§ Amendment proposed:
In page 27, line 15, to leave out from the first "that," to the end of the Clause, and to add:
the upper limit of the compulsory school age shall be raised to sixteen years at the expiration of twelve months after this Part of this Act comes into operation or at such later date not exceeding three years thereafter to which the raising of the age may be postponed from time to time for a period not exceeding twelve months by Order in Council the draft of which shall be laid before Parliament by the Minister and which shall come into effect when approved by both Houses of Parliament.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ Mr. Gallacher
I was saying that, if we could be certain that the Minister was going to carry on his labours indefinitely, we should have some faith in the belief that "as far as practicable" would mean to bring in the Order referred to in the Clause in a very reasonable time, but it conveys different meanings to different individuals and, from what I have seen of the slow motion character of the hon. Member who spoke last, I should say that there is a century of difference between himself and the Minister. It would be very undesirable to leave such a term to be the determining factor in view of the 723 possibility which might arise of changes in the control and direction of the educational facilities of the country.
§ Mr. Colegate
Does the hon. Member ask us to understand that every other party except the Conservatives are likely to be less progressive in educational matters?
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am quite certain that, if the hon. Member, through some mischance of fortune, got into the position at present occupied by the Minister, "as far as practicable" would not come into operation this side of eternity. The hon. Member for the Welsh Universities (Professor Gruffydd), in putting up an argument against fixing a date owing to the possibility of lack of teachers, said that rather than have children between 15 and 16 in such a position, he would have them in decent employment, and some hon. Members opposite greeted that with a hearty "Hear, hear." I can see hon. Members opposite getting their children from 15 to 16 into decent employment. I wonder what the hon. Member for the Welsh Universities considers to be decent employment. I saw in the "Telegraph" the other day a letter from a gentleman who considers that naval cadets should not be balloted for the mines and that such an ignoble occupation should be confined to the children of miners. The general idea is that a whole lot of occupations should be confined to particular classes, and it is easy for Members who have not had experience of these occupations, to talk about sending children from school to such occupations. I was in an occupation when I was nine years of age. Many people thought it a very decent occupation, but I had a different idea, and I am certain it is the same with the children between 15 and 16.
I consider the Amendment a very reasonable one. It presents to us the question, Have we the will and the spirit to carry out the intentions of the Clause and what I believe are the actual intentions of the Minister? If we are determined to get the teachers and the schools, I am certain that by 1948 they can be available; but if we leave it in an indefinite form we shall find that, althrough there are organisations anxious to have the children educated, there are powerful influences in this country, and 724 some in this House, who are not so much concerned about having the children educated as having them exploited for profit. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is no use groaning; it is the children who should groan. That is the experience we have had all along. On another occasion I drew attention to the fact that this is the first time we have had a real approach to education of a non-utilitarian character, and one of the decisive tests whether we are in earnest or not is in this question of the raising of the school age and of taking children up to 16 entirely out of the labour market and away from the exploitation that goes on. I therefore appeal to the Minister, who is responsible for a splendid piece of work in the better features of this Bill, to accept the Amendment and lay down a definite period when 16 shall become the age.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)
I have listened to this short Debate with increasing surprise, because, as far as I can see, the Amendment is based on certain hypothetical assumptions. It is based on the assumptions that we shall have sufficient labourers to build the schools, that we shall have sufficient schools to accommodate the pupils, and that we shall have sufficient teachers released from the Forces properly educated and equipped for their functions. As my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Colegate) said, we are all agreed that we want the age raised to 16 at the earliest possible moment. There is no one who does not want to see all children having the same opportunity to fit themselves for the battle of life, but it is no use following this will-o'-the-wisp, for that is what it is. We want to face realities when it comes to passing legislation. It is a natural human desire to hitch one's wagon to a star. That is what I feel this Amendment is doing; it is hitching your wagon to a star which it will be impossible at the moment, or for some time, to reach. We had better leave that great enterprise to the Minister of Education than seek to secure it for him. We shall not know to what extent other priorities will be competing when the war is over. There will obviously be the priority of finding homes for the bodies of our children in addition to finding homes for their minds. My right hon. Friend should not commit himself to one priority more than another. While I and other Members who have spoken are in favour of the ideal of rais- 725 ing the school-leaving age at the earliest possible moment, I hope that my right hon. Friend will stick to the words of the Bill.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
There is general agreement that the right age for children leaving school should be 16 and not 15. That is clear from both those who support the Amendment and those who oppose it. The discussion is simplified to the question whether we should put a date to it or leave it vague and indefinite. I am in favour of a date and of having a clear target to which the local authorities and the Board of Education should work. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) rightly said that there will be great competition, not only for buildings, but for finance. If it is left indefinite and to chance circumstances, and if it depends on who is at the head of the Board, there will be no incentive to local authorities to make the necessary arrangements. My hon. Friend the Member for the Welsh University (Professor Gruffydd) put up the sound thesis that it is no use raising the school age unless we have the teachers and buildings.
That is obviously commonsense, but I maintain that unless, as the Amendment suggests, a time factor is provided, we shall not have the buildings or the teachers. We had some experience between the wars, when, with the prospect of an extension of education, great numbers of men and women went through training colleges and entered the teaching profession. There was a large amount of unemployment in the profession owing to a drop in demand because there was not the extension in education that was expected. If we are to get the right kind of men and women to select teaching as their occupation and to go through the training, there must be some security that, when they are ready, jobs will be available. If the raising of the age is left indefinite, we shall not get what is the first necessity for an extension in education, trained men and women to do the work.
That is an unanswerable argument for putting some kind of date to the raising of the age in the Bill. It applies equally to buildings. If we are to justify an extension in education obviously we must have proper school buildings. If we are 726 to have a building programme on a large scale, not merely for London but for the provinces, and not merely for urban areas but for the country areas, we must plan ahead. We cannot suddenly run up schools when we decide to raise the leaving age. If this machinery is to work and be effective, if it is to bring about the result we all desire in real secondary education for all with a proper division between technical and ordinary secondary grammar school education, if we are to have variety of schools, the right size of classes and up-to-date buildings with competent teachers, it is right that there should be a target to aim for and some definite date as is suggested in the Amendment.
The Liberal Party are again speaking with two voices. The hon. Member for the Welsh University—
§ Sir P. Harris
Have I heard the Noble Lady aright? Are not she and the hon. Lady who moved the Amendment speaking with two voices?
I have travelled up from Plymouth especially to back up the hon. Lady. I mean business when it comes to the raising of the school age. I am not one of those people who think that education is popular. I do not agree with the hon. Member for the Welsh University (Professor Gruffydd) that this is a political stunt and that it is popular. It is no political stunt and education is not popular. If it had been popular we should have had the Fisher Act, which was one of the best Acts in the world. We did not get it because it was not popular with any party. I am one of those who believe in education, irrespective of any party.
§ Sir H. Williams
On a point of personal explanation. I did not quite gather what the Noble Lady said, but I think it was that she did not desire to speak to me inside the House or out. On the last occasion on which she spoke to me, it was to ask that I might render her a favour. If she cannot learn good manners, it is not my fault.
I apologise to the hon. Member, but I have sat so long with him, and have seen that he is one of the most die-hard Tories the world has ever seen—
I think we had better. Education is not popular in the Tory Party or in the Labour Party. At trade union conferences they used to put it so low on the agenda that they never got to it.
Let us get to the Amendment and leave the question of the position of education on any programme.
