Order 'read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question. [29th July.]
That this House welcomes the intention of the Government to proceed with educational reform, as evidenced in the White Paper on Educational Reconstruction."—[Mr. Butler.]
§ Question again proposed
§ Mr. G. A. Morrison (Scottish Universities)
When the Debate closed yesterday I was talking about possible ways of making the teaching profession more attractive. I said that an increase in remuneration would help, and that efforts must be made to raise the status and the public estimation of the profession. Steps have been taken to counteract the narrowing effect produced by long continuance in work which even under good conditions makes heavy demands upon nervous energy. Even the good teacher tends to fall into a rut. I have been told of a teacher in England—I have always hoped he was mythical—who taught Standard II for 26 consecutive years and spent 26 consecutive summer holidays at Blackpool. In no profession is there greater need for periodic change and refreshment of mind. The teacher's life, it has been said, is one long fight to preserve his humanity. The same idea is expressed less kindly in the words which Kipling puts into the mouth of one of his characters:Never again will I forget that a school master is not a man.Interchange between different types of schools or between teaching and administrative work, interchange with the Dominions, the United States and foreign nations, and the transfer to research work—all will help. I hope to live to see in practice in this country the "sabbatical year" which some American institutions enjoy—one year in seven away from the classroom. The promise of greater freedom, initiative and responsibility, for example, in the matter of conducting school examinations, will also help.
It was noted in yesterday's Debate that two subjects did not appear to have a mention in the White Paper—rural education and adult education. I am sure that neither of them will be neglected. I am 1936 grateful for one sentence in the White Paper:The completion of reorganisation is the most crying need in the field of whole-time education.Rural areas have found that it is a hard and costly task; towns have not the same difficulty. That is evident from the statistics. Re-organisation implies centralisation and at once you have the problem of transport. Speaking as one who has had 22 years' experience as a headmaster, I say that daily travel is not good for young children. Hostels offer a better solution, but they are expensive. I do not quite know how this can be done, but it may not be impossible to build homes around the country schools so that the fathers and not the children may have to do the travelling. Rating burdens in rural areas will have to be eased, if a reasonable rate of progress is to be kept up. We had a hint yesterday that something may be done in this direction. A word or two about the proposed three types of secondary school, grammar schools, modern schools and technical schools. The names are familiar to us from earlier reports, and it is usually said that they must have parity of status. Excellent, if you can get it.Amenities the same for all types.Again, excellent, if you can get them, but it is not going to be easy. Take a school building in a closely-built urban area, structurally sound, and easily adaptable internally. How can you provide it with amenities equal to those of a school in its own spacious grounds, which you may site where you please? I have always thought these new types would gain greatly in prestige if there were outlets from them, at the top, to institutions of university rank. When you can provide a career through these schools to higher institutions and thence to good posts, they may attract a better share of the abler pupils.
I come back for a moment to the question of the supply of teachers, for to my mind that is central and vital. If that is not assured, we may have to wait a long time for some of the other reforms. It is a tremendous pity that the end of the war is going to find teachers in short supply. Young, enthusiastic teachers, well qualified in one or more foreign languages, would be most effective ambassadors for our conception of 1937 democracy. I hope too that our schools— buildings, equipment, staffing, amenities—will, at no distant date, be worthy to receive the visitors who after the war will come to us from all the world. This surely would be a great mutual advantage, and a powerful encouragement of international good-will and lasting peace.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)
In 20 years' experience of the House think this is the second occasion on which I have spoken about education. I do so with a somewhat ancient experience of teaching of many kinds. I cannot flaunt on my breast an old school tie; my experience started in the old school board days a long time ago. But it was my privilege, although not always my pleasure, to teach in almost every kind of school, town, country, elementary, secondary and technical. Indeed, I have taught in every type of educational institution in this country except a public school, and no public school would permit me the honour. I even descended to the depth of running a correspondence college. It is many years ago now since I left the profession, for its own good, and sought the more insecure life of politics. This discussion is of great significance because I think it is the first time in the history of education that we have had a two days' Debate on the subject in which everybody could think aloud and where the Government might be expected to listen to what had been said. I would hope that after the Debate closes to-day the Government will bear in mind what has been said. The advantage of this new technique, this procedure of a White Paper committing nobody to anything, to be followed, if the Government are wise, by legislation which takes account of what has been said in the House, is considerable. Moreover, I understand it is the Government's intention that the intervening time between now and the publication of the Bill will be used for testing out public opinion in all its various types and kinds before the Bill is finally produced.
Reference was made yesterday to the opening of the White Paper by Disraeli's words:'Upon the education of the people of this country the late of this country depends 'Those words were written about three generations ago. What a pity those who governed in the past did not take ad- 1938 vantage of them. Three-quarters of a century, approximately, have gone, and we are still far from being in possession of an educational system which is fitting for the people of this country. Indeed, had those wise words of Disraeli been borne in mind and acted upon, Disraeli's "two nations" might well by now have disappeared. The opening words of the Norwood Report—a quotation from Plato—are interesting:'"Nowhere must we hold education in dishonour, for with the noblest of men it ranks foremost among blessings if ever it leaves its proper path and can be restored to it again, to this end everyone should always labour throughout life with all his powers.'That, I think, is a most admirable superscription for the Norwood Report. It is fully apposite, but I would put our problem in a different way. I do not wish to see education leave its proper path, although it has strayed from the path. What one would wish to do and what ought to be the ultimate fulfilment of the ideals of the President of the Board of Education is to broaden that path into a great highway whereon all can travel to the end of life. Education has ceased to be a process for mere individual advancement. Education is now a composite social process whereby the organised community can use its resources for the development of the minds, hearts and spirits of our people. I think we must all accept in principle, however much we may disagree about its application, the fact that all democratic people ought to enjoy equality of educational opportunity. The White Paper, I think, is to be judged from that point of view. I think there no doubt that the White Paper gives the prospect of a very considerable advance in the field of education, but 30 years ago some of us who were interested in this range of problems made the same kind of proposals as are made now. If I may refer to undistinguished and forgotten writings of my own over 30 years ago, I made suggestions which went in advance even of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal. But let us at least be thankful, after this long lapse of time, that we are on the brink of action more far reaching, I think, than anything since the Acts of 1870 and 1902. I do not put the Fisher Act quite on the same level. Nursery schools, school feeding, and medical attention are to be advanced, and quite rightly. The provision that is being 1939 made in those directions: has in fact converted education into a social process instead of being used as an instrument for individual advancement.
The raising of the school-leaving age is, in my view, long overdue, and, when it comes into effect, it must necessitate the re-organisation of our educational system. The term "elementary education," thank goodness, is to disappear and the word "primary" is to take its place. I remember many years ago having the impossible task of teaching 75 part-time children who worked in the day and came tired to school the other half of the day because they were driven into the mills and factories through the poverty of their parents. Those days are gone. The days when children could leave school at 11 and 12 have gone, and we have got to a school-leaving age of 14, but what we have done is merely to stretch the conception of elementary education up to 14 plus, which of course is entirely wrong, and that is fully recognised. Indeed, it was recognised in the Hadow Report. We are, therefore, going to get this parting of the ways at the age of ii plus. But at that time no teacher, however experienced, can foresee what is going to happen to a child; therefore any hiving off in a particular direction at that date in a way that would be irretrievable would, in my view, be a profound mistake. That is why there is something to be said for easiness of transfer for what are called the multilateral schools.
I hope an effective method will be worked out whereby a child's future in the schools will be kept under fairly constant review. People with experience know very well that there are boys who are like a flash in the pan and flower very young, there are slower developing children who develop rather later, and there are young people who through some influence show that they have latent qualities in directions which were previously never appreciated. Therefore, if we are to get the best out of this new system of secondary education, so that the most appropriate type of education can be given to every boy and girl, it seems to me to be vital that there should be a constant review of each child, without unnecessary examinations, which are a bore to young people and a fearful trial to those who have to examine the papers 1940 I am glad that we are getting away from that, but there must be something to take its place, and that something must be in the nature of frequent review of the child's progress and developing capabilities. I think we all welcome the young people's colleges and the proposal for a very considerable development of technical education. In volume, though I do not say in quality, we are far behind the technical education system of certain other countries. In this rapidly developing mechanisation in war and in peace, technical education assumes a new importance, and one would hope—I 'think the right hon. Gentleman has this in mind—that those colleges will be conceived on a plan which would not make them too narrowly vocational but would give them a permanent educational value of a wider kind.
I was somewhat disappointed that no proposal is made in the Appendix to the White Paper for increased expenditure on adult education. I speak as one who, in the earlier days of the Workers' Educational Association, took a pretty big part in its development. I think that and other similar movements have performed an enormously important work with people who are grown up and who, facing the realities and problems of life, begin to search their hearts in a way that cannot be expected of the young. It is at that age that education in its full sense becomes a reality, and, although we have made very considerable progress and done something to revolutionise thought, we have not made the headway that we might have done. That movement sprang from the mind of Dr. Albert Mansbridge and started in a very humble way. If I remember rightly, one of the early teachers who taught economics took a degree in modem history, another who taught economics, a very distinguished scholar, took his degree in Greats at Oxford, and I myself, for my sins, taught economics, having taken a degree in science. However, I think we have not been without influence on the teaching of economics in the universities. This side of our educational activities ought, I think, to be given a more prominent place in the thought and in the minds of the right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary than would appear from the Appendix to the Report. I know that they are interested in this side of it. 1941 It is important when we step out of the days of war, when young men and women return from the Fighting Services faced with all the anxious problems that they will be faced with, with their minds in a state of turmoil and unsettlement and uncertainty, that they should be provided with opportunities whereby in a co-operative atmosphere they can sit down with other people to think things out in common. That is the method of adult education as we have developed it in the movement to which I have referred. The tutor is not a man who lays down the law. He is first among equals. His superior knowledge is put into the pool with the experience of those who are sitting round him. There will be, I conceive, at the end of the war a great need among these people, freshly returned to civil life, for opportunities to think out the future of their lives in that kind of atmosphere. I hope, therefore, that this process of adult education will be developed.
Questions have already been raised in the Debate as to the length of the time lag before we see anything actually happening. I do not think we can hide from ourselves the great difficulties which will confront us, but if we miss this opportunity now—and no man has had a greater opportunity than my right. hon. Friend—we may miss it for a long time. We are not yet education conscious as a people. It has been one of the Cinderellas in debates so long as I have been in the House. Debates have often been perfunctory and ill-attended because our people do not think sufficiently about education to show interest. Now there is a growing interest and there is an imperative need to take big steps and to take them quickly. However difficult it may be, it should be done with the minimum of delay. To raise the school-leaving age to 15 is a step forward, but it is not enough. We ought as rapidly as may be to raise the school-leaving age to 16 and to put beyond that some compulsory attendance at continuation schools and colleges of various kinds. As our population get; older, as the average age rises and as we have to carry more aged people on our backs, the importance of developing the quality of the youth of our people increases. Therefore, even a year's delay will do irreparable damage to the young people—to them now and to them hereafter. I would like the Government, if they could, to take their courage in both 1942 hands and try to fix dates, not too far ahead, and if they have done all they can to carry out their preparation by that date and they fail, to come to the House for pardon. Pardon will be granted if they 'have done all that is humanly possible, but the House and those interested in education would prefer that they try to do too much than, overwhelmed by the difficulties that face them, proceed very cautiously.
It seems to me that the Board—and I am not in any way minimising the importance of the proposals—is being unduly pessimistic about the prospects of bringing its plans into operation at an earlier date. I will say something about the practical problems in a moment. I think the Board must take upon itself a new role. The right hon. Gentleman ought to go out and become the chief crusader for education. He ought to inspire, either with fear or with respect, those education authorities which in the past have shown themselves so very backward. I fear that a number of our county authorities are hardly in the van of education, and one can conceive this happening. I am not arguing the merits at the moment of the abolition of Part III authorities, but I know of counties where there are Part III authorities, limited in their powers, I know, but progressive in their minds and spirit, who have been successful in the past; and I can see, unless the right hon. Gentleman keeps the bigger education authorities up to scratch, all the progress that has been made in those areas gradually disappearing because of lack of direction by the higher authorities above them. I can see the reason for a reorganisation of the boundaries of education authorities—I am not complaining about that—but I say that it puts a tremendous responsibility on the President of the Board of Education to see, as be desires these changes to inure to the advantage of those in the schools and to improve their education, that when the changes have taken place there is a forward movement and that the less advanced areas, or, as I would say, the more reactionary authorities, are made to toe the line. The Board must become an active spur and not a mere administrative Department.
There are, I admit, many practical problems and difficulties which have to be met. There is the question of buildings. There are thousands of schools which it 1943 would have been a mercy if during the night Hitler had laid low. That would have presented a programme in itself. If we are to get smaller classes, to raise the school-leaving age, to multiply our technical colleges and so on, there must be an enormous building programme. Why not? I understand that the Ministry of Works is now developing a 10-year programme for building, that arrangements are being made to deal with the labour available for the industry and that steps are being taken for the building-up of supplies and raw materials. With a vastly increased industry and a 10-year programme I should have thought that they must have had some regard to the number of schools and other educational institutions that ought to be built. If not, the Ministry of Works scheme is just a gamble and there is nothing to it. One would assume that the scale on which it intends to develop the industry is based on an estimate of what the industry will be called upon to do, and in that school buildings must have a high priority. I would rather for a time, provided it was a limited time, make use of make-shift buildings, provided the children could be under proper supervision.
The other difficulty to which reference has been made concerns man-power. We shall need increasing numbers of teachers. I realise the demands made by the Services, but unless we can begin the training of a considerable number of people for the teaching profession now, it does not matter when we begin to try to operate the new school-leaving age, unless we postpone it to the Greek Kalends, because we shall not have the teachers there. After the Act is put on the Statute Book, after the war is ended, it may well be some years before we are able to get an effective school-leaving age of 15, let alone 16. I cannot believe that our military prospects depend upon 40,000 or 50,000 young people whose service is so indispensable to the war effort that we could not part with them in order that they might prepare for a great profession. Over-hasty training does no good to anybody. The right hon. Gentleman seems to be poking into prisoner-of-war camps, and so on, and I hope he will get suitable material there, but if the Government were boldly to say: "We are prepared to set aside so many thousand young people who are ready to ether the teaching profession, and will 1944 lavish upon them what care we can, giving them all the opportunities we can in wartime, so that when the time comes we shall not be lacking in teachers and have an ineffective raising of the school-leaving age," that would start a new chapter in educational development. There are difficulties. Local authorities are very busy and have their war problems, but one would think it is important that the work of planning and preparation should be pressed ahead as quickly as possible.
We shall not be forgiven in this country if, when the Armistice comes, we are in a state of unpreparedness for everything. The nation would not tolerate it, and when we are thinking of those who will follow in our footsteps, those who will have to make the new world, if there is to be a new world, anything this House and the Government can dc to enable those people to face the future with courage, with determination and equipped as they ought to be, ought to be done. I have spoken towards the end with, perhaps, a little heat, but I believe the greatest asset of the people is the people. It is human quality that counts. This war has proved that our human quality is second to none. We have seen that in the blitzed areas in East London. People there who have been denied almost every decency of life have shown great courage, great virtues, great spirit, have shown themselves to be fine British citizens. With a people like that we ought to make it a debt of honour that the children whom they may breed shall have all the advantages which education can give.
My closing words are these. We cannot separate education from other social processes. I have heard stories of people from the slums—I have never seen such things myself, I my say—who when they have been put into better houses keep chickens or their coal in the bath. If that be so, is it surprising? If people live under evil social conditions, one cannot expect zoo per cent. of them to respond rapidly to a new environment, and it is idle to produce fine schools and at the same time send children back into miserable homes where they become dissatisfied. These things must march together, and the President of the Board of Education ought to be treading the path along which the Minister of Health, the Minister of Works and the Minister of Town and Country Planning are walking, so that we do not 1945 rob ourselves of the advantages that education may give by expecting our people to live in a social environment which is unworthy of British citizenship.
§ Mr. Kenneth lindsay (Kilmarnock)
I rise to commend the White Paper and to thank my fight hon. Friend for his patience, for his thoroughness and for his courage, but before I proceed I should like to pay a tribute to one who, but for his self-sacrifice, would be taking part in this Debate. I refer to Brigadier Whiteley. I do not know whether it is generally known to hon. Members that Brigadier Whiteley was a devoted member of the Buckinghamshire Education Committee, and that with characteristic thoroughness he mastered the details of the committees in local administration. All the way through this Debate I have been thinking of people like him who, in the long run, will have to put these great reforms into practice.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) has said so many things that I should have liked to say that I can cut my remarks reasonably short. The grand design is now familiar to the whole House. I do not think there is any serious dispute about the main lines of the advance. I do not think there is anybody who doubts that it is an overdue reform to abolish the competitive examination at 11, and if one reads the Norwood Report and sees—and this is what it really means—that there are to be no serious examinations throughout the whole education system until a young man or young woman goes either into a university or one of the great professions, this is nothing less than a revolution in education methods and technique which will demand from the teachers, I was going to say, almost new qualities. To my mind it is far more important to say these things than to repeat what everybody is now agreed about, that the White Paper is a good thing. I hope my right hon. Friend the President will take that as read.
I have said that I admire my right hon. Friend's courage. I do, because I think that to go boldly for the abolition of Part III authorities, about which I will say a word later, was the only method of dealing with this new form of post- primary education. I wonder whether the House will allow me to try to put this into perspective in a somewhat wider 1946 field. As soon as the last war started there was a movement in every country in the world towards what we are discussing to-day. With the exception of the United States of America, there was no country which did not have one system of education for the masses and a different system, based either on intellectural qualifications or fees, for a separate group of people; and, after the last war there was the Eintheitschule in Germany, Ecoles Uniques in France, and schools with names I cannot pronounce, but which mean exactly the same thing, in Scandinavia and Holland, and, in this country secondary education for all. I spent some time writing a book 17 years ago in which I advocated primary and secondary education in this country. I have the words here, but I do not want to quote them, really. They were written actually by Mr. Tawney, although Lord Haldane signed them in the introduction.
I should like to pay my tribute to Mr. Tawney. For 20 years that man was writing other people's prefaces and writing innumerable documents in which he advocated secondary education for all when it was not quite so popular as now. Indeed, it was only in 1932 that the Board itself said that secondary education for all was a misuse of public funds and instituted the special place. I came into the Board when this was the prevailing rule. We have all gone through various crises such as the May Report and Geddes axe. Though the wind is blowing favourably to-day, I should like to warn my right hon. friend that winds change and that he may be faced in the next five years with more of that kind of attitude. In that case there will need to be in this House and in the country a much greater public opinion on these matters, if the Government of the day are to be able to withstand them.
We are not only discussing more secondary education, but fundamental philosophic questions, equality, freedom, religion and the function of the State, as several hon. Members pointed out yesterday. We are discussing equality of opportunity. When the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) spoke yesterday on this matter, some of us felt a little nervous about what he meant. He said that we could not have equality of educational opportunity and that it was a meaningless term. Let me put the matter in another way which will perhaps 1947 satisfy him. You can have equality of access to an agreed standard of physical provision. We have not got it. We are miles away from equality of opportunity in that sense. I personally believe that the number in a house in a public school or a preparatory school, which incidentally is the same number that the dominies have in Scotland, is about right. What they have is 12 in a class. The best preparatory schools are good schools. Scores or hundreds of my friends, with no snobbishness in their bodies, say that they cannot send their children to the local elementary schools, not only because of certain physical things which we know still exist, but because of the quality of the teaching. That has nothing to do with the teacher but with the fact, as my right hon. Friend told us yesterday, that there are 75,000 classes with over 36 scholars in them still. Let us not talk about equality of opportunity, and let us not necessarily say, as my hon. Friend who made some journeys recently around the public schools seemed to think, that what we really want is to reproduce for the great mass of the people what exists in the public schools. We do not want to do any such thing.
Let me tell my hon. Friend that in order to refresh myself—as the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) told us in a recent Scottish Debate that before coming to one of those Debates we might well read Robert Louis Stevenson's "Virginibus Puerisque" and a few poems of Burns—I spent the day before yesterday in a boarding school under a local education authority. What did I see? I saw 140 children from the East side of London, looking like young gods, physically. There was the head. They simply had camp buildings, which were provided at the beginning of the war and were originally for evacuation. It is no longer an evacuation camp but is now a school. [An HON. MEMBER: "Where is it? "] This one happens to be in Surrey. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary knows it well. There are 49 others in other parts of the country. They have reclaimed a primitive piece of ground. I have the figures here: two tons of potatoes have been raised as well as other stock, from the gardens—and an extraordinary variety of enterprises has been created there. I asked the head- 1948 master what was the secret of it all, and he answered "Space." They have acres, and they have tools for people to work with, activities for all that they want to do, plus an enthusiastic staff. The headmaster has got all, those under a local education authority. That school is doing something quite different.
May I make a suggestion to my right hon. Friend? Do riot worry about perfect buildings. There is no need to have completely finished buildings. In fact, it is very much better for the young people not to have them. These boys are all between the ages of ii and 14, and they stay on voluntarily till 16. Their parents come down. I have seen letters from their parents to the headmaster. I have seen boys who have cycled down in order to camp there this week-end. Therefore it is nonsense to say that it is essential to have an independent school. It is still more nonsense to say that the trickle of a few boys into the public schools of this country is going to make the slightest difference to the general level of education.
I know there is a very close connection between educational progress and economic conditions. I remember the figures which I discovered about 17 years ago, which was that the average group of young citizens in this country are 70 per cent. average good quality, with peaks at either end. That is why secondary education is inevitable. And these figures were confirmed by Dr. Cyril Burt and others. But the real point is that as long as one school in Lewisham—which, for those who do not know London, I may explain is a suburb of the more middle-class kind—gets as many scholarships as the whole of the schools of Bermondsey put together, let us not talk about equality of opportunity existing. The trouble about Eton and the public schools is not that they are not good. As a matter of fact, the teaching and the whole double check on the pupil and the following through by one tutor at Eton, is a first class method in education. That is not the trouble. The trouble is that before the last war 80 per cent of those who went into the Foreign Office came from that school. When that system was democratised after the last war and the £400 qualification was knocked out, only 25 per cent came, but 82 per cent came from eight schools in the country. Those are official figures, 1949 and they mean that nobody from a Scottish or a Welsh university went into the Foreign Office. Does anybody mean to tell me that there have not been Welsh and Scottish boys who would not have been useful in the diplomatic life of this country? In other words, their wings are clipped at the top. The avenues into the professions are clogged. You cannot get into professions, except teaching or the Civil Service, if you are a poor boy at Oxford and Cambridge. I have seen it for 20 years. Appointments boards have now been set up, and there are a few new avenues, but the biggest source of introduction to jobs, whether in the co-operative or at Eton, is parents and relations, until you come down to the children of the unskilled, who have very little chance. My point in making these remarks is that we are wasting talent and great opportunity in this country.
