HC Deb 20 June 1938 vol 337 cc725-87

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £32,502,330, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1939, for the salaries and expenses of the Board of Education, and of the various establishments connected therewith, including sundry grants in aid, and grants and expenses in connection with physical training and re-creation."—[Note.—£18,500,000 has been voted on account.]

3.49 P.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Kenneth Lindsay)

If in the course of this Debate I refer to you, Captain Bourne, as Mr. Mayor, and I occasionally forget myself and congratulate hon. Members on the excellent record of work during the past year, or perhaps I proceed to open a new wing of this House, I hope you will show indulgence, because it is a year since I addressed this Committee and in the meantime I have spent most of my time in opening schools and in giving away prizes. My wanderings over many parts of England and Wales may enable me to report at first-hand some of the fascinating developments which are taking place in the schools of the country, and I do not think that any Minister could have a more agreeable duty.

The Estimates for 1938, are, with a single exception—that of 1921—the largest Education Estimates ever submitted to Parliament. They amount to a little over £51,000,000, making an increase of just under £1,500,000 on the Estimates for 1937. The increase is largely to be found under two heads, pensions for teachers and the National Fitness Council, which show increases, respectively, of £429,000 and £277,000, the latter, the National Fitness Council, being the first full estimate for a year. But the bulk of the Board's expenditure is made up of grants to local authorities, whose expenditure shows an increase on elementary education of £1,800,000. Of this sum about £700,000 is accounted for by reorganisation and preparations for raising the school age, while other expenditure, including the maintenance of schools, conveyance of children and improvement in the quality of teachers, certificated or uncertificated, accounts for further increases. The second large increase in local education authorities' expenditure is for special services—a sum of £500,000. In the field of higher education, there is an increased expenditure by local education authorities of £1,000,000, spread over many items, the chief of which are technical education and secondary school buildings particularly in a number of new housing estates. In brief, the total net expenditure from the Exchequer is £51,072,000 and from the rates £47,810,000, making a total of £98,882,000. So much for mere figures.

The main theme which I am going to develop this afternoon is that consistently with the avoidance of extravagance we cannot as a nation afford to spend less than this amount, but, first of all, I should like to say a brief word about the machinery of administration. I have been impressed by the peculiarly English method which has grown up, and which could never have been planned, by which local education authorities, the teaching profession and the Board co-operate to run this great concern. I have been brought up to believe that efficiency is a good thing, but it is not the only thing, and it is of priceless value to have 300 education committees, with their keen directors in touch with local feelings and engaged in a friendly rivalry of initative, and it is equally good to have the great body of teachers imbued with a sense of their calling and their responsibility. Finally, under the Permanent Secretary to the Board of Education are the Board's officials, to whom I should like to pay a very special tribute, and a devoted band of inspectors who are very little known to the outside world but who are welcomed as friends and advisers in the schools.

It was no accident that on New Year's morning I woke up to find three new Knights—the Secretary to the Association of Education Committees, Sir Percival Sharp; the Secretary to the National Union of Teachers, Sir Frederick Mander, and the Permanent Secretary to the Board of Education, Sir Maurice Holmes. On almost every matter which I propose to discuss to-day these three bodies have at some time or other taken friendly counsel, chiefly because they are friends. I think this is a very important part of this piece of machinery. Those who think that such an organisation is a good example of laisseż faire can derive what comfort they may from it; others who see it as a good example of corporate working may equally well be satisfied. For myself I think it is common sense, and, above all, it works. Moreover, it enables me to shift responsibility on some issues where it rightly belongs—hon. Members have continually asked questions to which I can only give the reply that the matter is one for the local education authority, and on reflection I am sure they will agree that it is very right it should be so—and on others to give a strong lead where the Board as representing Parliament should be in the van.

We are at this moment half-way through a great reform in our education system, a reform which is designed to bring our schools in step with the needs of society. Such periods have occurred before, in 1870 and in 1902. Tradition, within limits, is a strong factor for good, but we believe that our education system has to be tempered by freedom so as to enable the individual to develop his own peculiar gifts, and thus be in a position to make his own contribution to the national well-being. Taking a review—and it must be a brief one—chronologically of this system, there can be no doubt that the most successful products of our present education are the nursery and infant schools. Experiment and study from Robert Owen to Rachel MacMillan have guided us. Moreover, these schools are not hampered by examinations or tests of any sort. Here is a free discipline, where children learn to find their own feet without treading on other peoples toes. I have been fascinated by all I have seen of them, and I wish there were more. There are 105 recognised nursery schools with a total accommodation of 7,685. There has been a growth of 19 per cent. during the year, but the total is admittedly still small, though, of course, many authorities make provision for children under the age of five years in what are called nursery classes.

Mr. Morgan Jones

How many of these schools have been provided by local authorities?

Mr. Lindsay

I will give the figures—about 50 per cent. by local authorities. When I investigated the reasons why certain authorities have not so far made this provision, as one would expect it has almost entirely been a question of finance. It is much better to say exactly where we are than try to gloss over the matter. The junior school is a comparative novelty and only recently has study been given to the peculiar needs and characteristics of children between the ages of seven and 11. These schools still remain too obsessed by the shadow of the examination, which lengthens the nearer the children approach the age of 11, and classes in many schools are still too large, although I foresee a steady diminution. Time and effort may well be devoted to thinking out aims and methods in accordance with the best modern practice. But it is at the post-primary stage that the problem becomes more important. Four-fifths of the children under re-organisation, will proceed to senior schools. In one phrase the blessed word "re-organisation" means a recognition of the needs of the ordinary average child. As regards the progress of reorganisation in which I know hon. Members are interested, the approximate figures are 70 per cent. completed in the towns and 30 per cent. in the countryside, but the effect of the very considerable outlay approved by the Board of £7,500,000 for 1936–37 and £9,800,000 for 1937–38, is not yet apparent. Plans for new buildings come in at the rate of £250,000 a week. I think that is a remarkable tribute to our determination to build up the best possible social services. As this progress continues, all the criticism about school buildings and the size of classes, which I could make nearly as eloquently as some of my hon. Friends opposite, weekly and monthly disappears.

Nothing has impressed me more in my visits to some 30 areas and over 150 schools during the year than the inequality of performance among various authorities. It is not for me to ascribe reasons for this fact, nor do I plead for uniformity when we have such varying conditions throughout the country. But the Board is concerned with a review of all areas and within the standards, and my Noble Friend would like to see some authorities, or rather one or two authorities particularly, facing up more bravely to their task in order that they may be able to meet their obligations in time. We are, of course, aware that there has been a substantial increase in building costs, due to competition for building labour and materials, but that cannot account for the delay in pressing on with preparations. I am conscious of the overwhelming opinion among local education authorities and teachers on the subject, and I trust that every effort will be made throughout the country to secure the greatest possible measure of preparedness by the time of the appointed day. I cannot say more than that.

I want to say a few words about rural education. Naturally enough the countryside is less advanced, and for a variety of reasons. Let me say, however, that if I am convinced of the value of urban reorganisation, I am doubly convinced about rural reorganisation, and my Noble Friend equally shares that conviction. Changes have occurred in the countryside which preceded any talk of reorganisation. I do not think I need mention motor transport, the growing mechanisation of agriculture, the extension of electricity, the decrease in the numbers working on the land per farm, the introduction of new industries and so forth. To-day the average number in a country school is about 80. There are some 6,000 schools with not more than 100 children, and over 2,500 with not more than 40, of all ages, from 5 to 14 years. In most cases the teachers are women and by no means all certificated. In 12 of the most rural counties in England over 50 per cent. of the boys over 11 receive no instruction in gardening at all, nor many of the girls in domestic science. These are vital provisions in a new senior school. I am not unmindful of the splendid work that these little schools have done and the family atmosphere fostered in them, but they were never meant for the successive raisings of the school age, My own mother, whom I regard as the best cook in England, went to such a school, but in those days cooking and much else were learned at home. Now much of that old home lore has irrecoverably gone.

Nor must we forget the facts of agriculture itself. This is not my particular province, but I was brought up largely in the country. Have we not taken away the so-called abler boy into the grammar school, in most cases, unless the son of a farmer, to leave the land for ever? The village looked at from the Tudor manor or the Queen Anne rectory or the weekend cottage has quite a different aspect to the village youth and worker. My own knowledge of the village, which comes from the farm and the cricket ground, leads me to think that we might take a more realist and less romantic view about village life.

I have recently returned from a rural tour across Dorset, Somerset and Devon. Can anyone doubt that those 16 senior schools in Devon are helping to create rural life, situated as they are in such places as Chagford, on Dartmoor, at North Tawton and Holsworthy, or in Dorset at Maiden Newton. The church and farmer alike, who were disposed to blame, have remained to praise. In those three Devon schools I was in each case welcomed by the local parson, who is himself chairman of managers of the new school. No less than 82 per cent. of those trained in the schools mentioned have returned to employment in their contributory villages. So much for the criticism, of which I have seen so much, about the breaking up of village life. Does anyone doubt that the three village colleges which I visited last week in Cambridgeshire are revitalising the life of that rural county, partly by the atmosphere within the school and partly by the provision of a centre for every form of rural activity within the region? It may be said that a new rural unit is thus created which by its very nature stems the drift to the towns. To those who know East Suffolk, Eye and East Reydon remain firmly in mind. At Eye they have laid out the grounds with lawns, rockeries, fruit plots and the rest. Every aspect of gardening is taught—spraying and grafting, budding and pruning. The girls have bottled fruit and vegetables and made jam and marmalade. Farmers' and farm workers' children rub shoulders in the school. Their science is based on the garden and farm, their art deals with things in their houses, their music is British folk song. Children sit down, 165 every day, to a mid-day meal with English meat, two vegetables and local eggs and milk. Can it be honestly said that that is urbanising the children? In many cases young farmers' clubs are either attached to the school or form a connecting link between the school and the farm institute. Practically all the principles underlying farming operations can be illustrated in the school garden. The Ministry of Agriculture looks after purely vocational instruction, but the coming of the new senior school has to my knowledge awakened an entirely new interest among agricultural organisers, and I think that before long it is going to influence agricultural education in this country. In nearly every county there is some appropriate cooperation between the two committees and my Noble Friend is only too anxious to cement that co-operation in Whitehall.

The key to success is the teacher. There used to be a reluctance, so far as I can judge, on the part of many of the best qualified to take employment in rural areas. Those who have experience will perhaps bear me out in that statement. The old schools were certainly rural in situation, but not in equipment and curriculum. The better the equipment, the more likely the school is to attract the kind of teacher wanted. Special courses in rural science and gardening are being arranged both by the Board and the local authorities themselves, one of which, a very interesting one, is at Seale Hayne in Devonshire, and others, most excellent ones, in Kent, and still others in the North of England. It is my conviction that a healthy and intelligent rural population is the best way of assisting a healthy and intelligent agriculture. Those are two of the greatest needs of England at the moment. If we deny to country children the advantages that we give to the towns we are neither serving good husbandry nor helping to preserve the countryside.

Education does not exist in a vacuum, and if the rural schools must relate their work to their environment, it is no less essential to-day in the higher stages, when this country is in competition with the farmers, the skilled workers and the commercial acumen of the whole world, that our education system should be closely related to the needs of living industry. When the instruction becomes frankly vocational, as in art schools, technical and commercial schools and agricultural institutions, we have to adopt a practical test. In sheer numbers of students using these facilities there is cause for satisfaction. The number of part-time students, mainly evening students, rose last year to a total of 1,200,000, an army of volunteers—with their teachers a great brotherhood of earning and learning—anxious to improve their equipment for their jobs. Experience shows that as we offer more facilities students rapidly fill up and are eager to take advantage. As regards buildings, however, I can only say that I wish they were worthy of the enthusiasm of the students housed in them. Owing to the statutory claims of reorganisation and raising the school age, and to the competition for building labour and material, the response from local authorities this year has not been so encouraging. There is considerable leeway to make up, and I say definitely that we cannot afford to slacken.

We cannot afford to slacken for another reason and I have some doubts as to the standpoint which industry and commerce have so far taken in relation to our system of instruction. While fully appreciative of the interest shown by some industrialists and of the services rendered by representatives of industry and commerce on advisory committees, it still remains true that technical education is something which stands apart from organised industry—I emphasise the word "organised." In some foreign countries technical education is an important and intregal factor in the industrial system. In France and Germany and in Czechoslovakia much of the technical training carried on in schools is given in the day time during working hours in close co-operation with the works. In this country the total number of part-time day students released by their employers does not exceed 30,000, and in engineering and allied trades, most important, only about 8,000.

