HC Deb 19 April 1962 vol 658 cc723-51

1.25 p.m.

Mr. James Boyden (Bishop Auckland)

Many more people than are assembled here today are grateful to Mr. Speaker for selecting this subject for discussion. It is a rather specialised subject, but it is of very great interest to many hon. Members, and, of course, it is of great importance. I am grateful for the interest taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) in this matter and for the encouragement which he has given us. I am also grateful to the Minister of Education for his courtesy in coming along this morning to reply to the debate.

The natural starting point for any discussion on the need to provide more money and facilities for educational research is paragraph 697 of the Crowther Report. Let me read the last two sentences of that paragraph: In view of the very large sums of money that are spent on education every year, the expenditure on educational research can only be regarded as pitiable. If there is to be a consistent programme of educational development, almost the first step should be to review the provision for statistics and research. I am aware that the Minister is doing something about this, but I must confess that, when the Crowther Committee made this statement, I was very disappointed that on this not quite such important matter as raising the school-leaving age the right hon. Gentleman again soft-pedalled. He said that more research was going on than the Crowther Committee bad time to discover and concentrated on what he called intercommunication between research teams and customers.

The right hon. Gentleman said that inter-communication of research was nothing like as good as it ought to be. That of course, is not confined to educational research. A great deal of Government and local government activity is not communicated to the public and to other people as it should be. It seems to me that this is a relatively minor matter, although I hope the right hon. Gentleman will say something about the steps that he proposes to take to improve the lines of communication.

The bodies in the field—the local education authorities, the teachers' organisations and the individual teachers—have shown much more interest in educational research than has the Ministry. Some items are not communicated, but this difficulty of communication often arises from the part-time nature of teachers' and university tutors' research and the inadequate resources behind them. However, no one can say that the local authorities and the teachers' organisations have not supported to the full the various foundations—the National Foundation for Educational Research, the Foundation for Visual Aids and the National Institute for Adult Education—over a fairly long period.

I must remind the Minister that these foundations were set up in days of great difficulty. They were all conceived about the end of the war and were founded in 1947. They have done a very good job on very inadequate means. It is not their fault that the results are not better than they are. I think that a general criticism which can be made is that we are not, as a nation, research-minded enough. My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) has reminded us of this, very rightly, on many occasions in relation to industry.

The President of the Royal Society has on two recent occasions criticised the Government for inadequate support for research. There was the occasion of the annual meeting of the Royal Society and there was the more domestic occasion, when, I think, the Minister was present, of the annual luncheon of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee. At that luncheon, Sir Howard Florey told the Committee: As Sir Edward Appleton told your Committee last year, university research is now the poor relation of the scientific world in Britain. We are, in fact, not utilising to the best effect some of the most precious material this country has, and we are as a consequence dissipating our energies. University scientists who continue to make many of the discoveries of which this country is proud have not the facilities which the pursuit of science in the modern world demands, and so their ability to compete in making discoveries is depressed. By facilities I mean accommodation, the supply of qualified and technical assistants and freedom from the sometimes almost intolerable burden of cadging support from a multiplicity of sources such as foundations, Government Departments and even the United States Government, because the universities have inadequate funds at their disposal. That fits in very well with our earlier discussion today on the foundation of a fifth university in Scotland.

My plea today is in general terms for far more attention to research in the social sciences and, of course, for research into educational matters. There was striking evidence to the Robbins Committee from Committee N of the British Association for the Advancement of Science as to the relative lack of research facilities in sociology, social psychology and social anthropology. I quote from the Committee's memorandum some words of Lord Adrian, who, in 1954, drew attention to the need for a much greater emphasis on the social sciences when he said: There must be more social scientists in our universities so that the rising generation can see what they are like. The Home Secretary was saying something like that not long ago, in relation to a conference inaugurated by him.

Just as immediately after the war and in the first few years following the war a lot of attention, which has not continued—at least, not at the rate it should have done—was directed towards educational research, so there was a resurgence of interest in and money spent on the social sciences. The late Hugh Dalton was one of the strongest protagonists of the freedom of universities and the State provision of money for them to get on with things in their own way. A good deal of this resurgence was due to his efforts in various ways. After 1955, however,—I must draw attention to the fact that there is some coincidence between the Minister's office and what followed—interest and funds fell away and the general level of interest was not maintained.

I therefore quote the evidence of the British Association to the Robbins Committee that as a result of that falling away and Jack of Government interest: We are now in the position of being unable to provide nearly enough individuals of sufficient experience and maturity to fill the many posts which are becoming available. This lack of consistent policy in developing the social sciences within the university framework has very greatly added to the difficulties of building up a body of knowledge and methodology suitable to the study of the rapidly changing social conditions in Britain and other parts of the world. That is why the Minister has to say, "I cannot get enough statisticians. I do not know where to turn for well-trained social workers". It is precisely because insufficient attention has been given to these matters over the last ten years that now that the Minister is a reformed character and has much more interest in the matter, he cannot find the people to do the researches that he may wish to encourage.

I must confess that on 18th October last year, when he was addressing the National Foundation for Educational Research, I did not consider that the Minister's remedy— I suppose that means having more conferences, courses, and so on —was quite the answer to the problem. The problem is a fundamental one. One would expect the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry to be well in the lead in this respect, not only in encouraging educational research, providing the money for it and consulting local authorities regularly as to the sort of information he wants from them, but also acting, perhaps, as an agitator with the other bodies concerned and with the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The Minister said on that occasion that he was expecting generous grants from private foundations. It is extremely difficult to believe that we are in such a sad condition that the Government should be expecting private foundations to aid the sort of research which is fundamental to the answers, and even to posing the questions that will produce the answers, which we ought to have in education.

