§ Question again proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."892
§ 5.13 p.m.
I was about to make an announcement about further relaxations with regard to technical colleges. The position now is that, in view of the importance of those institutions from the point of view of national efficiency and morale, the Government are considering whether they can make further relaxations. Refuge accommodation must, of course, be made available within suitably strong parts of the building or within other parts suitably protected, but refuge accommodation need not be for the full numbers who might be attending at the institution. This is only reasonable. It means that there would be equivalent protection for every person within the institution, and in some cases, there is only a 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. attendance. This has now been agreed to. I come to the question of requisitioning, where the position varies very greatly. I have got out a few figures. In Manchester, out of 203 buildings, 19 were wholly commandeered, 93 were partly requisitioned for A.R.P., and 10 for first aid. In Liverpool, the figures are very much lower. In London, on the other hand, many of the buildings were lost. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Home Security has issued to all authorities and chief constables a circular asking them to release school buildings as soon as possible. In some cases, there will be joint occupation for Civil Defence and school purposes. I should like to say that the War Office has been most helpful in assisting us to get buildings released for school purposes.
They are also taking special measures to release a number of buildings, but I should like to go into that matter privately with the hon. Member, because it would take too long to go into it now.
I am afraid I cannot. It is going on every day. In the first few weeks we got boys' clubs; then we got evening institutes, and now we are getting schools. But until there is the opportunity for a more comprehensive survey than is possible now it would be idle to try to give a figure for the whole country. Subject always to the overriding considerations of the war and war necessities—and no responsible person could say that the danger has now passed—we are trying to stabilise the position in each area, and to bring all the senior children and those under 11 as well under some form of educational provision. It is impossible to give an accurate figure but, roughly speaking, there are 900,000 children in the evacuation areas. There are about 1,700,000 in the neutral areas, and I should say about 2,500,000 in the reception areas. I wish I could say that they were all at school. Owing to the time taken in securing protection, and the number of schools commandeered it has not yet been possible for us to reach that happy position. To some laymen there would appear to have been excessive prudence on the part of some of the neutral and reception authorities, but here again one can only with diffidence express a personal view. Strange as it may seem, the children all want to go back to school. There is the story of a London boy aged 13 who was found in bed at midday and who, on being asked why he did not get up, replied, "There is nothing to get up for." I think there is an almost tragic note in that reply. The boy had probably been running round for some weeks and was just feeling "fed up."
Before I get down to the real story of the educational position as it is, I must try to clear away one or two more points concerning financial and other difficulties, which have been raised by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman urged that the grant for A.R.P. in schools should be at the same rate as that for public A.R.P. He is probably aware that on 9th November my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, in reply to a question, stated that the Government had not been able to treat the special rates 894 of grant provided by the Air-Raids Precautions Act as applicable to expenditure on air-raid precautions in schools. It is not for me on this occasion to go into that point further except to say that I am not sure that the House fully appreciated my right hon. Friend's reply and I shall endeavour to explain it. The Board have already announced that Grant Regulations are about to be issued owing to the inapplicability of the old grant formula to war conditions—it is extremely complicated—and we are going to pay the same proportion of the authorities' expenditure, as was paid in the year 1937–38. There will be a minimum grant of 50 per cent. for A.R.P. expenditure. If the expenditure were brought into account for the purpose of calculating the proportion of the grant, some authorities would obviously get less than 50 per cent. and others more, but it will be a minimum of 50 per cent. Conversely, if such expenditure were left out of account, the poorer authorities would get a lower rate of grant. I only want to make the previous answer clear, and I do not think there is any point in going into that matter more fully, in an education Debate of this kind.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he realises that this is not giving anything to the local education authorities? If the expenditure were treated as part of the expenditure on school buildings, they would be entitled to 50 per cent. in any circumstances, but I would like to be informed about how they can obtain more than 50 per cent. under the procedure which he has indicated.
I am not suggesting that this is a great concession. I am trying to explain the answer given by my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
All I am concerned about is that the House should not be led to believe that this means any advantage to the local education authorities.
I have tried to explain the position as it stands. Apart from the A.R.P. grant it is unnecessary for me to explain the matter further to local authorities who are going to put in their accounts in the coming year. There is, however, a further point with regard to evacuation finance. It has been accepted all along the line that no reception 895 authority should be put to any extra expenditure because of evacuation. I want to make the position clear, because so many circulars have been issued during the last month or two that local authorities must find it extremely difficult to follow them. I have put them all in a folder myself in order to keep them very carefully. The expenditure attributable to the billeting fund or the evacuation fund is, first, expenditure on A.R.P. as far as it is attributable to evacuated children; second, expenditure on the hiring of premises for the ordinary school and out-of-school activities of these children; third, the additional expenditure on the conveyance of evacuated children to school; and, fourth, other educational expenditure of a kind which would not have been incurred by the sending authority but for evacuation. A good example of that is communal feeding. A circular is being issued containing valuable advice on every aspect of communal feeding. The overhead charges for communal feeding come under the billeting account, but any other expenditure, such as expenditure on teachers, school materials, and so on, will be borne by the evacuating authority who will receive the appropriate grant from the Board. I think hon. Members will agree that that is not treating education, from the point of view of evacuation, in a niggardly spirit. We have tried to make clear which is the new expenditure and to give it 100 per cent. grant.
Now I come to the most important point which was raised by the right hon. Gentleman about the school medical service. Anyone who is familiar with it, knows that this service has revolutionised the health of the school child during the last 30 years. I do not say that it is complete, but to those who feel that it has not done anything—and I do not imagine there are many such in this House—I would point out this fact. In 1913, from a sample taken in London it was found that 33 per cent. of the girls had unclean hair. In the year before the great evacuation it was only 3 per cent. I am not speaking of what happens on precise dates, but of samples which have been taken. This does show, at any rate, that the immediate problem which we have before us is made easier by the fact that we have a school medical service in the 896 evacuation areas, the neutral areas and the reception areas. At first, the concentration was on the reception areas and there followed in the wake of the evacuation a band of inspectors, doctors and nurses going out from London, Manchester and elsewhere to help out the straitened resources of the rural counties. Of course when London children were as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) said, scattered from the Wash to Land's End, there were difficulties in supplying a proper medical service, but, at any rate, a brave attempt has been made to meet the difficulties.
Then, as regards milk, there was the difficulty in getting money from home; there was in some cases a shortage of bottles and there were difficulties of transport owing to petrol rationing. But all these are now being overcome. As regards free meals, the problem hardly arose because owing to the billeting arrangements the children were all fed on the same basis. The provision of communal meals which was so wisely and encouragingly alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman is the natural extension of our school meals policy. As I have said, the overhead charges for all these communal meals will be charged to the billeting fund and the administration will be in the hands of the local education authorities. This scheme, obviously, relieves the householder and ensures proper meals. A price should be fixed to cover the cost of the food and it should be possible to get a really good meal, such as some of us have tasted at these centres, for anything from 2½d. to 4d.
In neutral areas where the schools are opening, the school medical service is operating. As I have said before, it is not so easy where there is only a skeleton service—as in the evacuation areas—but they are trying to keep the children clean, and now that the schools are being opened the service is being extended day by day. Take Manchester as an example. Manchester has half the normal staff available, the other half having been transferred to the reception areas. In other cities, the position is not so good. Some authorities have displayed great resource. Others have been so handicapped by the demands of Civil Defence, the commandeering of clinics and cleansing stations, and in other ways, 897 that they have neglected this aspect of the problem. I am only stating the facts now as far as I know them. I would add that the engines must now be reversed. If milk and meals and the school medical service were important before the war they are doubly important now. We are issuing immediately a further circular —a comprehensive circular—on the school dental service. Hon. Members must be a little patient. We were all very keen to get the children out 10 weeks ago and we are now trying every day to bring the education system back, as far as possible to the maximum of normality.
Now to refer to the problem of nursery schools. We have long been familiar with the problem of the under fives and the progress made with it before the war has been all too slow. But one of the effects of the war has been to face us with a novel problem. It is estimated that there are about 150,000 children under five in the reception areas. That is primarily a matter which comes under the Ministry of Health—but there are 40,000 unaccompanied children. Nursery schools are out of the question, and, on the other hand, it is not a problem which can be solved by creches and day nurseries. Owing to the natural interest in children shared in by all people alike, a number of very interesting voluntary schemes have been started in different parts of the country on the initiative of good people from women's institutes and other bodies. The Minister of Health and the President of the Board of Education are in the closest co-operation and have, I understand, worked out a satisfactory scheme for dealing with this problem.
Is it not the case that that scheme has been worked out for some time? When will it be put into force and why is it being held up? It cannot be the Ministers who are holding it lap. If it is the Treasury, then the House of Commons ought to know and express its view about the matter.
I do not think there is any holding up by any particular Department or person. The fact is that this is quite a novel problem. Those concerned have been working at it very hard with the assistance of the best experts in the country and I think they have now got an agreed scheme. It is not my place to announce it here to-day and I cannot go further now.
I hope they will. I want to make a reference now to the training colleges. Whatever people may say about teachers, everyone admits—those who did not realise it before realise it now—how much we owe to the professional skill and good will of the teachers, and I want to pay a tribute to the work of the training colleges in the last 10 weeks. I think they have weathered the storm in a remarkable way. About 40 out of 105 suffered dislocation, but in spite of obstacles all have a home, all but five are at work, and the returns available show 93 per cent. of last year's admissions.
I want to say a word about those who enter the training colleges. It is true that the armed Forces have taken away a number of male students, but the Board will recognise students as certificated teachers after five terms' training instead of six, and beginning next October the age of admission will be reduced to 17 from 18, so that intending teachers can complete their two years before entering the Army. These are, I think, two very reasonable concessions. In some cases colleges and students have been grouped together and have gained by the exchange. One university training department reports that despite all difficulties this has proved the most stimulating term of their experience, owing to the extra service that students have been able to render to school children in reception areas. This is a very interesting sidelight on the position. It may be that the very trouble which the training colleges have to face in providing training more closely related to the actual needs of the children, and the shedding of some of their traditional forms, may be a gain in the long run. In any case, I should like to congratulate the principals and the governing bodies on the way they have faced these last 10 weeks.
I must say something about the peculiarities of the Welsh position with regard to education. There is a very special problem of evacuation there, because of both official and unofficial evacuees. Out of 100,000 children who were expected, I think only 56,000 came from Liverpool and Birkenhead to the counties of Anglesey, Carnarvon, Carmarthen, Flintshire, Montgomeryshire, 899 and so on. And of those who arrived about 25 to 40 per cent, have returned home, but of those who stayed a complete medical examination preceded their entrance to any Welsh school. The sending authorities despatched medical officers and cleansing squads to help in the task, and the continuance of the fine weather, the wonderful kindness of miners, quarry-men, and small farmers, plus the fact of the small numbers, have made it possible to stabilise the position and to work out sensible plans. Our Welsh Inspectors are busily surveying every possible opportunity for keeping alive those things which are almost peculiar to some parts of Welsh education, such as music and art and craft work, both for the local children and the evacuees. Many of the children who came had no notion of the most familiar features of farm or country life; measures are being taken now to introduce them more closely to it and yet to preserve the bilingual policy in the schools. I am told that the general upset in Wales is having a salutary effect in driving people to consider carefully what are the elements in the Welsh education and in the life of the community which are peculiarly worth retaining. There are also complicated problems with regard to secondary schools, but I will not go into that matter now.
With regard to secondary schools in this country, many hon. members have written to me about their local schools, and the only deduction that I can draw from that fact is the immense local pride which is felt in the secondary schools of the country. There are two essential differences between elementary and secondary schools in evacuation. Secondary schools have to be billeted over a very much wider area in order to concentrate the pupils in properly equipped buildings. Secondly, the whole curriculum, the apparatus necessary, the specialisation and so on, and the fact that they are governed by certain well-known examinations, make it much more difficult for these schools to fit into an evacuation scheme. The fact is that the work has been very complicated, and I should like to say a special word of praise to the teachers, many of whom, I know personally, have worked under the greatest strain during these 10 weeks, for their ingenuity and resourcefulness in dealing 900 with local problems. There is, of course, an essential difference between London and the rest of the country in this connection.
I must repeat—I think my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health said it a fortnight ago—that in the case of the provinces arrangements were made to match up schools in the reception areas and the evacuation areas. In London no guarantee could be given as to where any school would arrive. That was the problem which the transport people set the Minister of Health. This is the reason why no fewer than two dozen schools have had to be rebilleted. But on the whole the secondary school evacuation has been successful. Newcastle evacuated 80 per cent., London 60 per cent., Portsmouth 71 per cent., Southampton 74 per cent., and Manchester and Birmingham well over 50 per cent. There are some special circumstances that I want to mention, particularly among the girls' schools. Some teachers have become redundant, and I hope that where schools are taking on new teachers they will give preference to the redundant over the retired. A second thing is that some of our most ancient schools, which have received direct grant's, have experienced a very severe drop in numbers and a decline in those fees which help to keep them going. We are taking steps to help them, and indeed we will take steps to help any school whatever with advice and consideration in order to help to keep the educational system alive.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
On that point, how does the hon. Gentleman reconcile his statement with the fact that the Board have intimated to authorities that they cannot for long retain any hope of paying 60 per cent. of the salaries of teachers whom they regard as redundant?
I was referring rather to teachers in certain girls' schools which do not come under the Board. There are two other very knotty problemS One is that of the unofficial evacuees, and the other is that of the special place of examination, but I do not want to go into them to-day, because they are sub judiceby a conference of all education authorities presided over by one of the members of the Board.
It is because it was so urgent that my Noble Friend set up a committee on Tuesday, and I hope it will report as quickly as possible.
§ Mr. R. Morgan
Can my hon. Friend say anything about the examinations for the Civil Service? When is the ban likely to be lifted?
I have referred to the fact that that question is one for the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and I believe it is under consideration at the moment. The Spens report remarked on the wide variety of our secondary schools. In peace-time I think everyone admits that this is one of the greatest causes of strength, but it would have been easier in war-time if we had had a uniform system. I am confident, however, that the English system of secondary schools, which goes back some 500 years at least and has its roots deep down in our history, will emerge from the war unchanged, and I hope we shall do our best to preserve the peculiar system of secondary school education that we now have.
I want to say a word or two about technical education which, like everything else, has been broken into by the war. There were 200 projects of capital development afoot in technical education which had to be suspended. As the bulk of the work of the technical and commercial colleges is carried on in the evening, black-out provision was necessary, both in the evacuation and reception areas. In one case the whole staff turned up and put up blinds, but other authorities have been very dilatory. This I think is pure defeatism. I wish to appeal to authorities to preserve a proper sense of proportion in this matter. Unlighted streets, reduced transport facilities, overtime working, the calling-up of men to the Colours, and war work of all kinds have naturally limited enrolment, but the war has not blacked out the enthusiasm of those who wish to attend evening classes. 902 There are hundreds of thousands of them, and they are the cream of the educational system of the country. Equally, the provision of shelter has varied, particularly as between the North and the South. In the North the enrolment was as high as 75 per cent. as compared with last year; but in London, and some other Southern parts, it is as low as 15 per cent. As one principal said the other day, walking through the corridors, "It is like being in London on a Sunday." Some choice has been exercised, therefore, in selecting students where you had only 15 and 20 per cent. The national certificate work, particularly in engineering, which is the basis of so much of our modern civilisation, has naturally been given precedence. Some colleges have been commandeered, but in most cases we have secured their release. I am sorry to say that one local county administration evacuated itself to a technical college and employed the full time domestic staff to cook and wait at table on its administrative staff. On the other hand, the Westminster School for Cooks and Waiters has gone to Brighton, and it is not only carrying on as a technical college there, but serving up meals for 150 evacuated mothers and children. Meanwhile, its own staff is being used in the Army to train cooks for the Service. I think that shows, among other things, what these technical colleges are doing. We are in the closest touch with the Army and the Air Force, and I think there must be several hundred men from the Army and the Air Force, signallers and gunners, who are having training now in technical colleges in the country.
On the civil side, there has been a drop in certain work. The full situation cannot be known until we have the figures in a few months' time, but there is no doubt about the demand. Black-out conditions have made little impression on these part-time students. Indeed, in one college, where the A.R.P. arrangements cut down the enrolment to 20 per cent., the students asked for classes on Saturdays and Sundays, and they are meeting now with full attendance and they have a religious service as well. The picture, then, is one of check, more serious in the South than in the North, but if we hasten up our A.R.P. protection we can preserve the best of our technical education, which I am sure the House would wish to see done.
903 I want to make one remark about the subject of adult education, because this is particularly important. It looks as if there will be something like a 70 per cent. enrolment of students for the Workers Education Association and University Extension Classes. In other words, there is still a very remarkable demand for serious study in these classes, and that is an amazing thing to be happening at this time. The fact is that there are vast gaps in the provision for younger people. There is a large number of people in this country, men and women, who do not so much wish to sit down in a class as to take part in practical crafts, in designing, music and drama. Incidentally, there is also a very large number of professional musicians, artists, and actors who are out of work. In addition a very special need has arisen, which was referred to by my right hon. Friend, to encourage and assist the leisure activities of young children and adults too, in the reception areas under the special conditions of evacuation. Let me give one illustration. In the long evenings in the country reading has taken on a new interest. In my own constituency the issue of books has gone up 40 per cent., but some of the counties have not got the supply of books for their new young visitors. We are taking steps to help the library authorities with finance for the transport and distribution of these books. I reckon that there will be 500,000 books transported from the evacuation to the reception areas.
I cannot praise too highly the work of the Women's Voluntary Services and those other enterprising persons who have been struggling to keep alive what we shyly call culture in this country. The Board feel that we are faced with an urgent problem in this respect. It is all very well for a few people like Sir Kenneth Clark and others to try to maintain music and art in this great city, but we have come to the conclusion that we may have to consider at the Board taking the initiative in this matter. I have always thought that the Board should be something wider than merely a place for looking after schools and examinations and that if we had some advice from persons of outstanding ability it would be reflected through the musical, dramatic and art teaching in the schools of the country. In reply to the right hon. Gentleman I 904 must say a word about the formation of the National Youth Committee.
§ Mr. George Griffiths
There is a minimum number for classes, and unless it is reached, a class closes and the most interesting students are left with nothing during the winter months. In certain areas there is work on shifts, men are working at top speed, and with the blackouts women are a little worried. Could not the minimum number attending classes be lowered so that the classes could continue?
It was agreed to some weeks ago and it ought to be round by now. With regard to the National Youth Committee, I want to speak of the evening institutes in connection with the problem of young persons. For 23 years to my knowledge, and, I suppose, for years before that, efforts have been made to tackle this problem, and the war has only added to the difficulties. With the dark streets, the shortage of leaders, the commandeering of premises and the falling off of voluntary subscriptions it is difficult to keep a number of these bodies alive. We have opened 25 per cent. of the institutes, and I hope that others will open as quickly as possible. In order to meet this unprecedented situation my Noble Friend, within the first few weeks of the war, set up the National Youth Committee, of which I have the honour to be the chairman. The committee is representative of local education authorities, voluntary bodies, medicine, and industry. We meet regularly, and next week we will issue to local education authorities a new circular entitled "Service of Youth." For the first time we lay the charge upon local authorities of considering the period between 14 and 18 as their direct responsibility. I am not saying that the Fisher Act did not start something which did not last.