This is a Debate and I want to deal with the arguments. The hon. Member for the Welsh University said education is popular. It is not. If I thought it was popular, I would be happy to leave it as it is. There are many people in the country who do not want the age raised even to 15, and there are some of them in this House. They have been here for years and I know them. This is not a question of the Minister of Education; it is a national question. I am certain that if the Minister had his way he would put in a time. If he had his way, he would control the Minister of Labour, and if he is having any difficulty about getting teachers out of the Services, he should go to the Cabinet and say, "This is national policy and we are going to get it through." We had a magnificent Measure, in the Fisher Act. We knew we were going to have the problems of unemployment and yet Members of not only one party but most parties wanted that Act. Mrs. Wintringham, who was then a member of the Liberal Party, myself and others, went to see Mr. Trevelyan, as he was, the then Minister of Education. We said: "We have a majority in this House for the raising of the school-leaving age." He said it was unpopular. Heavens, I knew it was unpopular. I nearly lost an election on it. It is not popular, but it is absolutely necessary. We talk about the future of democracy being in the hands of youth—but not an uneducated youth. If the Government were as keen about this as they ought to be, they could get it done. I do not say that we are going to get perfect buildings or teachers but there will be thousands of people coming out 728 of the Army, and you will be able to get your teachers. The Government should make this a question of a real national push. We could get it, and the House of Commons could see that we got it. I have seen our children getting education up to 15, in Plymouth. Then there was no juvenile unemployment and everything was working in nicely. People were pleased, then the reaction took place. I saw the experiment in Rugby—
I saw the Rugby experiment, and I know that it is possible. It could be done on a national scale.
§ Mr. Butler
Has not the Rugby scheme to do with adolescent education, and not with raising the school age?
The school age at Rugby was raised to 15 while other parts of the country remained at 14, and it was a great success. I saw what the effect was in Plymouth. I know it is going to be difficult. It was difficult at the beginning of the war to start building aeroplanes or making tanks, yet we did it. Education is going to be as vital in the peace as aeroplanes and tanks are in the war. We are going to be up against a mechanised world, a new kind of world, and the young people have to be educated. One hon. Member said he would rather see children in blind-alley jobs than doing nothing in the schools, but I am not at all certain that I would. If my boy had either to go into a blind-alley job or to hang about in schools, I would rather see him hanging around in the school. One of the tragedies of this country is that children were forced into blind-alley jobs. I know it is going to be more difficult after the war than it was after the last war, because of the machinery set up.
729 I beg the Government not to talk about the future being in the hands of the young, if we are going to allow our boys and girls out of the schools at 15 years of age. Everybody knows that the ages from 14 to 16 are the most difficult in a child's life. Is there any Member of this Committee who would force his child to leave school at 14? We do not ask for perfect schools, but we pray God that we shall never have those great stone buildings which we have had up to now. Why, Margaret Macmillan started the best schools in the whole of this country, in sheds, and did better than all the other people were doing in the finest school buildings built with bricks and mortar. We may not have to start it in such a very sketchy way, but at least I can see a future of great promise if we let the country know that, on a certain date, the school-leaving age will be raised.
I ask hon. Members on 'this side of the Committee not to think that we are asking for the impossible—although you never get anything unless you do ask for it. Hon. Members must not sit down and say this thing is difficult. I have no patience with that sort of thing. I do not want to say a word against the Minister of Education. We are all deeply grateful to him. He has been absolutely magnificent, but I do not believe the Government or the Cabinet have been magnificent. This ought to be a Cabinet matter. What is the Minister of Reconstruction going to reconstruct if all the young people are to be turned out at 15—and this after all the tosh that is being talked about youth? We put forward this simple proposal that the Government should name the date on which the school-leaving age is to be raised.
About the teachers; thousands of people will be coming back after the war. Ask for volunteers to come in for two or three years—people who have certain abilities. I have heard some of the best teachers, talking about this matter, and they are sure that if there is a real will and desire in this House of Commons, as well as in the country, we can get the teachers. We can also get the buildings. Let us take this matter to a Division. Let this Committee do it now; we shall not be able to tell what the next House of Commons will do. I have watched people come to this House full of zeal and 730 enthusiasm to get things done; I have watched others come in on a sort of political tide, and they did not know where they were or how they got here.
We have a definite duty to the country to see that the Government allow nothing to stand in the way of raising the school age to 16 at a definite time. I pray that it will be raised even further. I believe that democracy depends for its progress upon educated people and that we have a great future before us. Our education teaches people not what to think but how to think. We shall have to think hard if this country is to keep its place in the future world. We must be willing to face things that seem difficult in the future, in the same way as we face war problems, and with the same courage. Education is a very difficult problem, but it is full of hope and promise.
§ Mr. Cove
The speech of the Noble Lady has taken me back to my childhood. Here we are, in the heart of the education proposals of the Bill. The Clause provides the substance of education. Up till now, we have been discussing, not education in the ordinary sense of the term but, as a matter of fact, the claims of various religious parties on the schools of this country. In Clause 33, we face what education is going to be to the children of the country. The speech of the Noble Lady has taken me back to my childhood. I never expected to have to recount in the House of Commons this small episode, which I am now going to relate.
I was born the eldest of a baker's dozen in a miner's family, and in a terrace house. At 12 years of age, I faced what was called the old labour exam. [An HON. MEMBER: "It was at 11½."] That is right. Well, I did it. The labour exam was a magnificent thing; if you had brains enough to pass it, you went to work. If you failed, you stayed in school. I remember very well going down to the centre where the exam was to be held, and thinking to myself: "Shall I try to pass, or shall I try to fail?" I knew, even then, that if I passed I had to go in the pit and that if I failed I should be kept in school. It so happened that the shame of failing seemed awful, and I tried to pass. I was the only one to pass. The result of it was that my pals remained in school and I went to work in the pit. I say quite deliberately, 731 as the result of my experience in the pit, and not from theory, although I have read a lot of psychological and pedagogical books since then, that the pit, the factory and the workshop are no places for growing adolescents. Therefore I want the school age to be raised, in order to give to the children of the working classes a chance of free development. I am not saying this in any class way. Hon. Members opposite, intelligently and elementarily, give that chance to their children, and what the best parent wants for his child society should want for all. That is the issue on this Amendment. I ask hon. Members not to be frightened about the number of teachers and the number of school buildings. So far as buildings are concerned, definitely and unequivocally, the answer is that they can be provided.
I have already referred to what the Prime Minister said in his book on the last war. He said that in 1914–1918 the nation was united for victory and then united for the new world that was to be. We could command labour in quantity and quality. We could shift it wherever it was wanted. We could build 300,000 houses and if we wanted 1,000,000 shells we could get them. So prodigious is the productive power of modern society that no physical impediment need stand in the way. So with school building. We could get on with school building if there was the Bill to raise the school age.
I said of the teachers that there has been some compromise, but, quite frankly, I am not on the side of the planners. I am on the side of the improvisers. We have improvised for evacuation and have done miracles in evacuation. We have accomplished the impossible in evacuation and if we had not we would have been done by now. Why not apply the same temper, tone, will and power to the postwar period? We can, if the Government are willing to do it. It is not an incredible thought. You cannot have a democracy unless you get this raising of the school age to 16. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will pardon me—but, frankly, I am bound to speak my heart to-day—when I say that this Bill as far as equality of opportunity is concerned is a farce unless the school age is raised to 16 or there is a definite promise to this effect. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to do this. Within the terms of this Bill it is possible 732 to get all the money necessary for reconditioning the Church schools and providing denominational teaching without raising the school age by a single day for a single child. That is the issue which lies at the back of this.
We have heard of balances in this Bill, balances of interest within the Church and denominational fields. The right hon. Gentleman has accomplished very much in that way. He has provided money for Church schools and compromises have been made. I ask the right hon. Gentleman where, on the other side of the balance, is the educational content of the Bill? Where is it? I know he is faced completely with this proposition and this difficulty which he cannot escape. I admit that, but the first problem in dealing with the raising of the school age is to reorganise our educational system. You cannot reorganise the schools unless you deal, of course, with Church schools, and particularly, if I may say so without offence, with the Church of England schools. Reorganisation is the first step in all this business, but reorganisation merely as reorganisation means providing State money for Church and denominational schools.
§ Sir H. Williams
On a point of Order. Are we engaged on the Second Reading of this Debate or discussing an Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir)?
This, of course, is an Amendment, but discussion has been fairly wide. At the same time I think it would be to the advantage of the whole Committee if hon. Members kept their speeches rather more closely to the Amendment under discussion.
