§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Pearson.]
§ 1.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary and to the Minister, who I presume will be here shortly, for arranging to be here today. They have inherited a very complicated situation and have had an important international conference thrown in at the same time, but I feel it is my bounden duty to raise the question of the release and training of teachers. I will do everything I can to facilitate the further Debate which my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) has put down on this Adjournment, but the House will forgive me if I first deal with the situation arising out of the slow release of teachers from the Forces and what I consider to be the absence of a real sense of urgency in producing the emergency trained teachers. Hon. Members may ask, "Why teachers?" My reply is that nobody who is concerned for the future of the country—and the future of the country is in the schools—can be happy about the present situation.
There are very large classes going up to 50, 60 and 70 pupils in the primary and infants' school. There is, I say without fear of contradiction, a deterioration in the standards among those arriving at the secondary stage. There have been six years of broken security in child life, and the strain on teachers, which has been so magnificently borne, particularly by aged men and women who have come back to help in the emergency, is now beginning to break them. Those who still maintain high hopes of the 1944 Act must be aware that even if all the teachers are released from the Forces by the end of 1946, and there are 3,500 teachers in the emergency colleges by 1947, as promised by the right hon. Lady last week, we shall still be short by thousands of the number of qualified teachers needed to put the Act into operation. There is a large body of opinion in the House, if only a different day had been chosen and hon. Members could have been assembled here in their multi- 1652 tudes, that there is not a sufficient sense of urgency in this matter. I refer not only to the teachers for primary and secondary schools, but to the teachers for nursery schools, the people who are to man the county colleges, youth leaders, and university staffs.
What is the present position? Last week I received a reply from the right hon. Lady the Minister of Education that there were four emergency training colleges in operation with 630 students. Yesterday there was a slight improvement. There were five emergency colleges with 830 students. I gather that next week there will be a sixth college opened which will bring the total up to 1,000 students. In answer to the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley (Colonel Wigg), the right hon. Lady said yesterday that there were 2,584 prospective students who had been notified that they could be taken in the colleges. That is probably out of the many thousands who have applied. The right hon. Lady went on to say that she hoped 20 colleges would be opened by the end of January. That is quite an impossible rate if we are to get the 1944 Act put into operation the year after next. If these training colleges were to be opened by next January, where are the fresh people coming from to fill the remaining colleges? We are faced with an emergency which, I think, implies that the Government do not yet realise the position. I understand the right hon. Lady's difficulties. She has just come into office. There was a period during the General Election when it was difficult to get any fresh administrative drive because of the changes in Ministers.
What is the position with regard to releases from the Forces? It is that about 1,000 out of the 10,000 in Class B have been released; that is to say, less than 5 per cent. of the teachers in the Forces have been released. This needs some explanation from the Service Ministers. I have consistently supported the Service education schemes, but 18 months ago I pointed out to my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden and the then Secretary of State for Air that the time would come when there would be a conflict between teachers who were to teach in the Services and teachers who would be wanted under the release schemes. I 1653 doubt very much whether the present system can continue. How can the Parliamentary Secretary justify men in low release groups still being sent to India? How can he justify a secondary schoolmaster being sent this week to the meteorological branch of the R.A.F. in Iceland? This seems to show a lack of co-ordination between the Services, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Education.
In everything I say I want to strengthen the arm of the Ministry of Education against the Service Departments. The House should say unanimously that it is tired of this delay and should demand that the Services ransack their Departments and release teachers, of whom they have 25,000 or thereabouts, 11,000 being in the R.A.F. Less than 5 per cent, of those teachers are back in the schools. I would not mind so much if I were certain that the educational and vocational schemes in the Army and R.A.F. were going full swing, but I have recently seen something of what is happening in Germany, and although I have the greatest respect for what the Army are doing in some spheres, I think it can be proved that the six hours a week is by no means in operation in the Services either there or here.
Can we be told how many teachers in the Services are now engaged in vital work, how many are engaged in Service education, and how many are doing other work? What guarantee is there that the 10,000 under Class B releases will be out before next summer? What propaganda is being made to attract potential teachers in the Services? Why should not some of them undergo part training while still in Germany? How many of the 830 students in emergency colleges now are ex-Service men? When I went to Alnwick Castle and saw the excellent scheme in operation there, the students were mainly releases from the Civil Defence Services and people from civil life. How many men from the Services are in the emergency training colleges at the moment? Yesterday I was surprised to hear the right hon. Lady say that a great concession had been made. I was staggered, because I thought the concession had already been made, but I am relieved that it has come now. This is the concession:Now it has been agreed that in view of the shortage of teachers, special arrangements shall be made for the early release 1654 of a number of men whose courses at university training departments or training colleges were interrupted by military service."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1945; Vol. 415, c. 1427.]I should have thought they were the very people who would have been released straight away. While on that question, will the Parliamentary Secretary inform us whether a person of that sort who was directed to work in a vital industry will be released? I have had letters bearing on that point and I would like to have an answer to it. I would like to quote one of the many letters I have received. The writer says that he has been notified by the Ministry of Education three times that he has been identified. That is the way the process operates. The numbers have been sent in by the authorities to the Services, and the Services have to pick out the teachers—identify them. By what method do the Services identify the teachers? The writer of the letter says:They reported the statement in two other letters. I am beginning to despair of ever being freed until my age group 28 is reached, which may well be in the next year.This man has been in the Army for five years. He concludes his letter:I am running my head against brick walls all the time.I do not want to go further into that because I want to put a number of questions, which perhaps my hon. Friend could answer.
I just want to make a constructive suggestion. The time has come to overhaul the whole machinery of this emergency College Training Scheme. I do not like to make criticisms but I think the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden will perhaps agree with me that the present machinery can never work. The Ministry of Education was never constructed to do the executive work. The Ministry of Education suggests, finances, encourages and so forth; the only thing it operates or runs is the Royal College of Art in South Kensington, and it has a very active body to do that. My suggestion is that this work should now be handed over, as far as its executive operation is concerned, to the local education authorities. My hon. Friend has had experience both in a county and in a borough, and I would like to know whether he would agree that this suggestion is a workable one. The Ministry of Education, unlike the 1655 Ministry of Labour, with its divisional and regional offices, cannot itself run a big Department. The consequence is that there is a bottleneck, and that bottleneck, as far as I can make out, is here in London. The main, concrete part of it is the buildings. Yesterday the right hon. Lady said she had power to requisition. Why has it, then, taken so long to get the buildings? The men are there waiting, to the tune of 2,500. I do not know whether my hon. Friend is aware that one whole potential staff so released for a training college a year ago has been hanging about for a college, which was going to be in Sheffield. Therefore, the promise originally made that we should keep pace with buildings, staff and men coming out of the Forces has not operated at all.
I suggest that there should be set up an emergency directorate, with a distinguished chairman who has educational experience and administrative drive. If my friend Philip Morris, who has done such a good job with Army education, had not accepted the Vice-Chancellorship of Bristol University, I would suggest that such a man might well have been appointed. I am thinking of somebody rather outside the normal run of the Civil Service, who will bring to the Department, which, if we are going to get through and get the Act implemented, will require to have, a sense of the importance and urgency of its task. On Monday of this week I was at a most extraordinary and interesting experiment. At Shriven-ham, in Wiltshire, I saw 4,500 Americans at a college, which had been improvised in one month, taking a two months' pre-graduate course before they go home. I saw the kitchens of this place turned into physics and chemical laboratories. If the building is lost to the Americans and, in order that the Act shall be applied, has to be given up on 6th December, why should not the Minister of Education step in? Here, they are training not 830 but 4,500, with 250 professors of the highest qualifications that America could provide.
I do not want to stand here today and make merely destructive criticism. I put forward, with all the earnestness I can command, this practical suggestion, that my hon. Friend considers the setting up of this emergency directorate with an outside chairman, that the responsibility 1656 for executive work be allocated to local education authorities, and that, for the considering of applications and the staffing, the central directorate shall be responsible. These people in local education committees, as my hon. Friend knows, have years of experience in appointing staffs. That experience does not reside with the Ministry of Education in London, and there are a whole series of ordinary simple technical jobs which local education committees do every day of the week. Therefore, I warmly commend this suggestion to him, with a little bit of imagination, too. I say that, if the Americans could improvise a college of that size in a month—admittedly it was favourably disposed, as it was, I believe, going to be a sort of Sandhurst, and there are certain buildings there—why cannot we get 3,000 or 4,000 prospective teachers in course of training within the next three or four months? I believe there will be strong backing in this House and in the country, if the right hon. Lady the Minister will take this matter urgently in hand.
I want to say a word on the subject which my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden is going to raise, and that is, the question of direct grant schools. I do not wholly agree with him, and, therefore, cannot state his case. I have said in this House before that I think the position is very largely a grammar school problem. The grammar schools of this country are all in the process of deterioration. I was given some avuncular advice by the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) a few weeks ago. I could have brought scores of letters today to prove that his advice was unnecessary and wrong, but I want to ask my hon. Friend one or two questions about the direct grant schools. The right hon. Lady the other evening said that she was going to preserve schools "with very old traditions, with very high standards in teaching technique and various other claims for special consideration." I want to know, between that date and now, which of the 41 schools have obtained direct grant and on what basis. I have analysed very carefully the schools put on a grant basis and I cannot see what principles are in operation. Some 52 per cent. are denominational and a large number are Catholic girls schools. At the end of her remarks I made an intervention and the right hon. Lady said 1657 that she might forbid the schools to go independent. I would like to quote her own words:It still means they are under consideration"—those 16 which are going independent—because they cannot just go independent because they say they will."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th October, 1945; Vol. 414, c. 1087.]I would like to know whether the right hon. Lady has that power and whether, in exercising the functions of a Charity Commissioner, she is not obliged to act in a judicial capacity. At any rate, I was rather surprised to hear that threat. It came at the end of her speech and we all were tired and perhaps it was not meant, but I would like to know whether it is going to be exercised in fact. What has happened? Very speedily 41 schools have been put on the list, according to the figures given to the House, and, as far as I can see, possibly three have been rejected or gone independent. Could the hon. Gentleman in the absence of the Minister give the exact schools or an idea of the principle that was applied to Ipswich, Archbishop Holgate School and Leeds Grammar School? Can he tell me what has happened in one concrete case? I want to finish as I know that hon. Members on both sides wish to speak. I refer to King Edward VII School at Lytham-St.-Anne's. I put these facts before the hon. Gentleman. First of all, the governors were unanimous—this may be one of the schools which has been accepted—secondly, the L.E.A. supported it, and thirdly, the parents, by 20 to one, 141 to seven, were in favour of it. There is no secondary school in the borough and—this is very astonishing—not 50 of those qualified under the county examination for grammar schools passed, and yet a higher percentage passed the school certificate. This emphasises what I have already mentioned, that there is deterioration going on in the primary schools of the country due to the failure to get teachers back from the Forces. As we are going on to the question of direct grant schools, perhaps we can obtain the exact policy of the Government as a result of this Debate.
I myself am not biased about the direct grant problem. I do not think that it is the real issue. In the interim report which was given to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron 1658 Walden, a very interesting suggestion was made about the direct grant schools. That was signed in addition to other people by Mr. Harold Day, Mr. G. D. H. Cole and Mr. Penlington. If I cannot wholly accept what is happening with regard to direct grant schools, it is because of what is happening already in the grammar schools. If we are to have the direct grant schools with very great traditions and high scholarship—as my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffyd) has pointed out, 49 per cent. of the Fellows of Oxford and Cambridge have come from poor boys and girls who entered the grammar schools list on the same level as these schools—we must ask for some guarantees. As I say, at the present moment there is this deterioration going on, and, before I sit down, I want to quote one or two cases which have come to my notice since the advice given by the hon. Member for Cheltenham. This is from Liverpool, an assistant master who says:We have come very near to despair.This is from Southampton:The first freedom is now threatened with the abolition of this type of school.From Hertfordshire:The present policy is likely to cause a social cleavage which is wholly bad.The fourth letter is from Derbyshire; it was sent to the Minister and passed onto me. They are affected by the Burnham Scale, they are affected by governing bodies, a higher education sub-committee for five or six schools, sometimes primary and secondary combined, and thirdly, limitations in appointing teachers, fixing holidays and purchasing material, and fourthly, by the new Register, which is quite inapplicable to secondary school life.
