§ 3.34 p.m.
§ Miss Alice Bacon (Leeds, North-East)
The last education debate we had in the House took place about nine months ago, and on that occasion the supply of buildings and teachers was a leading feature of our discussion. They are still most important and most urgent and I shall say something about them today, although I shall devote the greater part of my speech to how we on this side of the Committee would like to see our education system develop over the next few years.
Since the last debate we have had a change of Minister, and the difference between the right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side (Dame Florence Horsbrugh) and the right hon. Gentleman the present Minister of Education might be summed up in this way: that on the few and rare occasions when the right hon. Lady had a crumb to give away, she gave away that crumb as if it were nothing at all; whereas, on the rare occasions when the right hon. Gentleman has had a crumb to give away, he has managed to give it away in the grand manner and has so dressed it up as to give it the appearance of a first-class meal.
Since the right hon. Gentleman became Minister he has issued Circular 283. This 769 circular makes it possible for rural reorganisation to take place, and also makes it possible for local authorities to spend more money on minor capital works. Both of these we pressed for last July in the education debate we had then. Both were long overdue. It is not clear how much money will be spent on these, but what is clear is that the amount is small in relation to the problem confronting us.
I want to say something about new buildings. It is difficult for us on this side of the Committee to assess what is going on, because both Ministers of Education have quoted "starts," "work in progress" or "work completed," according to the picture which they wished to present. I would remind the Committee of an Answer given on 29th March last to a Question put by one of my hon. Friends. It showed that on 1st February, 1953, 986 schools were under construction, that on 1st February, 1954, only 886 schools were under construction, and that on 1st February, 1955, the number under construction had fallen to 786.
On 31st March, in answer to another Question, the right hon. Gentleman said that the number of school places provided by new school building from 1945–55 was 1,348,000 and only 325,700 of these had been started since October, 1951, when the present Government came into office. If we look at the number of new schools, as distinct from the number of places provided, the information given by the Minister on the same day was that from 1945 to 1955 the number of new schools built was 2,395 and that work on only 582 of these had started after October, 1951.
As I have said, it is difficult to get a true picture because of the different things that are quoted—starts, completions and work in progress. The real test is whether or not the size of classes is increasing or decreasing, The greatest cause of dissatisfaction among parents and teachers alike is the size of classes, and particularly has this been so over the last few years in our primary schools and our infant and junior schools.
We have had no figures on this matter since the last Report of the Ministry in June or July last year, but that one showed that the number of pupils per teacher rose steadily over the last three years and that the number of over-large classes had also risen from 1951 to the 770 time of the last Report in 1954. It is estimated that 3 million out of the 6 million children in our schools are now being educated in classes which the Ministry itself considers too large, because we have a figure of 40 for primary schools and 30 for secondary schools, although half the children in our schools are in classes which exceed that number.
I have never known why we ever set 40 for primary school and 30 for secondary school classes, as we did in the regulations. I used to be a teacher. For six months of my teaching experience I taught in an infants' school, and during that time I knew what it was like to have to teach a class of 30, 40 or more infants. In anything that is suggested we might consider whether it would not be better to have smaller classes for the smaller children and perhaps slightly larger classes for the older children.
I should like to know whether the Minister can give us figures for the size of classes at the present time. Can he tell us whether the size of classes has been increasing or decreasing during the last year? We would like to know not only the teacher-pupil ratio but also the number of over-large classes that we have today.
The truth is that over the last year or two we have been feeling the effects of Circular 245, which was issued during the first three months of the Conservative Government's term of office and made building cuts. I am sure that if it had not been for that circular the position would have been much better. It is interesting to contrast the feverish activity of the Conservative Government in the last three months before the General Election with the cuts and economies which took place during the first three months of its period of office.
Over the last few years there has been more overcrowding in our primary schools than in our secondary schools. Over the next few years the pattern will change. According to the Minister's own figures, because of the "bulge," which resulted from the increased birth rate, moving out of the primary schools into the secondary schools, he estimates that by the end of 1959 there will be 400,000 fewer infants and juniors but 600,000 more children over 11 years of age in the schools. This means that there ought to be a consider- 771 able reduction in the size of classes in primary schools.
However, there are some disquieting reports that some primary schools are being closed because the numbers in them have fallen as a result of the "bulge" population moving from them into the secondary schools, and the children from them are being transferred to other schools. It is altogether wrong that that should be so. The Minister's predecessor took a very strong line in preventing certain grammar schools being closed, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take an equally strong line in preventing primary schools being closed when there is a fall in the number of children in them. I believe that we could now have much smaller classes in primary schools because of the movement of children into the secondary stage.
Because children are moving up from the primary to the secondary stage, it is clear that over the next few years the emphasis will be on the secondary stage and upon the provision of schools for children over 11 years of age, and the building of new secondary schools is a most important matter. It is at this time when we have to provide for so many more children at the secondary stage that a great deal of thought should be given to the form which our secondary education should take. I want to spend a little time discussing the subject.
There has grown up in this country a system which was never planned nor consciously approved, a system of an examination at 10 or 11 years of age and selection into different types of secondary schools, selection which, in most cases, determines the whole future of a child's life. Both sides of the Committee are aware of the defects of the system, such as the harmful effects in the junior schools, the wrong selection which inevitably takes place, and the question of late developers. I would say that it is not always the quick witted at examinations who benefit most from extended education. There are people of all shades of opinion in the country who know that the system is wrong, but where we differ is in how we would put it right. What should we do to deal with the problem?
It is less than a fortnight since I listened to the right hon. Gentleman make a speech to the National Union of 772 Teachers, at Scarborough, a speech devoted almost entirely to the problem of the form of our secondary education. I sat on the platform, as did a number of other hon. Members, behind the right hon. Gentleman. I listened very carefully to his speech and have re-read it on several occasions to try to get clear in my mind precisely what he meant. I must confess that it is rather puzzling. For instance, he began by making this assertion:Looking ahead, one sees the old distinction fading between the 'either you go to a grammar school' and the 'or you go somewhere else definitely inferior.' This 'either* made for sense in the days when, if you had no private fortune, you lived either by your brains, or by your hands; a pretty sharp distinction.The right hon. Gentleman went on:But now all is mixed up. The professor mends his car and his wife has no maid. Every year that passes more mothers are as expert with their babies as the professional nannies who, when I was in my pram, ebbed and flowed twice a day in Kensington Gardens. … In short, we are all coming closer together, in a sense we are all working-class now, and tomorrow we shall be able to enjoy a share of the culture and leisure which used to be the prerogative of the few.Apart from the fact that most mothers always looked after their own babies, I believe that this is an argument for mixing the children in our schools and not for segregation.
The right hon. Gentleman said in his speech—there is a summary of it in his own words—that he would like selection for all instead of what he called "selection for none." He says that he will allow local education authorities to provide for a range of only 15 to 25 per cent. for grammar school plus technical school places, that new technical schools will be approved where there is a very strong case, and that modern schools will be encouraged to develop extended courses and to strengthen their links with grammar schools. He says that, otherwise, he does not like transfers at 13, but feels that they should be arranged at 15 or 16, and he also says that comprehensive schools will be approved as an experiment when all the conditions are favourable and no damage is done to any school and no existing schools are swallowed up.
In other words, if the right hon. Gentleman carries out this policy, we shall have two tests, one at 11 and one at 15. As 773 I understand his policy, transfers at 13 will be frowned upon and some local education authorities may have to reduce the percentage of children that go to grammar schools. The policy which he outlined at the conference of the National Union of Teachers is infinitely worse than that which we have in operation at the present time.
What do we believe? On this side of the Committee we believe that separation at 11 is wrong. We believe that all children at 11 ought to proceed to one secondary school. They can be called comprehensive schools, but I do not mind admitting that I do not like the word and wish that we could find something else. But. at any rate, it is one secondary school where all the children would find their particular bent within that school.
It has always been a mystery to me as a teacher why this topic has been subject to party political warfare, because I believe that the educational grounds for comprehensive schools are absolutely overwhelming. The right hon. Gentleman, in the same speech at Scarborough, said:I am told I am expected to say something about the disreputable argument that comprehensives should be established everywhere because they are likely to breed recruits for one particular party.That was a statement which was absolutely unworthy. Recently, the Manchester City Council decided to go ahead with comprehensive schools. According to the "Manchester Evening Chronicle" of 7th April, one of the councillors described comprehensive schools asCommunist policy adopted by the Left wing of the Labour Party.That must be the first time I have been accused of being on the Left wing of the Labour Party, let alone adopting Communist policy.
However, it is very strange, if this be so, that this is the generally accepted system in the United States of America. I am not advocating their particular kind of school, but I am saying that the education of all children over 11 in the same type of school appears to work in America and in other countries. It is worth while noting that in the United States of America there are fewer private fee-paying schools than we have here. I believe that if we had no examination at 11, no selection at 11, and if parents knew 774 that their children could continue their schooling beyond the age of 15 according to their ability and the wishes of their parents, fewer parents would send their children to private fee-paying schools. The benefits of comprehensive schools are enormous. Every child will have a chance and, if not academic, can continue with several suitable courses.
I want to deal with only two of the chief objections that we often hear about these schools. The first is the size. People say that comprehensive schools are not good because they are too big. Comprehensive schools need not be too big. Certainly, some of the existing ones are not. I want to defend the big school. A big school gives children all the advantages. I know that it is said that the headmaster cannot possibly know all the children, and so on, but when I look back to my own school days I do not think of my own headmistress, but of particular class teachers, and I think that that is true of all of us.
It is not so much the size of the school that is important to the child; it is the size of the class that is important. It is much better for a child to be in a big school in a small class than in a small school in a big class. Apart from that, the greatest advantage of a big school is that a big school means a big staff and more specialist teachers with a greater variety of courses from which the children can choose. At Kidbrooke School there is a staff of 80 and that means that the children can choose from many specialist subjects.
A very interesting book called "Comprehensive Schools To-day," has been published recently by the Councils and Education Press Ltd. It was written by Dr. Robin Pedley, who is a lecturer at Leicester University. Dr. Pedley has been to all the comprehensive schools in the country. The book is a survey of what he found. Some of the schools have been improvised and are perhaps not quite so good as some of the newer and bigger ones. At Holyhead, in the Isle of Anglesey, he found:The range of subjects from which children can choose their studies far exceeds that available in most grammar schools; in the fifth year English, Welsh, French, German, Latin, history, geography, art, music, woodwork, metalwork, cookery, needlework, commercial subjects, plane and solid geometry, biology, general science; in the sixth form pre-nursing course, physiology, hygiene, science, and other 775 complementary subjects; in the arts sixth English, Welsh, French, German, Latin, history, geography, art, music (plus some science …): in the science sixth mathematics, physics, chemistry, engineering, botany, zoology.Holyhead Comprehensive School has 1,041 pupils and, as Dr. Pedley asked in his book, how many grammar schools can give the same courses as does the comprehensive school? I do not fear a big school, because it offers great opportunities.
The other criticism of comprehensive schools is that they mean a levelling down and that they keep back a bright boy or girl. If there is one thing that comes out clearly in Dr. Pedley's book, it is that, far from that being the case, far from there being a levelling down, there has been a considerable levelling up. Many children—and he gives the facts and figures—who would not have passed the examination at 11 did exceedingly well afterwards. At the Holyhead School, for example, three State scholarships and nine county major scholarships were gained in 1953, 45 advanced level passes, including four distinctions, were gained by 19 pupils in G.C.E. and 327 ordinary level passes were gained by 101 pupils.
I could give many more quotations from Dr. Pedley's book which prove that in every comprehensive school which he visited the number of children who got the G.C.E. was proportionately much greater than would have been the case—the 20 per cent.—which is normally accepted for grammar schools. I think I have quoted sufficient to show that there is no levelling down in these schools, but a great deal of levelling up.
The right hon. Gentleman has recently said that he differs from the education experts because he sees no prospect of enlarging the grammar school system to meet the needs of the scientific revolution. If he spoke to teachers in secondary modern schools who have been preparing children to take G.C.E. in those schools, he would modify that statement. Comprehensive schools are coming. The list of local authorities which are already building them, or which have built them, is very impressive. The Island of Anglesey is completely comprehensive, so is the Isle of Man. An hon. Member opposite smiles, but he should wait until I have finished my list. Such important authorities as London, the West Riding, 776 Staffordshire, Lancashire, Westmorland, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Coventry, Bristol and Stoke-on-Trent have either built or are building comprehensive schools. We believe that with a Labour Government these schools will come more quickly than with a Tory Government.
Do parents like comprehensive schools? I have in my hand a quotation which shows that they welcome them. As I said earlier, Manchester recently decided to go ahead with comprehensive schools on the Wythenshawe estate. The "Manchester Evening Chronicle" sent a reporter to the area where the schools are to be built. On 7th April the paper gave the results of a survey which it had conducted. The reporter asked 100 people this question, "Do you know what is meant by a comprehensive school?" Twenty-eight answered, "No," and 72 answered, "Yes."
Then the reporter, not a member of the Labour Party but a reporter, explained to those 100 people what comprehensive schools were and the idea behind them, and asked, "Having heard a broad outline of what they are, do you favour them?" One hundred people answered "Yes," and nobody answered, "No." [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite may laugh, but this was not a member of the Labour Party or anybody very much in favour of this type of school. It was a journalist from the "Manchester Evening Chronicle" and the result of the survey was published in that paper. These are the schools of the future. We need not have schools all of one type; there can be an infinite variety. We say that it is wrong to have selection at 11 and would like to see a movement towards the elimination of that system.
At the same time as we make it possible for more children to continue at school after the age of 15, we must do more than is being done today about maintenance allowances. For some time now we have been promised a statement by the Minister. Not only are maintenance allowances for boys and girls who remain at school after the age of 15 totally inadequate but the amounts allowed are very patchy in different parts of the country. Some authorities are generous, others are not so generous. We believe that the time has come to have increased maintenance grants on a national scale. There is a good case for 777 that national scale to be paid by the Government although administered by the local authority.
I turn to another important subject. There are two important parts of the 1944 Education Act which have not yet been put into operation—the raising of the school-leaving age to 16, and part-time day education for young people between the ages of 15 and 18. A great deal of the money spent on education is spent on the tuition and maintenance of those boys and girls over 15 who are in full-time attendance at schools, colleges and universities. There is some provision for young workers between the ages of 15 and 18, but it is of a voluntary nature, provided by youth clubs and evening classes.
This is all very good, but it is insufficient and it is voluntary. Youth clubs and evening classes touch only a few of our young people over 15. The amount of illiteracy among young people is greatly exaggerated, but we know that for many boys and girls there is a complete break at the age of 15 between school and work, with no further education of any kind.
We have considered the matter very carefully. We believe that more attention must be paid to the well-being and education of these young workers. They are working, they are producing and helping the national income, and they should have a greater share of what is spent on education. We have come to the conclusion that now is the time to start to prepare to put into operation that part of the Education Act which makes provision for the part-time day education of these young workers. The Government should enter into discussions with local education authorities to decide the best way in which to make a start. I stress that in conjunction with this we believe that more money could be expended by the Ministry of Education on playing fields so that young people of this age might enjoy the benefit of the games, and so on, which many of them left behind when they left school.
In all these reforms the teachers are of the utmost importance. We must produce more teachers and we must improve their status. We shall get more teachers through the comprehensive schools and the provision of better maintenance allowances which will encourage more children 778 to stay on at school. I hope that today the Minister will give me the statement which he promised he would give me if I put a Question on the Order Paper for next Thursday. I have been questioning him for some time about grants to intending teachers in training colleges. These are! very much below those grants to students in universities.
Better grants to intending teachers will result in a better supply of teachers. Our teachers are undervalued. We must raise their status. This can be done partly by salaries, which, of course, is a job for negotiation; but we must consider now the introduction of a three-year training period rather than a two-year period. All this will cost more money, and we on this side of the Committee believe that the country must afford more money for education. I know that the Minister will quote figures to show that we are spending much more money today, but in "Education" on 8th April, Dr. W. P. Alexander, in his "Week by Week" notes, said:There is no great satisfaction from the point of view of educational reform in merely recording an increased expenditure. What is to be noted is that the great part of the increase in the present estimates is not accountable for by reform, but merely by the increasing cost of maintaining the existing service.It is questionable whether, in real values, we are spending as much per child today as we were before the war. Education expenditure must be reviewed. Local authorities must either be given other sources of revenue or the grant formula must be revised. We would repeal the derating Act. This would give local authorities more money to spend on education. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, we agree on that; we have stated it quite definitely. It is much better that money should go to educating our children than to saving rates for the industrialists. This is a matter which must be discussed in the next year or two.
We desire to preserve the partnership between the Government and the local authorities in this matter. Local authorities are responsible for education but not completely autonomous. We want variety in our educational system. We want to keep our local interests and our local pride, but we believe that the differences between one local education authority and another are still much too 779 great. To a large extent geography still determines a child's chance in life.
We believe that the Ministry must use its powers to raise the standards. We on this side of the Committee do not want a national system of education from the Ministry of Education, but we do want a system of education based on national minimum standards.
§ Mr. Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)
The hon. Lady made a rather important statement on derating. Would she make it quite clear whether she is advocating the abolition of the derating for agriculture?
§ Miss Bacon
The hon. Gentleman must await our election manifesto.
To sum up, these are the things which we should like to see. First, a reduction in the size of classes; secondly, more teachers with a longer period of training, and a reasonable status for the teachers; thirdly, real secondary education for all with the abolition of selection at 11; fourthly, a start being made to provide part-time day education for young workers, and the provision of more playing fields; fifthly, the expansion of technical education, which, I understand, is a subject which one of my hon. Friends hopes to develop; sixthly, better maintenance grants and improved grants to intending teachers.
For the past three and a half years, the Conservative Government have done in education only what they have been pushed into doing by this side of the Committee, except, of course, that, just as they are doing something for old-age pensioners and retirement pensioners just before the Election, the right hon. Gentleman has issued Circular 283 a few weeks before the Election. Today, it is more necessary than ever that we should have a really well-educated democracy. Our lives are more complex and the decisions which have to be made are so great that it is necessary that we should see that the people of our country are properly educated. We believe that our policy, and only our policy, can achieve that.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ The Minister of Education (Sir David Eccles)
The Government are grateful to the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, North-East (Miss Bacon) and hon. 780 Gentlemen opposite for giving us Has opportunity to review progress in education. We entirely agree with the hon. Lady about its importance; indeed, the more often we can speak about it the better we are pleased.
There is one shadow over this debate. We all miss the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley). Although we have not always agreed with his views, he has been devoted in his attention to the education service and his courage in meeting his present illness has, I think, impressed us all. We are sorry that he is not with us today.
Since the war, the main thing that has happened in education is the expansion in the size of the service. I find it almost impossible to realise how great might have been the improvements in the standards of the service in the same period if there had not been this huge increase in the school population, and if Parliament and the local authorities had been willing to vote the same mounting sums of money for replacing slum schools and for carrying out other objects of the Education Act, 1944.
Suppose that no schools had been blitzed in the war and the number of schoolchildren had not jumped in eight years from 5 million to 6½ million. Just think what a clean sweep we could have made of all the old slum schools and the all-age schools in town and country, not to mention the provision of county colleges, nursery schools and other things of which the hon. Lady spoke. Neither the party opposite nor the Conservative Party have abandoned those necessary reforms.
The fact is that they have been delayed by 10 years through circumstances which the authors of the Education Act could not have foreseen. The result has been, as the Committee knows, that my predecessors at the Ministry of Education have had to put first the expansion in the size of the service to cope with the 1½ million extra children who reached school age between 1947 and 1955.
Hon. Members, naturally, hold different opinions about the speed and success with which the new places and the additional teachers have been found. If my memory serves me right, when in opposition one is dissatisfied with the progress made. When one is on this side of the Committee, Ministers appear, I hope, in a rather more favourable light.
781 When we came into office, the school-building programme was greatly overloaded and needed a good deal of sorting out to prevent very long delays in the completion of schools. No one can say exactly how many fewer schools would have been completed if we had not had a moratorium on starting dates. But judging from what I saw when I was at the Ministry of Works, where we had the same difficulties about steel and other things, the moratorium was painful while it lasted; but it did succeed in putting the building programme on an efficient basis.
The hon. Lady asked what has been happening about the size of classes. I will give her the best figures I can because I want to show exactly where we are. In spite of a 30 per cent. growth in the school population and very big movements in the population to the new housing estates in different parts of the country, resulting in an urgent need for new schools, the size of classes has risen from the lowest point by only 3 per cent. There has been a 30 per cent. increase in the school population and today the size of classes is 3 per cent. higher than the best it has been.
§ Sir D. Eccles
I shall have to get the exact figure, but the rise since then is certainly less than 3 per cent. I will ask the Parliamentary Secretary to get the figures for the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
It would be interesting if we could have the real figure of the size of classes, because a teacher does not teach on percentages; he teaches a number of boys and girls.
§ Sir D. Eccles
We have a large number of complicated statistics. I think it would be better if I did not read them out, but sent them to the right hon. Gentleman. He can then have all the information which we have got.
The point I was about to make was this. This was an enormously heavy burden. I found, when I got to the Ministry of Education, that if my right hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side (Dame Florence Horsbrugh) had not 782 really concentrated all her efforts on this building programme, the situation would have been far worse than it is now. When we consider that during my right hon. Friend's time in office the cost of providing secondary school places was reduced, so that we now get 4,000 places for every £1 million pounds spent against 2,800 before we came to office, we can see what would have happened if the post-war expenditure per place had been allowed to continue.
The late Mr. George Tomlinson started the reduction and economies, and I give him every credit for that. But we should have been far better off today if those economies had been put in hand before. As the hon. Lady said, I was able to bring out Circular 283 which relaxed restrictions on school building, but that was because the battle of numbers was within sight of victory. So long as that was not so, building had to be restricted to providing new schools where there was extra population. Now, under Circular 283, we can begin reorganisation in the rural areas, and we can say with confidence that the completion of new schools will no longer be a neck-and-neck race with the rise in the school population.
Year after year from now, the total number of school places will draw ahead of the number of school children. The Committee will, probably, not wish to hear many statistics; but the hon. Lady herself gave the essential figure, which is that in the next five years, infants and juniors will fall by 400,000 and seniors will rise by 600,000, so over the next five years there will be a net increase of 200,000 in the school population. Against this, if we continue to complete only the same number of school places as last year, that is, 200,000 a year, we shall get 1,000,000 new school places in the next five years, against a net increase in the population of 200,000.
Of course, we expect to do substantially better than last year. The cost of the extra building under Circular 283 is already known to be about £10 million for this year. The hon. Lady asked about minor works. The cost of those already known to us is £4 million more than last year. I shall say something more about that in a moment. These programmes will provide a substantial increase in the number of new places under construction in our current building programme.
783 I should like to say a word about county councils. Any hon. Member whose local education authority is a county council will find, on inquiry, that the works department is now at full stretch. There may be exceptions but, by and large, these county councils have on hand all the work they can now do. I am encouraging them to put out work to private architects, and they try to do so; but that cannot be done very quickly, and requires some supervision. I think it unrealistic to ask county councils to do more than they are now trying to do under Circular 283.
