HC Deb 02 April 1965 vol 709 cc2007-69

11.5 a.m.

Mr. Richard Buchanan (Glasgow, Springburn)

I beg to move, That this House, being acutely aware of the need for furthering education and of the need to give the fullest possible assistance to the teacher in the classroom and bearing in mind that an educational television and radio service would assist in mitigating the continuing teacher shortage, calls on Her Majesty's Government to encourage the establishment of a University of the Air in television and sound radio and, in the field of formal education of both children and adults, to sponsor a suitable television and radio service. Since Dame Fortune smiled on me a few weeks ago when my name came first in the Ballot, she must have had a quiet smile to herself in the interval while I have been ploughing through the mass of material that has been written concerning a university of the air. That being so, it is not my intention to go into great detail this morning—I do not think I am technically equipped to do so—but I hope to show that there is a need for such a university of the air, and an educational radio and television service.

The general principles of the Motion will, I imagine, appeal to all but the most obscurantist. In such a climate of opinion I should like to keep my remarks on a non-controversial plane, except perhaps to say that a great deal of the urgency of the problem springs from a long-continued failure to increase the teaching force, to reduce the numbers of pupils in classes and to extend university accommodation.

Having said that, I should not like it to be thought that a university of the air and an educational television and radio service is intended merely as a counterfeit for the real thing, a stop-gap solution for a temporarily disordered state of affairs, to be abandoned as soon as the real thing becomes available. Even in the best possible educational set-up that we can envisage at present, an integral part will be the harnessing to the service of the nation the immense possibilities that lie in radio and television.

One of the clamant needs of our time is for a rapid increase in educational facilities. In the scientific and technological age into which we are entering, it is obvious, from yesterday's debate and from debates which have taken place in the House previously, how absolutely necessary it is to raise the level of understanding of the people who have to live with and in a technological society. It is right in this connection that we should think primarily in terms of increasing the flow of teachers, and not the least of the merits of this proposal is the fact that it will go a long way towards making such provision. We shall have to get rid of the vicious spiral that starts with overcrowded classes and insufficient teachers, leading in turn to a shocking waste of talent and a further drying up of the pool from which skilled teachers would normally be drawn, leading to a situation, if I may paraphrase, of too many pupils chasing too few teachers.

By the very nature of the case, there can be no overnight improvement in the situation. There can be no spectacular increase in the provision of highly-skilled men and women of all callings which the country so sorely needs. No flourishing of a Chancellor's wand can obliterate the necessity for the arduous and prolonged training which is an essential ingredient of all worth while study. Here, if ever, time is of the essence.

Nevertheless, there lies to hand a means of accelerating the process. There are in this country many thousands of adults repining their lost opportunities and possibly harbouring righteous resentment against the educational system that denied them the opportunity to fulfil the best in them, a system that rendered their future prospects an irresponsible gamble. A teacher's illness, an appendectomy, or even a random pregnancy has blasted many a hope, but it must be admitted that under ideal staffing conditions a pupil has often contributed to his own downfall. There are few of us here who, if we searched our consciences carefully, would not be aware of the years that the locusts have eaten, especially those vital years of early adolescence when a dogged resistance to learning or simple indolence frustrated the most earnest endeavours of even the best teachers.

Let us confess it—it does, at the secondary stage, take a good deal of moral fibre or an exceptionally heavy-handed parent to induce the normal pupil to bend his mind to ridiculous, if necessary, distinctions in grammatical analysis or to explore with zest the niceties of the binomial theorem. Common sense, the present exigencies of our situation, and a recognition of the humane principle, already enshrined in the British principles of justice, that every man or woman is entitled to a second chance, dictates the necessity for some method of providing education at all levels—an education which should be not only rewarding in its own right but purposive and an active spur to right ambition.

It seems to me that, to meet these needs on the desired scale, radio and television come miraculously to hand, so that it would seem almost that, like Voltaire's God, if they did not exist they would have to be invented. Short of actual instruction by a teacher or lecturer in the classroom—for most of the people we have in mind an unattainable luxury—there is no method better calculated to provide instruction. One does not reach my age and remain a starry-eyed idealist. I am not suggesting that radio and T.V. education will effect a magic, overnight, transformation in the British way of life. There are many, I know, who are educationally irredeemable, and these are confined to no particular class of society. But there are equally many others, I am convinced, who would profit immensely from a systematic and purposeful course of education which would be beneficial to themselves and the nation.

There are, it seems to me, four categories who would benefit enormously from such a system. We have, for example, an immediate need of skilled men and women of all professions. If my assumptions are correct—and the whole educational world bears me out in them—there are now in this country many thousands of people who are working well below their intellectual capacity in jobs which, however useful they may be to the national economy, are nevertheless wasteful of talent since they do not exploit to the full the potentialities of those who perform them.

Whether they are in these jobs through poverty, indolence or a youthful zest for life that made them follow the Mersey beat or the Charleston rather than the scholastic beat, I care not. There are, at any rate, a great many who are capable of and for the most part prepared to take advantage of any belated opportunity which we may provide them in bettering their lot. I speak more in sorrow than from a sense of national pride when I mention as a particularly shocking waste of talent the appalling grammar school rat-race that disfigures the educational scene in so many English counties.

It is of no consequence now how they arrived at their present situation. There they are, having reached man's estate, sobered by the stern realities of life, fired now by a healthy ambition, not the less compelling from a comparison of their present situation with what might have been, inspired at times with a wistful desire to turn the clock back. It may be contended that their needs are already met by night schools but, while by no means detracting from these excellent institutions which have played so notable a part in the educational life of the nation, I have to say that they fail for the most part to meet the needs of the people whom I have in mind. It is not to impugn a man's ambition that he should prefer to relax at home or in the "local" after a hard day's work rather than snatch a hasty tea and brave the horrors of a winter's night to spend two hours in a severely functional classroom.

It is important to realise that we need his brains as much as he needs fulfilment, and we must be content, to some extent, to pander to him. We cannot make the intellectual process easier. All the television in the world will not eradicate the hard darg of mastering the marginal theory in economics or render immediately clear the intricacies of the differential calculus. But we can perform two functions for him that might render his task easier. We can stimulate his interest and his ambition and provide him painlessly with the means to satisfy them.

In the liberal arts particularly—and for my immediate purpose I define these as studies requiring a minimum of apparatus and practical experiment—the prospects are limitless. I am assured that on the technological side there is vast scope for television instruction also. Many hon. Members will know that in various parts of the country many experiments have been carried out which would seem to bear out what I have said.

For this class of person the programme of instruction must be both exacting and purposive. Standards must be maintained and the student must feel himself to be going somewhere. I will come later to the needs of the dilettante. At present I am considering solely the requirements of those who are prepared for the hard discipline of academic study. It is in their interest, as much as that of the nation, that any course of study should be of high standard and not merely a watered down version of the real thing.

To this end it is necessary that all the ancillary apparatus of a university should be provided. Television instruction itself is not enough. Some form of personal supervision is necessary throughout. There must be specially prepared text books. There will have to be regular meetings between students and tutor, and correspondence courses. Partly to finance such concomitants of a genuine course such as this, and partly to discourage misplaced zeal, I would think it reasonable that for those who wish to take full advantage of it some form of fees should be imposed and there should be some grant system for those who cannot afford it. The series would be open to all who cared to view or to listen but the complete range of the course opened only to those who were prepared to back their judgment of themselves with something more solid than unfulfilled aspirations.

Another extremely important class of students whose needs can be catered for in this way are those engaged in industry and commerce. In both these fields there is great rapidity of change and a constant introduction of new techniques. The future of Britain is largely bound up with our capacity for adapting ourselves quickly to a swiftly changing world. Enlightened management can do much about the provision of training, but not all management is enlightened or financially capable of providing training schemes for able and ambitious employees.

I should think that it would be unnecessary to dilate at any length on the vital necessity of both sides of industry and commerce coming to a swift appreciation of the need to modernise Britain. Whatever controversy may rage round the respective responsibilities of employers or unions for in our present state of affairs, there is no doubt in all our minds that a realisation of the potentialities of modern industrial and commercial techniques is an essential preliminary to acquiring them. In this field, as in the other, television and radio can be important as stimulator and as instructor.

To have this great medium of national inspiration to hand and yet fail to use it would be a grave dereliction of duty. As to the practical details of such a course or series of courses, here is a magnificent opportunity for both management and unions to delight in a common endeavour. To raise the technological and technical standards of the nation is their responsibility. Just as the universities and other organisations for higher study seem to be the natural institutions to provide a course of university study, so, I believe, an important part can be played by both sides of industry in evolving and guiding a programme of learning suitable to the needs of our time.

So far, I have been dealing with those aspects of radio and television which could provide a course of study leading to some practical end, but, of course, there is a vast army of people in Britain acutely conscious of their educational shortcomings. Most of them are not necessarily willing to undergo an exacting course of study. As industrial techniques are perfected and more leisure time is available, it becomes more than ever necessary to banish the intellectual poverty in which so many live.

The scope for popularisation is infinite. Much of the success of the paper-back revolution is due to this. On television, we have already had exciting testimony to the fact that there is a public for education in such programmes as Mr. A. J. P. Taylor's lecture series and the brilliant success achieved some years ago by Sir Mortimer Wheeler and Mr. Glyn Daniels in giving a new look to Neolithic man. Music, art, history, languages, technology, archaeology—there is no limit to the range of subjects which, in the hands of the skilled expositor, can be used to awaken the interest and catch the imagination of the viewer. Every teacher knows that the battle is already won when interest is captured. The process from then on is self-perpetuating. The interest grows from what it feeds on.

Paradoxically, the logical end of such a process may be to render television less and less necessary. For the prime instrument of education and intellectual entertainment is, in my opinion, the book. The age of leisure which we see on the horizon makes it more than ever important that every man should have an intellectual hobby, at whatever level he cares to pursue it. Radio and television, wonderful instruments as they are, can be only supplementary to the book, yet—I say this, perhaps, more than in sorrow than in anything else as a former president of the Scottish Library Association—it could happen that television outdated the printed word for many purposes.

At this stage of the discussion, I have been content merely to outline the broad principles on which a full television educational programme might be based. There has already been some discussion in the Press about the practical details of such a proposal, with Sir John Wolfenden rightly pointing out that, so far, our use of television has been negligible. The word "educational" as used here means the deliberate use of television for instructional purposes, in other words, direct teaching, and it is to be distinguished from "educative" which may be used to characterise a programme which, to some degree or other, has some educational value. Researches so far seem to indicate a crying need for a strictly educational programme. If this need exists, as I think that it does, we lamentably fail in our duty if we do not quickly meet it.

Undoubtedly, there are great problems to be solved. It would be an immense operation. One question is: should there be an overall educational broadcasting authority? In my view, if we are to have an educational television service, it ought to be in the hands of the educationists. The broadcasting authorities have, without doubt, done excellent work, but they are in some respects biased neutrals in this matter. They have been using education for television. I should like to see television used for education. Should the scheme be operated on the basis of local stations staffed by teachers trained in T.V. disciplines, or should local stations be made available to local institutes of higher learning to provide programmes and all the supplementary aids suitable to their own curricula?

This is where Her Majesty's Government must play a most important part. They must decide, first, whether or not this means of educating the great mass of the people shall go on the air and, second, if so determined—to use the words of a learned judge some years ago—having willed the end, they must determine the means. However, at this stage it is not necessary, I think, to examine details of this nature, important though they be. It is immediately necessary for hon. Members to give earnest consideration to the terms of the Motion, asking themselves whether they are prepared to incur the responsibility of denying to great masses of their fellow countrymen the educational benefits which undoubtedly lie within the scope of our radio and television services.

