HC Deb 04 May 1950 vol 474 cc1999-2049

8.19 p.m.

Mr. Watkinson

I should like to briefly conclude my speech, as I did not win my race with the clock before the proceedings were interrupted. The point that I was trying to make was the urgent necessity of going on with our plans for technological training. There is a National Advisory Council on Education for Industry and Commerce. It has made a report which is now being studied. I hope that when the Minister is summing up we may get some further information from him upon what that council is going to recommend. We should like to know whether it will recommend the setting up of a Royal Institute for Technological Training or some new qualification on the technological side.

I do not think anything is quite so important as the need to encourage technological training, and I do not think it is unfitting that we have come back to this Debate via Luton. In the great engineering industry of Luton, and in particular in the car-making industry which I know personally as a machine tool manufacturer, the need of higher training on the part of our technicians has been very apparent. I remember that in the Navy, where I was a technical officer during the war, we developed a thing called the Type VI sight, which was the best gyro gun sight in the world. When we wanted it produced in quantity we had to give it to America. In peace-time the same problems are encountered. Our basic research is second to none in the world, and so is our capacity for developing new engineering products of all kinds. Our difficulty arises when we want to go from one off the production line to 1,000 or 100,000 off the line. That is where we ought to be able to call upon the services of a large number of highly skilled people, not technicians so much as technologists. It is a horrible word but it has become necessary because the technologist takes the wider view of industrial problems which enables him to take part in production on a larger scale.

I hope that when the Debate is summed up we shall hear that some priority is being given and some steps are being taken to deal with what I consider to be a very urgent problem. Whether it will be dealt with by grading up existing technical institutes or through the universities is, no doubt, a matter on which expert advice has been taken, but I would emphasise again the vital necessity for considering this end of the educational scale as well as the other end. I think it is true to say that the machine will never be man's enemy as long as our own mental and technical capacity keeps pace with machine development. There is a danger at the moment that machine development has got ahead of our technical capacity to control it. It is to that end that the educational system needs to be developed in order to set the matter right.

8.24 p.m.

Mr. Ewart (Sunderland, South)

I want to deal with one or two points on the subject of the voluntary schools. While the matter has been fully ventilated this afternoon, I still feel that there are points which can be put. I welcomed the statement of the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) that it is the partners in education who have to resolve this matter by negotiation. That is the one firm means by which full justice will be given to the claim and the case of the voluntary schools and the matter finally resolved. The important problem which confronts the voluntary schools today is the fact that they are being legislated out of existence by the heavy incidence of inflated costs compared with the assessment in 1943. Statements have been made that the 1943 agreement was an enforced one and was accepted by the bodies concerned under protest. I will quote some of the figures given by the Roman Catholic body in this case, to substantiate the arguments which I want to make.

Before doing so I want to thank my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education for having made some modification in the case of Form 18 schools. The sliding scale modifications give a greater time limit for the raising of money and guarantees. We welcome that statement in so far as it is a concession thrown across the Floor of the House this afternoon. However, the problem remains that the global figure required by the dominations is a crushing financial burden. It was argued by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Leslie Hale) that taking the basis of the cost per place at £50 prior to the 1943 agreement and contrasting that with the estimated 35 per cent. increase and allowed costs of £170 today, it is estimated that the cost per place has been increased eightfold. That bears out the figures which have been advanced by the Roman Catholic body to show that the £10 million figure of 1943, which was never recognised as a firm and true figure, now represents a cost to them of over £83 million, which is eight times the original amount for the completion of the development plan.

One hon. Member said that money spent on religion was an effective form of defence. I am glad that he got some encouragement from the Committee in making that statement, but according to Form 18, the way the money has to be found is by church bazaars, raffles and other means at the disposal of the denominational bodies. There is a belief abroad—it exists in the House, too—that in the case of voluntary schools the denominations are being subsidised. Nothing of the kind. The denominational people pay their rates and taxes in common with other taxpayers, they provide the money for State education by paying their proportion towards the State schools, and, in effect, because of their religious convictions, they are called upon to pay an additional amount for being able independently to exercise the parental right of determination of the type of religious education which their children should receive. It is in all respects an added burden which can hardly be borne by the denominational communities.

The Minister told us this afternoon, in connection with the modifications in respect of Form 18 schools and commitments under Form 18, that if a school costing £80,000 ranked for a total grant of 50 per cent., the denomination would be required to raise £40,000 of it and that would represent £2,000 a year in loan charges over 30 years. By a process of arithmetic, he reduced that to a charge of 8s. per head per annum of a community of 5,000 people of the specific religious denomination whose children would eventually use the school. If the average family unit is five, that is a charge of 40s. on the family. That argument will not be very convincing to the people in the north-east, who have to provide a great amount of money to maintain their voluntary schools.

Hexham and Newcastle as a diocese, serving in the main Durham and Northumberland, are called upon to provide, for alteration and substitution of existing buildings and transferred primary and secondary schools, £190,716 for sites alone, and £3,574,789 for buildings for proposed primary and secondary schools; and for new buildings, under which there is no State aid at all they have to find roughly f8i million. True enough, it is a long-term policy and can be spread over a period, but the money has to be found. These towns in the north-east diocese, Hexham, Newcastle, South Shields, Sunderland, Jarrow, and looking south into the Middlesbrough diocese, where they have to find about £3 million, are heavy industrial areas, previous distressed areas which are now development areas. They have to find these colossal amounts for the maintenance of their voluntary schools. That is why it becomes a crushing burden.

The Minister said that a proposal had been advanced by the bodies concerned as a solution. It is what is known as the Scottish system. The Scottish system was brought in by enactment in 1918, and provides that the whole of the costs in Scotland shall be borne by the State and that there shall be no financial burden on the individual. In other words, in denominational schools in Scotland, provided there is agreement on the appointment of teachers, there is no cost to the parents of the children who receive their education and their religious instruction in those schools. But the Minister says it is unworkable here. Why? The proof of the pudding surely is in the eating. It has worked successfully in Scotland since 1918, and stands as a striking example of a solution of this problem. I believe it is the only solution that can be considered and will eventually have to be adopted to solve this serious problem so far as voluntary schools are concerned.

Commander Maitland (Horncastle)

Is not it a fact that there is a religious test on teachers in Scotland? Just as a matter of interest, is the hon. Gentleman in favour of imposing a religious test on teachers in this country?

Mr. Ewart

The Minister said that one of his objections to the Scottish system was the religious test on teachers. I see no objection to a religious test on teachers. There is a religious test now on teachers who man the voluntary schools, and what could be the objection? After all, the Scriptures may be taught in the curriculum, as scripture, and that may be taught without any serious loss to the denominational activities of the individual teacher. But when it becomes a democratic right of a minority, as in this case the right of parents to say that their children should be taught religion, then religion can only be taught in the schools by teachers with religious convictions. I see no reason whatever against a religious test on teachers who wish to exercise their vocation in teaching religion in denominational schools.

Mr. G. Thomas

My hon. Friend would, I know, not like to give a wrong impression. He is well convinced that teachers in the county schools are deeply religious people who play their part, and I know he would like to make that clear.

Mr. Ewart

I do not propose to enter into an argument as to whether teachers in county schools or any other kind of schools are deeply conscientious people. I think that in the main they are. But I was asked specifically whether I believe in a religious test. When it comes to the point or purpose of teaching denominational religion in schools, I am fully in favour of a religious test being applied to the teachers. That is the only way in which to maintain the denominational aspect of the voluntary schools. I make no apology for saying that.

The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden said that he believed that this was a matter which should be treated without any specific regard to individual denominations. I agree. I go a long way towards accepting the arguments he advanced. But there is very little difference now between the Church of England, the Nonconformists and the Roman Catholics. In their memorandum the Roman Catholic body ask, as an interim proposal, for practically the same as the Church of England. In effect, the Church of England body say, " We want an agreement now within the framework of the 1944 Act, and we want all the available concessions by administration which will reduce the crushing cost which will eventually put us out of existence." They say they want to establish the right of the maintenance of voluntary schools, and they ask for further State help in that direction.

The right hon. Gentleman argued that sanitary arrangements were not part of religious teaching, and that the Church of England wanted those amenities to be provided by the State. The Roman Catholic body say pretty much the same. They say that the classroom is the kernel of the educational system and that, as an interim compromise, by administration or even by amending legislation, the State. which is held responsible for certain provisions and amenities in schools, should extend the scope and include other amenities so as to reduce the cost.

They say that they are responsible for caretakers' dwellings, for buildings in which school meals are served, and for medical treatment, and that the facilities should be extended to include sanitary arrangements, cloakrooms, gymnasia and other buildings ancillary and necessary to the modern educational unit. That would reduce the cost of the voluntary schools to the denominations. These matters are worth considering by the Minister when he meets the representatives of these bodies.

One of the happiest features of this Debate is that we are considering this matter in a mutual and friendly spirit and that the denominational aspect has not affected our discussions. Another feature is that the Archbishop of Canterbury, in a statement reported in " The Times," said that concessions were needed within the framework of the Act of 1944. He said that there should be an easement of the burden, and he extended an invitation to the other sections of denominational schools to enter into joint consultation and probably negotiation.

I believe that if this matter is considered dispassionately, and if we look at the burden which is nearest to us as Mem- bers of Parliament, we shall realise that a lot of self-sacrifice has been made by religious communities for the preservation and maintenance of voluntary schools. What has been said here today —apart from the arguments against the easement of the burden—is that the school managers and governors should continue to make further sacrifices and that they should continue to find more money to enable the schools to enjoy their independence. In Sunderland alone, where there is a population of probably 20,000 Catholics, the cost to the community will be over £400,000. That provision has to be made by the local authority in producing its development plans, and the money must eventually be found by that body in the maintenance of this principle. There are 4,000 children attending Roman Catholic schools in that town, and, by the implementation of the development plan, that figure will be increased to a maximum of 6,000, bringing an additional financial burden to the religious community.