I congratulate the Minister on his bigger and jazzier statistics of education. Once again, however, I must draw his attention to page 37—the four assumptions on which he is building his anticipation of the number of children in school—and some of the demographic factors which are important in making, I was about to say, guesses, but, better than that, informed projects of what the situation might be in 1980. If the right hon. Gentleman, the Minister of Health and his other colleagues had taken more interest in demographic research generally, there is no doubt that some of those assumptions would be much finer intellectual instruments for getting the correct answers by 1980.

These things cannot suddenly be done. The burden of my complaint today is that it is no use coming suddenly as a reformed character and saying, "Now that I am interested in educational research, we will get some of the answers." The staff and buildings are not there. Even the public opinion is not there unless it is built up over a long period. In these fundamental questions of demographic research, we in England are sadly lacking.

I quote again the British Association evidence to the Robbins Committee: So far as research is concerned, there is still insufficient realisation by the University Grants Committee—and often by universities themselves—that social fact-finding, by means of intensive and extensive field and documentary research, is both essential and very expensive. We have to face these things. These matters are vital and will cost a good deal of money. I shall be surprised today, although I shall be pleased if he offers something, if the order of the Minister's offering is adequate to meet our needs.

The Minister knows that of the education bill for £800 million only £150,000 is spent on educational research. He will recollect that when he first became President of the National Foundation, one of his first tasks was to cut the grant in 1955 from £5,000 to £2,000. After this lapse of seven years, we are pleased to know that he has raised the annual grant from £3,000 to £7,000. We welcome his Answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton this morning that he is making a number of ad hoc grants and some specific grants to the foundations.

The fact remains, however, that even if the figures were doubled, what is being spent on educational research is what meteorologists call a "trace". The D.S.I.R. makes a grant for research in whitewash almost as; great as the right hon. Gentleman does in educational research and it makes a slightly larger grant for research into glue. The total spent on research into cast iron, welding and ceramics is in each category £¼ million, or getting on for twice the total spent on educational research.

I admit that the right hon. Gentleman has said that the public is now beginning to get interested in this matter. I quote him again: There comes a time when the public says, 'But we are spending £900 million a year on this business' "— of education— 'Oughtn't you to know more about it?' Then, he made an engagingly frank remark: If you realised the number of Parliamentary Questions to which I have to return the answer 'We do not know' and we do not want to ask the L.E.A.s. what the answer is because it would give them so much trouble". That frank remark indicates an administrative lack in a lot of important educational research matters.

Here again, it is not a matter which can be done by circular. Quite obviously, the right hon. Gentleman ought to be asking local authorities for the pattern of information which he requires for his research. He ought to be asking them to install the sort of apparatus which is required so that over a period he can get nearer to the answers to the questions he wants to put. So many of the facts need to be examined over a long period. Research needs to be long-term, it needs to be organised and it needs to be planned.

The suggestion that I put to the right hon. Gentleman is that in every major educational undertaking, in any new ones—it applies to old ones as well, but in the new ones, such as the comprehensive school, technical college expansion, or the three-year teacher training college programme—there should be built into the administrative system research arrangements to find answers to the problems which these changes put up.

Policy decisions, naturally, are for the Minister and the local education authorities, but policy decisions can be made very much more accurately, and can be made very much nearer the mark, if they are based on scientific study of the facts around those decisions. Everyone knows that the decisions of this House are an amalgam of expediency—I am not saying that in any rude sense: politics is the are of the possible—of prejudice and political prejudice which is based very often on a feeling quite wide in the community, but within those limits the right hon. Gentleman ought to be in the lead in trying to make decisions as scientific as they possibly can be. Perhaps I can put it in analogy. Research can go a good deal of the way in deciding whether, for example, coeducation is really a good thing. It ought to be directed, for instance, to the length of the schools' lesson periods. We do not do much study of the fatigue in children or teachers. More interest and money are spent on studying the fatigue of metals than fatigue in children and adolescents going out to work.

When I pressed the Minister of Labour recently to look at the connection between juveniles' accidents and fatigue he brushed me off. This is the sort of lack of scientific interest which bedevils many matters where the Minister would be able to do the things he wants to do if there were scientific backing for the things which needed to be done.

Over the last sixty years there has been a good deal of progress in the science of educational measurement, and we now have, for example, the analysis of the 11-plus. We are very much better informed about how children can be expected to behave. This is not an argument whether the 11-plus is a good or a bad thing. It is a political judgment and an administrative decision which has to be made by the Minister, but we can now much more accurately than ever before measure children's intelligence to the degree of being able to say, given 11-plus, that it is within 10 per cent. accurate—or 5 per cent. each way.

Is my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North noddling agreement or indicating agreement? Anyway, at least in the courses which children take it can be predicted whether they are likely to be successful, and it can be predicted that some will be quite hopeless. We still need, however, to pay much more attention to the subject of child growth. I do not want to cause a split in this party but we have made some progress in measuring intelligence, but we have made much less in measuring children's emotional reactions.

