§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
I beg to move,That this House, noting the growth in the number of children of school age and the need for higher standards of educational attainment, calls on Her Majesty's Government to ensure that, whatever the future form of local government finance, sufficient funds are available to local education authorities for the fulfilment of their responsibilities; and. by improving the staffing, equipment and organisation of schools and institutions of further education, to provide for all children and young people the education according to age, aptitude and ability prescribed in the Education Act, 1944.This Motion has been deliberately framed in wide terms to enable the House to have a general debate on the operation of the Education Act, 1944. In retrospect, I think we all see that Act as one of considerable vision. The partnership between my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) stood the country in good stead. It has served us well in these difficult years. Now, twelve years or more after the Measure was passed, I think we can agree on both sides of the House that it forms a very useful cornerstone in our efforts towards economic recovery.
The past decade has seen the education service brought into the front line in our struggle for survival. As was stated in 684 the leading article of The Times Educational Supplement last week:Since 1944 things have been changing. With the new Act of Parliament behind it education began to have an audience.In this changing world the importance of our education service cannot be exaggerated. Neither can we overstate the demands that the nuclear revolution which faces us are bound to make upon the schools and colleges of Britain. As we move into the scientific and technological era, bereft of so many of our former imperialist powers and advantages, it is universally recognised that our status among the great Powers of the world will depend on the quality of our people more than on any other single issue.
That is why, as the defence services face retrenchment, education faces expansion. One of the remarkable virtues of the 1944 Act was its vision of a continually expanding education service. The Minister of Education has been making some robust speeches on this theme. This is the first time I have been privileged to take part in an education debate since the change in leadership in the Ministry of Education. I say at once that I believe if we must have a Conservative there we have one who will bring a robust interest to the Department. He will need all his strength in order to fight for the education service, but I welcome him and the Parliamentary Secretary. To my mind they ought to be a great team in a Department in which all of us have a great interest.
The Minister has assured the country that there will be no reduction in educational expenditure whilst he is at the helm. That is not saying much. Those assurances are not enough. The country must be told that it must face a rising scale of expenditure on education. If we are going to economise on the defence services we must at the same time increase our expenditure in the field of education for, we might as well acknowledge the fact, we shall not meet the demands of the education service on the cheap. Stripped of the increase in expenditure due solely to the inflationary pressures of our times, our record on education is not as striking as we should like it to be. I think we are suffering today from the parsimony of pre-war Governments.
685 There is great anxiety about the proposal of the Government to change the grants system. I confess that I share the alarm with which educationists in local authorities, in the teaching profession, and in the House, have greeted the proposal. Fear and despondency afflicted the classroom and education offices alike when the Minister's pronouncement was first made.
There is nothing sacrosanct about any financial system, and my desire is to see that, whatever formula is ultimately decided upon, it shall be one that will meet the demand for a continual increase in national expenditure on education. I understand that these new proposals are being discussed at the present time with the people most directly concerned with the administration of education, and I have no desire to embarrass the Minister on this question. I wish these conversations well, but the Minister will know that hon. Members on this side of the House are bound to look with anxious eyes on the education service, and we shall not be silent if we believe that the new grant system threatens the efficiency of that service. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) is likely, in seconding the Motion, to develop that argument.
The central pivot of the education service is, of course, the child. Its interests have priority over all. Nothing is more significant, however, in this regard than the supply and training of the right kind of teacher, and it is to this point that I propose to address my remarks this morning. Hon. Members will find their own special interests catered for in the Motion, but I am deeply concerned about the question of the supply and training of teachers for our schools. With the increasing demands of the education service, the teachers themselves are increasingly conscious of the need for a new approach on the question of training.
The two-year course is outmoded by the march of time. It is inadequate to meet the demands of these days. That the teaching profession is conscious of this is revealed by the fact that nearly 700 of them have been seconded this year to take an extra year's course of supplementary training. These are the teachers who have been accepted. I believe that we can multiply by four the figure of those who are in the 686 schools and who would like to take an extra year's training. As recently as 1954–55, only 72 teachers were seconded from the schools for this extra course of training, and now the figure has reached 700.
In my opinion, the time has come for the Minister to set a target date for the institution of a three-year training course for teachers in England and Wales, as is already the case in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is unfortunate, I believe, that the three-year training period is starting in a piecemeal fashion, in a higgledy-piggledy way. The Minister, of course, is, understandably enough, encouraging the piecemeal development. By his Circular No. 476 he has revealed his interest in the question of satisfying the need for teachers in "shortage" subjects. The Minister has received unequivocal advice from National Advisory Council on the Training and Supply of Teachers. It has urged that the unique opportunity which will come in 1960–61 should be seized.
We are, in my opinion, now approaching the stage when we shall reap the rewards of the Herculean efforts of both sides of the House to provide sufficient teachers to meet the bulge in the school population in the post-war years. From 1960 to 1967 there will be a fall in the school population of this country of half a million children. If the recruitment to the teaching profession goes on at the present rate of 14,000 a year, with an average wastage due to retirement, marriage, and such causes, of 7,000 a year, I believe that in 1961 we shall be able to effect both a reduction in the size of classes and to embark on the three-year training course for teachers. That will be a revolutionary step in the world of education.
The reform has been the goal of the teaching profession for many years. As long ago as 1919, the Committee of Principals of Training Colleges recommended it, but, unfortunately, the time was never considered opportune. The McNair Committee reinforced the recommendation in its Report, and now the Minister's own Advisory Council has very strongly urged him to adopt this course. If, as I believe, the Minister is not unsympathetic to this request, he has it within his power to make a giant stride towards unifying the teaching profession. 687 I have noted with dismay that as the 1944 Act is working out there is a fast-flowing tendency among local authorities to keep the people with three-year training for the secondary stage and the people with two-year training for the primary stage. We are getting back into the old categories which divided the teaching profession. Clearly, education is one process, and it would be most unfortunate if the idea got abroad among local education authorities or anywhere else that the primary sector was in the slightest degree less important than the secondary sector. It is because of that that I believe the three-year training course would be overwhelmingly welcomed by the organised teaching profession in the country.
I think that the time has come when an extra year's training could give a broader education than the utilitarian education made available by the training colleges in their two-year course. The House will have the right to ask whether it is really possible to embark on that course without increasing the size of classes. I note that today there are 1,340,000 children housed in classes with only 40 on the register. That is in the primary schools. There are 160,000 in the secondary schools. Those are unpleasant figures, but it is well to appreciate that they are declining figures. It seems that we are getting on top of the problem of reducing the size of classes. If my optimism is unjustified, perhaps the Minister will be good enough to put me in my place, but I believe that the facts indicate that the rate of recruitment in recent years shows that we shall soon be completely masters of that problem. The rate of increase in recruitment must, however, be matched by the increase in qualifications.
In the Fifth Report of the Advisory Council, in paragraph 32, it is stated:In the third and subsequent years after introduction of the three year course, the annual output of the existing two year colleges would fall by about one-third, from the present 9,600 to, say, 6,300 (allowing for some increase in the numbers not completing the course). Thus, on this basis, the long-term effect of the three year course would be to reduce the net annual increase in the teaching force from between 6,000 and 7,000 to between 2,700 and 3,700.But if we time the year of intermission, as it is called in the Report, to coincide with the greatest fall in the school population, there is no reason at all why we 688 should not be responsible for the greatest single act of progress in the field of education since the passage of the Act in 1944.
I raise this question today because, obviously, where people's careers are concerned, long-distance notice must be given. As the Minister of Defence has given notice to the nation of changes in 1960 with regard to the call-up, so I believe that the Minister of Education should be giving notice to the secondary school population of today of any intended changes, in 1961 or thereabouts, of an extra year's requirement for the qualification for a teaching certificate. The colleges themselves will need this extra time for the reorganisation of their syllabuses and the rearrangement of their staff.
I have deliberately limited myself this morning to this basic question because I believe that the quality of the teaching profession is a matter of major national importance. I believe that the debt that Britain owes to her teachers is immeasurable. By their vision, their courage and their worth-while example in our schools, we shall be able to lay the foundations of a future as noble as our past. I can speak more freely of the teaching profession now that I have left it—I trust I have left it. After four Elections, I am beginning to believe that, maybe, I can count on a fifth, and it looks as though the Government are determined to help me in that regard.
I have endeavoured, in introducing this Motion, not to enter into the field of controversy, because I am particularly anxious, and I know that the teaching profession is, that the Minister shall tell the nation his intentions about the three-year period of training. That step, more than any other that I can think Of, will help to raise the quality and standard of our schools, and in taking it the Minister will find that the teaching profession is ready and anxious to co-operate.
§ 11.24 a.m.
§ Miss Alice Bacon (Leeds, South-East)
I beg to second the Motion.
I am sure that the whole House would wish me to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) for giving us the opportunity to discuss education today, because we have too few debates on education, a subject which, I believe, is nearer to the heart of most people than many other subjects. 689 My hon. Friend has dealt specifically with training, and I want to deal specifically with the organisation of secondary education. Before I do that, however, I should like to develop to some extent the arguments of my hon. Friend about the changes in the finance of education which are envisaged by the Government.
It is often said that when we in this House discuss education we are much more concerned with buildings, equipment and things of that description, than with the content of education. Wherever we look in the field of education, and whatever improvements we wish to make, we always come back to the question of money, because nearly all our developments depend upon how much they will cost.
The noble Lord the Minister of Education made a speech a short time ago in which he said that we got education on the cheap. That is so, because we spend only 3 per cent. of our national income on education, which is much less than that spent by many other countries. It is quite clear that for the next few years, we shall have to spend far more money on education, for several reasons.
First, there are rising costs, and, secondly, the increased number of children in our secondary schools. Next year, it is estimated that there will be 150,000 more children in our secondary schools than the year before, and this increase in our secondary school population will continue until 1960 or 1961. Thus, as my hon. Friend pointed out, not only is an increase in the number of teachers needed, but also the three-year training, which is so important.
Apart from all these considerations, we also need a great many improvements and developments, because we have still far too many old school buildings. We have far too many schools which have not been reorganised, far too many with old equipment and without sufficient books, so that for all these reasons it is quite clear that over the next few years much more money will be needed for educational purposes.
It is quite clear that education is an expanding service, yet this is the time which the Government have chosen to treat education as a contracting service. 690 This is the time which they have chosen to put the whole of our Exchequer grants to local authorities into the melting pot, and those most concerned with education fear that less money is to be available for education purposes under the block grant system than under the percentage grant system. On 19th February, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer was announcing this proposal, he said:This should introduce a stabilising influence in the central Government's contribution to local expenditure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th February, 1957; Vol. 565, c. 210.]We must note those words "stabilising influence". We remember that the percentage system has always been abandoned in time of national crisis, or when the Government wanted to cut down expenditure. We also remember that both the Geddes and May Committees proposed a suspension of the percentage grant, and so it is that those who are most concerned with our education service—the Association of Education Committees and the National Union of Teachers—are seriously perturbed about this and view this change with great misgiving.
It is still uncertain what the level of the grant will be, but I think it is quite clear that the grant is not to be based on the amount spent by the most generous of our local authorities. There is a great fear that these grants will be based on the amount spent by the rather less generous authorities. If that does happen, it will mean that any educational advance by the local authorities will have to be met out of the rates, and we know how local authorities dislike putting up the rates very much.
It means that many of them will spend less on education rather than increase the rates, and I am afraid that this will lead to greater disparities in our education service as between one local authority and another, when these disparities are great at present. I hope that the Ministers are endeavouring to uphold the percentage grant in some form or other instead of its substitution by a block grant, because it would appear that with a block grant less money would be available than previously for educational purposes.
I wish now to say something about the organisation of secondary education. I need not remind the House of the present position. I do not believe that 691 anybody is really happy about it. I do not believe that hon. Members opposite are happy about the way in which our secondary education is at present organised. Selection at 11 was never planned; it is an historical accident which has grown out of the Hadow Report of 1926. First, we had fee-paying in grammar schools, then we had part fees, and now there are no fees in our State grammar schools.
There is now no side-entry to the grammar school as there used to be when fees were paid. Many middle-class people, and, indeed, some working-class people, who, previously, would have been able to pay a certain amount of money to buy a place in a grammar school, are no longer able to do so. This means that the spotlight has been put on the 11-plus examination and selection at 11 far more since fees were abolished than before.
I hope that no one will misunderstand what I am saying. I agree wholeheartedly with the abolition of fees in our State schools, but my point is that the abolition of fees and the taking away of the backdoor entry has meant that everybody realises that entry to a grammar school is obtained by means of some test or other. We know of the uneasiness which exists about this problem, the uneasiness in the primary schools, when parents and children are thinking of selection. We know of the problem of "late developers" and we also know the very great differences which exist in the provision of grammar school places as between one area and another. Two or three weeks ago I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to give me the figures of the percentage of grammar school places available in all the local authority areas in the country. The hon. Gentleman sent me that list, and it is very disturbing. At the top there are two local authorities with 63 per cent. grammar school places for their children; at the bottom there is an authority with only 8 per cent. of grammar school places.
I know that these are, perhaps, extremes, but even among those who are not at the extremes there is a very wide disparity. There are 38 local authorities in the country with 15 per cent. or less grammar school places. There are 12 local authorities which have 30 per cent. or more and 692 29 have 25 per cent. or more. There are 82 with 20 per cent. or less. When we consider that the difference even between 20 per cent. and 21 per cent. of places may result in several hundreds of children either going to a grammar school or not, we can see that these wide disparities are very serious.
There is another point which is sometimes overlooked. It is that even following the abolition of fees in grammar schools there is still no real equality of opportunity. There is still a great difference between the percentage of working-class children going to grammar schools and the children of the middle classes. I do not know how many hon. Members have read a very interesting book which has just been published, entitled "Social Class and Educational Opportunity" by Floud, Halsey and Martin. These three people surveyed two areas, south-west Hertfordshire and Middlesbrough, to find out what changes in entry to grammar schools have taken place over the years, and particularly since the abolition of fees.
Over 1,000 parents were interviewed in each of these two places and the results were rather startling. In both areas, while the proportion of grammar school places given to children of working-class parents had gone up, there had been no great increase in the percentage of working-class children going to the grammar schools. In 1953, the position was that in Middlesbrough, while only one working-class boy in eight went to the grammar school, one in three of the sons of clerks went to the grammar school. While 68 per cent. of the children of the professional and managerial classes went to a grammar school, only 14 per cent. of the sons of skilled manual workers went to a grammar school.
Some other interesting facts were brought to light in this survey. One was that the children of small families seemed to stand a much greater chance of getting to a grammar school than the children of large families; and, also, that one of the great determining factors was the attitude of the parents towards their children's education. So it now seems that there are all kinds of influences brought to bear in determining what kind of secondary education a child shall have. To a certain extent there is ability. There is agility in intelligence tests. But, in addition, a 693 great deal depends on the area where the child happens to live. It also seems that a great deal depends on the parents, so much so that the test at 11 appears to be as much a test of the parents as of the children.
What can we do to alter this position? There are, of course, different opinions about this. I deprecate too much stress being placed on what is called the 11-plus examination, because I think that there is a tendency to confuse two things: the 11-plus examination, on one hand, and the selection of different types of schools, on the other. It would be quite easy to get rid of the 11-plus examination and have selection by some other method. If we are to have selection for different types of schools, I think that there is perhaps more to be said for examination or a series of tests than any other method which has been put forward.
I think it unfair to the teachers in primary schools to put the whole of the onus on them to make recommendations. With the best will in the world it is difficult for a teacher in one school to have exactly the same standards as a teacher in another school. I think that we should stop talking too much about the 11-plus examination as such. I should like to end selection. I think that we should aim at abolishing selection and not only the 11-plus examination.
How is that to be done? I believe that there is only one satisfactory method, either the comprehensive school or a modification of it. I believe that there is still a great deal of political bias among hon. Members opposite about this. A short time ago I watched the noble Lord the Minister for Education being questioned on this subject in a television programme. While he said that he did not condemn the comprehensive school, the Minister spent the greater part of that programme arguing against it. One of the things which the noble Lord said was against the comprehensive school was its size. I think that that is a bogy. When we remember that the noble Lord went to Eton, where there are 1,200 boys in the school, I do not think that anyone can say that having been in a school of that size has cramped the individuality of the noble Lord to any extent.
I do not believe that comprehensive schools need be too big. But, even if they are, I would say that the balance 694 of opportunity is much greater inside a big school than a small one, because in a big school there is a variety in the curriculum and in the courses that only a big staff of specialist teachers is able to give. Of course, we all know the difficulty of selection and we all know that something must be done to bring that to an end. It is sometimes argued that comprehensive schools will keep back the bright children, but the examination results of a school like Holyhead, where the comprehensive system has been in operation for some time, do not indicate that. Rather do they show the opposite.
Again, watching television—I hope that my hon. Friends do not think I am a television "fan"—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—I was interested a few months ago to see a programme which showed the inside of a girls' public school—Sherborne. It seemed an extremely good school. The girls entered the school and found their own level. If they were academically-minded, they took an academic course. They could, at the same time, take many practical courses.
Watching that television broadcast, I realised that with the exception that Sherborne was a boarding school and Kidbrooke was a day school, and Sherborne had much smaller classes than Kidbrooke, in effect the public school at Sherborne seemed to me to be very much like the girls' school at Kidbrooke in curriculum and the methods which were used.
All of us on this side of the House have been thinking seriously about this problem and many modifications have been suggested—for instance, the bilateral school, the modern school with the technical bias and the introduction of the General Certificate of Education examination inside the modern schools. All these may be good to a certain extent, but they seem to me to be wasteful of specialised manpower and womanpower in the teaching profession, because I do not believe that this method gives us the best possible use of our specialist teachers.
I am in favour of experiments with a modified system of comprehensive education, but I would prefer what I would call a horizontal rather than the vertical 695 method of experiment. I do not want to see the two schools—the secondary modern and the technical school—existing side by side. I do not want to see a grammar school with a technical school existing by its side. If there have to be experiments of this kind, I would rather that the division were according to age.
