HC Deb 27 April 1959 vol 604 cc1029-58

10.1 p.m.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Schools Regulations, 1959 (S.1. 1959, No. 364), dated 5th March, 1959, a copy of which was laid before this House on 12th March, he annulled. I am happy to see that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education is joining us in our discussion of these Regulations. One of the results of the passing of the Local Government Act has been a large crop of new Regulations from the Ministry of Education. In the main, the reason for this, as I understand it, was legalistic and administrative. Previously, a number of Regulations were in the form of grant Regulations and when the Minister of Education signed away much of his control over that service to his colleague the Minister of Housing and Local Government with the passage of the Local Government Act, Regulations prescribed and in the form of grant Regulations were no longer appropriate.

In many instances, although the legal form of the Regulations was altered, their substance was substantially the same. That is why we have not attempted to weary the House by praying against each one of the several sets of Regulations which have come from the Ministry recently. We do not, however, think it right to allow to pass without comment Statutory Instrument No. 364 of 1959, which is the main body of Regulations for maintained schools. I think that I may say, even at this early stage in the debate, that we have not put down this Motion in any particularly hostile spirit. There are a number of questions which I and my hon. Friends want to put to the Parliamentary Secretary and which we hope he may be able to answer.

I will deal, first, with two lesser points of detail. One concerns the Minister's approval for new school buildings and major alterations to school premises. Under the 1951 Regulations, which are superseded by the Regulations now before the House, it was laid down that for the erection of new school buildings or for major alterations to premises the Minister's approval was required unless the Minister otherwise directed. To a layman, that is a rather curious position. The difference between granting approval and directing that approval will not be required cannot, in substance, be very great.

The procedure outlined in the new Regulations is slightly different.

It requires that the approval of the Minister shall be obtained, which approval, it says, …may be given either generally, or in a particular case. Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell us what is likely to be the difference in practice resulting from the change of wording in the Regulations?

Secondly, what is meant by the approval being given generally? Does that mean that the Minister gives a blanket approval for all proposals of this kind in a particular period of future time, or that he gives his approval to the proposals of a particular authority for a specified period of future time? I hope that he will explain to the House what the word "generally" means in that context.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Sir Edward Boyle)

I will certainly deal fully with the present Regulations, but one must read them in conjunction with the administrative Memorandum 548 of 24th March, 1959. If the hon. Gentleman will read that Memorandum, I think that he will, to some extent, find the answer to his question.

Mr. Stewart

I am much obliged.

The Regulations to be observed when a pupil moves from a maintained school elsewhere are to be found in Regulation 7 of the 1951 Regulations and in Regulation 7 (2) of the Regulations now before us. There are certain differences here. Under the old Regulations, if a pupil left an ordinary maintained school and moved elsewhere, the authority running the maintained school from which he was moved was required to give adequate educational and medical information about the child to the person or persons running the school to which he moved. The 1951 Regulations specifically provided that this applies not only to ordinary maintained schools but to maintained special schools as well.

In Regulation 7 (2) of the Regulations now before the House, the following differences appear. The authority running the school from which the pupil moves is no longer required to give adequate information but to give such educational information … as the authority considers reasonable". The authority is made the judge of how much information it should give. I should be grateful if the Parliamentary Secretary would tell us what difference he feels that that is likely to make in practice. I am bound to say that it seems to me, on the whole, to be a reasonable change to make.

Mr. E. Partridge (Battersea, South)

For the sake of the record, I think that the hon. Gentleman should be referring to Regulation 8 of the Regulations we are now discussing. He has spoken of Regulation 7 (2).

Mr. Stewart

I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I should have referred to Regulation 8.

Secondly, under the new Regulations, the authority is not, apparently, required to give medical information. The reference is simply to "such educational information". I take it that it could hardly be maintained that the term implied medical information, because the previous Regulations specifically referred to both and the new ones do not. I am a little surprised at this last difference. I should have thought that it was not altogether unreasonable, when a child moved from one school to another, that such medical information as was available should go with him.

Thirdly, under the new Regulations this duty to give reasonable educational information would apply even if the child moves to a school or place of education run for private profit. Previously, it did not so apply. Again, I do not think I quarrel with the change. We are concerned now with the welfare of the child and not with whatever kind of school his parents may wish to send him to. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us why this particular change has been made at this juncture.

Further, the new Regulations do not apply to special schools. The explanation of this may be that the matter is covered in another set of Regulations recently issued by the Ministry, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman will clear that up, also.

I come now to a matter of rather wider importance, the Regulations affecting the size of classes, namely, Regulation 10 of the 1951 Regulations and Regulation 6 of those now before us. The only difference is that there is no reference in these Regulations to classes of pupils, mainly under the age of three years, for which a maximum of 15 pupils was specified in the earlier Regulations. By virtue of another part of the Regulations, such a class would be not merely a nursery class, but a class in a nursery school. These Regulations apply to nursery schools as well as primary and secondary schools, and I wonder why that was left out.

Both the new and old Regulations contain the important proviso about which so much discussion and argument has raged since the 1944 Act was passed. It is the proviso that nobody need comply with the Regulations for the time being. This is not a full-scale debate on education, but perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will give us the latest information in the battle which his Ministry should be waging all the time against over-large classes.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell us anything about the recruitment of teachers? How many people are now trying to get into training colleges for next October? What degree of success are they likely to have? What is the number of classes which are over regulation size? Perhaps he could also comment on a point I raised in an earlier education debate. Have the Government considered the proposal I put to them, and which, I believe, has been put to them by others, that some of those students who enter training colleges in 1960 should pursue a truncated version of the three-year course so that in the autumn of 1962 there will be some mitigation of an otherwise very severe famine of new entrants into the teaching profession? Failing that, have the Government considered any other method by which that famine may be mitigated?