One of the reasons why we have made progress, apart from the 11-plus, was the exigencies of war. I can remember very well the kind of offhand attitude towards "boffins" and research in 1939 and 1940 in relation to officer selection, in relation to aircrew selection. Somehow, between 1940 and 1942 a revolution occurred, and we were able to select aircrew much more scientifically than ever before and with quite staggering results from the point of view of efficiency and from the point of view of the nation's economy and needs. This is the sort of thing, in matters of education and social effort, which in peace time, we tend to ignore. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, when he replies, will give us some fundamental answers, some long-term answers to the sort of things which are required.

For example, I cite some of the sorts of problems which could be answered by research scientifically, and which would be of great importance in matters of policy decision. It is estimated that only 7 per cent. of S.I. students actually complete their National Certificate courses within three years. The Director of the National Foundation of Educational Research reckons that his organisation, with adequate support, could halve this wastage. If the right hon. Gentleman would follow my suggestion, and would see that organised research is devoted to this problem over a long period, I have no doubt that the value of the results would be far and away in excess of the expenditure.

I do not want to lecture the right hon. Gentleman, for I am sure that he knows this very well, but I think that I ought to put it to him that I hope that in tackling this problem he will bear in mind that there is very often among administrators some reluctance to encourage research because the results upset their conventional attitudes. The results too are very often slow, and under the pressure of activity all the time they want speedy decisions and they are not prepared to wait. Politicians are even worse. I say this about both sides of the House. Politicians are always crying for "a break-through" to save their reputations, but good results do not happen without solid research behind them, and real study going on. In a public house one can have a wonderful argument about the modern child's literacy and ability to read, and yet, in fact, this is one of the things where scientific study has made accurate information avalable and the average person's prejudice look silly.

I have mentioned questions where better research would ensure better policy decisions. Even the size of classes is a matter which should be investigated, because while we would support the general principle that there ought to be more teachers and that classes ought to be smaller, I think that it could be stated without fear of contradiction that for some purposes a large class would be suitable, while for some other purposes a small class would be more suitable. One of the assumptions always made is that grammar school classes need to be smaller than primary school classes but it is made on no foundation whatsoever.

Even at the risk of having my dogmatic assertions overruled I would be prepared to accept scientific evidence. We know very little about what I may call job analysis. We know more about training capstan lathe operators than about the training of classroom teachers. We select aircrews very much better than we select teachers. These are some of the problems. I was pleased to see that the right hon. Gentleman was supporting Manchester University on the problem of grammar school wastage, but, again, that one approach is hardly likely to make the real impact which is required.

I now put to the right hon. Gentleman a number of practical proposals. It is highly desirable in educational research that the careers of educational psychologists and the people who want to go into this work should be given some degree of certainty. The Director of the National Foundation of Educational Research has said that one of his great difficulties is having a careers structure for people above the age of 30. I am sure that if the right hon. Gentleman could do something about this, in collaboration with his colleagues, so that people interested in social science, in particular in this field, could know they were to have a stable and rewarding career, it would be all to the good.

Secondly, could the right hon. Gentleman depart from the tradition of ad hoc investigation as a subject comes up? We started this practice on early leaving, then there was the Crowther Report, the Robbins Committee and the Anderson Committee all doing a number of jobs and doing them very well, but doing them much more expensively and hastily than they could have been done if these problems had been surveyed over a whole length of time. I also urge the right hon. Gentleman to consult local authorities not only so that he may be able to answer Questions, but also deal sometimes with much more fundamental matters.

I understand from Answers to Questions today that the right hon. Gentleman is increasing grants to some of the foundations. Will he have a look at the National Institute for Adult Education, a tiny field of activity in which I am interested? The right hon. Gentleman has given it a research grant which is appreciated, but there is a need there for a continuing line of development in research. Perhaps it is too late now, but I put it to the Minister that it would be good psychologically and probably economically as well if there were a central building for the foundation to which I have referred. I have not consulted the foundation on the subject, but on the face of it it would seem highly desirable that it should be concentrated in one place though operating under its own controls.

There ought to be a Council for Educational Research on the lines of the other D.S.I.R. councils. I will not develop that argument, but I think that some of my hon. Friends will take up that point. There is no doubt that we need more international co-operation in research. We also need more intensive local research. The problem of university entrance examinations is one which is crying out for investigation. I hope that the Minister will have something to say about that.

Could the right hon. Gentleman also give attention to using the inspectorate for publishing surveys not of matters which one might call pure educational research, but on the factual information which can be used by administrators over a wide field? I should have thought that what the inspectors have said about books and the quality of libraries could be put in a more scientific form that is the case at the moment and thereby could be used as a measure in assessing the need. The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) will understand if I say that I sometimes disagree with him about the measure to be used, but a measure of some kind would be very useful to local authorities and those who are interested in the subject.

The same applies to physical training equipment, playing fields and special subject rooms, where one wants a picture of what is currently being done—not a measurement of the more imponderable things, but only a pure assessment of what the local authorities are doing and what is needed.

Finally, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman's sudden devotion to educational research will not lead him to use projects which are now going on as grounds for not taking further action. The last thing that we want in pushing educational research is for the right hon. Gentleman to use this as an excuse for saying that we do not think it necessary to have a policy decision because the matter is sub-judice. Recently, I asked him if he would expand the number of places in residential adult colleges.