It did start and there were very good Continuation Schools in London, but it was not taken up all over the country. An appeal will be made to voluntary bodies to organise Centres. 905 My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) will preside over a Welsh Committee which will consist of people who know the life of Wales.
Are the Government going to give any grant, because in a place like Plymouth, where the problem is terrific, we have got the will but not the money?
I am coming to that. We are determined to prevent, as far as we can, the recurrence of the social problem which arose in the last war. Accordingly, we hope that every authority will set up its own youth committee and will enlist local enthusiasm and leadership for this national work. We hope to obtain leaders from those who are free from the obligations of Military and Civil Defence, and also from young men who would have gone up to university from secondary and public schools and elsewhere, who might well give a year of their time after leaving school to this work, especially at an age when it appeals to them. The funds are not large, but I am glad to say that we have not any overhead expenses. We have not employed any more staff and we have allotted all the money given to us. We have allotted it to save from the wreckage the club premises and the leaders which were pretty well gone. It is in the hands partly of well-known voluntary organisations working through a joint committee of those organisations, and partly in the hands of another committee which looks after those who do not join the main Voluntary Organisations or other clubs. We have allotted a small sum to help them. We have 22 highly trained physical training leaders, men and women, who have gone out under the auspices of the Central Council for Recreative Physical Training, and they are at the disposal of the Local Education Authorities, Voluntary Bodies, and industry. I particularly add industry because I hope that employers and firms will make use of such people for classes and recreation for their own people.
The position with regard to finance is that the Physical Training and Recreation Act was suspended on the outbreak of war and with it were suspended all capital developments. Naturally, the overhead expenses, which ran into over £100,000 a year, are also suspended. We were, therefore, faced on the outbreak of 906 war with an entirely new situation, and in order to meet it we have set up the National Youth Committee. We have received some money from the Treasury to start us off on this problem of saving the wreckage, and we hope that the local education authorities will use their powers under Section 86 to do all those things which they can do; we will pay a proportionate grant.
We had a grant of £2,000,000 for the National Fitness Council, which was an absolute flop. The House ought to know where that has gone.
It has not gone anywhere. The whole of the unexpended money for capital expenditure which was earmarked has now faded into oblivion. Where there have been definite commitments the money has been given and the buildings have gone up, or are going up; where it was only promised or was in the Never Never Land, it is cancelled. Our aim is now to build up a virile youth in this country and war believe that, without imitating the totalitarian States, we can give direction and enthusiasm to all those who are working in a common couse, whether they be education authorities, scouts, clubs, or any other organisation. We are faced with the fact that over 50 per cent. do not come under any organisation at all. There is this No-man's Land between the school, with full school supervision, and adult age. It is a period when the physique too often deteriorates and when unemployment is literally created. If there is any more commandeering to be done we shall put in a strong claim from the National Youth Committee for buildings for these people between 14 and 18, because we cannot —and I believe the Government realise it—surrender the whole of the buildings which were laboriously built up by voluntary subscriptions over a period of years for these young people without causing very serious harm to the physique and morale of the youth of the country.
I had to draw this rather long picture because I believe the House wants to know what is going on in this matter. It is difficult for the Board, working at its present pressure, to find out accurate figures of the number of children in certain schools and the number of schools that are open. On a first impression our education system appears to be in chaos. 907 Plans and building projects have been suspended, but, without under-estimating the effect of the break-up of families and schools and, in some cases, the break-up of standards, I can confidently point to another side. The war has thrown a powerful searchlight on our social services, and particularly on our system of education. Ten weeks of war have left some ugly scars. I believe that only a decentralised flexible system such as we have in this country could have stood the shock. Three days after the war started, for instance, without any circular from the Board, Sheffield put into operation its own education service scheme. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) poured scorn on it I wish he would be a little less free with his criticism. Everyone in the House knows, and everybody is agreed, that when the war started we were faced with a difficult situation, and everybody wanted evacuation. The director and the assistant director at Sheffield faced the situation within three days. They were faced with 60,000 children and the schools were closed. But the authority sent round physical training organisers and saw that every child between seven and 14 had at least two periods of physical training a week. They used playing fields and greyhound stadiums, and industries lent their works grounds to help them. They share the town baths with the local military.
Of course, it was only improvised, but the chief by-product of the scheme has been to call in the co-operation of the parents, and our Inspectors say that it is hoped to carry over into normal education something of that co-operation. So improvised was the scheme, that they used the slate beds of billiard tables for blackboards. But it was noticed that infants gained from the concentrated attention by being in groups of 12. Retarded children have in some cases gained more than by school instruction. Even in the practical subjects they have undertaken experiments; they have fitted up small private workshops and have constructed garden sheds. In fact, a more realistic value has been given to much of the work. In needlework, special emphasis has been given, necessarily, to darning, mending and renovating. Older girls have made garments for their little sisters in the reception areas. They have also made a study of food values. I 908 mention this because they have been getting down to wartime methods of dealing with rationed foods. They have had first-aid and home nursing classes. Is this education or is it not? I mention this outstanding example of improvisation—
Yes, at Sheffield, and elsewhere; but Sheffield is particularly outstanding. I have mentioned this to show the spirit which should be animating all the education authorities in these days. The war has thrown together as nothing else could the town and the country. The children who have gone to the country are much taller, stronger and better fed, they sleep longer and in every way they are alert and more easy to teach. That is the testimony of teacher after teacher, of Inspectors, of parents and, notoriously, of the children themselves. Among the children of a Woolwich school evacuated to somewhere in Kent the average weight of the boys has increased during last month by 2½ lb. and of girls by 3½ lb. Just as our soldiers, sailors and airmen in France have improvised homes on French soil, so I could recount innumerable stories of how teachers and children have settled down in new homes. I will give a few examples. Somewhere in Surrey there is a teacher from whom I get weekly a tonic letter. I hope some of those who criticise teachers will listen. He wrote:After nine weeks with the youngsters, in school and out, lunch out made an enjoyable break. It was as refreshing as those we occasionally got on the Somite when we slipped off to Amiens for a civilised meal.He is a man who was in the last war, and I fully understand what he means by getting away for a meal. Some have not been away for 10 or 12 weeks. Another writes:What do folks expect in war-time? A £70,000 school? I consider myself lucky to have this little chapel room. So long as teachers are keen and show initiative I will run the school in a barn.That is from a man with 40 years' experience of teaching in London, and it explains something of the spirit which prevails, and unless we are going to conduct our system of education in the realisation that there is a war on criticism can have no meaning. Here are two remarks from little children in a place in 909 Kent to which I have been more than once:Johnny has gone home. He has left all those fields. We think he is soppy.That is a new remark for a child. This one I think the most human of all—it is from a child writing to its mother:I want to go home with you, but I want to stay here, too.It is in the country, naturally, that the most interesting things happen. As a Roman poet said many years ago, I believe in the first century A.D.:Aestate si pueri valent satis discuntwhich, being very freely translated, means, "Let the children have a healthy summer and they will learn all right." I think there is a certain amount of truth in that. It was said by a poet who went into a school in Rome in the first century A.D., on a stuffy day in summer.
Just before the war broke out we had finished a six months' examination, in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture, into the problem of how to get greater co-operation in rural education. I have no hesitation in saying that it would have taken 10 years to do what has happened in some places in 10 weeks in that field of co-operation. We have rich, natural and historical resources. I am not talking high falutin stuff. From Inspector after Inspector, letter after letter has come in telling us about those Wapping children on the Sussex Downs, and the Battersea children, the Woolwich children, the Camberwell children and various others from London. I remember going round with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health on the day of the evacuation from London, and I thought, "Is it the last word that hundreds of thousands of children are being brought up in these schools here, many of them without having ever seen very much else outside?" Now they are among the pierrot-hatted hop kilns of Kent instead of the streets and chimney pots of London, and are revelling in the change. And I believe that it is not only assisting the teaching of geography, history and folk lore and all the rest, but is stimulating their interest in that most valuable but most neglected subject, the English language. Children have been heard to exclaim, "Do you see that purple headed mountain?"—I am quoting from a teacher—and, when coming down over the moors in Devon," I came swimming 910 down the moor." When the teacher asked, "How can you swim on dry land?" the answer was, "Well, you move in the same way coming through the bracken." That is the beginning of poetry, which is very deep in all children. That is why I say that what we can save from this wreckage will be the most valuable things. Possibly we might increase the number of hostels which have been set up for unemployed boys in the Special Areas and open them to boys from other areas. Boys have said to me more than once, "I want to stay here," and when a boy, of his own volition, wishes to stay it is the business of someone to help him.
Christmas is coming, with three months of Winter. Whatever happens at Christmas children and parents are going to be together somehow. It is an interesting example of co-operation that only this morning the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Health and, to a certain extent, the Board of Education, who were consulted about staggered holidays for teachers, combined to see how far they can make Christmas a real thing for these children in the country.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Is it not a fact that the Christmas week-end has been excluded from the arrangements?
I profoundly hope that we are going to stabilise the position. If I may be allowed one more venture into this field, I hope we shall stabilise it because I want more than 50 per cent. of the children of this country to see the spring in the country. Strange as it may seem to hon. Members, a large number of the children in this country, and some teachers, have never seen spring unfold itself in the country, and if we can keep them there through the winter to see it I believe they will benefit physically and in every other way.
The Board did anticipate a great deal of this in an excellent memorandum entitled "Schooling in an Emergency." I must confess that I think that that memorandum had more common sense in it than a great deal of the schooling in normal times. Since the war we have issued six war-time circulars: they deal with "Schools and food production," "Protection against epidemics," "Canteen meals," "Uses of school broadcasting," "Needle subjects. "and" Har- 911 vest in the woodlands." These are not usual circulars for the Board of Education to issue, and the only reason they have been issued is because the devoted band of inspectors, to whom I should like to pay a tribute, have been going round the country finding out what things the children are interested in. Every day our chief officers, presided over by the Permanent Secretary of the Board of Education, sit down for an hour or two to try to hammer out these knotty problems—quite unique problems—which have arisen from evacuation. We have to see that educational supervision and the school medical and dental services resume fully, together with the arrangements for the provision of milk. We have to see these things done in these three rather artificial areas which we call evacuation, neutral and reception areas.
It will require much patience to go through the next months—patience from the teachers, patience from parents, patience from householders, and the children too. But we are a nation at war, and the Prime Minister has said— and I think it is one of the best statements in the whole war aim statement— we are fighting evil things. I say to this House that we have to see that the children do not suffer either from air raids or lack of consideration at home. We have to preserve, and perhaps invigorate, our national culture. These two are our future and our heritage, and, after all, these are what we are fighting for.
§ Mr. R. Morgan
On a point of Order. I should like to ask your Ruling on one point. I asked the Parliamentary Secretary a question about the cancelling of the examinations for the Civil Service, and I understood him to say that that did not come within the subject matter of this Debate. I would like your Ruling, Colonel Clifton Brown, as to whether it will be in order at a later stage in this Debate to raise this very important question.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
That is not exactly a point of Order. In an Adjournment Debate one can discuss anything which does not involve legislation. It is an understood thing, however, that we are now discussing education, which, I think, is a different matter from the one which 912 the hon. Member wishes to raise, and, therefore, perhaps he might be somewhat slow in catching the eye of the Chair.
§ Mr. Morgan
I understood the Parliamentary Secretary to say that this was not a matter for his Department, though I should certainly have thought it was. I understood him to say that the Treasury would deal with the matter.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Sir Percy Harris
I shall not intervene for very long, because a great number of Members want to take part in this discussion, and I think it is well that the point of view of those from the different areas of the country should be heard. First, I should like to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary upon his speech, which was very comprehensive and in many parts very stimulating, and I agree particularly with his peroration, which rose to a very fine height and very much expressed my views. He said one very profound thing, I am not sure that it was not the most profound of all in his rather long speech, and that is that the educational system is in chaos. There he said what we all know—everyone who has had any contact with education—is only too true. Part of that chaos is inevitable, a result of the upheaval which has taken place in the school population in the last 10 weeks. My only criticism of the Board, and it is a very serious one, is that they do not seem to have provided in advance for many of these problems. After all, they had more than a year to think them out, but they seem to have been taken by surprise. The Ministry of Health apparently had most of its schemes for the great evacuation thought out, and so had the Home Office, but the Board of Education, apparently, did not realise the majority of the problems which they had to face until they were accomplished facts.
As to the children who have been evacuated I would say, on the whole, "lucky children." They may, in the narrow sense, have suffered educationally, but they have received compensations that will be an asset to them for the rest of their lives. I have received from teachers in all parts of the country confirmation of what was said by the Parliamentary Secretary about the immense benefit conferred upon town-bred children, especially 913 those from the overcrowded areas, by transferring them to rural surroundings. They have benefited not merely in health but: in outlook. In normal times there are tens of thousands of children who have no knowledge of the countryside and no comprehension of what it means. They may go away for ten days' holiday, but very often it is to the seaside, which only means that they go to another big town. They have been transferred from one city surroundings to another.
The Parliamentary Secretary gave us one or two quotations. I have here a letter from a teacher of a London school situated right in the centre of a slum, part of which area has already been condemned. He says:Besides the ordinary subjects, such as Arithmetic, English, History and Geography, we find we can introduce new subjects, such as gardening, handicrafts (repairing garden gates, erecting arches, etc.), surveying (with theodolite, Gunter's chain and surveyor's tape) educational visits (watching a threshing machine at work, inspecting a model cow byre and dairy buttermaking, automatic milking, etc), and helping in the harvest.In other words, the children are gaining great benefits and are rapidly making friends. Although they may be losing other normal education facilities, they are getting great compensations.
I would like to pay a tribute to the teachers. Of course, there have been black sheep. There are always black sheep in every flock—we must be rural— but the vast majority of teachers have not been doing the ordinary five or six hours' work per day for which they are paid; they have been working about 24 hours in the day. I have had constant confirmation of the fact that, in addition to their normal duties of teaching the children, they have to be responsible for the supervision of their billeting and the organisation of their social life. They have to see that the children are happy and that their foster-parents are not neglecting them. On balance, I say that the evacuated children are in credit.
The tragedy comes in with regard to the children that are left behind. There is my quarrel with the Board, because they do not seem to have had any true conception of the problem with which they would have to contend. They were content to see the War Office, the Home Office and nearly every other Government Department come along and pinch 914 the schools, for which they were responsible as partners in the educational system, and to see them close down. Nor did the Board, apparently, realise that there would be a problem in relation to evening and continued education until some time after the war. I have seen school buildings diverted to other purposes, and I have written, in some cases to the Parliamentary Secretary himself. To do him credit, as soon as he has realised the position he has done his best to repair the mistake. The very first thing that he ought to have done was to realise his responsibility in war time in the light of the experience during the last war. Our evening institutes have been built up over years of hard work not only by teachers but by managers and local workers, and they should have been kept in operation. It seems appalling. It is not a question of "may" or "shall." The Parliamentary Secretary must get those buildings back to their original purpose. He must demand from the War Cabinet, in the interests of the national health and wellbeing, that the evening institutes shall be restored to their original purpose and be put again into operation.
It is not only a matter of evening institutes, but also of the Board's own pet college, the one that they run themselves, the Royal College of Art. It is completely shut down. Every other great institution was transferred, to Oxford, Cambridge or another part of the country, but, with great complacency, the Board allowed the Royal College of Art to be shut down and the students, nearly all of whom have scholarships, to be dispersed all over the land and lose the benefit of the education. I am glad that the Board are to repair their mistake and that the shutters are to be taken down early in June. The men and women for whom it is so important that they should get their certificate granted, will be able to get back to work and qualify as art teachers.
I want to insist, also, that the ordinary elementary schools in the danger zones should be open forthwith, not merely for the children over 11 but for all children. It is particularly important for the small children. Nothing is more tragic or alarming than to see little children running about in the gutters, quite uncontrolled, without any schooling, social 915 facilities or amenities. Apparently, the great fabric of education which we have built up with such trouble over the last 70 years is being allowed to go to waste. It is not merely an appalling waste of money but an irretrievable damage to the young which can never be made up to them in years to come. I hope that the Board will make up their minds about this problem. I am told that there are risks, and that it is dangerous for the children to be brought together under one roof. We have given the parents an opportunity to evacuate their children; the responsibility is theirs. We ought to go on appealing to parents through the B.B.C. and the Press to evacuate their children, but if they will not do so, it is safer for our child population to be in school under their teachers than running wild about the streets.
Do not let us quibble about the matter. We are always talking about the children having lovely nurseries and gardens, and that it did not matter very much, because they were in school. The children to whom I now refer are living in overcrowded homes, and there is nowhere for them to play at home. They are often in a two-roomed tenement and are turned out into the street to play. The majority of them are running wild about the streets. They will be much safer, in an air raid, inside a school under the control and guidance of their teachers than left outside. Forthwith, and without more delay, let us get our town schools reopened; not only the senior departments for the children over 11 or over seven, but for infants as well. I hope the Board will stand up to the competing interests of A.R.P. and the War Office and will see these buildings converted back to what they were originally built for—educational purposes.
I went the other day to an educational building which I had known and have seen in operation. I wanted to go in about something, but instead of being allowed to do so I was greeted with a fixed bayonet. I was told that the place was now a barracks. It is quite unsuitable for that, because it was not designed for that purpose. The men were most uncomfortable while young people were being robbed of their birthright of education. The Parliamentary Secretary made an eloquent speech: he will forgive me, I hope, for saying that what we want now, 916 after 10 weeks of war, is deeds and not words. If he will translate his eloquence into actual effective firmness, so that the Board will have a definite policy, we shall be grateful to him and shall not be so critical next time.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Amery
At the beginning of this Debate the Leader of the Opposition urged a closer consideration and definition of the kind of peace at which we should aim and of the kind of Britain that we hope to see after the war. The first aim is not too easy to define now before we know how the war will turn out or know the views of others who will have as much to say in the settlement as ourselves. But when it comes to the future of our own country we are in a position to decide for ourselves. The sooner we consider these matters the better, and from that point of view this Debate can only be welcomed and be of value. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) pointed out very truly, without implying any criticism of the Government, that the situation in respect of the war to-day is entirely different from what was expected. It is in many respects a more normal situation, and he suggested that we should aim at getting back as soon as possible to a more normal system of education.
I fully agree that both in reception and evacuation areas wonderful improvised work has been done by the initiative and self sacrifice of the teachers. A good deal has been said about Sheffield. In my constituency an assistant master in one of the schools, Mr. T. W. Baylis, was left in charge of the children still in Birmingham. He at once proceeded to organise a system of staggered hours of work, taking the children in groups of 12, two groups at a time, into the school itself for general instruction and for preparation for other subjects. The children had at least two morning and two afternoon periods per week in the school. Another four periods were put in, either in private houses or in other institutions, for the teaching of domestic science to the girls and handicrafts to the boys, organised sports or physical training and in fact for every kind of work that comes within the school curriculum. Beyond that, further arrangements were made for definite hours of home work. In that way the children left behind and those 917 since returned to that part of the constituency have been able to secure a considerable modicum of continuous education. That may be only half a loaf, but it has been half a loaf well served up.
