HC Deb 02 February 1949 vol 460 cc1720-50

Amendment made: In page 6, line 52, at end, insert: and the following Subsection shall be added at the end of the Section: (4) In this, Section the expression 'local authority' means a county, town or district council."—[Mr. Woodburn.]

5.37 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Woodburn)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

This is a short but important Bill. It tidies up a great many matters which have come to light since the passing of the original Education Act. In addition to that, in its first Clause it unfortunately postpones the starting day for junior colleges in Scotland. These were intended to start on a fixed day, but it has become quite evident that the building programme in Scotland will make it quite impossible for Scottish education authorities to comply with the terms of the Act. It is always bad to have an Act of Parliament that cannot be carried out. If the practical realities of the situation do not comply with the Act, clearly the necessity is to make the Act a practical proposition. During the discussion of the Bill, everyone has regretted this postponement of the junior colleges. Junior colleges are fairly large establishments with fairly large buildings. My calculation is that their draw on the building trade is equivalent to about 200 houses. I am sure that no local authority could afford to sacrifice the materials and labour necessary to build 200 houses, even for the sake of having a junior college.

Let me admit that our country has set itself after the war to accomplish a tremendous programme of social advance. That social advance is necessarily limited by the development of our resources. If the resources are not there, the programme cannot be carried out in full. Therefore it is clear, especially in connection with junior colleges, health centres and other such matters which require to draw upon a limited building trade, that a system of priorities has to be determined, and that those priorities are definitely with the mines, factories, houses and ordinary schools for the extension of the school leaving age, and buildings for school meals, before health centres and junior colleges.

As was explained in the Scottish Grand Committee, this postponement does not mean that it is a permanent postponement. Each of the authorities has been asked to prepare a scheme for further education and in due course those schemes will be submitted to that Department where consideration will be given to them and a programme of progressing will be determined to comply with the practical possibilities of the building trade. This Bill deals to a large extent with this aspect of further education. In some respects Scotland is not doing as well as its southern neighbour in regard to day release classes, especially in regard to technical subjects. In Scotland a great deal of reliance was placed on the old apprenticeship system which was very thorough and very good but there is just a danger that because of its goodness in the past it may still be considered adequate for the present.

On the other hand, there are examples in Dundee, Edinburgh, Coatbridge and elsewhere of further education development where great steps forward have been taken in the kind of education which prepares a boy for his future aétivities. In Dundee there is a trade school where the boys from day release and the boys who are going into industry are able to have, as it were, a bird's eye view and a little practice in order to sample for themselves the industry which is most fitted to their capacities. I understand that the Army had such a sieve or clearing house by which the capacities of different people were found and they were then directed as far as possible into the channel where their activities would be most useful. In these schools boys have the best training in the shortest possible time.

In Scotland in the past we have relied on the school of experience, and I am the last to deny the valuable training which comes from that school. Scotland has produced some very fine people from it, but it is an expensive school. It takes a long time, and the whole purpose of science is to compress the experience of the past into a shorter space of time so that everybody does not need to go through the same process of experience in order to acquire at least the elementary and fundamental principles upon which they will develop.

Evening classes will continue. Here again, in the past, Scotland has had a very considerable proportion of her youngsters attending these evening classes, but in spite of the fact that this has been possible, there has not been anything like the attendance which we desired. On the other hand, it would be quite wrong to think that this work must necessarily wait until huge buildings are established in the form of junior colleges. The idea that a college is a building is quite fallacious. Many people have learned without a building, and the whole world is a college, provided that proper direction is given to the student as to where to seek his knowledge, and a great deal of improvisation and experimentation can be done in the meantime in order to get at least the first lines of this further education going so that when the buildings are ready there will have been a great deal of trial and error to prove what the right road is.

I hope that in the meantime, even before we reach the point where every local authority can provide junior colleges, at least some local authorities will be able to provide prototypes and enable us to see the system at work. Clearly it would be quite impossible to make it compulsory on all local authorities if it meant diverting their energy from more fundamental things at the moment in order to deal with junior colleges. At the moment the local authorities are earmarking the sites where these junior colleges will eventually be built, and I have no doubt that by the time these schemes are submitted they will have surveyed the whole ground, putting the junior colleges, adult education, community centre training and all the various outlets for cultural development in those who have left school, in their proper perspective and setting, so that we shall get a balanced picture from which we can formulate our programme for the future.

This should be available by next year, and by that time we shall be in a position to discuss where we go from there. In the meantime, the authorities are doing all they can. They cannot build until they have made their plans. At the moment they are in the stage of planning, and all that this Bill does is to postpone the date which is obligatory at the moment until such time as we can lay down a date when the colleges can start in earnest. The other Amendments are very largely of the clearing house type and for tidying up the legislation as it formerly existed.

I want to thank the Scottish Grand Committee for the expeditious way in which they have dealt with the Bill. It ought also to be pointed out that the Bill makes history. It is the first Bill which will have passed through the House under the new arrangements whereby the Second Reading of Bills may be debated in the Scottish Grand Committee. If, as I anticipate, it passes with good will it will show that, as is not readily understood outside, a great part of the work of the House is done by the co-operation of all hon. Members and that in many of the Bills which we pass and in much of the work which we do, we deal with these matters in a practical way according to our objective understanding of the problems placed before us, and that on some of these matters there is never any question of cross-party voting. People decide these matters entirely on their merits and a great deal of the work in the House bears the contributions of back bench hon. Members who have taken their part in the discussion of Bills. In moving the Third Reading, I thank hon. Members for their co-operation in bringing the Bill to this stage.

5.48 p.m.

Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)

As we are concerned with the Third Reading of the Bill, it is only in Order to deal with subjects which are actually in the Bill, and beyond that I will not go. As the Secretary of State said, the real importance of the Bill lies in Clause 1 and the other Clauses merely make for clarity in the principal Act and prevent hardship arising in certain cases. The Opposition welcome those other provisions but we are quite certain that no hon. Member can possibly welcome Clause 1.

