§ Mr. Moelwyn Hughes
I beg to move, in page 47, line 18, after "maintained," to insert "or assisted."
This Amendment would extend the field of those schools where no fees can be exacted from the pupils or their parents, and it would be to the advantage of the House to consider the whole field. The Minister started on his peregrinations with the high and laudable intention, expressed in the White Paper, of abolishing the exaction of fees in schools which derive the whole or part of their maintenance from public funds. However, he fell from grace—or was pushed—and when the Bill came before us, we found that in at least four places this undemocratic principle had been allowed to creep in. In Committee we, who feel very strongly on the matter, felt that we detected that the Minister was recovering a little of the grace that he had lost. This Amendment is moved in order to see whether he cannot now give a assurances which will show that his pigrim's progress has gone a little further.
May I remind the House of the places wherein he can, by showing his intentions, do a great deal to reduce the size of this undemocratic blot on our educational system. The Bill provides in the first place for local education authorities to pay for places in schools where fees may be exacted. That is in Clause 76 (b). But 1840 such payments can only be, by the terms of the Clause, under regulations made by the Minister empowering local education authorities so to do. So the Minister is presented with an opportunity of exercising his powers in the right direction, and I ask for an assurance that he will exercise his powers in the right direction. Further, the Minister must himself, under Clause 94 (1, b), pay for the pupils to enter into fee paying schools, and he has to do that by Regulation. I ask that those Regulations shall be so framed as not to increase but to reduce the proportion steadily of fee paying pupils in schools which they may enter by the direct subvention of the Minister.
Then there is the provision by which local education authorities may assist schools not maintained by them under Clause 9. Here, again, the assistance they may give can only be by arrangements approved by the Minister. Again the Minister will control the extent to which these schools may exact fees, and the manner in which those who will pay the fees will be selected, and indeed the proportions of those who pay fees in such schools. Finally, there is a question, more vexed than any of the three I have mentioned, and that is the direct grant schools, in regard to which the Minister has told us he proposes to make certain alterations in the list, and possibly in the conditions under which the direct grants will be paid. Out of the 1,400 schools which receive assistance from public funds without the control of public authorities, over 252 are direct grant schools, and nearly threequarters of the pupils in them are fee paying pupils. The average of free places in these schools is about 25 per cent., some have a fee of ten per cent. or less, and quite a number of them have a very high proportion of free places, and the number of fee paying pupils has been reduced.
I think the House is entitled to be told whether it is the intention of the Minister to abolish fee-paying in these direct grant schools where the proportion of pupils paying fees has become low, thereby going statistically to show that he has reduced the number of fee paying places in direct grant schools as a whole, but at the same time has created out of the 250 direct grant schools a number which will be even more exclusively fee paying than they are at present. I ask 1841 the Minister for an assurance that his powers in every one of these directions is going to be used steadily to increase the number of free places in all these schools which the House in its wisdom has decided have to continue. There are the four specific problems each under his own control and I ask him to say in which direction he is going to exercise that control.
§ Mr. Messer
I beg to second the Amendment.
The Amendment goes rather further than my hon. and learned Friend's argument. It asks for something more than an assurence. It asks, in effect, for the complete abolition of fees in any schools in receipt of public money. I do not think anyone can counter the principle involved. Everyone knows that if people are paying fees, they are under the impression that they are getting something better than what they would get without paying fees. My own view is that that has a disturbing influence on our desire to have something in the nature of a higher national standard of education. If there is one thing that the Bill does which is to be welcomed, it is to give us a better measure of national standard than hitherto has been the case. One of the troubles of our system of education has been that from place to place there has been a varying standard, not merely in the type of education but in the conditions of the schools within which that education was carried out. I have correspondence showing that a doctor in London, whose children were evacuated to a village school in Staffordshire, discovered that no improvement had taken place for the 30 years since he himself had been a pupil there. In other parts of the country, things were not very much better. The only comment in this correspondence made by the Director of Education concerned was: "Well, this school is as good as most country schools are."