Very strong, determined and sincere arguments have been brought to bear on the Minister today, and I hope he will take into consideration the many suggestions that have been made when he discusses these matters with the representatives of the voluntary schools, and that, as a result, we may be able to obtain a firm agreement on a change of policy.

8.41 p.m.

General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)

In view of the necessity for brevity, I shall not attempt to follow the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Ewart) with many of whose views I am in considerable agreement, I want to refer to the Minister's proposed scheme for dealing with educational trust funds, which scheme is being put forward, admittedly on an experimental basis, in the county of Hertfordshire, but which possibly in an amended form, it is intended to apply to all groups of trusts in other counties, or so I was informed by the Minister in reply to a Question recently. It appears from the draft scheme, which I read, that all local trust funds left by local benefactors for specific local needs are under this scheme to be pooled in a general county trust and re-distributed amongst all the schools in the county. This is to be done in much the same way as, when the National Health Scheme came into opera- tion, the trust funds of local hospitals were taken over and pooled.

The Minister has stated that some of these old trusts are now out of date or have become unworkable. If so, there may be a reason for dealing with such trusts in this manner, but, surely, there is no reason for diverting them from the localities for whose benefit they were established? Surely, there is no reason for appropriating these funds—and there are many of these trusts which are quite effective to this day—or for diverting the funds to purposes other than those which were intended by the founders? If such misappropriation of trust funds is once started in the educational sphere, where is it to end? It would appear that any trust funds might be misappropriated and diverted to other purposes, and surely, that is a state of affairs which neither the Minister nor any hon. Member of this House would like to countenance.

In the draft scheme, Clause 12 states: Religious opinion … shall not in any way affect the qualification of any person for being one of the governing body under the scheme. That may be reasonable for trusts unconnected with religion, but it is surely inadvisable and inadmissible in connection with trusts which had religious origins or have religious purposes? Incidentally, I would say that the proposed governing body—there is a formidable list in the draft scheme—is of most unwieldy dimensions, as its purpose is to represent all authorities and interests affected by the scheme.

The scheme has aroused considerable apprehension among all connected with local educational trusts. It will certainly not be received with favour in my county of Hampshire—of that I am sure—nor, I fancy, in other counties which possess, as very many of them do, local educational trusts, subscribed locally for specific local purposes. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will think many times before attempting to give effect to the scheme in anything like its present form.

I do not wish to say any more on this subject, but I hope the Minister will examine this matter very closely again. There may be some of these trusts which are unworkable in some way, but I suggest that even those should not be diverted from local purposes, and that others which are up to this day workable and which produce an income from funds given by various benefactors for public local purposes should not be diverted from those purposes.

I wish to say a few words on certain forms, if I may describe them so, of education which are not strictly educational. I refer, in the first place, to character training, including the inculcation of a reasonable discipline in schools, and, I would add, in homes. I believe that is of tremendous importance. I also believe —and I know there are certainly a good many hon. Members opposite who agree with me that religious training is of very great importance indeed. If for no other reason—and there are many other reasons —I believe that religious training is of value for inculcating in the minds of children the elementary difference between right and wrong. There are too many children and young people growing up in these days without a clear realisation of what is definitely right and what is definitely wrong.

If these two matters are attended to in schools—as I know they are in some, and as I wish they were in all—then it would have a very marked effect on what I am practically certain all of us are concerned about, the very serious increase in juvenile crime. I would also suggest that in every school some instruction should be devoted to producing health and strength in the children—I am not certain to what extent that is universal; I know that it is present in some cases—and, with those objects in view, the inculcation of personal cleanliness and instruction in some form of physical training.

I wish to add one more thing. I believe that in every school there should be definite teaching of good manners and civility. I daresay that hon. Members have seen accounts in the Press quite recently—last week, I think it was—of how our French friends are anxious about this matter and have inaugurated something in the nature of a campaign to promote good manners in France. I do not say that we should imitate all their methods —some of them appear to be rather remarkable—but I suggest that they are probably quite right in wishing to improve the manners of the rising generation. We might do very much worse than follow their example in that particular respect.

I suggest that good manners have a sound business value. Civility costs nothing, and yet it is often completely lacking. Many young people in these days seem hardly to understand the meaning of the words " please " and " thank you." Moreover, many seem unable to adopt a pleasant or a civil tone of voice, and, in some cases, even think that incivility is a sign of independence, or even superiority. Yet, anybody wishing to get business for himself or to sell his goods or services is much more likely to be successful if he can be pleasant and civil about it. The Ministry give many instructions, and I wonder if a few instructions on these matters I have mentioned might not be of use in our educational system. The motto of the oldest public school in this country, which has provided several Ministers for the Front Bench of the present Government. is " Manners makyeth man." It is a motto which I envy that school very much—it is the only thing which I envy it.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Peart (Workington)

I congratulate the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) upon departing from the orthodox way in which this Debate has proceeded. It is very important that in an educational Debate we should discuss the content and purpose of education. I should like to deal with that part later on in my speech.

I wish to add my congratulations to the Minister of Education. I believe that he has perhaps the most important job in this Government. I hope that one day, in a more peaceful age, we will regard his position as more important than that of the Minister of Defence. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) who opened the Debate, argued about the social pattern in which we should place the main Education Act. I agreed with his remarks. We should look at the Education Act, 1944, and its administrative workings now in relation to our social pattern. That is why, in the short time at my disposal tonight, I wish to stress the importance of a subject not so far mentioned, namely, the comprehensive school.

I know the words " comprehensive school " arouse considerable hostility in the educational world; and that hostility is not confined to party divisions. I believe the Education Act, 1944, represented an important step forward, but the Act itself was a compromise. It had many defects, and I am afraid there are still too many people connected with education who think in terms of three main streams of education, the child having to choose one stream at a very early age.

I believe that is the main educational argument against the present set-up—the division between modern, secondary, technical and grammar. I would prefer that all children went to a comprehensive school where there is a sharing of some common studies. I am glad that certain education authorities have catered for comprehensive schools in their development plans. I hope the Ministry of Education will give every encouragement to those authorities that wish to include in their development plans some form of comprehensive system. We all seek to end some of the old social snobberies which arose out of the old educational system.

That is another argument against the present unfortunate set-up. I have stressed often before the dangers of placing our children into separate categories, which unfortunately become social categories. I know it well from my own experience as a schoolmaster in a grammar school before the war. I know how our boys, drawn from an elementary school in a little mining community, tended to act differently from their brothers who were left behind in the old elementary school. Then, again, we have the main problem of the public school system in relation to this new set-up which we are creating. I believe the time must come when we must face this problem. If we are going to build a real political and social democracy under a Labour Government as I hope we shall, we shall have to tackle the public school system one day. I know that may seem heresy not only to hon. Members opposite but to many hon. Members on this side of the Committee.

Mr. Sidney Marshall (Sutton and Cheam)

Surely the hon. Member is not adducing the proposition that comprehensive schools would for ever break down inequalities in education or in the social life of this country?

Mr. Pearl

Yes, I certainly think they will help. If in a school we have bright boys playing with boys who are not so bright, sharing common studies, games, dramatics and so on, we shall tend to break down some of the social barriers which were created in the old system which I certainly knew before the war. I believe that as long as we have a separate public school system, which after all is really a private school system, and as long as we have that system turning out education for a section of the community—

The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)

Can the hon. Member tell me whether this involves legislation?

Mr. Peart

I should have thought that my suggestions could be implemented by amendments to the Act. I was merely illustrating how we should push ahead with the comprehensive school to remove some of the social snobberies which still exist. So long as we still have, for example, the public school system outside the main stream of education, there will still be that major problem. I will not press the point any further, but I hope the Minister will give us some indication of what will be done in the future by the Ministry to encourage those local authorities who wish to advocate a comprehensive school system.

I was very glad that the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield stressed the content of education. That really is what we are debating tonight. We may provide a new school system, but what this Committee should be concerned with is what we are really going to teach, what is the real purpose of education. Sir Richard Livingstone in that excellent book of his, " Education for a World Adrift," classifies education into three main provinces—(l) that dealing with vocational, (2) the political and social, and (3) dealing with the spiritual in the wider sense. I sincerely hope that in this Debate or in some future Debate we shall have some more opportunity to discuss this important aspect of education.

I should like to put forward my own views on this matter. Our first consideration should be to teach children to think. That is important. When we look at the world around us we see the influence of propaganda in the cinema, and now in television, which affects the habits not only of people outside but of many hon. Members in this House. When we consider all the propaganda barrage which the young mind is faced with today, it is essential that we create an educational system which can act as a barrier and shield. If I may use the words of Prof. Harold Laski, education should be a preparation for intellectual scepticism.

Secondly, we should teach in our schools respect for the views of the minority. Thirdly, we should teach better international understanding, and that is why I was sorry to learn today from a Question which I addressed to the Minister of Education that because of currency arrangements, teacher exchanges with the United States of America this year have been reduced. It is important that our educational system should teach children how we can live with other countries in friendship and peace. Lastly, we should encourage the children to have an appreciation of beauty, a love of our own native culture, what has been described as " that habitual vision of greatness." If we think of education in that sense and relate it t,) what we seek to do in a new democracy providing educational opportunities, we shall be achieving something.