My hon. Friends will remember that in 1953 the National Executive of our party issued the first "Challenge to Britain," in which we envisaged a comprehensive system divided into two parts, one to the age of 15 and the other beyond that age. In actual practice, some local authorities are working a modified scheme of that kind. In my own town, Leeds, the local education authority, faced with building a comprehensive school on a new housing estate, decided that it must make use of the existing school. To do that, all the boys from the age of 11 to 13 go to the existing school and the new comprehensive school has been built to accommodate boys from the age of 13 upwards.
I believe that there is room for a great many experiments of this kind. Some of my hon. Friends on this side did not like our original proposals in this respect, but since then a book has been published entitled, "Comprehensive education: a new approach," by Robin Pedley, who propounds a similar idea. Some of my hon. Friends who, in 1953, were critical of our approach to this matter are now not so critical when it is produced in a book by Robin Pedley. There is room for a great deal of experiment in this respect.
That raises the whole question of the age of 11. We seem somehow to be tied to that age. Why it should be 11 instead of 10 or 12 or 13, I simply do not know. I feel that there could be a rearrangement of the ages in our educational system. Why not have one school from the ages of 5 to 9, the next school for ages from 9 to 14, and then use our existing grammar schools for children from the age of 14 upwards? If we could get away from the bogy of 11 to which we are tied, we might be able to make progress.
I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to try to get us out of the rut that we have got into about the age of 11. I realise that in this business we cannot 696 start from scratch and that we must build on the existing framework, but we ought not to be hidebound. We ought to have the courage to look at some new type of organisation.
I end as I began, by saying that improvements of any kind will mean the spending of more money. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West said, if we are now entering the period when we spend less on defence, surely this is the time when we can spend more on education. I hope, therefore, that the Minister of Education and the Parliamentary Secretary will bring all their efforts to bear on the Government to ensure that more money is available for all the improvements that we need in our education system.
§ 11.46 a.m.
§ Mr. I. J. Pitman (Bath)
I very much welcome the Motion which has been introduced by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas). For myself, there was not a single word with which I was not in agreement, particularly concerning the hon. Member's view that in the choice of new Ministers for this Department we on this side have shown the real importance that we attach to the subject which we are debating today.
I was not as happy with the Speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon). She differed from her hon. Friend, who sought to make this a non-partisan and non-political issue. For example, her comparison of Eton and Sherborne, on the one side, with a comprehensive school is obviously absolute rubbish. The very essence of Eton and Sherborne is that they are exclusive schools. They exclude everybody except, probably, the top 5 to 7 per cent. of ability, whereas comprehension is the exact opposite of exclusion and comprehends the whole range of intellectual and scholastic ability. Therefore, to say that the one is comparable with the other is simply nonsense.
The suggestion that working-class people are excluded from grammar schools in Middlesbrough and that the professional and well-to-do are included in Hertfordshire is, I would say again, a party political issue which would not bear examination for one minute. Either there are good selection examinations in 697 Hertfordshire and Middlesex, or there are not. Let us assume that there are; the hon. Lady did not make the criticism that there were not. The cause, then, lies in the differences in ability of the children.
Obviously, we want the coming generation of people who will do the manual work to be so well educated that they can provide in their own homes the educational environment which will make it so much easier in the future not to have that very situation which we have at present. It is precisely because we want education to be progressive that we want to put an end to that kind of thing. The opportunity of educational environment in the home ought to become more equal.
In the meantime, however, let us recognise that we have a problem of educational psychology which has not yet been resolved. To what extent are the facts which the hon. Lady gave the result of heredity or of environment? After all, education is one of the most important points of environment. Every parent is educating in the home. It was a world disaster that the occasion was not taken to do a real test of the effect of environment and the effect of heredity with the Dionne quins, when they were separated from their parents and put out to foster mothers for upbringing. The five identical quins would have been brought up in five completely different environments and we could have arrived at some conclusion in that respect.
The extension for a third year of teacher-training colleges, referred to by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West is, in my view, the first priority and the most important thing facing the country in educational matters. The new Burnham scale is generous. With its equal pay for women it offers an extremely good and attractive rate of pay for young girls coming from the secondary grammar schools. Anybody who has seen, as I have, the quality of the young people offering themselves to the training colleges today will agree that it is urgent to take advantage of that inrush of really high quality people by giving them the extra year, because it will make all the difference to the development of their personalities and of their background as teachers.
I have done a great deal of lecturing in teacher-training colleges and I know 698 the immense strides which are made from the first year of teacher-training to the second year. All those without exception who are engaged in the teacher training colleges confidently predict that the third year in a teacher-training college will make a terrific step forward in the development of the personality of the teacher as well as in his technical ability. They are fully convinced of the importance of this development.
There are two points in connection with such a development which I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to bear in mind, if he would be kind enough to do so. The first is that we should integrate the teacher-training colleges as much as possible with the universities, thanks to that third year. At present, the university and their area training organisations vary, but in all cases they are, nevertheless, tucked under the wing of the university; but that is not being really integrated. For the benefit of the status of teaching we need to get away altogether from the old charity, Lady Bountiful-provided education, which is the old tradition of the status of the teacher, and we ought to get onto the more significant status of a professional man with a university education, and all that that implies. A fundamental point today in education, the most important one, is to improve the status of the teachers. We can do that only by a third-year in the course and by the closest possible integration of that training with the universities during that third year.
Secondly, I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will regard the third year not as one for an extension to wider subjects, but of development and specialisation in some degree of the subjects now included in the curriculum. Already, within the curriculum of the teacher-training college, there is a width of subjects which, in two years, would fully develop the teacher's personality if those subjects are properly handled. I strongly believe in the value of a curriculum which is closely linked with what the man or woman will have to do when coming out from the training college, and that taking one or more of those subjects to a high standard in the third year is the correct way of gaining university status for the work done in a training college.
We have to understand in this House what the young teacher feels when he is in training about the opening of the term 699 of the first day that he begins to earn his living as a teacher. He is always, throughout his two years, looking forward to that day with trepidation. Teaching practice is all very well; he has done it. The whole of his career, however, will ultimately depend upon the success with which he meets his class as a paid teacher for the first time. I know that that thought is present throughout the whole of his period at the training college. He sees that day coming and he wants to fit himself for it, so that when it comes he faces his task with confidence, knowing that he is fully and properly equipped. He therefore addresses his mind with exceptional intensity to subjects the value of which he can so clearly appreciate as essential to his success. A third year, to develop what has been done in the first two years, if based on subjects which evoke such intensity, will make all the difference to the teacher's personality, as well as improving his technique.
The county college is of great importance and is priority No. 2. The great advantage of the county college is that it gets the student back to the condition in which the pupil wants to go to school. It is a relief from work, a change from work, and all sorts of nice things happen at the county college. We must recognise that after the age of 15 attendance by compulsion ceases. Then, the best children tend to go on voluntarily with their schooling. The ones who are backward and most difficult tend to leave school and could not be compelled to attend full time: they want to leave and to go to work. For them, the county college, being part time and not full time, means going to school because you want to do so; it means combining the dignity of going to work with the advantage of going to school. You believe it will help you, and it is fun and a rest, anyhow. It is infinitely better than simply raising the school-leaving age. It tries to benefit children who know that they receive no benefit at all in the last year of school, perhaps because they had not the reading ability or other academic qualities to enable them to succeed with an extended formal full-time schooling.
If we are to develop the county college it is time, for that reason, and also for another reason, that we should develop the three technical teacher-training colleges. The policy at present in regard 700 to Garnett, Huddersfield and Bolton is that they train only for further education and not for secondary education. The hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East mentioned local education authorities that had 63 per cent. of grammar school places and others in which there were 80 per cent. Let us not worry about labels; we want good secondary education for the child, whether in a school called one name or another.
It is in the practical education, in the sort of subjects that are taught at Garnett and Bolton, that the secondary modern school will develop, but it is well known in the profession that there is a shortage of teachers trained in these practical subjects and that the ordinary teacher training colleges are not training teachers in such subjects but only in academic subjects. A development of teacher training in practical subjects will be wanted for the secondary modern school and for the county colleges, when they come along, and also for helping Asian and African countries who are anxious to send their teachers here to be trained in our three technical training colleges.
I have had experience of this. The importance of training the lecturers who will be teaching Indian and African teachers how to teach is hard to exaggerate. There is a really big demand throughout this country and there is the bubbling up of purposive education which is taking place in the sc-called backward nations to get teachers trained in practical subjects, because it is the practical subjects which appeal par excellence to the modern school and to the Asian and African. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West has done a good job in raising this debate and I hope that the same friendly spirit which he initiated will be maintained throughout the debate.
§ 11.59 a.m.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
I hesitate to intervene in a debate of this character because I have never before spoken upon an educational subject in the House. I know that I am among a large number of experts. The only advantage I have is that I can speak with rather more freedom than some others who know the subject very much better than I do.
I am sure that we are all grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South—
§ Mr. Dugdale
I am not going to be dragged into a discussion upon football, although I have no doubt that it has a certain educational value.
We are very grateful to my hon. Friend, but I think that he is a little optimistic in talking of education as being in the front line. I wish it were. During the week we have had considerable discussion about the H-bomb, and a great deal of interest was shown in it. The House was slightly fuller then than it is today, for this "front line" discussion on education. I think that it is worth saying again that all hon. Members on this side of the House feel that in the Minister of Education and his Parliamentary Secretary we have as much hope as we can expect, given the fact that we have a Tory Government. I do not say that it is all the hope that we would like, but at any rate it is better than nothing.
First, I want to compare the interest which people in this country show in education with the interest shown in the subject in backward countries, to which the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) has referred. I remember that when I was in Africa a few years ago I took the opportunity of asking many people what they wanted most of all. If I asked the same question of people in this country some might say that they wanted houses, others that they would like increased pensions, and others better medical services, but I fear that very few would say that they wanted better schooling. Yet every African, one after another, said, "I want a school," because they all felt the very great value of having good education available for their children. I wish that we could have rather more of that attitude in this country.
As other hon. Members have said, we need a bold programme—but it is not enough merely to say that. We have to have some conception of priorities. There are many things that we want, and we have to choose between them and leave 702 out some in order to promote others. I agree with my hon. Friend that first priority should be given to the provision of an adequate number of fully-trained teachers. If I had to choose whether I should send my sons to a school in which the training was given by a first-class teacher, with a small class in a Nissen hut, or by a second-class teacher, with a large class in Blenheim Palace, I should choose the Nissen hut. It is most important that we should keep the idea firmly in our minds that what we want most is a sufficiency of first-class teachers.
I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) that we are on top of the problem of the provision of teachers. I wish I could agree with him about that. Coming from a Midland division which suffers very badly from a shortage of teachers, I find it difficult to believe that we are anywhere near on top of the problem. In my division the majority of children are taught in classes of over 40, and next term there will be 26 classes with more than 50 pupils in each. I cannot think that that can be said to be getting on top of the problem. It will be worse next term than it was last. That is a very serious matter, and is something to which we must give our attention.
Hon. Members have spoken about the question of the raising of the school-leaving age. Whether further education, county colleges and the rest provide a better solution I should not like to argue, but we are committed to the raising of the school-leaving age, and however near the solution of the problem of the shortage of teachers may be today, with the school-leaving age at 15, it will be infinitely further away if the school-leaving age is raised to 16.
All the people of the Midlands, and no doubt people in many other areas, welcome the introduction of the system of rationing teachers. It is a very desirable system. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary can say whether it will be continued for some time, or whether it is to be a purely temporary system which it is hoped to abolish shortly. We hope that it will be continued at least until the shortage of teachers becomes less grave than it is at the moment.
703 Rationing, of course, is not the real answer. During the war we had a shortage of food and we introduced a rationing system, which was a very good thing. It was better than having no system at all. But nobody suggested that it was a solution to the problem of the shortage of food. The same argument applies to the shortage of teachers. While there is such a shortage there must be rationing, but we must see that the shortage is eliminated as soon as possible, so that we can dispense with rationing.
How can we obtain the teachers required? I will be greatly daring in my suggestion. I know that experts would not dare to say what I am going to say, but putting aside all question of Burnham scales and all the complications in connection with them, the basic fact is that if we want more people in any profession we must pay them more if we cannot get them otherwise. The same argument applies to teachers as to coal miners. There was once a shortage of coal miners, but when their conditions and pay were improved the shortage began to decrease. The first priority must be the obtaining of a sufficient number of teachers, and we must seize upon any method of getting them that we can. One method is to pay them more.
I agree most heartily with what both my hon. Friends have said about the need for the development and extension of teacher training. We should probably all agree that it is better to have a teacher who does not have a great deal of knowledge but knows how to put it across to his pupils than to have one who has an enormous amount of knowledge but has no idea of putting it across.
I have suffered, as other no doubt have done, from highly paid teachers who had a great deal of knowledge which they were totally incapable of imparting to anybody at all. That is something which can be cured only by teaching them to teach, and they can presumably learn that in teacher training colleges as well as anywhere else. It will still be true, however that after all the training they receive they will, as the hon. Member for Bath said, probably still fear the moment when they stand up in front of their first class, just as hon. Members fear the moment when they stand up to make their maiden speeches. The experience is not altogether dissimilar.
704 I believe that it is of primary importance to increase the number of teachers and to give them more instruction than they have now, but I do not want us altogether to neglect the question of buildings.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his observations upon the question of the size of classes and the relationship of the training of teachers. I would hasten to say that I did not want to mislead the House. It is quite clear that I did not express myself properly. I did not mean to indicate that the problem is solved now. I wanted to show that by 1961 we should be in a position both to reduce the size of classes and also to make improvements in teaching.
§ Mr. Dugdale
I am very glad to hear that, and I am sorry if I in any way misinterpreted what my hon. Friend said. At any rate, I have given him an opportunity to correct the impression that he seemed to have given, and I am very glad that he has now said what he has done.
Although the provision of teachers is the first priority we must also consider whether our buildings are good enough, and whether there are enough of them. In the case of new estates, where large numbers of people move into an area, it is of vital importance that an adequate number of schools should be provided to cope with the number of children who will be coming in. In my constituency we experience very great difficulty in that respect. We have a new estate which has not sufficient school accommodation.
I regret to say—and this is as controversial as I shall be at the moment—that the Government make it rather difficult for us to provide enough schools for those children because, as I understand it, we are not allowed to build even an extension of a greater value than £ 10,000. In fact we can build neither schools nor extensions to cover the shortage which exists in that area, and I am sure that the same is true of other constituencies.
In connection with buildings, we ought to remember that it is very bad policy to insist on local authorities carrying out shoddy repairs, which is what they have to do today, rather than adequate repairs. They are not at the moment allowed enough money by the Government to carry out repairs which will last a long time.
705 The Minister of Education and the Parliamentary Secretary may no doubt be thinking that if the repairs last for a year or two it may be our Government rather than their Government which has to deal with the situation. It may, therefore, be cheap from the point of view of the present Government to provide repairs which last only for a short time, despite the fact that we may have to spend a great deal of money on them when we are returned to office. It is important that adequate sums should be provided so that repairs which will last are carried out, not merely temporary repairs which will last for no length of time.
All hon. Members have spoken about the need for drive, and I have spoken of my experiences in Africa. I would remind hon. Members of what was done in the new State of Ghana. During most of the time while it was a British Colony, I regret to say, the number of children who received any education of any kind whatever was comparatively small, certainly not 50 per cent. When an African Minister of Education was appointed for the first time, he decided on a bold education programme. He said to his chief education officer, "I want to see a scheme introduced whereby there shall be some form of education for all children in Ghana within five years". Inquiries were made, and the man in charge of primary education in his Department declared that to be impossible and said that it would take ten years. The Minister's answer was, "Sack him and get somebody who will do it in five years." I think that that is a good attitude to adopt. I know that many objections can be raised against any bold programme, but they must be surmounted if we want to go ahead.
May I say a few words about comprehensive schools? We have in my constituency one of the relatively few comprehensive schools in the country. It was built in the teeth of the opposition of the right hon. Lady the Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Dame Florence Horsbrugh), when she was Minister of Education, but somehow it managed to get past her. I have never quite understood how. I am glad to say that that school has proved a great success.
706 I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) mentioned Eton, because that is a good case in point. Eton is a large school in which all the problems of a comprehensive school might be thought to exist. It has a very wide variety of pupils. That applies to all public schools. After all, what is the test of getting into a public school? It is a comparatively simple examination and the wealth with which to pay for the boy to go to the school so long as he has passed this comparatively simple examination. I agree that some of the very backward children who could be found in a comprehensive school would be unable to pass that examination and would not go to a public school, but a very wide variety of children are capable of passing it. If the system can be applied in public schools, why not in comprehensive schools?
§ Mr. Pitman
This is a fundamental point. Is it not well known that the common entrance standard at Eton and Winchester and three or four other public schools is not only very much higher than and more exclusive than in some other public schools but infinitely higher than the general test, and that in such schools we have, as it were, the 10 per cent., the cream, of the country collected from a vast distance?
§ Mr. Dugdale
I doubt that very much. I do not want to be too controversial, but I should have thought that influence had something to do with entry to Eton, putting it no higher than that. Far be it from me to distinguish between different public schools. It may be that the standard of Eton is particularly high, and of course I mentioned Eton. Nevertheless, I think that the hon. Member will agree that in public schools as a whole the standard is not quite so high as he would like. That being so, I think that the comparison between public schools generally and comprehensive schools is fair.
§ Mr. Pitman
I am rather nervous about mentioning Eton, having been there myself, and perhaps I might switch the argument to Manchester Grammar School. Manchester Grammar School is a highly selective grammar school, but it is not a comprehensive school. I should have thought that Eton and Sherborne 707 are simply other highly selective grammar schools.
§ Mr. Dugdale
As my hon. Friend said, it is not one of the independent schools which are known as public schools. It is a much more public and a much less private school than Eton and some other schools which I have in mind.
I do not want to make this debate too heated, however, and perhaps I might calm the atmosphere down a little. The point I made was that there is a certain similarity between the variety of the children in a public school and the variety in a comprehensive school. That is the only point I wanted to make, and I do not want to become involved further in controversy on that subject.
