§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Ralph Morley (Southampton, Itchen)
I beg to move to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House urges the Minister of Education to take appropriate measures, such as enlarging the school-building programme, increasing the supply of teachers and securing additional expenditure on the educational service, which would lead, within a reasonable period of time, to a substantial reduction in the size of classes.The Education Act of 1944 was a great landmark in the history of English education. It abolished the elementary school; in fact, the very word "elementary" has now been expunged from our educational vocabulary. It promised to give all our children a secondary education, instead of the 10 per cent, of them who received it before the war. It promised immediately to raise the school leaving age to 15, which has been achieved, and the subsequent raising of the school leaving age to 16 as soon as the material conditions for that could be assembled.
Before the passing of the Education Act of 1944, the duty of local education authorities was to secure sufficient instruction in the three R's for the children in the schools under their jurisdiction. Since the passing of the Act of 1944, the duty of local education authorities has been to see that all children have education according to their age, aptitudes and ability. The three As have taken the place of the three R's.
I was not a member of the House when the Education Act of 1944 was being discussed, as I was one of the many casualties of 1931; but I was at that time a member of the executive committee of the National Union of Teachers, and I 1462 remember how warmly we welcomed the Act of 1944, and how we thought it was going to usher in a new and better era in English education.
It is 10 years since the great Act of 1944 became law, and today there is a feeling of frustration, of disappointment, almost of despair, throughout the educational services of this country. The framers of the Act of 1944 did not foresee certain things which were to occur—and they could not reasonably have foreseen those things. At the end of 1945 and the beginning of 1946, some 5 million serving men returned home to their loving wives and the birth rate went up by leaps and bounds. The birth rate in 1947 was 50 per cent, higher than it had been in 1937. By 1950 the children who resulted from those higher birth rates came crowding into our schools.
In 1946 we had in our schools 4,705,000 children. In 1953 that number had increased to 6,089,000 children. In 1958 it is estimated that it will have reached 6,600,000. In 1958 we shall have in our schools 2 million more children than we had in 1946.
Then, again, something else occurred in 1946. The dynamic, if erratic, genius of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) produced his great housing scheme. This housing scheme has been continued with modifications and with success by the present Administration, and altogether it has produced more than 1½ million new houses in the country. Although 500,000 houses were completely destroyed by enemy action during the war, we have now more houses in this country than we have ever had before and there are more families with a separate house for themselves than there have ever been before.
Large numbers of these houses have been assembled in very large council housing estates. These council housing estates are swarming with children—necessarily so because in the allocation of houses priority was given to those parents with the largest families. The combination of these two things—the very great and unparalleled increase in school population and the great increase in the school population in large new housing estates—meant that our educational standards could not be maintained, let alone improved, unless there was a very great and urgently applied plan for the 1463 building of new schools and a considerable increase in the number of teachers, and unfortunately neither of those two things has occurred in the measure which is necessary to meet the problem which has arisen.
A number of beautiful new schools have been built on the housing estates, but not sufficient of them and they are not large enough; and those schools are overcrowded from the day on which they are opened, and the children have to be found accommodation in parish halls, in church halls and in all sorts of improvised accommodation. Many of them have to be taken by school buses several miles from the council estate on which they live to fill one or two vacant places which there may be here and there in distant schools. In 1952–53, local authorities spent no less than £135,000 on school buses to take children from the housing estates to attend schools some miles distant from the estates.
Another result of the failure to keep the building of schools and the supply of teachers level with the increased number of children has been a very great increase in the number of over-sized classes in all our schools. I suppose that in nearly every year of the 40-odd years during which I was an- active teacher, either at the local level or at the national level I moved or seconded a resolution asking for a reduction in the size of classes. The resolutions were nearly always carried unanimously. They were good resolutions and the people who voted for them had good intentions but, as we know, the path to a certain popular after-death resort is paved with good intentions. At the end of the 40 years I was teaching classes just as big as those which I had been teaching at the beginning of the 40 years.
The numbers have recently become much worse. According to an answer given by the Minister of Education to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle - under - Lyme (Mr. Swingler) recently, there are now in our schools 43,202 classes with over 40 on the roll. Of those, 1,380 have more than 50 on the roll. In 1950 the number of classes with more than 40 on the roll was 37,106, so that in the last three years the number of classes with more than 40 on the roll has increased by over 6,000. We 1464 reach the sad conclusion that nearly 2 million of our children are being taught in classes of over 40 at present.
Some years ago the Ministry laid down that it was advisable that no class in a primary school should exceed 40 and no class in a secondary school should exceed 30 on the roll, but today there are 3 million children in classes which exceed those numbers. It is generally said that the evil of a large class is that the teacher cannot give sufficient individual attention to each of the children in the class.
That, of course, is true, but there is much more in it than that. Every teacher knows that when a class ceases to be a class of 40 or more and becomes one of 30 or less, the whole atmosphere in the classroom changes. The atmosphere becomes more human and more kindly. The teacher can adopt up-to-date methods of instruction. He can allow much more self-activity, freedom and self-expression on the part of the children. When the class is one of 30 or under the teacher really is a teacher. When it is one of 40 or 50, he ceases to be a teacher; he becomes a martinet controlling the mob.
The argument which I wish to put is that we cannot reduce the size of classes until we have a more rapid and extensive school building programme and until we increase the supply of teachers. Everybody recognises the very great importance of securing a reduction in the size of classes. When I returned to the House in 1945, I discovered that to some extent the constitution of the Parliamentary Labour Party had been altered. Its aim and programme were the same but there were among its personnel more people of middle-class origin than there had been from 1929 to 1931.
I discovered to my horror that some of my colleagues in the party sent their children to private venture schools. When I remonstrated with them and asked them why, they replied, "You see, the classes are so large in the local authority schools that it does not give the kids a chance." If that was not an excuse, it was at least a palliation. Mr. Eric James, the high master of Manchester Grammar School, recently said that the most important and urgent reform in our national system of education was a reduction in the size of classes. It is over 1465 40 years since the most brilliant journalist of his generation, Mr. A. R. Orage, said that there were three urgent reforms necessary in our national system of education: the first was a reduction in the size of classes; the second was a reduction in the size of classes; the third was a reduction in the size of classes. That holds true today, over 40 years later.
In his eloquent presidential address to the conference of the National Union of Teachers, held last week at Margate, Mr. Fred Evans, of Cardiff, said that he would rather have a boy taught by an able teacher in a class of 15 in an improvised barn than by the same teacher in a class of 50 in a palace. That was the most applauded sentence in the whole of Mr. Evans's address.
If we admit that the greatest evil which exists in our system of education today is the tremendous number of large classes, we must do our best to apply the remedy. The remedy, in the first place, is the more rapid building of new schools. Dr. Alexander, the secretary of the Association of Education Committees, in evidence which he gave recently before a Select Committee, said that it had been agreed in 1946 by a committee under the able chairmanship of Sir William Cleary that it would be necessary to have a programme of school building of £75 million a year for a period of 15 years if we were to cope with the increasing numbers of the child population.
By 1949 local authorities had geared their staff to enable them to cope with a programme of that magnitude. In 1951 school building was running at the rate of £45 million a year, and provision had been made for a considerable expansion of that programme in succeeding years.
At the end of 1951 there was a change of administration. One of the first acts of the new administration was to impose a three-month moratorium on the starting of new school building. A Circular was issued by the Minister of Education instructing local authorities what they were to do with their school programmes in future. In 1952, the first full year of the present administration, the school building programme was cut by £28 million. An amount of £28 million worth of school building was either entirely dropped or postponed.
Schools which should have been started in 1952 were postponed to 1953, and 1466 schools which should have been started in 1953 were postponed to 1954. In the current year we have got back again to the level which we had reached in 1951. We have got back to a level of £45 million; but the original intention was to have a programme of £70 million a year for 15 years. When that was first laid down building costs were not so high as they are now. To bring that programme up to the level of present costs would mean a programme not of £70 million but of £90 million, so our present programme is running at only about half the level that is necessary to supply the children with the necessary places.
There was a further consideration in the Circular issued by the Minister in 1951. The Act of 1944 promised secondary education to all our children, but 15 per cent, of our children are not yet receiving secondary education, because they are in all-age schools which rank as primary schools. They are mostly to be found in the rural areas. Parents in rural areas are paying, through their taxes, for secondary education for other children which their own children have no opportunity of receiving. Those children can receive secondary education only if the reorganisation of schools in the rural areas is carried out and new modern secondary schools are built; but the Minister in her Circular prevented the rural areas from building schools for the purpose of reorganisation. [Interruption.] Yes. I have the Circular here.
§ The Minister of Education (Miss Florence Horsbrugh)
I said that I was carrying on the programme that I found existed, and which had been started by the previous Government. I did not change it. The hon. Gentleman will see that in the Circular I said that I had to continue that scheme. I thought that the hon. Member meant that I had started it; perhaps he did not.
§ Mr. Morley
I will quote from the Circular. I am stating facts. I am not apportioning blame to any Minister. The Minister said in the Circular:The Minister will therefore still be unable to include in an annual building programme any work designed:1467 My first contention is that the present school building programme is nothing like adequate to the existing needs. What we are asking the right hon. Lady to do, now that she is a Member of the Cabinet—and she should have been a member of the Cabinet from the time that she was given the office of Minister of Education —is to use her influence in the Cabinet to secure a much greater proportion of building labour, building materials and capital issues for the purpose of the building of schools than has hitherto been the case. And we ask her, if she is opposed by the Minister of Housing and Local Government or by the Minister of Works, to sweep them out of her path and proceed with a considerable extension of school building.
- (a) to relieve overcrowding in existing schools;
- (b) to replace or improve unsatisfactory premises of existing schools;
- (c)to enable all-age schools to be reorganised…"
§ Mr. Morley
The second thing which is necessary is to increase the number of teachers. Last year there were 13,000 entrants into the teaching profession and there was a wastage of 8,000 who left the profession either through retirement, death or marriage or some other misfortune. This left us with a net gain of 5,000. If it proceeds at that rate, by 1958, when we shall have 6,600,000 children in cur schools, we shall have 20,000 additional teachers, which will be just about enough to keep the classes at their present high numbers and perhaps to reduce them a little here and there.
I admit that it may enable us to reduce the size of the classes a little here and there, but that number of additional teachers will certainly not be sufficient to reduce all our classes to a maximum of 30, which is what all educationists desire to have in our schools, and we shall have to find means of increasing recruitment into the teaching profession. I admit that increasing recruitment into the teaching profession is a more difficult problem than building additional schools because the teaching profession today has not the comparative attraction to young people which it had 30 or 40 years ago. There was a time when the teaching profession had a little welfare state of their own. They had full employment, they had paid holidays, they had pensions at the end of their careers, but to some extent and to some degree 1468 nearly everybody has all those things today.
Then, again, the teachers are one of the few sections of the community whose increase in salaries since 1945 has not kept pace with the increase in the cost of living since 1938, and their salaries for the most part give them a lower standard of living than they had in prewar times. Now the Minister is proposing to reduce their salaries by a further 1 per cent, by her Teachers (Superannuation) Bill. I hope very much that the Minister will drop that ill-considered Measure. It would be a great relief to the teachers of this country if she did, and it would also be a great relief to the hard-worked Chief Whip on the Government side.
When I was a boy, the teaching profession was looked upon as a sort of first step out of the working class, but today, owing to the extension of grammar school education and the improvement in facilities for working-class boys and girls to go to the universities, there are many other and better steps out of the working-class than entering the teaching profession. So I admit that, all things considered, it is not so easy today to get additional recruits into the teaching profession. I believe, however, that we could get them if the right measures were taken.
A boy or girl does not become a teacher through the normal channels unless he or she stops at the grammar school until the age of 18 and then proceeds either to a training college or to a university. Today we are giving about 21 per cent. of our children a grammar school education. That is the national figure. The number of grammar school places available varies very much from locality to locality and it is not by any means every locality which gives 20 per cent. of grammar school places to its children. The child who is wise enough to choose parents residing in South Wales will have five times as much chance of getting a grammar school education as the child who unwisely chooses parents residing in Gateshead or in Rutland. I suggest that one of the first steps the Ministry should take should be to use its influence to level up the number of grammar school places available from area to area.
Secondly, the majority of grammar school children leave school at the age of 16 or earlier and so are lost as potential recruits not only to the teaching 1469 profession but also to other professions. I am told by my friends who are teaching in grammar schools today that often it is the cleverest children who leave the grammar school at the age of 16 or earlier. We want to do our utmost to encourage our grammar school children to stay on until the age of 18, and we want the parents to get the idea into their heads that a grammar school education is not from 11 to 16 but from 11 to 18.
We must admit, however, the attraction of the comparatively large wages which boys and girls in their 'teens can now obtain, and we must do something besides propaganda amongst the parents to keep their children at school until 18 to counteract that attraction. I suggest it would be a good idea if we gave larger maintenance allowances to children attending grammar schools from the age of 16 to 18. I have been told that the Ministry is now discouraging local authorities from increasing their maintenance allowances, and that recently it has discouraged the London County Council from increasing its maintenance allowances. If that be so, I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to deal with that in his reply to the debate.
Another way by which children can be encouraged to stay on at the grammar school until the age of 18 would be to keep the family allowance going after the age of 16, where it now terminates, if the child is continuing its education. I think a combination of those two methods might encourage more children to stay on at the grammar schools until the age of 18.
Then a good many local authorities are introducing grammar school streams into their modern secondary schools. They are getting the parents to agree that the children shall stay on at the modern secondary school until 16 and take the General Certificate of Education and, after they are successful, they are transferred to the sixth form of the grammar school. That is something which might be encouraged and which would perhaps give us a greater supply of teachers in the future. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary, who is a scholar and an historian, takes rather a pessimistic view of the future of mankind. I have sometimes thought that he was infected with la trahison des clercs. I know that in previous debates he has said that he does 1470 not think there are enough first-class brains in this country to supply the needs of all the professions. I believe that there are amongst our children enough first-class brains to supply the needs of the nation, so long as they are given reasonable opportunity.
Next, there is the difficulty about science teachers. A graduate who takes a science degree and who goes to teach in one of our schools can expect, if he obtains a post of special responsibility, to receive a maximum salary in his thirties of £900 a year, but if he goes into industry, he will very likely obtain a salary of at least £1,500 a year at the same age, and that fact, of course, attracts large numbers of science graduates away from teaching into industry. That is a difficult problem to solve.
We ought, I think, to give a higher graduate allowance to our teachers, though we could not probably give a graduate allowance which would be sufficient to bring the maximum salary of a graduate teacher up to £1,500 a year. It is quite impossible to pay science graduates higher salaries than are paid to arts graduates in art schools, because the arts graduates would, quite rightly, be strongly opposed to it.
The hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine), in an excellent speech in an Adjournment debate, made some very useful suggestions which the Minister might consider, but fundamentally the only way of securing a sufficient number of science teachers for our schools is by increasing the number of science graduates. I notice that in our universities today over 40 per cent, of university students take arts degrees and only 20 per cent, take degrees in pure science. I seem to remember that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), in one of those delightful platform speeches which he makes in the country and which might be described as essays by Addison brought up-to-date, said on one occasion that University undergraduates took arts degrees rather than science degrees because the arts degree was the easier option. To answer questions on science one has to have exact knowledge, but in arts subjects, if one has fluency of expression and a considerable vocabulary, one can get by, even if one has no very exact knowledge. That may or may not be so, but I suggest to the Minister that what is wanted now is 1471 another Royal Commission to inquire into our university education.
We must obtain sufficient numbers of teachers in future to bring about a diminution in the size of classes. I will admit that what I have been proposing—an increased number of school buildings and an increased number of teachers—is going to cost a good deal of money. In fact, we cannot have a good education system unless we are willing to spend sufficient money in order to obtain it. We cannot possibly have a good education system on the cheap.
In 1938, we spent in rates and taxes combined £97.4 million on education; last year, in rates and taxes combined, we spent £366.3 million on education. At first sight, that increase from £97 million to £366 million seems to be a very substantial increase indeed, but, of course, if we take the figure of £366 million and translate it into terms of 1938 values, it is then equal to only £146 million today. We have a million more children in our schools today than we had in 1938. Today we are giving secondary education to 85 per cent, of our children, whereas in 1938 only 10 per cent, of them were receiving it, and secondary education is more expensive than primary education.
The Minister of Education, replying to the hon. and gallant Member for New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre) a month ago, said that the cost of educating children in a primary school was £32 per head per annum, and the cost of educating a child in a secondary school was £59 a year. There are a number of services which are not strictly educational but which are included in the Education Estimates. In 1938, we were spending £1 million a year on school meals and school milk. This year, we shall be spending £30 million on school meals and milk. In 1938, we were spending £450,000 on school buses, and last year we were spending £5 million on the same service. Administrative charges are eight times higher today than they were in 1938.
Taking all these things into consideration, I think it is right to say that we are now actually spending no more in real value than we were in pre-war days. In my judgment, if we are to get a satisfactory system of education, we shall 1472 have to spend at least another £100 million a year on our education services. Hon. Members opposite will say, "Where is all that money to come from?" The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the course of the Budget debate, said on one or two occasions that it will be necessary and urgent to cut the Defence Estimates in the coming year, and on both sides of this House we are agreed that there should be a cut in the Defence Estimates. We are all Bevanites now, as far as that is concerned, but the difference between this side of the House and the other side in the matter of defence is this. Hon. Gentlemen opposite will use the money saved by cutting the Defence Estimates to reduce the standard rate of Income Tax; we on this side would use the money saved by cutting the Defence Estimates to increase expenditure on our social services, and particularly expenditure upon our education service.
In conclusion, may I say that I do not wish at all to attack the right hon. Lady the Minister of Education? I would not wish to attack any Minister of Education. I would much rather praise Caesar than bury him. I noticed a month or two ago that a daily newspaper which, by reason of able editing and attractive layout, claims to have the largest circulation of any daily newspaper, referred to the right hon. Lady as "Florence the Failure." If I may say so, without trespassing unduly beyond the frontiers of good taste, I do not think that, in any strict Parliamentary sense, the Minister of Education has been a failure at all. She has stood at the Dispatch Box and defended the policy of her Department with stubbornness, with skill, and with persistence. It is not the right hon. Lady who has been a failure in this respect. It is the education policy of the Conservative Party which has been a failure during the past two years.
The right hon. Lady, as we all know, has "lived laborious days," and has seen springs come and go without being able to enjoy the beauties of nature, because she has been chained to her Parliamentary duties. Now, as a reward for all that, she has reached the mockery which men call place and power, only to find that she cannot use the power either because her followers desert her, as they did on one occasion in Committee upstairs, or because the Treasury will not 1473 allow her to spend the extra millions on education which I am sure she is very anxious to spend. What I am asking her to do this afternoon is to fight as stubbornly and skilfully inside the Cabinet as she does at the Dispatch Box in order to get more finance for education and to secure greater allocations of material resources for the educational services of this country.
Finally, may I say that I do not think that we could be discussing, excepting only the issue of peace and war, anything more important than the subject which we are discussing here this afternoon? I regret very much that my lack of ability as a speaker has prevented me from rising to the high level of my theme. My only hope is that that will be compensated for by my seconder and by other hon. Members who will be fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye. This ancient Monarchy has endured for more than a thousand years, and its people and institutions have survived unbroken and unbowed all the shifting vicissitudes of a millenium of secular change. We have produced great statesmen, great divines, great scholars, great scientists and great writers. Dr. Samuel Johnson once said that the greatness of a nation lay in its writers. If that be so, no one can dispute the claim of this nation to greatness.
Our people are easy going, tolerant, and law-abiding. They speak a language which is just as august and reasonable as ancient Latin, and which is far more flexible and beautiful. We would wish that this nation should endure. We would wish that the motto of this nation might be Esto in perpetuo. Nevertheless, we have to import three-fifths of our raw materials and half of our food, and in order to do those things we have to export. The exports which we can mainly sell are high-quality engineering and chemical goods. In order to produce these exports we need skilled craftsmen, skilled technicians, skilled technologists and skilled administrators. We can produce these people only on the basis of a good general education for all our children.
Therefore, in asking that we should try to obtain for all our children the best possible education that the educational science of the age can give, I am not only asking for elementary social 1474 justice for our children but also for something which is essential if this nation is to endure. In that spirit I very humbly commend this Amendment.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Test)
My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley) has devoted more than 50 years of his public and professional life to the improvement of the conditions under which children are taught in our schools. Therefore, it is not to be wondered at that, having the opportunity of raising a matter upon going into the Committee of Supply, my hon. Friend should have raised the topic which is dearest to his heart and to which he has devoted so much of his life.
The speech to which we have listened was characteristic of my hon. Friend in its warmth, in its humour and in its reasoned and tolerant approach to the question, and in what I think every hon. Member will agree has been a most moving peroration. I was troubled by only two remarks that he made. I was surprised that he, a Master of Arts, should denigrate the arts to the advantage of the sciences and, to paraphrase Shakespeare, "scorn the base degree by which he did himself ascend." I was troubled when he spoke of going to teaching as an escape from the working class. The strangeness of that is a mark of the progress that we are making today. We are ridding ourselves of the snobbery of thinking that to get a black-coated job means social elevation. We stand or fall by the work of everybody in this country. No one can get a greater honour than that of escaping into the working class.
In my part of this debate, I want to speak of school buildings. Of the two matters, the supply of teachers is, of course, more important than the supply of buildings. I was speaking in the West Country recently upon education and I was told of two schools which are side by side. One is a grand new building, a modern school with all the luxury of modern buildings, and the other was an ugly, old building such as exists not only in the West Country. Yet parents were almost fighting to send their children to the old school, which has a great headmistress, a first-class staff, a grand tradition of good teaching, good discipline, good atmosphere and good character.
1475 Obviously, teaching is more important. But it is fallacious to assume that because good teachers, are of the first importance buildings do not matter. Obviously, the good teachers can do better if they work in better buildings, while bad buildings make bad teachers worse. Bad schools will even tend to be staffed by teachers who cannot find occupation in better school buildings.
Right through the century the country schools have found it difficult to obtain teachers because of bad conditions in the worst village schools. To reduce the size of classes we must have more teaching space as well as more teachers and the two programmes—of providing an adequate number of teachers and more teaching spaces—must go side by side. Our complaint is not that they are out of step, but that neither of those programmes is moving fast enough.
I do not wish to criticise the Minister for lack of administrative skill. I have watched for a number of years, in various capacities, the work of her Department. It is a live and keen Department. It has been particularly forthcoming in its approach to all the problems of modern building and of modernising school building processes while economising and making more economically useful the limited resources of school building programmes.
Lately, perhaps, it has carried that process too far. It has been willing to encourage authorities to use non-traditional types of building, as I have asked on many occasions. We were wrong, in the past, to build schools which would last for ever, grim buildings with just enough ornamentation to distinguish them from prisons. The Ministry has spread the thin layer of new schools over the country efficiently and fairly, as I know from my experience in local government. Local authorities which need schools most are getting the most schools and the schools that we are building are going up in the places where they are needed most.
