§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain Margesson.]
§ The President of the Board of Education (Mr. Ramsbotham)
I am grateful to the House for giving me this opportunity of elaborating a statement, necessarily brief, which I made at the end of Questions about seven weeks ago. What I shall be able to do now and what I was unable to do then is to explain in some detail to the House my ultimate aim and the policy underlying the administrative proposals which I made last August. From my point of view it is a pity that this Debate could not have taken place sooner, in view of the great importance and the difficulty of the subject.
The task to which I have set my hands even in normal times would be hard, and it has been considerably added to by the inconveniences and disturbances of the last month. Of course, the approach of winter will undoubtedly place some obstacles in the way of what I want to do. I must ask the House to be patient and not expect from me any sudden or sensational progress. The job of necessity will be a long and uphill one. I say frankly that it must be many months before I can report to the House any definite and easily measurable advance. What I have in mind will take a considerable time to realise. At the same time, I am quite convinced that the object at which I am aiming will commend itself to everyone who is interested in the welfare of our young people and the Service of Youth. That service was inaugurated at the outbreak of war, and the country owes a deep debt of gratitude to my predecessor Lord De la Warr for his promptness in stepping in and saving the associations and the work they were doing for young people. The House will not expect me, and I will not attempt to-day, to give a detailed account of what 740 has been done during the last 12 months by the local education authorities and the voluntary associations in co-operation with the Board of Education to maintain and improve the mental, physical and social development of the boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 20. Not only would it take far too long to give any review of that nature, but I feel certain that it would be out of order.
My review to-day is concerned with only one aspect of the Service of Youth, namely, physical education. Hon. Members will have read a letter in the "Times" at the beginning of this month from the chairman of the Standing Conference of National Juvenile Organisations, in which he draws attention to the great progress made by the voluntary associations in the Service of Youth Movement. He states that over 1,700 more units, or clubs, have been started, the membership of the units varying from about 30 in some cases to 700 in others. In addition, a most satisfactory advance has been made by the local education authorities themselves in the expansion of existing centres and in the formation of new ones. The Board of Education is vitally concerned with the Service of Youth, and Circular 1486 stated last November that the Government had decided thatthe Board of Education should undertake direct responsibility for youth welfare.Accordingly, when I became President of the Board of Education last Spring the Service of Youth was the very first thing to which I gave my attention. I regarded it as of paramount importance, and I at once began to consider ways and means by which I could best help the movement. As the House knows, this movement is based on the intimate co-operation of three entities: the central Government, the local education authorities, and voluntary associations. In that respect, it differs profoundly from youth movements elsewhere. It is not, and I hope it never will be, centralised. The last thing I want to see, and, I think, the last thing that the House wants to see, in a movement of this kind is the rigid uniformity, the regimentation, and the standardised practice which inevitably results from placing such a movement under the sole control of the central Government, or the supervision of some super-functionary. Just as in our educational system we work 741 on the basis of partnership between the Board of Education and the local education authorities—in which partnership the Board acts mainly in an advisory capacity, and works through suggestion rather than coercion—so, I think, we should work the Service of Youth on a basis of partnership between the Board, the local education authorities, and the voluntary associations. In the Service of Youth, I am taking steps to see that there is adequate financial provision. I estimate that the expenditure of the local authorities, on which, of course, the Board pay grant, will be during the current year two or three times larger than it was last year. I was not, and I am not, disposed to remain content solely with the provision of financial aid. I looked around to see in what other directions I could help education authorities and voluntary associations to promote the development of the young people committed to their care and to mine.
The House will agree that in the makeup of the human being there are three elements which we desire to mould. They are character, intelligence—both mental and manual, or academic and practical—and physique. Those three are, in fact, indivisible: one reacts intimately on the other. But for the purpose of analysis, there is, I think, agreement as to the special circumstances surrounding the development of character. That does not, in my judgment, respond readily to direct teaching and training. You cannot easily hold character classes; you cannot either discover or repair a crooked character in that way. Character is formed not so much by learning, reading or hearing things, as by doing them. Exhortation seems to me not so effective as, for example, environment and effort. Character is not so much the product as the byproduct of good training and good teaching. If anyone is inclined to place too much reliance upon moral appeals, he might easily do more harm than good to the young person's progress.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
What is very important is the influence of a well-ordered home life.
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
That is precisely what I had in mind when I used the word "environment." Direct training might easily prove disappointing. I am not 742 aware, from my knowledge of history, that anybody has ever been made good by Act of Parliament. The training of intelligence—both mental and manual, or academic and practical—is the responsibility of both the Board of Education and the local education authorities. I frankly admit that to allow the training of hundreds of thousands of boys and girls to cease at the age of 14 is to allow it to cease too soon. But as things are, the whole-time continuation of mental training for the 14 to 18 age group is not practicable. Most unfortunately, we have not been able even to put into effect the raising of the school-leaving age to 15. In existing circumstances, we find great difficulty in providing full-time education for the under-14's. It is nobody's fault, but there it is. Apart from that, the repercussions on industry would be very serious. But we must bear in mind that there is a very great volume of part-time education going on—I am very thankful that there is—in spite of the black-out and of other things. Many thousands of boys and girls are going to the evening institutes and all honour to them. The voluntary associations and the Workers' Education Association are manfully making provision for classes for the cultural improvement of boys and girls and I am doing all I can. But, with tile Army requiring so many of the teachers and the Civil Defence authorities requiring so many schools or parts of schools, I can see that I shall be very much handicapped.
I turn my attention to the third element in the make-up of the human being—the education of physique. As the House knows, up to the age of 14 almost every boy and girl for whom I am responsible gets a regular daily period of physical education, conducted on scientific lines, and, as far as possible, by trained teachers. In my judgment, such education should be just as much a part of the children's development as is their mental or manual education. Here again, it is a very great pity that physical training should cease at 14. The children's bodies are still as immature as are their minds. Their bones are not yet fully formed and in my judgment need as much care and culture between 14 and 18 as between 5 and 14. But unhappily, for the reasons I have mentioned, I cannot propose at the present 743 time an extension of physical education within the framework of extending full-time education.
The House will recall that the Clauses of the Fisher Act by which day continuation schools were to be established, to provide instruction and physical education for the age group 14 to 18, for something like eight hours a week, not in the leisure time of the boys and girls but in their employers' time, thus involving compulsory release from their work in the daytime for the number of hours specified. I am sure that the House will agree with me that it was a very great misfortune that the day continuation scheme which Fisher introduced—and Fisher's loss to us is very great—became practically a dead letter. If day continuation schools under the Fisher Act had been in force for the 20 years, and were in force now, many of our present difficulties would very greatly diminish.
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
I thought somebody would say that, and if I were at all polemical, I should say that the best time to reconsider that fault would have been the year 1929.
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
At the present time and under present conditions it is not practical to revive these classes and put them into action. A very large number of teachers, and a very large number of premises would be required to be made available, and for that reason the full operation—and I stress the words "full operation" of the Fisher Act is not, in existing circumstances, a feasible proposition. The House will note that the Fisher Act did not confine education to mental or manual instruction; it also provides, and very rightly provides, physical instruction which is specifically mentioned in Section 75 of the Act of 1921. Of the eight hours contemplated for the day time release under the full operation of the Act, some two hours were to be allotted to physical education. Therefore, it occurred to me that, unless conditions became very much worse, that part of the Fisher Act concerning physical education and involving the release of boys and girls from their work, say, for an hour or two a week, was a more practical pro- 744 position and was, at any rate, within the bounds of eventual realisation and certainly worth our very careful consideration.
At the same time, it is obvious to me, as it must be to the House, that such a project could not, with the best will in the world, be carried out at once. It would require, and it will require, a great deal of preparation and organisation. For example, as I indicated just now, the war has made great inroads into the number of teachers competent and trained to give physical training. One of the most important agents in physical education is the physical training organiser appointed by the local education authority. Since September last year about 100 of these organisers have been called up to the armed Forces, and a large number of teachers, specialised and expert in this branch of education, have also been called up for the Army. Here again, not only do I wish to secure the return of as many of these as I can, but I shall require eventually a very much larger number to be trained to teach physical education, if anything like a scheme on a national basis is available for boys and girls from 14 to 18 years.
The third point is that a great deal of space will be required for training, and in the winter time covered space, such as halls in which to assemble and so forth, which are in great demand for many other purposes and by many other Departments. Of course, in Summer time the matter will be easier. I shall also need a substantial amount of equipment. I do not mean the equipment of gymnasia, but gymnastic attire. Boys and girls should not have to undertake physical training in their ordinary workaday clothes, and it is considerations like this that forced me to realise that ultimately the physical education of boys and girls in employment, as well as those who are not, may well take a considerable time to put right. In daytime, at least, very large numbers are involved and it would require very extensive facilities for their training.
I cannot foresee, and no one can, what further obstacles the war may place in our way, so I came to the conclusion that the obvious course for me to take at the moment is to build on the foundations that are already laid, and to help the local education authorities and the voluntary organisations to extend and improve the physical education which they already 745 provide. It may well be the hope and the belief that gradually I may secure sufficient teachers, premises and equipment to justify me and the House in considering the possibility of day continuation classes in physical education on the lines of the Fisher Act. Naturally, when that time comes, I shall require the support of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, and I do not believe that he will be unsympathetic. I shall also require the co-operation of industry, and I will tell the House frankly, that, if I am successful in this project I shall regard what will have been done in regard to physical education as the first instalment of carrying out the full operation of the Fisher Act. I therefore hope that when times become more normal the additional hours of daytime release contemplated by that Act for mental and manual education, as well as for physical, will be possible.
