HL Deb 18 June 1918 vol 30 cc222-8

LORD LAMBOURNE rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether the Board of Education have prepared a measure for dealing with the superannuation of teachers in secondary schools, and whether it is the intention of the Government to carry such a measure this session.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I make no excuse to your Lordships for bringing forward this Question at the present time. I have put it on the Paper in order to give the Government an opportunity of explaining their views on the subject. Your Lordships are well aware of the extraordinary interest created in the country on the subject of the Education Bill, which is approved by most people and by the House of Commons. I wish to take this opportunity of pointing out to your Lordships that in one matter education is certainly like trade. In trade capital and labour must go hand in hand, for if they do not disaster ensues. In similar fashion, teachers and pupils must act together or disaster will follow. It is of no use to bring forward an Education Bill, however good it may be, unless you are also able to provide at the same time an adequate supply of teachers thoroughly competent to carry out the requirements of the education which it is intended to give.

As far as I understand this question of a superannuation scheme for teachers, it stands at present in this way. In the spring of 1917 there was a scheme for secondary and technical teachers, which was shaped on the lines of one that already existed for teachers in grant-earning Universities. For some reason or other these proposals were never brought before the House and never really matured. But now there is an idea prevalent among the teaching profession, and among many others, that the Department has prepared a new set of proposals, more comprehensive and more favourable to the teachers than the former one, and that they are anxious to pass them through Parliament as nearly as possible along with the Education Bill. For that, of course, there is an excellent reason. To use a phrase very much employed at the present time, the "atmosphere" for education is extremely favourable. Mr. Fisher, the President of the Board of Education, in the course of an interview with a representative of one of the newspapers about a fortnight ago, spoke of an improvement in the pension system as promised, and he gave this promise as an example of the efforts that the Department was making in order to meet the difficulty of obtaining an adequate supply of competent teachers. By this I understand that the President clearly promises that there should be a very strong inducement to the right class of men and women to enter the teaching profession. In that I think he is undoubtedly right, and I am sure your Lordships will agree with him.

At present—it is hardly credible—there is no general scheme at all except for elementary teachers and for certain University teachers; for secondary and technical teachers there is no provision. There is, it is true, a small number of isolated schemes instituted by local authorities and governing bodies, but there is no superannuation scheme applied to the country as a whole. Apart from the question of the inducement affecting the future supply of teachers, a good superannuation scheme, as we can easily understand, makes for efficiency, because it is possible under it to procure the retirement of teachers at a reasonable ago without putting them to positive hardship, which really in some cases, more especially at the present time, amounts to starvation, because they find they cannot retire without any possible means of subsistence. Moreover, a national scheme of superannuation will help the organisation of education by making it possible for teachers to move from one school to another without loss of their prospects.

The teaching profession, I believe, understand—or perhaps "hope" would be the better term—that the Board now intend to propose an excellent scheme, which will do more than any other conceivable measure to encourage the recruitment that is so anxiously desired for the teaching profession; and they are, I believe, very anxious indeed that these proposals should be brought before Parliament in the closest possible connection with the Education Bill. As people are ready and anxious to accept the proposals of the Education Bill it is therefore necessary—and it is the best chance that the secondary teachers can have—that the proposals for their superannuation should be brought forward at the present time.

I have put this Question on the Paper in the hope that the Government may see fit to outline their proposals before your Lordships. This would do a great deal to relieve the anxiety which is very prevalent among the teaching profession—a profession that has suffered very much from neglect in the past. Only this morning I took up my daily newspaper and found that a headmaster with an unbroken record of forty-five years has to retire at the age of sixty-five, and a grateful country has rewarded him for his work with a pension of £44 a year. That is the case of an elementary teacher, but at the same time it shows the line that has been taken with these unfortunate men in the past. I trust that His Majesty's Government may be able to assure the profession that they will not, be treated with that neglect in the future.


My Lords, I think it is an excellent thing that the noble Lord should have brought up this subject. It is a question, as he said, of far-reaching importance. No progress will be made with the reform of the system of education in this country unless a very great addition is secured to the body of teachers. There has been a great deal of grumbling lately, because Mr. Fisher has put off the coming into operation of the continuation school part of his scheme. I do not share the current apprehensions on the subject, because I am quite certain that if he brought this part of the scheme into force immediately it would be a dead letter for want of teachers. What we need above everything else is to induce people to join the teaching profession, and they will not do so until you treat them decently. There is no class worse remunerated for valuable labour than teachers. The profession requires to be put upon quite a different footing, and until it is put on quite a different footing it is hopeless to expect that there can be any real progress with the reform of teaching.

