HL Deb 05 December 1912 vol 13 cc69-78

*THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH rose to move, "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying him to with hold his assent to the scheme in the matter of the Glamorgan Intermediate and Technical Education Fund in the County of Glamorgan."

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I want to draw the attention of the House for a moment to a secondary education scheme of the county of Glamorgan which is lying upon the Table of both Rouses. It might be thought that schemes of this sort are really of local interest and importance and ought to be settled and decided on locally. To a great extent t think that is true, but it has been provided that, as a precaution against any injustice being done by local authorities, schemes of this kind should lie on the Table of each House and that Parliament should have an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon them. I have therefore put down this Motion that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying him to withhold his assent to this particular scheme. In allocating the money for secondary schools in the county of Glamorgan, according to the information and figures that I have, the county education sub-committee have not acted impartially in the matter. Penarth school is the one that I am particularly interested in. The facts concerning it are within my own knowledge, but I believe that objection also has been taken to the scheme by the governors of another school, the Gelligaer school, which apparently has been also hardly treated. But I will not go into that, because it is the case of the Penarth school to which I wish to draw the attention of the House.

Let me make it clear that the governors of the Penarth school have from the very moment that it was made public opposed this scheme because they thought they were not fairly treated. They opposed it when it first came to light, and they have opposed it ever since. They opposed it before the county council and also before the Board of Education, but they have not succeeded in getting what they consider fair treatment, and therefore in the last resort they asked that their case should be brought before your Lordships' House. Penarth school in this new scheme loses a sum of £900 per annum in comparison to what it has been receiving under the present scheme. Under the present scheme, which I will call the old scheme, after the allocation of the money received by the half-penny rate in the county, by the. Treasury grant, and by what is called the "whisky money," which was devoted to secondary education, there was a surplus of something between £5,000 and £6,000 a year, and that was divided amongst the secondary schools. The Penarth school got its share, which amounted to £460. Now mulct this new scheme the whole of that surplus of between £5,000 and £6,000 a year is absorbed in the fixed grant. The Penarth school received under the old scheme £1,000 a veal. as a fixed grant, and it will receive under the new scheme exactly the same amount as fixed grant, but the whole of the surplus to which I have referred having been absorbed in the money which is distributed as a fixed grant they lose the £460 a year. They also lose the Board of Education grant of £440 a year, which makes up the £900. But I should like to say at once that it is not of the latter loss that they complain. The whole of the money earned and which, is paid by the Board of Education is pooled, I am informed, and the sum of money that the Penarth school was receiving was more than, it quite agrees, it was entitled to receive from that, grant. Therefore I put that £440 which they lose on one side, and I do not complain of it; but I do complain of their position now in losing their share of the old surplus and of receiving under this new scheme not a penny more as fixed grant than they received under the old scheme. I confess that to me it is very difficult to make out on what principle the allocation is made.

I have a table here to which I should like to refer, showing that there are 252 pupils now in the Penarth school, excluding pupil teachers and district scholarship pupils, and they may not have so many of these as some other secondary schools have. There are 252 pupils, and the Penarth school receives £1,000 a year fixed grant. Barry has 281 pupils, but receives £1,550 fixed grant; Bridgend has 195 pupils, and receives £1,250 fixed grant; Port Talbot has 189 pupils, and receives £1,250; Neath, with 261 pupils—that is only nine pupils more than the Penarth school—receives £1,600 as fixed grant; Porth, with 292 pupils, receives £2,000 a year in fixed grant; and Mountain Ash, with 161 pupils—that is, 91 less than Penarth—is going to receive £1,200 fixed grant. I do not know what the explanation may be, but it seems to me very difficult to show that Penarth school is being fairly treated under this new scheme. There is another point to which I must draw attention because it is significant. There is no representative of the Penarth district on the county secondary education sub-committee. I am not here to say that it is possible that every district should be represented on this sub-committee, but, considering that there is no representative of Penarth district upon it, it does seem to me rather strange that Neath has four representatives on the sub-committee, Porth four, Mountain Ash three, and Barry two. I do not wish to bring any accusation of favouritism against the sub-committee—I mean conscious favouritism—but I do think that special precautions ought to be taken by a sub-committee composed like this one seems to be to avoid any semblance of favouritism by treating the school districts which are unrepresented at least as fairly as, if not more generously than, the others that are represented.