When I come to the question of freedom I want to say this: My right hon. Friend, in my opinion very wisely, inserted in his White Paper some sentences about governing bodies. I do not want to overstate what a governing body can or cannot do. There are good and bad among them. What I think is that there is a good case for having the continuous life of the school preserved by a body of men who are not wholly local councillors or county councillors but who are people of proved interest in education, and the two things are not the same; it is no good pretending they are. I have been through practically every local education authority in this country, and I am wondering where the Sir Richard Martins, the Byng Kenricks, the alderman Wright Robinsons and the Francis Aclands—the hon. Member's father—are. Those men, many of them, were old Liberals and Quakers. Some of them were men produced by the W.E.A.; some of them were men of independent means. They gave their lives to education. Where are you going to find them now? Time, money, local stores, politics are all against it. The men who have ability have not the time. Others have not the money. With the exception of the N. U. R., very few unions will help men to serve on the local authority [lnterruption]—the Miners' Federation and transport, I speak subject to correction. The N.U.R. have helped a very large number. On the question of branch stores, in the old days the man who ran the local store had a local in- 1950 terest, but now it is just a branch of something in London, and the man has very little local interest.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (LIanelly)
May I say that largely through the influence and support of the miners, I believe that in 20 tragic years the Glamorgan Education Committee have had a very good record?
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)
In regard to the branch stores, the hon. Member is altogether wrong. They are not dominated by London or by Manchester. Each co-operative society has an individuality.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I think I can leave that subject, because there are two views on it, but with the exception of the cooperative societies I will say what I have said about branch stores is broadly true and that with the probable exception of the miners it is very difficult for a working man to find the time required for the work.
Those who are interested in education, as the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke) said yesterday, very often cannot find the time to sit through all the committees which is necessary on a local authority. I want my right hon. Friend to see whether he cannot invent some new devices by which men and women who have given such signal service as wardens, in the W.V.S., in Civil Defence, in the Home Guard, and in all those various units cannot themselves be associated with individual schools. I notice that when a man can be directly interested, say, in an Air Cadet unit or an A.T.C. unit or a new college or school, he is prepared to give an enormous amount of time to it. It is one of the glories of this country, that there are those men and women; but those men and women who have not got the time, and in some cases the inclination, to sit through the many committees which they may have to on a local authority. In Scotland the position in a nutshell is that even the teachers, the whole teaching profession, wish to abolish local education authorities and say that these last ten years have been the most barren in Scottish education. Those are their official words. I do not want to overstate the position, but I think it is time we thought out this problem a little more carefully.
1951 On the question of freedom, I want each headmaster to run his own ship, to choose within reasonable limits his own staff. I want also for him to have a margin of choice for his own pupils. The local education authority must see the schools in their broad relation one with another, but if you come back to it, who were responsible for most of the reforms which hon. Members have mentioned in this Debate? The hon. Member for the Abbey Division (Sir H. Webbe) mentioned village colleges; they did not come into existence because the Cambridge education authority wished to have them but because a man, Henry Morris, had an inspiration, and also because he got money, not from the local education authority in the first instance, but from funds and other outside sources. Take nursery schools. Everyone knows perfectly well that the secret of them was one or two women who went out "on their own" to make the experiment. It seems that somehow or other we have to make the local education authorities in future capable of doing some of the work which hitherto has been done, I must say, very largely by private individuals, very often with the help of trust and other money.
The Pilgrim Trust and many others have helped in innumerable experiments which have later been adopted. We should not have started C.E.M.A. in this country but for the Pilgrim Trust. The Treasury came in, and now it is going strong, and my right hon. Friend has given it much wider terms of reference and has secured people of great ability in music and the arts. I would like to ask him whether he will live up to the phrase he used yesterday about variety. I do not think that this can be done without enormous research. In this country we spend £100,000,000 a year on education and not a penny on research. In this White Paper for the first time such provision is made. I hope that my right hon. Friend will help Sir Fred Clarke and his little group who are starting the first serious research body in this country. When I say "research," I do not mean just the theoretical work which is being done in universities or laboratories, but the bringing of the practical results of the best experience to local education authorities and fertilising the whole field with them. We all know innumerable head-masters who are doing the most wonderful 1952 things, but scarcely anybody knows about it, and they often do not care about it. Experiments come to the Board, but they are often pigeon-holed, and nothing is done about them. In the Norwood Report the very wise suggestion is made that the inspectorate should be called His Majesty's Educational Advisory Service. I do not want hon. Members to think that by changing a name from "elementary" to "primary,'' or from "His Majesty's Inspectors of Schools" to some other title, we have effected a change, but I think these words mean something. These inspectors who go about the country befriending teachers, etc., are inadequately paid and staffed, and if they are to inspect the private schools—my hon. Friend knows about that and will speak on it later—if they are going to do all that is required in guiding teachers who are not going to live by examinations in future, they will have to teach with new methods, they will have to study the child; we shall need instead of 200 inspectors nearer 750 or 1,000. Where are we to get them?
Finally, on the subject of teachers, may I make this suggestion? We all know that there are in the services at present a large number of non—commissioned as well as commissioned officers who are taking the "British Way and Purpose" scheme, and I understand that many of these men have proved themselves, in the experiences of war, to be born teachers. I want to ask the National Union of Teachers a very frank question. There has to be some form of dilution, if any of these reforms are to be put into practice. Obviously, the National Union of Teachers has to be very carefully consulted. No great profession is going to be just saddled with a lot of people without any conditions, but apparently there are these men to whom I refer, and whatever the McNair Committee may report or may not report, I urge my right hon. Friend to use imaginative administration in securing them between now and the end of the war.
I will give him two concrete examples. There are at present in this country 1,300 war nurseries. But for the action of the Board two years ago, these might have been much more nursery schools than war nurseries. Even now, I believe, they could be converted into something very nearly like what we all want to see. Not only that, but there are, I understand, 1953 numbers of young girls who want to. go in for this kind of work. In the book "Our Towns" it is stated that when girls were asked what jobs they wanted to undertake, they replied, time after time, "Something to do with children". I understand that at the present time in some of the training colleges there are empty places. Could not quotas and other arrangements of that kind be put aside for the moment, and these young people brought in, so that a start at any rate could be made to have some teachers ready in order to put into practice the £10,000,000 programme of nursery schools which is the first on the list? That is what I would call a practical piece of imaginative administration.
The other thing is this. I come back to the example which I gave earlier about camp schools. It seems to me inconceivable that after two years we should still have this dual control—the Ministry of Health and the Board—as to camp schools., I call it "dual control "—
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Ede)
The hon. Member agreed to it.
§ Mr. Lindsay
Originally the object was evacuation, but now the schools have become something different. That is as far as I can go, without entering into a great deal of detail. The point is that there are empty places in these schools at present, even in this weather, and I think, if my right hon. Friend could use the great power which the Board is bound to have now, to press more fully on local education authorities to deal with this and. a wide variety of other things, he would earn not only the respect but the affection of all who care for education in this country. For this reason, if the Board now is to make education Orders—and it is no longer to be the old Board as I understand it, but is to settle education Orders, and time and, progress schedules, and place nine new duties on local education authorities—it will have to be a much more powerful engine, and if the steam is to be supplied by something else, besides the increase of the money to 55 per cent., that will have to come from what has already been described in this Debate, as almost, a new crusade. I end as I began by thanking my right hon. Friend from the bottom of my heart for the courage which he has shown in producing this White Paper. I hope that 1954 the time-table and the power behind it will be such that in the next five years we may see some of our dreams realised.
§ Mr. Linstead (Putney)
I desire to add my congratulations to the many which have already been offered to the right hon. Gentleman for all the care, thought and patience that have gone into the preparation of this White Paper. I think I can go one stage further and add a word of congratulation to the Government for having produced this White Paper and for their intention to produce a Bill, because it is an earnest of their purpose, to proceed with the development of the social services.
I have tried to keep one figure in my mind in considering this White Paper, and I would go so far as to ask the House to keep this figure in mind while the Bill is under consideration. It is the figure which ought to dominate the whole of our educational advance—the figure of the small apple-eating urchin for whose benefit the whole of this structure is devised. I would suggest that, in thinking of the boy or girl whose welfare is bound up with these proposals, we should bear in mind that what we teach them to do, or what we teach them to know, will be much less important than what we educate them to be. I think I noticed running through the White Paper a sense of that feeling on the part of its authors. Just as we want to keep that in mind in our consideration, so I feel it important that the Board and the local authorities should keep in mind what it is' that the professions and industries of the country want in the products of our primary and secondary education. I confess it is a little disturbing to find that in the Norwood Committee, which has dealt with the vital question of what is to go into the curricula of the secondary schools, there is no representative of industry, and there are no representatives of the professions. It is a committee composed entirely of educationists. Cannot consideration be given to the reconstitution of the Board of Education, that curious body which never meets and is always in session? Would it be possible to have a Board which contained representatives of industry and the professions, and of the teachers, who are all equally concerned with the products of our teaching system, and that there should be a real Board of Education instead of the 1955 metaphysical Board which we have at the present time?
I can speak with some experience of dealing with the products of our secondary schools, and I would say that the professions and the industries of this country have one clear request to make. That is' that they do not want too early specialisation in our secondary schools. I was not pleased to see that one of the three forms of secondary school is to be called the technical school. I believe it is possible to teach the natural sciences in such a way as to make them the basis of a real education, but I am apprenhensive lest the word "technical" attached to the name of the school is to mean that the children who attend that particular school are to specialise far too early. That, I am sure, would be a grave mistake. It would be fatal if we were to turn out a generation of children who were experienced in the radio and the internal combustion engine, but had not a real feeling for the humanities.
§ Mr. Linstead
In the White Paper there is a reference to youth services. In that connection I would utter a word of caution. I think you can over-organise the life of a child. Surely a child must be allowed to have a certain amount of leisure, in which it can grow in its own way and at its own speed. I hope that there will be no attempt to regiment children into youth organisations. Let us keep voluntary organisations, let us have plenty of variety, and I am sure we shall then find the children naturally gravitating to the organisations most suited to their particular types of character.
As has been clearly brought out, the whole pivot upon which these reforms are to hinge is the supply of teachers. I would agree with the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) that natural leadership of children is what you want in a teacher. You do not necessarily want academic qualifications. Although I realise the enormous problems facing the right hon. Gentleman, I believe that you can find in the Boy Scouts' Association, the Air Training Corps, the Cadet Corps, and so on, people who have that natural flair for leading children. If you can get 1956 those people together, you can give them the technical knowledge and make do with them, possibly with great advantage, instead of waiting a long time for academically-trained people. You will never get first-class teachers until the teaching profession is recognised as one of the great professions in the country. It is a pity that in the Honours List, for example, you do not find mention of some secondary or elementary school headmaster who has given a life of devoted service to children, and who is entitled as much as others to recognition which would enhance the status of the teaching profession and attract people into it.
§ Mr. Linstead
There is always hope. Everybody has his; own method of recognition; but whatever it may be, the teaching profession does need something more in the way of recognition than it at present receives. We are all waiting for the McNair Report. It will be extremely difficult for this House to discuss the Educational Bill without some idea of what that Committee recommends. I hope my right hon. Friend will ask the Committee to expedite their Report, or, if that cannot be done, to produce an interim Report before we get the Bill. I was a little disturbed to find in the Appendix, which gives the cost of these proposals, only £2,700,000 for adult and technical education. It seems to me a tragedy that such a large proportion of the population have to live out their Lives on the intellectual capital that they have accumulated in a few short years of schooling. One would have hoped that more thought and more development would be given to these proposals.
§ The President of the Board of Education (Mr. Butler)
There has been a certain amount of misunderstanding on this point. My hon. Friend must look at certain of the figures in terms of loan charges. Then he will see that the amounts are much larger. That may reassure him.
§ Mr. Linstead
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the reminder of the significance of those figures. With regard to post-school education, I recommend a study of the Danish system. Part-time classes are all very well in their way, but they are no substitute for taking young men and women at their most enthusiastic 1957 age and putting them into residential schools for a short time. There will be at the end of the war hostels which have been used by the Ministry of Labour during the war. They will be admirably adapted for young people, who will benefit enormously from residence at them at that stage of their lives. I would remind the House that as long ago as 1918 the then President of the Board of Education, introducing an Education Bill, pointed out that the great tragedy of those days was that at the age of 14 so many children stopped their schooling. That tragedy, broadly, remains to-day. One explanation is that education has suffered from too much long-range planning. I would suggest that, with all that there is of value in this White Paper, there is much to be said for 'some short-range planning when this war is over. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock that we do not want monumental buildings in order to teach people. You can improvise in all sorts of ways. In the summer you can put children under canvas, to their very great benefit. [An HON. MEMBER: "Sometimes."] For three or four months, at any rate. The prime difficulty that my right hon. Friend is going to face is the question of priority of claims when the war is over. The claims of the young will conflict with the claims of the old. I believe that this House will support him if he does what may be a very unpopular thing, and persuades the Government to give the young preference over the old.
§ Mr. Cove (Aberavon)
I would like, in the first instance, to associate myself with all those speakers who have congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on the infinite patience which he has displayed in bringing this 'White Paper before the House. I have no knowledge of all the negotiations that he has taken part in, but I do know that he has taken infinite trouble to ascertain what various groups of people interested in education have been thinking. The White Paper is not only a wide plan for education, if you like to put it that way; it is also in same ways a political document. There is no doubt in my mind that the President of the Board of Education, when he was considering this White Paper, took into account not only what is actually needed for educational advance but the political forces behind him. I am quite certain that were the political forces which now display themselves in 1958 this House somewhat modified, we would have had even more advance. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on what he has produced under somewhat difficult political circumstances.
There is one criticism I would like to make about the right hon. Gentleman. I think on the whole he has been too cautious. This Debate has shown that if he had taken his courage in his hands, he might have gone even further. I do not look upon this White Paper as an ordinary White Paper. These are not ordinary times. May I put it in this way, that this is a White Paper born out of the blood, toil, sweat and teats of this war? This is a White Paper which envisages for us what sort of educational world our young men will come back to when the war is over. This is the first suggestion of a comprehensive scheme by any Government Department for the new world. If we approach it from that point of view, and if we realise that this is not just an evolutionary White Paper but a White Paper meant to meet a real revolutionary situation, then I am afraid that most of the praise—and I would subscribe to a lot of it—that has filled the House will be somewhat modified when they think of what, that new world ought to be.
I approach it from that point of view, and I would like—I hope without offence —to say one thing to my own party. We were one factor if not the decisive force in determining that Hitler should be fought. We in the Labour Party have a tremendous responsibility from that point of view, and that responsibility ought to be carried into the new world. It lies heavy upon us. There is a duty upon us in this party to see to it as far as we can that in the educational sphere at least the new world shall have some reality. Do we see in these proposals reality? Is there a definite certainty? There are good things in it—the mention of smaller classes, the emphasis about better village schools, the abolition of the dual system and other things—but have the Government given us a definite promise? The Motion before the House speaks about the intention to proceed with educational advance. Have we in this White Paper firm ground? I hope the hon. Member when he replies will be able to satisfy us that there is a firm offer. I am talking about the broad outlines of the scheme. The right hon. Gentleman himself gave a 1959 very important interview—that seems to be the up-to-date method of informing us—to a representative of the "Sunday Times." In the course of that interview he said:It only remains to say that those who study the plan should pay special attention to the warning given that the reforms involve a steady increase of expenditure, and that the various portions of the scheme will be introduced as and when"—I ask the House to pay special attention to these words:the necessary equipment and financial resources are available, having regard to existing commitments and to any new claims or orders of priority that may be laid down.That had the effect of a torpedo, as far as I was concerned, and I believe I am rendering a service by calling attention to it. I am not taking this point of view because I do not want an advance in education, but because I want real advance. What will be the financial conditions at the end of the war? Members of the Government have warned us more than once—and I give credit to Conservative Members for having warned us—about the hard world that is to be and the difficulties we shall have to face. I think I am not exaggerating when I say that some of them have told us it may be a poorer world after the trials and expenditure of this war. After the last war we bad a whole series of economy committees. There will be all corts of priorities to be considered after this war. Can the Minister who will reply to this Debate give us some assurance that this scheme will become a reality?
There is another thing in the White Paper that gives me cause for concern. It is that all will be dependent upon an appointed day. I have noticed a good deal of confusion about the meaning of an appointed day. Some people seem to think it is a day to be definitely appointed in the Bill. If I am wrong, I shall be very pleased to be corrected about this, but I understand that it will be the same sort of appointed day as there was in the Fisher Act—the appointed day that never arrived. What I understand will happen is that there will be given to a Minister in the future power to appoint the day when certain sections of the programme may come into operation, having regard to the financial situation which will then 1960 exist. We shall be very greatly encouraged if the Minister would undertake to reconsider this and see if something more definite can be inserted. Some of my hon. Friends would like to see this kind of appointed day removed from the Bill which we may have brought before us.
Let me apply another test. Does this White Paper envisage a national system of education? I welcome very much the fact that we are going to get all schools for children above the age of ii brought within secondary school regulations. That is an essential step forward, but vast masses of our children will still be outside special areas of education. You may abolish examinations at the age of 11, and that may have a good effect on the schools lower down, but the essence of the examination at the age of 11i was social as much as educational. It was not an examination to select but an examination to exclude. Why was that so? That was the case because, roughly, only 10 per cent. of the children could go on to a secondary school. The examination was there because there were not enough secondary school places. We do not remove that difficulty by changing the character of the examination. You can only remove it by an extension of secondary education, and you cannot have a real secondary education simply by bringing elementary schools within secondary school regulations. You must raise the school age and raise it to 16.
Again, you cannot have a unified system of education unless school fees are completely abolished. The White Paper, as I understand it, still leaves part of the field to be covered by fee-charging schools. That prevents the unification of the educational system and prevents equality of educational opportunity. There cannot be real equality of educational opportunity unless the school- leaving age is definitely raised to 16, but when I examine the financial proposals of the White Paper, there is no provision that I can find for a penny to be spent on raising the school age to 16. I would like to ask my hon. Friend to explain when the age is going to be raised even to 15. As I understand, there is to be a period of six months for the purpose of reorganising educational units of administration and a further period of 12 months for dealing with the dual system. 1961 That means a lapse of 18 months before you start on the work. Does my hon. Friend believe that the units of educational administration can be reorganised in six months? If it is to take six months, why not begin now? Why not set your house in order during the war, so that you can start work on this scheme immediately afterwards?
One recognises that the dual system has to be dealt with, but why cannot it be settled now? Where in the White Paper can we find actual proposals for doing something now, during the war, so that when the war ends we can immediately get to work on an extension of the educational system? I find nothing myself of that character in the White Paper. Public opinion, I hope, will be so keen and so hard on the Government —I am going to try to help create it— that the right hon. Gentleman may be helped by that support to see that during the war every effective step is taken so that we may get to work immediately the war is over.
I do not want to go into details about educational units of administration, but I believe two sound principles are, first, that the same body should administer and control the whole of the educational field and, secondly, that the units of administration should be large enough to have the necessary financial resources. A number of our authorities are crippled because of the area rates they have to draw on, and I am afraid that the Government will have to recast even the finances of this system. There still will be great poverty-stricken areas, and the rate burden will tend to cripple all that we desire to see coming into effect. I hope the Government will do something about these points. I can say on the point about teachers, if I cannot say it on many others, that the National Union of Teachers realises the need of, and is prepared for, measures of dilution. Naturally it would want to be consulted in a matter which affects the status, remuneration and general standing of the profession, but that shows how keen it is to get something done and that we should get to work quickly. That will go a long way to meet the need for teachers; you can get the teachers quickly.
Then, with regard to buildings, I am reminded of a famous passage in the Prime 1962 Minister's book on the great crisis of the last war, where he described, in language all his own, what had happened during the last war. He said in effect that during that war we perfected the production machine in a manner which was simply stupendous in the matter of output and simply resilient in the matter of quality. If we wanted 300,000 shells we got them, and if we wanted 300,000 houses the same production machine, turned to such purpose, could turn out 300,000 houses. How much more powerful will our production capacity be after this war? But, he said, on 11th November, 1918, something happened. What? The money factor intervened, and the new world that was to be built was not built. The threat of the money factor is still here, but from the point of view both of the teachers and the children, I see no need for the long, drawling drag that is pictured in the Appendix to the White Paper. With good will and with drive—and there is plenty of good will about now—we can go ahead, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will do so.
This nation must learn the lesson which is pointed out by Cohn Clarke in one of his statistical books. He said that there was a period during our history when our productive power per unit of labour employed reached the ceiling and never got up; then, he said, something happened, and the curve began climbing and our individual output became more. He asked what was the factor that increased the total production. It was the service of education, the increased intelligence and the increased resilience of our people. I do not want an education system that is merely directed to producing more workers in industry. I want a liberal education where body, mind and soul can find exercise and development in the common schools of the country. Profoundly I believe that in this world—we see it in Fascist totalitarianism which worries Europe and which may even now be creeping towards us and enveloping us during this war—totalitarianism clamps down individuality. I believe profoundly in personality and individuality. In order to cater for that, a broad, liberal stream must flow in our educational world. We must, therefore, liberalise and humanise the purpose of our education. We must, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman, make it an even more potent, dynamic and useful institution.
§ Viseountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
It is hard to follow such eloquence, and I do not want to be controversial, but when I hear people speaking in the House of Commons about education I sometimes wonder and marvel why the country trusts the House of Commons as much as it does. I want to show what the House of Commons could have done in the last 20 years and what it has not done, and this is not the fault of any one party. I congratulate the Minister on his proposals in the White Paper and on his wisdom in saying that it was really now up to the House of Commons and the country to make it work. That is absolutely true. What happened on the Fisher Act? It was one of the most magnificent Acts ever put on any Statute Book. Why did it fail? It was not only because of the money factor. That did not stop building and education. I could go into great detail about what did stop it, but it would be very controversial, and I might have the whole of the Labour Party on my track, which I do not want to happen in this Debate. But I must say what happened when Mr. Trevelyan was President of the Board of Education. Some Tories and some Liberals got together, and we went to him, and said, "You have got support in this House for implementing the Fisher Act and raising the school age to 16. Will you do it?" But after consultation with his Government—a Labour Government—and in spite of the fact that he had both Tories and Liberals behind him in favour of this, he said, "You know, it would be very controversial to raise the school-leaving age." I nearly lost my seat over it, because the very people who ought to have been working with me—the Labour people—went round the back streets and told the women, "Lady Astor wants to keep your children at school, and you know very well that that is not what you want." [Interruption.]—I do not want any humbug about this. It is true that every Labour Conference for the last 25 years has had education on its programme.
§ Viscountess Astor
I am trying to tell the truth. The Trades Union Congress put it on its programme, but it was so 1964 far down the list that it never got to it. The real problem before those of us who are keen about education is to get the country roused and to make everybody want it. The Minister has told us that that is our job. I have listened to nearly all the speeches, and he has had very good advice and been told what to do. It is our job to do at least half of the things that he has told us ought to be done. Are we going to do it? Do we or the people or parents really care? It is the most difficult thing in the world to get people actually roused about education. It is no good telling us about all the failures. We know all that. Nobody worked harder than Margaret MacMillan to try and get all the Labour Party, and indeed, all parties, roused about education, and finally she same to my party, and she got help. She defied the Labour Party because she knew, as I did, that very few people in any party really cared deeply about education. That is the fundamental truth.
The Government and the Minister have done magnificently in this matter. I am not going to blame the right hon. Gentleman for his failures or for what he has not done, but I say, "Thank God that he has done as much as he has done, and now it is up to us." There is not a Member who has been in this House for 20 years who will not agree that I have worked, spoken, begged and implored, and yet I got very little support for the provision of nursery schools. Two years before the war broke out my husband spent a good deal of money in order to put forward a generous plan of education. It was worked out by some of the greatest experts in this country. It was nonpolitical. It would have implemented the Fisher Act and given us open-air nursery schools and turned the 80 per cent of slum schools which are still in this country into proper schools and would also have provided continuation schools. But I could not get 25 Members of the House of Commons to take the slightest interest in it. The teachers did take an interest in it. I could not get the trade unions generally to support it, but I did get some of them. The plan was carefully worked out and would have cost £2,000,000 a year, but nobody would look at it.
I want to say to the Minister that I feel for him very much. Although these 1965 beautiful speeches are made, I wonder whether when they get out into the country hon. Members will try to carry them out. This is the most vital thing before the country to-day. I said some years ago that 36,000 children had verminous heads, and people said, "You are insulting the working class." Not at all, I was trying to get things put right. We have known of some of these things, but it takes a war to bring them forward and to let the indifferent know about them. There have been such long speeches made on education in this Debate that I think it must be the hot weather I have never before in my life heard such long speeches. But there is one thing that I want to say. When it is said that our country has failed so profoundly in education, we must judge things by results. Has England ever failed? Have men ever fought with more courage? Have the people, purely passive and absolutely unprepared and loathing war, ever done better? I do not agree that our system has failed. It has been the best system in the world so far. I judge the tree by its fruit, and the fruits of our system are magnificent. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh. Look at the evils of the system in which they believe in Spain and in Italy. [Interruption.] The hon. Member opposite who is going to speak presently has nothing about which to boast.
I think it is marvellous that we have such agreement as we have on the religious question. It is a wonderful thing to have achieved. I hope that there will be no religious controversy, although, of course, people cannot get all they want. What is the good of people trying to teach that in which they do not believe? What is the good of people talking of religion in which they do not fundamentally believe? I believe that, though the people of this country do not talk so much about religion and do not attend churches so much as the people of other countries, deep down in their hearts they live it probably more than in any other country in the world. So we do not want any religious controversy, and I am glad that the President has been so wise in getting so much agreement.
There is one further point that I wish to make. My right hon. Friend said nothing about the hours of children in 1966 industry. I think that is very important. Mr. Hudson said the other day—(An HON. MEMBER: "Who is Mr.Hudson?") Mr. Hudson, of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the other day:There is a demand for 300,000 children. There is no union to watch their interests. Conditions of labour in the Holland division of Lincolnshire are disturbing. Children there work without supervision and hire themselves to the highest bidder.The Board set up a Committee to look into the conditions of children in Lincoln- shire, although I do not know whether it has reported yet. The position is really alarming. I hope the Minister will see that the hours worked by children under the Board of Education's authority will not be over long and that they will not be allowed to work in school time, except in war-time. In conclusion, I would like to say that we must be honest about education. Do not let us talk about the past or things that are terrible; let us talk about the future. Hard work will have to be done, but it will be worth while, because I feel that with a willing heart, a clear conscience and less humbug we can build a worthier country in the years to come, although even now it is better than most.
Sir Richard Aclarid (Barnstaple)
With the exception of a few kind words to the President, I want to try and debunk this White Paper and the policy which lies behind it. If any other Member will act as a Teller with me at the end of the Debate, I will divide the House against the Government's Motion. For some time past, for the last 20 years, we have had an educational target. It was not altogether a bad target, but we were approaching it at a gentlemanly crawl. Now the Minister has given us a new target, and I would like to congratulate him. I did not expect t to be such a good target, and for it I offer my appreciation and praise to him and to all those other educationists who have worked to make it so good. But do let us face the fact that while we have a changed target, we have done nothing whatever about the pace at which we are to approach it. If the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) will give me her attention for a moment—
§ Viscountess Astor
If the hon. Member intends to attack me, I hope he will do it now, because I have to go to Bow Street in a few minutes.
§ Sir R. Acland
I can assure the Noble Lady that I was about to say things which might be of interest to her but that they would be nothing which would call for a reply. Therefore, if she has engagements elsewhere I would not stand in the way.
It has been said that our rate of progress depends upon this House. Yes, subject to the limits of what is financially possible within the present system. This issue comes up on all occasions—Beveridge, health services, pensions, education and what you will. Take it in relation to education. You want more schools, and you want them quickly. More schools mean more work. They mean that amount of extra work which is necessary to feed, clothe and house men and women who are building the schools, training teachers and training as teachers. Nobody in this country is afraid to work if it is shown to be necessary in order to give our children what they need. If, therefore, it were possible to present the issue to the nation that this extra work would give us the schools in 10 years, we could take a democratic decision and decide to do the work. But put these elementary and self-evident facts through the mangle of your present financial system, and see how they come out. More schools, under this system mean not more work, but more money; more money means more taxation; more taxation means more depression; and more depression means more unemployment. So the proposition which starts by meaning more work ends by meaning less work. We have to balance our desire for schools, not against any supposed reluctance to work, but against the supposed effect which raising taxation would have in throwing us out of work.
There is one thing which cannot be denied or disputed about the Soviet Union. Some hon. Members may not admire what they taught in their schools, but they did build them. How did they finance their staggering building programme? If they had tried to build their schools in the Czarist days by puffing capitalist taxation on capitalist industry, it would have taken them 1,000 years to do what they have 1968 done in 20 years. They financed the building because under their system they put all their resources on one balance- sheet. They could choose the right order of priorities, treating the whole thing as one production job; and then get on with it, without having a man like the Chancellor of the Exchequer running round and saying, "You can't do that there 'ere, because I haven't the money." As I have said, this is a beautiful target in its way, but we shall not get it, and the Minister knows it. The Government will not get this target in a practical period of time because of the financial considerations that will arise, not through any lack of enthusiasm in this House, but because of the rigid financial conditions imposed on this House and the country by the economic system we maintain.
The question of the public schools has been postponed. How clever. If we were thinking of building a fully integrated system of democratic education, we would consider public schools now and how their resources, buildings, endowments, experience and moral qualities could be incorporated into the total of our democratic system. We shall not be allowed to do that now. Are we to be allowed to do it later? No. By the time we discuss public schools we shall have settled by Act of Parliament the whole of the so-called democratic system of education, and the only question that will remain will be, not how to incorporate them within it, but how to superimpose them on it. By postponing this issue the Government have gone far towards guaranteeing in a possibly modified form the very special position of public schools.
But far worse than this is the positive preservation of the private schools. This is where the trouble begins. When I was a little boy in London I used to walk from my home to my nicey-nicey school in my nicey-nicey red and green hat. I used to meet other little boys who were walking to the neighbouring common school, the little playground of which I could see out of one of the windows of my house. I was taught the usual lessons by means of books and blackboards. Very likely they were the same things which were being taught in the common school. But we were taught something else, not in books or by the teachers. Subconsciously I was being taught every morning as I left my front door, "You 1969 are one of the special boys, and you gà to the special boys' school." [Laughter]. I do not know why hon. Members should laugh.
§ Sir R. Acland
Never mind, for the remainder of my speech I propose to use that term to mean the kind of school to which special boys like myself were sent. As I was subconsciously being taught that, other boys were being taught, "You are common boys, and you go to a common school." That is where this poisonous thing starts. So long as that is preserved, all the rest that you do in the way of increasing scholarships and so on is simply saying to these common boys, "We will give you some avenues by which you can get nearer to the special boys.''
Why should I not have been sent to the common schools? I put this question to ladies of my acquaintance in Devon County, and they reply. "What, do you want to level downwards? Do you want my children to go to a common school when I can send them elsewhere?" I want to level all right, but I want to level up. if the President had the guts to send the sons and daughters of the well-to-do to our common schools for even three years, he would have done more to promote education in this country than by the whole of this White Paper put together, because then we would have got effective pressure on county councils to do something about it. As it is, nine- tenths of our well-to-do send their little boys and girls all over the country to special schools of their own selection, and most of them do not give a hoot for the conditions in which their neighbours' children are compelled, without choice, to go to the common schools.
Mr. Hutehinson (Ilford)
What figure does the hon. Member propose to put before the House himself?
§ Sir R. Acland
Let us not quarrel about statistics when we are dealing with funda- 1970 mental points. Let us say, then, slightly more than half. The House will have to bear with me a few more moments. We have spent two days in which one Member alter another, with mild criticism, has given great praise to the whole of the White Paper and described it as an educational revolution and something which will leave the mark of this House on the soft clay of the future for many generations. I gather that no other hon. Member will express opposition as I do, and I now come to what is fundamental.
You talk about education for citizenship. You cannot educate for citizenship when the standards of righteousness exemplified by the principles of your society are lower than the standard of righteousness accepted by the general mass of your people. That is the condition in which this country finds itself to-day, and it affects every problem. No problem does it affect more decisively than education. What are the principles underlying any structure of society? They are not the ideas which we have consciously absorbed with our active minds and selected them as being preferable to other ideas and therefore given our consent to them. The principles underlying any structure are those things which we absorb subconsciously and adopt, without ever having challenged them at all, as being inevitably right, if I were to say that every son of an agricultural labourer should be compelled by law to remain an agricultural labourer all his life, there is not a Member who would not assail me. If I had made the same proposition about a baron or a serf in the 13th century, there would hardly have been a man living who would have thought it conceivably possible to controvert it, because that was the basic principle on which that society lived. We are reaching an age when the rising standard of public righteousness is out-living the principles which we choose, subconsciously, to adopt.
The great mass of the people are not sharply aware of these things in just the way that I am putting them to the House. People are aware of symptoms, not of causes. But you may be very sure that you are pressing right up against the last possible moment at which you can run your country on your existing principles when you find the overwhelming mass of your people consciously accepting four statements, and here are the statements: 1971 (1) "Things are wrong in a big way"; (2) "there have got to be fundamental changes"; (3) "there are great forces which will resist these changes"; (4) "I wonder if we are going to be led up the garden path again." Those four elementary statements are to-day accepted by an overwhelming majority of our people, and that is the way they express the tact that we have outlived our principles.
§ Sir R. Acland
No. I must tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman why he cannot ask me. I have been speaking of these things not as principles but on one issue after another for three years. No one has done me the courtesy to reply once in a speech, and that is the reason why, when I am now dealing with principles, I cannot allow an interruption.
§ The Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
It is just as well to remind the hon. Baronet that this is a matter of education, and we cannot make it a Debate on political principles absorbing the whole economic and every other system than one might think of.
§ Sir R. Acland
I appreciate your point, Sir, but every issue is dominated by these underlying principles and yet, as each issue in its turn arises, we are not allowed to discuss the principles underlying it, I ask your leave to present these principles, and I ask leave of the House to present them from the proper place.
§ The hon. Member left the Bench from which he had been speaking and proceeded to the Front Opposition Bench.
§ Sir R. Acland
This is the fundamental Opposition to this Government, to the basic ideas on which this educational policy is founded. No other hon. Member feels this as I do. No other Member, therefore, in my view, has the right to challenge me if I state these principles from here. Now perhaps I shall get an answer.
One of my reasons for coming here is that I believe with my whole heart that not merely this education matter but the 1972 chance of preserving this country of ours through the next ten years without breakdown and chaos depends on our understanding what I am going to try to say now. Let me pit the principles of the past and the future. Here is the principle of the past: You shall promote your own self-interest. Against that I put the principle of the future: You shall make the best of your abilities in the service of the community.
I think I must remind the hon. Baronet that, if he is going to delve into these matters of principle, he must relate them to education, which is the main subject of the Debate, otherwise it will be impossible not to have the Debate going over principles which have little or no relevance to the needs of education; but as an example as to how education might be benefited, obviously he is within his rights.
§ Sir R. Acland
It will take me a little longer to do it in that way. We are talking about education for citizenship. We are asking our teachers to instruct our children to be good citizens and to live up to, and if possible to live higher than, the righteousness of the principles which the majority of our people desire to see adopted. We are trying to teach them the duties of responsibility, that they should devote their lives not to grabbing, to snatching, to fighting, to cheating, to wangling and to lying. We are trying to tell them to devote their lives to something far higher, far nobler, far greater than that. Our teachers are called upon not merely to use the words appropriate to the different lessons but to exemplify with in their very lives the duties of mutual service and responsibility between man and man. That is what we are trying to do in our education. We have this White Paper that we may do it better, but no one notices that, when we have done all that for the child, we send him out into a world which still conducts the whole of its social life and the whole of its political and economic structure on opposite principles. So I say again, unless I am forbidden, that the first principle of the old age is: "You shall promote your own self- interest," and the principle of the age that is to come: "You shall make the best use of your abilities in the service of the community "; the principle of the old age: "You shall yourself be person- 1973 ally responsible for carving out as big an income as you can for yourself," and the principle of the new age: "Your reward shall depend upon the judgment which your fellow men shall make about the value of your present personal service, the value of your past personal sacrifice and the needs of yourself and your family." I would draw the attention of hon. Members who might quote that principle against me to the fact that it would allow us to pay full income and capital to those who have saved through personal stint. The third principle of the present age is: "You shall own as much property as you can, and that property shall entitle you as of right to a 3 per cent. reward certain, or a higher percentage if there is any risk attached to it." That is the principle of the old age. Against that I set the principle: You shall not own the kind of property which would bring you in an automatic income without requiring you to work upon it."
I would remind the hon. Baronet that in this Debate on education the matter of the ownership of property and percentage of dividends is quite removed from the White Paper.
§ Sir R Acland
With great respect, is that so? We educate children for citizenship. We teach them to go out and serve their fellow men, and they find themselves in a world in which everyone is grabbing and scrambling for property. I say to the teaching profession, If you want to build up citizens into coherent individuals, you must educate them to he constructive rebels against the present structure of society. If you educate them to accept it, you will break them down with disillusion when they find the world that they are going into.
Members opposite me will try to maintain the principles they believe in for a few years more. We shall then get as many schools as we can afford within the framework of these principles without causing unnecessary employment through high taxation; and we shall then still be unable to educate our children for citizenship. I believe the days will come much sooner than hon. Members suppose when this country will reject the present principles and accept new, and only then will our country be on the path of progress again, and in no department of life will 1974 its progress be more astounding than in education.
§ Commander Bower
On a point of Order. The hon. Baronet has spoken from the Front Bench. I think it a convenient moment to raise the question, because if all back Benchers were to adopt his practice, it might lead to some confusion. I think this the most appropriate moment to raise the point.
I think that is a matter of which the Deputy-Speaker might be given some notice. Perhaps we may leave it in that way.
§ Mr. Wakefield (Swindon)
I am afraid that I cannot do the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland) the courtesy of replying to his speech, because if I did I would he out of Order, as you have ruled, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was not able to follow the hon. Baronet in all his arguments, but if I understood him aright I gathered that lie was opposed to the progressive educational reforms which my right lion. Friend proposes to introduce to this country. It is a good thing that the constituents of the hon. Member should know of the reactionary attitude adopted by him.
§ Sir R. Acland
I cannot let the hon. Member get away with that. I expressed my appreciation of everything in the target except one—my regret is that we are not going to reach it. To say that I am opposing the things that are proposed is far from the case.
§ Mr. Wakefield
I cannot follow the hon. Member in his reactionary attitude. I take the opposite view and would like to congratulate the President of the Board on the production of this White Paper. The substance of my remarks will be to urge that the proposed reforms should be implemented as early as possible. When I went through the White Paper I asked myself three questions: First, What do we wish our education to do? Second, Is it doing it? And third, If not, why not? The first question is admirably answered in the first paragraph of the introduction to the White Paper, particularly when it mentions that the object should be to secure for children a greater measure of happiness. Before the outbreak of war a cross-section of opinion of the youth of three countries 1975 was taken. They were asked what it was they wanted most in this world. The answers, I believe, were as follow: In Russia what the young people wanted most was happiness. In Germany their reply was to serve the Fuhrer. In this country the majority replied that they wanted security. I think that happiness is the better objective, because if you get happiness you surely get security of mind and indeed many of those securities in other directions in connection with which measures may shortly be introduced. On the second point, whether education is achieving what we want, the President in his admirable parable showed that the machinery was out-of-date and the garment outworn. Consequently, the White Paper indicates a number of ways in which the coat can be modernised, and haw we can achieve what we want to see our education do for us.
In recent months I have, in connection with the work I have been doing with the Air Training Corps, had considerable contacts with our young people. My experience has shown me that there is no finer material than is existing now. I am confident that our young people are as good as and, indeed, better than ever they were. It is clear that by stopping education at 14 and having a gap of perhaps a year or two, the young person, when he wants to start up and feels that if he is to make the best of his life he must give himself further education, finds that he has gone back since the age of 14 and that it is harder for him to get going again. A great many young people with only an elementary education have done this in a remarkable way because they have had a clear objective. They wanted to fly or improve themselves in the trades they have taken up, and with the opportunities that have been given them they have reached quite a remarkable efficiency in all kinds of subjects like mathematics, English, geography and elementary science. They have done that in two or three years of hard work while they have been working 40, 50 and longer hours a week in factories. If that can be achieved as it is now being achieved, what a rich dividend will be paid when there is greater opportunity with the school-leaving age raised and facilities as are envisaged in the White Paper for part-time education. The material is there and it ought to be given the opportunity. 1976 I hope that in these reforms the education will be more objective and purposeful. It need not be narrow and vocational if it is made more objective. Our young people want to have before them a target, something to which they can aim in their education and their work, some object that they can see a reason for. That need not be narrow. It can be broad-based and wide.
If these educational reforms are to be a success, I agree with the President that the key point must be the teacher. Their success rests on the quality of the teacher. In this connection we have to think in terms not of schools being good or bad but in terms of good headmasters and bad headmasters. In examinations that I have taken in Air Training Corps squadrons I have found that the education has gone ahead with imagination and the training has been interesting because there was a good commanding officer. Where there was a bad commanding officer there had been lack of interest and wastage. It is the same with the schools. With a good headmaster there is good team work, the teachers pull together, there is the right spirit in the school and the idea of putting into rather than taking out of the common pool. The greater the care in the selection of headmasters and teachers the greater the benefits which will result. It is satisfactory to know the importance which the White Paper attaches to having men of the right calibre for teaching. References have been made to the fact and the President himself referred to it, that the bottleneck in the development of education after the war will be twofold—the shortage of teachers and the shortage of accommodation. I would like to join issue with the speakers on this point.
Why should there be a shortage of teachers? One of the most important things teachers have to give is not merely technical knowledge, but experience of life, in order that they may build the characters of the young people whom they lead. What better experience can there be for so many of our young men who are now flying our aircraft, manning our ships, and taking part in operations all over the world? With that experience, and because so much technical knowledge is required in fighting, they have in addition a vocational knowledge with which to start that wealth of background experience. When the war 1977 comes to an end there ought to be, not a shortage, but a plethora of talent available to lead and to give that inspiration which will be required if these educational reforms are to progress in the way I am sure my right hon. Friend wishes them to progress. In this war we have seen how many married women have been able to do part-time work in factories with success and at the same time look after their homes. Why cannot some of the shortage of teachers be overcome by the use of married women to do part-time teaching? Some of the big classes can easily be split up, and I am certain that some of the married women would be able to bring to their teaching of the young a lot of valuable experience because they are themselves mothers and are bringing up families. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not forget that supply of women which will be available for this purpose when peace returns.
