HL Deb 16 June 1936 vol 101 cc22-79

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I say that I approach this subject with a certain amount of diffidence as, having addressed your Lordships for the last six or seven years on nothing but the subject of pigs and cows, it has seemed a responsibility now to take charge of a Bill affecting children, but I do so with good heart because this Bill, criticised as we all know it has been, is part of a great comprehensive policy for the advance of education in this country. Of course it is only in a sense one facet of that policy. It is the only portion of that policy which requires legislation. That policy deals with the increased provision of nursery schools, increased grants to local education authorities for school buildings, various provisions leading up to the increase of special places in grant-aided secondary schools, the question of great developments in the world of physical training, the increase of University scholarships, and a great scheme amounting to something like £12,000,000 over the next few years for technical education. All these are part of the Government's educational policy, but they do not require legislation, and therefore they have gone before the local education authorities and do not appear on the Order Paper to-day among the business of your Lordships' House.

The purpose of this Bill is a simple one. It is to make provision for the raising of the school age without maintenance and with exemptions for beneficial employment. All the rest of the Bill, dealing as it does with somewhat different points, really hinges round that central point. The first seven clauses deal with the provisions for the raising of the school age. There has been a good deal of criticism from friends of the Party which sits on the other side of this House as to the methods which we are employing for raising the school age. They have always contended that there should be a monetary grant which they call "maintenance" given to the parents of children who have to remain a further year at school. We have not accepted that proposition. We made clear to the electorate before the last General Election the line we should take with regard to the matter, and therefore we have a complete mandate for the stand we have taken. But I do not want to shelter behind the mere matter of an Election mandate. We put that policy before the country after very careful consideration, and we came to that decision on very definite grounds.

I would like to ask the noble Lord who is going to speak from the opposite Bench to answer one or two questions. If he is going to speak in favour of maintenance, I should like him to tell us whether he really feels that there is any case whatsoever for giving maintenance to children between 14 and 15 and not between 13 and 14 and between 12 and 13, and so on right down to the lowest school age. According to an estimate which was made at the time of Sir Charles Trevelyan's proposals a few years ago, when a proposal was made for 5s. a week maintenance grant, it was reckoned that it was going to cost £5,000,000 a year. On what basis could we resist building up that sum into £50,000,000, taking it right back to the age of five? On what basis could we defend that grant of 5s. a week? If it is compensation for loss of wages, does the noble Lord think any one could stand up in Parliament for any period of time and contend that 5s. a week was sufficient?


Ten shillings.


The noble Lord says 10s. That figure for one year gives us straight away £10,000,000, and so the auction starts. By the end of the year, instead of talking in terms of £5,000,000, we should be talking of something between £50,000,000 and £100,000,000. I would like the noble Lord, speaking with a full sense of responsibility for his Party, to tell us what would be their standpoint with regard to that matter. Then, of course, we were told in the past that there was to be a means test attached to this maintenance grant. I understand that since that time there has been some variation in the standpoint of the official Labour Party towards the question of a means test. If the means test were to be done away with we should have a still larger sum to meet. That is merely the question of cost. There is also the question of the merits. I submit to your Lordships that there is only one case in which it can be contended that there should be a maintenance grant, and that is on the basis of poverty. But I would go on to suggest to your Lordships that while the relief of poverty is a very necessary and very desirable object to pursue, it is really not relevant to an Education Bill. If there is a case for the greater relief of poverty then we have got to deal with Poor Law relief, Unemployment Insurance Regulations, and the wages of those who are in employment. So much, very briefly, on the question of maintenance.

We now come to the point of exemptions for beneficial employment. It is perfectly clear that, if you are not going to give maintenance, you must give the parent of the child and the child itself some opportunity of getting out into the world and earning its own living. I want to deal with this question of exemptions from one point of view particularly. It is by far the most important point of controversy connected with this Bill. There has been a very great deal of misrepresentation which, unfortunately, has been believed by a great number of people of fundamental good will. It has been suggested that this system of exemptions for beneficial employment is going to have the effect that very few children will, in fact, be benefited by this proposed additional year to be spent at school. One particular figure has been taken out of its context, and that is a figure given by the President of the Board of Education in another place. A question was put to him at the end of last Session, asking what percentage of exemptions had been granted in areas where the school age had been raised under the by-laws, and he gave the perfectly correct answer of 90 per cent. On the basis on which that question was framed, if 100 per cent. of the children of this country had stayed at school until one day before they were fifteen, then the rate of exemption would be considered to be 100 per cent., though actually the school age all over the country would have been raised to 14 years and 364 days. The only way in which you can arrive at a true basis for considering this question is by taking the average period for which all children in the country are likely to remain at school.

I shall give your Lordships three sets of figures. The first is that at the present moment, taking the country as a whole, children are remaining at school until they are fourteen years three months of age. If we take the figures of the areas where the school age has been raised under by-law for over two years—for if you took a shorter period you would not get any exact figure—we find that the average age up to which children remain at school in the areas of those six authorities is fourteen years six months. The estimates of our Bill are based on the assumption—and I think, for the reasons I venture to give to your Lordships, fair assumption—that under the provisions of the Bill that period will be taken to at least fourteen years nine months. I am not going to argue that fourteen years nine months is the same as fifteen years, but I do contend, and very strongly contend, that a Bill which raises the school age from the legislative age of fourteen and assures to children that they remain at school until they are fourteen years nine months instead of fifteen years, cannot fairly be attacked as a Bill that is virtually of no educational importance whatsoever. The Bill in fact carries out at least 50 per cent., if not more, of what the Opposition contend they would like to see. The first figure of fourteen years three months that I gave to your Lordships is definite and based on fact. The second figure that I gave to your Lordships (fourteen years six months) is also definite and based on fact. The third figure that I ventured to give (fourteen years nine months) is hypothetical.


May I ask whether the figure of fourteen years three months is an average figure, or does it mean that all children are to remain at school till they are fourteen years three months?


It is an average figure. It means that some children remain until fourteen years six months, and other children only until fourteen years. It is an average taking all the children in the country. On what do I base the hypothesis of an extra three months? The first reason that I venture to give to your Lordships is this. About those areas where the school age has been raised under by-law—Suffolk, Cornwall, Bath, Plymouth and Chesterfield,—your Lordships may notice something special, and that is that not one of them is an area in which employment is particularly bad. In fact in most of them employment is particularly good. Therefore, if an extra three months in average takes place in those areas, your Lordships can assume, taking the country as a whole (and particularly in the depressed areas), that you are going to get a very much higher figure.

I think a much more important point is that the existing by-law areas are virtually oases in the middle of great districts where the school age has not been raised, and what the authorities have to face there is the danger—and it is a very real danger—that if they are too rigid in the granting of exemptions it simply means that children will come in from the outside and take the jobs of their own local children. That will not be possible under this Bill, because a special arrangement is made in Clause 2, subsection (6), to ensure that where children, having been exempted from school in another area, are taking a job, then the certificate shall be approved and certified by the authority responsible for that other area. That is a very big and important point. Then, if your Lordships will look again at Clause 2, you will see that various conditions are laid down for the granting of exemptions. The nature and probable duration of the employment, the wages to be paid and the hours of work, the opportunities to be afforded to the child for further education, the time available for a child for recreation, the value of the work in relation to the future career of a child and the question of health—all those considerations have to be taken into account. They are new considerations, and are quite new even to the by-law procedure under which local authorities have been working.

One very important point has been put by a number of authorities. They have said that under the system of exemptions they are not going to be able to estimate how many children are going to come to school, so that their building programme is going to be a very difficult one. The President of the Board has already said that he is quite prepared to sanction provision in the schemes of the local authorities for 100 per cent. of children staying at school. There is a further point, which I will deal with in a moment when I come to the more general problems of education. The type of reorganisation that we are looking at under this scheme will mean that the organisation of the school is not based purely on the number of scholars but on the number of classes. A certain definite course is envisaged for the school, and the particular number of classes that there may be at one time—whether thirty or thirty-five or forty, or whatever the number is—is not really such a very difficult matter in regarding the question of building. The real difficulty is in the number of rooms that there should be, and that will not be interfered with to any considerable extent by such uncertainty as might exist. Therefore the real expense of building the new modern school, which is a different thing from the old school, is in the provision of play-grounds, gymnasiums, science rooms, housewifery rooms and so on. All these matters of general equipment are not really very seriously affected by a few more children here and there.

If I might return to the question of the likelihood of this figure of fourteen years nine months or over being justified, I would say that while there are many provisions in the Bill that would make us feel confident in saying that children will stay longer, I do venture to suggest to your Lordships that there is one reason that stands out over and above all others. My right honourable friend the President of the Board of Education, in a speech that he made in the country, referred to this Bill as a challenge to education in this respect: that the real reason which we would like to see given for children remaining at school is not that we suddenly come down with a new law and say that until such and such an age a child shall remain at school, but that through the improvement of our education, and the improvement of our schools, we have made the children feel that they want to go to school and the parents feel that they want their children to have the extra year of educational advantage. I do not think that that is very much in the realm of imagination. Those of us who have children must see with what much greater willingness children go to school to-day than we did in the past. That is because the school is being made so much more interesting and so much closer to the life of the child. If we have an entirely new system of education, and that is what we are endeavouring to build up collaterally with this raising of the school age, I think we are going to have an entirely different outlook amongst the parents and children of this country.

That brings me to the next point, which is the question of the appointed day. The appointed day, when the full provision for the raising of the school age is to be brought into operation, is September 1, 1939. Your Lordships may at first think that that is rather a long time ahead, but it is precisely because we are determined that this raising of the school age shall be accompanied by full reorganisation of the schools, which will ensure that in future the last year at school shall not continue to be wasted as it is at present even though it ends at the age of fourteen, that we are giving to education authorities three years for this organisation and reconstruction. We have been told by some authorities that they will have the greatest difficulty in getting ready even in three years and that may well be the case, particularly in rural areas. It is not only a question of building. Before you start to build you must get out plans; before you get out plans you have to get agreements between all the different authorities, and in many eases between the local authorities and the Church authorities. You have also to make full provision for the increased number of teachers that will be necessary. All that is going to take time. I think that those of your Lordships who are familiar with the problems of the administration of education will probably agree that those three years which we are allowing are by no means too many. We have made provision in Clause 7 whereby those authorities that are ready will be able to raise the age before that time. They are already able to do that by by-law procedure, but the procedure under this Bill has considerable advantages and that is why we have inserted this clause.

Now I will pass for a moment to the second part of the Bill, from Clause 8 onwards. In that part of the Bill we have the provisions which have enabled us to get that complete agreement on the Bill that we have been able to obtain. Before dealing with it, I would like, if I may, to say not merely on behalf of the Board of Education but on behalf of everyone interested in education, what a tremendous debt of gratitude we owe to all those various interests that have been prepared to give their agreement. If your Lordships cast your minds back to 1902 and recall the controversy that then raged, you will realise that a body of men and women who feel no less strongly about the great problems of religion than was felt at that time have yet, notwithstanding that, been prepared to allow us to put forward this basis of agreement. If I may say so, it shows a real growth of statesmanship and a real growth of love for education. I do not for a moment, any more than the President of the Board of Education did in another place, desire that either the Department or the Government should take any great credit for what has happened. It is simply the result of a great broadening in wisdom and statesmanship on the part of those who are responsible for the leadership of religious opinion in this country.