As further resources become available, and assuming that my right hon. Friends are returned at the Election, we shall push ahead with the replacement of the slum schools and the reorganisation of all-age schools in towns. That will certainly happen within the five years and, again, will yield an addition, as it gets going, to the million new places which one can foresee on the basis of the old programme.
The minor works side is one which interests me very much, because I believe that there are many improvements and extensions which can be done with the freedom to spend £10,000 a job which local authorities never thought of when they did not have that freedom. They are expanding their programmes very well. I do not like to pick out "star performers"—it is perhaps invidious to do so—but I have in mind, as examples, Birmingham, Sheffield and Staffordshire. All three of these authorities have a minor works programme this year which is double, and in one case considerably more than double, what they spent last year.
I pick them out because all three authorities are short of teachers and I think that this big increase in their minor works programme will encourage recruiting. There are many other authorities whose minor works programmes I might mention. The total of minor works has doubled, and I could pick out plenty of Conservative authorities as examples. I am concerned with Birmingham, Sheffield and Staffordshire, particularly because they are so short of teachers.
The Committee will see that even if we did not get more than the million new places in the next five years, there will be a substantial reduction in the size of classes. We have reached the point where 784 the expansion in the size of the education service can give way to improvements in the standard. Before long we shall have to consider the fascinating alternatives and the various directions for advance which were put to us by the hon. Lady.
First, ought we to go further in reducing the size of classes? I agree with the hon. Lady that the figure of 40 for the regulation size of primary school classes is a mystery. I have never discovered why the regulation size of secondary school classes should be 10 fewer than that for primary schools. That is one thing we could do as we come to the end of the five years. We could push on and reduce the primary classes still further.
Another thing we could do is to carry out the desire of teachers for a third year of training. I asked the National Advisory Council on the training and supply of teachers to consider the implications of a third-year course. I find, also that many teachers would like to see more supplementary courses and more refresher courses. That is not an alternative to a third year, but it is something to which, if we had the resources, we should turn our attention.
Then there are the county colleges and the nursery schools. We could launch a great programme in those directions. Finally, there are some people who say that before we do anything else, we should raise the school-leaving age. Within five years one or more of these reforms will become a possible starter, and it will require the greatest judgment to decide which of them is in the best interests of the children. I am sure that the Minister, whoever he may be, when making up his mind, will do well to lean heavily on the advice of the teachers themselves and always be vigilant for their professional interests.
As one would expect, and perhaps contrary to the impression given by the hon. Lady, the teachers, and those thinking about being teachers, have seen that the battle of numbers is almost won and that the prospects for their profession are decidedly more interesting. There is no other way in which one can explain the phenomenal rush this year to apply for places in the teachers' training colleges. Clearly, confidence is returning to the teaching profession. I have here some figures.
785 Last year, there were just over 1,000 more applications than in 1953. This year, by 1st April, there were already 1,500 more than at the same date in 1954 and, of course, there are many more still to come in before September. To date, we have applications from 11,000 girls for the 8,000 places in the two-year training colleges next September. Not only are they coming in every day, but, for the first time for several years, the Minister of Education is getting letters from parents saying, "Why cannot my child get a place at a training college?"
§ Sir D. Eccles
I am coming to that.
Here is proof that the attraction of education is increasing. The training colleges will be able to squeeze in a few more this year than last year, but I think it would be quite wrong to overcrowd them. This is a turning point for the teaching profession. The days are now over when anyone who wanted to be a teacher was thankfully accepted. As there is this growing queue, it will be easier to maintain the professional standards of which the teachers in the service are rightly jealous.
I have agreed, also, to special allowances for all teachers of advanced work. That should help to secure for the profession a better share of science and mathematics graduates. It is not a matter of money alone. I am glad to say that I have the co-operation of other Government Departments and of industry. With their help we hope to recruit at least the minimum number of graduates to match the growing sixth forms which we expect in the years ahead. The Committee will realise that not only is the number of children in secondary schools mounting, but also, I am glad to say, the proportion of those who stay on for sixth form work is increasing. Therefore, it is very clear that we have to hurry if we are to get sufficient science and mathematics teachers for these young people, who are so important to us.
I cannot say much today about teachers' pensions. The negotiations started with the Government offer to wipe off the whole of the deficiency on the old account. That was a very generous offer, but it was necessary in order to have a clean slate on which to write our new 786 scheme. The Secretary of State for Scotland and I asked the parties to the new scheme to draw up a list of benefits which they think should be considered for inclusion. We are now calculating what would be the cost in contributions of covering those benefits and we shall have to discuss arrangements for meeting variations in the liabilities of the account which will occur from time to time. We are getting on quite well and I had it in mind to conclude this work before the House rose for the Summer Recess.
§ Sir D. Eccles
It would be nice to give the teachers all they want, but we are doing a sober, sensible piece of work.
I return to the question of teacher training colleges. The Committee might think that while there are so many applicants there can be no case for looking into the grants for students at those colleges. The Government do not take that view. As the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) will understand, as he and I have the pleasure of going racing together at Epsom, it is a very good maxim that when your horse is doing well that is the time to increase the stake. Accordingly, I have some proposals to make. The most important thing is to secure uniformity in the grants made by the L.E.As. to students in teacher training colleges to cover expenses other than fees and board. A working group composed of representatives of teachers, L.E.As. and the Ministry have been considering these arrangements and their report will be published in a few days' time.
The main recommendation is that the grants should be fixed at a uniform rate for the whole country, roughly equal to the best rates now being paid. That is about twice the present average and in some cases two, three, or four times the present grant. They also recommend that the parents' contribution should be assessed on the basis of the same income scale as is to be used in the case of university awards. We must have more consultation with the local authority associations before I can give authority for the introduction of the scheme, but I most sincerely congratulate the group on a very good report and say that I accept the recommendations.
787 Mention of the income scale to be applied to parents of students in training brings me to university awards. As hon. Members know, the Act says those awards shall be such that the students can go to university without hardship to themselves or to their parents. I have listened to a great deal of advice on this matter, including some very sensible evidence from the students themselves. It has not been easy to work out modifications which would do justice to students and their parents within reasonable financial limits. The Committee might care to know the main changes which I propose, and which will come into force for State scholarships as from next autumn.
First, the amount allowed for board and lodging in the basic rate is being increased by about 10 per cent. and certain other minor increases will be made to take account of changes since the present rates were fixed.
Secondly, the boy or girl who, in addition to a State scholarship, wins a special prize or award of merit, will be allowed to retain the cash value of the prize without any reduction of the scholarship grant, provided that the prize money is not more than £100 and that it is a single payment. It must not be spread over a number of years.
§ Sir D. Eccles
They keep the £100.
The Committee may think the third the most important change—the means test applied to the parents' income will be made less exacting so that in many cases the deductions from the grant will be noticeably smaller. This will be achieved in two ways. First, the scale will be stretched out to bring somewhat higher incomes within the range of the grants; and, secondly, the disregards allowed from the parents' income in respect of additional children and their school fees will be substantially increased.
The 10 per cent. addition to the grant and the easing of the means test, taken together, will help many parents and help very substantially those with large families. Full details will be announced in the next day or two.
788 I have been in consultation with the local authority associations in working out these proposals and I hope to have their support in recommending the same scales and rates for adoption by local education authorities for winners of their awards. Uniformity in the basic allowances as between one authority and another is very greatly to be desired, and I have good hopes that we shall achieve it. Certainly, anything that I can do to get uniformity will be done. I most gratefully acknowledge the sympathy with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has treated these proposals. Between us we have worked out changes that will help a great many parents.
The hon. Lady mentioned the problem of early leavers from grammar schools. This is a complex and difficult problem. The trend is good. More boys and girls are staying on each year. The question is how to encourage still more to do so, realising that cash allowances alone will not provide the solution. No Minister of Education can compete with the wages a boy can earn if, at 16, he goes into a factory. We have to find a combination of inducements and I have not finished my survey of the problem. I am discussing it with the local authorities' and teachers' representatives, who are being extremely helpful, but I must have a little more time before I am ready to announce a measure that will have real effect.
I come now to the question of the opportunities of going to grammar or technical schools which are open to children in different areas, especially areas where the provision is low at present. Conditions vary so much that I do not think it possible to lay down any single national percentage. I propose, as the hon. Lady heard me say at Scarborough, a range of from 15 to 25 per cent. of grammar school and technical school places combined. I certainly want every area to reach 15 per cent. and more.
Leaving Rutland on one side, because as the Committee knows, it is an exceptional case, the following authorities are now under 15 per cent.—Gateshead, Dudley, Salford, Northumberland, and Nottingham. In all except one of these areas, plans are in hand to bring the percentage within the 15 to 25 per cent. range. There are about 20 authorities with provision between 15 per cent. and 20 per cent., and, in most of these, new grammar school places are contemplated.
789 There is no authority in Wales with less than 20 per cent., and, quite clearly, as the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) would tell me if I did not state it, special consideration will have to be paid to the Welsh authorities.
I have suggested a working maximum of 25 per cent. because I believe in the progress and development of the secondary modern school. I think that this is not only possible, but definitely in the best interests of our children, and here I come to the interesting argument which the hon. Lady addressed to the Committee about the future pattern of secondary education.
§ Miss Bacon
Will the Minister make it perfectly clear what he intends to do in those cases where the grammar school and technical school places are more than 25 per cent.?
§ Sir D. Eccles
I do not intend to do anything where they are more than that. I intend only to bring the low ones up to somewhere within the range of 15 and 25 per cent. If an authority now has 30 per cent.—for instance Burton-on-Trent—it will be left where it is, and so will Wales.
The hon. Lady mentioned schools in the United States. Of course, we could try to copy the United States, where I think about three times the proportion of pupils go to universities than is the case here. In that way, of course, they get a much larger number of technically skilled people who have qualifications in one or other of the various subjects than we get, but that is not what I meant when I said that I do not think we can enlarge our grammar school stream. I do not mean that we cannot provide as good an education as can be got in grammar schools elsewhere. What I say is that it would alter the whole character of our universities and grammar schools if we tried to treble them, and that that would meet with very great resistence.
Therefore, it seems to me better to try to build, alongside this grammar school-university stream, many strong and various streams leading from the secondary modern schools to the technical colleges, technological institutes, and all other forms of higher education. That fits in with the very specialised nature of the modern world. I doubt very much whether many schools can really provide the full range of classes and courses which it is quite reasonable for young boys and 790 girls today to expect to have the opportunity to follow. Ideally, one would like to see a group of secondary modern schools, each one of which gave a good general education while specialising in something at the top—some subject in which the pupils would specialise before they left.
It is difficult and seldom desirable to try to concentrate too much vocational education in one place, though we may get exceptions. Indeed, there are two exceptions. One is where we have an industry which says, "We have so much engineering here that it would be a good thing to have an engineering technical school." Where there is a very clear need in an industrial area for such a secondary technical school, I will agree to it. The other exception is the one quoted in Dr. Pedley's book: one sees clearly that, where the population is scattered, we are restricted to having a single secondary school that may well be the best we can do for the children in that area.
Where we have a dense population, however, as we usually have in this overcrowded island, then it is possible to have a group of secondary schools within range of any given home. That will provide a choice for parents, and, as the secondary modern school develops, I am convinced, from what I have seen myself already, that some parents will prefer it to any grammar school to which their children might go. Even in my own town of Chippenham, the headmaster of a secondary modern school told me only last week that he had offered a transfer to three bright pupils in his school, and they would not take it. I believe that is happening more and more in the country.
§ Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)
Would not that be because of sentiment and loyalty to the school rather than educational preference?
§ Sir D. Eccles
I think not; I think that sentiment and loyalty to the school are proofs that the school is doing well.
§ Sir D. Eccles
Yes, certainly; it is quite a small town.
Hon. Members opposite want to get rid of the 11-plus examination, and we very well understand the reasons. The difference between us is how to get rid 791 of it. I do ask them not to try to do it by destroying 1,200 grammar schools and by showing the whole body of teachers and parents that the Labour Party has no confidence in the secondary modern school. [Interruption.] That would be the result of a policy of comprehensive schools. I am sure that the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, North-East and hon. Gentlemen opposite have visited a good many of these schools and must have been struck with the success which some of the secondary modern schools have achieved in so short a time. If we can raise the majority up to the same standard, we shall have a secondary system which will meet the needs of the modern world.
I am not quite sure what the Labour Party really wants comprehensive schools for. The hon. Lady said with much emphasis that it was not politics at all, but it is difficult for us to believe that. I have here a report from "The Times Educational Supplement" of a meeting of the London Labour Party at St. Pancras Town Hall on 26th February last, at which one speaker said:Comprehensive schools will help to create a more Socialist attitude.It does appear to us—
§ Mr. M. Stewart
Does "The Times Educational Supplement" give the name of the person who is alleged to have made that remark?
§ Sir D. Eccles
It says that he was a member of the Amalgamated Engineering Union; he must have been a delegate, otherwise he would not have got in.
§ Sir D. Eccles
Of course, I have read it, and I am ready to allow experiments with that type of school. What I very much doubt is whether it would be right to go in for them wholesale. I understand the party opposite to mean, by a comprehensive school, a school to which all the children from a given neighbourhood must go, and only to that school. If that is so, parents' choice is, of course, ruled out. There is only one school to go to.
§ Sir D. Eccles
That is not true, in many cases. It will become less true every year as we develop the secondary modern schools and give parents a wider choice between one school or another, and arrange, as many authorities do, for parents to discuss this choice a year before their children leave the primary schools.
§ Miss Bacon
If a child does not pass the selective examination, or whatever it is, at the age of 11, and if the parent says, "I desire my child to go to the grammar school," does the Minister suggest that the child will go?
§ Sir D. Eccles
I say that we should discuss the matter carefully with parents. Secondary modern schools are doing more and more good work at the top. We shall find that many parents will be quite satisfied with the choice that is made. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is the only way by which we can move forward.
What happens if we have comprehensive schools? The party opposite is in a dilemma. If we want the 2,000-pupil comprehensive school, we are up against difficulties of building and staffing which make it an impossible proposition for many years to come. First of all, the buildings are not there. We should have to pull down existing secondary school buildings and sacrifice existing grammar, technical and modern schools, in order to have the monster schools built. Some hon. Members may say "Never mind about the money," but there is still the staffing problem. We can staff one or two monster schools by taking care to pick out the best people and send them there, and by sending good administrators from the local educational authority as well as teachers. But we cannot repeat that often, any more than we can repeat Manchester Grammar School.
There are large schools which are exceptions to the rule, but when I said to the teachers at Scarborough that there were great disadvantages in having too large a school they welcomed that remark more than anything else which I said. They told me so afterwards.
§ Miss Bacon
The-right hon. Gentleman missed the point at Scarborough. He did not mention big schools. He said, "In industry we are working towards smaller units." It was at that point that the conference applauded. They were meaning small classes.
§ Sir D. Eccles
The hon. Lady is completely wrong, and I could produce evidence.
I see a great many teachers and their representatives, and they are, by and large, against monster schools. Suppose we tried comprehensive schools of 500 or 600 pupils in the existing buildings. The hon. Lady told us that it was possible in a school of that kind to give a variety of courses, and also develop a strong sixth form. That just is not so. I leave that point to the teachers to judge for themselves.
If they had to take 500 pupils from a given neighbourhood without any 11-plus exam, could they or could they not develop a strong sixth form? The answer is that they could not do it, and they know it. It is best to leave this matter to the teachers themselves, in whose judgment I am quite confident on this whole issue of comprehensive schools.
I have taken a long time. The hon. Lady asked another question, which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will be ready to answer.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
The Minister has several times used the abjective "monster." What does he mean by the "monster" school? He mentioned 500. What does he think is the optimum size?
§ Sir D. Eccles
By "monster" I mean the 2,000-pupil school, which is the figure I used before.
The Parliamentary Secretary will say something about educationally sub-normal and handicapped children, to whose care he devotes a great deal of his time. He will also refer to the Ashby Report.
I imagine that every Minister of Education becomes fascinated with his job, and is very prone to exaggerate its importance. But can one exaggerate the importance of the work which the next decade will put upon the Ministry of Education, the local authorities and the teachers? We all see that the scientific revolution cannot be stopped. The call will be irresistible for more and more skilled manpower at all levels. The rising standard of life and our position as a great Power depend upon meeting this demand, and the main burden will have to be carried by the maintained primary and secondary schools.
794 Getting richer is not enough, however. The three partners in education will have to strive harder than ever before, not only to teach the new vocations, but to implant the old virtues of the British character. There is no inevitable conflict between technical education and good behaviour.Nihil utile nisi quod honestum.That is what Cicero said 2,000 years ago. It remains our aim to teach our children both to know more and to do better than their fathers.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham, East)
I concur with the right hon. Gentleman in regretting the absence from this debate of my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Morley); perhaps I might rather say "our hon. Friend." I possibly regret it even more than the Minister, because we are not to hear his comments on certain aspects of the Minister's speech.
The right hon. Gentleman said that in the years since the war we had been faced mainly with the mere size of the educational problem, and he speculated what improvement in standards might have been made had we not had an evergrowing problem of size to contend with. He seemed to under-estimate some of the improvements in standards that we have made, like the raising of the school-leaving age, the growing proportion of children staying on beyond the statutory age, and the larger proportion of our children who are able to go to a university. These represent remarkable improvements in standards, achieved at a time of very great difficulty in the years immediately after the war. There has certainly been the very pressing problem of numbers, which has weighed on the right hon. Gentleman, as upon his predecessor and upon the Labour Government.
Our disquiet on that aspect of the matter can be easily stated, without any rehearsal of a long list of figures. It arises from a simple fact. If we take such a yardstick of general progress as the pupil-teacher ratio. we find that in the period shortly after the advent to power of the present Government the figure was showing improvement. It has now begun to move slightly in the opposite direction.
If we take another yardstick of general progress—the proportion of our children 795 who are being taught in classes above the alleged maxima of 30 and 40—that figure again was showing some improvement immediately prior to the advent to power of this Government. It is now moving—not very rapidly but unmistakably—in the wrong direction. I know that there are many ways in which one can measure general progress, such as the simple basis of size of classes and relation of pupils to teachers; the significant thing is that whatever yardstick one takes the present Government have, on the whole, lost ground rather than gained it. I will not put it higher than that, but in a period when the Government have had a great deal of economic good luck we really should have been continuing to gain ground, as we were before they took office.
I shall not labour that point except to say this—and it can perhaps be the epitaph on the unhappy Circular No. 245. The argument has been advanced that it was that circular that made it possible to complete a large number of schools which would otherwise have been left unfinished, but from the figures shown in the Monthly Digest of Statistics it can be seen that there is a close relationship between the number of completed school buildings in any one year and the number begun two years previously. That relationship is as close now as when the Government came into power. The general average period for completing buildings is still about two years. In the main, the alleged moratorium has not speeded up building.
What has it done? The figures show quite clearly that we generally see the result of building policy two years after its inception. What are the figures which the Minister so proudly, and perhaps rather innocently, displayed at the N.U.T. conference at Scarborough? They show that in the first two years of office of this Government, when they reaped the harvest others had sown, the number of school places went triumphantly up. But in 1953 the figure was 257,000 and in 1954, 212,000. The net effect of the first act of this Government's educational policy was to cause the number of school places provided this year to about 40,000 less than they otherwise would have been.
The right hon. Gentleman also warned us that his slightly more generous policy 796 might be limited in its application by a bottleneck in the architects' departments of certain education authorities. When the Government embarked on the policy outlined in Circular No. 245 we warned them that one result might be a diminution in the staffs of architects' departments of local education authorities. We said that if they then pursued that policy they might, when they tried to reverse it later, be faced with just that difficulty. What the Minister has now said appears prima facie to have justified the criticism that was made then.
§ Commander J. W. Maitland (Horncastle)
Has the hon. Member any evidence for that assumption? Has he been in consultation with any of the local authorities, and have they told him that as a fact? It is quite contrary to what I understand.
§ Mr. Stewart
Apprehension that that would happen was expressed by some of the witnesses before the Select Committee on Estimates. The Minister says that this may limit progress now. I am drawing what appears to be a reasonable inference from those pieces of evidence.
This struggle with numbers and size of classes is not just a matter of school building. It is, as the Minister rightly and fully realises, even more a question of the supply of teachers. We rejoice with him over the improvement that has so far been registered in that field, though I thought that he was inclined to be somewhat over-optimistic about it. I share the bewilderment which has been expressed on both sides of the Committee as to why one should conclude that a larger class is possible in the primary schools than in secondary schools. Let us not set our objectives too high, however, but consider what we should do to reach these maxima of classes of not more than 30 and 40 children.
In order to do that, and to meet the requirements caused by the further increase in the number of children during the next four or five years, we shall probably have to increase the present number of teachers by 50 per cent. It may be possible to do that. It may be that the increase, which the Minister very naturally welcomes, will continue in future but, of course, we cannot be certain of that. To some extent it is the result of the 797 increased opportunities for secondary education of the appropriate kind that began to appear immediately after the war. We are already beginning to feel some of the results of that, but we shall have to seek to increase our supply of teachers more rapidly than we are doing now.
That is only part of the general problem of increasing the supply of people well trained for all occupations—well-trained people of good general education. I shall refer later to the problem of getting that increased supply of well-trained people in a great variety of occupations.
The Minister will correct me if I am misrepresenting him, but I think he suggested a little while ago that it would be desirable for industry and commerce not to try to outbid the teaching profession in its rewards to suitable people. I cannot regard it as altogether fortunate that the Minister of Education, of all people, should have been suggesting a course of action which might limit the rewards available to well-educated people. I doubt if that is the right approach. He has to see the supply of teachers as part of the problem of greatly increasing our supply of well-trained people with a good general education.
Before dealing with the question of meeting that need, I should like to make one further general reflection. I have already suggested that, even when one sets the somewhat more benign or less severe policy of the present Minister against that of his predecessor, the utmost one can say is that the Government have lost some ground and now have some hope that they may be able to catch up. There is really very much more than that to be done. Beyond the subject of size of classes, we have to study the possibility of the development of the county college and of further education.
For many years one of the most serious criticisms to be made of education here has been that one often saw children in their last year at school full of interest and with a genuine love of knowledge. When one met the same persons after they had been out at work two or three years the whole range of their interest appeared to have shrunk and contracted. Somehow or other, in the case of those who left school earlier, much of what had been done at school was lost or had 798 withered. The development of the county college may deliver us from that evil in future.
We have also to consider the bringing into force of Part III of the Education Act and the very proper closing of a number of very unsatisfactory schools. There is also the provision of proper education for children who may be affected if, under Part III of the Act, anything like reasonable standards are to be required from some of the private schools. We have to consider a large expansion in the field of technical education, and we have to try to improve the quality of our school buildings.
