§ [1ST ALLOTTED DAY.]
§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]
§ CIVIL ESTIMATES AND ESTIMATES FOR REVENUE DEPARTMENTS, 1940 (VOTE ON ACCOUNT).
Motion made, and Question proposed:
That a sum, not exceeding £181,165,000, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the charges for the following Civil and Revenue Departments (including Education and Broadcasting, Pensions, Health and Unemployment Insurance, Unemployment Assistance, Roads and other Grants and Exchequer Contributions to Local Revenues) for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1941, namely:
|Board of Education||18,500,000|
|Public Education, Scotland||3,300,000|
|House of Lords Offices||23,000|
|House of Commons||155,000|
|Registration of Electors||60,000|
|Treasury and Subordinate Departments||147,000|
|Privy Council Office||4,500|
|Privy Seal Office||1,850|
|Civil Service Commission||14,500|
|Exchequer and Audit Department||60,000|
|Import Duties Advisory Committee||20,000|
|National Debt Office||500|
|National Savings Committee||37,000|
|Public Record Office||13,000|
|Public Works Loan Commission||7,500|
|Repayments to the Local Loans Fund||19,000|
|Royal Commissions, etc.||10,500|
|Tithe Redemption Commission||10|
|Scottish Home Department||65,000|
|Diplomatic and Consular Services||650,000|
|League of Nations||112,000|
|Colonial and Middle Eastern Services||2,500,000|
|Colonial Development Fund||200,000|
|India and Burma Services||575,000|
|Imperial War Graves Commission||30,000|
|Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum||31,000|
|Police, England and Wales||6,600,000|
|Prisons, England and Wales||650,000|
|Approved Schools, etc., England and Wales||120,000|
|Supreme Court of Judicature, etc.||10|
|Miscellaneous Legal Expenses||44,000|
|Approved Schools, etc.||23,500|
|Scottish Land Court||3,500|
|Law Charges and Courts of Law||16,000|
|Register House, Edinburgh||5,000|
|Northern Ireland Services||3,500|
|Supreme Court of Judicature, etc., Northern Ireland||17,600|
|Irish Land Purchase Services||625,300|
|British Museum (Natural History)||45,000|
|Imperial War Museum||4,000|
|National Maritime Museum||3,500|
|National Portrait Gallery||3,000|
|Scientific Investigation, etc.||95,000|
|Universities and Colleges, Great Britain||850,000|
|Ministry of Health||6,000,000|
|Board of Control||70,000|
|Registrar General's Office||47,000|
|National Insurance Audit Department||56,000|
|Friendly Societies Registry||15,000|
|Old Age Pensions||17,250,000|
|Widows', Orphans'and Old Age Contributory Pensions||6,150,000|
|Ministry of Labour and National Service||10,250,000|
|Grants in respect of Employment Schemes||900,000|
|Commissioner for Special Areas (England and Wales)||10|
|Unemployment Assistance Board||10,000,000|
|Special Areas Fund||700,000|
|Financial Assistance in Special and other Areas||270,000|
|Department of Health||1,500,000|
|Board of Control||6,000|
|Registrar General's Office||6,750|
|Commissioner for Special Areas||10|
|Board of Trade||148,000|
|Mercantile Marine Services||140,000|
|Department of Overseas Trade||141,000|
|Mines Department of the Board of Trade||80,000|
|Office of the Commissioners of Crown Lands||12,000|
|Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries||1,600,000|
|Milk (England and Wales)||825,000|
|Land Fertility Improvement||600,000|
|Surveys of Great Britain||145,000|
|Ministry of Transport||200,000|
|Department of Scientific and Industrial Research||250,000|
|State Management Districts||10|
|Department of Agriculture||145,000|
|Art and Science Buildings, Great Britain||88,000|
|Houses of Parliament Buildings||42,000|
|Labour and Health Buildings, Great Britain||180,000|
|Miscellaneous Legal Buildings, Great Britain||48,000|
|Office of Works and Public Buildings||100,000|
|Public Buildings, Great Britain||830,000|
|Public Buildings, Overseas||58,000|
|Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens||73,000|
|Rates on Government Property||1,700,000|
|Stationery and Printing||1,200,000|
|Works and Buildings in Ireland||20,000|
|Merchant Seamen's War Pensions||80,000|
|Ministry of Pensions||14,500,000|
|Royal Irish Constabulary Pensions, etc.||500,000|
|Superannuation and Retired Allowances||1,000,000|
|Exchequer Contributions to Local Revenues, England and Wales||18,000,000|
|Exchequer Contributions to Local Revenues, Scotland||2,325,000|
|Ministry of Supply||10|
|Reserve of Plant and Building Materials||10|
|Total for Civil Estimates||£145,215,000|
|Customs and Excise||2,150,000|
|Total for Revenue Departments||£35,950,000|
|Total for Civil Estimates and Estimates for Revenue Departments||£181,165,000"|
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith (Keighley)
I beg to move, "That Item Class IV, Vote 1 (Board of Education), be reduced by £100."
This Vote includes the entire expenditure of the Board of Education, so that our Debate this afternoon can range over any problem connected with the Board in England and Wales for which the Parliamentary Secretary is responsible. Since the last Debate the chief development in education has, of course, been the decision of the Government to re-establish the compulsory system throughout the country. I may say that we anticipated and, indeed, welcomed that decision as a very sensible adjustment to the conditions under which the war is being fought. The original decision was taken when it was anticipated that there would be a great mass attack on London. That has not taken place. We now have to contemplate the possibility that such an attack may not take place for some time—that it may take place only as an act of desperation towards the end of the war—and that the war may settle down into a kind of siege of Germany, in which the victor will be the side which can endure longest the strain of living under war conditions. That, I think, is the possibility which is envisaged.
In the last Debate which we had on education I said that we should prepare for that condition of things, and that we should return to what I then described as a system of maximum normality, even at the cost of a certain degree of risk. I welcome this decision of the Government, because that is the principle upon which they are now acting. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to give the 243 Committee the time-table which he expects will determine the bringing into being of this policy. It is not yet quite clear. I have gathered from the hon. Gentleman's Answers to Questions that he anticipates that compulsory education generally, for children between 11 and 14, can be established about the beginning of next term and that the compulsory system for children in junior schools could be established rather towards the end of next term. But the hon. Gentleman has not yet made any statement to indicate when the children under five, in nursery classes or in nursery schools, can be brought into the general scheme and it is important that we should know. We ought to have an estimate of the time in which the hon. Gentleman considers the normal system, in its entirety, will be in force throughout the country.
A number of my hon. Friends who are engaged in the day-to-day administration of education have particular administrative points to raise and questions to ask, and I propose to leave those matters to them. But before passing from the immediate problem of the evacuation areas, I would make one suggestion. The division between evacuation areas, neutral areas and reception areas looks very neat in a scheme. But I think it was made before the war, and I am not sure that this division quite fits in with or is relevant to existing conditions. The scheme of evacuation, I gather, is not to be brought into operation seriously until raiding either begins or is anticipated and the intention is that it should then be very drastic. I suggest that, in making these preparations, preliminary consideration should be given to the possibility that some of the areas which will be in the greatest danger may not be among those which happened to be put into the schedule of vulnerable areas before the war broke out.
In the last education Debate and also in another earlier Debate it was made clear that a large number of hon. Members were anxious about the condition of boys and girls between 14 and 18 in the circumstances of the black-out. This has given considerable interest to the new scheme of the National Youth Committee. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary this afternoon will give us a fairly full statement of the work of that Committee 244 under its new guise. He will remember that we on this side criticised the National Fitness Council during the Second Reading Debate on the Measure which set it up, because we held that this work ought to be based on the local authorities. That original mistake has now been corrected and I do not propose to go back on the arguments which were used and the points that were made in regard to it. Nevertheless there are some dangers still inherent in the National Youth Committee to which I would call the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary. I see in a recent circular that the committee is to consist of 24 members. As a matter of fact, of those only nine will represent local authorities and the remaining 15 will represent voluntary organisations, religious denominations, philanthropic bodies, and so on. I respect the work which the voluntary organisations have done, but I would call attention to the fact that they have confined their attention to physical recreation as distinct from physical education. They have confined their attention mainly to establishing playing-fields, tennis courts, football grounds, swimming baths, and so forth.
All these are very important and valuable, but I am coming to the belief that in this sphere of developing the physique of youth, serious attention to physical education is just as important as the much more expensive schemes of physical recreation. I remember an address by Lord Dawson by which I was greatly impressed, in which he pointed out that when watching hikers, footballers, tennis-players and others 18 or 20 years ago he, with his medical eye, came to the conclusion that at least half of them were suffering from physical defects of structure such as contracted chests, stooping shoulders or bad breathing apparatus, which they did not notice in the surge and strength of youth, but for which he, as a medical man, knew they would pay a great price when they reached middle age, unless those defects were put right in time. This is just as important work for the National Youth Committee as the provision of swimming baths. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to consider whether part of the work of the Committee should not be to establish what I would call civic health and recreation centres, where young people could have structural defects put right without any personal expenditure. I do not see why 245 the system of medical inspection should come to an end at 14. It is after that age that defects reveal themselves during adolescence and the period of rapid growth.
§ Sir Ernest Graham-Little (University of London)
The right hon. Gentleman may be interested to know that experiments on those lives are being made in the University College Hospital.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
I am glad to hear that, and I am suggesting that experiments of that kind should be considered and taken in hand by the National Youth Committee. I make this suggestion because the National Youth Committee, in the absence of any such suggestion, is likely to be influenced greatly by those who have not concentrated attention upon that method of encouraging the better physique of our youth. Those who are interested in boys and girls of that age have made suggestions that before the end of the war, at any rate after the war, we should revive the Fisher Act and provide compulsory part-time education to those over 16 of about eight hours a day in the employers' time. I should be glad to see that Act revived, because it is better to have up to 18 even part-time education than no education at all. I am apprehensive because there have been lately and, indeed, there were when I was at the Board, frequent discussions whether the Fisher Act might not be revived as an alternative to raising the school age. We have been given very solemn assurances by the Parliamentary Secretary and the President of the Board that the Act of 1936 would be brought into operation as soon as the war was at at end, and it was only because of those assurances that the suspension of the Act did not meet with the most prolonged resistance from Members on this side.
I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to repeat those assurances to-day, because the Fisher Act is bound to be to some extent limited in its operations, not only because the time for each child is limited, but because I have always understood that it could not work except in areas with a fairly concentrated population. The Act cannot be carried out unless the area is sufficiently crowded to enable a school and teachers to be maintained and to be at work the whole day with groups of students who come for only one or two hours a day. I come 246 back to our main belief that the best place for a boy or girl of 15 or 16 is not in a factory but at a good school, and anything which postponed that would meet with the strongest resistance from this side of the Committee.
There is a new topic which we have now to begin discussing about which I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to make a statement. That is the question of education in the Forces. In the last war a system of Army education was established—I do not think it was widespread in the Air Force or Navy—which brought under its influence, to a greater or less extent, over 3,000,000 men. As a result of that system, the Army Education Corps came into existence and became an integral part of the Army, and, indeed, of the machinery for promoting men from private to corporal up to sergeant—major. At the beginning of this war the Army Education Corps was disbanded and most of its members were put on to ciphering and duties of that kind, and no provision for the education of the Army was left. I am glad to understand that the system is now to be revived. I gather that the Board of Education are to play a central part in it, and I hope they will play the controlling part. That is why I am asking for a statement.
I understand that the system of Army education which is being discussed is that in each area of the country the university of the area is to take the leading part and that, in conjunction with bodies like the Workers' Educational Association and the Young Men's Christian Association, they will arrange lectures and courses for the troops. I have not learned how the idea is to be applied to France. I would like to make two comments and suggestions on this scheme while it is in its early stages. I hope that we shall not be discouraged if the scheme does not get a great response from the Army in its early stages. I think the Army is bored, but, on the whole, at this stage men are unsettled and are not in a frame of mind to undertake the fairly concentrated effort which educational work requires. This kind of work flourishes best in an atmosphere of peace or of the prospect of peace in the immediate future. At present the future is too indefinite for that atmosphere to be very obvious to the men in the Army. In the last war 247 the experiment was not started until 1918, and when I say that 3,000,000 men came under its influence I think that, as a matter of fact, the majority were not influenced until after the Armistice.
The plan, with the universities behind it, of organised lectures and courses will, I believe, in course of time, be greatly welcomed; but in addition to the lectures and courses, I think we shall get higher results by simpler methods and by allowing soldiers to have some quiet room where they will be away from the incessant clatter of the camp and from the wireless which never ceases in the institutes and, in my experience, never ceases in the officers' mess. I would particularly allow them the opportunity of taking lessons and courses in simple subjects by correspondence, so that they can work in their own time off duty. In one or two units where I have made inquiries experiments have already been made in a simple and informal manner, and it is found that the subjects which the soldiers mostly prefer at present are French, German, shorthand and typewriting. These do not need a very elaborate organisation, and I suggest that a simple scheme which a man can take up in his own time, especially if it can get the encouragement of any officer in the unit whose taste happens to lie in that direction, would be appreciated.
I want to raise one more subject which I predict Parliament will discuss with a good deal of feeling for a considerable time to come. It is a subject which is now looming in front of us and will have to be taken up. I refer to the position of what are known as the public schools, by which I mean schools like Rugby, Charterhouse, and Uppingham. It is clear that they cannot continue on their present basis. They have reached the greatest crisis in their history, and that crisis will be evident probably, I think, during the war, but certainly after the war. I do not think that those who have followed this subject will contradict me when I say that a system of schools in which a parent has to spend about £250 a year for one child is a system which after the war will find itself faced with the difficulty that not more than one-tenth of the present boys and girls in those schools will be able to go back. That is to say, the system is so extravagant that these schools are faced with 248 the prospect—and they know it—that 90 per cent. of them will close down after the war if they are dependent upon the fees of the same classes of the community who occupy their places now.
The suggestion has already been canvassed—there was, for instance, the article by Sir Cyril Norwood in the "Spectator" to which the Parliamentary Secretary called my attention—that these schools should be given grants on the same basis as ordinary grant-aided secondary schools. This question will begin a new series of discussions in the House. Let us now realise what is being opened up. Any foreign observer coming to this country is always surprised at the fact that we have two entirely separate systems of education, two separate systems of schools; and throughout their school life those who go to one set of schools have not, I suppose, one day's real contact with those who go to the other set of schools. The result, of course, is seen everywhere, and produces the most profound consequences throughout the whole of our national life. Those who are brought up differently think differently. It is the case that we are two nations, who live in fair amity with each other because we are, on the whole, a tolerant and good-natured race; but we do not really understand each other's lives or enter into them. I am making a very moderate statement of the situation, the facts of which I do not think anybody will contradict.
The question is now being asked whether we are to be asked to pay taxes, to which all of us will have to contribute, in order to perpetuate what is undoubtedly the greatest class distinction left in our social life, because there is no such serious class distinction as there is in education. In that case one or two propositions will have to be laid down. Certainly, there can be no public aid without public control and without public entry. These schools will have to accept, as do the secondary schools, a large proportion of children from elementary schools, a proportion which will have to increase stage by stage until it reaches a very substantial number in a comparatively limited period of time. The parallel between these schools and the grant-aided secondary schools and the grammar schools where the dayboys come from the neighbourhood is not true at all. They present a far more difficult problem.
249 The great difficulty of these schools is that they are so surprisingly expensive, that in spite of foundations left in the past they require £250 a year to educate one child. That is, of course, extravagant to a monstrous degree. Why are they extravagant? They are extravagant because they are exceptional to the whole of our education system in that they are boarding schools. That, again, is a most peculiar feature of the British education system. A large section of our community, the most comfortably-off section, take it as an assumption, take it as beyond denial, that the most natural system of educating their children is to send them away from home for nine months out of every year. I do not accept that assumption, and I do not think the country will be willing to accept it if they are to pay large sums of money to keep that particular idea alive. I think it is an unnatural system. To me the natural system seems to be one in which home influence will play a large part in the life of the children and not simply be confined to the period of the holidays.
After all, what is the life of a boarding school—I am talking of Rugby, Marlborough, and schools like those? It is a crowd life. Boys work in crowds, sleep in crowds, play in crowds, stand round the field and shout in crowds. This kind of crowd life, combined with home life, appears to me to be far more natural and healthy than crowd life unadulterated. I think that is unnatural. I do not think it is best calculated to produce family affection, because the affection of children for their parents arises out of little acts of helpfulness, like helping with the homework and taking an interest in what is happening in school.
§ Mr. Lees-Smith
I do not think we shall get family affection by a system which divorces parents from children for nine months out of every year. Therefore, I find it difficult to know exactly where schools of this type will fit in. I should say myself that boarding schools are suited to delicate children, to children whose home surroundings are unsatisfactory. Like these new camp schools which are being established, they will be very useful for children from town areas to go to as a kind of holiday centre for part of the time. In that way they 250 might be used, and at the moment that is their most obvious use, but it must not be taken for granted that all of them can be put to use in that way or that it would be worth while for the State to expend this enormous sum of money to keep them alive for any other purpose than that.
I think the subject will have to be discussed and that it will rouse a good deal of feeling. The other day the Parliamentary Secretary made a speech in which he made some observations that were not very different in spirit from those which I have made, and I noticed that he was immediately pounced upon by the "Times'' and heavily reproved for introducing class warfare in the midst of the present armed conflict. When we touch a man's public school it often raises in his breast feelings akin in intensity to those roused by religion. So long as public schools can stand on their own feet so long will they be unassailable, but if they propose to put themselves on the taxes they must be prepared to meet the claim that they should revert to their original purpose of being schools of the people, for which most of their foundation initially provided.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Kenneth Lindsay)
This is the fourth year in which I have had to try to give the Committee some sort of review of the progress of education during the year. I propose to adopt a different method to-day, because the state of education is extremely difficult to describe in any departmental way, and after I have answered some of the questions which my right hon. Friend has put to me I propose to discuss the effects of the war and evacuation on our system of education in this country. The first point that my right hon. Friend raised concerned the general question of a timetable for compulsory education. The policy was laid down quite clearly by my Noble Friend in another place a few weeks ago: we aim at full-time education. Since then we have been speeding-up the administrative machinery throughout the country. I should like to quote a sentence which came into my hands a few hours ago from the Regional Commissioner in London:There need be no limitation on the number of children sent to any school provided there is sufficient protection of the standard 251 required for schools in an evacuable area either in being or under construction.Again:No schools need be kept closed merely on account of the supposed vulnerability of their position, but schools within a quarter of a mile of the docks or river side below London Bridge should be provided with protection.This is a very great advance on three months ago, when we discussed this matter in November. As far as I can get accurate figures, in the evacuation areas about one quarter of the children are receiving full-time education, about one quarter are on part-time education; another quarter are under home service schemes, and the remainder are still without schools. I cannot give a date on which full-time education will be resumed throughout the whole country. I should like to mention that Smethwick was the first evacuation area to get back to full time education. London has this week got compulsory education restored for all those who are over 11, and from the beginning of April they will have compulsory education for all over eight years.
Taking it broadly, I should say that half the children of the country are to-day in reception areas, something over a quarter are in evacuation areas, and something rather less than a quarter in the neutral areas. I will take the point, which I think is a good one, which my right hon. Friend raised and consult the President of the Board and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Home Security about the advisability of revising the areas. Routine medical inspection is being resumed. We have sent out circulars to the local education authorities urging them to make good the arrears in that respect.
I want to pay a tribute to the teachers. I wonder how many realise that during the winter—when I personally was very comfortable in hospital—these teachers have been going from door to door, half an hour there, and half an hour next door, teaching in kitchens and in front rooms, taking little knots of children in groups all over the country. It gave them a closer acquaintance with the parents than they have ever had before, and it has undoubtedly meant greater individual education, because of the small classes; but at best it is a makeshift. I should also like to thank—I do not think they have been thanked yet—the voluntary 252 workers in London and elsewhere who have run schools on their own, particularly for infants and juniors.
The second point which my right hon. Friend raised concerned the question of raising the school-leaving age. The Act of 1936 has been postponed, and there is no going back on the principle of raising the leaving age.
I thought to-day that instead of trying to examine various branches of education in a rather dull way, I would examine the whole scheme of education in the light of the war and evacuation. It is my view that one of the reasons why hon. Members very often are more interested in far distant countries than in the problem of education in this country is because of the dullness of the word, particularly when it comes to adult education, which is particularly interesting, but which is almost knocked out by the very phrase. It is the same with evacuation. The senior Burgess for Oxford University (Mr. A. Herbert) has suggested the word "dispersal" or "scattering." Kent have called them "dumplings.'' But whatever the word, it is a discouraging and vacant word. By some people evacuation was considered as an invasion, by some an irritation, by some a precaution, by some a failure, by some a success and by some a tragedy, but a tragedy with humorous moments, as, for instance, when the girl at Grasmere inquired after the grave of Mr. Woolworth! There is also the case of the boy in Kent who thought that birds hopped by electricity. This may seem strange to us sitting in this House, but there is no teacher or inspector who cannot reel off story after story of this kind, and this helps to explain the curious division which exists here between town and country.
Many hon. Members opposite and outside the House have referred to inefficiency. It is very easy to talk, but we have lived through six months of an overhanging threat which has so far failed to materialise, and all I can say is that more and more I hope that in the future the Board and local education authorities will take more responsibility for children wherever they are, because children are their business, and they understand it. But leaving on one side this aspect of the situation, the question I want to ask is this: Has it in any way 253 added to our knowledge? Has the dispersal of three-quarters of a million children from town to country taught us anything, and, if so, what? It seems to me that nothing like it has ever happened in the history of this country, or so far as I know in that of any other. I think it has taught us very little that we did not know before, though it has emphasised many recent developments; but It has thrown a beam of light on something that we did not know before, something so significant and vital that it really makes this word "education'' come to life again. That is the hope of a radical change in the physique and outlook of urban children. To this point I will recur later, because it seems to me far and away the most important.