I am grateful that the Minister appreciates the peculiar position of Hampshire, which is an inspill county into which new population is pouring. She makes us quite a generous provision of new schools in 1954–55. But all of them are 1476 being absorbed by the new inspill populations which Hampshire is receiving, while in no way is Hampshire getting down to its own basic problems which have existed for a very long time. If I were to make any criticism of the Minister it would be that she has not fought in the Cabinet hard enough to get a larger share of the national cake for school building. I may even be wrong in saying that, because her apparent complacency in debate may mask the fact that she has been defeated again and again by the Service Ministers in the Cabinet.
Last year the Select Committee issued a Report dramatic enough to capture the attention of the whole British Press and to shake the conscience of Britain for a whole day. The Committee made a number of important recommendations. The Ministry, instead of taking the Report seriously, went immediately on the defensive and produced a White Paper which pedantically called attention to minor errors in the Report and almost corrected the spelling, but which ran away from all the main issues. I hope that we shall concentrate upon those main issues in today's debate.
The grim fact remains that there has been a rise in school population from 4¾ million in 1946, and this year to more than 6 million, while in 1955 there will be made than 6¼ million and, in the terrible peak year of 1958, more than million. That is 1¾ million extra children for whom to find places. After 1958 the figure begins to drop, but in 1965, the latest year for which estimates at present exist, the figure will still be 6 million, which is 1¼ million more than the figure with which we started in 1946.
There is a dangerous delusion in the minds of many people that the bulge will be followed by a drop which will take us back to the pre-war level. There will never be a drop back to the 1946 or 1938 figures. In 1965, for example, the number of infant children in our schools will be 160,000 more than it was in 1938. Last year the birthrate, which has been going down for a number of years, turned upwards, and the increase compared with the previous year was 9,000, the figures being 673,000 live births in 1952 and 682,000 in 1953. What is more, about 1970 or a little earlier the children of the bulge will themselves be having children. Therefore, we can regard this swollen 1477 school population not as a temporary phenomenon, but as something which will last.
How far have we gone in providing places for these extra children? I have some figures given to me by the Minister on 12th February. By October, 1953, we had supplied 1,081,000 new school places. Of that number, only 484,000—less than half the total number of new places—have been provided by 1,640 new schools. The other 600,000 places were provided in what the Minister termed "other ways," the chief one being Horsa huts and other huts, and another probably being various halls which local education authorities are hiring. In addition to that, in October, 1953, we had 969 new schools under construction, giving us a further 450,000 new places.
I know that this represents a great building programme, both completed and under construction, and a greater one than ever before achieved in the history of the country. If the problem were not a desperate one, Britain might well be proud of the number of schools that it has built since the war when we consider all the other claims made on our financial, labour and material resources.
However, splendid as it is, it is not enough to cope with the problem that I want to put before the House. What is more—I am glad that my hon. Friend referred to it—the cut in the school building programme made when the Government took office cannot be atoned for by the increases which they have made later.
I have some more facts, again given me by the Minister, to lay before the House. They were announced in the OFFICIAL REPORT on 22nd October, 1953. In 1947, 45 new schools were begun; in 1948, 275; in 1949, 269; in 1950, 617—the programme is beginning to get under way—in 1951, 547—the programme dips slightly—in 1952, only 249—the full impact of this Government's cut, half the number of the previous year—and then, in 1953, 516, which is back to about the average figure. Those figures show a loss of school building which we cannot recapture.
We do not know what this year's figures are, but, from the Minister's various statements about finance, I imagine that the number of schools will be roughly the same as last year. We seem to be settling down to a figure of £40 million 1478 to £45 million worth of new schools per year. As my hon. Friend reminded the House, in 1946 we were talking about a programme of £70 million per year in the money of that time. We are miles behind what we dreamt of doing in 1946. No responsible educationist in the country, whatever his political faith, agrees that the programme of £40 million or £45 million per year is enough. In fact, I would ask the Minister whether there is a single local education authority which has in its 1954–55 programme all the schools that it asked for. Let us also remember that no local education authority asks for all the schools that it needs. Every programme that comes to the Minister has already been cut to the bone before it leaves the local authority.
I have praised in the past in this House the wonderful school building record of Hertfordshire. But I am informed this morning that the Tory County Council of Hertfordshire has passed a resolution noting with concern that the Minister has severely reduced the 1954–55 programme of primary and secondary school building and saying that "This will result in grievously inadequate facilities for primary and secondary education." A letter from the prospective Labour candidate for Barnet asks me to plead in this debate for the children of Boreham Wood, who seem to be without any chance of school education within a reasonable distance of their homes. If that is true of Hertfordshire, which has been the darling of the Minister and of educational enthusiasts, how much more so is it true of almost every other local education authority in the country.
Large classes exist throughout the country. Speaking from the Opposition benches on 24th July, 1951, the Minister herself lamented the fact that 2½ million children were in classes of between 30 and 40 and said that it was impossible to teach children in those numbers. Yet there are more of such classes today in the third year of her Ministry than when she began. Incidentally, the late George Tomlinson put it much more shrewdly and pungently when he said, "It is a waste of money to train teachers and then pay them just to prevent children from breaking the furniture."
But it is not just a question of providing classrooms for the 1¼ million extra children. We have not started to cope 1479 with all the bad old schools. The blacklist school cannot be explained away simply by saying that the old list is out of date, which seems to be the new Ministerial defence. Hundreds of schools condemned in 1921—I have spoken in nearly all those in the South of England—are still housing children, and if the technical blacklist has no meaning today, it is simply because with the passage of time hundreds more schools are ranking as fit to be placed on it.
Each month I have the painful task, as a member of the Hampshire Education Committee, of reading the reports of Her Majesty's inspectors about these schools. In 1947, the inspector said of one school:The premises are old and dilapidated. The offices are similarly old and decayed. The playground has a loose and dusty surface with stones and bricks from the bomb-shattered church lying about it.In 1953, he reported again:The last report in 1947 referred to the dilapidated condition of the school premises. They are now six years older, and though the classrooms were decorated in 1948 and the offices rebuilt, the physical conditions are such that the general picture is one of dreariness and deterioration. No attempt has been made to provide the rich educational environment calculated to excite either the wonder or the interest of these young children.I ask hon. Members to ponder over that sentence. The report goes on:The piano used at the moment is so decrepit that it is a serious handicap, and propably the singing would be better if unaccompanied.That school has been blacklisted for nearly 40 years.
There is another primary school in which 375 children are housed in temporary wooden buildings erected in 1920. There are seven classrooms and one of them is small. In 1950, the dining room became a classroom. In 1952, as the school grew, one class had to be taken by bus to a room a mile away. There is no assembly hall. The inspector comments that the headmaster has to put into each class as many children as it will hold. This is bad. In fact, I would say that one of the most serious problems of overcrowding is the adaptation of children to classrooms and the promoting of children not for educational reasons, but to make room for others.
Of another small primary school, the inspector reports: 1480The infants' room, 16 feet by 18 feet, accommodates 25 children and there is a tendency to promote children to the junior class, before they are ready, to make room for others newly admitted.My hon. Friend talked about the betrayal by the learned—le trahison de clercs. This is the real betrayal—that educated men should allow this kind of thing to remain.
Grave as is the problem of many primary schools, equally grave is the problem of the worst of the all-age schools. An all-age school is a primary school in which children are supposed to receive secondary education, because provision has not yet been made for them to receive secondary education in a separate secondary school. In the best all-age schools—a few—with good buildings, generous staffing and equipment, and a progressive authority, some good work is being done, but even in the best all-age schools, secondary education—as those who have watched secondary education develop in this country know—cannot be adequate. In the worst of those schools the conditions can only be described, in moderate terms, as a public scandal.
About 15 per cent, of our children are still in all-age schools. Let me describe some. In one village school there are 54 children in two classes; one class for children of 5 to 8 years, the other for those of 9 to 15. There is one long and one smaller classroom. There is no artificial light in the school. The inspector—emulating my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in the characteristic understatement of his biography—writes:The presence of senior pupils makes the task of teaching satisfactorily boys and girls of 10 different age groups in two classes a very difficult one.In another of these schools there are 220 children, aged 5 to 15, in six classes. That means that, on the whole, most children will spend two years in each class. The inspector comments:Every classroom has a defect. The infants' room is very small and should not contain more than 30 children but, at the time of inspection, there were 40 children in the room.The two largest rooms are separated by a partition—the slighest noise can be heard on both sides of the partition. The room used by the seniors has an alcove curtained off to make a small space for the clerical assistant. There is no room for a headmaster or staff. Sanitary provision is of the bucket type.1481 The inspector says that there is evidence that some children, particularly the younger ones, are reluctant to use the buckets provided.
Pressure on accommodation is such that as some six to 10 seniors leave each term children must be promoted throughout the school so that new entrants may be admitted to the infants' class.Every term, therefore, for physical reasons there is a general post. And, of course, no facilities are provided there for the teaching of science.
The next school I mention is one which haunts me. We should have solved this problem in Hampshire if the Minister had not cut out of the programme, in 1951, a school which was to have remedied the position. In the present school there are 65 children of ages five to 15, organised in two classes. The premises consist of one room divided by a wooden partition. The infants' room measures only 15 feet by 20 feet and must accommodate 26 or 28 infants. The staff have neither office nor lavatory. One cold-water tap hanging loosely from an outhouse provides the only place where the children can wash.
Junior and senior children—children from eight to 15 years—are taken in one class, so that, in this village, a child spends two years in one room and then eight years in the other room under one teacher. I have great admiration for village teachers, who work so marvellously under adverse conditions, but no village teacher, no matter how great a genius, is capable of providing the infinite variety of education for eight years to any group of British children aged eight to 15 years.
As long as this kind of school remains we are committing a crime against some of our children. This is the heart of what the Select Committee was talking about in its Report. As long as conditions like this remain in some of our schools, it is idle—it is really madness—to quibble merely about detail. The two major political parties are talking and arguing about grammar schools, secondary modern schools, technical secondary schools, comprehensive secondary education.
I suggest that it is footling to talk about the variety or pattern of secondary education while we have not the decent basic primary physical conditions in our 1482 schools. For one-seventh of our children the choice is not between a good grammar school, a fine technical school or a grand secondary modern school. For them, at 11-plus, it is either escaping from an all-age school or being left in the same building—perhaps in the same room—for the last four years, often without domestic science, science, or handicraft and always without all the amenities of a good secondary school.
I am particularly troubled and grieved about this, because I have seen what wonderful work is being done in the good secondary schools—not only the grammar schools but the new, adventurous modern secondary schools. I know how much this one-seventh of our children are losing. In Hampshire this year, children from two of our county grammar schools are proceeding to the university, having begun their secondary education in a secondary modern school, but no child will ever proceed to the grammar school or to the universities from hundreds of the worst slum schools that exist today. Yet that is only a minor point. Much more important than the fact that they are deprived of expert instruction is the fact that they are missing all the wealth of education, of which I have not time to speak in this debate, but which we know as secondary education; all that education in a secondary school, surrounded by children of varying abilities, can mean to the children.
There is now a ban on new school building for reorganising such schools. I am the first to admit that both the present Minister of Education and her predecessor have imposed that ban. It is still a wrong ban. Times are changing. Shortages, perhaps, are going. I urge the Minister to lift the ban which prevents education authorities at present from reorganising some of the worst schools and giving their children a real secondary education. In my county two such new secondary schools could revolutionise the life of about 12 villages which would feed them. I understand that, recently, the Association of Education Committees—which is by no means a Socialistic body—has begged the Minister to drop the ban. The Hampshire County Education Committee, on which I sit, is almost 100 per cent. Tory. I am certain, however, that when I ask for the lifting of this ban I am speaking for all my colleagues on that committee.
1483 That cannot be done inside the present limited capital expenditure programme. First place, obviously, must still be given to the provision of new buildings to provide places for the number of new extra bodies coming into our schools. We are not even spending enough to do that. What is necessary is that the ceiling of educational building expenditure should be raised, not only for the building of new schools for new pupils but to include schools which will enable us to reorganise so as to get the one-seventh of our children out of the all-age school and replace the worst primary schools.
In 1946, we introduced secondary education for all children—but it was only on paper. Today, one-seventh of our children are deprived of their birthright under the Education Act. For the rest, the infant bulge is already knocking at the doors of the crowded secondary schools, which, if we are not careful, will find themselves as overcrowded as junior and infant schools are now. I join with my hon. Friend in urging the Minister to fight for a bigger share of the national budget for education. Whatever fight she shows will be welcomed by the whole Opposition, and we shall support her in her efforts.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Hollis (Devizes)
Whatever differences of opinion may emerge in the course of this debate, I am certain that we should all begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley) both on his good fortune in the Ballot and for having chosen to debate the subject which is now before the House. I also congratulate him on being able to enlist the aid of his hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King), whose eloquence we always so very much enjoy.
It goes without saying that there is no objection from hon. Members on this side of the House to the hon. Member's Amendment, which calls attention tothe need for a reduction in the size of classes…We all welcome that. The grant conditions of 1945 laid down a maximum of 40 pupils for primary schools and 30 for secondary schools. The present situation, as we know to our sorrow, is so far removed from that that this debate assumes great importance.
1484 Again, though I shall have to make some reservations upon a certain amount of what was said by the hon. Member and his hon. Friend, all hon. Members would agree that it is desirable to call attention to the need for a reduction in the size of classes, and if the hon. Member had merely asked the House to urge the Minister of Education "to take appropriate measures" we should have had no objection, but he has gone on to detail all the measures which he desires us to take. I take no exception to that but it is upon those measures, and upon their rather narrow terms of reference, that we must concentrate.
It is easy to talk in generalities, and to say that education is obviously a good thing, overcrowded classes are obviously a bad thing and, therefore, that everything that can be done to abolish overcrowded classes should be welcomed. If overcrowded classes were the sole evil in the body politic it would follow, logically, that we should devote all our resources to the abolition of that evil. If the problem could be solved by rubbing an Aladdin's lamp, no one who was moved by the eloquence by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test in describing the bad conditions in some of our schools would fail to do so, but it does not take us very much further because we are not living in a world of Aladdin's lamps.
We were not doing so when the Socialist Government were in power, nor should we be if there were another Socialist Government. Mr. George Tom-linson, the former Minister of Education, had as warm a heart and as high ideals as any of us, but he found himself in a real world and had to consent to all sorts of things which, doubtless, he did not like. He found it necessary to agree to a ban on major improvements in old schools, an almost complete embargo on nursery schools, the stoppage of new buildings and meal services, and general economies in new projects. Those were unpleasant actions, but he had to consent because of the circumstances.
The hon. Member for Southampton, Test told us of the high dreams which the Labour Government entertained in 1946, of spending £70 million on approved projects, but he forgot to remind us what happened in 1949 and 1950. Under the Labour Government, 1485 money spent on projects approved was reduced from £55 million to £35 million between those years—a far more drastic reduction than anything which has taken place under the present Administration. We cannot get very much further unless we talk about this problem as it exists in a real world, and consider not what we should like to do if we could rub Aladdin's lamp, but try to answer the question whether, in the existing financial and building situation, it is reasonable to censure the Government because they have not diverted resources from other things, which are themselves desirable, to the building of schools. The only matter worth discussing is the problem of priorities.
There are four major reasons why we are faced with this difficult and deplorable situation. First, in 1945 a reduction was recommended in the ideal maximum number of pupils in a class. Whereas we are now aiming at a maximum of 40 pupils in a primary school class and 30 in a secondary school class, before 1945 the maximum was 40 pupils for senior classes and 50 for juniors. The 1944 Act very properly set us a higher standard. Secondly, the school-leaving age was raised, which meant that more children had to be catered for. Thirdly, as the hon. Member very truly said, in the year immediately after the war there was a high birth rate. Fourthly, there is the special problem of the shortage of accommodation in new housing estates.
I want to take up the points upon which the Government have been censured in very gentlemanly and courteous terms by the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen. The first concerns building and the second teaching. Without wishing to cross swords with the hon. Member or his hon. Friend, I do not think it would be very unfair to say that anyone listening to their speeches would almost have gained the impression that nothing ever needed to be built except schools. But schools are only one form of necessary building. There are many other forms, of which the most important are houses, and most people would prefer houses to schools if given the choice.
That is the point of view which is taken by the Government, but it was not original to this Government. In 1946, Miss Ellen Wilkinson, explaining the 1486 paucity of the schools building programme, said that "housing had an overriding priority." We have to consider the problem of school building against the fact that schools are only one of the candidates for very limited building resources, in a time of desperate shortage, especially of houses. Granted that, let us consider what has happened. What is the lesson that is taught by the achievement of this Government?
To hear some people talk—though I am not suggesting that the two hon. Gentlemen opposite are among them—one would almost think that under this Government all school building had come to an end altogether. Very much the opposite is the truth. If we take the 1953 figure of terms of contracts completed, or of money spent, we find not that the 1953 figure fell below some figure reached under the Socialist Government but, on the contrary, that in 1953, and in 1952 as well, there was a substantial increase. There were more completed contracts in terms of money than in any previous year.
The figures have gone steadily up. In 1951, the figure was £35 million; in 1952, it was £47 million; in 1953, £55.6 million. The figures of new schools completed have gone steadily up. In 1951, the number was 278; in 1952, it was 392; in 1953, it was 535. There has been a steady increase in the number of new school places. In 1951, it was 159,000; in 1952, 218,000; in 1953, 259,000. So, from the point of view of completions, the Government have a record for which they have no sort of reason to hang their heads in shame.
The argument of the critics is, "Of course, the Government have completed a good deal because they pursued the policy of the moratorium and no work worth talking about is being started and there will inevitably be an enormous slump in the future." It is true, of course, that owing to the moratorium policy there was an admitted reduction in the projects approved for 1952, but when we come to the projects approved in 1953 we discover that they were up over any figure attained by the Socialist Government after their economy cuts in 1949. The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen, said that the figure was settling down to about £45 million worth. I 1487 would correct him on a point of detail. The figure of £45 million is for primary and secondary schools, but the figure for those and all categories together is substantially greater than £45 million. It is £54 million.
It is true that whereas more money has been spent than in 1952 rather fewer schools are being started than in 1951, 516 as against 547. What is the reason for that? The reason for that is that more schools being started today are secondary schools and fewer schools are primary schools and secondary schools are more expensive than primary schools. It is an entirely reasonable and common sense thing to build more secondary schools, because with the movement of the bulge up the age scale it will be the secondary schools that will soon be particularly overcrowded. So it is reasonable to spend more money on secondary schools.
The hon. Member calls for an enlargement of the school building programme, but that does not get us very much farther unless he faces the real problem and tells us how it is to be enlarged and at the expense of what. Pounds, shillings and pence may be "meaningless symbols," but the fact remains that there is only a limited supply of building labour and there is only a limited supply of building materials, and it is quite right that the authorities should do all they can to make certain that that labour and those materials are used as economically as possible. The Government have been outstandingly successful in the improvements they have introduced into building technique.
Nevertheless, we are still in the real world and in that world there is a limited supply of labour and materials. There is substantially full employment, and the building labour and materials are substantially all being used on one kind of building or another. If, therefore, the hon. Gentleman wishes them to be used on one thing particularly he must tell us on what other things they are to be stopped being used.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Southampton, Test asks the Minister to lift the ban on the rebuilding of all-age schools, but he must realise that to concentrate on that would be at the expense of something else. We cannot get very 1488 much farther with the case unless we are told what is to be sacrificed so that this admittedly good thing should be done. Without wanting to introduce any spirit of controversy into this argument, I would observe that the critics of my right hon. Friend have not always been very forthcoming in explaining what are the ways in which they would economise so that more could be spent upon these other things.
§ Dr. King
The hon. Gentleman is asking us what we would do. The Government have taken the ban off luxury building. If the hon. Gentleman is as keen as we are on the children we are talking about does he not think that it would have been better to have left the ban on luxury building and taken the ban off the reorganisation of school building?
§ Mr. Hollis
Looking at it casually one would say that that is a point with Which one would have very great sympathy, but it really is not as easy as all that, as I think the hon. Gentleman knows. It is not simply a matter of the Government's taking one thing from another.
We come to the numbers of teachers. It is true that to solve this problem of the overcrowded classes it is necessary not only to have adequate buildings but equally necessary to have an adequate number of teachers, and the problem of the recruitment of teachers is obviously of enormous importance. However, I think we can fairly say that there has been a steady increase in the number of teachers under the present Administration.
The number is steadily going up by between 5,000 and 6,000 a year, and there has been a decrease in the wastage from the profession, which is in itself a very good thing. Nevertheless, I agree that there is no sort of cause for complacency, and there is nothing more important to which we can give our minds than what the hon. Member very rightly said was the extremely difficult question how we are to get the more rapid increase which we obviously need. A number of suggestions have been made. At the National Union of Teachers' Conference Mr. David Hardman suggested that the emergency scheme should be reintroduced. I think that that was not very widely welcomed —
§ Mr. Morley
Mr. Hardman did not make that suggestion at the National Union of Teachers' Conference, and the N.U.T. strongly opposed its reintroduction.
§ Mr. Hollis
I was going on to say that the National Union of Teachers did not welcome it. Did the hon. Gentleman say that Mr. Hardman did not make the suggestion at the National Union of Teachers' Conference?
§ Mr. Morley
I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that Mr. Hardman had made that statement at the National Union of Teachers' Conference. He did not make it at the N.U.T. Conference.
§ Mr. Hollis
If he did not, I apologise and withdraw my remark. I understood that he did. I was going on to say that the National Union of Teachers opposed the suggestion. I understand now that Mr. Hardman made the suggestion somewhere else. It was not widely welcomed in the teaching profession.
There is the question of salaries. I hope the day will come when teachers' salaries can be further increased, but, nevertheless, it is no good merely promising an increase, because of the great difficulties in the situation. One obvious difficulty is that as the amount of building labour and materials is limited, so the amount of money at the disposal of the Government is limited and the question is, desirable as the increase may be, whether such an increase is something that can be afforded by the country.
There is also a further and almost a more intractable difficulty. As we know, teachers' salaries are not settled in this country merely by this House or by the Minister of Education. Even if it were possible to introduce such a system, and have teachers' salaries settled by debates in this House or by the Minister, I do not think that many people would regard that as desirable. Whether that be so or not, the system is that the Minister's responsibility for salaries is the very limited one of merely approving or disapproving the suggestions of the Burnham Committee. There may be something to be said for abolishing or revising the whole constitution of the Burnham Committee, but to ask the Minister to do that is to invite her to take a step of considerable responsibility.