Times have changed. All-round training can no longer be readily provided under conditions of mass production, the conveyer belt and the like. There is a constant increase in the ratio of skilled to unskilled workers, pari passu with the increasing mechanisation of industry. This to me is almost a discovery. I never realised it until this last year. Not only does increasing mechanisation demand this, but it is impossible without it. The time has come when, not merely locally, but on national lines industry should turn its attention more closely to the vital problem of recruiting and training. There is wanted something by way of a national grid of technical education which will carry a constant flow of power into in- dustry and commerce. I hope that by a co-operative effort we can build up such a system. If we do not I am seriously apprehensive that our competitors in foreign countries will be found to have such advantages in skill and efficiency as may endanger our position as a manufacturing and commercial country.

I want now to say something about the difficult question of secondary schools. As I said in a speech last week at Bournemouth, the secondary school, to which some 11 per cent. of our elementary pupils go, has come down to us with a long tradition. It began in mediaeval times as a preparatory school for the university, and this quality it has never lost; indeed, in some respects it has reinforced it. The child who, at the age of 11, enters a secondary school, embarks on a prescribed curriculum leading to the requirements of the School Certificate; but the School Certificate has come more and more to be thought of in terms of matriculation, which is a purely university test. If he stays on beyond the age of 16, he works for the Higher Certificate, an examination which has to serve the dual function of testing the results of two years' school work, and of selecting by competition for university scholarships. Finally, if a boy is ambitious, he may find himself obliged to squeeze into his last year at school special work for intermediate or professional examinations more appropriate to a first year of the university. And added to this we find that, in practice, the prestige of a secondary school tends more and more to be measured by the number of university scholarships it has won during the year. Yet how many children do, in fact, go on to the university? How many are, in fact, forced over traditional hurdles which are designed, in part at least, for the needs of university candidates?

Mr. Cove

How many of them are from the working class?

Mr. Lindsay

I have said that 11 per cent. of elementary school leavers go to the secondary schools. Yet the percentage is by no means even over the country. In Wales, where a fine popular tradition in favour of secondary schools has existed for close on 50 years, the percentage is as high as 20 per cent.; in some areas it is as low as 7 or 8 per cent. Yet can we say that the number of qualified pupils in Wales is three times as great as that in some other areas? It is clear that there is a different standard being used. What is the remedy for this situation? I do not think it will be solved by slogans.

Mr. Morgan Jones

The hon. Gentleman said there is a different standard. Does he mean that in Wales it is lower than in England, or vice versa?

Mr. Lindsay

I simply mean a different standard of administration. A number of the boys who, in Wales, go to what are known as secondary schools, in England go to senior schools, central schools, junior technical schools, and so forth. I do not mean a difference in the examinations standard.

Mr. Cove

There are more facilities in Wales.

Mr. Lindsay

I do not think there are. This situation will not be solved by slogans, because the problems involved are fundamental. It can be solved only by a thorough examination of, first, the methods of selection of pupils entering secondary schools, and secondly, the aim of the courses on which they are to embark. We are expecting this year a report from the Consultative Committee, which will be largely concerned with this problem. In the meantime, certain practical measures are being taken to make conditions in the schools more flexible. I will give the Committee one example. It was one of the recommendations of the Investigation into the School Certificate held in 1931 that the school certificate should no longer be associated with Matriculation. As hon. Members are aware, a school certificate is obtained by qualifying in an examination held by one of eight university examining boards, but a candidate could enter for Matriculation at the same examination, and, by obtaining five credits in certain subjects, could obtain this added qualification. I think we all welcomed that recommendation and would like to see it universally adopted. But it is a matter primarily, if not entirely, for the universities to consider. One difficulty is that, as long as employers continue to look for matriculation as an essential qualification for employment, it is difficult to bring the necessary pressure of public opinion to bear. But I can say emphatically that we at the Board would welcome the change. We must not overestimate the problem. In fact, it affects only two groups of universities, the Northern Universities and London, and of these, the Northern Universities have, I am glad to say, adopted the reform and discontinued the practice of making a matriculation certificate possible of attainment by the School Certificate examination alone. I believe that the University of London is actively considering the possibility of a similar step, and I am sure the Committee will join with me in hoping that they may find it possible to fall in with the recommendation of 1931.

I want to say only a word or two here about the Universities, for if I said more I should be out of order. The really vital point to notice is the growing up during recent years of a vast system of State and local education authority scholarships and exhibitions. It is almost unique in its size and effects. But observe the results. Every year some 360 State scholarships are awarded and there are some 1,700 local education authority awards. In this way the public authorities are to a large extent made responsible for the selection of the clientele of the Universities. This is not yet fully recognised throughout the country. Here I should like to mention a matter which may have caused some concern to some hon. Members. I was exceedingly interested to read in the "Times" of 16th June an article by Sir William Beveridge in which he quoted a statement by Mr. Glass and Professor Gray that the elementary schools provide only 27 per cent. of the male undergraduates at all Universities, only 12 per cent, at Oxford, and 13 per cent. at Cambridge. Those figures are, I am glad to say, very remote from actuality. The true figures are 42 per cent. at all universities, 22 per cent. at Oxford and 25 per cent. at Cambridge. I notice that my friend Mrs. Parker, in her presidential speech at Margate, suggested that there is less chance to-day for the children of working-class parents to climb the educational ladder. I am glad to say that it is not so. The numbers of public elementary scholars leaving for secondary schools has risen from 71,000 to 78,000 during a period when the school population has been falling. The total percentage of such children in grant-aided secondary schools has risen from 76 per. cent. to 81 per cent. As regards University scholarships, so far from a reduction there has been an increase of 120 State scholarships during the last two years, of which 56 have been won by pupils from graint-aided schools.

Mr. A. Jenkins

Will the hon. Gentleman give particulars as to the number of children who are not from elementary schools and the number from elementary schools, so as to make it possible to compare the 42 per cent.?

Mr. Lindsay

42 per cent. of all the children who go to the Universities come from elementary schools. The others come from a great variety of schools.

Mr. Jenkins

The hon. Gentleman was talking about 42 per cent. of all the undergraduates in the Universities coming from elementary schools. What is the number of elementary school children as compared with the other schools from which the 58 per cent. come?

Mr. Lindsay

I should require notice of that question. I am not trying to make any clever point. All I am saying is that the figures mentioned in the "Times" article are so remote from actuality that I dare to correct them. If the hon. Member wishes to know the number of schools from which the others come, I think I can look it up before I reply later and give him the exact figures then. As to the university scholarships, Mrs. Parker's figures are right, although the conclusions are wrong; that is, they are wrong in the sense that there has been no reduction in the number of State scholarships. With regard to the scholarships provided by the local education authorities, there is no arbitrary limit imposed. Generally speaking, such awards depend upon the number of pupils who are capable and who wish to go to universities. It is a fact that in certain districts such as Birmingham and Middlesex where prospects of employment have been particularly good, the size of the sixth forms has considerably decreased. Nor do I think that university education in vacuo quite irrespective of subsequent careers is necessarily a desirable thing. I say that with some thought of other countries. I remember that when I was in Egypt, I saw great masses of students and in talking to the principal, I said, "What are they going to do?" He said, "That is one of the saddest things—we do not know. At least 25 per cent. of them, it seems to me, are going to work as ordinary labourers." I am not concerned with denying to anybody the advantages of a university education, which I think can be got extra-murally and in a hundred different ways, but when the public funds are paying for full-time courses, I say that there is no terrific virtue in a university education in vacuo. Most of the people who go to the universities go for the specific purpose of becoming teachers, doctors, of entering the church, or entering a variety of professions—[An HON. MEMBER: "The Civil Service"]—the Civil Service very largely; and I have no objection to anybody going to a university, but when the State pays, there is a definite obligation. I cannot explain why the numbers are going down, but as far as I know, no local education authorities have changed their policy in this respect.

Mr. Cove

The advantage is with the fee-payer all the time.

Mr. Lindsay

There has been no diminution as far as scholarships are concerned. If an advantage falls to a certain number of people, I am not responsible for it at the moment. All I can say is that the number of scholarships has not decreased, but has increased. Beyond this, I do not want to say much about the position of scholarships and exhibitions to universities. But it does give me an opportunity of saying one word about a most important piece of work which has been carried out by the Secondary Schools Examinations Council this winter. Some Members of the Committee may be aware that from time to time investigations are carried out by this council with a view to ascertaining and reporting on the arrangements made by universities for the School and Higher School Certificates. This year an investigation of this sort has been made into the Higher School Certificate, and one of the main problems the council has had to consider is, how far the Higher Certificate examination can successfully serve the dual purpose of testing the ordinary school work of pupils and, on the other hand, selecting suitable pupils for university scholarships and exhibitions awarded by the State and local education authorities.

An investigation of this sort involves an immense amount of labour and visits are necessary to all the examining centres. We at the Board are indebted to the council, and particularly to its chairman, Sir Cyril Norwood, of whose recent honour we were all glad to hear, for their work in this matter. My own feeling is that the existing system, with all its variations, may be successful in choosing candidates with the best brains, but any selection based entirely on success in a written examination is open to the criticism that it selects brains and nothing else. We want at the university those will will play a leading part in whatever occupation they take up as citizens of the State. I do feel that it is important that, in assisting young people from public funds to obtain a university education, too much emphasis cannot be placed on the importance of choosing them on promise rather than performance in a written examination. We are interested in this Committee in seeing that the expenditure of public money gives us value in national leadership and in securing that the cream of ability comes to the top.

I turn from the question of examinations to the kindred questions of holidays, physical education and nutrition. May I begin by a reference to the question of holidays, which has been very much before the public lately? In April last the Committee on Holidays with Pay issued its report. One of its recommendations was that education authorities should endeavour to arrange school holidays so that they would fit in with industrial holidays. The Board lost no time in calling a meeting of local education authorities and teachers with officers of the Board which met on 25th May. At that meeting it was made clear that the first step lay with industry, that it was for industry to make its proposals for a spread-over of holidays and that it would then be for education to adjust its arrangements accordingly. In the first place, it would be necessary to ensure that as far as possible school holidays coincided with local industrial holidays. This would present no difficulty in cases where industry to a large extent closed down, but it was recognised that when local industrial holidays were spread over a considerable period it would not be possible to make the school holidays coincide with them. In such cases it was recommended that absence from school during an industrial holiday should be a reasonable excuse for non-attendance at school. I think it very remarkable that the conference unanimously came to that conclusion.

The second point was that of removing examinations outside the holiday period. This problem has been considered also by the Secondary School Examinations Council and I think it can already be said that there is every prospect of the universities agreeing to make suitable modifications in the dates of the School and Higher School Certificate Examinations. I have been impressed by the readiness and even the enthusiasm of all concerned, whether from the universities, or from the local authorities, or from the teachers, to do all they can to meet the problems which are incidental to this great social cause, and as far as we are concerned I do not see that anything stands in its way.

The question of holidays is linked up with that of general health and such matters as the provision of gymnasia, swimming pools, physical training organisers and the rest.

Mr. Gallacher

And good food.

Mr. Lindsay

There is also, of course, the provision of school dental facilities, regular medical inspection and so forth, and all these are inseparable from the question of nutrition and the full and generous use of the powers to supply milk and meals free where there is necessity and at a small cost in other cases, as I have already instanced in the senior schools. I am informed that in the ordinary schools in the countryside the cost of these meals works out at about 2½d. to 3d. per child per day. There is no differentiation between the children who receive assistance in this way and the others. They all sit down together.

Mr. Gallacher

What is the average cost of a meal in a public school?

Mr. Lindsay

I have no idea. I am dealing here only with the public system of education. An estimated increase of £500,000 by local education authorities under the heading of Special Services reveals £150,000 increase on provision of meals and £350,000 in respect of school medical services.

Viscountess Astor

It ought to be the other way round.

Mr. Lindsay

Those are the figures in any case and they, of course, include open-air schools, nursery schools and play centres, physical training organisers and many other items in the special services. The best proof of the value of this expenditure is to be seen in the heights and weights of children compared even with 10 years ago, and in the increased cooperation of parents. There is no one of experience who does not admit that the school medical service has revolutionised child life in a quarter of a century. There has naturally been criticism. There has been for example some criticism of the clinical method recommended by the board for the assessment of the nutrition of school children. The hon. Member for Claycross (Mr. Ridley) has discussed this matter with me, and I agree with many of the criticisms which he and others make. There are admittedly inconsistencies between the returns for similar areas, but I think hon. Members opposite should realise the proportions of the subject before indulging in these criticisms.