With regard to accommodation, surely there is an unreasonable fear of a shortage. In this country and the Dominions there is an immense number of camps well laid out, with playing fields, class rooms, and technical facilities of all kinds available. Let us avoid the mistake we made after the last war of allowing these camps to get into disrepair. Cannot we continue to use them to the full? They would be the best way of developing boarding schools. I was glad that the President made a reference to the development of boarding schools, because I believe that the more opportunities that can be given to our young people to spend time at a boarding school, even if it is only three months, the better. In my visits round the country I have had opportunities of seeing public schools, secondary schools, grammar schools and all kinds of means by which our young people are educated. There is no doubt that there is a difference between the boarding school and the day school. The boarding school gives the opportunity for developing discipline and team work and an opportunity for the individual to take responsibility which the day school does not give in the same way. It provides, too, that discipline which youth welcomes and likes to have. When youths work together in some recreational way in a club, cadet unit or squadron, and go to camp for a week or two, they come back with a different spirit even after so short a period. That spirit 1978 can be developed at the boarding school, and I hope the camps will be used to the full in this direction.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman realises that the young are excellent teachers of the young. It not only brings out confidence in young people, but develops their initiative. Why cannot they be used to help out the shortage of teachers? In the last war, when there was a great shortage of teachers, shortly before I left my school I was put on to do some of the teaching of the lower forms. It helped me a great deal. I do not know whether it helped the others. From experience in the Air Training Corps I know that many of the older youths who instruct the others give extraordinarily good instruction. It helps them, and it also helps those whom they instruct. Why that system cannot be extended I do not know. These boarding schools, these camps, could be so easily made a useful means of developing our education, and I hope it will be realised how self-supporting they could be. It would give an opportunity for people in the towns to learn what happens in the country—learn about the different seasons and get a knowledge of many things which they do not appreciate in towns. They can not only be self-supporting by engaging in agriculture—as at Oundle, one of our public schools—but they can give certain vocational training intermingled with wider training in the workshops at these camps. There, I think, is an ideal opportunity for rapidly introducing the reforms set out in this White Paper.
I hope it will not be forgotten that in the Dominions there are many camps being used for the Empire Air Training Scheme. Why cannot some of our young people go to the Dominions, with their teachers, to stay in these camps for two or three months? They would receive a wider education, enriched by their experience of other countries. I hope that outlet will not be forgotten. If full use is to be made of the higher education system, every effort must be made to ensure that those who are best able to profit by it use the opportunities which exist. At present some go to universities who ought not to go there, and, as we have been told by my hon. Friends opposite, a number do not get to the universities who ought to be sent there. Both from the financial aspect and on the basis of examinations we should ensure that those who will most 1979 profit from university education receive it. At present there is too much of the examination and cramming complex, particularly in the day schools, and not sufficient is done in training character. I hope the President will pay a visit to the Army Selection Board, where men who are to be recommended for commissions are picked out. There is a series of tests extending over three days—intelligence tests, physical tests and tests in initiative. Some of the methods adopted there, though obviously not all, could be used in a number of the examinations for higher education or university education.
I am particularly pleased to see—and I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon it—what a substantial measure of agreement has been secured on the religious question. I think the measure of agreement achieved is substantial and reasonable and that no one could take exception to it. I should like to support him in all he is doing in that direction. The need for religion to enter more into their lives is felt by the young people themselves. That has been made abundantly clear to me in the Air Training Corps.
§ Mr. Montague (Islington, West)
On a point of Order. In view of your Ruling, Sir, may I ask whether if religious education is to be discussed in connection with the White Paper subsequent speakers can deal with the fundamentals of righteous living, which I take to be the meaning of religion?
There has been a considerable amount of discussion about religion in this Debate, and I see no reason whatever to curtail the remarks of the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield).
§ Mr. Montague
But that was not my question, Sir. I did not ask that anything should be curtailed. In view of your recent Ruling about the fundamentals of education, may I ask whether religious education can adequately be dealt with if fundamentals are to be left out?
I do not think I gave a Ruling on the fundamentals of education. I ruled on the fundamentals and principles as regards capitalism and things of that kind.
§ Mr. Wakefield
I was saying that my experience while with the Air Training Corps brought home to me that our young people did feel the need for religion in their lives. Opportunities were given for young people to attend—it was all quite voluntary—church parades or services before the usual parades and courses of instruction, and it was found that when there was right leadership given such opportunities were looked forward to eagerly. That seems to show that there is need for the proposals in the White Paper, and I welcome them.
Now I want to pass to a matter which affects my own constituency very deeply, the proposals in the White Paper in regard to Part III authorities. My own constituency is a non-county borough, and if the proposals in the White Paper are implemented, it will have no responsibility for the education of its young people. For 30 years it has been responsible, not only for elementary education, but for further education as well, and it has carried out its duties in a most efficient manner. My constituents are deeply apprehensive of the proposals in the White Paper, because they will mean that Swindon, an industrial town with many technical workers, having a population of 80,000 or so, will be subjected to direction by a county authority situated 30 miles away which is mainly concerned with the education of a rural population. My constituents feel that such an authority could not understand or appreciate their particular needs.
§ Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)
Does not the county authority also take responsibility for higher and secondary education in the rural districts?
§ Mr. Wakefield
I am not disputing that. I am only stating what my constituents feel about the matter. [Interruption.] Surely that is what we are here for, to put forward the views of our constituents. My constituents feel that Swindon would be placed in a difficult position. I noted with particular interest the words of the President when he was referring to the reorganisation of the powers of local authorities. He said he desired that authorities responsible for local education should be in a position of "dignity and responsibility. "My constituents do not feel that the position which their borough will find itself in after having carried out this work for 30 years will be one of either dignity or responsibility.
§ Mr. Quibell (Brigg)
What means has the hon. Member had of ascertaining the opinions of his constituents? He keeps on referring to them.
§ Mr. Wakefield
I have had these opportunities. A council meeting was held recently, and a resolution was passed unanimously—
§ Mr. Wakefield
After all, local councils do represent the local people. The local people have in turn made representations to the local council.
§ Mr. Evelyn Walkden (Doncaster)
Is it not true to say that many of these local authorities pass resolutions without ever having seen the White Paper or knowing even one paragraph of it?
§ Mr. Wakefield
That may be so in some cases, but my constituents do not do that sort of thing. It so happens that it has been carefully studied in my constituency. I can speak from personal knowledge, because I was down there recently. I can assure the hon. Member opposite that I am not just "pulling a fast one" but am really stating what my constituents deeply feel. Therefore I hope that when the Bill comes forward it will be found that provisions have been made to meet the very special case of constituencies such as I represent, a town with a large industrial population situated in a wide rural area. They are special and isolated cases, and provision should be made to cover their interests. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will take note of what I have said and will listen to the representations which have been made to me. To conclude, I hope that the proposals in the White Paper will be implemented as rapidly as possible, so that our young people may be given a greater opportunity to show what is in them in helping to frame the future of the world, which will be their responsibility.
§ Mr. Mack (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
I start with the disadvantage of finding myself largely in accord with what was said by the previous speaker, because I represent a non-county borough with a population of nearly 70,000 people. With the people in the immediate surroundings the number may be much more. As a non-county borough Newcastle-under-Lyme has. Conducted 1982 a great part of its educational work in what is regarded as a really efficient manner. This is not merely the viewpoint of one political party in that borough but represents the opinion of all political parties. On the question of Paragraph 117, Section II, of the White Paper they naturally regard with very much concern the fact that it is possible that the county educational authority may take over a considerable part of the work of education, notwithstanding that the borough has not only the necessary financial resources but has a very close personal interest in the work of education and is very anxious to keep going that close community of interest.
Further, I have just been notified that the Association of West Midlands Educational Authorities, meeting at Birmingham, have expressed uncompromising opposition to that part of the White Paper. It is only fair to mention this, because I am advised that in this country there are only 37 such authorities, and of these 25 are in the London area, leaving only 12 for the rest of the country. I trust that my right hon. Friend will give fair consideration and justice to the very proper claims of places like Newcastle-under-Lyme, which are peculiarly circumstanced and suggest that when the time comes to frame other proposals for the Bill he will have due regard to their wishes. The corporation are thoroughly competent to undertake all forms of education, and moreover, can give close personal attention which would not be the case if county councils became the ruling authority.
I come now to a rather different side of the subject, and to the very well conducted public school expedition which was led by my very well respected Friend the Member for East Hull (Mr. Muff). There has recently been a letter in "The Times" which caused me a measure of general interest. As a matter of fact, a certain Noble Lord rang me up afterwards and asked whether I was one of the people attached to "Muff's Circus," and whether I was prepared to support the letter of the hon. Member. I told him very definitely that I had not been consulted nor, so far as I knew, had any of my colleagues, and that I was not necessarily going to support the views advanced there. He said, "Do you realise that the public schools are the 1983 incubators of reaction, that I have suffered from having been educated at one of these same public schools, and that it would be a national disaster if the general opinion is circulated throughout the country that that type of education should be extended?" [An HON. MEMBER: "Who said that?"] It was a Noble Lord who sits in another place, but whose name, perhaps, should not be given publicity. I should like the House to know what happened when I paid a visit to one public school where, apart from the courtesy which was extended to me, I found a sincere and earnest desire to give the best possible education. I found they were apprehensive of this new programme of education. The headmaster in one great school, Harrow, proved to be a man of great initiative, a young man. I had expected to see a bespectacled, peering, bald-headed gentleman, but when I went into his sacred sanctum at this great school, with all the dignity and prestige and tradition one normally associates with public schools, I, as a comparatively untutored person, was almost overawed. I could see the erudition oozing from every pore of that building. When I came upon the headmaster, instead of hearing the swish of a gown and meeting a very grim visaged person, I found a very human and understanding personality.
He told me he was very anxious to have the very best possible education extended to his pupils. I was given the opportunity of entertaining the boys with some North country stories and anecdotes, and soon found myself one of the school's most popular visitors, and since then I have received invitations to pay similar visits in many other parts of the country. What most surprised me was when I was asked to take a class there. I agreed to do so, and found I had a studious and attentive class. When asked to lecture I agreed to do so, expecting that I should have to choose a very erudite subject and lecture in a very learned but safe manner. I thought I might choose some religious subject, despite the fact that I felt that I was rather ill-equipped. Finally, I decided to ask the boys on which subject they would like to be lectured. These are the subjects which seemed to be of most interest to them—and incidentally most 1984 of them were the scions of noble houses —Communism, which seemed very popular; atheism; the exploitation of man by man; whether Bolshevism would sweep the world. The mental state of those pupils would have gladdened the heart of my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). I saw those potential revolutionaries not only listening with the greatest of attention to my discourse, but ready to ask me innumerable questions, all of which were calculated to enhance the Leftward tendencies of the views which I had put forward.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
Will the hon. Member tell the House which of those interesting topics he ultimately selected?
§ Mr. Mack
I chose a pot pourri of them all, and I assure hon. Members that that dish was digested with very great relish by those young gentlemen. Question time extended for an hour. One of the masters who was present was rather perturbed, and he intervened and asked, in effect, "Is Russia as good as all that?" Well, the pupils really answered the question for me. I say in all fairness that he gave me every opportunity of exhibiting the diversity of my talents in that particular field of economic science and research. One youngster who was very bright and intelligent, and incidentally quite young—the maternal milk had scarcely dried from his nether lip—saw me afterwards and told me confidentially that he was the son of a Member of Parliament. He said, "My father, of course, is quite useless. He never attends. I beg you, sir, not to associate my views with those of father. My mother is very anxious to get him away from home. She wants him to go down to London and mix with the other M.Ps." It would not be fair of me to divulge the identity or even the political party to which this hon. Gentleman is attached. Members need no assurance that people of the character of that father are unfortunately not unknown in the sacred precincts of Westminster. The lesson from that incident is that after these boys have passed the early stage in the building-up of their education, all that excellent young human material will fall into the error of their fathers' ways. I say, after very close observance of these matters, that the House of Commons should have the courage to open the doors of the public schools to everybody, insert wedges under those doors, and see that 1985 they are kept open. Otherwise, we are going to have not merely 82 per cent. of these students going into the Foreign Office and becoming potential leaders of the nation, but a great possibility that the schools will become the incubators of reaction in this country. While I pay a tribute to the courage, the character, the zeal and the zest of the teaching staff who are undertaking education in the public schools, I believe that there is some danger from the working-class point of view, and to the cause for which I stand, and incidentally to the well-being of the country as I understand it.
Carlyle said that the first step in education was to learn how to learn. On the question of the curriculum, I noticed in the White Paper that it states:A new direction in teaching of geography and history will be needed to arouse and quicken in the pupils a livelier interest… in citizenship, the Empire and the world abroad.Again, in the same paragraph:Public opinion will undoubtedly look for a new approach to the choice and the treatment of school subjects after the war.The danger to education seems to be in the curriculum which is to be applied to the rising generation. It is all right saying that you are going to tack a year on to 14 and subsequently go up to 16 years of age. That is important, and I support it, as every enlightened person would. But what type of history and geography are you going to teach? I support independent working-class education, as exemplified by the National Council of Labour Colleges, which teaches the people and the children of this country that the working classes have made the greatest sacrifices and are indeed the backbone of this country.
§ Mr. Mack
Yes, as later they will have the opportunity to demonstrate. I am amazed that the old type of curriculum should still apply in the school. When I went to school, which was a very long time ago, and I was a rather poor pupil, I learned history, which meant that I was told how King Alfred burnt the cakes. I was not very much interested in King Alfred or in his cakes. I was informed that Drake went to Cadiz and singed the King of Spain's beard. I was told that King Canute sat in front of the waves and 1986 said, "Waves, go back," but they came forward and washed his knees. I suppose the moral of that was that a king was capable of doing almost the impossible, but that even a king was not able to usurp the functions of nature. I was told that Sir Thomas Walworth was a very great Lord Mayor of London, because when Wat Tyler came along he lopped off his head, decapitating him with a great sweep of his sword. Later, when I learned something about working-class history, I came to know that Wat Tyler was a hero round about the i4th century. He led the rebels to London and demanded something for his people and his class. I had not been told about that at school. Then I learned about a man called John Kett. All I knew previously was that he was a rebel. I had not been told about the Dorchester labourers, who laid the foundation of trade unionism in this country, or about the Luddites or the Chartists, who did much to lay the coping-stones of freedom in the year 1848, a date which will live imperishably in the minds of the working class of this country. I was not told, what I should have been told, about the slaughter at Peterloo, when Viscount Castlereagh's troops committed an atrocity at Manchester.
Now let us take the question about text books. I select this gem as my first offering; it is, "A First Book of School History" by Professor Hearnshaw. He says, speaking of the years 1925 to 1927, a very pregnant period in the history of this country:To the general trend towards peace there were only two serious exceptions during the years 1925–27, and both of them owed their' seriousness to one and the same cause, the fomentations of the Soviet Government in Moscow. The first was the coal strike and the supplementary strike of 1926. Fortunately, the nation realised its sinister significance, and completely defeated it.No doubt tens of thousands of pupils have been taught from this book. That is the taradiddle that is trotted out for the mental consumption of the so-called intelligent pupils of this country. If a text book of that character can be tolerated in our schools, there is something radically wrong with our educational system, and it should be exorcised completely from the spate of books supplied by the educational authorities. It almost reminds me of the famous interjection of the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson)—a name 1987 which has a curious ring in my ear. He looked round at the Labour Benches and said, "I look round on my hon. Friends and see in their evil faces the most sinister influence which might affect the status of my class for the future" or words to that effect. In a famous book by J. J. Clarke called "The Outlines of Central Government," 3rd edition, page 5—I hope I am not giving these books publicity which might cause their sales to increase—it is said that the principles affecting the functions of government are:(1) Public action should not stifle private enterprise"—A glorious offering of thought for pupils in the schools—-(2) The State should not enter upon undertakings of a speculative nature.It is perfectly patent and obvious that if that kind of teaching is allowed to percolate into the brains of plastic human material, because they are at a very tender and impressionable age, they are going to turn out to be, as some do unfortunately, reactionaries of the future. I will say for the right hon. Gentleman that he has shown commendable assiduity in sticking to his seat during my speech.
§ Mr. Mack
I agree. I was saying that I pay a great tribute to his assiduity and I might also say the physical endurance shown by the right hon. Gentleman, which is not always associated with a Minister of his eminent rank; very often they leave the Benches rather early, it may be because of the quality of the speeches or lack of quality. At all events I commend the right hon. Gentleman on it, and if I may say this to his Parliamentary Secretary, I feel that he has earned a meed of praise because he has sacrificed the needs of the inner man to apply himself diligently to his task. Be that as it may, the fact remains that some forms of the education which are given in this country are a dangerous type of education, and I trust that Members of my party will give very close consideration to the difficulties which I have mentioned in connection with it. There is nothing much one can say about this matter except that perhaps the right hon. Gentleman has done all he can within his limited range 1988 of choice. After all, he is affected by the considerations, I do not say personal ones, but of the large party behind him, who say, "You must progress along certain lines, getting the largest common measure of agreement, and so far as we are concerned we do not want you to alter the curriculum of the schools."
There are certain other subjects in this White Paper, namely, the idea of stimulating a desire for Empire, on which something should be said. I share with all Members of this House the desire that we shall have a strong Commonwealth of Nations, an England that will be respected by all the countries of the world as one of the leaders of freedom, one of the countries which has played a great and noble part in the fight in which we are engaged. But after the war if it is necessary for other parts of the world to have their freedom, if we have to make a magnanimous gesture, and it will not necessarily be magnanimous, for the benefit of subject races, I want it to be clearly understood that education with regard to Empire may have to be very much revised in the light of subsequent events.
I hope that I have not bored the House unduly, but I have waited with considerable patience to speak, because I believe that that particular aspect of the form of education in the type of public school to which I have alluded has not been dealt with by previous speakers. I submit these considerations so that the House may develop them in their minds, in order that at a subsequent stage they can give to the schools the type of education which will ensure that everyone shall have an equal opportunity of acquiring education; and, secondly, that the type of education instilled into the minds of the pupils will be such as to make them really worth while citizens of a truly democratic State.
§ Sir Richard Wells (Bedford)
I should like to add my congratulations to the President of the Board for the hard work he has put in and the midnight oil he must have burned in the drawing-up of this White Paper. Lip service in this House will not bring about these changes. First of all we should go to the parents of the children and get their support and encouragement to these children to learn at their schools. I am not sure that nursery schools are a good thing. In this respect I think we should have nurseries 1989 and call them so, but not two Departments doing the same work, as I think one is sufficient. I feel that education should start at the bottom and work up. We may spend millions and get very little return. I think the first stage the Minister could tackle in his crusade would be for a reduction of classes in all primary schools. That is one of the failings we have to-day.
Also we want much more scientific teachers in those primary schools. I think that most education falls down to-day owing to the want of the science of teaching in those schools and the knowledge those children get when they go on to further education. One must remember that the materials on which the teachers work are a finer mechanism than any invented by man, and on the way in which this is moulded depends the future of those children. The difficulty in many secondary schools is of finding girls and boys capable of taking advantage of their secondary education. Personally, I am opposed to the Part III proposal, dealing with the transfer from the local education authority to county councils. I think the local councils are much more interested in the primary schools than the county councils are likely to be. Many men on those local authorities are personally interested, not only in the schools, but in the parents, and in many cases in the children, and are really interested in how those schools are conducted. I think that to do away with Part III would be a retrograde step. With regard to the secondary schools, I think that the teachers should be much more specialised, perhaps one might say in the same way as the medical profession specialise, in meeting the varying needs of the public. We want to meet the various needs in these schools for the younger generation.
I know that the President of the Board is not making any recommendations with regard to direct-grant schools, as he is awaiting the Fleming Report. I am particularly interested in direct-grant schools, because I am Chairman of Governors of four very large ones, and it is the only secondary education in my area. I feel that these direct-grant schools create a bridge between independent schools and county council schools, because these direct-grant schools and grant-aided schools have their own governing bodies and are more or less independent for all practical purposes. They choose their 1990 headmasters, arrange their own business and carry out their whole work practically without any direction from -the local authority, though always, of course, under the influence of the Board itself and under the Board's inspectors.
I am not sure about the position of the grant-aided schools. I think it will be rather difficult, because many of them have ancient foundations; many of them have endowments. I can give an example, if I may, of a grant-aided school that is doing extraordinarily well and has come from London to my area. I think that if the freedom is taken away from these grant-aided schools, something of great value will be lost in our educational system. They have tradition, and the boys and girls who go to them are proud of those schools and always think of them in after life as something to be remembered. If you do away with those schools, I think you are making a greater cleavage in our educational system between the independent schools and the council schools. You leave nothing whatever in between. I think that the result would be that there would be more independent schools and more fee-paying schools, as there are many people, including working-class parents, who like to pay a fee, because they think that they are getting something for their money that they would not get if the teaching was free. I would advocate the policy of increasing free places and State scholarships to schools of higher standards. The direct-grant schools do take quite a number of pupils from the local authorities. It gives variety in those schools. I was talking to our headmaster the other day, and he told me that in his experience the fact of having those boys from the local education authority was good, that it created good feeling, that the boys got on very well together and that the boys who came from those junior schools as a rule did extremely well.
We have in my area to-day an experiment which is, I suppose, unusual, but it is interesting. It is in one of our schools which was built for 600 and where we have nearly 800 pupils to-day. We have also a school from London, a boys' school, billeted, and this school of ours works in two shifts. That is rather extraordinary. You might say that this might have a serious effect on the education of both these schools. As a matter of fact, both are up to standard and, I believe, are rather better than they were before. They 1991 are working half-time, and I think it shows how much more work can be got into a shorter period if it is properly concentrated. It may also show that shorter hours in education may be beneficial to boys and girls. One cannot judge, of course, in the first year of such an experiment; one cannot really judge in the second year, but we have had just over three years, and that is the experience. I think it would be useful if the Board's inspectors made a report to the President of the Board as the result of this experiment, because it might have a great influence on the future of secondary education in the country.
I want to say another word about local education authorities. I am afraid that as a Chairman of Governors my meetings with the local educations authorities have not been altogether happy, but I will say this with regard to the Board of Education: I have in connection with these schools very often during the last 20 years called on the Board for various things and have found them exceedingly helpful every time, and not only helpful. In time of great stress recently, when we had two-thirds of our endowments blasted in London and lost tens of thousands of pounds, the Board helped us and were very generous, and we have been able to carry on, though with some difficulty. I think that a valuable experience too. I should like to see the Board's inspectors have greater powers and more control over the local education authorities. I should like also to see the Board, where it is reasonable and proper, recommend additional grants to schools where really good work is being done. If the schools got too much into county council hands, I think we should get what I would call a Hitlerised education. With regard to the secondary school, I should mention that it is billeted with us, and it has some of its own boarding houses. When it is going back to London I do not know, but I think it will not be for some time. It is a very happy school. In this advanced secondary programme, I would like to see one or two floating schools. There will be many ships available at the end of the war, and I would like to see people going not only to the Empire but to Greece and other countries like that. In that way they would learn far more than they would from books, and they 1992 would gain a knowledge of other nations and have broader minds. Other nations have been able to do this. It would be appreciated not only by the scholars, but by many teachers as well. It would be something for the scholars to remember for the rest of their lives.