When I come to the figures of the excess grant given under this new scheme to these districts I find that Porth, with four representatives on the sub-committee, has an excess grant of £925; Mountain Ash, an excess grant. of £630:; Barry, of £560; and Neath of £535; whilst the Penarth school district, and I believe Gelligaer, are the only two districts which do not get any gain in fixed grant by this new scheme. I think it should be mentioned that there is a population in the Penarth district of something over 58,000, and there are certain parishes which Penarth has claimed should be included in its district and which are nearer, both in mileage and in railway facilities, to Penarth than to the district to which they are attached; and the governors of Penarth school think that the population in their district ought, if they had been fairly treated, to have been larger than it is. Penarth, as I say, now has a population of 58,000 and a rateable value of £431,000. It seems to me on these figures that it is very difficult to make out that Penarth has had the consideration which it ought to have had. As I have said, I think every precaution ought to be taken, Penarth not being represented on this sub-committee, not to let those interested in the Penarth secondary school imagine, as they certainly do now, that they have been somewhat left out in the cold and are to suffer in this new allocation while other schools are getting an increased fixed grant.

This is a very serious matter for Penarth, because they are working naturally on the income that they have now got. They have nothing to spare, and if that income is cut down seriously, as it will be under this scheme, it naturally will be difficult for the governors to carry on the school as it has been hitherto carried on. I am waiting to hear whether there are sufficient reasons that can be given for this treatment of Penarth. It certainly seems to me from the figures that I possess that it would be very difficult to show that Penarth is treated in so favourable a way as most of the other secondary schools in the county. I do not know myself on what principle this allocation is made; but on population basis, certainly on rateable value basis, Penarth ought to receive at least. £1,400 or £1,500 as their share of the fixed grant; and they claim that their case is so strong that they are justified in requesting me. as being personally much interested in Penarth and its school, to move the Motion that I have placed on the Paper.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty praying him to withhold his assent to the Scheme in the matter of the Glamorgan Intermediate and Technical Education Fund in the County of Glamorgan.—(The Earl of Plymouth.)


My Lords, I hope that the supposed grievances of the two schools referred to by the noble Earl will not induce your Lordships to upset and wreck a scheme which has been in course of careful preparation for the last six years. As your Lordships know, the Welsh scheme has now been fifteen years or thereabouts in existence, and up to the present time has been working, by general consent, extremely well; but it was found that the changes in population, the population remaining naturally stationary in some districts and increasing very rapidly in others, necessitated a fresh scheme. The noble Earl has given the committee who have elaborated this scheme credit for impartiality as far as their lights went. I think I may ask the House to believe that that impartiality has been thoroughly carried out in every case. The question of the grievance of Penarth in particular strikes me as being rather an unreasonable one. I have not been able to verify the noble Earl's figures, because they are so extremely different from the figures which have been supplied to me by the clerk to the county council and by the chairman of the education sub-committee. In going through the grants to the different schools the noble Earl gave the total amounts of the grants under the new scheme, but he omitted to give the amounts of the grants under the old scheme. I should like to allude to the case, for instance, of Porth. Porth under the new scheme receives £2,025, and this is looked upon as a sort of grievance because Penarth would receive only about half; but the point is that Porth under the old scheme was receiving £3,459, and therefore actually loses over £1,400 under this new scheme, this £1,400 going to the four new schools which the great increase in population has rendered necessary.

We on the county council think that not only has Penarth not got a grievance but that Penarth is the most favoured school in the whole district, except, perhaps, from the point of view of not being represented on the education committee. In the initial stage the ground for the Penarth school was given by the noble Earl himself, but the county expended £11,750 on the building of the school. After a time the school found that they were not earning all the amount that was possible by grants, and they applied for an extension of the laboratory. Four years ago the county council built them a laboratory at a cost of £4,500. Since that time, while I might almost say nearly every other school of the twelve intermediate education schools in Glamorganshire has been earning the full grant, Penarth has been the one school which has been unable to earn the full grant, and we take it that the reason is that it has not kept up to its numbers, the pupils in this school paying higher fees than in any of the other twelve schools in Glamorganshire. The noble Earl said just now that the Penarth school had actually nothing to spare. I know what the other schools are doing, and I do not believe that any school has a balance—certain lucky schools may have £100; but. I see that the surplus to the credit of the Penarth school is about £3,000. I think it is extremely possible that the Board of Education might come down and say, "You have no business to have a. suns of this kind in hand unexpended, and if it is not for the purpose of repairs and renewals you must hand that sum back to us." Therefore it seems odd to say that a school has nothing to spare when it has £3,000 in the bank.