There are, as I say, inconsistencies between the returns for similar areas, showing that different standards have been adopted by school medical officers, but as a method of assessing the general condition and wellbeing of the child, the returns produce a valuable picture for the country as a whole. We should all like to find some index which would accurately measure malnutrition. That may seem a rather superficial remark, but it is not easy when you are dealing with 5,000,000 children to arrive at a proper method of assessment, unless you propose to give school meals to all on a contributory basis, and if you did that you would have to be prepared for the appropriate expenditure. I am sure no one would desire such an index more than the Advisory Committee on Nutrition appointed by the Minister of Health. Yet they state that our own method which is being used at the moment, is the most promising. Various alternatives have been suggested which I, as a layman, have examined, and which experts have long ago worked out, but they all have serious limitations. They do not apply the test which we require, and we are therefore bound to conclude that the clinical method based on the opinion of an experienced physician is the best at present open to us. I do not say that we shall not discover a better, but at present it is the best available, and if applied with skill, and most of all with understanding, it discovers the great majority of children whose nutrition is defective.

The returns for 1937 show an increase in the percentage of children with excellent nutrition and a slight fall from 0.7 per cent. to 0.6 per cent. in the percentage with bad nutrition. Deficiencies in diet still exist, sometimes in quanitity and sometimes in quality, but as every one knows there are other causes of sub-normal nutrition such as heredity, want of sleep, bad environment and effects of illness or infectious disease. The past year has shown an increase from 248 to 264 in the number of local education authorities who provide free solid meals or milk for necessitous undernourished children. Summaries of the provision made during the year ended 31st March, 1938, are not yet available. Here I should like to apologise to hon. Members. I promised last year that I would endeavour to see that the Board's report was ready before this Debate took place. I am sorry that the returns from the local authorities do not come in sufficiently early to enable this to be done. I went to some trouble to see how far the matter could be expedited, but I find that it means either changing the whole method of returns by local authorities, or else having this Debate at a later period in the Session.

Mr. Cove

How much later?

Mr. Lindsay

Not much later, because the report is now in proof. As I say, summaries of the provision made during the year ended 31st March, 1938, are not available but the figures for 1936–37 show that as compared with the returns for 1935–36, which I gave a year ago, the number of children receiving free solid meals or milk has increased from 479,000 to 535,000 and the number of free meals provided has increased from 86,500,000 to 100,000,000. It is practically certain that these figures have again increased in 1937–38 but we cannot yet say by how much.

I am also glad to notice that there has been a steady increase since the issue of Circular 1445, just over two years ago, in everything appertaining to physical education. Both the number of authorities employing physical training organisers and the number of the organisers themselves have doubled in the last 2½ years. No fewer than 288 gymnasia and four new swimming baths have also been provided for elementary schools, while 300 sites for new playing fields have been acquired, 100 of which serve more than one school and 700 sites have been extended.

Mr. Cove

Under the Physical Training Act?

Mr. Lindsay

No, this has nothing to do with the Act. All this has been done during the last two and a-half years and has been done for the children of our elementary schools and that gives me more personal satisfaction than any other announcement I have made in this speech. Also, in our secondary schools 1,600 acres of additional playing fields, 214 gymnasia and 18 swimming baths, nine of them open air, have been approved, and, I am glad to add, 36 new gymnasia in our technical schools—a provision which was not made in the past. Added then to a progressive nutrition policy there is a system now prevailing which will be universal when reorganisation is completed, of physical education. I think that is the best phrase to apply to such a system. It is a system of physical exercises woven into a system of games and so forth. I do not think that there is any country with a better system of the kind. On a recent visit here the German Sports Leader declared that it was far better than anything in his own country. It will be of universal application and is, I believe, on a thoroughly sound basis.

It was in order to ensure that the effect of this excellent work should not be lost through lack of interest and lack of facilities when the children came to leave school that the Physical Training and Recreation Act was placed on the Statute Book. The National Fitness Council under the personal inspiration of Lord Aberdare—whose brilliant and classic performance helped this House and the other place to defeat the M.C.C. last week—has now got well under way. It has roused interest throughout the country by propaganda, through posters and films and by a sympathetic response from the national and local Press and we hope that to these agencies will soon be added wireless. As regards creating and adding to the necessary facilities one of the main problems is to ensure a supply of trained leaders, and I think the Committee are aware that a site has been acquired for the National College for the training of such leaders and plans are now prepared. Naturally such a construction must take time and, meantime, additional leaders are being trained by means of a variety of courses with the valuable help of the Central Council for Recreative Training. At the same time the Board have offered 75 per cent. grant towards the salary of full-time instructor leaders in order to encourage men and women to take up this work as a full-time profession. One of the difficulties of the past has been that men could undertake this work only in the evening.

As regards the financing of new schemes for providing physical training facilities, the Grants Committee have now evolved a procedure and policy based on careful principles. This is a new problem but notwithstanding the relatively short period during which it has been possible to consider local applications for capital grants, 466 applications have been received involving a total expenditure of nearly £3,000,000. Grants have been recommended and approved by the Board to the value of £271,000, and by the end of July should be increased by another £200,000. Of the total estimate of £2,000,000, one-fourth will have been spent, and in addition a sum of £50,000 has been placed at the disposal of the National Playing Fields Association, who deal with all schemes for new playing fields. A sum of £200,000 has been put at the disposal of the University Grants Committee, and every university is now preparing a carefully planned scheme to deal with this hitherto neglected subject. May I say, in parenthesis, that most of the people at universities, certainly outside Oxford and Cambridge, are poor students.

Sir Edward Grigg

Is the money allocated to the National Playing Fields Association for them to control and allocate again?

Mr. Lindsay

Yes. They are the expert authorities, and we are using their machinery.

Sir E. Grigg

But the decision is with the Board?

Mr. Lindsay

The final decision on all grants is with the Board.

Mr. Tomlinson

I take it that when the hon. Gentleman was speaking about poor students at the other universities, he was speaking in an economic sense?

Mr. Lindsay

Yes. The wide variety of physical and recreative proposals which are being assisted include community centres, swimming baths, boys' and girls' clubs, youth hostels, and camping sites. What is interesting also is that many quite new enterprises, comprising great centres for athletic pursuits, are now being suggested. The various committees have got to work and have discovered that in one town, for instance, it would be better to provide a centre for a great variety of athletic pursuits. As an interesting example of encouragement to a single sport. it may be observed that a national organiser has been appointed in connection with rowing, a fine and healthy exercise traditionally rather the prerogative of the few, and that assistance has already been offered to a number of working men's rowing clubs. I could give other examples, but I take rowing, because it is one of the less known sports.

It would appear from questions that have been addressed to me from time to time that there is an impression in some quarters that the machinery of the Physical Training Act ignores the local education authorities. That is not so. The powers of authorities were greatly widened by the Act, and it is true to say that the movement can never attain the full measure of success which we all desire unless the authorities both exercise those widened powers and also co-operate whole-heartedly with the area committees which have been set up.

I have just spoken of the new interest in health and physical education. This movement has frequently demanded the presence of my Noble Friend and myself at great festivals of youth and displays all over the country, but as illustrating the rich variety of interests which lie on the fringe of formal education to-day, I have been interested to attend musical festivals, art exhibitions, camping exhibitions, child guidance clinics, that unique exhibition of the Bethnal Green Men's Institute, which stands almost by itself in London and to which I went with the hon. Member for Bethnal Green, and a host of other ceremonies. I might particularly mention the newly inaugurated teachers' course arranged through my friend Mr. Granville Barker at the British Institute in Paris, at Easter, with the warm and generous co-operation of the French Government. It would be out of place to mention the work of the British Council, on which we have a liaison officer, but I would like to say that we at the Board value greatly its work. The English language must always be the backbone of the curriculum in our schools, and it is more and more prized abroad, as the Council is showing us, not only as a medium of commerce, but also as an expression of the English way of life. Thousands of our children are now paying visits to the Continent each year. The Fitness Council have recently sent some of our foremost exponents of physical training to the Continent, while we have been honoured by the highly successful visit of those gifted Swedish gymnasts. No better ambassadors of good will can exist than our own children and the best exponents of British music, literature, and games.

I believe that in the present temper of the world these contributions to understanding among the peoples are wholly to the good, and we would wish to multiply them as a contribution to a positive peace policy. I mention these things at the end to show that the Board is not only concerned with curricula and time-tables, nor only with teeth, towels, and milk, but also with those many manifestations of the human spirit which we in this country sometimes shyly call culture. How important this is becomes evident when we regard the many aspects of adult education to-day. I referred last year to some of those activities, and I hope in the coming year that some simple machinery may be devised for giving more direction and leadership in the broader field of adult activities.

It is difficult to estimate the results of education by a tape measure, but remember the imponderables. You cannot, in my view, teach tolerance, kindness, vitality, leadership, citizenship, or appreciation of beauty, as such, but a school can be the sort of place which embodies and encourages those things in its architecture and above all in the spirit of its teachers. I believe that there are British ideals in education. Since the Renaissance there has been no such upheaval in thought, no such revaluation of values, as in the century upon which we have entered. The waves of Continental ideas are beating against this ancient rock, and tradition, as before, has compelled us to examine them with an insular eye, but freedom bids us proclaim that we are embarked on a great adventure, the adventure of discovering a democracy. I think it is to our schools that we must look to play their part in that adventure, and all that they seem to need is the guiding light.

4.54 P.m.

Mr. Lees-Smith

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

The Parliamentary Secretary has made a comprehensive and attractive survey of the subject, which think indicates the great affection that he has had for many years for the actual topics over which he is now called upon to preside. I shall not follow him in a general survey of the whole educational field, but I must deal with most of the salient features which he has brought to our attention. One or two subjects with which he dealt I will leave to my hon. Friends, as we are debating under a rather strict limitation of time. I was a little surprised, because I thought the Parliamentary Secretary would have said something about the Act of 1936 and the progress that was being made in attempts to deal with the problem of beneficial exemptions and attempts to introduce some sort of common standard among the local authorities of the country; but my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) and, I think, a number of other hon. Friends of mine on this side of the Committee will put questions on that subject, and I hope the hon. Member will be prepared to deal with them at the end of the day.

The hon. Gentleman talked about reorganisation and told us that there are still in the urban areas one-third of the children over 11 in unorganised school work departments, and in the rural areas two-thirds of them. But what rather disturbed me more than that were certain observations which the Parliamentary Secretary made upon this subject in a speech which he delivered at Bournemouth recently. It is clear to me, if I may make one criticism of his speech, that a good deal of it was full of rather unexceptionable generalisations with which we all agree, but as a matter of fact it appeared to me that those generalisations do mark, on this question of reorganisation, a very sharp divergence of policy between my hon. Friends and those who sit on the Government side of the Committee. Reorganisation is not merely a matter of shifting children about from one department to another. Our policy has been summed up in that phrase, to which the Parliamentary Secretary took objection at Bournemouth, "Secondary education for all." He described it as a nostrum and said, "What do we gain if we put all children into so-called secondary schools?" The hon. Gentleman has not in the least understood what that phrase means. We do not wish to put all children into secondary schools, but what we say is that at the age of 11 children should go to schools of different types, some to secondary schools, some to senior schools, some to central schools, but all to schools of the same educational quality.

That was, in fact, the doctrine of the Hadow Report, upon which this whole scheme of reorganisation is based. But that is not being done. It is still the case that the expenditure per head on children in secondary schools is still about twice as high as it is on children in senior schools, and the gap is not diminishing under the present Administration. The fact is that the present Administration regard the purpose of reorganisation as an improvement in the later stages of elementary education, and that is all. Our phrase, "Secondary education for all," means the secondary standard of education for all, whereas the present Administration is settling down into a system, an idea, of reorganisation which means two standards—one standard for the children of the secondary schools and a cheaper standard for the 89 per cent. of the children who, as the Parliamentary Secretary pointed out, go to the senior schools.

Certain remarks which the Parliamentary Secretary made to-day lead me to the conclusion that he has not really thought out the implications of the attitude which he took in his speech at Bournemouth. On that occasion he spoke, as he has again to-day, of securing a more satisfactory system of selecting pupils for the secondary schools. The most critical year in the life of the great mass of the people is the age of 11, when they pass an examination which decides whether they shall go forward to the cheaper education or to the more expensive education with all the opportunities in life which the latter education brings. I was struck this morning by a letter in the "Times" by a gentleman who I did not know was interested in this subject, the headmaster of King's College, Taunton, who put in a sentence what we mean by "secondary education for all": The aim of education should not be to pigeon-hole people at the age of 12, but to give every one the longest possible chance of finding and developing his abilities. That can be done only when at the age of 11 all can go to schools where the same standards of equipment, staffing, amenities and teaching give all an equal opportunity in life. That is the meaning of our phrase.

