§ THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they are prepared to make any statement about their plans for the education and training of the rising generation, with particular regard to Christian teaching in the schools of this country; and to move for Papers. The most reverend Primate said: My Lords, the object of the question of which I have given Notice is to give the Board of Education an opportunity, which I think they may welcome, of indicating the plans which they may have in view for a further advance in the education of the people. There can be no question that this is one of the most urgent of the problems of reconstruction after the war. It is well that the Board of Education should be giving attention to it, and preparing for it before the nation is plunged into the welter of other problems more complicated, though they cannot be more important. Your Lordships will have noticed that I have asked for a statement in particular upon one subject—namely, Christian teaching in our schools, but let me say at once that I have no intention of treating that subject apart, but rather of speaking of it in its proper setting in the whole field of education. I say that now so that noble Lords who may wish to take part in the debate need not feel in the least degree bound to speak on that particular subject, but free to consider the whole field of education.
§ We have built up in this country a great fabric of education, ranging from the nursery schools through elementary, secondary and technical schools up to the universities. We have spent an immense amount of money upon it, and multitudes of teachers have given it devoted care. We are in many mays reaping the advantages of that system; but I suppose we can scarcely refrain from some misgivings as to whether the results in the life of the people are wholly commensurate with the care that has been given, the money that has been spent, and the devotion of the teachers. It is, therefore, pertinent, I think, looking forward to the future, to ask whether there are any defects that may be remedied, any gaps that may be filled. I naturally begin with the elementary schools. If anything is unsatisfactory in their results the blame is not to be given to the teachers, but rather to the 853 restraints and mistakes of the system of teaching which is imposed upon them. For example, the syllabus of subjects in the elementary schools is greatly over crowded. It is quite impossible for the minds of young children to digest such a heavy fare. I have sometimes tried to express a private ideal in the form of a paradox which, I think, contains a truth. We should aim at the best possible teachers, teaching the fewest possible subjects to the smallest possible classes.
§ Again, even the elementary schools are overridden by this burden of examination. We have to recognize much more fully than we do that the real aim of education is not to impart to these children certain pieces of information to be extracted from them later by the method of question and answer, but that it is to elicit interest, and the true test of the success of teaching is; not whether children are able to answer questions set by others, but whether they are eager to ask questions set by themselves. But the most grave and damaging defect of the whole system of our elementary schools is that the education of the majority of our children ceases at the age of fourteen. It is difficult to exaggerate the evils of that present system. Just when their minds are being opened they are closed down. Small wonder, if, in a short time, most of them seem to forget what they have learnt, save perhaps only their ability to read the football tips and news in the evening newspapers. It is imperative that the age should be raised, and I have no doubt that His Majesty's Government will be able to assure us that the recent Act will be revised and that the school-leaving age will be raised to fifteen. If so, then we can begin to arrange for the future and further education of these children.
§ There is already a break at the age of eleven since the Hadow Report, and if the school-leaving age is raised there may be another break at thirteen. Then two separate roads will be opened out along which our children can follow for a longer period of education. The first of them is that into which boys and girls may enter who are specially selected as likely to profit by a full-time secondary education. I emphasize the words "likely to profit" because there is no use whatever keeping boys and girls in school who are quite unfitted for, and have the greatest dislike of, spending all their time in school discipline 854 and in school premises. We all speak about equality of opportunity, and I do not think we can speak about it too much, but that can never mean the same opportunity. It can only mean that no boy or girl in the country who is really qualified for a full-time secondary education shall be debarred from it by the accident of the means of his or her parents. I wish that methods of selection were rather more satisfactory, but that is by the way. Along that road will go all these suitable boys and girls to secondary schools and to technical schools.
