§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Annesley Somerville
I beg to move,That, in view of the growing severity of international competition in trade and the consequent need to attract into the service of commerce and industry a sufficient supply of persons of well trained character and brains, this House considers it desirable that the Board of Education should consult with the local education authorities and the other educational interests for the purpose of determining how far the recommendations of the Spens Report on Secondary Education and the Report of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce on the Commercial Employment of Students with Degrees in Commerce, or modifications of such recommendations, should be carried into effect.The Motion expresses anxiety lest the education which is provided for young people who are going into commerce is not of the best kind, and it seems reasonable to ask the authorities concerned to consult together and, if this is true, to see whether steps cannot be taken to improve the education. Government departments are often reproached for red tape and stagnation, but surely that reproach cannot be thrown at the Board of Education. Their activities in the past 12 years have been almost volcanic. Twelve years ago we had the Hadow Report, which has been gradually transforming our whole system of elementary and secondary education, and now we have the Spens Report which advocates another revolution. It seems as if the Board of Education and their Consultative Committee have cherished a revolutionary cell in their austere bosom
The Hadow reforms have done some harm, but they have done a great deal of good. They have done harm to many of our village schools, a wholesome factor in the life of the countryside. Sometimes they have mutilated these schools and sometimes suppressed them. They have brought country children into the towns and urban districts when they should have been allowed to remain in the country, at a time when we need in the countryside people who care for it. The Spens Report takes note of these things, and particularly of a tendency which we find in our present educational school system, a tendency to what I may call educational nationalism. Each type of school seeks to be self-sufficient. We find in grammar schools and in secondary schools for boys and girls a tendency to 1756 cater for the needs of those who show technical aptitudes and some modern schools such as central selective schools are trying to prepare some of their pupils who have literary aptitude for the schools certificate examination. The Spens Report takes note of this and proposes a remedy, at a price, which I will consider later.
In view of the shortness of time at our disposal and the vast field covered by the Spens Report I will confine myself to four points. Three of them are recommendations of the report which seem to me wholly good; they concern the schools certificate examination—private schools, and country grammar schools. With regard to the schools certificate examination I was a member of the first Secondary Schools Examination Council which, in 1917, issued the first syllabus for that examination, and following the directions of the Board of Education we went on what was a perfectly sound principle and that was that the syllabus should follow the curriculum of the schools—not determine it. As a matter of fact, in practice exactly the reverse has happened, and the reason is that this examination has been made to serve two purposes, first, as a test of sound education for boys and girls at the age of 15-plus to 16-plus, and as a matriculation examination. The chief sinner in this respect is the University of London, so ably represented by my hon. Friend who, no doubt, will set up a stout defence for the London University in the course of the Debate. But the report recommends freedom from this dual function; it recommends that these two functions should be separate. That is wholly sound.
The Board of Education have accepted their recommendations with one exception, and I regret that they have made this one exception. They have abolished the requirement of one credit for a certificate. I do not agree, and I think it is to be regretted. We need thoroughness, and we should be wise to follow in our teaching the dictates of human nature. We have been trying in our system to teach too many subjects at the same time. What is necessary is thoroughness in at least one subject. If you consider human nature, we all like to handle and deal with what we understand and know, whether it is a dictionary, a calculus, a test tube, a pencil, or, a cricket bat. I could almost give an 1757 address on the kind of training you can get out of a cricket bat—patience, tenacity, anticipation, the employment of every physical power and the spirit of adventure. Looking at the matter in that way I regret that the condition of obtaining one credit should have been abolished. I ask that it should be replaced, or, at any rate, that there should be an equivalent of a good standard of attainment in at least two cognate subjects. That is my first point.
The next is private schools. In 1932 there was a Departmental Committee on private schools which produced a valuable report, favourable to private schools. It said that many of them were excellent and that the majority were free from reproach. I see the hon. Member who was chairman of that committee present, and I shall be glad to hear his opinion upon the carrying out of that report. I happen to be President of the Private or Independent Schools' Association. The report recommended that these schools should be subject to inspection. We accept that most heartily and ask that the recommendation should be carried out. The Spens Report also recommends it. My third point is the country grammar school, which is referred to in the report with sympathy and encouragement. It points out ways in which the country grammar school can be encouraged, and it also points out their difficulties, the small number of pupils which sometimes render grading and a varied curriculum so difficult. At the same time it says:Country schools thus enjoy unrivalled opportunities of framing syllabuses which have a high practical value derived from their close affinity to the world outside the school, and which at the same time should develop in the pupil an inquiring and critical mind and the power of independent judgment.I am glad that we have that testimony from the committee to the usefulness and the necessity of encouraging the country grammar school, but I would say that, as in every other school, the success and usefulness of the country grammar school depends upon the teachers. There will not be the right spirit in the country school, or in any other school, unless the teacher, and particularly the head teacher, has the spirit that inspires what one wants to see in the school. Some years ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) was Chairman of a Departmental Committee on the training of rural 1758 teachers. That committee made excellent suggestions which were not carried out for some time, but I am glad that now the Board of Education are making efforts to carry out those recommendations and are doing a good deal in that direction. There is in my constituency an elementary school the head teacher of which really cares for the things of the countryside and inspires the school in that sense, as the school gardens and surroundings show. That is the spirit we want to get into our rural schools.
The next point—and this is the central point of the report—is the setting up of a new type of technical school. The Spens Report looks at the educational system, consisting as it does of two great lines, the State and grant-aided and controlled schools and the private schools of the country, and finds them incomplete; and it proposes the institution of a type of school not exactly new, but framed after the fashion of the existing junior technical schools which provide training for those who are going into the engineering and building industries.
I want to take this opportunity of saying a word or two about the public schools of the country. The private schools include all those schools that are independent of State and grant aid and the so-called public schools, with their complementary system of preparatory schools. It has been the fashion to criticise those schools very severely, and to accuse them of stagnation and many other defects; but I venture to say that in the public schools, with their complementary preparatory schools, the country has a possession of great value. The proof of that is the way in which other countries. recognise them. The Spens Report and the grammar schools of the country bear-testimony to that. The grammar schools. have borrowed many of the traditions and customs of the public schools, such as the prefect system and the house system, and they are all the stronger for doing so; and it brings the schools together.
The Spens Report strongly recommends the tutorial system. That system has existed for many years in the public schools, especially Eton. I am speaking from experience when I say that it is an excellent system. There are 1100 boys at Eton. The Spens Report speaks of a school of 800 boys as being too large, but at Eton there is more individual attention given to every member of the school than 1759 is perhaps given in any other school in the country that is not preparatory. The reason for this is the tutorial system. Every boy, on coming to the school, is provided with one man as his tutor, to whom he goes during the whole of his school life for instruction, encouragement and help with his work in the forms or classes—or divisions as they are called at Eton—and in every other way. That is good for the master and good for the boy; in the master it produces a sense of responsibility towards the pupils, responsibility of a different kind from that which the form master has to his form; and in the boy it produces the feeling that he has a centre to which he can refer. That system is recommended by the Spens Report. As to the public school spirit, it is a real thing, but it is impalpable. Some time ago I gave a series of addresses on different educational subjects for the National Council of Education in Canada, at various places from Vancouver to Toronto. I was often asked to say something about the public school spirit. It was a difficult thing to do, and what was I to do but to quote to them the oath taken by the ephebi in Ancient Greece, that is, the youths of 18, when they went to the Temple of Minerva to get their arms before being sent to the frontier to guard their State. The oath was:I will not dishonour my sacred arms;I will not desert my fellow soldiers by whose side I shall be set;I will do battle for my country whether aided or unaided;I will strive to leave her better than I found her;I will reverence the temples in which my fathers worshipped.Of these things the gods are my witnesses.Those principles are as old as time, but they are the basis of democracy. Hon. Members opposite are very appreciative of Eton. They have among them only two old Etonians, and they think so much of them that they have put them on their Front Bench—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) and the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton); I regret to say that for the moment they have ostracised Winchester in the person of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), but I suppose that is a passing family quarrel. Eton reciprocates. They have 1760 at Eton a political society run by the senior boys, and the president of that society at the present time is the son of the Foreign Secretary. They have invited various Members of the House to be kind enough to address them. The Leader of the Opposition has addressed them twice, and the hon. Lady the Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson), the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) have also addressed them. On this side of the House, the Secretary of State for the Dominions and the Home Secretary and others have addressed the society, and to show its appreciation of independence and originality, the society has three times asked the honourable, independent and original Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) to address it.
§ Sir Ernest Graham-Little
Before the hon. Member leaves the question of the public schools, I would like to ask him whether the public schools contemplate changing their curriculum in the same sense as is now asked for the grant-aided schools, and further, has he seen that his former headmaster, who was 16 years Headmaster of Eton, has expressly declared in a book which he recently published that the curriculum as envisaged by Circular 1463 goes much too far, and that it would have the effect of reducing the number of students who get higher education?
§ Mr. Somerville
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman made that interruption. I take it he is referring to the book "A Plea for a Plan" by Doctor Alington. As a matter of fact, the public schools already provide very much of what is recommended in the Spens Report. For instance, Oundle School, which has 580 boys, has a classical side, a modem side, and an engineering side; it has a school farm, five laboratories, workshops and so on. The head of that school is a distinguished man of science, who did fine work for the Government during the War. I will also mention another school of a different type, Bembridge School, which is run on the Ruskin principle—the principle that when you want a thing you make it. When they want to go on the water, they have to build their own boats. I mention this to show the richness and variety of our educational system. I submit to the House that it would be a great mistake to try to bring all these schools 1761 into one State system. To do that would be to make the system much less vital, much less full of life, and much less able to experiment; it would curtail the freedom of the system, and in education, freedom is the breath of life.
I pass now to the central recommendation of the Spens Report, that is, that a new type of school should be instituted on the lines of the present junior technical schools which prepare pupils for the engineering and building industries. That system of schools would fulfil these conditions. There would be complete parity between all types of secondary schools. They would draw their pupils from the same general pool, the elementary schools at 11 plus. They would be housed as far as possible with the technical colleges. I assume that would mean a good deal more building. Their progress would be reviewed at 13 plus so that if aptitudes or later development were discovered, the pupils might be transferred from those schools to the grammar schools.
