§ Order read for resuming adjourned Debate on Question [19th January], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."—[Mr. Butler.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Mr. Greenwood (Wakefield)
Like other Members who spoke yesterday I should like to add my word of welcome for this Bill as an important instalment towards a more complete system of education. A Bill dealing with education on a broad basis is very much overdue. It is 40 years or more since the passage of the last great Bi11, because I do not put the Act of 1918 on a very high level, and I am glad Lo think that we are now dealing fundamentally with some of the major problems of education. We in this country have never appreciated as we ought the contribution which education can make to the power of the State, the power of the community and the power of the individuals within the community, and we have a great opportunity now to pay a debt to a population which during the war has proved itself worthy of the best possible treatment. In the long run a nation's strength, a nation's influence and a nation's resources rest upon the quality of its people, and the quality of the people 406 of this country, if it ever needed proof, has been amply proved in the 4½years of war. Our people have proved themselves to be citizens of a great nation. They have faced all the risks of war with fortitude, they have borne sacrifices in the public interest without any grumbling and without any reluctance. Many sections of our community have shown unsuspected grandeur, greatness, and spiritual quality, and in the coming years, which will assuredly be the most difficult years in the history of mankind, we ought to do everything we can to fortify the native quality of our people by a system of education offering full equality of opportunity for all, getting rid of class distinctions and realising, in the sphere of education, the principles of democracy to which we are pledged and for which we are fighting this war.
I say the Bill is a substantial contribution to this end, but there are matters, which were pressed yesterday, on which a further advance would be welcomed in many quarters of the House on which more immediate action seems to me to be necessary. Before I enter upon the broader issues in the Bill I should like to make clear the attitude of those for whom I speak on the dual system. The Labour Party, like other political parties, contains within its membership men and women of widely varying views upon religious issues. It would be foreign to our national traditions to impose any religious test as a condition of membership of a political party, and the Labour Party has never done so. It welcomes men and women of all religious faiths provided they accept the constitution, programme, principles and policy of the party. It is for this reason that the Standing Orders of the Parliamentary Labour Party include a conscience clause which relieves a Labour Member from acting in Parliament contrary to his religious convictions. There are some of my hon. Friends who will, when the dual system is under consideration, properly claim their right to express views which will not meet with the approval of the great majority of my hon. Friends on these benches, but when a Bill of importance is before Parliament political parties must honestly face its proposals.
The conclusion reached by my colleagues on these benches is that the President of the Board of Education has made 407 a sincere attempt to meet the widely differing views of the Christian Churches and of the general public, and has acted with a measure of generosity in order to meet the financial burdens which the Bill will impose on any Church which feels that it must insist, for religious reasons, on maintaining its own school. My party are agreed that the proposals of the Bill represent a considerable and long-overdue advance in the provision of education, and that it would be disastrous if it were wrecked by religious controversy. The Labour party, many of whose Members profoundly object on conscientious grounds to the dual system, will, however, in company with what appears to be the majority view of this House, support the proposals of the Bill in that regard, in order that we may obtain the educational developments essential to a democratic community. That is as much as I intend to say, at least at this juncture, on the proposals affecting the dual system.
§ Mr. Logan (Liverpool, Scotland)
Does that mean to say that in the discussion that will take place on the Financial Resolution the party would not be prepared to consider a reasonable case if it were put up, and try to meet us?
§ Mr. Greenwood
My hon. Friend knows perfectly well that that is a question which ought to have been put to me and my party in private. No doubt an appropriate occasion can be found for doing so. As to the structure of the Bill itself, the school-leaving age provisions seem to be left a little loose. I would much prefer myself, if it were practicable, to see next year an immediate raising of the school leaving age to 16. I realise the practical difficulties of that, to which I will refer in a moment, but it seems to me that the Bill ought to be strengthened. If every human endeavour fails to make it practicable the situation could be considered later, but I much fear that unless we are bold about the date when the leaving age of 15 is to come into operation there will be many reasons found why it should be further postponed. I hope the Government will consider that point. I think they should again look at the question of school fees. We have developed a comradeship in the war effort irrespective of social classes, and it would be out of harmony with the spirit of the nation during 408 the war if we perpetuated an educational system which brought greater advantages to the sons of the well-to-do than could be attained by the poorer sections of the community.
Yesterday the question of the financial burdens which would fall on certain areas was raised. My right hon. Friend quite rightly said that, thank God, that was not his job, and I appreciate his heartfelt gratitude in that respect. But it would be really serious if areas which are impoverished, where education has suffered particularly during the war period, through evacuation or some other reason, were to be hampered, not through lack of desire on their part but through sheer inability, because of poverty, to carry out their responsibilities under the Act. Reference was also made to the employment of children. I realise that the employment of children and young persons has a code of legislation of its own, and I see the difficulties of mixing it with an Education Bill of this character. But the problem is still there. Just as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture made a statement to-day on agricultural education, it would be useful if before the Bill gets on the Statute Book the Minister responsible for the administration of the Children and Young Persons (Employment) Act were to appear and make a statement indicating the Government's intention to end an absurd and cruel anomaly. It seems absurd, when every section of this House has become convinced of the necessity of lengthening the school life of our children, that we should continue to tolerate the gainful employment of school children, both before and after school hours. I hope that before the passage of the Bill we may have an indication of the Government's intention in this matter, and that the intention will be to proceed at a very early date with legislation.
My primary concern is not so much the substance of the Bill. I would have liked to see something better, but I am most concerned about when this Bill is going to operate and how effectively it is going to operate. There are several problems. The first is the problem of national drive behind this new educational movement. The second is the active preparation of the necessary schemes and plans, not merely by the Ministry but by the local authorities. It would be a sad thing if when the 409 Act came into operation we were unprepared to operate it. Unless we deal with this problem of education, this war against ignorance, with the same intensity as we have dealt with the war against Hitler, we shall not get for the rising generation the kind of education that they deserve. In the case of hundreds of thousands of children their education has been profoundly interfered with by war conditions. Unless when the fighting ceases something is done, those children will be in the labour market in a year or two, practically deprived for ever of any educational opportunities. I hope we can treat this as a question of urgency.
Admitting the plans, what are the remaining problems to be dealt with? The first, and most important, is that of personnel. When we had a discussion on the White Paper a few months ago I asked for the return—I knew that I should not get the right answer—of, say, 30,000 teachers from the Army, many of whom, to my knowledge, are doing work which either is not really necessary or could be done by other people. That was a very, very conservative estimate. At the end of this war, when the higher school-leaving age begins to operate, there will not be the necessary teaching personnel available. Something really should be done about it now. You cannot turn out teachers overnight. Hitherto, in fact, their training has been all too short, in my view.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
My right hon. Friend has said, 30,000. I am not quite sure whether he means 30,000 teachers. I understood, although I may be wrong, that the number of teachers in the Army is 25,000. I wonder whether he includes other people who are in the Army?
§ Mr. Greenwood
I have not got the facts quite in my memory, but I looked into the matter at the time. I wanted the teachers out, and also—and this may make up the number—any additional people who are doing work which could be done by others and who could be trained now to work as teachers when the new plans begin to operate. We must think not only in terms of a higher school-leaving-age but of much smaller classes. The classes in elementary schools have been much too large. I remember many years ago having the impossible job of teaching 150 half-timers in two shifts—75 410 in the morning, and another 75 in the afternoon. I never pretended that I was a good teacher, but I had an impossible job. The size of classes in the elementary schools now is not only making impossible demands on the teacher, but, however good a teacher he is, it makes impossible his work for the children he serves. We must, therefore, think in a large way about the training of teachers and that ought to be begun as quickly as it is possible to do it. I do not want half baked teachers. We have to make shift with the best we have when these developments begin to operate but we must deal with this especial problem as being essential to the future success of the operation of my right hon. Friend's Bill.
There is the question of buildings. That is not nearly as important as the question of teaching power. There are a very large number of schools in this country already that are a disgrace to a Christian civilisation and they have to be dealt with; provision has to be made for new schools altogether to meet the new educational provision which is being made, and there will be a very large building programme, which ought to be taken in relation to the general building programme of the country. I like to see dignified school buildings worthy of their best but we must face in the early years pre-fabricated buildings. I know the danger about pre-fabricated buildings. If they are in the hands of reactionary authorities or of private individuals, they may exist long after they have outlived their usefulness, but it would be possible, with direct public control by the local authorities, to ensure that pre-fabricated buildings do not degenerate into school slums. I do not think that anybody could take objection to pre-fabrication as a method for dealing with an urgent situation however the problem may turn out in the future. Judging by some of the old board schools which are still doing service and look like doing service, unless we pull them down, for another half century, I am not so sure that semi-permanent buildings for school purposes are not the ideal solution. I want the House to appreciate that I realise the real and practical difficulties with which my right hon. Friend is faced in his task. I congratulate him on how far he has gone. I would like to be able to congratulate him a few months after the Act is on the 411 Statute Book on the progress he has already made in bringing the Measure into operation.
There is an aspect of this problem which broadens itself out over the whole field of social policy. I do not want to be unduly pressing but we have to remember that, although we have been talking about the solution of post-war problems for a long time now, we have not got to any solutions yet of some of the major issues. It really is absurd to try and build up a school environment, a personal environment for the child, in his school and on the playing fields and so on, if he lives in a drab, cold and miserable house in a dull, damp and miserable town. It is not much use getting the best out of a child if there is insecurity of life for the parents. I mention social security as an essential contribution to the settlement of the major educational problems with which my right hon. Friend is dealing, and, therefore, if he could help us to get a little further progress with Beveridge and with Uthwatt, Scott and Barlow—if he can help us in these directions—we will help him and we shall be doing the thing for which the right hon. Gentleman asked yesterday, co-operating together for the common end.
That is all I propose to say. I regard the Bill as being perhaps, on the moral or spiritual side of it, one of the most important measures which the Government could pass into law for the future advantage of our people. I wish the Bill a speedy and successful passage through the House and I hope that it will emerge more to my liking than the Bill was when it was introduced.
§ Captain Crowder (Finchley)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), I am glad to hear, has given a general blessing to the Bill and he will not expect me to follow him over the same ground, but I would like to add my congratulations to the President of the Board of Education for the lucid and clear way in which he explained how he thought the machinery of the Bill would work. I would also like to take the opportunity of thanking him for the patience he has shown in discussing with us and the various bodies working on the religious Clauses between the introduction of the White Paper and the publication of the 412 Bill and also the very difficult position of some of the Part III authorities.
The plans outlined in the Bill have been hailed in most quarters as comprehensive, imaginative and timely. It is time that something was done to try and improve the present situation. As a nation we cannot be proud of our educational methods, as shown by the moral standards of so many juveniles of to-day. Those in charge of the intake to the Services, especially the women's Services, are horrified at the lack of understanding and the low moral standard of a good many of the entrants. Various people have been blamed for this state of affairs—the Board of Education, the local education authorities, the teachers and the parents. I read a letter in the Press the other day from a parent which ran as follows:There must be something wrong with a system which has so completely failed not only in simple education, but also in the elementary principles of cleanliness and honour.Now what we have to decide to-day is, how far the plans outlined in this Bill are going to improve the situation. The mere fact of keeping children at school until they are 15 and of building new and modern schools, with all the latest equipment, all of which, I agree, is very necessary, will not in itself change the present lamentable situation. We want quality as well as quantity; more teachers, yes, but with a high sense of responsibility of training in Christian principles. What the teachers are, not what they say, the inner and unconscious ideal which guides their lives, is really what touches the child. We shall be agreed that the noblest fruit of education is character and not acquirements, character which makes the simplest life noble, beneficent and rich. Children have really more need of models than of critics and unless the standards of the teachers are of high quality, this Bill will not succeed in its object. The present system—I know the President of the Board of Education agrees—whereby boys and girls go straight from the school to training college and then back to school again, without broadening their minds and without travelling through the Empire or through the world, is largely responsible for the present situation. I am sure that we all will welcome the final report of the McNair Committee when it is published.
413 If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that the evidence of the last four years has proved that our educational system, especially as regards the elementary schools, has largely failed. We know that the country has produced thousands of very patriotic men and women due in great measure to our great inheritance. We have been as it were living on the capital of our forebears. We must build up from their discipline, character and leadership. If the fault is with the parents, as I think it is to a large extent, one cannot be surprised, with the number of divorce cases doubling every year and the number of illegitimate children increasing year by year. If the parents are to blame, I would suggest that as it is easier to educate the children than the parents we adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Thomas) and extend our system of boarding schools.
§ Mr. Sorensen (Leyton, West)
Is it not a fact that when Christian orthodox teaching was more widespread than at present illegitimacy was much more rife?
§ Captain Crowder
We must progress a little further. It is easier to train children to be unselfish, to become leaders and to take their responsibilities in a boarding school than it is in a day school and I would suggest that the B.B.C. could do invaluable work with a series of lectures to parents, urging upon them their great responsibility to their children and showing how they can co-operate with the teachers. Such co-operation would help the teachers and the children to a considerable extent. Most people are very apprehensive as to the future and we have a very difficult task to perform, namely, to train the coming generation to use wisely the freedom which this generation is winning. We have a great responsibility in forming these proposals because the youth of this country will be responsible for the future policy of the world. I feel very strongly that religious education should have a more defined place in the life and work of all our schools. Bold and courageous steps must be taken now if we are to remain a Christian country in practice as well as in name. Most Church people I have met feel that the effect of the Government proposals may lead to the progressive elimination of the Church school 414 and if this takes place the future is, indeed, gloomy. I would like hon. Members to do all they possibly can to encourage the Church schools and, if possible, to give them a more financial help. I would read a short extract from a leading article in "The Times" of February, 1940:This war has emphasized the deficiencies of our present educational system and more than ever before it has become clear that the life of a nation must be based on spiritual principles. It will be of little use to fight, as we are fighting to-day, for the preservation of Christian principles if Christianity itself is to have no future.It would seem that religion is to be treated as a subsidiary subject to be taken only in the first half hour or at some other convenient period during the day, whereas I suggest we want a Christian spirit to permeate throughout all our schools and I maintain—though I shall not meet with agreement from my hon. Friend opposite—that it is the duty of the State to provide denominational religious teaching for the children of parents who desire it. This is what the Bishop of Oxford said to the Diocesan Conference at Oxford the other day:Somehow or another, the fatal Cowper-Temple entail must be broken. Church children in Council schools are entitled to, and must receive, in those schools adequate instruction in the faith and practice of the Church of England.If the present régime of undenominationalism in the schools is allowed to continue unabated, the result for the country will be disastrous.Alternatively, if this solution is not accepted, more financial help should be given to Church schools. The President has definitely rejected the Scottish solution. The arguments set forth in the first White Paper do not convince me and in fact in paragraph 53 of the White Paper it says:In Scotland there has never, whereas in this country there has always been, a ban on denominational religious instruction in provided schools.which proves as far as I am concerned that the Scottish system is better than ours. We are told that:Save in so far as teachers may seek employment in aided schools or as reserved teachers, the religious opinions of a candidate for a teaching post will not disqualify him for appointment.That may be all right from one point-of-view, but I hope the number of teachers who are completely indifferent to the 415 claims of religion will be small when the new recruiting takes place. I appeal to the Government to increase their offer of 50 per cent. because the local education authorities were able to give 73 per cent. before and it is going to put an intolerable financial burden on the managers to find this extra money. The proposal that the local education authorities are to assume control if the managers cannot find 50 per cent. cannot be acceptable to Church people and I would suggest that the Government should remember that they have never paid any rent for these schools which were put up by private people and they should think twice before taking control compulsorily. The Church schools in this country are making a very important contribution to the well-being of our children. Then there is the question of building new schools, and with the building costs rising from year to year it is going to be almost impossible for managers to find something like £10,000 per new school. I do hope, therefore, that the President will think favourably of the suggestion put forward by the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke), whereby the managers will be able to raise loans on the same terms as those afforded to the local authorities.
§ Captain Crowder
The suggestion made by my hon. Friend was that if they defaulted the schools should become controlled schools and revert to the educational authority who would pay 100 per cent. of the upkeep. That would be the penalty. I have here a list of the financial liabilities, just published by the Church Assembly, which the Church of England have to undertake, and although the Roman Catholics represent very strongly that they will be unable to find the tremendous amount of money required, I would also point out that the Church of England will be in the same difficulty.
§ Captain Crowder
I would refer again to the White Paper which states that children at the age of about it should be classified not as the result of competitive tests but on an assessment of their individual 416 aptitudes by such means as school records, and so on. I think that in these examinations character, power of leadership, physique and other similar qualities should also be taken into consideration. Teachers naturally want their children to win scholarships for college or diplomas. I believe that the average parent feels that the general purpose of education is to develop physical fitness, activity of mind and thought and ability to read and write English correctly, and in perhaps one other language—something of the team spirit—and the foundation of knowledge from the experience of others. My right hon. Friend's ideals are very high, namely, to provide schools for developing the various talents with which they are endowed, and so enriching the inheritance of the country whose citizens they are. If this is to be accomplished, I do suggest that the background of most elementary schools must be improved forthwith.
It will be difficult to find a sufficient number of men and women of the right standard and quality as teachers. I would say that the key to the present position in finding suitable teachers is status, remuneration and training, and I hope these will be improved as soon as possible. I hope my right hon. Friend will be successful. I wish him God speed in his efforts, but I do feel that parents should have more say in the education of their children both on the religious and the practical side, because it would be a disaster if parents felt that they had done their duty when their children had left the nursery and were content to hand them over to the State to be directed and provided for by officials. I welcome the Minister's willingness to receive representations from various denominational bodies and also from Part III authorities, and hope that he may accept some of the Amendments in the Committee stage. If the Bill enables the various educational establishments of the Churches to keep going we shall be grateful, but in any case we shall co-operate with the Minister to make this Bill a success.
§ Professor Gruffydd (University of Wales)
I should only be wasting the time of the House if I simply were to enumerate all the points in the Bill on which there is general accord, and so, first, I must express the hope that this House will not allow the Bill to become the battle ground of sectional interests, by whatever 417 specious names these interests may be called, because the one fact to remember is that this is an Education Bill. It is not a Bill to reform local government or fortify religious convictions. It is not a Bill to deal with man-power. It is an Education Bill, and its provisions must be judged by one criterion only and that is the child in the school—that and nothing else. County Councils, parsons, inspectors, directors of education, the captains and kings will all depart, but the child will remain and will always be the problem with which any Education Bill will have to deal. These people I have enumerated are merely secondary considerations, hut, judging by some comments already made in the House and outside, one would think that the child was made for the school and not the school for the child, and that, in turn, the school has been created for the local authority and not the local authority for the school. There is always the danger that, while we are oiling and adjusting this vastly intricate machine, we may overlook what that machine is meant to produce.