Accordingly, with this aim in view, I proposed, as the House knows, to set up in my Department a small body, whose composition I announced last August, in order to give a inure central and direct impetus to the movement. I believe that some people were slightly troubled by the word "Directorate." They read into it more than was intended. In actual practice it does not mean much more than a small group of officials and advisers, concentrating their energies in finding ways to help local education authorities and the voluntary bodies to overcome their difficulties and make better provision for the youth on the physical side by means of attracting young people of both sexes. It does not mean much more than that. At the same time, I do not think in these days we ought, any of us, to be squeamish about the word "direction." Direction is often just what is wanted. In my judgment it is not so much direction as lack of direction which may call for criticism. As regards machinery I think the position is still the same as it was. The "Times," in a leading article on the day following my statement last August, said:The machinery looks good but, as always, it is the product of the machinery—not the machinery itself—which will count.I have consulted the executive of the National Youth Committee, representatives of the great voluntary associations and local education authorities, and I am asking the authorities to furnish me with 746 particulars of the physical education they are providing in their areas, and the numbers attending. At present I frankly admit that statistically speaking, I have only a hazy picture of what Is being done all over the country, and I very much desire to know how large is the gap to be filled between those who get some physical education and those who get none. I also asked local education authorities for lists of their physical training organisers and teachers who have been called up, and on the basis of these lists I have made arrangements with the War Office for release, subject to the overriding requirements of national defence, of men who are prepared to acept release and whose employers are willing to re-engage them. Already the War Office has issued release orders for about 50 of these specialists.
I am discussing a similar arrangement with the Minister of Labour for the deferment of calling-up for organisers and teachers and, pending settlement of the general principles, nearly 200 men have been put on what is called the temporary "no action" list, so far as calling up is concerned. The War Office, to whom I am indebted, are also co-operating with the Board as regards the avoidance of requisitioning of premises which are suitable for recreative or physical training subject, again, to the overriding requirements of national defence. The War Office has issued instructions to Quartermasters of Commands asking them to avoid requisitioning such buildings or to release them.
Yes, Sir. I am grateful to the Secretary of State for War for this co-operation, Frankly, without it my whole scheme would have to be abandoned, because I should be deprived of teaching staff, and all hope of it would have to be given up for the time being. Co-operation with the War Office is, therefore, essential.
I am now in a position to tell the House that the War Office have appointed as their representative to the directorate Colonel Wand-Tetley, Inspector of Physical Training in the Army, who will be assisted by Major F. J. Davis, lately General Staff Officer, Physical Training, Southern Command, and formerly Officer in Charge of Physical Training to the National Council of Social Service.
747 I want to say one word about the medical side of the question. It is wrong, indeed, to take too narrow a view about physical training. Such recreation is not simply a question of exercise and games; it involves a much wider thing—the aspect of health and hygiene and nothing is more foolish than to overlook the medical side. I can assure the House that the Directorate will lose no time in seeing that this side of the question of physical recreation will be properly safeguarded.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill (Fulham, West)
Does that also include feeding? Does not the Army say that physical training is no good without adequate feeding?
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
Obviously, if our medical advisers think a child is too weak and not sufficiently nourished to carry out exercises, that would be a relevant point to take into consideration. As the House already knows, the National Youth Committee has the valuable assistance of Lord Dawson of Penn, who has a particular interest in this matter, and I shall keep in close touch with him. The House will be glad to know, too, that the local education authorities and voluntary associations have warmly welcomed my proposals and have signified that they are prepared to co-operate to the full in this project. They have made no complaints whatever that I am placing an undue burden upon them or duplicating the existing machinery, and I have discovered that the local education authorities and voluntary associations are also rather relieved to learn that I do not contemplate any dramatic appointment such as a Commissioner of Youth, which has been suggested in some quarters. I am aware that there are precedents for such an appointment. In Germany, for example, Herr Baldur von Schirach was recently promoted "Gauleiter" somewhere or other, and in France M. Borotra, the tennis player, has been appointed by the Vichy Government. Both these cases are somewhat equivalent to the Commissioner of Youth, but I am bound to say that neither of these precedents makes a strong appeal to me. In the case of the former, especially, I should be very reluctant indeed to imitate his products. I have not the slightest idea what power should be given to a Commissioner of 748 Youth for I presume he would be required to do something more than make eloquent appeals and speeches.
I have heard it said that there is no demand for physical education and that young people would not respond to the call for fitness. I hope and believe that is not true; indeed I am sure that if sufficient and attractive opportunities are provided, a very large number of people of both sexes will readily respond. Somebody wrote in the "Times" some weeks ago a letter in which they said:Youth does not want to be fit; it wants to give service.That seemed to me to be a very unsound observation, for surely the fitter boys and girls become the better national service they can do, whether it is Military or otherwise. I want to link up physical fitness with the call for national service. I want to make every boy and girl in the country feel that to make himself or herself physically fit is an act of patriotism and that to be wilfully unfit is to do national disservice and be a national liability.
By way of encouragement to those who are taking part in youth activities and to provide incentive, I am investigating the possibility of a badge scheme which might be a practical proposition. I am not in a position to give details to-day, and I can assure the House that it is one thing to talk about a badge and quite another to work out a scheme which will command general support. For instance, opinions differ as to whether it should be on a county or national basis and whether it should be related only to physical education or more broadly conceived. On this subject I should particularly welcome the views and advice of hon. and right hon. Members. Again, I do not find local education authorities or the voluntary associations in the least perturbed by my association with the War Office. Indeed, it has been abundantly clear to me, from my conversations with them, that they realise how necessary that was, and they warmly welcome the proposal for the provision of specialist teachers, not only for the sake of the 14–18 age group but for the sake of the normal work of their schools. I do not think there is reason to believe that young people will have any objection to this association. Certainly the 17–18 age group and the 18–20 age group have 749 every incentive to train themselves in this manner. Many of them may soon be in the armed forces, and the way in which boys of these ages have been attending the fitness centres organised by the Central Council for Recreative Physical Training, often staffed by Army experts, is evidence of a strong demand for such training. Many of those who are giving such training, although they are now in uniform, were, less than a year ago, civilian teachers and giving much the same instruction in the elementary and secondary schools. So, if there should be any nervous or suspicious people who think that my proposals savour of militarism I think they need not he perturbed. After all, we are a nation in arms. Millions have been called up and inure millions will be, and physical fitness is an essential attribute of anyone who is to serve in the Forces of the Crown. How did the Finnish people put up such a tremendous resistance?
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
Quite so, and because their young people were physically fit. They have a splendid system of physical education, and we need the same fitness and the same education. Just as the War Office is helping me to provide wider facilities so I desire, and I believe file House desires, to help the War Office and our countrymen to secure that those who may be called upon to serve are not only fit in character and mind but also Lt in body. But what I have in mind goes far beyond our present emergency. I want to make a permanent improvement in the physical education of this country. Hitherto, physical education has, in my judgment, lagged behind mental and manual education, and that is particularly true in the case of our boys. The girls are very much better. The lag is, I believe, a legacy of the mediæval notion that the mind is a celestial thing and the body a terrestrial. That well-known educationist, Mr. L. P. jacks, has said:The organ of human intelligence is not, as many think, the brain alone, but the whole body, from the crown of the brow to the sole of the foot.He states that it is his belief that "the next step forward in human education will be in the direction of integrating the education of the body with the education 750 of the mind, bringing the two to the same level of dignity and importance, and making education of that kind accessible to everybody."
In conclusion, I ask the House to support me in this great undertaking. It is not merely a short-term plan to meet our present situation, for, if successful, it will be a lasting contribution to the health and the happiness of our people. I said just now that it will involve a great deal of difficult and uphill work, made much more difficult by this war. The project is not one for sensational headlines or dramatic appeals, it is not a stunt, and I do not want to start a campaign with a blare of trumpets and peter out with a penny whistle. Whilst I am convinced that no movement based solely on physical education will be sound, and I have no intention whatever of furthering such a movement—nor would the House allow me to do so—I am sure that physical education has an essential place in any youth movement, and if I emphasise it it is solely because progress on that side has hitherto been most obviously slow. Moreover, I have little doubt that whatever appeal may be made to youth it would be sheer folly to make it until we are in a position to offer something concrete and definite. To make appeals without the realities can produce nothing but disillusion. It is for that reason that our task means hard, unremitting, slogging spade work, to overcome obstacles, provide facilities and stimulate demand. With the help of this House it can be done and then we will say, in the words of the greatest of all educationists, Plato:Our story shall be the education of our heroes. What shall he that education? Can we find a better than the traditional sort and that has two divisions—gymnastic for the body and music for the soul?
§ Sir P. Hannon
My right hon. Friend, in his interesting and exhilarating speech, referred to the co-operation of industry, but did not develop that point. Perhaps he will talk to me privately about it.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle (St. Albans)
I think we must all feel that we have listened to a speech which has been a great treat to those of us who sympathise with and wish to collaborate in the proposals we are discussing to-day. We have seldom had a more sympathetic President than we have to-day, and we 751 all feel that while his experience in the Office of Works may have taught him the dangers of materialism, his experience in the Ministry of Pensions will have shown him the result of the neglect of health in early days. Now he has come back to the Board of Education with this scheme. I think most of us must have rubbed our eyes when we heard the statement which he made in August, certainly the public and those who are not directly concerned with educational campaigns, because it seemed to be only whipping up the horse which started on its career three or four years ago with the same object and ideas. I remember the campaign being opened in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine by the late Prime Minister, who had been previously Minister of Health, who was accompanied by the faithful disciple, now the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was a unique gathering of local education authorities which inaugurated that campaign.
Then there was C.B.5364 in February, 1939, which laid down the ideals, the history, the inadequacy of present facilities, policy, and the outlines of the scheme. It provided for two national Advisory Councils, it laid down the allocation of grants and provided what is probably the most important thing in the matter of the practical machinery, namely, the institution of a National College of Physical Training. We have not heard anything about that this morning, and I do not know whether we shall hear anything more about it. From the reference that the President has made to the impact of war having taken away a large number of those who would naturally be the leaders of this movement, presumably the National College of Physical Training is not in existence at present, but I suppose that is one of the essentials of any particular scheme. Anyhow, much was done in those three years since then—organisers appointed, playing fields, swimming baths, gymnasia, equipment and funds, but with exceptions still in the general scheme of things in the early stages of the movement—to influence and get hold of the school or post-school population, which is the President's aim. But the campaign as such has vanished from the public eye, so it is right to make a fresh start.