When I was a member of Glasgow Corporation, I was chairman of the schools sub-committee, the policy-making body, and also chairman of the general finance committee. We had a very astute and gifted director of education who quickly took advantage of the coincidence that caused me to wear two hats, and the closed circuit television service which we are pioneering in Glasgow is now going ahead, starting August 1965. However, one of the troubles we ran up against was that we could not get any definite advice. We received advice from many knowledgeable people, but the advice from different sources did not always tally. Inevitably, we were put in the position of having to take the advice of the people selling equipment. If such a scheme as I propose is adopted by the Government, they must apply their mind immediately to setting up some central body which would co-ordinate advice and information based on experience and experiment so far.

Our educational system is at present in disarray and requires fundamental rethinking. But the pace of advance in the rest of the world will not conveniently halt while Britain slowly repairs her education fabric. I have no doubt, and I am sure that hon. Members will have none, that, both in the short term and in the long term, educational television and radio, with a university of the air, will play a great part in the future education service of the country. Such a scheme would have the outstanding merit, in our present situation, of being able to produce, within three or four years after its commencement, an appreciable contribution to the professional and technical life of the nation.

11.29 a.m.

Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)

It is fitting that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Buchanan), who is my next-door neighbour, should be fortunate in the Ballot. By a strange coincidence, it follows the speech which the Prime Minister made in Glasgow in September, 1963, when there occurred the first public mention of this great venture.

Coming from Glasgow, we have examples to put to the House and to talk about, not in any narrow nationalist sense but as a contribution to overall knowledge and, we hope, as assistance to the Government in the study which they are conducting. It means a plan for education through broadcasting, television, correspondence courses and what is known as face-to-face teaching. The remarks by my right hon. Friend gave great emphasis to such development and encouragement to the many embryo and pilot schemes already springing up in various parts of the country. If we can manage to get such a plan going, bringing it from the sphere of the few to some practical examples, we shall have taken a great step forward towards realisation of the plan. It would give Britain the opportunity to forge ahead and outpace the world in this field. We have many people, as my hon. Friend has said—we congratulate him on his choice of subject and on giving us the opportunity to talk about it—with capacity to benefit from advanced education but they do not at the moment receive it, not because they have not the potential but because the opportunities do not exist.

During the election the issue seemed clear. The Labour Party was committed to the principle of a separate educational television service. The Opposition—like my hon. Friends, I do not want to be controversial—were committed to the establishment of a second commercial network to offset B.B.C.2, which in effect would rule out the possibility of a national educational television station until 1970.

The Government are now taking steps to meet the pledge made during the election. I welcome very much the change of office that my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Jennie Lee) has recently undergone in that she has now been entrusted with the exciting task of working out a policy for educational television in consultation with the schools and universities. I am also glad to know that my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, is also to assist in this work. She showed a deep interest when recently in private conversation I told her to expect comprehensive proposals made by the University of Strathclyde in this connection. It adds to the coincidence that my hon. Friend the Member for Springburn should be fortunate in the Ballot some weeks before those proposals are firmly made.

The hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway) has suggested that there should be a series of local stations but not necessarily a national broadcasting station for education. The answer to that is that one national educational broadcasting service is better than none. It could cover the whole country in a way that local stations, unevenly distributed and with uneven resources, could not do. Like my hon. Friend, I think that a coherent national policy is now needed urgently to co-ordinate and direct the growing number of efforts. There is Queen's University in Northern Ireland. There is the proposed set-up in the northeast of England. There is the example in Glasgow, where 300 schools will be linked by an internal circuit with a receiving point so that the programme from a central studio can be relayed to them or they can participate in the educational programmes of the B.B.C. and I.T.A.

I permit myself only one comment on the Independent Television booklet entitled "Educational Television: Some Suggestions for the Fourth Service." I commend to my hon. Friends who have the responsibility for looking into this the comments in the New Statesman about this pamphlet on 15th February, 1961. It said: The proposals"— that is, of the I.T.A. booklet— are not so altruistic as they appear. It is part of the continuing campaign of the commercial lobby. Later it went on: Education is a respectable way to camouflage the private purposes of the pressure group. My hon. Friend has referred to the problem of finding more teachers to meet, for example, the raising of the school leaving age and the oversized classes. In Scotland we have recently had the Brunton Report, which points out that if we are to expand vocational education we shall need a new type of teacher, some of them coming from industrial sources. The problem broadly divides itself into two aspects. There is, first, the justification for education by television. This will be the responsibility of the education authorities. There is also the aspect of dissemination, the means by which education is to be transmitted. This is, of course, the problem for my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General. However, if any other hon. Friends of mine desire evidence about the appetite for education, reference can be made to The Guardian of 10th September, 1963, just after my right hon. Friend's speech in Glasgow. The Guardian said: There is no doubt that the public demand exists. Last year almost 2 million people were engaged in some kind of further education activity and the number is rising sharply. Authorities estimate, moreover, that expanded facilities would be utilised eagerly. I want to see a national educational television authority established to control the means of broadcasting and permission to broadcast. It should perform its function through a single central service with several regional stations, and each of these in turn could make its contribution to a networked programme and break off to conduct its own local requirements.

On the subject of teachers and of the problems associated with them, I would mention correspondence courses again. I understand that half the pupils in higher education in the U.S.S.R. are being taught through correspondence courses. I will relate to the House what the experience of the University of Strathclyde has been in this matter. It is a story which should be on the record not only by way of interest but by way of encouragement to other people.

In the University of Strathclyde under the direction of a brilliant young scientist, Dr. Alistair Ward, as television director, with the co-operation of the enthusiastic staff and the consent of Principal Curran, much that was formerly diffuse talk and uncertainty has been brought into the realms of immediate practicability in the space of nine months. There is no biological significance intended in that phrase. However, until recently it would not have seemed possible even to consider establishing a separate broadcast channel to be devoted entirely to education in Scotland. But the existence now of a first-class modern television studio with all appliances and equipment at Strathclyde which is up to broadcasting standards makers this a practical proposition.

I do not pretend to understand the technicalities, but the House may be interested to know that in the studio there are three studio vidicon cameras mounted on wheeled tripods and manually controlled for direction and focus; a fourth camera on a fixed site which can be manually rotated to receive pictures from a 35mm. slide projector and a 16 mm. moving film projector; three microphones of high quality; a record player; a tape recorder; a controlled monitor; a telerecorder unit; a video tape recorder and 13 viewing monitors distributed between three lecture theatres. Unpaid and unstinting professional advice on all technical matters was given to Dr. Ward and his group by experienced engineers of the B.B.C., Scottish Television and the I.T.A. who know the relative merits of equipment.

The studio is manned by qualified technical staff and, together with the studio for schools planned by Glasgow Corporation and the closed circuit plans of Glasgow University, it amply justifies the allocation of such a channel for Scotland. There is also a studio at the Royal College of Dramatic Art in Glasgow and I believe it is intended to put studios in two senior training colleges, one of them Jordanhill.

Technically, all that is now required is to link all these studios together with a transmitter on a suitable site. It could be used by the schools during the day and by a consortium of Scottish universities in the evening for extra-mural broadcasts. I wrote to my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General recently about the prospects of such a proposition and suggested that a channel should be allocated to Scotland. My right hon. Friend replied: Naturally, I am very interested to hear about the experiments being carried out at Strathclyde. The suggestion for a separate educational broadcast channel in Scotland is, of course, one of many proposals for projects and experiments in educational broadcasting. These are all being taken into account in the Government's current study of the whole question of educational broadcasting … All of us interested in this are delighted that that is so. We recognise that grave problems are involved in such a decision and that it will not be easy, in view of the other projects going on and the limited air space, to make an early decision. But in any case the University of Strathclyde has now submitted, within the last few days, an application for a licence to transmit an educational television service to a viewing public of some 2 million people by means of this transmitter costing about £30,000.

It can be sited on the roof of one of the university's main buildings in the heart of Glasgow. The proposed transmitter would have an effective radiated power in the range of 4 kW. to 40 kW., but it is interesting to note that almost one-third of Scotland's population would be situated within range. Another advantage is that the system used would make it possible to extend, as found practicable and necessary, to other parts of the country.

There is no desire to compete either with the B.B.C. or with the I.T.A. in the production and distribution of popular science or popular art programmes. That was one of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Springburn and I agree with him. What we need is an all-embracing and comprehensive service for education which will lead on with some purpose the students engaged in it. The university is sensible enough, despite its enthusiasm, to recognise that, at this time, the Postmaster-General may well be faced with many and possibly conflicting claims for educational television.

While there is everything to be said for the maximum of integration of educa- tional television throughout the United Kingdom, consistent with the problems or peculiarities of particular areas or regions, nevertheless it is the university's case, which it wants to express strongly and fairly, that it is able, competent, and, as I know, enthusiastically willing to undertake the responsibility of operating such a transmitter in Scotland.

The university believes, however, that it would be quite wrong and against the national interest to urge the Postmaster-General to sanction the proliferation of independent local educational television. It wants to undertake the organisation—and this is within the bounds of early practicability—of programme production and tele-recording in whole or in part of Scottish educational television which is—or could become in future when ultimate decisions are made—integrated into a United Kingdom channel.

The university is poised ready to go and if such a channel could be allocated now, even for a pilot scheme for experience pending the bigger decisions, I am sure that the challenge would be willingly taken up by the university. I think that the university would want me to make it clear, however, if I have not already done so, that no conditions are being laid down, although only this week—indeed, it is doubtful if Ministers have had the proposals before them yet and this debate is coincidental—it submitted its formal application. The university wants to emphasise that this should not be interpreted as indicating an unwillingness on its part to accept alternative transmitters through the B.B.C. if need be.

What the university is anxious about is that the compilation, content and presentation of sustained courses should be done by educationists and that this should be started as soon as possible. It is the intention of the university to produce and transmit programmes of formal educational courses for the classes of students, mentioned by my hon. Friend, to assist them to study for examinations and to provide an opportunity for those who, because of illness or economic circumstances, missed the chance earlier in life but who still have a brain potential which is at the moment lost to the nation and which we can ill do without.

The university also wants to provide refresher courses for women who have left teaching to marry and to raise families and who spend perhaps 10 to 15 years out of the profession. Special courses for them would enable them while still at home looking after the children to prepare for re-entering the profession at a later stage. We want to provide an opportunity for late developers. People able and keen to do so could benefit from T.V. lectures in trying to qualify for entrance to the normal universities, if I may call them such, to teacher-training colleges or to advanced institutions.

There is another aspect. The Government are opening retraining centres. There is need for men to change their jobs. But despite the progress that is being made in that work in Scotland, where there are 70,000 unemployed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland said at a conference last week that, because of the shortage of skilled engineers, certain projects could not be got going. It is the intention that the lecturers' printed notes would be distributed to the students. These things are regarded as essential and would be prepared by highly qualified and experienced people. The students would return the completed exercises which would be marked by competent tutors, and records of the progress of students would be kept. Television itself plays a relatively minor part in the scheme. It is the vehicle which provides the human contact which is a necessary part of the process of education.

Postgraduate courses, too, could be provided, with the intention of giving those who had graduated some years ago and who might be out of touch with modern developments the opportunity to revise and to advance their knowledge and even go ahead to obtain higher qualifications. In Scotland we have a special recruitment scheme for teachers from among those who are graduates but who have gone into industry or commerce and who now feel that they want a change, who feel a certain inspiration of dedication. Through television, such people could be encouraged to return to education.

There is another aspect of the matter which interests and is the responsibility of my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark. In addition to these proposals and independently of these considerations for what might be called further educa- tion or postgraduate courses, the University of Strathclyde has offered, or is about to offer, its co-operation to the Scottish Education Department in compiling in its own television studios a series of lectures on mathematics and English. Transmission could be by the B.B.C. and the university is willing and able to start as soon as agreement can be reached.

