HL Deb 11 November 1918 vol 31 cc1157-64

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this Bill is based on the Report of the Departmental Committee which was issued in 1912. The war followed before anything could be done in the way of improving the superannuation of school teachers, until interest in the subject was revived by the passage through Parliament of the Education Bill presented by Mr. Fisher. That was a very large and comprehensive scheme of progress for scholars. This Bill is the correlative Act to help and encourage the teachers who have to deal with the new scheme of education. I find that everybody seems to acknowledge that this Bill is necessary. I am informed, by excellent authorities, that the recruiting for the teaching profession is poor; indeed, that there is a tendency for it to become even more so. The fact is that salaries are modest and not sufficient to attract as good a class of recruit as the importance of national education demands. Although this Bill does not affect the question of salaries, it raises the level of pensions to a very much more satisfactory standard. The salary remains relatively meagre, but the pension becomes relatively favorable.

This proposal applies to all qualified teachers in State schools of all kinds below University rank, whether the teachers are certified or not, whether they are teachers in special subjects or in elementary or secondary or technical schools, or whether they are engaged in teaching centres, in training colleges, or aided schools which are neither Universities nor departments of Universities under University colleges. The scheme, therefore, is widely drawn. As to the scheme itself, these pensions are noncontributory. They are based to a large extent upon the lines laid down in the Civil Service pensions, and sixty is the basic year, subject, as your Lordships will see, to variations in one direction or another, for the application of pensions. The cost will amount to something between two and two and-a-half millions sterling annually. After very careful consideration, the Board of Education has decided that this scheme of non-contributory pensions must involve the termination of local schemes. It has been found impracticable that local and central schemes should run on parallel lines within the same district, and I gather that no serious objections is taken, either by local education authorities or by the teachers concerned, to the abolition of these local schemes of superannuation, owing to the fact that this new scheme, in super- seding the old ones, takes and carries itself all their old responsibility.

One advantage of doing away with local schemes is that it adds, and must add, to the mobility of the teaching profession. The local pension scheme naturally tends to localise or stabilise the school teacher, which is manifestly undesirable, for in no profession, I suppose, is a change of scene and environment more desirable than amongst teachers. Local schemes, therefore, will be wound up, and no fresh scheme of a local character will be permitted, unless with the consent of the Board of Education. This is a Bill which will raise the status and improve the efficiency of the teaching profession. I commend it to Your Lordships' hearty approval.


My Lords, the noble Earl has not exaggerated when he speaks of this Bill as one of very wide and far-reaching importance. It is one for which I am quite sure the teaching profession will be grateful to Mr. Fisher and the others who have planned it. The Bill is the natural sequence of Mr. Fisher's Education Bill. The importance which attaches to the status of the teacher in both elementary and secondary schools has not been perhaps adequately emphasised before, and this Bill will not merely recognise what that status is, but it will, I am sure, tend to the raising of the qualifications of those who enter the profession, because they will, for the first time, find themselves in a more assured position with regard to pensions after good service done, those pensions having the great advantage of resting on what is described as the non-contributory basis. The fact of good work well done under proper inspection, in whatever kind of school, will, speaking generally, entitle the teacher to a pension. This involves an expenditure of a very considerable sum—some two and a-half millions annually—and that is perhaps rather more generous than had been by many people expected.

I am quite certain that as regards this matter, just as happened in regard to other matters in the Education Bill a few months ago, the generous policy is the wise policy. We shall obtain the right teachers—better teachers—and that will produce the better education of the children, and altogether the profession and its work will be improved in every respect by such provisions as this Bill contains. It is generous not only in the amount given, but I venture to say, too, in the range of those to whom it applies, but not more generous than is just. It is justly generous in the range of those to whom it is made applicable. The elementary teachers of this country had undoubtedly some of them, unhappily, an undue apprehension that there might be some difference made between the status for pension purposes of those who had worked in what are known as elementary schools and those who had worked in county council schools under the local education authority. No such distinction appears in the Bill—rightly I am quite certain. The qualification of the teacher to receive pension is based upon the good work which he or she has done in a school properly inspected, and proved to be adequate in its arrangements of all kinds, and to produce adequate results. Those conditions fulfilled the pension will come to the elementary teacher in the natural course.

With regard to the secondary teachers there is a little more difficulty. Undoubtedly there are a certain number of teachers in our secondary schools upon whom the arrangements of the Bill as it stands will, or at all events may, press hardly. I say "will or at all events may." It is not quite certain that they must do so; the matter depends in part upon the regulations which are by the later clauses of the Bill prescribed as regulations which will be laid down in the Education Office as to the condition of a school which is to receive a Government grant, and, therefore, to enable the teachers to become qualified teachers and to receive the pension. That point may possibly be raised in the Committee stage. It does raise a problem with regard to a certain number of teachers, but speaking generally I believe that the scheme is conceived upon the right lines, that its generosity is a wise generosity, that its results will be exactly what they are meant to be, and that it will induce the better type of man and woman to adopt a profession which is certainly not overpaid but will be better paid now, and, by reason of the pension, will give an assured security to those who enter upon it. I most cordially and gratefully welcome the Second Reading of a Bill which I believe is calculated to supplement most usefully the work already done by the Education Bill passed this session.


My Lords, I would like to echo what the most rev. Primate has just said in welcoming this Bill, which is, as he has most properly put it, a necessary sequel to the great Education Act which was passed earlier this year. It is abundantly necessary, in pursuance of the policy of that Act, to raise the status of the teacher. It partly is, perhaps, that the teacher was always rather underpaid, and partly because the standard of living and of comfort has gone up, and the proper remuneration for the kind of talents that you require in a teacher is much higher than it used to be. That is not the only difficulty. In consequence of the recent Education Act the number of teachers we shall require in our schools is enormously increased. It is increased partly because the size of classes is much smaller, and partly because, the age having been raised and a large measure of continuation schools having been established, you will require a very much larger number of teachers. Consequently you must give a greater reward in order to attract them into the profession. But I would not put it merely upon the rather sordid basis of attracting them into the profession. I would say that they are entitled, if you take into account the talents of a high order that they require, to a higher class of payment, and I am very glad that it is provided for.