In passing, I would like to say one word about my own country of Wales. I welcome the opportunity of recording our appreciation in Wales of the President's understanding of our national problems. I welcome, in particular, the proposal to appoint an Advisory Committee—one for England and one for Wales. Here are two real Boards of Education, though they may not be called by that name, which do solve, so far as we are concerned in Wales, the traditional difficulties that arose from the fact that Wales has got its own educational problems, advantages as well as disadvantages. In the future, I hope we shall never again see the Board of Education playing the grim part of Procrustes and stretching and contracting the educational body of one country to suit the bed of the other. It is most definitely the hope of all educationists, especially in Wales, that the new Advisory Councils will acquire real power and influence, and that, in time, the President will come to depend upon them for advice as confidently as he now depends upon his official advisers at the Board. I have no doubt there is a very great future before the Councils, and that, by-and-by, it will be found that the establishment of these two Councils will have been probably the most significant and fruitful part of the 418 Bill. But—and this is a very important but—the efforts of the Councils will depend very largely on their composition. If it is merely going to be a representative collection of parish pumps, and if its members are chosen on the same principle as Justices of the Peace—for social and political reasons—if it is, in short, anything but a very careful selection of the best educational opinion and experience, it can be more of a curse than a blessing, but in this matter I think we can trust the Minister to temper suavity with firmness.
Now I come to some points on which as an educationist I am not too happy. I suppose the two main objects of educational reform are first, extension of opportunity and secondly; improvement of quality. Everything else is purely incidental and subsidiary. Towards this first object of extension of opportunity, it is fully recognised that the Bill makes a very noteworthy contribution. It not only raises the school-leaving age to 16 eventually, but it also gives every boy and girl in the country the chance of receiving free secondary education, and further, it does something to fill up that ghastly vacuum that surrounds the adolescence of our men and women. It is proposed that the school-leaving age should eventually be 16, if it is found possible to find the necessary teachers and buildings. I cannot even hazard a guess as to when the hope for buildings will be fulfilled, but educationists throughout the country have very great misgivings about the provision of teachers. The problem is a complex one. It is not merely one of producing teachers in sufficient numbers so that the classes may be manageable. That is a simple problem, but even to secure this purely numerical objective will require drastic measures here and now and before the war is finished. If it is necessary that the Minister of Labour should continue his policy of throwing the teachers of the future into the vast maw of war, I suppose we ought to acquiesce, but let us at least recognise the stark truth that the realisation under present conditions of even the least portion of the President's time table is simply not within the range of practical politics. I am sorry to say it, but it is my definite opinion. We have also to remember the extra duties which now fall on teachers—clothes distribution, milk distribution, war saving certificates 419 distribution and what not. On this point, I regret that there is not in the Bill a more definite direction to local authorities to ensure that some method is devised to allow teachers to do their own job, and I hope the House will not accuse me of being a sensationalist if I suggest that a teacher's job is to teach and not to spend a large portion of his time day by day on things which should be done by caretakers, clerks and bath-attendants. I have only mentioned one aspect of the complex problem of producing teachers, but there is another. If we are to advance the school-leaving age to 15, and eventually to 16, in short, if all our population under 16 is to be at school, the teachers must have adequate training to deal with advanced pupils, boys and girls approaching manhood and womanhood, and, most decidedly, the present system of training teachers is ludicrously inadequate for the purpose, even if the numbers of the teachers were sufficient.
I must take this opportunty of asserting that, though this problem is urgent, it cannot be solved by emergency measures. There can be no emergency measures in education. There is no short cut to producing teachers or doctors, and any attempt at a short cut will be disastrous. It has been suggested that—and I caught a hint of even an official recognition of the suggestion—as an emergency measure after the war, intending teachers should be given a short, intensive course of training. I sincerely hope that nothing so fantastically inept is contemplated by any one in a responsible position. It would be infinitely better to retain, even for five years, the present school-leaving age than to impose on many generations of school children this gimcrack and shoddy pretence. I would suggest that, if emergency measures are necessary, such measures should not be applied to the production of teachers, but rather to accelerate schemes of reorganisation in the counties, so that this time we shall not find that scandalous disparity of efficiency amongst the different authorities which we found after the last Education Bill.
It is becoming clearer year after year, with each successive Education Bill, that we in Britain, at least in England and Wales, have not got a national system of education. Our education, as far as 420 it is a system, is provincial in all senses of the word. Although we have a Ministry of Education with all its statutory functions the really important and effective portion of our organisation is placed in the hands of varied and various provincial authorities. It is, perhaps, too late to make the radical change which is necessary if we are to approach the educational efficiency of some of the Northern democracies, who have a national system of education. But it is not too late to tell the truth, however unpalatable it may be, that the education provided for the ordinary democracy in this country, from universities down to primary schools, is definitely provincial and that it is getting more and more provincial every day. In fact, I am not sure whether the correct term to describe this education would not be, "local." Is it surprising, then, that those parents who can afford it—and a vast number of those who cannot—send their sons and daughters to the public schools and to the older universities which, whatever faults they may have, are free from the fetters of provincialism and can claim to be in the main current of national education and life? Let me speak plainly, because nobody has done so on this subject up to now.
Where do those who plan our education send their sons and daughters? Do they send them to the local primary school or secondary school? And all that vast and most worthy collection of inspectors, examiners and civil servants who are necessary to work this immense machine and whose business it is to persuade the public that they are getting the best that public money can buy—do they send their children to those schools with which they are associated? Do the chairmen of the local education authorities, if they can afford it, send their children to the schools about which they are so eloquent on prize-giving day? The answer is definitely, "NO", in large capitals. They no more consume their own goods than a manufacturer of ready made clothes goes about in "reach-me-downs". In the case of thousands of statesmen, civil servants and administrators who are produced by the public schools, and are still being produced by them when there is a vast system of popular education in competition, they have come to eminence because they have received a national education of the kind 421 best available in the country. Unless we make radical changes in the basis of our State education the dice will continue to be loaded in favour of the public schools and older universities. There is no basis of education except the integration of the nation as a whole to which every class and every rank, both of labour and of leisure, must contribute. Some of us believe in democracy but we go on educating the democrats of the future in separate cages and still regard our "village Hampdens" and our "mute, inglorious Miltons" with all the aristocratic tolerance of the early 18th century.
In raising the level of our educational system, the remedy is in our own hands. It can only be done if we secure the same superlative teaching for our democratic schools, as can be found at Rugby, Charterhouse, Winchester and Marlborough and if there is the same freedom of enterprise and largeness of outlook among headmasters, staff and governors. I am convinced that this can be done, just as I am convinced that we are heading for national disaster if we continue our double system of one kind of schooling for the poor and another kind for the rich. It is easy to pay lip service to democracy because democracy in war-time seems to be a popular battle-cry when we are fighting Hitler. But presently there will be no more Hitler. Even now, there is hardly enough Hitler to go round. There will be no more battle cries but democracy must go on living. It cannot go on living if children are markedly conscious of the differences between themselves. I am not a public school man myself but I think that that consciousness of difference does not come from the public schools but from the people who have not been allowed to go to such schools. Does this Bill do anything to bring these two sections together? It is obvious from the enormous sum which is to be provided for these changes that there must be some great improvement in policy as well as in extension if this great expenditure is to be justified. That, I think, may be readily granted but some of the changes proposed in order to facilitate the working of this scheme seem to me to be both retrograde and reactionary. There is no effective redefinition of the relation between the Board of Education and the local education authorities—a relation which teachers, especially, hoped to see modified.
422 Perhaps hon. Members are aware of the unsatisfactory form of supervision which the Board of Education exercises over local education authorities. May I give one example from actual experience? Some time ago, under a notorious county authority, new teachers were advertised for, for a new secondary school, to be specialists in three different subjects—English, French and History. The headmaster, who had no say in the matter and who still has no say, ventured to designate unofficially the best candidate in each subject to the local authority. In spite of his protests they appointed teachers with no qualifications except English to teach French and History as well, because the candidates in French and History were not local people and had no relations on the local voting register. It may be asked, "Could not the Board of Education do anything about such a scandal?" Yes, it could wait three, four or five years until the school was well established and then send along inspectors to look at it. If the work was scandalously bad the school could be refused a grant but if the work was merely passable then this Department, as great and as noble as any Government Department, could do absolutely nothing but grin and bear it. The Board has no veto on any appointment, however grossly scandalous it may be and, believe me, I have seen some scandalous appointments in my time.
It is obvious that the Minister has qualms on this subject. If one looks at Clause 81 it will be seen that the Board can veto the appointment of a director of education, but it cannot veto the appointment of an unsuitable headmaster or teacher. In fact, the position of the State secondary schools will be worse under this Bill in some respects than before. They are now to be handed over lock, stock and barrel to the tender mercies of the local authority and any vestiges of individual freedom which they had in the past will be taken from them. Some of them have had a good deal of individual freedom. Conversely, the auxiliary school, or the non-provided school, will have a very much better chance of independence from local prejudice than the normal county, or provided, school as the individual school is to have articles of government drawn up by the Minister himself, aided by the best educational experience and opinion at his 423 disposal while the poor county school is to be left entirely to the local education authority, which is charged with drawing up the articles. Clause 103 shows that parish councils or even parish meetings may be the authority, so that the situation takes on a new ghastliness.
Further, in Clause 19, there is a very disturbing piece of retrogression and one to which I, as a member of the Fleming Committee, have some right to demur. That Committee recommended the abolition of fees in all maintained schools but coupled its recommendation with the condition that there should be model instruments and articles of government, backed by statutory sanction in this House, for all secondary schools and that each secondary school should have its own governing body. These two conditions I and other members of the Committee regard as absolutely essential. The first White Paper explicitly accepted the second recommendation. Now, for some reason which I cannot understand the Bill withdraws that requirement and so makes real nonsense of the Fleming Committee's recommendation. Therefore, I ask the Minister to put this matter right and to extricate the Committee from the very embarrassing position in which it has been placed. If the reply is that there is great administrative difficulty with all the new secondary, technical and modern schools which are to come into being I would press for this article to be restored at least in the case of grammar schools, many of which, especially those in Wales, have always had their own separate governors. A school can never become a real community if it has not its own governing body. If we cannot send our children to the free and independent schools of Britain let us be allowed in our own county schools that freedom which experience has shown to be indispensable if they are to be something more than appendages of the local council.
If anyone has any doubts on the matter I would recommend him to study Clause 23, where aided schools are given an incalculable advantage over the county schools in the appointment and dismissal of teachers. Indeed, auxiliary schools of all types seem to be particularly favoured in this respect. If I were a young secondary school teacher, ambitious to be a headmaster, I should, if I were otherwise eligible, choose a Roman Catholic 424 or Church of England school because in spite of the necessary restrictions in the matter of religion I should find that there was a greater prospect of freedom in those schools. And that is a hard saying. I have made these reflections because I want to keep in the forefront of the Debate the interest of the child. I hope I have not offended the right hon. Gentleman by my criticisms. I hope he will give me the credit of being only concerned with the child as the prime reality of our educational system. I recognise the extreme difficulty of his position as a modern Blondin having to walk the tightrope between a host of conflicting interests, but there is no interest that is anything but fine dust in the balance as compared with the interest of the children. And I believe there is a verse about offending "even the least of these."
§ Commander Bower (Cleveland)
I think the whole House will have listened with the greatest interest to the speech we have just heard. The hon. Member's knowledge of the whole education question is most profound and his was a most valuable contribution, though I am bound to say I do not provide a very good advertisement for some of his earlier remarks. I am one of those who have seven children who have all been educated in ordinary primary and secondary Catholic schools, just like our children of the working class. None of them have gone to a public school. The only lapse was a boy who entered the Navy as an ordinary seaman through the Admiralty University Training scheme, I am glad to say entirely at the expense of the Admiralty, which I think I earned for my 22 years' service in the Royal Navy. Any Education Bill is a great event in the life of a nation, especially a Bill of this sort which is of such a very comprehensive and far reaching character. The mind and spirit of man, on which education naturally must have a profound, indeed a determining, effect are really so much more important than his purely material needs, pressing as those so often are, that without a firm foundation of good education, inculcating sound principles of life, no purely material progress will ever avail very much. Therefore I think the Government have been wise to start their great revolutionary programme of social advance, which we all look forward to, on a foundation of comprehensive education, and I think it is appreciation of this which 425 has caused approval of the Bill to be so very widespread. We all welcome an honest attempt to provide equality of opportunity to use that overworked phrase, but even if we never get complete equality of opportunity we can claim that under this Bill we shall never hear, as many of us have heard, some of our colleagues in the House say, "If only my father had been able to afford to give me a better education." We hope that that will never again be said after this Bill has become law.
I want to turn directly to the part of the Bill which concerns me and the Roman Catholic community most—the question of what used to be called the non-provided schools. My right hon. Friend has said that the Churches were pioneers in the field of education. I cannot help feeling that that is something of an under-statement, because until 1870 the State, practically speaking, took no part at all in education and the widely accepted idea of the present day that education is largely a secular matter and religion merely a subject to be taught for a couple of periods a week is the product of a State system of education which only began in 1870. The Church undoubtedly began educating the people of the country in the late sixth century. It is probable that the Celtic Church before then had schools in many places. To our forefathers of whatever denomination the present widely accepted idea of education would have been quite unthinkable, but we have to be fair and freely admit that the present system of State education, with an agreed syllabus of religious teaching and a collective act of so-called nondenominational worship at the beginning of the school day, has found general acceptance amongst Christian parents. I think that many do not quite like it but, at any rate, their conscience is not in any way affronted and they are able and willing to compromise. Those of us who are unable to compromise in this way admire these people for their spirit of self-sacrifice and we ardently wish that we, too, could enter freely and unhampered into the national system of education. But there is a considerable minority who are, very unfortunately, unable to take this view, including a large number of members of the Church of England, some others, and the entire Roman Catholic community, numbering between 2,500,000 and 426 3,000,000 souls. I am using the term Roman Catholic because many members of the Church of England like to use the term Catholic, and I want to emphasise the distinction for the purpose of my argument.
Although there is much agreement between us Roman Catholics and other objectors to certain provisions of the Bill, in some cases it is for different reasons and I am only qualified to speak for our own community. We are, of course, a minority, a compact minority but in many quarters an unpopular minority. We do not want to gloss over this unpopularity, indeed for the purposes of my argument I want to emphasise it, because I want to draw attention to the widely different ways of thought between Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians, a distinction which is not always appreciated. Even in discussions with friends of the House many of them do not understand our point of view. Nothing can raise more ungovernable feelings than religious controversy and therefore I intend neither to defend our faith nor to attack the faith of any other man, but merely to state and emphasise the great differences that exist. In a democracy such as ours surely such honest differences of opinion must be regarded as dispassionately as possible and free from prejudice. As Oliver Wendell Holmes has said, if there is any principle of the constitution which more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought—not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought we hate. We are conscious that our way of thought is hated in many quarters and it is in the spirit of the lines that I have quoted that I invite the House to help to solve a problem which is theirs as much as ours. I should like to thank Members of all parties of other communions who have, often at great sacrifice of convenience and time, taken the trouble to attend meetings of our Parents' and Electors' Associations all over the country and make themselves familiar with our point of view.
Why, then, cannot Roman Catholics enter freely into the national system of education as presented in this Bill? In order to explain this we feel bound to ask Members to realise certain historical facts, namely that 400 years ago the Reformation really did occur, and a little later 427 there was the Counter-Reformation, and the Council of Trent which, by crystallising and fixing some of our doctrines, made a gulf between Roman Catholic and Protestant thought which is absolutely unbridgeable. I think it is sometimes overlooked that the main differences of opinion between Christians are not the differences between different Protestant denominations, bitter though these often are, but this great gulf that I have referred to between Protestant thought as a whole and Roman Catholic thought. The belief of Protestants in free judgment, emphatically rejected by us, allows them considerable latitude in their creeds and our adherence to the old principle of authority, emphatically rejected by them, allows us none in the spheres of Faith and Morals. The Roman Catholic accepts that his Church is divinely appointed as the teacher of Christians and the interpreter of Holy Writ. In view of our desire not to enter into polemics, I refrain from saying why. I only state the facts.
A Roman Catholic, therefore, must believe all the dogmas of his faith. His faith is a house supported by many pillars and, if you knock one down, the whole collapses. This makes it impossible for us to accept agreed syllabus teaching, because in our view the Roman Catholic faith is one and indivisible and can never be whittled down to any form of compromise. From this it naturally follows that our view of education is fundamentally different. To us, it can never be a matter of mere book learning with a veneer of more or less religion superimposed. To us the whole object of education is to teach our children to love and serve God in this world so as to live with Him in eternal happiness in the next. So religion must permeate the whole of our curriculum. All subjects must be taught from the Roman Catholic angle. But perhaps the most important divergence of opinion, although here we have support in many other quarters, is on the question of the rights of parents. We hold in conscience—on this point there can be no compromise—that parents have a definite primacy in determining the kind of education their children should have, and we are bound to regard teachers as being in loco parentis.
Now I want to refer to one or two portions of the Bill which seem to us to 428 whittle down the rights of parents and substitute for them the control of the State, if the Parliamentary Secretary will give me his attention.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Mr. Ede)
I merely turned aside to get a copy of the Bill in order to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman point by point.
§ Commander Bower
Under the 1921 Act the Board, when deciding whether a proposal for a new school was to be admitted, was bound to consider the wishes of the parents. But the 1921 Act is to be repealed and nowhere does this Bill give legal recognition to the wishes of the paresis. The only criterion that I can find is "whether the local education authority has sufficient schools for the area," and the Minister ultimately "decides as he sees fit." My second point is that under the Necessities of Schools Act, 1933, our existing schools with 30 or more children could not be closed unless accommodation for the children could be found in a school of the same denominational character reasonably accessible. This Bill repeals that Act and under Clause 12 appears to empower local education authorities to submit proposals to the Minister for closing such schools and certain defined persons, amongst whom parents are not mentioned, may submit objections after winch the Minister may approve the proposal, after making such modifications as may seem desirable. That is a definite lowering of the status of parents. But the worst example of all is in connection with the type of school to which a child must be sent. To-day parents have a legal right to select the school to be attended by their children under the 1921 Act. But this Act is to be repealed and in this Bill the effective decision as to the type of school to be chosen—technical, modern or grammar, or even special—rests with State officials and not with the parents.
§ The President of the Board of Education (Mr. Butler)
That is not at all the intention of the Government. As I have frequently stated in public, we propose to bring the parents in more than we have done before. In the further stages of the Bill we shall seek my hon. and gallant Friend's help to see that some of these matters are looked into.