But they should have the whole loaf. We certainly ought to have the whole of the elementary and, as far as possible, the secondary school education in the evacuation areas restored to normal as soon as possible. There really is no added risk. It is true that children in the evacuation areas run a greater risk than if they were in some quiet part of the country. But so long as they are in the danger zone the probability of some children being hit is, according to any law of averages, far greater if they are distributed in the streets or in their homes than if they were in any one particular spot at school. It is true that if the school were hit the number of casualties might be larger, subject always to the better construction of the school or the provision of A.R.P. facilities. But, as far as the individual child is concerned, his chances of physical danger are not one atom greater if he attends school for a certain number of hours a day than if he stays at home and plays in the streets; in fact, on the whole, I should say considerably less. If 3'ou add to that the moral risks to which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary referred in his interesting and eloquent speech, I should have thought that the whole balance of advantage was so strongly in favour of re-opening schools everywhere in evacuated areas, that he should attend to it straight away and brush aside all the vested interests which have already accumulated.
With regard to A.R.P. arrangements, I would like to say a word about the attitude taken up by the Minister of Home Security in refusing to grant to local authorities the same financial assistance in respect of schools as they have granted in respect of the rest of their work. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley that the answer of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Home Security to the deputation of the associated education committees was rather dialectical. After all, there is a profound difference between schools and factories and other institutions when one remembers that by law, enforced by this Parliament and carried out by local authorities, the children must be at school, and 918 that fact of compulsion surely differentiates between the schools and any other non-public institutions. I hope that that particular point will not be met merely by the slight concession referred to by the Parliamentary Secretary but by a reconsideration of the possibility of making the whole grant. So much for the mere question of restoring normal school work in these difficult circumstances. But I hope we shall be able to do a great deal more than merely restore normality, and put new life into the whole of our educational system at a moment when it is so fluid and, therefore, so open to new influences. There are many Departments of State where we may feel the Government are interfering too much. I believe that in this matter of education none of us would object if my hon. Friend's Department took a much bolder line than that already taken. I was delighted to hear him say that he had issued a circular to local authorities informing them that the whole age group from 14 to 18 is their direct responsibility.
That brings me to the subject of our last Debate on this education question, when I ventured to express the view that even more important than merely making sure of continuous education up to 15 is maintaining some education, intellectual, technical and physical, right through to the age of 18. It is what we all wish to give to our children if we can afford it. It is a fatal mistake to regard education as one phase of life separated by a sharp break from ordinary practical life. Surely all education should be a preparation for life and all life a continuation of education. The more you interweave and splice the two into each other by continuing education after practical work has begun, the greater the value of the education and the greater the desire to continue self-education throughout life. I believe this is in accordance with the psychological aspect of the matter —at any rate, I am going by what so many teachers have told me —that quite a small percentage of boys and girls are naturally literary-minded or far-sighted enough to see the advantage of continuing school work; a very large proportion, especially of boys, when they reach a certain age, become impatient of the desk and want to see life; and yet the very same boy after he has begun practical work, given an opportunity for study, not only study bearing upon his actual work but study 919 generally, often returns to study with a new zest and a new interest; and some of the boys who were the dullest at school show themselves to be the most keen and alive when it comes to the continuation class.
This is a great opportunity for the Minister of Education to put new life into that great educational Measure that has been on our Statute Book for nearly 20 years now, the Fisher Act, and to see to it that the local authorities will give life and effect to that Act in the spirit of my hon. Friend's circular. That is the educational side of it, of course. I realise, especially at this moment, the no less equal importance of the social and moral side. Nothing, as I ventured to say the other day, would be more disastrous than if during this war we allowed a whole generation to grow up wild, and nothing would be more likely to undo the disaster of war than that we should allow the generation that will suffer from the wastage of war to be succeeded by a new generation better educated, morally, physically and intellectually.
My hon. Friend spoke of the admirable work which is being done in connection with the National Youth Committee in trying to bring into closer partnership the educational authorities and the institutions and societies—so characteristic and precious an element of our English national life—which work on voluntary lines for helping the youth of this country. But we must face the actual problem of quantity. All these societies together do not cater for much more than about 25 per cent. of the young people—something like 2,000,000 out of 7,000,000 or 8,000,000. The others must be dealt with, and in some way or other these societies must be helped to do the work. Indeed, that is the cheapest way of getting the work done. From that point of view I think it is unfortunate, indeed tragic, that the money originally devoted to the National Fitness Council should, except for the small portion already spent, have "faded into oblivion." Surely, it is far better that the money should be diverted in order to enable those societies to do the work which they have already done so fruitfully and in which they have discovered methods and trained leaders—
I would like to make this point clear to my right hon. Friend. 920 There is more or less the same amount being spent on leaders and in connection with the current expenses for organisation. What has been stopped is capital development only.
§ Mr. Amery
I am glad to hear that. But I hope my hon. Friend will not be too much restrained by the Treasury in finding the money required. The sums required are considerable. I think he has initiated something very valuable in encouraging the formation of local youth committees and centres, but it is essential to remember that these centres can only work efficiently if they can find the leaders and if they know the right methods. From that point of view, it would be of the greatest value if the various branches of the voluntary organisations in the different localities were in the position to help the local committees.
There is one particular aspect to which I would like to refer, and it concerns the moral and physical dangers resulting from the black-out, from the masses of young people who are concentrated for military service or in proximity to them. Those are problems which can be met only by those who have some special knowledge and who can give special guidance. It is not everyone who can give the right kind of guidance on problems of social health and hygiene, and to leave that simply to the local authorities to find out for themselves is to invite disaster. There are already bodies like the British Social Hygiene Council who for 20 years and more have been doing this work on a very valuable scale. They have done a lot for a large part of the country, but I am sorry to say not the whole of the country, and they have co-operated fruitfully with the local authorities. I should have thought that it would be an essential part of the high task which my hon. Friend has set himself to enable such a body to have the funds so that they are in a position to co-operate with the local authorities, and so that the work which he wants done can be carried out.
I desire to conclude by summarising what I have said. I hope the hon. Gentleman will reopen all school facilities —elementary, secondary and higher schools and universities—in the danger zones as speedily as possible, and that he will carry out vigorously and in a broad spirit the line which he has given to the 921 local authorities, namely, that our education is to be recast, continuing up to the age of 18—in other words, linked up with the commencement of practical life.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Richards
I am sure that hon. Members have followed with appreciation the speech by the right hon. Gentleman. We are very concerned about the problem of education as it has been affected since the beginning of the war, and we are all agreed that it is vitally important at the present time that we should do everything possible to restore, and if possible to improve, the educational facilities for the young people of our generation. The education problem centres round various aspects. First of all, there is the tendency to stand still so far as educational progress is concerned. As we all know, it is unfortunate that the beginning of the war should have coincided with the date when we were expecting the new Act. to which reference has already been made, was to be put into operation, and, in spite of the great services and activities of most local education authorities in reorganising their system of education, we have had reluctantly to abandon what was the universal idea not only of this House but of educationists in the country generally, namely, to extend to every child in the community an opportunity for some kind of organised education, particularly in the primary period. If we are to have a three years' war—-and I suppose we have the sanction of the Government for talking about a three years' war—it means that the present generation of children, that is to say children of 9, 10 or 11 years of age, will be denied this opportunity again. It is sad to reflect that it is always the young, the very old, and the very poor who have to bear the real burdens of any war. The cost will not figure in any Budget of any Chancellor of the Exchequer, simply because it is imponderable; but it is a real burden that we are placing on the shoulders of the younger generation in denying to them what are regarded by this time as being their rights as the citizens of the future.
The House is naturally interested in the new problems of education that have arisen as a result of evacuation. Evacuation was a deliberate policy, entered into by the Government with the full approval of the House. There was nothing more 922 natural than the desire to remove as many women and children as possible out of the danger zone, but it seems to me that, as the hon. Baronet below the Gangway said, the Board did not make any attempt to anticipate the very difficult problems that would inevitably arise as soon as evacuation took place. First, there was the problem of those who stayed at home. As long as evacuation was voluntary, we all felt that a considerable proportion of the children would remain at home. I believe that in London the proportion was as high as 40 per cent., and in some municipalities it was even higher. Of the 500,000 children in the London schools 200,000 were left. Throughout the country 500,000 children have, as a result, been running wild during the last two or three months. The Government at last recognised that this was an impossible position. The physical dangers and the moral dangers—about which we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman—to which they were exposed were so serious that the Government at last decided that the schools should be opened. This raises the question of the safety of those children. We have heard very little on this subject to-night, except for a remark from the Parliamentary Secretary, which I did not think was very clear. The children were evacuated because they were in dangerous zones. They are to be brought back to zones which, as far as I can see, are equally dangerous; and I think it is the duty of the Board of Education or the local authorities to make these schools to which the children have been brought back as safe as possible.
§ Mr. Richards
You are opening the schools, and the inevitable result will be that the children will be coming back. This is an important question. If the schools are reopened, after being closed because they were in dangerous areas, I humbly suggest that it is the Government's duty to make those schools as safe as possible for the children who are going to occupy them. My interest, perhaps, is chiefly in the children who have been evacuated. I should like, in imagination, to follow the children into the different parts of the country to which they have had to go, and to find out what has happened to them from the point of view of 923 continued education. One would have thought that the Department and the various local education authorities would have taken the greatest interest in seeing that the children were placed in such localities that their continued education was possible under fairly favourable circumstances. But I do not find that that was the case. A director of education writes to me:Knowledge of the actual schools to be evacuated was completely lacking, and my offer of preliminary co-operation, made in July, was not accepted by the education authority.That is a serious condemnation. I cannot understand why the Board, knowing that the children were to be evacuated, did not encourage local education authorities to get into contact with the reception authorities, to see that something was done to carry on the children's education. Most of us would agree that the policy of evacuating schools was an essentially good policy. Education is a very intimate and personal matter, and, as far as is possible, it is essential that a school should be evacuated as a whole, and that it should find itself, in its new home, in a position to reassemble its children. But I would remind the Parliamentary Secretary that this is almost impossible in the case of some very big schools which are evacuated to villages in Wales. That is the case when schools of as many as 700 children have been evacuated to Wales. One school which has been evacuated to Wales has 2,000 children. These schools are hopelessly divided. In one case, I believe, a school has been scattered over two, if not three, counties. That is a peculiar problem that, perhaps, would not have been anticipated, but it has broken up the continuity of the life of that school.
Looking at it from another point of view, we have several schools in Wales with 15 to 30 pupils. Schools with more than 50 are regarded as big schools. To have the population of those schools immediately doubled or trebled raises very serious problems of accommodation. The schools have had to have recourse to the shift system, which I think, from every point of view, is unsatisfactory. I am glad that the number of shifts being worked is very rapidly diminishing. That system is unsatisfactory because it means only part-time education, and because it means that children and teachers have to 924 be in school for such long periods. At some schools they go in at nine o'clock and get out at 1.30. That is too long a period. Then there is the difficulty of what to do with the children when they are not at school. It was fairly easy during the fine weather of September to take the children out for walks and that sort of thing, but, with the winter coming on, the shift system ought to go whenever it is possible.
The other problem is that of getting hold of premises. That, as the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) said the other night, has been dealt with in many cases; but the system is not satisfactory from the point of view of the evacuees. The education of the evacuated children and of the local children should not be unduly hampered by anything that has happened during evacuation. We want them to get the best education possible; but I say, with all respect, that that is impossible in some of the vestries and village halls that are being used in Wales. I am surprised that so little has been done to improve the equipment of these institutions. In some cases nothing has been done by the evacuating authorities to provide facilities for those who, after all, are their own children, so that they might receive something like an adequate education. Another director of education, who has been greatly concerned about this, writes to me saying that he has taken great trouble in getting these premises, that some kind of agreement had to be made, and that the work was all done by the local education authority. He adds:The hiring was delayed for a long time because the evacuating authorities refused to sanction these arrangements.What other arrangements could the director of education make? And he was doing all this in the interests of the children to be evacuated. He says:Even now we have had to proceed merely on the sanction of His Majesty's inspector.That is a very tragic story. It is hard to think that great authorities should have sent their children to Wales, and then, in a great many cases, should have washed their hands of their continued education. I think the Board ought to go further than they have done, and provide temporary buildings for some of these children. It is a scandal that some of them should be housed in premises such as I 925 have seen. It would be a very good investment for the Board if they really attempted to house these children, for the time being, in some kind of huts, Another person writes:The evacuating authority, however, folds its bands, and concludes that all is well on the education front. But all is not well, and it is right that your readers should know that some authorities at .any rate have done nothing after seven weeks experience, to provide their schools with adequate temporary accommodation in the reception area.I quite agree that the evacuating authority may find it difficult to do that; but the Board of Education, in the interests of these children who have been sent away from home on the inducement of the Government, should provide them with some kind of accommodation. It is interesting to find that the evacuation committee of the Association of Architects, Surveyors and Technical Assistants make this suggestion:The key to the success of evacuation for school children is facilities for full education. Education for both the local and evacuated children is at present hopelessly dislocated. This must be put right by taking over halls and big houses, and by building new schools for the children who can remain in billets.It is impossible for the small education authorities in Wales to provide the accommodation they would like to provide for these children. It is a matter, I consider, primarily for the Board. I was very glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary make such sympathetic reference to some of the peculiar problems in Wales, one of which is the problem of language. I do not know how far the House realises that in a great many parts of Wales the Welsh language is exclusively taught up to the age of eight or nine, and that consequently there was great difficulty, when the little English children came along, to get the two schools to coalesce. I was very interested to find that in quite a number of villages this has taken place very happily. The children in some of the lower standards are just as interested in learning Welsh as they are in learning their own language.
There is one final word that I would like to urge. I really do not understand why the Board of Education should at the present time be getting rid of some of its inspectors, particularly Welsh inspectors. I hear that the same thing applies to other parts of the country. I was astounded to find that one of our 926 best inspectors had been seconded for the time being to the ill-fated Ministry of Information, and I understand that another inspector has recently taken up his duties in the war savings campaign. I say quite seriously to the Parliamentary Secretary that this is not the time to get rid of inspectors. They are having the greatest opportunity of their lives, as he suggested to-night, and if they really can help us to get over this very difficult problem of co-ordinating the education— I look at it from this point of view—of Welsh and English children together, it will be one of the best things that has happened to this country as a result of the unfortunate war in which we are engaged.
§ 7.2 p.m.
It is very seldom that I venture to address this House, but I am deeply anxious, as indeed we all are, about the present position of the children in this country. We have all listened with great interest to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, and I think we have all felt comforted in the knowledge that the Board realises how vitally important is this problem. Speed now is more important. War may have a very serious effect on the adult population of a country, but none of us have the slightest idea what effect modern war is going to have on the children of the country. It is a new problem. Psychologists will tell you again and again that when cases come to them for treatment they find that the reason for the neurotic condition of the patient can be traced to some kind of event that happened during those most important years of childhood. Frequently it is due to an unhappy childhood, but very frequently to the fact that the home was broken up, and the child lost all feeling of security. It is the right of every child that during those most important years when it is developing mentally and physically it should know real security. I think that many of us do not realise the mental anguish that children go through when they do not know what is going to happen next. Children do not like change. They want to be certain that the home will be the same day after day, that when they come back their mother will be there, their toys, the Teddy bear or the broken doll just where 927 they left them, for these to the child represent home in the fullest sense, and make for the quiet, happy, peaceful atmosphere of a happy home life which produces the balanced, useful citizen in later life.
Now, through no one's fault, except war, we have torn these children out by the roots from their home surroundings. They have been flung out to the different parts of the country. They have lost all sense of security. They do not know where they are going next, and the feeling of uncertainty as to the future creates a very serious situation. I know, because I have the benefit of being able to watch four children of my own of varying ages, and I know how this war is affecting them. The same, I believe, applies to all the children in the country at the present time. What are we going to do to make up for what they have lost? There is only one answer, and it is, occupation, and again, occupation, and it must be given now before it is too late. There are thousands of children running wild, mentally and physically, and somehow or other we must give them education and discipline, and that, as far as possible, in calm, ordered, normal surroundings. I know that they cannot really be normal in these days, but nevertheless they can be more normal than is the case at the present time. Their days must somehow or other be filled up.
I was told to-day of a place within 19 miles of London and within one mile of a reception area where all council schools have two sessions per week only. One school is to be reopened for five days a week from next Monday, but only half-time. True, home classes are being started, but these cover only a limited number of children. Surely the time has come when we must reopen our schools in evacuated areas and get these children occupied again or the results will be really serious. We are very glad indeed to hear of the successful efforts that have been made in Sheffield, but if we can only stimulate the imagination of the public and give a strong lead, why cannot it be done everywhere? People are so anxious to help, and if ever there was a mission for the adult population it is that of helping with the children of to-day before it is too late. There can 928 be no better war work. It is not sufficient to see that these children are housed in good lodgings, unless we see that their days are occupied from morning until night, their leisure time planned so that they may go to sleep unworried, and sleep soundly as children must, if they are to grow up into normal citizens.
This war is so different from the last. In the last war children did not hear a very great deal of what was going on. It was the grown-ups who heard the news, but in this war children cannot get away from war. They are surrounded with it. They listen to the news every few minutes, they read the newspapers and see the pictures, and the whole of the atmosphere of war overwhelms them. If we are not very careful how we handle them, if we do not deal with the problem now, we shall see growing up a neurotic future generation. Surely any trouble is worth taking. Difficulties are to be overcome, problems are meant to be solved. Are there not many methods which can be adopted even now, temporarily perhaps, until we are certain that once again all the schools we want are open? If there are not sufficient teachers in the towns because they have gone away to the country, is it not possible to appeal to voluntary people to come forward? I believe that we shall get a great response if only we can stimulate the public imagination to realise how serious is this problem.
If there are too many teachers now in the areas to which the children have gone, can we not bring them back? Only this week I happened to meet a friend who told me that the other day she found about 15 children of people she knew living in Westminster, alone in flats because their parents could not leave them to run about the streets. They were left in the flats the day long, while the mothers went out to work. My friend felt that something must be done at once. She got a room with an air-raid shelter within easy distance, and within 24 hours those 15 children had become 60 children. She tells me that children are pouring into the house every day, longing to join the classes she is trying to run. She now wants more help, more voluntary help. The day before yesterday at 12.30, when she was closing the class, the children pleaded with her: "Please, Miss, can we come back this afternoon?" I know the difficulties. We all realise that the 929 Board of Education is trying to meet these difficulties, but this matter is of such vital importance to the whole country that I believe the whole population would be behind the Board in any kind of action they took in order to get the results we want, namely, the children occupied from morning till night, and continuing their education which is their right.
Let me touch upon one further aspect. A great number of public schools and other schools have been commandeered by the Government. I think that was a very short-sighted policy. I have heard all the arguments as to why it was necessary to commandeer these schools, but I am convinced that it was of far greater importance to leave the children in their proper surroundings, in schools built for the purpose. The importance of those quiet, educational surroundings on the young mind cannot be exaggerated. They are very often buildings that have been built and added to through many years with care and thought, and with one object in view, that the children were going to live there and that there they would receive their education. I think it was a disaster when the Government decided to take any building equipped and intended for the education of children. It may be amusing to sit on the side of a bed studying your lessons, but you cannot get the right results in that way, and the sooner these schools are restored for the purpose for which they were intended the better for the whole country.
Most of us feel that in this war we are fighting a crusade. We are fighting for right against wrong; the forces of good against the forces of evil. We are fighting for the freedom of small and helpless States against the bullying large State. We are fighting for Christianity, and all that Christianity means, against those who do not believe in Christianity. For these reasons we are going to win this war, we must win this war, and we hope that in fighting it we may keep our ideals, our beliefs, our faith, our sense of justice, our fair judgment, and that we may remain well-balanced; but it will not be much good if we win the fight on a foreign front if at the same time we lose the home front. We shall lose the home front if we do not handle these children wisely and well now, and help them through these most difficult years of the war.