On the question of the size of classes, Regulation 16 continues, though in slightly different words, the provision in Regulation 18 of the 1951 Regulations for what is a mild scheme of rationing of teachers. Is there any difference in practice between the wording of Regulation 18 of the 1951 Regulations and Regulation 16? It seems to me that the effect must be substantially the same. Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell us anything about the Government's future intentions of the scheme of rationing teachers which is now being administered?

In both sets of Regulations it is laid down that new entrants to the teaching profession, subject to certain comparatively minor qualifications, must be qualified teachers. A qualified teacher is defined as one who has either pursued certain courses of training laid down in Schedule 1 to the Regulations, or possesses some special qualifications approved by the Minister.

I take it that I am right in thinking that the Minister regards, and continues to regard, the possession of a university degree as a qualification approved by the Minister. It is felt in the teaching profession that it would be desirable if all its members, graduate or non-graduate, had gone through a specific course of training in teaching before entering the profession. That is a reasonable request for the teaching profession to make, but I do not think that anybody who knows the present situation of teacher supply would demand of the Minister that he should at this moment close the doors to the untrained graduate into the teaching profession.

I do not know whether the Minister has considered when the time is likely to arise when it would be proper, without prejudice to the struggle against the overlarge class, to require a course of teacher training as a necessary condition for all entrants, graduate or non-graduate. For the time being, however, we must take it as agreed that the Minister must regard the possession of a university degree as a qualification which would be approved by him as an alternative to the courses of training mentioned in Schedule I.

On that, I would mention one rather specialised point. Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell us what sort of yardstick or criterion the Ministry uses in assessing degrees granted by universities of countries other than the United Kingdom? The Parliamentary Secretary knows, I think, that in conjunction with one of my hon. Friends, I am interested in a case in which a teacher held a degree from an American university, the significant feature of which is that it had been regarded by British universities as of such a character as to qualify its holder to take up post-graduate studies at British universities but was, apparently, not regarded by the Ministry as a qualification entitling its holder to enter the teaching profession. I presume that somewhere laid up in the Ministry there is a kind of yardstick, measuring rod, touchstone or criterion of some kind whereby degrees of various universities outside this country are assessed. Possibly the Parliamentary Secretary may be able to tell us a little about this.

Further, on the question of qualification of teachers, the Regulations tell us, as is proper, in the Explanatory Note that Regulation 19 of the old Regulations is omitted. Regulation 19 required that no clerk in holy orders or regular minister of any religious denomination might be employed as a teacher. The effect of that Regulation was that, apart from the special provision made in denominational schools, ministers of religion could not be employed as teachers.

I remember that there was, in, I think 1946, a quite heated debate in the House on the subject of that Regulation. It is dropped from the present Regulations. I do not at first sight dispute the wisdom of that, but we should be told why the Government have decided to drop that Regulation at this juncture. It would be helpful also if the Parliamentary Secretary told us how many people it is likely to affect. Have the Government, for instance, received representations that a considerable number of people who would be useful to the teaching profession are debarred by the existing Regulations, and was it with that in mind that they have dropped the Regulation?

Another point concerning qualifications of teachers is contained in Regulation 20, which specifies qualifications required for the teachers of classes of partially deaf pupils. As far as I can discover, after hunting among a considerable number of past and present Statutory Instruments, the qualifications required for teachers of classes of partially deaf pupils have never been so precisely defined before. I hope that that means that the Ministry now feels that there will be a sufficient supply of people possessing this specified qualification for it to be proper to make this Regulation without unduly restricting the supply of teachers for this class of pupil. If that is so, it marks, I think, a modest milestone in the advance towards making adequate provision for the teaching of at least one category of handicapped children.

I have always felt that, measured in human terms, the problem of handicapped children is one of the most important that there is. To parents of such a child, it is of enormous importance. Mercifully, measured in numbers, it is a minor problem, and I imagine that no Government would ever be restrained from making advances in this sphere because of the cost. The sole limitation, I think, has been the supply of suitably qualified persons. I hope that the Regulation means that we have advanced in assuring the supply of well-qualified persons for at least one category of handicapped children.

Lastly, Regulation No. 4 of the 1951 Regulations reads: In order to be recognised, the school shall comply with the requirements imposed on the school by or under the Act, and, if it does not so comply, recognition may be withdrawn. I cannot discover anything parallel to that in the present Regulations. It would seem that what was in a sense the ultimate sanction for the observance of all the other Regulations does not appear in these Regulations. Is that because the effect of the Local Government Act weakens the Minister's control over the administration of education? I presume that the sanction that now exists if a school does not comply with the Regulations is that the Minister makes representations to the Minister of Housing and Local Government with a view to withdrawal of grant, and if his right hon. Friend is not too busy with the many other matters which occupy the attention of that Department something may ultimately be done. It seemed to me, however, that the disappearance of this Regulation was perhaps the outward form in which an underlying fact had appeared, namely, the diminution of the prestige of the Ministry consequent upon the passing of the Local Government Act.

10.23 p.m.

Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)

I beg to second the Motion.

I am always uneasy about the danger of legislating by Statutory Instrument, and I feel that these Regulations go perilously near to making legislative change in one respect and certainly go beyond the alleged purpose of the Regulations mentioned in the preamble to Regulation No. 1.

The purpose as set forth at the beginning of the Regulations is to carry out a pledge made by Minister after Minister, from Lord Hailsham downwards, to protect education against the effects of the Local Government Act, 1958, and particularly of the general grant. These are the Regulations which are promised in Section 3 (4) of the Local Government Act, 1958, and prescribe educational standards. If a local authority falls below those standards the general grant under subsection (1) may be reduced by the appropriate Minister. So I think that we might have expected these Regulations to be much stronger, much more definite and much more precise than the 1951 Regulations which they supersede.

