§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ The Minister of Education (Sir David Eccles)
I beg to move. That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This Bill has two purposes. The first is to provide statutory authority for the reforms in the system of grants to students which were announced following the Report of the Anderson Committee. The second is to reduce the number of school-leaving dates in the year as recommended by the Central Advisory Council for England and Wales in the Crowther Report. The Bill covers Scotland. I shall touch upon the Scottish aspects only briefly, since my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State hopes to intervene at the end of the debate.
I am sure that the House will join in thanking Sir Colin Anderson and his Committee for their Report. For most people, the Anderson Report has one overriding interest, and that, of course, is the means test for students' awards; but, as hon. Members know, the Committee gave us for the first time a most useful and comprehensive review of the whole grant system. This is a system which, over the years, has grown into a very complicated animal.
The Anderson Committee deserved great sympathy in the task of sorting out the issues. Its difficulties—I think it well to acknowledge this—were greatly increased by the marked conflict of views expressed by those who gave evidence. The Committee did not expect the students and the local authorities always to see eye to eye, but what struck it particularly was the cleavage of opinion, strongly held and strongly expressed, within groups of witnesses who might have been expected to have a common view.
I had just this experience when I discussed the Report with the universities, local authorities and other interested bodies. The Bill is, therefore, not likely to satisfy everyone, but the two fundamental principles which will determine the new system—automatic awards and 36 uniformity of treatment—are, I believe, very generally acceptable.
At present, although the applicant for a grant may have high academic qualifications and may have been offered a place at a university, the local authority concerned may, in the exercise of its own discretion, refuse to make an award. In fact, the authorities make their awards in accordance with schemes approved by my Department, but the generosity with which they have applied the schemes and the details of their practice have varied considerably from one authority to another.
Recently, I am glad to say, most authorities have come into line and acted uniformly, but no duty is laid upon them so to do. Perhaps nothing in the practice of past years has caused more discontent among students than the feeling that one local authority gave an award more easily than another.
The authorities themselves, with which I have fully discussed the provisions of the Bill, readily accepted that the time had come to make the awards automatic when the student had both the qualifications and the place at a university. Clause 1 lays this duty on the authorities as from September, 1962, and it gives the Minister power to define the extent of the duty.
Authorities must know which courses are comparable to university degree courses and what exceptions they should make to automatic awards for students taking such courses. For example, it would not be right to ask authorities to give awards to students who had already taken a degree at a university. Were that a legitimate pastime, I could envisage a very pleasant life, going from one university to another, always at public expense, always learning and never earning. It is necessary also to provide for authorities to stop a student's award in cases of bad behaviour, gross idleness, or irredeemable failure.
The qualifications for an award which the Anderson Committee recommended, and which I have accepted, are two A level passes in G.C.E. Most authorities adopt this as their minimum standard already. On the other hand, university entrance requirements vary considerably and are often a good deal higher than the two A level passes. At the same time, a university is absolutely free to admit 37 a student who has not two A level passes, and a local authority may decide to make an award to such a student, though it is under no obligation to do so. Students with different qualifications would also be entitled to an award provided that the qualifications are recognised as equivalent to the two A level passes. It is necessary, in addition, to provide for further qualifications which students gain as they climb the ladder in technical colleges. I hope that this will become a means of entry to the universities, producing even more students than it does now.
We do not expect the new system significantly to increase the proportion of students at universities in receipt of awards. The real benefit will be in the certainty that, once a student has been accepted for a degree course and he has the qualifications, the award will be his by right. Under the Bill, future Governments will be committed to seeing that public funds for awards keep pace with the increase in the number of university students. This is an important and expensive obligation to establish by Statute at a time when a very large expansion of higher education is in progress and when we are waiting for the Robbins report.
Clause 2 ensures that local authorities will have full discretion to make awards for further education courses below the standard comparable to first degree courses. These less advanced courses fell outside the scope of the Anderson Committee. They vary in length, in standard and in entrance qualifications, and I think that the House will agree that the relevant awards are better left with the local authorities which provide the courses.
The second fundamental principle of the new system is uniformity of treatment. This covers the amount of the grant, how it is calculated, and what expenses the grant is intended to meet. Local education authorities now generally accept for the main element of grant, that is, the student's own maintenance during term, the standard figures reviewed at intervals by their representatives and my Department. I am grateful that this should be so, but, as I think hon. Members know from their constituencies, there is still room for many variations among authorities in the other elements of a student's grant, for instance, grants for additional periods of study during vacations or 38 grants for the dependants of older students.
These extras may seem of comparatively small importance in relation to the student's maintenance grant, but they give rise to some odious comparisons and understandable irritation among both students and their parents. In future, there will be nationally prescribed rates and conditions of grant binding upon all authorities. These will ensure uniformity over the whol country for all items of a student's grant which can be dealt with in this way.
In England and Wales the grant system will continue to be administered locally. The County Councils Association was rather against this, but the other local authority associations were firmly for it.
§ Mr. G. A. Pargiter (Southall)
Is that strictly correct? I had not thought that the County Councils Association was against local administration, or against acting as agents for the Ministry, but was rather against acting principal. That is totally different from not being willing to administer the scheme.
§ Sir D. Eccles
I take the hon. Gentleman's point. What I meant was that they were against administering the scheme as principals.
§ Sir D. Eccles
Even on our present system, no matter where the student lives, he will in future know for certain how he can qualify for an award and how the amount of the award will be calculated. He will have a certainty which he has not had before.
I now come to the means test. The majority of the Anderson Committee recommended its abolition for reasons which, in principle, I find convincing. The minority asked us to relax the criteria, but to retain the test. The Committee divided about three in favour of abolition and one against, and almost exactly this division of opinion was reflected in the advice which I received from bodies which I consulted or which offered me their advice.
This is an issue on which it is difficult to say that one party is clearly right and the other party clearly wrong. However much we may argue about the principle of abolition, I am sure that at this 39 time the cost of abolition ought to persuade us to retain the test in a relaxed form, as we now propose.
It is hard to deny that, if education is free for the school child, it should be free for the whole-time student. That is logical. However, we are all very well aware that there are scores of improvements which can be made at other points in the education system which are just as right in principle and which, in greater or lesser degree, would benefit the young people of this country. No Government could make these improvements all at once, because they would not command the resources.
The Anderson Committee was not asked to give a judgment on priorities. It was not asked to compare the extra £20 million a year which, on the present scale of provision, its recommendations would cost, with £20 million spent in any other direction, although one member of the Committee, in my view quite rightly, drew attention to the relative merits of maintenance grants for children staying on at school and the total abolition of the means test for students' awards. That example shows how real is the clash of priorities.
On our present policies, the total cost of education is rising at about 5 per cent. a year, which is a good deal faster than the rate of growth in the national income. Therefore, year by year, our service is taking an increasing proportion of the total of the national income, and this rising share gives my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself the opportunity to make many and substantial advances every year in our service. But we still cannot do anything like all that we should wish to do.
Speaking for England and Wales, I have to hold back nursery schools and to ration minor works. I have to retain old and unsatisfactory buildings. I have to go slow on the development of adult education and sport. I must wait to make the operative decisions about raising the school-leaving age and the introduction of county college education. These are some of my priorities; and I have not mentioned over-sized classes. I know that Ministers of Education are not alone in wishing to do more than they can do. All the other spend- 40 ing Departments have their waiting lists of highly desirable improvements.
Whatever views hon. Members may have about the urgency of these rival claims, one conclusion is clear: in any particular service the Minister must take the greatest care to use his limited resources to the best advantage of those for whom he is responsible. The hard facts of finance cannot be dismissed from policy making. The question is: at a time when so many things which would benefit children of parents who cannot pay fees must be left undone, could it be right to press for the remission of all contributions from parents, the great majority of whom, on the relaxed means test, must be well up in the top half of the income bracket?
I should like to give the figures on which the answer to that question depends. Awards to students now cost £35 million a year. What we propose to do under the Bill would add another £10 million, more or less, in the first year. If we abolished the means test altogether, yet another £10 million would be added to the Bill. Therefore, instead of awards costing £35 million, they would cost £55 million on the present provision, which is always increasing. I am bound to tell the House that if the Secretary of State for Scotland and I were allowed another £10 million, we could spend it to better advantage in other parts of the service, and for that reason alone we fully accept half a loaf as the right compromise at present.
The effect of the relaxation of the means test is that 40 per cent. of students will now receive the maximum grant against 25 per cent. on the old criteria. About 10,000 more families will be relieved from all contributions and those in the middle range of income will pay substantially less. This is achieved by reducing the income scale for parental contributions and by increasing the allowances which may be deducted from the parents' gross income to arrive at the scale income on which the contributions are assessed. I am sure that hon. Members will have been glad to see that the allowances for children other than students at university, and for the educational expenses of other children, have been substantially increased.
Grants for students in teacher-training colleges will be calculated in the same 41 way as for students in university. That also holds good for students in technical colleges taking full-time courses comparable with degree courses. The standard vacation grant has been revised and now applies throughout the income range of parents. The conditions for dependants' grants have been revised and broadened. These are now available for students taking the three-year course at training colleges. Students may keep up to £100 of private income, including income from scholarships and prizes, without deduction from their grant. All students, however well off their parents may be, will receive a minimum grant of £50 a year.
From time to time questions are bound to arise on the size of the grant, on its constituent parts and on the definition of "comparable courses". My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I have appointed a Standing Advisory Committee to advise us on all these matters. We have been very fortunate to secure the services of Sir Francis Hill, who was a member of the Anderson Committee, to be the Chairman. The Committee has been asked to recommend revised rates of grant early in the new year, so that any changes can be announced in good time before the next university year starts in September, 1962. The Committee's review will also cover the prickly question of differential rates for different groups of universities.
Now a word about Scotland. The main thing for me to say here is that all the changes I have just described—the automatic awards, uniformity of treatment, a revised income scale and other improvements in the grant system—apply as much to Scotland as to England and Wales. The only significant difference is in administration. The Anderson Committee did not give us a firm recommendation about the way in which the making of the awards should be handled. The Committee set out various possibilities and recommended that these should be considered by the Government in consultation with the universities and the local authorities. This is what we have done.
There was general agreement that the Scottish Education Department should itself make the awards to students in 42 universities and similar institutions of higher education. The Scottish education authorities will help the Department in several important ways and they will still make further education awards for part-time and less advanced courses.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
The Minister said that there was general agreement. Did the education authorities in Scotland willingly give up what they now do—the granting of those awards?
§ Sir D. Eccles
My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland tells me that they gave it up willingly. It is true, I think, that, in practice, they have always accepted what the universities wanted already. I am, however, subject to correction and my hon. Friend hopes to speak later in the debate.
One Scottish problem has been the disparity between Scottish levels of grant and those of England and Wales. The Government have asked the Standing Committee to consider this question as part of its current review of grants. This is the first time that such a review will cover universities and colleges throughout Great Britain. It will enable us to fix standard allowances that do justice all round. I am sure that all hon. Members will be pleased about this.
I must say a word about State scholarships. When they were first introduced in 1920, they provided opportunities for a few of the cleverest boys and girls from the maintained secondary schools to reach the universities. Times have changed, however, and the growth of the number of awards, especially those given by local authorities, has steadily broadened the opportunities for university education; and now all students with two A level passes who are offered a place—not just a handful of scholars—will get a grant.
In that situation, there is no longer a need for a separate class of State scholarships, and, under Clause 3 of the Bill, they will disappear next year I intend, however, to retain the scheme for mature State scholars, because it is a small scheme and is better administered centrally. My powers to operate the State studentship scheme of awards for postgraduate students in arts subjects are also continued.
43 Before I come to the school-leaving dates, I should refer to Clauses 7 and 8, dealing with general grant. In England and Wales the new arrangements for making awards are already imposing additional expenditure on local education authorities. Clause 7 provides for an appropriate adjustment in the general grant for the current period—that is, the financial years 1961–1962 and 1962–63. My Department is in consultation with the local authority associations about the sums involved, which may be about £4 million for the current year and about £6 million for 1962–63. In later years, this additional expenditure will be taken into account in the regular general grant negotiations.
Clause 8 provides for the making of an order reducing the amount of general grant to Scottish local authorities. Their grant was fixed last November on the assumption that the Scottish education authorities would spend £9½ million on awards during these two years. The transfer of responsibility for certain awards from the education authorities to the Scottish Education Department will reduce the authorities' expenditure during these two years by £7 million and the amount of general grant must be adjusted accordingly.
§ Sir John Maitland (Horncastle)
Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that when he makes the new regulations, the position of families of men serving in Her Majesty's Forces will be safeguarded?
§ Sir D. Eccles
I certainly intend that they should be treated, as, I believe, they are now, with great sympathy and consideration. Of course, if they do not have a local authority in this country in whose area they are domiciled, we make arrangements to cover them. I quite agree with my hon. Friend that we must look after the children of the serving men.
I turn now to school-leaving dates. This part of the Bill follows from the recommendation of the Crowther Report that the number of dates in the school year at which a 15-year old may leave should be reduced from three to two. In England and Wales, as the law stands, a child can leave at the end of the term in which he reaches the age 44 of 15. Under the Bill, if he reaches 15 in the five months from September to January, he must stay to the end of the Easter term; and if he reaches 15 after the end of January he must stay to the end of the summer term.
The object of the change is to help the schools to make a better job of the fourth year of the secondary course. With large numbers of children leaving at Christmas, it has been found difficult to plan the fourth year. I could, perhaps, illustrate that by saying that if the children are grouped according to their abilities and attainments, the loss of part of the group unsettles the others. If, on the other hand, they are grouped according to the dates they are likely to leave school, the teacher has to deal in the same class with children of widely different capacity, and that is no easy matter.
Indeed, from the viewpoint of school organisation, the best plan would be to have one leaving date in the year, but that would mean that practically a whole age group was looking for jobs at the same time. Industry—both employers and the T.U.C.—have told us that they might not find it easy to absorb all these children quickly. If that were the case, it would bear hardly on those children who are most difficult to place. We shall have to look at this again when we come to take the operative decisions on raising the school-leaving age to 16. Clause 9 will not affect children who have stayed on beyond the limit of compulsory education. They will be free to leave at Christmas if they wish to do so.
The inquiry by the Crowther Committee did not cover Scotland, but its recommendations have been considered by the interested bodies there. After consultation with them, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has concluded that changes in the arrangements for school leaving should be made north of the Border. At present, Scottish education authorities are required to fix for their areas three or more leaving dates each year, and the arrangements made by the different education authorities vary considerably. For example, the number of leaving dates varies from three to seven.
It follows, I think, that a reduction to two dates would be a more drastic 45 alteration of present practice than it is in the South. In particular, there is a strong feeling in some areas which are subject to special economic difficulties that there should be a fair spread of the times at which pupils leave school, so as to make it easier for them to find suitable employment. Therefore, while the Bill provides for two leaving dates to be the normal arrangement in Scotland after 1963 it enables the Secretary of State to allow an education authority to have three leaving dates in any part of its area if exceptional circumstances warrant it.
I should like just to make one further observation about school leaving. Two out of three children in England and Wales still leave school as early as they can after their fifteenth birthday. This is not right in the second half of the twentieth century. Educationists and social workers are insistent and unanimous that the very great majority of early leavers would gain more from another year in full-time education than from their first year at this young age in a job. This view should command the full support of the House.
But it does make an assumption that we know what to teach the average and below-average children up to the age of 16, and these are boys and girls who are physically mature, know the facts of life, and have the tempting prospect of earning good money in juvenile employment. We shall not bring all these children to reailse the benefits of staying on at school unless we are able to hold their interest in their last terms. This is not easy to do. Much thought is now being given to what we should teach, and how we should treat, the 13 to 16 year-olds in secondary modern schools and in the comparable streams in comprehensive schools. One thing is clear, and accepted by all teachers: a planned fourth-year course from 11 to 15 is the basic requirement: and that is why it is so valuable to stop leaving at Christmas for children who may have had only three years and one term in a secondary school.
I hope very much that parents will understand this and will help the schools to make the extra term well worth while. I hear of some parents already saying that their chidren will resent staying on another term. Resentment is not the right frame of mind, and it is up to the 46 parents to see that their children understand the value of this extra term.
This double Bill provides for modest advances in two directions of considerable importance, and I commend it to the House.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
The Minister is so full of platitudes that I sometimes marvel that he has the rigidity to stand up to deliver them. In education we are facing very serious issues which the right hon. Gentleman has hardly touched upon. I remember what he said only a few days ago, when he referred to the Bill we are now discussing. He said that—on the appropriate occasion"—which we have now reached—I will explain why we must accept half a loaf as being better than none. I think it is foolish not to take the first half that one is offered."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1961; Vol. 648, c. 504.]We recognise this and welcome the Bill as a minor Bill. What we should have preferred would have been that the Bill should have formed the minor Clauses in a major Measure.
Having said that—and this is not a platitude—I should like, first, to pay a tribute to the chairmen and members of the two Committees, the Anderson and the Crowther Committees, who have produced excellent Reports.
I think that most people nowadays, in the light of the consideration we have given to the Anderson Committee Report, accept the majority view that we should make awards to the students without a contribution from the parents, that we should make these awards without a means test. This afternoon the right hon. Gentleman reversed the argument as it has so far been conducted. It is generally agreed that cost is not the essence of the argument. This is quite clearly set out in the Report itself, that in fact cost is very small. It had been regarded as one of principle, but, surprisingly enough, the right hon. Gentleman does not stand up on principle; he stands up on cost. It is, as I say, an argument which has already been shot down.
I should have thought that, on broad grounds, we should, recognising the needs of the nation, accept the right of 47 the student to university education. Of course, we are concerned—the right hon. Gentleman did not touch on this—with distributive justice, but, as the majority Report says on this matter, it should be left to ordinary taxation. As the right hon. Gentleman is standing upon the minority Report, I think that he ought to face the implications—and he has not even mentioned this—of the stand he has taken. The most impressive support for the minority Report is that of Professor Brinley Thomas, who supported the action now being taken by the Government on condition—I quote his reservation—… that, at the same time, substantial sixth form bursaries are introduced in the maintained schools.This is the crux of the issue. After all, both the majority and the minority members of the Anderson Committee emphasised the waste of talent today in our maintained grammar schools. It was the view of all the members of the Committee that an improved system of school maintenance grants would help to reduce the wastage among the children of the skilled and semi-skilled workers. When, a few months ago, we anticipated this debate, all the right hon. Gentleman said was:I have no doubt that in time we shall have to have another look—we had one not so long ago—at maintenance allowances."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1961; Vol. 648, c. 514.]This is not good enough. It is not facing the issue upon which the Anderson Committee was divided. As I have said, Professor Brinley Thomas powerfully argued, as many people interested in education feel, that here there are two priorities. There is the priority of removing the dependence on parents so far as students' awards are concerned because we know we are thereby losing talent. At the same time, there is another high priority, and that is that the maintained schools are not making the best use of the talent which is there because we are not attracting sufficiently those children who ought to remain at school after school-leaving age.
Professor Brinley Thomas said, in conclusion:To remove or reduce drastically the cost of university education for middle-class families while doing nothing to stop the real 48 leakage of talent among children at the age of 15 in the lower income groups would be an unwise and unjust use of public funds.It is because we recognise both these priorities that, particularly as the cost involved is so small, we say that we should clearly accept the majority recommendation of the Anderson Committee.
At the same time, as I emphasised in our recent debate, we should recognise family allowances—or, in one way or another, see to it that the maintenance allowances provided for talented children in our schools are sufficiently large to ensure that those children who ought to have further education do, in fact, receive it. We think that the time has come when both these priorities should be fully recognised. The Minister has recognised neither.
On the other broad issue which emerges from the Anderson Report, that is, the method of selection, I think that there is general agreement that we should have a uniform standard in the system of selection and that it should depend upon two A levels together with admission to a university. This was anticipated by the Crowther Committee. But I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman did not feel it necessary to pay attention to this consequence. In fact, the improved selection procedures will make matters patently more difficult than they are now. They will not provide the solution to the essential problem shortly facing us. They will only make that problem more obvious. Shortly, probably by the mid-1960s, we shall be adding another neurosis to our educational system. Apart from and in addition to the 11-plus, we shall have the 18-plus.
The Minister will be aware of these words by his Senior Chief Inspector of Schools, because he wrote the preface to the book. The words are:The Minister could find himself sailing a ship whose bridge and engine room were in other people's hands. And the British public, which, in rates and taxes, will be providing the money, could find its boys and girls, in their later adolescence, tossed about more intolerably than they were in their middle childhood, at what is usually called the Eleven Plus stage.It is fair to add that the Senior Chief Inspector went on to say that he thought that something would happen before long. It is a great pity that we have no 49 evidence of that from what the Minister has said this afternoon.
I want to deal with three important aspects of the problem. The first is the bulge, about which the right hon. Gentleman said nothing. This will hit the universities forcibly by the mid-1960s. It will be aggravated by what we now call "the trend", the tendency of boys and girls to stay in the sixth form in schools. I will not say that no steps are being taken in anticipation, but not sufficient steps are being taken. We have the right hon. Gentleman's Department regarding this as a liability rather than a great opportunity. We ought to have applied more vigour and resources to anticipate what will happen about university entrance within the next few years.