Finally, a word about teachers. After all, the teacher is the main person. We can have good schools, a good curriculum but if we have bad teachers our educational system will not function. I am glad that hon. Members on all sides of the Committee have paid a tribute to this honourable profession. If I may add a word of controversy, I only wish that some hon. Members opposite had spoken up loudly in defence of the teachers in the 1930's or in the 1920's. when we had no balance of payments problem, no lack of wealth in this country. Then the teachers faced cuts in their salaries. I hope that my former teacher colleagues outside the House of Commons will remember this when they read the speeches of certain hon. Members opposite who seemed to woo the teacher vote.

I believe that the matter of teachers' salaries is important. The right hon Member for Saffron Walden indicated an important aspect of the problem in relation to the shortage of science masters in our grammar and technical schools. Somehow there has to be found a means. financial or otherwise, whereby we can attract teachers back into those schools. I hope this problem will be settled satisfactorily by the Burnham Committee and that the teaching profession will achieve, as a result of those negotiations, a status comparable with that of other professions in this country.

As one hon. Member said, we should not be pessimistic about our progress. Despite all the difficulties since 1945, I believe we are on the progressive road—I nearly said the right road—to full educational opportunities and the creation of a real democratic structure for our children and for our people.

9.3 p.m.

Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)

I rise with great trepidation, Sir Charles, because this is my maiden speech, but I shall always feel trepidation in addressing this august assembly, where everything one says is taken down and may be used in evidence. I am quite sure that in practice it will generally be used in evidence against one. I used to think that there was some analogy between a maiden speech and a maiden over, when you are legitimately allowed to try to bowl the other side out but are not yourself scored off at all, still less hit for six. I know better now, and I have chosen this occasion not only because of the paramount national importance of the subject we are discussing, but also because it is or should be non-contentious. If, nevertheless, some of my observations may tend to be critical, I must ask for the indulgence of the Committee.

May I begin by saying that I think education and the necessaries of life which are in short supply are the only two commodities I know of which should properly be equally shared. I use the word " equally " advisedly because I do not know what the current term " fair " shares means. It must depend, of course, upon the judge and upon the criterion he uses. Education, however, should be the equal opportunity of all. Every child born into our British fellowship should, I think, enjoy—if that is the right word, though, perhaps, it is not—at any rate receive a good education. However, I must differ from the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) in that I do not think that there is any need for that education necessarily to be " on the State."

I think that it is the privilege and responsibility of a parent—of every parent—to be able to choose the education for his child, and, if he can afford to do so and if he wishes to do so, to send him not to a State school but to a different—not necessarily a better, but to a different—form of education; and if he does so, so much the better for the Chancellor and for the taxpayer. It is only when he cannot afford to do so, or does not choose to do so, that the State is there to educate the child up to the best possible standard that the child is capable of reaching.

Let me put it another way. Education is a social service; and I believe that social services are or should be a device whereby the Chancellor skims some of the cream off the means of the well-to-do in order that all may have some butter on their bread. If we are all to rub along on £400 a year, as Mr. Bernard Shaw would have us do—though not himself—whence the cream? Where is that coming from? Surely it is not the standardisation of mediocrity but the inequality of individuality which makes for progress. I do not want to get bogged down in details which many other hon. Members of this Committee are better qualified to deal with than I am, such as how many square feet per pupil there should be or the respective merits of drawing versus dining-rooms.

I want to come to the heart of the matter, which has been touched on by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, and that is the object of education. Why are we spending this money? I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) and with the hon. Member for Workington that the object of education is to form character. I think it was Aristotle—I have not been able to trace the exact reference—who defined character as being the daily habit of choosing correctly between right and wrong. If we can teach our youth that, then we shall have won all the wars that can be waged at whatever temperature. To train character I believe we have got to teach self-creation. We have to teach the child to learn to be a real person—for example, to know that there is something better to do on fine Saturday afternoons than to queue up outside a cinema, and to be able to think for himself or herself, and judge for himself and be independent of the tinned and potted propaganda and misinformation which comes our way today.

That, I hope, we can all agree is the true object, and if so, we must ask ourselves: By what methods do we attain this object? To form character we need to have a standard, and I suggest that it should be the Christian standard; and, therefore, Christian teachers are required, at any rate for the non-secular part of the curriculum. I think it is a lamentable characteristic of modern life that a professedly Christian State should allow any man or woman to mould the character of future generations who is not a professed Christian. I shall fall foul of the National Union of Teachers in saying so, I know, but I do not care, because that is what I think. But many professed Communists are now doing that very thing. To me Christianity and Communism—at any rate, as practised in the Communist States, for handsome is as handsome does—are mutually incompatible.

Mr. Morley

Were not the early Christians Communists?

Mr. Longden

I said " as practised in Communist States, for handsome is as handsome does." I say that they are mutually incompatible. I may be at loggerheads with the head of my own Church, whom I heard in another place, only two days ago, saying that the Church would take no action against professedly Communist priests until the State did, and I thought at the time that it was the sort of lead which one might have expected from the Duke of Plaza Toro.

If we want Christian teachers, and if we want good teachers we must seek to further two ends, and these are the only two points—they have been touched on many times before in the Debate—with which I shall trouble the Committee tonight. We must first encourage denominational schools, including new schools, to remain as independent of the State as possible. Here I must pay a tribute to the Roman Catholic Church for the lead that they have given in this matter. I say " lead," because they are not seeking unilateral relief, but are the first to say, and always have said, that any agreed solution must be applied to all.

The fact is, as I see it, the great settlement which was skilfully negotiated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) and the right hon. Gentleman the present Home Secretary, in 1944—whether it was agreed or whether it was not, it was accepted at the time—has come unstuck through unforeseen circumstances and nobody's fault. What has happened is that the voluntary schools were given a choice of aided status if they fulfilled a condition which has since become impossible of fulfilment; it is not even Hobson's choice. We must not seek to salve our consciences by saying, " Oh well, they had the chance but they did not choose to take it." We know quite well that they cannot take it, and if we are in earnest about this we will devise a solution, if possible within the settlement. whereby they can take it.

I very much welcome what the Minister had to say this afternoon about Form 18—or I welcomed as much of it as I was able to take in at the time—and I wish him great success in the future conferences with the various bodies with whom he will, I hope, continue to negotiate. There are considerable financial commitments, of course, which must in any case be entailed by the Churches, but they should not be more than is proper and possible for Christian people, to bear in return for this privilege. I am quite certain that it will be in the national interest to retain as many of the aided schols as we can, as Dart of our educational system.

I pass now to the second method whereby we seek to give a sound education to our children, and that method is by paying their teachers properly. Every hon. Member knows for what maximum and minimum salaries a generous State expects to obtain the services of men and women whose work can make or mar future generations, and I hope that every hon. Member will agree that these salaries are pitifully inadequate. I would remind the hon. Member for Workington, who introduced, in my opinion, a regrettable controversial point, that I at any rate, for one, was not here in 1920 or 1930, and I do not care what was done then or what was not done. I am concerned with today and the future.

I hope that all hon. Members will agree that these salaries are pitifully inadequate judged by the work they are expected to reward. They were that before the rise in the cost of living: they are now derisory. At their lowest they are lower than the wages of a skilled artisan. One reason for that state of, affairs is that the teachers cannot speak so loudly as can other sections of the community. Another reason is that they are loyal, and they have a sense of duty to their pupils. I do not think that we should allow those two reasons to stand in their way any longer. The State is a poor paymaster, and it treats its servants with niggardly disregard. But we who control the public purse—or should control it should not sit idly by and allow the builders of future generations to be paid scarcely more than a jobbing gardener.

May I make one very brief digression to bring to the notice of the Minister a matter which is not concerned with the pay of teachers but with their conditions of service in the constituency which I have the honour to represent by a majority vote. In the south-west corner of the pleasant county of Hertford there is a large estate being built by the London County Council. In due course there are to be 14 schools on that estate, and they will need about 160 teachers to staff them. Yet I am informed that not one single house on that estate is to be earmarked for a teacher—not one single house for one single teacher—and I am told that in the one school now functioning, teachers have already begun to resign.

One last word on pay. I know that this is primarily a question for the Burnham Committee and not for this Committee, but I respectfully suggest that it is the function of the Government to let it be known that the money will be found to implement their recommendations, or such of the money as has to come from the Exchequer. We may be asked and quite reasonably asked: Where is it coming from? But is it really dishonest, or even inconsistent, to promise increased benefits and also increased savings from the public purse. It is a common business experience—and there is no lack of business experience on either side of the House—for a concern spending more than it is earning, to be saved from bankruptcy by a new mode of management.

It is a question of cheeseparing on the one hand and of priorities on the other, and the two have quite often gone hand in hand to the mutual benefit of all con- cerned in the industry; but in these postwar days the ever-recurring problem seems to be how to make do with less and less of what we need in order that we may have more and more of what we could well do without. When it comes to priorities, I would unhesitatingly put housing at the top. I regret that the Minister of Health is not in his place. He was here earlier in the afternoon, and I hoped that he might be here now. Second in the list of priorities and I.do beg the Minister to persuade his col- leagues to agree with me—and I hope I can say with him too—that there should be an immediate grant for substantially raising the salaries of the men and women teachers in this country.

I have tried to suggest to the Committee that we should not lose sight of the fact that the main, the only, object of education is to help each child to become a real person with a Christian standard by which to judge for himself, and therefore that we must ensure the continued existence of the voluntary or denominational schools, and that we should pay our teachers properly. If it was with trepidation that I rose it is with the greatest relief that I am now about to resume my seat. I thank the Committee for their very kind indulgence, and I hope that they will not consider my maiden in the same class as that most piteous creature in English literature —Wordsworth's " Lucy," who you may recollect, Sir Charles, was A maid whom there were none to praise, And very few to love.

9.18 p.m.

Mr. Cove (Aberavon)

I am sure that I voice the feelings of the whole Committee in saying that they have listened with pleasure to the speech which has just been delivered by the hon. Member for Herts, South-West (Mr. G. Longden). He showed a sincere and intelligent interest in the subject of education, and I am quite certain that he will get the teachers' vote. He has indeed been most outspoken in support of their claims.