This Bill and the policy embodied in it could make no progress whatsoever without the agreement of the Church authorities. We did come very close to agreement in 1930, and although there are differences here and there the terms now arranged are virtually the same as those which Sir Charles Trevelyan then negotiated. There is only one real difference in procedure. In those days the Church authorities and the opposing authorities were asked to take a degree of responsibility for the proposals which were being put forward. We have asked no one to take any responsibility. We have done everything in our power to consult everyone interested, but we said that ultimately this is a matter for the Government, and the Government alone, to decide and put before the country. As a result, a controversy which tore this country for many years in the past was dealt with in the space of a little over ten minutes in Committee in another place.

What is the basis of this agreement, and how is it that we have been able to bring it about? For the first time in history local education authorities are to be allowed to make grants for the building of new Church schools for senior children and for the rebuilding and reconstruction of old Church schools or voluntary schools. That is subject to certain limitations. The first limitation is that as this new provision is for the purpose of making possible the raising of the school age, the time for making the grants is limited to the three years preceding the appointed day. The grants are to be limited also to senior schools, because it is the problem of the provision of senior schools that bears on the question of the raising of the school age. That is a point which I know does cause some difficulty to many people. It has been contended, and contended with a great deal of truth—I know the most reverend Primate feels this—that our education system really ought to be taken as a whole. Up to now it has worked as a whole, and it is argued that this is going to be very difficult and in many cases unfair to separate schools. Therefore only those schools which deal with children of eleven plus are going to be allowed to participate in these grants.

I would say this to the most reverend Primate and his friends, quite apart from the question of the Financial Resolution, from questions of order or questions of Privilege. Actually, as the Financial Resolution is drafted, the alteration that would be required could not in fact be made without the introduction of a new Bill, but I do not think it would be respectful to your Lordships' House or to Parliament to shelter behind that excuse, because, after all, we are responsible for that drafting. There is a more important reason, and it is this. It is not entirely to do with the merits of the question, I confess, but this agreement, which I have mentioned to your Lordships as making possible progress that hitherto has seemed impossible, has been reached as a result of the greatest difficulties and enormous concessions on both sides. There is not a single interest that has not made a very considerable concession. If we were to introduce this new policy of giving public money for junior schools, an expenditure of which 90 per cent. would probably be for matters not directly concerned with the raising of the school age, then the whole basis of the agreement would go. I therefore venture to suggest to your Lordships, on that point alone, that it would be most un-wise, and more than unwise, to attempt to make any alteration, even if we were able to do so.

There are other items in the agreement as conditions of the receipt of a grant from the local education authority—a grant of something between 50 and 70 per cent. that has to be settled between two bodies. There have to be certain alterations in the basis on which teachers are to be appointed, and your Lordships will find the provisions for that under Clauses 9 and 10. I need only on Second Reading state the alteration very briefly. It is that in future the local education authority will be responsible for the appointment of all teachers, subject to the provision that before appointing a reserved teacher they must have the agreement of the managers of the school. Some Church authorities have suggested that some definite proportion, even up to 100 per cent., should be laid down in the Bill. But the whole of this question of the grant and of the acceptance of the new conditions for the appointment of teachers is subject to agreement between the managers of the school and the local education authority, and it is suggested that it is far better to leave it to negotiations between the two bodies on the basis of a purely voluntary agreement rather than to try to impose some provision in the Bill which would tie the hands of the two bodies. I can tell your Lordships that all sections of Church opinion, and the leaders of Church opinion, have been inclined to take that view.

Those are the main conditions which are laid down in the Bill as the basis of the paying-out of this money to the Church schools. There are only two other points raised, and I do not think I need deal with them at any length. In Clause 12 there is the question of right of entry into schools in single school areas; and in Clause 13 we have an extension of the Anson by-law, of the right of withdrawal from all schools for the purposes of religious education. It was proposed in another place that the full right of entry into each school should be given to all religious denominations in these areas but the Amendment was not accepted. There was no Division, and I think we can say that the Church authorities are quite satisfied on that point now.

That, very briefly, is the machinery of the Bill, but I think on Second Reading we have to ask ourselves, and are bound to ask ourselves, a general question. The Bill is going to cost quite a lot of money. As we reckon it, the provision for keeping children in school another year will cost something over £2,000,000 annually, of which just under £1,500,000 will fall on the Exchequer and the rest on the rates. The sum for which we are budgeting for assistance to the voluntary schools is £2,000,000 capital, which means interest charges of something like £30,000 a year falling on the Exchequer and £30,000 a year on the rates. Those are largish sums; about £1,500,000 in all for the State and something over £650,000 for the rates. We have to ask ourselves: "Is this really worth while? What is it going to mean to the country as a whole?" And I should say that in many cases, as our education system is organised at the moment, we are not getting the best out of our expenditure. We all know of far too many cases of children who, as I have already ventured to mention, are virtually marking time during their last year at school. It seems to me a very easy question to ask: As so many children are not getting the best out of their last year between thirteen and fourteen, on what basis are you justified in raising the school age further, from fourteen to fifteen? Those of your Lordships who have read what is called the Hadow Report will realise that we have come to a point in the organisation of our education system where it is impossible to make the best use of that year from fourteen to fifteen unless you have more senior children in the school, and therefore the minimum basis on which you can build up these new senior schools is by raising the age.

What do we intend to do in the senior schools? I have mentioned to your Lordships that they represent something entirely new in the field of education. In what way? They are in new and different buildings—very much better built. But they represent something more than just better school buildings. There are a lot of subjects added: not only are they concentrating, as in the past, on book-work, but they are extending their activities to art, music, science, metal work, wood-work, cookery and a great number of other subjects. But it is something more than just a few additions to the curriculum. We are trying to make something entirely new of the school; we are trying to get rid of this conception of the school as just a rather tiresome period of preparation through which you have to go before you take on a job. We are trying to visualise the school as a great slice of life itself, and in inserting, for instance, a great, number of these practical subjects into the school education, we do so not merely because we believe that at the age of twelve to thirteen, or thirteen to fourteen, a child ought to be engaged in technical training, in metal-work or in wood-work; it is simply an attempt to bring the life of the school rather nearer to the way in which the child works, thinks, and lives.

It is not sufficient merely to train a child in a certain number of mental habits. After all, many of us, if we have children, take them to Mills's Circus, where they see a great number of animals most excellently trained—dogs and seals and elephants. There is hardly anything they cannot be taught to do, but I do not think any of us would contend that any one of those animals had an educated mind. We have got to take education, therefore, very much further than just training the child in certain mental tricks. The problem that we have really got to face is that during the last hundred years or so we have had a spate of mechanical progress greater than the world has known during the previous few thousand years, and somehow or other we have got to get the human mind developed, so that it can attempt to deal on some basis with the great new problems with which science has faced us. At the moment one of the great difficulties is that the machine is surely inclined to outrun the development of the human mind.

When we look at more immediate problems and see the political chaos in half Europe, we speak of this country with a great deal of justification as being the country which is carrying the banner of civilisation. Many of us who in the past would have fought to the death against any increase of armaments at all, are prepared to-day to rally behind this Government in a great programme of defence. Why? Because we see that here in this country something is going on which is really worth defending. We believe that in this country the banner of democracy, of civilisation, is being kept going by the very fact that here, at the present moment, in the midst of all our international problems for the last three or four years, we have gone forward with a great programme of housing and social development. The fact that to-day we are able to stand and discuss the question of raising the school age, makes one feel that we have in this country a civilisation really worth while. That civilisation is surely based on this, not merely that we have a great system of government in which we believe, not merely that we have a great National Government in which we all believe, I hope, but that we have in this country ordinary decent men and women who, we know, when they are called upon to take a decision, are going to take it aright, and that the men and women of the future generation are now in the schools. It is for that reason that I suggest to your Lordships that a Bill of this character is eminently worth while. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Earl De La Warr.)


My Lords, I can only find two good things to say of this Bill. The first is that in Clause 1 we have the words "the age of fifteen." I think it will be an advantage to get those words, "age of fifteen," on to the Statute Book. The other thing is this. My noble friends and I are prepared to accept the clauses dealing with the voluntary schools and religious education. We understand that they are the result of a compromise between the Government and the religious bodies concerned. Although the solution may not be what some of us on both sides of the House would wish, it is a compromise which I understand the religious bodies have accepted, and we are also prepared to accept it. Education, as the noble Earl has said, has been held up far too long in this country by what I may call, I think, the rather unfortunate controversy about religious teaching, and if this compromise will bring that to an end, we accept it as being in the interests of the nation's children.

That is all I have to say good of the Bill. The rest of it seems to me to be thoroughly bad. Clause 1 proposes to raise the school-leaving age to fifteen. The four following clauses proceed to take away most of what that first clause gives, and the Bill might more accurately be called an "Exemption from Education Bill" than an "Education Bill." The Government are, I think, rather like a man who gives you a shilling with one hand while picking your pocket with the other. As to these exemptions, the Government seem to have changed their mind rather about the number of children likely to be exempted under these clauses. I have always understood that the President of the Board of Education said, in another place, that he estimated that about 50 per cent. of the children would be exempt. My memory may have failed me, but I rather think I heard him say that in the other House on the Second Reading of the Bill. Now the noble Earl tells us that it is expected that children on the average will leave at fourteen years nine months, which really means that only 25 per cent. will be exempt. But surely there will be children leaving the school throughout the year, and not all at the same time. Then, as to these well-known figures in regard to the areas where the school age has been raised to fifteen under by-laws. As a matter of fact I think there were ten cases, and in nine of these cases the exemptions were from 79 to 96 per cent., and in six of them they were 90 per cent. and over. There was only one case, that of Carnarvonshire, where the exemptions were only 37 per cent., and there they gave maintenance grants.

The noble Earl, of course, says that those children might have left quite at the end of their time, but we cannot expect all those children, the whole 96 per cent., to leave on the last day of the year, or even in the last month. Therefore you may get an average which is most misleading in that way. We want to know how the children were leaving, and when, and how many of them at different times. It is of no use assuming that they all left quite at the end of their time, because I am sure it was not the case. I think the exemption clauses are most objectionable, because I believe that all children are better at school than in industry between the ages of fourteen and fifteen. I feel quite definite about that. I do not say they all ought to have the same kind of education, certainly not; education should be adapted to meet the different needs of different children. I should have no objection myself to some children being trained part of the time in that last year to help them in the kind of industries which they wish to enter later on, provided that teaching were given in an educational way, not merely as training them for work but as part of a general system of education training them for life.

Many people seem to think that the object of the education of the working classes is merely to turn them into good workpeople, but surely they want more than that. You want to train children for much more than work; you have to teach them—quite as important—how to spend their leisure. You want not merely training for work, but training for life. That is what is done in the case of the more well-to-do people. Boys who are going to be clergymen or doctors or lawyers do not begin to study nothing but theology, medicine or law from the very beginning. What terrible fellows they would be if they did. They do not; they get a good general education—or they should, and most of them do—with a view to helping them to get the best out of life and to become good all round men. Why should not the training of the working people be treated in the same way? Why should not they have a good general education to equip them for life, not merely for work? Children who are only kept at school until they are fourteen and can go on until fifteen with a chance of leaving at any moment because they have found beneficial employment have no real chance of a good all-round education of the kind that I mean.