The junior technical schools are doing good work, and it is a good principle, when an institution is doing good work, not to interfere with it. Whether the expansion of these schools would interfere with their work is a matter that could be decided only by experiment. It might be that there would not be much interference. Parity and the housing of new institutions would mean a considerable cost, for it would involve parity of salaries and the provision of new buildings. I agree with the principle of parity. Everything above 11 plus is secondary education. I think that parity might be introduced by degrees, due regard being had for the difficult time through which the country is passing. As to the new buildings, I suppose that the technical colleges would have to be consulted in the matter. With regard to drawing the pupils for these new schools from the general pool, I cannot see that that would do anything except weaken the existing schools. The general pool consists of pupils of 11 plus from the elementary schools. If a new set of schools is instituted into which one pours from that pool a stream which did not exist before, one must lessen the streams that go into other schools, and so weaken the grammar schools and the modern schools. That seems to me wholly wrong.
1762 Another condition laid down is that the basis of education between 11 plus and 13 plus under the new system, should be the same as that in the grammar schools. That points to the desirability of keeping the pupils together, at any rate up to the age of 13 plus and then reviewing the position at 13 plus. What is the chief factor in formation of the character of the boy? It is the influence of the school; his relations with the teachers, their relations with him and his relations with his fellows. You take him out of the elementary school at 11 plus and then if it is necessary to transfer him at 13 plus, are you going to dig him out of his school and pass him on to another school to begin all over again? I think that is a weak suggestion, and all this points to the desirability of keeping pupils together at the same school.
The report suggests another way of dealing with the problem, and that is what they call multi-lateralism. I agree with that. I think it is far better than what they propose. Multi-lateralism means providing a sufficient number of sides or of "streams" in one school in order to meet the demands of the aptitudes of the boys or girls in that school. That seems to be sound. In the grammar schools after 13 plus you could provide a technical stream into which would flow from the same school, those boys who had technical aptitudes. If transfer became necessary, they would still be in the same school, with the same influences, and you would not weaken the school.
As against that, certain objections are urged by the Spens Report. There is the size of the school. They take a school of 800. They put up a great nine-pin and take great pleasure in knocking it down, because it is only a nine-pin and in their own report they provide the solution of the difficulty. They recommend the tutorial system. I have mentioned a school of 1,100 boys in which that system produces the greatest amount of individualism and of individual influence and the same thing could easily be provided in a school of 800. Then they say that there would be the difficulty of a sixth form. I do not think that is such a difficulty. If you had the multi-lateral system, on the technical side and the pupils ordinarily left at 16 plus, there would be some outstanding pupils for whom it would be arranged that they should go on to the universities and get 1763 the benefit of the scientific courses at the universities. These would provide a sixth form on the technical side, joined with the sixth form on the other side. So I do not think that a very serious objection. At the worst you could always give sixth form powers to the most mature and leading pupils on the technical side.
Then it is said that you would not be able to get head teachers with the necessary qualifications. For instance, they say, if you have a head teacher who is a classical man, he will not take a proper interest in the technical side. With all due respect to the consultative committee, I do not think that is a good objection and I speak from experience. I was once the head of a side where we had modern subjects. The head of the school, who was a splendid man, was a devoted classical scholar who believed thoroughly in the classics, but he would come round to our classes and take the greatest interest in them and talk to the boys. What matters in a head is not the kind of subjects which he knows, but his personality and the way in which he inspires the school. The boys on that side, which was practically a modern side, realised that. They said: "There is our head who cares for us and for our progress and the progress of the school and it does not matter a row of pins what subjects he cares for particularly." I do not attach much weight to that objection in the Spens Report. I might point again to the case of Oundle, where there is a science man as head of a college which has a classical, a modern and an engineering side, and is very successful.
Then it is said that the technical curriculum would have on influence on the modern curriculum. I do not see that that would be the case, and, as for the influence of the staff of the technical side on the rest of the school, I think it would be wholly good. It would strengthen and vitalise the school. So, I would recommend the gradual introduction of the multilateral system. For instance, we have just built at Windsor a county boys school and it would be comparatively easy to add to that school so as to provide for a technical side. That would be possible without great expense in many parts of the country. You cannot do it all at once, because the cost of new buildings and so on would be too great, but you could make a beginning. Let the junior technical schools continue their most 1764 useful functions. Introduce a technical side on the multilateral system, and let the syllabus of the school certificate examination be so arranged that pupils from the technical side can take full advantage of it. Thus, by degrees, you can bring about real parity between all schools and all teachers.
Time is getting on, and there are other hon. Members who wish to speak, and so I must confine myself to very few words with regard to the other report—that of the Chambers of Commerce. It seems to me that their recommendation as to the provision of practical courses while the student is still reading for his degree, is wholly good, but I cannot help thinking that their report has been written without full information. I have had information from the appointments boards of various universities— from my own university of Cambridge, from London, from Birmingham—calling attention to the fact that the figure of 100 in the report is an absolute under-estimate. For instance, the Cambridge appointment board, alone, last year sent to commerce and industry 253 graduates and that has been the sort of average for a number of years. When I was up, there was one large firm who said they would always take the first six in the applied science tripos.
Mr. Owen Evans
Would the hon. Member inform the House whether that 253 included scientific and technical as well as commercial appointments?
§ Mr. Somerville
The 253 went into commerce and industry. For instance, it is the Shell Company which still takes these graduates. A very good statement has been issued by London University which deals with the core of the question. It points out that when a great business wants to get a man from a university, it is not so much a question of what the man knows as of his personality, his type and the likelihood that he will train on into a person capable of taking charge of a great department of the business. That is what determines it, and as this statement says:It does not matter whether he has taken his degree in anthropology or in Sanscrit, if he is the right kind of man he will be taken.I would say a word about the Amendment on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove).
§ Mr. Somerville
Then I am reduced to commiserating with my hon. Friend. I know he has strong views, and I hope he will have an opportunity of expressing them. The Motion expresses an anxiety, and I think that anxiety is to some extent justified when we consider the very wide extent and the complexity of British commerce and its value to human progress and welfare. I hope the House will consider it reasonable to ask those concerned with the training of our young people who are going into commerce and industry, to consult together and determine whether the training which is being given to these young people, is the training best calculated to forward the objects which we all desire.
§ 4.57 P.m.
§ Sir Geoffrey Ellis
I beg to second the Motion.
It is my duty to confine myself mainly to the Report on the Commercial Employment of Students with Degrees in Commerce. In one sense I regret that it should be so, because it is a disappointment after one reads a report of nearly 500 pages, showing courage and imagination in dealing with the facts, to descend to 4½ pages of arid negation, and I cannot think that there has been any real inquiry which has justified the conclusions and the statement in this short report. What was the question under examination? It was not so much the question of courses and degrees in commerce, as that of the place of university graduates throughout Great Britain, in commerce and industry, the value of a university education to those graduates and, incidentally, its value to commerce and industry. Surely never was it more necessary than in these changing days, with so many different kinds of combinations in trade, commerce and industry, both national and international, that our trade and industry should recruit the best brains of the country. Every other profession and interest looks for something following a secondary education, but if one is to believe this report, the bulk of the people who are members of chambers of commerce are content with the narrow formalism and close details of the single office in which a man has to do his work.
1766 I have sat for some time on the appointments board at Cambridge, and I should like to take up some of the statements made in this report. In the first place, the figure of 130 is quite wrong. It is true that the people selected by the appointments board at Cambridge—as I believe is also the case at Oxford and other universities—go into all classes of trade and industry. They may go into companies which are operating abroad. They may go into professions such as accountancy, and they may even take up certain forms of actuarial work in connection with insurance. That only shows the value which is attached by all these employers to that class of training and how much they appreciate what some university graduates can do. The trouble in the whole of this question, from the point of view of many employers, is that they have concentrated on believing that the only man of any value is the man who takes a high specialist degree at a university, and in that concentration they have forgotten a great many alternative courses which are already prepared by the universities.
May I take one provided by my own university of Cambridge as an illustration, and put it to the House whether the following form of education would not be one of the best general forms that could be provided after secondary education for anyone who hoped to make a place in commerce or industry? Leaving school at the age of 17, having qualified himself by exemption for the entrance examination of the university and then spending a year abroad, there learning two languages, the foundations of which he would already have gained at his school, with some opportunity of seeing a good deal of the people of those countries whose languages were being learned, and at an early time in his life getting rid of, perhaps, a little of that self-complacency which, I am afraid, is the besetting sin of our nation, and at the same time appreciating a good deal that no reading in books and no office could teach him. He then goes to the university, and there for two years he is able to concentrate on his two languages, on the modern history of his own country and probably of the United States of America, with some reference to economic questions and enough English, at any rate, to make him appreciate what it is to speak clearly, to think clearly, and to write clearly. For his 1767 last year he is able to take up one of many special subjects. Anyone who went to Cambridge with the intention of going in for a special trade or industry would naturally have that trade or industry in mind and would, therefore, take a subject in his last year which would be of considerable value to him afterwards.
But it does not stop there. During the time spent at the university a good deal of the year is on vacation, and during that vacation it would be essential for the student to go either again to those two countries whose languages he was learning or for some period to the Continent or to the United States, into an office of a kind in which he would be able to learn something of business methods. All these outside things could be done, and at the same time the broader general background he would be able to obtain by residence at a university would not be in any way lacking. That would take about 2¾ years out of his life and leave him before he was 21, with a sound background of life and a good knowledge of two languages, the ability to express himself clearly and forcibly, and having had contacts with other people which, to my mind, is one of the most valuable attributes any university can possibly give. If that is not a sound preparation for anyone going into commerce and industry, then I find some difficulty in believing that any sound preparation can be given.
I regret very much to see from these reports that the greatest criticism apparently comes from people who do not believe that there is any need for a boy to proceed further than his school education if he is going into industry or commerce. I believe we are about the only country left, if the statement be true, that does take such a point of view. It is not the point of view taken on the Continent generally, and it is certainly not the point of view taken in the United States. That this point of view can be taken is one of the things that makes some of us a little doubtful of the success of any real crusade to help trade and industry by education. The universities up and down the country have been put down in the great commercial centres, and they rely on the people in trade and industry in those centres to help them to relate their work to the needs of the district, and I am afraid that in many cases they are not getting much help in the process.