I welcome the fact that in the new Ministry we are to have a measure of control. I would point out that we are promising to people that there shall be secondary education for all. If we mean that, it is dangerous for us to drive a wedge between the different types of school, dividing them into those for which fees are payable and the others. Is it right to charge people who can afford it in some schools, and wrong to charge fees in private schools 1842 where people equally can afford it. If we admit the principle, that it is right to charge at all, it ought to be right to charge wherever people can afford to pay. Recognising that if we are to widen the field so as to include all those who can benefit by this improved type of education, we have to say that it shall be free from the liability of payment. Then, there is no justification for public money being used to improve the status of the schools.
Here is a school, a direct grant or an aided school, which, presumably, cannot continue without that aid, but it will be entitled to choose from those who can afford to pay. If the people who pay expect a better type of education and do not get it, they are being swindled. If they do get a better type of education, the other children are being swindled. Every child should have equal opportunity to get better education, but we make nonsense of our talk when we set up a financial barrier. This matter is disturbing the mind of hon. Members on this side of the House. We believe that there should be equality of opportunity and that there is a contradiction of that principle contained in the fact that some children will be able to go to the snob schools—that is what they are. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is true. Everybody knows quite well that you would not have the private schools if some people had not the impression that their children are better than the common herd, and the ordinary breed, and are to have a different coloured hat as a badge to distinguish them. Those people are prepared to pay a price for the honour. My own view is that that is disturbing in education. Children are not responsible for having been born into their families. If they could have their choice, many might be willing to make a change. We ought not to penalise them as we do when we say that some advantage can be gained by having parents who can afford to pay.
I make an earnest appeal to the Minister. I want the House to be made aware that we are dealing with a point of major principle of great importance. Is there any reason why we should not fling open in the widest possible way the door of opportunity for everybody? If we are to pay public money, and if these schools cannot continue without receiving the amount of money represented by fees, let us give them a deficiency grant. Let us make up the money and do not let them con- 1843 tinue to live in an atmosphere of superiority, where there are a few places to which children of the poor can go but where most of the places go to children of those who can afford to pay. If it is not possible for these educational establishments to continue without the fees, let public money provide it, but let all children have an equal chance of the best that can be given.
There will be tests. These people are going to cream off what they believe to be the better type for these free places and skim off if they possibly can those that will give to their schools a better reputation, which will be gained as the result of whatever popularity they might get, There will be a better inducement for people to pay fees. It is contradictory of what we have been saying in regard to educational opportunity being given equally to all children. I hope that the House will press, if not for the acceptance of this Amendment, then for an assurance by the Minister that we shall see the elimination by gradual stages of this principle of division between sections of the community.
§ Mr. Cove
We discussed this important principle on the Committee stage, and, on the broad principle, we were turned down. So far as I can find out, it is not clear even now what field for free secondary education is covered by the Bill. There is some confusion, because of the terms employed in the Bill as to what categories of schools will be free. I would like the Minister to clear up the whole of that position. There is confusion, for instance, about what is an assisted school and how it will fit into the free place system. I hope that the Minister will give us a clear picture of the field within which secondary education will be free. I suppose the general effect of the Bill will be to narrow the field where fees will be charged.
I do not expect that there will be secondary education in those schools. There is merely a change of name. I wish we could have another Debate upon the raising of the age, but we cannot. Mere change of name does not necessarily carry change of quality, content and opportunity in the school. I do not think there is any use in our pursuing this question as a matter of principle as it was decided on the Committee stage. If it is true that 1844 the field of free secondary education is widened under the Bill, and the field, as it were, of fee-paying schools is narrowed, that may mean quite definitely, from a social point of view, that these fee-paying schools will become even more select, and aristocratic, than ever they were before. Fee-paying for fewer schools will make the schools where the fees are being paid more socially significant than ever before.