I think the clauses are educationally disastrous. They place a check on the progress of education and on the development of our educational system on lines for which everybody who has education at heart has been longing and working for years past. The noble Earl mentioned the Hadow Report, but the Hadow Report laid it down that the post-primary system must last four years and could not be got into three—from eleven or eleven plus to fifteen. The experience of teachers has shown all this time that the Report was right. The curriculum cannot be got satisfactorily into three years, nor can you get it into three years and a bit. You want four years. Of course, in this last year of study there has to be planning. Local authorities have to plan. Teachers have to plan curricula. How can you plan a proper curriculum for a class of thirty children when anything from—I suppose the noble Earl would say a quarter of that number, though I say a great many more, fifteen to twenty-five—would not be there all the year? And even with the noble Earl's figures how can you plan a proper curriculum when any of those children may leave at the end of any term or on any day in the year if the authorities give permission? You cannot plan a curriculum on lines like that. Children would be here to-day and gone to-morrow. Then look at the effect on the children, all staying there thinking of jobs, thinking they may get a job to-morrow or may not, and seeing their friends go off for jobs. How can you expect them to concentrate on study in such a distracting atmosphere? The system would be heart breaking to teachers and most distracting to the children. It is an absolutely preposterous system.

Then we come to the question of administration. The clauses are administratively unworkable. I will take just one or two points. "Beneficial" employment is not defined. The invidious task is left to the local authorities of discovering what is beneficial employment and what is not. What a hopeless piece of work for them. Then you have got the question of the different local authorities. You have two contiguous areas. Area A decides that certain employment is beneficial and children are released to go into it; Area B thinks that that particular kind of employment is not beneficial and the children are not released there. Think of the friction and bad feeling that will be aroused in such a case. I need not enlarge further on the question of administration because it was very well put by the noble Earl's predecessor, Mr. Ramsbotham, who said, speaking in another place on a Private Bill with substantially identical exemption clauses in 1933: "the administrative difficulties are insuperable."

Why is it that the Government are insisting on forcing through these exemption clauses in spite of the widespread opposition? I never remember opposition so strong and so widespread in the case of any Bill, coming from the people who have to work it. Most of the local authorities are against it, most of the representative educational bodies are against it, practically all the teachers are against it. The Trades Union Congress is against it, the co-operative movement and many other bodies are against it. I have talked to many people all over the country, and I have never found anybody in favour of these clauses. I doubt if you will find a single man in the Board of Education who is really in favour of them. I doubt if a single one of His Majesty's inspectors is in favour of them. The noble Earl will forgive my saying so, but I cannot help feeling that he has been speaking to-day on the Bill more from his brief than from conviction. Why do the Government insist on forcing through these clauses? I suggest that one reason is that they knew that if they did not have exemptions they would have to have maintenance grants. Well, why not?

The noble Earl has asked me some questions about that. He says, if I want maintenance grants for children between fourteen and fifteen, why should we not have them for children between thirteen and fourteen and twelve and thirteen and so on? Personally, I should like to see maintenance grants for children younger than fourteen, but I know that cannot be got out of this Government. But there is a reason why such grants are more necessary in the case of children between fourteen and fifteen. The older children have greater earning power and they have more chance of finding jobs, and so the loss involved to the parents is more certain and greater. That is my answer to the noble Earl's first question. Then he asks me whether I would really get up in a responsible way and advocate spending £5,000,000 on maintenance grants. Of course I would.


I suggested the figure might be £100,000,000 on the basis of the auction.


I do not go as far as £100,000,000. I shall be content with £5,000,000 to start with. I do not think it would come to £5,000,000. I do not think the noble Earl has allowed for the saving on insurance benefits. There would be a fairly big saving there, and also the amount would diminish as the years went on owing to the falling off in the number of children of that age. If it amounted to £5,000,000 in the first year, it would not be so much in later years. I am perfectly prepared to advocate £5,000,000 on that account because I feel sure that the nation would reap the benefit, taking the long view, in the form of moral and social advantage.

Another reason why the Government insist on these exemption clauses is that they are unwilling to deprive employers of the supply of low-paid juvenile labour. I moved in your Lordships' House just two years ago a Resolution on the raising of the school age, and the noble Viscount, the Lord Privy Seal, who was then President of the Board of Education, in his reply said that to remove the age group 14–15 from industry would cause considerable embarrassment in areas where there was a shortage of juvenile labour and where there was much adult labour dependent on juvenile labour. I imagine that the present Government take the same view of that matter. But we have heard that story too often. We have heard this demand of the employers for cheap juvenile labour much too often. We have heard it over and over again in the last hundred years.

We were told at the beginning of last century that the cotton industry could not go on unless young children worked for more than twelve hours a day. It was said later on that it was absolutely necessary to have young children in the mines. We have heard over and over again from employers that their industry could not go on unless they had cheap child labour. They have always been wrong. Their demands have not been granted, fortunately, in some cases and their industries have gone on. Industry at the present time must adapt itself, and can adapt itself, without calling upon supplies of juvenile labour. We must get on without juvenile labour. Industry must adapt itself, as it has done in the past, in the interests of the children and in the higher interests of the nation. I regard the Bill as educationally disastrous and administratively unworkable, and I regard these reasons for the exemption clauses as wholly inadequate and unjustified. I beg you, my Lords, to amend the Bill by striking out Clauses 2 to 5 and making the Bill a real contribution to education and a benefit to our generation of children and to the children who will come after.


My Lords, I think we may all congratulate the noble Earl who moved this Motion on the way in which he did so and on the fullness, clearness, ability, and at times eloquence with which he put the case for the Bill before your Lordships. The Bill is of course divided into two parts, separate but closely cognate each to the other. I do not propose to say much about the first part of the Bill, which has been dealt with so fully by the noble Lord who has just spoken, except to say that I have very considerable sympathy with the point of view which he has put before your Lordships' House. I agree with what he said in that I do not know any educational reform, certainly since 1918, which has been more ardently hoped for than the raising of the school age to fifteen. I think the noble Lord was right in saying that there is scarcely anyone really concerned with the advance and organisation of education who has not quite deliberately come to the conclusion that this is a necessary step in advance. Proportionate to the eagerness of that welcome to the raising of the school age to fifteen has been the disappointment created by the system of exemptions by which it appears to be rendered largely nugatory. It is true that some exaggerated figures have been given, but I believe I am right in saying that the Minister of Education himself admitted that probably 50 per cent. of the children over fourteen would be exempted under the provisions of this Bill. It is well known that others widely experienced in educational affairs consider, largely on the basis of what has happened where by-laws to this effect exist, that the percentage would be very much larger.

I doubt whether it would be an exaggeration to say that perhaps one out of every two—some would say four out of every five—of the very children for whom this benefit is intended will be deprived of it. I appreciate most fully the genuine eloquence with which the noble Earl spoke of the advantages of this post-primary education, and I echo every word that was said by the noble Lord who has just spoken of the importance of what is taught at this particular stage in the life of a boy or girl. I was reminded while the noble Lord was speaking of what was said by a very wise man about the real aim of education, which is to teach the young not only how to get on but how to employ themselves when they are not engaged in getting on. Yet when the noble Earl was speaking so eloquently about the effects of this post-primary education, I reflected that his very Bill would deprive probably at the very least half of the children between the ages of fourteen and fifteen of all its benefits. Reference has rightly been made to the Hadow Report. As was said by the noble Lord who has just spoken, the Hadow Report is based upon the supposition that there would be a full four years' course after the age of eleven. It is difficult to see how all the hopes of that Report can really be fulfilled if only such a small proportion of the children over fourteen are to get the benefit of it.

Then consider the position of the teachers. I do not think what has been said about that has been exaggerated. What is a teacher to do with a restless and fluctuating class of scholars many of whom are just itching to have the chance of going off into some well-paid employment, which would render the carrying through of just that kind of education that is then needed almost impossible? Consider, too, the position of the local education authorities. I am bound to say that I do not envy them. I think the restrictions that have been introduced in another place are a very great improvement, but, even so, it would be extraordinarily difficult and tedious for the local education authorities to go in intricate detail into all the circumstances attaching to every particular application. The tendency inevitably will be to let the parent have what the parent wants, and to find good excuses for giving that permission. I am delighted to know that more and more our parents are recognising the value of these later years at school. I believe that many of them will, as years go on, recognise those benefits much more fully. But the difficulty is that there will always be some parents in every locality who are less convinced of this benefit and who will be eager to snatch the chances of employment for their children, and the competition of those parents will force the others into the same position.

I know that it is said that it is all very well to point out the educational blemishes in the exemptions made to the provision for the raising of the school age, but are the critics prepared to consider the problems of maintenance that are involved? I do not propose to go into that question, but I cannot but add a reminder to your Lordships that for other classes than our working people remissions of Income Tax, I understand, are given to enable them to secure the better education of their children. I speak with some diffidence as I am not burdened with the responsibility of a family, but I understand these remissions of taxation are provided. Why, then, for one class and not for a class which much more greatly needs them? But there is the other difficulty, the pledges given during the Election. That is a matter for the Government to consider; it does not greatly concern me. But if it be the case that even now there are some Amendments which would not raise the difficult question of maintenance, which would not in the least involve anything inconsistent with any pledge given by the Government, would it not be well, even at this time, to consider the desirability of accepting them?

I might instance one, which has been largely advocated by those who are interested in education, that at least exemption should only begin at the age of fourteen years six months. The noble Earl has told us that at present he believes the average age to which children remain in school is about fourteen years three months, that in many places it is ascertained to be fourteen years six months, and that he is sanguine enough to believe that over a large area it might be fourteen years nine months. If, as I know to be the case, many who are really interested in education say that the definite age at which exemption begins should be fourteen and a half years, that is an Amendment well worth making, and if the noble Earl himself comes so near to it, I cannot understand why he should resist an Amendment to that effect. Or, again, there are others who press, what is surely a most reasonable Amendment, that at least no exemption should be granted during the school term, so as not to render nugatory all the efforts of the teachers during that term. These may seem to be small Amendments, but I believe the acceptance of them by the Government would mitigate to a very considerable extent the disappointment which the system of exemptions has caused. I am not disposed to be so heroic as the noble Lord who has just spoken, and to advocate what I believe he has just suggested that in any case we should oppose the whole of these clauses. I am rather content to believe that a great advance has been made in accepting the age of fifteen as the proper age at which children should leave school. I earnestly hope that in the comparatively small ways in which I have spoken the Government will do what they can to meet the wishes of those who are closely concerned with the education of the people.

I have spoken more than I meant to do upon the first part of the Bill, and now I will turn to that part of it for which I have a more special responsibility: Clauses 8 to 13, which deal with the provision of grants in certain cases for the building or for the equipment and adaptation of the buildings of non-provided schools and for religious instruction. I want here, if I may, to remove a possible misconception. I am told on all sides, and by the noble Earl himself, that these clauses must be regarded as a final settlement of what used to be called the religious difficulty, and that through the passage of these particular proposals all the claims of non-provided schools of all kinds throughout the country must be regarded as having been met by general agreement. My Lords, it is not so.


If I might venture to interrupt the most reverend Primate, I would like to make it quite clear that the President of the Board of Education in the House of Commons did make this point, that we did not by any means regard it necessarily as a final settlement.