§ Mr. Cove
I am sorry if I have transgressed, but I am profoundly moved about this matter. This is really the crux of the whole educational content of the Bill as I envisage it. I say quite frankly that I do not mind compromises having been made, or further compromises being made, in the Bill to Church schools, provided that the school age is raised and provided that there is a real educational content in this Bill. But I say quite definitely that as the Bill is now framed that guarantee is not there. It is all very well to change the name of the schools for children beyond the age of 11 plus and call them secondary. You can change the name, but the 733 reality will be the same—a mere veneer. There is no educational equality of opportunity if some children leave at 16 and 18 and others leave at 14. The schools that can only keep their children till the age of 14 or 14 plus, or even 15, are inevitably of a lower status than those that keep them till 16 and 18. It may be platitudinous to say so, but the whole purpose and character of the school depend upon the length of the school life. You cannot plan the curriculum of schools catering for children of 14 for the same purpose as you can plan the curriculum of the schools catering for the 16's and 18's.
As a matter of fact the right hon. Gentleman has watered down the content of the standard of education prevailing hitherto. At this moment the official definition of secondary education is schooling of various types till the age of 16. The fundamental fact as to whether a school is secondary or not is whether the children are there till the age of 16 plus. That is the fundamental position at the moment. In this Bill all that has gone. There is no standard length of school life embodied in the Bill, and, unless we get this, I hope my hon. Friends on this side will join with those of us who say quite definitely and seriously that this must not only be a Bill that will strengthen and aid the dual system in this country, but that it must be a Bill that will provide some modicum, as it were, of educational equality in our educational system. Unless we get that, I hope my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee will go relentlessly into the Lobby and say to the Commons that there must be a definite promise to raise the school age. This Amendment gives us the chance to bring it back to the House of Commons and gives the House control over the situation.
§ Sir H. Williams
I am a little disappointed that those who are so enthusiastic about education should show such an incredible capacity for being irrelevant. It would have been helpful if they had displayed more of the advantages of education in their own cases than they appear to have done up to now. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) has been a schoolmaster for a considerable number of years but that is no reason for the fact that he has not helped this Committee by his erudition.
§ Sir H. Williams
We were told by the Noble Lady that as a result of raising the school age in Plymouth, juvenile unemployment had largely been eliminated. Some years ago I thought it would be interesting to look at the facts. I think three local education authorities had taken advantage of the Act of 1918 passed by Mr. Fisher, whereby a local authority could, if it wished, raise the compulsory school age to 15. One of these was Plymouth and I thought I would compare what happened in Plymouth with what happened elsewhere. There was not an unconditional raising of the school age in Plymouth. It was a raising subject to exemptions. I thought I would find out what was the result of the exemptions. [Interruption.] There were exemptions in Plymouth.
§ Sir H. Williams
That is so but there were afterwards, because the people would not stand for it. Ultimately, we find that the net effect of the raising of the school age was virtually to leave Plymouth in the same position as the general average for the country. The proportion of children in Plymouth who remained at school over the age of 14 plus was no higher in Plymouth than anywhere else. I do not think the Noble Lady would deny that.
§ Sir H. Williams
The number of children in Croydon—which is represented by me—who stay on voluntarily is higher than the number in Plymouth, which is represented by the Noble Lady. In other words, we do not talk so much about it but we do rather more. I am quite aware that the Noble Lady does not like it. She likes to be rude but not for anyone to be rude to her.
I think this controversy has gone far enough. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would get back to the Amendment.
§ Sir H. Williams
I am quite willing to come back to the Amendment, but I think that in Debate one is entitled to answer a point made by a previous speaker who was not ruled out of Order. That is the only privilege I am claiming.
§ Sir H. Williams
I quite agree. Let us face the issue. The proposal to raise the school age to 16 on a particular date is a proposal to increase the number of children in the schools by approximately 20 per cent. There is also a proposal, which I think is far more important, that the size of the school classes should be reduced. That is infinitely more important. I happen to have been brought up in an educational atmosphere. My father was a schoolmaster, my late brother was a schoolmaster, another brother older than I am was a schoolmaster. I did a little teaching in my time. Therefore, I do not bring vague general aspirations to this discussion but some consideration of the problem, and I know that the most vital reform is a reduction in the size of the classes. It exceeds all these other things.
Anyone who is a truthful realist knows that the raising of the compulsory school age above 14 will be a most incredible waste of the time of great masses of children. Any honest teacher, when not on the platform, will admit that to you. If anyone thinks that we shall get reality in education, unless parents and children are willing to make a sacrifice, he does not understand what education means. Some of us do make some sacrifice in order that our children may have what we regard as an appropriate education for their attainments. Nobody thinks that all should have the same income, and therefore we do not all spend the same amounts, but to say that we must all spend the same amount on cultural things like education, means that we are only going to spend extra on less worthy objects. Anyone who says that I am to be denied spending more on cultural things than other people seems to me to deny every good principle. I am willing, and always have been willing, to devote more to cultural interests than to other interests, and unless there is a measure of sacrifice on the part of parents there is no reality in education. The idea that it can be handed out as a free gift has no relation to true education.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Gentleman in Order in describing on this Amendment the amount of money he is spending on educating his own children? He has given 736 us a lecture on irrelevance. May I know the relevance of this?
I conclude that the hon. Member is giving illustrations but I think his illustrations are getting rather wide.
§ Sir H. Williams
I think I can satisfy you, Mr. Williams, and the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) that this is very relevant. What is the proposal? It is that Everybody shall have free education up to 16. I think it is entirely relevant to point out that it may be better—
§ Mr. Gallacher
Further to that point of Order. Every Member of this Committee understands that the question of raising the school age to 16 is accepted and is not in question. The only question is whether, as the hon. Member for Oxford says, a particular date or no date shall be inserted when it shall come into operation. The hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) is simply coming into this Debate to talk a lot of twaddle.
As both hon. Members who have interrupted have indicated, this Amendment really is narrower than the argument of the hon. Member for South Croydon would seem to indicate. Therefore, I would ask him, as he has now covered that particular point, to come much more closely to the actual Amendment.
§ Sir H. Williams
It might be just as well if we read the Amendment. It says:In page 27, line 15, leave but from the first "that" to end of Clause, and add'the upper limit of the compulsory school age shall be raised to sixteen years at the expiration of twelve months after this Part of this Act comes into operation or at such later date not exceeding three years thereafter to which the raising of the age may be postponed from time to time for a period not exceeding twelve months by Order in Council the draft of which shall be laid before Parliament by the Minister and which shall come into effect when approved by both Houses of Parliament.'737 It is rather wordy, and the latter part is not too easy to understand, but the fundamental essence of it is that the compulsory age of 16 for free education shall come into operation on a definite date. That is the sole purpose of this Amendment. I am glad that the hon. Member who moves it interprets it in that way. Surely if the object is to bring free education into operation on a date which is defined, with a considerable measure of accuracy, at a not too remote period, we are not out of Order in discussing the financial implications of that. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) put a point of Order which had no bearing—
I think this is a matter of timing, rather than the very wide subject of the whole question of raising the age to 16.
§ Sir H. Williams
We have not yet decided that the school-leaving age shall be raised to 16 at any time whatsoever. Surely, until it is decided, it is in Order to discuss all its implications? That is all I am seeking to do.
§ Mr. Gallacher
On a point of Order. Is it not clear that if the hon. Member had wanted a discussion on the principle, he should have put down ah Amendment objecting to the principle? There is no Amendment down of any kind relating to the principle. The only Amendment is one relating to the time.
Of course this Amendment proposes very clearly to leave out certain words, which would fix the age at 16. We are having a widish discussion on the principle of raising the age to 16, and the Amendment relates much more particularly to the date. I would suggest to the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) that we have already widened the discussion a good deal, and that it would not be to the advantage of the Committee at this stage of the Bill to go on at great length on this Amendment into the whole question of raising the school age to 16.
§ Sir H. Williams
I should have finished my speech at least 10 minutes ago if hon. Members who did not like what I was saying had not sought to stop my saying it by raising points of Order. I have come to the end of what I wanted to say, but I would, if I may, suggest that those 738 hon. Members who are keen about certain aspects of the Bill, in a way which I am not—I will be quite frank about that—would be much wiser, if they want to help their Bill, not to make so much fuss when others express views which they do not quite like. I think that this Amendment is misguided. The best way to prove how misguided it is would be to carry it. Nothing would cause greater consternation among the supporters of this Amendment than that it should be carried.
