers who are favourable to it what has been the effect of the day continuation classes on their employés, they would find that it has been extraordinarily successful. The hon. and gallant Member for St. Helens (Captain Spencer) said that the question of juveniles was the most important question for the country. It certainly is. We have heard from the Minister of Labour of the enormous amount of unemployment, and then we have the question of juvenile crime. The figures are staggering. The offences of children under 14 years have increased by nearly 50 per cent. since 1930. The number of children before the courts has increased from 6,500 to 9,200. All crime figures have nearly doubled since the War, and one-third of all burglaries and shop-breaking have been committed by children under 14 years of age. We certainly have a juvenile problem, but I think we can solve it.
At the present moment we have a falling birth rate. About 585,000 children are born every year, of which number 25,000 are born dead, 37,000 die under one year of age, 6,700 die between the ages of one and two, and 6,600 between the ages of two and five. One out of every 10 children 86 born die under five years of age, and one out of every three are at the age of five damaged in health. Under our new plan we can stop all this. Sir George Newman, the late Chief Medical Officer of Health, has shown that by having open-air nursery schools we can do away with many preventable diseases. I want to ask the new President of the Board of Education to do something to develop open-air nursery schools in a five-year plan. I know that we cannot get them all at once. We have at the moment many children under seven years of age being dealt with in infant departments or nursery schools, and while there are many bright spots there are some pretty dark spots still, because no teacher can do much with a class of 50 children of five years of age. It is absolutely impossible. I want to suggest to the Minister that up to seven years of age these children should be kept in open-air nursery schools; that he should make these infant classes into open-air nursery classes. I hope he will give the local authorities permission to do this. I know one authority in Wales which is trying the experiment. It would not cost a great deal, and it would save enormously in the health of the country. I am certain that if I could take the whole or even half of the Committee down to Deptford and let them see what is being done in the nursery schools there would be no question of our not being able to afford them. They would say that we cannot afford to be without them.
Then there are over 200,000 children under five years old living in slum areas. I have said it many times before, and I shall still continue to say it, no matter how boring I may be, that while we are doing something for some slum clearance and better housing conditions, the children cannot wait. The only space where these 200,000 children have to play is a two-roomed house or the streets. We know how impossible the streets are and how equally impossible are the crowded rooms of a house. I do not know how the idea arose that working fathers and mothers are not prepared to pay something for these open-air nursery schools. That is not my experience. I have always found that they prefer to pay; and it was the experience also of Miss Margaret Macmillan. At Deptford every year over £1,000 is paid by working mothers, and the children get what is absolutely essential if they are to grow up in fairly good 87 health, that is open air, proper nourishment and proper sleep. It is not that they children do not get enough nourishment; they get too much of the wrong kind, but in the open-air nursery schools they get proper play, proper care and, above all, proper sleep. It is almost impossible for a child in a crowded slum area to get proper sleep.
The Parliamentary Secretary in his speech said that they want to develop artistic tastes in children. That is exactly what you do in an open-air nursery school. It is amazing to see their love of colour and beauty when they have proper surroundings and women who are trained to look after children. It is exceedingly difficult for working-class mothers with three or four children to look after the child between two and five years of age, and yet it is absolutely essential that children of that age should have proper attention. I once saw a child of about two and a-half years of age come into a nursery school. It was a nervous wreck; and its mother did not know what to do with it. Within three weeks of being in the open air it was eating properly, sleeping properly and playing properly. I believe that open-air nursery schools are the foundation of a perfect system of education. I hope that the President of the Board of Education will go into this question and reorganise the infant departments and the nursery schools, and that he will not be put off by the Government saying that they cannot afford it. We have had a little experience of the things which they can afford in the way of subsidies. I have suffered under the subsidy given to the drink trade—£14,000,000. With what result? Let me give the figures. The people of this country are now spending £4,000,000 more on drink—
I thought it would come in quite well. I only want to give a little ammunition to the President of the Board when facing the more reactionary members of the Cabinet in taking a stand on the question of nursery schools. If I cannot say it, I will not. But the Government, indeed, have spent money on things which are not half so important as the child life of the 88 country. There is a great chance for a five-year plan for the children. I would be content with a ten-year plan, because some of the reforms which are necessary cannot be obtained in less than ten years. But if the right hon. Gentleman will only explain to the country the condition of the 200,000 children under five years of age in slum areas—he can do it far better than I can—and the effect it has mentally, physically, morally and spiritually, I am convinced that we could go to the country with a far better cry than one based on roads, electricity or telephones. It would be a human cry which would appeal to the hearts of the people as well as to their common sense. We have to look at the question of juveniles from a national point of view. At the present time 30 per cent. of our children are physically defective, and we are spending millions of pounds on health services. Many of these disease are preventable, and it rests with the House of Commons to see that they are prevented.
I congratulate the President of the Board of Education. I am glad to see that the Home Secretary is by his side. He has always been interested in this question. There is no doubt that we have a number of progressive Members in the Cabinet, Members with vision, and we ought to get something done which will stir the whole country. Russia takes far more interest in the children than in anything else. There are no old people in Russia; they do not live long enough to get old. I never saw an old man or old woman, and I asked what had become of them. But they at least have a plan for the juveniles; as they also have in France. President Roosevelt sent a woman representative to go over the whole of Europe to see what was being done, and I would urge the President to find out what other countries are doing so that he will be able to persuade the Government that it is time something more drastic was done for the children under seven than has been done hitherto, that it is necessary to raise the school-leaving age, to develop continuation classes and to restore the building grants. I am sorry to have to keep on about this, but where children are concerned one cannot help feeling very strongly, particularly when one sees the waste that is going on and the increase in juvenile crime, due principally to our lank of vision and courage. The Prime Minister 89 has made the most moving speeches about education. He almost brought tears to my eyes when he was speaking about education away back in 1928 or 1926. At any rate, he knows the value of education. Other Members of the Cabinet have also made moving speeches. I would implore them to get a move on. I am not saying that the Government have not done well. They have done splendidly, and, of course, we expect more from a National Government than from any other Government. The question of nursery schools must be settled by a National Government. Where there is a will there is a way. I am sorry to have taken up so much time, but I hope I have not been tedious or uninteresting.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. ERNEST EVANS
On former occasions I have regretted that the opportunities for discussing educational matters only arise on the Estimates and are very limited in their scope. I still feel that. At the same time we have to-day an opportunity of representing to the right hon. Gentleman some of the thoughts which concern those of us who are particularly interested in education. I should like to join in the congratulations offered to the right hon. Gentleman on his appointment to what I believe to be one of the most important offices in the Government. I hope that before long we shall have the opportunity of congratulating him not only on succeeding to the office but also on succeeding in the office—and the two things do not always go together. When the right hon. Gentleman was at the Ministry which he has just left he became familiar with what is called a "standstill order." Many of us who are interested in education feel that we have been labouring under the disadvantages of a "standstill order" for the last three, or four, or five years. The Parliamentary Secretary, indeed, agreed with us to-day, although he did say that the activities of the Board of Education during the past year had not been static. I still think that the only activity of the Board has been such as to produce merely a ripple on the lake rather than the full stream of a river leading to wider activities.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in recent speeches, has congratulated the country on signs of recovery, and he has in various ways disposed of the results 90 of that recovery to the taxpayers of the country. We feel that education ought to have its share in the fruits of the recovery, and we do not find from the Estimates that the education service is receiving that share. I gather from the Estimates and from the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to-day that, although the expenditure of the Board of Education shows an increase of £2,452,769, the restoration of the remainder of the "cut" in teachers' salaries accounts for £2,340,000 of that sum, which appears to leave only £112,769 on the increase in ordinary expenditure. I should like to ask the President of the Board if I am right in assuming that, according to the budget of the Board of Education for the current financial year, they are assuming, apart from additional Estimates or legislation, that the only amount which will be available for improvements or for progress other than in regard to the teachers' salaries is that small amount of approximately £112,000? I should like to ask whether it is also the case that they are budgeting for a reduction of approximately £129,000 in respect of the share which the Exchequer will pay to local education authorities in regard to all education activities other than the restoration of the cuts in teachers' salaries? Those are two questions which I think the Committee would like to have answered before passing from this particular Estimate. I would point out to the President of the Board of Education that if that is true this standstill order differs very considerably from the standstill order with which he was familiar at the Ministry of Labour. In regard to the unemployment assistance standstill order, the Exchequer had to come to the rescue, whereas, if my interpretation of these Estimates is right, it is the Treasury here which is benefiting and the local education authorities and the education services who are suffering. From that point of view, I think that this is an unsatisfactory state of affairs.
The right hon. Gentleman has taken over a new office, and, knowing the character which he bears, I am sure that one of the first questions he will ask himself is: Is there anything I can do? Before he can answer that question, however, he must answer this other question: Is there anything I want to do? The office of the President of the Board of Education is in some respects a peculiar 91 one. There have been in the history of this country offices the importance of which depended on the value which their holders could get out of them. That does not apply to any offices to-day, and I do not suppose it will ever apply to the Board of Education. But I think that the importance of the office which the right hon. Gentleman now holds depends on what he wants to make of it. He can make little of it or he can make much of it—and I want to suggest that there is much which the right hon. Gentleman can make of his office.
The Parliamentary Secretary himself has said to-day that much remains to be done. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to be good enough to consider for a few minutes with me what it is that the average parent in this country is thinking of at present. I am not thinking of parents who can afford to give their children an education which involves the payment of large school fees. I am thinking rather of the parents of thousands of children to whom every penny means a great strain on their resources. Just let us take a parent of that sort. What is the first thing that a parent asks herself? I say herself because the mother possibly takes a deeper interest in this matter than the father. The first thing that worries her is what to do with the young child. I will not pursue the matter of nursery schools for they have been referred to by other speakers. But I would like to refer to another matter very intimately associated with nursery schools, and that is a type of institution known as the convalescent home school. These are institutions to which children are sent when recovering from disease, and the Board of Education in the past has expressed and displayed considerable sympathy with the work being done in such schools. I am told that in recent times that sympathy in a practical sense has been withdrawn and that it is now very difficult for any of these schools to get that financial assistance which would enable them to carry on the useful work of aiding children suffering from illness to achieve complete recovery. That is a matter to which I should like the right hon. Gentleman to devote his attention.
We pass from that to the elementary school. What troubles the parent there? 92 When a child goes to an elementary school the mother thinks: Well, he will be there up to 14, and what is going to happen to him at the age of 14? There were days when parents were glad to get opportunities of employment for their children at the age of 14. I am glad to think that the standard has now improved and that parents are not so pleased to get their children into employment at 14. Most of them are anxious to see their children get further opportunities of education. Apart from that, there is the economic factor, and employers are not quite so anxious to get children into employment at 14 as in days gone by. That leads us to the problem which we are not entitled to deal with to-day, the problem of raising the school-leaving age. That is a matter into which I cannot enter now, but I can say that it will be impossible for this or any Government to contemplate raising the school age until they have made preparation for it beforehand. If any authority more than mine is needed for that—and it seems to be common sense—I can give it from a statement made by the Lord President of the Council a few months ago when as Prime Minister he received a deputation on this question. He said that:A sudden change without preparation would be foolish.There is a good deal that the President of the Board of Education can set his hand to in preparing for the policy which he or his successor in a very few years will have to adopt, whatever may be his particular opinion or prejudice. One of these matters is the provision of a sufficient staff of teachers; and another is the reorganisation of the schools so that when the policy is put into operation children will be in the best position to take advantage of it.
There is also the question of the condition of the schools. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman, as anybody can, that as soon as his Government or any other Government proposes to raise the school age they will be faced by people who will say that it is no good doing that because the schools are not in a condition to provide the necessary accommodation. I do not say that this is a reason, but it will be an argument which they will use; and the processes of reasoning and the processes of arguing 93 are quite different. It may be difficult to define the difference between the two, but you can find an explanation of the difference in the procedure of this House. It is the duty of the Opposition to reason with the Government, which means to say that it is the duty of the Opposition to tell the Government what is right, and what is wrong. It is the duty of the Government, a much easier one, to argue—which means to say that though they do not want to do what is wrong they are very sorry not to be able to do what is right. There is a great difference between reasoning and arguing, and I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that as soon as any Government proposes to raise the school age it will be faced with those who will make use of the argument that we have not got the equipment necessary in the existing school buildings. That is a matter to which I would invite him to pay immediate attention. Quite apart from the raising of the school age, this is a matter of the utmost importance in itself. The conditions in many of our schools to-day are lamentable; the schools are unfit, and not worthy of the great country to which we belong. I know that great emphasis is often laid on the condition of the schools in the large cities. The Apostle Paul, who while possessing many virtues had the weakness of a taste for writing letters, in one of his letters told his correspondents this—and they are words which I think ought to be put up on the entrance of every school:Whatsoever things are true, … whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, … think on these things.Those words we ought to address to the children in all the public schools of this country. But what chances have the children in a large number of our schools got to appreciate the value of that advice, in view of the nature of the schools in which they have to receive their training? They often have to go to schools which in many respects are like dismal prisons and where their playground is the street. So, quite apart from the raising of the school age, this question of the reconditioning of the buildings is one of the utmost importance. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not think that these conditions prevail only in the large cities. They prevail in the rural districts. 94 I was very glad indeed to hear the Parliamentary Secretary stress the importance of the reorganisation of the rural districts. But has the Board ever faced up to the fact that it will never get that reorganisation until it deals with the problem of means of access for the children in the rural districts to the reorganised schools? So far the rural authorities have not received that sympathetic consideration which they might have expected from the Board on this subject. In respect of the actual condition of the schools, there are schools in rural districts which are not fit for children to enter.
The Minister of Health lately took powers to give grants for the purpose of improving the water supplies in rural areas. Many authorities have submitted schemes to the Minister of Health. One of the most urgent reasons for improving the water supplies in those areas is the condition of the schools. I would like the President of the Board to consult with the local authorities. Could he not ask them, when they have schemes for improving water supplies—schemes which are based to some extent on the needs of the schools—to consult him, so that he in turn may bring pressure to bear on the Minister of Health with a view to getting the schemes put through? These are things which should be done now with a view to preparation for a further advance in the future.
