HC Deb 22 February 1956 vol 549 cc381-422

3.36 p.m.

The Minister of Education (Sir David Eccles)


Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

On a point of order. I understand that Scottish education will also be discussed today, Sir Charles. May I take it that the Minister of Education will deal with the Scottish aspect of the matter when he is speaking, or is a Minister representing the Scottish Office to follow him?

The Chairman

I cannot help that. The only Supplementary Estimate before the Committee is that which I have just read out. The Scottish Estimate is not in that.

Sir D. Eccles

I understood that the Scottish Vote was to follow after the English Vote. I think it will satisfy the hon. Gentleman if he gets a chance when we have finished with our Vote.

Mr. Rankin

Further to that point of order. I understand that the consideration of both the English and Scottish Estimates will terminate at seven o'clock? Is that correct?

The Chairman

That is the time for Private Business. I have some Private Bills down for consideration.

Mr. Rankin

In that case, at what time will Scottish business be considered?

The Chairman

That depends on how long the English talk.

Sir D. Eccles

I think the English had better get on with their talking, Sir Charles.

The £4,698,000 which I am asking the Committee to grant to the Ministry of Education seems a large sum of money, but it has to be seen against the original Vote of £271 million. It therefore represents an addition of 1.7 per cent. As the Committee knows, next year the Estimates will rise very sharply, and it is, therefore, very proper that we should study with the greatest care any additional expenditure this year. The sum now asked for is almost entirely in respect of increases in wages and salaries, over which the Ministry of Education has no control.

There are further amounts in respect of awards to students in universities and colleges, and one or two small items. There is nothing in this Supplementary Estimate required for either of those fascinating topics, technical education or the building programme, both of which, no doubt, we shall have a chance to discuss later.

I will briefly run through the headings of the Supplementary Estimate, as that may be of some help to the Committee. Subheads A.1 and B.1 are in respect of administration and the salary portion of that expenditure. The additional sums are due to new salary increases during the year and are not in any way due to an increase in the numbers of staff either of Her Majesty's Inspectorate or of the Ministry of Education itself. We then come to the one large sum, £6 million, in respect of additional grants to local education authorities. The main item in that £6 million is expenditure on school meals. That, as the Committee knows, is 100 per cent. grant-aided. We underestimated the expenditure on school meals by no less than £2½. million.

That seems a very large error, but the addition includes £1.2 million in wages for manual workers which were increased as a result of nationally negotiated agreements. This increase was, therefore, automatic so far as the Ministry of Education was concerned. The other part of the increase is due to more and better meals and certain sums for the increased cost of fuel and other overheads relating to the cooking of meals.

The Committee may be interested to know that the wages bill for the school meals service in England and Wales will, in 1956, be £19 million, and the total overheads, including the wages, will amount to £27 million. After taking into account the 9d. that is paid by parents in respect of 90 per cent. of the meals served, the charge to the Exchequer will be £31 million for school meals. That is a very large item, but I think the Committee will agree that the school meals service has made a very important contribution to the children's welfare.

Figures showing a small, steady increase in the take-up of meals are interesting. Last autumn, the number of children taking meals in England and Wales was 3,018,000, or 48.3 per cent. of those present on the day concerned and almost 3 per cent. more than a year previously. The additional sums arising from these factors, together with a certain increase in the standard of the meals which we have discovered was desirable and an increase in the number of schools providing those meals, accounts for this, the largest, item in the £6 million.

Mr. Rankin

Could the Minister tell us whether or not children in Scotland take more advantage of the meals service than those in England?

Sir D. Eccles

That is a very interesting question. I should expect the answer to be yes, knowing the sagacity of the Scots, but the hon. Member will not have long to wait, I understand, before the Vote on Scottish education is discussed. He will then have a chance of asking that question of a representative of the Scottish Office.

In addition to the extra cost of school meals the education service as a whole is affected by fuel and wages costs, and we have a considerable extra bill for them. The next biggest item is equal pay. As the Committee knows, the Burnham Committee recommended for teachers a system of equal pay on the same pattern as for the Civil Service and I approved it on 1st May. We had not taken any account of that in our Estimates and we now find that for this, the first instalment of seven which will eventually bring the pay of women teachers up to that of men, we require £2.1 million, 60 per cent. of which falls on the Exchequer.

Mr. Rankin

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way on that point? Could he say whether, in England and Wales, in order to introduce equal pay, the same was done as in Scotland, where the salaries of men teachers were brought down to meet those of women teachers? Was that done in England?

Sir D. Eccles

I am sure that we did not do anything of the kind in England. Things are very well arranged in England, as the hon. Member may know.

The cost of equal pay will rise, in the end, to about £15 million a year on the present level of salaries. That is more than seven times the first instalment. The reason for this is that the number of women teachers is going up.

Then we come to allowances for advanced work. Those allowances in their original form were recommended by the Burnham Committee in its 1954 Report. My right hon. Friend the Member for Moss Side (Dame Florence Horsbrugh) said at that time that she accepted the additional special allowances on the understanding that the authorities would make good use of the provisions for filling particular posts. She explained that she had in mind the great need for attracting to and retaining in the profession well-qualified graduates, particularly teachers of science and mathematics.

In November, 1954, I thought I had better ask the Burnham Committee to review the use that was being made of those provisions and to consider whether it thought that the arrangements for the payment of teachers engaged in this responsible advanced work were adequate. The Committee, reporting back, recommended certain changes which came into effect on 1st April last. I approved those changes on the understanding that they should be regarded as minimum recommendations and asked local authorities as far as possible to apply them to the full. We were not sure how much that was going to cost. We estimated that those additional allowances would require another £1 million. In fact, they called for £2 million. Therefore, there is an extra £1 million for special allowances inside this £6 million.

I have no doubt that it is right to pay an appropriate reward to teachers who have special qualifications and who are doing work of special responsibility, either in administration or in teaching. It is very difficult to do it without rousing quite a lot of jealousy in the common rooms. At present, the Burnham Committee is reviewing the working of these special allowances. In particular, the relationship between them and the head teacher's allowance probably wants looking at. I ask hon. Members not to condemn the system of paying something extra for special qualifications because, in the beginning, this system is proving rather difficult to work.

I am quite certain that we all want to see men and women with particularly good qualifications attracted to the teaching profession. We all want to see posts of high responsibility adequately rewarded. It is very difficult to invent a system which pleases everybody and appears just to everybody, but I am confident that the Burnham Committee which now has more experience to go on, will make recommendations that will help us in this matter.

In the meantime, the number of teachers who are drawing special allowances has very much increased as a result of the improvements which we are considering today. I think it is right to say that many local authorities have found the staffing of grammar schools considerably easier as a result of the application of the allowances.

Mr. R. Moss (Meriden)

Is it not also an important point that being sandwiched between the primary schools, on the one hand, and the financial attractions of the grammar schools, on the other hand, the secondary modern schools are being denuded of staff? This is a consideration which the right hon. Gentleman ought to bear in mind when considering these financial attractions.

Sir D. Eccles

The hon. Member was good enough to raise the point the other day at Question Time, and I told him I was looking into it. It is a serious matter.

There is no doubt that the development of the secondary modern school is of supreme importance. I hope that the secondary modern schools, too, will get teachers with high qualifications. I am sure that some of the work done in these schools has an interest and a quality that would attract such teachers. It may well be that the Burnham Committee is taking all these things into consideration. At any rate, we have found that, not £1 million, but £2 million is being used by the local authorities for these allowances. By and large, I think it is fairly applied.

There are, of course, differences between one local authority and another. They cannot be ironed out completely because the allowances are, in part, discretionary and I do not think one would wish to iron out the differences completely. I think, however, that the power to pay the allowances is being used a great deal more evenly since the last improvement than it was before.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

The Minister said that the staffing of grammar schools was now considerably easier. Was the word "considerably" carefully chosen? I admit that the position is somewhat easier, but from my experience and the communications I have had, I doubt whether "considerably" is really justified.

