§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
We now proceed to the Orders of the Day. This is not a new experience for those who take part in education Debates in this House, because I believe that the fate of the Education Estimates has, at least throughout this Parliament, been consistently unfortunate. Every one of our discussions has been truncated, although never quite so truncated as is the case to-day. In these circumstances, I do not intend to deal with the rather general range of topics that I had prepared for myself, 2526 but shall confine myself almost entirely to what I consider to be the most important document issued from the Board of Education this year, that is to say, the report of the Consultative Committee—the Spens Report. The House will perhaps excuse me if I deal with it rather technically, although we shall all understand if the Parliamentary Secretary finds it necessary to take a rather wider range.
The report, I suppose, may be regarded as the most important survey of our system of secondary education since the Hadow Report of 1926, and was intended to be its successor. I do not think it is likely to occupy the same place in our educational history as the Hadow Report. In the first place, it is about three times as long as was necessary to expound the proposals and ideas that it contains; and, secondly, the Hadow Report made a new invention, the senior schools, which have been universally adopted, whereas I shall endeavour to give my reasons for thinking that the 2527 parallel new invention of the Spens Report, namely, the technical high school, is likely to be stillborn. To myself and my hon. Friends, the most striking feature of the Spens Report is perhaps the fact that it codifies a large number of ideas in the realm of technical education which have been in the minds of educational thinkers for many years.
The Labour Government some years ago coined the slogan "Secondary education for all." By that was meant, not, that every child should go to a secondary school, but that, whether the child went to a secondary school, or a senior school, or a central school, the education received should be of the same quality, with the same regulations, the same qualifications of teachers, the same code, the same expenditure per head, and the same school-leaving age of 16. What we really meant was a secondary standard of education for all, and we have always maintained that that was implicit in the intention of the Hadow Report. That view is accepted up to the hilt by the Spens Committee. Indeed, they themselves have spoken of "schools of a secondary stage." I do not think that that is as good a term as ours, but, nevertheless, it sets the stamp of semi-official approval upon a series of proposals which a number of my hon. Friends, whose fund of educational experience is vast, have been making for the last 20 years.
I come now to my reasons for there mark I made about what, after all, is the main new contribution of the Spens Report, namely, the proposal for a technical high school, which is to stand side by side with the secondary school. The Consultative Committee have evidently been very greatly impressed by the junior technical schools, of which there are, not a great many, but a certain number scattered throughout the country. These are schools to which boys—not girls—go at the age, not of 11, but of 13, and where they are given what is really a semi-specialised form of education. They are taught metalwork, woodwork, mechanical drawing and science, and about a quarter of their time, or perhaps rather less, is given to general educational subjects like history, English and geography. These schools are always attached to a senior technical institute, so that they have the staff of the institute, the buildings 2528 of the institute, and the actual machines of the institute at their service. I went round a number of these schools, particularly in London, when I was at the Board, and it is the case that the boys there were full of interest and enjoyment.
Of course, however, the fact has to be borne in mind that they had jobs waiting for them at the end of this course. In fact, the; intention is to fill these schools with scholarship boys, and the London County Council, and, I believe, other local authorities, regard it as an obligation to find these boys jobs when they are sent to the technical school. I can quite understand that an educational training of this kind for a boy of 13 who has a job waiting for him may be fully justified, but I do not agree with the Spens Committee that a parallel can be drawn between such a boy and boys and girls in general at the age of 11, and that you can take boys of 11, before they have had any secondary education, and segregate them into these schools, irrespective of the fact that they may have different types of mind. Indeed, it appears to me to be very unsuitable to send children of 11 to a school where they work under the shadow of vast masses of machinery—in such a whirl of machinery that you cannot hear yourself speak—and under teachers whose whole principle is to specialise on getting quicker results by practical application, which is not suitable for young children. For these reasons, I think these young children of 11 would be far better in a special side of a secondary school. I know that the argument is that the secondary school may be too large, but most of the public schools in this country—Charterhouse, Rugby, Eton and others—have from 800 to 1,000 boys, and it is easy to solve the problem of the large school by a tutorial system.
There is another defect about these schools. I am afraid they would not be regarded as having the same status as secondary schools. The secondary schools, by their prestige, would be regarded by parents as a superior type of education. Also, I do not think the same amount of money would be spent on them. The result is that you would increase class distinction in secondary education. You would have three types 2529 of schools: secondary schools, training boys for black-coated occupations; technical high schools, in which the boys would be expected to become foremen and technical workers; and then the senior schools, for other jobs which are available. For these reasons, I am pretty well convinced that this proposal for technical high schools will soon be seen to be one of those educational balloons which are set flying from time to time and which in a few months disappear from our sight and memory.
Some of the most valuable conclusions of the report are those which deal with the actual curriculum of the secondary schools. It is clear throughout the report that they think that the curriculum of the secondary school has lost touch with the actual life which the majority of the boys and girls will have to lead. I have said in previous Debates that I think that, and I have given a reason which I think is proved up to the hilt by this report. Only a small fraction of these boys and girls go to the universities, and yet all the remaining 80 per cent. to 90 per cent. have forced upon them a form of education specially adapted to this small minority. The reason for that I explained four or five years ago. It is this disastrous mistake, which was made some years ago, of linking up the matriculation examination for universities with the school certificate examination for children leaving secondary schools at 16 or 17. We must now retrace our steps. The school certificate examination was intended to be a final examination which average boys or girls of 16 or 17 could take in their stride, without having their minds oppressed by it. It was linked up with the matriculation examination, with the result that, instead of the curriculum determining the examination, this university matriculation examination has determined the curriculum of all our secondary schools, and wrenched it out of its natural and sensible form.
Not only has it done that, but it has meant over-pressure. Over-pressure is the curse of secondary schools. They are not comparable for actual happiness with elementary schools and with senior schools, which have not this external examination system. We are producing, as a result of this, a conscientious, industrious, disciplined race, but we are grinding the initiative out of them. We 2530 are making the same mistake as that made by Germany and France, which we have always prided ourselves in this country on having avoided. Let the universities use the matriculation examination for their own entrants; let the secondary schools go back to providing for the average boys and girls of 16, and let the headmasters and headmistresses develop their curricula for those boys and girls. I have always felt that educational reforms which require vast sums are going to take some time to get implemented, but here is a reform which costs nothing, and which I believe will have more far-reaching effects than have been anticipated.
There is a whole world of new proposals moving in the minds of educational thinkers, waiting to be released as soon as the dead hand of matriculation has been removed from these schools. This has shown itself to me already. When I used to go round these schools I was always surprised, and rather shocked in most cases, at the enormous amount of the life of a boy or girl which was spent in learning French. About one-fifth of the boys' and girls' time is spent in learning French, which at the end they can neither speak, write nor understand. The Spens Committee, in their report, have now dealt with that subject, and it is clear that this enormous amount of time spent in learning French will be either abandoned or modified, and that there will be time for children to learn something concerning their own surroundings or areas, to develop their own societies, and to think for themselves.
There is one other subject of a rather technical kind dealt with in this report on which I would like to say a few words, because I do not think it has been more ventilated in the House. The report, which proposed technical high schools, suggested that, in order that they might have the highest educational advantages they should be free from the incubus of an external examination, and claimed that, as a result, they would give better teaching than schools subject to either matriculation or the school certificate examination conducted by external teachers. I must say that for a good many years I took the view, which appeared to me to be common sense, that no school would be really efficient unless there was a stiff external examination, 2531 conducted by teachers unconnected with the school, which all the children would have to pass. I took that view rather readily for many years, and it seems fairly obvious to many people still. I changed my mind when I went round a number of the new senior schools where at that time there were no external examinations. I noticed that the boys and girls in those schools worked with immense interest, even with intensity, and with enjoyment, which the external examination frequently destroyed.
You do not need an external examination if the school is thoroughly efficiently run internally from A to Z. Boys and girls at that age are naturally active, and the modern technique of teaching has discovered how to harness that activity to existing school work, with the result that, with a proper system of inspection by the Board, and of the school records, and with internal tests, you will get just as high a standard as at any external examination and leave teachers with some time to give to education for its own sake. I am not going to suggest that we should remove the external examination from the secondary schools, because we are now experimenting in the form of examination rather than in its removal. I have mentioned this subject because I desire to give the Parliamentary Secretary and the advisers of the Board a warning which I feel may be necessary.
It will be a profound pity and a mistake if the system of external examinations clamps its grip upon the new senior schools. The danger is there. Many directors of education complained to me that they were finding it difficult to resist the demand for an external examination in senior schools. The demand came from parents who wanted their children to have a certificate to take away with them. Let them have a certificate, but let it be one given by internal examination and based on school records. I should like to see the system made impossible by which children in senior schools leaving at the age of 15 ask for the school certificate. You will have a worse over-pressure than that of which we are complaining in the secondary schools. You will have a system by which children of 15 are being forced to try and work for examinations intended for rather cleverer children of 16 and 17 years of age.
2532 I would like to turn to another subject in connection with elementary education because of the figures with regard to the physical condition of the new militiamen which have recently been very widely quoted. I have for many years complained that the figures published by the Board of Education with regard to the physical condition of children are utterly misleading. The figures taken from the last report of the condition of nutrition of school children are: excellent, 15 per cent.; normal, 74 per cent.; slightly subnormal, 10 per cent.; bad, 7 or only about 1 in 150. These figures are completely contradicted by the medical profession, and especially by the medical experts who are developing the new science of nutrition, one of the most valuable contributions to the health of the child. There was in another place a fortnight ago a Debate in which Lord Dawson of Penn said that it was impossible to gainsay the fact that from 22 to 25 per cent. of the children of this country are not receiving the diet appropriate to their age or necessary for their proper development. When you have that kind of authority, which is merely repeating the figures of the British Medical Association and the experts on nutrition, saying that about a quarter of the children do not have the diet necessary for their proper development, how can the Board of Education go on issuing their figures showing that only 1 in 150 suffers from bad nutrition and only 10 per cent. of the children are slightly subnormal.
There is the contradiction which must be explained. The explanation is, I think, generally known. The doctors who make these examinations take as their standard of what is normal the average children in the area in which they live. It is not surprising, therefore, that they find that the majority of them are normal, and only about 10 per cent. of them slightly sub-normal and that only one out of 150 is in a bad condition of nutrition. Sir John Orr, Lord Dawson of Penn and others have pointed out that the whole of the average represents under-nutrition. If you take Sir John Orr's optimum of nutrition of children living under the best possible conditions, such as boys at Eton, Harrow, Winchester and Charterhouse, you get 90 per cent. sub-normal and only a few reaching normal. I point this out because the 2533 militiamen who have been examined show that the physical condition of the young people of the country is very satisfactory. There is some danger of our being a little too complacent about what these figures actually show. On the Saturday that conscription was introduced I went to a regimental depot and saw these militiamen being received and medically examined. They were obviously of a very different physical standard from boys of the same age say 25 years ago, but if you took Sir John Orr's optimum and the standard of the boys from Eton, Harrow or Charterhouse, I say that 90 per cent. of the boys I saw would be below the standard that should be reached by those who were brought up under the best possible conditions.