But there are one or two other considerations, and one of those raised by my right hon. Friend was the question of public schools. If he will read the speech that I made some two or three months ago, he will see that in detail it had very little in common with his own speech except perhaps in very general principles. I have no strong views on boarding schools, and I hope that as long as there is freedom in this country people will be able to choose whether they will send their children to boarding schools or not.
§ Mr. Lindsay
All people. But my right hon. Friend was not making that point. We did not need to scatter and disperse our schools in order to discover that the public schools and the great secondary and grammar schools must draw more closely together. The public schools are unique. They have played a distinguished part in the history of this country. They have been misinterpreted, and some Germans have said they are what the Nazis wanted. But they missed the whole point, because the essence of these schools is their independence. I can give you my view in a few words. I regard these schools as being as much a part of our national inheritance as are the ancient universities. But they have much wider responsibility than they have ever realised. They have a problem, and will have to face it, and as with direct grant schools we shall look on sympathetically; but we have no responsibility for those schools. The point I want to make to-day is that whatever the future, evacuation 254 has brought a greater understanding between the secondary schools, because they have undergone common difficulties and been companions in hardship. Out they went on the outbreak of war, many not knowing where they were to land. Others found their buildings commandeered and were forced to settle in strange places. A great day school from Birmingham, the King Edward VI School, found itself at Repton, and the City of London School found itself on the Wiltshire Downs. Other schools, like Charterhouse and Rossall, offered hospitality to secondary schools and at Winchester a Portsmouth secondary school is being taught science by the Winchester staff, while Eastbourne College has been giving accommodation to the local grammar school. Malvern is housed in the ancestral home of the First Lord. These day-school boys have been rubbing shoulders with boarders, and instead of the walk home and train journey have been settling down and experiencing what the right hon. Gentleman completely misunderstood. It is not true to say that the life of the boarding school is necessarily a crowd life. It is very largely a community life, and there is something very important, I think, to be gained during the period from 14 to 18 by living in some sort of corporate unity; but that point I want to come to when I deal with the National Youth Committee.
No fewer than 42 schools had to be completely rebilleted. Imagine what that means. A school arrives in a village with no premises and the headmaster must look round. In one case he got hold of an old priory and completely renovated the building. Equipment was brought down on lorries. A hall and a recreation field were added. In three months they had a full time-table and had done repair work and improvements on the estate. It is an experiment in secondary education of great importance. There are other ancient schools, like Manchester Grammar School and that of Leeds, with a long history and a very high standard of scholarship, which since the evacuation have in some places very nearly lost their identity of existence—I am not talking particularly of Manchester in this case—and therefore it is most important that any help we can give them to retain that identity, which is one of the glories of education of this country, is of profound importance.
§ Mr. Lindsay
Just as important. But there is a particular reason in the case of the secondary schools because of the specialist staff.
§ Mr. Lindsay
Corporate life is important, especially between the ages of 14 and 18. The war is having one more effect on secondary schools. Hon. Members will remember that Lord Derby wrote a letter to the "Times" some months ago, and ever since then letters have been appearing. I think the matter was put a little out of focus. There is a very real problem of the boy between 16 and 20 because of certain avenues of employment being closed down and others greatly reduced. Children have had to take jobs in some cases before the school certificate age and so break their school life. I deplore this, and I wish there was a way of stopping it, but economic circumstances press and normal opportunities are not there, you cannot blame children for taking jobs when they can be sure of them. But there is also the problem of the gap between the ages of 16 and 20, the age of calling-up. We discussed this matter on the National Youth Committee and discovered that a great deal was in fact being done to which we intend to give publicity. A number of firms like Dunlops and Thorneycrofts have invented a new type of apprenticeship. The Ministry of Agriculture and the Forestry Commission will, I hope, also offer openings to some of these boys who may prefer an outdoor life. But it is still true that some of the professions, particularly those where a university education is not indispensable, such as architecture, accountancy, and certain others, will not take boys on in quite the same way as they did before the war. Their hardest problem is here. The chief point to my mind—and this is why I came back when the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) made an objection—the chief point about these schools is that they have some sort of corporate life. They have ample chances for physical education, self-expression and they are, if you like, a little spiritual community.
Eighty per cent. of the nation's children who go to work about 14 or 15 years of age, however, are denied these 256 advantages. It is for this reason that within a few weeks of the war we started the National Youth Committee. The National Fitness Council was disbanded for, in a word, its weakness was its cumbrous organisation, its failure to utilise going concerns like the local education authorities and the voluntary bodies, and its title. The National Youth Committee are not solely concerned with fitness, and here I want to correct an impression that seemed to be in the mind of my right hon. Friend when he was talking about voluntary bodies. I wish voluntary bodies were concerned with providing recreation fields and swimming baths, but in fact the money for these things has to come from the rates. We are concerned with something wider than fitness, and on 27th November the Board issued a circular entitled "The Service of Youth'' to all counties and county boroughs of this country. I sent a copy to every hon. Member, and I should like to thank them for their encouragement and the work they have done in their own constituencies. Nearly 45,000 copies of this circular have been printed and the Archbishop of Canterbury recently in another place described it as marking the beginning of an epoch.
Why did we do it? Either this is going to produce results or else we are going to be faced in a few years time with much the same problem as before. Out of 146 authorities, I can say that 111have taken action, and before the end of the month I am confident that the others will follow. This is an enormous encouragement to us at the Board, for it means that in little over three months—and surely with no obligation on the authorities because it is not a duty, but only a power—they have decided to act. The schemes submitted vary in type. We shall have in a few months' time in this country about 200 or 300 youth committees, because quite rightly, the smaller authorities in the country will form their own youth committees. I want to quote statements from authorities, because in my experience we have not had this sort of statement before. This is from a county boroughThe authority warmly welcome the inauguration of the National Youth Committee and are resolved to support its purpose in every possible way. The authority deem to be long overdue a national effort to unite local education authorities and the public spirited voluntary organisations. They believe that, 257 especially under the precarious world conditions of this age, a country which is careless of the welfare of its young people hazards even its own survival and possibly has no reasonable claim to survival. They see other nations amply recognising this and acting vigorously, though neither their aims nor their methods would be accepted here. This scheme is accordingly presented as the initial expression of the authority's eagerness to co-operate with all interested in this campaign.The second is a county authority, and they write as follows:There can be no doubt that this work, especially in time of war, will be of the highest value. Yet, though this movement may be born in war, its future lies in the peace ahead when it will form as vital a part of the systematic scheme of education as school life does to-day.It is an advance for authorities to write in those terms. I would not quote these if it was within my experience at the Board to have that kind of letter from an authority, especially on what is rather a new development, and I welcome it. Not only from this but from my observation at meetings that I have addressed up and down the country, I should say there is more interest in this problem than at any period during the last 20 years, and there must be a reason for it. I think the reason is that the country is beginning to accept and to grasp the importance of this period.
I said we are not only concerned with fitness. It is a time of earning and learning. The great majority miss all the advantages of a secondary school and after a day's work they are not prepared to come and sit down in the school atmosphere, especially in some of the school atmospheres to which they have to come. Therefore, we have to find a new technique, a more informal approach, new types of facilities both for training and for leisure and for new forms of adventurous service; and it is to this problem that the youth committees are now addressing themselves. For instance, there is a new kind of institution called the club institute. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) will know what I mean when I mention the junior institutes of London. I understand three more are going to be started. But the club institute in other parts of the country is comparatively new. The Welsh committee which is presided over by the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. George Hall) came to London last week and spent an evening going round these institutes. It was news to them that such 258 places existed. Not only is the club institute new, but something else is wanted, someone who is half a teacher and half a leader. It is not very easy to find him. When local education authorities discover such a person, I advise them immediately to second him for this work. In Stoke, where I was last week, they recently took specially for this work two teachers who have this special gift—genius, if you like—for dealing with young people, which is quite different from dealing with a boy on full-time education. A wider use of camps and youth hostels and playing fields are all required, but it is my view, for what it is worth, that we have in the past pitched our appeal too low. We have invited them to come into some building where there is recreation, if you like, and very often nothing much more. After all, the phenomenal success of the Scout movement all over the world was due to the fact that they gave something as well as got something.
We want to assist every bonâ fide youth organisation, but we do not want to ruin their independence. What is more encouraging to me is to see new enterprises starting every day. This brings me to Cheltenham. I admit that it is only a light against the black-out. They have thrown open the town hall so many evenings a week, and hundreds of these young people come thronging to the place because there is literally nothing for them to do. I have had letters from people, on new housing estates especially, asking, "Do you realise the absence of facilities for young people?" There is nowhere for them to go and in many cases no alternative to drift, and much of the adult unemployment has its origin in drifting between 14 and 18. The South Wales Boys' Club set up a travelling theatre. They made the entire thing themselves, and now they are going through the country giving performances. In Stoke last week I saw unemployed boys—I do not see why anyone under 18 need be unemployed. These lads were creating a new club, plastering, papering and renovating a building in one of the drabest parts of the Black Country. All these are interesting to me, because these young people are not just sitting down and listening to someone talking but are doing something of an enterprising kind with their fellows. I believe that is going to be the secret of any new 259 development between the years of 14 and 18.
There is one further point I should like to mention; those hostels which were set up by the Y.M.C.A. for unemployed boys from the distressed areas who want to go on to the land. I strongly hope that these hostels will become a permanent bridge for boys of all kinds to find a new chance on the land, not because they are unemployed but because they have chosen this vocation. What in the world has land to do with unemployment? It is the biggest single mistake that has ever been made in settlement here or overseas to connect unemployment with the land. The real thing is that there are scores of boys in the cities who want to go on to the land because they like it and, especially if we can find a better agricultural ladder for them, there is going to be much greater opportunity. There are I suppose 50,000 boys in day continuation schools.
§ Mr. R. C. Morrison(North Tottenham)
Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that all the county authorities have understood the instructions contained in the circular issued by the Board? Is he aware that one very large county authority has interpreted them as meaning that the county authority will pay the cost of the centre only in so far as the educational part of the work is concerned? That throws the burden of the recreational part on to voluntary organisations which are quite unable to bear it.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I should like to have a word about the particular example that the hon. Member mentioned. I cannot give any exact description, because every authority is dealing with it differently. That is inevitable in this country. In Southampton, Manchester, and Liverpool I can think of four different methods of local education authorities helping voluntary bodies. We have to forego the camps and swimming baths which were to have come with the National Fitness Councils' grants. [Interruption.] I am very glad to hear the opposite story. I could show hon. Members that scores of authorities have already provided considerable sums, which they have never given before, for youth work. There are other ways in which these young people between 14 and 18 wish to express themselves. There are Air Cadets, 260 Army Cadets, Sea Cadets, and it is because there is this infinite variety, because you will never get a regimented movement in this country, that what I am concerned with is to turn this no man's land between 14 and 20 into a more fertile area where there will be vigorous and sensitive citizens in the making. If we get across that conception we can face up to the challenge of this period. I could say more about the work of the youth committees. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend says, "What about health?'' Lord Dawson is on the Committee, and we are discussing that subject next Wednesday week.
I should like to say one word about this other work which is not affected by evacuation but is affected by the war—adult education. Democracy has too often meant the triumph of mass thinking, mass behaviour and a rather dull level of mediocrity. Yet the very same cause which has brought this about in my experience has made it possible for those who wish to learn and to think and to listen to do so, and has given them the chance. They are the people who in the long run will save our culture perhaps even more than the universities themselves. I am referring to these classes which you can find up and down the country because, whereas only one man in a thousand ever enters the walls of a university, hundreds of thousands attend groups and classes week after week in the spirit of toleration. In spite of the black-out, in spite of transport difficulties and the German radio and anything else you can mention, during the last six months the number of classes organised almost equals that of last year. I think it is this close contact of the shrewd practical experience of ordinary life with learning of the university which still distinguishes the movement in this country. It is only in these classes now that you can have discussions on philosophy and literature and science outside the walls of the universities themselves.
I should like to refer to one notable extension. The Pilgrim Trust, in co-operation with the Board, has recently sponsored a pioneer venture in the encouragement of music and the arts. Primarily it is outside the work of the Board, but I think it has started something which may be developed in large 261 and valuable ways. It is trying freely, in a free country, to help people who are finding life difficult to help themselves. Grants have been made to the Rural Music Schools Council and the National Council of Music of which Sir Walford Davies is the inspiration. Concerts have been given in industrial areas, lunch-hour concerts in factories, and exhibitions in the more industrial parts of the North. I have long believed that this extension whatever you like to call it of facilities for popular culture is the legitimate business of a Government and also that it is part of the proper work of a live Ministry of Education. Therefore, I am glad that my Noble Friend, in contact with the Pilgrim Trust, has made it possible to start this scheme.
§ Mr. Creech Jones (Shipley)
Before the Minister passes from that point, I would like to know to what extent the Government are financing the extension of the work in regard to the arts and the cultural side?
§ Mr. Lindsay
To be precise, to the extent of loaning a secretary to the committee. I did not suggest that we had financed it; if that had been the case, obviously there would be an estimate and we should discuss it. I only say that this opens the way for discussion in a new field. Previously, such work has been concentrated around a class of a given number of pupils.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I will now pass on to the point raised by my right hon. Friend dealing with the Army. I understand that the Secretary of State for War will next week make a statement on this question, because, after all, it is primarily a question for his Department, although we are profoundly interested. Often these soldiers are situated in lonely places. They are cut off from all books and opportunities for studying anything at all, and the Board has done what it can do to help organise an Advisory Council to help with this main object. Thus not only have we in our technical institutions a number of soldiers being turned out as tradesmen and mechanics of all kinds essential to a modern mechanised force, but as far as we can we have put the 262 whole resources of adult education at the disposal of the fighting Services. The demand appears to be quite considerable and I hope there will be good results. There are a number of smaller points arising out of the war which could be raised, but I think it is too late to mention them now.
Now for some extremely important medical facts. In regard to some of the main children's diseases—diphtheria, scarlet fever, and infantile paralysis—we have been particularly fortunate because of the immunity during the last three or four months. It is partly due to the splendid autumn, partly to the closure of the schools in the great cities, partly to the doube-shift method, which on educational grounds has been condemned, and chiefly to the greater amount of open-air life. Only a few weeks ago it was discovered in Devonshire and Somerset that the London children have shown a striking immunity to influenza and other epidemics which have stricken the native children. I must leave this puzzle to medical research.
§ Mr. Lindsay
As the hon. Gentleman has led me to the question of food, I will say a few words on it. A year and a half ago a committee was set up to deal with the teaching of domestic science in the schools. Owing to the war it had to be postponed making its report, but we are co-operating with the Ministry of Food, and we have left inspectors and domestic science teachers to instruct in the best use of foods. We are trying to continue these activities with the existing rations and the food which is available, and I am glad to say that interest in this subject has been renewed in the schools. The war has almost by accident thrown a new light on the question of the problems of the physical condition of children.
Now I will return to the subject of the children and the teachers, and on this point I wish to end. We really did not need evacuation to remind us that teachers are like everyone else. Most of them have responded in a wonderful way 263 to unprecedented difficulties. Some perhaps are case-hardened by routine and dependence on regulations and have found themselves out of touch in the new circumstances. It is interesting to note that all the colleges—30 of them had to move their quarters—are now at work. But from what I have heard from hon. Members on both sides about teachers, I think we might confine ourselves more in the future to their recruitment and training. I doubt the wisdom of asking so-called successful children to sign on the dotted line at the tender age of 18. I am not sure that it would not be a good idea for some to go out into the world first and find their vocation. (An Hon. Member: "All classes.") That is another point. I am not sure that we could not do with a three years' course provided that some radical changes are made in the training. I say this as a friend and defender of the teachers; I am only anxious that their colleges should face up to the modern world and bring themselves into line with medical thought, and become nurseries of inspired teachers and not merely an institution for training teachers. We knew before the great dispersal that many children lived in conditions which encouraged lack of cleanliness and bad habits.
We knew that many people were critical of the overloaded curriculum and that many others criticised the teachers at the training colleges. If I may say so, we also knew that the majority of the people in this country did not go to church, and we have seen many letters on the problem of religion in the schools. We knew that many people resented purely money qualifications being brought into educational questions. We also knew that the vested interests and powerful organisations played too large a part in this business of education. Further, we knew that the Board could do with some reorganisation. I am not at all convinced that the present organisation is the last word or corresponds to realities in the educational system of the country. But what is the good of having a war unless you do discover a few things about yourself?
§ Mr. Lindsay
I thought that the hon. Gentleman would be able to look at this 264 problem in the serious light in which I am trying to see it. I am making criticisms of which, as I say, most of us knew before, and I believe that this great jolt which many of us have had—if we have not, let us go on as we were—has served to emphasise these points and I do not think we can refuse to face some of them in the future. I myself would like to see an all-party committee in this House to rouse hon. Members to the importance of this whole problem of the training and education of the 5,000,000 children of this country. I believe that evacuation has taught us one thing that is entirely new, and this brings me to my last point. William Cobbett, the man who witnessed the perishing of the English peasantry and the birth of the industrial revolution, said that with his own eyes and within the compass of 10 years he had seen properties, laws, manners, minds and characters change. To-day, owing to a mere precautionery measure, an accident almost, we have brought about on a small scale a kind of unindustrial revolution. We have discovered that within six months the minds, the manners, the outlook and certainly the physique of the children have changed.
I cannot produce the complete statistical proof as I should like to do, but we are conducting some careful investigations on these matters. The testimony of inspectors and teachers is unanimous. It would not be possible to give statistical evidence of brighter eyes, better pigmentation and physique, but we all know that regular meals, wholesome food, long hours of quiet sleep, fresh air and contact with the rhythms of nature which a child can only get in the countryside are the reasons which help to explain this fact, which to me is so promising and so hopeful. If merely I said it it would not matter, but, as I say, there is the testimony of every inspector and teacher, and in a recent striking article Lord Horder said:The hygienic value of fresh air, better food and restful sleep to the children will do more to raise the intelligence quotient than months of study in the classrooms of the city.Later in the same article he said:The new experiences, new contacts, new opportunities for observation and service that are opened up…do much to break the monotony of their school life, and will inevitably do much to preserve that 265 initiative and zest for life which so many scholars lose.The day before yesterday I sat down at lunch with 200 children in a beautiful wooded part of Surrey; it was the first Sunday lunch of a camp school. They were boys from Ilford who had been previously dispersed to Ipswich, or had been under home service training. The camp lies in beautiful wooded country, and after the meal the boys went off in twos or threes and were lost discovering things for themselves. At 10 o'clock that morning they had filled the village church, which was a novel sight for the village. They had been there only six days. They were ordinary elementary school children between the ages of 11 and 14. They had a genius of a headmaster and a young staff. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman that that was crowd life. It is what boys of that age most like to do. They like to live in some sort of community; they like to build up their own corporate life and their own self-discipline. I speak with some little experience, and I think that is just as true with one type of boy as with any other. In this school I see hope because whereas at the beginning we regarded evacuation as something which was rather a necessary nuisance, we now find that it has meant an illumination in the lives of thousands of children. I only hope that what started as an accident will be continued as a policy. I do not want to put it too high, nor is it the whole story. But, if we grasp the full implications of this now while the war has shaken our habits, we may find a new hope for education and for agriculture.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
We have just listened to a very eloquent speech bubbling over with ideas and enthusiasm, but, if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for saying so, I am afraid that in his case we must judge him, not by words, but by deeds. Unlike other hon. Members, he, with his Department, is in a position to translate his ideas into practical legislation and actual experiment. He and his Department will be judged, not by the speeches he makes, however entertaining, however eloquent, however full of ideas they may be, but by the work that is done. During the last 15 years I have taken part, almost regularly, in these annual Debates on education. I think we are fortunate that this year we are starting our discussions on 266 education earlier than usual. For years past, education has been an afterthought, one of the last subjects to be discussed; and, in so far as we are giving consideration to the matter earlier in the year, it shows that hon. Members are conscious of its importance.
I am afraid that I must strike a pessimistic note, quite different from that of the hon. Gentleman. I say that the last six months were a worse period for education than any other in the last 20 years. I do not want to apportion blame; I do not say that it is the Board's fault, or the fault of the local authorities, or of anybody else in the country; but these people cannot completely escape responsibility. They have shown a singular lack of vision, and have failed to recognise the essential problems as they arose. The real criminal is Herr Hitler. We must not mince matters; he has scored a point by putting back education in this country in a way which it will be very difficult to make good. The war has given a worse shock to education than anything else that has happened in the last quarter of a century. You cannot make up a six months' break in the school life of a child. It is the hon. Gentleman's first duty—even before that of bringing forward all these delightful ideas, which we welcome, and most of which we approve—to see that education shall proceed completely, without further delay.
I quite agree that evacuation has had its compensations, in improvements in health, and in opening up to thousands of town children a new conception of life. A new atmosphere is good for their health and for their minds, and, no doubt, it will do them permanent good. The real tragedy has been the fate of those children who have remained behind and, almost equally, of those who have been brought back. Not only does the break in the school routine cause the child to get out of the habit of learning, but it is very difficult to rebuild again a system of education which has been destroyed, after it has been built up as the result of years of experiment. The health services alone, which have been built up through the work of teachers and medical men over the last 30 years, have had a rude shock. The care of the eyes and of the teeth and, above all, the feeding of the children, have suffered. I do not say that the children will suffer an irreparable blow—
§ Sir P. Harris
I am not talking about the evacuated children. The hon. Gentleman always talks so pontifically, as though he knew everything. One of the worst things that has happened is the closure of the infant schools. The Parliamentary Secretary spoke with great satisfaction because this month, six months after the outbreak of war, we are to provide education for children of over 11. One of the finest things we have done for years has been our work in connection with infant schools. The hon. Gentleman dismissed that almost as a mere incident. In his long speech he hardly referred to it.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I tried to state that, with all the will in the world, the London County Council were unable to open schools before April for children between eight and eleven. The hon. Gentleman must not blame the Board of Education for that.
