Motion made, and Question proposed.
That a sum, not exceeding £31,361,959, he granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending of the 31st day of March, 1938, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Education, and of the various Establishments connected therewith, including sundry Grants in Aid, and preliminary expenses in connection with Physical Training."—[Note: £18,000,000 has been voted on account.]
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Kenneth Lindsay)
Owing to the changes which have recently affected some of us on this Bench, I hope the Committee will be a little lenient if on some points of detail I find myself still at sea. I will try to avoid the quarter-deck manner, or even the manner of the pedagogue. If I were able I should like to emulate my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, who always gives me the feeling when he is presenting the Estimates of a vast spending Department that I am a very fortunate shareholder in a highly profitable company.
I am glad to say that even a cursory study of the education figures of last year shows progress in almost every department. Even at a time when Estimates for Defence, as I have reason to know in some detail, under stern necessity have been greatly increased, there is a solid and continuous progress being maintained in one of our greatest social services. It is an interesting reflection that during the whole of this week we shall be having Debates and considering Estimates for one or other of the social services. One very interesting difference leaps to my mind as I compare the Estimates of the Board of Education and those of the Admiralty. In the Admiralty one almost deprecated 46 expenditure on bricks and mortar, because the main necessity was for ships and stores, but in the field of education, apart from the vital expenditure on teachers' salaries, which is a very large proportion of any educational expenditure, the one big block is expenditure on bricks and mortar for schools and on the playing fields which more and more accompany the schools.
The total increase in the Estimates of 1937 over the Estimates of 1936 is £1,296,233. The chief increases are elementary education, £570,000; higher education, £325,000; and pensions for teachers, £293,900. I should like to say a few words about these figures before I proceed to deal further with my main topics. The increase in expenditure on elementary education is due partly to the fact that although the number of teachers has been reduced—a reduction which is by no means proportionate to the large drop in the number of children —their cost is more because of the increase in the average salary, due to the automatic increments, and the improved quality consequent on the substituting of certificated for uncertificated teachers. There is also an increase in other expenditure, partly due to general maintenance charges, and an increase for conveying children arising in the progress of reorganisation. Expenditure on reorganisation itself and development is also up. This is owing to the progress which is being made preparatory to the raising of the school-leaving age. In addition, there is higher expenditure for the special services, because the local education authorities are remedying the various deficiencies in their arrangements. There is also greater expenditure on higher education, particularly secondary and technical. The increase in the cost of pensions for teachers is a continuous growth, and it is an increase which, I am afraid, we shall have to face for some years to come. Then there is a new item for the cost of physical training under the Government's new scheme. This charge can be more appropriately discussed on the Supplementary Estimate which will be necessary later in the Session.
I propose to select three or four aspects of the Board's administration for special description, and I have no doubt that hon. Members will wish to raise other topics, to which I will try to reply during I he course of the Debate. Let me take, 47 first, elementary education. I will quote a few figures which will give point and perspective. Starting with the youngest children, special provision by way of nursery classes for children under five has been made, amounting to 7,500 new places, in 80 different areas, during the past year and a half. I should like to see this figure, and that for nursery schools, increased during the coming year. In regard to playing fields, during the financial year 1935–36, 50 new sites for schools with playing fields attached were approved, and during the past year go such sites were approved. During the same two years III playing fields were acquired for separate schools, and 61 playing fields were acquired to cater for a variety of schools. It is not always possible to get one playing field for a school. In the same world of physical education, 117 gymnasia were approved in elementary schools, and in 96 cases gymnastic apparatus was provided in school halls. The decrease in the black list has not been as large as one would like. This is very largely due to the fact that in particular districts reorganisation has not gone as far as it should, and until the local authorities and managers have decided on their schemes, it is impossible to say how the school buildings should be treated. It is hoped that as schemes of reorganisation are worked out very many of the outstanding black list schools will be cleared away.
During the last five years the number of senior departments in elementary schools has increased by 50 per cent., and within the last year no less than 812 departments have been affected by reorganisation. I cannot say 812 schools, because that would not be strictly accurate, but 812 departments have been affected by reorganisation. Another of the blots of the past which we are gradually wiping out is the large class. Between March, 1933 and 1936, that is in the last three years, the number of classes with more than 40 has fallen from 64,000 to 49,600; that is a decrease of 22 per cent. Put in another way, the number of classes with not more than 40 has risen by 12 per cent.; there has been a decrease in the number of total classes of 2 per cent. and in the number of children of 6 per cent. Let me summarise the position in this way. Build- 48 ing projects, involving an expenditure of £7,500,000, have been approved during the last financial year, and the rate of progress during the last two months is considerably in advance of that figure. In other words, the progress has been more rapid during the last two or three months.
I want to come to one aspect of reorganisation which, I think, will be of interest to hon. Members. I mean reorganisation in the rural areas. The historic document which governs all our activities in this respect is the Hadow Report which laid down the main lines of advance. As is well known, the rate of grant for capital expenditure has been increased from 20 to 50 per cent. About three-quarters of urban school children—if I may call them by that ugly name—are now covered by reorganisation, though I cannot say that in every case the reorganisation is of the same nature. In the case of rural schools, the figure is only one-third, and the reason for the difference is fairly plain. Let me give some further figures. The rural population is scattered and the schools are small. The average size of the school is 84, compared with 227 for urban schools. Some schools have only one class, and in nearly 3,000 schools there are only two classes, yet these classes contain children of all ages from infants to boys and girls of 14 years of age. Again, 2,000 of these schools have less than a total of 40 children, and over 6,000 have less than 100. Nearly three-quarters of these schools are voluntary schools. Here is the problem, and if these figures illustrate the difficulties I think they also show the desirability of reorganisation.
Much has been said about beneficial employment, but I think we must be certain that our education is beneficial as well. This is no reflection on the teachers, but it is an indication of the handicaps under which they have to work. I notice that less than half these rural schools make provision for gardening; there cannot in such small units be provision for workshops, playing fields or gymnasia, and I realise that the building costs have risen, which hits the voluntary school. I realise, also, that the provision of new houses has absorbed very much of the energy of many local authorities, but perhaps even more important is the traditional arrangement of families and 49 villages, the problems of transport and the midday meal. May I add, after my short examination, that I think reorganisation in rural areas seems to present certain stubborn and peculiar problems, but with patience and good will the difficulties, I think, can be overcome. We have to remember that reorganisation exists for the child, and we have to preserve the inestimable advantage of education within the richness and beauty of the countryside, even if it cannot always be the traditional village home. In all this I should like to make it clear that I am not referring to agricultural education, which is a separate and fascinating problem. The intangible advantages of a school in the countryside, whatever the syllabus and subjects, will be agreed by all hon. Members. It is for this reason that great schools like Christ's Hospital, Charter-house and the Greenwich Hospital School have moved out, left the dusty purlieus of London behind and gone into Surrey, Sussex and Suffolk. It is for the same reason that London schools have been making the interesting experiments recently of taking children whole days into the country, with remarkable revelations. Some children had hardly seen a tree. It is for this reason also the annual school camp has become, as it once was for me, the most enjoyable fortnight in the whole year.
I want to pass from this general review to the question of technical education, and to say a few words on this subject, because since the War the face of industry has changed. Sub-division of processes, the conveyor system of production, increased speed—all these have affected the industrial organisation of the country. New industries which were unheard of 10 and 15 years ago have grown up in new areas. There has been a long depression hanging over some of the old heavy industries, now, happily removed, at any rate, in iron and steel, and some parts of the shipbuilding industry, but it has been there for a long time, and in some parts may still be there. But many of these changes have conspired to make technical education even more difficult. In 1935 a survey was made of existing accommodation, and is was revealed that much of it was bad and inadequate. Accordingly, the late President of the Board of Education, now the President of the Board of Trade, initiated a long-term programme of capital 50 development, and I think he mentioned the figure of £12,000,000. In Circular 1444, which lies so much at the door of Present development, two points are stressed—that the provision of technical education was handicapped by unsuitable premises; and, secondly, that provision should be made for a wider scheme covering, not individual authorities, but involving co-operation over larger areas. Last year—I must give a few more figures—new or improved accommodation for technical and art schools was approved of a capital value of £2,250,000. In bricks and mortar it means that last year 14 new technical colleges or extensions were completed, and 26 are in course of building.
As regards the co-operation of local authorities, they are very much alive and have produced a most useful report which the Board of Education have published. I think it is well worth mentioning that advisory councils on technical education exist in Yorkshire, the pioneer, in South Wales, which covers agricultural education as well, and in the West Midlands. Steps were taken in 1936 to start a co-ordinating committee in Manchester, and proposals are now on foot for similar co-operation in the Merseyside area. Every hon. Member will agree that both economy and efficiency, not to mention the interest of the student, dictate in this and so many other administrative questions to-day, that the region is a more appropriate unit than the authority. The results in Yorkshire and the West Midlands, and as they are just beginning in South Wales, have already proved that.
What can I say about the relation of technical education to industry, a very difficult question? Personally, I never cease to marvel that nearly a million students attend evening classes of an almost endless variety. Perhaps never before was there a greater need for trained intelligence, adjustability and resourcefulness, because of the changes in modern industry. As I have said, industry and commerce have undergone these changes. We hear today of a shortage of skilled labour. We heard very much less a few years ago. Apprenticeship—I suppose there are well under 100,000 apprentices in this country at any moment. Probably there are about 75,000, and they start moreover at different ages, some at 14, some at 15 and 51 some at 16 years of age. There are about 30,000 boys and girls in full-time junior technical schools. There is no difficulty about these boys getting jobs. They generally go on to become foremen and to take under-managers' jobs. Again, there are just over 30,000 young people who are released during working hours for educational training, and a quarter of these are in the engineering trades. I am glad to say that that number is increasing.
I should be the first to admit that some employers are giving specific training within their works, others are giving time sitting on these advisory committees, and others have given generous gifts of equipment and the like. But there is room for much more co-operation, much more attention to recruitment, in taking these lads in and training them. The local approach is needed, co-operation between the local employer, the local factory and the local schools. Something may be done on national lines through associations representing great national industries. The Board of Education would be very glad to co-operate in anything on that scale. Personally I would like to see a wide extension of day-time release on a carefully planned basis, and more time for physical recreation, with the consequent reduction in strain and benefit to health. I believe that that is the avenue of solution of this problem.
I would not like to leave this question without making some reference to the relation of industry to art and the art schools. There is a growing recognition of the importance of design as a factor in production. British goods have long held a reputation for sound construction and good workmanship, but modern developments and rapid changes of fashion are making new design and freshness of form more and more important. As the Committee knows, there is a council for art in industry. Those industries where taste and artistic quality matter might well recognise the students who have received the special training of the art schools. If there were time I could give some examples where it has paid them. We want to see improved facilities in our art schools and the best possible service rendered to British manufacturers.
So much for a very brief survey of technical education. I want now to come 52 to the third aspect of this very varied work of the Board, and that is the school medical service and physical training. Last week the Minister of Health standing here described the progress made by the local authorities and doctors in improving the health of the very young and the adult population. We are concerned to-day with the physique of children whilst at school, and I am very glad to be able to report progress along many lines of advance. I will select three or four. Take nursery schools. Since the recent circular was issued by the Board 34 new proposals and five proposals for enlarging existing nursery schools have been received.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I think they are from local authorities, but I would like to be absolutely certain before giving a definite reply. The present position in the country is this: There are 89 schools recognised by the Board, while in addition 31 have been approved in principle and 10 are under consideration. It will be seen that while the growth is rapid in proportion, the total is still comparatively small. There are still many areas where local conditions would justify providing these schools, but for which proposals have not been received. I would add that these schools, small as their total number is, exercise an influence out of all proportion to their number, both in showing what can be done with young children and in stimulating improvements in the infant departments all over the country. Our object is to obtain for all under fives whose home conditions are unsatisfactory, light and airy rooms, special playground space, playing material and the happy environment which they need for normal mental and physical growth.
Then we come to the school medical service. This is a wonderful organisation. The only thing wrong with it is that it is short in one or two very important aspects. It needs more staff. Since the Board's circular was issued, 32 authorities have increased their staff by the appointment of six whole-time and 29 part-time medical officers; 12 authorities have appointed aural and eight ophthalmic specialists, and one a specialist for rheumatism. I am amazed at the enormously complex nature of this service. A hundred proposals have been received 53 for building school clinics and extending old ones, and 13 new schemes for orthopaedics, 19 for aural treatment and 15 for artificial light treatment. These figures are just examples of how the staff is being increased. But there is still leeway to be made up. Take the school dental service, which is incomplete. At the time when the circular was issued it was estimated that there were less than two-thirds of the number of school dentists required. I am glad to be able to report that 61 authorities have increased their staff by appointing 62 full-time and 23 part-time dentists. The ideal that we must achieve is an annual inspection of all the school children. Otherwise I do not see how we are going to make any progress in this, perhaps one of the most important of all the health services. There are other proposals approved for day open-air schools and residential schools for delicate children. The problem of the feeble-minded is always with us and it is particularly difficult to deal with in the countryside. For some children the only solution is the residential school, and on that score one new proposal has been received from a country district.
Then I come to physical education. On Friday we discussed this question in the House. The Committee will agree that physical education is inseparable from complete health in the case of the school child. Here again our circular made four points, (1) proper facilities for gymnastics and games; (2) time in the curriculum for physical education; (3) properly trained teachers; and (4) organisers of physical education in the area of each authority. [HON. MEMBERS: "Plenty of good, healthy food."] Yes, and plenty of good, healthy food.
§ Mr. Lindsay
No, because that is an altogether separate point. I have already mentioned the playing fields and gymnasia. Now what about the training of teachers? A number of training colleges have established advanced courses in physical training for their students. In sheer time these students have—and the figures matter—400 hours' tuition as against 80 hours for the ordinary students, or five times as much. Twelve colleges for men and women 54 have s[...]and about 15 more will start in the Autumn. A second method of promoting the supply of trained teachers [...]y giving three months' courses to certain teachers in senior schools. I need hardly add that no teacher will be penalised in salary increments or for superannuation purposes through attendance at these courses. Another type of specialised one-year course has begun at the Carnegie College, Leeds and at Loughborough College, for teachers who have already obtained their teaching certificates. We regard organisers as the keystone of the whole structure of physical education. Out of 315 authorities 178 have appointed organisers. The position is actually better than the figures show, because four-fifths of the children in the country are in areas where there are organisers. In January, 1936, there were 182, and last month there were 240. The problem will not be solved until there are organisers all over the country. An interesting experiment in London was described by my hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor) on Friday.
The late President of the Board, speaking only a few months ago, spoke strongly on the question of milk and school meals, and my predecessor spoke encouragingly of school canteens. If further questions on this problem are asked, I shall be glad to deal with them in my reply. We have had three or four Debates on the subject. My immediate concern is to recall to the Committee that by close attention to details of administration we are endeavouring to see that even if our population is small it shall be of the highest possible quality. If some will quarrel with the economics of John Ruskin, they will perhaps agree with him when he said, "There is no wealth, but life."
§ Miss Wilkinson
The hon. Member is almost making us believe that the Government mean what he is saying.
§ Mr. Lindsay
Then I am going to give instances to show that that is so. There is one other point I would like to mention before I conclude, and that is the question of homework. I have got quite a new view of this problem since I tried to prepare these remarks during the weekend, in spite of the recent report on the subject and in spite of the recent Debate. It will be remembered that on 12th February, the hon. Member for Rusholme 55 (Mr. Radford) in a very stong speech, supported by a maiden [...] from the hon. Member for Barnard castle (Mr. Sexton) and many others carried the following Motion:That in the opinion of the House, it is undesirable that school childrens should have their evenings occupied with [...] omework, to the exclusion of rest and recreation; and that wherever practicable, preparation on the school premises should be substituted for homework.The report has been issued, and its recommendations are as follow: The first is that in elementary schools for children under 12, there should be no homework. If homework is set at all, it should be limited to four nights a week.
I would like to add one point with regard to the examinations at II-plus which take place all over the country. I remember some years ago one parent telling me that her boy was told just before the examination, "Remember, Johnny, that your whole future depends upon what you do this morning." That is a pretty big strain to put on a boy of 11. Although examinations are in the hands of local authorities, I would like the Committee to know that considerable experiments are being made. One does not necessarily abolish "cramming" through the substitution of an intelligence test. The Board are always making systematic efforts to devise a selective process which will defeat the "crammer." That is not an easy thing to do. I am not saying that the examination should be anything like as strict as it has been in the past, but at the same time there is to be this division—following on the Report of the Hadow Commission—this variety of roads going off when he children reach the age of 11, and we have to find some way of selecting the children. I think it can be done, and a large number of experiments are now being conducted to that end.
The second recommendation is that homework should not exceed one hour a night between 12 and 14, and not more than 1½ hours after that. With regard to secondary schools the report says that the average hours are not as long as suggested.
§ Mr. Loftus
As to elementary area schools, between the ages of 11 and 14 what is the necessity for any homework, in view of the fact that there are no examinations?
§ Mr. Lindsay
I will come to the general point in a moment, but I wish to recapitulate what the report says. The next point about secondary schools is that with a 25-hour week in school, homework need not be a burden, and that special arrangements should be made for those living at a distance. The report says that general preparation might be limited to four nights a week—1½ hours between 14 and 16, and one hour under 14—and that there should be no preparation at weekends, with which I cordially agree. It says that there are advantages in working at home, but that arrangements might be made where home conditions are difficult. It says that examinations are partly to blame, but that elimination of examinations would not necessarily remove the pressure of homework. As regards technical schools, I think the solution is part-time release. In general, I think the report answers nearly all the questions raised in the Debate, except, of course, the time-honoured, thorny, controversial question of examinations.
Every year there is a series of letters in the "Times," and I suppose an enormous number in educational journals, on this matter. In the course of the Debate to which I have been referring, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) laid special emphasis on this point, and if it is raised again I shall be very happy to try to reply to the whole question of the school certificate and matriculation. But what is the common sense of the whole question of homework? After all, we have all done it. I do not say that my view is worth more than that of anybody else, but I will give it for what it is worth. In the first place, all experience proves that independent study, whether done at home or at school, is valuable. Secondly—and this was in the report—work relating to school activities, such as debates, scientific societies, natural history and photography societies, string orchestras, meteorological clubs, and the thousand and one things that go on in schools, is often best done alone, or possibly with the help of parents. Thirdly, there are many homes, alas, where independent Study is quite impossible. I well remember when I was examining the free-place system in Bermondsey discovering one boy from a very poor school who won a scholarship to a secondary school. On 57 investigation it was discovered that Alec Paterson, then the inspiration of the Oxford and Bermondsey Clubs, had let this boy use his house and had coached him up in the evenings. I think stories of that sort could be told by many.
It is not so much the time occupied, important though that is, as the character of the work that matters. Dare I add, in the presence of some old teachers, that unimaginative teaching means dull and boring homework? Scholarship still matters, and hard work still brings its rewards, but to lay excessive stress on scholarships and examinations kills the spirit and distorts the normal mental growth of any child. The problem of homework is not whether there should be any at all, but that there should not be too much. If the recommendations of the recent report are put into practice, no child in normal health should be subjected to undue strain.
We have been concerned so far with a mass of questions relating to full-time education in a wide variety of schools. What of those who leave at 14, 15 and r6 and say farewell to formal education for ever? A distinguished Member of the Opposition who "stumped" me on a quotation from Tennyson last week, told me that his serious reading began at the age of 24, and that literature for him had never been confused by class-room education. He is one of the best-read Members in the House, and I was rather interested to hear that. We have inherited in this country a great tradition and a great system of adult education built up during the last 150 years. The first stage occurred at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century, when church schools, Sunday schools, and night schools were started by philanthropic societies to make up the deficiencies of elementary education. About 1870 the second stage occurred at another period of great political and social change reflected in the Reform Bill and the Education Act. It was at that time that there began the University Settlements with Arnold Toynbee, the University Extension Movement and, later, the University Tutorial Classes and the Workers' Education Association, under Albert Mans-bridge. Some of us have been privileged to catch a glimpse of that movement, and perhaps we learned a good deal more than we ever taught.
58 We are now in the third stage. Again we are in a period of great political and social change, the post-war world and a new reign. I do not think anyone has been more eloquent on the subject of leisure than the right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Education, and no man has spoken more eloquently of democracy than our late Prime Minister. I do not intend to try to emulate them, but I would like to try to state the problem as I see it. To-day we still have our Settlements, our Extension Lectures and our Tutorial Classes—the latter still growing—but there are also springing up community centres and adult institutes, experiments by which enterprising local authorities are trying to meet new needs in a new way. I hope these experiments will increase. The Committee will excuse my referring specially to one example of what can be done by a progressive local authority and a competent principal—the City Literary Institute here in London. This Institute began just after the War with 18o students. In ten years it had 6,000 students. Now it is to be entirely rebuilt, and will probably enrol something like 10,000 students. It is absolutely non-vocational, and is run by a local authority under different party administrations. It is a remarkable achievement and reflects very great credit on the London County Council. These things are comparatively few.
But we have also a wide selection of daily, weekly and monthly journals, an ever-increasing outflow of books, an increasing number of libraries, a device for listening to music and to spoken words at almost every fireside in the country, while round every corner the second largest industry in the world, I mean of course, the "movie" industry, can touch our imagination on almost any key. If the professional theatre has lost some ground temporarily, the number of repertory theatres and amateur musical and dramatic societies has multiplied all over the country. Women's Institutes, with their annual two days' parliament at the Albert Hall, are a post-war creation. Whereas before the War few people travelled to Europe, to-day great bands of workers visit the capitals of Europe every spring and summer, and at home young men and women can walk some of the ancient ways of this country, taking their nightly rest and meal at one of a chain of hostels that nearly cover the land.
59 What I ask myself is this: At such a wonderful era of development, are we sure that civilisation is holding its own against barbarism, are we sure that intellectual and artistic life is not unduly commercialised, are we sure that freedom of thought and expression are not less widespread? If the average man, the common man, is looking for guidance and leadership in these things, does it not point the need for a movement similar to that which was inaugurated by the Bill which we passed on Friday last in another sphere? The problems are similar. Voluntary and statutory bodies have been providing physical education, but to create a nation-wide movement it was felt necessary to take area by area and ensure facilities for all. There were great gaps, as hon. Members pointed out on Friday, in the provision of ordinary facilities for physical education. I think it is equally important in this field. Voting power is only one, and I am not sure it is the most important, part of democracy. If our democracy is to be intelligent as well as virile, if we are in the twentieth century to set it on a firm basis, knowledge and the love of truth must be more widespread still, and leadership must come back to every community, even the smallest, in the country. My mind goes back 20 years almost to a month to a little wooden hut at Havre where a few men, mostly wounded or resting from the line, used to gather, and they started the Harfleur Valley Arts Club. We had some excellent musical performances. We also acted Shakespeare. Like Cromwell's army, we were given mightily to discussion, and we formed an organisation called the Blighty League and drew up plans for the rebuilding of this country. Most of the men who were in that group are gone, but it seems to me that the job of this generation is to see whether they cannot make some of those dreams come true, and it is because I believe that these Estimates point in that direction that I commend them to the Committee.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.