The fact remains that a substantial portion of teachers' salaries is paid by the 1490 ratepayers; and though it is very easy, so long as we are talking from the educational point of view, or an educationist's point of view, to speak as if the whole of public opinion was in favour of teachers being paid more generously, the fact of the matter is that there are many people in many classes of the community who are very restive about the size of the education rate. It was not by any means plain sailing to get even the last award through 50 per cent, of all local authorities. It is, therefore, far from certain what chances there would be of getting further drastic increases accepted by, at all events, certain local education authorities.
We have to face the fact—it may be very unjust and unfair—that while it is perfectly easy for us who are interested in education to talk as if there was real enthusiasm for it throughout the country, that is not by any means universally the case. It may be right or it may be wrong, but a considerable number of people, who may toe very Philistine in their outlook, think that too much fuss is made about, and too much money is spent upon, education. We cannot really hope, whatever particular machinery we favour, for a solution of this problem until we have convinced public opinion at large of the importance of education, a view which is by no means universal at present.
Everyone is willing to applaud education in the same way as they applaud Government economy and then demand that more money be spent on this, that and the other thing, but by no means everybody is willing to see the rates raised for further expenditure on education. Therefore, the first and fundamental solution can only come when we have converted public opinion to a much greater extent than we have done at present as to the value of education.
There is a further question. It is perfectly true that to get an adequate number of teachers we must offer teachers decent conditions of life. It is true that we do not want to frighten people from being teachers by offering them bad conditions of life, but the converse is not altogether true. The fact that decent conditions of life must be offered does not mean that an unlimited number of people can be bribed into becoming 1491 teachers, however much money they are offered.
Teaching is a very honourable and noble but also a rare vacation. There is only a certain number of people to whom, whatever conditions are offered, teaching is tolerable. We all know from our experience of some schoolmasters who should never have been schoolmasters, but have drifted into that form of life without any enthusiasm because it was something that came along, and whom it would have been better to keep out of teaching. At present, 60 per cent, of the girls who remain at school to the age of 18 become teachers, and it is very doubtful whether that proportion should be substantially increased; whether whatever conditions are offered there are more than 60 per cent, who would make suitable teachers.
I agree with the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen that, important as these salary questions are, the real solution to the teacher problem is the much more difficult one of ensuring that all the children who really can profit from education up to the age of 18 should remain at school to that age. Although financial inducements can help in part in dealing with that problem, the more fundamental problem is that of persuading the parents rather than financial inducements.
There is the problem of science teachers. I am not absolutely certain how much children, particularly children who are to be scientists, should learn science at school. I think that a pupil who is to be a scientist should probably, in a general way, have a literary education at school. I would deprecate particularly the suggestion which has been made earlier in the debate that more people should take science at the universities and fewer people should take the arts. On the general problem, however, I entirely agree with the hon. Member.
Let us see what are the dimensions of the problem—an admittedly grave one—when we break it down into details. Overcrowding is grave, both in the primary schools and the secondary schools. The position is at the moment becoming somewhat better in the secondary schools and becoming somewhat worse in the primary schools in respect of the proportion of overcrowded 1492 classes. The reason is that the bulge in the birth rate is at present operating within the primary sphere. The Government are wise in recognising the fact that that will be a temporary condition, and that although matters are worse in the primary school today they will soon be worse in the secondary sphere. Accordingly, the Government are right in switching their building programme so as to provide a steadily higher proportion of secondary school building and a steadily slightly lower proportion of primary school building. The major overcrowding will soon show itself within the secondary schools.
If we could pretend that there was any way in which we could reach a sudden and dramatic solution to this great problem we should be only too glad, but, granted the conditions of the country, it would be dishonest to pretend that that could be achieved. Nevertheless, I agree with what has already been said—that we have to face the fact, and welcome it, that there will be permanently more children in schools. It is a fact, however, that there is a steady growth in the number of places provided. Between 1954 and 1961, 700,000 new places will be needed in secondary schools. It is estimated that if we keep the number of new places at about—sometimes just above and sometimes just under—200,000 a year, we shall, admittedly not dramatically or tomorrow, but gradually, overcome this great problem.
While there is no one who would not be glad to overcome the problem more rapidly, no one with any sense of responsibility fails to recognise that this is but one of many great problems with which this country is faced. It would be idle to make promises of a dramatic solution which this Government does not pretend to be able to provide, which the last Government did not pretend to be able to provide and which no future Government will pretend to be able to provide.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) began by paying a tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for the Southampton Divisions of Itchen (Mr. Morley) and Test (Dr. King). The House is indebted to both my hon. Friends, who brought to the subject long experience.
1493 It was evident from the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Itchen that he had devoted many hours of research to its preparation, and we are grateful for the information which he put before the House.
Then we listened to the hon. Member for Devizes, and heard a policy of despair, an acknowledgment that a grave problem faces the schools and then a declaration that we can do nothing about it because we cannot have the money, the teachers and the buildings. The hon. Gentleman could have said that in his first two sentences, because that was all he had to say to the House this afternoon.
My hon. Friend the Member for Itchen has called our attention to a subject of the first importance. No one would deny the significance of the education service in a democracy. It is something which cannot be overestimated. In these days we realise that the teachers in our schools are asked to produce citizens who will think and take their places in a democracy. I believe that this is impossible if we are to have classes of 40 plus and 50 plus, as is happening all over the country at the present time.
Qualities of character and personality are even more important in a democracy than they are under any other form of Government, and I believe that that side of school life suffers most when we have large classes. In large classes, the brilliant children will survive the handicaps and the difficulties and will get through the examinations. The teacher will strike the note for the average in the class, and the average will probably survive. The child who most needs the attention of the teacher is the one who suffers most—the backward child—and it is for the backward child that my hon. Friend has pleaded this afternoon.
This subject resolves itself into two main questions—the provision of buildings and the recruitment of teachers. The teaching profession is certainly not in any mood to countenance a lowering of standards in order to increase recruitment to the profession. If there is one thing of which the Ministry may be well sure, it is that the National Union of Teachers will not accept proposals—I believe I am quite correct in saying this—which will mean any form of dilution of the profession.
1494 The Minister will know that I have been asking Questions about those who are admitted without the normal qualifications into the profession. At the N.U.T. Conference at Margate, last week, the delegates made it perfectly clear that they were perturbed about the numbers which had already been admitted into the profession. If we are to recruit in adequate numbers, it is no platitude to say that teaching must be made more attractive. At present, the Government are creating hostility on the part of the teachers against the Ministry of Education over the question of superannuation.
We cannot ignore the effect of this battle on the recruitment issue. We are told that there are some Conservative Members of Parliament who are opposed to what is a cut in teachers' salaries, but if there is one hon. Member on the other side of the House who is opposed to cutting teachers' salaries for superannuation purposes he keeps his identity very well-hidden indeed. There is no hon. Member at all on the other side who has put his name to the Motion on the Order Paper asking that such a Bill should not be preceded with.
The teaching profession could be made more attractive not only in terms of money—it is now inadequate—but also by the amenities which are provided in the schools. I have taught a class of 60 and a class of 23, and I know which is the harder to teach—it is not the class of 60. One is very fortunate if one can keep order in a class of 60. It is routine work and one goes along parrot style; but with a class of 23 there is constant demand on the attention of the teacher and he is giving of himself all the time to the youngsters who are in his care.
The question of the supply of teachers is raised not only by recruitment, but by retirement. In the county of Glamorgan, teachers are allowed to teach for only 40 years. I think I am right in saying that if they are 60 years of age and have taught for 40 years they must retire. The Glamorgan education authority introduced this compulsory retirement at 60, or 40 years' service, in the days when there was an unemployment problem. Today it is adding to the problem of the Minister of Education by increasing the number of teachers who will be drawing superannuation five years before they want to draw it.
1495 We have first-class members of the profession who are refused permission to continue giving their service in those schools. I hope that the Ministry will be able to persuade the Glamorgan authority to take a more reasonable and more enlightened view. It is one of the best education authorities in Britain. Everyone acknowledges that the Glamorgan county education authority is first-class, but on the question of the compulsory retirement of teachers it falls down badly. My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, South (Mr. W. T. Williams) reminds me that the Glamorgan County Council seems to be cursed by memories of the past. It is the fears of yesterday which are impairing its judgment today, and I earnestly hope that it will look at this question again.
The hon. Member for Devizes raised the question of the cost of education, as does the Amendment, and said that because so much of the teacher's salary—40per cent.—is paid from the rates of the country many people are opposed to the teachers having any more money. That was, I think, the general burden of the hon. Member's remarks. If that is so, then, clearly, the time has come for the grant formula to be revised. Let 80 per cent, come from the Treasury and 20 per cent, from the local rates.
That is a decision which will be forced on the Government by sheer events sooner or later, and it would be wise if that decision were taken at the present time. I see no inclination in the teaching profession to want to be civil servants—that is, to have all their salary paid from the Treasury. By all means let us keep the local touch and the local responsibility but, at the same time, ease the burden by increasing the amount which will be provided by the national Exchequer.
We have a poor House today for this debate. It is the poorest for a long time in education debates.
§ Mr. Thomas
The fact that it is the first day back may have something to do with the attendance in the Chamber at the moment. Hon. Members are having to face other tasks in other parts of the House, but although the numbers are 1496 small this topic is one of the most important that will be discussed this Session. Unless this problem can be faced and settled, we are wasting our time talking about the future greatness of these islands.
I was moved by the peroration of my hon. Friend the Member for Itchen as, I think, we all were, as he spoke of other days in these islands and of the part which we have played. But it is the quality of our people that has made for the greatness of these islands, and the schools are concerned with the quality. The teachers say to the Government, as the Prime Minister once said to America during the war, "Give us the tools, and we will get on with the job."
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Commander J. W. Maitland (Horncastle)
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) began his speech by criticising my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) for not having come to any helpful conclusion in saying how we should tackle this problem, but the hon. Member himself, admirable and enjoyable as was his speech, did not give us very much in the way of conclusions either.
I add my thanks to the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley) for the way in which he moved the Amendment. It is essential that these grave problems, to which, frankly, we do not see the answer, should be faced by us together as a nation. These debates usually start—I expect I shall be an offender myself—by courteously critical speeches, such as those we have had, then rather defensive speeches, followed up by rather offensive speeches. Let us hope that that will not happen tonight.
The hon. Member for Itchen and the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King), who seconded the Amendment, came down to the inevitable conclusion that the problem is a matter of money, and that, of course, is what it must be. But I was particularly interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Itchen, because it was the first time that I have ever heard it suggested officially from his side of the House where the money should be found. He said quite distinctly that we should find it by cutting expenditure on armaments.
I want to know whether that is the policy of the Opposition, because I think 1497 that the country should know. I have looked carefully through "Challenge to Britain," but cannot find it stated. What it does say is:We all recognise that big improvements in education are bound to cost further large sums of money. In the interests of the nation as a whole, as well as in the interests of those children and adults who will directly benefit, we must see that the money is found, even if this means going without other things.Is armaments to be one of the things that we go without, or is it old-age pensions, or something like that? We really ought to know. That is a ghastly problem, as we are all agreed, but all of us, I think, are in grave doubt and difficulty about where the answer is to be found.
There has been criticism about the cuts which the Government made when they first came into office, but it must be remembered that in one year the previous Government cut the education programme by 12½ per cent. I am not making any party point of that—we are all in this business together. Neither do I make the point that we are spending now much more on education than the previous Government spent.
It is a terrible criticism of inflation not only that whereas in 1938 we spent £15 16s. a year on each child's elementary education, today we spend £30 per child in primary schools, but that the fall in the purchasing power of the £ means that to reach 1938 standards we should be spending, not £30, but over £37. That is a tragic reflection on what inflation means. If the debate does nothing else, it should at least show that the efficient economy of the country matters more to children than, perhaps, to anybody else.
The Government—any Government—can only go ahead with an efficient building plan for schools if they themselves are economically efficient—if, for example, they do not have the kind of crisis that we had when we came into office. I do not blame the previous Government—I fully understand their difficulties; but it is by sound good finance that these things can be done. It is no good simply saying that these are desirable things and, therefore, we must have them and must go without something else, unless we say distinctly what those other things are to be.
§ Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
I should like to under- 1498 stand what the hon. and gallant Member means. The financial crisis did not prevent the Government from embarking on a bigger house building programme, which was used as the argument for cutting the school building programme. If we accept the hon. and gallant Member's argument, should not the Government have applied the same attitude to the house building programme?
§ Commander Maitland
No. The hon. Member has not quite understood the situation.
When the Government came into power, they created a moratorium to stop new schools being built. It did not mean that building work on schools did not continue. It was essential for that moratorium to be in force. The Hertfordshire Assistant County Architect—everybody here, I think, realises that Hertfordshire is probably the best county for its building proposals and the way it has carried out its programme—said in his evidence, about a year ago:The Ministry imposed the moratorium on starting dates. That was the best thing that could have happened to us. Our jobs were going slower and slower. The five men on the job dropped down to three or two. With the moratorium it went up to 10 or 12, and we got the schools finished.Of course, the moratorium meant that we had to slow down the building, but it was essential because there was a complete hold-up in the number of schools which were being built. When one floats a vast housing or school building programme, it is inevitable that mistakes of this sort should be made, and mistakes were made by the late Government of starting too many buildings and taking too long to build. It was necessary to clear the pipeline and to build quicker and to finish the buildings which had been started.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
It is a pity to indulge in this party bickering when discussing the nation's schools and the future of the youngsters. Is not the case that the hon. and gallant Member is making simply that five or three men were building a school in Hertfordshire because the building workers were pooled to house building by the Minister of Housing and Local Government?
§ Commander Maitland
No, I do not think so. My explanation is as good as, if not better than, the hon. Member's. 1499 I come, next, to two short suggestions which ought to be put into effect. It is quite useless in these days—let us face it —to talk about equality of opportunity. That is what we want; that is what everybody wants, but it is not happening at the moment. It is not happening as between school and school and between county and county. It is not happening in that part of the country where there is a widely distributed population. Children there are not having the same chance either of going to a good modern school, or of getting into a grammar school.
It is not equality of opportunity because, as has been pointed out, there are more grammar schools in some of the educational areas of the country than there are in others. I should have thought that the mind of man ought to be able to devise a way out of that. It is a situation which exists and it is not right that we should pay lip service to the principle of equality of opportunity when it is so lamentably absent.
If anything is to be done about it, two things must be undertaken. I am speaking entirely for myself when I put forward these two points. Certainly, I am not speaking for any particular body of people. Here I agree with the hon. Member for Cardiff, West that more responsibility for finance in education must be placed in the hands of the central Government. The bills for education have to be paid by the people of the country. They are the only persons who can sign the cheque. Whether they sign it in the form of rates or in the form of taxes is a matter of considerable indifference to a good many of them.
It is essential that we should try to clean up these inequalities between local education authorities. I do not believe that we can do that unless we take more on to the central finances and unless we give the Minister the real power suggested in Clause 1 of the 1944 Act, namely, that she shall be responsible for the education of the people. More of the financial burden has to be on the central government.
I have spoken on these lines before on many occasions in this House. I do not suggest that it should be done without the most careful examination first, but I think the time has come when we 1500 should have a full examination of the country's educational finances. Hitherto, it has been suggested to me that this is concerned with the reconstruction of the whole of local government. Every Government will have to face that issue. It is an astonishingly difficult thing to reorganise local government, and when parties come into power as opposed to opposition they realise it.
I think we may go on many years before there is any real full-scale reorganisation of local government. The children should not wait for that. Now is the time for a careful consideration of how the financial burden is carried by the people to see whether we are making the best use of the funds at our disposal.
Those funds are limited. However much the hon. Member for Itchen and I may agree that these things are necessary and desirable, there is an absolute limit to the amount of money that the country can afford to spend on education. What we have to do, and what is our bounden duty is to see that the money is used in the best possible way. I do not think that that can be done unless we examine the whole system of how that burden is borne.
The second thing follows from the first. My hon. Friend the Member for Devizes mentioned it in passing, and it is something about which I have spoken in the House before. There is no doubt that among many people education is not a very popular subject. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is true, and no matter how much we may say it is not so when education is debated in the House, the fact remains that when we go to our constituencies and look facts in the face it will be found that some people think more about their rates than about education, and that when they look on the back of their rate demands they are very anxious about it.
That may be their fault, but it is also the Government's fault for not having made clear to the people how much education means to our future. In other words, I think we need far better public relations—I hate the expression—between the Ministry and the national Press and, more important still, with the provincial Press. That goes also for the local education authorities.
I have often said in the House that we would have considerable results if local 1501 education authorities and the Ministry really undertook this job of publicising the importance of education, including the various new and interesting discoveries that have been made, how the children are taught, and so on. The parent-teachers' associations and that type of organisation help in that direction, but I believe that if the interest of parents was aroused—it is not aroused yet, certainly not that of the grandparents—there would be somebody to stand by the Government when they had to impose burdens on the people to support better educational opportunities for our children than they are getting now.
That is all I have to say, and I want to finish as I began. I have been lured into being controversial, as we always are in these debates, but this is a subject in which we are all together. Let there be no mistake about that. The previous Government did their best, under difficult economic circumstances, to fulfil the 1944 Act. This Government have carried on that work and they have done it extremely well. They have done much better than would hon. Gentlemen opposite had they been in power since 1952—[Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh, but I am perfectly convinced that that is so. It is only by trying to face this great problem together that there is any hope of our being able to meet the suggestions and fulfil the hopes of the hon. Member for Itchen.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
I am in agreement with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) when he suggests non-party speeches on this subject of the education of the nation's children. But he has a queer way of making non-party speeches. I shall say no more about that, but, if I may, turn to a more pleasant feature of the debate so far. I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King) on their wonderful opening speeches. I doubt whether there are any Members of my union, the National Union of Teachers, who have a better record in the cause of education than these two hon. Friends of mine. I am sure all the delegates at the recent Margate conference 1502 would be very proud today had they been in this Chamber listening to their two colleagues speaking on the theme of education.
I should like to begin with a quotation from a speech, and hon. Members can guess who actually made it until I reveal it after I have read the quotation:There are boys and girls going out from the schools today worthy of the very best this country has ever produced. There are schools that are slums and where conditions are overcrowded and appalling, but where teachers are doing a real job of work and, by their skill and devotion, are giving the children a really first-class education.
§ Mr. Johnson
The right hon. Lady who uttered those words is on the Government Front Bench this evening. This was part of her speech at a dinner of the Lowestoft Teachers' Association, and we would welcome today, the implementation of many of the excellent suggestions put to her by my hon. Friends.
I must say, if I am honest and candid— and I think the Minister expects me to be both about herself—that if the right hon. Lady had been at Margate last week she would have felt that the teachers are getting scant encouragement in this matter from herself and the Government, particularly because of the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill. There really is a distinct vein of hostility in the teaching profession towards this Bill of the Minister's. I assure her in all sincerity that the sooner she tears it up and burns it the greater will be the advantage to education.
Again, at this national conference the President, Mr. F. J. Evans, of Cardiff, in a first-class speech, said that the first priority in schools today was to reduce the size of classes. There is no more important job to be done. I would devote what little time I shall take up in this debate to speaking about this matter of reducing the size of classes, and particularly in the context of getting more teachers.
Hon. Members opposite laud the public schools for their scholarship, and particularly for the sixth form work. Their standards, of course, are high. But why is this? The buildings are no better. In fact, the buildings are often worse than the secondary schools which have been 1503 built since 1945. The high standards are based on two things—the size of the teaching unit, and, of course, the calibre of the teaching staff who, incidentally, are paid much higher wages than people like myself were in the past, under the Burnham scale.
Our big job is to reduce the size of the teaching unit. How are we to get more teachers? It is a very complex job indeed. In the years between the wars the entry into the teaching profession was very much like the Army; unemployment was a first-class recruiting sergeant. In South Wales and in the North-East, where I belong, 60, 70 or 80 per cent, of the sixth form girl leavers went into our two-year teacher training colleges. Boys had two choices of job open to them. They either became teachers or professional footballers. My final choice was the teaching profession. Today, things are entirely different. There is full employment, and indeed there are many more outlets for our young women in South Wales, for example, in the new factories. There are better wages and there are many more professions open to them.
When one talks to one's teaching colleagues at annual conference, or at union meetings or parent-teacher association meetings up and down the country, one always comes back to two things—status and salaries. The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) spoke of converting public opinion. The hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle spoke in the vein of a P.R.O. He talked about selling ourselves to the public, and hence, in that way, getting more parents to send their sons and daughters to college to take up teaching.
Is it a fact that teachers everywhere are paid too little? Is it a fact that outside the United Kingdom they are paid too little? Is it a fact that they are looked upon as an inferior class of official—a sort of State functionary—and that they are looked upon by some as lacking in special skills and with no contribution to make to the community such as lawyers or doctors have? Why is it that we in our profession cannot endear ourselves to the public at large and attract to our profession more recruits?
Is it just as simple as that? The estate agent enjoys a high public esteem. Yet 1504 he has few, if any, professional qualifications. He merely buys for 5 guineas some letters to put behind his name. There is no doubt that teachers are quite as valuable as doctors or lawyers, and indeed, they have much more valuable material to work upon than do the members of these other professions.
I come to the question of esteem, which is tied up with status and salaries. My colleagues and I have no doubt that prestige or status is bound up with the age at which training begins, and there is no doubt that since we have raised the age of entry to teaching colleges to 18, the standards in the teaching profession have risen. I believe that in France, Italy and Spain potential teachers commit themselves to the profession at the age of 14, which is reminiscent of those bad old pupil-teacher days, which, I hope, will never return to our schools.
I am told that in Scandinavia one-third of the teachers enter the profession at the age of 21. They are much more mature types and come in after farming or fishing. It is no accident that in Scandinavia the status of the teaching profession is high, and they get a supply of teachers much more easily than in the Latin countries such as Spain and Italy.
I urge the Minister to begin at once a crusade with the N.U.T. to wipe out the uncertificated teachers as quickly as possible, and, again, I trust that we shall never return to the old pupil-teacher system. I reject out of hand the suggestion from the benches opposite that we should revive the emergency college scheme, useful as that was. Our job must be to raise the status of the teachers and place them higher in the public esteem.
The length of training is important. I am told that in Scandinavia all teachers have a four-year college course. Here we have a two-year non-graduate course and the one-year emergency college scheme. When I meet my Continental colleagues at conferences and elsewhere, I find that they are shocked that our teachers are content with a two-year course and that some had passed with a 12 months' course under the emergency scheme. I have said that status is bound up with salary, and, obviously, it works both ways; but I am also sure that status depends on the length of training.
1505 I beg the Minister to turn her attention to this matter of a two-year course. It should be at least a three-year course. I myself would fix a deadline at the earliest possible moment. I know that the answer will be, "You will lose 12,000 teachers—one year's output." I know that, but if the Minister had gone to Margate—I know she went to the teachers' conference at Scarborough some years ago—and if she were as much in touch with teachers' organisations as I am, as I hope she is, I am sure that she would agree that teachers are prepared to make this sacrifice as we did when the school-leaving age was raised to 15. That was an act of faith.
