§ 3.36 p.m.
§ The Minister of Education (Mr. Tomlinson)
I am glad this afternoon to have the opportunity of presenting to the Committee the Estimates of the Ministry of Education for the current financial year. My only regret is that this Debate is taking place before my statutory annual report to Parliament is in the hands of hon. Members. I should like to apologise for the delay in publishing this report, but I can assure the Committee that it is not due to any lack of desire on my part. My Department has done its best to get the report ready in time for discussion in this Debate, but we have been prevented partly by printing difficulties and partly by the difficulty of assembling and analysing in time certain of the statistics relating to 1948 without which the report would be incomplete.
As hon. Members will appreciate, much of the statistical material for 1948 is not available in the Department until February or March, 1949. The figures have to be collected mainly from local education authorities and other outside bodies; and then, this year, the great amount of statistical work which is involved in assembling and analysing these statistics coincided with the statutory seven-yearly actuarial review which we have to carry out in connection with the teachers' superannuation scheme. We 1972 have done our best, and I had hoped that the report would be published by now. I think I ought to say that, before the war, it was never published until December. The fact that in those days there was not as much interest in it as there is today perhaps was responsible for these continuous and constant delays. As it is not yet available, I shall try to give a summary of the main features of my Department's administration before I sit down.
The Committee will have seen that the Estimates of the Ministry for 1949–50 amount to £181,986,282, and that they are again the highest ever for the Department and represent an increase of over £19 million over the corresponding figure for 1948–49. The total estimated expenditure for the year from the Exchequer and rates combined on education within the purview of the Ministry is nearly £273 million, an increase of over £27 million on the corresponding figure for 1948–49. For the most part these Estimates follow the same lines as those of previous years, but it will perhaps be for the convenience of the Committee if I refer briefly to the reasons for the main increases over last year's figures and to the new services which they cover.
First of all, the new services, These are only two in number—the Imperial Institute and the local food advice centres. The grant in aid for the Imperial Institute has now to be provided from my Department instead of from the Board of Trade, as in the past. This transfer merely follows on reorganisation of the functions of the Imperial Institute and their concentration on the educational aspects of its work. The local food advice centres have been transferred from the Ministry of Food to the local education authorities, who will operate them as part of their further education provision.
The main increases in expenditure to which I should refer are, first, the increased provision which has been made for further education, due partly to the inclusion under this subhead of provision for the Royal College of Art on its reconstitution as one of the grant-aided national colleges, and partly to the general expansion of facilities for further education, particularly in the technological field. Under subhead E, we have a net increase of rather more than 1973 £1,250,000 for scholarships and maintenance allowances. This is mainly needed for development of the further education and training scheme which is now at its peak.
By far the greatest part of the increase over last year—about £16,500,000 out of the total increase of £19 million—comes under subhead C, that is, grants to local education authorities. The increase in my grants to the local education authorities is partly due to the general increase in cost of goods and services, but mainly to the larger number of teachers employed. This increase, therefore, does represent progress in Government policy in implementing the 1944 Education Act, and will, I hope, meet with the general approval of the Committee.
As the increase in expenditure on education is mainly due to the increase in the strength of the teaching profession, the Committee would, perhaps, like me to say a few words, first about the training of teachers. I have no doubt that practically every Member of the Committee will agree that, in spite of the inevitable increase in expenditure which it will entail, the country cannot afford to staff its schools and colleges inadequately, either in numbers or in quality. Since the war we have taken effective steps to increase the supply of trained teachers to provide for four things: first, the raising of the school-leaving age, which retained in the schools—it did not bring into the schools—an additional 330,000 children; secondly, the elimination of unqualified teachers—since the war no unqualified teachers have entered the profession except on a strictly temporary basis; thirdly, the improvement of the ratio of teachers to children which in the end, of course, will mean smaller classes.
It is very encouraging to me to hear so much nowadays about the evil of very large classes. Of all the things we have to do to improve our system of education, there is no doubt that a reduction in the size of classes is the most important. We have a long way to go, but it is worth remembering that the average size of classes for the country as a whole is slightly smaller now than it was before the war. The 1939 figure was 33.6; the figure for January, 1949, was 32.9. Similarly, the pre-war ratio of children to teachers—29.5—was higher than the 1974 present ratio of 27.1. There is no method by which classes can be reduced in number except by the training of more teachers.
Some time ago, knowing that this question was a topical one, I asked a large gathering in London if they could suggest a method by which we could reduce the numbers in the classes without increasing the number of teachers. I received only one letter in reply, in which the suggestion was made that if we kept children out of school until they were six we could manage without so many hundred teachers, to which my answer is that if we keep them out of school until they are 16 we shall not need any at all. That is not an educational answer; it is simply playing with words. Finally, we have to provide many more teachers to cope with the increasing number of children in the schools. In 1953, on account of the rise in the birth rate alone, we shall have a million more children in the schools than we had in 1947.
We have had several discussions in this House about the emergency training scheme, and I shall not deal with this matter in detail this afternoon, but there are one or two words I wish to say about it. Last year when we had our Debate on the Ministry of Education Estimates, there was very naturally a good deal of concern about the position of many thousands of men who were still awaiting admission to the emergency training scheme. The Committee will no doubt remember that in order to make a speedy increase in the number of women teachers, we had to adjust the balance of the emergency training scheme and to extend the waiting period for the men. This year we are fortunately in a much happier position. At the moment, there are only about 1,700 men still waiting to start their training, and the last of these will get into college by about next April instead of autumn next year as we feared a year ago. For various reasons it has proved possible to increase the training of women without quite so much interference with the men as we had expected.
I have a great deal of sympathy with the disappointment of those men who have had to wait so long for training, but the waiting period has not, generally, been nearly so long as many people think. The longest period of waiting for any 1975 man between demobilisation and getting into college will be about two and a half years, and, in fact, this will only apply to quite a small number of those who come in at the end of the scheme. The great majority have had less time than this to wait. The emergency training scheme is now nearly at an end and will probably yield altogether about 23,000 men teachers and 12,000 women teachers. Of this total of 35,000, over 22,000 have already completed their training.
There has been a good deal of controversy in some parts of the Press about the quality of the emergency-trained teacher, but I want to say from my experience in visiting the colleges in which they have been trained and from visiting the schools in which they are practising, that I have no reason at all to alter the opinion I formed 12 months ago, that the material from which these teachers had been made was of the finest and that they are making, from the teachers point of view, a real contribution to the nation's need. I only hope that the remainder who are awaiting training are as good as those already trained. But it needs to be said that the 13 months' training of the emergency-trained teacher has been speeded up to such an extent, and the holiday periods cut down to such an extent, that the training period more nearly approximates to the two years of the normal training colleges.
Besides the emergency training scheme we have pushed on with developing the normal training facilities. Before the war the annual intake into the normal training colleges was 7,000. The corresponding figure for this year is 12,500 and in a year or two we plan to reach 14,000—double the pre-war rate. There were about 90 colleges working before the war. By the end of this year we shall have added 34 to that number.
It is worth while reflecting, for a moment, on what is involved in the opening of a new training college. It is not only a question of buildings—and these have been difficult enough—but, most important of all, of finding first-class staffs of principals and lecturers. Quite apart from the staffs of the 55 emergency training colleges which have been opened since the war, we have had to find no fewer than 500 staff for the permanent 1976 new colleges opened. Many of these lecturers have to be specialists dealing not only with the ordinary academic subjects, but also with more practical subjects such as music and art, and the theory and the practice of teaching, with special emphasis nowadays on the teaching of young children. I think we can justifiably congratulate the teaching profession on the fact that it has been possible to staff so many new colleges, many of which are already doing outstandingly good work. To a large extent the future of the country depends on the teacher training colleges and we are fortunate, I think, to have been able to staff them so well.
I should like also to refer to one or two of the main problems which still confront us in this field. There is still an urgent need to provide more women teachers. There are three main reasons for this. First the emergency training scheme, for obvious reasons, will altogether turn out about twice as many men as women. Secondly, the increase in the birthrate will hit the infants' schools first. The peak of the pressure on the infants' schools will come in 1953 and 1954. Generally speaking, men cannot be employed as teachers of infants. I know there have been suggestions that we should attempt to solve the problem in this way, but, again, I should like to say that all my experience teaches me that the younger the child the more confidence he has in the opposite sex to mine. Thirdly, the elimination of the unqualified teacher means mainly a demand for more trained women.
For these reasons we have had to concentrate in the last few years, and we still have to concentrate, mainly on expanding the training facilities for women. The number of men admitted to two-year training colleges this year will be nearly double the pre-war figure, but I believe there are more men seeking training than the colleges can take. We must, however, look first at the needs of the schools and the plain fact is that the need for further expansion of the training facilities for men will not come for a few years yet, when we shall need to train more men to cope with the pressure on the junior schools in 1956 and 1957 and on the secondary schools after 1960.
For women it is more nearly a question of whether there will be enough candidates for the number of places that 1977 are, or soon will be, available in training colleges. It is true that many candidates have failed to get into the colleges for which they have applied this year, but some of these may be weak candidates and others may still be found places in some of the newly-opened colleges which did not attract many direct applications. It is too soon to say just how this year's applications will work out, but it will be very surprising if any appreciable number of good candidates, certainly of those wishing to teach young children, are unable to get in.
In any case, we are planning to increase the number of places for women quite substantially again next year and the year after, and it would be useless to go on relying solely on what has hitherto been the normal source of recruitment, namely, girls stopping on at school until the age of 18 to take a higher certificate examination. We want as many of these as we can get but, even more important, we want to increase the number of girls stopping on after the age of 16 in secondary schools of all kinds, including modern schools, and taking courses of all kinds, suited to their capacity and interests. It is not a question of lowering standards but of devising courses and methods of selection appropriate to the girls' interests and to the work for which they are wanted.
I have recently set up a new national advisory council on the training and supply of teachers and I shall hope to receive from this body some useful advice about this whole question of the selection of students for training colleges. I know that this advisory body is one of many and sometimes, when setting up a new advisory body, I am tempted to think in terms of the old Methodist local preacher who was getting too far on in years for his task but who still wanted to be of service. The story goes that on one occasion, at a prayer meeting, he petitioned the Lord in anxious tones suggesting that he hoped he would still continue to be of use, if only in an advisory capacity. I know something of what is said sometimes about the advisory capacity, but in this field, I venture to suggest, perhaps more than in any other, a body of this kind can be of use, particularly if the individuals concerned are just as modest in their approach as the gentleman in the story.
1978 I have given a good deal of thought to another question which has troubled the House on occasions—that is, the question of graduate teachers. Some wild statements have been made about a "flight of graduates from the schools" but, considering all the post-war problems and the difficulties, I do not think the facts bear this out. In fact, the number of graduate teachers in the schools, so far from declining, is steadily increasing. I have not the figures for 1949 yet, but between March, 1947, and March, 1948, the number of graduate teachers increased by 5,000. This year the number of graduates taking a year's course of professional training is 2,600, compared with about 2,000 before the war. Next year it will go up again, to 2,900.
Of course, this does not provide for as big an increase in the number of graduate teachers as we should all like to see, and it is true that there have been difficulties with teachers of certain subjects, particularly teachers of science; but we have to remember that the post-war expansion of the universities has not yet made itself felt in the numbers of qualified graduates seeking posts. We are watching the position closely, but I think it is definitely too early yet to say that the teaching of science in our schools is in jeopardy through a lack of good graduate recruits to the teaching profession.
It has been suggested that inadequate salaries are the major cause of the reluctance of science graduates to apply for jobs in the schools. There is no doubt that competition from industry, including the nationalised industries, has been one of the factors, but we have to remember that industry has had to re-equip itself after the war; and I think we have to remember, too, that industry became what I might call "degree conscious" only during the war, and that the demand for degree students prior to the war in industry was really negligible. After a time, I should expect the competition which has been so keen in the last two or three years to diminish.
Meantime, the question of salaries for science graduates cannot be considered in isolation. It is part of the general framework of teachers' salaries which was fully considered two years ago, and as far as can be seen is likely to come up again in the near future. The question is one which, under the Act, stands 1979 referred to the Burnham Committee, and I should not be justified in intervening in its discretion. There is, therefore, no statement I can make today about teachers' salaries.
I must, however, pay a well deserved tribute, in which, I am sure, all Members of the Committee will join, to Lord Soulbury, who has recently resigned the Chairmanship of the Burnham Committee on his appointment to the Governor-Generalship of Ceylon. Lord Soulbury has had to discharge a most difficult task during the last seven years in presiding over the negotiations which led up to the last two reports, and he has fully maintained the high standard set up by his predecessors. I should like to take this opportunity of formally wishing him success in his new post, and of expressing my thanks, and the thanks of the education service, to him for the work he has done for us.
But, of course, we have to think, not only of the teachers, but of the classrooms in which the teachers will do their work. The two most important points about the educational building programme since the war are, first of all, that in about four years we have provided nearly 300,000 new school places, which is approximately equivalent to 1,000 new schools; and secondly, and more important still, that this has been achieved with a machine which had to be built up almost from scratch—I was going to say from behind scratch. During the war, when, of course, school building was at a standstill, local authorities disbanded their architects' departments; and once an administrative machine of this kind is demolished it takes time to build again.
Only this year are we, at last, getting to a position where the volume of educational building which local education authorities can carry out is approaching the volume needed to meet our commitments. The Committee will see something of the steady rise in the curve of activity in the following figures. At the end of 1946 local education authorities had less than £3,000,000 worth of building work under construction on the site. A year later, at the end of 1947, the figure was £12 million worth. In another 12 months it had more than doubled again to £27 million worth, and at this moment there is more than £36 million worth of work 1980 actually under construction on the ground. This includes 323 new schools. In 1949 alone we confidently expect local education authorities to have started work on school building valued altogether at nearly £50 million.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Seventy per cent. will be primary schools. That is all I can say at the moment. Anybody can say of these figures that they are inadequate in relation to the need for new school buildings. The plain fact is that, quite apart from the damage and arrears of the war itself, we are faced with a number of claims all of which simply cannot be met at the same time, or in a short space of time. The first claim we have to meet is that of the million extra children coming into the schools in the next few years on account of the increased birthrate. To a large extent overlapping this demand are the needs of the many new housing estates which are being built. It is surprising how many housing estates are started without anyone's seeming to realise, until the houses have been built, that schools will be needed to serve the children living on the estates. In other words, our first commitment must be to provide school accommodation for the children of statutory school age.
It is impossible at the same time to carry out the vast programme of improvement and replacement which will be necessary in order to bring many, if not most, of our existing schools up to a reasonable standard. Probably something like 70 per cent. of our existing school buildings are more than 50 years old. In the past I have said many hard things about the conditions in some of these schools, and I am still prepared to say hard things about them, but it is of no use for people who tolerated them for years before the war to complain that they cannot be immediately replaced amidst all the current difficulties. But I should not like it to be thought that improvements and extensions to existing buildings do not figure at all in our current building programme. In fact, since the end of the war nearly £7,000,000 worth of work has been done by fairly small improvements and extensions, and more of this work is going on all the time.
The main problem which faces us in this field for the next few years is to 1981 achieve for the whole country the same standard of efficiency, speed and economy in both the planning and the preparatory work and in the actual building, as has already been achieved by some of the local education authorities. In many cases it is still taking too long to get the plans of a school drawn and approved, too long to get them from the stage of approval to the start of work on the site, and too long to get the school actually built. My Department has already done a good deal to streamline the administrative procedure for the approval of plans. There may well be more that we at the Ministry can do in this direction. Certainly there is a great deal that the local authorities themselves can do.
We are also very active in encouraging the development of methods of standardisation and prefabrication. Personally, I am convinced that in many parts of the country, though not necessarily in all, an increased use of methods of standardisation and prefabrication is essential if we are to carry out our vast building programme in a reasonable space of time. In the annual budget for education the expenditure on school building does not figure very largely because, of course, the cost of a school is spread out over a long period of years, but it is of the utmost importance that our school building work should be carried out as economically as possible in terms of money as well as in terms of labour and material.
At present the discrepancies between costs of comparable buildings in different parts of the country are too wide. We all have to do a great deal of thinking about how to reduce the cost of school buildings, without, of course, lowering standards. For several months now I myself have been waging an economy campaign—not the sort of economy campaign which used to be waged, an economy campaign directed to reducing expenditure on school building—but an economy campaign of the right sort, directed to getting more schools built for a given amount of money, labour and materials.
All the indications are that in 1949 over the country as a whole work will be started pretty well up to the limit of the planned programme. The 1949 programme was itself twice as big as the 1948 programme. The curve of activity will not continue to rise at this rate, but it will continue to rise to some extent 1982 over the next few years, and I believe that, provided proper attention is given to this question of real economy and efficiency, we shall be able to meet the most pressing of our commitments by 1952 or 1953. After that, as I have already indicated, there will still be a vast amount of work to be done to overcome the deficiencies of the buildings we have inherited and to provide for further advances.
In our efforts to provide more places in the ordinary schools we have not overlooked the needs of that important minority of children who are handicapped in one way or another. In spite of all the difficulties and of the very urgent needs for other kinds of school accommodation, since the war we have succeeded in establishing altogether 61 special schools and 24 boarding homes. The 42 boarding schools which have been opened, together with the 24 boarding homes, provide accommodation for rather more than 2,600 of these children. In addition, 19 day special schools have been opened, with accommodation for 400 children. This has been achieved almost entirely by converting existing buildings for the purpose, but most of those buildings make admirable special schools. I think that local education authorities and other bodies concerned can be congratulated on making so much progress in such a difficult period. We have, in fact, made far more progress in the past four years than in any previous comparable period.
Of course, here too we have still a long way to go before we shall have made adequate provision for all those children who are physically or mentally handicapped. But by means of the development plans which each local authority has prepared, and by means of conferences to encourage co-operation between local education authorities to deal with handicapped children on a regional or, in some cases, a national basis, we now have taking shape a large and well balanced programme which will, I hope, make much more progress possible in the next few years. Much of the work on the education of these handicapped children is still in the experimental stage, and so far as I know no one can yet define what amount of provision will ultimately be needed for some categories of handicapped children. 1983 The 43,000 or so children who are now attending special schools are less than 1 per cent. of the five million or more children for whom I am responsible. Nevertheless, I am sure it is the wish of the Committee that this relatively tiny group should receive the attention and care to which their disadvantages entitle them.
§ Mr. Cove (Aberavon)
Can the Minister give us any information about the provision for backward children in Wales, or will the Committee be furnished with that information?
§ Mr. Tomlinson
If a statement can be made in the course of the Debate the Parliamentary Secretary will make it. I have not the figures divided up as between England and Wales, but I am quite certain that some portion of this provision is for Wales.
I am sure that it is the wish of the Committee that this group to which I have referred, though small in number, should be adequately catered for. I can assure the Committee that I consider it just as important to look after the wellbeing of this small group of handicapped children as to look after the remainder. A fortnight ago I had the privilege, for the first time, of attending a speech day at a blind school, and I can tell hon. Members that of all the tasks I have undertaken none was more difficult; and yet, having overcome the difficulty none gave me greater pleasure. To have to feel for the right hand of the boy with whom one is shaking hands, and then feel for his left hand in order to put his prize into it, tests the hardest of individuals; but the fact that seven out of ten of those boys had qualified for the higher school certificate showed that it was possible to do great things, even though so handicapped, given the will, and when provision has been made.
Now let me say a word or two about further education. So far I have been talking about the steps we have been taking to improve and extend educational facilities for our children. But we must not forget further education, which it is now the duty of the local education authority to provide for everybody above school leaving age who is able and willing to profit by it. Thanks to the passing of the 1944 Education Act, the Minister of 1984 Education can no longer regard his duties as being completed when he has made or sought to make provision for those whom we used to describe as "under school leaving age." I think the vision in the 1944 Act is that education begins with the nursery school and ends only with the grave. Therefore, provision has to be made for those who are willing and able to profit by further education.
Of all further education, I think the Committee realises that technical education is today perhaps the most important. There is no doubt that we have suffered in the past and are still suffering from the neglect of technical education in this country. I believe that the importance of proper facilities for technical education is more widely recognised now than it has been in the past. From the economic point of view it is vital to improve and extend our technical colleges. When the Ministry's annual report is available hon. Members will find there some very disquieting examples of the bad conditions under which technical education still has to be conducted in many parts of the country. We are taking steps to deal with this, but it is bound to be a fairly lengthy process.
In 1948 the Ministry approved final plans for technical education projects estimated to cost nearly £2 million in all, and another £3½ million worth of preliminary plans were approved. We have got to do our best to make sufficient resources available to develop this side of our work, which I believe is so essential to the future of the country. If industrialists generally became university-minded during the war and are seeking graduates for the higher positions, they have at the same time realised the necessity for an improvement in our technical education which corresponds with that same need. Meanwhile, I think we owe a debt of gratitude to the staffs of the technical colleges who are dealing now with more students than at any previous time, in conditions which are often unsatisfactory, but are nevertheless getting good results.
As evidence of this I should like to give the Committee some information about the numbers of national certificates awarded last year. In 1948 there were awarded practically 8,000 ordinary national certificates and just over 4,500 higher national certificates. The corresponding figures in 1939 were 4,000 and 1985 1,300. As the 1944 figures were practically the same as the 1939 figures, that means that in four years the number of national certificates awarded increased by 100 per cent. and the number of higher national certificates awarded increased by well over 200 per cent. A similar increase has taken place in the students passing the City and Guilds examination in craftsmanship. In 1948 twice as many passed these examinations as in 1938.
These are remarkable developments, and must give some encouragement to those who realise the contribution which technical education can and must make to increase productivity in industry. The number of students in the technical colleges, both full-time and part-time, continues to rise from year to year, and there is no doubt at all that the limit to this increase is set at present, not by the demand from industry and from individual students, but by the accommodation available. Among these students there continues to be a welcome increase in the number voluntarily released by the employers for part-time day studies. There are now something like 200,000 of these young people being released by their employers compared with 42,000 before the war. I hope that local education authorities will continue to do all they can to provide facilities to enable this voluntary movement to expand.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what proportion are under 18, because we never have been given that figure so far as I know?
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I should not like to say they were all under 18 without looking it up, but in the main they are.
There are too many uncertainties at present to make it possible to fix a day when attendance at county colleges can be made compulsory, as provided for in the Education Act, but we must make the best progress we can on a voluntary basis in the meantime, not only from the point of view of the country's economic position, but also in the interests of the individual youngsters themselves. We must always remember that these young people between the ages of 15 or 16 and 18 will never in later life be able to make up for the training they may miss in their apprenticeship years.
1986 I realise that several Members of the Committee are deeply interested in the question of the proper relationship between technical colleges and universities, and in the provision of proper facilities for the development of higher technological education. These questions are of outstanding importance, as I know only too well, and I am following with considerable interest the work which is being done by the regional academic boards to improve this relationship. I am also going ahead with the establishment of national colleges of technology wherever industry is prepared to co-operate. There are five open at the moment, and three more approved in principle. There are other problems yet to be solved in the higher technological field as the Committee is aware, but they are being considered carefully by the National Advisory Council on Education in Industry and Commerce in consultation with the University Grants Committee.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
Could the Minister say what subjects the three colleges which are approved in principle are to deal with, or has that not yet been made public?