§ Sir P. Harris
We are discussing the Education Estimates for the year, and we must discuss all sorts of problems connected with education, even if they are outside the control of his Department. The hon. Gentleman should give some consideration to that matter. Here are small children running about the streets, almost out of control; and in overcrowded districts it is very difficult to attend to their welfare. The work of educating all these young children who have been left behind has been disorganised. The Board will have to be very insistent if they are to succeed in rebuilding all that has been destroyed in connection with infant schools, junior classes and so on. Not before next summer, if then, will all this system be restored.
It was a great encouragement to me, however, to hear that most of the evening institutes were being reopened. That came to me as a revelation, because my knowledge was that most of them had been closed for the last six months, during which time they had been used as 268 barracks, as A.R.P. centres, and for every kind of purpose other than the great purpose of education. I am all for the spirit of this national youth movement, but the hon. Gentleman said a very significantthing—I hope hon. Members noted it—when he pointed out that one of the real problems was that of buildings. I hope the Board will take a firm line about the buildings. These buildings have been paid for by the local authorities, out of the rates. The hon. Gentleman, as the guardian of education, will need to take a strong line, in order to see that those buildings are restored for their original purpose. All his fine words and his theories about bringing the youth of the country back to physical fitness will be useless if we cannot get back the buildings and get the full co-operation of the local authorities.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I would point out that never before have the local authorities played anything like such a part as they are playing at the moment.
§ Sir P. Harris
Of course, anyone's common sense will tell him that. But they do not suceed unless you give them facilities. All your committees, grand committees and local committees, will fail unless buildings are available. The Parliamentary Secretary knows that; he admitted it in his statement. As for the raising of the school age, that has gone west. I think the hon. Gentleman hardly referred to it. If he did, it was only in a chance reference. It is postponed until some time, after the war, when we are in a position to put it into operation. I am all for bold schemes for education but, after many years' experience of these discussions, I have become a bit cynical about bold promises and bright ideas. The last 25 years are strewn with the wreckage of them. In the last year of the last war I was in this House, and I remember the Debates on the Fisher Act. My hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Mr. E. Harvey) and I took part in those Debates. We were very hopeful. The war had unified the nation, and now we were going to have a great step forward. The Fisher Act, a great Act, was passed through the House; but it was never put into operation. The war was over, and we soon forgot its provisions. Then came the "Geddes Axe," and the little of the 269 Fisher Act that had been put into operation was chopped off. Then we had the Hadow Committee, on the education of the adolescent. That committee's report is difficult to remember, though it came only in 1926. The report was going to be put into operation in three or four years, but we had to wait a long time. After ten years we had the Stanley Act. We have waited four years for that Act to be put into operation, and now it is not to be heard of again until some distant date. So we come to the Spens Report, which has been pigeon-holed. I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary, in his very long speech, remembered even to refer to that.
While I am all for the bold policy in education, let us have first things first. Let us carry out our essential duty of looking after the great mass of the children, who are crying out for our supervision and for opportunities to make the best use of their youth by some form of education. Of those children who go to school 85 per cent. leave in the normal way, at 14. I think that there are 3,000,000 young people between 14 and 18 and only 850,000 of these receive some form of education. The majority of those that do receive some kind of education after attaining the age of 14 receive only a spare-time education, and most of these stop at 16. As work interferes with their attendance at school, it is well known, the attendance falls off. In these days, when there is such a demand for labour, it will be more and more difficult for children to take the opportunities afforded to them for part-time education. In my view, after a good deal of experience and study of this problem, we shall never make part-time education effective until we establish the 40-hour week, without which it will always be difficult. There will always have to be all kinds of bribes and cajoling to persuade young persons, after a hard day's work in factory, workshop or office, to go to an evening school. I am still unrepentant in my belief in the continuation school. The experiment made by the London County Council, which only lasted a few months, failed because it was merely applied to the County of London. I believe that at the present time there are only 33 of these schools, attended by some 16,000 pupils, although there are some excellent private ones provided by such firms as Cadbury, 270 Lever and so on. There is also the very interesting experiment which is still going on, I understand, at Rugby, but it is a very small contribution to a very big problem.
Technical education is still spasmodic, except for a few industries, like the printing industry, and it is largely confined to some industrial areas, and is distinguished by its absence in many parts of the country. It is not surprising if, in consequence, the nation is short of technicians. If we should fail in this war, it will largely be due to the shortage of highly skilled key labour that we so badly want. I was at Portsmouth Dockyard only yesterday afternoon, and the one cry was, "We want more skilled labour.'' We have done very little to create skilled labour during the last 20 years, what with unemployment and our failure to push on with technical education. At this particular time above all, when the need is so great, and the chances and opportunities for skilled labour to be absorbed are so numerous, the Board ought to make a very great push in trying to develop our organisation of technical education.
I could not help thinking when the right hon. Gentleman, speaking on behalf of my hon. Friends above the Gangway, opened the Debate, that somehow or other, so large is the problem, it is something rather trivial to divert the mind of this Committee to the problem of the great public schools. The number of boys who go to public schools is infinitesimal. Is it 20,000? Even if you included all the day public schools, like St. Paul's, Manchester Grammar School, and schools of that character, I should think that 20,000 would be an over-estimate. The right hon. Gentleman was right, however, when he said that the public school is a symbol of a class character, or of the feeling that there is a class character in our education, and that a privileged few have opportunities which are denied to the masses. In a period of serious financial stringency they may be wiped out, but in my view, if they are to justify their survival, if they have an educational value, we should try and preserve them, and if they have not, we should let them fade away. The feeling against them is that they produce a class apart, but I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that they have many good features. There is one thing very much 271 in their favour, and that is that there is a tendency to copy them in the United States of America, and even in Germany. People have been impressed by many features of our public schools. I do not think the fact that these schools provide a different education is necessarily bad. I am all in favour of variety. We do not want a cast-iron system. But if it is a good thing to have that kind of education, let us spread its benefits irrespective of social position or the income of parents. If it is good to have that kind of education, let all children who would benefit by it have the opportunity, if they are suitable.
I believe that it would be to the advantage of the old public school if it could be dovetailed into the general education system. I believe that we are all more or less agreed upon that, but to make that possible, as I think Dr. Norwood said, you would have to bring them into line with our secondary school system and make the age of entry—this is vital, as I think the hon. Gentleman the (Parliamentary Secretary will agree—11 plus, the age generally at which children enter the secondary school, so that all the young persons can go in under equal age conditions and be brought under the Education Acts. The hon. Gentleman will have to face, if he is to tackle this problem, the problem of the private preparatory schools, which are very intimately related to the public schools. Finally, and most important of all, he would have to revolutionise the cost. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the subject that the present cost is prohibitive to ordinary parents, even when the finances are good. The cost at many of these schools amounts to £250 a year. The hon. Gentleman would have to simplify the clothing, the food and the whole life and atmosphere of these great institutions. Then, I think, it would be possible to preserve what is good in them according to our best traditions.
This House of Commons is an ancient institution, steeped in the past. There was a time when entry into it was confined to men of wealth and influence, but gradually, by widening the franchise, by reducing expenses, and by the payment of Members we have opened its portals and have made it representative of the whole 272 nation without necessarily interfering with all that is best in it, its traditions and its ancient customs. If we are to save the public schools, it is necessary to reorganise their expenses by some form of financial contribution. That is the way in which you would be able to preserve them. We might in this matter give some consideration to our great French ally. The French are, in the real sense of the word, a democracy. They have always been adherents of conscription for national service. I was always rather against conscription, but whatever one may dislike in it, one has to admit that it is a democratic instrument and a great equaliser. France has applied the same principle to its education system. Merit is the only test applied to a man in the Army, and merit is made the only test for a place in its educational system. That is the principle that the hon. Gentleman ought to apply to this problem.
The real question of secondary education resolves itself largely down to the simple word "maintenance.'' Children are taken away from school at 14 because the parents cannot do without their earnings. In London, and in many other great towns, that difficulty has been surmounted by means of maintenance scholarships. There is at the present time a great movement in favour of the principle of family allowances which is partly associated with my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone), and is coming very much to the forefront by the advocacy of Professor Keynes. I am going to put in a plea to the Parliamentary Secretary. If we are to have some form of family allowances, I want to see it associated with our educational system. Nothing will do more to open the portals of all schools of whatever character, technical, central or public schools, than some form of maintenance allowances. If, in the face of financial stringency, we have to make some experiment of that kind, I would say to the Board of Education that they should make a big struggle to utilise it as an instrument to promote the democratisation of education and the spread of its benefits among the whole of the people.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Muff (Kingston-upon-Hull, East)
I listened with great interest to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, who reminded me of the negro preacher, who 273 was so immersed in a theological problem that he lost himself and got out of it by saying, "My brethren, I look the difficulty in the face and pass on to the next subject.'' The Parliamentary Secretary, in sweet, dulcet tones, and in almost lyrical language, passed on to every subject to do with education, with the exception of the 5,000,000 children with whom we are concerned, many of whom for the last six months have not been educated largely owing to the hibernation and the lack of foresight of his Department, for which he must take responsibility. The Parliamentary Secretary frankly admitted that he needed a jolt, and that his Department had needed a war in order to get a jolt. I have served upon an education committee for many years, and I remember that in 1914, when the Department needed a jolt, a distinguished scholar, Mr. Fisher, was made President of the Board of Education. He produced a great Bill, and his Department, after the war, went to sleep again and refused to administer that great Measure, because they accepted the advice of the Treasury and one or two other Departments. During the past six months the Department of the hon. Gentleman have taken everything lying down.
I would have liked to have asked the Parliamentary Secretary the number of boys and girls under the age of 14 who are not receiving any education at all, and also how many of these children would have received education if his Department and he himself and his noble chief had not accepted the dictum of the Ministry of Health, and also, in particular, taken lying down the decision of the Home Secretary and those associated with him with regard to shelters for the children? In my own home town certain schools were available. The Department in its wisdom said it would evacuate these schools to Keighley, which, to my mind, was as dangerous as the town in which I live. No shelters were provided in my home town, and when it came to the provision of money which should have been a national charge the Parliamentary Secretary and his Department again took it lying down and allowed themselves to be dictated to by the Home Office and the Ministry of Health, with the resultant wastage of millions of pounds for salaries of teachers who were doing very little. 274 When we have to face the cost of this war the Parliamentary Secretary, his Noble chief, and his Department will have something to answer for in the neglect of children between the ages of 5 and 14, who need never have been evacuated if his Department had insisted that the cost of the necessary protection should have been borne by the nation. Schools in the constituency that I represent were evacuated to Bridlington, which is no less dangerous than Hull. His Department came to Hull, which had a rate of 23s. in the £ and was faced with peculiar difficulties in the provision of shelters, and we were then fobbed off to the Home Office and the Ministry of Health who acted the parts of the priest and Levite and refused to do anything at all. I do not know where the Department of the Board of Education is to-day, but if it is somewhere in London, there should be written on the portals of the door, in English and not in Latin, "We took it lying down.'' The Association of Education Committees have spent time, labour and money in trying to arouse public opinion, but they have received nothing but sneers from the high intelligentsia in the Ministry of Health and such places.
I want publicly to draw attention to what has been happening in this land of ours. The hon. Gentleman has provided more propaganda for the enemy at Hamburg and Zeesen than any other Department of the State, and he has that to answer for as well, now that he has received another jolt. I hope the Department will not go to sleep again. The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned the preparation for the training of teachers, and I hope that will be borne in mind. There was one good feature in his speech, and that was his mention of making more use of voluntary organisations. It is one of the great features of our public life in Britain that we have men and women ready to give their time and labour in bolstering up the voluntary institutions and giving a fair chance to our boys and girls, and I hope his Department will see all these things in a practical, and not an academic, light. I am grateful for the opportunity of intervening in this Debate, as one who has served education in the North as best he could, and placing on record my downright condemnation of his Department. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will not take my speech lying 275 down but will do something and not hibernate until there is another war.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Sir Annesley Somerville (Windsor)
The speeches we have listened to so far have reflected the disturbances of our educational system. The fall in the birth rate, evacuation, and heavy taxation have had a considerable effect. We have heard from the Parliamentary Secretary a speech which was constructive and informative and a record of such achievement as is possible in present circumstances. I would say to the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) and the hon. Member who has just spoken that in a good many directions at the present time it is not what we would wish to do but what we are able to do. We are fighting for our lives, and that ought to be taken into account by every responsible speaker. I would like to follow the Parliamentary Secretary into what he called "No Man's Land"—to discuss the problem of providing instruction and employment and amusement for those between the ages of 14 and 20. I was delighted to hear him say that the Ministry of Agriculture is going to take over the scheme of the Y.M.C.A. for settling boys on the land. I completely agree with him when he said it would be quite wrong to connect this scheme, or any other like it, with unemployment. The object of this or any such scheme must be to bring the land and these boys who care for the land together, because it will be good both for them and the country.
But I want to confine my remarks to the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) with regard to the position and treatment of our public schools and their future. The Leader of the Opposition, in his speech on the Address last November, mentioned this subject when he said:The war has wide repercussions. The alteration in the distribution of wealth is affecting very many of our institutions. Let me take two instances. There is what is called the public school. I wonder how long the public school will be able to last under war conditions. How long will people be able to give expensive education to their children? There may have to be a re-casting of our educational system."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1939; col. 22, Vol. 355.]All depends on the meaning of the word "re-casting." The right hon. Gentleman 276 the Member for Keighley said we were two nations. We are not; I do not admit that for a moment. I say there are no citizens in this country better calculated to appreciate and be understood by the working man than the products of the public schools. Of which nation is the right hon. Gentleman? I am sorry he is absent; I understand he was a distinguished product of Hailey bury, and if that is so, he can understand the benefits to be received from education at a public school. He made the position more definite in dealing with possible help to the public school system which he says was in trouble. He said, "No public aid without public control and without public entry.'' He evidently looks forward to the time when the State will take over the public schools, dictate how they are to be run, and deprive them of what they prize most—freedom of organisation, curriculum and methods. That is the life and soul of the public school.
§ Mr. Tomlinson (Farnworth)
May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether his inference is that in our public elementary schools and secondary schools there is some lack of freedom? Is he suggesting that that which is beneficial to the public school is entirely lacking from the elementary and secondary educational system in this country?
§ Sir A. Somerville
I think the hon. Member reads more into what I said than I meant. The State elementary and secondary schools have their freedom and methods, and what I plead for is that the public school system which has its own freedom and methods should retain them. I believe in the public school system of this country as a unique, valuable, national asset, and I think it would be the height of folly for the country willfully to throw it away. Another remark made by the right hon. Gentleman was that life in the public school was unadulterated crowd life. Nothing could be more untrue, and I am surprised that he, with experience of a public school, should have made that statement. He claims that the Parliamentary Secretary agreed with him, but the Parliamentary Secretary made the sensible answer that it was not crowd life but community life. It is the corporate life of the boarding school that renders that community life possible, and brings many of the benefits that grow from the public school system.
277 The right hon. Gentleman also said that public schools should revert to their original purpose of providing education for the children of the poor. The old grammar local schools were often founded by benevolent people, not for children of the poor, but for children of their own class. There is an idea that the endowments of Eton are immense and are used to benefit the children of the rich. Nothing could be further from the truth. The endowments are comparatively small. At one time they were very large because Henry VI gave to the college 100 acres of land north and south of Piccadilly, which would be fairly valuable now. But Henry VIII took it away and gave Eton other lands instead and Eton said:Henricus Octavus Took away more than he gave us.What makes Eton valuable is the staff, the teaching, and the training. It is so in every public school. Who pays for the teaching? The parents. The original endowment pays for the 70 scholars, and the arrangement now is that the original endowment pays for the scholars, but the staff is paid for out of the pockets of the parents. The scholarships at Eton are open to anybody.
§ Sir A. Somerville
It depends on the possibility of their getting the training and upon the brains of the boys; whether they are mathematical brains, modern language brains, or classical brains. The examination is open to everybody.
§ Sir A. Somerville
I should say none, but the point is that it is open to them to try, and one of the things we have to do to-day is to consider the possibility of boys from elementary schools going to our public schools. In regard to the financial arrangements, these 70 scholars benefit by the teaching which is provided by the parents who pay fees, and the boys who are not in the college benefit by the build- 278 ings provided, but, of course, the great balance of advantage is on the part of those scholars who are in college. We hear sometimes about the old school tie and a great deal of scorn is poured upon what it represents. I was in a small gathering of public men quite lately and the old school tie was mentioned. One of them with an honourable record of public achievement and public service said that he wanted to keep the old school tie because it represents things which are very valuable to this country. And so it does. If you see a man wearing the old school tie it brings back old memories of school days and adventures. It is the same thing in regard to the regimental tie or, indeed, if you get two men from the same workshop, it at once recalls their old life together.
But it means a great deal more than that, it means a training which is invaluable to the country. Let me say why. We are asked sometimes what is meant by the public school spirit. I have been asked that question many times in the States. The public school spirit is simply public spirit, and it is not a monopoly of public schools. It is the possession of every right-minded Briton. It is a regard for law and truth, for justice and decency, and consideration for the weak. That is the spirit which is cherished and trained freely by the boys themselves in our great public schools, and it produces in them a sense of responsibility, and a power of leadership which is invaluable. It is a spirit which is trained by the boys themselves in the houses of our public schools where definite duties are given to them. In games it teaches them to keep their heads and tempers. It is a spirit which is trained in the Officers Training Corps, and in this connection I would ask the Secretary of State for War to be very careful that he does not injure the Officers Training Corps, which is most valuable in training men in leadership and responsibility. I saw a stream of fine young men going out from the Officers Training Corps in the last war, and one of them, Julian Grenfell, the captain of my own house, became one of the youngest field officers in the Army. He got the Military Cross and wrote that well-known poem "Into the Battle":And life is colour, and warmth and light,And a striving evermore for these,And he is dead that will not fight,And who dies fighting hath surcease.279 He had the end he wished for—fighting for his country and freedom. Anyone who knows and has had experience of these things views with regret the possibility of the country losing them. The people who value them most are the people who know them best. The parents, who in very many cases send their sons to the same schools to which they went, give practical proof of the value they attach to them. They pay twice over; they pay their share necessary to maintain the State schools and they also pay the fees of the schools to which they send their sons. Foreigners also show their appreciation of the training which is obtained in our public schools. The stream of visitors which come to our public schools from all over the world is remarkable. They ask, "What is public school spirit, and how do you train in responsibility?"
Another testimony to the value of our schools is the imitators, the new secondary schools. They have borrowed from the public schools the prefect and house system, and in most cases the most friendly relations exist between the local county school and the public school in the district. I know that is the case in my own constituency. With regard to the prefect system, I had an amusing experience in South Africa. I went into a poor white school at Bloemfontein. The poor white is the lowest type of white man in South Africa. I am glad to say that there are very few Britishers among them; they are nearly all Dutchmen, and they have lost their self-respect. The headmaster, who seemed a sensible and capable man, said to me, "My great difficulty is to teach them some measure of self-respect, and I find it can only be done by adopting your prefect system.'' That is good testimony to the value of that system. He gave me an instance of its value. He said that some kippers were stolen from the dining room some days before and that he told the prefects they must produce the culprits. In two or three hours they were produced. He said, "I asked the prefects how they managed it," and they said, "We paraded the school and smelt their breaths."
It may be necessary to examine the relation between this system and the State 280 system, but I plead that it should be examined in a spirit of understanding and patience, and that it should be studied with a desire to do what is best for the country. I plead for the preservation of the public school, because I honestly believe and know that that system is a great and valued possession of the country. I would like to have the matter considered in the spirit of the last great Measure of conciliation and agreement, the educational Measure passed by the present Secretary of State for War when he was President of the Board of Education, a Measure which will always stand to his credit and to the credit of all parties in this House. I could wish that there might be a joint education committee of all parties. Education ought not to be a party question. It is a national question, believing the best of one another and hoping that with understanding we can do the best for the nation. It might be well to set up an authoritative body to consider how to connect more closely the State system and the public school system. It might consider a reduction of fees and the provision of substantial State scholarships to enable boys from the elementary schools to pass into the public schools. It might also consider such help as is given by the University Grants Committee, but I would postulate one thing, and that is the preservation of the independence and freedom of our public schools. Freedom is the breath of life in education. Why is it that we pity the Nazi youth? It is because he is not educated, he is indoctrinated, he is fed on lies and denied the truth. We ought to remember that the chief duty of a teacher is to teach the boy how to think, not what to think, to cultivate his critical faculties, to increase his reasoning power, to give him facts, not opinions, so that his judgment may be strengthened to form his own opinions. That is the duty of a teacher. Let me remind the Committee of the verse from the Gospels:The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth, so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.Education is born of the Spirit, and we should see to it that it is as free and natural as the winds of heaven.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
I am afraid I cannot follow as much as I should like to do the very interesting speech of the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir A. Somerville) about the advantages of the public school. I am sure that my hon. Friends on this side will agree with me when I say that whatever advantages a public school has—and certainly it has advantages—should be available to and shared by all members of the community, from whatever class they come, who are capable of benefiting from those advantages. Although the hon. Member appeared to be thinking too much about Eton and not enough about certain public schools which at the present time have children who have come from elementary schools as a result of scholarships, yet everyone knows that the public schools have great value, and that value is one which ought to be shared by the nation as a whole.
I am afraid that I have to express my disappointment with the speech made by the Parliamentary Secretary, because he did not deal with what is, particularly at the present time, the most vital part of education, that is, the nutrition of the school child, which is essential if education is to be carried on. The hon. Gentlemanwill remember that during the week before last I put a Question to him in which I asked how many children were receiving meals, in how many places communal meals had been established, and what was the situation with regard to the distribution of free milk. The hon. Gentleman was not able to give me anything except what I may call approximate information, but we know from a report of the medical officer of the Board of Education that about 10 per cent. of the children of the country are on a standard of nutrition that is below normal. In some areas the proportion is less and in some it is very much higher than 10 per cent., but taking the country as a whole, it is about 10 per cent. The figure in the last report available was 11.3 per cent. I will put the matter to the Parliamentary Secretary in this way. Those children who are not being properly fed at the present time—and there is no reason to suppose that the position has improved—cannot be properly educated. It is nonsensical to talk about physical fitness and to have a physical fitness 282 campaign if there is not the foundation of fitness, which is proper nutrition.