Time passes very quickly and before long the war will have passed and we 930 shall be facing the post-war problem. They are not going to be easy years that will come after the war. We hope, and we pray God, that we may be able to keep the torch burning brightly, and then we shall have to pass it on to other hands. Those hands must be ready to take the torch, and it will be our fault if they are not ready. This is a great opportunity, one of the greatest opportunities we have ever had. We have children now living in surroundings they have never had a chance of living in before, and they can gain from that, but they will gain nothing if they run wild week after week and month after month. The opportunity is one that we must not miss, because it may never come again. The children of to-day will have to face heavy responsibilities when they are grown up. Their shoulders must be strong to carry those responsibilities. Their minds must be clear to face the problems they will have to face, and their characters must be formed to uphold the ideals for which we are fighting this war. They must be disciplined in mind and body, with a balanced outlook, but this can only be if they are prepared and made ready now, before it is too late. The responsibility is on our shoulders now, at this moment, and we must not fail. Many of us believe that this country and Empire has a mission to fulfil. It cannot fulfil that mission if the children of to-day are not handled wisely and with vision. For according to how we help them through these war years so will they be able to carry their responsibilities and serve the interests of mankind and the whole world.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I should like to say how much I agree with the sentiments that have been expressed by the Noble Lady who has just addressed the House. I am hoping that those sentiments will have fallen upon good ground so far as the Board of Education is concerned. I look upon it as the duty of the Board of Education to fight for the maintenance of educational services in this country, whether in time of war or in time of peace. That is the Board's chief function. Not only has it the right to insist upon the importance of that function, but it has the duty also of safeguarding the instruments of its administrative machinery, which are the local education authorities. It is the custodian of the children's right to the best that can be got at all times 931 under the circumstances which prevail. In the hands of the President of the Board of Education are entrusted the rights of the children either to be safeguarded or to be bartered away.
It is not from the contribution which it makes to other Departments of State that the Board is to be judged, but by its success or failure in its own field, and I say emphatically that, in my judgment, in spite of the difficulties, which I do not seek for a moment to minimise, the Board has failed lamentably in the present emergency. Instead of giving a clear, definite lead it has spoken in a lame, halting voice, when it has spoken at all, about what should or should not be done. Its circulars and memoranda have been halting, hesitant epistles, couched in the vaguest language, always leaving to others the responsibility for any action which might be taken. The inability of the Board to make up its mind has naturally had its reflex in the country, and as a consequence we have innumerable half-solved problems, and are making the best or the worst of both worlds.
Let me illustrate my point. Local education authorities in neutral areas were told that shelter provision must be made before they opened the schools, and the injunction was laid upon them that they must be satisfied with the adequacy of such provision before the children were taken back. The circular was couched in such language that it was left to the local authority to decide one of two things— whether the provision should be made or whether the school should remain closed, and by either decision the authority was following the instructions of the Board. If they decided to act as an education authority and construct shelters in order to reopen the schools then they were penalised, as we have heard, to the extent that they must pay 50 per cent, of the cost of such shelters by Government decision; whereas the same people, sitting in the same rooms and meeting as an air raid precautions committee of the same local authority could construct shelters for the civilian population within 20 yards of those which they had provided for the children and receive from the same Government up to 80 per cent. of the cost.
Is it any wonder that this shelter provision has not been provided? Is it any 932 wonder that there has been delay in the construction of shelters? The wonder to me is that in some hard-hit areas any shelters have been constructed at all. But, says the Minister, that is the decision of another Department over which I have no jurisdiction. True, but it is the Board's duty to safeguard the interests of its own administrative machinery, and local education authorities surely have the right to expect that this unfair discrimination against them should have been prevented by the Board. In the municipal borough of Farnworth alone this shelter provision has cost the authority £10,500, which means, in effect, that this discrimination is to cost the town £2,500. In the Lancashire administrative county the provision will cost £500,000 when complete, and that means an extra burden on the ratepayers of £125,000, while the West Riding of Yorkshire will have to meet an expenditure of £430,000 and will lose over £100,000.
Take the question of the requisitioning of school premises by the military authorities and His Majesty's Office of Works. What has happened here? I give three or four examples, and I know that they can be multiplied one-hundred fold. At Lytham-St. Anne's the Office of Works have requisitioned the technical and art school, so that in the words of the Director of Education for Lancashire, "the building is not available for school use either in the day or the evening." The school is in big demand for both day and evening classes and the influx of many civil servants wanting facilities for further study has increased tremendously the already large demand which was there. The irony of this situation is that it is standing empty, along with many hotels which were requisitioned at the same time waiting, presumably, for something to happen. An appeal was made to the Board of Education for a release of the premises but in a reply dated 25th October, 1939, the Board stated that they had been in communication with His Majesty's Office of Works and after consideration of all the circumstances of the case had decided, with much regret, that the release of the premises could not be arranged.
In Harrogate a similar situation has arisen over the art school and technical institution, a valuable building on which a large sum of money has been spent on 933 laboratories and workshops and the provision of the requisite material for specialised courses. Again, just the place that is needed to cater for the large influx of civil servants who are anxious to continue their studies. Appeals for its release have up to now fallen on deaf ears, although after two months it is still occupied only by watchmen and caretakers. In many other places there is a fear of interruption on account of inquiries being made by the military authorities, and it is having a detrimental effect on staffs and scholars alike who face with apprehension the possibility of losing their schools at the present time. In Willesden nine schools, including one secondary and one technical college, are in the hands of the military authorities to-day, while the number all over the country in which first-aid posts have been established and auxiliary fire stations set up is legion.
Again, I ask what has been the attitude of the Board? Has there been any direction given? Has the question of alternative sites being gone into, or has it been universally accepted that education is a very secondary matter when a war is being fought, and the schools commandeered because they are conveniently situated for the purposes for which they have been taken. Arising out of this commandeering is another question relating to grants on which, I hope, the Minister will give an answer. It is a question as to who should pay. Where an air-raid precautions committee have commandeered council schools, or where they have been commandeered by other Departments of State, the interest and redemption charges on the buildings are still running and are still being charged to education account. If this occupation is in connection with an air-raid precautions scheme, and inasmuch as the local authority is deprived of the use of the buildings and of the services of the caretaking staff, should not all these necessary and continuing charges be debited to air-raid precautions account, and the air-raid precautions committee look to the national Civil Defence Department for the grant agreed to be paid in respect of air-raid precautions work under the Act of 1937? The suggestion made by the Minister that these expenses are to be limited and that 50 per cent. of the normal expenditure is to be paid does not touch the problem which arises in the areas of which I am speaking. Like- 934 wise in the case of other Departments of State with this difference perhaps, that where there is no statutory provision for the payment of grant, as in the case of air-raid precautions, equitable payment should be made by the Government in respect of such occupation. That case may be met by the announcement the Minister has made to-day, but the former case will not be met. It is a very serious matter for a local education authority whose buildings have been commandeered, and the Government should make some statement upon it and let them know where they stand.
We have heard a good deal this evening about the problems arising out of evacuation. There is no doubt that many educational problems have arisen, and I think it was inevitable they should arise, but it is the duty of the Board and of local education authorities to face them and to find a solution. On Monday of this week in the Lancashire Education Committee we received a report from the director of education as to the position in the administrative county, and that report clearly reveals what can be done if your authority is functioning as it ought to be functioning on this matter. In the county there are 878 elementary school departments, 13 in evacuation areas, 389 in neutral areas and 476 in reception areas. All were closed by order of the Board, but authorities were urged to open them as soon as circumstances permitted. Within a month of the beginning of the war, all the school departments in Lancashire, except 13 situated in evacuation areas, had been re-opened. However, the 20,000 evacuees in 360 departments receiving official evacuees meant that some shift working had to be resorted to, and that was done in 117 cases; but as circumstances permit, and as difficulties are overcome, normal working is being and will be extended. In neutral areas the work of providing shelter was taken in hand immediately and these schools were re-opened after provision was made, while provision is now being made for the children in the evacuation areas who chose to remain in the areas. With regard to secondary education, it is a remarkable fact that in the administrative county there are actually more children in our secondary schools to-day, apart from the official evacuees, than there were when the war commenced.
935 In the carrying out of these arrangements, the director says, it is gratifying to record the helpful co-operation of the officers of the evacuating authorities, and the good will and generous assistance of the teachers and of His Majesty's inspectors of the Board of Education. I draw particular attention to this—it has already been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards)— because, in answer to a question which I put to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board some three weeks ago, he informed me that no fewer than 55 of His Majesty's inspectors have been seconded to other Departments and taken away from their own work. Might I suggest to the hon. Gentleman and to the House that if ever there was a time when these inspectors were needed in their own Department, that time is now, and it is nothing short of a scandal that they should not be available. With their valuable expert knowledge, now is the time when they are most needed. Difficulties have arisen, too, with regard to the cost to local authorities of making provision both for official and unofficial evacuees. I am not going to blame the evacuating authorities for not rushing open-handed to agree to arrangements being made by other authorities when they had no guarantee from the Board that such arrangements would be paid for and the expenditure met. As a matter of fact, it is only to-day that an indication has been given that such expenditure will be met and of the amount of the grant that will be available for it.
Another thing that is troubling the minds of many parents at this time is the question of special places and the arrangements that are to be made for this year's examinations. Do not forget that a child is only once in its life at the age when advantage can be taken of the facilities for secondary education under the scholarship schemes that are prevalent in the country. If, as a result of the present chaotic conditions, full allowances are not made, the generation which is at the crucial age this year will carry a sense of grievance throughout life. I know that it is a question for the local authorities in the main, but it seems to me that a statement from the Board asking for generosity on the part of the authorities and co-operation with one another is highly desirable. Now is the 936 time to give a lead In a few months it will be too late. I know that circumstances vary in different counties, but principles remain the same, and it is the duty of the Board, as the parent organisation, to indicate at least what they desire the local authorities to do.
Another question to which reference has been made is the milk-in-schools scheme and the provision of meals for necessitous children. How have these schemes been affected by evacuation? From information which has come my way, it would appear that the machinery, which was not too good in peace time, has failed to function at all in war time, as far as the children who live in the evacuation areas are concerned. The varying practices between authorities, in some instances giving milk and meals before a medical examination, in other instances on the authority of the school medical officer after examination; and the differing scales on which free meals or milk were granted, have led to many children being deprived of these necessities at a time when, I suggest, they are most needed. I read somewhere the other day—and the Minister confirmed it in answering a question to-day—that the sale and consumption of liquid milk is down by many millions of gallons. Is it too much to ask at this time that all these inquisitorial inquiries into the home life of the child should be set aside and the milk given to the child as a right, and would not many of the difficulties that have arisen over evacuation have been eliminated if, instead of restricting the provision of meals and milk, there had been a generous expansion of these services? It may be that in the near future there will be some difficulty about adequate food supplies. I suggest that, as a form of national insurance, it would be worth while to guarantee to every school child a ration of milk by making it part of the school curriculum.
In a similar manner, we could deal with the question of clothing and footwear. For years now, the local education authorities have been begging for power to make this provision for the necessitous children under their care. If ever the need for this was revealed, it has come in evidence from the reception areas. What is the procedure? The evacuating authority must be written to; they must set on foot inquiries as to the position of the parents; if the parents cannot afford 937 to pay, then either the Unemployment Assistance Board or the public assistance committee have to be approached; and failing these, the voluntary organisations may be brought in. It would almost appear as though the machinery were devised to prevent the children from obtaining the things they need. I have in my possession information about inquiries that have been made in the county of Lancashire during the last three months, and it is amazing to see the number of places to which applications have to be made before these things can be done. I remember telling the House on one occasion a story which illustrates this point. A miner who went down a pit was asked by the foreman to remove a heap of dirt. He asked where he should put it, and the foreman replied, "Put it into the gob." The miner removed a portion of the dirt, and when the gob was full, some dirt still remained. He asked the foreman what he should do with the remainder, and the foreman replied, "Muck about with it till tha' loses it." That is what has been happening to the children under this scheme for the provision of footwear and clothing. Let hon. Members make no mistake about that. A friend of mine who is a director of education in a reception area in Lancashire received a letter the other day from a fostermother. The letter read as follows:Dear Sir, Do you think that one green jumper, one pair lavender gloves, one pair high-heeled shoes, and a liberty bodice, suitable clothing for a boy of nine?Under this scheme of voluntary organisation things of that kind are bound to happen. As I have said, local education authorities have been pleading for years for the right to supply these things to the children, just as we have supplied meals in necessitous cases. But the power has always been denied. No Minister has ever put forward an argument against it, although I am given to understand that the Minister of Health is to-day examining the question from the standpoint of encouraging further voluntary effort, on the ground that we must do nothing to undermine parental responsibility. Poor old "parental responsibility." In thy name many essential services have been delayed or denied. How that which has been regarded in Scotland for many years as good administration, can be referred to in England and the shirking of parental responsibility, leaves me guessing. If we 938 are in earnest about this matter, if the needs of the children count for anything at all, the Board of Education will insist on the Government granting the powers which have been so long denied. I turn for a moment to the position of students who are within sight of their final examination, and perhaps I could not do better than read a letter which I received the other day from one of them. It is as follows:Kearsley, near Bolton, Lanes.Dear Sir, I am a student of the University of Birmingham. For three years now I have attended this University. When I left Farnworth Grammar School, my intentions on entering the University were to take an honours course in chemistry and to sit for my final honours B.Sc. examination in chemistry in June, 1940. Being 21 years of age I registered last Saturday at the Farnworth Employment Exchange. I shall therefore, soon be serving in His Majesty's Forces, and I would like to know whether, when the war is over, I shall be allowed to sit for the final honours B.Sc. examination in chemistry.That is a perfectly reasonable request from a young man whom I am partly responsible for sending into His Majesty's Forces, but as his representative in the House of Commons, I had to confess that I could not answer the question. I sent it to the Minister for National Service and I ask the House to listen to his answer. He wrote on 26th October:I have made inquiries into the case. I find that it came before the University Joint Recruiting Board which was set up to consider the cases of scientific students. The board recommended that this student should be called up for service with His Majesty's Forces without completing his studies. The question of whether he will be allowed to sit for his final examination when the war is over is a matter for the authorities of the University.There is no safeguard, no guarantee, not even a promise for this young man. Think of the waste of it, apart from the sacrifices which his parents have made, and the amount of public money which have been spent in taking him so far along the road. Surely this is a subject in which the Board of Education is interested. Why is not something said about it? Have these students ceased to be promising material because they are wanted, temporarily we hope, for fighting purposes? Can we afford to ignore their capacity and their gifts? Let the Government show some interest in them and make some promise to them that facilities will be available on their return 939 to civil life, for them, at any rate, to complete their studies and take their examinations. They will go into military service with much better heart if such a promise is made, and, in my judgment, it is the least we can do.
I have referred to the difficulties under which technical education is being carried on, and I would urge on the Government the necessity for maintaining this important branch of our educational system. Technicians will be not less but more important in the future, and any serious gap at this stage in the supply of technicians can never be made good. Some losses may be repaired, some deficiencies can be made good, but lost time is irreparable. A word about the Government's policy in the evacuation areas. Here, again, the circular which has been sent out has the same hesitant, halting, indefinite thing:His Majesty's Government have decided that such schools in evacuation areas as can be made available for educational purposes shall be reopened for the education of the children of parents who desire them to attend.From the tone of the circular it does not appear to have been realised by the Board that war and risk are synonymous terms. When you decided to go to war the taking of risks became inevitable. If parents have decided that they will have the children in their own homes in evacuation areas, then compulsory education of some kind in those areas it is the duty of the authorities to provide, and it should be provided at the earliest possible moment. Why it should be considered more dangerous for children to be in school than in a cinema, I cannot understand. Make all the preparations for safety that you can. With that I agree, but remember that in the circumstances of panic which you visualise should the worst happen, the greatest safeguard may be found to consist in the disciplined conduct of the scholars, and discipline can only be cultivated in the schools.
A word about the Board's circular regarding the Christmas holiday. Is there anyone outside the Board who thinks that parents and children can be kept apart at Christmas? Christmas, I believe, will prove the zero hour for evacuation. I should have thought that the Minister 940 would have announced free travelling facilities in either direction in order that families might be reunited for this great occasion. I wonder whether the persons responsible for this decision know what Christmas means in the homes of the working-class. A lot has been said in the Debates on Evacuation about mothers visiting their children too often, and a comparison has been made with the parents of children who attend boarding-schools and are only allowed to receive quarterly visits. You cannot change the psychology of the working class, to suit your own purposes, in ten minutes. In the average working-class home there is no nurse-maid and no nursery. The kitchen is drawing room, dining room and nursery combined. The mother is always with her children. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that the best mothers are those who want to see their children every day, never mind once a week. From an experience which I would not trade with the wealthiest in the land, I know the feelings of those mothers and I say to the Minister now, "If you want to break down the evacuation scheme completely, let that circular stand; but if you wish to preserve any portion of it in the New Year, you are bound to think again."
I do not know whether the time is not coming for us to face the facts of the situation, and appoint some commission or commissions to go into the whole question and report quickly on whether the scheme is worth while, and whether the money could not be better spent on making preparations for safeguarding children in their own areas. The question is whether we can cater for the children who are away, as well as those at home and whether the staffs are available to meet all the requirements of the situation. But the greatest question of all that we have to answer is whether or not the danger of a generation of children, without the discipline of organised school life, and all the loss that will be entailed by the absence of that discipline is not greater than the danger from the enemy's bombs. That is a question we must seriously ask ourselves. The answer, I know, is not easy, but it is somebody's business to face the question and to find the answer. What cannot be justified in any circumstances, is a policy of drift. The line of least resistance is always the 941 least effective, and in its approach to the problems, which we have had to face in the sphere of education since this emergency arose, that has been the policy which the Government have followed. Whether the removal of the Board's offices from Whitehall to Kingsway before the war began was an indication of the Government's attitude towards education, I cannot say, but I would remind the House and the country of its importance to the future well-being of the nation. We shall neglect it, I believe, at our peril. Even in war it remains one of the most vital of our essential services.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn
I am sure the whole House agreed with the major part of the remarks of the hon. Member for Farn-worth (Mr. Tomlinson), who always addresses the House with great knowledge and whose experience in the practical sphere always brings to this House an atmosphere of reality, which is so necessary. There are, I think, two or three aspects of the present situation which have more than justified this Debate. It must have been realised, from the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, that he brings to his task vision and imagination and a great desire to serve the interests of the children of the country, and I think it is necessary for this House to back him up, because it is not really in the Board of Education that there is a lack of imagination so much as in the Treasury and other Departments. Those of us who know such an area as a reception area which is also a training area for troops have had to see, not only children removed from evacuation centres in London and elsewhere to rural villages, but on top of that every form of unit in a division marching in and still further crowding the villages, and, as a matter of course, taking any building used as a school for some other purpose.
I think education is the first line of defence in peace, and that seems to have been rather forgotten in this war. I believe, in fact, that if we neglect, as the Noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) said just now, the condition of both the mental and the physical health of the children, we may throw away everything that we may gain in the war. It seems to me that we have a tremendous duty to the children 942 but we have also a tremendous opportunity, and we shall be absolutely false to our trust as Members unless we emphasise this on every occasion. To take away technical institutes and buildings equipped for teaching at a time when it is essential to encourage culture and keep alive all such ideas is to me the very negation of true statecraft. What are we trying to aim at? We are trying to aim, surely, at providing the rising generation with every educational facility, and even from the most selfish point of view, if you drop behind the standard of education of other countries you cannot survive in an industrial age. Therefore, even from the most selfish angle, it is short-sighted, foolish, and almost decadent.