1768 I do not put forward the course of education that I have detailed as a scheme, because it is something which is being done to-day; it is in existence, and it seems altogether to have escaped the minds of the people who drafted this report. The Spens Report, in this respect, has left out something that is essential. It has not provided any means for the poor scholar from the secondary school to get to the university in order to take this form of education which I have recommended and which obviously, in existing conditions, is open only to people who can afford to pay the fees. In that respect I think we have to face a condition which needs inquiry. All scholarships to-day are based on an examination which is intended to satisfy the examiners that anyone taking a scholarship will be able to get high honours at the university. The basis of an education for commerce and industry is not necessarily, and not always advisably, one of trying for high honours, especially in one subject. You have to consider whether it would not be possible also to erect some scholarships which could be given from secondary schools to boys unable to afford university fees, that would give them the opportunity of passing on and taking the course of education for industry and commerce which I have already indicated. If not, if you are going to leave it to boys from poor homes to go into commerce and industry direct from school only, what will happen? If they are bright boys, the whole bent of their minds at any rate the suggestion from their teachers will be that they should take up specialist work in order that they may get scholarships in specialist subjects, and that will turn them away from commerce into the teaching and other professions which will, as a consequence, soon become overcrowded. It is a point to which I would like my hon. Friend on the Front Bench to pay some attention, because I am certain that if you can be sure of some kind of examination, of charcter, of school record, and recommendations from masters, there is room for the erection of a form of scholarship of the type that I have mentioned, which will ensure to the poorer pupils the same opportunities as are open to those who can afford to pay fees. This will open up commercial and industrial careers in a direct way for these poorer pupils.
1769 The conclusions come to by the committee are interesting, in view of their negations in the first part of the report. They are in agreement with the suggestion that it would be advantageous to British commerce if a larger proportion of university graduates were recruited. All that I can say is that it would have been helpful if they had extended their inquiries and examined some of the syllabuses which are given throughout this country and arranged expressly with a view to helping the teaching of subjects of interest to industry and commerce in the universities. Not a single bit of help is given here, and I conclude, as I began, that if this is all that the chambers of commerce in this country can do, they are not going to be of much good either to education or to industry and commerce.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Cove
I am sure the House will be grateful to the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Somerville) for having put down this Motion to-day. The reports which we have been asked to consider are of vital importance to the national well-being and, indeed, to the preservation of democracy in this country. We have listened to two very progressive and enlightened speeches, and I need hardly say that we on this side of the House welcome the spirit of those speeches. If I may say so without offence, the hon. Member who moved the Motion moved it in the spirit of enlightened Toryism. In fact, he did it in such a way as to safeguard what I might call the historic preserves of the Tory party. I think his criticism of the report in relation to the multilateral school was devastating and left the authors of the report with no shred of argument for the attitude which they had taken up.
I am not quite sure whether the hon. Member realised the real reason why, in my judgment at any rate, the authors of the report turned their heads, as it were, away from the multilateral school. As I understand the report against the multilateral school, the argument cannot be sustained on the basis of educational principle and practice; it can only be sustained on the basis of social implication and social policy. As a matter of fact, I see the multilateral school as a microcosm of real democracy, and therefore the compromise embodied in the report was, as I see the matter, bound 1770 to be arrived at. While the hon. Member for Windsor was enlightened in his attitude towards the multilateral school, he was very careful indeed to make as good a case as he could for the preservation of the public school and the private school. We may as well be frank about it. Of course, the great public schools of this country are undoubtedly the preserves of the rich; hence the hon. Member's reactionary attitude on that question has been governed by his general attitude as far as class distinctions are concerned.
There is not much time in which to discuss the report in detail. I have read in the Press many praises of its clarity and all that sort of thing. It may be my fault—I am sure it is—but I have found myself very much confused, at times, in reading the report. If one had time it would not be very difficult to show many contradictions in the statements that have been made in the report. That, again, I believe, is due to the fact that it was a committee whose members had varying views and, therefore, there had to be these contradictions in order that a report could be issued. I do not believe it is the main function of the House of Commons to discuss the stricter educational aspects of the report. Our best function is to consider the main principles embodied in it. The main criticism against the report is that it has failed to envisage and to suggest steps and methods whereby we could reach a greater national system of education. There is no picture in this report of a real national system of education. It has not embodied the principle of democracy in our educational system. There will not be even as much equality of opportunity in the future, if this report is brought into effect, as there will be by the development of the present system with full free secondary education for our children.
The report leaves out of consideration the place and function of the great public schools. They are merely there for people who can afford to send their sons to them. I know hon. Members opposite may disagree, but I will declare boldly that the great public schools cannot function as they are, cannot be the repositories, as they are, of class privilege, if we are to have a real national democratic system of education. They must come into the common pool. They must come within this national system. The hon. Member who moved the Motion seemed to suggest 1771 that a school outside the national system is freer, and that because it is outside the national system it has more independence, more initiative, and can make a greater individual contribution to the theory and practice of education and teaching. Will hon. Members who say that say that the dead horse of national ownership and control hangs over the initiative and efficiency of the British Navy? Will they take the same attitude towards the nationally owned and controlled Royal Air Force? It is not true that a national system of education means a dead level with a lack of initiative and freedom. We find initiative and drive within the sphere of our national system, in both the elementary part of it and the State secondary part of it, simply because within that national system there is a security which allows freedom for the individual school. Therefore, it is no argument to say that if we get these schools within the national system the dead hand of authoritarianism will be upon them. It is possible to have a national system of education and at the same time freedom and liberty in the schools within that system.
§ Mr. Cove
This country. If the hon. Member will only look at our infant schools and the few nursery schools we have he will find more initiative, progress, new methods, new objectives, and new treatment of the individual child than probably in any other section of the educational system. There is life, verve and vigour in the State-owned infant schools of this country. I would invite the hon. Member to go down and see them. They exist in their hundreds. Therefore, I say that there is evidence of freedom and progress inside the national system of education.
Let us look at one or two of the proposals of the committee in order to justify the contention which I am putting forward that there is a danger, if the main proposals of the committee are put into effect, that their tendency will be towards reaction rather than towards progress. They envisage an elementary system up to the age of 11 and then a system at the age of 11 with modern schools, that is the present senior schools, and what are called central non-selective schools and central selective schools. What a maze we have! 1772 I do not know what foreigner can understand the jigsaw puzzle of an educational system which we have in this country. It has a bad effect. The very fact that we have this jigsaw system means great inequality of opportunity in various areas. In Wales, for instance, we are proud of the fact that we have a high percentage of our people who go into secondary schools. In Hertfordshire, we find that the percentage is very much lower. In some areas it varies as much as six to one. The jigsaw system is fraught, and is bound to be fraught with inequality of opportunity between one area and another. It is wrong that a child born in one area should not have an equal opportunity with the child born in another. The authors of this report come along and say that we should have modern schools, senior schools, central schools, selective and non-selective, technical high schools, and what are now to be called grammar schools.
I want to lay down definitely that progress in the field of higher education must involve the pursuit of a freer and freer system within that field. If we are to get progress and march towards equality of opportunity, indeed, if we are to meet the industrial needs of this nation in a modern competitive world, we have to give free secondary education to all children with maintenance grants to those who need them. The case for that lies in the fact that millions of our children are born in homes whose incomes are not sufficient to pay their way through the secondary schools. The case for it is to be found in the great inequality of wealth that exists in this country. What does this report say? It says a number of things about it. It says that the number who are to get this grammar school education is to be only 15 per cent. of the age group 10 to 11, that is, 15, per cent. of a school population which is now declining. Hence, the 15 per cent. will result in a fewer number of children getting secondary education in future than at present.
The report suggests something else, and if I am wrong I hope I shall be corrected, because the report is full of antitheses. It suggests that we want a levelling up. That principle is sound, for I have just enunciated that there ought to be equality of opportunity between area and area. There are, however, some areas with 30 per cent. and 40 per 1773 cent. at secondary schools, and if we are to get a dead level of 15 per cent. of the age group 10 to 11 it means that many of the areas that are now progressive and have provided a higher amount of secondary education will have to come down. Let them try it on in Wales. Let any Government try the levelling down of our secondary places in Wales, and they will find the popular front stronger than they have ever seen it in this country. There would be a real popular front in Wales in defence of the right of the Welsh children to have the secondary education that has been won for them. Will attempts be made to justify that only 15 per cent. of the children of this country of the age group 10 to 11 are fit to profit by secondary education? Will it be suggested that only 15 per cent. can gain from being in these schools? I deny the implication of stupidity involved in that statement so far as the normal child is concerned. Education ought to be provided in a rich country like this for every normal child. Fifteen per cent. is not a figure which can by any means be said to be progressive.
Then the committee deal with examinations and special places. I want the House to note that a special place is not a free place. The special place was the device of the present Foreign Secretary when he was at the Board for effecting economies in education. We fought that in Wales and did very well, far better than in England. I said at the time, and on closer examination I am reaffirmed in my view, that the system of special places means that free places have gone. There are no free places in our secondary education system to-day. That is the meaning of it. Take 100 seats in a secondary school in the Rhondda Valley. Those seats were free, as it were—if boys passed the examination. They had no fee at all to pay. Under the special places system those 100 places are no longer free. A price must be paid, a price which varies according to localities—£3, £5 or £10 a year. It is perfectly true that under the special places system there is some accommodation for the poor people, but it is an accommodation based upon two things: There is the right to get a special place without payment of a fee provided the child passes an examination, thus proving its capacity, and provided that the income of the parent is not above a certain level. The means test, 1774 the income test comes in. There is no right to a free place apart from an income test.
§ Mr. Rowlands rose—
§ Mr. Cove
I do not want to give way. Many Members have asked me to keep my speech short, and it is very difficult for me to do so. The report itself, in one of its phrases, says that the system of special places can form—indeed, I believe it says it does form—a barrier to any realisation of full free secondary education. That is very important. So long as there is a system of special places there cannot be free secondary education. I ask how any policy which maintains a special places system which is an effective barrier against free places can be regarded as progressive. In reply it is said, "Look at these 100 places. We will give 50 of them to the children who pass an examination and show without doubt that they are brilliant, absolutely brilliant." They hold the examination and the 50 will get places. What about the other 50 places? They are to be reserved. For whom? Reserved for capacity; reserved for children on the basis of their being able to profit by attendance at a grammar school? No. Here other factors come in. For the other 50 places these factors will involve consideration of the families from whom those children may come, and the method adopted will be by interview. That is how I understand the report, and if the Parliamentary Secretary can dispute it I shall be glad and relieved. In other words, the implication in the report is that while 50 per cent. of the places are given to the brilliant children, based on examination results, the other 50 per cent. are reserved for the children of people who can afford to pay to send their children to these schools. I say without hesitation that that is unfair and undemocratic. If we are to have a system of special places all of them should be filled by children who have shown their capacity by intellectual tests and not with any sort of favouritism at all.