Sir D. Eccles

The position differs very much from one area to another. I always want to keep my fingers crossed, but I must say that the number of new entrants to the grammar schools for the teaching of science and mathematics is more than we had anticipated, although it is not enough. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there is no possible ground for complacency. It is only that the position is not quite as bad as we thought it would be.

Another item within the £6 million is extra pay required for part-time teachers, whose rate of pay is within the discretion of the local authorities. A part-time teacher is a valuable person, and I do not know how we should get through without these people in many areas where there is overcrowding in the schools and a shortage of teachers. I very much hope that now that teacher rationing has gone, local authorities will continue and even extend the practice of employing part-time teachers.

One or two authorities will only employ woman teachers full-time. I do not believe that that is in the best interests of the education system, for these women with their past experience, may be of the greatest use in part-time teaching. If they are taken on, the local authority concerned does not need quite so many full-time teachers, who may then be available to take posts elsewhere with neighbouring authorities.

Mr. F. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)

If the Minister considers it important to attract more part-time women teachers into the schools, does he not think that he should alter the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill to make the attraction a little greater?

Sir D. Eccles

That is rather late in the day. I hoped we were talking about a different subject.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

My hon. Friend is only putting a personal point of view.

Sir D. Eccles

I am grateful to anyone who puts a point of view.

Then we come to awards for university students, and further education students, and grants to students in teacher training colleges. I will not trouble the Committee with details, but the awards and grants have been substantially increased during the last year and the means test for parents has been made less onerous. The result of this is a considerable extra sum in the Estimate. I am anxious that local authorities should give the same grants in all areas, and that they should give the same award to students who are undergoing courses in technical colleges comparable to university courses as are given to university students. All except three local authorities have now accepted the new rates and scales.

There are one or two other small items. When the special allowances were increased, it was necessary to increase the grants to direct grant schools. For this, £143,000 is included in Subhead D.1 together with a further sum for grants for the training of teachers in the voluntary teacher training colleges. There is a small sum for further education which arises from our acceptance of the recommendations of the Ashby Report, about which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will speak later if any hon. or right hon. Gentleman wishes to ask questions; and there is a small sum in regard to the education of the Poles. All this adds up to nearly £5 million.

We cannot escape the fact that the education service is expanding and must go on expanding, and that the cost of this service is bound to increase very heavily. Because this expansion is taking place, it does not follow that my Department does not look at individual items with the greatest care, and we encourage the local authorities to do the same. I believe that, by and large, the expenditure is well controlled and we get value for money, but that does not in any way absolve us from continually looking for fresh economies. I ask the Committee to grant this further sum to the Ministry of Education.

3.57 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

I shall be brief, because I know that a number of hon. Members wish to comment on this Estimate. Indeed, the Committee hopes to deal later in the afternoon with other Estimates and we must, of course, hope that Scottish Members get for the discussion of their Estimate at least eleven-eightieths of the time taken by the English Members on theirs.

The Minister has helped the Committee by explaining a number of detailed points in the Estimate. I wish to refer again to some of those points and to raise one or two others that seem to me to arise from the Estimate. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the special allowances for teachers and I was interested to hear him suggest that these allowances have already shown some return in an improved position in the grammar schools.

I fully accept the view that it is proper to reward higher qualifications or the taking on of exceptional responsibility, but before coming to any final judgment about the operation of the arrangements made in April last it will be necessary to have a good deal further information. No doubt, at some subsequent time, the Committee will be able to express a more considered judgment and to take into account the very important point already raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Moss).

The Supplementary Estimate refers also to adult education, and in that connection the right hon. Gentleman said that the sum here mentioned, £36,000, arose from the acceptance of the Ashby Committee's Report. The Ashby Committee, though it was on a smaller scale, was, in a sense, the precursor of the Guillebaud Committee, for it was set up possibly with one intention but produced a Report which pointed to quite another, and which encouraged the Government to take a very favourable view of adult education.

I should like to ask two questions relating to two of the Ashby Committee's recommendations. First, the fourth speaks of the desirability of local education authorities encouraging voluntary work in adult education, for example, by the provision of accommodation free of charge. Many authorities do that already. Will the Parliamentary Secretary be able to say that, since the Report was produced, other authorities have taken its advice and are being generous in that respect?

The other is about the eighteenth recommendation, that the Minister should consider setting up a small committee to advise on the subjects and types of adult education course which should receive priority in qualifying for grant. The committee has, I believe, been set up. Perhaps, the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to tell us what advice it has so far given about the subjects and types of course which should receive priority in grant, and what view the Minister has taken of any recommendations the committee has made.

The last item in this Supplementary Estimate is for the education of Poles. I wonder whether we can be told how much longer this item is likely to appear in the Ministry of Education's Estimates. It was entirely right and proper that those Poles who were to become our fellow citizens in this country should have had educational facilities made available for them; but it is extremely important that they should as soon as reasonably possible merge themselves in the community of British citizens.

When I was a junior Minister, at the War Office, and in part responsible for this problem, it was very much borne home to me that the shorter the time in which they undergo any separate treatment, and the more speedily they can be absorbed in the general body of the nation, the better. Possibly we can be told how long this separate item is to continue. For as long as the item is necessary, we shall heartily approve it, but I hope that the time is coming when it will no longer be necessary as a separate item.

I notice that the Supplementary Estimate is £15,000 less than it might have been owing to savings on the Youth Service. I hope those savings are not likely to result in the damaging of the work which the Ministry can do for the Youth Service. I want to specify one or two matters to which attention has been drawn by a recent, interesting report brought out by the London County Council, which referred to the work of the Central Youth Employment Executive, on which the Minister is represented. That report, for example—

The Chairman

We are discussing extra expenditure, and cannot now discuss savings which have been made.

Mr. Stewart

I was afraid that you would take that view, Sir Charles.

However, I have drawn the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to this very interesting and useful report, and I can only hope that the effect of the savings will not be damage to any of the useful suggestions which are made in it.

I turn now to the major item in the Supplementary Estimate, the £6 million increased grant to local education authorities. The Minister said that it was largely due to wages and salaries over which he has no control. No control, perhaps; but if the Minister imagines that some of his recent speeches will not have any influence on the level of wages and salaries he is profoundly mistaken. Indeed, I think he hopes that they will have an influence. He must admit that it is really a little fictional to say he has no control over these matters. The Bill going through Parliament at the moment is likely to have a considerable influence. We shall not regret it if the Minister has to meet a larger bill in future for wages and salaries.

I should like to make it clear—I think I am speaking for all my hon. Friends in saying this—that there are no items in the Supplementary Estimate which we should carp at, but I want to make one or two criticisms why the Supplementary Estimate is as it is. I am not, however, suggesting, prices and costs being at their present level, that there is any ground to complain because the Minister is now asking for more money. The reason why prices and costs are at that level is, of course, another question.

The Minister ascribed a good deal of the £6 million to the increased cost of school meals, and with that we certainly shall not quarrel. During the early days of the Conservative Government there was a fall in the number taking school meals, and the official Conservative line was that that was due to the fact that there was more food about elsewhere so that fewer needed school meals. What conclusion is to be drawn from the fact that more school meals are now being taken is an interesting subject for inquiry, but for our part we think it is a good development.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary be able to tell us this? Will any part of the increased expenditure on school meals be spent on improving the conditions in which school meals are served? I am sure that he and his right hon. Friend are aware of the recent report brought out by the National Union of Teachers about the very unsatisfactory circumstances in which the important duty of serving and supervising school meals has to be carried on by so many teachers. Perhaps we can be told whether, as this extra money is being required for school meals, any of the evils described in that report are likely to be mitigated during the forthcoming year.