I wish the President well in this vast work. Those of us who have been in this House for many years know the difficulties that face him. Most education debates have been exceedingly dull. One Member speaks for perhaps 40 minutes, then another follows him for 40 minutes, and after that few Members stop to hear the Debate that follows. But this Debate has been very fully attended, and it has been of great value. I trust that it will be of value to the President himself.
§ Mr. Edmund Harvey (Combined English Universities)
I join with the hon. Member for Bedford (Sir R. Wells) in the desire to express a sense of profound satisfaction at the character of the Debate. I think it stands out among the Debates on education that have taken place during the last generation of Parliamentary history. It stands out because almost every speaker has had some constructive suggestion to make, and because, in spite of profound differences between us, there is great agreement as to the lines on which we can go forward. Many of us feel the change of atmosphere in which this House approaches the great religious difficulties which in past years have stood in the way of educational advance. I can look back to 1908, when I was associated with Sir Michael Sadler in the formation of the Education Settlement Committee, which attempted to bridge the gulf between different sections during and subsequent to the various stages of Mr. Runciman's Bill, which came to grief on those rocks. I can remember the intense bitterness which divided good men, and how people failed to realise how much they had in common. As we listened to the appeals made by two of our colleagues yesterday, who spoke as devout members of the Roman Catholic Church, and to another colleague, not a member of their church, who spoke from their point of view, we felt that even if we could not share that point of view wholly we respected profoundly their convictions, and wished earnestly to do justice to them, as to all our fellow citizens.
If anyone had wished to take up the plea they then made, from another angle, 1993 I think he would have said that, after all, the settlement which the Government proposed in the White Paper does not impose sacrifices without return. They are going to get a very substantial grant, and they will have complete control of one side of education and complete control and ownership of the buildings outside school hours for use for other purposes. That is a very valuable asset. On the other hand, it must be remembered that many earnest 'citizens have looked forward to a unified system of national education, in which the single school area would be abolished. That difficulty remains, although I hope it will soon disappear. Everybody is making some kind of sacrifice and I hope that in the happier days before us we can look forward to a settlement by consent, with willing sacrifices on all sides and respect for convictions on all sides. I believe that the President in his White Paper has laid the foundations of such a settlement. It will not be just a settlement reached by indifference on the things that are of the greatest importance. I believe that the greater measure of unity which there is among those who a generation ago were so divided is due to a realisation of the immense things that we have in common. There is a deep underlying spiritual unity, which can be realised in the common school, with freedom of conscience for the teachers—which is emphasised in the White Paper—and with freedom of conscience for the parent who sends his child to those schools. If we can go forward on that basis the difficulty that confronted our fathers may never have to be faced again. We can look forward to harmonious progress, with a real religious spirit underlying the work of the common school, calling out the best that is in the children and calling also on the teacher to give of his best. I had not thought of alluding to this problem. I thought, however, that, in view of what happened yesterday, someone with a different standpoint should speak about it.
But I believe that on every side of the House we have agreement that we want the President to go forward as rapidly as possible to implement the White Paper. We have not any doubts about the width of view and the kind of vision which has inspired him. I have the utmost confidence in him. He has shown wonderful 1994 tact in dealing with one section and another of opinion; he has shown great consideration. We want him to have the driving power to get this thing done. He has the vision; he has the wise conservatism, along with the liberalism, of an Erasmus; but we want him to have the fire and driving force of a Luther, too. I want to point out one or two measures—some of which have been alluded to—in respect of which there is no room for delay. The White Paper says that this plan is to come into operation at the conclusion of the war. But some of the things that are needed can be done now. First, there is the question of educational planning. Of course, we cannot expect buildings to be erected now, but he can get to work with the local authorities now on the educational planning which is needed. Let them prepare their plans and bring them forward for approval, and not wait until the war is concluded. I hope that he will emphasise boldly his warm approval of the idea of the school base, the cultural centre, which has been already achieved to some extent in those admirable Cambridgeshire colleges to which the hon. Member for the Abbey Division (Sir H. Webbe) referred yesterday. We ought to have similar cultural centres prepared by our education authorities, in conjunction in many cases with the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, who can help in securing the sites. That will not be done unless the work of preparation is done now. I beg the President to assure the House that this time will not be lost, and that preparation will be made now.
Then, too, I wish him to carry out now the admirable plans that he has for making the school unit really effective. He has spoken in the White Paper of a charter for the secondary school, to preserve its individuality. Why cannot that be prepared now, and why should it be confined to the secondary school? Ought not the primary school too have its individuality recognised, as part of the great system to which it belongs? I should like to see the London County Council's system of school managers applied generally, through the education authorities, for primary schools, if necessary with some modifications. We have at present large local authorities who have as their school managers only the education com- 1995 mittees. That means in effect that when there are scores of schools no effective school management is done by the members of the education committee. It is all done by the officials. I think of one great city where a big council school on a tramline was not visited in 10 years by any member of the council or of the education committee, and they were the school managers. Why cannot we have a little group of school managers who are interested in each of the schools? They need not have great powers. They could act as buffers between the schools and the education committees. They could act as friends of the teachers, to whom the teachers could pour out their grievances. That has been done with great success in London, and it could be done all over the country, and done without waiting. It does not mean a great expenditure of money. It means making use of good will that is there, and knowledge and interest that are there, creating a fresh avenue of service for citizens who are willing to give it.
Then I come to the question of adult education. It is pitiable that this admirable White Paper should be marred by the statement that nothing of a substantial character is to be done for adult education for four years after the end of the war. The critical period when the war closes will be above all the time of need for the largest expansion possible of adult education. We want education for citizenship not only in schools, though I am glad that that is referred to in the White Paper, but much more at a later stage of life, because a great many sides of citizenship can only be dealt with adequately when the student has had experience of life. It is men and women who will get the greatest benefit from this form of education, and in that field we can call upon vast reserves of possible teachers who would not be available for the expansion so urgently needed in the schools.
There are a great number of qualified people who could be responsible for taking a class one night a week during at least half the year. They are to be found among retired school masters, university lecturers, architects, artists, medical men, and also among trade union leaders, who with the richness of their industrial experience are qualified to give the leadership that is wanted in adult education and 1996 leadership in the spirit of co-operation spoken of by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). That will not be done by formal class lessons. I am confident if the President of the Board of Education made an appeal in the immediate future for volunteers, made inquiries through local authorities for volunteers, and got from the Treasury the necessary money, he would do a great service to the future of our country.
He could also make plans for the utilisation of beautiful old country houses which are now used by evacuees, so that immediately after the close of the war they might become centres, in the Danish fashion, for adult education where for periods sometimes of three months or longer, sometimes for shorter periods, workers might go to get further education in an atmosphere of fellowship. That must not be done only by State or local governmental activity. There must be the freest use of voluntary agencies in order to get the widest field of adult education. In that way we shall be rebuilding the life of the nation and in the critical period which will face us immediately after the war that work will be more necessary than ever. I beg the President of the Board of Education to insist, and not to be stopped from doing this good work by reasons of finance. I am sure he will have the sympathy of the whole House if he will go forward in faith. We know he has a Herculean task, but he will have the good will of all if he proceeds upon it in the spirit shown by the White Paper.
§ Sir George Schuster (Walsall)
I have promised not to keep the House very long, so I must confine myself to a list of headings rather than make a speech. I must say at the outset that I think my right hon. Friend has had a great success in this Debate, and that he deserves it. I like the White Paper, I liked his speech, and I liked his simile about a new suit. But about that new suit, I hope he will not be content with a war-time utility model, but will insist on turn-up trousers and the proper number of pockets and buttons. He will need them. Surveying the Press and this Debate, I should say that the only criticism there has been of my right hon. Friend has taken the form of a question—Does he mean business? I am sure myself that he does mean business, but whether he can carry it through or not depends on us. It is up to us to 1997 back him and see that he gets the money. By all means let us face the financial implications. But let us have financial realism not financial alibis. I speak with some feeling on this matter, and perhaps I may be allowed to give a personal reminiscence. At the end of the last war when I came back—rather late because I was not demobilised till the end of 1919—I felt like so many people are feeling today, that things were never going to be the same again and that we were going to have new standards and a new outlook. I did not want to go back to financial affairs, and I asked myself in what way I could be most usefully employed. The Fisher plan was before us, and I felt that there must be a great need for continuation school teachers. I found that Birmingham University, with great enterprise, was starting a training course for continuation school teaching. So I went there to get myself trained. It was rather a pitiful business—a strange mixture of men and women, some with high hopes, but after three months we were told that the whole scheme was dead—dead because the Government would not face the cost—and that we could go home. It did not matter to me personally, because I went back to very interesting work in the economic field; but that memory remains very vividly in my mind. We must not let that happen again. We can face the financial problem, without fear if we set about our tasks rightly and in the right order. We must see that our industries are properly equipped and we must all do a good job of work. Then we can afford all sorts of things and when it comes to that I would say for heaven's sake give priority to the education of the young over all social purposes and place a fair measure of these social purposes above all over unnecessary luxuries. Therefore I want to say here and now that if it is a question of supporting the right kind of education I for one would stand for the continuance of high taxation —a 10s. Income Tax if necessary or even higher. It would be worth it.
That brings me to my next point of the quality and supply of teachers. That is of course a key matter. It is not only a question of salaries but a question of status. We are all very ready to say that teaching is the most noble career but what do we do to make people who give their lives to that career realise that? Very little. We must give the teaching profes- 1998 sion a status which stands high among all, and then we can hope to get the numbers of the right men and women into it that will be needed. But to get this matter fully right will take time and I hope my right hon. Friend will take advantage of every possible method of improvisation. There are all sorts of ways in which he can get people to help in the educational task. One suggestion which I should like to make is that there is available a source of supply in men who have served abroad and retire fairly early, men, for example, from the Colonial service, men who retire in their 50's; such men if they were encouraged to look forward and prepare themselves might be a very valuable addition to the teaching force. My hon. Friend referred to Plato. I have not had time to look up the "Republic," but if my memory is right Plato contemplated something like this for his "guardians" that they should start as warriors, then do a period of public service, and, in their last active phase, end as teachers of the young. There is much wisdom in Plato.
The next point in which I am particularly interested is dealt with in paragraph 34 of the White Paper, where my right hon. Friend launches a proposal of immense importance, when he speaks of encouraging local education authorities to undertake secondary education in boarding schools. That means that the advancing tide of national education is beginning to lap at the doors of what are called the public schools. I had not meant to say much on that subject at this stage, but in view of the speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Mack) I must touch upon it. I am interested as the vice-chairman of the governing body of a public school and also as a member of the committee of the Association recently set up by the governing bodies of all the public schools. I would like to say, speaking with this experience, that I am one who expects changes and welcomes changes. I speak as one who feels that the public schools must be ready to take their part in a great new experiment in national education, and who believes they have a contribution of special value to make. But I realise only too well that to settle just how that contribution is to be made will require bold generosity and wide vision. I am not one of those who think that merely by providing 25 per cent. or even 50 per cent. of the places in public schools for scholars from State 1999 schools we are going to solve the problem that needs to be solved and in that I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay). If we in this country desire to have a wide expansion of secondary education in boarding schools then it will be necessary to have a great number of additional boarding schools. If that is to be the development, then I think the existing public schools can do a great deal to help such an expansion in many ways—by lending masters, or even sending some of their boys to start off new schools, or carrying out varied experiments in the early days. I want in fact to see the public schools helping in every way that they can.
That brings me to the next point which I want to put to my right hon. Friend. We all ought to be thinking now about national education as one great whole. Let all of us who are interested in educational problems get to understand each other and to know the best of both sides. I want to see closer contacts between those who represent what I might describe as the local education authority point of view, and those who represent other points of view. If my right hon. Friend could arrange conferences or give encouragement to conferences between those of various interests I think that might be a very valuable thing.
I should very much have liked to talk at length about the continuation schools proposals, as one who is responsible for a business employing a large number of juveniles, in which we had started an interesting educational experiment before the war. I am delighted to know that my hon. Friend is going on with that idea, but I would like to ask whether he is starting plans now for the training of continuation school teachers. There is a great deal of preparatory work to be done there. Speaking from the personal experience which I have already described, I should like to be assured that proper courses for an emergency supply of teachers are being prepared. I should like also to have spoken at length on the question of adult education, but I think the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), who has himself done such great service in this matter, has put the case as I would have put it.
Reviewing all these matters I would urge upon my right hon. Friend that there 2000 is a need now to fire the public imagination. He has a great opportunity. Interest has been aroused. This Debate proves that. I want him to seize this opportunity, keep the spirit alive and stimulate enthusiasm. Let him get painted a picture of the educational possibilities of this country—a vivid picture as it could be—which would capture the public imagination just as did the Beveridge Report. It can be done, And will he consider this point too? We get many commissions and committees in this country, examining one question or another, but generally looking into things from the point of view of inquirers into what is wrong. Could not my right hon. Friend try a new idea and get produced a report about things that are going right —all the things that are best in the British educational field to-day? There are going on to-day up and down this country an immense number of extremely valuable experiments about which people know very little. We often discuss the possibilities for new plans for the future thinking of them as distant improbable ideals, but in fact if we only go about this country, in almost every field of life, we can find practical experiments actually in successful progress which are putting into practice our fondest dreams. If my right hon. Friend could prepare such a report as I have envisaged, I believe that a great stimulus and encouragement could be given to public thought in this matter.
We have been talking about schemes for education. But do let us keep our minds, too, on that education itself. Many people in the course of this Debate have warned us against regarding education as a process by which our boys and girls are trained to earn their living. That is very wise, but we must also remember that it is a process which should be training them for life—how to stand up to life—how to know and maintain true standards of values in life. It is in that spirit that I look to religious teaching and in which I long to see all the discussion of religious education taken out of the atmosphere of doctrinal controversy. Here I see the light of hope, and I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for one thing. He called my attention to the agreed syllabus on religious education issued by the Cambridgeshire County Committee. Everyone ought to read it; it is a most inspiring effort. If religious teaching is to be governed now by that kind of agreed 2001 syllabus then we can look forward to a great advance. If religion in that sense gives us an ethical code, if we can make that code provide the real working rules of our daily life, and if our code is that of the Christian religion, then we shall solve all our problems. Finally, one word on the content of education. There is at the beginning of the Cambridgeshire syllabus a quotation from a great poem by T. S. Eliot, in which he talks of that education which brings usKnowledge of words, and ignorance of the Wordand ends by asking:Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?Let us have an education which need not fear these questions and bear all these things in mind as we help my right hon. Friend forward in his great task.
§ Commander Bower (Cleveland)
I desire to raise a point of Order in connection with an occurrence during the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland). I am sorry that the hon. Baronet is not here. This is not a personal attack upon him. He is a personal friend of mine, and he and I have had a most friendly discussion about the incident in question. I understand he is unavoidably prevented from being here. During the course of his speech he moved from what is commonly known as the Liberal bench, the second bench on the opposite side of the House, down to the Box at the Table and made the remainder of his speech from there. I submit that if this should be allowed to be a precedent, it might become very awkward.
§ Mr. Speaker
I was not, of course, present when the incident occurred, but I have been told about it. It is not so much a point of Order really as a matter of the customs of the House. It raises two points: whether a Member can change his place in the course of his speech, and, Is he entitled to speak from the front Opposition bench? It is laid down in Erskine May, page 303, thatevery Member who speaks rises in his place and stands uncovered.It follows from that that Members may not and should not move about. With regard to the second question, my predecessor laid it down on 21st May that 2002 the qualification for obtaining a place on the front Opposition bench are, in present circumstances, when there is no official Opposition, first, any ex-Minister of any party, if he chooses, is entitled to sit on the front Opposition bench, and further it has been the practice in recent years for the Opposition to choose a few prominent back-benchers to sit on the front Opposition bench and that this practice has been continued by the party which was in opposition in the pre-war period. It does not appear that the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland) fulfils either of those conditions, and therefore he was not entitled, according to the customs of the House, to take a place on the front Opposition bench. I would like to point out, as did my predecessor on several occasions, that it is a matter for the House itself. It is not a matter for me to deal with, and it is for the House itself to enforce it. I am limiting myself on the present occasion merely to stating what is the custom of the House.
§ Mr. Gallacher
May I ask whether, when something of this kind happens, it is in Order for hon. Members to come to me, as they have done to-day and as they do on other occasions, and suggest that I should be foolish enough to follow this silly example?
§ Mr. Denville (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)
I am the unfortunate Member who made the suggestion to the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Alexander Walkden (Bristol, South)
If we may resume our consideration of education, I would like to thank the Minister frankly and warmly for all the hard work he has put in on this great subject since last November. We had an indication that he was busy then, and knowing how difficult the subject is, we know that he must have worked terribly hard between then and now to have been able to give the House this very helpful White Paper. But, like many other Members in this regard, I would like to urge him to arrange that there shall be no delay whatever in going forward with the work which has started here this week. I hope that he will present his Bill to implement the White Paper as soon as may be after the Recess, so that we can get going on it this autumn. I would also ask him, -when he has prepared the Bill—I know he cannot put down specific dates, anno 2003 Domini—but he might be as definite as the new Italian Premier, who has said to the Italian people that within four months of the cessation of hostilities there shall be a general election. Will he please consider putting into his Bill this provision to say that as many provisions as he can enumerate shall be implemented not later than four months after the cessation of hostilities with Germany? It may take a longer time to deal with Japan. He may be worried about the provision of schools and. buildings, but surely there are in his own party enough high-spirited, patriotic noblemen with great mansions which they find a burden to them—at least we hear that that is the case—who would allow his Ministry the use of these mansions, at any rate for the time being for a reasonable period on lease, for carrying out the work as suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey). I can think of no better use to which these mansions could be turned, these stately homes of England, than to be utilised in the cause of education. I cannot see that there need be any appreciable delay, immediately the war is finished, in putting the Measure which will come to us soon, into operation. I hope all parties, sections and groups in the House will accept the proposals that are outlined in the White Paper as the basis for a Measure which will give us a big installment of what is due to our children. It is only a start, of course; it halts rather badly at the age of 16 and stops short at the age of 18. Obviously, it needs carrying further, and no doubt further measures will be brought forward in due course. But in the meantime let us make a start.
I hope there will be no renewal of the denominational controversy that we had yesterday. I am sure we all realise that my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) was not speaking for the Labour Party when he waxed so warm on the denominational point of view. I would advise denominational interests to accept the offer of the Minister with gratitude. It is something very much more generous than might have been expected. If they intend to raise a bitter controversy, they will find that other people have something to say about that. We in the Labour movement, particularly in the trade union movement, have no wish to see the expan- 2004 sion and development of a particular type of religion. We see its adverse effects in other countries, among other peoples. What has happened in Spain has had to do with that aspect of the question. The story of Italy is not a very good one, and the story of Ireland is not very encouraging. We in the trade union movement know that when we have visited Canada we have found that even in that new country trade unions are divided. There are the ordinary trade unions, and there are separate religious trade unions that do not work in harmony with the General Trades Union Council. They take their instructions from other quarters and are a constant source of trouble because of their lack of solidarity. So, do not let us stir up that controversy. If it is stirred up, other people will be ready to defend the Minister. It has been said that there will be a lot of paper and Lobby agitation. Let it come. There will rise from other quarters agitation no less effective in support of the Minister. Those who have fought elections—and I have fought seven in purely industrial areas—know how the various schools differ. Usually, the denominational schools are deplorable places. Therefore, I think the Minister's offer should be accepted with thankfulness.
One of the greatest things I welcome in this White Paper is the proposal to abolish fees. Some people say, "Why not take money from people who can afford to pay? But we do not want to perpetuate the feeling of difference between those who can pay and those who cannot. Instead, we should wipe away this class distinction. Parliament should do its utmost to abolish class distinction. I would like to see the term "working class" wiped away from our language. I think it is nearly as detestable as Karl Marx's "Proletariat." I would like to see more of Emerson's attitude:Do not call him a working man; he is a man, working.The Minister, in his delightful speech, indicated that he had a word with the Minister of Agriculture with the intention of arranging for some useful and special education in regard to agriculture. I think the country will welcome that very much indeed. Agriculture, as well as being the most important and most fundamental industry in the country, is also a most 2005 interesting industry. Far from people's minds wandering away into other spheres of activity, agriculture might well come first. If education can show our young people the wonders of production in the vegetable and animal world, I think it would go a long way towards getting the right spirit for the rebuilding of our agriculture. Wonderful work has been done by science in bringing chemistry to the aid of agriculture, by our stockbreeders who, second to none in the world, have bred animals which have changed hands at a cost of as much as £1,000 each, and have gone to the ends of the earth. Then there are all the wonders of seed improvement, how, for instance, potatoes are made immune from disease. When I was a boy the Magnum Bonum potato cropped six tons to the acre; now its successors give 12 tons to the acre. All this is very interesting, and I am sure boys and girls would be glad to know more about it, and especially about mechanism, upon which agriculture depends so much these days.
But why only agriculture? Are there no other great national services that need special treatment? I have the honour of representing one of the great seaports of England, and I would like to suggest that seafaring might he made a special feature, to be dealt with in an entirely new spirit and not merely in the spirit of maintaining our commercial relations. That is one aspect, but there is more in it than that. We need to breed a race of boys and girls who will be prepared to take up any work, rough and tough, if necessary in any part of the world. There is talk about the finance with which to do all this. When we have 50,000,000 indigenous people ready to work with us in our Empire, I do not think we need talk about where the money is coming from. We must cultivate our own estate here and also abroad under the wise direction of an up-to-date Colonial Office. If we do this our Commonwealth will never be short of money. I hope there will never be any more mean objections to progress on the ground of the lack of finance. We shall never survive in the centuries to come unless we are able fully to discharge all our responsibilities in our vast possessions throughout the world. Let education help to meet the terrible gap that has existed.