In addition to the other advantages possessed by Penarth school it has in its neighbourhood the school of Howell's Charity, to which between sixty and seventy of its girls can go, and it also Las a right to send any of its children to compete with Cardiff scholars in the Cardiff intermediate school. I cannot see that there is any grievance on the part of Penarth. In the case of Gelligaer, again, there is a charity from which they receive a grant. The school is on the borders of Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire. The charity applies to both counties, and consequently the children from two towns in Monmouthshire have to be taken in at this school. It is a grievance of the county council that children for whom the county of Monmouthshire get the Government grant, practically two grants, are educated in Glamorganshire, and they receive nothing from Monmouthshire except two or three 'scholarships and exhibitions. I cannot deal with all the figures. As I say, I have received the figures from the county council and they differ so largely from the noble Earl's figures that. I can only tell your. Lordships the difference between his figures and mine. Nine out of the twelve schools receive an increase under the new scheme and three a decrease—namely, Bridgend, a decrease of £900; Pontypridd, a decrease of about £500; and, as I have said, Perth a decrease of £1,400. Gelligaer actually gets an increase. I cannot understand under these circumstances where the figures have been found which show that this school is going to lose. I must again ask your Lordships not to wreck a scheme to which so much thought, care, and the result of vast experience have been brought for the sake of a grievance which we on the county council do not believe to exist.


My Lords, it is a refreshing novelty to those who have taken part in debates of this kind before that we should not have heard in the course of this discussion that there is any element of religious strife in the controversy. Generally speaking, the opposition to any scheme which is brought forward very largely comes from the Episcopal Benches. I am glad to think that on this occasion it is purely a question of administration, due in the first place and chiefly to an increase of population in the particular districts affected.

The scheme which will be amended by the scheme now on the Table was originally drawn up in 1896. It is not unnatural that some amendment should now be thought desirable. It was the first scheme which was drawn up for this neighbourhood, and experience has shown the need for considerable change. Under the present scheme each school district receives, out of the income of the general fund, first of all a fixed annual sum calculated on the minimum numbers for whom accommodation had to be provided under the scheme, and, in the second place, a share of the residue proportionate to the population of the school district; while the Board's secondary school grants are by the scheme pooled and distributed among the schools in proportion to the minimum accommodation. Under the new scheme each school district will receive, in the first place, a fixed annual sum calculated on population but modified where necessary. For instance, in some cases there is a secondary school outside the school district, but where that exists inside the district it is not necessary to give them the same amount of money as if that school did not exist. Therefore in calculating the amount the existence of that school is taken into consideration. The share of the residue is proportioned to the number of day scholars, whilst the Board's grant is to go to the schools in proportion to what they earn. The difference, shortly stated, is that under the present scheme the fixed grants are so calculated as to leave a large sum to go to residue, but under the new scheme the fixed sum will be the larger one and there will be very little residue so far as one can see. Those are the principles upon which the scheme is based.

There is not, I think, any suggestion that, Penarth, qua Penarth, has been unfairly treated. It so happens that Penarth will not get so much money as it has in the past, but it has not been from any desire to pick out one particular school. It is merely because the new principles of administration happen to affect the school in which the noble Earl opposite is interested, and to which, if I am rightly informed, he has been a very generous donor. Penarth will get £1,000 as a fixed grant in the future, so that there will be no loss in education grant; but, there will be, as the noble Earl stated, a loss, in the first place, in the residue grant—of £460 according to the governors, though the Board of Education prefer to put it at £400; and, in the second place, in the secondary school grants, of which, however, the noble Earl did not complain. Therefore the real point at issue is the loss in the residue grants by the Penarth school of about £100 a. year. The point is this, that in this county and I think in most counties the amount of money available is not nearly sufficient for the needs of most of the districts, and the proper course is to apportion the funds as far as they will go amongst the schools on some well-known equitable basis, and, in so far as these funds are inadequate, for the local education committee to afford additional assistance under Part II of the Act of 1902. Your Lordships know that there are three bases which might be used for apportioning this money—either on population, on rateable value, or on average attendance. The joint education committee on the whole have come to the decision that the basis of the apportionment should he that of population, though they modify it in those cases where a secondary school is already in the district.