Let me turn to the words at the end of Subhead IIIC: …a rise generally in the cost of goods and services. That is to say, this extra money is partly necessary because prices all round are going up. It is just as well to remember that when there is any attempt to estimate the cost of education to the nation. If we consider the extent by which the education estimates have risen in the last four years we find, if we take as our measuring rod the Interim Index of Retail Prices, that rather more than one-third of the increase in the estimates has been due solely to the rise in prices, and that that does not indicate any real expansion of the service. It is important that anyone who is reviewing future central or local educational expenditure with a critical eye should remember that fact.

I have reason to believe that the rise in the prices of the kinds of things local education authorities have to buy has been greater than the average rise in prices. Let us consider, first, items other than books. I have seen a survey made by the process of making a schedule of items of educational stationery and supplies and taking every tenth article so as to get a sample from the resulting list. Quite interesting facts appear—first, that the average rise in price in the last two years is 20 per cent.; secondly, that there is not an item in that list that has gone down in price or even stayed where it was: they have all gone up more or less.

To take some of the more striking examples, the cost of a box of pieces of chalk has gone up by 21 per cent., and bottles of ink have gone up by 35 per cent. Those are what, I think, even the severest critic of public education would admit to be part of the essential fabric of education. Nobody suggests that chalk and ink are extravagant frills. A pair of compasses costs 28 per cent. more than it did two years ago; T-squares cost 36 per cent. more. As I say, over the whole range the rise is about 20 per cent.

While we on this side will certainly recommend the Committee to approve this Supplementary Estimate, it is worth noticing that one of the reasons why we cannot get more value out of the money spent on education is what is happening generally about prices—the reasons for which have been so ably described from these benches in the last two days.

Finally, I wish to focus attention on one particular item—books—the price of which has gone up and is likely to go up further during this year. To judge from a recent article in Education we may expect a rise of anything from 10 to 25 per cent, during the coming few months. The average expenditure on books over the whole public education system for primary and secondary schools is only 8s. per child per year. Since, in the secondary schools, it is decidedly higher, it means that in the primary schools we have a very low figure indeed.

I have recently been able to examine the book expenditure of a primary school where, owing to a fortunate assemblage of circumstances, it was possible to spend as much as 12s. a year per child on books. It was perfectly clear that even with that 12s., without wasting a penny, one could provide no more than was really necessary for the proper provision of that primary school with text books alone. If library provision were to be made one would need, without any extravagance, 20s. a year in a primary school. Yet the nation spends on an average only 8s. per child per year on primary and secondary schools together, and the increasing price of books will make that situation worse.

I have tried to suggest that this Supplementary Estimate, narrow as it appears to be, opens the door to many interesting questions, some of which I have attempted to put. My hon. Friends will no doubt put others. The Estimate throws into high relief one of the facts of the inflationary situation—that it is a matter which affects not only the individual in the family, but the cost and efficiency of our public services.

4.12 p.m.

Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)

I should like to draw attention to a small but, I think, significant item in the Supplementary Estimate. I refer to the additional sums under Subheads A.1 and B.1. Although they amount to only £55,000 between them out of a total of £4,698,000 they are, as the Committee is aware, matched by corresponding items in almost every Supplementary Estimate now coming before Parliament. I therefore think it right to take this, the first, opportunity of saying a few words about them.

As the Minister has explained, the extra money is needed in consequence of the increased salaries which were awarded to the Civil Service last summer. I should like to make it perfectly plain that I certainly do not oppose the increases in themselves. Government Departments demand a high quality of administration and, of course, the Ministry of Education is no exception; and we all recognise that we have to pay for quality. About 40 per cent. of the money under Subhead A.1 goes to the clerical and typing grades.

I do not think that anyone would doubt that there are many well-qualified men and women who not only deserve this increase, but are very poorly paid even after it has been granted. That is even more true of those civil servants who fall within the executive classes, which make up a substantial proportion of the total. These men are the real backbone of the administration. It is they who have built its great reputation, and without them a great Department like the Ministry of Education could not function at all.

However, it is one thing to support increased salaries and quite another to accept without challenge that these need involve higher expenditure. I would have hoped that the moment my right hon. Friend learned of the new salary awards he would have instructed his Permanent Secretary to seek to offset higher salaries by a reduction in the number employed in his Ministry and thus obviate the necessity for these two items in the Supplementary Estimate.

Economy is one of the dominating needs of the hour, and if we are to maintain the standards and quality of our education services we must fight against this tendency for their administration and inspection to cost more and more Public administration is a varying priority. Some of it is essential to policy. I do not think that it would be in order for me to challenge that and I do not wish to do so, but, by common consent, there is a fairly big range of public administration which falls under the category of being desirable rather than essential. There is another category which some people would describe as mere luxury. When a thing costs more, the prudent man makes up his mind to do with a little less of it.

It is no doubt in the Government's mind and in the mind of my right hon. Friend to apply this salutary principle to the Ministry of Education. In this connection, the Prime Minister's recent pledge that he would aim at reducing the numbers of civil servants by from 10,000 to 15,000—and let us hope that it is 15,000—is most welcome. But how is that to apply to the Ministry of Education? Is it intended that the reductions now aimed at will bring the Vote back to its original total? I recognise that very great efforts have been made already and have been fruitful up to a point. A glance at the main Estimate provides evidence of the success which has already attended the efforts to keep down the numbers, but I imagine that most of the reductions so far have been the result of the patient work of the inspecting teams of the Treasury and of the Organisation and Methods Division.

I suggest to my right hon. Friend that if further worthwhile reductions are to be made they can only be made as a result of the personal intervention of the Minister and of his Permanent Secretary. Would my right hon. Friend, therefore, consider placing the Organisation and Methods Division under the direct control of his establishment officers and thereby make it personally responsible to him? In short, I am asking for an undertaking that if expenditure under these subheads cannot be reduced, it shall at least be stabilised whatever the future trend of salaries.

4.19 p.m.

Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)

I hope that the Minister will resist the appeal of the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) for a minor Geddes Act, no matter how small it may be. We should realise that this Supplementary Estimate must be judged in relation to the original Estimate, which in itself was cut to the bone as a result of Government pressure and policy at the time.

Many worthwhile, desirable schemes had to go by the board last year. This increase of just over £4½ million merely keeps the Estimate up with rising costs. It brings about no expansion of the education services, whereas most of us would have liked to have seen last year an extension of education in order to maintain our place in education with the United States, Russia and other nations.

The Minister seemed to be apologising for the fact that he had to submit this Supplementary Estimate. I speak for myself and, I think, for most of my hon. and right hon. Friends when I say that he need not apologise for the fact that he is having to ask for more money for education this year than was anticipated. In fact, many of us would have wished the Supplementary Estimate to have been much bigger than it is. For instance, if equal pay had been implemented in three or four stages instead of seven, and if we had agreed last year to an all-round rise in pay, these Supplementary Estimates would have had to be bigger and they would have had our support. The Minister told us that the present one does not include technical colleges and building. The assumption I make from that statement is that there has been a lag in the expenditure on those two items and that the Minister has not been able to spend in the past year what he anticipated spending on both those items, which is regrettable.

We were also told that the increase for inspectors is not due to any new ones being appointed, but to increases in salary. I should have thought that with the operation of Part III of the Education Act, and the preparations for it which must have been going on in the past year, it would have been necessary to have made provision in this Supplementary Estimate for an increase in the inspectorate. I should be grateful, therefore, if the Parliamentary Secretary could tell me whether he proposes to do this work with the same number of inspectors as he has at present, or whether it is intended to increase the numbers in view of the extra work involved?

I regard school meals as vitally important. The Minister stated that there had been a greater increase in the number of children taking these during this year than was anticipated, but I should like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary whether that figure has now reached the level at which it was before the price was put up to 9d. I do not think it has. I think it is about 55 per cent. of the figure before the last increase in the price of school meals. If, as we are told, it is 48 per cent., that is unsatisfactory and I would like more information.