It is important that the public should not be misled. The figures that have been quoted to the public of examination of militiamen are these—Grade I, 83 per cent.; Grade II, 9 per cent. Those are the ones that are taken for ordinary service. That gives 92 per cent. who have passed the physical test. If you look at the instructions given to the doctors as to what these grades mean, you will find exactly the same phenomenon as in the case of the medical inspection of school children. They were told to take the normal healthy boys of that age as Grade I.Grade I, those who attain the full normal standard of health. Grade II, those who do not reach the standard of Grade I but are able to undergo considerable physical exertion not involving severe strain. They must have fair hearing and vision, and must not suffer from any progressive organic disease.That is not a particularly high standard, and the fact that 92 per cent. are able to pass is not a cause for any undue complacency. There was a close examination of these figures in the "Times" yesterday by Sir Ronald Davison. I should like to read what he said:These figures do not justify any complacency over the health of the nation in all its age groups. Undoubtedly a great burden of subnormal health, warped bodies and downright sickness is still incurred between the ages 21 and 50. Most of this is unnecessary and due to industrial conditions, unwise habits and poverty. An ample agenda of reform lies ahead and will tax all our energies.The first reform is to take the advice of the medical profession, who have examined 2534 this problem, and to ascertain—they have ascertained for you—the average income of a family below which it is impossible to bring up children under conditions of full health and strength. Take that as your standard and ensure, by milk or by meals, that all the children in the school from those families shall receive the food necessary to give them the best possible condition of vitality. I doubt whether you can calculate the effect of this in a comparatively short time, because I am convinced that there is no more important element in the health of children than their actual physical intake of food, which builds up the very bodies, blood, bones, sinews and muscles of which they are made up. This simple reform in school feeding by the Board of Education would, I believe, be one of those changes which would effect in a short time a revolutionary result with a comparatively modest expenditure of money.
§ 10.9 p.m.
§ Sir Percy Harris
It is very pleasant to leave the stormy atmosphere of the international problem for the comparatively peaceful atmosphere of education. But it is somewhat remarkable that, with the vast sums involved and the large population affected, we have only some two or three hours at the end of a very long Session to discuss this problem. It is amazing that the direction of a Department which so intimately affects the lives of the people is in the hands of a Minister who is not a Member of this House. We have a worthy substitute and a very competent Parliamentary Secretary but, with great respect to him, the responsible Minister, who is a Member of the Cabinet, should be in the House of Commons. That applies particularly because this is the third Minister in this Parliament who has not been a Member of this House. Lord Halifax, of course, had particular qualifications. He was an ex-Minister and distinguished himself very much in that capacity when in this House. Lord Stanhope had no experience, and after a few months he was transferred to a new post. Now we have a new Minister, no doubt energetic but with no experience of this problem, and I suppose that in a few months he will be transferred to another post. It is used as a convenient position when it is necessary to reorganise the Cabinet. At a time like this I maintain that the local education authorities 2535 have a right to demand energetic leadership.
This year we are going to take an important step in education. Nineteen hundred and thirty-nine is the appointed year. We have had plenty of time to get ready—three years—but I do not believe that the nation as a whole is conscious of the new departure that is to be made. I hope it will work smoothly, but I have my doubts. This reform is not to apply to all alike. When it comes to be put into operation there are bound to be inequalities, and I am afraid that in many cases there will be heartburning and it will be very difficult to avoid a sense of injustice. There is this exemption for beneficial employment. In the last three years the local authorities up and down the country have been trying to define it. In some cases, I am glad to say in the London area, there is a good deal of agreement. In so far as this reform will prevent blind-alley occupation it is all to the good, but I am afraid that when it is put into practice the jobs will go in many cases to the children of the best paid scales. The children of poorer parents, perhaps not so well fed and clothed, when it comes to competition for these beneficial jobs will find that they will not get them. I am one of those who argued, when the Bill was going through, that it would have been far better to have every one treated alike. I think it would have been better to raise the age a term at a time so that every parent would find that his child would be under the same obligation to attend school.
I hope it will work smoothly, but I know that the local education authorities in many cases are worried by this difficult and responsible task. I am told that it is anticipated that something like 50 per cent. of the children are likely to get exemption. Their troubles will then begin. If parents know that the children of their neighbours are going to school, they will willingly send their children, but if they find that the children of their neighbours, much better off than themselves, have jobs bringing in 15s., 18s. or £1, there will be dissatisfaction, especially as there is at present considerable demand for juvenile labour, and there will be a shortage next year owing to the operation of the Act. I am afraid there will be a real sense of injustice and discontent. 2536 Be that as it may, if this Act is to be a success, in spite of obtaining the good will of the parents, the local education authorities and the Board of Education will have to convince the parents that even if their children are not obtaining beneficial employment, they are at least getting beneficial education.
In the case of many boys and girls who will be staying the extra year there will be a temptation to keep them in the same class, going through the same lessons and doing work similar to that which they have been doing during the last 2 ½ or three years. I would plead with the President of the Board of Education, through the Parliamentary Secretary, that that should not be the course adopted under this new experiment. It is vital that there should be something new, novel and fresh to prove to the parents and the children that the extra year is a real gain. It may be psychological, but if this Act is to have the backing from the parents and the good will of the nation something of that kind is necessary. We all know that reorganisation has been going on apace in most parts of the country. In London it is more or less complete, but in other parts of the country, particularly in the rural areas, it has not been possible to complete the arrangements. There is a suspicion in many minds that this means merely the reshuffling and shifting of children above 11 from one school to another.
I should like to draw attention to a very remarkable report from the Chief Inspector of Schools in London, Mr. Brown, one of the ablest inspectors, who comes with a fresh mind to the work. He admits that in spite of the good work that is being done in some schools, even in London, things are not satisfactory. I should like to quote two interesting paragraphs from his report, which is up to date, having been published in July of this year. He says:It is generally agreed that in some important respects the task of the senior schools is as yet barely begun. It is doubtful whether the senior school has sufficiently questioned the appropriateness of the curriculum and teaching methods, taken over largely en bloc from the unreorganised schools.In other words, under the new experiment the senior schools have not come up to those standards that were recommended by that famous report of the Committee on the Education of the Adolescent, now known as the Hadow Report, quite an 2537 ancient document, 13 years old, but still the bible of many educationists. On page 178 of that report it is stated:The education of children over the age of 11 in modern schools and senior classes is one species of the genus secondary education. It is not an inferior species and it ought not to be hampered by conditions of accommodation and equipment inferior to those of grammar schools. The construction and equipment of modern schools should approximate to the standard required by the Board in schools working under the regulations for secondary schools 13 years ago.That will take time to bring about. Obviously it is not possible, even in the last few years, to bring all our schools up to that most desirable standard, but I do say that the Poard must insist, if this new experiment is to be a success, that all these schools shall be as well equipped as is possible. Every senior school should have its craft room properly fitted up. In the old school board days, that is many years ago, they attempted to reach a standard in which every school had an art room. I ask that every school, except those in rural districts where of course it is impossible, should have a proper craft room with an up-to-date equipment. In all reports it is agreed this experiment is to be sure that the that one of the secrets of the success of boys and girls shall be given an education directly related to the life they are going to enter when they leave school. That will do much to justify the proposal and to reconcile parents to the extra year. I would also suggest that in all schools there should be a proper chemical laboratory where they could have practical science work on lines of secondary schools. In many schools they have been provided with a little rearrangement and at a comparatively small capital expenditure.
The same spirit should be applied to the syllabus. I am not suggesting that we should over-emphasise the craft side. I do not wish for a moment that the literary side should be neglected. The teaching of history—not the same old history lesson over again—should, I think, be related to life and to the responsibilities of citizenship. I should like to see, for instance, a simple story told to the children of the growth of Parliamentary government, especially at a time when democracy is on trial. As for literature, they should still have the ordinary books, but I can visualise—it is not a dream—opportunities in the last 2538 year for boys and girls to attend Shakespeare plays. The Reverend Stewart Headlam was a great pioneer in the advocacy of children going to the theatre to see Shakespeare plays, and that is actually being done at the present time partly through the help of the endowment fund. It should be general. Then I think the last year should mean something different to the other years. The teaching of music should become a greater reality. Some of our enemies are most critical of the low standard of musical taste in our country. We have had the marvellous experiment of the Malcolm Sargent concerts, which were started just after the War, and do provide an opportunity for educating children in music. They have done great good, but I realise that in most parts of the country they are not possible. However, the Board can do a great deal by encouraging the use of the wireless, in co-operation with the British Broadcasting Corporation, and even by the introduction of gramophones, as has been done in many schools. I would add the hope that the music will be of the best quality, and not the second-rate stuff that is very often provided. If we could get a new spirit into the senior classes, a new atmosphere and a new syllabus, I think we might get, and ought to get, the good will of the parents and the children who were not exempted because they happened to obtain beneficial employment.
I should like now to put in a good word for something of which we are very proud in London, the selective central schools. They are not general throughout the country, but they are one of the best achievements of the last 25 years. There is a fear among the headmasters and some of the education authorities that these excellent schools will be squeezed out by the progress of the senior classes and the raising of the school age. If that were to happen, I think it would be a disaster. They are also handicapped, I understand, in the matter of maintenance grants. I understand that maintenance grants will no longer be available to the boys and girls in central schools, because the statutory age is to be 15. That will distinctly discourage children from going to the central schools.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith), who opened the Debate, paid some attention 2539 to the Spens Report and the technical high school. I rather gathered from a previous Debate that that report is to be put in the pigeon hole, and that we are not to hear very much more about it. I understand that the Government are going to concentrate on the technical institute, as opposed to these schools, and on the completion of our secondary school system, and the organisation of senior classes. Nevertheless, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that there is much leeway to be made up both in technical and commercial education. All the reports indicate that. I suggest that the central school might be a very good substitute for the technical high school. If the term "central school" is not liked, by all means give it some other title, such as "technical high school." These central schools meet a very real need, and they do most valuable work. The boys and girls from the central schools always get good employment, and what is more important, they keep their jobs. There is a real demand for them. I know from my own knowledge and experience in London that the boys and girls from these schools get good employment. There is competition for them because their training is very satisfactory. It would be nothing short of disastrous if these schools were to suffer a setback.
Undoubtedly, there is much to be done in technical education. The Spens Report may have been on the wrong lines, but it was fundamentally right in advocating an improvement in the whole system of technical education. The great advance of Germany before the War was undoubtedly due to concentration on technical education. All evidence shows that the advance in science and technology in every branch of production in Germany was due to that great work which was done to enable them to get ahead of France. France has recognised the fact, and in the last few years the French have been spending large sums in providing the machinery for an advance in technical education. As to the United States, of course they are miles ahead of all of us. Abraham Lincoln goes down to history famous for his work of freeing the slaves, but I am not sure that a work of equal if not of greater importance has been that, the foundations of which were laid by him in his advocacy 2540 of technical education. I understand that the Board has a policy and intends to encourage the erection of new technical institutes and the extension of existing institutes. The Board will deserve well of the country if they give local education authorities every assistance and stimulus to complete our system of technical education, so that our workers may have the same opportunities as those of some countries and particularly the United States.
§ 10.32 p.m.
§ Mrs. Tate
The hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) spoke of the advantages which he would like to see provided in every school with regard to technical education, such as laboratories and other desirable features. I endorse all he has said, but I want to speak in the short time at my disposal of schools in which none of these advantages exist and of the many children in our country whose education is not worthy of the name. I speak of some of the small private schools. I believe that the number of private schools is about 10,000, and that they are giving accommodation to some 400,000 children. I should be the last not to admit that many of them give what is perhaps the best type of education obtainable in the country. I am not discussing those. But none of us who have taken any interest in education can have the smallest doubt that there are a great many private schools in this country, with very varying fees, catering for varying classes of children, where the education is negligible, and where the health of the children is seriously neglected.