The postponement of the date on which the junior colleges shall come into being is a cause of very deep disappointment to hon. Members on both sides of the House and to all persons who are interested in education. I was rather horrified at the admission of the right hon. Gentleman that in certain respects Scotland was not now keeping pace with education in England. I hope he will see that that matter is rectified at the very earliest possible moment because hitherto we have always prided ourselves on being considerably ahead of what happens in the neighbouring country.

We have been assured by the Secretary of State that there is no practical possibility of meeting the objective laid down in the Bill. That we must accept. It is the Government who know all the facts, and we have no access to a certain number of them. Therefore, this decision is one made on the Government's own responsibility, and in that we have no share. Everyone will hope that the appointed day will not be long postponed, and that the steps which the right hon. Gentleman is taking will be speedy. We have his further assurance that this is not a delaying matter, and that also we accept in the spirit in which it is given. All I can add is one more hope that we shall have these junior colleges in being, remembering always that they are not just buildings but something that can be carried on outwith the sphere of the large type of building altogether, and in many, different places.

5.51 p.m.

Mr. Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)

While it may be true that we regret the fact that the appointed day for the commencement of the junior colleges has not been stated in Clause 1, nevertheless it must be appreciated that the Government are facing a situation of extreme difficulty. While my right hon. Friend has declared that this matter is a priority, we have to remember that there are other priorities equally significant and equally important. I share in his regret that the appointed day is not a possibility at the moment, but I welcome his assurance that every temporary expedient which could be undertaken by the local authorities to bridge this acknowledged gap in our educational system would have the full support of his Department.

The hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) said that Clause 1 was the most important part of this Bill. In some ways that is true, but there are other important aspects to which one ought to devote some attention. One occurs in the Schedules. I refer to space requirements in school premises. In the Debate on the Scottish Estimates in 1947, I first raised the question of the size of school premises. In replying, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary pointed out that this was a complex matter which was engaging the close attention of his Department. Beyond that he did not venture. On the Estimates in July last year I returned to this question, and regretted that my right hon. Friend had not the power to make regulations with regard to space requirements. The Under-Secretary, in replying, stated that the Secretary of State could only make recommendation because he "had not statutory authority to make regulations," unlike his colleague the Minister of Education. It is important to note that in Section 20 (I) of the Schedule, my right hon. Friend now has power under this Bill to make regulations laying down the size of school premises. There is no argument about the necessity for space in class rooms, in playing fields, and in all the other aspects of education today, and it is most important that the Minister now has that power.

With all respect, I suggest to him that in applying these regulations, as he will have to do, he should take three points into consideration. The first is that, in laying down the space requirements for the size of school premises, no discrimination will be exercised between rural and urban schools. In many ways, if there has to be discrimination, it ought to be in favour of the urban school, because the need for space there is more important. However, the ease with which we can get space in the rural areas is greater and, because of that, I hope that when he comes to face the need for these regulations he will make no distinction in treatment between rural and urban areas.

Secondly, when he deals with the urban areas which, in our new development plans will be zoned into outer, intermediate and inner areas, he will be faced with the fact that the inner area, more congested, needs greater space for educational purposes. Again, I suggest that in the zoning areas he should make no discrimination in the space requirements for those different areas. It does not mean that immediately he will have to create that space. He may only be able to get an acre or two at the time he wants it, but he should consider the advisability of designating the land in the vicinity of the school premises so that, when development takes place in the town, that land will be available for use.

In the closing part of Section 20 (I), my right hon. Friend is given power to modify these standards if he thinks fit. Again, I suggest that he only utilises that power in very exceptional circumstances and that when he does so, it should be only for a temporary period. I should like to recall to him the fact that his colleague the Minister of Education, speaking recently to an educational body in England, laid down that that was the policy he intended to follow. I should like the Secretary of State for Scotland to pay attention to the attitude of the Ministry of Education in England as far as this part of the Schedule is concerned. We have always been proud to think that in education Scotland has always set a high standard and I should not like it to be thought that we were merely following England. I hope that in this respect we shall not merely follow but will lead once again as we have always done.

6.1 p.m.

Lieut.-Commander Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, West)

A short time ago we were discussing the Export Guarantees Bill which met with a great deal of acceptance and, indeed, enthusiasm on all sides of the House. But now I am afraid that we are dealing with the final stages of a Bill which is not welcome to any of us, but which, we realise, is necessary because of circumstances described by members of the Government during the earlier stages of this Measure.

So far as the Schedule and most of the Bill is concerned, some minor administrative changes are made which are, I think, to the general advantage of our educational system, although they are not such as will arouse any great excitement. We are, however, all concerned about Clause 1 and to know that the date of opening of the junior colleges must be postponed indefinitely. The Secretary of State has told us today that local authorities are going ahead and earmarking sites. I understood him to say that at about the end of the year they will be able to render to him some kind of progress report on the position as it then stands. I should like to ask the Joint Under-Secretary, when he comes to reply, if he can give us any indication, however vague, when he anticipates these colleges will be ready—whether it will be in, say, three or five years' time, always assuming that no major emergency or calamity arises to upset our plans.

In moving the Third Reading of the Bill, the Secretary of State referred to Scotland's not doing very well in the matter of day classes on technical subjects. I think that quite a number of people in Scotland are rather concerned at the present state of education. There have been a number of disquieting discussions about it. In particular, there was held in Arbroath at about the end of December a conference of the Educational Institute of Scotland. I read the Press accounts of that conference with very great interest. According to the "Glasgow Herald" of 30th December, a former president of the Educational Institute said: …that never at any time in her career had things educationally in Scotland been worse than they are today. Those are grave—indeed, very disquieting—words, coming from a person of long experience and responsibility in the field of education. This matter, therefore, is one which must concern all Scottish Members very much indeed. For that reason, it is with a good deal of sorrow and misgiving that we have to pass this Bill tonight, knowing that it is further retarding the progress of educational development in our country.

6.4 p.m.