There are two or three further questions which I wish to put to the right hon. Gentleman. Lately a Committee was set up by the Board to inquire into private schools, and that Committee produced a report which recommended that the Board should acquire power to close these schools if they were unsatisfactory. Has the Board taken any action in regard to that report? There is another report, that upon the partially blinded children. That is a matter which ought to receive the immediate attention of the Board. I know that the Board is sympathetic, for the Parliamentary Secretary told me so in June last year. As far as I remember, at that time there was only one scheme which had been approved. I wish to know whether any scheme has been approved since and whether the Board has given any indication at all to the authorities that it is willing to proceed with the matter further.
95 A question has been raised about examinations. I know that that is a matter of some difficulty. It is linked up, of course, with home work. I am glad that the Board is prepared to conduct an inquiry into the whole principle of home work. My own belief is that home work is detrimental to work and prejudicial to the home. In regard to examinations, perhaps the hon. Member for St. Helen's (Captain Spencer) treated the matter in a rather cavalier fashion. It is not as easy a question as he suggested. It involves local education authorities and universities. Of course the universities must be allowed to set a standard which they require for admission to their colleges and institutions. But I do believe that with sympathy and with understanding it would be possible to arrive at more co-operation in the matter, and I think it is true that in Wales a good deal of sympathy and co-operation has existed through the system of the Central Welsh Board, with which the University of Wales is closely associated.
At the present time there is a movement in Wales which has received a great deal of public support, after many years of careful consideration and discussion, and that is the proposal that there shall be set up in Wales a National Council of Education. The Parliamentary Secretary will be familiar with the proposal, and I would like the President of the Board to go into it as soon as he can. One cannot expect him to give an answer in the immediate future, but it is a matter to which we attach considerable importance, an importance which arises partly out of historical considerations and partly out of present conditions. Many of the distressed areas in Wales have had their proposals for reorganisation held up by reason of the distress there. It is a matter of practical policy now, we think, and it is put forward with great authority by a body representing practically all the education authorities in Wales. I hope that the President will consider the matter sympathetically and will as soon as possible be prepared to make a statement of his policy in regard to it.
I have taken this opportunity, as there is a new President of the Board, to raise some of the questions which are in the minds of many of us. The Parliamentary Secretary just now quoted the Duke of 96 Wellington. Let me give another quotation from the Duke. I seem to remember that on one occasion he said that he found very many people ready to tell him what he ought to have done after the battle was over, but he wished that they would come and tell him what to do before the battle began. The right hon. Gentleman is only just beginning his battle, and I have taken the Duke's advice and ventured to express a few things which I hope he will take into consideration. We look forward with great interest and great expectancy to his tenure of office. We hope he may be responsible for introducing one of the greatest reforms of which the country stands in need. Apart from that, if he will only display his great gifts of energy and application, even in the administration of the Department, he will have the satisfaction of knowing that he has contributed very materially to a service which is essential to the welfare of the nation.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Sir PAUL LATHAM
I intervene with the usual apologies to the Committee. I worked for some six years on the Education Committee of the London County Council, and when there I found that there was great friendship between the Board of Education and the County Council at a very difficult time, because Ministers were then pressing economies on local authorities. I would like to-day to pay a tribute to the work that has been done at the Board of Education, more especially by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. To-day, after several years of difficulties, he has been able to bring forward a report and to make a speech which has brought him congratulations from all parts of this Committee. My hon. Friend has had to face difficulty for years, and when he produced his speech to-day no doubt he did so with great satisfaction, because he is a man who wishes education to go forward and he has been severely hampered by the financial crisis.
We have been told that many more millions are to be spent on the blacklisted schools. That is a matter for congratulation. From the speech of the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) one would imagine that these schools were something like Black Holes of Calcutta. The hon. Member compared them with the wonderful schoolrooms of Eton. I 97 was for years on the visiting committee of the London County Council, and I suppose I have seen as many London schools as has any Member of this Committee. Never once in the whole of my experience did I find a schoolroom as badly lit, as badly ventilated or as badly heated as the one in which I was educated at Eton. Before wild statements are made by hon. Members about the great comforts of the public school compared with the discomforts of the elementary schools, I do think that some knowledge should be acquired of the states of affairs in the public schools. We have also heard the argument that the children of the elementary schools when they go home go to a cold home and to bad food. It is not true. Most of those at Eton went back to a "house" that was far colder and had far worse food.
Another point raised by the hon. Member for Aberavon was about playing fields. I do hope that the policy of the Board will be to encourage playing fields wherever possible. I am glad to think that it was the last action of the elementary education sub-committee of the London County Council, before my party was beaten, to pass a resolution that the playing fields for the London schools should be increased to an area of one acre wherever possible at new schools. I notice that that proposal appeared in the Socialist programme the other day as one of the great things that the Socialists were producing for London.
No one can be interested in education without realising that some further sort of education is needed. On the one hand we have had the suggestion of the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) that more money should be devoted to nursery and open-air schools. I think that that is correct. I hope that the Minister will not be misled by people who tell him that all that education needs can be summed up in the raising of the school-leaving age. There are far more important things to do, and in my opinion the money which will be needed for raising the school age could be used in a far more useful way and be infinitely more beneficial to education throughout the country. I hope that one day the age will be raised, but the first thing for which I would like the Board to find money is the development of its own 98 legitimate objects. To raise the school-leaving age is not a very difficult thing. In London, at any rate, it could be done slowly, term by term, instead of having the break of a clear year. It would not be an educational advantage, whether it would be a social advantage or not. It might employ a great many more teachers, but I do not believe it would help the children. It might hinder some and might cause difficulty in co-education schools. It might be a great trouble.
The product of one year's extra education is of practically no value at all. What type of education are we giving to-day? We can produce all sorts of people suitable to become schoolmasters, salesmen and distributors. The hon. Member for Aberavon complained of the number who went in for the distributive business. Most of the training in the schools to-day is only suitable for that sort of work. What training is given in manufacturing trades, in engineering, in the chemical trades, in agriculture, in any of the productive industries? I was delighted to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that he looked forward to a great advance in technical education. I regard that as by far the most important statement in his speech. I believe that we ought to go further than merely giving certificates in connection with various industries. I believe that the Board of Education ought to use some of the money, which other people wish them to use for raising the school age, in order to establish technical boarding schools where the really brilliant children could be given special training in the technicalities of particular trades. That would be a work of far more educational value than the raising of the school age.
I would like to see, for instance, a technical boarding school at Sheffield in connection with the steel industry, one at Bradford in connection with the cloth-making industry, one at Liverpool in connection with the shipping industry and so forth. I would like to see a very high standard in these schools. I would have, first, in the ordinary schools a viva voce examination accompanied by a report on the health of the child and a report from the headmaster or head mistress on the conduct of the child, as a preliminary to entering these technical schools. I would like to see the children when they had reached a proper age being allowed to select the industry for 99 which they desire to be trained. If they preferred to go into the ordinary secondary school and to become a schoolmaster they could do so but those whom I have in mind are the exceptionally capable children more of the apprentice type who could go into these training schools and be developed into really useful and efficient citizens. Later on, when they came on to the industrial market they ought to command high wages and they might be able to pay back some of the cost, voluntarily or otherwise. My idea is that these schools should be run on the best possible lines and that the pupils should be clothed and given maintenance allowances and holiday grants and all the things which the Socialist party pretend can be given to everybody. Those things cannot be given to everybody and they ought to be given to the really brilliant children who can be of service to the country, instead of using the money to spoil people who never can be anything except hewers of wood and drawers of water. I hope that the new Minister, before he raises the school-leaving age, will deal with these two vital problems—of the nursery school at the one end of the scale and the technical boarding school for the most brilliant children at the other.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. WEST
I wish to refer at the outset to the interesting speech of the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor). I did not quite understand her reference to the falling birth-rate as an important factor in relation to the question of large classes. She seemed to think that the falling birth-rate had something to do with the National Government—that it was something which the Minister and the Government had achieved. Indeed I thought she was about to suggest that the ex-Postmaster-General ought to get out a new poster announcing the fall in the birth-rate as another instance of what the National Government had done. Perhaps I am mistaken and that the Noble Lady did not mean to suggest that, but I was also surprised to hear from her a eulogy of what Russia is doing with its five-year plan in relation to school children. I cannot understand the Noble Lady's attitude in that respect. She 100 appears to be one of those people we have been told about who see good in every country except their own. She appears to be "boosting" the foreigner at the expense of the Britisher. I think she ought to be more patriotic. I would like her to understand that the people of Plymouth are just as good as the people of Russia and I would ask her to be not so anti-British in her speeches in the future.
Then the hon. Member for Scarborough (Sir P. Latham) made the point that we onght to educate the most brilliant children in special technical schools. If only those who showed promise of brilliance when young were entitled to a first-class education I am afraid a large number of those who at present go to our best public schools would never get there. Even many Members of this House would have had a much worse education and fewer opportunities than they have enjoyed, had they been judged on the promise shown by them, say, at 11 years of age. The education of the small proportion of brilliant children ought not to be our chief end. I believe that it is much more important to concentrate upon the normal child than upon the brilliant child. Most of us are normal. Few of us, apart from those who sit on the Treasury Bench, are brilliant people or supermen. Even those who sit on the Front Bench may not have shown, at the age of 11, any promise of the brilliant qualities displayed by them in later years. If a test such as the hon. Member suggests had been applied to some of them at the age of 11 they might have been rejected—and see what the nation would have lost! Progress depends largely on the normal man and woman. We cannot go faster on the road to progress than the pace of the average man and woman, and that is why I want the ordinary child to have, as far as possible, equal educational opportunities with the brilliant child.
I regret that the Board's report for 1934 is not available. It is a handicap that the 1933 report is the last one available, and it is in the knowledge that some of the figures are out of date that I draw the attention of the Committee to one or two items in that report. On the question of teachers, the 1933 report said that much had been done to eliminate extravagant staffing by the assimilation of more pupils, without the appointment of 101 additional teachers. That appears to be regarded as an achievement, but I do not see it is a subject for boasting. If the Board had been able to say that more efficiency had been achieved, I could have understood it. But to talk about eliminating teachers and bringing in more children as an achievement is something which I fail to understand. One result, apparently, has been that in 1934 1,600 fewer teaching posts were approved. I can understand how it is that a large number of teachers who came out of the training colleges last year are still without employment. Those teachers came out of the training colleges full of the hopes and ambitions which had been nurtured there, probably after sacrifices had been made for them by their parents, and we find that over 1,000 of them are unemployed. That is not a, matter upon which a progressive Ministry can congratulate itself, and that is one of the explanations of the number of large classes in the schools.
The Parliamentary Secretary in his interesting speech told us that the number of large classes had declined but I understand from the Board's Report that we have still thousands of classes with more than 50 pupils per class. Anyone who has ever tried to instruct groups, whether of children or adults, knows that to teach 50 or more in a class is a hopeless task. I have tried in my youth to take 50 boys in a history lesson and I know what it is and although I have not had the experience myself I can realise that it must be worse still to teach mathematics to 50 boys or to teach French or German to 45 boys. Yet such classes are common in our schools to-day. We are told by the Parliamentary Secretary that in the secondary schools a class may not consist of more than 30 without permission and I suggest that it is just as hard to teach French in an elementary school to boys of 13 as it is to teach French to the boys in a secondary school. Yet there may be 45 pupils in a modern language class in an elementary school but there may not be more than 30 in a class in a secondary school. I think that 30 are too many but, if so, what of 45 in an elementary school? Any teacher of experience will agree that to have 50 in a class makes teaching a farce.
Then consider the case of infants. There are schools in London where there are 45 infants under one teacher. One 102 would imagine that there was a great shortage of teachers but in fact we have a surplus of teachers. Yet in some of our schools to-day we find 45 of these little toddlers in charge of one teacher. It would be a great joke to see some of our Members here who are so keen on ecenomy placed in charge of 45 little children. Why there are Members in this House who are unable to control their own two or three little children much less to control and teach 45. To teach 45 in an infant school would be a task beyond the powers of most of them. Even the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Liddall) would find it most difficult. We are told that there are 50,000 classes of over 40 in our elementary schools and the Parliamentary Secretary seemed to dismiss that as a matter not of any great importance, as a mere 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. or whatever it is. To me it is a staggering number. Speaking on the Estimates last year the Parliamentary Secretary referring to the question of the number of teachers and the large classes said:There is the point of view which I heard the other day of a child who was looking through the railings of a London school playground and when asked why he did not go inside replied, 'Too many teachers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th May, 1934; col. 191, Vol. 290.]I could not see the point of the hon. Gentleman's joke. He seemed to suggest that the child did not want to go into the school because the rooms were crowded with teachers. Is not that an absurd thing, even for a Minister in the National Government to say? I suppose if that remark meant anything at all, it really meant that there should be only one teacher for every 150 children. I do not know about there being too many teachers for the classes, but I think there might be too many Members of Parliament if that was the view they took. The same hon. Member, speaking this afternoon, said that our secondary schools were the touchstone of our educational system, but I do not believe that is true. I know that over 90 per cent. of our children are in the elementary schools, and I should think that they play a very important part in our educational system. I think that 91 per cent. are much more important than 9 per cent., even though the 9 per cent. include all the brilliant boys and girls in the country, which they do not. In the 91 per cent. in the elementary schools you could discover boys and girls with 103 brains just as brilliant as you could find in the 9 per cent. of children going to our secondary schools.