I should like to make a few remarks on a subject which is seldom discussed in the House—not the bricks or the mortar, or the teachers, or the money which is spent, but what is to be taught in the schools. That seems to me even more important. I do not want to say very much about that but I will make a few observations.
There is a great deal of talk today about the need for increased technical education. We have seen reports which apparently have sought to prove that we are very far behind both the United States and Russia in this respect. I have looked through these reports and I am not at all certain that they prove anything of the kind. They prove, perhaps, that in America and Russia there are a great many more of the lower ranking technicians and technically qualified people, but so far as I can make out we seem to win when it comes to the higher ranks of applied science.
Be that as it may, we must be careful that we do not place too much emphasis on technical education. It provides technicians but it may or may not provide people who think. It is only one method of education for providing them anyhow. The great importance of any form of education— and goodness knows, this is a trite enough observation—is to produce at the end people who are capable of thinking. If we want to do that, then we want to do it by whatever method of education is 708 best suited to that end, whether it be technical education, or education in history, or education in the arts, or even education in the classics.
It does not matter so long as people are somehow or other taught to think. Above all, they should be properly grounded in the elementary three Rs. Quite a number of people in this country. alas, are apparently not.
I hope we shall realise that we have in this country the very best material in the world for education. All I ask, and all hon. Members on both sides of the House ask, is that we should make the fullest use of that material.
§ 12.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Hubert Ashton (Chelmsford)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale), at the beginning of his speech, seemed to get involved with football. As one who, many years ago, signed to play for West Bromwich Albion, I hope that he will understand me when I say how sorry I am that that famous team will not take part in the Cup Final in a few weeks' time.
I hope to be allowed, in the course of my speech, to deal with the later part of the right hon. Member's speech and with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) and the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon). Possibly, before coming to that, I might add my bouquet to those handed to the noble Lord the Minister of Education and the Parliamentary Secretary. As I come from the school—a school not unknown on the other side of the House—which was largely responsible for founding their honoured school, it is possible that some of those bouquets are due to the place where I was educated.
It is almost exactly six years ago since I had the privilege, on 17th April, 1951, of introducing a Motion on education from the other side of the House. That debate came just after we had had a discussion on the Budget. We were then concerned with priorities. We had a useful debate and it was felt that the priority should be the statutory obligation to give full-time education to those between 5 and 15 years of age. One of the problems was that of the L.C.C. housing estates, and there were five of them in my county.
709 The money was available for housing but not, at the same time, for education to keep pace with the housing. That has been a problem throughout the country for some years. The late and much respected George Tomlinson, then Minister of Education, replied to that debate from this side of the House. He told us that there was a problem of overcrowding in the primary schools and that there were 1,000 schools under construction, providing 420,000 new places.
It has been implied today that there is a danger of the amount of money required for education being reduced. It has been said that the money has been slashed, but I do not think that that is correct. I should like to quote to the House a few interesting figures. When the Socialists were in office, £ 270 million per annum were spent, on the average, on education, and 607,000 new places were found for 936,000 extra pupils. It is fully appreciated that there were special problems just after the war. Since the Conservative Party has been in office, the average expenditure has been £ 410 million per annum and we have been able to catch up a little with this very difficult problem, providing approximately 1 million new places for 770,000 new pupils.
A table in page 7 of Cmd. 99, "Memorandum on the Ministry of Education Estimates" sets out the full expenditure of the Ministry and of the education authorities from 1954–55 to the Estimate for 1957–58, showing an increase in the overall figure from £ 395 million to £ 569 million. I appreciate, as the hon. Member for Cardiff, West has said, that there has been in that period some drop in the value of money, but it would be wrong for anyone in the House or in the country to go away with any impression that expenditure on education has been cut, because that does not accord with the facts.
The hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East dwelt upon the proposals announced on 12th February by the Minister of Housing and Local Government for the reform of local government finance. This is closely related and tied up with vast changes in local government status which are of vital importance to the country. I should have thought that the Government had shown some courage in going forward with the effort to solve this very knotty problem, and it is some- 710 thing to which we must all address ourselves objectively.
I have a copy of a National Union of Teachers memorandum on this proposed change from a percentage grant for education to a general or block grant. I appreciate the anxieties expressed on the matter, but I should have thought, in the light of the assurances given by the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary, that the Government are alive to the importance of education and expenditure thereon and that the likelihood of any reduction taking place is very remote indeed.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
The hon. Member must be aware that the fear of many people is that there will be no expansion and that these services will suffer as a result of the new method of making grants.
§ Mr. Ashton
I understand that, but, from the round figures that I have quoted, and the fact that £ 100 million are to be spent on technical education and additional grants are to be made to the universities, I think that those fears should be allayed.
The fact that those concerned with local government will have a little more responsibility in these matters is important. The memorandum from the National Union of Teachers points out that teachers do not serve directly on local authorities. That is no doubt true, but they are co-opted on the education committees and they are doing splendid service in the divisional executives all over the country. Everybody would agree that they are educationists first and foremost, and possibly financiers secondly. I have sometimes felt, when serving on these committees, that when the possibility of being careful with public funds is mentioned the reply is made too often, "We cannot afford to do without it."
I wholeheartedly agree with the right hon. Member for West Bromwich that the teacher is more important than the building. At the end of my speech on 17th April, 1951, although I had been dealing with buildings, I said that the teacher is the crucial part of the education system.
There has been a very considerable reduction in the costs per place of school buildings compared with those laid down in 1946, immediately after the war. That 711 has saved the country about £ 4 million in capital. I do not think that anybody would say that the buildings that are put up today, with materially reduced costs per place, are really inadequate. Although there are broad problems still to be discussed in detail with the local authorities, I suggest that the possibility of having a little more responsibility locally, with the finance committees of the local authorities able to decide the priorities, is a matter to be borne in mind.
For the N.U.T. to issue this memorandum at this juncture is rather like firing into the air and possibly it will not do the education world much good. The President of the County Councils' Association, on which I served for a short period, is present, and I hope that he may speak on this subject in the course of the debate.
Reference has been made to the content of education. Some may have been encouraged by the White Paper on defence, which was issued yesterday, but it contains some grave warnings. We do not know what the future has in store but we hope that we shall move into happier and more peaceful times. It is clear from the debate of a fortnight ago, on technical education, and the interesting debate in another place some months ago, on the same subject, that there is some anxiety as to whether the teaching of mathematics in primary schools is of a sufficiently high order to enable boys and girls to make a full use of the educational advantages which will be available for them in the future. I am sure that that is a point which is being looked at and will be looked at in the future by my right hon. Friend.
I agree broadly with what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) and the hon. Members for Cardiff, West and Leeds, South-East on the supply of teachers. I would only mention that in the emergency training system which we have had since the war, the teachers were older in some respects in that they had experience of the world and of the war. I have not been a teacher myself, unlike some hon. Members present, but I believe that to be a teacher of small boys is one of the most honourable and important but difficult jobs. This is clearly a real problem, and one which is in the minds of all of us who are contributing to this debate.
712 As the "bulge" is moving now from the primary to the secondary schools so, in turn, it will move beyond them. Earlier, I referred to football. This is part of the training of the young, the knockabout in games, and in that respect there is an element which may have been slightly neglected, namely, youth leaders. I am wholly in favour of voluntary effort in this respect. A great deal is being done by all the voluntary organisations throughout the country and, as children get older, we must look at what has been put on one side in the past because of the priorities of the primary and secondary school grades.
Anyone referring to educational matters would be wrong not to mention the tremendous part played in our educational system for many generations by the voluntary schools, of which there are more than 9,000, mostly Church of England and Roman Catholic. In my own small village, not far from here, we are building a new church school. Those efforts are worthy of recognition. Neither can we overlook the immense amount of money spent on those 9,000 schools which has been given voluntarily and is not included in the figures I quoted earlier, and which involve no payment of interest.
Now a word about the 11-plus examination. This came up in a Question to the Minister yesterday and, as he said, it is being considered by all the authorities. We are examining it all the time in my own authority in Essex, which has more than a quarter of a million primary and secondary school children. My information is that we now base the test on 50 per cent. examination and 50 per cent. on the school record. We have made a number of alterations and we are continuing to do so. As my hon. Friend also said yesterday, this very real problem is being inquired into by the National Foundation for Educational Research.
I may be wrong, but I believe that there is some element of propaganda and exaggeration about the 11-plus examination made by parents. If that is so, as I fear it may be, I do not think that they are doing good either to themselves or to their children. We have all had to pass examinations and I think we would all agree that they do not always bring out the best in pupils.
713 As to the future, I wholeheartedly concur with what is in the mind of my hon. Friend. I hope that there is a happier period ahead for this country and for the world, in which we may be able to divert our effort from destroying each other to building up our intellectual knowledge, our proper use of leisure, and the splendid things which lie ahead for the younger generation but which were denied perhaps to my generation.
We cannot move too fast, however. Somebody said we must build on the existing foundations, and I believe that the educational service given by the primary and secondary schools, by further education and by county colleges has an important part to play. It would be a mistake to try to do anything revolutionary. Instead, we should build on the existing firm foundations and structure. I am sure that this is the intention of my noble Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary and I look forward very much to hearing what my hon. Friend has to say in the course of the debate.
§ 12.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, All Saints)
I have listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Ashton), the more so because in his opening remarks he disclosed an affinity with Bromwich Albion. As a Birmingham Member, I must take this early opportunity of saying that, with all deference to that famous team, we from Birmingham hope to see the great and glorious days of Aston Villa revived on the battlefield of Wembley very soon.
I am obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) for initiating this extremely important debate. I agree with what almost every speaker has said about the need for more discussion of the problem of education and it is upon some educational trends that I wish to base my remarks.
None of us who comes from the Midlands can start a discussion on education without talking about the problem of overcrowded classes. Indeed, I base my remarks not only on statistics but on the fact that during the last few months I have visited every secondary modern school in my division. I have spent some time in each, and I have tried to 714 find out as much as I could about the problems facing the teachers.
From figures which reached me recently I find that, notwithstanding the good offices of the Ministry, the position does not show a considerable improvement. Instead it shows a slight worsening in Birmingham at the moment. We had 10 more primary teachers in February this year than in October last year, and we had three more secondary teachers in February this year than last year. During the same period the number of primary pupils had increased by 4,000, although there was a slight decrease in the number of secondary pupils. So it is obvious that the problem has not yet been solved.
However, after some reluctance in adopting the idea of a quota system, the Ministry has now produced a formula by which it hopes to help the areas which are in the worst position. It is too early a stage in the implementation of that formula to be able to pass any comments on it, so all I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to do today is to give us an assurance that his Ministry will continue to watch the position. Incidentally, I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary has this problem in mind, since he is a fellow Birmingham Member.
There has not been a great increase in the number of teachers who want to come to Birmingham, but we know that after their initial applications from the training colleges there will be a second chance, so we hope that we may get, on the rebound, some who, as a result of the new quota system, cannot get the post initially applied for. As I have said, we are not passing any judgment upon the new system except to say that we are glad that the Minister took courage and agreed to it. We hope that he will give us an assurance that if the quota system does not do the trick, he will be prepared to consider any other measures which may be produced.
It is depressing to go into a class of 48 children and see a teacher trying to teach them. I repeat what I have said before, that it is impossible for any teacher to teach that number. All he or she can do is to look after the children. In my researches I have discovered that in a class of 48 or 50 children what usually happens is that the bulk of them, from 36 to 40, set the pace at which the 715 class proceeds. Of course it is to the bulk that the teacher gives most of his or her time. However, at one end of the class there are the children who are above the average capacity, and they do not get enough individual attention to ensure that they proceed further, as they ought; and at the bottom end are those who are lagging behind, and those are the hardest hit, because if they had more individual attention they could undoubtedly achieve the average standard.
I am not an educationist. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale), I do not speak from a specialist's point of view. That is not to say that I decry my hon. Friends who take such a great interest in their profession. Looking at the position from outside the profession, it seems to me that in industrial areas where there is difficulty in obtaining teachers it is the children who are suffering. I mention this aspect today only to ensure that we concentrate our attention upon the difficulty.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) referred very ably, and in greater detail than I shall, to the different standards obtaining throughout the country in respect of admission to grammar and technical schools. That is unjustifiable, and I hope that the Ministry will give attention to it at an early date. It is fantastic that an accident of birth or place of employment should determine what opportunity a child has to enter a grammar, technical, or comprehensive school, or any other type of school higher than a secondary modern school. I have made no detailed inquiry but I imagine that the figures in Birmingham are perhaps average. If the slogan "Opportunity State" is to mean anything, it must mean "Equal Opportunity State". I hope that the Ministry will ensure equality with opportunity. That is a matter which deserves the early attention of the Government.
Many parents feel that the end of the world has come if their youngsters do not get into the grammar school. We ought to look carefully at the problem of the 11-plus examination and the right of parents to choose schools if their children have the necessary attainment, ability and aptitude. I think that the 11-plus examination ought to go. I cannot see 716 any justification for it. Entrance to the arts, professions, the Civil Service, the universities, and indeed the whole of the child's life, is now geared to whether he passes an examination which he takes for two days when he is 10½ or 11 years of age. It is a ridiculous state of affairs. It cannot be justified on any grounds of logic.
I know that there are difficulties about methods of selection, and I know that teachers vary, and that the standards of education authorities vary, but I believe that the greatest single step that we can take to improve educational opportunity is to do away with the 11-plus examination. The intellectual and psychological factors of a child at 10½ or 11 years of age cannot be regarded as of a normal standard. Some children develop early and others late.
I should like an extension of the five-year courses in secondary modern schools. I hope that the Ministry will encourage that as much as possible. We instituted some courses of this type when I was a member of the Birmingham City Council, and they are going very well. There are children on the borderline in Birmingham who cannot get into grammar and technical schools because there are not sufficient places, but if they lived in other parts of the country, or if they were fortunate enough to be born in Birmingham in live years' time, they would be able to secure such places.
If their parents desire it, such children should have a right to a five-year course of education. If we have not sufficient grammar and technical school places, it is urgent that we should encourage secondary modern schools to provide for children, whose parents give an undertaking that they shall remain at school until 16, a five-year course with a possibility of the General Certificate of Education at the end of it, for the General Certificate of Education is the open sesame these days to so many opportunities in industry and the professions.
There is a great need to emphasise the improvement required in old schools. I have said that I have visited the secondary modern schools in my constituency. Three separate schools are housed within one acre in my division. When I visited those schools there seemed to be a continuous playtime—playtime for infants, 717 playtime for the primary school children and playtime for the secondary modern school children, all going on at different times in a very small space. I do not know how the children could concentrate at their work or how the teachers could teach in those circumstances. I hope that the Ministry will recognise the need to spend money upon the old schools. Like my right hon. Friend, I do not believe that marble halls and maple floors make much difference to the educational content of a school. From what I have seen, the atmosphere is the most important thing.
§ Mr. Howell
Yes, I agree that buildings are important, but I think that atmosphere is even more important. When one goes into a school one can sense the atmosphere. One knows when one enters a happy, disciplined—nobody wishes to see a school completely lacking in discipline—school. The most important factor in relation to environment is to make the school a light, airy, happy place in which teachers can teach.
§ Mr. Howell
I cannot answer for South Shields. I can speak only for the All Saints division of Birmingham, and in a division where the constituents are "saintly" one would not expect to smell anything.
§ Mr. Howell
I think I had better pass from this aspect in great haste.
With regard to the attitude of mind which is produced, I very much agree with the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich about what we are producing in the schools. It would be a good thing if the House of Commons debated more and more the type of education given in the schools, and I hope there will be many more such debates. An hon. Member said he was pleased to find the Parliamentary Secretary here to talk about education. I think that the hon. Gentleman has been in the House talking about education almost every day this week.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Sir Edward Boyle)
By this afternoon I shall have answered three Adjournment debates on education this week.
§ Mr. Howell
It is a great improvement. The House of Commons could do much worse than continue to have the hon. Gentleman here answering Adjournment debates about education or dealing with education in other ways.
§ Sir E. Boyle
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would include the salaries of swimming instructors, a subject which we discussed on the Adjournment last night, as part of the content of education, which I think they should be.
§ Mr. Howell
I certainly agree that sport in all its aspects represents a very great part of the life of the country and of any individual. Swimming instructors and football instructors are important. One thing that pleases me most about the teaching profession—this ought, I think, to be said in the House of Commons— is the thousands of teachers who give up their free time on Saturday mornings or in the evenings to encourage sport, the arts, music, etc. That is very great work, a great example to the rest of society, and I am delighted that the Parliamentary Secretary apparently agrees with me.
Education is a continuing process. Its real test is how a man behaves in society after he has left school. What matters is how a person uses his leisure time. On that test I am not at all happy about schools in Birmingham, I am sorry to say, and I think that that applies to the whole nation. We are still spending far too much time on canned entertainment, television and the like. This is not an opportunity to debate television, but I am sorry to say that both the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. now accept numbers as the most important and over-riding factor in deciding what their programmes are to be.
We are now in an entertainment age when the lowest common denominator is what seems to be important. If we cannot get the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. out of that frame of mind, I hope that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary will realise that we want our young children to develop discerning and questioning minds, children able to question, 719 who do not accept everything they are told, but who can ferret out information, so that we may return to the days when leisure was best spent in entertaining oneself, not in being entertained by television.
That is not to deride television, radio or other modern entertainment, but I hope that we shall be able to get away from that state of affairs in which I can go into a classroom in Birmingham—as I recently did—and ask how many children go to the pictures more than three times a week, and see many hands raised. Some hands were raised when I asked how many went more than four times, and there were still one or two hands raised for more than five times a week. Even then, the other nights are spent watching television.
I want to refer to primary education. Primary education in this country is passing through a crisis. I believe that primary education is the most important phase in the educational life of a young child. Is the Ministry doing everything it can to see that primary schools get all the equipment and other things to which they are entitled? The formative years between 7 and 11 are extremely important to a child and his future place in the life of the country.