§ Mr. Tomlinson
Of the three which have been approved in principle but not yet established, one is a wool college. I forget for the moment what the other two are for, but the Parliamentary Secretary will tell the Committee later in the Debate. The one at Bradford is for wool. The only difficulties that remain outstanding are those as to the amount of support which is coming from the industry itself.
§ Mr. H. D. Hughes (Wolverhampton, West)
Would my right hon. Friend say what support has been received by the colleges already working? I understand that the Foundry College, for example, is having some difficulty in recruiting students. Does that apply to the others?
§ Mr. Tomlinson
They are in the main what might be described as teething troubles rather than troubles which arise from the operation of the college itself. In the main, the employers in the industries concerned have co-operated to make possible the establishment of these colleges. The matter mentioned by my 1987 hon. Friend can be described as teething troubles rather than difficulties which are likely to be continuous. Until we get the proposals from this body that was set up for the purpose of examining the relationship between the university and these colleges, we must contain ourselves in patience to the best of our ability.
There is not much time left to talk about the development of adult education. It is worth noting that that part of the educational field has developed considerably since the war. The direct grants from my Ministry in this field are three times as much today as in 1938. In addition to this expenditure, there are of course many grants made by local education authorities to assist voluntary organisations and to provide their own classes. In addition to the five residential colleges which were running before the war, 17 new ones have been established since the war and these new colleges are doing good work. Valuable experiments are being made to discover the best sort of course to provide to meet the needs of the different areas.
I should like to say something about the question of access to universities. As hon. Members will know, there existed before the war a system of State and local awards to enable the most promising pupils to get to the universities. There were, in fact, 360 State scholarships and about 1,500 local awards a year in addition to the grants given to intending teachers. Since the war we have increased the number of State scholarships from 360 to 920, including the technical and mature State scholarships while the number that have been made available by local education authorities is more than double.
Since the war there has also been operating the Further Education and Training Scheme, under which some 77,000 awards have been made—not all, but a very large proportion of them at universities. It will give the House some idea of the enormous amount of work done in the awards branch and the accountant general's branch of my Department if I tell hon. Members that each term we have to pay out 58,000 instalments of grant to students in the further Education and Training Scheme and the Emergency Training Scheme, or 1988 holding State scholarships of one kind or another. The Further Education and Training Scheme is not yet at the end of its tether. We are still making new awards at the rate of two or three hundred a week for the academic year beginning next autumn. But the scheme will begin to fall off in the academic year 1950–51, and we have, of course, to look ahead and set about implementing the post-war policy of increasing the size of universities.
We have to meet the need for insuring an adequate supply of well qualified students to man the universities when the Further Education and Training Scheme comes to an end. Accordingly, I set up a working party to advise me on this. I have now considered their recommendations, which reached me at the end of 1948, and I should like to announce my decisions for the new academic year beginning in October. These represent only the first stage in carrying out the recommendations of the working party report. Our first task is to see to it that the assessment of grants is sensibly and adequately done. Every few years, we obtain from universities recommendations for a standard figure of maintenance on which our grants are based, and, as it happens, this year is the one in which the rates are to be revised. I propose, therefore, to take the opportunity of carrying out the recommendations of the working party given in Chapter IV of their report.
These recommendations, which will be put into effect forthwith, include a revision of the income scale for parental contributions on more adequate and up-to-date lines, the assessment of grants and contributions on the basis of a full year in place of the present system of distinguishing between term and vacation, larger children's and education allowances, and so forth. I hope in the future to be able to tidy up the grants to intending teachers, but I must do this by stages. In any case, I hope before long to abolish the system of four-year grants based on an undertaking by the individual teacher, which has been universally condemned.
My other main proposal concerns the number of awards. Here I should like to dispose, once and for all, of the idea that by increasing the number of awards 1989 I am depressing the standard of scholarship. The size of the university population is decided by the universities themselves, in consultation with the University Grants Committee and the Government. My task is not to determine the size of the universities but to ensure that qualified pupils up to the limits of the annual intake are not precluded from going to the university by lack of means.
One of the suggestions that is sometimes made is that the recent increase in the number of students at the universities involves a loss of standards. No doubt, owing to the increased numbers the universities have some problems of staff and accommodation, but I do not think there is any evidence that the standard of the students leaving the schools has declined. Some Members of the Committee may have noticed that a recent report by the Association of University Teachers referred to the great expansion which has taken place in the number of students in the universities, and said:It is generally agreed that the quality has been maintained in spite of schooling difficulties.So far as it goes, that is an encouraging report and is some evidence that the expansion of the universities has not, at any rate yet, outstripped the capacity of the schools to provide them with adequately qualified students.
§ Mr. K. Lindsay
In the right hon. Gentleman's very important statement on this matter does he mean that students will receive a maintenance grant during the vacation roughly equal to the grant that they have been having during the term?
§ Mr. Tomlinson
It is a little more money, but it covers the whole period, and is explained in the report of the working party. I have received other evidence from people high in the ancient universities that the present generation of undergraduates is more than keeping up the standards of their predecessors.
The working party recommended that the system of State scholarships and local awards should continue. I think that recommendation was sensible. In view 1990 of the fact that the further education and training scheme is still at its peak, there is not a case for any large increase in awards this year. In any case, it would be difficult to administer a much larger number of State scholarships under present conditions. I have, however, decided this year to increase the number of State scholarships by 100. I am glad to know that the vice-chancellors and the local education authorities are already in consultation about a procedure for local awards under which full weight will be given to the recommendations of universities on the merits of students.
There are other aspects of the department's work which I should have liked to, discuss, but time does not allow. I should have liked to talk about the school meals, service, the school health service, the youth service and other matters with which we are dealing day by day. I do not wish to weary the Committee, and so I will finish with a few words on a question which is always asked when education is discussed: "Are we getting value for our money?" The answer to the question depends entirely on our own standards of value. We have all to answer the question for ourselves. There are so many of what I call the dividends of education that are amongst the imponderables that they could not in any circumstances find a place in a balance sheet.
My idea of the purpose of education is to create people who have three qualities. We have often talked about threes in connection with education. There were the "three R's" which I was taught when I was a youngster. I could never understand why we called them the "three R's." Reading I could understand, but how writing and arithmetic came into that category not even the Private Member's Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) convinced me. Then we have had other threes. During the long Debate on the Education Bill which became the 1944 Act we heard about age, ability and aptitude—the three A's.
I should like the Committee to think of the "three C's." The first of them is competence. If we can get an educational system that will lead in the direction of a competent nation, even from the material standpoint we shall have got value for our money. There are not 1991 enough of us to be incompetent, whatever the Opposition may think of the Front Bench. As a nation our competence must be developed and our education must produce competent men and women.
The second of the three C's is curiosity. I used to think that curiosity was something which had to be satisfied until a professor of Edinburgh University, speaking at a gathering at which I was present, convinced me that the last thing we should do with curiosity is to satisfy it. The only thing to do with curiosity is to keep it alive. The Father of the House often reveals the necessity of this to me when delving into the things that are concerned with the working of——
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I can assure the noble Lord that I have not forgotten it. Some people put the best things first, while there are others who leave the best things till the end. I would commend to Members of the House what I consider to be the greatly improved functioning of the educational system in that it keeps curiosity alive. The Question Paper of the House of Commons reveals every day this lesson of education, which certainly has been effective for hon. Members of this House. The more we can keep curiosity alive, which I believe is the essence of development in our young people, and retain that freshness of curiosity which is always wanting to know, the better it will be for us as a nation.
I mention thirdly not Christianity, but conscience. Some people ask, "Why not character?" The answer is because character can be either good or bad. Conscience is a development of that character which gives us the best, and I believe that if we are failing in this, we are fundamentally failing in everything so far as our educational system is concerned. I believe that these matters with which I have been dealing this afternoon, and which will be dealt with when I sit down, although they may relate to buildings, standards, or different types of schools, is of value or otherwise according to how we turn out young men and women at the end of their school life in 1992 relation to the importance and value of conscience and good character.
No one can easily sum up the efficiency of the educational machine, and whether it is producing those things we desire or not and whether we are getting value for our money or not. There has never been a time in my lifetime when, as a member of educational authorities, I have not encountered people who would not agree that we were getting value for money. Yet, to see, as I saw the other day in a school for handicapped children, people who had overcome the greatest difficulties as a result of training and had, as had those who had been responsible for the school, brought something of happiness into their lives, is to consider that we were getting value for all the money spent on that particular side of our educational service.
Perhaps I can give a quotation from a recent article which appeared in a well-known educational journal, and which I hope will give the Committee as much satisfaction as it gave me. In the leading article it was stated:With all their imperfections and their limitations, and in spite of the many and grave hindrances which obstruct them, the primary and secondary schools are doing a good job … And, whatever ill-informed or exasperated critics may allege, the present generation of young people are a credit to their endeavours. It is completely untrue to say that the boys and girls now coming out of our schools are less well educated than their forebears. They are much better educated. What has happened is not that the schools are doing their job less well, but that society has grown far more aware of the importance of education, and consequently of the deficiencies of the educational system.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr)
Would my right hon. Friend arrange with his Parliamentary Secretary for the statistical data which he has given this afternoon to be broken down so that the curiosity of one not unimportant section of this Committee—the back benchers—may be satisfied before we leave this subject?
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Commander Maitland (Horncastle)
I am glad that the Minister has opened this Debate because we are at a great disadvantage in not having the statutory report before us. The length and great interest of the right hon. Gentleman's speech have shown how important it is 1993 that that report should be made to the House, particularly at a time when more interest is being shown in educational matters in letters to the newspapers and articles in the newspapers than I can ever remember at any other time during the years in which I have always looked for those things.
The Minister said that before the war the report was never out until very late. All I can say is that the Opposition must have been very bad in those days. The right hon. Gentleman must admit that we have certainly chased him to try to get the report out. I sincerely hope that the present position will not arise again and that we shall receive the report earlier. I suggest to the Minister that he should read the book "Their Finest Hour," by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), and he will see there the admirable minutes written by my right hon. Friend. Some minutes of that nature, perhaps beginning with that courteous but compelling word "Pray," circulating round the Ministry, might well ensure that we received our report rather earlier.
The Minister will not expect me to comment in detail on his statement. It was a very important one, particularly in regard to the University Working Party's report. Like the Minister we believe in this Debate in not having the best things first. My two right hon. Friends will follow me and their big guns which will be brought to bear will deal with the details of that report. We must remember that we are today debating education on what may well be the last day of summer. Tomorrow or the next day we have to face the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when we may find that we have to tighten our belts and face rather grim facts.
Accordingly, we have to look hard at these matters, not in any unfriendly way but to see that we are making the best of what we have available. Whether the Minister's party or the party to which I have the honour to belong is in power during the next year or so, it will be very difficult to provide all the money for all the things that all of us would wish to see done; and it therefore becomes even more important to see that the money we have is spent to the best advantage. In other words, it becomes a question at the moment of priorities.
1994 The right hon. Gentleman indicated some of those priorities, and I am grateful that he did so. I consider it to be the duty of the Minister at a very early date to face the country and tell it what are his detailed priorities in relation to the education problems about which we all know. The Minister mentioned, for example, the size of classes and the number of teachers. These are vital priorities, but they can be broken down. Just to leave them like that is to deal with them in too wide a way. The Minister must try to indicate more clearly whether he will put the emphasis on the primary, secondary, technical or other branches of education. It would be no use, and I do not think that the Minister would be doing his duty, if he attempted to give a little of something to everybody. If we proceed in that direction, we shall fail. I should like to comment on some of the real needs and then to make certain suggestions.
To take the question of building, it is obvious that if we are to reduce our classes that aspect of the educational programme is of vital importance. But are we justified in still maintaining and trying to reach the standard which we reduced by the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act? All of us want to see the standards of building kept high but we have to realise that although standards were rightly reduced by the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1948, a good deal has happened since then, and it may be necessary again to overhaul those standards. It is a difficult problem but it has to be bravely faced so that by economising in some cases we may be able to relieve the worse cases. The Minister has that point in mind, I know, and he referred to it. That must be the whole object of all the economies that we make.
I am glad that the Minister emphasised the importance of the primary schools. Of all the pressing problems which we have to face at the moment, overcrowding in primary schools is perhaps the most important, because primary schools are the basis of education. If, as the Jesuits used to say, you get a child really young, he can be got into the right ways. Every month and every year that he has to wait for his education to commence, it becomes harder for him ever to be able to assimilate the secondary education which 1995 is being prepared for him. Therefore, I was glad to hear—and we on this side agree entirely—that the question of priority in the primary schools is the most important and outstanding problem that we have to face at the moment.
One must face the fact that there are many children—some of them are in my constituency and there are others in many other parts of the country—who at this moment are not getting to school until they are five and a half years of age. I should like to know, when the Parliamentary Secretary replies, whether those numbers are increasing or decreasing. In other words, are we keeping pace with the bulge in the birthrate? Do we look as if we are going to keep pace with it? It is no good being complacent about it. I am not saying that the Minister was complacent, but it is essential that the people should understand the facts. They will have to pay considerable taxation to keep education on a proper footing, and they have an absolute right to know how their money is being spent and whether it is being spent, as they consider, to the best advantage.
Then there is the very worrying question which must be faced concerning teachers' salaries. The Minister indicated that under the Burnham system he had no responsibility, but he has.
§ Mr. Tomlinson indicated dissent.
§ Commander Maitland
I am sorry if I am wrong, but that is the impression I got. The Minister has a real responsibility. He can either accept or return the recommendation of the Burnham Committee, as I understand it. No Minister of Education should say that he, and he alone, is not responsible for the salaries of teachers in the long run. We must bring this problem into the open and face it. The Oaksey Report, recently published, focussed attention on this problem, and I should like to know what the Minister's views are. I should like to hear, not only his views about primary school teachers, but more in detail about his views concerning graduate teachers and those teachers who have got honours.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
I want to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman. Is he now suggesting an increase in salary for teachers? I should like to know whether that is the point he is making.
§ Commander Maitland
The point is this. We want to know the full facts about this matter. We are not in a position to indicate whether at this moment the country can afford extra money for teachers or not, but the Government are in that position. We want to know, and the teachers have a right to know, the answer to that question.
§ Mr. Skinnard (Harrow, East) rose——
§ Commander Maitland
I should like to get on, because the right hon. Gentleman was rather a long time.
§ Mr. Ralph Morley (Southampton) rose——
§ Commander Maitland
Would the hon. Gentleman like to make a speech later? It would be much better.
When I was interrupted, I was saying that I consider that if we are to keep up the standards of our grammar schools, we have got to increase—and this is where I make a statement of opinion—the relative salaries of the graduates and the honours teachers, because it is no good trying to get equality of esteem by lowering the position of the grammar schools. The standard of the best must be maintained, and it is the duty of the country to see that that is done now. In no circumstances should we take any action at this moment in particular which would reduce the best which the country can produce, because if we do so we shall reduce our chance of getting through this extremely difficult time.
I now want to talk about the technical schools. I was very interested indeed in what the right hon. Gentleman said about them, although I must say that I thought his optimism was somewhat out of keeping with the reports which I have seen. I think we are in a very serious position in regard to our technical education, and in particular we need assistance in relation to technical equipment. I believe the Minister mentioned that point. I have a serious suggestion to make to the Minister, and I hope he will consider it.
The other day I had a letter from an important source in America indicating that in America we were somewhat criticised because they do not think that we have made the most of our technical education. Of course, they go in for it to a degree which we might consider excessive. I should like to draw the Minister's 1997 attention to the White Paper on Marshall Aid, particularly Article IV. It is Cmd. 7469. There it indicates that counterpart funds can be used for this purpose. My information is that if we did investigate the use of counterpart funds for the provision of technical equipment and technical schools and colleges, it might be very favourably received in the United States of America. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into that point and see whether it is appropriate, and, if so, whether he can do something in that direction.
So far we have discussed matters all of which are ruled by finance. It is quite obvious that in these days much of our anxiety must turn on that point. How much more ought we to consider the actual standards of education that can be reached in this country? We must take tremendous care to see that we are teaching the right things in the right way and that we are creating the right kind of people. That does not cost anything; it just needs thought. The rest of my speech will be directed to that end and not to the £ s. d. end, and my hon. Friends who will follow me will possibly follow that line also.
The first thing I should like to know is whether the greatest use is being made of the inspectorate. In previous Debates—and certainly in the last two, I believe—I have plugged this point about the importance of increasing the inspectorate, and I am glad to know that the inspectorate have been increased in the last year. But is the best use being made of them? The right hon. Gentleman will know that the report of the Chief Inspectorate of factories is a most useful and interesting document. It deals with all the industrial problems, including disease, accidents and so on, and for those who are particularly interested in that field of work it is a most important report of which a tremendous amount of use is made.
I would not say that the inspectors' reports on schools are of the same nature, but there is a similarity. They must be confidential. If there is lack of faith and trust between the headmaster, the inspector and the staff, then a great deal that is good in the system falls to the ground. But surely there is no need for that confidence to be abused. Surely it would be possible—and my information is that this is not done—for reports to be gathered together, sifted more carefully 1998 and used in their own areas. It is obviously no good for a report on Birmingham to go to Lincolnshire. I believe that a great deal of good could be done in that way. I do not mean for a moment that the Ministry should interfere in what is the established principle of our educational system, that the individual genius of the headmasters is the best way to get the best out of our schools. We want to leave to the headmasters the actual methods of approach they use to get the best out of the boys and girls to reach the standards that are required.
I have never met a really good teacher who was not a first-rate learner. I have never met a teacher who was not ready to learn from every source available to him. I am perfectly certain that if the Ministry, working with the local education authorities, would try to produce something in the form of a report which gives leadership to the schools based on what the inspectorate are doing, it would be of considerable use to the educational system of the country. I think it would be particularly of use in the new modern schools. I expect that hon. Members opposite know far more about this than I do, but it is very difficult to know exactly where the modern schools are going. I think they are doing very well individually, but there does not seem to be an objective which the country knows about, which may be a good thing, but it is a matter I should like to consider more carefully. I believe that an exchange of information, which is what this really amounts to, would be particularly valuable to the modern schools that are, as it were, starting off on their very exciting experiment, so that we may know more about what we mean when we say that we are trying to provide a secondary education for all.
§ Mr. Skinnard
Does not the hon. and gallant Member think that the present method of district conferences is better than any statistical abstracts—the actual getting together of headmasters and teachers with the inspectorate and local education authorities which is now taking place?
§ Commander Maitland
That is something which is parallel to the idea I am putting forward. I do not think that it is either any better or any worse, but that the two ideas can be made use of equally successfully. At any rate, it is 1999 an idea I am throwing out as being worthy of consideration, although I may be wrong.
I cannot conclude without reference to one of the matters which has given hon. Members on this side great anxiety, and which does not encourage us sometimes to think as kindly about the right hon. Gentleman's regard for education as would otherwise be the case, and that is the Debates and arguments we have had about the school certificate. I am not going to refer to this matter for very long, because it has been threshed out on more than one occasion. It seems a very odd thing that whenever a primary school or secondary school headmaster's right to treat his pupils or his syllabus in the way that he wants to do is queried, there is immediately an outcry that the rights of teachers are being interfered with, whereas in this matter of the school certificate there is no doubt about it that in our grammar schools that right is being interfered with, to which we take grave exception.
There is another point to which I must draw attention. In several Debates we were assured by the right hon. Gentleman that this change had not been introduced to bring about that bogey of parity of esteem. I put a Question to the Minister recently asking him whether the name of the type of school which a child had attended would be shown on the general certificate, and I gather that he intends it should not be shown. I think that is entirely wrong and slightly dishonest. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] It is quite obvious that people will ask, so why not show it in the first place? On Monday, 16th May, there appeared an article in the "Daily Mail" on the question of the general feeling among parents in wanting their children to go to grammar schools—there is a rather natural dislike on the part of parents of the alternative. There is a statement here which is attributed to the Ministry. I want to know whether it is correct, because if so, it surely shows that parity of esteem was one of the objects of this change. The article says:The Ministry of Education thinks parents are over-anxious. Says the Ministry: When we get a good supply of new modern schools we believe a lot of the prejudices in favour of little Johnny going to the grammar school will disappear, especially after 1951 when the 2000 new general certificate of education will be introduced. That certificate will show what sort of a record the pupil had, but will not specify whether he or she attended a grammar, technical or modern school.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Members opposite say, "Hear, hear," but it seems to me that it shows up the Debates we have had in a rather bad light. It seems to me that panty of esteem had a great deal more to do with it than we were led to believe. It is things like that which make us sometimes a little worried about the course education is taking.
§ Mrs. Middleton (Plymouth, Sutton)
Will the hon. and gallant Member explain why, when a selection is being made for a post between various applicants of equal qualifications, attention should be paid to the schools rather than to character and ability?
§ Commander Maitland
I cannot really answer that question because it seems to me that the answer is obvious. If a child has got a very good report from a grammar school, it is probably preferable, according to the sort of job it is, that he should have it. Why should it not be put on the certificate? I am afraid that we must agree to differ on that point.
§ Mr. Tomlinson
I am particularly anxious that we should not get a wrong impression about these things. I thought these suggestions were being kept out of our discussions and that we would argue the question purely on educational grounds. I have not found anything in the argument of parity of esteem. Why is the hon. and gallant Member anxious that the name should be on the certificate now, when it does not appear on the school certificate?
§ Commander Maitland
I must say that I think the name should be on the certificate; I think that would be the right thing to do. This statement which is alleged to have been made by the Ministry obviously makes it appear that that was the object, and if the statement is incorrect the right hon. Gentleman should deny it.
2001 We asked for this Debate because we consider that at this time education is perhaps our greatest defence against all the problems which are facing us. Today life is becoming very much more difficult. We have to face the feeling of some people that we are not keeping pace with it. If we do not keep up people's hearts and make them ready to live their own lives, however difficult they are, they may reluctantly give up and decide that they no longer have the desire to direct their own lives. If that occurs, it opens the door at once to Communism, which is the one thing we do not want, and through Communism it opens the way eventually to something which might be described as ant life. That is why we have had this Debate and why we regard this subject as being so important.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Cove (Aberavon)
I congratulate the Minister on his statement. Those who follow the results of his policy and actions in the educational world will be pleased at what he has already achieved. There has been very great progress. I am not alone, as a political partisan of my right hon. Friend in saying that. There is evidence of a non-political but expert character to sustain my statement. As a Labour Government and as a Labour movement we can be proud of our progress in all spheres of education. I want to put on record in the House of Commons the impartial opinions of Dr. Alexander, the secretary of the education authorities, in the non-political educational publication called "Education." Writing in it on 7th January this year, he said:It is extremely difficult to compare current figures with those before the war, but I am bound to point out that, measured by any criterion, it seems reasonable to state that there has been more work done in the training of teachers, in the building of schools, in the making available of educational opportunity, in the provision of meals, and in the school medical service, in the three years 1945–48 than in any other three years in the history of English education. I fear many of us have been so conscious of the tremendous work that has to be done to achieve the full aims of our development plans to carry fully into effect the principles of the Education Act, 1944, that we have tended to under-estimate what we were achieving. Compared with the work that has to be done, we have not achieved so very much. Compared with what we ever achieved before, these three years show a record of great progress.2002 There is an impartial and well-informed educational opinion of the action of this Government in the sphere of education during the last three years. With all respect, I say that that opinion cannot be opposed by any hon. Member with the same expert and detailed knowledge as Dr. Alexander. I therefore congratulate the Minister and the Government on the great achievements of the past three years.