The second point is that if we accept, as I think we probably all do, the test of admission to university, we are concerned with an enormous field of patronage and we must necessarily concern ourselves about the conditions which affect university entrance. Many studies of university entrance have been made in the past few years. They all confirm that there is a striking relationship between the pattern of university entrance and the status hierarchy of British society. I will give one or two illustrations. One in ten of Cambridge undergraduates come from working-class families. Three-quarters of the undergraduates at Cambridge come from public schools and direct grant schools, but one in three of the Redbrick undergraduates come from working-class homes and two-thirds of them come from maintained schools.
Inevitably, we have to accept that Oxford and Cambridge are now part of the national system of higher education, and we cannot afford to allow this distortion to affect the allocation within university education of those talented enough to merit that education. Worse than that. It is not only a question of the allocation of the successful entrants into university education. It is a question whether we get fair representation within university education of those who ought to receive that education.
I was shocked by a conclusion which I came across the other day reached by Mrs. Floud, of the University of London Education Institute, who said:… while the proportion of … working-class boys passing into the grammar schools has increased by 50 per cent. since the war, 50 the figure is still very low—rather less than one in six as compared with nearly one in two of children from non-manual homes. At the university level, the chances of working-class boys are virtually unchanged, although those of boys from other families have doubled. Only one working-class boy in fifty proceeded to the universities in the post-war period, as compared with one in five of boys from other families.As we are now concerned with State patronage, we cannot afford to continue to allow this pattern to impose itself on university education.
But, overriding this intolerable wasteful unfairness, we are confronted with a national under-supply of university places. We are now reaping the parsimony of a hundred years ago. We are faced with a situation in which the Government's plans for university expansion are dismissed by Sir Geoffrey Crowther as a "formula for national decline", because they will do no more than sustain the present proportion of young persons able to attend university.We have in this country the lowest proportion of our population in universities than any highly developed country.The right hon. Gentleman will not dispute that, because I am quoting his own reported words.
This shortcoming and this problem which is facing us will be revealed all the more starkly now because, very properly, we are providing a uniform standard qualification for student awards. We shall now have young persons patently qualifying for a university education, but failing to obtain admission. There is no question here of debasing standards. We already have a substantial proportion of those who are going to training colleges who, before the war, would have qualified for university entrance. It is for this reason, that during the past few days, in the submissions to the Robbins Committee from the Association of Education Committees, the National Union of Teachers and the Headmasters' Conference, we have had, in each case, an insistent demand for a larger and an urgent increase in the provision of places at universities. Unless something is done, we shall face an unmanageable log jam of the best qualified young persons in the country before the 1960s are out. We shall have people who will be patently under-developed intellectually and well aware of the opportunities being denied them.
51 Let me illustrate this in two or three ways. By 1970, according to some authorities, we shall have a shortfall of 70,000 young people who will have earned the right to a university education, but will not be able to obtain admission. To put it another way, by 1970, according to other authorities, even if we succeed in doubling the present provision for higher education, one young person in three will fail to obtain higher education.
The submission of the National Union of Teachers to the Robbins Committee says that it is likely that, in spite of the expansion, there will soon be about four suitable persons for every available place in higher education and that at least half of these will be eager to follow some form of higher education. This is a crisis in higher education which is facing us and will break upon us in the 1960s.
I do not know what research the right hon. Gentleman has devoted to this subject. We know the miserable effort that he devotes to research. It is remarkable that a Minister who used to be the spokesman for science should be answerable for a Department which spends not 1 per cent., not 0.1 per cent. but 0.014 per cent. on research. It shows a lack of gravitas about the problems facing him.
It does not need any research to convince us of the deplorable effect which this will have upon talented young people who have carried their education so far—this great mass of talent which will have been revealed and will then be left undeveloped—and will be denied the opportunity to complete their education and the pressure, which is just as bad, that this intense competition will impose upon the schools and the appalling effect that it will have. The right hon. Gentleman has said nothing about this, except, as we might have expected, that he is awaiting the Robbins Report. We cannot afford to wait. We cannot afford to have self-complacent marginal improvements given by the right hon. Gentleman as a justification for not doing more.
When I was looking through some international statistics this weekend in preparation for the debate I came across the following, which vividly illustrates 52 the world in which we are living. It is that the number of scientists alive today is equal to 90 per cent. of all the scientists and research workers who have existed since the beginning of history. That shows the situation that we are facing. It is no good talking about marginal improvements in the rate of progress. We are living in a new, rapidly changing world, and cannot afford to move as leisurely—and as elegantly, perhaps—as the right hon. Gentleman would have us do.
I believe that it was Mark Abrams who said that the growth of status of the graduate today compared with the growth of status of the gentry in the sixteenth century. I feel that the right hon. Gentleman has more in common with the gentry of the sixteenth century than he has with the needs of today. In any case, if the right hon. Gentleman is waiting for the Robbins Report, we are still waiting for implementation of the Crowther Report.
Before I deal with the Crowther Report, I should like to touch upon some of the other important matters which were raised in the Anderson Committee Report. I welcome the appointment of the Standing Advisory Committee under the chairmanship of Sir Francis Hill, but I hope that, even though it be from a Scotsman, we shall be told later in the debate about the timetable to which that Committee is working. We have to recognise, in regard to the scales of the awards given, that the students have been unfortunate enough to miss even a triennial review. When will there be an up-to-date review of the scales? Now that we have this permanent Committee, can we be assured that there will be a regular, perhaps annual, review?
There are several points outstanding from the Report. There is the question of National Insurance. It is true that the Minister has replied on this subject in the House, but will it be referred to the Committee? There is some dissatisfaction, particularly in the light of the Anderson Committee Report itself, about vacation grants. Will this matter be dealt with by the Committee? There is some concern about adult residential colleges, and representations have been made on this. Will this go before the Standing Committee? In what form will the reports of the Standing Committee 53 be made? Will they be freely made available so that we shall know what advice has been given to the Minister?
As the right hon. Gentleman said, there is also the question of finance. I will mention just two points about finance. I think that from what the Minister said here is a fairly good illustration of how wrong the block grant is for education. Quite apart from that, as the right hon. Gentleman said, he is aware that the local authority associations are somewhat concerned about how they will fare. Can we have an assurance tonight that the financial position of authorities will not be worsened as a result of this Bill? We are entitled to a specific and explicit assurance on that point.
I turn now from the Anderson Committee Report to the school-leaving dates. Of course, we recognise the right hon. Gentleman's proposal as a considerable improvement, but, again, I must complain that the action taken is inadequate and that the attitude of the Minister is hardly satisfactory. After all, this recommendation in the Crowther Report followed and depended upon the Crowther Committee's major recommendation. It depended on the assumption that the Government would implement the recommendation that the school-leaving age should be raised to 16. Although this is not expressed, it is clear that one of the matters which affected the Crowther Committee in coming to the conclusion that it should recommend two dates was the effect this would have when the school-leaving age was increased. I think that the Minister conceded—the Committee obviously took the same view—that from a purely educational point of view one date is obviously better than two dates.
There are difficulties about providing employment, which we recognise, but we have to determine the educational priorities in their own right. There are two things about which we must be particularly concerned. One is the invidious position in which secondary modern schools find themselves when they are the only secondary schools which are really affected by different school-leaving dates. The other factor is that we should not merely allow the express interests of industry to override Educational requirements. Many 54 employers in some fields have been able to arrange their employment to accord with a single fixed leaving date. The right hon. Gentleman should at least pursue this matter more vigorously with industry.
My main point, however, is that the Crowther Committee reported in July, 1959, and recommended that the two school-leaving dates should come into effect as soon as possible. It also recommended—and this seems to be overlooked—that the announcement of raising the age should be made then—two years ago. We have had no such announcement, and I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman, particularly in view of the absence of a statement in his speech today about school leaving, to look seriously at the possibility of reducing school leaving to a single date in the year.
I believe that I would be speaking for most hon. Members in saying that the right hon. Gentleman has been very disappointing in what he has not said about the main recommendation of the Crowther Report. We are all bound to recognise the overwhelming case put by the Report, whether we approach this matter from the interests of the children or of the nation as a whole. The Committee put it simply and I remind the right hon. Gentleman of that passage:If it be regarded as a social service, as part of the 'condition of the people,' there seems to us to be no social injustice in our community at the present time more loudly crying out for reform than the condition in which scores of thousands of our children are released into the labour market. If it be regarded as an investment in national efficiency, we find it difficult to conceive that there could be any other application of money giving a larger or more certain return in the quickening of enterprise, in the stimulation of investment or in the general sharpening of those wits by which alone a trading nation in a crowded island can hope to make its living.That is true today, as it was then.
I know that the Government have retreated in the face of the difficulty of teacher supply. I am bitterly disappointed, because although we have raised this matter time and time again, we cannot get a constructive and positive approach from the right hon. Gentleman to this crisis in teacher supply. Moreover, raising the school-leaving age is a relatively small part of the overall problem of the 55 shortage of teachers. As I have pointed out before, according to the Crowther Report, to raise the school-leaving age would require between 15,000 and 21,000 new teachers. But, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, one-third of the children already stay on at school after the statutory leaving age, and it is estimated that by 1970 about three-quarters of the children will be staying on, and that for this alone we shall need 14,000 new teachers.
I should have liked to have heard from the right hon. Gentleman, because it was a specific recommendation to him, what steps he has taken, in consultation with those who advise him, on the question of teacher supply. Because children are staying on at school is no reason why the right hon. Gentleman should not announce the implementation of the Crowther Committee's recommendation for raising the school-leaving age some time between the optimum years of 1966 and 1969.
The right hon. Gentleman touched upon the crux of the issue. We want an announcement of a decision on the Crowther Committee's recommendation because we want an earnest from the Government that they intend to do something to transform secondary education. We want "Secondary education for all" to be not only a slogan, but a reality.
If the Government announced now, as they were recommended to do by the Committee, that they intended to proceed with the raising of the school-leaving age at the appropriate time, then they would also have to announce, as the Committee also recommended, a programme of action to ensure that the necessary conditions were being prepared. That, however, is what we are not getting from the Minister. What he said today was more disappointing than if he had not referred to this at all.
It is bad enough for a Minister of Education, though not unprecedented, to tell the House, patronisingly, that half a loaf is better than none, even if we are discussing recommendations of such bodies as the Anderson and Crowther Committees, but what is far worse is for the right hon. Gentleman to offer half a loaf and reveal that he has not been giving thought to the essential problems vexing education. Not 56 very long ago I heard a colleague of the right hon. Gentlman say this, in speaking of his own responsibility:… if we get our educational pattern right, we shall, in the end, get everything right, and until we get our educational pattern right we shall, even in the short run, get nothing right.It is regrettable and disappointing that today, while the right hon. Gentleman has introduced this Bill, to which we afford a modest welcome, he has shown no indication that he is giving any serious, effective thought to the essential problem of getting the pattern right.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Mr. R. P. Hornby (Tonbridge)
The theme of the speech by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) was, "We want all this and heaven, too"—"this" being the Bill and "heaven" being all the other things one would like to see on the educational horizon, but which are not in the Bill. I shall confine my speech shortly and mainly to the provisions of Clause 9, which refer to the school-leaving age.
The Bill is the product of two Reports which have already been referred to—the Crowther Report, dealing with the school-leaving age, and the Anderson Report, dealing with grants to students. The hon. Member's main contention, as I understand it, is that the Government have not announced specifically their intention yet of going the whole way with the major recommendation of the Anderson Committee on the abolition of the means test for parental contributions to student grants.
My right hon. Friend was also criticised because he has not announced, in advance of the Robbins Committee, further plans for the expansion of university provision beyond what has been done so far by the establishment of five new universities within the last year or so. The Government are also criticised for not yet announcing a decision on the recommendation of the Crowther Committee that the school-leaving age be raised to 16, remembering that the Crowther recommendation was that the higher age should come into effect in 1967 or 1968, or thereabouts.
Allowing for the need to spend time on teacher recruitment, for the provision of buildings, and for the preparation of ideas and on how the five-year 57 course is to be conducted, I do not believe that there is justification for saying that because no decision has been made about the school-leaving age it is to be assumed that the Government have no intention of implementing the recommendation. I hope that we shall be able to do that in 1967, or thereabouts.
Meanwhile, we should freely welcome the Bill, which takes some fairly substantial steps in the direction which hon. Members on both sides of the House want to go in both secondary and university education. As my right hon. Friend said, in secondary education we have the problem that two out of every three children leave school as early as they can, and we probably all agree that the vast majority of those children leave too early.
By the elimination of the Christmas leaving date, we are making provision for a gradual raising of the school leaving age for some of the 15-year-olds. As is mentioned in the Crowther Report, it is technically possible, if one's birthday falls in August, to leave school at less than 15—say 14 years and 11 months. By one term's worth, for some but not all of the children in that age group, we are gradually raising the school-leaving age.
That has some important advantages. As has been said, it is especially important for the secondary modern schools, for those schools are faced with the problem of organising the 15-year-olds, some of whom will be staying on for their fourth year and some of whom will not. Do the schools now cope with those children group by group, with those who will be staying until Christmas and those who will not, with those who will be staying to Easter and those who will not, and with those who will be staying to the end of the year and those who will not? Do they deal with them according to their varying abilities?
The schools have to arrive at different solutions as best they can. All the teachers to whom I have spoken—and I think that this will have been the experience of other hon. Members—are of the opinion that their problems will be simplified if the Christmas leaving date is eliminated so that they can know that at least they can plan for two terms ahead. That will be an advantage in the 58 organisation of the secondary modern schools and to the pupils concerned.
It may be asked whether this change will lead to indignation among children who want to get out of school and into the first money-earning job they can find as quickly as they can. There will be some discontent when the new system is operated for the first time, but I think that it will be limited to comparatively few children. Secondly, the parents themselves can and should do much to mitigate that indignation. Thirdly, I think that it will be a one-year wonder. There will always be some children who want to leave school as soon as possible, but as soon as the new terminal dates become established the new system will quickly become recognised as part of the normal school pattern. It need not cause concern for much longer than its year of introduction.
What we have to consider is the extent to which the schools can cope with the less able children and to which the pattern of the schools and their ability to deal with the more able children may be damaged by the longer presence in their midst of some of the less able. This is a problem which has to be faced in the schools at some time, and the sooner we tackle it the better. If, by tackling it gradually, as the Bill does, we help teachers in the secondary modern schools, that is an advantage of the Bill and can help us towards the next step, which is acceptance of the Crowther Committee's recommendation, when and if that comes along.
It has always been said against the reduction of the number of school-leaving dates from thrice to twice, or even once a year, that that is too much for employers and difficult for the Youth Employment Service. The way that this change has been introduced is probably right from the employment point of view, because we are moving, again gradually, from three dates to two and not taking the sudden plunge from three to one. There is warning for both the Youth Employment Service and the employers, for this provision is due to take effect in a year's time. There is, therefore, time within which the employers can look ahead and think about some of the problems which are involved.
59 I welcome the Bill's proposals about university provisions. Uniformity of treatment is right and something which nearly everyone has wanted. The improvement in the scales will be a great help, regardless of whether people want to go further towards total abolition of the parental means test. The new scales will be a great help. I am glad that enough room has been left for the individual student to retain possession of an income of his own up to £100. That leaves him with an incentive of some material value to earning open award scholarships, which are a good prize. I do not see why a student and the parents should not be allowed to get some benefit for work well done in that respect.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ainsley (Durham, North-West)
While we agree with the Minister's trend of thought, we on this side of the House had looked for action rather than the sentiment which comes from the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby). Those of us who have served on education committees know that the administration of education is continually calling for more and more expansion.
In this mouse of a Bill, of 14 pages, two minor issues are dealt with. It is somewhat singular that the Bill should be the first Bill to be introduced this new Session. I wonder whether that is because the Leader of the House thought that it was a non-controversial Bill, which would have an easy passage at the beginning of the Session. In our discussions of the Bill we have to consider the social pattern set for it in local government administration.
Many of us strongly resented the abolition of the percentage grant system and the introduction of block grants which were an economy measure and which represented an economy in the expanding education service. Now that the former Minister of Housing and Local Government has become Chief Secretary to the Treasury one wonders how far he has had dealings with the financial implications of this Bill. In my opinion, this Measure is a retrograde step for the Ministry of Education. The grants will come from the Treasury, through the former Minister of Housing and Local 60 Government, and, therefore, the standard of the Ministry of Education is reduced and the expansion of the service, which should be a matter for local authorities, is curtailed.
I wonder whether some influence has been brought to bear because of the interesting speech made to the Tory Party Conference, at Brighton, by the Minister of Education. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would implement his proposals. I think that the result would be a greater encouragement for hon. Members opposite, especially if the Minister's proposals regarding primary education were implemented. The social services would be assisted and children of ability and aptitude would find their rightful place. I believe that the curriculum of State schools would be improved. There would be a greater urge to extend the building programme and to provide equipment. Certainly, it would speed up the provision of training colleges and swell the number of people coming into the teaching profession.
Let us examine our education service. In the statement on the economic situation by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on 25th July, we learned that in consultation with the Minister of Education he was informing both sides of the Burnham Committee of his views. That is a case of the Treasury imposing conditions on the Minister of Education. Not only that, but—I think this even more revealing—during the debate on the following day we learned thatIn the field of education, there will be reductions in authorisations for minor works, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education is considering a rearrangement of priorities in favour of scientific and technical education."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1961; Vol. 645, c. 437.]We recognise the need for this, but what about the humanities? What about the liberal side of education? What about the arts? Are we to be so impressed by the need for scientific development that we ignore other aspects of education? Are we to be panicked by the need of the age in which we live? In my opinion, we are now suffering from the misdeeds in the education service committed during ten years of Tory rule.
In some respects we must regard the Bill in the light of the Crowther Report, but before doing so let us examine the 61 Explanatory and Financial Memorandum. In the top line it is stated thatThe purpose of this Bill is to impose. …During the Committee proceedings on the Local Government Act the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who was then Minister of Housing and Local Government, advocating the block grant system, said that the trend was for more freedom for local authorities. But here we are faced with the reverse, an imposition upon local authorities from the central authority.
§ Mr. Ainsley
During the Committee stage of that Act the Minister impressed upon hon. Members that it sought to give greater freedom to local authorities. I served for many years on the education committee in my county, and I can say without fear of contradiction that that local authority, after consultation with the Ministry, made grants which were more generous than the State grants which we receive from the Ministry. The grants which we made increased from year to year. The State grants have remained static over a number of years. As the education authorities have not been so liberal in their awards, is this to be a cutting down of the number of awards to be made? Is the amount to be earmarked for grant purposes in addition to the general grant?
Are the State awards to be made known in the issue of grants for educational purposes? Are grants to particular students to be made known? Where is the freedom for the local authority? How is a local authority to issue these awards? Has the student a choice between one university and another? Are we seeking to fit local authority grants and the number of students into the available university places? The number of students will be reduced because 62 of the limited number of places. Will the grants for students be in keeping with the general grant? We recall that the general grant was to be subject to economic conditions prevailing at the time when it was made. If we cut the general grant, will grants to students be cut proportionately?
In the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum mention is made of more limited powers to make awards if an increase of the number of students awards proves advisable. The financial effects of this Bill remind me of the days when I worked in a coal mine. Even before nationalisation, we had what we called a sliding scale. According to the coal which was produced the manager would say, "I am claiming a reduction because you are producing too much coal." So, financially, we were worse off. Will this Bill prove a restrictive measure so far as grants from local authorities are concerned because of the present economic position? In a world of rapid change, where all our young people's talents are so badly needed, we must direct them into useful channels. That, surely, must be our aim.
On the question of leaving dates, I readily agree, but it seems somewhat appropriate to this weekend. Many of us have been gathering around cenotaphs and war memorials. One of the hymns which has been sung is "Lead Kindly Light". Think of two lines in that hymn:Amid the encircling gloom …One step enough for me.That is what the Minister of Education is saying.
The Crowther Report recommended that we should go forward to equality in the technical, grammar and modern streams to the age of 16. Why does the Minister not say that his target is 1965, 1967 or 1970 for it to be compulsory for every boy and girl to go to school until the age of 16? If he would show courage, I am sure that he would have full support from hon. Members on this side of the House.
In the area from which I come, industrially all our eggs have been in one basket. For employment, we were tied to the coal mines. I did not want to go into the mines, but there was nothing else for me to do. The problem we are facing in an area where 63 coal mining is declining is that of giving an opportunity in life which befits the educational talents of our young people. Many find their way into blind alley jobs. I should be loath to think that in the Christmas term many boys would be leaving warm classrooms to find outside work in the depths of winter. From the citizen's point of view, we shall be rendering a good service to these boys and girls by the abolition of the Christmas leaving.
I agree with that first step, but I ask what we are to do with them. What are they to do in the following three months? Are they to be kept at school? I know that secondary schools have one intake in the year and three periods of leaving in the year, which has caused dislocation. That is why I welcome the one leaving date, so that they can have four full years at secondary school. How is this to square, however, with the Chancellor's statement of 26th July about reductions in authorisations? We shall need additional buildings, teachers and equipment.
Those with administrative experience of education know that there is an annual increase in expenditure. We have been concerned that 60 per cent. to 70 per cent. of the general grant has been demanded for education and that that will go on. What is to be the alternative? Have we to look for this expenditure from a central fund, or is it to be on a local rate call, creating different standards throughout the country? I see this problem facing local authorities in the immediate future. It is a problem of our State school system. It does not apply to the public schools. We hear no complaint from that section of the community.