I hope the noble Earl will pardon my interrupting him, but I do so in order to make a correction. I misread the figures that were given to me and stated that Penarth district had a population of 58,000. I was wrong. The figure is 38,000.


The point really at issue between us is one of principle, as to whether population is the correct basis or not On a population basis Penarth would only be entitled to a fixed grant of £855, and that would have been reduced to £800 because of the existence of one of these secondary schools to which I have referred, but they are going to receive a fixed grant, of £1,000. That, I think, is common ground between us. In spite of that, the fact remains that they will no doubt lose an amount of £400; but I think it is important that we should lay stress on the fact, referred to by the noble Lord on the Cross Benches, that the Penarth governors have been so fortunate as to get together a considerable balance at the bank in spite of the fact that they pay somewhat higher salaries than are generally paid in the district. If in the scheme as it exists any body of governors have been able to get together a considerable balance at their bank and there is great need for that money by other school authorities doing just as good work, does it not seem prima facie desirable that the scheme should be revised in such a way as to make that money available for other districts as well as for Penarth? There is only a fixed sum available, and this basis of population is believed by the joint education committee, by the county council, and also by the Board of Education not to be an unfair basis. I would venture to say that any other scheme would be open to objections from other schools which would got a reduced amount. That, I think, is quite obvious.

There is urgent need that this scheme should go through now. It has been under discussion for something like eighteen months. There are a number of schools waiting to be opened at the present. tune—I think a site for a new school has been generously given by the noble Lord on the Cross Benches—and waiting for this scheme, and in these circumstances I venture to think that your Lordships will feel that this is one of the cases in which we ought to trust the local authority. Power was given to the local authorities that they should be able to deal with matters of this kind, upon which I venture to say it is very difficult for your Lordships in the course of a debate like this to come to any very definite conclusion. We are really bound to trust the local authority, and in view of the attitude which they have taken up in this scheme I venture to hope that your Lordships will not agree to the Address for which the noble Earl has moved.


My Lords, if I venture to intrude in this discussion it is only because I have had some experience of these Motions, and I do not remember ever to have heard one which was based upon an examination of details which your Lordships have no opportunity of determining one way or the other. My impression is that it has always been on some question of principle. It has been supposed that some injustice has been done or something contrary to the rights of some part of the community, but that your Lordships could vote to-night upon this matter without some examination of the facts is, I think, almost impossible to suppose. Anything that my noble friend who brought forward this Motion said of his own knowledge I would accept implicitly. He has been one of the most beneficent and useful persons in the county of which he is an ornament, and anything he said of his own knowledge I would, as I have said, accept implicitly. But how are your Lordships to consider the several values of the different figures that have been put before us ! I do not suppose anybody could do it. Nor do I think it would be a useful employment for your Lordships to enter into the quest ion whether Penarth or any adjoining district is more or less entitled to this or that surplus fund. I interpose partly on account of the precedent which I think an examination of this sort would create and partly because I know something of the district of Penarth and Cardiff, and I know that if this scheme were wrecked it would cause considerable disappointment on both sides of politics without reference to any religious difference whatever. In these circumstances I hope your Lordships will not assent to the Motion.


My Lords, after what my noble and learned friend has said you will be prepared to hear that I do not propose to press my Motion. But I should like, on the question of fact, to refer to what Lord Aberdare said about the £3,000 which Penarth has somewhere locked up in its coffers. I believe the fact is that the building of the science part of tire school, which cost £,500, enabled the Penarth school to earn a. larger grant, and the governors in consequence reduced the fees of the scholars and increased the salaries of the teachers, and they, I believe, put by for the two years or whatever it was the increased amount of grant which I admit they earned at that time over and above what they were entitled to. I only wish to make that observation with reference to what the noble Earl on the Front Government Bench said. I do not propose to press the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.