The right hon. Gentleman also dealt with the question of buildings, such as kitchens, for the provision of school meals. There again, I believe that instead of an advance there has been practically a standstill in the provision of extra accommodation and better facilities for this purpose. In this respect, could the hon. Gentleman say to what extent the increase is due to the higher cost of food, and whether the number of children receiving free meals, as opposed to those paying for them, has increased over what was anticipated?

We must look carefully at the question of special responsibility when we consider the grant of £6 million to the local education authorities for pay and wages. Here, I must declare an indirect interest in the differentials between head teachers and other positions of special responsibility. There is grave dissatisfaction among head teachers that they have not kept their differentials. Has the Minister had drawn to his attention the report of the Middlesbrough Head Teachers' Association, which points out clearly that it is hardly worth while a teacher taking on the extra responsibilities of a headship when the differential between that and the special responsibility is so small?

Many authorities now are having to advertise, re-advertise and advertise again scientific and technical posts. My own local authority is spending hundreds of pounds on advertising, so far without any replies. I should like to know to what extent under part-time expenditure, money has been spent upon bringing in people from industry to teach scientific and technical subjects in our schools. We were promised that there would be some advance made during this year and I wonder whether any significant approach has been made to industry. The Minister also dealt with the question of part-time women teachers. I am particularly interested to know the amount of this Supplementary Estimate which is going to the part-time teachers occupied in other professions.

My last point, arising from a difficulty in my own constituency, deals with secretarial assistance. We all know what a tremendous help the school secretary is to a head teacher in dealing with the many different details of administration. Yet there is a move to cut down considerably on secretarial assistance and in one case I know, two schools, five or six miles apart, have to share one secretary, an arrangement which is not working out well. I would be grateful for some information on that matter, also.

I have said already that I had hoped the Minister would have brought in an even larger Supplementary Estimate than this one. Education ought to be an expanding service and we ought not to be satisfied to keep it at its present level. Indeed, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not looking round for any major economy cuts in this service.

4.26 p.m.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

I support what has been said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett). He was not asking for a minor Geddes axe, but merely that Subheads A.1 and B.1 of this Supplementary Estimate should be stabilised at the present figure.

My right hon. Friend has already warned us that the cost of education will increase year by year, and the atmosphere in this House since I have been in it has shown me how difficult it is for any Gov ernment to achieve stabilisation. Each day about half the Questions on the Order Paper, whether on education or any other subject, ask for an increase in services, and there is also pressure in this respect on hon. Members from their constituents. Indeed, when they write asking for an increase in the services, constituents often couple with it a request for a reduction in taxation.

Again, speakers in our debates on Estimates and Supplementary Estimates ask for various increases in services which require increased expenditure. Yet we find on referring to past Estimates that the numbers of civil servants employed by the Ministries have doubled over the past twenty years. We also find that the amount of money spent on education has gone up about six times. Allowing for the fall in the value of money, which has been such that we might have expected the amount spent on education to have tripled in order to achieve the same results, the fact that this expenditure has gone up six times over that period shows that today we are making double the call on the resources of the nation for education that we were making twenty years ago.

Mr. Ross

How much have the resources of the nation gone up?

Mr. Gresham Cooke

In spite of the fact that there is double the call on the nation's resources for education, the throughput of Students has not doubled, nor is there double the educational output.

Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)

Does the hon. Gentleman know that the percentage cost of education of the national income this year, even with this Supplementary Estimate, is less than it was in the last year before the war?

Mr. Gresham Cooke

It has gone up by £16 million as compared with a year ago—

Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to interrupt?

Mr. Gresham Cooke

No, Sir. I am sorry I cannot do so.

The short point I wanted to make was that in our debates on the Estimates or Supplementary Estimates every hon. Member calls on the Minister to do this, that, and more and more. There are hon. Members, on both sides of the House I hope, who have in mind the needs of the taxpayers and are trying to represent the general public as a whole, and we may hope that these great figures, instead of vastly increasing year by year, will be stabilised in the way that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North has suggested.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Edward Short (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)

I want briefly to deal with four minor points arising out of the Supplementary Estimate. The first concerns inspectors. I suppose they are necessary, but I regard them as the biggest obstacle to educational advance. However, I suppose we cannot object to the expenditure of public money in that direction.

A matter which I have previously raised at Question Time is the type of inspector sent to infants' schools. I am not criticising the Inspectorate generally, because the individuals are remarkably well selected nowadays, but it is a bit thick to select a young man from a grammar school or public school who has very little teaching experience and send him to inspect work at infants' schools. In the North-East, last week, I was given an instance of the sort of silly thing that happens. An inspector visited a very good infants' school, and asked, "Why are the children writing on the lines? Why not let them write under the lines, letting the top of the word touch the bottom of the line, for a change?" In no other branch of the education service is technique so highly specialised and so excellent as in the infants' schools. A certain number of inspectors ought to be selected from young, progressive head teachers of infants' schools.

Another point is the age of retirement of inspectors. Why does the Minister force inspectors to retire at 60? They have a very pleasant, congenial life, and they are in their prime at 60. The Minister will shortly be implementing the part of the 1944 Act dealing with the registration and inspection of private schools, and I should have thought that he would need all the inspectors he could get. A very good inspector in the North-East who was forced to retire at 60 has returned to teaching, the subject being mathematics in a grammar school. That is not a bad thing, of course, and I think all inspectors should return to teaching at times. It is silly to force inspectors to retire at 60 if they want to continue, especially as the Minister has altered the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill to enable teachers to carry on to the age of 70.

My next point is about special allowances. We are all glad that two bad old differentials have gone. The first is that relating to the type of school. Nobody could defend it. Teaching in infants' and primary schools is just as important as teaching in grammar schools, and it is often a great deal more difficult in infants' and primary schools. A great deal of pressure is being applied to the Minister to reintroduce a special basic salary scale for teachers in grammar schools, but I hope he will set his face resolutely against that. Let us not go back to the days when we had a special salary scale for a special type of school. Let us retain one basic salary scale and vary it. We are also very pleased that the sex differential is going.

The three other differentials relate to qualification, responsibility and experience. I do not believe that the basic salary scale is weighted sufficiently for those three matters, especially the responsibility of a head teacher. There is very little incentive for an assistant master in a grammar school to apply for the headship of a modern school. There ought to be interchange in both directions, but at the moment an assistant teacher in a grammar school with a special responsibility allowance of £120 or £150 per annum is hardly likely to apply for a headship for which the allowance is very little more than he is at present getting.

There is a tremendous need for more science teachers in modern schools, but they do not need such high academic qualifications as those required by grammar schools. The sort of man we want to teach science in a modern school is the man who can beg an old motor car engine, perhaps from the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke), set it up in the laboratory and take it to bits. That is the sort of man who can be trained in science in the training colleges.

Recently, my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) and I, and, should imagine, the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings), received a circular from a well-known training college, inviting us to subscribe towards the building of a science laboratory. This is really too bad. The need for science facilities is so serious and so important that it cannot be left to charity of this kind. Far more facilities should be provided in training colleges so that they may supply science teachers for modern schools.

A number of hon. Members have referred to the need for more supply teachers. There is in their case a superannuation injustice which is not dealt with by the Teachers (Superannuation) Bill. At the end of a year's teaching the supply teacher will have paid the same amount in superannuation contributions as a full-time teacher, but he will be credited with only 200 days for superannuation purposes. He ought to be given sufficient superannuation credits to place him on an equal footing in the end with the permanent teacher.

Mr. Ross

That is done in Scotland.

Mr. Short

I understand that it is done in Scotland, or is to be done in Scotland, but it is not done in England and Wales. This is a small point, but it would be an incentive to supply teachers to carry on.