§ Commander Bower
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend because this has caused a great deal of concern. It appeared to us that in this particular respect the parents were being left out. I do not at all like the heavy penalties which are threatened on parents if they do not comply with some of these provisions. I will not pursue that now because it is more a Committee point.
I think I have made it clear why we Roman Catholics must have our own schools. As full citizens, taxpayers and ratepayers, we feel that we have a right to have these schools paid for 100 per cent. by the State as everybody else. It is often said that we are not prepared to have control. That is not true, for we are prepared for a considerable amount of control as, for instance, in the Scottish system. We are very disappointed that my right hon. Friend has not seen fit to admit our schools on equal terms into the national system which we so ardently desire to enter and that this old controversy must continue. We base our claim quite squarely on the old British tradition that conscience is sovereign and inviolable. I think that my right hon. Friend used that very expression in his speech. What are we offered? The new auxiliary schools fall into three categories. I propose, first, to deal with the 1936 Act schools. Proposals under the 1936 Act, a high proportion of which are ours, are to be reviewed, and we get up to 75 per cent. of the cost paid by the Exchequer. We think we ought to get 100 per cent. if full justice is to be done. We think that if we were to get 100 per cent. or something like it it would go a long way towards easing our burdens and making them tolerable in this particular respect. One advantage of this solution would be that the Exchequer would be faced with one payment only. It would be non-recurrent because this revives only schemes which have already been put forward.
§ Mr. Cove (Aberavon)
Was not that Act accepted by the Roman Catholic Members of the House in 1936 as a satisfactory settlement at that time?
§ Commander Bower
It was, but unfortunately this Bill imposes far greater burdens on the other side. We are very concerned about the aided schools. They are to receive 50 per cent. of the cost that 430 the local authority determines is necessary to bring them up to modern standards. Beyond that we are to be responsible for 50 per cent. of the cost of external repairs, the indoor and other repairs like playgrounds falling on the local education authority. On the assumption that we are to be mulcted at all, this may seem fairly reasonable until it is realised that we are being asked to pay 50 per cent. of a liability which at present is unspecified. All we know is that it is going to be considerable, and the amount will rest at the discretion of the local education authorities. My right hon. Friend said yesterday that we would be given plenty of warning and all that sort of thing, but it is very much like signing a blank cheque. The trouble about this problem from our point of view is that many of these schools are already gravely in debt and for years have been unable to meet more than the bare interest charges. How can they possibly shoulder these heavy undisclosed further burdens?
The alternative is to become Controlled Schools where the religion taught will be the agreed syllabus, we shall lose the appointment of teachers, except reserved teachers, and they will become no longer Roman Catholic schools. They will become Protestant schools to which we cannot in conscience send our children. I fully realise the principal object of the controlled school scheme is to enable other denominational schools to be surrendered honourably and to accept an agreed syllabus which they may dislike, but at least can accept without violating their consciences. Nevertheless, the provisions will also apply to our schools and I can assure my right hon. Friend—I think he knows it already—that not one of our schools will be surrendered voluntarily to become a controlled school. But what if the managers prove unable to carry on? Will my right hon. Friend then really use his powers forcibly to convert them into controlled schools? Will he use his powers to take Roman Catholic schools, built and maintained largely by the pennies of working men and women, and turn them into Protestant schools knowing that no Roman Catholic would send his children to them? It is very hard to find Parliamentary language to describe such an action and I cannot believe that if the people of the country became aware of it they would tolerate it. I feel bound to warn my right hon. Friend that in certain 431 circumstances we might find it necessary to provide him with a test case if that is his intention. Here I have another suggestion to make. The Church of England will get 100 per cent. for their schools which become controlled schools. For their aided schools they will get, like us, 50 per cent. It is fair to say that on the whole lot this will average something in the nature of 75 per cent. for the lot. My suggestion would help to make our burdens tolerable. It is that we should get 75 per cent. for our aided schools in addition to 100 per cent. for our 1936 schools.
My right hon. Friend has said often enough that we are getting more than ever before. I think he forgets sometimes that we are merely being offered in some respects a higher contribution towards a very much higher liability. We have often been told that we are being offered the same as everybody else and I concede that to my right hon. Friend. But there is one important difference which can best be illustrated by the old fable of the fox and the stork. The fox invited the stork to supper and then gave him his sustenance in a flat dish from which he himself was able to lap it up while the stork with his long beak was unable to absorb it. The stork retorted by inviting the fox to supper and giving him his sustenance in a long-necked vessel from which the fox was unable to get anything. The only thing that goes wrong in that analogy is that we are not able to retaliate. As we cannot get the sustenance which is offered to us equally with everybody else we are told that if we would like a dish out of which we can feed it will cost us £10,000,000. That is a modest estimate of what these proposals will cost our community. Before the war we scraped every penny to meet a total debt of £3,500,000. Much of this is still outstanding, and I do not think we can face a further sum, which may be £10,000,000. It may be greater or less, but at any rate it will be very considerable. This is £10,000,000 to buy temporarily that freedom of conscience which it is claimed this great democracy accords to all. I feel that here if ever was the chance to end the unhappy religious educational controversy for ever and to include all creeds in one comprehensive national system. But no; the bargaining, the huckstering must go on. We are bitterly 432 disappointed. I am not trying to be too argumentative, but the attitude of my right hon. Friend has always seemed to be to take it for granted that we have got to pay, and then to search for the ultimate point to which he could squeeze us before agreeing that the State should pay the rest.
We do not intend to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill. We do not, abandon our principles one little bit, but we realise the virtues of this great educational advance just as much as anybody else. We are a fair cross section of the population in our views on the general provisions of this Bill. It is, however, difficult without great emotion to think of the struggles of our poor people to keep their schools going. I have seen them down the back streets of the great industrial cities of Lancashire and Yorkshire where the Roman Catholic populations are so thick, I have seen the second collections on Sundays, the house-to-house collections, the little whist drives, dances and sales of work, and the crushing anxieties of managers and parish priests. But emotion is a bad master. We do not base our claim on emotion. We make no ad misericordiam appeal to the House or the country. We make an appeal for full justice and equality of treatment as of right.
We are proudly conscious of being among the finest citizens of the land. In the fields, in the factories, and above all in the Forces we are, in proportion to our numbers, doing our share and more than our share in the fight for freedom. In awards for gallantry, although we are about one-fifteenth of the population, we have won one-seventh of the Victoria Crosses. I do not think anybody will dare to say that we are not good citizens. In my old profession two of the finest fighting admirals this war has produced, Sir Henry Harwood and Sir Philip Vian, are Roman Catholics. We have been bitterly attacked in some quarters outside the House but not, I am so glad to note, in the House. The whole of the community for which I speak is deeply grateful for the treatment we have had in this Debate not only from Mr. Speaker, who has been so kind in calling so many of us, and from hon. Members, but for the pleasant friendly hearing we have had, often from those who dislike our views most. I suggest that it is time the country and the 433 House faced the fact that we are a minority of the most deserving citizens who are still subjected to discriminatory treatment involving us in financial sacrifices which look like being far too heavy for us. We demand minority treatment, not as a minority asking for special favours, but as a minority which has not the privilege everybody else has, namely, the privilege of sending their children to State schools to which in conscience they can send them. I am sure that eventually full justice will be done. On the Committee stage and every stage of this Bill we shall do everything we can to put our views forward and then, when the Bill becomes an Act, unless we get fully into the national system the fight cannot end so far as we are concerned. My last words are another quotation, one which this time is taken from Wendell Phillips:When you have convinced thinking men that it is right and humane men that it is just, you will gain your cause. … What is gained by argument is gained for ever.
§ Professor Savory (Queen's University of Belfast)
I have listened with great attention and great respect to the eloquent remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower) and though I am bound to say I do not agree with him, I should be sorry to introduce any element of controversy. In the few remarks that I hope to have the honour of making, I wish to lay stress rather upon unity than upon diversity. When the war broke out in 1939 and numbers of children were evacuated from our great towns, we had a disagreeable eye-opener with regard to existing conditions. May I quote on this subject the authority of "The Times"?Last Christmas, to take one example typical of many, a country parson asked a class of evacuated children with an average age of 12, why we keep Christmas and who was born on the first Christmas Day. Of those 31 children, 19 did not know the answer. Further questions showed that they knew absolutely nothing about the Bible and had never been taught to pray.Shortly after I was elected to this House, I had the honour of being invited to a religious conference, attended by all denominations and including Roman Catholics. This problem was discussed, and among the most eloquent of the speakers—I should like here to pay my sincere tribute to his memory—was an old Eton master and former hon. Member for Windsor, Sir Annesley Somerville. We 434 all listened to his speech with the greatest admiration. Every one of the speakers pointed out what they had heard on very good authority with regard to the ignorance of the elements of Christianity showed by very many evacuees.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
We cannot have two hon. Members on their feet at the same time. The hon. Member addressing the House has refused to give way.
§ Professor Savory
I quoted from "The Times." If the hon. Gentleman had attended that conference he would have heard what eye-witnesses said about those evacuees.
§ Professor Savory
One of the greatest authorities in this country has explained this deficiency in our system of religious instruction. I should like to quote a sentence from a very able letter written to "The Times" by Dr. Hensley Henson, formerly Bishop of Durham:As things now stand, religious teaching is not treated seriously, that is, it has no secure place in the official scheme; it is not officially inspected; it is entrusted to teachers who are not adequately equipped; and in short it is treated rather as an unimportant extra than as an element of crucial importance.It is to remedy these defects in religious instruction that the President of the Board of Education has, with infinite patience and tact—so which I should like to pay a high tribute—had conferences with representatives of various denominations throughout this country. I am glad to say that he has secured the co-operation of the head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, who has gone with very great sympathy—and I must say very great ability—into the whole of this question, drew up five very important points on which he desired especially to insist. He put them forward in February, 1941. The first is, that in all schools Christian teaching should be given by teachers willing and competent to give it This is of supreme importance. The teachers themselves should believe what 435 they are teaching. A leading educationalist in this country gave an instance of the sort of thing which should not take place. He was describing a Scripture lesson given by an unwilling teacher. There was something in the tone which the teacher employed in giving the lesson which caused one of the pupils to put this question to him: "Sir, is what you are saying true?" The teacher unfortunately replied: "Well, you can believe it, if you like, but I do not." Can we imagine any attitude more destructive of real education than that attitude on the part of a teacher?
§ Professor Savory
Yes, it was honest, but was it right and proper? Was it not an abuse of the privilege of the teacher?
§ Professor Savory
No, I am very far from asking for tests for teachers, but as the hon. Gentleman has raised the question I will observe that we do demand tests with regard to secular education, and that a man should have a degree or a diploma. Is it too much to ask that if a teacher voluntarily undertakes religious education he should do it from a sense of conviction? May I refer here to a personal experience? I went back to my own old school as a master and was entrusted all the week with the teaching of French and German. I was very glad when I was able to read the "Esther" and "Athalie" of Racine with my pupils and explain certain prophetic allusions to the Gospel which are to be found in the Old Testament passages quoted by the poet Racine. I was especially glad when I had the opportunity on Sunday afternoons of taking a class in the New Testament and on Monday morning a class in the Old Testament, because it gave me an opportunity of getting into contact with my boys, such as I should have missed had I been confined, as I was during the week, simply to French and German.
436 The second point of the Archbishop's is very important. It is that religious knowledge should "count" in the certificate for teachers' training. I am very glad that the President of the Board of Education has accepted that second point. It is essential that we should have teachers who are highly qualified to give this religious instruction. Another point, closely connected with the second and number three in the Archbishop's list, is that the religious teaching should be given at any period within the school hours so that it may be given only by those competent to give it. Hitherto, as everyone knows in this House, it has been necessary to give religious instruction at the beginning or at the close of the school; largely to favour the conscientious objector, and so that the children could be withdrawn either at the beginning or at the end of the school period. The effect was that, as all the religious instruction had to be given simultaneously, it was necessary to employ teachers from all the classes. We are very thankful to the President for having adopted the suggestion of the Archbishop, for now it will be possible for certain teachers who are convinced of the value of religious education to give not merely a lesson in the early morning but to be employed throughout the school day in giving this instruction for which they are specially competent.
The next point of the Archbishop's was that religious teaching should be inspected like other subjects. That is of vital importance. I am acquainted with many schools where religious instruction is of the very highest order; but if I can believe what has been put in print by a very distinguished teacher, this sort of thing goes on in certain schools: She says that Bibles were passed round and that the teacher said: "I am very sorry but I am very busy to-day. I have rather a lot of lists to draw up. Just read a passage of Scripture, whatever you like, for yourselves." She adds that very often the Bibles were not even opened. That is an example of neglect which I consider to be absolutely deplorable; and therefore I am very glad that the new principle that religious instruction should be inspected has been accepted by the President of the Board of Education.
The fifth point is that there should be an act of worship at the beginning of each school day. In that way, as a Christian nation, we are going to pay our tribute 437 to Christianity by having a corporate act of worship. In the Debate yesterday, a gentleman made, what I could not but deplore, an attack upon our public schools. Having been a boy and a master at one of these schools I am acquainted as well as anyone in this House with their defects and as well as with their good qualities. Among their good qualities is one to which I look back with the greatest gratitude, and it is the daily service in the college chapel, both morning and evening, when we sang those beautiful hymns and heard those lessons from the Bible. We felt that we were taking part in the Christian life of the nation. Therefore it is a very great step forward that this fifth point of the Archbishop should have been accepted, and that there is to be a corporate act of worship at the beginning of each school day.
My experience of religious instruction goes back for 40 years. I had the honour of speaking from many platforms in favour of Mr. Balfour's Bill of 1902. Why did I support that Bill, which eventually became an Act, and is still to-day the law of the land? Because it guaranteed the maintenance of the denominational schools which were, at that time, the only schools in which one could be sure that religious education was being given. I regret to say, and this is confirmed by a conversation which I had with an hon. Member this morning, that in a large number of schools under the old school boards no religious instruction whatsoever was given. That was very deplorable. When we supported Mr. Balfour's measure we were attacked. Hon. Members will remember the story, which may now bring a smile to their faces, of the old fashioned conscientious objectors who refused to pay rates, for fear that the money might go to the support of denominational education. I know, because I fought all through that election of December, 1905, and January, 1906, that the Education Act of Mr. Balfour to a very large extent caused the defeat of the Conservative Party: but not so much as the cry of "Chinese slavery"—a lamentable slogan—which was described by our present Prime Minister as a terminological inexactitude. Now, after 40 years, we are coming back to happier times; and I am delighted to learn that in all schools throughout the land religion will henceforward be taught 438 and that there will be agreed syllabuses—many of which I have had in my hand and some of which are admirable—under which the fundamental doctrines of Christianity will be taught to the children, not as dogmas but as inherent in the simple gospel story. Provided we can all accept these agreed syllabuses, and that we find taught in them the doctrines of the Incarnation, the Atonement and the Resurrection, I think we can rejoice that the fundamentals of our faith are being instilled. I would appeal to all Members of this House to take this glorious opportunity, held out to us by the President of the Board of Education, to do our utmost to co-operate in making this common religious instruction a success.
Our great Primate, the Archbishop of Armagh, expressed himself in very eloquent words, and they are very short; but, since they have never been so far as I know, reported in this country, I should like to quote them, because he is one of the most eminent educationists we have in our country. He said:Character depends on religious conviction, and education which ignores the religious aspects of life is a partial, one-sided and (even more) a dangerous thing. It is not really education at all, although it bears the name; it is a process of informing, instructing, equipping the mind, without taking account of the danger of leaving all this provision of knowledge and scientific apparatus unbalanced by the moral qualities which are needed to control the use of it.This principle of the fundamental necessity of religious instruction in our schools was extraordinarily well expressed by our Prime Minister in the very eloquent broadcast we all listened to with so much joy in May last year. The Prime Minister said:There is another element which should never be banished from our system of education. Here we have freedom of thought as well as freedom of conscience. Here we have been the pioneers of religious toleration. But side by side with all this has been the fact that religion has been the rock in the life and character of the British people upon which they have built their hopes and cast their cares. This fundamental element must never be taken from our schools, and I rejoice to learn of the enormous progress which is being made among all religious bodies in freeing themselves from sectarian jealousies and feuds, while preserving fervently the tenets of their own faith.Would it be possible to discuss this question in better and more eloquent language than the Prime Minister has done? Therefore I appeal to all our 439 friends to co-operate with the President of the Board of Education, and make these agreed syllabuses a success; join with those who have taken such infinite trouble in drawing them up and accept them as the fundamental principles of our Christian religion, on which denominations can afterwards (in their Sunday schools and for two hours a week in the "controlled" schools) build the necessary—and I admit it is a necessary—superstructure. May I as one who has taught for many years in a Sunday school, make a very humble suggestion? It is that in addition to your agreed syllabus I would venture to ask whether you cannot request all the religious authorities which you have at your disposal to join in drawing up a very simple hymn book—not containing more than about 100 hymns—which can be used by our children. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not try Moody and Sankey?"] I am very familiar with Moody and Sankey but there are some hymns there which are not suitable for children of this age. Let hon. Members look back on their own childhood and think of the hymns which have influenced them more than any others. It would be invidious to make a choice, but I cannot help thinking of those beautiful hymns composed by the wife of a former Archbishop of Armagh, Mrs. Alexander——There is a green hill far away,Without the city wall,and so on. These hymns made a tremendous impression on our childhood. In this connection I should like to pay a tribute to the services for children broadcast by the B.B.C. in which these hymns are sung with extraordinary beauty. Will not the President of the Board of Education consider this question of adding to his agreed syllabus an agreed hymn book suitable for children?
I know there are many others who wish to take part in this Debate, and I do not wish to take up any more of the House's time; but I should like to refer to something which seems to have been almost forgotten in this discussion. A very eloquent statement on this subject was made by the Consultative Committee on Secondary Education when they drew up their report known as the Spens Report. They said:No boy or girl can be counted as properly educated, unless he or she has been made aware of the fact of the existence of a 440 religious interpretation of life. The traditional form which that interpretation has taken in this country is Christian; and the principal justification for giving space in the curriculum to the study of the Scriptures is that the Bible is the classic book of Christianity and forms the basis of the structure of Christian faith and worship.May I be allowed in conclusion to quote four lines of a poem which has been of very great comfort to me, and which I should like to leave with you as a message of very great hope and encouragement in these difficult times? They are by the poet Matthew Arnold:Still does the soul from its lone fastness high,Upon our life a ruling effluence send,And when it fails, fight as we will, we die,And while it lasts, we cannot wholly end.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
I am reminded by the closing words of the hon. Member for Queens University, Belfast (Professor Savory) that Matthew Arnold was also one of the pioneers of universal secondary education. I will try to confine my remarks a little more closely to the subject matter of the Bill. I would like to point out to my hon. Friend that public schools are hardly mentioned in this Bill. Also I would like to try and put the Bill in some sort of perspective because to me we are in danger, at least I have that feeling, even after the masterly presentation by my right hon. Friend yesterday, of an air of unreality about this whole education business. We owe the Ministers and their officials, particularly the drafter, a very great debt for presenting us with a new education law. I have been wondering whether the Second Front or the Second Reading of this Bill would come first. We are living at such an extraordinary moment to bring in an Education Bill. Everyone knows that to carry it out will take decades of reconstruction.