I know that one or two direct grant aided schools who mean to maintain what they call their independence are, even now, considering raising the fees. It becomes a more select area, and the schools will be more select schools and will be more directly related—I say this again, and I hope I shall not offend hon. Members opposite—to social prestage, social privilege. If, therefore, we are determined to have a democracy in our educational system, it is not merely necessary to widen the field and sphere of free secondary education. The essential and fundamental thing is that fees should be entirely abolished. I would like to point out what fees mean to the middle and upper classes. They mean that the middle and upper classes in our country believe in the education of their children. They believe, even almost before their children are born, that those children should have a prolonged education. They are entered for Eton, Harrow and elsewhere early in life. That is quite right. It shows that they believe in education. I only want to point out that that belief ought to be transferred in practice to all our people, to the common people, the working-class people, and it can only be transferred on the basis of equality by abolishing fees in all secondary schools and providing universal secondary education for all our children. There lies the path, quite clearly, of a truly democratic educational system. As has been pointed out over and over again, even in the "Economist" —a very respectable organ, I should think, from the point of view of hon. Members—this nation is the only nation in the world that provides and preserves privileged schools.
I hope, therefore, we will come into the democratic scheme by completely abolishing fees, and allowing the common child to have what I agree, and what the middle class and upper class agree, is essential for their children, a prolonged 1845 education for the children of all our people throughout the length and breadth of our country, and not to condemn a section of our children to work at the age of 14 or 15 and allow another section to go to school up to 16, 17 and 18 years of age, and then expect the most intelligent of them to go to Oxford or Cambridge. That is the normal expectation of Members opposite regarding their children. It is quite an ordinary thing for them to say, "My boy shall go to the public school or grammar school, or direct grant aided school, and shall have an education up to 18," and "That boy of mine shall not only go to school up to i8, but shall go to the university as well," In that they are quite right. Those hon. Members know the value of education, the value of keeping boys and girls in school with a prolonged school life, with university education. What surprises me is that those who represent the universities seem to sneer at it for other sections of the community. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] I would like the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) to give his views.
§ Mr. Cove
I do challenge the hon. Member. I challenge him on this: he would agree that people who could afford it are perfectly right in saying that their children shall remain under the educative process in schools and universities as long as possible, until they reach the age of maturity. That is perfectly right. I say that also ought to be applied to the children of the ordinary common folk of this country, and it cannot be applied unless there is a complete abolition of fees and, indeed, something else I cannot develop now, a positive contribution of maintenance grants, in order that our common children may go to the same educational institution as they so meaningly and intelligently desire their children shall go to.
§ Mr. Wilmot
I rise only to say that I hope the Minister will give the most earnest consideration to this Amendment, which has been so ably moved and seconded by my hon. Friends. They stated the case for it so well, that I do not need to repeat it. We regard this as a vital point. We see in this omission of the assisted schools a major defect in this 1846 otherwise excellent Bill. The principle that you should not mix fee paying pupils and free pupils in a school has been admitted in the Bill. This Clause provides that no fees shall be paid in the case of a maintained school. We think it is absolutely vital that that principle shall be extended to include the assisted school and the school in receipt of public grants, so that all the pupils in these schools shall be on an equal footing, and that there shall not be some who are of a superior social level to the others. It is a vital point, and I hope that the Minister, between now and the Third Reading of this Bill, will consider this again.
§ Mr. Butler
I realise from the Debates that have been held on this subject that much interest attaches to this question, and I think that some of the difficulty in the minds of hon. Members opposite arises from the fact that they have greatly enlarged the scope or area of the difficulty which they encounter. For example, it has been put to me that Sub-section (1) of Clause 9 of the Bill which actually uses this word "assist" and which reads,… so far as may be authorised by arrangements approved by the Minister, to assist any such school which is not maintained by them.have given the impression that it is contemplated that there will be a large number of assisted schools which, by the mere fact that they are assisted will, thereby be able to charge fees.
That is a point which was raised by the hon. Member for Averavon (Mr. Cove). I am very glad to have this opportunity definitely to deny that it is the intention, either of the Bill or of Government policy, that there should, in fact, be a large class of such schools or that there should be an opportunity for schools which have the right to opt for controlled, or aided, status to slip into some amorphous state and to charge fees. This will enable me to interpret the Bill in that way, and thus considerably to narrow the area of disagreement. What is the area of disagreement? I maintain that it is very small. Let us see what "assisted" means under this Bill. It is necessary to turn to Clause 105, on page 78 of the Bill, where it is seen thatwhere a local education authority make to the proprietor of any school which is not maintained by the authority or to the persons responsible for the maintenance of any training college or other institution which is not 1847 so maintained, any grant in respect of the school college or institution or any payment in consideration of the provision of educational facilities thereat, the school college or institution shall be deemed to be assisted by the authority.The words to which I wish-to draw attention are:any payment in consideration of the provision of educational facilities thereat.Those words are very important. The object is precisely to give opportunities to children, who would not otherwise have such opportunities, of going to certain schools. That is a democratic procedure, and not anti-democratic. The fact that hon. Gentlemen opposite would prohibit the charging of fees in any school which was assisted would have the opposite effect to what they have in mind. The object of assisting these schools is to bring them within the reach of poor pupils, and to provide a link between the pupils in the maintained schools and others going to schools of a type to which they have not normally gone before. It would he a great mistake to accept the Amendment.