The fifth letter comes from Surrey, from a headmistress of 20 years' experience, and she points out the same things in a long letter which has come in this morning. She says:There is a sense of frustration among teachers.This letter is from Somerset:The aim of the grammar school was to rival the standard of the Independent school without imitating their exclusiveness; they were as democratic institutions as could be found anywhere.And lastly comes this letter, from Buckinghamshire, which talks of a deplorable 1659 situation, and this letter from Essex. This is- a school of 450 girls:We have applied for two posts to train the girls who are going in for the higher certificate and the university standard. We only had two applications, and one was from a non-graduate.Unless the Minister can give us some satisfaction that the present implementation of the Act—for that is really what it is—is going to be changed, I cannot support the abolition of direct grant status. The Minister will have to explain today on what principle schools are being accepted. I want to make it clear, things having got as far as they are, that I am not opposed to the view of release of fees, now that the fees have gone in the other cases. It is up to the Minister of Education to explain what the Ministry's policy is towards the grammar schools of England.
§ 1.45 p.m.
§ Mrs. Nichol (Bradford, North)
I am glad to have the opportunity of making my first speech to this House, because, if I do not make it soon, I shall soon be the only hon. Member left who has still to make a maiden speech. I have chosen this opportunity because I want to speak about my concern for the future of the grammar schools. I may be forgiven for making reference to my own constituency. I represent a constituency which has a very enviable reputation in the matter of education. It must be 40 years since that noble woman Margaret Macmillan started her experiments in nursery school education in Bradford, and after them came the special schools, schools for the myopic, schools for the blind and open-air classes. All these were experimental, and I am not aware that they had been the subject of experiments until Margaret Macmillan started her drive for special schools.
In 1919, Bradford undertook something which was at that time almost revolutionary—free secondary education—and the results were as good as those who promoted it expected them to be. It fulfilled the highest hopes of those educationists who believed that free secondary education was the right policy for Bradford, and, indeed, for the rest of the country. That position obtained until 1931, when the economy axe came down and destroyed not only that, but a good 1660 many other fine things in our national life. During this period of free secondary education in Bradford, remarkable things happened for the children who were enabled to have such fine opportunities. They were given chances which, up to then, had only been dreamed of, and, every year, valuable State scholarships were awarded to the children of the poorer paid wage-earners, and, every year, scholarships taking them to the older universities, as well as to other universities, were awarded to children. The professions—teaching, architecture, the Church, the law—and even the wool trade all claimed the well-educated children.
Now, we are told that we are entering upon a new era when there is to be free secondary education for all, that the experiment that was made in Bradford is to be extended and that we are to have full, free secondary education. We thought that the new Act would give us free secondary education, but I want to submit that what we have got is not secondary education, in the sense in which it was understood at the times to which I have been referring—the days of the Bradford experiment. It is not secondary education of that quality, but something much less good. When this Bill was debated, those who followed it carefully were convinced that something good, fine and splendid would come at last for the children of Britain. It has been a tremendous disappointment to find, as the Act is now taking shape and the Regulations are being applied, that something much less good is coming out of it.
I consider that the people have been fooled. They expected the kind of secondary education with which they have always been familiar, but now there have been clamped down—and I think "clamped down" is the right term—on all the State schools in this country a set of restrictions and degradations which have made of this Act the apotheosis of mediocrity, because these restrictions have deprived the grammar schools, which have done such excellent work, of that freedom, of that variety and of the chances to experiment which have made them so good in the past. We have now got what is called a grammar school dispute. I notice that some of my hon. Friends are a little impatient of the 1661 things I am saying. I think they are impatient with the idea that there is a grammar school dispute, but it is not the slightest use shutting our eyes to it. It is there, and one can read in "The Times Educational Supplement" week after week letters from fine educationists, men and women with years of experience in our secondary schools and grammar schools, and who helped to build them up, who are only too acutely aware of what is happening under these new restrictive Regulations.
Let me go back a moment. What is the purpose behind these Regulations? I think the impatience of hon. Members behind me may be because they do not fully appreciate the purpose of the Regulations. What we have got now is class education of a very bad type, and I would like to give the House some reasons why I think it is class education. It was discovered in the early part of the war that there were serious gaps in our educational system. It was discovered, for instance, that there was a dearth of young people who could work with precision tools or who could read Government instructions understandingly. In short, there was a scarcity of people who had accurate English and good mathematics. The same problem confronted the Royal Air Force and, with commendable foresight, they created the A.T.C. Under the attractive guise of calculation and navigation, they managed to bring up ex-elementary school boys of 15 plus to something approaching the grammar school fourth form boy.
About four years ago, I read a pamphlet issued by Conservative Party headquarters, which was purely on education, and the purport of which was—I am not quoting, but merely giving my impression of it—that the elementary schools were not good enough for technical industry and that the grammar schools were producing a type which was too academic. I may have a suspicious mind, but I took that to mean that, in the opinion of some people, there was not a sufficient supply of those who would enter industry but there was too much competition for the higher professional posts, and some of the products of our public schools were having to sell motor cars or go farming in the wide open spaces. Something clearly had to be done about it, and the new Education Act was the solution, which was grasped at very willingly.
1662 It is in the working out of this Act, far more than the Act itself, where our perturbation comes in. I can only say to the Minister of Education, and I am not offering destructive criticism, that, when the people of this country sent this Government to power, they did not send a Government that was to widen the gulf between the "haves" and the "have-nots" and the privileged and the unprivileged. They sent a Government to power that would approach this question of education in a Socialist way, that would narrow the gulf and not widen it. The Regulations, as they are now being worked out, have widened it until the gulf is wider than ever it has been before. Direct grant schools, to my mind, are not only no solution, but are an aggravation of the problem. I want to see the Government tackling this problem boldly.
I consider that the right hon. Lady the Minister of Education has an opportunity to turn what, after all, is a Conservative Education Act into something that will be very much better. We must not forget that, although the Bill was brought in under the Coalition Government, that Government had an overwhelming Conservative majority. I am never one to under-estimate the ability of my opponents, and I have no reason to underestimate the ability of the Minister of Education in the last Government, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler). The right hon. Lady has the chance to make this Act, which was brought in under those circumstances, into something fine and splendid which will probably make her name remembered in the annals of English education.
§ 1.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
Before I make my comments, I would like to express, what I am sure is the feeling of all hon. Members in all parts of the House, our congratulations to the hon. Lady the Member for North Bradford (Mrs. Nichol) on the speech she has just made. One could not listen to it without feeling that it was a speech of deep sincerity on a subject to which she had given much thought. At times, perhaps she seemed disturbed that her words had not received the approval of hon. Members on her side of the House, but I would remind her that it is no bad thing, on occasion, to be in disagreement with 1663 one's own party. We enjoyed the hon. Lady's speech, and we hope very soon we shall have the opportunity of hearing her again, either on this or any other subject.
I make no apology for following the example of the hon. Lady and speaking about my own constituency and the position there, as she has spoken about the position in her constituency. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education in the last Government will speak on the wider national aspect, but I have some points about the local position which I wish to put to the Under-Secretary, and I would be grateful for any reply that he can give me. What I wish to raise is the position of the direct grant schools, and, in particular, I want to know, with my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Lindsay), to whom we are obliged for raising this subject, on what principle schools are being selected to be direct grant schools. At the moment, we do not know what that principle is. If I remember rightly, the right hon. Lady made a speech about schools with long traditions. I am not now arguing whether there should be direct grant schools or not, but I am asking, if there are to be some, on what basis are these schools being selected?
The right hon. Lady then talked about the tradition, long standing and exceptional reputation of some of these schools which will be selected, but I submit to the hon. Gentleman that if that is a criterion, we have a school at Warwick which answers to every one of those to a quite exceptional extent. I am going to say one or two things about that school and why I do not understand the principles on which the Minister intends to proceed. The Government are perfectly entitled to come down here and say, "This is our decision; this is the principle we intend to apply about putting schools on this list." We can agree or disagree, we may vote against it, but at least there will be a principle upon which we are proceeding. I have no idea, and I do not think any hon. Member has the slightest idea, on what principle the Government are proceeding. All I know is that a number of schools have been approved for no apparent reason. I also observe that 1664 a considerable number of schools which have been approved are Roman Catholic schools. I certainly do not want to raise issues of religious prejudice in this House, but I am entitled to ask why, apparently, a large number of these schools are Roman Catholic schools in a country where most of us are still Protestants. I do not understand why, and unless the right hon. Lady will give us the principle upon which she is proceeding, then I assert that misunderstanding and irritation are bound to continue.
Now just a word or two about our particular local circumstances, the school at Warwick. There are others on similar lines in this country. At Warwick at present a proportion of roughly about two-thirds of the boys are drawn from the locality and about one-third not only from other parts of the country but from other parts of the Empire. I should have thought that that kind of mixture bf boys, at that age, was very valuable in our educational system. I should have thought it was something we wanted not only to preserve but to develop and to bring about in other schools. I believe that the head boy of the school last term was an Indian, and there are numbers of them from all over the Empire. I am told that if we cannot be put on this list, we shall lose this one-third of boys who come in from outside, from the Colonies and elsewhere, and as a result the school will inevitably suffer and the standard of masters and the standard of teaching will go down. I have received no answer to that. It seems to me to be only too evident, and so I ask again on what principle are we not placed on the list?
I may be told, "Oh, but Warwick has been off the list since 1926." That is quite true. The local education authorities made the suggestion, and we agreed, but the understanding was that, when the Act was passed, all schools should be examined to see whether or not they were worthy to be put on the list. I want to know, if we are not worthy, why are we not worthy, and how are these other schools that have been put on the list more worthy than we are at Warwick? If we cannot have some explanation of this, I agree with my hon. Friends below the Gangway that we must press again to know [Laughter.] I do not know what the hon. Gentleman finds to laugh at—
§ Mr. Cove (Aberavon)
I thought it was so funny to hear the ex-Foreign Secretary making a constituency speech.
§ Mr. Eden
I think that is an extremely offensive remark. I have just as much right to represent my constituency as other hon. Members, and, if I may say so, I have been doing so longer than the hon. Gentleman. If my constituents have suffered in the past from the fact that f have been Foreign Secretary, I hope the hon. Gentleman will suffer now, because I am representing Warwick. I happen to know a good deal about this school, and I feel strongly on the subject, and as long as we have freedom of discussion I propose to express my opinion. Let us come back, after that slight interruption, to the position of this school. What I am submitting to the hon. Gentleman is this: Here is a school in which we refuse annually about two-thirds of those wishing to come by way of paying fees. We refuse because we allocate something over 25 per cent. to the free places. I should have thought that should be encouraged so that boys from Rhodesia, India and elsewhere can mix with boys from Warwick and Coventry and so forth. I know of cases where people have come to live in the district in order that their boys may go to the school. Surely that is a national asset? I am not speaking for Warwick only, much as I like it, but for what is a national interest, because such schools as Warwick serve the national interest. I must ask the Government to tell us why it is that this list is being dealt with in this way, and on what principle?