According to many primary school teachers, despondency in the primary schools is growing. That is partly due to the Burnham Committee's recommendations. I know that the Ministry cannot directly interfere with the Burn-ham Committee, but I cannot believe that the present system of school payments is conducive to getting the best out of education. We now have the ridiculous unit allowance, a system whereby heads of schools and teachers in posts of responsibility receive a salary determined by a count of one point for every child under the age of 13, two points for children between 13 and 15, and four points for children over 15.
Primary school teachers feel very strongly about that and believe that they are getting the worst end of the bargain. So strongly do they feel that in recent elections for the Birmingham executive of the National Union of Teachers, out of 40 places primary school teachers took 39. They strongly believe that the whole system of collective bargaining in educa- 720 tion and the setting up of wages scales are weighted against primary school teachers.
I hope that the Minister will agree to have an inquiry into the unit system and its effects, especially on posts of responsibility. We ought to pay teachers a good wage. No section of society is more important to the future of the nation. This hocus-pocus of posts of responsibility is doing no good at all. By giving a man £ 100 because he teaches religious knowledge, or marks the registers, or is in charge of visual aids, is a manoeuvre to give some teachers more than others, and it causes great resentment.
What we want is a good basic wage for teachers and not the £ 9 10s. a week on which a young teacher starts at the age of 20, perhaps when he is about to have a family. It takes him seventeen years to reach the maximum salary. It is ridiculous that the Burnham Committee should have fixed a salary scale in which it takes seventeen years for a man to reach the maximum. It is crazy, and it would not be tolerated by any good trade unionist in the country. I hope that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary will appreciate the growing dissension that the unit system and the method of payment, especially for posts of responsibility, has caused. It allows headmasters to favour one teacher as against another, and that is altogether wrong.
I want to say a few words about individual approach. Individual approach in education is extremely important. That is why I am somewhat apprehensive about large schools. Some of my hon. Friends think that large schools are all right and that it is not the size of the school, but the size of the classes which matters. I do not entirely accept that view. I believe that a headmaster or headmistress is a very important person and that headmasters and headmistresses should know all their pupils. Certainly they should know all their staff, and in some of these mammoth educational factories, educational sausage factories they look like, that is not possible.
In what I am saying, I am not opposing the building of comprehensive schools. Within the educational system there is room side by side for comprehensive, grammar, and technical schools in free and open competition. But there is a great danger that in large schools the 721 individual approach will disappear, although I recognise that it is possible to build smaller comprehensive schools. I believe that large schools are not in the best interests of our children, nor in the best interests of the nation. That is a personal view, but I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will keep the matter under review.
§ Mr. Howell
I am delighted to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that he agrees with me. We want better education, but it does not necessarily follow that bigger and better schools will give us better education.
Before concluding, I want to refer to further education and university education. Even in the realm of further education much remains to be done. As we need more and more technicians, as everybody agrees we do, we will have to get employers to honour the the spirit of the 1944 Act, and if they do not do so, the Act will have to be fully implemented. I know that large employers in my part of the world are very good. They have further education classes and allow young apprentices and other young workers one day a week to go to technical schools to learn their trade properly, but there is still a long way to go, and many employers do not grant those facilities to youngsters.
It is absolutely essential for the future industrial interests of the country that a child who has left school at 15 should be able to continue his education. We must make employers and trade unionists realise that education is a continuing process, and that the education of a child who has left school at 15 has not finished. The best interests of the children and of the country can be served by seeing that it continues both in part-time and further education. Employers should be encouraged, or if necessary compelled, to see that youngsters continue to have education in technical schools and commercial schools.
I ask the Minister to look at the position of university education. It is rather ridiculous that throughout the country education committees solemnly decide whom they are to assist to go to university. I believe the emphasis should be the other way round. If an individual obtains a place in a university the 722 State or municipality should automatically facilitate financially his entry into that university, subject only to a test of means. I think it quite wrong for education committees to have different standards by which, if one happens to have been born in one county, going to university is automatically assured, but if one is born in another county there is not that automatic assurance. I hope that the Minister will put that right in the interests of the country.
§ Miss Bacon
Perhaps my hon. Friend does know that in our last education programme on which we went to the country it was the policy of the Labour Party to abolish all local authority awards and make them all State awards, which would have had the effect that he desires?
§ Mr. Howell
I was, of course, aware of that factor. I was about to say so, but I was putting it at the end of my remarks in the hope that we might facilitate it through liberal-minded Ministers without having to wait for the next Labour Government, which might be slightly delayed because of circumstances beyond the control of hon. Members on this side of the House.
I hope that the Minister will realise that if a person gets a place at a university there is no valid reason for stopping him going there on financial grounds. The whole interest should be in allowing him to go and in seeing that the municipality pays for and facilitates the entry.
I wish to say a word on the question of the proposed new Government regulations on block grants to local authorities. I well appreciate that we are talking rather airily because we have not the details before us. All hon. Members interested in local government want to see more local government autonomy, but we have a grave suspicion that this is a pretext for making financial economies at the expense of education and local government generally. If that were so, it would be a very serious thing. In view of the speeches which they have made recently, I hope that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary will not accept any system of block grants which means that those services are to remain static and there is to be stagnation, so that progressive authorities wanting to do more are not allowed to do so, or 723 can do so only at the expense of housing or any other objectives.
That would be a very detrimental step. I cannot believe that the present Ministers in charge of education are prepared to see that happen, but there are real and justified fears, not only among party politicians, but among all local government officials and members and among the teaching profession about what is to happen when the new local government financial reform comes. We shall certainly have to create the greatest possible protest if it is seen that by this formula there is to be stagnation of the progressive authority and that the Government are trying to bring that about.
Great problems are facing us in education. I am glad to see such a common breadth of outlook on both sides of the House in facing those problems. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree to look at some of the matters I have mentioned, as well as the difficulties which have been mentioned by my hon. Friends.
§ 1.5 p.m.
Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)
I shall not attempt to follow the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. D. Howell) into the realms of block grants versus percentage grants, because I feel that so little can be known about the new scheme until the negotiations now in progress are complete that it is rather premature to comment on it.
Neither shall I follow the hon. Member into the realms of Burnham scales and teachers' salaries because, like him, I am not an educational expert and that is a territory into which I should hesitate to enter. I must say, however, speaking as an outsider to these questions—perhaps I should say an onlooker rather than an outsider—that I doubt whether it is in the interests of the profession, if it wishes to raise its status, as we would all like to see it doing, to consider the conception of a basic wage and the rate for the job rather than a progressive structure more akin to those of the other learned professions. I do not know; I just express some doubt in my mind about how right the hon. Member was in his remarks in that context.
Earlier in his speech, the hon. Member had a certain amount to say about 724 equality, selection and examinations. I also wish to say something on those subjects, but, first, I should like to add my quota of thanks to the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) for having made this interesting debate possible. I am sure that everyone in the House is grateful to him and also grateful to him for his very bipartisan approach to the whole subject. Certainly, there was nothing he said with which I could disagree at all.
One might suppose that education ought to be one of those subjects on which there should be very little party difference, but, in fact, I think that there has always been the strongest controversy between educationists irrespective of party. I remember that in the days of my youth there were two conceptions of education. There was the conception we met chiefly in the classroom, that it was a somewhat violent process of forcing knowledge into youthful minds with the object of preparing them to go on to a subsequent career and the rather higher conception that one heard from very distinguished people who presented prizes once a year, that it was a process of drawing out rather than forcing in. I think that perhaps the truth lay somewhere between those two extremes. Even the most enlightened masters, while recognising that the drawing out process was the ultimate aim, realised that if the efflux was to be of sufficient quantity and quality a great deal of boring, drilling and priming of the pump was necessary in the earlier years.
Today, we have a new conception of education advanced by some enthusiasts, that it is a process of equalising children. I am glad to notice that in today's debate that it is not a point of view which has been advocated very strongly, although I must say that I thought I detected a suspicion of it in one or two of the remarks of the hon. Member for All Saints and one or two of the observations of the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon).
§ Mr. D. Howell
I certainly do not believe that all people are equal. I believe that all people are justified in having equal opportunities, which is a very different thing. I think that that would be the point of view of my hon. Friends.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
I entirely agree with the last statement of the hon. Member, but I have noticed that while most people pay lip-service to the idea of equal opportunities some people's idea of equality is more equal than others, if I may put it that way. I have noticed in my official life that one meets with educationists who are not content with an equal start. They cannot bear to see some of the flock—some of the field is perhaps a better description—forging ahead of the others. They wish to pull the favourites and to dope the laggards.
Indeed, to continue the metaphor, there could, of course, be an alternative way of running the Grand National. One might halt the race after the first fence and give time for the horses that have fallen to get up and for the jockeys who have fallen off to get on again, to line them up, to start again and to repeat that process after every jump. Whether the ultimate result of the race would be very different, I am not competent to say, but I am quite certain that it would take very much longer to cover the course in that manner.
One has to be extremely careful not to apply that sort of process to the education system, because we must, I think, agree that people who attempt to use the time of children at school to level them off are really attempting the impossible. After all, children are born with unequal qualities in every way, and any attempt to get them too much on a level can only, I think, in the long run be at the expense of the most forward.
The criticism which I would also voice about one or two of the speeches I have heard is that though one welcomes the extra money that is to be spent on education, one must recognise the danger of overstraining our economy on any of these desirable things. I do not regret any of the increases either already made or projected on the education services, but it is sheer folly to pretend that because education is a good thing, or because the National Health Service is a good thing, or anything else, therefore one cannot spend too much money on it. However good a thing may be, one can always spend too much money on it if one tries to spend more than one can afford.
726 While entirely supporting the great scheme for technical education, for example, and the other schemes which have been adumbrated in recent months, I must say quite frankly that I regard the rising cost as somewhat disturbing. On whichever side of the House we sit, we should all be on the look-out for any possible ways and means whereby we can achieve the same result at lower cost.
I turn now to the question of examinations to which a number of hon. Members have referred. Of course, examinations are a very old Aunt Sally, but I must confess at once to being in favour of examinations. I believe that they are as fair a method of selecting people whether to go to a grammar school or to join the Civil Service, or anything else, as can be devised. I know that one can have very silly examinations on occasions, but that is not the fault of the system but of the people who are applying them.
I would certainly hold no brief for many of the intelligence tests. In fact, I failed one myself during the war. I have a great prejudice against them. [Laughter.] Oh yes, we all have our prejudices, but, none the less, the criticism that is so often heard, that an examination is unfair because the child may be bad at passing examinations, by which is meant that he gets nervous, and so forth, I do not regard as a valid criticism. One thing which an examination shows is the ability to rise to an occasion, and that is an important thing for later life.
I agree that the system whereby some of the points are gained by examination and some by the results achieved during the longer period of ordinary form work is probably the correct compromise. At the moment, we are going through a regular wave of 11-plus hysteria, which I deplore. Certain writers on the subject and certain sections of the Press are very much to blame for arousing needless, or, rather, groundless, loss of confidence in the system, because I have not the slightest doubt that, in the great majority of cases, it gets children into the type of school from which they will gain the greatest benefit. When it fails—and, of course, it will fail in a proportion of cases—there are safeguards. There is such a thing as transferring children from secondary modern schools to grammar schools, and there is, at any rate 727 in my constituency, a process whereby from time to time children are transferred from grammar to secondary modern schools.
I have received complaints occasionally from parents who feel that their children have been unfairly treated in the outcome of the original 11-plus examination, but I have never received a complaint from a parent whose child has been transferred from a grammar school to a secondary modern school. That leads me on to what I believe is a very relevant factor in this argument—the continually rising standard of the secondary modern schools.
I do not know whether Croydon is exceptional in any way, but I can truthfully say that one of the things which has impressed me most since I have had the honour to represent part of the county borough of Croydon is the extraordinary high standard of the secondary modern schools. I am not referring so much to the educational standard, because I am not competent to judge that, but more to the general tone and quality of the boys and girls, especially the older ones. I think that it is one of the most encouraging things. To my mind, it also means that there can be no immediate urgency for changing the system, although I am perfectly open-minded on the subject. It may well be desirable to look ahead to a change. I can see the advantage of looking again at the ages at which some of [he shifts are made—I would not dispute that for a moment—and, furthermore, I have not the inhibition that some people have against the idea of very large schools.
I am not entirely clear what people mean when they advocate, or when they even speak of, comprehensive schools, because I have an idea that the term is used to mean quite different things by different people. If one imagines an entirely unstreamed comprehensive school, one finds it extraordinarily difficult to picture how it would work. If, on the other hand, one means a multilateral school, then I am prepared to concede that there may well be a case for big multilateral schools in urban areas.
I am speaking of a school of perhaps 2,000 to 3,000 pupils, with grammar, technical, commercial and engineering streams; and with a stream which, I 728 suppose, one might like to call general for the more backward pupils. But if one is to adopt that sort of system then, I think, there must be one or two conditions. I believe that the most important thing is that the man in charge should not be called the headmaster. I believe that many people are put off by that. They say, "How can a headmaster know all the pupils?" Of course, he cannot.
I would call him the superintendent, or something like that, and have a separate headmaster in charge of each of the streams. One advantage of that, incidentally, would be that the director of the establishment would undertake all the administrative work which would free the headmaster of each of the streams, from such work. One of the perpetual complaints of headmasters is that they are so much bound up with administrative work.
Another possible advantage of an arrangement on those lines is that it would, in practice, facilitate the transfer of pupils from one stream to another as the results they were obtaining made that desirable. That is an important point.
A further point, which is perhaps the most important of all, is that an arrangement on those lines would ensure that children destined for all types of occupations would meet and mix together, at any rate, in games and in optional studies outside normal school hours. I feel that that is a desirable thing, though I do not want it to be thought that I am necessarily advocating a scheme on those lines. I am merely saying that we should not close our minds to it.
In conclusion, I should like to say a word or two about fee-paying schools. I do not want to talk about the public schools, for I must say that I am never quite clear whether the opponents of public schools think that they are so bad that no one should go to them or so good that everyone should be given the opportunity to go to them. I was not at one myself, and I remain quite open-minded about the matter. Although I have sometimes thought that the products are rather odd, I do not necessarily condemn them on that account.
I believe that there is a great deal of extremely unfair criticism of the privately owned, fee-paying—call them what you will—preparatory schools. I was glad to notice that no one has voiced those criticisms in the debate today. The 729 truth of the matter is that there are a number of these schools, in fact, the majority of them, which are excellent. If one considers the case of a man who wishes to give his child an especially good education, and who feels that he has saved enough to pay for a private education for five out of the ten years, he faces the choice whether he will rely on the State system up to the age of 13 or 14, and then send his boy to a public school, or whether he will pay for a private preparatory school between the ages of 8 and 13 and then rely on, or at least hope for, the boy getting into a grammar school.
I would have no hesitation if I were in that position. I would spend the money on the preparatory part, because I think that there is a contribution which the fee-paying preparatory schools can make to our national education system, and, indeed, do make in the small infiltration and mixing which they produce at grammar schools through the proportion of boys going to grammar schools from schools of that type.
I should like to end on the note on which I began—that the one thing which I am sure we should not attempt to do is to try to stop parents, if they wish, from getting special advantages for their own children. If one attempts to do that, one is really attempting the impossible. I am not at all sure that it would be desirable, even if it were possible. Surely, we should rather be thankful there are still people sufficiently unselfish, sufficiently public-minded, or sufficiently ambitious for their children, whichever way one looks at it, to make the necessary sacrifices to give them an especially good start in life, for then not only will their own children benefit, but, surely, as a result of that benefit, the community as a whole will benefit.
§ 1.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
Charles Darwin, in the third chapter of "The Origin of Species", blithely remarks:We will now discuss in a little more detail the struggle for existence.He followed that up a few lines later by saying:The expression often used by Mr. Herbert Spencer of the survival of the fittest is more accurate and is sometimes equally convenient.I therefore venture to suggest that the issues raised by my hon. Friend the 730 Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) this morning fall into these categories, for if one thing is certain it is that this country can only survive in the keen struggle for existence that now confronts us and the other nations of the world if our education system is realistic in the light of our present circumstances.
We have made a bad start. It was not until 1876 that education was compulsory in this country, whereas in the State of Massachusetts it was compulsory from 1647 onwards. It is only quite recently that we have had the conception of an education for citizens covering the whole of their lives. I have been very gratified today to find that nearly every speech has advocated a realisation that in education we in this country are still in the realm of experiment. When I was a pupil at school, we had a school-leaving age of 10, and one must very often meet people whose formal education ended at 11 or 12 years of age. The idea that education is something that it is the inherent right of every citizen to have has had only very recent acknowledgement in our country.
A friend of mine, the President of the National Union of Teachers, pointed out the novelty of the situation in English education in an article that he wrote, which I think is worth quoting. He said:It is worth noting that Shakespeare made Juliet 13 years old.… Today, Juliet would have been in the care of the County Council, and Romeo would have been in prison. General Wolfe held a major command in the Army at 17; today, he would have been stigmatized as an early leaver. Pitt became Prime Minister at 24; today, if he were taking a four-year training course, he would not have completed it. Joan of Arc had put herself at the head of an army, had defeated the best military machine of the age, and had herself achieved martyrdom by the age of 19. Today, if she were a student in a training college, she would have been allowed out once a term after 10 p.m.—provided that she obtained special permission, and satisfied the authorities that she would take another member of the college with her.We have to realise that the old idea that the pupil is to be a purely passive part of education, and is to receive such instruction as his teachers think fit to impart to him, has gone, and that we are now seeking to retain in our education service, in our schools and colleges of one kind and another, people who, only two or three generations ago, would not have been thought by their parents suitable for retention in the education 731 service for that length of time. Further, practically every skilled occupation now, and a good many semi-skilled occupations, demand a mind sufficiently trained to enable a person to show, in the course of his career and in his occupation, an intelligence that was not expected in previous ages.
A witness before one of the factory commissions which reported about a hundred years ago said that an employer had told him, "I do not want one of your intellectuals. All I want is a workman, and I will do his thinking for him." That age has completely gone, and in every occupation that is worth while the person with a skilled, trained mind is a greater asset to the employer than a person whose education has been thwarted or distorted. One of the complaints made about the education service when we were contemplating the Act of 1944 was that it distorted and thwarted the natural aptitude and abilities of pupils.