I am glad to have this opportunity of congratulating the new Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education on his production of these Estimates. It is 60 not an easy task to introduce Estimates a fortnight after assuming office. I assure him, however, that it was not due to any ungraciousness on our part that this Vote was put down for to-day. Whatever Estimates had been put down the Minister concerned would have been faced with the same difficulty. I am glad, however, that we selected a Minister who has taken a lifelong interest in the subject and who was able to deal with the Estimates as thoroughly as the hon. Gentleman has done. I propose to take up one or two of the explanations which he gave, with the object of showing that, in some of his expositions, he has not fully realised the background of what he was saying, and the only possible remedies which exist for the difficulties which he set before us.
I take up, first, the most important part of his speech in which he told us how far this country has now gone in the reorganisation of education. Certainly, on the surface, it would appear that considerable strides have been made in this respect. We have, the hon. Gentleman told us, during the past year reorganised 812 departments, so that there are now three-quarters of the urban children and one-third of the rural children under a reorganised system. The hon. Gentleman, however, did not appear to recognise that even if reorganisation on the present lines were 100 per cent. completed it would still not carry out the principle which lies behind the Hadow Report, and would not solve the difficulty which he presented to the Committee in a very striking story. He told of a. father or mother who brought a child aged 11 to the examination room and said, "Johnny, this is the most critical day of your life." That story illustrates the peculiar, and, I think, unanticipated situation into which we have landed ourselves. When I began life I was told by my parents that if a professional man had not established himself by the age of 30, he would never establish himself but now in the case of the children of the workers, the critical age appears to be the age of 10.
It is just at that age that they are called upon under our present system to take this examination which decides whether they shall go forward to the secondary school and to a more extensive type of education with all the possibilities of professional and middle class life open to them, or 61 whether they shall remain behind to swell the masses of the workers. That is the situation in which we are to-day. We cannot allow that state of affairs to remain. The hon. Gentleman's story illustrates a fact which ought to be lighted up. We talk of class distinctions and how to get rid of them, but a new class distinction is arising, namely, the distinction between those who pass an academic examination at the age of 11 and those who do not pass it. That class distinction determines the whole of the future lives of these children.
The Parliamentary Secretary quoted the report on homework. I propose to use that report in order to show what I believe to be the way out of the dilemma. I may say that I also diligently studied the report during the week-end, and I shall draw attention to some of its features. I remember a school-mistress telling me of a mother who brought her little girl aged 5 to the school and asked the teacher to set the child homework from that time onwards, in order that she might be able to pass this critical examination ahead of the other children. I thought at the time that it was an abnormal case, but I find from this report that that kind of thing is going on at present. The shadow of excessive homework is spreading right into the junior schools. Owing to the system of bifurcation of education at the age of the grip of competition is descending upon the children almost before they have left the infants' school. It is beginning to rob them of their childhood.
I shall come later to the broader issue involved, but for the present I take the narrower issue of this examination at the age of 11. I doubt whether any examination can give any guarantee that the right children are selected. A great many children suffer from measles, whooping cough and other childish ailments which hold them back at that period of their lives. Others, for obscure psychological reasons, which nobody can explain, are very backward at the age of 11, though they may become very distinguished in after-life. Under our present system of determining a child's life by an examination at 11, many people who have become famous would have been left behind—people like Charles Darwin, Sir William Ramsay, Madame Curie, Henry Ford, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), Sir Isaac Newton. They were all children who happened to be backward 62 at the age of 11 and according to our present system, they would have been left behind.
The Parliamentary Secretary also said that the Board was investigating the question of whether a safer selection would be made by means of intelligence tests or psychological tests, as I think they are called. The hon. Gentleman himself seemed to realise the weakness of that hope. I have gone rather carefully into the question of these tests, and I have come to the conclusion that they are very effective, provided there is no preparation for them. But as soon as you get the teacher concentrating on them and preparing the children for them and setting homework upon them, then their object can be defeated more easily than that of the present examination, because there is not such a great variety of types of questions which can be set.
I come back to this point—that there is no solution at all to this difficulty unless you carry out the principles of the Hadow Report to their full extent. One principle of the Hadow Report was that although at the age of 11 there should be bifurcation in education, those who went on at the age of 11 should go to schools of different kinds but not of different qualities. It was not intended that they should go to schools with a different standard of expenditure on education, and different standards of teachers. Until that principle is carried out, the problem will be insoluble. To carry it out, would need certain measures which I cannot discuss because they would involve legislation. It would mean raising the school age to 15 or 16, similar to the age in the secondary schools. It would also involve measures which are within the sphere of administration but which, as far as I can see, are not being taken.
It is still true that the expenditure per child in the senior schools is only about half what it is in the secondary schools. That was not intended by the Hadow Report. It is contrary to that report. The gap is not being diminished. There may be more expenditure, but I believe the gap between expenditure on secondary schools and expenditure on senior schools is as great as ever and the danger which the Parliamentary Secretary did not seem fully to realise, and which I hope he will realise, is that we are settling down into 63 acceptances of a cheaper kind of education for the senior school and another kind for the secondary school. The truth is that education exists for the normal child just as much as for the academically exceptional child, and that the highest standard of general ability is just as important as the intensive cultivation of unusual ability. We are at present in a transitional stage, and until it has been completed and all children have the same chances at any rate up to 16, whatever advantages may be secured in other respects at present are counter-balanced by enormous losses. Indeed, the advantages are almost wiped out by losses in other directions. At present, of course, the bright child goes on to the secondary school, but the children who are left behind have a worse chance than they ever had before.
The Parliamentary Secretary dealt at some length with technical education. Twenty years ago the technical schools were avenues for the boys from the elementary schools. Now if you go to a technical school you find that more than half the pupils there are from the secondary schools. The boys from the elementary schools are losing that avenue which they originally possessed. Personally, I am bound to say that I find myself with a good deal more sympathy and liking for the senior schools under reorganisation than for the secondary schools. While I wish the best of luck to every boy and girl in the secondary schools I cannot help feeling that they are highly individualist and that the main idea in those schools is to get good jobs in life. My impression is that it will eventually be found that while the boys and girls of the secondary schools may do best for themselves, it is probable that those who are left in the senior schools will do best for the community and the nation. The Parliamentary Secretary will realise that what I am saying relates to a method of dealing with the problem which this report on homework has presented to us. As long as you have the present system, so long will there be this pressure on children in the junior schools, this merciless drive on them to pass an examination on which, for them, everything depends.
The Parliamentary Secretary devoted a good part of his speech to secondary edu- 64 cation, and in speaking of beneficial employment he said that education should be beneficial as well. Although we have spent a great deal of money on secondary education, which has largely been spoiled because of the rush into which the whole system of secondary education has been allowed to fall, the fact is that the great curse of secondary schools—and I am now talking of day schools where children go to and fro—is over-pressure, and the report on homework says that the real problem of homework is the problem of excessive homework in the secondary schools. The Parliamentary Secretary quoted the Committee's recommendations, which are mainly intended for secondary schools—one hour per day from 11 to 14, one and a-half hours from 14 to 16, on five nights a week, preferably four. That is the recommendation of this report, and I venture to say that that recommendation is completely futile. It will be defeated by the teachers, by the parents, and by the children themselves. It is futile so long as the system of the school certificate examination and matriculation to be passed at the age of 16 is allowed to remain. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to give his attention to this subject, because I believe that, in an undramatic way, this is probably the next most obvious educational reform, which could be easily carried out by administrative means by the Board of Education, and it is one which certainly could be carried out within the lifetime of the present Minister.
I will explain what has happened. The school certificate examination was established, and was intended to be a kind of examination to be taken by a normal fifth-form boy, without worrying too much, as a kind of general test. That is what it was intended to be. Then the universities were asked to come in and help with it, to take charge of it, and they did so. The next step was that, I suppose for the sake of convenience, they laid it down that a school certificate examination taken with five credits would he equivalent to matriculation, which would give entrance to a university. That was the mistake. It is through that decision that the whole of the secondary education of this country has been vitiated to this day, and it is that decision which has led to the necessity for this report on excessive homework. What does it mean? It means that ordinary secondary schools 65 are now judged by the public by their success in the number of matriculations they have obtained. They push their children as a point of honour to get the matriculation, and where have we landed ourselves? We have the whole secondary school population of this country, boys and girls, attempting to pass, and forced to pass, at the age of 16 on the average, an examination of a standard intended for the entrance to a university at the age of 18.
What is the use of issuing reports telling these wretched children to do less homework? They have got to do it? The parents will insist on their doing it. The teachers, the parents, the administrators, the children—they are all prisoners of the same system. I will tell a true story of something that happened to myself some time ago. I asked a boy of 15 whom I know whether he would like a book for a present on a certain occasion, and he said, "Well, I don't know that it would help me much. I am afraid I shall not have any time to read books until I have left school." That is the fact, and, of course, this report on homework points out that, as a result of this system, children have withdrawn from social life, and the social lessons that they might learn they are prevented from learning because the whole of their spare time is occupied in doing homework.
I would point out to the Parliamentary Secretary that at the present time we are all of us making this problem worse and worse. We made it worse last week, he and I together. What are we doing? All of us together, with the best of intentions, are forcing more and more subjects into this curriculum which children have to learn by the age of 16. In the last few years I have seen added to the curriculum biology, arts and crafts, hygiene, drama, and economics; and last week we added physical training. If the children are going to spend another two hours' work on physical training and still pass the same examination, where is the extra time to come from except from excessive homework? At the week-end I received a letter from some mothers' society—the Mothers of England, I think—asking that dressmaking should be added; at the beginning of the week I was asked to become a vice-president of an association which demands that civics should be added; and I notice that the Departmental Committee upon Safety on Roads have 66 now recommended that all school children should be compelled to memorise the Highway Code. With the best intentions in the world, we are subjecting the children in our secondary schools to a process of forcible feeding, and the result is plain. As a matter of fact, information acquired in this way is not retained. In five years after they have left school they have forgotten 90 per cent. of what has been forced into them.
The solution of this problem happens to be very simple, and I think the time is ripe to deal with this subject. The most satisfactory feature of our educational system is likely to be the senior schools, because they will not have this examination incubus imposed upon them, but as a matter of fact—I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary realises it—this danger is appearing in the senior schools. I was told by a very well-known director of education a short time ago that he was finding it difficult to keep this out of the senior schools, because parents are saying, "We want our children to have a certificate." Indeed, in the schools in London that correspond to the senior schools it has appeared. In London there are what are called central selective schools, where children remain until they reach the age of 15. They are the children who are not selected for secondary schools; they do not pass that examination, but they are the next group of children. They go to central selective schools till the age of 15, so that they are not, so to speak, the cleverest children in the examinations. I went round a couple of these schools a short time ago, one for boys and the other for girls, and I found in both of them that a third of the children there were cramming to pass a school certificate examination and matriculation.
We have now landed ourselves in a position in which children who are normal children, who are not the specially clever children, are working at the age of 15 to pass an examination for university entrance at the age of 18. It is really time that this subject was grappled with, and it is this report on homework, I am convinced, which gives an opportunity to deal with the subject which must not now be allowed to pass. The Parliamentary Secretary has an opportunity here. There is one great vested interest that stands in the path, only one, and everybody knows 67 who it is. I will explain who it is. The solution proposed is one which was proposed some seven years ago by the panel of examiners for these very subjects, and they unanimously made a proposal which would solve the difficulty. They proposed that we should wipe out the original mistake, that the matriculation examination should be separated right off from the school-leaving examination. The matriculation examination is an examination for entrance to a university, and it ought to be kept for that purpose. Let the universities refuse to allow anyone to take it unless they are going to the universities, and then you will have left aside the school-leaving examination. You will have that examination left aside which can be adapted as a school-leaving examination for the actual boys and girls in the schools.
It is perfectly clear, if you read the reports of the headmasters' conferences and the headmistresses' conferences, that they all desire that that shall be done, and they all feel that if it were done, you would get a system of education adapted to the children as a whole and not merely to the one-tenth who are preparing to go up to the universities. That is the solution, and the solution, I may say, is so obvious that it has already been adopted by the Northern Universities. But there is one university only which refuses to adopt it and blocks the whole programme, and that is the University of London. The University of London, which was the pioneer of progress in the last generation, is becoming an obstruction to progress to-day. The University of London will not make the change, and the reason is perfectly simple. It gets very large fees from the examinations, which it is unwilling to release. That is the admitted reason, and you now have the position that, in order that one university may receive fees for examinations, the entire secondary education of the country is being vitiated, and thousands of children are being robbed of their youth.
§ Sir Ernest Graham-Little
May I make a protest? Surely that is an entirely false reading of what is happening. The matriculation examination in London University is a very wide preparation for education; it has won an enormous reputation, and it is because of that that people take it. That is what has 68 happened. It is not that the university wishes to keep up an impossible standard. There are very many alternatives, but the whole difficulty is that the reputation of this examination is so great that it has become a requirement that children should matriculate. I have known a case in which an M.A. of London tried to get an appointment, and the employer said, "Have you a matriculation certificate?" He replied, "I am an M.A. of London." The employer then said, "That will not do; you must have a matriculation."
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
My hon. Friend has not in the least touched the point with which I was dealing. Let the London University maintain the matriculation examination, but let it keep it for those who are going to London University. What I say is that this system by which the matriculation examination is made part and parcel of the school-leaving examination at 16 is vitiating secondary education, and that the two examinations should be separated. Nothing that my hon. Friend said shows that separation cannot be made. The Parliamentary Secretary will see the situation. A report issued seven years ago made a recommendation which has not been carried out because of one great obstacle. Now we have another report, issued a fortnight ago, pointing out that secondary education is largely being spoilt as the result of what has occurred since then. It is clear that this report cannot be carried out until the earlier recommendation has been adopted. I do not imagine that the Government have in mind any great legislative proposals in the educational sphere for some time to come, but here the Parliamentary Secretary has a proposal in the administrative sphere, a quiet proposal, but one which would have an enormous ultimate effect, and would enable him to set his mark upon the educational system of the land.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Sir Francis Acland
I hope that I may be allowed to add the congratulations which we all wish to offer to the Minister for the understanding and interest he has shown in the speech which he has made to us. We may congratulate him on having made a good start in another direction by the charming choice he has made of a Parliamentary Private Secretary. I hope that he will not feel I am in any way saying anything slighting of 69 him if I add a word as to the loss to those of us who are interested in educational administration by the fact that the late President has moved to another Ministry. He did us the honour of coming down to see how we were tackling the job of senior schools in the rural districts, and he charmed every one of us, both children and teachers. I was glad to be able to give him an ordinary threepenny lunch from the school canteen, and particularly glad that he found it more than he could manage to eat. He had an excellent rabbit stew with vegetables, and then was asked to consume a considerable amount of pudding. Instead of consuming it, he went and talked to the children in the hall in a way which I am sure they will never forget, and in a way which made me realise what a splendid Minister he was and how interested he was in the job he was doing so well. We must hope the best from his successor in another place. I do not know whether he has the interest and experience in education that the Parliamentary Secretary has, but, even if he has not, I am encouraged when I remember what used to be said about the Ministry of Agriculture before the War, namely, that the best two Ministers were those who took on the job knowing nothing whatever about agriculture—Mr. Hanbury, a Conservative, and Mr. Runciman, a Liberal.
I had intended to deal with the subject of examinations in secondary schools, and homework, but that has been dealt with so thoroughly and well in a convincing way by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith), that I will give only an illustration of the harm that the examination system does as practically experienced by people who come up against it. It is my duty as chairman of the Dental Board of the United Kingdom to select bursars. We spend £12,000 in giving bursaries to help students who cannot afford dental training. Those bursaries are given on interview by me and two other officers of the Board. One of the questions I often ask is, "Can you tell me the name of any book you have read?" and I get a negative reply far more often than an affirmative reply, except, of course, for school text books. They have not had time to read books; it has been so necessary for them to pass examinations, if possible, the higher school examination by 18, and 70 then to take their physics and chemistry and so on, that they have had no time for anything else. We follow up with the obvious question to those who hope to be dentists, "Have you ever been interested in doing anything with your hands?" Again we get mostly negative replies, except so far as they have had to do it in their ordinary school curriculem, in which carpentry or something of that kind has entered.
The view I want to put is based not on my own experience, which might be prejudiced against examinations, but on that of one of the deans of a dental school, perhaps one of the best of those officers. It is necessary before an applicant comes to the Dental Board that he should have been accepted as a student in a particular dental school. After considerable experience, this dean has come to the conclusion that those young men who have passed the higher certificate at a sufficient standard automatically to get scholarships from their local education authorities were quite useless as students at his school, because they have been so crammed in order to get up to that standard that they would probably go no further and not be able to develop really usefully in the direction they wanted to pursue. That is an appalling commentary. As long as people regard the passing of examinations—more or less uniform examinations—as a sort of hallmark in the way they get accustomed to do, instead of going by the reports that a boy or girl might get from the headmaster, any examinations are likely to do more harm than good. I believe that the division between the school-leaving examination and the matriculation examination which was recommended seven years ago would do a great deal of good.
I wanted to deal mainly with certain matters which have inevitably come to my notice as chairman of a county education committee in the administration of the senior schools system which the Minister so rightly praised. There is no doubt whatever of the advantages of that system. When we compare the education that boys and girls have been getting, even in what I think is a daily miracle, their teaching in the small hamlet schools where generally one mistress has to teach all the boys and girls from 8 to 14—how they do it as well as they do I can never understand —when you compare that with the senior 71 school, with separate classes and separate classrooms, with playing fields, practical rooms, gymnasia, organised school games, and all the rest of it, the difference is extraordinary. People are beginning to realise what a difference in the rural districts the establishment of these senior schools will make. The farmers began by saying that the children who went away at 11½ from the villages to a rural centre would lose touch with rural thoughts, ideas and life, and would be less inclined to take jobs on farms and that sort of thing. Even they are beginning to see that the only way in which we can really get the children in touch with the practical, useful and interesting educational sides of agriculture is when we get them to a senior school and can make the elements of scientific knowledge connected with agriculture an ordinary part of their teaching.
The keenness of the children when they get for the first time to a school which has been built as a school, instead of a school which was built 50 years ago to look as much like a church as it could, is such that one has only to get into contact with it to realise what a wonderful change it has made. If these schools are to do what they are doing, they have to be good schools. They must have sufficient playing fields and, where they are good-sized schools, gymnasia, proper housecraft rooms, and that means that they cost money. The fact that they cost money means that, whenever I have, as chairman of the education committee, to present an estimate at the meeting of the county council for two or three new senior schools, there is opposition. I do not blame the opponents, but the opposition tends to die away as soon as people see the schools and realise what they are doing. When I have to say, as I do, that the programme of building these schools will cost probably a 6d. rate, and it may be more, I cannot grumble that there is opposition and criticism and that reasonable and legitimate chance of criticism is taken.
I want the Minister to realise that in my own experience there has been a tendency of his Department to cut down the requirements in the planning of these schools, in the size of the gymnasia, of the necessary practical classrooms, and that sort of thing. I suppose that that is the 72 result of the economy caused by the horrible armaments expenditure—horrible from the point of view of anybody who wants to spend money on anything else. I would like to explain to the Minister what a handicap that is to those of us who are really trying to push these programmes forward in the counties. It has not been easy to get steam up. It was not long ago that the Board of Education was saying, "You must not build any new schools except to replace black-list schools and unless an increase in your population requires that it should be done." When the tap was turned on, it took us in the counties a long time to get up steam again. There were the proposed areas to be reviewed, the movements of population to be noted, the managers of the schools in the group which was going to contribute the senior schools to be interviewed to get their good will, the sites to be selected and bought and the plans to be approved. That all takes time, and we have only been going at anything like full speed for a very short time.
If there is to be any turning off of the tap now, because of building difficulties or in the interests of economy, it will be extremely difficult to do what we hoped, and that is to go pretty straight forward and carry out the programme perhaps within the next four or five years, at a steady rate of five, six, seven or eight schools a year. It will be extraordinarily difficult to do that if the Ministry is not going to give us some backing, not only with regard to finance, which I am sure they will do, but in securing what is really required in these schools. If those county councillors who have been rather opposed to the whole idea get the notion that the Ministry are slackening off in their keenness for full-sized gymnasia and for necessary classrooms, it will be easy for them to say, "The Government do not seem very keen about it; cannot we postpone the whole thing for the next three or four years?" In that way development may easily be checked and the whole business thrown into confusion. Therefore, I should very much like to have an assurance, and I hope the Minister will be able to give it, that although in a recent case there has been a check in what we have come to regard as the standard required by the board, that is not meant to be in any way a permanent check, and that we really are to go forward with this programme of establishing 73 senior schools with all the reasonable speed that we can develop.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I should like to say that there is no change of policy at all. There was that specific case which has been referred to, but there is no change of policy.
§ Sir F. Acland
That statement is extraordinarily welcome to me, and will help us a very great deal, because we had been afraid that what happened indicated a change in policy, and the point I wanted to make was that any change of policy of that type would be extremely disastrous. As we get the senior schools built the village schools are to be reorganised as junior schools. In the ordinary rural districts most of those schools are Church schools. In the case of a large proportion of them there is difficulty in providing money to have them put into proper order, as they ought to be. In a large part of the country there is one standard—in sanitation and other things —for Church schools and another for the schools owned by the local authorities. It is realised that, generally speaking, the Church is not able to raise the money to do the work. Whenever the Church has to give up a school, there is a list of requirements which the county council is expected to meet, but which have never been pressed on the Church authorities, because it has been realised that it would be no use pressing them.
In my county we get on admirably with the Church authorities—there is no feeling on the education committee or on the county council— but the point is that the Church, if it is to be worthy of its position as one of the wealthiest Churches, I suppose, in any country—if it really chose to produce its money—and as a body which has prided itself on its interest in education, ought to take the opportunity of this reorganisation really to tackle the job of putting the remaining Church schools, which will become the junior schools, into proper order, so that they can be proud of them, instead of being ashamed of them as they are often found to be. It is easier to put a school in order when it becomes a junior school than it was when it was a senior school. One of the familiar criticisms is that there is a classroom which is too small and that there is no proper cloakroom accommodation. When the seniors 74 leave they will not need to use that little room as a classroom, and it can be turned into a cloakroom, and that will solve one of the major problems; but there will be other problems of sanitation, ventilation and warming which it will be necessary to tackle.
If the Church and others who own voluntary schools would realise that when they become junior schools is the time to make special appeals to their friends to get the same standards established in Church schools as we are trying to establish in our council schools, I think a great deal might be done. There are some people who say that the county council ought to put its own schools right whatever the Church does, and then there comes the argument, "Why should we do more than other people who want to save money?" and that is sometimes a difficult argument to meet. If the Church could be encouraged, by conferences which the Minister could hold with the diocesan authorities, to make a real effort as each set of schools in a district become junior schools, I think a great deal could be done.