Miss Herbison (Lanark, North)

It was not my intention to take any part in this Debate. It is very clear, however, that Clause 1 is the Clause which is causing the greatest discontent. I was very interested to find the Secretary of State had said that at the end of a year local authorities are to be asked for details of their plans for junior colleges. The hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison) has asked the Joint Under-Secretary of State if he can say whether those plans will materialise in three or five years' time.

I can well understand the feelings of hon. Members opposite on this question, because many of the problems facing us today would not be confronting us had they been dealt with at the proper time. In 1918, for instance, a date had to be appointed for the raising of the school-leaving age. It was not a case then of three or five years, but of 21 years, before the date was introduced. Nevertheless, I support the hon. and gallant Member in trying to ascertain how long we must wait for the introduction of junior colleges.

Having been a teacher before I came to this House and having been a member of the Educational Institute of Scotland, by whom the conference in Arbroath was held, I know many of the members who were then present. That statement in the Press was one of the very few statements carried by the Press about that conference. It gave the headlines of journalists who had attended the whole of the conference solely in an effort to find headlines. But that statement, which was made by the ex-President of the Institute, was by no means endorsed by the majority of teachers who attended the conference. That is the main reason why I have risen to speak in this Debate.

It is completely wrong for the impression to go out to Scottish parents and children that education in Scotland is in a much worse state today than it has ever been. I keep in very close contact with my former colleagues and I know that, although many problems are facing them, they are approaching those problems in the proper way, accepting them not merely as problems but as challenges and opportunities. I am convinced that, because of the attitude of the majority of teachers in Scotland and the attempts which are being made to overcome the serious difficulties, we in this House need not worry at all about the present or the future of Scottish education.

6.8 p.m.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan (Perth and Kinross, Perth)

The hon. Lady the Member for North Lanark (Miss Herbison) has given us, perhaps, a little hope that what was said by the lady at Arbroath, who, after all, had very great experience, did not represent the opinion of a large number of teachers. As I have said upstairs, however, I am one of those people who believe that the education of our country today is on thoroughly unsound lines. It makes the basis of education the passing of examinations and not the development of character. So long as we go about it in that way, I do not think we shall ever get right. I will not dwell on this question, however, because I do not think it is strictly in Order. I noticed that I was about to get into trouble, so I will pass on.

It was with great interest and some disquiet that I heard the right hon. Gentleman explain that one of the reasons why junior colleges cannot be built is because of the effect it would have on the housing situation, which, as we all know, is a very serious one. I understood him to say that one of these colleges would represent, roughly speaking. about 200 houses—traditional houses, I presume, and not the illuminated chicken-coop type. I should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman's Department intends to build these junior colleges on what I would call a semi-permanent basis and not on a very permanent basis like the old ones, which are too dreadful to think of and which must be pulled right down because they cannot be adapted to modern needs.

The hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) contributed a very valuable point when he dealt with the conditions in these schools as far as their construction is concerned. I think it a great mistake to do what has been done in the past, to erect a very expensive building of a permanent nature when, in the proper order of things, what is required in schools, as in hospitals, is something which can be adapted to ever-changing needs. I wonder whether the Under-Secretary can give some assurance that this figure of 200 houses being equal to one junior college is not assuming that that college is to be of the super-permanent type, but of the modern type, seen in Sweden, Switzerland and other places, capable of modernisation as improvements come forward in educational building.

I am entirely in favour of these junior colleges and, like other hon. Members, I am very sorry that it is not possible to give a date for them at present. I hope it will not be very long before that can be done. I also hope that the request of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison) for some idea of when the Government think it likely that some of these buildings may be put in hand will be answered, although that idea must be a very rough one. I welcome the Bill in principle and very much hope it will not be long before Clause 1 becomes operative.

6.12 p.m.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

While agreeing with most hon. Members who have spoken this evening that we very much regret the necessity for this Bill, we must fully appreciate that, with the passing of the main Act and the time-lag of work and preparation, there are today, many areas which, far from being ready and able to build junior colleges, wish they could put up all the necessary schools they require. In Kilmarnock we very much need primary schools and a large secondary school, and I know the difficulties which face the Secretary of State for Scotland in this respect.

My right hon. Friend said that in this matter of adult education England was getting the lead on Scotland. We should spare no effort to make up the ground. I remind hon. Members opposite that this is not a case of our having lost the lead, because what we are proposing to do under the junior college scheme is to cater for the education of children after school-leaving age, which hitherto, I am sorry to say, has been completely neglected. Because of that, I am concerned about the postponement of the appointed day and the fact that it is left to the Secretary of State in the vague phrase: as early a day as he considers practicable. We remember only too bitterly the fact that the 1918 Act was similarly vague and it was 28 years before the school-leaving age was raised. We do not want a repetition of that.

Among the minor amendments in the Bill, there is one I wish to commend. I was interested in the remark of the hon. and gallant Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) that the passing of examinations is not the be-all and end-all of education. I am afraid that Scottish education has been too much obsessed with that idea and from the time a child started school the higher leaving certificate was continually kept before him. I welcome the Amendment to Section 70 of the principal Act, which substitutes for the words, of conducting leaving certificate examinations, the words, incurred by the Secretary of State in conducting examinations for the award of certificates relating to secondary education. That foreshadows a completely changed attitude to examinations in schools. There is every possibility that with this change, we in Scotland will get away from the cribbing, cabining and confining of academic education and will give a far wider and broader education in secondary schools to those who are now getting secondary education for the first time up to age 15, and even those beyond that age. I sincerely hope that the appointed day will not be too long postponed and that the Secretary of State will use the intervening years for what is really vitally necessary in this kind of work, which is new to Scotland—experimentation and the giving of freedom to authorities to go ahead.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. McKie (Galloway)

I presume that the Secretary of State for Scotland will feel a measure of gratitude to the hon. Lady the Member for North Lanark (Miss Herbison) for her intervention—

Mr. Woodburn

I do.