I will not at this late hour detain the Committee long. I am sorry that so much of the time necessarily had to be devoted to one or two main topics to which I hope to refer briefly in my speech. The question of the denominational schools is, of course, a burning one which in volves a great deal of feeling at times. I have been a Member of Parliament for some years, and I have witnessed great changes in the feeling towards this problem. If my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Leslie Hale) thinks it is any easier now to make concessions than in 1944, he is making a profound mistake. I am politically opposed to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), and I do not claim to have a great inside knowledge of what happened during the passing of that Measure, but I remember quite definitely the right hon. Gentleman taking a step in support of the denominational schools in the face of great pressure against additional money being granted.

There is a case for further financial aid to the denominational schools, but we have to take great care that we do not offend large sections of religious opinion in the country. This is not solely a matter of right and justice to the denominational schools, but is also in the broadest sense a political matter—the question of timing of how much can be done and how quickly we can do it. If any step is taken at this moment to break the negotiations that have taken place in the past, it will redound to the detriment of the denominational schools rather than to their benefit.

Mr. Logan

Has not my hon. Friend forgotten the past?

Mr. Cove

I am afraid that I have not the time to answer my hon. Friend.

Mr. Logan

I wish that my hon. Friend had allowed me to put my point.

Mr. Cove

I am appealing for a settlement by general agreement and consent. I greatly regret this profound issue, which affects the lives of thousands of our fellow citizens, being thrown in the maelstrom of party politics. I do not want to go back to the old days of religious strife, and the only way to prevent that is by means of the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden and my right hon. Friend, of an agreement by negotiation.

The 1944 Act, so far as religious teaching in schools was concerned, was in some respects a revolution. For the first time in British educational history the State took upon itself the responsibility to compel religious worship in our schools. For the first time in the history of British education, the State has been charged to inspect religious teaching in the schools.

Mr. L. M. Lever

Of a limited character.

Mr. Cove

My hon. Friend must not—

Mr. Logan

There must not be any objection to what the hon. Gentleman says. Are we not M.P.s just as he is?

Mr. Cove

There is evidence in what is taking place now of what will occur if this is gone on with. I do not want that. I want agreement. Why? Because. all the time, who is suffering from the rotten, miserable, filthy, insanitary schools? It is not the parents, because they have left, but the tens of thousands of children who are to be educated in these insanitary buildings, which have not been improved upon either by the State or by the churches concerned since they were built.

On this matter I do not want to speak too long but I want to see a settlement by agreement. If we cannot get it that way, I am afraid the fires of religious differences will burn with greater intensity in the future than has ever been the case before. Therefore, I support most strongly the suggestions made by the two Front Benches, and I endorse their attitude towards this problem. I was glad to hear the support which was forthcoming from the other side of the Committee. I hope hon. Members opposite will continue to render that support.

I should like the Minister to give me a reply to one question. I am not here advocating an increase of teachers' salaries. I do not think this is the place to do it. That is the work of the Burnham Committee. But as far as I could observe, in the last negotiations the Burnham Committee were somewhat paralysed. They did not do their job and they could not come to any decision. This is the question I want to ask: Will the Burnham Committee be free to negotiate on the next occasion? I am not asking the Minister whether he will accept the findings. He has got to do that, or reject them. What I am asking is whether any categorical statement can be made that the Burnham Committee will be free to negotiate, loosened, as it were, from the wage freeze? I hope hon. Members opposite will support me in this, so that there can be an agreement on teachers' salaries. In brief, will the Committee be allowed to have their own head and conduct full and free negotiations in order to come to this decision?

There are one or two further points I should like to mention. Will the Minister take some steps to ensure that the emergency trained men will be employed when they leave the colleges? I gather that there may be some measure of unemployment among them, which would be a great hardship after they had gone through their training in the colleges. I have here a quotation from " The Economist." It is a comment upon the report of the appointments board of Oxford University with regard to secondary education and the supply of qualified teachers. It is as follows: The most specific information given by the report relates to unemployment in teaching, a subject to which the Committee directed special attention. The findings are disturbing enough on the arts side. In science and in mathematics they arc very alarming. Out of 897 men taking their finals in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and engineering, between 1945 and 1949, only 49 became schoolmasters and of these, seven or eight have since left teaching. I understand that there are secondary grammar schools where the sixth form cannot have teachers in physics, chemistry or biology because there is a great shortage of them.

I should like to give one or two figures about the shortage of women teachers. I have a statement which shows that the Staffordshire County Council are 529 below establishment, Birmingham 406, Hull 243 and Sheffield 261 below establishment. Therefore, in the infants' and junior schools there is a great shortage of women teachers. On the other hand, in the secondary grammar schools, there is a shortage of specialist teachers, especially in the sixth form. It all points to the need for something to be done to increase the supply of qualified teachers in all sectors of our educational system.

I do not want to detain the Committee any further, but my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) has pleaded for the comprehensive school. We shall never let this issue die, but shall always raise it. It is useless for hon. Members to say that the idea is not practicable. If there are comprehensive schools in this country at all, the most successful ones are the great public schools. I remember that we sent a letter, with a pamphlet about comprehensive schools, to the headmaster of Rugby and that he wrote back: " Why send this pamphlet to me? Mine is a comprehensive school." Harrow is a comprehensive school. The only difference about these schools is that they contain in the main only one class of the nation.

It is no good saying that it is not practicable in view of what I am now about to read, which I consider to be one of the finest justifications of the comprehensive school ever written. It is by the Advisory Committee for Scottish Education. It condemns the tripartite system, and it says: But even if the tripartite system were wholly feasible, is it educationally desirable? If education is much more than instruction, is in fact life and preparation for life, can it be wisdom thus to segregate the types from an early age? On the contrary, we hold that school becomes colourful, rich and rewarding just in proportion as the boy who reads Homer, the boy who makes wireless sets and the boy without marked aptitude for either are within its living unity a constant stimulus and supplement one to another. That is the vital approach to the problem of the content of education. Education is a subject far wider, deeper and bigger than mere learning and the development of the intellect. It is utterly wrong to segregate boys and girls on an intellectual basis in grammar schools. It is alien to the spirit of life to say that we can decide the destiny of children at the age of 14–plus. To do so is to do an injustice to the child and a wrong to the nation. We who support the comprehensive school say that that should be the means of developing our education system.

The hurrying of the examination for entrance at the age of 11–plus into secondary grammar schools, has meant that many children of the artisan and lower middle classes who would normally benefit by further education have been unable to pass the qualifying competitive examination and have had to go to private schools. This has meant a great growth in private schools and it is an intolerable burden on the artisan and lower middle classes. Private education is costing too much, and in some cases it is not really good education. The way to ease that situation is to develop the comprehensive schools so that all children will be able to develop their aptitude and talent.

9.39 p.m.

Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)

It is very interesting that in the main the Debate has turned on the question of religious instruction in the schools and the position of the denominational schools. This discussion is taking place scarcely six years after the passing of the 1944 Act. I would agree that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. '. Butler) is to be congratulated upon having achieved a measure of agreement in 1944. When I say that I think it is an achievement, I do not mean to say that I agree with the solution. I believe that it is the duty of the denominations and the churches to provide it and also that of the home. But in my view it is a very different matter when it comes to the question of the State providing it. I do not believe it to be the duty of the State to provide it, nor that we should allow the State to provide religious education. Religious education should be kept completely out of the power of the State. The " Leviathan " is not the proper authority for religious instruction.

This is an old issue. It has been debated from the beginning of civilisation when the State was merely the expression, as Plato would put it, of forming upon earth the pattern in heaven. Then religion and education were united in one and the authority of the State in one. The advance of civilisation has become the separation of the sphere of Caesar and the sphere of God: Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. That division has formed the basis of Western civilisation and we should not hand back to Caesar " the things that are God's." At the point of that division comes the break with the ancient civilisation. Turn back for a moment to the first Plato Republic. Examine the nature of his suggestion, after careful and long argument, that the definition of justice is the proper fulfilment by man of the functions allotted to him. That is the view of the old world. By handing religious instruction to the State schools we are reviving the old form of educational outlook and that has become the deep issue of the modern world. It has become the issue of Western civilisation today, whether the State should have complete control over the deeper forms of the spirit.

I have no hesitation in saying to the State, " Keep your hands off religious instruction completely." If the denominations—my own denomination included want to teach their own form of religion to our young children, I think it is their duty to do it; but let us provide our own schools to do it, let us provide the instructors to do it—but not the State. Times have changed. This House has changed. And that is indicative. I have listened to speech after speech from both sides of the Committee; not repetitive of the position here in the 19th century, —far from it—and I think it is a change for the worse. It is the same change as took place when Hobbes wrote " Leviathan." He developed the argument of St. Ambrose in a way in which St. Ambrose would never have understood it. It is the argument of Hobbes and " Leviathan" that has triumphed throughout Europe and throughout the century; and has gradually taken possession of this country in various forms.

A compromise was reached in 1944. but that compromise is not to be allowed to work. One alternative is that gradually the Church must take possession of the Church schools—that will be the gradual development of it—and the Church becomes the State, which is a retrogressive measure. It will block opinion and free inquiry on the development of science as it did in the Middle Ages—[HoN. MEMBERS: " Oh."]—oh yes. In the alternative, the State will determine the form of religion to be taught, as it is doing in other parts of Europe today. It is one or the other; there are the two issues. Therefore I would make a plea that we do not re-open this issue. I would enter my protest. The State must keep to its own task, and be limited to its own task, and allow the churches and the homes to do theirs.

9.45 p.m.