I really do want to give somebody else a chance, but I should like to add a few words about examinations. Though I admit that it is somewhat difficult to avoid them, I believe that examinations are a great curse in our educational system. I believe that they are injurious not only within the secondary education sphere but also within the elementary education 1775 sphere. My impression may be wrong, but I feel they are probably more injurious in Wales than in other places. For instance, the other day a headmistress in a distressed area was telling me that when a mother brought her boy up to the infants' school on the first day she said to the headmistress, "Here is little Johnnie, get him on, won't you?"—that is, try and drive him so that he will be able to pass the scholarship examination in order to get into the secondary school. There is pressure there. The pressure on the secondary school people is equally bad. Schools are often driven out of the proper path, if I may put it that way, because there are these examinations; and in the distressed areas if a child is to have any chance at all to escape from depressed industries it is most important that it should pass certain examinations. One can understand the pressure.
I am not an expert on this, but I know a boy who is going in for the higher schools examination, and I was looking over his books. He was taking Latin, French, German, English and history. Some of the books the lad was reading were, quite frankly, beyond the experience of a boy of 16. One book was called, "From Laissez Faire to State Control." The book he was reading in English was a novel, "Lord Jim," by Conrad. A young lad. I read a criticism of that book a short while ago and the critic said that it was a book describing how a lad made a terrible mistake in the beginning of his life—he ran away from a sinking ship—and Conrad was dealing with all the psychological reactions of this lad in order to try to rehabilitate his self-confidence. A lad of 16 supposed to be interested in the psychological rehabilitation of someone who had failed at a certain juncture in his life. I do not believe normal children would be interested in that problem.
If the Board of Education will look into it, they will find that the standard of questions set in the higher schools examinations and other scholarship examinations is as high as was the standard in a final, and almost a degree, some time ago. If I may say so to the hon. Member who seconded the Motion, there is only one thing with which I agree in the report of the Chambers of Commerce. I believe there is something in the statement that industry and business 1776 may be filled by men and women who are tired and jaded because of the pressure of secondary schools work and university courses for examinations. The life and verve have gone out of them. The Board of Education have a responsibility in this. They cannot shelter themselves behind the statement, "Oh, the universities are the bosses of this." They must take the responsibility and see to it that examination questions are reasonable and fit in with the level of experience of the children who are taking those examinations.
I am sorry that I could not move my Amendment, but one has to accept the Ruling of the Chair, and I do accept it, but I would like to say this: I often hear it said, or rather suggested, that the cost of education is a burden upon industry. That is the meaning of the Government's pronouncement on this report. I wish we could have attacked the Government to-day, because they are the culprits. The Government say they will not have Chapter 9 because it costs money and the nation cannot afford it. I repudiate the statement that education is a burden. It is not a burden on industry. Education is a servant of industry. It is industry which has been a burden upon education. Oh, yes. Where has industry got its scientific research; where has it got its trained intelligence; where has it got the power that it has to produce in greater and greater quantities at a lesser and lesser cost in human labour? From education, from the secondary schools, from the universities, from the men and the women who have been educated within the State system of education.
It is not true to say that education is a burden upon industry. Industry owes a debt to education, and as surely as this nation denies expansion to the education system as surely will it fall behind in the great industrial race. There is no shadow of doubt about that. It is a great mistake, too, to say that an inordinate amount of money has been going to this service, or to the social services in general. I have found these figures in the Statistical Abstract. In 1913–14 education took 8.84 per cent. of the Budget expenditure. In 1937–38 it took 6.86 per cent. It is taking a lesser percentage of the Budget expenditure. The big increase has come from armaments expenditure and the National Debt. If anybody is looking for the figures that represent the bulk of the 1777 Budget expenditure they will not be found under the heading of the social services in general, or education in particular. The burden lies mainly, all through the post-war years, on the cost of the War Debt service. A nation that refuses to look at those facts, and which says "We must curtail our educational service" on that account, is making a serious mistake. Let there be no mistake about it, the Government have curtailed in that direction. Economy has begun in the educational field; the Government are practising that form of economy already. I am sorry that we are not able, owing to the Rules of the House, to make the attack upon the people upon whom it should be made. The Government are in the dock. We shall see, if they happen to win the next general election, what the real meaning is. It is that we shall have a curtailment of the educational services of this country.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am very glad indeed that too much education has not destroyed the verve of the hon. Gentleman and that, in spite of the Rules of Order, he has succeeded in putting a good many people, including the Government, into the dock. I shall return to him later. I would like first, however, to say one or two words in defence of one person whom the hon. Gentleman put in the dock; that is the late Mr. Conrad. I do not think that "Lord Jim" is unsuitable reading for boys of 16. Of course, if you talk to boys of 16 about psychological rehabilitation the boys of 16 will be bored, and so, I think, would men of sense of any age. [Interruption.] Well, that was the critic's description of Mr. Conrad. I dare say that the critic's description would have been extremely unsuitable for schoolboys. I cannot believe that boys of 16 are more interested in anything but the problems of character displayed in narratives of adventure, and surely, therefore, there is nothing to be said against "Lord Jim" as a proper topic for schoolboy reading.
There is one other point in connection with the last speech before I go directly to the reports, and that is the allegation very often made that school-leaving examination questions get more difficult, until now they are as difficult as the final university examination questions used to be. That is true, in a sense and in some 1778 subjects. I remember hearing Sir Joseph Thompson once, and not very long ago, saying that when he was taking his degree he could not have answered any of the questions set nowadays in a physics examination for a Trinity scholarship. That increase in difficulty tends to happen in subjects in which knowledge gets built up. A boy can learn physics much more quickly now than a boy could 20 years ago, and, of course, it is regrettable that a tendency to over-exigent examinings should arise. I do not believe that anything done by the Board of Education or by the universities will ever stop it. It is almost impossible to prevent headmasters pressing and pressing, and examiners from putting in a few difficult questions here and there to spot the best boys. The difficult questions tend to spread until the other kind become very few.
I am sure that it is not true—if this was the intention of the hon. Gentleman—to say that in a general way people taking examinations at the age of 17 or 18 years are capable of answering much more difficult questions than people were 30 years ago. I am certain that that is not true. I may be mistaken, but I have as much experience in this matter as most people. There are few colleges either at Oxford or Cambridge, except a few of the very fashionable ones, which in any year get as many good scholars as they would like to give money to. It is still very striking how few people there really are who can clearly show themselves at the age of 18 years to be fit to be put into what might be called the top scholarship class.
That brings me back to the point at which I had meant to start, that this topic is, in the long run, the most important that we could ever discuss in this House. Accident always seems to result in our discussing it for short periods only. I wish there had been more of the captains of industry who generally adorn our benches present To minutes ago to hear the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) explaining to them how they owe all they are and all they have to chaps like him and me. As a rule we discuss this topic in great haste and in very thin Houses, but it could not be more important than it is at this moment. Whether we like it or not the Spens Report is revolutionary. I am in some slight difficulty; although I can hardly expect the House to believe me, in the 1779 place from which I come the name Spens is regarded with even more respect than it is here, and I approach the report with a certain deference. I am not yet clear whether I think that more than half of it is good or more than half of it is bad, but what I am sure about is that I, like everybody else who has read the report, believe it would make a revolution to enforce it at once as it stands. I think I am the first to say that I have tried to read it all, although I would not swear to every word, and I am sure that it would be a long-range revolution to adopt it as it stands. It could not be more important than it is.
I do not know whether hon. Members remember the eloquent speech made by the Home Secretary in the Second Reading Debate the other day upon his Criminal Justice Bill, and the passage in which he was cheered most widely from every quarter of the House. It was that in which he explained regretfully that indictable crime among boys and girls under the age of 17 was going up rather fast every year and had reached the point when 38 per cent. of all indictable crimes in the country were committed by boys of 17. The point at which the right hon. Gentleman was most cheered by everybody in the House, by everyone I think, except myself, was when he went on to say that nobody would hold the children themselves responsible. He said it was not their fault, and he added:The young are not more wicked than they were, but … they are less controlled by their parents.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th November, 1938; col. 272, Vol. 342.]If that be true after two or three generations of compulsory elementary education, and certainly of one quite complete generation, and of primary and widespread free secondary education in this country, and when parents have, as compared with 30 or 40 years ago, more money, more leisure, and fewer children to manage; if, in spite of all those social improvements the parents are worse by what might seem the humble and elementary test of human value, looking after their own children, it is high time we debated education in this House. I hope that some day soon we shall be able to debate it in a full House and at great length, and so that all of us who speak shall not feelTime's winged chariot drawing near.1780 I hope that the hon. Member for Aberavon thinks that quotation is suitable for boys of 16.
The matter is important and could not be more important. There is no doubt that the future of what people call, in political debates, democracy, depends upon it. I am never quite sure myself that I think as highly of democracy as a lot of other people seem to. When people say "democracy," as a rule they generally mean the decencies, and freedoms, and live-and-let-live, and all that side of life which has disappeared very rapidly over a large surface of the world. They are much bigger than democracy and they depend fundamentally upon education.
Some things in the report are no doubt good. I have no doubt that it is good that we should try to work towards what is called parity between grammar schools and the technical high schools. It is not going to be easy to get to that point, but it is good that an authoritative report should set it up as an ideal. Whether the proper age of choosing should be 11 years or 13 years is a very difficult question indeed. I have no doubt that it is also good—in this I agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite—to set it up as an ideal that children should receive a secondary education, chosen because of the aptitudes of the children rather than because of their parents' income, and that the school-leaving age should be 16 years. Those are good things to aim at, but they do not represent the whole of this side of the matter, to which I will return in a minute.
I have no doubt that it is also good to divide the school certificate from matriculation. Everybody has exaggerated the wickedness of that bogy, but it is rather a bogy and it is rather wicked. There again, I should be glad to accept the report, but I am not sure whether it is wise to take for granted that it is desirable, as the report has suggested, that children should be encouraged to reflect about political, social and economic problems. I spent most of the time when not in this House trying to teach history to children over 18 years of age, and I am bound to say that I find it extremely difficult. The fundamental difficulty is, of course, that young men of 18, 19, 20 or 21 years of age have not very much idea of what men are, and have no idea at all of what women are. That is why it is the most difficult task in the 1781 world to teach children political, social and economic problems. I am not at all sure that it is not best simply to answer the questions that children put to you and never to start the subjects for them.
If the Board of Education takes the report into serious consideration, as have no doubt it will, I hope that it will accept the gloss which the Commissioners put upon that recommendation, when they say that the best way to deal with this problem in the schools is that children should learn about these things as part of the ordinary life and work of the school and as part of the business of themselves managing their own organisations in the schools. That is the only way in which the thing can be done, in the long run.