I fully accept what the noble Earl has said, and it enables me with the greater emphasis to say what I am now about to say. Though that be so, I do regard the way in which these particular proposals have been proposed and have been carried through in another place as indicating an immense advance. I think that the whole manner in which they were debated elsewhere and the support they have received from local education authorities, and not least from the teachers and the representatives of the National Union of Teachers, show that old prejudices and shibboleths are being forgotten, or at least suspended. The bringing in of these clauses and the way in which they have been passed hold out a good hope that a time is not far distant when the whole position of the non-provided schools and of religious instruction in this country may be considered in a new atmosphere. And this Bill, as the noble Earl has said, must be regarded not as one which what are called the Church authorities have in any way proposed or for which they must be regarded as responsible, but as one that represents the action of the Government. We have to ask ourselves whether or not it is acceptable. I have no hesitation in saying that so far as this part of the Bill is concerned it is. I appreciate most fully the intention of the Government in this matter to assist the non-provided schools. I appreciate even more fully, as I have just indicated, the spirit shown by all sections of opinion in the House of Commons in its passage, and I particularly note an advance upon the proposals made in 1930 by Sir Charles Trevelyan in enabling for the first time, certainly since 1870, public grants to be made for the building of even new senior schools. Therefore I most willingly support the Second Reading of the Bill.

Yet, my Lords, there are some Amendments which I think would very greatly improve the Bill without affecting its main purpose or the measure of agreement which it represents. Some of them may be proposed in the Committee stage. If I indicate the more important of them now it will be in a spirit not of hostile but of most friendly criticism. In the first place there is one of real importance to which the noble Earl alluded. Cases must arise when the enlargement or adaptation of buildings for the sole accommodation of senior scholars must involve enlargement or adaptation of existing junior schools for the accommodation of junior scholars who are displaced from their former schools. It seems to me quite clear that that is a situation which arises out of this very problem of the provision of senior schools. Let it be made quite plain that there is no intention here to ask that building grants should be made available for all junior schools in any Amendment that may be moved on this matter. All that is asked is that where it has become absolutely necessary in a junior school for any premises to be built or structural changes to be made, precisely because then and there accommodation must be found for junior scholars displaced from the senior school, that should be deemed to be within the purpose of the Bill.

I am well aware that that has been ruled elsewhere to be out of order as inconsistent with the Financial Resolution passed in that House. Here, I hope, it is not improper to express some doubt about the advantage of that particular method of procedure. It certainly results in discovering that once that Money Resolution has been passed, if in the slightest degree any Amendment proposed in the Bill goes against it, that Amendment cannot even be considered. I think that is a most unfortunate restraint upon the liberty of Parliamentary deliberation and discussion. That is by the way. I know that on this matter the Chairman of the Committee himself, in ruling the Amendment out of order, as he thought he must on technical grounds, was good enough to say, if I remember rightly, that he did not suppose that if cases occurred such as had been urged and such as I have instanced they could not, even as the Bill stands, be regarded as coming within its provisions. At any rate I am sure this Amendment is reasonable and I believe it will be accepted and supported by most local education authorities. I think that it will have to be considered at the Committee stage how far, in view of the ruling in another place, it would be possible to ask your Lordships to press the Amendment here. At any rate I should desire to test your Lordships' opinion on the matter.

There is another point on which I do not dwell at length in this Second Reading debate, but it is a matter which we should wish to be considered. It is that the same power which is given under the Bill to managers who make agreements with local education authorities for grants to enable them to build a senior school, to ensure that the teachers appointed by the local education authority are really competent to give the required religious instruction, should be given in the case of any teachers who are appointed to give that instruction in accordance with an agreed syllabus which is provided in the Bill. Let me say at once that here in this matter of an agreed syllabus, as it is called, is another sign of the immense advance that has been made in recent years. I am habitually co-operating with representatives of other religious communions in the framing of these agreed syllabuses, and speaking for the Church which I represent we welcome into our schools those who are prepared in accordance with the wishes of parents to give religious instruction in accordance with the syllabus. I go much further and hope that in most of our own schools these agreed syllabuses will be regularly used. At the same time it seems not unfair to ask, if managers are to welcome into their schools a teacher to give instruction—less adequate than they would wish but still instruction—in religion, that they should be satisfied that the teacher should be not only not hostile to religion but competent to give religious instruction in accordance with that syllabus.

There is a third point to which I should like to allude very briefly. I cordially recognise and welcome the particular clause of the Bill which extends what is known as the Anson by-law through the whole country and makes statutory what has hitherto been permissive, but in order that that admirable provision should be made operative a question of some moment must arise in some cases. Where is this special instruction to be given? In many districts, especially country districts, the only possible place will be the provided senior school. Is it unreasonable to ask that in such a case the local education authority may allow some room in the school provided by it to be used for the giving of such instruction? It has been done already. I know of one most progressive education authority which allows such instruction to be given in the dining hall of its new and most admirable senior school. Let no one say that this raises the old question of the Cowper-Temple Clause. That clause was never meant to apply to senior schools of this kind. This is not teaching that is to be given in the school as part of the system of school teaching but only in premises on the school buildings, just in the same way as those buildings are allowed to be used for other purposes when they are not required for school purposes. I hope that may be regarded as a reasonable Amendment. In fact the Board of Education has already acknowledged that there is nothing in principle against it in what is called the Dorset letter. I only wish that what can be done now should be done, and that it should be intimated to local education authorities that it can be done without misgiving or doubt.

Some of my friends, I know, have been very anxious to move Amendments to the whole system of the appointment of teachers in the cases with which this Bill deals. I am bound to say for myself that I was party to the negotiations which led to the Bill proposed originally by Sir Charles Trevelyan and which at that time the Leader in your Lordships' House of the Party which sits on these Benches would have supported. I was a party to those negotiations and I think the Government were quite justified in framing their Bill upon the basis of the agreement which was then reached. I am more inclined to think so because at that time this proposal was accepted as satisfactory by the National Society, which many of your Lordships know represents the organisation in the Church of England most closely concerned with educational matters. Personally, therefore, I could not make myself responsible for any Amendment changing these clauses. I agree entirely with what the noble Earl said, and in my judgment it is a matter far better effected by agreement with the local education authorities than by any statutory provision. There is nothing at all to prevent agreements being made which will include, among what are called the reserved teachers, the head teacher and any number of teachers, even up to 100 per cent. I am sure that in this matter we must depend mainly upon good will, and that it is a doubtful advantage, by pressing for some statutory provision which would include the head teacher or a given number of teachers, to risk arousing the suspicion and antagonism of the education authorities, and still more of the teachers. I believe that in this matter the good will throughout the country is great and growing, and I am sure that the agreements that can be effected will express that good will.

I believe that the Bill, even as it stands, will help the non-provided schools to take their part in this post-primary education. I think that if the Government were willing to accept the small Amendments which I suggested, they would make the co-operation of the managers of these schools much more ready and easy. But in any case I feel sure that the Bill will be worth passing, though still more so if amended as I have suggested, and I think that it will enable the non-provided schools in this vitally important sphere of post-primary education to take the place which in the sphere of primary education they have so long and honourably taken.


My Lords, I desire, if I may, to compliment the noble Earl who introduced this Bill on his Second Beading speech. It was a most interesting address; it was lucid, and, as his first contribution of magnitude in connection with education matters, I think it augurs well. I might also perhaps say how pleased I was at the speech he delivered in the country recently, in which he alluded to the great necessity which there was for making our schools more attractive to the children. After all, if you have the good will of the children attending the schools, it is a great asset to their future development in those schools.

While I was at the Board of Education, for the best part of five years, I was impressed with two particular facts. One was that in school life each succeeding year exceeded the previous year in its tuition value to the pupil. That brings me to the point which I desire to make more especially to-day in connection with this Bill; that continuation in our system of education is absolutely necessary. There was a case the other day of eighty men applying for eight positions in the Police Force. The selection of the men who were appointed was not based on their stature or their physical condition, though there is no doubt that some consideration might have been given to the latter point. Those who secured the positions were appointed because of the educational standard which they had reached. Therefore I strongly hold the view that the careers of our people depend largely upon the quality of the education which is given by the teacher and the amount of education which is absorbed by the pupil. I suppose that those who are well-to-do and those who are less well-to-do are on the average born with about the same amount of intelligence. While surroundings and opportunities may differ for the children, yet it seems to me very difficult to justify, if we are going to get the best out of our pupils, the education of the well-to-do continuing to the age, as it often does, of twenty-one, either in schools or Universities, while the children of the less well-to-do are liberated from their school life between the ages of fourteen and fifteen. Continuation, in my judgment, is an absolute necessity if we are to get the best out of our people.

The next point which impresed me when I was at the Board of Education was that under our system there was a great tragedy: a large number of our children attending the elementary schools left at the age of twelve. At that time I proposed to increase the leaving age, in the Bill which I was about to introduce when the War broke cut, to fourteen plus. Yet a great number of the children, in the three years after they had left school, forgot nearly all that they had learnt, and the money that had been spent in training teachers to give education in our elementary schools was to a very large extent wasted by the absence of continuation. While I welcome this Bill because it extends the average school life for about six months, it does not seem to me adequate and sufficient. I should be glad if the compulsory age could continue up to sixteen. But at any rate, if children are allowed out of the school, what is essential is that if they get beneficial employment under this Bill, the Bill shall be strengthened in the direction of securing continuation classes for those children who are getting beneficial employment, and that those who get beneficial employment shall have arrangements made with their employers so that they can have time off to attend to their studies after they leave the school, say, at fourteen-and-a-half or up to fifteen. It is absolutely essential, if we are going to get the best value for our money, that continuation in our educational system should be secured. We are now spending, I suppose, something like £58,000,000 out of our Exchequer on education and another £40,000,000 a year out of the rates—£100,000,000 a year. I am not satisfied that we are getting full value for our money, and until we have a better system of continuous education there will no doubt be some considerable waste.

I admit that a great deal has been done in the last twenty-five years. Progress has been made in the scientific, engineering, chemical, artistic, literary and linguistic knowledge imparted in our schools. Vocational aptitude has been encouraged; crèches, nursery schools and infant schools are much better than they were. And you go on through the ordinary elementary schools; central, senior, and technical schools. The accommodation is very much better than it was, the malnutrition of children has diminished, and in our secondary and technical schools there are now free places. All these are reforms for the benefit of those who attend these schools. While in many cases the children undoubtedly gain considerably from the advantage of this improvement, a vast number get no benefit at all if they go too early into manual work, as they do at the present time.

In regard to exemptions, I am not one of those who are going to condemn the Bill on the ground that exemptions are permitted. I feel that these exemptions have been criticised and condemned with some justice in another place; but on the whole it seems to me that the machinery which has now been established by the Amendments inserted in another place is too elaborate to encourage very much abuse in regard to exemptions. It involves signing certificates, and if you look at Clause 2, subsections (2), (3), (4) and (5), paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) of subsection (4) and Clause 3, subsection (2), you will notice how necessary it is for the local education authorities and the employers to be very guarded in connection with taking away from the schools children who are liable to go to the schools. A great many forms have to be filled up and questions replied to and undertakings given by the employers. I do not think that with all those safeguards there are going to be a great many exemptions, and where exemptions do take place I think there is reason to hope that they will be fully justified.