The hon. Member went on to say that they are mainly selected children in the secondary schools, but that is not true, in my opinion, unless he meant selected on the ground of their parents having most money, and then it would be true, but, as a matter of fact, more than 50 per cent. of the children in the secondary schools are fee-paying pupils, and therefore a minority of children are children who get there on the ground of exceptional ability or brilliance. If our secondary school system had to be based upon the grounds of ability and brilliance, an enormous number of the children now in them would have to be turned out, on the ground that they were quite ordinary children, but in so many cases the qualification for a secondary school is that a boy's father is a brewer, or that he has more money than the parents of more brilliant boys, and the brilliant boys may be in the elementary schools and the "dud" boys may be in the secondary schools. If the right hon. Gentleman doubts my figures, I will help him by referring him to page 18 of his Memorandum on the Board of Education Estimates for 1935, where he will find this:The number of children in October, 1934, was 460,000, of whom it is estimated that 242,000 paid fees and 224,000 did not.That shows a majority of fee-paying students in our secondary schools. The hon. Gentleman said there had been an increase of free-place students in secondary schools of over 8,000 last year, but he forgot to tell the Committee that there had been an increase of fee-paying students of 15,000. There had been twice as great an increase in the entry of wealthy children as there had been of the brilliant children, but he forgot to mention that point, which is a very important point all the same. There is another point in regard to secondary schools. In 1932 we had 900 secondary schools charging fees of less than £10, but last, year the number had fallen to below 500. In 1932 we had 160 secondary schools charging fees of under £3, but now there are no such schools in the whole country. There are no absolutely free secondary schools. They have all been abolished or compelled to charge fees, and even those 104 that charge small fees have had to double their fees in some cases. The 1933 report says:It will be seen that there are no longer any schools entirely free and that the number of schools charging fees of six guineas or less has been reduced from 239 to 88.We are asked, I suppose, to congratulate ourselves upon that fact. I think it was the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division who suggested that it would be a good idea if the schools generally charged fees. She seemed to think that parents would be very pleased indeed if they had to pay fees. Coming from an hon. Member who has some claims to be considered progressive, who talks about Ministers making moving speeches and then not being very moving—I have heard her make some very moving speeches and have then seen her go into the Lobby against her own views—
What I said was that it was very interesting that even in the devastated areas you had mothers who were glad to pay what they could, and Margaret Macmillan herself said it was a great help, that she did not want the schools entirely free, and that she got £1,000 a year for pupils paid willingly in that small area. I have found that working men and women do not mind paying for what they get in the way of education.
§ Mr. WEST
If that be true—and I cannot dispute what a lady said 20 years ago—it shows to me what sacrifices the working classes are willing to make in order to gain education for their children, but because they are willing to make that sacrifice it does not follow that it is right or proper for the nation to ask them to make it. If it is good to charge fees for education in those cases, why have we abolished fees in the elementary schools? Why not have a fee for every boy and every girl in the elementary schools? Fees have been abolished because progressive people in every class of the community have realised that it is a bad thing from an educational point of view to charge fees. It is not true to-day that fee-paying is any aid to educational advancement, but the Government have committed themselves to these economies on education. I have often said that the National Government, or the Conservative Government—I do not know if there is any difference—seem 105 always to have been non-progressive from an educational point of view. There have been exceptions, of course, but the main body of Conservatives are anti-education for the elementary school children, and have always believed it was because they were sufficiently educated and intelligent themselves to realise that if you had educated children in the elementary schools, their dogma would not be so successful in the future as it had been in the past. I think that is an explanation of the Conservative antipathy to general education for the children of the people of this country. I hope it is not true, but I believe it is.
In any event, there have been great economies on education since the present Government came into office. The money spent on educating elementary school children has gone down by £1 per head, from £13 2s. to £12 2s., in three years. They have saved over £1 in £13 per child in three years on education, but although they have saved this money on educating poor children, they have been able to spend £20,000,000 more on poison gas, tanks, and other un-Christian devices. It is always interesting to notice how, when there is a Debate in this House on battleships, or on military, naval, or air forces, when Members opposite get cold feet about the Germans or the Chinese landing here next Monday morning, the House fills up, and great cheers resound when the Government announce £10,000,000 more for armaments. On such occasions the House is packed out, and Members are so pleased and proud of being "boys of the bulldog breed" and of spending more money on the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force; but when it comes to education, something without so many frills, something we cannot boast about so much, there is not the same interest, and they are not so keen about it. There are only some 20 or 30 Members present, and I suppose they say, "Education? What does it matter really?" Indeed they know in their heart of hearts that if they keep the people ill-educated, their own power will grow. That is true, in my opinion.
Let me say now a few words about black-listed schools. The Parliamentary Secretary made a few points about a decrease of 114, I think it was, in the number last year and said we only had 1,200 black-listed schools now—that is to say, schools unfit for children to be 106 educated in. But, as someone has well said, it is really much more than 1,200. It depends on what you call a black-listed school. A great authority in this country, Dr. Spencer, ex-chief inspector for the London County Council, a person whom I have always admired very much for his progressive thought in education, said, in the "Times" educational supplement of the 26th January this year:We are now keeping children in surroundings which were out of date a generation ago. Often black-listed schools have not been replaced, but there are thousands of others which fall below any decent minimum of amenities or convenience. Four-fifths of our schools need to be rebuilt or reconditioned.Not 1,200, but thousands and thousands of schools in this country are, from the point of view of equipment, of building fabric, of cloakroom accommodation, of sanitary convenience, worse than the worst slums in this country. They are slum schools. The nation has since the war been awakened to the existence of slum houses in Great Britain, and after 50 years of such accommodation, we suddenly heard a voice calling, in all parties, "Slums must be abolished." But we have not got so far yet as to say, "Slum schools must be abolished," and we have made no real inroad into the black-listed and similar schools in this country. Hon. Members who are progressive in thought on this question know that in London, as in every big town, thousands of children live in slum houses and do their home work under impossible conditions. When you think of these children going from a slum house in the East End, or in North Kensington, to spend 10 years of their life in a slum school, what a disgraceful thing it really is.
To the miner's little boy, living in a miner's hovel, you might think the State would say, "You have shocking home conditions, but when you go to school, at least in that vital part of your developing life—vital physically, mentally, and morally—we will give you instruction in a building that will make you feel happy and proud to be in it. It will be something to leave your slum home and to go to a fine State school, which will give you fine ideas and ideals"; but it does not. Hundreds of thousands of them go from slum homes to even slummier schools, and when they leave those slum schools, 107 they go to a slum coal mine or a slum textile factory, and all their lives are spent in slums. If we have to have slum homes and slum coal mines, at least we might have a middle period and give the children 10 years of their life in fine buildings, with fine equipment, and with fine teachers, as we have in most of our schools. Why not? I believe that £20,000,000 spent in the next five years on rebuilding schools, the worst schools, would be an investment a thousand times better from every point of view than £20,000,000 spent on more aeroplanes, or tanks, or poison gas, and would be more in keeping with the Christian ideals that so many Members profess to hold on Sundays, and that some of us think they ought to show from Monday to Saturday as well. I would vote with enthusiasm for £20,000,000 more for schools as against £20,000,000 for poison gas.
Finally, may I say a word about curriculum? It will not be enough to raise the school age if you leave schools as they are in many aspects. I believe, with an hon. Member who spoke behind me, that we want an inquiry into the whole system, both subjects taught and examinations. The examination system is fallacious and wrong. It does not pick out the brilliant people. I have passed examinations, because I am one of the people who like examinations, where clever boys have failed. I passed matriculation because I have a flair for examinations which others do not possess. They were unlucky because they did not have the opportunities that I had, but they ought to have had them. Almost every school spends four hours a week on mathematics or arithmetic. I believe history is a thousand times more important, and on that we spend an hour or an hour and a-half. We cannot all be engineers or chemists, but we are all ultimately citizens. We are not all concerned about higher mathematics, but we are all concerned as to how we are governed, how we shall vote, and so on. History is incomparably more important for the citizen than mathematics. Mathematics are useless except to a minority of 5 per cent. of our people. History, simple economics, biology, logic and local government concern every man and woman over the age of 21. Just as memory is important to an individual, 108 so I believe the history of our country's affairs, or those of other countries, is important to a nation. History contains lessons both for revolutionaries and for reactionaries. There is no subject in my view which tends to broaden minds and soften some of our prejudices as history. I believe it has the same effect upon most people, if taught correctly, as foreign travel has on those who are lucky enough to be able to travel. Most people cannot go abroad, but we can travel in time and space by having more time for history in our schools.
Some hon. Members have a shocking idea of history. They were taught, as I was a long time ago, the history of Kings and Queens, the number of their wives, oak trees, battle, drums and Admirals. That is going in these days. There is a different conception of history in our elementary schools—the history of the evolution of ideas, the life and work of the people and so on. History is a broader and more liberal thing than it was 30 years ago, and that is true, of course, of other things as well. We want a wholesale revaluation of subjects and ideas. We want a longer school life, we want better equipment, the abolition of slum schools and more chance for teachers to become broad and liberal in their education. All these things we need badly in our educational system.
I have always thought the right hon. Gentleman to be one of the new Liberal, progressive Conservatives. There are very few of them, but there are some. I have great hopes of him. He is not one of those who are unteachable and are unwilling to believe anything but that their own class is destined to exercise power and the other class must remain hewers of wood and drawers of water. It has been said that he had too difficult a task in dealing with unemployment. It is a very difficult task for anyone to tackle, but I will say something with which, perhaps, members of my own party will not agree. I belong to a class that suffers much from unemployment—my own family have been horribly troubled by it—but I believe that education is a much more important problem than unemployment. I believe that unemployment, and most of the social ills from which we suffer, are due in the main to the ignorance of the people and the ignorance of our statesmen and, 109 therefore, one of the greatest contributions that any Minister could make can be made by the right hon. Gentleman if he will put our educational system on a firm footing and improve it as I have suggested. If history says that he did not do well with unemployment, as no one else has done, but that he did fine things with education, he will have a greater accomplishment to his credit than any other Minister in this Government has had or will ever have.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ Mr. LIDDALL
Members of the great Conservative party can, I think, afford to ignore the wilful misrepresentations of the Government's educational policy that the hon. Member has made. Like other speakers, I must compliment the Parliamentary Secretary upon the able, lucid, and informative speech with which he has presented these Estimates. At the same time, I most sincerely congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board. Much has been said about matriculation and examination. I can only hope that he will not only pass the examination, which will be most severe, which he will have to undergo, but that he will matriculate and in due course be most proud to wear the old school tie of red, white and blue and will look back with pride upon the valuable work that he did as assistant master in the National Government of 1931–6. Notwithstanding all that we have heard about the retrograde steps taken by the Government in regard to education and the large amount of work still to be done, children are being better educated to-day than they were 30 years ago. It is often difficult to prove it to the man in the street—it is especially difficult to prove it to the hon. Member who spoke last—but we know that they are, though you cannot estimate intellectual improvement like an increase in your export trade or a decrease in your unemployment figures. Statistics are a very unreliable method of measuring the advance in education. Besides, one generation does not readily admit that the next is better trained and equipped, though Heaven help the world if that were not so. But everyone is impressed by bricks and mortar, and to see a new school where a year ago there was nothing is undeniable evidence of a move forward.
110 We are often told that our new schools are extravagant, and people who have achieved some success in life inform us with pride that they were educated in much inferior surroundings, as if that were a reason for perpetuating the obstacles which they have succeeded in overcoming. But, if we are to content ourselves with the conditions that satisfied our fathers, there is something wrong with us, for life is a progress from want to want. It is possible to get a good education in spite of poor surroundings, but it is often more possible to get a bad one because of them. Our standard has improved immensely in the last 30 years. We realise now the importance from every point of view, mental as well as physical, of light and air and warmth and ventilation and of space to work and to play in. Not only in the schools, but in the homes of the people, the conditions have changed since the War and are still changing. The home reacts upon the school and the school upon the home, and of the two I believe that the influence of the school in these days to be the more powerful. Children educated in a modern school cannot possibly acquiesce in squalid, dirty, untidy home surroundings. Every new school becomes an effective lever of social betterment and spreads in its neighbourhood the urge for better standards of living.
I believe that reorganisation, as the Parliamentary Secretary has told us more than once, is the accepted policy of the Board of Education and that it is the intention of the Board to press on with it as rapidly as financial conditions and circumstances permit. The modern senior schools offer a splendid opportunity for giving education a new turn and a new point of view. Parents will not keep their children at school beyond 14 if they can get work for them—that is only natural—but the great demand which now exists for secondary education shows that parents want it if they can afford it. I do not think that we necessarily want more of the secondary school type of education. We want something much broader in its outlook, and we want to be able to experiment without the pressure of examinations. The idea that education leads to clerical work ought to be broken down entirely. It is the wrong outlook, and it would soon vanish if we could get more of the modern, practical type of training for all children instead of for the so-called brainy few.
111 The existing form of examinations needs revising. In order to matriculate five credits in certain subjects are necessary, but a candidate might obtain seven credits and yet fail to get matriculation because of the lack of one credit in a special subject. It often happens that a boy or girl with five credits and only the school certificate is far more practical minded than the one who is blessed with a specially good memory and who therefore matriculates. We want more opportunities educationally for the practical minded type.
A great deal of money spent on education is wasted because education is not carried far enough. A little more expenditure would mean a far greater return to the country in proportion to the money laid out. When the question of the school-leaving age is considered, it should be considered not from the point of view of unemployment, which is an economic problem of, it is to be hoped, a temporary nature, but from the broader point of view of its social value. The main argument for the raising of the age is that the post-primary education, namely, after the age of 11, cannot be carried through successfully in three years, and that at least four years are needed in which to do the work with any degree of thoroughness. To cut short the process at the age of 14 is to do away with—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member knows that there are some matters connected with the raising of the school age which require legislation, and I think that his proposal would.
§ Mr. LIDDALL
I realise that fact. Of what value is this education? Is it worth paying for? It should be realised that education for the masses is now entering on a new phase of development. After the elementary stage which ends about the age of 11, it used to be mainly literary in its tendencies. This was specially true of education up to the age of 14. Hence the idea arose that any form of secondary or post-primary education was meant to turn out black-coated workers and that it taught children to despise manual labour. The social consequences of this were unfortunate and naturally led many people to think that it would be a mistake to lengthen the school period. But the 112 education in our modern schools is of an entirely different type. It is largely practical in its tendencies and aims at turning out boys and girls fitted and eager to take their part in the ordinary industries and business of life. These schools can and will do a great deal to reverse the movement in favour of clerical work and to help young people to take a broader view of the openings for them. The alternatives appear to be a nation with a mass-produced mind, likely to be led by one superman as in some other countries; or, what is more in accordance with English traditions and a gradual development of English political life, a democracy trained to think individually and to act together. It is because I feel that education along these lines cannot possibly be finished by 14, that I hope that, as soon as the national resources will permit, the school age will be raised.