The foundation of one or more colleges would not affect the general educational situation very much. Most of the facts about these colleges are known. We are getting tired of hearing that the right hon. Gentleman is waiting for a Report—in this case the National Institutes Report on Staffing and Accommodation—as a reason for deferring a particular policy decison. I await the right hon. Gentleman's reply with great interest, because I hope that he will be able to say something constructive, although T shall be surprised if he goes the whole way with us.

1.57 p.m.

Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) on choosing to raise this subject. It is many months since I have agreed so much with a speech made by any hon. Member opposite. Some forms of research are more valuable than others. Only a few days ago a desperately earnest research worker who said he came from Yale University came to see me. He asked whether I had heard of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill. He then handed me a very large questionnaire which included the question, "Do you feel hungry almost all the time?" Those of us who are taking part in this debate may, alas, miss our lunches, but for the life of me I find it difficult to see what that question had to do with political developments.

I hope that in looking at this problem of educational research the Minister will use his influence even more strongly than he has done in the past to direct the research that is carried on into fields which have immediate general relevance. Of course, we need theoretical research into the problems of learning, but I believe that there is an even greater need for research into what could be called the technological problems of our schools.

Like the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, I have my own shopping list of projects which I should like to see investigated. Like many hon. Members, I still hope that it may be possible to implement the Crowther recommendations on raising the school-leaving age, but, of course, this will produce great problems within the curriculum of how to retain the attention of the 16-year-olds who are less academically gifted. I wonder how much research is being devoted to that subject.

I, also, have read the letter in The Times Educational Supplement this week from Mrs. Garton on the question of how long periods of teaching in schools should be. The first paragraph of that letter reads: Time-tables in the majority of our grammar schools are based on the assumption that 40 minutes is the ideal length for a lesson, and the school day is accordingly divided into seven or eight sections of 40 minutes. I respectfully submit that this is erroneous, that it does not take into account the conditions prevailing in modern schools, does not meet the requirements of teachers and their pupils and is a serious cause of frustration and waste of time. Mrs. Garton may be right or wrong, but it is a most important subject which ought to be investigated seriously.

The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland also raised the question of the size of classes. I agree with him that much more research could be done into this. Perhaps it could be possible to expand the size of classes in such subjects as art, handicraft and physical exercises while using the teachers freed during those periods to concentrate on arithmetic and reading where the need for smaller classes is quite obvious.

As to communication, many of our best teachers become head teachers. It we could persuade head teachers to devote more of their time to actual classes we should be making a major contribution, because we should be returning to active classroom work hundreds of the best teachers we have. I wonder what stimulation could be given by widely citing the example of head teachers who did get back into their own classrooms.

Then there is the problem of books. I am a fanatic on this particular subject. It seems rather strange to me that basic research on this problem should have to be undertaken by the National Book League in conjunction with the Association of Education Committees. I would pay considerable tribute to the research that these organisations have carried on. I think, however, that much more ought to be done by the inspectorate on the lines that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland has indicated.

There is also the immense problem of teachers leaving the profession. It is generally assumed that most teachers leave the profession because they are getting married and are intent on raising families. I wonder whether this is the basic reason in the large majority of cases. I think that a good case can be made out for much more research among those who leave the profession about the reason why they decided to leave, and particularly to find out how many of them who get married and raise families have any intention of returning to the profession at a later time. This would have an absolutely basic effect on the position of teachers in the next decade.

Then there is the problem of the best use of our teacher-training colleges. We have spent millions of pounds on building admirable teacher-training colleges during the last few years and highly skilled staffs are then assembled to train the students, yet the vast majority of the teacher-training colleges are in fact shut for 18 to 20 weeks in the year while everybody goes on holiday. I wonder whether we are making the best use of the tremendously expensive facilities that we are providing with such difficulty.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend is well aware of these and other problems. A start has been made for a more positive Ministerial approach to these problems of educational research and I hope that it will soon go bustling ahead with much greater speed.

2.15 p.m.

Mr. Sydney Irving (Dartford)

I want to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) for the opportunity, short though it is, of speaking on this subject today. I fully appreciate that hon. Members have only four or five minutes at their disposal in which to make speeches. I welcome the Minister's interest in research, and I hope that today he will give us some proof of his sincerity by telling us that he will set aside rather more substantial sums of money than he has ever done before for this purpose.

There are two tendencies which have discouraged research in the past. The first is that we have regarded teachers as born and not made. No doubt there are many teachers who can recognise intuitively or instinctively the great surges forward in a child's development, those periods of growth which have to be stimulated and fed, and who have the natural power of revoking from the richness of their personality a response in the children. These people are very precious and we need more of them. In the processes of the training and selection of teachers and the practice and administration of education, the assistance that scientific research can give is immeasurable and invaluable.

I think that the second tendency is that we have tended to regard education as an art and not a science and, therefore, not as a suitable subject for scrutiny with scientific rigour or scientific method. The idea that education is a subjective thing, an intimate contact between the child and the teacher, will remain. This feeling that we ought not to apply the scientific method to education, however, has led to a massive neglect of research in education, and I feel that there is much fear and resentment and, perhaps, some prejudice to be overcome both among some teachers and some parents about this approach.

I think that it is probably fair to the people engaged in educational research to say that they would much rather regard it as a study or evaluation. I think that they are all too conscious of the defects and of some of the limitations of the tools that they are using and of the difficulty of giving precision to their definitions. I think that they are convinced—as I am convinced—that such study, if not, however, providing certainty, will be infinitely better than the guess-work on which most of our policy-making has been based in the past. They are sure that, given time and money, they will be able to devise suitable tools and that definitions can be evolved which will make it possible to cope with some of our most complex problems.