We are to-day considering—although some of the speeches really made me wonder whether we were—the Report on education for the year which has passed and the Estimates for the coming year. We are making a general survey. Already we have had six months of war, and it is very unlikely that by the end of the period which we are considering we shall be out of the war. Certainly, we shall not be out of the war difficulties. During that period of war difficulties, one of the matters that will require most careful attention is the food supply of the nation as a whole and of the children in particular. I submit to the hon. Gentleman that the most economical, and from the point of view of public health the wisest, course with regard to the children of the nation would be to supply in every school mid-day meals for the children which would secure that in any case the children received adequate food. With the dislocations which there may be in the case of an enemy attack, it is more than likely that there will be very serious differences between the nutrition in one part of the country and in another, and between one social class and another, unless there is a raising of the general level of feeding by the provision of a mid-day meal for all children which will supply the major amounts of food which they require. From the rationing point of view, that would be the most economical way of providing food, and from the point of view of health, it would secure that every child had adequate food which otherwise he or she might not be able to obtain. The same applies to milk. In present conditions, it is not possible to supply the amount of milk which theoretically it is desirable that every child should have every day, that is, about two pints; but it might be possible for every child to have one pint of milk a day. I suggest that it would-be a wise thing if every child were given an opportunity at school of having one pint of milk a day irrespective of the financial position of the parents. I hope there will be no question of imposing a means test in this matter.
I believe that in education nutrition is the foundation on which we have to build. I was glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that complete medical inspection is to be resumed. I hope this will 283 include also medical treatment of the defects that may be found, and that it will extend to all areas of the country, including the reception areas, where, as far as my own investigations have gone up to the present, I have found the medical inspection and the treatment of the defects in a very unsatisfactory state, owing to the fact that large numbers of the medical and nursing staffs are locked up in the evacuation areas, and not doing any particular work. If the nutrition and physical health of the children are looked after, as certainly they can be looked after—it is within the competence of the Department to see that this is done—there is a foundation for education on which can be built a good and substantial structure. If that is not done, I am afraid that, with all the difficulties that may come upon us during the war, it will be extremely difficult to build any proper structure. All the plans which the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned cannot be carried into effect unless the children are in a condition to receive the education. At the time of the French Revolution there was a saying which applies equally now—"After bread, education." Education cannot be given unless there is proper feeding and proper medical care.
I urge particularly that greater attention should be paid to the extension and universal application as soon as possible of the principle of communal meals. Unless there is that, in the reception areas and the evacuation areas there are bound to be failures in nutrition. Up to the present time, we have had very great success in the reception areas in improving the health of the children. The conditions have stimulated people into very great helpfulness and they have been working together in an unprecedented way. I am not sure that under the stress of what may come upon us there will always be the same ease in the making of arrangements. Therefore, I urge—because I regard the physical condition of the children as fundamental—that the question of meals, milk, and medical attention, should be given first consideration as being the basis upon which anything else can be built, and without which a satisfactory structure cannot be built.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
I would like to take the Debate back to the first speeches to which we listened 284 this afternoon. There were one or two things said by the Parliamentary Secretary with which I wish particularly to express agreement. To take a minor point first, I agree with my hon. Friend that there is very dubious wisdom in giving people Board of Education grants at the age of 16, or even at the age of 19, on condition that they become teachers, and teachers of a particular kind. It is extremely difficult, I know, to find a way round the defects of that system, but I do not think the Board of Education ought ever to stop in any one year examining the system and asking itself whether something better cannot be done. I have seen a great many human tragedies and a great deal of waste of great powers when boys of 16 years of age, or even 19, thought that was what they wanted to do and then found out later on that there was something else they could have done with much greater happiness to themselves and with greater value to society.
The other point on which I particularly agree with the Parliamentary Secretary is in what he said about the importance of direct-grant schools at the moment. I shall return later to the general importance of these schools, but I wish now to invite the attention of the Committee to the peculiar difficulties under which those schools are suffering. For the most part, their fees are comparatively high. Let me take particularly the case of the direct-grant school which has been sent away from a danger area to a refuge area. As a rule, its fees are too high for it to hope very much to attract any support in its new area. Take, for instance, Portsmouth Grammar School, a school which has a very glorious tradition, and incidentally, the school where my father got all his education—not very much, because he left before he was 14. It goes to a new area whereit cannot attract very much new support. It gets less support than it did from the old area, because it arrives with probably only two-thirds of its numbers. I believe Portsmouth Grammar School went away with two-thirds, but by the beginning of next term it will have hardly half of its normal numbers. It loses fees to that extent and grant to that extent. In many cases, it can have little or no hope of getting back to its old buildings. In cases like Portsmouth and Southampton, it is obvious that the schools cannot go 285 back during the war to their own buildings. The need for buildings of that sort in those towns must be so immense that one cannot suppose the Admiralty or the War Office, as the case may be, is likely to give up the tenancy of those premises before the war is over. There is that very great difficulty from the financial point of view. There is no doubt that they have more of that kind of difficulty than any other kind of schools.
Then, there is greater difficulty from the point of view of air-raid precautions. I do not say that I agree with hon. Members opposite who have said to-day, and on earlier occasions, that air-raid precautions for children should be wholly a national charge, but however that may be, this kind of school is very much discriminated against. I do not suppose I have got the technicalities clearly in my head, but as I understand the arrangement, it is something like this. The Board of Education, with great generosity and doing a thing exceptional in its practice, told the direct grants schools that the Board would give them half as much towards air-raid precautions as the local authority might give them; but the snag in that was that the local authority is not bound to give them anything. In some districts the local authority has behaved with generosity, and in some it has not. In Norwich—I feel duty bound to speak of Norwich, because it has a very ancient connection with my college and my college very largely depended for a long time upon the King's School at Norwich—the city has, I believe, refused to help. It has not given a penny, and, therefore, the Board of Education cannot give a penny. Although Norwich School is a very ancient school, and has produced some of the founders of our State and nation, it is a school which has very small endowments. The whole cost of air-raid precautions has fallen upon the school with the only possible result that the fees have had to be put up to a clientele which, in the main, is not a clientele to which that can be a matter of indifference.
I am not suggesting that the Board of Education has not, under these Votes, provided as much as it can provide for this particular class of school. It is very difficult for any private Member to know about that, but I am willing to believe the Board has done what it could. What I am sure of is that unless somehow or 286 other the Board can do a good deal more than it has done, schools of this kind—at any rate those of them which have had to be moved, like Portsmouth and Southampton, and a good many more—will cease to exist. They will disappear. They cannot fall back, as the normal secondary school can, upon the more or less bottomless purse of the ratepayers, and this particular class of schools will, this autumn, in many cases, simply fade out of existence unless somehow or other the Government provide for them more than it has at present been possible for it to provide. There are various ways by which it might be done, and one suggestion which has been made to keep up the numbers was that it would be better if they were allowed to board their boys in hostels instead of billeting them out. I do not know whether that is a good suggestion or not, but it would mean an extra grant. I do not know whether that is best or the only method by which it could be done, but I am trying to impress, particularly on the Parliamentary Secretary, that somehow or other the decision has to be taken—Is this class of school to be kept alive or not? If so, more help must be provided than has been provided so far.
The last thing, or the next to the last, in the world I wish to do is to reflect upon the relevance of my eminent predecessors' speeches in this Debate, and the very last to reflect on the conduct of the Debate by the Chair, but I am bound to say that I was not clear always whether the very interesting discussions about whether Eton was a good school or not, and Uppingham and others, came within the terms of this Vote.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
They have not said so, as far as I know. As I say, I cannot see the relevance of most of the discussion which has been introduced and dealt with at some length. However, I think what I am going to say I can make relevant. I suppose there is hardly anyone—and in passing I think the hon. Baronet for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) was a little optimistic about the French system as being one where merit was the only passport to education. I suppose there is hardly anyone who would really wish that in a very short space of time we should get into the position where 287 there was one uniform centralised single system. Very few of us would wish that, although there may be some who might wish that we should get towards it, but even they, I do not think, would wish it to be done by next year, or even by 1950. If that is so, and if the different classes of schools do learn a good deal from each other, which I think is undoubtedly true, then surely the direct-grant schools have a particular claim upon our attention because they are schools which more than any other single variety of the many in this country form a bridge between the different varieties. They partake in some respect of the nature of what are called public schools. They have ancient traditions, some endowments and stand a little aside from the local system. On the other hand, they partake to a considerable extent in the State and municipal system, having the local education authority represented on the governing body, having a local clientele, and so forth. Therefore, I think that these particular schools deserve very special consideration from us at this time and I hope the Board of Education will find ways of making certain that they survive.
Now that I see the right hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) in his place I would like to refer to a point which he raised. I am not a passionate admirer of the public school system—perhaps for the same reason as he, because we were at the same school. I do not know that it had any very great fashion value, or was much better than others, but I think a great deal of what he said did it less than justice. It is not a bad school. A good deal of what he said about the division into two nations did not seem to me sometimes to be consistent with other remarks he made. He found himself surprised that he and the Parliamentary Secretary had been giving vent to similar utterances in the country, surprised apparently because one of them had been at one kind of school and the other at the other kind. But who could have guessed beforehand unless it had been said which speaker came from which kind of school? Who could tell in the noble hearted big-brained band of brothers opposite, who could tell which has been at one sort of school and which has been at the other, and which sort of school produces that admirable team spirit, the main characteristic of the party 288 opposite? I was not altogether clear about the consistency of the different parts of the right hon. Gentleman's speech.
There is one thing to be said about the system, which, indeed, he said, and which I should have expected him to welcome. The most comfortable classes spend £200 or£300 a year to send their boys to boarding schools to be very uncomfortable. It is an odd thing and is a very ancient custom, going well back to the Middle Ages. The explanation given by the foreigners was that the English were extremely fond of their children, and that when they had the little beasts around them every day they lost their temper and found that at the Sunday dinner they could not scoff all the white parts of the chicken for themselves and give the children the parson's nose, but had to waste some of the best bits on the children, and that is why they sent them away. I do not know whether this explanation is true or not, but it is a remarkable thing, and one which is not altogether to be regretted by the party opposite, that the most comfortable classes of this country send children away to exist under discomfort and away from parental support.
I have an open mind about boarding schools, but I was not altogether impressed by the suggestion that we could economise on these schools. It might be possible to save on clothes, but not much, and hardly anything, I think, on food. A house master I know who is well-to-do, unmarried and not interested in the private profit motive once told me, when I asked what it cost to feed a boy, "You cannot possibly spend more than 10s. 6d. a week. You cannot give them cream with their porridge or vintage claret with their lunch.'' So one cannot cut much from that figure, and I do not think much saving can be done there. The right hon. Gentleman opposite proceeded to say that children must all go to school two years younger. That is not an economy if they are to arrive at 11instead of 13. Indeed, it is far from economy. The only strict relevance I can see of the public schools to this Debate is in connection with the point about the bridge between the different kinds of schools. If they have to be considered, and they have not yet asked to be considered, then, if I may adopt the striking formula of the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West 289 Bethnal Green, the question ought to be asked, "Have they education value?'' or, in other words, in judging a school the main consideration should be, "Is it a good school?" In so far as these schools, or many of them, are of value, some means will have to be found to keep them alive if they are not capable of supporting themselves.
The main thing I wished to say is that the direct grant schools are an inestimable and irreplaceable feature in our educational arrangements, and that if they drop out it will be an extremely bad thing both for the State schools and for the public schools. I believe they will drop out unless some help can be provided in the next three or four months—more help than yet promised. I beg for some assurance on this point.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Evans (University of Wales)
I have not examined this year's Estimates in any critical spirit, and they have certainly not been examined this afternoon in any critical spirit. I realise that war conditions have created many new difficulties for the Board of Education, and I am not at all surprised that this Debate has ranged on topics which the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) thought somewhat irrelevant to the discussion on the Board of Education Estimates. I should like to get back, however, to something which is very relevant, and that is the Estimates themselves. While I agree that the difficulties confronting the Board have been very great, I believe that the problems which will probably come before them will be even more difficult. The difficulties have not been confined only to the Board of Education. They have also confronted local education authorities and have been very present to the minds of the teachers who have faced new problems and new conditions with great loyalty, courage and determination. I must confess that I am a little alarmed about the number of people who are always talking about the difficulties created by evacuation. The problem which confronts the Board of Education is not confined to that particular issue caused by evacuation. In certain industrial districts people interested in education have been concerned with similar problems arising from evacuation for many years past. The industrial districts 290 of South Wales have had importations from Ireland and England—and people foreign to the native culture and native spirit. I have no doubt there are other districts where similar conditions have arisen. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary not to be carried away by this talk of evacuation, but to bring his mind back to permanent questions which will always affect the Board.
In this connection I want to utter another word of warning. He must not be too easily carried away by the demands made by other Departments—people who put forward specious claims arising out of the war. There are in many parts of this country to-day schools which need reconditioning and there are many areas where there is a desperate need for new schools. What is the Board going to do about that? These are not problems created by evacuation?
§ Mr. Evans
I am referring to the position at the moment, and I want to know what is going to happen now that the war has started. These facts were in existence before the war started. If you go to the Timber Controller, he will say that he cannot spare timber for new building because it is all wanted for war purposes. The man in charge of bricks will say the same thing. What I want to know is whether the Board is going to be content to take that answer, or whether it is going to exercise pressure on the Departments so as to enable local authorities to make up for deficiencies which admittedly were in existence before the war started. The same consideration applies to the provision of meals, to nursery schools, and to the health of the children. The Parliamentary Secretary referred to what he called, I think, routine medical examinations. I do not want to cast aspersions upon the medical services—they are very good—but I am not sure that war conditions do not call for more than the ordinary routine medical services. I do not attribute the whole or any great part of the epidemics which have come over the country in recent weeks to conditions in the schools, but I am not at all sure that conditions in the schools are not partly responsible for their spread. There is at any rate a very 291 special urgency that school medical services shall be continued up to the hilt of efficiency at the present time.
I pass to another matter. We have in this country been building up for some time a system of education in which we take great pride. We have both elementary education and secondary education under the auspices of the State, but there are two classes of the community which do not quite come within the scope of State activities. One is the class served by the adult education movement, and I was glad to hear the tribute of the Parliamentary Secretary to the work done in this connection. I find, however, on page 15 of the Estimates, that there is a not inconsiderable reduction in the Estimates for 1940 as compared with 1939 in regard to university tutorial classes, evening institutes and day continuation schools. I should like to have an assurance that there is not to be any continuing decrease in the amount made available by the Exchequer for those services. The hon. Gentleman told the Committee that there had not been any very considerable decrease in the number of adult classes, but I know that there is a great deal of anxiety as to whether there will not be a considerable diminution in the work done by tutorial classes organised by universities and other bodies, and there is a great deal of disappointment in some districts because there has been some curtailment.
§ Mr. Evans
I did not say it was due to that. I said I hoped there would not be a continuing decrease in the grant made by the Exchequer to assist this form of education. I am uttering a word of warning. The other class of the community to which I refer is the class of young people who have finished their school education after they have left the elementary or secondary school. It is these young people for whom the National Youth Movement is designed, and I know the Parliamentary Secretary has taken great interest in, and devoted great energy to, that movement. I should like to feel a little more satisfied that there was not room for greater effort in this matter. I want to refer particularly to 292 the position of Wales, because although Wales is a country in which this movement could be of great value, the movement is not having the success it ought to have. I would impress on the Parliamentary Secretary that so far as the work of this movement in Wales is concerned he should bear in mind considerations peculiarly applicable to Wales. One consideration, of course, is the language.
This movement cannot be a success in Wales without recognition of the great part that language takes in the national life. Secondly, the right people must be associated with the movement. There is on the committee a Member of this House—the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. George Hall)—and everybody who knows him will be satisfied that the great conscientious energy which he applies to all problems in which he is interested will be applied to this work. But if he were here, I think he would not object to my pointing out that he has been brought up in, and represents, and is most intimately associated with, a very highly industrialised area. If this movement is to be a success in Wales, it is not sufficient to take into account conditions in areas of that kind. Depression in those areas has created conditions in which this movement can be of tremendous service, but I think it is proper to point out that there are also rural areas where this movement can be of very great assistance provided it is conducted in the right way with an understanding of the language, an understanding of the people and an understanding of the conditions which prevail in these sparsely populated areas.
I believe there is room for improvement in the organisation of this movement and that there should be particular attention to leaders in connection with it. I do not mean leaders with capital "L's" but people with small "l's" who are associated with social and religious work in the country districts. In Wales a great deal of such activity has been conducted through the churches and chapels, and I hope that work will be borne in mind in any future efforts in organising this movement. But let me say that I envisage the work to be done by this movement as not confined to the imparting of knowledge. I look to it for general cultural development and also physical development, and I cannot say that the churches and chapels have been very successful on the side of physical development. 293 I have in mind cultural training, physical training, and the general helping of young people who enjoy the leisure which is enforced upon them at the present time. Under war conditions the proper utilisation of leisure is even more important than it was before. This movement can do much to help national culture if only it is conducted on proper lines. May I say, in conclusion, that I am very glad that it has been possible to allot a day for discussion of the Education Estimates so early in the Session? We are constantly hearing claims put forward on behalf of different services, and the importance of each one in turn is impressed upon us, but whatever may be the importance of the various fronts in the ghastly struggle in which we are now engaged, I am convinced that the educational front is one which is essential to the winning of the war and will be essential to the winning of the peace.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle (St. Albans)
I am stirred to speak from certain points of view which appeal specially to the mind of one who has been an inspector of schools and who is at the present time having some experience of an evacuated school in his own house—a nursery school. Before I do so, however, I would like to make one remark about the form in which the Estimates are presented. I think it would be useful if we had the grants to local education authorities shown in greater detail. For instance, I would like to be able to size up the proportion of the grant which goes to the medical services, but when there is only a statement that grants to local education authorities amount to £36,000,000, and grants to other authorities a certain sum, it is not possible to deduce the proportion which goes to medical services.
There is a great deal of leeway to be made up with regard to the practical application of the services. They have been put to the test by the crisis of the last six months. We have had some children evacuated from the large towns to the country districts, where we have had the opportunity of comparing them with the children who ordinarily live in the countryside and we have had a certain number of children remaining behind in the large towns. That has given the opportunity for a test of how the system works. We have found the system in the countryside heavily pressed and we have 294 found a good deal wanting, in one way or another, in the condition of some of the children who came to the country from the towns. I do not want to emphasise that aspect too strongly, because one knows that the children came to the country after a holiday period during which they had not received medical attention. It was obvious that they required a good deal more attention than they had received.
On the other hand, the services in the countryside are being over-pressed and vary in efficiency. Great heights of self-sacrifice and service are reached in many cases but there are considerable defects in others. That kind of thing is inevitable owing to the pressure we have gone through, but I hope these services will be better another time. The medical services are going on the whole time and we must always keep in mind our ideas of what they should be. We started the medical service in 1908 and it was a question then simply of a rapid survey and a recording of results. It was foreseen by those who passed the small Sub-section in the House of Lords which introduced the whole system, that it would lead to the necessity of treatment of school children, and from that to advances on other lines to a much larger and more comprehensive scheme. That result was coming but it has been delayed a good deal by the war. I hope it will not be delayed in the long run.
With regard to the children who are left in the towns I will make only one passing reference and a point that requires to be made. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), with whom I have been associated on the London County Council for so long and whose experience and enthusiasm I respect very much, was talking about the absence of education for the town child more or less for six months as if it were a tragedy, as if it meant a bit cut out of the child's life for ever. We can remember from our own school days cases of boys who had illnesses which took them away from education for six months or a year; or of one or another being absent deliberately owing to eccentric or original-minded parents taking them away from school so that they could have six months' or a year's travel and have experience in other directions; or of cases of boys also who broke away from education on purpose in order to sail round the world before the 295 mast. They then went back to school and it was extraordinary how they picked up and what value they gained from that little gap in the official routine of education. I do not believe that six months out of education is necessarily a permanent loss.
§ Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that the six months may make all the difference in the age at which children can take the entrance examination for the secondary schools?
§ Sir F. Fremantle
That is a point as regards the machinery and routine of education by which, unfortunately, in this country education has to be bound up with examinations as a condition of entrance to a profession, trade or calling. The system becomes a mere commercial obstacle which you have to surmount. In such a system, six months' loss is a real one, but I am speaking of the theoretical and real education of the individual. I admit that where children have to go through the obstacle race of examinations it is a great loss. I speak with great feeling, for I have been through more examinations than anyone in this House. That was because it was essential for my career, as I foresaw it, to go through those examinations. I have a great contempt, as a result, for examinations as a means of meeting the real needs of education. The best thing is to go up and get ploughed and the next time you take care to get through. You learn the little tricks that beat the examiners, and once you get through, you forget the whole thing. That is not education at all. I speak as an old pupil of my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir A. Somerville),for whom I have a great respect as my old schoolmaster and as a Member of this House. I speak also as a governor of a smaller school at Aldenham, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) is one of the most distinguished lights. It is one of the minor schools which is doing a great work for the sons of parents of smaller incomes. I believe that the great lessons we have learned come from Germany. The greatest I have had since I have been in this House came from the school at Salem in Germany, which is now at Gordonstown in Scotland. The system of 296 that school gives a great deal more freedom and responsibility to the boys.
We want to pay attention to the practical side of education, and it is germane to that side, looking into the future, to see to what extent we are getting the best of the public school system for the ordinary child who goes to the elementary school. We have the ladder, the means of progress from the elementary to the secondary school, and from the secondary school, if possible, to the university. It is in the secondary school stage, I believe, where we can learn a great deal from the public school system. We certainly cannot do it by including the public schools, as they are at present, in the secondary school system. What we can do is to get into each system certain lessons that are to be derived from the other. As my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor pointed out, the great lesson to be learned from the big public schools is the responsibility and leadership which are possible in a residential school and which are hardly possible or, at any rate, not possible to the same extent, in the day school. The boys are living together in a community life out of school hours, through the evening, through the night and through their meals, and it is that which gives them the opportunity to live their own community life by themselves, to find their own level, and among themselves to pick their own leaders and make their own organisation.
