§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)
To me, it is perhaps a rather strange experience to make a maiden speech from the Front Opposition Bench. I know that I cannot claim immunity from criticism in the usual way, but I hope not to speak for too long and to allow as many hon. Members as possible to participate in the debate.
Of necessity, this debate will cover a very wide field, because it provides an opportunity for us to refer to the Report on Education in 1955. Like many hon. Friends, I will offer criticisms, but I will try to be constructive. Undoubtedly, there will be matters which will raise controversy, but I think we must discuss whether or not real progress has been made in our system of education. Also, in our discussion of the year's programme we must consider what should be the priorities within the system itself.
I wish to turn straight away to the Report. I agree with the Minister when he states, in his introduction, that the most conspicuous task is that of maintaing (a) the supply of teachers, and, (b) the supply of new schools to match 427 the increasing number of children. I think we can all agree with that general statement. We can all agree that the aims of any policy should be designed to achieve an increase in school building and, above all, an adequate supply of teachers to match the new building.
In that introduction, the Minister reveals a measure of optimism. I must confess that I do not entirely share it. He says:The provision of buildings and teachers in England and Wales has however kept pace sufficiently with the growth in school population to make it possible to look ahead and, in particular, preparations were put in hand for a major development in technical education.I am not sure that we can look ahead with the optimism which has been revealed by the Minister, not only in his introduction to the Report but in his speeches in the country. Nevertheless, I agree with him that we have laid down the basis of a policy to meet the needs of technical education.
In a recent debate we criticised the White Paper on Technical Education, because we felt that the proposals in it were not adequate to meet the nation's needs. We still hold that point of view. Nevertheless, we welcome the provisions. In that sense, when we are discussing our educational progress for the year, inevitably many of the arguments will be repeated which were expressed in the debate on the White Paper. I will not repeat any of those arguments because on that occasion I was successful in catching Mr. Speaker's eye, but I must stress that technical education cannot be divorced from our general educational system.
I believe that this applies specifically to the higher branches of science and technology. After all, our general schools system feeds our technical colleges and universities, and the quality of our scientists and technologists will be determined by their experience as scholars in the primary and secondary schools. That is why this debate is important, because we are discussing the fundamental base I of our educational system; and, if that goes wrong, all our fine schemes for higher education in technology will come to nought. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will relate the importance of technical education to 428 the broad system which we are reviewing today.
There is one small point on education which was not discussed in the previous debate, although it is mentioned in the White Paper. I refer to agricultural education, which, I think, is extremely important in rural Britain. Certainly, our new secondary modern schools must have close associations with the higher institutes for agricultural education in rural areas. We all know that there have been previous reports on the matter; the Luxmoore Committee reported and the Loveday Committee reported. It was then the aim to achieve at least one farm institute in each county, but as yet we have never achieved it.
Today, we have approximately 1,450 farm school places in our farm institutes. If we are to aim at effective technical education—and I use the term in its wide sense—as applied to agriculture, we need at least 2,000 places in our farm institutes, and I hope that the Minister of Education will have a close liaison with the Minister of Agriculture to see how far he can develop the number of farm places in our farm institutes. I am certain that it is important not only for the agricultural industry, but also for our secondary modern schools in rural areas.
I do not want to deal with too many figures; the Report contains many. Hon. Members will interpret these figures in different ways. We see in them the picture for 1955. We see how, today, we have 6½ million children in our maintained primary and secondary schools, an increase of 140,000 over the year—64,000 in junior schools and 76,000 in the senior schools. We are glad to note that that increase has been partly due to children staying at school beyond the statutory school-leaving age. As the Minister quite rightly says in his Report, that is a healthy sign, but I believe that we are still a long way from the day when we can raise the school-leaving age to 16.
We must always have that in mind; when we talk of new buildings and the supply of teachers, we must bear in mind that our aim—certainly the aim of the party which I have the honour to represent—is to raise the school-leaving age to 16. In 1955, in our infant and junior schools we have had 4,400,000 children, representing a peak figure. There will eventually be a decline in 429 those numbers, but the number in 1961 will still be about 4 million.
In the secondary stage, in 1955 the figure has been over 2,100,000, rising from 1,600,000 in 1947. That figure will continue to increase at the rate of 100,000 a year until it reaches the peak of 2,800,000 in 1961. Even by 1968, when there will have been a decline in numbers, the figure for our secondary schools will still be 2,600,000.
What do we see today as we survey our general educational system? We see a slight easing of pressure on our infants' and junior schools and the pressure being transferred from the primary stage to the secondary stage. In his Report the Minister admits this. He must accept it; the figures could not be interpreted in any other way. He says:In secondary schools, however, it was no longer possible to continue the steady improvement in staffing that had been achieved in each of the last few years.In the secondary schools there is terrific pressure upon the pupils and also upon the staffs, and I am sure that this pressure justifies the criticisms made by my hon. Friends when the Minister's predecessor introduced her Circulars Nos. 242 and 245. This pressure represents a tragedy in our school system, an overcrowding which is being carried on into our secondary schools.
I have a small son who attends a London County Council primary school—and I am very proud that he does. His classes have been overcrowded ever since he entered that school, although it is a new school. He will enter a junior school after this summer term, and I have discovered that all the classes in that new junior school, which is provided with fine buildings, will be over 40 each. Even though the pressure is being relieved in the primary stages and has been thrown on to the secondary stage, there will still be overcrowding within the primary schools in many areas, despite the fact that we have new schools; and that throws a burden not only on the children but also on the teachers, who have great responsibilities to the children.
The local education authorities certainly foreshadowed this pressure, and they have devoted their resources to meeting it. The Minister comments on a table dealing with school places—places in the modern school, the grammar 430 school, the technical school and the primary school. He puts forward three points which invite comment.
First, that we have seen a substantial increase in places in our new secondary modern schools. That has been the local authorities' response to the policy of rural reorganisation. There, I agree with the Minister, and I praise a policy to secure the ending of the all-age schools in rural Britain. He makes a second point, though, that our planning still must take into consideration the new primary schools which are to be created in our new housing estates.
His third point, however, is one which, I am sure, raises acute controversy in the field of local government. What does the Minister say?… the authorities were able to start by the end of the programme year only about 110,000 of the 121,415 secondary places that had been included in the school building programme for 1954–55.Now, this is where I challenge the Minister. He states, and he repeats in his Report, that the lag is entirely the responsibility of the local authorities. It is no good the Minister shaking his head. I would invite him, in reply, to quote from his own Report. It is stated there that evidence to that effect has accumulated and, indeed, it has been repeated, and it has been discussed at the annual conference of the Association of Education Committees. Moreover, I have already practically quoted verbatim from the Report itself.
I want the Minister to be precise on this matter. Can he give details as to where local planning, which has to take consideration of architectural and administrative problems, has really held up school building? Can he give precisely the local authorities concerned? Is it only a figment of his imagination, or is it only throwing responsibility from his Department on to the local authorities?
He states that in the Report, and I believe it to be also the background to the various circulars which have recently been issued by him. I refer to Circular 306. The Minister has come under heavy fire from a responsible body like the Association of Education Committees. The Association feels that he has broken faith—that he has unfairly presented the facts. I am only quoting from the resolution which was submitted by the Association's Executive Committee to the 431 annual conference. I believe that the Minister attended that conference the day after that, but the charge has been made and it has been repeated. Therefore, the Minister himself must be precise on this matter. It is important that he should take the local authorities into his confidence. Indeed, if we are to build a good educational structure we must have a sound partnership between the central Government and the local authority.
The Minister must either answer those criticisms which have been made at the conference or he must stand by the criticism which he makes in this Report. I believe myself that this circular does represent a cut. I know that I have crossed swords on a previous occasion with the Minister and that the Minister has given us, in detail, figures showing how building is to be postponed. "Postponed" is a new word. If school building is postponed for three months or longer I regard that as a cut.
For example, if a year's school building programme is dispersed over a two-year period—that, of course, may be an exaggeration—I regard it as a cut. This is really the new terminology which has been creeping into the speeches of those hon. Members who have defended the past policies of the previous Minister of Education. Indeed, when Circulars 242 and 245 were issued, introducing economy measures, not only hon. Members opposite but Ministers argued that there was no cut—no real economy. Now, we use a new term. Now we talk of a "postponing of starts."
I do not intend to go into too much detail on this but I am sure that the Minister must have read the comments of the special correspondent of the School Government Chronicle and Education Review. After all, this paper is generally favourable to the Minister. He may not have ever read it, but I hope he will do so. It is a good paper and, as I say, it is generally sympathetic to the views that he has expressed. This journal states:So far as the 1957–58 programme is concerned, it is proposed to allocate £50 million"—which repeats what the Minister has said. But it goes on, speaking of the allocation of £105 million for the two years ahead:Unfortunately, £89 million of this sum represents £30 million worth of work carried 432 over from last year and £59 million worth of work scheduled for this year. The total amount of what may be described as 'new' 1957–58 work, therefore, which Authorities will be allowed to build in that year is thus only £16 million.I believe that a cut has been made. Whether the Minister likes it or not, he did give a promise on this in November of last year—and perhaps I may be allowed to quote him. Confirming the policy of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer he said that the education programme would be maintained. He went on:Authorities will, therefore, be expected to carry out all the projects in the approved programmes for 1955–56 and 1956–57.He continued:It will be appreciated that in the present financial circumstances that this special treatment for education underlines the responsibility of authorities to make every possible economy in carrying out the programme.I think that there has been a change. A cut has been made. That is why I do not share the optimism expressed by the Minister in the first part of his Report. I believe that the cut is due to the simple fact that less steel is to go into the school building programme. Indeed, in page 69, of the Report we have an indication of what is happening. It says:Moreover, at the turn of the year there were signs that deliveries of steel were becoming uncertain and that progress might be impeded on that account.I want to ask the Minister this question. Is it or is it not a fact that less steel is being diverted to the school building programme? We had this policy in Circular 245. In fact, that is why we had that circular—because steel had been taken away from the school building programme. If that is so, it is a shocking thing. I do not want steel to be used for building luxury cinemas and the like if school building is to suffer, and I am sure that that should be the view of the Minister. What priorities have really been given to school building? Are there steel allocations, or are we to have this so-called free economy, with priorities and without planning?
We must, therefore, relate the Minister's programme, and this Report also, to the general policy which is being pursued by the Government at present, the background of financial stringency, the background of credit restrictions—a background which has been emphasised 433 only in the last day, when we have had another statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Our local authorities, and not only local authorities but our church organisations—the people who are responsible for our voluntary schools—are facing serious difficulties because of the credit squeeze. That is why I do not share the optimism which has been expressed so often by hon. Members opposite.
I want to pass quickly from school building to the supply of teachers where, I agree, there has been, and there is, a much brighter picture. If we examine the table in page 9 of the Report, we see that there has been a considerable increase in the supply of teachers.
§ Mr. Peart
Not in Birmingham, I agree; I shall deal with that, and I hope that my hon. Friend will have an opportunity to express his point of view.
In 1951, the number of teachers employed increased by 5,900. In 1952, it rose by 5,700, until, in 1954, there was a peak figure of 7,600 increase. I welcome that, and I believe it to be a move in the right direction.
Again, however, we must consider this figure in detail, because there are serious anomalies and discrepancies here and there. Let us consider, first, the supply of graduate teachers. In page 61 of the Report, we find that there were 2,582 graduates admitted to university departments of education and training colleges in the year 1955; but, in 1954, there have been 2,718 graduates admitted to our university departments of education and training colleges. Thus, while there has been a general increase in teachers, which we welcome, when we consider this figure in detail we find that over the year there has been an alarming drop in the supply of graduate teachers to educational training departments.
I admit that, within that figure of 2,582 graduate teachers for 1955, there has been a slight increase in the number of graduates holding degrees in mathematics and science who are going in for teaching. We welcome that; but I still say that we must consider seriously this drop in the supply of graduates admitted to university departments of education. We want more graduate teachers in our 434 schools, and, particularly, we want more graduate teachers in mathematics and science. Indeed, if we are to fulfil the aims of the White Paper on Technical Education, we must have more teachers.
Unfortunately, there is as yet what amounts to a crisis in the supply of women teachers in our girls' secondary schools, where science should be taught. We want more women technologists and technicians, and we must look at this matter seriously. I hope that the proposals in the award of the Burnham Committee, when they are adopted, will help to remedy the shortage and increase the supply. We must wait and see. Some increase will be a vital necessity for the health of technical education and higher education itself in this country. I could discuss, also, the three-year training course, but I will leave that matter to other hon. Members.
There is still very great inequality in the distribution of teachers. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook has said, this problem is high-lighted in Birmingham; but I assure the Committee that it is not just a problem for Birmingham; it is a problem in many of our larger cities, and it is a problem also within our larger cities, where teachers will not go to the old urban areas and work in the conditions which still exist there. That is certainly a problem in London, as I know.
The problem of the unequal and inequitable distribution of teachers is one which faces our whole society. In our State primary schools, we have 31.4 pupils per teacher. In independent primary schools we have 12.6 pupils per teacher. In the State grammar schools we have 18.1 pupils per teacher. In independent secondary schools, we have 11.9 pupils per teacher. While our schools in Birmingham are facing a grave shortage of teachers, there are private schools around Birmingham which have more than enough teachers. I have specific figures here for each separate school, but I will not weary the Committee with too many details; I have them here for any hon. Member to see. There is a private school with 270 pupils which has a headmaster and 16 full-time teachers. There is another with 165 pupils, having a headmaster and 13 full-time teachers. Another school near Birmingham, with 90 pupils, has a headmaster and seven teachers.
435 We have a two-school system, where certain children are favoured with an improved pupil-teacher ratio. This problem of inequality and inequitable distribution of teachers is one which applies as between the two school systems, and it does apply with serious effect in different localities. It is something about which we should all be greatly concerned.
I come now to one of my main points, the structure and future of secondary education. I have not got too much time to discuss all the details, but I mention it because I am sure that, in a debate of this kind, we should discuss freely and frankly, even if we indulge in controversy, the whole pattern of our secondary educational system. My party has issued a pamphlet, "Towards Equality". It has been bitterly attacked by the Prime Minister, and it was bitterly attacked, also, by the headmaster of Eton at a school speech day.
I shall not make very much comment on the headmaster of Eton; I should have expected him to defend the two-nation system; indeed, one could not expect otherwise. I do, however, think it bad taste to make what is virtually a party speech on a school speech day. I do not mind him attacking the idea of comprehensive education, but at least I think it is bad taste to indulge in criticism of a party pamphlet at a gathering like that in Manchester.
The Minister thinks otherwise. I have here a report of a speech he made on a recent Saturday. At least, I hope he made it; this is a Press release. He himself approves what the headmaster of Eton said. All I can say about Dr. Birley's remarks is that I believe he himself has continued the miserable tradition of hypocrisy and social snobbery, and I am sorry to see that the Minister, in his Wiltshire speech, confirms that. I shall be quite frank with the Minister. I was rather surprised at the tone of his speech, and the sort of thing he said. He confirms the suggestion that we areseeking to invade the rights of the family".He approves of what Dr. Birley said, and says:If the Labour Party are ever returned to power, we shall find the paying of school fees banned like dangerous drugs or dirty books … The Socialists are moved by the 436 envious fear that at a public school a boy will get a better education than at a county school".Later, he says:There was nothing like this in our time. What a chance our children have. We have a long way to go yet. The Government have faith in the future of our county schools.I believe that the Minister was sincere when he said that. But I say to him, and to those who think like Dr. Birley, who defend education for one section of the community in schools where it can be bought because of the income of the parent: can they really say that our county schools provide that type of education, with a teacher-pupil ratio such as we have, or that children in our secondary modern schools, ordinary children, have opportunities like those to be had in the private schools of one kind and another? It is hypocrisy to suggest it.
The real test is whether or not hon. Members on both sides of the Committee are prepared to send their sons to the new county schools. [Laughter.] Yes, certainly; I make that charge to hon. Members on both sides. That is the real test. If we believe that the new county schools form the real pattern of the future for our educational system, then we should be prepared personally to support those schools.
I believe that there are great defects still in our educational system. Many of our secondary modern schools are still the old elementary schools in all but name. I still believe—and I am expressing a personal view—that we have not yet, in the secondary modern school, achieved that purpose which is essential in a progressive and developing educational programme. There are many problems. I will be quite frank. I condemn the two-nation system in education. I believe it to be wrong.
The tragedy of all these things was revealed very well in an excellent article in the News Chronicle today by its very able education correspondent, Roy Nash, when he described the experiences of two boys in the same street going to different schools at different times. I myself believe that, after all, the school—and I am not using cliches—is a kind of microcosm of society; that the school itself really does practise democracy. That is why I condemn social segregation. I condemn 437 it not just because I am a Socialist, but because I believe it to be wrong educationally. I believe that children should mix together in school. It is wrong to segregate children at the early age that we do in our society.
I condemn, too, apart from the two-nation system, the 11-plus examination system on educational grounds. I believe it to be an educational sweepstake which is sadistically inflicted on our children at the early age of 11. We forget what tragedies are committed on some of our children at that early age. Apart from that, it is fantastic to grade children at the age of 11 into secondary modern school types, grammar school types and secondary school types. It is much too early an age from an educational point of view.
That is why I believe in the comprehensive system of education. I assure hon. Members opposite, who have been so vitriolic in their attacks on comprehensive schools, that in many of the good independent schools we have a comprehensive form of education, where the education is fitted to the needs of the child and to its aptitudes. That is all that we mean by a comprehensive system of education. That is what we seek to bring about. That is why I laud many of the comprehensive schools which have been already started.
I am certain that Britain will be proud of its Kidbrookes in years to come, in spite of all the hostility of hon. Members opposite. I know that there are some honourable exceptions, but hon. Members must remember that, in London, the London Conservatives conducted an extremely vicious campaign against the Schools Plan of the L.C.C. and they had the tacit and, indeed, active support of the Minister at that period. I certainly want to see an extension of comprehensive education. Where we have no comprehensive schools like Kidbrooke, I want to see, within the present structure, a greater emphasis on comprehensive studies. I want to see, for example, more technical education within the secondary modern school.
I recently attended a speech day in my own constituency—the first prize day of a new secondary modern school at Maryport. I am glad to note that in that school there is to be established a first-rate course of technical instruction. We 438 shall have in Cumberland one of the finest workshops for our young technicians in the north of England. That is what we mean by more comprehensive education. We want to see children catered for more within the school itself. Not only do we want to see this bias, this change within the secondary modern school; we want to see a change even in the grammar school itself. We want to see more technical facilities in the grammar school. I have stressed this over and over again, and I have repeated this argument during a previous debate.
Even if we do not get comprehensive schools, I want to see a pattern taking shape. I hope that in the months and years ahead we shall see within the secondary modern school greater opportunity for our children—not just in the field of technical education—where children, who, because of the examination at the age of 11, are forced to go there, will be given opportunities for academic studies for which they are really fitted. That is what hon. Members obviously really believe in, and I hope that we shall put emphasis on that.
I must close on this note and I hope that it may be taken up. We tend to discuss figures in a debate of this kind, we tend to discuss patterns of secondary education, and we have our arguments and take our different points of view, but I hope that in this debate some hon. Members will discuss the aims and purposes of education. I have complete confidence in our young children. We may have the phenomenon of the "Teddy boys", and the "debs", among the girls, another phenomenon, but I think, quite honestly, that, despite the "Teddy boys" and the society "debs", the ordinary youths and girls of our country are good and sound at heart, and I have faith in them.
I have faith in them despite what I have said about the two-nation system and about the defects of our school secondary system which is still in operation. We must remember that they are going out into an extremely difficult world, one in which we see the centralisation of propaganda, the impact of television, the impact of radio and a world of speedy scientific revolution. Our aim should be to give the children of our schools opportunities to be good citizens in the sense that they are able to use 439 their gifts and ability to stand up independently to the centralisation which goes on, to be free citizens in a democracy and to think for themselves.
The late Professor Harold Laski, who, I know, is still the bogy man of many hon. Members opposite, said that education should be a preparation for intellectual scepticism. I think that he was right. We want children to be able to regard facts, to arrive at conclusions and to weigh all the evidence. That is what we mean by democratic values. That is one of our aims. There is the aim, too, that our children shall see a vision of greatness, and there is the aim of good manners in living together with social decencies in a democratic community. That is the purpose of education. That is why I hope that today hon. Members will look at the wider aspect of education and will also consider the tendencies which I have mentioned and the defects which still exist within the structure itself.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ The Minister of Education (Sir David Eccles)
The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) said that he could not claim the indulgence of the Committee for the maiden speech that he was making from the Dispatch Box, but I think he deserves all the congratulations which the House of Commons is always ready to give to a really good Parliamentary performance. I hope that the helpful and very thoughtful tone which the hon. Gentleman adopted will persist in our discussions on education.
This is such an enormous subject that I am in some embarrassment to know what parts of the education system to pick out. The hon. Gentleman was quite right in relating the difficulties that lie in front of us to the outstanding fact that we have 1,600,000 more children and 60,000 more teachers in the service than we had only ten years ago. Thanks to the work of my predecessors these children have a school roof over their heads and teachers to teach them. Of course, there have been many difficult areas and many overcrowded classes, but it is not unreasonable to look abroad to see what is happening in countries which have had to face the same problem as we have of the increasing birthrate, remembering that for many of them the 440 problem has not been complicated as it has here by the fact that we are in the middle of a secondary school revolution and have raised the school-leaving age. If one looks across at the United States, one hears constantly of the shortage of school buildings and of churches and warehouses being pressed into service. Even their existing schools have to be used for two or three shifts. When one looks abroad and asks about the supply of teachers, I can only say that I do not know any country where the position is not worse than ours. That does not make anyone complacent about what we are doing, but we should remember what a remarkable moment this is in the history of education, when the rise in the child population throughout the world has been, I suppose, steeper than at any time since universal education was first introduced.
The expansion that has been going on in this country is reflected in the cost of the service. I should like to give to the Committee the main figures to show the rate at which we are increasing the resources devoted to the schools. In 1950–51, the Ministry of Education Vote was £180 million. Four years later, it was £248 million.
§ Sir D. Eccles
Last year, the Vote was £276 million, and this year, including the Supplementary Estimate for which I am asking Parliament, my Vote will be £314 million. Next year, as far as I can see, it will be about £345 million. None of these figures includes the contribution from the ratepayers.