I wish to lead up to some observations which the Parliamentary Secretary mace about the matriculation examination. In order to do that I wish to ask him what has been the result of the report upon home work, which we discussed fully in the last Debate of the Education Estimates because it had been published about a week before. That report made it clear that this problem of excessive homework is especially the curse of secondary schools, and it recommended that children between 11 and 14 should do only one hour a day, children between 14 and 16, 1½ hours, and that they should do homework for only four or five days in the week. When the report was discussed I said that all those recommendations would prove to be completely futile, and I ask for information because I am sure that it will show that my prophecy was correct. They are bound to be futile because of the problem to which the Parliamentary Secretary has referred and as regards which I should like the Board of Education to take pore positive action. They are futile because we have reached a position in secondary education in which the school certificate examination and the matriculation examination have become one and the same.

We now have the preposterous situation in which the bulk of the children in our secondary schools are being prepared to try to pass at 16 a school certificate examination which shall be the same thing as the matriculation examination which is intended for children who will enter the university at the age of 18. In these circumstances, of course, there is excessive homework, and any attempt to prevent it will be defeated by the teachers, the parents and the children themselves. I suggested last year that the universities should hold their own examination for matriculation and should leave the school certificate examination free for its original purpose, that is, to test, without cramming, the education which the average child at 16 has been able to reach while pursuing his leisure, hobbies, school activities and recreation and having a little time to think for himself, which the secondary school product, although he passes the examinations, never learns to do.

I said last year that this problem had resolved itself to one obstacle only, that is, the University of London. The Parliamentary Secretary has practically repeated what I said. He stated that there were two groups of universities which had the solution of this problem in their hands—the northern group and the University of London. The northern group has made the separation, but the University of London has not taken that step. I have come to the conclusion that it is now time, especially after the strong observations which the Parliamentary Secretary has just made, for the Government to take some action. The hon. Gentleman cannot, after making such observations, follow them up by simply saying that this is a matter entirely for universities to settle for themselves. It is not so. These universities are receiving public grants. The University of London would have to close its doors if it depended on its own fees, and it is not entitled to say that its policy concerns itself alone and that it does not need to consider its effect on other universities and on secondary education.

Sir Ernest Graham-Little

When has the University of London said that?

Mr. Lees-Smith

It said it in correspondence which the hon. Member himself sent to the Press. It does not make the change and it takes the ground that it is a matter for the university itself to settle. I say it is no longer a matter for the university to settle.

Sir E. Graham-Little

I must contradict that statement. I followed the correspondence and took part in it, and I cannot remember any such statement being made.

Mr. Lees-Smith

I know that the question has been considered by the University of London for years. The fact is that the university is acting as a law unto itself and is refusing to take a step which is now being urged by the northern universities and by every body of educational opinion in the country. In these circumstances the time has arrived when the Board of Education should take the responsibility of exercising its influence and bringing to a head the development which a single university has delayed far too long.

The Parliamentary Secretary devoted a large part of his speech to the physical training scheme. I have followed it rather closely and I have come to the conclusion that the Physical Training Act is proving to be a disappointment. There is a marked contrast between the comparative lack of interest which it creates now and the boosting and propaganda in which Ministers indulged before it was introduced. When the Act was being passed I pointed out what I thought was the chief peril in its structure. I was sorry that I could not make the President of the Board of Education see that the chief impediment in the Act was that it was dependent for its administration mainly upon voluntary organisations which were largely responsible for such physical training activities as were already operating in the country. The danger is that these voluntary organisations have confined themselves mainly to the clerical and the black-coated class of workers. They have scarcely penetrated into the factory, mill and mining populations who are mostly in need of an improvement in their physical standards. As I pointed out at the time, the only method of avoiding the peril of just giving a little more in the various directions which voluntary organisations were already covering was carefully to think out in advance what were the special methods of physical training on which we were going to concentrate instead of allowing the money to be spilt in all manner of different directions. That was not done before the Act was passed.

How this small sum of money was to be spent was not thought out beforehand, and we were told it was to be left to the National Fitness Council, of which the Parliamentary Secretary has spoken in very high terms. I do not think this council is the right body for the purpose. It consists of well-meaning pugilists, weight lifters, sloggers, beauty queens and sprinters, but these magnificent physical specimens are not the people who have devoted a very large part of their lives to thinking about the problem of the mill girl who has a tendency to anaemia and to whom this Act ought to be specially directed. The result of this system is that the council has followed the line of least resistance. Voluntary organisations were providing a certain number of playing fields and assistance has been given in that direction. A local authority which was thinking of providing a new swimming bath sometime said, "Let us apply to the Fitness Council for a grant and do it now."

I am convinced that by this method of spending the money there will be finally no great net addition to the facilities which would have been provided sooner or later from other sources if this Act had not been passed. The Parliamentary Secretary spoke, for example, of this vaguely benevolent expenditure whenever any respectable body comes along and asks for assistance. People are asking, and I ask, why £200,000 should be given to the universities. We have not a limitless amount of money to spend—only £2,000,000. That is an average of only £3,000 for each of our constituencies, and yet one-tenth of the whole sum is to go to the universities. It is very pleasant for the universities to have more gymnasiums, but if we compare their needs with those of the great mining, mill and factory populations, no one who has been to a university will say that their need for physical training and recreation is one of the most urgent that ought to be presented to this House. That is an example of the way in which this money is being benevolently slopped around as if the Fitness Council were a kind of well-endowed charitable society.

I come back to the warning I gave last year, that although we shall spend a large amount of money on what are all good objects, we shall not produce much addition to what would otherwise have been brought about by other agencies. I believe it would have been better to have thought out what we wanted to spend money upon and to concentrate upon it. It would have been better to concentrate upon physical education as distinct from physical recreation, leaving other agencies to provide physical recreation as the result of the propaganda and stimulus which organisers of physical education would have provided in every area.

Next I wish to refer to the Parliamentary Secretary's remarks about the problem of nutrition, and his defence of the Board's methods of discovering children whose nutrition is inadequate. Nutrition is one of the most important subjects in the sphere of education which we have discussed for the last year or two, and one of the large developments in social advance in the last five years has been the discovery by the medical profession of this doctrine of nutrition. They are making it clear that the most important element of all in the health of a child, and the subsequent health of the man—more important than anything else—is the actual physical intake of food, of the right kind of food, to be transformed into the bones and muscles and tissues out of which our bodies are made. Amenities and everything else are quite secondary to the right kind of food inside our bodies.

The Parliamentary Secretary said that children would be given food free whenever necessary, and, broadly, the claim was that no child would be allowed to suffer from malnutrition. He defended the method by which the Board recommends the selection of the children, the method of clinical assessment. I believe that it will have to be abandoned, because it is completely contrary to modern scientific methods. The method of clinical assessment is that by which the school medical officer, by personal observation, picks out a child as suffering from malnutrition—either the school medical officer, or the teacher, or the school nurse, or the school attendance officer or anyone else interested. We on this side have held a different view for a long time, and I see that we are now supported in our view by the statements of Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins. I believe he is the greatest authority in this country on nutrition—he was made President of the Royal Society on account of his services in connection with nutrition—and he says plainly that children may suffer from a high degree of malnutrition before the outward signs become observable by a teacher or a school medical officer.

We on these benches have for some time been recommending an alternative method for which we now have the support of the medical profession. Under that alternative method you calculate the actual quantity of calories, phosphates, proteins, fats and so on which are required for the proper development of a child, according to the age of the child, and you calculate from the family budget which the Minister of Labour is preparing the cost of the food which contains the proper quantity of these nutrients, and you calculate what is the lowest income on which families can afford to buy these foods. The doctrine to which we come is that in that way you can tell, broadly, the minimum income below which sufficient food to prevent malnutrition cannot be provided. What we are now being recommended is very simple—that we should feed all the children who come from families below that level of income, because if, as may happen, some are not under-nourished, that is only because their mothers are living on bread and margarine and tea.

I do not believe the Board of Education will be able very much longer to maintain its position in this matter. More and more is expert opinion moving against it, and what is most striking is the extraordinary disparity in the results arrived at by the Board of Education methods and by the methods suggested by medical officers who are advocates of nutrition. The Board of Education tell us that by the clinical assessment method they got the result, for the year 1036, that 10.5 per cent. of children are slightly subnormal, and only 0.7 per cent. are bad—fewer than 1 in 100 are bad. Compare with that the results achieved by the alternative methods. The British Medical Association's conclusion is that 30 per cent. of the children come from families where they are bound to be suffering from malnutrition, and Sir John Orr's conclusion is that 50 per cent. come from those families. Look at the discrepancy. On the one side less than 1 in 100, and on the other side from 30 to 50 per cent.

What is the explanation? To me the explanation is clear. The school medical officer has to choose which of the children are abnormal. What is his standard? His standard is the average physique of the children in the school in the area. He takes the average as the normal, and if that is done it can be worked out in advance that about 10 per cent. will be slightly below the normal and 1 in 100 very much below. That is all that that method leads to. What the British Medical Association and Sir John Orr are really showing is that the average child in these schools is under-nourished, and that therefore the figures of 10 per cent. and 0.7 per cent. represent only those who are abnormally undernourished. This is the great controversy on which the lives and the health of millions of children will turn, and I say that in that controversy the verdict is going against the Board of Education.

I believe that by far the most exhaustive discussion of this subject which has been presented in the last 12 months was on the occasion of a paper read to the Royal Statistical Society in November last by Mr. Huys Jones as a result of the researches of the medical department of the Liverpool Education Committee. They were researches undertaken in a great number of schools and in which eight doctors took part. It was followed by a most exhaustive discussion by very great authorities on this problem. As the Parliamentary Secretary knows, for many years the Board of Education has depended in this matter upon the Tuxford's Index—if a child of a certain age is above a certain weight and a certain height then it is all right, and if it is below then it is under-nourished. It is merely a mechanical process. The children themselves could carry out their own assessment of under-nourishment. A child of 10 could do it for the whole school.

In this inquiry it was said that if two doctors agree about the condition of a child it is a presumption that they are more likely to be correct than if they disagreed. What did they find? They found that as a test Tuxford's Index gave a more accurate result than the clinical assessment by the doctors. The doctors more often agreed with Tuxford's Index than with each other. They pointed out the reason—that usually doctors judge by the standards to which they are accustomed. They pointed out that if a doctor first goes to a poor school and then to a school where the children are better off his standard is set by the poor school, and he finds very few undernourished among the better-off children. If he visits the schools the other way round the results are entirely different. Until the Board of Education have some answer to this paper they cannot just calmly go on with their present methods. I will read the conclusion to which those in charge of this inquiry came: One may venture to claim that the method of assessing nutrition at present followed by school medical officers, under the direction of the Board of Education, is unreliable. The results it gives are of doubtful value, the conclusions to which they point are insecurely founded, and they are giving the impression of effective action without the reality. Then there was a long discussion, and at the end the writer of the paper summed up the discussion in this way—which is exactly the policy which we on this side have been trying to impress upon the Government: The Board has advanced to saying that any symptoms will do, but since even these are difficult to determine with precision, one may sometimes wonder whether it would not be wise to give up the choice of such a will-of-the-wisp as the state of nutrition and consider other approaches to the problem; for example, free meals, or milk, or both, to be made available for all children from families where the per capita income falls below a certain level. So we have the result that this scientific inquiry comes to exactly the same advice as hon. Members on these benches, where the fund of educational experience is vast, have been giving in this House for the last 20 years.

5.30 p.m.

Major Whiteley

I cannot help feeling a certain amount of regret that the time allotted for this Debate is so short and that the notice given that this day was to be allotted for an educational discussion was not very long. The effect was to make it difficult for hon. Members to be present or fully to consider such points as they might wish to bring forward. It is rather remarkable that so little controversial is the subject of education in these days that it is not even allotted a whole day for discussion. It shows, at any rate, that there must be a very considerable measure of agreement, and that education is far less a matter of party controversy than it used to be in the great days of 1902 and onwards. Nevertheless, I wish that a little more time could have been available, as I am afraid some hon. Members will not have an opportunity of giving their opinion.

I should like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary for his graceful apology for not being able to produce the report subsequent to that for the year 1936. That is a very interesting report, entitled "Education in 1936," but most of the figures which it gives are up to 31st March, 1936. That is no less than two years ago; it was, in fact, published in September of 1937, and much of its information is completely out of date. This is a particularly important Debate, in view of the approaching raising of the school-leaving age. It is more than 13 years since the publication of the Hadow Report, of which, of course, the raising of the school-leaving age was an essential feature, which, in turn, depended for its success very largely on the progress of reorganisation.