Another matter which I am glad the Minister touched upon concerns one aspect of medical treatment, namely, the supply of dentists. I have come across that difficulty as chairman of the Dental Board. I am almost tempted to say that unless one can get enough dentists it is almost useless to have any. What happens is that the dentist when he pays a visit, finds there are four holes in a tooth and stops two and leaves two. That is all that he can do in the time, having so many children to attend to. The next time he comes he finds that the two holes have increased to six, and he stops two and leaves four; and by the time he pays his next visit the four have increased to eight. He cannot catch up with the work.
We cannot be sure, unless we can get a standard of one visit a year, as the Minister said, that the children will leave school with really sound mouths. Many of them leave with their mouths in not such a good state, instead of a better state than they had been six or eight years before. In any case after boys or girls leave school there will be a gap, at present, until they are 18½ years of age before they can get dental treatment under the Insurance Act, although I 75 admit that another Minister has said that he hopes to be able to reduce that gap. If we could say to a boy or girl on leaving school, "Your mouth is now right, and you have seen how simple it is to keep it right if you have it attended at regular and pretty constant intervals," we should have a much better chance of getting that boy or girl to go to a dentist regularly than if they had left school with their mouths obviously wrong. Otherwise, there is little chance of their going for dental treatment until they can get advantage of dental benefit under the insurance scheme in four or five years. I press that point out of my knowledge of the work of medical officers and dental officers.
In my county we have the medical officer saying, "I have five dentists. I can do with Eve dentists only half the work that I could do with seven dentists." That sounds all wrong, but it is just a question of making an examination of the children's teeth once a year in preference to a system under which some defects have always to be left untreated and multiply before the officer comes round again. As an administrator one gets wrapped up with these practical problems. May I repeat how delighted I am to know that, in spite of all difficulties, including that of the enormous increase in local and national expenditure, it is the policy of the board definitely to go ahead with the establishment of a senior school system which, in my opinion, will entirely change the whole educational standard of many of our rural districts?
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Morgan
As one who has some little experience of educational matters, I should like to join in the general chorus of welcome to the Parliamentary Secretary for his speech this afternoon. I should also like to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) and to say that I wish to enter a sort of caveat against these constant changes at the Board itself. If, as most of us think, education is a long-term investment, and, as the Parliamentary Secretary said, we ought to take a long view, these constant changes at the Board are not likely to help in getting a long view taken or in our seeing policies carried through to fruition. I should particularly have liked to see the ex-President of the 76 Board of Education in his place to carry out that great Measure for raising the school-leaving age to 15 which he put on the Statute Book, and to have heard from him in 1939 how far his dreams have been fulfilled. That brings me right up to a point on which I want to speak. We are all looking forward to the raising of the school-leaving age in 1939. When the ex-President of the Board was explaining his plan before the House, he excused—if I may put it in that way—his delay in not bringing the Act into force until 1939 on two or three grounds. One was that local education authorities were not yet ready to entertain such a scheme, that they had not put their educational house in order on the lines foreshadowed by the Hadow Commission. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary in his reply to tell us how many of the local education authorities are still far from being ready to put the Hadow scheme into full force.
The second point was that the House of Commons was told last December that there were still about 1,033 black-listed schools still on the Board's list. From a document which has been placed in my hand recently I could put a great many more schools in the list. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary how many schools still remain black-listed. A three-year interim was obtained so that some of the conditions could be dealt with. I want to know how far we have got rid of that list of about 1,000 schools.
I do not want to say much about how many additions have been made in order that the schools might make full use of those great educational supplements, the wireless and the cinema, but I think the Parliamentary Secretary might tell us how many schools have been given grants in order to get them into something like universal use. The Parliamentary Secretary said something about nursery schools, which were received at the beginning in much the, same way as medical inspection was received. I have gone into the question of nursery schools, and I am convinced that the principle is right. We are Supposed to be giving a lead in these matters. I have had some experience of visiting nursery schools, and I would like to tell the Committee that one of the most charming nursery schools that I ever saw was, strangely enough, not in this country at all. Two years ago it was my privilege to be in a very go-ahead town, Tel-Aviv, 77 in Palestine, where I saw, in the suburbs of that town, one of the most delightful examples of what a nursery school should and could be. They have a genius there —I always think her name is something like "Percy"—and she is a well-known figure in the educational world. I could not avoid thinking what a great example that was of what a nursery school should be.
Now I will turn to a question which is cropping up more and more every day, the physical training of the young people of this nation. I have had a great deal to do with athletics in my past, and if I valued one form of athletics more than another it was that I thought swimming was the best all-round form. I take it that the Board mean what they say in their circular, to have a great extension of swimming facilities placed in the hands of teachers in the elementary schools. I went to school with about 300 or 400 boys, and at that time the only swimming facilities we had were the chance for 35 out of the 400 to go to the swimming baths once a week. Very few schools have their own baths. I do not know what steps the Board are taking to give increased bathing facilities. On this matter the Board of Education could well co-operate with the Ministry of Health. I put a question in this House last week to the Ministry of Health on the subject of bathing facilities. I asked the Minister of Health whether he couldprovide a list of local authorities in districts with populations over 25,000 which have not yet provided facilities for swimming either in closed or open public baths.That is a question to which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education might like the answer. The answer I received was:I regret that no such list is available."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th June, 1937, col. 1975, Vol. 324.]I could take the Parliamentary Secretary this afternoon to two corporate boroughs, not far from my own district, where there is not a single swimming bath, either closed or open. How the children in those districts are to be taught swimming passes my comprehension. I do not know whether the Board of Education have anything up their sleeve in this matter, or whether they are going to provide special baths for the children, but it seems to me that if the baths are 78 not there for the adult population, the children will have a poor chance.
I was astounded to hear the remark made by the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate to-day, in regard to the London University. I do not know whether I quite understood what he said, although I have a note of it here. I think he said that the reason for perpetuating the system of examinations was, because of the fees. When my hon. Friend replied, he did not take the trouble to contradict that statement. I thought it was such a serious allegation that he would have something to say about it. He told a story about the parent who said to his child: "Your whole future depends upon passing this examination." I hope somebody standing by told that parent how very foolish and ridiculous a parent he was, and what a very unfair remark it was to make to any child. Some of us see visions about education.
A great writer said some time ago that there were three shrines at which we worshipped: goodness, truth and beauty. Those are very nice things to say and it is a comforting thought, but I wonder sometimes, when I look round and see the results, whether we are fortunate enough to be getting three results. We might be very clever and successful in worshipping at the shrines of goodness and truth, but perhaps there is something lacking in our educational system in regard to beauty. If we had a real conception of true beauty many of us would shudder when we looked at the slums, when we took notice of what we term art—bad art—cheap literature and—dare I say it—our cheap taste for the drama and for what is portrayed in the cinema. I sometimes say to people: "There is so much that is beautiful in life and so much that is to be admired; I wonder why you seem to content yourselves with putting on plays wrapped round the eternal triangle, or stories of adventure always concerned with gangsters." They reply: "After all, we provide what the public require."
§ Mr. Morgan
If that is really what people require, some of us who pride ourselves upon our educational efforts will have to think again as to whether we are doing things in the right way.
§ Mr. Morgan
I would like to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on the way in which he presented the Board's Estimates this afternoon. I certainly would not agree to any reduction in the Vote; I would like to see a great increase in it. I believe that the education of our children may be very seriously hit at this time. What the late Lord Haldane said was perfectly true. He said that the teachers had a greater task in his day than they had ever had, and that they were guarding the lines of communication between their generation and the next. If that was true in Lord Haldane's time it is more than ever true to-day. It is certainly true that the children now in our schools, who are to be the citizens of tomorrow, will be called upon to face graver and more difficult problems than any man and woman in this House has ever had to face. I hope we shall never lose faith in education, and that the teachers in our schools will continue to give the children in their charge that broad, unbiased system of education which may mean so much to the future citizens of this country.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Macdonald
It is with a certain amount of trepidation that one ventures to intervene in such a Debate as this, after the experts; but, at the same time, it is necessary that the view of the man in the street as regards education be put. I would join at once in the chorus of well-deserved compliments paid to the Parliamentary Secretary on the way he presented the Estimates. It is the first time I have been privileged to hear a Parliamentary Secretary present the Education Estimates. In the past that has always been done by the President himself. No President has ever done the job better than the Parliamentary Secretary did it to-day, but I did feel that there was a certain amount of complacency and self-satisfaction in regard to the work of the Department in the past year. Possibly that is to some extent justified. I thought the Parliamentary Secretary showed great discretion, after having hinted that there was a slight increase in the expenditure on education, in leaving the matter there at once. He made some reference to the tremendous expenditure on the Defence Forces. He has just left a Department of the Defence Forces, and while there he may have realised that it had a 80 far greater increase in expenditure than the Department to which he has now come.
After all, the question for this Committee is, What do we expect any given system of education to do for us? One may have to be platitudinous in answering such a question, but I think hon. Members will agree that we expect that each child who has entered any of our schools will leave better equipped, as a result of having been there, to face the tasks and problems of later life. If our education system fails to do that, it will fail entirely. It depends to some extent on a number of factors. In the first place, it is necessary that our children should be well fed if they are to derive the maximum benefit from the education system. Many of us on this side, and some Members on the other side, spend a portion of our time in the slum areas of their divisions, and, when we see the pale faces of the children there, we wonder whether they are physically fit to derive any benefit from the education that is given in the schools.
I was not quite satisfied with the hon. Gentleman's reference to what is being done in the matter of school feeding and nutrition. I grant that more is being done at the moment than was the case a few years ago, but we have been told continually that we are passing through a period of prosperity, that the National Government have so arranged the affairs of the nation that every section is now living in comparative prosperity. I do not deny that there has been some improvement, though I am sorry that the improvement is due partly to heavy expenditure on armaments, but in view of this improvement I think the Board of Education ought to be spending more on the physical fitness side of the children in the slum areas. It is of no use to say that more school meals are being provided to-day than were provided in 1931, when the Labour Government was in office. That may be the case, but I do not think we are spending as a nation the amount that we could afford to spend on seeing that all school children are sufficiently well fed to enable them to take full advantage of the education that they receive at school.
I find that parents throughout the country, in reference to some of the matters which have been dealt with by the 81 Parliamentary Secretary, take a slightly different view. He dealt with the question of homework at great length, and was followed at greater length by my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith). It so happens that two of my own children often complain to me about homework. I well remember a debate in this House which was followed by some headlines in the Press stating that homework was being abolished. The Tory party were in office at the time, and when I got home on the following Friday night one of my boys said to me: "Dad, I am supporting the Tory party in future." He felt that in that, anyhow, they had done something worthy of support. I think that that feeling is general. Our children fail to see that homework is necessary. The extent to which it is necessary is very difficult for anyone to decide. I think that it is necessary to some extent, but that regard should be had to the amount of work that the child does at school. I do not like the idea of homework being given solely to enable a child to pass a certain examination. I find that, as the examination approaches, the amount of homework increases. All of know that an approaching examination has a psychological, if not a physical effect on children, which may of itself be a sufficient hindrance to the child, without extra homework. I could give instances of children in my district who have been physically unfitted for an examination by an increase of homework immediately prior to the examination.
My main reason, however, for intervening for the first time in an education debate is that for weeks I have been rather pestered with inquiries from unemployed young men who have spent years at college fitting themselves to be teachers. I know them very well indeed. Some of them are sons of miners, who have made great sacrifices to enable their children to get a good education. One of them has done six weeks' teaching in two years. Yesterday I was approached by a friend of mine who is out of work and is very anxious to get employment as a teacher, and he gave me an instance which I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to consider. It relates to a certain school in Wigan, and I mention that it is in Wigan, which has its own education authority, because I do not want the Parliamentary Secretary to approach the Lancashire education authority. At that 82 school the number of children is gradually decreasing. I understand that in Wigan during the last four years the number of school children has fallen from 14,000 to 10,000, and at this particular school it has fallen in a similar proportion. My friend tells me that he understood that there was likely to be a vacancy at this school, that he was anxious to get it, and that he thought he had a chance; but on making inquiries he finds that he has no hope, the reason being that, under instructions and pressure from the Board of Education, the authority has been told that it must dispense with one teacher immediately after the summer holidays.
The school at the moment has, I understand, about 440 children, and after the holidays there will be 20 or 30 less, while at the moment there are 11 teachers in addition to the headmaster. The classes now comprise about 40 children each, and the intention is to increase the size of the classes. I was very pleased to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that there has been a substantial reduction in the number of classes—and I agree that it is substantial, namely, from 64,000 to something like 49,000—with over 40 pupils, and I am unable to understand why the Board of Education is putting pressure on the local education authority in this case, because they think there will be 30 or 40 fewer children after the holidays, to dispense with a teacher and not to fill the vacancy. I should have thought it would be desirable to keep the staff at its present number and reduce the size of the classes. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary, what system does the Board adopt to reduce the size of classes? Does it depend just on the fact that the number of school children will gradually decrease? One finds that the number of teachers also is being reduced —I do not suggest in the same proportion, but the reduction is fairly substantial. Yet I find in my own division that several of the best young men, some of whom have graduated, are unable to get jobs.
It is hopeless to expect any teacher to deal effectively from an educational point of view with 40 or 50 children. He has to become simply a rigid disciplinarian, and the rigidity of his discipline sometimes interferes with his value as a teacher. I say, "sometimes," because 83 I do not wish to suggest that that is always the case. I want the Parliamentary Secretary and his chief to go into this question, not only from the point of view of improving the standard of education by reducing the size of classes, but also from the point of view of providing employment for many young men, and women also, who are now unemployed. In my division there are women who left college 18 months ago and have not done one day's teaching since. I do not want the hon. Gentleman to feel, and I do not think he does feel, any complacency by reason of the fact that he can quote figures showing a fairly substantial reduction in the size of classes; I want him to go ahead far more quickly in the future.
I was very disturbed when I heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley tending to extol, as I thought, the senior school as against the secondary school. We who live in industrial areas look upon the senior school as, I was almost going to say a curse, though I would not like to go so far as to say that, but, to use a term that has been used by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), whom we are all glad to see back again, a blind alley. In the industrial areas the children of workers who cannot afford to send them to secondary schools go to the senior schools, because there at an earlier age they will become wage-earners, and the wages are needed in the home. I suggest that it would be far better educational policy to enable each child to go to a secondary school, and, where poverty in the home is the hindrance, as it is in many cases, and not want of intelligence on the part of the child, I think it would be in the interests of the nation to get over that hindrance by assisting the poverty-stricken parents. I do not want to disparage the senior schools, nor do I think that in this case comparisons are advisable, but I would prefer to see a system of education which would allow a great many more children, if not all children, to enjoy the privileges of secondary education. Whatever we may do in other directions, if, as the Parliamentary Secretary himself suggested, we fail to give the rising generation that type of education which will enable them, not only to provide for themselves in the future, but to discharge all their duties 84 as citizens, the education system of this country will be a serious failure for us all.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Sir E. Graham-Little
I desire to start with the question of matriculation, and to explain that the difficulty is largely a matter of names. "Matriculation" is a very well known name, and has a high reputation, and the pressure in regard to matriculation comes, not from the University of London, but from schools and employers. There is no question of exercising pressure from the motive of obtaining fees; the real reason is that we cannot find a name for the school-leaving certificate which will convey anything like the same reputation as is conveyed by the matriculation examination. If a name could be discovered which would really satisfy employers and parents, it might go a very long way towards settling the difficulty. I assure the Committee that it is not a matter of London University exercising pressure in that direction.
I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary, and the Minister whom he represents so ably, whether the Minister or he has considered the difficulties that may be due to the making of regulations and reforms without very much regard to other Departments. My reason for making that statement is that the primary need at the present time seems to me to be for co-ordination of Ministerial Departments. It seems to be idle for the President of the Board of Education to provide facilities for physical recreation and for improved after-school education if at the same time the Home Secretary is attracting large sections of the population of school age into factories, and if there are regulations, such as are contained in the Bill which will come before us later this week, to keep young persons of from 14 to 18 in the factories after eight o'clock at night, or even later in some occupations. Surely, the President of the Board of Education ought to have a say in that respect. There is another point which will also come up in the Factories Bill——
§ Sir E. Graham-Little
The point I am trying to make is that the Minister of Education should take cognisance of what is happening in other Departments when 85 it is likely to cripple the very important efforts that he is making for the children in the schools.
I wish to say a very earnest word on the question of milk. I would urge the Minister to take his courage in both hands and institute a supply of pasteurised as against raw milk. It is quite hopeless to contend against the overwhelming opinion on the subject. There is in the British Medical Journal this week a report describing an epidemic at Doncaster in December, 1936. A child suffering from discharge from the ear was nursed by his father, who developed tonsilitis. He was a milker on a farm from which it was ascertained all the milk came in the area affected by the epidemic. It was established beyond any sort of doubt that the whole of the area was supplied from this farm; 380 families were supplied, and 1,343 persons constituted those families. The milker infected a cow, which developed disease. It was subsequently examined and, after the epidemic had subsided, these facts were established: the organism which causes scarlet fever and tonsilitis is the same. It is a special type of streptococcus.
In the epidemic there were 135 cases of scarlet fever and 229 of tonsilitis. The organism was traced from the discharge from the ear to the milk from the cow, and it was found in the throats of all the persons who were examined in the epidemic. There were altogether 364 patients, of whom 102 were admitted to the local hospital and the rest were treated at home. Detention in the hospital was on the average three weeks. Two patients died definitely from that source, and a third died, but it was doubtful whether the cause of death was to be ascribed to the epidemic, which suddenly arose in a couple of weeks and was traced to a milk-borne organism, and it was stopped instantly by pasteurising the supply. I suggest that the Minister should ensure a safe supply before he troubles himself too much as to the quantity of the milk supplied.
It is disappointing to see in the report of the Board of Education the admission that 800,000 children in 1934–35 were reported as requiring dental treatment but that they did not receive it. The situation is made still worse by the further admission that only three-fifths of the children in the schools are inspected. I 86 know from authoritative information that in a very large number of cases inspection is infrequent and perfunctory, and there is a very large volume of dental disease which is obviously undetected. Anyone who has had a hospital appointment, as I have for many years, knows the extent of disease that is caused by defective teeth. Dental disease must be stopped at the beginning in the schools. I do not often agree with the London County Council, but their dental inspection, as detailed in a letter to the "Times" some six months ago, is very thorough, comprising as it does Io dental inspections a year using the dental mirror.
I am glad to see that some attention is being paid to the protest that some of us made in the Debate on homework. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he does not consider that conditions in the best schools are such as to make the environment incomparably better than that of the home in the vast majority of cases. Nothing is more important than the degree of lighting. Postural defects are met by the fact that the height of the forms is graduated in the schools. There is the difficulty of interference with the work at home, and finally there is the obvious advantage in the school of the presence of a library. Books are there, lighting is there, sometimes supervision may be there, and I plead for the cessation of homework, that is, work done at home, and if work after school hours, which is not the same thing, is necessary, it should be done at the school and not at home.
I notice in the report that the amount expended by the Board of Education and local education authorities in 1934–35 is 85,000,000, and the amount spent on higher education in London was £76,000. I would plead for a slightly larger and more generous treatment of certain aspects of higher education in London. I have one very important subject to ventilate in that respect. The Coronation festivities developed in the citizens of London a sense of responsibility for overseas races not of our own blood but under our dominion. The debate on the Colonial Office Vote a few nights ago drew attention, quite properly, to certain serious defects in our administration of backward races, especially in Africa. It will surprise the House to learn that there is only 87 one really important or efficient school for the study of African languages in Great Britain. It was founded in the lean War years. It was started with a meagre endowment of £42,000—it ought to have had four or five times as much—and it depends almost entirely on fees, subscriptions and grants. It is a school of the University of London, but the University of London has a large number of schools to provide for and the amount available is relatively small. This school does a great deal of work which is not university work but is of the highest Imperial significance. It serves the purpose of educating a large number of candidates for offices in the African colonies. Notwithstanding this very poor financial assistance, it has built up for itself a reputation which places it in the very front of institutions of the kind.
§ The Chairman (Sir Dennis Herbert)
Any grant that there is to the School of Oriental Languages does not come under the Board of Education at all. It goes from the Treasury to the University of London. I think the hon. Gentleman will find that that is right.
§ Sir E. Graham-Little
My point is that the grant, which comes from the University Grants Committee and is distributed by the University of London, is not intended for the extra-university work that is done at the school. At least two-thirds of it is extra-university work of an Imperial character. The Rockefeller Foundation in 1932 made the school an offer of £3,000 a year, which ceases entirely in two years time and is reduced this year. If that subsidy is removed, the work of the Department must cease.
§ The Chairman
I still think the hon. Gentleman has got on to the wrong Vote. I do not think the Board of Education has anything whatever to do with it. He might argue that they should start a school of Oriental languages of their own, but at the moment the Board of Education has nothing to do with this.
§ Sir E. Graham-Little
We are faced with difficulties of that kind in higher education in London, and I submit that £76,000 is a very small contribution for that purpose.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Sanders
The Minister said that what struck him in introducing these Estimates, as compared with those of the Department with which he was recently associated, was the difference in the amount spent in bricks and mortar. I think what strikes most of us on this side of the Committee is the enormous difference between the increase in the amount to be spent on education and the increased amount to be spent on the Navy. I should not be in order in discussing the reasons for the Defence Vote, but I suggest to the Committee that it is rather a severe comment upon the progress of civilisation, not only in this country but in the world, that we are able to scrape together £1,000,000 increase on the Estimates for education this year compared with the enormous sum, some hundreds of millions of pounds, that we are to spend upon the armed forces. I do not think that we should be so congratulatory of the Board of Education for what they propose to do, especially if we remember that all these very handsome proposals that were dwelt upon by the Minister, of what he hopes to do and the leeway that has to be made up, depend almost entirely upon the amount of money that can come from the centre. We on this side of the Committee know that, when districts are backward in adopting proposals that emanate from this House and from the Board of Education, it is due to their poverty and not to the want of good will. I was speaking just now to a Member of the House who sits for a part of West Ham, and we were discussing the very important matter of nursery schools, which were referred to by the Minister. That hon. Member, who is an enthusiastic educationist and has been mayor of his borough, said, "How can you expect us to put up a number of nursery schools, which everybody admits are relatively expensive, when our rates are 19s. 2d. in the £?" What is wanted is an increased subsidy from the centre, if we are to have nursery schools where they are very much needed, as is the case in West Ham.