The present Home Secretary and Lord Privy Seal, in the White Paper he issued as Minister of Education, in 1943—when I had the honour of being associated with him as his Parliamentary Secretary—stated:An academic training is ill-suited for many of the pupils who find themselves moving along a narrow educational path bounded by the School Certificate and leading into a limited field of opportunity. Further, too many of the nation's abler children are attracted into a type of education which prepares primarily for the University and for the administrative and clerical professions; too few find their way into schools from which the design and craftsmanship sides of industry are recruited. If education is to serve the interests both of the child and of the nation, some means must be found of correcting this bias and directing ability into the field where it will find its best realisation.My greatest regret, nearly thirteen years after the passing of that Act, and when I recall the high hopes of those of us responsible for promoting it, is that today failure to get into a grammar school is regarded as an intellectual and social stigma. While that attitude remains our great skilled occupations will not get a sufficient recruitment of the best brains to enable them to fulfil their part in the economic and social life of the country.
The hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) expressed his great 732 regard for examinations. I have none—I have passed too many of them. The trouble with some of my colleagues in the teaching profession is that they, too, have made their way by the trick of passing examinations. I am always glad when I see the enlightenment which is steadily coming over them and the fact that, increasingly, there is a lack of faith in the validity of examinations as a test for the future of a child throughout its life. Let us be certain of this: when all is said and done, what happens on that fateful day between the ages of 10 and 11, which is when the examination generally takes place, will determine the future career of the child.
In my day the examination was taken at 13. The Surrey County Council offered 32 places in secondary schools for all the boys in the county, and in 1895 there were 64 entrants. I had the good fortune to be trained at Epsom, and I passed No. 32 on the list. In 1933, nearly forty years later, when I became chairman of the awarding authority, I discovered that No. 33 on the list was three marks behind me. And so the scripture saying was fulfilled,the one shall be taken and the other left.That boy has probably lived an honest life ever since.
I had the advantage, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, of going to school in the constituency that you now represent—had it more been more efficient, someone else would have represented Dorking. There, I was taught in a small class and for the first time I realised what the individual influence of a teacher could be. When I started teaching myself in an old elementary school, I had for my first experience a class of 73 pupils. There were more pupils in that one class than in the whole of the grammar school in which I had been educated. It was called a mixed class—and it generally was. I never had a class during my teaching career which numbered fewer than 55.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West said that he had left the teaching profession. I left it a great deal earlier than he did, forty-three years ago. I hope I left it for the good of the profession in more ways than one. The only time I really felt that I was teaching was on those days when half of my class was away taking woodwork instruction, and I was left with just under 30 pupils, and it was 733 possible to give some individual attention to them. I believe that the first task that confronts us in education today is to reduce the size of classes.
The devotion of the Parliamentary Secretary to his office has been strikingly shown by the attention that he has given to the subject in every one of the several debates we have had on education during the past fortnight. It has really been something of an inspiration to see the hon. Gentleman sitting on the Front Bench opposite—with his shadow growing no less, in spite of the real attention that he has given to the subject. I do not want the hon. Gentleman to think that I am flattering him.
When the present President of the Board of Trade took over the office of Minister of Education in succession to the right hon. Lady the Member for Moss Side (Dame Florence Horsbrugh) I made the mistake of congratulating him, and saying that any change must be for the better. After the disastrous career of the right hon. Gentleman at the Ministry of Education I now wish that I could recall those words, but they stand. So now I am complimenting the Parliamentary Secretary only on his industry and on his willingness to listen. I shall see how the hon. Gentleman applies the lessons contained in what he hears to the task that confronts him before I go any further than that.
We are soon to have a great opportunity of proving how far Her Majesty's Government, and the Ministry of Education in particular, believe in reducing the size of classes, for the "bulge" in the primary schools is now passing fairly rapidly into the secondary schools. If we retain in the primary schools the same number of teachers as we now have, there will be an automatic reduction in the size of the classes there. With my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. D. Howell), I still regard the primary school as the most important part of the education service.
One of the greatest educational institutions this world has ever seen—the Society of Jesus—said that if it had children till they were eight years of age, it did not mind who had them afterwards. It is in those early years which are spent in the primary schools that one can rouse or lull to sleep the inquiring 734 mind, the scientific approach and all the other attributes that we desire in the generations of the future.
When I was in the United States recently, I was asked what we were doing about technological education, with which the Americans are as much concerned as we are. I think I rather shocked the broadcasting expert who was questioning me when I said that we cannot really deal with this subject until we have so reorganised the teaching in our primary and secondary schools that we may have at 18 years of age a much larger number of people who have had a training throughout their educational career that fits them for the higher load that it is now proposed to put on them.
While I do not want to say anything that would delay the expansion that we are now promised in technical colleges, and so on, I hope we shall realise that it is not at 18 that one finds the technologists. It is not even at the age of 11. It is from the moment that the child enters the school and comes into the community in which his individuality should be given the opportunities to expand on natural lines.
A social stigma should not be attached to the child who prefers the practical things rather than the purely academic and who finds in inquiry and in a reluctance to accept the dogmas of the teacher an intellectual stimulus quite equal to that of the child who, in the realm of words and figures, can live a life of his own, fitting in, quite rightly, for advanced courses of an academic kind in the universities. I hope that it will not be believed that there is a conflict between these two. Some people are suited for an academic life. Others are suited for a life in which the practical application of the generalisations picked up in the academic field can be made with advantage to the individual and to themselves.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West is an incurable optimist. He thinks that we will be able to get a sufficient supply of teachers by 1961. Like all prophets, however, he was very careful not to give us the basis on which he made that assertion.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
If my right hon. Friend reads the Report of the National Advisory Council on the Training and 735 Supply of Teachers, he will find that that is the basis on which I have put my argument.
§ Mr. Ede
I have written too many reports myself to be impressed by any report produced like that out of an hon. Member's inside pocket.
Let us examine the situation. At present, we labour under the disadvantage that we are educating children of years of high birth rates by teachers from years of low birth rates. There is, therefore, at the moment, an exaggeration of the size of classes. These years of high birth rates will not, however, be followed by years of the low birth rates from which we are now recruiting teachers.
The child born in 1945 will become 18 years of age and eligible to enter a training college in 1963. That is when he or she begins the training college career. Those children will leave the training college with, I hope, a three-year training, as the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) said, in integration in a university. From then onwards, we shall be getting the benefit in the teaching profession of successive years of high birth rates coming out to deal with years of lower birth rates than those from which the teachers have been recruited. We shall then have, I hope, an opportunity really of tackling this question of the size of classes.
I utter this word of warning, because I do not want us now to create the kind of feeling that will regard what is inevitable in 1961 as being a falsification of hopes and prophecies that are now being made. By all means let us get as many teachers as we can. I think there ought to be more available. I hope there will be more women available. One of the astounding things to an old teacher like myself—using the word biologically rather than in the way that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West uses it—is the fact that the trouble now is to get women teachers.
In all my early days, the trouble was to get men teachers. Women teachers were produced in such numbers that some of them had to go off to be shop assistants because there were not vacancies enough for them in the schools after they had been trained. Now, however, with the gradual widening of the oppor- 736 tunities for women in all sorts of professions that were not open to them before, the recruitment of women to the teaching profession has become a difficulty which was certainly never contemplated a few years ago.
I want to say just a few words about the vexed question of the comprehensive school. I hope that I have said enough to indicate that I think the whole of our educational system is, by mere force of circumstances, now in an experimental stage. I do not want to dogmatise concerning what is the best form of organisation in any part of the country. Fortunately, this country is so diverse in the spread of its population that any effort to dogmatise on one particular form or organisation will always be beaten by the infinite complexities of the demands that the spread of the population will make on it.
I want to see every part of the secondary school service held equally in honour. I want to pay my tribute to the work which is being done in the secondary modern schools, particularly in the areas of authorities who allow a grammar school stream to be formed inside the secondary modern school. It has been a matter of infinite satisfaction to myself that, during the last few weeks, I have been able to get a lad, educated in a secondary modern school, who had won a county major scholarship, admitted to my own college at Cambridge.
I hope that the opportunity will be given to pupils in secondary modern schools, who have the ability to get such an award, to take it and so to enable other pupils who will follow them to feel that they need not abandon hope of an academic career if they do not manage to get into the grammar school at 11 years of age.
There is a very practical point in the modern philosophy of education. We often hear expressed fears that the technologist and the technician will not bring to the affairs of life the breadth and vision that an academic education is supposed to give. That fear need not worry us too much. I had the great advantage of meeting the senior members of the staff of the great Massachusetts Institute of Technology which is, I believe with one exception, the biggest—I do not say the greatest —technological institute in the world. Its staff is concerned to see that in giving 737 these highly trained technologists the full equipment for the part they expect to play in life they also receive a general education that will bring to their minds, and, I hope, to their actions, the best fruits of an academic training.
I hope that those who will specialise on the academic side will get similar opportunities of appreciating what scientific and technical training will bring. They will have to live their lives in a scientific and technical atmosphere for which they should have had preparation in the educational course they have been pursuing.
I again express my pleasure, which I know is shared by everyone on this side of the House, at the assiduous way in which the Parliamentary Secretary has attended a very full course of educational discussion in the House during the past fortnight. These are matters of high controversy which will not all be settled in our lifetime. To dogmatise too soon will be to thwart the best of the opportunities that lie ahead of us. I plead with the Parliamentary Secretary, and, through him, with the Minister of Education, to recognise that merely to say, "There will not be any cuts in this expanding service during the next few years" is not enough. Education is an expanding service; it is bound to expand as the "bulge" passes through the secondary schools and into the institutions of further education. Therefore, merely not to cut will still be to thwart and to distort.
I hope that the Minister will get from his contact with this great service the enthusiasm which will make him realise that that would be a great crime against future generations.
§ 1.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)
I should like to join those who have thanked my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) for giving us this opportunity for another useful discussion on education. I have also very much enjoyed listening to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). Out of his vast experience as teacher and administrator my right hon. Friend always has words of wisdom and encouragement to give us in a debate on education. I very much appreciated the opportunity of listening to him.
738 I wish to deal with an aspect of education which some hon. Members have touched upon and which was, in part, the subject of debate a fortnight ago. The debate was then so closely linked with the atomic energy programme that many aspects of scientific education were missed out, and the overall picture of Britain's technical future and of the people who will run it was not adequately dealt with. I will therefore restrict my remarks to that aspect of the matter.
The first difficulty which confronts us when we try to understand the technical manpower problems is a formidable one; it is that we have so little fact upon which to go. It is not only necessary to look to the future of scientific training: to ascertain how many people can be trained: it is essential to know where we are now. That seems to be an indispensable preliminary in undertaking any journey. Unfortunately we do not know where we are at the present time. The facts and figures are not available.
Statistics relating to technical colleges and to courses of that kind held elsewhere are collected at the end of the educational year and then have to be collated by the Ministry of Education. The result is that when we try to assess the progress that is being made we are dealing with statistics often two years old. That is particularly so in relation to sandwich courses and to courses of advanced technology, on which I asked questions recently.
I have had some correspondence with the Parliamentary Secretary on this matter. I know that he is not satisfied with the position. His own phrase, used in a letter to me and in a debate, is that the Ministry is very much like a man looking up a train in last year's Bradshaw. That has very serious consequences when we are trying to form estimates of whether we are likely to meet the requirements of scientific manpower in the future. We cannot make an intelligent use of resources and apply the inducements that may have to be used in particular directions unless we can overhaul the statistical machinery of the Ministry.
I have gathered from replies to Parliamentary Questions that there is only one statistician in the Ministry of Education. It is true that he is assisted by thirty or forty other people, but in a service like 739 education depends very much upon the calculation of probabilities in all forms of education apart from science, and much of the accounting and financial processess depend upon accurate knowledge now. There should be a radical reform in the statistical branch of the Ministry of Education. That is an indispensable beginning for better and quicker appreciation of educational problems.
I wish to base myself upon the main conclusion in the Report which was issued from the office of the Lord President of the Council and the Ministry of Labour and National Service on Scientific and Engineering Manpower in Great Britain. That Report says, in paragraph 56:At the national level, the conclusion that over the next ten to fifteen years we should aim at an annual figure of 'graduations' in pure and applied science of about 20,000, as compared with 10,000 today, is a statement of the minimum goal which needs to be achieved if the economy is to grow at an acceptable rate. If the universities and technical colleges can achieve more, so much the better. We are reluctant to believe that less could be accepted as a target.That was the conclusion of those who studied this matter with great care, set out in the Report issued in 1956. They said that in the next decade we must have an output of graduates in pure science and allied subjects of 20,000 a year, or double the present number. I want to ask some questions about the extent to which we are meeting that objective, and what is being done about it.
First, I should like to know whether or not the wastage of suitable pupils from schools is continuing at the same rate as it was in 1953, when we had the Report upon early leaving. The House will remember that that Report indicated that about 50 per cent. of children in the advanced courses did not stay on to complete the course. Those numbers were very considerable. There were about 5,000 girls and 5,000 boys in 1953. It is not certain that all those, even if they had stayed on, would have been successful in completing a scientific course, but the Report went on to say that 2,900 boys and 1,300 girls showed that they were competent to have followed scientific and mathematical courses had they stayed at school. I am under the impression that the wastage is not quite as great as it was in 1953, but I 740 have not been able to obtain any relevant statistics to show whether or not this improvement is real.
Moreover, there must be further inducements to enable people to stay on at school beyond the minimum leaving age. In part, that is undoubtedly bound up with the question of maintenance grants. I have been very impressed by the series of articles in the Observer dealing with family budgets and with the financial difficulties of keeping children on in the sixth form. At present, it is very clear that for many parents in various income groups extreme difficulties are experienced in keeping their children at school to the age of 18, particularly if there is more than one child in the family.
I want to quote from one letter which seems to me to be typical. A headmaster writes:I have had several pupils who showed aptitude for becoming future technologists, but who left without entering the sixth form. Their parents, although not destitute, could not face the heavy expense of feeding and clothing them for a further two or three years at school. I am sure that the provision of grants for sixth-form pupils would make it possible for many able boys and girls to undertake advanced studies leading to scientific or engineering careers.That is very relevant to another matter. According to an Answer given in the House on 28th February a working party set up by the Ministry of Education has reported upon the subject of maintenance grants, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary can tell us when we shall be likely to get that Report. I naturally hope that it will contain some information which will give encouragement to parents who want to keep their children at school, and that it will make a contribution to lessening the wastage of pupils which had reached such alarming proportions as shown by the 1953 Report.
§ Sir E. Boyle
Perhaps I can clear up that point now. The hon. Member is quite right. A Ministry of Education working party has gone into the whole question of maintenance allowances. The Report is now being considered by the Ministry and it will be published fairly shortly. I am afraid that I cannot say more than that today.
§ Mr. Skeffington
I am very grateful for that information, and I look forward to reading the Report.
741 A second aspect of the problem arises in connection with teachers of science and mathematics. When I was looking into this problem two years ago it seemed that in England and Wales we needed to recruit about 1,000 of these teachers each year. We were getting only about 600 a year then, so that there was a fairly big gap. Even today I understand that about 120 advertised posts in grammar schools for teachers of science and mathematics are not filled and have remained unfilled for a considerable time.
If that is still the situation, and there is this very big gap between the minimum requirements and the actual numbers of teachers in these subjects, it looks as though the whole objective of getting 20,000 graduates a year is bound to fall down. Sir Alexander Todd has estimated that there will be a 10 per cent. shortage of science teachers in 1961, assuming that classes remain the same size. If that is the true picture we should be told, because it may be necessary completely to revise the objective. It is clear that we shall not get the 20,000.
Even if the wastage in the number of pupils who could profitably take the courses leading to a degree is not large, will university places be available for them? If one looks at some of the relevant figures one sees that the position is very disquieting. The present resident undergraduate population at the universities, taking the three years together, is about 71,000. It seems that in each year, in the last three years, about one-thirtieth of those born in the same year gained entry to universities. They are not, of course, all scientists; these figures are in respect of undergraduates in all courses. If, in the 1960's, when the bulge will be reaching the universities, we have only the same proportion of one-thirtieth, we shall find that in 1964 the number of undergraduates will be 31,000; in 1965 it will be 34,000, and in 1966 it will be 30,000.
I wonder whether the universities will be able to accommodate a resident population of 90,000 undergraduates, 20,000 more than now. At all events, it is a very considerable expansion upon the present figures. I am not talking about post-graduate courses. However, even if the universities can accommodate them, only about 40 per cent. of those graduates 742 will be taking science and mathematics courses. If universities are able to take in this very much larger number of undergraduates coming forward, in 1964 only about 12,700 will be engaged in science and mathematics; in 1965—the peak year—there will be 13,800 and in 1966 about 12,000.
I am perturbed about that because even if we assume that we shall get another 5,000 graduates from technical colleges and by means of part-time study, we are still short of the 20,000 science graduates referred to in the Report. Furthermore, assumptions are that the numbers that I have given will all stay the course. We know that that will not be the case. It has been estimated that for every two who complete a course there is one who does not. It is certain that not all of them will pass their examinations. There is, therefore, a considerable doubt whether, even if universities can make provision for these very large numbers, we shall get anywhere near the desirable proportion.
At present, about 0.9 per cent. of our working population are trained scientists and technologists. The figure for the United States is 2 per cent., and it is estimated that in the Soviet Union the figure is 10 per cent. It seems to me that we are falling behind in the proportion of our people who will have to do this skilled work if we are to survive as a prosperous Power. Our deficiency is reflected in the statement made by the Minister of Education a few weeks ago, when comparing in common measure the amount spent on all forms of education by the three countries I have mentioned. He showed that in 1953 the Russians were spending 80 gold dollars per head of their population, the Americans 56 gold dollars per head and ourselves only 26 gold dollars per head.