Mr. McKie

Yes, but only a measure of gratitude, because he must not think that the hon. Lady was giving unqualified blessing to his proposals in the Bill. She pressed him, as other hon. Members have pressed him and as I intend to press him, to give some indication of the period of time which is to elapse before the appointed day. The reason the right hon. Gentleman must feel a measure of gratitude to the hon. Lady is because, in her opening sentence, she endeavoured to import some political prejudice into the discussion.

Mr. Woodburn

I think the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) misunderstands. The reflection was on Scottish education and not on the Secretary of State for Scotland. I think my hon. Friend the Member for North Lanark (Miss Herbison) rightly rebutted what is a slander on Scottish education.

Mr. McKie

I go a little further, I was about to say that the hon. Lady did her best to import political prejudice into this discussion in her opening sentence because she asked her right hon. Friend not to be too dismayed, but to consider the sins of omission of his predecessors in office who, no doubt, in some degree, were responsible for the present state of affairs in regard to Scottish education.

Miss Herbison

What I was taking up was the statement by the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison) that we had waited five years. These things are apt to be reported in the Scottish Press and it is just as well that hon. Members opposite should remember the very long time we on this side of the House had to wait. It was not three, or five years, but 21 years.

Mr. McKie

I am very glad of that intervention. The hon. Lady has confirmed every word I have said, and not merely confirmed, but amplified her previous statement. I am delighted to have that complete assurance from her. As I listened to her originally, and again just now, I could imagine her developing that argument with considerable personal charm in Scotland.

I felt considerable sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman when he was making his speech. He was apologetic, as he had to be—he almost appeared in a white sheet. He alluded to the very ambitious programme which the Government, of which he is such a distinguished and ornamental member, have undertaken in the three or four years he has held office and suggested that it was not possible, owing to some of the larger schemes, to attend to many of the minor ones which are at present so clamantly needing attention. The right hon. Gentleman did his best—and he has the goodwill of both sides of the House—to secure a unanimous approval for this postponement, and I for one do not intend to strike too jarring a note in that connection.

I was particularly struck by the example given by the right hon. Gentleman of what it would have meant to Scotland in loss of houses if the appointed day had been as was originally intended. Two hundred houses may not seem very much, but having regard to the present housing situation in Scotland—and the right hon. Gentleman will be very well aware of that—we could not afford to lose them, and that is the reason the postponement will have to be accepted. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that it was not necessary always to have the buildings of stone and lime—he did not use those words abut that is what he meant—or bricks perhaps, in this more modern age, in order that people desirous of availing themselves of those educational facilities should be able to take advantage of them. I agree. Especially in rural Scotland in the 18th century, many of our people, who were not placed in a very happy situation, as the Under-Secretary of State will agree, took ample advantage of the facilities open to them. "Sweet are the uses of adversity"—and that was a very good example of the truth of that saying.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to a falling-off in some cases in the number of people taking advantage of the day classes. I had no idea that that was the case. The right hon. Gentleman said that we were behind England in some respects. I join wholeheartedly with him in deploring that that should be the case, and I hope that we may see a very speedy improvement in this direction. I wish to refer to one other point in connection with what was said by the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) in regard to the conditions prevailing in many urban and industrial areas in Scotland. I deplored his statement that if there was to be discrimination at all—I know he does not want it—then the schools in the rural areas should suffer—

Mr. Rankin

The hon. Gentleman has no right to distort in such a fashion the statement which I made perfectly clearly. I do not want to see any discrimination whatsoever, and I made that perfectly plain.

Mr. McKie

And I said so.

Mr. Rankin

Yes, maybe the hon. Member said so, but then he went on to distort what I said.

Mr. McKie

Let me assure the hon. Member that I have no wish to distort what he said or what anyone else said. But we will leave it to HANSARD tomorrow; the hon. Gentleman will agree that he said that if there had to be discrimination at all, he thought it should be against the rural areas. I think he will agree that that was what he said, but I leave that point. I will, however, say to the hon. Member, that if I did distort his statement in any way, I apologise.

I was about to say that in the rural areas there are some very bad conditions obtaining with regard to the proper housing of schoolchildren, and that is a point which I hope will be very carefully borne in mind in connection with the Second Schedule to this Bill. I can assure the hon. Member for Tradeston and the Secretary of State for Scotland that in my area and in other constituencies in Scotland there is very much to be done, particularly in regard to sanitation. Perhaps under the present Measure there is not very much provided in that way, but I hope that the point will be kept carefully in mind. I for one would not wish to do anything to impede the progress of this Bill.

6.25 p.m.

Mr. McKinlay (Dumbarton)

I do not wish to follow the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie). If I did I should more than likely be hopelessly out of Order. I do no more than suggest that if some of this enthusiasm had been shown during the last 25 years, we should not be in the position today of having to postpone the provision of certain equipment.

I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) welcoming the Secretary of State taking power to make regulations prescribing standards applicable to the premises or equipment of schools, junior colleges, etc. If the hon. Member had had some experience of trying to administer in a local authority what all the highbrows in education prescribed for the good of the children, I do not think he would welcome the idea that the Secretary of State should have any more powers to frame regulations and lay down standards for local authorities. In any case, having framed the regulations the Secretary of State may, if after consultation with the local authorities he finds that a regulation cannot be applied, modify and alter and entirely withdraw the application of that regulation from a particular area. Surely, that is putting the cart before the horse.

My object is to ascertain whether playing fields are included in what the Secretary of State has the power to prescribe. If we are to accept the standards which I have heard some people suggest, of seven-and-a-half, eight, and nine acres of land for the purposes of enclosing a school, including playing fields—which is very nice—where are we going to finish with school buildings? I had some trouble with the Department of Education on the question of sites for some of Glasgow's biggest housing development schemes and I say frankly and without fear of contradiction, that if the experts had had their way we should have had a beautiful development, full of school playing fields and no houses within a mile-and-a-half. Who the Secretary of State may be at a given time is such an uncertain thing; one goes to bed at night and wakes up in the morning and finds there has been a displacement over-night. The regulations to be prescribed may be prescribed by a Secretary of State over whom the idealists have no influence at all. I would suggest that, before the regulations are framed, consultations should take place with the local authorities.