So while we have had from the Government a step backward and then the promise of a modest step forward, what we really need from any Government that takes education seriously is a rapid onward march. This will mean having a Minister of Education who is prepared to speak boldly in the Cabinet for the needs of his Department. Here may I say that the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessor have something to thank hon. Members on this side of the Committee for in that the Minister has a seat in the Cabinet at all. The right hon. Gentleman will have to emphasise to his colleagues that, in order to put education where it needs to be, the expenditure on it has to be expanded a good deal more than is envisaged, and that a substantial reform of local government finance will be necessary if that burden is to be met by the local authorities.
There are a variety of ways of reforming local government finance. All I am saying, as one specially interested in education, is that I do not believe that in the present set-up of local government finance we can get the educational advance which the country needs unless the matter is considered scientifically by people who understand local government. And unless that is done in time, what events will enforce on us is some hurried, makeshift solution which ultimately will not gratify anybody. So it will be important for the Minister to take counsel with his colleague at the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to secure a reform of that kind.
I was speaking of the supply in general of well-trained people with a good general education. In this connection I would say that for my own part, and probably 799 I speak for some of my hon. Friends, I listened with gratification to what the Minister said about the grants for university students and for students at training colleges. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that we shall want to read what he has said and to hear the further details to which he referred before commenting on the matter more fully than I have done so far. However, it certainly appeared to us that it was a move in the right direction.
I want to develop for a moment the view which I hold that this country can and ought to seek to have a much greater proportion of its people enjoying both a good vocational training for some trade or profession in addition to a good general education—what used to be, and is, rightly called a liberal education. We know that in almost everything that we try to do we are held up much more by the lack of a sufficient supply of the right people than by the lack of supply of materials.
It is not easy to build enough hospitals, but it is much easier to do that than to increase at short notice the supply of doctors or nurses. It is not easy to provide the requisite number of school places, but it may be easier to do that than to increase proportionately the number of well-qualified teachers. We can build more laboratories and new factories, but it is not equally easy to increase proportionately the number of competent scientists and competent technicians.
This country must try to do that, and it must not only have more people capable of following the skilled trades and learned professions, but it must see that those people not only know their own craft but understand its relation to the public welfare. We want to be sure that our teachers are not only interested in the technique of class work but in the entire problem of public education. We want doctors who are not only interested in individual patients and illness but who have some appreciation of the part that medicine can play in promoting public health generally.
We want lawyers. I am not sure that I would carry the Committee with me if I said that we want more lawyers, but certainly we want lawyers who are interested not only in litigation but in justice. We want skilled workers who are interested not only in their own position in their own industry but in the organisa- 800 tion of that industry as a whole and the contribution it makes to the economy of the nation.
These things are necessary because of the constant economic difficulty in which this country stands and probably will stand for several decades to come. There will not only be a need for more trained talent; it will be necessary for these trained people to have a keen sense of the public welfare. If we are to achieve that, the pattern of secondary education will be of great importance, and it is clear that the Minister has signally failed to understand what we were about when we were talking of comprehensive schools.
I cannot help feeling that if the Minister had been among the 100 persons inquired into by the reporter, he would have had to be classified among the 28 who were not sure about the meaning of the term. Because there is one problem which the opponents of the comprehensive school have never faced. It is this: if we do not have the comprehensive school, we must have some process of selection, and not merely selection to determine what subjects a child should learn or what class he or she should be in. For selection in that sense there is a good deal to be said, but everyone who has studied the problem knows that selection, usually irrevocable, to determine what school the child shall be in, the surroundings of its life, at the age of 11, is too early.
How are we to get rid of that difficulty? The Minister said that he disagreed with our method, but the educational policy which he subsequently outlined was based inevitably on an acceptance of that usually irrevocable selection at 11 by methods the validity of which is becoming more and more open to question with every new educational discovery.
The other problem which the opponents of the comprehensive school have not solved is the following. If the Committee accepts the general thesis which I was putting forward just now, that we want well-trained people who have a sense of the relation of their work to the community and a regard for the public welfare, it is not desirable to separate, at the age of 11, the academic pupils, the technicians, and the children who, for one reason or another, are considered to be less gifted—and not always rightly so considered. That is not the way to make 801 the kind of society which will have the social cohesion that Britain will need to surmount its economic difficulties.
I am sure that the attempt of the Minister to rivet this apartheid policy more rigidly on the nation by his formula of 15 to 25 per cent. grammar and technical school places is not a happy contribution to educational thought. There is no scientific or educational justification for the assumption that 25 per cent. is anywhere near the limit of people who ought to be getting either what we call grammar or what we call technical school education. If we set a limit like that, we shall find ourselves in due course increasingly short of well-trained people with a good general education.
The talent is there. One of the most exciting things about intelligence tests is that those people who have practised them most have now quite honestly and properly begun to produce evidence which would appear to tell against their own case, namely, that given the right training, environment and encouragement, the thing—whatever it is—that is measured by an intelligence test increases and improves. It is not, as was sometimes supposed, an innate, static, immovable thing.
That means that there are, among those of our children who are now not regarded as good enough for either a grammar or a technical school education, a great many who, given the right encouragement, would benefit from that kind of course. One of the great merits of the comprehensive school is that, put in a school where that kind of work is done, such children begin to wake up to possibilities which, in the modern school—however well organised it may be and however devoted its teachers are—are usually not there because the facilities are not available.
I do not decry the excellent work done by many modern schools, but I say that neither the modern school nor the grammar school is as good as a really good secondary school can be, if we can once get rid of this artificial selection and undesirable division of people into two types at too early an age. The vision that should inspire our educational system is not only one of a steady advance quantitatively, as I mentioned in the earlier part of my speech, but also 802 one of a society trying to ensure that all its people have a good general education, and that a much higher proportion of them get a more advanced general and vocational education than is now the case. That is what we need, and that is what will conduce far more to the nation's happiness.
I conclude by paraphrasing a passage from a book which was frequently mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Miss Bacon), who made an interesting, informative, and powerful speech. That book contains an essay by Mr. Harold Shearman, the Vice-Chairman of the Education Committee of the London County Council. He says, in effect, "We must remember that education is an art, and success in the practice of an art depends on the quality of the artist's vision. The vision of those whose aim it is to try to seek by ever more ingenious processes to pick out the cleverest children in order to separate them from their fellows does not seem to be a particularly admirable vision. More admirable, more appropriate to our needs, is the vision of a school which will provide for all a good general education, for those who can profit by it an advanced professional and vocational training, and for all the advantage of living in a school which is something like the real world in which they will have to live, and a school in which they can get to understand their fellows. There are great difficulties in organising such a school well, but surely a genuine effort to overcome those difficulties in pursuit of a worth-while object is something which can evoke the kind of leadership of which the democratic world most particularly stands in need at the present time."
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Linstead (Putney)
I do not wish to follow the argument of the hon. Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart), but I accept most warmly one remark which he made before he came to his peroration, namely, the necessity for us to produce, through our secondary schools, the technically trained and educated people which our highly scientific civilisation of today needs, and also his warning that we must see that those people are something more than merely experts in their own techniques—that they must be persons with an all- 803 round education. My right hon. Friend gave voice to the same thought when he reminded us that the scientific revolution which is going on around us cannot be stopped, and that if this country is to maintain its position in the world it must be in the forefront of technological advance.
I want to refer to our need for technologists in industry and our need for better facilities for training. Hon. Members will probably be aware that this is a subject which has been studied by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, which has produced a Report upon it. In that Report a comparison is made between the employment of technologists in industry in the United States of America and their employment in this country. In proportion to its population, the United States finds it desirable and necessary to employ in industry about three times the number of the most highly trained and skilled technologists that we do.
§ Sir H. Linstead
That ratio makes allowances for the population of the United States, which is three times that of this country. Even having made that allowance, the proportion of technologists employed in industry in the United States is three times the number employed here. In other words, it is nine times as great numerically. The shortage of technologists in industry in this country is generally recognised, and the remedying of that shortage has been accepted by my right hon. Friend as one of the aims of his educational policy.
I suspect, however, that a good many of the misunderstandings which have arisen about the way in which we ought to produce more technologists is due to a confusion in nomenclature. I should like to make a very clear distinction between what industrialists have told me they need in the way of technologists and what we normally call technicians. The technologist as required by industry today is the man who understands and employs in his work the fundamental scientific theories and knowledge that underlie the particular technology in which he is engaged. He is the man who can do the basic research upon which development 804 depends and who can tackle new problems. At the moment our educational system is not making the necessary provision for him.
The technician, on the other hand, is usually the highly skilled man who applies existing techniques; who may be responsible for minor developments of existing processes, but does not usually invent new ones. At the moment our technical colleges make adequate provision for him. Both types are needed, but it is the technologist—the man at the level of the university graduate—who is needed most by industry today.
Not many months ago the Government announced their new policy for higher technological education. That policy included a massive development of the Imperial College of Science and Technology in South Kensington, the devotion of substantial extra sums of money, through the University Grants Committee, to universities and to a few selected major colleges of technology, and the development of about 30 technical colleges under the Ministry of Education.
This is a very massive and encouraging development, but the development of 30 technical colleges implies some confusion between the technician and the technologist, and a misunderstanding of the real needs of industry, at any rate as they have been represented to the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee. At the moment, the person whom industrialists apparently find to be in short supply is the scientifically trained man who. at 18-plus, has taken at least a three-year, full-time course, or its equivalent in part-time education. By and large, what they need is the man with a university degree or its equivalent, either having taken it directly from school or having taken it in what is sometimes called the hard way by interposing periods in industry with periods of study.
Under the Government's scheme, it would appear that the full-time technological student will be catered for, but where there seems to be inadequacy, in the light of the development of the 30 technical colleges, is that the scheme will not provide adequately for the man who is coming up the hard way and who wants to get his professional diploma or university degree over a number of years, interspersed with periods in the factory.
805 Had the Government concentrated their development on a smaller number of colleges than 30, they could have raised a certain number of colleges to the level which is now needed to turn out the technological expert, but by spreading the available research over as many as 30 colleges the danger is that none of them will be raised to the level to which it is vitally necessary for industry that they should be raised at the earliest possible moment.
It is a question of staff, of accommodation, and of equipment, largely in technological and scientific subjects which require a great deal of money. There seems to be no likelihood of 30 colleges being available for such a development. If that is true, it will be a tragedy for the part-time man, because he has an important place to fill in industry. In fact, at the top scientific level in industry both the straightforward university graduate who has come up from school and the technologist who has come up the hard way have an equally important place to fill. One would have hoped that development would be provided equally for the one as for the other.
I have felt that the National Advisory Council on Education for Industry and Commerce, which has been advising my right hon. Friend on this question, has itself perhaps been somewhat confused as to its objective. The Advisory Council has proposed to the Minister three lines of development. One was a new national award in technology in certain technical subjects, to be granted to students who have attended approved courses in technical colleges—not in approved technical colleges, but approved courses in technical colleges.
§ Mr. Follick
The hon. Member refers to technology as a whole. Does he not sub-divide technology into scientific technology and industrial technology?
§ Sir H. Linstead
What I am trying to do is to report the views which have been expressed by extremely competent and knowledgeable industrialists about our needs. The type of man for whom they are looking is the type who, I think, would be better described as the scientific technologist. They want the man who has had a complete scientific background before he begins to specialise in the particular technology which will be his life work.
806 The question about which I am a little critical is whether the advice given to my right hon. Friend by the National Advisory Council will really meet the present demand from industry. The weakness is likely to be found in the recommendation that a national award should be given on the work in approved courses, as distinct from recognition of an institution as a unit.
The third proposal of the National Advisory Council was that a system of internal examinations should be established for this award. It seems to me wholly admirable that the teachers, assisted by external experts, should be the persons to give the award of a diploma. Nevertheless, the most unsatisfactory feature of the proposal rests on the question of a course. I cannot see how an approved course can ever guarantee that the men who take it will have all the background available—libraries, playing fields, common rooms, debating societies and the rest—which the man taking the full-time course in a university or in a college of higher technological education would be able to enjoy.
By developing courses in 30 colleges we are likely to produce the man who is expert up to a certain level in his own technique but lacking the very thing that industry today says it wants: that is, the man with the all-round educational background and the broad scientific experience. I am a little afraid that the national award which has been suggested will become a screen to cloak inequalities between one college and another. If it does so, it will be a tragedy.
I do not see that a new national award is needed for the full-time man who has diplomas and degrees galore available for him. If it is to be primarily for the part-timer, the man who comes up the hard way, it would be rather letting him down and he would be presented with a piece of paper which would not be acceptable to would-be employers, who would want to look behind it and discover whether the man had had a broad general education or only a highly specialised education.
I should not wish to conclude my remarks without referring to the admirable report which my right hon. Friend the Minister made to us about the development of the secondary modern school, with technical work added to the 807 ordinary modern subjects, and to his suggestion that in many of the grammar schools a certain amount of technical work can be introduced. It seems to me that by enabling the grammar school boy, as much as any other boy or girl, to use and train his hands we shall be putting the technically-minded boy on the right road; we shall be breaking down some of the prejudice against science as an educational training, and we shall be helping to produce more science teachers, who today are bady needed, and the problem of selecting the right school for the right boy will be somewhat eased.
My general feeling about the Government's proposals for developing scientific and technological education, therefore, is that at the top and at the bottom the Government are proposing something that is wholly admirable—the development through the secondary schools, on the one side, and the development through the universities and through the major technical colleges, on the other side. Where the framework seems to me to be weak, and where, I hope, my right hon. Friend will be able to look at it again, is in the provision for partially upgrading 30 technical colleges.
By doing that my right hon. Friend will not be giving industry what it wants, and he will be in danger of not making a fair and full provision for the science and technical man who comes up the hard way, the man whom industry wants at the very top but for whose training something better than an approved course is needed, and for whose training a few more major technical colleges developed to university level are essential. I express the hope most strongly that my right hon. Friend can have another look at that aspect of the recommendations of the National Advisory Council.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)
I should like to deal very briefly with the subject raised by the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead). I believe technical education to be fundamental to the development of our economy. Indeed, the Minister himself said we were living in a scientific revolution. I think that was how he put it. I was rather sorry he did not in his speech lay greater emphasis on the needs of technical education.
808 I remember that when in July last year we had a debate on education I put several questions to the then Minister of Education on this subject, but answers were not given. I am not blaming the right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side (Dame Florence Horsbrugh) for that. She had to answer many questions asked in that debate, and she did apologise for not having time to answer the questions which I put to her specifically on technical education. I want to put many of those questions again to the present Minister. I should like him to be much more precise on this subject of technical education. He made a skilful debating speech, but as yet we have not had anything concrete on this matter.
I want to refresh the Minister's memory. In July, 1953, we had the excellent Report of the Select Committee on Estimates on Technical Education. It was the Select Committee's Twelfth Report. I want to know what the Government are going to do about the recommendations which were presented to the House by the Select Committee. Time and time again I put some of these questions to the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, and I wish for answers today. The Select Committee recommended, for example, in paragraph 33:The Ministry of Education should reexamine the problem of the method of building in instalments with a view to eliminating to the maximum extent the financial loss involved.I know that the Ministry, in an annex to the Report, put forward its own proposals, but I believe that they were inadequate, and I should like to know what the Minister is going to do about that recommendation.
I should like to know what he is going to do about the second recommendation:The Ministry of Education should consider the suggestion that money for building technical colleges should be allocated to local authorities on a five-year basis.I should like a precise reply.
I would remind the Minister of the financial details given in the excellent Report. On page 11 there are various estimates for building over the years. It stated that the estimated investment of £50 million was the amount which in 1949 it was reckoned would have to be spent for the country to claim that it had… minimum facilities for technical education.809 Increases in the prices of building materials must affect that estimate, and even in 1953, the Report stated, that figure had increased to £75 million, and we were spending then, on the average, on building work £1½ million a year.
It is rather shocking that technical education should be neglected to such an extent, and we should have in the programme for this year and next year, and in the five years and the 10 years to come, a much greater allocation not only of financial resources but of physical resources for the extensions required at our various technological colleges.
§ Sir D. Eccles
The hon. Gentleman may be glad to know that the provision for building for technical education this year is up from £4½ million to £7½ million. I am much impressed by the requests coming in from authorities for the 1956 to 1957 programme, and I shall have to consider them, but if we carry on with the £7½ million a year we shall do more than we did before. I should like to do better still.
§ Mr. Peart
I accept that this year there will be an increase of £3 million, but, in view of the increased costs of building, I still think that the figure is inadequate. I am not blaming the Minister, but I believe that if we are to give technical education, the higher technological education mentioned by the hon. Member for Putney, greater priority, we must think of spending far more than just over £7 million.
After all, this is the key to our industrial survival. If we are to get the necessary technicians and technologists for our new industries and for the various new developments in other industries, for atomic energy, for example, for the new developments in the coal industry, for new techniques in other industries, we must lay greater emphasis on technical education and provide a greater allocation of money for it. I hope, therefore, that the Minister himself will regard this figure as insufficient. Even though there is an increase this year in the expenditure, we must have at the Ministry of Education more imagination in the approach to technical education. I would hope that when a Labour Minister of Education comes in he, too, will give much greater provision for technical education, and I hope that in our time of power, which we shall achieve, we shall 810 see to it that technical education is adequately provided for.
I should like to ask a question or two about grants and the application of Circular 255. I understand that already in the last year 500 courses have been approved in 24 colleges and that the grants are running at £1¼ million. Will there be any increase in this direction? Will some of those restrictions which are imposed on technical colleges in relation to grants covered by Circular 255 be altered? I understand that teachers in the various colleges have made approaches on the matter through their national association. I should like to know whether the grant increase for individual students will cover students in technical education. Shall we encourage more boys from industry through grants which, for example, are given by the National Coal Board?
I want to know, too, whether the Minister has any views on the status of our various technical colleges. I know that the teachers in those colleges feel very strongly on this matter. Over and over again they have put forward their views, advocating a kind of board which would be able to see that adequate academic standards were reached. One of my hon. Friends reminds me that they have suggested a royal society which would have power to lay down professional standards and academic standards. Can we have a definite statement from the Minister? I am certain that the people in technical education, especially in our technical colleges, are anxious to know the policy of the Government on this matter. Can we have a statement today about it? There has been great uncertainty about this matter all over the country.
The Minister mentioned the need to develop technical education at the lower level, and that was taken up by the hon. Member for Putney. I accept that. Indeed, the Percy Committee's Report in 1945 envisaged the development of secondary technical education, but—let us be frank—there has not been that development. Therefore, we must have a better lead from the Government in that direction. In the previous debate I stressed what was mentioned today by the hon. Member for Putney, that we should have greater emphasis on technical education even in our grammar schools. There we 811 need more laboratories and more practical work. In many of our grammar schools the emphasis has been on pure science and we now need a shift over to applied science.
I should like to see more students going to the technical colleges from the grammar schools. I should like to know the figures for this year and to have some information about the present tendency. Unless we have recruits from the best boys to our technical colleges, we shall not have the teachers who are essential in the general field and who are required not only in the grammar schools but also in the secondary modern schools, and, I hope, in our new comprehensive schools. I hope that we shall have from the Minister figures showing the trends. At one period in our post-war history there was a dangerous drift. Many of our potential science teachers were going into industry, to the detriment of the teaching profession. It is important that we should have a balance, because there must be a link between the teaching side and the industry, the two serving each other.
I should like to know what progress has been made in connection with the Imperial College of Science. The Government decided to reject the concept of a separate higher technological institution. I accepted that policy. I believed that it was right to extend the facilities of the Imperial College for teaching higher technology. I should like to know whether the programme which was laid down by the Government is being fulfilled.
This is the last debate of this Session on education, and it would be wrong of me to occupy too much time when other hon. Members wish to speak. I have tried to put my speech in the form of questions to the Minister, and I hope that he will give the answers; but there is one debating point. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman put up an Aunt Sally when he spoke of the "monster" comprehensive schools now in existence. The Minister knows that London has had a special problem in its approach to comprehensive education, but, despite the difficulties with which London has been faced, I am sure that one day the nation will be proud of its Kidbrookes.
These schools are very fine schools. I have seen one and I hope to visit another when it has been operating for five years.
812 We should have faith and belief in the success of these schools which have been started by London County Council. Other authorities have also started comprehensive schools. There has been the Anglesey experiment, the experiment in Yorkshire and the experiment which has been so successful in Scotland. I have faith in the comprehensive school because I am certain that it is the only way in which one can provide a real, effective, secondary education which will draw out from the child all its talents and abilities.
The Minister chided us about our approach to grammar schools. We have never said that we want to destroy grammar school education. We want to increase the facilities for grammar school education which can be given in comprehensive schools. I was a grammar school master before I went into the Army and later came to the House of Commons, and I recognise that our grammar schools have done a wonderful job.
It is all very well for the Minister to talk about faith in the secondary modern school. I would believe the Tory Party's faith in these schools if hon. Members opposite showed a personal example by sending their sons and daughters to them. I accept the challenge that that also applies to some of my hon. Friends. The vast majority of the sons and daughters of hon. and right hon. Members opposite go to the expensive private and public school section of our educational system. If hon. and right hon. Members opposite have faith in our secondary modern school system they should set an example by sending their children to them. The words used by the Minister about the comprehensive school were not really educational arguments but political arguments, which we know London Tories have used in their campaign of prejudice against London County Council.
In the end, we can only have a good educational system, providing opportunities for our children, if we have not just a supply of good buildings, not just a reorganisation of our secondary modern system, and not just a supply of good teachers, but only if we have a faith and belief in a democratic State system of education. For that reason I sincerely suspect the policies and views of right hon. Members opposite, because I know that fundamentally they believe in an educational system for an élite.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Commander J. W. Maitland (Horncastle)
Except for his last few hectic minutes, it was remarkable how the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead). Yet it was perhaps not so remarkable. Surely that is what nearly always happens in our debates on education. It is rightly so, because the Education Act, upon the basis of which we have been working for many years, was the tremendous conjoint effort of the two political parties towards the end of the war. It is right that we should criticise the Minister if we so wish, but it is quite wrong that we should treat education in a party spirit, even though that may be understandable just before a General Election. I may do so myself before I finish, but it is probably not a very wise thing to do.
I should like to congratulate the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, North-East (Miss Bacon) upon her promotion to be crown princess of education in her party. I will not go further than that now. Although one day she may sit on the Government Front Bench and speak from the Dispatch Box when her party is next in power, I sincerely hope and believe that that day may be quite a considerable way off yet.
At least three-quarters of the hon. Lady's speech was devoted to the comprehensive school. I remember speaking, either before or after her, on this subject in the 1945 Parliament and saying that I agreed with the principle of the comprehensive school. I believe that the comprehensive school is one of the tools to our hand in putting through our educational policy; but it is absolutely wrong to tie ourselves to a rigid doctrinaire attitude about it, as, I must frankly say, the hon. Lady's party appears to do.