The specific purpose would be to assist new students coming from O-levels to what in Scotland are called the H-levels to obtain entrance qualifications for universities or teacher training colleges. These lectures, too, would be supported by lecture notes and a tutorial system for marking and commenting on the work submitted by students each week. Success with this scheme would also mean the recruitment of teachers.

As a layman, I am not qualified in the techniques of teaching or administration and I can quite understand that there will be problems, that there will have to be negotiations and that there might be difficulties before consent can be given. There may be snags and unforeseen factors either overlooked or completely unknown to these enthusiasts of Strathclyde University. However, they are so anxious to go ahead that they are ready to do so from the beginning of the next scholastic year, in October.

I know that it is unusual to introduce such a subject in this way and I reiterate that it is sheer coincidence that these proposals should have come forward at the time of this debate. As I said earlier, I doubt whether the attention of Ministers has yet been officially drawn to these proposals, but this is a fine opportunity to provide information which can aid and contribute to the discussion.

I have a healthy respect for the experience, wisdom and guidance of the Scottish Education Department and I have only one thing to say to it. It is that I hope that it will not be afraid of innovation or doubtful about the term "university of the air". I recognise, as we all do, the complexity of the issues involved, but I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock will say, as I think she will, that the proposals of the University of Strathclyde in particular will be considered earnestly and with some urgency. We wish her well in the task which confronts her and it is our fervent hope that by the means of television we can bring to the teaching resources of the country more people able to serve in that capacity.

11.56 a.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith (East Grinstead)

It is a great pleasure to have the opportunity to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, as this is the first time I have been able to speak in the House since my return. It will be within the recollection of some hon. Members that I do so after a period of enforced leave of absence due, of course, to a momentary aberration of the electorate in a certain part of London. In a sense, it is a pleasure, because this new maiden speech is an opportunity for me to speak on a subject in which, from both the educational and television point of view, I have taken some interest over a number of years. For that reason I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Buchanan) on his excellent judgment in putting this Motion before the House for our consideration and for the way in which he presented it.

I do not want to strike too controversial a note, because I think that the Motion is worthy and was explained to the House with great ability, but I am bound to say to the hon. Member for Springburn and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) that the concept of the university of the air is an inflated concept. I propose to take some of the gas out of it, because unless we put this concept into its right proportion we are in great danger of giving hopes in certain quarters which any Government will have to disappoint as the years go by.

May I take an extreme attitude with which both the hon. Member for Springburn and the hon. Member for Maryhill would strongly and profoundly disagree? My source of extreme opinion is authoritative, although I do not share its view. It comes from the Pilkington Report on Broadcasting, 1960. Paragraph 1038 says: Accordingly, we recommend against the introduction of a specialised service of educational broadcasting, whether provided by a new organisation, or by either of the existing broadcasting authorities. Earlier in the Report, referring to the suggestion that there might be a special- ised educational service, the Pilkington Committee said: … from being unchallengeably a proper purpose, a necessary function of all broadcasting services, education would have become demonstrably the particular business of one service only". That was the view of what would occur if there were just a specialised service. The Report went on: As broadcasting is now organised, the responsibility of the two broadcasting organisations for fulfilling the educational purpose of broadcasting is unmistakable. But it would become at least a matter of doubt where, and in what degree, the responsibility lay if there were constituted an educational broadcasting authority. … If one service specialised in educational broadcasting, then the others would tend to specialise in "other' broadcasting. The present services would no longer develop as comprehensive services, and eventually the educative purpose also would cease to be regarded as a necessary function of all broadcasting. A number of people put this opinion to the Pilkington Committee, and among the many who did was a very powerful body in the shape of the officials of the Ministry of Education in collaboration with Her Majesty's inspectors. To back up their views, the Pilkington Report quoted at some length from the Ministry of Education officials' evidence given to the Committee. The Ministry officials used these words: A service which was labelled "educational' would tempt very few of those for whom broadcasting should have most to offer; and the non-educational service or services might see no point in aiming at a quality of programmes higher than the bare minimum which people are prepared to accept if they have no opportunity for acquiring a taste for something better. The Pilkington Report, therefore, comes to the conclusion that the educational purpose of broadcasting is much more likely to be realised by a fourth comprehensive service.

This is a pretty powerful document, and I think that it will need some very strong arguments to overcome the views put forward in it. I should like to spend some time putting forward those strong arguments, but I know that other hon. Members wish to speak and that they wish to debate other subjects. I am very conscious that my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway), who recently wrote a most able pamphlet, "Education and Television", will be able to deploy some useful arguments which would take issue with the Pilkington Report. However, I know from reading his pamphlet that he would not go as far as some people do in advocating a national education television service.

While rejecting Pilkington, therefore, I feel that we should do something about it. I do not think that education can be left to the development of another comprehensive broadcasting authority. As the hon. Lady the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science appreciates, I am taking a rather middle course on this subject, and I should like to tell the House why.

There is a need for programmes which we call enrichment programmes which appear on both Independent Television and the B.B.C. I think that they are popular and well liked and that the House would ensure that both broadcasting authorities, even if we developed a specialised teaching service in television, put into their schedules such educative programmes; we would not let them off the hook. But I recognise, too, that there is a need in this country for what I might call teaching programmes as opposed to the broad background enriching programmes which both authorities do so well.

It seems that more and more people in the teaching profession in this country, and in other countries, too, recognise this need. I do not propose to weary the House with a list of the experiments which have taken place in Japan, the United States and France, but there is a considerable background of experience which, in my judgment, and I think in the judgment of many other people, leads to the conclusion that television has a very useful and proper róle to play as an aid to the teacher and that it would be reactionary on our part to neglect the opportunities which it affords purely on account of cost.

There also seems to be—and I think that this is worth noting—quite a demand by the public to be taught by television. Hon. Members who have spoken have referred to the excellent scheme developed under the auspices of the University of Glasgow and the education authorities there. May I in turn draw attention—obviously this is not for chauvinist reasons—to something done in England under the auspices, not just of a university, but of a university and a private commercial group.

I refer to the television correspondence course organised by Associated Television in conjunction with the University of Nottingham. A.T.V. covers an area of 6½ million people of whom 1,600 enrolled in the television correspondence course in basic economics. It was interesting to discover that 1,250 completed the 13-week course and had to look at television on Sunday morning at 12.15 p.m. when one might have thought that people would have been out of their houses as it was past opening time. This was followed by another session in front of the "box" on Mondays at 11.50 a.m.

A significant feature of the course is that they were entitled to two tutorials. They were not just supplied with a sheaf of notes, a lot of pictures on a "box" and left to get on with it. They were given the opportunity of meeting the people who organised the course. There were two tutorials thrown in, and then there was the final meeting, which was a residential for the weekend, at the end of the course which was attended by about 200 people.

The cost of those tutorials plus the correspondence which went with them was 10s., which was very reasonable. A wide range of people were brought into the scheme. I am told that the 1,250 encompassed the mayor of a town, a sewage worker and many trade unionists, because the trade unions in the area encouraged their members to take part in this course, which was to their credit. The courses could be said to have been a success in terms of audience appeal.

I understand that in a few weeks we shall know exactly how much these people learned because this is crucial to our knowledge and to the question of to what extent we proceed with experiments of this nature. I would add that the company itself absorbed what is called "below the line" costs—that is, the cost of studio facilities. It did not charge the university for them.

I think it is beyond doubt that there is a demand for this sort of thing. We know, whatever the outcome of the scheme to which I have just referred, that people can learn from television. The question is, how should we go on, assuming that Pilkington is wrong? I cannot see any Government Department undertaking the vast capital expenditure involved in creating a separate national educational service. At the most conservative estimate, it would cost £20 million to set it up.

I look at this subject not as a broadcasting problem but as an educational problem. There are other priorities such as school buildings. We all recognise the valuable part which the public libraries can play in further education. There is many a public library without which few people could continue their education. In many parts of the country public libraries need more funds. The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science would be the first to recognise how important a part they play in our educational structure.

There are other priorities clamouring for public money. There are these teaching machines which we hear so much about and which, I understand, play an increasingly valuable part in our schools. There is the use of tape recorders, not to mention radio itself. If we want to get into the brave new world—and undoubtedly we shall be there—there are the techniques pioneered in the Soviet Union whereby one learns in the course of one's sleep, a most delightful way of learning. These are not fanciful experiments.

In addition, if we are concerned with education in the widest sense—not just those at school but those who wish to continue their education after leaving school or institution of learning—there are buildings to which people can go to hear lectures. I have a sneaking feeling that psychologically people who want to continue their education find that one of the factors which encourages them to do so is that they are brought into contact with like-minded people. This has a helpful effect upon them, and there is a social side to it also. They like to get out of their natural framework, away from the environment in which they work or live, and to make a special journey. I realise that too many people have to make too long journeys. Leaving that aspect apart, however, they like to go to a particular institution with a lot of other people.

One notices that in entertainment. It was at one time suggested that because of the influence of television, the cinema would decline and would ultimately vanish. This has not happened. We know, of course, that audiences have shrunk. When driving past a cinema on any night of the week, it is interesting to see the proportion of young people who go there. It is those same people who would describe television as the occupation and pastime of the middle-aged and elderly. Their own entertainment is not to be found in front of the "box" in the family circle. They have a sense of excitement and enjoyment in going to a picturedrome or theatre where they can enjoy this entertainment. In the same way, people are often attracted to go to an auditorium where they can be taught the things they want to learn.

For the reasons which I have given—the cost of establishing a national system of education by broadcasting and the other priorities which come clamouring at the Ministry of Education, as well as the new techniques which must also take their place—although I want to see the development of television in education, I realise that I must be a little more modest in my demands.

A start must obviously be made with a service which is regarded as part of our system of education and not as an extension of broadcasting. I come to the conclusion that we could do this in a sensible manner by considering our pattern of education. It is organised locally. The local education authorities do the job for the central Government. I have not put all the arguments which lead me to this conclusion, but my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North argues the case forcibly and I am delighted on this occasion, as on many others, to be in complete agreement with him. My hon. Friend has support for looking at the problem from a local point of view and seeing whether we can extend television broadcasting facilities in education. I quote, for example, from an article written by Mr. James Wykes, head of Educational Broadcasting, Associated Television, who comes to the view that television education should be basically local and regional to begin with. Having stated that, Mr. Wykes gives two main reasons for his view: The two main reasons for this are that many of the courses required would be suitable only for towns and cities where industries of the same kind were carried on. For instance, one could hardly imagine the same industrial training courses suiting, say, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle. The second point is concerned with the method of teaching which is used to supplement the television course. Whether it is correspondence or programmed learning by means of a textbook, the necessity for periodic meetings between teachers and learners seems absolutely essential. If the teachers are to be closely involved in the planning and conduct of courses, as they ought to be, it is difficult to see how this could be operated over a wide area in which teaching methods and emphasis on different aspects of subject matter may vary considerably. These are wise words. Although their author is now employed by a broadcasting company, before he went to broadcasting he was a teacher.

To deal with the problem from a local angle would cut down the cost. If I may make a digression, it is about something that I hope the Joint Under-Secretary will mention to her colleagues at the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. I refer to local television broadcasting by means of a wired service, as is done in Glasgow and also through a narrow beam short-wave microwave relay.

When new towns are being planned, why not have them wired? If a start were to be made ab initio with a new town, it would not add any significant expense in the construction of the postal communication facilities. This has already been done to a large extent in the well-established postal service in the telecommunications organisation of Kingston upon Hull.

What I like particularly about the quotation which I have given is the reference to the training that is needed in some of our big cities. The hon. Member for Maryhill has mentioned that we are opening up the new industrial training centres. Yesterday, a Bill was presented by the Government to deal with both redundancy and payments to redundant workers. Matching that up with the previous Government's Industrial Training Act, one recognises that we have before us a huge job to ensure that people are not only provided for by means of redundancy payments, but are suitably trained to obtain a living and preserve their self-respect. It is in the great industrial conurbations that television along the lines which I have argued has a tremendous part to play. There are, as we know, those who wish to encourage this method of teaching for which specialist programmes could be designed.