I am sure that the teachers are prepared to mark time for 12 months, and lose that intake of new teachers if it will ultimately mean raising the status of the profession. We might attempt this in 1958. Perhaps the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary will later confirm or deny that the Minister's Advisory Council have suggested I960 as the date. Personally, I should like it to be 1958; but, whenever this comes about, there is no doubt that the Minister will have the backing of the profession.
My last point concerns standards of entry. The hallmark of a good profession is careful selectivity. Of course, it is, or has been, a vicious circle. If there is a shortage of teachers one lowers the standard to get a larger intake and boost up the numbers. But if I may again quote the N.U.T. Conference, the General Secretary said last weekend that next year things might be a little easier. I hope the Minister will either confirm or deny that we can look forward to a larger intake of teachers in the coming years, or at least a larger intake into teaching colleges next year, because we have been short over the past few years. It may be that in the coming year we shall, for the first time for many years, have more teachers coming in than our colleges can hold. I sincerely hope that we are reaching that happy state of affairs.
What is the moral to be learned from that by any progressive, forward-looking Minister? It is, obviously, to build more teacher colleges. I was shocked to hear both inside this House and outside that it was proposed to close down the Bolton Technical Training College. I know that that is a specialised field of teachers, but 1506 it is an indication of the way in which the Minister's mind works. We should think in terms of future technical secondary schools. If that college could have been filled this year, or even next, it would have helped us in providing future teachers for those schools. We shall want more and more teachers both for senior technical education and for our secondary technical schools of the future.
I think it was on 17th December last that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) initiated a debate upon the training and the supply of teachers. That debate was wound up by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education who, I gather, will be winding up this debate later this evening. When he does, I hope it will not be in that somewhat sardonic manner in which he is at times accustomed to answer, or in the way in which he answered the debate on 17th December, when he accused my hon. Friend of asserting his desires for the cause of education, as if they were part of the eternal verities.
I do not take kindly to that sort of comment, and I would point out to the Parliamentary Secretary that the modern child is the best investment which this nation has got, and that he of all people, with his classical education, should realise that it is only a decadent nation that demands sacrifices from its children so that its elders may live at ease.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Angus Maude (Ealing, South)
I, like the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson), propose to devote most of what I have to say to the question of the supply of teachers, because I believe that this is far and away the more important of the two main problems with which we have to cope in the subject under discussion today. I could say a great deal about building programmes and about the relative performances of the Labour Government and of the Government which I have the honour to support, but I do not intend to do so.
Let us look for a moment at what has been happening during the last few years in the supply of teachers, and what the prospects seem to be. If they are not adequate, is there anything that we can do about it, and is there any real hope of producing successful results? If we look at the results for the last three years.
1507 we find that they have been very much more successful than most people believed they would be. By that, I do not mean people who are ill-wishers of the Government or who are congenital pessimists, but the Advisory Council itself, which estimated that we would be lucky if we got a net increase of 4,000 teachers a year. In fact, the figure of recruitment, which was 5,300 in 1951, increased to 5,500 in 1952 and to 5,900 in 1953. That is a modest increase, but still well above what we thought was likely to happen.
Let us also look at what has happened in the matter of wastage, which we all know is an inseparable feature of the teaching profession. We find that in the last three years, wastage has remained steady around the figure of 8,000 a year, which is about 2,000 fewer than in 1950. The fact that we have cut the figure of wastage by 20 per cent, shows, at least, that there is some hope of our being able to make progress in this matter. Indeed, it is a very considerable achievement. This is probably largely due to increased salaries and to an increase in the number of married women who either go on teaching or who come back into teaching at a later date.
How are we to get more teachers? Although I agree that the provision of buildings is extremely important, because we shall have very great difficulties when the bulge in the birthrate gets into the secondary school age group, it is, after all, when dealing with over-sized classes, the pupil-teacher ratio in schools as a whole which really matters.
Although the proportion of over-sized classes has gone up, the pupil teacher ratio has remained substantially unchanged over the last two or three years. That is one of the mysteries of statistics for which everyone who investigates how they are worked out appreciates the reason. Nevertheless, the pupil-teacher ratio has not, on the whole, changed very much during the last three years, even though the number of extra children entering the schools has been very large indeed. As we all know, since 1945 there have been about 1,500,000 extra children of school age in the population.
The hon. Member for Rugby, the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley) and the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King) laid considerable 1508 emphasis on the salary question when talking about the recruitment of teachers. I am prepared to go a certain distance with them on this matter, but I cannot go all the way. I do not believe that an increase of salaries is a sort of magic wand which, even if we had the money, we could wave over this question and hope to get the whole problem solved.
I go so far as to say that in the case of men teachers, I believe that recruitment could be fairly largely increased if we could afford substantially to increase salaries. But when we come to the women, I am not nearly so sure that that is so. As far as primary schools are concerned, it is with women teachers that we are predominantly concerned. Now, this is not only my own view: I am not in the least anti-feminist, nor have I any prejudices in this matter. I have consulted teachers both in my own constituency and elsewhere and have formed the opinion, which many of them support, that the present basic salary at entry for a 20-year-old woman teacher, according to the Burnham award which has just been made, is by no means an underpayment for the work done.
I am not saying that if the quality of the women teachers went up appreciably it might not become an underpayment. All I am saying is, that at the moment I think it is a fair rate of remuneration. If it is, then it is unlikely that its lowness is discouraging very large numbers of girls from entering the teaching profession.
Leaving aside the question of the basic entry salary, are the financial prospects discouraging women from entering the profession? I do not think so. Most women teachers to whom I have talked agree that to the girl of 20 entering the profession the salary which she may hope to get in 20 or 30 years' time, or her chances of getting a headship, which, if she remains a teacher, are very high indeed, do not represent an important influence. She thinks that she will get married, and she does not really think at her entry into the profession about what her salary will be in 20 or 30 years' time.
In any case, supposing that we substantially increased the starting salary of women teachers, would we get many more? I think probably not. Even if we did, would the result elsewhere be 1509 serious enough to make us consider twice whether we ought to do it? I think that a certain amount of caution is desirable on both these points. First of all, on the point of whether we should get many more, at present about 60 per cent, of all girls who stay in school after 15 are becoming teachers. That is a very high proportion of the girls who run through the grammar school period.
On the other hand, let us remember that the proportion of both boys and girls who complete a grammar school course is scandalously low, not more than 30 or 33 per cent. That is something about which we really ought to have some action taken; because there, if anywhere, is a potentially good field for recruitment of teachers.
There are various methods by which we might get that done. We could do it by an increase in the number of maintenance grants. Many local education authorities are already doing very much better in this respect than they used to do. It seems to me that there has been a fairly substantial improvement and I hope that that will be reflected in the figures of an increasing number of boys and girls going through the grammar schools up to the age of 18. Can we hope to tap the secondary modern schools?
Before getting on to that subject, I should refer to the second point that I mentioned a little earlier: even if we did get a greater proportion of the girls who are staying on in the grammar schools, would the results elsewhere be bad? I am inclined to think that they might be, and that is something that we should take seriously into account.
The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) pointed out that before the last war the opportunities for getting jobs for young women were very limited, and therefore it was possible to get all the teachers that were required because there were very few other jobs for them. He went on to say that that impulsion no longer existed. He might have gone a little further and pointed out that we have gone beyond the point at which that impulsion has been removed, and have reached a point at which there is a very considerable number of demands being made in the professions on an age group of women which is declining year by year.
1510 The lower half of the working age group, from 15 to 45 years, is declining in numbers all the time. Certainly, the proportion in the population has gone down very substantially. At the same time, since the war we have enormously increased the demand for young women of professional status and education in all the medical auxiliary professions, in industry, in the social sciences, in research and in any number of different professions and callings that one could mention.
What will the Minister of Health say if the Minister of Education takes another 10 per cent, or 20 per cent, of the grammar school girls to become teachers? He will find that very difficult indeed, because the medical auxiliary professions need more young women than they are getting at the moment. The hospitals and a very great part of the National Health Service depend essentially on just those young women for important social service. The same goes for quite a number of other callings in the professions, in industry, in commerce, in secretarial jobs and elsewhere.
If, and I believe that it is true, we cannot look to the grammar schools for a big increase in the number of teachers, can we do anything to increase our recruitment from the secondary modern schools? As we all know, this is a very difficult problem indeed. It means that we have to persuade parents and children that the children should stay on after the age of 15 years and take the General Certificate of Education or else, and this is possibly an even more promising prospect, we have to provide a transfer from the secondary modern school to the grammar school at the age of 15 years or so. There is provision for that already and many local authorities do it, but I believe that more local authorities could make much better use of this provision than they do at present.
As we know, this whole transfer problem is an extremely difficult one. It exists where there are old junior technical schools in existence and we find the technical modern schools losing their best children at the age of about 13 to the junior technical schools. It is perhaps one of the most important problems 1511 in the field of secondary education with which we must cope in the immediate future. It would be a much better solution to the problem of secondary education if we could work out a really effective system by which children could be freely transferred, according to their educational needs, from one school to another rather than that we should seek to abolish the differences between the three systems of secondary education.
But I think that we should get more teachers from the secondary modern schools. Here the hon. Member for Rugby and some of his colleagues are in a certain difficulty. I fully appreciate the conflict which arises in the minds of the leaders of the National Union of Teachers when they come to deal with the question of recruitment of teachers in the future. The Union is a professional association but it is also, of course, a bargaining trade union and that always produces a conflict in the minds of professional people.
It is the natural instinct of the bargaining organisation to suggest that the number of the members of the profession should be restricted. If it becomes apparent that a considerable increase in the numbers of the profession is needed, the natural instinct is to say that the only way in which that increase should be provided is by a considerable increase in salaries. I do not believe that that is the only way, nor do I believe that it is the most effective way. In fact, I doubt whether it would work at all in the case of women, for the reasons that I have just given.
I think that the hon. Member for Rugby and his friends will have to accept a certain number of other devices by which, during the critical period until the bulge in the birth-rate has passed right through the secondary schools, we can secure the number of teachers that we need. We must remember that after September, 1956, the number of children in the primary schools will start falling quite fast. I entirely agree with one hon. Member opposite who said that it is quite wrong to believe that we shall ever go back to the 1938 numbers in schools. Of course we shall not. There would not be much future for this country if we did go back to that level. We are always going to have more children, I hope, but 1512 from September, 1956, the numbers in primary schools will fall off very rapidly.
The trouble is that the numbers in secondary schools will rise to such an extent, and the cost of building secondary schools is so much higher than the cost of building primary schools, that we may be forced to use primary school buildings or classrooms for a time to ease the pressure on secondary schools. I think my right hon. Friend regrets that necessity as much as I or anyone else, because it means—from the point of view of buildings—that it will, to some extent, reduce the chances of lowering the size of classes after the autumn of 1956. But of course, if I am right, the chances of reducing the size of classes will be much smaller than we think anyway, unless we get the teachers. That is the reason why I am devoting myself to talking primarily about teachers rather than about buildings.
Over the next five or 10 years we shall have to get extra teachers, bit by bit, by all sorts of different methods, and we cannot afford to take too doctrinaire a line even about such questions, which are of real importance to professional people, as that known by the awful word, "dilution." I do not believe that some of the things which are technically known to teachers, or believed by teachers, to be dilution would necessarily have the effect of lowering the quality of entrants to the teaching profession. Incidentally, the quality of entrants is not as high as it ought to be now, and it is not getting much higher. We all realise that. Nevertheless, I do not believe that anyone who enters training college from a secondary modern school is necessarily going to make a worse teacher than someone entering from a grammar school; in fact, I am perfectly certain that that would be a fantastic proposition to advance.
We all know the somewhat delicate process by which children are selected for one secondary school or another. We all know that in some part of the country something like two-thirds or three-quarters of the children get a chance to go to a grammar school and in some other parts not more than about 6 per cent, or 8 per cent, have that chance. In some parts of the country there is bound to be a substantial number who go to secondary modern schools who would make very good teachers if they could be 1513 kept on, with facilities provided for taking the General Certificate of Education, and then go on to teachers' training colleges. I do not think the National Union of Teachers would raise much objection to that.
That needs a great deal of propaganda. I think it will need a wider and more intelligent use of maintenance grants. For example, the county of Hertfordshire tried a similar scheme for securing trainee nurses. They provided maintenance grants of 10s. a week to keep girls at secondary modern schools to fill the rather awkward gap between the school leaving age of 15 and the training school. They got about 20 very good extra nurses a year by doing so. That is the sort of thing we ought to consider applying more widely in the case of teachers.
The hon. Member for Rugby also referred to another "King Charles's head" of the National Union of Teachers—the old pupil-teacher system. Many of the elderly teachers to whom I have spoken, who started as pupil-teachers, do not take the view that it was a very dreadful thing after all; but, before any hon. Member leaps to his feet, let me say that I am not going to propose the reintroduction of that precise system. Nevertheless, I do believe that we ought to consider—as an experiment, perhaps, in one or two local education authorities, to see how it works—something like a system of apprenticeship for teachers. I suggest it could be done in something like this way, and I am talking mainly about women teachers who are going on to be primary school teachers.
Girls at grammar schools who, in the normal course of events, would be taken away by their parents at the age of 15, or probably 16, should be encouraged to stay at school until they are 18 and take half, or slightly more, of the grammar school course. At the same time they should become assistant teachers under qualified' teachers in primary schools in the remainder of their time. We must remember that these people would be completely lost to teaching if something of this kind were not done. I am not suggesting that at 18 they should become qualified teachers, but that they should then go on to their two-year training—
§ Mr. Maude
I will tell the hon. Member exactly. It is precisely for the same reason that I cannot accept the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Rugby that we should extend the two year training college period to three years and, as he admitted, lose 12,000 teachers.
Hon. Members ought to read the Amendment they are supporting. It calls on the Minister to take immediate steps to produce more teachers, yet the hon. Member for Rugby is trying to lose 12,000 teachers right away and the hon. Member for the Test Division of Southampton is trying to convert a proposal of mine for producing immediately more assistant teachers in primary schools into one which would produce no extra teachers at all for two years. If we want to produce immediate results, we must talk sense about these things. We must realise that in a crisis of this kind, when we have 1½ million extra children in the schools, when we have the proportion of over-sized classes still rising—not very fast, but still rising —if we want to take immediate measures to do something about it, they have to be unconventional measures.
§ Mr. Morley
There is nothing in my Amendment about immediate measures, the word is "appropriate" measures.
§ Mr. Johnson
Since I was mentioned by the hon. Member, may I call his attention to the words in the Amendment:within a reasonable period of time.I maintain that if the teaching profession wants this particular measure over a period of time, it will get more entrants than it will lose in a specified time.
§ Mr. Maude
Now I am informed that the hon. Members for Itchen, Test and Rugby do not mind if there is no change in the size of classes for the next three or four years. But I know very well that they and other hon. Members opposite 1515 will be going round the country from now on saying that it is only this beastly Tory Government which prevents an immediate reduction in the size of classes. They cannot have it both ways; they have been trying to have it both ways far too long. [Interruption.] I think that hon. Members opposite will realise that I have tried very hard to be constructive rather than purely controversial, and I hope they will not excite me into saying things which we might all regret.
§ Dr. King rose—
§ Mr. Maude
I cannot give way again. I do not want to detain the House for very long. We must realise that there are some measures we ought to take quickly in order to do something about this problem. I am not saying that we should not take long-term, far-sighted measures as well. Of course we ought to do that. No Minister worthy of the job would fail to do so. But we ought to try to get some results quickly. I think these are the kind of methods by which we may hope to do it.
We shall have to start quickly, because the competition for the kind of girls we want to attract to the teaching profession is not becoming less; if anything, it is becoming greater. I believe that we shall make nonsense of the improvements which we have made in the whole fabric of secondary education since 1944 unless we improve conditions in the primary schools as soon as possible. It is on the provision of more teachers that such improvement depends. Therefore I beg hon. Members opposite, and teachers as a whole throughout the country, to realise that some old prejudices may have to be shed. We should be able to co-operate with good will in order to produce the results which we all desire.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
The hon. Member for Ealing, South (Mr. Maude) made a most interesting and constructive speech, in startling contrast to the speeches of those of his colleagues who preceded him, who seemed to be anxious to rescue the Minister from some very grave misfortune. I agree with what the hon. Member said, particularly about the urgency with which this problem must be tackled, and that 1516 again was in startling contrast to the complacency exhibited by his hon. Friends.
A number of reasons have been advanced for the abnormal wastage of teachers, but one which has not been mentioned is that many of them give up teaching to become Members of Parliament. I do not include myself in that category, because I do not qualify. I was never a trained teacher, but 20 years ago, almost to this very day, my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) was my own teacher. For two years he was on the staff of the school of which I was the head boy. That may sound rather startling, but he was new from university and I was in the top form of the school. There is probably a difference of some three years in our ages. I must say that he was an exceedingly good school teacher. He was probably a better footballer and he is probably a much better Member of Parliament, so that the loss of the teaching profession is the gain of his constituents. My one hope is that he will never be compelled to resort once more to the teaching profession, or to professional football.
It is true to say that our future as a nation depends upon the education of the children who are at school today and those who will be entering our schools in the next few years. We depend for our very survival upon the quality of our education which in turn, in my view, depends upon two things, and I put them in this order of importance; first, upon the quality of the teachers, and secondly, on the conditions under which the children are taught.
I agree with the hon. Member for Ealing, South that the provision of teachers of the right quality is most important and the most urgent matter for our consideration. I should like to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby in dealing with the question of status, which in my view is highly important. Teachers like to regard themselves as members of a profession, but, for some queer reason, the public do not accord to them the same status which they accord to the members of far less socially important professions. In my view, the whole question is bound up with the training of teachers. I should like to see an all-graduate teaching profession, but I realise that that is asking far too much at the present time.
1517 However, I should certainly like to see a three-year training period.
At the same time, I must put in a word for the teachers who entered the profession through the emergency training scheme. Many of them have made good and have given good service to the profession. We should be grateful to those people who introduced that scheme and saw to its administration. In my view, it has tended to enlarge the outside experience of members of the teaching profession. Even so, the best of teachers cannot prevail against the difficulties of bad school buildings and over-large classes. They may try year in and year out, but in the end I believe that, faced with such conditions, they become frustrated and unable to give of their best to the children entrusted to their care.
It is true to say that there are now some 3 million schoolchildren in classes which are over the recognised reasonable numerical limits, that is 40 in a primary school and 30 in a secondary school. Our main task must be to see that we get the teachers necessary to reduce those numbers to a far more reasonable proportion.
On calculations which I have made, I think that by 1959 we shall need about 40,000 more teachers to deal with this problem. The present rate of recruitment is barely enough to keep pace with existing circumstances.
It has been rightly said that the field of recruitment has been narrowed because of competition from other professions and the fact that there are fewer young people available to enter the teaching profession. Whereas teaching was once looked upon as a "plum" job for boys and girls, there are now many more attractive appointments which they can fill. I will not pursue the fruit analogy further, or I may find myself in difficulty, but there are now other alternative forms of employment which command better pay, easier conditions, less responsibility, and so on. We must try to bring back to the teaching profession the status it formerly enjoyed.
We cannot look to the grammar schools for the additional teachers we require because in my opinion the normal means of entry into the teaching profession, from the grammar schools, through the teachers' training colleges or the universities, has reached saturation point. Where, therefore, may we look for the 1518 additional teachers we need? There is still a reservoir of married women, who taught during the war years while their husbands were away. Some may have left the profession for family reasons but now the family has grown up, and I think that with reasonable inducements they could be attracted back again. I know that today many married teachers are not leaving the profession until domestic circumstances compel them to do so, but I believe there is still a large number who could be brought back.
We must recruit more from the secondary modern schools. It is silly to say that potential teachers from this source have not the necessary academic ability. Many of them will have and many will have the necessary common sense which in my opinion is far more important than academic learning. These people may make better teachers than some people with first-class honours already in the profession. That would need more maintenance grants to enable pupils to remain until the age of 18. It would need a far better basis of selection to see whether they could be transferred to the right kind of school to get the proper training. In my view, the comprehensive school ultimately would give a better framework in which that could be done.
One problem with which, I hope, the Minister will deal is that of the early leavers. Every year people leave grammar schools before reaching the requisite age. This is a misfortune not only for themselves, because they otherwise might have gone on to a more useful profession, but is a misfortune for those whom they have kept out of the grammar schools. I do not know what proposals short of legislation can deal with this, but we must be far more tough with people who take their children away from grammar schools and thereby deprive other children of the much-needed education which they desire.
The question of the supply of science teachers is much more acute. To teach science and kindred subjects properly, smaller classes are needed than for subjects such as, for example, the arts. Extra apparatus and space and far more individual attention are required. The general problem is acute enough, but this one of science teachers is even more acute. Perhaps the only answer is to bring in from industry and firms, on a part-time or 1519 seconded basis, people who can give the necessary instruction. I do not think the problem can be tackled by increasing salaries for science teachers as against non-science teachers, because this would cause far more difficulty than it would solve problems.
I do not turn my face against the possibility of a further emergency scheme; I have no preconceived ideas arid am not bound by the views of the N.U.T. or any other body. I regard the earlier emergency scheme as having worked well. Possibly, on a small scale, it could be brought in again. I suggest, however, that instead of having a rather intensive one-year period, the time could be lengthened and a far more cultural general education be given in the emergency scheme. What would be of importance would be bringing into colleges and into the teaching profession people who have not been in it before but who have had a wider background of the world outside and could contribute much more to the teaching profession.
I should like the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies, to give an indication of the supply of women teachers. My belief is that the supply is not as satisfactory as it might be and is not adequate for all purposes. I hope that the hon. Gentleman can give an indication of the numbers in the training colleges this year, the vacancies that will exist for them next year, and whether it is contemplated increasing the number of training colleges for women.
Our second great task, as well as inducing people to enter the profession, is to stop people leaving it, or to get an answer to the problem of wastage. When we are losing something like a net figure of 8,000 teachers a year, special investigation is needed. My view is that these losses are bound up with the conditions under which the teachers have to work and particularly with the large classes with which they have to deal. It is a nerve-racking problem under any circumstances, but with abnormally bad conditions and abnormally large classes the problem is aggravated. I believe also that there is a connection with the question of salary.
We tell teachers that theirs is a calling and that they ought to be satisfied that they are doing the job they wish to do, 1520 but it is no use saying that teaching is a calling and expecting that in itself to be a reward. We have been getting our teachers on the cheap far too long, and getting cheap teachers means in the end cheap education. This is probably one of the things from which we are suffering today. The Minister's latest action over pay and superannuation has caused tremendous unrest and great annoyance and agitation, and has greatly aggravated an already difficult situation. I hope that the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill is dead—at least, it seems to have disappeared for a while.