Fortunately, as the hon. Member for Workington said, there is wide agreement that education is fundamental to our country's future. Many of us, on both sides, do all that we can to secure public support for further advances in our schools and colleges. That certainly is the Government's policy. My right hon. Friends and I believe, however, that we are more likely to win approval for the steeply increasing expenditure on education if we can show that we get value for money 441 and that we are making economies where economies can be made without damaging the structure of the service.
I want to say a word about the economies, which have been the subject of recent Circulars and which, naturally, have disappointed the enthusiasts in the education service. They are an increase of 1d. on the charge for school dinners, postponement of £600,000 in building for the school meals service, and an increase in certain fees for further education for adults. The whole saving is less than £2 million and has to be set against the increase of £38 million in my Vote as between last year and this year.
To that £2 million of positive savings I have added Circulars 301 and 304, which have the effect of holding down the amounts that can be spent per new school place and on the equipment in new schools. I do not believe that any of these measures damages the education service. At a time when rates and taxes are so high, it is not only absolutely necessary, but very good policy on the part of those interested in education, to search for and apply such economies.
The extra 1d. on school dinners raises the charge to 10d., which is the cost of the food. The taxpayer still has to find over £30 million a year for the overheads of this service and for those dinners for which the charge is remitted on account of hardship. The school dinner is valuable for health and for education. I am sure we are all agreed about that and that it is the view of the teachers also. I have recently had a talk on this subject with the National Union of Teachers and I am considering how we can improve the administrative arrangements for the meals service without losing its educative value or trespassing on the professional freedom of the teachers, of which they are, rightly, mindful.
Turning to Circular 307, which increases the fees for students taking part-time courses at evening institutes and technical colleges, there are two things to notice about this change. First, it applies only to students over the age of 21; and secondly, since the fees for nearly all vocational courses already are more than 30s. a year, which is the new minimum, it applies in practice only to what are usually described as non-vocational courses.
442 The fee, of 30s. for 36 weeks, works out at 10d. a class. That is a mere fraction of the cost of the course. If an adult cannot pay, and can prove that he or she cannot pay, the local authorities are free, as they always have been, to remit all or part of the 10d. per week. I cannot think that 30s. a year will bear hardly on keen students, of whom there are many and whose work I am anxious to encourage. On the other hand, we have a real problem of students who enrol and do not keep up their attendance, with the result that too many courses are started and the best teachers do not have as many students as they should.
I hope that we can concentrate the teachers and the serious students so that each can get more out of the courses. This is an economy which, I am convinced, will raise the standards in the appreciation and the practice of art. For the same reason, I have asked certain local authorities to close down a number of small art courses, because the existence of too many courses has led to poor teaching and a waste of money.
I have often asked myself whether we have got the balance right in the now very large expenditure on art which the taxpayers and the ratepayers meet every year; and whether within that big sum we are not spending too much on teaching art and too little on commissioning works of art. I believe that we should do more for the general level of art if we could shift the balance a little towards the purchase of works by promising young artists, so many of whom, not making a livelihood very easily, drift into other occupations when with a little encouragement they might remain as artists.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
Would the right hon. Gentleman care to comment on the prospects of teachers in art schools who may find themselves redundant as a result of his economies, because they appear to be substantial?
§ Sir D. Eccles
No doubt, there will be some redundant teachers, but I believe that their talents might well be employed to better advantage, for example, in industry. Where courses have had far too few students, I do not think it is sensible to keep them up.
443 I should make a point about the timing of the announcement of the increase in the minimum charge to 30s. It was held back because the Government decided to list all the economies in one statement. The delay has undoubtedly caused difficulty for certain local authorities who have already enrolled students for next year at the old rates. I am discussing with those authorities how their difficulties can be met. Obviously, we must see that the fair thing is done.
I turn to the building programme, which the hon. Member for Workington asked me to try to make clear. Over the last two years we have done our best to step up building for education. Each year authority was given to start considerably more work, but, in the event, although the value of building under construction has increased the value of work completed has not kept pace. That has meant that the time taken to build a new school has lengthened, and at the same time the carry-over from year to year of schools authorised but not started has increased. The value of work outstanding and still to be completed rose from £48 million in March, 1954, to £74 million in March, 1956.
I never have blamed the local authorities for this. It is perfectly true that they, as the partners of the Minister, have to take responsibility for building, but the fact that they have failed to complete and start schools as fast as we hoped is due to the embarrassment caused to them, as to many other people, by the investment boom. The shortage of labour on the school building sites affected almost all authorities, and caused the slow-down in completions. Many authorities were also in trouble owing to the shortage of architects and draughtsmen. This must have been a considerable factor in the delay in starting schools which had been authorised.
So we had this position at the end of last March; £74 million worth of work outstanding and still to be completed; a carry-over of £32 million worth of schools authorised but not started; and a programme of new schools costing £57 million for 1956 to 1957. Clearly, some adjustment was imperative in order to secure a faster rate of completions and a better balance between work in hand and new starts. One must remember that 444 over and above the school building programme we have committed ourselves to a sharply expanded programme of technical education, which we mean to see carried out with the minimum of delay.
Considering all the circumstances, school building might well have been asked to accept a moratorium, but in fact we are going to try to do more work this year than last. I have authorised new schools to be started this year at about the same rate as the actual starts last year, £55 million. Last year, this rate of starts was too much, since it led to a lengthening in the time taken to build. By repeating the same number of starts this year we shall make matters still worse on the building sites unless there is a general reduction in building work in other directions.
This is what we are counting on. We believe that the Government's measures to curb inflation are going to succeed, and I am glad to be able to tell the Committee that there are already small signs that work on school building sites is proceeding faster. I was at Crawley only two days ago, where building labour has naturally been extremely short—it has to be brought in from outside to the new town—and I was told that there school building sites have quite appreciably more men on them than some months ago.
I know that some authorities claim that they could do more work than I am allowing them to do, but I think that it will be found that their claims relate to starts. Of course, what is much more important is the rate of completions. If we have evidence that the rate of completions is improving the door is open to review the number of starts. It would well be described as a cut if I were to give so much more work to the local authorities that, as a result, because the building labour and the architects' labour were spread too thinly, fewer school places were completed.
It was with this need to fight inflation in mind that I decided that the cost limits per school place must be held down. Some people have said—only very few—that this measure must lead to a significant lowering of standards. I have no evidence of that. Indeed, the great majority of authorities have kept well within the limit, and, I believe, are doing so now. I do not for a moment think that £12 or 445 £15 per place, in a school costing over £260 per place, cannot be saved by efficient planning and execution.
I believe we shall have enough school buildings for the increase in the number of secondary school children in most areas. There will be one or two places where, judging by buildings alone, we shall be uncomfortably short, especially on new housing estates where there are no other buildings which can be used temporarily for classes.
I must turn to the supply of teachers, for the supply of teachers is the key to the future of the secondary schools. Is there anything we can do now to increase the total number of teachers, which, as the hon. Member said, has been rising by larger numbers every year and is now increasing by about 7,000 or 3 per cent. annually. I am glad to tell him that the number coming from the universities has risen from 2,900 in 1951 to 3,600 in 1955.
I think the figures he gave were for graduates who went to university training departments—
§ Sir D. Eccles
Yes; but the number of graduates coming straight from the universities into the schools is going up and more than compensates for the small drop in the figure the hon. Member quoted.
I, too, hope that the new Burnham scale will attract more graduates, and, of course, especially science and mathematics graduates.
The teacher training colleges were very sharply expanded after the war, ahead of the number of applicants for training. Expansion then was an act of faith, and for a time, as the Committee will remember, all the places were not filled and there was a substantial margin. It is only in the last two years that there has been a good surplus of applicants. It is now too late to build any more training colleges. They would come into service only in 1958, and their first students to enter the schools would pass out of those colleges only in 1960, by which date the school population will be declining and we shall be thinking rather of a three-year training course than of increasing the number of places in the colleges.
Therefore, I have urged all the training colleges to squeeze in more students now 446 where they can, even if that means taking more day students, or putting students in lodgings, and also to give preference to applicants who want to teach in secondary schools. For instance, the college at Birmingham, I believe, will be able to take twenty or thirty more students next term by these measures. If all the training colleges could take six or seven more each we should have a thousand more teachers produced in two years' time.
§ Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)
The right hon. Gentleman referred to students giving undertakings to teach in secondary schools, and to giving them a kind of priority. Does he mean all three kinds of secondary school, technical, modern, and grammar? Or does he mean specifically the secondary modern school? Is there any special priority for the secondary modern school?
§ Sir D. Eccles
No, but teachers who are trained for secondary school work in the two-year training colleges by and large teach in the secondary modern schools, and so it is the secondary modern schools we are thinking of.
The new entry to the profession is likely to be greater in the future, but not by very much. Therefore, it is on teachers staying on in service after they marry or after the retiring age, or on those coming back into the service after a break, that we rely for maintaining, and I hope increasing, the net increase of 7,000 or more a year. I cannot emphasise too strongly the need for every local education authority in England and Wales to make the most strenuous effort to employ every suitable person living in its area to teach during the next few years. There are many men and women who can help us out in the schools, provided that they can get jobs near their homes.
Most local education authorities take infinite trouble to discover all such teachers, but there are some who could do a good deal more. I want to make a special appeal to the Welsh authorities. They are fortunate to be able to get enough unmarried teachers and teachers under the age of retirement. They would help us very much if they would employ as many married women and older teachers as are available in their areas and so absorb fewer mobile teachers.
447 However successful we are in keeping up the total supply of teachers, we know that there are certain areas, especially in the Midlands, which will have much trouble in staffing their secondary schools. I will not go over the arguments, which we had in a debate on the Adjournment on the Birmingham situation, for and against an area allowance or a quota system. What is now becoming clear to me, having met a dozen of the shortage area authorities, is that each area finds it very difficult to see the problem in larger terms than those of its own schools. It would be of the greatest benefit if we could exchange views very thoroughly and try to find, in a general discussion, helpful measures. Therefore, I am asking the local authorities, and I hope that the teachers will join in, to com; to a conference to discuss teacher distribution.
We cannot have a satisfactory conference until we have figures of teachers in post on 1st October next, when the returns are due. At the moment, roughly speaking, the shortage areas say that they cannot recruit and the attracting areas say that they have not recruited any more. Therefore, there is something of a statistical mystery. We must have accurate returns from the schools before we can tackle the job.
§ Mr. Charles A. Howell (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
Will the figures include teachers in private schools, where there is such a large proportion of teachers to pupils?
§ Sir D. Eccles
No. Private schools do not send in these returns. I see no means of compelling private schools to dismiss some of their present staffs, and I should not wish to do so.
As the Committee knows, the storm centre for the next few years will be the secondary modern schools. I was glad that the hon. Member for Workington raised the question of the pattern of secondary education since I, too, would like to say a few words about it. I expect that the grammar schools, apart from a few specialist teachers, will get more or less the staff that they require. But it is quite clear that the secondary modern schools and the modern streams in the comprehensive schools will be very hard pressed, because they are new 448 and their pupils are increasing in number so steeply.
The hon. Member for Workington made very moderate and useful remarks about the secondary modern schools. I only wish that his hon. Friends who wrote the pamphlet to which he referred had kept on the same line. We should remember that the oldest secondary modern school in existence is only eleven years old and that the average age is probably only three years, because they are being built so fast. Therefore, their staffs have had no chance to settle down yet.
§ Mr. J. Idwal Jones (Wrexham)
The secondary modern school is a development of the central school, which was started about 1925. It has changed only in name. It is not correct to say that the secondary modern school is only eleven years old and that its experience is limited to a period of eleven years.
§ Sir D. Eccles
It is perfectly true that the modern secondary school is only eleven years old under the new dispensation. The party opposite is only interested in old schools. It is not looking at the new ones.
I admit that there are some secondary modern schools which are weak and still undecided about their function, but the evidence is accumulating—and the hon. Member for Workington quoted a school in his own constituency—that more and more of these secondary modern schools are establishing themselves as first-class institutions in a field deliberately cultivated in a manner different from the old elementary schools, the central schools or the grammar schools.
The authors of the Labour Party pamphlet, "Towards Equality", condemn secondary moderns in terms which I consider unfair. They say:many modern schools are still little more than the pre-war elementary schools under a different name.They go on to say that all secondary modern schoolscatering predominantly for the working-class … not only reflect the existing class structure, but also help to perpetuate it.Apparently this is becausethe curriculum",that is, of the modern schools… is not geared to these requirements …449 which are defined as:… Entry to the universities, the professions, the State Service and to managerial and technical posts in industry.… Thus, the doors of opportunity in the modern schools are, at best only ajar.The idea that all children are potential candidates for a university education does great harm.
§ Sir D. Eccles
The hon. Member will see that the pamphlet says that the curriculum of the modern schools is not geared to the requirements, which are defined as entry to the universities, and so on. There will always be a few borderline cases and a few late developers who do not get into the grammar schools, and for them we are encouraging courses for the General Certificate of Education in secondary modern schools, or, better still, transfers to grammar school sixth forms at 15 or 16. But everybody knows that for the majority of children an education different from the curriculum of a grammar school will bring out the best in them. That is exactly what the secondary modern school tries to do.
The pamphlet says that the curriculum which the secondary modern schools are, in fact, using is so inferior that the pupils will be prevented from ever rising out of the working-class. That is simply not true.
§ Miss Alice Bacon (Leeds, South Bast)
As one who had something to do with the pamphlet, may I point out that it makes a point of something which the Minister has not quoted—that the chief reason for this is that for most of the secondary modern school pupils there is a stop at the age of 15.
§ Sir D. Eccles
Quite true, but they can stay on if they will, and in a moment I will explain the matter to the hon. Lady.
First, all the pupils in the secondary modern schools do not come from wage-earners' homes, as anyone who goes there knows. They are a cross-section, just the same as the pupils in the grammar schools. Secondly, it is very wide of the 450 truth to say that the secondary modern schools stamp a "bottom dog" outlook on those of their pupils who do come from wage-earners' homes. I should like to examine this allegation about the inferiority of the curriculum in secondary modern schools.
What have been the signs of higher or middle-class status? I reckon that there were three. First, an income which allowed a margin beyond the necessities of life; secondly, sending children to the only schools which could lead to salaried jobs; and, thirdly, intellectual interests in such things as the arts, literature and travel, which, of course, were made possible by the family income and the fee-paying education which they gave to their children. These used to be sharp distinctions, but they are no longer. They are coming within the reach of all families, and at a rate which, in retrospect, I am sure we shall consider astonishing.
The gap between salaries and wages has grown very much smaller. There cannot be much difference between the incomes of the parents of children in secondary modern schools and the parents of children in the grammar schools. The jobs which all but the most gifted children will get when they leave either of these schools will be paid at more or less the same rate, whether they earn salaries or wages.
Further—and I think that this is more important than the financial side—we are now in process of building up an alternative to the grammar school—university route to the highest positions to which a boy or girl can attain. The new route through the technical colleges will suit those who are not academically minded, but who can go very far by combining earning and learning. This is much the best way to pick up and develop all the available talent. I claim that nothing is likely to do more to open the door of opportunity, which is talked about in this pamphlet, than collaboration between the technical colleges and the secondary modern schools. This is the key to the Government's programme for increasing technical education in numbers and scope in this country.
I was most interested to hear recently of a conference between the headmasters of the secondary modern schools and the teachers in the Sheffield Technical 451 College, how much they had to learn from each other, and what extraordinarily useful results they anticipate will come out of it.
§ Mr. Chetwynd
Will the Minister address his remarks to the parents, because they are really the source of the trouble, and not the children or the teachers? It is the parents who insist that their children shall be educated in a grammar school, regardless of the benefits to be obtained from any other sort of education.
§ Sir D. Eccles
There have been complaints of that kind, but my experience—and I should think that of hon. Members will confirm it—is that every year that goes by, as the secondary modern schools establish themselves as useful places of education in their own right, fewer parents are worrying about their children not going to the grammar schools.
§ Sir D. Eccles
The hon. Gentleman says that there is no evidence of that at all, but if hon. Members care to go, I can tell them which local authorities they should visit to find that the 11-plus exam is no longer a matter of anxiety. [HON. MEMBERS: "Tell us."] Well, Chesterfield, and plenty of others.
If we were to put the vast majority of secondary modern school children through a grammar school curriculum, they would not do nearly as well in the world as they will by following the new route which we are building for them. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Workington that we need more technical education at the tops of secondary modern schools, and also in some of the grammar schools. The most fruitful line of advance lies in far closer collaboration between the secondary modern school in the last two years of the course and the further education which the boy or girl will take up after leaving school.
Thirdly, I reckoned intellectual and artistic interests as signs of a middle-class status. In the old elementary schools, the arts were scarcely taught at all. But today it is in the secondary modern schools that most time is being devoted to music, art and drama. As far as I can see, the authors of "Towards Equality" 452 do not know this, and I can only conclude that the public school boys on the Front Bench opposite have been so preoccupied in thinking how they could bite the hand that fed them that they have failed to learn what is going on in our secondary modern schools.
We are in the middle of a revolution in taste. As far as I know, no country has ever set out so deliberately to raise the standards of appreciation in music, books, pictures, furniture, dress-making, cookery and languages. One striking way to see what is going on is to go to a domestic science teacher training college, and see what the young students are learning which they will afterwards hand on in the schools.
I visited such a college at Totley, just outside Sheffield. It is magnificently equipped, and remarkable in its high standards in all these subjects which are taught to the teachers of domestic science. When they get into the secondary modern schools, are these students likely to perpetuate the class structure, which is what this peculiar pamphlet says they will do? Of course, they will not; they will be changing the class structure.
I think that the difference between us, as revealed in this pamphlet, goes very deep, as the hon. Member for Workington himself indicated. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite pick on the schools which are having the hardest time, those which they say differ only in name from the old elementary schools, and by arguing that the gap between the worst and the best is unconscionably great, they make a policy of levelling down. [Interruption.] The party opposite wants to destroy the public schools, and if that is not levelling down I do not know what it is. We on our side look at what is succeeding. We feel that many of these secondary modern schools are doing remarkably well and are establishing great reputations with both parents and teachers. By arguing from what is being done in the best schools, we make a policy of levelling up.
This is the kind of issue on which we are very glad to be challenged. We have no doubt that the policy of rising standards which is being achieved in our secondary schools today—and I am very glad to think that we on this side of the Committee are in charge of education, so that we can see that it continues—is far 453 better for the nation than the old-fashioned class warfare which is put forward in this pamphlet.
§ Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme) rose—
§ Sir D. Eccles
One has only got to read the pamphlet to see that hon. Gentlemen opposite are much more concerned with social policy than with education.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham) rose—
§ Sir D. Eccles
They are much more interested in the class structure than in developing for each child the kind of education which suits that child best. We are quite confident that if Parliament continues, in the next decade, to give to education the support which it has given over the last few years, we shall have in this country the best system of schools in the world. It will be a system which parents will see is of their own choice. They will know that the school to which they will be advised to send their children will be the one that is most suited; and, when we have done that, we shall be able to turn to any other country in the world and say, "British education has achieved something never achieved in any other country."
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. W. R. Williams)
I think that there are too many hon. Members waiting for the Minister to sit down.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Irving (Dartford)
I wish to deal with a section of our children who have for too long been neglected—the 10 per cent. who are classified in this country as handicapped. First, I want to welcome the very considerable emphasis given in the Report this year to the special services and the special educational treatment which have been developed for our handicapped children. There has been a minor revolution in this field over the last few years. It has shown itself in several ways, first, in a willingness on the part of teachers and educators to look at the natural ability that remains in the child rather than at the defect, and-secondly, on the part of at least the progressive authorities in the country, to take more interest in the provision of proper facilities.
454 I should like to congratulate those authorities which have already made some provision and have increased it, and those which have for the first time embarked on a provision of this kind. I should also like to congratulate the increasing number of teachers who are patiently and conscientiously giving of their time to this very difficult work. It is a great humanitarian work, and failure to care for these children would be the very antithesis of a Christian morality, and certainly not a wise practice of education. I should like to think that in the coming years the Minister will encourage more firmly those authorities which have so far made no real effort to deal with this problem.
We welcome the Report of the Committee on Maladjusted Children. It is a sound Report of careful work, and if its recommendations are accepted it will lay the foundation for a suitable system of dealing with our maladjusted children. While congratulating the Committee, I hope that the Minister will seek an early date on which to publish some instructions to local authorities on this matter, and that he will see his way clear to accept most of the recommendations contained in the Report.
I would point out, however, that there is still a vast problem in the question of the education of sub-normal children, and that we are lagging behind our Scottish friends in that they have already had from their Advisory Council a report on this question. I hope that in the near future the Minister will ask his Advisory Council to undertake a similar report on educational subnormality.
The Report of the Committee on Maladjusted Children recommends that a series of child guidance clinics should be set up each with one psychiatrist, two educational psychologists and three social workers. I know that such clinics cannot be set up overnight, but when they are, I hope that the social workers will be field workers and will be able to get out into the schools and among the parents and close the gap between the home and the school. I suggest, too, that in this work the ascertainment of educational sub-normality should be handed over to these clinics because, although I believe that the school medical service and the school medical officers are doing a conscientious job, the testing and handling of the 455 children are necessary in this complicated work can be undertaken only by people properly trained for that work.
The ascertainment of subnormality and adjustment should be undertaken at the very earliest stage. The Report of the Committee states that approximately 5 per cent. of the children in schools are maladjusted. I disagree with the Report in that I believe that at least some of the children in that 5 per cent. are maladjusted because between the ages of five and eight they did not get properly on the educational ladder and were not allowed the proper development of their ability. The Report indicates what I am after, and I will quote briefly from it. Evidence given to the Committee by a London County Council witness said:If this frustration can be remedied by giving the children a feeling of progress in mastering the three R's, the resultant satisfaction and relief may flow over and help to overcome the more fundamental troubles.I think that is true not only of maladjusted children but of educationally subnormal children who are also retarded. If, in fact, they start off at an early stage properly developing their abilities, we shall not build up any maladjustment which often complicates the task of the teachers dealing with subnormality. Of course, it is not easy to make progress, but I believe that if development is postponed after that vital period between the ages of five and eight—and I say between five and eight because it is necessary to get the child properly adjusted in the junior school before it can be said that it really has its feet on the educational ladder—it will be more difficult.