4.37 p.m.

Mr. J. C. Jennings (Burton)

This is the first time that I have had an opportunity to talk in the House of Commons on Estimates. If I go outside the bounds to which I ought to restrict myself, Sir Rhys, I hope you will forgive me. No doubt you will bring me back.

At some time in the near future the whole question of education finance will need to be completely overhauled—

The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)

The whole question of education finance cannot be dealt with on this Vote. All that hon. Members can deal with is expenditure coming within the sum of £4,698,000.

Mr. Jennings

I will try to deal with matters under the respective headings, Sir Rhys.

I wish to draw attention to the matter of school meals. We ought to look forward to the time when the school meals service will be completely separate from the school. It is in that respect that education finance will have to be overhauled. Having left school work not long ago, I am particularly concerned about conditions relating to the serving of meals. When one is teaching until mid-day in a school, particularly a country school which has, perhaps, three rooms and very little ancillary accommodation for kitchen purposes, and one has to clear the desks, set up tables and let in the people who are to serve the meals—

The Deputy-Chairman

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but the only thing that can be dealt with on the subject of school meals is the rise in the cost of school meals.

Mr. Jennings

We are told by my right hon. Friend that the Estimates are up by £2½ million for school meals; and that the Exchequer charge will be £31 million. Within the bounds of this extra finance, we ought to see that the conditions in the schools are suitable for the teachers and service people to work with reasonable amenities.

On the question of allowances, I am in full agreement with the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short), and here I cast my mind back to the time when we had what was called the Burham pool before the war, when one or two members of a large staff were paid extra sums out of the pool. Nothing is more likely to cause jealousy and internal divisions in a staff than this vicious system of allowances. I am very pleased that the Minister is to keep the question under review, and that this aspect of it will be looked into.

The thing that worries me most in the present set-up is the position of the secondary modern school teacher. Under the present system, it is perfectly obvious that we are developing the secondary modern school as the kingpin of our educational system. If we are to have special allowances for grammar schools, which may deprive the secondary modern schools of good teaching material, we ought to look very carefully at the position.

Again, to take up the point raised by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central about infants' schools, if it is logical and reasonable to give highly qualified people in grammar schools and secondary modern schools extra allowances, I can think of nobody who needs more skill and qualifications than does the girl in an infants' class, particularly in a country school, teaching children from five to seven years of age. There is no one who deserves more consideration on the subject of special allowances.

On the question of the allowances granted to schools for books, I have in mind a small country school in which the head is given a requisition allowance for a school of 80 or 90 mixed children, ranging from infants to children of eleven. From an authority which is not ungenerous, he receives about £85, out of which to buy everything—stationery, apparatus, and all the rest. It is an absolute headache for a head to have to try year by year to apportion out of that small sum what he should spend in the way of books.

I may be out of order on my next point, but I am preparing the way. We are told by my right hon. Friend that the education service is an expanding service. In the very nature of things, it is bound to be in our modern civilisation, but I think we must look at the whole question of finance. I am going to risk raising just one more point. I am positively convinced, after years of experience in the educational service, that this expanding service will soon be an overstrain on the local authorities. I think I have said enough to indicate the point I am making. We must examine very carefully every aspect of the problem.

I am very grateful for the indulgence of the Committee. I feel that hon. Members on both sides will agree that the money spent on education is well spent, and I join with other hon. Members who have said that they do not grudge this extra sum.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)

When the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) was drawing towards the close of his speech, I thought he was going to put up a defence of the additional money required in grants for the training of teachers. Apparently, this would seem to him to be a very necessary expenditure in which the Government ought to indulge, particularly in regard to village schools.

The reason why I intervene in the debate is because I think it is time that someone came to the rescue of the Minister himself and saved him from his friends. Those of us who have been listening to the debate have been extremely sorry to see what appears to be the ugly head of retrenchment rearing itself in this Chamber, for the first time for a good many years in education debates.

Particularly was I sorry to hear the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett), with whom many of us have associated very progressive ideas, particularly where certain services are concerned. We are not, of course, so surprised when we listen to the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke); indeed, our surprise would probably be the other way—if the hon. Gentleman did not get up to support his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East. We wonder what his attitude will be on certain other Estimates which will come before the House in due course.

One point which the Minister made in his defence of these Supplementary Estimates, which we frankly accept as necessary, was that education is an expanding service. We cannot stop it; it will go on expanding, whatever we think about it. But we must examine the Estimates with care. I want to refer to one point mentioned by the hon. Member for Burton. I believe that there are certain circumstances in which the Minister could be even more generous in the grants to local authorities for the school meals service.

I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Burton that we need to separate this service from the school itself. Indeed, in a modern school especially, a great advantage arises from the fact that this service is provided within the school itself. It is an advantage not only from the point of view of feeding the children but from that of teaching as well, since the same kitchen may be used for domestic science training for the scholars in that school.

I am wondering just what amount of money would be involved in this Estimate and what the attitude of the Ministry might be if we were providing an even larger grant to local authorities for the provision of school meals in certain circumstances. We are having a huge house building programme in the country, and there must be many hon. Members who are aware of the movement of many thousands of the population to the outskirts of large cities.

I am thinking particularly of my own constituency, where many thousands of families have been moved some miles out to the fringe of the city. Until such time as new schools are erected on these estates, and particularly secondary modern schools as distinct from primary schools, the children of these people will probably have to travel considerable distances to a secondary modern school.

The instance which I have in mind was brought to my notice, when I was coming up here on the train, by a ticket collector. I will not tell the Committee what he told me to do to the then Minister of Education, but it was not very polite. He pointed out that he was a railway employee on a very low basic rate of pay. He had three children over 11 years of age who had to attend a secondary modern school which was just under three miles from their homes. In other words, they had no transport assistance. The man therefore had to make the choice either of paying for those three children to return home at lunch time, or paying for them to have school meals. The school meals meant an expense of 11s. 3d. a week and the bus fares cost him 5s. a week.

The Deputy-Chairman

This part of the hon. Member's speech is directed to a change in policy.

Mr. Wilkins

What I am suggesting is that on this side of the Committee we would welcome an increase in the Supplementary Estimate, if it were applied to additional concessions for school meals which the Minister told us were incorporated.

The Deputy-Chairman

It is not in order to discuss a change of policy upon this Vote which is merely an increase of the Vote itself.

Mr. Wilkins

In that case, Sir Rhys, there is very little more I want to say, except that we welcome the fact that the Minister has made this additional provision, rather than curtail the education service.

4.52 p.m.

Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)

There is a sense of urgency in the Chamber. I can almost feel the presence of Scottish Members, so I shall not be too long, but I want to take up something that was said by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short). The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) has gone, but I ask his colleague the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings), whom we welcome to our ranks in education debates, to convey to the hon. Member for Twickenham that not merely are we allocating to education less, as a percentage on our national expenditure than in 1939, but we are allocating to education less as a percentage of national outlay than we did fifty years ago. Fifty years ago we spent a larger slice of the national cake on education than we shall in 1956.

I want to refer to differentials, particularly for science and mathematics teachers. The Minister has gone. We know why, so we shall not be unkind, but I want to say that he was a little optimistic in thinking that he was holding a line in this matter of specialists, scientists and mathematicians, particularly in sixth forms. That is not my experience. I think that we shall have to offer more than we are now giving if we want to hold them in our schools and not let them go to industrial establishments to which they are now going in large numbers.

I have talked to chairmen of governors and others and my impression is by no means that of the Minister. I have said before that the bulge in secondary schools will come in 1958 and that we shall need more science teachers than we now have. We therefore have to think of the future, let alone holding a line now—and I do not think we are doing that. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will give us some figures, or something more substantial than a mere impression as did the Minister. We want to know what the position is, particularly in girls' schools, because my information is that men have to teach science and mathematics to the upper forms of girls' schools and, of course, that time has to be taken from the time-table of their own boys' grammar schools.