But hon. Members have not only that in view, in moving the Amendment. One of their great difficulties arises from the problem of the direct-grant schools. I have tried before to put this matter into its proper perspective. It is fantastic to adopt the view in this House that it is immoral for a parent to pay for the education of a child. In fact, I think the sacrifice involved is, in many respects, a very good thing, and highly moral. Earlier, I said that, provided certain conditions were observed, we saw no reason why a clean sweep should be made of fees in direct-grant schools. We are abolishing the payment of fees in all maintained schools. I have said it is not the intention of the Government that schools shall slip into some amorphous status, and, so, charge fees. We restrict the fee-paying area to the comparatively small one where it will be possible for people to buy the education of their children a t a certain rate. I maintain, unlike the hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer), that that is consistent with the whole spirit of the Bill. One of the fundamental principles of this Bill is that we shall have not complete uniformity, but a diversity of choice, in our educational system. Another principle is that we shall link up all the schools in the country much more closely than before, to give 1848 an opportunity for pupils to go to the types of school which suit them best.
We found great gaps between the different types of school. For instance, the independent schools were not even inspected. The recommendations of the Committee presided over by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary were not even implemented. We have dealt with that in this Bill. There is no desire either on our part to avoid linking up the public schools with the general State system. We are awaiting the Report of the Fleming Committee, which I hope, like its brother the McNair Committee's Report, will see the light of day at a time not too far ahead. That will show how we are linking up the direct-grant schools with the maintained schools. The only difference between myself and hon. Members opposite is that I do not desire to make one uniform type of school for the whole country.
§ Mr. Wilmot
It would help us very much if we had some idea how many direct-grant schools there, would be, and how many pupils they would have between them.
§ Mr. Butler
That is my next point. If the picture is to be filled in for hon. Members, all they have to accept is the principle of diverse types of school. You cannot tell which type of school produces the best type of pupil. We have church schools and we have direct-grant schools. We have different types of schools. In order to satisfy the aspirations of hon. Members opposite, it is desirable that pupils should be able to pass from one type of school to another, that they should have some assurance that any schools which are to be given the option shall not all pass on to the direct-grant list, thereby overweighting the balance, and some assurance as to the way local authorities and others can pass their pupils into the schools. My desire is that there shall be a direct-grant list, and that schools entering this list shall fulfil certain definite conditions, which will be laid down in due course, directly we receive the Report, to which I have referred. We also desire that pupils at present catered for by local authorities shall have the opportunity of passing to direct-grant schools. I cannot do better than remind hon. Members of the words which I used on the Second Reading:At the same time, these schools"—1849 the direct-grant schools—as others in the secondary sphere, must be accessible to all, whatever their financial circumstances. Further, it is essential that the local education authority, in planning the education for its area, should be able to count on places in these schools to the extent required to supplement the provision in the maintained schools. This is particularly the case where the direct-grant school forms the greater part of the provision."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th January, 1944; cols. 223–4, Vol. 396.]It must be realised that in some cities the direct-grant schools form the major part of the provision. We see the picture forming that all the schools in this country of varied and diverse types are gradually Brought closer together by the opportunities given for pupils of different types to pass from one to another, that there are opportunities of accessibility in the direct-grant list which were not given before and that we have in the direct-grant schools something, preferably not entirely local, which meets a need in our education system. We gradually see a linking-up in the whole school system of the country in a way which did not exist before.