Let us look at the key one for a moment, Regulation 6, on the size of classes. Let me give the background. My own county council did rather well out of the general grant in the first year. Partly, that was due to good luck. Partly, is was due to the very bad reason that Hampshire had less than the average number of teachers. Every local authority in the country with fewer than the average number of teachers makes profit out of the general grant, which, of course, is paid according to the average.

My contacts with many education committees assure me that they will strive to get as many teachers as they can, but if the day comes when there are some reactionary members of the councils who get on to the committees they may seek to use cutting down the number of teachers as a means of saving rates at the expense of an immoral profit from the Government grant. Then, this Regulation is one of the obstacles which will stand in their way.

That being so, I would ask the Minister why he has retained this Regulation as compared with the one which existed in 1951. He still lays down the maximum size of classes, 40 for a primary and 30 for a secondary. We still have the crazy notion that the smaller the child the more we can pack into a classroom. However, the old Regulation in 1951 said that a class could only exceed these maxima as long as the Minister is satisfied that every effort is being made to comply with the requirements aforesaid and that the failure to do so is beyond the control of the authority and the managers or governors as the case may be. That is a strong proviso, but for it the new Regulation substitutes: Provided that if, owing to the shortage of teachers or other unavoidable circumstances, it is not possible to comply with this regulation, the number of pupils on the register of any class shall be such as is reasonable in all the circumstances. I would ask the Minister why he has got rid of a very powerful proviso and substituted for it the much weaker one. The general grant and its possible effect on the size of classes seems to me to indicate the need for a much tighter Regulation than an easier one.

I am sorry to see that Regulation 15 retains the ban on external examinations other than the G.C.E. One of the features of the development of the secondary modern school is the growing need to give a child who has done well at school and who leaves at the age of 15 some kind of certificate of his achievement. This Regulation continues what I believe to be the bad practice of stating that a child may take the G.C.E., may take the School Certificate of Education at 16, or under 16 if the headmaster thinks that a child ought to take it under the age of 16—I have no quarrel with that—but that if he takes any other examination but the G.C.E. he must be over the age of 16.

This, I estimate, cuts out for 70 per cent. of the nation's children the possible taking of external examinations. I am strongly opposed to schools being examination-ridden. Some grammar schools have to escape from this yet, and some secondary modern schools will have to be careful if they are to avoid the danger of sacrificing most of the children to the handful of children who take the School Certificate. However, an external examination is a useful measurement of a child's achievement. lit is an excellent incentive, and if a headmaster thinks that such an examination is good for children he should not be prevented from it by this Regulation 15.

I would, therefore, ask the Minister to look again at the question of continuing a ban to which, I believe, most members of the teaching profession are opposed, the ban on external examinations under the age of 16. I do not want to enforce examinations on children, but I want to give the head teacher the right to use this as a stimulus and satisfaction to some children, if, in his opinion, it is educationally advisable.

I am glad that the Minister has written into Regulation 16 his undoubted right to fix quotas of teachers as long as there is a shortage of teachers. I speak as one who perhaps first advocated this method of rationing of teachers, long before it was popular in the House or anywhere else in the country, but I think most educationists will agree that it is good for Britain to share out teachers fairly when there are not enough of them.

If we hear grumbles from local authorities, as the Minister must, about the smallness of the quota, that is not a criticism of the quota system, but a measure of the overall shortage of teachers in the country. I think, moreover, that the local authorities have played the game by the Minister in carrying out his quota system, and I am sure that they will welcome the writing into the Regulations of a quota system which has relieved Birmingham from some of the desperateness of its earlier position and has brought relief to rural education authorities.

I suppose that the Minister has consulted the teaching profession about Regulation 16, which has to do with the employment of teachers, and about Schedule II. I believe that the Minister and the local authority should consult teachers whenever they have the opportunity and take the advice of teachers about the practical problems of education. Despite the Times Educational Supplement, which seems to suffer from a congenital disability to report fairly the views of members of the Labour Party on education, I hold the view—and the party bolds the view—that consultation between education authorities, the Minister, and the teaching profession is a good thing at all times, even if the final decisions of policy must be made by the elected representatives of the people, in this case Members of Parliament, in others local authority councillors.

Sir E. Boyle

There is absolutely nothing between us on that point of consultation. There has been very full consultation on many of these Regulations.

Dr. King

I am glad to have the Parliamentary Secretary's assurance. But, if so, I cannot understand why the Minister and the teaching profession itself have not been rather worried about the survival in stronger form of Regulation 16 (b), in which he states that the head teacher "shall" take part in the teaching of the school. The old Regulation was a little weaker, but equally reprehensible when it said that the head teacher "shall" take an "appropriate" part. Whether he should take teaching in the school should be a matter for the head teacher to decide. It depends on the size and character of the school and the particular problems of the year.

This is not a matter which should appear in the Regulations of a liberal country like our own. If the Minister was seeking to make Regulations at the moment about head teachers and teaching he ought to have made a Regulation which removed the necessity which is imposed on some head teachers in small schools of teaching for the whole day and doing their work as headmaster or headmistress during the time that they were teaching in class.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), I am a little surprised at the dropping of the ban on clergymen being appointed as full-time teachers. I see no connection between this and the Local Government Act, 1958, and the alleged purpose of the Regulation. This is perilously near legislation by Statutory Instrument. Not that I object to ending the ban. The old Regulation was a survival of the days when we feared the clergymen might come into the nation's schools and teach not just Christianity, but sectarian Christianity. I doubt whether there is any danger of that today, in the light of the developments of the last ten years. This debate provides an opportunity of noting how happily the agreed syllabuses which guide the curricula of the maintained schools and all the rest of the religious compromises and advances are working.