It is difficult for anyone who does not claim to be an expert in these matters to judge what the effect will be on these schools if they are not placed on the list. Some of them will no doubt become private schools, if they can afford it. We cannot, and I do not think that is desirable, but others will, so I am informed, and those who do not will inevitably as I said just now, find that the standard of their teachers is lower. It may be wrongly—I am not arguing the merits of it—but the parents of these boys from overseas who now send their children to a school like Warwick to mix with our local boys may no longer want to do so. It may be said that that is wrong, but I am told that will happen, and I do not know what the Minister will say and what his advice is in that respect.
1666 In conclusion, I should have thought that the situation at Warwick and at many other schools in the country, where for 900 years we have gone on giving this service, and good service was desirable—I do not know whether it is a good or bad thing but amongst the ex-boys of the school were the Poet Laureate and four Governors of West African and other colonies. We have given what is, for a small school, great service to the nation and to the Empire. [Interruption.] What joke does the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) once again find in that? Why could not a small school have given great service? What is there funny about it? Boys from Warwick, who have come from the poorest homes in the district, have given great service. I beg the hon. Gentleman and the Government to look at this matter again and to approach it on the broadest national basis. I wish that other schools—independent or public schools—might follow what Warwick is doing in many respects. I think that should be the direction in which education should evolve, but if these schools are compelled either to be independent or to lower their present status, surely the gap between the private schools and the others will widen. That is just exactly what we all want to avoid. So I end by saying to the hon. Member, "Please tell us why you are doing this. Please tell us on what principle you are doing it, and give us the explanation to which we are entitled." I must tell the Government that if they do not feel able to do that, we shall have to ask for another occasion on which to probe the matter further.
§ 2.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Linstead (Putney)
I desire to add to the expressions of regret that have been submitted this afternoon from both sides of the House at the decision which was announced so casually a few days ago to modify the policy on which the direct grants have been made. I want to express regret not only at the decision, but also at the manner in which that decision has been reached and has been communicated to the schools. I do not know whether there is any misunderstanding as to what are the schools which are affected. They are not independent public schools. They are some 230 of the old grammar schools of this country which have been having a grant, direct from the Ministry of Education, of £8 or £9 per annum per head. It is that 1667 grant which, without any notice or consultations with the schools, has suddenly been cutoff. These schools are not in any sense schools for the children of parents who can afford to dip deeply into their pockets. That is a point which needs to be emphasised. A quarter of the places are free for competitive examination. Another quarter are at the disposal of the local education authority to pay for the pupils that fill them, and the remaining 50 per cent. are not filled because parents can afford to pay fees but as a result of examination.
§ Miss Bacon (Leeds, North-East)
Can the hon. Gentleman say whether in that 50 per cent. anyone can compete for a scholarship if his parents have not the money to pay?
§ Miss Bacon
No, the hon. Gentleman said that the remaining 50 per cent.—after 25 per cent. free places and 25 at the discretion of the local authority—were chosen according to scholarship. But could children enter for those scholarships, if their parents had not the money to pay for them to go to school?
§ Mr. Linstead
These schools are available for parents who cannot afford to pay entirely for the education of their children. They are schools where different classes of the community mix, and as such they are valuable in narrowing the gap which we all want to see narrowed in the educational field. They provide some of the best teachers in the country, and many give boarding facilities. The Minister herself, commenting on these schools, on 16th October, said:…these direct grant schools are far more open to the children of the homes with smaller incomes than ever they have been.Those are the schools from which the Minister is taking this grant. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said just now, some of these schools will go independent and the facilities they can offer to the poorer pupils will no longer be available. Others will become controlled in one form or another, and if they do that what will happen to their teachers? They will be attracted to the independent schools, because at the moment teachers are better paid in the direct grant schools than they 1668 are under the Burnham Scale. Also, the provision for boarding facilities will cease, and parents will have taken away from them part of their freedom of accepting responsibility for deciding where they will send their children. All these effects will flow from the Minister's decision, a retrograde and unprogressive decision.
So much for the decision the right hon. Lady has taken. Now for a word as to the manner in which that decision was announced both to the House and to the schools. I think it is fair to say that it was announced to the House in a most casual way. It was extracted only by a chance question during a Debate, when the right hon. Lady announced what was a very substantial departure from the previous policy of her Department. The decision was, apparently, arrived at without informing the schools or consulting them, or consulting the associations representing them and I suspect—although I do not know—without consulting the Advisory Councils set up under the 1944 Act, and probably also without regard to the development plans for each of the areas in which these schools are situated. No reasons have been given as to why the grant has been cut off, and there are no ascertainable standards by which the Minister's decision can be understood. In fact, records of 85 schools for whom the grant is to be continued have been most carefully examined in the last few days, and the result has been reported in these words:We are totally unable to find evidence of any consistent policy under which these grants are now being made.One is left with the impression, false though one can only assume it is, that the right hon. Lady has swept through the list of these direct grant schools rather as the Red Queen swept through the garden, crying, "Off with his head," whenever she saw anybody to whom she took exception. No Minister, least of all the Minister of Education, has any right to give the appearance of such capriciousness. The result of our having no understanding of the reasons in the Minister's mind will lead to grave uncertainty among the governing bodies of the schools which are still receiving the grants, because they will have no clear indication as to what will happen in a year's time. They are under a threat—and I think that is the right word—by reason of a statement which the right hon. Lady 1669 made, also on 16th October, when she said:…They have elected to go independent. It still means that they are under consideration, because they cannot just go independent because they say they will. Many of these have an endowment, and as I am Commissioner for Educational Charities I have to decide whether I will allow them…to go independent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th October, 1945; Vol. 414, c. 1086–7.]The hon. Member for the Combined England Universities (Mr. Lindsay) indicated that he doubted whether the right hon. Lady was in a position to make a categorical statement, as she was acting in a judicial capacity, and not, if I may say so, as the Red Queen, in coming to a decision of that kind. Nevertheless, I do not see how governing bodies of these schools can plan for the future with any certainty. The decision to refuse the grant means, in effect, to fine these schools thousands of pounds without giving them a chance to state their case. Even a criminal is given a chance to state his case, and the only crime that these schools have committed is that they have a centuries old tradition of fine teaching, which they are anxious to continue. Further, these schools, whether they are in receipt of direct grant or not—and the grant is, after all, only a technical method of finance—are pace makers in the education of this country. These schools are the pace-makers in education, and the world of education is going to be the poorer if they are brought down to the standard of the average, mediocre—if I may be allowed to use the word of the hon. Member for North Bradford (Mrs. Nichol)…
§ Mrs. Nichol
I used that word in an entirely different sense. I was referring to what I feared would be a standard of mediocrity, if certain restrictions and regulations were imposed under the Act.
§ Mr. Linstead
I do not think there is very much difference of opinion between the hon. Lady and myself, if the result of this discussion is to bring the schools into the class to which the hon. Lady has just applied that description. These schools are pace-makers, and it is the duty placed on the Minister by the Education Act, 1944:to promote the education of the people of England and Wales and the progressive development of institutions devoted to that purpose.1670 I say that the decision which the right hon. Lady is now making is not towards progressive development; but a retrograde decision in the field of education.
§ 2.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Morley (Southampton)
I would like to bring this discussion back to the point raised by the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay), when he opened this discussion, namely, the question of the supply and training of teachers. The Education Act, 1944, is now on the Statute Book, as a result of the energy and skill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. Butler); but it is one thing to put an Act on the Statute Book, and quite a different thing to put that Act into operation. The truth is that the Education Act, 1944, is by no means in operation at the present time. The great obstacle to putting that Act into operation is the lack of teachers. We have been promised that the school-leaving age is to be raised to 15, on 1st October, 1947. Therefore, the peak for teachers will come in September, 1948.
During the next three years, on the basis of the figures of pre-war wastage of 12,000 teachers a year, who left the profession on account of retirement, death or other causes, there will be a wastage of 36,000 teachers. In addition, there will be an abnormal wastage, estimated by the Ministry during the next three years, of 5,000 teachers, mainly owing to the women teachers who came into the schools during wartime, and rendered splendid service there, going back to their homes. That makes an additional wastage of 15,000 teachers. In three years' time, there will, therefore, be a wastage of 51,000 teachers, which will have to be made good. To make that wastage good, we have the teachers who will enter into the profession during the next three years through the training colleges and universities. They will number 22,000, leaving a deficit of 29,000. We' shall have 22,000 teachers returning from the Forces—because I assume demobilisation will be completed by 1948—but these 22,000 teachers only just fill the gaps in order to maintain the present service of education; and they will not enable any additional educational advance to be made at all. In April, 1948, we shall have the school-leaving age raised to 15, which means that there will be 390,000 addi- 1671 tional children in the schools, needing the services of 13,000 additional teachers.
In addition to that, serious attention must be given to the reduction of the present large size of classes. The requirement which the Ministry have laid down is that the maximum size of a class of senior children is to be 30, and, of juniors, 40. As a matter of fact at present there are hundreds and hundreds of classes of 40 and 50 children, and over. It is a fact that in some of the large urban areas, like Birmingham and Sheffield, a large proportion of the classes, both of senior and junior children, have 50 or more on the roll. It is necessary to reduce the size of classes to a reasonable level, and unless this is done in three years' time, you will be placing a heavy burden on the teachers of this country, who have already borne a very great burden during the last few years by reason of their loyalty in the national cause. Taking all these circumstances into consideration, and bearing in mind that we shall want teachers for nursery schools and the county colleges, that means that, in the next few years, we shall have to find at least 30,000 teachers in our schools. These additional teachers cannot come, obviously, through the normal channels of entry, which in the next three years will supply only 22,000 teachers, and they must come, in the main, through the emergency training colleges.
The business of the Minister at present is to so expand the provision of emergency training colleges so as to secure, in the first year from now, that there shall be 150 emergency training colleges, accommodating 200 students each, so that 30,000 teachers will be available in three years' time. Unless this is done, there will be no hope of implementing the Education Act as originally planned. We feel that not sufficient progress is being made in this direction by the Ministry at present. We are told that one of the bottlenecks is the lack of buildings. I agree with the suggestion of the hon. Member for the English Universities that an ad hoc committee should be appointed for the purpose of securing a sufficient supply of buildings to be used as emergency training colleges. There are many buildings now unused—American army camps and American Red Cross hostels, all adequately furnished, some luxuriously furnished, which might be used for that 1672 purpose. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Education if it is necessary that all these emergency students should be trained in residential colleges. We know that certain virtues are said to attach to residence in college, but surely the ex-Servicemen who will be coming as students have experienced to the full the social benefits of segregation and would, perhaps, prefer a slight degree of isolation in their training. Would it not be possible for many of these emergency students to be attached to existing day colleges. It should not be necessary to find residential buildings for all of them.
May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he is satisfied that the members of the Forces have sufficient knowledge of this emergency training scheme? I have received many letters from members of the Forces saying that they have not heard anything at all about the emergency training scheme. May I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that it might be possible to have advertisements of this emergency training scheme inserted in the national daily Press, in the same way as there are advertisements, pointing out the attractions of other professions, where additional numbers are necessary. I feel, and most people who were teachers before entering this House, I think, must also feel, that the whole crux of this matter is the speeding up of the emergency training scheme. We hope, and I say this with all respect and every deference, that the Minister and the permanent officials will regard the expediting of the emergency training scheme for teachers as the chief business to which they must turn their attention during the next nine or 10 months. This matter will not be solved by administrative cynicism or indifference. I ask the Minister to do her level best, to use her well-known courage and great abilities to expedite the emergency scheme of training so as to provide the teachers, who will be absolutely necessary in a few years time if we are to implement the Education Act, 1944.