It is time we had integration of our educational services. It is time that boys and girls, no matter from what homes they come and not on a financial basis but on the basis of "ability and aptitude" according to the Act, were given an opportunity of fully developing their talents. Because the Minister has failed miserably in this little Bill, I think that the best service he can do to education is to tender his resignation.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. J. C. Jennings (Burton)
My intervention in this debate will be very 64 brief. I had not intended to speak until I listened to the speech of a very good friend of mine, the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Ainsley). I did not like the unfair way in which he used the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill.
The hon. Member sought, by quoting from the first line, to prove that the Minister was imposing something disagreeable upon somebody. When I asked him to continue the quotation he did not do so. I should like to do the job for him, to finish it for him, to show what my right hon. Friend is imposing and upon whom he is bringing this "dreadful imposition". The finished quotation reads as follows:The purpose of this Bill is to impose a duty (Clause 1) on local education authorities in England and Wales to make awards to students with certain qualifications attending university first degree courses or further education courses of a comparable standard.
§ Mr. Ainsley
The word "qualifications" is the word I ask the hon. Member to look at. It means that increased awards may be made by local authorities, but restrictions are to be placed upon them by the Minister because he is making certain awards above that standard.
§ Mr. Jennings
We never heard a word about "qualifications" when I challenged the hon. Member. The word he was flinging broadside on the House was "impose". He used that sentence to try to prove that the Minister was doing something which was not beneficial to anyone. I want to dispel that idea immediately. This is not all that we on this side of the House want, but it is more than "a mouse of a Bill", as the hon. Member described it. At least, it is half a loaf. One of the educational journals described it last Friday as two half-loaves of different colours. It is a step in the right direction.
I shall deal with the second point mentioned by the hon. Member, the question of "qualifications". We have at least, what many hon. Members on both sides of the House have asked for in the treatment of students, the abolition of the tendency for recalcitrant authorities to penalise capable and able students whereas other authorities recognise and reward them. If the Bill does nothing else, it removes that evil. We have uniformity at 65 last in both treatment and in qualifications. The Bill lays down that the minimum qualification required is two A-level passes, and once the student is accepted for university he automatically qualifies for a grant of the same value, irrespective of where he is.
The hon. Member also tried to divert the House on the subject of the general grant. We all know its history. All my hon. Friends know the stand which I took on it. But, again, he did not correctly quote the Preamble, because if he goes halfway down the page he will read:Clause 7 enables the Minister of Housing and Local Government to make an Order …".Here he challenged my right hon. Friend by saying that power was being taken from his hands and given to the Minister of Housing and Local Government, and that this denigrated the authority of the Minister of Education. What nonsense that is.Clause 7 enables the Minister of Housing and Local Government to make an Order increasing the amount of the general grants payable in the current period because of the additional expenditure arising from the new award arrangements.In other words, we are using the machinery of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to give more money to the general grant because of the increased expenditure arising from the new award. Surely the hon. Member will not quibble with that.
§ Mr. Ainsley
The hon. Member served in the County of Durham as a qualified teacher. As a member of the teaching profession, does he agree that the Minister of Housing and Local Government should deal with educational administration?
§ Mr. Jennings
The hon. Member knows as well as I do that whether the grants are percentage or general grants, the money all comes from the same source via the local authorities. There is no denigration of the Minister of Education, because we are using the machinery set up to operate the block grant through the Minister of Housing and Local Government to see that the money gets to the right place, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education is still the responsible Minister.
§ Mr. Jennings
We will beg to differ.
66 On the last point, I feel quite strongly. I am sorry that the Bill did not accept the main conclusion of the Report on student grants in respect of the means test. Many times in the House I have advocated that, on principle, the means test should be abolished. The principle is that if a boy or girl, by merit, gains an award, then it should not matter whether he or she is the son or daughter of a duke or an earl, a professor or a middle-class individual, or a member of the so-called working class. The award depends on merit, and the boy or girl should not be treated as the son or daughter of a wealthy or a poor father, but as an individual.
I am glad that the Bill at least relaxes the means test, but it keeps it in a relaxed form. I welcome it as a step in the right direction, but I hope that when we are returned at the next General Election, or before, we shall take the next step and abolish the means test.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I will afford the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings) the opportunity of taking the next step during this Session, for I will put down Amendments to the Bill to remove from the Minister the power of enforcing a means test. I hope that I shall find the hon. Member walking with me through the Lobby after I have given him the opportunity to realise his ambition.
§ Mr. Jennings
I am sure that the right hon. Member recognises that I have even done that on several occasions.
§ Mr. Ede
Then it will be no new experience for the hon. Member, and I hope that he will not be telephoned by the Whips, as one hon. Member last week assured us that he was.
This must be a sad day for the Minister because he made one of the first speeches on the first Amendment which we moved to the Education Bill in 1944 when his right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary proposed to bring education under his direction and control. The right hon. Gentleman rose and opposed it. He said:… I do not like the words which the Amendment proposes to leave out because they give the impression of master and servant and 67 not of senior and junior partners."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February, 1944; Vol. 396, c. 1655.]As my hon. Friend the Member for Durham North-West (Mr. Ainsley) pointed out, this is a Bill to impose under that direction and control a duty on local education authorities to do something which, as I am informed, last year they managed to achieve of their own volition. In other words, they achieved a uniform system of grants for these matters over the whole country. While they have done it somewhat tardily, and while I regret that they took so long about it, nevertheless, since they have reached that state of grace, the Minister might have welcomed it and encouraged them to go on doing it of their own volition rather than under his superintendence.
We have to face the fact that the country is in a very parlous condition in respect of admissions to universities. Between the two world wars I generally spent several days, sometimes weeks, in the month of September on behalf of friends who had a child who had managed to do quite well at secondary school, as it was then called—although we now call it grammar school—and who tried, from one charitable source or another, to get sufficient money to enable him to enter a university. Money was the trouble.
Money was the trouble in my own case, which brought my university career to an untimely end. It is true that the universities have since made it up to me by giving me—no longer of any great value to me—honorary degrees which, if only I deserved them, would entitle me to be Lord Chancellor. That sort of thing always comes too late in life. What I have to do in September in these years is not to worry about money, but to help parents whose children have obtained grants to find places in a university.
One hon. Member had a son whom I knew to be a very good scholar because I was one of the governors at the school at which he was being educated. He was head boy. He applied to six universities and they all turned him down. That has been the parlous plight of a good many children during recent years who have managed to get, from one 68 source or another, grants that will see them through a university with reasonable ease—yet they cannot find a place.
We were told by the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby) that five new universities have received some sort of send-off during the present year. But even if they all reach a satisfactory state of near-completion during the next two or three years, the problem that I have just mentioned will still be as great. I do not know how the Minister will be able to deal satisfactorily with this university problem until he takes a share in the admission to universities and in the establishment of a clearing house, as there is for training colleges, by which these lads and girls can be assured of getting a satisfactory result to their secondary school careers.
I ask the Minister particularly to consider the case of the boys or girls who fail at the 11-plus, but who manage to get into a secondary modern school with a grammar school stream and there get the two qualifications at Advanced level which will qualify them in future, we understand, for a grant if they can get admission to a university. I regret to say that a number of these cases have come to me from one county only, and I have a shrewd suspicion that there must be some understanding between some of the universities that a good pass from a secondary modern school with a grammar school stream is not the equivalent of the same pass from a grammar school. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] I can assure the hon. Member that I would not make a statement like that without having grounds for my own suspicions. Universities are above suspicion in the minds of a good many people in this country, but not in mine.
If ever that gets to be an idea generally held, the Minister can rest assured that the row about 11-plus will be nothing to the row that will arise over 18-plus. I hope that we may have an assurance that, so far as the Minister has anything to do with it, it does not matter where a child gets his qualification—that shall be regarded as sufficient for all the purposes that he requires. But he will have to have, to meet the needs of this country, a very much larger number of university places at the end of the 1960s if there is not to be grave disturbance over this kind of matter.
69 I regret very much that the means test is retained in spite of its rejection by the Anderson Committee. Right hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite are in the most deplorable plight. The Minister agrees with the principle, but he cannot carry it out. On Thursday, the Home Secretary and the Leader of the House are supporting a Bill which they both regarded with the utmost loathing until some hon. Members on the back benches opposite compelled them to adopt it. If right hon. Gentlemen agree with the principle, why cannot we have that principle enforced, backed as it is by the recommendation of the Committee appointed by the Minister?
I come to the point dealing with school-leaving dates. As I understand the present law—and it is quite likely that I am wrong, because I took a prominent part in drafting it—once a child has passed the end of the term in which he attains the age of 15 he can leave school on any day that his parents like. He does not have to wait until the end of the next term. I wish that that was better understood. What is the position of the lad who is released from compulsory school attendance? He goes to see an employer and the employer says, "I am willing to take you on. When can you come?" So far as I know from my study of the administration of the law, the boy can say, "This afternoon, Sir, if that is convenient to you, or tomorrow morning at the latest."
I hope that we shall hear, before the end of this debate, whether that is a correct interpretation of the law; I believe that it is. I hope that if we reduce the number of school-leaving dates to two in a year boys and girls who are no longer compelled to attend school will be made aware that the position that I have just indicated is their legal position. That would encourage parents to keep a child at school until he can get reasonable employment.
I regard this as very important. If we go to one leaving date in a year, which I certainly support as the ideal, it will be even more important than it will be when the right hon. Gentleman's amendment is incorporated in the law, as I hope that it will be. We must make it clear when we have done our best to get a sound school organisation that the schools exist for the children and 70 not the children for the schools. If there should be some slight disorganisation of school routine when a parent takes advantage of what I have just described as the law, in the interests of the child that may be the best thing to happen and I hope that the interests of the child will always be the first concern.
I hope, further, that increasing attention will be given inside the schools themselves to make the last few months of a child's school career have some connection with the employment that the child is to follow when it leaves school, so that it can be convinced that school, after all, has some relationship with the world outside and with the life that the child will have to live in that world. If a determined attempt is made to secure recognition of a child's legal ability to leave school once it has passed compulsory school attendance age, and if the last few months of a child's school career have some relationship with the life it will live afterwards, much of the alleged resentment caused by having to stay on for a few extra weeks or months will be removed.
The Bill could have been a great opportunity for a wide reconsideration of some of our educational problems. We are told that £10 million is the sum which has made the right hon. Gentleman desert his principle and go in for this measure of political expediency. It was a lamentable confession, but it shows the value which the right hon. Gentleman sets on real educational advance on broad lines. I can only express my regret and disappointment at the fact that, while, on broad general lines, the Bill takes halting steps forward, supported by the hon. Member for Burton as it totters along, it has not seized the opportunity of making a broad and sweeping change in the relationship between the central authority for education and the problems with which sooner or later a Minister of Education who puts educational principle first and political expediency second will have to deal.
§ Mr. Jennings
Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that there is any connection between the town of Burton and tottering?
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)
I hope that within the next few minutes I shall not totter very far. I welcome the improvements set out in the Bill, but I firmly believe that there is room for more improvements. I am glad that my right hon. Friend has said that there is room for improvements, although we obviously cannot afford to make them all at once. This is where some of us on this side differ from what the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said.
I want particularly to draw attention to paragraph 170 of the Anderson Report. I hope that my right hon. Friend will take note of the regrettable fact that girls at the present time are at a disadvantage in pursuing further education. I will not say more about this because it is fully set out in the Report.
Some people are very out of date in wishing to look at a Bill of this kind in terms of relieving hardship. I believe that the purpose for which bursaries were originally given, which was the relief of hardship, has largely been achieved. However, I believe that in relieving hardship for some sections of the community we have created hardship elsewhere. This is the point with which I wish to deal for a few minutes today. It would be much more in keeping with the need of the times if we regarded this problem as the releasing of ability, because this is what the country requires at present.
The present system bears very heavily against large families. Certain inquiries and evidence leads me to believe that this is true, and we all await with interest the outcome of the Hill Committee's investigation. A statistical analysis made in one Scottish university suggests that there are far fewer students from families of three or more children than there might be if the deterrent of payment were abolished. 72 This would mean the abolition of the means test, which cannot be considered in straight terms of cost without considering the possible lowering of the wastage rate from universities if the deterrent were abolished.
I have for long been convinced that at present we are losing able pupils. Because of the factor I have already mentioned and others, many pupils do not go to universities at all. Those of us who, like myself, are advocates of the abolition of the means test do not reckon in terms of the requirement of £20 million. Although I hesitate to quibble about the figure, the figure for Scotland appears to be much more like £2 million. If I am right in thinking that the population at English universities is seven or eight times the population at Scottish universities, this must be accounted for by the fact that 40 per cent. of students at Scottish universities receive no bursary at all. Here I am quoting two-year-old figures, because I have not seen last year's figures, although I am told they are much more encouraging. I repeat that those of us in favour of abolition who represent Scottish constituencies have that factor clearly in our minds.
There is also wastage once people get to universities, and I am sure that the Bill will help toward alleviating this at this stage. If bursary awards went even further, there would be keener competition for entry, and all the difficulties mentioned by the right hon. Member for South Shields would be aggravated, but the awards set out in the Bill should also make for higher ability in entrants.
I want to quote some examples of how the figures in the Bill will work. If two people in a household are earning and the balance of income in a household with one dependent child is £1,000, the required contribution will be £19. Jumping to an income of £2,000 a year and presupposing that there are two major earners, namely, man and wife—this is true in many instances, and in an increasing number of instances today—whose incomes for tax purposes are joined, they will have to contribute £94 towards the higher education of their child. Any woman in the land will confirm that if a woman goes out to work the household is run at a greater expense.
We shall, therefore, lose these people, because the Bill does not seem to touch 73 the parents of children in these circumstances. The awards in the Bill, therefore, although improved, do not take into account the extra payments for running the household if both man and wife are working, and this would militate against sending their child to university, unless the woman accepts the alternative of giving up her job and keeping the home.
With that example I want to couple that of not being able at present to tell parents of an eleven-year-old what they are likely to receive in awards when the child reaches university age. That is an additional reason why many of us believe that to be able to tell parents that the education would be free would encourage them from the outset to urge their children to go right through to the end of their schooling. Again, no one has mentioned the numbers who at present take the Higher National Certificate, although many hon. Members on both sides believe that here lies a source of additional able students.
Therefore, while we realise that this Bill makes it much easier for a number of parents whose children go to the universities, we remain hopeful that more will be done fairly quickly to enable those who are still cut out from full advantage to get the maximum benefit. I welcome the provisions for improved awards, and I certainly welcome the greater uniformity of awards, but I remain an unrepentant advocate of free university education as soon as our economic conditions permit.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
This may be a little Bill, but it marks a real step forward in the march to equal opportunity. I remember that as late as 1954, in an Adjournment debate, I called the attention of the House to the disparities that existed between local authorities in their university awards—disparities in the number of awards in the amount of financial aid given and in the criteria on which they chose the children for university places.
Now, some six years later, most of these disparities have been ironed out. Nearly all local authorities broadly adopt, more or less generously—there is still room, as the Minister has shown, for some to be less generous than others 74 here—the Ministerial scale, and most of the meaner local authorities have increased the number of their university awards.
In that Adjournment debate I said that the then Minister himself ought to direct local authorities to adopt the same criteria; he should… insist that there is a level above which no L.E.A. may turn down a boy merely because he fails to titillate a group of interviews."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1954; Vol. 533, c. 528.]At that time some authorities were awarding grants to all who secured places in the university, whatever their Advanced-level results. On the other hand, some were turning down good candidates with even three good subjects at A-level because they failed to impress the interviewing panel, or because the authority wished to save the rates.
With Clause 1 we at least end this injustice. Indeed, it merely enacts what has been almost completely achieved by the continued advice which the Minister has been giving over the years to local authorities in circular after circular, and something that had been achieved years ago by the best local authorities. The freedom of manoeuvre by local authoritities to reject candidates who are academically strong has finally been circumscribed, as many of us have asked that it should be. It is worth recalling that, as late as 1953 whereas 55 per cent. of the local authorities demanded two advanced subjects before they would make a university award, 25 per cent. of all local authorities were insisting on three advanced subjects, which is one more than most universities require. The injustices and disparities, examples of which I gave to the House in 1954, have gone for all time. That is excellent.
I appreciate the devoted and selfless work of local education authority selection committees, but I still have doubts about interviews in general as being subjective rather than objective, and I am certainly happy that we no longer leave in the unfettered hands of the local committees the important question of deciding who goes to the university. Sixth formers, like all children, have a keen sense of justice and, in the past, that keen sense of justice has often been outraged when of two boys of similar ability but living under different authorities one has 75 gone to the university and the other has not.
Clause 1 is not the end of the matter. Indeed, it raises new problems. We are gradually handing over to the universities almost the whole responsibility of selecting entrance. That is really what Clause 1 does. It is important that the criteria that the universities adopt should be 100 per cent. educational, should more nearly approach uniformity, and should never be social. The avenue to Oxford and Cambridge, at least, with the perpetuation of the closed scholarship, with still a social intake, with still a bias that advantages the boy who has come by way of "prep" school and public school to the university, is by no means one in which all who enter "Oxbridge" get there by fair competition.
In a book called "From School to University," R. A. Day wisely says:In avoiding the Charybdis of uniformity it is easy to steer into the Scylla of chaos: a certain variety in the arrangements and regulations for university entrance may be good, but the present superabundance of it has led to confusion, inefficiency and quite unpremeditated injustice.I would urge the universities to realise that possibly even more important than the teaching they do there is the selection of the intake, and that everything they can do to improve that selection they should certainly do.
I listened with interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Ainsley), because, forty years ago, the Durham local authority was a pioneer in awarding university grants. It sent me to the university at a time when very few other local education authorities would have done so, because the Liberal-Labour majority on the Durham County Council was progressive in education.
We can comfort my hon. Friend, who is afraid that this Measure takes from the generous authorities the power to be generous. It does not. It leaves the local authority with a vestige, at any rate, of initiative. By subsection (2) of Clause 1 the local authority can still look after the worthwhile student who has failed to win qualification as of right under subsection (1). Here, local intimate knowledge may be of value and local generosity may play its part, but I would say to all local authorities and to the Minister 76 that we have to watch for the danger of local nepotism, and even of local patriotism in this field.
It is now clear, however, that, apart from that vestige of independence, local authority power to give or withhold university grants has passed almost entirely from the local authorities. Moreover, as the Minister has told us, he takes power to prescribe the amount of the grant and, again, I am glad about this. Back in 1954—indeed, throughout the century—the disparity in the amount of money different local authorities gave to university students was shocking. People of my age remember that there was even a time—happily, long since passed—when some mean local authorities merely lent money to students.
Long after the end of the Second World War, as I wandered round talking in the universities of Britain, I found students, side by side, pursuing the same course, and having the same home circumstances, but existing on vastly different incomes because, in one case, the local authority was generous and, in the other case, it was mean. The Bill merely regularises the practice of the best local authorities.
I echo the plea made by the hon. Lady the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) and, indeed, by all hon. Members who have taken part in this debate, that the Minister, when he makes his new regulations under subsection (3) of Clause I, will think again about abolishing the means test. The latest scales are fairly good, and this is one improvement, and a relaxation that would be welcomed, by all students. The National Union of Students and parents would find it a great help. But the scales themselves need constant watching. The Medical Students' Union, at its weekend conference, asked the Minister to think especially about the position of the married student—the medical student who may be midway through his long university career, and also protested against the means test.
I regard the means test as a simple issue. For instance, a young man of 20 has worked hard all his way through sixth form to earn the right to college. When he gets to the university he will continue to work hard. He is working as hard for his living as any other young British 77 citizen and he resents, as a young adult, that he is deprived of the right to his grant which he has earned if his parents, should by chance have more income than the scale allows. Talking to many students, as I do, I know that they resent this continued dependence very much indeed.
Although the local authorities lose practically all say in the matter of university grants, they still have to meet about half the cost. I would remind the hon. Gentleman the Member for Burton (Mr. Jennings), that if he reads the Bill he will find that the financial decisions in the Clause to which he referred are made not by the Minister of Education, but by the Minister of Housing and Local Government. No one knows yet what amount the Minister of Housing and Local Government, to whom the Minister of Education abdicated part of his power in the last Parliament, will give to the local authorities. If the general grant means anything, it is general, and when the Minister has decided what amount he puts further into the local authority "kitty" because of the expenses of this Bill, that money will come into the general grant of a local authority. It will not be earmarked for the educational expenditure of the Bill.
Perhaps I can illustrate to the House by considering the new scales which the Minister introduced this year. They are costing the Hampshire Education Committee about the product of a 1d. rate. The Minister has just abolished State scholarships. For those the Government used to be entirely responsible and their abolition means that local authorities will have to find their half, assuming that the general grant is working on its usual basis of 50 or 60 per cent. The candidate who would have secured a State scholarship will be financed by the local authority, subsidised by the Minister, instead of the Minister, as he used to, paying 100 per cent. of the cost.
Local authorities which skimp their university scholarships will now be made by law—and this is the main benefit of Clause 1—to make university awards to all children who have two subjects in advanced level and who are accepted by a university. They will find that they will have to spend more of the ratepayers' money because of this Bill. Moreover, thanks to the marvellous 78 progress we are making on every front in education, more boys and girls each year are coming into the range when they can qualify for university, getting two, and most of them three, Advanced-level.