I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary and the Government will agree that the sources of finance should be drawn from the widest possible area. Obviously, the local education authorities would welcome the proposed system and they would need to put something into it. If many of the programmes were to be desgined for industrial training, I am sure that industry would pay a share of the burden, as would the universities. I see no reason why the television companies should not be able to play a worthy part. I am thinking not just of the B.B.C., but of the private independent companies.

To my mind, there would be no objection to showing advertisements in some of these programmes. We have, of course, a technical trade Press and there seems to be no reason why the television equivalent of a technical trade Press should not be shown in an educational television service, which would help to defray the increased cost.

I hope that other hon. Members who are interested in the subject, and particularly the hon. Member for Spring-burn, who introduced the Motion, will not think that I have been carping in my criticism of a university of the air. While deflating the concept, because it needs to be deflated, I have attempted, nevertheless, to take a constructive approach to the problem because, like the hon. Member, I believe that television has this useful part to play in the education and training of all our minds.

12.18 p.m.

Mr. Trevor Park (Derbyshire, South-East)

I should like, first, to express my interest in the remarks of the hon. Member for East Grinstead (Mr. G. Johnson Smith). I happen to be one of his constituents, and therefore, it has been particularly interesting for me to hear what the hon. Member had to say. He presented his case in a lucid and persuasive manner, but there were some respects in which it was not sufficiently persuasive for me.

I join the hon. Member in complimenting my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Buchanan) on giving us the opportunity of this debate today. My hon. Friend covered in a general way most of the major points which are involved. His generalities were followed by an interesting and more specific type of treatment by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Mary-hill (Mr. Hannan).

However, I think there is perhaps some danger that, unless we are very careful, we shall confuse different and separate lines of development in educational television, and I think it is important that we should get these different lines of development quite clear in our minds.

First, there are programmes of general educational value, programmes which have been referred to this morning as enrichment programmes. These make up a normal and significant part of the general output of both the B.B.C. and of the commercial channels. I shall say little about them except that I believe that enrichment programmes such as "Panorama" and "World in Action" play a valuable part in disseminating amongst our citizens an interest in and an awareness of the events of the world. In doing so they provide a vital function in the democratic society, because such a society, if it is to be effective, depends on an informed electorate, and in these days the medium of television is one of the most powerful and significant weapons in the armoury of mass communication. The standard of enrichment programmes reaches a level of which those responsible for them can truly be proud. They have improved; they are improving; and I believe that these programmes will continue to improve still more as more experience is gained.

There is a second type of television programme of which little mention has been made this morning. These are the special programmes aimed at selected audiences, and, of course, the schools television service falls within this category. The B.B.C., at the end of last year, was providing 36 programmes a week, including repeat broadcasts, and the I.T.A. was providing 17 programmes a week. Schools television got off to a slow start in this country, and even today only 10 per cent. of the primary schools in England and Wales, 20 per cent. of the technical schools, and less than half the secondary schools of all types are registered viewers.

Educational television never can—nor is it designed to—replace the schoolteacher, but at a time when there is a grave teacher shortage and many overcrowded classes it is a little surprising that more education authorities and more teachers have not recognised the crucial rôle which television can play as a teaching aid, especially in those schools which lack the equipment or the demonstrative techniques and devices of which television can make use.

We need to increase the number of television sets in the schools of this country, and I hope that the hon. Lady who will be replying to this debate will be able to tell us of ways and means which her Department is adopting by which the number of schools television sets can be increased. We know that there are difficulties. We know there is the problem of fitting schools television programmes into the school timetable; we know that some teachers find it more difficult to link up the substance of a television programme with their teaching work than other teachers; we know that some local authorities are less enthusiastic than are others about the installation of television sets. However, these difficulties surely can be overcome, and must be if the real potential of television as an aid to school education is to be realised, and there is a need, I believe, both in school television and, for that matter, in other forms of television for the greatest possible co-operation, and co-ordination of effort, between the teachers in the classrooms, the local education authorities, the Department of Education and Science, and the people responsible for the presentation of the television broadcasts.

I pass now from schools television to a third aspect of educational television. It is one which has already been the subject of quite considerable comment this morning, namely, television for adults. It is around this form of television that I wish to focus most of my remarks.

In September 1963, my right hon. Friend who is now the Prime Minister made a speech in which he advocated what he called a university of the air. He referred to the very large potential market which adult educational television can cater for. He referred to people ranging from technicians who, perhaps, left school at 16 or 17 and after two or three years in industry feel that they could qualify as graduate scientists or technologists. He referred to industrial or clerical workers who would like to acquire new skills or occupations. He referred to the housewives who might like to secure qualifications in the humanities or in social subjects. He referred to existing students of the W.E.A. or extramural classes which would, I believe, be enriched by the provision of systematic television courses. All of these constitute a market which could be attracted by a comprehensive educational television service.

As has already been said, a start has been made—or, to be more accurate, a number of starts have been made, because in different parts of the United Kingdom, under the auspices of different television and education authorities, experiments have taken place. Ulster Television provides a series of programmes, "Midnight Oil," in association with Queen's University, Belfast. In 1963 there was the Cambridge television work with its project of a dawn university. There have been recent Sunday morning programmes, and there has been most recently a most successful experiment, to which the hon. Member for East Grinstead referred, organised by Associated Television in conjunction with the extramural department of the University of Nottingham.

This list is not exhaustive, other examples could be quoted, and from these developments it is clear that valuable lessons have been learnt. Both the academic authorities and the television authorities alike appear agreed that where the television programmes can be reinforced by specially prepared handbooks, by exercises written by students and corrected by tutors, and by periodic discussion meetings of tutors and students, the results are most rewarding, because the use of these methods provides that precious personal link between the student and the authority responsible for the education which often makes all the difference between success and failure.

Both the television authorities and the educational authorities appear agreed as well that where the programmes can be organised on a regional, or a decentralised, basis, again they are likely to be at their most effective, and from the discus- sions that I have had with people working in this field, I feel that a great deal of consideration should be given to this point about the need for regional or decentralised services.

Many lessons have been learnt from the experiments which have taken place, but it is clear that the efforts of different authorities have not been co-ordinated. It is clear that the experiences of the programmes which have been screened have not always been shared by all the people interested. Adult education on television has developed in an unplanned and haphazard way. Surely the time has now come for a big step forward? Should not we establish a national centre for broadcasting education, a centre on which all educational and broadcasting interests would be represented, a centre which would be given Government help and encouragement in every possible way? The purpose of such a centre would be to develop teaching by radio and television in conjunction with correspondence courses and periodic meetings of teachers and students, and to develop such teaching as a normal part of the national provision for education beyond school age.

We come, of course, to the controversial point of channels of broadcasting time. I believe that such time might be found in more than one way. I think that it is a false argument to say that we are either going to have a specific educational channel, or local regional decentralised educational broadcasting. I believe that there is a very good case for saying that an argument can be made for a mixture of both, and in a recent statement the Universities Council for Adult Education made a very useful distinction. It said that among the needs known to exist, and which educational television could help to fulfil, are the need for people to prepare for external degrees and preliminary qualifications, the need for preparation for professional qualifications, the need for industrial and professional retraining, and the need for liberal adult education and courses in basic subjects for students in industry and institutions of further education.

The U.C.A.E. went on to declare that it hoped a distinction would be drawn between educational programmes fulfilling the broad purposes of the fourth category, that is to say the category of liberal adult education and courses in basic subjects, and the deliberately instructional programmes with more teaching purposes aimed at the earlier three categories. The U.C.A.E. suggests that the first three categories could be met through the provision of a separate educational channel, whereas the broader type of programme could be provided by existing methods and on existing channels. There, I believe, is a suggestion for drawing a distinction through which it would be possible to have some programmes on a special separate channel, and to have others on an existing one.

I could carry on for some time in this way discussing the problem of different types of channels, but I do not intend to do so, because I feel that what is needed essentially at the moment is determination to make a start with the development of a centre for broadcasting education. Once that determination is made, it will be possible to look at the specific problems in more detail. I believe that we now stand on the threshold of one of the greatest advances in education that this country has ever known. I implore the Government to take us over that threshold, and to move forward into the great experiment of a real educational television provision which will make this country the leader, instead of as it is now, one of the most backward of developed countries in the provision of such a service.

12.37 p.m.

Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)

I wish to intervene briefly and I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Buchanan) on introducing the Motion as he did in a most informative way. I think that everyone understands the reason for it, but it would have been interesting to hear a further report on how the Glasgow experiment was shaping, and perhaps when the hon. Lady replies to the debate, she will be able to give some additional information on this matter.

I want to quote the words of Sir John Wolfenden, writing in The Guardian on 25th September, 1963, when he said: Nobody could accuse us in this country of being impetuous or intemperate in adopting television as an educational instrument. That is undoubtedly true, because the opportunities for using this media have not been fully grasped, even though many experiments have been carried out. I see very little of the existing television programmes for schools, but I hear some of the B.B.C.'s radio programmes for schools. I do not think that the B.B.C. fully exploits this media, and I doubt whether there is as much of interest in these programmes as there could be.

Industry has been rather more adventurous in using closed circuit television for the training of apprentices. Some hospitals have used closed circuit television for the training of nurses and medical students. There were educational experiments on a much wider basis in the United States, Japan and Russia, and I think we are falling quite a considerable way behind.

I do not accept that there is a basic conflict between the aims of the "educational type" programme and the "educative" type programme. Basically, they can be complementary. The main focus of this debate is not on the need for improving educational television—I think that point has been made clearly by the hon. Member for Springburn and others—but rather the main problem arises over the alternative measures of deployment.

Firstly, we have the idea, put forward, I think, by the Prime Minister, of an entirely separate channel for educational television. Secondly, we have the idea, put forward by a number of other people including my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham North (Mr. Chataway) of closed circuit or microwave television not, of course, on the national channel but on a local basis. At the same time my hon. Friend argued that the "educative" and adult education type of programme on Independent Television and the B.B.C. as at present should be retained and not detached.

Without going very deeply into the differences between the two systems, I think that there are three basic points where there is agreement between both points of view. The Prime Minister and others will, I think, discover that this is not a great vote-catching issue, it is one which essentially should be looked at from the point of view of its educational relevance and the priorities in respect of broadcasting and the Treasury. There are three essential things which are common to both systems. Firstly, any service, if it is to be used effectively, must be organised on a local basis. The experiments of which we have heard at Glasgow, Hull and other parts, underline this very clearly. It is, I think, possible to project a wonderful national blueprint, but I doubt very much whether a national type of programme would be used anything like so much as would a competent, well-run local system. This could be done by either of the two methods.

Secondly, I think it vital that this type of programme should be run and conducted by educationists—teachers in schools, university lecturers and adult education people. I think it important that they should have the final say in the type and nature of the programme. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North made this point well in his pamphlet. It is very important that the teachers in schools using their television should have close personal contact with the people projecting the programmes on television. This is much more effective if they are teachers in the same area and have a close link.

The third point on which there is broad agreement is the vital importance of developing a national Educational Television Centre. There may be differences about detail and what should be dealt with by such a centre. I think it must be a clearing house for ideas. It must give advice, both to schools and to the instigators of local type programmes, about the best type of equipment to use. It must also help to provide training for people who are to run local stations, and it might help in television technique training for teachers who take part in programmes. I think also that a national Educational Television Centre should provide a number of standard lectures on highly technical subjects on video tape which could be used by local television units at whatever time was most suitable. The lectures could be introduced by local people, and, if necessary, stopped at certain points. This would provide useful material on highly technical and other subjects on which well-known specialists were speaking.