When last night I was broadcasting to America about the first day's Debate I could not help wondering what they would think. Indeed I wonder what Scotland thinks of the extraordinary importance that is being attached in England to doing things which have been common form both in America and in the Dominions for 30 or 40 years. We have precisely the same problems except that they happen to have a common school which is secular, they happen to have a secondary system of education which was introduced 40 years ago, and in the United States of 441 America they also have 127,000 local authorities and therefore they are up against precisely the same problems as we are of combining equality of opportunity with freedom, local autonomy and efficiency. We have not one, but many traditions, Dissenting, Anglican, Catholic and literary. I have, as I shall try to show, some very grave doubts whether we are facing this problem; Russia is also facing it; for Russia has a means test as well as a merit test after the age of 15. What is our approach to be in England? I say "England," because Scotland already has a statutory system of education distinct from these other countries.
It is perfectly clear to anyone at any rate who has been listening in this Debate—I am not sure whether it is absolutely representative of the country—that hon. Members attach so much importance to religion, which is inseparable from education, that the great majority of the speeches have been about the religious aspect of the education. I am very much concerned not only with that, but with the whole approach to children in this country. I have seen in the last week little children outside public houses and have heard Norwegian soldiers and Dominion troops saying "That sort of thing could not happen in our country." I have seen Canadian soldiers go down the pits here and be staggered to find children under 16. I cannot say I am impressed with the care that we take of children and young people in this country. I am a little worried about the smooth sentences we have heard yesterday and to-day, in most cases from those who have been to boarding schools themselves and have had the opportunities of quite a different education, telling the ordinary people of this country how they are to bring up their children and also I think exaggerating the stories of evacuation as they were revealed in this country in the early days of the war. But I am pleased that my right hon. Friend has brought in an Education Bill first, because it must precede political and social reconstruction.
I hold the view, for what it is worth, that the agreed syllabuses—I here agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Queen's University, Belfast—are very remarkable documents. They cover the whole of the Old and New Testaments and they are the fruit of the highest 442 scholarship. I would also say that hymn books have already been compiled. You can get one in Leicestershire and elsewhere. No doubt the Parliamentary Secretary will speak about that later. No Anglican, Congregationalist, Methodist or member of the Society of Friends can reject the simplicity and dignity with which these syllabuses tell the story of the Christian gospel, but it is my opinion that particularly when we come to young people's colleges they will not be enough. It is only walking examples of Christian practice that have much influence on the growing boy and girl. But without this essential foundation, without the training of habits and the attempt to apply some of the shining principles of the New Testament to every day life it is quite impossible to answer the yearning of the awakening child. The Roman Catholic view is different. The view I have expressed is, I believe, held tenaciously by millions of humble people in this country and if you abandon it you ignore the sanctions of history and experience.
The Roman Catholic view is logical and totalitarian. They say that the school is an extension of the home—but of the Catholic home. They agree with those people who send their children away to school from the age of nine to perhaps 18 and pay for matrons and denominational teaching and who know that the conditions of teaching in those boarding schools will be roughly approximate to the conditions they have at home. But the Roman Catholics are wrong, to my mind, in putting this issue as the old traditional English pattern versus the State, because the real and honest dilemma is quite different. It is an agreed core of Christian doctrine versus the formularies of a particular denomination. I would not add one note of bitterness to a Debate which has been conducted in such harmony. But I hold my own views just as tenaciously as they do and I have no wish to see an extension on educational grounds of what I know from experience exists at the present moment in the Roman Catholic schools of this country. I believe that a modified solution on Scottish lines could be applied to this country. It is no good re-opening it. I have thrown in my lot whole-heartedly with the President in the compromise because of the patience he has shown but I wanted to see the dual system go and have said so for many years.
443 I represent a Covenanting constituency in Scotland where, for ten years we had a Catholic chairman on the education committee and where there was always perfect understanding between the two parties. My right hon. Friend might well say that in England there are more than two parties. I do not wish to open the question and I sincerely hope that there will be few other speeches like those we have heard from the hon. Members for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke) and Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) yesterday who appear to have been on very doubtful ground in trying to reconsider the Cowper-Temple clause.
Coming to the heart of the Bill itself, I am not yet satisfied with Part I. After the most careful analysis of the work of the Consultative Committee and the other committees of the Board over a number of years, I have come to the conclusion that the crucial question is the time lag between reports and action. I do not know where the blame for this is to be put; it is partly due to the lack of interest in this House which allowed economy cuts. When you are doing such a big thing as the Bill implies, why retain the Board in name which has very little history or significance? Some of my friends and I propose to put down a number of Amendments on Part I to make the work of the Board of Education very much more in consonance with what education means in the twentieth century. The galleries, museums and libraries of this country have no headpiece. Round the corner from here is the Tate Gallery the largest picture gallery in the English-speaking world which does not get a penny from the State for new pictures. I could tell you about the children under public assistance. Why should they not be under the local education authorities? The important decision announced by the Minister of Agriculture to-day relieves me of saying one of the things I had intended to say. I congratulate my right hon. Friend because I think it is a victory for the cause of education. You cannot separate cultural and agricultural education in the way the Luxmoore Report tried to put over on this country. Never again, I hope, and I say this without any disrespect because I had the privilege of introducing three lots of Estimates, with my chief in another place, will it be 444 possible for the President to sit in any other Chamber but this.
There is £100,000,000 or more at stake and it is very much our job. I do not think that in future the work can be done by one junior Minister. I am not in favour of multiplying Ministers, but I know that in the Admiralty and in the War Office they have long had two or three. We must realise the enormous work that these young people's colleges are going to mean. They are totally new things on the fact of the earth; they do not exist anywhere. There is nothing like them in the world and we are dealing with millions of young people between 15 and 18, not 14 and 16, and I do not think there is any vast experience on which to draw. Then there is the development of nursery-infant schools.
When we started the service of youth in 1939, I had definitely in mind the idea it was the prelude to this sort of thing. What have we learned during these last four years? I spent several weeks recently in forestry camps with young people; one of the things which we learned is that young people like doing something which is of value to the country. They do not want artificial work made for them. They want leadership from people who have a genuine skill of their own to impart and who also have experience and personality that the young people can follow. They want to work in a pre-adult idiom and in a modern idiom. As to the discussion on religion and politics which are going on among young people at the present time, these bear little relation to the discussions we have had on this Bill. Their interest is genuine and schoolmasters cannot palm off on them things which were palmed off even on my generation. We accepted things at school which certainly are not being accepted now.
I do not want to say any more on that, but I must say one word to my right hon. Friend on finance because I have come to the conclusion that the finance of local education rates will not work. Mr. Cadbury was perfectly right in what he said in "The Times." The scheme cannot work unless you are going to pay in accordance with the number of children in any given area and I do not believe that the formula is as difficult to work out as some people believe. I am very glad to see that the Deputy Prime Minister 445 is present because I have a criticism to make. I wish the Government would look at the problem of local government as a whole. If the costs of health, housing and transport are added together I know of some places where the rates are going to be doubled. We all know the figures and my right hon. Friend knows them better than anybody. They are eloquent. In fact as he goes round the country he must see the difference in the cost of one place and another. The 55 per cent. will not solve the problem and if he had not set up so many other Committees such as those dealing with private and public schools, but had put Lord Justice Luxmoore or Fleming on to the finance and administration of education it would have been better. These are things with which judges and experts can deal. How can it be that between August and December the Board has decided to allot 14 times as much to technical education? The Financial Memorandum must inevitably be very largely guesswork. I give it for what it is worth. If you spend a little more on technical and adult education and take it off of nursery schools, it is all largely conditional. It may be a picture of the direction in which we want to go, but I do not think that much importance should be attached to the "14 times as much."
My main concern however is of a very different order. How are you going to work the education plans? I believe that the essence of education in this country is the freedom of the individual school. Take a town with a population of, say, 70,000 people under this new dispensation you will have 12 schools of a secondary nature and you will want at least too public spirited men and women to serve on those bodies. I wish that the Board had given us some direction. Many of us do not want education to become a municipal monopoly and therefore we ought to be very careful how we are going to find the men and women to man the governing bodies. I wish my right hon. Friend would give us some sort of model articles in the Schedule. He can get them from existing practice and I believe it is not a very difficult thing to do. I know schools where the headmaster has no right to be present at governing bodies. I know one large city where there is one governing body for all secondary schools and the headmasters and headmistresses have to sit outside and are called in when they 446 are required. In the case of assistant masters, whose cause is rarely mentioned, I think they ought to have some indirect representation.
Fees ought to be abolished in the genuine secondary school system, but fees are linked with freedom, with religious teaching, with the ratio of master to boys and, finally, fees are based on a contract between a parent and a headmaster. If fees are to be abolished, I ask for two things. There must be a choice of schools open to every parent and the provision of some of the amenities mentioned above. Let us be very frank about this. For some reason, there are somewhere between 500,000 and 900,000 children in this country who have contracted out of the State system. They do not come under State provision, and that is a very large number. My right hon. Friend will know more of the figures from the private school inquiry, but I have seen figures which have recently been compiled and which give me pause. I understand that in some areas at the present moment, areas not very far from here, there is a tendency for parents to send their children not to the old grammar schools as in the past, but to direct grant and independent schools. Would it not be rather a tragedy if the very purpose of this Bill, which was to universalise and democratise secondary education should be defeated.
Before we rush into something now let us remember that 40 per cent. of the children who go to American high schools do not finish the course, first because of economic limitations and, secondly, because they cannot "make the grade." Therefore, we shall have to be very careful how we arrange the curriculum for these types of secondary school in this country if we are not going to make the same mistakes that have been made abroad. Local interest is very precious, but local pull and local influence can have different effects on children and teachers. Such great headmasters as Paton, Rouse, Rushbrooke, Sanderson and a group of other men now teaching I can think of but whom I will not mention because distinction is invidious, all added something individual to the school curriculum. It is these things which give a soul to a school. Development plans are going to be submitted to my right hon. Friend and he is then going to make an education order on the local authorities.
447 Suppose six headmasters in that authority have rather original ideas. Is there any guarantee that any ideas which they might bring forward after those orders have been passed will be allowed to go through? Is there any guarantee that a director of education—who has not always had much teaching experience—would sanction them? There are dangers of too-static development plans, dangers of riveting a set scheme on any one area.
I accept the dangers with the Bill, but let us know where we are going, and let us understand that you cannot apply to secondary education what it has been so easy in the past to apply to primary education. Administration is a necessary evil. It is the schools that matter; and that is the difference, as I understand, between English education and the various systems in the Dominions, in the Colonies and in Europe. I do not wish to be gloomy, but I remember that four years ago, when the school-age was going to be raised, in the rural parts of this country we had 50 per cent. and more of the children in unreorganised schools—with a terrific drive on school-building. Those children, if the school-leaving age were raised next year, would be sitting at the same desks as they have been for the last 10 years, seeing the same masters, and looking at the same books. I do not want the raising of the school-leaving age to be postponed for one day, but we must be realists and come down from the daydream world in which we have been living. I do not believe that we should have let so many teachers go to the Forces, and I think that we should now bring them back. Then, there is the question of priorities. These are the tests we ought to apply. If we do not apply them we are not going to get the school-leaving age raised in a genuine way for many years to come; we are going, as the White Paper says, to get a hasty patchwork attempt to raise it, but no more.
May I say a word about young people's colleges? When the schools are built, especially in the countryside, are we thinking of brand new buildings? Are we thinking of what Henry Morris has done at Impington? Are we thinking of what my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined Universities (Mr. Harvey) calls the school base, and what others call the young people's college? It is going 448 to be extremely difficult to build at the same time nursery schools, senior schools and young people's colleges. Which comes first? In these vast development plans, somebody has to decide on priorities. What are the priorities? I am told, from a report that the London County Council has just made, that the backwardness of young people, through evacuation and for other reasons, is so serious that I am not sure the young people's colleges ought not to come first, to take up the slack. I have been going around talking on these subjects to the three Services, and I find a number of young men who would be glad to be able to teach in young people's colleges, but would be no good for junior or senior schools.
I see that the Chaplain-General has earmarked 2,000 men for ordination. Why should not the same thing be done about teachers? The school-leaving age is going to be raised in 1945. This is a question of absolute priority or nothing. The children of this country really matter. I believe that out of the Services is coming a movement for adult education which has very little to do with the W.E.A. or with the Educational Settlements, it is absolutely new. I hope that these men are going to speak their mind very soon to the people of this country. I know that the invasion is coming, and that it is very easy to get this question out of perspective. I have been nervous of raising this, because if you take one man out of the Forces it may be that you are taking him from the larger struggle, but I do not believe it would make much difference if you took 4,000 or 5,000 of those 25,000.
I know that my right hon. Friend is as anxious as anybody else, but I hope that he will look at this question with an even greater sense of urgency. I congratulate him on bringing in this Bill, and on the sense of urgency which he tried to communicate to us yesterday, and I hope that he will not be too worried by the religious controversy. I have here a list of ten letters to "The Times" from many different types of persons, scientists like Henry Wood and Julian Huxley, and from Catholics, Anglicans and Nonconformists, people like Lady Ogilvie, whose brilliant letter said:Is there a chance that in time the Churches themselves may prefer to move their resources 449 away from the teaching of mathematics or history or science or games, in which they have no special competence and devote them to the teaching of religion?These letters show the diversity of religious interest in this country. My right hon. Friend for two years has been patiently trying to get a compromise. I support him, and I hope that this House will support him, too.
§ Mr. Moelwyn Hughes (Carmarthen)
I am glad to be able to follow the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay), because he has put before the House one aspect which I hope to be able to emphasise. In the course of the discussion which has gone on on this Bill, both in this House and in the country, there has been far too great a tendency to go along, to use an American expression, on the sidewalk. Take, for instance, the amount of correspondence, discussion and conference that the Part III authorities have been indulging in. The Bill proposes to abolish the local education authority, on the basis, first, that education must be a through process, that you are going to have an authority planning and controlling education from the nursery school up to the young people's college, the same authority. There was a time in the last century when the railway system in this country was built upon junctions. One went as far as Rugby and then one got on to some other line. The modern system of education is the through train system; and it is the through train policy that this Bill endeavours to put into operation. There is another principle affecting the Part III authorities, and that is that they are not for the most part capable of carrying the financial burdens of the services that they have to provide. We want the local contacts, we want the interests of people who are full of knowledge of local service, but the Schedule to the Bill provides for district executives, and I should like to see our Part III authorities interesting themselves in the powers they are going to get under the district executives.
§ Mr. Hutchinson (Ilford)
What powers? The local authorities will not get any, except in the case of the exempted districts.
§ Mr. Hughes
Not automatically, but I cannot imagine that any local education authority, any county council, would set 450 up a district executive without taking into account those of the Part III authorities who have interested themselves in education in the past few years, and the Schedule itself provides specifically that the local education authority, the county council, is to consult the county districts on its plans for dividing up the county into district executives. That is what they should have been concerned with. I think that the Schedule should have given them a little greater power in initiating the areas that are to be mapped out. In all the discussions that have gone on and the conferences that have been held, except in the case of a few exceptional Part III areas, the whole sound of it has been about how you are interfering with someone's jurisdiction. You hear nothing except the creaking of the old parish pump.
In parenthesis, I want to say this about the financial provision with regard to local authorities. I am glad that the Exchequer contribution to all local authorities will be increased by an additional 5 per cent.; that is to say, where they now get 45 per cent. they will get 50 per cent., and where they now get 60 per cent. they will get 65 per cent. Above that, there is a comparatively small sum which will be at the disposal of the Minister to help those authorities whose financial position is such that they cannot possibly meet their requirements. Knowing, as we do, the position of so many of these smaller authorities—and many of them are left as local education authorities under the Bill—that sum of £900,000 is not nearly enough. Two of the citizens of Oakham not so long ago were taking a stranger down the streets of their town. One of the citizens stopped the stranger and pointed to a boy on the other side of the road. "That boy," he said, "is one of the brightest we have ever turned out. He has been top all the way through the school, and is just getting a scholarship to the university." "Yes," said the other citizen of Oakham, cynically, "there goes a twopenny rate." That sort of thing ought not to continue, even if it is only a penny rate. The Board of Education should be in the position to provide the money, so that sending a boy to the university would not make that difference. I agree with the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock that the whole financial situation should be investigated and I can think of no better 451 person to do it than Lord Justice Luxmoore. That is one of the sidewalks we have had in the course of this Bill.
The other is the dual system. There has been a great deal of talk about the attitude adopted by those who put forward their claims for their denominational privileges. I am a Presbyterian—[Laughter]—a Welsh Presbyterian, and I have had a deputation from the Roman Catholics in my constituency. They have made their position clear to me and I have made my position clear to them. I am not able to go as far as they would like to go but I will say this for them, that they in no wise endeavoured to exert any political pressure in the case they were putting forward. This refers to the right of conscience that has been repeated in this House and from that aspect I want to point out to the Roman Catholics and to the Anglo-Catholics that there is, on this issue, a right of conscience among us Nonconformists which goes quite as deeply as theirs does. I represent a predominantly Nonconformist area. Every chapel in my area was represented at the conference which unanimously passed a Resolution demanding the abolition of the dual system.
That is the position with which I am faced. A claim is put forward on the right of conscience that on the one side, they should get everything they require, and on the other side my own people say they get nothing at all. What am I to do? What is the right hon. Gentleman to do? The suggestion is that it should be 50–50. Let me pause and make this clear. We know that there are vast masses of people in this country who believe that when we talk about 50 per cent. we mean 50 per cent. of all the cost of running the schools. What is it that this Bill offers to those who insist upon having their own set schools? Half the cost of all the buildings, the land and the playing-fields that are required.
§ Mr. Hughes
Yes, the whole cost of maintaining the buildings and the land, the whole cost of the equipment of the school, the whole of the pay of the teachers, and on top of that an almost complete absence of any public control. 452 It is true that under the system the buildings will have to comply with certain requirements and that the teachers will have to satisfy minimum qualifications before they can be accepted, but to call that any degree of public control is just like saying that building by-laws are a complete solution of town and country planning. That is what is being given to the denominational schools. I heard my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) yesterday saying, why should we not get on with elementary education because, after all, it was open to all other denominations, or the Communists or whoever it might be to ask for the same thing? If all the denominations, including the one to which I belong, were making the same demand and getting the same concessions as the Roman Catholics are getting to-day, we would not have an educational system in this country but educational chaos.