On the question of the improved physique and health of the children, I am not going to suggest that there is any reason why we should try to reduce the 89 extent of the compliments that may be paid to the Board of Education for its good work. Under the London County Council, the health of the children not only with respect to their teeth, but generally, is excellent. The work of the School Health Department is amazingly good. A good deal of the improvement in the health of the children, as I know from my own knowledge in my division, is due, not only to attention to health in schools, but also to the fact that families are smaller, and that parents with comparatively small incomes can afford to give more time and attention to their two or three children than would have been possible if they had had five or six children. That fact must not be overlooked. I know this from my personal knowledge, as I live near my constituency and meet my constituents in their houses very often and am able to make comparisons with what existed 50 years ago. The difference in the home life of the children in many cases is exceedingly great in that regard.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) raised a very important point as to what we on this side of the Committee look for in education. I think that we can claim that we hold the same opinion as the great philosopher on individualism, who was opposed to us in almost every other respect. His definition of education is the same as ours. Herbert Spencer said that the business of education is to prepare for complete living. If we consider that to be a legitimate and worthy definition of the object or the business of education, everyone will agree that education ought not to finish in the schools at 14 years of age, but must still go on. We are glad on this side of the Committee to know that there has been a very great increase in the development of education in evening institutes and continuation schools throughout the country. I spent nine years on the Education Committee of the London County Council, and I think that they have been the most fruitful years of my 50 years of public life. I am, therefore, very much interested in this side of educational development, and I am glad to know that the Minister has been made aware of the very wonderful work done by the City Literary Institute under the London County Council.
I can also tell him of other very remarkable developments in evening insti- 90 tutes of a different character. I can take him in my borough to one which does not pretend for a moment to have any commercial value whatever. It does not train young people merely to be useful wage-earners, but it is the kind of work necessary in the business of education as preparation for complete living, namely, to supply the artistic and literary deficiencies which necessarily arise when one leaves school at 14. The subjects taught in that institute are painting, literary subjects, photography, public speaking, elementary law, duties of citizenship and the like. Whenever I go over it or open an exhibition, I think that if Robert Browning were still alive he would rejoice to know that people had become aware of his teaching and were following it. Perhaps many hon. Members will recognise the words of Robert Browning in deprecating that a man should devote all his time to getting a living, that he should be born a man and die a factory worker, when he said:I want to know a butcher paints,A baker rhymes for his pursuit,Candlestick maker much acquaintsHis soul with song, or, haply mute,Blows out his brains upon the flute!That is what they do in this institute, and it is a remarkably fine educational work, which, I hope, will be encouraged by the Minister of Education. But it requires money. London is a wealthy city, and although my borough is a comparatively poor one, fortunately the Borough of Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington have to contribute towards the cost of that institute, and we are grateful for that assistance. The poorer districts cannot do it. You cannot get that larger and wider education in districts where the rates are 19s. 2d. up to 25s. and 26s. in the £.
I conclude my brief remarks, which, I hope, will not chill too much the aspirations of the Minister who opened the Debate by saying that the need of education at the present time is not so much one of plans. We have them in plenty. It is not so much good will. We have it in plenty. Except in certain very obscurantist sections of the Conservative party, there is good will everywhere. The one thing which is required above all others is money, and the extra £1,000,000 this year will not make up all the difference that has yet to be made up between the plans suggested by the Minister who 91 introduced the Estimates and what we, all of us who love education, would like to see done.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I meant to confine myself entirely to one very technical point, but I venture to trespass on the indulgence of the Committee to make some remarks on one or two things that have been said by earlier speakers. Everybody on both sides, with one exception I think, has, and I quite see that it is almost necessary, taken as the calculus of education the number of hours spent by children in being educated and the number of pounds spent by the community on educating them. Though I quite see the convenience of that sort of calculus, perhaps it is not a waste of time to remind the Committee that it is not really a very exact one, and, if it is not impertinent of me to commend my elders and betters, I think that the speech of the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) was a very striking example of that truth, We have been told of the evil which is in examinations—I think much more evil than really is there—and certainly I would not wish to set up to examine the prose style of Members of this House, but I do not think that anybody who has listened to the whole of the Debate could doubt that for solidity and realism of matter, and for exactitude and propriety of expression, the speech made by a Member who left school and went down the mine on his thirteenth birthday was classes ahead of anything done by the rest of us. I am glad there have been two or three persons with academic educations who have spoken between him and me, so that the contrast between my remarks and his may not be too glaring.
One of the things to which the Minister alluded when he began was the relation between education and art, and I should like to say one word about that. I do not wish less money to be spent on what is called art education, but I do not think that harm would be done really if less money were spent on art education and more money were spent on the products of the people who go to art schools. The Parliamentary Secretary talked about industries to which art matters. I do not know: for instance, whether the administration of this country is an industry to 92 which art matters, but, if so, I would suggest that when the Office of Works, or whoever it is, buys the carpets which one sees on the floors of Government offices and the peculiarly degrading little enamelled iron things with numbers on them that you see on the doors of the rooms, it does seem a pantomime parody of economy to spend money on teaching children to paint and design things and then to have these terrible oriental carpets, with all the guts taken out of them and all the original patterns gone, with the scale completely wrong, and the colours thoroughly nauseating. Is it not possible that our educational system does sometimes go wrong by having too indirect a connection with the product of such things?
The right hon. Member who opened the Debate for the Opposition spoke of the child whose whole future depends upon an academic examination at the age of 11. I have seldom taken part in a Debate in this House where the word "academic" has not been used as a term of abuse; but to use it in regard to children of 11 is a little hard. I would beg hon. Members opposite not to view life as composed of such a series of exceedingly steep crises, as they seem to think they see it. They worry their heads so much about so-called crises in public affairs and seem to think that civilisation is going "phut" if everybody does not agree with their case about the peace ballot, or if some-particular thing does or does not happen at Bilbao or Barcelona or Abyssinia. Civilisation is always in the balance with them, and they seem to have the same sort of idea about children. Surely the consoling thing about children, male children at least, is that they cannot do much harm before the age of 30, and the argument about the criticalness of examinations has been exaggerated.
A good deal has been said about homework. It seems to me that it is an essential thing that children should do some homework, and fairly early in life. I well understand that there are many homes in which homework is extremely difficult for the child; the proper way to bring about an improvement is to try to make the homes less unsuitable. We had a striking testimony to-day from the hon. Member on the Opposition Front Bench that in Battersea there is a great contrast in that respect from what prevailed one and two 93 generations ago. It is said that the child forgets nine-tenths of what it learns in homework; but that does not matter. What it does is to acquire the habit of doing a job without someone standing over it and telling it what to do. We all of us have to do certain jobs in life, whether we are taught or not.
There are several other points with which I should like to deal, but I do not wish to take up too much time. There is one technical point on which I should like to ask a question, although I do not expect any very exact answer, because it is administratively almost an impossibly difficult problem. Perhaps I shall be corrected if my facts are wrong. The operation of the Burnham scale means that the ordinary secondary school teacher about the age of 35 gets to a sort of "ceiling," he approaches 35 and a £400 salary simultaneously, and generally at the same time his family begins to be expensive, and he cannot well afford to move. I am told that the effect is—I have taken some pains to check the statement—that if a secondary school teacher does not leave his school by the time that he is 31 or 32, certainly not later than 35, his chances of leaving are very small, unless he gets a head mastership, because the managers of the school to which he may apply for transfer are apt to say: "This appointment is going to be too much of a burden on our budget, whereas if we take a man 10 years younger it would cost us £150 or so less."
There is here no saving to the public, because the older men are there and will remain there, with their salary increments. There is no saving to the general budget of society, but only a saving to the education authority concerned, and the effect is very much to immobilise the secondary school teacher. That seems a highly undesirable thing. The best headmaster, I am inclined to think, ought not to stay in one school more than 12 years, and the same remark applies pretty well to the best assistant master. It is a good thing for people to have a change of environment and occupation, just as it is to have a change of air and water. This scale does have a detrimental effect in regard to mobility. It may be that the administrative difficulties of putting right what is a very bad effect are so great that nothing can be done, but it seems to me 94 proper that the Committee should be made aware that there is this bad effect, to which administrative attention ought to be directed.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Cove
There seems to be an increasing inclination not to criticise the Estimates brought before us, and that seems to have occurred this afternoon. The spirit of the Minister of Health seems to have cast its spell over the House. Hon. Members come here, and they are told the same story. Ministers paint a glorious picture of the progress that has been made in their Departments, and all the time the Committee is apt to forget the actual realities. The Parliamentary Secretary this afternoon, following the example of others, has done exactly the same thing. He has told us that although he has been only a short time in his office he has been impressed by the progress which has been made. I think he spoke of real, solid progress in the Department. I prefer the more discriminating attitude and spirit which he displayed when he examined the educational system about the year 1926. I have recently been reading a book which he then wrote, and I can say in all sincerity that it is an excellent book. I should be glad if investigations of a character similar to those that he made then were undertaken in many more directions. It would do us all good, it would do the Committee good to read his book in order to get at the realities behind the speech which he has made to-day.
I will summarise the text of the book in order to tempt hon. Members who have progressive tendencies to read the book and examine it. It is a book by Kenneth Lindsay, B.A., and I take it that the writer was the Parliamentary Secretary. It has a magnificent preface by the late Lord Haldane, who commended it. I agree with Lord Haldane. Let me refer to some of the things in the book. First of all, the hon. Member proves up to the hilt that the system of education in this country, even with its provision of secondary education, with its provision of free places, does not fulfil the democratic ideal. He proves conclusively that behind the free places system, which is now known as the special places system, which is a little different, there is a barrier, and that barrier the vast mass of poverty which exists. He points out in the book some very interesting statistics into which 95 I will not go. He made an examination into the character of the occupations of the parents who send children into the secondary schools and found that only 2½ to 3 per cent. of the children in the secondary schools were children whose parents belong to the unskilled labouring class. Therefore, our much boasted secondary school system, even with its provision of free places and its scholarships, does not make any provision for 80 to 90 per cent. of the children in this country gaining access into that system.
We have been talking about examinations this afternoon and the Parliamentary Secretary has coined a phrase which I like. He says in his book in regard to the scholarship examination at the age of 11, that the real truth about that examination is that it is an examination for the purpose of elimination, and that what we want is not a scholarship examination system at the age of 11 for the purpose of elimination, but rather a scholarship test or examination in order to discriminate and find out what are the capacities of the individual child, rather than preventing that child from entering into the secondary system that lies ahead. Those are excellent sentiments. The title of the book is: "Social Progress and Educational Waste," and in a chapter entitled the "Barriers of Poverty" he says:It has become increasingly obvious in the course of this study, that, whatever the percentage of elementary school children who are capable of profiting by secondary education may be, and even if fees are abolished, as at Bradford, for secondary schools, there is still another barrier which is perhaps the most serious of all. Lord Shaftesbury said over 50 years ago: 'The extent to which persons in London depended on the labour of their children, their Lordships would scarcely be aware of.'I wonder whether in the Estimates that the Parliamentary Secretary has brought forward to-day there is revealed any real amelioration of that condition. How much advance have we made in the last 10 years in the provision of secondary education? How much further forward have we got in getting real equality of opportunity within the secondary school system? The figures for last year show that the percentage of elementary school leavers who went into secondary schools was 12.6, so that between 80 and 90 per cent. of the children who left the schools were thrown into industry. In another 96 paragraph in the book the Parliamentary Secretary says:No one can say how much trouble, delinquency, blind-alley work, human maladjustment and human waste could be saved by spending more money, and spending it more wisely, on those members of the nation under 18 years of age.Those are the sentiments of the book, and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary how he can get up and be satisfied that we have made real and serious progress as far as our system of education is concerned. Take school buildings and the black list. The black list was compiled in 1925, 12 years ago. The standards then employed were not the standards that I would have employed or that many others would have employed as far as the schools were concerned. There were hundreds of schools which ought to have been put on the black list that never were put on the black list. There were categories, A, B and C. Category A contains schools which were beyond repair; the only thing to do was to pull them down and build new schools. There are still schools after 12 years which are in category A—58 of them. As a matter of fact, in categories A, B and C in 1925 there were 2,827 schools, and on 31st December, 1936, there remained 1,033 of these schools still on the black list. Is that progress? Enough time has elapsed for other schools to have become rotten and placed on the black list.
You are not only removing schools on the black list, but you are giving time for other schools to get into such a condition when they should go on the black list. This does not give us a true picture of the black-list schools; the list is out of date. In spite of the fact that 12 years ago there was this survey and that people said that these schools must go, we still find nearly 50 per cent. of those then on the black list still remaining. They are not all non-provided schools; there are some council schools still on the black list. It is not fair to say that the whole burden rests on the non-provided schools. Do hon. Members realise what these schools are like? They are filthy, insanitary, and—shall I use the word?—"lousy" buildings some of them, and in these days when teachers are supposed to give lessons in cleanliness and hygiene, cleanliness of body, mind and habit, the sanitary arrangements in the schools are filthy and the provision of 97 water is not there. There is one roller towel for a school of 50. Lessons in cleanliness and hygiene in those circumstances are a theoretical farce; they cannot be put into actual practice.
Look at London. I am not going to dare to complain about the London County Council as it is now constituted, but even if the Labour council had been in power long enough I should not mind criticising them. They have been there only for a short time. I make bold to say that taken as a whole it would be difficult to find an area with such bad schools as London. There are plenty of bad schools in Liverpool. An investigation was conducted the other day and 250 schools were reported upon. In 72 per cent. there was inadequate heating, no hot water, 41 per cent. were badly lit, 18 per cent. were unsuitable as schools and in 50 per cent. there was no medical inspection room. It was said that the rooms were grimy with dirt and were peeling off in patches, the damp oozing through the walls. The report describes some of the schools as rheumaticky schools. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that before you can really get a move on, as far as physical education is concerned in this country—the places to start your physical training is in the elementary schools—you want decent healthy buildings—that is absolutely necessary—and playing fields, which are also absolutely essential.
I was addressing a meeting in the countryside the other day and told the farmers who were there that they would not put their cows into the schools in their neighbourhood. One farmer said "Quite right." When we talk about progress let us look at the realities of the case. The Parliamentary Secretary gave a figure about the size of classes, 49,000 I think he said with over 40. I have been working out the sum all the afternoon and unless I have made a mistake it means that there are 2,000,000 children in this country in classes of over 40 and 50. Is that anything to be proud of? It all depends on the angle from which you look at it. If the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was as much interested in the black-list schools as he is in the Navy, and was taking part in the Debate, he would not be talking this afternoon about the progress we are making. If we had a Navy Estimate on the lines of the present Estimate, he would talk 98 about the perilous condition in which we were. He would describe these thousands of bad, insanitary schools as rotten, obsolete and dangerous battleships, and say that the national life of this country was involved. We should be in dire, perilous straits. That is the picture he would give. If we could only get hon. Members opposite and the Government to look at this problem with the dynamics and the desire that they look at the replacement of obsolete ships, we should soon see a change in black-list schools; we should soon get new school buildings put up.
Look again at the question of nutrition. Here I think we can indict the Board of Education. It hurts me to say this because I have such respect for the Board of Education. But here the Board are much more reactionary than this House. They are much more timorous than this House, so far as the nutrition of our children is concerned. In discussion after discussion in this House I have heard hon. Members on all sides emphasise the absolute necessity for good physical condition amongst the younger generation of our country. What are the Board of Education doing? They are timorous and fearful, and lack any imaginative conception of what they ought to do. They have issued a circular, two circulars as a matter of fact. And what do they say? Really I ask the Committee seriously to consider this. They actually tell local authorities that before they feed a child there must be evidence of malnutrition, the disease must be there, you must allow the pathological state to develop. What a conception of their duty. Local authorities want to feed the children, but the spirit of the Board of Education in this circular is that a child must actually be suffering from malnutrition, never mind what the income of the parents may be, before the local education authority can feed the child. You are not going to get a n A1 nation if you adopt that sort of thing, if you are going to allow disease to occur.
In this the Board of Education are not only acting contrary to the spirit of hon. Members on this side of the House, but acting contrary to the spirit of the whole House. I do not believe there is an hon. Member opposite who would not say that these children ought to be fed before there is evidence of malnutrition. I have been 99 looking up the reports on this matter. I do not want the Government to take my view. There is the interim report of the mixed committee on the problem of malnutrition, under the League of Nations, a very valuable report, and there are in it some things which I hope the Parliamentary Secretary who wrote that eminently progressive book in 1926 will notice. We did not put the Minister in another place and we deeply regret that either he or some one else is not the responsible Minister in this House for this service. I am inclined to think that what has happened is an indication of a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Government about the cause of education. Some of us think that the President of the Board of Education ought to be in this House so as to be able to answer responsibly for the Government. Take the question of feeding children. It is elementary, and we all know it, and we must keep emphasising it. What does this report say? In the first place it says that you cannot remedy the effects of malnutrition in children once malnutrition has occurred. How can you build an A1 nation by giving physical exercises if there is malnutrition?
The fact of the matter is that we know enough already about nutrition in order to feed our children properly. We know that meat, eggs, milk, fruit, greenstuffs, all this varied diet, will provide the nourishing and protective foods that are necessary. We do not want scientists to tell us any more in order to meet the problem of malnutrition. What is wanted is more money, more income, more power to buy these things. [An HON. MEMBER: "A subsidy."] It is a remarkable thing that in this country we are subsidising producers to create scarcity. That is the logical outcome of a policy of creating scarcity. You are bound to subsidise producers if you go in for a policy of scarcity. In school feeding you must have the opposite policy. I do not see what wrong there can be in subsidising the consumer I should imagine it is a far more economic proposition for the Board of Education to subsidise consumers by giving free meals in schools, free school fees and a free diet, which will bring up healthy children. I hope the Committee will forgive me for saying this, but in our home we have no special knowledge of diets and of calories 100 and vitamins A, B, C and D. What we said in our home was, "These children want meat, eggs, milk, fruit, oranges, apples and so on," and we had the money to buy them. What is the result, and I challenge the Parliamentary Secretary to come down? Three of the strongest, healthiest children you can imagine, with no science about it, but the ability to buy what those children can eat. And it is a slander and a lie against the working-class women of this country to say that the malnutrition of their children is due to ignorance. The Parliamentary Secretary, in his own book, has shown that it is due to poverty.
Withdraw this circular. What social justification is there for it? On what social grounds can you justify a circular which says: "Let malnutrition occur before you feed the child"? On what educational grounds? Will the hon. Gentleman tell us? What good is it to the children, the parent or the State that you should allow this to occur? The Board of Education are interested in the physical well-being of children. We have had reports; I cannot go into them all. Latterly there has been a re-shuffling of the categories. We now have categories A, B, C and D. A, children who are excellently fed; B, normal nutrition; C, sub-normal nutrition; D, very bad. Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell us what the medical department of the Board mean by "normal"? Is it an average? If they find that in one area 10 bad teeth are the average and in another five, do they add them together, divide the total and decide that seven bad teeth represent normality? It cannot possibly be a national average; there are no national standards. As a picture of the state of the nutrition of our children it is positively worthless.
I am going to read from an excellent document, "Nutrition of Elementary Schoolchildren." This is not an expression of opinion but a recital of facts. It gives the columns A, B, C and D for various places, taken from the medical officers' reports. This is what this expert committee says:Examining these percentages, we discover at once a number of points that are difficult to interpret. Middleton, for example, reports 24 per cent. of its children as sub-normal or bad, whereas Accrington shows less than 1 per cent. in these two categories together.Why this difference? 101Is it probable again that Middleton contains proportionately as many as five times excellently nourished children as does Bootle, almost five times as many as St. Helens and two and a-half times as many as Sheffield? Several areas—e.g., Oldham, Todmorden and Sheffield—show over four times as many subnormal children proportionately as does St. Helens. Coming to other industrial centres, we find an even greater divergence. Can we readily assume that Smethwick contains proportionately almost seven times as many 'excellent' children as does Northampton?"—
§ Mr. Cove
This is in feeding.almost three times as many as Burton, and no less than 28 times as many as Reading?These differences show that the whole scheme is absolutely unscientific. These standards are worthless. There are no common standards applied by all doctors. If you want a true picture of the nutrition of the children you have to know what they have to eat. To find out what all the children in the schools are actually having is an impossible task. If that is so, what is the way out for a sensible, rational society? Obviously, to say, "Here are masses of people whose wages and income are below the proper subsistence level and we will allow children to have food where the income is not sufficient."
We have had a rosy picture from the Parliamentary Secretary, but I think that I have shown quite clearly that, as far as the provision of secondary education is concerned, 12 per cent. get it, while 80 to go per cent. march out into industry. Is that an education system which you can say is democratic and provides equality of opportunity? Many of the senior schools are doing excellent work, but the senior school system is not meant to, and never will, provide equality of opportunity. If you are to have equality of opportunity, all your schools above 11-plus have to come within the secondary category. You must have equally qualified staff for all of them, the same good buildings, and the same amenities for play. Reorganisation in many areas, incomplete as it is, is only a reshuffling—closing one school and putting in another school of the same character, often in a building nearly as bad. One would imagine from the Minister that something fundamental in our education system was happening. The hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) happens to have 102 in his area an excellent senior school system, but it does not come within the amenities and regulations of the secondary system. I know his area, but if you go round the country you will find in many instances reorganisation was merely reshuffling.
How many nursery schools are there in this country? There are 89, and that is progress. I was hoping that the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor)—I hope she is not at-Ascot—would be with us this afternoon. I was hoping that she would be here to help us in connection with the nursery schools. Some years ago I was told by the then President of the Board of Education that it was still the policy of the Board to maintain and develop the infants' schools, but infants' schools are being closed. Amalgamation is going on. This closing of the infants' schools, together with the denial of the development of the nursery schools, is not the best policy to pursue for these young children. We want to maintain and develop the infants' schools, although they are probably not as good as nursery schools. Let us have nursery schools. Let us have a development in the younger, tender years of the life of a child. Let us have the physical nurture that young life demands. The progress that has been made is small and insignificant beside what ought to be done. The English education system is still a class system. It is full of class distinctions. We have a boy who comes from a village and wins a scholarship to Oxford and we say—like Jimmy Thomas, "from footplate to Cabinet Minister"—"There is an example of our great democratic system." because one boy has gained a scholarship to a university we say "What a glorious, democratic education system we have."
Our eyes should be on the 80 per cent. who are denied equality of opportunity in education, and in the service of the country, and who are denied that physical nurture and sustenance which they ought to have because of low wages and the depression of the general rank and file.
§ 7.15 p.m.
I had always understood, before becoming a Member of the House, that the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) enjoyed a very considerable reputation for his extreme pessimism in regard to education, and he has 103 certainly fully lived up to that reputation this afternoon; but I do not think he should have allowed his pessimism to carry him away to such an extent as to allow him to paint such a ludicrous picture of the elementary schools in London. During the few years that I was a member of the London County Council, I had opportunities of visiting a great number of our elementary schools, and I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that the hon. Member's description of these schools is absolutely ludicrous.
The hon. Member also said that the secondary school system is a class system, and that no opportunities are provided in it for the children of poor parents. I suggest to the hon. Member that he should cross the bridge to County Hall and ask to be allowed to look at the records of the Education Committee, for there he will see for himself the stories of hundreds of children of poor parents who, through the scholarship system, have gone to secondary schools and to the universities, taking the highest honours there. It may be true to say that there are not sufficient opportunities, and I would be inclined to agree with that, but to say that the opportunities do not exist is very wide of the truth.
