HC Deb 16 October 1945 vol 414 cc1068-91

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £4,168,000 be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Education, and of the various establishments connected therewith, including sundry grants in aid, grants in connection with physical training and recreation, and grants to approved associations for youth welfare.

The Minister of Education (Miss Wilkinson)

The extra provision included in this Supplementary Estimate is required in the main for grants to local education authorities. The Financial Memorandum to the Education Bill envisaged the payment of a main grant to each local education authority based on the combined standard percentage for the area, that is to say, the total grants to the authority for 1938–39 expressed as a percentage of the total expenditure of the authority on education in that year. This combined standard percentage was to be increased by two in the first year and by one in each of the three subsequent years. Over the country as a whole, this would have given an average main grant of about 52 per cent. in 1945–46, increasing to about 55 per cent. in 1948–49.

The proposals of the Burnham Committee for increased rates of salaries to teachers were circulated to the constituent associations of local authorities last December, but the decisions of all the associations upon them were not known until nearly the end of last February. Meantime, the Ministry had to settle their Estimates for 1945–46 in January of this year. with a view to their presentation at the normal date to Parliament. These Estimates took account of the estimated additional expenditure that would be incurred by local education authorities if the Burnham proposals were accepted by the authorities and approved by the Minister; but, as no decision on the proposals had at that time been reached by the authorities, they provided for grant on the expenditure of authorities, including the increased cost of teachers' salaries, at the rate envisaged in the financial memorandum, that is to say, combined standard percentage plus two.

When my predecessor decided in March to approve the new scales of salaries submitted to him by the Burnham Committee, it was also decided to relieve the increased financial burden thereby placed upon the authorities by increasing the rate of Exchequer grant over the whole range of the expenditure of the authorities, including salaries expenditure, to combined standard percentage plus five as from 1st April, 1945, when the new scales took effect. I hope I have made this clear, because under the Financial Memorandum this stage would not have been reached until 1948–49.

As this decision to increase the rate of grant was made subsequently to the presentation of the Ministry's Estimates to Parliament, no provision could be made for it in those Estimates. The increased provision made in the present Supplementary Estimate for grants to local education authorities is the estimated amount required to pay instalments amounting to 90 per cent. of the grant payable for the year, at the increased rate during the present financial year. We pay only 90 per cent. during the financial year, and 10 per cent. is carried forward as a balance for adjustment.

The extra provision provided for in the Supplementary Estimate under sub-head D. 1 is needed for direct grants by the Minister to bodies other than local education authorities and is required for two purposes. In the first place, it is required to enable the Minister to implement the settlement with the direct grant grammar schools. This settlement was not reached until after the presentation of the Ministry's Estimates for 1945–46 and could not, therefore, be reflected in them. The amount included for this purpose is £200,000, which represents the additional cost of paying the increased grants to the schools during the present financial year. Broadly speaking the effect of the settlement reached by my predecessor—and he will appreciate that this Supplementary Estimate is in the nature of a hang-over from his régime—was to substitute an inclusive capitation rate of £16 for a number of isolated grants, such as former capitation grant, Sixth Form grant, examination grant and meals grant, and at the same time to make some allowance for general increased costs of running the schools. The settlement also included provision for ensuring that no qualified pupil would be excluded from a place in these schools on account of inability of his parents to pay fees.

I really attach very great importance to this provision, and I have recently amended the scale as laid down by my predecessor for the remission of fees so as to secure education free of charge to all pupils whose parents' income is below £7 10s. a week where there is one child in the family, with graduation where there is more than one child. That is to say, instead of beginning the grading of incomes for fee-paying purposes at as low as £5 10s. a week, it starts at £7 10s. Below that income there is no question but that the child gets a free place. Therefore, that £200,000 will, I think, be accepted by the Committee as very well spent.

However, if the Committee will look at the figures, there is another £30,000 to be accounted for. This is required for the preliminary expenses of the College of Aeronautics which is being established as a new experiment by the Ministry. It is being set up as a result of the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee which sat under that great expert in air design, Sir Roy Fedden, and was appointed by my colleague the present President of the Board of Trade (Sir Stafford Cripps) when he was Minister of Aircraft Production in October, 1943. The Government accepted it in principle and announced that fact on 18th October, 1944. My predecessor took immediate steps to secure the appointment of a governing body, and Sir Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt, who has recently retired from the post of Inspector-General of the Royal Air Force, accepted the chairmanship. I have had a long talk with Sir Edgar; he is not only a brilliant air expert but a very keen educationist, and I think will be a remarkably energetic and vigorous driving force in this college. So keen is he that he has taken an aeroplane and gone round Germany collecting all the possible kinds of equipment he can find which will be useful to the college.