The only satisfaction which I cannot give to hon. Members opposite, if they accept this principle that pupils shall be able to pass to direct grant schools, if the authority in their area considers that it is desirable, is that I cannot say what are the exact details of the picture, because I am not yet in possession of all the information which will enable me to frame that picture. If I give an assurance to the House that it will be my desire in my official responsibilities to complete the work which I have tried to put into this Bill by drawing a complete picture of secondary education during the course of this summer, I think that will show that there is nothing particularly sinister in the way the Bill has been drawn, and that I am only asking the House to accept the view that, in itself, it is not immoral to pay for the education of your children, and that it is wise also to accompany that provision with another that children should be able to pass to other schools. But I will say that never has English schooling been brought more closely together in a compact whole, and I hope that never, from this day onwards, shall we try to make all our schools the same.
§ Mr. Lipson
May I ask the Minister two questions? When a school receiving a direct grant is told by a local educa- 1850 tion authority to provide free places for other children, are the governors compelled to provide those places? My second question concerns the direct grant list. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean the existing list, or is he proposing to revise the existing list and bring in other schools, and will it be possible for schools at present maintained to apply to become direct grant schools, and, if so, would that request be granted?
§ Mr. Butler
With the permission of the House, I will reply to the hon. Member. I would refer him to the White Paper on the Principles of Government in Maintained Secondary Schools, which refers to the question of the admission of pupils to secondary schools. Subject to consideration of the detailed circumstances of the direct grant school, these general principles will help us very much in considering this matter. On the subject of the direct grant list, the only thing I can add is that, subject to the schools fulfilling the conditions, they will be able to opt in those circumstances.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Sir R. Wells
I beg to move, in page 49, line 2, to leave out "auxiliary."
Might I ask whether the House might also consider the two following Amendments:In page 49, line 2, after the second school, "insert" except to the extent of any profit derived from the letting thereof";In page 49, line 2, after the second "school," insert "not conducted for private profit.which are all on the same matter?
§ Sir R. Wells
The object of the Amendments is to relieve of rates schools which do not make a profit. I have been connected with direct grant schools for very many years, and I would like to tell hoe. Members opposite that we have provided a very large number of free places, and pupils have passed through our schools and gone on to universities for many years past. What we fear in our schools, in this change that is taking place in general free secondary education, is that the standard of education will fall because you cannot bring all the free secondary schools up to the same level as direct 1851 grant-aided schools. Gradually, they may arrive at the same level, and when that time arrives parents of pupils will have no need to pay fees at all, because they will be satisfied with the schools. This Amendment applies to schools that do not make a profit, and I would say also that it is our desire that we should keep the fees of these schools as law as possible in order to give the opportunities to parents that are available at the present time. As is generally known, expenses are going up every year, both general expenses and teachers' salaries, which have advanced very considerably, and relieving these schools of rates is going to help a great deal.
Over a long term of years, we have saved the rates of the county many thousands of pounds each year, and it is time, I think, that they should realise this fact and help us now by relieving us of these rates. We have also saved the general taxes. I believe that in an ordinary secondary county school, the cost of a pupil is something like £20 a year to the local authority. In a direct grant school, with which I am connected, the cost is, I believe, about half, so that there is a general advantage to the local education authorities to keep these schools going.