§ 2.31 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Byers (Dorset, Northern)
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity of speaking in this Debate. Some hon. Members may recall that I gave notice that I would raise this question of direct grants on the Adjournment some time last week. I was most gratified to discover the amount of support I received 1673 from Members in all quarters of the House. I speak as a Liberal, and I would make an earnest plea to the Parliamentary Secretary to appreciate that this is no question of social snobbery or class prejudice. I feel most sincerely about that. If that is not admitted, and if we insist on bringing social snobbery and class prejudice into this matter, we shall bring this question down into the narrow confines of party politics, to the detriment of the children of this country, who deserve Better treatment. The Minister will agree with me that the ultimate aim is a truly progressive education, open to all children in this country, based upon their ability and irrespective of their financial means. It is from that angle I want to approach it, and I hope Members on the other side of the House will have an open mind.
I say that because I believe that the only disagreement, and there is room for disagreement and persuasion on both sides, comes on the methods of achieving that object. I am afraid that if there is a heavy-handed restrictive use of the direct grant list, in other words if direct grants are refused, something which is valuable in our educational system will undoubtedly be destroyed. I am certain of that, and I think the case has been well made by other hon. Members, that the grammar, or direct grant, school can play a valuable part in the national education of this country. The real argument against the grammar school in the past was not that it did not provide a good education, but that it was not available to a lot of people unless they had a certain amount of money. Personally I abhor social and class distinctions, either of the Right or of the Left, but the fact that grammar schools have not been open to every child, based on ability, is no argument for closing them. It is an argument for making them available to many more people. That is why I ask hon. Members opposite to have an open mind on this problem.
I suggest that the argument in favour of being generous about these direct grants falls logically into the following process of thought. Do they provide a good education? I think that Members in all quarters of the House will agree that many of them provide something which is very valuable. We have heard of the numbers of people from these schools who 1674 have won scholarships to Oxford and Cambridge. Many of my friends owe their having been to Oxford and Cambridge to the fact that they were educated at places like Bradford and Manchester, and got a really good education. Again—it may be said that this is a minor matter—they have turned out many young men who have been able to go through the ordinary process of selection in the Services and achieve commissions fairly quickly. Personally, I am very interested in Shaftesbury Grammar School, because Shaftesbury is in my constituency. The best tribute that can be paid to the type of education it gives is the fact that you will find in it the sons of teachers who are teaching in secondary schools, members of the N.U.T. Their sons go to places like Shaftesbury. I say that because it proves that it does give a very fine type of education.
Will those schools provide such a good education if they are controlled? I do not believe that at the present time and in the present circumstances they can continue to give the type of education they have been giving, if they are now controlled. One of the reasons why they have a good type of education is what was referred to in the Fleming Report as the non-local character of the school. That is a vital thing—[An Hon. Member: "Some of them."] I am at the moment referring to the type of school like Shaftesbury. I do not want to generalise, and so fog the issue. In the case of schools like Shaftesbury, and, I believe, Warwick and others, one gets the non-local character of the school, which is of prime importance. That is based very largely on the fact that there are facilities for boarders. Shaftesbury has boys not only from the surrounding districts but boys from all over Dorset and all over England. That is a valuable thing. They all come together and educate one another.
The boarding side was due to the initiative of successive head masters. I do not say it is right or wrong, but that is how it happened. There are about 120 boarders out of 240 pupils. If the school is controlled the boarding element will depend upon the willingness of other local education authorities to take up places in the school. There is no guarantee—and that is why I say, "at the moment"—that these local education authorities 1675 are willing to do so, and in the case of the L.C:C., I believe I am right in saying that in one case they have completely refused. It is most uncertain yet whether they will take up those places. Therefore, there is a reasonable assumption that the boarding element might well collapse, and the non-local character of the school will be lost at once. It is a dangerous thing.
Secondly, there is in these schools a very fine provision which enables the people who have left the school to take an intimate interest in what goes on in the school. I believe, not from any snobbish point of view, that it is a valuable thing for schools to have the interest of people who have been there themselves. I am also told, and I believe it is true—the argument has been put forward by other Members—that many of the present teaching staff will leave. All this will happen suddenly, and something which is most valuable in the community will have been destroyed.
Let me turn to the real argument, that these schools are not open to all children, irrespective of financial means. In the case of Shaftesbury there are some very interesting figures. It is a grant-aided school at the moment, and is in rather a different position. It is a school applying for a direct grant, and that is why I urge generosity of treatment. They offer, and are bound to offer, 30 free places in the school, available to all the people in the catchment area. Twenty-five boys sat for that last examination. I do not say it is necessarily a reflection upon primary education though I would like to see it improved. The catchment area is very small. Shaftesbury is on the very edge of Dorset. Only one boy passed the no marks required to get a scholarship. Five others got between 100 and 109, and they stretched a point and took three of them into the grammar school and put two in the senior school.
What appals me is the fact that in Blandford, not many miles away, there are boys who cannot get into the Blandford Grammar School, although they have passed the necessary tests to do so. But that is no argument for closing Shaftesbury Grammar School or for reducing its standard. It is an argument for far better co-ordination to see that Blandford Grammar School is increased as I would like to 1676 see it, and to ensure that more facilities are given to the boys. I believe those are the lines on which we ought to proceed. In all sincerity, I ask the Minister to deal with these questions on their individual merits. I would like to reinforce the plea which was made by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway that we should be told what are the principles upon which these decisions are being made. I think I have proved to the House that there is something to be said for keeping Shaftesbury Grammar School in being as it is and that there are dangers, as there must be, of reducing the standard of education in other schools. I say there is no argument whatever for reducing the standard, but there is' a tremendous argument, which I support, for ensuring that these facilities are available to all children, based on their ability and irrespective of their financial means.
I, therefore, plead for more generous treatment on the direct grant list. Do not destroy anything which is valuable. I ask the Minister to preserve what is there, and to make it available, irrespective of financial means. A lot more has to be done on that basis. I ask, furthermore, that every case should be treated as a special individual case on its own merits. I must say that I am frankly appalled at the attitude which has been adopted with regard some of these schools, in regard to which the Minister has refused to discuss the matter with the board of governors or the local education authority. She has said that all the relevant factors have been taken into consideration, but we know from our own experience that that cannot be true of anybody who has refused to meet these boards.
I turn for one moment to the question of the release of teachers in Class B, because, as hon. Members will know, the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) and I have been fighting what we thought might be a losing battle on this point. I shall be as brief as I can, because I know other hon. Members want to speak. There is a shortage of teachers; that has been proved conclusively in this House and elsewhere. The future of our education depends on the provision of teachers. That was admirably proved by the hon. Member opposite. We also admit that the Army has requirements for teachers—that is quite true—but teachers in the Army are today being 1677 sent to India to teach English to the Indians. I ask hon. Members to consider that for one moment. The conclusion to which we must come is that there are in the Army at the present moment more teachers than are necessary for purely Army commitments. If they are going out to teach English to the Indians, I think that is a fair conclusion. It is, therefore, reasonable to suppose that more teachers could be released.
What is the bottleneck? It cannot be transport; I think that is conclusive. It cannot be that they are required for the Army education programme. If they are, why have they got a surplus which they can use for the purpose of teaching English to the Indians? I suggest that it is due to lack of co-ordination between the Ministry of Education and the Service Departments. I put on the Order Paper a Question asking for special steps to be taken to improve that co-ordination. I also asked in a recent Question that we should be given the information of the groups which are being released in Class B over the next eight months, and I do not see why we should not be given that on an approximate basis. The figures must be there. If they are not in existence, and if no estimate has been made, I frankly cannot believe that this plan can be carried out at all. We must have an estimate and I believe the nation should know, because this uncertainty leads to a misuse of manpower which is what we are getting at the moment.
I would like to mention the case of a Sergeant Swan, to help whom we have been doing all we can, because we feel that he has been caught up in this maze of uncertainty. I admit that this man is in a very high release group. He is, or was, until he joined the Army, the headmaster of the Hazelbury Bryan primary school. He is one of the men who were put on a draft for India to teach English to the Indians. He is to be given a year's course, I believe, in India, so that he should then know sufficient Indian to teach English. I would ask the Minister of Education, together with the Service Departments, whether they cannot use civilians in India for this purpose. Can they not find some other method of doing it? I was speaking to somebody back from India, and, although I know that hearsay evidence is very dangerous indeed, without my having 1678 raised this subject, he said, "You should see the over-staffing on the various educational establishments in the Army in India." That raises this point. Can we not have more and better co-ordination to ensure that while the legitimate requirements of the Army are met, what I call the illegitimate requirements, such as sending men out for this purpose at a time when we are so short of teachers to educate our own children, are not met and that that sort of thing should not occur again? I ask the Minister, if she can, to make a statement today on that aspect of the subject.
§ 2.47 p.m.
§ Mr. King (Penryn and Falmouth)
I hesitate to inflict on the House yet another maiden speech. I think there has been such a spate of virginity that even the most hardened of males is satiated. But I believe I am the only Member of this House who is, or was until a month ago, a headmaster of an independent school represented on the Headmasters' Conference. I am not sure that I am not the only such headmaster who has ever sat in this House. I am also aware that this House is full of educational experts. I cannot help feeling that many of them are educational experts in the sense that they have sat on educational committees, or that they are members of governing bodies or are officials of trade unions. I do not claim to be an educational expert in so exalted a sense. I am merely an artisan of education, a person who has handled the tools of his trade, in fact, a wage slave. I therefore want to confront these other people, whom I regard rather as in the position of directors of companies, with the views of the wage slave which I think sometimes are worth hearing.
Under this economic system even the wage slave has, I think, some preference for certain types of employer, and I feel I am speaking on behalf of very many headmasters and assistant masters in secondary schools all over the country when I say that the employer they would prefer is the Minister of Education and not the local authority. I cannot help feeling that it is not yet sufficiently understood how deep is the feeling of the staffs of grammar or secondary schools, call them what you will, everywhere on this subject. I, for one, share the views they hold. I have been teach- 1679 ing for 15 years, ten years of that time as a headmaster. During that time I must have interviewed perhaps a thousand parents, together with their young hopefuls, and I have derived from that experience some very definite conclusions. It has been a bitter personal disappointment to me that in that time I must have refused admission to my school of many hundreds of children with brains who should have been encouraged, and who would have benefited there from because their parents could not afford the fees.
On the other hand, economic circumstances have made me accept very many children who had not the brains to benefit from the education we tried to give them but whose parents had got the money. It was perhaps that experience more than any other which first led me to membership of the party to which I have the honour to belong, and ultimately to my place in this House. I was faced throughout that time with what seemed to me a tragic waste of ability and brain, because boys of high intelligence and capacity were robbed of what ought to have been their birthright. I think we are at one on all sides in this House in demanding that that waste shall cease and that there shall be equality of opportunity for all. I am sure, at least, that behind me there is no divergence of opinion on that subject.
It is when we come to apply that principle that we fall into disagreement. Equality of opportunity is not the same as equality of education. I want to refer to what I believe is not based upon theories or opinions but on facts. The first fact we have to face is that all men, despite what may have been said to the contrary, are not born equal. Every child, even whilstmewling and puking in the nurse's arms,is different, from its very inception, in brains, character, physique and potentiality, from any other child. We have, to make our education fit the child and not make the child fit our education, if we are to achieve anything. There is a widespread illusion, embodied in the Debates on the Education Act passed by Parliament many months ago, that this House can create an educated nation by laying brick upon brick, and exuding teachers from training colleges.