Mr. McKinlay (Dumbartonshire)

Perhaps some of it will be useful at Prestwick.

Miss Wilkinson

No doubt Prestwick will be able to use the results of the work Sir Edgar is doing. We have invited applications for the post of principal, and that is now being considered. Arrangements have been made with the Air Ministry to accommodate the college temporarily, so that we can get a start made early next year, at Cranfield. There is a Royal Air Force airfield there which will provide both residential and teaching facilities together with all the necessary facilities for flying. Certain preliminary expenses in connection with the establishment of the new college will accrue for payment during the present financial year. We have to pay the staff salaries, the rent of premises, and make some provision for equipment. We have included for this the very modest sum of £30,000. Next year when things are more settled we shall probably be able to use the more appropriate method of a grant-in-aid. I think that the experiment is very well worth while and justifies the money being expended upon it. It links up the universities, the Royal Air Force and the aviation industry, and we are looking forward to a great future in this post-graduate work in aviation. I am sure all of us here hope that its products will be used for civil aviation and not for another war.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)

I am sure that we on this side would like to support the Minister in general in her request for certain sums of money under the headings she has described. The subject of the Burnham Committee is one which I always approached with some anxiety, owing to past experience which was not always very happy. But in this case I notice a continuity of policy which the right hon. Lady is carrying out and which I think is quite right. It is important for the local authorities to realise that the extra amount which is now granted as a result of this decision is, in the total, very considerable. In fact if you look at the Supplementary Memorandum you will see, taking the total for the year, that is the full amounts estimated to be payable for the year excluding any balances of grant for previous years but including all balances of grant for the year payable after the end of the year, that the extra total for 1945 for elementary and higher education purposes amounts to an increase of no less than £23,169 over the 1944 total. I mention that figure because when I was responsible for these important matters I was always anxious that there should be enough money available to make the Act work.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Act for which he was responsible eliminated elementary and higher education?

Mr. Butler

That is quite right but I am using a technical term. Elementary and higher education is a phrase used in regard to Supplementary Grants and I am adhering to it for purposes of greater accuracy, but the hon. Member is quite right in saying that the words were abolished as regards the terms of the Act itself. That sum, over and above the 1944 total, is available to education authorities and I feel certain that it will be a very substantial aid to the authorities in carrying out the Act. I do not say that they will all be contented, and we on this side shall certainly do our best to help in any way we can to encourage the Government to provide as much money as possible to make the Act work. I think, however, that authorities ought to realise that this action on the part of the Minister will make it more easy for them to meet the liabilities they have to face, and in particular the liability for paying the extra on teachers' salaries which I consider is such a vital necessity in education today. I was very glad when I was able in March of this year to agree to the Burnham recommendations, because I feel certain that without well-paid teachers the meaning of education is very largely lost. I will not say any more on that main heading because it is a continuity of policy.

The Minister made some very important statements on the subject of the grant for secondary expenses. She referred to the revised capitation rate for the direct grant schools and spoke of my own action in regard to the amended scale for the remission of fees to parents. I should like to support the request the right hon. Lady makes, and I think a very important consequence flows from her words. She has made it crystal clear to the Committee not only that the secondary regulations are o framed that under them any child, no matter how poor his parents, can go to a direct grant school, but also that as a result of her own action it is even easier for any child of any parents to go to a direct grant school.

I therefore hope that that indicates a realisation on her part of the importance of direct grant schools in the educational system as a whole. She has herself taken a notable step in that direction and I feel sure it will be possible now to say that over the length and breadth of the country, as a result of the Minister's wise and far-seeing action, it will be possible for the child of any parent to go to a school of that character.

I do not hold any particular brief for direct grant schools as such, but I have always made a great point that in the educational system of this country there should be a variety of schools and into that variety of schools every variety of child should be able to go. I believe the action taken by the Minister, which she has described on the Supplementary Estimate to-night, will make it all the easier for children to go into this type of school, among other types of schools, so that we can get variety in the sorts of education provided for the children of this country. I should like to express our gratitude to her for the action she has taken.

On the subject of the College of Aeronautics, I am glad the Minister has had a conversation with Sir Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt. I would like to say from this side of the Committee what confidence we feel in the choice of the man in regard to this College. I feel that if he takes charge of this matter some of the doubts and anxieties which naturally arose when this great experiment was suggested will be dissipated. I am interested to hear that the College is to be established at Cranfield. I would ask that on a future occasion we should have from the Government an estimate of the difference in expenditure under the Government's proposal from that originally set out in the Fedden Committee's Report. There was some anxiety when the Committee reported that the estimates were very high—which indeed they were—and there were some people who declared that these expensive experiments ought not to be indulged in during the immediate post-war period. I believe the method by which the Government are setting about the establishment of the College should dissipate anxieties.

