HC Deb 04 April 1944 vol 398 cc1970-2

In fulfilling their duties under this Act a local education authority shall have regard to the desirability of securing that all pupils whose parents so desire shall spend part of their school life abroad, whether by reciprocal arrangements with schools overseas or otherwise.—[Mr. Ivor Thomas.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Ivor Thomas

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The Bill proposes to extend the concept of education beyond instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic, and what is here proposed is a further extension to include residence and travel abroad. I advocate this on two grounds. The first is educational. As most of us know, a period of travel abroad has more educational value than many years of study although I will not enlarge upon the subject, because it is familiar to us all. My second reason is on the ground of international relations. Some people think that the best way of bringing nations together is to keep them apart, but I am not of that view. I think an exchange of children between one country and another would be a good means of fostering good international relations. This is a field where gifted pioneers have as always led the way; there have been a good many experiments already in the exchange of children between this country and other countries. I think the time has now come when we might, not make a statutory obligation, but at least give a statutory direction to local education authorities.

Mr. Lindsay

Some time ago it was possible for local education authorities to assist pupils going to Canadian universities under a scheme of which I was then secretary. I am not sure whether a similar arrangement is possible for local education authorities to make reciprocal arrangements with other countries.

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, South)

I am delighted to hear the two hon. Members advocating the principle of strength through joy. This, of course, is a silly Clause. I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) says that pounds, shillings and pence do not matter. But they will, as soon as people begin to wake up. I do not know how long these people are to spend abroad, but it is going to cost a great deal of money and, if there is to be any sense of justice, this has got to be extended to a very large number of children. First, their fares will have to be paid. Then there may be some difficulty about where they are to go. It may be Moscow or Berlin, or even the United States. Obviously, if this meant anything serious, it would involve the expenditure of tens of millions of pounds per annum. Otherwise, it is a fraud, and I do not think people should urge things which are, financially, frauds. We want a much greater sense of financial responsibility than I see exhibited by a great many hon. Members.

Mr. Ede

I have listened to the discussion with some interest. This is a scheme which has been going on for some years and I hope it will continue. I do not think it necessary to put anything in the Bill about it, because it is well within the statutory powers of local education authorities, and in fact they now carry out the arrangement. After all, it is very desirable, if a young fellow has been learning a foreign language, that he should have an opportunity of seeing how far he can get in the country whose language he has been learning when he is on his own resources. I recollect standing by the side of a lake in Austria when a youth on a bicycle came up to me and spurted out a vast flow of German. I said, "If you would only speak English I might be able to understand you." He had been sent to the Continent by a local education authority, who gave him a grant when he showed the itinerary that he proposed to follow. There have also been the re- ciprocal arrangements which have been referred to. All these things are valuable, and I hope that local authorities who have some sense of proportion, will use this particular educational machine on an appropriate scale.

Mr. Thomas

In view of my hon. Friend's sympathetic reply I ask leave to withdraw the new Clause. The hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) is obviously out of touch with educational methods.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.