I therefore suggest that if we apply all the tests it becomes clear, first, that we must allot much more of our natural resources and devote a higher proportion of the national income to education; and, secondly, that we must see that every inducement is given to pupils to stay at school and to the universities to be able to meet the demands of the greater numbers of young students for the future.
I very much hope that we shall be given some indication by the Parliamentary Secretary as to what progress we 743 are making to the target. It is clear that, whatever other hazards we may overcome, if we cannot provide the right proportion of trained scientific man power the outlook for our future prosperity is gloomy.
§ 2.12 p.m.
§ Mr. A. E. Hunter (Feltham)
After listening to so many hon. Members who belong to the teaching profession, I feel like an English Member of Parliament coming into the Chamber on a Scottish day. My contribution to the debate will, therefore, be very strictly from a lay point of view.
One of the great needs of the times, which is especially mentioned in the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), is to expand the technical education services, to improve staffing arrangements and the equipment and organisation of education. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West is an expert on many questions. I have listened to him on temperance, and I do not always agree with him; I have listened to him on peace and international affairs, and I always agree with him; and I have listened to him on education, and I know that he is an expert on that subject.
I have heard hon. Members from the teaching profession speak on finance, economics, international affairs, foreign trade and education; and judging by the number of Members who come from the teaching profession, and from their speeches, I am strengthened in my opinion that there is not much wrong with the intelligence of the teaching profession today. I have a very high opinion of teachers, whom I have met in many walks of life
Sometimes I have met them when they have brought to Westminster scholars of about 15 years of age, to go through the Houses of Parliament, and I have been struck by the great knowledge which these scholars have of the history of the Houses of Parliament and of the way in which Parliamentary business is conducted. It has strengthened my belief that teachers must go to enormous trouble when they teach history to boys and girls. Anything we can do, therefore, to improve the living standards of teachers will, I am sure, always get the support of the majority of hon. Members.
744 I did not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. D. Howell) when he said that surroundings are not important. I believe that surroundings are important. We do not want slum schools any more than we want slum towns. There are in my constituency, which is in Middlesex, modern schools like the Lalfone School, at Feltham, and the Woodfield Road School, in Cranford. I know what modern schools mean to the child of today. They are well designed, with large glass windows, and are tastefully decorated, with large assembly halls, and they all help to create the atmosphere which surrounds a child's mind at an age when it can be moulded by its surroundings. Moreover, it is better for the teachers and it gives them more encouragement in their work to teach in a good school than in some of the gloomy schools which I knew in my youth. Let the schools be real temples of learning.
§ Mr. Pitman
I take it that the hon. Member means an up-to-date school and not a modern school, because there are many modern schools which, I believe, the Minister hopes very much to improve.
§ Mr. Hunter
I mean the new modern schools, those built in the post-war years, architect-designed, light and airy and of a very high standard. I urge the Minister, in conjunction with local education authorities, to get rid of the old slum schools as soon as possible. I know that it cannot be done at once, but we should go on building new modern schools such as we have in some parts of Middlesex.
I am also interested in the work done in the development of the child's mind. I once heard a debate between two people one of whom was arguing that he would rather have an intelligent man than an educated man. In arguing for the intelligent man he put up a very strong case indeed. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to make a note that intelligence is necessary to be developed in a child, and I therefore hope that children will be encouraged to read many books, because one can obtain great knowledge by reading books. One can also help to develop the mind and intelligence by painting and by handwork. I hope that those points will be borne in mind.
745 May I also stress the importance of the sports and games part of our education system? I am a great believer in sport. For a boy to play cricket, or football, or to swim, or for a girl to play netball, or hockey, creates good sportsmanship, and, in my opinion, whatever his walk of life, in the House of Commons, local government, the factory or the workshop, good sportsmanship helps in the way a person conducts the ordinary affairs of life. I very much hope that that point will be stressed.
One of the great signs of the day is that parents, whether industrial workers or non-manual workers, all want to give their children a better chance. The miner, the factory worker, the shop worker and the engineer all say, "We want our child to have a better chance in life than we had." I imagine that that is the point of view of 99 per cent. of the parents of this country.
People make great sacrifices to give their children a good start in life. Therefore, however much Parliament may discuss many matters, education is important. We are looking forward to seeing less money being spent on defence. That should give the opportunity to make money available to those who are anxious to expand our education system. In the modern world we want an educated, intelligent democracy, realising its responsibilities as well as its rights. Anything that the House of Commons can do to give young people a start in life, and a better education than the boys and girls of my age received, is of the greatest importance.
I urge the Minister to do all he possibly can in this respect, for equal opportunities in education can lead to the intelligent, educated democracy that many of us desire.
§ 2.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Syduey Irving (Dartford)
Quite recently an otherwise distinguished headmaster of one of our better-known public schools said,More nonsense is being talked about education than ever before. Do not believe a word said about education unless it is said by those who are practising it, especially not from Members of Parliament.I am sure that we would not claim that we have a monopoly of sense or of nonsense, but I suggest that if the gentleman 746 concerned would read today's debate its standard of excellence might persuade him to withdraw his remarks and think better of us.
I want to refer to the question of financing education through the block grant. That is causing considerable anxiety among teachers' organisations, education committees and others, for a number of reasons. The first is that because education is an expanding service a block grant cannot be sufficiently flexible to keep pace with that necessary expansion which must go on for many years. If we are to achieve even the minimum standards of the Education Act, 1944, we have a further twenty years' work ahead. The extraordinary thing is that in the White Paper on local government finance, the Government have excluded two services from the block grant system, presumably on the ground that they are expanding services and will need the sort of treatment that education needs in the future. They are roads and higher technological education.
Even in my constituency, which caters for 20,000 children, even in Kent, which has one of the most progressive authorities in the country, and in the area of one of the best divisional executives, we have a deplorable state of affairs. We have black-list schools in the rural area, and a considerable need for further new secondary school building. Only 13 per cent. of our children are able to get into grammar schools and only 8 per cent. into technical schools. In present conditions it would require a further 60 places to make up the 25 per cent. laid down by the former Minister as the reasonable limit for admission to these types of schools. The fact that we are faced with the prospect of a 25 per cent. increase in the school population going into secondary schools in the next two years shows how difficult our problems are.
There is another reason why we should not change the system of financing. We have neglected the teaching profession and its status and particularly its salaries. There are two major reasons for that. One is that there is already such a heavy burden on local funds in the education service. In my own county, which is very progressive, the net expenditure on education is already over half of the total net expenditure of the 747 county council. In the past ten years we have been living in a period in which there has been the effect of the impetus of a world war and the drive that that gives to education but, as we recede from that war and the impetus, we shall find increasing pressure being exerted against expenditure. I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) is not in his place, but I have to say that I was dismayed that he should be so wary and cautious about the need for spending more on education.
The very fact that we are likely to increase the burden on the local authorities—and I am all for giving them greater discretion—will mean that an unhealthy searchlight will be directed on education. Those who want to attack education will be able to point to the increasing disparity between the amount spent on education and the amount spent on other services. That is an unhealthy state of affairs which is likely to continue in the future. I do not impugn motives in the desire to make a change, but I urge the responsible Minister to be well aware of the dangers that are implicit in any change of this sort and, if possible, not to go in that direction but to reverse the process and take some of the burden from the local authorities.
I should like to see the salaries of teachers paid for from the central Exchequer. I know that many of my ex-colleagues and hon. Friends worry very much about that. I believe that, in matters of salaries, local government officers and the Civil Service have done better since the war than the teachers have done with the Burnham machinery and the present structure.
The Minister takes credit for an increase of £ 5 million in the present building programme, but if we achieve an expenditure of £ 55 million this year we shall not have reached what was done in 1955–56. In other words, we are not expanding education and undertaking all the building that is necessary.
The other day, the Minister claimed for his party the credit for reducing the cost of school places. We should welcome that reduction if it meant that it had been achieved by improved methods of working, the use of better materials and a whole host of other factors, but we are inclined to think that some of the schools 748 which are now being built are only a shadow of those which were built a year or two ago, and that in some respects the reduction in cost per place has been achieved by reducing space and amenity. That is a great pity. We hope that these schools will stand for many decades to come. It is a pity that we should now restrict ourselves in that way. Above all, it is certain that in the future many education authorities, even with the present cost per place, will find difficulty in keeping within the limit, and indeed some are already finding it impossible.
It is only in recent years that the need for research has become evident in the teaching profession and in education generally. An examination of the bookshelves in the House of Commons Library, or Black well's "Thesis on education", shows that in a profession of 240,000 people the amount of research done is very limited indeed. It is expanding and I welcome that, but I should like to see a much closer link between the schools and the institutes of education and the expansion of research by some institutes which have rot yet got under way.
I should like to see a closer link between the institutes of education, the universities and the teacher-training colleges, and to have some sort of university professional qualification in education established. It would not be creating a precedent, because professional training is already going on in the universities. We have the medical schools and so on, and I should like to see teaching fitted into that pattern and not have the situation which prevails at present in London, where provision is made in relation to a master's degree but not in connection with a bachelor's degree. I should like to see this new training qualification fitted into that pattern, so as to encourage all the people who go into teaching to regard their job not only as the practice of teaching but as the continuous consideration of all the problems involved, as a continuing process, bound up with their work and helped by the advice of the people in the universities.
I want to pay tribute to the National Foundation for Educational Research which in the last few years has done a great deal of valuable work. Some very controversial issues have been raised by 749 it, which I will not go into now. I also want to congratulate the retiring director, Professor Morris, on his work in directing that organisation, and I wish him well in his new appointment. I also welcome the new director, Dr. Wall.
I have said that the Foundation has made useful reports. I want to refer now especially to the recent report on intelligence and attainment because I feel that much of the comment outside about what has been said in the House on these matters has been a little misinformed. I will not put it more strongly than that. By testing a wide range of children the National Foundation for Educational Research has made what it regards as a startling new discovery, namely, that the relation between intelligence and attainment is different from what it has been held to be throughout the last twenty-five years; in fact that there are as many children with attainment quotients above their intelligence scores as there are below them.
We can get a great deal of harmless and gentle amusement by watching the giants of the educational world, particularly educational psychologists, beating each other over the head. I do not want to make the work of the National Foundation in this matter more difficult, but we ought to say to the giants that they should resolve this point quickly, because what they say today the teaching profession acts upon tomorrow. I will not say that there are not a number of perspicacious teachers who have known for some time what has now become obvious to the educational psychologists, but generally speaking their theories seep through only gradually to the teaching profession and are eventually acted upon.
I have felt for some time that whatever the value of the intelligence test—and I do not deny that they have a value—they |act as something of a strait-jacket in shackling the approach to education. So I am happy to see that in some way this stranglehold has been loosened a little. I believe that the teachers have accepted what the educational psychologists are supposed to have been saying, that when everything is properly in balance intelligence and attainment are equal and that remedial teaching is required only when attainment is less than intelligence.
Loosening the grip of intelligence tests on education will do a great deal of 750 good. It is easy for the teaching profession and others to get the idea that, as one cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, the capacity of the backward children is so limited that one need not put the whole force and drive of the educational system behind remedial teaching to lift them up the scale.
I hope that the process of this research will remind us once again that, whatever intelligence tests tell us, there is in every one of us an almost limitless capacity for being stimulated by the finer ideals and influences in our civilisation; in other words, that there are more important things than academic attainment, and that the development of character training in our schools is the only way to get balanced technologists or balanced people of any kind, so long as we do not get shackled by the conception that because the measurable intelligence of a man is rather low, he cannot enter fully into the life of the community, and that he cannot respond in terms of loyalty and affection, and all the warmer human qualities of which people are capable.
I believe that the results of all this research will mean in the near future a revolution in remedial teaching and a new attack on illiteracy. I said recently that I do not want to be accused of saying that all our school population is illiterate, but there is still an element, particularly in our modern schools, where a great deal of progress could be made, but we can only make it in the primary schools. Much of the energy and direction in the modern schools is wasted because the time which was most fruitful for doing that work has long since passed.
I welcome what some of my hon. Friends have said today about the need not to neglect the primary school, and to start with remedial work from the very beginning. Therefore, I hope that, when our resources make it possible, we shall start at the bottom, at the primary schools, with better staffing and smaller classes, and I hope that never again will the primary school teacher be regarded by the staff in other schools, or by the general public outside, as an inferior being.
§ 2.36 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education(Sir Edward Boyle)
I rise not in any way to bring the debate to a conclusion, but simply because the hon. Gentleman the Member 751 for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) and the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) have both informed me that, as often happens on a Friday, they are not able to stay until the end of the debate.
We have had an excellent discussion and I am sure that the House is extremely grateful to the hon. Member for Cardiff, West for raising this subject today. A fortnight ago we had a debate on what might have been termed a progress report on technical education. Today, we have been debating the progress of the 1944 Education Act. Certainly, it would not be possible to imagine a more important subject or one which is more worthy of our attention.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) was kind enough to mention that I had spent some hours in recent weeks listening to debates on education. I can assure him that although I may not have given very much useful instruction to the House, and I may not do so today, I have certainly learned a great deal from listening to the debates and have enjoyed them very much. If I may begin with a personal word, the longer I remain at the Ministry of Education the more grateful I shall feel to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for suggesting that I should occupy this post.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, West, and many other hon. Members, mentioned the question of the block grant, and at the outset of my speech I will say a word about it. I cannot go into the details of the proposed new grant system. As the House already knows, they are at present being discussed with representatives of the local authorities. In due course a full statement of the Government's proposals will be published for discussion both in this House and outside, and, of course, that publication and discussion will take place before there can be any question of any legislative changes.
I will, however, venture this afternoon to make three general points. First, the Government fully recognise, as my noble Friend has pointed out on various occasions, that expenditure on education must go on increasing, broadly for the reasons outlined in the Motion. Development, of the education service is an im- 752 portant element in the Government's social and economic policy, and it will remain so.
Secondly, the Government do not propose that the burden of the cost of this development should be borne exclusively by the rates. In fixing the general grant the Government will take account of the need to develop the education service. As I said in reply to a Question three weeks ago, it is the Government's intention that a fair and reasonable balance should be maintained between grants and rate-borne expenditure.
Thirdly, the Government see no reason why the change in the method of calculating grant should affect the apportionment of statutory responsibility between the Minister and the local authorities. There may well have to be certain more or less technical amendments to the Education Acts to take account of the change in the grant system, but the Minister's powers to lay down minimum standards and, in the last resort, to enforce them will remain.
I cannot go further than that this afternoon. I know that the words which I have just uttered will be examined carefully outside the House. I have noted the attention which has been paid outside to Answers given in the House, and that is why I deliberately consulted a very full note when making this statement this afternoon.
I now pass to the supply and training of teachers, to which the hon. Member for Cardiff, West very rightly devoted a considerable part of his speech. In recent years we have inevitably been preoccupied with the very large numbers of children passing through the schools, and with the problem of recruiting enough teachers to meet exceptional demands. None the less, despite this preoccupation with numbers, the National Advisory Council on the Training and Supply of Teachers—and, indeed, successive Ministers—has, throughout these difficult years, kept a clear eye on the importance of quality in the teaching profession, and it has looked ahead to the time and the opportunity for introducing the three-year course. Indeed, the fifth Report of the National Advisory Council, published last year, was entirely devoted to this reform.
I am sure that there is no need whatever to urge the educational case of the 753 three-year course. But I should like to say a few words about the timing; and this leads me to two immediate issues of very great importance, namely, the supply of teachers and the size of classes.
With regard, first, to the supply of teachers, at present we recruit each year into the maintained schools between 14,000 and 15,000 teachers of all kinds. Nearly 4,000 of these teachers are graduates—and I am happy to say that this is a rising figure—while about 2,000 are specialist teachers of one kind or another who are not recruited from the two-year colleges—for example, specialists in art or music. Of course, the recruitment from both these categories— graduates and specialist teachers—would not be directly affected by the introduction of the three-year course. The current output of the two-year teacher training colleges is between 9,000 and 10,000 teachers a year, and this output would naturally fall by a third when the three-year course was introduced.
The annual wastage of teachers through marriage, retirement, and so on, is roughly equal to half of our total recruitment of 14,000 to 15,000 teachers, so that the result at present is, therefore, a net increase in the supply of teachers of about 7,000 a year. We ought to allow for the possibility of wastage increasing in the 1960s, as the teaching force ages. So, to be on the safe side, we are calculating on the basis that the net increase of teachers would, in the absence of the three-year course, be 6,000 a year in the 1960s instead of 7,000.
Our first objective, for some years to come, must be to bring down the size of classes. We have already made a beginning, and the process will continue even between now and the peak of the "bulge" in 1960.
It is quite true that the pressure is shifting from the primary schools to the secondary schools—a fact which presents problems of training and transferring teachers. Even so, our annual net increase of 7,000 teachers a year will have brought an overall improvement by 1961, which I can best express to the House in this way. As I have already tried to show at Question Time we expect that the numbers of children per class in the primary schools will have fallen by 1961 from 34.5 to 31.2, if, at the same time, we maintain the number of 754 pupils per teacher in the secondary schools at 21. We also hope, if given reasonable distribution of teachers to eliminate all junior classes over the regulation maximum of 40 by 1961.
I absolutely agree with all that was said by the right hon. Member for South Shields, the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. D. Howell) and other hon. Members about the importance of the size of classes in the primary school. I know all the anxieties which are felt about what is known as the "vertical transfer" of teachers. It is our belief, however, that if we maintain the pupil-teacher ratio for senior schools at 21 pupils per teacher, we can achieve the reduction in the number of children per class in the primary schools from 34.5 to 31.2 by 1961. I want to make it plain that the elimination of over-sized primary classes is our prime objective, taking priority over even the three-year training course. This must be the first objective at the moment.
It is the sharp decline in the number of children in the schools from 1962 onwards that provides a unique opportunity both in the introduction of the three-year course, and also, at the same time, for a continued improvement in the size of classes.
The fall in the numbers of children in the schools is expected to be about 250,000 in the period between January, 1961, and January, 1967. So, although the effect of introducing the three-year course, on the basis of our existing training college facilities will be to reduce the annual increase in the number of teachers from 7,000 to about 3,000, the House will realise that even this increase, at a time when the school roll is falling sharply, will, in fact, continue to produce a steady improvement in the size of classes.