752 If we take a long view of the national interest, both the war and the peace effort depend not only on the quantity of recruits but also on the quality. Just as many of us are so much perturbed at the decline in the number of recruits to the population, in other words the decline of the birth rate, we are equally perturbed when those who come up give evidence of the neglect of the physical side of their development. In this matter let us recall the part which has been played by the medical profession. In November, 1934, before the campaign opened, the then Minister of Health, Sir Hilton Young, now Lord Kennet, speaking at a dinner of the Council of the British Medical Association, asked whether something could be done to bring home the benefits of physical culture, that is, of mind as well as muscle, and he hoped the medical profession would tell him how it could be done. The British Medical Association started work at once on that suggestion, and in the following January appointed a committee to bring together the medical profession and technical experience. Their final report is an interesting, informative and useful document, which few people outside the House recognise nowadays. It laid down definitely that a balance of body, mind and soul should go together and reinforce each other, and perfection of balance, physical, mental and spiritual, is the only true and scientific aim of education. I do not think there could be any difference between the President's views and those laid down by the Medical Association, yet it seemed to me that the President suggested that the medical profession were inclined to regard the physical fitness side as being different from the others, and they should not do so, because he suggested that they should not lay too much stress on the physical side, apart from the rest.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
It is a hint which is very frequently required to the medical profession, to athletes and to the general public. Going back to our history books, the Spartan view was that the object of education was to produce the warrior citizen, while the object of Athenian education was to blend it with literary and artistic culture. We come back to the very definite statement by Montaigne in 1580 that it is not a soul and it is not a 753 body that we are training up; it is a man, and we ought not to divide him into two parts in order to fashion one without the other. There are certain definite points which arise from this report and what has come since. The first is that it is not simply physical fitness but the utility of this fitness in matters like alertness and knowledge and character. Secondly, the campaign of the last three years, as have previous campaigns, has been disappointing because in the public eye and in the eye of those who have taken it up it has been too much a question of mere gymnastics and athletics and physical well-being. Mobility and freedom of movement are now recognised features in the training of a soldier, and that should be so, but there is still an impression in the general mind that it is a mere question of muscle and stiff movement according to order which are represented by physical training. So a good many of us were delighted when we saw the Lucas Tooth Institute in South East London. We saw weedy-looking boys brought here from the distressed areas, fed up and properly looked after, in food and housing, and put into the regular work of this Institute where their exercises were turned into games and developed their zest, their initiative and their enjoyment, and in six months they showed a most remarkable improvement in general wellbeing as well as in physical health and fitness. We have to go out and kill the idea of more dull drill in this revised campaign.
The third point is that there is the danger of standardisation in any scheme that is brought forward, and, however much the President and the authors of the scheme may wish it to take a different form, there must necessarily be a danger of standardisation. The machine must be built up primarily from Whitehall on the foundation of the local education authorities and the orgainsations which already exist, but it is useless to have such a scheme unless there is to be guidance from top to bottom, and the guidance tends in local application to become rules, and then they become standardised, and you get textbooks to which people refer in carrying out any particular scheme, and according to the textbook there are definite rules laid down and standards to be aimed at. The great danger is standardisation with its petrifying tendencies, which stamp out initia- 754 tive. It can only be dealt with by bringing private initiative into the scheme, individual or social, and receiving finance from kindly local authorities, which, with their electorate, the public, must tolerate eccentricity and variation in order to avoid standardisation.
The fourth point is the danger of militarisation. The Spartan ideal is to teach youth to obey without thought and to obey orders literally without regard to changing circumstances. It means loss of initiative, resource and responsibility, and relies on the two motives of patriotism or punishment. Neither of these will in the end be an enduring motive to the ordinary British youth. They will not be mere pawns in the game, mere automata and mere cannon fodder. We must, of course, have discipline and subordination to the common good, and they must be taught. I fear that these have been much neglected in some of the modern movements of education. The difficulty is to keep up that discipline and subordination, which is as essential as the initiative which we want to maintain. Private initiative and resources are essential for efficiency and that must be pointed out to those who may be inclined to be martinets. A substitute for militarisation is leadership. The leaders must be inspired organisers and they must be in touch with the ideas of the young. We want directors and organisers who are more in the 20's than in the 40's or 50's.
Fifthly, the movement to succeed must be linked with the war so that youth may help; and it must be linked with the higher ideals of the human spirit, which is religion in the deepest and broadest sense. The Psalms and the Gospels in the Holy Book are the most adequate expression of the needs and aspirations of the day in this respect. Not enough use is made of these to express to youth the spirit at which we are aiming, and I cannot understand the reluctance of the teaching profession and of Governments to insist that these matters should be directly a part of the equipment of teaching the young.
Sixthly, the medical profession is essential. There must not be simply consultation, on which I rather gathered the President insisted; there must be definite medical supervision. It is as essential as the supervision of engineers to maintain any mechanism in running order. We want the medical man to exclude or 755 restrict the unfit, to avoid overstrain, to advise the inexperienced as to the activities they should choose, to help in the correction of slight defects which can often be done at an early stage, and, not least, to ensure and advertise the practical efficiency of the scheme so that it will give confidence to parents who are anxious about over-strain. In this matter we have the illustration of the recruits' physical development depot of the Army Medical Service which many of us went to see at Canterbury before the war. There we saw the sub-standard recruits who were not up to standard for enlistment. They were sent to the depot having showed various kinds of defects, such as malnutrition, heart weakness, nervousness, flat foot and so on. These were corrected, mostly by remedial training, and then with food, education and morale. The result was miraculous. Of 1,000 of such men in the first year only 66 were discharged as unfit. The average put on 18 lbs. in weight, two inches in chest measurement and three-quarters inch on height, and the improvement in health, well-being and vigour was remarkable.
That is a practical illustration of what can be done, but it must be done under proper medical supervision of the right kind. It must be physiological. It must not be Harley Street supervision. With all due respect to Lord Dawson, whom we recognise as one of the great people in Harley Street, there must be a wider vision. Generally, Harley Street has been brought up to treat disease when it has occurred. We want the new idea of the physiological basis of the human being, and we want to consider the healthy person and to see to what extent the nearly healthy person can be put right. That has been developed very much in the school medical service and the work of public health generally. It should he represented in this House by our new colleague, the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Hill), who is a distinguished professor of physiology. The Government have put him on their Scientific Advisory Committee, which I hope will be consulted in this and other matters. The latest founded medical school in the British Empire, that of Brisbane, has been founded on the new ideas with regard to the healthy person and on the idea that 756 disease is looked upon as a diversion to be corrected. It is a new idea, but it is essential in what we are aiming at to-day. I believe that the Medical Research Council has contributed to some extent with their advice to the Government scheme. I hope that advice will not be neglected. Nutrition is, of course, a primary consideration in all these schemes. There must be an authoritative medical supervisor at the head and suitable medical men and women as local or regional supervisors, with the cooperation of the leading medical institutions.
The seventh, and perhaps most important point, is that every scheme brought forward so far has failed because it has not been made attractive to the persons who were the subjects or the patients of the scheme. It is useless to send horses to the water if you cannot persuade them to drink, and useless to persuade people to take physical training unless they can enter into it heart and soul. Some of us have seen in the "Ashridge Journal" a contribution from the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke), which suggested what seemed to me to be a continuation of the scheme of the Boy Scouts to adolescent life. That appears to many of us as a good idea. And so we have the splendid innovation which was brought into the educational system in this country at Gordonstoun School and which has been adapted in Morayshire and Hertfordshire. The great point about it is that it is not to be regarded as tests which frighten most people off, but tests which every normal boy or girl can pass. These things want to be developed, but it is very difficult to develop them at the moment. The scheme starts with the young bringing forward an idea. They go to a director, who is sympathetic to the young, who says, "Go and develop it on certain lines, and get two or three or a dozen of your own friends to help you. Work out your scheme and then get a definite job to do." This can be of particular use at the present time in connection with the war. This idea of the squads, or service squads, as I think they are called in my own county, is most valuable.
Reports of 1938 show that for the most part:Those who knew the child-population of this country half a century ago could hardly realise that children of to-day belong to the same race.757 I hope we may be able to say the same thing after a few years of this scheme. At the present moment we cannot say that the reports from the recruiting centres are satisfactory.
§ Mr. Tomlinson (Farnworth)
Will the hon. Gentleman give us chapter and verse for that? I have been under the impression, since the war started, that the reports from the recruiting centres have been such that we cannot find any fault with them.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
I am afraid I have occupied the time of the House too long already; perhaps some other hon. Member will deal with that point later. Let this be our message to the young. Remember, first of all, that health is the basis of happiness, attractiveness and efficiency. The rules are elastic, but the elasticity is limited. The end is worth paying for by little sacrifices which become second nature. And so we say to them, Adjust your lives to your circumstances in the light of simple, modern knowledge. Reckon up your deficiencies and petty indulgences as an accountant would your losses, and put them right and keep them right. Health and the joy of life have been for all of us, and are still for the young, largely in each one's power. But we must give them the opportunity and make it attractive by suiting their taste and will.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker (Derby)
I think any President of the Board of Education who came forward in time of peace or war, with proposals for the purposes for which these proposals are put forward, would be justified by the opening words of a circular which the Board issued just a year ago:Social and physical development of boys and girls between the ages of 14 to 20 who have ceased full-time education has for long been neglected in this country.No one who knows the facts could doubt that that is true. We have 3,000,000 boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 18, and I doubt whether much more than 1,000,000 have any opportunity for physical training or exercise of any kind. I do not want to say that we are behind other countries. But the President of the Board of Education mentioned the Finns. When I remember the magnificent men and women I saw in Finland last winter, and remember what I have seen them do year by year in the Olympic games, and 758 the amazing system of physical, intellectual and social development of co-ordinated education for democracy in a dozen different spheres, of which these men and women are the result, then I am very certain that if they can do so much in the 20 short years of their existence, we should have made greater progress during the same time. I am very certain that the Board, a year ago, was right to use the word "neglect." I am certain that every Member of the House desires that that neglect should be ended, and is delighted that the Board is now resolved, in the words of a more recent circular of last June:to give youth welfare its place as a recognised province of education side by side with elementary, secondary and other education.So far as the proposals to-day are aimed at that end, we can give them a warm welcome. It will be remembered that when the proposals were first brought up some of my hon. Friends had certain doubts and pre-occupations. Some of them were afraid the new directorate of the President of the Board of Education would introduce an element of compulsion, and would authorise employers to take very young employés and drill them as though they were in a barrack square. Others were afraid that young factory workers would not have a fair share, and there were others who thought that the new directorate's activities might conflict with the policy which has been set out, that they would inevitably try to do what the local authorities and their youth committees have been set up to do, and that chaos and friction would inevitably result. Others were afraid that the cooperation of the President of the Board with the War Office meant that the War Office was to interfere with education, and that this scheme was to be made some kind of para-military training in disguise, without the honesty to say so, and that there was to be introduced some kind of Berliner system by which Signor Mussolini disgraced his country and the civilisation in which we live. I do not think I go too far if I say that at least some of my hon. Friends asked for a satisfactory answer to these points as a definite condition of their support to these proposals. I hope and believe that what has been said by the President of the Board of Education goes a long way towards allaying the doubts and hesitations which 759 have been felt. It I have understood him aright he gave us the most specific pledge, in his very first answers to his first statement that there was to be no compulsion. He repeated that to-day and said that they are to encourage voluntary training for those who want it. I am sure that is right. There is evidence in Germany—we are accustomed to think that all the people want to be regimented all the time, all the day—
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
I do not know whether the hon. Member rightly understood what the Minister said as to whether the scheme is to be voluntary. If the Fisher Act is to be put into operation, the two hours a week in respect of physical training presumably will not be obligatory but compulsory.