§ Mrs. Cazalet Keir
As the hon. Member is so definitely against this Amendment, is he totally opposed to what is already in the Bill—a date for raising the school-leaving age to 16?
The hon. Gentleman would not be able to answer that question. It is a pity that hon. Members should ask questions which widen the Debate when we are trying to get on with the Bill.
§ Sir H. Williams
I was trying to show some of the implications when I was interrupted some little time ago. If this Amendment is carried we shall have to find, at a very early date, roughly speaking, 20 per cent. more, teachers. If we are going, at the same time, to reduce the size of classes we shall need far more than 20 per cent, more class rooms. That is a problem of great complexity. I know that the Noble Lady would solve the problem by directing masses of uncertificated people from somewhere, and telling them to teach children of 14 to 16.
§ Sir H. Williams
She did say that. She said, "Get them out of the Army, or somewhere else—people with no training at all—to act as teachers."
That is a complete misrepresentation. I said that many people would not mind volunteering for this work. People would not volunteer for it unless they had some qualifications.
§ Sir H. Williams
This idea—[Interruption.] I hope that the Noble Lady will listen. I gave way at once to her. She says that people will volunteer. In other words she is going to fill the schools with uncertificated teachers in order to raise the school-leaving age to 16. These will be volunteers, with no qualifications at 739 all. That is her conception of how these children of 14 to 16 ought to be educated.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
On a point of Order. Is my hon. Friend aware that the overwhelming majority of teachers in secondary schools to-day are uncertificated, and that a very large number are untrained?
I wish hon. Members would not prolong the Debate by putting so-called points of Order which are not points of Order.
§ Sir H. Williams
Not only was that not a point of Order, but it was a point of complete inaccuracy. If the hon. Member will go into the Library, and get the Statistical Abstract for the United Kingdom, he will find the number of uncertificated teachers for the United Kingdom, and he will learn that his interruption had no relation to the facts. I wish some of these educational experts would study the subject a little more before they talk. I was just trying to do a little arithmetic, but nobody wants me to do any arithmetic, judging from the interruptions. This proposal means that, in a very limited time, we shall have to increase the number of teachers by at least 20 per cent.; and we are very short of teachers now. Also, we shall have to increase the number of classrooms by far more than 20 per cent. If this Amendment is carried it will be of no consequence, because, in due course, a future Parliament—and remember that one Parliament does not bind another—will have to take the necessary steps to repudiate this, by passing an amending Act or, by Order in Council, preventing it from operating. But these hon. Members who support it think that they are going to get cheap glory by saying, "Look how progressive we are: we have voted for something." [Interruption.] The hon. Member is not one of the outstanding examples of great educational progress, so far as I have been able to find out. They are merely supporting this as something which will impress people outside. This is going to be unpopular once the parents find out all the consequences. The Noble Lady knows that. She deplores the unpopularity of education, but education is not unpopular. The raising of the school-leaving age, under the Fisher Act, could not be carried out. The Noble Lady, who does not believe in democracy, wants to 740 force this on parents while they are unconscious of its effects. I have said all I wanted to say—
§ Sir H. Williams
I am never long-winded if I am left alone, but I have been interrupted, perhaps, more than most hon. Members are interrupted, and I had to have your protection, Mr. Williams. Others, of course, have sought your protection against me. If the enthusiasts for this Bill want to get it through quickly, they must show a more tolerant attitude.
§ Mr. Butler
We have had a longish Debate on this very important subject, and I beg the Committee to believe that, in placing my arguments before them, I speak not as one who is unprogressive or reactionary but as one responsible for bringing before this Committee a major Measure of education reform, couched in terms which are, I believe, in the interests of the children, and in the interests of the country as a whole. I have had no more difficult task than that of trying to deal with the welter of unfulfilled policy which I found on my desk when I went to the Board. I shall attempt to compress my remarks, but I must put before the Committee some idea of the heavy responsibilities which lie on our shoulders in deciding what the future priorities of educational reform are to be. When I put before the Committee some of the weighty considerations that I have in mind, I hope it will lead them to the belief that the Clause, as drafted, will enable Parliament to control this vital matter of the raising of the school age to 16.
I will take the opportunity to suggest various ways in which the Bill may be tightened up, in my view, so that the Committee may approach its task in a more practical manner. I will, as is my wont, try to meet the difficulties we are facing, perhaps not in the way my hon. Friends who proposed this Amendment expected, but in a way which I think is in the interests of the nation as a whole.
The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) is correct in saying that here we are dealing with an educational matter. Thank God for that. We have had many discussions on this Bill, but we have had none which go quite so much to the root 741 of educational progress, which is what this Committee desires. Let me say a few words about that. In the first place, I am quite sure that we are all agreed that the Bill is drafted to envisage an educational system which will enable children to remain at school until they are 16. That is why the Bill is drafted in this manner and a definite duty is laid upon the Minister to lay before Parliament an Order raising the age to 16, so there should be no difference of opinion on that matter. The only question which causes a difference is whether a definite date should be placed in the Statute for the raising of the age to 16. Let me stress the value of raising the age to 16. There is no doubt that any of us who have been round the new senior schools realise that the course there is far too short. Children enter at 11 plus, and are often turned out into the world at 14, which makes it impossible for them to get the full benefit of the training given.
§ Sir H. Williams
They are free to stay on. Only in certain cases referred to—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] Surely it is a point, and it is important. Surely, I understand that the school doors are open to any child—voluntarily open to any child. Whether they are compelled or not, every child who has the desire to stay after 14 is free to do so.
§ Mr. Butler
That is technically possible, the hon. Gentleman is quite right, but it does not alter the general tenor of my observations that the normal practice is to leave the senior school at 14. In fact, well over 90 per cent, of them leave at 14. What I was saying was that it was very difficult to get a sufficiently long course in the senior schools provided by us if the school-leaving age remains at 14 or even if it is raised to 15. There are great advantages in raising it to 16 in giving a long course in senior schools. That is all the more important, in view of the provisions of the Bill that there should be free secondary education for all. And the advantage of free secondary education for all is that it shall offer equivalent secondary opportunities to all children, and it is much easier to secure that if the schools at which it is offered have an equivalent leaving age. As has been stated in the Debate, it would be better all round, from the educational point of view, if we could have an equivalent leaving age at all the different types of secondary schools. I 742 said that to indicate to the Committee that, from the point of view of the educational expert, there is really not much difference between us. The point before us is that a certain leeway has to be made up in our educational administration, and how that change may come about if we enforce the leaving age of 16 in the Bill on a certain date.
In the first place, the Committee will realise that, in the Bill, we have deliberately accelerated the date at which the leaving age of 15 shall be introduced, and it will be remembered that, in order that the country should not be deluded and local authorities should understand the difficulties, we deliberately included this phrase in the White Paper:It will be understood that, if this step were taken within a short period after the end of the war before re-organisation is completed, with the primary object pf taking children of 14 and T5 off the labour market, the arrangements for their education would necessarily be of an improvised and makeshift character.It is on account of the fact that raising the age will involve some improvisation that we have deliberately not put a date in the Bill for raising the age, and we have done that because we believe Parliament has been playing about with this question long enough. It started in 1936 and it has been going on ever since. It is time Parliament decided that the age should be raised to 15. In the passage I have quoted from the White Paper, we included the words "before reorganisation is completed" and we stressed the fact that to raise the age to 15 might mean improvisation.
The point is to understand what those words—"before re-organisation is completed"—means. It seems to me that the whole crux of raising the age to 15 turns to the question of re-organising the schools into secondary and primary, and that when the hon. Member for Aberavon was called to order for mentioning Church schools, he was not really so far from the mark, because only 16 per cent. of the voluntary schools are at present re-organised into senior or junior, or secondary or primary, and it is vital to tackle this in this Bill. What is the figure of re-organisation in council schools? The figure, as between secondary and primary, is that only 62 per cent, of the council school children have the advantage of a re-organised secondary education. It 743 may surprise the Committee to have the further figure of the difference in reorganisation between the country districts and the towns. The position in the country districts is that only 20 per cent, of the schools there are re-organised into secondary schools.