I can assure the House that my noble Friend is now very carefully considering the date for introducing the longer course. I cannot, however, announce the date this afternoon. If we set the date too early, we shall halt the improvement in the size of classes during the year when no students leave the two-year colleges. On the other hand, if we leave the date too late there is the risk that, in a time of declining school population, there may be difficulty in absorbing the available teachers in the early 1960s. I can assure 755 the House that my noble Friend is giving very close attention to this question at present, and is considering most carefully a choice of dates which will avoid both these difficulties.
I think that I ought also to make it clear—at this point I fear that I shall get rather less universal support in the House—that my noble Friend is thinking in terms of introducing the longer course within the framework of our existing training college facilities, and I should like to add a further word or two about this.
I know very well that our present plant is far from ideal. Some buildings are make-shift and some colleges are too small. There must, in the long term, be a gradual process of rationalising our training resources. But my noble Friend does not think that we should wait to complete this process before introducing the longer course. Furthermore, my noble Friend does not think it necessary or desirable, even if it were practicable, to expand our training colleges in advance of the three-year course being introduced.
Let me make it quite clear that I am most certainly not anticipating the level of class sizes which we may ultimately desire to reach. But the point I wish to emphasise is that our existing facilities, even with the three-year course, can bring about a steady improvement in class sizes during the 1960s; and it is the view of my noble Friend that it would be unwise to add to our training plant now, when it is extremely difficult to predict the rate of absorption of teachers during the years after 1962 when the school population will fall so sharply.
In addition, the increasing flow of graduates into the teaching profession—which is every encouraging—is something else which, naturally, prompts my noble Friend to be cautious in contemplating any expansion in training college facilities.
To conclude this part of my speech, I should like to say this. We shall always remember the 1950s for the very remarkable and faithful way in which the schools and the colleges met the challenge of sheer numbers in our education system. We look to the 1960s for a substantial advance in quality and I have not the least doubt that a more generous period of training and preparation for the future teachers in our schools is the key to an advance in every department of our educational life.
756 The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) and the hon. Member for All Saints referred to the distribution of teachers. I do not want to deal at length with Circular 318 all over again, but the House will remember that the circular called upon local education authorities for a twofold contribution to the problem of distribution: first, the readiness to apply with vigour suitable employment policies; and, secondly, the acceptance of the need to fix their staffing standards by reference to their proper share of the total teaching force. This share has been calculated on the proportion of pupils per full-time teacher in each area.
Authorities with a rather favourable staffing ratio are being asked to make only a small contribution towards meeting the position of the hard-pressed areas, some of which will gain appreciably if the scheme is effective. For example, Bristol is being asked to worsen its pupil-teacher ratio in 1957, only slightly, from 26 to 26.6; Portsmouth, from 25.3 to 25.7; and the East Riding of Yorkshire from 24.1 to 24.5. At the other end of the scale, the scheme aims at improving the position for Hull from 32 to 28; Birmingham, from 31 to 27.6; and Staffordshire, 28.7 to 26.8.
Those are the targets. I cannot give any time limit for Circular 318, because the whole point of the operation was a target, to try to get the teacher-pupil ratio sorted out in such a way as to help those areas which were most hard-pressed.
§ Sir E. Boyle
Most certainly. We will look for the results and we will keep the matter under review.
Before I pass to the organisation of secondary education, which is a very interesting subject, as I have been dealing with the size of schools, perhaps I might say a word about school buildings, because I am now in a position to give the House some rather more precise figures than I was able to give the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) a fortnight ago.
The labour force employed on educational building rose from a little under 40,000 at the end of December, 1955, to 757 just short of 50,000 in December last year. This very welcome trend, together with the greater concentration of work on outstanding projects, has increased the amount of work done in the first nine months of the financial year just ended to £ 58.1 million, compared with only £ 44.8 million in the first nine months of the previous financial year.
Furthermore, I ask the House to consider the value of projects actually completed during these same two periods. During the first nine months of the financial year 1955–56, the figure was £ 29.1 million, but in the first nine months of the financial year just ended it was £ 37.4 million. Of course, it is those figures which are the vital ones when one is considering how much new accommodation is ready for occupation and use. Moreover, the greater concentration of work on outstanding projects has not meant any drastic delay in starts on new projects.
It looks as though we shall hit our target of £ 55 million for starts in the whole financial year 1956–57. This compares with about £ 58 million for starts in 1955–56 and only £ 44 million and £ 45 million in the two previous years.
Finally, the postponement of starts and the increase in work done in the financial year just completed has meant that work outstanding appears to have been stabilised around £ 70 million. I have always understood from the planning section of the Treasury that 15 months' outstanding work was quite a reasonable amount.
§ Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)
Do those figures take account of such things as increased building costs in that period?
§ Sir E. Boyle
These are gross figures. They are not 1954 factor cost figures, but actual figures for the expenditure in the years in question. Even so, I think that they bear out the point I was making. I draw attention to the increase of projects actually completed, from £ 29.1 million in the first nine months of the financial year 1955–56, to £ 37.4 million in the first nine months of the financial year just ended.
I am quite sure that we should not have achieved these satisfactory figures, in particular the increased labour force employed on educational building, if the 758 Government had not used certain unpopular measures, like the credit squeeze and the tighter control on borrowing, to relieve the excessive pressure on our resources and, to some extent, canalise them for more essential purposes. I believe that the rephasing of the school building programme, which was so severely criticised at the time, has been fully justified by the results achieved.
I want to reply to the points made by the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Sydney Irving), who said that he thought that we were cutting new schools too near the bone. The reduction in cost per school place is something which has continued under more than one Government and I would certainly not wish to claim that the whole credit for that reduction should be borne by the existing Government. Successive Ministers since 1949 have taken part in that campaign.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I do not think that any hon. Member who has visited any of the fine new schools which have been opened recently will feel that there has been any skimping in our educational standards. It is the sincere belief of the Ministry that we have been getting better and better value for money, without sacrificing any essential standards, and I think that that view would be held by anybody seeing any of the new schools now being opened.
§ Mr. Dugdale
I am concerned not about new schools, but about the repairs for schools already in existence. I am given to understand that they are not of the same standard.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned that. My answer is that it would be a great mistake to suppose that when we have got over the "bulge" we will be able to afford to relax over school building, because there will then be the all important task of net investment, of bringing up our rate of net investment in school building, and improving and rebuilding many of the country's old schools. The fact that our educational system has grown up so haphazardly, means that there is a great deal of work to be done in school building, even when the "bulge" has been surmounted.
§ Mr. Dugdale
The amount of money allowed to local authorities is such that the authorities are having to use second-rate materials for ordinary repairs, because they are not allowed enough money to do the best repairs.
§ Sir E. Boyle
If the right hon. Member has any particular points about materials which he would like to bring to my notice, I will consider them.
Finally, I come to the organisation of secondary education. This is a subject which really deserves a Ministerial speech entirely to itself. I am very glad we are discussing it today, because for my part I have no doubt that there is more widespread national concern over this subject today than ever before. I entirely agree with hon. Members that the present system of selection causes a great deal of anxiety in many quarters, and it would be both foolish and wrong simply to remain content with it. What we have to do is to keep on thinking how to improve it.
Let me first say a word about the familiar criticisms of what has come to be known—not really quite accurately— as the 11-plus examination. I agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds. South-East that perhaps the 11-plus examination in itself has attracted disproportionate attention. I will deal with some of the more familiar criticisms.
I am not going to say much about its accuracy. As the House will know—and as the hon. Member for Dartford, in his interesting speech, reminded us—any amount of expert thought has gone into techniques of testing, I suspect that most of the tests used today are as accurate as any tests could reasonably be expected to be. Of course, no system of testing could be 100 per cent. accurate and I do not think anyone would wish to advance such a claim.
I am much more concerned about the effects of the 11-plus examination on the primary schools. Some heads of primary schools can get the majority of parents to see that children will not be better off in the long run if the primary school curriculum is upset in the hope of getting just a few more pupils to the grammar school, but, naturally, many heads feel that they must make concessions to the feelings of parents. Where that happens 760 the prospect of the 11-plus examination does cast its shadow over the classroom, often with a rather evil effect.
There are certain ways of getting over this. Some authorities have experimented with selection methods which give greater weight to teachers' opinions, and for my part I welcome these experiments warmly. So, I know, does my noble Friend, but, of course, anxiety over the 11-plus examination often strikes a great: deal deeper than this and is really concerned with the principle of selection itself. Quite apart from the feelings of parents, I should be the last to wish to skate over the wider social implications and disadvantages of our present system.
More than one hon. Member has referred to inequalities in the number of children sent to grammar schools in various parts of the country. The hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East referred to that in her speech. I would like to point out here that we do take due notice of that at the Ministry and do what we can. The three areas in England where the proportion of selective places was less than 15 per cent. were Nottingham, Salford and Gateshead. In Nottingham, a three-form entry grammar school, which was included in the 1954–55 programme, is expected to be completed by July this year and there is a further three-form entry grammar school in the present 1956–57 programme. In both Salford and Gateshead, four-form entry grammar schools have been opened since the last figures were compiled.
It is important to add together the grammar school places and technical school places. My noble Friend has said on a number of occasions that he considers the percentage of grammar and technical school places combined should normally be somewhere between 15 per cent. and 25 per cent. Building programmes are framed with that objective in mind. As I fully realise, that is not the whole story because it is only too true, as many observers have pointed out, that a person's social status and the salary he is able to command may be vastly influenced by whether or not he just succeeded in achieving selection for grammar school education at the critical age. That is absolutely true.
I do not want to embark this afternoon on the highly important, but controversial, subject of the dangers of an "élite class," 761 about which much has been written, but I may say this—because I think it is important that it should be said—that I should not wish myself to see a disproportionate share of authority in our society in the hands of men and women, however highly educated and however high-minded, whose thoughts and feelings were very remote from the thoughts and the feelings of the majority of their fellow citizens.
Having said all that—I hope that the House will forgive me for approaching these highly important questions as factually and honestly as I can—I should like to emphasise that there simply must be selection in our educational system. I just do not see how we can get away from that. I believe that it would be entirely defeatist to suggest that we cannot reconcile the need for selection with the wider goal of greater equality of opportunity. After all, children obviously vary in their capacity for learning and selection just cannot be postponed until after school. Children must learn different things at school and this cannot depend simply on their parents' or on their own choice, but must depend to a large extent on their capacities as well. To put the point in its simplest terms, one cannot effectively teach most subjects to a group of children ranging from the brightest to the dullest, and this becomes truer and truer as children get older.
Hitherto in this country, children have mostly been sorted out not only within schools, but between schools, and the result is that in most areas we have a well-established system of schools catering mainly for two levels of ability. There are the grammar schools and the technical schools which, broadly speaking, cater for the top 25 per cent. of children, and the secondary modern schools which cater for the remainder.
The question which many people are asking today is whether we should scrap this system to avoid the evils of selection. I personally believe that this is a wrong question to ask, because I do not think that it could possibly be sensible to aim at a uniform system throughout the country. The hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East said that the 11-plus examination had never been planned, but the whole of our education system has never been planned. As I say, it has grown up piecemeal, and I believe that 762 to aim at any uniform system could not possibly be sensible. We must start from the position we are now in and use the schools that now exist.
For example, our large cities all contain several well-established grammar schools, and it would obviously be a very serious decision to interfere with them. Already, other kinds of schools are growing up beside them. Many of these have already become established and are working well. More and more are growing up as school building develops and the population grows. There may well be room for new types of schools alongside the existing schools, but I should find it very difficult to be persuaded that it would be right to disturb the existing schools if they are doing well.
I should have thought that it would be better here to accept selection and to remedy its disadvantages by providing in all types of schools opportunities for work beyond the school-leaving age and, where appropriate, the transfer to other schools offering different types of courses.
Of course, the position is different in a sparsely-populated country district which can only with difficulty support a small grammar school, or perhaps two small grammar schools, for boys and girls. There is certainly a case here for amalgamation either of two grammar schools, if their combined size is big enough, or of a grammar and other forms of secondary education within the rural equivalent of a comprehensive school. I can well believe that a school of this kind might make a better contribution to the needs of a country district than a series of smaller schools.
Then there are a few new areas whose secondary education can be planned from scratch. I am, of course, thinking in particular of new housing estates on the outskirts of our big cities. Of course, these areas have considerably greater freedom of choice as to whether they will abandon selection between schools and bring children together in a comprehensive way, or sort them out into schools of different types.
I should be very sorry if any central authority tried to force them to adopt one solution or the other as a matter of doctrinaire principle, and I can assure 763 the House that my noble Friend will consider proposals for comprehensive schools with an open mind and on their merits, though he will naturally wish to know the educational grounds on which the proposal is justified.
My own doubts about comprehensive schools, which are considerable, really have nothing to do with any political preconceptions. I honestly believe that it is only a very exceptional headmaster or headmistress who can make a success of an enormously big school. Of course, I have in mind here the town schools which are deliberately planned to be as large as possible in order to cover the full range of educational opportunity with streams of a reasonable size.
Several hon. Members have mentioned Eton today. I believe that this analogy with Eton is very questionable for a number of reasons. First, some of the schools are considerably bigger than Eton—1,500 or 2,000 pupils as opposed to just over 1,000 at Eton. Secondly, Eton, as my hon. Friend for Bath (Mr. Pitman) correctly said, is not a comprehensive school, but a selective grammar school. Thirdly, it is a boarding school, and, indeed, a boarding school of a special kind, with groups of 40 to 45 boys closely integrated into houses. Finally, a very important point indeed, one of the things that makes Eton as fine a school as I as an old pupil, honestly believe it to be is, of course, its very lavish staffing, the fact that it has a very high proportion of staff to pupils.
I think that, for all these reasons, to draw this very close analogy between Eton and the kind of comprehensive school which I have been talking about is rather questionable. Furthermore, and this is also an important point, I think that most educationists would agree about the difficulty of achieving really top class sixth form work in a comprehensive school.
I can best sum up the position by saying that no one, in my view, ought to be in the least complacent about present methods of selection, but that it would be equally mistaken to exaggerate the possibilities of the comprehensive school as a solution. In any case, the plain fact is that we could not, even if we wished to do so, overturn the whole system and start a new one. We must never lose 764 sight of local needs, and I believe that there is very wide scope for local experiment. Above all, one needs to keep an open mind, and I can promise the House faithfully that my noble Friend and I will most certainly do so.
The passion for education has, I believe, never been so great in this country as it is today. All sections of society recognise that it is the key to our national future. The demand for education, not only within the statutory age limits but far beyond them, is constantly growing and constantly exceeds our estimates. We want, as much as we can, to encourage children to stay on at school beyond the compulsory leaving age. I said a fortnight ago, in a debate on technological education, that we should all do all we can to encourage closer links between the secondary schools and the technical colleges.
I would conclude my speech by reminding the House of the very wise words of the nineteenth century philosopher John Stuart Mill, who, at the end of his "Essay on Liberty", said:The worth of a State in the long run Is the worth of the individuals composing it.
§ 3.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
I join with others who have spoken in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) on the Motion which he has put before us today. My hon. Friend did not, it is true, actually manage to get into the wording of his Motion, comprehensive as it is, any reference to West Bromwich Albion, but even that neglect on his part did not inhibit those hon. Members who wished to introduce that topic.
§ Sir E. Boyle
Perhaps I might explain on that point that the constituencies of the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale), the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. D. Howell) and myself all converge on the West Bromwich Albion ground., which explains our interest in this matter.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am obliged to the hon. Baronet.
The Motion has drawn from the Parliamentary Secretary what is really a very important statement about future educational policy, some parts of which I think we shall all welcome, and some parts of 765 which are bound to cause anxiety, but I shall have to develop that point further in the course of what I have to say. The Motion mentions—the growth in the number of children of school age and the need for higher standards …That is to say, it points out that we need to have an expanding service, and consequently an expansion in the amount of money required in every direction. The Motion goes on to refer to the future form of local government finance, and that brings me to the question of the proposed block grant. The Motion refers to the staffing of schools, and many speakers have used that phrase as the basis for a discussion on the training of teachers; and the Minister has now given us an important statement of policy in that respect.
Finally, there is the reference toeducation according to age, aptitude and ability …and the organising of secondary education to that end. That has caused us to devote a good deal of attention to the different types of secondary schools and the problems of selection and the comprehensive school. It is with those matters that I hope to deal briefly. It is not disputed that we must have an expanding service. Unfortunately I was not able to be present during the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) but I gathered from what one of my hon. Friends said that the hon. and gallant Gentleman was a little sceptical about the need for increased educational expenditure.
The nation has to get this fact clear: the number of children is increasing and the nature of the society in which we live is such that we are obliged to make the process of educating each child longer and to some extent more expensive. That is putting the requirement at its minimum, and it is bound to mean an expanding service. It is not perhaps too ambitious to look a little beyond that minimum and to think of making classes smaller; the erection of county colleges, and possibly of raising the school-leaving age. All these things would involve further expansion and expenditure.
It may not be expansion only in the number of teachers. I concur with the view which has been expressed that the 766 quality and number of teachers is far more important than additions to and modernity of buildings. But we shall not persuade people to come in adequate numbers into the teaching profession unless the Government show they are really expanding the education service by being prepared to spend the necessary amount of money on buildings. So it is bound to be expanding, both in teachers and buildings, and it is interesting to note some of the fighting words that the Minister of Education, Lord Hailsham, has used.
In the public Press he was reported as saying:I am faced inescapably with the necessity for a programme of new construction at a time when public opinion is noisily clamouring for reductions in the Estimates.Unfortunately for our present purposes, Lord Hailsham used those words when he was First Lord of the Admiralty. One can only hope that the rather similar words which he has used in his present office do not indicate merely that this is a habit of his and will crop up in whatever Department he is placed. We must also hope that the education service will fare a little better at the hands of the Government than, to judge from the Defence White Paper, the Navy is likely to do.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I should have thought that if the hon. Gentleman looked at the Defence White Paper and compared it with the education Estimates this year, he would feel that his hopes were being realised.