§ Mr. Ramsbotham
I think the hon. Member meant that, pending the introduction of the day continuation school classes, physical training was to be on a voluntary basis. I do not think it meant that he wished to give the impression that he would object to compulsory education in the sense that the Fisher Act involved compulsion.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Of course, that is entirely what I meant. It is within the framework of the Education Act and of the education arrangements which, I hope, we shall have in due course, but not to-day. In regard to people of 18, I recall what I have seen in Germany. I have never come away from anything with such a sense of boredom, futility and frustration as when I saw a dozen Germans playing compulsory lawn tennis in Berlin. That is the only time I ever left the sports ground with a feeling of being definitely saddened by what I had seen. Compulsion of that kind definitely demoralises. I hope that what was said by the President about factory workers will give full satisfaction to my hon. Friends. I hope that he intends that those who work in the factories shall be given some time for physical recreation and for play in working hours, if possible, and not at the fag end of the day when they are too tired to benefit.
I come to the objection made to the new directorate that it will inevitably 760 overlap with the local authorities and the local youth committees. The President said in his statement quite plainly that there was to be no departure from policy, and he repeated that in everything he wants to do he intends to co-operate to the full with the local education authorities and the voluntary bodies. If I understand the position, the new directorate is an executive agent in all this work, and is not a super authority or a kind of autonomous authority such as the late National Fitness Council. It consists of civil servants under orders who have a definite task to help the local education authorities and the voluntary bodies to do the things which they cannot do themselves. It is common ground that these local authorities and voluntary bodies have been very hampered in their work because they have lost their men. Previously these things were disasters and "acts of God." The local authority could do nothing about it, and neither a local authority nor a voluntary body could go to the War Office and say, "Give me back my men." The men, also, did not want to be exempted because they were afraid that they would be damaged in their subsequent professional careers if they had not done service in the Army. There was a problem with which only the Board could deal. The President was quite right to take it up and establish a body—I do not care whether it was called a directorate or not, although perhaps that is an unfortunate word—to work with the War Office and to get people coming back as they were released.
If I have understood rightly the function of this so-called directorate, it is that, within their sphere and up to the age of 18, the War Office will have no power to interfere with local authorities and to tell them what kind of work they have to do or, indeed, to interfere with education in any way. I hope that the President and the Parliamentary Secretary will both watch this matter very closely and see that, within the Board's proper department, there is very strict control of everything that is done. Some of my hon. Friends are anxious that this should not become military or militarist in any way. A year or two ago a group of scientists wrote a book on physical fitness, and they said in their introduction that the shadow of war seemed to awaken a most remarkable interest in the problem of national 761 fitness. It is a pity that to-day, as a quarter of a century ago, it takes war or the shadow of war to induce the Government to do something about national fitness.
We think that peace-time life is as important as war-time life, and we hope that when the war is over peace-time life will last much longer. If we thought that a para- or pre-military training of people of 18 years of age would help us to win the war more easily, we should swallow it and agree to it. If we have boys who are physically and mentally alert, well trained and proud of their bodies, it is likely that the Army training they will require will be shortened. Even from the military point of view, it would, I think, be a mistake to put them under the control of that Service and give them Army discipline and technique and Army ideas. That kind of treatment can actually kill initiative and self-reliance at that age. I hope it is being started not so much with the idea of what can be got out of it during the war as for what will be done when the war is over. This is a long term piece of work. It is not military ideals that we require; let us make the best citizens we can, and we shall find that we have made the best nation.
To us, now as always, fitness starts with feeding. I hope that the President and the Parliamentary Secretary will see to it that no young children shall go hungry at school and that no persons shall ever be offered gymnastic exercises when all they want is food. I welcome what the President said about the Fisher Act, but physical training must he an integral part of a general system of education. I remember at the time of the Fisher Art 20 years ago a Labour Party Memorandum which said that young men and women of the future would benefit very largely from the continued education schools. Under the Fisher Act, they have become the greatest training for democracy that the world has ever seen. We do not want to go back to the Fisher Act as an alternative to raising the school age. We must raise the school age, and I hope that we shall not start at 15. We must have continued education, and I hope we shall not stop at eight hours. The President said this morning that physical training will form part of what he intends to do later on in developing general continued education of all kinds.
762 Bearing that in mind, I welcome what was said in Circular 1516 to education authorities about the social activities that local authorities could encourage. They are all of very special importance at the present time, as is anything that will give profitable and healthy occupation in their leisure time to our young people in the very difficult war days which we confront. With boys gambling in the London Tubes night by night, anything that will occupy their minds is urgently required. To-day we are talking principally about the physical training side. That, as the President rightly said, is a long-term piece of work. I believe, as was said by the hon. Member who spoke last, that many things proposed by the National Fitness Council will have to be done, and I wish we could now start a physical training college.
I sometimes wonder whether on the physical side the Board of Education works on wholly sound lines. When I say that, I mean I wonder whether they have not exaggerated the importance of gymnastic exercises. In the circular to which I have referred it was said that systematic bodily development is a physiological need during all the years of growth and it is provided most effectively by suitable gymnastic training. I do not want to under-estimate the importance of gymnastic training. Following the example of the Secretary of State for India and other eminent persons I myself still try to do a few gymnastic exercises every clay. However, I think for the President's present purpose games, swimming, walking and other exercises are just as important as gymnastics. I remember that the new Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, once said that he had two doctors, his left leg and his right.
I am sure that the encouragement might he tremendous if the scheme were organised correctly. I hope that in that sphere the President will call as much as he can upon the experience gained by the National Fitness Council. I also suggest that he might take into his employ, if he can get him, Captain Ellis, the Secretary of the body, of whose knowledge and ability I formed a very high opinion during the years that I had to work with him. I suggest to the President that for his present purpose and for the long-term work which he is planning he might be able to get a 763 bigger result out of what is sometimes called field and track athletics, such as jumping, running and throwing, than he can get from any other form of exercises. I do not say that because it happens to be a special exercise of my own, but if you go to any well-run sports club, you will find, per acre and per pound spent, bigger results than are got from any other form of sport. Running and jumping are the best forms of exercise. They are a great aid to many other forms of exercises, including games themselves, and teachers think they help to form character perhaps more than other forms of games.
I hope that the President will take that suggestion into consideration, especially if he is going to carry through that which he suggested, namely, the institution of a scheme for a badge. Track and field exercises are very well suited for a badge scheme, especially if the badge is to be anything real to those who are offered it. The President was good enough to invite suggestions about badges. I have been concerned for a great part of my life with badges of one kind or another, and I spent 18 months in the National Fitness Council helping to work out a national scheme. I came across some suggestions to which I attach real importance. I think the suggestion of badges will be of great assistance to him. One only has to look at the scout movement to see what they have done with badges. A badge must be worth while; one that is given too easily will not succeed. A runner remembers very little of a race which he wins easily. The race which he remembers with pride is that in which he had to make his maximum effort whether he won or lost. A badge that is cheap is not wanted. It must require real training. It must ask them to make a real effort of their body, mind and will. It must give them a sense of real physical well-being and power which they had not got before; it must give them a sense of achievement, something they could not do before. Secondly, a badge ought to have two standards, one for the ordinary performers and the other for the people with greater gifts. If at all possible, it should be linked up with country camping. I wish we had far more camps than the Government made two years ago. In the life of every school child we ought to try and make the beauty and knowledge of the 764 countryside a part of their experience. If that were linked with the badge it would be a splendid thing. In this sphere, as the hon. and expert Member has just said, the authorities of Gordonstoun School and in Morayshire have made most valuable experience. I know something about them and I am sure that there are real lessons to be learned.