The more that is done the better it is for the boys, and the more official and stereotyped the system the worse it is. So many schools get a rather stereotyped education which cramps the minds of both teachers and boys. We want to get out of that. It was one of the great benefits of the school where I was, at Eton, that it gave such tremendous opportunities for the lazy boy to be lazy, the good boy to be good, and the keen boy to be keen, and largely to follow his own interests, even if they were not according to the regular curriculum. That is the kind of thing we want to get for the ordinary ex-elementary school child, and we want to see whether it is possible to work it into the hateful commercial scheme of examinations, diplomas, and so on. I am afraid it will be a long time before these higher ideals and objects of education can become practicable. The necessity of 297 having a system by which pupils can be separated and classified in accordance with their future work, is, I feel, bound to be the main object which people will have in education for a long time to come. From this Committee we want to help on those tendencies of which we see the possibilities and which were alluded to in the speech of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary.
I want to refer to the nursery school, of which one has had experience in the evacuation scheme and also to the effect of evacuation on the children whom one sees in the countryside. There is no question that there has been a perfectly remarkable improvement in the health of the children generally. That does not appear only in the small sections that one sees intimately. Wherever it is possible to get a general impression, one finds that there has been a great improvement. It is only what is to be expected. Instead of living in the close atmosphere of the towns, where the air is vitiated by fog and smoke and where the children have indirect light across the narrow streets, they go to the countryside and live in the clear air and, especially after the lovely weather last autumn, it is only natural that they should get colour in their cheeks which at once gives the impression of health. They have, too, much better food—more in quantity, and better in quality—and naturally they put on a certain amount of flesh. They get extra exercise, too, and so show signs of growth. If I were speaking purely from the point of view of nutrition, as did my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest), I should say that, almost certainly, there has been a tremendous improvement.
We have to consider how far it will be possible in future for the elementary school child to have these advantages. They could not be billeted as they are now. That would not be the solution. There would have to be a great extension of school buildings in the form of camps and so on, and probably more permanent buildings. It would mean separation from parents. Would the parents stand it? Is it right that children should be separated from their parents? Is it natural? That is a problem which for a good many of us who have had the ordinary endowed public school education, has been settled long ago. I believe that, on the whole, it is an advantage. If I may make a personal refer- 298 ence, my own father, who was a very liberal-minded clergyman, thought the best education was that of the elementary schools, but he sent all his six sons to Eton one after the other. There may however be a good deal of feeling about family life and about children being kept close to the parents in the family circle. It may be felt that going to school only during school hours is the right thing. In actual practice other ideas came in, and though, I imagine, my father was a very honest person, I have never heard the reason for what he did. I believe it is to the advantage of children, to a certain extent, to be away from their parents, and not least nowadays, when we have cramped houses and slums and people live under difficult conditions. Out of the present conditions I think there will develop holiday camps or holiday schools such as have been started already. The system will be enlarged, and by degrees we shall work towards the idea of the children spending some period of their lives in schools where they will be in the country and living under such conditions that they will be able to a large extent to form their character. That will strengthen the powers of leadership which we want them to have to fit them for leadership in the great spheres of public life.
One of the great lessons we have learned from these times is the appalling difficulties which surround the question of religious instruction. I cannot deal with that problem at length, but where there is so much public controversy with regard to religious instruction, I think it would be better if people were to recognise that the religion of the Gospels should be taught and not the religion of the Epistles and the dogmas of the Churches. Then, I believe, we could get unity and a more general adherence to the gospel of the Master whom we all serve and look to as the ideal. It is unfortunately the case that developments of doctrine and history still cling to religion and are taught when they are quite unnecessary and that makes religious education a difficult problem. We want to get back to a simple unity in religious education, which is a most essential part of all education and has been so lamentably missing in the past.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)
I have been very much interested in this 299 Debate, particularly in what the Parliamentary Secretary had to say. I could not quite agree with the description of his speech applied to it by the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir A. Somerville). I could not read into it that record of achievement. I do, however, realise that it was a masterly speech from the point of view of making the most of the case, and to that extent I think the Parliamentary Secretary is to be congratulated. So far from finding hope in that speech, I felt called upon to review it in my own mind for the purpose of finding a description for it, and the description that I would give would be, "an airy, nebulous, abstract, pious aspiration." There appeared to be nothing concrete in it, nothing of which one could get hold. Even his examination of the position did not seem to be a true reflex of it.
Take the question of evacuation. I was bold enough to suggest to the Minister of Health in a Supplementary Question a few weeks ago that I considered evacuation was approaching a scandal, and he was foolish enough to lose his temper. I have not since heard anything which is calculated to change my view. Evacuation was badly conceived. It has been a paper scheme, disregarding the fact that we were not dealing with paper figures but human beings. The first to be evacuated were the children. The plan was to give the evacuation authorities the responsibility of getting rid of the children, and they did that very efficiently. On the days when evacuation took place I travelled round to schools and railway stations and I was struck by the efficiency of the proceedings. I received first-hand reports from the reception areas, and there is not the slightest doubt that the children were received very efficiently. But the evacuation areas seemed to regard their responsibility as that of getting rid of the children, and the reception areas depended on the billeting officers to find somewhere for them to go, without regard to the fitness of the billets. The Press has been full of reports which have gone to show that little regard was paid to the type of homes suitable to different children.
Just before coming to the House this afternoon I was at a committee where one of the visitors employed by a large public authority reported upon the children who 300 had been evacuated, and there are two cases that I can quote to prove the point which I am attempting to make, One concerned a girl, Barbara B, and the other a boy, John H, two difficult children. Almost every parent will understand that there are certain ages at which all children are difficult. John played truant from school and was difficult to manage. The girl was mischievous. The report stated that they were billeted on an aged couple. Can we say that we hope for success, if we do not adapt the child to the billet, even if we agree with the billeting system? Many cases could be quoted where there does not appear to be sufficient oversight of the evacuated children. I have no desire to create any anxiety in the minds of parents which would induce them to withdraw their children from the evacuation areas. It is a duty to encourage the children to remain away from London, and to do that, we have to make the lives of those children not merely bearable but as happy as possible in the circumstances. Recently there was a case where two children were billeted on a family which already had three children, and all five slept in the same bed, and the woman was out at work all day. We cannot hope for success along those lines.
It is because of conditions like that that education is suffering. All the children are not elementary school children. I have in mind a well-known, well-conducted secondary school for girls in North London. They were evacuated to Cambridgeshire. Now, only 40 of those girls are remaining, with a staff of 10 teachers. The school meets in a little village hall in which the forms all receive instruction at the same time. Will any teacher agree that we can have efficient secondary education in such circumstances? There is in that county another secondary school which shares a local high school for girls. Many of the girls are approaching the matriculation stage, but obviously they are not able to get such education as they would have been receiving in normal circumstances, and it is doubtful whether any of them will achieve anything like the success they would otherwise have had.
It will be said, "But we are at war, and because we are at war we must be prepared to have such difficulties." When the Government launched the re-armament programme they knew there was the 301 possibility of war, and they ought to have prepared, not merely for war but for the continued education of the children. They should have prepared for evacuation. My own view is that the Government failed to recognise that there were people much experienced in the handling of problems such as this, who could have advised them what to do. If that advice had been sought, I feel certain that what the Government now propose to do in some measure would have been done before, and that instead of children being billeted out in reception areas, big country houses would have been taken for them. It will be said there are not enough empty country houses which could have been turned into boarding schools. Well, that would not worry me very much. If the Government can take the men to fight they can take the mansions and turn them into schools.
An important aspect of the matter is that the children evacuated to country villages receive part-time instruction, not full time, and in the out-of-school hours are free from any control. In my view that is rather a serious thing. It would be very much better if the Government had decided to set up school camps and hostels and provided a staff which could have controlled the children in out-of-school hours, thus ensuring some measure of supervision; for although I am not going to say a word against the character of the men who are in our Army, Navy or Air Force, I am compelled to say that I look with disquiet on what I have seen of secondary school girls, doffing their gym slips and wearing their ordinary clothing, walking arm-in-arm with members of the Air Force, Army and Navy. I am not going to suggest that there is anything more in it than a natural desire for companionship, but it would not happen in an ordinary boarding school of the type of which hon. Members opposite have spoken so eloquently this afternoon.
Because of these things I cannot agree to what has been said in praise of the Parliamentary Secretary's speech. If evacuation is to be a success then it has to be a success from more than one standpoint. The first criterion must be the education of the children. We ought to see that those children who have qualified for places in the secondary schools do not lose the benefits which they have a right 302 to expect. I will give an illustration of a child who has sent her report to me. In the arrangement of the lessons this girl gets more French than she does of other subjects and another section of her form gets more mathematics than French. That is due to the fact that they have to mix with the existing local school. If it be contended that the present measures are adequate, that would mean there was more space than was required before. The girls' high school which I have in mind is sharing a building with the Middlesex County secondary school, and it is clear that you cannot have two schools in a building which previously held one school and have the adequate accommodation and opportunity for lessons. They do not get the number of hours that they were accustomed to get in the normal working day, and I think the responsibility is on the Government to provide the necessary accommodation.
The Government will say "Yes, but the local authority which is responsible for the evacuation, must accept a certain amount of responsibility in that respect also." But what can be done? I repeat that the difficulty with accommodation is that you cannot build, even if you were disposed to do so, outside your county or county borough. You cannot build because you cannot get the materials. But the Government could exert compulsory powers for the relinquishing of existing buildings to be used as scholastic establishments. That is all I wish to say on evacuation, but I hope I have said enough to interest the Government in that aspect of the problem. We do not want evacuation to be a failure; we want it to be a success. But it will only be a success when parents who are interested in the education of their children see that their children get education, when those who are interested in their children's welfare see that their children have control out of school hours; and when parents interested in the future of their children, realise that there is less danger in the children being away than in their being at home. The parent has to judge whether the child is safer at home, with the danger of potential air raids, than he would be when away from home. It is because of that you get the withdrawal which is making the evacuation scheme a failure. My view is that to call it a failure is not to overstate the case.
303 Another aspect is that everybody regards the secondary school period as most important. The boy or girl is on the threshold, one might say, of a career, and during that period of education they will develop any natural aptitude they possess, and see what they are fitted for. But no less important is the other end of the scale, and that is the nursery school. I feel very much depressed when I realise the inroad that is being made in this country on that work which I have always believed to be one of the finest works that is being done. It has already been stated this afternoon that education does not consist merely of pumping knowledge into the heads of people. In my view many people have knowledge who are very far from being educated. Education is surely the exercising of the mind and its development so as to make the best use of the powers possessed by a person. That is a rough and ready way of explaining that it is a training of the mind to fit the individual for a fuller life.
One may ask: But what education does a child get at a nursery school? Anybody who has taken any interest in nursery schools will be struck by the value of the conflict which takes place in the mind of the child there. A child of two years in the nursery school may not be acquiring knowledge, but it is forming habits. Those habits conflict with the habits of the home from which it comes and as the child grows, so one can see the steady rising of the strength of character in that child by the habits that are formed, until at last when it starts that education which consists in the imparting and retention of knowledge and the use of the mind and judgment, the child has a background and some measure of self-discipline. Self-discipline is the only discipline worth while. The child may not emerge into a brainy man or woman with a giant intellect but the worship of the giant intellect is a mistake; because while there are some with giant intellects sitting in their studies and using that intellect to ennoble and raise the human race, there are others with giant intellects sitting in their laboratories and trying to find the most devilish means of destroying the human race. It is not intellect but something more that is wanted if humanity is to be saved. From the nursery schools come the training of character and the formation of 304 habits which together with the instruction received, may give us a generation which will know better than to bring us to the verge of disaster such as we are facing at the present time.
Then there is the question of secondary education. I wonder sometimes whether we are not prone to regard secondary education as merely a means of giving a boy or girl an opportunity of getting advantage in the commercial world. If this is so, it is a mistake. It may do that, but if that is the object of secondary education then we are missing its true value. Every one knows that the world is full of square pegs in round holes. Why do so many theories fail when there is an attempt to put them into practice? The theory is that a square piece of wood of a given size will go into a square hole of a given size, but it does not follow. The carpenter will tell you that the piece of wood must be straight and that you have to take other factors into consideration. Technical education is of value because it enables those undergoing it to find whether they are fitted for this, that or the other technical job. It gives them an opportunity to find their aptitude, to find just what qualities they have that will fit them for that type of work. Lastly, our education will fail, no matter what our ideals may be, unless we realise that at bottom the whole of humanity is equal. By that I do not mean that we all think alike or are all possessed of the same qualities. Thank God we do not all look alike. It is because of our differences that we are of value to each other, but whatever inequalities nature may have placed between us, there is no justification for the inequality of opportunity; and unless our educational system has as its object the provision of equality of opportunity for all boys and girls it will fail.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Sir Ernest Graham-Little(University of London)
I hope to make my remarks short, though I have a good deal to say. I would like in the first instance to answer a few of the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith). We generally cross swords in educational debates, and I am very much surprised that he has not trotted out his favourite bogy of London matriculation. As regards the Army classes. I am sure the Committee will be 305 glad to know that the War Office and the Canadian Expeditionary Force approached London University for facilities for study, and a scheme has been carried out by what is known as the Advisory Service of the London University. That is a very important and promising venture now in operation. As regards the point that has been raised about there being two populations in this country because of the public schools and the secondary schools, I think he said they never mix; but he has only to look at Table 46 in the last report of the Board of Education and he will see that the mixture is very perfect indeed; at all universities, not even excepting the most ancient ones, the mixture is exceedingly effective, and, if he will look up the tables he will see how wrong he is.
In the White Paper I notice one rather puzzling increase, very exceptional certainly, in the expenditure on elementary schools. It is the grant to the local authorities, and I would rise to ask whether any part of that rather large sum is in respect of building. I make that remark because less than a year ago I came into contact with a certain incident in a provincial town in which a proposition to build a new school was discussed in a very closely contested debate at the county council. The decision to make the new school was finally obtained by a very small majority of the council, although it was very clearly shown by the opposition to that expenditure that there were something like 500 or 600 places vacant in the existing system of schools, and that the re-arrangement of those places might quite well have met the new necessity. But it was obvious that the majority of something like one or two was because the expenditure of that sum in the county would benefit unemployment, and it was carried on that principle alone. That, I contend, is a misuse of educational funds and I hope that this particular item does not include similar incidents.
Perhaps it may not be inopportune to have something like a general discussion on principles of education, and if hon. Members will recall the character of the education Debate of 1937, and reflect that we may not have another for another two years, it is surely not improper to consider what are the ideals of education and what progress we are making towards 306 achieving them. In the report of 1938 the progress of secondary school pupils to the universities is set out, and I am most distressed to find that the figure has dropped to 5.2. It was 7 and a fraction two or three years ago. I hope that is a development which is regretted by the Committee generally. I have here a very important, I think somewhat epoch-making, paper on "The social distribution of university education,'' written by a past President of the Royal Statistical Society and published a few months ago. It is the first effort that I know of to put a statistical complexion upon this subject. The paper deals with a large variety of that kind of question. The first thing that comes in evidence is that the class of people who go to the universities are largely what the writer describes as the professional classes, and those who heard the Parliamentary Secretary's very admirable speech in the Debate two years ago will remember that he said that in this country persons went to the universities for vocational purposes; he specified doctors, clergymen, teachers, and when an interruption added civil servants, he accepted that correction. He regarded the position as being normal and right, that university education should be a vocational education, but I am glad to say that that view is in direct conflict with other quite important educational authorities. A statement was made on the subject in the last quinquennial report of the University Grants Committee. It is so pertinent that I think I might be excused for reading it.It would be a great mistake if the university authorities or the students themselves were to be preoccupied solely with the professional prospects of after life. The objective of the best training for a vocation in life is not easily reconciled with the objective of the best training for life itself, and universities in the course of their history have always been faced with that dilemma. At the present time a special responsibility rests on the British universities in regard to training for life. Certainly it is no part of the duty of a university to inculcate any particular philosophy of life, but it is its duty to assist its students to formulate their own philosophies of life so that they may not go out into the world maimed and useless. Are the advantages of university education to be thought of mainly in terms of the well-being of the black-coated professions? Ought not a university education to bring its own reward of an enlarged and more balanced mind even in occupations which because they are manual have in modern times, and, perhaps, altogether erroneously, come to be less esteemed?307 That is a much finer ideal of university education than the common and, I fear, the very largely accepted one that the office of a university is restricted to training for the professions. Surely it is that enlightened type of education which was in the mind of the Foreign Secretary in his admirable speech a few days ago when he drew a very striking contrast between the education of Germans and the education of Englishmen, and pointed out that "the German was deliberately deprived of the elements of true judgment."
My own life has been very largely passed in university education, and the greater and the most personal part of my own work in that respect has been in part-time education, and it is, I fear, quite impossible to envisage, especially in the circumstances of to-day, any great enlargement of the field of whole-time university education. I fear that that has broken down to a very large extent. I deplore it, but I believe that conclusion is inevitable. I attach the greatest importance to the prosecution of what I may call part-time education of a higher status by every possible means in our power. I was very glad that the Parliamentary Secretary paid a very proper and handsome tribute to that kind of education. It is, unfortunately, that kind of education which has suffered so grievously in the black-out. The L.C.C. evening classes and the extension classes in my university have been stopped, and all that effort has largely come to be wrecked by the circumstances of the black-out—one of the most mischievous results of that unfortunate necessity. But it is not blacked out for ever, and I hope it will be pursued with the utmost possible keenness and with the proper expenditure of Exchequer money. It cannot be done without that.
The paper that I have referred to deals very largely with that particular question, from a statistical point of view, which is the métier of the distinguished writer of that paper. He points out how very important that part-time work really is. He does not think an increase of whole-time university work can be contemplated because of present conditions; and he goes on to give what I think is a very philosophical statement of the case:The governing consideration is that the increased leisure, due to shorter working 308 hours and better means of transit in modern times, which render higher education possible for numbers greatly exceeding those available before, is distributed through life and not concentrated in a few years of complete leisure which he defines as time not absorbed by the task of earning one's bread.Members who attend evening classes and extension classes at the university are often students approaching 20 or 30, and it is a most amazing thing to me that persons who are occupied all day, and whose occupations are often exceedingly tedious and wearying, should find time and the ambition to spend their evenings in getting higher education of that kind. A very interesting report appeared of the L.C.C. evening institutes just before the war broke out. One of the very encouraging phenomena in that movement was that it was the more serious subjects which were predominantly picked out—the classes were not regarded as by any means a frivolous way of passing an evening. It was really serious study, and it is that kind of study that we ought to be most careful to encourage in every way we can. The writer goes on to say:When the school age is effectively raised, and assuming a sensible use of the two or three extra years at school, we shall have a large population of youths aged 17 to 18 fit to profit by higher education.It may be worth while to give a few notes on the comparative conditions which prevail in European countries. It is useful to consider our own methods in comparison with those of the Continent. This paper was written shortly before the outbreak of the war. It is interesting to note that in all these countries it is the same class, the professional class, who contribute the largest single category to the universities; the percentage of that class which frequents the foreign universities is curiously constant in the principal European countries. In Italy the notable thing is that, far from dropping the progress of their secondary school pupils to the universities, they have in the last two or three years actually doubled that progress. It is a curious and significant testimony to the rebirth of Italy
I have found it very difficult to find out what is the present proportion of elementary school children who proceed to secondary schools. Two years ago the ratio was given as 11 per cent. I hope 309 that has increased. It may in some degree set off the cited decrease in the transfer of secondary students to universities. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give the figures. A very interesting statement was made by the Board of Education in 1937 of the number of persons then receiving some kind of formal education after leaving school; the total figures given were 1,208,400. There were102,400 full-time students in universities, training colleges and technical schools, 52,000 pupils were attending university extension and similar courses, 54,000 were attending courses in technical schools, and 1,000,000 persons were registered as attending evening classes. What is happening to that million? It is important that we should find that out and see whether we cannot increase their opportunities.
The question of the subjects of university education and the amount of time that ought to be spent on different subjects is, I think, again a matter of very considerable importance, and it is perhaps rather regrettable that more enthusiasm and more drive are not present for the acquirement of scientific subjects. The natural tendency perhaps of young people is to go to the easier subjects, but it is vitally necessary to keep up our supply of scientific students, and I think that it is the difference in the rewards of scientific study as compared with other branches which explains their position. The point is illustrated by an analysis quoted in Professor Greenwood's paper. The educational history of all the officers holding the rank of principal assistant secretary or a higher rank in the establishments of the principal Ministries, some 15 in number, was analysed. Of the 94 person thus sampled, 42 came from Oxford, 18 from Cambridge, the residue were unclassified. A further analysis of the academic careers of this sample of 42 Oxford and 18 Cambridge men was made. None of the Oxford examples had taken any scientific subject; the Cambridge men were more mixed; of the 7 higher officers in the War Office, 5 had taken first in classical greats, and Professor Greenwood asks the caustic question whetherit is indeed well for the State that the great majority of its upper servants should be destitute of scientific training.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Cove (Aberavon)
In the few remarks which I want to make, I desire to associate myself very strongly with the criticisms made by the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) so far as the attitude of the Board of Education is concerned in relation to the education services. I would like to tell the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board, who does not happen to be present at the moment, that the hon. Baronet certainly gave what is the general impression, which is that ever since the war began the Board of Education have lost grip and have not taken the initiative to see that the education services were as little damaged as far as circumstances allowed. The Parliamentary Secretary always gives me an impression of what I would call impervious complacency. If there is anything wrong, I have noticed that it is always someone else's fault. On one occasion it was the fault of the local authority because they had not done their duty as they should have done. In the last Debate that we had on this matter it was actually the fault of this House that things in the education world had not happened as they should have done. Ever since that Debate there has been no excuse for the Board of Education in not taking a strong line.