We are entering upon a new era in education matters. Education is to be far more important than it used to be. It is a demand—a very legitimate demand—by the working classes of this country which Parliament has seen fit to meet, which it will have to go through with to the end. But, as I ventured to say once before in your Lordships' House—perhaps your Lordships will allow me to repeat it—there is one great risk attaching to this extension of education, and it is lest you should try and control the free play of diversity of opinion and conviction and training amongst the children of the people. That is a very great danger. We do not want uniformity of any kind so long as a certain standard of education is reached. The more diversity in the teaching the better, and therefore we ought to watch very closely the working of this education system to see, however well equipped it is with teachers, and, however well those teachers may be paid, that every effort is made to maintain that diversity of instruction in order that children should acquire and should not be deprived of the views of their parents in the course of their education. That, of course, affects those great denominational issues which have so often been a matter of discussion in Parliament during the passage of Education Bills.

I am glad to say that this particular Bill shows a very great tenderness for the denominational difficulties. There is in general, in respect of grant-aided schools, no discrimination made whatever between denominational schools and county schools, between non-provided schools and provided schools, but, as the most rev. Primate has said, there is not that completeness of assurance in respect of non-grant aided schools. By an Amendment in another place the teachers of those schools were brought within the operation of the Bill, but there was no such provision inserted in another place as to make it quite certain that there would be no discrimination on the grounds of religious belief between one kind of teacher and another. As the Bill stands now, that is subject to regulation, and it is quite possible that when we reach the Committee stage of the Bill some effort will be made to ask your Lordships to consider whether a Motion may not made in that respect, and if so, I think that your Lordships will consider it. But broadly, taking the Bill as a whole, it is a measure which we must all. I think, congratulate the Government on having introduced, notwithstanding the additionally heavy burden which it will put upon the taxpayers' pocket.


My Lords, I deem it incumbent to say a few words in welcoming the provisions of this Bill, for I am one of the few members of your Lordships' House who can speak as an old schoolmaster, and as one who has seen with his own eyes the problem which this Bill sets out to face, and has himself, in old years, spent a considerable amount of time and thought in doing on a very small scale the kind of pension work that the Government is doing on a national scale. I may say that I have noticed that nothing tends more to spoil the work of a schoolmaster—and I am sure the same must be true of the schoolmistress—than the thought that old age is coining on, and that adequate provision is not available for meeting needs. Constantly I have had conversations with men who have been at their wits end to know in what direction they should turn for employment, and indeed for a livelihood, when the time came that they must surrender their happy work and look in other directions for a means of spending their time.

The schoolmaster's personality is necessarily a very sensitive thing, and anything that tends to make a schoolmaster or a schoolmistress anxious or self-contred is quite certain to react upon the success of the work they do. They are always in the presence of quick-eyed critics, who can gain good from the fresh and eager personality of a good master, but who, on the other hand, are quickly depressed by a master who for any reason has begun to lose his spring, and his interest in his work. I believe that the provisions of this Bill will relieve the anxieties of a vast number of the teachers throughout the length and breadth of our land, and by relieving their anxieties will add fresh power to their work right up to the time when necessarily they must lay down their work.

I cannot say that to my mind the large sum of money required annually for carrying out the provisions of this Bill seems at all disproportionate to the gains that are likely to result. I confess that I consider that this money is being spent not so much upon the teachers as upon the young people in their charge; and anybody who listened—as we all must have listened with eager interest—to the discussion in regard to after-war problems that took place in this House at an earlier hour this afternoon, must have been reflecting that it will rest upon the children of this generation to solve those problems of which we see only the beginning. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that these children should be reared in the best atmosphere and in the most promising surroundings; and I believe that to relieve their teachers of anxiety and to enable their teachers to carry on their work at the very best level to the very end, will be to confer a very deep service upon the children. I rejoice to know that this is one more point in which the teachers of the future will have the honourable satisfaction of knowing that they are being put into the position that we like to accord to public servants of the State; and I like to know also that their self-respect will be enhanced by the enjoyment of the better situation which the provisions of this Bill are about to confer upon them.


My Lords, I should like very briefly to support this Bill from the point of view of education in the Army—a point of view to which I ventured in a few sentences to call your Lordships' attention at the Second Reading of the Education Act. As so many noble Lords have said, this Bill stimulates an improved supply of teachers, and that is a question which not only affects the future of the Act, but also affects the present from the point of view of the Army education scheme. The time is now and the need is now, and we therefore welcome this successor to the Education Act. As your Lordships are probably aware, there is now in the Army a very large educational scheme extending to the troops in Great Britain, in France, in Italy, and in Ireland; and from the day when fighting stops—that is, from to-day—begins the time of greatest activity in educational resettlement and educational training in the Army, until such time as the troops are reabsorbed into civil life. There is, therefore, an enormous interest in, and demand for, education; and we, the same as the Board, have need of a very large body of teachers who must be to a very great extent willing volunteers; consequently, we are unearthing some new teaching talent, and at any rate increasing interest in the Army in the teaching profession. It may be that this interest which we are creating may be of service in the future to the causes of education in this country. At least, there is a new ground for recruits for the teaching profession who will have had a certain amount of experience which may be valuable for work in the continuation schools; and since our need is very great for a large number of teachers, I welcome cordially any measure which is designed to improve the conditions of the teaching profession.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Wednesday next.

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