§ 8.21 p.m.
I was glad to have the opportunity to-day of listening to the Parliamentary Secretary, and I should like to congratulate him warmly on the progress which his Department has made since he last addressed the Committee. There are one or two points I should like to raise before I come to the main issue about which I want to talk. I was glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary's sympathetic reference to the non-provided schools and to the schools which still remain on the black list. I hope that before the term of office of this Government comes to an end we shall be able to arrive at some solution of the non-provided schools, because I am one of those who gave a pledge to forward their claims, and I want the opportunity of implementing that pledge. With regard to the schools on the black list, it is no doubt a source of satisfaction to my hon. Friend to know that so many schools have been replaced in the last two years, but, if I may be parochial, it is not a great deal of satisfaction to schools on the black list in my own area.
I have never intervened in an education Debate before because I have never had experience of educational work, but during the past few months I have taken the opportunity of trying to make myself conversant with some of the conditions in my district. Even with my inexperienced eye, after going into first-class up-to-date schools, such as one which was opened 113 during the regime of this Government—the Stephenson Memorial School—I became aware of the difference of spirit, the conditions and the animation of the whole atmosphere of one of these schools as compared with a school on the black list. I went into a, school in a mining village in a depressed part of Northumberland the other day, and I can only say that the conditions I found there deserve the strongest condemnation. I am surprised that that school has been allowed to remain in the condition in which it has been for a long period. I might say for the benefit of hon. Members above the Gangway that that school is to be entirely re-conditioned with the support and on the recommendation of the National Government.
I would like at this juncture to congratulate my right hon. Friend on his new office and to wish him the best of success. I hope that the representatives of the Board will change their practice of attending the opening ceremonies of some grand new school or some new technical college, and will transfer their interest to the other end of the scale. It would be a good thing if the new Minister of Education would go round some of the areas in which the blacklisted schools still remain to see for himself the conditions in those schools. I hope he will not regard that as an impertinent suggestion. We in this country are so proud, and rightly proud, of our education system and of our social services, and are sometimes so busy congratulating ourselves, that we forget that if we saw the difficult problems on the spot we should be so inspired to deal with them that we should get on very much more quickly than we do.
I was greatly interested in the figures given by the Parliamentary Secretary regarding secondary schools. I was one of those who supported the Government as regards the payment of secondary school fees by those parents who can afford it. I believe that maintains the independent spirit of the people of this country. Hon. Members above the Gangway may laugh, but it is one of the natural instincts of the British people, who do not like to be given things for which they can afford to pay. I have asked my own people about it and their testimony is good enough for me. I want to see the people who can afford it paying for the education of their 114 children, and I want to see the children of those who cannot afford to pay having equal opportunities with those who are in more fortunate circumstances. I want to ask my hon. Friend, in relation to the figures he quoted about the additional children occupying free places in secondary schools, whether there is a larger proportion in the areas which are now known as special areas. They would be a guide as to whether our action in making the payment of secondary school fees compulsory has had any injurious effect on the number of children attending secondary schools in the special areas.
I was very glad to hear what my hon. Friend said about nursery schools. It is a great joy to go into a nursery school and see the contrast between a child who has been attending that school for some time and a child who has only lately gone there. The tremendous advantage that a child gains by attendance at a nursery school must be obvious to anyone. I was interested to hear that the Board of Education are not standing in the way of giving grants to nursery schools. The other day we in the North of England had the honour of a visit from Miss Ishbel MacDonald, who went round some of our nursery schools and showed great interest in them, and I noticed that the Lord Mayor of Newcastle said that Newcastle would welcome more nursery schools but were prohibited from obtaining them because the Board of Education stood in the way. Lord Mayors are privileged people, but he might have been misinformed. Newcastle may be a place whose application for a grant for the opening of a nursery school has been turned down, but I should like to know, because I do not think that anybody should be allowed to malign the Government unnecessarily, whether in fact Newcastle has made an application for a grant and whether it was turned down.
I turn now to a point in relation to the feeding of school children. I am a little uncertain about this point, but I think possibly it might be better if we issued instructions to local authorities to continue the grant of free milk and free meals to children who have been certified as under-nourished or as suffering from malnutrition for a longer period than they do. I have taken a lot of interest in the feeding of school children in my constituency, and have come to realise 115 that it takes a very long time, comparatively, for a child who has been under nourished or badly nourished to gain any benefit from the good, wholesome meals which are provided. The same remark applies to children who are obtaining free milk. It is a great pity, when a child has been brought to a sound physical condition, to cut off the school meals or the free milk straight away, because such a child is always liable to slip back very much more quickly than a child whose physical condition is normal. It would be very much better for the stamina of children if the feeding were continued a little longer rather than stopped immediately the medical officer gives his certificate that the child is in a normal physical condition.
It seems a pity that we cannot inquire a little more closely into that aspect of the matter. My hon. Friend said that it was no part of the job of the Board of Education to consider anything in relation to any other Department's services. I may be wrong, but I would suggest that where, in a special area, a number of children are suffering from malnutrition it would be a wise thing to have a careful inquiry made into the conditions in the homes from which those children come. That inquiry might very well be carried out by the Unemployment Assistance Board. We might get some extremely valuable data on which to have the amount of money which should go into a home in order to keep the people in a sound physical condition. I feel that we are becoming a little frightened of Departmental co-operation. I am a little tired of going from one Government Department to another. All are extremely courteous and all very willing to help, but when you go to one you are told, "That subject belongs to the Board of Education," and then, at the Board of Education, you are told, "That belongs to the Ministry of Health," and then at the Ministry of Health the reply is, "Oh, that problem is one for the Ministry of Labour" When we get any data of value the information ought to be handed on from one Government Department to another. It would be most valuable to have an inquiry carried out by the Unemployment Assistance Board into the lives and conditions of the children whom medical officers have certified for 116 free milk or free meals. I hope that small suggestion will receive careful consideration from my hon. Friend.
Now I come to what I want to raise as the main issue. I was very much interested to hear that the future policy of the Board is to be a greater development of the artistic side of the child and its physical training. I am entirely in accord with the Parliamentary Secretary, and I think it is a most excellent thing, but if we are going out into the country to say we are going to do that as offering increased educational facilities and opportunities to the children in elementary schools, we ought to know who is going to pay for the materials which the children will use. I do not want to be misunderstood; sometimes my hon. Friends above the Gangway are so ready to jump in. I want to make my point perfectly plain by relating it to domestic science centres. I have been taking a great deal of interest in the teaching of our children in those centres. We, the nation, provide the centre, we provide the cooking apparatus, we provide most excellent domestic science teachers and we provide most excellent inspectors to go round to see whether the domestic science teachers are teaching the children adequately. I understand that there are three systems of providing the material with which the children work. The same applies in regard to needlework and physical training. One method is that the children bring money, but that is quite out of the question in my area and has not been adopted either by the Cumberland County Council or by the Wallsend Borough Council. Another system is for the teacher to be responsible for selling the food which the children have cooked. The system followed under the Cumberland County Council is for the domestic science teacher to get the children to bring ingredients from home and for the children to be taught to make those ingredients into dishes.
What is the purpose of our domestic science centres? Is it that we may be able to say to the world that Great Britain teaches domestic science in her elementary schools? I have had a certain amount to do with the transfer of girls to London under Mrs. Headeam's scheme, and mistresses sometimes say: "I always understood that the child learned to cook at school. The nation 117 pays, but she is not able to cook or to roast a joint." That is a very unfair reflection upon the teacher and upon the children, because, unless the proper materials and apparatus are provided, children cannot be taught to be capable of dealing with a joint, especially if they are never able to take a joint from their own families—as they are not, in my part of the world—to the domestic science centre and to be taught to cook it. Do we want to give a false impression, or do we want our domestic science centres to be of practical value to the children in their future lives? The same questions might be asked in regard to the craft classes to which boys go. It is much easier and cheaper for a teacher to teach a girl to do fancy work with coloured threads on a little bit of rough linen, than to make a frock or a skirt or to knit a jumper, but there is no comparison in the educational value of one as against the other.
I want to know what the Board of Education think about the domestic science centre. That question is of great importance. We must teach our girls. Where a girl can do well in domestic service she ought to get every opportunity. I like to think that a great many of our girls will find very good homes and comfortable situations, but one should not assume that every girl is capable of earning her living in domestic service any more than that every boy should be expected to go into an engineering works or into some distributive trade. There is another reason for the existence of domestic science centres. If we are to go in for a policy of land settlement and of trying to encourage people to grow their own food on their own allotments, girls should be taught how to cook vegetables and the value of vegetables in the home. This may be a small point, but to train the child to use vegetables in the right way at home might make her father say, "My goodness, that is a good idea. I will get an allotment in order to provide vegetables for my child."
In the average family depending upon unemployment allowances, it is impossible for children to take vegetables to the domestic science centres, because there is not enough in the family budget for the provision of vegetables. Such children consequently leave the domestic science centres without any idea of how important, on the nutrition side of family life, 118 the proper cooking of vegetables can be. I think that illustrates my point that, if the system be adopted of the teacher buying the ingredients and selling them afterwards, particular problems arise. One is that the teacher knows that certain things are more easily sold, and there is therefore a great temptation to teach the making of those things for which there is a ready sale. That does not allow the full value to be obtained from the domestic science centres, which is to train the child to be useful in the years to come. I wonder whether the Board of Education has ever thought about the problem from that point of view, in which I am most interested and enthusiastic. I know that it is not an easy matter to deal with. It may be said that the teacher can easily arrange to get rid of the food, or can feed the school children with it or do something else, but that is not possible.
It is not fair to expect the child to take from a home where there is an inadequate income a spoonful of flour or a spoonful of sugar, or something like that in order to experiment in the domestic science centre. I should not get very much support from the Unemployment Assistance Board if I said to them: "You must realise that the children have to take a certain proportion of the family allowance for food to, the domestic science centres, so that they may be taught to cook." If my right hon. Friend intends to develop a system of art in education, and of physical training, may I point out that every child has to subscribe so much per week in order to buy a pair of gym shoes. If a child needs three pairs of gym shoes in a year, who is to buy them? I do not want to make people dependent upon public funds or to spoon-feed the nation, but I ought to stand up for the difficulties and the problems of my area.
I am delighted to hear that we are to develop upon those lines and the proposal has my warmest support and approval, but I hope that, before embarking upon this policy, my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary will face up to such difficulties as I have outlined, and will let us know definitely that the Government can find money for the expansion and that the cost will not be put upon the parents; also that we shall not go round the world saying that we have followed the example of foreign 119 countries while not telling the nation that the ingredients, the apparatus or the materials, which are used in the desired expansion, are found from the homes and by the parents.
There is this other point: The very places where girls should be trained to be the most capable housewives or to become good servants, if they decide to seek their livelihood in domestic service, are the places where there is least material for them to experiment upon in the centres. I am told that in agricultural areas it is easy for the mother of a child living on a farm to provide milk, butter, eggs or cream to take to the domestic centre, but it is very likely that every child from a farm will go back to its home on leaving school in order to help its parents on the farm. On the other hand, the poor child in the mining village has to go out into the world. We are deliberately encouraging transference, and yet, in my view, we are not providing for the real necessity of equipping the child for transference into whatever sphere to which she likes to go. I know that I am not entitled to refer to the arrangements which have been made, but I think I can put the point in this way without transgressing the Rules of Order. We are starting to teach domestic science to children at the age of 11, but no child of that age ought to be allowed to lift irons or to take kettles of boiling water from a stove. The children of parents on this side of the House never have to do that, and it is not a very good thing to encourage in children who go to the elementary schools. I am opposed to it. The child has to learn domestic science between the ages of 11 and 14, and then she is thrown on to the labour market. Children who are going into domestic service have very little chance of finding a place in the proper kind of home where they will be trained and will be properly looked after until they are 16, so that they have two years of relaxation, two years in which to forget all the things they have been taught, and they have to start all over again when they do find themselves in domestic service. I think we might do very much better for the nation if we could give this domestic science training at an age when the child has developed the housewifely instinct, and is able to cope with some of the problems with which the ordinary housewife has to cope.
120 I should like to conclude by saying that I believe we have a very fine educational system in this country. I have been enormously impressed by the work of the teachers. Many people have not the slightest idea of the amount of work that the teachers do outside their ordinary hours. I find them encouraging, lively, and full of interest in and enthusiasm for the children whom they have in their charge. I think that we might do something in the way of announcing to the world that we are giving training in domestic science and so on. When I went into the workshop of one of the new modern schools in my Division, it was a perfect joy to me to see the boys doing their woodwork in a most efficient manner; but those children have to take to the centre all the material with which they work. What an opportunity we are losing here, when we are trying to put children into occupations which are not blind-alley occupations. We have every right to take pride in our educational system, but I hope we shall go one step further, for I am convinced that the expenditure of a little more money in the directions I have indicated would help tremendously in dealing with this problem of putting children into occupations which will provide them, when they become adults, with a really sound livelihood. Here we have a very real opportunity, and, if I may venture to say so, I believe that the new Minister of Education, in co-operation with the Parliamentary Secretary, will do great things, and that the country will respond readily and enthusiastically to the work which they intend to do in the future.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. EVANS
The discussion today has been meticulous in regard to details, as has been illustrated by the speech of the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward). I cannot venture to make any comments upon the details which the hon. Member has given with obvious authority and first-hand information of what takes place in the domestic science centres, but they illustrate how widely ramifying and multitudinous are the considerations which affect educational policy. It is so easy to talk by and large, to enunciate glowing ideals and to think in terms of general purposes, but there is always the difficulty of reducing these to concrete proposals, and I think it is well that we 121 should be given, by speeches such as that to which we have just listened, a sense of reality in our educational discussions.