I was very glad to hear that the President is not going to plunge into any paper scheme without giving it full consideration. It would pay him a thousand times to make experiments and to see how the badge schemes work, trying it with different sections of the community and in different places. In that way he will be able to get a scheme which will work. I have tried to be practical. I end by asking the Parliamentary Secretary if he will be good enough to confirm my understandings on the four points of difficulty which I have mentioned. The success of this scheme depends upon two things—money and the men we get to work it. I hope the Government are not going to skimp the money. The National Fitness Council were given £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 and it was just enough to let them see the vastness of the task they had to perform. I hope the Government will get the right men out of the Army. They are not only the certificated and physical training teachers; they are also club organisers, games leaders and different kinds of people who, as volunteers or paid agents, have shown genius in inspiring and organising boys and girls. If the Government will get these men and women who bring to their work not only technical knowledge, but human understanding and a passionate ambition to serve the welfare of the rising generation, and if they persuade the local authorities to appoint such people as welfare officers to assist their hard-pressed directors of education, I believe that the Government will be able to get out of their present proposals, within the framework of continued education of which the President speaks, really good results.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
In his speech to-day the President of the Board of Education said a good deal to overcome some of the criticisms that might otherwise have been made of this scheme when he originally brought it forward. To some considerable extent it is a different scheme to the one which he explained previously and no doubt he is 765 taking advantage of views which have been expressed to him in the meantime. I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) in hoping that the proposals of the Fisher Act are not to be taken as a substitute for the raising of the school age. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with this point in his reply, and will make it clear that nothing of the sort is intended. We need to train and mobilise all the powers that we have. I am inclined to think that we are emphasising too much the purely physical side of education in connection with this scheme. I wholeheartedly support the views which have just been expressed with regard to the nature of the physical education that should be given. Do not let it be confined to gymnasia and things of that sort. Let the games, swimming, walking, and other things which my hon. Friend, with his great knowledge, spoke of, play their part to the full. I notice that the President of the Board of Education the other day said—and he repeated the phrase to-day:Some nervous and suspicious persons complain that in trying to improve the physique of young people I am trying to militarise the nation.There were such people, and one was no less a person than a noble Lord who previously held the position of President of the Board of Education. Perhaps I might quote a passage from an article which appeared in the journal "Education." It says:Lord Eustace Percy, speaking from the fastnesses Ring's College at Newcastle upon-Tyne, would I appear to have a low opinion of the scheme of the present President of the Board of Education for the development of physical training. He girds the attempt to establish physical training for adolescents without direct relation with other forms of education. He associates the argument for physical training with preparation for military service. He urges that: 'We ourselves recognised in 1918 that day continuation schools were the necessary backbone of any scheme of compulsory welfare.'Again:One half-day's compulsory attendance per week at even the most makeshift classes offers a better basis for physical training than a futile attempt to pick up voluntary trainees from the streets.I think the Minister will appreciate that he is not entitled to describe a former President of the Board of Education as a "nervous and suspicious person." No doubt what he said to-day will help to 766 reassure the noble Lord. As we all know, there have been during recent years a number of attempts to deal with the various sides of education. There was, first of all, the National Fitness Council, which dealt with the fitness side alone, and which failed largely because it did not work with local education authorities. Then, we had the National Youth Committee, which took as its sphere the whole man, physical, mental and moral. I understand that 129 of the 140 local education authorities have already considered and reported on the proposals that they would like to bring forward in connection with that. It would be interesting to know why that body does not meet oftener. I believe that it last met somewhere about June. It ought to play a considerable part in connection with this scheme. On top of this, we had the Ministry of Labour's scheme for young workers, which, again, deals with the three aspects, mental, physical and moral.
Now we have this scheme, which is a step backwards, because it deals with the physical side alone. No doubt, the physical side is emphasised because of the necessity which confronts us now. I am glad that the President of the Board of Education to-day made it clear what he had in mind. I feel that it is unwise to concentrate too much on the physical side. There is the question of whether it should be voluntary or compulsory. I do not quite agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Derby on this point, because if the scheme is voluntary the people who require the training most will not come forward, and will not get it. The people who are keenest and have the most understanding of the need for physical training will be delighted to have the opportunity; but the people who do not understand the necessity need it Quite as much, if not more. They will be missed until the compulsory part of the scheme is brought into operation. This scheme should be compulsory, just as we have compulsion in ordinary education and in connection with the Army. The Minister has referred to the famous recommendation in 1917 of the Ministry of Reconstruction to raise the age to 15, and then to 16, and to provide part-time training in day-time continuation schools for boys and girls between the ages of 14 to 18 for about eight hours a week. It is a pathetic thing that since the last war we have not carried out any of those re- 767 commendations. It took this war to put an end to the feeble attempt which had been made to raise the school age partially to 15. I hope that we shall not allow such a state of affairs to occur again.
I welcome whole-heartedly the Minister's proposal that the Fisher Act should be put into operation for physical education for even two hours a week, but that is not enough. I should like to see something much nearer eight hours provided now. I believe that the trouble that he will have in operating the two-hours-a-week training will not be so very much less than the trouble he would have in operating an eight-hours-a-week scheme. The Minister said in his speech the other day that if he attempted to put the provisions of the Fisher Act into operation in full, the result would be a complete "flop." I do not know why. He said that we have not the teachers. But the teachers are available; they are in the Army. It is possible to get them out, just as he is getting out the teachers for the physical side of the work. If he had the authority of the Government to do so, he could get oyer that difficulty. He wants not only the teachers, but the club leaders and youth leaders, who are equally available. He said that we have not the schools or the equipment. But much of the best work which has been done in the educational system of this country has been done with very inadequate equipment and in centres by no means up to the mark. We certainly, if we set our minds to it, could provide the necessary equipment. The President of the Board of Education said that he would have to take certain steps to provide means for physical training which were to be used for only two hours per week. If he has them available for that period, I should have thought that it would be a very easy proposition to go on using the same premises for something substantially more than two hours per week. The further argument, no doubt, to he used, is that people cannot be spared from the work which they are doing at the present time on munitions and war work of different kinds. If that kind of educational work is to be carried on for the young people now, it will have to be in the daylight.
The President of the Board of Education quoted examples of the number of 768 evening classes that were being carried on. I do not know how many of these are in London and in other parts of the country to which particular attention is being directed by the enemy at the present time. Surely, it is clear that education must take place in daylight, and that that is an argument for putting into operation the sections of the Fisher Act and having day continuation for the whole man and not merely for the physical side of him. I would like to quote, as an example of the kind of thing that we do not want to get in our education, a definition given by Hitler of his ideas of the sort of youth he wants to see trained under his youth scheme. He says—and it is worth remembering in any discussion of the future—A violently active, dominating, intrepid, brutal youth—that is what I am after. Youth must be all those things. I want to see once more in its eyes the gleam of pride and the independence of the beast of prey. I will have no intellectual training. Knowledge is ruin to my young men. I would have them learn only what takes their fancy. But one thing they must learn—self-command. They shall learn to overcome the fear of death, under the severest tests.No one in this country, and certainly not the President of the Board of Education, has the slightest idea of trying to build up that type of person. We do not want to see beasts; we want to be the masters of beasts wherever they are in the world. We want to see our young people trained to be good soldiers, sailors, and airmen certainly—there are magnificent examples of such categories—but we want them also to be good citizens of this country and of the world.
§ Mr. Tomlinson (Farnworth)
When I heard the statement of the President of the Board of Education on the last occasion this matter was discussed, I was perturbed, and I am prepared to say straight away that a good deal of that perturbation has gone as a result of his statement to-day, although I am not yet altogether satisfied that he is going along the right lines to achieve the object which he has in view. I will give my reasons for saying so. It is of vital importance, at this stage particularly, that we should not make another mistake. Everybody realises that a vast mistake was made when the Physical Fitness Council was set up, with its objectives and with its limited approach. As a consequence of failing to obtain the support, or even the 769 notice of local education authorities, it failed miserably. There is no use in burking the fact and attempting to hide it. It was looked upon as being something which educationists, at any rate those with whom I am familiar, just brushed aside. Whatever else may happen, I do not want that to happen to anything that the President of the Board of Education is setting up with regard to this service. That is why I deplore the fact that this particular aspect has been taken right away from the Service of Youth, and is being placed, irrespective of what the Minister is saying now, in a central position. It is receiving the spotlight at the moment, and therefore it is central. The placing of physical education in the spotlight means of necessity that everybody associates it with the position in which we find ourselves. In view of the fact that physical training is placed in the forefront in this way at a time when we are at war, there springs up immediately in the minds of the people, the idea of training for war purposes.
I confess that I still feel some perturbation on account of the fact that this question is being linked up with the War Office. I understand the necessity for people engaged in teaching physical training in our schools being got out of the Army and for co-operating with the War Office until that has been done, but what need is there for the appointment of a liaison officer of the War Office in connection with the education department simply because the release of certain men from the Army is wanted in order to carry on what is considered to be essential work at this time? That has me beaten. Why should it be necessary, when men have been taken into the Army and it is realised that a mistake has been made, because there is something else for them to do, to have a liaison officer in connection with the War Office in order to accomplish your purpose in that connection? The explanation might be satisfactory to a person who is prepared merely to look at the subject, but it is not satisfactory to a person who is prepared to look into it and see what is behind it.
I am naturally suspicious, and I will tell the House why. I do not believe that the War Office is concerned the slightest hit about the development of the whole man; the War Office outlook is determined by its attitude to the physical man. I 770 therefore believe we are making a mistake at this time by placing this matter in the forefront, and particularly by having a liaison officer and connection with the War Office. Why the War Office? Have none of these physical training experts gone into the Royal Air Force or the Navy, or is it that we ought to associate our physical training only with the War Office? We have all been paying tribute to the gallant men of the Air Force, who are, in the main, the products of our secondary schools and elementary schools, and have been brought up under a system which has, to some extent, been denounced this morning because it has not produced all that we wanted. If it has not produced something a great deal better than that which is behind this scheme, then I say "God help us."