I wish to refer to a particular interest of mine, representing as I do a Belfast constituency, and being, I think, the only Member of the House who is a graduate of Queen's University, Belfast. I refer to the interesting experiment known as "Midnight Oil" carried out three years ago by Ulster Television and Queen's University, Belfast. To me the important thing about the programme was that educationists were in control. While fully using the facilities and co-operating fully with Ulster Television they played a major part in guiding the programmes. The main type of subjects put out were in the adult education field—history, problems of sociology, problems of the aircraft industry, biology and many other economics.

Everyone who took part was surprised how wide an audience had been attracted. I have not the figures available, but I think that the audience was about twice as big as anyone thought could be persuaded to watch an educational programme at 11 o'clock at night. Many of the lecturers were naturally unprofessional in style. The point I wish to make it that the programme techniques were simple and did not need a lot of highly technical television organisation. Teachers and lecturers dealt with adult educational subjects, using television to speak to their audiences.

Following this experiment the Independent Television Authority made available £100,000 for a three-year experiment with Queen's University. This was arranged in August, 1963. I am glad to see that the Assistant Postmaster-General is present on the Government Front Bench. I gave notice to the Postmaster-General that I should be raising this matter. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science will be able to say something about the "state of play" regarding these negotiations.

An application went in for permission to conduct an experiment and to have a separate channel for it—I think I am right—in November, 1963, under the former Administration. Many people have been disappointed that the Post Office has not been able to regard this in a slightly more imaginative fashion, and give a decision. I appreciate that the problems of providing a separate channel for an educational television service are basic and fundamental, but, as I see it, this would be entirely without prejudice as an experiment over a three-year period. No political party or the Department need regard itself as being committed by the result. It will, I think, be possible to obtain a lot of useful information from granting to Queen's University the right to use a channel locally in Northern Ireland to secure more knowledge of this type of programme.

I end as I began, by quoting from the article in The Guardian by Sir John Wolfenden which I think well illustrates the point I wish to make. He says: It would be unforgivable if wrangles about control or timidity in operation deprived us over the next 25 years of the opportunities which this medium affords. Of course it is not the answer to all our educational problems. But it is plain silly to refuse to accept it as a powerful and valuable ally. I hope that the Post Office will be able to combine with the Parliamentary Secretary in giving us some encouragement in the Northern Ireland experiment.

12.51 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)

We are having a most interesting dialogue on this subject this morning, but I think that it would be a mistake to assume, from the attendance in the House, that this is not considered a matter of real consequence, and one whose vital importance more and more people are beginning to realise. There is almost a ferment of interest in educational quarters. I think that it is fortunate that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Buchanan) should have seized this chance of raising this subject at this time. I think also it is fortunate that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) was able to introduce the practical case of the University of Strathclyde. The valuable comments of the hon. Member for East Grinstead (Mr. G. Johnson Smith) and others have shown the very wide range of interest which there is in the debate.

I welcome the appointment of my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Jennie Lee) as Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science and the fact that she has been specifically asked to give special attention to this problem. I find it a little difficult to see why the expressed interest in a national programme should necessarily cut out the kind of development which many of us also want to see on a more local basis. There is a great deal of truth in my hon. Friend's remark that there are distinct places for both. I hope that my hon. Friend will say that that is her view, too.

My own interest is limited, perhaps, but it is partly a result of certain discussions which I have had as a member of the Advisory Council to the B.B.C.—I may as well declare that interest, and the interest of having taken part in some of the I.T.V. educational programmes on Sunday mornings—and of the fairly long lifetime's experience which I have had in adult education. I think that there would be broad agreement that there are three ways in which television and sound broadcasting can play a big rôle. First of all, as I think the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) felicitously said, there are the enrichment programmes, general education programmes. We must not only hang on to them but should encourage their development in every possible way. These programmes may have an incalculable contribution to make to the general standard of education. They capture the imagination of people of all sorts and at all levels and times, which is of the utmost importance. One of the most striking things over the last years has been the exciting developments of interest in, for example, natural history, which has undoubtedly been stimulated by television programmes. Undoubtedly, whatever personal view we may have, there is no doubt of the stimulus of current affairs programmes, because current television comment is both sharper and, in many degrees, more vivid than it ever could be in the courses which many of us knew in years gone by.

Equally, it is striking and interesting how many people are taking advantage, for obvious reasons, of language courses and are prepared to spend some time on them. Indeed, in the programmes on the arts and related subjects, these people show their sincere interest by their willingness, in many thousands, to buy the synopses, written programmes and detailed books which are provided for these programmes. These programmes are all related to general enrichment. I hope very much that everything possible will be done to encourage their further development.

Secondly, there is the wide and exciting development of the use of television and sound broadcasting in existing schools and colleges to serve their own purposes. Examples have been given of closed circuit television, and in this case we are most anxious that experience which has been gained over a long period should be shared as widely as possible. There is a valid question as to whether this is being done as fully as possible. Many interesting experiments have been started, and I am sure that a very valuable contribution can be made, in the way suggested, not only by enabling us to meet the teacher shortage, but also because of the liveliness of this form of approach. Television should not merely be a means of trying to meet the problem of the teacher shortage; it is exciting in its own right and a valuable medium for teaching. It should be seen as such.

Thirdly, there is the relatively new field, for us, of the development of the highest standard of long-term courses of education, which could lead to university qualifications of one sort or another. It seems to me that this is an opening which could be exploited by both national and local television. What we want is to have a team of experts to advise and help us in determining what subjects could be taught on sound radio, and what subjects are suitable for television treatment. I do not think that it is a difficult job. Most of the emphasis this morning has been on television, and I think that it is right to emphasise that there is a wide range of subjects still not fully developed on sound radio, particularly if one considers the serious development of connected courses of education. Frankly, for some subjects, the visual element is disturbing rather than helpful. It depends, no doubt, upon the lecturer and those taking part, but there is a whole range of academic subjects which could be developed most valuably on sound radio.

I hope that my hon. Friend will keep that clearly in mind. There has been a good deal of experience here. I was interested to note that, in the pamphlet which the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway) wrote on the subject, he paid tribute to the work which the B.B.C. has done over a long period in their schools broadcasts and the initiative which they have shown from time to time. On the other hand, sound radio has a part to play, although it is true that television can be particularly vital in particular subjects.

I would have thought that one subject of particular interest for courses of continuous study would be social studies, leading to training in the social sciences and of social workers. This is where both television and sound radio can be of value. Further experiments there, particularly among adults with earlier educational experience, would be most valuable, because there is a need for trained personnel. I hope that my hon. Friend will keep in touch with both the B.B.C. and the I.T.V. They have both carried out a number of valuable experiments and their experience should be used. I hope that the hon. Friend will not neglect any opportunity to discuss these matters with both the B.B.C. and the I.T.V.

I am in complete agreement with the statement that educational control of these programmes is right, although I add the rider that we also need the advice of those who know something about presentation. I hope that perhaps through these means we might even begin to improve the standard of educational lecturing. I have a great deal of sympathy with university students who from time to time complain bitterly about the quality of university lectures, and, although I am no expert in this, I feel there is a great deal of truth in their complaints. It is important that the techniques of modern media and the use of modern media should be understood as much as possible. Nevertheless, I fully agree that the content, material and layout of courses should be under educational direction.

From experience I would say that one of the most interesting questions is how we link television and sound broadcasting programmes with live discussions. Quotations have been read emphasising this point. It certainly is one of the most important aspects. One can lose much of the value of programmes which are put out if it is not possible almost immediately to move into some discussion of the subject. The most realistic answer is the use of videotape and modern methods of this kind, in order that the programme may be used at times which are suitable for the groups which will discuss them. It might be possible to pull in, on a local basis, qualified people who would help to take charge of the discussions. I am sure that my hon. Friend will wish to make use of such experienced bodies as those dealing with adult education, the university extra-mural departments and W.E.A., who have worked together a great deal in the past.

I hope that my hon. Friend will not wait for the establishment of what we might eventually hope for—a major national channel—in view of the cost which would be involved. This may be a proper aim in the long term, and there should be discussions about it, but I hope that she will not wait for that but will make progress now. There is great value in the suggestion of an education centre and of getting together a valuable group of advisers to see what use can be made of existing channels, both I.T.V. and B.B.C. For this purpose both have national programmes. To stimulate and encourage in every possible way the local programmes, linked with local universities, can be of the utmost value.

It is possible that our discussions today may encourage my hon. Friend to go forward in this way and not to be too timid about it. I am sure that she will not be too timid because her personality is not a particularly timid one. I am sure that she will be only too eager to overcome any obstacles which undoubtedly will be in the way, and we look forward eagerly to the signs of this new adventure bearing fruit.

1.5 p.m.

Sir John Langford-Holt (Shrewsbury)

We are discussing this afternoon the part which television and radio should play in the creation of a wiser and better educated people of all ages and of all backgrounds in this country. We do this not as a means to a purely commercial end, having regard to the necessity for us to pay our way in the world, as it is put, but as an end in itself, believing, as we do, I am sure, that a wiser and better educated man is a happier man and that wiser and better educated people are happier people.

I therefore do not think that we can talk about the subject except in the context of broadcasting policy as a whole. I was one of the supporters, and still am a supporter, of the idea of an independent television broadcasting system. We must recognise, however, the risks which the presence of that system bring to the B.B.C.—not only risks which comes outside the B.B.C. but risks which come from within the Corporation. Those dangers come from looking over their shoulder the whole time at what in newspapers is circulation and what in B.B.C. terms is T.A.M. rating. I think that is the expression.

I hope that the B.B.C. will in no way attempt to lower its standards. I for one will fight very hard for the maintenance of higher standards rather than an effort to capture the widest audience. These pressures will continue. There have been many comments about persons and about the Director-General himself. I fail to understand the squeals of anger from some of my hon. Friends when we realise that if there is any blame to be attached to the appointment of individuals—and I do not necessarily accept that there is blame—the appointment was made by us, by my own party. When the book "Hugh Greene was my Valet" comes to be written, the authorship may not necessarily lie on the other side of the House.

I agree that we must not exclude from our considerations sound radio, although we are dealing mainly with television. To a section of the community—and we must watch this, because it is the old section of the community—sound radio is a much better medium for education than is the visual broadcasting. The B.B.C. have made developments recently in languages lessons. On two counts these have been quite remarkable. First, there is the enormous interest which is shown. As has been said, this is probably because most of the viewers intend to spend their holidays in Spain, France, Belgium or elsewhere on the Continent. The programmes have generated an enormous interest. The second point is that the people who are interested are adults. This is a new situation. We have gone a long way since, in this country, in the fifteenth century, one had only to be an alien to incur a fine of 40s. a year. We have gone a long way since then.

We are learning that the people of this country are anxious to learn, and that it is the adults who are anxious to learn. There is a section of the community—old, middle-aged and young—with no desire to learn. This is partly to be blamed on their parents. This is why I wish to continue to talk about education but not only of the young, because it is by education of the middle-aged and the old that we can make important strides. Much depends upon their ability and willingness to teach the young the desire to learn.

Many people feel that television is bad and has been a wholly bad influence on our society. Certainly it has been a bad influence in the sphere of conversation; the art of conversation has completely disappeared. But television is not wholly bad. It has made the most obtuse able and willing to learn. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Buchanan) mentioned programmes such as those in which Sir Mortimer Wheeler appeared. We have programmes dealing with natural history, science and zoology in which people have taken a real interest and as a result of which they know infinitely more. We all know infinitely more now about the world we live in, about what moves other people, what their desires and feelings are, and about their languages than we have ever done before. This is done by dressing up television as entertainment, and this is one of the methods by which we can teach people, including ourselves, to learn.