Committees which sat in 1861, 1868, 1894 and 1931 all stressed the desirability of the inspection of these schools. Their reports were shelved on the ground that to carry them out would be expensive and that we had so many other commitments that it was not possible to put their recommendations into effect at the time. But when one sees that the education Estimates are up by £1,250,000 over 1938, there is really no excuse for not dealing with this problem. We have a declining population and every child is of value to us, and it is a terrible thing to think that at least 100,000 of our children to-day, are receiving practically no education at all.
2541 A case came to my notice the other day of a girl who had finished her training at the Margaret Morris school in London. Her training for the first year cost 90 guineas, for the second year, 75 guineas, and for the third year, 60 guineas. At the end of those three years, that girl was qualified to go out into the world as a Margaret Morris teacher. I, who have seen the girl and read her letters, can say without any hesitation that she was qualified to teach nothing else under the sun. The letter which she wrote to me had not one sentence in it which was written in correct English and very few words which were spelt rightly. She got a post at a school near Rugby, at £1 per week, and she understood that she had to teach Margaret Morris dancing and elementary English, but when she got to the school she found that she had to teach every single subject to a class of 12 children. The fees which parents were paying at that school were 30 guineas a term, with almost every subject as an extra, but their children were receiving nothing of value in return, and that is not an isolated instance.
The parents who send their children to these schools doubtless wish to give and believe they are giving their children a good education, but I say that it is no longer a thing which should be left to the judgment of the parents. It is supposed to be a law of this land that every child should have a reasonable education, and by what right do we leave this large number of children almost wholly uncared for? There are very much worse instances of private schools than that I have quoted. Members who have read the last report, the report for 1931, of the Committee under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) will realise that there are many little schools being held in back rooms with fees of about 1s. per week where there are not even a sufficiency of educational utensils such as books. If we cannot afford to have inspectors to inspect every type of school, I ask that at least it should be possible to circularise parents as to the great dangers that are run in some of these private schools, to ask every school in the country to register, and to give them full warning that within the next five years they will be inspected in some way or other and that any school proved to be unsatisfactory will be closed. Surely that is not asking too much.
2542 Now I want to turn for a moment or two to the subject of central schools in the country districts, and here I am afraid I shall not have the sympathy of the Parliamentary Secretary, but I say without hesitation that good as I believe many of the central schools to be, I believe the policy with regard to central schools which is being followed in many parts of the country is nothing short of disastrous. In the county of Somerset, an agricultural county and one of the most beautiful counties in this country, only 45 per cent. of the new central schools which are being built are being placed in wholly rural surroundings. We all verbally deplore the drift from the country to the town. Can it be said that taking these children from their country districts and educating them in a town is encouraging either love for or understanding of country life? I assure the hon. Member that in very many instances it is having a very detrimental effect, not only upon the health, but upon the character of the children, and I think we have a right at this time to ask what the cost is.
In the little town of Frome we have one school which has been built at a cost of £35,000 and another school which is about to be built at an approximate cost, I am told by the Minister, of another £35,000. I notice, and I deplore, that when we hear of approximate costs in these cases we may be pretty certain that the approximate cost given is generally below the cost which in fact is eventually incurred. We are building these schools in Frome, costing £70,000, for a declining population, and I say, because I know, that there are schools around Frome which could have been enlarged and which could have been used. There is a school in the village of Mells which could hold 200 children, and 24 children are being educated there. The Mells school could have been enlarged.
Under Section 18 of the Education Act, 1921, it was laid down that before these large central schools were built all the school managers in the districts affected, and the parents, had a right to be consulted. I quite realise that in some little corner a notice of the fact that a central school is about to be built is posted up, but I do not think that can be considered as really consulting the parents, and I know that in many instances the parents bitterly deplore the taking of the 2543 children from the country villages into the towns. In the main I believe in the building of central schools, but I do not believe in taking children from country districts to educate them in a town. Build your central schools wherever possible in the country. I think that the ratepayers, the parents and the school managers have a right to be consulted more fully than they have been before these schemes are put into effect. In view of the late hour and the fact that I promised to be brief I will no longer hold the attention of the House, but I beg the Minister to do something to ensure that at no distant date the private schools which I mentioned in the beginning of my speech shall be inspected.
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Cove
I do not intend to detain the House long, but I would say, in passing, that I found myself in hearty agreement with the hon. Lady the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) in her remarks on private schools. There can be no doubt that a large number of misguided people in this country have too much faith in private schools. As a matter of fact, it is a form of, perhaps, lower middle-class snobbery. If they really wanted effective and good education for their children they would not send them to private schools but to the State schools. But as the hon. Lady went on I found myself differing somewhat from her. I do not share her view about reorganisation in the rural areas. The rural child has the right to an equal education with the town child, and if I were going to criticise to-night what has happened under reorganisation I would say that anyone who studied the statistics would be bound to agree that in this matter of the better educational facilities that reorganised schools provide the rural child is still at a disadvantage. If I could spur the Board of Education to do anything, I would spur them on to do something more for the rural areas. It cannot be done by mere expressions of sentiment, it cannot be done by talking idealism about education.
I know that I am often out of tune with the Debates here. I hear a great deal of academic discussion upon education, but over and over again I have tried to point out that the main thing the House and the Government can do is to provide the money that is wanted in order 2544 to get rid of the shocking bad buildings that still exist. Of the schools that have been on the list for the past 10 or a dozen years at least a third of them are still there, and the Board of Education seems to be satisfied with what has been done; but as a matter of fact I believe it will be found that black-listed schools have been made quicker than they have been removed, and more particularly in the rural areas.
I want to confine my remarks to two or three matters which I ought to mention, although there are other things I should like to talk about. I will say something on the subject of health. We have recently had a very much talked of report by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. C. Davies). He has dealt not only with the health side but with the education side, and with the picture which he has painted I agree in the main. There are, as he said, very bad school buildings in Wales which do not minister to the development of a healthy Welsh race and which undermine that race. Those are school buildings which sow the seeds of ill-health in later life. The feeding and milk system is inadequate in many areas. With that I agree, but I hope the hon. and learned Member will not misunderstand me when I say that while that picture is largely true there is a sort of underlying political dishonesty about it.
The report is in some ways a slander on the Welsh people. The hon. and learned Member talked about the malnutrition of the children and the report says—I will not say that he says—that there was a concensus of opinion that poverty was by no means the chief factor in malnutrition. I utterly and completely deny that. Poverty is the main factor in that malnutrition in Wales. I do not know whether the writers of the report took any pains to consider or look into the incomes of the people in Wales. They should have considered the level of agricultural wages there. I have the figures of Mr. Rowntree, which conclusively show that the income of working-class families in Wales as well as in England is responsible for the malnutrition that exists.
As a matter of fact, the report is a slander on the schools and on the mothers of Wales in saying that malnutrition is due to their ignorance. The malnutrition of the children in Wales is due 2545 to the lack of income. Give the mothers the income and they will see that their children are properly fed. The problem is not one of what food shall the children eat but of what food the parents can afford to get. I therefore hope that when the report is further considered the attack will not be directed to the authorities in Wales. I know that a number of them have not been all they could have been and that there is some responsibility resting upon their shoulders, but the main responsibility rests with the Government. The main responsibility in regard to bad schools in Wales and schools that are unfit for children to go to, as well as those which, according to the report, breed disease in the children, lies largely at the door of the Board of Education and of the National Government.
Let me give two very striking figures which I have had to gather. I have had to accept them from a financial examination f have seen. They are not my own working-out, and if the Parliamentary Secretary can say that they are wrong well and good. But here are two striking facts: In Wales the average rate in the£ to meet expenditure on elementary education is 4s. 2d.; in England, it is 2s. 5d. In Wales a 1d. rate per child for average attendances is 2s. 5d., while in England it is 5s. As a matter of fact, the whole of Wales is a distressed area. Not only the industrial parts but even the rural areas are distressed. The policy of the Government has been to drain those areas of the youths that are there. If, in the field of education, the Government are going to meet the situation in Wales, they are not going to take the children and the youths away but to put money into Wales.
The first fundamental thing is that the Government should shoulder a greater responsibility in financing the social service of education. The next thing that we want to see regarding Wales deals with administration. The units of administration are too small. When a 1d. rate brings in £12, £20, or £100, small sums to meet the great liabilities upon them, then obviously the very fact that you have not a rate pool, a reserve to dip into inevitably tends to cripple the social service of education in Wales. We are really most unfortunate, as far as the service of education is concerned, with the National Government. For a long time 2546 we have had a second Minister in charge in this House. I am not attacking the hon. Gentleman personally, but we ought to have in this House the Minister of Education, whom we could directly attend to and from whom we could get a responsible answer.
I would have liked to have had from the Minister an assurance that the unit of administration in Wales will be seriously tackled. I would have liked an assurance that the whole grant system, as far as Wales is concerned, would be put under review. Money must flow from the Chancellor of the Exchequer into the local areas. Years ago we had the Bruce Committee about the organisation of secondary education in Wales and not a single thing has been done except a closer liaison as far as the Board of Education is concerned. We still have in the field of secondary education a dual system. We have the municipal secondary schools and the intermediate schools—in my view an absurd arrangement. In brief, the finance of the services in Wales and the organisation of the services in Wales demand a complete overhauling and reviewing and demand also that the Government should approach this problem determined that these services shall be better organised and better financed.
In this service of education, economy has already begun; it is there. It is all very well to say, as Government spokesmen have said, that rearmament is going on and that the social services are not being curtailed, but they are being curtailed. I have here a specific case, which illustrates many others. It is an amazing case. It is the case of Glossop Grammar School, a secondary school that for years has been condemned as completely unsatisfactory. I have extracts from reports for years back, and all of them say that the building is unsatisfactory. But when the authority asks for a new building, under Circular 1464 nothing can be done; the new school is denied. It is all very well for the Minister to say, "But we are going to spend money on the elementary system; we are not going to curtail there"; but here is the fact, and I could give others, that in the realm of secondary education the Board is already economising, and economising severely, at the expense of the effective secondary education of these children and at the 2547 expense even of the health and general facilities that ought to obtain in the schools.
The House would be surprised if I read out the reports from His Majesty's inspectors over a long period of years urging that new schools should be provided, and pointing out over and over again that the buildings were unsatisfactory. Now, under Circular 1464, the Board, and, I suppose, the Government, have decided that new buildings cannot be erected. Economy has already begun; it is already spreading. The Government, I believe, are relying in many areas on the initiative of reactionary local authorities, and they are relying, too, I believe, on the strain which the present financial arrangements impose upon local authorities. I have been interested to find out what increases have been responsible for what has happened as far as the Budget is concerned, and I have made a comparison between the expenditure of the year 1913–14 and that of 1936–37 and of 1937–38.