I believe that there are many places in our educational system where the comprehensive school could be used, but to say that it can be used throughout, as it were comprehensively, is quite wrong. To abolish all the various existing schools, which would have to be done, to face the enormous expense of turning over to that system, and to slap the face and stop the advance of the existing secondary school is surely a completely unrealistic approach. That is why I do not agree with the hon. Lady's attitude in placing 814 the comprehensive school first, foremost and almost all the time.
The hon. Lady said one thing in criticism of the present Government which interested me. She asked about the cuts and why we had made them when we came to power. We made them for exactly the same reason as the previous Government made the cuts before they went out of office—because we were involved in their financial crisis at the time. As she knows very well, there were a series of cuts in education during the time her party were in power. So all these things, which we all agree are desirable and necessary and which we want as soon as possible, are surely in the long run utterly dependent on finance; and the reason we are going ahead now is that this country is in a far better financial position than it has been for a long time. That is why I think it is a very good thing to have businessmen, like my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, in the Cabinet.
I should like, in passing, to refer to one small point which I think is important. It has to do with one of the many rather platitudinous things about which we are all agreed, which was mentioned by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart), who talked about a good general education and a vocational education going together. I am sure he is right. I have no use for education snobs who say that it is not necessary or that there should not be any vocational element in our education. It is essential that there should be.
But this is the point to which I wish to draw the Minister's attention. Quite recently from two very good sources I have heard things which have made me anxious relating to the over-high standards which are being demanded by the universities for entrance to the science course. It means, in fact, that if children are to have any hope of taking these courses and getting into the universities they have got to specialise far too soon. That is a problem which is in the Minister of Education's sphere, and I should like to draw his attention to it. It is happening at the moment in the scientific field. I do not think there is any doubt about it.
Now I want to turn for a few moments to a very special point, which might be regarded as a small one, but which none the less is something I believe to be im- 815 portant, and that is the way we are treating the children of the officers and men in the Services who have to go abroad or who get moved from station to station. The situation is that the parents of children who have to serve abroad are faced with a difficult problem. They may have an aunt or a sister with whom they can leave the children while they are being educated. But all of us who have families know that that may not be the right thing to do. It might be much better if the child went to a boarding school. Because it obviously happens in certain parts of this country, like the eastern counties, where there are many aerodromes, we find that this problem falls far harder on the local education authorities there than on those in some of the inland counties. They have to bear all the burden of sending these children to a boarding school, and they are not able to do so.
My hon. Friends and 1, and indeed hon. Members on the other side too, have on several occasions represented this state of affairs to the Government. I want to give my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary fair warning that when the Government are returned to office we shall redouble our efforts to get this injustice righted and will accept no refusal. It is time now to tell my hon. Friend that we are determined to have this matter of the education of the children of Service men attended to, and we intend to ensure that they receive proper justice.
In conclusion, I want to thank my right hon. Friend the Minister for what he has done for the countryside. He has given a shot in the arm to rural education. He has restored many of the things that were taken away. For example, to take a very small one first, there is the question of the building of halls in Country villages. These things mean a great deal to the countryside, and he has enabled them to go ahead and repair their schools. What my right hon. Friend said was absolutely correct. From my own experience I know that the local education committees of county councils are out to a clinch in work, and happy indeed is the Minister of Education who can say that about all the local education authorities. As far as the countryside is concerned, we have now the best Minister of Education we have had for some time, and we are determined to have him back again soon.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
I always welcome the opportunity of following the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland), but I think his concluding words were not as gracious as they might have been in view of the presence of the Minister's predecessor. I consider they would have been better left out. The hon. and gallant Gentleman drew attention to the fact that in education debates there is often a great deal of agreement on either side of the House. But if the teachers of the country could see this Committee this afternoon they would be very disappointed. There is a fair number on this side of the Committee, but, with the exception of those who are obliged to sit in the Chamber, we have been looking at a desert on the other side since this debate began.
It is my privilege to address many teachers' organisations from time to time, and I like to indicate to them that there is a renewed interest in education in the House. The renewed interest has not manifested itself unduly this afternoon. I would at once differ from the hon. and gallant Gentleman when he says that education should be kept out of politics. That is asking for the impossible. Education is very much a political issue.
§ Commander Maitland
If I said that I made a great mistake. I thought I said party politics, and I am quite certain that the hon. Gentleman really knows that that is what I said.
§ Mr. Thomas
I mean party politics, too, and it is poppycock to pretend that the education service is not affected by the colour of the Government of the day. Of course it is. How quickly we felt the cool breezes from the present Administration when the right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side (Dame Florence Horsburgh) was given charge of the schools of this country.
§ Mr. Thomas
The hon. and gallant Gentleman must not provoke me, because I want to be polite to the right hon. Lady. I could ask some awkward questions as, for instance, why the right hon. Lady is 817 sitting on the back benches now instead of on the Treasury Bench. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman is going to suggest that party politics do not enter into education, he has learned very little since he has been in the House.
The Minister of Education made a most interesting speech, and in part, if I may say so, it was an acceptable speech. All I would say is that, while I do not want to be cynical, it is remarkable how many of these things which have been denied us for three and a half years of the Administration's life are now promised on the verge of an Election. We have seen a succession of Ministers coming here and promising us things in the sweet by and by after the General Election. The Minister of Transport promised to spend hundreds of millions of pounds, the Minister of Health is going to spend hundreds of millions of pounds, the Minister of Fuel and Power hundreds of millions of pounds and the Minister of Education a few pounds—but even that not yet. We are living in an era of great promises.
§ Mr. Thomas
Whether they will be broken remains to be seen. It depends on who is in office.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Miss Bacon), who opened so forcefully for the Opposition, drew attention to the fact that the size of classes is a major problem in the education service of this country. The Minister received a good welcome when he visited the conference of the National Union of Teachers at Scarborough. It is a very polite organisation and it also gave a good welcome to the right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side when she visited the conference. But the Minister knows that nothing agitates the minds of teachers more than the ever-increasing size of classes. It is no good him smiling at us and saying, "By only 3 per cent." There are over 10,000 classes more with 40 on the register than there were before that Administration placed its hands on the education services.
§ Dame Florence Horsbrugh
I am sorry. I should not have interrupted. I was merely calculating for my own benefit how many more classes there were as a whole.
§ Mr. Thomas
I cannot forget that I was a school teacher, and I know that it is the size of the class which determines the teacher's work. It is harder today for the teacher to do a proper job than it was three and a half years ago. That is the blunt truth.
I have been asking Questions of the Minister about the size of classes in the City of Cardiff, and, since the Minister digressed to mention his own constituency, I hope he will not mind if I do the same thing at this very interesting period in political history. I have been asking the Minister a lot of Questions about the size of classes in Cardiff and he has replied that the latest information which he could provide us was for January last year.
That holds no interest for anyone. Every month the teachers, as the Minister knows, are required to supply their education authority with the average number in every class in the school. The statistics about the increased size of classes for which we have been asking have been available to the Minister if he would pick up a telephone and ask for them from the local authorities. But I can understand him, on political grounds, not being anxious to supply this information.
Who is it that suffers when the size of classes soars, as is the case at present? My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) told us this afternoon that his little son goes to an L.C.C. school, that there are 50 in the class, that the average size of class in that school is 46 and that there is no class with fewer than 40 pupils except the class of the mentally retarded.
We can have pleasant speeches from the benches opposite, but the cold truth is that children are being denied a fair opportunity when they are in these large classes. The children who suffer most, of course, are those who deserve our attention most. The backward children become still more backward when they are in a large class. The teacher strikes the note for the average pupil and the good pupils will go on despite the circumstances, but the tail of the class, which 819 is upon the mind and conscience of the good teacher, suffers far more than it ought.
I agree with what has been said about the supply of the right type and kind of teacher. We can already see when the increased school population will have reached its peak and begun to decline, and I hope that the Minister is not indifferent to the prospect of a three-year course of training for teachers in place of the two-year course which has been the average with the training colleges. Within the next decade it will easily become a distinct possibility.
I want to refer to the question of secondary education, for we in Wales have a special interest in it. We were first off the mark at the beginning of this century in developing the State type of grammar school. Over 30 per cent. is the average of the school population in Wales which receives a secondary grammar education. The local authorities are to be congratulated upon the enlightened way in which they realised that we could play our part only if secondary grammar education were available for all who could benefit from it. That remains one of the principal aims of every educationist in Wales—as much in Holyhead as in Cardiff; and we are satisfied that the comprehensive school will improve the prospects of grammar school education for a great many children who ought to be receiving it.
The Minister himself supplied us with evidence this afternoon when he instanced from the secondary modern school at Chippenham three young people who, in the opinion of the headmaster, would have been better in the secondary grammar school but who did not go there because it involved a change of school, of friends and of background. If at Chippenham they had had the comprehensive school which Holyhead has, that problem would not have arisen, the children would have been transferred within the school and they would have had the opportunity which I am quite sure the Minister would wish them to have.
I do not believe there can be stagnation in education. The secondary modern school is a fine school and I agree with the tribute which the Minister has paid to it. Wonderful work is being done in 820 the secondary modern school, as in all other schools. Our colleagues pull their weight whatever school they are in. But we must be willing to change and to see advances made, and to experiment with the comprehensive school—the Minister showed that he agrees with this—is bound to mean interference with grammar schools in given areas, and somebody's children will have to be pioneers in these comprehensive schools.
I would not say that it is the panacea for everything in secondary education, but certainly it will help to break down this awful scholarship examination which, throughout my professional career, was a curse upon the system, upon the children and upon the teachers. The prospect of ending this scholarship examination which takes place at the age of 11, without damaging the educational prospects of the youngster, is now very real. The comprehensive school can serve not only to break down social barriers and remove some of the snobbery which unhappily, as we all know, still plays an important part in our education service, but also to give the teachers an opportunity freely to transfer within schools those youngsters who clearly are not in their right setting.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind our experience in Holyhead, where I have had the privilege of being one of the governors of the comprehensive school? After some years of comprehensive education, it is found there is a distinct levelling up to the grammar school level and not a levelling down.
§ Mr. Thomas
All hon. Members will undoubtedly be glad to hear that voice from Holyhead, which speaks with authority. The doctrinaire people are those on the other side of the Committee. On this matter they are the people who are afraid of change. We owe little to the people who have always wanted to mark time. The Conservative Party is not even content with that; it would have us walk backwards in education.
It is impossible to take part in the debate today without realising that we shall soon be having a General Election. To be frank, some of the points that I have made, like some of the points made by the Minister, have had direct reference to the fact that the Government's record in education will soon have to be 821 examined by the people. No promise made now can wipe out the sorry record of past years. I could have wished that we had the debate without the atmosphere of a General Election, but I must say to the right hon. Gentleman that I hope he will have a more forthcoming attitude even yet about the newer type of secondary education to which every teacher who has spoken this afternoon has given his blessing.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. I. J. Pitman (Bath)
Before I follow what has been said by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), I should like to support what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) and the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) about technical education and its importance. I do not think it can be denied that there has been in earlier years a considerable emphasis on all other kinds of education and that it is time that the Cinderella of the educational world was given a fairer deal and taken to a ball.
I should very much like too to support my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) about the postings of airmen in particular and Service men in general. I was for a short time on the personnel staff of the Air Ministry, and I can assure hon. Members that a conscientious posting officer is torn about the educational consequences and the requirements of the children and the parents who are involved in postings.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart) is not in his place at the moment. It struck me that it was necessary to call attention to the complete travesty of the facts as he sought to paint them. He must surely know that his disquiet that we are losing ground rather than gaining it is hopelessly short of the mark. He produced two criteria of measurements; first, the pupil-teacher ratio and, secondly, the degree to which classes were above the maximum. He was claiming that we are losing ground at the very time when we are turning out more teachers and recruiting more teachers to the training colleges. I am the chairman of a society responsible for training colleges, and I know it to be a fact that we are turning out teachers at a far greater rate than 822 ever and at a rate far greater than the normal demand for them. Therefore, how can it possibly be that we are going back, which is what the hon. Gentleman sought to establish?
The fact is that by annual accumulation there is an aggravation in the abnormal numbers in education, and that present shortages are the product not of present deficiencies but past deficiencies. Being Minister of Education is rather like being a railway engine driver. If one has a long journey ahead of one with loads of passengers to pick up at various times and various points on the route, if one does not pass certain points by a certain time one is already late and bound to be late in arriving at one's destination. If anyone cares to introduce party politics into the story, it is perfectly clear that the train of education got hopelessly behind in 1945, and has remained hopelessly behind ever since, and that this is the first time the engine driver has managed to go very much faster than the average speed necessary for his journey and the first time when he is beginning to catch up substantially on lost time.
§ Mr. Pitman
If the hon. Member wishes to go back to 1942, let him examine the plans of the London County Council, a Labour council. He can extrapolate the places which London had planned at that time to provide, but it was perfectly clear that with the proposals which they made for additional places over the years there would be a hopeless under-provision of places for their inevitably larger school population. One has only to look at the birth-rate in various parts of the country to forecast exactly what will be the requirements, and in terms of both places and teachers the deficiencies are of the past and at the present we are adding cumulatively each year to the totals and are rapidly catching up. The nation ought to know the true facts and not travesties of the facts and ought to congratulate the Minister upon being on the footplate at a time when the educational train is travelling at such a satisfactorily high rate.
With reference to the comprehensive school, the problem arises only in areas of high density population. Hon. Members are pushing against an already open 823 door if they talk about the need for comprehensive schools in rural areas where there is a low density population, whether it be in Anglesey, Cumberland or the great open spaces of Salisbury Plain, for in such areas one has to have a comprehensive school or spend a lot of money—a lot of travelling time is also entailed—in running a school which may have enough teachers for the academic subjects and for the practical subjects as well, which may have a strong sixth form and appropriate facilities for the less gifted as well.
Hon. Members opposite are equally pushing against an open door in so far as it is desirable to have experimental comprehensive schools in the new housing estates in urban areas. What they are therefore talking about are the urban areas of high density population which have been long established. Let me instance my own constituency, for Bath is a case in point. It has a population of 80,000, and the secondary school population is about 3,200. To begin with, there is a very practical point that in Bath a number of good schools of the other character are already built, and it is just plumb nonsense to start talking as if one is going to solve the problem by ignoring what exists and creating a brand new concept of comprehensive schooling in Bath and comparable cities.
§ Mr. Pitman
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West was saying that he thinks the comprehensive school is right for the child, and, if that is so, presumably he commits himself to doing that which is right for the child and arranging a comprehensive school system in Bath. Why should he deny what he thinks is right to the children of Bath?
However, take the school population in the secondary age group of Bath at 3,200. What are we to have? Are we to have one Kidbrooke of 3,200, or two Kid-brookes of 1,600, one on one side of the river and one on the other? Suppose we are to have four Kidbrookes—800 pupils a time, for that is the very lowest figure on which one can run a comprehensive school if one is to give a decent education to the grammar school child who has real potentialities for future development. With only one, or with even four 824 schools, there would be no prestige in going to a single school or four identical schools, and I can assure the Committee that it will not be long before the people of Bath discover that within each comprehensive school there is a grammar stream, a B stream and a stream of people who are backward readers.
One will not stop Mrs. Smith running around and throwing out her chest and saying, "My Johnny is in the grammar school stream." One will be back again precisely where one started, with a system of selection being resented. Of course, it is bound to be resented since it represents facts which are necessarily unpalatable.
The real problem is not whether one may escape selection but whether one prefers to have one's selection done objectively on the outside, or internally within the school. In either case I am all in favour of having as good selection as possible, but even with the Archangel Gabriel doing the selection one is bound to have discards and resentment by those so discarded.
§ Mr. Kenneth Pickthorn (Carlton): Very few are chosen.
§ Mr. Pitman
The real point is surely this: what is the best opportunity for children in such urban areas of high density population. We have heard the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) allege that there is a better education in a comprehensive school. I can tell hon. Members that I have been to a big comprehensive school in Vancouver. It was about the size of Kidbrooke. The principal said to me, "If only I had the selective system that you have in Britain. Thirty per cent."—and it is true in our schools, too,—" of these people are not in the situation of being able to pass school examinations as we would understand them. The rest pass without effort and without any difficulty from grade to grade and the whole of the school just laughs at the standard which I am forced to accept. I just cannot keep the good ones, the people who excel, up to scratch, because they know that the standards I have to set to allow the others through are bound to be so low." They excel without effort in such poor company.
825 The right policy is surely that of the Minister to try to improve secondary modern schools and in so doing to improve the lot of the people who do not have the good fortune to be borne with the genes, or whatever it is, to send them to an academic training. The Committee ought to recognise that there is no such thing as a late developer. That is a misnomer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] A similar thing is happening in the medical profession where it is said that there is no such thing as fibrositis. The people who suffer say "Oh, oh." too, but it does not alter the fact that the word is a misnomer. It is not a case of inflammation of the fibres, but altogether another cause. A late developer is not a late developer but somebody who had reading difficulty in his early stages—an early failer in reading ability.
The Minister has read a Latin quotation. I did not hear the Latin quotation, so I may be excused for not understanding it. It is possible for any of us to read whole quantities of Latin, but that does not mean that we understand it. The important point of the Watts-Vernon test of reading ability is that comprehension is also tested. The trouble with the so-called late developer is that he has, because of his early failure in reading, been unable in his early years to take advantage of the schooling offered to him. However, when he does master his reading, he really gallops ahead.
Real progress with secondary modern schools is the answer to our problem—both in improving reading ability in the junior school and in developing the right courses in the secondary modern school. As the Minister said, we want to make the secondary modern school a really good school. I could take hon. Members to schools in Bath which are first-class secondary modern schools. They could and will be even better. They will become even better in the development of practical education modelled on the lines of that which used to be given in the old junior technical school, which was a very successful kind of school indeed. Such practically conceived education is the real answer, coupled with an improvement in the teaching of reading in the early stages of education so that we may have a secondary modern school in which parents may be proud to have their children and in which children may be brought to a 826 real stage of development and to university standard, as is more than possible.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. W. G. Cove (Aberavon)
The Government have found a very good salesman in the Minister of Education. He undoubtedly has some goods to sell and he has also indulged in a great deal of imagination. As he was speaking I thought that he was not clear about what development would take place in our education system. His reference to wiping out the grammar schools through the medium of the comprehensive school was indeed a fantastic statement. There is not and never has been a proposal that the Labour Party should wipe out the grammar schools.
§ Sir D. Eccles
If the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) will read "Challenge to Britain," he will find that it pins its faith to the wholesale comprehensive principle now.
§ Mr. Cove
The Minister's suggestion was ridiculous. It is entirely alien to the mood and spirit of the Labour Party; it is not revolutionary enough to do that; it is too orthodox. To say that the Labour Party is in favour of abolishing the grammar schools is an absolutely pure, political absurdity and a misrepresentation.
That is creating political prejudice. The party opposite is the party which is importing political prejudice into discussion of education. I am absolutely staggered that it should be said that we must have a selective examination to fill the places in the grammar schools. Experience shows that the examination at the age of 11 is a fallacious test. The best report of all on the educational system is the Scottish report which emphasises the futility of the results of the examination of children at the age of 11. The tripartite system is based upon examinations which are vulnerable indeed from all aspects of criticism.
I want to say a few words about comprehensive schools, which have been so much talked about in the debate. Schools have a social connotation. That does not mean a political party connotation, but every system of schools has social roots, as it were. The social basis of the comprehensive school system is a faith in the ordinary ability of the ordinary normal child and in giving an opportunity to that 827 normal child to develop his capacities and his aptitudes in the best possible conditions. That is the meaning of the comprehensive school system.
I cannot see how we are to get a cohesive society if we are to segregate children at the age of 11 into various streams, a grammar school stream, a secondary modern stream, and, I suppose, a technical stream. Where is the fulfilment of the main purpose of the 1944 Act in the tripartite system? The central theme of that Act was a national system of unified education. I hold that it is absolutely essential, in order to achieve that, that there should be comprehensive schools.
In the comprehensive school we have all phases of life, all the varying aptitudes and capacities—the boy who is good at mathematics, the child who is good at languages and the boy who is not good at any subject but who may be good at sport. That builds up a cohesive, solidified community. We do not get that by segregation on a tripartite basis which destroys the essential democratic meaning of the purpose and practice of education.
We ought to make it perfectly clear from the Labour Party point of view that the comprehensive school is the answer to the need of the lower middle classes whose children have failed to pass the 11-plus examination into the grammar school. That was brought home to me in the place where I live. I have told this story before, and I should like to repeat it now. A bank manager had two sons, two normal, ordinary children. Both failed the examination at the age of 11 and were unable to get into the grammar school.
The alternative for them was either a secondary modern school or a private school. The secondary modern school did not come up to the desires of the parents. Children there normally leave at the age of 15, and the school has far fewer facilities than are needed. I do not want to be derogatory, but the teachers there have lower academic qualifications. In brief, the secondary modern school did not meet the needs of that middle class parent and, therefore, he sent his children to a private school. That put upon him a heavy financial burden which he could ill afford to carry.
828 We shall drive the Conservative Party out of their entrenched position in respect of comprehensive schools simply by telling the ordinary citizen that their ordinary normal children will have far better opportunities in comprehensive schools than in schools under the tripartite system.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) said that teachers were very sore and disgruntled about the size of classes. There is another point which I expect the Minister knows about. There is complete disgruntlement about the extraneous duties imposed upon teachers. At the conference of the N.U.T. at Scarborough the teachers went amok over this. They spoke very strongly about having to supervise school meals and to spend time in connection with registration. There are hundreds of classes where the kiddies still have their meals at the desks and then have to stay in the same atmosphere for the rest of the day. I should like to know what the Minister proposes to do to erect canteens and kitchens and to provide better facilities for school feeding.
Finally, I would say that I have no fear at all, when discussing the major policies of the Labour Party, that we shall win through. The Minister this afternoon was a good salesman. He had some goods to sell, but for the future it was promises. We have been told that we should wait and see what will happen. I do not think that we shall, because the General Election will result in a change of Government and the appointment of a new Minister of Education.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Pickthorn (Carlton)
I shall not speak at any great length, and I shall at least begin by trying not to be excessively controversial. I welcomed, as I am sure everybody did, the announcement that was made today about the easing of allowances in teachers' training colleges and about university allowances. Both those are very good things.
I noticed that the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Miss Bacon), near the end of her speech, about what she wanted, said that all these things would cost a great deal more money. The things one likes, either as having been done or as desirable to be done, are very apt to be the things which cost money: I must say that I have always felt that one of the 829 odd things about persons interested in education is that they seem to be less aware of the realities behind those words than uneducated people commonly are.
I should like to begin by saying—and this is another thing which costs more money—that it has occurred to me, whenever I have seen schools, how very little of the gross amount of money spent goes on books. We are all apt to say as a matter of pious commonplace that all that matters in teaching is the teacher. Indeed, I very firmly believe it. I believe that the desks, the buildings and all the rest of it do not matter very much, though by that I do not mean that it is not our duty to make them as good as we think they can properly be made. Certainly if all that did matter very much, I never had any education at all.