§ Mr. Nunn (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman suggest that there is no public control over the main work of the denomonational schools, namely secular education?
§ Mr. Hughes
Perhaps my right hon. Friend had better answer that question but if the hon. Member will look at the Bill he will find that the local authority has no control, either in primary schools or in secondary schools, over the syllabus in aided schools. It is specifically provided in the Bill. There is no control and let us face up to it.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the teachers in provided schools could not be appointed unless the local authority approved of their educational qualifications?
§ Mr. Hughes
In the aided schools. That is only a minimum. On the question of the degree of control in the Bill we are now considering, there is a provision which enables, in these aided schools, the governors to dismiss a teacher. They may not have been able to find, say, a 453 good Anglican arithmetician so they have employed a non-Anglican arithmetician. Under the Bill, when they find an Anglican arithmetician, they can dismiss the non-Anglican arithmetician because he is not an Anglican. We shall come to consider it on the Committee stage and perhaps we may persuade the House to alter its view upon that. When you put it altogether, all that is being now given, far more than they have had before, more than they get in the British Empire, more than they get in Australia, New Zealand, and far more than they get in the democracy of the United States of America, when you consider this, it is only right to say that the attitude that people like myself take up merits not the cold complaint of injustice but the real warmth of gratitude.
I have walked along the sidewalks and I now want to take my journey along the main highway and follow the example of my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay). This is a Bill of magnificent promise. I look at the broad view and I see thousands more of nursery schools, the new elementary schools, the smaller classes, better buildings, better surroundings, and better playing fields, the secondary schools of different kinds to suit all types of people, I see the age going up and the new people's colleges thereafter. I have been looking at the magnificent promise contained in the Bill. I see throughout this system, assistance, meals, full medical attention, a system run by more effective local education authorities, buttressed by a Minister with greater powers, and through it a system permeated by a greater recognition of undoctrinal, undenominational Christian teaching.
§ Mr. Hughes
There must be ample protection for the teachers and ample freedom for those who are not prepared to accept this type of teaching but I welcome it because, whatever materialists, Marxists, rationalists may say, the coming of Christ to this world is life, His teaching, His death and the crowd of witnesses that have followed Him constitute, after all, the greatest historic fact that this world has ever seen. Some may disagree with it but it remains, and how can one say that Christian people think that the education of their children is complete 454 unless they learn that as part of their education? It is true and must be used.
I welcome the provision made for the advisory councils, and particularly the. Advisory Council for Wales, and also I welcome the Bill and congratulate the Government because they have put education first. In the grand reconstruction plans education has secured an A.1 priority. There was a letter in "The Times" the other day from leading industrialists, and I agree with it. We want efficient people. I have a personal feeling in this matter. I am bringing up a family and it gets more and more impressed upon, me as they grow up that the best thing I can do in this life is to see that they get set well for their lives. This community of ours is set in the proper way if it is looking after the children first. And so, without any reservation, I congratulate the Government upon having given this high priority to the reform of education.
I now turn to the other side of the picture. There are two great blots on this Bill. The first serious blot is on the question of democratic education. I lived in high hopes when I read the White Paper. I found it said this:A system under which fees are charged in one type of post-primary school and prohibited in the other offends against the canon that the nature of a child's education should be determined by his capacity and promise and not by the financial Circumstances of his parent.Notice the term, the ecclesiastical term, "the canon"—something that you cannot question, something that stands for all time. I would like to apply that canon to the public schools but, unfortunately, we have to await another occasion on which to discuss the way the public schools are going to fit in. I apply the canon to the Bill and I find in this Bill, unfortunately, evidence that that canon has been abondoned. No system of education can call itself democratic as long as there remains within that system the possibility of any child getting a better education because its parents have got money. Let us apply the right hon. Gentleman's own canon. I find that in this, Bill he is going out of his way to give free subsidies to that very system which he says is wrong. First there is the maintenance of the direct grant schools, the fee-paying schools. He is still going to give them money to keep them going, 455 Enough has been said on that, by hon. Members in this discussion, and I do not intend to elaborate it.
The second is that he still provides in the Bill power for a local education authority to pay for free places in fee-earning schools. That is really bad. The right hon. Gentleman knows of a town where there are two schools, one the snob school and the other the State school. Of course the fee-paying school will go to the local authority and will offer 10 or 20 free places or cheap places and will see that they get the cream to go there. They will deprive the State school of these children and then, because they have got the cream, they will boast all over the place about their results in examinations. The third is the provision for local authorities providing medical Services to sell them at cost price to fee paying schools. Any local authority with an efficient food service, can turn out mid-day meals at fourpence halfpenny a time, while the small fee-paying school may have a job to give its mid-day meals at eighteenpence or two shillings apiece. It may now turn to local authorities and say "Sell us your lunches." I want to exterminate the fee-paying schools because as long as they remain it means that some boy is getting education because his father can afford it and somebody else's cannot.
I do not want to say too much about the second big blot, the time table. The time, table is too slow. I will not weary the House with the figures but I will take the period of the Prime Minister's four year plan. I found out what was projected under the four year plan and the scheme of the White Paper and it works out that where we would be spending £1 under the four year scheme, under the White Paper we would be spending £1 0s. 6d. That Woolworth scheme has been improved upon now and under the Financial Memorandum I find that the speed of advance is registered on the money side—that is the test we have to apply for these advances in this way, that for each £1 we would otherwise spend in the four year plan we shall now be spending 21s. 6d. We have got on a bit but the plan is still too slow.
I want the Government and the right hon. Gentleman to get on with this. I ought to confess here that I have a personal interest and I ought to declare it. 456 Most of those who have spoken have been to the State provided school but almost all of them have never sent their children to the State aided school. I am a product of a council school and a county school and I have sent my children to the council school and the county school. It is almost unique for children in a small council school to have a father in this House and a grandfather in the other place but it says much for the democratic system of education that as far as I can discover from my children, they have never held those facts against me. I was searching the other day for inspiration on this matter and I turned to the poet Gray. He wrote a poem which I studied at school on "A Distant Prospect of Eton College." This Bill is a very distant prospect of Eton College. I found also that Gray had written a small poem, 200 years ago, on "The Alliance of Education and Government" and if I may use his words I want the benefits that this Bill extends brought forward soThat health and vigour to the soul impart,Spread the young thought and warm the opening heart.What happens if we do not? We have advantages, opportunities, developments which were not available when Gray wrote 200 years ago but we shall not get these bounties, these benefitsIf equal Justice with unclouded faceSmile not indulgent on the rising race.Let us hasten to help it to rise in splendour.
§ Mr. R. Morgan (Stourbridge)
I cannot emulate the delightful vein of thought of the previous speaker but as one who has spent a lifetime in the teaching profession I make no apology for intervening at this stage. It is a strange thing that it takes a war to call our attention to the defects in our educational system and also in our religious dissensions. The same thing happened after the last war when we appointed committees to look into these things. Unfortunately they came to very little. I would, however, bid the President not to despair on account of some of the criticisms that have arisen on the Bill and to hold fast to his Bill. If I remember rightly, when we had the Debate on the White Paper, there was hardly a dissentient voice. Everybody agreed that it was not a "distant prospect" but a very real prospect of what education ought to 457 be in this country. I do not remember a single Member either on that side of the House or this who uttered a discordant note. This good-will seems to have passed on in the Debates of yesterday and today. It is a strange thing but I have had several letters from people of different denominations and all of them contain this one phrase. One was from a Director of Education, in a Part III area, one was from the National Union of Teachers, and one from another body, and they all say that, although they are not satisfied with all the provisions of the Bill, they hope nothing will be done to spoil it in any shape or form.
I would particularly speak for the National Union of Teachers at the moment. There are several tenets which they have held for a long time but they have said that for the sake of progress they are willing to forsake these, so as to get a common weal for the benefit of the nation's children and I cannot but think that they are right. The other letter was from the headmaster of a public school, who says that the Bill marks out such a tremendous advance in general education that he would wish to do nothing to destroy any part of it as a Bill. But as the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Kenneth Lindsay) said, all these things cannot be done at once. They will take a long time. He mentioned the question of the order of priorities. In my opinion two things stand in the way of giving practical effect to this Bill at the moment. They are the shortage of teachers and the lack of school premises.
It is very unfortunate, but our record is not too good, even at the Board of Edusation, with regard to the supply of teachers and the shortage of school premises. Yesterday in this House two Members for Welsh constituencies gave some lurid details of some of the schools, but I would remind my friends in this House that we must all share that responsibility. Even the hon. Member for Kilmarnock while at the Board did not do much towards reducing the number of black-listed schools. I can well remember educational Debates in which the President stood up in this House and assailed the position of these black-listed schools but nothing was done. I would like to make one constructive suggestion. I have frequently said in this House that we ought to deal with the question of providing teachers at 458 once. Time after time, I have asked the President to deal with the question of teachers in the Forces. There are several of these of a low medical category who would be much better employed in the schools. Only this morning I had a letter from one such, a man of 38 who has been degraded to Grade 3. He said that the medical board had recommended that he should be excused heavy work out of doors and given work of a sedentary character.
§ Mr. Morgan
C 3. He says he has been doing work of an elementary clerical nature, which could be dealt with quite easily and efficiently by a boy of 15. That is just one example of the defects I know myself, and I have appealed to the President of the Board time after time and asked if he cannot get in touch with the War Office, or whoever may be responsible, and get this settled straight away.
If I were to give an order of priorities, it would be this way. I think we must go for the raising of the school age to 15 at once. The country is ready for it and we have to get ready for it. If anyone were to ask me what is the greatest handicap to progress in education, and what has been its greatest defect, I should say the absurdly large size of classes, and I cannot see that the Board has done much in the last few years to reduce them. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies, to give us some idea of what the Board's attitude to the size of classes, particularly in junior schools, is going to be in the immediate future. Then there is the question of the completion of the reorganisation of schools. There are large areas in the country which have not yet reorganised on the old Hadow plan. Is the Board getting a move on in that direction now, Unless you complete this reorganisation, it is almost impossible to take the next step proposed in the Bill.
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said, "I want to increase the tempo," but I would rather suggest that for the present, the motto of the Board should be, "Make haste slowly, but let it be surely." The first thing, obviously, is to get the reorganisation of the schools soundly placed. Once get that put right and you can proceed with the others. The next thing is to reduce the number of 459 pupils in the classes—infant, junior and senior departments. That is an essential, and therefore I would like to see an increased provision of agricultural and technical education in junior and senior schools. Then we may go on with part-time education in three compulsory stages—from the school-leaving age at 16 which would be the first, then to 17 and finally to 18.
Then I think we must give our attention to the question of adult education. In the Debate on the White Paper, speaker after speaker said "Here is a splendid vision," but they said also, "Are you really placing this vision before us, or is it to be a mere mirage?" I think they were very unjust to the President and Parliamentary Secretary, in trying to get those Ministers to commit themselves. Of course, it is not their job. Responsibility for putting a Measure on the Statute Book rests with the Members of this House, and I venture to say it will be a very bad thing for every party and denomination if they are able to stop the progress of this Bill to the Statute Book. When you have done these things, I think you can proceed, by easy stages, to raising the school age to 16. I do very earnestly plead with the President to stick to his guns—whether he calls them canons does not much matter—but, if he will stick to the principles outlined in the White Paper and the Bill, I am quite sure that we should take such a step forward that generations of children yet unborn will come to bless the name of Butler for giving them such a good start.
§ Mr. Walter Edwards (Whitechapel)
Representing an East London constituency, I hope the House will be patient with me while once again drawing attention to the position of the Catholics and the question of the dual system. I represent a constituency in which there is a very large proportion of Catholics. These Catholics have for generation after generation been making tremendous sacrifices. When wages were low, working class people there paid as much as they possibly could, and even sacrificed, in order to provide the funds to enable their children to be taught in what they considered to be the proper way—that was, that their children should be taken to a school where they should be able to receive the religious teaching that their 460 parents received. These sacrifices have increased because of the increased charges ever since the time they began. The only complaint I have about that is that it will make it more impossible still for these working class people to make the sacrifices necessary in order that their children can carry on in future as they carried on in the past.
In my constituency I have four Catholic parishes. I also have an Anglican church, close to where I live, which has a church school. It might be understood that Catholics are the only people complaining about the treatment of the church schools, but the first body which approached me with a petition were the people in charge of the Anglican church and they were very sore indeed about the provisions of the Bill. It was to be expected, with the past history of the Catholics, that they were not going to receive this Bill with open arms, because, whatever the President said, it cannot be denied that, in spite of the very nice picture which was painted by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hughes) and of all that has been paid by the Board of Education to the Churches towards the cost of schools, there will be so much to be borne by the Churches that it will be impossible for them to carry on as they have done hitherto. In view of these sacrifices, I feel that the President should have been far more lenient and far more considerate with the grant he proposes. I do not only feel it myself, but it is shared by the best part of the constituents whom I represent, and they asked me to voice their case in this House, because they claim that they have been doing their duty to the nation by paying for their own education, and, to a certain extent, the nation has reaped the benefit. The nation is reaping the benefit to-day of the work of Catholics in the country in the same way as it is reaping benefit from members of every other community.
As has been pointed out already in relation to other communities, Catholics have done well in winning war honours. One of the things which has resulted from the publication of this Bill is that Catholic men and women in the Forces are beginning to think that when they return after the war there is a great possibility that the right possessed up to now of being able to send Catholic children to Catholic 461 schools will not be possible in the future. We cannot seriously complain if these men and women are beginning to feel embittered. They are making sacrifices and justice should be done to them. That is all the Catholics of this country want: they want an opportunity of being able to conduct their schools as they have conducted them hitherto. No doubt if they have to make a sacrifice they will be prepared to do it, as they have done it in the past, but there are limits to the finance which they can find. One might imagine that Catholics are not interested in secular education, but during the past 24 years they have gone to the trouble of borrowing £3,500,000 in order to provide schools for themselves. That is no mean achievement and ought to be recognised.
So far as the East End of London is concerned children in Church schools there have received secular education every bit as good as anybody in a council school. There is a school in my constituency, a Catholic junior mixed school in Lincoln Street, which, since 1934, has passed 27 girls and 21 boys through junior county scholarships, 14 girls through the Richard Neald Trust, and has obtained, from 1934 to 1939, special free places for seven girls and four boys, while another has received a supplementary hardship grant. That is some justification for the claim that Catholics are providing proper secular education. I should be the last to maintain that any denomination should retain its schools if it were not capable of providing proper secular education. The Catholics have provided it, they desire to continue to provide it, and they also desire, out of the conscience which results from the Catholic faith, to be able to pass on that faith to their children in their own schools.
There is another flaw in the Bill. If a Catholic is rich enough he can send his son or daughter to a special school; the people who will suffer as the result of the financial provisions of the Measure are those who are poor. They will not be able to find the money and will be in difficulties. It has been pointed out that no Catholic would ever dream of sending his child to a controlled school and there is much truth in that. One does not want to use threats or utter warnings, but when one knows the feelings of these people on this matter the President of the Board of Education should at least pay some 462 regard to this state of affairs. I do not want to take more time, except to say that when we reach the Committee stage there will have to be much more consideration of the financial provisions of the Bill so far as it affects the dual system, so that concessions may be given to us in order to further the passage of the Measure.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
I am very glad to have the opportunity of following my hon. Friend the Member for Whitechapel (Mr. Walter Edwards) because he told us that he represents a constituency in which there were a great many Catholics and also a large number of Jews. He is a Roman Catholic and I am a Jew and I am, therefore, particularly glad to be able to speak after him and to say that I listened with a very great deal of sympathy to the plea which he so sincerely made in his speech to-day. It is a little difficult, for me to intervene in this controversy but, if I may say so, I think this is a case for what I would, with all respect, describe as Christian charity. As I see the issue, the Roman Catholics are asking that it should be financially possible for them to take advantage of an opportunity which this Bill proposes to make the law of the land. The issue is not whether the Roman Catholics should be allowed to have their schools or not. The Bill says, "You can have your schools if you pay for them." The Catholics say, "The financial provisions as outlined in the Bill make it impossible for us to do what our conscience tells us we ought to do if we are to carry out the obligation we feel we owe to our children."
I want to suggest that in dealing with religious conscience this House, in accordance with its traditions, will always be extremely tender. Nobody can estimate what is likely to be the financial obligation that this Bill will throw upon the Roman Catholic community. Who expected, when the Minister of Health said he would build cottages for agricultural labourers, that they would cost over £1,000 each? Therefore, I hope that some means will be found by which a matter which is really a financial matter and not a matter of any other kind can be amicably settled. If it could be so settled I think the country would reap a rich dividend. If Roman Catholics obtain sufficient money to maintain their schools 463 up to the standard to which they ought to be maintained the children will benefit—
§ Mr. Lipson
Yes, I am not asking for the Catholics anything I would not ask for Members of any other religious denomination. I believe the country would benefit in the larger religious unity which would follow an action of that kind. Therefore I would plead for generous and sympathetic consideration of the claim that is made. In particular, as the 1936 Act made it possible for local authorities to grant up to 75 per cent. for schools built under the reorganisation scheme, why should not the figure now be 75 per cent. instead of 50 per cent.? Further, I would hope that the Government will provide for Roman Catholic community facilities to borrow money for this purpose at the lowest possible rate of interest. I believe that concessions of that kind would go a long way towards removing the very genuine misapprehension that is felt and I hope the Government will see their way clear to do it. The Bill provides for the Jewish community a great opportunity. We shall be allowed now to give religious instruction in primary and secondary schools, which was not possible before. It will also, of course, give us a great responsibility. I believe the community will be equal to its responsibility and we are grateful to the Government for providing us with the opportunity in this Bill.
I want to express my regret that I cannot unreservedly share in the optimism with which it has been received in many quarters. I admit that my right hon. Friend's intention is admirable, that he is genuine in his desire to achieve an educational advance, that the scope of the Bill is big, and that its proposals are very attractive. But these things are not eenough. You do not create a great educational reform simply by passing an Act of Parliament. There are certain things which are essential for the implementing of the Bill and I am anxious, as I am sure my right hon. Friend is anxious, that this shall not be a mere paper programme of educational progress but that it is something which can reasonably be expected to come about within a short time.