All the physicists who leave the universities of the United Kingdom will supply only the needs of atomic energy, let alone the needs of other establishments and the need for specialist teachers in sixth forms. Does the Minister think that to pay the money we are now paying to specialist teachers is a good thing? I want to corroborate the view of the hon. Member for Burton that that is causing a good deal of jealousy among teachers in staff rooms and even causing ill-feeling, to say no more, among the teachers in secondary modern schools. The more that the wage ceiling is lifted and differences increased, the more secondary modern teachers are convinced that we are returning to the old set-up of before the war, when there was a difference between different kinds of teachers in different kinds of schools. It is important that secondary modern teachers should feel that they are given a fair deal.

I want to go beyond that. The Minister will be forced to have more and bigger payments for special allowances for teachers undertaking advanced work. Scientists who go to universities to take science degrees, go there to study science in order later to work in industry. They do not primarily go there as potential teachers. Before the war we had so many of our scientists teaching in grammar schools, because there was unemployment and they could not get jobs in industry. Today, with full employment, scientists are being called away and we shall have to compete and pay larger allowances to hold them in the grammar schools.

Dr. King

Is my hon. Friend suggesting that we should pay special allowances only for or especially for science? Does that not go against his argument that all subjects are important?

Mr. Johnson

Of course. I merely wanted to pose to the Minister his inexorable dilemma and to say that with his Tory philosophy he would be forced into that course. If he wants scientists to stay in schools, he will have to pay higher differentials to hold them there. That is not a good thing. I am coming to the view that, as with the Army and recruitment pre-war, we can keep our teachers only when we have unemployment. We can get recruiting for the Army only when there is unemployment. But in times of full employment the Minister is in the dilemma of having to offer science specialists more and bigger differentials if he wants to keep them, and I would like his views on that.

Mr. Jennings

How does the hon. Member reconcile his first statement about the jealousies caused by special allowances and his second statement about giving special allowances to science teachers?

Mr. Johnson

I am putting my questions to the Minister, and not answering questions put by Members opposite. I see for them an enormous dilemma, but I should like the Minister to tell me how he will get out of it, other than paying these allowances. I do not agree with that course, because it causes jealousy and misunderstanding. But he will be forced into it, if he wants sufficient science specialists to stay in the teaching profession when there is full employment and when they are being pulled away to industrial establishments.

Mr. Jennings

I am sorry. I thought that the hon. Member was first arguing against special allowances and then pleading for special allowances for science teachers.

4.59 p.m.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

I intervene only to pose to the Minister a couple of questions which I have been specifically requested to ask. Indeed, the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) posed the dilemma with great impartiality, and I entirely sympathise with those teachers who may well feel that they are to be regarded as of lesser stature than the brilliant scientists whom we need for the country's future. May I say emphatically that I believe that the dilemma can be resolved, only by a clear lead from the Government. I hope that the Government will be firmly in favour of a differential and for giving that increased status to scientists, because I believe that in no other way can the needs of education be met.

I have come to that view after very careful consideration. I have spoken to large audiences of teachers and I have told them emphatically that that was the view I would take and which I hoped the Government will take, although due appreciation should be given to the powerful arguments given to the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) and by other hon. Members.

Dr. King

The hon. Member has made a very serious statement. Is he aware that although both grammar school and non-grammar school teachers are bitterly divided upon many matters, the whole of the teaching profession—teachers in grammar schools, secondary modern schools and primary schools, and even some of the science masters themselves—would be unanimously opposed to the proposal which he makes?

Mr. Rees-Davies

I should expect that, except for science teachers, the teaching profession would be united in opposition. It is exactly that conflict of views which the Committee must bear in mind. At the same time, we must look primarily to the interests of education generally.

I belong to a profession where the differentials are very great, and in respect of which there is a great need for a specialised education. An analogy can be drawn from this profession, in that the tax lawyer is much more highly paid than other lawyers. At the moment, we must have scientific men of ability, but we cannot get them upon the ordinary rates of pay of teachers. We have not a chance of getting them—as the hon. Member for Rugby showed so clearly—unless we pay for them. We must face the necessity of their being given a higher rate of pay, and possibly even a higher status, than the other teachers. They enjoy a higher status in industry. This is a clear-cut issue, which the Committee must face.

I really rose to ask the Minister about the question of school meals, which forms a substantial part of the Supplementary Estimate relating to goods and services. Can the Minister tell us to what extent his Ministry gives guidance to a school on the question whether it should subcontract its school meal services—if I may use that loose phrase—to private contractors who are able to provide meals of equivalent substance and cooking standards, and which are equally agreeable, at a lower cost than can be offered by the school? Has the Minister considered whether private contractors could provide a better service in the villages? Can the Minister expatiate generally upon the administration of that service and say whether there is any room for economy without reducing standards?

5.3 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

There are two points to which I wish to refer. One has already been elaborated by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) and the other concerns the question of the provision of books in schools, as affected by their increased cost —which question has also received some attention in earlier speeches.

My fear is that as a result of the differentials now being paid, secondary modern schools will find great difficulty in recruiting science teachers. At present, those are the schools where teachers of science—well-equippd not merely to teach science dogmatically, but to inculcate the scientific spirit into pupils; which is a great deal more important—can best be employed. It is in those schools that we find pupils who have missed success in the secondary school examination at 11 years of age but still include, among their better elements, a fairly high standard of intellectual attainment and ability. They are the people whom we shall want to help fill technical and technological schools, in relation to which we understand that the Minister of Education is going to devote a great deal of attention during the coming years.

I have referred in a previous speech to the fact that I was recently in a secondary modern school in Middlesex. There, I found a group of children who were taking a General Certificate of Education, mainly in applied science. In a county where the competition for grammar school places is very high they represented a substantial proportion of children who were being taught in a school which, according to the ridiculous set of standards which we now have, is regarded as having a lower status than a grammar school.

Fortunately, in that school those children were getting what they needed, namely, a training in scientific method as well as in applied science, to serve the needs of industries which had grown up in the neighbourhood. It would have been all the better if, before they went into local factories, the more intelligent of them could have had some time in a technical school of a very advanced kind.

At present, the differentials which are being paid in grammar schools are drawing away from secondary modern schools any men or women who can show that they are successful in dealing with the type of child about whom I am talking. We do not want further to reinforce the idea of the parent that if his child goes into a secondary modern school he must abandon all hope of any real further education. I believe that a great amount of good human raw material, from the point of view of science, will be found in the top forms of secondary modern schools, and I hope that nothing will be done by the Ministry to deprive those schools of the kind of staff which will prepare that material for really advanced studies.

I now turn to the problem of books. Here, we are getting back almost to the conditions which existed in schools which I knew in my early days. In the school in which I was taught we had only one reading book throughout the whole year, and when the day of the annual inspection arrived every boy knew every word in that book, and did not need to read at all. In fact, the inspector used to walk around the class watching the boys to make quite certain that they were following in the book what the other boys were reading.

The reduction in the number of books available, and in the width of interest provided by those books, which is inevitable with their increased price, seriously handicaps the schools. I hope that what the Minister said this afternoon is an indication that this problem is being borne in mind in the Ministry. One cannot expect that every reading book will be of equal interest to every child in a class. In the case of textbooks, there is a need for a variety of treatment even in the same class, because of the width of attainment existing in that class.

One of the problems of the small school is that, notwithstanding the fact that the classes are slightly smaller than those in big schools, they have within them a much wider range of attainment. In a big school forms can be grouped so as to get greater uniformity in attainment in any given group of children, but that is not possible in a small school.