§ Sir J. Mellor
I beg to second the Amendment, which is for the benefit of course, of the direct grant schools and the independent schools. As these schools provide education which, if they did not exist, would have to be provided by maintained schools, I cannot see why these schools should not equally benefit by exemption from rates together with the maintained schools. The Parliamentary Secretary, during the Debate on a somewhat similar Amendment during the Committee stage of the Bill, said:These schools are allowed to charge fees but are left with the obligation to pay rates.I really cannot see the logical sequence in the proposition that if schools are allowed to charge fees they should therefore be obliged to pay rates. After all, it is the parents who pay the fees and, when, you take it in the ultimate result, it is the parents who pay the rates, whether directly to the local authority or whether indirectly through the school being rated, having to pay higher fees than they would otherwise have to pay. During that same discussion the Parlia- 1852 mentary Secretary did, in fact, say that he would give consideration to a proposal put to him that, at least, a direct grant or independent school might be relieved of some part of its rate, the degree of exemption to be related to the extent to which local pupils attended the school. That seems to be a logical proposal, and I should like to know whether the Parliamentary Secretary has considered, as he indicated he would, and, if so, whether he has been able to view that proposal more favourably. I prefer to go further and argue the more general case. I think that there should be a uniform exemption from rates for all schools, not conducted for purposes of private profit, far the simple reason that these direct grant or independent schools provide education which, if they did not exist, would have to be provided by the maintained schools.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I should like to put in one short footnote in support of the hon. Members who have put forward this Amendment. If I fall into any inaccuracy, I apologise for not knowing the Bill so well now as on the Committee stage, but I hope I am putting the point fairly. The schools with which this Amendment is concerned at the present moment find a benefaction to be a positive burden. When a rich old boy gives a swimming-pool, or a gymnasium, or in some other way the premises are improved, the effect is that their rateable value increases, whereas, for the other schools, the rates do not matter either way because the thing is purely a book-keeping transaction. It follows, therefore, that if this Amendment is not accepted, there will be a real handicap to the kind of school which most of us encourage to improve their premises, because if it does so it thereby increases its annual expenses. I hope that my right hon. Friend or his deputy may be able to consider this Amendment.
§ Mr. Messer
I want to oppose the Amendment for exactly the same reasons that I supported the previous Amendment. There may be a private school and it is possible that it is not being run at a profit. Why should people who want to pay for their children be relieved of rates? Public money is spent on these services, and if parents do not like their children to go to schools for which rates are being paid, they should be prepared to pay for the establishments which they support.
§ Mr. Ede
The words of the Amendment, with the consequential Amendment later, go far beyond the argument that has been adduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Sir R. Wells) and my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor). The effect of these two Amendments, if carried, would be to relieve every county school of rates, as well as auxiliary and direct grant schools. County schools are not carried on for private profit. The effect would he that every school, except the independent school, would be exempt from rates. I do not believe that that was what my hon. Friends intended to do, but that would be the effect of carrying these two Amendments. With regard to the point put by the hon. Member the Senior Burgess of Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), it is one of the faults of our rating system that the more you improve your premises the more heavily you are rated. When I had the pleasure of sitting on the other side of the House with less responsibility, I occasionally attacked the present rating system from that point of view, but I cannot recall that I ever received any great support from the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Nor can I recall the efforts, but I am sure that, if I were here at that time, I was always opposed to the present rating system.
§ Mr. Ede
I am aware that my remarks do not excite as much interest in the House as those of my hon, Friend but, having hidden my light under a bushel, I can assure him that it was always burning on this particular matter. The difficulty with regard to the matter is that when we came to the re-arrangement system under the Bill we found ourselves faced with the anomaly that the old elementary schools called voluntary, the Church, Roman Catholic and Methodist schools, were exempt from rates and had been so for a good many years. The aided secondary schools, which were schools of a smaller type, had not been exempt from rates. When we made all education over 11 secondary—
§ Mr. Ede
We not only called it but we have made it secondary, at any rate, secondary in point of time. I hope that 1854 we are going to get rid of the idea that the grammar school product is a necessity in some ways superior to the product of the good technical school. A good many grammar schools are merely technical schools for the Civil Service. We are faced with the difficulty that either we have to make schools, which had not paid rates, pay them in future or relieve the old secondary school from the obligation to pay rates. We came to the conclusion that the proper thing to do was to exempt both these types of schools. I have no doubt that the rating law of this country will have to be amended at some time or other and the indirect points raised to-day ought to be dealt with under the rating law and not under this law. May I say to the hon. Member the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University that this is not merely a book-keeping transaction. The county ratepayer in future in the counties will maintain these schools, but the services that are rendered will be rendered by county district councils in the supply of drainage, of roads and of other essential services.
The existence of these schools in certain areas involves the local authority in expenses in the directions I have indicated and in other directions. It would not be possible within the limits of this Bill to deal satisfactorily with this problem. The effect of the Amendment would be not merely to relieve these voluntary schools from paying rates but the county schools, the old council schools, the old maintained secondary schools, and would in many cases effect a substantial reduction in the rateable value of certain districts which serve an area far larger than the districts in which the school is situated. Therefore, I regret that it is not possible to accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.