Commander Maitland (Horncastle)

Hope that the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) will forgive me if I do not follow his remarks in detail. I want to raise a somewhat different point, because today we are talking about the Estimates. We are discussing the provision of money. I want to raise the question of the finance of education in the future. I believe, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), that today education is facing a grave crisis. It is largely a financial crisis. In his Budget speech, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer deliberately drew attention to that when he said: …many of our social services are expanding automatically so that the cost increases every year, as for instance with National Insurance and education."—[OFFIcIAL REPORT. 18th April, 1950; Vol. 474, c. 61.] Anyone who thinks about that for a moment must realise that it is a necessary fact. If we are to follow the road that we have chosen, and if we are to try to put the Butler Act into efficient service, then it is inevitable that in the next few years the cost of education will increase.

That is a fact which we must face. We should tell it to the people who will have to bear the burden. It is unfair for us in this Committee to attempt in any way to conceal from the people the fact that the cost of education is likely to rise. That is particularly true because it is the local authorities which bear at least half the burden, and, through them, the ratepayers have to pay. Of a local authority's budget, probably from 50 per cent. to 60 per cent. is taken up by the cost of education.

I wish to draw attention to this because unless the people fully understand the point, they will not realise to the full the necessity to make vital and necessary economies so that we can get the best and achieve our aim. I should like to develop that point, but time is against me and I must leave it; but the general financial aspect is that there will be an inevitable rise in cost because of the rise in the birth rate, the necessary provision of more schools and the building of improved schools. This will have to take effect however slowly we implement the Butler Act. It must be made plain to all that, if we are to stand to our guns and to develop our education as we should, so that our children have a proper opportunity, the cost of education will rise.

I should like to discuss one point which must put up the cost of the educational budget, in addition to the points I have mentioned. A subject which has been much discussed is that of teachers' salaries. I have not sufficient time in which to develop the reasons why I think it is essential that the basic scale should be raised. The position is pathetic. We all have instances from our own constituencies of men and women teachers who have to go out to other work in order to be able to live and to have the privilege of teaching. We often hear of students in America working their passage in order to gain education, working in their spare time to be able to pay their fees. Surely, it is a complete anomaly that teachers should have to work in their spare time to ensure that they have the privilege of teaching our children.

There is one type of teacher for whom I plead in particular and that is the graduate teacher, particularly the graduate teacher who is teaching the sixth form. It is of great national interest that the sixth form should have the best available instruction. I do not believe that that is the position at the moment. In the last 10 years we have considerably increased the numbers in the sixth form. I have recently seen figures for 500 girls' schools where the numbers in the sixth form had increased by 47 per cent. On the other hand, the number of teachers with first-class honours decreased by 5 per cent., and there was an increase of only 38 per cent. in second-class honours teachers. It is quite obvious that the standard of these very highly qualified graduates in charge of sixth forms is going down, and it is undoubtedly going down because of the standard of salaries which they receive.

One headmistress of a well-known school said to me the other day, " I used to make short lists of assistant teachers, but now assistant teachers make short lists of headmistresses." That is what is happening, and, while it may be a good thing for the teachers, it is not a good thing for the children concerned, and particularly those of the sixth form. We can all give instances of the difficulties of headmasters and headmistresses of grammar schools in their endeavours to obtain masters and mistresses in science, mathematics and the like. They can be produced in countless numbers, and I will not weary the Committee with that point I should like, in the last ten minutes remaining to me, to suggest a positive way in which we might help the present situation. We have got to face the fact that, in present conditions—we may call it full employment or what we like—the standard of teachers in this country is not as high as we would like it to be, and particularly in regard to some of the higher forms. That must be inevitable under present conditions. Numbers are one thing, but quality is of far greater importance.

I believe there is a way in which we can help. There are various mechanical aids which I do not think myself we have understood sufficiently clearly in this country. I refer particularly to visual aids. I have had a good deal of personal experience of these visual aids and I know from what I have seen in schools for which I have been responsible how greatly improved results can be achieved by their employment. Of course, visual aids can never replace good teaching and teachers themselves have to be instructed how to use them properly and in their technicalities. When this is done, it is really astonishing what an improvement there can be. I have tried to find out, and I think my figures are correct, what we have spent in this direction, and I discovered last year we spent only £30,000 on buying films for educational purposes for the whole of England and Wales. During a similar period, New Zealand, with a population of somewhere about two million, spent £50,000. Those figures help to make one realise that there is an opportunity here to help the teacher in his difficult task.

I want to quote from a very interesting book by Lancelot Hogben called " From Cave Painting to Comic Strip." I cannot go all the way with the author, but what he says is certainly challenging and deserves attention. He wrote: In this matter, as in the full use of the film as an instrument of enlightenment, we should not shirk the obligation to emancipate ourselves from a mental muddle perhaps less prevalent in America than in Britain, where it is still fashionable to proclaim the need for better teachers and for smaller classes. Education in a democracy signifies education on a scale so vast as to exclude the possibility of maintaining a high level of originality or talent in the teaching profession without withdrawing gifted personnel from necessary productive activity; and the call for small classes is merely an echo from an age when a few rich parents could employ private tutors. The brutal truth is that men or women with an outstanding gift for exposition are few, and of such few, very few would willingly embrace the boredom of continual association with children. The author then goes on to say that all the expository talent which a modern democracy can afford should be engaged in exploiting the new instruments of visual education at our command, and adds: In short, hopeful educational innovations are such as make good teachers and small classes less necessary. Those are very challenging words. No one in this Committee would agree with all of that, but they are challenging, and they should certainly be investigated together with the whole of our programme for developing the visual side of our education at this time in order to help our teachers in their difficulties.

I had meant to make a proper speech, but I have been cut down to a few hurried and very badly expressed remarks. I started on rather a pessimistic note because I thought it my duty to impress on the Committee the inevitability —I am not afraid of that word—of a rise in the cost of education if we intend to keep it at even its present standard, and, of course, we all want to see it improve. I believe that unless the people of this country realise that fact, and unless they are given the opportunity by the Minister and by the local education authority to see what they get for their money, they will not face it in the future. If they know the position, they will be enabled to make the necessary economy. Be that as it may, I still believe that any nation which sells the future, as represented by investment in education, for the desirable things of the present does not deserve a future at all.

9.57 p.m.

Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)

Looking at the clock, I see that time is not on my side, and, therefore, I will gallop. I must apologise if what I say appears staccato. I left my teaching bench some few weeks ago, and I am delighted to hear in this Chamber tonight hon. Members opposite speaking in the way they do about teachers' salaries. I began my teaching career in September, 1931, and had they spoken in that strain then I should have been much happier at that time. It is an ironical commentary on our modern society that today we are paying the teacher less for the injection of wisdom than we pay the dentist to extract wisdom teeth.

I wish to say a few words about technical education. The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) spoke about the need for more technicians and technologists. I could not agree with him more. We want our industry to be efficient for our export drive. We want to export not merely goods, but also men to the Empire and to the Commonwealth in the shape of efficient technicians and technologists. I do not think that the technical colleges have had a square deal over the last few years in this matter. I believe that universities have been stonewalling against the technical colleges. If we desire the man at the bench to study at the local technical college in his spare time, and even to go as a full time student, we shall have to give him much more in the way of facilities and much more status.

The Percy Committee talked of upgrading the top six technical colleges and making them into institutes of technology like those of Massachusetts, Charlottenburg, Delft or Zurich. I would not go so far as to do that, because, if we are to give our technical colleges this near-university status, we shall have to clear out nearly 80 per cent. of their students, which, in the main, are—and I say this with diffidence—school certificate rejects. We should also have to clear out quite a large percentage of the staff who are not university graduates, and who cannot teach the required level. But there is a strong case for taking two of our technical colleges and making them institutes of technology and having a degree of Bachelor of Technology. In that way this country could have something comparable to Zurich, Charlottenburg, or California, and have courses longer in time to enable us to turn out the people we so badly need in this modern age when we have to compete, not merely with America and with Soviet Russia, but with many other Continental countries who are efficient in this modern technical age.

I should like to say a word about salaries. They work very long shifts in technical colleges. One might call them spread-over shifts from about nine o'clock at night. The work includes looking after technical equipment. A different salary scale is needed in a technical institute. As a member of the National Union of Teachers I am being a little venturesome when I say I believe in differentiation. University graduates with first-class honours and people in technical institutes should have a scale superior to that applied to teachers in secondary schools. The work is different, the qualifications are different and, if we are going to get the people we want, both in the sixth forms of secondary schools and in technical colleges there must be better salaries.

The exodus is very much more in the technical colleges than it is in the secondary school sixth forms. The lecturer in technical institutes is not merely a teacher but also a technical man with Ph.D., M.Sc. and other degrees. He is an indusrial chemist, a surveyor, builder or engineer. Today industry is tempting that type of man out of the teaching profession with £200 or £250 more in salary. The problem is not only one of keeping that type of man in the profession but of attracting people into teaching.

I should also like to deal with the point mentioned by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) about international understanding and the cementing of friendship among the peoples of the world. There are many who say that national meetings do not serve this purpose, but I am a believer in international sport and international contacts of all kinds. I took school camps to Germany, France and elsewhere for many years before the war. I am happy to see those camps are beginning to be held once more. I think they serve a useful purpose in making our ideals, customs and ways familiar to people on the Continent, and vice versa.