The other method is what one might call the sandwich method. That is a method in which a mildly educational programme is sandwiched between a boxing contest and a programme about cowboys and indians. The unwillingness of people to go away between the two programmes means that they automatically assimilate a mildly educational programme in between. This is the danger of having a wholly separate education service. I am in favour of it, but it carries the danger that we get this specialisation which my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mr. G. Johnson Smith) mentioned, and we shall find that the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. will regard themselves as in no way responsible for any form of education so that the education of the adult will go by the board.

I now wish to make one or two remarks which are directed not against Her Majesty's present advisers but rather more against Governments in particular. I refer to the question of indecision. There are going to be new developments in television and wireless, as there have been in the past. I remember asking Parliamentary Questions in 1949 inviting Her Majesty's Government—the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) was then Postmaster-General, and Lord Hobson, as he is now, was the Assistant Postmaster-General—to make a decision about 625-line television. The reply was that the time was not opportune. Of course, this enormous delay has affected not only the industry but the ability of the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. to get on with the job. The same thing will occur about colour television. It strikes me as being rather sad. Here we are, the inventors of television—the first people in the world to have a regular television service—wondering whether we shall have a German, French or American colour system in use in this country.

Colour television is relevant to education. Just as pictures are better than sound, and moving pictures are better than still pictures, surely colour will prove in the long run better than black and white. Her Majesty's Government will have to make a decision in the very near future as to whether they are prepared to make the great capital outlay which will be necessary to create a completely new service.

There is, however, something that can be done in the meantime, and that is to utilise to the full those channels which we already have available. I do not believe that in this sphere the Postmaster-General should rely exclusively, or in any way, upon the B.B.C. When we have only three channels available it seems to me nonsensical that we should regard only two of them as being valid for educational use.

May I draw the attention of the Joint Under-Secretary to the terms of the Motion, which I accept and which I suspect she also will accept. It is fairly forthright. It states: That this House … calls on Her Majesty's Government to encourage the establishment of a University of the Air … and … to sponsor a suitable television and radio service. I hope that in her reply the hon. Lady will address herself to the specific requirement of that Motion.

1.16 p.m.

Mr. Christopher Chataway (Lewisham, North)

I wish to join in congratulating the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Buchanan). It is particularly fitting that he should have had the opportunity to move this Motion, coming as he does, as does the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan), from a local authority area where some valuable pioneering work has been done in connection with educational television. I am glad that the hon. Member for Spring-burn has drawn his Motion widely, which has enabled us to have a valuable discussion.

I accept the division of the subject by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Park) and the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop). They said that we are really talking about three things—first, generally educative programmes and the sort of programmes which my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury (Sir J. Langford-Holt) has been discussing. I do not share my hon. Friend's fears that a separate educational channel would stop the commercial television companies or the B.B.C. putting on programmes like "Panorama" and so on. This, I admit, was one of the conclusions of the Pilkington Committee, but I have never been a wholehearted admirer of the Pilkington Report although on personal grounds I am an admirer of the Chairman of that Committee. We all welcome the fact that there are a large number of generally educative programmes on television and we should all like to see more of these coming along, as I am sure they will.

Secondly, we are addressing our minds to adult education in its more rigorous sense, and here the House has been able to hear a great deal about past developments. My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) told the House about the "Midnight Oil" programmes that Ulster Television has been showing in conjunction, I think, with the National Extension College at Cambridge. The National Extension College has done very valuable work in showing what can be achieved by a combina- tion of television courses, correspondence and weekend residential courses. There has been a good deal else going on in this respect, and many experiments have taken place in various parts of the country to which one could refer. A particularly interesting one, about which I hope to find out more, has been run by Southern Television in Southampton with some assistance from the Department of Education and Science, in which a series of programmes was broadcast in conjunction with adult education interests to students in groups, thus facilitating group discussion and analysis of the programmes, which, as the hon. Member for South Shields rightly pointed out, is so valuable.

Thirdly, we are concerned with the use of educational television in schools and educational institutions. Several hon. Members have talked about the programmes for schools broadcast by the B.B.C. and the I.T.V. companies. We can fairly pay tribute to both channels for the work that has been done over the years and for the programmes which they broadcast to educational institutions, but, as the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East has said, only 9,000 schools out of 40,000 have television sets. There has been a considerable increase in the rate of installations in the last year or two but nobody can pretend that it is very satisfactory that less than a quarter of the schools have television sets.

I believe that there are two main reasons for this. In the first place, there are many teachers who, despite the excellence of some of the programmes broadcast, never feel that it is desperately important for them to have a television set for their classes, simply because there are few programmes in the year which are of direct relevance to them. There may be general enrichment programmes, about which the class could argue and from which they could benefit to a certain extent, but I believe that many local authorities and teachers have not felt that a handful of enrichment-type programmes a year justified spending money on television sets

We have to realise that only a small number of programmes relative to the complexity and variety of the work that goes on in a school can be broadcast by a national organisation. It has been estimated that to cover mathematics alone for a grammer school up to O level would take all the school broadcasting time throughout a day.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Miss Jennie Lee)

indicated dissent.

Mr. Chataway

This may be an exaggeration and I see the hon. Lady shaking her head, but my general point is valid that a national organisation broadcasting on one or two channels for a few hours a day can hope only to touch the curriculum at a few points. This is one of the main reasons why we have not had a more rapid installation of sets.

Secondly, my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mr. G. Johnson Smith) and my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North have referred to the fact that the teacher in a classroom cannot feel that he or she has any control over, or any involvement in, the planning and production of these national programmes. We have a tradition of giving great freedom to teachers in the matter of method of teaching and the curriculum. We have sought, anyway, continually to give freedom to teachers though in fact this has been circumscribed, particularly in secondary schools, by a number of factors such as university examinations.

It is our belief, however, that the core of education is the relationship between a teacher and a child and it is therefore wrong for any central authority to try to dictate to teachers what they should teach and how they should teach. If that is our belief, we should not be surprised if teachers show some reluctance about taking television programmes in large quantities, because if they were to accept a vast amount of television material in their classes they would be in a real sense giving up control.

I do not make this second point as a criticism of the B.B.C. or the I.T.A., because I think that both have tried to bring the education world in on the planning of their programmes. The B.B.C., right from the start of its educational broadcasting, has devolved considerable powers on its Advisory Council on which are represented all parts of the educational world. The House must, however, accept that this is one of the reasons why there has not been a more rapid installation of sets.

I should like now to indicate briefly why I believe that first priority should be given to a more rapid development of local closed circuit systems.

Mr. Park

Would the hon. Member not agree that an additional factor which prevents the wide use of school television is that many teachers are not certain about the correct way in which the television broadcasts should be combined with their class teaching? The purpose is not to replace class teaching but to assist and develop it. Would the hon. Member not agree that there would be greater enthusiasm on the part of teachers if it were possible to provide courses for teachers on the best way in which such programmes could be used?

Mr. Chataway

Yes, there is a good deal in what the hon. Member says, and if there is to be a greater use of television in the schools, however that television is provided—whether nationally or locally—we must have more short courses for teachers. This is particularly so if it is the teachers themselves who will do the broadcasting and prepare the programmes.

I believe that Glasgow and Kingston upon Hull are pioneering the right basic unit of administration for educational television. It seems to me that the locally controlled educational television station has a number of important advantages over any amount of national broadcasting. There are three advantages in particular. In the first place, it is possible with a local closed circuit system to provide a multiplicity of channels. I understand that in Glasgow there are to be provided four channels for television and one channel for sound, all on one cable. This immediately opens up the possibility of using television as a regular teaching medium and of harnessing television seriously to the needs of the schools. One can make an impression upon a considerable part of the curriculum with four or even five channels.

Even more important perhaps is that under a locally controlled system of this kind one has direct teacher participation. One of the reasons why the United States has carried educational television a great deal further than we have is that there is a tradition there of locally controlled broadcasting. United States educational television is to a far greater extent both locally controlled and teacher controlled. I remember visiting 18 months or so ago an educational television station, not one of the most famous, in Arlington, Virginia. The studios were not elaborate. They had been built in a secondary school and the station was run by the teachers in the area. It was quite clear that a very large proportion of the teachers in the surrounding schools took a direct interest in it, joining together in the planning of programmes. The teacher who had delivered the lesson could expect to be cross-questioned about it by his colleagues, and there was every incentive to the staff in the schools to use the technical possibilities given to them. I believe, therefore, that the second major advantage of locally controlled educational television lies in the opportunity it gives for teacher participation.

Third, a local service can be provided at reasonable cost. Estimates of how much a national education service would cost have varied a good deal, perhaps, as one of my hon. Friends said. £15 million to £20 million for capital expenditure and £4 million or £5 million for annual running costs. Local stations could be provided to cover the great bulk of areas, at a comparable cost. I believe that the cost of Glasgow's installation will be about £250,000, and although any estimate must be somewhat speculative, when Glasgow has four television channels and one sound channel running, I think that annual expenditure should be comfortably within the £100,000 mark. Comparing this with the total cost of, say, a new school, it seems quite reasonable.

I hope that we shall, in the next few years, see a fairly rapid extension of local closed-circuit systems. With the use of microwave transmissions, these closed-circuit systems could be combined one with another, and by use of the cheaper video-tape recording machines now available, it would be possible for them to use a good deal of national material. I believe that the B.B.C. has already hinted that it would be prepared to make available its programmes for local stations to rebroadcast. Clearly, this would make a great deal of sense.

I turn now to the question of the national services. In my view, there is a need for expansion of the national services, but, if there is a choice to be made between expansion of local closed-circuit systems and development of a national education channel, local broadcasting ought to take priority. There is the difficulty here of the university of the air idea and the speech of the Prime Minister at Scarborough in October, 1963 when he said: There must be a properly planned university of the air with all the resources of T.V. and radio and State-sponsored correspondence courses. In its issue last week, Education suggested that the educational topic about which people talked most nonsense was educational television, adding: After all, what better example of the bright red herring could there be than Mr. Harold Wilson's University of the Air?' It had qualities of superficial smartness and underlying irrelevance which made it irresistible as an election gimmick. However irresistible it may have been at the time, I hope that the Government will not feel committed to this particular pre-election idea. On examination, there really is not very much in it, as a number of educationists have concluded since.

The picture drawn is one in which thousands of people would be studying for a variety of degrees, many more would be involved in postgraduate work, thousands more in retraining, and so on. Of course, one would not be able to do very much of that on one education channel. It would take about six channels running for 24 hours a day to cover fairly sketchily the work which goes on in one university, without attempting to help those who were involved in lower level work for university or in postgraduate studies.

If, therefore, the case for devoting the fourth channel to education rests upon the university of the air idea, I do not think that it is very strong. As several hon. Members have pointed out, there is plenty of spare time on the existing channels. We could have considerable expansion of national educational broadcasting, available in the home as well, on the three existing channels. BBC-2 is rarely used outside the evenings, and there is space available on the other two channels as well. The case for devoting the fourth channel to education, therefore, can rest only upon the provision of adult educational programmes in the peak hours between 7 and 10 p.m.

Without attempting to argue the case in detail and at length, I must say that I simply do not believe that there is enough in the university of the air idea to justify the fourth channel on those grounds. It is true that one might be able, between 7 and 10, to provide some adult educational courses which would be watched by some people who would not otherwise follow a regular course at a technical college or elsewhere and who would not be prepared to watch such programmes outside peak viewing hours, but I believe that such people are relatively few. If a person is prepared to follow a serious course leading to a qualification, he or she will not be particularly affected by the hour at which the programme is broadcast.

The hon. Member for Springburn referred to this point at one stage in his argument. I thought that he rather overrated the possibilities of television in this respect. After paying tribute to the "night schools" and further education colleges, he said it was not surprising that many people did not want to go along to a technical college at the end of a hard day's work but preferred to relax at home or go to the "pub". I agree it is not surprising, but I think it must be accepted that someone who has not strong enough motivation to go along to a technical college in the evening is not likely to have strong enough motivation to sit at home by himself and follow on television a lengthy course leading to some qualification.