I am jealous of the rights and powers of local authorities who, after all, have to submit to the electorate, with unfailing regularity, one-third of their members each year. It is all very well for people who have no local responsibilities to frame regulations telling those who have the responsibility what to do. I should like the Joint Under-Secretary to put my mind at rest. Does this provision include playing fields? My hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston must be in the confidence of the Front Bench, for he says that it does. If eight-and-a-half or nine acres of land in Tradeston are to be taken, where will the local authority house the population? It is simple to say that that can be done, but it does not say in the Bill how we should do it. Therefore, I cannot discuss it without being out of Order.

Mr. Rankin

In the Schedule it is specifically made clear that consultation with the education authority will take place before the Secretary of State comes to any decision on the matter.

Mr. McKinlay

It is clear, but I have not the advantage of being an educationist. I can only read what is said in Section 20 of the principal Act. That states: The Secretary of State may make regulations prescribing standards applicable to the premises or equipment… Later it says that the Secretary of State, having made the regulations, may consult local authorities if it is found that they cannot be applied in their area.

Would it not be much better—and could not such an alteration still be made—to have the consultation before the regulations are framed? Also, could it be stated specifically that the equipment includes not only space within a building but also the open space surrounding a building? Local authorities are entitled to know in advance so that they can make preparations for future development.

6.34 p.m.

Mr. Hubbard (Kirkcaldy)

I share the regret of the Secretary of State at the circumstances which have caused the postponement of the appointed day and the fact that it is not practicable now to state when that day shall be. Nevertheless, I do not like the phrase: "as soon as is practicable." No matter what the good wishes of my right hon. Friend may be, who will determine what date is practicable as the appointed day? We welcome the statement that some preparatory measures are to be taken in the case of junior colleges. However, I should like to be assured that when the right hon. Gentleman has been advised what should be the appointed day so far as buildings are concerned, that day will not be further postponed to suit the convenience of the most backward authorities in the country. Education authorities have different ideas about educational progress. Fortunately, I represent an area in which there is one of the most progressive authorities in Scotland, but I recognise that there is no standard of progressive education.

I should not like to think that the fixing of the appointed day will be delayed by the most backward local authorities. Some reasonable time ought to be fixed in which authorities must make their arrangements for the opening of junior colleges. Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. McKinlay), I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State now has power to make regulations in connection with education in Scotland. As not all authorities are in themselves progressively minded, it is right that someone should hold the measuring stick and be able to prod the more backward authorities. I do not subscribe to the idea that the extraordinary popularity of football pools has meant that the numerals 1 and 2 and the letter X have in any way superseded the importance of the alphabet, although they are in popular use. The A B C table is of great importance.

There are some provisions which are absolutely essential so that children may take advantage of the facilities provided. It is good that the Secretary of State should have power to lay down a standard of equipment. For far too long we have found that there are good education areas and bad areas, good schools and bad schools; and it is the fortune or misfortune of a child that his education is determined by the area in which he lives. No matter how backward a rural area may be, it is satisfactory to know that, at any rate, a standard of school equipment can be available for all children in the early stages of their education. The same remarks apply to lighting, heating and sanitary arrangements. We have now ensured a high standard of efficiency from the teaching profession. No matter how high that standard may be, unless the amenities, the lighting, heating and sanitary arrangements in schools are of a high standard, the children will not get the maximum value from the system.

I know that, in the main, members of local authorities have to go to the electorate from time to time. That does not apply in every case, because there are still some co-opted members on education committees. On the other hand, sometimes the very fact that they declare themselves as progressive educationists—which usually means the spending of money—is the rock on which some of these candidates founder. When they indicate to the electorate that they are anxious to spend the money necessary to give the highest possible standard of education, on many occasions they are rejected by the electors. From that point of view, it is useful that standards of equipment, of the size of premises, and of amenities should be laid down.

The good authorities need not resent the powers that the Minister will hold as a result of that part of the Bill. Most of the decent type of people on local authorities will appreciate the value of those powers. I welcome the fact that great interest is shown in this Measure by Members in all parts of the House. As was the case when its predecessor and the main Measure, passed during the "Caretaker" Government, were approved, there is a general opinion in Scotland that only the highest and best type of education is good enough for our people. Therefore, I hope for an absolute assurance from my right hon. Friend that the fixing of an appointed day will not be determined by the most backward schools in Scotland.

6.40 p.m.

Mr. Willis (Edinburgh, North)

Like other hon. Members who have spoken on this Bill, I naturally deplore the effect of the provisions contained in Clause 1, but I cannot help feeling that there is a different manner in which we should approach this matter. We frequently have to do many things which we consider to be rather tragic at the time, and it is certainly unfortunate that we have to postpone the date for introducing the system of junior colleges. It seems to me, however, that the situation has certain redeeming features.

There are many jobs which are absolutely essential and which we can get on with now, without having our resources spread over too wide a field. When I look around our schools and examine our educational system, I see hundreds of tasks which want tackling. For instance, we want to reduce the size of classes and to make our schools good schools. I have schools in my Division of which I am ashamed, even in the City of Edinburgh. I am not so much concerned with this appointed day, or whether it should be next year or the year after. What I am concerned with is that, having rid ourselves of this date which was set—which it was almost impossible to keep, because of circumstances which I should think could have been foreseen at the end of the war, and which, in many fields, were foreseen, namely, the acute shortages which arose—having rid ourselves of it, let us determine that we are going to put in order the system we already possess. It is all very well having a great education scheme embodied in Acts of Parliament, or, for that matter, having the organisation for carrying it out, but we want something more. It is the content that matters, not the structure, and it seems to me that we can get down to the task of clearing up some of these jobs waiting for us at the present time.