I should like to read part of a letter my old headmaster has sent me. He had taken a party of boys once again to the Continent. He says: I took 45 boys from school to Paris this Easter and the French Ministry of Education went out of its way to see that we (along with many other English schools) were given excellent accommodation in the biggest boarding school in France (Lycee Janson de Sailly, 106, Rue de la Pompe, Paris, XVI). French teachers and senior pupils were placed at our disposal as guides, and at the official reception and dinner the children had good wine and a bottle of champagne at each table. (I only mention this detail to show how kind was their hospitality). The Lycée Janson is the official ' centre of welcome' for foreign children. The size of it you can gather from the fact that there are 3,400 pupils. It was originally built by a rich man called Janson de Sailly who quarrelled with his wife and family and left all his money to found this colossal school. The point I am making is that we want more international exchange of youngsters. If we start that in their younger years we shall have more amity when they become adults.

10.5 p.m.

Captain John Crowder (Finchley)

I shall not detain the Committee very long because time is short, but I should like to say how much I agree with the excellent speech made by the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine). He suggested that the managers of Church schools were frightened that the Government were trying to freeze them out because they cannot afford to pay what is demanded by the Ministry of Education. I was glad to hear the Minister say that he was sympathetic and would do all he could within the framework of the 1944 Act. I am not sure what the position is now as regards Form 18. I hope managers will not be asked to sign a form which looks rather like a contract, although the Minister says it really is not a contract. Perhaps he will see whether he can alter the wording slightly.

I hope that if the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and the Free Churches come to some agreement, the Minister will receive their suggestions sympathetically. The need for adequate religious instruction in our schools is greater today than it ever has been before, and especially would I say that religious training is even more important than instruction. It is the atmosphere in the schools which counts so much, and the link between Church and school goes back to the early history of. the Church in this country. We have a great tradition and history behind us to maintain. The Church schools have deep roots in the history of England and are a heritage of which we can rightly be proud.

Of course, the circumstances have altered very much in the last 50 years, because the State has increasingly assumed the responsibility of educating the children of the nation. The resources which are available to the State are infinitely greater than anything that the Churches can command today. I am afraid that the result has been that many people, Church people included, have said on occasion that the Church has now done its job and can hand over its duty to the State. I would never agree to the majority of our schools being handed over to the State, even if we are assured that some Christian teaching will be given. The Minister said that he knows that the financial demands now made on the Church are various and great and that the schools programme confronting the Church is enormous in these days of rising costs.

I sympathise with the teachers of Church schools who say that a Church school is likely to fall behind the county schools in its buildings, accommodation and amenities. There is, of course, a great deal in this, but in spite of this, the Church men cannot hand over all education and all schools to the State if that can possibly be avoided. As regards buildings and accommodation, while they should be the best possible, there is a real danger in thinking that good and expensive buildings in themselves make a really good school.

If education is to be Christian in character, it must fulfil two conditions. First, the Christian faith must permeate the whole atmosphere and life of the school. It must be the atmosphere within which the specific religious instruction is given. What children are specifically taught they readily forget. What remains throughout their lives is the atmosphere in which they have been taught. Archbishop Temple said on a number of occasions that there was a real distinction between religious instruction and religious education. Many good Church men and women, and Christians of other denominations, teach in county schools, but there are no reasons for saying that the Church schools have no further part to play. I believe that the Church schools have an influence far beyond their own boundary. The Church through its schools is right within the whole educational system.

We may not be able to maintain the aided schools unless the cost of building comes down. The controlled schools have their role, but I am afraid they will fall away from Church connections, which would be a calamity, and therefore I plead with the Minister to do everything he can to help the aided schools. I hope he will also do everything he can to enable the Churches to maintain the aided schools. We cannot live on the spiritual capital of the past. We must put the Christian ethic and spiritual values first and think not only of material considerations. Our Church schools are an outward and visible sign as well as a strong bulwark of the spiritual central view of all education. Therefore I ask the Minister to do all he can within the framework of the 1944 Act to help, guide and advise the managers of Church schools in order to make things easier for them.

Circumstances have changed since the 1944 Act was passed and every hon. Member who has spoken has admitted that building costs are up by 300 per cent. The rebuilding of our schools cannot take place for some years. That being so, I am glad the Minister is considering modifications of the building regulations. I would also like him to consider taking over the liability of providing all the sanitary arrangements of assembly halls, playgrounds and dining halls, leaving only the running of the classrooms to be a charge on the managers. Finally, I ask him to do every thing he can to help the Church schools to continue, because I believe they are vital for the future good of the children of this country.

10.11 p.m.

Mr. Hollis (Devizes)

I have great sympathy for those hon. Members who complain that whenever we have an educational Debate, we never seem to be able to talk about education. There is a great danger in this continual talking about the machinery of education without considering what it is that education is about.

The other day I read of some exuberant boys and girls in the City of Glasgow who met at a conference and demanded that they should be taught something useful. " Oh, yes," said the masters at the conference; " What would you like to be taught? " They said, " We should like to be taught astrology." They thought that then they would be able to pick the winners of the Derby. As I have said, there is great danger if we ignore altogether the consideration of what it is that education is about. I have great sympathy with that Fiji chief who came to the United States and was horrified to find the children of that benighted country incarcerated in institutions from the age of 6 to 16. He said, " That is just the time in life when they ought to be learning something."

Nevertheless it always comes about that there is some important matter of machinery that we have to discuss, and I will therefore ask the pardon of the Committee in speaking about the question of denominational schools, about which we have heard so much. Anyone understands very little of this question who imagines that it is an easy question which a Minister of Education, in order to settle, needs merely a little courage and a vocabulary of a few monosyllables. That is far from true. Indeed, I find myself in great agreement with the speech of the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove)—a thing which I do not recollect to have happened before, so I pay tribute to it—in so far as he spoke about the complexity of the situation. It is sufficiently obvious that it is complex, if only from this fact, that if we look around the world we find what completely different solutions are found for this problem in almost every country.

We see that free countries vary in their solutions, from such countries as Scotland and Holland, which give the fullest financial support to denominational schools, to such countries as Australia and the United States which give no financial support to the denominational schools. If we look at the Protestant bodies, we find that in some countries they claim the fullest financial support. Other Protestants, taking the point of view of the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris), think it a danger which they would reject even if it were offered to them. If we look at the Catholics all over the world, we find in some countries, such as Alsace, that they are content to work in an inter-denominational school system. In other countries they want their own schools, but are prepared to have inter-denominational universities. Again, in other countries we find they want both denominational schools and denominational universities.

I say that not to criticise other countries, but merely to prove that the situation is indeed an extremely complex one, and the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley) was, of course, perfectly right in saying that in this country that matter was settled by a compromise. Who could argue otherwise? My right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) would be the first to agree that when we pay 50 per cent. of the maintenance of the schools, that figure of 50 per cent. was not a divinely revealed truth precluding it from being 40 per cent. or 60 per cent. Of course, the hon. Member is perfectly right. It was settled by compromise. He is also perfectly right when he says that in that compromise there is a large number of things for which the denominations have every reason to feel grateful, and no instructed supporter of the denominational schools is in any mood to challenge that.

But there are two things to which the Government are committed in this respect. For one thing, they are committed to give to the voluntary schools the privileges which are granted to them by the 1944 Act and the other Acts of Parliament on the Statute Book. I do not think there is any sort of mentality in any part of the Committee which wishes to challenge them in those rights. Beyond that, the Government are also, I think, committed to this very important thing, that by no mere accidental change of circumstances shall the voluntary schools be administered out of existence.

I use that phrase because -it is an excellent phrase in itself, and also because it is a phrase which happens to carry very peculiar authority in this controversy, because it was first used by the Home Secretary, when he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education, in reference to the Anglican schools, and secondly it was used by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), at the time of the last election, in regard to Catholic schools, and therefore it is a phrase which, as it were, is consecrated on both sides of the Committee and applies to both denominations.

Therefore, what we have to consider is whether such circumstances are in existence or are likely to come into existence. Of course, it is obviously true that anyone whose conscience imposes upon him an obligation to support denominational schools is, in a sense, under a certain handicap in doing so. I do not think it is necessarily a bad thing that there should be the handicap, because I think it would be a very bad thing for any Christian denomination if the circumstances were such that it was entirely to anyone's financial advantage to belong to it. Therefore, I do not think that the handicap is necessarily a bad thing. The question is whether or not it is, or is likely to prove, a crushing handicap that is likely to make the situation impossible and unworkable.

As hon. Members know, at the time of the 1944 Act there was, of course, a good deal of debate and estimate about what would be the cost of this settlement to the denominational schools. As far as the Catholic schools—I simply mention them in passing, because I do not for one moment think the subject should be approached simply as a Catholic problem or as an Anglican problem: I agree with hon. Members who say we must approach it as a general problem of the denominations—but as far as the Catholic schools are concerned, the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister of Works, and who then occupied a less responsible and more vociferous position in this Chamber, challenged that figure very violently. I saw last week in a Czechoslovak Communist paper that it writes of that right hon. Gentleman that, He is a Catholic and a capitalist, and he tries to be very careful to avoid any attention. If that be his character since he has had greatness thrust upon him, all I can say is that it was not a prominent trait in his character in 1944. Anyway, he challenged those figures, as we know, and whatever may have been the rights or wrongs of the matter then, we have to face the fact that building costs in these years since the war have proved to be most crushingly heavy.

To my mind, that does provide—and now I must begin to diverge a little from the hon. Member for Aberavon; I cannot agree with him for the whole of my speech—a new circumstance which at any rate merits consideration. What should we do about it? I quite agree that the solution is not to scrap entirely the legislation of 1944. If I were to advocate that, I should be out of order in this Debate. In any case, it is the very last thing I wish to advocate, for very obvious reasons. First, there is obviously a particular political situation at the moment which would clearly make it not practical politics to do that; and there is a particular financial situation at the moment which would also clearly not make it practical politics to do it.