Every school begins with an act of worship. I believe that religious teaching in our schools was never so good. That goes for the State schools as well as the Church schools. This dichotomy, by which zealous advocates of the Church schools presuppose that Christianity is taught only in Church schools, is something I have always protested against. On the other hand, the basic rights of a non-Christian teacher in schools which are Christian in, their content was so boldly written into the Act of 1944 that it does not have to appear in the Regulations. That is why I was so angry, especially as I happen to be a Christian, when I read that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden)—whom I told that I was going to raise this matter—who is Secretary of the Conservative Party's education group, protested against atheists teaching in our schools.

It is important that we should raise this matter at a time when we are deliberately making provision for Christians progressively to come, fully-paid, into our schools, and when the hon. Member for Selly Oak says that No atheist, agnostic or non-believer should be allowed to teach in Britain's schools. The hon. Member went on to say that in allowing them so to do we are defeating the whole basis of education in the country, and he linked atheist and agnostic teachers with the growth of juvenile delinquency.

Section 30 of the Act of 1944 says: … no person shall be disqualified by reason of his religious opinions … from being a teacher in a county … or voluntary school…no teacher … shall be required to give religious instruction or receive any less emolument or be … disqualified for, any promotion … by reason of his religious opinions …

Mr. Partridge

Does the hon. Member regard an atheist as having a religion?

Dr. King

I do not want to engage in a religious disquisition with the hon. Member, but I do not know why he should imagine that the only religious opinions which can be held are held by those who believe in a God. He ought to go back and study a little philosophy. Or does he want to suggest that the hon. Member whom I am criticising tonight was right, and that so long as a man is atheist, whether he believes in one or a million Gods, he can teach in our schools, but that the Act does not recognise his rights of conscience if he does not believe in a God?

Mr. Partridge

I was not defending or criticising my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden), bur. I was asking the hon. Member to explain what he means by his quotation. I thought that he was suggesting that that was contrary to what had been said, and that atheism was in fact a religion.

Dr. King

I am sorry that the hon. Member does not understand the Education Act, 1944. I was praying in aid of the argument I am making the Act of 1944, which says that a teacher has a right to believe in God; a right to be a Roman Catholic, or a Buddhist, or an atheist, or an agnostic. That Section of the 1944 Act is the sheet anchor of the freedom and conscience of the British teacher. I think that it is a disservice to Britain. to freedom, to education and to Christianity itself for an hon. Member to suggest that we ought to alter it.

I hope that the Minister will assure us that the omission of the old Regulation 19 and the bringing in of professional clergymen to full-time occupation in our schools is not linked with the remarks of the hon. Member for Selly Oak a fortnight ago, and that this is not the first step of a process which. I think, every rightminded hon. Member would abhor.

Regulation 16 says that every teacher must be a qualified teacher and Regulation 18 permits an unqualified teacher to replace a regular teacher to meet "a particular emergency," provided that he is physically capable. That means that if the schools are in desperate need of teachers the only test of the ability of a supplementary teacher is that he should be physically capable, I suppose, of standing up in the class-room or of knocking down an unruly child.

I want to ask the very serious question: how many unqualified teachers have we still in our schools? It is an open secret that these Regulations are being broken and that the Regulations which they supplant are being broken. The critical emergency for which it is permissible to put in an unqualified teacher is a critical emergency which has existed right through the century.

One would hope that there are signs that we are reducing the number of unqualified teachers. I can assure the Minister that the teaching profession will never be satisfied and that education can never be said to provide an equal opportunity for our children so long as there are unfortunate schools up and down the country which are manned or womanned by people who have not been trained or who are not qualified for the job. I say that even while paying tribute to many unqualified teachers for their devoted work in the national emergency.

Like my hon. Friend, I welcome the number of Regulations affecting handicapped pupils. They mark the progress which we are making not only in the provision of special educational treatment for handicapped children, but also the progress that we are making in the training of teachers for this work. We are now able to insist on special qualifications for teachers who are handling the deaf and other kinds of handicapped children.

On looking at these Regulations as a former practising schoolmaster, as a member of an education committee and as an hon. Member who has probably spoken in more slum schools than most hon. Members in the House tonight, I would ask the House to think for a moment how many of these Regulations are being observed today. It is said that the schools shall be clean and hygienic. Only last week the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) was reminding us that pails are still being used in many a school where already water sanitation could be provided.

How many of the primary schools of England which have been neglected so long barely conform even to the basic Regulations laid down and which certainly do not conform to the glorious buildings circular on primary schools which the Ministry of Education sent out some five or six years ago? How many overcrowded class-rooms are there today which are in breach of the Regulations laid down by Act of Parliament? How many classes are there which are bigger than the prescribed maxima laid down in the Regulations?

It would be wrong if we were to pass these Regulations tonight without urging the Minister to do what he can to see that they are really carried out by the local authorities and to see that his own Ministry continues the drive, and even expands the drive, at present being made until the standards laid down in these Regulations are really achieved.

10.45 p.m.

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

I want to make a few points very briefly. Oddly enough, many of the points I want to make have been made by my hon. Friend who sits for what Mr. Angus Maude once described as the more irritable constituency of Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King).

I am very worried about the size of classes. I know that this is not an education debate, but the Minister should be reminded, although he already knows, that we still have about 34 per cent. of our children in primary schools in over-sized classes, something like 62 per cent. in senior schools in over-sized classes, and about 42 per cent. of all children in our schools—just imagine that—in classes which are over-sized.

I have never been able to understand the educational argument for fixing the size of classes in primary schools higher than that in secondary schools. Imagine an infant school in which a teacher has 40 children coming in at the age of five. She has to make some sort of order out of chaos, teach them to read and to do simple ciphering, and so on. I should have thought that was about the most difficult educational task of the whole school system. I do not think that there is an educational case for setting a higher figure in primary schools than in secondary schols. I am glad that it is the policy of the Labour Party to have 30 as the maximum figure in both primary and secondary schools.