The Debate has been extraordinarily interesting in that it has struck a new note. Previous discussions in the House have largely centred upon grievances—perfectly legitimate grievances—with regard to salaries and so forth, but I feel much encouraged to-day by the note which was struck first of all by the Parliamentary Secretary, who must by now be embarrassed by the praises which have been lavished upon him, none of which, I submit, is undeserved, and in which I should like to join. He struck a note which has been very worthily sustained by a number of other speakers. The Prime Minister, in that memorable speech in which he drew for us a picture of the tragic possibilities which lay ahead of civilisation, rather seemed, in his peroration, to pass on the solution of the problem to the rising generation. He said that it was a problem for those who were yet to come, that we, the older generation, were baffled by it. I am wondering whether we realise the responsibilities that we are placing upon the rising generation, and whether, if we do, we are equipping that generation to deal more effectively with these problems than we seem capable of doing.
I do not propose, much as I should like to do so, to deal with the whole problem which one hon. Member above the Gangway discussed. It is not merely a question of educational mechanics; it is not merely a question of school buildings, important as these are. There is the whole question of reorientating the purpose of education to meet the new responsibilities of this new age; there is the question of creating new social attitudes in the schools. One hon. Member discussed the relative values of history and mathematics. And I believe that we have now reached a stage of economic progress in world affairs where we have to think out the problems of education in terms of much larger purposes and with a livelier sense of responsibility than hitherto. But I shall leave that question merely with the comment that I was much encouraged by the note which was struck, and, indeed there was another facet of the same idealistic approach in the plea made by the Parliamentary Secretary for a 122 realisation of the need for education in art, a plea which I heartily endorse.
I want, however, to deal very briefly with just one problem which I think is very frequently ignored in our discussions, and that is the problem of rural schools. I was glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that the Board envisage a complete reorganisation of the educational system in the rural areas. There are many aspects of that question which I should like to discuss, but obviously I cannot do so because of the exigencies of time. To-day we have been discussing malnutrition, but I am wondering whether we realise that malnutrition is not merely a question of what you give to the child, but a question of what the child takes in relation to the energy he expends. Let me give an example. I was told by a medical friend of mine the other day that he had made a survey of a rural school in West Wales. The school, as so frequently happens, was located at a point equi-distant from a number of hamlets, and the nearest house, apart from the school house, was four miles away, and the children going to that school had to walk—there was no transport—a distance of anything from four to six miles. Just imagine what that means, and it is important that we should realise these practical issues. What does it mean to those children? It means, first of all, that they have to get up at seven o'clock in the morning, and after scamping breakfast, have at least four miles to walk to school. An adult could not do it in less than an hour. These little toddlers take at least one hour and three-quarters. See what it means. They leave home at half-past seven. In what condition are they to receive instruction? There is no resting place and nowhere to recover their energies before starting their school work. The building is an abominable one. I am sure that there is not a Member of this House who would allow his child to attend that school. The children have no hot meal at mid-day, only perhaps some sandwiches brought from their homes. At four or half-past four they start the journey home again. They may be in the higher classes and have some homework, or there may be a scholarship examination looming ahead. They are working nine and 10 hours a day. That is their working day, a period of work 123 which would not be allowed in any of our industrial factories.
It seems to me to be largely a question of finance. We have in the past regarded the rural areas as being backwoods, not merely geographically, but culturally. It did not count for very much. Have your great show places, your nursery and secondary schools in the towns. Make a bold facade in the towns. It did not matter very much in the villages. We have to think very realistically of the problem of the rural areas. It is from the rural areas that the streams have flowed into the towns. Many of the industries with insanitary environment have tended to sap the energies of the people, but you have always had this fresh stream of people coming in. The problem of the rural areas is a separate and distinct problem. Do not let us be niggling. It is a big problem. You cannot any longer allow the great exodus from the country to the towns—your economic and industrial situation in the towns will not allow this drift—to continue. You have to think out new foundations for your rural civilisation, and you cannot do it unless you tackle the problem of the rural schools.
There is much I could say, but I want at least to make this point about nursery schools. There are many things in the towns which cannot be made possible in rural areas. You have transport and many other factors, but I feel that we have allowed education in rural areas to be regarded as something perfunctory to be carried through with a minimum of trouble. I have been to rural schools where there is very intimate contact between the teachers and the children from the point of view of moral and spiritual environment. There is that degree of intimacy which makes it possible for the teacher to impress his personality and character on his pupils. The whole trend of events and the outlook for the future indicate the need, and I rejoiced greatly when the Parliamentary Secretary announced that the Board were thinking out terms of reorganisation. But I beg of him not to forget the financial aspect of this matter. I hope that something bold and imaginative will be done.
There is one question which I would like to address to the Parliamentary 124 Secretary. I know it is impossible to discuss the problem of the school-leaving age, and I do not propose to do so. As was pointed out, I think, by my hon. Friend the Member for the Welsh University (Mr. E. Evans), there is the question of preparatory work. Some day conditions will make possible this reform. It was hinted at by the Parliamentary Secretary when he mentioned, I thought in rather bated breath, the question of the non-provided schools. I should like to know whether any negotiations have been initiated with regard to the solution of the problem of the non-provided schools? It is an issue which has agitated the minds of religious leaders, and I feel that a situation has now arisen when an appeal might be made to leaders in all denominations to try and find a solution to this problem in a spirit of compromise. Someone will have to give way and abandon prejudice. There must be give and take. Members of the House of Commons are aware of the urgency of the problem, feeling as we do the tragedy involved in allowing masses of youths to leave school and walk the streets without discipline, without purpose, without horizon and without hope. I do not think it is out of place to use the Floor of the House of Commons to make an appeal to religious leaders to compromise on this issue and to make possible this clamant reform. I thank the Parliamentary Secretary, and wish the new Minister of Education great success in his office. He has come with a tradition and a reputation for idealism, and I hope that he will use his opportunity and lead the nation into a new vision of its responsibilities and resources.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. LECKIE
I should like to join in the congratulations which have been offered to the Parliamentary Secretary upon the excellent address which he has given us in introducing the Estimates this afternoon. He dealt with them in a very exhaustive, able and encouraging way. He is much esteemed by all sections of the House, and we are very fortunate that he is to continue the good work that he has been doing during the past few years in this very important field. We are also very glad that the Presidency of the Board has come back to the House of Commons, and we are confident that the 125 occupant of that important position will, as he has always done, rise to the occasion and do a great deal in forwarding educational work at the present time. He has come at a very important and favourable time, and we look to him to make a great advance in connection with educational work.
I propose to confine myself to one or two points. Everyone of us is glad that these Estimates restore the last 5 per cent. cut in the salaries of the teachers. This has been a very sore point for some years. The 10 per cent. cut which the teachers and others had to bear was a very drastic operation to meet a most critical situation, and I am not surprised that it created a great deal of resentment because it was a more drastic cut than any other section of the community were subjected to. Therefore, it is very gratifying to know that from the 1st July it will be wiped off the slate.
Some hon. Members have struck rather a pessimistic note with regard to education progress. So far as education in the schools is concerned I am in no way downhearted. I know something of education in South Staffordshire and I know that no better work has ever been done than is being done at the present time. We have excellent staffs and fine administrators and I believe that the product of those schools will compare very favourably with the product of any other period in the history of our elementary schools. At the same time, we are not content to mark time. Some reference has been made to the fact that in education we are just marking time. The Parliamentary Secretary took rather a rosy view of the situation and spoke of progress in various directions. If we look at the Estimates in cold blood, apart from the restoration of the teachers' cuts, I think that the phrase "marking time" is a fair estimate of the situation.
Take the question of capital expenditure. In 1933 the Board of Education approved capital expenditure to elementary schools to the extent of £2,719,793. In 1934, for nine months only, the amount was £3,290,774. That increase was satisfactory, but if we compare it with the capital expenditure in the previous years, we find that we are not making progress so far as capital expenditure is concerned. In 1927 the capital expenditure approved was £3,859,614; in 1928, £4,298,909; in 126 1929, £5,509,505; in 1930, £9,186,572; and in 1931 £5,938,612. We understand the reason why the expenditure was reduced during the intervening years but we realise that we are now getting more into a normal situation financially. We were assured by the Chancellor of the Exchequer not long ago that we have recovered 80 per cent. of our prosperity. Therefore, there is every reason for advance in regard to education.
The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) spoke of a five-year plan for education, and certainly she touched a chord in my heart and I hope that she touched a chord in the heart of the President of the Board of Education. It would be a splendid thing if we could have a five-year plan to deal with the great questions of education which lie before us. We have already a 10-year plan which is involved in the Hadow scheme. That covers 5 to 7 plus in the infant schools, 7 to 11 plus in the junior schools, 11 plus to 15 in the senior schools, and 11 plus to 16 in the select central schools. We have only reached to 14, and it is obvious that the additional years in the senior schools are not being utilised to the full because of the absence of further building on a large scale. The Hadow scheme cannot be brought into full fruition until the additional year is put on. I know from practical experience the value of these additional years. In my constituency we have two very excellent select central schools in which the boys and girls remain until 16, and we have seen the enormous effect that the additional two years has had on those boys and girls.
They have been remarkably successful schools. All the pupils in them are sought out by the employers before they leave school, and it is a remarkable fact that there is no unemployment among the children who leave the select central schools. They are clever children who get into these schools, and I feel that what is done for them ought to be done for those who are less clever. I endorse the hope of one hon. Member that the average boy and girl should have a chance. The clever boys and girls can look after themselves, and they are pretty well looked after. It is for the average boy and girl that I am anxious. I want them to get a better education than they have to-day, and that can only 127 be done by giving them the full period of school which the Hadow scheme lays down. I am very hopeful that we shall be able to make some progress in that direction before very long.
Much has been said about the blacklisted school. In my neighbourhood there are no black list schools left. They were done away with a number of years ago. I am afraid that the Board of Education has been rather too lenient in the case of the black-listed schools. The list was made 10 years ago and surely in 10 years it ought to have been possible to have wiped out every one of them. When the list was drawn up there was a brown list of schools that were very near getting into the black list. Those brown schools will certainly be brown by now in many cases. It is up to the Board to see that something drastic is done in that direction. Reference was made by the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) to the fact that the annual meetings of the Association of Education Committees was held last week. I was a representative at those meetings. There were 600 representatives from 268 education committees. I wish the President and the Parliamentary Secretary had been there to hear the eagerness with which they are looking forward to a great advance in connection with the problems which are being faced in education.
The association has been urging for years the appointment of a departmental committee to consider the whole question of parliamentary grants in aid of expenditure on education. Anyone who knows anything about the formula knows that it is full of inequalities, which are being emphasised every year. It is certainly most unjust as between one authority and another. So far, although representations have been made by the Association of Education Committees, no appointment has been made, and I would urge the Minister to go into this matter without delay and appoint a strong departmental committee to consider the whole question. We do not want any more tinkering with the formula. It is hopeless now. We want it wiped out and a new and simplified system of grants, intelligible and fair all round, introduced in its place. It would, of course, involve more money from the national exchequer for education but I hope that the Cabinet 128 will be prepared to face that question seeing the importance which education is now taking in national welfare.
There is no indication in the Estimates that the Government are making any preparation at all for raising the school age. Something has been said about raising the school age by by-law. It has been done in a number of cases, but lately applications by various authorities have been refused by the Board. What is the policy of the Board of Education in regard to raising the school age by means of a by-law? If one authority is allowed to do so it is obvious that other authorities should also be able to do so. I do not believe in the proposal to proceed by means of a by-law. In Staffordshire we had a very exhaustive conference some time ago of all the education authorities in the county, rural and urban, and there was a strong feeling that something might be done if it was possible to get a by-law covering the whole of the county. Unfortunately, one authority near Birmingham stood out because they said that if they raised the school age and Birmingham did not their children might be compromised. As a consequence the whole thing fell through, and I fear that this might be the case everywhere. The only alternative is that which we are forbidden to discuss to-night, but which we all know.
Those who have examined the question know that nursery and infant schools are necessary in poor industrial districts. In my own constituency we had plans before the Board of Education when the financial crisis occurred in 1931 and the axe fell. The proposal has not been revived up to the present, but during the intervening period we have started two or three nursery classes in infants' schools. They are not a substitute for nursery schools, but I would heartily commend them to all education authorities as a very fine method of doing to a large extent what is done by nursery schools. They are very successful indeed, and greatly appreciated in the poorer districts. There is no reason with a diminishing child population why spaces should not be easily found in infant schools. In another two years time there will be ample accommodation, and I hope that experiments on a wide scale will be adopted in this direction. I hope that any criticism I offer will not be taken as unfriendly. Educationists are never 129 satisfied; we are always anxious to do more. The ideals of education are high. Sir James Barrie was once asked to give a motto to a school, and he gave: "Every girl and boy born into this world should have an equal chance." That will take a lot of doing and a long time. It may never be done at all, but it is the ideal we must have in view in all educational matters, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will signalise his presence at the Board by making many great and necessary advances in our educational system.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN
There are one or two remarks I desire to make by way of comment on the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary. I am not an educational fanatic. I do not think for a moment that education is a panacea for all the ills in the constitution, and I am quite conscious of the fact that none of our social services, education included, can progress unless we are on sound financial lines. The Estimates, however, do give some indication as to how far educational policy is going to be advanced. I was rather impressed by the figures used by the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans). I have made an analysis of the figures, and, as far as my arithmetic goes, the hon. Member was quite correct. The Estimates provide for an advance of £2,500,000, of which £2,340,000 goes by way of remission of teachers' salaries, which leaves about £112,769 for educational development. I am bound to admit that this does not seem much for educational progress in the coming year. But when the hon. Member said that actually the Board of Education have budgeted for a decrease of £129,000 in grants in respect of expenditure on elementary education other than teachers' salaries, I was quite alarmed.