The teachers are what matters most, but there are quite a lot of children, even quite young children, for whom books are among the best teachers. There are many who not so long after they leave school will begin to find their own way about books, if they have at school got the habit of wanting to find their own way about books. I have no direct formula to suggest about what ought to be done or where the money ought to come from; but this is a genuinely educational matter, though I do not want to see the Minister of Education, and still less the House of Commons, directing education in the primary sense; yet perhaps it is proper that in our debates here we should sometimes talk of what is properly and primarily educational.
There are two other matters of the same sort on which I venture to ask the Committee to allow me to speak. One is what has been said about technical education. I entirely agree that we should do more for technical education. I am almost even tempted to agree with those who say that we ought to do more for the status of technical education or technical teachers.
I am almost tempted, but I do not quite yield to the temptation, because my general experience of life is that once one starts caring about the status either of people or activities one almost invariably does more harm than good; so I do not want to say much about the status of the thing. I only want to say this, if it is not thought too high-falutin: there is a tendency sometimes to look 830 upon a person who comes into education, comes into a genuine intellectual activity of his own, whether as teacher or learner, via a technique, to think of him as rather inferior to the chap who comes in via learning or teaching himself the theory and then perhaps making application of it either for the purpose of earning a living or by way of earning a living or invention, or so on. I am quite sure that is wrong.
Indeed I can think of some living men—Sir John Cockroft is, I believe, an example of a man whom I am certain I am right in saying is of the highest possible intellect from the purely academic or theoretical point of view who, so to speak, learned his own intellect and learned how to use it and to be excited about it through coming in on the technical side.
I am sure that we need not be afraid, if there are not enough resources to go round to improve all kinds of teaching—and there certainly are nothing like enough, whether one reckons in money or anything else—if there are not enough resources to improve all sorts of teaching, we need not think that in diverting something to technical which might have gone to academic we are necessarily doing some injury to the highest. I am sure that is not so, and the way to make certain that it does not become so is not by pinning on to technical courses lectures on "The Child in Poetry" or "The Cat in Art" and so on. I am sure that is not the best way to do it.
I am sure that the way to do it is so to teach our technical subjects that each young person up to his own intellectual ceiling becomes aware of what intellectual activities are and how admirable and enjoyable intellectual honesty is. I am sure that is the way in which great men such as Faraday or Sir John Cockroft and others have become great scientists or theoreticians via the technical. I hope, therefore, in choosing what proportion of our resources we can spend on technical education, we shall not be apt to think that it may be something inferior, but I hope we shall behave so that technical teachers will be, as I am sure most of them already are, inspired to think that the way up, spiritually so to speak, theoretically or academically, is the kind of way which I have indicated.
Having said all these rather high falutin' things, I hope the House will 831 permit me one other. This is about the finding of enough teachers, especially of enough mathematical and scientific teachers. I have said a little on this subject before in the House, and I shall be forgiven for this, I hope, because we all know that if we say anything in this House three times and it then has some little effect we are very lucky, and that to say it once and to expect any effect is hopeless.
About the finding of teachers, especially scientific, there certainly are not enough good teachers on any subject. Of that we can be perfectly certain. I do not know of any profession at all—any profession requiring literacy—which is not worried about its recruitment at the present time and has not been worried about its recruitment for the last 20 years, certainly the last 15. There are not going to be enough good teachers.
There is a particular difficulty in the case of scientists and mathematicians. There is the particular difficulty of the commercial value of the skills which the eligible men have. There are other particular difficulties, but that is enough. I am a little frightened by the announcement by Her Majesty's Government or by the Federation of British Industries or by the T.U.C. or by any of the other of these connotations of initials, about what they are going to do in order to induce people to go into this job.
I think that we are getting very near to a kind of direction of labour for persons with certain sorts of intellectual aptitude. I have said this before. I do not say that it has gone too far yet, but I think that the House should watch it with great care. And I add this; I am certain it is not going to be very effective. That kind of procedure never is very effective. Therefore, I ask my right hon. Friend to consult with his advisers about a quite different suggestion.
My own belief is that almost everybody—and I say this with respect to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas)—that it is not really so much the Conservative, even with a small "c," who is apt to go on repeating the slogans of the previous generation and even the one behind that; on the whole it is the "Advanced," the 832 "Progressives"; they are brought up on slogans and it is rather more difficult for them to change them—everyone goes on repeating the stuff about science getting more and more specialised, technicalised, departmentalised, compartmentalised, and my impression, not as a scientist but as a man who has spent his life partly in intimate conversations with many of the greatest and best-informed scientists, is that the opposite has been the fact for some considerable time.: the sciences have all tended more and more during the last 20 years, especially, to approximate to mathematics, and to need mathematics for any understanding of them. In that sense they have come together again.
There is perhaps a kind of school education which is an education for all science now as there was 300 years ago and there was not 30 years ago. I ask my right hon. Friend to consult the best experts he has got, official and unofficial, about what can be done, and, if he agrees with me, to see what can be done—I think that there are things that can be done—to try to make school masters persuade school boys and school girls interested in science, that what they are interested in they are capable of being excited about, and that the most important thing is mathematical preparation, certainly up to 16, probably up to any school-leaving age.
The important thing is that it need not be too frightening if we were not getting enough scientific knowledge. We shall have cause to be frightened in trying to keep up with the modern world if we cannot get enough mathematics masters of a sort to persuade boys, not only those so naturally mathematical that they will so specialise anyhow, to go on and try to get up to their mathematical ceiling whatever it may be. If all the boys in the country get up to their mathematical ceiling, we can be perfectly certain that we shall have all the scientists that can be got out of our population.
All that may seem a long way from politics; perhaps it may be rather more fully considered than in these debates it has been. If I may come back to politics for a bit, I would say that there have been charges and counter-charges about whose fault it is that comprehensive schools are politics, but I agree with hon. 833 Members opposite in this connection in not distinguishing between politics and party politics.
If there are people in the Parliamentary Socialist Party who are capable of second thoughts, and whose minds have not been absolutely closed on this matter, I beg them to think twice about it. I think that it was the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, North-East who said that she did not want education imposed and directly managed from Curzon Street. I very much doubt if all this comprehensive policy will be wanted, imposed from Transport House. I know for certain—and no amount of derision can shake me from this—that there are parts of the country, even where the Socialist Party have been in control of local authorities, which have rather regretfully and halfheartedly accepted this direction from on high. They all know that Socialism is good, Socialism is progress—and all that; but they rather regretfully accept the particularisation of that down to the point that comprehensive schools are the only thing. That certainly does not go down altogether well everywhere.
The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) has left the Chamber. I want to refer to something he said. He said that the definition of a comprehensive school is that it is a school for the ordinary normal child. That is not really a definition, it is a misuse of the word "definition." I will not bother defining what "definition" does mean, but that is not what it means. I would warn the hon. Gentleman also of this: the mothers of England are not much interested in ordinary, normal children—at least so far as I have ever known them, they are not interested in ordinary normal children.
Nor do I know how he reconciles this refusal to have anything to do with selectivity—which was his word—how he reconciles that with having one sort of school, and one only, designed for one sort of child, how you do it without having some way of selecting the ordinary, normal child from the others? It has already been said, and I am perfectly certain that it is true, that if one once gets one's unique school—in the French sense, one school and one only—first, it has to be a great deal bigger than anyone has said today. People talk about doing it with 800, but it cannot be done with three times that number—
§ Mr. Pickthorn
—and have as good a sixth form as there is at present in a first-rate grammar school. That is mathematically demonstrable.
§ Mr. C. Hughes
Is the hon. Member aware that all the children of Anglesey are well catered for in four comprehensive schools?
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am delighted to know that the children of Anglesey are well catered for. But the children of Anglesey are rather peculiar children in various respects. One respect is that they are selected by geography and by a particular bit of water, and that there is no other way in which secondary education could be provided.
Secondly, I do not understand the people who think that there has been enough experience of this sort of school—even of one such school—at this stage. How long have they had these schools? Is it four or five years? Certainly, there has not been time for anyone to be certain about that.
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
How does the hon. Gentleman propose that we shall get experience, unless this Government allow us to try?
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I was about to tell the hon. Lady.
What I propose is that those local authorities who very much want to try this experiment, and who in the judgment of the Minister have such arrangements that it could be there tried—without undue risk of anything approaching disaster, a great loss of known values—I propose in such places that it should be tried. But that is quite another thing from saying that we must have it everywhere and that if we do not have it we have not got democracy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, we were told that. We were not quite told that the sun would never shine on Saturday afternoons, but it came pretty well almost to that.
I propose that if this thing is to be an experiment it should be an experiment. 835 I warn hon. Gentlemen—and this is the last thing I have to say—of this one other thing about comprehensive schools. It has been said already, but I think it may be said in a rather different way once more. First of all, I think we all exaggerate—we do great harm by exaggerating and tend to cause the evil we deprecate—when we say we are imposing an exaggerated effect on the child's whole life, that the child's whole life was decided at 11. I do not think that is true.
I am the kind of chap who was rather successful at examinations, but I do not know that that ever did me much good. Looking back, I do not know whether, if I had been unsuccessful at examinations, I might not have been either a happier or a better man—both of them conceivably. I think that we all exaggerate enormously the extent to which a child's fate turns, and we know which way, on an examination at a given moment.
Secondly, I would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to consider this point. I suppose the example of the maximum of making examinations important in a sense is the Cambridge University system. In fact so extreme was it that there was a time when the whole thing might turn on one examination. Nowadays people always, I think, take two. It is often said, "How monstrous to judge on one examination the whole effect of an education."
There is something to be said on the other side. One of the things tested in an examination—I agree that this should not be tested more than can be helped in a child of 11 so as to be seen by the child testing it—but one of the important things which ought to be tested, even in a child of 11, is the tendency to do better on important occasions than on normal occasions.
If I were choosing someone, if I were going in first for England, as I have always wanted to do, and were choosing the chap to go in with me, I should not necessarily choose the best batsman to be my partner. I should choose the sort of chap who in the top class of batsmen tended to go in and do better in Test matches than in friendly games. That is an important part of the whole examination and selec- 836 tion. A child cannot wholly be kept away from it even up to the age of 12.
Thirdly, and most important about this business of selectivity: if you are going to do anything, whatever happens, you think you can get a comprehensive school of 800, and I think that in any normal conditions you can hardly get as good a sixth form as, I will not say Manchester Grammar School, which is a rather special sort of school, but in a first-rate grammar school not perhaps of as great distinction as Manchester, with much fewer than 3,000, which I think much too big. Whether I may be right or wrong about that, whether this new school, which is to be the only kind of school, is to be for 800 or for 4,000, either way, of this I am absolutely certain: that it has got to be divided up into sets. There cannot just be six forms, otherwise we shall have classes which really are too big.
That has got to be done with regard to the aptitude and ability, in the consecrated words of the statute, of the child. I am quite sure it will quickly be comprehended in those families where these things are watched closely. The mother is going to know pretty quickly which stream. And in those neighbourhoods where these things are watched closely between neighbours, they are going to know pretty quickly too.
The notion that you can get away from snobbery—first of all, the notion that we can ever get away from snobbery is an odd one—the notion that people who think the only thing that matters in education, judging from some of their speeches, has something to do with class, esteem, status—the question of whether or not a bank manager sends his children to a fee-paying school—to think that such people can get away from snobbery is over-optimistic. I am certain we shall not get away from it this way whether 800 or 4,000 children attend the school: their parents or the neighbours will know which are the clever boys and which are not. And it is no use kidding ourselves, and we do kid ourselves, about the fact that every boy is the best boy in the school at something or other. It may be so in God's sight and, God knows, in God's sight we are all such small potatoes and there is not much to choose. But so far as things of human calculating or guessing go, I will undertake to say, give me a school where the boys all run faster 837 than the others and they will all do better Latin verses as well, and vice versa.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. M. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)
I hope the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) does not expect me to follow him in the vaudeville version of education he has just presented the Committee. Certainly it would take a much more skilful person than I am to canalise the tergiversation to which we have just listened from the hon. Member.
It is all very well for anyone like myself, an onlooker, to sit in this Chamber and listen to the speeches which have come from hon. Members opposite. They started with the usual aplomb and address of the Minister, who undoubtedly came to the Dispatch Box with obviously great self-satisfaction and elation. It has been notable in the expiring days of this Parliament that Members on the Government Front Bench have been patting themselves so much on the back that they are in danger of knocking themselves out. That is what I think is going to happen when the impending General Election comes.
When we are discussing education and the Minister comes to the Box with that pronounced self-satisfaction we saw today, I would ask him whether it is not right that he should consider how the education system, whatever it is, is being administered. I want to point out to him an instance of maladministration which puts into the shade quite a lot of what he told us this afternoon. It seems to me that it does not matter how good is the system of education, if it is badly administered and there is injustice, or the pupil is not getting the benefit which that system is intended to confer, the system is not working properly and certainly is not worth what it is alleged to be worth.
This is now my only opportunity to raise a case of maladministration in a section of the education system which, I submit, is a very serious matter for the child concerned. It refers to the examination for admission of a pupil to secondary education. It is a case from Barnwood School, near Gloucester, in my constituency, which in my submission is open to the most severe criticism. The Minister certainly cannot hide behind the action of the local education authority, because the Minister himself confirmed what the authority did. It is part of our 838 educational system that a child of 11 reaches a point where a decision is to be made for his future education and whether, under certain tests, he is to go on to secondary education or not. I am not going to argue whether that test or system is a good one or not, but I am going to deal purely with the way in which it is, apparently, being administered.
There are special cases in which a child of exceptional ability is allowed to sit for the admission examination on the attainment of 10 years of age. At Barnwood School there is a pupil, Timothy Dundas, who has consistently been in the first three of his class and—I emphasise this—although he attained the appropriate age of 10 years on the appropriate date, he was prevented from sitting the examination with the consequence that, although his other schoolmates were allowed to pass on to further advanced education, he has been condemned to wait another 12 months before he can take the examination.
It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to come to the Committee with the self-elation we saw today, but I ask the Minister to bring his mind to the circumstances of this lad, whose whole future may be at stake. Here is a lad whose industry and ability have qualified him to go on to secondary education and the local education authority—with the subsequent confirmation of the Minister—has been an obstruction of that lad's advancement in that respect. It is therefore very important that the Committee and the country should understand how this part of the education system is being administered by the local education authority in question, and upheld by the present Minister.
The local education authority issued a form in connection with this subject, setting out its regulation in reference to it. The regulation makes it quite clear that pupils of exceptional ability who reach the age of 10 years by 1st March, 1955, but would not be 11 years of age by 1st September, 1955, may be examined. It was as clear as could be—not only literally, but in law—that this lad, born on 2nd March, would by 1st March, 1955, attain his 10 years and reach the age which in law entitled him to sit the examination. The local education authority, however, took up a really 839 childish point by saying that because the lad was born on 2nd March—in fact he was born two hours after midnight on 1st March—he was not 10 years of age on the material date and therefore not entitled to sit the examination. That was a complete misconstruction because, in law, the child attained his 10th year, not on 2nd March, but on the day next before the attainment of his 10th birthday, namely, the 1st March. That is an old proposition in the law which is almost hallowed, and which everyone in this Committee should know. It goes back to 1704, and is probably even older than that.
There was on the facts absolutely no excuse whatever for the local education authority rejecting this lad and preventing him from taking the examination. The father naturally took up the matter at once with the local education authority. He pointed out that the boy was being left behind by his schoolmates who were allowed to go forward and pointed out the effect this would have on the boy and on his future outlook. The local education authority—I suppose with a bureaucratic rigidity for which some of them are sometimes distinguished—obstinately refused to do anything about it, so the father wrote a letter to the Minister. The father pointed out, most explicitly, what the position was. In the meantime he had ascertained the legal position and made it absolutely clear to the Minister that the boy was 10 years and, consequently, qualified to take his place in the classroom for that examination for admission to a secondary school.
The local education authority was at least sensible enough not to take the further point, which I suppose in order to cover the matter up the Ministry subsequently took, and to which I will presently refer. The local education authority's regulations state that pupils of exceptional ability who reach the age of 10 years "may be examined," and it really is pathetic that the Minister actually took the view that the construction to be placed on that part of the regulations was that it was in the discretion of the local educational authority whether the boy was to be allowed to sit for the examination or not.
I do not wish to quote from other parts of the rules and regulations, but I invite the Minister to look at them, when I 840 think he will see that they cannot have any such meaning whatever. It is perfectly clear what the purpose is—that the headmaster and the parents should decide whether the lad was to sit or not. All that happens, as anybody who knows anything at all about these things is well aware, is that the headmaster recommends the lad knowing that the proper form has to be filled in, and then the lad in due course takes his place in the class, and the headmaster himself is usually the person who conducts the examination.
Therefore it was absolutely grotesque, and, in my submission, open to the most severe criticism, that the Ministry, instead of doing something sensible about this and saying to the local education authority, "You cannot deal with this lad in such a cursory, capricious and trumpery way; this lad is 10 years of age. Let him sit for the examination and put an end to all this artificial nonsense." Instead of doing that the Ministry, amongst other things, wrote a letter in which they say that Regulation 81H was merely an administrative instruction—although I think that obstruction would have been a better word there—to head teachers and school correspondents, and that it conferred no rights on parents or individual pupils.
Let me pause there for a moment to ask the Minister if he is saying in effect in that letter that a child, fully qualified at the proper age, can nevertheless be prevented from sitting for the examination when there is absolutely no justification for it at all, except by the caprice and the alleged unjustifiable discretion of the local educational authority. I venture to say that no such contention is sustainable, and no such view should ever have been put forward or accepted by a responsible Ministry.
Then, the Minister's letter goes on to say:You will note that the phrase 'who will reach the age of ten years by 1st March, 1955, but who will not be eleven years of age by 1st September, 1955,' is amplified by the words in brackets immediately following—'i.e. pupils born on or between 2nd September and 1st March, 1945.' Moreover, the authority's form 81H states merely that pupils born on or between the dates in question 'may be examined' and the parents of a pupil who was in fact qualified by age under the authority's regulations could not demand his admission to the examination as of right.841 I must ask the Minister to look at that letter again, and to ask himself seriously whether that was a proper letter to write in a case of this kind, because he was there laying down the proposition, which he contended was quite sustainable, that notwithstanding that the lad was entitled to sit for this examination on every basis of qualification, he could be prevented from doing so capriciously and unjustifiably merely because the particular local education authority did not like the colour of his hair or did not think that he ought to sit for the examination. In my submission, that proposition cannot be upheld.
I would ask the Minister if he will give me his attention for a moment. Ex concessi this lad was of age, and prima facie he was entitled to sit for this examination. It is no use the Minister or the local education authority trying to get out of what is a fact and a firm legal rule of construction, which make this lad 10 years of age on the crucial date and entitled him to enter that examination. If that is right, I ask the Minister this question, because after all this letter which he wrote may be only a process of face saving, but here is a young lad whose educational future and advancement is at stake. I ask the Minister whether he is going to allow this lad to suffer in this way.
For all I know, there may be many more cases of this kind, because if the Minister lays this down as a rule which is properly followed, it is quite likely, I should have thought, that there are many such cases in the country. I therefore ask him whether he is to take any steps now to correct this matter and put it right and to see that this lad is enabled to take his examination, and not hold back and obstruct this clear right of a steady, hard working and able lad, who ought to be not only able but encouraged to go forward in accordance with what was prescribed and intended at the time of the passing of the 1944 Act.
I appeal to the Minister. I have had many dealings with the Ministry of Education, and have always found them to be helpful and sensible. I ask them in this case to be helpful and sensible, and to take steps which will enable that lad to take his examination.
§ Sir D. Eccles
The hon. and learned Member kindly gave me notice of this 842 case. I have sent for the file, which I have just seen for the first time, and I will certainly look into it. I should point out to him, however, that this form 81 H is a local authority circular, and I have no power under the Act to interpret local authority circulars. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me time to look into the position, I will do the best I can.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
I quite accept that, but I think the Minister will also accept that, under the provisions of the Education Act, his word to the local educational authorities on anything they may do is supreme, and that he can countercheck or even countermand what they have done. It is perfectly true that Circular 81 H may be a local administrative document, but it is issued under the powers which emanate from the central authority, and the central authority could deal with it, if necessary. My complaint is that this authority has done wrong, and that, the matter having been brought to the notice of the Minister, it was confirmed, instead of which it should have been rejected and the matter put right. Nevertheless, I am very grateful to the Minister, because I know that he will look into it, and if he thinks proper will see that the matter is put right.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Angus Maude (Ealing, South)
I have always wanted to speak after the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels), who is my favourite Parliamentary speaker from the other side, and on this occasion he did not disappoint us. The hon. and learned Gentleman started with quite a little homily on the dangers of self-satisfaction, and he devoted the rest of his speech to a plea for a child in his constituency who was brilliant beyond his years and whose educational future was being retarded.
I am sorry that the hon. and learned Gentleman did not get a better audience on his side of the Committee for his particular plea, because it could hardly have been in more poignant contrast to the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove), who spoke earlier and who gave one of the most devastating exposes of the real purpose of comprehensive schools that I have ever heard in my life, and I noticed some 843 pretty gloomy faces among hon. Gentlement opposite when he was speaking.
As I understood him, the hon. Member for Aberavon gave two criteria about the comprehensive school. First, it was based on the ordinary intelligence of the ordinary normal child. Then he suggested that the comprehensive school was the answer to the problems of the lower middle-class parents whose children could not pass into the grammar schools. He finally said that social cohesion could only be secured by the comprehensive school and that we could not have social cohesion if we had segregation at the secondary school stage.
Passing over the question whether if we carried the doctrine of non-segregation to its logical conclusion we should have to abolish the special schools for mental deficiency, Borstal and approved schools and put the whole lot into the comprehensive school, I want to say what a perfect picture of the Socialist educational system that speech brings out. It suggests a secondary school system aimed and concentrated on the normal, ordinary child of the lower middle class. A more class-conscious concept it would be difficult to conceive of and one, I should have thought, peculiarly unwelcome to people of all types and classes.
My hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) said truly that mothers and parents generally are not interested in the ordinary normal child. They are interested in their own children. They have a pretty shrewd idea that their own children are potentially more brilliant than other children. At any rate, even if they do not feel that way, they want their children to have the best chance for developing whatever aptitudes they may have. Without some degree of selection that is impossible.
As has already been pointed out at least twice from this side of the Committee, nobody on the Opposition side has denied that even in a comprehensive school we cannot hope to give the best education consonant with a child's abilities and aptitudes unless there is some measure of selection. It is proposed at the same time to concentrate large numbers of children into a sort of amorphous mass, without either the traditions of a grammar school or the opportunity to 844 develop particular kinds of education, which has been part of the particular genius of the British people and without which the prospects of the British people would be far worse than they have ever been.