Another point, which has already been referred to, is the power given to local authorities to dispense with these two maxima in the case of shortage of teachers or other unavoidable circumstances I do not know what I could suggest, but I think that Regulation should be made as tight as possible. It should specify that the consent of the Minister should be given. Although there are a great many cases in which it would have to be given, it should be made as difficult as possible for a local authority to go over the maximum figure. Looking at the figures in the Ministry's Report for 1957, I cannot believe that all local authorities in the country are doing all they might on the question of size of classes. I think the Minister should make it as difficult as possible to go over the limit.

The next point I make is on the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). Regulation 8 lays down that Whenever a pupil ceases to attend a school and becomes a pupil at any other school or place of education or training, such educational information concerning him as the authority considers reasonable shall be … passed on. As my hon. Friend pointed out, that would mean that when a child was going from a maintained school to a private school the information would be passed on when asked for, but it does not seem to work in the other direction. When a child goes from a private school to a maintained school, the maintained school could not require the information to be available. The opening words of the Regulation say "a school" and the definition of "a school" is a school maintained by an authority. It seems to me that that is a slight loophole and that it would be a good thing if it applied in both directions.

Regulation 11 lays down the minimum number of sessions and says that there should be at least 400 in each school year. This does not apply to special grant schools, and I feel that some of the holidays given in some special grant schools are outrageous. The Girls Public Day School Trust this year had five weeks' holiday at Easter. I cannot believe that that is reasonable. I do not know whether anything can be done about holidays in direct grant schools, but I feel that holidays of that length are outrageous.

Turning to Regulation 15, I agree with my hon. Friend's views about external examinations. I know of two at the moment. Local authorities are getting round to it and thousands of children in secondary modern schools are taking external examinations. It is very bad to have a Regulation of this kind when it is flouted throughout the country. The College of Preceptors has a first-rate examination for secondary modern pupils, which last year, I believe, was taken by nearly 3,000 pupils in secondary modern schools throughout the country. In my part of the country, the Northern Counties Technical Council, as I think it is called, is examining a large number of secondary modern pupils. They have to be entered as private individuals, of course, but the result is the same in the end, and it is farcical to have a Regulation of this kind when this practice is taking place from one end of the country to the other. Will the Minister look into that?

I should like to refer to the use of the word "instruction", in Regulation 13. The word "instruction" applied to schools nowadays is misleading, old-fashioned and out of date. What goes on in schools is not instruction, but education. Cannot the Regulation be couched in more up-to-date terms? In Regulation 10 we even find the word "instruction" applied to pupils under the age of eight— in a school or class mainly for pupils under eight years of age, at least three hours of secular instruction … That means secular "instruction" to a child of five, six or seven. Why cannot the word "activity" be used here and the word "education" for other schools?

I agree with my hon. Friend that Regulation 16 (b), that the head teacher shall take part in the teaching, is out of place in an educational system such as we have in this country, where there is a great deal of freedom. Much depends on the circumstances of the school. Almost any head teacher worth his salt will try to do some teaching, but I do not think that it should be laid down in the Regulations. It is a matter for the head teacher himself. If the Minister insists on including this sort of Regulation, there should be an obligation on the local education authority to provide secretarial assistance in order to allow the head teacher to do some teaching. That is most important in a big school. Like my hon. Friend, I recall trying to do some teaching when I was running a big school, and the amount of secretarial work which piles on the head teacher has to be seen to be believed. Without secretarial assistance it is almost impossible in a big school for a head teacher to do any teaching.

The Regulation about teachers still permits the employment of supplementary and unqualified teachers generally. I suppose that for some time that has to be the case. There are still well over 5,000 unqualified teachers in our schools, and it is high time that we set a target date by which we should get rid of unqualified teachers from the schools altogether. As my hon. Friend has said, the supplementary teacher needs to have only two qualifications—to be over 18, and to have been vaccinated. It is high time we got rid of them.

Schedule II contains the theme mentioned in the White Paper. I have always argued, and I have mentioned it both to the Minister and to his predecessor, that teachers, while calling themselves the teaching profession, lack some of the essential marks of a profession. Since I have been a Member of the House, I have appealed to Minister after Minister to take the initiative in according to teachers the marks of a profession. One of the essential marks of a profession is that the people in it—in this case, the teachers themselves—should control both the ingress to and the egress from it. But paragraph 5 (a) of Schedule II still gives the Minister the power to determine whether or not a teacher who commits some sort of misdemeanour shall continue to teach.

I would have thought that this was an opportunity for the teachers to evolve some sort of machinery for determining whether a teacher who has gone off the rails should be permitted to go on teaching. Lawyers and doctors do that—why not teachers? If the present Minister would take the initiative in this, he would earn the lasting gratitude of our teachers.

10.57 p.m.

Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

The House should not pass Regulations that are not meaningful and not capable of being applied. Regulations that we pass ought to be shown by the Minister to be really necessary and desirable, and the House of Commons should show that it has both the power and the courage to apply them when passed. In the case of some of these Regulations that is clearly not the case.

Ever since 1944 there has been talk about the size of classes in the State schools being limited to 40 in the primaries and to 30 in the secondary schools. There has been so much talk of it that it has become a mockery. Everybody who knows the position in our schools knows that it is merely cynical to continue passing such a Regulation as Regulation 6, when we have neither the power nor the courage to apply it. We could simply say that it was part of the purpose of our education policy to reduce classes to the lowest possible level.

There is no talk of classes of 30 and 40 in the independent schools. They think in terms of 12 or 15. According to the Ministry's latest figures, at present —fourteen years after the war—29.7 per cent. of classes of juniors and over 62 per cent. of classes of seniors are oversize, yet the Ministry is absolutely resistant to laying down any specified time within which this Regulation should be made applicable.