As, then, new financial burdens are imposed by the Bill on local authorities, I believe that the time is ripe for the Government to assume the full cost of university places. I hope that we shall have an opportunity in Committee, when we come to the general grant Clause, of asking our friend or enemy the Minister of Housing and Local Government to make that additional grant 100 per cent. of the cost of university awards to local authorities.
The Labour Party has long advocated that all the cost of university grants should come from the Exchequer; that we should relieve local authorities of the burden. I am delighted to find that whilst the County Councils Association, of which I may regard myself a minority member and which is a body predominently Conservative, objected to the Minister's proposals to regulate university awards, it also said that if the Minister is to accept every responsibility, and if the law will now take from the local authorities practically all initiative in giving university awards, he should pay for them and the local authorities should not pay anything.
I know that some local authorities may be divided about this. They do not like to see any more power leaving them and in view of the Government's sorry record and the false declaration that they wanted to bring more freedom to local authorities, I can sympathise with them. Educationally, however, the Minister is right, if, financially, he is wrong. I regard most of the Bill as having been drafted by the Minister in his capacity of a benevolent Dr. Jekyll. The financial provisions, on the other hand, have been drawn by the Minister as a wicked Mr. Hyde, who is now at work on a second Bill to limit the freedom of the Burnham Committee on behalf of the two Chancellors of the Exchequer and who, again in this Bill, has taken financial control of an educational reform out of the hands of education and given it to the Minister of Housing and Local Government.
I would say to local authorities that they must realise that in this Bill, so 79 far as university grants are concerned, the substance has gone. Their power to choose university candidates goes when the Bill becomes law and they would be foolish to hang on to the shadow and provide finance for university grants when all other responsibility has gone from them.
This Bill will encourage the number of students eligible for university education at a time when the first bulge has already begun to leave our sixth forms. The climax will be reached, it is true, in 1963, but even this year our sixth forms have turned out boys who are qualified to go to university but who cannot get there. I can think of the son of a neighbour of mine, with three good Advanced levels and with an excellent school record, who has been unable to find a place in the pathetic trek which students make from university to university in this most anxious period of their careers. This boy, and others like him, who must earn their living, have had to turn their backs on educational careers for which their parents and themselves made great sacrifices.
The present crisis for sixth formers will grow this year, next year and the year after and will be increased by the provisions of the Bill. This spotlights the failure of this and successive Governments to provide, in time, enough opportunities for university education for the first bulge in child population. In this, as in so many things, I charge the Government with doing to little too late.
I turn to Clause 9 concerning school leaving, which takes us away from Anderson—to whom tribute has been rightly paid—to the Crowther Report—one of the noblest of education documents. I want sincerely to congratulate the Minister for grappling with this complex problem. He will need in the months ahead—certainly, when this part of the Bill comes into force for the first time, when boys and girls who thought that they could leave find that they cannot—the support of all the educationists in the country generally and hon. Members on both sides of the House. He will get objection from some employers—the worst—and from same parents, especially the poorest.
80 When the Labour Government raised the school-leaving age to 15 this did not provide all children with four years of secondary education. Lucky children had four or more years—25 per cent. of them in the grammar school. They are not affected by the Bill. They get four, five and six years. In the public schools they get five, six and seven years. But about a third of the rest of our children get only three and one-third years. Another third get three and two-thirds years—three years and a term or three years and two terms—instead of four years.
This means that in every secondary modern school—and I speak as one who was in charge of a secondary modern school in the early days of secondary modern education—one of the fourth forms consists of children some of whom leave at Christmas, some at Easter and some in July. These children are comrades together at school. Usually, they have come up all the way together, but the last year is broken. It is broken for them and for their teachers. For one group, what should be a fourth year is merely an extra term.
It is in the fourth form of secondary education that some of the most real education begins—some of us mentioned this at length in the debate on Crowther and the education of the adolescent—and many of our children leave secondary education after only one term of that kind of education which the grammar school children and the technical children are beginning to enjoy with a rate of expansion almost of geometrical progression with every term that they stay after the age of 15. Their last term even is handicapped by the excitement of leaving and of job-seeking, and that excitement affects all the other children in the form. Some children are embittered because their friends in the same form are able to leave while they themselves cannot.
For the teacher it means that planning a year's work is impossible. Each group, including the group which stays the whole year, suffers. A year's work has a beginning, a middle and an end, but not so when the form is of this scattered nature. It is even bad from the point of view of the economical use of teachers, unless the school is big 81 enough to have a form of Christmas leavers and a form of Easter leavers.
Usually, what happens is that one form dwindles in a year—it is overcrowded at the beginning of the year—and then one teacher has to deal with twelve or fifteen children unless the desperate shortage of teachers makes the headmaster pull out the teacher and distribute the twelve or fifteen children round the other forms. In tackling this, I think that the Minister takes a step forward. He has not gone as far as the teaching profession has suggested and introduced one leaving date, but, at any rate, when the Bill becomes law all children will have at least, as I work it out, three and two-thirds years in secondary education and most of them will have four years.
I suggest that in one of the education debates to which the Minister looks forward he should also examine this problem from the other end, and consider the primary schools. He has lately shown an interest in primary education, which interest he shares with the Prime Minister, who thought, in "The Middle Way", that it would not hurt the duke's son if he sat in the same primary school class as the cook's son. We welcome the conversion of the Minister of Education, but we hope that he will do more about it than the Prime Minister has done in the twenty years since he wrote "The Middle Way ".
Only one-third of the children complete the full infants' course. Late entrants come in at Christmas and they have two terms. Easter entrants have one term in the babies' class and then they move on, caught up in the machine with their age group. Not a few headmistresses have told me that children who have the full three years in the infants' school stand a better chance in the 11-plus. Whether that be so or not, I think that all infant and primary teachers would welcome the reform which allowed a child to join the infants' school at the beginning of the school year in which he reached the age of 5.
This may sound a terrific revolution, but I, with many others, was admitted under that arrangement to the infants' school even in the year 1905. Such a reform would give the infants' school a 82 chance of getting a clear three years organised programme for all children. It certainly would benefit the infants. Unfortunately, this would cost the country more teachers, so I suppose we cannot think about it until we have built up a supply of primary teachers. I hope, however, that the Minister will bear it in mind. The reform that the Minister proposes does not cost us a single teacher. I think that it would be ungenerous to say that this is Crowther on the cheap, because I think it is too important for that, but it is, nevertheless, the only part of Crowther which the Government have decided so far to carry out, and it is a minimal part.
I want to return to Crowther itself. I believe that the greatest educational advance that we can make within the next decade is to raise the school leaving age for all children to 16. Even in this matter of discrepancies between birthdays, the longer a child stays at school the less important those discrepancies become. But all of us who look on the present state of society with its temptations and opportunities, with its tremendous material resources, and its equally tremendous lack of spiritual content, of a sense of purpose and an awareness of true values, see in the work of our schools about the most powerful force for good that there is in Britain. We see, as Crowther and his fellow reformers saw—how wrong it is to continue for a moment more than necessary the thrusting out into the world of the vast mass of our children at the age of 15 or 15⅓, just at the beginning of the years of adolescence, when education has so much to give.
I again urge the Minister to take this new opportunity of making a declaration to the nation. I can understand how overburdened he is at the moment with the sheer problems of the year of intermission, the crisis and the overcrowding coming within months. But he has not yet set his sights—he has not set the nation's sights—on the goal which I believe, with Crowther, Britain can achieve if only she will have the will to do so. I believe, with Crowther, that if the Minister will make this call to the nation, and will set this target before the nation, that declaration of faith and purpose will help to create the very instrument by which we can achieve that goal.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Dudley Smith (Brentford and Chiswick)
I was interested in the remarks of the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King), particularly on Clause 9. I agree very much with what he said about the difficulties which we shall encounter when this Measure becomes law. I do not agree with many other of the points which he made earlier. However, I want to be reasonably brief and I shall deal principally with the question of Clause 9. A new climate of opinion about later leaving is needed among many parents. I very much welcome the steps introduced in the Bill by my right hon. Friend, but I think that many young people will not appreciate the fact that the number of school-leaving dates is to be changed, and neither will their parents.
Today, there is still too much thought about an early supplementing of the family income, not always from necessity, either. Some families take on enormous commitments; they buy on hire purchase washing machines, television sets, refrigerators and so forth, and they rely on the income not only of the husband and the wife, but also of the children. Some of those people will have to be a little more realistic in their approach to these matters, particularly when, as we all hope, the Crowther recommendations are implemented and, in due course, the school-leaving age is raised to 16.
The present situation is extremely difficult, also, for those children who are conscious of their future and who wish to stay on at school voluntarily. They see their contemporaries leaving, going out into the world and earning big money from the start. There is a great temptation to follow suit. It cannot be too strongly emphasised that those who go out better equipped educationally, will, in the long run, probably stand to earn far more money.
I hope to see the Crowther recommendations implemented in due course, but I think that we thrashed this whole matter out fairly well nearly two years ago when we debated the Crowther Report. I thought that my right hon. Friend was very realistic about it at that time and, although there is general agreement that 16 is a desirable school-leaving age, we cannot possibly afford 84 it until we have the right number of teachers. Otherwise, we should only embarrass the general work of the schools and of the county education authorities controlling the schools.
It is largely a matter of teacher supply. I am optimistic about this, despite the trouble we recently had on the subject of teachers' salaries. I believe that more teachers will come into the profession, even with the much criticised award which is to come into effect early in the new year, and I believe also that, later on, when the teachers get more still, there will be better recruitment all round. Once there is a more plentiful supply of teachers, we shall be able to consider more immediately the possibility of implementing the recommendation that the school-leaving age should be 16.
I should myself have preferred one leaving date, but I realise that the step proposed is a transitory one and that, probably, in due course, we shall have just one leaving date for all school leavers. This will, I think, help the labour market in the long run. Some employers, as the hon. Member for Itchen said, will not like the present change, but, when they get used to it and we eventually have one leaving date, the labour market will, I believe, adjust itself to the new intake of school leavers and will welcome it in the long term.
An expert who has studied the Bill tells me that the proposed changes will cause some imbalance in the distribution of school leavers. Those going at the end of the spring term will comprise pupils whose birthdays fall within a period of five months as compared with a period of seven months in respect of those eligible to leave at midsummer. Of course, this effect will be corrected to a large extent by pupils voluntarily staying on at school, a process which is now, happily, increasing. In my own County of Middlesex, more and more young people are of their own volition remaining at school beyond the age of 15. This will, as I say, counterbalance to a large extent the other effect.
I welcome the other provisions of the Bill. Like other hon. Members, I was interested to receive today a document from the County Councils Association which takes marked objection to certain of the measures in the Bill. I note 85 that the Association says that it believesthat local government should not be called upon to bear financial responsibility for functions the exercise of which is almost wholly determined by the central Government.The Association goes on to make the point thatThe Government propose that local education authorities in England and Wales shall be required to spend large sums of money in ways and amounts which are to be strictly prescribed by the Minister. This is the well known method of government by 'circular and regulations'. The full extent of what is intended to be done is not easy to foresee since it is not spelled out in the Bill.Although I agree with many of the opinions of the County Councils Association, I do not agree with that particular one, but I note the point made by the Association that, at present, education expenditure by county councilsis already well over half their total expenditure".In my own county expenditure on education represents about three-quarters of the whole rate product. This is entirely out of balance with the county's other commitments, and I think—my right hon. Friend has heard me make the point before—that we shall eventually have to come round to the idea of all education services being financed from central sources by the Exchequer, while still providing for autonomy and control to be retained by the county councils and the borough education authorities.
The Bill is an important one even though, as some hon. Members have said, it is a minor one. Minor matters are not necessarily bad; they can sometimes be very good and worthy. In this particular case, we are, perhaps, taking a minor but nevertheless very genuine step forward.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Alan Fitch (Wigan)
Although I give a general welcome to the principles embodied in the Bill, I cannot say that it represents a step in the right direction. I prefer to call it a shuffle in the right direction. The Minister has not taken full advantage of some of the opportunities open to him. He has been too complacent and too timid. Here was a chance to introduce something far more dynamic than the Measure we are discussing this evening.
The two principal points in the Bill relate to further education and the 86 school-leaving dates. Further education, or, as some prefer to call it, higher education, is education based on the G.C.E. at Advanced level as, shall I say, a minimum qualification. It involves three major sections of our education service, the universities, the teacher training colleges, and the advanced technical colleges together with, as a subsidiary matter, a number of art and commercial colleges.
In England and Wales there are at present 110,000 full-time university students, 30,000 students in teacher-training colleges and 95,000 students doing full-time or part-time work in our technical colleges. This number will definitely increase, for a variety of reasons. Children in our secondary modern schools today are being given more encouragement to stay on and take the G.C.E. Some of those who pass will, no doubt, go on to the Advanced level and will reach the minimum qualifications required for entry into the higher education world. Also, the Welfare State, with its provision for social security, means that there is less economic reason for children to leave at 15. Some children—not enough, perhaps—are staying on. What used to be the educational way of life of the middle class is now becoming the way of life of the working class.
It is estimated that in ten years the number of boys and girls reaching the required standard will have doubled. We hope, also, that the economy will develop. Of course, it would develop far more quickly under a Labour Government, but, even under the Tories, we can assume, I think, that there will be some development in the economy and that that development will bring with it a demand for more qualified people. If our economy does not develop and we have the educated people ready but with no jobs for them to go to, there will certainly be trouble. Scientific advance will bring a demand for more scientifically trained people. Already we need more teachers because of our developing education system. We need more scientific workers because of the development of atomic energy.
The standard of entry to the professions is rising. At one time a person could become a dentist without very much training. A person could even be 87 a teacher without much training. In fact, they were occupations. Now they are professions. Many occupations today are on the verge of becoming professions. This means that there will be not only an upward, but an outward demand. If I may be allowed to use a mathematical term, the demand will be vertical as well as horizontal.
I now turn to the universities. The Bill, as the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum states, imposesa duty … on local education authorities in England and Wales to make awards to students with certain qualifications attending university first degree courses …The university population in England has always been very small. During the War of American Independence in 1775, we had two universities, Oxford and Cambridge, whereas the Americans had nine. Fifty years ago we were almost at the bottom of the European university table. I think that Turkey was below us.
Unfortunately, we are in relatively the same position today. Probably it is unfair to leave the matter there, because, although I have no personal experience of this, our standards of entry to the universities are probably higher than those in many Continental countries. Numbers do not count here, although it is regrettably true that fewer of our children have the chance to go to university compared with children in European countries. In Poland, which has a population about half the size of ours, possibly a little more, 50 per cent. more of their children go to university. In New Zealand, Canada and Australia a higher percentage of students in relation to population go to university than in this country. Six per cent. of our children go to university, whereas in America 35 per cent. of the children go to university. An American child is three times as likely to go to university as the English child is to get to the sixth form. That is something which needs very serious consideration.
What we are suffering from is national inertia under a complacent Conservative Government. As long as we are doing a little better than we were doing, we seem to be satisfied, rather like the boy who is next to bottom of the form but is satisfied as long as he can point to 88 someone who is doing a little worse than he is. We must get away from this complacency and inertia if we are to make any strides in education.
I should like now to say a word about the University Grants Committee. The other day I was reading a very interesting Fabian pamphlet. My hon. Friends the Members for Flint, East (Mrs. White), Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) and Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) were among its authors. It was called "Higher Education", and it made some very telling criticisms of the University Grants Committee. I realise that until the Minister has the findings of the Robbins Report he is not likely to take any action along the lines suggested in this pamphlet. That is fair enough, but I think that some of the things in the pamphlet should be more widely known. I should like to mention one or two of them.
The first concerns the lack of Parliamentary accountability. The University Grants Committee was apparently set up over forty years ago, when it was handling about £2 million a year. Today it is handling £54 million a year, and probably in the next decade that sum will be doubled. As far as I can see, the Minister of Education has no power to intervene and advise on the spending of this money. This has been discussed by the Public Accounts Committee and, I believe, the Estimates Committee.
The University Grants Committee is too insular. Nowadays, when higher education must be much more flexible and when the division between the university and the advanced technical college is getting smaller, the members of this committee seem to take a far too insular attitude towards education. Their attitude towards the design and cost of university buildings is conservative, with a small c.
Now I want to say something about the abolition of the State scholarship, which is recommended by the Anderson Committee. This is a good recommendation, because these awards are of no monetary value now, and I think that their prestige value has gone. It used to be said that the more brilliant scholars received State scholarships and the less brilliant received major county awards, but this has not proved to be the case. That is a fallacy of which we should get rid. Some people 89 who receive a local government award do even better than State scholars when they get to university.
The Bill does nothing for the progressive local authority. When I use the words "progressive local authority", I refer to authorities like Wigan, which is very progressive indeed. We give university awards to all our people who enter a university in England, Wales or Scotland. What the Bill will do is to bring into line those reactionary local authorities which are rather mean in awarding grants. We shall discuss many of the provisions in the Bill in detail during the Committee stage, but there are one or two anomalies in it which I do not understand. I understand that at the moment teachers who take an extended period of training immediately following their ordinary training receive the normal grant, but if they teach in between—in other words, if they do their training, teach and then take a supplementary course—the cost has to be borne by the local authority. If this is the case—and I have information on good authority that it is the case—the cost should be borne by the Ministry of Education. After all, these people are undertaking the course under the Ministry's supervision.
I find the awards rather difficult to follow. This may be because I am a layman and not a professional educationist. I am wondering whether the present £50 minimum grant will stand when the Bill becomes law. I think that this sum could be raised to at least the cost of the fees, which may be as much as £80 or £90 a year.
The Minister spoke of his powers in relation to grants in dealing with students who apparently waste their time when they get to university. I agree with what he says. Only this week I heard of a director of education who had the unfortunate job of interviewing a student about a bad report on him from the university. The director asked the student what was the matter and the student said, "I am taking politics, and the politics are completely unrealistic. Therefore, I am not particularly interested". What the student said may be true—I am not in a position to judge—but, while so many people want to get to university, it is ridiculous to waste our money on people who when they get 90 there are apparently not interested in what they are studying.
I am also sorry that the Bill does not include some provision to pay National Insurance contributions for students while they are at universities and colleges rather than that they should be allowed to make up the contributions in the first six years of their professional life. The provision in the Bill relating to school-leavers is the result of a recommendation in the Crowther Report. I would have preferred one school-leaving period at the end of the year. I do not know whether this would be bad for industry, but we must weigh whether it is better for the children to stay on against the question whether it would be bad for industry. This is a problem which we must study and on which we must come to a definite conclusion.
Clause 9 (4) refers to the beginning of September, but the Minister should be far more precise. In the North-West, for example, the 2nd September is the date for the transfer of children from primary to secondary school. Merely to refer in the Bill to the beginning of September seems to me too vague.
Like many of my hon. Friends, I deplore the fact that the school-leaving age has not been raised to 16. This also was a recommendation of the Crowther Report. I do not want to go into details about the reasons why the age should be raised to 16, because the arguments are familiar to most hon. Members. The age of 15 to 16 is the time when many children mature and when they can apply the knowledge that they have gained during the previous ten years in a way in which they could not do previously. In Germany, Russia, and America the school-leaving age is more than 15. If we are to compete successfully in the economic and technical fields we must raise the school-leaving age to 16 as soon as possible.
I should like to plead also for more uniform holidays. In Lancashire we have the difficulty of staggered holidays. As most people know, we have the Wakes Week, which means that many school terms end at dates somewhat different from the normal end of term in other parts of the country. In an area adjacent to where I live, the summer term ends about the 22nd June and the autumn term starts about the 7th August.
91 The general impression has been given in discussing the Bill that no child will leave school until he or she is 15 years of age, but that is not true. The boy who is 15 on 30th August will leave school on 22nd June or thereabouts according to Clause 9 (4). In other words, he will leave at the age of 14 years, 10 months. I regard this as a retrograde step, but I am sure that in Committee my hon. Friends will deal with the point effectively.
I give my support to the Bill, though not enthusiastically. I do not think that I ever will but I should like to see the Minister take a leap forward in the education service. I support the Bill on the grounds that a shuffle forward is better than a step backwards and certainly better than standing still.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Curran (Uxbridge)
I rise to reinforce the appeals made to the Minister from both sides of the House to abolish the means test for university entrants as soon as he possibly can. It is urgently necessary that we should take the price tag off university education. We took it off elementary education a long time ago, and off secondary education more recently. The natural step forward for the country now is to remove it from the universities as well.
I appreciate that in saying this I raise a question of principle, which has been argued to some extent in the Minority Report of the Anderson Committee. It is a question which must be met. It can be said perfectly reasonably that in our society as it becomes more and more prosperous we should expect more and more people to shoulder their personal responsibilities instead of looking to the State. It can be argued, and plenty of people do argue, that the shouldering of personal responsibilities ought to include the responsibility for educating children. I disagree. I am entirely in favour of reconstructing the Welfare State so as to make citizens support themselves unless they need help from the State. I believe that one test whether our society is increasingly prosperous is whether or not the Welfare State withers away.
But there is a distinct difference of principle here. I believe that the State 92 has a right to require citizens to stand on their own feet if they are able to do so, but I believe also that the State has duties and responsibilities towards young people who are not citizens which are completely different from its duties and responsibilities towards men and women. We are entitled to say that children shall be educated whether their parents like it or do not like it, and whether the children like it or whether they do not. We do not leave these matters to be decided by personal choice. In these matters the State says, "We shall make decisions for people who are too young to make decisions for themselves". I believe, therefore, that the State is entitled to see that children are educated at school, and that it should provide opportunities without reference either to parental inclination or income, and that we ought now, in the 1960s, to extend this principle upwards to university level.