There is another very important subject which I think no one else has 2006 touched upon, and that is physical education. I think that is vitally important. When I was very young the great Herbert Spencer wrote a most valuable little brochure on education in all its aspects, and he put physical education first, and he also asserted that without high feeding and physical culture children could not be expected to be successful under the strain of growing and learning. I can find scarcely anything in the White Paper which encourages me 'to believe that physical culture is in the forefront of the Minister's mind, and I am wondering whether it is at all in the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He may want more money to make provision for what I have in mind. If so, I am sure the House will help him 10 get it. Why should we not emulate the ancient Greeks who went in for physical culture and beauty? I think that grace and beauty are quite as important as trigonometry. I ask the Minister to lay it down that at every school there must be a good swimming pool. That is he beginning of grace and beauty. If you can swim, you are ready to go pretty well anywhere, and, no matter what water you get into, you can get out. It is of real value in an educational service.
Then there is very little mention of art in the White Paper. Let us cultivate ourselves by all means to be as healthy and good looking as we know how to be, but surely it is not extravagant to suggest that there should also be a picture gallery adjoining every school, where the scholars can have shown to them and can study beautiful paintings and sculpture. The rooms, too, should be ample for music—concerts and dramatic performances, which will give the scholars grace and buoyancy and teach them to speak well. I have not found these things in any curriculum yet but it is time they came under the purview of the Ministry and were impressed on all education authorities. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to be bold, to be ready to initiate new things, and to bring in a Bill which every one will say is a magnificent Bill worthy of this great Parliament.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
I rather hesitate to intervene at this hour on the second day of 2007 this Debate, because there are still a great number of authorities on education, Members who have made a life study of education and are authorities on the subject who desire to speak and the last thing I want to do is to cut them out. But if I were not to intervene, my omission to do so might be misunderstood. For many years it has been my lot to take part in every discussion on education, and I am guilty of having signed a report on behalf of my friends in the Liberal Party dealing with this subject. I am also chairman of the committee which advices them on educational problems. If I were silent the right hon. Gentleman might think I was sulking, that I was not satisfied, that I was critical, that I was unfriendly. I am very friendly. I consider the White Paper an educational charter. Just as the Atlantic Charter is a synopsis of international relations, so I hope the White Paper will be a guide-post to this Government and future Governments and that we shall keep them up to it. It is not a maximum but a minimum. I think there is general agreement in all political parties and among all educational experts—except perhaps the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland), who, I believe, ploughs a lonely furrow and dislikes the whole thing, as he dislikes anything that comes from any Party or any source.
I take it that the White Paper to which I have given very careful study, is, largely, a consensus of the recommendations of various committees which have been sitting representing all political parties. My hon. Friends the Liberal Nationals, the Conservatives and the Labour party have had their committees and we Liberals have had ours. All the educational organisations, the directors of education, the local authorities have been studying education for the last couple of years, putting forward their views and getting those views put down in black and white. The right hon. Gentleman is the embodiment of tact. He is a great diplomat. He has kept contact with us and has read all our reports and, on the whole, the White Paper is a common denominator of the things on which we are all more or less agreed. The right hon. Gentleman was for many years at the Foreign Office, and I am not sure that that is a good training where action is required. He will be judged, not by his White Paper but by his actions. He will 2008 have to get his Bill through the Cabinet and then obtain time from the Government for its discussion. That is not going to be very easy. I can assure him that, if he is ready with his Bill when the House resumes after the Recess or, failing that, when a new Parliament is called, Members on all sides of the House will back him in insisting on the Government finding time for its discussion. When he gets his Bill, his troubles will commence. I have had experience of many Education Bills. I have seen many fall by the way. Hon. Members above the Gangway have had two Ministers of Education both of whom failed to produce a Bill. The right hon. Gentleman will have his troubles first in the Commons and then in another place. If he wants to go down into history as a great Education Minister he must be firm. He must not carry compromise too far. He must feel that these proposals are the minimum which not only the House but the nation will accept.
I have been encouraged by the real enthusiasm that has been shown in the last few days, the competition to speak, the readiness to listen and the obvious enthusiasm for any constructive proposal —and there have been many. The right hon. Gentleman would not for a moment claim for these proposals any great originality. They are the result of long years of study and thought by his experts, but particular credit should go to what I believe will be a great name in our education history, Sir Henry Hadow. The very titles in the White Paper such as "modern school" and "grammar school" appeared in his report many years ago. [An HON. MEMBER: "Seven-teen years."] I did not know it was as old as that. It shows what a long time it takes for educational ideas to reach the Board of Education and get into a White Paper. The right hon. Gentleman as I say will have to show himself a man of action and determination. There will be many competitors in the House for the money in the Treasury, and when his Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, as I am sure it will, because of the determination of this House, the battle will commence with the local authorities and not least with the Treasury. There has been a good deal of inevitable discussion about the back-hand blow to the Part III authorities. But let us be realists. We have to consider not vested interests, not even the magnificent work done by 2009 public men in education in the smaller authorities, but the interests of the children. It is clear that we cannot carry a reform of this kind, embodying secondary education for all, unless we have these large areas arranged so that there can be a proper division of labour and a proper variety of schools—modern, grammar and technical; in other words, a full generous system of education, without class distinction, open to all.
There are two weaknesses in this White Paper. The first is in the proposed continuation schools. They are generally accepted by everybody. I remember the experiment of the London County Council which so signally failed because it was local and not universal and there was not a public opinion behind it. Now we have general acceptance, first, by the parents which is vital, and, second, by industrialists and business men. They are all beginning to realise that an uneducated proletariat is a danger to the State and a weakness to industry. There is, therefore, a general desire to bring continuation schools into existence. As far as I can see from the White Paper, however, there will be no large-scale organisation of continuation schools until the fourth year. My right hon. Friend might well put forward the defence—and it would be an effective defence—that there is the difficulty of providing buildings. Many directors of education insist that there must be brand new buildings specially designed. That, of course, is our ultimate aim, but I press on the Government that instead of waiting some years for the organisation of continuation schools, it would be better to improvise, to use temporary buildings, to take over, if you like, munition factories. Provided we get the right type of men to run them—and these need act necessarily be professional teachers, but men of the kind who are running educational work in the Army, and have shown great gifts of organisation and administration—the actual buildings are of secondary importance, although, I agree, that they would not be popular among ordinary educationists. It is vital to get a move on and we should not wait until enthusiasm has died down and there is another misfire and perhaps the appearance on the scene of some Geddes or May.
The other weakness of the White Paper is the small place given to adult and tech- 2010 nical education. To me that is appalling. Ninety per cent of the children leave school at 14. We have been forcing these boys and girls to leave at 14 to give service to the Stab in the Forces or in the factory. When the war is over, they will come back, having lost the little technical education they had acquired. We have a special responsibility to the men and women in the Services, especially the young people of 18, 19 and 20, who left their occupations to serve the nation. What do the Government propose? The last thing we generally look at in a report is the appendix, but it is a most important part of this White Paper. It provides the fuel, and it is no use having a car if you have no petrol. On page 35, paragraph 4, technical and adult education are lumped together as if they were one small thing. For the first year no provision is made. For subsequent years the expenditure is expressed in fractions of a million pounds, as follows: Second year, 0.03; third year, 0.06; fourth year, when we really seem to get going, 0.1; fifth year, 0.3; sixth year, 0.8; seventh year, 1.1; and ultimately, when we really become extravagant, 2.7. I understand that the Parliamentary Secretary will reply particularly on this point. I hope that he will be able to explain those figures. When I read them I was realty depressed because we owe the men and women who are coming back from the war a special obligation.
After the last war we know the tragic story of unemployment, of idle men and women, often without any particular skill, leaning against wails with nothing to do, and often getting into mischief because there was no proper provision for them. In London we made a great experiment in which I took an active part. I was associated with the pioneer school. We started a working men's institute in an elementary school in a back street. It took some time to persuade the men to go inside. They were suspicious of it and thought there was some catch in it. But from this nucleus, enthusiasm spread. The scheme started in 1920, and in 1939 over 3,000 working men, real horny-handed sons of toil, were coming regularly to the school. In that year there were ii schools with 30,000 members. They were run on broad, generous lines, rather on the basis of clubs, with a great variety of syllabuses and all sorts of experiments. 2011 That was a small and inadequate contribution to a big problem. There ought to have been, not 30,000, but 300,000 members up and down the land. I ask my right hon. Friend to take the problem of adult education seriously, and not to regard it as a side-line. We have denies' generations of children education and robbed them of the secondary education which is their heritage. We shall never be able to make it up to them. If we are to provide for future generations the much broader opportunities of which those who are now serving the State, saving this country and saving mankind by their loyalty and their courage were robbed we must see that something is done for them in this Bill.
The same observations apply to technical education. Surely technical education should have a high priority if the industrial needs of the country are to be met. I do not wish to go into figures, but it is common knowledge that in technical education we are miles behind the United States of America, Canada and most Continental countries. Most Continental countries have had their works destroyed and those will have to be built up afresh, and that will give us a new chance to compete in quality. Industry recognises that if we are to regain our markets and provide industrial opportunities for the vast army of men now engaged either in the Services or in the production of munitions we must have technical education on a large scale. It will not be cheap if we are to do it properly with the right appliances and plant and with competent and capable instructors, but we shall have the good will of industry and of the trade unions if we enter upon a bold policy of technical education and give it a reasonable priority.
I have a word to say upon a matter which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd), the organisation of a Board of Education. The right hon. Gentleman is not a Minister. He is a President—of a very fine type. The word "President" suggests that he presides over something. He presides over the Board of Education, but, as far as I can make out, the Board never meets. It is largely a fiction. Maybe it consists of my right hon. Friend and his Parliamentary Secretary.
§ Sir P. Harris
I am sorry that I was tempted by my hon. Friend. What I was going on to say was that Mr. Fisher, in the Act of 1922, provided a consultative committee as part of the organisation of the Board, and we owe to that consultative committee a great part of the work we now see embodied in the White Paper. If we want the kind of education which has been advocated in this House, I say that the Board of Education should be made a reality like the Board of Admiralty, which consists of experts who advise, or like the Army Council, which includes representatives of various branches of the Service. The time is opportune for the Minister to be supported, to be advised, to have behind him not merely a lot of excellent officials, but a proper Board representing the accumulated educational knowledge of the country. That is specially important in view of changes in Ministers. Ministers come and Ministers go. If my right hon. Friend the President makes a success of his job here, he will almost certainly go to another post, and the enthusiasm he has shown and the experience he has gained, will be frittered away. If we have a permanent Board consisting of experts in various branches of education it makes for a continuity of knowledge, experience and direction such as are vitally necessary for the future well-being of education.
§ Captain Gammans (Hornsey)
I do not propose to try to range over the Whole field of the White Paper, much as I should like to do so, but to confine my remarks to one point, the disappearance of the Part III authorities. The House must realise that there is misgiving on this point in many parts of the country, a feeling that it may not be entirely for the welfare of the children, and, after all, it is they who chiefly matter, if these authorities are wiped out. The President said yesterday that appeals ad misericordiam had been made to him. I do not propose to appeal to his soft heart but rather to his hard head, and to ask him whether he is convinced that complete rigidity in regard 2013 to the disappearance of Part III authorities is absolutely necessary. I am not suggesting that all should be, or can be retained under the very wide and increasing powers which have been outlined, and the point I want to make is restricted largely to the Greater London area and in particular to Middlesex.
I would remind the House that of the 15 local authority areas in Middlesex, the smallest has a population of 61,000, and in some cases the population is as high as 180,000. Almost all of those local authorities have very fine records in education, and they feel that not only ought they to retain their powers but that they are competent to discharge the additional powers which the Minister has in view. I suggest that their rigid abolition throughout the country as a whole would be inadvisable.
What worries many of these authorities is the proposal to delegate their work to district committees appointed by the county. I know the Minister provides certain safeguards. Nevertheless these committees are not democratically elected and it is no good pretending they are. One of the phrases used by the Minister yesterday was "Leaders of education." I do not know quite what he has in view, but I know there is a feeling that if there is to be delegation, it should be delegation direct: to the local authority, where it has proved itself capable of carrying out this work in the past and where it is of the size 'aid clown by the President in the White Paper.
I need hardly remind the Minister or the House of the dangers which will arise in local government if more and more functions are taken away from it. Some have been lost already. Here is another great branch of work which it is likely to lose; and we hear that another Ministry may take away some other powers from local authorities. I was working out only a couple of days ago what would be left to a non-county borough, and I could not see that there would be much more left than the mayor and his chain of office, and perhaps a few dustcarts. We do not want to destroy local government; it is the whole basis of democracy in this country. Anything which may do so, such as this proposal, is not in itself to be supported.
§ Mr. Butler
May I interrupt my hon. and gallant. Friend? He can understand 2014 that what I said in the House about nothing being taken away from the sphere of local government, is the fact.
§ Captain Gammans
Yes, I have understood that, but the one point I wanted to ask is whether the Minister is prepared to keep an open mind on this question of the elimination of the non-county boroughs and whether he is prepared to consider that there is a difference between a borough with a population of 150,000 and another with a population of one-tenth of that number? The second point I should like to ask is that he should not close his mind, when it comes to the delegation of these powers, to the possibility of their being delegated not to an ad hoc committee appointed by the council—approved, it is true, by himself, but in the case of the larger authorities, could that power be delegated to the local authority itself?
§ Mrs. Adamson (Dartford)
The publication of the White Paper upon Educational Reconstruction has created a great deal of interest not only among Members of this House but among the general public. The vast majority of our people take a keen interest in these things. I happen to be a Member of the Standing Joint Committee of Working Women's Organisations, representing more than 2,000,000 working-class women from factories and workshops, the professions and the homes. They have asked me to put their point of view to this House regarding the White Paper. When I first read the White Paper, my own reaction was one of admiration for its vision and comprehensiveness. We hold the view very strongly that the child born into the poorest home in this country should have the same opportunity as the child that is born into a castle. There should be equality of opportunity. We believe that poverty need not be a barrier to the intellectual advancement of any child and that the standard of education should not be measured by the power of any parent's pocket. We welcome the proposals in the White Paper, and if those proposals help forward the realisation of our principles, we shall indeed be delighted. We are particularly interested in the proposal to raise the school-leaving age to 15 and then to 16, and in the abolition of the present division between elementary and secondary education and the substitution of nursery, primary and secondary education 2015 for everyone, up to 18 years of age. I have to express the hope already put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) and my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) that we should put definite dates in the Bill for the raising of the school-leaving age to 15 and to 16. Until the age is raised to 16, secondary education in the real sense of the word cannot be provided for the mass of the people of this country, whatever name we may give to the new secondary school.
There is a proposal to send children from the primary to the secondary school somewhere between the ages of 11 and 12. That proposal is good. It is also proposed that at 11, the child should enter a school suited to its aptitude, with provision for a further change at 13 if the original change has proved unsatisfactory. I believe it is impossible to determine at the age of 11 a child's bent. No test has yet been devised to do that. If there is to be any transfer at 13+, there is no possibility of a secondary course unless the age is raised to 16. I hope that the facilities for higher education will be extended and will be equally available for boys and girls. The war has proved that we have only to train the girls and women, and they will rise to the occasion, and good results will accrue from that training. We are anxious to secure a wider choice of careers for girls in the professions and in technical employment, and I hope that all facilities for this higher education will be equally available for our girls and our boys. The White Paper says nothing about the provision of university education, but it is important that financial provision should be forthcoming such as to make it possible for children from the humblest homes to go right through from the secondary schools to the universities and that they shall have a chance to train for any profession suitable to their particular bent.
We especially welcome the promise to reduce the size of the classes. This has been a burning question for some time. We have never felt happy about the position of the teacher or the children in classes of 40, 50 or even 60 children. The success of education depends to a very large extent upon individual attention. No teacher can get a successful 2016 result if he or she has to be a regimental sergeant-major, and not a teacher. Those conditions have a bad effect upon teachers and children. Children who have been in large classes of that description have been handicapped all their lives in comparison with those fortunate enough to have been trained in smaller classes. I am glad that it has been made compulsory upon education authorities to establish nursery schools, and we welcome that provision. I hope that the Board of Education will take the widest possible view upon the necessity for nursery schools. I hope they will not regard them as a palliative for poverty or bad social conditions but that nursery schools will be available for all children where desirable, whatever their social class.
I had intended to say something about the training of teachers, but that has been dealt with over and over again by many speakers. But I did welcome the statement that was made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education when he outlined the schemes that are now in operation of correspondence classes for prisoners of war and the Services so that suitable men and women can be encouraged to go forward with a scheme for training in order that they may qualify as teachers in the future. But I want to utter a word of warning. We have heard the statement made several times that there is at present a dearth of teachers, that we must get teachers at all cost, but I hope that we shall not permit our schools to be staffed by uncertificated teachers in the future. We must insist on a proper standard of training and on proper qualifications so that there will be a proper chance for every child to have the best education from the best type of teacher.
The promised expansion of the school meals and school milk services will be generally welcomed, but I want these services to be part of the free system of education. I am quite convinced that from the health standpoint, from the nutritional standpoint, the nation will benefit in the future to a large extent by healthier children. It has been a farce in the past for children taken from very poor homes, starved in body and consequently starved in mind. It has been a struggle for those children to avail themselves of the educational facilities, and I was pleased when 2017 the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. H. Guest) emphasised this part of the White Paper and the proposals relating to the school meals and milk services.
Many hon. Members have spoken about Part III, and as I have a borough in my constituency which has a Part III authority, I would like to make a few observations about the proposals which abolish those Part III authorities. If it were the fact that all Part III authorities were bad, had bad administration or a bad record in the past, and that all county councils had an excellent record, one could understand the reasons for the proposal. I am not here to-day to argue for the retention of the Part III authorities as at present constituted. There are many anomalies, but it is true to say that there are constituencies, particularly in the outer belt of London, where the proposals in the White Paper relating to Part III authorities have created alarm and despondency, and I welcome the statement made by the President of the Board of Education that those men and women who had rendered useful service to the community in the cause of education who were in the Part III authorities would have their services utilised to the full in the future, even under the new arrangements.
I want to urge the President and the Parliamentary Secretary, who has had great experience in the sphere of education, practical experience, to see to it in the future that the county councils are kept up to scratch. We have a particular problem in those constituencies just outside London where we have had an influx of population in recent years. A lot of young couples, having married, have gone to live there, and have children. We have a young population, but those county councils have been quite unable in the days of peace to cope even with the educational requirements and offer real educational facilities and service for the children in those particular areas. They may have put up new schools. They may have had a great desire to do the best they could, but the fact remains that they were so far away from the actual districts that they did not realise their wants, for the matter was not pushed forward with such great urgency as to demand the immediate attention and education in some of these areas certainly leaves much to be desired. I fear that unless there is strong pressure 2018 from the Board of Education, immediately we can get on with the job for preparing for these new schemes outlined in the White Paper there will be much disappointment in those particular localities in regard to meeting the immediate needs of the children.
If we can get the implementation of the proposals of this White Paper, I venture to suggest that we shall have for the first time in this country, a real system of public education. Education is a drawing out, not only of the mind, but of the soul, and I was interested when one hon. Gentleman said we should not educate children just to get them a better job. The fact remains that up to the present time the children of the workers have been precluded from the professions very largely, and certainly from the Diplomatic Service, because of their lack of a real education or an education that satisfied the requirements of those responsible for those appointments. I think with pride of the large number of working-class people in the mining valleys as well as on the dockside, and in the industrial centres of our land, parents who have sacrificed everything they had to give their children a better chance in life through education, not just for its own sake, but because they wanted their children to have the chance to get away from the grinding poverty, and to be better equipped for the battle of life. We want to equip them for the battle of life, we want to give them a chance to grow up to be good citizens to be a credit, not only to their parents, but to the State.
I would conclude by saying this:These things shall be; a loftier race Than e'er the world has known shall rise With flame of freedom in their soul, And light of knowledge in their eyes.And would express the congratulations of the working women of this country, organised through the Standing Joint Committee to the President and his Parliamentary Secretary, for the White Paper, for its publication and for their desire to see that we shall have a real system of public education in this country which will to a certain extent give equality of opportunity for the children of the working class equally with the children of other classes.
§ Mr. Key (Bow and Bromley)
Fifty-three years of my life, as scholar and as teacher, have been spent in elementary schools. It is natural, therefore, that I 2019 should have looked forward to the publication of this White Paper with mixed feelings of hope and fear—hope that at last the children with whom I have spent my life were to be given the opportunity of educational development and cultural advance that their capacities and needs demand but fear lest this golden opportunity should be missed. I say "golden opportunity" because I am convinced that only in political conditions similar to those which the war has brought about is it going to be possible to come to an agreed compromise on the problem of dual control, which has been such a great hindrance to education in the past. My first reading of the White Paper heightened my hopes and lessened my fears, but I have to admit that subsequent re-readings have renewed my doubts and misgivings, and have, to my mind, revealed a lack of determination to see that the things talked of are translated into fact. It is possible that I shall be more definitely critical about the White Paper itself than many hon. Members who have spoken have been.
On the dual control compromise, I want to say little. In my experience, dual control has been a real evil, but one of which I do not think we are going to be immediately rid. Social and educational advance will in time secure its removal. Until then we have to tolerate it. As one who is very keen on educational advance, I am prepared to accept it and to make the best of it. But I am disturbed about what in the White Paper is called religious education, which is, to be given a more defined place in the life and work of the school. All education of the young, if it is real education, is religious. I remember many years ago being present at morning prayers conducted by a reputedly religious-minded sectarian colleague, who, in the middle of these proceedings, stopped the business, called out a boy who had been guilty of a minor misdemeanour and made him touch his toes, and then, as he drew his cane across the boy's seat, said, "My God, I will teach you reverence." It cannot be done. Reverence is not a subject of direct instruction, even at the end of the stick. It is in the school atmosphere, and children grow to it as they grow to obedience and co-operation, tolerance and respect. An agreed syllabus of basic Christian creeds and teachings may be a different 2020 matter, but even that, I think, is a very much overrated subject for definite school instruction. Of one thing I am certain, that many of my former colleagues will have learned with grave misgiving of the proposal in the White Paper to make religious instruction a subject of inspection by the Board's inspectors. I sincerely hope that the Government will think long and seriously before they do that.