What is the point of passing a Regulation which the Minister knows cannot be applied now—and refuses absolutely to say when he will apply it at all? It may be true, as one of my hon. Friends suggested. that some local education authorities are lax in this respect. The Ministry should bring pressure to bear on them, and persuade them to reduce the size of the classes in their areas. But, of course, the Ministry is not in a good position to do so unless its own slate is clean and it is clear that it has done everything possible in its national policy to enable this Regulation to be carried out. I do not believe that the Ministry is doing that.

For years the Ministry of Education has underestimated the bases of applying this minimum policy for reducing the size of classes. It has underestimated the need to recruit more teachers to replace unqualified teachers, and the need for the expansion of school building and other matters of that kind. The Ministry still continues to do this. The Minister has advised that such and such a number of additional teachers are required in the next few years. He promptly and arbitrarily reduces the figure.

One of the conclusions drawn in the teaching profession is that the Ministry is not over-keen to get on with the job of applying speedily what is put into the Regulations. When will the Regulations be applied, in the view of the Parlia- mentary Secretary—in the next ten years? Will it be possible to take out this proviso allowing these maxima to be exceeded in the next ten years? Why not insist that something specific should be laid down so that at some time the Ministry could bring pressure to bear on a lax local education authority and say, "You cannot now argue that shortage of teachers or other circumstances compel you to carry on with these over-size classes which make impossible reasonable standards of education"?

We should be realistic about this. In the context of the Ministry's present policy relating to the size of teacher training colleges and the school building programme, we need a realistic statement about the Regulations. We require to know whether, in the Parliamentary Secretary's view, in the next five or ten years they mean anything at all.

11.2 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education (Sir Edward Boyle)

I should like, first, to thank the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) for the manner in which he moved this Motion, and the four hon. Members opposite who have spoken on the way in which they have put their points.

May I, first, take up the point which the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) made about the question whether the teaching profession should play a larger part in deciding whether a particular teacher should be excluded from the profession. During my two and a half years at the Ministry it has fallen to me to take a certain amount of responsibility for these cases. This is a matter of such public interest and concern that it is only right that it should be a matter of ministerial responsibility, and I should like to assure the hon. Member that I have tried to deal with these cases in the most responsible manner possible.

As it happens, no less than four cases came before me for decision only this morning. There would be real difficulties about deciding these matters on a wider basis, with members of the teaching profession coming in and giving their views as well. I want to assure the hon. Gentleman that I regard this as one of the most responsible and important decisions which come before one, and I hope that in these cases I have taken the sort of decisions which the teaching profession would collectively approve.

Mr. Short

May I say that I was not attempting to impugn in any way the manner in which the hon. Gentleman carries out his duties? It is a matter of professional self-respect, and the teachers should put their house in order and unify their professional organisations.

Sir E. Boyle

I feel that there would be difficulties about this. The hon. Member for Fulham had the privilege of serving in the War Office for a time, and he knows the difficulties that arise in this kind of case. As far as I am concerned, it has always been my aim to bear in mind what the teaching profession would think about the cases which come before one.

Tonight, one of the prime matters which have been in the minds of hon. Members, and quite rightly, has been the size of classes. Therefore, I hope I shall be interpreting the wishes of the House if I start by dealing with this matter. Obviously, a reduction in the size of classes must be the prime aim of any Government and any Minister who has responsibility for educational policy.

It is fair to say that in recent years we have succeeded in achieving some improvement in the size of primary classes without severely worsening the position in secondary classes. Taking the figures during the last four years, which are, I think, a fair basis for comparison, the number of pupils per full-time teacher in primary schools has declined from 32.1 in 1954 to 30.6 in 1958. During this time, there has been only a very slight deterioration in the number of pupils per full-time teacher in secondary classes, from 20.9 in 1954 to 21.4 in 1958. When one thinks that the bulge has been moving out of the primary schools into the secondary schools during this time, I think that those figures are not too bad.

As a matter of fact, if one takes the last single year, 1957–58, the number of pupils per full-time teacher in primary classes has gone down very slightly from 30.8 to 30.6, while the number of pupils per full-time teacher in secondary classes has remained constant at 21.4. The figures for class sizes in January, 1958, which are the latest available figures, are reasonably satisfactory, because they refer to a period in which the total numbers in the schools were still rising. Indeed, the numbers in the secondary schools were rising fairly rapidly.

Taking all schools together during this time, there was a definite decrease both in the percentage of over-size classes and in the percentage of pupils in the classes. Despite the big increase in the population in the secondary schools, the starting standards even in the secondary schools were held and there was an improvement in the staffing standards in the primary schools.

I have not any comparable figures for January, 1959, but there is some reason to think that the pattern has been similar to the pattern in 1958; that is to say, an improvement in the staffing standards in the schools taken as a whole, with the position still held in the secondary schools, despite the very large increase in the number of children in the secondary schools. Indeed, the increase during last year, at over 190,000, was the largest single increase in any one year during our national history.

I have gone over past history as rapidly as I could, because I want to say a word about the future. This is, I think, really important. From now onwards, apart from the year of intermission in 1962, the increase in the teacher force should more than match the increase in school population, and we should be able to look forward to a considerable improvement in class sizes. In other words, there will be a fairly sharply rising curve in the increase in the teacher force, but a much less steeply rising curve in the increase in the school population.

As announced in the Government's White Paper, the Government are determined that the size of primary classes should be reduced as quickly as possible, so that—I come now to the question asked by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler)—primary classes of more than 40 children should be virtually eliminated by the middle 1960s. I regard this as a reasonable target at which to aim.

If there is an average net increase of 6,000 teachers a year it should be possible to eliminate all over-size classes in primary schools and, at the same time, prevent any deterioration in staffing standards in secondary schools. Although I realise that the net increase in 1958 was only about 5,400 teachers, I think that it is reasonable to assume an average annual net increase of 6,000 teachers from 1959 onwards, for these reasons. First, the number of students completing teacher training courses in 1959 will be 16,000. In 1960, it will be 17,000, compared with only 15,250 in 1958.