The present cost of books makes it almost impossible to get together for, let us say, a class of 40 children, a group of books which will have a wide range of appeal, especially to those children who now obtain so much general information from radio or television programmes. There is now so easy an access to a smattering of knowledge—not very deep, but very wide—which does not feel that it wants to be reinforced by reading, that it is advisable that there should be available for the child books in the class library from which he can get information and leading on any point in which his interest has been aroused by the much easier access to general knowledge which is now available in almost every home after school hours.

All my teaching friends tell me that there is hardly a subject one can mention in school now on which the first retort from a class is not, "We heard about that on the wireless," or, "We saw it on the television last week." But what they hear and see in those conditions does not give them the grounding unless it can be followed up by good books, especially books of reference, and at the present cost of these books it is almost outside the range of practically every school to do anything worth while to make provision.

I trust that the Ministry will give special attention to the class libraries which should be available in every classroom and from which children can get an acquaintanceship with elementary books of reference which will enable them to carry on their education for themselves after they have left school. I hope that the Ministry will pay special attention to the two points I have mentioned.

5.2 p.m.

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

Both the rules of order and the interests of Scotland prevent me from following fully some of the interesting suggestions which have been made.

Mr. Ross

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the interests of Scotland are not confined to a discussion of Scottish matters. I hope he will appreciate that the amount of money spent under this Estimate determines the amount spent on education in Scotland. He ought, in courtesy, to allow Scottish Members an opportunity to speak.

Mr. Vosper

I do not think that there is anything to stop a Scottish Member speaking after I sit down. I was saying that I did not intend to follow fully some of the interesting points which have been made. I will not follow the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) on the effects of inflation on the education service, except to say that the effects were not of course felt only in the last two years. Nor do I intend to comment on the interesting remarks of one of my hon. Friends about the financing of the education service.

I thought that some hon. Members were at times confusing the Supplementary Estimates with the original Estimates. As I understand it, this debate takes place only on what is additional to the original Estimate for 1955–56. The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) said that he was disappointed at the progress—or the development—in technical education. My only reason for not discussing that question is that it does not arise on this debate, as the original Estimate was sufficiently generous and comprehensive to include all the development that has taken place. If the hon. Member is specially interested in that subject, I assure him that he will not have to wait for many days before he receives some encouraging news.

It would be best if, rather than replying to each individual speech, I tried to wind up the debate by dealing with subjects generally. Your predecessor in the Chair, Sir Rhys, ruled the hon. Member for Fulham out of order when he referred to savings. I think I might follow the hon. Member to this extent. The savings on the Youth Service arise from the fact that some voluntary organisations have not been able to respond quickly enough to our offer of grants. There is no intention to reduce the value of the service.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) and my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) referred to the costs of administration. My right hon. Friend, in introducing this Estimate, made it quite clear that this additional cost arises not from an increase in numbers but from an increase in remuneration. In the calendar year 1955 there were two increases affecting most grades of the Civil Service, and they became operative from 1st July. They are responsible for the increase of £55,000 which is mentioned in this Estimate.

My two hon. Friends may be interested in the size of the Ministry of Education today. The actual figures in the original Estimate, upon which there has been an increase for remuneration, were 1,668 in the Ministry itself, 547 in the inspectorate and 833 in the two museums under my right hon. Friend's control. That makes a total of 3,048, but the numbers in employment on 1st February this year, mainly on account of unfilled vacancies, were down to 2,984. I make the further comment, in reply to my two hon. Friends, that that is a considerable reduction over the size of the Ministry at its peak development in 1949, when the total staff rose to 3,596.

I would make the further point that over the last few years the proportion of the total education Vote devoted to administration has shown a continuous decrease. The number of staff will show a further small decrease in the Estimates for the coming year. The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short)—and I believe he was in order—raised the question of inspectors, as did the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees. An increase of inspectors is not necessary at the moment, because Part III of the Education Act, 1944, does not come into operation until next year and, therefore, could not feature in this Estimate, but consideration is being given to the point.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central was not correct when he said that it was my right hon. Friend's general rule that all inspectors must retire at the age of 60. Different individuals receive different treatment in that respect. If the hon. Member has a specific example in mind, perhaps he will bring it to my notice.

The hon. Member for Fulham—and I believe he was the only one—referred to the addition of £9,000 on the cost of education for Poles. That arises, as I think he appreciates, simply and solely on account of the increase in the grants for universities and places of further education. It is exactly comparable to that provided in another part of the Supplementary Estimate for British students. He asked me what was the future of the service for the education of Poles. Of course it is the constant aim of the Committee for the Education of Poles to enable Polish children to become assimilated into the British community. That has resulted in an increase in cost under ordinary local authority arrangements and a decrease under this heading of the Ministry Vote.

There are about 13,000 Polish children in British schools and a very much smaller and continually decreasing number in the special schools for Polish people only. I should not on this occasion like to indicate to the hon. Member a date by which all Polish children will be assimilated in ordinary schools, but I think that our policy is progressing in accordance with the wishes of the Committee set up to study the problem.

Again, I think that the hon. Member for Fulham was the only one to raise the rather important matter of adult education. He asked me two questions. The first was whether I had any information about the local authority provision of accommodation. On this Supplementary Estimate I can give him no information about that. Indeed, no information has come to hand, but I have no reason to suppose that local authorities are being niggardly and are not taking some notice of the recommendation of the Ashby Committee.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to the setting up of a committee, which was one of the recommendations of the Ashby Committee. He must be under some misapprehension there, because in fact no committee has been set up. The developments which have taken place—

Mr. M. Stewart

I am afraid that I was misled by the phrase used by the Minister about the acceptance of the recommendations of the Ashby Committee.

Mr. Vosper

The Minister did accept the recommendations of the Committee, in a statement to Parliament last year, and I think that on that occasion he said that he did not intend to set up that committee. It is with the agreement of responsible bodies that the committee has not been set up.

I was going to say that the developments which have flown from the acceptance of that Report, and which are responsible for practically the whole of the increase in this Supplementary Estimate of £36,000, have resulted from the negotiations between my right hon. Friend and the responsible bodies. They arise principally from the extension or expansion of the work involved and from increases in the salaries of full-time and part-time tutors. In one or two areas, in particular on the North-East Coast and in the western area of the Workers' Educational Association, there have been considerable expansions.

Many hon. Members, in fact most who took part in the debate, referred to the question of special allowances. There is little that I can add to what my right hon. Friend has already said, especially as the whole matter is quite obviously under consideration by the Burnham Committee at the moment. Certainly, the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) will not expect me to give them a lead on this occasion. I have no doubt that members of that Committee pay attention to what is said in this House from time to time, and will especially do so on an occasion such as this, when many important and valuable contributions have been made.

The fact that there is a Supplementary Estimate on this item is because on this occasion, at any rate, local authorities have fully measured up to the recommendations of the Committee in this respect, which was not the case on previous occasions. One or two hon. Members referred in particular to the secondary modern schools. Again, without wishing in any way to give a lead to the Burnham Committee, the problem—as my right hon. Friend indicated in response to an intervention—is a very real one which arises from the success of this policy of special allowances.

I think it was the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees who referred to the "plight"—I am not sure whether that was the word he used—of headmasters and headmistresses. I realise that the hon. Member has a close interest in this problem. Again, without wishing to influence the Burnham Committee, I cannot but believe that that is a matter which it will have in mind at the present time. There has been a great improvement in the take-up or use of the special allowances. Before this recommendation was put into effect only 48 per cent. of the money available in the area pool was used by local authorities. Now, under present arrangements, no less than 80 per cent. or 89 per cent. has been taken up, and the money available is a considerable increase over previous years.

As some hon. Members may know, during the autumn of last year my right hon. Friend had a survey made of what local authorities were doing on this point. That survey is now nearly complete and I think I may quote, as examples, that no fewer than 1,062 awards of between £250 and £300 per annum are being paid, and that the total number of teachers receiving some award under this provision has gone up to 17,365.