I hope the Secretary of State will pursue this matter vigorously and will try to make the best of the provisions we already have. In my view, it is far better to educate a child properly, as it should be educated and under the conditions in which it should be educated, up to the age of 15, than it is to part-educate it until 20, and I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend will act on those lines. If he does, I am confident that the enthusiasm for education will be so great that there will be no anxiety about getting him to appoint a date. I appeal to him, from that point of view, to make the best of the present provisions, and to try to rectify many of the bad characteristics of our system.

6.44 p.m.

Mr. Gilzean (Edinburgh, Central)

I would like to say that I have a very considerable sympathy with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in all the problems which confront him and particularly with regard to education. I am perfectly sure that, as soon as they can be solved, all the things which we visualise in connection with education will come to pass, but we have to recognise some truths.

In our generation, we have had two wars, and if there is anything that is devastating to education it is war. The consequence of those two wars is that many things that require to be done simply cannot be accomplished except through the processes of time. During the last seven or eight years, we have seen buildings deteriorating, and we have had to realise that it has been almost impossible to get the normal material for carrying on our educational purposes. We have lacked equipment to a tremendous extent, and our staff falls far short in numbers of the needs of the processes of education. Apart altogether from all other considerations, we have raised the age to 15, which means that we require extra staff at a time when staff is not to be had, although that situation has, in some measure, been met by the admission of thousands of people who have not gone through any normal course to fit themselves for education.

They have gone through an emergency course, and I want to say that these people who have passed through courses other than the normal ones are proving themselves of very great value to our schools at the present time. We cannot, however, produce specialist teachers by any emergency course, and the consequence is that all our schools are suffering from a lack of specialist teachers. As a matter of fact, among education committtees there is a very high competition to obtain these specialist teachers, and, taking all these facts together, one must frankly face the position that it would be utterly impossible adequately to meet the demands that would be made upon the whole structure of education if, at the present moment, we sought to impinge on it something that would have the effect of choking up the whole organization.

When we turn to buildings, I admit that they constitute a problem, because, in the days before the war, there was, not a complete indifference to the need for new buildings, but a lack of appreciation in that direction, with the result that, when the war came, we found ourselves in a position in which it was utterly impossible to provide the buildings that were necessary. The clamour on the part of the population, quite rightly, is for places to live in, and there are still tens of thousands of our people who are living in houses which, to say the least, are deplorable. Although schools are very necessary, I would even give place to the immediate living needs of the population as against the claims for schools, and, inasmuch as, under present conditions, we are not in a position to house the people decently, it follows as a matter of course that we cannot hope to provide the schools that we would like to provide. The consequence is that, up and down the country, children are still being educated in schools 60 and 70 years old, without any possible hope of replacing them at present.

So acute has the position become in my district that there are hundreds of children now being educated in temporary huts. When we remember all these facts, it seems to me to be out of the question to hope that we may be able to meet the situation in the way we would have liked to have done. For that reason, I think the Secretary of State is undoubtedly taking the wise course in delaying further education until such time as we can get the teachers, the equipment and the schools. But when we consider that there are hundreds of schools with the dirt of years on them, which it is not possible even to paint at the moment, we must call a halt and decide what is our immediate pressing responsibility. So far as possible, we must provide the best possible education which the circumstances permit, without seeking to embark on further education, because otherwise I am convinced we shall only make the condition chaotic in the extreme. For that reason, I support the line of action which the Secretary of State is taking.

6.51 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

There has been too much fatalism in this Debate, and the Secretary of State for Scotland needs no encouragement from the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. Gilzean) in the line which he is taking in this Bill. The Secretary of State enunciated a theory of social values in his opening speech to the effect that one of these junior colleges was equal to 200 houses. The slogan used to he "Guns before butter," but now it has become "Colleges before houses." I do not accept the fatalistic attitude that we need have all these priorities and that education should be sacrificed without putting up a much more strenuous fight than there has been on this issue.

I want, first, to refer to the possibilities in the countryside. I do not accept the theory that in rural Scotland there are no buildings available for use as junior colleges. In Ayrshire we had a little tussle with the Department of Education over the question of acquiring a mansion house, Glaisnock House, in the Cumnock district, for the purpose of a college. At first we met with very lukewarm support, if not active opposition, from the Department of Education for Scotland. Then the Ayrshire Education Committee said, "We want this building; it is important. We regard education as a very important sphere of our activities," and indicated that they did not agree with the attitude of the Department of Education, and they wrote and asked me to raise the matter in the House. I am very glad to say that the Department capitulated, so that there was no reason to raise the matter, and the building was acquired for use as a residential school.

In the same area, however, I know of a very large country mansion which could be used as a junior college to cater for the educational needs of this agricultural area. I am safe in saying that, as far as rural Scotland is concerned, whether it be Ayrshire, Inverness-shire or any of our rural areas, if the Secretary of State for Scotland would say "We are determined to have this building," if he were prepared to say in the Cabinet "This is one of our commitments, we are not sacrificing education," we should have had in the agricultural and rural areas these junior colleges, and these educational opportunities would have been developed. If the Secretary of State looked round some of our big cities, he would be able to find large suitable houses. I shall not particularise, but I saw one in Edinburgh which could be used as a junior college, at least temporarily, if the Secretary of State were as enthusiastic about education as some of his colleagues are about the Services.

Mr. Gilzean

Where would the hon. Gentleman get the staff for these places?

Mr. Hughes

I am now dealing with buildings. I will deal with staff later. In his introductory speech, the Secretary of State, referring to Clause 1, stressed that it was the buildings which were the trouble.

Mr. Woodburn

I made it quite clear that a great deal of this work could go on without the buildings. All I was saying, when dealing with the question of making this matter compulsory, was that it should not be made compulsory in areas where the accommodation could not be provided. In areas where accommodation can be provided, there is not the slightest objection to local authorities going ahead; they will get every support.

Mr. Hughes

I am glad to note a new spirit of optimism in this Debate. We shall evidently have the local authorities showing their determination by acquiring properties for this purpose. I hope that the local education authorities will observe what the Secretary of State has said, and that we will not hear so much of the argument that it is necessary to delay the establishment of junior colleges through lack of buildings.