In the past, we have been caught on more than one occasion in an educational straitjacket of unverified theory which we have had eventually to abandon. Perhaps the most important that we remember is the age-old idea that the faculties of memory, observation, reasoning the abstraction can be trained by the use of one or two disciplines, largely unpleasant. We were trapped for many years in this framework from which we could not escape. Happily, we have abandoned that. How many other straitjackets is education wearing at the moment that it could abandon with equal benefit?

An example of the effect of research flowed from the announcement a year or two ago by the National Foundation that it had discovered that there were as many children with attainments above I.Q. as below it. This has had considerable results. It started a great controversy and many people rushed to defend their reputations. But that is not a point for me. The real point is that what this did was to extend the horizon in the treatment not only of educationally sub-normal children, but in the whole range of children below average. I am convinced that this idea that every child below average is a candidate for remedial treatment has opened the way for a tremendous revolution in the methods by which we approach the teaching of below average children, and I can see in the future a considerable advance in this respect.

I should like to say one word about organisation. We are embarking, I hope, on what should be a tremendous expansion in research. Professor Thwaites, in his inaugural lecture at Southampton, pointed to the fragmentation of our educational system. We have universities under the University Grants Committee and the Treasury, technical education under another system, examinations under the Schools Examination Council, and schools under the Minister. This fragmentation has prevented the proper co-ordination and planning of education. I think that we need to draw all these things together. But research should be the exception. We should not have the main effort in research under the establishment which is responsible for the practice and administration of our educational service. We need research to be separate. If it is to be most fruitful and profitable it must be independent and capable of that opportunity for intellectual scepticism which is really the core of all successful research.

Therefore, I hope that there will be a separate council and that, if possible, the National Foundation itself should be extended to carry out the main stream of research forming a completely independent body of opinion which can bring into the education service a leavening and fruitful stream of opinion and knowledge which can be of benefit. The main inhibiting factor is that of not having enough research workers. I believe that we could profitably spend about £250,000 annually without exhausting the available supply of research workers and with very considerable and valuable results. I believe that in the expansion of research there can be very great rewards. Especially should there be rewards if we can, in the words of Dr. Wall, exchange the cosy but relatively inefficient "I think" for something much more effective, like "I know". As he said, the rewards will be able to be calculated not only in economic terms, but in terms of human effectiveness and happiness.

2.11 p.m.

Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)

I rise briefly to support my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) and to congratulate him upon the admirable way in which he opened the debate. I do so with some embarrassment perhaps because the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Education knows that I have a declarable interest.

I want to refer to what my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Sydney Irving) said about the possibilities of improving the productivity of education. This is sometimes felt to be a very materialistic idea. However, anybody who has read the words of Mr. John Vaizey, particularly his work on the economics of education, realises that this is by no means so. The idea is an extremely broadminded and humanistic one.

The right hon. Gentleman received a deputation from the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, Which owes its initiative to his hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Sir J. Pitman). This Committee put forward the idea of an independent educational research council, although I think this might well be part of a much broader social science or human science research council, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland has suggested.

The right hon. Gentleman must admit that the amount of money at present being spent in this direction is deplorable. It is estimated to amount to £125,000 a year, compared with about £4½ million to the Medical Research Council and £5£ million to the Agricultural Research Council, and this for an industry Which is spending about £800 million a year. The total amount that the right hon. Gentleman is now voting—I understand that the grant to the National Foundation is £27,000—is a pitiful sum. The figure he gave me this morning of grants so far allocated amounting to £12,000 a year does not add up to more than two or three major projects.

The methods of research are frequently misunderstood. This is not just a question of collecting statistics. That might well be a form of natural history. Really scientific researches in the social sciences are exteremely difficult and complicated tasks which take very considerable time. These subjects—many of them have been mentioned today, and I do not intend to repeat them—are not for investigation by amateurs. They can be investigated only by trained social scientists, psychologists, sociologists and so on. The methods should be subject to very rigorous discipline. Otherwise the results are not worth producing and lead to a great deal of scepticism.

No one is claiming that the methods of the social sciences yet have the precision of those of the natural sciences, but they are developing very rapidly, although they are very unsupported in this country. The methods are very often complicated and take a good deal of time, as well as trained staffs. In most of the fields with Which we are concerned we are dealing with the development of young people and they need following up over a number of years. Therefore, we do not get very much from a single project involving £10,000—£15,000.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dart-ford referred to the shortage of research workers. This is a vicious circle. Research workers can be trained only through research, and if there is not enough money available for research, not enough workers will be trained. There is no doubt that as in many other fields of the social sciences, particularly those which support the administration, we are spending far too little money at present, and I hope that the Minister, to show his interest, will use his influence to get a great deal more money spent in this way.

2.15 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

The House is greatly obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) for promoting this debate and the way in which he has opened it, and to my other hon. Friends for the contributions which they have made. I am extremely sorry that I shall have to be brief. I was looking forward to hearing myself make a substantial speech on this important matter. I shall be brief because I am anxious to hear what the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Education has to say to comfort us.

By way of preface, I would say that we should recognise some of the enormously important work that has been done in educational research. Unfortunately, it has been on too limited a scale. However, I should like to recognise the interest of the right hon. Gentleman. I think he is aware that there is a very real and pressing need now for greater resources to be devoted to educational research.