I appreciate, as the Minister has said, that this is a question of priority, that there is a certain amount of money and he has to decide in which direction that money can be spent most effectively. All the same, it is necessary for the Minister to recognise that in the Tory Party, just as much as in the Labour Party, there is an urgent demand that as soon as we possibly can we should take the price tag completely off university education.
I am saying that it is the duty of the State to do this. It is very easy to say, and all of us who are politicians are prone to say and to believe, that everybody in the country is thirsting for more and more money to be spent on education, that all parents are eager for further and further educational opportunities, and that it is only some sort of obscure conspiracy that thwarts them. In fact, it is quite a different matter. There are, whether we like it or not, quite a number of parents who have very little interest in the education of their children, and they are little interested whether they go to a university or not.
It is easy enough to say, as some speakers have said, that we ought to raise the school-leaving age to 16. I agree. We ought to make it 16 as soon as we possibly can. But, when we are saying that, it is not sufficient to appeal 93 to the Government. We must appeal to parents as well. As things are, two out of three children leave school when they could stay there. Therefore, we must recognise that there are in our society a sizeable number of parents who have little interest in education and whether their children go to universities or not.
In urging that we should take the price tag off education, I would urge the Minister to look at the matter to some extent from the viewpoint of children in families where the parents have no interest in education and there is no parental enthusiasm about sending the children to university. Since I became a Member of Parliament I have had a number of cases brought to my notice of young people who have obtained grants to go to a university but whose parents have flatly refused to take the slightest interest. They will not fill in forms or make income declaration—they completely decline to have anything to do with it. That puts the young people in a very unpleasant position. What are they to do?
I have had three cases of young men who have secured university places but whose fathers flatly refused to fill in any declaration of income or have the slightest interest in the matter. There was also a young woman who came to me in precisely the same situation. I was sympathetic enough to interview the parents in each case. The answer in each case was the same. The parents would say, "We have managed to do fairly well for ourselves without any education. Why should we bother about our children having any? Why should we fill in forms and declarations about going to a university? Why should we undertake the possibility of having to support our children partially when they are at the university? We are not interested in it." In those situations there is nothing that one can do.
I fancy that this arises—I do not know whether the Minister has any figures; if he has I should like to be told of them—in particular when girls win places at universities. It is still the case that many people in this country are not in the least interested in educating girls, and when a girl gets a university place they are capable of saying, "It is a waste of time and money. There is no need for her 94 to take up the place. I shall not do anything to facilitate her going to the university." I have had that argument put to me by more than one parent, and in particular by the parents of the girl who came to me. Her parents would not fill in the declaration, and there was nothing that she could do about it.
I imagine that there is no way of telling how frequent these cases are, but I suppose that they are not altogether negligible statistically. I wonder whether the Minister has any information even if he is only able to aggregate complaints on this subject from Members of Parliament. I wonder whether he can tell us anything about the number of cases in which young people get university places but cannot take them up because their parents refuse to make declarations.
I believe that for this reason and for several other reasons we must remove the price tag from university education as soon as we can. We must make it easy for young people to go to the university without any reference at all to means or income. I believe that we must do this not entirely in the interests of the young people themselves, although that is the main reason. I believe it is socially necessary also. I do not know that I need to develop the argument that we must make the fullest possible use of our capital resources in intelligence. It has been said so often that I am sure it need not be said any more. But I would urge the desirability of making education easily available to young people for a different social reason, and that is the removal of social tension.
There is nothing more embittering to young people of ability than to be denied the opportunity of developing that ability. If our society is to be freed from tension through the embitterment of large numbers of young people who have been denied opportunity, then it is urgently necessary to make the education escalator at all its stages broader and easier of access than it is now.
I have no hesitation in saying that this is in the interests of both the Conservative Party and the sort of England that we want. The kind of England I want is one in which everybody, without any reference to income or parental inclination, can develop his abilities to the maximum. I believe that unless we provide these opportunities we shall build 95 up a mass of frustrated young people who will become enemies of the established order and go through their lives feeling embittered because they were denied the educational chance which they ought to have had.
It is a very remarkable fact that in post-war England the extension of educational opportunity has taken all the steam out of the primitives of the Labour Party. The decline and fall of the agitator is one of the most striking effects.
§ Mr. Curran
Anyone who goes to the T.U.C. every year, as I do, can see it. The young men of the T.U.C. nowadays are nowhere near as intelligent as were their predecessors 20 or 30 years ago. The able young man who once went into quasi-revolutionary politics on the Left now gets on to the educational escalator, moves up to the grammar school and the university and becomes a tycoon. I do not know how far hon. Members opposite will agree with me, but it seems to me to be increasingly the case that the trade unions, as a result of educational opportunity nowadays, are falling more and more into the hands of people who could not pass the 11-plus.
So far from deploring this tendency, I welcome it. I should like to see it extended. I should like to see us remove, systematically and deliberately, as a matter of social policy, all the impediments which will otherwise create a class of frustrated people likely to turn into enemies of the established order. I regard abolition of the means test for university places as a piece of social insurance. When the Minister considers this matter, I hope that he will do so not only in terms, as he should, primarily of fairness and justice to the young people but also in terms of the wider social implications.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. James Boyden (Bishop Auckland)
I do not think that I can follow the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) into the dark corners of his reforms of the Welfare State. But when he is advocating a very easy passage to the universities and suggesting that the price tag should be taken 96 off, he ought to say that the education of two university graduates represents the cost of all the education for one secondary modern school form. The university graduate is in a very privileged position, whether he is paying for part of his education himself or whether it is being paid for by the State, and when he comes to earn his living, he has the world at his feet. That is a compensation in itself.
However, I was glad to find that the hon. Member was pushing the Minister of Agriculture—I mean, Education; that must be a Freudian thought—from behind. I hope that some of his hon. Friends will also be doing that.
I am sure that what the hon. Member says about the trade union movement being denuded of its brains is absolute rubbish. The new general secretary of my union was at a very good grammar school with my wife, who became a State scholar. I think that Jack Cooper might well have been successful if he had decided to do something else, but he is today one of the leading figures in the trade union movement.
I fancy that the right hon. Gentleman has been overrating the virtues of uniformity and certainty. When all is said and done, such a quality is particularly marked in a graveyard. I would not like to think that he was to be the undertaker for the Crowther Report, but he may well be cast for that rôle. We have some quite clear indications on the Report's call to action about the shortage of teachers. The Report said:… the present situation is not in our opinion due to any falling-off in the numbers of potential teachers, but to failure of anticipation in the sphere of public policy, which may have been natural in the puzzling circumstances of the last few years, but which in any case are remediable by firm and prompt government action.But firm and prompt action is what the right hon. Gentleman does not offer us. He has given a half loaf, but boasts about it as do Tory Ministers when offering other half loaves. In one respect, the Tory Party is monolithic. It will not provide the money. It never provides the sum necessary for doing a job properly. But it never says that it will not provide the money. It says that there is a shortage of trained people, of building resources, or that the public will not wear it, as the hon. Member for Uxbridge 97 implied, or that the local authorities do not want it, or—and this a favourite of the Ministers of Health and Education—that they have not done enough research to know the answer.
In our last debate on the shortage of teachers, Members opposite came to the defence of the right hon. Gentleman in explaining why he could not make intelligent anticipations about the number of teachers required and about the size of the bulge. I looked up the Report of the Royal Commission on Population in 1949, which gave advice as to the way the Government should inform itself about these complicated matters. The Commission laid down, in paragraphs 682–685, that the Government should try to make closer guesses and commentedIt is inherent in the widespread acceptance of family limitation that the population problem will always be changing, with changes in family relations, in outlook and in social and economic influences. It will require continuous study, and to provide for this study and to ensure that the results of it are given due weight in the making and administration of national policy has become one of the functions of a modern community. At present in Great Britain the arrangements for the collection and analysis of fertility statistics are not adequate to modern needs, and apart from the work of a few voluntary bodies and individual research workers there is no research into the social and economic, medical and psychological factors that enter into the trend of population.Another recommendation of the Commission was that… arrangements should be made for the regular analysis and presentation of comprehensive fertility data for Great Britain as a whole.That was the view of a Royal Commission set up by the Labour Government. Time and again, the Minister of Education has said that his research facilities are inadequate. Only now is he making an attempt to improve them. Yet for ten years there has been need for this kind of research in relation to the fundamental problem—shortage of teachers.
I now turn to the two serious matters in the Bill which give us half a loaf instead of the full loaf. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. D. Smith) is not in his place, because he touched on one of the fundamental weaknesses but did not go on, in considering the County Councils Association's memorandum, to explain 98 why the Association is upset by the financial arrangements.
As in so many things, the Government are passing the buck. Local authorities generally have been the victims of this in many ways, and the Association put the case very clearly. Against all the costs they are to bear, with less participation in policy than they had before, there will, as all hon. Members know, be increasing pressure on progressive policies in local authorities. Everybody knows how unelastic rates are. There is a great deal of dishonest propaganda at local elections from members of the party opposite about advocating, on the one hand, low rates and, on the other hand, policies which mean high rates.
All of us in this House should make a combined effort to give local government a higher status, and give it greater strength, both through its own resources and by public grants, so that it can do something about the so-called freedoms which the Ministers of Education and of Health say they want to see in local government but which they deny in practice.
The cost of awards will go up under this Bill from £18 million currently to £40 million in 1963–64 and £60 million in 1975. Whilst the block grant will cover a substantial part of this, it will still leave a gap for the local authorities to find. It will certainly accelerate interest in grants. If more people are to get more easily to university, then other subsidiary grants will increase and, therefore, the liability on the local authorities will also increase. There is no sign that the Government will meet that.
We shall then see the situation which we in County Durham repeatedly get. County councillors there are nearer to the people than they are in some areas, and they get the kicks and unpopularity for measures of the Tory Government. This runs throughout housing, town planning and education. Unless the hon. Member for Uxbridge gets his way, and kicks so hard from behind that the Minister gives way and allows free passage to the universities, the kicks will end on the local councillors, because subsidiary grants will be the ones which will be curtailed and which will cause frustration—and that frustration will not be among those getting university grants 99 but among those who have already had a bad deal in some other sector of education.
The second aspect of the Bill is the one which deals with the two school-leaving dates. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) said, it must strike one at once that there is distinct discrimination between the amount of money to be made available for those who are going to the university and the amount to be available merely for improving the length of education in the secondary modern school. The elite are to get more and the masses are to get merely an extension of time because, as the Bill says, the actual expenditure caused by this lengthening of school life is very slight. The Crowther Report says clearly that we suffer from an overemphasis on the "flyers". The teacher tends to concentrate on the good pupil. That is natural, and the universities and the Civil Service are prone to it. Once a man in the Civil Service examinations has got into the first three or four places, I understand that that is a good way of promotion to one place from another all his career.
Although it is not a cast-iron rule, we lean over backwards to see that the bright get brighter. But if we are to work with the mass of the people to raise their interest in education generally, as the hon. Member for Uxbridge wants, we must give them facilities in which they can develop themselves to the full.
The Minister's decision on the school-leaving age is a very small half a loaf compared to what my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) and others have been advocating. This should have contained the date of raising the school-leaving age as a step forward to a larger Bill actually raising it to 16.
This should have been the measure which not only legislated for two school-leaving dates but which also assured the date for raising the school leaving age to 16. If the right hon. Gentleman is dieting and likes half loaves, he should, as I suggested earlier, go to the Ministry of Agriculture, where he will come across some of the staples of life which will show him that red beef and good bread are better than half loaves.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
I come from a local authority which for many years has made grants to students who have two passes at A-level and who have had a place awarded them at a university. If there is one thing about my local authority of which I am proud it is that we have withstood the pressures of other local authorities on our doorstep who did not go as far as we did in that respect. However, the Bill will not make any difference to us in that respect, except that there will be increasing numbers of students getting places at universities, with the result that the burden will fall on the local authorities who will bear the brunt of paying for State scholarships.
One of the aspects of the Bill which I do not like is that we are still to retain the means test. I could not follow the argument of the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran), who wanted to take the price tag off education, his only reason, apparently, being that he wanted to make it easier for people to get into the professional classes, thus denuding the trade union movement. He also wanted to take the price tag off university education while applying it to those in the lower income groups whose children attend primary and secondary schools.
§ Mr. Curran
I think the hon. Lady will find that what I said was that since it had been dealt with so frequently I did not want to deal with the argument that by providing more educational facilities we would be making better use of our mental resources. There are several arguments, but I used my argument because it was the only one which had not hitherto been put in the debate.
§ Mrs. Slater
I am grateful for that, but I also felt that one of the hon. Member's arguments was that if we increased facilities for people to have a university education, we might make more Tories and fewer Socialists. He is greatly deluded if he thinks that, for there are some very good Socialists at our universities.
The Explanatory Memorandum on the Bill says that the Minister will still retain the right to fix the financial scales of benefit for those going to university. 101 My own local authority was one of those which stood out against the Minister for a long time when he laid down a national scale for university grants. We had to capitulate in the end in the interests of uniformity. We took that view because the Minister's new scales worsen the position of those in the lower income groups while improving it for those in the higher income groups. We felt that if there was to be any help at all, it should go to those earning less than £600 a year.
I think that we are all fully aware of the power of the Minister of Education and, no matter what has been said to the contrary, indirectly of the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Treasury, to make a university education less easy for those in the lower income groups and easier for those in the higher income groups, according to the way in which the scales are laid down. If there is any argument for removing the means test it is that.
Anyone who has been in a grammar school, or in the grammar stream at a secondary modern school, and won his way to G.C.E. in two subjects at Advanced level, and has been able to find a place in a university, ought not to be subjected to further restrictions. One would have thought that in this age we would have gone the whole way and removed the means test from university awards.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) pointed out, as we have failed to make provision for an adequate number of teachers, so we have miserably failed to provide enough places in universities. In the debate on the Gracious Speech I spoke of my own local authority having to cancel 22 awards, which it had made this year, because university places were not available. The students may get a job for twelve months while waiting to go to a university, but in nine out of ten such cases, on reaching 21 or 22 a young person gives up all hope of going to university, and so we lose a brain and the possibility of having a first-class citizen. I hope that we shall not be satisfied with the provision of five more universities and that we are looking well ahead not to the 1960s, but to the 1970s and 1980s, making sure that enough places will be available for those who have won their way to university.
102 I very much regret that the Bill has not gone further than it has to make it easier for young people to stay at school after they are fifteen and until they go to a university, or training college, or whatever further education they want to follow. More and more I am distressed by the number of children who leave school at the critical stage when they have taken G.C.E. at Ordinary level and when they have the brains to go on and take it at Advanced level, but, because of the inadequacy of maintenance grants, have had to leave school and find a place in industry. Those who deny that that is so should consult the local authorities. We give miserable awards to the children who find a place at grammar school—about a cap and a blazer for boys and a little more than that for girls—and it may be very difficult for a parent whose child has passed the 11-plus to be able to fit out the child with the necessary clothes and sports equipment and so on.
Whatever may be said about this being an affluent society, it must be remembered that there are many people in the lower income groups who still have to consider the implications of losing the possible income of their child when that child reaches 15. Those of us who serve on local authorities know that many children fail to take up their 11-plus award because of the difficulties of the parents which arise through the inadequacy of the awards. Not enough encouragement is given for the child to stay on at school until it is 17 years of age, or more, and so get the full advantage of the educational system.
I had hoped that in an Education Bill the Minister would have taken the opportunity to see that no economic factor prevented a child from staying at school after it was 15. It is a sheer waste of good brains and opportunity, if we provide the places, then to permit economic factors to deny the child its right to take advantage of its ability. I speak feelingly about this because recently a case arose in my own family where, had there not been pressure applied, one member of the family would have denied a child the right to take a place in the grammar school. I am sure that that happens on numerous occasions with other families.
The other factor is the raising of the school-leaving age. We have to recognise that whenever the school-leaving 103 age has been raised there has been opposition in a number of forms. It has not always been from industry or from the Tory Party. In many cases objections to raising the school-leaving 'age have come from the parents of children. In the past, it was mainly the economic factor which caused them to object. In the days of the depression, it was because the raising of the school-leaving age would deny to them an income which might have been obtained by the child.
I have no doubt that our secondary modern schools, particularly the good ones, will so organise their syllabus that those children who stay on for an extra month or so, or for half a year, will reap the fullest benefit from it. I had hoped that we could have gone at least another step and said that we would do as the Crowther Report suggested and fix a date, not too far distant, when we would raise the school-leaving age to 16. But in this Bill there is no such promise. We have only the half-hope which the Minister told us about.
I am of opinion that it is in the period from 14 to 16 that many children suddenly wake up and begin to find out what education is all about. Many of them find a job which they are fitted to do or want to do. I had an example of this when going into one of our secondary modern schools, a town school, where these is an agriculture group. A little bit of land at the back of the school was utilised for this purpose. The backward children were employed in this way. It started off as a co-operative venture. The children bought shilling shares in the farm. When the produce was sold they got the benefit, and when a child left school he would sell his share to another child.
At the farm a little boy, wearing a white coat, said to me, "Mrs. Slater, I am the gaffer of this farm." I said, "I am glad about that, Tom." I knew his family. The boy said to me, "You thought that I could not read or write." I said, "I thought that you were not very good at it." He said, "You come and see what I have done." In a little shed there was a cow, which had been purchased out of the proceeds of this co-operative venture. The boy showed me a crudely written list of the amount 104 of feed which he had to give to the cow every day, the amount of milk which he got from the animal and the money which he received from the sale of the milk. That boy had learned not only to read and to write but to do his arithmetic. This he had learned from necessity so that he could be a proper "gaffer." The boy has since left school and gone on to a farm. Had he not stayed at school for that extra period I am sure that he would never have had the benefit which he derived from that venture.
I am convinced that the extra year at school could be used for the benefit of children finding their place in life, and a job which they want to do. They would get extra education but, above all, in that year they could be taught something of their civic responsibilities and their place in society. I think that is as important as turning out first-class readers or mathematicians. I hope, therefore, that the Minister, who tells us that he is vitally interested in education, will agree that we should have gone this further step and made sure that by raising the school-leaving age we move a little further towards equal education opportunities for all.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I wish to examine the purpose of the Bill and to develop two points. In the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum we are told:The purpose of this Bill is to impose a duty … on local education authorities in England and Wales to make awards to students with certain qualifications attending university first degree courses or further education courses of a comparable standard. It empowers the Minister of Education to prescribe financial and other conditions …For the first time we are imposing a certain pattern of uniformity all over the country. This is generally to be welcomed but, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater), local authorities which have been generous and far-seeing will find that help is to be spread thinly, and that this Bill will not result in a leap forward. As has been said, there will not be a leap forward but rather a shuffle.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House need not be very proud of the way in which we have neglected education. We have been making heavy 105 weather of many economic problems and of the future of our society. My figures may not be quite accurate, but I believe that in 1938 we were spending roughly 3 per cent. of the national product on education. It is now about 3½ per cent. I think that is right.
§ Mr. Davies
We will make it another ½ per cent. for the benefit of the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran). If we look over the past twenty years of the twentieth century we find that the increase in expenditure on education represents an increase of the national product amounting to 1½ per cent.
§ Mr. Davies
And the school-leaving age has gone up. How thinly must the butter of education be spread.
Compare this with the leap forward in the United States and in Japan. I have just returned this week from Western Germany. We are being taken into the Common Market with our confidence high. We are being led into the Common Market by the Tory Party, but in twenty years we have increased expenditure on education by about 1½ per cent. We are told that we shall be saved economically by going into the Common Market. If a proportion of our people cannot read and write, and there is a low percentage which gets the opportunity of a university or other type of education, what kind of chance do we have with the young countries or the under-developed areas which are thirsting for this kind of education?
I agree that if a child wins a scholarship, and there is a possibility of parents or other members of the family not allowing the child to take advantage of it, someone should take the responsibility of insisting that the child should have an opportunity to enjoy the benefit which may be derived from further education. I do not want to go too far outside the terms of the Bill.
§ Mr. Davies
I have not gone outside it yet, any more than any hon. Member 106 who has spoken from either side of the House. In any case, the House seems half-empty. We cannot expect vivacity with the present inelastic party in power, but we need a little more vivacity and a little more consultation with parents. To be fair to the Minister, I suppose he does encourage parent-teacher associations, but a little more encouragement should be given to them. They should be taken more into the confidence of Governments when future policies are discussed.
Those of us who have an interest in various branches of education and those of us who, to the best of our ability, try to do our jobs in our constituencies are often told of the value of parent-teacher associations in all branches of education. I should like to have seen more encouragement given to them in discussion of further education. Then I am certain we should have had a general consensus of opinion that we should abolish the means test. When young men and women in their teens or twenties have won scholarships they should have such awards as of right because by their own efforts they have become entitled to some grants. There should be no means test.
§ Sir D. Eccles
As the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) raised the question of parent-teacher associations, he might be interested to know that I spent three hours on Friday night with a parent-teachers association in my constituency. The one thing they left in my mind was that they wanted a great many improvements in different parts of education, but they also said, "We see we cannot have all this at once. Are you"—meaning me, the Minister—"Are you doing the right things first?" I came away very conscious of the fact that whoever is Minister of Education nowadays has in front of him an immense list of things to do and tremendous good will from the parents, but they expect him, with the help of the House, to sort out these priorities.