Despite these diffculties, and this is the answer to the hon. Lady who moved the Amendment, we are going to raise the age to 15 very shortly, and I beg the Committee to keep that before them before they insist on a date for raising the age to 16 before re-organisation is completed. What would it mean? It would mean this. In the country districts, only 20 per cent, of our schools are organised for senior children, which means that advanced opportunities of education would be available for only 20 per cent. of the children remaining at school. I do not think it is possible here and now to give an advance date by which re-organisation will be completed. Therefore, if the Committee insist on a date being put into the Bill, it will mean that many of our senior children in the country districts will be obliged to stay in all-age schools, of which there are at present 80 per cent, with perhaps two or three teachers grappling with an age group from 5 to 16 in one school. That means age groups ranging over four and five years in the top class. I maintain that to ask parents, or to oblige parents by this Bill, to keep their children at school until 16 is, in these circumstances, not wise national policy.
So what shall we do? We have to consider how to improve the situation for these children and secure the introduction of 16 as soon as possible. The first step is to press ahead with the re-organisation of schools into secondary and primary departments. In order to do that, I have to try and give the Committee some examples of the extraordinary efforts that will be needed in order to provide secondary education for the senior children. The hon. Lady the Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir), who moved the Amendment, has, in various interventions in this Debate, made out, quite honestly and sincerely, that there is very little difference between raising the age to 15 and raising the age to 16. Quite apart from the question of improvisation in raising the age from 15 to 16 and putting the sixteens into all-age schools, I am 744 advised that no less than a further 406,000 places are necessary to raise the age to. 16, which is the age put into the Amendment. As it is, we have to find 391,000 extra school places to raise the age to 15 alone, and the figure of 406,000 is over and above that number.
It is a most formidable task, when we realise that school building has ceased during the war, except for temporary construction, and that many children are housed in huts already. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), with her sporting instincts, suggested that we should follow the example of Margaret Macmillan and put the children into huts or anywhere else. The answer is that they are in huts already, and also that Margaret Macmillan, although attempting her own individual experiment, was not responsible for national policy, as I am to-day. I estimate not only that that number of school places will be required for raising the age to 15 and the extra number for raising the age to 16, but that we have lost 150,000 school places owing to war conditions. These have to be replaced and the schools rebuilt.
I said at the opening of my remarks that there was an unfulfilled welter of policy in my desk, and these are some of the causes of the leeway which has to be made up, and in all these matters various Members from different sides of the Committee are interested. I have to try and achieve, from many different angles, educational advance. Take the Noble Lady herself. I have been asked by her and her friends to introduce a new and up-to-date system of educational nursery schools throughout the country. This is one job to be done. I have also to rebuild and re-equip many of the old schools, and I have to bring up to date that vast range of auxiliary schools which we have been considering in the course of our Committee Debates. What is perhaps most important, we have to remodel and reconstruct a vast number of primary and infant schools, which are nearly almost forgotten in our Debates. We have also to try to bring into the educational framework of this country a really adequate system of technical education to suit our industrial needs. Moreover, there are some letters in the newspapers on the subject of my inefficiency in invading the field of adult education. All 745 these measures are expected to be put into force very soon after the war and will all involve schools and a building programme. In the circumstances, the approach to the vital question of raising the age to 16 in the Bill is a wiser one, but I think it is wiser still when I consider the question of teachers.
The question of limiting the size of classes to 30 is probably, as was said by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), one of the most important reforms of all. I calculate that the retention of children between 15 and 16 in all types of secondary school in classes of 30 will call for anything between 40,000 and 50,000 more teachers than there are in the service to-day. That does not take account of the teachers who will resign after the war and those married women who will not wish to take advantage of my most estimable acceptance of the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman from the benches behind, and of the many teachers who will leave the service; and it does not take account of the teachers needed for continuing education at young peoples' colleges or anywhere else. That is simply for that particular reform. Of these I attribute at least 14,000 to the need of raising the age to 16.
In view of the conditions in regard to buildings and to teachers, I really think we must now see whether we cannot approach this matter in the most practical spirit possible. So what are we to do? On educational grounds the most desirable thing would be to have the age raised from 14 to 16 and the introduction at one and the same time of a system of continuing education. I have not mentioned continuing education, but that has been on the Statute Book since 1918. It has been introduced in one or two places only, and it is absolutely essential, in my view, to see that the purview of the educational system covers the age range right up to 18, if only to look after the health and well-being of the adolescent. What shall we do, then? It would be unwise to insist on giving raising-the-age-to-16 priority over young peoples' colleges until we have got further with the re-organisation of the schools. When we have our schools re-organised so that the older children can get the education that they want, then 16 would do them well, but prior to that date it seems desirable to adopt some 746 policy which will look after the adolescent child. If I were to leave the Bill, as it is, in the air and not to give a definite date for the age of 16, I would not be doing anything to look after those between the ages of 15 and 16, and 15 and 18. Therefore, the Government have decided, as I indicated in my Second Reading speech, that authorities should plan for a period of continuing education, in the first place, from the age of 15 to 18, and, thereafter when the leaving age is raised to 16, from 16 to 18. The advantage of this course will be that children of 15 waiting for the schools to be re-organised will be able to be looked after in the young peoples colleges, both as to their health and as to their continuing education. Therefore, we shall leave no gap in the provision for them.
I propose to tighten up the Bill by laying an injunction on the Minister to come to the House with an Order, under Clause 41, Sub-section (1), within three years after the raising of the age to 15. This Order will lay a duty on authorities to establish a system of young people's colleges. This carries out what I said in my Second Reading speech, and it enables us, first, to raise the age to 15, and then to introduce a system of young people's colleges. The Government desire to give this lead to the authorities both in the interests of the young people and in the interests of the country as a whole. For the certainty, which hon. Members desire to see, of raising the age to 16 I presume that they do not want to wait 25 years for continuing education or another 17 years for the completion of re-organisation such as we think we need now, or an indefinite period for the raising of the age. I therefore propose that the Minister shall undertake to report annually to Parliament on the progress of re-organisation and on the number of teachers which shall be available for carrying out the raising of the age to 16. I am ready to adopt whatever method the Committee think the wisest for that purpose, because then the Committee will have before them the two sets of facts which will enable them to decide when it is sensible to raise the age to 16.
§ Sir P. Harris
Does the right hon. Gentleman propose definitely to make it an obligation to report to Parliament each year?
§ Mr. Butler
What I have had in mind is to place this matter in the report to Parliament which is included in Clause 5, and if that is included Parliament will then have before it the number of teachers and the extent of reorganisation so that it can then decide when it is practicable to raise the age to 16. By that method, through the ordinary pressure which it can exercise, it will be possible for Parliament to be in a position to decide to raise the age to 16 when Members think it wise. That, I believe, is the best course for the Committee to adopt. I do not believe, in view of the building conditions, or the teaching conditions, or the leeway in policy with the young people's colleges and the variation over Departments of policy, that it would be right or even honourable for me to name a definite date, because I do not think it would be possible to carry it out for certain.
Therefore, rather than take a course which would tie my successor in such a way that he might not be able to carry out the policy, I prefer to come to the Committee and tell them definitely that annually a report will be presented to Parliament stating the number of teachers who are ready and trained, stating the extent to which reorganisation has been carried out, and that then Parliament will be able to operate the powers contained in the Bill because there is no doubt no new amending legislation is necessary. Under the proviso to Clause 33 it will be possible for the Minister to lay an Order and, in fact, the duty is laid upon him to lay an Order. When that Order is laid the age can be raised, and when Parliament has the information before it which I suggest it will be able to exert pressure upon the Minister to introduce the age of 16 when the facts and circumstances to which I have referred make it wise and proper for him to do so.