§ Mr. Cove
If the hon. and gallant Member will look at the figures, he will find that the figure for London is far below the average for the country. I am open to correction, but my memory is that those gaining scholarships in London represent 4 per cent. of the school population, in England 8 per cent. and in glorious Wales 20 per cent. If the hon. and gallant Member wants to help these children, will he address some remarks to Mr. Eric Hall, the Moderate representative, who opposed the estimates brought in by the London County Council the other day?
I am not a member of the London County Council and I have no influence with Mr. Hall, or anybody else. From my experience in London, all I can say is that if the figures quoted by the hon. Member are accurate and if the London County Council is doing less in this direction than any other education authority, the situation in the country as a whole is a great deal better than I thought it was. Anybody who has been connected with education over any length 104 of time is not unnaturally very much disturbed at the very large percentage of children who leave the secondary schools at the age of 16 plus, after they have taken a school certificate. There is not altogether unanimous agreement as to what a secondary school is. One is told that it is a type of school in which secondary education is provided, but when one asks what secondary education is, one is told that it is the type of education that is provided in a secondary school.
I have consulted a number of people whose opinions on matters of education is entitled to respect, and they say that a secondary school should be provided with the type of course which takes children up to the school certificate stage and beyond it to the higher school certificate stage and, for the more outstanding children, to university scholarships. We find that many more than 50 per cent. of the children in our secondary schools are leaving at the age of 16 plus, before they have completed the course laid down for that type of school, and one is driven to the conclusion that the existing system is not really a satisfactory one. I think it may be true to say that we should reduce the number of secondary schools in view of the fact that the supply of secondary education is greater than the real demand for it, and that we should introduce, as I think could be done by administrative means, an intermediate type of school on the lines of the selective central schools in London, which have been an immense success and which are being conducted by a few other authorities in different parts of the country.
I suggest that this intermediate type of school should cater for the boys and girls who are now leaving the secondary schools at the age of 16 plus, and that the syllabus should be designed to finish at the age of 16 plus, so that the children leaving such a school will have received a complete course of education and not a truncated course as they are having at the present time. The essence of a successful educational system must be flexibility. Our present system is not sufficiently flexible, due probably to the traditions at the back of the various types of education in the old days under different authorities; and it is not untrue to say that our educational system is divided into watertight compartments. 105 There is elementary education and then secondary and technical education, and the difference between these types of education is emphasised by the fact that whereas higher education receives a Government grant to the extent of 50 per cent., the grant for elementary education is assessed as the result of an extremely complicated formula. Surely it would be an improvement to divide the educational system into two parts, primary and post-primary, and to make the post-primary system available to all children above the age of 11 plus.
I agree with a great deal that has been said concerning the early age at which the children take the scholarship examinations. For a great number of children that is virtually the only chance they have of receiving full-time continued education. It is true that at the age of 13 plus there is a further scholarship examination whereby a few children, but only a few, have the opportunity of going either to secondary schools or to junior trade and technical schools, but the number of these children is so small that it does not affect my argument. I have no hesitation in saying that the age of 11 plus is an absurdly young one at which to decide the future, educational or otherwise, of any child. I suggest that within the post-primary system we should still retain the 11 plus scholarship examination, and have the first "weeding out" at that age, whether it be done by examination or by some other means.
The examinations system has been very much condemned, but nobody has ever suggested a better alternative. I think there must be a first sorting out at the age of 11 plus, and that a certain type of child at that age, as a result of the examination, should be sent to the senior school and another type to the intermediate school which I have attempted to describe. At the age of 13 plus, would it not be a good thing to have another sorting out as a result of which the children would either remain in the senior school or the intermediate school, or go to a junior trade and technical school or to the higher type of secondary school which would take them to the higher school certificate stage, or to the university in the case of the more advanced students? I think it ought not to be beyond the wit of the Minister or of this House to devise some system which would give a greater 106 measure of opportunity to all children in the schools regardless of the means of their parents.
I am sure that, as a result of the present system, whereby a child's future is more or less decided at the age of 11 plus, we are missing a great deal of potential talent, which is extremely unfair to the children and a misfortune for the country. At a time when we are overhauling one end of our educational system by the reorganisation of the elementary schools, we might do well to consider whether we should not have an overhaul at the other end, and see whether we cannot devise some system which would enable all children in the schools to have better, wider and more varied opportunities than they have at the present time. One if often told by people who ought to know better that most of the money spent on education is wasted. I certainly do not agree with that if the inference is that we are spending too much money, because I look upon educational expenditure as a good and wise investment from which we get a reasonably good return; but I think it would be possible to overhaul our system and see whether it would not be feasible for us to get an even better return than we are getting at the present time.
§ 7.28 p.m.
Mr. W. Joseph Stewart
I have listened to the Debate with a great deal of interest. Leaving the academic side to be dealt with by other hon. Members, I would like for a few minutes to deal with the problem which is facing many local authorities in their efforts to meet the requirements of the Board of Education. I come from a county which is scheduled as a Special Area. In 1926 a survey of our schools was made, and on that occasion the Board condemned 42 schools and told the local authority that its duty was to replace them as soon as possible. Moreover, 102 schools were scheduled for remodelling. On seeing that list, the local authority, knowing the condition in which the county was placed owing to the industrial depression, and knowing that the produce of a penny rate had fallen from £19,000 to approximately £12,000, realised that the task which the Board had set it was practically impossible of fulfilment. In that county the produce of a penny rate per unit of average attendance is 1s. 8d. I am sure the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. 107 Ede) will forgive me if I quote his county, but the produce of a penny rate per unit of average attendance in Surrey is approximately 9s. 1d. When one realises the differences between the figures for various counties in England and Wales and the fact that in some areas the produce of a penny rate is so low, one can understand the task which confronts certain local authorities in trying to meet the Board's requirements as regards replacement of obsolete schools. Not only so, but the Act passed last year, which comes into operation in 1939, means that authorities will have to embark upon additional heavy capital expenditure in order to bring schools up to date and satisfy the Board's requirements.
An hon. Member opposite, not long ago, asked what was being done by local authorities to meet the Board's requirements following on the survey of 1926. He seemed to suggest that there was a reluctance on the part of certain local authorities to replace obsolete schools, and that they were not doing their job, as responsible authorities, in the proper manner. But when one considers the low rateable value of certain counties and the low produce of a penny rate, one is forced to the conclusion that the work cannot be done as expeditiously as we would like unless there are substantial additional grants from the Board. When Sir Charles Trevelyan was at the head of the Department, the local authority in the county of Durham welcomed his suggestion that the Board would be willing to give increased grants, if we got on with certain work which was long overdue, especially the replacement of old schools. We got busy and did what we could, but when we received the results of the survey in 1926, with the suggestion that even more ought to be done, we felt within ourselves that we could not comply with that request unless the Board were willing to give us some assistance over and above the 50 per cent. grant.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether the Board, in consideration of the conditions prevailing in various counties of England and Wales and especially in those described as Special Areas, is prepared to give substantial grants over and above the 50 per cent. for building purposes, to help local authorities who are willing to do the work but who, owing to financial stringency at the moment, 108 cannot proceed with it as expeditiously as they would like. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) mentioned the question of school meals. That has caused us a great amount of concern in our area. During the last three years in this Special Area we have provided, approximately, 22,000,000 milk meals for children attending our elementary schools. We have spent at the rate of £28,000 per annum, and we give these milk meals to, approximately 26,000 children to-day. I am not suggesting that these meals meet all the requirements of the children attending our elementary schools in the county of Durham. What I do suggest is that, having regard to the low rateable value and industrial depression, the local authority in that county is doing all it possibly can for those children as regards the provision of meals. Taking all those things into consideration, and the fact that the Board is so desirous now to build up the physique of the boys and girls of our nation, does not the Parliamentary Secretary think that the time has arrived when the Board should come in, and, instead of making a mere percentage grant towards the cost, meet the full 100 per cent. and give our boys and girls a chance in life?
To me this is a very important aspect of our educational system. We have heard the opinion expressed from the benches opposite by responsible Ministers of the Crown that it is desirous, indeed imperative in the national interest to look after the physique of our boys and girls. We cannot do so if we neglect the feeding of the children attending our elementary schools. I am firmly convinced, that however much we may boast in other respects of our position among the nations of the world to-day, the most valuable asset any nation can possess is a healthy and virile manhood and womanhood, and to secure that we must start with the child. Just after the War I was interested, as one who had served in it, to read a summary of the findings of various medical boards which sat during the War years. It appeared, according to their findings, that it had been discovered that we were a C3 nation and that only a small proportion of the men examined for military service could be termed perfectly fit. What we did then when our backs were against the wall was to spend millions in an effort to lift our nation out of the C3 category into the A1 category. Having 109 learned our lesson in the late War, I should have thought we would have seen to it by 1937 that the children in our elementary schools did not suffer from any lack of food so that in the future, if we had attained the A1 category, we should not drop back into the C3 category.
I urge the Parliamentary Secretary in dealing with this question of malnutrition and the question of school meals, to see whether the interests of the children, the future citizens of this country and of this Empire about which we boast so much, would not best be served if the Board made, not a 50 per cent. or 60 per cent. grant, but a 100 per cent. grant towards the cost of feeding these elementary school children. The Parliamentary Secretary admitted that local authorities had been notified that additional medical officers should be appointed in the schools to look after the health of children. I was present at a meeting of the education committee of which I am a member when that circular was read. We found that although we had done our best, from the medical point of view, to help in building up the physique of the children and to look after their general health, we had spent hundreds of thousands of pounds in doing so, and that if we carried out the Board's wishes in regard to the appointment of additional medical officers the expense would be such that the ratepayers of the county could not stand the strain. I wonder whether, in view of that consideration, the Board consider it absolutely necessary in certain counties that these additional medical men should be appointed, and, if so, whether they are willing to make a substantial grant towards the salaries which will have to be paid to these officers so as to help local authorities to bear the extra burden which will be thrown upon them if they adopt the suggestions in that circular.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Major Rayner
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member who has just spoken. I also listened with pleasure to the first-class speech made by the Parliamentary Secretary, and I agree with every point which he made. But I would like to produce a new point which, I think, is just as vital as any mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. I refer to the tendency among educational bodies and individual teachers to allow politics to enter into 110 their professional deliberations and duties. As Members of the House of Commons we often receive resolutions from bodies of teachers on subjects which cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be said to appertain to their profession. Many hon. Members in the Committee will doubtless remember resolutions of that kind. I have a sheaf of them here. We had one about four weeks ago to the effect that:this conference is of opinion that there is a pressing need for the appointment of more women police.
§ Major Rayner
I cannot see either women police or any other police passing resolutions about teachers. But in case after case we find teachers passing resolutions about other professions with which they have nothing to do. Most of these resolutions deal with disarmament and foreign affairs. They demand either that the Government shall do something or shall not do something as regards those questions. We should be very surprised as Members of the House of Commons if we received resolutions from a body of police suggesting that the establishment of the Army should be a certain figure, or if we received a resolution from the Civil Service calling for intervention in Spain. But we have received so many resolutions of that kind from teachers that we have become accustomed to them and take them as a matter of course. Yet teachers as members of a State service have no more right to interfere in matters of that kind, as teachers, than members of other Government services. The Army, the Navy, the Civil Service and other services manage to refrain from that kind of interference, and I cannot help thinking that it is this tendency among many teachers, this failure to observe a vital convention of State service in a democratic country, which is causing teachers to lose a great deal of public sympathy at a time when the majority of teachers are worthy of all the sympathy which they can get. Instead of criticising in public the State which employs them, teachers should keep politics as widely separated from their profession as they are able to do. As they were the first to clamour for sectarian religious teaching to he removed from 111 their curriculum, so they should be the first to see that politics of any sort are excluded entirely from their profession.
I recently attended a gathering of a Western county association of teachers, and that is the real cause of these remarks of mine to-night. At that gathering the principal speaker on the second day was a noble Lord, whose opinions as regards foreign affairs and pacifism are known to be extreme, not to say fantastic. His peculiar ideas on the bringing up of children were received with considerable enthusiasm; his gibes at the British Empire and remarks about a strong Army, and about the British Navy keeping peace all over the world, as "that sort of bunkum," raised even greater enthusiasm than the rest: of his speech. I must admit that a great many teachers sitting round me looked just about as ashamed as I felt, and one might say, I think, that some of that enthusiasm was ordinary West country kindliness and courtesy to an invited guest, but it was certainly not all that, and I cannot help thinking that some of that enthusiasm does reach the classrooms. My own opinion is that in many schools in this country teaching is becoming tinged with politics and pacifism, and although the Fascist and Communist countries can afford to educate their children in their State schools in accordance with the ideals that they favour, it is the last thing which we want done in this country.
There is no doubt about it that political education ought to start early, long before children reach the voting age—perhaps it might even start while they are at school—but if it does start while they are at school, one cannot help feeling that they should hear both sides of the question, and that teachers who are inclined to influence them in one particular political direction are not doing their job. One might almost say that it is a breach of trust. Teachers, who have a most responsible task in bringing up our future generation, have to interpret what is going on in the world, things that we in this House find it very difficult to understand, and it is very easy for them, when interpreting those events, to give some slight twist, perhaps quite unconsciously, to bring those events into line with their own way of thinking. It is even easier, unless they watch carefully, for them to omit to teach the children the truth which stands 112 out against the fog of contemporary history, that we live in a world of potential war and that we ought to hang on to those British ideas of loyalty, patriotism, and self-sacrifice which have saved us in the past and may have to say us again. I think that any teacher who tries to hide from children the actual conditions of the age into which they have been born is failing in his job.
Some educational bodies have turned their attention to the textbooks used in our schools. Hon. Members have had instances of this—one quite near here. They propose to revise the textbooks, so that they shall tend to give what they call a "peace mentality." This cannot be allowed for one moment. Our school textbooks in the past have been written without bias and with no particular idea of teaching from any special point of view, and this new tendency to produce textbooks which suggest particular ideals, whether pacifist or anything else, is extremely undemocratic and un-British. It makes one's blood boil to think of the doings of our generals and admirals being cut out of our history books, as they have been in some cases—those men who have gone down into the arena and won for us the comforts and the beauties which teachers, among others, enjoy to-day. This attempt to hide from our children the true lessons which those doings illustrate is quite disgraceful. I think, too, that it is highly dangerous, because it is just the opposite of what is happening in other countries. In Germany and Italy they are revising their textbooks certainly, but in the other direction, and not only are they teaching their children that their first duty is to the State, both in peace and in war, but they are magnifying the glories of their history, so as to increase the ardour of their rising generation, and even so as to whet their hatred. I had a booklet sent to me last week, a new textbook written by a German called Herr Goebel—not the one we know—and from it I took out these sentences:Britain is the greatest war profiteer, just as she was the chief propelling force behind the world war. Out of trade jealousy she completely destroyed Germany, her competitor in world markets.That is the sort of thing which is taught in a history book which has been approved for all the German schools. I think it is extremely dangerous for us to emasculate our history and to teach 113 pacifism, internationalism, and the brotherhood of man just when these other nations are teaching their children that the only things that matter are soldiers, the righting of their wrongs, and the glories of their armies.
§ Major Rayner
My answer to that is that that is all very well, and we can look forward in time to the brotherhood of man, but if the brotherhood of man is proclaimed in one or two countries particularly, and taught in those countries to the children, while in other countries which crouch behind their borders ready to take advantage of the weaknesses of idealistic neighbours, the other thing is taught, it can only lead to misery for those countries who thus lay themselves open. I believe teaching to be the most responsible profession. I admire teachers in many ways, although I have just tried to make one or two rude remarks about them. I do not think one can admire too much the way in which they spend their spare time in organising children's games and sports, or the way in which, in the face of great difficulties, they got busy with physical training long before the Government took it up. I feel that in many ways they are not given that status in our social scheme of things which is their due, owing to the great importance of their profession, but just as one is inclined to judge the decline of an invalid by his most obvious symptoms, so one is inclined to judge the health of a profession by its most vociferous section, and on that test I think the whole teaching profession is found wanting at the moment.
I think there is something wrong with our education system if we do not insist on children being told that they have a duty to their State, both in peace and war, and I think that citizenship should certainly be taught in our schools. The right hon. Gentleman who until recently was President of the Board of Education came down on the first day to that particular Conference of which I was talking and made several very polite remarks about teachers, which were all perfectly true, of course. He said that he was amazed at the work they put in and that they had "a fine tradition," but I think some of our leaders should really tell the 114 teaching profession a few home truths on this question of pacifism and politics in that great State service.
§ 7.56 p.m.
Mr. Edmund Harvey
I think the Parliamentary Secretary must have appreciated the many expressions of admiration at the way in which he performed his difficult task this afternoon, and many of us who felt regret that his predecessor should be leaving his office after the notable speech that he made on the Physical Training Bill will have felt some comfort from the spirit in which the Parliamentary Secretary opened the discussion to-day. But I hope that, with all the appreciation that many of us feel for that spirit, he will also realise that there was a great deal of truth in the criticism that came from the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) about the immense amount of leeway that has yet to be made up, I think that in particular he and the President of the Board of Education will need all their will power to ensure that progress does continue in education under the financial stress that necessarily lies upon the Department in consequence of a situation that we all deplore. It is of vital importance that a great effort should be made to see that there is no slowing down in the progress of education, otherwise we are in danger of having progress somewhat like that of one of those strange religious processions that wind up one of the Rhineland mountains once a year—two steps forward and one step back.
At least it ought to be possible now to use this interval for wise measures of educational advance for the future. There are two years intervening before the raising of the school-leaving age, and it is of the greatest importance that the Board of Education should insist upon all the local education authorities getting forward with the production of their plans; otherwise, when the hour arrives, we shall be found not ready for it. I would also plead with the Board of Education to give its best thought to stopping, as far as it can, the fatal loophole in the Act, by getting a satisfactory definition of the words "beneficial employment," otherwise we shall have certain authorities giving a wide interpretation to the term and leaving a very large portion of the children unable to obtain the benefits which the Act was designed to give them.
115 I put to the hon. Gentleman's predecessor during the last month or two some questions about the size of classes, and the hon. Member for Aberavon raised that point earlier in the Debate to-day. We ought not to be satisfied because there has been a reduction during the last two or three years, a reduction that was commented upon with satisfaction by the Parliamentary Secretary. We ought rather to remember that there remain these 2,000,000 children in classes over 40, and more than 500,000 infants in those large classes. If this rate of progress is not improved, it will mean that there are school generations of children passing through their school life under conditions which are not satisfactory. Surely it ought to be possible now to urge local authorities to get forward with their plans, to have their plans ready for the reduction of classes, together with plans for any necessary structural alterations, so that the moment it is possible to get building operations resumed in more normal conditions these reforms shall be carried through.
There is one point on which I should be glad if we could have some light from the Parliamentary Secretary. The Board will receive power from the Financial Resolution that was passed on Friday to allow teachers going abroad not to lose their superannuation benefit. I welcome that change, for I think it is an admirable thing that the Board and the Government should give encouragement to teachers to take periods of service overseas. It will mean refreshment of life for the teachers and an enlargement of outlook, and it will be a great benefit for their pupils. I should like to ask, however, that it should be supplemented by the further step that they should not lose the increment that they would receive under the Burnham scale by reason of having a period of approved service in school work abroad. I can give an instance of a teacher whom I know in a secondary school, who took a year's course in a mission school in Palestine and came back again to work. He did it sacrificing any benefit he would get under the Burnham scale and his superannuation benefit. If we are to encourage teachers to take up work of that kind, we ought not to put them to any financial sacrifice. The Government have shown their sympathy for work of this sort by 116 the financial measure that was passed on Friday, and I hope they will be able to supplement it by making a similar arrangement as regards the Burnham scale.
There is a further point which I hope the Committee will spare a few moments to consider, and that is the future development of adult education. The Parliamentary Secretary made a warm reference to the value of the work that has been done in recent years in that direction. It really is one of the most remarkable achievements in education which has been going on quietly during the last 30 years. I am thinking especially of the great work of the Workers' Educational Association. I want also to speak of a more recent development that has not had much public notice, and that is the work of educational settlements in various parts of the country and that of similar institutions. Many of them are linked together through the Educational Settlements Association. There you have, often under unsatisfactory economic conditions, a remarkable achievement in education in an atmosphere of friendliness and fellowship in which the students take a part in the management and planning of classes. That is the kind of thing we ought to see in a democratic society. It is not imposed by authority from above, but they co-operate in the planning and management, and the whole atmosphere is one of friendliness and fellowship. In a number of these settlements, classes of the Workers' Educational Association are carried on and the settlement provides a wider outlook and a larger horizon than is possible where a class works in isolation.
I should like to see, looking ahead, the whole country permeated with work of that kind, where all the students come simply because they want to learn, and because of their interest in a subject, and not because of any material advantage that they hope to gain. This is a proved cultural development of which our democracy ought to be proud, and I hope that the Board of Education will be able to give more encouragement than they have done hitherto to this work. They give grants, sometimes to individual settlements and sometimes, through the local education authority, to particular classes, but in the recent report of the Board on Education in Wales, although there are a number of these settlements 117 carried on in specially difficult conditions in South Wales, in places where they are very much needed, there is no mention of the work of the Educational Settlements, or any similar institution. I do not think that it is lack of good will on the part of the Board, and I want the Board to turn its eyes in that direction and, looking at the development of the new housing estates, to see whether there is not a great opportunity and a great need there for constructive educational work.
Under the Physical Training Bill power is given to make grants for community centres. They ought to be true community centres with a wide outlook, aiming at culture in its fullest sense and not just physical training, not narrow educational work, but centres where a whole community may come together and where cultural life may be developed in the spirit of democracy. If that is to be done, it will be essential in many cases that there should be some Government grant-in-aid. I can think of a new housing estate in the North of England where there is a community centre so-called. It is let to the tenants' association by the local authority, but let at a rent which involves a heavy burden on the tenants, with the result that they let it every night in the week for whist drives and dances, and there is no opportunity for its use for educational classes, for discussion groups, for a local parliament, or for any other of the cultural uses one would like to see at a community centre.
I think of another community centre in the Midlands where a secretary whose salary is found by a voluntary association and not by the Government, is able to get together interest and to make a far fuller use of the centre. I should like to see help rendered to make that possible wherever these great housing estates come into being. In that particular estate something like 40,000 people are gathered together. They came together for the first time in many cases, and they have not the habit of neighbourhood that they had in their old homes, they do not know people living by them, and there is no one to lead them. Yet they have immense possibilities. Unless you get centres with the spirit of leadership and the spirit of fellowship combined, this new housing estate, although it has physical advantages that were not present in the old 118 overcrowded districts, will lack some of the spirit of friendliness and fellowship that was present in their life in the slums. We want to see the cultural and spiritual life in the widest sense of these new communities cared for and fostered just as much as the physical life. When the Parliamentary Secretary spoke I was delighted to hear him quote those great words of Ruskin, "There is no wealth but life." I think that if he interprets them as Ruskin did, and thinks of life as involving the powers of admiration, hope and love, we can have faith for the future of his Department as it carries through the great and heavy task that yet remains for it to do.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Loftus
I hope to deal with the interesting suggestion of the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey) with regard to community centres, and to put forward an idea that might meet, at any rate in part, his desire. First, however, I want to deal with certain remarks of the right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) and the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Sanders), who, I regret, are not in their places, and also of the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald). The hon. Member for Ince first raised the point of what is the aim of education, and I was glad that he did so because it is fundamental to our discussion. Later, the hon. Member rather blurred his copy book by making an almost savage assault on the central area schools. I hope in the course of my remarks to persuade him to moderate his somewhat grim sentiments, and to appreciate a little more the work that those schools are doing. As we build up this great system of education we must set before us the aim and object we are trying to achieve. The hon. Member for North Battersea quoted the words of Herbert Spencer that the object: of education was the preparation for complete living, but a lot depends on what we mean by "complete." There is a tendency to regard education as teaching boys and girls how to earn their living. That is wrong. We have got to teach them how to live, and we must pay regard to the word "complete." We want to develop citizens who are complete individual human beings, developed fully in body, mind and soul. That is what we must aim at.