The ordinary farmer, let alone the agricultural labourer, is not going to take the trouble of trying to get children out of the schools if he has to give a lot of undertakings, sign certificates and reply to a great number of questions. He has quite enough to do in filling up existing forms in connection with pigs, potatoes and milk. He is not going to be bothered to try to get children out of schools by signing a great number of other forms; nor is, I think, the agricultural labourer either. Therefore, I think that some of the criticisms which have been levelled against the Bill on the ground that it is going to be made nugatory by wholesale exemptions are to a very large extent exaggerated. The point which I really wish to take is that under Clause 2, subsection (4) (b), the local education authority must have regard to the opportunities to be afforded to the child for further education, and I think that that provision should be strengthened so as to ensure that the child really does continue to have education in some form or other in continuation schools or evening schools, if he is allowed to leave school at an earlier age than others. I welcome the action which the Government have just taken through their Consultative Committee in making an inquiry from employers as to the value of education in employment. A questionnaire has been sent out to the Federation of Employers' Association which I think may furnish very valuable information. I hope it will prove, as I believe is the case, that the higher the education and the better the education received by the children, so much more likely are they to find a place in employment to the benefit of themselves and of the country in addition.

I know that many other noble Lords are going to speak, and therefore I do not want to deal with other points that otherwise I might have dealt with, such as the hours of work. Of course we dislike children leaving school and being allowed to work during the night-time. I think that that ought, somehow or other, to be prohibited, and that if children are going to be taken from schools for certain classes of work, the limitation of the hours, as suggested by some reformers, would not, probably, meet the case. I believe there are cases where children are employed on farms looking after poultry or live stock, and it is necessary for them to work at special hours. Therefore it is probably not advisable for our legislation to be of too hard and fast a character. We have in this country an elastic system. The Germans have a very formidable and massive system, under which all persons are taught, more or less, in the same way. We, on the other hand, have what seems to me to be a much better system, and one which is more suited to our people. It has much more elasticity, and inasmuch as this Bill does give a certain amount of elasticity I am not opposed to it.

With regard to the second part of the Bill, I can only join in the general expression of appreciation which has been given with regard to the work that has been done between the Government and various religious bodies, in which I have no doubt the noble Viscount who leads the House has taken a large part. I had to meet in old days not only the clergy and ministers of every denomination in the country, but to try to find a solution of the religious question. I had the benefit of the failures before me of Mr. McKenna's Bill, Mr. Birrell's Bill and Mr. Runciman's Bill. I came to the conclusion, after a great deal of effort, that at that time a solution was not possible, owing to the strong feeling which existed and because there were three parties in the State—those who believed in denominational schools, those who believed in undenominational schools with religious teaching, and those who believed that it was no part of the State's duty to find the money for teaching any religion at all. Any two of those parties could always defeat the third. Therefore I came to the conclusion that it was better to get on with education as well as we could, hoping that strong feeling might simmer down and eventually a compromise be reached. A compromise has been reached, and I believe it is advisable to stick to a compromise so far as you can.

Although I sympathise with the most reverend Primate in wanting to secure further Amendments in the interests of religion, still I know of the strong feelings that are aroused in other directions if much more is done for denominational schools, and I know there is a strong un-denominational feeling against money being spent in connection with religious teaching of a character which is not acceptable to other people. On the whole, I feel that it is a matter for great congratulation, and that it will be a help to education if it is placed on much more sympathetic lines between the various denominations and the local education authorities. I am sanguine that the Bill will really be a step forward and lead to further progress in the future.


My Lords, I confess I have not felt it possible to become very enthusiastic about this Bill, I recognise that it is only an emergency Bill, but I have a feeling that it is being advertised far beyond its value. At the same time I should like to say one word on what has already been alluded to by previous speakers, and that is the extraordinary degree of departure from the old spirit of acrimony which used to be so prevalent in the debates on Education Bills. No doubt a good deal of that is due to the tact and judgment of the President of the Board of Education in the way in which he handled the Bill in Committee upstairs, but I am sure he would be the first to admit that it was greatly due to the spirit shown by members of all Parties. I would like particularly to say how grateful I am to those who have been opposed to me in Party politics for the example they have set us on this occasion—an example which I hope will be followed throughout the country. I think it bodes very well for the future of education in this country that this new spirit has arisen.

I do not want to take up the time of the House by alluding to the question of exemptions and so on; that has been well discussed already. I am more concerned with the effect that this Bill will have on the voluntary schools, and particularly on the Catholic schools. It is quite true that this Bill is only permissive and to a great extent only temporary, and the working of it must depend on good will. At the same time, I feel bound to say that it does to some extent weaken the fundamental principle which we in our Catholic schools have held to be of the utmost importance, and that is the close preservation of the Catholic atmosphere. We feel that that can only be properly secured by the appointment of teachers of the Catholic faith, acknowledged and professed Catholics, and competent and qualified to give the religious instruction in accordance with the catechism of the Catholic Church and the tenets of that Church. This Bill does to some extent weaken that position.

The present position as regards the appointment of teachers is that the managers appoint and the local education authorities approve. Under the Bill that system is reversed and the local authority appoints and the managers approve. In theory there may not appeal to be very much difference, but in practice it means a great deal if the managers are handicapped in the freedom of their choice and in the power of control and dismissal of their teachers. Also, no mention is made in this Bill as to the number of reserved teachers, nor does it even provide that the head teacher should be reserved. I am not going to suggest that I actually want the Bill amended in that way. I agree with what has been said that these matters are best left to agreement. But I must point out that, so far as our Catholic schools are concerned, I think it will probably be found that we shall insist on 100 per cent. of the teachers being reserved teachers, unless of course there is an exceptional case of a teacher taken on for the purpose, we will say, of agricultural or gardening instruction. But, broadly speaking, I think we shall require 100 per cent., and if we are unable to come to a friendly agreement on that point with the local authority, well then, we shall not play, and the Bill will be a dead letter so far as we are concerned in those schools which are affected. In time there is, happily, an appeal, and I therefore hope very much that friendly arrangements may be come to with the assistance and help that that power of appeal will give.

I would like to say one word with reference to the statement made on Clause 12 by the President of the Board of Education. I understood that he said that there were only about twelve Catholic schools that would be affected under that clause. I thought so too at the time, but as now advised I believe the President was quite wrong and that that clause applies to every school in the country. The governing words are "reasonable convenience." What is reasonable convenience, and how is it going to be construed? Suppose a case of a Catholic school which is two miles from a Council school and where there are one or more arterial roads intervening. It is quite conceivable that parents will object strongly to sending their children on those arterial roads. I cannot help feeling that some consideration should be given to the effect of those words "reasonable convenience." Then I cannot help also saying one word on the glaring anomaly there is between a teacher of the so-called syllabus religion having the right to go into a Church of England or a Catholic school, while a corresponding right is not allowed to the clergyman of the Church of England or to the priest. However, I do not want to be controversial on this matter. The President himself described the Bill as not being a full, final or fair settlement of the whole educational problem, and therefore we can well afford to wait for future mercies.

I must point out that we are justified in feeling that it is not a satisfactory settlement. Grants for these schools can only be given during the next year or so; they will not be given at all after 1940, and when they are given the maximum amount will only be 75 per cent. No grant at all will be given to junior schools unless the remarks let fall by the most reverend Primate bear fruit on the future stages of this Bill. I do not think it is necessary for me to say anything more except this, that while I have ventured to criticise this Bill as affecting my own denomination, because it does leave us under severe disadvantages, under which we suffer at present, at the same time I can assure your Lordships that I have every confidence in the fact that my communion will respond to the appeal made by the President of the Board of Education and will endeavour to make this Bill work as well as it possibly can.


My Lords, it is difficult to express the bitter disappointment that this Bill must occasion in the minds of those who hoped to witness the introduction of a great and constructive measure of educational reform. In saying this I do not for one moment suggest that the Government have broken any pledges that they have made; I can only deplore the opportunity they have missed. This Bill is wholly admirable in its intention. It is all the more tragic therefore that its main purpose and effect will be so largely nullified by the provision for exemptions contained in Clause 2. This clause has excited such bitter and widespread opposition in the teaching world that it is important to examine the reasons that led to its inclusion.

The President of the Board of Education, speaking in another place, stated that he relied in the main on three lines of argument. With each of these I shall attempt to deal. First, it was suggested that if the school age were raised immediately some form of maintenance allowances would be essential. Actually this point disappears if the Government are right in their view that under the Bill but few exemptions would be allowed, for it follows that but little extra hardship would be inflicted if none at all were to be permitted. If I followed the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, I understand that under the proposals of this Bill the annual cost of the maintenance allowances would be £5,000,000 per year—a small enough sum, it must appear to many of us, for the inestimable benefits which education will confer. Moreover, no account has been taken of economies to which I shall presently refer, and I would suggest that this sum could be further reduced by granting these allowances in necessitous cases only.

I am not now concerned to argue whether these allowances would in such a case be essential or not, nor am I prepared to attack or defend them, but I would suggest most emphatically that in matters of education the cost of any constructive proposals should never be an obstacle unless it be, in fact, utterly prohibitive. To my mind, money allocated to education should be considered not an expenditure but an investment, one of the most profitable that the State can make. The gravest riots and civil disorders occur only in uneducated or partially educated communities. If we wish our people to be worthy of their citizenship we should see that they are fully taught when they are young. If I may quote Pope: 'Tis education forms the common mind, Just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclined. In considering the question of exemption it is important to look at the saving that would be effected in unemployment relief by the raising of the school age. I have unfortunately been unable to obtain an exact figure, but I think we may assume that there are at present in this country approximately 310,000 children between the ages of fourteen and fifteen who, to use a census expression, are "gainfully occupied." It is not possible to say how many of these children would be exempted under the present Bill. We can reasonably, I think, accept an exemption figure at the very least of 50 per cent. Experience in the by-law areas would justify a much higher basis. If no exemptions were permitted it would not be a question of 50 per cent. but of every single one of these children remaining at school instead of competing in a labour market already overcrowded. At the same time a considerable demand for further labour would result with attendant economies in unemployment relief. We should indeed be justified in feeling in such a case that a further vigorous and effective advance had been made towards the solution of one of the most pressing problems of our age.

There is one other social evil which would be mitigated in such a case. I refer to the question of juvenile delinquency. This problem has reached such proportions that on the second of this month the National Association of Head Teachers passed a resolution deploring the position and suggesting immediate inquiry. From the available figures it would appear that the peak period for juvenile crime lies between the ages of thirteen and sixteen. There are obviously many causes of juvenile delinquency of which unemployment is doubtless one. I would suggest that inability to spend leisure profitably owing to lack of education may well be another. It is true that the present Bill exercises much influence for good in both these directions. But how much stronger and more far-reaching this influence would be if no exemptions at all were to be permitted, so that the number of workless could be still further reduced and the benefits of education in fact more widely spread!

The Government's second main argument is that any sudden raising of the school age would tend to dislocate industry; but that is to approach the matter as if the present Bill were to take effect immediately, whereas in fact three years must elapse before it becomes operative. This would seem an ample period in which employers could make such adjustments as might be necessary if no exemptions were permitted. We are not told which industries would suffer in particular, but it is reasonable to suppose that these would be the blind-alley industries which recruit annually large masses of ill-paid child labour and in which the educational standard of the employee is not of primary importance. Actually many employers are keenly alive to the benefits to industry as a whole that would result from the raising of the school age. I have endeavoured to show the great advantages that would result to the community in such a case. Surely these considerations must utterly outweigh the temporary inconvenience to those industries in which the quantity and not the quality of the labour is of primary importance.