In some cases, notably in rural areas, reorganisation is essential to the success of the raising of the school-leaving age. As we have been told, it is an undoubted fact that a large proportion of rural authorities are not prepared with their schemes of reorganisation, and it seems a very doubtful benefit to retain boys over 14 at small village schools. It is a matter for doubt whether in the last year of their education they are deriving very much benefit at the moment, although I think no one would deny that, with very difficult premises and small schools, wonderful results are achieved by village schoolmasters and schoolmistresses. I suggest that we are trying the teachers rather too hard if we expect them to deal with small schools covering a full range of scholars from five to 15 years of age, and still to continue to make a success of them.

Many problems have been raised by this urgent matter of reorganisation. The question is whether they have been sufficiently overcome to enable the school-leaving age to be satisfactorily raised at the appointed date, 1st September, 1939. My own opinion is a somewhat doubting affirmative, In common with anyone else who is interested in this subject of education, I would very deeply regret any suggestion that the date of the school-leaving age should be postponed, but it would be unwise to close our eyes to the fact that we are encountering difficulties, the major one of which is this question of reorganisation, which depends not entirely but very largely on the provision of suitable schools. Every educational authority, perhaps with varying intensity, is doing its best to push ahead with the preparations for these senior schools, in readiness for the appointed day, but the result of this pressure has not been entirely satisfactory. It has had a bad effect in some departments of education, and it has also had an effect wider than a purely educational one.

As the Committee know, under the Act of 1936 the managers of non-provided schools, or those who wish to provide voluntary schools, may receive a grant up to 75 per cent., and above 50 per cent. from the local authority, provided that they produced their proposals to the local authority by the end of February this year. In special circumstances the period could be extended to 1st September—or rather to 31st August. In order to get that 75 per cent. grant, those schools have to be finished by 1st September, 1940, one year after the appointed date. That is the first class of public elementary schools affected by grants directed towards the speeding up of reorganisation. The second class is concerned with council schools. Under Circular 1444, councils should receive in respect of these schools a grant of 50 per cent., provided that they were contractually committed, by 31st December, 1940.

The original intention, expressed in Circular 1444, was that this period should be one of about three years, but subsequently to that, a further circular, 1456, was issued which decided finally that it would be necessary to go on with this grant to the end of 1940. Circular 1456 says: The position has, however, been materially altered since January, 1936, when Circular 1444 was issued"— (which suggested that three years was a sufficent time for grant) by the strain upon the resources of the country in building labour and in materials, resulting from the great increase in building for both public and private purposes. Representations have been made to the Board that in these circumstances authorities are finding difficulty in carrying out their building programmes at the rate originally expected, and that owing to the rise in the prices of materials they may be faced with an unanticipated increase of expenditure. Those conditions seem to me to apply very much at this moment. They certainly have not been substantially altered since Circular 1456 was issued, almost exactly a year ago. There is still a very great strain on the building trade and upon the architectural staffs of local authorities and, indeed, on their finances. We all know that local expenditure is tending to increase in many directions and that councils are becoming very seriously perturbed at the increase of this expenditure. They are bound to consider the welfare of their ratepayers, and the result is that they concentrate on those projects which can be carried out with less expense to the ratepayer now than if left to some future date. That was the object of the Circulars and of the Act of 1936.

In view of the fact that their grant period finishes first, voluntary schools must take precedence. After that period finishes, the county schools can be dealt with up to the end of 1940. When that process is finished, and when the wants of both classes of school are dealt with, perhaps we shall be able to find money for other projects such as secondary schools and technical schools, and not only educational projects but such things as highways, mental institutions and so on. The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned that the proposals for the building of technical schools recently had not come up to expectations. It is only natural. Councils are being forced to concentrate upon elementary education, and something has had to suffer. What has suffered is secondary and technical education and other forms of local activity. The question is, What is the remedy to be? It might be met by a postponement of the appointed date of the raising of the school-leaving age, although, as I have already said, I would regard this as a very great misfortune, but some of those who are friends of education have suggested that that might be advisable. I saw in the paper called "Education" about a fortnight ago the suggestion that the date might be postponed in certain areas but not universally.

I hope that even that modification will not be necessary. If a postponement becomes necessary, I hope it might be considered as a good reason for reopening the policy of exemption. Should such a postponement be necessary it would be impossible to refuse to discuss again the policy upon which exemptions were decided, because it would affect the whole position. There are, of course, other steps which can be taken. This is a very important matter for local authorities. The first and obvious step is to extend, not the period before the appointed day, but the period during which the grants are available. I see very little objection to a further extension. Circular 1456 has already made one extension in the period of the 50 per cent. grant to local authorities and I can see very little reason why there should not be a further extension in order to spread out the high pressure under which local authorities are at present labouring. I suggest that an extension of two years would be very useful and helpful to local education authorities. If it is considered impossible to open the matter now very likely it will be decided to open it in the future, because, in fact and in practice, a large number of local authorities will not be ready with their schemes by the end of the present grant period.

I suggest that something could be done by the use of buildings which can be more quickly and more cheaply erected. A circular issued in 1932 called "Economy in School Buildings," made suggestions on these lines. It was followed by a book entitled, "Elementary School Buildings" published in 1936. It mentions that there are alternatives to brick construction, and goes on to say: Timber buildings can be planned and equipped on the same lines as those built on brick and concrete, and can he artistically treated. If built upon brick or concrete foundations and of specially selected woods, there is every reason to believe that they would have a useful life of 40 years or more. I would draw the attention of hon. Members to a further paragraph: The advantages of timber buildings are rapidity of erection and adaptability, and, even if they have to make way for new buildings before their useful life is run, a large sacrifice of capital expenditure is not involved. Many difficulties in modern educational administration are due to schools built to last a century, and too solid for adaptation, without excessive cost, to the inevitably changing requirements of education. I have urged the further use of what I might call semi-permanent buildings not by any means solely on the ground that they are cheaper and more easily erected, but on the additional ground that schools rapidly become obsolete. We have built schools during the last 10 years which have become obsolete, very often because they have been on sites that were too small. My own view is that, by the time an elementary school has seen 40 or 50 years' service, it has probably served all the useful purpose it ever had in it, and is better pulled down and re-erected. I should like to add that the type of erection mentioned in this pamphlet has, I am told, been improved upon since, and that it is possible to erect buildings, at a saving in capital cost of 25 per cent. or more, which are every bit as warm and of as good acoustic value as a brick-built structure.

I want to say a word on the subject of rural education. I was very glad to hear the remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary on this subject, because the difficulties of carrying out the recommendations of the Hadow Report are considerably greater in rural than in urban areas. I myself, although I am a complete convert to reorganisation, have never been converted to the general principle of closing the village school. Although somewhat disparaging remarks have been made about the picturesque, I still have a very warm corner in my heart for the village schoolmaster, and, indeed, the village schoolmistress too, because they do and have done extraordinarily good work for the children in the lower ranges of age. These schools are admittedly quite unsuitable for older children, but I hope the Board will not pursue a policy of closure of schools without examining every case upon its merits with the greatest care. I have found also that, where reorganisation has been opposed, often very violently, by parents in rural areas, the opposition has faded away almost as soon as the school has been opened. I know of no cases in the county with which I am associated where opposition has been kept up for any length of time, and parents themselves are rapidly beginning to appreciate the fact that reorganisation in rural areas is just as vital as, and, indeed, as my hon. Friend has said, even more vital than, in urban areas.

There is no doubt, however, that there is a large body of opinion which feels very strongly that, at any rate in the earliest stages of rural reorganisation, there is a tendency to urbanise the children. Conditions in this respect have been very much improved, and it is generally accepted that a rural environment is essential. Where agreement is not complete is in regard to what is meant by a rural bias or a rural environment. There was a time—I hope it is now past—when some people had the idea that rural schools were intended to provide cheap agricultural labour, and that they should do that by neglecting to provide the sort of education which would fit a child for anything else. I think that time is past, but undoubtedly the foundation of a child's education must be his own environ- ment. The rural type of education should undoubtedly be different from the urban type, but it must not be inferior. It has been suggested already that the worst possible thing from the point of view of the repopulation of the countryside would be to give an impression that the education provided in rural areas is inferior to that provided in urban areas. There must be no sort of suggestion of denying to rural children the opportunities which are accorded to urban children, but, nevertheless, the education must be different, though it cannot be purely vocational. I would suggest that the first two years of the post-primary stage, after 11, should be devoted to rural science, botany, biology, and so on, that the third and eventually the fourth year should be very largely practical, and that the instruction should take on a definitely agricultural tone. Such subjects as stock-keeping, agricultural chemistry, and so on, form a very good basis for a general education, and it must be emphasised that the rural schools aim at turning out children who are not only fitted for life in the countryside, but are, if necessary and if desired, fitted for life in other spheres as well.

Some of these schools are doing excellent work. East Suffolk has been mentioned as a pioneer in the treatment of rural schools, and I can also quote such schools as those at Pershore, in Worcestershire, and Holmer Green, in Buckinghamshire, where great progress has been made with this type of education with the approval, consent and advice of agricultural experts. In the county of Buckingham the appointment of special teachers—and special teachers are needed—is made by a joint committee of agriculturists and members of the education committee. It has been found that this plan works very satisfactorily, and the farmers themselves are satisfied that the education that is being given is sound. The supply of teachers is a most important matter. At present there is a shortage of teachers who are suitably qualified for this type of specialised work. I think that to some extent the training colleges themselves have been ignorant of what exactly was required. They are now getting into their stride, and it may be hoped that shortly the supply will overtake the demand.

On the subject of rural schools, I should like to stress the absolute necessity for suitable canteens. In Circular 1444, canteens are referred to with approval, but it is not a very strong approval. The circular says: In this connection the Board hope that authorities will consider the desirability of providing school canteens at which children who attend school from a distance can obtain satisfactory meals at a reasonable cost. It is not a question of desirability; in the reorganisation of rural areas it is absolutely vital that suitable canteens should be provided, and that they should provide meals at a reasonable price. The price which I think could be regarded as reasonable is that which the housewife herself would normally pay in providing the meal for her own child; at any rate the price at the canteen should not be above that. It has been found, in areas where this matter has been gone into very carefully, 1s. a week for the first child and 10d. or 9d. for each subsequent child, five days a week, is a reasonable charge to make. For that sum a reasonably big canteen, providing for 60 or 70 children, can be run not at a loss, provided that the local authority meets the cost of salaries. Without these canteens rural reorganisation can never be a success, but there are still authorities in this country which have not grasped what seems to me to be a fundamental fact. Another point is the supply of drying accommodation. These problems do not affect urban areas so much as they do rural areas, where the children often get wet when going to school, and must have some proper arrangements for drying their clothes. Provided that such matters as those of drying rooms and canteens are put right, the opposition from parents which we have found in the past is likely to evaporate completely.

I think that, judging from the report of the Board and from the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to-day, we have every reason to feel satisfied with the progress that is being made in education. I have some doubts myself as to the progress which is being made in secondary education. I should have liked, if time permitted, to suggest some modifications whereby it would be possible for children to enter secondary schools at a later age than the present one of 11—perhaps on the lines of entry at 11 with a two-way traffic at 13, some of the children going to the technical and commercial side and others to the secondary side. If that were adopted, at the age of 13 it would be pos- sible to allow for further entry for those who were not successful at an earlier age. I feel very strongly, also, that the day continuation schools, which I was glad to note were referred to by the Parliamentary Secretary, have not made sufficient progress. In the Act of 1921 considerable attention was paid to the subject of day continuation schools. I myself have some experience of such a school, and can only say that I was enormously impressed when I visited it by the good work which is being done. I should like to quote to the Committee an opinion which was conveyed to me by someone who is entitled to speak on this subject. He is a big employer of labour, and I questioned him about the cost of the day continuation school with which he is associated. I asked him, "Do you ever have any objections from your shareholders about its cost?" He replied, "On the contrary, so far from having objections from our shareholders, we find that the output and the general feeling among our workpeople who are concerned with this day continuation school have improved. It has been no loss to my company, but has been in every way a great success."

I was delighted to listen to the remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary on the subject of nursery schools. There are too few nursery schools in this country, and there is very great scope for a larger number of them. Let us not forget, however, that the mere necessity for nursery schools is to some extent a reproach. I recognise that there is a necessity now for nursery schools, but I hope that the time will come when they will be no longer necessary. In the meantime, let us face the situation as we find it, and do all that we can to urge our local authorities to provide these much needed amenities in their areas. It has been suggested that the reason for the rather slow improvement in the number of nursery schools is one of cost, but, even from that point of view, it is surely a fact that ultimately enormous sums will be saved, not to education itself alone but to the country as a whole, if we encourage children, where the home life is not sufficiently good, to take advantage of the opportunities which are afforded by nursery schools.