There has been a great deal of criticism of the teaching profession about the degree of illiteracy. I believe it stems from the fact that we have not paid enough attention either in our special school treatment or in our ordinary schools to that period. We have had overcrowded classes. We hear that the Army is making progress in that direction, but I would remind the Army authorities that the recruits entering this year started their school life in 1943 and were already subjected in that very vital period to little education, to teachers who were overworked and who, in many respects, were under-trained. In that period, those children were unable to start fully in the development of their abilities.
456 It is vital that when we begin to discuss our priorities we should realise that the fact that we have laid down the number of 40 as the ideal number in primary school classes is totally wrong. I would say that the number in the primary schools should be less than that in the secondary schools so that at that critical stage progress may be begun on the educational ladder. Therefore, one of our first objectives should be to reduce the number of 40 in our infant and junior schools and, at the same time, to continue at the other end the day continuation classes. I would say that that is an even higher priority than raising the school-leaving age, although I am in favour of that also.
The Scottish Report pointed out the need for further research. It is obvious to anyone reading that Report that there is a need for further study both of normality and sub-normality, and particularly of the learning processes of children with I.Q.s of between 85 and 90. Children with an I.Q. of between 85 and 90 are the hard core both of those who are retarded due to educational sub-normality and of those who are also maladjusted. I ask the Minister to do all that he can to encourage institutes of education throughout the country to pay more attention to this problem, because, unfortunately, it is true that most of our research is still centred round three or four institutes of education. London, of course, is one of the main institutes, but there are Birmingham, Nottingham and Leeds. Research is going on in all those places, but there is not enough of it.
I wish to comment on the question of building because, although the work which is now going on is producing excellent results, I think that a bigger proportion than in the ordinary school system is being done in sub-standard accommodation. I should like an assurance from the Minister that the circulars which have been sent out in the last few months will not mean the postponement in any way of the special school provision envisaged in, I think, paragraph 10 of the Report.
The Report points out that the number of children requiring special treatment because of educational subnormality at the end of the educational year was, if anything, greater than it was at the beginning. I think the Minister will agree that there is need for the establishment of 457 proper criteria so that the county authorities will be able clearly to recognise which children require special treatment. Only in that way will we get a proper indication of the need.
I think there is great appreciation on the part of parents of the work being done by special classes and special schools, but there is still a great need for the education of parents. Indeed, I was shocked recently to discover in my own constituency that a parent had a handicapped child of 13 years of age in a special school and was unable to give its address. That is scandalous, but it is indicative of the fact that there are parents who need education in the care of their children, and particularly of these unfortunate handicapped children.
I welcome the approach to epilepsy, which is also mentioned in the Report. It is not many years ago since a child who was subject to epileptic fits was segregated and kept outside the school system. I have myself been able to teach a class with an epileptic in it, and I discovered to my delight that the boy was able to carry on his normal work; in fact, he was a favourite in the class and was able to make satisfactory progress in the school.
Finally, I want to comment briefly on the question of staffing. Both in this Report and in the Report of the Committee on Maladjusted Children there is a reference to the shortage of staff, particularly for this type of provision. We shall not get that made up overnight, because it requires higher qualifications to deal with children of this kind than any other kind in the school system. Therefore, we must provide a satisfactory inducement to teachers to come forward who have had proper experience in normal schools.
It is fortunate that the recommendations still before the Minister will allow authorities to grant teachers of special classes the additional two increments which have previously been given to teachers in special schools. I think that is a welcome improvement, but it is totally inadequate to deal with the problem. There are many special school teachers who would prefer to have a complete revision of the system.
I ask the Minister to look at the recommendation which some have made that all handicapping in reference to special 458 school treatment and special classes should be weighted according to the particular handicap, that the head teachers of such schools should be graded on the normal school grade, and that the weighting should allow them to take their proper place on the scale corresponding to the responsibilities of their job. It is also suggested that they should have a fair share in the pools of local authorities for special responsibility posts and specially graded posts.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman also to look at the fact that at the moment there is a recognised qualification for appointment as a teacher of blind and deaf children, but that there is no similar qualification, and no similar status, for any other type of teacher in special schools. So I think there is a case for increasing the status of, for instance, the Institute of London Diplomas for the teaching of educational subnormal children and maladjusted children, and for the level of those diplomas to be the same as that which must be held by teachers of the blind and deaf, and to make it in the future a compulsory requirement although at the moment rewarding it in a similar way.
Although much progress has yet to be made, I congratulate the authorities and the Minister on the progress achieved so far. I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to allow further progress to be interfered with by the credit squeeze, or to allow any other restrictions to hamper the special school building programme. I am sure that my other hon. Friends will have deep criticism to offer of other parts of the programme and of the Report, but I congratulate the Minister on an excellent Report in this connection.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. J. C. Jennings (Burton)
May I first congratulate the hon. Gentleman the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) on his maiden speech from the Opposition Front Bench? As one Durham man to another, as one who was born a few miles from where he was, as one who went to the same college and university, and as one who was associated with the same grammar school, I would say that it was indeed a pleasure to hear the hon. Gentleman speak, and the best I can wish him is long experience, and many years to come, on the opposite side of the Committee.
459 This debate could take in its orbit a wide aspect, but because there are many speakers to follow I want to deal as concisely as possible, and as objectively as I can, with what I consider to be the most vital problem now facing us in our educational system. That is the question of teacher supply. We have to consider this question against the general background of an overall shortage. I said that I wanted to treat this matter as objectively as I can because I do not consider this to be a party matter. It is an educational problem, and I shall try to regard it as such.
The roots of that overall shortage lie in the past, and as local authorities, as administrators, as educationalists, we have to learn from the past. What are those roots? Over the last twenty years at least the teaching profession has been an unattractive one, particularly for men, due entirely to the fact that it has been vastly underpaid. We shall have gone some considerable distance on 1st October to put that right, and I am looking forward to a vast improvement.
I also think that a new outlook towards teachers is needed by many authorities, though not all. Here I want to weigh my words carefully. In industry the competition for the services of young persons in these days of full employment has revolutionised the attitude of employers towards recruiting. The psychology of the days of substantial unemployment has long been abandoned. May I say, then, on that aspect—and content myself with it—that in this respect the education service might have something to learn from industry?
Now to proceed to the immediate problem. There is no doubt in my mind that in certain parts of the country an emergency exists. How should we meet it—on a long-term basis or on a short-term basis? The immediate problem lies in the short-term basis. Various ideas have been put forward. In the few moments I shall allow myself I want to look at some of the short-term cures. Territorial allowances, quotas and restrictions, and direction of labour are three which leap to the mind. Let us look at each one briefly.
As a teacher I am intensely opposed to territorial or area allowances. The 460 Burnham Committee turned down this suggestion. The National Union of Teachers nationally is against it. What would happen if Birmingham got it, to mention a case in point? Why should not Nottingham get it? Why not Chester? Why not a host of other places? It would open the way to a wide range of new demands.
There would be the difficulty of demarcation. If one selected Birmingham or Nottingham, what about the villages in the surrounding country areas? In the old days when the London allowance was given on a cost-of-living basis, it was assumed that it was cheaper to live in a village than in a town. Can one assume that today?
§ Mr. Shurmer
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in great industrial centres like Birmingham, which have recently attracted many thousands of people, housing accommodation has become far more expensive than it is in small towns like Evesham, Tewkesbury or Worcester?
§ Mr. Jennings
I was talking about small villages, not towns like Tewkesbury. I have lived in a village since 1944. I went to a school which had not got a school house, and it was six years before I got independent accommodation. Village life is fairly expensive. The cost-of-living argument for differentiating between a city like Birmingham and a village like Netherseal, where I live, does not hold good.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
Does not the argument hold for local government officers? Birmingham pays differentials to its local government officers.
§ Mr. Jennings
If one does it for N.A.L.G.O., one must do it for industry of all kinds. I can visualise difficulties if we are to smash national agreements by making local and area agreements. If there are to be area allowances, there must be another basis. The basis can no longer be the cost of living, because the cost of living in a village approximates far more now to the cost of living in a town or city than it did when the London allowance was first given.
461 The new basis must be the staffing ratio. One can foresee all kinds of problems arising out of that, and I will deal with one or two of them in a moment. One argument against it concerns the line of demarcation. The people just outside the favoured area will decide to give up teaching in the county area and apply for teaching posts in the city area. We shall thus rob Peter to pay Paul. While we may have cured one problem, we shall have created another elsewhere. That is one of the strongest arguments against area allowances. There is also the fundamental point that it will smash national agreements. It will put the clock back. It will mean a return to the time when we had scale I areas, scale II areas and scale III areas, and there was bribery to induce teachers to move from one area to another.
Quotas and restrictions constitute a second palliative. We have just got rid of the rationing of women teachers. This proposal would mean the rationing of all teachers. The effect would be to reduce the total number of teachers available. Home-based, immobile teachers would tend to be left, for authorities would prefer to take teachers who were mobile. Therefore, although we are to get about 7,000 extra each year, the effect of the proposal would be to reduce the total number of teachers available.
Rationing would not make unwilling teachers go to unattractive areas. They would simply either leave the service or leave the unattractive area as soon as possible if they happened to get into it. I want a free market for teachers, although I must qualify that statement. I want a free market with no direction of labour. Teachers have always grumbled when they have been compulsorily transferred from one school to another, even within a city or county. Such a proposal would not go down well locally or nationally.
I want to qualify my outlook upon quotas and restrictions by this final statement. The position may get so bad that I may have to reconsider my attitude towards quotas. Strongly as I object to them, they may be the only thing for us in the end. I am, however, prepared to look at other means first.
We must examine other means of encouraging an increased supply of 462 teachers in unattractive areas. There are several which might be tried. How far does lack of accommodation enter into the unattractiveness of an area and the tendency of new teachers entering the area not to stay there? I have great sympathy with Birmingham about its difficulties and want to see the situation remedied. When I read that in one year 700 to 900 teachers left Birmingham, I ask myself what is so wrong with the place that so many teachers leave it. Is it housing?
Here is a point for the local authorities. Why should they not give teachers priority in housing? Hands go up in horror at that suggestion. What is the situation confronting local authorities? Are they to put the education of their children first, or are they to be afraid of irate would-be tenants? Would it not be worth while ensuring a supply of at least a small proportion of new teachers by giving them priority on the housing waiting lists?
§ Mr. Jennings
Policemen and sanitary inspectors too, if necessary. Let us be honest about having a priority list if it is a social duty which should be performed. Local authorities must face the problem. If they are not prepared to face it, they must discard the method and we must find other ways. If the Burnham Committee will not give an area allowance and the Government will not institute a quota system, we must examine other ways if children are to be educated efficiently.
There may be another way out. I keep instancing Birmingham, because it pinpoints the problem, but there are other cities in a similar situation. I wonder whether the Birmingham local authority has taken full advantage of legislation which would enable it to advance to teachers 95 per cent. of the purchase price of houses. I wonder whether that sort of thing has been fully investigated. It might not attract many teachers, but it might attract a few, and it would give them a stake in the place and perhaps help in keeping them there.
We should also examine teaching conditions. If they are not good, teachers will automatically leave. I have taught in both old and new buildings and I know 463 something about this. I know it is the spirit and not the building which makes a school, but we all want good buildings if we can get them, and the physical conditions should be as good as we can afford.
There is something else besides all this. Local education authorities should ask themselves some questions. If they are not keeping teachers, they should search their souls and ascertain the cause and whether they are in any way to blame. I am not suggesting for a moment that Birmingham is to blame. I was talking to two Birmingham teachers yesterday, and they assured me that the relationship between the teachers and the authority was quite good. I am not implying anything. All I am saying—
§ Mr. Jennings
I am glad to hear it.
Local authorities must ask themselves certain questions. How far does the encouragement to take supplementary or short courses affect the inflow and the keeping of teachers? That is a small but significant point. Is constant transfer, in aid of administrative easement, a contributory factor in sickening teachers of places? Does it cause them to say, "I thought that I should be in that school for quite a long while. Now I am being compulsorily transferred, I do not like it and I shall get out and go to some more suitable authority"? To stay long enough to know the pupils is a fundamental factor in efficient teaching. One of the troubles in the Midlands, where some authorities—I think Birmingham is one—have a six-monthly transfer scheme, is that the teacher is not given a chance to know his pupils.
How much has the size of the capitation allowance for school books and equipment to do with it? These things percolate through the ranks of the teachers. They get to know whether an authority is mean or fairly generous, and they say, "We will go to the reasonably generous authority rather than stay with an authority which is mean." Promotion schemes within authorities should be examined. A promotion scheme has to be fair; not only that, it has to be seen to be fair. If there is a suspicion of nepotism—I do not care from which direction it comes—of backdoor canvassing or anything like undue influence— 464 and we teachers know plenty about that—it may be a factor which tends to drive teachers away from that type of authority.
All these small matters affect the creation of a happy atmosphere, and among them is the attitude of the director, the chief education officer—call him what we will—towards the teachers. No longer should he live in the fastness of the shire hall, the county hall, or the town hall and be remote from the teachers. Some are remote and some are not. We should get rid of this patronising, high-level attitude towards the poor, humble teacher. Each authority would be wise to examine its own service in case there may be factors which tend to dissuade teachers from entering its area. That is why I welcome the proposal of my right hon. Friend—I think it strikes at the core of the problem—that a conference should be called.
There must be other reasons, unknown to many of us, for the peculiar comparisons between the official figures. Take, for instance, the staffing ratios for primary and junior schools. Why do we find that the figures for Staffordshire are better than those for Surrey? One might suppose that the figures would be worse for Staffordshire than for Surrey which, I am led to understand, is a pleasanter part of the country. Why sould East Ham have a better staffing ratio than Bournemouth or Brighton?
§ Mr. Percy Daines (East Ham, North)
East Ham is all right, and the hon. Member should leave it alone.
§ Mr. Jennings
I am glad to hear it.
Comparisons are made between what are called unattractive areas and other areas. Far be it from me to suggest that East Ham is unattractive, though a built-up area like East Ham is in direct contrast to a bright, seaside resort which would be more attractive than East Ham—or so I am told. Why do we get a discrepancy in favour of geographically unattractive areas and places like Southend or Hastings and Chester—
§ Miss Bacon
I agree with much of what the hon. Gentleman has said, but does he realise that on the one hand he is quoting Labour-controlled authorities and on the other Tory-controlled authorities?
§ Mr. Jennings
That is a very nice point and it was well taken. Had I been making 465 a party political speech, I should have noted that. But at the start I said—and I hope the hon. Lady will believe that my intention is sincere—that I was trying to be objective. If, inadvertently, I have given a boost to some Labour-controlled authorities, I think that instead of being condemned I should receive a pat on the back.
§ Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
My hon. Friend will realise that Birmingham is a Socialist-controlled authority.
§ Mr. Jennings
Never mind, we will not enter into political matters.
I conclude, not by boosting Socialist-controlled authorities, but by boosting an authority in my own constituency, the authority at Burton, where we have a happy position with regard to the supply of teachers. I know that Burton is a unique place—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I thank hon. Members for that, but it would be as well if we looked at this town which, after all—I quote this for the purpose of my argument—is in the Midlands. Of course, geographically, hon. Members will be aware of that, whatever they may think spiritually.
The position in Burton is that in our primary schools we fill every post from Burton students, and from married women who have come into the town because their husbands are employed in industry there. In the secondary modern schools we fill all the places except an occasional specialist post, and for our selective schools we advertise in the normal way.
I have taken pains to find out why Burton is in such a favourable position. For its size, the town has an unusually large number of students in training colleges. I think it is because we have an ample number of places in our selective schools. The director is always readily available. I know of people who have gone into industry for two or three years and then have been attracted to teaching. They have sought an interview with the director, and in a short time he has smoothed their way to a training college. The relationship with the authority is excellent. The amount per capita for books, stationery, apparatus and equipment is always above the average for the country. Teachers are encouraged to go on short-term and 466 long-term courses, and the authority is generous with its expenses allowances— [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—yes, I will tell that to the Prime Minister, too.
Finally, in my remarks about the reasons why I think that Burton is in a reasonably good position, I must mention that there is an advisory committee on which sit an equal number of teachers and people from the education authority. Burton, then, is known, and is seen to be, a happy authority, and we have very little outflow of teachers.
To sum up, I would say that we are faced with two factors. We are faced with an overall shortage and a period when the Government have given local education authorities freedom to employ whom they want, while teachers are free to seek posts where they wish. Therefore, certain action should be taken. What should we do? Those authorities which are well placed should act with restraint. From the latest figures for September, I think that London has shown remarkable restraint. Its inflow, I understand, is to be less. Local authorities in need should go all-out to make their service attractive.
We should stretch training accommodation to the utmost limit; we should provide the best possible teaching conditions in the difficult areas, and we should encourage people to stay on and retired teachers to come back in order to get us over the emergency. If these efforts fail the alternative method of rationing, which I intensely dislike, will have to be reconsidered.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Miss Alice Bacon (Leeds, South-East)
I am very glad to follow the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings). We used to say that there was nobody among the hon. Members opposite who understood very much about the practical side of education and teaching, but at last there is one hon. Member opposite who understands it.
When the Minister was speaking this afternoon, he seemed to think that he had wandered into the wrong assembly. He seemed to think that he was at the Labour Party conference, discussing our policy pamphlet "Towards Equality", because that is where we usually discuss our policy pamphlets. He did not say much to lead the Committee to suppose that we 467 were discussing his Report for 1955. We heard very little about that.
This is the first general education debate that we have had since the last Election, although we have had specialised education debates, such as that upon technical education. Technical and technological education are very important to our future economy, and I do not want to minimise their importance in any way, but I hope that this great and belated interest in technical education is not going to divert us from the main educational problem, of the education of our children of compulsory school attendance age—between the ages of five and fifteen years.
My hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite who are specially interested in technical education or the universities must recognise that all this further and higher education is dependent upon the way in which we deal with our children between the ages of five and fifteen years, and in what I have to say this afternoon I want to deal only with that question.
I do not think anybody would deny the great practical difficulties that we have had since the end of the war in relation to the bulge or the increase in the number of children coming into our schools, and the supply of buildings and teachers. I want to say a word about buildings, because they are very important. Buildings and teachers are fundamental to a good primary and secondary education. I agree with the hon. Member for Burton that it does not necessarily mean that because a building is a good one the standard of education within it is good. It is also true to say that we cannot get the full benefit of our education if the teachers are teaching in very old and insanitary buildings, crammed full of children.
The Government's recent record in building is deplorable. We are now discussing the Report for 1955, but let us consider what has happened since it was issued. We have had Circular No. 306, which has slowed up school building to the extent of about £34 million or £35 million. I admit that it is very difficult to obtain a clear idea of what is happening from the speeches of the Minister and the figures which he quotes. I have almost given up trying to understand 468 where we are with the school building problem.
Nothing that the Minister said today about starts and work in hand went any further to enlighten me. Like his predecessor, he uses terms like "starts," "completions," "work in hand" and "work done," whichever at the moment puts his Ministry in the most favourable light, and we have somehow to grope our way through all that to see what is happening. He tries to tell us that by starting fewer buildings he will get more completed. I wonder when the Government will realise that in order to finish a building it must first be started. Circular No. 306 postponed one half of the 1955–56 building programme, which was carried over to the next year.
To see what is really happening, let us consider what the teachers and local authorities—who are the people most concerned with the working of our educational system—think of Circular No. 306. The 29th June issue of the Schoolmaster, the official organ of the National Union of Teachers, in discussing Circular No. 306 in its leading article, said:Sir David is an able advocate of unpopular causes, but the skill with which he made his case could not wholly disguise the gaps in his argument.That is what the teachers think of the circular. What about local authorities? For what they think we have to consider the report of the annual conference of the Association of Education Committees, held recently at Southport. I will not weary the Committee by quoting it in full, but one of the resolutions accused the Minister of breaking faith and said that, unless something drastic was done, there would not be room for all the children who were pouring into our schools.
But what angered the local authorities more than anything else was the fact that the Minister tried to put upon them the blame for the fact that last year's programme was not completed. The conference said quite specifically that the Minister himself had delayed the approval of schemes. They had been waiting for their schemes to be approved by the Minister and they said that he was blaming them for not going ahead quicker.
If, as the right hon. Gentleman tried to imply this afternoon, everything was going so well, and local authorities were progressing so quickly, why are individual 469 local authorities complaining? Why are local authorities in Essex and Cornwall protesting and sending deputations to the Minister about the cutting of their school building programmes? I do not know whether the Government are trying to slow down school building because of the economic situation, or whether they say, "We must get our technical programme completed and, in order to do that, we are not going to have so many ordinary schools built." If it is really a problem for the building industry, and the Government desire to build schools but find that the building industry cannot build them because it is engaged upon something else, the answer is to institute building controls and have some priority in the buildings which are erected. We must see that schools and houses come before cinemas and public houses.
A great deal has been said about the shortage of teachers. In this respect, I agree with almost all that the hon. Member for Burton said. One thing that worried me a little about the Minister's speech was his reference to training colleges, which seemed to indicate that he was going to try to cram them full for the next two or three years and hope that the position would right itself after that.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), I am greatly concerned about secondary education. The increased numbers of children in our schools are now passing from the primary to the secondary schools. My views upon secondary education in general are well known, and I do not want to go into them at length. I believe in the comprehensive school. Not only do I believe in the abolition of the examination at 11 years of age; I believe that it is fundamentally wrong to select and segregate children at that age.
I said in April last year that opinion would begin to go our way as time went on, and how right I was! Reading the report of the annual conference of the Association of Education Committees, I was interested and, indeed, a little amused to see what the chairman of that body had to say. The chairman is Alderman B. G. Lampard-Vachell, who comes from Devon, and so, I assume, is an ardent member of the party opposite.
§ Miss Bacon
In his address, he spoke about the difficulties of organising secondary education in rural areas. I wish that I could quote at length from his speech, but I will quote only a part He said:It may well be that the answer will be found in experiments aimed at modifying the tripartite system. This form of words is not merely a cautious circumlocution by which I try to avoid giving offence to anyone by the use of a certain expression.I suppose that he meant he did not wish to use the term "comprehensive school."I refer to the sort of rural secondary school run by our friends in AngleseyHe went on to say that in his area the authority was enlarging the grammar school to cater for children of secondary age within the one grammar school. That shows that even in the ranks of the party opposite there are members of local education authorities who are coming round to that point of view.