I believe that if this Debate is read by those in the War Cabinet, whose business it is, they will realise that there is a great difference of opinion between the policy that has so far been adopted and the feelings of hon. Members in every part of this House. I think the duty of Parliament has been exemplified by the folly, the stupidity, and the blind action of the bureaucrats, who have not realised, with the best intentions in the world, the real spirit that animates this country to-day. If we seize this opportunity, there are certain things that we can do. I think it is very little use blaming the Board, because the Board can only advise. It is the local education authorities which must act, and many of us realise that in some parts of the country the body that really governs the local education authorities in the finance committee of the county council concerned. You have to imbue the minds of everybody in the whole county area with the importance of education, but what I think has been lacking on this occasion has been the knowledge, as has been pointed out already, of who is going to pay the bill. There is a natural hesitancy further to increase the cost until they know from where assistance is coming, and I believe it is essential that there should be no justification for any dubiety as to who is to bear the cost of A.R.P. provisions.
It is amusing to realise that the ideas of Whitehall as to what were vulnerable areas, neutral areas, and safe areas respectively, are not in the least the ideas of those who direct enemy action. Every place which has been receiving people has so far been the only place where there 943 has been any enemy action. It may be that that will be the way in which the war is conducted, but it is clear to my mind that it is idiotic for us at present to draw a line on the map of the United Kingdom and to say that a child on that side of the line is to have certain treatment and that a child on the other side of the line is not even to be educated. It is a purely futile idea that has been in the mind of someone, without any guidance and without any relationship to the strategy that is being adopted by the enemy. Therefore, as everybody who has addressed the House has urged the Government to open every school as quickly as possible, I hope this Debate will enforce the release of all schools and institutes which are now being used for other purposes. What a condemnation it is that you can claim a man back from a regiment if he is essential in an industry, but you may not claim back a place which is essential for hundreds of children. The sort of mind that conceives that way of running the country is a mind that I do not understand, and I believe it is absolutely necessary, not only to get back those buildings, but, if we are to make the best of the position in the rural areas to-day, we have to take even more buildings for education.
I mean by that, that if you take the problem of the boys of from 14 to 18— we have heard something about it to-day —you cannot do anything effective until you can form a centre where they can go. Happily, there are many boys in urban districts who have gone to the country and who feel that they would like to stay on the land. There is a wonderful scheme that is being conducted by the Y.M.C.A., with great success, which has turned out literally thousands of boys, most of whom have gone overseas, but there is no reason why that same system should not be used to train boys in farm work and work on the land and settle them down in this country. Subsequently they could go overseas. It is open to any hon. Member to see the records of Major Baddeley's work in the Y.M.C.A., and I believe that if some grant could be given such as so far has been reserved for boys from so-called distressed areas, if it were understood that a boy evacuated, torn, from his surroundings deserves just as sympathetic consideration as a boy from a distressed area, if you could cut away all 944 those restrictions and help such a boy to follow his bent, that would be a fine thing to do. There is so much mechanisation in modern agriculture to-day that all the boys who like motor engines, steam tackle, or whatever it may be, could be of use. It is amusing to those who work on the land to hear the glib way in which people speak of learning to drive a tractor and say, "So-and-so can drive a tractor," but driving a tractor means that you have to do something with the tractor, and it takes many a year to drive a straight furrow through the soil. It is the pride of so doing and the knowledge that you are doing something effective that is the lure of the land. I think we ought to do everything we can to help boys who may be the grandsons of men who prospered on the land, who drifted into the towns in the days of the industrial boom, and whose love of the land and of working on the land is breaking out again in their descendants. We should help them to be trained and become useful members of society.
I should like to mention our real duty in regard to this Christmas holiday. I was struck by what the hon. Member said, and I know it is a fact, but let us remember that there are the problems to be faced by the householders in the reception areas. Unless some sort of organisation is arranged there will, I am afraid, be a confused position. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to say how long the Christmas holiday is to last. I would emphasise what he himself has stated about the wonderful work done by the majority of the teachers who have not only been responsible for the children in school hours, but have seen to it that they are amused out of school hours. The teachers, perhaps, will go home and the children will be left. The foster parents will have their own children to look after. Who is to help look after the evacuated children when the teachers have gone? The trains will bring down the parents of the evacuated children, and where are they to go? The country cottage has its own family gathering at Christmas, for the country people enjoy Christmas just as much as people in the towns.
It is astonishing what a lack of knowledge some town people have. They come down and expect foster parents to feed them for a day. They are delighted to do it, perhaps, but after a time it becomes more than the funds of the foster 945 parents can stand. If they are to be expected also to provide Christmas fare, with crackers and everything else, it will put a strain on the hospitality of the rural cottagers which will be beyond the bearing. The way in which they have welcomed and, indeed, shown their affection for many of the children who are now living with them indicates how much they would like to do, but I suggest that it is work for the women's institutes and the women's voluntary services. There must be a sense of fair play and a proper organisation, because it would be a thousand pities if the time of Christmas and good will towards men were taken for the occasion to create a rumpus in the houses where up to now everything has been calm and serene. In spite of everything, I feel that the Parliamentary Secretary has made a good case and it is for all of us to see how far it can be extended.
One last point. We have to extend the university system far more than we have done up to date. I believe that the solution of this problem will not come from the local education authorities in the counties when we are dealing with the children from 14 to 18. It will come by inducing the university in a district to become a sort of mother church and to have dotted about houses where they can send senior teachers or lecturers or draw-in people who will give a lecture or talk in these satellite small colleges. Take the empty houses which are doing no good and turn out the self-evacuated people who were frightened of bombs in London, who took big houses and paid anything for them, and who have gone back again. I would far rather see a house like that put to educational use than sheltering an alien who is afraid of staying in London. This is such an opportunity for the extension of the university system and mapping out the country in that sort of way. There are many men who are now retired, who, without any competition with the active teaching profession, would give good service in such a system of extended university teaching. I am convinced that if such a scheme could be put forward we would find hope renewed in many young men and women who at the moment feel that their lives are cut short. It is embittering them and, I am afraid, it may lead to trouble which will take years to eradicate. Therefore, 946 I hope that this Debate will lead to these two things—to free every school building for its proper purpose so that we do not betray our most sacred duty, which is to the rising generation; and to enable us not to miss the opportunity of getting rid of the black-out blues and to have a light thrown on higher education so that the hours of darkness can be used by a proper organisation and extension of a university scheme of some kind.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Edmund Harvey
The hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) has spoken with insight and deep sympathy and with humour on a number of the great human problems that we are facing this evening. I agree with him in the main points that he has put to the House. It is significant that during this Debate there has been such a large measure of agreement in all quarters of the House on the main issue that is before us. I hope the result will be that the hands of the Parliamentary Secretary and his Noble Friend will be strengthened in the efforts which have so far been unsuccessful, but which I hope they will now be able to make successful, with the knowledge that they have the good will of Parliament behind them in insisting that the buildings that were intended to be used for education and are absolutely needed for education should be restored to the purpose for which they were dedicated. We have laments from different quarters about the effect of the war situation on child life. War is a burglar who always breaks open the child's money-box. The only question is how many pence we can save from the broken box. It is clear that the whole House is united in desiring to save as much as we can of the lives of the children for the future. We want education to go on at once in the evacuation areas, and the technical colleges, the schools and other buildings that have been commandeered restored to their proper use.
During the Debate a number of deserved tributes have been paid to the unselfish services of the teachers. There, again, I think public opinion is united in feeling that we owe a great debt to them for the unpaid services which they have given apart from their teaching, in looking after the children in the reception areas and in making special 947 arrangements for them in the evacuation areas. We owe it to the teachers who have had to leave their homes that they should not be under the serious financial disability which they are experiencing in a number of cases owing to the inadequate billeting allowance. They often have to maintain a home in another place and their wives and families cannot always move. They have to get lodgings and have to provide themselves with food. It is unsatisfactory that a billeting allowance of 5s. should be allowed to the householder who lodges a teacher, and that he should have to make up the rest. In many cases a teacher needs privacy to go on with his studies and preparation work, and in that case he must pay for the accommodation, and if he wants anything to supplement the diet and bring it up to the standard he would like, again there is extra cost. All that involves a very heavy charge, and it applies to a great number of cases in different parts of the country. I ask the Board to use its influence to see that the scale of billeting allowances is revised.
There is a further matter, which has been only alluded to indirectly by one speaker, and that is the impact of the war situation upon our university students. We had one very touching case mentioned, the particular difficulty of a young student called up for military service within nine months of his final examination. I hope that in all such cases there will be some general provision made to see that the educational career is not wrecked or sacrificed in the performance of military duty. But in many universities serious difficulties of a different nature are arising. To-day a large proportion of our university students come from poor homes, where every pound is a very serious matter and even shillings have to be thought about. There are two classes of difficulties which our university students have to meet. There is the difficulty which has arisen from the transfer of the university or the university college to another place. In a number of cases that involves an increase in the cost of living and additional railway fares. A student moving from London to Glasgow or from London to Nottingham has to pay a heavy railway fare in the holidays if he wishes to go home. Also, some 948 students have to pay increased railway fares when travelling regularly between their homes and the colleges.
In quite a number of cases already grants have been cut down by educational authorities, and though it is sometimes only a small reduction, if a student is dependent upon a bursary or scholarship the loss of even £5 is a very serious thing. I would ask the Board to use their influence with local education authorities to see that grants are not diminished, but rather that, in necessary cases, and it is necessary in many cases, the grants are increased. I could give instances of four or five education authorities which, to the knowledge of the National Union of Students, have actually reduced grants in specific cases within the last few months. There are also the cases in which a college has been closed and students have had to move to an entirely different place. There is an agricultural college in Devonshire which has been closed, and students have had to go to Reading to continue their agricultural work. That has meant an increase of £18 a year in fees not provided for by any Government or county council grant, which the student has to make up from his own pocket. It is almost impossible for some students to do so.
Over and above this there are cases all over the country of students whose parents have been so hit by war conditions that it is no longer possible for them to go on with the work which they had begun and which in many case? they were doing with extraordinary ability and success unless they get a bursary to help them. That is shown by the groat reduction in the number of students of London University, where the colleges have been transferred elsewhere. In the case of the London School of Economics, which has moved to Cambridge, the number of full time students has fallen from 950 to 450; in the case of University College, which has moved to Bangor, the number has fallen from about: 2,000 to under 1,000; and the number at Bedford College has fallen from 529 to 380. Those are typical instances of the way in which war conditions have affected students on the ground of finance. If bursaries had been forthcoming I believe that in most of these cases the students would have been able to carry on with their careers. They could do their work from their 949 parent's homes, but their parents cannot afford to make it possible for them to carry on with their studies at a distance.
I urge that the Government ought, by means of a special grant, to create a hardship fund for the war emergency which could be used by the universities and university colleges to help in the case of students who are doing good work and whose careers will be broken if they are not able to get assistance. In some cases a matter of £5 or £10 would make the difference between whether a student was able to carry on with his college career or not. In other cases it might be more, but a very small national grant, a few thousand pounds, spread over the different colleges would be the means of saving the educational future of a number of our most promising fellow citizens, and it would be money well spent. I hope very much that the Board of Education may be able to take action in that direction. As we listened to-day to the Parliamentary Secretary we all felt how much his heart was in his work, how he had a vision of the better world which we all want to see coming. To-day he has been like a swimmer struggling gallantly against a torrent of human problems, but I feel sure that he will know that he has the good will of the whole House in trying to fulfil the ideal which he has set before himself, and it has been cheering that on all sides of the House there has been so much unity about the object we all want to see carried out.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Sir Annesley Somerville
It is not often that a Government Department is an object of sympathy; more often Government Departments are the object of criticism, and, at the best, of tolerance; but to-day it has been impossible to withhold sympathy from the Board of Education, and especially from the Parliamentary Secretary, who has shown so much keenness, perseverance and sympathy in trying to bring to fruition the activities of the last two years. As one listened to his account of those activities and the regret with which he spoke of their postponement, or possible destruction, one could not help feeling for him and for the Board a great deal of sympathy. But the greatest sympathy and the greatest regret must be felt for the children of this country and their parents. There is anxiety for the future generation, especially when one 950 thinks, if one has had experience as a teacher, of the destruction of school life that has been taking place, and of the breaking up of classes. A class is not merely a collection of units, but is an entity which is instrumental in training intelligence and character. When you think of all that being broken up you must feel the deepest regret.
One listened to a representative from Wales speaking of great schools scattered over various counties, and one could not help feeling great regret that such a thing could have happened; but we have to make the best of it. We have to pick up the pieces and try to preserve as much as we possibly can of the spirit and the value of our educational system. When you think of the schools that have been commandeered and their whole constitutions broken up and scattered, and when you know what that means, you see what destruction has been worked in our system; but, as I say, we have to make the best of it. We can, in some respects, look upon this as an opportunity. My right hon. Friend the Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery), in his thoughtful and suggestive speech, pointed out how there was an opportunity now to revive and encourage some of the best points in the Fisher Act, and to encourage that kind of education which is best. It is based on the principle of self-help and individuality.
My hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) has referred to the most useful and interesting way in which this crisis might be turned to account. He spoke of the work of the Y.M.C.A. and of Major Bavin. I have known of Major Bavin's work for several years and, as my hon. Friend said, he has been instrumental in settling in the most useful way thousands of boys overseas in Australia and Canada. When such settlement ceased he turned his attention to this country. It is a good thing that he did. In concert with the National Farmers' Union and the Labourers' Union he has worked out a system which has already placed over 1,700 boys on the land, which is most important. We are a lopsided country. The people in the large cities do not realise as they should how necessary is the bond that must exist between town and country. Our system rests too much upon the apex instead of the base of the 951 cone. It is necessary to get back a number of our people on to the land and to develop the land, and those 1,700 boys are a small contribution to that end. He establishes a hostel and, in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour, gets boys from the Special Areas. He establishes them in the hostels, and farmers round about who are willing—and they are only too willing—take the boys from the hostels and train them for short periods. If the boys are found to be of the right sort they live in the hostels and work on the farms. If they are found to have an aptitude for farm work, and at the end of a period of some 10 weeks—it is a short period but enough to test them— the farmer is usually only too willing to pay for the boys. Something like 90 per cent. of the 1,700 boys are still on the land and are going to stay there. That is a very great achievement.
I suggest that this movement should be encouraged so as to get more boys on to the land and to find among the town boys who have been evacuated those with an aptitude for farm work. It is, as usual, to a great extent a matter of money. To place one boy on the land, keep him in a hostel, look after him and give him after-care costs about £25 a year. Most of that is found by way of a grant from the Ministry of Labour. The boys come only from the Special Areas, but we want the movement to be made national and the boys to be drawn from any part of the country. I think the Minister of Agriculture is favourable to the plan. We want that Ministry and the Board of Education to get together, make the movement national and make a joint attack upon the Treasury to find the necessary finance. I hope that the movement will grow. The three Members for Berkshire are hoping to have a hostel in that county, where it may produce considerable good.
Another point on which I should like to touch is that a good deal of harm was done during and after the last war by wrong ideas as to the causes of the war. I would ask the Board of Education to do what it can to see that the true causes of the present war are put before our children. Copies of Government publications, such as Sir Nevile Henderson's Blue Book, should be put at the disposal of the secondary schools. The Board of Education and the Ministry of Informa- 952 tion should collaborate to produce a simple statement of facts that would be under-standed by everyone and would be for the use of all schools. There should be instilled into the minds of our children knowledge of the wonderful movement which has taken place throughout the Empire in support of this war. There are people, of course abroad, and some here —more shame to them—who try to represent this war as an imperialistic war. The answer to them is very plain and simple. Would any imperialistic war have caused the free peoples on the British Commonwealth of Nations to rise up, as they have done, and freely, willingly and gladly offer all their strength to help this country and France in a war which they feel in their innermost souls is a war for justice and right? I hope that will be fully explained and brought before the children of our country.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Ridley
The hon. Member who has just resumed his seat tempts me to combat which I must deny myself with very considerable difficulty. All I would say to him is that he would be ill-advised to mix up education with what may be regarded as propaganda. In an early stage of this Debate the Parliamentary Secretary expressed some doubt as to whether the House of Commons was really interested in education. After more than four hours of debate, in which unanimity has been displayed in the House to an almost unprecedented degree—if indeed such unanimity can really be described as a debate—in which every speech has shown a really deep desire to defend the educational ground already won and to develop all our educational institutions within the territory won, I hope the Parliamentary Secretary has realised that the House of Commons has a deep interest in education.
I have never been disposed to doubt the Parliamentary Secretary's interest in or devotion to the work for which he is now responsible, but I am bound to say that I would have welcomed a rather deeper note of resolve in his own speech. I thought he was rather too inclined to be overwhelmed by problems and difficulties, and that his speech lacked that note of thrilling intention to overcome the problems and difficulties that now confront us. Indeed, one reservation which he made justifies that fear. He spoke of his resolve—and I made a note 953 of his words—subject to the overriding consideration of the war and War Cabinet decisions. I beg the Parliamentary Secretary not to allow the Brass Hats to determine what those overriding considerations are. If he does he will discover that every consideration in their minds, in the battle between Defence services and education, is an overriding consideration of which he is bound to lose sight.
I wish to say something about the social services in the field of education. The Parliamentary Secretary said—and I do not dissent from the description he gave—that the social services in the held of education had revolutionised elementary educational child life. It is a fact that in the last 20 years there has been a steady advance in the health of the elementary school child because of the increasing recognition of the relationship between physical health and educational absorptive capacity. We have come more and more to understand that we cannot adequately educate the inadequately fed or the inadequately equipped child. So with the approval of most Members of the House, in face of the opposition of some, we now have school meals, school medical services and special educational facilities for special child types. It would be one of the great tragedies of the war if this steady process of expansion were now held up, and it would be an even greater tragedy if the present position were allowed to contract it in any way.
One, two or three years of war will have a devastating effect on the generation immediately engaged in it, but two or three years of war will have a no less serious psychological effect on a generation not yet born. The intermediate generation now at school must be guided as we have never guided it before, and the maintenance of these school medical services comes to be a matter of major consequence and importance. I cannot view the prospect with any degree of optimism. Some local authorities lack enthusiasm in this matter, and there is a lack of sense of responsibility in the matter of school services. The acquisition of school buildings has provided excuses and the occasion for some laxity and lack of enthusiasm, and the evacuation of children adds a new complication to the problem. The whole problem of school meals in particular and of school 954 medical services in general needs looking at in broader and far more generous terms. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary at least to assure the House in more definite terms than he has so far used that he will, to the limit of his powers, take what steps he can to see that the local authorities fully discharge their obligations in this important matter of social services, and if necessary in a matter of such importance he should even come to the House with further powers.
I now desire to say something about a matter which has already been referred to—clothing, and particularly the clothing for the evacuated child. My constituency is a reception area. Much tribute and testimony has been paid this afternoon to the continuous devotion of the evacuated teachers to the evacuated children. I wish the generous testimony that has been paid to their devotion could be accompanied by some more generous contribution to their financial difficulties. I do not know what sort of a struggle the Parliamentary Secretary had with the Ministry of Health in this matter, but 5s. a week billeting money to a devoted band of teachers who are confronted with the difficulties which necessarily accompany the work in reception areas is almost the limit of meanness, and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will display more generosity in this matter.