I understand it is suggested that this expenditure should be undertaken by degrees and that experiments should be made, and that the Government will not set about the establishment of the final full scheme of the College until they have seen how it works in the preliminary stage. If that is the case, perhaps the right hon. Lady will say a word to indicate that I am correct. That would dissipate some of the anxieties expressed about setting up a costly experiment which might not work. In my view the method adopted under Sir Edgar Ludlow-Hewitt is one which is likely to work. I think that doubling up with the R.A.F. at Cranfield and the use of the airfield is a much better scheme than some others that have been suggested. I visited an airfield near Plymouth and found it unsatisfactory. I think the suggestion of Cranfield is the best possible one.

I would like to ask the right hon. Lady a further question. Is it proposed to affiliate this College to a university in its original stage or at any stage? One advantage of the present site is that it would not be at an over great distance from a university and in the initial stage of the College it might be valuable to have some sort of affiliation. The experiment of putting an educational venture of this sort under a Government Department is one that we shall watch very closely. I was in favour of it myself, but it does mean putting a great responsibility upon the Government Department concerned. It is necessary, therefore, to take every possible step to keep in touch with the educational world as a whole, and particularly with the university world, so that the Department concerned may have their confidence. I feel that the steps taken so far will lead to that confidence being established.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)

I would like to endorse what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler) about this College, and particularly his last query. Earlier in the day we heard from the President of the Board of Trade that it was contemplated to set up a college in connection with watches and clocks. The only experience so far of the Ministry of Education running any college—the Royal College of Art—was not very successful. I think the warning given by my right hon. Friend about these colleges coming directly under Government Departments should be borne in mind. I am not sure what the right method would be, but I thing a governing body, preferably connected with the universities or higher technical institutes, would be very much better than their coming directly under a Government Department.

I want now to move from the less controversial to the more controversial. With regard to direct grants, I do not quarrel with the change which the right hon. Lady has made. I want simply to ask a question. I gather from a recent reply that 45 applications for direct grant status have been granted, that 31 have been rejected, that 16 have gone independent, and that there are 140 applications still open for consideration. I should be very grateful if the right hon. Lady would give me some idea of how the sum of £200,000 is arrived at. Is it a general figure? Is it based on what is to happen to the 140 applications still open for consideration?

I come now to a matter which I think is very serious. I was staggered to hear the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden. One would think he had learned absolutely nothing during the last few months. I was elected to this House partly because of the failure of the Burnham Committee to arrive at a proper scale for grammar schools. I have made speeches in 12 cities, including the university cities, and I can tell the right hon. Lady that there is deep concern, approaching disaffection, in the schools over this scale. If my right hon. Friend had got this scale put on to a proper basis he would have saved the situation, but at the present moment, for this reason and because of various other questions, which will be raised next Thursday, the grammar schools are in a very parlous condition.

Mr. Butler

If it is to be in Order to discuss the whole question of the Burnham Committee and my reasons for approving the scales, I must claim the indulgence of the Committee to give a full reply to the hon. Member. It would be necessary for me to explain fully the procedure I had in mind for making it possible to review certain of the anomalies in grammar school salaries, and it would be necessary for me to put questions to the Government. I am just as interested in this as the hon. Member is, but I do not think it arises on this Estimate. If it is discussed I shall make a full statement and answer the hon. Member.

Mr. Lindsay

I do not wish to say any more on the subject. We are now dealing with the Burnham Scale, and I am entitled to express a view which has been widely put to me. I have had hundreds of letters expressing the feeling I have stated. I will say no more, except that many of the hopes which were expressed about posts of special responsibility have not been lived up to by the local education authorities during the last six months. I do not feel that the right hon. Ladyis really responsible; I do not make any criticism of her, because I think she is quite helpless. All I ask is that as soon as possible she will make an inquiry into how these posts of special responsibility are in fact being allocated by local education authorities. I hope that the right hon. Lady will revise these scales—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden promised to revise them after three years—when a suitable opportunity occurs, which I think will be in the lifetime of this Government.

In conclusion, I congratulate the right hon. Lady on the setting up of the College of Aeronautics, subject to the one query about the method. I think the decision with regard to the £5 10s. and the £7 10s. is a wise one. I hope it also means that we are to have a decision about the remaining 140 direct grant schools. With regard to the grammar schools and Burnham Scales, I hope the right hon. Lady will look into this matter. Too much has been done for the Independent and primary schools from the point of view of the N.U.T., at the expense of the Grammar School.