I find that, while the Budgetary expenditure in 1936–37 went up, as compared with 1913–14, by £704,000,000, that increase in the budgetary expenditure has not been due to the increase in expenditure on the social services, and, in particular, on the social service of education. It has been due to expenditure on the War debt and fighting services. They account for £308,000,000 out of that £704,000,000, while education accounts for £41,000,000. The fighting services and the War debt account for 43 per cent. of that increase, while education is responsible for 5.6 per cent. Take the expenditure on the various services as percentages of the Budget. In 1913–14 education amounted to 8.84 per cent. of the Budget, in 1936–37 it amounted to 6.48 per cent. of the Budget, in 1937–38 it was 6.86 per cent. of the Budget. The fighting services took 39 per cent. of the Budget in 1913–14, and in 1937–38 50 per cent. of the Budget. The call for economy in education has no justification in the statistics of our Budgets. We are not spending as great a proportion of the national income on education to-day as we were in 1913–14.
Everybody who has studied the question will agree that this service is not now a "three r's" service, as it used 2548 to beat a time that hon. Members can remember. It is a much wider social service, which caters for the physical well-being, the mental development and the character development, as it were, of the youths and adolescents of this nation. This nation cannot afford to economise on the social service of education. As that brilliant report just written by Dr. A. E, Morgan points out, the central problem of adolescents is the unprogressive nature of the work provided for them. There is no training for large masses of our youths in modern industry. Modern industry, by and large, is unprogressive, and it is in the schools that we have to find means for the physical development, the mental development, and the technical equipment of this nation.
If the Government intend to see that we have an A1 nation they will, instead of economising, get the service expanded. Wales, Durham and those other distressed areas are the areas of the high birth rate, and the high death rate too. Wales has provided this nation with wealth untold. You must not leave Wales at this moment to struggle with the burden which it carries on its back. The Welsh people have made greater sacrifices for their children, for education, than any other part of the British Isles, and I say to the Minister that if he is going to make a contribution, both to the Welsh children and to the English children, he has to see that the whole system of grants and the whole system of units of administration are reviewed, and that more money is provided from the central Exchequer in order to finance this vital service.
§ 11.5 p.m.
§ Sir Ernest Graham-Little
I hope that I may have a few moments in which to reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith), who attacked the external examination for schools. It seems to be with him a kind of King Charles's head. This is the third time to my knowledge that the subject has occurred in these Debates. The Hadow Report, for which I have an admiration equal to his own, praised wholeheartedly the system of external examination conducted by various university bodies. I would ask him to read that report again, and I would draw his attention to the fact that it recommended a curriculum to be followed by all children in secondary schools up to the 2549 age of 16 plus. It is precisely the same curriculum as qualifies for the matriculation examination of London University.
I do not want to dwell upon that report in this Debate, but to confine my attention to one subject only, and one which, I hope, will attract the sympathy of the Parliamentary Secretary. I refer to the part which can be played, and ought to be played in our educational system, by the cinematograph. The first report of the Cinematograph Films Council gives a direct challenge to the Board of Education. It points out that the Board of Education should really supply educational films in the schools, and also that the supply of educational films is likely to diminish progressively, as it is diminishing, because of the slight use which is made of these films. In an answer which the Parliamentary Secretary gave to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) a couple of years ago, he said that the Board of Education were prepared to give subsidies up to 50 per cent. of the cost for the supply of cinematograph apparatus in elementary, secondary and technical schools, but on being pressed to make some kind of concession for the supply of films, he said that that was another matter. It is that part of the equipment that I would like him to consider very carefully. I have taken the trouble to find some comparative figures of the use which is made of cinematograph instruction in different countries, and it is really something of a reproach to our country that we are far behind. I have the authentic information to the effect that at the end of this year every school in Germany will be supplied with projector apparatus.
§ Sir E. Graham-Little
Not in the schools. In Italy the same consummation will be reached also at the end of this year. In the United States the supply of projector apparatus is one in eight as regards the schools, and in this country it is one in 13. There are 27,000 schools which ought to have this apparatus, and only 1,600 have it at the present time. The projector apparatus is of two types—that suitable for silent films and that suitable for sound films. The apparatus 2550 for sound films is much more expensive and possibly not quite as suitable for general supply to schools. The cost of projector apparatus for silent films is not more than £30 or £40, but the cost of the apparatus for sound films is about twice as much as that. The report points out that the best immediate prospect of supplying these films is to found libraries where they can be collected. I have again information that a large number of progressive local authorities are actually supplying this need at present. There is quite a long list. I will not read it all, but Manchester, Bassetlaw, Liverpool, the Middlesex County Council, the London County Council, Sheffield, Birmingham and quite a number of other large centres are supplying this equipment. I am told that the way they do it is to give the free use of the films to the schools under their jurisdiction.
I would plead with the Parliamentary Secretary to look into the possibility of giving a grant for the supply of films as well as for the supply of projectors. The cost of the projectors is, of course, heavy, and in many schools it is impossible to get the 50 per cent. It might possibly be an act of grace of the Board of Education to make some special terms for schools where that is the case. There are many schools where the desire for the supply of this form of educational instruction is so keen that the teachers themselves, out of their meagre salaries, have got together and bought the apparatus, and when you have individual effort of that kind it surely ought to be the desire and object of the Board of Education to fill that important need. I do not think it has been at all realised how extensive the use of that kind of film might be. I am something of a film fan and I have seen a great many which have filled me with admiration. There is the admirable film prepared by my friend Julian Huxley on the educational value of foodstuffs, an extraordinarily convincing and useful film, at no time more necessary or convincing than at present. Many will have seen the film illustrating the technique adopted by Sir Herbert Barker in his work as a bone-setter. It is enormously open to further extension and the only thing that is stopping it is the lack of means. A very small provision would be necessary to fill the want. I ask the Minister to consider the question.
§ 11.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies
I should not have intervened but for some remarks of the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) which I certainly cannot allow to pass unanswered. He made the accusation that I had slandered my fellow-countrymen, and, in particular, the women of Wales. It is a serious enough charge to bring against anyone to have slandered people in a report that was made after due consideration and after hearing evidence given by a very large number of witnesses. I have too high a regard for my people, and especially for the Welsh women, to make any charge against them which would be in any way derogatory, and if the hon. Member, instead of choosing just one sentence, had studied the report as a whole, he would have seen that, instead of making any reflection upon any single woman or upon women as a body, we have nothing but admiration for the way in which they carry on and look after their children under immense difficulty.
§ Mr. Cove
How then does the hon. and learned Member explain these two paragraphs?In the very early stages of our inquiry our attention was drawn to the frequency of bad feeding, due in large measure to the failure, either through incapacity or neglect, of the housewife to cook economical and satisfactory meals.Also this paragraph:Although differing views were expressed, it seemed clear that the consensus of opinion of the witnesses was that poverty was by no means the chief factor in malnutrition in Wales, and that the wrong choice of foods, ignorance and carelessness were much more responsible.
§ Mr. Davies
Those words were carefully chosen, and if the hon. Member will read them again he will realise that what we were pointing out was that the system of education is to blame, and not the people. In the same way when we were dealing with their habits we paid tribute to them that they were able to keep their houses clean, and, still more, that they were able to keep up their spirits, in spite of the tremendous difficulties which they had to encounter. What we were pointing out, after hearing no doctors, local doctors, who had had full experience, was that the food which was being given to the children and the food that was being used in the houses was not of the best and the most economic kind which they could 2552 afford. We realised, and anybody who has inquired into the conditions anywhere, especially in the depressed areas of Wales—all will agree with me that the whole of Wales is a depressed area—will realise that where the wages are 35s. or 36s., where there is poverty, the best use of such money as they are getting is not being made. That was the unanimous opinion of the local doctors who gave evidence. So anxious were we about the matter that we asked that a special inquiry should be conducted by the county medical officer, to check the evidence that had been given by the others, and as a result of that inquiry he confirmed the evidence that had already been given by the other doctors.
§ Mr. Davies
If the hon. Member will only bear with me while I reply to him he will realise that there is no intention whatsoever to slander any person or any body of persons. There is a deliberate intention to call attention to the system. That system was described to us by one doctor who said that under our system of education the little girl is taken away from her mother when she is about five or six, she remains away until she is 14 or 15, and the chances are that she does not come back to the household. Whether it be boy or girl, the whole trend of education since 1870 has been to fit the children somewhere into the industrial niche, so that they can be fitted into the machine. The girls are not being trained to have any regard for the household, or the better conduct of the house, or their future duties as wives or as mothers. The result is that their knowledge of cooking is of the slightest degree. Doctor after doctor told us so. We were not drawing on our own imagination.
§ Mr. Cove indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Member shakes his head. I and my colleagues shook our heads when we listened to the evidence. We could not ignore the evidence of each one of the witnesses. What we were anxious about was that the Board of Education should reconsider the whole system of education which is given, especially to girls. We suggested that 2553 not only should the girls be taught housekeeping—which is a better name, in my opinion, than "domestic science"—but that it would be a good thing if the boys also knew something about it. But we were given one piece of news by the headmaster of an elementary school which is rather indicative of the lack of experience on the part of these girls as to household work. He procured catalogues from a furniture firm and distributed them among the girls in the sixth and seventh standards, asking them to suppose that a kind person had given £100 to them to furnish a house.
§ Mr. Davies
I agree, but it was done to see how the little girls would respond to the test. Only one of them went through all the little necessities that would be required, and one little girl exhausted the whole £100 in the purchase of a grand piano.
§ Mr. Davies
I should have thought from the rest of his speech that the hon. Member was more concerned about the health and well-being of the race, and in a standard of education which would improve their conception of life. With the rest of his speech I am in absolute agreement. The condition in the rural areas is as we described it. Little children, to a large extent, have to go for a whole day without a solid meal, and go into a school badly heated and containing no facilities for drying clothes. Let me draw the attention of hon. Members to the figures of the schools which were blacklisted as long ago as 1925, and which are still allowed to exist, schools which were a danger in 1925 to the health of the children. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board said there were three descriptions of schools, (a) those which were hopeless, (b) those which needed small repairs, and (c) those which needed larger repairs. Those which were described as hopeless in 1925 should have been dealt with in 1925, but to one's surprise some of them are in existence to-day, and children have been going to them from 1925 to 1939
What makes it still more significant is that if the children are not sent to these schools the parents are liable to criminal prosecution. What is worse is that the 2554 parents themselves do not know about the condition of these schools. The Board of Education and the local education authority know, but the parents act in ignorance and send their children to these schools which are known to the Board and to the local education authority to be a danger to the health of the children, otherwise, they would not have been put on the black list. I remember the evidence that was given with regard to them. My colleague and I asked specifically what was the meaning of a school being on list A, and the answer was that when it was put on that list, it was a possible or probable danger to the health of the children. That is a state of things which ought not to be allowed to exist. Every one of those schools ought to be closed. So deep was the impression made on my colleague and I that we said it was better that the children should not be sent to such schools, better that their education should be postponed until there were proper premises provided.
In his reply, which was made in the House when the question of this report was first raised—a Debate in which I did not take part, because I did not think it was right that I should—to my surprise, the hon. Gentleman rather dismissed that in an airy kind of way. He said that he would not go quite as far as postponing the children's education. I would point out to him that the postponement of their education might mean only a few months, but that would be better than endangering the health of the children for the rest of their existence, which is what is happening now. Surely, there are means provided in every village. There is not a village in Wales which has not three or four chapels in it. In my village, where the school fell in last winter, the children are being sent to the chapels. There they are dry at any rate, and they can be kept there until a new school is put up. Why cannot that be done in other places? If it were done, one would imagine that straight away an effort would be made to provide them with proper schools.