Many points have been touched upon during the Debate and in the short time allotted to me I propose to mention only three, and that briefly. One, discussed very often to-day, is the question of blacklisted schools. We have sitting on the same bench the President of the Board of Education and the Minister of Health, who has been trying to eradicate slums. If we permit slum schools to continue we are perpetuating the slum mind in children. I want to support the suggestion made by the Noble Lady the Member 130 for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) that we ought to have a time limit in these things. We should have a time limit of five years, in which period we should require all local authorities to get rid of the black-listed schools in their areas. They have had ten years' grace, and if we give them another five years that would not be unreasonable. The very beautiful schools we are putting up on new estates are showing up those schools in very high relief.
There is one other point to which I wish to make reference, and that is the question of reorganisation. The Parliamentary Secretary spoke of something like 60 per cent. of the schools being already reorganised. I am not quite sure whether he meant that they are thoroughly reorganised on the lines conceived by the Hadow Commission, or that included in that 60 per cent. are schools, not reorganised, but merely reshuffled and relabelled. I am rather suspicious about this. If I wanted to make a test of what I call a reorganised school, I should expect to see in each of the upper departments a second language being taught. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will say in how many of these reorganised schools a second language is being taught? I was recently in a school in Alexandria where I saw children of 12 to 14 conversing quite fluently in three different languages. I felt that that was rather a reflection on our own schools.
The Parliamentary Secretary makes some excellent speeches in the country. I read them with very great delight, although sometimes I feel rather like Tantalus—that he is preparing a menu, but we never get the delectable food he puts before us, for it is snatched from our grasp. He often talks about films and wireless in our schools. Somebody has paid a great tribute to the extraneous work done by teachers. It is not for me to follow that, except to say that I very heartily agree, but you are now throwing on to them a new burden. If they are to make the most use of wireless and films in schools—and no one can foresee the utmost possibilities of these things—it must not be left to the teachers or to the children to find the initial cost. That must come out of public funds. I do not know whether the new President is aware of what is done by some local authorities who often have the strange custom of saying, "We only half believe in a thing, 131 and if you will find half the money for, say, a piano, we will find the other half and let you have one, as long as you give it to us."
The same thing is happening about wireless, and will happen about the development of films. In a recent report of an education committee it was stated that the committee had graciously arranged to provide sewing machines for the girls' department, provided that one-half of the cost of these machines came from other sources. If they did not provide the right piano and the right sewing-machine one committee said: "We will give you a label to put on that machine, or piano, saying where it came from." I would like to congratulate the new President. It is very nice to have two targets at which to aim our criticisms in this House, instead of having to wait for one shot to ricochet into another place. I congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on the very optimistic note that ran through his speech, and I hope that in the coming year his optimism will be fully justified.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Captain HEILGERS
Education yields slow dividends, and very often one gets no spectacular benefit, but I do believe it is the best trustee security that this country can have. It is welcome news, therefore, to know that the Board is going in for a policy of expansion and is removing the restrictions contained in Circular 1413. I was rather glad to hear that it was the last President of the Board who had removed the restrictions, because it gives the new President, to whom I should like to join in congratulations, an incentive and an objective, to try to catch up and get ahead of the last President. Even more welcome was the real sympathy that was shown by the Parliamentary Secretary for the rural areas. I come from a county in part of which I can say without boasting the reorganisation of rural schools has been carried out better than in any other part of the country. I believe the Parliamentary Secretary will admit that. The change that it has already had on the community in general is amazing. The whole areas around have come together and have realised that they are much more of a general community. If the children were inspected it would be seen 132 how very different they are from the ordinary, normal, rural school children. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) himself would be enlightened, even if he does come from what he calls "enlightened Wales."
But there are certain flies in the ointment. The first was referred to by the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor). That is the question of building costs, and the question of the 20 per cent. grant for buildings. I would like to draw the attention of the Committee to one particular case, and how it has affected reorganisation in this county. A reorganisation scheme that has taken place has given a saving of £400 a year. The Government are actually saving £240 out of that. The annual charges on the loan are £750 a year and the extra transport £125. Of that extra charge the Government only pay 20 per cent., or £175. The result is, therefore, that the extra burden on the rates is £540 a year and the Government are let off with a saving of £65 a year.
There is another difficulty which we find as regards reorganisation in the rural areas, and that is the question of the quality of the teaching staff. You cannot get away from the fact that teachers are the most vital factor in education, and it is extremely difficult to get teachers with a knowledge of the countryside. I blame the training colleges. They are getting more of the rural bias, but they are not teaching prospective teachers in anything like the right way to enable them to take their place in these senior schools in the rural areas. Half the difficulty is this: There are four separate Burnham scales at the moment, and the lower scales are allocated to the country areas. Although some of the teachers return to their own districts, the tendency is for the best teachers to go to the urban areas. I know that representatives from my district, when they have gone to the training colleges to try to get suitable teachers and specialised teachers for handiwork and domestic science and so forth, have found it extremely difficult to get anything other than the average teacher to volunteer to go to the country. The others reserve themselves for the urban areas. If there were fewer scales it would mean a burden 133 possibly on the poor counties, and we would have to pay more for our teachers. On the other hand in the near future there is the prospect of a decline in the school population and a consequent decline in the expenses of the county.
As my time is short I turn now rather quickly to the other side of education, of which I have particularly familiar knowledge, and that is the medical side. I have had experience for a good many years as chairman of the county medical inspection committee, and there are one or two points that I wish to raise. First I would endorse what the Parliamentary Secretary said, that as far as we in the rural areas are concerned malnutrition does not mean starvation and has no connection with starvation. It is far more common in families which I should say are up to the average in income than in those families that are below the average. The trouble in these cases is that you cannot get the tired housewife to give a child the right food. You can feed the children in school, and that is an excellent thing to do, but that does not solve the problem altogether. After all, these children have their other meals at home, and they are away from school during the holiday time.
In my own county we have tried rather a useful thing, however. We have got into touch with the women's institutes, and they have co-operated extremely well with the medical officers. In consequence, a great deal of knowledge of right feeding is being disseminated to parents of children who are malnourished to-day. Of course in the senior schools we are teaching domestic science, and as a result we shall get a great improvement in the knowledge of the generation of mothers to come. I beg the President of the Board not to make too rigid rules, or allow county medical officers to be too rigid about the pasteurisation of milk. We have got an accredited milk scheme now. The milk is clean milk. At the Essex Show last week I saw bottles of accredited grade "A" milk with two inches of cream on it, and pasteurised milk with hardly any cream on it at all. In Grade "A" milk you are giving children food value which will counteract any bacteria. In many cases pasteurised milk in this country is imperfectly pasteurised, and if it is not pasteurised properly the bacteria only multiply.
134 Another matter which has come to my knowledge on the medical side is the lack of special schools. I ask the President to look into that matter. There are only 21,000 children in special boarding schools. We in the poor counties cannot afford to have special schools of our own, and when we write to get children into the special schools there are enormous delays. There is another problem, that of the semi-mentally defective who hinders our schools and cannot be sent to special schools. Finally, there is dental treatment. I was very glad indeed to see in the Board of Education's report last year that attention was drawn to the way in which dental treatment was lagging behind compared with the rest of the medical inspection service. In connection with dental treatment I wish to pay a tribute to the teachers. It was another vexatious service inflicted upon them, but they have risen to the occasion, as they did in the case of milk, and they are doing good work. It is not the teachers who are the trouble to-day in connection with dental treatment; it is the parents. If only we can get greater influence brought to bear on the parents a change could be brought about. We have tried it in our own county, but we want something done directly from the Board of Education, preferably through the local education authorities. Some more pressure must be brought to bear. In our own county the acceptances of dental treatment are just under 50 per cent., and judging from what is shown in the Board's report for the whole of England, that is quite a high average. It is an important question. In my own county last year at least 300 children were found to be suffering from sepsis.
I ask the President, in conclusion, to bear in mind that we poor counties cannot do a great deal towards reorganisation. As the Parliamentary Secretary says, there is far more scope than was ever realised for reorganisation in the country districts. We are getting fresh problems, mechanical problems, problems of electricity and motor haulage; agriculture is becoming scientific and there are problems of marketing. All these things can be taught in the schools, but we can do it only if we get better building grants and more financial assistance. In my own county a penny rate brings in just over £1,000 a year. That is to be compared 135 with counties where a penny rate brings in many thousands. As far as education is concerned we ought to be counted as a distressed area and special consideration should be given to our case.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I do not propose to follow the last speaker on the subject of the incidence of rates, as far as it is affected by this education service, but I agree with him that it is a subject of first importance, not only to areas like his own, but to areas like mine which are depressed areas and which have to bear special burdens on that account. Like other speakers 1 welcome the advent of the new Minister of Education to our discussions. I know that the subject is not a new one to him. I, like others, had great pleasure in reading a book which he wrote some years ago upon the subject of adult education, and I can only say that after reading that book I am encouraged in the belief that we are going to find in the right hon. Gentleman a great friend of that side of our education service. The right hon. Gentleman has followed Lord Halifax, who has transferred his affections from education to war. The Noble Lord has dropped the pen and taken up the sword, apparently. Having had experience of how to save for four years, he has now embarked on experience of how to spend, and I have no doubt he will find a free Chancellor of the Exchequer at his disposal, whereas he found a somewhat parsimonious one in connection with education.
I would like to say, too, that I congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on the very excellent statement which he made this afternoon. I was intrigued by one single fact in the speech—that having discussed the Estimates for some time, he turned for inspiration to Labour pamphlets. Last year it was the pamphlet entitled, "Full Steam Ahead," that attracted him. Apparently he has found "Full Steam Ahead" a little too exciting, and he has turned this year to the consideration of other Labour pamphlets. I wish I could see results more commensurate with his intellectual efforts and his studies, but perhaps if he perseveres we may yet find him make quite a good Minister for Education even from a Labour point of view.
136 I wish to treat this subject in a chronological way and I begin with the question of the nursery schools. The hon. Gentleman did not, I think, give us the exact number of nursery schools now in existence. He mentioned that a certain number had been approved and that a certain number were still under consideration, but he did not give us the actual number in existence, and it would be interesting to know what that number is. On 21st November, 1930, when I occupied the position which the hon. Gentleman occupies now I made a speech at the Nursery School Conference in which I said:There are now 40 nursery schools which have received recognition. Plans for 12 new schools have been approved. Fifteen proposals are at present before the Board and in addition, in the programmes of the three years 1930–1933, 33 local education authorities have included proposals for 44 nursery schools.That represented a substantial figure, but I find that for 1935 the number of recognised nursery schools is only 62. The number has risen from 46 in 1931 to 62 in 1935. I am not making a party point of this but an educational point and I do so for this reason. I feel that there is a vast amount to be said for the nursery schools, not only from the educational point of view but from the physical point of view, and I would quote upon this point, not a partisan but the distinguished officer of the Board to whom the Parliamentary Secretary earlier paid such a proper and appropriate tribute. Sir George Newman, to whom we are all deeply indebted for his reports, has stated:There is in existence no means of organising preventive measures for the child under five comparable to the school medical service for the children over five … Since 1918, the maternity and child welfare movement, whether municipal or voluntary, has been assiduous and progressive, and, as regards the infants under one year of age, it has produced as we all know, triumphant results.These results are, in my judgment, equally attainable if we can only develop our nursery school system to a greater degree throughout the country than we have done up to the present. Granting, if you like, that there has been a period of stringency—I do not argue that point at the moment—the time has now come when we might appropriately develop this very necessary service. May I say in this connection that I am not pleading 137 for elaborate buildings. I have always spoken against the building of elaborate and ornate structures for our nursery schools. Naturally one likes to see an attractive school where it can be provided but an elaborate building is not essential. The essential is the provision for some place where these children can have decent treatment and supervision, and in connection with nursery schools I would emphasise the word "nursery," rather than the word "school."
Let me turn now to the question of the primary school. I do not know the evidence to which my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) was referring, but I do not doubt him when he says that he has evidence in his possession that in some areas there is a tendency to merge the infant department in the junior department. I confess that this is the first I have heard of any such proposal and I should greatly deplore it. It would be an injustice to a child who ordinarily would be placed in the infant department, to be merged into an organisation which covered the whole age range from five years to 11 years. It was, I think, the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) who referred to the astounding nature of the work which is being done in our infant schools to-day. Hon. Members who have not been brought into direct contact with our educational system in recent years will find that a revolution has taken place in the work of the infant schools and I am bound to say that that has been largely due to the influence of Miss Margaret Macmillan and her sister Rachel, and of Dr. Montessori. That influence has been beyond all possibility of computation and the revolution achieved is one which we all welcome.
On the question of reorganisation I confess that I am a little unhappy. We get reports from time to time stating that certain reorganisation is being carried out here and there and elsewhere and I often wonder to what extent this reorganisation is worth while or what purpose it is serving. The transference of children from one school to another is not reorganisation. I know that there is a sort of reorganisation which is possible merely for the purpose of economy and if you can achieve it, well and good, but the real purpose of reorganisation, as I understood from the 138 Hadow Report, is to secure better education and if we are merely transferring children from one school to another merely to achieve economy we are failing in the real purpose of reorganisation. I am not happy about the degree of reorganisation that has taken place and I am particularly unhappy about the nature of that reorganisation which has taken place.
I have spoken so frequently in these education debates and elsewhere about the two types of children, the child who is culturally inclined and the child who is vocationally inclined, the practically minded child and the academically minded child that I hesitate to say more about the subject to-night. But I am at one with those who take the view that we might visualise the post-primary stage of education somewhat differently from the manner in which we visualise it at present. I do not accept for myself—though I do not pledge everybody to my view—the idea that we ought to have secondary schools for certain types of children and central schools for other types. I am alarmed lest we develop in the minds of the children, unwittingly perhaps, the idea that the central school is a second-rate thing as compared with the secondary school. I am rather enamoured of the idea of the multiple bias school. I know that it is a little late now to propound that proposal. I know that it is necessary to have a fairly large population before it can be carried into effect. But if it could be done, even now, wherever reorganisation has not yet been completed, I would urge that it should be tried in some part of the country where it would be appropriate.