I would mention two general factors, which I have noticed when looking at education. First, one gets in education more opinionated people than in any other field of activity. Very strong views are held about education matters by people who are very intelligent and very well educated but lack a spirit of genuine basic inquiry about the validity of the views which they hold.

As to my second general point, I do not think that we realise sufficiently often that in modern times a significant change has taken place in education. Until comparatively recently, education was a universal matter, scholarship was universal, but in modern times there has been a catastrophic fragmentation of education and this has now provoked intense nationalistic competition in education.

It seems to me that this is something with which we must deal in two ways. Again, I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman. I think he has been at any rate conscious of the importance of providing research, and international research, in education. I have always welcomed the fact when he has attended international conferences on education. We must be aware that, particularly in the free world, we have to seek ways and means of learning from one another rapidly and improving our education. At the same time, we must realise nationally that, because of this fragmentation, there is a much greater burden upon us to promote more educational research.

I had hoped to have time to deal, like my hon. Friends, with some of the issues, about which the right hon. Gentleman and I would probably be dogmatic, but upon which we need far more basic information and research. I differ apparently from my hon. Friend about the 11-plus. I would concede that there has been more educational research directed to this point than probably to any other point in the education system. What we know now about the 11-plus is that what we regarded as dogmatic truth not so very long ago is now open to question. We know that the research of people like Sir Cyril Burt is at least fallible and does not reveal absolute truths. But our system of secondary education is based largely on those conclusions being infallible.

Mr. Boyden

The point that I was trying to make was that here was a field where for about thirty years there has been a great deal of research and a fair degree of progress has been made. I agree that there is still a very great deal of error. My argument was that if that was so with all that amount of time and energy devoted to it, how much more do we need time and energy to be devoted to other aspects.

Mr. Willey

I was about to arrive at the same conclusion. Recently I was looking at Dr. McIntosh's book and being driven to the conclusion that one of the primary factors is something which will now become increasingly popularised, something called "motivation". We now apparently want research about motivation if we are to determine how a child is likely to do. We also want research, to give another illustration, into the wastage in grammar schools and into such matters as were brought out in the recent study on "Education and the Working Class". I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that these are all vitally important questions about which we all know too little.

However, it is a comforting thing, on this the last day before the Easter Recess, that not only have we some signs of the growing recognition of the importance of research within the Ministry, but we have also a new feeling in the right hon. Gentleman's advisory committees. Only recently these committees, comprised of distinguished educationists, were content to advise the right hon. Gentleman with very little research. But this pattern is rapidly changing. The Crowther Committee conducted some research and we believe that the Robbins Committee is carrying out a considerable amount of it. This all shows that there is a new attitude towards education.

Since I have promised to be brief, I will make just one proposal to the right hon. Gentleman. The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee has suggested the setting up of an Educational Research Council. In one respect I differ from that committee; I would not advise that such a council should be responsible to the Lord President, but to the Minister. If one promotes research on a wider scale one needs an element of independence, and the way to get that is by having such a council with an independent chairman. At the same time, I believe that one ought to pursue close relationship between such a council and the Ministry.

Until the right hon. Gentleman has such a council, he will not get the money and resources he must now recognise are necessary if we are to have research on a sufficient scale. Personally, I would not wish to see a divorce between such research work and the Ministry and, for that reason, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will seriously consider this proposal and also use his influence to see, if he can succeed in gaining acceptance for such a council, that there will be close association between the council and himself.

2.22 p.m.

The Minister of Education (Sir David Eccles)

It is indeed a good sign that both the first and second debates on the Easter Adjournment should be on education matters. I doubt if that has ever happened before and I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House welcome that as a sign of the growing interest in education in all its aspects.

The aspect of research, with which we are dealing now, is of very great interest to the Government and we are grateful that the subject should have been tabled by the Opposition and for the way in which hon. Gentlemen opposite and my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) have approached the debate. It has clearly come out that there is a slight mystery as to why educational research has been neglected, compared with other forms of research. Listening to the debate I thought that, after all, men have always been anxious to explore physical nature, the surface of the earth and now the heavens above. They have always been ready to spend vast sums of money on studying the health of their own bodies. But they have certainly not been so ready to put time and money into exploring the unfolding and furnishing of their own minds, particularly the minds of the children.

There must be a substantial reason for this. The hon. Member for Dart-ford (Mr. Sydney Irving) came near to the answer when he said that education should be considered as a science, whereas it has been thought of as an art. There is much in that. We are dealing with individuals and there has been throughout the ages great hesitation about treating individuals as though they were just units in a pattern and, of course, religion has had a great deal to say about this. It is an obstacle to research—we should not say that this obstacle is insurmountable—that we are dealing with children whose parents—and, indeed, most people—consider each to be something special in its own right. I was, therefore, interested in the suggestion about doing research work into the merits of co-education. It is extremely difficult to do this because if one is to say to a research team, "Will you tell us whether it is better for girls to be educated alongside boys, or separately?" one must have some sort of idea in one's mind as to what one wants the girl to be like when she leaves school and goes out into the world. Will she be a better person, having passed her exams, or will she make a better wife? These are not easy questions to consider.