It would appear from the speech of the President of the Board of Trade, and from the contributions which have followed, that we were dealing only with men. Is it because of association with the War Office? Cannot women who have been engaged in this physical training be usefully employed in the training of these young people between 14 and 18? Surely girls who have had that training come into the picture. Cannot they be utilised? It is because I see all this cutting right across what our local education authorities have set out to do that I am not prepared to back it wholeheartedly. I know some people see things through rose-coloured spectacles and know all about the advantages which would have come to us if the Fisher Act had come into operation years ago. Why have they not been put into operation? It is because the F.B.I. has been stronger than Parliament and industrialists in this country have never been prepared to allow children to go out part-time and receive their training. Does the hon. Gentleman imagine that at this time there will be no difficulty in getting young people form 14 to 18 years of age to do physical training for two hours a week in their employers' time? If so, he does not know the employers.
just over 12 months ago, before the war began, we had to fight on behalf of cotton employés in Lancashire with regard to the Children and Young Persons Act and the number of hours children worked. Lancashire will not let its children off for two hours, nor will any other place where industrialists place industry 771 before the health of the children. The work that has been done under the Fisher Act is a test of the willingness of the employer to put into operation the Clauses of the Act which the Minister now says are the backbone of his scheme. What can be done and what has been done? The Youth Service committees have not had a great deal of time in which to do much work and a great deal remains to be done. When you talk about encouraging thousands of people I can give you the name of a little town in Lancashire where 83 per cent. of the children who have left school are in attendance at the evening institute and receive physical training there. Physical training, as I understand it, means something more than "physical jerks." Why should not football be regarded as physical training? I look upon it as being perhaps the best physical training, and a word to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to remove the Entertainments Duty on certain forms of football, might be an encouragement in that direction.
Why are we short of the things necessary in order to accomplish the work that is to be done? I once heard someone say, "If you make two speeches in two successive years at a conference the secretary of that particular conference will answer you out of your own mouth by quoting what you said on a previous occasion." We have heard a good deal about the lack of facilities and the shortage of necessary equipment and I feel like sympathising with Major Parker, who was with the Board of Education as physical training inspector and was seconded to the London Command for physical training purposes. Now he has been brought back. For two years before he was seconded he visited local education authorities trying to convince them that they were spending too much money on equipment. It was the policy of the Board at that time. Now physical training comes into its own because there is a war and because we want to train young people for that purpose.
We in Lancashire are attempting to work out a scheme and we do not want it interfered with, as far as our committee is concerned. We want to get hold of the children at night if we cannot get them in the daytime. Every place is not suffering as London is suffering; if so, it would be impossible to carry on anything. Why should not the children have something 772 of the club atmosphere, through their local authorities? You have local authorities, voluntary associations and the Board of Education working in conjunction now, I understand. This morning somebody stated that they did not know much about the Board of Education's work. Well, the Board of Education's civil servants are not there to help a local authority. They are there to carry out the policy laid down by the heads of the Board and they see to it that money is spent in the way they desire. Otherwise it is not spent at all. Not once but many times has that been proved. Somebody said that the Board of Education were always prepared to recognise a grant for classes where folk-dancing was taught. We wanted to introduce ballroom dancing because we thought it had a real educational value in the present circumstances. But no, we were told we could not do it, and now we have to resort to subterfuge. We give two lessons—but perhaps I had better not tell the hon. Gentleman about it.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Ede)
When my hon. Friend says "We" want to do this to whom does he refer?
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I am speaking of the Lancashire County Education Authority and its constituent bodies, that is, the Part III authorities who submit their schemes to the Lancashire County Authority. The point I want to make is that we cannot afford to let people imagine that this is linked up with a desire to prepare young people for dying. I am not denying that physical exercise is of value, but I question whether it has fallen back compared with other forms of development. I believe that young people are getting as much physical training as mental development and I would deplore any rearrangement of the curriculum in that respect. It is not there that a mistake has been made. I would emphasise the point that I do not want this scheme used as a substitute when the war is over if continuation classes go on. When the war is over, it will be said that the time is not opportune for putting into operation the Act of 1936, and that continuation class education will be continued after the age of 14 rather than after the age of 15 or 16. I submit that the children have already won the right to a longer time at school, and that the enjoyment of that right is postponed 773 only until the war is over, and I do not want any substitutes for that right. Have continuation classes if you like, but only after the children have reached the higher school-leaving age.
Finally, I would say that by encouraging local authorities and seeking to get them to promote schemes rather than impose schemes upon them we shall do more for the success of this service of youth than by ally other method. It seems strange that we should now take out one particular section of education and place it on a pedestal, and have it associated with the War Office in a time of war. That has brought suspicion upon the scheme, particularly in the minds of the mothers of this country. I have always found that whatever success has attended evening institutes has been dependent to a large extent upon the encouragement given in the home. This scheme means work. So many people imagine that it is only necessary to set up the scheme and that it does not need to be worked. The secret of success in any scheme is work. That 83 per cent. of the children are at-ten cling evening institutes in the little town which I have mentioned, is due to the fact that the committee have been prepared to go out and get the youngsters interested, and to give them what they want rather than what they think they need.
The Members of this House, like the members of many education committees, are getting on in years. Most of us certainly are getting on in years and we "kid" ourselves that we know what is best for the children. We may "kid" ourselves, but we do not "kid" them. We have to give them what they want if we wish them to come, and we have to guide them and not lead them. I am not in favour of the development of leaders, nor do I believe in the badge system. It is an attempt to import something into our system from outside. I do not agree that every time an individual goes to the Continent and sees something that appeals to him we ought to have it grafted upon our education system. Look at the badges of the Boy Scouts, running from the bottom of the coat to the top, a badge for almost every day in the week and every week in the year. It is not badges you want, but interest in the human element. These local education authorities, working in conjunction with voluntary organisations, will, if given the opportunity and given encouragement, 774 do the work they have been asked to do, but if it is associated in any way with the War Office I believe it will be killed before it is started.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
I do not want to stand between the House and other speakers for more than a few minutes, and I feel a little nervous in speaking on this subject when I have been so recently associated with the Department. I share the uneasiness of the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) about the badges movement, but if I am critical, I hope my hon. Friends opposite will appreciate the fact that I want to get as much out of this scheme as possible, and I hope that my criticism will be wholly constructive. I share the hon. Member's uneasiness for two or three specific reasons. When the first announcement was made there was considerable opposition on this side of the House. I welcomed the co-operation of the War Office, but apparently I welcomed it for wrong reasons. If it was a question of getting the organisers and the teachers back from the Army, we did not need to set up a committee, and if it was a question of getting from the War Office buildings for these clubs and classes we did not need to set up a committee. We were doing it a year ago, and the War Office were most helpful in assisting us to get the clubs for youth purposes.
A list has been made of the teachers called up, and I understand that release orders have been issued for 50. I am all in favour of those 50 coming back, but whether they are organisers or teachers in schools, or both, they are coming back to the main job. I have heard it said—Lord Dawson was one who said it most eloquently—that this is a question which must be left to the men themselves, because there is many a club leader whom the boys would much rather see serving in the Army and coming back to them afterwards. They prefer that he should have taken his part in the war than that he should have stayed behind, because the man who has come back, with his experiences and perhaps with many stories to tell, is a hero to these boys.
In my opinion, what has happened is that the physical training side of the Board has been strengthened. I am absolutely in favour of that, but I want to 775 put things on their right basis. I do not think it will worry the local education authorities at all—I rather hoped it would, for another reason; but this is simply a strengthening of the physical education side of the Board. Excellent people have been brought in, and I do not quarrel with that at all, because I am glad to see some of them there. Certain people are also being released. For the rest the President was cautious. He said they were investigating the badge scheme. I am in favour of going as far as my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) and trying out experiments. But what does investigation mean? Does it mean merely looking into new types of projects? I have here the various groupings under the present badge scheme—swimming, jumping, javelin-throwing, the 100 yards, the 2 miles and the 5-mile walk. I understand there is a conception that we can enlarge the idea beyond the purely physical aspect to embrace a variety of projects, and that is all very good, but could not the Board also give some help to good schemes whether they are being run at a school or college or by one of the big voluntary organisations? The practical experience to be gained by investigating the badge idea would be all to the good. I am glad that the President has turned down the question of a Commissioner of Youth. I do not believe you are ever going to have a Youth Movement, as such—one big, national Youth Movement. I say that after some reflection. I do not believe that is the way to do the work. I should like to see a series of Youth Movements gradually being integrated into the educational structure of the country and transforming the structure of the educational system. We do not think in terms of purely schooling when we have this much wider conception.
I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary would also make quite clear what the President meant by the possible implementation of the physical training side of the Fisher Act. He is talking obviously of something which cannot be done to-day or to-morrow, but which we hope will be done as soon as possible. What would that amount to? What is his idea? I have always had the view that in some form or other all our schemes now must be working towards the bringing into effect of the Fisher Act, but this is a 776 little bit new. I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary could enlarge on that point. How do you bring into effect that aspect alone? Do you release boys for, say, a couple of hours a week for a wide conception of physical training? It would not be only physical training. There would, no doubt, be a regular medical inspection and probably a glass of milk, if milk is still about, and some careful system of physical training, possibly relating to the kind of work they are doing. If they are shop boys or shop girls, that is different from coal mining. I wonder what precisely he had in mind. I am very glad to hear that since last year the expenditure of local education authorities has trebled and that there is an increased number of voluntary units now in existence. That means that the local education authorities and voluntary societies have received a stimulus during the last year.
Conditions in Great Britain to-day are utterly different from a year ago, or even six months ago. The coast line is to a very large extent not in use. Camping is becoming less possible. Even the exploitation of the possibilities of the Morayshire badge is very much reduced because of war conditions. During these last three months what is the most significant tiling that has happened? I would put it a little differently from the way the President put it, but it amounts to much the same thing. I would not put it in the form of character, intelligence and physical training, but every boy has to learn some skill or trade which brings in the educational machinery. If he wants some form of physical exercise, which includes good food, regular inspection, contact with the countryside, he wants companionship, and never more so than in these dark nights. The thing that has come out of the last three or four months is something quite significant in the history of the Youth Movement. A missing link has now been supplied by the idea of service. We have talked about service for many years, but now we are in the presence of a national call. The net result is that these young people have not only joined in large numbers air defence cadet units, scouts and clubs and the rest, but they have also formed civil defence cadet units. This is the most interesting aspect, to my mind, and it is actually happening in three or four counties, where Service Squads have been started.
777 Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that I am whole-heartedly in favour of all that the President has said. I am very much in favour of the way he is tackling the work and agree that it is no use having head-lines and stunts, but that you have to show solid work. The scheme, however, must be made attractive and an appeal has to be made that boys will have something hard, some stern call put before them. In that way the appeal will be much greater and stronger than it would otherwise be. I like the idea of using the motive power of service to its fullest extent. I believe we may get something out of it after the war. These things will develop. They are the growing points, and if we can get hold of them now and develop them we shall do the right thing and build now the sort of tradition that this country is used to having.