Again, we ought to press upon the Board, with our approval here, the Commission's insistence upon the value of the sixth form in schools. My belief is that what matters in schools is what boys learn from other boys, and most particularly what they learn from boys a little older than themselves. That logically means that the sixth form is the one which really matters. I hope that the Board will also take seriously the recommendations of the report about Scripture. There are other things which I would wish to approve in the report, but I want to be as quick about my speech as I can. I must say a few words about the report of the Chamber of Commerce because, although I thought that the hon. Gentleman who spoke from below the Gangway had as neat a hand with a cutting edge as any man I have ever seen upon the vertebrae of a doubtful quadruped, and though I do not want to spend very much time flogging a dead horse, yet I think that that horse ought to have another kick from me, as in private duty bound.
There are one or two doubts and hesitations which I wish to insinuate about this Spens Report, and they centre mostly around what are called the direct grant schools. I am never very good, unless I have it all on paper under my eyes, about the five classifications of the direct and the indirect grant schools, the grant-aided schools and so on. Probably most Members are roughly familiar with it. Shortly speaking, the direct grant schools are mostly the old-established famous grammar schools which for the most part get a quarter, or less than a quarter, of their current income from any public source, most of their income arising 1782 from endowments. It seems to me to be a very dangerous invasion of the rights of corporations—and I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite will believe that I am just as tender towards the rights of trade unions and friendly societies as I am towards the rights of railway companies or banks—I think this is rather a dangerous invasion of the rights of corporations, particularly when those corporations have done so well. Some of them are almost the most glorious things in the whole history of our education. If I might refer to one, I think that Manchester Grammar School has a title to glory such that only one or two universities—perhaps only one—in this country could with complete confidence advance its banner in competition with it.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
These institutions get their capital from endowments; they receive more than three-quarters of their income from endowments. Of course he who pays the piper should call the tune, but, if the fellow who pays about a tenth of the piper is going to call all the tunes, that is going to be a little hard. This particular sort of school is in many ways the most democratic, the most libertarian, has the widest representation of income-background among its pupils; and there is no class of school to which we ought to be more tender. If schools of that sort are to be brought into any scheme based on this report, they must be brought in in a state of confidence that they are being brought into something of which they approve. I feel that at this moment they would not be so confident; a good deal of persuading needs to be done.
For instance, headmasters ought to be much clearer than they can be merely on the basis of the report that they will continue to have a considerable control over their own entry. I mean control rather in the French than in the English sense. I do not mean that they should have absolute control as to who should be admitted. I mean, rather, control in the sense in which the policeman at Piccadilly Circus controls the traffic, although he does not tell the No. 9 bus to go to Wood Green. There ought to be some such control on the part of the headmasters. There ought to be some taking into account of other things than English and arithmetic at the entry stage. I am bound 1783 to say that I am not so frightened of taking family into account as the hon. Member for Aberavon. I have had experience of it myself. I have no shame in saying that, when I was tutor of my college and controlled the entry, I took family into account. Once I thought that I had as reasonable a percentage as I was likely to get of any one class in the community, I always gave preference to other sections. I would take a boy whose father was unemployed before I would take the son of the richest man in England, if I thought the proportions of the college required it, and I did that more frequently than the other way round.
I think there is an excessive fear that the persons managing colleges and universities are going to use that sort of discrimination in a snobbish or improper way. But if you really have such a fear of the people who manage schools and colleges, I do not know why you want to have your children in their almost exclusive control from the age of four to the age of 16. There are many ways in which these schools ought to expect and receive more assurances and more explanation before the scheme as it concerns them is enforced upon them, and most particularly because it is mainly the existence of this sort of school that gives parents some opportunity of choice. A parent, really, does not hesitate between the Lot's Road Secondary School and Eton. There are very few parents who hesitate on that dilemma. But there is a considerable measure of choice which is represented by the existence of independent schools of the type of which Manchester Grammar School is perhaps one of the most glorious examples.
The most important sentence, almost, in the report is one which has not yet been mentioned. It says:The second party to be considered is the parent. It must be recognised as a governing principle that parents, over and above their general rights as citizens, have a dominant interest in the education of their own children.Although lip-service is almost always paid to that principle in these documents, I believe that unless the Board, in basing their policy on the report, in administering it later, and in bringing in any legislation which may be necessary before administration, remember that principle all the time, we shall be doing more harm than 1784 good, and that the eventual revolution will be in the wrong direction.
I am sorry to have taken up so much time, but there is still one other subject about which, with the indulgence of the House, I should like to speak for five minutes, namely, the document of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce. I have the same respect for them which I am sure they have for universities, and I would not for a moment say anything that might involve any risk of our parting brass-rags, but this document seems to me to show what could have been done with a little more education. To begin with, its title is:Report on the Commercial Employment of Students with Degrees in Commerce.So far, however, as one can tell from the rather confused argumentation in the body of the document, it does not mean that at all. It applies, not merely to students with degrees in commerce, but to students with all sorts of degrees. At the bottom of page 1, the statement is made that not more than 130 graduates—presumably not merely commercial graduates—go into commerce and industry. In fact, however, the figures for my own university, so far as is known to the Appointments Board—no doubt 25 per cent., and very possibly 50 per cent., would have to be added—show that from 1902 to 1911 the average number was 37. Just before the War it rose to 128. In the 10 years after the War the average was 184, and in the last 10 years the average has been 233. How, therefore, it is made out that from all the universities of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the sum total of entries into commerce is only 130, I am at a loss to know: nor is it easy to follow the way in which the evidence has been gathered. They speak of having consulted very many firms and so on. My information is that they in fact consulted four, and I am certain, because I have inquired, that many obvious firms have not been consulted.
Their method of gathering evidence is not clear, and their logic is even less clear. In the second paragraph on page 4 they say:This low figure is confirmed by the returns from various chambers of commerce. Only a small proportion of these replied at all, so indicating that in the majority of areas there is no employment of graduates.I think that this is almost the worst non sequitur I have ever seen. There is 1785 a slightly worse one on page 5, where, after all these denigratory negations, they suddenly break into a sort of song and dance without rhyme or reason, and say:The sub-committee is in agreement with the suggestion that it would be advantageous to British commerce if a larger proportion of university graduates were recruited.If, as the Motion asks, the Board of Education take these reports into consideration, I hope they will take the smaller of the two into consideration with a large bucket, of the kind in which A.R.P. sand is kept, but full of salt, under the table. As to the Spens Report I feel rather fifty-fiftyish: I think that on the whole it is probably a good report, but I would particularly plead that, when the Board read it, they will think of the Spens Report as a reminder that the parent ought to have the dominant interest in the education of his children. Further, and connected with that, I hope they will think particularly of the direct-grant schools and the schools in classes 2 and 3 of the Spens Report's classification.
§ 6. I 2 p.m.
Mr. O. Evans
The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) said in the earlier part of his speech that he wanted to have one more kick at one of these documents, and he proceeded to kick it very hard for some minutes. When I read the document some days ago, I wondered how it ever came to be raised to the dignity of being referred to on the Order Paper of this House; it was so obvious that its facts were wrong; and, if the facts are wrong, no one knows where the deductions are. I rise with great hesitation to take part in this Debate, because, in the first place, I do not profess to be an expert in education or in the practice of the profession of education. We have heard in the Debate a series of hon. Members who have spent their lives in education at universities and in schools. I am not one of those, and I do not profess to be; and I am not, therefore, going to deal with the technical aspects of the report. I am one of the very simple industrialists who consider it to be a matter of some importance to have a supply of well educated, well trained people for the purposes of carrying on productive industry and commerce.
I confess that it never occurred to me to think either that education was a burden on industry or that industry was a burden on education. If industry is a 1786 burden on education, and if the leaders in industry are dependent upon hon. Members and others like them who teach and train the youth of this country to come into industry, all I want to say is that it is all-important that the system of education should be efficient and should provide the best material. I look upon the Motion as somewhat weak and colourless, and, although the Amendment, which was more challenging, was out of order, I should have been glad if there had been a discussion upon it, so that we might have got from the Government a real declaration of policy with regard to secondary education. It looks to me as though the Motion had been carefully designed to enable the Government to delay making a definite pronouncement of their policy in regard to education.
The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Somerville) has drawn attention in the terms of the Motion tothe severity of international competition in tradeand I can assure the House that the severity of that competition is not growing any less. Then the Motion refers to the necessity ofa sufficient supply of persons of well-trained character and brainsfor industry and commerce. I happen to have some considerable experience in selecting men for industry and commerce, and I know that both industry and commerce are looking for people of the best brains and character. The source of supply is our own young people. They cannot be imported from abroad. We depend on the home product, and the quality of that must depend on the training given by our educational system. It is all-important, therefore, to have an efficient, well thought-out and coordinated system of secondary education. The Motion and the speech of the hon. Member for Windsor, and the speeches of the other hon. Members, imply that the product we get now in industry is not so good as it might be. The Board of Education appear to think so too, and certainly the Spens Report reflects that opinion. Here we have a report extending over 400 pages, which must have cost a lot of money and on which a host of experts have spent a lot of their valuable time. If the report were equal to the keynote contained in the words which the authors have placed on the title page it would give us some inspira- 1787 tion for the future. There is on the title page a French sentence which is apparently to be the spirit behind our education in future. A literal translation of this sentence is,Each person should be within reach of receiving the education which is proper to him,or a freer translation, perhaps, would be,Each person should be able to receive the education which befits him.That, obviously, should be the ultimate goal of our system of education. The committee's recommendations are directed towards that. Their object is that no single child should be forgotten in the mass of children. That would mean more and better qualified teachers, smaller classes and better equipped buildings; and that would cost money. If the authors of this report are inspired by the spirit of that French quotation on the title page, we are in for some great additional expenditure on education, better equipped schools, and more and better qualified teachers. I deplore one idea in reference to education, and that is the reference to the expression which is often used, "a liberal education." That seems to be used in the sense of a liberal education for one class only, and something different for the masses. The only way to enable industry to-day to get recruits who are well qualified and prepared for their duties is to see that people have their intelligence broadened and their intellectual equipment enlarged by people of intelligence who possess the faculty of understanding the processes and workings of industry. No one in this House will claim that we have yet reached that high standard. The material from schools is very often poor. The rejections often are many, and although we have the raw material in abundance the means of polishing is not yet perfect.