§ Mr. Davies
I knew quite well that the right hon. Gentleman was taking an interest in this matter. In a general way it has been only in the last twenty years or more that this interest has developed in parent-teacher associations. I think that they still have a tremendous amount to contribute. Without meandering too 107 far on this issue of priorities, may I say that some of us in marginal constituencies in rural areas such as I represent are concerned about primary and infant schools, some of which are still in a bad condition and are overcrowded. If the base of the pyramid of education is not on a solid foundation, how can we get a balanced type of education?
I know that the Minister is aware of this. I am not so pompous as to think that I am teaching the Miinster anything by saying these things, but it is his duty to stand up to the Treasury. The Treasury is the ugly duckling of British education, not the Minister. If any Minister should struggle for a greater share of the national finance at this juncture in the history of Britain, it is the Minister of Education. If the Tory back benchers will not help him in that, we shall have to do so. At the moment it looks as if they are not helping him. I therefore beg the Minister to appreciate that some of us think that the time has come when emphasis should be put on primary education and much more attention and expenditure should be devoted to it.
En passant, I ask the Minister to say what this cryptic sentence on page 12 of the Bill means:This Act shall not extend to Northern Ireland.I happen to be Welsh, but somebody has to protect the Irish. There is no Irish Member present in the House at the moment. There are constitutional reasons for this, perhaps something easily enough explained, but, since I am on my feet and no one else can speak for Northern Ireland at the moment, I should like the Minister to tell the House why it is excluded from the Bill. I should have thought that Northern Ireland was in need of further education as much as Wales or anywhere else.
§ Mr. Davies
That is a typically Irish answer. I do not want to pay my Income Tax, but I am not left out. There must be a reason for Northern Ireland wanting to be out. Surely the Minister is not telling me that while the rest of the United Kingdom goes forward the brilliant Irish are to allow their educa- 108 tional system to stay as it is. Or is it that they are so poor that they would want another grant from this part of the United Kingdom? I shall have to seek the answer and what other information I can from an Irish hon. Member when I see one present.
I think that we have not calculated on the possibilities of the future. If we want to invest in our own success we know that the educational escalator may be the way to do it, but I have been looking at estimates of the numbers of students who will be wanting further education in the not-too-distant future. One estimate, only this weekend, said that 300,000 or more students will want to go to technical colleges, universities, or teacher training colleges by 1975–80. That is only an estimate and I do not want to be held down to that figure or to an absurd estimate, but it was from an informed source.
We must have the best material in the schools. Although our first charge is the children, both sides of the House of Commons have a duty to the teachers who are responsible. If we want good material to come into further education and not to be snapped up by industry, there is not the slightest doubt that the great people who devote themselves to that profession should receive rewards which are somewhere near the rewards which a post-graduate can get in industry, science or technology. Otherwise, this country will fail to attract some of the best people to the teaching profession.
Some of my colleagues have said that this is half a loaf. I am never grateful for half a loaf. Usually I am very hungry. I therefore say to the Minister, please go back to the Treasury and shake them up. See that the nation gets a greater share of the gross national product for education in Britain today.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
My hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) touched upon a very important aspect of our educational system in his closing remarks. It is fair to say that any Bill dealing with the education service, whether a major or a minor Bill, is important, since education touches the life and well-being of individuals and concerns the pattern of our national life.
109 No one on either side of the House can be happy at the present state of our education service. Talent is wasted, opportunity is denied, and young people are frustrated if they come from the working class in this country. Undoubtedly privilege still has its way in the education service of our land. If one is privileged enough to be born into a home where the path leads straight to the public school, one is assured of further education after that. It is clear that according to the depths of one's father's pocket and the social strata from which one comes, so is the opportunity for university education determined.
There have been many changes in this post-war era, but when I look at Cambridge and see that over 60 per cent. of the students there come from the public schools, I say that there is something wrong, for the public schools represent a tiny minority of the population of these islands, and ability is not limited to the families who send their children to public schools. When we talk about abolishing the means test from the universities, we ought to realise, too, that further down in the educational service we deny the opportunity to young people of talents and gifts of an education in secondary grammar schools. For example, in 1960 it is harder to get into a secondary grammar school in many of our cities than it was in the 1930s.
In the City of Cardiff, when I was teaching before the war, over 30 per cent. of our young people were able to enter one of the city's five grammar schools, but today the figure is down to 26 per cent. of the children in the city. That is not the fault of the local education committee. It is the fault of parsimonious Governments and of inadequate planning. The Government have been so afraid of comprehensive schools that they have tied up development in secondary education. No one will persuade me that every year between 66 per cent. and 70 per cent. of our children who have to go to secondary-modern schools lack the talents, the gifts and the graces to benefit by a secondary-grammar education.
When we realise, too, that the percentage of the children of manual workers who reach the grammar schools is so much smaller than that of the children of the higher income groups in 110 this country—I think it is 5 per cent.—we must ask ourselves, is it that less intelligence is given to the children of manual workers? We have only to ask the question to realise how ridiculous it is. We have still a long way to go before all the talent of our young people is given its proper opportunity, and this island country cannot hold its own unless we develop all the talent which is among us. I am not content to see the slow progress in breaking down these proportions of 70 per cent. secondary-modern, 25 per cent. secondary-grammar and the rest in technical schools or Public or Private Schools—and I mean a capital "P" for both. We ought to be showing a greater sense of urgency in rearranging the proportions, especially in view of the technological revolution which is taking place.
I turn to the question of the treatment of the young people who are leaving secondary-grammar, comprehensive and in some cases secondary-modern schools and seeking to enter a university. The sixth-formers of Britain today are having a raw deal. They are in a far worse position than their brothers and sisters were ten years ago. It is a terrible indictment of the Government, who have been in power for ten years, when the opportunity for expanding the education service has been there, that today it is harder to get into a university than it was in any of the previous years, and I believe that the teachers of these sixth-formers must be finding it a frustrating experience to see young people who have the talent to graduate being denied the opportunity.
I was shaken by the Minister's complacency when he spoke on education during the debate on the Address. He said, "If they cannot get into a university they can take the teacher-training course." If anything is likely to get the backs up of young people with the ability to graduate, it is to be told, "You must take this other course because we have failed to provide enough places for you in the universities." It is also insulting to the teaching profession. We do not want in the teaching profession a lot of people who did not want to be there but who are there because they failed to get into university. Teachers must have a sense of calling. They need a sense of vocation. I believe that the Minister will live to regret the 111 words which he uttered during the debate on the Address about the lack of places in universities for these young people.
When young people gain a place in college the grant becomes of very high importance. I believe in the abolition of the means test, for I see no reason why, when a youngster becomes 18, there should be such a changed attitude to his education. Nobody thinks in terms of fees for the youngster in the grammar school, the comprehensive school or the primary school. There are fees in the private schools. I believe that the whole of our university system needs a careful re-examination. I join those who believe that the time has passed when the University Grants Committee could be a law unto itself. We need more than an academic approach to the university problems of our time. It is our obligation and responsibility to see that the universities are developed equal to our needs.
The University Grants Committee has failed the nation, and it must bear responsibility for the fact that young people are knocking on doors which will not open. These are young people with gifts and talents who could take good degrees. The University Grants Committee stands condemned by the young people who will be turned away from the universities this year for the Committee has known that the problem was developing along these lines ever since 1945. The bulge has not been a national secret. It has been a subject of discussion in the House in every major education debate since the war. I have listened, I think, to every education debate since 1945 and always somebody has referred to the awful problem of meeting the needs of the increasing school population. I welcome the fact that there is to be uniformity, so long as it is uniformity on a high enough scale. I think that it is awful to have youngsters in college comparing grants and some having to skimp more than others.
I went to the University College of Southampton after my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchin (Dr. King)—a long time after, if I may say so, but I do not want to be unkind—and I had to scrape round for grants. Fortunately, I had help from the British Legion. My father died in the First World War and so the British Legion came to my rescue, and the rest was tre- 112 mendous personal sacrifice by my mother and stepfather. I do not want young people who have to study and who want to give all their minds to getting a good degree—and the most out of their college life as well—to feel that they are served badly if they come from one area rather than another.
I am sure that the feeling on both sides of the House in the 1960s is that all our students must feel that they are being treated alike. They can never have this feeling if there is any element of means test, and I hope that it will not be long before the Government deal with this question. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Itchen suggested that grants ought to be 100 per cent. Exchequer responsibility, as our party policy. I do not know why, since the precedent has been established, the Ministry should not use other authorities to administer its 100 per cent. grants. It did it for school meals. The Government provided 100 per cent. of the cost of school meals and the local authorities administered the system effectively and efficiently.
I do not know why a reformed University Grants Committee, with a sense of public responsibility, with elected representatives of the people serving on the Committee, and with a direct responsibility somewhere along the line to this House, should not administer this grant. If the local authorities are to administer it it is unfair to add inequality to the rate burden in different areas. It is bound to do that because the rate burden falls unevenly in this country. I do not like the rating system because it is so unjust. I suppose that almost every hon. Member is bound to acknowledge that. Under this Bill, as I understand it, there will be an uneven burden for the grants imposed on different areas according to the number of students who benefit by the proposal.
There is the question also of the school-leaving dates. I welcome the short step forward that the Minister is taking. I think that he is moving in the right direction. I welcome the fact that we can look forward to the day when there will be one school-leaving date. It is sensible and it is fair, I believe, to the school and to the youngsters. These leaving dates during the 113 year cause much upheaval and upset within the schools. It is difficult to plan properly, and, when we bear in mind the interests of the young people, it is those who are most in need of an extended opportunity who are the ones who leave at 15 years of age.
There is no hope held out by the Minister, as we look at the Crowther proposals, of an increase in the school-leaving age to 16, but we have to plan for it, and it is no good telling us how many teachers will be involved by 1970 if we are to do it. The plain fact is that this is the greatest single necessity before us in the field of education. If it were something required for the Armed Forces, ways and means would be found to deal with the problem, and we must find ways and means of so extending the school life of our young people that we are assured that nobody will be denied the opportunity to be prepared for the hurly-burly of our industrial and economic life.
I have one other point to make. In our changing world the aim of education remains constant. Although we live in a nuclear age, although we have materialistic values in our society, every teacher leaving our training colleges today has the same aim in his mind, the same high ideal to spur him on as the teachers who left fifty years ago: it is to help the individual to grow, to help the pupils to develop their talent and their personality so that they are able to take their place in the community. It is to help them to find a right relationship between their neighbours and themselves and between them and their God. I believe that a little Measure like this is bound to have some impact on this great aim which is the same for teachers in every generation, but today the job is harder for teachers and the responsibility of the Ministry of Education is greater.
More and more we need money, buildings and equipment. I say to the Ministry of Education that it will have the full support of the teaching profession and of hon. Members on this side of the House as well as, I believe, on the other side, if the Ministry puts up a better fight against the Treasury. One of the tragedies of recent years is that battle after battle has been lost by the Ministry of Education in dealing with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There was the battle of the 6 per cent., the battle of 114 the block grant, which the Ministry did not want any more than we wanted it. It lost that battle, it lost the last battle and if it loses many more battles it will damage Britain far more than it might realise. I say to the Minister of Education: "Show more backbone, show more fight, and in that way you will justify the honourable office that you occupy."
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
I hope that the Minister has derived a little satisfaction from the welcome the Bill has received. It was best described by my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Fitch), who said that it was not a step forward but a mere shuffle. The trend of the speeches has been that we could and should have expected rather more by way of proposals from the Minister at this time, in view of the problems facing our education system.
Before dealing with the subject matter of the Bill, I am bound to comment on its form. We often hear arguments in the House about delegated legislation. We hear complaints that the House of Commons is asked merely to pass a framework and that all the important issues are then left to a Minister to deal with by way of regulations. If ever there was a Bill which qualified for the description of a pure case of delegated legislation, this is that Bill. I do not complain unduly about this, because it is obvious that detailed arrangements concerning grants, the educational requirements for such grants, and their administration can more easily be made regulations. However, it ill behoves a Government who are now refusing to issue regulations under an Act passed by this Parliament, on the ground that it is an Act of delegated legislation, now to present a Bill on their own behalf in similar form. I hope that when the reply is made we shall be give a little more information about the important issues behind the Bill, namely, the way in which the grants are to be worked out and administered, than is contained in the Bill or emerged from the speech of the Minister when he introduced it.
We all recognise the principle in the Bill that there should be a uniform system of grants for students and that the bad practice of large variations between one local authority and another should cease. I have frequently raised 115 this question since 1951. I have always received the answer from either the Minister or his predecessors that the Ministry cannot tell local authorities what they ought to do. Thanks to the Anderson Committee, the Minister has now taken the courage to lay down a uniform standard. This will be generally welcomed.
There are still doubts about who is to bear the cost. It is not clear in local authority circles whether the additional grants local authorities are to receive will compensate them fully for the extra costs they will have to bear. As several of my hon. Friends have already said, if we take the decision, which I think is the right decision, that there should be a national uniform practice for the awarding of grants, it should follow that the entire cost should be a national responsibility. I understand that the County Councils Association has already made representations that the function of county councils in the scheme, as I think is the intended practice in Scotland, is that they should act as agents of the Ministry. The Association has submitted that the whole cost of these grants, which we hope will rise to a very substantial sum as the university populantion expands, should be a national and not in any part a local responsibility.
The hard fact is that the present system of raising local taxation is extremely unsatisfactory. The Government's policy in respect of higher interest rates, and so on, has already placed additional pressures on the backs of local authority taxpayers, namely ratepayers. I predict that in the next year most local authorities will have to make substantial increases in the rates, increases which are not equitably borne as between one member of the public and another. The rating system is not by any standard a satisfactory system of taxation. I hope that in reply the Scottish Minister will be able to say that no additional cost of any kind resulting from the Bill will have to be borne by the ratepayer. If this is not so, the Minister will be going back on the principle which in other respects is to be warmly welcomed.
Another point is the means test and whether there should be a parental con- 116 tribution. In principle, I welcome the idea that means tests should be abolished, but on this issue I find myself more in sympathy with the minority view of the Anderson Committee than with the majority view. It is extraordinary that this is the one field in which hon. Members opposite are in favour of abolishing or reducing the impact of means tests. In every other field, as I understand their general approach to social welfare and social legislation, they want to employ—in my view, very wrongly—the test of means at every possible point. The contrast between the arguments they now advance in favour of abolishing the means test for wealthy parents sending their children to universities would have done credit to the medieval philosophers, because it is completely out of step with their general approach to social legislation in other respects. Because of that my sympathies would be towards the abolition of the means test.
My objection stems from what I think is the very well considered objection set out in paragraph 181 of the Anderson Committee's Report. The minority, who were in favour of retaining the parental contribution, say:Another prerequisite for some of us would be some clear evidence of the removal of those advantages that are held by many to be enjoyed by pupils from the larger and better known independent and direct-grant schools in preparing for admission to certain universities and colleges, particularly at Oxford and Cambridge.This prerequisite is extremely important. If we could reach a situation in our education system in which all children had an equal opportunity of entering a university, which is far from being the case today, I would accept the majority view that there should be no parental contribution. But the existing system is that those who purchase privileged education for their children undoubtedly stand a better chance of seeing their children go to universities. This is partly because of the natural advantages which flow from smaller classes, partly because the teachers at these schools are often more highly paid, and partly because of the social advantages which accrue to applicants to universities by virtue of their being at independent and public schools. The grammar school boy applying for a 117 place at a university is not considered on an equal basis with his colleague from a public school.
One also knows that all universities have back doors. Even if one adopts, as the Minister said it was the intention to adopt, the recommendation of the Anderson Committee that the minimum educational qualification should be two Advanced level passes, this is a very low standard. I do not suggest that it should be made higher, but even at that level it would allow discrimination in selection at a university. Grammar school boys with very much higher marks could be precluded and public school boys with a bare two A-level passes could be admitted.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
The hon. Member will surely accept that there are several grammar schools today with a far better record as regards pupils entering universities than all except a comparatively few major public schools.
§ Mr. Mulley
Some grammar schools have exceptionally good records, but they are mostly those that "cream" the best talent over a very wide area. The kind that the hon. Gentleman has in mind is, I think, the Manchester Grammar School—and there are one or two others. Those schools take the very best of the 11-plus results over several local authority areas and, considering the population involved, it would be surprising if they were not able to get a high percentage of university entrants. I have not the figures with me, but the number of entrants to Oxford and Cambridge from public and independent schools is still vastly in excess of those from grammar schools whereas, taking comparative populations, one would expect the grammar schools to have the greater predominance.
As I say, it means that under the regulations as I understand they will be made, a university cannot only admit someone of a lower academic standard than others whom they may reject, but also, by the mere acceptance of the person, they are permitting the expenditure of a very substantial sum of public money. Some time or other we have to grasp this nettle of academic freedom. I do not think that we can envisage the University Grants Committee's expenditure and the very substantial expected expenditure on the provision of the 118 grants, to continue indefinitely—rising, as we hope, substantially each year—without there being any Ministerial or Parliamentary control.
We all rather shy away from the magic words "academic freedom". Having been a university don myself, I do not think that those who teach in the universities carry their sense of academic freedom as far as political arguments do for them. It is absolutely right that one should not seek to lay down the way in which particular subjects are taught by a college. One should not attempt to tell colleges that they must take certain pupils or employ certain lecturers. They must have absolute freedom there—but it would not be at all wrong in the national interest for the Government and Parliament to tell universities that they really must do something about their system of entry.
I am told that the chaos reigning in the general field of applications and entry to university is quite unbelievable, and that it gets worse every year. Boys and girls apply to five or six universities, very often not knowing until the last minute whether or not they will be accepted. I am told that colleges often end up by taking people of lower level than others who have been refused simply because the papers have got mixed up. The whole system is very unsatisfactory. I am told that the clearing-house system hardly works at all. With all this money involved, we must have a rational system of entry.
We are also entitled to tell the colleges that they must concentrate much more on such subjects as the sciences, engineering and mathematics, for which there is an increasing demand by the nation as a whole. A professor in some less-deserving subject should not be able to empire-build within the university and employ more and more lecturers. I sometimes think that faculties have more staff than students. These things must not be allowed to continue.
Something will have to be done to try to tailor the university system without interfering with the genuine academic freedom that the nation needs. We are awaiting the Report of the Robbins Committee and, perhaps, as a result of that we shall make progress. Nevertheless, I am not content with the improvement in the awarding of grants from the financial point of view unless something 119 is also done about the selection problem, and general problems of the universities—
§ Mr. Gower
I am very interested in the hon. Gentleman's argument. Would he accept that there is one difficulty in tailoring the system in this way? One of the present glories of our system is that we are taking an ever-increasing number of students from abroad and, not least, from the British Commonwealth countries. I imagine that the hon. Gentleman's quite understandable desire to tailor the system in the way he suggests would be rather difficult to reconcile with this development, which I think is desirable, of taking an increasing number of students from overseas. In some cases, if we tailored the system too strictly we should probably get the reverse effect. I am not trying to be hostile to the hon. Gentleman's argument; I merely put that as a difficulty.
§ Mr. Mulley
I fully accept the hon. Gentleman's sincerity, and I am completely with him in his wish to see an increase in the number of Commonwealth students. Already, I believe that a number of universities and colleges deliberately keep a certain number of places in the hope that they will get Commonwealth students to fill them, and only fill them with British applicants when they cannot get the right number of Commonwealth students. Some such system is desirable, and I would not want any tailoring of the system that would prevent what, I think, we both have in mind, which is to get as many Commonwealth students to come here as possible. I want people of real ability who, perhaps, do not come from the right social background, to get a bigger opportunity at Oxford and Cambridge, and, in general, get a better organisation and a better spread of university placings.
We also must bear in mind grants or bursaries for children in the sixth forms. We all know that most parents are very anxious to keep their children at school if they feel that the children ran benefit thereby. One of the most encouraging features of our educational system—and we have not had many encouraging things in recent years—is the number of children who voluntarily 120 stay on at school beyond the statutory leaving age.
While I would accept that in times of full employment the majority of parents can keep their children at school until 18 years of age without undergoing an impossible financial sacrifice, many working class parents, particularly those with a number of children, experience a substantial hardship in doing so. There is also the point of view of the young person. The parents may be ready to sacrifice a lot of the amenities that their neighbours enjoy, but sometimes these young people feel it unjustifiable that, for their betterment, the rest of the family should go short of a holiday or a television set, and such things as are now generally enjoyed by their neighbours and friends.
If we are to make a real general attempt to get into our universities, technical colleges and institutions of further education all the talent of the nation we must do something about financial assitance for those below the age of 18—for the children in the sixth forms. I like particularly the suggestion in Professor Brinley Thomas's note of dissent in the Anderson Report. There is much to be said for his arguments. In the interests of brevity, I will not regurgitate them tonight, but it is not sufficient to look merely at the awarding of grants and scholarships at 18 years plus and think that one has really solved the question of the universities tapping all the talents the country so badly needs. As my hon. Friends have said, one must consider the age below 18.