Secondly, this high output is expected to be maintained, and we also expect an increase in the number of graduates entering the schools. Thirdly, there is no reason to think that the high rate of wastage, which has caused a fall in net increase in the last two years, will become any larger.

The number of extra teachers required at present to eliminate over-size classes in primary and secondary schools is about 60,000, and that assumes an average junior class size of 30 and a senior pupil-teacher ratio of 16. It would be completely unrealistic to fix a precise date when we could hope to have eliminated all over-size classes. But I think that the estimate of the middle 1960s as a time by which we can expect to have got rid of all classes of over 40 in primary schools and over 30 in secondary schools is a realistic one, and I put it to the House without any fear of being either unrealistic or over-optimistic.

Mr. M. Stewart

I think that the second time the hon. Gentleman gave this target he said something slightly different from the first. I understood him to say on the second occasion that by the middle 1960s we could expect to get rid of the over-40 classes in primary schools and over-30 classes in secondary schools.

Sir E. Boyle

Certainly. In other words, we can hope to have eliminated classes over the regulation size in both primary and secondary schools by the middle 1960s.

I entirely understand the approach of hon. Members opposite who say, "Why should we regard over-size classes in secondary schools as something more important than over-size classes in primary schools?" I think at present it is reasonable to go all out to remedy the defects in our secondary school sytsem. The greatest inequity we have in our secondary school system today is precisely the fact that, partly for reasons of history and partly because of particular deficiencies in particular schools, some children still have greater opportunities in secondary schools than others.

For reasons we debated in January I think that it is reasonable at the moment to make a special drive to go all out to remedy these defects in our secondary schools. That does not mean that we are forgetting the primary schools. As I tried to explain in our January debate, there are many ways in which our primary schools will gain from the drive we make for improved secondary school standards in the 1960s.

To come to the point about premises which the hon. Member for Fulham raised, if one wants to understand the new Regulation in the set of Regulations which we are debating, one must read this Regulation in conjunction with Administrative Memorandum 548 of 24th March, 1959. To summarise the position, the arrangements for major building projects —that is, projects costing £20,000 or more—will remain unchanged. I do not think there is any suggestion that we should change those arrangements. Broadly speaking, those projects will still require Ministry approval, and approval of plans and cost at final plan stage.

So far as minor building projects are concerned, there are certain changes, which I will summarise: first, the limit on a minor capital project has been doubled from £10,000 to £20,000. I know that a number of my hon. Friends have expressed interest in this matter. The only control we propose to exercise over projects costing between £10,000 and £20,000 is approval of plans and cost at sketch plan stage. Under the old procedure these projects had to go through a more elaborate procedure applied to major projects, including justification of need, and so forth.

Then also, as well as giving more authorities a substantially larger Government allocation for minor works in the current year, we are also giving them a great deal more freedom to select the minor projects which they wish to carry out. The old procedure required about four-fifths of all minor projects to be approved in principle by the Minister before they could be started, but in future only a very small minority of projects will require approval in principle, and for the great majority of projects authorities will be freed entirely from the need to justify the projects which they choose.

Projects costing under £10,000 will be freed very largely from controls of any kind. It is difficult to estimate the exact proportion which will have to obtain the Minister's approval, but probably, whereas about four-fifths of minor projects formerly had to come to the Ministry for approval, in future at least three-quarters of them will not have to do so.

There is one further point I may mention in this context. My right hon Friend has recently removed entirely his administrative control of local authorities' expenditure on furniture and equipment for schools. Formerly, he imposed limits of cost governing purchase of furniture and equipment for primary and secondary schools, and my right hon Friend's approval had to be obtained for a proposal which did not comply with those Regulations. These controls have now been abolished, and while we think that the previous Regulations were reasonable ones—indeed we hope that authorities will continue to pay some attention to them none the less—authorities are now free to incur whatever expenditure they think fit in furnishing and equipping all primary and secondary schools of all kinds without obtaining my right hon. Friend's prior approval.

I mention this point because I know there has been a certain interest among a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House in the subject of my right hon. Friend's desire to free authorities of all unnecessary controls.

The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) raised the question of Regulation 15 and external examinations. It is quite true that a number of local authority associations and also the National Union of Teachers have represented to us that on a matter of purely educational policy of this kind it should be left to the discretion of teachers to decide whether and when a pupil should be entered for a particular examination. We recognise that there is substance in this view, but the use in secondary schools of external examinations below the level of G.C.E. is a controversial matter, as the hon. Member himself, I am sure, very well knows, and the Secon- dary Schools Examinations Council is looking at this matter very thoroughly at the present time. My right hon. Friend told the associations that he did not think it would be appropriate to alter the present position until he had received the advice of the Secondary Schools Examinations Council.

The reference in the old Regulations to the payment of fees has been dropped because it is now regarded as a question affecting the interpretation of Section 61 of the 1944 Act rather than a proper subject for regulation.

There is no question here, I can assure the hon. Member, of our having taken a sort of dogmatic stand on this subject. We are awaiting advice and the Council's views, and certainly I think we all realise that this is an extremely controversial and important matter. I would add that I know very well that it is not just a matter of the general certificate of examination. There is the whole question of all external examinations, and we certainly have not closed our minds on this issue.

Dr. King

Do we take it, then, that if advice to that effect is given, the Regulation will be withdrawn?

Sir E. Boyle

I cannot say dogmatically that this will happen, but we would certainly take fully into account any advice that we were given.

Mr. Short

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind the point I made, that it is far better not to have the Regulation, than that it should be flouted from one end of the country to the other? Thousands of children are taking external examinations now. The point is that they enter them as private individuals, but they are taking them and the result is exactly the same.