Many of the people in my constituency, if not indeed most of them, have been through a very rough time. Unemployment and short-time working have made a very heavy impression indeed on their economic resources and capacity. They cannot adequately satisfy their own material needs, and they have no margin with which to satisfy other people's material needs. The evacuated child needs clothing and clothing replacement; and, as an hon. Member said, let nobody in this connection seek to escape obligation by delivering a pious homily about responsibility, because that becomes no more than an unworthy escape from our own responsibility. It is the child that matters; it needs clothes, a scarf and a pair of shoes amongst other things. In some houses these have been found—insufficiently, but they have been found— both within and without the constituency, but private resources dry up and my constituents cannot continue making generous sacrifices beyond reason and beyond reasonable capacity. There must be 955 Treasury assistance, and, if I may say so, there must especially be Treasury assistance in the matter of shoes. A child can wear, without undue physical harm, a coat that is a little too big; but that cannot be said about a pair of shoes. They are nearly worn out, they are either too big or too small; in any case, they have been formed for another child's feet; and great harm may result if children are made to wear shoes which are worn out and have been already fitted to the feet of another child. The local authorities must have power and financial aid from the Treasury, so that they can deal with this matter of clothing, and especially shoes.
I want to say a word about the acquisition of school buildings for A.R.P. and related purposes. The Parliamentary Secretary has no reliable information as to the number of children whose school time has been interfered with, but the number must be considerable. Several reasons have been referred to, but I am concerned, for the moment, only with one. Children have been dispossessed of their school premises in order to make way for air-raid wardens' posts and stores. Some of this may be unavoidable, but I am certain that some is not. School premises, in some cases, were taken because they were in the line of least resistance, and no consideration was given to the harmful results that would occur. With a little observation, premises could have been found elsewhere, and, I am convinced, can now be found. Evacuation of existing buildings may in some cases be a matter of great difficulty, but where possible it should be done. Where evacuation is not now possible, local authorities should be required to search minutely for every inch of accommodation that can be used for educational purposes. The object should be to get every child back to full-time education as speedily as possible.
The Noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) said this afternoon that we were fighting a war for the defence of Christianity. That being the case, I see no reason why Christian institutions should not lend their buildings for the beneficent purposes of education, and why schools should not be accommodated in churches and chapels. After all, the schoolrooms of these institutions are being used for other purposes in connection with the war. I 956 confess I view the situation sometimes with a little discomfort. If armed troops can occupy their schoolrooms, I see no reason why defenceless children should not be allowed to use their churches and chapels. Instead of standing empty, these buildings could be filled for educational purposes. I believe that the Parliamentary Secretary and his Noble Friend have responsibilities no less great than those of any other members of His Majesty's Government. The Board of Education will have, as hon. Friends of mine have said, a tough fight with the Treasury against the clutching maws of the Service Departments. Many Members of this House earnestly hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will give a good account of himself in that fight. If he does not, there will be another very early Debate in this House on the subject of education.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Beamish
Many of the speeches to-night have been delivered to an audience sparse and rare, but the speeches have been critical, constructive and very informative. I want 1:0 say a few sentences about how a reception area which I represent is affected by the shattering blow which was given to the continuity of education when the war broke out. I am particularly interested because of a question to the Minister of Health which was on the Paper to-day, with regard to the re-billeting of schoolchildren who are already billeted in some other place. The matter is a very difficult and very serious one. I should like to bear out very much of what has been said by the Parliamentary Secretary. He mentioned the happiness that people enjoyed under the Sussex Downs. A great deal of the Sussex Downs is in my constituency. Although we are delighted to have evacuated schoolchildren, it would not be true to say that all is quite well. A good deal of readjustment is required.
I would quote a particular case in regard to three schools that were evacuated to Hove, which is not in my constituency. They have been there now for more than 10 weeks, undergoing the most severe handicaps, partly because of the difficulty of readjustment but still more in consequence of the initial evacuation arrangements. There are two girls' schools and one boys' school struggling to make 957 the best use of educational facilities which were provided for one school. They were evacuated about 1st September. I should like to get a reply to this question. How did it come about that those schools were sent to Hove at all? Having arrived there, they discovered that the children could not be properly educated at that place; and now a town in my constituency is asked to take over one of those schools and re-billet the children. I can only say that a constant state of dissatisfaction exists, because this question has not been properly settled.
I hesitate for a moment, but only for a moment, to allocate the blame. My view is that the authority that was responsible for evacuating those schools ought to bear the blame. So far as I know, the authority concerned is the London County Council. The right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), when he is here, is one of the most difficult individuals to get a rise out of. He reminds me of the story of the monster fish that lurked near a bridge but ultimately came to its doom. The blame for wrongly distributing the schools ought to be laid at the door of those responsible, and I consider that it is the result of discreditable ineptitude on the part of the London County Council. There is this girls' school in respect of which everybody wants to find the solution. The solution, in my opinion, does not rest with re-billeting. I am sure that those who are listening to me will agree that, if you have already billeted several hundred elementary school children on to perfectly satisfied owners of small property, and, after they have all settled down and are quite happy, as they are in 99 cases out of 100, if you suddenly displace them and put them somewhere else and replace them by older secondary school children, not only are the children utterly upset, but the people on whom they are billeted find it very difficult to re-adjust themselves.
In some way or another that difficulty ought to be got over. One way in which it can be trot over would be by the generosity of the Board of Education in arranging the daily transport from the town of Hove so that they can visit the town of Lewes, attend school and go back in the evening. The Government are spending vast sums of money, in parti- 958 cular, in sending workmen long distances to build camps and to do other Government contractors' work. If workmen can be sent 20 miles and more each way daily from the source of labour to the source of work, surely it is not too much to ask that the youngsters of whom I speak should be given transport to enable them to go on with their education. I hope that nobody would suggest that I am not anxious that they should have their education completed in every possible way.
I have listened with great interest to the perorations, and to the speeches generally on the subject of education, and I do not play No. 2 to anybody in the world who speaks of the joys and glories of education. It certainly is the basis of all civilised progress, and it is the essence particularly of democratic citizenship, of the education for citizenship of the young people of whom I am speaking. There could be no greater national duty at the present time. I ask the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health to put their heads together and try to help us in regard to the question I have raised.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Silkin
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Lewes (Rear-Admiral Beamish) was quite entitled to use the occasion to ventilate a difficulty which has arisen in his constituency, but I am afraid he has been carried away so much by his quite natural, from his point of view, dislike of the London County Council. He is attributing blame where blame is certainly not due. I do not know who is to blame for all this difficulty. It may be the people of his own constituency, or it may be the local council, but it is certainly not the London County Council, whose responsibility finished at the time they put the children on to the train.
§ Rear-Admiral Beamish
I would be the last person in the world to try to allocate blame where it is not due, and I know the truth of what the hon. Member is saying about the children being put into the train. I would ask him to try to agree with me when I say that for months, almost years, before the blow fell people knew what was going to happen. Therefore, as everybody knew perfectly well where every school and reception area was situated, surely it was 959 not too much to ask that there should have been a little more foresight. I apologise if I have spoken too strongly.
§ Mr. Silkin
I agree that we ought to have had more foresight and vision, but the duties and responsibilities of the local authorities were clearly defined, and the responsibility of the local authority ceased at the time when the children were put on to the train, though I do not suggest for a moment that we had no interest in our children after that.
§ Rear-Admiral Beamish
Will the hon. Member kindly do his best, as I have done, to try and place the responsibility? There is a responsibility, and it would be better if we could arrive at some definite point where we could say who was the responsible person.
§ Mr. Silkin
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman talks like that, I am sure we shall be prepared to help him, but in the first instance the responsibility is with the Minister of Health, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman should direct his attention to him and not to the London County Council. But we are perfectly prepared to help him, and if the hon. and gallant Gentleman would like to put his difficulties to the London County Council I know that they will do everything they possibly can to get them remedied.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Miss Horsbrugh)
I think that where the blame mostly lies, and where the difficulty arose was in the drop in the number of children going. The duty of the local authority was to put the children on the train. Trains going out of London at the beginning were not full and the organisation of the schools was upset by filling up the trains—though it was right that they should have been filled, otherwise, if raids had taken place, it might have been said that trains had gone away half empty—and because of it the school units arrived in different parts of the country where they would not have arrived if the numbers had been up to the full.
§ Mr. Silkin
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman is satisfied. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education must be gratified by 960 the Debate as far as it has gone, because the only criticism he has had is that he and his Department have not done as much for education as the House would have liked. That criticism has come from all sides of the House irrespective of party opinion. I would only say in parenthesis to hon. Members opposite who criticise the Board of Education, that I hope they will be prepared to foot the bill when it is presented. All their suggestions are going to cost money, and hitherto their criticism has been against any further expenditure on the social services.
I would like to reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Ridley) has said, that you cannot conduct education in a vacuum. You must relate education to the other social services. It is no good attempting to educate an unhealthy or ill-fed child, and education must be connected with school meals, the feeding of school children and with the health services and with better housing. You cannot do justice to a child who lives in a slum, and you must even connect it with better accommodation for games in the provision of more playing fields. It must also be connected with an efficient public assistance service. You have to relate all social services to education. That means that all these things have to be paid for, and I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite who have been so sincerely desirous of improving our educational services will realise the implications of what they have been pleading and will be prepared to pay for it.
We on this side of the House have asked for this Debate in order that we might more particularly discuss the new problem that has arisen of the education of the child who has remained in the evacuation areas. In order that the House may get an adequate conception of what that problem means in London—and I believe London is typical—we now have more children remaining in London than there are evacuated. The number in London is increasing week by week, or rather week-end by week-end, because that is the time when they come back, and I visualise that unless something is done the time may come when by far the larger proportion of London children will be back in London. Therefore, the problem of education in London is assuming larger and larger proportions. We in London are extremely desirous, and have 961 been for some weeks past, of reinstating education in our schools, but we are faced with the difficulties already stated by hon. Members, that if we are to reintroduce education in our schools we can work only on a shift system. We can provide only 25 hours of education per fortnight, and we can provide it only for children between the ages of 11 and 14. The education will have to be voluntary, and we shall be compelled to educate children from the elementary schools, the central schools, the secondary schools and the junior technical schools in the same school buildings.
I am sure the House will agree that it is most unsatisfactory that we shall be compelled to do this in the first instance because of lack of school accommodation. At the present time only one school in four in London is available. Three schools out of four have been requisitioned for Civil Defence and other purposes. I am not going to apportion any blame for this. The London County Council must take a good deal of responsibility, as my hon. Friends the Member for Clay Cross and the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) said, because they took the line of least resistance. When the war broke out these schools were vacant, and as far as the London County Council knew they were going to remain vacant for a long time. I see no objection to taking the line of least resistance. It was the only thing to do, but it was much easier to take the children than to get them back, and unless we get considerable assistance from the Government in providing other accommodation for the services which are at present occupying our schools, I am afraid that the education that I have described is the best that can be done.
I realise as well as anybody that it is unsatisfactory not to be able to provide education for the hundreds of thousands of children in London between the ages of five and eleven. It is equally unsatisfactory to be able to provide education only for half-time, and it will be recognised that it is most unsatisfactory to have to mix up elementary, secondary and technical education in the same schools, and with the same group of teachers, when there is not the equipment for all that sort of education. Therefore, as many schools as possible must be released at the earliest possible moment. 962 I am glad to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health present, because we shall need the assistance of the Ministry of Health in order to enable the London County Council to release the schools.
I hope I was mistaken, but I rather gathered from the tone of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education that he had a feeling that we must not make the education in the evacuation areas too attractive, because if we do that it will attract children back from the reception areas to the evacuation areas. I hope that such a misconception will not arise in the Board of Education, and that we shall recognise that the education we provide in the evacuation areas must be as good as it possibly can be. It must not be provided in any deterrent sense. I fully realise that it is desirable and vitally important to keep the children in the reception areas, and means must be found of doing that, but not by depreciating the value of the education to be provided in evacuation areas. I hope that it will be possible at the very earliest moment to extend the system of education, so that all children of school age may receive education during the normal school hours, and that it will be possible to separate elementary education from secondary and junior technical education.
As regards the junior technical schools, they present a very special problem, because while in the reception areas elementary education is reasonably satisfactory, on the whole, and I think that on the whole the secondary schools have been able to adapt themselves fairly well to the circumstances, that cannot be said of technical education. Very few of the reception areas are properly equipped for dealing with technical education. When you get such a variety of trades taught as in London, such as those of silversmiths, photo engraving, the rubber trade, hairdressing, photography and the hotel industry, and many others, it can be appreciated that work cannot be satisfactorily done in a reception area unless you get the fullest amount of equipment provided to enable this teaching to be done satisfactorily. Therefore, I would urge upon the Board of Education that they should make up their mind about this problem. If the Board want technical education to be carried out in 963 reception areas, they will have to encourage the education authorities in those areas to provide the necessary facilities for that education; otherwise it will have to be done in the evacuation areas, and it will mean a considerable number of children coming back from the reception areas to the evacuation areas.
I should like to refer to the question of university education. It was adequately dealt with by the hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. Harvey), but I want to emphasise the problem as it affects a number of young men and young women—it must be realised that women are in this as well as men—who are holders of free places at some of the colleges of the London University. They were able to attend because they were living at home, fairly close to the colleges, and incurred no very great expense. Then the war came and the colleges were evacuated to Oxford, Cambridge, Wales and all sorts of places all over the country, and the students were told that they would have to pay anything from two guineas a week upwards for their keep at the places to which they were evacuated. I would ask hon. Members to bear in mind that these scholarship holders, these exhibitioners, are the very people who, by reason of holding the scholarships, have no resources. Two guineas a week, or even one guinea a week, is entirely beyond their means. There are hundreds of students who have been attending colleges at the London University in their first, second, and some in their third year, who have been left stranded. They should have started their course in the month of October but because their college has been evacuated they have not been able to live in the area to which their college has gone. I ask the House to realise the immense waste of educational provision in the lives of these young people.
Something must be done to enable them to continue their education. Local auhorities can help and they are willing to help. They are willing to give grants to these scholars to enable them to pay for their keep at the various places to which the colleges have been evacuated, but the difficulty is that hitherto the Board of Education have refused to recognise these maintenance allowances for grant purposes. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary for a categorical 964 assurance that the Board of Education will play their part in the solution of this problem and pay the appropriate grant in respect of any amounts which are paid by local authorities for the maintenance of these university students. It is a serious problem. An estimate has been made of the cost in London, and for London alone it is about £50,000 a year. I am sure the Board will recognise that this is a matter in which they must play their part. If the Board are not prepared to make the appropriate grant it is difficult for local authorities to bear the whole of the burden themselves.
I sincerely hope that as the war proceeds education will not become the Cinderella of the services. A good deal will depend on the force and personality of those who represent education in the War Cabinet. It is a great pity that the social services, as such, are not directly represented inside the War Cabinet. You have the forces there of finance but you have not an equivalent representing the social services, and there is a fear, in spite of the fair words which have been said to-night, that as the war goes on the Government may take the line of least resistance and that education may suffer seriously. The future welfare and greatness of this country depend upon the children whom we are educating to-day, and unless we can give them the very best education and the very best social services, even in a time of war, the future of this country may be very grave. I hope that the House will constantly have before it the importance of education and that whatever else may have to go in the course of the war it will see that education is the last to go.
§ 9.15 p.m.
Mr. Owen Evans
I have been somewhat puzzled in listening to the argument regarding the desirability of opening all schools in evacuation areas. Anyone who lives in London and has seen the children roaming about the streets will realise that it is not only desirable but necessary that their education should not be interrupted in this way. We all agree with that, but it seems to me that the argument is inconsistent with the policy of evacuation. The hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) said how absurd it was that a child on one side of the line should be receiving some sort of improvised education in a reception area and that a child on the other side of the line in a danger zone 965 should receive no education at all. It seems to me that hon. Members must make up their minds as to the right policy to pursue. Those who have been evacuated from London will certainly not get as good an education in the reception areas, or in many of them, as will those children who remain in London where the schools are open, and that is especially the case in the matter of technical education which is almost impossible in the reception areas. I want to be enlightened on this point. If all the schools are opened in an evacuation area it would be unfair that those children who have been evacuated should have to remain in an area where they will not get so good an education as the normal education given to their brothers and sisters who remain in the danger zone.
I would open the schools, but it will result inevitably in the policy of evacuation becoming impossible, because once these children get a chance of getting back to their schools and to their parents, and knowing that their brothers and sisters are getting better education than they are receiving, they will inevitably trek back. The hon. Member for Abingdon also emphasised the importance of maintaining our technical education at the highest possible level even in these times. Technical education and scientific education are essential to the nation in these times and will be still more essential when peace returns to this country. I remember a distinguished judge of the High Court who had been occupying the position of Director-General of Explosives in the Ministry of Munitions stating on oath in a court of law after the last war, that the war could not have been won without the chemists of a certain firm in this country. It is equally true to-day, and although it may not be true to say that technicians and chemists and physicists will win the war, it is certainly true to say that it cannot be won without them.
To-day, research and the men who carry on research are as necessary as ever. For instance, we have had experience of aeroplanes being brought down inside the country, and we know that research is doubtless being carried 966 on into the structure and manufacture of these aeroplanes. It is essential to have technicians for that kind of work in war time. I was amazed when I heard the case of a young man which was quoted by the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson). I am afraid that is not an isolated case I have received similar complaints about young men relentlessly pursued by those authorities who see only one side of this matter and who see nothing better than the fighting Services, and do not realise the necessity for highly-trained and skilled people in science and technical matters. I hope the Minister will bear these matters in mind. I have had considerable experience of the trouble it is to keep technicians out of the Army and to get them back after they have joined.
I want to refer particularly to one aspect of the question, which was referred to earlier by the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards). It has reference to the reception areas in rural Wales, where the Welsh language is the everyday language of the people. I represent a constituency which is a reception area. In the Northern part of the constituency, round about Aberystwyth and on the slopes and hills of Plinlimmon, there are hundreds of children from Liverpool. I have made inquiries of competent people, authorities on education and local administrators, as to the condition of things in this reception area. I am glad to say that the testimony given to me by every one of those to whom I have spoken is that the reception of these children in this area was generous and warmhearted, and that the children have settled down very comfortably with their hosts. I have received the testimony of the Merseyside teachers who accompanied the children, and invariably they have spoken of the kindness and hospitality of the people who are accommodating the children. One expert on education told me that he had not personally heard of one word of complaint, although there might be some isolated cases. The trouble in that part of the country is not with the children, but with the mothers who accompany the children of pre-school age. They affect the happiness of those children. The ladies who come from Liverpool do not seem to be able to adapt themselves very easily to the way of living of the ladies of Cardiganshire. When considering these matters, I suggest that 967 some regard should be had for the feelings of those who accommodate the children, and that there should he some idea of the trouble which these people have to bear in dealing with these ladies from some of the districts of Liverpool. These ladies must be told very definitely and must realise that it is necessary for them to adjust themselves to the lives of the people in the district to which they go, and not expect the countryside to adjust itself to the way of living in Liverpool.