In this Committee and in these Debates we generally concern ourselves almost entirely with the machinery of education. It is profoundly important that we should also concern ourselves with the content of education. There is a remarkable fact which will be observed by anyone who tries to follow, even in a sketchy manner, the books on education which come from America and the books written in this country. I agree with Dr. Eric James, in his latest book on "The Conflict of Education," that in our discussions we are generally concerned mainly with the machinery of education. I notice that in the American publications there is greater emphasis on the content of education. That is vitally important. As far as I can ascertain—I would not be so presumptuous as to say that I am an authority—we have not yet evolved what I would call a commonly-accepted philosophic content and outlook on education. We have not yet got a clear vision of the goal at which we are aiming. Therefore, it is well that, from time to time, in our amateur way, we should consider what I broadly call the content of education.
In this respect I congratulate the Welsh Department on the series of educational pamphlets which it has produced. I do not necessarily agree with them—I profoundly disagree in many respects—but none the less those pamphlets deal with the realities of Welsh education. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to dilate upon some of the issues raised in those pamphlets. Wales has many special and acute national problems. The latest pamphlet deals with the acute national problem of bilingualism. I am glad that it does so. It is of very great importance that the Welsh language should survive and that the Welsh spirit and culture should express themselves in the Welsh language. Here is my criticism. 2003 It is rather unfair to put the blame for the decline of the Welsh language mainly on the shoulders of the Welsh secondary grammar schools. Other profound factors have been undermining the Welsh language and Welsh culture. Unemployment between the two world wars was a far more corrosive force upon the Welsh language and Welsh culture than any neglect or deficiency of the Welsh grammar schools.
Here again I congratulate the Government because the full employment policy which has restored work to the depressed valleys in South Wales has also contributed to the cultural life of those areas. The two have gone together. The corrosion in Welsh culture has been largely, though not entirely, due to the unemployment that existed for 10, 15 or 20 years. In the sphere of Welsh education there is a joining together of the economic policies of the Government and the cultural action of the Ministry of Education in preserving, sustaining and extending Welsh cultural life throughout the Principality. I have been a critic in many respects and I shall be a critic in some respects tonight, but I am glad to give my testimony to what has happened in the economic and industrial field, with its repercussions on the cultural life of Wales.
For a moment now, I will be a wee bit critical. The problem of preserving Welsh culture in Wales is a difficult one. We have had the intrusion of alien English blood, particularly in South Wales. We have had the intrusion of alien English capital into South Wales. We have a great mixture in the Principality. The figures I have are rather startling. Out of 2,472,378 people in Wales, 97,932 were Welsh speaking only, 811,329 were English and Welsh speaking, and 1,563,117 were English speaking only.
§ Mr. Cove
This is No. 4. I should like all who are interested in Welsh education and cultural life to read these pamphlets. This pamphlet goes on to say:The normal policy in a bi-lingual country should be that a pupil should be able to use either language, and the lack of such a policy in Wales is already evident in the present 2004 condition and prospects of the Welsh language. Its incapacity to deal adequately with many aspects of modern civilisation is due not to any inherent weakness in the language itself but in large measure to the fact that the institutions of higher education, the secondary schools, the training colleges and the university, have never seriously attempted to use Welsh as a medium of instruction. Had the will existed, such difficulties as the lack of books and of a technical vocabulary would have been overcome long ago, for within these last 25 years precisely similar difficulties have been overcome in Belgium and Palestine, so that today Flemish in Flemish-speaking Belgium, and Hebrew in Palestine are used as media of instruction throughout the whole field of education.Take my own home life. My mother was a Welsh-speaking woman, my father was English, but more Celtic than many Welshmen. Look at me. When my mother sat at her front door in Halifax Terrace in the colliery village of Treherbert, where I was born and bred, or when she stepped outside to talk to Mrs. Edwards next door, it was invariably in Welsh; when she spoke to me it was in English. Those who go into the Rhondda Valley—to Llan Rhondda—will find children playing and speaking Welsh in their playing time. A little further down they will find the children playing and speaking in English. Lower down it will be a mixture, with pockets here and pockets there, an intrusion of English into the areas, thereby making the problem infinitely more difficult than it would be in any homogeneous community.
It is wrong and disheartening to teachers who love the Welsh language to impose upon them the responsibility for any decay in it. It is amazing that this pamphlet quotes Gasset's "Mission of the University" in support of the theory in the pamphlet, but that quotation denies the theory in the pamphlet, because it says:The school depends far more on the atmosphere of national culture in which it is immersed than it does on the pedagogical atmosphere within it.Therefore, I reiterate that it is extremely wrong and disheartening to place upon the teachers in the secondary schools of Wales the responsibility for any decay of the language. Recognition must be made of the general difficulty of the problem.
Will any Welsh Member here tell me that I and others who can speak only in this language, are not good Welshmen? Will anyone tell me that Alun Lewis is 2005 not a good Welshman? He is a secondary school teacher in Aberdare, and A. L. Rouse has written the following in a preface to his letters:I believe that his Welsh roots, the Celtic character of his genius, were a safeguard: that loving observation of detail, the sense of line and pattern and phrase, the attachment to the particular, yet clothed with an imagination sensuous in itself, the brightness of vision with which the object is seen—those qualities appear in all Celtic art, they are in the instinct of the Celt.And they are instinct in the writings of the Anglo-Welsh.
While I hope that these pamphlets will be studied seriously in Wales, I hope it will also be realised that responsibility must not be put on the shoulders of the Welsh school teachers. The pamphlet to which I have referred says that teachers should not be over-concerned about examinations or cramped by them. What is the actual reality? When the students get to the sixth form, far lesser numbers are taking Welsh than are taking French, German and even Latin, and far less than are taking the sciences. Why? It is obvious that at that age the Welsh child, himself and herself, and the parents are concerned about the jobs they will get after having passed through the secondary schools. I repeat that the policy of economic security which the Government have applied with such great success throughout Wales, is an immense contribution to the cultural life and the development of the Welsh language in the Principality.
Let me make one final remark about the 1944 Act, commonly known as the "Butler Act." It has become almost platitudinous to say that that Act has effected a revolution in educational practice, theory and so on. The more I reflect upon that Act—and I have done some reflecting on it recently—the more I am convinced that it is correctly described as a revolutionary Act. English education has all along been based on the tripartite class system. The grammar schools have been directly related to a privileged class. What is the central theme of the 1944 Act? It is to be found in the fact that it has stated—in legalistic terms, if that expression is preferred—that all education above the age of 11 shall be secondary education. For the first time, poor old Plato has been wiped off by an English Education Act. 2006 [Interruption.] Oh, yes; that is a tremendous achievement.
But while that Act has abolished class distinction and aimed, as it were, at parity of esteem, we still have a long way to go to achieve it. People's minds have been directed, on a number of recent occasions and also in this Debate, to one of the major problems, the status and salaries of grammar school teachers. The major problem in education at present concerns not so much the problems of the grammar schools as the application of the principle of the 1944 Act to the educational world. The main task is to achieve real parity of esteem and equality of opportunity in the modern secondary school.
I do not think the Minister was correct in stating that when the new regulations come into force the school certificate can be taken from the modern secondary school. The fixing of the age of 16 for the taking of the school certificate has been accepted almost universally by educationists. There are, in fact, overwhelming reasons for fixing that age. There are, however, tremendous social repercussions, because until the age is raised to 16 for modern secondary schools those schools are automatically excluded for the purposes of the school certificate; they cannot take that examination at the age of 16. I say quite definitely and unequivocally that the Ministry, public opinion and the local authorities must concentrate on improving the amenities and staffing of primary schools and upon achieving equality of opportunity in the modern secondary schools, for in that direction lies the major problem in the educational field.
I congratulate the Minister, and I hope and pray that we shall have an accentuated interest in the content of education. The book recently issued by the Harvard professors, "General Education in a Free Society," Dr. Conant's book and quite a host of others point out that the modern world is one in which men are, as it were, splitting atoms, in which all the centrifugal forces are at work, and there is no cohesion. What is amazing is that even Professor Bernal agrees with the Americans that the great problem facing the educational world is the problem of what they call the integration of the individual and of society.
2007 That integration can never be achieved so long as we have a tripartite system of education; so long as grammar schools are what might be termed watertight compartments and there are separate technical schools and modern secondary schools. What is needed is one comprehensive type of school, where all the boys and girls, whatever their aptitude and capacity, may obtain life more abundantly. It was Professor Barker, I think, who said that the intellectual world is a lean world. What is needed is the development of the modern secondary school, giving equality of opportunity and parity of esteem, and the practical application of the revolutionary principle embodied in the 1944 Act.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
I am delighted to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) in a new frame of mind discussing the content of education and especially the philosophy of Welsh culture, but when he reached his last point I differed fundamentally from him. I will try to give my reason later for doing so. I have taken part in these Debates for some 16 years and as this will probably be the last Debate of this nature at which I shall be present, I hope the Committee will be indulgent with me if I also discuss not the material foundations, but what we mean by education in this country and what we are trying to preserve, as I see it, in the freedom, variety and personal relationship between teacher and taught.
I congratulate the Minister, but not so much on the speech which he made today. I only wish we could have had it in the form of a report, which would have saved him a great deal of trouble. It was a speech which, apart from the announcement on awards, did not contain anything particularly new. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman much more on what he has done during the past year in going about the country. The other day at Birmingham or Bournemouth Mr. Byng Kendrick said that:The incense of flattery is only tolerable when it comes from friends.I think I can regard the right hon. Gentleman as a very old friend and I believe he has done much good by his visits to all sorts of schools. I want to 2008 put it on record that we are grateful for what he has done. I wish he had been able to give a report as indeed he is required to do, on the Advisory Councils, but perhaps his Parliamentary Secretary will do so. He has not told us, either, about what he has done, when reports of the Advisory Council have been issued.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke mainly about teachers, buildings and university awards and, apart from university awards, I do not think there was very much on which to comment. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to be more precise and to tell us what is to succeed the Further Education and Training Scheme, what is to succeed the Emergency Training Scheme for Teachers and what is to succeed the Horsa Scheme for buildings. We have had critical Debates on these schemes from time to time, but those are finished now. Let us pay tribute to those who have put these problems right. When I heard that 52,000 awards were being made, I realised that it was a pretty tough job for the Department. But all these emergency measures have now to be followed by others.
The position of teachers in this country is very unsatisfactory. One reason is because they are underpaid. They are all underpaid, but especially graduates, whose position has deteriorated relatively and absolutely since before the years when I was at the Board of Education. Recently I have taken part in an ad hoc organisation which includes members of the N.U.T. and the Joint Board specially created to pursue this problem. I know many teachers with family responsibilities who are unable to buy a new book, or to maintain a standard of life consistent with their vocation. The abolition of the school certificate will throw many new duties on these men because of the emphasis laid on individual tutoring. It is a serious matter that highly qualified men and women are ceasing to choose teaching as a profession and entering business, industrial research and the higher grades of the Civil Service, where higher salaries are paid.
I think it a dangerous and narrow-minded policy to cut at the root and source of all technical training, because that is tantamount to drying up the supply of men and women qualified for the profession. If I were sitting where the right hon. Gentleman sits, I am not quite 2009 sure what I would do. All I say is that it is a serious happening. Do not let us deny the facts, they are all too serious. The right hon. Gentleman objected to the word "drift," but the evidence is that teachers are going into other jobs. Some are becoming inspectors and that is all right, but there is rather a bogy of organisers and they always get more than the actual practitioner. Some go into the B.B.C., some into the British Council and some become teachers in Germany for British children. With all these various calls, a number of teachers are leaving the profession. I understand that women tend to leave six or seven years later. The difficulty of finding, not only science and mathematics teachers, but domestic science teachers, is very great because better jobs are to be had in catering establishments for domestically trained persons. Even teachers of English and geography are difficult to find in London. That was quoted to me yesterday in London.
The Minister set up a training council for technical teachers but I understand that there are only nine teachers on it. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary what has happened to the Royal Society of Teachers? Do not teachers want, more than anything else, a professional council, a self-governing body with a proper status in the community, if they are to attract men and women of the highest calibre? We have very interesting new developments in the Institutes of Education at the various universities. I believe there is hope of a greater unity in the profession. On questions of social insurance and international questions teachers are coming together in a new way and the only final answer is to get every teacher university trained for three or four years. That is why the problem is not so serious in Scotland where up to 70 per cent. are graduate trained.
Some of us are sometimes accused of neglecting the secondary and technical schools. This is a grave injustice. When I was at the Board of Education I opened a new senior school, as they were then called, once every three weeks for three years. Nothing was more interesting than to see the new developments and experiments which were being made day by day by persons in those schools, which are now called secondary modern schools. Re-organisation was then the order of the day. We were training to pave the 2010 way for secondary education for all, but it is nonsense to talk of that so long as we have two schools in one building and the inadequate premises which we inherited from the past. I do not think Mr. Tawney, who coined the phrase was ever committed to a multilateral or comprehensive school.
What we need is equality of access to an agreed standard of physical provision. That is equality of opportunity. One cannot make unequal things equal, but one can give every child equality of access to an agreed standard of physical provision. We are a long way from that and, apart from the abolition of fees and the raising of the school-leaving age, I cannot see that the position has materially altered since before the war in respect of secondary schools. That is no one's fault in particular, except that of Hitler. We are building no new nursery schools and the competition to enter grammar schools was never more severe in my lifetime.
We all hoped we were going to abolish the examination at 11 and that there would be a natural passage into a variety of secondary schools. There are fewer scholarships at Oxford and Cambridge won by children of the maintained schools of the north and south of England than before the war in comparison with independent schools. That is why I inveigh in Middlesex against the children being deprived of the opportunity of going to grammar schools at all. That has happened in certain areas. The tendency for children to go into National Service has cut short the third year in the sixth form for many boys who have not the same personal relations with the university as the independent schools have. In the modern schools some teachers are performing miracles. I have examples from Devonshire where good experiments are being made with the extra year.
If I criticise, it is not because I am unaware of the good things, but classes are still larger, books less plentiful and equipment more deficient. This obtains in the hastily improvised multilateral schools against whose premature establishment—I am not against them in principle—I have protested in this House and in company with hundreds of parents. Some are run like old-fashioned board schools in which the register is all important and pens and paper come out at each lesson, which is 40 years out of date. I know a 2011 place where there is one laboratory and £12 a year for teaching science to 500 girls.
In the same way junior technical schools are being adversly affected at the moment. As the President of the Association of Technical Institutions recently pointed out; in the old days they had a "lease-lend" with the senior technical schools. Now that is abolished, and they have not yet found their new habitation. We have not the junior technical secondary schools yet in being. I do not blame the Minister, I am merely saying that at the moment we are still in a time of transition and I have never known education when it was not in a time of transition. The plain fact is that there are not enough graduate teachers to support secondary education for all, any more than to support infant and nursery schools.
Do not let us disturb the quality of standards where they exist, but let us try to level up all along the line. It is for this reason that I want the Ministry and local education authorities to encourage every possible experiment, and not to clamp down any more regulations than are absolutely necessary. It is not the task of the Ministry to settle the curriculum of schools or make child centre education or any other sort of education. These things are necessary, just as security is necessary to develop the homeless child, but one former is really worth a dozen reformers. If one goes round English schools at the present moment and looks below the surface, one finds hundreds of people, under the maintained system as well as the independent, doing the most interesting experiments. I call a director of education a good director if I see that every school in his district is different.
§ Mr. Corlett (York)
The hon. Member says it is not the job of the Ministry to determine the curriculum of a school. Can he tell me of any maintained school where the Ministry determines the curriculum?
§ Mr. Lindsay
Yes, it is, very largely by the presence of the external examination. The external examination is the 2012 authority and sanction of the Ministry and of the whole country, and of the universities. One of the greatest inroads into freedom is the examination. If we can get experiments made in the maintained schools, and people realising that the education there is good, there will be less desire—which is very strong at the moment—to make these enormous sacrifices which are being made today by parents to send their children to independent schools.
Although I have criticised my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) from time to time I think I am coming more to agree with him that there is a very good chance now of bringing the independent schools more and more within a flexible national system. I have been looking at some of these schemes. I was at a school recently where the Minister was, Kingwood School, Bath. I found that several local authorities are assisting boys with scholarships. Christ's Hospital is too well-known to discuss, and there are literally hundreds of schools coming more and more within the State system; and it is the desire of headmasters to do so. There is no desire to stand out and be apart from the national system. They wish to come in with a reasonable degree of freedom.
That raises the question of whether the local authorities and the people governing schools are quite the people we want in control. I have a feeling that while financial control must rest with the local authority there are scores of people who should be used as governors and managers of schools, and who could be brought in to do national service by acting as managers, but who never have time to sit on the local education authority. I should not like to see this country copying the United States or Europe. I have seen schools in Europe and in the United States and I have a feeling that if we keep reasonably steady we shall work out in this country a compromise which will show the Americans, and the rather rigid Europeans, that we have something in this country besides Parliamentary Government and William Shakespeare, that is a new conception of the relationship between the teacher and the taught; in other words, the conception of freedom in education.
I must say one word—partly as a university Member—on this question of 2013 awards. It is not the time, and I would not be in Order, to discuss or criticise the universities. I believe that comes under the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Vote. But the selection of students is inseparable from the recent rise from 50,000 to 85,000. We live in an age when few parents can afford £250 a year for the education of their children. I have here a letter which I received today in which the writer says:To maintain my daughter at school I have to raise a loan to the limit of my insurance policies, deprive my children of their summer holiday, and my daughter has to go out before school charing.There is no question about it that something has to be done, for £250 a year will not be found by many parents in the future for a university education.
I think the universities have approached an area comparable with secondary education, shall I say, about 20 years ago; with one important difference. The law is that secondary education is for all, according to ability and aptitude. If a child does not go to the grammar school he goes to a technical modern or secondary modern school. The principle of universality is accepted whatever the arrangement of schools. But in the case of the university there is no principle accepted. As the Minister said, each institution is responsible for its own entry and selection. There is no intelligence test which is remotely agreed and no alternative course of study—except correspondence or evening courses—which cannot give a university life as we conceive it in this country. Therefore, sooner or later, we have to give an answer to that question.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I am coming to that. The State has some responsibility for national needs in the shape of trained men and women. This responsibility prompted the Barlow Report which was primarily concerned with training scientists; but there are other things. The National Health Act requires so many doctors, so many dentists and so many specialists. The universities will break down if they have to get a larger number of trained lecturers. The National Education Act of 1944 is already running into difficult waters due to the shortage of graduate teachers. These basic needs may 2014 reach a point which would necessitate x number of students coming to a university, if necessary at Government expense. But if the university policy concerned itself solely with meeting the degree of national need, it would quickly degenerate into a narrow professional outlook, and the whole conception of the university would be changed within a decade. That is happening in some countries in Europe and America.
The fact remains that 11 out of 16 students in the future will be wholly supported by the State or local funds—taxes or rates. There is a campaign in which the hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Morley) has taken a part with other national bodies. They say, "Eleven out of 16; why not 16 out of 16?" There is no logical answer, but I wish at any rate to attempt one. Sir Walter Moberley said that selection is the unsolved problem. I wish to quote his words:It is to devise a method of selection or a combination of methods which facilitates the intuitive discernment of excellence and which will be, but also seem to be, fair as between man and man.We may have a student in York who cannot get into Leeds or Sheffield University and a student getting in in London who is very much below the standard shown by the student in Yorkshire. This idea of a clearing house between universities is not so easy to arrange as the report on awards seems to think.
I will put the problem in another way. Accepting the assumption that there exists a great reserve of uncultivated capacity, what proportion of the population is society prepared to withhold from gainful occupation until the age of 21 or 22. In fact, under National Service, people are withheld until the age of 23 or 24. America withholds 2,500,000 and we withhold 85,000. It should be remembered that this is at an expense to the State of £250 a year. This problem will get worse. There is the bulge in the birth rate. There are greater numbers staying on in the secondary schools and there is an increase in the numbers at independent schools. All this aggravates the problem. It is too early to say what the effect of the June examinations will be, but I think that it will make the position more acute.
The complete absence of specialisation is no less dangerous than over-specialisation. In my opinion, at the age of 16, 2015 17 and 18 a boy or girl is most anxious to concentrate his or her energies and interests on a more restricted field. Granted that the subjects are of a reasonably wide nature, it is from such work that they receive their main educational stimulus. It is a tremendous feeling for a student to be able to do the beginnings of research and to work on a problem. There is a certain amount of nonsense talked about over-specialisation. At any rate, do not let us go too far in the opposite direction.
The outstanding question is how to relate the numbers desiring university education to the numbers capable of profiting. I do not think that anyone in England knows the answer. There must be some selective process of work throughout the system unless private finance is to be the factor, and that the majority of the Committee are against that. The universities must find ways and means of selecting 16,000 members a year. Does anybody know how they are to do that? I suggest that the final division of labour as between State, university and local authority has not yet been thought out.
When I was in the sixth form at a London grammar school boys would sit three or four times for a scholarship to Oxford or Cambridge. Then they would run around the trusts, foundations and local authorities to find some one to make up the rest. Today, what do they do? Today they apply at five or six universities. If they live in a generous area they get the whole grant, and if they do not they have to scrape and skimp, like the child I have mentioned who has only got £60 instead of £120 for maintenance in London. If we are to pay the full cost of the fees and maintenance and if we are also to pay students during the vacation, that will make a difference.
I consider that payment during the vacation is absolutely revolutionary. At the risk of being opposed by my constituents in the universities, I say that I am not in favour of that. I want to say why. I think that there is some respect left in a student who has to support himself during the vacation. I realise, of course, that some people are older than the normal students because of National Service, and that some are married. I do not want to hedge that question. In 2016 America students, particularly the boys, try to fend for themselves during the vacation. I know that the cost of living in universities has gone up and that there are some stiff bills to pay, but some of us have paid them on an income less than some people get today. I do not think that it does any harm. I am a little nervous about this extra sum, that is why I raised the question with my right hon. Friend.
The general effect will be to distribute students in a more national way all over the country. Therefore we may get L.E.As. objecting to the movement of certain students from one part of the country to another. They may say, "You live in Manchester. You can live at home. Why should we send you away down to Bristol or Reading and pay all the extra expense?" That is an additional reason for increasing the total number of university institutions. There is room for experiment in the type of institution and the university curriculum. I believe that the proposed college at Stoke sponsored by the universities of Oxford, Birmingham and Manchester, has an opportunity of pioneering in an area long famous for its adult education classes.