I remember the Debate very well; I did not speak in it myself, but I sat here and listened, and I was most interested. [AN HON. MEMBEr: "In November."] Yes, it was back in November. On the opposite side of the House representatives from various places of industry and of thought pressed the Board to realise the gravity of the situation, and the President of the Board had from that Debate a clear mandate to get on with the job. The House was desirous of rectifying as far as possible the terrific damage that had been done to the educational system of this country, because, as a matter of fact, if anybody has paid the price for this war up to now, it is the children more than any other section of the community. It is impossible to repair the damage done to the children who have not the chances to have their ordinary educational services provided for them over a period of time. That period of life passes, never to be recaptured. The opportunities are there at a certain time in a child's life. The years pass by, and all those opportunities are lost 311 and can never be brought back again. It is so serious that the Board of Education should wake up and give some sense to the country that they are guiding the ship of education. I repeat that to the people interested in education the impression has been that at the Board they have folded their arms and allowed other Departments to dictate the policy to be pursued. I think that the Minister of Health has been much more powerful than the Board of Education; I do not know if that is due to the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health.
What relation had the speech which was made this afternoon to the realities of the situation? I challenge the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us what relation it had to the Estimates or to the educational system. We had fine, flowing language on theoretical matters, all of which had only a remote relationship to the actual position. More damage has been done to the educational system in six months of war than can be rectified probably in five years of peace. If I am wrong, I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to refute it if he can, but I do not believe the Board now have any means of finding out what is actually happening. Where are their inspectors? How do they find out the exact position? This afternoon we have had pictures of the children who have been evacuated to the reception areas, pictures of ruddy cheeks and so on. In some instances I think the children have gained in certain respects, but, as far as the reception areas are concerned the true picture is not so perfect as that which we had this afternoon. There are many black spots in it. For one thing there are many shocking schools. I have tried to emphasise this fact in Debate after Debate over a series of years. One matter which has been brought home to the public is the number of shockingly bad schools we have in this country, with inadequate sanitation, bad lighting, and absence of water.
It so happens that there is a voluntary body which has just conducted an investigation. I will not read all of the reports, but investigations were conducted in nine counties. I will not give the actual names of the teachers concerned, but these are private reports made by teachers in the areas to an unofficial body—not any union or anything 312 of that sort—which has been interested in the educational system. Here is one:Our numbers continually dwindle, by twos and threes; our equipment is scanty, and our cupboard room negligible. There are two teachers in each classroom. For the other session, daily, we use church premises, badly lit, scarcely warmed at all, with no proper heating or furniture, and, of course, no equipment except what the teacher carries with her daily. The effect of using two different buildings daily is bad. For small children, it is unsettling The session in the church room is useless.I have dozens of these, which show that thousands of children in this country are not getting anything like what might be called a decent education. Here is a second one:We teach in the local school for half a day. The other half is spent in an underground crypt.I wonder, in passing, whether the Board have any information about that crypt? I wonder whether they even know that these children are in that crypt? It would be consoling if I could be assured even that they know it. It goes on:This has to be artifically lit. It is damp and draughty. Even the artificial light is so poor that the children must be suffering from eyestrain. I am poor of sight myself, and must be suffering from the conditions under which I am working. Sometimes we cannot use the crypt, and then we have to walk the streets. We find that the local people resent us working in the school at all. In my opinion, the whole thing is unsatisfactory from most points of view. The children are being constantly moved about, because the billetors do not want the children.I could give other cases, but I believe I have established that in the interests of these children, physical and mental, the Board must be up and doing. They must not think, "We have sent these children out into the lovely green fields of England; there is a lovely glow on their faces, and a sparkle in their eyes." Those are the sort of phrases that we have heard.
§ Mr. Cove
Yes, that was a glorious phrase. That is the sort of thing about which the Parliamentary Secretary expressed satisfaction to-night. He should go down into the reception areas, and look at the condition in which, I will not say all—that would be unfair—but quite a large number of elementary school children are being taught at the present time. I am sure that he would agree 313 then that, although the principle of compulsory education has been re-established, we are indeed a very long way from normality. Does the Parliamentary Secretary know the real condition in these evacuated areas?
I have been told that I ought not to mention this, because the London County Council has a Labour majority, but I do not care what party is in the majority when the well-being of the children is at stake. I do not know where all the responsibility lies in this case. But look even at London. Come with me to a school near St.Pancras, which is packed with coffins—used to bury the dead instead of to educate the children. I had better not go into all the details, but, to put it briefly, something must be done about the evacuated areas; and it must be done speedily. I am glad that the President of the Board of Education has declared for compulsory education at last, but he must not stop there. He must see that the buildings are not stolen away from the children, for purposes for which other buildings would do equally well, or better. The attitude towards some of the schools in London has been really sacrilegious. The whole policy seems to be one of contempt and indifference. It is no use the Parliamentary Secretary saying that he is not responsible, that it is the responsibility of the local authority, or that the House has not backed him up. I tell him that it is his job, his responsibility; and if he carries out his job, I am sure the House will support him.
Why have nearly-completed schools not been completed? The hon. Member for Neath (Sir W. Jenkins) knows of a school in my division which, I believe, wants a little more timber and the expenditure of a few thousand pounds to complete. Neither the timber nor the money is to be found. That school is to remain empty as long as the war lasts. If it is a long war, there this school will be, uncompleted, at the end. [AN HON. MEMBER: "It will fall down."] I forgot that. This is stupid waste of the worst kind. Why is the Board of Education so weak that it cannot get from the other Ministries the stuff that will save our education from deteriorating? Is this because we have two members of the National Labour party at the head of that Department? Quite frankly, I have been longing for a good, blue-blooded 314 Tory to take the place of the Parliamentary Secretary, and another to take the place of his Chief. The President of the Board of Education and his Parliamentary Secretary are, politically, the weakest pair of Ministers in the Government. They have no following, no power, no influence. I think it would really be a very good thing if the Prime Minister would change these two Ministers, and give us two good, blue-blooded Tories instead. Is the hon. Gentleman interested in the child labour that is going on? Is the Department interested in the exploitation of children of as low an age as five or six? I met a teacher on Thursday of last week who told me that a boy of six came to her and said, "I cannot come to school in the morning, but I can come in the afternoon. I am taking out milk in the morning, and I get 2s."Another head mistress told me that a boy came to her and said that he had received 9s. to put into national savings and when asked where he had got it, he said he had got it by working, that it was his wages. Is the Board of Education interested in the problem? If so, why does this sort of thing happen? The exploitation of child labour is rampant throughout the country, and it is up to the Minister and his Department to see that it is stopped, and stopped very quickly indeed.
I hope that the Minister will be able to use some influence with the Treasury to restore the examinations for the Civil Service for secondary schools. I am not approaching this from the point of view of the Civil Service, but from the educational point of view, and of the clever and ambitious boys, particularly in the municipal secondary schools in industrial areas, whose parents cannot afford to send them to a university, but who find the Civil Service examinations an objective at which they can aim during their secondary school career. There is an all-party group in this House supporting the restoration of these examinations, and I ask the Minister to help us. I hope he will induce his noble Friend and the Board to bring pressure upon the Treasury to restore the Civil Service examinations.
There is a strong opinion behind the Government in favour of the restoration of our educational system. It was clear in the Debate that we had here previously that there were two main reasons which actuated hon. Members opposite. They 315 look upon the schools as instruments of great social and personal discipline, and for that reason large numbers of them supported the revival of our educational system. An enlightened Tory said in that particular Debate—and he was right—that an industrial nation like ours cannot afford to neglect the physique, the mind, and the character of these growing citizens. It is well established now that education as such renders more value to industry than industry renders to education. Great scientific and technical developments are largely dependent upon our State educational system, and if we survive this war we shall find a world in which the struggle for existence will be harder than ever before in our history. A nation that intends to keep up the standard of life of its people must depend more and more upon its educational service. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary has a tremendous responsibility upon his shoulders. I believe that the Department has neglected its duty since the war broke out, and I hope that, when the Debate takes place on the next occasion, we shall be much nearer normality than we are to-night.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Morgan (Stourbridge)
Before I come to the main subject matter of my speech and of this Debate, I would like to say how much I appreciate the reference of the Parliamentary Secretary to something which is outside the main portion of his speech. He referred to the improvement in the Trust grant, and I hope that he will at some time or other give us some further details of how the grant of £25,000 is spent and used. We may have a lively anticipation of similar favours to come, and it all depends upon the way in which we use this grant, whether we shall get any further payments like it. I was glad to see that the Board of Education is represented on the committee which is carrying out this Trust. Perhaps at some time the hon. Lady the Member for East Islington (Miss Cazalet), who makes such excellent speeches up and down the country in the cause of education, will give us some details of her work on that committee, and tell us what it is doing. When I heard the right hon. Gentleman opposite open the Debate this afternoon, I thought 316 he would make it into a sort of Debate which might be called, "The breakdown of the compulsory system of education owing to the exigencies of the war."
I shall not make any reference to public schools, but I intend to refer to schools for the public—the great elementary schools. It is because I think that that system is suffering that I have ventured to enter into this Debate. It has been expressed on both sides of the Committee—and I feel that it is a genuine feeling—that with whatever privations we have to put up owing to the war, the children must not be allowed to suffer, and yet, as I listened this afternoon, I came to the conclusion that our children are suffering physically, mentally, and probably morally as a result of neglect. What troubles me is that there is a certain amount of apparent complacency about the matter. I remember that the Parliamentary Secretary, when dealing in this House a short time ago with the question of the difficulties in London, said that in London there were about 182,500 children in the elementary schools, and that of that number, only 24,300 odd were in attendance. He went on, by way of palliation, to say that 85,000 of them were receiving home instruction of some sort or other. Quite frankly, I sympathise with the Parliamentary Secretary in all his great difficulties, but I think that is a poor sort of thing to have to report to this House.
I am not sure that I fully agree with the Member who spoke highly of home instruction. From my own professional and administrative experience I should say, euphemistically, that home instruction was something a few degrees removed from nothing. If these people are having instruction at home, why not in the schools? I should have thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite would have made that point. The Parliamentary Secretary could have painted the picture in two lines. He could have put on the top line the number of children in our elementary schools throughout the country and, underneath that, the number of children who were getting full-time or pre-war instruction in schools to-day. Knowing the various difficulties of the evacuation problem, I know how the Government have tried, and I want to be quite fair. One of the speakers on the other side complained about evacuation. It is easy to be wise after the 317 event, but had the Government not carried out their plans, and had certain events happened, I am sure they would have been roundly blamed. But I do blame the Government for this: Having found out all the faults of the evacuation system, how many children stayed, and how many were "trickle backs,'' they were up against a new situation which ought to have been faced drastically. What they ought to do is to make education compulsory. Whose fault is it that these children are not back in the schools? I was at one time a member of an education committee, whose job, among others, was to see that children were sent to school regularly and parents taken before magistrates to be properly punished if they did not send them. Now authorities seem to be doing the same thing for which they used to prosecute people individually.
The Parliamentary Secretary and the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) said that a large number of schools had gone back. I can give an example, that of a school in the North which was transferred, unnecessarily, I think, to a far away place and which is now back again. I said to the headmaster last week, "What about your numbers?" and he said, "They have fluctuated. Some parents do not send their children at all, while others send them when they like." I said, "Is is not possible for good, safe shelters to be provided in the school?" and he said, "Yes, we have had the estimates for some time, and they come to £150." This is not an isolated case. The policy of the Board should be that people who will stay at home in spite of war risks should be compelled to send their children to school, but, on the other hand, you cannot compel them to do so unless you compel somebody to put up adequate protection for the children when they get to school. Whose fault is it that these shelters are not forthcoming? Is it the fault of the Board or of the local authorities? Is it that they do not consider they are getting enough financial assistance from the Board or because the Board is not sufficiently using its driving power? That is one of the things we want to find out, and if this Debate does find it out, it will have been well worth while.
Somebody mentioned the question of family allowances, which I think will inevitably come along, but, pending that 318 time, what steps is the Department taking to see that adequate meals are provided in all our schools? There should be a proper ration of adequate and wholesome food. Speaking of rationing, I hope they will be better than the present sugar ration of one-seventh of an ounce for each child, which is quite inadequate. We were told of the desire that youth should go back to the land. I know there are good agricultural schools which are doing great educational service, but there is the counteracting influence of parents that the remuneration is very low, and as long as it is so low you will never get children to take up agricultural work. I hope this Debate will make the people of the country realise that, after all, the best thing a nation can have is a sound system of compulsory education, based on the eternal verities which my hon. Friend talked about. I believe that a sound system of education is the best long-term investment any nation can make.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Edmund Harvey (Combined English Universities)
Hon. Members who have been present throughout the discussion will agree that although it may have been desultory at times it has been very interesting. Certainly it has provided a very strong argument for carrying out the suggestion of the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir A. Somerville) that it would be desirable to have some kind of an all-party committee on education, meeting far more frequently than is possible for a committee of this House, to discuss some of the great issues raised with a thoroughness which is utterly impossible in a Debate like the present, which has not only ranged over subjects which are before us in the Estimates, but which, by the gracious leave of the Chair, has passed on to subjects which are only remotely connected with the Estimates. That is a real disadvantage, especially if we realise that it is only at very long intervals that the Committee has an opportunity of discussing education at all.
I agree with the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. R. Morgan) as to the immense importance to the country of the question of education, and yet there is only a handful of hon. Members present and only one Minister supporting the Parliamentary Secretary on the Front Bench. Is not that symbolic of the 319 attitude not merely of the House of Commons but of the country to these great issues? As a nation we do not care as we ought to for the question of education. If we did we should not be facing some of the problems we are facing to-night. We need to awaken the conscience of the House of Commons and of the nation to the importance of these issues. I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary and his colleague are to be blamed, or the Government. We must all share the blame for the failure. Successive Governments have treated the Board of Education as the Cinderella Department of the Ministries, and for years is has never had the time and thought given to it by different Cabinets that the importance of the subject demands. I hope it may be possible to take up the suggestion of the hon. Member for Windsor in some form and give an opportunity to Parliament for a careful consideration of these great issues.
I want to deal to-night with one or two points in the Estimates which have not been dealt with hitherto, or have been dealt with only partially. There is one matter, a comparatively small one, which is illustrative of the kind of mistaken economy which goes on under the pressure and stringency of events. Economy there must be, but we ought to have it framed most wisely. In the Vote for the Victoria and Albert Museum I find that only £10 has been provided this year for acquiring new objects for the Museum as against £12,800 last year. That is false economy. It may be that during the year rare objects of enormous importance to the nation will come into the market, which can only be bought then, and which if not bought then, will make their way across the Atlantic into the cabinets of the millionaires of the United States. The Victoria and Albert Museum is the treasure house of the people and we ought to make reasonable provision for it. I do not say the same provision can be made as is made in normal times for acquiring special treasures and works of art, but that some provision for acquiring them now should be made as they may otherwise be lost for ever to the nation. I ask that this Estimate and similar Estimates should be reconsidered. It is not that there should be extravagant spending—none of us want that—but that the expenditure should be 320 thought out carefully before it is incurred in order that we may be able to keep up the standard of these great collections which are the possession of the whole nation. There is no extravagance in a wise purchase of some unique work of art for the nation which can only be bought once.
The second matter I want to raise is curiously placed under the title "Technical Schools, etc." That is quite an unworthy description of the class of higher education which is included in the Vote. I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary devoted some words to the subject. He spoke warmly about its importance, but I cannot help feeling that there is cause for regret in the fact that there has been such a falling off in the Estimates under these heads. There is a falling off under the head of colleges of 4½ per cent. in the total as compared with last year and a falling off of 15 per cent. as regards university tutorial classes, and 8½ per cent. in the case of evening institutes and day continuation schools. It may be said that that is not due to the Government not being willing to give more, but to conditions arising out of the war, but I think the utmost effort ought to be made by the Board to stimulate the formation of these classes and the creation of new classes, where old ones have had to be given up. More ought to be done to encourage local authorities to show initiative in this matter; it ought not to be a matter of being willing to make a grant when the conditions are satisfied.
There are all kinds of new experiments in adult education which have come about in recent years, and more ought to be done by the State to assist them. I do not want to see everything under State control. I value voluntary effort and initiative, but it is not enough to say that such and such an institution does not come within the purview of a particular regulation. The Board ought to be constantly thinking out new ways of helping new experiments. A small sum might make all the difference to the success or otherwise of an experiment. We ought not to have to depend on the Pilgrim Trust to make such experiments a success. The Board should itself encourage pioneer work. The third point is the question of scholarships and maintenance allowances granted by the 321 Board. I think it is lamentable that we should have to record a decrease of 16 per cent. in the total aid for students as compared with the amount of last year. It is true that some students are being called up for military service, but that cannot wholly explain the great falling-off. Women, as well as men, take these scholarships. A very large number of students enter on their scholarships before the age of 18 and would have at least two years of university life before being called up for military service. It ought not to be necessary to reduce the grant at this time, especially if it is being reduced because a number of these students are undertaking military service. That ought to be all the more reason, as they are undertaking that great risk for their country, for increasing the grant and not decreasing it.
In a number of cases, university students have been compelled to give up their careers because of the difficulties brought about by the war. Universities, especially London University, but to some extent other universities, are suffering from the war conditions, and this means that there are smaller funds available to assist students who are in need. Therefore, there is greater need that the grant given by the State should be maintained to the full and that, if possible, provision should also be made for special hardship grants to meet the special conditions which in certain cases have been brought about by the war. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to look into this matter and to see that in future there is no decrease in the all-too-meagre grant that is given to help students who could not go to the university were it not for this assistance.
I warmly welcome the assurance which the Parliamentary Secretary gave that he was uneasy about the pledge that is exacted from these young students that they will undertake a teaching career as a condition of receiving the grant. It is an immoral pledge, it is not binding in law, and it is unworthy of any Government to exact such a pledge when they know that it is not legally binding, and when in some cases it puts a strain upon the students' conscience, because the poor fellows feel that their only chance of getting a university training is to sign the undertaking. I hope very much that the result of the consideration which the Parliamentary Secretary is to give to this 322 matter will be that the grant will be given without condition, as it should be, and that it will be made available to a greater number of students who need the help of a university career in order that they may be better servants of the community.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Sir R. W. Smith (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Central)
I should like to stress the remark of the hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. E. Harvey) that it is rather tragic that at the present time the Committee should be showing so little interest in the subject of education. It is an extremely important matter at this time. There are times when one may deal with education in a broader way, but at the present time I think we have to consider what contribution education can make to help the country in the war. I have listened to the whole of the Debate and there has seemed to me to be great lethargy on that point and no drive of any sort to get anything done.
What I am about to say concerning the Parliamentary Secretary and the speech which he made will be, perhaps, the hardest thing that has been said in the whole Debate. In referring to the question of evacuation, the Parliamentary Secretary asked what evacuation had added to our knowledge, and he replied to that question by saying that it had told us little that we did not know before. He then went on to refer at length to the education of those between 14 and 18 years of age and to adult education, but he said practically nothing about children below the age of 14. At the end of his speech, he remarked that we knew, before the war and before the evacuation, that the cleanliness of the children was not all that we would have liked it to be, and that there was a lack of teaching of religion in the schools. He went on to say that we could not refuse in the future to face some of the discrepancies that had been found—I ask the Committee to note that he said "in the future,'' and not at present—and he then made the suggestion that we ought to set up an all-party Parliamentary committee. I want to put this to the Committee. Here we have two definite things—lack of cleanliness of the children and lack of religious instruction in the schools, and the Minister—
§ Mr. Lindsay
I apologise for interrupting my hon. Friend, but he is not stating quite clearly and accurately what I said. I said that we knew before that there were unclean homes in various parts of the country, and that it did not take the evacuation to prove that. I said also that the great majority in this country do not go to church. I made no reference to what went on in the schools. I then said that all these things had been emphasised by the evacuation, and that we must face them.
§ Sir R. W. Smith
I am sorry if I have misrepresented my hon. Friend; I did so quite unintentionally; but his correction still allows me to make the point that there is a lack of religious instruction in this country. Surely, the Parliamentary Secretary, and I hope the whole Committee, read the article which appeared in the "Times'' on 17th February. That article has been mentioned by only one hon. Member. It seems to me to be an extraordinary thing that the question of the religious teaching of children should have been mentioned by only one hon. Member. The Parliamentary Secretary said that some of the homes from which the children came were not as clean as one would have liked. I submit that the evacuation proved that a great many of the children were suffering from a verminous condition. That was known before the evacuation and it was proved by the evacuation. We are told by the Parliamentary Secretary that this may be dealt with at some future time. I confess that that seems to me to be an extraordinary line to take. I should think that the first thing to do would be immediately to deal with the question of cleanliness. There may be further evacuation, and if children are sent to the reception areas in an unclean condition, there will again be a big outcry. People will say that the Department was warned by what happened last September, and that it ought to have taken steps to put things right. It was clearly proved by the last evacuation that the children were not clean in their habits or in their person. I took the trouble to-day to look up in the dictionary in the Library the definition of "education." It is as follows:The bringing up of a child; instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended (1) to enlighten the 324 understanding, (2) correct the temper, (3) form the habits and manners of youth"—I would like to emphasise the phrase "the habits and manners of youth"—(4) fit them for usefulness in their future stations.I recommend that to the Minister of Education. The Parliamentary Secretary seemed to me in his speech to deal only with the older children. What we want to do is to get at the younger children now, and I press very strongly that we should endeavour to teach our children how to be clean in person and habits, and then, if we are faced with another evacuation scheme, the work will be carried on much more smoothly. I put a certain amount of responsibility on the Opposition in regard to the evacuation, because I do not think it would have taken place before the war if they had not put strong pressure on the Government. I think it was unfortunate in one respect, because it meant a more or less rushed evacuation, which might have been conducted more quietly.
