HC Deb 25 July 1944 vol 402 cc569-72
22. Mr. Moelwyn Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can now give any further information to the House in connection with the vocational training for post-war employment and education in general, to be given to Army and A.T.S. personnel prior to their release from the Service.

Sir J. Grigg

Yes, Sir. I am circulating a statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Hughes

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the variety of training provided under this scheme is sufficient to provide preparation for all the different courses that personnel will follow when they leave the Forces?

Sir J. Grigg

I shall be very grateful if my hon. and learned Friend will read this very considerable answer. There is a very wide variety of preparation being made, but I could not presume to give a guarantee that every conceivable thing will be catered for.

Captain Cobb

Will these education schemes be compulsory or voluntary?

Sir J. Grigg

I shall be very grateful if my hon. and gallant Friend will read the answer.

Following is the statement:

The Government have already announced their plans for providing financial assistance to enable suitably qualified men and women, on release from the Services, to undertake or continue further education or training beyond the secondary school standard. A statement of the Government's proposals to provide training as part of the resettlement scheme was made in reply to a Question put by the hon. Member for Whitechapel and St. George's (Mr. Walter Edwards) on 6th April. For a long period, careful consideration has been given to the question of providing facilities for education and training inside the Army after the defeat of Germany, and to the need for coordinating the Army Education Scheme as closely as possible with the training plans described above. The task of the Committee which, under the Chairmanship of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for War, considered this problem was seriously complicated by the considerable number of factors which were at that time incalculable. The recommendations made by this Committee have been considered by the Army Council. The Army Council have given authority for active preparations to be started and have arranged for effective co-operation with the other Services, the Ministry of Labour and National Service, the Board of Education, and the Scottish Department of Education.

The general lines of the scheme now under consideration are such that in each unit there shall be available facilities for officers, other ranks and auxiliaries to participate each week in some form of education for a definite number of hours in working or training time. These plans cannot be completed in detail until the military situation is much clearer and until the disposition of the Army can be foreseen. One factor which has constantly to be remembered is that the requirements of the war in the Far East must have overriding consideration until that too has been brought to a successful conclusion.

The background to the whole scheme is that the officer, soldier and auxiliary should leave the Army with increased understanding of those problems of citizenship of which every member of a vital democracy should have knowledge. The educational provision is being planned, with expert advice made available by the Board of Education, to include the greatest possible degree of variety and a large measure of practical work. The courses and practical occupations provided will in the main be general, but the subjects and activities more directly connected with vocations and trades will find a place, as well as those relating to life in society generally. Plans to provide, on a selective basis and under special conditions, a relatively small number of courses in preparation for professional and trade qualifications are being worked out, but the extent and nature of this provision will necessarily depend upon the circumstances that exist at the time, and upon the precise arrangements that are made for the education and training of men and women on their release from the Army. All such arrangements for direct vocational preparation will be concerted in all appropriate cases in full consultation with the Ministry of Labour and National Service.

The responsibility for making satisfactory educational arrangements will be placed upon the units and formations concerned, assisted by expert advice from the War Office Directorate of Army Education and the Army Educational Corps. The teachers and instructors required will be selected from those who are themselves unlikely to be eligible for early release. Preparations for the implementation of this scheme are proceeding as rapidly as can be expected during a period in which the strenuous prosecution of the war is the paramount consideration. The desire for full information about employment conditions, facilities for education and training and vocational guidance has not been overlooked. Arrangements to meet the needs of soldiers and auxiliaries are being fully discussed by the War Office and the Ministry of Labour and National Service. The material needs of so considerable an educational scheme are now receiving attention. So far as restrictions allow, books and equipment will be made ready for use in advance.

A feature of the war-time Army Education Scheme has been its close collaboration with the universities, the adult education organizations and civilian education generally. Active consultations are taking place with the Central Advisory Council for Adult Education in His Majesty's Forces in order to ensure that the co-operation which has been so fruitful in the past shall continue during the interim period which will follow an armistice. The Army's educational scheme is being devised not as an end in itself but as a means to enable those men and women who are making so large a contribution to victory and will be required to continue in the Service for a time as a contribution towards final victory and security for the future, to spend part of their time in preparing themselves for all the demands of active, democratic citizenship in a period of re-construction. The importance of such a scheme in the interim Army is equalled only by the great opportunities it offers.