The only practical answer is to bring the universities to the people. Hence, the importance of residential adult colleges. I am very glad to see that 17 new ones have been started. Hence, the importance of extra-mural departments provided they foster intensive studies and maintain a high standard. Otherwise, they are education on the cheap. If I come down on the side of quality and standards it is not merely a question of finance, but much more one of preserving the unique relationship between teachers and taught which characterise our universities, combined with a period of common living in a residential hall at college. It is because I realise that £50 million is needed for halls and residences alone and a considerable increase in the staff is required if there is to be any pretence of preserving personal contact between the students and the matured minds, that I favour consolidating the hurried advance of the post-war years. I believe Britain needs a larger university population, but it needs equally the stamp of quality on the products of its universities.
2017 I must conclude because many other hon. Members wish to speak. Might I suggest that in future we have a two day Debate on education, as Scotland did? It is impossible to do justice to this subject even if one speaks for a quarter of an hour, and I have already exceeded that. I ask for a little indulgence on this occasion. We are engaged in a gigantic task from the neglected nursery school, through the primary and infant school, via a rich diversity of education for the adolescent, up to the university and adult studies. There has been a growth—I think it is an evitable growth—in administration. But, as Sir Wilfred Martineau said recently at a conference of educational authorities:If the Ministry delegates more freedom on the authorities"—and they should—local authorities must confer more freedom on the schools.That, I thought, was a wise remark. I could quote a score of examples from publicly maintained as well as from independent schools where exciting and challenging experiments are being made because wise governors have allowed teachers to exercise full responsibility.
With the inevitable growth of State activity—and I do not see any cessation of it at the moment—in every minute of our lives, there is a constant temptation to confuse tidy administration with human progress. In recent years I have seen an increasing number of committees. I noticed that the Minister mentioned committees himself with some doubt in his mind. There have been an increasing number of committees and foundations to consider examinations, research, adult education, visual aids, the exchange of students and the activities of U.N.E.S.C.O. I seem to see a miniature army of familiar faces sitting on one committee after another. They make reports. Sometimes they are effective: sometimes they are not. Then I go to a school and see a patient teacher working against heavy odds and even performing miracles, inspiring the young and ardent students, and I am reminded of all this administrative machinery that all these. Advisory committees and foundations only exist because there happen to be children with still far too many in a class, far too many of whom are neglected and forced into delinquency because of the carelessness 2018 of adults, and far too many of them are backward and deficient.
I am also reminded that the pioneers, Arnold, Albert Mansbridge, Margaret Macmillan and Baden-Powell, who probably was one of the greatest educationists, William Temple and a host of unknown headmasters and masters, were all inspired by a very simple and, in most cases, a religious belief. Most were untrained, and they were all first class practitioners. It is time that once again our national system caught the spirit of those pioneers.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Corlett (York)
I am very pleased indeed to have the opportunity of following the senior Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay). In a Debate such as this, we are faced with a very wide field, and it is necessary that each of us should try to confine himself to one particular part of that field. None of us can hope to cover the whole of it adequately. I shall confine myself to one part of the field which has been mentioned by the hon. Member, and that is the freedom of the grammar schools to determine their own curriculum and the power of the universities in regard to it.
On 29th March there was a Debate in this House on a Prayer against the regulations affecting the new general certificate. On the other side of the House there were repeated statements made quite sincerely that hon. Members opposite were insisting upon the freedom of the grammar schools. Everybody on the other side said they wanted complete freedom in the grammar schools, and they complained, as the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities has complained today, of the clamping down of Whitehall on the grammar schools.
§ Mr. Corlett
Yes, the regulations from the Ministry and from the local authorities, and I shall deal with both those points.
From this side of the House there was the equally insistent statement that we also believe in complete freedom for the grammar schools. We tried to point out that the Education Act, 1944, demanded that freedom if children were to be educated according to their aptitude and ability, and hon. Members on this side were perhaps more insistent than hon. Members opposite in trying to secure that freedom for the grammar schools. I was away in hospital at the time, but I remember reading the Debate, and I was very struck by a remark of the junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris), who said the Minister was throwing himself athwart the universities. I remember reading that passage in bed very carefully indeed, because in my younger days I often wished I could see a Minister who would throw himself athwart the universities. Fortunately, having reached years of discretion, I do not hold that view so strongly, though I should be delighted to be able to see a Minister taking one step towards throwing himself athwart the universities.
All the Minister, however, had said was that he hoped the universities would carry out the recommendations of the Secondary Schools Examinations Council in regard to entrance requirements, and in that he was merely supporting the Council, the Working Party on University Awards, the Joint Four, the Headmasters' Conference, the N.U.T. and all the other bodies who asked that the universities should consider that matter very carefully. I am stressing that very deliberately because the threat to the freedom of the grammar schools never has come from the Ministry or the local education authorities.
The threat to the academic freedom of the grammar schools in my opinion has nearly aways come from the universities. We have only to remember that the grammar schools are the "prep" schools for the universities, and their teaching and their curriculum are largely determined and influenced by the requirements of the universities. If those requirements do not fit in with the kind of work which the grammar school would like to do, 2020 then university requirements exercise a very adverse influence indeed on the freedom of the grammar schools.
Let me take the case of open scholarships. Everybody will agree that it is a fantastic standard which is set by the universities for the open scholarships. It is far beyond the minimum requirements for entrance to a university, it is even beyond the first year's work in a university, and I can think of no reason why there should be that fantastic standard, except that there is an equally fantastic standard for a first class honours degree. This requirement completely interferes with both the teaching and the curriculum in grammar schools to an extent which cannot possibly be justified, and in some cases it must lead to excessive specialisation. It is bound to lead to excessive specialisation, because ambitious parents are apt to judge the efficiency of a grammar school by the number of open scholarships which it can obtain. The teachers therefore are often compelled in their sixth forms to drive the children along these specialised lines because of the determining influence of the university requirements.
Let us examine the position also in regard to the minimum requirements for entrance to a university. The universities are quite entitled to try to secure that students seeking admission shall have some basis of general education, but it is hard to believe that a school certificate with so many credits in any way provides a satisfactory general cultural education. There is nothing in a school certificate that suggests any system of general education. I have never thought that a certificate in elementary maths, elementary French or English provided any real kind of general education. The universities themselves are constantly saying, and quite rightly, that they are dissatisfied with the lack of grounding of general education in their students, so it is clear that university requirements interfere with the freedom of the grammar schools and do not secure a general education.
The requirements of the universities for their scholarship examinations and for the entrance examinations themselves would not have mattered at a time when the numbers going to the universities were few, coming from cultured homes. They imbibed a general education at home, their attendance at the university 2021 was not a matter of great urgency, they could take their studies in their stride, they were not desperately looking for a job and not much public money was involved. But today we must look at the position afresh, because there are now far more youngsters going to the universities, far fewer going there from what I may call cultured homes, and far more going at great public expense. They go to the universities because they desire the universities to provide them with a means of livelihood, not with a philosophy of life. The whole attitude of many of them is a utilitarian attitude. They want to get a good degree as soon as they can and get out again to earn a living.
If that is so, this question of the effect of universities requirements upon the curriculum of the grammar schools is very serious indeed, because it means, on the one hand, narrow-minded people knowing more and more about less and less, and, on the other hand, people who know very little about the civilisation in which they live. We have the universities rightly complaining that they are receiving art students who are narrow-minded and illogical, that they are receiving science students who are narrow-minded and illiterate. We have Sir Richard Livingstone telling us that art students concentrate on man and ignore nature while science students concentrate on nature and ignore man. That is the constant complaint in our universities, and I suggest that it is due to the fact that the universities have far too great a say in the curriculum of the grammar schools and in their methods of teaching. We had hoped that there would be some modifications in these requirements for the new general certificate; as a matter of fact, however, we fear that there is very little if any modification——
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
May I ask your guidance, Mr. Bowles? I am very sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I have waited rather a long time. Is it really in Order in this discussion to go into the management of the universities? I could understand an allusion, but I find that this is a long and elaborate development of the theory that the scholarship final examination is controlled from outside, that something else is controlling the entrance examination, which controls the grammar schools. I should have thought that it was rather doubtful whether all this is in Order.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
So far as I understand the speech of the hon. Gentleman, it is upon the lines that the school curriculum and teaching are influenced by the universities. So far as that is concerned, under the Vote before the Committee, the hon. Gentleman is quite in Order.
§ Mr. Corlett
That is the whole point I am making. Surely, the grammar school, particularly of the sixth form, is vitally concerned with the examination being taken, an examination which is dictated by the university, so I think I am quite in Order in discussing the universities and their control over the curriculum of the grammar school.
I was saying that I hoped that under the new regulations the universities would modify their conditions, that they would be asking for something that would mean less excessive specialisation in the grammar schools, that they would be asking for something which would give more freedom to the grammar schools, and would develop more general education, but the more I look at the new regulations, the more I am satisfied that they completely fail to do this. With their new group subjects, their compulsory subjects, and their methods of sitting for the examinations, I feel more than ever afraid that the universities are going to play a greater part still, and that there is going to be more and more of this excessive specialisation, and less and less general education.
Professor Cannon recently pointed this out. He said that under these regulations a youngster can spend the main part of his time, from the moment he enters the grammar school until he takes a scholarship, on pure and applied maths, and just jog along with elementary English, French, and physics. He pointed out that under the new regulations that would mean more and more specialisation in the grammar schools because that was what the universities would be asking for. On the other hand, the headmaster of the Manchester Grammar School pointed out that the number of subjects set for the child would place upon it a heavy burden, and would tend to drive out of the curriculum any attempt to provide real general education. If these statements are true then it is indeed a very serious matter.
2023 The universities would appear to have completely failed to do what my right hon. Friend has suggested—take into account the recommendations of the Secondary Schools Education Council. I know that they can claim, and claim fairly, that they have had a dual task, that their prior task was one of securing uniformity of admission amongst the several universities. It has been one of the complaints throughout the years that there has not been uniformity of admission to the universities. We have all had dozens of complaints from youngsters who have been refused admission to one university, and have not been able to get into another the same year. I think that can rightly be claimed to have been a problem in itself, and that the universities have given prior consideration to that, and, having done so, have had to sacrifice things we would like them to do in regard to the type of entrance examination.
When all is said and done, there is nobody who can speak for the universities as a whole. We have the committee of the vice-chancellors and principals with very limited powers, but no one can get up and say that this or that is what the universities as a whole will accept or agree to. Each goes its own way, and I can quite understand their argument when they say, "We have done a wonderful thing in securing inter-availability and uniformity of admission." But the price paid for this gain is very heavy indeed.
Further, they can argue that nobody knows what comprises general education. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) mentioned Dr. Conant and the researches of Harvard University into this question. We all have our own ideas on this matter. No one can really say what a child, a student or a university student graduate should know at a certain stage. I can therefore understand the universities saying that they have no real knowledge of what general education is. There have been, of course, these admirable general papers set by certain Oxford and Cambridge colleges; and there have, of course, been some very determined attempts made by many grammar schools to find methods of introducing general education into their sixth form work. But, in the main, I can understand the universities saying that they simply do not know what general education is, that they are not 2024 prepared to accept school records because they are in their infancy, because they are experimental and have not gone far enough, and that they themselves must put forward a test to satisfy them that a student has received a general education. Further, they can argue that there is to be an experimental period of five years and that the matter can be reconsidered during that period and the whole question of what the universities require and the schools can give, can be re-examined. But that does not nearly meet the position.
Most people remember the proposals put forward by the N.U.T., the Joint Four, and particularly by the Headmasters' Conference as to what the requirements of the universities should be in regard to university admission, but there is nothing in the requirements issued by the universities that suggest they have given these proposals very much consideration. We are all determined that the universities shall have academic freedom; it would be a very bad day indeed for this country if we ever interfered with their right to select their students, to determine what subjects they should teach, and how they should teach them. Nobody in this Committee wishes to interfere with their freedom in that way, and neither does anybody wish to interfere with their freedom to select otherwise than on the grounds of merit.
I quite agree with the statement made by Sir Ernest Barker that a society of intellectuals would be a very bleak one indeed. The universities have the right to have a cross-fertilisation of other types of mind and character. We are not therefore suggesting that there should be any interference with the right of selection by the universities, but we do say that if they are going to claim this freedom, they must earn it, and must carry the responsibilities which that freedom entails. I suggest that they can only earn this freedom and only perform their functions satisfactorily if they perform them in partnership with the grammar schools, and I suggest that before they make those decisions with regard to their entrance and scholarship examinations they should consult far more fully with the teachers in the grammar schools.
When all is said and done, this is the general practice in every other part of the educational field. Wherever we have contributory and receiving schools, the 2025 two get together and decide what each shall do and they come to a compromise. The result is that because each knows the difficulties of the other they get over them and are able to agree on what they require of each other. I think that is the answer with regard to the universities. I am sure they would gain much by discussion with the grammar school teachers. The universities would have the right to demand that they should have evidence that a student could profitably pursue his special subjects.
At the same time, I am certain that the universities would have to concede far more to the grammar schools as on the question of general education. I cannot accept the view of the universities that they now have adequate consultation. They plead that they have had it ever since the Norwood Report in 1943 and also had general communications through the Joint Matriculation Boards. These are nowhere nearly adequate enough to meet the problem that is facing us now, that of freedom in the grammar school, and I suggest to my right hon. Friend not that he should get athwart the universities, but that he should even try to persuade them to agree to the setting up of machinery which would really establish contact with the grammar schools.
I hope he will remember their tradition and be as nice to them as he can, and do nothing that suggests coercing them; and I suggest to the universities that if they wish to retain their freedom, it is their duty to make a thorough and consistent and determined attempt to understand what is going on in the grammar schools and to give them a chance to work out their salvation. I plead with my right hon. Friend to do that, and then he will not alarm the junior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris) who so feared he was getting athwart the universities.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
The Opposition thought it right that on one of the Supply days at this time of year we should deal with the subject of education. Judging by the number of hon. Members who are waiting to speak, I think we have judged rightly. I therefore do not propose to detain the Committee for an undue length of time.
The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) referred to Dr. Alexander's statement 2026 about the success of the Government in administering education. I should like to say that before I left office I set the present Government a great deal of homework, and they have done some of it quite well. Other parts, however, have had to be torn up or ruled over. Nevertheless, they have done a good deal of work and I do not propose to traverse the whole of the subject today but simply to refer to one or two matters upon which I wish to ask questions.
When we passed the Act the question was asked: What is the position of the Ministry? Fears were expressed that the Ministry would become a sort of centralising automaton which would have a life apart from the local authorities, teachers' organisations and from everybody else. We can safely say that that has not happened, and if we on this side of the Committee see any tendency that it is happening, the right hon. Gentleman may feel quite certain that we shall draw his attention to it immediately. It is vital that education should be conducted by partners and not by direction from the centre, and it is because we feel that that is still taking place, with one or two minor exceptions, that we are able to say that education is not at the moment a subject of intense and violent disagreement between the two sides of the Committee.
The Ministry indulges in a great deal of varied activity. It indulges in the arts, in catering and building, it concerns itself with the Welsh language, health and the dental services, right through the whole range of human activity. I want first of all to ask a question about the arts world. Before I do that, however, I should like to congratulate the Arts Council on the success notably of the Vienna Collection which has been brought to this city. Those concerned have organised this exhibition in an excellent manner, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will pass on out thanks to them. What I am not so clear about is the extent to which it is right for the Arts Council to finance plays and other activities which, it seems to me, should stand upon their own commercial legs.
For example, I want to ask the Minister whether he, through the Arts Council in conjunction with a certain production company, is financing "Love in 2027 Albania"? I say that not in the literal sense, because I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is too much occupied at home; nor do I say anything to detract from the value of this excellent play, which I saw the other evening. But I notice, when I go to the theatre, that on the back of the programme the Arts Council is in concert with a certain company producing a great many popular plays, including "The Relapse," "Love in Albania," and others. I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to what extent public money is used for that purpose, and how he can justify its expenditure?
§ Mr. H. D. Hughes (Wolverhampton, West)
On a point of Order. I do not want to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but surely there is a certain confusion. Is it not the case that the Arts Council receives its financial assistance and, therefore, its control, from the Treasury, and not from the Ministry of Education? Should it come within this Vote at all?
§ Mr. Butler
No doubt we shall receive an answer from the Parliamentary Secretary on this point.
On the subject of catering, a considerable advance has been made with the school meals programme, but we should like to see this development pressed to its logical conclusion, as it was originally intended that school meals and milk should form part of the general social insurance benefits. The right hon. Gentleman made no reference to the development of the school meals service except to mention it, and perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will make some reply.
On the subject of the school health service, I want to draw special attention to the most unsatisfactory condition of the school dental service, which has been neglected, either by the Minister of Health or the Minister of Education. It 2028 was proposed that one dentist should be available to 3,000 children, and I am informed that all that can be provided now is one dentist to 6,000 children, and that in London the rate is one dentist to 7,300 children. That is an impossible ratio if the service is to be carried out satisfactorily. I hope the hon. Gentleman will give us some assurance that the Government will make up this deficiency, and conduct this service in the proper way.
The hon. Member for Aberavon made some very eloquent remarks about Wales, and I should like to welcome pamphlet No. 4 which I have read. I was responsible for reintroducing the grant for Welsh-speaking areas and for reversing the decision of the Commission 100 years ago, which slighted the Welsh language. Therefore, I am personally very interested in this subject. I think it now lies largely with the Welsh people to decide whether they are prepared to encourage the use of the Welsh language in the higher ranges of their educational system. If they are not prepared to do so, I think it is likely that Welsh will be only a survival. Even if it were only a survival I would do my best to save it and not let it collapse, as the Cornish language did so many years ago. I congratulate the Principality on the continued excellence of its secondary education, on the manner in which the technical colleges are co-operating with the universities, which is a pattern to the whole of the United Kingdom, and upon the general progress being made with the implementation of the Act. If the Parliamentary Secretary could tell us anything else about the progress of education in Wales I should be very much obliged.
I want to call for the Minister's general approval on three matters arising out of the development plans. The first relates to the intolerable word "multilateralism." There are many and multilateral views as to what it means. I sincerely hope that experiments in the idea of combining a variety of secondary education will be made, but I also sincerely hope that those experiments will not be made in such a way that we shall be landed with the form of school, which is so prevalent on the American continent, of immense size, in which it seems to me to be impossible to retain the relationship of teachers to those taught.
2029 I do not see why the development which has been indicated should not occur, and why the right hon. Gentleman, in approving or disapproving of development plans, should not bring his influence to bear. The Essex authority are proposing a school of the character which I have in mind at Saffron Walden which will be a mixture between a technical school and a modern school, and with the facilities for secondary education in the grammar schools, I am convinced that the combination will serve the district. I trust that combinations of this sort will be encouraged by the Minister when he is considering plans.
The second point I want to make concerns the working out of the religious settlement, on which I should like to make a general statement. No doubt many of the denominations are finding it difficult to meet the costs under the present situation. Nevertheless, all denominations must find the rise in costs equally disturbing, and I would therefore beg the right hon. Gentleman to make no fundamental alteration in the general principles governing the religious settlement under the Act. I am not convinced that if the subject were raised again, we should reach so amicable a settlement as we did on that occasion. I should like to tell the Committee that in a recent tour round Europe I found the Governments of two countries labouring under the difficulties of what used to be called the Church school controversy in this country. We managed, by the grace of God, to eliminate that controversy from our country in the war years, by joint action by all parties, and I trust that settlement may be allowed to stand, because I believe that those of us who were engaged in it have been rewarded with a certain degree of success which is all that one can hope for in public life today. As for the working out of the religious settlement in detail, let everyone in all the denominations be treated with the same generosity if anything is at any time to be done.
I have been concerned and anxious about what I have described as the "slaughter of the innocents"—the small schools—in the country. There is a small school in my area at Lindsell which has gained a certain amount of national reputation by standing out on its own—in providing its own meals, and providing 2030 its own teachers and its own education, to obviate 24 children from being carted by bus to a neighbouring village. I realise the inconvenience to the authority of such a stand, but it is a stand on principle which, I hope, in the end will be amicably settled. I trust that when the Minister looks into the question of small schools and their place in the development plans he will do his utmost to see that the small school, provided it gives a suitable education, is not automatically destroyed.
The last point I want the Minister to look into—and it is not really so much a matter of development plans as of education in general—is the need to decentralise the educational administration, and to simplify it. The costs to local education authorities are becoming so alarming that there is a danger that educational progress will be held up. The Minister has taken steps in giving more power to local education authorities. Let him follow that up, and try to remove from his office all unnecessary detail and put it on the shoulders of the localities.
Even more important, let the localities not imagine that those of us who framed the Act were determined to provide cumbersome machinery in the counties. It was not our intention. Certain Sections and Schedules of the Act have been read literally in this connection. Still, it would be possible greatly to reduce the staffs in some of the localities provided more simplification were brought into the administration of education. In this connection, I suggest that it may be possible in the realm of the youth services, and of what the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) described as the "organisers" in the realms outside teaching work, to bring voluntary agencies in to aid the education authorities.
What I wish to say next, links up with this point. It seems to me that education will shortly be entering upon a new period. We had the war period when we indulged in intensive legislation and other activity, and we have had a period in which the Government have concentrated on gaining priority for education itself in the general race for social benefit. It was also my hope that education would get a high priority, and I am glad that that race has been largely won by the Education Department over and 2031 above other Departments. But the problem now before the country and the Ministry of Education is that of establishing priorities within education itself, because, quite frankly, we cannot do everything at once.
Whatever statement may be made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer tomorrow, it must be clear to the most simple person that this country is running into a storm, and when one runs into a storm it is reasonable not to go into it with all sails spread and some not properly attached. Education authorities are attempting to do too much at once; not through their own great fault of judgment, because I take responsibility, but because those who were responsible for the Act put so large a burden upon them. I think it is essential that we should follow up some points of the Minister's speech today and give priorities to certain things, acknowledge that all the range of educational provision cannot be undertaken at the same time, and establish what can be done by improvisation and what can be done immediately by direct action.
On priorities, I am personally very pleased that the primary schools are to get their turn. It is high time they did, for those are the schools that are particularly overcrowded, and whose teachers have the greatest mental and also physical strain; I think they ought to be relieved as soon as possible. I trust that reorganisation can be carried on to a certain extent, otherwise secondary education will count for nothing. In regard to technical education, I would only say that if we are to win the battle of production, education here can ally itself with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the economic advisers to the Government, and, by doing that, can obtain a certain priority for technical grants.
As I have said before, I believe we can get a large proportion of the day continuation service throughout the country by the county college principle—by closer collaboration with industry. In certain circles with which I am concerned in industry, we have managed to cover the whole of an immense industry with day continuation education throughout, on a voluntary basis, for all the young people engaged between 15 and—not always 18 2032 —but, at any rate, to anything up to 17, making it up to 18 when we have the buildings. We did that in conjunction with the authority but, nevertheless, a great deal of the burden is taken off the Minister, and I believe he should co-operate even more closely with industry to get further help in the day continuation and technical sphere, and the whole sphere of release, with all that that means both to industry and to him.