The Government's third argument may be termed an educational argument. If I appreciate it rightly, it amounts to this, that parents are not now convinced that any immediate raising of the school age would be of benefit and that they are more likely to be so convinced by a gradual rather than a rapid method of raising the age. To my mind, nothing could be more calculated to increase any such misgivings than an attempt to raise the age with exemptions. That in fact penalises those parents who allow their children to remain at school, for when the time comes for those children to leave they will find that the available employment has been secured by those who put immediate profit before the ultimate reward of education. It is not surprising that parents should be sceptical of a system which takes away with one hand that which it gives with the other. Their attitude may be compared with that of Samuel Johnson when told that corporal punishment was less prevalent in schools. He is reported to have said: "There, is now less flogging in our great schools than formerly, but then less is learned there, so that what the boys get at one end they lose at the other."

It is true that no exact parallel can be drawn from the by-law areas, but it is at any rate instructive to realise that exemptions in these areas range up to 96 per cent. A further illustration may be gained from the case of the intermediate schools. Those are schools to which, as your Lordships are aware, can be sent those children who, while above normal standards, are below the standard for a secondary school scholarship. It is a condition of admission to these intermediate schools that the child shall remain until the age of fifteen. We are dealing therefore in this case with parents who have definitely and voluntarily decided that their children should enjoy the benefits of an extra year's education. Yet I am advised that even in these cases it is a common experience for parents to press for and secure exemption when employment of any sort or kind offers itself, so great is the fear that the opportunity, once missed, may not again occur. I am aware, of course, that under this Bill exemptions may be granted for beneficial employment, but this phrase has to my mind a strangely cynical sound. That a child of fourteen may be forced to work for its living may possibly be beneficial to the employer, it may certainly be beneficial to the parent, but, my Lords, can it ever be beneficial to the child?

It is true also that in drafting the conditions of exemption the Government have had close regard to the welfare of the child. Yet it is impossible to have any confidence when no definite test or standard of any sort or kind is laid down, and when, in every case, the verdict rests with the individual local authority, so that not even any uniformity of decision can be expected. These local authorities, moreover, will frequently find themselves in difficulty because amongst their number will often be found those who, both in a public and private capacity, are large employers of labour. I do not for a moment doubt that their decisions will be honourably and justly given, but such a position is satisfactory neither to one side nor the other. This Bill, so pregnant in its promise, so barren in its performance, will be effective only in the distressed areas where the difficulty of obtaining employment is so acute that no exemptions are likely. In the remaining districts it is reasonable to suppose that the brighter and more intelligent children will be selected for work, and will form the bulk of the exemptions, the less able remaining at school, so that the Bill will act like a filter in which the precious elements are rejected and the less valuable are retained.

I have endeavoured to show that the main arguments in support of Clause 2 are untenable. I would like to offer a constructive suggestion. If I may say so with every respect, I greatly appreciate the suggestions put forward by the most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury. My own contribution would be this, that if the Government are unable, or if they feel themselves unable, to give way on the question of exemptions, then these should only be granted provided the employment is accompanied by further education during the hours of work. That I understand to be the proposal put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, and is in fact the principle of the day continuation school embodied in the Fisher Education Act of 1918. Under this Act these continuation schools could be held at the child's place of work. I understand that five great firms now operate their own continuation schools, that their experience is wholly favourable, and that they are unanimous in saying that part-time education is not only compatible with industrial efficiency, but in fact increases it. To facilitate working this scheme in its inception should be confined to urban areas only. There is no reason, moreover, why the education could not be related to the work secured. It is difficult indeed to see why the Government have not adopted a principle from which there is so much to be gained, so little to be lost, and which would at any rate do something to ensure that the employment would be beneficial in fact and not in name alone.

This Bill, as is well known, is highly unpopular in the teaching world. It has been almost unanimously opposed by the association of education authorities, and falls lamentably below the recommendations of the Hadow Committee and the proposals made at Geneva last July. In this connection it is distressing to reflect that, as present experience shows, there are so many who are willing to accept the counsels of Geneva when they are perilous and yet are so ready to reject them when they are prudent. My Lords, I have never believed that sentiment can be a true foundation for legislation. I do not propose making any appeal in that fashion to-night, save to say this, that if we reflect even briefly, fourteen must indeed seem an early enough age at which a child should be permitted to wrest its living from the world. If we feet, as I hope we do, that here sentiment and reason march hand in hand, then surely we should be eager to seize this opportunity of according to others in a rather more generous measure some of the advantages we have so abundantly received ourselves.


My Lords, if I intervene for a short time in this debate it is because, in February, 1931, I was responsible for moving the Second Reading of the Bill introduced by the Labour Government of that time, and I desire on this occasion to support my noble friends on this side of the House in the protests they are making with regard to the provisions of this Bill. A great opportunity, a wonderful opportunity, has been missed. It is very characteristic of the Government, and I can quite well visualise how it arose. The Cabinet knew that the Hadow Report was of such importance, so judicially, clearly and persuasively drawn-up, that it could not be ignored. The Government knew that there was a very great body of support for the Labour Government's Bill of 1931, and they felt, therefore, something had to be done. So the Cabinet said to the Minister of Education: "Will you frame a Bill for the raising of the school age? It must not cost much; it must cost as little as possible, because we want every penny we can get for tanks and bombing aeroplanes and battleships. Therefore it must not cost very much. And we do not want to interfere with industry; so can you manage to make it, in the course of its clauses, defeat its own object?" And the Minister said: "Well, I will try," and he went back to the Board of Education, which is remarkably well staffed. When ho returned to the Cabinet he said: "Yes, I can do it." The Prime Minister said: "Splendid; and how are you going to do it?" He said: "There is an official in my Department who has conceived the phrase ' exemption for beneficial employment'." The Prime Minister asked: "What is beneficial employment?" The Minister of Education replied: "Not wild horses will drag any definition out of me." So the Bill was introduced.

They knew in another place that the Minister of Education is able in common language to "get it across" very well, and that he has such tact and such knowledge of the methods in the House of Commons that he could conciliate all Parties and get the Bill through. When it came to the question of getting the Bill through your Lordships' House—and it was in your Lordships' House that the former Bill was rejected—they very rightly knew of a Minister in this House who also was tactful and also had the right manner, who had been an ex-Labour Minister and who had actually voted for the Bill of 1931. They knew that he could conciliate us by saying how right was our principle and conciliate the other side by saying how perfect was their method. The noble Earl did that with his accustomed ability, Although he says that he has been for so many years an expert on pigs and cows, I feel sure that his tact and persuasiveness show that his abilities are by no means restricted.

But what an opportunity missed! Here they are with a very big majority taking up a very fine principle and, instead of wholeheartedly saying that the age limit for children is really going to be extended without any sort of exemption, they put in all these restrictions and nobody can quite tell what is going to be the ultimate result. I notice that the Minister of Education in another place, when he was asked whether the occupation of vanboy was beneficial employment, replied: "Oh, yes, because a vanboy may get promotion to be the driver of the van." I do not believe there is the slightest connection between the two. The driver of the van is a very skilled motorist, and the vanboy has not to concern himself with motor driving, although nearly everybody does so nowadays. I do not know what the Minister of Education would say with regard to newspaper boys. Would he say that newspaper boys are in beneficial occupation because they may one day become leader writers? We cannot get this definition. Does the Minister of Education really admit that there is such a thing as blind-alley occupation?

Then the various local authorities are perhaps going to be at sixes and sevens and will be by no means unanimous as to what is beneficial employment. You will get a boy given permission to be a vanboy in one district, and in the neighbouring district a boy refused exemption from school who wants to be a vanboy. The pull against the child will be excessive. The local authority which is inclined to grant exemptions plus the employers who will be trying to get at the parents who are not yet, all of them, very much inclined to want their children to remain at school, will exert a pressure so great that these exemptions will be far more common than is generally supposed. It is very difficult to say what the proportion will be and I think the figures quoted are really hypothetical. It will not be possible until this has been tried over a considerable period—and it is not going to be tried for a long time yet—to know whether there is going to be any benefit at all in this elaborate measure. I do not believe there has been any period in which real education is more wanted than it is to-day. In these days of mechanised industrialism the tendency is to make the human being simply a cog in the machine and to make his life nothing but mechanised toil and drudgery. At such a time we want our young people to be brought up to realise what life has in store for them and the possibilities that it has, and by keeping them in school, not for any technical or vocational training but for the broad education by which they can be made aware of what life means, you are really adding to the riches of this country. By allowing opportunities to take children from school in order to throw them into this heartless machine you are degrading human life.

I am very glad, anyhow, mat this Bill has been instrumental in bringing about such a happy compromise and unity between the various religious denominations. I think some credit is due to my right honourable friend Sir Charles Trevelyan for the effort he made in 1930. He found it very difficult, and I would like to say that during the passage of his Bill in 1931 a lifeline was thrown out to him by the noble Viscount, Lord FitzAlan, with a view to seeing whether some compromise could not be reached. My belief was, and is still, that if that Bill had been allowed a Second Reading by your Lordships the religious difficulties would have solved themselves a little bit earlier by the leverage that would have been given by the assent of Parliament to this much-needed reform. I can only say that I join with my noble friend Lord Sanderson in deploring this lost opportunity.


My Lords, I venture to intervene in this debate even at this late hour because I happen to be one of the people on whose shoulders the responsibility will fall for raising money for senior schools—and incidentally for junior schools probably—from the people who believe in Church schools in my diocese. I am one of those who believe that the basis of all true education is religion—I know that there are a lot of people who do not believe that—and I entirely agree with those who question whether we are now getting the best value for money spent on education. I have had to raise, as a great many of my brother Bishops have had to raise, a large sum of money during the last three years in the cause of education. In the last six or seven years, we have raised in my diocese between £70,000 and £80,000 for building new schools and bringing old schools up to the standard required. We want to co-operate, and the Government, as the noble Earl said, wish for our co-operation, because it is impossible to carry out this reorganisation unless we can get the good will and co-operation of the managers of the non-provided schools. And it is not only the managers of the non-provided schools; it is the Church people in the diocese generally. If the Bishop does not give a lead in the way of exhorting them to do it, nothing will be done except in a small way.

My difficulty is this, and I venture to put it before the Government. Even if the maximum grant of 75 per cent. is given by local education authorities, we shall still have to raise a very considerable amount of money. I do not think that my diocese is peculiar in this, but all through the country a very large amount of money will have to be raised. This comes at a difficult time, because all of us are faced with the difficulties of these new districts. I have myself had to try to raise in the last year over £40,000 for a new district, and that is small, I suppose, compared with the amounts that other Bishops have had to raise. In addition to that, we have not only to raise the money for Church schools but to raise another £30,000 or £40,000 of new money for other works. Where is this money going to come from? It is only going to come from the people who really believe in what the Church school stands for—the denominational school, though I hate the word "denomination."