464 There are three factors in connection with the Bill which cause me some concern. One is the question of the supply of teachers, the second is the question of the local administration of the Bill—a very vital matter—and thirdly, there is the finance of the Bill. Unless these three are of the right kind the proposals of the Bill can never be realised as we want them to be realised. We are told that there is a great shortage of teachers and that 26,000 have gone into the Forces. The 20,000 which would have been the normal intake during the war have not been available. The Bill will call for many more teachers. What is the actual number required? I have seen 70,000 mentioned if the school age is to be raised to 15. Is that based on the present size of classes? Because if, as I believe, classes ought to be very much smaller, the number would be very much larger.
You require 70,000 teachers and many more buildings. It does not seem to me to read like educational advance to say "Raise the school age at a time when there is so great a shortage of teachers." I should have preferred that the Minister's programme had been on different lines. I wish his first objective had been to obtain the teachers required to bring the maximum number for primary and secondary schools down to 30 in a class. My second objective would have been to raise the school age, following that, not to 15 but straight to 16. I believe that children in primary schools, if classes are reduced to 30, would thereby be better prepared for secondary education. With the present overcrowded classes the teacher is not given a fair chance. We are told that teachers must be trained. They always have been trained, and are now. What happens when they actually go into the school? They find, given classes of 50 or more, as many of them are, that they simply cannot apply in the classroom any of the things they have been taught during their training, and it takes the heart out of them. I am amazed when I consider the conditions under which teachers have to carry on their work that they are able to achieve such results as they have done. But we continue to give them an impossible task. A second advantage of the proposal would be that, if you proceeded straight to raise the age to 16 at the proper time, when you have the teachers to carry it out, you would 465 be able to realise the object which the President has in mind of getting equality between the three types of school in full. Under these proposals children in the grammar school will stay there for an extra year. While in the other two schools they will leave at 15 they will stay in the grammar schools until they are 16. You cannot get equality between the three types of school when you have them attending in one a year longer than in the other two.
If you are to attract more and better teachers—because I am concerned not only with the number but with their quality—I think you will have to abolish the existing distinction between elementary and secondary teachers. All children after 11 will be receiving a secondary education. Therefore, their teachers must all be counted as secondary teachers. You will be left only with teachers in the primary schools who will presumably continue as elementary teachers. But probably in those schools you want the best teachers. The teaching of young children is much more difficult and requires much more skill, and is much more of an art, than the teaching of older children. I do not want it to go out among the teaching profession that only the duds, the second-class, must go into the primary schools. I want to direct into those schools the best kind of teachers. Therefore, you must have teachers of one grade only, so that a teacher would go into the particular school for which he or she felt most fitted, whether primary, secondary or for further education, entirely on educational grounds, not being influenced by questions of status or difference of salary. I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether, when he has been estimating the cost of these proposals, which is put down at £79,800,000, he has taken into account the increased number of teachers that will be required if the classes are reduced. Has he taken into account that the teachers ought to be all in one grade and that the possibility is that they will have to be paid on a higher scale than at present? If not, his figure is misleading because the salaries of teachers is the biggest single item in educational current expenditure.
I want to say a word about the unit of local administrations. I much regret that the President has decided that Part III 466 authorities should cease as separate educational units and that their places should be taken by county councils and county boroughs, because in practice that will mean in some instances that progressive authorities will be placed under the authority of reactionary ones.
§ Mr. Lipson
In some instances they are. If I may give the instance of my own authority, this Bill proposes to raise the school-leaving age in 1945, but my own authority raised it to 15 in 1934. All our schools were reorganised under the Hadow scheme and we were among the earliest to obtain recognition. We have not a bad school building in my constituency. Yet we will be under the authority of the county council which has not yet reorganised under the Hadow scheme.
§ Mr. Hutchinson
Is not the difficulty that the urban authorities, such as the one which the hon. Member represents, will be brought under authorities which are mainly concerned with rural education?
§ Mr. Lipson
That is an important consideration. I am a member of both the county and the local education committees and I know what happens. The county education committee is responsible for secondary education in my area. If we send up to the county authorities something that we want, we are told, "Why should Cheltenham have something which the rest of the county does not have?" This proposal will mean that progress will be that of the slowest. What the President is proposing is that educational progress in future will be under a system of administration which will be based on the convoy system. That system makes for safety but not for rapid progress. We are told that we will be given more authority to deal with secondary education and that we will have every power except the power to levy a rate or raise a loan. But that is the thing that really matters. What about the history of this House? It was not until we got control of the purse that this House really became dominant in Parliamentary government. The same is true of local government. What the local authorities are concerned about, more 467 than this particular issue, is that this is an attempt to take the very life piecemeal out of small local authorities.
§ Mr. Arthur Jenkins (Pontypool)
What bodies does the hon. Gentleman include when he speaks of local authorities? Does he refer to the County Councils Association or the Association of Municipal Corporations or the Association of Part III Authorities?
§ Mr. Lipson
This Bill aims at taking away the power of Part III authorities, and the view they hold, rightly or wrongly, is that in certain quarters there exists a desire to take away from local bodies many of their powers. They believe that a beginning is being made with the smaller bodies. The Part III authorities will be taken first and the county councils or the county boroughs will be the next to go, so that ultimately the way will be prepared for regionalisation, because nobody will die in the last ditch for the county councils.
If the present financial arrangements stand these proposals will never be implemented. I want to appeal for more help from national taxation. I would like the President to say that all new capital expenditure approved by the Board shall be met as to 100 per cent. out of taxes and that the Board will take upon itself certain special costs of education, particularly the transport of children in country districts. If the Board would make concessions on these lines they would go a long way towards easing the burdens between one area and another. If I have seemed critical of these proposals it is not because I am not appreciative of what the President has in mind or of his sincerity and his genuine desire to create a great educational advance, for I believe that he wants, as I am sure the House and the country want, not merely the shadow of educational advance but the substance.
§ Mr. Silkin (Peckham)
I think that the President of the Board and the Parliamentary Secretary may feel gratified at the general response which the House has given to the Education Bill. Except on one subject, which I will not deal with at any length, there has been on the whole a remarkable degree of unanimity. On that one subject I cannot help feeling that there was a great battle raging over the 468 bodies of the poor children, though it was a matter which seemed to concern the children very little. I hope that that question will be solved to the satisfaction of everybody and that, whatever is the issue of it, the children will be left to receive their education in the best possible way. Very little has been said in the Debate about the content and the quality of education. After all, this Bill is a framework and it remains to be implemented. It depends very much upon the attitude of the President, upon the attitude of the local authorities and upon financial considerations as to what happens to the education of our children. It will involve a great deal of thought and consideration as to what kind of education the children are to receive.
It is rather striking that, with the exception of the President, no hon. Member who has spoken has talked about what kind of education is to be given to the children. The President himself was not too clear, because what he said was that, instead of the three R's, he was going to provide the kind of education which was suitable to age, ability and aptitude. I do not know how he is going to abolish the three R's. I should have thought that they were fundamental to any kind of education. It is much to be regretted that after 73 years of universal education we have still not reached the stage when every child is familiar with the three R's. I happen to be the chairman of an approved school and in the last 12 months we have received 77 children in the school. Of these, 21 between the ages of 10 and 13 were unable to read or write. Of this 21, seven did not even know their letters. These are not mentally defective children. If they had been they would not have been sent to this school. They are children who had attended elementary schools, on whom £28 or £30 per annum of public money had been spent for their education, and who, after all this time, are in that condition. I need hardly say that the educational standard of the remaining children is not very much higher.
What are we going to do with our children? What kind of education are we to give them in the additional year? Are we to raise the school-leaving age to 15 merely to continue the kind of education which we have already given? Are we to raise the school-leaving age to 16 merely to keep children at school for 469 another year after that? If so, although I sit on a side of the House which is committed to raising the school-leaving age as early as possible, I feel that I could not conscientiously support the raising of the school-leaving age merely to keep children at school for a year or two years longer. We shall want to know what we are going to do with our children during those additional years. In my submission it will be essential completely to revolutionise the character of the education. I shall be very glad to hear, from whoever is to reply to the Debate, what consideration is being given to the changes in the type of education which will take place when the school-leaving age is raised, Has any consideration been given?
To talk of the three R's is to talk of something concrete. At least you know where you are, but to talk of "education suited to age, ability and aptitude," may lead to differences of opinion. I submit that it is essential that we should know where we are going. If parents find that their children are at school for another year and that the additional year is not justified, there will be a great revulsion of feeling against increasing the age still further to 16, and the cause of education will be very seriously damaged. I hope that the President and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will be ready with classes to cope with the children between the ages of 14 and 15 who will be kept at school, so that they and their parents will really benefit materially by the additional year.
The Bill makes a great flourish about secondary education. We are abolishing the terms "higher grade school," "senior school" and "central school." Some of the central schools have done really magnificent work and I should like to know what is to become of them. We are abolishing the terms, and those schools are to be known as secondary schools. Are we doing anything more than abolishing the terms? Are the schools to remain just the same? I understand by "secondary school" something very different from the senior schools of the ordinary local authority as they have existed up to now. It will be a mockery to call them secondary schools and to leave them very much as they are. I hope that my hon. Friend will shortly make up his mind as to what education is to be given there. If not, we may find 470 that things go on very much the same and that we have merely changed the names of the schools and increased the age to 15 and that is ail. We can hardly call an education which stops at 15 secondary education. Indeed, that will be an argument for raising the school-leaving age to 16 straight away and by that means get efficient reorganisation and provide real secondary education.
I would like to know a little more about the further education which is contemplated in the Bill. Very little has been said about it and the Bill makes very slight reference to further education. It asks local authorities, in due course and at some time as required by the Minister, to prepare schemes for further education in their areas and it seems to me that that is all. From the terms of the Bill it is not clear to me whether local authorities will be empowered to provide financial assistance to boys and girls who are to proceed to the universities. They do at present, I know, but the Bill repeals all previous enactments, and the matter is not too clear to me. There is an element of doubt whether it will be possible to do it. There is no indication that it is proposed to send larger numbers of children from the areas of local authorities to the universities nor what kind of further education the President contemplates providing. Perhaps this is also a matter on which the powers-that-be have not made up their minds.
Education does not stop even at the age of 16, nor even at 18 with art hour a week. Large numbers of people, not confined to one class, are capable of benefiting by a university education. I was hoping that, in this comprehensive Measure, which has been so much applauded—and in that applause I join—it would have been made clear that any child capable of benefiting by secondary, technical or university education would have it provided, regardless of the financial position of the parents.
§ Mr. Ede
I want to help my hon. Friend, and I hope he will help me. After all, he is a lawyer and I am not. I want to read to him Clause 76, in which we have dealt with the question of university scholarships. It is as follows:Regulations shall be made by the Minister empowering local education authorities, for the purpose of enabling pupils to take advantage without hardship to themselves or their parents of any educational facilities available to them.…471(c) to grant scholarships, exhibitions, bursaries, and other allowances in respect of pupils over compulsory school age, including pupils undergoing training as teachers.I should have thought there was no doubt that the provision is absolutely unlimited. If my hon. Friend has any doubt perhaps he will see me after the Debate and we will try to resolve it.
§ Mr. Silkin
I was, of course, aware of that Clause and in the light of it I expressed my doubts. I had hoped it could be more specific. I shall be glad to take advantage of my hon. Friend's offer and to see him outside after the Debate. I want to say a word about the fees in secondary schools. I do not want to add very much to what has been said already, but I feel that to retain schools where you pay fees is not in accordance with the spirit of the statement of the President of the Board, that lack of means would not be a handicap to education and the possession of means should not offer an advantage. Presumably being able to pay a fee will enable one to get admission where otherwise one might not. I admit that the local authority may secure certain places in these schools and can pay the fees or part of the fees for the pupils, but there will still remain a number of pupils who will be able to get admission to those schools merely because they can pay fees and for no other reason. If there had been a genuine desire to abolish privilege in education and to secure an equal opportunity for all I would have hoped that fees in all types of secondary schools could be abolished.
Lastly, I want to deal with one or two speeches which rather struck me as having an independent school bias. A good many people have said that they would resent certain schools being handed over to municipal authorities. I think it was the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Captain Cobb) yesterday who said that it was most essential to retain the independent school, because such a school could carry out experiments which a school which formed part of a municipal district could not. I should have thought that the very opposite was the case. To carry out an experiment in one school seems to me to be valueless. It is carrying it out on far too small a scale. It takes a very long time before the results are known and really it is not an experiment 472 at all. If you want to carry out experiments in education it seems to me essential that you should do them over a wide range of schools.
§ Captain Cobb (Preston)
Surely the hon. Gentleman is aware of the value of the experiments conducted by Sanderson at Oundle?
§ Mr. Silkin
You must carry them out over a wide range of schools. You must have controlled experiments. I recognise that local authorities vary and that some are more likely to encourage experiments than others. Surely that is the job of the President of the Board of Education, it is up to him to ensure that adequate experiments in education are made. For instance, it is assumed that 30 children constitute the proper number per teacher. I do not know whether that is right or not. It may be that the teacher can take 35 children or that the teacher should not have more than 25. There are all sorts of variations in classes. Is it right to give children a great deal more opportunity for teaching themselves, and so on? A great many experiments can be carried out. I doubt whether they can be carried out within the compass of a single school. You need to experiment in a number of schools simultaneously, trying one method in one and another in another and then co-ordinating the results. Therefore, I should have thought that so far as experiments are concerned there was no need of the independent school. We need enlightenment among local authorities and enlightenment and encouragement at the Board. I have no doubt that under the present dispensation we shall get enlightenment and encouragement from the Board. My only fear is that the life of the President may not be a long one—[Interruption.]—as President, I mean. Afterwards the President very often becomes chairman of the Burnham Committee.
I want to say one word about financial contributions. On this subject, too, there has been a good deal of discussion. I can see the difficulty of my hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend. Under the present rate structure it is really not possible for them to do anything much different from what they are doing in the Bill, but it does mean that we have to go into the rate financial system. There is something wrong when London can spend £250,000 by levying a penny rate whereas 473 another education authority can spend only £500 or thereabouts. Therefore, the spending by London of a 5s. rate on education, despite the fact it has more children, represents a far different thing—even per child—from an authority in South Wales or Durham spending a similar rate. Therefore we shall not get equality of education throughout the country. We could get equality of expenditure throughout the country but that would not be equality in the quality of education. That involves a change in the rating system. If that is true of education, it should apply also to the health services, and I should have thought that the right solution was for the Government to set up one more Committee to go into the whole question of the finances of local authorities with a view to ascertaining whether there is any better system of providing these services. There is a good deal more I could have said had time permitted, but I would like to conclude by remarking to my right hon. Friend that what I have said has been said in all friendliness. I wish the Bill every success. I will try to amend it and improve it in due course, but I have no doubt the House will give it a Second Reading.
§ Mr. Arthur Jenkins (Pontypool)
I do not propose to go into the Bill in any detail but I am glad of the opportunity of saying just a word or two with regard to finance, particularly with regard to the highly rated areas. The previous speaker referred to the possibility of equalising the education rate from one end of the country to the other. I want to-day to enter a caveat as it were—not that I shall be giving any information to the Board—because I think the matter of finance will have to be considered at a later stage. I have taken some figures prepared by the County Accountants Association for education expenditure by the county education authorities. Approximately what is true in their cases will apply to the education authorities of the boroughs and also to the Part III authorities. There is indeed a very great disparity between the rate liabilities in these areas. I have taken out one or two figures which I would like to mention. Maybe the Parliamentary Secretary or the President of the Board, whichever of them is to reply, might say a word about it. Before I go into that, however, I should like to express my satisfaction, as a large number 474 of hon. Members have done, to the diligence of the President and the Parliamentary Secretary in their hard work over a period of two and a half years in trying to reach a measure of agreement on this Education Bill, or acquiesced in, with a view to making this substantial step forward in education.
Having said that, I propose to confine myself for a few minutes to submitting one or two points with regard to rate liabilities. The average rate liability for elementary education throughout the counties of this country based on the 1939, figures, which are the latest ones available to me, and I do not think they have changed much since, was 2s. 10d. The rate liability for Surrey was is. 7½d., the Isle of Wight 1s. 7½d., Middlesex 1s. 11d. and Sussex East 1s. 9¼d., but the rate liability for Carmarthen was 7s. 5d., for Glamorgan 6s., Durham 5s. 6½d., Pembrokeshire 5s. 8½d. and Monmouthshire 5s. 7d. The difference in these rates is really alarming. But let me put it on another basis which I think will be an even fairer test. I take the figures with regard to the produce of a penny rate in each of these areas per child in average attendance, and it indicates quite clearly great disparities. In Surrey a penny rate product per child in average attendance works out at 118 pence, the Isle of Wight 80 pence, Middlesex 104 pence, Sussex (East) 94 pence, Carmarthen 42 pence, Glamorgan 27 pence, Durham 24 pence, Pembrokeshire 24 pence, Monmouthshire 24 pence. So you have a penny rate product in respect of each child in Surrey giving about 10s. and in a number of other counties on the lowest level only 2s. per child.
Let us remember the basis of the grant. Roughly it is a grant equal to the expenditure of the local education authorities. Therefore if Middlesex spends the product of a penny rate per child, that is roughly 10s., it gets 10s. from the Government. If Glamorgan spends a product of a 1d. rate per child it is only about 2s. and Glamorgan gets 2s. from the Government. That is how the grant works. It is the percentage basis which is very unfair between authority and authority. The result is that it is much more difficult for some authorities to maintain the standard of education than it is for other authorities. What does the Minister propose 475 to do in order to even out these greatly unequal rate liabilities? He is proposing to provide a sum of only £900,000. It is perfectly clear that that will not nearly meet the situation. I have worked out as nearly as I can the position in my own county of Monmouth. To reduce the elementary education rate from the present 5s. 7d. to the average of the country, namely, 2s. 10d., Monmouth would need grants of about £130,000 in excess of those now received. That is more than one-ninth of the total amount proposed for levelling out these peaks and low levels.
But the position is even worse if we take into consideration higher education. I do not propose to burden the House with the full details, but it would mean a great disparity in rate liabilities. Therefore I think the House would do well to urge on the Minister the necessity of providing additional money. The difficulty arises because of the heavy incidence of child population and the low rateable value. Those are the two main factors. If they could be taken into account in fixing the amount of grant many of the difficulties would be removed. I am not unconscious of the claim of the better-off local authorities for a minimum grant of 50 per cent. of their expenditure. That may be fair, it may be just—it is a matter for the Board of Education to decide—but if that minimum grant of 50 per cent. is given it will mean that their rate liability will be very much lower than that of some other authorities. That matter must be taken into consideration. Let me try to envisage what will happen. The rate liability in the areas most highly rated at the present time will amount to about 10s. in the £ for elementary education. If you add a rate for higher education—probably 3s. or 3s. 6d.—the total education rates in the most highly rated areas will be 13s. or more in the £ compared with the rates of approximately 5s. in the areas where rates are low. That is going to present us with a financial problem that must be taken into consideration.