Our third great task, apart from stopping wastage, is to make the profession more attractive. This brings us right up against the question of the size of classes. We all know the difficulty of working with large numbers, when the rate of progress goes usually at the rate of the slowest; or, if it does not, those who cannot follow are given the task of cleaning blackboards, filling inkwells and doing the 101 little jobs for the school teacher. Those people in turn become the mass of illiterates who are then called up for National Service and on whom valuable time must be wasted to make them fit to follow normal Army instructions.
I said that I was not a teacher, but before the war I did a month's teaching practice. There were 50-odd children— some very odd ones—in the class, but to my great surprise, after I had been there three days, there were only 40—and it was much easier dealing with them. The next day there were 50 again, and the following day only 40. I noticed from the register that the remainder belonged to a certain religious faith. One day was their feast day, and another their fast day. Those were the only two days when I had a class of anything like reasonable size, when anything worthwhile in education could be done. That experience taught me that the smaller the class, the better the work that can be done.
I am not convinced of the need for the distinction in class size between primary and secondary schools. If it is right to have only 30 children in a secondary class, I cannot see any sense in saying it is right to have 40 children in a primary school class. It is more difficult for a primary teacher to teach children who in the main are not anxious to go to school and who do not wish to learn consciously, than for 1521 a teacher in a secondary grammar school to teach 30 children who wish to learn because they have great inducement and incentive for making progress. I shall not be satisfied until all classes are below the 30 limit, and I do not like this separation of the 40 and the 30.
Neither do I like the solution, advocated this morning in "The Times," of cutting out the first year of school life and, instead of sending children to school at the age of five, not starting them until the age of six. That is a policy of despair, which would strike a disastrous blow at our concept of what is right for our children. There would be no guarantee whatever that the teachers released from teaching the 5-year-olds would ease the situation in any other part of the teaching profession. The infant school teacher is highly specialised and requires highly specialised training, and it would be difficult to fit her into a secondary school, which is where the problem of the future will arise. We ought not to tinker about with the school entry age. I ask the Minister to turn her face against this proposal, which, if accepted, even as a temporary measure, would soon become a permanent feature of our educational system.
I intended to speak about the need to provide more school places, but that is obvious to everyone. It is a question of the means by which they can be brought into being. In education we are living in an age of improvisation. There are all kinds of improvisations for teaching with visual aids, classrooms, school places, and so on. If we have the teachers, which is the main problem, the question of fitting them into places to do their teaching is not quite so insoluble.
How much longer are the Horsa huts to be maintained in existence? They were put in as an emergency measure at the end of the war as temporary classrooms. I should not like to think that they will drag on into something like a substandard permanent feature of our school buildings. I hope that the Minister will be able to give an indication of what the length of life of the Horsa hut building is likely to be.
The new buildings must have a first priority on our new housing estates, where, as soon as a school is provided, it is more or less overcrowded from the day it is first opened. The only answer 1522 seems to be that the Minister must press for a greater allocation from the Chancellor for the purposes of education. We need a far greater amount of money for education. Here we are dealing with questions of priority and of value. The highest priority we could give today is to the improvement of educational opportunities. If necessary, I could give details of the different places from where the money should come.
§ Mr. Chetwynd
If the Minister would like me to give details I will. First her Government believe, I think rightly, that the international situation is not so tense. They themselves foreshadowed in the Budget a reduction in defence expenditure. That is one source from which money could be diverted in an hydrogen bomb-age without detracting from our defensive position. Secondly, the Minister of Housing and Local Government has just given a new freedom for people to build houses put-side the sphere of rent control. All kinds of large-size building will be permitted. I should have thought that a far more urgent priority should have been given to schools rather than to this relaxation which is designed specifically for the benefit of one section of the community.
They are two main points. In addition, some of the reliefs in Income Tax granted to the more wealthy sections of the population in the Budget before the last one could have been used for education. The problem is that the party opposite say, "This is all very well; we agree with you; it is most desirable that these black spots should be wiped out, but can we afford it? Is this the time to do it? Is this the time to go ahead and to spend money when we need it for many other purposes? "
The answer is that we cannot afford not to do the work now. We cannot continue to tolerate in education a position in which equality of opportunity for the advancement of our children is denied. If education is lost to any child today during its school life, there is no opportunity in future for the child to make up for what he has lost.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
Most of us would approve of much of what was said by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd), but I was sorry 1523 that a person of such enlightened views on educational matters should appear to approve in principle that monstrosity, the comprehensive school. I can think of nothing more calculated to depreciate standards in education than some such large sausage-machine covering the whole field of education.
§ Mr. Swingler
When the hon. Gentleman makes such a statement about comprehensive schools, I take it that he suggests that they are larger than others. If so, he should get a ticket to Douglas in the Isle of Man where he will see a comprehensive school of normal size.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
It seems that the hon. Gentleman has very little knowledge of the subject. In Scotland we have an Advisory Council on Education which is composed not of Socialists but of men and women whose chief interest is education. I advise the hon. Member to read their Report on secondary education published only a few years ago. It came out wholeheartedly in favour of the comprehensive school. I also advise the hon. Gentleman to visit some schools in Scotland where for a generation we have had comprehensive schools of normal size.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
Has the hon. Gentleman considered the size of the Manchester Grammar School?
§ Mr. Gower
In response to that intervention by a person whose views on this issue we all treat with respect, I would say that it is neither too large nor too small. It is probably for that reason that Manchester Grammar School has been 1524 such a wonderful institution of learning. Moreover, it is not a comprehensive school.
We were tremendously impressed by the manner in which the debate was initiated by the hon. Member for Itchen (Mr. Morley) who was capably supported by the hon. Member for Test (Dr. King). Both hon. Gentlemen presented this great issue in what was from a party point of view almost a non-controversial manner. Later speakers have indulged in the quite legitimate exercise of blaming each other. Some hon. Members suggested that the present Minister and her Department have been responsible for the unjustifiable failure to erect a sufficient number of schools, while a number of my hon. Friends have responded by arguing that the previous Government were equally to blame for the way in which they tackled the problem of school building.
I am one who has been most impressed by the performance in school building of both the Labour Government and the present Administration. I have an intimate knowledge of only two major local government areas, the county of Glamorgan and the city of Cardiff. In both areas I have been tremendously impressed by the large variety, size and excellence of the school buildings which have been put up since the last war. I have seen a large number of them, including primary, grammar and secondary modern schools. Often they have taken my breath away by the beauty of design, by the forward-looking, modernistic manner of their design and by their provision for all kinds of activities in school life. Some of the schools appear quite fantastic in the light of what we accepted as normal before the war.
At the same time, it must be confessed that our educational standards have not increased similarly. The provision of spacious schools is not always synonomous with better education. Indeed, some of the older public schools have nothing like the same provision of spacious buildings and they have owed far more to other things which cannot be esteemed in money or materials. I did not have the good fortune to go to a public school, and I cannot speak from personal knowledge, but my experience has been that many of the best attributes of our own grammar school system were copied from the old public schools.
1525 I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, South (Mr. Maude) that the provision of teachers is far more important than the provision of buildings. We in Cardiff are particularly proud that the president of the National Union of Teachers this year is a Mr. Frederick Evans of our own city, who said in one part of his presidential address—and I paraphrase his remarks—that he would rather have his child in a class of 15 in a barn than in a class of 50 in a palace. That statement should be noted by the mover and seconder of this Motion, since Mr. Evans realised the greater importance of an ample provision of well-qualified teachers.
If we have to make any choice within our existing resources, I believe that it should be for greater provision for the salaries of school teachers. I agree with the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) that there seems to be a case for examining the financing of the salaries of school teachers in order to see whether a greater proportion should not be borne by the Treasury, instead of the present proportions fixed between the Treasury and the local rates.
Of course that is open to the objection expressed in a recent article that more people pay rates than taxes. I do not know whether that is true. Certainly many people pay rates who do not pay taxes but, on the face of it, there is a case for re-examining the method of payment. I may be a heretic on this side of the House, but I feel there is a case for better remuneration for the teaching profession and I would be generous in that respect, if necessary at the expense of some of our school buildings.
In that latter connection I can quote two examples of which I have personal knowledge. One was a case which occurred in my own home city, where some £15,000 was devoted to the clearing of a playing pitch. This appeared to me to be a rather large sum of money for that purpose. The other case, in Cardiff, was a proposal to provide a boathouse for a school which was situated on the river Ely. That proposal was only narrowly defeated. The school in question was not a grammar school but one 1526 for younger children, and it seemed to me to be an extravagant proposal. A boathouse might be desirable in certain circumstances but, in the setting of our present problem, it was too extravagant.
It is my impression that the educational standard in this country since the war is better than the pre-war system only in one respect, that more people now have the opportunity to receive a grammar school education. We are all delighted about that, but I have an uneasy feeling that the general standard of education is lower than before the war. I do not know the reason, but I am afraid that successive Ministers have been controlled by the people who indulge in various forms of psychological tests rather than by educationalists.
Only last week I read one strange general knowledge test which appalled me. The children were asked to say which of the words given were drinks. The words were sack, arak and slivovice. I do not see how the knowledge of whether one of these items was a drink or not could help a child in its education. Another such test asked the children what was played at the following—Drury Lane, Newlands—which is a sports ground in South Africa—and Wembley. A small child who had watched television or listened to the radio might know the answers, but another child, with a far better mind and far more suited for higher education, might not know the answers.
It seems to me that the Minister should consider whether those who set such wonderful tests have not run away with our educational system, and whether we should not take the advice of those learned in education rather than those who want facile minds and not necessarily learned ones.
We recognise the validity of much that was said by the mover and seconder of this Motion but, as regards school building, I feel we have done far better under both Governments than the two hon. Gentlemen implied. I recognise that some of our village and country schools need radical improvement, but in many of our great cities tremendous progress has been made. Yet we have not done nearly so well in the recruitment of teachers and, although we have improved the quantity, I am not sure that we now have the quality which we had in the days when many of us went from the elementary 1527 schools to the grammar schools and subsequently to the universities.
For instance, if I had failed the scholarship entry examination I could have had two or three more chances, and I could have taken the examination for the university three or four times in succession had I wish to do so. Also I could have stayed in the grammar school for years and earned almost enough money by awards in scholarships to pay my way in the university. Today, however, there is greater worry in the homes of parents who are concerned about the education of their children. I have spoken to constituents of mine whose one great worry was whether their children would pass the entry examination which is often more easily passed by some child giving a slick performance.
I have mentioned some ways in which we can improve our educational system more than by spending money on the building of schools, and in conclusion I urge that we should pay great attention to the paramount problem of recruiting teachers.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Mr. W. T. Williams (Hammersmith, South)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) will forgive me if I do not follow him through the interesting rambling byways of education, anecdotes about Cardiff and unsubstantiated assertions about comprehensive schools. I have followed this debate from its beginning with somewhat mixed feelings. My feelings were mixed between pride and interest in the way in which my hon. Friends the Members for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley) and Southampton, Test (Dr. King) introduced the Amendment to the House and a feeling, bordering sometimes on despair, at the way in which hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House have approached the problem of our educational system.
I sympathise with the Minister, situated as she is at this moment in charge of a Department about which all educationists are agreed is a tremendous tangle. The entire system of British education is in the melting pot, and the conflict that goes on between people who are interested in all aspects of our educational system must be a constant headache for the Minister. But, whatever the ultimate shape of British education, there can be no doubt 1528 that the future of this system is a dark one unless we can tackle immediately some problems about which hon. Gentlemen opposite, if I may say so without patronage, reveal far too great a sense of complacency.
The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) ended his speech by saying that the whole set-up was so full of problems and was so beset by political difficulties that there was really nothing very much that could be done about it, but that, somehow or other, the British animal would muddle his way through this as he had muddled his way through everything else. Yet this problem of the overcrowding of classes, and particularly in primary schools, is so serious that it can quite literally bedevil all the attempts that are being made at other levels to strengthen and improve our educational system.
The attempts that are being made by local education authorities and by the Government, and the attempts that have been made by past Governments, to create a system of education of which we might well be proud can quite easily be destroyed at this hurdle of primary schools in which teachers have to try to teach classes of 40, 50 and, in some extreme cases, 60 children in a class.
I remember being waited upon only recently in my own constituency by a deputation of school teachers, the leader of whom said that she personally was very glad of the fact that, after the coming holiday, she was to be married and leave teaching, because, she said, almost every day she went into her class, she found a new pupil there. The time would soon come, she said, when she would have to climb through the window to get into her classroom.
It is a commonplace that teachers will now tell one in conversation that any attempt at creative teaching is impossible in a class, because the teacher's time is taken up almost entirely in keeping order in classes far too big for their purpose which are held in classrooms which were never intended to accommodate that number of children—and this is in London, not in a remote part of the country.
The sheer physical task of keeping order in such circumstances makes anything in the nature of creative education almost an impossibility, but the House has recognised this afternoon, quite 1529 properly, and on both sides, that this overcrowding of classrooms and the large number of pupils per teacher is not a disease itself but a symptom of a disease which is more underlying.
It has seemed to me, as I have listened to the debate today, that all of us have been much more concerned about palliatives than about curing the disease. We have had an extremely interesting discussion, to which both sides of the House have contributed, and I thought that the speech of the hon. Member for Baling, South (Mr. Maude) was a sincere and serious effort to try to solve what is the immediate problem with which educationists and the Government are faced in trying to meet the situation of the overcrowded classes, and that is the supply of teachers.
In spite of the fact that during the last year or so, the recruitment of teachers has improved, for the first time since the war, and of the fact that training colleges are now full, the recruiting position remains parlous. The wastage is still greater each year than the level at which the training colleges are turning out teachers, and still remains at 3,000 a year. [HON. MEMBERS. "No."] If my figures are wrong, I am open to correction, but is it not the case that last year the increase was 5,900 and the wastage 8,000? [An HON. MEMBER "Net."] It is still true, even if the net increase is over 5,000, that we are facing a situation in which the rate at which teachers are now being supplied will not be sufficient to reduce the size of the classes as they exist today.
If the number of classes were increased, or if the number of children in the classes was decreased, the problem would then immediately open out, but the complacency about which I am complaining is the complacency which faces a situation like this and visualises that, perhaps for the next five or even 10 years, classes in which there are 40 children and, in some cases, over 40, are normal and have to be tolerated. In that situation, hon. Members on both sides have suggested that we might tackle the problem by dealing with the questions of status, of salaries and conditions of work for teachers. Some useful suggestions have been made, and I hope that the Government have taken careful note of them.
I thought the hon. Member for Haling, South was a little unfair to the National 1530 Union of Teachers when he suggested that the N.U.T. was concerned about itself as a trade union and as a bargaining association in the attempt which it was making to increase teachers' salaries. It is, of course, true, and I am quite sure that the Government recognise it, that the question of salary is not an isolated question, but one which is closely bound up with that of status.
One of the great difficulties with which the N.U.T. and all educationists are faced arises from the fact that men and women who go through a course of discipline and training in long periods at school and colleges can get, at the age when they begin to earn, very much more money in other careers than they can obtain in the teaching profession, and, from the long-term point of view, they can get very much higher salaries if they have university and collegiate training.
I hope that the Government will not be persuaded by arguments, which seem to me to be specious, that this question of salary and status is a purely trade union question. If the Government are satisfied with the present rates of salaries, it is bound to follow that people who have the ability to go through the strict training and mental discipline will find a means of earning larger sums of money than they would earn as teachers if teachers' salary rates are to be left as they are.
It is also true that the conditions of work of many teachers in many parts of the country are still a scandal. Here, without wanting to make a specific party issue, it would be foolish to fail to recognise that, at this point, politics must and does play an important part. We have already had suggestions from both sides of the House which are purely political in their content, and it is the case—and it cannot really be denied—that one of the reasons why school building has lagged behind and why schools remain in existence although they have been on the black list for 40 years or more is because 300,000 houses a year was a good election cry. It is the case that school building has suffered because of the increase in the number of houses built.
§ Mr. K. Thompson
That is a very sweeping general statement. Would the hon. Member be good enough to tell us where school building has suffered as the 1531 result of house building? Can be give us specific examples to support that contention?
§ Mr. Williams
I am sorry, but I cannot do that. It seems to me to be self-evident, and we have had the example of one hon. and gallant Member who made use of an illustration concerning a certain district in which the number of people employed on school building was reduced from seven to five and then to three.
§ Commander Maitland
I was quoting from the evidence given before the Estimates Committee. It is a fact that, when this Government came into power, there were so many schools under construction that the number of people employed upon them was very small, and it was absolutely necessary to impose a moratorium in order to finish what had been started and do the job properly. I was not supporting the hon. Member in his argument.
§ Mr. Williams
I was not seeking support from the hon. and gallant Gentleman for the point that was being made. My argument remains valid. In fact, people were taken from school building and employed in house building.
It is relevant to point out that the issue is party-political. Hon. Members on the Government side have made use of the fact that one reason why it is impossible to tackle the question of teachers' salaries is that it is a bad election cry, because an increase in teachers' salaries would have to come out of the rates. Many other defects in the administration of education cannot be tackled because of the possible repercussion upon the rates.
In the face of that situation, in particular with regard to blacklisted schools, the important political fact comes out that although a committee of this House made a report, the Minister of Education, instead of facing its challenge, went on the defensive. In those circumstances merely to offer as a solution of the problems of the supply and wastage of teachers better grants to teachers and students, easier transfer from modern secondary schools to grammar schools and the correction of some of the wastage by the use of married women teachers, is to do no more than underline the basic problem with which I am now concerned.
1532 If by implementing all those suggestions we could find all the teachers that are wanted, remedy the wastage, decrease the number of pupils per class and increase the number of classes, we would have so many teachers that we would not know how to use them. They would not fit into the present educational set-up, and they would not even go into the schools. We are told that £30 per head is now spent on a child in a primary school, and that it is below the level at which we ought to be spending because the figure should be £37.
If we had had all the teachers we required and were able to alter our educational set-up to accommodate them, the cost of education would rise phenomenally above the present level. My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen said that the increase would be £100 million a year, but the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) said we had to recognise there was a very definite limit to the amount we could afford on education at any time in the foreseeable future.
This remark touches the crux of the tremendously important problem that we face. The truth is that our priorities are wrong. If we were all convinced that we should give our children the highest possible standard of education, we could find the teachers, the buildings and the money. The reason why we cannot find them is that we live in the kind of society—world society, and not peculiar to this country—in which we rob our children of their educational heritage because we are spending money preparing for a future which may rob them of their lives.
The hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle asked where we were to get the money to pay for increases in education, and said he was entitled to an answer. Of course he is. Speaking only for myself—although I believe I speak for many other hon. Members on this side of the House—I would without hesitation, if I were Chancellor of the Exchequer—I grant that that is a remote possibility—divert £100 million from defence expenditure to education. I would not by taking that money destroy the defence programme, but by not taking it I might easily destroy the educational future of our children. The principle of priority in education must be that it is a cardinal pre-requisite of any democracy that it has an adult electorate.
1533 We can only make adults by giving people the education that fits them to meet life, not as children, but as men and women. For that reason I welcome the Amendment, and hope the House will support it.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Thompson (Liverpool, Walton)
I shall not detain the House for very long, partly because I am not a teacher and only an indifferent scholar. I assure the hon. Member for Hammersmith, South (Mr. W. T. Williams) and his colleagues who spoke before him that, on this side of the House there is no complacency about education and about our overcrowded schools. We are aware of the problem and of the size of the problem, and of the effect on our society as a whole if those problems are not tackled in an imaginative and vigorous way.
At the same time, it is important that we should remind ourselves that although we stand here as a concentration of experience from the whole country, we sometimes allow our discussions to get a little remote from the practical application of solutions to recognised problems. For example, in the city of Liverpool, of which I represent one of the constituencies, there are schools that have been black-listed for 30 or 40 years. That is true of many other great cities. We have a large number of over-size and over-crowded classes, and bad and unsuitable school buildings, as have other cities. Great efforts are made to provide schools for our children in the housing estates on the perimeter of the city, where schools are being built. It is true that when those schools are opened they are almost at once overcrowded. I wonder whether that is necessarily a bad thing.
Before the war, a great housing estate was built in what is now my constituency. Some 15,000 houses were erected, and four great schools were provided for the children who came with their parents to live in those houses. The families consisted of two, three, or more children, and for 10 or 15 years those four schools were full, and even more than full. But they were not full by the time that the war came to an end. The children had grown up and had left the schools. We changed the status of the schools in order to make them fit to accommodate the older children.
1534 There came a time when two of the schools were practically empty because there were no children on the estate. I am not saying that such a situation will be repeated throughout the country at the present time, but we ought to be ready to learn the lesson of that kind of experience. Therefore, let us plan our schools in our housing estates on a basis which provides a reasonable satisfaction of the needs of today and which takes into account what will be the residual problems in 10, 20 or 30 years' time.
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether those schools are now full, and whether they were empty during the war owing to evacuation?
§ Mr. Thompson
I do not mean anything of the sort. To the extent that they are all full now, they are full because we have changed their status and the purposes which they fulfil. We have created infant and nursery schools and nursery classes specifically to cream off the children for that type of education in schools that were not being used for the purpose for which they were erected. One of them is now being used very largely for technical education which has nothing to do with the movement of population during the war.
Reference was made this afternoon to the fact that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary might be able to give us an assurance concerning what is going to happen to the Horsa huts. I am not a bit worried about what is going to happen to them. Indeed, I hope that as long as they are fit for use they will be kept in use where needed. It is perfectly true to say that it is better for a child to be educated in a class of 15 in a tent, barn or Horsa hut than for it to be educated in a class of 50 in a palace. We ought to be ready to adapt all the means at our disposal to provide teaching places for our children, whether in Horsa huts or in the less elaborate kind of school structures with which we ought to be satisfied today.
Now a word about the provision of teachers. I agree that, generally speaking, the teaching profession is not adequately paid. I agree that a very strong case can be made out for increasing the pay of teachers generally, but it would be very wrong if we imagined or allowed ourselves to be persuaded that there is 1535 a nice even quality among all the teachers in all the education authorities in the country. Some may not be worse than others, but certainly some are better than others, if I may put it that way in order to avoid offence.
Members of the teaching profession do not always present themselves to the public—who in the long run are their masters—in the way best calculated to enhance the esteem of the profession which they serve. How many of us have visions of long lines of children going from a school to a swimming bath, a play field or perhaps a philharmonic concert. The children themselves are turned out to the best degree of smartness that their parents can attain, while at their head or bringing up the rear marches a teacher —more often a man than a woman, I regret to say—who is anything but an elegant representative of the profession which he serves and who has taken little or no care with his personal presentation to the public before whom he is parading.
Nevertheless, generally speaking, I would agree that an increase in pay for members of the teaching profession can be supported. We have to remember that this is very largely a matter which has to be paid for and controlled by local education authorities. If there is one problem more than another which is depressing and besetting local authorities at the present time, it is the problem of the proportion which education expenditure now represents of the total rate income
In the city of Liverpool where our education expenditure this year is estimated to be about £7 million, the proportion of the rate income now committed for that purpose has risen from one-quarter in 1946 to one-third. That disregards all the other social service commitments of the city.