I do not want to argue the merits of the comprehensive school. My views are well known, but as I have said, while I fully believe in the comprehensive system of education, I believe that, while the present system exists, we must see that the secondary modern school is given a fair share of facilities. That is not happening at the present time.
We have talked about parity of esteem. Parity of esteem can never be achieved while we have the present set-up, but we can do certain things to lessen the differences between the secondary modern school and the secondary grammar school. For instance, raising the school-leaving age to 16 will be a great help, but I am certain that the Government will not do that. If the secondary modern schools had better buildings, that would also help, but we shall not get much assistance from the Government in that direction.
§ Mr. Jennings
How soon does the hon. Lady think that it would be a practical proposition to raise the school-leaving age to 16, whether the party opposite or my party was in power?
§ Miss Bacon
I shall not be drawn into giving years, because it depends entirely on the number of buildings built while the present Government are in office. If they neglect the school building programme, it will be longer. There are some people who think that opportunities 471 to gain a General Certificate of Education would improve matters, but that is something about which I do not feel very strongly.
What can we do here and now? There is one thing about above all others which can be done. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington today quoted the sizes of classes. We know the sizes of classes in our State schools. In the direct grant schools the average is 18, and in independent schools about 12, many being as low as seven or eight. The size of classes in secondary modern schools is becoming desperate. We had great hopes for our secondary modern schools.
The right hon. Gentleman talked glibly today about experiments in secondary modern schools, and to give him some indication of what is happening I want to quote one example which I know very well. It is that of the school in which I taught until 1945. It is a West Riding school, built just before the war to accommodate 480 children. We went into it as a new school and we had high hopes. We thought that we would do great things and, for a few years, we did so, but what is happening now?
We had two prefabricated class rooms added to the school at the time of the raising of the school-leaving age, and recently there has been added one portable unit. In the school today there are 700 children, and the position will soon worsen. Seventy or 80 children are leaving this week and, in September, 200 will join the school, making a total of 800 after the summer holiday. I am told that children are sitting on window ledges and having to use an old kitchen with a concrete floor as a class room.
How can the right hon. Gentleman talk about these wonderful experiments and the sort of work which can be done in secondary modern schools when teachers in our secondary modern schools have to teach under such conditions? The grammar schools are not so overcrowded. I recently asked the right hon. Gentleman a Question about the average numbers of children in grammar schools and in secondary modern schools. Of course, there was a smaller number in grammar schools, but he said that the reason was that in grammar schools there were many 472 sixth forms where classes were very small.
That may be so, but his own Report, Education in 1955, suggests that that is only half the story. On page 126, the Report gives the number of over-large classes in secondary modern schools and grammar schools, respectively. There are 9,173 classes of 36 to 40 in secondary modern schools and only 899 in grammar schools; there are 2,692 classes of 41 to 45 in secondary modern schools and only 71 in grammar schools; there are 280 classes of 46 to 50 in secondary modern schools and only 29 in grammar schools. That seems to show that the secondary modern schools are bearing the greater part of the burden of the increase in our secondary schools.
While 40 should be the regular size of a class in a primary school and 30 for a class in a secondary school—and I have always said that that is wrong; I do not see why a primary school should have 40 and a secondary school 30—it seems that an attempt to reach the figure of 30 is made only for the grammar schools. If we are to have this terrific overcrowding in secondary modern schools and no such overcrowding in the grammar schools, the proportion of children aged 11 proceeding to the grammar schools will decrease. In other words, unless the burden of increased numbers is shared equally between the grammar schools and the secondary modern schools, fewer and fewer children will have a chance of going to a grammar school.
I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to provide some of the answers which we did not have from his right hon. Friend this afternoon. We were told nothing of his plans for the future. We do not know where the Government are going in education, and I want to know the Government's long-term policy in this respect. Of course, I can well understand them feeling that they need not bother about a long-term policy, because that is something about which only we shall have to worry.
For instance, are they budgeting in regard to buildings, teachers and so on to serve the pre-bulge condition? Are they saying to themselves, "Let us put up with these greater numbers now, knowing that the situation will even out after 1960"? On the other hand—and I hope that this 473 is the case—are they saying, "We will try to get a reasonable size of class now, so that by the time the bulge has passed to the secondary schools we can spare teachers and buildings for reforms such as a decrease in the size of classes, an increase in the school-leaving age, and county colleges"?
I believe that what they are doing is thinking that they must somehow get over this difficulty and then they will be back to the "as you were" afterwards. I warn the Minister that while we may make up on the general position later on, we can never make it up for the children who have been educated under these conditions. We can have a school building programme later, and can perhaps recruit more teachers later, but children who have been educated under these conditions have lost something which they will never make up.
Among the other things that the Minister of Education said was that he had only saved £2 million by economy cuts here and there. If to do that he has to have such petty economies as restrictions of school milk and school transport and fees for further education, I ask whether the saving was really worth while. I wish the right hon. Gentleman would give the local education authorities a little more discretion about school transport than he has given them up to now.
I know of a case, which is known also to my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Sylvester) because it is in his constituency, where the West Riding education authority was allowing school transport although the distance was 100 yards under the three-mile limit. Against its wishes, the authority has been compelled by the Minister to charge for transport. Children have otherwise to cross very busy roads and two level crossings, and ride on a bus for a quarter of an hour. These matters should be left to the discretion of the local education authority.
Before the day is out I hope that we shall hear from the Government what are their aims in education and what they are planning for the future. We regard these matters as educational and not as political problems. If we look at them educationally, we can make progress more rapidly than by doing as the Minister has done today, when he was waving 474 a political pamphlet about because he had very little else to say about his own Report.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
I address the Commitee with some trepidation, surrounded as I am mainly by school teachers. I have no particular qualifications for talking on the subject, but I am heartened by a statement made by a well-known educationist who, in expounding the value of education, warned his readers to beware of school teachers. I can take some heart from that.
I hope that the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) will forgive me if I do not follow her in many of the points she made. Many of us will have sympathy with some of the things she said. One of the features of education debates is that there is general agreement on both sides of the Chamber about many of the things we are trying to do, but there is one matter on which I must join issue.
The hon. Lady was criticising my right hon. Friend for not getting on fast enough with building and for the cuts that it is said he has imposed. I wish to refer to a Ministry of Education circular which was sent out, and which started with this preamble:Local education authorities will be aware that the economic difficulties of the country have called for a close review of Government expenditure.That might be something similar to what has been sent out recently. The circular went on to impose a cut of 12 per cent. on the average school building costs and a 2 to 3 per cent. reduction in current expenditure. It stopped all new building for the school meals service, raised the cost of meals by 1d. and outlined a number of other small but nonetheless painful cuts of the kind to which the hon. Lady has referred. That circular was sent out on 28th October, 1949, by the Socialist Minister of Education, and for very good reasons.
§ Mr. Hall
Yes, very good indeed and he had the good of education at heart, as everyone realises. I only refer to the circular to point out that there are times when we cannot go ahead as we would 475 like. It is true to say that during the last four years more school places have been provided and started under the present Administration than under the last four years of the previous Administration. I do not want to make a party point. Let me come to matters which are not party points. One is the place of the secondary modern school in the present education system, with which the hon. Lady dealt at some length, and the other is the development of scientific training in the grammar schools.
We have been trying over the last few years to develop a three-tier system of education, catering for children from five to 15, but I sometimes wonder, when I am listening to our debates, whether we are not overlooking the real job that we are trying to do. We are trying to educate children, but there is a great deal of concentration on the tools we are to use: school buildings, school teachers, and so on. Are we thinking rather too much of schooling and not enough of education?
I remember that there was rather a good definition of education by Sydney Smith. He said:The real object of education is to give children resources that will endure as long as life endures; habits that time will ameliorate and not destroy; occupations that will render sickness tolerable, solitude pleasant, age venerable, life more dignified and useful and death less terrible.
§ Mr. Hall
That is rather a long definition. I prefer the shorter one, which says:The purpose of education is to teach us how to think and not what to think.Could we not sometimes debate the curricula of our schools and see how we are educating our children, quite apart from the tools we are using?
The Archbishop of Canterbury, addressing a prize-day recently at a school in my constituency, pointed out that in his day there were fewer tools of education but that we learned to use them more thoroughly. Today, there is a large number of tools, but are we learning to use them as efficiently as we should like? I am reminded of the difference which is 476 supposed to exist between the regimental officer and the staff officer which may apply to education. In the old days, with the fewer tools of education, we learned a lot about a little, but today, with a far greater number of tools, we are learning less and less about more and more until finally we know nothing about anything. That definition may commend itself to some hon. Members.
We subject our children to varying tests along the production lines of education. We shunt them on to various conveyor belts to provide different finished products according to an arbitrary assessment of the quality of the human material with which we are dealing at a particular time in their development. We provide a number of welfare services which may or may not add to the real education of the child.
What is the final result? At every examination, or when the results are out, we get more heart-burning among parents than at any time in our educational history. There is more snobbishness in education than ever before, because people really do break their hearts according to whether or not their children go into a grammar school or a technical school. The main reason for this is a complete lack of understanding of the purpose of the secondary modern school and the part which it should play. There is a feeling among people that if their child is not selected for a technical or a grammar school place it is a failure, and has no further educational opportunity. That is a very mistaken impression, and if we can do anything here to remove it we shall have done something valuable.
These secondary modern schools in my constituency are second to none and stand out by comparison with schools anywhere else in the country. They endeavour to give a very good comprehensive education to all the children that go to them and they make it possible—this relates to something which the hon. Lady mentioned—for children to stay on to the age of 16 in order to take advanced courses for commercial or technical subjects, which will enable them to take the general certificate of education in one or more subjects, and to pass the preliminary examination for professional and other courses. They get an opportunity which would probably not be bettered even if they went to the grammar school.
477 We have to remember that that type of school, the secondary modern school, caters for the child of average ability. If, by any chance, that child got to the grammar school he would always be struggling against children of a slightly brighter intelligence and would not get any further than the shell, whereas in the secondary modern he can get specialised attention and be given a better opportunity to take examinations he would have taken if he went to the grammar school.
I suggest to the Minister that perhaps the time has come to consider whether we should have a two-tier instead of a three-tier system of education. I should not like to suggest that the comprehensive school is the answer. I have never had very strong feelings one way or the other about that. We have to see how it develops. Experiments are going on and they may show that there is a future for that type of school, but as an interim measure I suggest a two-tier system divided into a secondary school which merges the secondary modern and secondary technical together, and the grammar school.
I was very interested to see that in one of the counties—I think it was Warwickshire—something of that kind is to be done. An extract from that county's chief education officer's report was quoted in The Times Educational Supplement of 6th September, which reads:There are almost infinite varieties of children. If they are sorted into three groups, there is more room for mis-sorting them than if they go into two groups of equal standing.Other hon. Members will have had examples of that. The article continued:It would accord with these lines of thought if the terms 'secondary technical' and 'secondary modern' were not used to describe any secondary school in the county, and if schools of these kinds were known in future as 'high schools'.I think that a change in name is essential if we are to change the purpose and scope of the school, because the term "secondary modern" is associated in the minds of parents with a school of incompetent and dull children. Not only should the curriculum be changed, but the name, also.
I come now to the question of the grammar school. I understand that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Govern- 478 ment to spend £97 million on technical education over the next few years. There seems to be a concentration of expenditure on technical colleges and technical schools and a tendency to overlook the part which grammar schools are playing and will continue to play in the production of first-class scientists.
I use as an example a grammar school in my constituency, because probably it is typical of many other grammar schools throughout the country. The Royal Grammar School, in High Wycombe, is a very old and venerable school. It was founded in the mid-sixteenth century and has a first-class reputation as probably one of the biggest state-controlled grammar schools in the country, certainly in the South of England. It has the highest proportion of sixth form work among schools, with perhaps two or three exceptions.
The headmaster has pointed out that of 87 students this year who went in for the advanced and scholarship level of the General Certificate of Education, 43 took science; and during next year he expects to have well over 70 taking science at that level. Yet the laboratories which are available were built in 1914, or shortly after, and are so inadequate that no form in the school can look forward to more than two periods in the laboratories in a week. That has a severe effect on the prospects of students getting through to university as science students.
Application has been made to the local education authority, which received the application very sympathetically, but so far as I know it has been rejected by the Minister, on what grounds I do not know. I have a suspicion that perhaps in the Ministry there is a too rigid division between technical and scientific training on the one hand and grammar school training on the other. That is a great pity because, as all hon. Members will agree, it is to the grammar school that we look for first-class science students. I ask my right hon. Friend to see that the grammar schools are getting all the facilities they require and a fair proportion of the £97 million we intend to spend over the next few years to develop to the full the very large number of first-class students who could take advantage of the advanced level examination.
I wish to add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), 479 whose speech from the Opposition Front Bench I very much enjoyed. He made a very constructive contribution, which set a good tone for us to follow in the debate. I mean this quite sincerely. I hope we shall hear many other contributions from him in future debates of this kind.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Idwal Jones (Wrexham)
I should like to follow the arguments about secondary modern school education because I have had some experience of that type of school, but I am afraid I have not the time at my disposal, as I do not want to keep the Committee for too long. Nevertheless, I suggest to the Minister that he should not rely too much on the secondary modern school to supply students for technical colleges. There must be some other means of supplying the technical colleges with students than by taking the cream of the secondary modern schools only.
I wish to draw particular attention to the effect of the series of circulars recently issued by the Ministry to local education authorities. When the Government adopted their squeeze policy, despite denials made at the time, we on these benches knew that education would be one of the first victims, and our fears are now being fulfilled. That, unfortunately, has been the story of education all through the years. When plans are drawn up and hopes raised that those plans will be implemented, sooner or later circulars emerge from the Ministry and the plans are laid aside, many of them never to see the light of day any more.
On one occasion I was told during a meeting of the governors of my school that the Ministry of Education is the biggest cemetery of worthy schemes in the country. Since I have come to this House I have been convinced that the pigeonholes at the Ministry of Education are the modern equivalent of the catacombs of the ancient world. No one remotely associated with education will deny that that is perfectly true. The road to free and universal education is littered with broken promises and scraps of paper plans. That, I suggest, has a depressing and frustrating effect on local education authorities and on the governing bodies and heads of schools and other educational institutions.
480 I followed the debate on the White Paper on Technical Education, a few weeks ago, rather closely. Lurking in my mind was the fear that when the Government begin to implement their White Paper policy circulars will begin to emerge and the final result will be only a shadow of what has been promised in the White Paper. I want to give an example, and I should like the Minister to deal with it this evening if he can. I am talking for the moment about technical education. The Denbighshire education authority proposed to erect a new block of premises at the Colwyn Bay Technical Institute. The authority had every reason to believe that this project would be included in the 1957–58 building programme, but the Ministry stated that that was not possible. The authority next expected that it would be included in the 1958–59 building programme, but, to its dismay, it was informed a few days ago, that the project could not be included even in the 1958–59 programme.
So it goes on; and it has been going on like this year after year. As my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) said, a new term has been invented; it is no longer a cut, it is called a postponement. They say, "It will come, but not this year. It will not come this year, it may not come next year, but it will come eventually. It is not a cut. It is only a postponement." It reminds me of the story of the young man who sent a letter to his mother, "Dear Mum, I am going to send you £1 … but not this week."
May I turn to another matter, also very serious? I should like to draw the Ministry's attention to Circular 307, "Fees for Further Education." This is a very serious circular indeed, and I can hardly believe that the Minister appreciates its seriousness. The circular directs that education authorities shall charge, as from next September, a fee of 10s. per term for students of 21 years of age and over.
The Minister argued this afternoon—and no doubt many others will argue along the same lines—that this charge is reasonable enough and that if people are keen on education they should not be averse to paying 10s. for it. But I had thought that it was the adopted policy on both sides of the Committee to move in 481 the direction of free universal education. Have we not seen educational fees being abolished in one place after another? Secondary school fees have gone. College and university fees have gone, within broad limits. It has been the cherished pride of this nation that we were moving in the direction of free universal education. Here, we have what I must call a below-the-belt blow, with the Minister no doubt believing that he can accomplish in this section of education what he dare not suggest in any other.
What are the facts? I will speak about Wales in general, and about my county in particular. I should like hon. Members to note the year; up to 1952, the fee for evening classes in Denbighshire was 1s. for all courses. That was only a nominal fee, and we all felt that it was on the way out. Education committees had deliberately adopted a policy of low fees. They knew, as we all know, that everyone will not take advantage even of free education; but they felt that those who did take advantage of it should be encouraged and commended.
Clearly, we cannot have too many people in our evening schools. It is a sound social investment, resulting in better social activities, better homes and a deeper appreciation of education in the homes of the people. Long before my time the evening school was an established institution in the villages and rural communities of the Principality. It has now become a well-established tradition in the land. There are hon. Members listening to me who will bear me out when I say that many of our national leaders, even some of our college tutors, and I can think even of the principal of a college, started from evening schools. I can speak with some experience in this respect, because for seventeen years I was supervisor of the evening institute of my school.
During the war, in the period of blackout and sirens, when people might have been expected to remain at home, I had 450 students on my admission register. I should like hon. Members to bear that figure in mind. There were over 25 classes in the school, with students following different courses, ranging through domestic science, needlework, literature, art and commerce. That was during the war, in times of black-out and many other difficulties. In my village, I have known a class of miners meet for three years to 482 study—to study what? Not mining, not art, not philosophy, not history, not geography, but New Testament Greek!
That was in the school of which I was headmaster, in a village the name of which I hesitate to pronounce in this Chamber this afternoon. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] Since I have been asked to do so, I will pronounce it, and then hon. Members can check my facts. It is the village of Rhosllanerchrugog. It is my native village, and, naturally, I am very proud of it. It has been called a village of all the talents. I do not know whether that is true, but I would say this: the villages in Wales are villages of all talents, thanks to these evening schools. I am sure that the Minister must agree that all this is worth preserving.
Is it now the accepted policy of the Minister to destroy this grand institution of further education, just for the filthy lucre of a handful of silver—because that is all it amounts to. The writing appeared on the wall in the first place in 1952—a very significant year in our political life. It was in that year that the fee was raised in the first place to 5s. Now it has been raised to 10s. a term, which means £1 in two terms.
Further education was enshrined in the Education Act, 1944, which gave the Lord Privy Seal a grand halo. I do not wish to deprive him of it. But here, with one decisive and deliberate stroke, further education is dealt a mortal blow. Indeed,The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.I am sure the Minister of Education neither understands nor appreciates the significance of evening school work in Wales.
§ Sir D. Eccles
I am interested in evening work, but what the hon. Member is saying is that 5s. a term more for a Welsh miner is such an enormous sum that he will not go to the evening institute. Is that the hon. Member's view?
§ Mr. Jones
The reply to the Minister's question is that we are presumably moving in the direction of free education, and if a person is interested in his own 483 culture, even to the extent of learning Greek, he deserves all the support possible from the House of Commons and the Ministry of Education.
Of course, the Minister's argument can be applied in every sphere of education. In any case, in rural Wales—and perhaps the Minister does not appreciate this—social life still turns round the chapel and the school. There is no rivalry between them. They are cooperative and complementary. Local education authorities know this—that is why they pursue a policy of low fees. The local authorities on the spot know that they are right; they also know, if I may say so respectfully, that the Minister is completely wrong. I can assure him that with this particular circular he is doing irreparable damage. He is ruining the ship for the sake of a pennyworth of tar.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)
Unlike one of my hon. Friends, it is with great diffidence that I speak in front of so many schoolmasters and others having much more experience of education than I have. I must also admit that I have not even been educated altogether in this country, but that, I think, has certain advantages. It enables one to look with more detachment at the subject, to appreciate the education system as one finds it here, and to sum up the worth of such things as the evening classes that are struck "a mortal blow" because the students have to pay an additional fee of 10s. a term.
I cannot help but think that if such institutions have been struck "below the belt" with this "mortal blow" they really are not worth preserving. If there is the true desire for knowledge, then 10s. a term will not stop those who are really interested in living a fuller life, following their particular interests and improving their education. The additional fee will have one very desirable effect, which has actually happened in my own constituency. There people have been registering for certain classes at the beginning of the term but not continuing with the course for its duration. This little extra fee is sufficient to make only those register who are really keen to see the course through.
§ Mr. Hayman
May I ask whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that this has been a feature of evening classes from the very beginning, say for the last 80 years?
§ Mr. Harrison
I understood that the mortal blow to which I was referring was this increase in the fees. That increase will not affect those people who are really keen on improving themselves, but will help to make sure that there is not a waste of skilled teachers who could be much better employed in other directions. There is a case in point in my own constituency, where I understand that for the coming year the education authorities have already been able to arrange to divert some of these teachers from the additional work which they were doing in the evenings so that they may work in the daytime in a girls' school. That has helped a school that otherwise was likely to suffer seriously from shortage of staff.
Mention has been made today of equality. I do not want to pursue that, because to me education is the absolute opposite of equality. A good educational system tends, or should tend, to develop in people the resources inherent in them and to make them more and more unequal by developing and exploiting their individual talents. I am not sure that the best way for these talents to be exploited is by a single system such as, for instance, comprehensive schools only. In certain areas there is a place for comprehensive schools, but I think that there is also a place for all sorts and types of schools. For instance, we must aim at getting down the size of the classes and the facilities of the State-owned schools—if I may differentiate in this way—to the size of the classes in the so-called public schools, which are, in point of fact, private schools.
While we are doing that, however, I hope that we will have health inspections and make sure that the living conditions in some of our great public schools are brought up to a level comparable with that in a lot of the State-owned schools. Frankly, having had the opportunity of going round some of these great traditional schools, I have been horrified by them. For the money that is charged for education there, the actual physical facilities provided are, in many cases, appalling. Therefore, when we are bringing down the size of the classes and raising the standard of teaching, I hope 485 that we shall raise the standard in some of these public schools, where it falls so very far short of what I should like for my child during the school term.
One point which was brought out in an intervention is, I think, intensely important. It is the point of educating parents about the channelling of their children. We have not as yet found any better substitute for the 11-plus examination. That has a lot of shortcomings, and I hope that we will be able to find something not quite so rigid. At least one local authority is experimenting on those lines. It will be very interesting to see the results of those experiments, and I trust that, as a country, we shall learn from that sort of thing.