119 I would like to refer to the remarks made by the hon. Member for North Battersea when he said he thought the central senior schools were turning out better individuals from the point of view of the community, while the secondary schools were turning out individuals better suited to pursue their own advantage. Which do we want? I suggest that there is no doubt that what we want is the full, complete citizen, the individual with body and mind fully developed, not the individual who is prepared, in a ruthless world, to carve out a career at all costs. I should like to suggest that the area schools are giving us a new type of education. I have been connected with the management of education in East Suffolk for some 16 or 17 years: In my own parish and half a mile from my house there is an area school of which I am a manager which has been visited by directors of education from Iraq, from West Africa, from East Africa, from Germany and by many others. I regard these new types of senior schools not only as fine things in themselves, but as having immense possibilities, and I should like for a moment or two to dwell on those possibilities.
In East Suffolk we regard the area school not as a separate building but as part of an estate. The seven or eight acres are laid out to be managed or developed not by grown-ups but by the children themselves. They make the gardens, they lay out the walks and the vistas from the windows; they actually make the fountains. There is a part of the estate given up to seed testing, and an orchard where they learn fruit grafting and so on. What I would suggest is that these new places, with their fine buildings, beautiful gardens and playing fields, should be used not only by the children during school hours but by the grownups themselves, especially in the summer evenings. That is not an impossible ideal. I heard the hon. Member for North Battersea talking about Central London and the development work which is being done there. He said it could not be done in the rest of England, because it costs money. It can be done where we have these area schools without much expenditure.
Three or four years ago I could have taken any hon. Member to a village in 120 Suffolk where, after the classes for the day were finished, he would have found the school fuller than it had been during working hours. The grown-ups were there and they were engaged on painting, iron-work, leather work and printing—they printed their own village magazine. The master was moved to an area school in a small town with some 2,000 inhabitants and has made that school a great centre of social life for the whole of the community after school hours. I plead with the Board of Education that they should bear that in mind, and should suggest to local education authorities that as they have got the buildings, and in many cases the gardens and the playing fields, these should not be kept for the few working hours of the school day but should become the centre of civic life and recreation for the whole community, especially in the summer evenings.
I would refer for a moment or two to the curriculum. The whole idea of the curriculum is that 50 per cent. of the time should be spent in what we in Suffolk call "book-larnin'" and 50 per cent. spent in handicraft work—carpentering, gardening and so on. Regard has always to be had to capital expenditure and the schools as they are are not the schools of our dreams, but I should like to see in every central area school, whether in town or country, a hall specially fitted up for the teaching of mechanics, because we live in the age of the internal combustion engine and every boy ought to know something about mechanics. Further, every area school in the country should have attached a room in which girls could be taught dairying and cheese making. There is a great demand for country cheeses, and we want to get cheese of a uniform quality, and if the village girls are taught in the central area schools there is a chance of securing that uniformity.
A point I would like to put before the Committee is this: We are developing an entirely new type of education. For some hundreds of years, probably for L000 years, the idea of education has been to pump in knowledge, but 2,000 or more years ago, in Greece, the idea of education was the complete development of the individual, the development of every faculty of the body and mind, the co-ordination of the brain, the hand and the eye. This new type of school is pro- 121 ducing that new type of complete education—the logical development of the whole individual. If only we let the teachers carry out the experiment, if we give them a free hand to experiment on free lines, it may well be that these new area schools will give a better type of education than the secondary schools, produce better types of men and women, only we must not cramp the teachers.
I was shocked to hear in the Debate that in South London one-third of the children in the central area schools go in for the school certificate examination. A very eminent education authority, a man whose name was respected by everybody connected with education, not only in this country but in foreign countries, came to inspect our Suffolk schools. "It is the most helpful development I have seen in my long life devoted to education," he said, but he added, "You know, it is so fine and so good that the Devil will find some means to destroy it." I said, "Yes, and the means will be that he will set up examinations in all the area schools." I beg the Parliamentary Secretary to give us an assurance that that will not happen, that the area schools will be allowed to develop. I hope that head teachers will have freedom to try experiments and that their enthusiasm will not be withered and trapped or the whole spirit of the thing destroyed.
I am immensely pleased at the work the teachers are doing to acquire knowledge of physical training. I know in my own county of their eagerness to go to the classes. I feel that the ideal which we have to set before us is that every teacher should be a teacher of physical training. That ideal cannot be accomplished at once, but it can be accomplished step by step. It is a part of education. For my sins, as I thought once, I went to France and to the General Headquarters physical training school. I was very glad I did so. I still keep up the old exercises which I learned there. At that school I learned that physical training was not only to keep the body fit, but to correct faults; above all, physical faults, as they were beginning to be developed. If you have a lethargic class on a hot day when they are very dull, and if the teacher stops the class and gives them three or four minutes' physical training, they become bright and vigorous, and they go back to their work with keenness. That is why I 122 suggest that the ideal at which we have to aim is that of every teacher being a real expert in physical training. I believe that in 50 years' time teachers will be not only experts in physical training but people of broad outlook, with knowledge of human psychology and medicine, and able to judge the individual as a whole.
I have already mentioned canteens. I heard about the meals that were being supplied for 3d. in the constituency of the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland). In Suffolk we are supplying meals for 2d., and very excellent meals they are for is. per week. There is no loss on them. Coal is given free, and the children help in the cooking and the serving. Not only are these meals good for health, but they encourage a general community spirit, as hon. Members would agree if they saw the children taking their places and having the meals. Milk has been mentioned. I cannot quite agree with my hon. Friend the Member for the London University (Sir E. Graham-Little) in his desire to pasteurise everything. We can pasteurise, sterilise and preserve far too much. What I feel is essential to the health of children is that they should have a ration of milk every day. If I were Chancellor of the Exchequer I would keep it as my ideal that there should be a ration of free milk for every child in every school.
I believe enormously in the new senior schools, and in their possibilities. The parents say that children who used to be utterly indifferent and bored with the old elementary schools come back now from the senior schools healthy and happy. I want to see that result extended everywhere. There are certain parts of England which are thinly populated and where you have bad weather, such as in parts of Northumberland, where you cannot organise a central area school. I would like to know what is being done for such places. Somehow the advantages of the area schools must be brought to the children there. It is difficult, and the only solution I can see is something in the nature of summer camps and summer schools. I will conclude by congratulating the Parliamentary Secretary upon the admirable and eloquent speech he made, and by expressing the hope, that, like his predecessor, he may come down to Suffolk and see what great health, happiness and content our new area school brings.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Adamson
I do not wish to follow the experts who have given their views upon education but rather, as a common-place individual, seek to inquire what should be the results of education upon the well-being of the nation. To begin with, I would add to the references which have been made to the Parliamentary Secretary and his Department, because of the fact that he represents the constituency where I received my meagre education, from about five years of age to just about 13. One appreciates what one lacks. Fortunately, education is not actually the period of years in which one assimilates instruction. For probably the majority of hon. Members on this side of the House, continued education in the years of adolescence were more likely to bring out the true qualities of the individual. It is from that aspect that I want to view the matter for a moment.
In some of the urban areas the development of continuation classes is much restricted, because they are dependent upon the county councils. There are facilities in other districts, and the continuation class scholar has frequently to travel to an adjacent borough where such facilities are offered. In some of the areas, facilities have been increased not entirely due to the activities of the Board of Education. In some mining districts they have been de-developed from the resources of the Miners' Welfare Fund. In one instance, in particular, a mining college which was originally established for the training of mining students has now been used to add to the facilities of welfare schemes, and continuation classes have been started, not merely for young men, but in domestic training for young women also. In that respect the Board of Education could still develop and encourage in many of these directions the work that is being carried out to-day. In the urban areas also there arises the question of the black-listed schools, to which reference was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) and by the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. Morgan). In these areas there is, unfortunately, too large a percentage of black-listed schools, which have been in that category for many years, and a great deal of the time of the education authorities is taken up in discussing how, within the powers that they have, they can get round the situation, owing to the fact that 124 a large percentage of these schools are non-provided schools. The position continues from year to year, in spite of periodical reports by the inspectors, and, in these days of rising costs of building, some local authorities are beginning to wonder whether they are to get additional assistance in overcoming this educational evil.
A question which affects many small districts in the Provinces is that of the scholarships which are granted to the children of the working-class parents. While it may be true that a percentage are able to pass the examinations, cases are frequently brought to our notice in which scholars have to travel into adjacent districts to receive secondary education, and the grants were never intended to cover, in addition to maintenance, clothes and boots, the payment of fares and also the provision of meals. In many such cases parents have found the cost of maintaining their children at school to be almost prohibitive, even although the children have proved their capacity by passing the examinations. Surely the Board of Education ought to have some administrative machinery for overcoming, or assisting in overcoming, these difficulties.
There is also the vexed question, which has arisen recently, of homework. I assume that the majority of us have known of cases in which the domestic conditions were such as to make it almost impossible for parents to give that isolation in apartments which is necessary to enable the school homework to be done. I can sympathise with parents who are in that position, for four of my family went through this experience of educational grind at home. Probably some people might say that the results justified it, for in each case they gained scholarships, but there is this to be said for the parents, that, while their children, one or two or more at a time, are working long hours at their studies, burning the midnight oil, the parents have to suffer inconvenience in having to tip-toe about and be quiet, and, in these days of wireless, to sacrifice themselves in that way for the sake of whatever advantage may come to the children. The report is welcome that there is to be some reduction of the amount of homework that is to be enforced on children in the future. That is gratifying so far as it can be carried out.
125 There is one issue which, I think, has been mentioned to-day, but which has been somewhat overlooked. That is the precarious position of many trainees for the teaching profession who, during the time of retrenchment from 1930 onwards, were left stranded and without any opportunity of obtaining permanent positions. I was amazed some time ago to see the number of supply teachers who qualified in 1931 or 1932 and who have never received permanent teaching posts. Thousands of them in London and the Provinces either had to have additional vocational training, at enormous expense, to fit them for other occupations, or drifted into unskilled occupations without any hope that they would be able to make use of the training they had received, or that the nation would get the advantage of that training by their becoming school teachers.
It is somewhat of a reflection upon educational development that so many of these people should have been cut adrift without either education authorities locally or the Board of Education accepting any responsibility for it. There will be no reason for them even to be amazed at the position, and you will find that the tendency will be, in these recurring periods of economic retrenchment, that there will be fewer and fewer anxious to take up the teaching profession when they see so many other opportunities by which they can provide more beneficially for themselves. It is upon these issues that I urge that the Parliamentary Secretary should give attention to the problems that affect the personnel in the schools. I should be brave indeed to attempt to follow a previous speaker who criticised the Association of Teachers, and indicated the line of action that they should be compelled to enforce in the training of children. Rather should we seek to develop the initiative of the scholastic profession, and of the school children themselves, in the direction of those educational attainments which are more likely to be of benefit to the country as a whole.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Annesley Somerville
I should like to add mine to the many well deserved congratulations that the Parliamentary Secretary has received. If we had not already known it, his speech would have convinced us that he has that wide and humane outlook on our educational 126 system which the needs of the country demand. I could wish that he had the opportunity of helping to make come true the dreams of which he spoke. I do not think he need trouble very greatly about the quotations that the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) read to him. There was one with which I have no doubt that he still agrees, and I agree, and that is that an examination at II should be rather an eliminating than a competitive one, though of course there is the difficulty that, when there are not enough places at the secondary schools, the elimination becomes competition. He gave us an encouraging account of the decrease in the number of classes above 40 and, not so satisfactory, the decrease in the number of schools on the black list, but he gave the reason for that that it is chiefly due to the needs of reorganisation.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith), spoke about a subject which always, and more particularly of late, has occupied the attention of the educational world—the subject of examination. If it is true—and we have only too good reason to believe that it is—that examination at 11 produces undue pressure on young children, it is a cruel system, and it should be changed. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the central schools in which there is now a considerable increase in training for the leaving certificate examination. If that is so, it seems to me that it would be better to amalgamate the central schools and the secondary schools and have a system of schools in which you have a literary side, and, shall we call it a technical side, and that would allow for a greater amount of elasticity and interchange—a more stable system, and what ought to be a less expensive system. But, of course, one knows there is that difficulty about teachers' salaries. Central schools rank as elementary, and the teachers get salaries on the elementary scale, while secondary schools have salaries on the higher scale, so I am afraid there would be a considerable addition to costs if that reform, which I believe would be a useful one, were carried out.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to speak about what has been greatly exercising the minds of headmasters and the educational world generally, and that is the leaving certificate examination, which has developed largely into a matriculation 127 examination. I was a member of the first Secondary Schools Examination Council, which had for its task the framing to a large extent of this examination. We had many discussions over it, and as time went on it became borne in on me more and more that we were on the wrong lines. Here was an examination which ought to be purely and simply a leaving certificate examination, one which gives to the ordinary pupil when he gets to 16-plus a certificate that he has attained the standard of education that you might expect from steady work and good teaching at that age. But it is now used as a matriculation standard. In other words, you are using an examination for boys and girls of 16-plus which is meant purely as a leaving-school certificate examination as an examination for entrance into the universities which ought only to be used for boys and girls of 17- and 18-plus. To make that examination do for both objects is a mistake, and it ought to be reformed. I recommend that to the Parliamentary Secretary and to the President of the Board. Not more than 10 per cent. of the pupils who take that examination go to the university.
London is the biggest sinner in that respect. It is unfortunate that a certain number of employers set a good deal of store upon the fact that a prospective employé has reached the matriculation standard. Let the matriculation examination be used as a matriculation examination, and let the leaving certificate be used for its legitimate purpose. I should not so much object if the higher certificate examination were used as a matriculation examination. The higher examination is taken a year or two years after the leaving certificate examination for those pupils who remain at school, and it would be quite legitimate to use that as a matriculation examination. I often find myself in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman, who knows the conditions and knows the history of this examination thoroughly.
I should like to say a word about rural schools We are at a disadvantage in debates on the Education Estimates because we have not before us the report for the preceding year. I know that there are difficulties in getting it out, but it would he a very great advantage if, before the Education Estimates are debated, we 128 had before us the report for the preceding year. In the report for 1935 there was very little if anything said about rural schools. We know nothing about them, and we have no report for last year. In 1929 there was published a report on the training of rural teachers. The teacher—I must be excused for praising my own profession—is the key of the system. Unless you have a teacher who cares for and knows his job, the pupils very soon find him or her out. We want in the rural schools, and particularly at this time, when the rural population has been decreasing and when we want to keep the younger people in the finest occupation in the world, and that is, on the land—we want at this time the sort of teacher who will impart real interest in the country and the things of the country to their pupils. That report, a very useful report of a committee which was presided over by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb), quoted with the greatest approval this piece of evidence:I think the important thing is to recruit into the teaching profession a good proportion of teachers who have been born in the country and have natural sympathy with country life, and to take effective steps to see that such recruitment is constant.There you have the core of the matter. Among their recommendations was one that opportunities for rural pupils should be afforded, at a later age than 11, to those who wished to become teachers. That is germane to what we have already been saying about examinations. Another recommendation was that during reorganisation opportunities should be provided for the training of rural teachers; that there should be suitable schemes of rural training in the training colleges. The third recommendation was that supplementary courses of training for rural teachers should be provided.
I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary how far these recommendations have been carried out. They are vital in order to provide the kind of teacher who will really give to the pupil a knowledge of the land and a care for the things of the country. In that regard I wish to call attention to this very interesting syllabus which I hold in my hand. It is the syllabus of the Hertfordshire County Council. It was drawn up ten years ago by teachers, farmers, His Majesty's inspectors, and officials of the local education authority, including the Principal of 129 Oaklands Farm Institute. It is one of the most useful and practical educational papers that I have read. It would be interesting to know how far it is being acted upon in Hertfordshire, and whether similar syllabuses are being used in other counties. The syllabus co-ordinates the work in the school with life in the country. For instance:History.—Trace the rise and development of agriculture through Roman, Saxon, and mediaeval times.There was nature study, and included in the syllabus were visits to farms during which each pupil was supplied with a leaflet. This is the type of leaflet—one on ploughing. This was in order to direct their minds to particular points and to make them think. We all know—and I am speaking of teachers who understand their jobs—that the duty of the teacher is not to teach the child what to think, but how to think. It says in this leaflet:What kind of a plough is being used? Sketch it. … How is an even depth secured?and so on. Then with regard to animals:Horses … Find out the following points of a horse—elbow, fetlock, hock, withers and so on.Inquire what is meant by 'hands' in stating the height of a horse ….What is the meaning of near and off side applied to a horse? From which side should a horse be led?These points teach the boy or girl to think, and that is the right way to guide the young mind in the rural schools. I was in the south of Tanganyika some years ago, and I was put up by the headmaster of a school at a place called Malangali. He was an Englishman, and the school was for the sons of chiefs and headmen. He seemed to be a most enlightened man, and he applied these principles to his school. There is a large country in which agriculture will be the leading occupation for many years to come. Every boy who came to that school brought with him a heifer, and he had the complete charge of it all the time he was there. The literary side also was not neglected. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to take this matter into consideration and see how far rural teachers are being intelligently trained, and Low far such syllabuses as I have mentioned are now being used.
I should like to mention a point about private schools. I have the honour to be 130 the president of the Independent Schools. Association, which includes a large number of the best of the private schools, and I can say this for the private school system. It is an essential part of our educational system. The danger of the State schools is that you get too great uniformity, and the danger of the private school system is that you get just the opposite, and the two sets of schools help one another. Private schools learn order and method, regularity and so on from the State schools, and the State schools benefit by the experiments in that freedom that belongs to the private schools, and in that way the whole education system benefits. In 1932 a very interesting and valuable report was published by the Departmental Committee of which the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) was the Chairman. It made certain recommendations. I cannot go into them because they would require legislation and it would be out of order. These recommendations have to do with inspection, equipment and so on.
Private schools would welcome the inspection. They want to raise the standard of the private schools, and therefore they welcomed this report very heartily, and they were hoping for action upon it. I cannot say more than that no action has been taken. I wish it could have been taken. I merely call the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to that report. It pointed out the defects of inefficient schools. We want to get rid of those inefficient schools. It is rather an interesting point that some of the Private Bills that have come before the House recently, the Bills of the Surrey County Council, and of the Corporations of West Ham and Southampton, have contained Clauses that would give to the County or Corporation in question some of the powers that were recommended in that report.
§ Mr. Somerville
On the representations made to the promoters of those Bills those Clauses were withdrawn, because it was felt that the matter ought to be dealt with nationally. I will not say more on the subject except that I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will take that report into consideration with a view to effective action.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Richards
So many interesting questions have been discussed that one finds it difficult to decide upon the line to follow, particularly as many hon. Members desire to speak. We on this side agree, more or less, with the last speaker when he said that we want to see an amalgamation of the secondary school and the ordinary technical school. That is a vital step towards which we ought to be moving much more rapidly than we are. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, in the midst of the congratulations he has had this afternoon, will not feel completely complacent about the report he has given to the Committee, because if we regard it from the end of the objective that we ought to have in view, I am afraid that we must admit that very little progress along those lines has been made during the last 10 or 15 years.
It is interesting to note that the Act of 1870 which established primary elementary education for every child was definitely intended for a particular class. Elementary education as it was understood then was designed to provide education for working-class people, and we have never really moved from that position. It was gradually realised that elementary education was not enough, and provision was made for secondary education, but it was always understood that secondary education was intended rather for a different stratum of society. Ever since 1870 we have been developing, so to speak, on a double line. Our elementary education has improved very considerably—we are all agreed about that—and some attempts have been made occasionally to bridge the gulf between elementary and secondary education, but in putting up those bridges we have taken good care to put up hurdles as well, so that whenever a child gets on to the bridge there is great difficulty in getting over the hurdle. Either he has to pay for his secondary education or, if he has not to pay for it, he has, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) said, to go through examinations. Slowly and gradually we have evolved a secondary school system, taking considerable care that the large bulk of children from the elementary schools shall not get to the secondary schools.
We ought to have quite clearly in our minds in discussing education that we 132 ought not to make any distinction any longer between elementary and secondary schools. They ought to be completely co-ordinated, and a child from the elementary school ought to have complete liberty to enter the secondary school. That is the policy of my hon. Friends on these benches. We shall never be satisfied until complete secondary education is available for every child. That does not mean that one type of education only ought to be given. Here I would like to refer to the experience we have had in Wales. In the matter of secondary education Wales began a number of years before England. Speaking generally, the education of Wales was very backward. In the nineteenth century, under the leadership of one of the members of the Acland family, which we are glad to know is still represented in this House, the Intermediate Education Act was passed for Wales, about 12 or 13 years before a similar Act was passed, in 1902, for the establishment of secondary schools in England.
These schools began on a very small scale in Wales. The educationists of those days took care to see that the schools were well distributed all over the country, with the result that a very large proportion even of the poorer children in Wales had an opportunity of this new secondary education. Judged from the point of view of academic education the conception of education then was to train children to go on to the universities and the professions, and I am not exaggerating when I say that those schools have served their day and generation excellently. The records of some of the small schools in Wales will stand comparison with some of the much bigger and more powerful schools in England, but it has been increasingly felt that they have so concentrated on the academic side that a certain proportion of the children who have gone through them did not derive the benefit from that secondary education that they would have done if the curriculum had been a little wider. In order to get over that difficulty the Welsh education authorities made the mistake of trying to supplement secondary education by introducing the central school. I am not here to decry the work of the central schools, because I think they have done excellent work, but in a small country like Wales, particularly in the rural areas, it has been exceedingly difficult to dovetail another 133 type of school between the elementary and the old secondary schools.
Most educationists are now of the opinion that what ought to have been done would have been to widen the curriculum of the secondary schools. Those schools have established themselves and they have a very good academic tradition. Every child ought to be introduced into that atmosphere, because we cannot say at the age of 11 or 12 what the aptitude of a child may be. I should very much like to see that development in Wales, and I am glad to think that it is taking place in some of the more rural counties, take the form of opening the door so wide to the county schools, because Wales is ready for it, that practically every child will get an opportunity of secondary education. That education should be both academic and practical. We should get rid of the snobbery—I am sorry that there is a good deal of it existing in Wales—and the distinction between the secondary and the central school in the same village.