Although I personally, in common with many others interested in education, always like to see progress made, I hope very much that the poor willing member of an education committee, the manager of schools, will be borne in mind when further advances are made. He is a person who does an enormous amount of work. Very often his committee meets four or five days a week, dealing with local matters. He is unpaid, and he probably has his living to earn. Local administration of education is a very big matter, and I trust that the great unpaid, the members of local councils, will receive consideration when the progress of education is further under review. I would also suggest that these people, together with the managers and governors of schools, might receive not only consideration but thanks.

6.0 p.m.

Sir Percy Harris

I wish to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on a very charming, attractive speech, excellently delivered and full of first-class sentiments. But his job is to translate these sentiments into practice. If I have to criticise, I would say that the weakness of the speech was that it was a little divorced from the ordinary humdrum routine of education. After all, the great bulk of the work he has to do as a member of the Board of Education relates to the hundreds of thousands of schools throughout the length and breadth of the land. I am not one of those who disparage the tremendous improvement in education. I have been connected with education for many years. For 28 years I was a member of a local authority, and when I gave up membership I kept up my contact with education, and have taken every opportunity of going into the marvellous schools of which we have every reason to be proud. I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary is getting firsthand knowledge of our educational system at work. That is far better than reading reports and memoranda, even from his experts. That progress in the last quarter of a century has been great, the figures that have been given are sufficient testimony. If there is to be a criticism, I would say that our educational advance has been too much by fits and starts.

I am one of those who believe that much of the progress in education depends on the personality of the President of the Board. It is a great post, with great responsibilities and great opportunities; but it has come to be rather the Cinderella of the Cabinet. I will not say that anybody is considered good enough—that would be an exaggeration; but it is usually used as a convenience in a Cabinet shuffle. Only too often you get a good man at the job, and he is transferred to some other position. I thought the present President of the Board of Trade was shaping well and making contacts, when off he went to another job. I think the Parliamentary Secretary will agree with me that a life's study is necessary to master all the problems of education. I have a great respect for the present President of the Board of Education. He began well. One of the first things he did was to come down to Bethnal Green. That was a good beginning. But if any Minister ought to be in this House it is the President of the Board of Education. A Parliamentary Secretary, however capable he may be, cannot have the authority and the power—and it is the power that is the important thing—of the person who is actually the President of the Board. The other House has its uses, but I am pretty safe in saying there is not a single member of that august body who has a boy or girl at an elementary school. The members are not in a position to criticise. Very few are on local authorities, or have that direct personal knowledge and contact which is a great advantage to anybody who holds the very great post of President of the Board of Education.

Another thing we have to remember is that education is a partnership, and that responsibility is divided between the local authorities and the Board of Education. What always happens is that if anything is not done the Board say that it is the fault of the local authorities. The Parliamentary Secretary has made it quite clear time after time that he was quite willing to go on, but that local authorities here and there are lagging behind. On the other hand, the local authorities always express great enthusiasm for education, but say that it is the Board of Education which will not come to their aid and give the necessary grant. Only too often some advance is held up because of this division of responsibility. The Parliamentary Secretary quite rightly did not mention the President of the Board too much. I am glad he spoke from his own knowledge, because he is the man we have to take into account. I hope he will not take shelter for any deficiency behind the local authorities.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down that the report is much out of date. We must try to get over the disadvantage from which no other Department suffers, and see that when we have our discussion on education we shall have at any rate the report of the previous year. This report is two years' old, and most of the things in it are out of date. When the report deals with nutrition, it refers to that excellent circular 1443. It says that in that circular the Board said that they were 'concerned to secure that all children who are unable, by reason of lack of food, to take full advantage of the education provided for them should receive such supplementary nourishment as may be appropriate in each case, the meals being provided free where the parent is unable to pay' But in the same report there appears this passage: In some areas the arrangements for the discovery of under-nourished children are not yet complete, in others the income scales adopted for the purpose of assessing the parents' ability to pay are too severe, while in others the food provided, the service of the meals and the premises in which they are served are all or severally open to criticism. That is put solemnly in the report. I say to the Parliamentary Secretary, what about it? It is no use saying that local authorities are lagging behind, are inefficient, or are not doing their duty. His duty is to see that each local authority is carrying out efficiently and capably the powers entrusted to it. He has a very big weapon in the power to withdraw grant. I remember that in the old days before the War, when we had a Liberal Government—many years ago—a not very bold or adventurous President of the Board actually fined a local authority by refusing to give the full grant because it failed to do its duty. The fact that a paragraph of that kind appears in the annual report is a censure not merely on the local authorities but on the Board itself.

The Parliamentary Secretary was full of enthusiasm about nursery schools, almost as enthusiastic as the hon. Member for the Sutton division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor). He said that one of the finest things in the last few years was the progress of nursery schools. The annual report says that the progress in the provision of nursery schools was somewhat slow, despite the encouragement given to local authorities by circular 1444. If circulars could build schools, they would have been built 100 years ago.

Viscountess Astor

Not 100 years ago.

Sir P. Harris

However, I understand that some progress has been made now. There are 104 nursery schools and 7,825 children attending them. But between the ages of two and five there are no fewer than 1,500,000 children. For only 7,825 to be attending nursery schools is playing with the scheme. If it had not been the energy of the Nursery Schools Association and the constant propaganda of the hon. Lady, all the circulars would not have built this comparatively small number of nursery schools. Sir George Newman pointed out that 25 per cent. of the children admitted to our schools at five years of age are suffering from defects which could have been prevented if they had been dealt with earlier. That was written years ago. Now we have only this small number of nursery schools, many of which are provided by private enterprise or voluntary organisation.

I am very glad that the Parliamentary Secretary the other day showed some enthusiasm for the reduction of size of classes. But there are 2,000,000 children in classes of over 40, three-quarters of whom, in the junior schools, consist of children under 11. In the Board of Education's Circular, in reference to secondary schools, it is stated that the number of pupils brought together at any one time must not, without the concurrence of the Board, exceed 30, and must never exceed 35. If 35 should be the maximum for secondary schools it is all the more important that it should be the maximum for elementary schools. In the secondary schools we naturally have the cleverer child, who has won a place by his ability and capacity, and the ordinary child in the elementary school wants more individual tuition and more personal teaching than the cleverer child in the secondary school, who can properly look after himself.

One of the big things that the Board has to do is to press on with the work of reducing the classes, especially in the junior schools. In the ordinary preparatory schools, where wealthy children go, the classes are, as a rule, limited to 12, 13 or at the most 14 or 15 children, while the Board turned down, and, I think I am right in saying, refused a proposal from the London County Council to reduce the upper classes from 46 to 44 and junior classes from 44 to 42. It is almost unbelievable in the year 1938. It cannot be said that there are not the necessary school places, which is the usual argument, and that it would involve additional building. It is common knowledge that, owing to the fall in the child population, there is a great surplus in school places in London. We shall not be satisfied and shall not give a testimonial to the Board until we have got the average down to 40 as the maximum, something a little nearer the standard required for secondary schools. If any argument is wanted in favour of smaller classes you have a lesson in Germany. Some years ago I went to Germany, and I remember being impressed by the wonderful organisation, the fine buildings and highly organised machinery, but now we see the inevitable result of a system of mass production and large classes which do not allow proper personal initiative, and which has turned out that mass product which has resulted in the regime which we now see in Germany.

I was very interested by the speech the hon. Gentleman made in Bournemouth and by some of his remarks on secondary education this afternoon. My right hon. Friend who led from the Front Opposition Bench revived the old phrase, "Secondary education for all." I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that there is always a danger in phrases. We have to press on not uniformity of education, but equality. There is a variety of gifts. Some children express themselves in handicrafts and are far better off in the technical schools than in the secondary schools, but if there is to be this variety, there must be equality of status. There was an excellent article in the "Times Educational Supplement" by Dr. Ballard, who dealt with the selective central schools, one of the best products of the last quarter of a century. It is an excellent institution which suits the requirements of a very large number of children, who would perhaps be out of place in an ordinary secondary school. He pointed out that in the central schools the classes are too large, the accommodation too meagre, the playing fields to few and too far away, and teachers too hard worked. All this is accompanied by inadequate pay and unsatisfactory status.

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary arid the President of the Board of Education are really going to get a national system of education. Let us level up all schools in status at any rate. Let us have uniformity, but we must have equality of status in the secondary schools, the technical schools, and above all the central schools and the new senior schools. I want to refer to the interesting speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Buckingham (Major Whiteley), who referred to the raising of the school age. An hon. Member above the Gangway suggested that it was not in order to refer to it as it required legislation, but I would remind him that machinery is in existence under the Act of 1936 and local education authorities are under an obligation to prepare for the appointed day. Most of the education authorities throughout the country are getting on with the job, and I hope that most of them are ready. They have had many years in which to prepare. The proposal to raise the school-leaving age did not come as a bolt from the blue in 1936. I have here the report on the education of the adolescent, which is almost an ancient document, having been published as long ago as 1926. On page 148 it says: The course of wisdom, it appears to us, would be to pass legislation fixing the age of 15 as that for attendance at school after the lapse of five years from the date of this report. That is to say, at the beginning of the school year, 1932. Here is the hon. and gallant Gentleman coming down as an experienced member of an education authority and saying that in September, 1939, he will not be ready.

Major Whiteley

I did not say that the education authority with which I am associated would not be ready. I said that there are many in other districts who will not be ready.

Sir P. Harris

I am glad to hear that Buckinghamshire is ready. If there are some education authorities which are not ready, I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary why they are not ready? Why has not the Board been active in pushing them on? What have the inspectors been doing? Why are they not bringing pressure to bear upon the local authorities? That is typical of the attitude of the Board. If the local education authorities are not ready, they ought to be, and the responsibility for not being ready ought to be placed upon the shoulders of the Board, the President of the Board and of the Government for not compelling them to do their duty. The other day the education authorities met at the pleasant seaside town of Bournemouth and Sir Percival Sharp, their secretary, came down with an alarmist report. I have a great admiration for the personality and character of Sir Percival Sharp, but I was very sorry to see the Parliamentary Secretary did not take the opportunity there to take a firm line by telling them that they would have to be ready. He gave the impression that he was seriously considering the suggestion of postponing the date to 1940. I am very glad to see that the Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head. We do not want him to evade this question, but to make the policy of the Government quite clear to the country. If the local education authorities are not ready, let the Government make it clear that, during the next few months, they must press on in making provision for the necessary school places. I believe that it could be done.

I understand that part of the difficulty is the voluntary schools, but if the power and influence of the Board were used to make clear to the local education authorities that they have the legal responsibility of providing the necessary school places, I believe that when the time came the school places would be provided and the necessary provision made. The uncertainty and feeling that the Board is not prepared to take the responsibility but intends to shift it on to the local education authorities, is inevitably going to interfere with progress and bring about delay. I hope that when the Parliamentary Secretary replies he will not evade the question, but will make a clear statement and will make his policy so clear on this subject that "he that runs may read" and the local authorities may know exactly where they are.

6.26 p.m.

Viscountess Astor

I congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary upon his very able speech and the deep interest which he is showing in education. I only wish that he had authority to do at once what he knows is right. If that were so we would see a great jump forward in respect of many of the things for which we all care. What I liked about his speech was that he did not try to make out that the Board were doing more than they really are. He indicated that there were not as many nursery schools as there should be. [Interruption.] Will hon. Members be quiet. The other day I just muddled through. [Interruption.] Be quiet.

Mr. Sexton

Do you want somebody to make your speech for you?

Viscountess Astor

I would like somebody to listen. Margaret McMillan was a pioneer, and we never ought to speak about nursery schools without acknowledging what she did. She will prove to be one of the pioneers of our generation. I appreciate all that the Government have done. The Government are spending more than any other Government has done on education, and we are facing up to this great problem. There ought to be a national policy on the feeding of necessitous children and of school canteens, not only for children in a few schools, but in all schools. I am certain that that has to come. The latest report of the Board of Education tells us that during the year, after medical inspection, 194,000 children were found to be suffering from malnutrition or subnormal nutrition, that is to say, 11 per cent. It also say that in some areas arrangements for the discovery of undernourished children are not yet complete. We know that even medical authorities disagree on the question of undernourished children. If you send children to an open-air nursery school, we can prove within a year which are the undernourished children and how to get them properly nourished.

Without a doubt there are many more than 194,000 children under-nourished in the country. You have only to go to Glasgow, South Wales or Durham, or into some of the counties to realise that fact. The other day the medical officer of health in one of our big counties reported that many of the families among the agricultural classes live in a state of semi-starvation. That is a terrific thing to say. In some of the rural areas the children are far worse off, as far as proper nourish- ment is concerned, than are the children in the towns. This question of the feeding of under-nourished children cannot be left much longer to the local education authorities. I do not say that it is a national scandal, but it ought to be made a national charge. The time has come when we ought to have a national plan for under-nourished children. Some of the local education authorities have taken steps to deal with the problem, but others have done nothing. It is one of the real tragedies of our present system.