The policy advocated by hon. Members opposite is not only unimaginative but is defeatist and reactionary. Hon. Members opposite are trying to destroy at its most promising stage one of the greatest educational experiments we have ever undertaken, the secondary modern school. I cannot for the life of me understand how people who profess the ideals which hon. Gentlemen opposite profess can want to do it. I can understand their wanting to destroy grammar schools, because there are many things about the grammar schools—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Evansrose—
§ Mr. Maude
I have not given way to the hon. Gentleman, and I do not propose to. I know his views on this subject. They have been expressed here for many years ad nauseam. If we made comprehensive schools the normal method of secondary education we could not retain the old-established grammar schools unless it were by merging them into the comprehensive-school system. There is no other conceivable way of doing it without making a farce of the whole comprehensive school system.
How would hon. Members make good the boast that the comprehensive school would provide as good a stream as the grammar school, if they retained the grammar school in competition? That is ludicrous. They could not have two competing grammar school systems. The only way to get a proper academic sixth form in the comprehensive school would be by abolishing the grammar school.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
Does the hon. Member suggest that when the United Kingdom was formed England and Scotland were destroyed or abolished?
§ Mr. Maude
That precisely illustrates the point. The hon. Gentleman has stated that he does not wish to destroy the 845 grammar school but only to merge it into the comprehensive school. I take it that is the point. If that is not what hon. Gentlemen opposite mean, for goodness sake let us know. Are they proposing to merge the existing grammar schools, irrespective of age, tradition or excellence of education, into the comprehensive schools? Are they?
§ Mr. Maude
I want to know what hon. Gentlemen opposite propose to do. I take it from their unwillingness to say "Yes" that it is "Yes" that they mean. Now we really do know the answer. They are not going to destroy the grammar schools but only to merge them into the much larger comprehensive schools, and so destroy their identities, their names, their traditions and the type of education which they have been giving. At least that is honest, even if it took a little time to get the admission by implication out of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
As a matter of fact, I was misled into this discussion. It was not about the future of grammar schools that I wanted to talk but about the future of the secondary modern school, which is in many ways more important. If the electorate return us at the next Election, as I am confident that they will, the grammar schools will be able to look after themselves. We shall be able to keep the hands of hon. Gentlemen opposite off them. The secondary modern schools will need very careful attention, encouragement and nurturing at what is a most critical stage in their development.
I have been saying for years that perhaps the greatest modern contribution of the British people to education is the secondary modern school. Given the chance, we could make something revolutionary and very important out of them. What we shall do if we succeed in the Election is to get rid of the whole stigma and aura of competition of merit which now exists in regard to the selection test at 11-plus. That is not mere theorising. Where a fair chance has been given to the system, which can be seen to be working, and where the secondary modern school provides the kind of education which is regarded in its type as equally good and satisfactory as that given by the grammar school in its type, the response of parents 846 and children is immediately forthcoming in that area.
There is no question as to the disabilities from which the secondary modern schools have been suffering. Many of them are in the old buildings that were taken over from the pre-Hadow days. They have not attractive surroundings and equipment. They are also suffering from the fact that the children tend to leave at 15 instead of carrying on after that age. As more resources become available we can do a lot to get rid of those deficiencies in buildings and equipment.
When we begin to develop the technical and technological possibilities of the secondary modern school we shall get more children staying on after the age of 15, particularly if we are a little more generous in the matter of maintenance. I have seen this happen in one part of Middlesex and several other parts of the country, where there are good, new secondary modern schools and a technical stream running from the age of about 13 years, and where a positive degree of competition has begun among parents to get their children into them. There is no nonsense, no snobbish competition, no feeling of frustration and failure when the child goes to the secondary modern school instead of to the grammar school. So one of the main arguments always adduced by hon. Members opposite against the present system immediately disappears.
What could be a more satisfactory method of development? This is the method that has met all the educational advances which we have so far made, developing step by step from one institution to another, improving each as we go along to meet the new demands of the society in which we live. Is not that a better way than to destroy—and I repeat that it is destroying—the existence, the identity, the traditions and the advantages of the existing schools? Is it not much better to improve those which lag behind than to destroy those which are good? I do not believe that the parents of this country will have any doubt as to which is the better way.
This has been rather a political debate. When one is so near a General Election I suppose that is inevitable. I think hon. Members opposite will support me when I say that I have not on the whole been 847 given to making party political speeches about education but have always tried to look at it objectively. Nevertheless, there have been one or two observations from the other side which cannot in justice be allowed to pass.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas)—who is unfortunately not at present with us—produced for about a quarter of an hour a series of statements which, while being just consonant with some of the facts, were yet as misleading as possible. The hon. Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart) was not, I thought, far away from him at times. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West said that Ministers on this side had been promising the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds and that although they had not got into the hundreds of millions they were still promising large, or fairly large, sums after the General Election.
§ Mr. Maude
It is very interesting to compare what has been alleged against us with what has recently been happening in the Labour Party. About a year ago the Labour Party started promising things costing hundreds of millions of pounds. Their promises have been getting louder, larger and more irresponsible as their chances of being returned to office diminish. As this election campaign takes its course, I see no reason why that process should be reversed.
What neither the hon. Member for Cardiff, West nor the hon. Member for Fulham, East have really appreciated is the way in which the achievements of this Government in education have been a continuous and steady process during the last three and a half years. They talk as if my right hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side (Dame Florence Horsbrugh) had indulged in an immediate outbreak of reaction, imposing savage cuts designed deliberately to cause the educational service to deteriorate, and as if my right hon. Friend the present Minister had then deliberately reversed her policy and gone forward making extravagant promises because the country was nearer to an Election.
To anyone who bothers to find out the facts, what a completely false picture that is. As my right hon. Friend has 848 always been the first to say, what happened was that when my right hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side took over her office in October, 1951, she found that the position was very serious indeed. If there were not to be a very severe deterioration in education, the situation demanded drastic efforts. The building programme was most seriously overloaded. If anyone doubts that, he should look at the evidence given to the Select Committee on Estimates by the Hertfordshire Education Authority.
The fact is that there is real reason to believe that had not the moratorium on new starts been imposed we should not have been able to meet the demand for new school places during the few years immediately following 1951. The results are plain to see. Compare the records of schools finished before 1951 with those of schools finished after that date. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Fulham, East to say that the number of new school places completed last year was less than that of the year before, but what would have happened if as a result of there being no moratorium those hundreds of new schools had not been completed? There would have been an actual deficiency of places. The hon. Member would then have been the first to accuse us of irresponsible carelessness in not taking steps to ensure that those places were available which had been promised by our Socialist predecessors.
As it is, we have kept abreast of the demand for places for the children. It is much more important that those places should have been completed than that the numbers should have risen between 1951 and 1953 or that they should still be going up in the same proportion now. Hon. Members opposite should be a little careful in what they say about the future prospects for the size of classes. As they well know, the problem is very complicated. It is easy to talk too much about it and to shout too loud.
For example, if we took extravagant measures now to reduce the size of primary school classes we might find that it would be a source of embarrassment in the future because, as the bulge in the birth-rate moves from the primary to the secondary schools, the number of children at primary schools will at a certain time automatically fall. It may be much more important at that time that 849 we should have in the primary schools the very best and most carefully selected teachers of the highest quality than that we should have a number which will then prove to be too large whose quality will be below what might have been possible.
My right hon. Friend has today given us the news—it is the most heartening news in the field of education that I can remember hearing since I first entered the House—that the demand for places in teacher training colleges exceeds by 3,000 the number of places available. We all know that to be true. I would not have believed four years ago that in 1955 I should be receiving letters from constituents about girls of 19 years of age, apparently with all the qualifications necessary for entering a teacher training college, being rejected, in one case by no less than eight different colleges. That is the sort of letter I am now getting. While I feel very much for a girl who has a teaching vocation yet cannot get into a teacher training college, I think it is a position in which we should not do anything but congratulate ourselves.
Do not let us—and I hope the teachers will agree with this—be rushed by this apparent plethora of potential recruits to teaching into diluting the standards of the profession when we have the chance of raising them. There was a period after the war when those standards fell. We now have a chance to raise them again to the best we have ever known. We should concentrate on that. The teachers obviously will not be the losers by it; it is a good trade union principle that the teachers, on the whole, must gain. Nor will the children lose. Nothing will better improve the prospects of the children than an improvement in the quality of the teachers. I do not expect necessarily a reduction in the size of classes from that; I believe the quality of the teachers to be even more important.
I am quite sure that my right hon. Friend is very much seized of the importance of this problem and that he realises as well as any of us the need to deal with it. Now we have improved prospects for the primary schools. They are now better than they have been since the war. Now we have more teachers of a higher quality and we have the race to fit the increased number of children into the schools almost won. From now on the pressure on the primary schools 850 will be getting less, the number of teachers more, and the quality of teachers better. That will enable us at last to improve the quality of primary school education.
I know that it is important to reduce the size of classes, but that will come. On the basis of the improved primary education we have a chance to let the existing secondary education show what it can do. It has not had that chance because the stream coming from the primary schools was not as good as it might have been.
On the basis of that improved product coming from the primary schools, let us develop the system which was recommended by the Hadow Report and which was instituted by the 1944 Education Act. Let us build a secondary education system based on the traditions of established grammar schools and translated not merely through those schools but through new grammar schools created for new communities, and through secondary modern schools developed into institutions peculiarly British with immense potentialities for good and with a great contribution to make in a scientific age. Let us then see whether it will not be the case that British education will be the best in the world.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)
The most interesting part of the speech of the hon. Member for Ealing, South (Mr. Maude) was that in which he spoke of the secondary modern schools. I can go substantially a good way with him on that aspect of our educational system because I believe that whether we like it or not, and I wish that it were otherwise, the majority of our school population are being educated today and will be educated for some time in secondary modern schools.
Indeed, the secondary modern school forms, practically speaking is the main basis of our educational system. Therefore, if the secondary modern school is to achieve what the hon. Member describes as something peculiarly British and one of the greatest adventures in modern education in this or any other country, we shall have to spend a little more money on secondary modern schools than we are spending on them now.
I have visited quite a number of secondary modern schools. I have found that, 851 generally speaking, the striking difference between the secondary modern school and the grammar school is, first of all, in the buildings and equipment. If the secondary modern school is to contain school children up to the age of 16 or 17, greater facilities will have to be provided for practical education. Equipment and tools will have to be provided both to give the technically-minded boy or girl a suitable education and to provide a higher standard of academic education. Therefore, we first want better equipment both of schools and of the necessary tools to discharge the practical side of education if the secondary modern school is to fulfil its purpose for our children.
I should have thought that the Minister of Education would recommend to all local education authorities that there should be a scheme whereby, when a boy or girl leaves the secondary modern school for industry or for some other vocation, he or she should be possessed of a general school-leaving certificate stating exactly the young person's standard of intelligence and scholastic record throughout the school career so that when he or she applies for a post a prospective employer will have some knowledge of the educational bent and achievements of the person whom he proposes to employ.
I certainly think that it is a good thing to encourage complete understanding between the secondary modern school and the grammar school, and that where children show a very definite preference for, academic education they should be transferred to the grammar school to enable that bent to be developed, and vice versa from the grammar school to the secondary modern school when the educational bent is otherwise. Above all, if we are to achieve parity between the two schools, we must have the best teachers that are available to staff our secondary modern schools.
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Ealing, South further than that, because I thought that his speech was essentially a party political speech, though it largely approved of my party's attitude towards the comprehensive school. The Minister is committed to the comprehensive school, just as we are on this side of the Committee. I have not yet heard the Minister turn down the principle of the comprehensive school.
852 The only difference between the parties is as to the extent to which the comprehensive school system should be applied.
I must confess that the Minister's announcement today about university grants for students has somewhat interfered with the even tenor of my speech, because it was my intention to advocate a review of the existing university grants. After having heard what the Minister had to say about the revision of the basis of university grants for students, particularly those entering teachers' training colleges, I want to ask one or two exploratory questions. Now that the Minister has decided to uplift the grant to the student who is about to enter a teachers' training college, and who will now receive the same grant as is made to the student entering a university, will the Minister, in the interests of uniformity and of equity, consider applying the same principle to the student who is entering one of our technical colleges?
I represent a constituency where people are very largely engaged in heavy engineering. The bulk of the young people in my constituency are technically minded. I am continually asked why it is that when it is a matter of considering a grant for those who are anxious to secure the benefit of technical education, with a view to their becoming technologists or technicians, the same consideration is not given to them as is given to those who are proceeding to a university college. This is important, because unless we establish equity and extend that principle of uniformity which the Minister has now stated to be very desirable, we shall not develop the technical side of industry to the extent that we all so much desire.
The other point I wanted to put to the Parliamentary Secretary is this. What does the Minister propose to do to enforce the decision to which he has come as a result of the Committee's report to which he referred? How does he intend to get the local education authorities to accept his proposals? If, for example, he gets the local authorities to raise the grant to the teacher student, what does he propose to do about those local authorities—some still exist—who have not yet applied the recommendations to bring the existing major scholarship grants to university students up to the standard laid down some time ago by his predecessor?
853 I also wish to raise another question which is equally important. I should like the hon. Gentleman to have a look at some of the training colleges and the initial costs that are imposed upon students and are laid down as a condition of entry. I would ask him, for example, to look at some of the colleges providing physical education. I am advised there is a dearth of physical education teachers. They are certainly very very important to the nation. But I was astonished when I received a statement of the conditions which are laid down for entry, for example, into Marsh's College of Physical Education, which comes under the administration of the Lancashire Education Committee.
I do not propose to read out the details which I have in my hand, but the Parliamentary Secretary might like to know that I have here the list of articles that a student must bring with her to the college, what the student will be asked to provide when she gets there, and also what the student will require as equipment for the purpose of discharging her obligation to the college as a student. I have had the list priced, and I would say that the cost is between £150 and £200. If my estimate is correct—and this is not a matter upon which the student can exercise any discretion; it is a condition laid down by the principal of the college on behalf of those in charge—then it is becoming far most costly to become a physical education teacher than it is to be a lawyer.
Now that the Minister has developed an expansive, electoral mood, I should like to ask him to do two things. The first one is, will he see to it that local authorities still lagging behind will conform to the standard which his predecessor laid down? Will he also bring into operation the increases which he proposes to pay so that a student will not suffer because he chooses a particular way in which to develop his educational career?
The second point I want to ask the Minister to have a look at is the conditions of entry to a number of these training colleges to see that they are educationally necessary and not merely a continuance of a snobbish conception of education. Finally, will he examine these initial costs and ascertain whether in fact they are necessary, and if so will 854 he recommend to local authorities that they should rank as expenses upon which a grant may be determined? In short, will he see that the grant, having been made, will have regard to those initial costs and not merely be confined to standards of subsistence which is the usual basis upon which grants are made by local authorities?
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. C. J. M. Alport (Colchester)
The hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle) accused my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, South (Mr. Maude) on having made a party speech. I can assure him and other hon. Members on the other side that what we are anxious to do is to elucidate for our own benefit and for the benefit of the country generally exactly what is their conception about the future of the comprehensive school.
When my hon. Friend earlier said that the party opposite wished to destroy the grammar school there was an immediate outcry of disagreement. What, therefore, do they intend? Is it their policy that where a new secondary school is to be built it should be a comprehensive one? For instance, in a new housing estate, which requires additional secondary education, do they consider that it is right that that secondary education should take the form of a comprehensive school and, if it is, is the reason for that because they believe that the comprehensive school is a better form of education of a secondary nature than the existing three-stream school?
If this principle is to be applied by the party opposite to new schools that are being bunt, why logically do they refrain from applying that same principle to the other parts of the country which have already got a pattern of secondary education on what they would call that basis? If, on the other hand, they feel that the old system of education with the grammar school, the technical school and the secondary modern school, is appropriate to most of the country, why do they insist on applying the comprehensive principle to the new secondary schools which are to be built in the future?
I believe—and whether hon. Members are aware of the fact I do not know—that the idea of a comprehensive school 855 is intended to appeal to the parents and less to the considered interests of the children, because as I understand the Education Act, 1944, the object of maintaining three separate types of education at the secondary stage is to try to ensure that every child will go through the type of education for which its talents and ability are most suitable.
§ Mr. Ede
Can the hon. Gentleman tell me where in the Education Act, 1944, he will find any reference to three separate types of education?
§ Mr. Alport
The right hon. Gentleman has the advantage of me in this case, because he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education during the time when the Education Act was being passed through this House, and I must confess I am less familiar with the details than he is. But I am quite clear that it has worked out that way, and if it has it must have been on the responsibility of the party opposite who were in power when the new system was introduced. In those circumstances, there is no doubt that it was the logical and proper view to adopt, and one which I would have thought was an integral part of the accepted practice of post-war education.
What will happen in the case of the comprehensive school? There is no doubt that if the policy of the party opposite is integrated and the old established and highly respected grammar school comes within the framework of the new comprehensive school, then in the future the old grammar school will, in fact, set the standard of the whole school. That may be a good thing, and in some cases it would be a very good thing, but there is no doubt that there will be as much difference in the minds of the people whose children go there between selection for the grammar school wing of the comprehensive school and selection for what one might call the modern wing of the comprehensive school as there is between selection for the modern secondary school at present and selection for the secondary grammar school.
I believe that what the policy of the party opposite will do, if it succeeds in producing anything at all, is to produce an illusion of equality of attainment amongst parents in respect of their children but will handicap the children them- 856 selves. I therefore believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, South and the Minister are absolutely right when they say that our policy should be to develop the secondary modern school as an element in the pattern of national education for the future.
In my constituency I have a new secondary modern school and an old-established Royal Grammar School, the latter dating from the days of Edward VI. The buildings of the old grammar school are unsuitable, to say the least, whereas the buildings of the new secondary modern school are ideal. There we have a very good comparison, and I can say without hesitation that, with its advantages in accommodation and so on, the modern school has created for itself a place in the esteem of the area through the part which it is playing in our educational world.
The grammar school has a different renown and esteem, it is true, but whether a child goes to St. Helena's, on the one hand, or the Royal Grammar School, on the other hand, although perhaps not a matter of indifference to the parents, at any rate it is not regarded as being a disadvantage by the parents or the children. I am quite certain that given a proper chance—and this is the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, South—given the teachers, the accommodation and the equipment, and given, also, the support of public figures in politics and elsewhere, the modern secondary school can play a very important part indeed in the future of our pattern of education.
Perhaps I may say something further about a point raised by the Minister earlier. He said—and I am sure that hon. Members throughout the Committee will entirely agree—that one of the most important things we have to do now is to ensure that we obtain the highest quality of teachers available for all our schools—teachers who are qualified for their work and who in certain cases, particularly for science and mathematical subjects, are graduates.
I want to ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who is to reply, whether he will again consider the representations made to him by the Graduate Teachers' Association recently about the new system of salaries in respect of responsibility and seniority. My hon. 857 Friend knows that the Graduate Teachers' Association feels that under the system accepted by the Burnham Committee insufficient attention is paid to seniority as compared with the responsibility and the duties of the school teacher concerned. In this letter, which my right hon. Friend has seen, the Association says:We ask that the graduate allowance should begin at perhaps the existing £60 a year and should increase by annual increments, of, say, £10 to £250 at the top of the scale. With this would go responsibility allowances much the same as they are now in March, 1955, but codified from the practice of the best local authorities and applied countrywise.I do not want to go any further into that point, but I believe that it is important that in this matter of ensuring that graduate teachers of the highest quality are available, attention should be paid to the problems in the schools created by the new system, which can cause difficulties amongst teachers who, although of greater seniority, are perhaps paid at a lower salary rate.
May I turn to a further point which is perhaps a little away from the general tenor of the debate? Whatever hon. Members may think about the educational system of this country, and particularly about the public schools, there is no doubt at all that the system of education at the public schools is held in the highest esteem by people in Commonwealth and Colonial Territories overseas. For instance, I know that every member of the staff of one High Commissioner's office here is attempting to get his child into a particular public school.
As my hon. Friend knows, at the moment it is extremely difficult for anyone who has not had his name put down for those schools at a very early age to obtain a vacancy, and there is therefore relatively little prospect of parents in Commonwealth countries who wish to send their children to English schools being able to do so.
I realise that the Minister is perhaps not in a position to issue instructions in this case, but I am quite certain that if it were known by the governors of the school concerned that they would be contributing to a continuing understanding between this country and Commonwealth territories, particularly Pakistan, Ceylon and India, by making it possible for parents living in those territories to send their children to public schools here, and 858 if it were known that it would be of the greatest assistance and would be gratefully accepted by those parents, then the governors would co-operate.
I believe that in the whole pattern of understanding which has grown up between ourselves and fellow members of the Commonwealth, nothing has been more important than the fact that a great many of those who are in leading positions in Colonial and Commonwealth territories came to this country in their youth to be educated along with our own children and young people. Because relationships have changed in recent years, I believe it to be of even greater importance that that tradition should continue; and I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend will find it possible to use his influence in any way that he can in order to ensure that that tradition of education is continued for the benefit of the unity of the Commonwealth.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Evans (Lowestoft)
I want to intervene for a very short time and take the Committee with me out of the main stream of educational thought which has dominated our discussion up till now into a little by-water of the educational world, the realm of the special schools in which I have spent the whole of my professional life. I want to say a little about some of the children, dealing with the different categories, and about the teachers.
Whatever claims the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) may make for the public schools and other schools which catch the highlights, we in this country can claim that we have probably the finest system of special school education in the world. We have in large measure been the pioneers in building upon the great voluntary system which started a great number of these schools, particularly for the blind and deaf.
However, there are one or two anxieties which I feel about the system, and I should like to put one or two points to the Minister and ask for his help. They are rather technical points, and I hope the Committee will forgive me if I go into the technical aspect, because that happens to be what I want to talk about.
I want to ask the Minister about a phenomenon which has lately appeared in this field, and that is retrolental fibro- 859 plasia, which attacks small children. There has been a larger incidence of infantile blindness than we have had for a very long period.
I entered the field of blind education a long time ago, and I recollect how from that time we found that gradually every year the incidence of juvenile blindness was decreasing. We found that the lovely Sunshine Homes developed by the Royal National Institute for the Blind were adequate to the needs of the unfortunate children who became afflicted with blindness in early youth. Latterly the incidence has increased and we have had to develop the service, in the fullest cooperation with the Ministry, naturally, but today there is grave doubt whether the provision is sufficient.
At the moment the children are in the nursery schools, but they will gradually pass into the blind primary schools. Is the Minister satisfied that in the blind primary schools there are sufficient places to accommodate them? I have been given disquieting figures which show that there will be a dearth of places. I hope the Minister will not say that if we add up all the vacancies in the country and set them off against the applications they balance or there is an excess of places. He knows very well that we cannot part a small blind child from its family in, say, the West of England and send it to Yorkshire. According to the Act, we have to provide accommodation within reasonable access of the child's home.
We are very pleased indeed that during recent years the bugbear of parental objection has been overcome. We find today that once the parent allows a physically handicapped child to go to one of our lovely new schools, objections are soon worn away and such parents become very much more apostles for the special schools than they were previously.