§ Mr. Moelwyn Hughes
Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, may I ask one question? I understand it is the intention to introduce a provision laying a duty upon the Minister and the local education authorities to provide young people's colleges within three years after the school-leaving age has been raised to 15. Is it the intention that it should be a specific three years, or such date as the Minister may think practicable?
§ Mr. Butler
No, we shall be discussing that Clause, I hope, later on, and 748 I propose instead of the opening words of Clause 41, Sub-section (1), the following:The Minister shall have a duty laid upon him to start the authorities upon the task of opening young people's colleges within three years after the raising of the age to 15.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)
I really have done my best for my right hon. Friend about this Bill, but I am bound to say his speech makes me feel very disappointed. He has, in fact, admitted the case for the raising of the school-leaving age to 16 but I can see, if the Bill remains, as it is now, that we are still going to have—and I think I spoke on this in the House on an earlier occasion—two types of education. We are going to have the grammar school type, where 16 is the minimum school-leaving age, and 15 as the school-leaving age for the rest. I submit to the Committee that that is committing an injustice to those people who are not fortunate enough, as I was not, to be able to go to a school of the grammar school type. It may be true, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) said, that people can stay, but the point is, unless it is made possible for them to stay, economic circumstances make it impossible for them to continue their education. I think it is admitted—at least I hope it is admitted—by the vast majority of Members of this House, that children should enjoy full-time education up to the age of 16. There may be those who have not disclosed their views yet who are against it but, unless I am challenged, I am assuming that it is regarded now as in the national interest that there should be a compulsory minimum school-leaving age of 16. I believe that is right. I do not believe that 11 to 15 is right and my right hon. Friend has admitted as much. It should be 11 to 16. I submit two reasons for that, and for the proposal to bring it into operation as early as possible.
The first is that in the days to come the intelligence and the spirit of the younger generation will be the governing factor in our success, morally, spiritually, intellectually, industrially, and commercially. My second point, which is connected with that, is, that we are becoming an older population and, when the National Health Service is fully developed, that tendency will continue. Length of life increases and, as time goes on, the younger generation are going to have to carry more passengers. 749 I do not say that in any bad sense at all but, in fact, we are going to have a population with a reduced proportion of workers. I would like to see the juvenile worker kept out of industry as long as possible, so that by his training, his intellectual development, his skill and so on, he can be of the maximum advantage to a nation over-weighted with old people. I think, therefore, that the matter is one of urgency. One wants to know whether the Government really mean business on this matter, whether they are prepared to give hostages to fortune.
My right hon. Friend does not want to commit his successor. I am afraid that he is opening a door of escape for his successor in not being a little firmer on this matter. Now, if it be the will of Parliament that we have a definite school-leaving age of 15, if it be that my right hon. Friend is prepared to establish a three-year period for part-time education from 15 to 18 within three years, why should not the Government make up their minds now on some sort of plan about a school-leaving age of 16? My right hon. Friend said we have been playing about for long enough with 15. Of course we have, and I very much suspect that unless Clause 33 is tightened up there will be a lot of playing about for many years with 16. Now I admit all the difficulties. Indeed I think my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench opposite would admit at once that I always recognise difficulties, but I do not recognise the fact that difficulties are always insuperable. It is undoubtedly true, as my right hon. Friend says, that there will be a formidable task lying ahead in regard to building. I said earlier in a Debate, either on the White Paper or on this Bill, that I did not regard the building problem as the crux of the difficulty. I think the major problem is that of personnel, of teaching manpower and woman-power, and that I think is a matter that can be dealt with.
My right hon. Friend wants local authorities to be thinking about young people's colleges within three years after raising the school-leaving age to 15. 1s it not equally important that local authorities should have a target for raising the school-leaving age? The Minister ought to go further. I knew Margaret Macmillan when I was a young man, 40 years ago, when she made a great experiment in Bradford, and I am sure that her spirit 750 was worth a great deal more than many of the magnificent buildings which have been built. I do not think we need worry too much about structures. I would hate to see our children schooled in the slums, but I would rather see them in temporary buildings than struggling in the labour market before they are properly prepared to meet their heavy responsibilities. My right hon. Friend referred to the Act of 1918. My views on that have been known for a very long time. I never thought much of the Fisher Act; it was a "dud" Act. Here my right hon. Friend is trying to do a good job but it seems that he has become suddenly nervous and afraid. He said that we should have a report to Parliament each year on reorganisation and the number of teachers. That is giving us nothing. On his Estimates we can challenge him every year on that matter and a number of other matters.
What is being asked for in this Amendment is that this special problem should come before the House each year. If my right hon. Friend, or his successor, comes here and says that the buildings are not there and that there are not enough teachers he might get away with it, but when his desire is to raise the school-leaving age to 16 he ought to be prepared to come to the House each year and face the music and say, "Much as I want it, I do not think I can get it." His proposal seems to me to be completely inadequate. The last thing I like to do is to create any kind of trouble in the House—I regard myself as a soothing influence, on occasions—but I would ask him to think again. The Amendment is not a narrow parry Amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir) is not a member of my own party. Although I like to think of her as a personal friend we are political opponents. I see the names of other political opponents who are supporting the Amendment. There is a large body of opinion in the Committee which believes in 16 as a right school-leaving age, which wishes to pin this House of Commons and, in honour, any succeeding House of Commons, to the carrying out of that plan at the earliest opportunity. That is the purpose of this Amendment, and unless my right hon. Friend can show a little more sympathy to the wishes of Members of all parties I see no alternative but take all those who agree with 751 me into the Division Lobby against the Government.
§ Sir G. Shakespeare
I have not wasted much of the time of the Committee—I have spoken only once so far—but I want to say that I am one of the most impatient men in the House when it comes to educational reform in that I am extremely critical of the deficiencies in our educational system. Nevertheless, I am completely satisfied with the Minister's answer. [HON. MEMBERS: "We knew you would be."] The real opponents of reform are those idealists who are always—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If the Government fix a date for raising the school-leaving age to 16 then they are doing a definite disservice to the cause of educational reform, because we all know perfectly well that such a thing would not be popular. When we go to our constituencies and tell parents that the school age will be raised to 16 they will not support us. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]
§ Sir G. Shakespeare
It is just as well to hear both sides. I remember that in my constituency, even when I suggested raising the age to 15, there was extreme opposition. I am sure that if we were to raise the age to 16 before facilities for education up to that age were ready a great disservice would be done to the cause of education. There would be a popular reaction against keeping children at school until that date and the very thing we want to avoid would come about. I for one, and I think, my hon. Friends too, are satisfied with the Minister's statement and hope that he will stick to the framework already in the Bill.
§ Major Sir Derrick Gunston (Thornbury)
I rarely speak, but I think I am entitled to reply to the statement made by the hon. Member for Norwich (Sir G. Shakespeare), that if the Government fixed a date they would do a great disservice to education. I appreciate that my right hon. Friend is in a difficult position, and I acknowledge the efforts he has made to meet us, but I cannot help feeling that the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) is right. This Amendment 752 puts an obligation on the Government. There is no doubt that in this present House of Commons there is an overwhelming majority who want to see the school-leaving age raised to 16. We do not know whether that would apply to the next House of Commons or not, but we hope it would. Why do we want the date to be fixed? When I used to visit young soldiers' battalions I was horrified to see a number of youths who had left school at the age of 14 and who had been out of work until the war started. We do not want a repetition of that experience, but we shall get it unless we put into the Bill a target date.
My right hon. Friend has pointed out the difficulties. We all appreciate them. Our target date might be too short. It might want not more than three or it might want five years. If you put a target, I am quite prepared to advance it if you put it in and every year you have to explain why you have not raised it, you are insuring, once and for all, that the age will be raised to 16. If you leave it in the present position, you will have no guarantee. I appeal to my right hon. Friend, even at the last moment, to try to meet us.