Nevertheless, whilst we have the 11-plus examination—and we have started to channel children at that age—we should try to make the transfer from one channel to the other as easy as possible. We should also do everything we can to educate the parents so that they will know whether their children are being selected for a particular stream or a particular type of school from which they will benefit the most. There is no doubt that if one puts a not very brilliant child into a stream with children of very much greater brilliance he will lose all the benefits he might otherwise have obtained from being with others of roughly his own mental capacity. We have to try to make parents realise that it is not so much whether the child has passed or failed an examination, but whether he has, in fact, got into the best stream where the talents that he has inherited can be developed to the fullest.
In our system, as it is now, we can say that the really intelligent child has a true opportunity of getting to the top, getting the best possible education. I had an example only this week, in a letter from the parents of a boy who was working on my farm until two years ago. That boy, through a series of scholarships, has just graduated at Wye Agricultural College. I must confess that I am a little nervous of whether I shall be able to hold my job down in comparison with him, now that he has a degree, if he comes back to my farm. That example does illustrate that a boy can work through if he has the requisite amount of drive and ability.
486 The first-class people are looked after in our educational system; there is opportunity for them. What we must look to now is the position a little farther down the scale. We must see that the next group is looked after. Simultaneously, we must see that the initial basic training, the primary training, is the best that can possibly be made available.
We in Essex, like the rest of the country, have had to make our contribution in the fight against inflation, and we have had our school building programme reduced or postponed. Nevertheless—and this is where the use of the word "cut" can put the matter quite out of proportion—more money is being spent on education and on buildings now than in the previous years. If that is a "cut," it is the sort of cut that I should like to have in my salary very frequently. What has happened, of course, is that the whole programme has had to be re-phased in order that we can, on the educational side of our social services and Government expenditure, make a small contribution towards the common weal. Let us face it. If we do not succeed in this battle, it will be no good having a wonderful education service, and it will be no good having any of our social services, because they will all become completely useless.
In Essex, because we did not have a very big carry-over and have been successful in keeping up to date with our programme, we have been rather disappointed, because our re-phasing has meant that we are not to receive, apparently, as big a share of the capital expenditure as we should like. However, now that we realise that if we were to get that proportionately big programme approved we should be depriving some other area which has, to date, not been successful in completing its programme, we shall, I think, see that we must be a little unselfish and try to look at the programme from a national rather than a county point of view.
Here I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether he would be prepared, in the event of the economic situation improving, to look again, and look sympathetically, at the Essex programme so that my county may have its share of the increased benefits which may be possible and a share proportional to the sacrifice it is now making.
487 My hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) posed the very real problem of the shortage of teachers in various areas. Indeed, he did more than I shall do, because he offered some suggested solutions to that problem. In rural areas especially the situation is alarming. I heard this morning the figures for various schools in the mid-Essex division, which comes under the Essex Education Committee. I learnt that, according to the authority's forecasts for next year, the number of vacancies will have risen.
At a school like the Braintree County Secondary School, which has on its establishment a headmaster and 20 masters, there are at present 19 teachers, and that school will find itself with only 17 in September when the new year starts. Again, the Maldon County Secondary Girls' School, instead of having 14 and two part-time teachers as it has now, will have only 13 teachers. In another rural town, Witham, the county secondary mixed school will start the year with only 19 teachers instead of 22.
That is a very alarming situation, because it means that the size of the classes per teacher in those particular schools will, other things being equal, be larger in the coming year. This is why I particularly want to bring this matter to the notice of my right hon. Friend. In such circumstances, if a graduate from a training school has a choice, he will immediately say he does not want to go to Essex because there the classes are larger and he would rather go to another county which is in a better position. The problem will thus get worse and worse. I ask my right hon. Friend if he will consider very carefully the suggestions which were put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Burton about methods of attracting teachers to these, shall I say, problem or shortage areas.
When we realise the momentous size of the task which has had to be tackled over the years since the war in reorganising and rebuilding our educational system, we must, I think, be very proud of what has been achieved. We cannot, however, afford to be complacent, and there is no one, I am sure, on either side of this Committee who is complacent about it. If we are ever at any stage complacent about our educational services, we might as well pack up as a 488 nation. Education is at the root of all advance. After all, the most important people in the nation—and I say this not as a teacher—are surely those who are training the citizens of the future.
Looking back over this year, I think we can be satisfied that considerable progress has been made. As we look forward, I am sure that we shall continue our advance, even though it may not be as fast as we might want. I submit that it is very much better that we should go forward and help to establish a sound economy in general and a sound educational system within it rather than that we should wreck all of it by extravagant spending and overspending in one particular city.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
Far be it from me to go deep into the realms of education which have been mentioned by many hon. Members on this side of the Committee who are in the teaching profession. The 13 Members of Parliament for Birmingham have not, unfortunately, a member of the teaching profession among them.
There was to have been a conference between the Birmingham Education Committee and the Minister tomorrow. Why that has been postponed I do not know. There has, however, been a number of meetings between the members of the local education authority, the teachers' associations and the Birmingham Members of Parliament, because of the serious situation in Birmingham. As a Member of Parliament for a Birmingham division, and a member of the Birmingham local authority for many years, I thought that it was up to me to state their grievances in the House of Commons.
Questions of economy, the credit squeeze and inflation have been mentioned, and Birmingham is very much concerned about the cut of over £1¼ million which has recently been made in its school building plans. Everone knows that since the war the great industrial centre of Birmingham has been so prosperous that thousands of families have been attracted there. As a result, the school population has become so great that some of the schools in Birmingham are not sufficiently large to hold the children.
489 Many of the schools there were bombed and I know of many schools in the city which are sub-standard and have been so for many years. There is one school to which, sixty years ago, I used to go, and that school is still standing as a church school. The building of three secondary technical schools has been postponed. A great deal of secondary school building, which would have accommodated the bulge in the school population, has also been postponed.
Some years ago, when I went to Dublin, I saw, on a Sunday morning, thousands of people going in and out of the Roman Catholic churches. On a Sunday morning nowadays, in some parts of Birmingham, one would think, from the number of people attending the Roman Catholic churches there, that one was in Dublin. That means that Birmingham has a huge Irish population—to a much greater extent than it was before the war—because of the thousands of Irish families which have come into Birmingham. As a result, I know of one Roman Catholic school which accommodated the population quite easily before the war, but which is no longer able to do so. That school was in the constituency which I represented before the last Election and I make the bold statement now that it is not fit today to stable animals, yet there are children there at the present time. In spite of that, in the school building programme, there has been a cut of three Roman Catholic junior schools and of an extension to a modern mixed school. In another school, children are being taught in the pews of the church, and there is not sufficient accommodation. Something has to be done for the Roman Catholic schools in Birmingham.
I suppose that the Minister will say, "You are talking about cutting the school building programme in that city, and now you are going to talk about teachers." The City of Birmingham, before the end of the year, will have a shortage of nearly 1,000 teachers. I know that there are hon. Members on this side of the Committee, in the teaching profession, as well as the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings), who disagree with the territorial allowance.
I would point out that there is a difference, in a great industrial centre like 490 Birmingham, in regard to the question of accommodation, its cost and even the cost of living. Where a city is prosperous the cost of living is higher. In a free economy, a little bit is put on here and there on the prices of food and even of clothing. As a result, teachers are not prepared to stay in that city. The Minister has upset the local authority and the teachers by saying that the onus is on the local authority, which has not done sufficient to encourage teachers to come to Birmingham. I say that that is wrong. I hope that the Minister will co-operate with the local education committee in trying to do more to encourage teachers to Birmingham.
What will happen in the future? After the summer holidays, the education committee says that it will have to close classes in schools in Birmingham or establish a system whereby some children go to school in the morning and others in the afternoon. That is wrong from the point of view of teaching our children. I do not think that anyone on either side of the Committee would be prepared to see education suffer to that extent. I ask the Minister to consider the position of the Roman Catholic schools in Birmingham, as a result of the huge increase of population which has settled in that city, and to co-operate with the education committee to see that something is done to encourage teachers to that city. I hope that the Minister will take into consideration the points which I have put to him in an endeavour to voice the grievances of the Birmingham Education Committee.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
I want to refer briefly to the remarks of the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Shurmer), following on what he said about the Roman Catholic schools. I agree with him about the importance of church schools as a whole, but I should not like to associate myself with him entirely if he specifically adheres to Roman Catholic schools because Church of England schools, and particularly one in my own constituency, Selly Oak, are in need of capital expenditure.
§ Mr. Shurmer
I meant the church schools, because the church schools are suffering more than any others in Birmingham.
§ Mr. Gurden
I am glad to hear the hon. Gentleman say that and I am wholeheartedly with him in that appeal. May I also say how much I associate myself with the comments on the Birmingham problem made by my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) in his well-balanced review of the teacher shortage in the country, and particularly in the Midlands?
I want to support the Minister to this extent. It is no use Members of Parliament from Birmingham taking too parochial a view of this problem. We must acknowledge the power of my right hon. Friend's argument to us, in the consultations which we have had, when he said that this question of an area allowance must be looked at from the point of view of the Midlands as a whole. Birmingham is an important city, but the area allowance certainly would not stop at Birmingham. It would quickly spread to the whole of the Midlands and perhaps even much further afield.
I have always hoped that the problem of the shortage of teachers in Birmingham would not become a political problem in the sense of it being thrown into the arena for argument between one side of the Committee and the other. I am afraid it is beginning to go that way.
§ Mr. Gurden
At the recent meeting afforded to Birmingham Members of Parliament by the Minister, the Members from my side were unable to "get in" at all without being difficult. The most significant thing about that meeting—
§ Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, All Saints)
Would there not be something most remarkable about the Birmingham Conservative Members of Parliament if, in a meeting of 2½ hours, they were not able to "get in" at all, as the hon. Member suggests?
§ Mr. Gurden
We should have to be rude to "get in" at all when the hon. Member was there. Even at that risk, I propose to "get in" the next time. The meeting has not been abandoned—
§ Mr. Gurden
—but will take place, I understand, as soon as 1st August. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister for giving so much of his time to 492 discuss the problem in such an amicable way.
There has been comment about the teacher shortage in Birmingham and its relation to the provision of living accommodation for teachers. Some of the hon. Members who represent Birmingham have served with me on the watch committee and they are now taking precisely the opposite line about retaining teachers to their attitude in the watch committee when they said that it was because of housing shortage that Birmingham could not get sufficient police. After a greater allocation of houses, there were immediate good results in our being able to retain more police. We are now told that the housing question is not an important factor with teachers, or that, if it is important, it is not desirable to take notice of it.
I agree with the Birmingham City Council that its housing problem depends largely on the amount of land that is available. Birmingham is fast running out of available land on which to build houses. That is one of the factors in the shortage of teachers. Over the past few years, Birmingham has built a number of modern schools, some of them, I am sorry to say, single-storey schools. A great deal of land has rightly been given over to education, but in view of the tremendous shortage of land I think it has been given a little too much. The buildings should have been taller and lifts should be provided between the various floors. Less of the very scarce land need have been taken up for education.
Some of the schools still have a vast amount of land which is used not for playing fields and the like, but rather for ornamentation. I should have thought that the education committee itself could agree to deal with the housing problem for teachers by erecting, as in the case of the police, blocks of flats and the like on its own land without interfering with the normal waiting list for houses. My right hon. Friend has a strong case for asking Birmingham whether it is not a question of providing the living accommodation for the teachers. We all agree that we are getting a fairly good flow of teachers into the city, but we cannot retain them. I should have thought it was accepted that one of the incentives in retaining teachers, or any other public servants, was living accommodation.
§ Mr. Shurmer
Does the hon. Member suggest that less land could be used for building schools and that blocks of flats should be built for teachers on land adjoining the schools? Teachers do not want to be right on top of the school at night as well as by day.
§ Mr. Gurden
The hon. Member can put it which way he likes, but that is more or less the idea. The police and other public servants live near to the places where they work.
§ Mr. Gurden
I am told that teachers object to paying high bus fares and living far away from their place of work. Here is a good opportunity to save them the whole of their travelling expenses and to enable them to live very near to the site.
§ Mr. Gurden
Of course, we would not expect the whole of the teaching staff to live there. What I am saying is that it is a direct incentive to teachers to remain in their jobs if when they get to Birmingham, and especially those who look forward to getting married, they can get accommodation of their own. If their families can live with them, they are less likely to move to other areas.
I do not say that area allowance is not an incentive. It may well be a good thing to introduce. Most of the disadvantages have been pointed out today, but we must be very careful in thinking that it could solve the whole problem. I should have thought that the Minister had been in enough trouble with the National Union of Teachers not to want to fall out with the Union on this issue. I am told on good authority that the N.U.T. does not view with favour Birmingham or any other individual place having an area allowance.
That is a different story to what the N.U.T. representatives in Birmingham said when they came to the House of Commons to see the Birmingham Members. They said that payment of the allowance would not be frowned upon very much. Now, however, I am told that the Union, at national level, would be directly opposed to an area allowance for Birmingham. If that is the case, it is a matter which should be left to the Burnham Committee.
494 I thank my right hon. Friend the Minister for the helpful way in which he is tackling this problem and his willingness at all times to discuss the matter with anybody and everybody who can suggest any means of helping. All of us Members of Parliament for Birmingham realise what a trial it is to the teachers to have such large classes. They are far too big. It is a worry to parents also to know that because of overcrowding their children are not getting the best that they might have in education. From my personal knowledge, I know that my right hon. Friend shares this anxiety just as much as I do.
§ Mr. D. Howell
Does the hon. Member agree with the views of Sir Wilfrid Martineau, an eminent educationist and leader of the hon. Member's party on the Birmingham Education Committee, who has stated categorically that the provision of houses for teachers in Birmingham is politically impossible for either of the two political parties? Does he disagree with that view put forward by leaders of his own party in Birmingham? Does he realise that if such a proposal were to be pursued, it would have to be a political issue at an Election before it could be undertaken?
§ Mr. Gurden
No, I do not entirely agree with Sir Wilfrid Martineau in this matter. He has greater experience and knowledge of educational matters than I have, but I consider that there is an advantage in being able to offer accommodation to teachers if it can be worked in with the normal housing programme. I believe that my right hon. Friend has shown, and, as can be seen from the Press, that local education authorities are themselves showing that it is possible to provide living accommodation for teachers without seriously interfering with the local housing problem.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Simon Mahon (Bootle)
If there were a Minister with whom I would have sympathy, it would be the Minister of Education, for his task is enormous, and therefore I find it all the more paradoxical that he should level against us on this side of the Committee a charge at which, when it is made, I always take umbrage, and that is the charge that we on this side are offering an educational class warfare. I must take the right hon. Gentleman to task on this.
495 Some of us on this side of the Committee, and no doubt on that side of the Committee, too, were capable and needful when we left school of taking advantage of every scrap of education that came our way, since, for one reason or another, we left school too early. A dud who goes to a public school is not sentenced for the rest of his life to some foul industry. Duds who go to public schools, when they leave their public schools, are insulated from the cold winds that blow in industry and elsewhere. It is a fact that has to be emphasised and must be understood, that those of us who left school early left early through no fault of our own. Some of us feel that there are children in the secondary modern schools who are still not getting their chance, and it is incumbent upon us who know so much of this aspect of life to make our voices heard in this Committee so that the Minister may have full cognisance of it.
I am not a teacher, and I should not say that I am a fully educated person. However, I have done my best, and I have found from my experience as a member of a local authority and as a member for a quite considerable number of years of a local education committee that the educated people owe more than they will ever know to the uneducated, and that the people who have done most for education have usually been people who were deprived of it. They are people with whom I have been associated all my life, and if I can follow in the steps of that noble band of pioneers for education and can make, in my turn, some improvement, some contribution to what they have done, I shall be well satisfied.
I had intended, if I got the opportunity, to speak prolongedly today, for I have made three or four attempts, without success, to speak in debates on education, but as time is short and others want to speak, I shall try to curtail my remarks.
I feel that it is to the secondary modern school that the Minister must give his attention. The 80 per cent. of the children who are or who will be left in the secondary modern schools demand special attention. The figure varies from county to county, but I think the proportion in general is that from 75 per cent. to 80 per cent. of the children are in the 496 secondary modern schools, 5 per cent. in the technical schools, and from 20 per cent. to 25 per cent. in the grammar schools. I think those figures can be generally accepted. I want to appeal especially for the children in the secondary modern schools.
I must respectfully take the Minister to task for what he said about the 11-plus examination. He said—I think I am representing him aright—that there was little anxiety about the 11-plus examination.
§ Mr. Mahon
In certain areas, but in one with which I am familiar, the city of Liverpool and the surrounding county boroughs, there is considerable anxiety about the 11-plus examination. So much, indeed, that I know that, if I say there is considerable anxiety about it, there are people who will say that that savours of political propaganda, and who will say the Labour Party says that because it is popular to say it? I do not think it is, but, in any case, I have always tried to be objective about educational matters because I learned very early that it does not pay to be too dogmatic about education. In discussing education we talk about buildings and schools and teachers. We must remember that we are really talking about children; we are talking about human beings, who are not all exactly alike. Therefore, I do not believe in too severe dogmatism in talking about education.
In speaking on behalf of the children in the secondary modern schools, I quote in my support Sir Ronald Gould, who said:In the long run our ability to train the scientists, the engineers, the technologists and technicians the nation needs in such large numbers depends on our ability to promote an enthusiasm for science among our schoolchildren and to give them a sound all-round education.… Unless there are sufficient pupils coming forward from the secondary schools anxious to receive technological or technical training, and adequately prepared for it, the Government's plans for higher education will be gravely handicapped and the nation's future prosperity threatened. Incidentally, when I say 'secondary schools' I mean secondary modern and secondary technical schools as well as grammar schools. Our needs for trained people today are such that all sections of the education system must play their full part. The time when we could rely on the secondary schools catering for only 10 per cent. of our children is gone.497 I have mentioned the proportions of 80 per cent., 20 per cent. and 5 per cent. What actually happens in the town in which I served my educational apprenticeship? The children go to a primary school and are subject—whether he agrees with this or not, I should like to have the Minister's attention to it—to the 11-plus examination. Right away a number of places are creamed off, and the number can be altered each succeeding year. A child who failed last year can get one this year; a child who comes in well this year may have lost last year. That has happened. The remainder go to the secondary modern school, and when they are 13 years of age there is a second creaming off for the technical school. This is well known, but surely that subordinates the scientific aspect of the secondary modern school education to the academic aspect of the grammar school education? And surely that must be wrong? That is a matter to which the Minister must give his attention. I know he has mentioned it in one or two of his speeches. I want him to consider it.
In his Blue Book, "Education in 1955," the Minister gives us analyses. There is an analysis of the General Certificate of Education on pages 146 and 147. There are figures given. I shall not read them all out, but they are illuminating, and they tell their own story. The Minister makes other excellent analyses with most of which I agree. However, something more is wanted. Another analysis is required.
I took a personal analysis, of those who passed in the subjects in the General Certificate of Education, and I traced their progress back to the time when they took the 11-plus examination. I do not know whether the Committee finds this interesting or not, but I want to make some comments on my findings. I took the whole of the age group sitting the General Certificate of Education examination and the number of passes by each child. I went back five or six years and took the level of acceptance at 11-plus I have page after page of the details and I could have dealt at some length with my findings, but I have already said that severe dogmatism is unjustified in education
The figures are very illuminating, and I should like to give the Committee some 498 samples. A boy who headed the order of merit in the 11-plus examination in 1947 took eight subjects in his G.C.E. examination and he passed in all of them. The boy who was third in the 11-plus examination took five subjects at G.C.E. level and passed only in one. The boy who was 148th in the 11-plus examination, and very a borderline case to enter the grammar school, took seven G.C.E. subjects and passed in five. Thus, taking the top and the bottom of the scholarship list proves that, paradoxically, the results are reversed at the G.C.E. examination. The boy who was fifteenth at 11-plus took seven G.C.E. subjects and passed in two and the boy who was twenty-first at 11-plus took five subjects and passed in two.
Two boys who tied for nineteenth place in the 11-plus examination took six G.C.E. subjects and both passed in four. These things are important in an industrial town, because a boy cannot obtain a decent apprenticeship without passing in at least four subjects in the G.C.E. examination. This is the bread and butter of education in a town like mine. Twin boys who were placed twenty-ninth and fortieth in the 11-plus examination took eight G.C.E. subjects and passed in seven. Both failed in physics. A boy who was tenth in the 11-plus order of merit took four G.C.E. subjects and passed in two, and a boy who was 134th at 11-plus took and passed in four subjects at G.C.E. level. This analysis is not just a castigation of the 11-plus examination. It is categorical proof that we cannot place any faith in examinations at 11-plus. Does the Minister or any other reasonably sensible man think that the academic, scientific, social, technical and cultural potentialities of a child can be assessed at eleven years of age?
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
Did not the great majority of those to whom the hon. Member has referred take four subjects at G.C.E. level and pass in four, and does not that prove that the great majority of boys who passed the 11-plus examination were up to a good standard and did very well later on?
§ Mr. Mahon
The hon. Member has completely missed the point. His summary of my analysis is completely wrong. If he reads the OFFICIAL REPORT 499 tomorrow he will realise what I have been saying.
We are setting an examination at 11-plus to assess the potentialities of a child, but I tell the Minister that if he concentrates on the top streams in the secondary modern schools he can produce excellent results. It is no use the Minister being complacent and trying to gloss over the difficulties in the majority of these schools. We are all pleased that there are some secondary modern schools which are aiming at the target set for them, but the majority of these schools are being bereft of staff and equipment and are suffering from all sorts of difficulties.
I sympathise with the Minister in his difficulty, but I hope that he is not as complacent as he sounds and as his attitude suggests. The Minister may want to get on with the job, but are his friends in the Ministry or at the Treasury putting the brake on and preventing his making further progress? When the Minister tells us that his capital investment programme for schools is being chopped, is he also trying to tell us that that is right, or is he trying to excuse his colleagues? I have taken the Minister to task for what he has said, but I urge upon him to realise that, no matter what he does, 80 per cent. of children will still be going to secondary modern schools. It is his duty and our bounden duty not to say, as the right hon. Gentleman says, that we cannot put every one of those children into a university. That is carrying naiveté to its utmost degree.