Finally, I would like to make an appeal to the Board of Education to consider further grants to these poorer areas. There is a number of counties in Wales where a 1d. rate does not produce more than about £600. If I remember the figures rightly, in Anglesey, it is £630; in my own county of Montgomeryshire, 2555 £636; in Merioneth, about £630; in Cardiff, a little over £700; and in Radnor, thanks to the rates being paid by the Birmingham waterworks, about £800. How can those people provide, out of such a rate, the necessary amenities which are required? There is a call for new houses. In the report, we did our best to describe the conditions of rural housing. They are beyond description. The schools are bad. The feeding of the children is inadequate. Every one of them ought to have a mid-day meal given to them, specially the little toddlers. Some of them have to walk four miles to school. There are children in my village who have to do that; they start at seven o'clock in the morning, on little enough breakfast, and the next meal they get is at six o'clock at night.
How can these areas manage on such rates as I have mentioned? The people are leaving the land. In my own county, the population to-day is less than the population of 1800. I am losing them at the rate of 500 a year, but what is much more important, I am losing the children at the rate of 250 a year. I will give the figures for the last few years. Last year, there were 275 fewer children going to the elementary schools in Montgomeryshire than in the previous year, and in the year prior to that, 260 fewer children; and the figure has been going down over the last 12 years at the rate of 250 a year. Someone very rightly said that my county will be a county of old age pensioners in a short time unless these amenities are restored to the countryside. They cannot restore them themselves. England has drawn heavily upon Wales. It has drawn from South Wales a large part of its wealth. I know of no part in the wide world that has contributed so much to the wealth of this country as South Wales. At the present moment, it is making a heavier toll upon my country. It is drawing upon the manhood of my country. The population of England since 1921 has gone up by 3,500,000 while the population of Wales has gone down in a similar period by 170,000. We are asking that these matters should be borne in mind by the Board of Education and other Government Departments, and that there should be restored to our country a part of the wealth which it has contributed so 2556 lavishly in past years to this whole community and to the world.
§ 11.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Sexton
In the first place, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) on his strong, forcible and impassioned speech. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. C. Davies) has drawn a very black picture of the schools and the conditions in Wales. Much of what he has said applies to the distressed areas in the county of Durham. In that county we would would like to go on progressing in education, as we have done in the past 20 years, but, unfortunately, owing to the conditions there, the cry of "Halt" has gone forth and the local education authorities have to consider ways and means very carefully because of the distress which prevails in that county. The hon. and learned Member talked about teaching girls to cook and referred to the statements of certain doctors that the mothers of Wales could not cook. I wonder who cooks the doctors' meals? Very probably girls from the elementary schools. The hon. and learned Member also spoke of boys being taught house-keeping. If Wales is like Durham, house-keeping will soon be the only employment available and we had better start straight away to train the boys for it. As far as I can see, there is no future for the distressed areas unless the Government come to their aid with more finance.
I desire, however, to speak mainly of a subject which has not yet been touched upon in this Debate. That is the large number of children who are still being taught, in classes of over 40 pupils, in elementary schools. There is a certain complacency in the last report of the board in which they point out that it is very satisfactory that there is a decrease. I find however, that there are still 42,481 classes with over 40 pupils and under 50 and that that affects 1,900,000 pupils. There are 2,077 classes with over 50 pupils affecting 114,000 pupils; and there are actually 23 classes with over 60 pupils, affecting, approximately, 1,400 pupils. Taking the total of classes of over 40, over 2,000,000 pupils are affected and yet on page 15 of the latest report there is a reference to the "normal limit of 30" in classes in secondary schools.
2557 There is a prevalent notion that the younger the pupils, the more of them can be taught by one teacher. I speak with some experience—perhaps an experience unique among Members here—and I assert that such an idea is all wrong. I had six years of teaching infants, whose ages ranged from three to seven years. I had many years of teaching in junior schools children from 8 to 11 plus and I have taught, in senior schools, children from 11 plus to 16. I unhesitatingly say that it is unfair to teacher and pupil alike, to have 40 children, to whatever age group they belong, in one class. Let any hon. Member of this House try to keep in order four-children, never mind 40, of from four to seven years of age, let him attempt to keep them quiet for one hour, not five and a half hours a day, and let him, over and above that, try to teach them to read. He will know then what an impossible task it is to attempt to teach children in classes of over 40. It is true that in modern teaching we have gone the reverse way to that taken by industry. Industrial development has gone largely from individual to mass production, whereas in the best form of modem education we are trying to get away from mass production and to get more to the individual, to the child itself. We believe that in a sound, sane system of education the individual child ought to be considered. As John Stuart Mill put it:Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called.I say that mass teaching, this large-class teaching, is bound to retard individuality. I know that in the past the curriculum assisted in trying to force all the pupils into the same mental mould, with disastrous results. The shadow of the examination—referred to by the right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith), speaking from the Front Bench on this side—in the old days in the elementary schools was one of those things which crushed the joy out of education. We have got rid of that now, but we must still beware of turning out human robots, and that is all that you can turn out if you have big classes of 40 or over. We have the experience of the totalitarian States, with their mass production education. Large classes must of necessity deny that treatment which brings out personality. The children of the well-to-do are not taught in hordes. Right from their earliest years they have a governess or a 2558 tutor, then they go on to the preparatory school, with very small classes, and then to the public school, with very small classes again. We on this side of the House say that the pupils in grant-aided schools ought to have the equality of opportunity in educational matters that those other children have, because these bairns have little enough equality of opportunity in other matters.
Again, by reducing the size of classes unemployed teachers would obtain a chance in their profession; otherwise, to ask boys to go into the teaching profession is to ask them to enter a blind-alley occupation. There is no telling how many of these unemployed, trained, certificated teachers there are. I have tried to find out by questions, time and time again, and I cannot get very near any real result, but I know that in Durham County alone we have over 80 of them—that is, before the students leave the training college this year. When we consider the cost to the parents, the sacrifice to the parents, and that many of these boys have fathers who are themselves unemployed, we find that "the sins of the fathers" are indeed being visited upon the children, because we actually get cases of unemployed sons of unemployed fathers. The monetary cost to the parents is large, and the cost to the State as well is large. The cost to the Government of a two years' training course is £100 for each student, and the cost to the teachers concerned cannot be measured in money.
I want briefly to refer to four examples of young men who are unemployed, trained, certificated teachers. In my own little valley, the Wear Valley in County Durham, I know of four boys, I know their parents, I know how they were educated, I know the sacrifices that their parents have made. The first one has had a very few weeks' supply teaching in four years. He is now engaged as an agricultural worker. The second one has done no teaching; has been out of college four years; has worked as a limestone quarryman. The third one has done three months' teaching in four years and odd jobs besides. He sent me a letter saying:You are aware of the prospects of jobs both in the teaching profession and in other directions in this part of the county. Durham has no use for me in the teaching profession. Three months' teaching in four years proves that conclusively.2559 He goes on—his letter is dated 15th June—In a short time from now a further batch of men will come into the already overcrowded market. I was certainly right to make at least an attempt at the career for which I was trained before resigning myself to any odd job that happens along, with the dole in between and the means test round the corner, as is the case at present.He is a certificated teacher trained at the expense of his parents and of the State. I sent a letter about him to the Parliamentary Secretary, and I want to thank him here, openly, for the kindly help he gave when he sent back a letter which I forwarded to that young man, with a suggestion of which he has taken advantage. The fourth one has a father who has been unemployed for five years. He has been out of college two years and has done no teaching. He wrote a letter to the "Northern Echo" a fortnight ago, and I will quote from it:I came out of college in 1937 full of hope. I expected employment in the profession which had just received me into its membership. I intended to repay my parents for their sacrifice in keeping me until I was 21, but I could not get employment. I sent dozens of application forms to all parts of the country. My father was unemployed and I could not stay at home to be a burden upon my parents, and I left home to find work where I could. If I could not be paid for using my brains then I would use my hands. I have worked as a snow-sweeper, grouse beater, navvy, amusement attendant, night watchman, and storekeeper, between periods of work as a temporary teacher. I have worked out of doors for seven days a week in the midst of winter, wearing rubber boots and mole-skin clothes.He goes on:Give us a chance to work in the profession for which we have qualified. All hope seems to be gone. As Milton says, ' Thus repulsed our final hope is flat despair.'That is the position of hundreds of young men who have been trained as teachers. The remedies are, briefly, smaller classes, which would absorb them all, evening school work, and—which was the advice which the Parliamentary Secretary sent to the young man I referred to—to take an intensive course as a physical instructor and then try to get a job as a physical instructor. My last words are: This country is neglecting its duty, and the National Government is neglecting its duty, if it does not pay some attention to these hundreds of young people, who have given five or six of the best years of their life to training for this noble profession, 2560 whose parents have sacrificed more than I can tell, and who are now thrown on the scrap heap.
§ 11.44 p.m.
§ Mr. G. A. Morrison
Had there been time I should have liked to follow up the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate when dealing with the Spens Report. From something he said I gather that he would agree with me in putting a higher value on what the report calls multi-lateral schools than the members of that committee were disposed to do. It is not only in the rural areas that the multi-lateral school can be of very great benefit. It seems to me that it is along that road that lies, it may be, the salvation of the countryside. If such schools were established in rural areas in sufficient numbers, children would not be taken away from their homes at a tender age, and the very high cost of transport would be saved. And, speaking as one who for a number of years was head of such a school in a city, I say that, within limits, the multi-lateral school can be very useful in urban areas as well. At this late hour I must not pursue the subject further.
I understand that on this Vote I shall not be out of order if I mention two points which have particular reference to Scotland. It may be that the Parliamentary Secretary is not in a position to reply to these, but I am confident that the Under-Secretary for Scotland will take careful note of what I say. The first point concerns the arrangement proposed in Glasgow for amalgamating temporarily two schools under one headmaster. There are, I think, three cases of that kind in Glasgow. Scottish educationists are gravely disquieted at the thought that something so contrary to educational principles and practice should, even temporarily, be permitted. I know what it is to be head of a secondary school of 1,000 boys and I should at any time have shrunk from undertaking, even temporarily, the charge of twice that number, as is now proposed. It would be interesting to hear some better reason for this arrangement than has hitherto been advanced.
The other matter relates to the training of teachers and the question of increasing the representation of the teaching profession on the Central Executive Committee of the National Committee for the 2561 Training of Teachers. Let me explain briefly that the committee is the body which does the real work of the National Committee. The 16 teachers who are members of the four Provincial Committees elect two of their number to the Central Executive Committee. There are 26 members in this body. The teachers claim that having the right to elect only two members they are not adequately represented.
It is often difficult for both representatives to be present at one time, especially when the meetings of the Central Executive frequently clash with those of the teachers' professional association or its principal committee. I am aware that the answer has been given that to grant the teachers' demand would upset the balance of the committee and would occasion demands from other quarters for increased representation. My reply is that when the central executive was originally set up the teachers had two representatives on a smaller body, which was, I think, about 20 in number, and even that was inadequate in view of the special knowledge which teachers have, and the enlightened interest they take in questions affecting the training of their successors and the recruitment of the profession. One may offer the suggestion that four teacher representatives, one from each of the provincial areas, would not be too many. Teachers feel that they would thus be able to make a much more valuable contribution to the work of the central committee, and that is what they are anxious to do. The increase is asked for not in the hope of affecting voting power, but only to make more effective the expression of the teachers point of view.