§ Mr. Stewart
It has, then, to be an expanding programme, and that is why some of us are anxious over this question of the block grant. I recognise that the Minister cannot give us a detailed reply at this moment, and we notice with sympathy the good intentions at any rate of such statement as he was able to make about the principles that will guide the Government in the working out of the block grant idea. But I wish to draw the attention of the hon. Gentleman to certain reasons why there is great anxiety.
I think that the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Ashton) is mistaken in supposing that on the part of the teaching profession there is an unnecessary, fictitious or worked-up anxiety over this matter. Some of the things which worry 767 us are these. First, we have a Minister who tells us that while he is in his office education Estimates will never be reduced. But when we have the block grant principle, what exactly will the education Estimates be? A good deal of money which now appears before Parliament in the form of education Estimates will appear wrapped up in other things, in other grants. That deprives the Minister's statement of a great deal of its meaning.
Further, these arrangements will make it a good deal easier for any future Minister who is not enthusiastic about educational expenditure to avoid his responsibilities—after the manner of Mr. Spenlow, of the firm of Spenlow and Jorkins—by indicating the principle of the independence of local authorities and saying, when instances of inadequate expenditure on education are pointed out to him, that it is, after all, the working out of the principle of local independence. On that point, the hon. Baronet endeavoured to reassure us by saying that the Government would insist on the maintenance of proper educational standards.
I want, however, to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to this aspect. How much more freedom will local authorities enjoy if this new system of finance is put through? I do not think there will be anything that they will then be legally able to do that they are not legally able to do now. Their only greater freedom will be that it will be easier for them to neglect the education service, if they want to do so. It certainly will not be any easier for them to expand it than at present. They will be under a greater temptation to be parsimonious about it. If they are parsimonious, the machinery of enforcement, which, the hon. Baronet assures us, will be used, will be more clumsy.
One of the main instruments of enforcement today is the possibility of the withholding of grant, but if the Government's proposals go through the grant that we shall be dealing with will not be a grant at the entire discretion of the Minister of Education. Before a sanction of that kind can be used, there must be a process of negotiation and argument between the Minister of Education and the Minister of Housing and Local Government. I say no more than to point out, therefore, that the machinery for enforcement 768 against a local authority which is inclined to neglect its duties will be more clumsy than at present.
So far as we can see at present, the effect of the changes, to put it at its least, is that things will be made no easier for the progressive local authority but will be made somewhat easier for the local authority that is not too keen on education, and that the path of a Minister seeking to correct the neglect by such authorities will be a harder and more difficult path than it is at present. Those are points that the Minister, if he is to live up to the fine speeches which he has made about education, ought to tear in mind and bring to the notice of his Cabinet colleagues.
On the general question of the grant, I would also mention the important point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon), who referred to the very ominous words used by the Minister of Housing and Local Government about the need for stabilisation. Quite frankly, with an expanding service that will not do. What makes us anxious is that this reform is being introduced at a time when the general flavour and tone of Government remarks points towards reduction of expenditure.
Why is higher technological education excluded from this proposed system? Presumably, the reason is that it is. going to be an expanding service of great national importance and the Government simply dare not afford to let an idle or neglectful local authority maintain too low a standard in that sphere. If that is the argument, however, if that applies to the top storey of education, does it not apply equally to the lower storeys where the foundation is laid?
When we are told that higher technological education is to preserve the percentage grant, but that education in general is to be put on this new system, it looks as though the Government regarded education in general as a less expanding or less nationally important service than higher technological education. While I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary's intentions are excellent in this matter, what he said today has not entirely reassured us on this point.
I would draw his attention to a matter which perhaps illustrates in a very small 769 way what we have in mind. The Parliamentary Secretary was kind enough to draw my attention to an item of educational interest which appeared in the Press this morning concerning the inspectorate. It is an announcement that has been made by his Ministry. It tells us that, owing to the introduction of Part III of the Education Act, there will be more work for the inspectors to do and it goes on to explain that, in consequence, it has been decided to have fewer inspectors.
The connection between cause and effect is not immediately apparent but when one works it out one finds that the Government have decided that there have been too many inspectors in the past going round bothering teachers. If the Government have reached that conclusion I do not quarrel with it, and I think a good many people would not quarrel with it. However, if the Parliamentary Secretary will read this statement about inspectors again he will see the disingenuous quality of which I complain. The fact that there is more work for the inspectors is not the immediate and obvious reason why there should be fewer.
This illustrates the rather alarming tendency of the Government to look for almost any reason that may be at hand to try to cut away a little here and a little there. It is the impact of the attitude which reflected itself in some half-dozen circulars in the last twelve months and that causes a good deal of disquiet in relation to the major reform of local government finance which is being embarked upon in that atmosphere.
The noble Lord and the Parliamentary Secretary have a youthful and generous enthusiasm for education, but when I see them being led into the labyrinth of local government finance by the present Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs I am reminded of the invitation to enter the Tower of London that was extended to two generous young princes by their uncle Richard some centuries ago.
I have spoken of financial matters. Now I would turn to the question of three-year training on which the hon. Baronet had a great deal to say that was of interest to tell us. I was particularly interested in his decision that priority 770 ought to be given to reducing the size of the classes in primary schools, even over the introduction of three-year training. I think I understood him aright on that point, and I think he is right. I agree that these assessments of priority are matters of argument, but, when he advances that as a reason for postponing the three-year training, it is not a reason with which anyone with the interests of education at heart could quarrel.
I am more greatly concerned with the decision he announced that it was proposed to introduce the three-year training about 1962 within the same physical framework of training colleges that we have at present. I would ask the Government to look again at what that means. Whenever we introduce three-year training, it means in that year a single, once-and-for-all loss of 5,000 teachers. That cannot be helped. It is bound to happen in the year in which we do it.
If we say, "We are going to keep the number of students in the colleges the same at any one time—that is what is being said—the three-year training means not only a single, once-and-for-all loss but an annual loss of about 3,000 teachers. The Parliamentary Secretary must therefore look forward to an annual net increase into the profession substantially less than the 7,000 a year which it is now. He tells us that that can be justified on the ground that from 1961 to 1967 there will be a large drop in the number of children—he said that it would be about 260,000—and that we could therefore accept this reduction of about 3,000 in the annual increase of persons going into teaching.
Does not that mean that in those years he is closing the door to any of the other educational advances that one would reasonably expect to be made? Is there any hope of raising the school-leaving age before 1967—ten years from now? To raise it is equivalent to putting half a million more children in school. That more than compensates for the reduction of 260,000 in those seven years. If he is thinking of doing that, or even of encouraging voluntary staying on at school, upon any great scale, he will want every teacher that he can get between now and 1967.
Has he thought of county colleges? If it is felt that raising the school-leaving 771 age is too ambitious, and if more is to be done in the part-time education of those who have left school, he will still need teachers. We look forward to the day when no primary school class has more than 40 pupils. Have the Government worked out how many more teachers are required to get these classes down to 35 children, and how many more we shall need if we arc to get them down to 30 children? To say that we look forward in ten years' time to a situation where no primary class shall consist of more than 35 children is not being unreasonably extravagant, and if the Minister is to achieve any one of those objectives he will need every teacher he can get.
This decision, which squeezes entry into the teaching profession may, in the late 1960s, lead us into the intolerable position in which public opinion will be clamouring for educational advances and, at the same time, we shall have to say "No" to people who are trying to get into the teaching profession. It is when we set that consideration side by side with the proposals in regard to local government finance that we become somewhat alarmed. A Government that thought in terms of educational expansion would be worrying whether they would have enough teachers in 1967, and not adopting a line of policy which may oblige them to have to say "No" to those people who want to enter the profession in those years. I urge the Parliamentary Secretary to consult his noble Friend again on this matter.
The hon. Gentleman raised another point in connection with which I can be in much more agreement with him. If it is true that we do not need to expand training college accommodation quite so much because we are to get more graduate teachers, that is a matter of pure gain all round. If we could do that and introduce three-year training without requiring any more accommodation in the training colleges, and still obtain the same total intake into the profession through an increase in graduates, I should not complain, but I do not think that the Minister will suggest that the increase in the number of graduates into the profession by the time about which we are talking will be as big as that. By all means let us get more graduates if we can, but I am sure that the Minister knows as well as anyone what terrible 772 competition there is for the services of graduates on the part of industry and every other kind of occupation.
I should like to refer to the organisation of secondary education and the related question of the comprehensive school. It was well said by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East that the present situation is one of historical accident. I noticed recently a report of a speech by Professor J. W. Tibbles vigorously attacking our tripartite system—and, in my judgment, quite rightly. He did less than justice to those who are responsible for the government of the country, however, when he said that this tripartite system was the result of doctrinaire planners being at work. It is in fact the result of there not having been enough planning, for we have tacked bits of our education system one on to another, until it looks rather like the model of the old Houses of Parliament which is to be seen in the Royal Gallery, and which is obviously the result of tacking one piece of building of one period on to another. The result is interesting but it cannot have been convenient.
We have this tripartite system for which nobody has attempted to produce or will attempt to produce any justification in educational terms. Such justifications as are produced are what the psychologists call rationalisations; in other words, "We have the system as a result of historical accident, it is a rather laborious process to try to improve it substantially, let us therefore see whether we can invent some pseudo-scientific argument to justify the process of selection at 11-plus."
One of the first objections, to which several hon. Members have referred, is the wide amount of local variation from county to county in the chances of a boy getting a grammar school education, whatever his ability. I may say that when we hear of the block grant and the supposed greater freedom which it is to give to local authorities, it does not encourage us to believe that these variations in the opportunity of getting a grammar school education are likely to become less.
Although there are a number of exceptions to this, in most cases at the moment an attempt is made, when the children are about 11 years old, to arrange them in different kinds of schools. That is what we are arguing about—not whether they should take an examination at 11 773 or whether we should ask the teachers' opinions of them at 11, but whether, as a result of any process about that age, we ought to separate them permanently into schools which are supposed to be of a radically different type. That is the question which we are arguing.
§ Mr. Pitman
The hon. Member is saying that however great a pupil's ability, his chances are not even throughout the country. Surely that is the result of the planning which has been at work in the development of our grammar schools throughout the country. By and large, we cannot keep down the top 10 per cent. of ability in this country; and for the last twenty or thirty years they have had a free ladder up to the university. By and large there is equal opportunity for the best 10 per cent. throughout the country.
§ Mr. Stewart
That will not do. The point that I was making is that the chance of getting a grammar school education is profoundly affected by the county in which a boy lives.
§ Mr. Stewart
We are not all of the top 10 per cent. I thought that my meaning was clear. Let us take two children, living in different counties. Those two children are of equal ability. The chance which one has of getting to a grammar school is substantially different from the chance which the other has. That is the point. When we hear about the block grant, it does not make us think that that abuse will become less.
I am arguing whether it is desirable to try to put children into radically different types of school at the age of 11 and to make, when they reach that age, a decision of that importance and, for the great majority, that degree of finality. Let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that all this can be put right by transfer later. The Government have been asked at Question Time how much there is of that, and their answer has been that they just do not know.
In the next few years, with almost every secondary school bursting at the seams, the only way in which we can get any substantial number of children out of the modern school into the grammar school because it is thought that the 774 selection was decided wrongly at 11, is by pushing the equivalent number of children out of the grammar school into the modern school. Let the Government try to persuade parents that that is to the best educational advantage of the children who are at the grammar school.
Let us not worry about educational theorists. Let us ignore everybody on this side of the House as being notorious revolutionary propagandists, and let us look at solid commercial interests. In the Underground stations in London there is an advertisement which depicts a child beating at the bars of a cage. The slogan asks, "Is your child held back by 11-plus?" The advertisement goes on to imply that if the child has not been able to get into a grammar school as a result of the 11-plus examination, a correspondence college, which the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Pitman) will know well, will provide it with the equivalent education.
If there is any validity in the selection at 11-plus, then the child who did not get into a grammar school is supposed not to be suitable for that kind of education. But here is a solid, shrewd, commercial interest saying to parents, "Don't you bother with that nonsense. We will prove that your child is fit for that kind of education, provided, of course, that you can pay." Sometimes this takes a less dignified form and we find other advertisements saying that the real way to make sure that a child gets into a grammar school is to make sure that it has drunk a certain patent food every night from an early age. That is the kind of vulgarising of education that has grown up round this tripartite system, and it is not a desirable thing.
The comprehensive school is advanced as one solution to this difficulty. Nobody really justifies this attempt to divide children and to put them into different schools a the age of 11, or even to decide at 9 years of age whether they should go to what is called the scholarship class at the primary school. The comprehensive school is, at all events, one way of finding an answer to that difficulty. For the moment, I claim no more for it than that, but as the number of comprehensive schools in the country grew, in certain quarters the wildest allegations were made against them. It was alleged that the less gifted children were unhappy 775 and frustrated and that the more gifted were held back, that the work could not be done to a proper standard, and that the sixth form work could not develop properly.
We have now, not an overwhelming mass, but an appreciable amount of evidence. A significant thing about it is that not one single piece of practical evidence justifies any of those conclusions. The amount of evidence is limited, but such as it is it all points in favour of the comprehensive schools and discredits the purely a priori arguments advanced against them. In the light of that, I put a suggestion to the Parliamentary Secretary.
The hon. Gentleman read us a piece about comprehensive schools. We could all tell the difference between his own vigorous, philosophic approach to the problem when he embarked on this topic and the bit where he had to look down more closely at his notes and endeavour to bring a ring of conviction into his voice as he produced the stock official arguments on comprehensive schools. A less intelligent and gifted man than the Parliamentary Secretary could, of course, have read it with a great deal more conviction. As Adam Smith once remarked in his famous passage on education:It must be vexatious to any intelligent man to know that what he is reading is nonsense or very little better than nonsense.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his flattery, but I can assure him that I composed all that part of my speech with some care, including the section about comprehensive schools. If I recited that part badly, I apologise, but it was not due to any lack of confidence in what I was saying.
§ Mr. Stewart
If that is so, the coincidence between what the hon. Gentleman wrote and what we have heard before from that Box through other mouths is quite remarkable. In that case I am bound to say that he has not stated this problem adequately. It just is not true in fact that comprehensive schools have not been able to produce proper sixth-form work, and when the hon. Gentleman talks about the fact that we must have selection at some points in education, he is begging the question. No one suggests that everybody up to the age of 18 should have exactly the same education. What we are saying is that it is not 776 desirable to have selection of so drastic and so final a kind, and to push children into different kinds of schools at the age of 11, and that point the Minister did not really deal with.
In the light of this, what I say to the hon. Gentleman about the comprehensive school is simply that a reasonable prima facie case has been made for it. It has had to fight its way against bitter and malicious criticism. It is making an important contribution, both to the welfare of the children in those schools and to educational theory and knowledge in this country. Ought it not, therefore, to be the Minister's practice that in future, if a local authority wants to mould its secondary education mainly on the comprehensive plan, it ought to be able to do it? It ought not to be told, "You can have comprehensive schools but only on the assumption that all the more academically gifted children are to be pushed off somewhere else". If this matter is to be given a fair trial, the comprehensive school must be allowed to have the academically more gifted as well as the academically less gifted.
That is why I say—without wishing to rake up old scores but because of the great importance of the matter—that what was done at Kidbrooke was so wrong. There was a democratically elected local authority which had fought this matter out. It had been an election issue and the electors knew what they were doing. The school itself had accepted the change. The girls concerned were fully prepared for it. Then opposition was deliberately worked up by the Minister for partisan reasons.
It really is not good enough. We are saying that in future any local authority in the position that the L.C.C. was then should be allowed to proceed with such a plan, and not have it thwarted. If that is not accepted, we are obliged to conclude that the opponents of the comprehensive school are so afraid of its success that they are determined it shall not have a fair trial.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I apologise for interrupting again, but this is important. I tried not to approach this matter in a doctrinaire spirit. What I said was, and I gladly repeat it—I can assure the House that my noble Friend will consider proposals for comprehensive schools with an open mind and on 777 their merits, though he will naturally wish to know the educational grounds on which the proposal is justified.I should have thought that was fair.
The Parliamentary Secretary will notice that the occupational disease of this Government is creeping on him, namely, that of giving answers which leave out the really awkward point. The really awkward point here is that if the local authority's proposal for the comprehensive school involves what is technically and legally the closing of a grammar school, but means in fact that the children in that grammar school will be able to continue pursuing the same courses as they were doing before, but in a school that is larger and more varied; if their plans include that, will they be allowed to go ahead? The Parliamentary Secretary should think that one over.
I think we all accept that the educational process in future must be a longer one. That is the result of the scientifically complicated world with which we have surrounded ourselves. The educational process has to be a more varied one, requiring people with many different kinds of knowledge. We must produce a generation which has been educated longer and which has a wider range of knowledge, and that each member of it must be prepared to respect the types of knowledge and skill that others have.
We must get away from the old cleavage resulting from the intellectual regarding mere technical skill or mere handicraft as something beneath him and the technician and man concerned with handicraft regarding the intellectual as a useless and tiresome person. That is part of the case for the comprehensive school. It is sometimes mistakenly called a political argument. It is, in fact, a social argument of the very highest importance.
Therefore, in future we must look for smaller classes so that children can be taught according to their ability, but larger schools so that they can live in a more varied community as a preparation for the larger, more varied and more exciting world than ours in which they will be living.
§ Question put and agreed to.778
That this House, noting the growth in the number of children of school age and the need for higher standards of educational attainment, calls on Her Majesty's Government to ensure that, whatever the future form of local government finance, sufficient funds are available to local education authorities for the fulfilment of their responsibilities; and, by improving the staffing, equipment and organisation of schools and institutions of further education, to provide for all children and young people the education according to age, aptitude and ability prescribed in the Education Act, 1944.
Do I take it that the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) does not desire to move his Motion?—
§ That, in view of the widespread dissatisfaction with present methods of allocating children to different types of secondary school, it is expedient to hold an inquiry into the possibility of promoting a system of secondary education which will make this allocation unnecessary.