1680 I suppose that all of us who have been in contact with the Army have come across intelligence tests. We have to realise that the mere provision of schools will not produce an educated nation. We have to realise—and I do not suggest the figure is exact—that only something like 10 per cent. of the population of this country has the ability to benefit from a university education. I will not quarrel over the figure, and we may call it 15 per cent. or 20 per cent. The point is that it is a small proportion and is not a majority. I cannot help feeling that the future success of the Education Act depends to a much larger extent than is realised upon that 10, 15 or 20 per cent. If we study the curves of intelligence tests of boys, no matter from what locality, we shall find that they follow broadly but only up to a certain limit the earning capacity of their parents. I know there are many exceptions, many honourable exceptions, but broadly speaking there is some truth in that statement. Put in another way, it is the boy who comes from the more cultured but not wealthy home, whose intelligence will probably be among the higher groups. I state that as a fact without fear of contradiction. I have a feeling that that section of the population, a vital section, is not receiving the consideration that it ought to receive. I, for one, was appalled and so were many other people, at the provision which I think came into force during the period of responsibility of the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler) as Minister of Education and under which graduate teachers are worth only £15 a year above the non-graduate. That was resented everywhere in the secondary and the grammar schools. It was rightly resented.
The party to which I have the honour to belong states in its initial charter that it represents workers by brain as well as workers by hand. I cannot help thinking that there is a danger that this may sometimes be forgotten. We have heard much about the phrase "parity of esteem." I cannot help thinking that there rests in many people's minds the idea that all places of education must be held in parity of esteem in the sense that their intellectual content is equal. I believe that to be a complete illusion. Every individual soul should indeed be held in parity of esteem but when we apply this phrase to educational institu- 1681 tions I believe we are suggesting something wildly impracticable. I do not think anyone honestly believes that the University of Oxford and a village school can ever be held in parity of esteem in intellectual content. They are worthy of it, in the sense that you give to each of them its maximum attention, but that is not always what is meant by that phrase.
The Education Act recognises to a certain extent the desirability of schools of different types, but today we are concerned with the form of government of schools of different types. There are those who think that all educational institutions in any given locality should come under the local education authority. May I take as an example Cambridge? There is in Cambridge a school called "The Perse School," which is desirous of remaining on the direct grant list. I do not know whether any decision has been taken on that subject, but I know that some hon. Members would oppose its being on the direct grant list largely on the theory that all educational institutions in Cambridge should be under the same authority. Will they carry their own theory to its logical conclusion? Will they also place Cambridge University under the local education authority? I do not think they would. If they would not, why not? Let us examine this position. First, they would say, "The University of Cambridge has an intellectual content which is inappropriate to local control." Secondly, they would say, "Cambridge University is essentially not local." Let us examine that. Those two conditions are applicable also to other educational institutions which wish to remain on the direct grant list.
Let us bear these two aspects in mind: non-local in character, or inappropriate in intellectual content for control by local authorities. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Dorset (Lieut.-Colonel Byers) referred in his speech to Shaftesbury Grammar School. That is not in my constituency, but it happens that I live six miles from it, and know it fairly well. It contains, I believe, about 150 boarders, boys drawn from all over the country, from outside the country and from the Empire. What logical basis is there for placing a school such as that under the local authority?
I know I have taken up too much time already and I do not wish to give further 1682 examples, but I earnestly ask the Minister to consider this question afresh. I am a little nervous, and I think any normal person must be, of the temptation to treat the chain of schools which exists throughout Great Britain like a chain of Marks and Spencer's stores. I believe, it is true that in France 20 years ago it was possible for the French Minister of Education to ask his secretary what the schools in France were doing that day and he could be told in reply that at say 10.25 every school in France was studying the geographical configuration of North Western Europe. God forbid that that situation should ever arise in England. I have already heard of a local director of education who can say—and who didsay—"I am giving all my schools a half holiday on such and such a date." The point I wish to make is that, if we are to make progress, the centre of gravity of the school must be in the school itself and not in any outside body.
I am nervous, and I think any good, thoughtful Socialist must be nervous, of the degree of uniformity which can be attained under unimaginative administration. I am certain that Socialism is practicable without proceeding to the extreme limits which I have tried to indicate, and if there is one sphere in which uniformity is undesirable and impracticable, I believe it is education. That is why I have tried in this my first speech to deal with that subject. I feel with all sincerity that in the question of these direct grant schools we are in danger of killing some thing that is really worth while. I do not like killing. I appeal to the Minister to try at least in some cases to reconsider these matters.
§ 3.4 p.m.
Lieut.-Colonel Amory (Tiverton)
I have received much good advice since I came to this House, and in the matter of a maiden speech the burden of that advice has usually been, "Wait until some topic crops up on which you are an expert, and then sail in." Wise words, but in my case, if I were to follow that advice, I should doom myself to perpetual silence, no doubt to the relief of this House but to the disappointment of my constituents, because I can think of no problem likely to form the subject of Debate in this House in regard to which I can claim anything approaching expert knowledge. 1683 I realise that I must eschew controversy today, and I will be on my guard, but I have one or two small bones to pick with the right hon. Lady and I hope I shall pick them most respectfully and in decorous fashion. My excuse for intervening in this Debate is that I feel that the right hon. Lady, in proposing to reduce—and I understand to reduce drastically—the number of direct grant schools, is proposing to do, for the most worthy motives, something which will prove a disservice to our national education. What are those qualities which are in particular attributes of our British education and which are, I believe, an object of admiration and envy for many people in other lands? I believe two of them to be the relative independence and freedom enjoyed by our schools, and their variety. These attributes derive from the past; they are in one sense a product of our national character and, in another sense, have had a great influence upon it. I submit that they are attributes which we must be very careful not to throw lightly away.
One reason why I am not a Socialist—there may be others—is that I am frankly afraid that the logical application of Socialist principles will lead to over-standardisation, excessive uniformity, and a danger—I put it no higher—of reduced standards. Equality is a very laudable objective in many matters, but in education there is something which is even more important than equality, and that is quality. It is because I feel that if we deal harshly with the direct grant schools we are in danger of losing something in quality without gaining anything in equality of opportunity that I am opposed to the proposals of the right hon. Lady. I do not want to push that argument too far, because I am one of those who feel that some rigidity is inevitable within the scope of the State educational system, and my own experience has been that the officials of the Ministry of Education are very alive to that danger and that their attitude is invariably tolerant and sympathetic. I am not so sure, however, that the danger is not present in some of our local authorities. Some of them guide their schools wisely and with a loose rein, but there are others which, in the alleged interests of efficiency, maintain too tight a control. It is there, I think, that the risk lies.
1684 I hope the right hon. Lady will tell us what are the doubts and fears that assail her with regard to the direct grant schools. I think that she and the hon. Members who support her feel that in some way they are undemocratic, and incompatible with the principle that every child should have the education for which he is most suited. If I thought that was so I should not be standing here this afternoon, because though I am aware that I am one who has most conspicuously failed to educate himself, I do feel and appreciate most sincerely the fundamental part which education has to play in endowing our democracy with vitality, energy and poise. I am in favour of a much greater mixing together of children in our schools from different types of homes and from different walks of life. I am in favour of a greater diversity and variety of schools.
Are these objectives incompatible with the schools we are discussing this afternoon? I think very much to the contrary. Equality of opportunity is surely ensured by the provision that, even in the allotment of the residuary of cases, merit should be considered and that no child should be denied access on the grounds of lack of parental means. With reference to what the right hon. Lady mentioned, that test of merit is in the existing Regulations which cover the allotment even in the residuary cases in the direct grant schools. Individuality and existing high standards are also fully preserved by the substantial measure of independence given to the direct grant schools. I feel that they stand midway between the independent schools and the maintained schools and that they bridge a gulf fairly successfully which otherwise would yawn rather menacingly. I make no attempt to forecast the needs of the distant future, because I think it is in the wise tradition of our English education to move forward step by step in accordance with the changing needs of the time, but for today and tomorrow, and as far as we can see ahead, these schools have a worthy and excellent part to play in their present semi-independent role. I am in favour of a greater mixing up of children from different homes in our schools, but not to the point of compelling parents to conform to what I think is best for them and their children. The duty of the legislator and administrator is to ensure that there shall be available a suffi- 1685 cient number of good schools and a sufficient variety of them, and that there shall be access to them from those children who can profit from the particular type of education given in each of them. It is the duty and right of parents, surely, to exercise their right of choice among those schools to which the attainments of those children make them eligible. If the right of parents to exercise their choice in that field is acknowledged, I think there is little doubt that, taken on their merits, these schools will be found to serve a valuable purpose within the scope of our educational field, supported as they are by a wide and varied body of parents. As regards their quality, their popularity is sufficient, and as regards their quality and their popularity, I think many hon. Members opposite will agree because I have noted that many of them, when exercising their undoubted right of choice as parents, seldom strain their Socialist tenets to the point of disdaining schools where quite high fees are payable.
One other argument I have heard is the objection that public money should be expended in grants to schools where fees are payable. If the school is efficient and is rendering a service—a service which does respond to an existing and, I think, a legitimate demand from parents—is that criticism justified? Surely not. That principle of financial co-operation between public and voluntary authorities is one that runs throughout our democratic institutions in this country, and it is a principle with which we in this country have made a conspicuous success. In this case, I believe the per capita grant amounts to a good deal less than half the cost of a normal place in a maintained school, and even allowing for the contribution which must be made by a local authority towards the remission of fees for the residuary places, it is an extremely economical arrangement from the point of view of the State.
I am an enthusiastic supporter of the great Education Act passed last year—a milestone in our educational history that I hope will ever be engraved with the names of my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler) and the right hon. Gentleman the present Home Secretary (Mr. Ede). I have been out of touch with civil affairs for six years, but on my return two months ago I found what we on county councils be- 1686 fore the war had always felt an enormous need for, and that was a definite educational plan to work to and a clear series of objectives to aim at. Now we have got them. At present, owing to the obvious shortages, we can move only slowly, but in a year or two's time I think the risk will be the other way round, and we on local education authorities, in our enthusiasm and impatience to get on, may find that we are trying to tackle too many different things at the same time.
If that arises, the big risk of dangers of over-standardisation, excessive uniformity and reduced standards will arise, and it is that, I think, against which we have to be on our watch now. The great virtue of the Education Act is that it was a successful compromise between the various interests and points of view. It reached the greatest common factor of agreement and it has been accepted by the country in that spirit. I ask the right hon. Lady to be careful before she does anything which would upset the successful balance of that Act, before she takes any steps which will reduce the variety of our schools or limit the contribution that these schools which we are discussing this afternoon may be able to make to our national education scheme.
What are the facts? Let me just sum them up as I see them. I believe the direct grant schools fill an obvious need. Their standards are high, they possess the confidence of a wide and varied body of parents. From the point of view of the State, they afford an economical service, and no child need be denied access to them for lack of parental means. We on this side of the House know that the right hon. Lady has courage; we believe she also has imagination. I ask her most respectfully, as befits a new Member, to exercise those great gifts and do justice to a group of schools which I believe have given splendid service to the State in the past and are doing so today and will, if encouraged, play a worthy and a not undemocratic part within the framework of our national education service.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Dr. Corlett (York)
This is only the second time that I have spoken in this House, but I feel more nervous now than on the earlier occasion. I have very great pleasure in congratulating the two hon. Members who have just spoken on this subject. I think we shall agree that 1687 they had prepared their cases very thoroughly, and that they have spoken with complete sincerity, and I am sure the speeches have been most acceptable to all of us. It may interest Members on the opposite benches to see that they have provided an occasion for a demonstration of the catholicity of our party, because I am going to make a speech from a point of view entirely opposite to that of my hon. Friend who spoke earlier. There is no uniformity here; there is no rigidity; we have complete freedom to express ourselves as we wish. I am ever so pleased that we are discussing this question of direct grant schools, because I think it is high time we did discuss it. When the White Paper on the Education Act first came out, I addressed a number of meetings, particularly meetings of parents on the subject, and I must say that I assumed the White Paper meant the end of the direct grant school, and that even if it did not mean the abolition of those schools it certainly meant the abolition of fees in them. Otherwise, I cannot believe that we should have been so enthusiastic for the Act.