§ 11.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
The Debate has revealed that time ought to be found at a better hour than this for Debates on the education service. I have listened to the interesting speeches that have been made, and every speaker has restricted himself to a word or two on topics each of which would have led to an interesting discussion. I can think of seven or eight very interesting topics which are covered by the Education Vote which have not been mentioned. When I recollect that during the 18 months I have been privileged to be a Member here we have spent something like £170,000,000 and 2562 that we have given just one and a-quarter hours to the discussion of these Estimates, it seems to me that, although Parliament is described as a talking shop, we do not talk in a sort of average way about the things on which we spend our money. This, in my judgment, is one of the important topics.
I want to deal with only one question and it is a very important one. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will take particular note of the difficulties which have arisen as a consequence of it. For the last seven or eight years the local authorities in this country have been pressing for either a departmental or some other committee or a Royal Commission to inquire into the grant system. The local authorities have got a case for the overhauling of that system. It has never been answered either in this House or anywhere else. I wonder whether there is a Member of this House who understands the working of the grant system. I must confess that after many years' study I feel very much like I did in my young days when a question was put to us in the school yard. We played a game which ran something like this: you think of a number, double it, multiply it by five, take away 10, take away the number you first thought of, and you get the answer. The educational grant system of this country is about the same as that. The formula upon which this grant is based is not difficult to read, but it is not easy to understand. It is 36s. for each unit and attendance in elementary school maintained by the majority, with the addition of three-fifths of the net expenditure on the salaries of teachers in the schools. I wonder sometimes whether it is written in this language to prevent it from being understood except by a few. Then there is two-fifths of the expenditure in respect of vehicles or travelling expenses for children attending those schools, half the net expenditure specified in Article 3 as ranking for aid, and one-fith, or 20 per cent., of the remaining net expenditure, less the product of a 7d. rate in the authority's area.
That is the basis on which the local authority's expenditure is based. I have met directors of education committees who have found difficulty in explaining to the members of the committees why they 2563 were spending certain sums of money and what they were getting for it. But it is not so much the formula that I want to criticise as the way in which it has worked to the disadvantage of local authorities over a number of years. When this formula was first invented—I think it was introduced by Fisher—it was intended to give a result which was something like this: that the State provided 60 per cent. of the expenditure and the local authorities the other 40 per cent. That was how it worked and how it was intended to work out. It was for that purpose that it was brought into being. Every year since its introduction some years ago it has worked to the disadvantage of the local authority, until to-day the figures are reversed, and the local authority is paying a larger proportion of the gross expenditure than the State is paying. The 36s. per unit of average attendance in public elementary schools goes down, of necessity, with a diminishing school population, while the overhead expenditure remains the same; and at the same time the difference in the product of a id. rate which is to be observed throughout the country is again to the disadvantage of the local authority. It has been increasing at the same time as the school population has been diminishing, and. to an extent corresponding with that increase, the State is relieved of a burden which previously it bore.
In my judgment the case for the local authorities has been proved over and over again. The Board themselves, only 12 months ago, recognising the justice of it, appointed a committee from the Department to confer with representatives of the local education authorities on the matter; but, naturally enough, that committee broke down, because no departmental committee would ever agree to any recommendation which meant an increase in the amount to be provided by the Department, and yet that was the only recommendation that would have met the requirements of the local authorities. When that committee broke down, the representatives of the local authorities stated that, in view of their experience, the necessity for a committee of inquiry or Royal Commission was overwhelming.
How the Board of Education can justify this differentiation in the rates of grant I cannot make out. I cannot make 2564 out why only 40 per cent. should be paid for travelling expenses. As was pointed out by the hon. Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate), owing to the reorganisation of the schools children are being taken from the villages to the towns in order that the educational facilities provided in the towns may be given to the children in the country districts. Is this travelling of any less importance than the provision of the school buildings, for which there is a grant of 50 per cent.?
Again, how and why is it that we are progressing in educational development by what I would call a series of stunts? There was a 50 per cent. building grant until 1931. Then came a period of economy, and until 1935 we were back at 20 per cent. In 1935, the necessity for making up the leeway due to the years of economy was revealed, and the grant went back to 50 per cent.; but a warning has been sent out that, unless the schools are in being by 1940—the date is extended to 1943 only if plans have been put in and have been approved by the Board—there is a danger that the figure will go back again from 50 per cent. to 20 per cent. If we are to have any progress in education we must drop this "stunting," and decide what the Exchequer is to pay and what the local authorities are expected to pay. The case made out, in regard to Wales, for what I would call a deficiency grant, is overwhelming. Deficiency grants have been, to all intents and purposes, abolished. Although it is true that there is some extra payment for Special Areas, that is not enough. If it would cost 1s. to provide a starving man with the means to keep him alive, it is not much good giving him 9d. Every report reveals the need for more assistance in that direction. Are we not to be assured that some inquiry will be made into the grants system? Education in this country is depending almost entirely on the loyal co-operation of the local authorities.
It seems to me that the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) has got out of touch with local administration, to judge by his description of what has been taking place in London. If what he said truly represents the position in London, London is a backward area educationally. I can take the hon. Member into scores of places in this country where that for which he was pleading 2565 in the selected central schools exists in the ordinary central schools. I think that the other matter to which he referred, with regard to exemptions, was worthy of at least a couple of hours Debate in this Chamber. If we begin the administration of the 1936 Act with the idea that when the appointed day arrives 50 per cent. of the children are to be exempted, we shall destroy the possibility of these children being retained. In Lancashire we do not visualise 50 per cent.; we visualise 20 per cent. at the outside. I hope we shall insist on that, and that in that insistence we shall have the approval of the board. I know that the board ran away from the duty of defining "beneficial employment," but I hope they will stand by the local authorities, who are making the best of a poor Act, when the local authorities insist on "beneficial employment" being beneficial to the child from an education point of view. I visualise those children who are exempted going to employers who have seen the necessity of continuing the education of those children when they go into industry. Education should continue when the child begins to work. Facilities ought to be available, and in beneficial employment some of those facilities are being provided by the best employers. I hope that as a result of this Debate even at this late hour the local education authorities will be able to get some consolation from the Minister that the Department will be prepared to help by its influence, at any rate, if it is not prepared to make a determination as a board. I trust that he will give a promise to those local authorities that are attempting to do this work that, where the grant is working to their disadvantage year after year, the position will be remedied at no distant date.
§ 12.6 a.m.
§ Mr. Bracken
For many weary weeks I sat on the Committee on the Cotton Industry Bill with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson), and he struck me as being the most intelligent and constructive Member of that Committee. When I heard him make a speech on education in this House tonight I marvelled at his encyclopedic knowledge. I marvelled that one small head could carry all he knew. I wish I had his knowledge of education, because in intervening in this Debate, I am treading 2566 on very delicate or dangerous ground. In listening to this Debate I have been struck by two things. One is the change in values of opposition about which we heard so much in the previous Debate. There is no doubt that the educationists in this House agree that it is the obvious duty of Opposition and Government supporters to criticise the administration of our educational affairs. The second point is the change in the hotchpotch called politics. I remember the time when education in this country was most criticised by what were described as hard-faced business men. Those gentlemen were supposed to maintain that education was the greatest of all waste. But I am bound to say that, after listening to educationalists here to-night, they seem to give points to the business men in power of criticism.
I do not think that those Members who have been suggesting criticisms or hesitating doubts about the administration of the Board of Education were doing it for any reason other than a constructive one. They are very anxious about the training of our young people. Speaking as a layman in these matters and despite the very late hour of the night, I believe that this is one of the most important Debates in which we have participated. We have spent a lot of time talking about foreign policy and armaments. But after all, education is one of the most important of all subjects and deserves an equal amount of attention. I should like to give my amateur impression of the work done by the Board of Education. In the past it has been said that the system of education in England was not only wasteful but wildly extravagant. But the results are proving not unsuccessful.
It is very hard to meet wild and sweeping general criticisms. But those criticisms were well met last month when the militiamen were called up for service. It was then discovered and for the first time by some of the great critics of education in this country that the new generation of secondary schoolboys are far more intelligent and resourceful than their predecessors. This rebuttal of the critics of education in the past is, no doubt, known to every Member of this House. But I wish once again to state publicly that, in my judgment, the 2567 money spent on education in this country at the present moment can be the very best of all investments. We have had that claim proved through the Militia tests, and indeed through the Territorial tests.
A very distinguished Member of this House—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), who, as the House knows, and it is greatly to his honour, has reported once again for duty as a Territorial officer—was telling me the other night that what interested him most was the quality of the ordinary privates in his battalion or regiment. These privates could read maps far better than could officers of pre-war times, and their general standard of intelligence was far beyond anything anyone could expect if one accepted the criticisms of education in this country in the last few years. But the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington knows, as does every Member of this House, that the steady and indeed excellent progress of secondary education is lifting this country to greater strength as the years go by.
Manufacturers in highly complicated industries, and hard-bitten old foremen of the Victorian age, also tell me that they are immensely impressed by the quality of the younger generation. They say their resourcefulness and ingenuity are beyond all praise and they say, rightly, that if this is the type of recruit that is coming into industry to-day no one can challenge the future pre-eminence of England in certain branches of industry. I am sure that is right, and I attribute it to the excellent system of primary and secondary education.
The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) dealt very severely with the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite for what he called his slander on the women of Wales, which was that they could not cook. If that is a slander on the women of Wales, I am going to utter the strongest possible slander on the women of England and Scotland. It is true that we have neglected to teach women how to cook. It seems to me, that in this respect, we are the most wasteful people in the world, because on a Saturday night a woman buys a joint, costing a lot of money, and brings it home and 2568 in her amateur way cooks it for her husband. On Monday she bolts off to the chemist for remedies or specifics to make her husband fit for another week's hard work—that is to free his system from her cookery. This is no criticism of cooking in working-class homes. Some of the worst of all cooking is to be found in the stately homes of England. There is no class prejudice in this criticism. The English have never made a proper study of cooking. The French are experts in the art and have always managed to cook better than we have.
I have been lured into that digression largely because of the violence of the two hon. Welsh Members who forgot their allegiance to the leek and flew at each other's throats. To return to the remarks of the hon. Member for Aberavon, he said, with great bitterness, that there has been the most wanton or squalid economy on the building of schools. If you are going to economise on anything I would prefer to see economy on building than on anything else. I should not like to economise in teachers' salaries or milk, or other amenities, but when it comes to buildings the hon. Member ought to go to Eton and see the buildings there. If a Welsh school inspector saw them he would condemn them on sight. It is a very great mistake for experts on education to condemn the Ministry of Education root and branch merely because they have not pulled down inferior school buildings. Let them do that when there is an excess of money and the Treasury permit it, and if that latter condition is accepted it will be a long time before any buildings are altered.