I refer to the scheme of having one school at which all children of 11 plus will attend, a school so big that both the practically minded children and the academically minded children will go in through the same portals, a school which will provide a curriculum for the one and a curriculum for the other under the same roof, so that the child who is practically minded shall not feel that he has been shoved into some place less meritorious educationally than that into which the academically minded child has been put. I am very anxious that handicraft teaching and that kind of thing shall not be regarded in this country as a kind of Cinderella among the educational services. I am all in favour of 139 getting specialist teachers for certain subjects, but there is a danger in having purely peripatetic teachers, because if you have teachers of that sort, they do not belong to the staff, or they are not regarded as belonging to the staff. They are something apart from the staff, and unfortunately the service which they perform comes as a consequence to possess a merit inferior to the merit of the service performed by other teachers. I know this is not a new thing to say, but it is worth repeating. I would like to see some education authority take its courage in both hands and appoint a handicraft teacher at the head of a school, so as to show that they regard handicrafts as just as important from an educational point of view as academic teaching.
I was very glad—I am somewhat of a fanatic in this, I am afraid—to hear the Parliamentary Secretary make the reference that he did to the teaching of art in schools. I do not pretend that I am a student of art, and I am certainly not a critic of art. I am much interested in art, but I confess that I am unable to appreciate what makes an old master an old master, largely because I have never had the opportunity of learning what are the elements of excellence in art. There are lots of people who bluff themselves and each other into the belief that they know what an old master is. We walk through a museum, and we all say, "How marvellous." There never was such organised leg-pulling in life as this going through a museum and everyone looking so wise and trying to make out that they understand the beauty of art, when they do not at all. It is merely fashionable. But we ought to understand it; we ought to know what is the beauty of a painting or other work of art, and therefore we ought not to despise the gift that a child has, even though it be the gift of doing something with its hands, whether in painting or in anything else.
Similarly with music. Why should our children not have an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the best in music? After all, if we listen to our boys in the streets, they do not whistle the best of the operas as a rule.
§ Mr. JONES
I forget what title to give the Noble Lord, so I will say the 140 right hon. Member for Hastings, for lack of a better term. He may be acquainted with more enlightened people in Hastings, but, being of a people who are fairly musical, I say that most of the boys in the streets of my constituency whistle the latest music hall songs. But why should they not be acquainted with the best in music? May I say in passing that for my part I consider that the work that men like Robert Meyer are doing in the Central Hall in London on Saturday mornings is a tremendous contribution to the education of our children in this big city, but it ought to be spread all over the country, and the Board of Education ought to be encouraging that to the utmost possible extent.
If I may turn to another matter, there has been a discussion this evening about the physical condition of children. There are people who are very unhappy indeed about the physical condition of children in the distressed areas. I believe I am right in saying that some distinguished dectors have examined this thing recently and have produced a report, and that those who know its contents are very alarmed at the condition of things. I know that the Board of Education takes a very strong legalistic view, or what it, regards as a legalistic view, and yet, on the other hand, its point of view has been challenged, whether it had the right to lay down what it did lay down in Circular 1437. However, leaving that alone for the moment, let me quote the medical view, and here again I quote from the Chief Medical Officer's Report:Malnutrition is not a condition with well defined symptoms, and this makes its recognition difficult when the degree of malnutrition is not great. Gross malnutrition is not difficult to recognise, but there are degrees in which the quantitative decline from the normal is slight, without any obvious specific characters easy of recogntion,and so on. There is no wonder, there fore, that the British Medical Association carried a resolution recently to this effectThat the Association welcomes proposals for improving the nutrition of school children by the provision of daily rations of milk at modified prices.That, while it is desirable that all children receiving milk or meals free of charge should be under medical supervision and that all children found at medical inspections or surveys to be of subnormal nutrition should be eligible for free milk or meals on medical recommendation if the parents are unable to defray the cost, the 141 Association is of opinion that the onus should not be placed upon a medical officer of determining in every case that a scholar is presenting evidence of subnormal nutrition before free milk or meals is provided.That shows that it is very important that we should not insist too exclusively upon a medical certificate in every case before a child is relieved or presented with milk or meals. But these are the words in the Board's own Circular:and for this purpose they (that is, the Board) would regard it as proper that children should be selected who show any symptom, however slight, of subnormal nutrition.I want to say one word upon the question of equality of opportunity in education. I believe that the Parliamentary Secretary does not take our view that his Government's policy has been in the direction of being somewhat prejudicial to the interests of the poor. I have never argued against the simple principle that it is right to make those who can afford it pay, so long as you are sure that you have ample places in your secondary schools for all who want to go there, but you have not got them now, and the effect of imposing fees has been to place a premium in favour of the rich man's child as against the poor man's child.
§ Lord E. PERCY indicated dissent.
§ Mr. JONES
You do not. If you do keep the rich man's child out, you are even more certain to keep the poor man's child out. If a condition of entrance is the payment of a fee, then clearly the poor man's child is bound to suffer more than the rich man's child. As a matter of fact, there appeared in the "Sociological Review" of April of this year a very interesting article by two people—I believe they are students of the University of London—whose names are J. L. Gray and Pearl Moshinsky. These two people made an inquiry into the question of the general problem of ability and opportunity in education. They say:The proportion of individuals of elementary school origin who are afforded the opportunity of a secondary school education at the expense of the State was found to be 6.6 per cent. The proportion of such 142 individuals who normally proceed to secondary schools as fee-payers is 3.9 per cent. If we take the level of ability attained by approximately 50 per cent. of children who are educated at their parents' expense, then approximately 25 per cent. of pupils educated at the expense of the State attained the same level. When account is taken of the unequal size of these two social groups, it is found that the numerical contribution at this level of ability of the last-named group amounts to 80 per cent. of the total. Of these only a little more than a quarter have the opportunity of proceeding as free pupils to secondary schools.In other words, they say, taking children of equally high ability, seven fee-paying pupils will receive a higher education for every one free pupil. Conversely, if we consider children who fall below the selected level of ability, for every one free pupil who is afforded the opportunity of a higher education, there are 162 fee-paying pupils who enjoy the same advantages.
My remedy is this: Secondary education ought to be as free as elementary education. I know of no educational reason whatever that justifies a fee in one case and not in the other. But I must not detain the Committee any longer, and I apologise to my right hon. Friend for having kept him so long. I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has found it possible to encourage, as he has done to-night, the provision of further technical education. These three functions, elementary, secondary and technical education, are, in my judgment, the only instruments that can equip the future citizens of this land in the great race that lies ahead of them with the children of other lands.
§ 10.9 p.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS ACLAND
We in this part of the Committee are very glad that we asked for this subject to be brought on to-night in the first days of the formation of the new Government if only for the fact that we have had one very interesting speech from the Parliamentary Secretary, and we hope to have another from the President of the Board of Education. The Debate on the whole has been at a high level, and if one thing has been more remarkable than another it is the way in which we have all referred to the question of the raising of the school-leaving age without putting ourselves out of order. We have been told that before that could be done the question of the two types of schools 143 and the religious difficulty would have to be faced and met. There is, of course, the special position we all realise which is taken up by the Roman Catholic Church. I, personally, happen to disagree with it, I suppose, as much as any Member of the House, but I do not question the right of others to hold contrary opinions as strongly as my own. That church does not take up the position of opposing all reform or progress as they seem to us to do on some matters like divorce reform. They have always been willing to have advance made if their special position could be met, and as between the alternative of their resistance—we all know how strong that resistance could be in the House and in the country—and the alternative of meeting their position by special temporary means, I, personally, am definitely in favour of the latter, even though it would be a difficult thing to agree upon. I hope that the possibility of a means of meeting that special position will be carefully explored.
I agree with what has been said in regard to the general discussions that we hope have been going on. I am quite sure that the Government will find, if they have not already found, more good will, a more real attempt to find a settlement, than has ever been found in this almost age-long controversy. The fact that such progress has been made in adopting agreed syllabuses which are not only used in council but in non-provided schools makes things easier. It seemed to me to be a good augury when I saw that the Archbishop of York and Lord Halifax had agreed that the syllabuses worked out for the provided schools were perfectly suitable to be used in the church schools.
The raising of the school-leaving age when it comes will depend on the completion of the Hadow scheme of reorganisation. The two things are very much interlocked. I am one of those who believe that the object of education is to create in children the desire to use, and to enable them to use, their minds and their powers of taste and appreciation, and all the other qualities they have, and to go on using these qualities after they have left school. I happened to be reading the reports which Matthew Arnold made when an inspector of elementary schools about 70 years ago. 144 As he said, quoting Bishop Butler, the imparting of information is the least part of education. That is true. If we want to give education in the senior school as it ought to be done we must deal with the problem more specifically.
On the question of providing senior schools, I got a little at cross purposes last year with the Parliamentary Secretary by saying that I thought the Board were approving certain schemes of building senior schools only in certain cases if certain things applied, such as the need of a growing population or the need for removing black-listed schools. The Parliamentary Secretary gave the impression that that was too limited an interpretation of the Board's position last year. I do not want to revive that controversy, but to-day he has made it clear that these restrictions, whatever they were, did not apply any more. The circular remains, but the restrictions on building senior schools have been removed. That was a most welcome announcement. I agree with what was said by an hon. Member who preceded me that the mere fact of having a senior school of itself signifies little; it depends on whether there is a real change of atmosphere and a real development of educational opportunities. If children up to 11 can go for the first time in their lives to a school built for educational purposes instead of to a school which is like a church, as so many old-fashioned schools are, it makes a change in their whole outlook, and they can be given a real education for practically the first time. Therefore, the Parliamentary Secretary's statement about the removal of restrictions was very welcome. I hope that that is not all that is to be said or done about it. Much more than the mere announcement is wanted if we are really to get a move on again. There are on almost every education authority enemies, either open or disguised, of education, and when once a certain policy has been cut off, as the policy of developing senior schools was cut off when the economy cuts were made, it is difficult to get steam up again. If the only announcement we are to have is that restrictions are to be removed, it will be very difficult to get going again.
I want to put this specific point to the President: Will the Board of Education do all it can to get a move on with regard to the completion of the 145 senior school system? With regard to other matters, the Parliamentary Secretary was much clearer than he was about that. With regard to the desired improvement in technical institutes, he said that the Board would not fail to urge improvement. Will the Board also not fail to urge local authorities to continue this development of the senior schools where it was dropped when the economy cuts were made? That leads to the other question whether the Board will restore—for a period, at any rate, so as to make it worth while for the authorities to put on a spurt—the building grants to what they were before. We must know a little more definitely what the new policy is to be in place of having a mere announcement that restrictions are removed. I cannot emphasise too clearly the point of view of a chairman of a rural education authority that as long as we have in the rural districts a large number of small village and hamlet schools with one teacher to do all the teaching of all the children from 8 to 14 years of age we cannot possibly add another year to the school-leaving age. The thing is hopeless. Already teachers have extraordinary difficulties and they perform daily miracles, and we could not burden them with the task of dealing with boys and girls, already big enough and difficult enough at 14, for another year.
Therefore, the question of reorganisation is vital if the other proposal is really to be faced. It sometimes seems to me that the position of the Board on this matter has been, perhaps necessarily, rather illogical. The Board's views as to accommodation and staffs for junior and senior schools have been developing. Wherever possible the Board want junior schools to have two acres of ground, though they used to be satisfied with three-quarters of an acre, and senior schools to have three or four or five acres. I welcome that, I think that is excellent, and many of us do all we can to push that view. It means that the Board realise, as the Parliamentary Secretary said to-day, the importance of giving more attention to the physical side of education, to organised games and all the rest of it. Let me say, in parenthesis, that any one who has had a chance of seeing the organised exercises and physical training displays carried out by boys and girls on the new lines, which 146 I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary have been very largely the result of the work of physical training organisers, trained in the new methods—
§ Sir F. ACLAND
No, I am afraid that in this matter the hon. Member is not quite up-to-date. If you were to assemble the ordinary teachers in my county they would say that without the services and without the training of the physical training organisers they would not have been able to bring their methods to anything like the present pitch of precision. [Interruption.] I am limited for time. I really do keep up-to-date and in touch with my schools, and I am not so sure of the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove). Anyone who has seen those displays will have new ideas as to the keenness and precision and beauty with which physical training can be performed. There is another point in connection with this reorganisation. We have made progress, of course, as regards the size of classes. In the appendix to those reports of Matthew Arnold which I was reading last night I came across a circular issued by the Committee of the Privy Council on Education, which was the education authority in the old days—in 1862, I think. It announced an increase of grant in the form of an extra 1s. 4d. given for each pass in reading, writing or arithmetic—payment by results. This was to be given to schools which, among other things, had one assistant teacher for every 80 children, not counting the first 25 children. The extra grant was given, therefore, to schools which had 105 children and two teachers, or which had 185 children and three teachers.
We have got a very long way beyond that in the direction of getting classes reasonably small, but according to the latest report of the Board of Education—although there has been some progress since then—there are still some 6,000 classes of over 50 children. I suggest that in a hamlet or village school, where one teacher has to teach boys and girls from 8 to 14 all their subjects, all in one class, that a class of 30 or 35 up to 40 is an overcrowded class, and that the reasonable way to tackle the matter is to proceed with reorganisation and allow the seniors to be moved on.
147 I have just time for three further small points. First as to the building regulations which were issued in 1914 and were reprinted in 1934: Will the Board consider whether they might not be reprinted and brought up to date? At the present time, though the inspectors of the Board are extremely helpful, we not infrequently have waste of time in my own county and in others, because the architectural staff are uncertain as to what accommodation is likely to be finally approval by the Board. I suppose architects exist to have their plans altered, but it does not rest there. The revisions which take place by the Board mean revisions of the Estimates, and that upsets the confidence with which the finance committee of the county council and the county council themselves regard the policy of the Education Department. It makes them inclined to say that if the Education Department cannot put forward definite estimates the best thing is to refuse any money at all. That does harm to education.