The suggestion has been made this afternon that the Exchequer should take responsibility for a greater proportion of the salaries of teachers, that their proportion should rise from 60 to 80 per cent, leaving the local authority to find 20 per cent, instead of 40 per cent. I do not know that I am prepared to accept that suggestion as a solution of the problem. Why should we—particularly those interested in the virility of local govern- 1536 ment—regard it as a solution to the problem that we should be prepared to accept a greater degree of grant payment from the central Exchequer whenever we run into financial difficulties?
However smooth may be the assurances which we receive from the Central Government to the effect that any increase in the payment of grant will not be accompanied by an increase in the authority demanded by the Ministries concerned, the truth is that over a period of years—and usually a short period of years—the one who pays the piper tends to call the tune. Accordingly, the standing and status of local authorities tend to be diminished until, in the end, they are in great danger of losing part of their effectiveness as an expression of our democracy. I hope that I have said enough to assure—
§ Mr. Thompson
I would have been out of order had I pursued the matter voluntarily, but having been led into the argument, perhaps I may be allowed to answer the hon. Gentleman. I believe that the time has come when the whole question of local authority finance must be examined at the highest level. The question of local authority re-organisation regarding finance, boundaries and responsibilities must, in my view, be tackled as a most urgent, if not the most urgent, problem of our society at the present time. If we do that, then we can solve this problem without any great difficulty.
I have said enough to indicate to the House that there are many on this side who are concerned about this problem and who are very anxious to see all methods tried in order to bring about an alleviation of the present difficulties and a solution of the specific problems mentioned in the Motion.
I think that the proposer and seconder of the Motion are to be congratulated on having introduced this subject today and on the temperateness, if I may say so, of their speeches in doing so. I assure the House that those of us who have any 1537 concern for education are anxious to see those matters tackled with vigour and imagination as soon as possible.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
I hope that the Minister of Education will not take the relative complacency of some hon. Members, or any lack of pressure or agitation in this debate as reflecting the attitude of the majority of the people in the country. I believe that my hon. Friends the Members for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley) and Southampton, Test (Dr. King) reflected in their speeches the attitude of the majority of our citizens who are more gravely concerned now than at any previous time about the state of our educational system.
There are more people really concerned about education today than there have ever been before. Quite recently the "Daily Mirror" produced for sale on the bookstalls a pamphlet entitled "Spotlight on Education." I am convinced that the "Daily Mirror" would not publish pamphlets on education unless it knew that a very powerful public opinion was seriously concerned about the state of the schools at this time.
At any rate, as I think the Minister will be aware, there is very great anxiety on the subject of the position of schools in Staffordshire. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, South (Mr. W. T. Williams) that this is very much a question of priorities, and my hon. Friends, when choosing an educational subject for today, got their priorities right when they cast the spotlight on the size of classes.
That is perhaps our focal problem. The promises embodied in the 1944 Education Act certainly cannot reach any kind of fulfilment unless we can reduce the size of the classes. Some reference has been made to the fact that some of the public schools do not possess such good buildings, but one feature common to public schools is that there we do not find classes of 50 to 60 pupils. That is a state of affairs we want to bring into the genuinely public schools of our educational system.
I believe that, first of all, it is a question of getting our national priorities right. We have to face the fact that to carry out what is embodied in this.
1538 Amendment we shall have to change the national scheme of priorities. Today, we are devoting only just over 2 per cent, of the national income to education. That is only a fractional percentage more than Britain devoted to education in 1938. As has been said, the expenditure per year on the education of a child in a primary school today is, in real terms, less than in 1938. It is now about £30 per child per annum compared with about £15 in 1938. Taking into account the change in the cost of living that has occurred over that period, the expenditure today ought to be £37 per child per annum to be the same, in real terms, as in 1938.
As I say, we are actually spending less in the primary schools than in 1938 in terms of real resources. I know many hon. Members on this side of the House believe that a Budget in which we devote £1,600 million to the Armed Forces and only £340 million to the education of the children represents a set of values which is upside down. Until we alter that state of affairs, and are prepared to devote more of the national resources to the children's education, we cannot achieve the purposes which lay behind the 1944 Education Act.
Two problems to which all Members have addressed themselves are those of increasing the size of the teaching profession and of enlarging the school building programme—having more teachers in ratio to the numbers to be taught, and also providing more room for them. Some hon. Members have devoted themselves exclusively to the supply of teachers, as if the problem of reducing the sizes of classes depended solely on increasing the number of teachers. With that view I profoundly disagree. If we managed now to increase the number of teachers by 40,000—which, arithmetically, would allow classes to be reduced to a maximum of 30 children each—we could not use half those teachers, because we have not even the barns to which the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) referred. He quoted a saying, with which I strongly agree, to the effect that it is better to have 15 children to teach in a barn than 50 to teach in a palace.
To carry that out, however, assumes that one has the barns. Some education authorities today have not even the 1539 barns. Teachers are teaching over-sized classes in the halls and corridors of schools, and in neighbouring church halls and their corridors—teaching in all kinds of buildings on which education committees have had to lay their hands. Any reduction in the size of classes means a great multiplication in their number, and to get the space to put them in we must have a great addition in the number of class rooms. That, obviously, cannot be done at all unless we have an increase in the number of teachers.
I agree with those hon. Members who have said that there is no single solution to achieve that great increase in recruitment to the teaching profession which is necessary and desirable. I certainly believe that an increase in teachers' pay is absolutely necessary as a means of attracting a greater number of recruits. When we consider the relationship between the remuneration of teachers and that of other people in professional capacities we cannot disagree on that point.
The first thing the Ministry of Education can do about that, of course, is to drop the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill. The first immediate step the Ministry can take is at any rate to desist from making a cut in teachers' salaries. If, in addition, we want largely to increase recruitment year by year so as to permit a reduction in the size of classes, then an increase in the salaries of teachers is absolutely necessary. Even so, I do not believe that that is the one, single solution, or the sole method of approach.
I believe that recruitment to the profession really depends on the amount of emphasis which this House, the Government and the nation as a whole give to the whole educational system; the amount of drive and enthusiasm which exists and the extent to which the nation as a whole is convinced that "We are determined to improve our educational system. We are determined to give our children better chances." That is the spirit which will attract greater numbers into the teaching profession, which should be our A.1 priority.
The hon. Member for Baling, South (Mr. Maude) raised the problem of the competing demands of different professions for those persons with a certain 1540 standard of secondary education, and the difficulties of the Ministry of Education in attracting a sufficient number of teachers because of those demands. We have to break this vicious circle of not being able to obtain a sufficient number of teachers because we have not a sufficiently high standard of education, and not being able to provide a sufficiently high standard of education because we have not a sufficient number of teachers. The only way to break that circle is by making the teaching profession more attractive than others. That is the only way to provide the higher standard of education which is necessary for recruitment to other professions, and that is why the Minister of Education should claim to have the first call on national resources.
I now want to deal with the school building programme, which is almost equally important, and I do not want merely to throw brickbats across the Floor of the House. The fault of the Labour Government lay in their not getting steam up quickly enough in their school building programme. The fault of the Conservative Government was that, having come into office when the previous Administration's school building programme was belatedly beginning to gather momentum, they cut down on it, so that in 1954 we have fewer schools under construction than we had in 1951.
There is no doubt that in the three years up to 1951 the school building programme was just beginning to gather momentum, and that local education authorities were going ahead with it. The three months' moratorium and the steps taken since have reduced the number of primary schools being built from roughly 880 in the autumn of 1951 to roughly 650 under construction now. It is undoubtedly partly due to that fact, in spite of any increasing rate of completions during that period—which I do not deny—that the numbers of oversized classes have increased.
The Ministry of Education has always underestimated the problem. Ever since she has been in office I have been trying to persuade the Minister that the Ministry of Education has consistently underestimated the amount of physical space required owing to the bulge in the size of the school population. The figure of 1,150,000 more school places, that were 1541 supposed to be required between 1945 and 1953, became almost a magical formula, but it did not relate to the facts. It was at least 200,000 places fewer than the minimum required, even on the calculations made by the Ministry.
I do not blame the present Minister for this; she took over miscalculations and inherited underestimates of the minimum numbers of school places that would be required during the vital period from 1945 to 1960. When the school building programme, based upon that underestimate, was interfered with just when it was beginning to gather momentum, it necessarily resulted in a worsening state of affairs in primary schools.
Anybody could take the point of view of the officer in Hertfordshire, to whom reference has been made today, that at different stages in the developing of a large building programme it is much easier, administratively, to call a halt and "tick over" for a period, digesting what one has, before one takes further steps forward. That has been the justification for the Minister's policy of reducing the number of schools under construction. It is said that that has enabled the authorities to complete the schools under construction more rapidly.
But the conclusion which I draw from the argument about alleged overloading in 1951 is that what was wrong was not that the programme was overloaded—it was not even sufficient for the number of children to be educated in schools—but that we had neither a sufficient building force nor the necessary amount of material resources behind the programme. What was required from the Government of that time was a preparedness to devote more resources to the school building programme. They were prepared to devote more of the national resources to a greater house building programme, but not to a greater school building programme. Thus, while the Ministry of Housing and Local Government was making tremendous efforts to enlarge the housebuilding programme, a moratorium was imposed upon the school building programme, and the number of schools under construction was reduced.
A grave responsibility must rest with those who took the decision, especially the Minister, to reduce the number of schools under construction, at a time when more schools were required. What 1542 we want now is a decision to reverse that process. The kernel of this debate lies in the fact that we cannot be satisfied to look beyond the peak of the bulge and say, complacently, "Well, there is bound to be some sort of a natural fall in the size of classes, because of the fall in the school population, and the whole thing will more or less shake down to a reasonable number of over-sized classes in a matter of 10, 15 or 20 years' time."
We should be saying, "Because of the exceptional pressure of the moment—the much bigger school population and the much greater demand for a higher standard of education—this is the time when more building resources and expenditure should be devoted to schools." If we succeed in doing that we can look forward to the time, in the 1960s, when the maximum size of class will be 40 or 30, which we have not a hope of being able to do at present.
I hope that my hon. Friend's Amendment will be pressed, and that by this debate we may be able to galvanise the Ministry into greater efforts to obtain a greater share of the national resources for education, both for the recruitment of more teachers and the building of more schools. Only by doing that can we offer anything constructive to future generations.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
Three excuses by hon. Members opposite for the Government not having done more about education have, I think, become more and more evident as the debate has continued. One is that because the proportion taken from the rates for education is going to be high we must do very little about increasing the number of teachers or increasing the number of new school buildings. The second is that it is difficult to get support for education among the rank and file of the people of the country.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) pointed out, those who make that statement miscalculate the feelings of the man in the street. Men and women with children at school are terribly anxious about the lack of provision at present in many parts of the country of adequate educational facilities for their children. I can assure hon. Members opposite who 1543 talk like that that one of the most popular subjects is the question of increasing the opportunities for the ordinary child to receive a full education.
The third excuse that has been made on two or three occasions is the standard of teachers. Hon. Members opposite have done a great dis-service to the recruitment of teachers today by trying to talk down the standard of teachers at the present time. It is important that we should make provision not only for the children in our schools today but for the next few years ahead for the increasing school population. The school population will need extra places, many more than were needed in 1946. In 1958, 2 million more places will be needed as compared with 1946; in 1965, 1¼ million more places will be required than in 1946. Those estimates take account only of the children up to 15 years of age, but surely in these days we should be looking ahead to the time when we ought to be able to provide enough places for children up to at least the age of 16.
One of the main reasons why many young people do not stay on in our grammar schools beyond even 15 is that their parents have great difficulty in keeping them there up to that age, and the only way to enable the children to stay on up to 17 or 18 is that of maintenance grants. That is important for the recruitment of teachers, but it is also important for the recruitment of scientists, doctors, and of people for the other professions. I would urge the Minister to do everything in her power to see that not maintenance grants only are paid but that adequate maintenance grants are paid to keep the children at school. As an ex-chairman of an education committee, I know many parents cannot face the possibility of keeping their children at school unless the maintenance grants are stepped up. Many used to come to see me about that difficulty.
Plenty has been said about the dropping of the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill. Teachers are incensed at the attitude of the Minister towards that Bill. It seems that, in spite of public opinion, and the expression of the teachers' views, and of their bitterness about the whole business, the Minister has made up her mind, having taken a stand, to maintain it despite all opposition.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
Order. The hon. Lady is not in order in discussing that Bill now.
§ Mrs. Slater
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. However, I would urge that the Minister considers again how the Bill affects the recruitment of teachers.
I am not being a feminist when I say that I think there ought to be equal pay for women teachers. One of the biggest shortages is that of women teachers, who do a job equal to that of the men in teaching in our schools. I suggest that the Minister talks to the Chancellor of the Exchequer about it. This is one instance at least where equal pay can be started.
We ought not to forget the relationship there is between the recruitment of teachers and the facilities we give to teachers. If a business man in industry employs a scientist or a key engineer he gives him the best laboratory, the best workroom, the best tools, so that he can do the best job for his employer. We spend a lot of money paying teachers, and boys and girls and their parents make sacrifices while the boys and girls are being trained to be teachers; and then we ask them to work in schools which, in many cases, are slum buildings. Do not let us forget that we still have far too many school buildings that ought not to be in existence today. Even in the new schools that we are building we ask the new recruits to work in overcrowded conditions, in classes in which it is impossible for them to apply the methods they were taught when they were being trained to be teachers.
In spite of what has been said by hon. Members opposite, we must remember that most of our dilapidated schools are in that condition because of Tory practice for many years before the war, when many local education committees were unable to do anything about their blacklisted schools because of Tory direction from the top and Tory domination of the local authorities. That legacy handed down to us today is the effect of past Tory policy and of the Tory Party's sense of values, in which education was held as of little matter.
The present Government, when they came to power in 1951, stopped the building of schools. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme said, they did so just at the time when the 1545 school building programme was beginning to get under way. Today local authorities are building new schools which should have been started in 1952. In the building programme for the coming year submitted by my own local authority are schools which were first submitted to the Minister in 1951, 1952 and 1953. We are now reaping the benefit of the policy which led to the stopping of school building just when it was getting under way. Indeed, in 1951 under the Tory Party policy one of the first economies was in education, both in buildings and expenditure, and it affected even adult education.
The overcrowding of our schools is worse on the new housing estates. That is because the bulge in the birth rate is most apparent on the new estates. In many cases only one school is being built where two at least are needed. I could quote examples from the building programme of my own local authority where a new school has been built and now permission is being sought to extend it because, failing the provision of another school, that is the only alternative. As has been said, even if we recruit all the teachers we need we shall have no place to put them unless the school building programme is increased. The recruitment of teachers and the building programme cannot be divorced because they are so closely interwoven.
A lot of Lip service is paid to the cause of education. We recollect how hon. Members opposite claimed with glee that the 1944 Act was their Act. At election time they paid lip service to the cause of education but their sincerity will be revealed by the way they tackle the problems which we have been, discussing. Today democracy is at the cross-roads. Great Britain has a tremendous opportunity to show the world the right and democratic way. We can do that only if we bring up men and women to think for themselves. We must provide opportunities for decent and adequate education under suitable conditions by teachers who are able to do their job. I appeal to hon. Members to support the Amendment and to see that its terms are implemented.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Evans (Lowestoft)
I intervene in this debate only because I have spent most of my life in schools. I suppose I am one of the few hon. Members 1546 of this House who was actually apprenticed to teaching. At the age of 15 I signed my indentures just as would an apprentice carpenter or plumber. That will give some indication of the status of teaching as a profession in my early days. I rarely intervene in an educational debate in these days because I feel that I am surrounded by so many experts and, therefore, I generally concentrate on fishing.
I wish to discuss the work among disabled children who come under the wider category of handicapped children and to pose some questions to the Minister. I propose to discuss the special schools which have been provided for those children to train them to take their place in society and in industry, and to lead a full and happy life. I have in mind particularly the blind and partially sighted children, those who are deaf or hard of hearing, the epileptics and the spastics. There is also an acute problem presented by those children suffering from multiple handicaps.
I know of the personal interest of the Minister in this matter. No one who has come in contact with this problem can fail to realise what a human problem it is, but the fact remains that there are administrative functions which may be undertaken, and which would provide us with even better and happier schools. I wish to ask the Minister whether she considers that her Department has given sufficient thought to the staffing standards of these schools, not only the numbers but the training of the teachers.
The problem of numbers is not so acute in the special schools as in the ordinary primary or elementary schools. I started teaching in a slum area in North London early in this century. I will not disclose the actual date. I was then responsible for a class of 90 boys and I received the magnificent reward of £80 per year. As I have often said on other occasions, that did not even amount to a "bob a nob."
As I say, the problem of numbers is not so acute in the special schools. During the years a realisation has grown up in the Ministry and among local authorities that these special types of children demand special training and above all individual training. I do not wish to bore the House with personal reminiscences, but we must realise that blind children cannot be taken in the 1547 mass. Each child must be trained as a unit. He must be made to realise that Braille dots have to be felt; that he is his own salvation; that he is the person to put himself in the position of being able to become a useful member of society.
The same thing applies to deaf children. That is probably the most basic and fundamental of all educational systems. In teaching a deaf child one starts with no conception of language as the ordinary person understands it. I remember an occasion when a headmaster friend of mine, who recently died, put a deaf baby into my arms and said, "Now you teach that child." I had to endeavour to make the child utter one fundamental sound and build up from that. In these cases there has to be individual teaching.
The standard of staffing is generous—one teacher to 10 children—and I call the attention of the Minister to this because she may be getting demands shortly to reduce that number. It is essential, if we want to bring children into the language and speech-using community, that we should build fundamentally on the mechanism of speech and the appreciation of language.
How are we to get these teachers? Fortunately, in the call for this service there is no questioning the vocational spirit of the teachers in the special schools. Through a long experience, I have rarely found a teacher recruited from the general body of teachers in the country who, having gone into this special work, has any desire to leave it. I know that there is much misuse of the word "vocation," but when teachers come into these special schools they acquire an outstanding feeling of responsibility to the child.
We also find that with spastics. One of the most tragic problems facing the educationists today is with regard to the method and facilities for dealing with spastics. I am glad that the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) is taking a special interest in this, and that in Wales they are developing spastic schools, which, I know, will have the sympathy of the Minister. But that means that the Ministry itself must give facilities for training. It must seek to call these people into this work of rescuing these children who may otherwise deteriorate
1548 into a condition in which they are regarded by the community as mental defectives. I hope that the Minister will exercise all her influence and power to see that deaf, blind and multi-handicapped children who cannot make use of ordinary speech shall not be condemned as mentally defective because we have not the trained personnel to ensure that they are properly classified.
Many of us, even as adults, have looked upon the deaf and dumb child as being daft. In law today I understand that the deaf mute is not responsible for disposing of his own property. Not so very long ago, in the so-called enlightened Victorian age, those people were treated as insane, with all the dreadful consequences that entailed. There is need for generous response and treatment by the Minister to that wonderful institution at Condover Hall, run by the Royal National Institute for the Blind, which takes cases not only of children suffering from a single handicap but from other disabilities. The loneliest people in the world are those who are deaf and blind. My friend Dr. Helen Keller, the well-known American deaf-blind person, is an example to the whole world of what can be achieved by taking these cases early, by recruiting the staff and giving them the incentives to do their job, with the reward which comes of its own accord.
We in this country have our own Helen Kellers, and I am proud to say that, although in my own school we had seven of these cases and did our best for them, there are now schools throughout the country dealing with these multi-handicapped cases which have made an impact on general educational thought, and which are an example to the teachers in the ordinary course of employment of the use of special techniques
I want to say a word about this question of technique. There is a great danger, when we deal with highly-specialised subjects like this, of thinking of the technique of the job as the ultimate aim of the teacher. I want the Minister to consider how far these teachers are removed from the general educational stream, so as to make them a class apart. I should have thought that one of the best methods would be to bring them back into the ordinary schools and allow them to relate their problems to the normal child.
1549 One of the great difficulties of a teacher in these schools is to appraise his own work. The standard by which he ought to appraise his work is by comparison with the normal child. Once a teacher gets into a special school, particularly a residential school, in which he gives his services both inside and outside the classroom, he becomes divorced from the rest of his colleagues and has very little chance of appraising the work he has done.
I remember the first time that I went to a deaf school. I saw a lovely little deaf girl, delightfully mannered, who could read well. I said to one of her mistresses. "What a pity it is she cannot speak." She said, "She is a beautiful speaker." Nothing was further from the truth. That lady had devoted the whole of her life to teaching in schools for deaf children and, compared with the other children in that school, she was a beautiful speaker. She could understand and knew the idiom and distortion of vowel sounds. It was a lovely accomplishment of her own, but not in comparison with normal children in the ordinary school or in family life. What a tragedy it is so many of our women teachers engaged in this work cannot develop their individuality and have their own children to compare with the problem child. It is essential that teachers should have an opportunity of appraising their work by reference to the normal child.
I should like to say a word about training. We shall never make a great success of these schools unless we can ensure recruitment and training. So far as I know, there is only one major university course for special school teachers, and that is at Manchester University. I should like the Minister to consider carefully how far there can be set up in this country, not only refresher courses, which, I concede, are admirably run by the Ministry, but more extensive training not only in the technicalities of this special work of dealing with the deaf, blind and spastics but in general training in dealing with, the psychological problems which arise.
This is a matter which is not large compared with the general development of education administration for which the local authorities and the central Government are responsible. The expense is but a fleabite. For that reason, if for 1550 no other, I urge the Minister to give this acute human problem all the help and all the encouragement of her resources in order to bring these children into the stream of normal life, to help them to employ their own faculties and to give them the opportunity of developing their own personalities.
Let us avoid the tendency, which prevails, of talking about them as classes. We talk about the blind, we talk about the deaf, the cripples and the spastics as if they were all the same. We want, more than anything, to have these classes so small that the individual child can develop his own personality and live to become a citizen in his own right. For that reason, I hope that the Minister will be good enough to bear in mind what I have said tonight.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Dryden Brook (Halifax)
Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans), I have never been a professional teacher; I have never had any connection with the teaching profession, but I have had long experience as a member of a local education authority. I thank my hon. Friend for what he said about provision for handicapped children, and I ask the Minister to bear in mind not only the staffing of the schools, but the provision of buildings in which the children can be taught. My own authority has for some years had on its programme a new school for handicapped children which has not yet been sanctioned by the right hon. Lady's Department.
The debate has been interesting, to some of us, at any rate, in showing the divided voice of Members of the party opposite. Comparing the speech by, for example, the hon. Member for Baling, South (Mr. Maude) with those made by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) and the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland), we get a deep and wide division among Members opposite as to the fundamental importance of education as part of our national life. The hon. Member for Devizes and the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle seemed, in part, to be providing an alibi for their own Ministry.