I want to take up the Minister's general points at the end of his speech, when he said that he believed in the "three Cs"—competence, curiosity, and conscience. It seems to me that a great deal of interest has been shown, very rightly, in this Debate on the subject to content. It has been spoken of by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Corlett), the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities, and by others. I should define the objectives of the educational system, in which the Minister takes a very prominent position, as first the provision of the best brains in the country and the right people to serve the country in the best way possible. We have to draw them from wherever we can. In this matter I happen to be in strange company, in agreement with Dr. Harold Laski and the "Economist." The second would be stressing the dignity of work, and my third would be right character. Now let me just say a few words on each before I sit down.
On the question of seeking out the best brains, and having them in the best places, what has been said about equality of standards has my absolute support. I think it is essential that a universal State system of education can prove that it can, at the same time, produce the highest possible intellectual standards. As the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities said, we should work out some form of curriculum or course of studies in our schools which will be instinct with our own tradition, and be different from that of other countries. It seems to me that we are not yet free from the subordination to examinations, and that we have not yet gone so far as was done in Germany, as is described in Messrs. Samuel and Thomas's new book on "Education and Society in Modern Germany"—we have not gone so far as they did after the Weimar period, in freedom from the syllabus.
2033 I would suggest that this country should aim at a position between those two extremes of that subordination that we are showing to examinations, and that sort of free-for-all system which gradually degenerates into licence. We have had in our history a certain tradition of classical education. I hope that that will be retained where it can be retained, but it clearly cannot be retained everywhere, and I think we should aim at finding some scheme in between the two, in which we are not—as we are at present—completely under the harrow of the examination system.
I am not yet satisfied that the Minister's decision about the examinations, combined with the universities' regulations demanding a wide range of subjects, has got us over the problem which Dr. James has drawn attention to in his book on the "Content of Education," namely, the need for "specialisation in depth." At present, if somebody specialises he is thought fully educated if he is told to take two periods of some other subject in the week. But that does not mean specialisation or general education. We are, therefore, falling between two stools, and though I do not wish to follow the hon. Member for York in detail in his interesting speech about the universities I would say this: that I should be dead against any control of the universities from outside; at the same time there must clearly be a closer linking up between what the schools and students so urgently need and what the universities really stand for in our national life.
In regard to the second point, dignity of work, I am horrified that the so-called technical schools in this country have up to date only 72,000 pupils in them. It is one of the scandals of British education, and there can be no parity of esteem in choice, no equality of treatment, as long as junior technical schools are so far behind. When we compare this disgraceful lag of technical education with technical education in other countries we realise that it is bound to lead to a certain priority for technical education.
In this connection, I would appeal to the Minister to realise that other great countries have regained their greatness by paying attention to handicrafts and all that they mean. I recently attended a large agricultural show in my own county, at which the education authority was 2034 giving a big display in three tents. I was astounded not only at the range of activity under that education authority but at the extraordinary development of handcrafts in the countryside, and, indeed, in our cities and towns. I am myself associated with the College of Handcrafts, and I hope that handcraft exports and the industry itself will be encouraged in every way, because I believe that in that way we can not only develop skill but also retain national character.When Adam delved and Eve span.Who was then the gentleman?I think that should be the aim of our modern educationists in restoring the dignity of work and making parents as well as teachers realise that the practical choice in the secondary field is, perhaps, the most dignified of all.
I conclude on my third point—right character. Here we have to find a balance between independence, which we must encourage, and the discipline of the children, which can be found outside in society in the balance between the individual and society. On discipline, I would only say that there are complaints from many people up and down the country that the discipline in our schools is not what it was. I suggest that there should be closer collaboration between parents and teachers in this matter, because if teachers introduce discipline into the schools they cannot be successful if they do not have the collaboration of parents. I do not think it is fair to the teachers, if there is an undisciplined home, for the public to blame the teachers for lack of standards or lack of discipline. I therefore hope that this will lead to a development of the parent-teacher movement, to which I have always attached importance, because, strange to relate, none of us would be sitting here discussing education unless there were a few parents about.
The basis of right character must be, as the right hon. Gentleman, said the religious basis. On the whole, I am pleased with what I hear of the development of religious education in the country. William Temple, who has has already been mentioned, cross-questioned me very much at the time of the 1944 Act as to whether we were not starting a State religion in our schools. I assured him that that was not the case; that the agreed syllabuses were genuine, 2035 if rather advanced, courses of study. I believe these are being used, and I trust that as a result of the religious settlement there may be in our community a mixture of schools between the voluntary—that is to say, the controlled—and the aided and the county, so that out of variety we may find success. We are aiming, I think, as the product of our schools at what Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch once described when he said:We look for the boy or girl who comes from our schools not to be judged so much for what he can produce from his wallet, but for what he is.We do not want examination fodder: We want right character, with a good spiritual basis.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. H. D. Hughes (Wolverhampton, West)
The right hon. Gentleman found some faint praise for the work of the Ministry in the last three years, and went so far as to admit that the priority education is receiving today is considerably in advance of what it has been in previous periods of our history. There have been one or two notes of alarm sounded from Members of the Opposition during the Debate, and I hope that whoever winds up for the Opposition will be a little clearer on the subject. Looking back into the history of our country, I think it is quite clear that in the past, when we have run into economic difficulties, education has been one of the first victims. In 1918, education was one of the worst victims of the Geddes axe. In 1931, education was one of the worst victims of the May Committee. Under this Government, in spite of the economic crisis we had two years ago, we have been successful so far in largely shielding education from that kind of economy. I did not quite like the sound of something said by the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland), when he said that it was already necessary to reduce the standards laid down under the 1947 Act.
§ Commander Maitland
I made it quite plain that the whole object of doing so was to ensure that those places which were in the greatest need should have the benefit. I made that point very clearly.
§ Mr. Hughes
I fully appreciate the point the hon. and gallant Member made about priorities. I am seeking to secure from the Opposition some statement on how far education is involved in the policy they are placarding round the country, of a rapid decrease in Government expenditure, because in my view a rapid decrease in Government expenditure on education at the present time would be disastrous. I should like to hear from the Opposition whether their general campaign against Government expenditure includes a campaign against educational expenditure, which is, of course, running at a very high level, but a high level which is necessary if we are to carry out even a part of the projects of the 1944 Act. Even with the budget figure given by my right hon. Friend in opening the Debate, it is obvious that priorities must be very carefully selected. If there are to be any cuts in the education budget when another crisis comes along, we may as well pack up the idea of carrying out any real educational reform in this country.
I should like to put one or two considerations to the Minister on some of the central issues he raised. First, teachers. As I understand it, at present the Ministry's budget for teachers is calculated on the basis of trying to get classes of 30 in secondary schools and 40 in primary schools by about 1951. Well, 40 is still a large class, and I should like to know whether the Minister sees any chance of getting the primary school classes on a parity with secondary school classes. I was sorry that the emergency training scheme was wound up as soon as it was on the male side. I have seen something of the emergency training colleges, and I have been very much impressed by the quality of work they were producing.
One specific question to which I should like an answer is this: now that the emergency training scheme has been wound up, what is to be done to carry out the recommendation of the McNair Report, that there must always be open an avenue of entry into the teaching profession for people of more mature age than the normal entrant and with experience outside the education world? I am sure the emergency training scheme has proved that adult entrants with a little wider experience than the normal 2037 entrant have a good deal to contribute to the profession, and I should like to be sure that that channel is being kept open for them in future.
On buildings, my right hon. Friend had an impressive story to tell. While I am very glad to see that capital expenditure on education will be up to £50 million by the end of this year, about £40 million of that is needed to preserve existing conditions and to cope with the new housing estates and the rising birthrate, which leaves very little over for any kind of educational reforms—for pulling down the old schools, and all the other things that are necessary. In 1946, an official committee said that if we are to carry out the 1944 Act we need an expenditure of something like £70 million a year for 15 years. That was in terms of 1946 costs. I am afraid that even the figure my right hon. Friend gave today indicated that it would take a great deal longer than 15 years to carry out the main projects of the 1944 Act.
The Minister did say recently that in 1949 to 1953 he needed capital expenditure of "a quite different order of magnitude"—those were his words—from the capital expenditure of the last year or so. We do not know what the Chancellor will say tomorrow, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will go on pressing for a much higher priority in capital expenditure for education in the years that lie ahead. At the end of the war we had to concentrate on the housing problem, but as we overcome the first difficulties of housing the Ministry of Education must come along and agitate for a higher proportion of capital expenditure than they have had even in the last few years.
The main subject I wish to speak about is the Minister's statement on the implemendation of the Working Party's Report on University Awards. I welcome the fact that the Minister announced that he is able to implement the recommendations in Chapter IV on the new scale of assessments and the new all-the-year-round maintenance awards. I should like him to assure me that Chapter IV is going to be implemented in full. There were no reservations in what he said. There are a lot of specific proposals in Chapter IV, and if there are any reservations I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to indicate what they are when he 2038 replies to the Debate. I hope I am right in assuming that the Minister said that the full recommendations are to be carried out.
I also welcome the fact that State scholarships are to be increased by another 100 next year. I recognise that the Further Education and Training Scheme will still be taking a large number of places in the universities, but the implementation of the working party's report implies a great deal more over the next few years than a slight increase in the number of State scholarships. The Ministry is only one of the partners in preserving the present proportion of aided students in the universities, and the target is to get State scholarships up to 2,000. The universities and the local education authorities have also a great responsibility in implementing the working party's report, and I should like to know what is being done to ensure that the working party's recommendation is carried out, and that the number of students aided by the universities should rise from 1,200 to 2,000, and by the local education authorities from 4,500 to 7,000 in the period in which the Further Education and Training Scheme is running down. That will take a good deal of organisation and administration. Recently a P.E.P. Committee asked in its report on university scholarships what was going to happen if the local education authorities did not get up to their 7,000. The P.E.P. report points out:If the L.E.A.'s are unwilling or financially unable to cover the university expenses of all these students, what happens to them? Three courses are possible:—This partnership of the Ministry, the local education authorities and the universities in the scholarship system depends more on history than on logic. It is a cumbersome scheme, which can be made to work, but we do not want it to fall behind through any of the partners not 2039 fulfilling the targets and not reaching the expansion set forth in the Working Party's report. After all, this expansion is needed not on a large scale in the next academic year but certainly in the academic year which begins in 1950. There are, in fact, a large number of school-leavers who will be coming out of school this year and going into military service. They will be coming back in 1951 ready for the university. What is going to happen to them? They are not seeking places in the university this year. The Minister indicates that they are. If they are seeking places in the universities this year, then it is imperative that the new scholarship provision should be increased to meet their needs, because, although they do not want to enter the universities this year, they need their scholarships and their awards and assistance from the local education authorities before they go into the Forces, so that they will be available to them when they come out in 18 months time.
- (a) For the universities to leave these places unfilled. This would be contrary to the present Government's policy, and to the universities' own plans.
- (b) For the universities to admit free-paying students at lower standards. This would also be contrary to public interest, since it would permit wealth to buy a place for the unworthy over the heads of better but poorer students.
- (c) To establish some system of State bursaries for those who could secure admission to a university but failed to secure a scholarship or a county bursary."
Those are the main points I wanted to make on that subject. I promised that I would be brief, but I wish to turn to a rather special problem, which I do not want to get out of its proper proportion, but which is of considerable importance. I have the honour to be one of the governors of the Educational Foundation for Visual Aids, as is the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. S. Marshall). The Educational Foundation for Visual Aids was set up just over a year ago with the principal object of securing the production, preparation, distribution and maintenance of visual aids in schools. This country has fallen behind in this matter compared with many other countries, and it is now the policy of the Ministry of Education, to use the words of the Parliamentary Secretary, thatvisual aids must be considered an important part of the equipment which every school must have.It is the task of the Foundation, in consultation with the National Committee which represents the teachers and the local education authorities, to try to stimulate the production of visual aids of all kinds and get them to the teachers, whose tools they are. As a result of a good deal of publicity on this subject, and of the setting up of these bodies a year ago, there is a good deal of expectation in the minds of local education 2040 authorities and teachers that this comparatively new form of educational aid will be coming forward in a reasonable time in much greater quantities than in the past. Local education authorities are in the process of setting up libraries of visual aids. There are now 36 in existence, whereas formerly there were only six, and they are looking to the Educational Foundation to supply them with films and to help them with equipment.
I must here make the point that the Educational Foundation was set up with the backing of the Ministry. It has inspired great hopes amongst teachers and local education authorities, but it is now suffering to some considerable extent from the rather strict attitude of the Treasury towards providing the financial assistance which is required for film production. As the Government know, that is an expensive business. Whereas the Government have put £5 million into the Film Finance Corporation, and have offered the British Film Institute, which has no responsibility for film production, the sum of about £100,000 a year, and the Central Office of Information has been given something like £750,000 a year for film production, the Educational Foundation so far has been unable to raise more than a sum of £30,000 for the production of educational films.
An educational film costs something between £600 and £1,000 a reel to produce at the present time, and if this Foundation is to fulfil the hopes to which its creation gave rise, it is absolutely necessary that over the next four years, at any rate, some further form of public finance should be forthcoming for film production, on terms which do not require repayment on a commercial basis. Unless that can be done, I am afraid there is very little hope of a steady supply of films coming forward to the schools and the teachers needing them. The Foundation so far has found a sum of £30,000. Of the 170 films which the teachers' organisations have asked to be made, less than half are in production at the present time, and the Treasury have cancelled sums which would have been available through the Central Office of Information and on the Ministry Vote if the Foundation had not existed. The result is that the Foundation's work at the present time is seriously hampered.
2041 I bring this matter on to the Floor of the House not to criticise my right hon. Friend, but to indicate the urgency of the problem. People may tell us that these are difficult times and that there is a financial crisis. I would point out that educational films, properly produced under educational control are potential dollar earners. Some hon. Members have seen the film called "Instruments of the Orchestra" made under the auspices of the Ministry, with a special composition by Benjamin Britten. That film was distributed widely in the United States. There are some films coming forward at the present time which have an international appeal and could secure a wide market abroad as well as at home. Therefore, I trust that a wider view will be taken when the problem of finance for the Foundation comes forward in the future.
I have no time left in which to go into the broader aspects of education. We have a great way to go and a great deal of leeway to make up. The task of education is to develop three aspects latent in every child: the individual, the citizen, the producer. Without an efficient educational system we cannot have an effective democracy. Big as are the costs and great as are the competing claims, in particular for capital development, buildings and manpower, it is absolutely vital to the future of this country that we press on with the great reforms that were contemplated in the Act of 1944, and which the Ministry have been doing so much to carry out in the last four years.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Professor Gruffydd (University of Wales)
I have been very much impressed with the eloquent speeches which have woven such an intricate pattern around this subject of education. I do not feel competent to deal with almost any single one of the points which have been raised in the Debate, so I will confine my remarks to matters which have not been mentioned.
I listened with great interest to the Minister, with the suspension of whatever faculty of criticism I happen to possess. I think I owe that to him. There are some points, however, about which I shall be a little critical and which need to be emphasised at the present time. The present period is a time more fruitful 2042 in experiment and in new ideas than almost any other period in the history of education, and not only in new ideas; I am afraid that it has produced a good many reactionary ideas masquerading as progress. We have received some interesting reports from bodies which have been studying different aspects of education. For example, we have the report of the W.E.A. on the extreme importance of humanistic studies in the county colleges. I should like to emphasise that point in view of a good deal that has been said this afternoon.
We have had a report from the Federation of British Industries about education in technology which, on the contrary, lays very great stress on the development of technology in the universities. I know, Major Milner, that I should be within danger of being out of Order if I discussed universities now, because they do not come in the Education Estimates, but it happens that the wellbeing of the universities is affected to a very large extent by the schools and by the Minister's policy in education. The universities in turn affect the schools. Further, there is the thorny question whether certain forms of education or instruction should be the responsibility of the universities or of the Ministry.
I, for one, hold that the emphasis on technology in the universities has gone too far. The report of F.B.I. must be regarded with caution. It is definitely not inspired by educational ideas but by the natural desire to further British industry. For example, a tendency which all those must deprecate who have at heart the welfare of education in the schools is to make the universities and the schools work their passage, so to speak—the universities, in particular—by doing something which they were not intended to do, and that is to teach the commercial exploitation of the sciences. There is hardly a department of commerce which at one time or another has not claimed a place in the university course and in consequence a place in the schools in the matriculation syllabus. In these days I have been expecting to hear that the hairdressers, after securing registration as a learned profession, would be demanding a degree in tonsorial art. All those are factors which are contributing to what I consider to be the very serious deterioration of academic learning, and 2043 by that I mean humanistic studies, both in the universities and in the schools.
I am not in such close connection with the schools as I was before I came to Parliament, but I am still in touch with teachers and I disagree with the Minister on one thing he said in his opening speech. I must be rather critical of him here because, as far as I can judge, the secondary teachers are of one mind in believing that the standard of the grammar school is gradually deteriorating. There are two causes for this disconcerting situation, but I propose to mention only one. It is certainly the extremely poor pay of teachers compared with that of any other profession. I said "profession" but I could almost have said "compared with any other occupation." These are people who do not strike for more pay. They never have struck for more pay in the past and they never will in the future. The only course open to them is to avoid the profession; that situation is now developing. No university graduate will enter the profession, however well he may be fitted for it, except as a last resort and when every other avenue is closed. What man or woman would become a teacher, when almost any other walk of life has better prospects and especially when in every other profession competence brings its own reward? It is high time that the Minister of Education exercised whatever control he has over the Burnham Committee in an attempt to tackle the question of salaries.
Before I conclude I wish to draw attention to a matter which I believe is very close to the Minister's heart but which has, unless I am mistaken, not been mentioned in the Debate at all. It is the subject of State scholarships reserved for adults. The creation of that grant was one of the most important advances in education administration and ideas in recent years. I was disappointed to find that in 1947 and 1948 the selection board failed to fill the places at their disposal. I hope that in his reply the Minister will give the reason for that disappointing result. I cannot believe that those places could not have been filled many times over, because I know from my own experience that the material is here in the country. Those who, like myself, were keenly disappointed at the result would 2044 be reassured if we could know the constitution of the committee and the principles on which they make their selection.
I can only say that the very best students in the universities have been men and women who probably for financial reasons had to go to work, in some cases up to 30 years of age, and then came to the university. I venture to go further; many university teachers, including such a distinguished authority as Sir Richard Livingstone, would be by no means aghast if this became the normal means of entry to a university. I should like to live long enough to see the day when works of reference will give the career of distinguished men and women not as Eton and King's or Winchester and New College, but as the Forge and King's or the Powell Duffryn Pit and New College or Starveacre Farm and Balliol. I appeal to the Minister to make a very close inquiry into the meagreness of the list in the last two years and to extend the facilities much further.
I come from a country where, until recently, this was a normal feature of the education of our distinguished sons. I must quote one example because it is probably not known even to my countrymen. There was a man called Griffith Davies, who was born in one of the most inaccessible parts of Caernarvonshire early in the last century, and who until the age of 21 had had no education whatever except at a Welsh Sunday school and did not know one word of English. At the age of 21 he thought that he would come to London to learn English. He not only did so but became the leading actuary in the world—the man who really was the founder of the actuary's science—and a Fellow of the Royal Society. We have many such examples in Wales; this is only one of the many.
While speaking about Wales, I wish to say one thing as an appendix to what the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) has already said, and partly in contradiction of what my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) said. We in Wales are apt to be very critical of the Government Departments in their obtuseness in dealing with Welsh affairs. I have myself been very critical in the past, and, please God, I hope to be so in the future. But now, 2045 once more, I take the opportunity of congratulating the Ministry's Welsh Department on the really distinguished work it is doing on behalf of Wales and the Welsh way of life. I think it is doing such good work that I am bold enough to hold it as an example to the rest of the Ministry of Education. There has lately been a great change in the attitude of Ministers of Education towards Wales, which reached its peak, so to speak, when the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden was President of the Board of Education. I am glad to say that the present Minister carries on that very enlightened policy which was inaugurated by the right hon. Gentleman.
I wish in particular to pay a tribute to the efficient and distinguished service which the inspectors in Wales give. They are carrying on a tradition established by the late Sir Owen Edwards and followed later by men like Dr. W. J. Williams. They have been and they are teachers of teachers, and they are today inspirers of those who ought to inspire the children. Their good influence and good relations with the primary teachers, in particular, have been most marked. Now they have new duties, and as the late lamented Central Welsh Board is no longer in the way they can now also have as salutary an influence on the secondary schools as they have had in the past on the primary schools. I hope that they will not hesitate to do in the secondary schools what they have already done in the primary schools. I wish to goodness that the local education authorities in Wales, which are composed of Welsh men and women, were as enlightened about Wales as the Welsh Department of the Ministry of Education.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Ralph Morley (Southampton)
I hope that I shall not detain the Committee quite so long as some previous speakers have done. I should like to make some comments upon what has been said by one or two preceding speakers in this Debate. The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) used a phrase which led me to think that he believes that the discipline in our schools is now deteriorating and is not up to the standard that it was a few years ago. I left teaching very recently, when I was elected to this House in 1945. I was a practising teacher for 2046 over 45 years, so that I can judge whether during that period the discipline in our State schools has deteriorated or not. I should say that on the whole it has considerably improved, although the nature of the discipline has, of course, altered.
The discipline in our schools today is freer and easier than it used to be. There is more friendliness and more mutual confidence between teachers and taught than there used to be in the days gone by; so although there is a different kind of discipline in our schools today it is not a worse kind of discipline. From the tone it produces in the classroom and the school generally it is, in my judgment, a considerable improvement on the type of discipline which I encountered when I first began teaching 45 years ago. I remember that 45 years ago, in one school in the area in which I was teaching, the teachers had on their way home to be protected by the police against the assaults of their pupils who were also on their way home. That was on account of the bad state of feeling which existed between the teachers and the pupils. That state of things would be unthinkable in our schools today. I think that the reason for the alteration is the better relations which are now to be found between teachers and pupils, due to the easier, kindlier and more humane form of discipline now practised in our schools.
I now wish to refer to some remarks that were made by the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland), who I am sorry is not in his place. I must refer to his remarks because, as he was selected by the Opposition to open the Debate for them, I conclude that the opinions which he expressed were the opinions of His Majesty's Opposition. The first opinion which he expressed was that there should be a lowering in the standards of the building regulations of the Ministry of Education. Those standards are not unduly high, they are not Utopian or impossible. They are standards which were laid down to ensure that in every school there should be proper heating, proper lighting, proper hygiene and efficient sanitation. Unless those standards are maintained, we shall not have those conditions provided in our schools in the future. Proper heating, proper lighting and proper hygiene and sanitation are necessary for education in our schools 2047 because they alone provide the comfort and physical conditions in which the children can happily receive the education which is given to them. Any lowering of those standards would be bound to lead to a lowering of educational results. I hope that the Ministry will turn a completely deaf ear to what was said by the hon. and gallant Member on that subject.
The hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle and a number of other hon. Members have referred to the subject of teachers' salaries, and it is perfectly true that teachers in the country are very dissatisfied with the present level of salaries. They have valid reasons for being dissatisfied with the level of salaries, both absolutely and relatively, of all teachers—not merely the graduate teachers, as was assumed by the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay)—which has fallen behind since 1939. The average level of teachers' salaries in this country is 55 per cent. above the level of 1939, whereas the cost of living has increased by 80 per cent., so that absolutely their position has become worse.