Mr. Buchanan

I do not altogether disagree with the hon. Gentleman, but I am thinking of men coming more into our own age group who are a little diffident about mixing with youngsters and, perhaps, showing their lack of knowledge in an evening class.

Mr. Chataway

It is a poorly run evening class at which people are made to feel like that. We must also ask whether, if one has only four channels, this is an economic way of using the fourth. Peak hours, of course, are extremely expensive. If the peak hours are used to reach large audiences, the marginal cost of putting on educational prob- lems at any other time of the day is a great deal less, but if one has only four channels, would it be right to put on highly specialist programmes which can be of interest only to a very small fraction of the total viewing population?

I should like to see the fourth channel so organised—this is outside the terms of reference of our discussion today—that it would result in more intelligent programmes catering for the market that now reads what John Osborne's Jimmy Porter called "The posh Sundays". There will then be room for a great deal more on television that appeals to that kind of market. But to say that is very different from arguing that there ought at peak hours, when an audience of millions is available, to be a substantial proportion of programmes which can be of value only to a fraction of one per cent. of that audience. I believe, therefore, that the case for devoting the fourth channel to education is not a very strong one. I would hope that we might drop the phrase "the university of the air" altogether because I do not think that it conveys very much. It probably misleads more than it elucidates.

Mr. Park

I believe that some of the hon. Gentleman's difficulties arise from the fact that he is equating the university of the air with the fourth channel. That was not the intention of my right hon. Friend, now the Prime Minister, when he made his speech. He declared quite clearly that broadcasting time for the university of the air could be found either by allocation of the fourth T.V. channel together with appropriate radio facilities or by pre-empting the time from the existing three channels. Therefore, a university of the air and a fourth educational channel are not necessarily the same thing.

Mr. Chataway

I do not think that the educational case for the fourth channel is very strong. I do not think either that the university of the air concept conveys anything very realistic or practical. While I should like to see television doing more for adult education of all kinds, I do not think that the sort of picture which has been conjured up by this phrase is ever likely to be fulfilled, or could be fulfilled, by television.

Mr. G. Johnson Smith

Is there not another factor to be considered, looking at the possibility of a channel devoted to serious academic courses of instruction? That is that most families have one television set, and there would be a great deal of competition in the family as to the programme to which the television set should be adjusted. In addition, there is the need for a degree of privacy to which I think every student is entitled, or which every student would hope to have, when trying to follow a very complicated argument projected on television. To this extent, therefore, it is a limiting factor on the value of television in conveying a serious argument in the home.

Mr. Chataway

I think that there is much in that argument. So long as there is only one television set in the home, it is asking a great deal that the rest of the family should give up its entertainment, perhaps just at the moment when it wants to watch its favourite programme on one of the other channels, so that one member of the family may follow some programme which may be totally meaningless to the others.

Nonetheless, I believe that we should see a continued expansion of educational programmes on the existing channels. Whether they should continue to be provided by the B.B.C. and by the commercial companies is a matter for argument. I think that there is some case for bringing all these programmes under the control of one new educational authority. There are arguments on both sides, but it is clear that there is a continuing function for national broadcasting and that there are further unmet needs. I should like to see more national educational television directed to the persuasion of married women teachers to return to the schools. I believe that a good deal more could be done in this way to rekindle the interest of married women teachers.

I should like to see much more educational television directed to the mother of the pre-school child. A great deal of modern educational research shows how important the pre-school years are. We do not have an early prospect of a universal nursery school system. I believe that great educational dividends would result from paying a great deal more attention to the mother. Greater efforts should now be made to show parents of young children what can be done to implant in children of that age a readiness to learn to prepare them for school. One or two very good series have been put on by the B.B.C., and I think that more of these would be welcome.

Finally, there is a third need which a number of hon. Members have urged, and that is for a national television centre which would have a co-ordinating and information rôle. It is difficult for some of the schools and colleges which are now installing closed circuit equipment to get reliable information about what is available. Not a great deal has been said about the closed circuit equipment that has been installed in a number of educational institutions over recent years. Altogether 33 technical colleges, 13 training colleges and seven secondary schools have now got closed circuit television purely for internal use according to the most recent count that I have seen. But these institutions and the local education authorities which are thinking of installing closed circuit systems have considerable difficulty in deciding what is the best equipment. I believe that Liverpool is thinking of following in Glasgow's footsteps, and that some of those concerned with the project in Liverpool have the greatest difficulty in discovering what is the best equipment. A source of advice would be helpful.

Mr. Hannan

The hon. Gentleman spoke earlier about cost and also referred to Glasgow. I have a quotation which states that the capital cost of adapting the accommodation for studio purposes was estimated at £50,000 and that the annual cost of running the service was about the same figure. I do not know whether that affects the hon. Member's argument.

Mr. Chataway

The studio is not the only capital cost. One has also to lay cables and install in the schools special sets which are more expensive than ordinary sets.

In view of what has been said today, I do not think I need urge upon the Joint Under-Secretary further the need for some co-ordinating centre of the type that I have mentioned. Incidentally, I am sure that all of us welcome the hon. Lady on her first appearance on the Government Front Bench in an education debate. I for one extend my best wishes to her in the work on which she has now embarked.

I think that the time has come to harness television more comprehensively to the needs of the schools. We have seen a great deal of experiment over the postwar years, not only in this country but all over the world. There is now a very great deal of evidence to go on. I do not think that it ought to be controversial to claim that television can greatly increase the output of a teacher. It can increase the teacher's productivity. It can make greater use of the scarce skills of certain teachers. It used often to be said that television cannot replace the teacher—a piece of "soft soap" employed by those who argued for educational television were to make it absolutely clear that there was no possibility of teachers being thrown out of work because of television. I think that we have long passed that stage. It is no longer necessary to reiterate that idea.

The truth is that television can considerably help us in the present teacher shortage. It is for that reason that I would argue that the hon. Lady's first priority in considering the development of television ought to be the schools. I believe that there may also be a case for a substantial expansion of adult education programmes in the future, but the first priority ought to be the schools. The hon. Lady ought to consider how best and how most rapidly television can be more fully harnessed to the needs of the teacher.

1.51 p.m.

Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie (Ross and Cromarty)

I am sorry to rise to speak so late in the proceedings, but, if the hon. Lady the Joint Under-Secretary of State is agreeable, I should like to make a few remarks.

It has been a very interesting debate. The term "university of the air" may at first sight seem beyond the range of the ordinary layman. But, after having heard the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Buchanan) develop his theme and after having heard other hon. Members making their contributions, I am convinced that this could be a really worth-while venture and would open up new opportunities, particularly for those who left school on attaining the age of 15. There are a great many late developers in this age group, and I am convinced that they would benefit enormously by the type of education which the hon. Gentleman envisages as part of the curriculum of the proposed university.

Television has already introduced this type of teaching to most areas, and I am sure that adults would be very ready to avail themselves of its benefits. In certain parts of Scotland, particularly the Highlands, in the past the professions were fully catered for but technical education was largely at a discount. Now, however, it is becoming more and more evident that technical education is very important and that there are many more opportunities of securing posts where this type of education is necessary.

If the university is to be a success, it is very important that the right image should be projected at the outset. Having listened to the various speeches, I think that this is very important indeed. While it can be of great advantage to schools and higher education institutions, the promoters must never give the impression that they are interested chiefly in those pupils with the highest I.Q. These pupils could no doubt benefit, but the aim must be to help those who are lacking that little extra needed to qualify them for the many posts which have to be filled in industry and commerce.

There will no doubt be many difficulties to be overcome, as there always are when a new idea is mooted. There will be those who will doubt whether there is a need for this new departure. There will be the problem of finding suitable staff, for this will be a very highly skilled job. It must be realised that the teachers must have high qualifications to put their lessons across the air effectively. I agree with the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway) that it would be difficult in the evening to get a pupil to sit through a long session, and that is why it is important that we should have the right teachers to make the lessons more attractive.

There is also the big question of finance. I have no idea what it would cost to launch such a scheme, but I know that the sum would be very large.

Here we have a proposal with a vast potential and very fitting to the age in which we live. I hope that the Government, and particularly the Secretary of State for Education and Science, will go into every aspect very fully and that all possibilities will be explored for the benefit of future generations.

1.57 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Miss Jennie Lee)

I am indebted to every hon. Member who has taken part in the debate today. There has not been one thoughtless speech and there has not been one destructive speech. Beginning with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Buchanan), whom I should like to congratulate, not only on giving us an opportunity to debate the subject, but also on the very careful and able way in which he introduced it, we have had speech after speech whose cumulative effect has been to minimise the difference of point of view between the two sides of the House. I know that the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway) enjoyed a little fun with red herrings and so on—there is nothing much wrong with a herring—but I shall try to define where we agree and where we differ.

I am glad that several hon. Members paid tribute to the service to education done by radio as well as television. We must always remember the importance of radio in this respect, especially the school programmes. We are anxious to ensure the use of both radio and television in schools. A circular is going out soon pointing out that less than one-quarter of our schools have television sets. Whatever the limitations and difficulties of fitting programmes into a curriculum, we would like to encourage every school to have a first-rate receiving set for both radio and television.

We have to face the fact that we are falling behind other countries in the use of this medium. In Japan, for instance, more than 70 per cent. of the schools have television sets and the number is mounting to three-quarters of all the schools. Every kind of encouragement is being given to the use of television in our schools.

It is also common ground between us that the use of television is exciting and helpful to both child and teacher. We believe that television as a refreshment and as a stimulus can help us to make the fullest use of the most accomplished teachers. But I want to put in this little warning that too much emphasis is laid on the suggestion that we can cut down the number of, the teachers we need because of the installation of television sets. That is not exactly the case. The teacher still has to be present; another common point among us is that we have all stressed the importance of the teacher in the scheme of things.

Then we come to closed circuit television. Mention has been made of the exciting experiment at Strathclyde. At Strathclyde, Glasgow, Hull, Southampton, Belfast, Nottingham and all over the country we are now beginning to have experiments in closed circuit television. We have now reached the point when 24 of our universities are using closed circuits, 34 colleges of advanced technology and technical colleges and 19 colleges of education. There is the lonely figure of nine for secondary schools, but this figure will be drastically changed when the Glasgow and other experiments get under way.

We all agree that the use of closed circuit television is extremely important and will soon become commonplace in all our universities and other educational institutions, whether for the young or for adults, just as it is becoming more and more used in industry and hospitals and elsewhere.

The real point of difference between us begins to emerge when we discuss the university of the air. I should like to read a paragraph from the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition, in September 1963, when he said: I want to outline new proposals on which we are working, a dynamic programme providing facilities for home study to university and higher technical standards, on the basis of a university of the air, and of nationally organised correspondence college courses. That remains the intention of the Government. All we are discussing is the timing and method of implementing the university of the air, and I will define more narrowly and precisely what I have in mind when I use that phrase.

It certainly does not mean, as was suggested in the Pilkington Report, that a separate channel for education is opened up to undertake all educational broad- casting, with the result that the I.T.A., B.B.C. or other channels are impoverished. It would be shocking and absolutely undesirable if liberal programmes of refreshing lectures, and the high-level talks which Sir Mortimer Wheeler and Sir Kenneth Clark have delivered, were not to continue to appear on the general broadcasting programmes. It would be most undesirable if there were any letdown in the amount of time being given to general educational programmes by both the B.B.C. and the I.T.A.

The fears of the Pilkington Committee and others were completely unfounded, because, under the rights given to both the B.B.C. and the I.T.A., they have a responsibility towards education as well as towards entertainment. I have been analysing the amount of time given by the respective channels to these purposes. The number of hours depends a little on the times of day chosen, but I think that it is fair to say that in broad terms B.B.C. sound is giving 5.5 per cent. of its time to educational programmes, B.B.C. television 16.1 and I.T.A. 12 per cent. Keeping to television, B.B.C. television is giving an average of 14 hours 55 minutes a week and I.T.A. 7½ hours.