Mr. Jenkins

Does the Noble Lady propose a system whereby the children shall he taken out of the hands of the local education authorities?

Viscountess Astor

No, but there ought to be a national policy whereby the local education authorities would be forced to deal effectively with this question. The hon. Member knows that in Wales the most necessitous cases arise where the local education authorities cannot afford to feed these children. That is a tragedy which we cannot leave any longer in the hands of the local education authorities without dire effects on the children. This question will not wait. We must do something about it without delay. I wonder whether in the Special Areas the Commissioners for the Special Areas could take charge of the matter for the time being? No one can read page 20 of the official report on the Health of the School Child without feeling a pang. Nothing moves me so much as the plight of these under-nourished children.

This House can become terribly excited over Spain, and we have had passionate speeches about Basque children, but here are necessitous children under our own eyes. I am much more concerned about them than I am about the people of Spain or the Basque children, not that I do not want to do justice to them. I am afraid that some people get excited about Spain and the children from Spain, and there is a danger that they may become callous about our own children. [Interruption.] I am not making that as a charge against hon. Members opposite, but it is a fact that sometimes we do get profoundly excited about children from other countries, while under our very eyes we have this appalling problem of under-nourished children, and we are not dealing with it quickly enough. Mr. Seebohm Rowntree, in the survey he gave the other day, said that if we had a subsidy of £5,000,000 per annum we could feed all the necessitous children from the large families of the low wage earners. The Government in their agricultural policy are subsidising certain foods, sugar beet and so on. If we could have a national policy for feeding the necessitous children of the country and give a subsidy for that purpose, it would in turn be a good agricultural policy, because it would create a market for home-grown food.

These children need eggs, cheese, vegetables and so on, and if those foods were home-grown it would benefit the farmer far more than the giving of certain subsidies which are benefiting certain farmers and not helping others. In that case we should have an all-round agricultural policy whilst dealing with the question of the under-nourished child. I am not saying that we are not doing better than any other country, because I am certain that we are, but we are only doing it as well as it is being done because we can come to the House of Commons and discuss these things freely together, show the country that we are interested in them and at the same time try to get the country interested in them. The Parliamentary Secretary knows the necessity and he realises that the problem will not wait for the authorities which are not doing their duty.

We talk about infant welfare centres, but it is a fact that only half the local authorities have established such centres. Circulars will not wake up the others. You may send circulars from now until doomsday, but you will not waken them. The Government's own report is alarming as regards the necessity for pressing forward with measures to promote the welfare of the children. School canteens are provided, but there is no provision for younger children to get meals in a great many schools. In the nursery classes they get no food at all. I believe the nursery classes are a positive danger. Margaret McMillan always warned me against them as being a cheap way of dealing with children between the ages of two and five. It is a cheap way and not a very good way, and I am sorry that the London County Council are going in for these nursery classes. I think it is a great mistake. The only real way is to establish open-air nursery schools.

Some hon. Members seem to think that food will do all that is necessary in these cases. That is not so. Not only do some of the under-nourished children not get proper food, but they get the wrong kind of food. They do not get the proper amount of sleep and they do not get enough fresh air. They have bad environment. The only way to get these things is in the open-air nursery schools. One hon. Member said he hoped that some day these schools would not be needed. I believe they will always be needed, not only for children of the wage-earners but for other children. We are not going to have large families in the future and it becomes all the more essential for us to safeguard the children we have, and that from the time they become social minded they should play and eat together and educate one another.

I am a great believer in a democratic system of education, but I am afraid that it will take a long time to get that, because people are so class-conscious. Let hon. Members ask their wives about it and they will tell them. I do not think the country realises that so many children who enter elementary schools are physically defective in one way or another. We must attend to that matter because we are in competition with the totalitarian States which are taking great care of their young children. Sixteen per cent. of our children entering elementary schools have some physical defects, but 16.9 per cent. have some sort of defect when leaving school. We hear a great deal about medical inspection and medical benefit. If we had open-air nursery schools and we got the children there in time, gave them proper food, proper air and proper conditions, we should not need doctors. What do doctors know about health? You never see a doctor when you are healthy. They know a great deal about ill-health but not a great deal about good health. We spend millions of pounds a year on trying to get health and we fail to get it. The Government ought to see to it that we get good health. I do not say that the open-air nursery school will guarantee good health, but it will be a very great help in that direction.

I would ask the Board of Education to see to it that where canteens are in existence those who administer them are not too rigid in their regulations. There is a scale which provides that where parents have a certain income the child cannot be helped. There are many children whose parents are just above the income level and the children cannot get free meals, and where the parents could easily afford 2d. for a meal but not 4d. I would ask the Board to look into that question. With regard to camp schools, I know the Board have a plan before them, and I hope they will develop it. At Deptford we have camp schools and we receive testimonials from the elementary school teachers about the extraordinary effect on the children who have attended the camp schools. If we could build these camp schools we could get many thousands of children into them every year, and the results would be most beneficial. They have tried them in Italy, Belgium and Czechoslovakia. I do not think our people realise what it means to children to have a month in an open-air school. Here we have a chance of providing them. The Home Secretary said recently that one great question was that of getting people out of the towns, evacuating them. If the Government could build these camp schools we should be able to evacuate the children of London and give them a month in an open-air camp school. That would be a most interesting plan and it has already been tried and proved a success. I believe it is a plan which would appeal to our young Parliamentary Secretary.

It has been one of my greatest joys to watch the progress that we have made in this House in the last 20 years in regard to education. Previously, very few people took a deep interest in the subject, but now the whole country is aroused. The other day one of the newspapers rang me up and asked me what I thought about the postponement of the raising of the school age. I said that I could not conceive why it had not been raised many years ago. I am delighted with what the Board has done in the past year, but I should be very disappointed with the House of Commons if we did not force on the Government some national plan of feeding necessitous children, and it will have to be free feeding. We have given subsidies to the tune of millions of pounds for sugar beet, which were brought in by the National Government, bolstered up by a Labour Government and caried on by another Government. Once you get that sort of thing started it is very difficult to stop. Surely, if we can give subsidies for sugar beet hon. Members will see to it that we get a subsidy for dealing with the necessitous children.

6.44 P.m.

Mr. Cove

We are discussing the Estimates to-day under some difficulty. The time-table may allow us a Debate only until 7.30 p.m. Therefore, we have to curtail our remarks, and I shall certainly do so. I would ask the Noble Lady how far she is prepared to finance the national feeding of necessitous children about whom she has been talking? I have noticed over and over again that the Noble Lady is very progressive in her sentiments but very reactionary in her voting, and I am afraid that if a proposal were brought before the House that would entail a few million pounds in the Budget in order to feed necessitous children, from our past experience of the Noble Lady we should find her walking into the Lobby against it. If she would not, I shall be glad to hear her deny it. How far is the hon. Member prepared to go?

Viscountess Astor

I am prepared to give the Government all my support in a policy which will ensure that undernourished children are nourished on the scale of Seebohm Rowntree's report, but I am not prepared to say that the Government should feed every child in the country in the way Socialists wish.

Mr. Cove

The hon. Lady is just sheltering behind the Government. She knows that the Government will not do any such thing, and, therefore, she can give vent to such sentiments knowing that they mean nothing. The hon. Lady gives utterance to very progressive ideas in these Debates, but I have observed that she walks into the Lobby for every reactionary proposal. She is, in fact, a loyal supporter of the Government.

Viscountess Astor

Did you vote against your Government? Never.

Mr. Cove

I would like to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary upon his great interest in the educational services, and for the personal inconvenience he has endured by his visits to many parts of the country. I would like to congratulate him on his lyrical speech. Indeed, it took me far away from some of the realities of our educational system. It was a beautiful picture. There was immense progress and great satisfaction, but if you look at the realities of the English educational system to-day one is hound to be struck by the fact that it is a class-ridden system. [Interruption.] It can be proved to the hilt. The educational system in 1938 still provides privileges for those who have, and lets through a very narrow neck a few of the cleverest children to get higher education. Let us look at one or two of the realities. Take the nursery schools. The Parliamentary Secretary voices progressive ideas about nursery schools, and I was expecting him to say on behalf of the Government that there was to be a great expansion of nursery schools. He said nothing of the kind. To-day we have only 105, and I want to tell the Parliamentary Secretary that the tone and outlook of his speech are not borne out by the official circular which the Board of Education issued in 1936, in which they said: Nursery schools have as their primary object the physical and mental nurture of t he debilitated child. That is not the modern conception of a nursery school. A nursery school is not a school for the physically defective or for a child who is suffering from malnutrition. The modern conception, fully borne out by scientific investigation, is that every normal child should have a nursery school education, that it should be the foundation of the whole national system of education. Every normal child ought to have a chance to go to a nursery school. Every expert who has investigated this matter agrees that we have not yet realised the tremendous importance to the individual of the ages between two and five, when mental and physical disease is sown in large numbers of our children. The Board must revise its outlook upon the place and function of nursery schools in our educational system.

In his lyrical speech was the Parliamentary Secretary definite about the question of whether or not the 1936 Act is to come into effect in 1939? He was very vague. He went to Bournemouth to a conference of the educational associations and said—I am paraphrasing his speech—" You are the people I would like to consult; indeed, I have been sent down here by the Government to fly a kite, to find out whether local education autho rities are anxious that the coming into operation of the Act in 1939 shall not be postponed." Will the Parliamentary Secretary say that he consulted local authorities for nothing? Was not there a doubt at least in his mind as to whether the Act would be applied in 1939? If not, why did he ask them? I am prepared to sit down if he will get up and say that he did not mean anything, and that he really only consulted them to get a unanimous opinion that they wanted the Act to be applied in 1939. I am not blaming the hon. Member, who had a rotten job to do on behalf of the Government, but if he says that he did not want the local authorities to say that they did not want the raising of the school age, I am prepared to sit down.

Mr. Lindsay

I think it is better that I gave a considered reply at the end of the Debate.

Mr. Cove

I will give up the whole of my speech and sit down now if the hon. Member will reply on behalf of the Government. Right through the ranks of educationists and those who have to administer the Act there is a doubt about the matter.

Mr. Lindsay

There is no plot or any secrecy about it. The Board have no intention whatever of introducing legislation to alter the appointed day. It is not in my mind; it is not in the mind of the President of the Board or in the mind of the Board itself. At Bournemouth I said that the Board had been very much concerned with a review of the areas and standards, and that preparations were very far from being complete or likely to be completed. I was not there to make up a stir about this. Some authorities were less forward and others much more forward, and I had been struck by the inequality of preparedness. We were aware that there had been an increase in building costs. Is anybody going to contradict that? Question after question had been put to me in this House. I also said that I trusted that every elf ort would be made throughout the country to secure the greatest possible measure of preparedness. That does not mean any change in the appointed day. I was talking about how far various local authorities will be prepared. That is all, and there is no equivocation in the matter at all.

Mr. Cove

I am not charging the hon. Member with equivocation, but there is still equivocation. Behind even that statement is the loopehole as to whether local authorities are prepared or not.

Mr. Lindsay

I did not say that we are going to change anything. I was dealing with facts, and there is the fact that it might be physically impossible.

Mr. Cove

As reported in the "Times" the hon. Member said: It seemed to him that no better opportunity could be found of obtaining the collective opinion of local authorities on a suggestion that the appointed day should be postponed for one year than at the annual meeting of the association. What does that mean? I will sit down if the hon. Member wishes to reply. I want to be quite definite about this. The specific point which the hon. Member put to the Conference was on the question of the postponement of the appointed day. Why put that specific point? Are we to take it quite definitely that whether local authorities are prepared or not the Government are going on with raising the school age in 1939?

Mr. Lindsay

My answer could not be more definite. I went to Bournemouth and made a speech which was carefully prepared, mostly on secondary education. When you are talking to a conference of all the local authorities in the country and there has been a proposal mentioned about the postponement of the appointed day, is it unwise to mention it to them? Is it out of the way to mention it to them? That was the only reference in my speech, and no inference is to be drawn from it. I say categorically that there is nothing at all behind it.

Mr. Cove

I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will not take it that I am attacking him personally. I appreciate his interest and his enthusiasm in the matter of education, but he speaks for the Government, and he would not have gone to such a responsible conference and put such a specific question as he did unless he was speaking the mind of the Government.

Mr. Lindsay

The last thing I want to do is to hide behind anyone else. There is no question in the mind of the Government of doing this.