We should have these children educated in the same kind of environment and the teacher would be able to decide whether the child is going to develop on the academic or on the practical side. I think we should realise that the practical genius is just as important for the modern world as the theoretical genius. This development is one, I think, which will be carried along quite easily by the Board of Education. I see indications that it may be attempted, particularly in some of the rural counties, and I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to take upon himself to check the tendency to multiply these useless central schools, which do not occupy any definite place in the educational life of Wales, and open the door wide so that every child may have an opportunity of getting into an enlarged secondary school, which is already very well equipped on the technical side, and which at the same time has this very valuable economic tradition.
A development of these schools, particularly for Wales, is a matter of the greatest importance. It is in the rural parts that you have that essentially distinctive Welsh culture of which every Welshman is justifiably proud. It means that we have interest enough in Wales to justify a double approach to the educational problem. In the first place, we 134 have our own literary tradition and our own musical tradition, and these are to be found chiefly and primarily in the countryside, so that the development of these schools in the more rural areas is a matter of importance for the perpetuation of this peasant culture. You will not find this in industrial areas, and you could hardly expect it, although some hon. Members on this side have made splendid efforts to preserve it in the industrial areas, and also to extend its influence. We feel that there is essentially a Welsh approach to this question, and that, in addition, we can approach the question also from the English standpoint. I say this because I feel it is vital for the future life of our small community in Wales that we should preserve both sides, and that we should give every opportunity for the development and improvement of rural schools, because they are the places which have hitherto preserved and forwarded what is of vital importance, our distinctive old Welsh culture.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Spens
Let me commence by adding my word of congratulation to the Parliamentary Secretary for the speech he made in opening the Debate. I should like to have spent some time discussing the interesting subjects which have been raised, but I want to confine my remarks to one particular point. However, let me say that I agree with every word that has been said about the undesirability of raising up children for the 11-plus examination, and also the undesirability of mixing up the school-leaving examination and the matriculation examination. The one point to which I desire to refer is in connection with rural education. I feel strongly that it is perfectly useless for this or any other Government to have an agricultural policy for the country, which may cost the taxpayer some little sum of money, if the drift from the country to the town of all the really intelligent young people in the country is to go on unchecked. Undoubtedly one of the reasons why it goes on is economic, but, on the other hand, I am satisfied that another reason why this drift is taking place is the education which the countryside is at present receiving. I think it is not only a question of the places where the child is going to be educated. It is not only a question of the person who is going to educate, nor is it only a question of what he is going to be taught. All those three reasons 135 at present enter into this drift from the country to the town, and I believe that all three ought to be rectified as quickly as possible during the reorganisation that is going on.
If hon. Members will study the figures of the industries into which young people enter after they leave school, they will find the most extraordinary difference between young people who are educated up to a time between 14 and 16 years of age in rural surroundings and those who are educated in urban surroundings. If their education takes place in rural surroundings the percentage that remain in occupations in the country as opposed to occupations in industrial or urban areas is somewhere between 65 and 75 per cent., whereas if country children are educated in town or in the vicinity of factories, the figure is between 35 and 38 per cent.; that is the number who go back to the country and take up a country occupation. Therefore, the first point to which the Board of Education ought to turn their attention is where they are going to have the new central schools for children who are brought up in the country, assuming they take the view, as I do, that as large a percentage as possible of country bred children should be provided with a living, if a satisfactory living can be provided, in the country.
In Kent we have the most excellent secondary schools; two central schools have been erected in the centre of my division and they are magnificent schools. In one has been gathered as far as possible all the children whose parents live in the industrial and residential area, and in the other, at the other end of the town, are brought every day the country children from anything up to Io miles around. Undoubtedly the education they are getting is far in advance of what they have been getting in their village schools in the past, and I should be the last to say that the education given there has not been a great success. But, none the less, if the figures of the Board of Education as to the effect which contact with town has on country children is true, we shall find that the system of bringing country children into central schools in an industrial town like Ashford will result in some 35 per cent. only going back to occupations on the land and the bulk of them remaining in the town, instead of a percentage of 75 which at present remain 136 on the land when they are educated in a country school. I understand that elsewhere where central schools are being developed the board has, generally speaking, endeavoured to establish and maintain a central school for a rural area or for a group of villages in some village in the country.
As one who prays that every child who has a love of the land and the country will, if possible, take up and obtain remunerative employment in the country, I hope that that policy will be firmly taken up by the Government and that we shall not have any more central schools for rural children put up inside industrial towns. The second point is, what are they going to do as regards their actual curriculum and who is going to teach them? If these central schools are to be of full value to the countryside the child must get the best possible education in relation to the countryside in his last year or 18 months. Not only must they have grounds for playing fields, but ground for practical experiments. The school I am thinking of at Ashford has substantial grounds, not only for playing, but for practical education in connection with rural science, and practical farming. The children can see it in actual practical experiment. I was glad to hear the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) told that there was no suggestion of any economy in connection with these rural central schools. It would be quite worthless if the necessary grants were not provided for these experiments.
Then I come to what is, perhaps, the most difficult question of all if this central school education is to be of real value to the country children, and that is the teachers. There is going to be great difficulty in obtaining at present teachers who have specialised in agricultural subjects and who are capable of giving to the child in his last year or year and a half at a country central school the best practical education that he can get. It is not only that the percentage of teachers who come from urban and industrial areas is greater than that which comes from the countryside. It goes deeper than that. Hitherto, there has been no real future inside the teaching profession for the man who specialises in rural science and agricultural subjects. The man whose inclination has been to 137 specialise in that way, has thought, "I shall get left with a country elementary school all my life. I shall never get on." The tendency has been for the teachers to consider that if they were going to get as far as they can get, it was not worth while specialising in these subjects.
I should like to see the Board make it quite clear that there is as certain a career for the man who specialises in agricultural subjects and rural science as for those who specialise in any other particular branch of teaching. I want to see the headmasterships of these country schools holding out something of value to the teaching profession and that from there, there shall be some further step. The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Somerville) quite rightly asked what was being done as regards the training of these teachers and keeping them up to date. That question is also asked from the County of Kent. Not only is the question of the initial training courses at training colleges one to which we would ask the Board to give the most serious attention, but also the importance from time to time of refresher courses available at the agricultural colleges for those teachers who want to get on. If that sort of chance is given to the teacher and it is made worth while for the teacher to get himself known as a specialist in agricultural education, there will be a real chance that the central schools in the rural areas, situated there, staffed by the right people, will be one great step forward in preventing this drift from the town to the country.
What about continuation of education after the children leave the central school? There I am in great difficulty, because the further training in agricultural subjects comes under another Vote. The county organiser in Kent has endeavoured to establish one day a week continuation classes in agricultural subjects for those who are going to practice in agriculture. He has got 66 pupils doing their first year and 22 doing their second year; 88 in the whole county. There are farm institutes and so on, as well. All I dare say when discussing this Vote is that if agricultural education is carried out on the lines I hope it will be, let us pray that there will be full co-operation between the Board of Education and the Minister of Agriculture to see that those boys or young women who want some- 138 thing beyond shall get something worth having, have proper people to teach them and that those worthy of it will be sure of ending up with a course at a good agricultural college. Unless this subject is tackled at once, we shall he too late and we shall lose the best of our young people to the towns. This subject must be taken up and pressed energetically.
§ 9.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Evans
It is a good thing that we have had an opportunity to-day of inviting the discussion in Committee of the education policy of the Government. Such opportunities are infrequent and inadequate. They are infrequent because they occur only about once a year, and inadequate because they usually occur in the Debate on the Estimates, when we cannot discuss anything which involves legislation. Even so, a discussion like this is useful as a means of obtaining information from the Government as to their policy in administration, and of enabling us to form an idea how that policy relates to the general policy of the Government in national and international affairs. The Board of Education ought to be playing a much bigger part in the national policy of the Government than they are doing at the present time. The present Government to a large extent base their appeal for the support of the country on the fact that they are making preparations to defend the country against dangers from outside and perils from inside. Surely one of the Departments that ought to be consulted by the Government on those matters is the Board of Education, and I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether the Board has ever given any advice to the Government concerning them. We are told that there are perils from without, and that those perils may involve the possibility of this country being faced with an attack by a foreign enemy. In order to meet that possibility, the Government have invited the country to support them in building armaments. Let it be remembered that those armaments must be handled by the men of this country, and that in order to be able to do that they must be efficient. Has the President of the Board of Education been asked to advise the Defence services as to whether he can guarantee that future generations will consist of men who will be able to man all these big armaments which the Government are building and, what is more important, 139 will be able to provide the geniuses which will enable those forces to be put to the best use?
We are told that there are dangers from within and that the country is faced with the peril of destructive agencies, Communism and Fascism. [An HON. MEMBER: "Unite the Liberal party!"] It is a party which will survive all division. If the Government believe that there is a real peril to the country, surely the answer to it is education in democracy which will enable the country to survive all the perils and dangers of these false theories which may be presented to the British democracy. What are the Government doing in their educational policy to meet those dangers? As to the health of the country, I should have thought that the Government would first of all have given their attention to the rural areas and the rural schools. What are the Board of Education doing with regard to the health of the children in the rural areas? It is true that the supply of milk in those schools is better than it has been, but nobody can suggest that the conditions which obtain in the schools in rural areas are satisfactory. The buildings, the sanitary conditions and the water supply are matters which require the immediate attention of the Board of Education.
I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will not be too satisfied. The hon. Gentleman said that he was very satisfied with the provisions made for the advance of boys and girls from elementary schools to secondary schools. What has been done in that respect? What are the figures, and is the hon. Gentleman satisfied with them? Nobody else is. The Noble Lord the President of the Board of Education recently opened a school in Rhondda, which was a great example of what can be done, and he paid a great tribute to the zeal and enthusiasm of Wales for secondary education. But more than that must be done, and I ask the hon. Gentleman what he proposes to do. What is the policy of the Board with regard to advanced education from one stage to another, from the elementary school to the secondary school and from the secondary school to the university? All the matters which I have raised concern us very greatly in Wales, and I would like to have some information on them.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies
I deeply regret, as did the hon. and learned Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans), that we do not have more opportunities for discussing the important question of education. There are so many topics on which we would like to have a further discussion, and so many topics have been mentioned in this Debate, that I agree with the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) that it is difficult to pick and choose among them, but I am glad that so many speakers to-day have specifically called attention to the conditions of rural schools and rural education. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Wales asked what is the policy of the Board of Education with regard to those schools. I make no apology to the Committee for calling attention to this matter once again, as I did last year and the year before. Only on one occasion have I received any sort of reply, and that was given by the Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), who then happened to be "Minister for Thought" in the Government. His reply was that the matter would be considered and that undoubtedly something would be done. As far as I am aware, there has been no change in the policy of the Government towards rural education, on which there have been complaints from many hon. Members.
The hon. Member for Wrexham very rightly called attention to the 1870 Act, and said that that Act was directed to giving education to the working classes. But it has been claimed that it initiated universal education. It did nothing of the kind. To be universal, it ought to have uniformity. I differ entirely from the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville), with the major portion of whose speech I agree, when he says that uniformity is a thing to be deprecated. There are so many differences in the teachers and their personalities that at any rate one is entitled to have uniformity of methods, and uniformity of opportunity ought to be provided by the public schools. One does not get that universality to-day. There is one type of school for the urban areas and an entirely different type for the rural areas. That has been the policy of successive Governments and successive Presidents of the Board of Education. When is this going to be altered?
141 I have already called to the attention of hon. Members the conditions in my own county. They continue to be the same. The facts have been stated not only to the House of Commons but to the county councils, and the county councils were so much impressed by them that they met, as an association, and decided to call the attention of the Government to the matter. They are probably the most representative body dealing with education generally that could be found in the country, but their representatives were not met by the then President of the Board of Education, now President of the Board of Trade, nor even by the then Parliamentary Secretary. They were told that they could only meet officials, and officials, of course, cannot deal with any question of policy. The officials could only listen to facts which they already knew, about a state of affairs which they could not alter. The right to alter that state of affairs is in the hands of the Minister and the Government. When is the Minister going to deal with the matter?
Need I once again describe to hon. Members the condition of some of these schools? Need I mention again such matters as the lack of playgrounds? In my own village there is practically no playground for the children, but there are four acres close by for a cemetery which is only occupied as regards half-an-acre or less. "Let the dead bury their dead." Is it not time that we looked after the children and provided them with a place in which they can play? Is it not time that we provided them with schools which are properly heated and with places where they can dry their clothes? Some of these children walk across the hills in all weathers. They arrive at school wet and are allowed to remain there wet until four o'clock in the evening, when they begin the long trek home again. What is the policy of the Government for dealing with that situation? The problem does not arise in the case of urban children. If it did, at once there would be provided proper heating, proper accommodation, a changing-room and places for boots and shoes. But these things are not provided for the rural children. They have to remain in school all day with their little shoes squelching after their long walk across the hills. When 142 are these conditions to be changed? When are we to have proper facilities and proper equipment such as desks for these children? I have made this appeal often before. I do not apologise for making it again. But I do hope that I shall get an answer, if not to-night, at least within a reasonable time, because this is a matter which has been waiting too long for a remedy.
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Sexton
I was much interested in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. C. Davies), because I was a rural schoolmaster for over 25 years, and I have had experience of the conditions which he has so graphically described. As far as I know, those conditions still exist in country districts. Over the heather, through the mists of the Pennines, children in my experience walk three and four miles to school every day. At the school there were no facilities for them to dry their clothes, and no means of cooking meals. Like all country children they were out very early in the morning, arriving at school generally about half-past eight o'clock, and after seven or eight hours under those conditions, they had to set out on their homeward journey. As I say, I belong to the teaching profession—a noble profession which has been scurrilously attacked during this Debate by the hon. and gallant Member for Totnes (Major Rayner). He made a dastardly attack on the teaching profession. He veiled that attack behind a faint praise. He damned the profession with faint praise, or praised it with faint damns, but a more dastardly and cowardly attack I never heard. The hon. and gallant Member must have attended a teachers' conference and heard somebody there whom he disliked and he has vented his spleen from his place in this Committee. I am usually a rather mealy-mouthed man, and I wish some of my more vitriolic acquaintances were here to answer him.
As regards education, a great change has taken place during the last 30 or 40 years. In the early days of my teaching career there was an attempt at mass production in education, and sometimes 80 children sat in front of one teacher. The teacher had to be a very good drill-sergeant if he was to maintain order among them. But the tendency to-day is towards the ideal of enabling the teacher 143 to exercise his craftsmanship by reducing the size of the classes so that the teacher can get into closer individual contact with the pupil. It has been found that you cannot attempt to force human material into a mechanical mould, without doing infinite harm and the more you attempt it, the more harm you do to the individuals. It is possible in industry to "stamp out," as it is called, various individual parts of a motor-car or a machine and assemble them together. But if you attempt that in education, you stamp out the individuality and personality of the child, and it is the personality of the child that counts in the long run. The modern idea of teaching emphasises the craftsmanship of the teacher and pays greater attention to the individual aptitude and temperament of the child.
There is, however, much still to be done in that respect. Big classes still exist. There has been some progress in education, but there has been a great deal more progress in armament-making. More consideration has been given to re-arming the country than to educating it. Yet the problem of reducing the size of classes can easily be solved. To-day there are thousands of trained and certificated teachers walking the streets. They have cost the nation thousands of pounds.
§ Mr. H. G. Williams
May I ask the hon. Gentleman to be a little more precise, and to state the source of his information with regard to the statement that there are thousands of certificated teachers walking the streets?
§ Mr. Sexton
I asked the President of the Board of Education a few months ago a question on this subject. He said the exact number was not known to him, but might be got from the training colleges, and the information from the training colleges is that, as far as they know, there are thousands of teachers in that position. Whether there are thousands or hundreds, they have cost the nation thousands of pounds. There is no denying that statement. Not only have they cost the nation thousands of pounds, but they have cost their parents thousands of pounds, and many of those parents were not well able to afford the money with which they sent their boys and girls to training colleges. On Friday morning last I had a letter from a man who has 144 the handsome salary of 30s. a week and has three children. He has a girl in a training college who has nearly finished her course, but with an unexpected expenditure of £20 facing the household, he will be compelled to withdraw his daughter from college. That man has scraped and saved out of his 30s. a week to have that girl trained as a teacher, and all his efforts are now to be thrown away. But there is an even bigger cost than the monetary cost. There is something which cannot be measured in money—the hopelessness and despondency created in the hearts of these young people who cannot get work in the profession for which they have been trained.
I know of cases in my own constituency. I am sorry to say that I advised them as boys to enter the school-teaching profession, and they are now working at some collieries there for 37s. or 38s. a week. If the size of the classes were reduced, more teachers would be required and more effective work would be done. Another way in which something could be done in education is by increasing the school-leaving age—really increasing it, I mean—by keeping all boys and girls at school till they are 16. If there was one tragedy in my long life as a teacher, it was to see boys and girls at the age of 14 torn out of the schools, just when they were beginning to learn, and thrown into the hurly-burly of the industrial world, owing to the economic conditions of their parents. That reform again, we hope, when it does come, will employ more teachers.
Then there is a chance to employ some of the unemployed teachers in evening class work. I believe in one man, one job. I never, during the 40 years during which I was teaching, took part in paid evening class work. There was a reasonable excuse 40 years ago for day teachers entering night schools, because there were no other teachers to be had, but they cannot say that now, with unemployed teachers walking the streets. There is another outlet for these unemployed teachers, and that is in the physical training that the Government are undertaking. There will be an interim of five years before the physical training college can turn out trained teachers. What is to happen during those five years? I have asked that question once or twice, and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us something about it. Some short 145 courses might be instituted, and these boys and girls who have been trained for teaching might be brought in, given intensified courses, and then employed as teachers of physical training under the new scheme.
Another class of teacher for whom I should like to speak is the uncertificated teacher. Up and down the country there are some 27,000 of them yet. They may be a dying race—I do not know—but they are recognised by the board and scandalously paid, and when the time comes for retirement and their superannuation is based on their last five years' salary, some of them will have only half as much to retire on, with twice the years of service, as a policeman. I wonder sometimes whether anything can be done for these people. They are few in numbers, but when they get to their retiring age, surely something should be done for them.
Now I should like to come to the curriculum in the elementary or primary schools. It is not long since I left the schools, and a lot of people would call me old-fashioned, but I wonder whether it is not better to be old-fashioned than to be new-fangled. I was brought up in the old school, as were many of my colleagues. The three R's were our fundamentals, but nowadays you have a multitudinous curriculum of subjects, and I was glad to get out of the profession, because I could see that nothing very good was coming out of it, nothing definite, all nebulous, all on the surface, and nothing down at the foundations. Yet we turned out some fairly decent scholars, even in the old days of the three R's. We hear a lot nowadays of arts and crafts, music and dancing. Education now is a matter of dancing and of praising on the loud cymbals. I venture to say that in the old days, with the three R's as our groundwork, the hand was no less cunning and the eye no less discerning than to-day, with your arts and crafts. It is not that I want to keep the children down, but I believe that education is not all playtime, all the day long, but that it should be serious part of the time, and I know that the three R's led our boys and girls in the working-class schools on to the higher examinations and enabled them to pass against all comers.
I sometimes wonder whether there is a sinister move in introducing these new subjects, so that our boys and girls in the 146 future, when they conic to the higher examinations, will lack the fundamentals which would enable them to pass. The May Report stated thatthe standard of education that is being given to the child of poor parents is already in very many cases superior to that which the middle-class parent is providing for his own child. We feel that it is time to pause.I wonder whether the imposition of so many different and extraneous subjects, which do not count in the final test of examination, is not being done purposely. If you are going to teach arts and crafts, let the syllabus of examination for higher places bring in arts and crafts and thus give the children the same chance there. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will go on more and more on the lines of his own book, which I have read. He has the root of the matter in him, and now that he has attained to that august position of power, I would like to see him implement his own statement of his own policy as expounded in his book.
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Morgan Jones
Many of the speakers in the course of the evening have offered to the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary congratulations upon the most excellent speech which he made at the opening of our proceedings, and I would like to be associated, if I may, with those congratulations. As an old Parliamentary Secretary myself, I can appreciate some of the feelings that he must have entertained when he got up to defend his Estimates to-day. Might I also—and I am sure the Committee will be with me in this matter—offer my congratulations to the hon. Lady the Member for East Islington (Miss Cazalet) on being appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the hon. Gentleman? There is as yet no lady Member of the Cabinet, but we hope that the lady to whom I am referring may look forward with some pleasurable anticipation to that day. My right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) observed to me a few moments ago that it was a singular fact that the discussion to-day has ranged over the subject of education in practically all its aspects, with one omission to which I propose to refer more fully towards the end of my remarks.
The hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary presented, as was no doubt his proper task, a picture painted in roseate 147 colours. Indeed, to use a phrase of the streets, everything in the garden was lovely. But he will have to make a few more roseate speeches before he will be able to carry conviction completely to this side as to the excellence of the state of affairs in the world of education. Let me take the first subject with which he dealt, namely, nursery schools. I was glad indeed to hear him say that there are 89 such schools, either established or approved. I had the curiosity, after having heard that speech, to look at an answer which I gave in the House when I was Parliamentary Secretary in 1931. I then answered that there were 44 recognised nursery schools, another 14 in course of erection, and 12 in regard to which proposals had been presented. The hon. Gentleman, therefore, is not presenting a record of enormous advance.
In the intervening period how many nursery schools has he got? I will not say much about it, however, except to express the hope that the hon. Gentleman will press on with the campaign, for opinion is now reconciled to nursery schools more than was the case years ago. I believe that the figures he gave included nursery classes. That is a distinction with a difference, but where you cannot get nursery schools I should be prepared to accept nursery classes. I should much prefer the separate entity, the nursery school, with of course the emphasis upon the word "nursery" rather than upon the word "school." Opinion is much divided as to the age at which the nursery school career should begin and at what age it should end. Some are for the ages two to five, and some for two to seven. I have not come down firmly on either side. I can see something for both points of view. Anyway, let us have more nursery schools because, in the long run, they will help to correct some of the physical defects which manifest themselves so early in the child's school career. I pass over any reference to infant schools, beyond saying, as I have said on previous occasions, that hon. Gentlemen who have not recently renewed acquaintance with infant schools will scarcely appreciate the revolution which has taken place in the methods of teaching in those schools. In my judgment, the change has been more remarkable in the approach to the infant 148 school children than has been the change in the approach to the odder children.
I turn from that to the next stage in our development, namely, the elementary schools. Many of my hon. Friends have made earnest appeals to the hon. Gentleman to accentuate the development in the direction of reduction of classes. We are glad that he was able to announce the advance that has taken place. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) pointed out, however, that even the Parliamentary Secretary's figures imply that some 2,000,000 children are still to be found in classes of over 40. I recognise that the difficulties for some years must be very great. I am thinking for the moment of areas like Middlesex, where the rate of development and the outflow of the population are very rapid, and the task of providing schools at such a rapid rate is a perplexing one. I have a child of my own attending a school in the Middlesex area, and she is one of a class of 60 children. Really, it is impossible to teach children in those conditions. You can only talk at them, and if you try to appreciate the inner meaning of the word "education" and interpret it as an attempt on the part of the teacher to help the personality of the child to unfold, surely classes of 60 are entirely unreasonable.