The only schools that made it possible for poor children to go to the universities were the grammar schools, and 90 per cent. of those children went through those grammar schools. I shall continue with this fight until we get justice done. It is not on any other basis that I make this appeal, and I hope the right hon. Lady will make her tenure of office memorable by agreeing to a change in the whole approach to this problem.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Sunderland (Preston)

I rise to ask the right hon. Lady, in connection with the provision of money for the payment of increased salaries to teachers in technical colleges, which has recently been recommended, whether she is in a position to give instructions for this to be done, or to give the necessary authority to local educational authorities for themselves to pass the necessary supplementary estimates for this purpose. We are somewhat held up in the process of that part of our work.

Professor Gruffyd (University of Wales)

I am very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Kenneth Lindsay) has already thrown an apple of discord into what promised to become an agapemone between the right hon. Lady and her predecessor in office. It was high time to say what he said, and I am going to content myself with merely crossing the ťs and dotting the i's of what he has said, because, in spite of what my right hon. Friend the ex-Minister has said in protest, it is a fact that £4,000,000 of these Estimates go towards working the Burnham Scale. This is probably the last opportunity we shall have of discussing this notorious Award.

The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I am in rather a difficulty myself, and possibly I can clarify the position if I ask the Minister if the Burnham Scale has been approved by her since the original Act.

Miss Wilkinson

Yes, as a matter of fact it was approved yesterday.

Professor Gruffydd

I would move the rejection of this item altogether but, of course, that would not meet with the pleasure of the Committee, because it would embarrass teachers and local authorities, who already have a very grave prospect in front of them, especially in the grammar schools. All the experts in education—and by experts I mean experts, people who have been connected with education, either as teachers, pupils or administrators all their lives—from the university down to the primary school, without exception, condemn this item of the Burnham Award. There is in the country a sense of frustration among teachers. There is a new kind of cynicism which I have not seen before in 40 years of experience, and a frank distrust of the promises made by any Minister of Education who may fill that office, but, coupled with that, there is always the hope that the present Minister of Education will be better than what they have feared.

I am not going to take up much time, but I would like to explain to the Committee that the most promising development in education during the last 30 years was the unprecedented and unexpected development of the secondary schools of this country. We hear a lot of discussion about public schools and the universities. Perhaps the Committee does not realise that, of all the Fellowships held in the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, nearly 49 per cent. are carried by boys who passed through the free grammar schools of this country. This is the position the grammar schools came to before 1944. They were doing this service for the ordinary people, for you and me, for the working classes. Some day there will be a Socialist Government in this country, and when that Socialist Government comes, it will realise what a disservice the Burnham Award, and the alacrity with which the Minister of the time accepted that award, have done to secondary education in this country.

Miss Bacon (Leeds, North-East)

May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether, when he speaks of secondary schools, he means secondary schools, or just one particular kind of secondary school—the grammar school?

Professor Gruffydd

I am speaking now of secondary schools, as defined by the Act of 1944, because I hope that the new secondary schools will become something like the old grammar schools and serve us in the same way as they did. But I do not think they will if they fall under the Burnham Award. I should like to remind the hon. Lady the Member for North-East Leeds (Miss Bacon) of the experiment in America when they tried to settle the colour question. They said: "Let us settle it by calling everybody white." Technical education is necessary, but technical education is not going to save this country, and it is not going to give the common people of this country what a humanistic education can give. A humanistic education can only be given through what is now called the grammar school. There must be a core of enlightenment in the country which can only come from a cultural education, and that enlightenment must inform the whole of our learning before any educational system can profit us.

I suppose that we must accept this recommendation to-night, but I, for one, accept it with the very greatest regret. I appeal to the right hon. Lady, who knows from her own experience what schools are, to consider very seriously what will be the repercussions of the acceptance of the Burnham Scale, not only on the grammar schools, but on all the schools in this country, and on the whole civilised life of Britain.

Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)

In view of the fact that the Committee has just listened to two speeches containing very extravagant and untrue references about the position of secondary education in this country, it is about time that somebody got up and made a protest about statements of this kind. I want to say this for the Burnham Award. Let us recognise the services it has rendered to education. It has established unity in the teaching profession for the first time because it has brought in a basic scale for all teachers. That is something which anybody who wants to see education in this country develop on proper lines should welcome. From lack of it in the past education has suffered, and it is very unfortunate that representatives of secondary teachers, who by no means speak for all secondary teachers, should try to undo some of the great work that has been done by the Burnham Award.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay

That is completely untrue. The secondary schools have always welcomed the increase to the £300 minimum in the primary schools and have not said anything to the contrary.