With regard to the War Office, I thought that when the President mentioned that there was to be a liaison with it he was thinking in terms of releasing a few buildings and instructors, but we can do that without this structure. I thought he meant that we should have to have in this country before long a system of pre-military training. I happen to be in favour of that, but I believe it should start at 17 and not at 14. One's view changes about this, and I have been thinking a great deal about it. When out of office one sees the mistakes one has made and finds time to look back and to see better lines of development. I have come to the conclusion that if we are to face the totalitarian countries we have to this extent to imitate them. We have a democratic faith. There are thousands of people aging into adulthood at 20 with no conception of what it means to be a part of that democratic faith. Young men in the Air Force from the secondary schools have distinguished themselves in an amazing way. I do not know that that is to be wondered at, for the secondary school training in this country is as good as will be found in any country, and most of them have had that training between 14 and 17. They do not finish at 14. Between 14 and 17 they have bodies that can respond quickly, as they have to in a Spitfire or a Hurricane. I do not believe, however, that we can get the 778 same numbers from the 1,500,000 young men between 14 and 20. They are the problem which has to be tackled in this scheme. I hope that the Minister of Labour will shortly give some help and release them.
I believe, however, that the subtle change is not at 16 or 18, but at 17, and that at 17 boys do not want to be treated as Scouts as people in clubs are often treated. They then become aware of new things. They then become little men. They are much more interested in a form of free military training, which includes musketry, map reading, signalling, local geography, and such like, and with such training they will go more readily into the Home Guard and Civil Defence units. Indeed, I am informed on the highest authority that their training could be cut very materially if they had this previous experience. I am not in favour of a militarised educational system. There is an obvious desire among young men about the age of 17 to do something different from those between the ages of 14 to 17. It must be recognised that there is an important physical and psychological difference in their growth. Good luck to the contact with the War Office if it helps to release buildings and teachers, and I hope it will also be used to work out some system of pre-military training for those over 17, perhaps not now, but in the near future.
I cannot believe that at this moment, when the British Empire is engaged in total and universal war for its existence, we should have young people listlessly and aimlessly walking the streets at night, as I have seen them doing in the North country. Therefore, we must press on with this work, and I hope the President of the Board of Education will bear in mind that there is a novel problem presented by shelters. It will need very quick and perhaps drastic action. I know the Commissioners have various problems to deal with, but may I ask the President or the Parliamentary Secretary, or someone at the Board, to take over this London problem? There are hundreds of thousands of young people between 14 and 18 who are sheltering at night. I have seen some of them night after night playing a round of nap, or whatever it may be, in the shelters. At the moment we are only beginning to face up to this problem. Could not we get people to 779 look after these shelters and arrange for social welfare during the winter months? I have had applications made to me on this subject, and I do not know where to pass them on. I do not know whether I should approach the Board, Admiral Evans or the hon. Lady the Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) for financial assistance for this new type of shelter life. In conclusion, I would again congratulate the President of the Board of Education upon taking this step forward.
§ Mr. Brooke (Lewisham, West)
I have listened throughout to this Debate, and it seems to me that I take a somewhat different view of the matter from some hon. Members. That may be because, I believe, I am the youngest Member who has spoken so far. Perhaps I may take the House back to the opening speech of the President of the Board of Trade. While he was making it, I was applying in my mind three tests which I felt the scheme which he was adumbrating ought to satisfy, if it were to be worthy of Parliament. The first was, how far and how fast will the scheme go to improve the quality of the British people, not merely in physique but in what the hon. Member opposite called the development of the whole man or the whole personality. The second test was, will it do the utmost possible to help us in winning the war. Thirdly, will it provide an answer that will resound round the whole world to those who are alleging that Britain merely lives to preserve a past and not to create the future.
I think the House will agree that the scheme, if it is to satisfy these tests, must bear evidence of freshness, and of faith that it represents a might which is irresistible. Those are qualities which the Prime Minister has outstandingly contributed to the national cause by his speeches these last four months. The President's plan must be relevant to the war, so that it catches up every bit of enthusiasm for war service and guides it to the highest use. Lastly, the scheme must appeal direct to the boys and girls of this country, as an hon. Member said. Most boys and girls are dimly aware, although they would not dream of putting it in this way, that modern civilisation somehow stunts them, and they are waiting to be shown the way through the bric-a-brac to qualify themselves better to mould this world, 780 their world, a great deal nearer to their hearts' desire.
Judged by those tests, I feel bound to record a measure of disappointment with the President's speech. I believe he regards me as a critic of his in this matter, but I hope he will recognise that I am criticising nothing that he has done. All that he has done seems to me to be good, but it is not enough and is not happening nearly fast enough. I should like to ask the President a straight question, to find out from him how many people under the age of 40 he has actually consulted in drafting his proposals. The President spoke of the badge scheme. I have here his pronouncement of 22nd August, in which he said:The new directorate will have as one of its immediate tasks to examine … the question of some form of county badge."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd August, 1940; col. 1471, Vol. 364.]Now, seven or eight weeks later, he says that he is "investigating the possibilities of a badge scheme." I feel sympathetic towards the plea of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) who urged that these investigations should go on far more speedily. I am told that the authorities of Gordonstoun School, which has been quoted more than once in this Debate, conducted a demonstration scheme early last month in Wales to show the possibilities of training leaders on county badge lines. I am told that other departments sent representatives to watch that experiment, but that nobody from the Board of Education paid a visit. Why not? It would be a lamentable thing if the idea got abroad that the county badge plan, in which many people are interested, is one of which the Board itself is somehow innately suspicious. It would be lamentable if the idea spread that the Board was afraid of associating itself too closely with something which was already in limited spheres proving itself so great a success that it may revolutionise large parts of the educational system of the country. I do not know whether the Board will be able to conduct its own experiments, or to assist in these other experiments which have been mentioned, quickly enough to take advantage of them in order to incorporate their lessons in its own scheme. I hope so. But the county badge scheme depends on leadership. It is bound up with leadership—that is fundmental—and I think the 781 House will agree with me that the main experience of the Board of Education lies and has always lain not in leadership but in administration. There is that contrast which makes me anxious, when I see the vastness of the work to be done.
I have heard a fear expressed that the Board's plan may develop into a softer form of the pre-Hitler German sports badge, but the boys and girls of this country do not want softness. They want something more rigorous than other nations. Softness of every kind must he eliminated, and to that end the Board must show itself ready to alienate if need he any existing interests in the educational world. The Prime Minister told us on 13th May that he had nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. I wish that I had not gained the feeling up till now that the Board of Education is inclined to say to authorities, voluntary organisations and to the country generally that in its new plan it is so anxious not to offend anybody that it will promise to offer nothing which would cause blood, toil, tears or sweat. Those are what the boys and girls of this country want to give. Unless they are granted the opportunity of giving them they themselves, the most important people in the whole matter, will let us know their disappointment.
I wish the Government and the House would throw away caution entirely. They should seek, train, encourage, and give freedom to the leaders of this new movement. I am not afraid to call it a movement. I have my fears of what will happen. A physical training plan will prosper exceedingly in some areas, in those areas where the local authorities, the local youth committees and outstanding individuals are keen and energetic. In other areas it will mortify, as we have seen other educational movements mortify. It will mortify for lack of leadership—leadership which the Prime Minister cannot be the only man in this country capable of giving. I am far from being wedded to the idea of a Commissioner for Youth, but I was sorry to hear the Minister pushing away that proposal almost with ridicule. I am not sure that he will be able to accomplish what he is aiming at without some such appointments—I say "appointments" deliberately—as those later on, because there are two gaps that seem to me to be not yet bridged. One is the gap between his intentions and the slack or 782 unimaginative local youth committee. The other is the gap between the way in which the Board of Education talks—and, indeed, the way in which local education authorities talk—and the way that boys and girls think. If the Strangers' Gallery had been filled to-day with young men and women under the age of 25, 90 per cent. of what they have heard here would have had for them an unrealistic sound; much of what has been said would have seemed to them to be definitely patronising. I suppose that I am still enough of a boy myself to hate to hear boys patronised. I do not think that the Minister will disagree with me—I do not think any Member of the House will disagree with me—that there exists that gap between the language of age and the language of youth. The language of age is cautious, careful, well-chosen. The language of youth is free, unguarded, vigorous. The task of getting one to understand the other is a very grievous one. The ability to do that is possessed by few. That is why I am not at all sure that he will not need before long to appoint those Commissioners—independent men, who will be able to interpret the policy of the Government to the boys and girls of the country.
The Board of Education has its part to play—I am not minimising that. It has its part to play in making certain that time is given to boys and girls for physical training and physical exercise—time off from the school curriculum, and time off from industry. It must provide the medical supervision upon which the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) laid stress. It must secure premises. It must, so far as it can, free from other less relevant duties the potential leaders that we require for this. But the real leaders, whether they are to be found at the Board, among Commissioners, in this House, or outside, must insist on one thing. They must insist upon the purpose of it all—to help make this British civilisation greater yet, the greatest that the world has ever seen. Nowadays, day by day, the landmarks of our past in stone and brick are crashing down. We are being bereaved of them. But how little does that matter if, at the same time, and always, we are making sure that to-morrow's generations of our people will be better than to-day's and yesterday's.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Ede)
I am sure that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education can feel reasonably gratified with the course that this Debate has taken. When he announced the scheme at the end of August there were some misgivings felt by certain Members, but we have heard to-day from more than one that some of these misgivings have been very considerably reduced by the statement that has been made. I will first deal with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) in suggesting that in this scheme we were cutting across the work of the local education authorities. That is the very last thing that the President desires to do, and, in fact, it is something which we are not statutorily competent to perform. I would remind my hon. Friend of the very limited function that the Board of Education performs in the education system of the country. Our powers are defined in the first Section of the Education Act, 1921, as follows:The Board of Education shall continue to be the Department of Government charged with the superintendence of matters relating to education in England and Wales.That is all the power that we possess.