I am certain that the vast majority of parents naturally assume that now that secondary education is obligatory, it should be free. It is quite a reasonable assumption. Elementary education was made free when it was made obligatory and surely it is reasonable to assume that once secondary education is made obligatory it should be wholly and completely free. When I put that point of view I am not only putting the point of view of hon. Members on this side of the House but the view of every progressive educationist. It is the view of the Association of Educational Committees and surely they speak with authority on this matter, that there should be complete abolition of fees in any schools aided by public money. The National Union of Teachers of course support it, and so do the W.E.A. and "The Times Educational Supplement." So it is reasonable that ordinary parents, who according to some people are not really up to date in these matters, should assume that if secondary education is to be obligatory it should be completely free.
Why is it not to be completely free? Is it because Members who favour the retention of direct grant schools prefer their retention to the abolition of fees, 1688 because that is what it boils down to? They have to make their choice. When hon. Members opposite say that without direct grant schools there would be a wide chasm I say, "Let us have the wide chasm. Do not let us have this bridging of the gulf." I profoundly hope that on this side we shall never agree to the expenditure of a single penny of public money for any child in either a direct grant or an independent school, because I think that means the creaming of our children, the sending of them to be indoctrinated with a privileged outlook which none of us would like them to have. It would be a loss, for a considerable time, at any rate, to our movement, and strengthen the case for the independent schools, because instead of saying that they are mainly open to the wealthy parents of children they will then be open to children of ability and the cream of the children will be taken into those schools. I put it to hon. Members opposite that they have to make their choice whether they prefer the retention of direct grant schools to the abolition of school fees.
What is the case for the retention of direct grant schools? I could have understood the case in 1926. I could have understood then that the schools had to make the choice whether they should become direct grant schools or not. The education authorities were inexperienced, and knew very little about that educational field, but I am sure no one will agree more heartily than the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) that today they are very experienced. It is now 1945. They are experienced not only in the primary and elementary field but in the secondary field. They have built magnificent schools, which already have magnificent academic achievements and traditions. Further, under the Act it is their statutory duty to survey the whole of the field, to work out development plans, to provide full secondary and primary accommodation in their districts. It is their statutory duty. They are not to depend upon anybody else but do it for themselves, and it is the duty of the Ministry to see that they carry out their duties. Surely it would have been reasonable to wait until we saw their development plans, saw what accommodation they will provide for secondary education before we agree to the retention of a single direct grant school.
1689 Hon. Members on the benches opposite say that if the schools are to go to the local education authorities they will not be so free as they have been. Let us look carefully at that. Apparently somebody has heard of the rumour that a headmaster had to send to the town hall for a screwdriver which he needed. I have spent the last 21 years visiting those schools, and I must have gone into 100 schools yearly. I have looked at those schools very carefully from the point of view of freedom, and I say unhesitatingly that there is infinitely greater freedom inside the maintained schools than in any other schools in the country. I say that without fear of possible contradiction. I have been in infants' schools galore, and nobody will pretend that there is not complete freedom in infants' schools. There has been no finer experiment in the development of education than has been provided in the maintained schools.
§ Professor Gruffydd (University of Wales)
Has the hon. Member been inside the direct grant schools?
§ Dr. Corlett
Yes, but I am meeting the charge that was made of loss of freedom inside the maintained school, and I say there is complete freedom. I can go into modern school after modern school and find a different time-table, a different curriculum, a different set of books. There is entire freedom to do just as they will so long as they are progressive and experimental. The suggestion that directors of education are autocrats is surely one that no one in this House should make. I know many of these directors of education, and I say unhesitatingly that they have done a great deal towards the development of a progressive system of education. There will be exceptions, of course, but it is very unfair that anybody here, without any evidence, should cast a reflection upon men who are doing their job to the best of their ability and magnificently.
Those directors of education create as good a system of education in their districts as we could desire. It is their one ambition, and they are doing it well, and so are His Majesty's inspectors. I could name case after case in which His Majesty's inspector had given the greatest possible encouragement to full improvement. Let me appeal to hon. Members 1690 opposite. Conservative Members who become chairmen of progressive education committees become the keenest supporters of the maintained schools. Take the case of the North Riding. There we have a Conservative chairman working with a progressive director of education, and I know nobody more keen on securing a progressive educational system. I suggest to hon. Members that if instead of expressing these prejudices they would undertake work in these areas, and sit on these administrative bodies, they would find that there is no lack of freedom whatever in the maintained schools. With regard to this freedom of the direct grant schools, can any hon. Member tell me of any direct grant school that has done any remarkably great experimental work? I could give the names of dozens of maintained schools that have done it.
§ Dr. Corlett
Will hon. Members tell me of any experimental work done by Manchester Grammar School in the educational field? I am not talking about the winning of scholarships by bright lads. Hon. Members may cite Summerhill, they may cite Dartington, but those are not direct grant schools. The experimental work in education is done in schools of the type of Dartington and in the maintained schools of the country.
§ Mr. Lindsay
The point we are making is not necessarily that the direct grant schools do experimental work, but that in some of them very high standards have been achieved.
§ Dr. Corlett
I am dealing only with the question of whether there is a lack of freedom in the maintained schools. Since the aided schools came completely under the local education authorities in 1926, have any of those aided schools said that they have lacked freedom and that their traditions and their place in the system have not been recognised? I do not think any one of them has said that, and yet they have been under local education authorities for 20 years. Recently the Headmistresses Association sent out a question-aire to ask the headmistresses whether 1691 they felt there was any lack of freedom. Fifty-five out of sixty said they were satisfied with the freedom they were having under the local authorities. Therefore, from whichever point of view we look at the matter, Iclaim that I have established my case that there is complete freedom in the maintained schools and nothing for the direct grant schools to fear if they are brought under their local education authorities.
The other point which is made, and made with real sincerity, concerns the freedom of parents. Hon. Members fear that if all schools have to come under the authorities, parents will lose their choice; but surely 95 per cent, of working class parents have no choice today. Is there any concern for their lack of choice? When hon. Members talk about the freedom of choice of parents, they are talking about only five per cent, of them. Let us take the case, mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, of Manchester Grammar School. If they provide 20 per cent, of free places, what happens? There are boys from working class families who want to attend Manchester Grammar School, who are not perhaps quite up to the very high scholarship standard, but are up to a good standard. Because they do not reach the scholarship standard, and because their homes are poor, they have no right of choice at all; but the parents of other children, nowhere near that standard, who are rich enough to pay for their boys to go into Manchester Grammar School can easily put their boys through the entrance test which is on a much lower standard I do not call that freedom; I call it privilege. It is privilege for the minority at the expense of the majority.
In spite of what has been said by some hon. Members, the subvention is heavy. The sum of £16 per place for every boy from 10 to 19, the difference between the approved fee and the fee the parent will pay, the whole contribution for the 25 per cent. of free places, represent a considerable subvention in the interests of a small minority of parents at the expense of the many. That is social injustice.
There is an educational injustice, too. Why should there be double entry? Why should there be two methods of assessing the value of children to go into those schools? If the education authority, 1692 which is compelled under the Act to provide full-time education to every child according to its aptitude and ability, decides that a child would not benefit by education at a grammar school, what right have the governors to accept him? Who are the governors to set themselves up as an examining body against an education authority which has experts to make an assessment? What right have they to say that they will permit to go into that school a child who the authority has said, from its examination, will not benefit by going into the school? I suggest with all respect that an education authority which does its job will have to take proceedings against those parents under Section 37 of the Act, because the child concerned will be in a school where it will not benefit according to its aptitude and ability. I happen to sit in a Juvenile Court, and I look forward to the first case in which an attendance order is served under the Act because the child is in a school where, according to the authority, he ought not to be.
Another point that has been raised concerns the staffing of the direct grant schools. It has been said that they have smaller classes. It is true that in many cases they are better staffed, but let hon. Members face the facts. According to the returns for 1936–37, in direct grant schools as a whole there was less expenditure per pupil on teachers' salaries than in the maintained schools. That is a fact which cannot be denied. In direct grant schools as a whole the expenditure per pupil on teachers' salaries is less than that paid to teachers in maintained schools because they are employing teachers at the lower end of the scale.
I want to see complete educational equality of opportunity, and I hope that the Act will be amended very soon so that we shall secure that all schools that receive public money are wholly accessible to all children, that they are completely free, that the only test for admission shall be the ability of the child to profit from the education, and that they shall all be under the local education authorities.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
I, am sorry if the hon. Member for York (Dr. Corlett) had in any way to curtail his observations, but I can assure him that they were fully listened to on this 1693 side of the House. It must have been very comforting to the Minister, on arriving at the House after duties which she had told me about to hear a speech supporting the Government, and I must congratulate her on the latest recruit to the ranks of the Government supporters.
I want first to address myself to the point that was raised by the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Lindsay) in opening the Debate, the question of the training of teachers. I wish to support his plea to the Minister to doher best to accelerate the training of teachers under the emergency training scheme. I confess that I am not in a position to throw stones at the Minister on this subject, for I left her with a very great problem, and we on this side realise perfectly well what the problem is. There is no wish on this side of the House to accuse her of landing herself with a problem which she has not faced; but I think I am entitled to say that, believing as we all do in the urgency of bringing the Act into operation, a little more energy and drive should be put into the question of accommodating the prospective students in emergency training colleges, or in some other way. I do not accept fully the views expressed by the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities. I do not believe local authorities alone can do this job; I believe it has to be done very largely by central drive and administration. No doubt the local authorities will co-operate, and to that extent the suggestion made by the hon. Member, as is so often the case with his observations, is a very valuable one.
Has the right hon. Lady satisfied herself that there are sufficient buildings available? Has she sufficient large buildings in which to accommodate these students? Are other Government Departments releasing these buildings, or are they keeping them for so-called war purposes? Can she assure us that every step has been taken to handle this matter in a big enough way, that is to say, on the scale described to us earlier in the Debate? If it is not possible to fit the students into the buildings, or the buildings are not immediately available, has she not made some interim scheme whereby prospective students could occupy themselves in helping in some of the overcrowded schools, at the same time as they are receiving their prelimin- 1694 ary training? It will be necessary to extemporise in this matter if it is not possible immediately to fill buildings with students and obtain the teachers. I hope that this question will be handled as a major operation of peace, and that the Government will give the training of teachers a much higher priority than hitherto. If we on this side of the House can support the right hon. Lady in any way in badgering her own colleagues, we shall be only too glad to do so.
I now address myself to the major question which has brought about this Debate, and that is the question of direct grant schools. The Opposition have desired for some time to raise this subject. This is the occasion that we have adopted, and we must make the best of it. If this does not prove satisfactory, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said, it may be necessary to choose another occasion when the right hon. Lady can tell us clearly what her principles are on the matter, and her policy. I think that anyone listening to the Debate will agree that we have been refreshed and invigorated by a series of excellent speeches, and not least by that of the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. King), who spoke with great force and courage, as we would expect from one whose name is so brilliantly associated with the world of education. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mrs. Nichol)"who made a sincere speech, and one with which I hope to deal, just as I hope to deal with the cogent arguments of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down.
The Minister has decided to deprive certain schools of the privilege of direct grant. This is an abrupt reversal of policy, as she herself has acknowledged. It has been done contrary to the practice which one has endeavoured to follow. I was one of those people who have endeavoured to follow it at the Ministry. It is the practice of consultation with the partners in education. I am informed that many of these schools have simply been told through their clerk that they are no longer to get Government grant and they have been told so without any reasons. The following letter is typical of many I have received:There is no more help for this school. On Monday, 22nd October, without any inquiry having been made, without warning 1695 having been given, without cause shown, the clerk to the Governors was informed that the school would not be included on the direct grant list after 1st January, 1946. The school has a wonderful record. It is part of the Colston Trust, which provides also for a boys' school. It is sponsored by the Society of Merchant Adventurers, from whose numbers are drawn the main body of its governors. Three local authorities are represented on its governing body and it provides education for 600 children of secondary school age drawn from the City of Bristol, and partly from Somerset and Gloucestershire. More than a quarter of the pupils come from outside the city boundary.This is typical of many cases which have been drawn to our attention and that is the type of treatment and the case we are now raising in this House in order that the Minister can explain the policy and philosophy of the Government in this matter.