In regard to religious teaching, I think it is a point which should be pressed both in the House and in the country. It seems a ghastly thing that we should have found as a result of evacuation, as the "Times'' states, that in certain of our schools—some of the schools provided by the State—there is no religious teaching.
§ Sir R.W. Smith
I did not use the word "elementary." I read out what was stated in the "Times,'' and I said that in some of the schools provided by the State there is no religious teaching. I was quoting the "Times," and if I misquoted it, perhaps I shall be corrected.
§ Mr. Ede
I am quite prepared to amend my question to the exact phrase used by the "Times." After all, the hon. Member makes himself responsible when quoting the "Times'' as an authority. Will he give the name of any local education authority in the country which has a single school supported by the State in which there is no religious instruction?
§ Sir R. W. Smith
May I put this to the Committee? If it is a fact that the article in the "Times'' is incorrect, why is it that nobody has taken the trouble to 325 contradict it in the "Times"? [An HON. MEMBER: "They do not think it is worth it."] Well, all I can say then is that if that is so I think education is of great value. Under the system governing elementary schools religious teaching is treated as an ancillary subject. Is that true or not?
§ Sir R. W. Smith
A very short time of the day is taken for religious instruction and always at the beginning of the day. [An HON. MEMBER: "You said there was no instruction."] I am afraid the hon. Member has not listened to what I said. I will quote the article:Under the system governing the elementary schools it is treated as a subsidiary subject.''These are words taken from the "Times," and if the article is incorrect, all I can say is that no one has seen fit to contradict it. It is a serious question, and if the Parliamentary Secretary says there is religious instruction every day and that it is not subsidiary or for a short period, then the "Times" must be wrong. However, I know many who agree with the statement and say the article is perfectly correct. May I give a further definition of education according to the dictionary? It says:To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them religious education is indispensable.That is a definition in a dictionary, and it goes further than that and states:and an immense responsibility rests on the parents and guardians who neglect those duties.Where responsibility rests on parents and guardians it certainly also rests on the State to make provision for religious teaching. I would ask the Government to do something at once. I am very sorry that evacuation should have proved in many cases that the children were not as clean as one would expect and that in many cases religious instruction in this country is not what one would expect. These are very important items which the Parliamentary Secretary has said will be dealt with in future, and he proposes to set up a Committee to deal with them. This is not the time to put things off, and we ought to have these matters dealt with at once.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Creech Jones (Shipley)
I think the Debate to-day clearly shows apprehension in all parts of the Committee as to the condition into which our public education system has sunk. I fear that the Parliamentary Secretary's speech to the Committee does not remove our gloom and misgivings in regard to this vitally important public service. I think that with insufficient foresight, imagination, or direction, the Government, the public, and in some cases the local education authorities have allowed the impact of war on the nation to do grievous harm to our educational system. It is only slowly that it is being repaired, but confusion and the sacrifice of the children are still very great to-day. The Minister in his speech seemed to announce neither an immediate programme nor a policy for the future. The emergency which came upon us was one which brought forth considerable courage and devotion both from administrators and teachers, but the damage is still there, and we have a considerable way to go before we can get back to anything like an efficient system, where even the children of 11 and more are getting a full education and compulsory education is applied to children under 11. What will happen if a further evacuation should be necessary, goodness only knows.
It still is the case that in neutral areas stagnation has settled on the system, that in reception areas buildings are desperately necessary, that further planning in the special services has to be done, and that in spite of circulars from the Board there is still need for more direction, more courage, and more leadership if any rapid progress is to be made in the restoration of the system. We have seen to-day how little interest the Government have in this question of education. I do not think a Cabinet Minister has been present all through the day. It seems almost symbolical that the Ministry has removed its quarters from Whitehall to Kingsway. It is as if it were relegated from the seat of Government as one of those services that has ceased to be vital in the life of the nation. But public interest in education is not dead. I think the general public are feeling a little bit ashamed at the casual way in which the educational system was treated when war came. The general collapse of the educational system and particularly the 327 social and human consequences of that collapse, is rousing considerable indignation in various parts of the country.
There is a great deal of work to be done by the Board and the local authorities immediately if repair and reconstruction are to take place. I should like to urge that there should be in this House and on the part of the Government a greater enthusiasm on this subject. Let us remember that it was in the last war that one of the great educational advances was conceived. There was then a distinguished Minister and a certain amount of enthusiasm for education in the country, and consequently we had the Fisher Act. I suggest that, apart from the immediate work of repair and reconstruction, the time is ripe for looking ahead and planning the kind of system we want, not only during the war, but when the war is ended. In a period of war the country is possessed of a common purpose, and people are more likely to be in the mood to ponder on the kind of human society they want to create when the tragedy is through. At the present time we have the Fisher Act more or less suspended, the 1936 Act in cold storage, reorganisation and building stopped, work in technical and secondary education severely damaged, and vast leeway to make up.
Now is the time to start thinking afresh as to how we want our educational system organised. There is ample material for that new thought. Some useful experiments have recently been made. We have had experience of camps, we have had the Spensreport and the report on the location of industry, we have had a great deal of experience showing how social services might be extended, and to-day we have heard a great deal about the problem of the public school. Now is the time to start planning our future. It is vitally important that the thinking and preparation should be done now if, after the war, there is to be a very big advance, and it is a very big advance that we are concerned to secure. There is important work that can be done now particularly in regard to the social services and in trying to get building done in neutral areas that has been neglected because war has come.
I would like also to make reference to one or two phases of work in the field of 328 education which have been commented on in the Debate. The Parliamentary Secretary told us there had been a grant made from the Pilgrim Trust with a view to encouraging art and music and drama and to cultivating public appreciation of those things. It seems to me unfortunate that we have in this country no Ministry of Art, but if we have no Ministry of Art, then the Board of Education should give attention to the cultural development of the nation and should help in building up public appreciation of those things which go to complete life and make it more interesting. There is room for encouragement of the fine arts by picture exhibitions, by the development of museums, by sending round the country various types of exhibits. There is need for more amateur dramatic companies to tour the country, there is need for encouragement of music by public concerts and by giving aid to students, so that our life may be more richly endowed.
May I also make reference to the subject of adult education? We have in this country a general scheme of adult education which I think is almost unique in Europe to-day. It is a system which, to some extent, depends for its life and vitality on voluntary organisations. It has already made an enormous contribution to the national life and the democratic spirit of this country. I would like to pay tribute to the Board of Education for the encouragement it has given, in days gone by and also when war came, to the development of this work. The Minister mentioned that since the war considerable enthusiasm had been shown in all parts of the country in respect of adult education work. It is true that where classes have been in great demand attendances have been of a standard almost as high as in previous times. The movement is showing enormous courage in the face of war restrictions and is going forward, largely because of the general encouragement given by the Board. Therefore, I should like to pay some tribute to the officers of the Board and to the Ministers for their appreciation of the great importance of this work. I hope that it will not suffer because of the limitations of finance in the Estimates, that its vital importance to a democratic nation will be increasingly appreciated, and that every encouragement will continue to be given so that this work can go forward. 329 I would like to refer to the question of education in the Fighting Services. As far back as last May we raised this question when the Militia Act was going through the House, and we hoped that with the new Army there would be a definite move by the Board in conjunction with the War Office for some scheme to be launched. The war has now given us new opportunities in this direction. We should remember that the new Army is a civilian Army, consisting simply of civilians in uniform who are removed from their normal conditions of life. Many of them in their new conditions are suffering from a great boredom and are welcoming the opportunities that are coming to them for discussion and study and for the renewal of some of the old interests which they had in their civilian life. Education in the Fighting Services is not a welfare service; it is and should be a natural requirement. It is important to the men and to the nation, and if the work is done through the proper educational organisation in the Army, it is really an extension of what should be the Board's work. All the Services should share in it, and I want the respective Forces to have their schemes.
The Board of Education should be responsible for organising the educational resources of the country in this great scheme of education for the Services, advising on the civil side, assisting the military organisation, working through the new central committee of the universities, the local education associations and the voluntary bodies, and generally making money available for administration, lecturing work, and course study. I hope there will be a real drive on the part of the Board in this matter in conjunction with the respective Service Departments, and that the Board will see that, apart from any financial provision which may be made by the respective Fighting Services, money is forthcoming through the Board's own Estimates. I would again urge that the Board should show more courage in facing their problems and should give a definite lead to local education authorities and to the country. If they do that I am convinced they will have the whole weight of public opinion behind them.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Harbord (Great Yarmouth)
I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether his Department places 330 a veto on the public use of the shelters which are placed in school grounds. I understand that a veto operates against their use by the public during school hours, but I am anxious that during the other 16 hours of the day, when the schools are not being used by the children, they should be available for the civilian population when danger is present. I know a number of schools which have made this provision at great cost to the State and the governing authority, but if the doors are locked when the schools are closed, they are not available in lime of danger to the general public. It may be a small matter where danger is not serious, but it is a matter of great concern where the danger is serious. A serious charge would lay against the Department if in the event of air raids and the schools were closed the public were not able to use these shelters. I should like an answer to my question before I resume my seat.
§ Mr. Lindsay
As far as I know, this matter is within the discretion of the local authorities, but I will go into it carefully. It is a matter which is partly A.R.P. and partly Board of Education.
§ Sir A. Harbord
I want in this matter to act in conjunction with the Department. I do not want to be an obstacle or make myself a nuisance about it, but I feel very strongly on the matter. There is an instance of what I have in mind near my house. I am not speaking for myself, for I have ample accommodation, but I am speaking for other people who may be in need of shelter. I never left Great Yarmouth during the last war, and I shall not leave it during this war. I consider that shelters which are in school yards should be available to the public where they are needed and where an education committee passes a resolution to that effect. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether, if a strong resolution is passed by an education committee that these shelters should be available to the public out of school hours, the Board will allow them to be made available.
§ Mr. Lindsay
The shelters are provided by the local authority for the school children, and this is a matter for the local authorities. I am prepared to look into this specific case if my hon. Friend will give me details, but I cannot go further at this moment.
§ Sir A. Harbord
I can give the details, and I think the suggestion is one which is worthy of being acted upon.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Tomlinson (Farnworth)
This Debate has ranged over a wide variety of subjects, and I am glad that we have been able to go outside the actual Estimates and discuss one subject which is of particular interest to me. Before I came to this House I had heard of public schools but had never been able to reconcile them to my way of thinking, and had never heard a good reason given for their existence. This afternoon several hon. Members, from their own experiences, have attempted to justify the continuation of these public schools. One thing I object to in the arguments put forward is that they ought to be retained because they create leaders. If we are to have leaders, we want them from all branches of society. We do not want a leadership that is confined to a parentage which can afford £250 a year for education, because otherwise we are placing our society on a class basis, whether we are conscious of it or not. I do not suggest that behind the arguments of one hon. Member who was defending public schools there was not the feeling that the system was the best because it had evolved these leaders—and he pointed round the Committee. I cannot pick out the public school men in the Committee.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
All I can say is that they do not stand out. The men from the elementary schools on the Front Bench are to me just as good as the men from the public schools. I am more concerned about what a Front Bench Member says than the tie he wears. The discussions upon public schools to which I have listened in the last few years will not lead me to agree to absorb them into our national educational system until both the curricula and the products have been proved. We had an interesting intervention from the other side of the Committee. An hon. Member who sits for a Scottish constituency quoted a leading article from the "Times." On that occasion, 17th February, the "Times" did a very foolish thing. I do not suppose it is the first time that the "Times" has done a foolish thing, or the first time that a 332 foolish leader has been written. The "Times" wrote:In a country professedly Christian there is a system of national education which allows the citizens of the future to have a purely heathen upbringing.Upon what was that based? Upon a statement that was made by an anonymous parson in an unidentified part of the country. We had just as much evidence from the hon. Member who read the quotation as we had from the "Times." I say that that is a reflection upon the local authorities which, in dealing with a difficult problem, have endeavoured in season and out of season to follow, not the lines of their own consciences in many cases, but the agreement entered into under which there is an agreed syllabus of religious instruction in council schools. That the "Times" should seek to stir up trouble at this time of day on the basis of there being a lack of religious instruction is not patriotic, nor should the strictures be taken notice of unless they are based upon some more reliable evidence than has been revealed up to now.
Many things have been said about the results of evacuation. The Minister gave us a few interesting stories about evacuation. He told one, which was new to me, about some children, in the Lake District, I think, looking for the grave of Mr. Woolworth. I think those stories might be taken with a pinch of salt. We have run stories of evacuees to death. I should not wonder if that one did not originate in the tap room. When we are talking about the pigmentation in the cheeks of those children one has to remember the other side of the picture. It should not be forgotten that since the evacuation the consumption of milk by school children has gone down by 750,000 gallons. We shall not get pink cheeks and healthy children if they are not drinking as much milk as they were accustomed to. There is a growing fear—andsome evidence is to be gathered from the children—of malnutrition among our school children as a consequence of what has taken place during the last few months.
§ Sir Edmund Findlay (Banff)
May I ask the hon. Member whether his figures about the decrease in the consumption of milk are correct? If they are, it is a point which certainly ought to be looked 333 into and discussed in this Committee much more thoroughly than he is dealing with it.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I would ask the Minister in his reply to give the figures. I think I have under-stated the position rather than over-stated it. Two months ago the decrease was 1,000,000 gallons. We have been told about many things which cannot be done because we are at war. I know there are many things which cannot be done. Wars of necessity interfere with our organisation of affairs. I could not think of a war that did not interfere with organisation, particularly with the organisation of school children; but at least there is one thing we can do for the children, and that is to see that they get the milk which is available and the food which is available.
I hold strongly to the opinion that nutrition is the basis of a decent education. It is all very well to look in the dictionary to find out what "education" means. In the dictionary definition of "education" there was not a word about nutrition. I contend that you cannot develop the mind until the body has been developed, and Parliament has acknowledged that because we have an Act to provide for the feeding of necessitous school children, and food can only be provided if, in the opinion of an education committee, they will not otherwise benefit from the instruction which is being given to them. I hope the time is coming when we shall provide them not only with food and milk but with boots and clothing, if necessary. If there is any question of who is to pay, we can settle whether it is the parent or the authority after we have seen to it that the child is properly clothed and shod. During the last two or three months, particularly in the snowy weather, teachers have come to me and almost cried as they have described the condition of some of the children who have arrived at school, ill shod and badly clothed.
If we were to go back to normality, as the right hon Gentleman said, it seems to me that many things have to be taken into consideration. I would put in a word with regard to the question asked by the hon. Member who spoke last, who wanted an assurance from the Minister that air-raid precautions provided for children should be available for the general public. There is a dispute with 334 the Home Office at the present time with regard to the construction of the shelters and who shall have them. I have brought with me the Air Raid Precautions Act of 1937, under which the local authorities act, and I still urge that the local education authority is not a local authority within the meaning of that Act of Parliament. That is a question that will have to be fought out with the War Office—the amenities of our home security—but there are authorities in this country which are not only providing public shelters but making them available in the daytime for children in close proximity to the schools. How are we to differentiate between the two bodies?
I hoped we might get away from administrative details this afternoon and evening and get back to the ideals and purpose of education. I am not so much concerned about the definition and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for North Tottenham (Mr. R. C.Morrison) that nursery school education has gone by the board One of the joys of my life is to go into a nursery school, and I would rather open a nursery school than launch the biggest battleship, because the basis of nursery school education is service. They learn from the earliest time to want to serve, and I have seen little kiddies of three years of age fighting for the chance to be mother or father among the little school community. Those habits ingrained from two to seven years of age have a possibility of developing our educational service into something worth while. All the talk this evening has centred round the idea of education to fit somebody for something. Too often it is a case of pounds, shillings and pence, and the education given in the schools is a sort of beggar-my-neighbour training to make you clever enough to earn more money than the other fellow. But all that it means is that you are trading on the other man's ignorance and using your education for your own selfish advantage. In the education of the nursery schools the idea is service, which is the only valuable idea we have in public or elementary school education. Unless it is going to express itself in service and to give something to the community, it is not worth anything. It does not matter that it enables an individual to get £5,000 a year; that is what we have to get away from if education is to be worth while.
335 If the wonderful organisation we have been building up for years is to be of value to the community we have to provide men and women who will find the use of knowledge in a growing expansion of life itself. Education means the power to understand and enjoy the good things of life. It is not confined to a class; it is dependent on an ability to appreciate that comes through knowledge. The lad who goes through the countryside after a course of botany sees a little flower by the river's brim, and instead of being only a yellow primrose it means that all the forces of nature are at work in that little yellow flower. He sees a thousand different things at work, all the forces of nature in the rain, the sun, the wind, the air, the chemicals in the air—all going to the making of that flower. Life becomes a great thing, and that is the value of education. The service in which it expresses itself is the thing for which we are paying and that is the only way you can justify the Estimates to-night.
The hon. Member for London University (Sir E. Graham-Little) questioned a building grant and thought it might be extravagant. I have been in some of your palaces in London. I have eaten my meals in your Corner Houses and seen those wonderful places for the benefit of men grown up in order that they might have their fancies tickled while having their meals. If it is necessary that we should have these things so that we may enjoy ourselves, how much more necessary is it that the child spending the greater part of its life in school should have something of a conception of beauty created in it as a consequence of the atmosphere in which it lives. Do not talk of extravagance in school while you have buildings of that kind for other purposes in London. The hon. Member who spoke from this bench a moment ago spoke of the necessity of spending money in order that we might appreciate art. I remember the little school to which I went, but did not go for long, and have a grievance to this day against the Lancashire County Council, because my conception of art was formed from a picture of the landing of the Danes. I say that was a crime against all conceptions of art, and if you are to create a desire for those things, it must be instilled from the beginning. Therefore I hope that, when we are discussing education, we shall 336 remember that we are creating in effect immortal souls, not dealing simply with buildings but with human beings that are worth while. That is the only way in which we can justify the expenditure, and to refuse that expenditure means that we are frittering away the greatest asset that we have.
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
If those who come from the elementary schools chose my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) as their representative in any tournament between the elementary school and the public school for usefulness and eloquence, all of us would think they need have little fear as to the result. I venture to say the form, the manner, and the high spirit of his speech are the best proof that those influences of which he has been speaking are the common heritage of the British race, not derived from any particular form of education, and that although they may be assisted in their outcropping by the form of education, they may be hindered by it. This is the 17th anniversary of my first introduction to the Floor of this House. I may say that I created more excitement that day than on any day since. I have taken part in a good many Debates on the Education Estimates since that time, but this is the first day on which these Estimates have run without interruption. On every previous occasion some private Bill has managed to crop up at half-past seven and generally taken one-third of the day. This is remarkable in another way, and one which I am quite sure is pleasant to you, Colonel Clifton Brown, because for the first time in my recollection of Education Estimates, the Chairman has not had to rule anybody out of order or call the attention of the Committee to the lapse of any Member. Therefore I feel quite sure that it is a day that should live in the memory of those of us who are actively connected with education in this House.
We have been drawn on to the dangerous topic of the definition of education. I heard a definition which seemed to me to go beyond definitions and include the examples set out in the dictionary of the proper use of the word. I had intended to quote Milton's definition, but that is so sonorous and the words are so Latin in their origin that I dare not mention it in the presence 337 of the senior Member for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert), because he might regard it as a further proof of the degeneracy of the superior university from which I come. I prefer to give a quotation from the most distinguished schoolmaster, in my opinion, of the 20th century, Sanderson, who said:The school should be a microcosm of the world we would like to have.If we can keep that in our minds, we shall not go far wrong in the education that we attempt to give to the children, but let us be sure that the world that we have is only an enlargement of the schools that we used to have, and, if we are going to set the world right, we shall have to start by trying to get into the schools the mind and spirit that we should like to see in the world. That is why I value so much my hon. Friend's contribution in his allusions to the Mercers' school and the spirit that prevails there.
I recollect that the first day I went into a secondary school, I was handed two books, one red and one blue. The red one was Somerville's French grammar and the blue one was Somerville's French exercises. It is not the fault of the author of those one-time popular works that when I go into a French restaurant the waiter says, "If you would only speak English, you would get served much quicker." But, speaking as a humble member of the teaching profession, we recognise throughout the country the high position that the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir A. Somerville) holds in that profession and the services that he has rendered to it. I am bound to say, however, that my feelings of veneration for him are not always accompanied by complete sympathy for the views which he expresses. I thought he gave the case completely away for the great public school with which he has been connected when he said, in answer to an interruption of mine, that it would be very unlikely that I should find among the 70 poor scholars who study there as the result of the endowment of King Henry VI a single boy from an elementary school.
§ Sir A. Somerville
I said at the end that one of the objects that we ought to have was to find means for facilitating the entry of boys from the elementary schools.
§ Mr. Ede
I was coming to that. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that, of 338 course, they would get in if they could pass the examination. It is a proof of the saying of the Frenchman, "England is a free country. You can dine at the Ritz if you can pay the bill." It would be a very great advantage to the great public schools, as they are called, if they made arrangements whereby their special class position in the country was amended through their own action, because I am quite sure, while it is true that King Henry VI was mad, he was never nearly as mad as he would be if he came back and saw the classes from whom his 70 poor scholars are now drawn. When my hon. Friends on this side have the responsibility of government, one of the things that we shall have to do is to see that the ancient endowments of education are restored to the people for whom they were left. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that we despised the Nazi youth because he was indoctrinated—
§ Mr. Ede
I am prepared to accept the correction. I should not like to pity a public school boy, but I cannot help feeling that there is a good deal of indoctrination carried in the great public schools to-day and, as chairman of the Private Schools Departmental Committee, I had to inquire what these experiments were that it was alleged could not flourish in the State schools. We could not find any great experiment which had been originated in this century which had been started in any school other than a State-supported school. [Interruption.] His was not a new experiment. It was the application of a very old experiment, as old as Pestalozzi, and he was applying it to the public school system.