Is the Minister satisfied with the provision for secondary education for blind children? We have an excellent boys' public school at Worcester which lifts the public schools' chess championship every year and does not do so badly at rowing, and we also have a very fine public school for girls at Chorley Wood. However, is he satisfied with the provision for technical education? The number of professional opportunities for 860 blind persons today, although it is increasing, is not enough to absorb the better types and more adventurous spirits which emerge from our schools. I should have thought that the Minister would have given very special attention to the provision of technical education in these special schools.
I have spoken about blind children, and the excellent nursery provision made for them. The picture is rather different in relation to other categories. What about the young deaf child? It is absolutely essential that the young deaf child should be brought under specialised education as early as possible so that he can learn how to develop speech, understand language and lip-reading and get out of the old classification of "the dumbie," the deaf and dumb child. The provision for nursery schools in the deaf world demands careful attention, and I hope, and feel sure, that the Minister will give assistance in this respect. We need to co-ordinate the services which are already available, and there are plenty of them. A great deal of courage is needed in meeting the demands of the deeds under which they are governed so that they may fulfil their function. The space is there and the teachers are there, but it is a matter of the function.
We have—I am proud to be a trustee of it—a first-class secondary grammar school for the deaf. I imagine it is one of few in the world. Our product is something of which we can be proud. However, in technical education we are lagging far behind. I want to take this opportunity of congratulating Lord Iveagh and his daughter, Lady Lennox-Boyd, upon providing at their own expense an experimental technical school for totally deaf boys. It is not for the hard of hearing or anything like that; it is for absolutely deaf boys who leave the primary schools. We look forward to the development of this venture.
A great deal more is needed. What about the girls? What about the great category of the hard of hearing, the children who still remain in our schools lagging behind? There is nothing which hinders a child's progress more than partial deafness. As my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King) will know, from his long experience in education, it is not long since such children were classi- 861 fied as dull and backward, whereas they ought to have been given special attention in special schools. We look forward to hearing from the Minister about what is to happen in that respect.
Another problem which is worrying teachers in deaf schools is the size of classes. I was horrified when I picked up the excellent Report of the Council for the Training and Supply of Teachers to read that, of the 478 classes for deaf children in the country, 210 are oversize. That is an appalling statement as it stands. There is an agitation on the part of the National College of the Teachers of the Deaf, the Deaf Children's Society and all informed persons connected with the work to reduce the size of classes. Those who have had experience of primary schools with classes of more than 50—I began my career by teaching a class of 90 children—would think that we needed to reduce the classes from 10 to a much lower figure, because an individual approach, is essential.
Another great problem we have to face much more realistically than we are doing concerns the child with a multiple handicap, the child who is educable but suffers not one disability, such as deafness or blindness, but a multiple disability, deaf blindness, epileptic deafness, epileptic blindness, the physically defective blind and deaf, and all those disabilities that might affect the ordinary child through such diseases as poliomyelitis and meningitis. We shall have to do a great deal to remedy this problem.
When I was reading this Report—and I take some responsibility for it, because I was called as a witness—I was very disturbed indeed to find the categorical terms in which it was laid down that the internal examinations conducted hitherto by the College of Teachers of the Blind and the National College for Teachers of the Deaf were to be abrogated and that after a certain date they were not to be held any more and that the qualifications for teaching the blind and the deaf were to be left to a university department. I hope that the Minister will think twice about that. A tremendous amount of technical knowledge and technical skill in this work has grown up and has been sustained by a really vocational spirit. There is available a fund of experience and knowledge in conducting these examinations, and it would be a pity, after the work has been successfully 862 carried on for 50 years, that there should come a time when the project should be disbanded.
There is a great deal to be said for the university examination and the linking with normal training and the normal experience of teachers in ordinary schools. It is vital for the teacher to have some knowledge of the ordinary child, as his pupils will have to live in a normal world and will have to adapt themselves socially, economically and emotionally in the world of normal people. The teacher must be able to relate the child's problems to those of the normal child. These are problems which are agitating us at the present time.
There are many more problems I should like to elaborate, but I promised to be as short as I possibly could. All of this work done on behalf of these children deserves every encouragement and help, not least because it pays considerable dividends in happiness and contentment. I will conclude by reading from the end of the Report a tribute paid to the teachers in special schools. It is eloquent and very justified and, if I may be allowed to speak for the teachers in special schools, I should like to say how much they will appreciate the recognition in the Report of their services. It says:We cannot conclude our Report without expressing our admiration for the teachers in special schools who have given devoted and inspired service to handicapped children. To their work the realisation of the need for special training may ultimately be traced. Our recommendations should, therefore, be read as as tribute "—a great deal of it sounds critical—to past and present teachers of handicapped children.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) is not in his place, because I wanted to comment on one or two points in his speech. He said something rather sensible at the beginning of his speech—a rare event so far as he is concerned, but I will not say anything about that. However, towards the end of his speech he said that a number of Labour-controlled local authorities throughout the country have introduced comprehensive schools because they have received directions from Transport House.
863 I want to say that that is completely untrue. I was a member of a local authority for a number of years, and no Labour group on any local authority anywhere in the country ever receives instructions from anybody. It may happen in the Conservative Party, but certainly it does not happen in the Labour Party. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) made a very interesting point with which I disagree. He said that there was no such thing as a late developer.
§ Mr. Short
I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Bath is in his place now. I know that he is interested in this topic of reading ability, and he said that apparent late development was due to the fact that these boys and girls were below the average in reading ability.
If I may say so with respect, he and my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) have got their theory about reading ability the wrong way round. I do not know whether they know about infant schools, but I believe that the technique in our infant schools is probably the best of any teaching technique in any of our schools. In practice, almost all the children learn to read quite well in the infant schools, but for some reason or other a good many of them lose that ability later. My own theory is that children are losing the incentive to learn to read. There are so many comic papers and they replace the novel reading of other years. There are road signs and in many other ways the need to read words is being obviated.
Children nowadays can follow whole stories and understand them pretty well without seeing a written word anywhere. The hon. Member knows the educational publishing trade very well. He knows that there are a number of history and geography books which a child can follow from cover to cover without reading a single word, because they are done by means of clever diagrams and pictures. That may be the reason; I do not know. The fact is that in the infant school children learn to read but later, for some reason, that ability to read becomes impaired.
§ Mr. Pitman
Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that the standard of 864 reading at the infant school is good enough to enable a child to take advantage of the educational opportunities offered right up to the secondary school or to the end of the secondary school stage?
§ Mr. Short
What I said was pretty clear. When they leave the infant school most children can read fairly well, but later many of them perhaps do not lose the ability but the ability becomes impaired, largely through lack of practice outside school. That is my theory.
I want to deal briefly with the problem of selection, about which we have heard so much, and I want to deal with it in human terms. Very often we talk about these matters in purely technical jargon and we forget that we are dealing with boys and girls. I want to tell a little story of two boys. It is not fiction; it is perfectly true. It is the sort of story which is enacted in thousands of homes at this time of the year. I tell it because it illustrates what I believe is the biggest blot on our educational system. Indeed I believe that it is one of the big remaining social injustices.
I ask the Committee to visualise breakfast time at a house in Laburnum Grove. There is a knock on the door, and a long-awaited letter lies on the hall floor. The whole family watch with silent apprehension as the letter is torn open. Then, in an instant, the cloud of anxiety which has depressed the household for many months passes, because Peter has passed. But next door the cloud is not lifted. Indeed, in that house it is deepened. It becomes blackened with disappointment and anger because Paul has failed—disappointment with Paul, poor little chap, and anger with the unjust system which permits this cruel annual farce to continue.
Peter, who got in, and Paul, who did not, have come through the primary school together, but these two letters on the hall floor one morning in April mean the parting of the ways for them. Peter will probably enter one of the professions, and Paul will probably become a hewer of wood or a drawer of water. By and large, that is the pattern. In ability and personal qualities there is not a hair's-breadth between the two boys, but Peter gained more marks than Paul in a written examination which was held on a cold, frosty, bleak morning last December.
865 Why did Peter gain more marks? Paul is rather a nervous boy and, because he is nervous, he probably got tummy ache on the morning of the examination; but probably the real reason was that Peter's parents were well enough off to send him for four nights a week to one of the professional coaches who are to be found in every city and in every suburb. They are now making a very good thing out of this examination and their efforts have reduced the present system of selection to an absurdity.
Teachers' organisations and local authorities have made considerable efforts, but quite unsuccessfully, to stop this practice. All agree that so long as selection is by examination nothing will stop the keen or the opulent parent from having his child crammed for the examination. After all, who is to prevent any knowledgeable parent from coaching his own child, and who is to prevent the primary school teacher from easing up a bit on some subjects and concentrating on the three Rs for a few months before the examination?
For many years the teachers of this country were paid by results, and the old fear of injury to one's professional prospects because of poor examination results still, I am afraid, stalks many schools. Coaching for the selection examination has now developed to such an extent that the normal, intelligent child who does not receive special tuition in English, arithmetic and the so-called intelligence tests, either at the junior school or elsewhere, has very little chance indeed of securing a grammar school place.
The brilliant child and the seriously backward child present no problems in selection. Almost any kind of test, oral or written, would pick them out. But most of our children are neither very backward nor very brilliant. Most of our children belong to neither of these clearly defined groups, and it is in this vast, intermediate range of normal, healthy, intelligent children between the two extremes that the present system causes such great injustice.
Some day, I believe, parents will rebel against an educational system which is guilty of such false diagnosis of the educational needs of so many of their children. Until they do, I think that the parents of Paul—that is the boy who did not get in—should take consolation from 866 the fact that the local authority's decision about their boy does not mean a thing so far as his real worth is concerned. Personal qualities such as honesty, truthfulness, perseverance, and loyalty are infinitely more important than the ability to perform tricks with figures. The manipulation of figures is no more an indication of character than the manipulation of balls by a sea lion in a circus.
And Peter?—the boy who did get in. All I can say about Peter is that I hope that his fond parents have not launched him in the deep end of the educational pool before he can swim. I think that the parents of Peter and Paul would do well to remember that where a child starts the race in life is not very important. The important thing is his position at the end of the day. The nation would not, I hope, tolerate any great wastage of its coal, steel or agricultural land, yet it allows this rigid selection by examination at the age of 11 for a tripartite system of secondary education to cause this tragic annual wastage of the inherent ability of so many of our children.
The fact that the Minister mentioned that grammar school selection takes as many as 40 per cent. of the children in Merionethshire and only 10 per cent. in Gateshead is surely in itself evidence of this wastage of intellectual power and ability. The Labour Government which will come into office after 26th May—
Mr. Cyril Osbome (Louth)
§ Mr. Short
—will end this waste of the nation's intellectual resources by ending selection at the age of 11. We shall create a secondary system of education in which all our children, whether they be brilliant, normal, or backward, will be able to develop their talents, however many they may be, to the highest possible degree for the common good.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short), and I suppose that all hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will agree with the general principles which he enunciated. In 867 politics, however, one is generally faced with practical problems and the necessity to find a solution of them. I do not think that there are any such clear-cut solutions as the hon. Member suggested.
I recognise, as did the hon. Member, as did my right hon. Friend this afternoon, and as other hon. Members have done, the difficulties which exist about the 11-plus examination. I do not think that we can avoid examinations in a child's life, nor can we avoid certain consequences dependent upon them. We have to try to make sure that they do not make or mar the child permanently. I think that the 11-plus examination causes a certain amount of injustice at the present time.
In some counties at any rate, that arises out of the nature of the examination. I am not happy about the intelligence test which figures so prominently in the examination in some counties. In one county in particular, I know that the intelligence test is not merely a part of the examination, but is, as it were, the pons asinorum. It is taken separately, and unless the child passes the intelligence test, be is not eligible to sit for the rest of the examination.
That appears to me to be very undesirable, because children vary among themselves. It is particularly undesirable in the case of which I am thinking, because the intelligence test is based upon a time factor. That is to say, the child has to answer certain questions, problems or conundrums in a given time, or else it may lose marks unless something is done in a certain number of seconds.
Lots of boys who will develop into very acute and useful citizens are, nevertheless, easily flustered when young, and cannot give of their best against a time schedule. Even if an intelligence test ought to be given in this examination, I am quite certain that it should not be a qualifying element; and I am equally certain that the time factor in it should not be very important. That is just a comment on the examination itself.
When a child has passed, or has not passed, the examination, I do not think it should be the last word on the subject. It is important that a child who develops unexpectedly should have the chance of moving from the secondary modern 868 school to the grammar school, or perhaps vice versa. I speak briefly on this, because I do not wish to interrupt the agreed schedule of the debate.
The only way we can solve the problem with which we are faced is to try to achieve what the Education Act calls "parity of esteem" for these different kinds of schools. I do not think it matters greatly whether we separate the grammar school children into the grammar schools, or keep them all together in one big school and separate them out in the academic stream and the practical stream—in my belief and experience we shall still have the same kind of feeling between the streams of children; and we should avoid the feeling that those not in the academic stream are in some way inferior and have, as it were, been weeded out.
It should not be difficult to avoid that in the future, because we know that there is a tremendous and increasing shortage of scientifically trained people; not merely scientifically trained people but, more especially, of those trained in the practical application of science—applied science. It should be peculiarly easy in the years ahead to give great prestige to applied science in all its branches. I think my right hon. Friend has said, not perhaps today, but on other occasions, that we may expect to see greater emphasis in the secondary modern school—or the modern side of the comprehensive school—I do not mind which term we use—on science, not only applied science, but pure science.
Let us say that in some area a child is particularly able and passes the examination and is in the grammar school; but either develops particular ability for natural science or else wishes to direct his career in that way. He might then actually wish to be transferred from the grammar school to the secondary modern school, because it might be recognised that that school had a peculiarly valuable training in either applied or pure natural science. I am quite sure that is the only way we shall get "parity of esteem."
It is most important, when at least three-quarters of the nation's children are to be educated in secondary modern schools or on the non-grammar side, that they should not feel it is a second-best kind of education. We should make them feel proud of it and feel they are 869 in something equally as good as the grammar side.
I hope, also, it will not be spoiled by excessive transfers from the secondary modern schools to the grammar schools for if we are to keep creaming off the best from the secondary modern schools we shall destroy morale in them. We should not carry the transfers too far; the opportunity—the flexibility—should be there, but basically we should aim at building up the reputation of the secondary modern schools.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell), in all but the last two minutes of his speech, made what seemed to me the soundest educational speech we have heard from hon. Members opposite, but I think his last two minutes rather spoilt the good impression he had made up to that stage.
Sanderson, the great headmaster of Oundle, said:The school should be a microcism of the world we would like to have.That always seemed to me the best ideal to set before a school. In the school the child, for the first time, comes into relationship with a wider community than the family. It is essential that, when getting into the wider community, he should find something which is definitely leading him towards the life he will have to live as long as God spares him on the earth. Judged by that test, very few schools live up to that ideal.
A system of education which divides children at the age of 11 into little groups, one of which is to concentrate on grammar—I was astounded when I heard from the Minister this afternoon that he expects the great bulk of science teaching for the advanced scientists to be done in the secondary modern school—
§ Sir D. Eccles
I said the main burden would fall on the maintained primary and secondary schools; I did not say the 870 secondary modern. I was making a distinction between the State-assisted system and the independent schools. It is in the State-assisted system that we are going to produce the main quantity of those who are capable of meeting the demands of our age.
§ Mr. Ede
I am very glad to have got that point cleared up because the idea that was being adumbrated by the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South that pure science and applied science are to be taken in the secondary modern school and that a boy who showed signs of ability in them should be transferred from the grammar school to the secondary modern school is, to my mind, a completely disastrous outlook on the whole of this problem.
§ Mr. R. Bell
I really did not say that. I said I saw no reason why the secondary modern schools should not also seek to achieve distinction in pure science, so that in some areas a boy would feel he would rather be transferred to a secondary modern school.
§ Mr. Ede
No, the hon. Gentleman cannot get away with that. He definitely talked about the boy in the grammar school asking to be transferred.
I want to deal with that point because, in several of the speeches from the other side of the Committee, the grammar school has been regarded as an exclusive unit which it is necessary we should preserve for its own sake. It was the difficulty that presented itself during the earlier years of the nineteenth century, when, in too many cases, the grammar schools wanted to remain places where only the classical tongues were taught. In fact, in 1805, Lord Eldon said that it was contrary to the trust deed for Leeds Grammar School to have any modern studies, and, for the first three-quarters of the nineteenth century, the grammar schools, through various devices, had to escape from the exclusiveness into which they had been pushed by their trustees. The grammar school today, as compared with Lord Eldon's conception of the grammar school, is certainly something approaching what he would have regarded—and with great horror—as a comprehensive school.
After all, the greatest scientist of the nineteenth century was Charles Darwin, 871 and I take this note from his son's biography of him in the "Dictionary of National Biography ":In 1817, he went to a day school kept by Mr. Case, Minister of the Unitarian Chapel where, as a boy, he attended service. In the summer of 1818, he attended as a boarder at Shrewsbury School under Dr. Butler. Here, the teaching was kept within the narrowest classical lines, and, according to his own estimation, the only education that he got during his boyhood was from some private lessons in Euclid and from working at chemistry in an amateur laboratory fitted up by his brother in a toolhouse at home. This latter study met with disapproval and even public reproof from his schoolmaster.The successor of Butler at Shrewsbury was Kennedy, who was there for 30 years, and typical of his attitude was that he refused the customary half-holiday for a First gained by an ex-pupil of the school at one of the two ancient universities, because it was only in science.
I am quite sure that on both sides of the Committee, we are now agreed that science cannot be put into that position in the educational world, and, as the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South said, the application of science in a great many skilled practical trades is now a thing which we must expect from an increasing number of the citizens of the country. We have to see to it that all studies that fit a person to discharge his appropriate functions in a highly specialised community shall be held in honour in the educational service, and that what we have to ask of the child, as I am quite sure in our adult experience we ask of the man, is that he will give of his best, according to his particular aptitude.
The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) said that the Education Act, 1944, established the tripartite system in education. If the Minister inquires in the office he will find—so I was told not many months ago—a paper that I wrote in 1943 in which I declared my disbelief in the tripartite system as an adequate basis for post-war education.
I would quote what the present Chancellor of the Exchequer said, as President of the Board of Education, in paragraph 17 of the White Paper on Educational Reconstruction, published in 1943, and debated in the House of Commons in that year. He said.There is nothing to be said in favour of a system which subjects children at the age of 11 to the strain of a competitive examination 872 on which, not only their future schooling, but their future careers may depend.That is the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, aided and abetted by myself as Parliamentary Secretary. I have no doubt that the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education, coming from the same school and college as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will aid and abet the Minister and see that he goes on the right road. The White Paper goes on:Apart from the effect on the children, there is the effect on the curriculum of the schools themselves. Instead of the junior schools performing their proper and highly important function of fostering the potentialities of children at an age when their minds are nimble and receptive, their curiosity strong, their imagination fertile and their spirits high, the curriculum is too often cramped and distorted by over-emphasis on examination subjects and on ways and means of defeating the examiners. The blame for this rests not with the teachers but with the system.I had to defend that paragraph in the House of Commons and I felt, as I feel tonight, that the first test of the success of the Education Act, 1944, was and is how far the difficulties and dangers in that quotation have been lessened by the subsequent administration of the Act.
The Act of 1944 is tripartite in that it says that there shall be three progressive stages of education: primary, secondary, and further. That is the only definition to be found in the Act on the division of education. Primary education was to be up to the age of 11 and secondary was from 11 onwards as long as the child remained full-time at school. Further education was beyond the time when the child left school, whether it went to the university or into industry.
On this side of the Committee we still believe that that is the appropriate division of education and that an attempt to fasten labels on particular schools and make them exclusive, so that children with only a limited range of faculties find themselves there, is a defeat of a sound democratic education. We are, therefore, disappointed at the action which was taken by the previous Minister of Education when she used her powers of direction to prevent an experiment being carried out by the greatest local education authority in the world.
§ Dame Florence Horsbrugh
I think that the right hon. Gentleman has made a mistake. He knows the Act very well. 873 and knows there was no case of using powers of direction. As in many other Acts the decision rests with the Minister. I am glad to say that during the whole of the time I was at the Ministry I never once used powers of direction.
§ Mr. Ede
At any rate the power which the right hon. Lady used was as effective as the power of direction. She declined to allow the experiment.
There has been a lot of talk on the other side of the Committee about suppressing grammar schools—wiping them out. I believe that the future of the grammar school lies in the twentieth century, as it did in the nineteenth, in its steady expansion so as to bring into the most liberal atmosphere as wide a range of our children as possible. That, I believe, will be the future of the grammar schools. As time goes on, the grammar schools will themselves desire that that should take place.
I gather that the right hon. Gentleman now regards a dual rather than a tripartite system as being probably the future; that there will be, except in the most exceptional areas, no new technical schools established that will be technical alone. There again, perhaps that means that we shall have what are called grammar-technical, the kind of school which I happen to have in my own constituency, where about half the pupils are grammar and half technical, or what is called technical modern, as at a school which I had the honour recently of opening jointly with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his constituency. So far as immediate development is concerned, that is more likely to be the case, even under this Government, than to have separate grammar, technical, and modern schools.
As that expansion takes place I am quite certain we shall find that there will be a move from both sides towards covering the widest range possible. This examination at 11-plus is very wasteful in two ways. It lets through a lot of children who ought not to get through on any real educational basis. The hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) said that in his youth he was very good at passing examinations. He warned us against the boys or girls who run a bit above form in examinations.
The Minister alluded to occasions when he and I have been on Epsom Downs—we have all been trying to find that sort 874 of horse—but I am not sure, as I think the hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlton hinted, that that kind of child ought to be encouraged, for I think we put a premium more often on precosity in those cases than on any genuine intellectual merit. Those get through who are admitted by the grammar schools themselves to be a certain amount of dead weight.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am not trying to score off the right hon. Gentleman at all, but I think he slipped and said not quite what he meant. He seemed to say that more often than not in the 11-plus examination the successful ones were those who were merely precocious. I am sure he did not mean that.
§ Mr. Ede
I certainly did not mean that. I do not think that I used any words that implied it, but I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for interrupting me if anything I said seemed to imply that.
There are a certain number of boys and girls who get a tremendous sense of achievement from getting into this exclusive organisation. Having got in, they are inclined to sit back and feel that the achievement of their lives has been accomplished. But there is something even worse. There are a number of children who are excluded from one reason or another through this examination who would be infinitely better value as an investment of the nation's resources than the little group of children to whom I have alluded.
The "Manchester Guardian" of 4th March, referring to the Ministry of Education pamphlet, "Early Leaving," said:… the figures indicate that you cannot accurately assess a boy's probable academic capacity at sixteen (or at eighteen) by means of an assessment, however accurate, of his capacity at eleven. And if boys (or girls) who just scrape in at eleven plus often do pretty well six or seven years later, there are probably more than we thought who just fail at eleven plus, but who would have done quite well—better than many of those who then passed.
§ Mr. Ede
Of course, they do not know and that is the whole point.