Mr. Lipson

The burden of the criticism surely has been that the secondary school teachers have had a very raw deal under the Burnham Award because their basic scale is the same as it is in the primary schools. The whole point of the value of the Burnham Award is in recognising that there must be unity in education. You cannot differentiate between the quality of the teaching in one school and that in another, but where there are special responsibilities there will be certain increases in pay in consequence. It is wrong and harmful to education to try and create a division in education and in the teaching profession, which I think the Burnham Award has gone a long way to remove. It will cause a great deal of concern to parents with children at secondary schools to hear that secondary education in this country is in a parlous condition. Why should it be in a parlous condition? Is it because admission to those schools is to be based on the ability of the child to benefit from the type of education and not on the ability of the parent to pay? The teachers are likely to have more promising material with which to work, and why? Because the fees have been abolished in secondary schools, should that create a situation in which you could say that the education at secondary schools would be in a parlous state?

Professor Gruffydd

That is an absolute travesty of what we have said. I agree of course with every word which the hon. Member has said about fees.

Mr. Lipson

It is not right to get up in this Committee and say, as was said by the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay), that the grammar schools of this country are in a parlous state. Those were his exact words. That is bound to cause concern among parents whose children are being educated there. There was nothing to justify that except that in his opinion some secondary teachers are not getting enough pay. They are getting more under the Burnham Award than they were getting before.

Professor Gruffydd


Mr. Lipson

I speak as a member of an education authority, and I know that we have to make increased provision under the Burnham Award for the salaries of secondary teachers as we have for teachers in primary schools. A great deal of harm is done by unwise talk of this kind and I hope that this is the last that we are likely to hear of it. I ask the Minister whether he believes, and is prepared to say, that no child is excluded from a direct grant school because of the financial position of the parent. I cannot see how that can possibly obtain, because there are only a limited number of places in any direct grant school available for those children who are not fee-payers. I understand that about 130 applications to become direct grant schools are still outstanding and I hope that every one of those applications will be turned down.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Butler

I apologise to the Committee for speaking again. What researches I made before the Debate have convinced me that this was no occasion on which to review in general the whole of the Burnham Scale. As, however, discussion has taken place on the subject, it is necessary for me, quite extempore, to put some questions to the Minister before the hon. Lady replies. Many of us who were responsible with regard to the Burnham Scale of salaries had to take a very serious decision. The suggestion made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) that that decision was taken in a spirit of hurry or rush or without due thought is as much a travesty of the facts as are extraordinary and wild statements about secondary education in this country.

Professor Gruffydd

The word I used was "alacrity," and alacrity generally means eagerness.

Mr. Butler

This decision was taken after most sober thought and sober reflection.

Mr. Lindsay

Is the right hon. Gentleman not responsible for the exact way in which these committees were constituted? These committees having been constituted as they were, was this not inevitable?

Mr. Butler

We have had a Debate before in this House on this subject and I do not think it is suitable to have it again in Committee, though it would be permissible to do so.

The Deputy-Chairman

It would be inadvisable and undesirable to discuss that matter.

Mr. Butler

The matter has been fully debated here and any one who studies your Ruling will see that it is very sensible. In view of the turn that the Debate has taken and the very natural interest of those of us on this side of the Committee that all those things should work out for the best, I hope that the point in the Debate on the Burnham Scale in this House in the last Parliament will be examined by the right hon. Lady with a view to seeing whether she can keep an eye on the working out of the scale in practice. I will not go into these proposals in detail because they can be found in the columns of Hansard, but there was a point put by the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay), namely, the manner in which local education authorities allocate appointments of responsibility and the manner in which domination is given to headmasters and mistresses of the smaller grammar schools, who I consider under the formula of the Burnham Scale were likely to suffer. Very often the headmaster of the smaller grammar school did not get the increase he would have got if the scale had been in detail. If the hon. Lady will examine the proposals I made at the time, and at some future date give an assurance that she will do her best to watch the scale in the interest of graduate teachers, then we on this side of the Committee will feel that the interest of graduate teachers are being watched. Had I known that this subject would be raised I would have put it in my speech. I hope that the right hon. Lady will say that it is her desire that the interest of all types of teachers will be watched by the present Government.

Another matter that I did not expect would arise was the question permitted to be raised by the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities, and that was the question of the direct grant lists. I had not thought that this was a question on which to raise the whole conception of the direct grant list. If it is the occasion to raise that I want to make it clear that we on this side of the Committee attach the utmost importance to the direct grant list remaining substantially as before. It might be the case that certain schools feel that the aid and status afforded by the Act are so unsatisfactory that they desire to leave the direct grant list. There may be other schools, but I do not think there are many, who may desire, for a variety of reasons, to come on the direct grant list, but however it may be, we on this side of the Committee would view with consternation any policy which develops with the view to depriving the direct grant list of some of its most distinguished members. We regard them as having an important contribution to make to the educational system of this country and we would like an assurance from the right hon. Lady that it is no part of her policy to destroy the direct grant schools of this country. I couple that with the statement I made in my previous speech that it is surely reasonable, now that the Regulations have been made and the scales revised by the right hon. Lady, that, when they are so acceptable, they should be permitted to furnish that education which they can provide. I apologise to the Committee for having been obliged to speak again.