If you cannot persuade the nucleus who are really keen to go all out to co-operate with the Government over this Bill, your Bill will become a dead letter, and we do not want it to become a dead letter. I agree with everything that has been said about the "better spirit," and everything else, and one of the reasons for the better spirit is that we are waking up to the fact that you must have real religious teaching given by people who believe in it themselves and are practical Christians, not given theoretically. It is not only a question of giving a lesson occasionally. "Competence to give religious instruction! "—I think it is a terrible phrase, anyway, because if you have ever tried to teach religion, you will know that the last thing you want to call it is "giving religious instruction." That is enough to put anybody off, I should think. Everybody knows that the whole thing depends upon the staff as a whole. If they really believe, if they work as a team, and if they are really practising Christians belonging to a fellowship—I might almost say that I do not really care what fellowship it is; I would much rather send my children to a good Wesleyan or a good Roman Catholic school if I knew that the people who were going to teach were all working together as believing and practising Christians.

That is the real difficulty. I venture to think that if you want the co-operation of the Church people of this country you have to persuade them that this business of reserved teachers is not going to change the character of Church schools. The most reverend Primate spoke of the National Society having agreed to this principle of reserved teachers in the last Bill, which was also referred to by my noble friend opposite. But, of course, the National Society has continued since then, and has been reorganised since then to represent the education of the Church as a whole. It is the central educational body. As a matter of fact, not very long ago that body passed very definite resolutions on this subject of reserved teachers and did not in the least agree with the Government proposals, simply on the ground that it was feared that if it were left to local education authorities, this principle of reserved teachers would cut at the very root of the character of Church schools. I have co-operated with my local education authorities, and have presided over a conference, which lasted about a year and a half, producing an agreed syllabus. I am on the very best of terms with the local education authorities, and they are with us, and I do not fear on the whole from them, except possibly from one or two of the smaller local education authorities—which, after all, are important.

I do not know whether there will be any difficulty about this so long as it is perfectly clearly stated—and I understand that the President of the Board of Education has so stated—that there is no reason at all why 100 per cent. should not be reserved. Of course, I hate to be suspicious, my Lords, but if that is so, then why put in reserved teachers at all? What is at the back of this business? Where are they coming in? Why have them? Of course, if a single school area meant that there were a great number of Nonconformist children, something could be said for it, though I do not see why there should not be some reciprocity in that matter, as has already been mentioned. I want to put that point, because it is perfectly easy in this House or elsewhere to speak generally of what will happen and produce a Bill which looks all right. If you want the co-operation of those who are keen and really enthusiastic about the work of education in our dioceses, I am sure that the noble Earl must convince us that the character of Church schools is not going to be changed and that we shall be able to pursue our work with confidence. Then we shall be able to make the contribution which I believe we can make and which I believe we want to make to the national system of education in this country.


My Lords, I will not detain the House for more than one or two minutes, as many noble Lords are anxious to go and the hour is already late. The right reverend Prelate who has just spoken has expressed his views on certain aspects of the Church's attitude to this business. I am sure that the House will recognise that it is desirable that all opinions should be expressed and that both sides should be heard in a discussion of this kind. As I have been associated all my life with Wales, where the dominant portion of the population happens to be Nonconformist, and as a good deal of my Parliamentary life in the past has been taken up in a somewhat strenuous contest for the purpose of remedying what we feel to be grievances and of safeguarding our rights in the matter of education, the House will realise that I take a somewhat special interest in the provisions of this Bill. But I should like, if I may, to say that I think this is the first Education Bill which I have heard discussed in either House that has not aroused the fierce rage of sectarian hostility and warfare. I should like, if I may, to congratulate the Government, and particularly the noble Viscount who leads this House, upon his part in bringing about that measure of agreement which formed, at all events, the foundation of those provisions of the Bill with regard to the most difficult question in our schools.

The Bill has two great achievements before it, the raising of the school age and the solution, at all events for the present, of the religious difficulty. Those for whom I speak in Wales are not, of course, satisfied in regard to the exemption clauses of the Bill—who would be?—but I think it will be found that the educational leaders in Wales, those who will be responsible for the working of this Bill when it becomes an Act, will do their best to secure the best results from it which are possible. As to the settlement proposed in the Bill in regard to the religious difficulty, I feel sure there is no part of the country which welcomes that solution more than we do in Wales. We in Wales have for a long time taken a special interest in education. I do not wish to boast, but I think we have some reason to be proud of the efforts we have made in building up our secondary school system, and also of the efforts and sacrifices which the people of Wales have made to secure higher education and University education, but we have all along been sensible of the fact that, however much we may succeed in the higher spheres of education the full benefit of those facilities for higher education could not be fully realised unless we did something to improve the standard of the educational foundation—namely, the elementary schools. Therefore I myself believe that, however defective some of the machinery of the Bill may be in particular directions, it will, in its general result, make for greater efficiency in elementary education. I welcome the Bill, and I hope it will not only pass through this House, but will realise to the full the success which many of us anticipate.


My Lords, I am going to address you for a very few moments only. I do feel, however, that after all there has been a great deal of criticism of this Bill, and very little support for it, and I would remind your Lordships of the saying that it is easier to be critical than to be correct. I will, if I may, say just a few words to explain why I welcome this Bill, and in particular the exemption clauses in it. I am not one of those who think for a moment that education unsettles children. I am as anxious as any of your Lordships to see the children of this country educated as far as possible, but it does seem to me that many noble Lords who criticise this Bill have forgotten that if a Bill goes in advance of public opinion that Bill is useless. I could not help smiling to myself on more than one occasion when noble Lords opposite and on the Liberal Benches, mentioned, with approval, the Fisher Act, and the compulsory-continuation-schools part of that Act. No one knows better than they do what the fate of that Bill was. Noble Lords opposite—I took particular notice of Lord Sanderson—quoted the widespread opposition to this Bill, and Lord Sanderson named a number of bodies, ending up, for some obscure reason, with the co-operative societies.


I said the co-operative movement.


I apologise to the noble Lord, but the one body of people whom noble Lords opposite did not mention were the parents. Those they left out completely. So far as I could follow Lord Sanderson's line of thought the parents were unimportant in this great matter. I do beg noble Lords who call themselves educationists to realise that they are just dreaming if they think that parents are simply panting to be allowed to keep their children an extra year at school. It is not true in the least. When we say that, the answer is always the same: "You give such great economic advantages to the parents of children who leave school that naturally they are corrupted." That is not true at all, because no one will deny that the parents in this country are great believers in the secondary system of education. They will make great sacrifices in order to enable their children to enjoy a secondary education. Why is it that they only become money grubbers with regard to elementary education? Why this extraordinary transformation that comes over their characters? Why is it that these parents who on the one hand are only too anxious to enable their son or daughter to take full advantage of secondary education, are at the same time determined to take their children away from the elementary schools as soon as they can?

The answer is plain. It is that the parents are genuinely unconvinced that the fourth year is going to give their child a real advantage in the struggle of life. Why? It is because of the complacency of the educationists. It is because of their attitude of firm belief in the ultimate reward of education, without specifying what the ultimate reward is to be. That is the sort of attitude which makes the parents distrustful of the fourth year. It is the curriculum which makes exemptions necessary, and it is the educationists who make exemptions necessary. The educationists are only too glad to sit back on their red benches and to consider that when they have taught a ploughman "Piers Plowman" in the original English, or when they have taught a shepherd the doctrines of Ovid—having first expurgated from the volume everything likely to be useful to him—if a parent then complains that his son has not received full benefit from the fourth year that parent is to blame: he is a money grubber!

I feel that it is only by reorganisation that you will be able to persuade the parent that the fourth year will be of value. There is an immense amount of reorganisation still to be done even within the three years that remain before the appointed day. Is it therefore remarkable that the Government should quite rightly give the educationists and the local authorities time to consider whether, after all, the parents are always wrong and the local education authorities always right? Is it not rather a good thing that this Bill challenges those who are so convinced that they have the secret of true knowledge, and that this Bill throws out a forcible challenge to those responsible for the education of this country to see whether they can first persuade the parents that they can really have something of value to offer? I myself would like to express the personal opinion that, once they have got something of value to offer, the parents of this country will be delighted to take it and to make use of it.


My Lords, I rise for a few moments only. I do so in the first place with the laudable object of helping the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, out of his difficulty. He has asked what is the definition of "beneficial employment." I cannot give him the official answer, but I can give him the real answer, and that is that it is employment which is more beneficial to the child than being in the school from which he came. And that is the secret of the exemptions of this Bill. It is also the secret of why there is not more enthusiasm for the extra year, as my noble friend Lord Dufferin has just pointed out, among the parents of this country. They are not convinced that the extra schooling which their sons and daughters are getting is to the ultimate benefit of those children. It is quite common to hear the man of fifty say: "In my day we went on to eleven years old and we came out better educated than the children of to-day." He may not be a good judge, but he is a good judge from the family point of view. And why does he say that? For the very reason that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St. Albans has so forcibly brought out. It is character training that these children require. It is character training in their children that convinces the parent that school is worth while. And though I am not in a position to say this, I must say that I should like to see the right reverend Prelate pursue his theme that character training is impossible without a religious foundation.

The fault of this Bill from the parents' point of view, and from the point of view of many who are just as convinced as noble Lords opposite that this democracy must receive a fuller and fuller educa tion, is that, so far from strengthening the character-training elements in our educational system, this Bill is likely to weaken them. And unless the Amendments which I hope were foreshadowed by the right reverend Prelate are forthcoming and pressed home, I am quite sure that the difficulties which he sees among the laymen of the Church will play an unfortunate and important part in making this Bill a dead letter as far as those schools are concerned. If you want the support of people who believe in character training and believe in religion, you have to leave full scope for that character training and religion in the schools. You cannot compromise on that point. It does not matter what sect or what religion may be concerned, if you are going to base your education on it you cannot have the head teacher teaching one thing, the second teacher teaching another, and the third perhaps a different one again. Somehow or other I hope that that point will be accepted, as it seems to me it can easily be accepted, by the Government before this Bill becomes law.


My Lords, I do not know whether or not the last two speeches will have secured agreement in all parts of the House, but at least I am sure that they will have been welcomed as most refreshing and original contributions to a debate that has elicited a succession of valuable contributions to the subject with which we have been concerned. I do not think that my noble friend who introduced this Bill has any cause to complain of the reception that your Lordships have given to it. I must at once admit that of all the contributions made to the debate I enjoyed, as I always do, that made by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, as well as any because he, not content with examining the actual educational merits or demerits of the Bill, made an excursion into biology and informed your Lordships how the Bill had actually assumed the shape it had. In the course of that examination he paid high compliments to the officials at the Board of Education and to my right honourable friend the President of the Board. I perhaps am entitled to claim a measure of the commendation which he gave so generously to them, because, if I remember rightly, it was while I was at the Board of Education that the words "beneficial employment" first began to move in political circles, although at that time the noble Lord was not aware of it.


I apologise.


Not at all, and most gratefully I accept the noble Lord's generous recognition. But I want to carry it a little bit further, because I should like to tell the noble Lord, in return, how it was that we came to find the phrase "beneficial employment." It was generally felt that the line of exemptions would be the appropriate line on which to move, not indeed for the reasons that have been suggested in all the speeches this afternoon, but on merits; and we cast about for what would be the most appropriate line by which to limit them. The first document on which our researches landed was, if I remember rightly, a Bill that was introduced into the House of Commons, I think in 1933 or 1934, which had the general support of the representatives of the Labour Party of that day in that House, and which I thought therefore from the general political angle must obviously enjoy merit. I looked for the definition there given, applied to this problem, and the noble Lord will not have forgotten that the definition that was there applied was "suitable employment." I venture to think that in the word "beneficial" we have gone a little bit further and found something a little bit better than the word "suitable," for which the noble Lord's political friends were not unwilling to vote two years ago and I commend that to his study of the biography of this piece of politics.