Those are two important and weighty arguments, but more important even than those arguments, in my opinion, is the argument of the climate of opinion. That is to say, the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen, was again perfectly right. We may agree or disagree with his point of view, but we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that he was speaking for a very considerable body of opinion, and it would be quite impossible to re-open this settlement without splitting the nation from top to bottom on sectarian lines in a way which, in my view, would be extremely undesirable. That is why I would not favour the total re-opening of the settlement today, even if the political and financial situations were different from what they are.

Although that is the situation today, and although no man can foresee the future, particularly in such times as these, I very much doubt whether it will be the situation in some years to come. I think that we are moving into a new world. I think that these old sectarian differences are to a very large extent based upon social problems of the 1870's which are becoming increasingly unreal. I think that partly for happy reasons and partly for unhappy reasons. It is hardly a sane opinion any more to believe all sorts of things which our grandfathers could have believed. It is hardly sane any longer for any Catholic to believe in the modern world that Protestantism is the main enemy of the Christian religion, or for any Protestant to believe that Catholicism is the main enemy of the Christian religion. [Laughter.] I do not know why hon. Members should laugh; it was an opinion that it was possible to hold—at any rate, many people did bring themselves to hold it in the middle of the 19th Century—but it is an opinion which it is not possible to hold today.

These sectarian differences did, as has already been said, bedevil all educational politics right up till at any rate the 1914 War, greatly to the disaster of religion, politics and education. If we read the Debates of Mr. Balfour's day, when the House was discussing very important educational schemes, including setting up secondary schools, we find that hardly anything was said about those things. The whole thing was entirely dominated by this sectarian issue. Then came the 1914–18 War and a Coalition Government—they called it a Coalition Government then not a National Government—and Mr. Fisher was made Minister of Education. That, apparently, gave an opportunity to settle, or at any rate to try to settle, these matters on a nonsectarian basis.

I remember—it is a curious recollection, but it is one of the earliest pieces of reading that sticks in my mind—reading a speech by Mr. McKenna congratulating Mr. Fisher upon having this opportunity. Hon. Members may think my nursery reading was highly peculiar, but that is one of my first memories. Anyway, those days are not wholly passed away, but if this Debate has proved nothing else it has proved how near they are to passing away, and how we can discuss these problems in a very different temper from the temper in which they were discussed in the days of Mr. Birrell, or Mr. Balfour, or still more in the early days when Joseph Chamberlain was still a member of the Radical Party.

The hope is that if we do not re-open old wounds now but allow a little more time to elapse, we shall come into a world when all sorts of things can be done by general agreement which cannot quite be done by general agreement today. In 1970 all sorts of things may have happened. There may be a General Election by then, or some hon. Members opposite may be in another place. For that reason, I seriously favour postponing the attempt to deal with the general longterm philosophical issue at this moment. People will then say: " Why bring it up? " Anyone who has sat through this Debate knows the answer to that. Something has got to be done at the moment, because there is an immediate financial problem and there is this obligation put upon the managers of the voluntary schools to maintain those places.

Hon. Members have spoken about the matter and I need not tell the story all over again, but we must deal with the short-term problem in such ways as we can, because of all compromises the worst would be if we tried to satisfy the friends of religion by helping them to keep the voluntary schools open and to satisfy the friends of economy by making the voluntary schools unable to do their job. We want to avoid that. It is important that we should examine what should be done within the boundaries of the present settlement in order to improve the position, and I think a good deal more can be done than some people think.

I am not dictating terms, but am merely throwing out suggestions, and I should be very grateful if the Parliamentary Secretary could tell us whether the Government are willing to consider the points. The Minister, for instance, told us about the payment of transport fees. I entirely agree with him that the record in general is a good one but there are certain local education authorities who are a little bit obstinate about that. There is the question of children who get scholarships not being allowed to go to boarding schools. Religious preference by itself does not constitute a sufficient reason to justify the payment of boarding and tuition fees to enable a child to go to a particular school. We must see to it that this does not lead to the ridiculous results which it does at present. If I am a Catholic and my boy wins a scholarship, I may want him to board, but because I am a model father the education committee will not pay the cost; but if I beat my wife and get drunk four times a day then I make my home an undesirable place and the local authority will provide the money for him to go to a boarding school. That is not a very sensible arrangement.

There is the question of the exact definition of what are school buildings. My right hon. Friend made reference to the sanitation problem, and he was a little pessimistic about whether much would come out of exploring that avenue. It may be he is right, but I call the attention of the Committee to the fact that there is a good deal of legislative freedom already vested in the Minister, not so much by the Act of 1944, but by the Act of 1946, Section 4 of which lays down what the expression " school buildings " means and adds that it does not include any building or part of a building required only as a caretaker's dwelling; for use in connection with playing fields; for affording facilities for enabling the local education authority to carry out their functions with respect to medical inspection or of treatment"— that is next door to sanitation— or for affording facilities for providing milk, meals or other refreshments for pupils in attendance at the school. As will be seen, there is a little bit of flexibility and generosity.

There is also, as the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Leslie Hale) said in his excellent speech, the question of transferred schools. What is a new school and what is a transferred school? There, again, there are many borderline cases. It is by no means clear and there is great room for generosity. Then comes the general question upon which the Minister made his pronouncement today about Form 18. Here again a great deal can be done, and more than some people take into account, within the ambit of present legislation, because in 1948 we passed the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act by which we amended Section 10 of the 1944 Act. There we said: Provided that, if the Minister is satisfied with respect to any school … that having regard to the nature of the existing site or to any existing buildings thereon or to other special circumstances affecting the school premises it would be unreasonable to require conformity with a requirement of the regulations as to any matter … he may give a direction that, notwithstanding that that requirement is not satisfied, the school shall, whilst the direction remains in force, be deemed to conform to the prescribed standards. Therefore, the Minister has a considerable power within present legislation which doubtless covers the reforms of Form 18 which he announced to the House today.

As regards these reforms, we want a certain time to study them and see what they amount to. It is an obvious criticism of them that though they postpone, they do not lessen the obligation on the voluntary schools, and it may be that some people will criticise them on that ground. I do not see that they are in any way invalidated for that reason, because I believe that when we get to the future —unknowable in this as in other topics—but it is extremely important to have a solution which frees them from an intolerable burden here and now.

Speaking entirely for myself and with no authority, I very much welcome the right hon. Gentleman's concessions, though we have frankly to face the fact that they do not altogether meet, as he is no doubt aware, the full demands of the managers of the voluntary schools. What I should like to get clear, and perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to tell us, is this. When the building is not to take place for more than ten years, the school can get aided status here and now by producing prima facie evidence that it will produce 25 per cent. of the cost of the eventual buildings. What happens if, after ten years, it proves impossible to find the other 75 per cent.? What happens to the original money and the status of- the school? I should be grateful if the Parliamentary Secretary could enlighten us on that point.

Like other hon. Members who have spoken, I have deliberately kept my speech unimpassioned and on a minor key, because I think it is on that key that these matters should be discussed. I do not do that because I consider the matter to be unimportant; on the contrary, I consider it to be one of the most vital importance, I entirely agree with the excellent maiden speech of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. G. Longden). Fundamentally this country is a Christian country and our survival, the whole survival of civilisation, depends on our remaining so, but in order that we should remain a Christian country, not one but two things are necessary. It would be a simple problem if only one was necessary.

First, it is necessary that the religious basis of our education be preserved; and secondly, it is necessary, if it can possibly be done, to preserve that religious basis without splitting the country along lines of sectarian strife, which we cannot afford in these days. Anyone who has come across it in any other country will, I think, agree. Sectarian politics are the most evil things on the face of the earth. There you have the little hiss which only comes from Hell. I think we are entitled to appeal with confidence to people in every part of the country to work out these difficult problems with the maximum of keenness, but also with the maximum of tolerance.

When the right hon. Gentleman has further propositions to lay before the House, we must reserve the right to say what we may find it necessary to say about them; but I hope sincerely that he is able to adopt the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Oldham, West, and to conduct negotiations with the heads of all religious bodies. If he does so, speaking for myself, I certainly wish him God speed in the task.

10.36 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Mr. Hardman)

This is the first major speech which I have made in this Parliament. I would like to congratulate hon. Members on both sides of the Committee for the contributions which they have made to the Debate. Especially may I congratulate those hon. Members who have made maiden speeches and, in doing so, have ventured upon the wide field of the edu cational estimates. Those of us who have taken part in these Debates during the past four or five years know the many pitfalls in the high sounding phrases, pompous moralisings and general clichés so common in the educational world, but I think we may say that we have not had many examples of such moralisings or cliché in this Debate.

One of the greatest difficulties in replying to a Debate of this kind is to know what hon. Members will raise. I was certain that something would be asked about corporal punishment, and what investigations are being made in that field. I was certain, too, that we would hear a great deal about youth service and adult education, and that we would certainly be asked to tell the Committee how the development plans were going. Unfortunately, those beliefs are all misses as far as the speeches in this Debate are concerned, and I have to confine myself, to begin with, to one or two major problems which I did not anticipate would play such a great part in the Debate.

In one respect, our annual Debate on the Education Estimates has been rather disappointing. I refer to the interruption of our proceedings earlier tonight. I cannot see that it can be considered a compliment to the Ministry of Education, or to its Ministers, that we should have an interruption of this kind. It is not the first Debate on the Education Estimates in which interruption has taken place. To do anything like justice to the problems which we face, I maintain that we require at least three separate Debates. There should be one, for instance, on the education of school children, primary and secondary, and certainly one whole day's Debate on technical and further education. I think it is high time that we had a Debate on the impact of the universities on the schools, and I welcome very much the suggestion of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Leslie Hale) that we should have a Debate some time on the content of education. These are all burning topics on which we want the considered opinions of the hon. Members of the Committee or of the House.