But I rose to say a few words about apprenticeship. I am not a great expert but I have watched with great care occurrences in America and Germany in relation to the training of apprentices. I have no doubt that great injury was done when the apprentice system was allowed to lapse in this country. I willingly agree that it was abused in certain cases. If you can link the apprentice system with the secondary education you. have the best of both worlds. If England is to make the progress we desire, greater attention will have to be paid to an alliance between secondary education and a modernised system of apprenticeship. In relation to that matter, any money spent in grants to employers to compensate 2569 for the shortening of hours of work of boys and girls attending courses of apprenticeship in technical schools is money extremely well spent. One of the most devastating things that has occurred to this country for many years was discovered a few years ago. Hon. Members will remember that we suddenly found that in the higher range of the engineering and other industries there was not available the necessary labour to manufacture machine tools and other complicated products, simply because we had allowed the apprenticeship system to wane and had not replaced it in any way.
My hon. Friend is doing excellent work at the Board of Education and I hope he will apply himself to the task of marrying secondary education with industrial apprenticeship because he will thus confer great benefits upon this country. We are compulsorily wasting vast sums of money in armaments and we seem to be spending a great part of our capital. Nobody can see a way out of our present troubles, and some pessimists say we shall never be able to repay the vast sums that we are spending on rearmament.
No one deplores that expenditure more than I do. But let us remember that in the last 15 or 20 years the scientists combined with the industrialists of the world have replaced much more than the total value of the wealth lost in the War. People should remember that the productivity of science, which is a by-product of education, is the greatest wealth producer in the world. It is quite possible for this country to recover its great reputation for skill in industrial production and to produce the best type of goods and thus to build up the best type of industrial prosperity. But if this is to be done it is vital that the Board of Education should be the pioneer of a real industrial educational revival of England. I think that is the duty and within the power of my hon. Friend, even in the midst of our manifold troubles, to set up an immediate and clear-cut investigation into the whole question of adapting, or marrying, or welding technical education to the secondary education, which has produced such excellent results in England, results of which we are rightly proud.
§ 12.19 a.m.
§ Mr. Sorensen
This Debate is an ironical contrast with that which took place earlier 2570 this evening, when, in an atmosphere of tension, anxiety and apprehension, we surveyed the position in which this generation finds itself. Now we have turned to consider the generation that will take our place. This Debate is like the still small voice that comes after the storm. Possibly a glimmer of light shines through the shadows. The hon. Member who has just spoken reminded us that a number of his own Friends had been astonished at the capacity shown by ordinary people who came from the working class. That statement was interesting and illuminating. It suggested to me that years ago the hon. Member and his Friends hardly believed that the working class were capable of much more than to be hewers of wood and drawers of water. Perhaps they are beginning to appreciate the fact that the capacity of the working class is just as great as that of any other class.
§ Mr. Bracken
The hon. Member is misleading the House about what I said, which was that we were not surprised, and that we knew that this expenditure on education would yield these results. The hard-faced industrialists have their opposite numbers in the hon. Member's own party. I have met some of his trade union barons who look very closely at money spent on education and say: "Look at us. We are the product of very little money spent on education. Are we not as good as some of the products of education who now ornament the Front Bench?"
§ Mr. Sorensen
I am not a trade union baron, nor is any of my colleagues immediately in front of me. I was not attacking the hon. Gentleman. I was very glad indeed to hear him say those things but I was not surprised to hear him casting a reflection on some of his own Friends. The hard-faced business men do not sit on these benches. I am glad of the recognition of the loss that the country has suffered in the days gone by in the waste of working class capacity, which is now admitted.
In these days we talk of economy. An hon. Friend who spoke just now suggested that if we had not economised in education we should do so in regard to the school buildings. It may be, in the present circumstances of the financial strain, that all kinds of economies are 2571 before us, but I would remind my hon. Friend that there was a time before this tremendous expenditure on arms when we could have had a. splendid and generous plan for education, if we had pleased, in this country. It did not happen. Only comparatively recently has there gradually come to those who are supposed to be our pastors and masters an appreciation of the fact that the average working-class child has just as much intellectual capacity as a child from another class. The assumption was, regrettable as it may have seemed, that the great mass of the children were meant for only one type of life. That was why we organised their educational system as we did. Elementary education in the early days was, in fact, a specialised kind of education for the working-class child. Secondary education came from a different spring altogether. It is only in recent years that there has been a convergence of these two types of education.
I do not want to spend much time dilating further on this topic at this late hour. I will only say that the hon. Member for North Paddington (Mr. Bracken) struck a welcome note, and that I hope very earnestly that we shall find the same note struck frequently in the days to come. When we are dwelling so constantly in an atmosphere of apprehension and spend so much time considering the tremendous burden of armaments we should recognise that one of the ways by which we can compensate for our frustrated hopes and for the gloom and apprehension spreading around us is by concentrating more and more on the generation which will take our places. If by chance our generation is doomed, instead of talking of economy we should say that whatever happens we shall see to it that Britain in the future will be far more worthy than we are ourselves. That is why I hope there will be no more talk of economy.
If we are to have a finer generation passing through our schools, we have to consider very carefully this vicious break in the educational system just when the child of working-class parentage is beginning to become sensitive to the things that really matter. A step has been taken in that direction by the prospective extension of the school-leaving age, but it is altogether inadequate. I have had 2572 many friends who, just when their souls and minds were beginning to open up to a fuller appreciation of life, have been snatched away from the appropriate atmosphere and plunged into industry, where speedily things that have begun to grow are crushed. I earnestly plead that the Minister and the Government should realise the outrage that is frequently committed in the soul of the average boy or girl when he or she is taken away from school and plunged into the atmosphere of factory, mine, workshop or even field. Something must be done, and done speedily, to enable educational development to continue far longer than is general at the present time.
That is why I am particularly interested in adult education. Nothing has been said about that in the Debate, but I am sure the House is aware of many excellent agencies and splendid attempts that have been made to cope with adult education. It is very difficult work. I have taken a small part in it in the past, and I know the colossal difficulties that exist in regard to it. It is sometimes almost pathetic, as well as inspiring, for instance, to find some 12, 15 or 20 young men and women, as well as older ones, who assemble in the evening to go through a 12 or 24 weeks course in some particular subject. In most cases their early mental training has been broken 'short at the age of 14 or 15. They try to resume that mental discipline at 21, 24 or 25. That in itself is a tremendous gap. Those hon. Members who have had an opportunity of extended education up to the age of 18, 20 or 21, do not appreciate perhaps what a tremendous psychological gap it is to break off mental training at 14 or 15 and to try to resume it years later. Moreover, at the end of the day, all their energy has been used up, and the body and mind are sometimes too tired to give even two hours per week to consistent study of some subject. On the one hand, it is great heroism on the part of those who take part in such courses, and on the other hand, it is filled with a certain pathos, because of the inevitable frustration and failure in many cases. That is why I ask that when we do have an opportunity of giving these adult educational facilities to an older generation, such as the young men of 20 and 21, we should do so.
I hope that the militiamen will have adequate opportunities of this nature ex- 2573 tended to them, with all the backing of the Board of Education. I know there are some who smile at this and say that the militiamen, apart from military duties, want time only for sport and social recreation. That may be so in many cases, but even those should have every inducement to try to think of mental as well as physical development. There is, however, certainly a minority which, with very little encouragement, would respond to any opportunities during their six months' training to enable them to understand a little more of the real values and treasures of life. Here, again, I would plead that nothing should be done in the days ahead to cripple adult education, meagre as it may be and touching as it may do, only a small section. Nevertheless, it stands for a principle that education of the working classes does not, and should not, cease at 14 or 15, or indeed at any age, pending that time when we can have a much more generous education not only for working-class children but for working-class youths, and, therefore, I do press the Under-Secretary not to restrict adult education for working-class people but to do all in his power to see that it is extended.
There is just one more matter to which I would like to refer, and it is one to which no reference has been made in the Debate to-day. I am quite aware that it is a dangerous subject to mention. I refer to the subject of religion in schools. I know that it is a dangerous question, because we know full well that there are parts of the country where denominational controversies have not been extinguished. But, after all, religious education either has a value or it has not. Unfortunately, I must confess that in some cases it is a sheer waste of time. I say that, not because I want to, but because it is a fact. We have some teachers who have no interest in religion but who have to pretend that they have, and we cannot in those circumstances presume that they can transfer religious instruction of any value to those whom they teach. I want the utmost freedom granted to the denominations to teach their doctrines, but I do want this particular period of the day which is supposed to be devoted to religious instruction to have a new interpretation. Do not exclude it, but put something more into it. Interpret it so that it can convey 2574 to the children in the schools real religious and ethical standards and values, so that it can help to convey to the coming generation true principles and purposes for life.
I say this because we should all realise that in the totalitarian States the schools are being used to permeate the children with a pseudo and indeed a bastard religious outlook. The worship of the State, in whatever country it may exist, is filled with menace. I do not want to see the worship of the State extended to this country. That is why I want to see the remnants of the religious teaching which remain in this country do something to counter-balance the blind worship of the State. I do ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider the possibility in the days to come of introducing into the school curriculum an opportunity for something more even than civics to be taught. It is as necessary to teach in our schools the high values of personal and social behaviour as to teach geographical and mathematical matters. Why cannot we deal with the great psychological issues which are of such great importance to the young people in our schools? As it is, in-other lands we find hate being deliberately taught as a virtue and being instilled into the veins and the souls of the children. Why cannot we deal positively with the basic human values, and not necessarily in some narrow doctrinal or theological mould?
Should we not appreciate that an education, if it gives us only educational efficiency, has largely lost its real purpose? I am not a sentimentalist; I am a realist and as such I realise that education must fit children for a living, but surely, above all, it must fit children for life. Therefore, I plead that our educational system in the future should not lose sight of that, and should endeavour to teach the new generation not simply an accumulation of knowledge but to generate an outlook on life which will enable them, when they take our places, not only to create a better Britain but to play their part in building a new and better world altogether.
§ 12.35 a.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Kenneth Lindsay)
I should like to think that it was only the international emergency which 2575 prevents us from having a proper Debate on education, but unfortunately that is not so. We never do have a proper Debate on education. I am feeling a little hungry at the moment, and I do not propose to introduce the Education Estimates at 12.35 a.m. after the exciting day we have had in the House. It has, however, been a very healthy Debate, particularly so as we have had some new entrants.
I think that the idea of passing over in a couple of hours Estimates totalling £52,000,000 is almost a denial of the functioning of democratic machinery. Moreover, there are a great many questions about which I rather wanted to talk. In fact I had prepared a speech. I am not quite sure what to do about it. If I went through it I should touch on practically every question which has been raised, including the two questions mentioned by the hon. Member for Leyton West (Mr. Sorensen).
§ Mr. Alan Herbert
As I understand it, the Consolidated Fund Bill is to be discussed again to-morrow. Would it be possible for this Debate to be continued by the Under-Secretary interrupting his speech now and continuing it to-morrow? I believe that a great many Members would like that.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I think that is extremely unlikely from the point of view of the Opposition, because I understand that we are to have another Debate on unemployment. Reverting to education it was about a hundred years ago this year, in April, that a grant of £20,000 was made from State funds to public education, and the Board itself has only been in existence for 40 years. Now, to-night, I am asked to tackle, in these few minutes, the vast problems of administration which have been raised, and rightly raised, by hon. Members—problems dealing with the Spens Report, raised by the right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) and many other questions. Another question which has not yet been mentioned 2576 is the Fitness Council, but that I must forgo. Incidentally it is a little ironical that although the first time we did get out the Board's report in time for a Debate at the beginning of July, the Debate has to take place in August.