The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) said one thing with which I sympathise very much. I think it quite wrong that you should attempt to enter into arrangements with young persons of 16 years of age whereby from that age onwards they run in blinkers and are evidently destined for the one calling in which a person should have the widest mind and the greatest breadth of vision. I was very glad to be able to give evidence three or four years ago before a committee appointed by the University of Cambridge on the reorganisation of the education department of that university. I hope that the 339 changes which have been effected there, with altered arrangements by the Board of Education, will give the men a far later date at which they will make up their minds whether they want to be teachers or not, because, after all, a good many men do not know, until they get to the university and rub shoulders with men who are going into other walks of life, exactly what the course is that they would like to follow. If they choose teaching as a calling, after having rubbed shoulders with men going into other callings, they will be better teachers and will be able to apply to the work of teaching a far more generous spirit than is sometimes possible when they rather feel that they have been manoeuvred into teaching against their will.
My hon. Friends and I have been exceedingly disappointed with the Parliamentary Secretary's speech. We had hoped that we should be able to get from him something that would enable us to feel that really serious efforts were being made to re-establish the public elementary school system. I was especially disappointed at his inability to say more about the resumption of full-time education and at the fact that it was impossible to give a date for full-time education in the whole country. While we talk of the resumption of compulsory education, as far as I know the law with regard to compulsory education has never been suspended. The enforcement of it may have been suspended, but the law itself has remained all the time. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has listened to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) with regard to the employment of children, because I believe the willful and flagrant breaking of the employment of children by-laws in the various areas in the country at the moment is almost as great a scandal as the evasion of the school attendance by-laws. Something should be done to bring home to the local authorities the necessity for seeing that these by-laws are enforced. My hon. Friend gave two instances, both of which are infractions of the general law and not of by-laws, because the law of the country is that a child under 12 years of age shall not be employed at all. My hon. Friend gave well authenticated cases of two children under that age who are being 340 employed and showed that a most flagrant breach of legislation with regard to the employment of children is being permitted.
I am glad to see that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Aberdeen (Sir R. W. Smith) is back in his place. The hon. Gentleman made two general statements which I desire to examine with particularity. The first was with regard to the lack of cleanliness in the children who were evacuated. I have seen a good many general statements with regard to that, but to-day for the first time I have managed to get a particular analysis of the problem as related to one area. In a paper read to the Royal Society of Medicine recently the county medical officer of health for Surrey dealt with the problems which arose out of evacuation, and he was very careful to be particular and statistical in his references to this phase of the problem. He has headed this particular paragraph: "Medical Problems." He says:Great prominence has been given to some of these in the Press, notably to the prevalence of verminous conditions, enuresis"—which, I may say for the benefit of the Senior Burgess for Oxford University, in English means wetting the bed—and behaviour problems. While one completely sympathises with the householder who has to receive unwillingly such a child the prevalence of, at any rate, some of these conditions has been considerably exaggerated. In an analysis of 6,800 evacuees from Fulham, Wands worth, Battersea, Earls field and Putney into the districts round Guildford, Godalming and Haslemere, Dr. Haine, the Medical Officer of Health, found that in his preliminary inspection at the railhead only 371 or 5.4 per cent. were found to have defects of the kind that could be detected on rapid survey; these 371 included 97 who were verminous"—that is, 97 out of 6,800—three with scabies and 21 with impetigo. I think that perhaps these figures are not quite representative: the number of verminous children varied very much according to the type of evacuation district. For example, of the children who came to Egham from a very poor East End district, 280 out of 2,853 were verminous, or nearly 10 per cent., whereas in an adjacent district of Chertsey verminous children were comparatively rare. For comparison let me tell you that in Surrey we regard a child as verminous which has even a single nit in his hair, and on this standard last year 3.5 per cent. of our children were verminous. If evacuees from the real East End are excluded, we think that about 5 per cent. of the evacuated 341 children were verminous, but the degree of infestation was much worse than in our own children, and we saw cases such as our own health visitors never see at all.I venture to say that that represents, probably, a more scientific examination of this problem than has been attempted by any other authority which has been quoted here. It reveals that there is a certain amount of this difficulty; but, whereas in Surrey in ordinary times—and I admit that Surrey is a good district—about one in 30 is found to be verminous, at the end of the summer holidays, when these children were evacuated into Surrey from London, the number did not rise to more than one in ten in the worst districts; and in the best, it approximated very much to what it was in Surrey.
§ Sir R. W. Smith
The hon. Member will admit that it varied considerably, according to the districts from which the children came.
§ Sir R. W. Smith
The hon. Member is talking about only one district in Surrey. Will he give the figures for the whole country?
§ Mr. Ede
Certainly. And I have no reason to imagine that my hon. Friend opposite and the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health are so fond of Surrey that they specially chose extra-clean children to send to us.
The hon. Member also dealt with the question of religious education, and complained that when he was interrupted by some of my hon. Friends and myself, we did not take the trouble to contradict what had appeared in the "Times." I think 342 my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth has dealt with that fairly well, but I might say that I am not going to take the trouble to deal with the paper which published the literary masterpieces of Mr. Piggott. It would be a full-time job; I should have thought that anyone acquainted with the State-school system of the country would have known that the best that could be said for that quotation was that it was a very gross exaggeration of anything that occurs in the State-school system. I believe that since 1870 we have had only one big secular education authority in the country; and that was Birmingham, in the days when it was ruled by the father of the present Prime Minister. Since he left the local government of Birmingham, there has not been a single education authority in the country which has adopted a secular attitude.
The hon. Member had another grievance with regard to the time. In my view, in giving to religious instruction in our schools the first half-hour or three-quarters of an hour of every day, the local education authorities give the best time of the day. It is the time when the minds of the children are freshest and when they can most easily assimilate the instruction that is given. I would have thought also, for what it was worth, that to put the religious instruction first was more likely to set the tone for the whole of the day than to put it at any other time of the day. I cannot think of any State-aided school in this country, elementary or secondary, to which the strictures of the "Times" can properly be applied.
The Parliamentary Secretary gave us no real indication that his Department is getting on with the job of getting the schools back into normal conditions. We have been very kind to him on this side of the Committee in previous Debates. We have not pressed unduly for the resumption of full-time education or the normal activities of the schools, but really now, after six months of war, it is time that the Government made up their minds exactly when they expect to have every child in the country receiving the normal hours of education. If the hon. Gentleman fails, then all the high-falutin' talk in which he indulged about the other parts of the national education system will not lead us anywhere. The one thing upon which he can build in this country 343 is a sound, well-administered elementary education system. If he breaks down there, then all schemes for the service to youth and all services in connection with the Pilgrim Trust will be so much wasted effort. If he can give us an early resumption of the full elementary education system, we shall be able to move on to those other things of which he spoke. He told us that he met a boy in Kent who thought that all birds hopped by electricity. Were they the birds of which he was thinking at Cranleigh on Sunday when he spread fear and alarm in the hearts of the mothers of the district by telling the boys, "You have not yet been here long enough to find out all the local birds, but your teachers will soon be putting you in touch with most of them." I am told that the boys had a second look at him, and thought that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education could be a human being after all.
We want him to say in this Committee that he realises the great human problem with which his Department has to deal at the moment. It has suffered more heavily than any other in the turmoil of war. We ask him to take the earliest possible opportunity to prove, not that he wants an all-party committee, but that he is living up to the boast of his own section of the tripod that supports the present Government and that claiming to represent our views in the Government. We have seen none of it up to the present, and he alone can prove to the country that there is something in the boast. I suggest to him that he should try to do it.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Lindsay
We have had a very interesting Debate, although I think it has been a little rambling at times and inevitably so, because of my speech. It will not be easy for me to reply after being at the Board for three years and seeing all our hopes, and things for which we have been working, pretty well dashed to the ground.
The organisation and building of these senior schools all over the country has suddenly stopped, and the raising of the school-leaving age to 15, which some of us have been looking forward to for several years, has been postponed. Therefore, I would not like hon. Members to think, although I appreciate 344 their point of view, that their distress at present conditions is confined to their side of the House. What we did do, and very quickly, was to say that as the 14's to 18's would not be evacuated we must get a move on in doing something for them. It is easy to say things now and be wise after the event, although, in all fairness, I must say that hon. Members on all sides of the Committee fairly appreciated the conditions of the past six months.
The reason why I dealt more particularly with the educational problem in my speech was that there is less to say in describing the disturbance caused by evacuation. If you take London or any other great evacuation area at the present moment, they are in the process of building school units up again, in some cases going from door to door and kitchen to basement for classes. There are, of course, still about a quarter of our children who are not in school at all, but I would like to give the figures so that too gloomy a view of the situation will not be taken. Nearly half the children of the country are in reception areas where there is something like 95 to 97 per cent. in full-time education. Another 1,200,000 are in neutral areas, where 97 per cent. are in school. When you come to evacuation areas I quoted as nearly as possible, although there was a complaint that I did not give figures. I could go into detail of how we ourselves, the Ministry of Security and the Ministry of Health are working together. It is easy to criticise this machinery, but all that I can say is that, although I do not go to the meetings, as far as I know the three Ministers meet most days. The regional officers are constantly working on the difficulties. I went to Luton the other day to try and straighten out a tangle. You might say the children ought not to have gone to Luton, Reading, Ipswich and other places, but let us remember that on 3rd September feeling was that we should get the children out, and under a roof; education was not then our first thought. Hon. Members said, "Why did not you make careful schemes, dovetailing school into school?" To this I would reply, "How could we do this when no child knew at what station it was going to get off the train?"
§ Mr. Lindsay
The hon. Member does not know what we are doing in that scheme; it has not been worked out at the moment. The precise details of where each person and school are going are not known.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I gather from my own local committee that they have been informed as to the precise number of children.
§ Mr. Lindsay
That is outside my Department. I understand that the precise number of children going to a district is known, but it is impossible to say that the children will go to a specific school. Nobody will pretend that there can be full-time education in reception areas with the present accommodation if you suddenly move 1,000,000 more children there. It simply is impossible. As I said earlier, when these children went out from London to Sussex, Dorset and Devonshire all that was known was that they were going in a certain direction on a certain railway. It then took weeks and weeks to get the billeting correctly arranged and then to get the children into schools and to keep the school units together as far as possible. Later, thousands of children for a variety of human reasons—partly because of this strange war—came back because they would sooner be nearer their own folk wherever they were, with the result that instead of 750,000 children being in these areas, there were only 400,000 left in the reception areas. When I spoke in November I hoped that they would see the spring in the country. Today I hope that many of them will see the summer term in the country. I have read literally hundreds of inspectors' reports which show that these 400,000 children are profiting profoundly by the change in the country.
§ Mr. Messer
Does the Parliamentary Secretary expect the new evacuation scheme to be a success when it is proposed that 400 children shall be sent to Saffron Walden which is already full to capacity, and that these children are to come from Stratford, the other side of London?
§ Mr. Lindsay
The hon. Member cannot expect me to go into the details of an evacuation scheme which does not come under my Department. I am concerned with the fact that if you suddenly move numbers of children into the country there 346 will always be difficulties. It does not matter if you make the most elaborate arrangements. You might spend 10 years building camps, but no hon. Member is able to say or anticipate the number of children who will be in evacuation areas, in neutral areas and reception areas six months later. If you cannot anticipate that how in the world are you going to provide proper accommodation?
§ Mr. Lindsay
The hon. Member made a long speech: I heard most of it and did not interrupt him. Even if we had to go through the whole process again and were able to avoid certain mistakes, which I can see as well as hon. Members, it is quite impossible to anticipate the precise proportion of children who will be in each of these areas. Of course, we are faced with a most difficult problem in certain places like Rochester, the dock-side in London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Hull, and elsewhere. All I can say is that the officials of my Department, the Ministry of Health, and the Department of Home Security, have not spared themselves in trying to find a way through the difficulties.
The right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), will say, "I want you as an administrator—and not just as making a speech—to come and see how we can combine reasonable civil defence of London with a complete education system." Since the announcement of my Noble Friend, the order of the day is, back to compulsory education as fast as it is humanly possible, full time from 5 to 14 years; and since that announcement, which, after all, was made only a few weeks ago, London has got compulsory education to-day for those over 11, and by 1st April it will have compulsory education for those over 8 years of age. That is pretty fast going. I hope that as soon as possible after that it will be extended to the infants and then to the younger ones still. But this is the point. How much further would hon. Members go? How much faster would they wish us to go? Would they wish me to report to the Cabinet that the order of the day must be, education first and no civil defence? No. What my Noble Friend announced the other day was that compulsory education must be restored, and that must 347 be taken as an announcement from the Government.
I have looked very carefully into the details of the administration. That is why, last week, I went to Luton and went into the schools, some of which might have been propped up so as to give protection, and looked at halls which might possibly have been taken, but which were not, and considered the possibility of removing, say, 1,000 children elsewhere. That is the sort of problem to be dealt with. I tried to find out whether the local education authority's officers and those of the Department of Home Security could move faster. I do not know that they could. It may be said, as some hon. Members have said, that we ought not to have let so many buildings go. I take that criticism. It is very easy to be wise after the event. The assumption was that the great majority, in fact, nearly all the children, were going to leave London, that London would have to be defended, that bombs would be falling thickly and fast in the first week of the war. Therefore, I regret, perhaps more than almost anybody else, since I have been connected with the Department for these years, going about London and still seeing children between the ages of 5 and 11 out of school. I do not see that there is any answer to that except to work as hard as we can to get the extra protection and to get the schools removed from use for civil defence purposes.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I take it from this Debate that there will be uneasiness until we have got full-time education completely restored. If that is the feeling of the Committee, this Debate has been well worth while. I should like now to make one or two references to the individual speeches that have been made. I want first to congratulate the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer) on his speech, which, to my mind, was one of the best statements made on nursery schools and technical education. I ask the Committee to put that speech side by side with the speech of the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson), who said, in effect, "Let us get away from administration and see what we really 348 mean by education," and who ended on a note which meant that his idea was that it must express itself in service. Previously, we had a number of speeches on the ancient problem of the public schools. There was a great deal of discussion about public schools. I will always remember the description given of his school by Mr. Hamilton Fyfe in Canada when I was conducting 16 headmasters across the Dominion. He said:My school is the royal, religious and ancient foundation of Christ's Hospital. It is called 'royal' because of that great widower, Henry VIII, who left some land which has increased in value—hence our revenue. It is called 'religious' because religion is the basis of all true education, and as for its 'antiquity,'it was never more ancient than it is to-day.That is a description given of a very ancient school, but with very modern ideas—Christ's Hospital. It is interesting to note that when hon. Members refer to the expensiveness of public schools the figures are not always given in their true proportion. These great schools to which the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) referred and which receive direct grants from the Board, like Manchester Grammar School, Portsmouth, and Bradford, are part of the glory of our educational system. Their fees are in the neighborhood of £25 to £30 a year. If you add to that board and lodging, which might be expected would be part of a home—say a figure of something like £60, £70 or £80,which is not an enormous amount for a growing boy—you have a figure approaching or even exceeding £100 a year.
There are hon. Members who are opposed to the idea of a boarding school and therefore are opposed to the idea of a camp unless the boys go in and out. I can assure the Committee that at a camp I visited on Sunday in Surrey I found no thought of going out at all. I asked the headmaster who was in this lovely wooded part of Surrey whether he was there for the summer or the spring, and he said, "We have come here for keeps." Not only that: they intended to make gardens—vegetable gardens, with the help of the boys. Therefore, it is not a question of boarding schools, because views in favour of the Boarding school have been expressed on both sides to-day. I think, probably, that the time will come, and it may come very quickly 349 after this war if things go on as at present, when there will be—shall I call it, a federated system of secondary schools in this country. It may even include senior schools. Some will be the county schools, some the ancient grammar schools with a strong local history and geography, and some will be those schools for the pauperes indigentes, as the saying goes, used now by those who can afford them. You may not agree with all of this but all I am concerned to see is that, as they are part of the vast heritage of this country, they are given wider responsibilities and are used possibly by a wider number. The hon. Member for Windsor (Sir A. Somerville) who has long experience of these schools, and other hon. Members took up this same point. The hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. E. Harvey), the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans) and the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) spoke of the adult education movement. It is a matter which to me is of enormous importance. I always regard this chamber as a sort of headquarters of adult education. If I may say so there are hon. Members on the opposite benches who have been through the university of extramural education, and it is because of that that we were able to hear some of the speeches we have heard to-night. Other hon. Members have had intra mural education, and there is not much between the two sets of speeches.
The medical Members for North Islington (Dr. Guest) and St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) touched on the question of nutrition and communal meals. I hope they do not think that the whole medical services and the provision of school meals have been discontinued, as some newspapers and some speeches we have heard would seem to indicate. It is not true. The position is that you have to build the medical service round an institution—that is, the school—unless you change the whole form of it. If the school is not being used, if it is not possible for the children to attend, or if some do not turn up—[An HON. MEMBER: "And if the medical officer does not turn up."]—and if the medical officer does not turn up—but that is not true except in reception areas to which London children went—the medical services cannot function. The difficulty was that we had to get a medical defence in 350 London and also to get doctors for the reception areas. Now the whole of the routine medical examinations are going on, and in 50 out of 150 reception areas there has been acceptance of the system of communal meals.
The question of milk was also raised. The only answer I can give to the hon. Member for Farnworth is that at this moment the consumption of milk is about two-thirds of what it was last year. That figure is rapidly improving. The reason why it is only two-thirds—and I deplore it very much—is the difficulty of the transfer of money from evacuation to reception areas. The system of the supply of milk did temporarily break down, but I do not think it is too bad, considering the circumstances, that two-thirds of the quantity drunk at this time last year is still being consumed. The hon. Member for Farnworth said he would sooner open a nursery school than launch a battleship. So would I, but at the present moment the battleships are helping the nursery schools to exist. It is in no sense of making a debating point that I say that. I think that just at times there was a little lack of proportion in the Debate.
It worries me more than anything else that it is the education system which seems to have suffered most, and I ask myself, "Why is it?" Hon. Members may easily say it was because my Noble Friend did not stand up to the Secretary of State for War. As a matter of fact, we had no difficulty there, for it was not the Secretary of State for War or his Department who had the schools. The difficulty was that local authorities were at one and the same time running civil defence and education.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Will not the hon. Gentleman admit that there were schools—not one but many—which were occupied by another Department of State and held for weeks and not utilised? It may not have been the War Office but it was the Office of Works.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I agree, but 72 out of 75 of those have been returned. There is another point which I wish to mention because this speech has to go on, roughly, until 11 o'clock. There is another criticism which applies to the Department, namely, that we have lost so many of our staff. No hon. Member of the Opposition was good enough to raise it, and 351 so I will raise it myself. The fact is that at the beginning of the war, owing to the impossibility of having full school inspections, to the suspension of the National Fitness Council, to the closing temporarily of the Victoria and Albert Museums, and to certain statistical work being stopped, it was not necessary to keep certain of the staff and inspectors. I want to reassure hon. Members on this point; 45 inspectors have been brought back since Christmas, 32 of them from other Departments, and if we needed inspectors to get on with this job, I assure the Committee that we should secure them, either from other Departments or from elsewhere. We are not going to see the Board badly staffed to do their job.
I mentioned in my earlier remarks not only that we were making every effort to get back to full-time education in the evacuation areas, but that we have learned something from these six months
§ of war. I was a little surprised that one hon. Member seemed to think that never can a Minister stand up in this House and say that he sees something wrong without immediately having to make it a matter of censure. If we can learn anything from this six months, such as the important question of training teachers and other things, we shall profit by this great upheaval. What I pleaded for was that, while we were shaken in our habits, we should look at our education system and see whether it could be improved. If we do that, I believe we shall, at any rate, have profited by this amazing experience of having dispersed 500,000 or more children from the towns to the country, and we shall have learned a little more about the health of children, which is the basis of decent education.
§ Question put, "That Item Class IV, Vote I (Board of Education), be reduced by £100."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 91; Noes, 124.353
|Division No. 48.]||AYES||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Groves, T. E.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Pearson, A.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Price, M. P.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Harvey, T. E.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hicks, E. G.||Riley, B.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Isaacs, G. A.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Bromfield, W.||Jackson, W. F.||Silkin, L.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jagger, J.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Burke, W. A.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees-(K'ly)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Collindridge, F.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Cove, W. G.||Kirkwood, D.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Daggar, G.||Lathan, G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dalton, H.||Leach, W.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Leslie, J. R.||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Logan, D. G.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lunn, W.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Dobbie, W.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||McEntee, V. La T.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Ede, J. C.||Maclean, N.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Marshall, F.||Wilmot, John|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Messer, F.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Frankel, D.||Mort, D. L.||Woodburn, A.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Owen, Major G.||Mr. Mathers and Mr. R. J.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Paling, W.||Taylor.|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Parker, J.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Colville, Rt. Hon. John|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page|
|Assheton, R.||Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Cross, R. H.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)|
|Bernays, R. H.||Carver, Major W. H.||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Doland, G. F.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Edmondson, Major Sir J.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Christie, J. A.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Clarry, Sir Reginald||Elliston, Capt. G. S.|
|Bracken, B.||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Fildes, Sir H.|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Reith, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. W.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Levy, T.||Robertson, D.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Lindsay, K. M.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Lipson, D. L.||Rowlands, G.|
|Goldie, N. B.||Little, Sir E. Graham-||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Little, Dr. J. (Down)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Salt, E. W.|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Grimston, R. V.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Hammersley, S. S.||McKie, J. H.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Hannah, I. C.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Magnay, T.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Harbord, Sir A.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Somerset, T.|
|Harland, H. P.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor)|
|Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Mitchell, Col. H. (Brentf'd & Chisw'k)||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Hepworth, J.||Nall, Sir J.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Peake, O.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Hunter, T.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. Harvie|
|Jennings, R.||Procter, Major H. A.||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Radford, E. A.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Kerr, Sir John Graham (Sco'sh Univs.)||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.||Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Ramsden, Sir E.||Lieut.-Colonel Kerr and Mr. Munro.|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Leech, Sir J. W.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, the Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14; to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Vote.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.354
§ The remaining Orders were read and postponed.