What of the future? The Secretary of State said that the building programme in Scotland hampered the scheme. I presume that he is looking forward to the time when new buildings will have to be built, and that the time will then come when the junior colleges will receive his support. If so, he has not only to think in terms of education, but he must consider where to get the building labour to build these new colleges. It is not only a question of housing. The problem of where to get the labour to build these new schools is important, and it is problem number one. If the Secretary of State is prepared to stand by and let the labour force in Scotland be dissipated as is happening at present, and if he does not insist that the building industry shall get the same priority as the mining and agricultural industries, he will find the building force will disappear, and he will have great difficulty in building the colleges.

In reply to the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh, the provision of staffs for schools should also be a priority. The Secretary of State should propose to his colleagues that no person who is able to be trained as a tutor in these colleges should be taken into the Forces. I am disappointed that the Secretary of State does not appear to realise that this Government's commitments are primarily on the home front, and that education is one of them. When the Secretary of State takes the same stand as an eminent Conservative, Lord Randolph Churchill, did in years gone by, and declares that there is too much yielding to the other sections of the Government who are always demanding money and men for the Forces; when he realises that our commitments are primarily on the home front, we shall have more optimism and not so much fatalism so far as our social services are concerned.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. McAllister (Rutherglen)

I want to intervene very briefly to say that I think this Bill performs a most valuable service in that it lifts the gun sights of Scottish education—if I may use that phrase without offending the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes)— and permits us to see an horizon which opens up great prospects for the children of Scotland. Of course, we all share with the Secretary of State for Scotland, regret that there is to be delay in the fulfilment of the idea behind this Bill.

The Cambridgeshire village colleges were perhaps the most significant educational experiment made in England in the period between the wars and the project which Dr. Henry Morris started in Impington has had world-wide repercussions. We want to see the spirit of Impington translated to Scotland, and particularly—and here I agree with the hon. Member for South Ayrshirle—to the Scottish rural areas. It was not merely as a device for education in the scholastic field that Impington stood out as a great social experiment; it was because Impington provided a real sense of community for scattered rural villages that it was a great contribution both to the theory and practice of education.

Mention has been made of the space difficulties in Glasgow. Obviously there are space difficulties in the heart of any great city and even in the heart of many smaller industrial towns. It is true that Glasgow is a great sprawling, pent up city of a million people, with fantastic densities of population to the acre, where space is almost an unknown quantity, but even in my small though royal burgh of Rutherglen, on the outskirts of Glasgow, we have densities of population almost as bad as those in the worst areas of the city itself.

Unless we start some time—and this Bill does make a start—to lay down standards of space and equipment which at the moment are not obtainable, we shall never obtain them, not even in the distant future. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut. - Commander Hutchison) that there are real difficulties of staffing and in finding the necessary buildings. I would not deny that at all. On the other hand, I would join with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire in pleading with the Secretary of State for Scotland not merely to give a benevolent blessing to any education authority which says it intends to start a junior college but to give direct encouragement to a number of education authorities and committees to go ahead as soon as possible with the creation of one or two experimental colleges which could be a model for more spacious times when material, labour and staffing problems will not be so acute as they are at the moment.

I think Scotland ought not to lag too far behind in time in connection with junior colleges. We have had the benefit of the experience and the experiments which Cambridgeshire carried out. We have in Glasgow today a junior college in Langside which I believe is doing very valuable work and which has been a considerable success, but until we have the new buildings, the new surroundings and the new environments the junior college cannot be all that inherently it promises to be. If we could get one or two first-rate junior colleges started soon on the initiative of the local education committees and with the backing of the Secretary of State for Scotland, that would be an excellent thing for the young people of Scotland today and tomorrow.

7.5 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Thomas Fraser)

The discussion on Third Reading of this Bill has centred very largely on Clause I. I must say, however, that I was a little surprised to hear my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) appeal to us to look upwards and to honour our commitments. These are commitments which were entered into by the Coalition and "Caretaker" Parliaments, not by the present Parliament or the present Government. The Bill we are here amending is a Bill which was introduced by Mr. Thomas Johnston when he was Secretary of State and was put on the Statute Book by the Coalition Government. The Minister in this House who handled the Bill at that time was the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith).

I feel that all we should do this afternoon is to regret that that Parliament, of which I was a Member, was so shortsighted as to imagine that it could provide the buildings and the teachers required for the raising of the school-leaving age within one year or two years after the end of the war and that it could then provide all the buildings and the teachers necessary to make it possible to have compulsory attendances at junior colleges within a period of another three years.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

The hon. Gentleman was here.

Mr. Fraser

Yes, I was here. I am saying to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire that it is just nonsense to talk about our failing to honour our commitments, and I was saying that all we should do is to regret that the last Parliament, of which many of us were Members, was not sufficiently appreciative of the magnitude of the task and that it thought we could have compulsory attendances not later than 1st April, 1950.

Commander Galbraith

Is there anything to regret in setting one's target high? Is that not something which causes people to get a move on and to keep busy?

Mr. Fraser

There were many other educational developments which were foreshadowed in the Act of 1945 and to which no date was given.

Mr. Willis

Does not my hon. Friend think that this date was given by the "Caretaker" Government in view of the fact that an election was imminent?

Mr. Fraser

I am sorry to disappoint my hon. Friend the Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis), but the date was given in the first place in 1944 when the English Bill was put on the Statute Book and it was repeated in the Scottish Bill in the summer of 1945.