§ Mrs. Cazalet Keir
I have listened very carefully to the President of the Board of Education and I say at once that I only wish I could agree with him on this occasion, because I think he is one of the best Ministers of Education we have had for a very long time. But, unfortunately, I feel that this Amendment is a matter of principle and I must ask my hon. Friends to go into the Lobby in support of it.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I rise only because I have an Amendment on the Paper and I have sat through the whole Debate and have not yet spoken. I have listened to the right hon. Gentleman's speech and I think there is a way out for him while still carrying the sense of the Committee with him. He has put before us absolutely unanswerable arguments about buildings, about teachers and about school-places. I imagine that these figures were known to the hon. Lady before she moved the Amendment. One reason why I am going 753 to support the Government is this. We had an earlier Debate which revealed that a large number of children who are in classes of 50 are so-called defectives but are very largely not defective at all. There are classes to-day going up to 60 and 70. I am not interested in this for the first time on this occasion and I will not be any party to the school-leaving age being raised to 16 at the expense of younger children being in classes of 40 and 50. That is no service to education. It may be popular—I do not think it is—but, apart from that, unless there is a maintenance grant till 16, or unless there are children's allowances, neither of which we have in the Bill, it is impossible to raise the age to 16.
I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to see whether there is not a way of putting a positive rather than a negative statement in the Bill because almost everyone here wishes to see every child in the country going to school till 16. It is the price you pay for it, and it is an absurd price to pay that little children in infant and junior schools should be in classes of 40 and 50. I have been living with this problem of the 14's to 18's for 25 years. The right hon. Gentleman has made it quite clear that the essence of the proposal is continuity, and from the date the school-leaving age is raised to 15 those children will go straight into young people's colleges, or whatever they are going to be, for one day a week. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last talked about young soldiers. We are not talking of children leaving at 14 and being out of work for four years. We are talking of children leaving school at 15 and being under educational supervision until they are 18, which is an entirely different thing. For these reasons and many others, I propose to support the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Astor (Fulham, East)
May I suggest that the President of the Board of Education should give us a way out of the clash that has arisen? We are all agreed that the school-age should be raised to 16 at the earliest practicable moment. We are all agreed that the limiting factor of the date is the training of the necessary number of teachers. The President must be able to estimate the capacity of the training colleges which exist now, and which he may have after the war, and on that output he must be able to have some 754 idea as to when the production of teachers is going to reach the stage when there will be sufficient numbers for this purpose. The right hon. Gentleman must have those figures somewhere in his Department and must be able to see when the output of teachers will be sufficient. It may be that a time limit of three years is not practicable, but can the right hon. Gentleman not give us what he thinks is a practical time limit? It may be four or five years. If he could consider this, and give an undertaking that he will put in some time, whatever it is, it would meet the general wishes of the Committee. We do not ask him to do something impracticable, but we want a definite date in the Bill. I would ask him, before this goes to a Division, to meet the Committee on those lines.
§ Mr. Butler
I always respond to an invitation to do my best. On this occasion I have stated quite clearly that there are certain definite problems with which the Government and local authorities have to deal. I have attempted to accelerate the time-table of the Bill in regard to looking after the adolescent child by providing for a definite date in Clause 41, to which no reference was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) or in any other speech. That is a definite acceleration of the progress of the Bill and an attempt to deal with young people. I have said quite clearly that in my view, the raising of the age to 16 depends on the provision of teachers and the completion of re-organisation, but I am unable to give an exact date because there will be an overlap between the many aspects of the educational programme and the recruiting of teachers from the Forces, their training and the allocation of teachers, as between different branches of the educational service. If I could give a date I would do so, and I shall continue to think of any manner in which the Bill can be improved between this stage and the next. But I never wish to avoid an issue which seems to have been clearly sought from the opposite side.
There has been no ill-will in the Debate and I have nothing to complain of in the speeches, but the issue is divided as between different parties. If I undertake to do my best to examine the matter, it does not mean that I am going to depart from the phrases or the sentiments of my 755 speech. If hon. Members wish to put it to the vote, I am ready to accept that, and it is not a matter of someone on one side disagreeing with an educational reform and someone else being in favour of it but of some of us being rather more enthusiastic than others. If I have to be practicable, I am practicable as one who has attempted to be an educational reformer. I am sorry that hon. Members opposite have not been able to accept the
|Division No. 8.||AYES.|
|Acland-Treyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G. Lloyd (P'b'ke)||Petherick, Major M.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)||Gibson, Sir C. G.||Peto, Major B. A. J.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Goldie, N. B.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Baillie, Major Sir A. W. M.||Greenwell, Colonel T. G.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton|
|Balfour, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. H.||Gretton, J. F.||Prescott, W. R. S.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Pym, L. R.|
|Beattie, F. (Cathcart)||Groves, T. E.||Raikes, Flight-Lieut. H. V. A. M.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Beaumont, Major Hn. R. E. B. (P't'th)||Henderson, J. J. Craik (Leeds, N. E.)||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Beech, Major F. W.||Heneage, Lt.-Col. A. P.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Bennett, Sir P. F. B. (Edgbaston)||Hepburn, Major P. G. T. Buchan||Robertson, D. (Streatham)|
|Berry, Hon. G. L. (Buckingham)||Hepworth, J.||Robertson, Rt. Hon. Sir M. A. (M'ham)|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsworth, C.)||Hewlett, T. H.||Ross Taylor, W.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Holdsworth, Sir H.||Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Salt, E. W|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Boston, W. W.||Hudson, Sir A. (Hackney, N.)||Savory, Professor D. L.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T. (Cleveland)||Hutchinson, G. C. (Ilford)||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.||James, Wing-Com. A. (Well'borough)||Scott, Lord William (Ro'b'h & Selk'k)|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham)||James, Admiral Sir W. (Ports'th, N.)||Selley, Sir H. R.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Shakespeare, Sir G. H.|
|Bull, B. B||Jeffreys, Gen. Sir G. D.||Shephard, S.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Jewson, P. W.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k Newington)||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. D.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Joynson Hicks, Lt.-Comdr. Hon. L. W.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Keatinge, Major E. M.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir D. B.|
|Cadogan, Major Sir E.||Keeling, E. H.||Southby, Comdr. Sir A. R. J.|
|Campbell, Dermot (Antrim)||King-Hall, Commander W. S. R.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T. (Bromley)||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Stanley, Col. Rt. Hon. Oliver|
|Cary, R. A.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Leach, W.||Strickland, Capt. W. F.|
|Channon, H.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Levy, T.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C.||Liddall, W. S.||Suirdale, Viscount|
|Colegate, W. A.||Lindsay, K. M.||Sykes, Maj.-Gen. Rt. Hon. Sir F. H.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Little, Dr. J. (Down)||Taylor, Major C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Conant, Major R. J. E.||Lloyd, Major E. G. R. (Renfrew, E.)||Thomas, Dr. W. S. Russell (S'th'm'tn)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Loftus, P. C.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Crowder, Capt. J. F. E.||Lyle, Sir C. E. Leonard||Touche, G. C.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Oliver.||Turton, R. H.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Mabane, Rt. Hon. W.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Ward, Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Denville, Alfred||McKinlay, A. S.||Watt, Brig. G. S. Harvie (Richmond)|
|Donner, Squadron-Leader P. W.||Magnay, T||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Drewe, C.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir E.||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
|Dugdale, Major T. L. (Richmond)||Mander, G. le M.||Wells, Sir S. Richard|
|Duncan, Rt. Hon. Sir A. R. (C. Ldn.)||Manningham-Buller, Major R. E.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. (Blaydon)|
|Ede, J. C.||Markham, Major S. F.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Emmett, C. E. G. C.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Universities)||Woolley, Major W. E.|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Evans, Colonel A. (Cardiff, S.)||Morrison, Major J. G. (Salisbury)|
|Fermoy, Lord||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:—|
|Fox, Squadron-Leader Sir G. W. G.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Captain McEwen and Mr. Beechman.|
|Fyfe, Major Sir D. P. M.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Galbraith, Comdr. T. D.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.|
§ letter and the spirit of all I have said, because I believe my method is the best one of achieving the reform that is desired.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 172; Noes, 137.