Miss Wilkinson

I would like to deal first with the points which have been raised and to deal with the speech of my predecessor the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler) at the end. I think that would be for the convenience of the Committee. With regard to the anxiety of the hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. Lindsay) about watches and clocks, it will not in any case mean a separate college, but is to be linked up with one of the existing polytechnics. With regard to the direct grant schools and how the figure of £200,000 was arrived at, I may say that it was reached on the basis that the number of pupils in direct grant grammar schools during the present financial year would be, roughly, the same as in the previous year, and that, whatever ultimate decision was readied, it could hardly affect the period of the Supplementary Estimate.

The hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) spoke of the growing cynicism among graduates because—and this is what it really amounts to—there is no promise that this class of teacher will be maintained at the level which they desire. I think that was one of the most cynical observations that could be made about any set of people engaged in such fine work, and I hope that, when he see sit in Hansard, he will see that—

Professor Gruffyd

When I read it in Hansard, I think I will find that I used, not the word "graduate", but the word "teacher."

Miss Wilkinson

No, it was not teachers the hon. Member was concerned about. Let us get it perfectly clearly; that is to say the teachers in what were previously known as secondary schools and are now known as grammar schools. What really has happened in the matter of these teachers is that we are no longer regarding teaching in primary schools as being done by an inferior kind of teacher. We think that as good, as fine and as highly-trained teachers should be given to the children in what were called elementary schools and are now called primary schools as to any schools. We are regarding education not as being separated into different boxes, but, now that we are trying to eliminate class distinction, at any rate, in State education, we are looking at all teachers as one body, whether teaching in primary, modern, technical or grammar schools, and, if any extra pay is to be given, it is to be made for a special responsibility.

I would like to remind hon. Gentlemen who are getting so indignant about the way the graduates are treated by the Burnham Scale that the graduates' associations have expressed appreciation and gratitude for the way in which Sir Frederick Mander, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, dealt with their case, and that, really, the actual amount arrived at by the Burnham Committee is very little different from the amount actually asked for by the graduates' associations. This is only a determination to keep up an artificial distinction between teachers, in which I myself have no interest at all.

Professor Gruffydd

Will the right hon. Lady tell us whether in her opinion there is no difference between a person with emergency training of one year who never passed the school certificate examination and the person with first-class honours?

Miss Wilkinson

Far be it from me, as the mere Minister of Education, to start lecturing a Professor of Logic. If the hon. Member is going to be beaten on argument and is going to drag in everything he can think of in order to try to bolster up a case, that is really not good, even for a representative of the primary schools, but, of course, the universities are a little different. I can assure him that we are really pursuing a very definite policy in this matter and that we are anxious that teachers should regard themselves as a whole, as a great united body, working for the good of the people, whether in nursery school or university, and, therefore, what I am concerned about is that we should consider, as we have done, our basic rates for our teachers and make provision for cases of special responsibility and special work. I want to make it clear that we are not regarding these Burnham Scales as "writ on tablets of stone." It is perfectly clear that, after such long consideration, with every kind of body being consulted that had a right to be consulted, you cannot be altering the Scales very often or you would never come to any finality at all, and that is the reason for the three-year limit with regard to the Burnham Scale. I will, however, tell the hon. Member for the English Universities and the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden, that I will keep this matter in mind because we are working on a new Act and dealing with a lot of new problems where the old ideas will not do, not necessarily because they were wrong, but because they have now to be fitted to a new situation. I will bear them in mind and have a look at the matter from time to time, and I can assure the hon. Members for the Universities that the teachers concerned always bring up such matters as they feel rather dissatisfied about, and, of course, it is always open to them to do so.

9.0 p.m.