Relatively, while teachers' salaries have increased by 55 per cent., the weekly earnings of the industrial workers of this country have increased by over 100 per cent., although I do not think the teachers should press that argument too strongly because, after all, there has been a silent revolution in the country during the past four years, a revolution which the majority of the people of this country support. One of the objects of that revolution was to level up wages and salaries, to bring the level of the earnings of the lowest-paid nearer to the level of the earnings of the medium and higher-paid.
But certainly the teachers have a grievance so far as their salaries are compared with the very large earnings which the doctors and the dentists are enjoying at the present time. At the present time one dentist is equal in earnings to about eight head teachers and one doctor is equal to about six head teachers. Consequently, the teachers have a solid reason for dissatisfaction, but they are taking the proper course to give expression to their dissatisfaction—they have referred the matter of salaries to the proper negotiating body, the Burnham Committee, and 2048 the Burnham Committee will be meeting shortly to consider the possibility of an amelioration in this matter of salaries.
Apparently, the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle wanted the Minister of Education to tell the House what would be his decision upon the recommendations of the Burnham Committee, which is to meet shortly. It would be most improper for the Minister of Education to agree to such a request. If he said that he was not willing to consider any increase in teachers' salaries, that would sabotage the negotiations from the very beginning; and he would find it difficult to say that he would accept the recommendations of the Committee before he knew what those recommendations were. It is essential for teachers generally that the Minister of Education should not interfere unduly with the workings of the Burnham Committee. Personally, I will make a prophecy as to what the Minister of Education will do with the recommendations of the Burnham Committee when they arrive in the near future; I think he will take them to the Treasury and do his level best to persuade the Treasury to accept them and give the teachers the increase which is justly due to them.
I should like to say a few words about that very difficult and complex, but important, subject, the organisation of secondary education in this country. For many years we in the Labour Party had a slogan, "Secondary education for all our children." The National Union of Teachers also had a slogan, "Secondary education for all our children." Now we are providing secondary education for all our children, but I am afraid that when we used that slogan many parents in the country thought we meant grammar school education for all our children. We are giving secondary education today to children whose intelligence ranges from just above mental deficiency to those with the highest possible I.Q., and it would be impossible to give grammar school education to all children with such a very wide range of intelligence. It is generally agreed that grammar school education is not suitable to any pupil whose I.Q. is below 100. To attempt to give grammar school education to all children over the age of 11 would be a waste of public money and would be frustrating to teachers and pupils alike.
2049 Most authorities are dividing their secondary schools into three types—the grammar school, the technical school and the modern school. The Hadow Report recommended two types of secondary school—the grammar school and the modern school. The Spens Report then introduced a third type—the technical school—and the Norwood Report confirmed the findings of the Spens Report and recommended, in fact almost decreed, that there should be these three types of secondary school—the grammar school, the technical school and the modern school. But the Norwood Report gave no substantial educational reasons for this trichotomy in the organisation of secondary education and, in fact, there does not appear to be any substantial educational reasons for these three types of school.
The reasons are mainly those of administrative convenience, and the fact must be faced that, so far as the parents and the children are concerned, there is no parity of esteem between the three types of school. Both the parents and the children think the grammar school is far superior to either the technical school or the modern school. Most parents, if you ask them, want their children to go to the grammar school and not to the technical school or to the modern school. In fact, there is a number of parents whose children have not reached the standard necessary to pass the entrance examination to the grammar school and who, rather than send their children to the modern school, send them to some private school where the standard of education given is nothing like the level of that given in the modern school. Employers do not recognise parity between the three types of school and prefer boys and girls from the grammar schools to boys and girls from either of the other two schools.
I know, of course, that we have been promised parity in material conditions in the three types of school. In time, I dare say, as new modern secondary schools are built, these schools will be equal to the existing grammar school buildings. In time, a bigger proportion of graduates will be employed on the staffs of the modern secondary schools. In time, the playing fields attached to the modern secondary schools will be equal to those attached to the grammar schools. But I believe that even when we have parity of material conditions in all three types of school, we 2050 still shall not secure parity of esteem between the three types so far as the general public is concerned, and it appears to me, and to an increasing number of others, that the solution of this difficulty lies in the establishment of comprehensive secondary schools.
The comprehensive school would take all children from the age of 11 to 18 from the one catchment area into the same school, under the same roof, under the one headmaster. They are then divided into parallel classes with varying curriculae according to their ages, aptitudes and abilities. There is no difficulty in transferability within a comprehensive school. In theory it is possible to transfer a child from the grammar school to the modern school, or from the modern secondary school to the grammar school, but in practice it is impossible to do anything of the kind. It is possible to transfer a child from the modern school to the grammar school, but once we dare to try to transfer a child from the grammar school to the modern school the parents in the neighbourhood are up in arms; whereas if that child were in a comprehensive school the transference from one stream to another would be practicable.
A comprehensive school would solve the question of prestige, because all the children would attend the same school. It would solve the question as far as employers are concerned, because the employers would not have to inquire whether a child came from a grammar school or a modern school, but would merely ask for a school report and the certificate obtained from the school. It would promote social solidarity. In the same school we should have the boy who likes to do Latin prose—and there are some boys who like to do Latin prose; I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) revelled in Latin prose in his early days—in the same class as the boy who prefers to take a wireless set to pieces and put it together again. These two types could get to know one another.
The boy in the C stream in the comprehensive school might be the captain on the football field or on the cricket field. Intellectuals and non-intellectuals would get to know one another. The non-intellectual would punch the head of the intellectual perhaps, but he would have some respect for the intellectual's mental abilities. I think it is the only 2051 way in which we should have a really proper connotation of the word "intellectual." Today the word "intellectual" is chiefly confined to someone who has been to a grammar school and a university, but I think Members on both sides will agree that the term "intellectual" could be no more appropriately applied among Members in this House than to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Health who never went to a grammar school or to a university.
My contention is that the comprehensive school answers the question and solves the problems, and that there is no danger, as was suggested by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden, of the teacher-pupil relationship being impaired in the comprehensive school. The comprehensive school is the policy of the Labour Party, as laid down at successive conferences. I have the greatest possible admiration for my right hon. Friend. I think that the witty and eloquent speeches he has made in the country have not only done much to promote interest in education generally but have also raised the prestige of the party he adorns, but I must point out that, although a comprehensive school is a policy of the national Labour Party, my right hon. Friend has not particularly encouraged the comprehensive school. In fact, if my information is correct, in one instance, in the County of Middlesex, he very definitely discouraged the setting up of comprehensive schools.
§ Mr. Tomlinson indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Morley
I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to say whether my right hon. Friend repents his past attitude and is likely in the future to bring forth "fruits mete for repentance."
As regards priorities in putting into effect the 1944 Act, I was rather perturbed to see in "Labour Believes in Britain" that apparently the next priority is to be the establishment of county colleges. I have been given to understand that that is also the opinion of the Ministry itself. I think that for the next few years every possible resource we can command in building labour and materials and in teaching staffs should be devoted to improving the existing primary and secondary schools. Not until we have made considerable improvements in the 2052 staffing, equipment and buildings of the existing and secondary schools should we start the next advance. In my opinion the next advance should not be the establishment of county colleges, which after all are a pis aller for full-time education, but should be the raising of the school-leaving age to 16. The Economic Secretary to the Treasury said the other day that the aim of education was to give equality of opportunity to all our children, but we cannot give equality of opportunity if 20 per cent. of the children stop at school until the age of 16 and the remainder leave at 15. After we have made an improvement in our primary and secondary schools, the next urgent priority is the raising of the school leaving age to 16.
I think that the Minister and the Ministry are to be congratulated on a number of things. My right hon. Friend's record has been an excellent one at the Ministry. He has managed to get a considerable share of building labour and materials for the building of schools, and he has gone forward with great energy and a considerable degree of success in increasing the number of teachers. I think that his shining achievement is the physical health of our children in the schools today. I sometimes attend school sports and I marvel at the wonderful physique, robustness, shining health and vitality of the children who attend them. Our children today, age for age, are healthier and taller than the children of pre-war years. One can often go into a top class of a modern school of girls between 14 and 15 years of age and find pretty well half of them are taller than the young woman who is teaching them. We have never had such bonny, beautiful children as we have today, and in 10 years' time we shall have the finest set of young men and young women of any country in Europe. Even if, in this ancient monarchy, we may have to confess that the great republic beyond the Western Ocean has much more opulence and that the great republic beyond the Vistula has far great military might than we possess today, we can show our children and like the Roman matron of old say:These are my jewels.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Sidney Marshall (Sutton and Cheam)
I very much regret that I was unable to be present to hear the speech 2053 of the Minister. I gather that he stressed, as I expected, the importance of some attention at last being given to the earlier part of education, the primary side. If that is so, I am very glad to hear it. In listening to the hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Morley), I sometimes found myself largely in agreement with him and sometimes violently in disagreement. I was particularly sorry to notice his disappointing attitude in the middle of his speech, but obviously thinking up things to cheer up the Minister, towards the end, he began to find that some really good things had happened in education. The middle of his speech was strangely at variance with the quotation which the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove), basking in the pools of Welsh culture, suddenly discovered in a report by the secretary of the education authorities to the effect that never in the history of education had three years produced so much progress as the last three. From what I have heard this afternoon, not even everybody on the Government side agrees about that, and we must therefore pick and choose carefully.
I should like to follow the hon. Member for Southampton about the type of secondary education, yet to be evolved, which will be acceptable to most people—we have not gone so far along that road that we can find any general acceptance—but I cannot go into that question now. One subject with which I wish to deal is the matter of salaries, to which the hon. Member for Southampton referred. I know very well that it is a rather inopportune time to talk of increased expenditure, but the teachers have a very sound case. The 1948 interim award of the Burnham Committee was thoroughly unsatisfactory. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Southampton say that the committee is to meet shortly. I have not yet heard who will be the new chairman; perhaps that will be announced tonight. I understand that Lord Soulbury is going to Canada. I hope that the deliberations will not be protracted but will be brought to a conclusion at a very early date.
On the subject of salaries, I must be forgiven for again mentioning the position of the London area. I trust that support will be forthcoming from the authorities' panels and from the organisation of the hon. Member for Southampton in order to clarify the position. Last 2054 year the Minister said that when the Boundary Commission reported would be the time to deal with that difficult problem. I am very glad that the Boundary Commission has departed from this world for the moment, because I am sure that if we had attempted to follow any of its suggestions in regard to education, education would have become as dead as the Boundary Commission is, I hope.
Where we really need a great deal of revolution is in the administration of education. The 1944 Act brought a wonderful vista to most educationists and to those who administer education who perhaps cannot be classed as educationists. We were to have a system which would undoubtedly produce 100 per cent. results very easily and without question. The system of administration by the local education authorities through the method of the divisional executives was building up a tremendous amount of confidence and good faith because it appeared to be something very wonderful in the way of local government administration. I spent a year going round my county trying to make sure that every district authority would be au fait with the new set-up.
I went to great lengths to convert five large district authorities who were entitled to be exempted districts and got them to come into a complete scheme of divisional executives in Surrey. I am sorry to say that I have now arrived at a stage when I feel that my efforts in that direction have been very sadly wasted, because I believe that it has added immensely to the difficulties of local authorities in administering education. I sincerely believe that we shall have to reconsider this set-up of administration of education by local education authorities within the not too distant future. I find that in every case it has brought duplication and it has not brought any simplification. It has caused and is causing delay, and it is a very serious matter to which no doubt the Minister will have to give attention within the next year or two. That is where money can be saved.
The salary question must be attended to promptly. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Dorset (Colonel Wheatley) quoted to me the other day an instance of a new entrant into the teaching profession, with a degree and having two children, 2055 who found the greatest difficulty in making ends meet and could not afford to buy books and take courses because he could not get sufficient grants or make a sufficient contribution himself towards the cost. The question of salaries is a pertinent one today. It can best be met in this way: We can save money on the administration of education. Without doubt we are wasting money in many channels. I shall go into that more fully on another occasion. We could save a lot of money which could be devoted to the increased expenditure which we are bound to incur in paying teachers adequate salaries.
§ Mrs. Florence Paton (Rushcliffe)
Will the hon. Member specify the ways in which we waste money in administration? Since he is the chairman of an education authority, he ought to be able to tell us.
§ Mr. Marshall
I told the Committee that at some other time I shall be prepared to make a definite statement on how we can directly save a great deal of money in the administration of education. I should be quite prepared to send it to the Minister at any time, but, naturally, it would have to be a considered statement. I know that we can save money in many ways.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
I understand that the hon. Member is the chairman of an education authority. Has he made his suggestions about the possibility of saving to his own authority?
§ Mr. Marshall
Yes, I have not failed in that by any means. My views are very well known to my own authority, of which I am the chairman. My right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) instanced the money we are now spending on the youth movement. I have been in the youth movement ever since I was a youth, and I am still in it right up to the hilt and most active. On Sunday I shall be presiding over a gathering at which there will be 3,500 boys and girls from our local youth organisations, a yearly occurrence. Therefore, I know something about youth organisations. In my county we are constantly increasing our estimates, and although I will not say without further thought in what way we should reduce those estimates, I believe that some pruning might well be done because I am one of those people who 2056 believe that if one wishes to spend a lot of money in one direction, one must make savings in another, without unduly starving one effort as against another. There are ways in which this can be done and I could instance many upon some future occasion.
The hon. Member for Southampton took to task the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) because he understood him to say that the standards of buildings were too high——
§ Mr. Marshall
He himself agreed that the standards of buildings were not too high and that they should be maintained at their proper level. I have distinct views about this, I am immersed in it daily. When the standards of buildings were first promulgated in the 1944 Act I was greatly in sympathy with the proposals, but I did not foresee at what a tremendous cost these buildings would be erected. We built wonderful secondary schools up to the war, with adequate classrooms and central halls. Naturally one knows why we cannot build the same sort of schools at the same cost today. Now I go round most lovely schools, and the only fault I have to find with them is that they are becoming almost too beautiful. I went into one the other day and I could not help thinking when I saw the lavatory accommodation that it was far finer than the Ritz Hotel. I am not suggesting that the Minister should go to the Ritz and measure that up.
We want education to advance, we want buildings to improve, we want the best teachers and we want satisfied teachers as quickly as possible. Therefore it is essential that we should save as much money as we can in other directions to attain these. Where it is possible for the Minister to say that the standards of buildings which are now the regular standards can in some cases be modified, much assistance will be given to local authorities. The cost of building today is frightening, so naturally national expenditure is also frightening, and one has to pay regard to all these things. One does not wish for a moment to starve education—I suppose it is costing us as much as any other service in the country, and it is proper that it should do so. However, I hope that some of the things which have come out this afternoon, will 2057 be followed, especially savings in the cost of administration in order to spend money elsewhere.
I am not at all in agreement with the proposed priority to county colleges, in which I have little faith. I should be quite content with primary and junior schools and good secondary schools and university courses with, of course, the technical schools running parallel. As I say. I should be quite satisfied with that system of education without seeing any county colleges built because I do not believe they will serve any practical purpose.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mrs. Florence Paton (Rushcliffe)
I have been listening today to some fine speeches from all sides of the Committee, and the astonishing thing is that there is so much agreement about our aims and intentions with regard to the future of education. For instance, I could not agree more with that part of the fine contribution of the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) in which he stressed the need to dwell on the content of education and to go more and more into its purpose. If we could do this, we should solve many of the problems facing us. I believe we would solve the problem of the tripartite schools, because many parents are not conversant with the true aims of education.
Because the times tend toward this, their minds often dwell on the idea that education is merely a means of earning a living, whereas those of us who have been in the educational world all our lives know that the real aim is to learn how to live a life. If, through our various organisations, we could get across to the people of this country that it is better to have an integrated, harmonised child, a child who has a happy outlook, than one who undergoes education merely to earn a big salary, we shall be doing a great deal.
I agree also with the hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Morley) who pleaded for the comprehensive school, because there lies in that method of teaching and education the only method by which class distinction will be eliminated from the education and public life of this country. The hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) said that in order to take class entirely out of the sphere of education, it was 2058 necessary for teachers to have a full university course and background so that they could give to the classroom the same background and understanding. I do not think that is enough. We can give all our teachers that kind of background, but unless we have the type of school free from class distinction which most of us hope to see, it will be impossible for even the best teachers to eliminate a sense of class from the minds of the children and of the community.
Because of that, I am sorry that we have this tripartite system which, in its very essence, means class in the eyes of the public. When the hon. Member referred to parents wanting their children to go to grammar schools, he knew that the main idea in their minds was that those children would have more social distinction afterwards in the eyes of their neighbours and would somehow be superior to children who had gone to the modern or technical schools. As one who has served over 20 years in the schools of this country, that has been my experience all the way through, and to eliminate that we must reach the day when a child will be able to say, "I have come from a certain secondary school" and nobody will ask, "Was it secondary modern? Was is secondary technical? Or was it secondary grammar?" As soon as a person asks that question, it is apparent that in his mind is a distinction, and it is not only an educational distinction but a class distinction.
Therefore, I deprecate the idea that on a child's school certificate there should be stated whether he or she came from a secondary modern, a secondary technical, or a secondary grammar school, and I am sure that most hon. Members who have been in our schools would deprecate it as well. If that child has the capabilities and qualifications, it does not matter to anybody the type of school from which he came. It is the ability, personality and education of the child which alone should count. How wrong it would be if, for example, a child from the modern or technical school who had passed the school certificate with three credits should not have procedence over a child from a grammar school with merely a pass and no credits. That would be the kind of situation which would be likely to arise.
There are many points which I wanted to mention but time does not permit of 2059 my doing so. I will, however, deal with one specific point which is of rather a parochial nature. In the Notts County Council we have one of the finest educational authorities in the country. That authority has prepared a £20 million programme for education. Anyone who reads their development plan will recognise that a new spirit and purpose has come into being in the educational system not only of that county but of the country. Throughout the whole county there is fine educational enthusiasm, but its population problem is more difficult than that of certain other parts of the country.
Around the city of Nottingham there has been an enormous increase in population. In one case—that of the Beeston Urban District Council—the population has more than doubled in the last 20 years. For 10 years no new school was built, with the result that the problems both of housing and educating that population have become extremely difficult. Recently I have had the great pleasure of being present at the opening of three new schools in one area alone. My joy was beyond anything I had expected. My mind went back to my own experience—of coming out of a school where, even in summer time, the gas lamps had to be lit all day where it was so dark that we could not have proper daylight, even in the height of the summer. In contrast to that, the modern school represents an amazing revolution, the joy of which has to be experienced to be understood.
As a result of these schools which are now being built, the whole locality abounds with a great wave of enthusiasm for education. This is being experienced through a fine organisation of Parent-Teachers' Associations, of which we have one of the best groups in the country. The Nottingham group, in fact, is a pioneer of this movement. These parents and teachers have asked me to raise this problem of the increase in population not only in the Beeston area, but in the Carlton and other areas. It appears probable that in September next large numbers of children will be unable to attend school. In the Carlton area alone, for example, at least 180 children of one small district will not be able to attend school in September in spite of their statutory right to do so.
2060 There is in that district a wooden hut school which was built as a temporary school after the 1914–18 war. I have never understood why, in the period between the wars, it could not have been made into a fine, new brick school large enough to cater for the needs of the locality. Very often, I must confess, I get a feeling of nausea when I hear Members of the Opposition speak about this question. The existence after 20 years of this wooden hut as the only school in the area, with the result that 180 children cannot go to school in September, shows the enormous leeway which has to be made up to overcome the neglect of the past in addition to providing for the greater needs of the future. The parents and teachers have asked me to raise this question, for they do not feel that sufficient is being done to accommodate the younger children. I understand there has been great difficulty in providing the necessary buildings.
In that area we are told that in 1947 a total of 74 school building projects were approved, but of that number only eight are under construction, only three are about to be started and not one is yet complete. The parents and teachers ask whether this is because school building has lost its priority. They want to know whether there is still the same priority for the building of schools, particularly primary, junior and infant schools, which are so necessary to house this enormously increased population.
We know the great urgency with which the whole problem is being approached, but we want to allay the anxiety of parents who, in their enthusiasm, have brought forward this matter on their own initiative and asked me to raise it here today in order to discover whether the difficulty is due to any reduction in priority for school building. If that is not so, if priority has not been reduced, I ask the Minister to look into this specific question of Nottinghamshire because of its enormously increased population and to do something to assist us in getting the buildings which are required. This problem is by no means the fault of the education authority. No authority in the country is more enthusiastic or doing more for education and school development than the education authority of the Nottinghamshire County Council.
2061 I promised to be very short and I will keep my promise, in sympathy with you, Mr. Diamond, if not with other people, because I know the difficulties of the Chair in accommodating speakers. Before I sit down, however, I must mention one matter which is very near to my heart. When I spoke in the Education Debate last year, I brought to the notice of the Minister—I do so again—the question of spastic children. Of all the children who are handicapped, no class of child is more handicapped or in greater need of special attention. I said last year that there were at least 8,000 to 10,000 of these children in the country.
They need three types of help: medical, psychological and occupational. Because of the costliness of obtaining these three forms of help for any one child, only the Government can take up this matter and do the job properly. What is needed is the kind of institution that, because of its cost, no charitable body can provide. I have seen the kind of institution in America which is necessary and I have seen the children on whom wonderful results have been obtained; who have been made to enjoy life normally in spite of their spastic condition. The cost in America has been enormous and the task therefore, is one which could be undertaken only by the Government itself. We should need the co-operation of the Ministries of Health, Labour and Education. All three must get together to do something for these children, who until now have been neglected and who should have the help which their parents have been unable to obtain.
I know of amazing cases of martyrdom by parents. I am speaking not of mentally deficient children but of children some of whom are highly intelligent; one boy, for instance, has an intelligence quotient of 110. Because of their high intelligence these children feel the frustration occasioned by their spastic condition even more than if they were mentally deficient or unintelligent. The torment to such a child and its parents is something which has to be seen to be believed, and I have seen it at very close quarters. I know that the provision of the facilities which are needed would entail a very great cost, but I ask the Minister to look into this matter and see whether he can do something very material to help.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Linstead (Putney)
The whole Committee has been moved by the earnestness of the appeal the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mrs. Paton) has made on behalf of deformed children. I shall not follow her in that respect, but I should like to follow her in the reference she made to the problem of the comprehensive school. I have given a great deal of thought to the matter and I can understand, although I cannot sympathise with, the statement she made that the purpose of the comprehensive school should be to eliminate class distinction. That, in the minds of hon. Members opposite, may be a desirable object, but I think it is educationally a false object. I do not think the Minister should direct major educational policy towards the goal of eliminating class distinction. I understand that the multilateral system was largely chosen to achieve the purpose of the comprehensive school and to go some way towards eliminating class distinction, but the hon. Lady went so far as to say that the tripartite and multilateral system perpetuated class distinction.
§ Mrs. Paton
I understand that the tripartite is three secondary school systems—secondary modern, secondary technical and secondary grammar—and I stand by what I have said in regard to that.