May I make an observation in regard to the problem of the rural schools, to which so many of my fellow countrymen have made reference as appertaining to Wales? I believe that it also appertains to England. It is with regard to the fact that so many of them are badly equipped from the point of modern educational standards. This question of appropriate plans for rural schools has been under discussion at the Board for a long time. Years ago when I was there we arrived at a common conclusion that it was essential for a rural school that there should be adequate heating apparatus and facilities for drying clothes and, if possible, for providing a mid-day meal, because many children have to walk some miles to school over hill and down dale, in winter and summer, and it is important that some up-to-date facilities should be provided for attending to their physical comforts. I will say a word about the curriculum for rural schools in a moment.
I turn to the question which follows chronologically on this point, namely, the 149 question of reorganisation. I have addressed the Committee on previous occasions about this subject, and once again I want to say that I am very disturbed concerning what has, or rather what has not, been done in connection with reorganisation. Do not let us bluff ourselves into the belief that we are reorganising simply by shifting children from one school to another. It is not reorganisation at all, and it is merely throwing dust into the eyes of the electors to make them believe there is reorganisation unless the content of education in the reorganised condition is a different content from that which education signified before. We are now in a new situation.
This House about two years ago carried a new Education Act, Part II of which dealt with the problem which has been one of considerable difficulty for voluntary bodies in the country. Under that Act power is afforded to the Government to assist voluntary bodies for two purposes—for reorganisation and for raising the school-leaving age. I do not want to be unkind, but I want to say strongly and firmly that while there may have been a case to be pleaded on behalf of the voluntary bodies on the ground that they were not financially strong enough to rise to the level of the necessities implied by reorganisation, yet now the Act has now been carried I hope that no excuses will be allowed to voluntary bodies at all. If they arrogate to themselves the right to preserve their own schools—very well, I understand that point of view; but they cannot plead now that they cannot carry out their responsibilities, because Parliament has said they may be financially assisted to that end.
We are now entitled to ask that voluntary schools shall be as well equipped in every particular as council schools, and if they fail us in that respect they will be perpetrating upon the children in their charge an injustice for which they can offer no adequate defence. I understand that voluntary bodies are vigorously pressing—and I do not blame them for it—for strong concessions to the voluntary authorities. They are entitled to look after their side, but I would appeal from my place—and I believe the Parliamentary Secretary will agree with me—not to press this thing too hard. The settlement of a year or two ago was only made possible by the spirit of compromise on all sides, and that spirit of com- 150 promise must not be violated by either of the parties who accepted the compromise and made the Act possible.
I return to the concept of Hadow reorganisation once again. There has been a good deal of discussion this evening upon the merits, or demerits, of what are called the senior schools. I do not stand here to say anything that is unkind about the work of senior schools as such. I be-believe that within their limits they have done remarkably well, but I would venture to express one fear which I entertain. I say quite frankly that I have long had the suspicion that there are many people who desire to push the senior school as against the secondary school, because the senior type of school is a cheaper type.
§ Mr. Jones
The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to his view; I am expressing mine. There is a legitimate desire to look after the practical side of education. We have more than once pleaded from this side of the Committee that children with a practical mind, so to speak, shall be catered for just as much as the child with the academic mind. I am all for that, and in particular we must have regard to it in the agricultural areas. In my judgment we shall not be able properly to reorganise education in this country until all schools for pupils from 11 upwards are placed under the same regulations and under the same code. If we perpetuate the present system of putting the secondary schools under a separate code of regulations and the 11-plus senior schools under the elementary code of regulations, we shall perpetuate a differentiation in prestige, and create the impression in the mind of the parent, and perhaps of the child as well, that one school is more meritorious than the other. If we take all schools of the 11-plus type and put them all under the same regulations, we shall be taking an essential step towards making reorganisation much more acceptable and much more real.
I know that that plan would cost money, but relatively it would be cheaper if we could build up an efficient post-primary course of education for all children. That is exactly what Hadow meant. I am not going to arouse controversy as to what sort of school we should have for the 11-plus child, but if 151 we were starting de novo I should stand, in the bigger areas, for the multiple bias school, to which all the 11-plus children should go and when round about the age of 13 years they could be differentiated within the school—under the same roof, so to speak—without giving the child a feeling of being sent away from a meritorious school to a more "dud" school. The developments of the last few years make the ideal of the multiple bias school a little more difficult to realise. I am terrified lest we should stratify our educational system unduly by the present method of reorganisation. We shall still have our public schools, secondary schools and senior schools. I am dreadfully afraid that, at the present rate, we are developing a parallel set of schools for the three divisions in society. That is a hateful thing to do in connection with the system of education that we desire in this country. If we perpetuate the old class divisions, the thing will not be worth while.
My right hon. Friend discussed examinations and homework. You will not be able to get rid of your examination system, as you would like, until you make the passage from the elementary to the post-primary school as simple as the passage from Standard II to Standard III in the elementary school. No hon. Member would advocate the erection of some impassable barrier in the primary stage, between, say, Class II and Class III. They regard that transition as almost automatic, but they would put up a great barrier, a competitive examination or the special place examination as it now is, when children reach a certain stage of development. For many children that barrier is almost insuperable, and not only educationally. The number of places is so limited that the chances of getting there are correspondingly limited. In addition, a headache the night before, or a toothache, might easily disqualify the child best equipped mentally from success at the fortuitous examination at the age of 11 years. The hon. Member for Cambridge University laughs, but I assure him that I have seen examples of that in my own experience as teacher.
§ Mr. Jones
I beg the hon. Member's pardon, but I will develop the point, 152 nevertheless. I have seen pupils of my own, who, on their normal work would justify going to the secondary school, but who were too delicate or temperamental to stand the strain of examinations. They failed when less meritorious children passed. A system like that cannot be defended. If we had a system of free secondary education, I believe we could get rid of a good deal of examinations at that stage anyhow. The very distinguished chairman of the Education Committee of Sheffield, Alderman Rowlinson, wrote an article the other day on the question of free places, and gave these singular figures. He said that in Sheffield, before the Government embarked on these special place regulations, they used to have five free secondary schools in Sheffield. The special place regulations came into operation, and fees had to be imposed. There were 3,600 children in those five schools, and from those 3,600 children they collected £1,466 in fees; but, he says, it cost them £500 to collect the £1,466. I do not know on what basis his calculation is made, but, if that be true, the expenditure is not worth it. Apart from the question of educational merit, financially it is scarcely worth while; and, moreover, it reverses what I regard as the inevitable development of our education in this country towards free secondary education.
The hon. Gentleman indicated that there are developments in connection with technical education in various parts of the country, and I was exceedingly glad to hear what he had to say on that matter. This is one of the big gaps that we have left unfilled in our educational system. We have built up a national elementary system, we have built up a fairly good secondary system, but hitherto we have left technical education largely untouched. I am glad to hear of the new development, and am also glad that it is proposed to develop on regional lines, and not on, so to speak, individualistic lines. I was glad to see the report of the committee which was reported in February last, which suggested that by collaboration among the authorities duplication of effort could be avoided, opinions could be exchanged, ideas and experiences could be exchanged, and, indeed, possibly, there might be an exchange of students. I am very glad indeed that the regional idea is, so to speak, "catching on."
153 There is one aspect of our educational work that has been left untouched by all speakers in the Debate. I was surprised that no speaker directed attention to the subject of films. I have ventured in the course of the last few weeks to write to the Press a little on this matter, and I would like here to acknowledge that the Board of Education itself has indicated its awareness of this new development in connection with educational work throughout the world. The Board has recently issued a statement to the effect that it would raise the grant from 20 per cent. to 50 per cent., and that is a step in the right direction, but I want to remind the Committee of how far behind we are. Take the question of projectors for schools. Germany, according to the report of the British Film Institute, has, in round figures, projectors in 11,000 schools; France 9,000, Czechoslovakia 10,000, and Great Britain 680, of which 540 are in England and Wales and 140 in Scotland. There is no need to argue what a tremendous power for educational purposes the film can become. The difficulty is not so much, I understand, with projectors. I happen to have a most informing letter from an old colleague of ours in the House. He is now the headmaster of a school and he says that by a tremendous voluntary effort they have bought for the school some special type of projector costing £95. Now that they have it the trouble begins. How are they to use it? Obviously the projector is of no use without films. To use a film will cost 5s. or 6s. 6d. or 7s. 6d. per reel daily. He also says that many of his reels are so short that he will probably have to use two reels for one lesson. Obviously you get into the region of 15s. to £1 for two lessons a week. That is an impossible burden to fall upon a staff to provide by voluntary effort.
There is, therefore, a strong claim for the Board itself to consider the question of helping the provision of films as well as projectors. It will require the most careful examination and study. Hon. Members will have seen the announcement of a film called "Fire over England," dealing with a historical subject in the time of Queen Elizabeth. A film like that is obviously for public presentation, and the danger of films like that is that, for the purpose of making them attractive, history very largely is murdered. I believe this is a very good film, 154 but the film dealing with the life of Henry VIII was a monstrous travesty of history. We cannot have that kind of thing in the schools. If you are going to use a film at all, you must make it as near as possible historically accurate and not distort it. Some geography films which have been presented are very much like a series of pictures. They are not films in the full sense of the term. I, therefore, appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to invite his officials to make a special study of the matter with a view to giving direct assistance for the provision of films in schools, elementary and secondary, for this is a medium which is going to acquire tremendous importance in connection with the future educational work of the country and we ought not to allow ourselves to fall behind in this matter.
I invite the hon. Gentleman to examine some of the criticisms which have been offered to-night, for we confront a period of great difficulty and complexity for the people of our country. It is almost common form for Members of this House to direct attention to the development of other ideas on the Continent. In the long run, if we are to have democracy here, it will depend upon the measure of the education of the people themselves, and I agree that there is, in the hands of the Board of Education, an instrument with which to forge something that will protect us from the incursions of the wrong philosophies that are threatening us from outside and from various parts of the world.
§ 10.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I should be very ungracious if I did not thank hon. and right hon. Members who have spoken for their courtesy and for their encouraging remarks. The only thing about which I am sorry is that I should appear to some hon. Members opposite to be complacent. I should like to assure them that though perhaps I was a little over enthusiastic about a year of very great progress, we are very far from satisfied. I recorded with particular notice the schools that are black-listed, and the classes that still need to be reduced. I also agree with those hon. Members who said that they wished to have more Debates on this important subject. I wish we could, and that we should never repeat our speeches, because I believe that by the thrust of 155 debate and so forth, we might be able to build up a common view on a great many of these questions, because really this is, of all things, a very national subject. I am not saying that there are not legitimate and, in some cases, quite strong cases of difference of opinion, but surely this Debate shows differences which always divide one side of the House from the other. There are three main questions which have been discussed during the Debate. First there was the general question of reorganisation and that of nutrition.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I must, at the outset, thank my hon. Friends for their references. I am very glad to see that my book is still being read. I thought that it was out of print, but apparently it is not out of date.
§ Mr. Lindsay
Perhaps I might take some of the remarks in order rather than take these three separate points. I would like to answer a number of smaller points which have been raised. First of all—and it is not a very small point—I would like to answer the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) on the question of films. I did not mention films, because the question has been mentioned recently in debate. The fact is that there are only 88 authorities at the moment using films, and it is very largely a question of cost. It is also a question of the type of films, the difficulties of which the hon. Member is very much aware. I would remind him that there is a grant of 20 per cent. in elementary schools for films apart from apparatus, and they qualify for 50 per cent. in secondary schools. There are also a number of experiments going on in sound and silent films, and in daylight and semi-daylight projection, which have some advantages, I believe, from the point of view of schools. There is no question that the Board wishes to see a wider use made of the film in schools. But films and projectors require a new type of skill in the teacher, and so far from rendering unnecessary or replacing the need for teaching, they rather bring 156 out the need for fresh skill in getting these various mechanical aids across to the pupil.
§ Mr. Lindsay
That may be true, but there is much that is of value, and there is a very great demand for the better type of film. There is a very good library of documentary films made by John Grier-son and others which are well worth studying. The hon. Member raised a series of other questions, to which I will refer very briefly. The first was that of nursery schools. I agree with him there. He was very fair in his figures. I did not mean to confuse nursery classes with nursery schools. He is right in what he said. Some of them have been provided voluntarily and some by local authorities. In regard to elementary schools and the reduction of classes, it is still true that if you multiply the figure by 40 there are 2,000,000 children taught in classes of over 40, but nearly three-fourths of them are under 11 years of age. That may make it better.
§ Mr. Lindsay
This is certainly a tremendous question which we have to face. However, I will come to that again when I deal with reorganisation. Under the Act of 1936 local authorities are empowered to make grants in respect of voluntary senior schools to the extent of 50 to 75 per cent. of the cost, but there is no question of voluntary schools having a right to grants. A further point is that we have increased the subsidy in regard to the cost of transport from 20 to 40 per cent. With regard to free places, I have taken the trouble to look up the question, because the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove), in reading several quotations from my book, with which I still agree, asked what progress had been made since then. When the book was written, in 1926, there were 154,844 pupils who paid no fees. That was equivalent to 41 per cent. In 1936, there were 226,058 pupils who paid no fees, which is equal to 47 per cent. If the hon. Member would like to put it the other way round, in 1926 there were 222,525 school pupils who paid full fees, that is 59 per cent., and the number who pay full fees to-day is 218,469, which is 45 per cent., a decrease of 14 per cent.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I am giving the numbers of pupils who pay no fees. If I am asked whether some of those were aggregated in one school, I cannot give the figures straight off, and I should like notice of the question. The fact is that there has been a steady increase in the number of pupils who pay no fees. The whole point in 1926 was that a large number of pupils could not get secondary education because of the barrier of poverty. I regard the figures which I have quoted as progress, but it is relative, and perhaps does not go as far as some hon. Members would like. The hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. Sexton) raised the question of unemployed teachers. He said thousands of unemployed teachers were walking the streets, but when an interjection was made by an hon. Member on this side, he said: "Well, whether there are thousands or hundreds, there are quite a lot." We must not confuse hundreds with thousands in regard to unemployed teachers, any more than the hon. Member for Aheravon is entitled to say that there are four per 1,000 secondary school places in London when the actual figure is 8.3, which is just double.
§ Mr. Lindsay
The hon. Member may not remember it, but it was a very rhetorical passage in his speech.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I am talking of the number of secondary school places per 1,000 of the population, and the figure the hon. Member gave for Wales was 20 per 1,000. The comparable figure for England is 10.8 per 1,000.
§ Mr. Lindsay
The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) referred to the conditions in rural Wales. In my opening speech I said that I regarded the position in rural Wales as a problem for quite special treatment, and I think I must leave it at that for the 158 moment, as correspondence is going on in regard to the matter. The hon. and learned Member for the Welsh University (Mr. E. Evans) and the hon. and learned Member for Ashford (Mr. Spens) and the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) raised the question of rural schools, but as I dealt with it earlier in the Debate I do not think I have time now to go back upon it. The hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) talked about Welsh traditions in the countryside. It is all part of the rural and urban reorganisation scheme. We have had senior schools and secondary schools and technical schools put one against the other. Some hon. Members have preferred senior schools to secondary schools. The hon. and learned Member for Ashford, however, raised a rather different question, and I do not know the answer at the moment. He was talking really about the curriculum and agricultural education. Strictly speaking, I do not think this comes under the Board of Education, but I should like to assure him that the President of the Board as well as myself are extremely interested in the problem. It is a separate problem, but we are in close touch with the Minister of Agriculture trying to hammer out some solution. At any rate, we shall not let it stay where it is.
He also raised the old question as to whether these senior schools should be in the market towns rather than in the countryside. In dealing with this matter in my original remarks I said that wherever possible there was an inestimable advantage in having the school in the countryside, whatever was being taught, and I can assure him that we shall try to live up to that. I cannot go into the question of private schools at the moment because for the most part it would need legislation. The hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. E. Harvey) made some very interesting remarks about adult education. I am afraid that I cannot pronounce the name of the place——
§ Mr. Lindsay
But if he will read the preface to the book to which reference has been made he will find particular reference to the attitude of the Board to these education centres. There is not a great deal that we can do, but we shall encourage them to the greatest possible 159 extent. Let me deal with the question of nutrition referred to by the hon. Member for Aberavon, because I do not think he was entirely accurate in his reference to the circular. It was very carefully thought out. It said:The need of a child for feeding should not be considered only upon an application from the parent since in that case it is almost certain that many children needing supplementary nourishment will not receive it. The authority should themselves take steps to ascertain the children who are in need of feeding by inviting reports.The Board of Education circulars do not bear the interpretation which the hon. Member has given them. They said that the authority themselves should take steps to ascertain the children who needed feeding by inviting a report from the teachers and the school medical authorities. A satisfactory state of nutrition for the child is an essential to health.
In the last 11 years the number of local education authorities providing free meals has increased from 132 to 235. It is about 248 now. The number of children fed has increased from 70,000 to 479,000, and the number of free meals from 7,500,000 to 86,500,000. If that is not progress, I do not know what is. The expenditure on milk and meals has doubled since 1931. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour will agree with me that, although unemployment has gone down considerably, there still is deep distress in specific areas, which raises problems for the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Health and all the Departments dealing with the social services.
Two points were raised about salary increments under the Burnham scales. The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) drew attention to the effect of the scales in making it difficult for older teachers to move from one school to another. The difficulty is a real one, but automatic increments are an essential part of the working of the Burnham agreements and it is very hard to see what can be done. However, the Board are aware of the difficulty and the hon. Member may rest assured that it is one which they will bear in mind.
With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for the Combined English 160 Universities, we did in a Bill introduced on[...]lay look after the pension rights of teachers going to the Colonies, the Donations and mandated territories. The hon Member asks whether increments of salary can also be considered. I am afraid that I must have notice of that. The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) raised a number of questions and spoke from a very refreshing point of view. I think that I have answered most of his points. The hon. Member for London University (Sir E. Graham-Little) answered the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) to some extent on the question of matriculation and the school examination certificate. I would like to finish with that, because it is a most important point. The right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) and the hon. Member for London University both laid stress on care of the teeth. I do not think that anyone has spoken against homework. They have spoken of the confusion of the school certificate with matriculation. The Board were very glad to hear the speech of the right hon. Member for Keighley. We cannot exercise compulsion. We cannot dictate to the Universities. The Northern Universities, as I think one hon. Member said, have decided to dissociate the school certificate and matriculation. That method may not appeal to other universities, but there are other ways out.
With regard to the school certificate, where we exercise some control, through the Secondary Schools Examinations Council, we have made the examination much less rigid. I think something has been done about foreign languages and what are called practical subjects, which include art and music, and so on. These may now count. Before they took a rather secondary place, but they have been given greater importance. That enlarges the syllabus and prevents the purely bookish nature of the examination. Beyond that, at the moment, I do not think the Board of Education can take any decisive step. All we can do is to recognise what is obviously a growing opinion in the country and among hon. Members, and hope that the universities and other bodies will also see that there is a problem here. It is a problem which vitally affects homework. I would not like hon. Members to think that it is the only question that affects homework. 161 The examinations for Oxford and Cambridge University vitally affect homework.
§ Sir F. Acland
Cannot the Board say, with regard to grant-earning schools, that only students who are going to the universities can take the university examination?
§ Mr. Lindsay
I would like to look into that matter. It is rather a complicated subject, and there are one or two ramifications which I have discovered only this week-end. I may have omitted some points, but I assure hon. Members that if they have been overlooked, some notice will be taken of them when the OFFICIAL REPORT is examined, and replies will then he given. We have a very difficult job ahead at the Board of
§ Education. There is no need for more legislation; I think we have enough legislation to last us for a few years. There is a vast administrative job to be done. It is a job of reducing classes, wiping out black-listed schools, improving conditions in rural schools, and fighting any suspicion of under-nourishment. And why are we doing it? Simply because we are determined to see not only a more intelligent and more virile people, but a happier one.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £31,361,859, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 105; Noes, 197.163
|Division No. 213.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Parker, J.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Griffiths, [...]. A. (Hemsworth)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Price, M. P.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Groves, T. E.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Ridley, G.|
|Batey, J.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Riley, B.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Ritson, J.|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Rowson, G.|
|Bevan, A.||Jagger, J.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Bromfield, W.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Sexton, T. M.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Short, A.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Cape, T.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Chater, D.||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cove, W. G.||Lathan, G.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Crippe, Hon. Sir Stafford||Leach, W.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Daggar, G.||Lee, F.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Leonard, W.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Leslie, J. R.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Logan, D. G.||Thurtle, E.|
|Day, H.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dobbie, W.||McEntee, V. La T.||Walker, J.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||McGhee, H. G.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Ede, J. C.||MacLaren, A.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||MacNeill Weir, L.||Whiteley, W.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Marshall, F.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Messer, F.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Montague, F.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Frankel, D.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Gallacher, W.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Muff, G.|
|Gibbins, J.||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Oliver, G. H.||Mr. Charleton and Mr. Mathers.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Bernays, R. H.||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Bossom, A. C.||Colman, N. C. D.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Boulton, W. W.||Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Cox, H. B. T.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Brass, Sir W.||Craven-Ellis, W.|
|Apsley, Lord||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Crooke, J. S.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Crookshank, Cast. H. F. C.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Croom-Johnson, R. P.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Cross, R. H.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Tha[...]net)||Bull, B. B.||Crossley, A. C.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Cruddas, Col. B.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Carver, Major W. H.||Davies, C. (Montgomery)|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Cary, R. A.||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Castlereagh, Viscount||Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Cazalet Thelma (Islington, E.)||Dugdale, Captain T. L.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Channon, H.||Duggan, H. J.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Sandys, E. D.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Emery, J. F.||McKie, J. H.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Magnay, T.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Everard, W. L.||Mander, G. le M.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Foot, D. M.||Markham, S. F.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Spens, W. P.|
|Furness, S. N.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld)|
|Ga[...]rzoni, Sir J.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Storey, S.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Goldie, N. B.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Moreing, A. C.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Munro, P.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Guest, Mai. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Gunston, Capt. D. W.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Hannah, I. C.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Train, Sir J.|
|Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Owen, Major G.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Hepworth, J.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Turton, R. H.|
|Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Petherick, M.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Holmes, J. S.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Hopkinson, A.||Porritt, R. W.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Procter, Major H. A.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Hunter, T.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Watt, G. S. H.|
|Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Ramsbotham, H.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Ramsden, Sir E.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Rayner, Major R. H.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Latham, Sir P.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Wise, A. R.|
|Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Remer, J. R.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Lindsay, K. M.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Wragg, H.|
|Little, Sir E. Graham-||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Lloyd, G. W.||Rothschild, J. A. de||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Rowlands, G.||Major Sir George Davies and|
|Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Russell, Sir Alexander||Captain Hope.|
Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Mr. Kelly rose——
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.