How can we really think that we are moving towards a proper education system unless something is done on the lines of the Crowther Report? We particularly require a decision about the raising of the school-leaving age to 16. We have heard this afternoon how it would be a wonderful thing to do this if only we had the teachers, the schools and the money. That has been the Conservative attitude to every proposal for social reform since the days of Disraeli. Everything would be fine if only we could do it, they have said. That was their attitude to what they called a "reasoned Amendment" when the House first discussed the National Health Service. Every time it is a measure of social progress they are all for it, except 121 for doing something about it in the near future.
Every time these things come forward some excuse is made about why it should not be done now. Many of my hon. Friends have said we cannot bring in a decision of this sort this year or next, but surely it is reasonable to suggest that the planning must be done. If we are to get the school-leaving age raised to 16 we must eventually make a decision like the one made by the late Miss Wilkinson at the time of a Labour Government in raising the previous school-leaving age. Such planning would ensure a spread of urgency throughout the education system and people would really believe that eventually something would be done along these lines.
At the same time, many children lose their opportunity of going to university even before they reach 11 because they are taught in primary schools in classes of between 40 and 50 pupils. We know that there are other deficiencies in the secondary system of education; the drawbacks of the 11-plus and so on; and we lose a great many more potential scientists and leaders of the nation who would, under a better system, have a better opportunity of further education.
If we look at the education system properly we realise that a great deal remains to be done, and my hon. Friends and I—and, I am sure, hon. Members opposite—would like to have had a more positive approach to the problem from the Minister this afternoon than was the case from his speech. As far as it goes—as my hon. Friends have said—we welcome the Bill, but it is a mouse of a Bill, whereas the education system needs something of a lion both in its share of money and in its really aggressive approach on the part of the Minister. Until we get that we shall have neither the university population the country demands nor the education system we must develop if we are to remain a leading nation. I hope, therefore, that in reply to this debate we shall have a more positive approach from the Government.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
I am fortified in taking part in this debate, because three of the Bill's Clauses refer to Scotland. Clause 5 concerns the 122Power of education authorities to assist persons to take advantage of educational facilities.Clause 8 enables the Secretary of State to make an order to adjust, if necessary, the general grant paid to local authorities in respect of the 1961–63 period. And Clause 10 reduces the number of school-leaving dates in Scotland, from a minimum of three to two. I welcome the reduction in the number of school-leaving dates. It is essential. And I should like the Minister, when he winds up, to tell us that this is not the end of the matter but that he is looking to the time when we shall have one school-leaving date in Scotland—and only one.
Of course, that raises the question of the entry date. If we aim at two leaving dates, then, obviously, there cannot be more than two entry dates, and if the right hon. Gentleman aims at one leaving date then I hope that he will tell us that he also aims at one date for entry. If we can achieve an organisation of that form we will make the running of schools much easier than it is at present. There are children, particularly those who enter initially, doing very little for a time. At the period of transfer from the qualifying school—the elementary school—to the secondary school there are many who mark time for nearly six months and who often lose the place at that period in their secondary education and who, in some cases I am sure, never really find it again.
That misplacement at their initial entry into the secondary school affects some of them throughout the whole school period and is detrimental to their secondary careers. I have listened to much that has been said about grants and the parental contribution that accompanies them. In the Anderson Report there is very little between the majority and the minority view. The minority Report says:… in the future there may be such developments in the social pattern and in that of university and school education as to make the abolition of the parental contribution seem natural and inevitable; but, for us, this time has not yet come.One can reasonably say that the Anderson Committee was unanimous about the abolition of the parental contribution. The Committee's division appears to be only on the issue of timing.
I should like to see the attainment of an aim which has belonged to the 123 Labour Party ever since I joined it—that education for every boy and girl in our country shall be free from the day they enter school until they leave the university. I would like to see a free road from the infant room to the university. That aim has often been expressed by us on these benches, and I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary, when he comes to reply, will be prepared to echo it.
I know that this raises questions of cost, accommodation, teaching power and so on. One hon. Member referred to the means test and said that he would like to see it abolished as soon as possible. It may be that the Parliamentary Secretary would like to see this free road for every boy and girl right through to the university—as soon as possible, too. But surely we are not going to be bound by that attitude of mind. "As soon as possible" is an escape phrase tacked on to the end of a most laudable desire. If the Government want to do it, they can do it. It is an issue of will, and if it is not done it is because the Government are not prepared to will the means by which it can be done.
If I understood my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley), he said that he would like a uniform system of grants to operate. I agree with him, but I wonder whether he was talking from the United Kingdom point of view. That is one of the difficulties that we meet when dealing with a Bill of this nature. English Members naturally speak from a background of English experience, and similarly I am speaking from a background of Scottish experience. But I hope I shall be expressing a widely-held view that we want a uniform system of maintenance grants applied to the whole of the United Kingdom. I am sufficiently broadminded to express that hope because I wish to raise another point contingent upon it.
When I consider the students' grants which are proposed for Scotland, I find that the standard maintenance allowance depends on the university attended and also on a variety of other conditions, such as the student's contribution, the parents' contribution, the dependants' allowance and the extra allowances, but nevertheless the basic standard for a Scottish student is £185 if he is living at 124 home. I agree that that is a big increase for Scottish students, because those boys and girls in Scotland who entered upon university life a year ago, in September at the beginning of the 1960 term, were, in cases of which I am aware, getting no more than £40 as a maintenance grant. Actually that maintenance grant covered only their fees.
A strain was thrown on the income of the parents. In homes of which I know, where the parents' income was in the £2,000 a year range, with a family of four, the boy who was at the university had rather a difficult time in the first year of his course, existing on a grant of £40, as had his parents, with another boy in the fifth year in one of our Glasgow secondary schools preparing to enter university life later. Therefore, these new grants are a tremendous increase. These people are not alone. There are many like them today in the City of Glasgow. The £185, therefore, is very welcome.
However, during the debate I have been told privately—with what accuracy, I do not know—that for a boy in England the similar amount paid is £230. I should not like to think that the standard of living in Scotland is so much lower than the general standard of living in England for students as to justify that difference in payment to Scottish students compared with what is paid to English students. Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State will say something about the disparity.
Although I welcome the increase, I think it could be higher yet. From observations which I can make, I know that in many homes, while the boys are almost automatically destined for a university course, the girls are not so favoured, and basically this is because a family in Scotland today with an income of about the sum I have mentioned finds it almost impossible to put two boys and two girls through the university on present maintenance grants. It is for that reason that I am firmly convinced, despite reports from expert bodies, that university education ought to be free to all boys and girls in our country who are qualified by aptitude and ability to benefit from it.
We must have qualifications, of course, but this raises the other point. Our debate is concerned not merely with grants and so forth for university students 125 but with that fearful gap in education lying between the leaving age of 15 and the age of 18. This gap has been unfilled for nearly all the years that I have been in the House.
It is a terrible gap, the gap in which are bred all the sins of youth about which we so often talk. I hope that we can close that gap, first, by reconsidering the school-leaving age and raising it; then by making sure that we depend less on the efforts of employers to help in closing the new gap and more on what the Government can do, which should be far greater than they have done hitherto.
I turn now to the other Clause of the Bill to which I referred at the beginning of my speech. Clause 8 intrigues me. The Bill was described by my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Fitch) as a sort of shuffle forward, not a step forward, not what he would like the Minister of Education to take—a leap forward. It would seem that the Bill is not even a shuffle forward for Scotland. If Clause 8 is interpretated as I interpret it, it is a step backwards.
Clause 8 (2) states:Any order made by virtue of this Section shall be made in respect of either or both of the years 1961–62 and 1962–63 as may be specified in the order, and in respect of the year or years so specified shall decrease the annual aggregate amount of the general grants to such extent as may appear to the Secretary of State to be appropriate. …That is a warning to us that the grants may be decreased because under the Bill there are to be benefits in other directions. What is given with one hand is taken away, to some extent, with the other. The Secretary of State gives, the Secretary of State takes away. [Interruption.] No, not blessed be the the name of the Secretary of State. If this is what he proposes to do, then damned be the name of the Secretary of State. Is that too strong a word in the circumstances and excitement which is boiling up inside me at the suggestion that money should be taken away from Scotland? Is the right hon. Gentleman doing this because he is told to do it by the Minister of Education? I hope that we shall be told that the word "decrease" in Clause 8 does not mean what it normally means but must be interpreted as meaning increase. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us why there is even any mention of the word 126 "decrease" in a Bill which, we are told, is giving increases in other respects?
To refer to my own City of Glasgow, we are not getting enough money at this moment for school building, for the university, for further education or for teachers' salaries. We want more money and I should have thought that, having, as it were, accumulated a little surplus, the Secretary of State would have left it with us so that we might do for education in Glasgow and Scotland generally more than is being done, not only for the credit of the Government and to meet the wishes of the Opposition; but to build up the boys and girls of Scotland who will carry the burdens that we are now carrying, we must ensure that they are strong, able, willing and intelligent to carry them properly.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
I intervene briefly to comment on one or two points which have been made.
In the course of an interesting speech, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) made some exaggerated remarks about the attitude of the party on this side of the House towards matters of educational and social reform and suggested that hon. Members on this side invariably have been apposed to such reforms or at least disinclined to take any steps to introduce them. I find it hard to follow that, particularly since the majority of the most memorable statutes concerning education have been sponsored by Ministers on this side, not least the Education Act, 1944, which was sponsored by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, with the important assistance, which we all recognise, of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede).
§ Mr. Mulley
The fact that the 1944 Act was a Coalition Act speaks for itself. That was exactly the kind of Act which ought to have been passed in the 1930s, the years that the locust ate.
§ Mr. Gower
That does not disprove my remark that that Act was largely sponsored by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, with the acknowledged co-operation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields. As to subsidiary means of assisting people in the realm of education and social welfare, the hon. Member will recall that in 127 the lifetime of Governments elected since 1951 family allowances and so on have been increased considerably and these have been of help to those who have family responsibilities.
Although the hon. Member says that this is a small Bill, he must admit that it is a valuable step in the right direction. He and other hon. Members have commented on the importance of having uniformity in university grants. Most of us will accept that. Yet I feel bound to point out that Wales and, I think, Scotland have not suffered as much as other parts of the country from the lack of uniformity. Our people in Wales, of whatever party, have been so much attached to matters of education that they have been prepared by public policy to support very large votes from public funds for grants for this purpose. If the hon. Member would refer to the records of most Welsh education authorities he would find that these grants are far above the national average. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education appears to agree with me.
This goes back to the old days of Liberals and Conservatives long before the Labour Party was active. I do not like speaking in this apparently rather boastful way, but it is a fact that there has been for long in Wales and in Scotland a readiness to spend generously for these purposes out of the rates and other votes on a larger scale than has been apparent in other parts of the country. I hope that we shall not suffer from a new policy of uniformity, though we certainly approve the principle that the geographical accident of place of birth should not determine the grant that the student might receive on entering into higher education.
§ Mr. Boyden
Is the hon. Member claiming that it is due to the Tory Party? Has he not heard of the Workers' Educational Association and the Nonconformist tradition, which was hostile to the Tory Party?
§ Mr. Gower
Had the hon. Member done me the honour of listening carefully, he would have found that I was not claiming that in my speech and that on the contrary I was saying that people of all parties in the Principality had been pre- 128 pared to suport educational expenditure. An independent county council such as Cardigan, and a Labour county council, such as Glamorgan, have been equally prepared.
§ Mr. Gower
The hon. Member is now going back to an earlier part of my speech when I was talking about something else. In this part of my speech I am talking about the readiness of local authorities in Wales, irrespective of political party, to spend this sort of money on grants.
As to the means test and parental contribution, the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) said that the Minister needs only to have the will and be prepared to spend the money and the job can be done. That is undoubtedly true. But there is the question, as all hon. Gentlemen will recognise, of priorities. If we had unlimited wealth or if much larger sums of money were available for education, I would have thought that, while it would be desirable to lessen the impact of the parental contribution and give much more generous help to students going to university, there was a strong case for some of the additional money to be spent on other aspects of education where urgent improvement is needed.
There is not time tonight to expand this point of view, but I should have thought that if money such as that was partially expended in this sphere, it should also be partially expended on such things as reducing the size of classes and increasing teacher training.
An hon. Member opposite said that the Government were standing in the way of progress in this respect. He will acknowledge that we are expanding teacher training on a very large scale. I confess that that was needed. It was a prerequisite to other progress such as dealing with the problem of reducing the school-leaving age. Another thing that we did which was a great step forward, although it handicapped us in this other respect, was to introduce the three-year training period. Strangely enough, that handicapped us in getting more teachers quickly, which was also our aim.
129 Remarks have been made about how the required money should be raised—whether it is fair to collect money through rates, and so on. Those are controversial questions which are outside the sphere of this small Bill. I do not violently object to the idea that local authorities or other local bodies can administer funds even when the whole amount comes from the Exchequer, but if we should carry that very far we would have to look at local government in an entirely new light, for the amount of decision which would be left to local representatives would be very small indeed if they were to make no conscious choice but merely to administer efficiently a central service.
§ Mr. Mulley
The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the whole point of the Bill, which is to take away any decision as to whether or not grants should be given to people specified as having the necessary educational qualifications. The complaint of local authorities is that they have to pay the money but they have no voice in the selection. No one complains about that in terms of choice, but then the Government ought to provide the money, too.
§ Mr. Gower
The point I wanted to make was that if local authorities collected no money locally and it all came through central grants, it would carry that tendency far and change the nature of local government. Remarks have been made about the scope of the Bill, and the validity of using the rates as a method of collecting the money has been questioned.
Taking a long-term view of our problems as a country, I feel that in the sphere of education hon. Members on both sides of the House must raise their sights. If we are to produce the talent that we require in practically every sphere in this technical age, we must contemplate a larger expenditure upon education. In addition, we must spend the money in the most effective way. We must not rush at this problem merely for the sake of spending.
In another aspect of the problem I do not accept a view which I have seen expressed fairly frequently in the educational press, that there is a limit to the number of people who can benefit from a university education; in other words, 130 that only a limited number of people are capable of taking a first-class degree. I prefer a view expressed more recently, that, while that may be true, there are also many others who would benefit enormously from a university education.
To that extent, I feel that we should be contemplating a very large development and expansion in our universities and in the number of people who can reasonably take university education. I hope that in the long term view we on this side of the House, as on the other side, will not hesitate to contemplate much larger expenditure.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacPherson (Stirling and Falkirk Burghs)
I must begin with an apology. I have had a heavy cold for some days, and, while I knew that I could not get rid of it by today, I took what steps I thought might suppress the symptoms. They have not been very successful, however, and I am sorry.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) began his speech, he talked about the aims of education. He rubbed that in a little, but experts outside have been rubbing it in for a considerable time and have been telling us that education is not merely important in itself but is now one of the most important political matters facing the country. In spite of that, we have not had a debate matching up to the occasion. There have been few speeches from the Government back benches. A number of them have been short and clipped, following visitations by the Whips. Taking it altogether, if, as some of my hon. Friends contend, this is a mouse of a Bill, the collective contribution to the debate by back benchers opposite has also been a mouse.
That is serious, because the Minister has had a pretty rough ride. My hon. Friends have taken him apart in one way and another, and on major and important matters. One of my hon. Friends talked about the "Jekyll and Hyde" in the Minister's make-up, and was generous enough to say that he found more of the "Jekyll" in the Bill than of the "Hyde". Others of my hon. Friends have found far more of "Hyde". But the right hon. Gentleman has come in for a good deal of criticism from his own back benchers. Included in that criticism they have made plain 131 their opposition on the crucial question of the debate—parental contributions.
A large number of questions concerning the universities and our policy towards them have come up for discussion. The shortage of university places has been mentioned by many hon. Members. It has been pointed out that we should have far more of these places and that the shortage was foreseeable many years ago because it is the product mainly of the bulge, added to by the less foreseeable trends. In spite of that, preparations have not been made.
The situation with regard to admissions to universities has been discussed and is widely agreed to contain many of the elements of chaos. The waste of talent which comes from not enabling able boys to get to university has been pointed out, but, as the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) said, it has been pointed out so often that hon. Members did not find it necessary to go into it in detail. The opportunities for university education in this country have been compared with those of other nations, again a fairly frequent topic. Although the comparison is rather inexact—it has been said that it is impossible to get figures which are comparable—it is a comparison which does not show us in a good light.
There have even been criticisms, which are not frequent in the House, of the University Grants Committee itself. I do not feel that the Committee is entirely beyond criticism. It is well intentioned and generally does a good job, but I am not sure that its present policies match the present situation.
We are in a situation of crisis. It is easy for the Opposition to use a word like that and it is easy for critics to blame the Opposition for using melodramatic language, but I do not know how else the situation can be described if not in fairly strong language. We have young people completing their secondary education but not getting into universities. We have universities which do not know how to handle the inflow of applications. We have an expansion programme for the universities which, at best, is slow. It may be interesting and it may be experimental and it may give us a good deal in fifteen or twenty years' time, but at present its characteristic is that it is slow.
132 The Bill immediately concerns only one thread running through this set of difficulties, that of financing undergraduates and others of comparable status taking comparable courses, and others taking less advanced courses. There are many questions to be solved before we have the university policy we want. Nevertheless, this is a major question and behind it there lies the other question which some of my hon. Friends have stressed and which was emphatically mentioned in the Report by Professor Brinley Thomas—that of financing those people who are in the stage just before arrival at the university.
I need not go over what is said about this matter in the Anderson Report, but there is no doubt of its importance. Even with this Bill, questions of that sort are still left unsolved. Because of the developing situation, a situation which is producing the present difficulties, I think that this is not the last Bill concerned with these questions with which we will have to deal. There will be a number of others and bit by bit we may manage to improve on the releasing of ability, to use the very useful phrase of the hon. Lady the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson).
In many ways the questions with which the Anderson Committee dealt are related to those with which the Robbins Committee is dealing. The Anderson Report is already a little behind the times, because it was based on a university population of 135,000 and the figure has now been somewhat increased. However, the Anderson Report is admirable and deals with the essential questions in an immediate and up-to-the-minute manner. It is liberal and humane and one hopes that the regulations which the Government frame will be equally liberal and humane.
There is increasing public interest in these matters dealt with by the Anderson Committee and now being dealt with by the Robbins Committee. It is not just a simple platitude to say that there is an increasing public interest. To say that is to lay something before the Government, because up to now, in matters of university policy, we have tended not to be very forthcoming to the public. All sorts of things have been made archaic mysteries. Actually, 133 they are things which a public interested in universities very rightly wishes to know about. Debates on these matters have been going an and are likely to continue, and I suggest to the Minister that one of the things which ought to happen is that he and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is responsible for university policy, should give a good deal more information to the public about major university matters.
I will come back later to a particular matter to which I wish to refer. Meantime, I want to talk about one of the major characteristics of the Anderson Report and of the Bill. Both are concerned with what I might call, broadly, higher education, university education and comparable courses, as well as the group below that; and they are concerned with them in Scotland and in England and Wales. The Anderson Report begins by noting the difference between Scottish practice and the practice in England and Wales in a number of respects. It makes a number of recommendations and, generally speaking. I am in full agreement with these. It makes the recommendations broadly on the basis that the university and higher educational system of Scotland is not a separate system from that of the rest of the United Kingdom, or should not be so treated. It should be considered together with the rest of the system in the United Kingdom. That, to me, seems sensible.
Whatever we may say about the school system and about further education below the university level, I do not think that today there is any great doubt that one should think about Scottish universities as simply a group of universities inside the larger group of which they form part. It is not only that in Scotland we have no Oxford or Cambridge. These have, of course, played quite an outstanding part—one need not be excessively nationalistic as a Scot, but one should take the right attitude to them. We must take off our hats to Oxford and Cambridge for the part which they have played—a part that Scottish universities have not been able to play. It is not only that. It is not only that we can send people for higher education outside Scotland. There are so many other things which we have not got in the Scottish system.
134 The Scottish system has a strong and sturdy tradition. It has produced four strong and sturdy institutions. But it has not the variety which we find in the larger and more numerous English institutions. In Scotland there is no keel and no rudder. Students cannot specialise in courses like navigation, which is taught in the University at Southampton, or drama such as is specialised in at Bristol. In that kind of thing the English and Welsh university system offers a greater range of variety than does the Scottish system. It is not, therefore, unreasonable that we should say that when a student is going to a university from a Scottish school, he ought to be able to select not merely a university representing his own tradition and specialising in particular things, but he ought to have a choice of a whole range of other universities which may well specialise in other things.
What is true of the universities is true of the institutions offering comparable courses.
I think that this will bring to Scotland a number of problems which so far Scotland has, to some extent, been able to avoid. For the headmaster or careers master of a Scottish grammar school with a boy of university quality there was a small range of institutions about which he must know and advise. Now it will be the duty of Scottish headmasters and careers masters to think not merely whether a boy should go to St. Andrews or Glasgow, but possibly to Reading, Birmingham or Southampton, and there will now be no financial bar. It will be as easy for him financially to go to one as to the other. So far, also, the Scottish universities have not had the same clutter of applications for admission as the English and Welsh Universities have. There has been and there is at the moment no need in Scotland for the universities to operate a clearing house.
I think there is no doubt that there is, as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) put it, very definitely a need for that in England. Scotland has so far managed because boys and girls have been able to count—not with full certainty, but with more certainty—on getting into one or more Scottish institutions. Now, one presumes, with the wider range of choice 135 Scotland will not be isolated any longer. Broadly speaking, I think that the Government are doing the right thing in proposing that the Scottish institutions should be looked at together with the English and Welsh institutions from the point of view of financing them, and that none of the financial bars which have been erected so far in Scotland should continue.