Mr. Cove

Evidently things are not very clear in the National Government. I hope there will be no weakening on the part of the Board of Education or the President himself, or the Parliamentary Secretary, in sticking to the provisions of the 1936 Act as far as the appointed day is concerned, because I want to remind the hon. Gentleman that that Act, in some parts of it, was accepted with very great reluctance. It was part of a bargain. I do not mind saying that I supported the religious part of the Act as part of a bargain that the school age should be raised, although it was a very poor raising of the school age with the system of exemptions. I hope that the Government are going to stick to the bargain, because I am not prepared to see that part of the Act implemented up to a certain point only. I do not know whether the statement of the hon. Gentleman is reassuring, but I can tell him that we shall watch with very great keenness to see what is going to happen.

What about school buildings? What about the black list? I forget how many years ago—it was in 1924, I am told—that we had a black list. I see in the Board's report that it has receded now into a nice little paragraph, tucked away in the report. But there what do we find? In 1924 there were 2,700 blacklisted schools. After all these years there are still 1,000 of them in existence. And has this House any conception of what some of these schools are like? I am going to read the details about one of them, in the salubrious city of Salford. I have had the permission of the person concerned to read this report. I have a large number of these cases, but it is very rare that I get permission from the local people to give the name of the school. Referring to the lack of gangways in the schoolroom, this report says: As an example of the general defect, please see scale drawing showing arrangement of desks for Standards VI and VII, girls, during last August, September and October. In this class there is only one central gangway, and no passage at the back of the class near the wall. All these children not sitting next the gangway or at the two sides have no freedom of movement. They are imprisoned. This is the schoolmaster himself who says: They become fidgety and nervy. If one of them requires a pen or book, etc., she cannot come out and help herself without disturbing three or four others, and even then she must get permission from each of those others between herself and the gangway or the sides before she can move at all. Every time this occurs, which is often, it causes a commotion, a waste of time, and a continual worry for the teacher. Then he goes on about the stockroom. Stock is scattered all over the place because there is no place for a stockroom. Then we come to the sanitary arrangements. They always make me sick to read about them, and there are quite a number of schools in this country in just as bad a condition as this one. Do not let us pride ourselves that we have school buildings in this country everyone of which is fit to be seen. Speaking of closets and urinals, he writes: There is yet no separate accommodation for teachers. They have to take turn with the children and be overlooked by them over the wooden partitions. The position of these closets for boys and girls, together with the brick wall between their playgrounds is a hindrance to school work, namely, assembly, physical training, supervision, etc. There are 380 children in this school, and with regard to closets for boys it is stated: One of these is supposed to be locked and reserved for teachers. Locking does not make it satisfactory. Neither is it reserved. It is without a lock most of the time, latest period from March, 1937, as reported to present date. Since then the children have been using it. In two of these closets— I am going to read it to the House, although I do not like doing so, because there are other schools in just as bad a condition.

Mr. McGhee

They are smiling at it.

Mr. Cove

I am sorry that this makes anybody smile. If he smiles I will give a lot more. It is time to get rid of these filthy schools. Members come down here and boast about the expansion of our educational system and the capital expenditure upon it, when there is no doubt that those thousand schools on the black list ought to be wiped out. The standards themselves are low, and the Board is conniving at many of these conditions. I take the position that money must be found to get rid of all these dilapidated. filthy schools under Church control. I am not prepared to see the children or the teachers going on any longer in these schools. Let them get on with the 1936 Act. The Board of Education are afraid. I ask them to be courageous enough to say that in the interests of the health of the children these insanitary schools must go. I return to the details of this school at Salford: In two of these closets, perhaps also in the other, it is impossible for an adult to go in and close the door, without standing on the seat. As there is not sufficient urinal accommodation the closets, being so near, are often used as urinals, consequently the seats are wet and dirty most of the time. But this is not the only cause. They do not dry for days after rainfall. The roof was reported broken on 7th September, 1936, and not since repaired. The roof over the girls' closets is now broken. The smells— and I have worked in a class room myself years ago where I got the smell from the urinal, and it is not very pleasant. The smells from both boys' and girls' out-offices are liable to be blown directly into the schoolroom, and the children, both boys and girls, can be seen from the main room adjusting their attire going into or coming out of the closets. If one is sitting on one of these closets, when the automatic flush cistern empties, he has to jump up to let the flood, etc., pass by. Sometimes when the boys have to use these closets, many of them (wisely) don't sit on the seat; they take off their coats and stand on the seat. That is an actual school. I want the Board of Education to take a strong line over the black-listed schools. As a matter of fact, these schools are deteriorating more quickly than they are being renovated. The rate of deterioration is much quicker than the progress of the Board in getting rid of them.

The Board is adopting a very reactionary attitude over the size of classes. I notice in the Press that an influential composite deputation went to the Board the other day and asked it to reduce the size of classes. As was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) there are 2,000,000 children in this country in classes of 40 and over. You cannot teach in classes of that size. There are 200,000 children in classes of 50 and over. I want to tackle the Board on this, and I want the Under-Secretary to reply. The Board takes the attitude that the smaller the child the bigger the class should be. When I was in college I remember they used to tell me "The smaller the child the bigger the book"—not the bigger the class. I want to ask the Under-Secretary how does the Board justify classes of 50 juniors, and classes of 40 seniors? Why are there more large classes for the younger children than for the older? As a matter of fact, the younger children need smaller classes and as much individual attention as the older ones. The Parliamentary Secretary comes down here and gives an excellent modern speech on education, but behind that is the policy of the Board, and I can only think that the real reason why they say "Big classes for little children and smaller classes for bigger ones" is that the Board itself is still anchored to the old conception of education as drill and the three "r's." It has not got the conception of physical and mental and spiritual nurture for these infants, or else it would not have youngsters of five or six years of age being drilled in large classes—because that is what it means. If there is any place in life for physical or mental freedom and culture, it should be provided for these smaller children, and you cannot have that if they are in classes of 50. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, what is the real reason for it? Is it finance? I cannot see any educational reason.

Finally, I was hoping to justify my first statement that our system of education is still class-ridden: it fits in with a class system of society. After all, how many children who go to an elementary school get the opportunity of secondary education? The figure was given this afternoon as being 10 per cent. Six or seven out of every 100 children in elementary schools can look forward to secondary education that is free.

Sir William Wayland

Is not that a question of brains?

Mr. Cove

I advise the hon. Member to read "Political Arithmetic: A Symposium of Population Studies," edited by Lancelot Hogben. He will find that if this country is going to rely on brains in the future, the reservoir on which it will have to draw is the working-class children of this country. It will not find them in the middle classes. The Parliamentary Secretary referred to Mrs. Parker's address. Mrs. Parker truly said that the scholarship examination at the age of 11 is really an examination to keep most children out rather than to let them in. All the investigations that have been made, psychological and statistical, have shown clearly that there are hundreds of thousands of children in elementary schools who are capable of benefiting from a secondary education.

As to reorganisation, in my view it is a farce and a humbug, and it will be so as long as it is merely the transference, as it is in many areas, of a set of children into another school. The essence of reorganisation, as set out in the Hadow Report, is that all education above the age of II shall be of the same quality and have the same status. We are proud of our central schools, but in the social sense they are neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring. They still have an elementary course. The Board have no right to keep those schools on an elementary course. We do not want merely an extension of literary education; what we want is the abolition of the privileges of the fee-payers. The public schools ought to be abolished as class schools, for class schools they are. How many working men's children are there at Harrow and Winchester? How many workmen's children are there in the hundred or so schools the headmasters of which are members of the Headmaster's Conference, and which, therefore, because of that fact, are designated as public schools? How many agricultural labourers' children in the rural areas are even in the secondary schools? The greatest bar of all is the poverty of these people. It may be a platitude, but can any hon. Member tell me how we can approach a really democratic system of society unless there is equality of opportunity in the educational system? That lies at the very root of democracy.

There cannot be equality of educational opportunity while there are these public schools such as Eton, Harrow, and Winchester, which I believe is now at the top, because I am told that now it is even more "swanky" than the others. There are the public schools, the secondary schools, the central schools, and now the senior schools, a whole mix-up. It is not a system. As it is at present, one can see in it only the maintenance of class privileges. I have seen a great deal of propaganda in the Press lately in favour of cutting down education. I have seen it referred to as a luxury, or, worse, a waste. Let hon. Members opposite consider this. Some of them may have wealth and may own property. How does a person with property maintain that property for his children and his family? Does he say to his son, "I am not going to leave you my money; you must go out to work at the age of 14"? No. What the ruling classes have done through the years has been, in addition to bequeathing their property to their children, to bequeath them the best education that privileged schools could provide. They have sent their children to Eton, Harrow and Winchester; they have bolstered up their privileges by a privileged system of education. I say that, although the Parliamentary Secretary has painted a beautiful picture, we have a long way to go in our educational system before we get our children as properly educated and nurtured as they should be, and we certainly have a much longer path to tread before we get equality of opportunity which, after all, is the hallmark of a democratic system.

7.22 p.m.

Mr. Annesley Somerville

The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) has certainly lived up to his reputation for power of denunciation. He started by saying that our educational system is a class-ridden system. Does he not remember that it is the result of centuries of development? That system has been gradually evolved, and it is gradually being broadened out. When the hon. Member says that it is a system which gives to those that have, I can only reply to him that at the present time, under the National Government, that system is doing rather more for those that have not than his hon. Friends did when they were in office. This afternoon we have had presented to us an Estimate for education which is the largest, but for one, in the history of education. Do not these £51,000,000 come, for the most part, out of the pockets of those that have for the benefit of those that have not? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It is an obvious fact. With regard to the regrettable instances which the hon. Member gave of insanitary schools, I do not suppose that even the hon. Member would represent them as being typical. Of course, they ought to be abolished, but I think that the hon. Member overstated his case.

I see that my hon. Friend the Member for London University (Sir E. Graham-Little) is present, and I would like now to refer to a point raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith), concerning the school certificate examination, a matter to which reference was made in the Debate on the Estimates for education last year. The right hon. Gentleman and I agreed then, as we agree now, that that examination ought not to perform two functions; it ought not to be a matriculation examination as well as an examination for a certificate of good education for those who have arrived at the age of 16 plus. That is the opinion of education authorities throughout the country. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for London University will forgive when I say that London University stands in the way of that reform. Undoubtedly, that examination ought to be quite separate from the matriculation examination. I would urge my hon. Friend to represent to his university that they are standing in the way of a most needed reform.

I do not agree so much with the right hon. Gentleman in his references to secondary education. We heard a most interesting speech from the Parliamentary Secretary, in which he most thoughtfully discussed the aims of secondary schools. Last year my hon. Friend gave us an attractive and thoughtful speech, but if I may say so, his speech this year, while equally attractive and thoughtful, was wider in scope, for naturally he has had wider experience. He told us that in the course of the year he visited 150 schools, and that in itself was an education in administrative experience. The question of secondary schools is intensely interesting. The hon. Member for Aberavon said that the children in this country have not equal opportunity for secondary education. All education after the elementary school is secondary. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley said, "Yes, in effect that may be so, but the quality is not the same; it is cheaper than in the secondary schools." I do not think that the staffs of the selective central schools, for instance, would thank the right hon. Gentleman for saying that the teaching that they give is inferior to the teaching given in secondary schools.

Mr. Morgan Jones

The salaries are inferior.

Mr. Somerville

That may be so, but we do not measure everything by pounds, shillings and pence.

Mr. Cove

What about the difficulty of the Board laying down classes of 30 to 35, as a maximum, in secondary schools?

Mr. Somerville

That is a detail. Many classes of 35 can be taught with success. A great deal of nonsense is talked about the size of classes. I have been in selective central schools and in secondary schools, and I am prepared to say that the teaching in central schools is first rate. Let us face the facts. The great majority of the rank and file in this country have to be manual workers. What we want in the secondary schools is to develop leaders. We ought to acknowledge that. There is a great defect in the secondary school system and in the selective central school system. The senior schools and the nonselective central schools are in a position of delightful independence, free from examinations. The senior schools and the non-selective central schools have the vast advantage—I speak from experience—of being able to be developed by the teacher freely according to the capacity of the pupils, guided only by understanding and wise inspectors; but the selective central schools and the secondary schools are trammelled by examinations. What do we find? We find that in the selective central schools there are pupils who ought to be in the secondary schools, and in the secondary schools many pupils who ought to be in selective central schools. I should like the two systems to be combined, and to establish in central schools three sides, as is done in France in the Act which was introduced by the Minister of Public Instruction, M. Jean Zay, who said that national education must be in three degrees. I see that I cannot continue my remarks, as the shadow of Surrey is hanging over the Chamber.

It being half-past Seven of the Clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS under Standing Order No. 6, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.