I quite agree with regard to broadcasting. I am doing a broadcast talk myself to schools to-morrow afternoon, for which I get a reasonable remuneration, and therefore, from my point of view, the more that is developed the more I shall be pleased. Anybody who goes into the houses of a lot of people must have realised the appalling state of the taste—or indeed the entire absence of taste—acquired during Victorian and post-Victorian times with regard to everything connected with art—pictures, ornaments and the general decoration of houses. I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that the way to deal with that is primarily to teach children to create for themselves, rather than to copy what other people have created, but a stage comes when children can learn by seeing what other people have done. I know what can be done by loan collections from the Royal College of Art to the schools of art, and I believe that that system can be extended in connection with our ordinary schools. Photographic reproduction in line and in colour is now so simple that the Board of Education might arrange to circulate, for example, from the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge, pictures of what can be done by artists with their pen, or by Holbein with his pencil, and in simple wash by the early English 148 colourists. If that could be done on some system and sent round to the schools to show what people can do by perfectly simple means, it would have a great effect upon taste and upon the appreciation of art throughout our population.
My time is up. I have had to crowd in a number of miscellaneous points at the end, but they only show how very stimulating was the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary. We hope very much that some of his enthusiasm and idealism will descend to his chief, and that we shall have more, not only of those splendid and eloquent words to which we have become accustomed from the Parliamentary Secretary whenever he comes, as he does so generously, to speak on educational occasions in the country, but deeds following upon the words, when the policy of the President gets to work.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ Mr. STANLEY
The whole ground was so fully covered by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary in the speech with which he opened the Debate, that I feel that a great deal of my task has already been done. In the four years during which he has occupied his present position at the Board of Education, my hon. Friend has won the respect of everybody connected with educational work for his great experience, as well as for the great interest which he has always taken in this subject. I must confess that to me education Debates are no new experience. For five years I sat silent—I had almost said, suffered in silence—behind my Noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) during these Debates. This is not the first time that I have heard the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) speaking about the Government's education policy more in sorrow than in anger, or the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) speaking about the same policy more in anger than in sorrow. I have had the privilege before of hearing the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), in his benevolent way, scattering broadcast the mildest of censure and the faintest of praise.
The hon. Baronet referred me rather unexpectedly to a speech on education which I once made in this House. I had immediate search made to find out whether it was a speech of which I need 149 be ashamed, and I am reassured to find I need not. He said—I think paraphrasing my words—that I then complained that the Debates on the Education Estimates were usually a bore, that they dealt too much with facts and figures. All I can say is that the effect of my speech appears to have been astounding, because I think that all who have sat through the Debate this afternoon will agree that we have had a most interesting Debate, and that nearly all the speakers, although necessarily touching on questions of detail for specific purposes, have really dealt with the fundamental and interesting sides of education. It is obviously impossible in the time at my disposal to answer all the many questions, some of them of an extremely technical nature, which have been raised during the Debate, but I propose to answer some of them, I will not say more important, but some of the questions which have been more generally raised, and I will, of course, have a careful study made of the Debate and will answer on a subsequent occasion the specific points which have been raised by hon. Members.
The hon. Member for South West Bethnal Green, to whom, first of all, I should like to tender my thanks for the generous references he made to myself, and to assure him that I am not unmindful of the equal generosity that he showed me not many months ago in a more difficult situation, said that he was sorry I had left the Ministry of Labour. It may be that in that I do not disagree with him, but he will remember, of course, that there is a divinity that shapes our ends, and I can only assure him and the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans) that I do regard my present position as one of great responsibility and great opportunity, and that, in coming back to education, I am returning to what was my first love. The hon. Member for Caerphilly referred to a book in which I once took some part, dealing with adult education. For the moment it achieved a spurious reputation and, I am afraid, a spurious sale, because of its title. It happened to be published in the year 1921, when, as hon. Members will recollect, we were playing a series of disastrous test matches against Australia, and the title of the book was "The Way Out." I was credibly assured that a considerable number of people 150 bought it under the impression that it dealt with the English batting.
The hon. Baronet raised, as many other speakers during the course of the Debate have done, the question of re-organisation, and, of course, he put his finger on one of the chief defects which stands in the way of this re-organisation, and that is the question of the denominational schoool. I do not want to-night—and I am sure that the Committee would not expect it of me so soon after my appointment to this office—to enter into the details of a question as difficult, as thorny and as long in solution as perhaps any which has faced administrators in this country. But I must say that I do derive a certain encouragement from the way in which this topic has been referred to in Committee this afternoon. There has, I think, been general agreement among people representing different points of view that the time has come to appeal for co-operation and for sinking as far as possible all differences and placing the interests of the children, and the interests, therefore, of educational progress in front of everything else. I agree that this re-organisation, if it be worth anything at all, must not be merely a re-organisation in form, merely a shifting of children from one small school to another and bigger school, but must mean a real re-organisation of content as well as situation of education.
My hon. Friend also asked what was the attitude of the Board to the authorities who sought to raise the school-leaving age to 15. During the recent period a certain number of these applications have been made to the Board. I understand that since this Government came into power, by-laws have been approved in six areas, in two areas they are on the point of approval, two others are under consideration, and there have been refusals in the case of four areas. The reasons why the applications have been refused in those cases are not because of any question of principle but because of the facts of the case, and that for some reason or other it was not considered that the educational circumstances, the sufficiency of buildings and things of that kind, justified the application of the by-law at that moment. Another consideration to be taken into account is that raised by my bon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Mr. Leckie) of the difficulty of applying the by-law in 151 one locality and the subsequent influx of juveniles from neighbouring areas to which the by-law has not been applied.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon, in the course of his speech, challenged the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary and maintained that no advance had been made in education during the year. He said he was testing it by expansion, by new services and by money spent, and then proceeded to test it by none of those things at all, but by what some gentleman, the president of some association, happened to have said at some conference, at some seaside resort, at some time in the past week. He then made great play with what he was pleased to term the abolition of the free secondary school. He was, of course, technically right. The probability is that, although in theory it is still possible for a school to have 100 per cent. free places, probably no school has got 100 per cent. of free places. The impression he gave, unintentionally, of course, was not only that the Government had abolished free secondary schools, but that they had abolished free secondary education altogether. The Parliamentary Secretary made it quite clear that in fact the reverse was the case, and that between March, 1933, and October, 1934, there were 8,000 more free places in the secondary schools. The hon. Member says that 15,000 more people are paying fees, but many of those fees are on a very small scale. When he says that they are paying fees, it must be stated that they do not pay all the fees. At any rate, that does not detract from the fact that 8,000 more children are getting free secondary education, and it seems to me that the number of boys and girls who get free secondary education is rather more important than the number of schools called free secondary schools.
The hon. Member then referred to the infant schools, and proceeded on the assumption that the answer to a question of which he said he did not know the answer, was in the affirmative. He asked whether the Board was in favour of the absorption of infant schools. I can give him a categorical denial. We are not in favour of the absorption of infant schools in junior schools, although it is obvious, and it may become increasingly so in the future, that in the situation created by the rapid decline of 152 the school population there may be areas and there may be particular schools where it would be impossible to continue on the existing basis. Several hon. Members have made the suggestion that this diminishing use of the infant school might help to provide further opportunities for nursery schools. That is a suggestion I will look into, but it seems to me at the moment that there is an obvious objection to trying to run a bit of a nursery school because it happens that there is a bit of a place for one in an infants' school. It is a question whether you can run two together.
The hon. Member went on to complain of the lack of progress in the matter of nursery schools, but if he had listened to the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary he would have heard of the number that we have approved and of our general attitude towards nursery schools, and the fact that only a very few have been refused, and those on special grounds. He quoted what the President of the Association of Education Committees had said about the lack of initiative and advance by the Government, but he did not quote anything that the President of the Association of Education Committees might very properly have said about the lack of initiative on the part of education committees in dealing with nursery schools. He was unable to make any case that those education committees are putting up proposals that we are turning down.
§ Mr. STANLEY
Sixty-one, either in existence or approved and another six on the point of approval. The hon. Member for Aberavon then turned to the interesting question of examinations. I will not attempt to answer the conundrums which he read out to me from the paper, because I have never learned Welsh arithmetic. But I agree that the question of examinations as a whole is one which really deserves the most careful consideration of all concerned. On the one hand, I think it is quite clear that you cannot count in every circumstance on examinations being the best test of the ability of the examinee. If the Committee will allow me I should like to give a personal experience. At the conclusion of the War I wanted to be called to the Bar and I had to pass the final legal 153 examination. Thanks to the kindness of a friend I went to a legal gentleman who made a practice of cramming students for this examination. He gave me in a series of notes an excellent account of what I might be asked in the course of the examination. During the course of these notes a mysterious character appeared, usually in somewhat shady circumstances, under the name of "Solor." It was not until after I had taken the examination and passed it that I discovered that "Solor" was a short form for "solicitor."
On the other hand, I think hon. Members will agree that, notwithstanding all the defects of the examination system it is probably the only system which can give the same standard test of ability, and that if it is left in some way to personal determination, whether by a teacher or by a travelling examiner, you will not get uniformity of standard. There is an obvious temptation to some form of favouritism or prejudice which the examination system does not permit. I certainly think that the effect of examinations on home work should be examined. As far back as last September, the Board were already inquiring into the question of home work. A mass of statistics have been collected, and we are proceeding to draw conclusions from them which will be embodied in the form of a report.
Many other interesting questions have been raised. The hon. Member for St. Helens (Captain Spencer)asked about day continuation schools. There is no change to report. There has been some slight increase in the way employers have responded to the appeal made to them to release their employés for further education. In 1933 the number of such releases was 28,000 as against 26,000 in 1932. The hon. Member for the Welsh Universities asked several questions, one with regard to the report on private schools. This will require legislation to put into effect, which is obviously impossible during the course of the present Session, but I am considering the report on its merits. He also asked a question about partially blind children which I will certainly look into.
Perhaps in the few minutes which remain the Committee will pardon me if I leave for a moment the task of answering questions however interesting and deal in a few general remarks with the task which 154 lies before me. With regard to school buildings, that is a, subject on which a good deal has been said during the course of the Debate, but I am afraid there is not much time left to follow it up. I should like to say something about the curriculum, about the content of education. Perhaps nothing would have surprised the educationists of the old days more than to have heard the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to-day, not so much what he said as the vast variety of subjects which he found it necessary to touch upon in order to give a picture of modern education. How very far we have got from the old Victorian concept of education as book learning, something which was divorced from any contact with life, something which really had nothing to do with life at all. It is this which has caused some people who have got their education in the school of life—hard and irregular as it is that is sometimes not a bad education in itself—almost to despise the new educational standards being set up. I think there is nothing so remarkable as the development in the past years of the side of education which is not only books but which is life. The whole of our system of public education is beginning to acquire some of the advantages which before were the perquisites of public school education. The great thing about public school education was that education did not stop when you shut the classroom door, it still went on in the form of organised games, organised training, school concerts, school dramatic societies—and in a hundred and one forms of co-operative school activity which went on in your leisure time. Those best features of public school life are now rapidly becoming essential features of our public educational system. You now have school journeys and school camps, and some teachers, I believe, even take children to political meetings—I do not know whether to show them an example to be followed or a warning to be avoided.
Even more notable is the new importance being attached in the educational world to general reading. Most of us had the advantage when we were educated of coming from and living in houses where books were a matter of course; where people read books all round and talked about books; and where, therefore, our own reading became no burden or trial 155 but was just as simple and natural as breathing or eating. That seems to me almost the most important function of education. It is no good teaching people just to read unless you leave them with a taste for reading. It is no good teaching them just to write unless you teach them to express themselves in their letters. It is no good teaching them even to do arithmetic unless you can also teach them to adapt it to ordinary everyday problems. I think the fact that in so many schools now you do find an effort being made to collect a school library, not only of educational books but of general literature, shows how much that idea is gaining ground. All these new developments have made great new demands upon the teachers, and it is only right that we should pay a tribute to the energy and enthusiasm with which they have responded to the demands made upon them. I am glad that it has fallen to my lot to come to this office when the two problems of superannuation and the economy cuts in salaries have been solved, and when those difficulties, therefore, have been removed.
I would like to make one further point on the question of rural education. I happen to have been for many years a member of a local education authority in a very rural area. I expect that my experience has been very much the same as that of other people. We saw a great deal of efficiency and a great deal of enthusiasm, with everybody trying very hard, but none of us was quite satisfied that we were really getting in the country districts the results which we should like to see from education. It is not that people who are born in the country need education which is not as good as that needed by people born in the towns, but they need something a bit different. They need something which is going to teach them not only how they can make a living in the country but how they can keep interested in the country. We want an education that will teach them the dignity of country life, and awaken them to the interests of country life, an education that will relate their biology to the birds they see, their botany to the flowers that grow. We must do something in that way to enable them to gain an 156 education which, as I believe any education worthy of the name will do, will teach them to appraise at their true value the meritorious and spurious attractions of the town. The need for a special type of education suited to rural needs has so far been recognised that the Board has appointed a special staff inspector for the purpose of visiting rural schools only, and of seeing what we can do upon these lines.
In conclusion I would say, in response to the appeal of my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Wales, that as far as it lies within me to make anything, as he said, of the job which I now hold, he can count on me to do it, because I do feel that there is nothing more important in life than this question of education. Education has to me a threefold appeal. First of all, there is its effect on a man as an individual, especially in directing his use of leisure. The future is going to be a future of leisure, in which people will have more and more leisure time to spend. What we want is that they should be able to spend the time wisely, and be able to spend it without spending money. We should teach them to obtain the pleasures of their leisure subjectively instead of objectively, and to use their time themselves instead of using it by paying other people to do something for them. Secondly, there is, of course, the effect upon man as an economic unit. There is no need to stress the importance of a higher standard of education in an age of competition.
Finally, and most important of all, there is the effect upon the individual as a citizen. In the 60 odd years that we have had compulsory education we have succeeded only in making democracy safe for Edgar Wallace and the popular Press. We are only slowly getting back to linking up book learning with the learning of experience and the teaching of life and making a real education out of it. Of this I am certain—that we who in this House stand for democracy have the most to gain from it. Democracy, I believe, can exist in an uneducated nation. It will survive in an educated one. The only place where it has no chance of existence is in a half-educated one. I hope that in the years to come 157 we shall see continued and steady progress until we reach the ideal before us of an educated nation.
§ Ordered, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—[Captain Margesson.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.158
§ The remaining Orders were read and postponed.