I want to turn to things which in this White Paper disturb me far more. There is, first of all, the question of the rate of educational development. This, we are told, in the White Paper, will depend on the definite resources available. Even the raising of the school-leaving age at the earliest will take place 18 months after the end of the war, and it might be, according to paragraph 6 of the White Paper, four years.before it is possible to complete the initial design of the future structure of a reorganised statutory scheme of full-time education and to take the first step in the programme by raising the school-leaving age.That is a deadening doctrine. Financial resources, existing commitments, new claims—the same miserable excuses were made about the Beveridge Report. The primary problem in education is not one of money. Certain resources of men and material will be available. They will not be all that we require. What the people of this country demand is that we shall recognise that the first claim upon any available resources is to guarantee to all the minimum of food, clothing and shelter that is necessary, and, second, that we shall secure to the young that training and education which will enable them to tackle the problem of building a better social order than we, in our scramble for personal gain and class privilege, have been able to produce. We have not allowed finance to hinder us in directing men and materials to the production of the instruments of destruction in our fight against Fascism and despotism. We must not allow finance to hinder us in directing men and material into the production of the instruments of construction in our fight against ignorance and want.
Two problems, as I see it, stand out insistently in the immediate post-war period, so far as educational advance is concerned. They are accommodation and - teachers. Not only are there 800 blacklist schools; not only are 80 per cent, of existing school buildings—according to 2021 Dr. Spencer, a former Board inspector—unsuited for their purpose; not only are there many bombed schools which will have to be replaced; but extra accommodation will be necessary for this reorganisation. There will be great competition for the men and materials. Housing, social services, industry, all will be insistent for their share. Surely priority has to be given to the service of the young. It may well be that we have to put up with repaired houses instead of new, renovated libraries and town halls and such like institutions, inconvenient and ill-adapted to our needs, in order that the labour and materials may be used in the interests of youth. Already our children have suffered far more than we could afford they should stiffer and suffered far more than we shall ever be able to make good to them. It will not only be an injustice but a sacrifice of the future wellbeing of our whole community if, in making our choice as to which end our available materials should be allocated, we allow considerations of present comfort to have greater weight than future good.
I urge the President of the Board of Education in all questions of the priority of use of labour and materials to claim that this is the first priority, and it is that insistence which I find absent from the White Paper. There is a sort of complacence there with regard to what is to happen after the war. To my mind, nothing more deadening can be imagined than this supine crawl which the financial table in the Appendix reveals as the pace at which the Board of Education anticipates educational advance will take place. In the matter of the training of teachers, there is the same unawareness of the urgency of the problem, the same facility for high-sounding phrases about its need, but also halting proposals with regard to its accomplishment. The White Paper says:It depends almost entirely upon the quality of those who staff the schools whether the reforms proposed will be merely administrative reforms or whether they will in practice work out as real educational reforms.That is a perfect truth. The White Paper says also:It would be deplorable if the necessary corps of teachers could be obtained only at the expense of lowering existing standards.That is perfectly true, but later we find the Board of Education tamely accepting the deplorable and saying: 2022Many improvisations will have to be made immediately after the war in order to secure the teachers required"—What for? Tiding over a period? No. Improvisation to secure the teachers—required for re-establishing the schools on a firm basis and so laying the foundations for permanent reforms.Foundations based upon improvisations seem to me shifting sands on which to erect an educational edifice. There is the same lack of sense of urgency and of the importance of training in connection with nursery schools. It is claimed that in that matter the difficulties of expansion will be less, presumably on the supposition that training is not essential for nursery school work. That seems to imply that these institutions are to be merely baby-minding buildings instead of schools. That will not do. Nursery schools must be made a real addition to our educational system, and their staffs must be adequately and fully trained. There is another point about nursery schools which disturbs me. While nursery schools may need to be run as separate institutions, it is essential that they should be attached to infant schools, and for two reasons. The first is that I think it is necessary to avoid the transfer of small children to entirely new surroundings at five plus merely in order that they may be again pushed into new surroundings at seven plus. Secondly, I think that we have got to consider the problem of the mothers who, desirous of seeing their infants safely to school, will have to make the choice either of going to two separated buildings—sometimes widely separated—or, as is more likely, of deciding not to use the nursery school at all.
I have already said that the raising of the school-leaving age will not take place for 18 months, probably not for four years, and then only to the age of 15. So far as further advance is concerned, the only positive statement that I can find in the White Paper is in paragraph 22. There it is said that "provision should be made"—not will be made, but should be made—" for a further extension to 16 at a later date." A study of the financial table shows that that later date will not be until at any rate eight years after the war. There is an even more serious aspect of this problem. The White Paper says clearly that: 2023conditions in the different types of secondary schools must be broadly equivalentand then goes on to say:Under present conditions the secondary school enjoys a prestige in the eyes of parents and the general public which completely overshadows all other types of school for children over 11.Nobody can quarrel with this general statement. The task therefore is obviously one of equalising as quickly as possible the prestige of the different types of secondary schools, and in the interests of that equality I want to claim that it is essential that all steps possible should be taken as quickly as possible to raise the school-leaving age to 16, because, while the age is 15 in the modern and technical schools and 16 in the grammar schools, the process of reaching this equality in prestige, which in the best of circumstances will be a very difficult task, will be made absolutely impossible.
There are two other points I want to make in connection with secondary schools. The first is the failure to deal with the direct-grant secondary school. In paragraph 32 it says:It is not possible here and now to reach a conclusion about the future of these schools as a class.That leaves in existence a dual system in secondary education, and that is most objectionable, for the existence of fee-charging secondary schools diminishes if it does not actually undermine the advantages to be gained by the institution of secondary education for all. The other point is in connection with the public schools. It may be understandable that the Government have decided to await the Fleming Report before settling detailed policy on that matter, but this, I think, we must stress, and stress strongly, that while public schools remain as the place to which the children of the privileged and wealthy go, the creation of a really democratic society is not possible. Any infiltration of a number of pupils from the less well-to-do classes by a system of scholarships and free places will not do at all. In fact, such a procedure would probably aggravate the evil rather than lessen it. It is not possible to accept the continuance of the public schools as such in a democratic system of education.
Before I sit down there is one other matter on which I wish to comment, and that is the provision of school meals and 2024 milk. We cannot but welcome the decision to make that provision obligatory, but again a study of the financial table makes it abundantly clear that this provision is to be neither free nor universal. When we were discussing the Beveridge Report the Home Secretary, speaking on behalf of the Government and dealing with the proposals of child's allowance of 8s., said:The Government, on a basis that I will explain, propose 5s. a week.He then went on to say:The Government have accepted the 5s. plus—and to this I attach no less importance than to the 5s. itself—the development of a charter of child welfare, plus a greater freedom for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health to go ahead with his maternity and child welfare schemes, which he will do. He will exploit the situation. So will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. Then there is the development of the education services: of school meals and that sort of thing, which, it seems to me, under this new order of things will have to be on the basis of universal free service. Thereby, we shall get rid, I hope, of a factor which is not an easy one in relation to these school meals, by the elimination of the test for necessity.He ended by saying:The Government have indeed moved very fast in their readiness to accept "—and I want to emphasise that word—changes so considerable and so novel."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th February, 1943; col. 2041, Vol. 386.]I ask, is this White Paper to be a test of the sincerity of the promises made by the Government about the Beveridge Report and, if it is, what are we to think about the sincerity of the promises made in the White Paper itself?
§ Mr. Key
Their sincerity would have been made clear to the general public if it had been said in the White Paper that the services would be freely provided and universal. Until such time as they do it, I do not think that I am stretching the point if I say I rather doubt whether we are going to get these things at all. Another reason for saying that, is that there is no proposal here about the staff that will be necessary to undertake the work of these social services. Where this is being done at present, the teachers are doing it and that cannot be accepted as a 2025 permanent arrangement. The vast extension of the extraneous duties of teachers in recent years is a menace to education. However vital these welfare services may be, these and the other extraneous duties which the teachers are called upon to do deflect their attention from the no less vital work of education. Other means must be found if the social services are to be extended, and the teachers are to be really teachers. Those are the main points of criticism which I have against details of the White Paper. I recognise that in many of the proposals put forward, great advances arc indicated and I hope that consideration will be given to these points as well as to others in order that the Bill, which is to be placed before us later, may be even more worthy of the people of this country than the White Paper.
§ Major Sir Edward Cadogan (Bolton)
I do not propose to deal with the doubts and misgivings which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Key) seems to entertain of the Government's sincerity in operating this plan of education. It would be a waste of the very little time left at my disposal, but I would like to preface my observations by saving that I disagree with the opinion, which emanated from one or two hon. Members, that this scheme is a new approach to the administration of our education service. Nor do I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), who, in the enthusiasm of the moment, mixed his metaphors calling it "a charter" and "a guide-post." It is not all these things. It is the rightful outcome of all that has gone before, ever since Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster conceived their scheme of popular education in this country. It is evolutionary in its character; it is certainly a speeding-up of that process and as such must commend itself to those who have the interests of education at heart.
I hope my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education, who, like almost everybody else, is not in his place, will not infer that I am behind-hand in my congratulations to him on the broadmindedness, vision and courage he has displayed in connection with the White Paper proposals if I offer a few criticisms. In the first instance, I consider that most Members have very much under-estimated the formidable and 2026 baffling difficulty which will confront the Government in operating this scheme. After two days' Debate it is difficult to break any fresh ground, but I refer, of course, to the provision of an adequate supply of properly trained teachers. I hope I may have the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary, because I have sat here throughout the whole of the Debate. One of the deplorable features of this Debate has been that nearly every Member, with one or two exceptions, has left his place immediately after he has spoken. You, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I, as old Members, remember that it used to be one of the sacred customs of this House for a Member to remain in his place after he had spoken at least long enough to hear what the speaker who followed him had to say. Naturally, under these circumstances my speech must take on the nature of shadow boxing.
The first opponent I propose to tackle is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), whose speeches are so familiar that I can almost see him standing at that Box now. He contradicted himself flatly on the subject of the provision of teachers. He said, "Why not make a great gesture and raise the school-leaving age to 16?" Yet a few minutes later he said he very much doubted whether it would be possible for many years to get properly qualified teachers in the number required. What purpose would that serve? It is true that the President can ignore the difficulty for the moment because a Committee is sitting, but committees have a nasty habit of reporting, and when they do trouble begins. It does not require a Committee to tell us how grave this problem is or that whatever solution they may offer will be fraught with difficulties. Almost every suggested reform in the White Paper hypothecates an immense increase in the number of fully qualified teachers. Raising the school-leaving age, decreasing the size of classes and increasing the facilities for secondary education will require far more highly qualified teachers than most people seem to think. One hon. Member suggested putting pupils into camps under Boy Scouts. But secondary education requires the highest qualifications. Then there are continuation classes, which require a special type of teacher. Buildings, equipment and apparatus are the first requisites in the administration of schools, and I hope we shall get high priority for 2027 requisitioning, but they will be perfectly valueless unless we have the proportionate number of qualified teachers. Your problem will not be rendered any the less acute by this circumstance, that after the war there will be such a comprehensive reconstruction in every' part of our life that there will be an infinity of openings for the ambitious youths who will be lured away from the teaching profession which otherwise they might have adorned.
The Minister told us—let us support him in this scheme—that there is a plan for scheduling the names of those on active service who will be qualified after the war, but I am afraid he has not looked at the dark side of the picture. We know that men of the brightest qualifications were lost in the last war, because it is to the best that we go for our teachers, and the blackest tragedy of war is that it takes the heaviest toll of the best, because the best are generally to be found in the front line. I estimate the calling of the teacher so highly, the combination of qualities, mental, physical and moral, is so exacting, especially, in advanced education, for which the White Paper makes such generous provision, that I very much doubt whether we shall get an adequate supply for many years to come. I commend very highly the President's insistence on variety in education as a feature especially of the new scheme of secondary school education. Anything more shortsighted than a standardised system of education for all could not be imagined. That used to be one of the battle cries of the party opposite. I think they found their present programme upon their original conception of the party programme. I do not know if it is so still, but standardised education certainly will make for inequality of opportunity. The greater the diversity, the more likely we are to extract all that is best from the community of youth and to give it a fair field for its expression. The university used to be held up as the supreme goal for all whose abilities were capable of attaining to it. I am glad the White Paper dispels that illustion. I should like to draw attention to this passage on page 9.Too many of the nation's abler children are directed into a type of education which prepares primarily for the university and for the administrative and clerical professions. Too few find their way into schools from which the design and craftsmanship sides' of industry are recruited.2028 We have heard a good deal about snobbery. I hope that the snobbery which draws up a table of precedence for the professions will disappear after the war. Surely the measure of a man's value to the community should be the use that he is to the community, yet, hitherto a young man working in a Government Department, we will say, compiling a card index, is considered to carry a higher social status than a plumber. I do not understand why. I can understand that a university education carries with it a social status—and that is why I am rather glad that the passage appears in the White Paper—but to about half the students a university career is of very doubtful practical value, and for about a quarter it is a real waste of time. Whether we like it or not, this planet of ours is going to become more and more mechanical, and I am glad to think that arts and crafts are going to come into their own. We are very much behind Sweden and other countries, where the universities have not ignored this side of education. They never have, and I do not think they will ever be able to doubt that it serves a practical purpose in the same way that a practical experience in industry can do so, provided it is combined with day continuation schools or part-time instruction, the merits of which have been recognised in the right hon. Gentleman's scheme. Let the university by all means provide part of the variety in education, but do not let us make the mistake that it is of universal benefit for all.
On the subject of variety, I should like to make reference to the comparative merits of the day school and the boarding school. I am far from saying that the boarding school is of universal value to all. I think that probably hon. Members who shared my experience of being at a boarding school will agree that it is sometimes to the detriment of the individual boy or girl. I am convinced, however, that it is of supreme advantage to the teacher, the house master. I am certain that the house master can exercise a far more effective influence upon his pupils outside the artificial and restrained atmosphere of the schoolroom than he can inside it. The boarding schoolmaster gets better opportunities than the day school teacher of exercising an influence on his pupils, not that the latter, if he takes the trouble, cannot make opportunities for himself. I 2029 am an honorary member of a small association called Hackney School Teachers' Athletic Association, a small band of brothers who devote their spare time to the recreation of their pupils. I wish that their enthusiasm could inspire more to follow their example. One is obliged to say that for the most part teachers have allowed the recreation of their pupils out of school hours to get into the hands of lay leadership such as boys' and girls' clubs, boy scouts, girl guides and so on. I suppose that the new youth service movement is an attempt to get the local education authorities into the field of the voluntary organisations. Let us hope that it will have that effect, but it is too early yet to decide whether this venture will prove a success.
Mention of boarding schools leads me to deal with the public school controversy. We have perhaps had too much of it in this Debate, but I should like to say one or two words about it. It is not a very big problem but it is a very good news story. The public schools to-day, no less than other institutions, are coming up for review. In the Victorian era admittedly it catered for the type of youth who had really to have some form of greatness thrust upon him rather than the youth who might acquire it by his own merits. Now both wealth and birth are becoming less and less factors that count in the stern competition for place and power in the world outside, the public schools will be constrained to adapt themselves to changing circumstances. I once heard Mr. Jack Jones, some time Member for Silvertown, tell the House of Commons that Eton was stolen from the working classes. Mr. Jack Jones in his history was, in a sense, unimpeachable. Henry VI founded the college for poor scholars and I think his holy shade can rest in peace, because history has gone full circle and after the war all our children will be poor scholars.
§ Sir E. Cadogan
I hope the coal miner's son will be equally well treated. But I should like to ask what exactly are we after as regards the public schools. I am a co-opted member of the Education Committee of the London County Council, and that august body not long ago passed a resolution, myself and others 2030 dissenting, saying that the public schools were nests of snobbery and class consciousness. I should consider that view to be shared by the hon. Member for East Hull (Mr. Muff), although he has been repudiated to-day. I believe that in the variety of our education there is a place for public schools, which have played a beneficial part in our social history. It is difficult to define exactly what is the characteristic of the public school boy. I was reading some letters written during the last war by J. M. Barrie, the author and playwright, in his characteristic style. He said of the public school boy "I suppose he is the kind of boy who if he hits a Hun in battle says Sorry, Sir,' and who, if the Hun hits him, says 'Oh, well hit, Sir.'" I am afraid that is rather too subtle for the House after two days of this Debate.
Not long ago I saw a film called "A Yank at Eton." I could not quite make out what inference they wanted the audience to draw from the story—whether Mickey Rooney was supposed to be influenced by Eton, or whether Eton was supposed to be influenced by Mickey Rooney. I am bound to confess I hoped it was not the latter process which was supposed to be operating. I have known personally a great number of boys of the school-leaving age—many of them are now middle-aged men—in the industrial districts of London over a long period of years and it does not require so much experience as that to discover that they are the salt of the earth, and to know that they would be as worthy of the public schools as I hope the public schools will be worthy of them. But they would surely recognise in the traditions of the public school a heritage not lightly to be squandered, incompatible with logic as they may appear on first acquaintance. I hope and believe that whatever superficial changes may be in store for public schools, they will not alter fundamentally their inward and spiritual graces, and among these is the ability to impart a sound denominational religious instruction. There are about 170 public schools of all denominations, and they are a standing example of how denominational instruction can be given with success. I am afraid that is a subject upon which the right hon. Gentleman is not likely to have an easy time, but I salute his tireless effort to compose what seem irreconcilable differences. Every hon. Member who has 2031 spoken upon the subject of religious teaching, or nearly every one, has begun by saying "I do not want to be controversial" and then the fun begins. You cannot avoid being controversial on the subject, but I want to say only a few words about it and to confine myself to the past.
I take the view that undenominational religious instruction has been an egregious failure in this country. Disraeli said that religion without formularies is a new kind of religion. I suggest that it is no kind of religion at all. Undenominational religious instruction has failed because it is so dull and uninspired. There is nothing in it to kindle the zeal of youth, or fire the imagination or the enthusiasm of the boy. If I may include my own personal view, I am one of those who believe that religious instruction is best imparted in the home, but that is largely impracticable to-day. Thanks to the undenominational instruction in schools we now have a generation of parents who know nothing and care nothing about religion and are quite incompetent to give religious instruction to their families. However ingenious your syllabus may be, the general indifference to religion is an appalling indictment of the system of religious instructions in schools as it has obtained over the last 30 years. Can we be surprised at the result when we have relegated religion in the training colleges as an unconsidered extra not to be calculated in the certificate examination? I am glad to hear it suggested that that is going to be changed. If religion is to have any value at all, it must be the foundation of all education. You cannot compromise about it, as our predecessors in this country thought you could. As to the ways and means set out in the White Paper of restoring it to the national life, I feel that we must wait until a later stage, but I assure the President that I support him in any serious attempt to make - religious education something serious in our national life.
For the rest, I would like to say that few features of the scheme have given me more satisfaction than the recognition of the defects of competitive written examination. Long years ago I was an advocate of what I called the system of credentials. Of course it is obvious that for certain technical, scientific and artistic subjects you could not give any 2032 kind of diploma without the test of a written examination. It is obvious that in certain subjects you are not necessarily attempting to appraise character, but we want our doctor not only to be proficient at medicine but also to be a man of good character. The written competitive examination might be employed as a general test of scholarship and ability, especially in the years of adolescence, but I am convinced that that system has failed more often than it has succeeded in its purpose. The element of chance enters far too much. I defy the most astute psychologist to determine a boy's character and personality, or even his ability, in the light of one written examination. I was told that in China the pupil, instead of being supplied with a list of questions indicative of the teacher's predilections, is merely given the comprehensive injunction: "Write all you know." That seems to be infinitely more practical than our discredited British method.
I remember the last written examination for which I ever competed. I came out top. It was at the end of a course of military instruction during the last war. I came out first not in the least because I knew more about the subject than my fellows, but because I happened to get exactly the questions I wanted and none of those numerous questions which I could not have answered. It might be said that I was older than my brothers in arms and that I hoodwinked the examiner into thinking that I knew more than I really did. If the system of credentials had been the criterion, my C.O. and others who were familiar with my defects and deficiencies as a soldier would have relegated me to my rightful place at the bottom of the class. We have made a fetish of the written examination for far too long, and I am glad that this is coming to an end
One word upon the economic side of the matter, and I have done. I know that it is not considered good form for any Member of Parliament to ask the cost of any post-war plan or upon what part of the financial resources it will be charged, but I am orthodox in this matter, and I regard myself and each of my colleagues in this House as the guardian of the public purse. The President has told us that the reforms proposed involve a steady increase in the expenditure which 2033 will fall on the taxpayer and ratepayer. That is very brave of him, but he does not seem to realise that it conflicts with other statements which he has made in the White Paper. I suppose I am right in saying that a very large number, if not the majority, of the parents of the beneficiaries of this scheme are either ratepayers or taxpayers, so that when you say they are being given all these rare and refreshing fruits and gifts, it is simply untrue.
How long will the public consent to be hookwinked by such phrases as "Exchequer contributions," "public funds" and "State grants"? The State and the Exchequer do not contribute a single penny to any social service. The ratepayers and taxpayers have to pay them all. In our democracy it is unquestionably for the voter to decide how far and how fast we are to continue with all these schemes. I personally hope very highly about education in the post-war period, but it must not be forgotten that we shall have commitments over a vast domain which will take unquestioned precedence. They include the existing social services, war pensions—which are going up every minute—the accumulating liabilities under War Savings Certificates, and many others, to say nothing of the considerations of the cost of living.