If I may leave that point for one moment and come back to this other question of direct grant schools which has been raised both by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden and the hon. Member for the English Universities, the actual figures may interest them. There have been 232 applications to come on the direct grant list, 45 of which have been granted, 31 have been rejected, and 156 are under consideration. I would point out that all these applications have had to be considered since I became Minister because my policy with direct grant schools is not the same as that of my predecessor. I make no apology for that. There has been a General Election and I think that on this matter of direct grant schools the party which I represent does not see eye to eye with hon. Members opposite. I have therefore taken this matter into very careful consideration, and I have laid down certain lines on which I wish these applications to be considered. That, naturally, has had to slow down a process which would have gone more quickly if it could have gone straight along on the lines on which it was being dealt with previously. However, that delay is ended now and we are working on the new lines—

Mr. Lindsay


Miss Wilkinson

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to finish the point, and then he can ask what he likes. I want to make it perfectly clear that, having looked at the matter very carefully, I have come to the conclusion that it would not be right to sweep away direct grant schools altogether by the side-line of refusing to accept their applications and then, if they went independent, refusing to allow them to increase the fees which is the only way by which they could go independent—which I could do in my capacity as Commissioner for Educational Charities. I am very anxious to retain variety in education and room for experiment in education but, on the other hand, when this Parliament has decided that there should be as far as possible free, secondary education, then I regard it as my duty as Minister of Education to carry out that decision as far as is possible. I am aware—and I said it in my opening speech—that these direct grant schools are far more open to the children of the homes with smaller incomes than ever they have been.

I want to make it clear that under the Regulations 25 per cent. of the places are absolutely free, and 25 per cent. are available to the local education authority who can claim those places and pay the fees of the children. That is to say, 50 per cent. of the places in a direct grant school are absolutely free as far as the parents are concerned. With regard to the remaining 50 per cent. it is now not possible to buy a place in a direct grant school for a child who does not reach the required standard. Every place of those 50 per cent. fee-paying places must be given on merit by examination, and if the child of a man, however wealthy, fails to reach the required standard, then a place cannot be found for that child in that direct grant school. Therefore, because of the democratisation of these direct grant schools, I felt that a certain number of them should be retained in order to provide for that variety of education which we require.

In the case of schools of very oldtradition—cases of schools that have reached a very high standard in teaching technique and in schools that have various other claims to special consideration, I have been prepared to give direct grant status, but I see no reason whatever why many of the rest should not become free secondary schools under the local education authority.

Mr. Lindsay

May I ask one question? My right hon. Friend said that so far 156 cases had not been settled. I mentioned 140 while 16 have become Independent. Could she say whether that is so? Looking through the list published last week I see that in the first group that have been recognised there is a very large number of Roman Catholic schools. It may be an accident and I have no feeling about it one way or the other, but I want to know if it is the policy of the Government to recognise these denominational schools as direct grant in advance of some other principle.

Miss Wilkinson

There is no special action being taken with regard to denominational schools. As a matter of fact, one of the largest Catholic schools, when the income limit was raised from £5 10s. to £7 10s. for residuary places, has decided that there is no financial point in remaining on the direct grant list. With regard to the 16: 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 increase their fees sufficiently to get enough revenue to go independent. That is the reason for the difference in the figure.

With regard to the Burnham Technical Salaries Report, that has been before me during the last few days and I signified my acceptance yesterday. We are circulating this to local authorities immediately, and it will be in their hands within the next few days. With regard to the Aeronautical College, the right hon. Gentleman opposite expressed the position perfectly when he said we were regarding this expenditure as largely experimental. We have not provided for a vast sum to be laid out at once. Clearly, from every point of view, this is a very experimental project. We feel that this very modest grant at the beginning will give us experience for going further, when we shall probably ask Parliament for more money. With regard to the point of relationship of the estimate of the Roy Fedden Report, and the Government's own Estimate, that is one of the problems which we have before us, and on which I am keeping an eye.

Mr. Butler

The right hon. Lady has just made a serious statement about direct grant schools. We on this side take grave exception to the policy she has outlined, and I propose to take this opportunity of putting several further questions to her. The Opposition is not content to let the matter rest where she has stated it, and we shall take other occasions to raise the question more fully. When I was Minister of Education I received, in company with my colleagues of the Coalition Government, certain deputations of great weight and importance from the schools.

The points I want to put to the right hon. Lady are these. When I was Minister of Education I received in company with my colleagues of the Coalition Government certain deputations of great weight and importance from the schools concerned. I accept at once that the right hon. Lady is a free agent. We have had a General Election, and she is entitled to carry out what educational policy she likes. Two of these representative deputations of the Governing Bodies Association and others came to see me and certain undertakings were given by which I shall stand. These undertakings were that the direct grant list shall remain substantially as at present. That was accepted under the Coalition Government, and under the general aegis of the Act which I thought up to this moment would have general agreement.