§ Mr. Jenkins
The disparity arises because of the high child population and the low rateable value. I merely rose to ask the President to take that position into consideration, and I trust that will be done and a way found to make the cost of education more equal between the ratepayers of the different areas in the country.
§ Mr. Hutchinson (Ilford)
I have only a very limited time at my disposal in which I desire to draw attention particularly to the effects that the proposals in this Bill will have upon those non-county boroughs which are what are called Part III education authorities. This Bill proposes that there should be in every area a single unified authority administering all branches of education. With that proposal I believe the majority of the municipal boroughs, generally speaking, agree. The existing division of functions between different authorities is out of date. It does not meet the needs of the day and it will certainly not meet the needs of the future.
But what these authorities ask is, why acceptance of this principle of a single unified authority should involve a number of boroughs fully capable of undertaking the extended responsibilities of local education authorities under this Bill being excluded altogether from the executive responsibilities of educational administration. That is the complaint which these authorities make.
There are good reasons why every authority which is capable of undertaking the full responsibilities of local education authorities under this Bill should be encouraged to do so. Education is essentially a local service in the sense that the standard of efficiency is higher where conditions permit of the fullest degree of local executive responsibility. Then there is the case such as that referred to by the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) where an urban authority comes under the jurisdiction of an authority which is mainly concerned with the administration of education in rural districts. My right hon. Friend has emphasised from the first the importance which he attaches to maintaining local interest. The best way to maintain local interest is to entrust responsibility to the local authority, in as full a measure as circumstances permit.
477 Many of these non-county boroughs are much larger in size and possess much greater resources than many county boroughs which will continue to be local education authorities under the Bill. There are actually 17 non-county boroughs with populations exceeding 75,000 and of these 12 boroughs have populations exceeding 100,000. Yet it is proposed that these very large non-county boroughs should be divested of all executive responsibility for the administration of education within their own boroughs, merely because they have not reached the status of county boroughs. The whole situation with regard to county boroughs has become totally anomalous. It is a mere accident to-day whether a place is a county borough or not, There are actually 12 county boroughs with populations less than 60,000 who are to be retained under this Bill as educational authorities with full responsibilities. By what argument can their retention be justified, if the larger and better equipped non-county boroughs are to be excluded from executive responsibility altogether? This Bill accepts the anomalies of the present local government system instead of making provision to overcome them. It is for that reason that it is felt that the proposals in the Bill will not give the maximum efficiency in educational administration. Therefore we ask my right hon. Friend to look into each individual case, and to see whether in the local circumstances of each area the administration of all branches of education cannot be equally efficiently carried out by the municipal borough as it can by the county council.
Now I come to the position of those smaller municipal boroughs which cannot be expected to undertake the full responsibilities of local education authorities under this Bill. There are quite a number of them. They are not small places. There are a large number of non-county boroughs with populations exceeding 40,000 persons. Under the proposals of the Bill, these authorities will fade out of the educational picture altogether. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not entirely."] Yes, they will. They will have neither executive powers nor delegated functions. Powers delegated by the local education authorities are to go to a new body, the divisional executive, which is to be set up expressly for that purpose. In the case of these boroughs and the areas in which 478 they are situated there must be delegation. But where you have existing Part III authorities with substantial resources and substantial experience of administering elementary education, as it is still called—though the expression "elementary education" is often a misnomer because the type of education which many of these authorities administer to-day is not at all that which was regarded as elementary education a few years ago—there should be in suitable cases delegation to the borough council, and not to this new divisional executive. If delegation goes to the borough council, you are more likely to get that local interest to which my right hon. Friend rightly attaches so much importance, and more likely to attract to the service of education the best type of elected representative. We feel that the position of the authorities within their own towns will be established on a basis mare satisfactory both for the efficiency of the service and for the authority itself than it will be if this new divisional executive is brought into existence and interposed. It is not easy to compress observations of this sort into a limited time. Now, in conclusion, let me join, if I may, with other hon. Members in congratulating my right hon. Friend on the Bill, on the manner in which he has presented the Bill, and on the long and patient negotiations, of which I can speak with some personal experience, which he undertook before the Bill was introduced.
§ Mr. Colegate (The Wrekin)
I should like to join with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson) in his congratulations to the President of the Board of Education and to the Parliamentary Secretary. The President of the Board of Education bears a very distinguished name in the academic world, and some of us recall with pleasure that his father still holds a distinguished academic post in the University of Cambridge. This Measure, the first and greatest, in my opinion, of the reconstruction Measures, fulfils, I think, the legitimate hope of everybody who has the interests of education at heart and who has a realistic understanding of what is happening in the world to-day. We shall have many other reconstruction Measures, but most of them will in the course of time dwindle and disappear; this will go on and affect the lives of two future generations at least, and will then affect 479 part of the future of the next succeeding generation. Much of this Debate has been taken up by the question of the dual system. I want to make a few comments on that, but I want to refer first to one or two other questions which I do not think have been adequately ventilated.
I was particularly glad to hear the reference which my right hon. Friend made to research. There can be no doubt that research has been badly lacking in education in the past. Some very curious problems have arisen in the last generation in connection with the curriculum of schools. It was not until you got the popularisation of science on an enormous scale during the last years of the last century and the opening years of this century that you met with what I will call the new mentality, the dogmatic scientific materialism, which on a great many of us produced a very unpleasant impression. One of the matters for research is the question of how we are to produce the type, of mind that a humanist education tends to produce and combine with that an adequate equipment for dealing with the scientific problems of the age and for acquiring the scientific knowledge which will be necessary for the new generation. I should like to emphasise what I thought a very important matter, which was raised by the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Gretton), in his maiden speech. That is the question of teaching everybody to express himself adequately in the English language. I have had to deal with a very large number of scientists, both as employees of a great chemical firm and also in academic circles.
To meet a scientist who really could express himself clearly and well in plain English was an extremely rare thing. One of the things which our new research department must do is to try and give us some light on the subject. There are many other subjects. There is the very interesting report from Russia that they mean to abandon co-education. I do not know very much about it, but it is extraordinarily interesting to anyone interested in education that this type of education has failed. I do 'not agree with the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) when he says that one school is not suitable for an experiment in education. There are many types of experiment which could only be carried out in one school; to attempt to apply them to a whole series of 480 schools before you were certain of results would land you with very awkward consequences.
I will leave the question of finance, on which I had hoped to say something, except for one sentence. I do not think that we can attach too much importance to the figures given in the Financial Memorandum. Until we know what the cost of living is going to be, which will affect salaries, it is impossible to give more than an outline picture. The figures may go up or they may go down, according to the economic circumstances of the time. It would be a great mistake indeed to try to base the financial arrangements upon figures which must inevitably be of a very sketchy nature indeed. We cannot hope at the moment, in my opinion, to do more than is laid down in the Financial Memorandum. I would like to say a word about Part III authorities, not so much on the mechanism, which has been dealt with, but to draw attention, as other hon. Members have done, to the vast amount of good will, knowledge and experience existing in district after district, where we shall be obliged to call upon governors, school managers and so on if we are to get the scheme carried through satisfactorily.
I would also like to say a few words about the question of fees for schools. I really cannot understand the attitude of mind of people who object to fee-charging schools and call them snob schools. It is a very unfair description. There are many grammar schools which have done well and there is no such thing as snobbery about it. It is said that the State gives adequate service in anything that it undertakes, but that does not mean to say you cannot improve upon it. Because the State gives an old-age pension, are private employers and groups of work-people and employers not entitled to work out schemes for supplementary pensions? I have never heard of such a thing; it would be the death of all progress. All progress in the field of administration over which we are talking depends upon the State or other authorities, but mainly the State, providing the national minimum service and it is up to the private individual, who is prepared, if necessary, to make sacrifices for that purpose, to improve upon what the State does.
I remember one of my greatest friends—unfortunately, I do not see him 481 now-adays—Lord Passfield, formerly Mr. Sidney Webb—a great authority on education, whose name comes into this Debate not inappropriately, telling me that his parents were not at all wealthy but they scraped and they saved in order to send him over to Germany to learn the German language and to be able to pursue his studies in that language. Is that a wrong thing to do? If you are going to say, "That is all right, you can spend money on having an extra language over the minimum provided by the State," how can it be wrong to send a boy to school where he might learn something more and better, perhaps, than is given by the current State education? Much is accomplished by the Bill, but much remains to be done by administration, and, in the coming years, by the House of Commons itself. It is for the House of Commons to exercise constant vigilance to see not merely that the proposals in the Bill are carried out but that the administrative reforms which must go with it are also carried out. Particularly is that the case in regard to the size of classes, which I and many other speakers feel to be most urgent and fundamental at the present time. It is impossible to give adequate education to children unless the classes are reduced to a manageable size. There are literally thousands of classes in this country which are of an unmanageable size, and the task of the teacher is not teaching but really that of a drill sergeant trying to get a little discipline and to keep the noise down. I am as keen on bringing in these proposals as anyone in this House, but what is the good of bringing in proposals which you cannot carry out satisfactorily? A very serious danger exists if you press on with these reforms before you have an adequate supply of teachers. What will happen is that you will say, "Leave the big classes and we will reduce them later." That will be fatal. We must get the small classes and the individual tuition which they imply.
I am leaving out a good deal because I want to come to the dual system. I am afraid I differ rather seriously from some of my friends. The proposals in the Bill are admirable. They represent the very greatest achievement in all the work that the President of the Board of Education and the Parliamentary Secretary have done during the past 18 months. I cannot see how anyone, knowing the conditions, and taking a realist view of opinion 482 in this country, could have hoped for anything more, and many people like myself and members of the Church of England have at times feared that we might get something less. This is a generous Bill, which has been accepted, first by a large majority, and then unanimously, by the Church Assembly. I quarrel very seriously with my Roman Catholic friends, especially with regard to some of the statements that they have made in this Debate. I recognise their eloquence and I was impressed by the very deep sincerity of everybody who spoke in support of that opinion, but I am sorry to say—and I heard all their speeches and attended the whole of the Debate, and I read the speeches again to-day—that I cannot agree with them, and that many absolutely unjustifiable statements were made. We must be frank about this matter, and, to start with, we must keep our intellectual integrity. What is the meaning of Roman Catholic history and Roman Catholic biology? I took a science degree and I know something about science, but I know nothing about Roman Catholic biology just as I know nothing about Plymouth Brethren physics or Presbyterian chemistry. It is nothing but a shorthand description, which you have to test by a reference back to the facts, to the phenomena of Nature. There is no such thing as a Roman Catholic science or a Church of England science, and even if I say nothing else I am not going allow that statement to go out unchallenged in the House of Commons in the 20th century.
§ Mr. Colegate
Moreover, I was not impressed by the spirit shown in those speeches. We are proud of freedom but, remember, freedom carries with it the obverse side of the medal, which is tolerance. Without tolerance you can have no freedom, and tolerance means compromise. Now let us take some of the statements made yesterday. There was my Friend the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Colonel Evans). I was deeply impressed by his speech. I wish I could equal his eloquence, but when he says that there must be no compromise on this fundamental question, when he asks: "Is it fair at a time like this, when Catholic Service men are fighting side by side with their Protestant comrades for the same principles of liberty and justice, 483 to force a conscience disability on their children?" I say that if that attitude is to be persisted in we shall have to come back to a solution which, from the religious or sectarian point of view, will be far worse than the compromise outlined in this Bill. I am very much distressed to have to pick up the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon), a man who, as everybody in that area knows, is kindness itself, especially to hon. Members younger than himself, but he used language which was totally unjustified. He said that if we forced this compromise we could not come to the council table of Europe with clean hands in regard to the persecution of minorities. There is no persecution of minorities in this country, and to attack the compromise which has been accepted by the largest organised religious body in England—the Church of England—and which has been offered to every other sect in this country and to call it persecution is a misuse of the English language. I cannot accept such statements as that. Let me remind hon. Gentlemen who took that line and gave us what they thought to be the aim and object of education that they left something out. They never said a word about preparing the children to be the free citizens of the greatest Empire in the world, and in this great Empire, which includes every caste, every creed, every colour, are we to start off by segregating the children into special schools, to keep them apart from their fellows? To me it would be totally wrong, and we do not attempt to do that. There is, however, a totally different atmosphere about the Roman Catholic schools. The children must not be sullied by contact with their fellow subjects.
§ Mr. Colegate
I would say that it is a very good thing for different people to associate when they are young if they are going to be citizens of a great Empire. I would add this, because reference was made to the Jews having special schools. It you want to start an anti-Semitic movement, start segregating the Jews, Here you have a very fine compromise based on the historical position of the people in this country. You cannot have the Scottish solution, that would be to ignore history, but what you can have is a generous compromise that will give 484 every religious body an opportunity of taking a very considerable share in the school life of their children so far as religious teaching is concerned. If they believe in their religion they have the weekends and the evenings, and their religion should be so robust that it should be able to stand up in contact with people of different creeds and different views.
If I have spoken with some heat I must apologise, but when I think of the Empire and the different creeds and castes throughout it, it must not go out from this Debate that we have not considered that point. I shall say one word in conclusion. I like this piece of reconstruction better than almost anything else for this reason: Far too much planning is an attempt to put a strait-jacket on the future, but this Bill does not attempt anything of the kind. It prepares men and women to build a future, when they come to it, in their own way and not in a way that we at the- present time cannot possibly foresee. It therefore lays the foundation upon which the structure will be built by others than ourselves, and whatever our views may be, I am confident that if we do this work well and truly, the structure will be built in a way that will be worthy of our past traditions, worthy of our present sacrifice and will really fulfil our dearest hopes.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Ede)
My right hon. Friend cannot but be gratified by the general reception which has been given to this Measure. I shall from force of circumstances be compelled to deal at some length with what he described as that part of the game played against the wind, because I am bound to say that the opposing forwards, favoured by the wind behind them, have been in our half the greater part of the time. But if in the course of my remarks I should, unobstrusively, at irregular and infrequent intervals, say a few words about education, before you rule me out of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, will you please look at the short Title of the Bill? For a subject that arouses such deep feelings we have had a very interesting and, I hope I may say, a calm Debate, and it says something for the way in which this House and the people of this country are prepared to approach these great issues, in these days when intolerance still holds 485 sway over too great a part of the earth, that we have been able to meet face to face and discuss with comparative calm these matters on which men feel exceedingly deeply. I am quite sure of this, that there is no one on either side who feels that an insincere word has been spoken by people to whom he has been opposed.
I have to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Gretton) upon a maiden speech which showed a very close study of this problem, but I must express my sympathy with him in finding that the compositor and leader of "The Times" have allowed him to appear as "the hon. and gallant Member for Buxton." Both Burton-on-Trent and Buxton produce medicinal waters. I understand that those at Buxton are stronger at the moment than the others. When I went to Burton in my official capacity I was entertained by the mayor of the borough, who assured me that he had reserved for me a special bottle of "Blue Label"—a description that might mean something to my hon. Friend. I had to confess that I had scruples about consuming it, and I would suggest to the mayor that he should award it to the Member for the borough for his excellent maiden speech, in which he carried on so well the tradition his father established. After all, the first great Education Debate in the House of Commons in 1807 was initiated by a brewer—one Whitbread. I am glad to know that that community has returned to the ways of progress in this matter.
My right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) interrupted with a question with which I wish to deal at once, because it is easy for these small points to get out of one's mind if one does not tackle them at once. He asked about the future of evening institutes and similar educational organisations in London and throughout the country. Now, nothing that we do in this Bill will reduce the value of their work. What we plan for the young people's colleges is to allow young people to make, during the day time when they are fresh, a preliminary acquaintance with the studies which they may desire later on to carry to more advanced stages in the technical and evening institutes of the country. No word that I can say would be too high praise for the zeal of these 486 young people, who, after a hard day's work, undertake study at these places, because, quite clearly, they are the one set of students in this country whom you are sure are attending an educational course of their own volition from a sincere and personal desire to benefit by the course.
After all, under compulsory education you are never quite sure whether a child wants to be there or not. [Interruption.] Sometimes you have hints. In the secondary schools a school life undertaking is enforced. I am told that attendance at public schools is demanded by social circumstances in the case of the mothers far more compelling than any compulsory system. But the student at the evening institute is a genuine searcher for truth, for further power to apply his skill, and should be encouraged, and I hope it will be possible to drop a hint to the principals of the colleges to say, "Here we have a lad in whom we think you should be interested." I am quite sure that our proposals, over a term of years, will supplement the excellent work that has been done. Might I say, to avoid trouble later on, that every time I mention a person I need not say "he" or "she," but that it may be assumed that, unless I refer to one sex particularly, I embrace both simultaneously?
When I went to the Board of Education three years and eight months ago, I should not have believed that we should be able to present to the House a suggestion with regard to the future of the dual system in this country as generous to the two great denominations mainly involved as the one the Minister presented yesterday. If anyone had said to me, "Your right hon. Friend will not only have to present it, but you will have to defend it from the attacks of those two denominations," I should have believed that we were living in fairyland. I hope my Roman Catholic friends will appreciate that, throughout these negotiations, I have genuinely sought to understand their point of view and will agree that we are a good deal further along the lines they want to walk than we were when we started. I am a manager of a Roman Catholic school. I have given evidence in favour of the establishment of Roman Catholic schools, when I believed there was a case for them, and I approached this subject with the belief that one should endeavour to inflict no disabilities of conscience 487 on any citizen of a free country. For let us realise what we were facing. I want to quote an authority which I know will appeal to the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) and the President because they were both together at Marlborough under his headmastership. This is what Sir Cyril Norwood said:It is clear that there are two systems,"—he was talking about the education service of the country—a faith once for all delivered"—and I think that is a very fair description of the way the hon. and gallant Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower) defined his position in the House earlier to-day—and a faith progressive and widening as the thoughts of man widen. They cannot exist together inside the same church without disrupting it and they cannot be taught inside the same school or the same national system of education. One or other must go outside into schools of its own. I believe that England has long ago made its choice, and that the right system for English schools is that which I have described second in order.That is to say, his view was that there could be no compromise on this matter at all, and that we should ask the denominations to go outside the State system. That we have rejected. We feel that it should be possible in this free country to arrive at an arrangement in which all these denominations can participate in the State system of education. The Minister, from the moment he went to the Board of Education, gave hours and days that now amount to months, to the careful study of this problem and to meeting all the interests that were involved. He has shown a patience that has amazed me. There have been moments when, before we had been in the room ten minutes, I felt that the best thing to do was for us both to clear out by the door before we both left through the window. But, by his skill and great gifts, he has been able to present the people of this country with this opportunity of dealing with this situation which has defied nearly all the democratic countries of the English-speaking world.