At 11 most of the boys of my generation meant to be engine drivers. Today, they mean to be space-ship navigators. To make this selection at 11 years of age and then virtually decide that this boy will go to the black-coated profession and 875 that boy will go into one of the skilled trades, if he can do pretty well in the secondary modern school, and, if he cannot, will do the work, is not the basis on which to found an industrial democracy. To segregate at that early age the black-coated professions from the foremen and the men who will have to apply the scientific theories which the others work out is—
§ Mr. Ede
I thank the hon. Member. I would not have been so rude myself, but at any rate there is one hon. Member opposite who, after today's debate, will be renouncing the Whip and will be inquiring whether he can become a Labour candidate.
May I use myself as a horrible example? My great nieces and great nephews who are now sitting for this examination regard me with great awe because they have been told that I passed in 1895. In the whole county of Surrey, 32 places in grammar schools were offered and there were 64 candidates. I passed number 32 on the list. That was the advantage of being trained at Epsom. Although I was only a selling plater, I managed to get among the colts. In the last year for which I had any responsibility, as an alderman of Surrey, for this examination, 900 places were offered—some advance on 32—but there were 9,000 candidates. I should have had a good view of that race from Tattenham Corner. Just fancy, my proper place in that list would have been 4,500.
That is the kind of thing that is constantly in the minds of parents, and that is what makes this examination such a bugbear for the child. The astonishing thing is that very often the better the family from nearly every other point of view, the worse it is for that child. I cannot think that this great country can afford thus to gamble with its most precious raw material, the brains and the character of its rising generation.
It is all very well to say that we are trying to destroy the secondary modern school. We are not. We are hoping to see every single school, no matter what labels foolish administrators may put on them, being charged with the duty given in the Education Act to educate each child according to his age, ability and 876 aptitude. We have passed from the Act of 1870 at last, for it says we were to educate a child in three subjects, reading, writing and arithmetic. We now say it is not the subject to be taught that is to be the criterion of the teacher's efforts. It is to be the individual ability and aptitude of each child in the class, and no limit should be put on the possibility of any school that caters for the child of over 11 years of age. All the while where we have a secondary modern school without a grammar school stream in it, there should be an opportunity for the child who shows the ability that the grammar school stream demands to get the full benefit of his abilities and whatever prestige is available at the end of his school career.
The aim of education, as it is being modernised to give recognition to a great many abilities and to aptitudes which we did not recognise in the past, should be applied to the secondary modern school, and no secondary modern school should be debarred from giving any child who shows sufficient ability, even for one of the shorthand certificates of the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman), the opportunity of getting it. One of the few examinations I ever failed was to try to get one of his grandfather's certificates. How useful it would have been if I could have taken down the right hon. Gentleman's words in shorthand.
The comprehensive school, so-called, I believe for the reasons I have given this evening, is the logical outcome of our present system and the demand that our highly-specialised scientific life will make in the future. Just as the grammar school prides itself as much today on getting a First in science at the university as on getting a First in classics, so there will come a time when it will also pride itself on men and women who started their lives in it, spent their secondary school lives there, and went on to great technological institutions and there learned to apply some of the theories which they learned in the laboratory and the lecture room.
It will not destroy any other school. As time goes on, the other schools will expand until they develop into it. What we say, as a party, is this: where we have the possibility of widening the range of any school, immediate opportunity 877 should be taken to give it a chance to show what it can do.
The right hon. Gentleman made a speech at Scarborough. In fact, I heard him make two speeches there. One was good, the other was a post-prandial speech of which I did not think very much, because in it he seemed to say that he intended to restrict certain experiments in the employment of visual aids, which I regard as one of the most important things for our education service to undertake.
Then, of course, he made this famous statement in the other speech:We are all working-class now and tomorrow we shall all be able to enjoy a share of the culture and leisure that used to be the prerogative of the few.I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has seen the comment which was passed on that statement by one of the writers in the "Schoolmaster." It was:It was perhaps unfortunate that the effect of this was spoiled by Sir David's choice of an illustration of this movement of all classes towards the working-class. It may be significant that full employment has resulted in a shortage of 'nannies' and that well-to-do parents now have to bring up their babies themselves. But there must have been many delegates who took a fleeting mental survey of the children who attend their school and in doing so failed to see how the sons and daughters of the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker have been brought appreciably nearer in social status or educational opportunity to the products of Eton, Harrow and Roedean by the fact that in early childhood the latter now have their nappies changed by their Mums. The talk about nannies made one wonder how much Sir David really knows about the kind of children who attend local authority schools.
§ Mr. Ede
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does. He is going to woo them shortly.
I want to say this, as much to myself as to the right hon. Gentleman: I believe that the English boy and girl is very much of the same order, no matter where his or her home happens to be in the social hierarchy. After all, read Cobbett. He denounced as the nouveaux riches the people who are now being pushed out by those who make big capital gains at the present moment. This nation moves up and down.
§ Mr. Ede
I am not going to get into abstruse mathematics like that with the right hon. Gentleman.
We have in our nation, in every group, great resorvoirs of ability—some inherited, some acquired—and a high sense of the duty which this country has to the world. We believe that our education system should recognise that that is a fact, and that every child should get, in the great words of the Education Act, 1944, education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude. As far as possible he should get it in an atmosphere where he meets on equal terms children of very varying aptitudes and abilities. Between them they have to determine whether we lost the wars of this century or not. It is to the extent to which they can live up to the highest ideals which our educational service exists to implant that we shall know in some other state how far our efforts have been successful.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Mr. Dennis Vosper)
In the first place, I should like to be associated with my right hon. Friend's expression of regret at the absence today of the hon. Member for Itchen (Mr. Morley). During my three years of enforced idleness, I very much enjoyed his contributions to these debates.
To me the debate comes as a welcome surprise. It is a surprise because my right hon. Friend, my hon. Friends and I did not expect to be given such a favourable opportunity for deploying the developments in education during the last year. It is welcome because—I think that hon. Members opposite will agree with me here—we cannot have too many opportunities for discussing education. Indeed, as my right hon. Friend said on another occasion, very often those who are responsible for the provision and service of education are not always sufficiently ready to display their wares in public or to attract the support of the public which they need and deserve. The debate has provided us with another opportunity of surveying the achievements, as I believe them to be, and discussing the problems which admittedly remain. I very much welcome the stimulating intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn). I am sure that my right hon. Friend and all hon. Members will support 879 his plea for the increased purchase and use of books in schools.
I want to begin on a non-controversial note by dealing with a subject raised by the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans), that of handicapped children, which features rather less in our debates than we would at times wish. I need not remind hon. Gentlemen opposite than the 1944 Act brought about a fundamental change in the attitude to educating the handicapped, in that it included them for the first time in the main body of the Act. The local education authority is today required to secure that provision is made for pupils suffering from any disability of mind or body by providing education either in special schools or otherwise.
I emphasise "otherwise," because it never was the intention of the Act—I am sure that the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) will bear me out—that all handicapped children should be educated in special schools. Indeed, the principle followed today is that children should as far as possible grow up in the normal schools and in the home environment so that they may be better fitted to take their place in the normal world.
It is with this in mind that one might look at the present position of special schools, to which the hon. Member for Lowestoft referred. There are now no fewer than 60,000 children in these schools, and 16,000 of them have been accommodated since the advent of the Act. No less than 37 per cent. of the schools have been provided during this period; that is, 37 per cent. of the special schools in existence today have been created since the war, and of them 44 have been created during the last year. I believe that this is no mean achievement.
There are three recent developments in this field which the Committee should note. In the first place there has been recently a series of successful regional conferences, because it is felt—this is not a new idea—that resources should be pooled. We have gone one stage further by setting up a Standing Committee to watch the position in each area. In the second place there is today increasing emphasis on the desirability of day school provision as opposed to boarding schools and of 880 treating handicapped children at home as far as possible. Thirdly—I say this with respect to the remarks of the hon. Member for Lowestoft—we are, in many categories, in sight of making good the shortage of special school provision and of equating supply to demand.
In recent months there have been surveys of children awaiting admission to special schools and, with the exception of those in the categories of educationally sub-normal and maladjusted, there is reason to believe that in a comparatively short space of time sufficient accommodation will be available for all of them. That is why my right hon. Friend has recently drawn the special attention of local authorities to the need to provide additional accommodation for the educationally sub-normal, and indeed in this year's programme no less than 8,000 places are in course of construction. I have no doubt that as these places become available, local authorities will increase their degree of ascertainment, and it is in this category that greater progress still needs to be made.
The hon. Member for Lowestoft asked me three questions about the education of blind children. He referred to those suffering from retrolental fibroplasia. I have a little experience of this, because I was fortunate enough to address the College of Teachers of the Blind only last Friday. It was then my information—and it is today—that we have sufficient accommodation in hand to accommodate any increase that will result from what is a temporary misfortune, but I share his fear that there may be a certain unbalance of provision between the North and the South of England, which is a matter my right hon. Friend is watching.
He then asked me if I was satisfied that there was sufficient secondary technical accommodation for blind children. This is a point to which attention is in fact being given. In the third place he referred to the education of deaf children. A survey of deaf and the partially deaf has recently been carried out by the Ministry. It revealed that there are sufficient places to accommodate all those who will need admission, but that some reorganisation will be necessary, particularly to separate the deaf from the partially deaf. In all this I have in mind the need to reduce the size of classes.
881 I join with the hon. Member for Lowestoft in paying tribute to the teachers in handicapped schools. I have had some dealings with these in the last few months, and I am certain that the service they give brings great credit to the teaching profession in general. I think that the hon. Member suggested that the Report of the Advisory Council recently published brings some recognition of that fact. That Report is being considered by my right hon. Friend at the moment and the particular point he mentioned will be very carefully considered before any decision is made.
The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) asked me about the position of school meals. During the last year the number of schools without a meal service of any kind has been reduced by no less than 106 to the number of 693. That is a reduction of 15 per cent. in one year, it is our intention to continue the progressive reduction in the number of schools that have no meal service at the moment, and more particularly to replace unhygienic and dilapidated canteens.
My right hon. Friend said that I would say something about a matter which has not featured much in our debate today—the Ashby Report on Adult Education. All Members of the Committee will be aware that my right hon. Friend has announced his acceptance of almost all its recommendations. Therefore, I would only say that my impression is that those concerned have welcomed the Report as leaving the way clear for those in adult education to rediscover some first principles and to respond to the needs of small voluntary groups seeking liberal education. I think that they would be the first to agree that this has not always been the case in recent years.
So that the service may take full advantage of its renewed purpose, my right hon. Friend, in addition to permitting higher fees and salaries for certain tutors, hopes to provide grants for a strictly limited expansion next autumn in a few selected areas where there is special need. He has also made it clear that he expects a further contribution towards the higher costs either by an increase in fees or by some other means. Revision of the regulations is now being discussed with the responsible bodies.
The first of the main groups of subjects discussed today is possibly that of techni- 882 cal education. Various hon. Members have stressed the importance of it. My right hon. Friend in recent utterances has shown the importance he attaches to it, as he did in his closing remarks today. I would direct attention to three recent developments. First, the very considerable increase in provision for building technical colleges. My right hon. Friend intervened to give a figure in reply to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart). In fact it represents an increase of no less than 50 per cent. over last year's figure. While I share his view that that is by no means sufficient in itself, an increase of 50 per cent. in one year is a considerable advance.
Secondly, questions have been asked about the operation of the 75 per cent. grant paid for certain selected courses. Five hundred and fourteen courses have been approved, but that is not the limit and further courses can be approved if they qualify. This gives some idea of the extent to which we are developing the major technical colleges to play their part alongside the universities.
The hon. Member for Workington asked a series of questions at this stage. He asked about instalment building. He raised the question on the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates. A full reply was issued by my right hon. Friend's Department. The recent increased building programme for technical colleges has enabled us to get round the point about instalment building to a large extent, although it still remains necessary for a very large project to be sanctioned by instalments. The hon. Gentleman asked whether grants or advances could be made on a five-year basis. I am afraid that, for obvious reasons, it is not possible to plan on a five-year programme.
The hon. Gentleman also asked about teachers of science and mathematics. As he knows, this has been very much in my right hon. Friend's mind. The position is that there are today 10,900 graduate teachers of science and mathematics in our schools. To fill our requirements that number should rise by 1960 to 14,100. At the present rate of increase that is not likely to occur, and it is for that reason that my right hon. Friend has taken and hopes to take further steps to accelerate the increase.
There is one further development in technical education. That is the question 883 of sandwich courses, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) referred in his excellent contribution to the subject of technical and technological education. My right hon. Friend does look forward to considerable development in this field and co-operation between industry and education.
§ Mr. Vosper
The hon. Member asked a very large number of questions, but I have not the time to reply to all of them, and I have a question from the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, North-East (Miss Bacon) with which I want to deal. The hon. Lady suggested in her opening remarks that further education in industry was a thing not yet contemplated, but the figure for day releases by employers is increasing all the time, and the figure for last year was 326,000. That to my mind is an encouraging sign.
I should like to stress that this field of technical education, at all levels, to me seems most important, and it is in fact the alternative road to success which my right hon. Friend has mentioned for those who do not enter grammar schools and for those who do not enter a university. Full attention will be paid to everything that has been said today.
I come to the question of school building and the size of classes. The hon. Lady asked me a lot of questions and for a lot of figures. She complained that she found the various figures issued by the Ministry somewhat confusing, but I feel that to some extent she has her hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) to blame for the series of questions which he has put on that point. The question which she asked me I think can best be answered by these figures—that during the three years which she had in mind the number of juniors and infants in maintained schools rose by 617,000 and in the same period the average size of junior and infant classes rose only from 34. 3 to 35. 6. But for 1955 onwards there will be a steady improvement, and the figures which she will see for this year will in fact, according to present information, show a reduction in 884 the size of primary classes. This rate will continue, until in 1961 we should reach the position when there need be no more than 40 children in any class.
In the senior schools during the same period the average size of class has dropped from 30. 1 to 29. 5, and in view of the fact that during the three years in question the largest part of the bulge in the school population has come into our schools, I do not consider a rise of 1. 3 in the junior schools and a drop of 0. 6 in the senior schools at all a bad achievement. Indeed, even if the hon. Lady does not like the figures of the average size of classes, whichever figure she chooses will, I think, show equally good results.
The building programme which we inherited in 1951–52 was of the order of £45 million for primary and secondary schools. The building programme which my right hon. Friend recently approved for 1955–56 is £60 million, which is an increase of 33 per cent., although I realise that part of that is discounted by the increase in prices.
If the hon. Lady asks me to give the figures for contracts completed, which are possibly the most important statistics, or the number of new schools under construction, I think she will find that the figures are equally favourable to the Government. The hon. Member for Fulham, East (Mr. M. Stewart) suggested there had recently been a reduction in the number of places completed. That is perfectly obvious, in view of the fact that there is now a rapid switch from primary to secondary, and of course secondary places make a much larger demand upon resources.
Many hon. Members have joined in the debate on the pattern of secondary education. As they know, that is a debate which continues far beyond the confines of this Chamber. But my information, from reading the Press, and particularly the educational Press, is that my right hon. Friend's policy of selection for everybody has found a wide measure of support among those interested in education.
Among those who look at this not from the angle of the expert there are some who—as perhaps did the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 885 Central (Mr. Short)—look at the worse possible case, the case of the old all-age school with no facilities for science or any other technical course. Of course, no one wishes to be selected for that type of school. But those schools are rapidly disappearing under the policy of my right hon. Friend, and in their place are the new secondary modern schools with room for technical courses—perhaps with an agricultural bias.
I suppose I am fortunate in having one in my own constituency which my right hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side (Dame Florence Horsbrugh) opened two years ago. Again I may be fortunate, but it is my experience that parents in my constituency are quite anxious to have their children selected for this promising school. As I understand it, it is this sort of venture that hon. Members opposite wish to destroy, as they do the grammar schools.
§ Mr. Vosper
My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, South (Mr. Maude) made this point with clarity.
In my constituency I have a grammar school which serves the same area. But it is five miles from the secondary modern school, and I cannot understand how hon. Members opposite propose to fit those two schools into a comprehensive pattern. A number of my hon. Friends have dealt with the alternative of the comprehensive school, and I do not propose to repeat their arguments. The question of size—what is considered to be the optimum and necessary size of a comprehensive school—has been discussed. My information is that we cannot run an adequate school of comprehensive proportions with less than 1,200 children.
I wish to know whether hon. Members opposite feel that they have the support of the teaching profession in this venture. I wonder whether they are certain that our limited supply of experts would be best used in a comprehensive school and not in the wider pattern of schools envisaged by my right hon. Friend. Again, I am not convinced—
§ Mr. Vosper
That is true, but I suggest that in many cases they suffer from the defect of not being able to run a sixth form satisfactorily. Indeed, the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East, quoted at some length from Dr. Robert Pedley. I do not know whether he is a supporter or an advocate of the comprehensive school—perhaps the hon. Lady knows. But she quoted him earlier today as being in support of that policy. I have found Dr. Pedley to deal with this problem of the sixth form in these words—I am quoting a more recent article which appeared in the "Schoolmaster" within the last six weeks:The comprehensive school, as at present conceived, does not hold the solution to this problem.Again, at greater length:While recognising the advantage of small comprehensive schools up to the age of 15, we are compelled to look askance both at their weaknesses beyond that stage and also at the alternative of huge institutions …Note these words:… lacking the flexibility, intimacy and close personal associations with each neighbourhood, which small schools are more likely to achieve.I quote those words because the hon. Lady quoted him in support of her argument, and at the same time sought to justify the big school.
§ Miss Bacon
There is a great deal more to that article than the hon. Gentleman has read. For instance, Dr. Pedley said in the same article:In 1948 a survey of the 21 grammar schools of a Midlands city and county (including two direct grant schools) showed that the average 'sixth form,' 9 per cent. of the whole, numbered 43 students, but that this figure was actually made up of 25 (first year), 14 (second year), and 4 (third year).
§ Mr. Vosper
I am not suggesting that Dr. Pedley has become an opponent, but I am suggesting that the hon. Lady quoted him as an advocate whereas he shows serious objections in addition to those advanced by my hon. and right hon. Friends. I for my part feel fairly certain that some of those parents who might be attracted to this idea, as we were told by the hon. Lady they are in Manchester, are not so much attracted by the positive idea of a comprehensive school, but perhaps, as hon. Members have suggested, they are more deterred by the bogy of selection. Surely that can 887 be avoided by better methods of selection—and we are seeing advances in that direction each week at present—and by what is my right hon. Friend's policy, selection for a greater variety of improved schools.
I wish to say a word on the subject of university and training college awards, which was raised by the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle). I am only sorry that he did not have the opportunity of raising that subject last Friday. He asked a number of questions, but I hope he will understand that, as the reports have yet to be published, I would not wish to go into great detail in the circumstances. I think I should make it clear, as he seemed to misunderstand, that when with reference to training college grants we talk about uniformity we are in fact going to work them on a national basis. I think he will find the report, when published, will be very acceptable to him and to those he represents. That applies particularly to the arrangements for equipment, about which the hon. Member was concerned. I think he will find that they are a considerable advance over the present practice.
When speaking of university and other students, the hon. Member asked about technical students. That is a matter which will be considered by local education authorities, as indeed it is being considered at the moment. I am hopeful they may give even more consideration to students on full-time courses of a high standard. I feel confident—but perhaps the hon. Member does not share my confidence—that local authorities will respond very well indeed to the plea of my right hon. Friend when he said that uniformity in basic university allowances as between one authority and another is greatly to be desired, and I hope this can be achieved. At the moment there are some laggard authorities, but I think they are far fewer than the hon. Member thinks.
Equally, I have reason to hope that the combination of the teacher training scales and the new scales for university awards will result in a much higher degree of uniformity than has been achieved hitherto. I say that because I hope my right hon. Friend, by a certain amount of leadership and persuasion, will 888 achieve what some hon. Members opposite have suggested can only be achieved by centralisation.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle (Commander Mait-land) asked me about Service children and that subject was mentioned by one or two other hon. Members. It is by no means a new problem, as is fully realised by my right hon. Friend, who is fully seized of its importance and has given a great deal of attention to it. As my hon. and gallant Friend will realise, it concerns several Government Departments and we have to find a solution acceptable to them all and—possibly this is even more difficult—to preserve the right of freedom of choice to the parents. Therefore, I regret that I cannot say anything further on that tonight.
The hon. Member for Fulham, East and one or two others mentioned the independent school, and all that I would do here is to remind the Committee that Part III of the Act is to come into force in two years' time, as at present envisaged, and that all those concerned will receive adequate notice of our requirements.
There is one further point in that connection. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side (Dame Florence Horsbrugh) announced the introduction of Part III, she also announced a certain procedure for bringing to our attention undesirable teachers in independent schools. This is a matter which the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dodds) has pursued at Question Time, and I think it is worth while placing on record that this particular procedure has had, to my mind, a most astonishingly successful result, because out of 3,832 schools approached, up to today's date only 46 have not replied, and of those 16 have been approached only recently. For what, after all, is a voluntary approach, that is a very high degree of return. It has produced the number of 23 teachers who are being dealt with at the present time.
The only other point on which I want to say a word is the school health service. It has not been raised today, I suppose because the school health service continues, as I believe, to provide an improved service, but does not produce the colourful statistics which could be mentioned in this debate. It is worth placing on record that school medical officers now consider that only 2 per cent. 889 of the children in our schools are in poor condition.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) referred earlier to illiteracy and to the Vernon-Watts test. I know that this is a subject that interests him very much. I was interested the other day to see the result of a survey carried out by the London County Council, the only authority to carry out the same survey as in 1952. Although the circumstances may be not strictly comparable, we find that in the recent London County Council survey only 96 of the 11 year old pupils surveyed are semi-literate or illiterate, and that compares with a figure for the Ministry of Education survey in 1952 of over 4 per cent. Although I will not draw too many conclusions from it, it does seem to me to be a trend in the right direction.
§ Mr. Pitman
Can the Minister also give the figures for the backward children as well as the illiterates and semi-literates?
§ Mr. Vosper
Not without notice. I do not know if we have got them yet, but I will see if they can be supplied.
Many valuable contributions have been made to the debate, and all will be fully studied. This is the first debate on education since the 1944 Act reached its 10th birthday, and these first 10 years must have brought many disappointments to the architects of the Act. I think, however, that the decade has also brought its successes, which have not been confined entirely to solving the stupendous task of accommodating an additional million and a half children. During my short period of office, I have been fortunate enough to be able to visit a large number of schools, which I think hon. Members will agree is always a satisfying experience, and have met many of those who devote their lives to the service of education.
The difficulties and problems which remain to be overcome are well in my mind, and certainly neither in my mind nor in that of my right hon. Friend the Minister is there any complacency. But I can say that everywhere I have found a feeling of confidence, which seems to have been continued during the recent conference at Scarborough, and, I suggest, even throughout the debate today. That is surely something to which all hon. Members can look with satisfaction, because 890 confidence and support are possibly the things of which the teaching profession is in the greatest need today.
Whereupon Motion made, and Question, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again—[Mr. R. Thompson]—put and agreed to.
Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.