They are value judgments and, when people say to me, "Please institute a piece of research into the relative merits of this or that type of secondary school", one often cannot do that without first having a view of what kind of people one wants to produce and what sort of society it is desirable to have. These things are difficult to put in terms of strictly educational research. I only say this because several hon. Members have asked why we do not set up an educational research council. This is a big question and one which should be discussed with my noble Friend the Lord President, because if there was a council it should cover the social sciences and not simply education. I cannot see, having given the sort of examples I have, that there is a very easy frontier between one of the social sciences and another. Therefore, I undertake to talk with my noble Friend to see what he has to say.

It is right to suggest that a great deal more research has been done in education than is generally known. It is a pity that the universities have waited for so long to come into this field, but they are coming in now. It is rather curious that they, who are the guardians of research and the pioneers of the frontiers of knowledge, should have taken so little interest in teaching methods, for example, which touch the heart of their practice. Still, they are now willing to come into this field more than before.

Hon. Members have mentioned the National Foundation of Educational Research and I add my tribute to the work it has done. I hope that the good effects of the grants which I am now able to give will be more easily seen as the applications come in for more projects. It is not always easy to get sound applications and, in the Youth Service, we have found it difficult in the first two years after the Albemarle Report to spend the money we had allocated for these projects.

This takes time, and I hope that we shall be able to increase the grants. But I think that it is right that I should first be in a position to prove to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that I need the money and that will take a little time.

The Educational Foundation for Visual Aids is doing good work and our grant to it will be useful.

The local education authorities are in possession of a lot of valuable source material and I should like to see them do more research. There are some chief education officers who are very interested in research. If he were here, the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) would know about the valuable research done in Southampton by Dr. Dempster into the development of the secondary modern school, and selection methods. Local education authorities can do more and I encourage them to support the research foundations with money. Their subscriptions to these foundations rank for general grant, so that it is part of the public's money drawn from both sources.

The teachers themselves have an important part. They are the people best able to see whether methods of teaching are yielding good results. Quite often, one feels that the teaching profession is insecure in its sense of its professional status. One of the things which would greatly help would be if it accepted the duty, which other professions have accepted, of undertaking more research than it now does, to provide its own members with knowledge and with better methods in practice. What the teachers have done is good and I welcome it. I will encourage individual teachers or groups of teachers, or the teachers' associations to pursue more research.

The Science Masters' Association and the Association of Women Teachers of Science have studied the science curriculum over three years and most valuable new syllabuses have been produced. It is on the basis of that piece of research, which the teachers have done out of hours, burning the midnight oil, that the Nuffield Foundaion has come forward wih its £250,000 for a project to which I shall refer later. Other teachers' associations might well emulate what the science masters and science mistresses have done, because it has redounded very much to the credit of the profession as a whole.

I think that my own Ministry has rather hidden its light under committees in past years. They have done excellent work and I am most grateful to the very distinguished people who have sat on the Central Advisory Council and all my other advisory councils. But, as has been said, they are asked to undertake ad hoc and specific investigations when they are ready for a new remit to be made, as for example, with the Crowther Report.

The Central Advisory Council for England is now looking into precisely what my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham asked about, namely, the teaching of the 13 to 16-year-olds who are average or below average and whose interest it is essential to keep when we raise the school-leaving age, and, indeed, to get more volunteers to stay on now. I agree with my hon. Friend that one of the most important gaps in our knowledge about teaching at the moment is how to strengthen the course at the top of the secondary modern schools and the secondary modern streams in comprehensive schools so that they attract children who are not of what I might roughly call the grammer school type.

Her Majesty's inspectors—there are about 400 of them—are the silent service of education, or at least they have been. By tradition, these devoted men and women keep quiet. They publish a good number of bulletins of guidance—more than forty since the war—some of which are best sellers. All the profit goes to the Treasury, but I cannot help that. They are published anonymously and I know that they have been very useful to teachers and local authorities, but I am conscious that the talents and experience of the inspectorate are not, or have not been, mobilised to the full. Therefore, I am extremely glad to say that it is from the inspectorate that 50 per cent. of the staff of the new curriculum study group inside my Ministry will be drawn.

That leads me to the administrative changes that are now being brought about for the purpose of expanding in this sphere of research and intelligence. There are three branches. There is the new branch inside the Ministry, the Research and Intelligence Branch; there is the Curriculum Study Group; and there is a much stronger Statistics Branch. When these three units are really going we shall see the growth of what we all want.

Behind these administrative changes lies a concept of the method that we ought to use from our side in approaching these questions, and here we think it right to draw on the experience of our Architects and Buildings Branch. The A and B Branch—it is too well-known for it to be necessary for me to describe it today—has done a wonderful job in school building, and indeed the Comptroller-General in his Report said that it had saved £230 million in economies in school building. If this figure is anything like true, it is a real argument for those who want us to press on with research in other quarters.

The method is to gather a team composed of experts, who have not previously sat down together to pool their skills for a particular object. In this case it means administrative officers, architects, builders, local authority officials, and, of course, teachers. As a result of getting these people round a table every day and all the year, we have been able to produce efficient, economic, and, I believe, beautiful new schools.