This abrupt and sudden reversal of policy, and this abrupt and sudden reversal of method, may give comfort and satisfaction to the supporters of the Government, but I can assure them that it causes despondency and suspicion in the world of education itself. If there is anything important in the world of education which I have always stood for, it is to encourage confidence among one's partners in regard to educational administration. And education, I should say straight to the right hon. Lady, is not a dictatorship. It is, first and foremost, a partnership between the authorities, the teachers, the schools, the managers and governing bodies and the Ministry itself. If the partnership is to be conducted in this manner by ukase from the Central Government Department, the description of the right hon. Lady by an hon. Member before she came into the Chamber, as the "Red Queen," fits her very well.
My first object in raising the matter is to elicit the Minister's reasons. I trust, after having chosen this particular opportunity for Debate, she will state her reasons now before she goes any further with this process of decapitation, and then we may, perhaps, know where we are. I hope she will state her reasons clearly, and I shall give her plenty of time in which to do so. She previously stated, in a short Debate on another occasion, that she desired to widen the area of free education and to do that she wishes to take schools off the direct grant list so that they cannot charge fees. That 1696 does not seem to me to be necessary purely in the interests of education. Why? I was faced with this problem, and I am as sincere as Members on the opposite side of the House in my desire to provide free education for all who need it in this country; otherwise, I would not have undertaken to pass the Education Act with the help of so many Members on both sides of the House, and I would not have initiated the general policy associated with that Act. What was the belief I held? I held the belief that the mere freeing of the direct grant schools of their fees would neither achieve that confidence in education which we so much desire, nor would it retain the variety and the type of schools which all educationists so much desire. Nor, I believe, would it be necessary to abolish fees if we could provide access to the direct grant schools for the pupils whose parents were unable to afford the fees. I remember that the first part of the Fleming Report advocated the abolition of fees in direct grant schools, but I decided to decide this matter on educational grounds. I remember also that most educational people in this country—the unknown authors of the "Green Book"themselves—decided that fees might perhaps on balance be retained in direct grant schools. I, therefore, considered it a very difficult matter to decide. I decided on the whole that I should achieve a greater variety of schools and greater confidence if we left the fees in the direct grant schools but that we should make the direct grant schools accessible to pupils whose parents could not afford the fees.
What did we do? We deliberately drafted Regulations which seemed to be a complete answer to the speech' to which the House has just been listening. I will read from Article 44:The criterion for admission for all pupils in any direct-grant Grammar school shall be the capacity of the pupil to profit by the education in the school, and for the purpose of securing that no pupil shall be precluded from entering the school by reason of the inability of its parent to pay fees.And the following provision was brought in:The governors shall make adequate arrangements for ensuring that no pupil who is incapable of profiting by the education in the school shall be admitted thereto or retained therein.That was put in, because I am a great believer in the educational philosophy of 1697 Cranmer. I agree that it is going back some way, but Cranmer's view exactly coincides with this' Regulation, namely, that no pupil should gain access to school, simply because his or her parents were rich, and, similarly, the child of a rich person should go into the school if that child is capable; that at the same time, there should be some entry examination for all pupils, so that a child of parents who cannot afford the fees and comes forward and passes the entry examination, should have an opportunity as good as or better than the child whose parents can afford the fees; and the "dolt" is prohibited, wherever the "dolt" comes from.
I think that is a perfectly sound educational philosophy and it is carried out in these Regulations, which are the answer to the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. They are the modern conception of education, as I sec it, and provide for access to this type of school. I believe that, if the House and the Minister were to give an opportunity for these Regulations to be enforced, we should get the best of both worlds and be able to have the variety of the schools, and at the same time, to ensure that no child was kept out. I am further reinforced in this argument by the fact that the right hon. Lady herself has made the Regulations even more humane, and made the limit such that I feel quite convinced that a child, provided it passes the entry examination, which is a natural necessity, would be able to enter a direct grant school. Therefore, the only cause for complaint which would seem to remain to the right hon. Lady is that there is an insufficiency of provision for those children who wish to take up secondary education. I do not believe that that will be the case if these Regulations are properly carried out. I only know of about one city in England where the schools were exclusively direct grant schools and where it might have been necessary to adapt the direct grant list. I do not know of many other places, and I should be grateful if the right hon. Lady will say quite honestly if her researches show a demand for extra places in secondary and grammar schools which cannot be met by use of existing maintained schools and by the proper interpretation of these Regulations. If so, she can answer, on the scientific facts, to the case we put 1698 before the House. But, even so, it would be hard, in my view, to justify the abolition of these schools or their removal from the direct grant list.
Now I come to the next point made by the hon. Member for York on the question of parents' wishes. How is the right hon. Lady interpreting the parents' wishes? If she remembers, Section 76 of the Education Act runs:That pupils are to be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents.How is the right hon. Lady going to carry that out, if it be the parents' wishes that they should pay fees in these direct grant schools and wish to send their children to this type of school? Is she carrying it out in the case of Roman Catholic schools, of which, I understand, none has been removed from the direct grant list, and not in the case of other schools? If so, has she a bias in favour of a certain type of parent, and not in the case of others? How does she reconcile her action with the provisions of Section 76, to which we, on this side of the House, attach so much importance?
I always envisaged that the direct grant list, by agreement with my partners in the education service, would remain substantially as it was before. I even envisaged that some schools might come off, and some others go on, and one of the extraordinary things is that I, and those who advised me, always felt that it would be the denominational schools which would come off the list, because we thought that, in the case of Roman Catholic schools, aided status—for it is a good status, with the opportunity of appointing their own teachers, and we know they have certain definite arrangements with their own teachers—was almost as advantageous to them as direct grant status. How is the right hon. Lady interpretingher responsibilities in this regard? In my opinion, it is essential that we should have a variety, I believe that the hon. Member who has just spoken, is wrong about the cream. I do not think all this talk about creaming is modern talk at all. I believe it dates from those struggling days of the W.E.A. when I used to discuss the matter with Dr. Temple himself, and I used to say to him that such arguments as the danger of creaming were out of date in relation to the new conception of education, as we saw it today. Our conception is that you 1699 shall have variety and, even into the biggest boarding schools, you shall have an opportunity of entry. It is through variety in schools that you bring out the best in the pupil. All this nonsense that England is divided into different sects and classes, and that you cream one section and put it into another, is out of date. If it is not, then why are there so many people with the old school tie on that side of the House? How are they to reconcile their own statements when they talk about their creaming policy? The hon. Gentleman's own party is one large pot of cream, and if he makes many more speeches of that sort, it will go sour.
I am quite certain that hon. Members opposite simply imagine that they can reform society through the means of education itself. I believe that is a short sighted view, which has never been held by any great educationists. We reform society, or do not reform it—in the wrong-minded way in which hon. Members opposite wish to reform it—through economic means or through various forms of legislation, but society cannot be reformed by education alone. If you do try to do that, you cannot preserve the purity of education, which means bringing out the best in the pupils. You must be careful not to import political or other unpleasant changes into education. The purpose of education is clear and simple and that is why so many of us agree and sympathise with each other when we meet as educationists in this House.
I beseech the right hon. Lady not to destroy this atmosphere. I believe that the most dangerous thing she has said is that, in her capacity as a Charity Commissioner, she can prevent a school from raising its fees if it goes independent. This is a pernicious doctrine; it has nothing to do with education, and it is very bad law. The right hon. Lady is obliged to interpret the trust of these schools in the light of the contents of the trusts themselves and not in the light of her own political or other views. I beseech her to make a statement today to indicate that she will treat her responsibilities as a Charity Commissioner with a little less levity and a little less dangerously, and will adopt the right principle of interpreting a school trust in the way in which it should be interpreted. Otherwise, I feel that schools which will go independent 1700 because they have nowhere else to go, can feel no confidence in her administration or in her capacity as a Charity Commissioner.
I conclude with this appeal. I believe that the value and success of our march forward in education made in the last Parliament was due to give and take. I lost certain things which I did not want to lose, and the present Home Secretary lost things which he did not want to lose, but we both gained a great deal and we gained it by the old-fashioned English way of compromise and co-operation. The right hon. Lady will have a lot of ideas of her own and she has an overpowering majority; she can, in fact, do actually as she likes. But I assure her that her success will be in proportion as she maintains the actual confidence of the world of education, of those of us interested in education on this side of the House, and of the schools; and not by dictatorial or sudden reversals of policy without explanation. I offer hermy collaboration in maintaining the balance as we left it, with all allowances for special and individual points of view, which she must very rightly have, and I very sincerely trust that she can retain that good will which we reached in the last Parliament.
§ It being Four o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—
§ [Captain Bing]
§ 4.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Butler
I have only one sentence to add. The right hon. Lady earlier was called the "Red Queen."I have just been handed a note by my right hon. Friend who was President of the Board of Education before me, the late Secretary of State for the Colonies, in which he reminds me that it is written in "The Dunciad"—which it is not inappropriate for me as an ancient pedagogue to use—by the immortal Alexander Pope:With the same cement ever sure to bindWe bring to one dead level every mind.I think that sums up, only too well, the philosophy of the right hon. Lady.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Byers
On a point of Order. I intend no discourtesy to the right hon. Lady, and I know how busy she is, 1701 but I feel that a protest should be recorded that in this important Debate, which will have occupied three hours, the Minister, who is apparently to reply, has not been present to listen to some of the most persuasive speeches which have been made. If that is to be the practice of this House, we shall lose a tremendous amount of the value of our Debates.
§ 4.1 p.m.
§ The Minister of Education (Miss Ellen Wilkinson)
I must tell the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) that it was originally intended that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education should deal with the Debate on two matters of which notice was originally given, because they come within that section of the work which I have allotted to him as Parliamentary Secretary. It would therefore have been appropriate for him to reply. I received late yesterday afternoon notice from the right hon. Gentleman that owing to circumstances which he regretted, but over which he had no control, he proposed to raise the question of direct grant schools. I replied to him that I was engaged on other duties and that it was impossible for me to be present before a quarter to three, and so I hoped he would keep his speech until later in the discussion, which he courteously agreed to do.
§ Mr. Lindsay rose—
§ Miss Wilkinson
I am sorry that it was impossible for me to be here earlier, and in those circumstances I must ask for the indulgence of the House. It is not always possible to alter one's engagements at the last moment.
Perhaps it will be for the convenience of the House if I get out of the way certain factual statements which have been asked for, and give a few figures which have not been given hitherto. First, with regard to the release of school teachers from His Majesty's Forces, for which I can now give the latest figure. There was a total of 2,096 teachers released in Class B up to 15th October, of which one-half were in the last fortnightly period. I am glad to say that another 1,000 were released in the last fortnight, and it is hoped that this acceleration will be maintained until the number allotted to us under Class B—that is, 10,000 teachers—will have been released. Of course, in addition to those, 1702 there are releases under Class A. A question was asked about the men and women who were studying at university training departments before they joined the Forces, and whose studies have been interrupted. I am glad to say that we have now been able to make arrangements by which we can nominate by name some of these students who are sufficiently near the ending of their courses for it to be extremely valuable for them to be brought in as teachers.
§ Mr. Lindsay
The point I raised was whether these students in industry could be released. With regard to those in the Services, I understood the right hon. Lady to say yesterday that they could be released.