The question of reducing the size of classes, which is the object of the Amendment, divides itself into two parts: the 1551 provision of buildings, and the provision of teachers. I should like to devote a little time to both these problems. I said a moment ago that there were hon. Members opposite who seemed to be devoting their speeches almost entirely to providing an alibi for the right hon. Lady the Minister. They have tended to ask us on this side what we would have done. When we were in office, hon. Members opposite always said that it was not their responsibility; nor is it the responsibility of the Opposition. But let us look at the problem.
There is available in the country a certain amount of building labour and materials. These resources have to be allocated among the different requirements of the various sections of the community. It is the business of the Government of the day so to allocate those resources as to provide harmony of development among all these different sectors. The main sectors are the requirements of housing, education and industry. Now, we are beginning to see that in the allocation of materials, among the three different fields during the past two years that the Government have been in office there has not been harmony.
A little while ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his Budget speech, in which he had to offer inducements to industry to allocate part of its resources to capital development, which has been restricted in the last two years because the resources of the building industry have been devoted almost exclusively to the building of houses. In the same way, the building of schools has been restricted. It is a mistake to think that people do not realise that there is a relationship between the building of houses and the building of schools.
I was asked some time ago to speak at a new housing estate in my constituency. The burden of the protest that prompted my invitation was that the people had got new houses, but had no new schools to which to send their children. That must have been a common feature throughout the country where there are big new housing estates and a lag in school building to meet the demand.
What happened when the Government came into office? It has been said today that the moratorium in school building was a necessity. I am not so sure. The
1552 Minister has claimed over and over again that She has completed more schools than were completed under any period of the Labour Government. That is easily understood, because the right hon. Lady was able to cash in on the work that had been done by her predecessor. In reality, she was claiming credit which belonged to someone else who was no longer there to claim it for himself.
Undoubtedly, that meant an immediate increase in the number of schools completed. The right hon. Lady takes a short-term result—a popular result—instead of a long-term view. We are beginning now to feel the importance of the fact that the moratorium was put into existence two years ago. From now on, there will not be the same rate of completion as there was during the first year of the right hon. Lady's term of office. It would be difficult to revive the impetus that was then provided.
What did the operation of the moratorium mean? It was not merely that for the time being the right hon. Lady stopped the building of new schools. There was all the labour that was involved in making the preparations for building; there were the architects engaged in preparing plans for the new buildings. When the Minister introduced the moratorium, the local education authorities could not afford to keep in being the labour which had been devoted to the preparatory work and the skilled professional labour of the architects.
That labour had to be dispersed and has been absorbed into other sections of the building industry, and it will be difficult to get it together again. As a result, now, when what has so often been termed "the bulge" reaches its maximum, is the very moment when the completion of new schools will be on the decline or will be static. In reply to those Members of the party opposite who ask us what we would have done, we would have done what we actually did to begin building up the school programme on an increasing impetus from what it had been previously.
The second part of the problem—the supply of teachers—is more difficult than the supply of school buildings. No one today in any speech I have heard has faced up to its full significance and difficulty. The supply of teachers is bound up with the whole problem of the supply 1553 of labour since the war. The policy of full employment, which was inaugurated by the Labour Government in 1945, in itself produces many problems, and this is one of them. The shortage of personnel is not confined to the teaching profession. In almost every one of our major industries there is a cry for more labour, and so long as full employment continues that problem will continue to be with us.
But—and this is the important and significant fact—hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite can take no satisfaction from that, because, according to their philosophy, there is no solution to that problem. That problem can only be solved by inaugurating some method of planning. It cannot be solved by leaving each industry to find its own level, because under that kind of philosophy the inevitable result must be chaos.
I would ask hon. Members on both sides of the House to be aware of a solution which means a juggling of finances between the central Government and the local authorities. When the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) suggested that more finance in the hands of the central Government would give the Minister more power, I began to wonder what he meant by power. As a democrat and a believer in local government and that local government should have more power rather than less, I can only view with suspicion any ideas of short cuts of that character.
There may be some need for Ministerial direction to iron out some of the obvious discrepancies which exist at the present time, for example, in the provision of grammar school places in various parts of the country. But surely the answer to that problem can be best found in a re-emphasis of the kind of secondary education we want, and the kind of secondary education that we provide might also have an effect on the flow of people entering the teaching profession.
But if the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle meant that more real power should be given to the Minister to interfere in the work of the local education authorities in the local administration of education, then Members on both sides of the House would look at that with very grave disquiet.
1554 Finally, there was the statement by the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle that there was an absolute limit to the amount we can afford to spend on education. What is the significance of that statement? Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman mean that we have reached that limit now, or are even within sight of it? The amount which any society can afford to spend on education or on any other object is flexible. It must be related to the factor of whether that objective has any influence on productivity within the community. Looked at from that angle what emerges is not that we are spending too much on education, but whether we are spending enough.
Measured by the standards in other countries which are our keenest competitors in the industrial world, it is obvious that in technical education, in the higher branches of technology, in scientific education, in some respects in university education, and, indeed, in general education, we are not in advance of those countries but are lagging behind.
The problem which is postulated in this Amendment is not a mere academic problem, but one which cannot be pushed aside. It is one of the most dynamic problems that we are faced with today. Any Government which does not treat this as being of major importance will fail in their duty to the nation.
§ 8.25 p.m.
The Rev. Llywelyn Williams (Abertillery)
I share with my hon. Friends on this side of the House a very deep passion for anything that contributes to the educational advancement of our children. I should like to say here and now how very much moved I was this afternoon by the opening speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley) and Southampton, Test (Dr. King). It is very seldom that I have heard such great principles enunciated with such obvious knowledge and sincerity. I am proud to join forces with them in a plea to the Minister to regard our arguments as not made in any partisan, and certainly not in any party, spirit. They are arguments which we believe no nation can afford to regard lightly.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. D. Brook), I am not able to claim any right to speak on this subject with professional knowledge, but, like 1555 most other Members from South Wales, I have a dozen or two relatives who are in the teaching profession. It would be a very queer South Walesian who would not have a few teachers, a few rugby footballers and a few preachers forming some branch of the family tree.
I should like seriously to emphasise to the Minister the grave disquiet—and I speak to her in a very friendly spirit—and the unusual—and I use that word deliberately—disillusionment which are prevalent in the teaching profession today. I would not like to say that that can be traced to one issue, such as the issue referred to by some of my hon. Friends—the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill. I do not think it can be localised as directly and as concretely as that, but there is, nevertheless, a very serious measure of disquiet.
I respectfully suggest to the Minister that she must from now on—I am not saying that she has not tried very hard in the past, but she must try harder in the future—try to win over the members of the teaching profession to a belief that she is prepared to do absolutely everything in her power to raise the standards of education for the teaching profession and for the children.
I spent this week-end at the home of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. D. Thomas), who, unfortunately, has been absent from the House for many months because of illness. He has three children in the teaching profession. During the week-end the conversation naturally veered towards education, and I was surprised that these three young people, recently out of university, should feel so strongly, so deeply and, in some instances, so bitterly about some of the subjects which have been raised in the debate today. I beg the Minister to realise that if a further gulf is driven between her and so many members of the teaching profession, then the outlook for the educational advancement of our children is in many senses bleak.
Teachers are particularly bitter about the multiplication of duties which devolve upon them, and I think that that must have some effect on recruitment and must surely have some effect on the standard of teaching. I have a sister who is a headmistress and many relatives who are teachers. Surely they cannot be 1556 expected to give of their best as teachers if so much of their valuable time is frittered away on the supervision of meals, on the collection of money and so many other small administrative details which could be left to other servants of the community. I make that as a serious point about the morale of teachers.
The question which has been most discussed this afternoon is that of the size of classes. Of course, it should be said in fairness that there has not yet been any division of opinion between one side of the House and the other on the desirability of reducing the size of classes, if possible. I was appalled—indeed, so appalled that I began to query the correctness of the statistics—when I read the figures for illiteracy among the pupils who leave our secondary schools.
Why is it that in 1954 such a phenomenally high percentage of children leaving our secondary schools is unable to read the newspapers? The most they can hope to cope with are strip cartoons, which are very unhealthy symptoms of the times in which we live. I am very worried about this. Surely the reason must be that in a large classroom, as many hon. Members have emphasised, the teacher naturally concentrates on the brighter pupil, perhaps taking the line of least resistance—as we, politicians, tend to do. When we are speaking and we see an hon. Member opposite taking an intelligent interest in what we are saying, we concentrate upon him, whereas if we see other hon. Members listless and indifferent we turn a blind eye to them.
The teachers are, admittedly, in a difficult position, dealing with the inculcating of principles, the diffusing of knowledge, the winning of interest and the other facets linked with teaching; and it is, therefore, natural for the teacher to concentrate on the bright pupils, while the slow-minded pupils, the more lethargic, are often left to their own devices. That must be the explanation of why we have such a high percentage of children, even in our secondary schools at 15 years of age—in Britain in 1954—about to leave school and unable to read and, in many cases, unable to write.
I am sure that the Minister needs no further argument from me or from any other hon. Member to persuade her that, viewed in a large perspective, this is threatening. Britain cannot afford to carry 1557 the present percentage of illiteracy. In military circles, even, the illiterate soldier is a poor soldier in many senses. I beg the Minister to realise that in the welter of priorities which arise in the House these days—health one day, factories the next, roads the next, houses and schools the next, nothing can be more important than education.
Like many other Welsh people I am, fortunately, the heir to a wonderful tradition of preparedness on the part of my parents to sacrifice for the educational advancement of their children. I was brought up in a four-roomed cottage. The rent was 2s. 3d. per week, so one can imagine how palatial the residence was. My father, during my early years at least, was a poor man judged even by working-class standards, but that man believed that education was so vitally important that he was prepared to sacrifice and struggle to send three of his children to university.
I adjure the Minister, as representative of the Government, similarly to regard education in this welter of priorities. People could have told my father and people like him, "Look here, education is all right but you have not got this, that and the other, and you should have these things before you bother about educating your children." The same type of argument could be adduced now. In the short perspective, and, indeed, in the long one, nothing can be more vitally important than education.
I finish on this note. I have tried to keep clear of what one would call party controversial points. Like my hon. Friends the Members for Itchen and for Test, I am not castigating the Minister at all. I do not say that she is perfect or that one could not indulge in real criticism of some of her actions, but what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) was true despite the sneers and the ridicule of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
The Minister has to carry the unfortunate legacy of her predecessors. She cannot be held responsible for their misdemeanours and shortcomings in the 'twenties and 'thirties. Education is not something that one can think of in terms of one or two years. We have to take a larger perspective. In my final words, I adjure the Minister to think of 20, 30 or 40 years ahead, when, possibly, life
1558 for Britain will be a very grim struggle for survival; and, in view of that perspective, to do everything she can while she is in her important position to follow up the great ideals and the spirit expressed in the Amendment.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
The last hour or so has revealed just how important the question of education is to the party opposite. When the Government came into power we appreciated that education was insignificant, because there was no room in the Cabinet for the Minister of Education—she was relegated to a position of second importance. Ultimately, because of the outcry and the agitation, the Minister was given a seat in the Cabinet. At the beginning the Government revealed just what significance they attached to the question of universal education, and the latter part of this debate, when there has not been a single speaker from the Government benches, shows that either hon. Gentlemen opposite are disinterested or that they have no contribution to make and are disgusted with the administration of the present Minister.
There are some problems to which the Amendment refers at which I should like the Minister to look. I want to know how many children are still unable to find a place in a school at the age of five. It is strange that the law of the country says that a child must go to school at five and, if the parents fail to comply, they can be prosecuted. Yet the parents cannot prosecute those who make it impossible for them to observe the law, although it would be a good thing if they could do so.
This question of children who cannot find a place at five has other repercussions. Today every child under five gets cheap milk from the milk retailer but, once it becomes five, the cheap milk supplied to the home stops because the child is supposed to get it in school. If, however, there is not a place available for the child in a school, it not only loses the education it should be receiving, but is also denied the free milk which every child who is attending school is able to obtain. There are circumstances, not many but certainly a few, where this inability of the local education authority to find a place for the child at five is imposing great hardship on certain homes.
1559 Let us take the case of a child coming from a home where the father has been sick and unemployed for a long time. That child, if there was a place available for it, would get free dinners at school but, because there is no school place available, it does not get them. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will be able to assure us tonight that the number of children aged five and over, who should be going to school but are unable to do so because no school place is available, is decreasing.
Another matter which the Minister must face up to if the 1944 Education Act is to be a reality rather than a shadow, is that of the staffing in the junior and secondary modern schools. My friends in the educational sphere may disagree with me, but I have always thought it strange that we should have 50 children aged five in a class before they have been trained or disciplined whereas, at the other end of the scale, there are 15 bright and intelligent students in a class. I should have thought it was most necesary to have the smaller classes in the initial stages because that is where the groundwork is put in and the foundation is laid. The foundation cannot be laid under present circumstances. The number of children in the primary school classes is abnormal, and something ought to be done about it.
The same thing applies in the case of the modern secondary school. Let us take the case of the 11 plus and the child who has done well in the school examination. On the day of the 11-plus examination, whether from temperament or nervousness, the child does not make the grade, and therefore has to go to the modern secondary school. The fact that that child is going to a modern secondary school would not matter a great deal if the parents felt that it was going to have the same opportunity as far as amenities, small classes and all the other things are concerned, but until the Minister can provide the schools and the classes to give the child in the modern secondary school the same facilities which obtain in the grammar schools, all talk of being able to equate the modern secondary school with the grammar school will be so much moonshine and nonsense, and will not, in any circumstances, give any satisfaction to the parents.
1560 I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Rev. L1. Williams) that the real value of any society can be assessed and tested on the basis of the sacrifices which it is prepared to make for its children, and the real intentions of any Government can also be tested by the same principle. In my opinion, we shall always have these problems in the educational sphere until we get a Minister of Education who is prepared to be as courageous and tenacious as the Ministers who are responsible for the Services.
I can well imagine what happens at meetings of the Cabinet. The admiral will have his way, the chief of staff will have his way, the air marshal wall have his way, and the Minister of Education will be an "also ran." What we want is a Minister of Education who is prepared to fight for her service and her administration with the same vigour and determination as the Ministers in charge of the Services fight for theirs, because they seem to get all they want. The sky is the limit as far as they are concerned, and I wish that we could have some of that vigour and initiative shown by the Minister of Education.
Even if we had the school buildings and the facilities in general, we should still need the teachers, and how we are to get them is the chief problem. I close with this suggestion. Some day, our society is going to have real values, and, when that day comes, we shall pay teachers what we now pay generals, and we shall pay generals what we now pay teachers. When that day does come, debates of this kind will no longer be necessary.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Slater (Sedgefield)
This has been a very interesting debate, and I think that credit ought to go to my two hon. Friends who have been responsible for sponsoring it, but the interest shown from the Government side of the House has not been very complimentary, as is indicated by the vacant benches opposite at the moment.
I come from a county which claims to be one of the most progressive in this country, and which, as far as educational facilities are concerned, contends that it has as good an administrative staff as to be found anywhere else. But that staff is saddled with the same problems as are other people throughout the whole 1561 country in regard to the problem of overcrowding in our schools. The education committee in my county is most desirous that the large classes with which teachers have to contend, and in which they seek to give their best to the young life of the country, should be reduced.
As a past member of a local authority and governor of a grammar school before coming to this House, I sometimes wonder whether I have done right in seeking to put my daughter into the teaching profession. At the moment she is going to college. I listened when my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) was being taken to task by Government supporters for advocating a three-year period of tuition for the young people in colleges. If my information is correct, we are now seeking to compress into two years instruction which should take three years, and students complain that the necessary time to study is not being afforded them.
Young people who are prepared to accept the responsibility of becoming teachers are not receiving proper treatment in regard to the size of classes. No teacher can give satisfactory service in classes of the present size. When I was leaving school my teacher asked, "What are you going to do when you leave school?" I left on the Friday, and on the Monday I went down the pit, to spend 30 years down below. We have come a long way in education since that time. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) in saying that the Government should reduce expenditure in other Departments and spend more on education. Many young people with ability who would make very good teachers are not being given an opportunity, because their parents are not prepared to send them to college.
In some areas penalties are imposed if students are taken away from the grammar school before the age of 16. I had the unhappy experience of dealing with a case of a mother who did not want her daughter to remain until 16 but wanted to put her to work at a hairdresser's. The lack of incentive to young people to enter teaching is as great as in the case of nursing, and for both professions we advocate better facilities.
I hope that the Minister will now tell the House that the Government are willing to inject more capital into education. 1562 It is all very well for the Government to say that they have spent more money on education than we spent when in power, but the price of materials and wages have been going up since then. We endeavoured to make revolutionary changes. I hope that the size of classes can be reduced, and that teachers will be enabled to give the benefit of their qualifications to their pupils.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. W. G. Cove (Aberavon)
After 32 years in the House, I have come to the conclusion that this has been the most terribly depressing debate to which I have ever listened on the subject of education. Whatever the reason, there has been nothing but gloom from the Minister of Education on the whole of the education services. There is no feeling of enthusiasm or of progress; nothing but gloom emanates from the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry must face up to that fact.
There is no faith among the teachers or among education authorities. Indeed, there is little or no faith among all those interested in the service of education as now administered by the present Minister of Education. Look at the benches opposite. Nothing but inspissated gloom. It is ominous to me. Whatever might be said about the period of the Labour Administration, at least it had an increasing curve of interest in the education service. During the whole life of the Ministry of the late George Tomlinson we never had empty benches like we see opposite us tonight. Then there was never sceptical gloom, but enthusiasm and interest. That has gone under the administration of the present Minister, and I believe that, psychologically, that is a most important fact in the field of education at this time.
I do not know whether I am using the right word when I say that I am terrified about the prospects of education after what I have heard from and seen on the benches opposite today. There is obviously no hope of priority. We cannot have schools and house building at one and the same time. What that really means is that we are not going to have the schools that are necessary.
I could expatiate for some time on the importance of small classes. What is the Minister doing about providing smaller 1563 classes? What is her policy in relation to the filthy, rotten, lousy school buildings that still exist in this country? I know very well that such schools can be said to be a heritage of the past, but I want to know tonight what the Government will do to replace such schools. There are hundreds of them. What is the policy? What action is to be taken? I think we have a right to know what action is to be taken to reduce the size of classes.
In my view, the only way in which the public schools are better than the ordinary State schools is not in the buildings but, as one of my hon. Friends has said, in the size of the classes. The great advantage of the great public schools is to be found in the small number in each class. One teacher for every 13 pupils is the average. In the elementary State schools the average is one teacher for 30 children. It is in the size of the class that the advantage lies. All I want is to ask what the Minister is proposing to do to reduce the size of classes and provide the necessary school buildings.
I end by repeating that I have been in this House for 32 years. I have listened, I believe, to every education debate. Never have I had such a gloomy impression of the prospects of education as I have had tonight. It is for the right hon. Lady to remove that impression by drastic and immediate action.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham, East)
It is my task, at this stage, to put before the Parliamentary Secretary the substance and outline of the case which has led us on this side of the House to give our support to the Amendment so admirably and eloquently moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley).
Put quite briefly, the case is that in the size of classes we have a matter of very great gravity. In it we have a problem that, whatever measures we take, is likely to be with us for some considerable time. It is a question that not only requires immediate measures, but justifies measures of a kind whose effect will last for a great many years, because it cannot be solved—even if the Government did their very best—in a short time or merely by temporary measures.
1564 Further, our case is that the amount of building, the number of teachers and the amount of finance which the nation has so far devoted to this question has been inadequate. Hon. Members may please themselves whether they blame this Government or the preceding one the more for that. I say that the amount devoted, whether it is everyone's fault or nobody's fault has, in effect, been proved to be inadequate. When, earlier today, I considered what I was to say I had not intended to add what, in the light of what has happened, I now must. It appears that those whose political philosophy leads them to support the Government have failed totally to appreciate the gravity of this problem. That is demonstrated by the absence, apparently, of all save a few hon. Members who are prepared either to help their leaders with constructive suggestions, or, more contentiously but less constructively, to defend the Government's past record in this matter.
I say that because not only have we had so few speeches from the other side, but we have had hardly any constructive suggestions. I make an exception of the hon. Member for Ealing, South (Mr. Maude) who, at least, was trying to offer to the Government some means of approaching this matter. Every other suggestion from the other side was something which had already been suggested by my hon. Friends on this side.
That is the general situation. Let me develop a little what I mean about the gravity of the problem and the length of time it may be with us. I do not know that it is necessary to say a great deal about its gravity because anyone who listened to the speeches of my two hon. Friends the Members for the Southampton Divisions of Itchen (Mr. Morley) and Test (Dr. King) must have been made aware of that. I would ask hon. Members to cast their minds back to the subject matter of those speeches, and to their moving descriptions of overcrowded classes, unsuitable buildings, and the continual dog upon education which even the most gifted teachers have to meet.
If further proof of the gravity of the situation were needed we find that organs of opinion as varied as "The Times" and the "Daily Mirror" have both been inviting the Government to solve the problem of the size of classes by raising the school entry age from five to six. I 1565 am very glad that no hon. Member has put forward that suggestion tonight, but if we accepted the pessimistic arguments of the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) and the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) that would be the logical conclusion. I trust that the Parliamentary Secretary will give us a clear statement that the Government do not and will not entertain that solution of the problem.
If one wanted to argue the gravity of the situation any further, one need only say that no hon. Member would dream for a moment of allowing his children to be taught in a class of 50. We ought to regard that situation as quite intolerable. It could be excused for a time after the war, because we had so many other problems to deal with, but we ought not to tolerate it any longer.
While the cutting out of abuses, such as classes of 50, could be done comparatively speedily, the general problem of the size of classes will be a continuing and stubborn one, for the number of children to be taught does not reach its maximum for another four years—1958 is the peak year—and not until 1961 will the number of secondary school children reach its maximum. However speedily and resolutely the Government begin to tackle this problem they will still be struggling with it for a considerable time to come.
The dates which I have just mentioned are true only on the assumption that our calculations about the birth-rate are correct. In answer to a Question about figures given in the Government's Blue Book "Education in 1952," the right hon. Lady told the House, a little while ago, that the estimate of the number of children for the beginning of 1953 fell short by 11,000 of what it has proved to be in actual fact. That indicates what we might expect, that the reality may be more serious and difficult to deal with than what has so far been forecast.
If we set to work and provide more buildings and teachers to deal with this immediate and pressing problem we need never worry ourselves that, for any measureable period, we shall find that we have unnecessary buildings or teachers. However drastic the immediate measures we take we shall never have to say, as the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) seemed to think, that we have
1566 overestimated the problem. If we conquered the immediate problem of the size of classes in ordinary schools and, after a time, the birth-rate began to decline and there were fewer children to be taught, the resources and the teachers available would enable us to deal to some extent with the problem of those handicapped children whose case was pleaded so admirably by my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans).