Sir E. Boyle

We think that this Regulation is the best solution at the moment, but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, it is quite possible, if we think fit in time to come, to withdraw the Regulation and substitute another regulation in its place.

As for Regulation 8, which the hon. Member for Fulham raised, we thought that the old Regulation 7 of the 1951 Regulations—I am dealing now with the question of admission—placed a duty on the local education authorities which bore rather hardly on them. If they are to carry it out strictly, they would have to seek out every child that left for another part of the country and send the information after it. Therefore, the duty has been modified to put the onus on the receiving schools and get them to ask for the information if they want it. As to medical information, the duty to provide it is contained in other Regulations. It seemed to us that there was no good reason why private schools should not be entitled to have the information if they wanted it.

Mr. Short

And give it.

Sir E. Boyle

I agree that they should be prepared to give it if it is required of them.

On the question of the training of graduates, my right hon. Friend looks forward to the time when it will be possible to require that graduates should be trained, but as the hon. Member for Fulham rightly pointed out, it is too early to do so yet. As to teachers' qualifications from the point of view of degrees gained in other countries, it is not possible to prescribe any single criterion by which degrees of American or other universities can be equated with British degrees, but we try to deal with each claim to recognition on its merits in the light of the course followed and its standing.

This is often a rather complicated matter. I have had at least one rather difficult case referred to me, and if the hon. Member or Fulham wishes to make any representations on this subject I should be glad to receive them. This is a matter on which we should not be complacent. If there are difficulties about equating a degree from an American university with a British pass degree, we should not make it too easy for ourselves by obviously rejecting it—and the same applies to some other oversea degrees. We should take some trouble over this and I should be glad to receive any representations that the hon. Member may send to me.

On the possibility of a shortened version of the three years' course between 1960 and 1962, a point which the hon. Member for Fulham made, I recall that both he and I had a good mark from the Economist on the last occasion when this subject was discussed. Perhaps we shall have one again when I tell the hon. Member that colleges have been asked to consider ways of assisting the supply of teachers during the next few years by this means. One of the schemes under consideration is the selection of highly qualified entrants who will be able to complete a course in two years instead of three. I cannot say anything more about it at present. We are still in the stage of consulting the colleges about it, but I hope that it will be possible for a limited number of teachers to be accepted exceptionally as students who have completed the course in a shorter time.

As for Regulation 6, we have not made any mention of nursery schools in the Regulations because under modern practice these schools are not organised in classes by age but rather in family groups, and my right hon. Friend did not want to legislate for classes mainly under the age of three years. All the associations we consulted agreed that this was a sensible arrangement.

On the teaching of the deaf, our view is that teachers of the partially deaf in ordinary schools should be more highly qualified than those teaching in schools for the deaf because they do not have the support of other trained teachers. I agree with the importance of this course for teachers. One of the remarkable things in recent years has been the progress we have made in the education of the deaf.

I went to the conference at Manchester last year, and I have seen the remarkable classes carried on at Reading at present by a very outstanding teacher. It is amazing what can be done in a year or two with some of these children by enabling them to talk in a manner absolutely recognisable. I fully recognise the importance which hon. Members attach to this point.

As for the question of heads of schools taking part in teaching, the old form of Regulation contained the words: an appropriate part of the teaching". We thought that that was too vague. There is no intention to make any change of substance in these new Regulations, but it was not suggested by any of those whom we consulted that there was anything derogatory to the profession in those words being included. Indeed, one of the finest traditions of our schools is precisely that head teachers are teachers and not just administrators.

When I visit a school, and have a chance of talking with the head teacher, I always ask what subjects he teaches, and almost invariably I find that he plays a considerable part in the teaching of the school, and does not only concern himself with administration. I can assure the hon. Member that the great majority of our head teachers are not mere administrators, and, also, that there is no intention that these new Regulations should affect the role that they play in the schools.

Dr. King

I did not need that assurance. I agree that most head teachers do teach. The point is that the initiative should be theirs and not the Minister's.

Sir E. Boyle

I do not quarrel with that, and I would only repeat that there is no intention of making any change of substance from the provisions of earlier regulations placed before the House.

The only other point is the question about not including a regulation to correspond to Regulation 19 of the Schools Grant Regulations, 1951, referring to men in holy orders teaching in our schools. In practice this regulation applied only to ordained members of the Church of England. So long as a Nonconformist head teacher was not a regular minister, and did not have a full-time cure of souls, he was not affected by the Regulation. We felt that the onus of proof was on the side of those who felt that this Regulation should be continued. I do not think there is any serious danger of a Church of England clergyman going into a school and indoctrinating the children with a religious point of view which is opposed to that which their parents wish those children to learn. We felt that the old Regulation was something of a survival of old and unhappy days, and we did not think that there was sufficient reason for continuing it today.

I know that this subject has been raised in educational circles, and I want to say that there is no question of our wishing to se the salary of a clergyman being borne on the education rate rather than by the Church of England. If there is any question of this happening on a large scale we shall consider introducing a new Regulation, but I do not think that it is likely to happen. I do not believe that under present conditions it is at all likely that a clergyman of the Church of England would be allowed to do full-time teaching in a school rather than ordinary parochial work.

The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen raised the question of religious tests in our schools. I can assure him that there is no question of any return to religious tests. Equally, on the other side, I cannot believe that in this day and age it makes sense to say that if a man receives holy orders according to the rites of the Church of England, in some mysterious way it makes him totally unsuitable to be a regular teacher in our schools. On this matter we feel that we should pursue a path between those two extremes.

I have tried to answer the points raised by hon. Members opposite. I am glad that we have had a considerable time in which to debate the Regulations, which are important ones. Having given this explanation, I hope that the hon. Member for Fulham will feel able to withdraw his Motion.

Mr. M. Stewart

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.