§ Mr. Linstead
I understand by the tripartite system what the hon. Lady does, but what she is hoping to see is something which cannot be achieved. She is hoping that an employer interviewing a child will not make detailed inquiries as to where the child has been, what its particular abilities are and what type of examination it has passed. It is inevitable that the employer will want to satisfy himself about the ability and personality of the child by knowing the school record if he is not to put a square peg into a round hole, and knowing whether the school record appears on paper or not.
The feature of the comprehensive school to which I want to draw particular attention is the position in regard to the County of London. I want to put to the Minister and Parliamentary Secretary a question which I previously put to the Parliamentary Secretary in another Debate, but which he could not 2063 find time to answer. In the London School Plan, London County Council propose to build 27 2,000-pupil schools. A year or two ago that was only a plan on paper, but London County Council are now taking practical steps to put it into effect. In one borough in London they are giving notice of developing a boys' school and a girls' school from 500 pupils to 2,000 pupils.
The question I wish to put, and to which I think the Committee are entitled to have an answer, is whether the Minister has approved the London school plan and whether he approves of the construction of 27 2,000-pupil schools in the County of London? The matter has got past the paper stage and is rapidly getting to the stage of actual work being done on sites. We are entitled to know where the Minister stands in regard to that proposal. It is not an experimental scheme, and it is not as though London County Council were to put up one school to see how it worked. Quite clearly they are proceeding to put up a very large number of these schools.
When I criticise the comprehensive school, I am not criticising the conception of a two or three-stream school as such. I am criticising the giant school. I believe it is possible educationally to get all the advantages out of a multilateral school without building a giant school of 2,000 pupils. I think back to my own school of 500 or 600, and I have no doubt that other hon. Members will remember that it was possible with a much smaller institution to give a balanced education and put boys into the particular streams which suited their natural abilities.
I have tried to understand the reasons which have led the Minister to adopt this scheme of giant schools, if in fact he has given it his blessing. I recognise that it is very difficult to administer and facilitate the interchange of children between 11 and 13 from one type of education to another, but I can find no practical and comprehensible reason, except that parity of esteem is established. If that is the only advantage, I think the Minister should say so, because I do not think parity of esteem can justify an educational policy. It may be considered a desirable offshoot of an educational policy—that is a matter of opinion—but it can never justify an educational policy.
2064 A 2,000-pupil school is too big to enable a boy to feel that he belongs to a unit with a life of its own, just as we in this House would feel that the whole character of the place had changed if there were 2,000 Members instead of about 640 Members. I am sure that no headmaster can impress his personality on a school of 2,000, and the life of the school depends enormously upon the personality of the headmaster and the way in which he can diffuse it through the school. For example, the occupant of that Chair would find it extremely difficult to call, as readily as they do call by name, hon. Members of this House when they wish to hear them speak, or even to rebuke them.
I am quite certain that in most big towns sites of eight and nine acres cannot be found, or can be found only with difficulty. It is very significant that one of the two schools in my own borough which is to be transformed from a 500 to a 2,000-pupil school—the school which the Minister honoured a year ago by attending to present the prizes, and I hope he remembers the evening—is to have its own playing fields built on, in order to put 1,500 more boys on that site; when, quite close, the L.C.C. has. 60 acres of land which they have purchased for development. So far as I can see sites will be difficult to find, the children will have to travel much longer distances and the grammar school spirit, which does count for something—not in a class sense, but in an educational sense—will be destroyed.
A school is not a business which is run for profit, and if the main reason for building these 2,000-pupil schools is the economic one, then I think educationally we shall be poorer and not richer as the result of this development; because it is all the intangibles that count. In the two schools I am thinking of, the Minister's "three C's"—competence, curiosity and conscience—are there now, but I very much doubt whether they will be there in the same strength when those schools are worked up from 500 to 2,000. I am sure that something very precious in education will be killed if we take a natural community of 500 and elaborate it into an unnatural community of 2,000.
I hope that the Minister will be able to exercise the powers of his great office and see that the greatest educational 2065 authority in this country does not make a fundamental mistake and put secondary education on the wrong road. Once these schools are built, they are built and they will dominate and determine educational structure in London for many a long year to come. I should be sorry to feel that the Minister was going down in history as the Minister who put an end to the English grammar school system.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Pargiter (Spelthorne)
I wish to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) in which he mentioned, evidently with some pride, the part he played in the County of Middlesex in connection with a rather vicious campaign of misrepresentation carried on by a small section of teachers in part of that county against the proposals of the county council for comprehensive schools. He also repeated a particular allegation that it was the proposal of the Middlesex County Council to reduce the number of grammar school places. That is of course part of the general campaign carried on against comprehensive schools——
§ Mr. K. Lindsay
I hate to interrupt the hon. Member, but I did not say a word against reducing the number of grammar schools.
§ Mr. Pargiter
I am sorry. The hon. Member referred to grammar schools and the part he played in that particular agitation against the proposals to put up comprehensive schools. I think that is beyond question, and I think I am entitled to draw the conclusion that he opposed comprehensive schools in this particular case, because it would reduce the number of grammar school places.
§ Mr. Lindsay
No. I said it would deprive the boy, for a limited time only, but for a time, of the opportunity of going to a grammar school and thereby reduce his chances of going to a university.
§ Mr. Pargiter
I think that whatever the hon. Member says, it comes back to the same sort of thing. We in Middlesex suffered badly from that campaign. The teachers thought it was the policy of the Labour County Council to reduce either the standard of grammar schools or the number of places available; whereas the 2066 facts are that for years there have been an inadequate number of grammar school places in Middlesex. We were using the comprehensive schools as part of the method by which we could increase the number of places available, so that any child with the aptitude and ability to develop under the academic system of education would have an opportunity, without the type of school to which the child should go being arbitrarily determined at the age of eleven, or eleven-plus.
The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) referred to the question of junior technical schools. Already it is becoming evident that the tripartite system cannot work, that we cannot have an efficient modern school without some technical bias. Also, one cannot have an efficient grammar school without some technical bias. Matters between the grammar school and technical education and those between modern school and technical education, have become so mixed, that already it is a problem whether or not we should have two separate sides of technical education in two different types of school. That is a problem which exercises the minds of people concerned with education. Inevitably, whether hon. Members like it or not, they will find themselves coming back to some single form of school, whether we call it a comprehensive school or some other kind of school, in the interests of efficiency and economy.
The hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Morley) said that the Minister had not been very helpful on the subject of comprehensive schools in Middlesex. I found that the Minister was most sympathetic towards the question. He was aware of the artificial agitation which had been worked up against comprehensive schools. Nevertheless, he gave us permission to establish three comprehensive schools. That is some sort of a start, although it is not all we wanted. In view of the changed administration, I ask him to keep a very careful watch on the situation to see that these schools get a fair chance now, because I am not at all sure that they will.
I thought that it was generally established in the county that co-educational schools were desirable wherever they could be reasonably established. I find under the changed administration that 2067 instead of a sixth form entry co-educational school, proposals will be put to the Minister to establish two separate three form secondary schools, one for boys and one for girls, thus necessitating dual services and dual administrative costs. Instead of there being economy in education, the costs will increase.
I hope that the Minister will pay some attention to school building. Up to about three form entry, there are standard regulations, but when we get beyond there to between the four, five and six form entries, there are no established standards. Authorities generally are feeling their way in this matter. Perhaps it is time that the Department gave some attention to the standards for the larger type of school. Attention should be paid to the question of how large an assembly hall will be needed. Indeed, we should consider whether it is necessary to have an assembly hall which will accommodate all the pupils of a school at one time. Obviously that will be impossible if we develop the larger type of school. Those concerned with the architecture of schools would welcome assistance from the Minister on that matter.
The right hon. Gentleman's proposals about primary schools ought to be improved upon. We ought not to be content with primary school classes of 40. It is just as difficult—in fact, in certain circumstances, it is more difficul—to teach 30 infants as it is to teach 30 children aged 14 or 15. We must not be content with the statement that we are aiming to cut down the classes to 40. We want the cut to be accelerated with a view to securing parity of classes between the primary and secondary school. I hope that the Minister will be able to give an assurance that he will continue as rapidly as possible to reduce the size of these classes. In spite of the difficulties, considerable progress has been made.
Some reference was made to the question of standards of school buildings. I am not one of those who are worried about the standard of school buildings. I have seen some wonderful buildings in my own county—workhouses which were built to last 200 years and which we have been obliged to use for other purposes. I am not concerned with buildings with 14-inch brick walls so much as with the amenities inside the buildings for the benefit both of the teacher 2068 and the scholars. I do not mind a reduction in the standards, but I expect that the standard of benefit shall be very much improved to provide additional educational advantages to meet this country's needs. We all believe that the future of this country will depend on our educational standards, and I believe also that we shall find that we cannot afford to waste any brains through having arbitrary decisions at the age of 11 concerning which educational path a child should pursue. I ask the Minister to bear that in mind.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Basil Nield (City of Chester)
Almost all hon. Members who have taken part in this Debate have done so with specialised knowledge. I cannot claim that I have that knowledge, but I hope the Committee will not mind one who is not a specialist seeking to make a short contribution to the Debate.
The 1944 Act undoubtedly made provision for a great advance in the whole field of education. Those of us who remember the discussions on that Measure when it was passing through this House also recall how it was made plain that some of the major benefits that were hoped for from that Measure—smaller classes, further education and the raising of the school-leaving age—were really but empty hopes unless two things could be achieved. Those were more and better schools and an adequate recruitment of the right kind of people to the teaching profession. Personally, so far as building is concerned, I must say that I strongly hold the view that the housing of the people must come first, but I have been very impressed by those who have said that, where we have a new housing estate beginning, we hope to see adequate provision for a school in that area.
It is to the question of the recruitment of teachers that I desire to draw attention. Hon. Members have no hesitation in being in full agreement on the importance of this question. So much depends on the wise guidance and sound instruction of our young people. Those of us who have anything to do with the administration of justice in our courts are appalled at the number of young people who are being convicted of all kinds of offences, and I am even more appalled by the number of them who do not seem to appreciate that what they 2069 have done is wrong. The answer to that is surely quite plain. The remedy is that wise guidance and sound instruction which I have mentioned, and, of course, healthy and useful occupation——
§ Mr. Nield
Yes, and home life. I agree with the hon. Gentleman; I was dealing with the educational aspect but when I say sound guidance I include sound guidance and instruction in the home.
The question is how are we to attract men and women into the teaching profession? Here again there is a large measure of agreement. There must be recognition of the status of the teacher, proper conditions of employment and adequate remuneration, although many teachers do not put that objective first. In considering how to attract the right kind of men and women, I ask the Minister to look again at the case which has been made for more graduate teachers. I do not hesitate to say that a case is made out by a body of which, no doubt, the Minister knows, the Graduate Teachers' Association, and I should disclose that I am an honorary vice-president of that organisation—an office which requires no particular academic distinction, I may say—for such improvements as will attract more of the graduate teachers into the profession. I particularly want to say that I would be the first to acknowledge the great work which has been done by teachers not holding a degree qualification, but I have no doubt that the 16 per cent. of the whole teaching force who are graduate teachers is too small a percentage and that one should have more of them available if it is possible.
I do not want to weary the Committee, or to take up more time than I should at this late hour by going into some of the figures I had in mind, and I will leave that for another time or for the investigation of the Minister into the particular points. But what I am asking—and I am thinking particularly of the manning of the grammar schools—is that it may be possible to offer some better conditions or some better inducement to those who have had the advantages or the opportunities of a university life to be recruited into the teaching profession, and it is to that one point that I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give his attention.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Dryden Brook (Halifax)
The discussion which has taken place today has centred quite rightly on the implementation of the 1944 Act. I do not want to follow the hon. and learned Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Nield) except to say that when he spoke of the building of houses having a priority over the building of schools, he tentatively linked up the fact that new housing estates and new schools must go together. I know that when I was asked to speak on a new housing estate to a parents' and teachers' association, the burden of the discussion was that the local authorities were not keeping pace in school building for the children of the parents for whom they were building houses.
I wish to refer to the remark made by the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Linstead) in respect of the huge schools proposed by the London County Council. I probably dislike as much as he does these huge schools, but I would draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that nobody has done more than hon. Gentlemen opposite to praise the one school in this country that comes near in point of numbers to the 2,000. Manchester Grammar School has been held up to hon. Members on this side of the Committee as a pattern of all that is good in respect to education in this country. I believe that at the present time it has some 1,500 pupils; at least, it had when the figures were given to me last time.
If we are to implement the 1944 Act, not merely in the letter but in the spirit, one or the most important factors must be a reduction in the size of classes, and we must remember to get a perspective of all that is happening in this respect. We are having to face the implementation of that Act in one of the most difficult periods in the history of this country when on every side there is competition for priority in respect of the means at our disposal. But even so, an appreciable advance has been made in respect of the problem of the size of classes. I quote now from the same article—that by the Secretary of the Association of the Education Committees—which was previously mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove). In that article, the secretary gives figures for 1936, 1937 and 1938 showing the size of 2071 classes in our primary schools. For those years the average was 32.7, 32.2, and 32.1 respectively. In 1946 and 1947 the numbers dropped to 31.6 and 30.1. The same ratio of improvement had taken place in respect of secondary schools as well.
Arising out of this Debate, and the Debate that took place last week, there seems to me to be a danger in the method of approach to the problem of the reduction of the size of classes. A remark of the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) put this idea into my mind today. He pleaded for the independent schools, and for the public schools and for the boarding schools, in relation to the local education authorities. Last week there was a plea for leniency in the Income Tax for those middle-class people who send their children to independent schools. If the problem is really to reduce the size of the classes in our own schools every penny of money that we spend in any other direction tends to perpetuate the disparity which already exists between the public schools on the one hand and our own schools on the other hand.
There is another problem involved in sending boys from the ordinary schools to the public schools and boarding schools. It is the order of priority. Which is the greater priority? Should a local education authority spend £250 a year in sending a pupil to a boarding school, or spend that £250 a year on making provision inside its own schools for education of a worthy character? There can be no comparison in my own mind. Speaking as a member of a local education authority I emphasise this fact that all education authorities are faced with this problem. It is one of the relative order of priority, whether to spend money on their own schools or to spend money—an extraordinary amount of money—in sending pupils to public schools.
This is a problem of the reduction of the size of classes. It is also a problem of the order of priority, and also a question of means. We are faced with disparity in physical needs and also in the provision of teachers. I should like to quote further from the article I have here. Mr. Alexander says:It should be remembered, too, that this progress is being achieved at a time of extreme 2072 difficulty in terms of materials and labour. The proper comparison, in fairness, is not with the years immediately preceding the war, but rather with the years following the end of the last war. On that basis, progress in the last three years has been notable.My last point is this. I refer to a matter raised by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) in respect of school meals. My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton (Mr. Morley) mentioned the splendid physique that our children have. In part this is due to the food that they have in schools—to the school meals and the school milk. When the family allowances were instituted at 5s. it was on the understanding that there would be 5s. plus something in kind. In part, that kind was to be school meals. I should like to know, along with the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden, when that is to apply to free meals in schools. If I remember rightly my right hon. Friend has said that the thing that keeps him back from providing free meals in schools is that we are not ready for a 100 per cent. provision. My local education authority at present is providing nearly 60 per cent. of school meals. When the building programme we have now in hand is completed we shall be ready to provide between 75 per cent. and 80 per cent. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend, at what point short of 100 per cent. for all the country will he institute a free meals service throughout the schools in this country?
A further point I would put to him to answer is this. There are some authorities that have difficulty with his administration over the cost of the service of the meals. I put it to my right hon. Friend that those authorities which are doing their best to provide a good service should not be penalised in getting the 100 per cent. grant merely because their splendid service is proving a little more expensive than he anticipated when he instituted the service. On those grounds, I ask my right hon. Friend to give further consideration to the service of the meals in order that he may help those authorities which are doing their best to do a good job.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Hollis (Devizes)
I am sorely tempted to follow the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Brook) in his comparison 2073 between independent schools and other schools, but I had my say on that last week, and time is limited. Therefore, if he will excuse me, I will go on to break rather new ground in a very short intervention. Frankly, I want to be a devil's advocate on certain points. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that although I may appear at first to show an unfriendly feeling towards him, before finishing I shall more than recompense him for everything I say, but there are certain considerations which I think ought to be brought out.
I quite agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) that this is not a party question, and on balance it is extremely fortunate that it is not, because we can debate it more profitably. But there is a certain disadvantage along with the advantages in something not being a party question. If it is a party question we can be sure that in the cut-and-thrust of debate all that is to be said upon both sides will be brought out; but when a matter is not a party question, there is a certain danger that we compete with one another in rather sonorous platitudes, and if we disagree, we disagree only from the most high-minded of motives, and by doing so we do not give a full picture of the mind of the people.
We have to face the fact that when some people, rightly or wrongly, talk about education, they do not talk about it in the high-minded way in which we have been debating it this afternoon. Some of the lines of the objections, misguided though they may be, to educational policy are very different from the sort of lines that have been urged in this Committee. We find young boys who object to being kept at school for another year because they think it means that they are less manly. We find parents who object to their children being kept on at school because they want them to be earning money. We find some people with whom schoolmasters or school inspectors are not very popular. Those are not very high sentiments, but they are sentiments which we should face, and not very much has been said about them in our Debate today.
Last week the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman), speaking "on behalf of the British people"—I know not exactly on what authority—said that 2074 while we would be willing to have less food, we would not be willing to spend less money upon education. Whether or not that should be so, I am not certain that it is so. But whether or not it is so, unless and until the people of this country are very much clearer in their minds than they are at present what education is all about, they will not subscribe to those sentiments. Not altogether through the fault of anyone, the subject has fallen into very considerable confusion. In the old days it was in many ways much simpler; maybe it was a false simplicity, but it was much simpler.
The other day I was reading a book by Canon Spencer Leeson, the former headmaster of Winchester, in the first half of which he explains what a wicked thing it is that children should have advantages in life simply because their parents happen to be rich. We are all familiar with that argument. Mr. Gladstone used to say that the remedy for that was for these things to be settled by competitive examination. But Canon Spencer Leeson, the modernist, explains in the second half of his book what a wicked thing it is that children should have advantages in life just because they have the obscene knack of answering examination questions. At the end of the day we are by no means certain how it is to be settled. Should we determine who is to be Master of All Souls by spinning a coin? Maybe that will turn out to be a better method.
An hon. Member, in a slightly more serious vein than I, pointed out that it is by no means clear to the people of England what the tests are. Doubtless the tests in the past were crude, but they were at least clear. In the days when I was an undergraduate, people used to take these examinations and if they got a third-class degree, that was just too bad. Today a man who gets a third-class degree says, "The examiner had a down on me. I was born in Islington so naturally he gave me a third-class pass." The confidence in these objective tests has greatly fallen. The right hon. Gentleman, the last time we debated education, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Amory), was kind enough to say that if I had passed certain examinations rather sooner, I might have been further down towards the Front Bench. Indeed if I had not passed them at all, I might have 2075 been Minister of Education. I recollect that once a newspaper published a story stating that the present Minister of Education sat for an examination, and wrote that Hull was on the coast of Cumberland. He failed the examination and became Minister of Education. Is that not true?
§ Mr. Tomlinson indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Hollis
I thought that everything published in the Press was true now that the Royal Commission has reported.
The point I want to make is that there is considerable confusion in the public mind about the purposes of education, and not nearly that full-blooded confidence to which hon. Members have given expression in this Committee. Therefore, it is very important indeed that education authorities should be careful to keep in step and retain the confidence both of those who are engaged in teaching, and of the parents at large, because education is not something that can be imposed on the people. The authorities can only win through if they get their confidence.
Certain things are giving me concern on that ground. The first is that of the new examination. What most worries me is not the question of whether an examination should be taken at this age or that age, but the fact that it should be settled by Whitehall, and that at a time when the educational profession was not sufficiently agreed about the matter, in my submission, to justify it being carried through. Another question which worries me is that of the denominational schools. My right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden today said that with which I and everybody must agree—that the last thing we want is the re-opening of a bitter denominational controversy in this country, or the upsetting of the general settlement under the 1944 Act. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that there has been a big change in costs, and a set of circumstances has arisen whereby the denominations are justified, or soon will be, in calling the Government's attention to the matter.
When the 1944 Act was being debated the present Home Secretary, then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education, said that there could be 2076 nothing worse for the future of education than that the denominational schools should find themselves administered out of existence. He added that that was not the Government's intention. My right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden himself said about the Roman Catholic community in particular—though I agree that all denominations have the same right—that the point at issue was whether the financial burden falling upon the Roman Catholic community would be within their capacity to shoulder; and that it was the intention that the benefits devised to help the Roman Catholics should be real and not merely paper benefits. I am not asking the Government to make any detailed proposals at the moment. I do not think that the time has come, but with the vast increase in costs the time will come, and it is a matter about which one should keep an open mind.
The third point which gives me a certain concern is the one referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden, who today mentioned a school in his own constituency. He made it quite clear that, whether there were faults on both sides and whatever obstinacy there was on the part of the parents, an attempt is being made to impose a form of education on the children which is in direct opposition to the wishes of the parents. The general question of the closing of rural schools is one which gives me a certain amount of concern. It is no part of the business of an education system to attempt to impose a policy, one way or another, upon the minds of its pupils. We are all agreed about that. We are also all agreed that one of the great evils of the past has been that the population of the countryside has been drifting to the towns and that the education system has not been without blame for its contribution towards making people town-minded. It is very important that the bias, if anything, should be reversed, and should be in favour of the rural school as against the town school.
Last time I spoke on education I quoted some words from Professor Laski. Tonight I go on to another Socialist pundit, Mr. G. D. H. Cole, who has written these words:What remains of democracy dissolves before the governmental machine. Democracy 2077 shows itself less in choosing a deputy than in knowing him. Villages are for that reason more democratic places than cities, even when the squire and the parson direct the voting, for democracy is not the same as professing advanced opinions or believing in democracy. Democracy begins in a man knowing his neighbours as real people, and unless it begins there it does not begin at all.Those are very wise words, from which hon. Members opposite will notice that Conservative Members are the most democratic, according to Mr. G. D. H. Cole, because they are returned for rural constituencies.
I do not want to overstate my case. There are reasons on the other side, I confess. I am glad to confess that one of the chief of those reasons is that the Minister has on all occasions in his personal conduct been only at too great pains to show himself as conciliatory, friendly, and accommodating as he possibly could be. I entirely associate myself with hon. Members who have paid a personal tribute to him. The right hon. Gentleman's task is to keep both feet on the ground and to keep one ear on the ground at the same time. The gap between those extremities in his case is not quite so large as in the case of some of his colleagues. I have ventured to break into this Debate and to say—I hope I can say without offence to the Committee—that there is a certain complacency and an atmosphere of "nobody loves education as much as we do." I shall be grateful if my right hon. Friend will address himself to the dangers of the situation as well as to the advantages of it.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
I hope I shall not be accused of being complacent when I say, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) that whether people are agreed or not upon the purpose of education, it is true to say that there never was a time when the people of this country were more sympathetic to education. Whether parents are or are not still anxious for their children to leave school early so as to earn money, I believe that the number who are, is fewer today than ever before. Whether pupils are, or are not, more anxious to leave school than they were, I believe that the children of this country were never so happy in school as they are today. Those are most pleasing and encouraging signs in education. I do 2078 not believe that the Minister would have been able to present so impressive a record of achievement, on which I congratulate him, unless the Treasury had believed in education rather more than the Treasury has believed in it in the past. Therefore, although I do not want to be complacent about the progress or the present position in education, it is only right that credit should be given where credit is due.