§ Miss Wilkinson
I am glad the hon. Gentleman has raised this matter. The same applies in industry as in the Services. With regard to the emergency training scheme, I can only say that we are accelerating it as fast as we can. We now have 24,000 applications. The machine is, of course, being overloaded by this sudden influx, but we are speeding up the rate of interviewing as fast as we can, especially by increasing the interviewing boards. There are 31 now operating, but as a minimum objective we want 50. So far, 4,500 people have been accepted for the scheme and about 1,000 are in training colleges. The right hon. Gentleman raised the question of premises. He has no need to impress upon me the urgency of getting premises; it is one of my chief headaches. As soon as the new Parliamentary Secretary was appointed, I gave him the job of concentrating on getting premises, at a time when the branch concerned was already working to the full, under an official in whom I have the greatest confidence. That matter is very much on our hands, and is receiving first preference. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works, himself a well-known educationalist, who has done his best to give us the priority that we so badly need.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I made a suggestion about a new arrangement between central and local government to deal with this emergency, a suggestion which was reinforced by the hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Morley) in concrets language.
§ Miss Wilkinson
However concrete the language, it could not be more concrete than the facts. We know all the facts, and exactly what are the difficulties. We have the co-operation of the Ministry of Works, as I have said, and I ask the hon. Gentleman to believe that if we put a committee on to this they could not find any more premises than we know exist. We have a full list of all the places at the disposal of the Ministry of Works, and such a step would be unnecessary in dealing with what must be regarded, as the hon. Gentleman himself said, as an emergency peacetime operation. No committee can help us in this matter now.
I want to deal with the question of direct grant schools. It seems to be the habit of this House sometimes to get hold of a phrase and make it the bogy which divides the House into passions, when the real facts of the case, if they are understood, are not such as to give rise to such warmth of feeling. I would like to remind the House of some of the facts of the case. I will go back to 1926. In that year all grant aided schools not under local education authorities were given the option of receiving a grant from the local education authority, or direct from the Board, and the majority opted for the local education authority grant. The minority preferred direct relations with the Board, and there came into-being some 230 schools, which were known as direct grant secondary schools. Nobody at that time stood up to make passionate speeches as to whether the schools should come under the local education authority or under the direct grant system. Some opted for one, and some for the other, but unfortunately that freedom—for which there is something to be said—did not give us a uniform spread of these schools over the country. That did not matter so much, so long as secondary education was to be a privilege enjoyed only by the few, and usually in return for payment of fees; but it affected the matter quite a lot under the circumstances which came into operation with the new Act.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden, in moving the Second Reading, in January, 1944, announced his intention of retaining the direct grant list on two conditions: First, that the schools should be accessible to all; and, second, that the local authorities should 1704 be able to count on places in those schools to the extent required to supplement the provision in maintained schools. As a result of that speech and circulars issued by the right hon. Gentleman, it seemed that he had no intention of repeating the option that was granted to schools as to which type they wanted, as was done in 1926. The revised list was to be drawn up by the Minister on certain principles. The right hon. Gentleman said in his speech, and, I believe—according to the admirably full notes that have been taken by my Parliamentary Secretary—that this was" reiterated by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), that he wanted to know whether there were any principles upon which the Minister had acted. I want to deal in detail with these priniciples.
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Fleming Committee produced an Interim and a Final Report. In the Interim Report they advocated a policy, by a majority, of the abolition of fees altogether in all direct grant schools. In the. Final Report, they did not feel they could go quite so far, and they decided to contemplate the retention of fees. Neverthless, they recommended a scheme, known as Scheme A, which elaborated a method of retaining the direct grant system, while, at the same time, abolishing fees. Whether it was wise to reject that scheme or not is, of course, an open question. I think that it was unwise, and if I had been in the right hon. Gentleman's position then, I should have accepted Scheme A. There were many of those who were closely connected with the schools who regretted the abandonment of Scheme A. I think it is significant that some of the governors and headmasters, who pressed most strongly then for the rejection of Scheme A, and the abolition of fees in these schools, as soon as they had carried their point, took themselves off the direct grant list and became independent. The exact policy, with which hon. Members are generally familiar, was announced in Circular 32 and incorporated in the Regulations.
That was the position when I took office. When I became Minister I found that the general policy, which was to take effect from the beginning of the educational year—as I took office on 6th August, that was only some six weeks 1705 ahead—had been settled. A number of applications were coming in daily, of which, however, only one had been decided. Any inconvenience—and there have been complaints of inconvenience experienced by schools about delay in settling their status—is not altogether my responsibility. I decided, however, in those circumstances—I underline this—that I would adhere to the general lines already announced, but I found it necessary to extend the period by one term, in order that I could consider the situation and examine carefully each application. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, I made one important change in the conditions. In Circular 32 it had been announced that residuary day pupils would be charged fees on a general income scale, with the figure of £5 10s. as the level for free places, in respect of a man with a wife and one child. I raised that to £7 10s. That has been a considerable addition in the direction of free education in schools, for there are about 7,000,000 people with a gross income of £250 or less a year and 5,500,000 between £250 and £500. I am informed by my statisticians that this change has secured complete remission to every person, out of 2,000,000 persons, who sends his child to a direct grant school under those conditions.
To deal with individual applications, I accepted the distinction between schools which were previously aided by the local education authority and the schools previously recognised for direct grant. I decided that a very special case indeed would have to be made out before I could add to the direct grant list any school which had previously been aided by the local education authority. That is the reason why I say to the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington that his pet school cannot come on the direct grant list. It is also affected by another principle, which I shall announce in a moment. It is the only secondary grammar school in Warwick. While I should be most charmed to meet the right hon. Gentleman, I am sure he would be the last to think that his school should be singled out for special treatment because of the regard in which we personally hold him.
I come to the principles I have adopted. These are not some frightful principles which I have evolved out of my own head 1706 or have taken from some manifesto such as to earn me the title which the right hon. Gentleman bestowed upon me. I am sorry to disappoint not only him, but even the hon. Members behind him, because the principles I have adopted, and to which I have asked my officials to work in judging these applications, are simply the principles laid down in the Fleming Report. I did not appoint the Committee. It was appointed by the right hon. Gentleman. What are those principles? It seems to me that they are perfectly sensible and reasonable ones. First, to have regard to the financial stability of the school; second, its non-local or other special characteristics—it is obviously not fair to put under a local education authority a school which draws its boarders from all over the country—third, the nature of the education given by the school; and fourth, the views of the local education authority. If the local education authority do not want a school it would be extraordinarily difficult to give it to them. If the local education authority feel that that school is necessary to complete their secondary provision, clearly that ought to have great consideration.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Byers
How does the Minister explain a case like that of Shaftesbury, which complies with all the conditions but is still refused? What additional principles are there to which the school must adhere?
§ Miss Wilkinson
I hope the hon. Gentle man will forgive me if I say I cannot keep in my mind every single school. I am perfectly willing to send him a letter pointing out exactly the ways in which Shaftesbury School does not fit into those principles, but I can say quite honestly—
§ Miss Wilkinson
I cannot be drawn on details like this: I have been asked for principles and not details. I cannot be asked to usurp the position of the expert officials who are working on this. They must have from their Minister a set of principles upon which to work. Having got those principles, they expect the 1707 Minister to keep to them and. not make ad hoc promises all over the place which would make the position quite impossible.
In addition to these principles which have been laid down—as I say, they are not mine but they are principles laid down in the Fleming Report—there is one overriding consideration I feel bound to mention. In some cases, direct grant schools have provided the only available grammar school places in the area. It seems to me wrong and quite out of accordance with the priniciples of my party—and please may I remind the right hon. Gentleman again, although I hate to rub it in, that there has been an Election and that this is not a Coalition Government—and it would not be in accordance with what we have laid before the country which has given us a mandate, if all I did was to say to my officials, "Please tell me what Mr. Butler did and just do the same." Quite clearly, that would not be right. It seems wrong to place out of the reach of a substantial number of qualified pupils the opportunity of free education suitable to their ability and aptitude. After all, that is what the 1944 Act assures to them. That position was accepted so long as secondary education was considered the privilege of the few who could afford to pay for it.
§ Miss Wilkinson
But that was the case. I am sorry, but I must ask the hon. Gentleman to follow what I am saying.
§ Miss Wilkinson
Free secondary education was not the rule before the war, and I am prepared to give the figures if the hon. Gentleman wishes—I have the figures, but I did not want to burden the House with them—of the amount of secondary education that was not free before the war.
Applying these principles, how have they worked out in fact? Do the figures as they are justify all the indignation that has been poured out from the party opposite? I have now decided 130 applications and 102 are still under consideration. Of the 36 applications from schools previously aided by the local authorities, four have been accepted and 32 rejected. Of the 196 applications from schools pre- 1708 viously recognised as direct grant schools, 82 have been accepted and 12 rejected. A certain number of schools, 18 in all, have been attracted by the advantages of maintained status, and 16 schools have decided to become independent and to renounce the obligations as well as the advantages of grant recognition. It is worth while noting—and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will note it—that practically all these schools made that decision without applying for direct grant at all, and they made their decision long before I took office. Those schools, far from being aggrieved by any decision of mine, came to their decision as a result of the general conditions laid down by my predecessor.
Even so, I deplore the action of these governors. The schools have for some time enjoyed State assistance. I would remind some of them that State assistance kept them financially afloat during the war. They have now decided to sever that connection, for reasons which I do not think are convincing, and which in some cases place in jeopardy the local provision of education. The right hon. Gentleman has accused me of levity in the statement that I should look very carefully at the endowments of certain schools before I allowed them to raise their fees to a height that might make it possible for them to become independent. I repudiate that charge, and I am surprised that it has been made. My statement was the result of the most careful consideration. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that I have to have some regard to the wishes of those who left the money for these schools, many of whom specifically stated that the schools were to be for poor scholars.
§ Mr. Butler
I do not want to take up the time remaining to the right hon. Lady, but I would like to remind her of what she said, which was:Then, if they went independent, refusing to allow them to increase the fees which is the only way by which they could go independent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th October, 1945; Vol. 414, c. 1086.]My point was that the right hon. Lady was overstepping the bounds of her duties as a Charity Commissioner.
Miss Wilkinson: I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, while I admit that it is always possible, in a sentence which is 1709 not part of a prepared speech, to give a wrong slant, that in these cases I should consider most carefully whether the principles of the trusts are safeguarded, and obviously I would have the expert advice of the legal department of my Ministry.
The suggestion has been made that, in considering individual applications, preference has been shown to Roman Catholic schools. I do want at once to repudiate that suggestion. As I say, I have laid down certain principles, and if the officials working to those principles find that certain schools fit in, then I cannot alter those principles in order to discriminate against any particular sect. In most cases the Roman Catholic schools have only a minority of scholars from the local population. Generally the schools are closely linked with convent houses and financed by great religious Orders. I am told that these schools will be roughly in the same proportion to other schools, finally, as was previously the case.
I believe that the list when it comes out will be seen to have followed pretty closely those principles. These are the lines on which we are proceeding at the present time. The House will not expect me to commit myself indefinitely. After all, the whole of the local education 1710 authorities have been asked to submit development plans. The time will come when I will have to look at the whole picture as it is revealed by those plans.
I am surprised that from the Benches behind me—or really beside me—there was raised some question that there should not be parity of esteem between schools. The hon. Gentleman who made that remark is a distinguished headmaster, but I think he has not altogether understood the meaning of that phrase. It used to be the pride of this England that the yeoman, doing his essential job well, had parity of esteem with any other man presumably doing his own job well. I say that while a rural school and a university may have very different jobs to do, yet if the rural school is doing its job and doing it well, I should hesitate to say that it was not doing as important a job in its way as the university. That is what we mean by "parity of esteem." Any teacher doing his job, whether in a direct grant school, a public school or an aided school, has the right to a parity of esteem from the Minister of Education.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-nine Minutes after Four o'Clock.