§ Mr. Ede
We are only watching other people work and telling them how they should do it and how they can do it better. We do not intend in this way to cut across any other work started by local youth committees. They are, and must remain, the primary authorities responsible for dealing with this work. They are appointed by the local education authorities, and they report to the local education authorities. I have met them in various parts of the country, and I believe they are beginning to act with a vigour that assures me and my right hon. Friend that we shall not look to them in vain to implement this and the other policies that come within their sphere of action. We should not wish in any way that any local education authority should 784 feel that what we have started is other than an incentive to them to carry on the work that they have begun. As the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke) said, there may be some areas in which this work will prosper under a vigorous education authority, but there are other areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth could name them as easily as I could. If I asked him to name the 12 authorities who would do the work least efficiently and we put our lists side by side I do not think there would be much difference. I am sure that my hon. Friend would be the last person to suggest that, where an authority is failing in its duty in this matter, the Board should not step in and suggest that something better should be done. I would not differ very much from what the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) said, that one of the aims of the directorate is to strengthen the physical training side of the Board.
I have been engaged in one way or another in the public education system of this country since the age of 3½ years. I entered the elementary school at 3½ years, and when I left school, I started training as a teacher. I taught for a few years, and since then I have been engaged, until I accepted office, in the administration of education in one of the larger counties of the country. I have therefore seen the development of this physical training side of education. I never had, from the age of 3½ to 13, while I was in an elementary school, a single physical exercise of any kind given to me. Elementary schools in those days took no interest at all in the physique of children. Then I went to a secondary school, and there I was instructed for one half-hour each week by the sergeant instructor of the local Volunteer regiment, who gave us the same drill that he gave his recruits. We learned the right hand and left hand salutes as if they were really the most important thing in the physical improvement of anyone coming up for instruction. I taught two or three of the earlier schemes of the Board, and I have since seen the way in which they have been developed until what has been asked for by a good many Members to-day has now become the established physical training scheme of the country.
There is no need for the hon. Member for Farnworth—and he knows it very well—to press for football as one of the 785 best forms of physical recreation and training. I have no doubt that he sees to it that in Lancashire adequate opportunity is provided for boys, as part of the school curriculum, to play organised games in which football has a part. There are schools' sports associations where every child in, the schools—and I want to emphasise the words "every child"—is correctly fitted for field and track athletics. Every year elementary schools hold a national meeting in which the keenest interest is taken, not merely by competitors, but by those who are associated with them in their day to day lives in the schools.
The pity of it is, with this tremendous increase in the physical training in schools, that when children reach the age of 14 for four-fifths of them the State has no further concern just at the moment when it is really essential, when they go into industry, that their physique should be watched. When the natural desire of every boy is to do a man's work we should not allow permanent injury to his physique. It is this group which is covered by the scope of this scheme. We feel that quite apart from the war, which has brought notice once again to the needs of this matter, there is need, if we are to have people who are capable of shouldering the responsibilities of democracy, to see they get such attention as will enable them, on the physical side, to be complete citizens. I am bound to say I do not share the views of some of my hon. Friends that the physical side is being over-emphasised. My experience of the group from 14 to 20 years of age who attend evening institutes is that they are, in the main, very studious, and I want to pay tribute to them. I do not think in the group courses among those who come to our Institutes we get sufficient voluntary attention to physical training. The curious thing is that in the group courses that I have seen I cannot recollect courses which insisted that the youth who wanted technical or academic instruction should include physical training.
I think it would be a good thing if, when our technical and evening institutes are drawing up their group courses, they would on occasion suggest to a youth that, in addition to doing again in the evenings what he had been doing all day in the factory or office, he also included some 786 physical training, because a good many during those formative years, owing to stress of circumstances, allow themselves to study so much that they suffer a physical deterioration which is a handicap to them in later life. Anything we can do to round off and fill out the education of the group from 14 to 20 on that side will be a good thing. I would not myself, had I been asked to criticise our educational system between 14 and 20, have said that up to the present it had done anything like enough in this respect. I have been too often a victim of the education system not to realise that the swing of the pendulum in education is sometimes so terrific as to do more harm than good, and my right hon. Friend and I will watch this movement to see that the pendulum does not swing so far as completely to destroy the balance that we hope to get by the emphasis that we are giving to this subject.
I also hope it will be realised that there is no militarist scheme at the back of this. My hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth asked why we did not associate ourselves with the Navy and the Air Force. It is true that we have not asked them to send us anyone to sit with us, but we are in the happiest relation with them, and I am pleased to be able to say that the Air Force is consulting with us at the moment about giving us the same releases as we are getting from the War Office, and I am sure we shall find the same accommodating spirit that we have found from the War Office without being on the directorate. I think it is a considerable gain that the directorate should be small in numbers. [Interruption.] I have been in the negotiations, and it is an advantage to have been sitting in the same room with the people of whom we are talking. I believe we have got more in the way of release of men and of buildings than we should have got if we had not had someone sitting in the room to hear the day-to-day discussions why Farnworth, or some other place, ought to have an Institute released so that this work can be carried on. There is no intention to use this scheme in any way to further any militarist aim, but I am bound to say I heard some remarks from the hon. Member for Kilmarnock with which I found myself in considerable agreement. I believe the youths who are going to be trained would not like to be trained by men who have dodged their Army service merely to do 787 the training. The fact that these men have been in the Army, have come out, are now being released and can be recalled if the military situation necessitates it will avoid a good many of the difficulties which would have occurred had we asked for the exemption of these men in the first place. I think the spirit which is now operating between the Board and the Armed Forces will enable us to put matters right.
I am glad to tell the hon. Member for Kilmarnock that he drew an incorrect inference from the pronouncement made by my right hon. Friend in August, if he thought that this was the beginning of a pre-military system for youths of 17. He will gather from what is taking place to-day that, lively as our discussion has been, it would have been even livelier if my right hon. Friend had appeared here, with some other Parliamentary Secretary, to defend such a scheme. Therefore I hope that he will understand that, while we shall listen to his remarks on that point with respect because such is due to a previous holder of office in the Board of Education, we are no more committed to it now than when he was here, with his inside pressure to secure the adoption of his ideas. The hon. Member mentioned the National College of Physical Training. We secured a site for that building but, owing to the coming of the war, nothing further has been done. I happen to know the site very well and it is very suitable. It is still there. It is in a place where there has been no serious damage. Very soon after the blessings of peace are brought to us, we shall be able to go on with that scheme.
My hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) said, and the point was reinforced by several interruptions by my hon. Friend the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Edith Summerskill) that he and his friends hoped that the President and the Parliamentary Secretary would remember that feeding and fitness went together. My right hon. Friend has only recently issued Circular 1520 with regard to feeding, in which we are offering a bigger grant than we have ever offered before for the feeding of school children. We have done all we can to encourage local authorities to embark do a much wider feeding scheme, and we know of no reason why the problem of feeding should not be dealt with 788 also by the higher education authorities, whose hands are considerably freer than are those of the elementary authorities, if they find the problem is presenting a hindrance to the work which they have to perform. We are endeavouring to get club leaders out of the Army as well, and the effort has met with some success. In reply to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock I would say that the 55 people who have been released are partly club leaders, partly teachers and partly organisers. We have a number of additional names of members of the three groups.
My right hon. Friend expects to spend three times as much this year on physical training for the 14–20 group as he did last year.
§ Mr. Lindsay
Is no extra money coming from the Board except for this work? Essentially this is money which has to be paid.
§ Mr. Ede
For every pound which the local authorities spend we repay them an additional 10s., and my right hon. Friend estimates that there will be three times as many such 10s. contributions to be found this year as there were last year. I do not think there is any point between the hon. Member and myself. It is only a matter of two different ways of making the same arithmetical statement. We are also very anxious to get the proper men to work this scheme.
In conclusion, I would say that I have listened with considerable sympathy to what the hon. Member for West Lewisham said about the views of the young people themselves being taken into account. I have had the privilege of attending youth committee meetings in more than one part of the country, and I have been exceedingly gratified at the extent to which the young people themselves have participated in the proceedings. As the hon. Member for Farnworth put it, we are exceedingly anxious to find out what these young people want. We do not say that we shall be able to give them all they want, but we are anxious to find out what they want, the line of approach they desire to see adopted, and we shall endeavour as far as possible to meet their wishes. I have said to more than one of these meetings: "If we direct your affairs we shall make mistakes and you young people will learn nothing from 789 our mistakes. Therefore, we wish you to direct your affairs and make your mistakes, in the hope that you at least will learn something from them." I believe they will not merely make mistakes. I believe they will be able to refresh and reinvigorate the education system of the country by bringing to us ideas that have sprung out of the liberalisation of the elementary and secondary schools during the last 40 or 50 years.
I share my right hon. Friend's hope that this is the beginning of the implementation of the Fisher Act. I do not regard that, as some of my hon. Friends do, as meaning that we shall try to introduce this instead of raising the school-leaving age. My right hon. Friend and I believe that the proper thing is to have both. Some hon. Members opposite, in spite of my presence on this Bench, will still talk about "the" Government, as if it were the same Government as we had at the beginning of the year. The late Government, in which my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock was Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, pledged the Government to the implementation of the Act of 1936 when peace is restored. We have not retreated from that pledge. We think we can now go further, and say we are making a start with the part which needs most emphasis at the moment in the implementation of the wider scheme which would give further education to every young person up to the age of 18. I sincerely hope the House will feel that any misgivings which it had with regard to my right hon. Friend's original pronouncement—which from the very nature of the case had to be made in a very compressed statement—have been removed, and that it can give this scheme wholehearted support. We are determined to make the scheme an essential part of an education system which shall give us a generation of well-equipped citizens, fully developed mentally, morally and physically.
§ Mr. Brooke
Will the hon. Gentleman make it clear that the Board is not necessarily wedded to the letter of the Fisher Act, which was passed in 1918? Since then, 22 years have passed, and all of us have learned something, and there are large possibilities of improving upon that Act.
§ It being the hour appointed for the interruption of Business, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
§ Question again proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Boulton.]