|Acland, Sir R. T. D.||Granville, E. L.||Parker, J.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Pearson, A.|
|Apsley, Lady||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Grenfell, D. R.||Price, M. P.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Barr, J.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Gunston, Major Sir D. W.||Reakes, G. L. (Wallasey)|
|Bartlett, C. V. O.||Guy, W. H.||Riley, B.|
|Beaumont, Hubert (Batley)||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Benson, G.||Hardie, Agnes||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey, W.)|
|Bower, Norman (Harrow)||Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Shinwell, E.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Harvey, T. E.||Silkin, L.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Brown, W. J. (Rugby)||Hinchingbrcoke, Viscount||Sloan, A.|
|Buchanan, G.||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Burden, T. W.||Hollins, J. H. (Silvertown)||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Burke, W. A.||Hynd, J. B.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cape, T.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Stokes, R. R.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Storey, S.|
|Chater, D.||Kendall, W. D.||Tate, Mrs. Mavis C.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Key, C. W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Cove, W. G.||Kirby, B. V.||Teeling, Flight-Lieut. W.|
|Daggar, G.||Kirkwood, D.||Thomas, I. (Keighley)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Lawson, H. M. (Skipton)||Thorneycroft, Major G. E. P. (Stafford)|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Lawson, J. J. (Chester-le-Street)||Thorneycroft, H. (Clayton)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Leslie, J. R.||Tinker, J J.|
|Dobbie, W.||Linstead, H. N.||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Lipson, D. L.||Viant, S. P.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Logan, D. G.||Walkden, A. G. (Bristol, S.)|
|Dugdale, John (W. Bromwich)||Loverseed, J. E.||Walkden, E. (Doncaster)|
|Dunn, E.||McEntee, V. La T.||Walker, J.|
|Eccles, D. M.||Mack, J. D.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Maclean, N. (Govan)||Watson, W. McL.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Mainwaring, W. H.||White, H. (Derby, N. E.)|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Martin, J. H.||White, H. Graham (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Edwards, Walter J. (Whitechapel)||Mathers, G.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Maxton, J.||Windsor, W.|
|Foster, W.||Messer, F.||Woodburn, A.|
|Frankel, D||Montague, F.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Morgan, R. H. (Stourbridge)||Wright, Mrs. Beatrice F. (Bodmin)|
|Gallacher, W.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wright, Group Capt. J. (Erdington)|
|Gales, Major E. E.||Mort, D. L.||York, Major C.|
|George. Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Murray, J. D. (Spennymoor)|
|Gibbins, J.||Naylor, T. E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:—|
|Glanville, J. E.||Oldfield, W. H.||Mrs. Cazalet Keir and Mr. Moelwyn Hughes.|
|Grant-Ferris, Wing-Commander R.||Oliver, G. H.|
§ Sir Joseph Lamb (Stone)
I beg to move, in page 27, line 30, at the end, to add:(2) Until the compulsory school age is raised to sixteen years, it shall be lawful for a local education authority to enter into an agreement with a parent of a pupil at any secondary school for the purpose of securing the attendance of the pupil at such school until the age of sixteen years, and upon the execution of such an agreement the age of sixteen shall, in relation to that pupil and for the purpose of the provisions of this Act relating to compulsory attendance, be deemed to be the upper limit of the compulsory school age unless the authority otherwise decide in any particular case.We have just had a long discussion upon whether the school-leaving age should foe 16. It may foe unnecessary to remind hon. Members that a very large number of children now attend school to the age of 16, with the consent of their parents. I was very glad to hear the President say what an advantage it was to children to be able to continue their education till 758 a later age. Unfortunately, it is not always, although they have given their consent, that parents can allow their children to remain in school to the age of 16. Education committees are very desirous that this Amendment should be carried so that it might be made compulsory for parents of such children to allow the children to remain to the full age of 16, until, that is to say, the completion of the course which the education committee in question have prepared for the children.
It is the practice for local education authorities to come to an agreement with parents under which the parents are liable, or were thought to be liable, to a penalty, if the children left school without reasonable cause before the age in the agreement. Unfortunately, that arrangement has not proved very satisfactory. The House of Commons has agreed in the past to the principle which I am now asking should be put into the 759 Bill. Under 30 private Acts of Parliament a similar provision has been included, under which certain authorities have been given power to take the action which I am now asking should be put within the power of all the authorities under the Bill. It is difficult to assess the damage that is done to the educational system in consequence of children leaving at the earlier age than 16, and that is how difficulty arose, in cases which were taken to court, in connection with getting damages assessed. It is one of the reasons why the existing arrangement does not work satisfactorily. It is the desire of local education authorities that they should have this power, and I believe the Clause makes it clear how it could be worked. I ask the Minister to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I support the Amendment. Every three or four months the hon. Member for Devizes (Sir P. Hurd) has been asking a question, alternately of the Postmaster-General and the President of the Board of Education, about how it was that, despite a solemn contract for a child to stay at school till 16, the Post Office was poaching them away at 15. I say that, only to illustrate the argument which lies behind the Amendment.
§ Mr. Ede
The Amendment does not carry out the arrangement with regard to the school-life undertaking, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb) refers. That undertaking is usually in the form that the pupil shall remain at school until the end of the school year in which he or she attains the age of 16. It is designed that the pupil shall stay long enough to take the school certificate examination. The Amendment does not secure that object. It secures only that the pupil shall stay at school until the end of the term in which he or she is 16. We should, therefore, have some children under the old school-leaving arrangement staying at school while others would be exempt under the proposal of the Amendment. It is not clear how the Amendment would fit in with Clause 37 of the Bill. It is customary for the local education authority to reserve the right to release a child if the circumstances of the child or of the home make it desirable that the child should be released before the time specified in the undertaking.
760 For those reasons it would not be possible for the Government to accept the Amendment itself, but we are as anxious as the hon. Member that school life should be as long as possible, and we will do all we can so that children remain at school. It is not possible, in the altered circumstances, for the Amendment in this form to fit in with the general scheme of the Bill, but if my hon. Friend feels that the Amendment should be put in some form more acceptable, and if he will have a conversation with me between now and the next stage of the Bill, I will see if it is possible to meet the point which he desires should be met.
§ Sir J. Lamb
I thank the Minister for what he has said, and I am sorry that the words of the Amendment are not, in his opinion, suitable. They are words which were given to me by the local authorities, and I had hoped that they would be suitable. Perhaps at another time and in another part of the Bill it will be possible to include an Amendment of this character. I beg, therefore, to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Griffiths
No, it is not the pleasure of the Committee that the Amendment be withdrawn. This Amendment gives the authority the opportunity, if they so desire, to agree that a child shall remain there until he is 16. That is the kernel of the Amendment. The Parliamentary Secretary says "No, we cannot accept this," stating quite definitely that the child must leave at 15. That is what it means. The Amendment states very clearly that a parent can, if he so desires, make an agreement with the new secondary school, that is the secondary school which is to be set up in the Bill, that his child shall stay at school until 16. The Parliamentary Secretary says "We cannot accept that; they must leave; they have to leave when they are 15 because we have decided that they cannot stay until they are 16." [Interruption.] I am sorry if I am dull on this. I did not think I had fallen off a Christmas tree. I feel certain that if this Amendment is not accepted, the boy cannot stay in the school until he is 16.
§ Mr. Ede
No one will accuse my hon. Friend of being dull, but there is no law in the country, certainly nothing in this Bill, which compels a parent to take his child away from school the moment he is 15. The child can stay in the school, within reason, as long as the parent chooses to keep him there. Children can srtay at the existing elementary schools until they are 16 although the compulsory school-leaving age is only 14. This Amendment deals with a form of contract entered into between the parents and the local education authorities in the case of the existing secondary schools under the present regulations. It was very difficult to work, except by those authorities who took the precaution of getting a special Clause into a local Act providing that they did not have to prove damage, and, even then, there were difficulties, on occasion, in enforcing it. It has nothing to do with the Amendment on which the Committee has just divided. It deals with a particular and limited class. I hope, in view of what has been said, the Commitee will now agree that we can move on.
§ Sir J. Lamb
I think the Parliamentary Secretary did indicate that he would discuss the matter with us.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.