The debate has turned, as of course it was certain to do, in the main upon the two subjects of the whole principle of exemptions and the so-called denominational issue, on which we have had a good deal said. I do not propose to attempt to follow in detail everything that has been said with regard to exemptions, because a good many of the points that have been made will perhaps recur in Committee, when your Lordships will have an opportunity of considering them, and I therefore content myself with a few general observations that perhaps will not be found irrelevant. In the first place, it is of course quite obvious that if, as my noble friend Lord Dufferin has said, it had not been necessary to have any regard at all to the feelings of parents, it would have been in some ways a very much easier and very much simpler Bill had it been devised with no exemptions at all. But I think some of the speeches that have been made have overlooked the fact that in its passage through another place the provisions of the Bill dealing with the granting of exemptions were made considerably more stringent. There should be no doubt left in the minds of any of your Lordships that the conditions under which exemptions may be granted are both stringent and subject to review by local authorities, and capable of being-kept under continuous investigation.

I am not at all sure that the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, was far from the truth when he said that in a great many areas of the country the fear that has been expressed in some quarters that exemptions would be rather the rule than the exception are likely to be found exaggerated. Certainly it is true, as the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, said, that no analogy, on any investigation of the figures I have been able to make, capable of supporting a great deal of weight, can be made between the percentage figures that have been calculated on the basis of the prevailing experience in by-law areas and the figures that are likely to emerge from the operation of the exemption provisions over the whole country, and that for the reason that I think my noble friend gave, which is that when you have a system working over the whole country, and the competition for employment, such as it was, between different localities is removed by the fact that all localities are in the same box, if I may use a colloquialism, obviously the conditions are entirely novel. I have no hesitation in asserting my own opinion, which on this point is not far different from that of my noble friend who spoke last, that there are children—how many I do not know—for whom I have no doubt reasonable engagement in industry, under such conditions as the local authority may think it wise to provide, is far better than continuation in school. The Bill, as noble Lords will have observed, instructs the local authorities to have regard not only to the immediate but to the prospective benefits of the child.

When I heard Lord Buckmaster or some other speaker on that side of the House complaining of what he considered to be the probable variation of habit or practice between different local authorities in regard to beneficial employment, I made to myself the reflection: "But when I am dealing with so variable an element as all this mass of human nature represented by children of infinitely differing quality, variation is exactly what I want to see in my educational system." It is, I believe, because in the past in some respects our educational system has not shown enough variation that it has not in all cases succeeded in enlisting the regard and sympathy of the parents of the children. The most reverend Primate referred in connection with exemptions to two Amendments he had in mind to ask your Lordships to consider on the Committee stage. In regard to one of them—namely, the Amendment he suggested to the effect that we should include in the Bill a provision that no exemptions should be granted until the child was fourteen years and six months—while we hope and believe that the general effect of the Bill will be to make the school-leaving age something like fourteen years nine months, yet to include by Amendment a statutory provision that no child should be allowed to leave until fourteen years six months would, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, run contrary to the very distinct pledges that they gave, on which insistence has been frequently laid and on which, I am afraid, if that Amendment were moved, insistence would have to be laid again. The most reverend Primate also referred to an Amendment that he would wish to see moved making it impossible for such exemptions to be granted during the currency of the school term. I think the clause of the Bill that makes it plain that that will be the case except in the most exceptional circumstances must, perhaps, have escaped his attention.

I turn now for a few moments to the questions arising under the other main point of discussion—namely, the denominational side. There again I was immensely gratified, as I have no doubt was my noble friend beside me, at the general welcome that was given to the agreement that has been reached between all those concerned on what has hitherto been one of the most contentious issues of British politics. The most reverend Primate and the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of St. Albans, spoke, and I am sure that they carried the assent of your Lordships to their arguments if not always to their conclusions. I am sure there is no one in this House, however much we may differ upon the actual expressions and methods of religious thought, who would not agree wholeheartedly with the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of St. Albans, in the emphasis he laid on the necessity of building all your education, if it is indeed to be the formation of life, upon the foundation of true religion, and that such religion could in fact only be taught by men who not only believe but live what they believe.

With all that I think we should go a long way, but when the most reverend Primate went further into the actual realm of amendment, and asked us whether we could consider two or three specific Amendments, I would like to point out to him and to others who may be interested that to ask that, where the arrangements for senior children have in fact an effect upon the arrangements of the junior department of the school, financial help should be similarly available for the junior children, is going outside the balanced arrangement, as I understand it, that is contained in this Bill. If I understood what the most reverend Primate said correctly, it would, I think, be difficult for His Majesty's Government to meet him on that point. He laid emphasis on the necessity of teachers who would be entrusted with the task of giving the teaching on the agreed syllabus under Clause 9 being teachers who would in fact believe what they teach, and be, therefore, competent to give the teaching there referred to. That question is one that would fall within the four corners, or could fall within the four corners of any agreement made between the managers, or those acting for them, and the local education authorities, and I think that those are right who have spoken in this debate on the wisdom of leaving as much as possible to be settled by free agreement between local authorities and managers.

The last point that the most reverend Primate made was whether the teaching that is provided for under Clause 13—the Anson by-law as it has been called—could in fact be given in school premises. I have not had an opportunity of refreshing my mind in detail, but I think I should be right in saying that the most reverend Primate to some extent supplied the answer to his own question, for he quoted cases in which such religious instruction is at present, by the good will of the local authority, given on the school premises. Therefore, I have no doubt that where a local authority is willing to make such arrangements with those responsible for the denominational schools, what he desires can be done, and I suggest that that is another instance of the advantage of proceeding by way of agreement.

The right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of St. Albans, if I understood him correctly, said that if it was the intention of the Bill that 100 per cent. of teachers would be reserved, why were they not reserved, and he asked where was the catch in not saying that there must be 100 per cent. reserved teachers. I think, at least I hope, I can reassure him, and I shall be greatly disappointed if he is not able to reassure his diocese. The answer I think is this. First of all, there is nothing to prevent 100 per cent. of teachers being reserved, but in a single-school area it may well be that there would in fact be other children who would not be denominational children and who would not, or might not, wish to receive the denominational teaching that the reserved teacher would be expected to give. Moreover, in a larger school it would happen that the teachers would include such specialists as the science teacher and the rest of them, all of whom would not be expected to give, and would probably be wholly unsuitable for giving, the religious teaching, and whom, therefore, it would be quite unnecessary and unreasonable to include in that category of reserved.

But I am well aware, as he has said, or at all events implied, that there is inevitably some anxiety in the minds of those responsible for denominational schools at the idea of surrendering the actual appointment of their teachers, however much on paper the right of the managers to object to appointments and to ask for the dismissal of teachers on religious grounds is secured. I am quite satisfied, and I think that the right reverend Prelate is also himself satisfied—at least I hope he is—that the managers' position on that fundamental issue is absolutely secured. I have been over the ground with a great many people, and I have no doubt myself that if the managers wish to object they can do so, and if the local authority appoints a person who turns out to be unsatisfactory, the right of the managers to ask for his dismissal is absolutely secured on religious grounds.

I want your Lordships to have this also in mind. I think this is a point that Church people may have in mind. Over and over again I have been told, and I am sure the right reverend Prelate will have had his attention drawn to it, that Church teachers, the best of our Church teachers, coming out of our Church training colleges are sometimes reluctant to go to Church schools because they do not wish, as they have put it to me, to put themselves outside the channel of appointment by local authorities. It is not that they are in any sense less good Churchmen than the people who go to Church schools, but, looking towards promotion, they tend to drift towards council schools so that Church schools in many cases tend to lose the best. Therefore, I am not myself averse from having the appointments made by local authorities provided I am satisfied that it improves by agreement the atmosphere to which the right reverend Prelate referred of the local authorities, that in fact the denominational schools are going to secure fair treatment, and that, by the extension of public control, a step towards a real national system can be secured without sacrificing those things to which I not less than the right reverend Prelate attach immense importance. That I think is the answer also to what fell from my noble friend Lord FitzAlan, whom, if he were here, I should have referred to subsection (3) of Clause 12 as my answer to another of his points.

On the main question, as a Churchman I confess frankly that many points have been put in this debate with which I should feel great sympathy, but no one listening to this debate, and no one who has followed this controversy for the last fifteen or twenty years, can fail to to be impressed with the almost miraculous transformation that has come over this denominational part of the field. I do venture to suggest, where that is so, and where that result has followed the labours, largely the labours, I agree with Lord Ponsonby, of Sir Charles Trevelyan, on whose foundations my right honourable friend the President of the Board has largely built, it would be, I think, criminal folly to do anything to upset that happy consummation of a great many different persons' labours and disturb the atmosphere that has so happily come across the horizon. I must not keep your Lordships. I have tried, though I am afraid rather sketchily and raggedly, to answer some of the points made in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, began by saying that he could find nothing good in the Bill after the first clause in which the age of fifteen was mentioned.


And the last part dealing with voluntary schools.


I, of course, had that present in my mind. With all respect to the noble Lord, I am afraid that he and I approach the subject from a somewhat different angle. First of all may I say to him that even if all these exemptions are as bad as he would have us believe, and as I am afraid my noble friend Viscount Buckmaster would have us believe, it will be a comparatively easy business when public opinion has advanced to repeal Clauses 2 to 5 of the Bill and bring all this exemption business to an end? If and when that is done, it will be a piece of educational progress in the direct lineage of all our educational history in the country, for that is the way in which, as your Lordships know, we have always proceeded, gradually bringing public opinion along to demand what the wiser or the more progressive or the less prudent of us have long wished to see accomplished.

I think the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, had no regard to what I frankly believe are valuable principles incorporated in this Bill. Unlike him I like, and do not dislike, the principle of local option—the principle of allowing local authorities, who surely know the conditions of their children and the industry of the locality better than any wiseacres in Parliament or Whitehall, to decide, provided you give them the general principles on which you wish them to work. Next, the Bill proceeds upon the basis of securing the maximum measure of agreement on the denominational issue; and it also proceeds in the third place—although here again I fear I shall not carry the noble Lord's assent—upon the basis that the only secure foundation for educational advance is that convinced and converted public opinion to which my noble friend Lord Dufferin referred. For myself I am convinced that you will not get acceptance of a policy of the plain raising of the school age with no exemptions until the business of reorganisation has been completed and parents have had an opportunity of seeing what that completed system of education has to offer.

For these reasons I do not think it is necessary for any supporter of this Bill to apologise for any part of it, and I particularly welcome the assurance which the noble Lord, Lord Clwyd, felt able to give on behalf of the Principality of Wales, that if and when this Bill became law he anticipated that it would work smoothly and harmoniously in that part of the country. It is, of course, obvious that a Bill of this kind presents administrative difficulties of one sort or another to those responsible for educational administration, but I am perfectly convinced that when this Bill has been on the Statute Book and in operation for a very short time it will be found, both by administrators and by those responsible for denominational schools, that many of their fears were misplaced or at any rate exaggerated, and that a real contribution has been made to the educational advancement of the nation, which, whatever may be our opinions on other matters, we in all parts of your Lordships' House desire to see.

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