What the noble Lord asks for is certainly not anything very extravagant. He spoke of the Universities in this connection, and he used a phrase which, I own, makes me rather shudder, because it is new—but it is true. He spoke of the grant-earning Universities. What he meant was that under the operation of the Treasury Committee grants are being given for efficiency to the Universities who choose to come, forward and ask for them. Hitherto the old Universities have kept rather clear of grants, possibly for considerations of sentiment, and for fear of the State getting something like a control. But the new Universities have come in and very substantial grants have been made. Of these grants something has been reserved, and I think it is a very important reservation, for the purpose of doing the very thing which is the subject of the noble Lord's Question—providing a superannuation fund. That can be done very economically and cheaply. It is done in the case of the Universities in conjunction with private insurance companies of approved standing. In the case of elementary teachers, there is a regular State system. But in the case of secondary teachers it seems to me you might adopt either one or the other. The University system is quite good.

But the noble Lord is not laying stress on the question of whether the matter is to assume the shape given to it in connection with Universities or the shape given to it in connection with elementary teachers. What he wants is that a scheme for deaing with the superannuation of teachers in secondary schools should be prepared and introduced. I think there is a very great deal in that. There are few things in connection with their remuneration that the teachers lay more stress upon than provision for old age, and it is one of the cheapest things to do in the whole matter of reforming remuneration. I hope very much that the effect of the appeal made by the noble Lord will be to bring us an intimation from the Government that they really have under contemplation the introduction of something of this kind in connection with their scheme of education reform.


My Lords, after the speeches which have been made by my noble friends it is not necessary for me to say much, but I have been so much impressed with the urgency of this matter that I rise to express the hope that the noble Earl who is going to reply will be able to give a favourable answer. There can be no doubt that this Question is one of urgency and importance. We know that after the war it will be necessary to keep going the commercial side of education. There is at present a deficiency of teachers, and the cause of this deficiency is that a teacher sees nothing in front of him, under the present system, but starvation. As the noble Lord said just now, we are not here this afternoon to suggest what the scheme shall be. We hope that it will be a good scheme. But we want to see what the scheme of the Government is, and to impress upon the Government the urgency and importance of the matter.


My Lords, I fully sympathise with the views expressed by the three noble Lords who have spoken, and I desire to assure the House, on behalf of the Board of Education, that the hardships to which attention has been called, and the importance of the establishment of a system of superannuation allowances for teachers, are matters which are fully realised by His Majesty's Government. They have now been under consideration for some time, and a Bill has been prepared which it is hoped may be introduced in the course of this session.

The noble Lord who asked this Question said quite rightly that the success of the Education Bill now before Parliament can be very materially assisted by the passage of a Bill on this subject; and, as the noble and learned Viscount said, nothing can go so far to ensure the success of that Bill as a measure which will improve the status of the teachers—in fact, unless the status of the teachers is improved it will be impossible for the Bill to be a success. It is hoped that this Bill may be passed into law this session. It is proposed to include in the Bill a provision, not only for the improvement of the superannuation system for elementary school teachers, but also for full-time teachers in all State-aided educational institutions in England and Wales other than University institutions. The Board of Education fully appreciate the hardships suffered by many teachers in secondary and other State-aided schools owing to the absence of any uniform system of superannuation, and to the fact that many schools make no provision whatever for the superannuation of their teachers, and that a teacher who migrates from one school where superannuation is in force to a school which has no such system loses his pension rights under the scheme in force at the other school, to which scheme he has in many cases contributed. The establishment of a superannuation system applicable to all State-aided institutions in England and Wales is, in the opinion of the Board of Education, essential for placing the teaching profession on a satisfactory basis. The noble Lord will realise that the matter is one of great complexity owing to the variety of types of institution in which the teachers are employed; but I can assure him that the difficulties are being grappled with as quickly as possible.


I understand that it is seriously intended to press forward the Bill this session, and that it is practically drafted?


I understand that it is drafted, and it is hoped that it will pass into law this session.


The Government will press it?


That is certainly their wish and intention.