I may not have been able to secure a place in a university and might not have been able to make use of it if I had secured one, but there are thousands of boys who are entitled to a better education than they are receiving. They are entitled to an education equal to that given to those people who are sifted away from the hard winds that blow in our society. Some hon. and right hon. Members opposite should remember that these winds still blow hard in certain ways for working-class people. I appeal to the Minister and to the Treasury to loosen the purse strings for the secondary modern schools and to let us have bilateral and multi-lateral schools and have the technical aspect of education at these schools greatly developed.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Hubert Ashton (Chelmsford)
I apologise to the Committee for my inability to attend the whole of the debate, but I have been present for a large part of the time. I should like to add my praise to that already accorded to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) on his speech. It is always nice to see a young gunner making progress when recalling the Royal Artillery's motto, Quo fas et gloria ducunt; coming events casting their shadows before.
Examinations at any time, whether at 11-plus or later, are always difficult. I am reminded of the young man who wrote applying for a job in India and who said that he had failed the B.A. examination but had been plucked through the ignorance of the examiners. I am glad that reference has been made to the difficulty experienced by many local education authorities in obtaining their right proportion of teachers. That problem is being experienced in Essex, which is one of the metropolitan counties and is affected by the London weighting. We have a big problem, since East and West Ham, Ilford, Barking, Leyton, and Walthamstow have for many years been in the London weighting area. On 1st September, 1953, there were added Chingford, Dagenham, Wanstead, Woodford, Chigwell, and Waltham Holy Cross. Of course, we have to draw the line somewhere, and one of the places in the County of Essex in which we have these difficulties today is Romford.
I have been listening to the arguments put this evening from different parts of the country, and Birmingham in particular, on whether or not there should be a territorial allowance or something of that nature. We have considered this problem in our own county, and I suggest that the anomalies already arising from the London weighting are quite considerable. They are subject to many different negotiating bodies, and there is a different kind of weighting in the same area for different people. Therefore, I should have thought myself that to extend this territorial allowance or weighting to other parts of the country might be a little dangerous and might lead to even more anomalies. It is for this reason that I particularly welcome what the Minister had to say today, and his statement that 501 when he has received the data and statistics he will call the teachers together and consult with them on the best way of solving this difficult problem.
I had it in mind to say one or two things about the speech of the hon. Member for Workington. The hon. Gentleman referred to Circulars 242 and 245, but I think it would be fair to say that those of us who have served on education committees also remember that, arising from devaluation in 1949 and, indeed, the Korean War, in 1950, it was necessary to make a certain number of cuts. Possibly, some of the difficulties with which he confronted us today about meeting the bulge now moving from primary to the secondary schools did not arise merely in 1951, but in the years before then.
I should now like to say something on a controversial subject, that of the public schools. I am very glad to see that the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) is in his place, because he takes a very prominent part in our debates. I recall a speech which he made when he was the hon. Member for Southampton, Test on 20th March, 1953. It was late in the afternoon on a Friday, and an unfinished debate, because after 20 minutes, the Motion for the Adjournment intervened at 4 o'clock. The hon. Gentleman thoroughly enjoyed himself during that debate—I have a copy of HANSARD here, which I have read carefully.
The hon. Gentleman seemed to me to come to the conclusion that the products of public schools were in no way superior, and, in fact, in many ways inferior, to those who came from State schools, those who, as the hon. Gentleman himself put it, do not wear the old school tie. The hon. Gentleman was able to make one or two exceptions, in the case of politics and the fighting forces, and he agreed that in these particular fields the public schools have, indeed, provided a large majority of leaders.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
The hon. Gentleman would obviously wish to present my argument before knocking it down. What I did say in that debate—and the hon. Gentleman will probably refresh his memory by looking it up—was that it was an important fact in the argument that of any group of outstanding figures at any moment in British history, except in the case of the 502 Army and the Navy, the majority did not come from the public schools.
§ Mr. Ashton
I was most intrigued by the hon. Gentleman's argument, because what he was saying—and we had no opportunity of putting the other side of the case—was that the number of leaders produced from the public schools was no greater than that produced from elsewhere. If we bear in mind the fact that only about 2 per cent. of the people go to public schools—and this is a sore point with many—I should have thought that, on his own figures, the public schools came out rather well.
I was reflecting on this last night in reference to politicians, because three of the speeches made from the Front Bench opposite in the foreign affairs debate were made by Members who had been at Winchester College, which is, in fact, my own college. The hon. Member for Itchen is, I know, the leader of his party on the Hampshire County Council, and he is, I am sure perfectly genuinely, critical of that college. Although he is very distinguished, I am not sure that he would ever receive an invitation to be received "ad portas"that very ancient and honourable school—Winchester College.
The other point is about fighting leaders in time of war. I think a great many people know that, mercifully, in the Second World War the number of our countrymen who were killed was approximately only 25 per cent. of those killed in the First World War. But it is rather sad that the percentage of those from public schools who were killed in the Second World War was, on the average, 50 per cent., and, in one outstanding case, more than 60 per cent. This point is stressed in an excellent book by Field Marshal Sir William Slim, entitled "Defeat into Victory", which deals with his great campaign in Burma. Sir William Slim points out in this book that the people who got killed more quickly were the air pilots, whether officers or N.C.O.s, commanders of platoons and commanders of tanks.
§ Mr. Peart
I hope that the hon. Member will not suggest that bravery is the monopoly of any section of the community, either in the last war or in the First World War. What ought to be stressed is that it was true at one period the old school tie, if I may use that term, 503 gave opportunities for leadership in the sense that boys who had had that training and had had that association with a high school were generally picked for leadership in the Armed Forces. That has changed considerably and, in my view, it is a good thing that it has changed.
§ Mr. Ashton
I think the hon. Gentleman is trying to put words into my mouth. I have seen enough of war to realise that bravery does not attach to one particular class. I have seen Durham miners in action. Indeed, I should like to remind him that, if he reads Ian Hay's book, "The First Hundred Thousand", he will realise that most of them came from the public schools, that that was a great waste of the flower of our manhood, who immediately volunteered as privates, and that many died for their country.
What I am suggesting is that it is a little strange perhaps, that after two world wars, it often seems to be the fate of members of some families to lose their lives on the battlefield. At the same time, we find records of many of those who have avoided—I do not really mean avoided war service, because they were carrying on their perfectly rightful peaceful civilian occupations, but, in fact, they did not suffer as some other families have done from the consequences of war directly on the battlefield. I am only saying this because I should like people in the country and perhaps hon. Members opposite to realise that in this matter, rightly or wrongly, there is a certain amount of bitterness. I say this because I think that bitterness is a very poor handmaiden to help one to arrive at a right conclusion on any matter, let alone on such a complicated subject as education.
Having read the pamphlet "Towards Equality", which has been referred to, I think that the attitude of the party opposite towards public schools might be slightly permeated by bitterness and envy. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may shake their heads. I see that the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Mahon) has left the Chamber. I did not hear him very distinctly, but I believe he said that he had to leave school when he was 14 years of age. So did my father—to work in a mill, in Lancashire. He was able to provide his sons with advantages which he was not able to enjoy.
504 This is something which is very deep in the character of the British people. It exists in every section of society. Many hon. Members have told me that they have been able to do better for their sons than they were able to do for themselves. I am not suggesting that that would not be possible within the ambit of the Education Act, and what has happened in educational affairs since 1944, but I do say that in this pamphlet some elements seem to be rather more concerned with pulling down than with building up.
I do not know exactly what hon. Members opposite wish to do with the public schools. I think it is suggested that they would be changed and turned into comprehensive schools, and, from what I have heard in the debate, it appears that some of the masters at public schools or private schools, as we know them, will be taken away and distributed among other schools which have a shortage of teachers.
I would have thought that that would not add materially to securing a reduction in the numbers of children in each class, or the number of teachers available. These public schools have been built up over a long period, and I suggest that if their character is to undergo a fundamental change of this kind it may well be a change for the worse, which cannot be an advantage to any section of the community.
I have spoken of bitterness in what I had read in some hon. Members' speeches, and what I have heard. I suppose that I have been a fortunate individual, owing to my father's efforts and self-sacrifice. Eleven years ago I was drawn into politics, and one of the things which soon began to worry me was the bitterness which I then experienced. I was not accustomed to being called a warmonger to my face by young gentlemen who worked in factories, or to find that people who had used my shelter—and I was glad to have them—passed by on the other side when I became a Conservative candidate. I did not think that it was a particularly British or good thing when the school-children of Chelmsford booed me because I was standing as a Conservative candidate. I came out of that campaign with great credit, because I was the only one in the Election who was beaten by a Common Wealth candidate.
§ Mr. Ashton
I know that the hon. Member is a bitter fellow. I have already been challenged whether I am saying that those who have been to public schools are the only ones who have made sacrifices. That is not so, but the point I was making, and shall continue to make, was that the proportion of their sacrifices in two world wars was a good deal higher than was the case with the rest of the community.
As one goes round one's own factories one still finds this suggestion of two nations. Many employers of labour are, however, endeavouring to break down this situation. I read a shop stewards' pamphlet which is being circulated, and I was rather alarmed at the manner in which gross and net profits are distorted. I rejoice at the fact that many leaders of industry today are taking their men more into their confidence in relation to this complicated subject of profit and loss accounts, and are trying to suggest to them that the interests of employers and employees do not run counter each to the other.
I have here the speech which Sir Alexander Fleck made to his council of workers, numbering 110, where these matters were first discussed, and he was followed by his financial director.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
The hon. Member's argument is becoming rather remote from the subject of education.
§ Mr. Ashton
I do not wish to stray from the subject of the debate. I was merely going to point out that Sir Alexander Fleck referred to the great technical strides we are making—and on 21st June we had a debate on this matter. He finished by saying that success in this great effort, upon which a large part of the future of our country depends, must rest upon co-operation between the firms, the local authorities, the governors, the teachers and the pupils.
506 If, Sir Rhys, I have strayed from the narrow path of virtue and gone too wide in my arguments I apologise.
If anybody feels that I have been unjust or unfair in any reference I have made to any individual, or what he did or did not do in any war, I can only say that that is the last thing in the world I wish to do. I sit on education committees in Essex and elsewhere, and I hope that all such bodies and this Committee will be allowed to approach the great subject of education objectively and without envy or bitterness, but with the intention of doing the best they can with the considerable amount of money available, namely £500 million, for this purpose each year.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
When, in a Parliamentary debate, a kindly man like the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Ashton) suddenly develops bitterness of the nature which we have just witnessed, I can only say that this and the diversion of the Minister himself from his Report to a Labour pamphlet on equality suggest that in spite of what the party opposite said in 1944, when we were getting through Parliament the 1944 Act, concerning equality of opportunity, the one privilege that hon. Members opposite are resolutely determined not to see pass from their children is their unfair educational privilege.
§ Dr. King
I would assure the hon. Member for Chelmsford that I have never said unkind things about public schools; that I have paid better tributes to what public schools have done—including what I said in the speech to which he has referred—than he has ever done in his life. I have also paid tributes to the courage and gallantry of the young soldiers of these schools who sacrificed themselves in two world wars. I regret that an hon. Member of his calibre should, in this day and age, start bandying about the respective degrees of courage of young schoolboys. I am sure that he will regret having done that.
§ Mr. Ashton
The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said that I made a poisonous speech. It was not 507 a poisonous speech. The hon. Member for Itchen (Dr. King) said that I had cast aspersions upon the calibre of some sections of the community. I have already said that I did not do so, and I repeat it. When my words are read tomorrow that fact will be completely borne out. All I said is that it so happens that in regard to the number of people killed on the battlefield one section of our society suffered relatively greater losses than others.
§ Dr. King
The hon. Member must be content with his own speech, and hon. Members of this side of the Committee must be content with what they understand of it when they read it in HANSARD tomorrow. I would only add that I gather that he now agrees with me that it is regrettable that we should bandy about the relative courage of our elementary, grammar, or public schoolboys.
I want to make a number of charges against the Government. The first is that, even after they were warned in 1952, they failed to match up to the size of the problem which we are tackling in providing education for an increased number of children—from 5 million in 1947 to 6,800,000 in 1959—at the same time replacing a million war-damaged school places and endeavouring to sweep out of existence the bad and overcrowded schools of England and provide the ill-equipped schools with all the facilities needed for a modern education.
I agree with the Minister in being proud of what we achieved in these first post-war years in very difficult circumstances. Having taken pride in what we have done. I want to emphasise that what we have done is far short of what we might have done up to this moment, and that the Government certainly do not seem to realise what still has to be done. To give the local education authorities their due, they have known the size of the problem since 1946.
In 1946, the Working Party on School Construction, under Sir William Cleary, estimated the size of the building programme which we should need year by year at £70 million of building for the next fifteen years £70 million then would be £100 million today. As we moved from the war, we should have steadily climbed to that £70 million a year programme, but in 1952 the now famous 508 Select Committee exposed the gravity of the situation.
Its Report was a nine days wonder. It stirred the Ministry into a soothing defence and correction of detail, after which the Government went to sleep for a further twelve months. Dr. Alexander, who has consistently fought on behalf of the Association of Education Committees and our children for a much bigger building programme, gave evidence before that Committee, which said:The school building programme ought to be increased. The total provision is inadequate to meet essential needs and makes no provision whatever for the necessary improvements in existing buildings and for secondary education in accordance with the Act of 1944.What had happened? The local education authorities, after a necessarily slow start, had got into gear. Schools started were: in 1947, £32 million: in 1948, £24 million; in 1949, £70 million; in 1950, £44 million. This drop was—inadequately, I think—justified by the late George Tomlinson by his argument to which reference has been made this afternoon, that by more efficient methods we could cut the cost of school places by 12½ per cent., so in the year when he cut the capital value of the programme we got the same number of places as the year before. Incidentally, I would point out that the 12½ per cent. efficiency cut of Tomlinson has been made a 25 per cent. cut by this Government in the cost per place, even when the cost of materials has risen by 50 per cent. I shall return to that later.
In 1950, the starts were £44 million. In 1951, that figure increased to £54 million. Then we had the disastrous intervention of the first Tory Minister of Education who cut back the 1952 projected programme from £57½ million to a mere £39 million. I am always grateful to Ministerial reports for the figures which I use in attacking the Minister. The country is now paying for that cut, even though it was concealed at the time by the fact that the Tomlinson schools—schools of the 1949–50 programmes—came off the stocks in 1952 and were used as evidence of "Conservative success."
Then came a change of Minister and, much more important, a change in Treasury policy. The Select Committee Report at last seeped through to the Cabinet and the first freeze ended. A new Minister—the present one— 509 addressed a delighted House and, to quote Wordsworth:Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive.All fetters were to be thrown to the winds. It was the "all-clear" to local authorities. They were told, "Expand your programmes. No limit on the number and cost of minor projects. End all-age schools in the countryside in the next five years, and perhaps, some day, even all-age schools in the towns can go."
Then, by chance perhaps, came a General Election which was followed by the big freeze. Even when the big freeze started and we marched forward under a new Chancellor to a Britain mortgaged at 6 per cent., some thought that education was to be spared all but the higher interest rates, the dearer school meals and the attack on the poor man's university, the London University evening classes. In 1953, the new building programme was £53 million; in 1954, £57 million; in 1955, £75 million. We had run, if I might coin a phrase, on to a plateau of an annual injection of £75 million into the school building programme.
The 1955 Report and the Minister's now notorious circulars have shown us and the local education authorities how wrong we were to trust the new Minister. The programme is now frozen at £52½ million a year. The Minister explained why this afternoon: completions, the number of schools completed, steadily increasing until 1954, took an ominous dip in that year. For primary and secondary schools—and I am quoting an answer to a question of mine from HANSARD of 28th June—from 1949 to 1953 the figures run £17.7 million, £25.5 million, £37 million, £42.9 million, then dip in 1954 to £42 million and slump in 1955 to £35 million.
What are the reasons for the dip? I suggest two. One is that we paid in 1955 for the meagre, slashed building programme of 1952, and the other is that in setting the people free, in allowing all kinds of building, except school building, to have an unfettered run, the Government made certain that local education authorities lost in the competitive battle for labour and materials, as London's gigantic mass of new office buildings shows.
510 Now the Minister's new solution is the hoary old one—the solution of his predecessor—we must build more by starting less. Instead of tackling the real question of seeing that school building gets some kind of priority in materials and labour, the Minister returns to the quack cure which eventually unseated his predecessor. No wonder the Association of Education Committees is angry,! No wonder at its annual meeting it wanted the Minister to resign. No wonder it complained of this start and stop procedure, and referred to the Minister's manifestoes as having thebogus charm of a bogus company's prospectus.and charged the Minister with not being constructive and with not even being straightforward—I quote from reports of the association's annual meeting. It is wrong to blame the Minister for the sins of this Chancellor, as it was wrong to blame his predecessor for the sins of her Chancellor. The real responsibility lies with the Treasury.
First, then, we have a building programme, inadequate even in its basic conception, slowly gathering momentum dealt a staggering blow by the first Tory Minister of Education. Then, as it slowly recovered and got into its stride again, comes the second hammer blow in the latest building circular, 306. For this our children, and especially the secondary school children, will suffer. Speaking in June—my reference comes from The Times Education Supplement for 22nd June—the Minister added a curious footnote to all this. There is a reserve list for the end of 1957–58 which he will permit local authorities to start… if inflation has been checked.So the real trouble is not architects, steel, labour, but inflation. A generation—especially in places like Birmingham—goes from over-sized primary classes into over-sized secondary classes in order to keep down the cost of living. One might well ask, particularly in view of the speech of the hon. Member for Chelmsford, what contribution is Eton, Harrow or Winchester being asked to make to combat inflation? Better still, why should our children, or some local group of our children, be put into the front ranks of the battle against inflation?
511 The second bad thing the Minister has done is to cut down the cost per place; for he cuts down the cost of the new school places every time he refuses to raise it when the prices of materials and labour have gone up. The Committee need not take this point from me. It is the Minister's own boast in the Report.
I appreciate what the Ministry's experts have done in promoting greater efficiency and economy in school building, but even back in 1952 the then Minister was warned that she had gone too far. Already, than, such things as the "dual use of teaching space" and the "cutting down of circulation space" had worried educationists like Dr. Alexander. It is all right in theory to have every spot in a school building, except the lavatories, always occupied by somebody, but it can be bad educational economising. It is all right in theory to cut down the corridors, but there comes a stage when we have eliminated them and we have to get to one classroom by going through another one. It is all right saying that the school hall ought to be not only the hall but the dining room and perhaps a second P.T. room, and that sometimes a couple of classes might be shoved in it if it is not being used for medical inspection. In the process, time is being wasted and education suffers.
Why does not the Minister urge local authorities to imitate Hertford and let the teachers have something to say when it is a question of what is the best use of space in school building? It is all right to provide cheap, substitute materials, but they often cost more in the end.
The cost per place, objected to away back in 1952 by the Association of Educational Committees, has been intensified under this Minister. Last year the local education authorities continually protested against this, including Socialist Southampton and Tory Hampshire, two local education authorities with different political complexions. This year the resolution which was almost unanimously carried at the annual meeting of the Association of Education Committees angrily demanded a bigger school building programme and the wiping out of circular 306, and bitterly protested at the freezing of the cost per place. I speak from experience. I sit on an education committee which, month by month, sadly 512 cuts out things in new schools which it knows are essential or in the long run are economical, to get inside the Minister's figure; as Jack Longland recently said, "We can get the price down by using distemper, but we shall have to pay much more for paint in two years' time."
On the huge problem of the supply of teachers I have time to say only a few words. These are trying times for teachers who are endeavouring to discharge a high responsibility under bitterly adverse conditions. I speak for them when I say to the Minister—who thought them underpaid but over-pensioned—that they appreciate what has been done for their salaries but they have not forgotten the blow he struck at their pensions. They repudiate his claim that the Burn-ham Award has frozen their salaries for three years. They think that parity between primary and secondary education has suffered a blow in the disparity between their salary scales, and they will continue to press for a pension scheme for their widows and dependants.
The Report rightly takes pride in the increase in the number of teachers, but the increase is not big enough, and the worst gaps are functional and geographical. The Report, as my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) said in brilliantly opening this debate—and we back benchers are proud of him—has a second paragraph which is quite complacent, but that complacency is belied by paragraph 9, which says:In secondary schools, however, it was no longer possible to continue the steady improvement achieved in the last few years. Staffing of the secondary schools in the next few critical years will present many problems. It is at the secondary stage, for example, that the shortage of specialists will be felt.I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary what major steps the Government are taking to increase the number of secondary school teachers and the number of specialists for secondary schools. Where, for instance, is he to find the 3,600 extra science teachers that we need for the secondary schools in the next five years?
If the general position is grave, it is worse for certain areas of the country. My county, Hampshire, has had for years an annual shortage of about 100 teachers. Every one today knows the bitter tragedy of Birmingham, where some 40 handicraft rooms are likely to be closed towards the end of this year. Yesterday, the Chief 513 Education Officer of Hull stated that there was a danger of schools going on to a four-day week in 1957 because of teacher shortage.
Here let me say how interested I was in the Minister's reference to Wales, particularly as I shall ask him to look at what I regard as a disturbing fact. It is that the Merthyr Tydfil Education Committee proposes to dispense with the services of about 46 married-women supply teachers. I am informed that they are qualified teachers and have the status of "supply" only because Merthyr does not like making married women full-time teachers. These are to be replaced by teachers from other areas, among them—I have seen the list of the teachers—being four teachers from teacher-starved Birmingham area.
I urge my fellow educationists in Merthyr, and the Minister, to think nationally on this matter. Apart from the fact that half of these women are over 50 years of age and have given useful service to the local education committee, it is the fact that the extra young teachers recruited to Merthyr to replace them mean extra hardship for teachers in the less fortunate areas of the country. Britain ought to be sharing its teachers a little more fairly.
I will end by returning to the nub of the bitterness that has been expressed from the Government benches this afternoon. We are far from equality of opportunity for our children. The Report shows that 250,000 children receive their education in private schools, with only 13 children for every teacher. These are the privileged children whose claim was so eloquently defended recently by the headmaster of Eton, in a spot dedicated by Henry VI to the education of 70 poor boys.
In the same year, 1955, 50,000 similar English children were taught in classes of more than 50, 600,000 in classes of more than 45, 1,800,000 in classes of more than 40 and another 250,000 secondary school children in classes of more than 30. What a fine thing it would have been if the modern successor of the saintly Waynflete, first Headmaster of Eton, had offered on speech day to second a few Eton masters to help Birmingham.
I know that we have achieved much since 1945, in the fine work done in 514 special schools, on which there is a magnificant chapter in this Report; in the universities, where 16,000 of the 19,000 students have earned the right to be there; in the mounting rate and tax expenditure, which people grumble about but which most decent folk in their heart of hearts, regard as inevitable and worth while.