The difference between the figures is interesting. There are more repeat programmes on the B.B.C. than there are on the I.T.A., but in the first few weeks in which I have had the responsibility for looking into this matter I have been asking certain questions to see how far it is left entirely to the judgment of the B.B.C. and I.T.A. to decide how much they can spend on their programmes, the amount of hours devoted to them, the time of day at which they are broadcast and so on. I believe that both channels at present are left free to decide for themselves. There is a sort of informal understanding and there is a great deal of co-operation among the people responsible for education on the different channels. Sometimes the same personnel are engaged by both. It is done on a rather informal basis and it may be that we should look into this to see if it would be helpful to have even more co-ordination than there is now.

I did not agree with everything in the interesting and thoughtful pamphlet of the right hon. Member for Lewisham, North, but I agreed with one paragraph when he said that it was not desirable to have too much competition in this respect and that the need was for school programmes, whether by I.T.A., B.B.C., B.B.C.2 or radio.

There should be general liberal programmes, but in addition there is a considerable number of people who would like something more than the general educational programmes, however stimulating and however refreshing. They would like to feel that they are taking part in a serious educational project at the end of which they would receive definite qualifications.

I approach the problem of a university of the air from this angle, not that it should take over the work now being done on the other channels, nor impoverish them by withdrawing liberal lectures, nor anything else of that kind. We ought seriously to consider whether we do not now need to give an opportunity to many people, whatever their age, sex or circumstances, whether they are living in Ross and Cromarty, which the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie) defends so charmingly and so well—and they do not have closed-circuit television up there, or in the remote parts of the Hebrides, or in the hearts of the cities—and who need something more than is already being done.

I believe that there is such a need. We have a great tradition of adult education in this country, but we have to be careful that it does not become a little dowdy and mouldy. The days when people would go out to the old-fashioned night schools and sit on hard benches are receding. They are now looking for a different kind of environment. There was a kind of passion for hair shirts from hon. Members opposite today, a passion which I do not share. It is perfectly true that one can do nothing of high excellence without a great deal of effort and a great deal of concentration, but I do not see why one should be physically uncomfortable in its doing. Therefore, it is true to say that the physical environment of many of our traditional night schools is becoming out of date. I have here, for instance, the Adult Education Journal for March this year. I am interested to see that it meets my attitude exactly. It states, in discussing, not a university of the air, but the traditional provision of extra-mural training in night school: Public libraries possess several potential advantages that could be further exploited—the quiet atmosphere of serious enquiry and the large regular clientele (something like thirty per cent. of the adult population compared to the less than one per cent. who enrol in W.E.A. Extra-Mural classes in any year), who are already exercising some discrimination in purpose and subject. Libraries have staff who, by training, will be predisposed to encourage reflective and academic study and can, of course, provide books and other sources of intellectual stimulus. Future building policy for public libraries might well include one or two rooms, suitably equipped for adult class work, although also usable for other community activities. I read this at length because the perfectly proper point was made that in the average home there is only one television set and one sitting room. As we know, Gresham's law applies, and whether father or son is the stronger personality, one of them will see whatever "pop" programme or other programme he wants to see at a given hour. In that competition in the home it might be the more studious who would be the loser.

I do not think that Thomas Hardy is much read these days, but I know that "Jude the Obscure" was one of the formative books for me when I was a young student—the struggle for self-education, the struggle in circumstances where poverty, ill health and everything else lead to the final tragic defeat. So that when we are thinking of a university of the air, in common sense and common courtesy, we must consider the receiving end.

If we are to mount a really eélite corps of lecturers—and nothing less than that has any relevance—and if we want a university of the air ending with a definite qualification which I should like to be nothing less than the external degree of London University—I am not saying that it should be that degree, but that is the sort of level at which we should aim—one of the preliminary things that we must do is to find out where people would be able to study in peace and quietness. Some might have a television set in their own homes and quietness, yet prefer the stimulus of going to a local library, a local civic hall, a local school —some of the modern schools can provide comfortable accommodation—with a silence room and chairs where they could view the lecturers and where the people gathered there would be a natural tutorial group meeting for that purpose.

I hope that we will encourage officially every one of our local education authorities and everyone interested in this project to look round and improvise according to local circumstances for the best and most convenient place for a community listening post, apart from the sets which people have in their own homes.

I come to timing. Just as I am not terribly in favour of hair shirts—in fact, I am not in favour of them at all if they can be dodged—I am not enamoured of the idea of dawn patrols and midnight parades. It is astonishing how we can talk of learning in uncomfortable circumstances for other people, especially those of us who have had extremely comfortable university careers. Therefore, if we are talking in terms of a community listening post, at what hours of the day would it be possible for people to listen?

This at once brings up the problem that if we want to mount, say, an arts degree or a science degree, or both, we must have peak listening hours and a considerable amount of time at the weekends. I therefore wholeheartedly support the Prime Minister's project and intention that, whether it is the fourth channel or some other channel, we must be able to decide the hours of listening on educational grounds and not simply take what is left over for other purposes. That does not preclude a preliminary canter in which we look at the unused time on the I.T.V. channel and the B.B.C. channel.

I have been looking into this matter. The estimates vary according to the hours one takes. But it is quite clear that between the two channels there are at least 52 listening hours which would come from between 9.0 a.m. and 5.0 p.m. On one channel it might be 9 to 11, on another 11 to 12, sometimes 12 to 2, and on yet another 2.30 to 5. If we go from 7 o'clock in the morning we could make our own calculation of the additional hours. We must consider very seriously the unused hours on the existing channels.

I believe strongly that in education the leadership should come from the teachers and that, while we do not discourage the work done in this field by I.T.V. in co-operation with the univer- sities and the schools, the time has come for the initiative to be taken by the Department of Education and Science or by the universities—essentially from the teaching end. This partly answers the point that the teachers should be brought into this matter. I am talking not about closed-circuit television teaching but on another level. In addition, I think that we are all agreed that there is a need to provide people with the opportunity of becoming university graduates without their necessarily attending residential universities.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

My hon. Friend has spoken of a preliminary canter in advance of a major decision. I wonder whether there is the possibility of a local broadcasting station being set up which would be able to experiment in a degree course. I can say that there are a number of very enthusiastic people in the University of Manchester. Is it possible to institute a pilot scheme so that they might be allowed to proceed in the way that they would like?

Miss Lee

I was coming to that point. It is interesting that Manchester wants to broaden out on closed-circuit television. The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) has put in a word for Queen's in this matter, and we have had a plea made on behalf of Strathclyde. It is clear that there is a feeling in the university centres that they should not be doing only closed-circuit television, but that they should be getting through to individual homes. I was coming to that point, because it justifies my saying that we are beginning to narrow the field of difference between us.

Mr. Chataway

The hon. Lady is taking this idea of a nationally organised university of the air a good deal more seriously than I expected. Has she discussed this with the University Grants Committee? If this is a serious proposal, I should have thought that that was the first body to consult.

Miss Lee

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not be too alarmed when I say that I am doing a number of feasibility tests on the hours available, the cost, and the whole technical structure. Nothing like this would be put before the university authorities until we had first considered the feasibility tests. We have these pleas from Manchester, Belfast, Hull and Strathclyde. What they are all trying to say is that they are excited about closed-circuit television but that it is not enough because it leaves many parts of the country untouched.

We cannot get through to all kinds of people in circumstances when they are not attending university classes. The drill as I see it, therefore, is that we should look carefully at the unused time in the existing channels. What can we do with that unused time? Should we use it for some more general liberal programmes of refreshment, or ought we to try to tie it to high-level lectures of an undergraduate nature? I am not giving the answer to any of these questions today; I am not presuming to do so. I am making it clear that serious work is taking place on these matters.

I am working in the closest co-operation with my colleagues the Postmaster-General and the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart). We are looking into all the possibilities of whether we can have an expansion of television education by using unused time and who should run it. We think that it should be run essentially by teachers from the educational end, with co-operation and taking the advice and help of the valuable work that is done by I.T.V. and the B.B.C. We are looking into all this to see what sort of courses could be mounted in the time that is available and what the cost would be.

It will, however, be agreed that the more we examine what is possible in the present set-up, the more obvious it becomes that ultimately, if we are to have a degree course on television, we must control peak listening time. We would not necessarily want the whole of a channel—I have no inhibition about earning a bit of money. The whole subject of educational television must be looked at to see whether we are getting the right relationship with the work which is done in the junior schools, the secondary schools and the rest.

We must see what hours we need for the kind of projects that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister indicated, whether there is something left over to sell, if we want to sell it, and in what manner we go about it. It is only fair to the House, which is interested in this matter, not to leave it in any doubt about the seriousness of the work and the thought that are going on in this direction.

One more thing that I should like to make clear is that anyone who talks in terms of a university of the air is really seeking to add a new dimension to the traditional adult education courses. We cannot do it unless people have their books, and I agree with what was said about going through with the project. This is only one of a number of ideas that are being tried out. Certainly, a small fee would be paid for the tutorial books, the paperbacks. There would have to be gathering grounds for the local tutorials and the correction of papers. There would have to be, above all, a vice-chancellor of impeccable standing. I am not interested in having the next best thing, a poor man's university of the air, which is the sort of thing that one gets if nothing else is within reach. We should set our sights higher than that.

We have started later in the race than other nations. We are falling behind much that is being done in America and behind some of the work of Russia and Japan, but I see no reason why this country should not regain leadership. We need it. There are professional people who need the refreshment of following a course of this type. We could have an élite corps of lecturers who would have to be of the new age in the sense that they would be expert in their subjects, but, at the same time, they would have to have the special expertise that the hon. Member for Lewisham, North got before he came into this House, of knowing how to broadcast. All those things have to be considered.

I do not like the amount of cynicism and of defeatism that I find in some quarters in dealing with this project. I ask some hon. Members to think again. Are not their sights set a little too low? I am not saying that the Government can afford to set overambitious schemes in action at once, but I believe in open diplomacy; I believe that at this moment, when a great deal of thought is being given to how best we can use those wonderful new techniques, the House of Commons should have more discussions of this kind.

It should be remembered that every time we think of future developments, we find that there are new technological advances that are outstripping our plans. For example, it will be only a matter of weeks before we have a new machine available, which is not coloured television—I cannot explain the technicalities very well—but the essence of which is that a film is shown on what looks like an ordinary television screen. It can be either plain or in colour. We have practically reached the point when the film can be stopped or reversed at any moment. The Japanese have done a lot of work on this, but not on the same level as ourselves. We in this country have a habit of producing brilliant inventions and having them exploited elsewhere.

I am, however, speaking only tentatively today. We are doing only the first feasibility schemes. We are looking carefully at the genuine needs of people of every kind, those who want a second chance, those who have never had a first chance and those who want to change their courses or their jobs. There are many people. The great majority would be those who would not want to go right through to final examination but would enjoy the certainty of knowing that they were listening to a status course and not something that was second best.

It is in that spirit that we are working on the subject. I therefore thank hon. Members opposite for the help and support which they have given in the work which we are doing in encouraging closed-circuit television and the use of television in the schools. I hope that before too long we can persuade them to be just a little more courageous in considering this exciting and important project of a university of the air. It is expensive, I agree, but perhaps the question which we will soon be asking ourselves is not whether we can afford to have it, but whether we can afford not to have it.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House, being acutely aware of the need for furthering education and of the need to give the fullest possible assistance to the teacher in the classroom and bearing in mind that an educational television and radio service would assist in mitigating the continuing teacher shortage, calls on Her Majesty's Gov- ernment to encourage the establishment of a University of the Air in television and sound radio and, in the field of formal education of both children and adults, to sponsor a suitable television and radio service.

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