My hon. Friend the Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) yesterday quoted President Roosevelt against us. What is the system in the United States of America? Not a penny for the denominational school. My hon. Friend went on to talk about Australia and New Zealand 488 until my right hon. Friend the President interrupted him. Again, as I say, not a penny for the denominational school. We have managed to present this scheme to the House and I would like to deal with some of the statements that were made yesterday. My hon. Friend the Member for Moseley quoted the last paragraph of a letter written by Lord Eustace Percy. There have been times enough in this House when I have crossed swords with that Nobleman on educational matters for it to be understood that it does not follow that I accept his opinion. I am bound to say that he seems to have mellowed since he has left the House. When I meet him on educational matters in the North now he appears to be almost enlightened, Lord Eustace Percy had a letter in "The Times," which was quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Moseley in the course of which he said:It is not difficult for the Government of any country to effect an educational settlement between Catholics and Protestants or even between highly organised Protestant churches such as the Dutch Reformed and the Lutheran. But in England such a settlement settles nothing, for two reasons. It does not reconcile the dissensions between and within the Anglican and the different Free Church communions, none of which can be said to Possess an official educational policy or even official standards of religious education"—I want the House to listen to the words which follow very closely because they express more clearly than any words I have ever seen the exact position with which we have to deal——And it does not determine the character of the purely State school in relation to that great body of parents peculiar to England who, though hardly members of any Church, regard themselves as Christians and require for their children something more than secularised education.Those last words are as keen an analysis of the real problem with which we have to deal as any that could possibly be given. There was never a moment in the history of our country when fewer people were definite adherents to any particular denomination. Yet there is a great body of opinion—and I have met it at many meetings all over the country—which says, "If the teaching of the Hebrew prophets and the lessons taught in the New Testament were applied to the lives of us individually and as a country it would be a great deal better for all of us and we desire our children to get some knowledge of these matters." I believe 489 that that is the view of the overwhelming mass of our people.
When I am asked, as I was, to accept the dictum of the Bishop of Oxford that we must rid ourselves of the "fatal Cowper-Temple entail" I say that that shows no knowledge at all of the mind of the great mass of our people in regard to this particular issue. I myself have taught in church schools and council schools and the great majority of our parents, with exceptions that can be numbered on the fingers of two hands, trust the teachers to discharge their duty in this respect with due regard to the standard of personal honour that the profession has always had. I, for one, feel that the glib talk of destroying "Cowper-Temple-ism" is an attack on the real possibilities of maintaining the standard of religious education that we hope to secure under this Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke) also spoke on the subject, although he was not speaking, I understand, for the Roman Catholic church. He said:… what nearly all of us in this House wish to ensure is that parents who desire their children to receive religious education should not be at the risk of that instruction being given by teachers who have no faith whatever."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th January, 1944; col. 277, Vol. 396.]I agree with him in that observation. We have done a very great deal in this Bill, by the adoption entirely of what are known as the "Archbishops' Five Points" to ensure that the teachers who give religious instruction shall be people who feel that they have a calling in that direction. I well recall that on the day when the Archbishop came to see us, accompanied by Dr. Scott Lidgett and other representatives of the great Non-Conformist bodies that Dr. Lidgett warned us that if we went beyond the Archbishops' five points we should find that there were a great many sunken rocks in the channel. My hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Sir R. Young) was there at the time. Well, we have discovered some of the rocks, I think, in the course of this Debate. My answer to Dr. Lidgett was that I believed that if we could carry the ship on the tide of educational enthusiasm and endeavour the sunken rocks might be so low below the keel that we should not strike them. I am yet hopeful that that will be the result of our 490 deliberations in this House and on this matter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) interruped my hon. Friend the Member for West Lewisham during his speech to ask whether he intended to apply a universal religious test for all teachers. In view of what I have just said about the attitude of the great mass of our people towards a definite religious denomination any attempt to apply to every teacher a definite denominational test would mean that we should not be able to get the number of teachers we require. Neither is it likely that we should be able to attract men from the Forces and elsewhere if it is thought that a too high proportion of them were to be subject to such a test in their attempt to secure employment in this calling. Therefore, I hope that the repeal of the statutory limitation of the hours at which religious instruction can be given, whereby people who have received suitable training in the training colleges, which possibility we have secured administratively, may be able to give such instruction over a far wider range of the school than they now can), will enable the denominational and religious tests now operating to be considerably reduced.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), as usual, trotted out every hobby horse he has got. We heard about banks and the way some people can lend you money although I, personally, have never found that a very satisfactory way of borrowing money. We also heard about the cost of land and all the rest of it. [An HON. MEMBER: "And tanks."] Well, you can hardly call a tank a hobby horse. I think the hon. Member's remarks fell into line largely with the rest of the Roman Catholic case except for one thing. When my right hon. Friend asked him whether the Catholics desired to impose a test on every teacher he said:Yes, but I believe with the proviso that where Catholic teachers are not available the places could be filled by non-Catholics for teaching other than religious or essential subjects, such as history." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th January, 1944; col. 292, Vol. 396.]I really should like to know the authority on which that offer was made, if it can be described as an offer, by my hon. Friend. In the course of the discussions I have never heard it, and I understand that the claim of the Catholic community is that every teacher, no matter what the 491 subject, must be a Catholic. I am neither attacking the position nor defending it. I understand that is the position but, as my right hon. Friend said we have secured a delicate balance in this matter and it is clear that if we are to do anything in meeting one side we destroy the balance—I use the word "destroy" deliberately—unless on the other side some compensating alteration in the matter of control or in some other way is brought in.
§ Mr. Stokes
I was under the impression that the Scottish scheme was acceptable to the Roman Catholics as a whole.
§ Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)
Not only that but at one place in West Fife there is only one school and it is a Roman Catholic school, but both Protestants and Roman Catholics go to it and, where they cannot find a Roman Catholic teacher, a Protestant teacher is appointed provided he has the qualifications.
§ Mr. Barr (Coatbridge)
When the new central schools were being formed in Lanarkshire and there was need of more teachers, and there were more places than could be filled by Catholics, my own son, now a professor, and I think some 14 other Protestants were brought in to teach other subjects without any commitment to take part in religious instruction.
§ Mr. Ede
No doubt the point that has been elucidated by my hon. Friends can be pursued later on but certainly in the course of our negotiations there has never been any indication that it was possible to have accommodation on this matter. You have to recollect that the Assembly of the Church of England rejected the Scottish scheme.
Now I want to deal with one or two things said by the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Colonel A. Evans). On the point of history he said: 492Do not forget that between 1870 and 1902 Catholic parents derived no educational benefit from educational rates and taxes.Of course, during all those years their schools were supported from the taxes on a basis that applied both to them and Church of England schools. He also said:No Catholic parents, certainly not all Anglican parents, indeed not all Free Church parents, are willing to submit their children to the teaching of an agreed syllabus." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th January, 1944; cols. 311–2; Vol. 396.]I know of no Nonconformist denomination which declines to accept the agreed syllabus in England and Wales. After all, this compromise has been commended to the country not merely by the Archbishop of Canterbury but by the former Bishop of Durham in language which I hope the House will allow me to read. He said, writing to "The Times" on 23rd December:I hope Mr. Butler's Bill will become law, for I am persuaded that it will not only mark a great advance in our national education but will also remove the principal defect which now attaches to religious teaching in the schools. As things now stand, religious teaching is not treated seriously. It has no secure place in the official scheme. It is not officially inspected, it is entrusted to teachers who are not adequately equipped and it is treated rather as an unimportant extra than as an element of crucial importance. Thus the prestige of Christianity is lowered in the nation and its authority over the whole area of human life is weakened. The nation as a whole desires that its citizens shall be educated in a true sense and, therefore, that Christian morality should be an integral and honoured part of the citizens' education. But it rightly desires that the school should assist the solidarity of the nation and not tend to stereotype and even exacerbate its sectarian divisions. It is certain that there is no general demand for distinctive denominational teaching among the parents of the children who attend the State schools. Personally, I much regret that Mr. Butler did not 'grasp the nettle' by making an end of the dual system, but it is too late now to raise that issue.I hope I have been able to show the House that there is, at any rate, a strong body of opinion based upon the tradition and recent history of the country which supports my right hon. Friend and I would ask hon. Members who find themselves unable to accept this arrangement to give due weight to the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Norwich (Sir G. Shakespeare) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hughes), because they represent a very widely held point of view which has not accepted this arrangement but is 493 willing to acquiesce in it if as a result we can get a substantial measure of educational advance. It is, I know, a grave breach with their historic and traditional past if they go as far as that and it should be accepted as a genuine endeavour to meet the views of those who find themselves in difficulty.
The question of costs has been raised. Let us face quite clearly what are at the moment the legal obligations of the managers of the voluntary schools which were placed upon them by the Education Act of 1902, which could not have been passed through this House but for the fact that every night the Government Whip had at his disposal the whole of the votes of the Irish Nationalist Party to carry it through. That is an important historical fact to bear in mind. Those of us whose memories go back to that time remember very well the speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) expressing his sorrow at parting company on so vital an issue from people with whom he had worked so closely. The whole cost of providing the school is placed on the managers, together with the whole cost of maintaining the fabric, except fair wear and tear of the interior. With regard to playgrounds, the practice varies in different parts of the country. Lord Chief Justice Hewart managed to discover that the Act of 1902 left an option and that the local authority might, if it thought fit improve the playground. What happens? In Jarrow the local education authority pays 100 per cent. towards improving the playgrounds. In South Shields, the adjoining borough, the local authority pays nothing. In Surrey they adopt the principle of give and take and the local authority pays 50 per cent.
What is the position for the future? With regard to existing schools, the whole cost of interior repairs passes to the local education authorities. The whole cost of improving and repairing playgrounds and playing-fields, including enlargements, falls on the ratepayers. Fifty per cent. of the cost of bringing the school up to date and of maintaining its exterior after it has been brought up to date falls upon the Government, because we do not desire to have a repetition of what happened in Liverpool after the passing of the 1936 Act. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) was at the 494 Board of Education when that dispute was raging. The Labour Party went to the electorate and said, "We support the 1936 Act and we will give you the maximum that can be allowed." The Conservative Party in Liverpool, not worrying what votes the Conservative Members had given in this House, adopted an Orange slogan which I need not repeat, and won five seats. When our friends say that they think they have a majority of the people of this country behind them in this matter I ask them to remember the Liverpool elections. They were an indication. We do not desire that the offer we make shall depend upon the chance of local elections. Therefore, this arrangement is direct with the Government.
We have from time to time heard language in this House as if we were imposing a new disability on the Catholics. I venture to say that no previous Minister of Education dared have come to the House with such a suggestion. I go further and say that, if while a National Government exists, this offer or something closely like it is not accepted it is not likely that a party Ministry will feel able to touch this subject. After all no Minister of any Government brings an Education Bill down to the House of Commons for the fun of the thing. We knew we should have trouble, and we have not been disappointed. I do ask that when we come to consider these matters in Committee the facts and the brief resumé of the history of the past I have just given and the determination of the people of this country to secure educational advance will not be forgotten, and that we shall be able, while carrying on our discussions in the spirit that has been shown to-day, to arrive at a conclusion which will do violence to no man but which will represent an example to the English-speaking community first, and to the world at large afterwards, of the way in which this great democracy can deal with a ticklish problem of this kind.
We have spoken all through this discussion as if only the primary schools, the present elementary schools, were involved, but I ask the House and my Catholic friends to remember the great benefits they are going to get under this scheme in their secondary schools. I will give one example. For two years, as a member of a local education authority, I have 495 been negotiating to take one of their convent schools off the direct-grant list on to the deficiency-grant list. Under the direct-grant list this school received for the last financial year £2,112. On 1st April it will come on the deficiency-grant list of the Surrey County Council, and in that year it will receive from public funds £6,000. When this Bill comes into operation half the cost of maintaining the exterior of the fabric and every penny of the cost of improving and enlarging the playing-fields will fall on public funds. What is to be gained on the secondary side has never been mentioned. I say nothing about the destination of the salaries that are paid to the teachers in the secondary schools. All have a right to do with their own money what they like. I say nothing more about it than that. Those of my friends who have had to deal with this problem know the advantages that are available there.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rom-ford and other speakers have asked what our intentions are with regard to the direct-grant schools. I thought that the views of the Government on that point were clearly stated by my right hon. Friend the President in the course of his speech, and I would refer my hon. Friends to columns 223 and 224 of the OFFICIAL REPORT. My right hon. Friend has made clear that the first charge on direct-grant schools is to be the places that are required for the filling out of the local education authority's system of education.
§ Mr. Ede
My hon. Friend is almost getting like the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. De la Bère). Let us face the issue that is involved. Here, again, we are involved in a history and in a present position which is not without its difficulties. If we take the case of Coventry, we find that the whole of the boys' secondary school places are to be found in direct-grant schools, with this astounding result, 496 that the ratepayer of Coventry pays nothing for those places. The cost of maintaining those schools is borne by the taxpayer. That in itself indicates that this whole grant list has to be revised. It is clearly unfair and anomalous that in one place secondary school places should be found out of the taxes and in another should be found partly out of the rates and partly out of the taxes. In the same city, the boys get their education under one system and the girls get their education under another system.
Some of these schools, where the local circumstances demand it, will require fees, but my right hon. Friend has stated most explicity that no child is to be debarred from obtaining this or any other form of education for which he is suited and for which the local education authority is responsible by reason of the fact that his parent cannot afford to pay the fee. I venture to say that when the Regulations of my right hon. Friend are seen it will be discovered that the misgivings of my hon. Friends opposite will be removed and that they will not find that in these schools anybody can buy a place for his child to the exclusion of another child better fitted to profit by the education given in the school. I cannot imagine that any person says that an inferior child should go into a school merely because his parent cannot afford to pay in preference to the superior child intellectually who has a parent who can afford to pay. I have endeavoured to be as explicit on this matter as I can.
Several of my hon. Friends have alluded to the question of finance, using me most conveniently as a horrible example. May I say here again that we are doing better than has been done before. May I just drop a word that this is an Education Bill and not a Bill in the course of which we can reform the whole of local government finance, capable as we are of doing it and much as, in other circumstances, we might have enjoyed undertaking the task; but it is clear that this is not the last word that we expect to have to say on this subject. We therefore call this merely a transitory arrangement, and we expect that, as the scheme unfolds, we shall be compelled to come to the House, possibly as part of the general scheme for the reform of local government finance, or possibly with some scheme of our own that will make the burden on 497 those districts which have a high child population and a comparatively low rate-able value, less heavy than it is at the present time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Peck-ham (Mr. Silkin) and several other Members asked me what is to be the character of this new education service, and I gather that they had some misgivings as to our dropping the requirement for the three R's to be taught to every child. I cannot help thinking that for every normal child some acquaintance with the three R's is necessary, but I have had pupils who found grave difficulties in mastering the multiplication tables. I recollect having a boy who would believe that seven times seven were 53. I made him say "seven sevens are 49" twenty times, and when he had obeyed he turned to me and said: "Please, sir, why are they?" Hitler is going to have a tough job with that boy.
I ask hon. Members to realise that that definition has cramped the work of education over the last 70 years. It was the basis of the Cockerton judgment, which held that the higher grade schools and the evening institutes were confined to the teaching of elementary instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic, and that teaching a girl to cook and a boy to make a mortice, and tenon were not elementary instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic. Yet many a boy learns more arithmetic through having to measure a mortice and tenon and to abide by the result of his calculation than he does through the teaching of abstract arithmetic. We have therefore said that there is not one curriculum for every child but that every child must be a separate problem for the teacher. The teacher is the servant of the State, and I hope that no one will say that the State should lay down the curriculum of the schools. Some of us were brought up under the old payment-by-results sytem, and were the time earlier I could amuse the House with descriptions that some of my hon. Friends know would be no caricature of the way in which State control of the curriculum prevented the development of a wise and sound system of education.
The teacher's problem will be: Here is this child; you have to discover his abilities and his aptitudes and you have to develop both. You have to round off in every child his character and his attainments by encouraging him to develop aptitudes 498 which he is reluctant to develop. If we can get this Measure through with this new definition of what the education service ought to be, we shall give to our teachers a real opportunity of applying their training to the task that they ought to consider—not the subject but the child. I agree with all that has been said to-day about the teaching profession. I almost blush to think that there was a time when I was a practising teacher, for I notice that these tributes have been paid to it since I left it. The success or failure of this or any other scheme of education in the long run depends upon the way in which the wishes of Parliament can be implemented in the classroom. That is the point of application of these powers we are hoping to generate to-day.
Misgivings have been expressed regarding the rate of recruitment of teachers. May I say that the indications are that the response from the Forces is as good as could be expected with the little amount of stimulus that has so far been given. The proportion of people who are applying for post-war education and have announced that they will identify themselves with the teaching service is high. I think I ought to say that there are four groups of teachers we shall require—teachers for the nursery schools, of whom there are very few at the moment; teachers in order to reduce the size of the classes in the primary schools—and my right hon. Friend and I are only too well aware of the urgent need for that—teachers for the secondary schools to reduce the forties of the senior schools to thirties and to prepare for the raising of the school-leaving age; and last and by no means least in importance, teachers and instructors for the young people's colleges. I believe that none of these grades is born exclusively in one year. In every year there will be a proportion of people who are suitable for each group. On the borderline there may be some interchangeable people, but I do not think that a young lady who is eminently suitable for a nursery school will, in many cases, be very helpful in the young people's college. I think, therefore, we shall have to endeavour to recruit each of these four groups of teachers simultaneously.
We intend, as I hope that the speech of my right hon. Friend convinced everybody in the House, that this Measure shall be implemented. It is the first comprehensive 499 education Measure that has ever been presented to the House of Commons. With all its merits Mr. Fisher's Bill failed because it declined to tackle the two outstanding problems—the dual system and the local authority problem. We have in this Measure, for good or ill, attempted to survey the whole field, educational, administrative and religious, and we believe that our Measure is such that we shall be able, when it gets to the Statute Book, to proceed with diligence in our endeavour to make this Act of Parliament a living reality. My right hon. Friend in opening this Debate quoted a phrase of a hymn. I hope I may be allowed to close with a statement which represented in the days of my youth a confession and a prayer by those with whom I worshipped. I do not hear it sung in the churches now. I think that in this conflict between faith and knowledge, and also between knowledge and wisdom we have yet grave responsibilities to bear. If I may I would say that this is the spirit which has inspired us:We have but faith: we cannot know;For knowledge is of things we see.And yet we trust it comes from Thee,A beam in darkness: let it grow.Let knowledge grow from more to more,But more of reverence in us dwell,That mind and soul according well,May make one music as before,But vaster.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Commitee of the Whole House.—[Mr. Beechman.]
§ Committee upon the next Sitting Day.