I trust, also, that the prospect of raising the school-leaving age to 16, although it cannot be regarded as an immediate possibility, has not been completely forgotten, in view of the fact that the nation desires it. We need never worry that we shall over-calculate in our attempts to deal with this problem.
Our attempts must fall into two parts —those concerned with buildings and those concerned with teachers. It is the general and the right opinion that while both are important the provision of a sufficient number of teachers is the more important of the two, though, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) argued, we ought not to follow that chain of reasoning to the point where we suppose that the problem of building can be left to solve itself. So let me say first something about the problem of buildings.
I do not want to weary the House with too many figures, but here are two simple figures that, I think, bring the problem home. It was argued that if from the end of the war until the end of last year we could provide 1,150,000 plans we should be doing reasonably well. That was at one time the calculation. It was too modest an estimate. We got just about that, I see; to the end of February, 1,158,000. If we add to it the 180,000 we are told should be added by the beginning of next year we thus get a total by the beginning of next year of 1,350,000 places approximately.
We know, also, that the increase in the number of children between those dates is not 1,350,000, but at least 1,480,000. On any calculation we find that the number of places provided will be about 120,000 or 130,000 fewer than the increase in the number of children, and that is putting the calculation in its crudest, simplest and most optimistic form.
1567 The Government started their building policy after a period which has been described by a former and distinguished civil servant of great experience of education as a period unparalleled in our history for educational expansion. That was the period of administration of Ellen Wilkinson and George Tomlinson. This Government also started after a period during which very notable and valuable discoveries were made in the technique of school building, and the right hon. Lady has profited a great deal from what was learned about better and more economical ways of building a school during those years. Some of us sometimes wish she would acknowledge that fact a little more generously. However, I shall not pursue that, because I know that on this topic we are all, perhaps, inclined to go for one another a little more than the general public thinks is altogether seemly on a topic of this nature.
That was how the Government started on the matter, and it is well known that their first action was to impose the moratorium, the effects of which in a particular town were so graphically described by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater). The right hon. Lady, when we discussed this subject last July, argued that the moratorium had enabled the speedier finishing of about £3 million worth of educational building, and that, I am sure, since the right hon. Lady tells us so, is correct. What is also correct is that it delayed the starting of £20 million worth of educational building.
When one looks at the figures in the Monthly Digest of Statistics and compares the amount of educational building that has been finished since the war with the amount that has been begun, one finds that when the right hon. Lady took office the position was that the amount finished was about equal to the amount that had been begun two years previously. There appears to be about a two-year gap between the beginning and the end. If we look at the figures for the present time the position is substantially the same. The Government do not appear substantially to have speeded up the rate of educational building as a whole. It looks as if it was an injury to the educational programme that has not justified itself in the event.
1568 There would be no point in developing this or any other criticism of the Government unless one were prepared to suggest some ways hi which the Government could tackle this problem of the shortage of buildings. There have been references in the debate to the desirability of our having smaller classes in barns rather than large ones in palaces. I do not suppose we shall be driven to use barns, but I think the Government might be well advised to consider the desirability of erecting further temporary buildings in certain localities and of requisitioning buildings, if no other way of solving the problem arises.
The vital difference between the problem of buildings and the problem of teachers is that if it is really necessary we can make do with make-shift buildings, whereas we cannot, without injury to education, make do with makeshift teachers. Where it is necessary the Government should be willing to show the greatest ingenuity in securing any sort of building they can. As has been so rightly said, let them be as greedy as are some other Government Departments in getting hold of what is wanted for education.
We should hear a little more about the extent to which the Government will profit by the recommendations of the Select Committee on Estimates which we discussed last July, and which were then, I am sorry to say, dismissed so cavalierly. They were valuable recommendations, some concerned with the technicalities of building and some with administration, with the way in which a local authority ought to plan its work. I hope that tonight we shall hear a little more about what use the Government have made in practice of the advice given by that valuable Committee.
Several hon. Members opposite—with an identity of interest and emphasis which suggested that their speeches stemmed from the same brief—invited us to say from where were to come the resources and the money for extra educational building. Hon. Members opposite are a little behind the fair if they are demanding whether it is the policy of the Opposition that the Defence Estimates should be cut. They listened to the Budget speech, and they will know that that is now the policy of the Chancellor of the 1569 Exchequer. We hope, therefore, that the right hon. Lady will be on the spot to be one of the beneficiaries under that policy.
Surely if there is doubt about where the resources should come from, and if this matter is taken really seriously, one could say that every Department of Government which has a building programme ought to make a modest contribution towards the solution of this educational building problem. That is the way it could be done if the Government have a mind to do it, and it could be done without any serious injury to any one Government Department. We should treat this as an emergency and a necessary measure, as we treat the defence programme when the necessity is there.
I trust that we are to have an increase in productivity in this country. Even under this Government, productivity has risen—after recoverng from the jolt of the first year of the present Administration. One thing that the Government should be saying is that if there is any increased productivity, education should be allowed to benefit a little earlier than has been the case in the past.
Regarding the supply of teachers, at present we have a net increase in the profession of 5,400 a year—that, I think, was the last figure—which is a disquietingly smaller figure than those of the three preceding years. If we have an average of 5,000 a year for the next four years, although there will be a microscopic improvement in the pupil-teacher ratio, we shall not make any serious progress towards reducing the size of the classes.
My hon. Friend the Member for Itchen said we needed, not 20,000, but 40,000 more teachers, and he is quite right if we are to make a serious inroad into the problem. And if we are to make any inroad at all we have to have 30,000 more teachers in the next four years, which means an increased entry into the profession each year of about 50 per cent.
ow is that to be done? To begin with, one can well imagine certain minor but useful expedients, because this is a problem where we must look at every expedient, whether it is a small and temporary one or a major change of policy. Among the smaller but useful expedients, the Government and the local authorities must ask themselves whether they have put forward their best endeavours to get 1570 as part-time teachers those married women who, previously, were in the profession. Mention has been made particularly of science teachers. I think there are a number of women science graduates who could be recruited as part-time teachers.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us something about what is being done there. What is being done to encourage back into the profession people who, at any time and for any reason, have left it? What is being done to make sure that local authorities pursue a policy about the age of retirement of teachers that is in accord with the national interests at the present time?
When all these minor though useful expedients have been used, we are still up against the serious problem, which, I think, must have been within the Conservative Central Office brief and which we are constantly told of so frequently from the other side, that although 60 per cent, of the girls who pursue an academic course of education subsequently take up teaching, we shall probably not be able to increase that percentage.
What follows from that? Surely we must enlarge the reservoir from which that percentage is drawn—the number of girls and, indeed, boys who can pursue an academic course of education. That means a more generous consideration of maintenance grants to enable children to stay at school and pursue the more academic kinds of education after the statutory school-leaving age. It means more academic courses rather than more grammar school places. We have to give more people an opportunity of pursuing what we now call a grammar school course.
We know that under some local authorities 50 per cent, of the children can pursue such a course and in others less than 10 per cent. If one were modest one could say that a reasonable proportion is 30 per cent. If in every local authority area the proportion pursuing grammar school courses was 30 per cent., and if all those with lower figures than that reached that percentage, we should have a much greater reservoir from which to draw a greater supply of teachers.
That could be done partially by modifying the curriculum of the secondary modern school and by encouraging, rather than discouraging, those authorities 1571 interested in the comprehensive school, because the comprehensive school is the easier and wiser way of dealing with this problem than the attempt to tinker about with it as suggested by the hon. Member for Baling, South in his discussion of the problem of transferring from one type of school to another. It is unfortunate that at present, in view of these facts, the Minister should be embroiled in an unnecessary squabble with a great local authority on a comprehensive school issue.
In conclusion, I would say that we shall not get more teachers, as argued by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Ly me (Mr. Swingler), unless we increase the esteem in which the profession of teaching and the whole matter of education is held by the public. It was well-argued by the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle that all these things will cost more money and that we must make it clear to the public that if they want better education they must be prepared to pay for it. That is quite true.
That, again, means that we must raise in the public mind the value that is put on education. Who is to do that? Surely the Minister and her hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. It may be just their ill-luck that they are not associated in the public mind with a great endeavour to raise the public esteem in which education is held. The plain man, if asked, would associate the Minister with the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill, with the moratorium on building and with the squabble about comprehensive schools with the L.C.C. and the attempt to be parsimonious about adult education. That is to say, with a series of measures which discourage teachers, disorganise building, jar the relations between local authorities and the central Government, and tend to lower the esteem in which education is held by the public. That may be the Minister's ill-fortune.
The Parliamentary Secretary, who will be following me, has a great opportunity. We have all put before him, from both sides of the House, many items of policy, each by itself perhaps small, prosaic and mundane, but which, if he and the right hon. Lady will take and weave together into a policy to be consistently pursued over years, can not only 1572 combat the immediate problem of the size of the classes, but can show to the nation as a whole that here are a Government who believe in education.
If the right hon. Lady and her hon. Friend do that, they can be assured of the fullest support of not only my hon. Friend the Member for Itchen but of all of us, however critical we may have been sometimes of the policy which has been pursued. Let the hon. Gentleman do that. Let him say that he accepts the Amendment. Let him tell us in detail and with vigour what policy the Government are pursuing and that the difficulties and discouragements described by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) can be melted away and the nation can feel that it is moving towards a time when education does not only mean a few clever people at the top inventing hydrogen bombs, and by their cleverness threatening mankind, but a whole nation moving towards, not only cleverness, but wisdom.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Mr. Kenneth Pickthorn)
I am grateful for the tone and substance of this debate and of the speech just made by the hon. Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart). I thought that his last sentence was, perhaps, not quite fair to the people who invent hydrogen bombs, not all of whom are clever in the sense that the hon. Member apparently intended, and not all of whom fail to be clever and something else better as well. I can relieve the hon. Member's mind on one point straightaway. Every suggestion that has been made in the debate will certainly be considered with the fullest and, so fat as it is humanly possible, the most open-minded attention.
Incidentally, what the plain man would say about anyone here really is not evidence. It was the great Tory judges of Charles II's reign who founded British liberty, and they founded it mainly upon the principle that what the soldier says is not evidence. Moreover, there are very few of us, who have been here at all long, who really are to be bullied by being told what at any one moment, under the pressure of, no doubt, perfectly proper propaganda, is the view of any newspaper.
1573 When I am told that the thing has got so bad that even "The Times" and the "Daily Mirror" are interested in education and in overlarge classes, I am reminded that through all the ages one of the commonest characters has been the one who, devoting a long life to gallantry or even dissipation, takes to serious matters towards the end.
Justice has been done to us from the other side of the House in one respect. It has been generally agreed that there is no necessity to argue at any great length, or, indeed, at all about the gravity of this matter. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Fulham, East that he added to the things which are in common between us that this is a question not only of great gravity, but is a long-term question. The thing is not to be dealt with quickly. That we can take as common ground.
The hon. Member, quite properly, gave, I was going to say, an unsolicited testimonial, but that might seem facetious and in rather bad taste, as both his friends and ours are dead. He gave a testimonial, quite properly, to the two Socialist Ministers of the immediate postwar period. I would remind him that it was one of them who said that the making a reality of the 1944 Act would be a job for a generation, so that we need not take too seriously those who regard themselves as frustrated because the reforms have not been completed already.
There is one other point which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham, East mentioned, which is small in a sense and which I should like to clear up at the beginning because it happens to be near the top of my notes. That was about classes over 60. I have looked at the figures, and they are these. Of the primary classes there were, on our latest returns, about 12. Two of them are not really classes, for they were assembled only for registration. Eight of them were taught by more than one teacher, and two of them have been reduced since the figures were taken. So we may say there are none or nearly so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] On arithmetic that is so. The secondary classes over 50 have gone down in the last three years from 66 to 45, and now to 42. The largest of these are classes assembled for registration only.
I hope the House will forgive me if I try to go through what is more or less 1574 a connected argument, which I think will meet many, if not most, of the points which have been raised. I have not had the time during the debate, all of which I have listened to, to compose a speech— except as I can compose it on the Front Bench—and I think I would be likely to be most useful to the House if I were permitted to take a fairly straight run. No doubt I shall repeat some of the things that have been said, but I will do it as hastily as I can. Not all of my listeners here, however much they claim it on other occasions, will be able to claim tonight that they are being bored by repetition and nothing else.
However, I ought, before I go on, to mention one other matter. I have never had sufficient faith in myself or sufficient confidence in my importance or judgment to do what winding-up Ministers sometimes do: distribute alpha pluses and beta minuses here and there. But I think it would be inappropriate on this occasion not to say how much the whole House was both illumined and moved by the speech of the hon. Member for Itchen (Mr. Morley). I myself did not agree with everything that he said, and I think some of the things he said were dubious even from his own point of view. But before I come to him perhaps I might mention one or two plots. [HON. MEMBERS: "Plot?"] Yes, plot or plan. It is good Elizabethan usage.
The hon. Member for Itchen, who was joined by his hon. Friend the Member for Test (Dr. King), talked about failure to get more resources and more money than are now being got for education, a failure amounting to what he called, in a French accent which I cannot imitate, "La Trahison des Clercs." It is a long time since I read that book, and I am not willing to bet my immortal soul or any-thing else upon my memory of it, but I think he will find, if he looks at it again, that "La Trahison des Clercs" was particularly and exactly the weakness of the laymen of the upper ranges of the professionally intelligent in not saying to the other people those things which it was difficult and uncomfortable to say. It was intellectual courage and intellectual honesty which were lacking, and it was not the things which he indicated. We should all remember that, because if it happens it is the unforgivable thing. We are all apt to be included in that condemnation.
1575 I need not, I hope, go on arguing about the importance, the gravity, the long-term nature of the matter; I am sure I need not do so for those who have taken part in the debate. But it is perhaps worth while to remind them that we are looking at this problem not against the background of something which was once ever so much better. We are looking at it against the background of something which was never so good, if good be not a complacent word to use in this connection. We must remember that in days not so long ago the standard sizes for classes, so far from being 30 and 40, were 40 and 50.
I will not go back into all that except to this extent: people must get it into their heads that they cannot have it both ways with education. One cannot simultaneously take for granted that education is a very great good—we have had it put today even that it is the absolute good, which I am afraid is a heresy— and also take it that education is something which can be very much changed or very much improved very quickly. It is a matter of generations and not only a matter of years.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
That is less than one-third of a generation. Generations are generally reckoned to be three to the century, and 10 years is not a very large proportion even of one generation.
If the House wishes to apply an education plan to this matter, it must remember—and again I apologise to some hon. Members present—that there are special difficulties at this tune as well as the general and logical and ineluctable one to which hon. Members have referred. There are special difficulties, such as the rise in the number of school children from 5 million in 1946 to about 6J million in 1958. There is the shift of population because of new building. There is the fact that we are now building over 300,000 houses a year.
Incidentally, I must tell the hon. Member for Itchen that it will not quite do to say that in 1944 nobody guessed that there was going to be what is now rather horribly and inhumanly called a bulge in the population. People did guess that. I remember very well telling my old 1576 pupil who was in charge of the Bill which became the 1944 Act that when the war ended—although I was not excessively sympathetic to people who thought that because they had fought for their country therefore they were entitled to make claims upon it because it was the normal thing to do—the one thing which we should have to allow them was a brick box of their own to crawl into and get a child. It was not unpredictable that men would come back, would wish to return to their wives and wish to start or increase their families. There is nothing improper about saying that now, and there was nothing unpredictable about it then.
It is true that one primary class in three has more than 40 children. It is true that in January, 1953, which is the last figure we can get, the proportion of primary children in classes too large was more than 41 per cent.; but when one uses that in argument it should be remembered that there were in January, 1953, 250,000 more children than there were in 1938 and that, bad as the percentage is and much as everyone regrets it, it is rather more than 3 per cent, better than the pre-war proportion was, and not much worse than the percentage was in 1950. There were, in 1950, 500,000 fewer children than in 1953.
It is fair therefore not to blame my right hon. Friend, but to congratulate not only her but the local education authorities—because I agree with some one who reminded us that this is not a one-person job—that enough schools and teachers have been found to keep those figures from getting any worse.
It is true also—I am putting the worst first—that one secondary class in two has more than 30 children. In January, 1953, the proportion of children in classes larger than 30 was 57.7 per cent. Those proportions are not what anyone wants, but they are not either any excuse for desperation. They are over 5 per cent, better than pre-war, even though there were then 500,000 children fewer in the nearest equivalent to our present secondary schools. The proportion of 57.7 per cent, is over 4 per cent, better than in 1950, although by January, 1953, there were 75,000 more pupils than in 1950.
The size of secondary classes has been reduced perceptibly; I think that one 1577 may fairly say even considerably. The increase in the size of primary classes has been less serious than was feared, and certainly less serious than might have been feared. To do this it has been necessary not only to get a vastly increased number of buildings but also to get very largely increased numbers of teachers. It is important that people should stop to think how large the increase has had to be.
I quite agree with an hon. Gentleman opposite who said—and indeed in a sense, so far as the debate is a partisan debate and contains an element of censure, it is a complete answer to the censure from our side—that the number of teachers and completed new schools now in existence must be, very largely, attributed to our predecessors rather than to us. Both teachers and schools have taken quite a long time to produce.
In the Report of the National Advisory Council in 1951, it was estimated that 40,000 extra teachers would be required in the 10 years ending in 1960. I think that is right: it was estimated that 40,000 teachers would be required to provide for what I do not like to call the extra children—the additional children. An annual average increase of 5,100 would be needed during the first four years when the school population was expanding most rapidly. That estimate turned out to be too low, partly because a smaller proportion of children in the post-war world go to independent schools than before and partly because more children in maintained schools have been staying on beyond 15. So a better estimate than 5,100 to have made would have been 5,500.
What, in fact, has been produced? The Council's estimate was in any case intended to be accurate only within broad limits, but, taking the corrected estimate which I have just given the House of 5,500 teachers during the years 1950 to 1953, I think we may be fairly encouraged, without being accused of complacency, when we find that the actual figure during that period has been an average of over 6,000.
An hon. Gentleman opposite complained that although the average had been over 6,000 the figure had been going down. There is something in that, but I do not think there is enough in it to make half a brickbat to throw at 1578 us, because the reason why there is something in it is because of the ending of the emergency post-war training scheme. I think everybody agrees that that was inevitable, and I do not think that many people would agree with the hon. Gentleman who this afternoon suggested that we could restart such a scheme.
I will come back to teachers if there is time later, but I do not want to have the question of building left out, so I come now immediately to it. Since the war, except in some areas where the pressure of new housing has been greatest—and houses are always quicker to build than schools—there has been enough new school accommodation put up to deal with the increase in the school population. It does not get us any further to compare the figures of the increase in the school population with the figures of the total of places provided, because, of course, shifts in the population affect the matter just as much as do additional births.
However, the result of building policy —I think that what I am about to say is as quantitative as anyone can reasonably get—is that virtually all the 710,000 additional children since the beginning of 1950 have been accommodated. It is true that some of the accommodation is old and not what we could wish it to be and that some is improvised and makeshift. The hon. Gentleman begged us to have more improvised and makeshift accommodation if necessary, and I agree with him that if we get the teachers we must not allow the teaching to stop because of the want of a roof over their heads. In all the circumstances I think that the figure which I have just given to the House, if it had been given in any other country, would have been regarded as encouraging.
Now I come to the distribution of schools and teachers, because the distribution of them is almost as important as the gross number. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham, East again for his testimony—no, I am being over-grateful to him: it was another speaker on his side of the House who testified that the efforts being made to spread the supply of new schools and teachers in the right places were honest and fair, and had had a high degree of success and effectiveness.
1579 The school population cannot be spread evenly throughout the country, and there are many small classes which, from the point of view of the arithmetically best use of teachers, are uneconomic. But it is difficult to get new teachers and new schools into the right places at exactly the right time. The number of over-large classes might therefore increase substantially in areas where the population is growing, although the pupil teacher ratio in general and the provision of schools have been very encouraging.
These difficulties of distribution have been met in one or two special ways which, I think, I should explain to the House. One is by continuing the scheme of what is rather horribly called "rationing" women teachers, and that scheme has been very successful; that is to say, the number of areas in which there are far too few women, compared with other areas not very far away where there are women to spare, has been very much reduced, and that is a very great step forward in this connection. The number has been reduced in this way. Whereas, in 1948, the areas which could not fill their quotas were short by 3,208 teachers, and by 1950 that figure had risen to 5,909, yet by 1953 it had fallen to 2,316, and, for the first time, in 1953 the shortage areas were getting all the additional women and were drawing women away from other areas.
In regard to building resources, we have done our very best by reducing the amount of uncompleted work on the ground and by new methods of construction, and I was very glad that testimony should be paid to what has been done by the Ministry. I think that neither political party need break its neck trying to claim all the credit for that, because a great deal has been done by the local education authorities, the architects, the contractors and building workers at all levels, in learning by experience, in coordinating efforts and making out methods that could be agreed as a matter of principle. A great deal has also been done in the Ministry, and things are much better now than they otherwise would have been. I think that is certain, and I was glad to have some testimony to that effect from the other side.
The present Government decided, in order to speed up completions, on this 1580 famous business of the standstill, and that, to allow the completion of the 400,000 places under construction, the start of new building projects should be delayed. I had it in my notes originally that the result of that policy was—and then followed the figures which I am going to give the House. I have cross-examined as closely as I can everybody who knows about this, and, of course, nobody would wish to say that it was the result of the moratorium and nothing but the moratorium, because other things have happened since.
At any rate, after the moratorium and partly because of it, these improvements occurred, and nobody who has been through the figures and records of how and when these things happened would deny that the moratorium was the principal factor in the improvement. That is certain, and these are the figures: In 1951, schools completed, £25.3 million worth; in 1952, £35.1 million worth; and in 1953, £42.1 million worth. At that stage, having got the construction running at a tolerable rhythm, we began to start the work more quickly.
The figures in this respect are also beyond criticism. In 1951, £37.4 million of projects were approved; in 1952, £27.3 million, and in 1953, £41.4 million. We have more than caught up with the rate of starting which, when it was last reached, was choking the whole machine. In the financial years 1952–53 and 1953–54, we have had building programmes of more than £45 million, and so we shall in this year. Never before have building programmes as large as these happened in successive years.
I can say a little more about the supply of teachers. In the autumn of 1953 we achieved the best results yet, with 11,300 recruits to training colleges. The prospects for the autumn of 1954 are very good. The numbers of girls we have recruited are going up slightly. They can hardly be expected to go up more than slightly.
In general, Her Majesty's Government fully share the conviction that the quality of education is what matters and that the size of classes is the chief of the calculable factors. They are doing all they can in that respect. The proportion of children in over-size primary classes is 1581 slightly greater than in 1950, although there are now 500,000 children more than there were then. The proportion of over-size secondary classes is less than in 1950.