I consulted the heads of some factories of an engineering character in the industry with which I am concerned. I asked the head of one, "How do you recruit your drawing office staff and the technical juniors in the works?" and his reply was significant. He said, "I always communicate with the headmasters of the schools in the area where the factories are situated, and the headmaster recommends candidates, to whom we give another test, as we find that the position of a boy in the school is no indication of intelligence. A short 1788 intelligence test is applied in all cases. In face of that, what does the hon. Member propose? He proposes simply that the Government should consult the local education authorities and other educational interests, in order to decide what they are going to do with this report. I submit that that is putting the cart before the horse. What the House wants is a declaration from the Government of what they have in view on this report. Let them make their statement, definite and clear, and then submit that to the local authorities for their comments.
I want particularly to refer to that part of the report relating to the problems of Wales, and I want the Minister to bear in mind the remarks I am making on this when he comes to reply. The Consultative Committee of the Board of Education realised that Wales had its own special problems. In spite of that admission, they devote seven pages to dealing with Wales out of over 400 pages. That is in spite of their statement that it is necessary to consider these special problems in applying their recommendations to the schools in Wales. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) mentions the much higher percentage of children who go from elementary schools to secondary schools in Wales than in England. In 1937, the percentage in England was 13.4, and in Wales 25.9, or nearly twice as much. There is also a much higher percentage of pupils who go from the secondary and intermediate schools to universities in Wales than in England. The Government must recognise that Wales has its own special problems. Does the Minister intend to appoint a consultative committee to deal with the problems of Wales?
They should, otherwise they would not understand the problems. There is the bilingual problem, for one thing. The bilingual problem in Wales implies the right to use the language, not only in commerce and industry but in all public places, in the public services, in councils and in the courts. This House has embarked on a policy with regard to the Welsh language, and it cannot reverse that policy now. It must go forward. It has recognised the language as a cultural means, and as an intellectual test in examinations. It is also recognised as 1789 useful for commercial work in Wales itself. We cannot resist the recognition of this language in all circles. Will the Minister consider the question of Wales again, especially in view of the fact that it has its own Statute, the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, 1889, which recognises that the problems of Wales differ in essentials from those of England?
I want to refer only to two other points. The hon. Member for Windsor referred to the impression of a master's personality on a pupil. That is an extremely important feature of school life. The question of personality, whatever anybody says, is extremely important in commerce and industry—that indefinable quality of demeanour and of charm, which is so valuable in the higher ranks of commercial life. That, I am bound to say, plays almost a predominant part in the selection of candidates for the higher posts, particularly in commerce. It does so, indeed, in the selection of candidates, too, for the higher posts of the Civil Service. I remember one instance in my own knowledge in connection with the higher branches of the Civil Service. It was the case of a young Welshman from one of our university colleges who in the examination one year came third in the list. He was rejected on the interview. The second year he came first, and he was rejected on the interview again. That proves that there was a glaring fault in the training of that young man, or stark, staring stupidity on the part of the interviewer.
The same thing occurs in industry. The technical importance of education in this country cannot be exaggerated to-day. Everybody who is in touch with industry realises the difficulties which have been met with in the extensive rearmament programme of this country because products have had to be imported from abroad, from Germany and other countries. There are weaknesses in our structure because they are not being produced in this country, and this country, if it embarks upon a real liberal policy with regard to refugees from Germany and elsewhere, will benefit very considerably. I know from my own experience that even to-day some of the best experts in certain branches of productive industry are settled in this country and that already considerable work is forthcoming. Therefore, let us now take advantage of the opportunity which is given to us.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I have never hesitated to speak in this House more than on this occasion. Perhaps I ought to explain to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Windsor (Mr. Somerville), who moved the Motion, that my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) is indisposed and consequently I am taking his place. I hesitate to speak because I am the only uneducated person who has so far taken part in the Debate. If hon. Members will take note of the little book that we have here and read the careers of hon. Gentlemen who have spoken, they will see that they are practically all scholars and wranglers, whatever the latter may mean. I have, however, as a layman, certain views on education which I would like to put to the House. I have just one qualification for speaking on education and one only. I was a member of the Manchester education authority for many years, and I was privileged in the Manchester City Council to move a motion in 1921, which was carried, to make all places in our secondary schools within the city free without fee, and of all the achievements of which I have been proud in public life, that is almost the greatest. It was left to the party opposite, however, 10 years later to destroy all that, and paying for secondary education is now the vogue, except for what they call special places. Unless I am mistaken, among the many speeches I have delivered in this House this is one of the first, if not the only occasion upon which I have said a word, upon education.
The hon. Member who moved the Motion called our attention to the Spens Report on Secondary Education, and to the report of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce. I think we shall find that by this time the report of the Committee of the British Chambers of Commerce has been demolished by ridicule and that there is nothing left of it. They want a new statistician in that Chamber, and unless I am mistaken they want a new secretary, and certainly, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) said, they surely want more education than we see displayed in this report, with which he dealt so very effectively.
I look upon education very largely from my own experience. I left the ele- 1791 mentary school at 12, having learnt the three R's, and I commenced to work; and after the 18 years during which I have sat in the House of Commons I have to make a confession. When hon. and right hon. Gentlemen speak I envy them their knowledge and information, and above all the neat way in which they get hold of the right word and put it in the right place, which I cannot do myself because of lack of education. [HON. MEMBERS: "No.''] That is so, and it is no use blinking the fact at all. I do not know where or when Cromwell was born, and I do not know what Queen Anne's Bounty is either, but hon. Gentlemen around me can quote all these things with ease. I view education as a very excellent walking stick; and I liked one thing above all which the hon. Gentleman put forward in his speech to-day. He emphasised personality, and I am sure he would go further and emphasise character too, especially in the teaching profession. The little knowledge of education that I have leads me to the view that a school depends not only on its location and its tradition, but probably more than anything else upon the spirit and the personality of the master or mistress and the teachers in the school.
I have read portions of the report which we are now discussing and I have my own views upon some aspects of it, but to-day the Debate has turned round the problem of securing better technical education in this country. I suppose that the ruling classes of our country have come to the conclusion that we are being left behind by more skilled and more highly technically qualified peoples in other parts of the world. I have just been to America, and when I knew that the Spens Report had been issued I made some inquiries in America as to what was happening there in education. Quite frankly, although I do not want to be critical of the American citizen, apart from the cultural aspect of his education, I feel satisfied that if he wanted to compete with us in the markets of the world he could defeat us in almost every sphere of life. They pay more attention to education of all kinds. I was told that in the City of New York alone there are 75,000 students in the two universities in that City.
§ Mr. Davies
That depends upon the point of view. There are over 2,000,000 students in all the colleges and universities of America. I found something else very interesting that differs from our system. Under the education system in this country—I cannot tell the reason why—when a boy or girl obtains a degree, it is assumed that he or she must enter one of the professions. In America that is not so. I saw Masters of Art and Bachelors of Science behind the counters in coffeehouses and in shops. I am not sure which of the two systems is correct, but I am certain that there is a caste system deep down in the hearts and minds of the people who control the education system of our country.
Hon. Gentlemen shake their heads when we put that point of view, but let me say something else about education. I know this to be the fact. I know parents who have actually borrowed money at exorbitant rates of interest and have mortgaged their own cottages in order to provide the means with which to educate their children. That has happened very often. The one thing that strikes me more than anything else about our education system is that you can actually buy higher education in this country, both secondary, and college and university education, provided you have the money. If there is any protest from these benches that we can make more effectively than anything else, it is that education is still at a premium in this great country. I do not quite understand the attitude of mind of the people who control our education system, because if their speeches in this House counted for anything all higher education would be absolutely free. Take the speeches of hon. Gentlemen in this House to-day. The first speech was as Liberal and almost as Socialist as any speech could be. The hon. Gentleman compared a child of the unemployed person to the child of the rich person, but it is quite different when we come down to finance and administration. The speeches in this House make no difference at all to our education system. The speeches we hear here are not speeches which are translated into our administration. It is very much easier for the rich child to secure higher education, although he may be dull, than it is for the intelligent child of the poor man to secure the same kind of higher education.
1793 I have been trying to find out what is education. I have seen a number of definitions, but I will give my own. As far as I understand it, elementary education simply teaches the boy or girl to earn a livelihood in industry, and that is about all. When a child goes to a secondary school he is compelled to do one thing, which is more important than all the rest. He is taught how to think for himself, and education, in my opinion, means in effect the power and ability of a person to do his own thinking. That is to say, a person may read the "Daily Mail," the "Daily Herald," the "Daily Express," the "Manchester Guardian" and the "Yorkshire Post"—he may read them all—and read "Punch" in addition, and after that is done, he will say to himself, "I will make up my own mind and draw my own conclusions in spite of what anybody else may say about these things." That seems to me to be the essence of education.
In the speeches that have been delivered to-day there was an undue bias towards technical education, though that, of course, is the essence of the Spens Report. I know there is a conflict of opinion—I heard it expressed when I was a Member of the governing body of the Manchester College of Technology—that if you educate a boy or girl up to a given point, you have fitted him or her for almost any vocation; a boy could take up any vocation provided you gave him a general education. I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary a question. I remember what used to be experienced. I do not know whether it exists now. There are junior technical schools in some parts of the country.
§ Mr. Davies
I came up against the problem that before a boy in a junior technical school could be admitted into the College of Technology he had to matriculate. I do not know whether that exists now. The argument against that was that the boy in a junior technical school was never taught the subjects that would allow him to matriculate, and that consequently you could have in an industrial town a large number of boys in a junior technical school who were not allowed to proceed to the College of Technology in the same town because they had not matricu- 1794 lated. I come, therefore, to the question of examinations. I am not sure whether a combination of all the examinations is a correct solution, but I am satisfied that, if we are to extend technical education in this country, there ought to be a better relationship between the junior technical schools and the colleges of technology than I found when I last studied this problem.
Let me turn again to secondary education. I am told that only 14 per cent. of the children in England pass from the elementary schools to the secondary schools, and I am authoritatively informed too that at least 75 per cent, of our elementary schoolchildren would benefit by secondary education if they had a chance. In Wales the figure is very much higher, as one might expect. In the last Parliament I do not think there would have been much of a Labour party or a Liberal party without Welshmen; and without being boastful, I may claim that Welshmen acquitted themselves wonderfully well in that Parliament. That is one of the results of better education. It is stated by people who are capable of judging, that 75 per cent. of the elementary schoolchildren of this country, who proceed to industry and work at 4d. or 6d. an hour, would benefit by secondary education.
Let me enlarge upon that point. When we stipulate, as we do now, that a child is to sit for examination for secondary education purposes at the age of 11 or 12, it is assumed that you can determine whether the child at that age will or will not benefit by secondary education. Quite frankly, I think that is wrong. There are children who never develop until they are 15 or 16. There are some who come to this House on to the Tory benches who have never developed until 60, although I must congratulate the Mover of the Resolution, because he has certainly developed. Is it not true that in this discussion we are faced with a very old problem? The industrialists, the financiers and the bankers have suddenly awakened to the fact that we cannot sell our goods in the markets of the world against foreign competition because our workers are not skilled enough. That is behind the whole of this business.
The hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) knows more about the Lancashire textile industry than I do, but if I am correct in my assumption that the 1795 industrialists are becoming afraid that our children are not properly educated on the technical side for the purpose of making industry more successful, then the industrialists must do something else. Apart altogether from the setting up of higher technical institutions for teaching these boys and girls, they must do one thing, for we shall certainly be faced with this problem when the new technical schools are established. We must say whether these children shall enter these technical institutions free of charge or be called upon to pay fees. I know of one concern that has established its own educational institution for the purpose of its own industry. I do not know what is going to be done in respect of these institutions when we proceed with the work that the Spens Committee has advocated.
Let me say a few words on what we called multilateral institutions. I am glad that the hon. Member for Windsor has spoken in favour of one of the main propositions of the Trades Union Congress. They made that suggestion, I understand, to the Spens or the Hadow Committee. The Spens Committee asks for one code. The Trades Union Congress went one step further and asked for one code and one roof. In our education system that problem ought to be inquired into by the Board, because it is clear that if you have three separate institutions under your secondary school code you will have the same differentiation in the minds of the parents as you have now. Therefore, I agree with the hon. Member on that point. I know intimately a very splendid new school, which is called a selective central school, and it seems to me that in this new district where this particular school is situated there is no reason why the suggestion made by the hon. Member as to multilateralism should not begin in such an institution.
I might mention one thing that I have learned in my travels. I learn more by travel than by reading. Wherever I go, when I come back to my own country, I am proud of it in comparison with other countries. I never say a word ill of my country when I am travelling in foreign countries, but I will say it here. There is a class division facing you wherever you go in this country. This Eton and Harrow business is more than a name and more than a school. It determines a class distinction in this country, which can be 1796 found even inside this House of Commons, and I want to protest against it. If the Spens Committee's report can do anything more than other reports, it ought to aim at democratising our education system.
There is a new problem which faces us now. I represent, unfortunately, and yet fortunately, one of the poorest districts in the country, where unemployment among men has been about 50 per cent. for the last eight or 10 years. I know one distressed area where a little child, almost a baby, passing out of standard I, was asked by the teacher: "What would you like to be when you grow up?" The child answered, "I want to work on the dole, like father." That is a new problem in education, which we find in the distressed areas. Hon. Members who come from the rich parts of the country talk of free places in secondary schools. Let me tell them that there are thousands of people in my Division whose children under the present system will never receive any higher education at all.
The distribution of wealth in this country is such that the rich are becoming richer, just as the poor are becoming poorer. When I say that, hon. Members will reply that the poor are not poorer than they were before. Of course, they are not. They are better off than they used to be, but poverty must not be measured by the poverty of to-day in comparison with that of 50 years ago; it must be measured by the poverty which prevails side by side with the riches of the country, and when we measure poverty from that angle, the working classes of this country are poorer than ever they were. When the Minister deals with the question of higher education, free places and special places he must remember that there are patches in this country which so far as educational facilities are concerned are in an intolerable plight. I appeal to him—he is a young man, very much younger than I am—that in his work at the Board of Education he will remember these patches of poverty in our own land, where children will not get secondary education unless he alters his policy.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Kenneth Lindsay)
This is almost a unique 1797 occasion, at any rate for many years, in that we have had a Debate this afternoon on the subject matter of education. The subjects with which I have to deal in answer to questions in this House refer to milk, school buildings, teeth, and so forth, which are extremely important, but to-day we have got rather nearer to a Debate on the essence of education than I can remember for many years past. It was also interesting to hear one whom I may call a layman, from the benches opposite, winding up for the Opposition, because, much as I regret that many other speakers were not able to address the House, there was a slightly new note in some of the remarks which the hon. Member made. I must take exception to one sentence which he uttered. He said that he had just returned from the United States of America—I am not sure how long he was there—and that if they wanted they could beat us on any subject, because of their better education system. I have been in every State in the Union of America, and in a great many universities there, and I lived there for several years, and I do not for one moment think the hon. Member's statement is true. It is true to say that in America they have more of what one might call the broad highway—
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
What I meant was that in relation to the practice of industry they are better qualified, technically. That is what I meant.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I dispute the statement equally on that ground. Although in America they have their open, broad highway, so that every child born, say, in the State of Nebraska is a prospective Bachelor of Arts of that State, every year they are specialising and selecting in order to keep the highest standard of product going through their secondary schools to the universities.
In regard to the latter part of the hon. Member's speech, which dealt with the class system, as he called it, in this country, I should like to say a few words in relation to the Spens Report. We are all grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. Somerville), who has many old pupils among our colleagues in this House, for giving us this chance of a preliminary skirmish, for that is what it is, on the report of the Consultative Committee. The Consultative Committee is a permament committee. Ministers are apt to change at 1798 the Board of Education. Therefore, we must have something permanent. The committee goes on and has been working for the last five years preparing its report, and I think it is a tribute to the value of the report and the prestige of the chairman that in the Official Orders of this House it is now known as the Spens Report. We were all delighted to note the recent honour which Sir William Spens has received.
The report can be divided into three parts, relating to the past, the present and the future. I want, if I can, to avoid as much educational jargon as possible and try to discuss the report in the human terms of children and schools. The first part is the historical section. It traces the whole history of the grammar school from the Middle Ages, and I would commend this learned chapter to all those who are interested in the social history of the country. It is a very remarkable document. Secondly, there is the section which deals with the curriculum, technical high schools and the school certificate. My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor, and the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) have referred to the technical high schools and multilateralism. The position of direct grant institutions was referred to by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), and they include bodies like Manchester Grammar School and Bradford Grammar School, which have most glorious traditions in the education system of this country. The questions relating to these institutions and the private schools will, of course, be dealt with by the Board as soon as possible. I think, however, sufficient difference of opinion has been shown here this afternoon to make it clear that the Board of Education is not going to make up its mind next week or the week after, on technical high schools and multilateralism. There are subtle questions involved and I am myself by no means convinced by several parts of what is said. What the committee does, however, is to carry rather further much what teachers and administrators have been feeling and saying for some time past.
The third part of the report deals with administration. I am not sure whether most hon. Members know that the Board of Education does not exercise direct control over education in this country. There are 315 local authorities, and of these about 170 are called Part III authorities 1799 which control elementary education. There are also about 140 which are called Part II authorities and which control both elementary and higher education. In Chapter IX of this report we seem to be ascending the Mount of Pisgah and seeing about 140 Part II leopards lying down with 170 Part III lambs in the promised land where Regulations and Burnham Scales will cease from troubling. It is an ideal picture, but everyone with specialist knowledge must be aware that we are entering on a very difficult field if we think that we can immediately out very much of this chapter IX into operation. I think much in it will make an appeal to all of us. We have in this country a very untidy system of education. Anyone who has read the historical section of this report will see that the reasons for this are obvious. We have inherited a long and varied tradition, where a strong voluntary system and old foundations exist side by side with schools which have been built since 1902. It is part of the English way of life to devise appropriate methods to suit particular needs irrespective of whether they fit neatly into the system.
I go further and I say that the real issue is not between the old and the new. The real issue here is between national organisation and local character. Efficiency demands system and system demands uniformity and uniformity ousts local character. Therefore, there is a much more fundamental issue than may at first sight appear to some hon. Members, and much as I would sympathise with the plea of the hon. Member for Aberavon for a more national scheme in this country, and I shall come to that in a moment, I agree with the statement which he made towards the end of his speech, that it is wrong that a child born in one area should have a less chance than a child born in another area. But the reason for that is that we have 315 local education authorities with something like autonomy over a very wide field of their administration and whatever the arguments for unifying secondary education I would make this generalisation, that regulations must follow realities, and not precede them. There is no good in calling things the same when they are utterly different. With regard to the point about Wales raised by the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. O. Evans), whose 1800 speech was one of the few which faintly supported the Chambers of Commerce report, a question which the hon. Member for Aberavon also mentioned, while the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) spoke of the distressed areas generally—it is true that Wales has a higher percentage of secondary schools, but 30 per cent. of the boys and 31 per cent. of the girls leave before the age of 16, and that is not secondary education.
§ Mr. Lindsay
It may be, but do not let us confuse two different things. There are plenty of areas in England where comparable education is being given in schools which are not called secondary schools, and in saying that I speak from what I have seen up and down the country in the last two or three years. Let me take one example. We are in the middle of reorganising our elementary schools. Reorganisation does not mean just segregating the older children. It means putting into practice a curriculum which is suitable not only to the town but to the countryside, and suitable for children between 11 and 15. Much of the reorganisation at present is, indeed, makeshift.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I did not say so. What I said was that in certain areas, work was going on in schools which were not called secondary schools which was comparable with the work being done in schools in Wales, which are called secondary schools. With the children leaving the schools before 16, I think that is very obvious.
To associate the senior school at this stage with the more academic curriculum and the external certificate examination of the secondary schools, would be disruptive and harmful. Apart from this personal view, there is the question which the hon. Member for Aberavon also raised of finance. I would like him to believe that it is not only a question of the different standards. I do not think we have achieved anything like parity yet, but there is the question of local expenditure. Ask any local authority whether even if 1801 there were agreement on the measures to be taken they would be prepared to face the heavy additional expenditure that would be involved in Chapter IX of the report. The President of the Directors' Association only the other day asked for what he called "a close season for new educational proposals." I think I see his point, and I do not think that will deflect us from going ahead immediately we see the way.
But even if we could get the extra money required, I would not advise spending it on more secondary education or on the proposals in Chapter IX. At present hon. Members opposite at Question Time, frequently ask me whether we cannot improve conditions in the schools. I say bluntly that I think it would be more prudent to spend that money on objects that would give immediate benefit to the children—improved conditions in the schools, and a more complete system of nutrition and greater opportunities for the poorer children to get higher education. Those three things, in my opinion, come before putting into practice vast new administrative schemes.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Will the hon. Gentleman say whether the Board would be prepared to allow a local authority to do those things?
§ Mr. Lindsay
I think that is a fair question. I say that at the present moment I would sooner see those things done first, but I have something further to say, and I would ask hon. Members in all parts of the House to bear with me in saying it. I think it is impossible to go very much further in educational changes in this country without a reconsideration of the financial relations between the central and the local government. I do not believe that many local authorities, including those in the distressed areas, could bear the expenditure. Therefore I am glad to think that there are informal conversations going on now between the Board and the representatives of the local education authorities.