Do not let Government supporters imagine that the only people who pay for their children's education are those who pay fees in school. But those who work on education committees, who teach in our schools, the anxious parents who face the 11-plus education, particularly if failure at 11-plus means going to the all-age school, parents who have to send their children to crowded schools, and those who have seen secondary modern education beginning to blossom even in those early formative years, see the danger of all this being seeped away in the next five years.
Those who believe in the right of children to education according to the quality of the child and not to the accident of its birth, know how far short we are from achieving what we dreamed of when the 1944 Education Act was written on the Statute Book, and how much more we shall have to get a drive on, and a lead from the Minister of Education, if we are to hang on from the achievements that we have made up to the moment and to build on them the superstructure which the Minister himself speaks of, of technical education.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)
I should like to follow the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) in one or two material points to which he referred when he spoke of the supply of teachers. Before doing so, I should like to express agreement with something which was said by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), who opened the debate.
The hon. Member for Workington drew attention to something with which we shall all agree—the close relationship between general education and technical education. In my regard for this all-important subject of education I always try to remember that there are many things in a person's life in which one has a second opportunity, but on the question of a child's scholastic career there is never 515 a second opportunity. Therefore, it is of the greatest importance that we in this House, quite apart from politics, should do all we can to see that children get the best possible education.
My right hon. Friend the Minister has been accused of complacency in a number of references in the course of this debate. I would refer to the paragraph in the Report, which was quoted by the hon. Member for Itchen, in which my right hon. Friend showed quite the opposite of complacency and showed that he was paying careful attention to the situation which will develop in the near future. I want to refer to two points which have been mentioned and which are of great importance—the shortage of mathematics and science teachers and, something in which I am particularly interested, the question of technical education at present and in the future. As is said in paragraph 32 of the Report, to which I would ask hon. Members to pay particular attention:The additional 700,000 senior pupils who will be in these classes by 1961 will need 3,600 additional mathematics and science teachers.That will be without allowing for better science staffing, or increase in science teaching and a reduction in the size of classes. I mention those three qualifications to show that they are in the mind of my right hon. Friend as important for the future in the question of mathematics and science teaching. Even without making those allowances, we shall need 3,600 more teachers. That is a very large figure. I see the Report says that the position is expected to be better in the future because of the number of children taking those subjects to high level, the implication being that they will become mathematics and science teachers. Here I must utter a word of caution—which I am sure is not absent from the mind of my right hon. Friend—that not all those children will necessarily go in for teaching. Industry, with the great rewards it has to offer, will claim a number of them. While some will go in for teaching, they will not all go in that direction.
I wish to call attention to two things which have happened in the last eighteen months which ameliorate the position regarding mathematics and science teachers. The Burnham Committee proposals of March, 1955, for extra pay for 516 teachers doing advanced work do apply to other subjects besides mathematics and science and apply in the case of teachers of those subjects. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service in allowing indefinite deferment under certain regulations to those who are teaching those subjects, has enabled two more years of the teachers' time to be spent teaching pupils which otherwise would have been spent in doing National Service, and that also helps in this problem.
Tonight we have heard a number of constructive suggestions about solving the problem of the supply of teachers. We have heard of the provision of houses and of allowances and of attractive and unattractive areas. I suggest to my right hon. Friend and to hon. Members that there is an overall solution to this problem. If we dicuss an area where there is a sufficiency of teachers of mathematics and science and another where there are not enough such teachers we are still dealing with the question by area and individuals, but there is an overall national shortage, or there certainly will be by 1961, of teachers of those subjects.
I believe the one single factor which will provide the greatest solution to this problem is something on which we made a start this year. That is the elevation of the status of the teaching profession as a whole in all subjects. On 1st October this year, the first step is being taken. I think an increase in the status must come, otherwise teachers will go into other professions or into industry. Apart from the matters of attractive and unattractive areas or individual and personal aspects, the general status of the profession is going to provide the answer to this problem.
I hope the policy, of which we shall have an example in the next two or three months in the increased pay award under the Burnham recommendations, will go on because, in the elevation of this profession, we shall attract more and more teachers and thereby reduce the size of classes, which will make its contribution to the educational problem of the future. We are making the finest investment in human life we can possibly make by educational development.
That brings me to the last point I want to make, the question of technical education, which is closely bound up with the 517 question of mathematics and science teachers. I do not want to repeat what I said a few weeks ago in the debate on technical education, but I might be permitted once again to refer to the importance of the dissemination of technical knowledge to children for the benefit of the future. We are benefiting today in the degree of prosperity in this country by the foresight of those in the past.
With the advancing pace of technology in the world, we must increase the pace in this country. Mathematics and science teaching is the prelude to satisfactory technological education. If we can solve that problem in the senior parts of secondary education and then advance to the provisions made in the White Paper for technical education of a more advanced character, we shall get somewhere.
But it will not be enough to stop there. This must be a continuing process. Side by side with our consideration of the general academic education of our children must come the life-and-death matter of technical education in order that we may preserve our position in the world. Technical education is not just a matter of choice and of inculcating knowledge; it is a matter of maintaining our position in the world.
I should like to conclude with words which I used in my conclusion on a previous occasion and which sum up what I feel and what I believe many people in this country feel on this matter. If we neglect to do something today we may not feel the effects in the next few years, but we shall indeed find the effects upon our standards of life in the years which lie further ahead. I believe that to be true, and I believe it to be the foundation of our education system in this country.
I end as I began by congratulating my right hon. Friend on his Report, not only on those things which he mentions in it as having been achieved but also on those things to which he draws attention and which constitute problems for the future. There are in the Report many such references. I am sure he will have with him all those who believe in education and who are eager to see its progress in the future. He will have the support of all those people in the task which lies before him. I wish him well, and when we discuss the 1956 Report in a year's time, I hope we shall find that it has been pos- 518 sible to solve some of these problems which now lie ahead.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
I agree most cordially with the Minister in the congratulations which he generously afforded to my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), who opened the debate. These congratulations were deservedly echoed by hon. Members from both sides of the Committee. My hon. Friend succeeded in laying this large and varied subject before us in such a manner that we were able to have what I think I may call a most successful debate, in which very many problems have been dealt with and many constructive suggestions made. I do not refer only to speeches made by hon. Friends, much as I admired many of them.
It is right, I think, for me to concentrate on what is perhaps the major feature which the Ministry's Report presents, although there are many attractive and important topics with which I should like to deal. I should like, as the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) suggested, to talk about the curriculum in schools, but I am bound to say that the teaching profession would probably feel that Parliament was stepping outside its province if we discussed that subject in a Parliamentary debate, fascinating and important as it is. Indeed, we have responsibilities in education heavy enough in providing, as one hon. Member described them, the tools—the buildings and the staff; and in solving all the other problems which have vexed successive Ministers of Education. I should also like to pursue the line opened by my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Sydney Irving), for I think we noticed with interest the chapter in the Report on the teaching of handicapped children.
What is, after all, the major fact which this Report presents to us? It is that there is now coming into all secondary schools—grammar, technical, modern, multi-lateral, comprehensive and schools for handicapped children of secondary school age—a great wave of increased population; that that will go on for five years; and that when it has gone through the secondary schools, we shall be faced with what is called the bulge among young people looking for further education and seeking to go to universities. 519 That is the biggest problem which the Report presents to us. That is at once the Minister's embarrassment and his opportunity.
Side by side with the Report we are considering in the debate some recent circulars issued by the Minister. We may look, particularly, at the series from 301, issued in April this year, to 308, issued quite recently. We have, on the one hand, the Report presenting us with this vast problem, this growing number, first, of secondary school children and then of young people seeking further and university education; and, on the other hand, we have the Minister's contributions to the solution of this problem.
What have been the Minister's recent contributions to deal with one of the biggest educational opportunities which this country has had? In Circular 301 he tells the schools, in effect, that they must use inferior building materials. In Circular 302, he tells them that they must serve less milk to the children. In Circular 303 he extends the restrictions of Circular 301 to schemes for further education. In Circular 304 he tells them that they must have rather less furniture and equipment than they had hoped.
In Circular 306 he tells them that they must not build as many schools as they had hoped to build. In Circular 307 he tells them that further education will cost more. In Circular 308 he tells them not only that school meals will cost more, but that they will have to be served with less satisfactory equipment than has been shown by recent reports from the National Union of Teachers to be desirable if the school meals service is to fulfil its proper function.
One cannot but feel that the Minister's contribution is not altogether adequate to the problems presented by the Report. It was not, therefore, altogether surprising to find him anxious to discuss, not so much these matters as the Labour Party's pamphlet on equality. At the appropriate time and place we shall be very happy to discuss the issues raised in that pamphlet, but we do not propose to allow the Minister to ride away from his responsibility on that particular horse at this moment.
He complained, rather curiously, that the pamphlet was concerned more with the class structure of society than with 520 educational matters. Had he looked at the title of the pamphlet he would have seen that that is what it is about. It is concerned with the class structure of society. We shall be issuing—though whether the Minister will be where he is at that time is questionable—a report on education, but the pamphlet to which he has referred deals with the class structure of society. But if he imagines that there is no connection between the class structure of society and education he has a great deal to learn, and could, perhaps, learn it by listening to the dignified appeal of my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Mahon)—and learn it, in another sense, by listening to the unfortunate contribution made by his hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Ashton).
Let us, first, look at what is, perhaps, the biggest problem, the provision of school buildings. There, the Minister's contribution has been Circular 306, and my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) described very graphically the effect of that circular on the local authorities. We may notice that this circular was issued, as Dr. Alexander complains in a recent issue of Education, without any consultation with the local authorities. We may notice, further, that it struck indiscriminately at the local authorities. It was not clear whether the Minister was or was not blaming local authorities for the fact that programmes had not been completed by the end of the last financial year, but the effect of Circular 306 was to strike indiscriminately at authorities which had completed their programmes and those which had not.
Take, for example, the greatest local education authority of all, the London County Council which had, by the end of the financial year, started all the projects that it had planned to start. Even so, it is told that the buildings that it had intended to start in the next 12 months have to be started over the next 18 months. It is no good the Minister saying that that is not, in fact, a cut in the educational programme. It means that a large number of schools cannot be started at the time planned, and will not, therefore, be ready for the children at the time planned, and that yet another year of children must start their secondary school life in desperately overcrowded conditions.
521 That is what it means to that one authority, and Circular 306 is spreading those conditions over the country at large. If we look at the projected figures of educational building forecast in the circular, it would appear that over the next three years the average of building is to be at the rate of only about £45 million a year. When we weigh that against the figures in the Report it is clear that that amount will be inadequate. If the circular is correct, the figure is £30 million for the first of the three years concerned, then £55 million, and then another £50 million—the last two figures making up the £105 million referred to—with the possibility of an addition to the reserve list. That gives us an average figure of £45 million.
§ Sir D, Eccles
I think that the hon. Gentleman has not included in last year's starts the carry-over from the previous year which, of course, had to be worked in, too. I think I am right in saying that starts last year were £55 million, and they are in the current year authorised to be the same.
§ Mr. Stewart
That is not what the circular actually says. The circular speaks of £30 million being not started, and then says that the programme is about half completed, which implies a start of £30 million in that year. However, if the circular is incorrect, so much the better.
What is the alleged justification for this? Is it the old story that we had back in 1952, that if we reduced starts we should speed up the rate at which work was done and we should get completed schools and places ready for children all the more quickly? There are two things in the Report which demonstrate the falsity of that reasoning. The chart which shows the progress of approvals, start of work, and construction of work, is one of them. If the right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary look at that chart they will see that, if the rates of progress shown there for 1949–51 had been continued, the curves being projected, as the mathematicians say, the gap between work started and work finished would be substantially less than it is today.
In fact, despite the measures taken in 1952, as is now admitted by the Report, the rate of construction is slower. Yet the same excuse, the excuse which was 522 not justified after it was offered in 1952, is offered again for the stopping of school building now. The real reason is to be found in page 69 of the Report:Two major factors affected the progress of educational building during the year. One was the ending of general control over building.Then the Report goes on:On the ground the effect of the first factor is shown by the figures given above … jobs were finished more slowly and in consequence nearly a quarter as much work again was under construction at the end of the year as twelve months previously.The right hon. Gentleman is a member of the Cabinet. He bears a responsibility for that decision about building which he now, in effect, makes the justification for cutting the starts. The device which the Government is using is, first, by their policy over building, to make it more difficult to finish schools, and then to say, because they are not finished, that they cannot be started.
§ Mr. John Hall
Is it not a fact that during the time of the previous Administration, when there was full control over building, none the less there had to be a quite drastic cut in school building?
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Gentleman said that in his speech earlier in the debate and, if I may remind him, as an old Election opponent, he has said it on many previous occasions, as have many of his hon. Friends.
§ Mr. Stewart
May I remind the hon. Member that there were many very heavy responsibilities which the previous Government bore and fulfilled, the Korean War being one of them, and such responsibilities have not borne upon the present Government? The Government are continually telling us of the progress and prosperity which they are bringing about in all directions, and yet are justifying their attacks on the social services by saying that that sort of thing happened in 1949, which was only four years after the end of a great war.
§ Mr. Hall rose—
§ Mr. Stewart
I am sorry; I cannot give to the hon. Gentleman twice; I have to consider the Parliamentary Secretary.
Local authorities are finding, when they try to build, that when the tenders come 523 in from builders the figures are fantastically high. Why? Because, in the main, the builders do not want the job of school building; they want the more profitable and speedy jobs which are obtainable while building generally remains uncontrolled. This is a difficulty which will contront authorities year by year, while this situation remains.
If the Minister and the Government, without any regard for general building policy, try to launch the £70 million technical education building programme, they will find that they will have to do it, at least in part, at the expense of the school building programme. To carry through the technical education building programme, desirable as that is, at the expense of the schools, is to try to build the top storey with materials taken out of the foundations. It is not only he amount of building; it is the kind of building.
I now want to refer to Circulars 301 and 303, which deal with the cost per place. The interest of this is its history. For the benefit of the hon. Member for Wycombe, I would say that I shall be referring to the late Mr. George Tomlinson in the course of my remarks. In 1953, the Ministry issued Circular 274, which told local authorities that the limits were £140 in primary schools and £250 in secondary schools, and that that was based on building costs in 1952. But the local authorities were assured that if building costs went up, these figures would be raised proportionately.
In 1955, the Government's attempt to mend the hole in the purse had been so successful that building costs were 10 per cent. higher and the figures of cost per place were raised to £154 and £264. These figures are worth remembering when the Minister reads out merely money figures of the Ministry of Education Estimates and refers to them as resources spent on education. It would be a good deal more illuminating if these were corrected for price and set against the number of children that he has to deal with.
In 1956, building labour costs alone went up so much that on the basis of the formula in Circular 274 the local authorities ought to have been allowed to raise their limits by £4 in primary and £7 in secondary schools, but at that moment 524 there came Circular 301, which said, "You cannot raise them any more," and gave as the reason the inflationary situation.
What was the purpose of the original promise in Circular 274 that if costs rose local authorities would be allowed to spend more on places? Surely the point of that was to enable them to provide decent schools even if prices did go up. To go back on that promise on account of the inflationary situation is as if one lent someone an umbrella on condition that he returned it as soon as the rain began to come down really hard. These chops and changes delay planning by local authorities; one of the causes why they cannot get on with the programme adequately is because they have to rearrange, in the light of the circulars, costs per place and of equipment.
These are not like the economies which were practised when Mr. George Tomlinson was Minister of Education, because those sprang from valuable research work in the Architects' Department of the Ministry which found out the real economies which could be made. We cannot go on with that process for ever. What are the sort of economies that the Government are asking for now in these building programmes? Schools are to have poor quality bricks, linoleum instead of rubber flooring, and at every point they have to use equipment which will be false economy and land the local authorities with higher maintenance costs as the years go by.
Fewer buildings and poorer buildings. By Circular 304 there is to be less adequate provision for furniture, on which I will only say this. The Minister was anxious to show us how valuable the modern school was and how there must be the fullest parity of esteem with the grammar school. His Circular 304 rubs in the difference by prescribing a lower rate of equipment allowance for the modern school as compared with the grammar school, and that at a time when the modern school is being urged, as part of the campaign to persuade everyone that comprehensive schools are not necessary, to take over bigger responsibilities and try to turn itself into something like a half-technical or a half-grammar school.
525 I do not propose to say much about the supply of teachers, as so much has already been said on that to great effect by several of my hon. Friends. I am sure that we all enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings). As he said, it was entirely objective. That made all the more interesting the fact that it demonstrated so clearly that time and again Labour controlled local authorities have been more successful in the problem of teacher supply than Conservative controlled local authorities. Perhaps when Birmingham has had Labour control a little longer it may find that its difficulties are alleviated.
If anyone wants to look for an answer to this problem, it is quite clear from the objective survey of the hon. Member in what direction one should look.
§ Mr. Gurden rose—
§ Mr. Stewart
I am sorry, I cannot give way.
The Parliamentary Secretary told my hon. Friend the Member for Itchen, in the course of an Adjournment debate, not long ago:I can hold out little hope of improvement of staffing ratios in secondary schools."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th June, 1956; Vol 554, c. 545.]Is everything possible being done about the training colleges? On 22nd June, the Minister told us that all the places in teacher training colleges were filled for next September. On 6th June, the Ministry of Labour drew the attention of youth employment officers to the existence of 191 vacancies in eight named training colleges for men. There were no vacancies for women, but there were those vacancies for men. There seems to be a discrepancy here. There may be an explanation of it. It would be interesting to hear it. I am inclined to think, however, that the Minister's view about the training college position means that he is taking altogether too static a view of the question of teacher supply.
If we could increase now, or start to increase, the number of places in training colleges, it is quite true that the teachers would not be available until what is called the bulge has passed its peak. But are we making no plans to get down the size of classes? Are we making no provision for increased numbers staying at school and, possibly, in time for the raising of the school-leaving age and for the demands that will be made on perhaps 526 another type of teacher if county colleges are to be brought more into the picture and if we are to extend the plans for technical education?
Not only do we want more teachers, but we want more of many kinds of people for whom our economy will cry out, because we will need more well-trained people of all kinds. If we are to have them, we must have more people having the chance of getting what is today in the tripartite system called "a grammar or technical education".
Hunting among the figures in the Report, one finds that the proportion of secondary children getting either a grammar or a technical education is somewhat less this year than last year. It is a small move but it is a move in the wrong direction, either for the supply of teachers or for the supply of many other types of worker whom we shall badly need.
Reference has been made to people who stay on at school beyond the age of 15. Another interesting calculation can be obtained from the Ministry's figures. If one takes all the children who are in what is called the tripartite system, whether in grammar, technical or modern schools, and asks how many of them leave from any of those schools when their last birthday was either 14 or 15 and one then makes the same calculation for the comprehensive school, one finds—this confirms the judgment of nearly every comprehensive school headmaster—that the comprehensive school encourages children to stay on longer.
The headmaster of Eton was asking recently—a rhetorical question, I presume—whether there are any reasons for supposing that a child in the D-stream of the comprehensive school is more likely to become, say, a senior civil servant or is more likely to stay longer at school than if it had been in the modern school. If he consults the head teachers of comprehensive schools, if he looks at some of the research which has been done and if he makes the necessary calculations from the Minister's Report, he will find that the answer to both those questions is. "Yes". I recommend both those exercises to Dr. Birley before he makes his next political propaganda speech to an audience of schoolchildren.
I should like to take a little further the question of the comprehensive school 527 and the modern school. The Minister really has no need to tell some of us of the value of the modern school. I have been attending as many prize-givings and open days in my constituency as I have been able to find time for in these last two months, and I am particularly glad to accept invitations from modern schools, because although I do not know how far it is an encouragement for a Member of Parliament to attend, most people are kind enough to believe that it is, and I believe that we should give them that encouragement. I was myself a pupil in what used to be called in those days a senior mixed school.
What the opponents of the comprehensive school have to face is that the modern school, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) pointed out, usually has larger classes than the grammar school. By virtue of the Minister's own regulations and circulars, it is less well equipped. By definition, if one goes to it the gate to the university is almost certainly closed, and the gate to many, though, I agree, by no means all, types of well-paid employment is very frequently closed.
No one is suggesting that everybody ought to go to a university, or that everybody can take on the most difficult and responsible types of employment, but what we are saying is that it is not desirable that the decision whether anyone is suitable for a university education, or suitable to hold great responsibilities in future life, should be taken when he is 11 years old. When everything has been said about the possibility of transfer later, which touches only the fringe of the problem, that decision is being made at the age of 11 for far too many children today. My hon. Friend the Member for Bootle brought out that fact in a most admirable and cogent speech.
The Minister urged upon us the great dignity and possibilities of the modern school. It is rather pleasing to see this sudden discovery by hon. and right hon. Members opposite of the possibilities of the schools in which three-quarters of their fellow countrymen are educated. He particularly mentioned that, unlike the schools of the past, they offer opportunities for the Arts, even for foreign travel, 528 for the graces and dignities of life, or for what, when his predecessor was issuing circulars, were contemptuously called "the frills" by hon. and right hon. Members on that side of the Committee.
The right hon. Gentleman said it would be a good thing if more of what we spent on art were spent on commissioning new works of art by new artists. I agree with him. Where better to put some of them than in some of our schools? Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that one of the main planks in the exiguous platform on which his party fought the last L.C.C. elections was a bitter attack upon the Labour majority on that authority for putting a beautiful statue by a modern artist in Kidbrooke Comprehensive School? A beautiful statue for a school for working class children! What next!
If the Minister really believes what he says about modern schools he should dissociate himself from some of the gutter propaganda against making the schools gracious and dignified which comes from members of his own party.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am not going to give way. I am going to sit down in two minutes.
Last of all, I shall refer to—
§ Mr. Stewart
Sir Charles, I am under an undertaking to sit down in a few moments in order to give the Parliamentary Secretary time to reply to the debate, but I am obliged to warn him, through you, that if I am obliged to endure this from his hon. Friends I shall inevitably be debarred from fulfilling that undertaking.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
On a point of order. Is it in order for an hon. Member to walk into the Committee and interrupt a speech, most of which he has not heard, and to hurl insults across the Floor of the Chamber?