It is very cheerful to see some of the children who are now billeted on the farms on the heights of Plinlimmon, some of them 1,700 feet above the sea, and to see how interested and happy they are in these most remote areas. Some of the teachers have told me that they have never seen the children so robust. They are billeted in farms, they are happy even to walk two miles to the nearest school, and would not for the world leave their present billets. They love the farm life, they even take part in milking the cattle, and they love to speak of their farm and their stock. There is no doubt that these children are gaining an experience which undoubtedly will enrich their future lives, and they are gaining an understanding of rural life which will probably result in a good many of them adopting an agricultural life, which will be a very good thing for the country.
There is one point which I want particularly to make to-night. I am sure the House will forgive me for drawing attention to it now, because we who have the honour to represent the Principality are unfortunately deprived of the opportunity of having a night of our own. I notice that next Tuesday hon. Members who represent Scotland will have a night for themselves, and everybody else will be absent. That not being possible in our case, I want to mention one point which closely affects Welsh life to-day, and which was referred to a good deal by the hon. Member for Wrexham. It is the question of language. In Wales to-day, just under 1,000,000 people speak the Welsh language, and indeed, in large areas of Wales nothing but Welsh is ordinarily spoken. Those people who are interested in Welsh literature and culture generally—and there are more and more of them each year—have a great apprehension as to what will be the effect of 968 the presence of a large number of evacuees on the teaching of the language. As has been pointed out already, the teaching of children up to eight years of age is done through the medium of the Welsh language. This House having officially recognised the Welsh language cannot go back on the policy which it has adopted for a long period.
The point of which I hope the Minister will take note is that, having regard to the presence of this large number of evacuees in the rural schools of Wales some means should be found to ensure that teaching through the medium of Welsh will not be hampered in any way. We know that in some areas, halls and vestries have been taken and a great deal of expenditure incurred in making these buildings ready for the evacuees. In a previous Debate a little while ago the hon. Member for Abingdon, who is not now in his place, said that it was unfortunate that Catholics from Liverpool had been evacuated to Protestant areas in Wales, and he described those Protestants as narrow-minded and bigoted people who regarded a Papist as the very worst type of individual. May I just tell the House that Nonconformist chapels and vestries in Wales have been placed at the disposal of these Catholic children, without any payment at all except the cost of heating and cleaning. I would willingly take the hon. Member for Abingdon to my constituency and he will see that the ordinary person there, even the farm labourer, knows a great deal about Catholic doctrine and is certainly not as bigoted as the Catholic himself.
I wish to emphasise the question of the language. It is obvious that where the evacuated children are segregated in a hall and the normal work of the village school is carried on in another building, it is bound to affect the normality of the teaching. Although we welcome these children and will do our best for them, we ragard the teaching of the Welsh language as a matter of the highest importance to Welsh life and Welsh culture. The schemes which are now being used must to some extent interfere with the normal working of Welsh schools in which Welsh is the medium of instruction and I hope the Minister will try as far as possible to maintain a standard of what somebody to-night has called "maximum normality" in teaching in these country areas. To show the importance of the 969 question of the language in Wales, it is to be noted that the Welsh people are apprehensive about it because the council of the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales, of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is president, has recently called a conference to discuss the situation. I hope, therefore, the Minister will keep in mind this question of the teaching of Welsh and will see that the facilities for doing so are not interrupted.
§ 9.34 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morgan
To sit through an education Debate is, in itself an educative experience. To hear the various facets of the subject discussed helps one to take a broad view of the general problem. I desire to refer to my experience in a reception area. I happen to live in a village in which the pupils from a London school have settled down extremely well. We have had the schoolmaster and his charges billeted upon us, and it has been very interesting to see how that young man after having had the advantage of a London school with all its facilities, has faced up to the difficulties caused by the apparatus and structure of the village school, the lack of water supply and the primitive conditions. I hope that, arising out of this experience schoolmasters and others will learn to appreciate the effect which lack of interest or lack of money, or lack of something has had upon the equipment of rural education in the past.
I was struck the other day, coming back in the train, to see a woman standing at the window and looking out. She had a little girl by her side, and I could see at once that she was looking out for chimney pots, so I said to her, "Are you going back to London?" She replied, "Yes." "Where have you come from?" "From beyond Hunstanton." "How does the child like the idea of returning?" She said, "She will miss the trees." I heard the Parliamentary Secretary make his very eloquent references to the experience gained in the country and to the fact that the children going into the country have discovered something which they did not know existed. I hope that, when the educational facilities begin to run again in London to the full, the lesson of these last few months will not be lost on the Board and that these children will not lose their country contacts. I hope 970 that the Board will remember that the children who went into the country for a brief spell ought to go back to it again, if only to settlements for a month or two, or even a fortnight at a time. There ought to be permanent educational establishments in the country where a rota of visits could be made and certain types of education given. I always thought that the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) had something of that kind in his mind when he started taking children out in buses to the Green Belt. There has been much talk about the rural exodus to the towns, but I saw in that the first beginnings of an urban move back to the country, which I think, if we are to be permanently health may well have to be expedited by our educationists and by other people, with other facilities.
But I did not rise with that in mind so much as to refer to the need for getting away from schools those military and similar authorities for whom alternative accommodation can reasonably be found. I represent a constituency that has presented me with certain facts and that wants me to exercise whatever influence I can with the education authorities in order that they may regain possession of their main school. They gave me the facts only over the week-end. I had the data put into my pocket, and I then attended a church service. It was Citizen Sunday and Remembrance Day, and the church was full of the military forces. I heard the lessons read by the colonel of a regiment, and so I made his acquaintance after the service, and said, "What are you doing in Doncaster?" He replied, "I am in command of a regiment." I said, "Where are you billeted?" In reply, he named the very school that I have referred to, so I said, "How did you come to go there? "He replied," Oh, I know Doncaster well. You see, I have been mobilised three times, and as long ago as last July I knew this job was coming on, so I booked the best billet in the town."He walked into it, and the education authorities did not know how he had got there or who had given him authority to get there. The presumntion was that he had every right to be there, and so they found 600 or 700 solders in their central school, disorganising the whole educational life of the town and putting 2,000 children, from juniors right 971 up to the evening classes, absolutely at sixes and sevens. So now you have youngsters traversing the whole length of an area that is very difficult to negotiate because of the traffic, and there is that colonel sitting in what he regards as the best billet in the town.
The local education committee have since worked out alternative accommodation for this regiment, and there are other soldiers occupying some of these premises that are available, and I hope that when representations are made to the Board of Education we shall be able to make out a satisfactory case. There is no desire to make the military uncomfortable, but the whole town now realises, not that the educational life of the town is at a standstill, because they are accommodating others to-day, but that it is very severely compromised and upset by a quite irrelevant action on the part of those who deemed they could exercise a certain authority in the matter. One already finds a moderating point of view operating. People are beginning to see that they can take a reasonable line about these things, and now is the moment when, if the Board of Education has been disposed to accept the inevitable up to now, the forces of public opinion are now behind them in taking any action that they can to get this position straightened out. This Debate has indicated that they will find themselves in line with Parliamentary opinion in this matter, and also in line with growing public opinion outside, that we have not lost our balance, and that we can get educational adjustments made at this stage.
In concluding, I come back to the rural situation. The Board have had suggestions made to them that the billeting money for the teacher billeted in country districts is inadequate. It is inadequate from two angles. It is a strain upon the generosity of people on whom the teachers have been billeted. They accept the allowance of 5s., but they also recognise the fact in many cases that the billeted teachers have two homes to maintain and accept very small returns from them. It has also brought home to the teacher from the urban authorities the scale and the status of the rural teacher. In our village school a most brilliant girl teacher is receiving £75 a year. She is 972 so brilliant that the master said that he has never seen such handling of children in his life. I have travelled across Canada and I remember having explained to me in British Columbia their educational system. They said that they always paid their rural teacher the most. He is living in an isolated set of conditions away from the usual run of amenities. He has probably to teach over a whole range of mental attainment and development, and has to handle a wide range of subjects. Therefore, instead of paying the rural teacher the least in such progressive countries as British Columbia, they pay him more than the urban teacher because of his extra responsibilities and the claim upon his capacity which being in that position makes.
I beg the Minister not to forget when the return of the children to the towns occurs, as it must occur, that there will be many who will go reluctantly and a few who will stay. When they go back one hopes that the Ministry will regard what they have learned as to the benefits gained by the children as a lasting lesson. I heard somebody refer to the fact that much less milk was being drunk now that the children had been evacuated to rural areas. It is not so much the question of the amount of milk that they drink. The drinking of milk is often necessary simply because of physical deficiencies in the children and once the deficiencies are being remedied under rural conditions the drinking of milk becomes less necessary. It is like a person who is in the dumps and does not know what is wrong with him. He resorts to pills, but suddenly gets a complete change of environment and is picked up in outlook and in every way. He discovers that he does not need the pills and is an entirely different sort of person. In the case of many of the children who have gone to the country, the width of life offered to them and the general interests brought into their lives have benefited them so much physically that many things which we thought were necessary for them may no longer be requisite.
I was talking yesterday to a mother in Woolwich who said that she was not bringing her child home from an Essex village because it was getting far better education there than it had been receiving in Woolwich, with all the facilities 973 Woolwich enjoys, and was making enormous headway. I doubt whether that was to be attributed to the quality of the education which was given; I think, rather, that the improved physical health of the child had stimulated its mental faculties. The Parliamentary Secretary must also take note of the fact that this influx of teaching staffs and schools from the towns has disclosed to the urban mind the shocking equipment of many of the rural schools, and what slender resources are available for rural education. Those who have come to the country must also remember us when they go back, and see that we have as good facilities in the country districts for the education of the children as have been built up in the towns. We in the country deserve as high a standard of educational facilities as is taken for granted in the towns, and I hope that lesson will not be lost. And, as I said earlier, I hope, also, that when the children go back from the country it will not be the last that we shall see of them, and that arrangements will be made for them to return periodically to renew their contacts with the countryside.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies
To those of us who have been very anxious about the drift from the country to the towns during the last 100 years it has been a matter of pleasure to listen to speech after speech welcoming the new flow from the urban areas back to the rural areas, and, as the last speaker said, I hope the lesson of that will be learned not only by this generation but by the young people now in the country and also by the Board of Education. I should like to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary upon his excellent review, which was a very comprehensive statement, and now that the hon. Lady the Paarliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health is here I should like to repeat what I said in her absence on the last occasion, and that is what great pleasure she has given to all in Wales by the interest she has shown in the Principality by going there to see conditions for herself. Now that she has seen those conditions I want once again to direct the attention of both the Ministry of Health and the Board of Education to a matter which was mentioned by me last time and was also referred to by the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tom-linson). Immediate steps ought to be 974 taken to see to the clothing and boots of these children now that the winter is upon us, and also to see that they get a proper mid-day meal.
The hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. J. Morgan) has very rightly drawn attention to the bad conditions in some of our rural schools. I do not know what can be done about that but I shall return to it later; but do not let the children suffer while we are quarrelling as to who is to pay. The hon. Member for Farnworth described all the process which has to be gone through to determine who is to pay. Let us clothe the children and give them decent boots now, and later fight out who is to foot the bill. I claim from whoever is to reply that that point should be borne in mind and that we should be given some assurance that it will be done. I dread the coming winter and the possible epidemics. If there were an epidemic we should be faced with an extraordinarily difficult situation. There would be the difficulty of doctors getting to the patients owing to the black-out and of going along the country roads, and the difficulty of not having many nurses. In particular, there would be the anxiety of the host and hostess with a sick child whose father and mother were perhaps, 100 miles away. I hope that this matter will be attended to at once. That is the first point.
The other point is that I am glad that the Minister of Transport has arranged to-day for cheaper fares for parents to visit their children. While thanking him for what he has done I regret the way in which he has done it. After all, these children and their parents had no choice about the place to which they were sent. One child may have been taken 100 miles, another 50, another 20 and another may have gone only 10 miles. Nevertheless, one parent will have to pay the return fare for only 10 miles while others will have to pay the return fare for 50 or 100 miles. They have no choice. Why cannot the Government, now that they are running the railways, have one flat rate at a nominal fare? These children are as important as the soldiers out in France at the present moment. You pay their fare home. It is just as important that the mothers should see these children. If the Government ask for only a nominal fare they will be doing what is right.
I was very pleased to receive a message this morning from the Board of Education 975 that the conditions in my village have been given priority—or rather that they made such a deep impression upon the Board of Education that priority is to be given and a new school is to be built. A shocking state of things exists there. Children have had to be housed in a small village institute where the bulk of the space is occupied by a billiard table. In the evenings it is used for the purpose for which it was built, yet 80 children are housed in that place, with no proper facilities of any kind whatever. Fortunately, the Board have made up their mind that a new school which was designed and planned during the summer is now to be built. I want to impress upon the Board that they ought to take up the general position with the other Ministries. The answer of the other Ministries is, "You are low down on the list of priorities. We cannot give you bricks or timber. We cannot afford it."
There are schools which require a new board here, a joist or two there, or something to keep the roof going, and yet the Board of Education are told that they are low down on the list and those things cannot be forthcoming. Where has the timber been used? One has only to walk round London to find an answer to that question. You will see windows that could be shattered to-morrow, and it would not matter a bit. Timber has been put up as a protection to that glass that does not matter, while children suffer. You have drawn up your order, and allowed anybody to buy any amount of timber for A.R.P. purposes and to use it for anything they like to call A.R.P. purposes. A much more important thing is the health of the people of the future. What is the use of fighting for the liberty of this land if we are to have unhealthy generations in the future? I beg the Board of Education and the Ministry of Health to insist that they be put higher up in the list of priorities than they are to-day.
§ 9.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
If I were not well acquainted with the education system of the country I should have developed great pessimism as a result of to-day's Debate. I do not share many of the views expressed to-day in regard to the difficulty of our time as representing even a temporary failure of the education system. As a schoolmaster 976 I welcome what schoolmasters ought to have learned from being compelled to adopt the shift system. For a great many years now there has been too much tuition in the schools and too little study on the part of the pupils, and one effect of the shift system has been that the teachers have had to give part-time tuition and make quite certain that the child in the remaining part of the day was studying effectively and intensively along well ordered lines, in circumstances in which the child was not able to put up its hand and say,"Please teacher, how do you spell ' Constantinople'? "The spirit of self-reliance which has been inculcated in the children in that way is all to the good. When we get back to maximum normality, as my right hon. Friend said—and I hope at some future time he will explain to me what it means, but it is so fine a phrase that I cannot resist repeating it—when we get back to maximum or minimum normality, I sincerely hope the lessons that the schoolmasters ought to have learned during the past few weeks will not be forgotten by them.
I was also pleased to discover that at last the emphasis in the title "Board of Education" is to be laid on the last word instead of the first. It has been a very wooden Board on a great many occasions, but the hon. Gentleman this afternoon told us that the Permanent Secretary of the Board of Education spends one or two hours of every day sitting down and presiding over the chief officers of the Board to discuss education and educational problems. It almost makes the war worth while to find that the Permanent Secretary and the principal officers of the Board—let us hope not excepting the chief financial officer of the Board—meet in solemn conclave for an hour or two every day to discuss education, because of the six pamphlets to which he referred only one—and that is on A.R.P.—is not concerned with what I might call pure education. I remember the late Dr. Page, who was for many years at Charterhouse and was well known to many Members of this House. He served for over 30 years on the Surrey Education Committee. At almost the last meeting he attended he said: "I have been coming here for 30 years to attend an education committee. I have been allowed to discuss bricks and mortar and playing fields, but I have always been ruled out of order whenever I 977 wanted to discuss education. "At last the principal officers of the Board, in the fortunate absence of the Parliamentary Secretary and his Noble Friend, steal a few hours in which to discuss the subject for which they have been drawing pay for years. Therefore, one can go home to-night a little uplifted in spirit by some of the things that we have heard.
I regret to find that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardigan (Mr. O. Evans) confessed to confusion in his mind about the situation with regard to evacuation. I was one of the first in this House to advocate evacuation as a policy. I still believe it is right, and I do not believe that the opening of the schools in the evacuation areas will bring many children back, because I do not think that when parents agreed to the evacuation of their children they thought the schools in London or in the other evacuation areas would not be opened. They evacuated their children because the Government and we on this side of the House and other people told them that it was the proper thing to do for their children; and I believe that the majority of the children still remaining in the reception areas are the children of parents who believe that, in view of the possibilities of what may still come upon us—because, after all, what is 10 weeks in a three years' war?—it is better for those children to be in positions of comparative safety rather than in the cities and big towns that were scheduled for evacuation. I think that most of the children who are corning back have now come back, and that the number of others who will come back because the schools are open is not as large as some people have suggested this afternoon.
I trust that, while everything will be done to give efficient education in the evacuation areas once the schools are reopened, the Government will continue from time to time to advise parents whose children are evacuated to keep those children in the reception areas. I welcome (he reference that Her Majesty the Queen made to her own children in the wonderful broadcast which she gave on Armistice Day. I think it is a reference that might have been made by Members of the Government at an earlier stage. I hope the Government will continue to urge on parents in the evacuation areas the desirability, for the sake of the nation 978 and of the children, of their keeping their children in the reception areas.
I should like to read to the House a letter which has been placed in my hands while I have been in the House to-day. It is from a constituent of mine who, with his class, has been evacuated to Westmorland. The letter is addressed from Appleby, and says:As you will realise from the above address, I am one of those evacuated with the South Shields High School for Boys to this delightful little Westmorland town. Both staff and boys are comfortably billeted, and on the whole have been very happy here. We've been working full time-table since a week after our arrival, though in improvised classrooms, and in some respects have been able to do work of more educational value, having closer contact with the boys, than at home.May I say again, as a schoolmaster, that I think that the improvised classroom as an occasional place in which to give education is not a bad thing? There is many a boy who thinks that a thing must work because it is being done in school, and if you put him into some place where both teacher and taught have to make their own improvisations, you give to what too easily becomes a mere formality, all the excitement of experiment and a feeling of reality. While it is true that my correspondent goes on to point out that many other schools are less favourably situated and hopes that efforts will be made to give everybody as good a chance as he has, that paragraph by itself shows what can be done, "and we need not write off all that is being done in the reception areas as being not merely improvised but makeshift. Something is being done to make people who are accustomed to the machine going round with clock-like precision realise that mere mechanism should be occasionally examined, and to understand the spirit that ought to underlie our educational activities and the relationship between teachers and taught.
In spite of what I have said, I find my inspiration in the schools and those employed in them rather than in the precise activities of the political heads of the Board of Education. I share all the feelings of disappointment that have been expressed by my hon. Friends, except that they are not new feelings for me. Can one expect that the Noble Friend of the Parliamentary Secretary and himself when they come into action to prevent a school being taken are any match for that 979 magnificent figure the Secretary of State for War? In a contest between them, who would have any doubt as to who was going to be the winner? As has been said over and over again, there is no representative of the social services in the War Cabinet, and one would like to know exactly how the plight of the various social services, and especially education, is brought before the War Cabinet. I could only hope that in the very near future, just as the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has succeeded Earl Stanhope as First Lord of the Admiralty, he might also succeed him shortly as President of the Board of Education, and then we would have a very different story to tell of commandeered buildings and the difficulties that we have had to confront to-day.