Here is a going piece of research machinery which is turning its attention to a whole list of further projects, among which are the following. First, the remodelling of old schools. We need to apply this technique to them. Secondly, the planning of science accommodation. It is quite clear that science accommodation in secondary schools needs to be reconsidered. Thirdly, designing secondary schools for the 'seventies. This is a very advanced project, but I have every hope that whoever is Minister in the 'seventies will find that the staffing ratio in secondary schools is altogether better than it is now. For this we need a different layout. We need especially a good deal more teaching space and more space for rooms for members of the staff. Then a boarding school for maladjusted children is being planned. A lot of work is needed for this. Fourthly—and if my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Sir F. Markham) were here I think that he would be pleased to hear this—we are again having a look at lighting in schools. Finally, we are considering maintenance costs of schools built in the modern manner with modern materials, finishes, and so on. All this is by way of illustration of how far one can go if there is machinery that is working properly.

Turning now to the Curriculum Study Group, this group, staffed jointly by Her Majesty's inspectors and by administrative officers, will do a number of things. Perhaps for the moment its major task will be to identify gaps in our knowledge which might be filled by research. It will then be the job of the Research and Intelligence Branch, which is acting as a common service to all branches inside my Ministry, to see which of those gaps can be filled, and who should do it. More often than not it has to be done by somebody from outside, but stimulated in one way or another by R and I Branch.

Two kinds of project need to be considered. The first is the project which is put up to the Ministry from outside. The hon. Member used the word "sceptical", and I agree that research has to have a certain scepticism about it. There naturally ought to be complete freedom for people outside to say, "The Minister is asleep. He does not realise that this wants looking into. We think it should be. May we have some help?" I hope that we shall have an increasing number of these applications. In order to assist me to decide between various applications I propose to invite a few experienced persons to act as a committee of advisors. That has proved useful for the Youth Service, and I think that it will prove useful here. As we get going I trust that I shall have arguments to use for the expansion of the financial help that we can give to research.

The second kind of project is that which is initiated inside the Department, to assist the Minister in policy decisions. A great deal has to be done in that respect. At the moment we are embarked on a study by the Curriculum Study Group of examinations below the G.C.E. level. That comes out of the Beloe Report, and it has become clear to me that some tremendous questions are involved in what sort of examination should be put before boys and girls who will not reach the O level.

I also mentioned at Question Time this morning that we have given the National Foundation for Educational Research a grant to go into the merits of day release as against block release. That is our initiative. I am grateful to the National Foundation for taking it up. This kind of thing is extremely difficult, looking forward to the organisation of the lower-level technical colleges, and to the time when, perhaps, the young worker under the age of 18 has a statutory right to day release. One must know something more about whether we should organise the taking up of that right, if it should come, either by block release or by day release, and in what sort of proportion.

Another question that is very apposite at the moment is the need to know a little more about the question of the grounds upon which we should decide the proportions of the total building programme to be allocated respectively to the major and minor works programmes. Hitherto, that has not been a very important question, because we have known that we could not do other than meet, in the major programme, the demand either for schools for children who otherwise would not have schools or for the reorganisation of the all-age schools.

We are getting through these. We shall always have some such requirements, because of shifts in population if not of actual increases, but we are getting to the time, a few years hence, when remodelling or replacement of old schools will be able to claim a much larger proportion of the total building programme. We do not have enough information to make a really accurate judgment about the way in which we should allocate the capital programme. That is why I have instituted a new survey of all buildings.

Hon. Members may say, "Why did you not do that before?" There is one technical reason. The processing of all this information, which is on a very wide scale, requires a computer. It is only because we are going to have a computer that we shall be able to make useful deductions from these questionnaires. I hope that that shows that we are at any rate trying to keep abreast of modern techniques.

I should just like to illustrate what is going on in the science teaching field because it shows, I think, how necessary it is somewhere or other to have a coordinator. I mentioned that science masters and mistresses had done a wonderful job in preparing the way for a project which is being taken up by the Nuffield Foundation. They are going to have teams of practising teachers working under Nuffield fellows and advised by very high-powered committees, for special subjects, and the study group in my Department. They will look into the science curriculum. But it does not end there. As they come up with new ideas and suggestions we must see that the Architects and Building branch is doing something parallel in the matter of building science laboratories. We must see that the equipment for science teaching is kept up to date.

There is a new consortium of manufacturers and local authorities under the aegis of the London County Council called the Science Equipment Consortium which is going to do for science equipment, particularly demonstration equipment, what we have done for some building materials. It is going to design science equipment and to see that it is mass produced. And then, perhaps, we may get science equipment as good as the schools in Germany have. Of course, the universities—Oxford, Manchester and Southampton, to mention only three—are themselves conducting research into science teaching. That has to be tied in with the Nuffield project.

Finally, there is the whole field of visual aids which must be intensely interesting to those who are concerned with science teaching in our schools. So there is need for somebody somewhere or other to take the various pieces of work going on and to fit them together. I believe that that is the proper job for the Ministry to do, and we shall do it to the best of our ability.

There is a specific question which I feel I should answer. The career of research workers is an important question which we shall have to tackle in different ways. I am going to have talks with the National Foundation about it. It may be that one of the things we could do would be to get teachers who are keen on this sent to the National Foundation for a year's course—I would not tie myself to one year necessarily—where they would get expert knowledge. I believe that some interchange between teaching, administration and research would probably be helpful and fruitful, but we have a good deal to discover there before I could be certain how it could be done.

I apologise to the House for speaking so long, but, in brief, the machinery which we have set up consists of the following: better statistics—and we have at least managed to recruit another statistician; a Research and Intelligence branch to help in co-ordination both outside and inside the Ministry; and a Curriculum Study Group which will be responsible for the many immensely important pieces of work that ought to be done within the field of curricula and examinations.