§ Mr. Stewart
Finally, we have Circular 307, which raises the fees for evening classes. Quite recently I spoke to a woman in the constituency of my right 529 hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs). She is a grandmother who persuaded her daughter, the mother of young children, to join a class to learn how to make children's clothing. She also persuaded a number of her friends and neighbours to do so. She did this busily when the L.C.C., as it was fully entitled to do, had already issued prospectuses with a fee of 10s. At the end of her proselytising work the people whom she was converting by this sensible, public spirited activity, were suddenly told that it would cost them three times as much. I agree that the Minister has already mitigated that, but he did deliver that shot. Does anyone think that to say, "If you can persuade someone in authority that you are really hard up you will not have to pay" is a workable way of settling fees for evening classes?
All this is part of the Minister's general meannesses. There has been his refusal to help Holbrook School to avoid charging fees for the first time in its history. We have had the dearer milk. Now it is dearer evening classes and then it is school meals. Each time we are told that a little thing like that does not matter. This is poverty by stages.
We cannot escape the conclusion from the Report on Education in 1955 and the circulars that while, in the private sector of education, people know that good education will cost more and their schools will be more expensive and more generously staffed, the nation's own secondary schools will be more crowded, less well staffed, and less generously equipped. The division between the two nations has been widened. We deplore that, not merely as a matter of class interest but because it is not in the national interest; therefore, we call in question tonight this Vote and the Minister's salary.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Mr. Dennis Vosper)
The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), who fully deserved the many congratulations he has received and opened the debate in a more objective manner than that adopted by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) in concluding it, said that a debate on the Ministry of Education Vote always covers a very wide field. Nobody is more aware 530 of that than the one who has to wind up the debate.
Like all the debates on education that I have heard in the last six years, this has been concerned inevitably with the physcial conditions in which education is undertaken rather than with its content. But it is not a bad thing occasionally to stand aside and see whether we are getting results and value for what is an ever-increasing expenditure of effort and money. It is also inevitable, and in line with popular discussion, that we should concern ourselves rather more with what is bad than with what is right. If this has the result of stimulating public interest and discussion, it is a good thing; but it is only right to keep a sense of proportion and to appreciate what has been achieved.
In support of this, I gain much encouragement from the many visitors from overseas countries whom I have had the pleasure of meeting in the last eighteen months, all of whom are beset in their own countries with the kind of problems in the educational sphere including shift systems to which my right hon. Friend referred. All of them have found much to marvel at in education in this country. I have in mind not only the deputation of Russian teachers of English who spent an enjoyable day at Eton, but many others who have come to see how we are progressing.
To those critics on the other side of the Committee who suggest that progress in education was good until the General Election of 1951 and then ceased, I say that the facts prove the exact opposite. It is a matter for debate as to whether we are doing enough for the future, but if we compare the two periods, whether it be in the provision of school buildings, the provision of teachers, the arrangements for the handicapped, technical education or the school dental service, we see that progress has perceptibly quickened since 1951.
When my right hon. Friend said that 1,600,000 more children were in the schools than before the war, he had in mind that of that number a million have entered in the six years from 1950–51 to 1956–57. During these last six years, the percentage of oversize classes and the percentage of pupils in them actually fell, while the average size of primary classes—and this is in the Report—rose only 531 from 34.6 in 1950 to 35 in 1955. The number of pupils per teacher in secondary schools actually fell during those six years. During the same period, and on this I know that all hon. Members will agree with me that this is important, the percentage of seniors in all-age schools fell from 16.4 in 1950 to 10.5 in 1955.
A million pupils represents a vast amount of additional accommodation and teachers, and even if standards had not improved, as I believe they have, and even if there was no other development in education, this in itself would have been an achievement without the shift system or deferment as exist in other countries. It is easy to say that more resources should have been devoted to education, but that assertion is not realistic if we take into account the impact which these developments have on the national economy.
This provision for buildings and the supply of teachers has been the main theme of this debate, and is one to which I intend to return, but, before I do so, I want to take up one or two points to which I have been asked to reply which are unconnected to that theme. In the first place, the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Sydney Irving) referred to special classes for handicapped children, of which I know he has great knowledge. I am very glad he did, because it is a matter in which I have taken a great interest; the Annual Report devotes a special section to this. I agree with the hon. Member that, since 1946, there has been much development and encouragement in that field. I cannot possibly answer all the questions which he put to me, but I can say that my right hon. Friend has accepted the recommendations of the Committee on Maladjusted Children. Inevitably, the implementation of all the recommendations will take a long time, because they are concerned with the training of personnel, but, so far as accommodation for handicapped children is concerned, that aspect is receiving equal treatment with the provision of primary, secondary and further educational provisions. The provision now being made in the field of special schools is in the form of new schools, and not in the adaptation of old buildings.
In practically all the categories of the handicapped children, we are now in the 532 position of almost being able to satisfy demand. The exceptions are the maladjusted and educationally subnormal, and in this latter field the waiting list remains formidable. For that reason, we recently asked all local education authorities to make a new estimate of their waiting lists, and I hope that as a result we may be able to make a more realistic approach to this problem. I will bear in mind the suggestion he made about the ascertainment of educationally subnormal children.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) referred to the provision of science accommodation, and referred in particular to the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe. The Ministry is very well aware of the need for this project, but it has not been possible to include it in the present building programme. We have it very much in mind for inclusion in a coming programme. I have found that the provision of science accommodation—and this follows on from what my hon. Friend said—for secondary schools in general has been very considerable since the war, and it is in fact running into no less than £13½ million; not all of this is for new schools.
On this subject the hon. Member for Itchen (Dr. King) asked me what we were doing about the training of specialist teachers. We have taken a number of measures. They include the deferment from National Service, which has been effective, and the recent acceptance by my right hon. Friend of the Burnham Committee recommendations will, we hope, help the secondary schools.
Almost every training college in the country is now showing a bias in favour of courses for the secondary teacher, and this year there are 1,300 pupils enrolled in supplementary courses for secondary teachers as compared with only 830 last year. We have also tried to arrange all possible publicity in the training colleges and schools. I am well aware that these measures in themselves may not be sufficient in this all-important task. Any assistance that hon. Members can give will be very welcome.
The hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Idwal Jones) asked about an extension for the technical institute in Colwyn Bay. That application has been noted, but the five-year programme for technical education must have regard to priority, and I 533 am afraid that that application is not in the priority list for the first two or three years. Of course, it will be included in the five-year programme. More hope than that I cannot give at the moment.
The same hon. Member, and one or two others, referred to the increase in fees for non-vocational courses in further education. I should like to make it quite clear that this is no new policy and that fees have been charged for a number of years and increased over that period. The hon. Member rather suggested—in fact he used these words—that the increase from 5s. to 10s. a term would deal a mortal blow to these courses in the village of Rhosllanerchragog. It so happens that I am acquainted with that village and I cannot share the view that this action will destroy non-vocational education there. I should be happy in due course to hear the outcome.
§ Mr. Idwal Jones
I am satisfied in my own mind that it will, not only in Rhosllanerchragog but in most of the villages in Denbighshire and, perhaps, in the whole of Wales.
§ Mr. Vosper
Events will prove which of us is right. It is a fact that most, but not all, of the students on these courses are in employment or are the wives or husbands of those in employment. It does not seem unreasonable to ask them to pay a fee of 10d a week or 10s. a term. I should make it clear that this does not affect adult education classes of full-time students or students under 21. It will not materially concern part-time students aged 21 or over attending vocational classes. They already pay 10s. a term or more.
Those affected are those taking non-vocational classes who are aged 21 and over. I think that many of my hon. and right hon. Friends, and many people outside the House of Commons, feel that those who attend these classes may value them more if they make a reasonable contribution. Even at 10s. a term the contribution they would make would represent only about one-fifteenth of the cost of providing that course. My right hon. Friend has explained the unfortunate circumstances relating to the late introduction of the circular.
It is not my intention in this speech to enter into the controversy about the independent school, except to say, mainly 534 in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. B. Harrison), that Part III of the Education Act, which I think will help him because it will ensure reasonable conditions in the independent schools, is coming into operation in September, 1957. Arrangements for that are well in hand and an Order in Council will be laid in the autumn of this year.
I should like now to return to the main theme of this debate, which is, I think, that there has been delay in the building programme and lack of urgency about the provision of teachers. I think, from most speeches, it is agreed that the really urgent task is to accommodate the bulge in the secondary schools during the next four or five years, but what is possibly not so fully realised is that if there is to be a crisis in the secondary schools it will occur in September, 1958, because in that month no fewer than 188,000 additional pupils will enter these schools. As a secondary school takes 2½ years to build, no school started now will help to meet the crisis in this all-important year. It therefore becomes vital to complete schools already in course of construction. This is exactly what Circular No. 306 allows, but as my right hon. Friend said, the margin will be very small indeed.
It has been argued that authorities which have not been delayed should be allowed to go ahead, but our building programme does in any case show some elasticity in this respect. It is not necessarily those authorities which claim to have the resources available at this moment which will have to bear the heaviest burdens in meeting the bulge in the secondary schools. The hon. Member for Workington suggested that the shortage of steel was responsible for the delay in these projects. I can assure him that although that might have occurred in one or two isolated projects—
§ Mr. Vosper
I did not say that it had not been responsible in any individual case. It is one of the minor reasons for the delay in starting these projects, but it is not the major reason. Equally, I can tell the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) that the Ministry has in no way delayed the development 535 of projects, although I am aware that that suggestion has been made in some quarters.
§ Miss Bacon
The hon. Member will admit that this suggestion is made by local authorities themselves.
§ Mr. Vosper
That is why I am very glad that the hon. Member raised this question and has given me the opportunity of denying it, because it does not happen to be true.
The hon. Member for Fulham and one or two others referred to circulars dealing with the limitation of school building and furniture costs. Unpopular though these may be, they enable us to undertake more building. Hon. Members really cannot have it both ways. The building regulations provide a guarantee against shoddy schools, to which so many hon. Members opposite have referred. A few weeks ago, through the kind courtesy of the hon. Member for Itchen, who deferred an Adjournment debate, I was able to go to Portsmouth to open a new grammar school. That school was completed at a cost of £218 per place, at a time when the cost limit was £250 per place. I am not suggesting that building conditions are the same all over the country, but it seems that if Portsmouth—and my right hon. Friend had a similar experience in Lancashire—can build easily within the cost limits, it is not beyond the capacity of other local authorities to do likewise, without building the shoddy schools to which hon. Members have referred.
It is important that we should try to be perfectly clear about the school building programme. Many unintentionally misleading figures have been quoted. The most informative figures show that, taking all educational work together, it is intended to start £75 million worth this year, compared with £78 million worth last year and £56 million worth in 1950–51. This year, with an expenditure of £60 million, we hope to do £5 million more work than in 1955–56.
Perhaps I ought to give the full figures for work done upon all educational building, because that is more important than the figures in relation to work started. In 1950–51 work done amounted to £41.3 million; in 1951–52 it amounted to £48.4 million, and last year it rose to 536 £55 million. According to present plans, and to Circular No. 306, the work intended to be done this year will rise to £60 million, which is the largest figure so far reached. As, during this period, the cost of schools has fallen—as the hon. Member for Fulham admitted—we can do even more work than is suggested by these figures. That seems to be the answer to those who suggest that the school building programme is being cut.
The other half of the battle is the question of teacher supply. I agree that we must do everything possible to increase numbers in the training colleges. My right hon. Friend has recently asked all colleges to take even more students if they can possibly manage it. The answer to questions of the hon. Member for Fulham about vacancies for men is simply, that the men's colleges always fill at the last moment owing to National Service. I shall be very disappointed if at the start of the autumn term the men's colleges are not as completely filled as they were last year. My right hon. Friend fully dealt with the supply of teachers, and I think that the Committee will agree that the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) was most interesting and helpful. He rejected the arguments for a rationing scheme and for an area allowance. His views should carry great weight with the Committee, because he is a teacher with experience of teaching in the Midlands up to the last General Election and, of course, he is an hon. Member who has not always given his support to my right hon. Friend in everything he has said and done about education.
I am sorry that I did not hear other speeches from hon. Members who spoke about the position in Birmingham, but any constructive suggestions which were made—and some were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Burton—will be considered not only by my right hon. Friend but, I hope, by the local authorities concerned. From my own rather limited experience—I have visited five training colleges in the last three months and have taken the opportunity to discuss this problem with the principals and as many students as I could—the only fair conclusion I can reach is that neither a rationing scheme nor an area allowance will influence the decision of the students to whom I have spoken.
537 Practically all of them wanted to get near home or go to those authorities whom they knew offered attractive conditions of appointment and attractive conditions of employment. I join in the plea made by the hon. Member for Itchen and others that authorities in Wales, which can help us so much, should do all they can during the next few months. In any case, my right hon. Friend has today announced his intention of holding a conference in the autumn which, I hope, will make some contribution to the problem.
One or two hon. Members have referred to the importance of getting value for money and trying to assess the results we are achieving from our work in education. In a recent speech my right hon. Friend referred to the break-up of the educational £. An analysis of the education £ shows, for example, that teachers' salaries and pensions are taking 8s. 5d., that administration is taking 9d. and that new school building is taking only 1s. 8d. I mention that simply because I do not believe that when that analysis is considered much evidence of waste or extravagance will be found. Every possible economy should be made where it can be made to enable the drive forward for schools and teachers to be made.
It is also important to know what we are achieving for the money we spend. Too often—not in the debate today—we hear the old cries of "Illiteracy" and "Too many children leave school unable to read and write properly." We are told that standards of work are falling. Very often that comment arises from false comparisons, from the results of full employment, from sensational headlines and from the stories of "jungle" schools. I am glad to say that the National Union of Teachers has examined that allegation and found it to be untrue.
It is always much more difficult to produce positive evidence to the effect that our standards are rising. The results of two surveys, one by the National Foundation of Education Research and the other by the Ministry, will be available shortly. The evidence of Her Majesty's Inspectors, who have many years experience in this sort of work, is that while there may have been a setback in standards in the immediate post-war years, they are now improving rapidly 538 and as the numbers in the primary schools fall—and they fell last year—and the secondary modern school comes into its own there will be further progress. Other evidence of that can be found from the increase in successes in the G.C.E., the increased proportion going to universities and the numbers staying on at school beyond the age of fifteen. All those affect the more able pupils, but if the abler pupils are improving, it stands to reason that other levels in the school are probably being strengthened at the same time.
Finally, I come back to the secondary modern school, and particularly to secondary education. It was the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East who referred to the speech made by Alderman B. G. Lampard-Vachell of Devonshire, in which he said that there was an argument in Devonshire for a comprehensive or bilateral school. That is not in conflict with the policy of my right hon. Friend. Indeed, in the Scarborough speech, which the hon. Lady will know, my right hon. Friend did say that in certain rural areas the comprehensive school might be the answer. Several such schools have been approved during the past year.
Nevertheless, the majority of our children are being educated in the secondary modern school. I do not share the pessimistic views of so many hon. Members opposite about the progress with these schools. The hon. Member for Itchen and I debated this subject at six o'clock one morning last month. It seemed that both he and I on that occasion took a rather more optimistic view of their progress than hon. Members have tonight. No fewer than 902 new secondary modern schools have been built, or are being built, since the end of the war. That is a fair proportion of the total number of secondary schools in existence.
Indeed, in my constituency I have a secondary modern school which some hon. Members may have seen on television for half an hour last week, from which I receive no complaints and which, strange though it may seem, embarrasses the local authority by occasionally producing parents whose children are selected for grammar school education and who wish to see their children transferred to the new secondary modern school, with all its practical rooms.
539 It is clear that the secondary modern school is in for a difficult time. That is inevitable, but I hope that hon. Members opposite, even though they may change the policy in due course, will remember that the secondary modern school and not the comprehensive school will take the majority of our children in the next few years, and will do all they can to make it a success. Whether it be the secondary modern school or the comprehensive school, some form of selection—we may call it "grading"—is inevitable. I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Workington that the selection examination at 11-plus is a sweepstake in the sense that it is a matter of luck to which school you go. Very few headmasters of grammar schools or secondary modern schools will say that their pupils have been selected or graded for the wrong school.
This is a marginal problem which concerns only those on the border line. Each year, the selection arrangements by local authorities—though I note what the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Mahon) had to
§ say—arouse far fewer complaints about those arrangements than there were in the previous year.
§ The Opposition have decided to vote against my right hon. Friend's Vote, I presume because they do not believe that we are succeeding in the task of providing schools and teachers to meet the needs of the secondary modern school. Our record over the last five years shows that we made more progress than did hon. Gentlemen opposite. My right hon. Friend is being accused of optimism and of complacency. He is meeting the challenge. I believe that the measures recently announced will help him to be successful in overcoming the difficulties.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
I beg to move, That Item Class IV, Vote 1 (Ministry of Education), be reduced by £100.
§ Question put, That a sum, not exceeding £221,201,118, be granted for the said Service:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 216, Noes 259.543
|Division No. 269.]||AYES||[9.29 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Albu, A. H.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Hunter, A. E.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Deer, G.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Anderson, Frank||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Irving, S. (Dartford)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Delargy, H. J.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Dodds, N. N.||Janner, B.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Donnelly, D. L.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwoh)||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgood (Bristol, S. E.)||Dye, S.||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)|
|Benson, G.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)|
|Blackburn, F.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham. S.)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Boardman, H.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Kenyon, C.|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.)||Fernyhough, E.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Forman, J. C.||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Lawson, G. M.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Gibson, C. W.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Gooch, E, G.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Greenwood, Anthony||Lewis, Arthur|
|Burke, W. A.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Logan, D. G.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hale, Leslie||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Hamilton, W. W.||MacColl, J. E.|
|Carmichael, J.||Hannan, W.||McInnes, J.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Champion, A. J.||Hastings, S.||McLeavy, Frank|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Hayman, F. H.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Clunie, J.||Healey, Denis||Mahon, Simon|
|Coldrick, W.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Herbison, Miss M.||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hobson, C. R.||Mason, Roy|
|Cove, W. G.||Holman, P.||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Messer, Sir F.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Hoy, J. H.||Mikardo, Ian|
|Daines, P.||Hubbard, T. F.||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Monslow, W.|
|Moody, A. S.||Reeves, J.||Tomney, F.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.)||Reid, William||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Mort, D. L.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Moss, R.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Viant, S. P.|
|Moyle, A.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Warbey, W. N.|
|Mulley, F. W.||Short, E. W.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Weitzman, D.|
|Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Oram, A. E.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Orbach, M.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Owen, W, J.||Skeffington, A. M.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Palmer, A. M. F.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Wigg, George|
|Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Snow, J. W.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Sorensen, R. W.||Willey, Frederick|
|Parker, J.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Parkin, B. T.||Sparks, J. A.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Paton, John||Steele, T.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Peart, T. F.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Popplewell, E.||Stones, W. (Consett)||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Probert, A. R.||Swingler, S. T.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Proctor, W. T.||Sylvester, G. O.||Woof, R. E.|
|Pryde, D. J.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Randall, H. E.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Rankin, John||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Redhead, E. C.||Timmons, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Pearson and Mr. Holmes.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Henderson, John (Catheart)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Dodds-Parker, A, D.||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C E. McA.||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Doughty, C. J. A.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Drayson, G. B.||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||du Cann, E. D. L.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Arbuthnot, John||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Holt, A. F.|
|Ashton, H.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Hope, Lord John|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Hornby, R. P.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Errington, Sir Eric||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)|
|Balniel, Lord||Erroll, F. J.||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)|
|Barber, Anthony||Fell, A.||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral|
|Barlow, Sir John||Finlay, Graeme||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.|
|Barter, John||Fisher, Nigel||Hurd, A. R.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Fort, R.||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Foster, John||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Freeth, D. K.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Gammans, Sir David||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)|
|Black, C. W.||George, J. C. (Pollok)||Johnson, Dr. Ronald (Carlisle)|
|Body, R. F.||Glover, D.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Godber, J. B.||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)|
|Braine, B. R.||Gough, C. F. H.||Joseph, Sir Keith|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Gower, H. R.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Graham, Sir Fergus||Keegan, D.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Grant, W. (Woodside)||Kerby, Capt. H. B.|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Kerr, H. W.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Green, A.||Kershaw, J. A.|
|Carr, Robert||Gresham Cooke, R.||Kimball, M.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Grimond, J.||Kirk, P. M.|
|Channon, H.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Lagden, G. W.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Lambert, Hon. C.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Gurden, Harold||Lambton, Viscount|
|Cole, Norman||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Langford-Holt, J. A.|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Leavey, J. A.|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Longden, Gilbert|
|Crouch, R. F.||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Cunningham, Knox||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Hay, John||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||McKibbin, A. J.|
|D'Avigdor-Coldsmid, Sir Henry||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Pott, H. P.||Teeling, W.|
|McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Powell, J. Enoch||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Maddan, Martin||Profumo, J. D.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Ramsden, J. E.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Rawlinson, Peter||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Markham, Major Sir Frank||Redmayne, M.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Remnant, Hon. P.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Marshall, Douglas||Renton, D. L. M.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Mathew, R.||Ridsdale, J. E.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Maude, Angus||Rippon, A. G. F.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Mawby, R. L.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Roper, Sir Harold||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Vickers, Miss J. H.|
|Moore, Sir Thomas||Russell, R. S.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Nabarro, G. D. N.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.||Wade, D. W.|
|Nairn, D. L. S.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Neave, Airey||Sharples, R. C.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Nicholls, Harmar||Shepherd, William||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Nugent, G. R. H.||Speir, R. M.||Whitelaw, W. S. I. (Penrith & Border)|
|Oakshott, H. D.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Stevens, Geoffrey||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Osborne, C.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Woollam, John Victor|
|Page, R. G.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Panned, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Peyton, J. W. W.||Studholme, Sir Henry||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Mr. Wills and Mr. Wakefield|
|Pitt, Miss E. M.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
Question put and agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed:—
§ It being after Half-past Nine o'clock, The CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 16 (Business of Supply), to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Vote under consideration.
That a sum, not exceeding £221,201,218 (including a Supplementary sum of £10,753,000), be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1957, 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.
§ The Chairman then proceeded forthwith to put severally the Questions:
§ That the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the several Classes of the Civil Estimates, including Revised Estimates and Supplementary Estimates, and the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the Estimates for Revenue Departments, including a Supplementary Estimate, and the Ministry of Defence Estimate, and in the Navy, the Army, and the Air Estimates, including Revised Estimates, be granted for the Services defined in those Classes and Estimates.