My last word on this part of the subject is that we are spending now probably more money on education in this country than we have ever spent before. This year will be the highest and we are spending more on a smaller number of children. It is perfectly true that the proportion, as between elementary and secondary capital expenditure, has changed and as the hon. 1802 Member opposite mentioned the fact I will give him the exact figures. Last year the percentages were about 72 for elementary and 18 for secondary. This year about 80 per cent. is for elementary and 13 per cent. for secondary. I hope that I have killed, once and for all this bogy about economy. There is no economy whatever on capital expenditure in education. There is a change in the distribution of the balance as between elementary and secondary but the total is higher than it has ever been before, and as statements have been made about this all over the country, it is only right that I should make it plain that, as far as we are concerned, economy has not yet started at the Board of Education and I think it is a little unfair of hon. Members opposite to represent in the country that we are economising on education.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I was not particularly going into the question of pride. I was trying to correct a misrepresentation which has been going about the country. I would very much like to discuss with the hon. and gallant Member the question of whether or not we are getting value for this expenditure but that is a different question, and one day I hope the House will discuss it.
Now I come to the question of commerce and the Motion. I think the hon. Member for Ecclesall (Sir G. Ellis) and the hon. Member for Cambridge University have so hammered and deflated the Chambers of Commerce report that there is little left for me to say about it. But I think the subject is more important than the document. What do we mean by commerce and by education for commerce? As I understand it, we are not talking about technical education. The hon. Member for Westhoughton went into that in some detail, but it is not "on the agenda" on this occasion. We are dealing here with professional and semiprofessional occupations such as banking, insurance, accountancy, transport, office work—which may be with merchanting firms or on the sales side of industrial firms—salesmanship, retail and distributive trades, buyers, importers and exporters and the rest, and I would ask the House to beware of having a too rigid system in this country. We do not edu- 1803 cate for a specific thing. We like to keep what is called "vertical mobility," or the chance to rise and to change jobs.
Secondly, what do we mean by education for commerce? There are several different stages at which a person enters commerce. There are those who go into commerce from the elementary schools as most children do—I should say 90 per cent. There are those who go in from what are called junior commercial schools, of which there are only about 50 in this country with an annual output of about 3,000 children.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I am glad that the hon. Baronet reminded me of that. There are also entrants from the central schools, especially in London; there are the secondary schools, and finally there are the universities. There is one rather important aspect of commercial education which has been glossed over to-day, and is not particularly mentioned in the Spens Report, and that is part-time education. Hon. Members in London will know of the excellent work of the City of London College, and there are other such colleges of high standing in the provinces. They do a good deal of part-time work. There are no less than 500,000 entries for evening courses in this country in professional and commercial subjects. I would appeal to hon. Members and I wish there were more of them who have a first-hand acquaintance with business to help us in framing appropriate schemes for the training of young workpeople. I think it will be agreed that on broad lines we have been greatly helped by the Certificates in Commerce. Now with the help of the Chambers of Commerce there is a national scheme.
I am a warm advocate, as a matter of principle, of part-time education for commerce, for industry and for agriculture, and I look forward to the day when very boy and girl in this country will spend at least one day or its equivalent in some form of school, as is done at Rugby, and as is done in some parts of Central Europe to-day, and by some of the more enlightened firms in this country. In addition to the subjects taken, I should like to see some time given to physical exercises, and what I would call in the broadest sense, training in some element- 1804 ary notion of what citizenship means to-day.
I propose now to concentrate on the more complicated subject of secondary schools. The hon. Member for Windsor, whose experience goes back so far, will remember that when he was a member of the Secondary Schools Examination Council a more or less standard curriculum was set up. A new type of school was coming in, and the school certificate was invented. On the whole, the secondary schools have done very good work, as Sir Cyril Norwood mentioned the other day, but since the War certain new factors have come on the scene. What are they? The first is that secondary schools have become more closely linked with the universities. One of the reasons for that is that a successful school is apt to be measured by the number of scholarships it wins at a university. Another reason is that most of the teachers being university men think a university education is the culmination of a secondary school career. Then a greater percentage of pupils have tended to enter professional, commercial or clerical occupations. In 1921, about 26 per cent. went into commerce, the professions and clerical work, but the figure last year was 42 per cent. I do not propose to analyse this increase, but my suspicion is that it is due to an increase of boys and girls going into the Civil Service. I am not sure that it is evidence that these schools are more closely linked with commercial life.
Lastly, educational opinion has moved steadily in favour of greater attention being given to the needs of the individual child. Evidence of this can be seen in the recent changes in the school certificate, which was carried out as a result of overwhelming public opinion and endorsed by the Spens Committee. These factors, among others—one has been mentioned by the hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield, the increasing severity of foreign competition—have only underlined the need for a review of our system, and to show that we are alive to that need I will mention four valuable reports. There was the report in 1931 of the Committee on Education for Salesmanship, presided over by Sir Francis Goodenough; the report of the Committee on Post-Certificate Education for Commerce; and the very interesting report, issued last year, on the Organisation and Curriculum of the Sixth Form, 1805 in which a special chapter was devoted to commercial work which I commend hon. Members to read. Finally, we have the two reports which hon. Members have been considering to-day. If hon. Members read nothing else, I would beg them to read Chapter IV of the Spens Report. I doubt whether there is more wisdom in any document which has come from the Board of Education for many years than there is in this document. Let me quote one passage:The advance in technological knowledge and practice in the last 40 years has been greater than in the whole previous history of our civilisation.That is a very big statement, and should be reflected in our educational system. The second paragraph is even more interesting to me:There are, in fact, minds whose energies are released only by studies which have the directly envisaged goal of a vocational training. In such cases the vocational education is in the fullest sense liberal.If Spens had said nothing else, I should be grateful to him for that because it helps to break down that hideous divorce between so-called vocational and so-called cultural education. Let me read two other passages:The curiosity of children of secondary school age about the practical concerns and activities of the great world is frequently so strong as to amount to a passion.For the majority of pupils we think that the school itself should adopt a unified principle in its curriculum, and we recommend that it be found in the teaching of English.If only a larger number in our schools could speak the English language and did not have their appreciation of literature ruined by text books, this beautiful language would be more appreciated in commerce. The report goes on to deal with mathematics and science, commercial subjects and geography, and the rural colour—this will please the hon. Member for Windsor—which should distinguish secondary schools in the country districts. That does not mean that you should teach milking, but that you should take advantage of the fact that many of these old schools are to be found in some of the most beautiful parts of England.
I think I can sum up our attitude towards training for commerce in secondary schools in this way. The basis must be a good general education, but a special bent can be given in secondary schools towards commerce. It is quite possible, without adopting such monstrosities as 1806 "Commercial English or French," to teach subjects like geography and mathematics in a broad way so as to arouse interest in the world of commerce. I should deprecate, as a general rule, the teaching of office arts in secondary schools before 16. They can be much better taught elsewhere; but one must also recognise that such teaching is given and that nearly 2 per cent. of the entrants for the School Certificate took what are called commercial subjects last year. It is up to us to see that the conditions under which such training is given are satisfactory. Finally, there is a definite place—I am speaking for the Board of Education—for a one-year course for persons between 16 and 17 years of age who are going into commerce. Perhaps hon. Members who are interested in this point will read the section on such courses in the pamphlet to which I have already referred. Commerce has always been a suspected intruder. It has, by a rather hole-and-corner way, got into the school premises; it has been identified with typing and shorthand, and thought unworthy to rank with more academic careers. This will not do. Education for commerce is only one form of a more modern outlook in all secondary education.
Before I pass on to say a few words about the universities I want to make this general observation. It is not my place—it belongs to the province of the Board of Trade—to interpret the meaning of the phrase "growing severity of international competition in trade," but I have discussed this problem with many business men, and also observed on the spot in South America and in the Dominions some of the remarkable changes which modern business concerns who have maintained their markets have made in their whole technique. In these businesses nothing is left to chance from market research and sales-planning to salesmen with a profound technical knowledge of their product. It would seem that successful firms take infinite trouble over training their own members, and what they ask from public and secondary schools, and to a less extent universities, is young men with real personality and a capacity for hard work, a higher percentage of the best product of our schools. This means, in effect, that this country can no longer live on the accumulations of the past, when we opened up the world with our shipping, our insurance, our 1807 banks and our exploitation of the mineral resources of the Empire. We have now to take our coats off and face an entirely new world competition. We are literally fighting for our lives, and we do no harm in reminding the growing generation of that fact. Indeed, it should be reflected throughout the whole of our educational system. How are our colleges and universities facing this situation?
I am not going into detail into the question of the training for business in our universities. They are autonomous bodies and do not come under the jurisdiction of the Board of Education, but they are, I understand, fully aware of the importance of the questions at issue. In my own experience, whether it is among the building trades or the Co-operative movement, or what is known as "the City," a very big factor in job-finding is the influence of the family and relations. That is true of commerce, of all shades of commerce, because family businesses are still very much in vogue of which no appointments board can possibly have complete knowledge. But there is rather more to it than that. It is only in very large concerns, large enough to be almost like the Civil Service that there is a wide range of occupations for a man with a university degree, unless he is a chemist, a scientist, an accountant or a lawyer. It is for these reasons that firms recruit more and more from the secondary schools and then train the man in their own business, rather than take him from the university.
It has been my privilege to see during these last 18 months every type of school all over the country, including that controversial but quiet part of England represented, Mr. Speaker, by yourself. It is no accident that we live in an age of inquiry. Among the inquiries of to-day the Spens Report stands out as a classic document which will be read wherever the English tongue is spoken. When we have said all we can about education, commercial education, industrial education, and agricultural education—and it needs saying—you cannot measure the fruits of education in commercial terms. Character and tolerance, decency between man and man, clarity of mind—these are the imponderables and they weigh mightily in war as well as in peace, in commerce and industry, as also in our daily conversation and social life. For these reasons I 1808 am glad there is to be no Division in this House to-night, and I hope hon. Members will go away and re-read the Spens Report.
That, in view of the growing severity of international competition in trade and the consequent need to attract into the service of commerce and industry a sufficient supply of persons of well-trained character and brains, this House considers it desirable that the Board of Education should consult with the local education authorities and the other educational interests for the purpose of determining how far the recommendations of the Spens Report on Secondary Education and the Report of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce on the Commercial Employment of Students with Degrees in Commerce, or modifications of such recommendations, should be carried into effect.