Finally, I would congratulate the President most heartily on his education plan, and I wish him God-speed on what I believe will be a long and arduous undertaking. Only a week ago we were discussing in the House how we could improve the quantity of the population. I disagree with many hon. Members who spoke on that occasion. I do not think we can do much by means of legislation to increase the population of this country, but I am quite certain we can achieve much by legislation, for which we are responsible, for the quality of our fellow citizens, and the best method is by means of a national scheme of education, which, after all, is the foundation upon which the whole national structure, moral, physical and intellectual, is set.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Ede)
I promise you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that I will sit down al one minute before the hour appointed for the interruption of Business. If I do not keep my word to you, one minute later the clock will enable 2034 you to make me keep to it. I am the only speaker in the Debate who labours under that disadvantage. I ask the House for its indulgence, because I have not brought down a written statement to read at the end of the Debate. I wish as far as I can to deal with the points that have been made on the precise lines that other Members have made them so that we may, I hope, get some profit out of the Debate. There was one speech in this Debate which evoked echoes of a past controversy in my mind, because during the passing of the Education Act, 1902, my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Key) and myself were members of the London Pupil Teachers' Association and led opposing forces in a great debate on that occasion. I noticed that he did his best to stoke up the fires of controversy, not on those particular lines, again to-day, and I welcome the result, because really my right hon. Friend and I have had so much praise showered upon us that it is well there should be a few reminders that we are only human beings after all. The hon. Member for Scotland [Interruption]—I mean the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) we all know the old joke about that when it was represented by T. P. O'Connor, who was an Irishman—alluded to me as the courteous Parliamentary Secretary. I have never been accused of being that before, but I will make some effort to live up to the epithet he bestowed on me.
The Government cannot but be pleased with the general reception this scheme has had in the House. We recognise that on broad general lines we have secured a greater measure of approval for our proposals than I believe has been given to any education Measure that has even been brought before the House. During the past few months I have read the whole of the Debates on the Act of 1870 and 1902, so I think I am qualified to express some opinion on that. We recognise too, gladly, that the main criticisms against us are based on a fear lest we may not proceed quickly enough. My right hon. Friend made, I think, a quite legitimate challenge to the House, saying, "Here is the scheme; we are anxious to operate it, and, in so far as pressure is brought to bear upon us to expedite it, we shall, within the limits of what we have to have regard to as a Government as a whole, see that such wishes are met." My right 2035 hon. Friend said that he would leave me to deal with two or three subjects out of the general exposition of the White Paper. I propose to deal with those before replying to the criticisms of hon. Members on other points.
It was one hope of the late Mr. Fisher, when he introduced his Bill in 1918, that he would be able to bring the independent schools—that is, the ordinary private schools of the country—within the ambit of Government supervision and inspection. He was frustrated by the action of the House. His Bill was very considerably reduced in its efficacy during its passage through the House, to the loss, I venture to say, of those parents who have sent their children to some of the private schools since. I had the honour of being asked by my friend Sir Charles Trevelyan to be Chairman of the Departmental Committee which inquired into private schools in 1931–32. One of the most industrious members of that Committee was our late friend, Colonel Cazalet, whose loss we have been deploring lately. It was, I think, one of his characteristic actions that he threw himself into the work of that Committee with an amount of industry that was beyond all praise. I feel sure that such of my fellow-members as survive would desire that I should say that what we are able to do is part of the work he assisted in accomplishing. We do not believe that the State should have a monopoly in education. We have seen in great countries on the Continent in recent years the disaster of a State monopoly of education. But we believe that of all the people in the country who are entitled to the protection of the State from quackery, the child is the first. Therefore, we propose that the private schools—that is, schools not in receipt of grants from public funds, and, therefore, not now open of necessity to public inspection—shall be open to public inspection with regard to the physical suitability of their premises and the quality of the teaching given.
We are hampered in our administration at the moment by the fact that the only way you can close an inefficient private school, unless it is a nuisance under the Public Health Acts, is to take proceedings against the parent of the most stupid pupil. No school dare be judged on its most stupid pupil. I do not know whether even the school which my hon. and gallant 2036 Friend the Member for Bolton (Sir E. Cadogan) attended dare be judged on that. I see my hon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White) present. He was also a member of the Committee which dealt with this matter, and he knows that this was our primary difficulty. All that the law requires of a parent is that he shall cause his child to receive efficient elementary instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic. That was a very considerable achievement in 1876, when the coat to which my right hon. Friend alluded yesterday was being wrapped around the child, who had previously been completely nude. It was a substantial gain to the health and comfort of the child, but it is entirely out of date now. We propose, as is set out in the White Paper, that the future standard shall be that the parent shall be required to cause his child to receive efficient instruction suitable to the child's age, sex and abilities, so that the kind of thing which I have seen in a court of summary jurisdiction will not again happen. I have seen a parent brought to court to have a school attendance order made because he had not been causing his child to receive efficient instruction. In answer to the charge, he said, "He is losing nothing; I am learning him myself."
The court then have to decide for themselves whether the child is in fact being efficiently instructed in reading, writing and arithmetic, and they look round for something for the child to read. As a rule they find "Stone's Justices Manual," not very exhilarating for a lad, let us say, of 12, and they put him on the preface. He may make a fairly good shot at that. They then ask him to write his name and address, and if the name of the street is not spelt right, it is pointed out that it is not a test in spelling but in writing. I once had this experience. I then heard a learned magistrate—learned by courtesy—ask the boy a question in arithmetic, and being an ex-schoolmaster I had pedantic views of the way in which the first four rules should be used. The boy after some hesitation produced an answer which I thought was right, but the bench by a majority thought it was wrong, and they made a school attendance order. Of course, the effect of that was that every other parent sending a child to the same school would think that he was in similar danger.
2037 That is a quite immoral way of closing private schools, and we therefore propose that if after the inspection there is an adverse report, there shall be a time within which the defects can be remedied, whether they be of premises, of teaching, or of the personnel, because, after all, anyone can call himself a teacher. A man may be convicted in the courts of immoral or indecent conduct, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) knows, it then becomes the duty of the Parliamentary Secretary to consider in the case of that teacher whether he shall continue to be recognised. In such a case, of course, recognition would be withdrawn, but the next day that man can open a school and conduct it. Quite clearly no parent and no child ought to be subject to the risk of such a thing as that. If there is a dispute, we propose that a tribunal shall be created —not a court of law, but a tribunal to be appointed by the Lord Chancellor and the Lord President—composed of people who can be relied upon to have reasonably expert knowledge in these matters. They will hear any appeal and decide whether the decision of the Board is the correct one. I venture to say that that is a reform long overdue, and I hope that while the House will of course take every step it can to protect the liberty of the subject, it will give the Board of Education power to deal with this very important matter.
There have also been some questions asked daring the Debate on another subject with which I was asked to deal. That is the question of young people's colleges. Some regret has been expressed that these young people's colleges will take only the young people. Do not let us call them children; we were all bigger men on the day we left school than we have been on any day since. The young person who leaves full-time school, whether at 15 or 16 years of age, and goes into industry will, between the time he leaves the school gate and the time he enters the doors of whatever employment he may be going into, have experienced a very considerable psychological change. That is why I, for one, welcome the new name "Young people's college" rather than the old name, Day continuation school. "Let us be quite frank about it. A good many of them wi1l have no great attraction for continuing what they used to do. They come back to whatever institution we provide 2038 with the outlook and attitude of men. I have seen criticisms of our proposals which suggest that there will be no cultural environment in these places. May I say, frankly, we should be exceedingly disappointed if that were so, but we have to have regard to the fact that these young people, in their new contacts with industry, will be having fresh, new experiences. They will be in a new environment, and education which ignores environment and makes no effort to assist a person in adjusting himself to it, is not likely to be a very great success.
I hope that one thing that will happen will be that these young workers in industry will get great benefit from continued contact with the school medical service. Is it not an extraordinary thing, really, that a lad or girl remaining in the secondary school and leading a sedentary life up to 18 years of age is continuously within the scope of the school medical service? Every one of us who has had connections with secondary schools knows that the young person in the secondary school gets the great advantage of the school medical officer being in contact with the teacher in charge of physical exercises and games. During these important years remedial work can be done, if any sign of physical strain emerges as the result of the child's activities. But the young worker in industry, even if he is told not to lift a heavy weight or to do something beyond his strength, will attempt to do it the moment the foreman's back is turned. Frequently, strains, which although they do not show themselves too actively immediately, are the cause of ill-health, inefficiency and dis[...]ss in later years. I see the hon. Member the Junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Professor Hill) here. We have just received from him a very valuable report on the effect of physical care in connection with sonic of the day continuation schools that some enlightened firms are now conducting. I am sure that if we are able to publish that report, or at any rate the results that he has observed, they will very strongly reinforce the arguments I have been using.
Now, in addition to that—and here it ties up with our desire for a varied secondary school system—we desire to see that skilled craftsmanship in this country shall be regarded as equally honourable with any other calling to which men may give 2039 their lives. Most of our crafts have a history and science that should be at least as inspiring to those who give their lives to them as the history of law or of medicine. I see that the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) has not a cheer for that but I profoundly feel the truth of it myself. Let us recognise this. Pestalozzi once said:There is no education except in the overcoming of difficulties.But that has been twisted during the last century, as if the presentation of difficulties was the way of achieving education. No child is educated by having its heart broken by difficulties which its individual temperament does not allow it to overcome. There are some to whom the gift of tongues is given. I had to have four shots to get through the classics of "Little Go" and when one of my hon. Friends yesterday quoted Cicero, Diogenes, and Aristotle I realised what I had lost. The ordinary academic curriculum presents to some most valuable students insuperable difficulties. We are not educating them by keeping them inside the academic sphere, with no chance of handling subjects in which they can overcome difficulties. We desire, therefore, both in the new range of our secondary schools and in the young people's colleges to give greater attention than we have given hitherto to the individual aptitudes and wishes of the pupils committed to our care. No boy has ever gained a sense of achievement by having four sums marked, "Wrong," every morning. My hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley and I know, as practical teachers, that there are some boys who by some freak of nature have that fate inflicted upon them. I very sincerely hope that our belief in the dignity of labour will take the practical form of seeing that the craftsman who, because nature meant him for a craftsman, gives of his best in his craft is regarded as an equal citizen, no more and no less, with the lad whose gifts are in literature and mathematics.
§ Mr. Ede
I would appeal to the hon. Member not to interrupt. I am endeavouring to confine my remarks as closely as possible to the basis of our discussion. I do not believe that the man who writes words and figures on 2040 pieces of paper about the wonderful things craftsmen make is a superior being, socially, to those craftsmen. In this complicated world we want both of them. It would be a much more hungry world if we were all bank clerks. It might not be as comfortable if we were all agricultural labourers. There is a place for each, and what our educational system ought to do more than it does is to see that the right person is doing the right job. Then it is up to us leaders of public opinion to see that the appropriate social regard is given to each man who is giving of his best. That, as far as I know, is the only sound basis for a social democracy. I believe that we have lost profoundly during the 20 years or so of the depression from the fact that during those years no miner, no engineer, no shipwright, no man in the Mercantile Marine, no agricultural labourer who has had a lad of parts in his family, has willingly seen him go into his own calling. Hereditary pride in craftsmanship is a thing that any man may be proud of. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) wrote a book, his own autobiography, called "A Man's Life," and he spoke of the pride with which he went down the pit for the first time, a man beside his father. It is a tragedy that this House must never allow to occur again, that men in the great skilled crafts should regard it as a tragedy that their boys were going to carry on the family tradition. They are as entitled to be proud of being hereditary craftsmen as any man is entitled to be proud of being a hereditary parson, solicitor or lawyer.
I had the astounding good fortune to attend the first day's Debate on the Education Bill of 1902—not as a Member of the House. I believe there are only three Members left—the Father of the House, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) and the Prime Minister—who were then Members of the House. On that afternoon I heard Mr. Bryce, Sir John Gorst, Sir Charles Dilke, Sir Richard Jebb, Mr. Haldane, as he then was, Lord Edmund Talbot, who is still with us as Viscount Fitzalan, Mr. Perks, whose monument is the Central Hall, Westminster, Mr. Randles, Mr. Trevelyan, as he then was, Mr. Lyttelton, the father of the Minister of Production, and Mr. Emmott, to one 2041 of whose relatives we are still looking up in this House. I stayed in the House till midnight, I lost the last train home, and I had to walk 15 miles, and, if I could hear the same galaxy of stars, I would willingly do it again. I hope that in 40 years' time the names of the speakers we have heard yesterday and to-day will be as green in people's memories as are the names I have read out.
I heard the great speech, in my opinion the greatest speech ever delivered on education in this House, that was made that afternoon by Mr. R. B. Haldane—a massive performance in which he announced that he could not join the opposition to the Bill and that he could not vote for it. I have known other hon. Members reduced to the same expedient. We now know that that speech was drafted by Mr. Sidney Webb. We were told to-day that Mr, Tawney drafted a preface that was signed by Lord Haldane. I am beginning to wonder whether Mr. Haldane and Lord Haldane ever spoke apart from a brief. When I think of that and what we are asking the House to do to-day, I am not so much impressed by the inevitability of gradualness as by the gradualness of inevitability. Every one of the points that have been raised in this discussion was raised and dealt with in imperishable words by Mr. Haldane, even the problem of the Part III authorities, whom he would have strangled at birth and thus have saved us the difficulty of dealing more humanely with them at the moment. This problem of education, as he saw it, was a problem of a great system and he said:Here in England the whole system is organised in the interests of small centres instead of in the interests of a great system of education.The Government, following, or rather being followed in this case by, the Report of the Norwood Committee, said that in considering education what you have to put first is riot the position of the chairman of the education authority or the position of the education committee, but the position of the child in the classroom. We have 169 Part III education authorities; 64 of them have a population of not more than 30,000. After all, what is a Part III education authority? It is the authority of an area which on the Census night of 1901 had a population of more 2042 than 10,000 if it was a borough, and more than 20,000 if it was an urban district. It is an education authority for elementary education only. It has no powers for secondary education at all. There are some education authorities in this country which have a school population within their borders of fewer than 1,000. You cannot supply a great system of education suitable to the requirements of the children when you have not more than 1,000 between five and 14 to organise. There is one borough which was established a Part III education authority which reached a total population of 10,007 on the historic night, and it did that by having within its borders the county gaol and the county lunatic asylum. That was the way in which the thing was done.
I want it to be made clear to the House that we are exceedingly anxious that the local interests in education should not merely remain but should be stimulated, and is it not rather ludicrous that within the constituency, for instance, of my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mrs. Adamson) we have Erith, with a population of 39,800, being a Part III education authority, and Bexley, with a population of 77,120, or approximately double, not a Part III education authority? We hope that during the months that lie ahead, between now and the introduction of the Bill, we shall have an opportunity of meeting the representatives of the Part III education authorities and talking over the way in which effective local association with all types of primary and secondary education may be secured. We propose to bring in not merely those district councils which have been Part III authorities in the past but all district councils, so that there shall be in every district a close association between its schools and the local government and public interest of the area.
I might deal with one other point on that to show how difficult it would be to transfer to the existing Part III education authorities powers with regard to the new secondary education. I will take five Part III authorities with whose administration I have been personally connected which are within the county of Surrey—the boroughs of Guildford, Kingston, Reigate, Richmond and Wimbledon. If the demand that Part III education authorities should become the authorities for all types of education be conceded, we 2043 should get this amazing result with regard to the children now in the secondary schools within those five boroughs: 2,052 of those children live within the boroughs, but 4,090 live outside the boroughs in towns and villages adjoining, and if we made the Part III authorities the authorities for higher education we should disfranchise the parents of twice as many children as we enfranchise in that way. After all, those non-county boroughs are represented on the county council, and to my knowledge as an ex-chairman of the county council they make their voices heard on higher education, but they may not open their mouths or vote on what we used to call in the old days elementary education. I venture to suggest that if all who are engaged in the administration of education are prepared to put the children first and any civic trappings that may be involved second it ought to be possible, within the present framework of local government, to find a suitable solution to this problem. There is no suggestion that we shall take the service of education outside the ambit of local government. I believe we shall actually increase local interests in a very large number of areas which at the moment have no statutory rights with regard to education. I would like to deal now with individual points that have been raised by hon. Members, and I thank the House for having allowed me to make these observations of a more general kind without interruption.
My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) asked, as several other hon. Members did, about the Fleming Report. May I say that the Fleming Report—a special Fleming Report which will deal with this question of the fees for direct-grant schools—will be published next month. I think everyone will agree that it would be wrong of us to delay the publication of this Paper until the House had gone into Recess and thus have deprived ourselves of the great advantage of getting the guidance of the House on it. I asked some of those hon. Members who have been rather suspicious as to what we are going to do in regard to the direct-grant schools to wait until they have seen the recommendations in this report.
Then as to the McNair Committee, whose deliberations have not been unduly 2044 prolonged and whose appointment was not unduly delayed. My right hon. Friend went to the Board of Education in July, and he appointed the McNair Committee in October, 1941. I do not think that, in a great public Department of this kind, hon. Members would expect my right hon. Friend to have rushed more quickly than that into the appointment of a Committee. We are well aware that the whole future of our plans depends upon the number and the quality of the teachers we can recruit. While my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) was making his public confession that he once had aspirations to becoming a teacher in a day continuation school and the bitter disappointment that he suffered in his course there, I could not help reflecting that we had to be very careful how, by not proceeding appropriately, we might miss other fish of such size. Had we got him in the system, we could have felt that we had an answer to the fisherman's prayer:Lord, give me grace to catch a fish So large, that even I When telling of it afterwards, May never need to lie.My hon. Friend's disappointment was no doubt shared by hundreds of others, young, ambitious and able men who were prepared to give their lives to this great service. We must make certain that we proceed on such solid ground that no such disappointments are likely to overtake us in the future.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Abbey Division of Westminster (Sir H. Webbe) mentioned the position of the young people's colleges in relation to such experiments as that which has been carried on at Impington, and later in the Debate he paid a great tribute to the work of the Director of Education for Cambridgeshire, who has undoubtedly been the personal inspiration of the great work that has been done there. May I say that my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall was quite right when he said that all over the country the most inspiring and interesting experiments are going on? With regard to the Impington experiment that is one that need not be slavishly followed elsewhere, but it gives an idea which can be adapted to the requirements of the different areas. My one personal regret about this Debate is that no Member from any rural constituency has taken part in it. Let us remember in this connection the words of the Scott Report: 2045A further reason why many of the best and most enterprising agricultural workers have left the country has been that in the majority of small villages, the elementary school has not been in a position to prepare children for scholarship examinations.The examinations will go, but the inherent inefficiencies of buildings and inadequate staffing of the rural schools will remain, unless we take the steps foreshadowed in this White Paper. I know as an administrator the amazing way in which the headmistress of a small rural school with about 30 pupils, from five to 14, all of whom she has trained herself, will devote her energies to the one child which looks as though it ought to have a wider chance.
§ Sir E. Acland
The hon. Member is not quite correct in saying that no one representing a rural area took part.
§ Mr. Ede
You cannot say that that is predominantly rural. I am glad to know that the rural workers are so enlightened as to return my hon. Friend to the House.
We have had, as was inevitable, a great many references to the public schools and the part they play, that they ought to play, that they cannot play, that they would like to play and generally how they would like to behave in the educational system of the country. One of the most astounding things in recent months has been the steady drift of working-class opinion, and by that I do not mean merely the manual workers, but what we call the parents of the general elementary school population, towards the idea that a residential education for some part of a child's school career is a thing infinitely worth while. I know of no more democratic set of institutions in this country than the women's institutes. I enjoy visiting them. Usually there are three people from the big houses on the platform, and the people from the smaller houses in the audience seeing that the people on the platform live up to the protestations they make at times when men's and women's hearts are laid bare, a true descendant of the old Saxon manorial system. They have recently asked their members 2046 throughout the country whether they think that a residential education ought to be provided for part of a child's school career, and by a vote of 2,041 to 152 they have answered in the affirmative, which is an even better majority than even Mussolini could get to-day. I do ask hon. Members on both sides of the House to recognise that as a real expression of democratic feeling coming from the villages.
I had the advantage of being at one of those meetings where the questionnaire was answered. The questionnaire was answered first, and I was then allowed to speak. I may say that the answers given to the questionnaire considerably influenced the flow of my remarks. What I was interested in was this, that the women there said, "Our children now going to the central school, which is in another village, and to the secondary school, which is in an adjoining town, do not get the full benefits of the education because they are denied the after-school activities and associations." That was the important point in the minds of those women, who in the main were the mothers of the children affected. I do not believe that an English boy and a Welsh boy are very different whether they are born in what we call a poor home or in what we call a rich home. I believe that appeals to the same ideals evoke the same response in the breast of each.
May I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Barnstaple that I went to what he called a common school, and I saw the nicey-nicey little boys going, with their nicey-nicey pink and green hats—although they were different colours—to what he called the special school. But, believe me, we held them in as much contempt as they did us. Have hon. Members never heard of the town and gown riots? I recollect that when I went to a secondary school on a snowy morning, we had to fight our way through the elementary school boys who were there. The fact that that kind of thing has so largely disappeared is due to the fact that we have been able to bring so large a number of our people into a wider stream of education. But His Majesty's Governrnent are not satisfied with the rate of progress. We welcome the pressure that has been put upon us to bring about these reforms more quickly, and we shall examine very carefully every criticism 2047 that has been made. We shall endeavour, wherever it is possible, to see that the time table is certainly never delayed, but, wherever possible, expedited. But I would ask hon. Members to remember the truth of the great saying of James Russell Lowell, thatHeaven is not mounted to on wings of dreams.We have to get the schools; we have to get the teachers; and we are exploring every means by which both shall be available at the earliest possible moment. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) last week published an article in the "Tribune," a rather more violently-coloured version of the speech we heard from him to-day, which was headed "Stonewall Butler." I also was always sent in first, with instructions to break the bowling before I started opening my shoulders. We have broken the bowling by coming to this House with this White Paper.
§ Mr. Ede
The reason that the expenditure shown for adult education is so low is the fact that we do not require new buildings for it. As the hon. Member knows, it is carried on very largely in existing buildings. With regard to technical education, the figure represents, as my right hon. Friend explained, the capital charges on the new buildings. Both of those matters we shall re-examine in the light of the Debate to-day. I hope that the House will feel that we have listened with respect to what hon. Members have had to say. Every point has been carefully noted, and we shall endeavour not merely to profit ourselves by what we have heard from the House, but to see that, at as early a date as possible, as large a number of the children in the country as possible shall also profit by this two-days' Debate in the House of Commons.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That this House welcomes the intention of the Government to proceed with educational reform, as evidenced in the White Paper on Educational Reconstruction.