Dr. King

The Minister referred to a report which the Minister of Education hopes to get about the way in which local authorities are carrying out this provision. This afternoon both the hon. Gentleman and the Minister said that most local authorities are interpreting it very generously. I hope that he will take action if some authorities are paying allowances under the minimum he had in mind.

Mr. Vosper

That, of course, was one of the reasons for obtaining this report, which is not yet complete, and my right hon. Friend will bear that point in mind.

Hon. Members have commented on the whole idea and conception of this scheme and the method of operation. Again, I do not intend to say more than the fact that not only the scheme but the report on it which my right hon. Friend has received is now available to the Burnham Committee. When hon. Members refer—and one or two hon. Members did refer—to disputes and jealousies in the common room, I would say that this scheme is in its first year of operation, and I have no doubt that if the Committee decides to continue it in some form or other, it will work more easily in the second year than in the first year.

Mr. J. Johnson

Can the hon. Gentleman give the Committee any evidence to support the statement that things are better, in the matter of staff, regarding specialist and science teachers? For example, can he tell us the number of vacancies? Has he any facts of that kind about the position of vacancies in secondary schools?

Mr. Vosper

I cannot answer a question about vacancies in a debate on this Supplementary Estimate. One thing that is in my mind, and it may have been in the mind of my right hon. Friend, is that no less than 75 per cent. of the men graduates in grammar schools are receiving special allowances. There are at least some indications of the beneficial effect on grammar schools of the special allowances. That is within my personal experience, as it may be within the experience of other hon. Members.

One or two questions relating to pay were raised. No one has disputed the beneficial effects of equal pay. That is responsible for the largest part of the increase under this Supplementary Estimate. It will be of interest to the Committee to know that even teachers on the lower scale, that is £405 per annum for a woman teacher on entry, will have received an additional £6 9s. as a result of equal pay. The head mistress in a large grammar school may have received an extra £36 15s., and after the seven year period is fulfilled will receive an extra £257. These items are not inconsiderable, and are responsible for the greater part of this increase.

Almost every hon. Member referred to the school meals service. I am afraid that I do not follow the argument of the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) about making an extra grant available to local authorities because, of course, local authorities already recoup 100 per cent. of the whole cost of the school meals service.

Mr. Wilkins

But many of them lose on administration.

Mr. Vosper

What the hon. Gentleman probably had in mind was whether it was possible for local authorities to be more generous in their interpretation of the free-meal policy. That is a matter for the discretion of each local authority, and I think that the hon. Gentleman should first pursue any particular case with his local authority, which has considerable discretion.

Mr. Wilkins

The hon. Gentleman will remember that I was ruled out of order when I was attempting to develop my case.

Mr. Vosper

This is a point which I will willingly discuss with the hon. Gentleman on another occasion.

My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) asked about contracting out. I am afraid that I have no information on that point. It has seldom been tried out, but I will bear the hon. Members suggestion in mind. My experience is that it is unlikely, particularly in village schools, that it would be possible to produce, by contracting out, such an efficient service as is already provided by the average local authority.

Many hon. Members asked whether the increase in the cost of the school meals service included extra provision in the way of canteens or kitchens. It does. The Supplementary Estimate includes an extra 251 canteens provided during the year. That, again, is additional to what is provided for in the original Estimate. I cannot be so positive about improvement in the canteen work but a considerable amount of improvement work was allowed for in the original Estimate.

The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees referred to the take-up of school meals. I agree that we have not yet got back to the figure which at its height was about 52 per cent., not 55 per cent. My right hon. Friend made the point that in this one year which has just concluded, the take-up has risen from 45.8 per cent. to 48.3 per cent. That is probably the biggest increase in any one year during recent years.

The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central asked about the pensions of part-time teachers—

Mr. Ross

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the question of the school meals service, will he tell us whether any provision is made for increased costs due to Purchase Tax changes instituted by the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Mr. Vosper

As I was trying to explain to the hon. Member for Bristol, South, the school meals service is financed 100 per cent. by the Government, and, therefore, any increase in the cost is taken care of automatically in assessing the unit cost.

Mr. Ross

But surely, in so far as we have to meet it out of the educational grant, we are entitled to know how much of the increased cost is due to Purchase Tax changes.

Mr. Vosper

The total increase in cost is £2.1 million over the year, which is additional to the original Estimate. Of this £1.2 million is an increase in the remuneration of the personnel concerned. The remaining £.9 million results from an increase in the cost of food, the extension of the service and the increased cost of equipment. This includes the factor which the hon. Member mentioned. I cannot give him on this occasion a further breakdown than that.

I was about to complete my remarks on the school meals service—

Mr. Blackburn

Does not the. Minister think that there are far too many items carried on the education Estimate which are not really related to education. I do not want to divorce the school meals service from the schools, but I think that it should be realised that this service is not really an educational matter, yet it is being carried on the education Vote. My hon. Friend pointed out that the percentage of the national income being spent on education is no better now than it was fifty years ago, but we have added several things, such as the school meals service. Does not the Minister agree that it would be better if this amount of money for the school meals service could be carried on the Vote of another Department?

Mr. Vosper

The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn) has been very successful in making his point, but I think that I should be out of order if I followed him on that interesting topic. I am prepared to debate with him and his hon. Friends on another occasion the suggestion that the proportion of the national income devoted to education has fallen since 1938 or any previous year. It is very easy to make figures prove anything one wishes. I could produce a very good argument to show that the reverse has taken place.

Mr. J. Johnson

I have asked about this at Question Time and I had an answer by the former Minister of Education, who answered affirmatively that this was the case.

Mr. Vosper

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put down another Question and I may be able to give him a more favourable reply.

The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde intervened during the speech of my right hon. Friend to suggest that some of his utterances or suggestions were having an adverse effect on recruitment. Although that does not directly arise on this Estimate, it is important to note that the applications for places next year at training colleges are at a higher rate than ever before, and that the training colleges themselves are fuller than they were at this time last year.

Mr. Blackburn

The Minister does me too much honour. It was not an intervention which I made.

Mr. Vosper

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman.

The hon. Member for Fulham and the right hon. Member for South Shields referred most appropriately to the provision of books, particularly for school libraries and class libraries. I think that the Committee will agree that in the course of last year my right hon. Friend went to considerable trouble to encourage the provision of books, and it is a fact that the inspectorate has been asked to pay particular attention to that problem. In my weekend study of the educational magazines, I find that each week they tell of some local authority which has made increasingly generous provision in that respect, and I share the view of the Committee that that expansion and extension is highly necessary and should continue.

The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees referred to secretarial staffs in schools. There is nothing which arises on this Supplementary Estimate which enables me to discuss his suggestion that there has been any decrease under that heading.

Finally, I think that the opinion of the Committee is that this Estimate is justified because it arises from items which could not have been foreseen when the original Estimate was made. I hope that the hon. Member for Twickenham and the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East are satisfied that the reasons for the increase are good ones. That is certainly my view. I should like to think that the Committee is also of the opinion that the Estimate and the discussion which we have had are some evidence that the advance in education is continuing. I hope that when one allows for the very great expansion in the number of children in the schools—1½ million in ten years—my hon. Friends will agree that we are getting value for money.

Mr. J. Rankin

Although I have had the good fortune to catch your eye, Sir Charles, I think that it would be for the convenience of Scottish Members—and I am perfectly prepared to give way—if the Minister in charge of the Scottish Supplementary Estimate were to explain the Estimate to us in an introductory speech. That was the plan which was followed when the English Estimate was introduced. I do not think that my hon. Friend has been called yet. I am perfectly prepared to give way, Sir Charles.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £4,698,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1956, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Education, and of the various establishments connected therewith, including sundry grants in aid, a subscription to an international organisation, grants in connection with physical training and recreation, and grants to approved associations for youth welfare.

    1. c422
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