The hon. Gentleman told us about the National Youth Committee which he proposes to set up, and he gave what, to my mind, was a completely new and very imaginative picture of the fate that overtook the National Fitness Committee and its organisation. I was chairman of the Surrey and Sussex Area Committee of that organisation. I received a letter one morning from Lord Aberdare to tell me that my committee had disappeared, my staff had been dismissed, my office had been closed down, and that I had the thanks of my country for my services. Members of that staff are still unemployed. One of them came to see me in the House yesterday. She is a young woman of great ability who was the women's organiser for those two important counties. Is not it possible to absorb some of these people into the work of the new committee? They have established very valuable contacts, have done a good deal of work, and would be welcomed, I am sure, in many areas in helping the new organisation on to its feet. To say that the work has merely been suspended does not bear out the information that was conveyed to me by Lord Aberdare.
§ Mr. Ede
The Act has been suspended and the members of the committee have been hanged. Now we know exactly where we are. The Act has been suspended, and those of us who were engaged 980 in carrying it out do not think we quite deserved the scorn that was poured upon us by the Noble Lady the hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor). We did our best. We were only acting under the hon. Gentleman, and that in itself is a sufficient disability. We spent a lot more money than she had ever heard of as having been spent by the public; I do not mean as having been spent privately.
There is another thing about which I feel very strongly. Undoubtedly, the policy of the Board for some time was to encourage local authorities to provide shelter in neutral areas for every child expected to be in attendance at school, with the result that a very great many of our playing fields have been ruined, not merely temporarily but for a number of years to come. I recollect the first time that I persuaded the Surrey County Council to buy a six-acre site for an elementary school. We handed the site over to the architect and asked for a school with two departments to accommodate 768 children. He produced a plan in which he covered the whole of the six acres so effectively with buildings that there was not a playing field left. We had still got the old-fashioned elementary school playground of bits and pieces, but we managed to rescue the playing fields from the architect. A good many of our playing fields have been completely spoiled in carrying out the policy enjoined upon us of providing shelter for all the children in the schools. I rejoice to know, as I understand it, that less adequate provision of that particular kind is required. Speaking frankly, and as an ex-soldier, I would rather take my chance in the building of most of the new schools than in the underground covered trenches which have been provided. A direct hit is going to get you, no matter where you are. We used to say between 1914 and 1918: "If it has got your number on it, it will find you." The children would probably be easier to control, would be less liable to panic and would certainly enjoy greater fresh air during the period of air-raid warnings in the more substantial part of the school building than in some of the underground trenches, which have proved exceedingly difficult to drain.
A good many of my hon. Friends, and hon. Members on the other side also, have dealt with the problem of getting the 981 buildings back. I regret to say that in some parts of the country we are faced now with fresh threats on our elementary school accommodation. I was rung up on the telephone one night last week and was told that the police, on behalf of the military, had been measuring up some additional schools in the county of Surrey, and fear was expressed that some of those schools were shortly to be taken when the next batch of militiamen were called up, and would be used for billeting either the militiamen or the men who had been moved out of depots in order to find room for the militiamen. I sincerely hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to resist any further commandeering of school buildings, and that those buildings that have been taken will be handed back to the education system as soon as possible.
The Parliamentary Secretary's speech was somewhat disjointed and I am trying to follow the points as he made them. Therefore, I hope he will bear with me if some of my remarks appear to be disjointed. In his speech he dealt with the problem of communal meals and assured us that the overhead charges for those communal meals for evacuated children would be met 100 per cent. by grant, I understood, from the Ministry of Health or, at any rate, from some other Government source. I want to put this question to him. Where children are billeted at 8s. 6d. a week, and five meals per week are taken out, they are still to be left with a substantial expenditure to bear in keeping the children. It does not seem to me that he will be able to get much more than 1s. 3d. a week out of foster parents. I regard that as the maximum which he can expect to get. It may not be possible in every district to provide the running costs of meals at so low a figure as 1s. 3d., especially where you cannot rely on voluntary labour for service.
Anyone who has had the problem of providing school meals day after day knows the difficulty of relying upon voluntary service to do the cooking and the serving. People are quite willing to do it for a week or two and then it becomes a tie, and even volunteers when they work on a rota find it difficult sometimes to attend on the particular day on which they have undertaken to attend. It is through no lack of interest on their 982 part. I do not think you can make a higher charge on the foster parents than 1s. 3d. a week, and I very much doubt whether it will be possible to make these meals self-supporting. I think there should be some assurance that the pledge given on behalf of the Government that no costs in respect of evacuation shall fall on the receiving authority should be repeated with regard to this particular cost. Whether it is to be passed on as a charge to the evacuation authority or is to be borne by one or other Ministry is no concern of the receiving authority. If the hon. Member wants to get these communal meals established, I am sure he will have to make some pronouncement which will relieve these receiving authorities, some of whom are not too keen to adopt the Provision of Meals Sections of the Education Act, of all financial liability in respect of any loss on the running expenses.
I was interested in the peroration of the Parliamentary Secretary, but not so impressed with it as some Members of the House appeared to be. The phrase he repeated to the House about the "purple-headed mountain" and "swimming down the mountain" came back to my mind from essays which I have corrected from boys who had never seen a purple-headed mountain but knew from their own reading that it was the proper phrase to use. What I want to say to the Parliamentary Secretary is that I am sure that evacuation and the closing of the schools have done this; they have brought children into a face-to-face relationship with actual objects rather than with words. I was taught at the training college that contact with the actual object was the best way in which to educate a child about the object, that a good model was next, that a picture came next, and that words were a very bad fourth. I had an amazing experience of that kind myself when I was accompanying a group of boys in the country. I took a group of boys from the flat Thames Valley out to Betchworth Clump, where suddenly one sees the weald lying 450 feet below one, and one of the boys drew in his breath and said to me, "I never thought there was such a place in the world, sir." That boy could have written a wonderful essay about the purple-headed mountains, he would have known that Mount Everest is 29,002 feet high— which meant precisely nothing to him. By getting the children in relation to the 983 actual objects, I am sure we have done a very great deal towards making then-education absolutely real.
May I say how much hon. Members on this side of the House enjoyed the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery)? In his interventions on educational subjects during the past few weeks, the right hon. Gentleman has shown an enlightenment which makes one hope that we are getting back to the great days of Joseph Chamberlain and the campaign for free education in the City of Birmingham. I was particularly glad that he emphasised the position of the boy who is impatient to leave school, who because he knows the struggle at home, wants to get out and earn something, and then when he gets out and is earning, suddenly discovers that many of the things that seemed to mean so little when he was at school have, after all, some relationship to the actual facts of life. I sincerely hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to get an immediate and fairly complete opening of all those institutions which cater for boys and youths of that type, because, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, that form of education has a very particular value, for one is certain of this, that it is the compulsion of the inner desire of the pupil and nothing from outside that creates the craving for the education that is being given.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards) dealt with some of the problems that exist between evacuating and receiving authorities. I cannot help thinking that the type of circular that was issued by the Board has something to do with some of those difficulties, because in my experience it was very difficult to find any very exact promise in some of those circulars, especially for authorities that had not had the advantage of being directly represented at the conferences that had been held. I had no doubt myself from the first that, as far as taking buildings in the reception areas was concerned, that was the duty of the receiving authority. I may say that I had a few words with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) about it, and in the end he came to the conclusion, which I think is quite sound, that the Board of Education had established the principle 984 that in one area there can be only one local education authority, and that is the local education authority for the geographical area. The financial relationships between that authority, the Board and the evacuating authority have now been, I think, quite clearly stated. I hope that, as a result of what the hon. Gentleman has said this afternoon, any doubt that may have existed during the past few weeks has been removed. Undoubtedly there was, for some time, misgiving lest the Board or the Ministry would not redeem, in full, the pledge that no cost of evacuation was to fall on the receiving authority.
I am sure the House listened with attention and approval to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson), who speaks with considerable authority, in view of his position in the association of local education committees. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to deal specifically with one financial point raised by my hon. Friend. That is the problem of the loan charges on buildings which are not, at the moment, available for educational purposes such as council schools and secondary schools taken over by the Auxiliary Fire Service, the Air-Raids Precautions Department, the military or other branches of the Government service. Are these loan charges still to be charged against the education committee, or are they to be regarded as appropriate items to be placed by the education committee to the debit of the authority actually using the premises? My hon. Friend also raised the question of the special place examination for children who will be of the age to enter secondary schools in 1940. I was very disappointed at the statement made by the hon. Gentleman in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith). I understood at the conference which we held on Tuesday that this Debate was welcomed by the hon. Gentleman as giving him an opportunity of saying that there was an earnest desire on the part of those representing the authorities at the Conference, and of the Board, that immediate arrangements should be made for the conduct of that examination, between the evacuating and the receiving authorities. A circular is to be issued by the Board in due course. I do not know the period of gestation required to produce a circular from the 985 Board, but it was hoped that an opportunity would be taken this evening to make it clear that this was a matter in which, owing to the variety of conditions prevailing in different parts of the country, authorities should be encouraged to make their own arrangements.
May I also express the hope that the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth with regard to boots and clothes will fall on ground where they will bring forth fruit. My hon. Friend the Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Ridley) described, I thought very fittingly, the difficulties of relying upon voluntary contributions of boots and clothing for children who have to make long journeys in these country areas. Which of us would like to walk, even to the railway station to-night, in the cast-off boots of somebody else who happened to take the same size as we did? This matter of boots and clothes, as has been so well put by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), is not a matter about which we ought to quarrel much longer. Here are hundreds of thousands of children in the reception areas, with this pressing human need. I sincerely hope that the Board, in conjunction with other Departments, will realise that this is a great opportunity of proving to all concerned that the Government desire these children to remain in the reception areas. There could be no better way of ensuring that than by making this provision, now that the winter is just beginning, so that parents in evacuated areas at home will feel sure that the health and comfort of their children in this important particular are being borne in mind.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clay Cross also mentioned one other matter with which I want to deal, and that is the possibility in some reception areas of using churches for the education of evacuated children. The example set by the Nonconformist bodies in Wales is, I think, one that might very well be followed. I suppose it would be difficult in these days, when Cromwell has been dead for a good many years, to exercise a compulsory order over a church, but I would make an appeal, which I hope may be echoed from the Government Front Bench, that the church should volunteer, in the places where the need is the greatest, to place their edifices at the disposal of the children from the towns. 986 After all, it is not so very long ago in the history of this country that the church porch was used as the only place of education in many villages. Wotton church near Dorking has a porch that is famous because in it, with the other boys of the village, was educated a very famous Member of this House, John Evelyn, the author of "Sylva," and the Lord of the Manor of Wotton. I sincerely trust that the church will realise that in this matter it could be of the very greatest assistance in dealing with some of the problems that have been before us this evening.
I will end as I began by saying that my mood with regard to the educational system and condition of the country at the moment is not one of pessimism by any means. We hear a very great deal in these times of peace aims and war aims, and there is an endeavour to define the kind of world that we want after the war. I have come to the conclusion that the only world that will satisfy me, and the world towards which I believe the trials of our times will help to bring us, is a world in which it will be safe and happy for children to live.
§ 10.33 p.m.
I am sure the whole House will have welcomed the informed and the very wise and interesting speech which has just been made by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). Personally, I welcome all the criticisms that have been made, whether against me or the Board or anybody else, because we have got nearer than on any other occasion that I can remember to a debate on education. I remember that Maurice Maeterlinck is reported to have said, "If we closed down all work for a week, the prisons and the hospitals would be overflowing." The schools have been closed, or partially closed, in some places for 10 weeks, and strange as it may seem, though I would not like to see it going on longer, there has been no evidence of an increase of any substantial order in delinquency.
There may have been an increase in some places, but there has been no substantial increase in delinquency, and I think that is an amazing vote of credit to our educational system as it has been conducted during recent 987 years. The general answer to the Debate, as far as I can see it, is that we are in the middle of a war. A great many criticisms which have been made would have horrified us before the war, but if hon. Members will cast their minds back to some of the things we were all saying 10 weeks ago, I do not think they would be quite so critical of those empty schools or of some of those commandeered buildings. The hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson), to whom we always listen with great respect because of his position and his great knowledge of the subject, was a little unfair. He, after all, is the great apostle of local authorities and he could not tolerate this afternoon that they dared to have certain inequalities. Of course, there are inequalities. He quoted one in his own constituency in particular and went on to enumerate others where the work had been badly hindered. In fact, it was an indictment of local education authorities. On balance, we think it is much better to have variety; to have the good and the bad, and to try and bring up the bad to the higher level.
The second main point that came out of the Debate, which was not universal, although nearly so, was the feeling that the House would like to see all the schools opened. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), the Noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson), who made such a delightrul speech, the hon. Member for Farnworth, the hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. Harvey), and the hon. and learned Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. C. Davies) all stressed that view. Therefore, we are faced with a big problem, because the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), speaking for London, said that he did not see any chance of children other than those over 11 entering the schools. I said in my opening remarks that our desire is to see by the New Year every child between five and 14 under some form of educational supervision in every part of the country. It would be foolish to promise that they will be in full-time education. The hon. Member for Farnworth deplored the double shift, but the hon. Member for South Shields said there was something to be said for it if it were used properly. There has been a fair amount of division 988 of opinion, but generally speaking, on the big principle, the view has been that we want to see every child between five and 14 under some kind of educational supervision for a portion of the day. That is what we must work for as hard as we can.
Closely related to that question has been the feeling of the House that we will not tolerate those special services to which we have grown accustomed, such as the school medical service, milk and the rest, being dissipated during war time because of the commandeering of clinics, or for any other reason. It is not easy to have part of your medical service in an evacuation area and the other part in a reception area. We have to face the problem, but we believe that with good will and voluntary help it can be solved.
The third general feeling which has come out of the Debate is that we should make the most of the situation wherever the children are. I gave examples of how that was being done in Sheffield and the countryside, and many other useful and attractive suggestions have been made in the Debate. I am glad that the hon. Member for South Shields feels that the accent is now on the last word in name Board of Education.
There were a number of smaller points which I will pass over rapidly. Regarding the Christmas holidays, there was a fear that parents might not be able to get down to see their children just at the Christmas period. I understand from the Ministry of Transport that this is a very complicated question, partly because there is a peak load of traffic at that time and also because there is such a thing as holidays for the railway staffs. However, the subject has been gone into very thoroughly with all the Departments concerned and we have not yet finished making the arrangements. In the long run it is going to depend largely on the voluntary spirit in the areas, but we shall do all we can to get a break for the teachers, for it is vital they should have one after all that they have done since the outbreak of the war.
The hon. Member for South Shields referred to the wonderful broadcast by Her Majesty the Queen. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health and my Noble Friend the President of the Board of Education will continue to stress the 989 point that the children in the country should continue to stay there and that we wish more to go as the opportunity offers. The hon. Member for the English Universities and others raised the question of billeting allowances for teachers. That is under discussion in connection with other billeting allowances.
It is a pretty complicated question, and I cannot promise a date, but I hope something will be forthcoming before very long. What the hon. Member for Farnworth said about university students did not appeal to me as a very sad case. I happened to be one of them at the time of the last war. I would point out first that the Board do not control the universities and that it is not the wish of the country that they should. Secondly, why does he go out of his way to suppose that the universities are going to treat these students shabbily? I went off at 17½ and I was given a war degree when I came back. Students then were treated reasonably well. There is a case in the point made by the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin); we are agreeing to pay 50 per cent. of the extra cost which is to be incurred by the London County Council in the case of students who are at Cambridge and elsewhere.
§ Mr. Silkin
Will that apply to any grant which the London County Council decides to make to the students?
Yes, I think that is fair. Then reference was made by the hon. Member for South Shields and others to the National Youth Committee. The committee are trying to get back the clubs and have been successful in various parts of the country. We are trying to reemploy some of the Fitness people and I hope it will be possible to find posts for some of the secretaries. But there will not be anything like the elaborate organisation of the National Fitness Council There are various clerical posts to be filled and where persons have special ability—and I certainly have my eye on one or two— I should like to see them given appointments. We are not, however, going to make the mistake of pushing people out from the centre. It is for the local authorities to run their own shows.
990 I think the problem of communal meals was rather exaggerated by the hon. Member for South Shields. All the overheads, including the staff, are going to be paid out of the evacuation fund and therefore it comes down to the cost of the food itself. I suggest that should not cost more than between 2½d. and 4½d. If there is a sufficient number of children it may be done for 2½d.
The hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. R. Richards) and one or two others raised points about small halls and schools. This was in regard to more halls and schools in Wales. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery shire, who has just spoken, emphasised that point. Wales has been peculiarly badly situated. We have one or two projects to make up, particularly in North Wales. It was always a difficult job— I have no doubt my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health will agree—to evacuate those children to North Wales. I said in my opening remarks that now the problem has fortunately become manageable. Through the careful work of directors and His Majesty's inspectors we are getting down to something like a stabilised position in North Wales.
§ Mr. C. Davies
Let me tell my hon. Friend what I am anxious about. I understand that the Board of Education or rather the local education authority, are having difficulty in getting permission to go on with their repairs or building. Will my hon. Friend assure the House that the Board of Education will make their best endeavours to ensure that materials are forthcoming and that the authorities will be allowed to do the necessary repairs?
Yes. Capital development, generally speaking, as my hon. and learned Friend knows, is stopped, but I think I have authority to say that there is no reason why improvement to buildings, as long as the material is available, should not go on, in cases where the need is as bad as it is in North Wales and one or two other places. Other questions raised were those concerning school medical services and questions of boots and clothing. I cannot go into those matters in detail now. The Minister of Health has recently issued a circular on the questions. He is dealing with it, and I hope that we shall be able to secure a sufficient amount of clothing for the 991 children in the reception areas. It is not a simple proposition. We have all to work together in this matter. One cannot but pay a further tribute to the amazing way in which the voluntary organisations, the women's institutes and all kinds of people have come to the rescue in the provision of warmer clothes for the winter. I am told that there are working parties who, lacking only the materials, are dying to get on with the work. I hope they will be able to get going, and so tide us over the winter, so that the children may remain in the countryside.
A further question, the financial point about A.R.P., was mentioned by the hon. Member for Farnworth. I am sorry I did not make the point clear. It was a matter which was dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. It was a concession in this respect. It may not be all that everybody wants. Instead of getting 50 per cent. all round there is a minimum of 50 per cent. to every authority. Where the Board's grant amounts to a higher proportion of an authority's expenditure—in some cases I believe the grant amounts to as much as 71 per cent.—they will get a higher proportion for A.R.P. I cannot say, because I have not examined the figures, exactly how many authorities get over 50 per cent., but there are some.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir John Anderson)
Those are the poorest.
Yes. In places where they have a particularly large number of children the formula works out that they get a larger amount. Further discussion 992 of that matter to which the hon. Member referred must remain till another day. I think we all agree that this Debate has done a great deal of good. I hope it has done good in the country; it has certainly encouraged us at the Board to find in the House a renewed interest in education and a determination on all sides to see that, during the next two months, we get back the children, as far as we can, between the ages of 5 and 14, under some sort of control and back to some sort of occupation. This remark, made by the Noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead I think, was one of the wisest remarks. If it has done nothing else, this Debate has awakened the House to the value of the schools of the country.
I did say in my opening remarks that it was urgent. There will be a special place examination and it will be conducted on some basis which is to be defined by consultation between the local education authorities. Naturally, I cannot anticipate what the exact results of this consultation will be, but it will take place. In other words, the educational ladder will be at work, and children are going up from elementary schools and will have the opportunities which their elder brothers have had.
§ Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Ten Minutes before Eleven of the Clock, till Tuesday next, pursuant to the Resolution of the House this day.