What I want to emphasise this evening is that my right hon. Friend is doing everything he can to encourage the establishment of junior colleges. The hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. McAllister) has mentioned the enterprise of the Glasgow Education Authority at Langside college. A few other authorities—I do not want to say too many—including Edinburgh, have already found buildings and are experimenting. I think it is good that education authorities should experiment with a kind of further education for people between 15 and 18 years of age who have left day school and have gone into industry and into employment, so that these young people should go from their industries and occupations into schools provided by the education authorities on one day in the week, or eight weeks in the year. We can thus get to know what the shape of the junior college of the future should be, what sort of curriculum it should have, what sort of education and what sort of training it should give to the young people. It is a good thing that education authorities should have some experience of junior colleges before they have to provide all the buildings and all the teachers necessary to enable us to have compulsory attendance from 15 to 18 years of age.

Commander Galbraith

Does the hon. Member think the authorities would have gone ahead in that way but for the lead given in the Act?

Mr. Fraser

I am not objecting to the lead. I think it might have been better to have given the lead in the Act without saying that compulsory attendance would be in force not later than 1st April, 1950. It was, however, not a serious mistake for the Coalition Government or the "Caretaker" Government to make Since we have seen that it is utterly impossible to have compulsory attendance, my right hon. Friend has done the only thing he could have done—he has come to Parliament to say, "Let us amend the Act of 1945." When he does that, I do not think any of us should address ourselves to the question in a despairing way, regretting that nothing is being done. In fact, very much is being done in Scottish education.

I ask hon. Members on all sides of the House to get in touch with the conveners of education authorities and to go to see some of the new educational establishments. They will be surprised, because the school is today very different from what it was yesterday. We still have far too many schools physically the same today as they were yesterday, however, and that is one reason why we cannot have the junior colleges now, because we have to replace the old schools with modern schools for primary school children and children in the secondary division: Let us encourage Glasgow and Edinburgh to experiment with the junior colleges. Let them have as many as they can.

As soon as we can reduce the size of the schools, and some of those unsatisfactory school buildings are replaced, then—not until then—will it be possible for the Secretary of State, whoever he may be, to name the date by which compulsory attendance at the junior colleges will be possible. I have been asked when we think compulsory attendance will be possible. For the reasons that I have just been giving, it is really impossible to say. My right hon. Friend did indicate, however, that we had asked the local authorities to submit schemes for further education. We asked them to do so in September last year, and we asked them to have schemes submitted to us not later than the end of this year.

I was also asked by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) what kind of buildings they would be—whether they would be all-too-permanent buildings or adaptable buildings. I think local education authorities, who will be putting up the buildings, will tend in these days to put up buildings of a slightly less permanent character than the school buildings put up 100 years ago, and which are still being used; but we must leave it to the local education authorities to make their proposals. The function of the Secretary of State will be merely to examine them and approve them unless he has some reason to object to them. Inasmuch as we can give a lead to education authorities we shall give them some lead, as we are doing just now in the erection of temporary secondary schools which are much less permanent than some of the solid, barrack-like buildings that were erected some 80 or some 100 years ago, but which, nevertheless, are substantial and which, I think, will serve long enough for the purpose for which they are being provided.

Mr. W. Ross

I wonder if the Under-Secretary of State will tell me how that statement does not conflict with the new Section 20 to be inserted in the principal Act, by which the Secretary of State "may make regulations prescribing standards applicable to the premises"? He says this is to be left to the local education authorities.

Mr. Fraser

No. The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked if we were to put up buildings of bricks and mortar with walls two feet thick, as they did 80 years ago. We have powers to prescribe standards. I will say a word about that, since there has been some little discussion about it. My right hon. Friend has the power to prescribe standards for premises, and it relates also to playing fields. It is also provided in this Bill that when he has prescribed standards, if the authorities—if the Glasgow authority, to take an example—were to say, "It is impossible in respect of this school which we propose to build in such an area to observe the high standards you have set, because we have not the space because of the congestion in the city," then by power in the Bill my right hon. Friend will consult with them about the difficulties and may prescribe modified standards for that particular school. I think that is a sensible provision to make.

Mr. Rankin

May I urge upon my hon. Friend to keep in mind my suggestion, and that was that the modification should be only temporary?

Mr. Fraser

We shall give some thought to what my hon. Friend suggested, but I should not like to give an undertaking that any such modification would be temporary. We shall have to look at the circumstances obtaining in the area that make necessary the modified standards.

Now I come to the point about Scotland's lagging behind in day release education. Some 7,000 apprentices attend day release schools at the present time. Generally speaking, England and Wales are doing very much better than we are. I was very glad to hear the Opposition express their support for this educational development and their hope that the Secretary of State will be able to bring about some improvement in the position. We, for our part, are most anxious to see the development of day release education. Most of the education authorities have now been won over, and are doing their best to promote day release education for apprentices, but those young people can be made available only if their employers are willing to free them and to pay them their wages whilst they are at school.

Quite recently I visited some of these technical schools where day release courses are given. I found in my own constituency a school of engineering that was opened only last year, and which is already full to overflowing, because most of the employers in the engineering industry in Lanarkshire and over a wide area seem to have accepted the fact that this sort of education confers undoubted benefits upon their apprentices. Lanarkshire Education Authority, after only six months' experience of this school, have had to begin to give thought to the possibility of expanding the provision they have made there for this sort of education. Near by, however, in Cambuslang, I visited a school of building where I found there had not been the same good response. I am perfectly certain it was not because the apprentices did not want to go there, but because the employers could not or would not spare them.

There is usually provision in the wages agreements now in industry, certainly in the building and engineering industries, for apprentices to get the time off necessary to enable them to attend these schools, without suffering any diminution in their wages as a result. I have before now appealed to the employers to cooperate to the utmost. I repeat the appeal to employers all over Scotland to cooperate to the utmost with the education authorities in ensuring that this new development in education shall be a success. If we do not do it then it will be, I was going to say, a disgrace to Scottish education; it would certainly not be of good to Scottish education if we did not have the same development in this sphere of education as has been experienced south of the Border.

I think I need say nothing more in reply to the discussion. Many points have been made to which we shall have to give much consideration. The contributions made by Members from all parts of the House today have made it quite clear that Members of Parliament from Scottish constituencies are concerned to see that the young people of Scotland are given the best possible education in these difficult times.