In my reply to the Debate which we have had today, there are these two major issues of which I have spoken. I am going to be frank, in facing them, in telling hon. Members of the Committee that I do not intend to say much about them. There is the question of the denominational schools, and there is the question of the salaries of members of the teaching profession. In regard to the first of these, I echo very warmly the sentiments of the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) who spoke last for hon. Members on the other side of the Committee. I applaud the general tolerance and desire to make the Act work, because I am certain that we can find a workable solution. I believe that we can do it without disturbing the general compromise reached in the Act of 1944.

I am certain, also, that whatever changes may be made, either immediately or in the years ahead, they must be changes agreeable to all denominations. That is the pledge which I gave in the election, and that is the pledge I shall stick to, should the matter arise at any future election. I was interested in the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Oldham, West, and by the hon. Member for Devizes about the possibility of calling together the various interested parties. On behalf of the Minister and myself, I can say right away that we shall certainly look into that suggestion; but I would caution hon. Members of the Committee that it has been tried before.

I think it was Charles Trevelyan, when President of the old Board of Education, who had such a meeting; I was, of course, on the outside then, but from reports which I have read and heard of since, it appears that it was not quite as amicable a gathering as we might get together today. So, with that warning, I can promise that we shall certainly be prepared to look into the matter, and even the possibility of bringing together representatives of the various bodies concerned; of the National Union of Teachers, the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, the Free Churches, and so on, and I hope that we shall be wiser than in 1931.

It is also important to remember, while we are on this subject of denominational schools, and doing what we can within the administrative scheme without disturbing the compromise of the 1944 Act, that where there are expanding State subsidies there tend to be increasing obligations; sometimes, perhaps, even curtailment of liberty.

The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) stressed the importance of maintaining the liberty of the teacher, and I assume he was referring also to this liberty of conscience. I trust that the leaders, and especially the leaders of minorities, will pay due regard to the lessons of history in this respect. Religious liberty is worth a lot of courage and resource to defend. This afternoon, the Minister has shown that it need not mean, in terms of material resources, great expenditure to the denominations concerned. The hon. Member for Devizes —who wound up for the Opposition—although Opposition is hardly the right word in a Debate on education—referred to several matters which, I assure him, have come to the notice of my right hon. Friend and myself—as is natural after they have been drawn to the attention of hon. Members. They included the transport of children, the parents' right in the choice of education, and " transferred schools."

May I suggest to the hon. Member and other hon. Members, that in the light of this Debate, we are prepared to look still further into what possible changes can take place within the administrative ambit of the Act? As he has said, we are living in an age of much greater tolerance, and as a religious person, belonging to a minority, I would include all minorities, so that we can have complete liberty of conscience. If we tolerate various religious views and admit that all have a right to conscience, I think we can find a way out of the difficulty which faces the denominational schools, which is the main problem which has concerned us in this Debate. We would all agree that those who hold liberty of conscience have a right to its maintenance and that we should not administer denominational schools, or minorities with a right of conscience, out of existence in any field of national life at all.

In commenting upon the discussion on the suggested increases in teachers' salaries, I have only this to say, and I have said it many times before in answering questions or in replying to Debates of this kind. The Burnham Committee is, as has been reiterated again and again, an independent body, and on all sides, and certainly in the field of education, whatever our particular organisation may be, we value its independence and intend to maintain it. All sections of the educational world wish to preserve its independence.

I may be forgiven perhaps, while on this topic, if I say that, as one who belongs to a teaching family and who has been a teacher myself, I can understand the difficulties that face members of the teaching profession today regarding remuneration. I follow the speeches we have heard from Members on both sides of the Committee when I say there is a very real and genuine sympathy for the teachers' position. Such sympathy as I feel for them, I feel also for the thousands in my constituency outside the teaching profession, who are trying to make ends meet in similar straitened circumstances. There is a section of our population which is finding it extremely difficult to maintain standards and to make ends meet in a reasonable way.

From other speeches that we have heard, certain subjects loom large in the present educational field besides this. One of them certainly is the question of school buildings. I would remind the Committee of what the Minister has already said, that it was only at the very end of 1949 that the L.E.As. reached the target allowed them by the national investment programme. It is surely our duty to make it clear that it is impossible to fulfil the L.E.A.'s estimates in terms of building at the present time, although the savings that were made in the educational building programme last autumn did not touch the urgent need for school places and extension of facilities for technical education.

It has been disappointing that because of curtailment of expenditure we have had to stop school meal buildings at existing schools and the building of community centres. The actual amount of this cut for 1950 is E5–f millions, or 10 per cent. Only half a million pounds of it falls on the main part of the programme, involving no reduction whatever in the number of new school places to be provided. As it is, as the Minister has pointed out, we would get the same number of places for less money. I suggest it is necessary for all the local education authorities to follow where some of the best have led and to appreciate the changes that have taken place in architectural measures, in design, and materials that can be used nowadays.

The noble Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson) referred to Hertfordshire. There are other local education authorities, also, one or two of which, even before the war, experimented in school buildings with non-traditional materials and in terms of modern architecture, structure and design. It does not mean that because we can cut down the rate per place and because we use modern materials and designs, we shall shape schools into the modern schools to which the noble Lady and others have referred from time to time.

The types of building with which local education authorities are concerned are, in my view, still better than most of the other traditional schools, some of which boast a very high and long tradition in the independent school system. The local education authorities can with great advantage take advantage of the mass-produced unit school such as those built and produced at the British Aeroplane Company's works, the Integrated Construction Co. Ltd.'s " Intercon " school, the Hill school, the " Uniseco " and others which are now appearing in increasing quantities.

The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden and others in the Debate have referred to the question of the closure of village schools. I want to assure them that I feel as strongly as they do on that, having been on a rural education authority for many years and for a time having been its vice-chairman. We are prepared to give full publicity locally to any suggestion in a development plan that a village school should be closed. We have sympathy at the Ministry for the village, very often remote, with an excellent schoolmistress and sometimes a young assistant who is being brought up in the same tradition, and where the school contributes very much to the best kind of village life of which English people can feel proud.

Mention has been made by the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Watkinson) and the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) of the field of technical education. I have been asked to say something about advanced technology. I cannot at this late hour spend very much time upon this subject, but I would suggest that there is some confusion over the consideration of it. There is not one problem here, but two. There is the question of whether we are to have a technological university, for example, like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: that is a matter for the University Grants Committee, and does not fall within the province of the Ministry of Education.

Then there is the question what steps should be taken to enable the major technical colleges to play their part more effectively in this field of education and I think that I can support wholeheartedly. on behalf of my right hon. Friend and the Ministry of Education, all those who have insisted that we must not thwart the expansion, progress and development of technical education in all its phases, especially in its highest conception in the years that lie ahead in the implementation of the 1944 Act.

I had hoped to give a report on the school meals service, to try to explain what is taking place in regard to the number of children now taking school meals and the slight diminution in uptake in various parts of the country. I have here before me what I think is a very fine report of progress in that most valuable field in education, of what we can do for the handicapped child, but time will not allow me to say what I would want to say upon these extremely important topics.

I was extremely interested in the reference of the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) to visual aids, and his own experience in the showing of visual aids in education. I, too, have some experience of the use.of the film and the strip film and, in earlier days, of what, after all, was visual education in very good hands—those of the village schoolmaster—of the magic lantern and slides. I agree wholeheartedly with the view that we must enable visual aids to become part of every school in the land, but I claim that in this field, again, considerable progress has been made. It is not to be summed up merely in the amount of money spent on the manufacture or use of films. There are go-ahead local authorities which have their own technicians and are making films that teachers want for particular schools in various parts of the authorities' areas, and those do not come into the expenditure to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman refers.

My last point—and I can perhaps be forgiven for saying something about it because it has been raised by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee—concerns, inevitably, the content of education. Hon. Members will have read the result of the inquiry into the lives of 80,000 teen-agers in the City of Birmingham—an inquiry undertaken by the Rev. Bryan Reed, of Westhill College, with the help of the staff and students of the college. They say: The lives of 80 per cent. of Britain's adolescent boys and girls are empty and barren rather than anti-social and vicious, and suggests that About 25 per cent. of the boys and 20 per cent. of the girls have not read a book during the last six months. Those books are popular which have already appeared in films. " Forever Amber," and " No Orchids for Miss Blandish " are two examples. The suggestion is that The general picture is depressing. It has astonished us that the standard of writing and spelling among so many of these young people should be so poor and that the reading of so many should be limited to ' comics '. The general impression is that of sheet intellectual poverty. It is impossible to question the need of a service of youth. I think it also calls upon educationists to look closely at the content of education for the service of youth. What has been happening in the schooldays of these children—many of whom are very glad when their last day at school arrives and they can go into the world?

We are always being told that the school and home make an indelible im- pression on the very young. As educationists, are we sure that the average boy and girl is getting the right thing from days at school? I myself am not satisfied. In one week a boy of 15 can be required to follow this timetable: German or Latin, five periods; English, four periods; French, four periods; history, three periods; geography, two periods; chemistry or economics, two periods; mathematics, five periods, physical training, one period; religious instruction, one period; games, one afternoon week.

I think that the tendency in our schools and teaching profession which has grown up as a reaction to the old narrow conception of teaching the " three Rs " is of teaching far too many subjects. In my view, we fall down by trying to teach subjects particularly in the academic way. To our boys under 16 we should have subjects, I suggest, which seem to impinge on their daily lives, and are concerned with that contemporary life which they have to live. The old dictum that talk and chalk sharpen the mind is completely out-dated, and within the Ministry of Education's ambit I place my faith on the breaking of new ground, especially in the secondary modern school, in relation to the question of new and up-to-date buildings—and on the reexamination. as soon as possible, of the content of education.

It being Eleven o'Clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress: to sit again Tomorrow.