I cannot say what a shock the right hon. Lady's statement has given me tonight, and what a very adverse impression that will make throughout the whole world of education. Here is the first example of departure from that confidence which I hoped we should have engendered. I am not going to get unduly heated, because she is entitled to carry out the policy which she thinks best—that is the law of the land—but can she tell me what are the conditions which she has laid down for these direct grant schools to fulfil? She has given a general state- merit to-night about them which I think is very unsatisfactory, because we, on this side of the House, cannot gain any impression of what the standards are which she is going to lay down. I think before we allow this Supplementary Estimate to go, I should like to have a statement of the conditions which these direct grant schools are expected to fulfil. Secondly, I should like to have an assurance that the remainder of the schools on this list which number some 150, whose fate has got to be decided, will be given the utmost consideration. It seems to me that the right hon. Lady is obsessed with the idea of the free nature of education. She should, in my view, adhere to what she has already said in her speech, that a variety of schools, provided that children of parents however poor may go to them, is in the interests of education in this country. The direct grant school has a very notable past and won a very great tradition. It is not a school designed to keep out children of the poor, and if she thinks that is the object of the direct grant school she is obsessed with an entirely wrong idea.

I, myself, when drafting the secondary school grant regulation took particular care to see that the children of parents however modest could go to these schools. The particular contribution of the direct grant school is that it gets its grant direct from the Ministry and is able to have a wider scope than the purely local school under the local education authority. There are many schools in this country which get the direct grant, the parents of whose children are just as modest as those of the aided schools, which rejoice in very ancient traditions which enable them to draw pupils from a wider scope than you could under the single education authority. These schools will envisage with dismay the statement made by the right hon. Lady to-night.

There is another feature of these schools to which the members of the Governing Bodies Association and others attach great importance, and that is that these schools form a link in the educational system of this country as between free and independent schools and the big boarding schools and the State system. If her policy is to result, as it is clearly tending to result, in some of these schools going independent, does she think she is going to achieve the linking up of types of education in this country, which has always been the ideal of us on this side of the House? It is not our idea to create a gulf between the educational system, between the dependent school, on the one hand, and the aided school on the other. Our idea is to have all schools linked up together so that there are not these great gulfs. I believe the result of the right hon. Lady's policy will 'be to create a gulf between one kind of school and another which will be a far greater social embarrassment to this country than the social embarrassment she, quite sincerely, is seeking to avoid.

I therefore ask her to think very carefully when she is reviewing the rest of this list, because I believe that in her policy lie greater seeds of social disruption and danger than in the policy of permitting direct grant schools to continue, and making it possible for them to take the children of parents however poor. We on this side of the Committee are far from satisfied with this surprising statement we have heard. I had no idea I was going to hear that to-night. We shall take another opportunity of raising the matter, and I hope that meanwhile the right hon. Lady will give us some reassurance in answer to the points I have made.

9.15 p.m.

Mr. Lindsay

May I say one thing in answer to the right hon. Gentleman? I am still more astonished to have heard his latest speech. There is, as he said, a change in Government but I would like to remind him that the damage which has already been done to the grammar schools of England by the interpretation of this Act may be even worse than anything that may be done by changes in direct grant schools. There are Members of the Labour Party who will agree with me about the damage that has already been done through the administration of the Regulations of the Act for which my right hon. Friend was responsible. It is not the Act itself. It is in the day-to-day interpretation that we shall get differences. I am glad to see many of the approaches which my right hon. Friend is making to this problem. I do not think that by enlarging from £5 10s. to £7 10s. she is doing that damage. The moment that certain decisions were taken by the last Government it was inevitable that many direct grant schools would go independent, and the right hon. Gentleman cannot fasten on to the new Government something for which he was responsible. I prophesy that it will not be 16 but 26, 36, 46 which will go independent before we are finished. It is now legal in this country to pay anything from £50to £250 for a child's education, but impossible for people who wish to make a modest contribution to their children's education. The right hon. Gentleman cannot expect everything to go beautifully and smoothly as a result of the Act. We shall see some strange things happening, as the hon. Member for Devizes (Squadron-Leader Hollis) said in his brilliant maiden speech last night.

Miss Wilkinson

I hope the Committee will forgive me if I do not continue the Debate. It is perfectly clear from what the right hon. Gentleman says that it is a fundamental difference with which we are faced. We cannot go on as if the old Government were still in being. While I would be willing to pay the right hon. Gentleman my tribute, and I do, for the 1944 Act, which will go down as a great Act, he has himself said that a great deal will depend on the spirit in which that Act is administered. I have given a general outline in very general terms because we were not expecting this particular Debate to go into these particular details. But I am perfectly prepared to face the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends opposite in any Debate, whenever they are prepared to raise the matter, and to discuss the whole question and defend my policy. I do not think that at this late hour, with so much still before the Committee, it is the moment to go into it.

Resolved: That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £4,168,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1946, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Education, and of the various establishments connected therewith, including sundry grants in aid, grants in connection with physical training and recreation, and grants to approved associations for youth welfare.

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