Beyond that there are other matters which bring Scotland on the one hand and England and Wales on the other into a more similar position than they were before. We have no State scholarships and their abolition in England and Wales puts them in the same boat as us. We have never missed them and think there is no serious complaint that we should have them. One does not feel unhappy that the general opinion seems to be against them. The Standing Advisory Committee will cover Scotland as well as the rest of the United Kingdom. That seems wise and sensible. As the Anderson Committee suggests, there should be no need for the supplementation scheme of the Scottish Education Department to continue.
The Scottish method of assessment, I think, undoubtedly was inferior to the English and Welsh method. The Anderson Committee, I think, was right to prefer the English and Welsh method. The Scottish system led to a certain amount of cheeseparing, low grants and that kind of thing. Now it is to be replaced by a system which will give uniformity in Scotland and which will be administered centrally. I do not disagree with central administration. I would disagree with it in the case of England because the numbers concerned would be far too great. In the case of Scotland it seems that it can be quite conveniently administered from St. Andrew's House.
The main criticism that has been made about Scottish grants in recent years has been that in general they have fallen below the grants given in comparable circumstances to English and Welsh students. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) pointed that out. This, I am sorry to say, is not being properly met yet. My impression had been that a Scottish student would get the same level of grant in com- 136 parable circumstances as an English or Welsh student would get, but what the Minister said this afternoon was that the Standing Advisory Committee would look into this. I do not think that is good enough, and I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State will go beyond what the Minister said and will tell us that from now on the Scottish students will get grants at the same level, under the same circumstances, as the English or Welsh student. That is necessary, and if that is not the position which the Government adopt, then they will come in for a good deal of serious criticism.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) raised a point about this at Question Time the other day and suggested that if Scottish students were given equivalent levels of grant, possibly the number of such grants which were given would have to be cut. I hope that this is not so, and I look for a clear and I hope forthcoming reply from the Joint Under-Secretary of State.
Students go to universities and higher education at 17 or 18, preferably 18. In Scotland it has been one of our weaknesses that we have tended to send students rather too early, but the movement now is to accept students who are 18 rather than those who are 17. But what is happening to those students at 18-plus is one of the problems in the educational world and one of the things on which the Anderson Committee commented, pointing to the fear of a wave of public uneasiness over selection at 18-plus just as there was over selection at 11-plus.
Their fears are well grounded. It is not simply that we have the shortages and difficulties which I mentioned earlier but it is also that we have no proper public explanation of what the policies are which are to be followed. We have all sorts of conflicting lights, leading and misleading the public. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields dealt with this, and I completely agree with what he said. It is ironic that for the first time in the history of the Scottish universities—a history running back hundreds of years—a qualified student in the last two or three years has not always been able to count on admission. It is a little ironic that the senior leaving certificate, which 137 was too early and ought to have been brought later in the year, has been brought later in the year during the very period when we have such a clutter of applications for admission that the poor chap does not know until late in the summer whether he will be inside a university.
It is an idyllic dream to think of the situation before the war in respect of university applications, when a student got his passes in the spring or early summer, applied for admission during August or September and was admitted in October, and there was no question, having appropriate qualifications, of not being able to get in. That is the sort of situation at which we must aim in the long run, but it is not the situation now, and the public is being given a number of very dubious lights to follow in this matter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, lichen (Dr. King) referred to the interview as a method of selecting between borderline cases. Fortunately this is not a procedure which has strongly established itself in Scotland. When applications have become more numerous than places, the tendency in Scotland has been to take the better-qualified academically. I do not know that I can assert that interviews do not take place; I wish I could, because I fully agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Itchen that they tend to be subjective.
The best interview, the only interview worth anything for this problem, is that which has been carried on pretty well with every applicant for half-a-dozen years by his headmaster and his teachers, who have been interviewing him in the classroom day after day, in the corridors, on the playing fields and on the boards of the school theatre. There is no way in half-an-hour, or an hour, or for that matter a two-day interview in which one can size up the elements of character which may make for success or failure in the university course which compares with the interviews which I have described.
§ Mr. MacPherson
I will not comment on intelligence tests.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) raised another 138 important matter on which I should like to comment. When the Minister this afternoon declared that he was not in practice, as distinct from principle, going to implement the majority Anderson Report, I waited for his reason. Strange as it may seem, I was quite relieved when he said that his reason was financial, and I would comment on that, in passing, that he will get no sympathy from us. He pleaded priorities and he implied that if he were to spend money on this he would not have it to spend on other things.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West put very bluntly the full answer to that. These priorities are within the allocation laid down for him by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and it is, from our point of view, not the right sort of allocation. We want education to expand and the money to be spent on this and on other things. We do not want priorities to be settled inside the limiting offices of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I was relieved, as I have said, when the right hon. Gentleman gave that as his reason for not in practice supporting the majority Anderson Report. I was relieved because the major reason that has been given in, for example, The Times has been of a quite different sort. It has been that there was some threat to academic freedom implied in having all fees paid by the public. This is the kind of argument that has been thrown about from a good many high quarters in recent years, and I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park raised the question and tried to shed some light on it.
What is essential in academic freedom and what the universities and other higher education institutions must be free about is thought and the presentation of thought. As Bertram Russell said in his early days, "Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid."
That is what we feel about the speculations of university teachers and students—that they must be completely free to expound, explain and express their speculations. What has that to do with who pays the fees?—not the slightest thing. What has it to do, in fact, with other things? I am being continually told in letters from the Financial Secretary 139 to the Treasury that he cannot give the information about why this general policy is being pursued because it might infringe on academic freedom. There is no infringement of academic freedom in expanding the policies under which university development is taking place. Academic freedom is absolutely essential. One of the most terrible things in this country or in any country is this kind of policy of cutting down all the trees within twenty miles of academic freedom, so that no one can approach without being seen—a sort of scorched earth policy. Defending academic freedom by creating a great waste around it so that no one can pop his head up anywhere, seems to be a reactionary or backward line to take. If that kind of policy were followed the result would be, to quote Milton's phrase, a fugitive and cloistered freedom.
Furthermore, the real enemy to academic freedom is not Governments but the establishment. Where there is a conformist nation, as we are, a nation which is non-conformist in any line has to strive, worry and fight all the time. Then there is a real danger to academic freedom, as Bertrand Russell found in his earlier days. [Interruption.] That is perfectly correct. He discovered that not only in this country but across the Atlantic. I am not defending the position he adopts nowadays.
I have not spoken about most of the themes which I had intended to deal with, but I cannot end without saying this. We are the central country in a great Commonwealth whose members are building new universities which are very largely Government-sponsored and controlled. Many of them in the newer Dominions are already distinguished and great universities, although they are State-owned and State-controlled. There is just a touch of arrogance in the feeling that the State must never finance the universities fully and that the universities must never be State-owned. In any properly run country they will not be State-controlled. However, I do not believe that the line we are taking in defending from fear is the right line to take about academic freedom.
I must leave a number of other matters to the Committee stage, which will be interesting. I repeat that I hope that the Under-Secretary will give us a much 140 clearer and more satisfying declaration than the Minister gave us this afternoon.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. R Brooman-White)
The hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson) has, as usual, taken a very broad view and set the problems in a very wide perspective. I will do what I can to meet the points as I go along. The debate has on the whole ranged very widely. Hon. Members have commented on such subjects as the university expansion programme and university entrance boards. The hon. Members for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs and Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) did not hesitate to plunge into the very deep waters of academic freedom. There was a good deal of discussion about the Crowther Report and the timing and advisability of a further extension of the school-leaving age. On both sides of the House we appreciate some of the reasons lying behind the breadth of some of the speeches.
These may be the shadows on the screen behind the Bill. They are very large and important shadows of problems to come which we shall have to face, but they are not and cannot be the substance of the Bill. Arising out of these more general consideration of school leaving dates and the changes made in the Bill, various hon. Members made specific comments. I want to talk about one now in case is becomes lost in the general theme of my speech it was made by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). I should like to assure him that his assumptions about the position of school leavers under the present law are entirely correct, and that we welcome the support that he and other hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. D. Smith) have given to the present and very desirable trend for people to keep their children voluntarily at school beyond the statutory leaving date.
Another general point raised by the majority of speakers related to the general grant and the position of the local authorities. The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) in particular asked for something further to be [said on how the local authorities in England would stand under the new 141 financial arrangements. The House will appreciate that the position in Scotland is different.
The Minister of Education has already held discussions on this subject with local education authority representatives. He recognises their claim to special consideration in respect of the discontinuance of State scholarships and other features of the new arrangements for awards. The local authorities have been assured that these special considerations will be taken into account in the adjustment of general grant provided for by Clause 7. This settlement for the 1961–63 period will, naturally, be reflected in the negotiations for later general grant periods.
That is all I can say on that point at the moment, but I hope that it goes some way to meeting the considerations that were in mind—
§ Mr. Willey
The hon. Gentleman expresses a hope. I will only comment that I do not think that he has gone nearly far enough.
§ Mr. Brooman-White
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I cannot go any further in the present circumstances.
The Bill as a whole had met with general approval, given with varying degrees of enthusiasm—
§ Miss Herbison
The Joint Under-Secretary has dealt with the point about the grant in relation to local authorities in England and Wales. I am quite certain that there are a great many local authorities which would like to be assured by the hon. Gentleman that what he has decided for Scotland—which is so very different from what obtains at the present time—was reached with the full agreement of the local authorities there.
§ Mr. Brooman-White
I had hoped to come on to the Scottish Clauses later, but I think that the position in Scotland has, in general, met with the full agreement of the local authorities. On the general grant position, the same position as that in England does not arise—but I hope to come to that in a moment.
As I was saying, there has been support for the Bill, and varying degrees of enthusiasm from all sides of the House. It is true that those who are more sceptical about the merits of the proposals have described the Bill as a "mouse", 142 "half a loaf", "a shuffle", "a step", and we have been told about the "ugly ducklings" who have been getting at it. In the main, however, the Bill has been supported as a useful Measure, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs will realise that any lack of eloquence and the perhaps rather greater cogency of argument on this side has been due to the general acceptance of the Bill as a useful and practical step forward.
As one would have expected, the main criticisms have been made on the basis that we have not accepted the majority recommendations of the Anderson Report and abolished the parental means test at one stroke. But even on that point, although there has been some difference in view, there has been some support from hon. Members opposite of the priorities we have given. In any case, my right hon. Friend has made clear that the present decision is not based on any difference of opinion about a principle but on the immediate practical and tactical grounds.
We feel that the improvements and increases made possible under this Bill will meet the most pressing needs and that, for the rest, there are other things which, in present circumstances, should be given priority.
The hon. Member for Sunderland, North brushed aside the financial considerations which, he said, had been swept aside by the Anderson Report. I differ from the hon. Gentleman about this. The Anderson Report did not go into this point of priorities, and if the hon. Gentleman will refer to paragraph 164 of that Report he will see that it states specifically:If it had to be assumed that no more than a strictly limited amount of public money was available for education, most of us, as individuals, would have views about the most urgent tasks. It is, however, entirely beyond our competence as a committee to assess priorities of this kind ".It was the duty of the Government to assess the priorities and the Government have done so.
§ Mr. Brooman-White
The Government have the responsibility for the proposals now before the House, based on that assessment. I stress—and this has not 143 been sufficiently stressed in the debate—that apart from this question of the general abolition, substantial improvements have been made. I mention only two of them; firstly, under the provisions at present envisaged 10,000 families will be relieved of all contributions. That is to say, they will be at least as well off as if we had accepted the Anderson majority recommendations. Secondly, quite a substantial number of families will be better off under the provisions we have put forward than under the Anderson majority recommendations. That is to say, the scales we are introducing, plus the reduction of the children's allowances, will be more favourable than the abolition of both the test and the allowance. The families who will get the benefit of this are those in the lower income ranges; £700 to £1,400 group with one child, or an even higher range when there is more than one child.
§ Mr. Edwin Wainwright (Dearne Valley)
Since the Minister says that 10,000 families will benefit and that these families have sons and daughters attending university, is he not aware that because of the lack of finance many of these families have had to borrow money from the local education authorities and must repay this money?
§ Mr. Brooman-White
That is a point which I would rather go into on a later occasion, but at the moment, with respect to the hon. Gentleman, I must get on.
Perhaps I can illustrate the point I was making by points that were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson), who pointed out, in relation to Scottish universities, that last year 40 per cent. of Scottish university students did not have awards. The measure of the improvement made under the present provisions is that the proportion without awards under the present arrangements has dropped to about 20 per cent. We believe that it would have dropped still further if we had been more successful with the considerable effort that has been made to publicise the terms and arrangements at present available.
We found that in the month the universities have been back that a number of students are not aware of the £50 provision. The detailed leaflet which we issued 144 met the specific case raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, East—that if both parents are earning, in assessing the parental income, we are now allowing a deduction of up to £200 for domestic assistance. This brings us into line with a previous English provision and, as can be seen, we are moving into line in both countries.
With regard to the Scottish Clauses of the Bill, as hon. Members know, the arrangements for giving grants have developed differently North and South of the Border. As the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs pointed out, until the Anderson Committee three years ago, little attention was paid to co-ordinating the two systems. In spite of the comparisons which have been made in recent years—there has been a certain amount of criticism of deficiencies in our previous Scottish arrangements—I think hon. Members will agree that though our university bursaries may have fallen short, although by no means all our bursaries have, it should be remembered that Scotland has not invariably lagged behind; and as we move into the era of these new arrangements I am sure the House would wish to record our appreciation of the efforts which have been made in the past and of the awards made by the Scottish education authorities which have enabled such a high proportion of our men and women to go on from school to courses of higher education.
As a result of the Anderson recommendations, we are establishing the principle of uniformity of treatment over the whole of Great Britain for students taking university and comparable courses. Reference has been made to the fact that that has not been achieved immediately, and we would have been glad if this could have been so, but the House will appreciate that there were very real and practical difficulties. As the Ministry's system of allowances has been devised only for institutions in England and Wales, and as the bursaries paid to Scottish students have been assessed quite separately, it was impossible to fix fair and realistic national rates without reviewing costs on a Great Britain basis.
We therefore had to choose between postponing the whole of the Anderson reforms until 1962, so that they could all be introduced at once, or making some interim improvements this year. It 145 seemed to us—and I am sure hon. Members will agree—that in the interests of the students we should go as far as we could in 1961 and leave until 1962 only those measures to secure complete uniformity which we could not secure immediately without a review of costs and without legislation.
So far as England is concerned, all students will be getting their awards at the standard rate determined by the Ministry. In Scotland we are also achieving uniformity within our own borders, and there has already been an improvement in the majority of cases of about £10 for students living at home and £20 for those in lodgings. That is in 1961–62 as compared with 1960–61.
What is more important, we have already met what hon. Members stress and what I think all Scottish Members realise has been the chief cause of complaint amongst Scottish students, namely, that they could not get their bursaries adjusted to meet their expenses at the university of their choice. They were under pressure to go to the university which was nearest, irrespective of whether this was the one they wished to attend or not.
Furthermore, as these bursaries have up to now been assessed on attendance at the nearest institution—which, owing to the convenient geographical location and distribution of our Scottish universities, meant in the majority of cases that they were assessed on the basis of the student living at home—this was all he could get even though he chose to go to a university in some other part of Scotland or south of the Border.
This year awards have been assessed according to the institution which the student actually attends. Parallel to this we have relaxed the conditions for paying a higher rate of allowance to students living away from home. Those who can live at home will not be compelled to do so, if they have reasonable grounds for moving into lodgings, or if they live in a university or college hostel during term.
These improvements have attracted most attention because of their effect on students who gain places at English universities, and the financial benefit to the students is clearly the most marked in those cases.
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
I presume the hon. Gentleman appreciates that we have a university in Wales. I hope he is including Wales.
§ Mr. Brooman-White
I am sure that the widest possible interchange among the Celtic areas as well as between the Celtic and the Anglo-Saxon areas will be of general benefit.
§ Mrs. White
The Bill does not cover Northern Ireland, but are these grants to be paid at Queen's University, Belfast?
§ Mr. Brooman-White
Yes, I am advised that that is so. I was speaking of the benefit to students who move south of the Border, but really the most important feature of the new arrangements is that we have made possible free movement within the borders of Scotland, and students can now accept places at any university or college within our own borders in the knowledge that their allowances will be assessed at the rate appropriate to the particular institution. This will, one hopes, go to meet one of the difficulties which the hon. Member for Sterling and Falkirk Burghs stressed. There will tend to be more movement and interchange between one area and another, and it will help our Scottish institutions to operate on a broader and better basis. I think that this underlay a good deal of the emphasis in some of the hon. Gentleman's remarks.
The arrangements to which I have referred are already in operation. The main task remaining to be dealt with is to settle the appropriate levels of maintenance grants for the future which will secure not only the payment of the rate appropriate to the university which the student wishes to attend but also the adjustment of these rates to secure that, in practice, there is equality of treatment between the various areas, institutions and courses throughout Britain. As my right hon. Friend has explained, this is now being investigated by the Standing Advisory Committee. The hon. Member for Sunderland, North asked about timing. The idea is that the Committee should report in good time for these new arrangements to be operative in the 1962 Session. It is hoped that the new regulations based on the Committee's findings will remove the last disparities between one area and another.
147 I turn now to the differences in administrative arrangements between one area and another, which concerned the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison). The main difficult, of course, is that we in Scotland are taking over in the Scottish Education Department the administration of the university level and comparable awards, while the English are sticking to the previous system of awards being made by the local authorities. On the face of it, this seems a striking difference. I assure the hon. Lady that there is no great point at issue in it and, to some extent, as the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs said, it is a reflection of the smaller size of our problem which makes it more convenient to handle at the centre. There are other local factors as well. But there was almost unanimous agreement among the bodies we consulted that our objectives, in particular the objective of uniformity, could more easily be achieved if the Scottish Education Department had a direct executive responsibility in the making of the awards.
As we made clear, we are relying on the continued help of the education authorities in several respects. We shall refer to them in cases of difficulty which require special consideration. As hon. Members know, the education authorities will still, like those South of the Border, continue to have executive responsibility for bursaries for full-time study below the advanced level and for part-time study.
At this point, I should say that we are particularly grateful to the local education authorities for all they have done to achieve a smooth hand-over during this difficult year of transition. The House will appreciate the weight of the burden when I say that the Department has made close on 20,000 awards for the 1961–62 Session, about 10,000 of them in renewal of previous education authority bursaries, 6,000 to students entering the first year of their courses, and 3,000 to students who started their courses in 1960 or earlier without any financial assistance.
In spite of the size of the operation, thanks to the help of the local education authorities and thanks to a great deal 148 of hard work and long hours by members of the Scottish Education Department staff and temporary members who were recruited for this job, I think the House will agree that, apart from some inevitable teething troubles, there have been remarkably few cases of individual difficulty. Indeed, the majority of the awards have been paid earlier this year than in any previous year. I think that the differences between England and Scotland in the other Clauses are unimportant or self-evident. The position concerning school bursaries is relatively unchanged, except that we have taken a minor provision to make it easier for education authorities to give bursaries to children boarded in their area or whose parents are serving overseas. The English authorities have previously had rather more flexibility than we have had over a small number of cases of this kind, and we are simply coming into line.
On the general grant Clauses, I can say to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) that the position is "as you were". Powers are being taken to decrease the grant simply to meet the change in expenditure. The position is that the English local authorities are paying increased bursaries and powers are being taken to increase their grant to meet the added expenditure. In Scotland the reverse is the case. The Government will now be meeting expenditure previously carried by local authorities, so that powers are being taken to reduce their grant by an equivalent amount over the period for which it had previously been fixed on the assumption that this particular expenditure would be coming out of the local authorities' pockets and not out of the Government's pocket. The figures have not yet finally been agreed, but the intention is that the local authorities should not be financially any better off or worse off than they were before as a result of this administrative transfer of expenditure.
On school-leaving dates, I think that the provisions of the Bill as they affect England and Scotland have been generally welcomed. The only difference is that we in Scotland intend overall to reduce the number to two, as in England, and the advantages to us will be similar. However, we have kept the way open to have a third date available 149 for certain areas if it is thought necessary or temporarily necessary. This is because up to now some areas in Scotland have had a substantial number of leaving dates, and we want to ensure that no trouble is caused by making transitions of this kind too abrupt if people are finding it a little hard to adjust themselves to a change from five or six leaving dates to two.
In particular, although up to now the absorption of school leavers into industry has been satisfactory and has been going well—it is a problem which has caused us much concern and has been so much in our minds during these bulge years—we want to take the greatest possible precautions to meet any future difficulties. We have taken this provision for the third date for certain areas in case it might help to meet the strain in cases of local difficulty. In any case, I hope that the House will regard this as no more than a reasonable precaution.
I think that the other points which have been raised are minor ones and I do not want to delay the House with them. The Bill will make some useful adjustments for school leaving in line with the recommendations of the Crowther Report. It will make substantial improvements for grant and the assessment of the parental contribution. It will lead to the disappearance of the variations and inequalities which have previously existed in the assessment of grants as between one area and another, both between England and Scotland, and within the borders of the two countries. For these reasons, and to obtain these benefits, I hope that the House will agree to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).