I hope that if there is any danger, in view of the threatening economic storm or blizzard, of cuts in education, the. Minister will realise that he will have a very strong public opinion behind him in resisting any demands for such cuts. I believe that that would be a very foolish kind of economy, because for years past we have been too wasteful of our human material, and I believe that if we are to recover our place in the world, we must make the fullest use of all the ability of all our children in the service of the nation and of the world.
Reference has been made to teachers' salaries. I was not surprised that the Minister skirted rather lightly over that subject. He said it was a matter for the Burnham Committee. I agree, and it is also true that two years ago the teachers agreed to the Burnham Committee's award, but I would remind the Minister that Mr. Kendrick, who was the chairman of the Birmingham Education Committee for a great many years, has said that it would not be right to shelter behind a contract to prevent justice being done. The Minister will agree that it is bad for education if teachers have serious financial worries. I ask him to believe that a great many have them today. It is a matter for the Burnham Committee, but has the Minister power to invite the Committee to address itself to the question of salaries?
Another matter I wish to raise is schools on housing estates. The Minister seemed to imply that the delay in providing these schools was due to local education authorities. My information is that the Ministry is not prepared to approve plans till the children are actually on the estate. On a housing estate in my constituency there are 600 children but there is no school for them. We have been promised six aluminium class rooms in the autumn to accommodate 260 but that is not enough. Will 2079 the Minister tell local education authorities, if they do not know it already, that when a contract to build houses has been entered into they can have their plans for new schools approved at the same time so that the schools can go up straight away?
§ Mr. Tomlinson
There are scores of places in this country where the houses and schools are going up simultaneously. Those authorities have dealt with the same people with whom the hon. Member's authority have dealt. We do not provide aluminium class rooms. The local authority does that.
§ Mr. Lipson
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has told me that. I shall pass it on to my local authority. Naturally I must accept the information which I get, and I was told that the Ministry was not prepared to approve plans till the children were on the estate.
I am also concerned about the housing problems of teachers. Is it within the powers of a local education authority to provide houses for its teaching staffs, just as standing joint committees can provide houses for the police? Some of the independent schools are doing this. They are buying up houses and they are able to get teachers to accept positions because they can offer them not only a job but a house at the same time. There is at present, unfortunately, a lack of mobility of teachers. It is bad for a teacher to have all his experience at one school, and it is desirable to encourage as much mobility as possible. Have local authorities these powers, and, if not, will the Minister take steps to obtain them for them?
There is one more matter to which I wish to draw attention. I know that the Ministry, and the Parliamentary Secretary in particular, have played an important part in U.N.E.S.C.O. It is necessary that the people of this country should be reminded from time to time of what U.N.E.S.C.O. is doing and of the progress it is making. After all, it is one of the movements which will help to make peace more secure in the world and, unless we can maintain a peaceful world, all that we are doing for the education of our children will have been in vain. As there has been some criticism, may I say that personally I do not 2080 begrudge the time which the Parliamentary Secretary and others in the Ministry have given towards furthering that work, and it would be appreciated if the hon. Gentleman could indicate briefly what is being done so that we can realise that U.N.E.S.C.O. is making headway.
In conclusion, I am grateful to the Minister for what he has been able to achieve for education since he has held office. My information is that not only is there a new spirit so far as the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary are concerned, but that they have extended it to their Department. There was a time when I received a good deal of criticism about the delay in answering letters or in dealing with matters sent up by hon. Members and local authorities. I am told that, particularly in the last 12 months, there has been a great speeding up which is appreciated not only by individuals but by local authorities as well.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Mrs. Nichol (Bradford, North)
I am determined to keep a promise I made to you, Mr. Bowles, earlier in the day to confine my remarks within a few minutes. This has been a most fascinating Debate and one is tempted to wander into a few highways and byways. However, I must resist that temptation and I shall make only one digression, namely, to join in the closing remarks of the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) in the tribute he has just paid to the Minister in appreciation of his work.
The point I want to make is not so interesting as the previous speeches, which have been of a more general character. It concerns the new certificates of education in the grammar schools. The position is extremely puzzling because the Minister clearly expressed the desire to put a brake on the over-specialisation going on in the sixth forms, and his fixing of the minimum age of 16 at which an external examination can be taken, is a step towards that end. Now the Minister quite rightly does not want children of 14½ and 15 to be pressed on an over-specialised course. I agree with the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) that between 16 and 18 specialisation is stimulating and certainly not harmful, but at 14 and 15 it is a different matter. At a meeting of headmasters in January the 2081 Minister pointed out that half the State scholars had taken their higher school certificate examination twice, and that seven per cent. of them had taken their examination three times.
That was really brought about by the larger schools creating "express" forms of hand-picked, brighter pupils who were put through a somewhat limited school certificate course and entered for the State scholarship stakes and trained to take their fences in three years. This was and is an outrageous business educationally and should not be encouraged, but it is a way of getting these young people to the universities with assured financial backing, in other words, with scholarship grants. In this process the bigger schools with larger staffs can organise themselves on the "set" system, where several teachers of the same subject are teaching at different levels to groups or sets of varying ability.
Many headmasters deplore this system of cramming and, on quite sound educational grounds, prefer a general five-year course with two years of specialisation in the sixth form. These courses were generally found in the smaller grammar schools, which did not sacrifice the general, all-round ability of children, many of whom did not intend to go to universities but branched out into the technical or semi-technical professions. That is where I disagree to some extent with the hon. Member for York (Mr. Corlett) when he says that the grammar schools are the prep, schools for the universities. That is not necessarily so. They prepare children for the semi-professions and semi-professional jobs which are very valuable to the country. The older pupils are able to stand up to sixth form specialisation, but even these children had to undergo a fairly intensive course if they were to get the "plums" which were offered in the shape of county and major scholarships and grants.
The intention of the Minister has been quite clear on this matter of overspecialisation. He was against it and he saw in the new general certificate a way of bringing about a reduction. The new certificate can be taken at three levels: the ordinary level, which is the old credit standard; the advanced, or old main or principal, standard; and the scholarship standard. This implies, so far as one can see its working at all, the 2082 "set" system which I described, but the heads of these small schools are not able to work it. They do not possess the staffs to enable them to do so. The bigger schools might have three masters teaching modern languages, or three masters teaching matriculation, and they can set them all at different levels.
The smaller grammar schools are not so well placed. The "maths." master may be teaching music; in fact, it is an artistic phenomenon how frequently music and maths, go together. These schools cannot organise on the same basis because their staffs are not big enough to enable them to do so. The question which I want to put to the Minister is this. Is he prepared to face up to the question of providing bigger staffs, supposing that is physically possible, in the smaller grammar schools if they are to use the general certificate standard and at the same time to stop over-specialisation?
I should like to refer briefly to the universities. They are putting very great pressure upon the grammar schools and have complained bitterly about the over-specialised products which have come to them. With one exception, however, they have done very little to lower their demands for a very high degree of specialised teaching in the schools. Only one university has had the courage to face up to the problem and accept five subjects at ordinary level. The older universities in the case of science still demand maths., applied maths., physics and chemistry or another science at scholarship levels. The London medical schools demand physics, or chemistry and biology to scholarship level, which means another examination board's botany and zoology, a total of four subjects. And so it goes on. It would be very helpful if the policy of the Ministry in this direction could be defined.
I am not unmindful of the difficulties in the approach to this problem, but I ask the Minister to look into this question so far as the smaller grammar schools are concerned and either try to induce the universities to reduce their demands and at the same time try to alter the existing standard, or to provide more staff if these schools are to stop over-specialisation and to be able to organise the schools on the "set" system in order that they may cope with the requirements of the standard of the new certificate.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Law (Kensington, South)
I agree with the hon. Lady the Member for North Bradford (Mrs. Nichol) that this has been a most interesting and fascinating Debate. I hope that for once hon. Members opposite will applaud the Opposition for having chosen these Estimates for discussion today. As more than one hon. Member has pointed out, we are discussing these matters under the shadow of impending economic crisis and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) said, in a witty and profound speech, if that economic crisis develops as it may develop, whatever views we may have here about the value of education, the people of the country may have some other priority.
I am sure no hon. Member on this side of the Committee would wish to abandon the road on which we set out when we passed the Butler Act of 1944. That is as true of this side of the Committee as it is of the other. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the economic outlook has changed very greatly since the passage of the Butler Act and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) said, we have to establish now not only a priority for education as against other social services, but to establish priorities in education itself. With the possible exception of the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton (Mr. H. D. Hughes), I do not think any hon. Member would deny that proposition. If I understood his speech, the Minister does not deny it.
The Minister said that building costs did not loom very largely in the financial budget of education because they were amortised over a period of years and, from the financial aspect, that is true. But we are not dealing only with the financial aspect. From the point of view of manpower at our disposal which can be allocated to the building of schools as against houses, one cannot amortise that over a period of years but must bear it while the building is going on. The building programme could only be stepped up at the expense of housing, or some other social need just as great.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the importance of ensuring that when a housing estate was built there was a school to accommodate the child population which would come to that housing 2084 estate. Each of us must agree with that objective. I understand, however, that in parts of Kent the L.C.C. have spread over their boundaries because they have not enough space, that they have built vast housing estates and then left it to the Kent education authorities to provide the schools. There is an obvious lack of liaison when one authority builds the estate and leaves another authority with the responsibility of providing the schools. I should like to know whether any machinery exists for ensuring that in the future that does not happen; and that when one authority is entering the educational area of another there is liaison between the two. I do not think that there always has been in the past.
We have to establish priorities in education itself. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite would agree—I think the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Pargiter) would—but I hold that in considering education as a whole the physical buildings are not all-important, not as important as teachers, for example. The Minister said that 70 per cent. of school buildings were more than 50 years old. I do not think that is necessarily a great disaster. Quite a lot of the independent schools, now doing good work, have buildings which certainly would not come up to the standard of amenities now considered necessary. If the educational budget becomes at all tight and the Minister is obliged in the future to cut his coat a bit finer in one direction or another, I hope he will do it at the expense of unnecessary new buildings rather than at the expense of the teachers.
We must agree with the Minister that it is vitally necessary to provide new school accommodation for the greatly increased school population which is to be expected in four or five years' time. It is also the case that that increase is likely to be a purely temporary phenomenon and that after 1953 the school population will tend to come down again. I am wondering whether the Department has considered all the possibilities of improvisation, so that this crisis can be met without building elaborate new buildings which will impose a demand on our resources at the present time, and which may be unnecessary after the crisis has passed. On the question of recruitment of teachers it is, clearly, vitally important 2085 that there should be an increase in the recruitment of women teachers. The right hon. Gentleman said that there was a virtual disappearance of the uncertificated teacher. That is obviously all to the good; but what I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us is whether those teachers have disappeared because they have abandoned teaching or because they have become certificated—if the latter, so much the better.
May I ask the Minister another question? Is there an age limit for the recruitment of women teachers at the present time? I am not sure whether there is or not. If there is, would it be possible to waive that limit and establish one particular college in which older women of intelligence could be trained? The Minister spoke, too, of the problem of finding places for handicapped children. I would like to know whether local education authorities are insisting that when these children are taken into the modern schools they shall be in special classes. If the handicapped children are put through the ordinary run of the mill, the effect on the development of the normal children is likely to be disastrous.
I could say a lot more, but it is more important that the Minister should have all the time that is left in which to reply. In conclusion, I assure him and the Committee that the interest of hon. Members on this side of the Committee in public education is quite as great, deep and genuine as that shown by hon. Members opposite.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Mr. Hardman)
My right hon. Friend and I thank hon. Members in all parts of the Committee for the tributes they have paid to the speech of my right hon. Friend and to the progress which he was able to report. At the same time, I wish to assure hon. Members that neither my right hon. Friend and myself nor the officials of the Ministry will be complacent, even though we feel fairly satisfied at what has already been achieved in the implementation of the 1944 Act.
From the pile of notes which I have taken, I find that some 18 speakers, apart from my right hon. Friend, have spoken in this Debate. I have been asked over 40 questions which 2086 demand factual answers, and controversial subjects have been introduced in many of the speeches. They include the problem of the multilateral and the comprehensive school. I have been asked about education in Wales and about the vexed question of possible increases in salaries. Other speakers raised the subject of the content of education and then, like a bolt from the blue, from the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) there was a request that something should be said about U.N.E.S.C.O. I can only refer very briefly to some of the points raised and attempt to answer certain questions which admit of a direct answer.
One matter is a little puzzling to hon. Members on this side of the Committee. It is that hon. Members opposite, beginning with the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland), have tended to dwell at fairly considerable length upon possible curtailment of expenditure upon education. I hope that this is no hint of a possible policy. It is certainly very puzzling. I notice that the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) did not refer to that subject at all in what was, to my right hon. Friend and myself, an extremely gratifying speech. There has been reference to the expense of the youth services. That was made by the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. S. Marshall) who went so far as to refer to schools possibly being too beautiful, with lavatory accommodation better than that to be found at the Ritz. That was referred to again by the right hon. Member for South Kensington (Mr. Law). He mentioned the fact that physical buildings are important but not as important as the teachers in the schools. With that I entirely agree. But he went on to say that buildings which may be 50 years out of date did not really present an educational catastrophe.
§ Mr. Hardman
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Kensington used a phrase concerning the educational budget becoming tight. All this is a little puzzling to those of us who sat on this side of the Committee and listened to his remarks——
§ Mr. Hardman
Our view is that, educational expenditure being about 5 per cent. of the total Revenue of the country, it is not at all an extravagant investment. I would make another point that, if this country is to survive along the lines which the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself has emphasised frequently in his public utterances, it must invest in the best possible education. Although I agree that fine buildings do not necessarily make fine schools, I would at least say that the importance of environment as an influence for good on the child, and, even more than on the child, on the teacher, cannot be exaggerated. So we are going to continue providing the finest possible buildings and the finest possible equipment, though, as the Minister said, in doing so we must look carefully into every item of expenditure. Every Department of State is in that position today, and the Ministry of Education does not claim any exemption from it.
Among other points discussed at considerable length by hon. Members on both sides was the question of possible increases in the salaries of the teaching profession. I want to say most emphatically that we do not wish to give any pointer to the body which quite properly has to deal with this particular matter. The Burnham Committee must remain an independent body and must make its recommendations to the Minister in due course. No doubt representations are being made to the Burnham Committee from the teaching profession, and in due course the Committee will make recommendations and my right hon. Friend will consider the matter, but it is not our intention tonight to give any pointer or any direction to that independent body.
I wish to take up one or two other points made by the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle, who asked whether we were teaching the right things in the right way. He referred in his speech to the inspectorate and the possible influence which that body could have upon the teachers in the schools, and upon this very controversial question of examinations which has already been debated in the House. In regard to the first point concerning the influence of the inspectorate, 2088 it is important to remember that our inspectors are constantly meeting teachers, not only in the schools but at refresher courses organised by the local education authorities and by the Ministry, and that these courses are welcomed by every member of the teaching profession. They enable inspectors, from their wide experience in their own areas and in other areas where they have been resident inspectors, to exchange their views with the teachers who are attending these refresher courses.
I should say that never at any time in the history of education in this country was there a more friendly spirit of co-operation between the inspectors of my Department and the teachers than there is at present. Moreover, regarding the inspection of the independent schools, which has been taking place since about April or May of this year, it is gratifying to read the reports already coming in from the headmasters and secretaries of these independent schools. In fact, we can say already, from our experience in the independent schools which have been inspected so far, over 250 of them, that our inspectors have been welcomed in these schools and have earned in some cases golden opinions for the helpful suggestions which they have made from time to time.
The only comment I would like to make on the question of the general certificate to be taken at 16 years of age concerns a point which is brought out again and again when this matter is discussed, namely, the position of the bright boy. We must surely have a sense of perspective about this particular precious individual in the school, but he must not dominate or be allowed to dominate the general curriculum for the average boy or girl. The brainy boys or girls must have everything at their hands to enable them to develop and make their contribution in adult life in whatever branch of service they may take up; but I suggest that the able boy will always advance; he tends to work far more on his own than the average boy, and, in fact, he is likely to be retarded by over-teaching.
A good pupil only wants guidance, and the brainy boy or girl with that guidance from the teacher can generally look after himself or herself much more effectively than the average boy or girl. Indeed, we are without resource and imagination, let alone organisation, if we 2089 accept the argument that because some cannot take an examination until the year after they are ready for it, they must therefore continue preparing for it. From my experience of going about the country week by week and meeting members of the teaching profession, I must confess that one meets many teachers in grammar schools who are against the view held by my right hon. Friend, but, on the other hand, among the younger men and women there is much enthusiasm for my right hon. Friend's decision.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) referred specifically to items concerning backward children in Wales. In answer to the point he raised, I want to say that 10 per cent. of the building provision to be made in 1949 for the backward and handicapped child is to be made in Wales. At present there are 23 schools in Wales for 1,018 such children. In the proposed new expenditure there will be an addition for 247 children in buildings at present existing which will be adapted to accommodate them. Provision will be made, for instance, for the maladjusted, and, in two institutions, for the educationally subnormal child, and also in a school for the deaf.
A specific question was also asked about the Joint Education Committee which has recently been established in Wales. Considerable preliminary work was necessary to get the Joint Education Committee functioning, and that work was done between 1st October, 1948, and 1st April of this year. The Joint Education Committee has now settled down to its labours, and we have already had one representation to the Minister which has been dealt with on a co-operative basis.
The hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) asked me three specific questions—what is going to succeed the further education and training scheme; what is to follow the emergency training scheme for teachers, and what, if anything, is to take the place of Horsa. Very briefly, if the working party recommendations are carried out to the full—the working party which has gone into the whole question of further education grants—then they will completely take the place of the further education and training scheme. As far as the emergency training colleges are concerned, it is known 2090 to hon. Members on both sides of the Committee that some of these colleges have been turned over for the purpose of training teachers in the two-year training course. Other colleges will certainly not continue to be used for any purpose, because it is physically impossible to continue using Nissen huts for decades. Horsa fulfilled its purpose, and I can suggest nothing which will supersede those huts that were specially constructed for the purpose of raising the school-leaving age.
The hon. Member for York (Mr. Corlett) again brought into the arena of debate the whole question of the freedom of the grammar school to make its own curriculum and to have as much flexibility in teaching as possible. With that, of course, we entirely agree; but I would go further and agree with what he had to say about the influence of the universities upon the curriculum and teaching in the grammar schools. It is to me the antithesis of good sixth form work that produces really educated boys or girls of 18, that boys and girls in the schools should be doing even more than first-year university degree work in the sixth form from 17 to 18 years of age. I hope-I am expressing here a sincere and a personal opinion—that the universities will co-operate more with the grammar schools, and will soon come to a reasonable decision as to what they expect for university entrance. The question of education in universities is naturally a controversial one today. My own view is that universities must pretty quickly, if they are to make a real contribution to the State system, devise some form of educational general degree which produces the type of master or mistress it is hoped will come from the remarkable effort which is beginning at Stoke in North Staffordshire.
The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden did refer—and with this one is in complete sympathy—to the weakness in the school dental service at the present time. My right hon. Friend regrets very much the unfortunate difficulties which have beset the school dental service, just when we were looking forward to steady progress which would greatly benefit the children. Public anxiety about this has emphasised again how important this service is, and how effectively it has been organised through the schools. My right 2091 hon. Friend is doing all he can to help, and I am sure he can rely on the local education authorities to strive for a satisfactory solution, so that the future of the school dental service may be assured.
The right hon. Gentleman also referred to what has been described as the "slaughter of the innocents." He was supported in his view by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis). I have no time now to read the appropriate paragraphs in our report of 1947, but I suggest that in paragraphs 48 and 49 of that report we state quite clearly what the view of my right hon. Friend is in regard to village schools. It is of some interest, however, simply to remark that 110 rural schools were closed during 1947 and 131 in 1948. My own view, as one who has had considerable experience in rural areas, is that reorganisation is of certainly great benefit to the child after eight years of age, and that there is certainly in some cases a great deal to be said for maintaining the village school for children under eight years of age.
Reference was made to the school meals service by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden and also my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Brook). Since the end of the war the number of children getting school meals daily has risen by over one million, and the number of schools participating in the school meals service by about 5,000. The percentage of children in attendance taking the school dinner has risen from 36.3 in February, 1945, to 52.8 in February of 1949. The present position is that nearly 2,750,000 children are taking school meals daily, and nearly 27,000 schools or departments are benefiting from the service, leaving only 2,400 still to be brought in. We are aiming at providing for 75 per cent. of the school population. In many areas the actual percentage getting school dinners will be appreciably higher than this. There is still, therefore, a long way to go with the school meals programme as it has developed up till now, but we are proceeding with it as rapidly as the national situation will allow. As the right hon. Gentleman himself said, this is a service in the educational field which has to take its place among the many other competing demands for priority.
2092 Reference has also been made to the content of education, and I also should like to say something upon this subject for a moment or two. Teachers, parents, children and administrators are all involved in making the educational system work to the best advantage to the community as a whole, not only the community today but the community in the next 20, 30, 40 and 50 years. The teachers have got a very special responsibility, and in my view there is no other body of professional people who have more varied duties to perform each day, and who have a more exhausting task, I would almost say per hour, than the teachers in the schools with 40 or 45 children in the classroom. Theirs is a very special responsibility.
Let us for a moment ask ourselves what the average parent expects to get from his child when the boy or girl leaves school at 15 years of age. Frankly, I am not interested in subjects on a certificate. I want my child leaving school at 15, or the grammar school or independent school at 18 years of age, to have, first of all, the development during his school years of a technical skill for which he has a particular aptitude or bias. I want my child to know the elementary principles of science, which I believe can best and most easily be obtained by bringing every child in the school into contact with the soil, with the living earth from which everything springs. I also expect the school to give my child a love of its mother tongue, to have a joy in using it, in either speech or writing. I do not want my child to be known as one who is good at Euclid, trigonometry, geometry, or algebra. I want my child to know something of the significance of numbers and their function and utility in daily life. I also want my child to love passionately one or more of the great arts of mankind: literature, music, the dance, architecture, whatever it may be.
I also expect that from the daily act of corporate worship which takes place in the schools of our land under the Act of 1944 there will be developed in my child a sense of the spiritual significance of life. Only in that way, in my view, can be obtained that spiritual sanity which is the dire necessity of our time. What, in fact, teachers, parents and administrators are trying to produce in our educational system is such a sense of 2093 curiosity and excitement about life that our children, as they grow older, will solve the problem of our time: the production of a culture for our industrial civilisation.
§ Mr. Linstead
Before sitting down, would the Parliamentary Secretary deal with one point? I raised a very important point about the future of 2,000pupil schools——
§ It being Ten o'Clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.