To deal first with the Spens Report, in February I think I made it plain in reply to a question from the right hon. Member for Keighley that the long-term recommendations contained in chapter 9 could not be implemented at present. They involve considerable financial expenditure and there is no question of tackling them at once. There were four questions on which I said we would consult local education authorities and produce action—the curriculum of grammar schools, technical high-schools, the school certificate, and inspection of private schools. Those four points have been mentioned by several hon. Members.
With regard to the curriculum of grammar schools, the Spens Report contained a great many detailed suggestions for modifying the curriculum and in particular for bringing the rural schools into closer relationship with their environment. We have issued to-day and I suppose it will be in the Press to-morrow, a circular to local education authorities putting the question: What are we trying to do with the grammar schools of the country and what is their object? We have already greatly modified the school certificate and made it more elastic, and we now propose that in addition to a more elastic curriculum up to 16 there shall be a much greater relation than hitherto between the work in later years and the ordinary vocations of life. In the past the whole secondary school curriculum has been too much attached to the Universities and matriculation. It is now thought that we can work out for the years between 16 and 17½ a series of courses for boys and girls which may have some real connection with their future callings, in the case of girls, for example, with nursing, and in the case of boys with the countryside. We could give sons of farmers who are going back to the farm some elementary understanding of rural chemistry, biology and so forth.
There is no question that we would discourage senior schools from having external examinations. Four-fifths of the children of the country pass through 2577 senior schools and in spite of what the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) said—I know he was referring to London—if he had seen the schools which I have been opening every week for the last few years none of his fears would remain. In many cases they have films, to which the hon. Member for London University (Sir E. Graham-Little) referred, and the grant is 50 per cent. for projectors and 20 per cent. for films. I can agree with what my hon. Friend said. I have seen these films in action. There is great value in films especially in the case of biological and scientific subjects; other films give a wide sweep of foreign countries which children cannot visit. They are complementary to the classwork.
§ Sir E. Graham-Little
Will the Minister say whether it is possible to extend the subsidies to the hiring of films?
§ Mr. Lindsay
What happens is that there is a grant of 50 per cent. for projectors and 20 per cent. for films. I do not think we are likely to pay more. It is a question of first things first. Until every child gets a good meal inside it every day no one would pretend that films are vital, though they are important.
With regard to technical high schools, I am tempted to go back to my original speech, which was rather carefully prepared.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Herbert
Instead of listening to the very interesting speech the Minister is making I think it would be of benefit to the House if it adjourned and the Minister were permitted to continue his speech in more favourable conditions to-morrow. I, therefore, beg to move, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Mr. Lindsay
The hon. Member for North Paddington (Mr. Bracken) said that he wanted to make a marriage between the secondary schools and the apprenticeship system. I agree with the right hon. Member for Keighley that we would be inclined to go slow with technical high-schools. The junior technical schools in this country serve a distinct purpose. Every boy is almost definitely going into a job and these schools are 2578 situated only in places where there is a likelihood of jobs being found. As to the larger question of apprenticeship, I think we talk too vaguely about apprenticeship in this country. It is no use telling employers that they must release people in the day-time, because day-time releases in this country are confined to a few industries such as engineering, building, and printing. No doubt a few more firms could grant day-time releases with profit to their own people. Firms like Boots, of Nottingham, are setting up in their establishments day continuation schools, and it pays them every time, because they choose very carefully the subjects which are taught. For instance, for girls, there are hygiene and physical training, English and possibly shorthand; for boys, a series of subjects which do not aim at making them better workers in their specific jobs but which do make them better all-round people. What my hon. Friend the Member for North Paddington said is true. There is remarkable agility and flexibility among the workers of this country, not because of the apprenticeship system but because they have taken the trouble—140,000 more this year than last year—to go to evening classes, at their own expense.
We have colleges such as those which I have visited in Essex and Middlesex to serve the new industries which have settled like locusts on what was once the green countryside around London. But in the North of England we see in back streets old shabby technical colleges which because they are technical and not academic have been relegated to an unfair status and position. I wish I knew the answer to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for North Paddington. I do not believe I do and I do not think anyone else does. It is not just a case of apprenticeship and providing a lot of colleges.
§ Mr. Lindsay
If you suddenly get a spurt in the engineering industry it is natural that the schools do not provide what is needed. We are still trying to 2579 catch up with the lack of technical education in this country. It is remarkable to me that there are so many skilled men on the Clyde and Tyne. I would not have advised any boy to go into the shipbuilding industry ten years ago. I might have done so five years ago, as quite clearly there was to be a big ship-building programme. But there is a lack of relation between schools and industries and, as the Spens Report says, the secondary school system no longer corresponds with the structure of modern society and the economic facts of the time. One day I announced from this bench that 25 per cent. of those at Oxford and Cambridge came from elementary schools, and a very distinguished colleague of mine said "That is a very interesting remark. How things have changed since I was at Oxford." But an hon. Member from the opposite benches murmured "Where in the world do the other 75 per cent. come from?" The answer is that they come from a series of excellent but quite clearly exclusive schools in the country, and it is idle to say that we have yet got what is most vital in any democracy—complete equality of opportunity—until we can ensure the solving of that problem.
§ Sir Gifford Fox
Does not that 75 per cent. include scholars who come from the Rhodes scheme and from the Empire?
§ Mr. Lindsay
I am aware of that and I was not trying to score a point by excluding them. I have been into these figures carefully. What I was saying was that it still does not correspond to the structure of society and the economic needs of the day. I listened to the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) and the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. C. Davies) and I noted what they said about schools in Wales and similar schools in England. Some schools which are on the black-list should not be there, because they are not as bad as they are supposed to be; other schools which should be on the black-list are not on it. It is a very fine line. In the last three weeks I have seen a little school in the country with an old building which I would not put on the black-list. The problem of the black-list schools is being dealt with, and in a few years time I hope it will be completely solved. It will be solved, I think, when local education authorities wake up to the fact that they 2580 have to deal completely with this question of reorganisation, and I am most grateful to the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire for his efforts in waking up the local authorities in Wales.
I go further and say that the Board itself will have to take action on two points. The first is the grants question. The second is the unit of administration. I think the time has come for a revision of the grants system. I said so last year. In the interval we have had discussions with local education authorities, but we have not got any further, and my Noble Friend is seriously considering whether there will not have to be a commission dealing not only with that but with the right units of administration both in this country and in Wales.
There is in this country the most interesting experimental work going on in education that is to be found anywhere in the world. My hon. Friend the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) is opposed to the rural senior schools, or rather, she says in a rather grudging way that they have their good points but that they are taking children from the country into the towns. I would point out that there is a very complete answer and it is roughly this: If the schools in the countryside had their own gardens and were dealing with domestic science the position might be different. Fifty per cent. have not got gardens at all. How can one expect children to go on being taught in such conditions? They are rather like those in the private school quoted by the hon. Member where 12 children of ages ranging from five years to 14 were being taught by one person? I saw a school in Pershore with a large fruit orchard and a wonderful garden. That is practically a secondary school.
I have been studying with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture for the last six months the problem how we can give a rural bias to the education in rural senior schools, before young men go on the land or to agricultural colleges. There are great possibilities and the problem needs radical treatment. If you really want to get agriculture on its feet and want to get the personnel and if you are going to make the best use of the new subsidies that are given by the Government, then you have to take the whole problem of agricultural education much more seriously than in the past.
2581 The root question that arose between my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) and the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. C. Davies) seems to be this, that in the old days cooking and a great many other things were learned as home lore from the mother. In these days, when families are small, we do not get this; instead we have to proceed with this elaborate machinery of laboratories and kitchens and specially trained domestic science teachers, and so the cost of education must necessarily go up. Therefore we arc faced with the problem in the countryside first of having much more practical training, much more related to the life of the countryside, and secondly, making that school a centre, as it is in Cambridgeshire, where you have little village colleges with amenities for people right up to adolescence and up to the age of the Militia, so that you have in the country some of the amenities that people have got in the towns.
The question of nutrition has been raised. I would like to quote one sentence from a report by the Advisory Council on Nutrition, signed by such people as Sir John Orr, Professor Mellanby, Mrs. Eleanor Barton and others:We have had under review the various methods which have been tried or are in process of trial or have been suggested for the assessment of the nutritional state. We are unable to recommend any known method as reliable. So far as our present knowledge goes it would seem that the clinical method given in detail in Administrative Memorandum No. 124 of the Board of Education is the most promising, but the trial of this method has not been sufficiently prolonged to establish its reliability.I admit that our present method is not infallible but the opinion of the experts I have quoted is an impressive one and there can be no doubt as to the great progress which is being made. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley quoted from the article by Sir Ronald Davison in yesterday's "Times." I should like, however, to quote another sentence which occurs just after the point at which he left off.Meanwhile these Militia statistics are definitely encouraging. They do prove that something satisfactory has been happening to our child and adolescent population since the War and still more since the beginning of the century.I should like to pay a tribute to those who for 30 years have helped with the 2582 school medical service and have helped to produce these very satisfactory results. Our aim is to eliminate malnutrition in the schools. We do not rely on this clinical assessment. I could, if it were not so late, show you what we have done in the way of surveying the position in nearly half of the education authorities in this country. Wherever I go I point out that there are, according to our figures, shall be say 2,000 children who, we know, are in a state of sub-normal nutrition and who ought to be getting supplementary nourishment. We also advocate six-monthly nutrition surveys so that all children may be examined for signs of malnutrition. If there is the slightest symptom, nurses, doctors or teachers are immediately encouraged to advocate provision of free milk or free meals.
I will not weary the House with statistics, but I must take exception to the pamphlet issued by the Labour party which talks of a reactionary period in the last seven years. It states that in the last seven years education has been the victim of a policy of reaction. That is not true. The figures are all against that assertion. It is untrue as regards broadening the educational ladder. There are more poor boys going to the secondary schools and working their way up to the universities. It is untrue of the numbers holding State scholarships, for these have increased by nearly 50 per cent. It is untrue of the total expenditure, for this is £7,000,000 more for half a million fewer children. It is untrue of the provision of milk and meals. It is untrue of the expenditure on technical education and on special services. I put that on record: I do not want to introduce any controversial element into this Debate, especially at this late hour, but what is stated in this pamphlet in this connection is not true.
I trust I have dealt with most of the questions which have been raised in the Debate. The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) has gone, otherwise I would have devoted some little time to the question of adult education. We have had a committee making an exhaustive inquiry into the subject of adult education and a report has been made, the conclusions of which will, I hope, help to simplify the whole procedure and working of that very important part of our educational system. We have just come to the end of 21 years of adult suffrage, and 2583 I think the best test of adult education is in this House, though perhaps we do not sufficiently recognise it, because in the world of to-day it is an institution which is not particularly popular. The preservation of free speech and the keenness of the discussions which take place in this House are, perhaps, the best example of good adult education. One of the reasons that this House remains is that we have an education system which does not try to "vet" textbooks in Whitehall, which does not tell 315 education authorities precisely what they are to do, but which allows a faithful body of inspectors, of whom very little is known and said, to go about the country, keeping a watchful eye to the activities of local authorities all over the country. It is because we are trying to build a democracy on that basis that this £52,000,000 which is being spent by the Exchequer is money well spent. I only wish that on some occasion we might have a full House and ask ourselves: Are we getting value for the money; are we building the sort of system in this country which we really want? If we could do that we would create in this House and in the country a new interest in education.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.