§ There is another alternative which I mention with some diffidence but which, I think, must receive increasing consideration. It is the possibility of really suitable boys from these schools finding an entrance into what we call, with characteristic British inaccuracy, our public schools, which ought rather to be called residential or boarding schools. This is not the place in which to commend the public school system, because most of your Lordships have been educated under it. It is at least certain that it has provoked the admiration and the envy of foreign observers. Among its many merits is this, that it is an incomparable school of citizenship in which boys learn to be citizens by practising citizenship all the day long. They live, and live intensely, in a community life in which they learn the art both of governing and of being governed. The best of them acquire the quality of social leadership by being compelled to practice it every day. I do not deny that other schools can develop very much the same qualities. I have been immensely struck by noting that many of those selected for Commissions in the Army, perhaps a great majority of them, come from these secondary schools. Still, public schools have a character of their own. There are many who wish that the system could be more fully fitted into the scheme of national education, and I know that there are many of our public schools which are ready to open their doors to properly selected boys from the elementary and secondary schools. I do not propose to discuss that problem. I can only say that I hope it is one to which His Majesty's Government are giving careful and sympathetic attention.
§ I come to the last of the points along that first road, the universities. It is striking to remember that not much more 855 than 100 years ago there were only two universities in England and Wales; now there are twelve. They are becoming increasingly national. They are no longer the preserve of special classes. Multitudes of boys who without financial aid could not possibly have a university education, through the system of State and local authorities' scholarships are thronging our universities. Thus, for example, of a student population in the universities of 39,000 no fewer than 16,000 are there because they have this financial help. Oxford and Cambridge are to-day very different from what most of us remember, because 44 per cent. of the students in residence are there because they receive financial aid. All the evidence goes to show that they do not change but rather imbibe the characteristic atmosphere of the universities. The Scottish universities have always boasted for centuries that their doors have been open to all people, and it is the proud boast of Scotland herself that her people are, or perhaps I should say were, so robust in their belief in the worth of education that they would make almost any sacrifice to send their boys to college.
§ Now let me turn to the other road which opens out when the age of fourteen or fifteen has been reached—the road which the great majority of our people will have to tread. What about that seventy per cent.? It would be surely as wasteful of adolescent life, after all that has been spent and done in the elementary schools, to deprive them of any further education at the age of fifteen as at fourteen. There is only one thing to be done. It is of course that the provisions of the Fisher Act of 1918 shall be revived and that for all those boys and girls—particularly I think the boys—up to the age of eighteen there shall be part-time continuation schools. These years from fourteen or fifteen to eighteen are the most formative, the making years of their lives. I am afraid there is only too much evidence to show that instead of using these years in such a way that character can be built up, we allow character to deteriorate, their lives to be not made but unmade. At all costs that downward drift must be arrested.
§ I believe these continuation schools properly conceived and properly worked might turn that downward drift into an 856 upward movement. They will have one educational advantage, that for the first time the scholars in them will receive their teaching with a background of experience of real life, and that ought to make all the difference. But more than that, these schools ought to become real youth centres with a corporate life of their own and with opportunities branching out from them for developing the best recreation for those who are within them. I hope that they will be increasingly fitted into that youth service throughout the country which has recently and happily been inaugurated by the Board of Education. Two things are plainly necessary. There should be buildings of a kind which are capable of meeting these wider needs, and still more, teachers who have proved qualities of leadership among young people. If that is the character of our continuation schools—whether they meet for some hours during the week, or, I think better, for one whole day during the week—I am sure these schools can do much to guide our young people through the most critical years of their lives. I venture to hope that the noble Lord who will reply for the Government to-day will be able to say that plans are being laid for this most vital stage in the education of our people.
§ Now I come to a defect less easy to describe but not less real which mars the whole system of education and in every type of school. How shall I describe it? It is, I think, the want of any unifying aim. We have been busy with means and have not sufficiently considered ends. We have been asking the question what road shall we take instead of having got a clear answer to the question to what goal do we seek to arrive. What is the goal to be? Is it to fit boys and girls for useful careers? Most certainly it must be that. Is it to fit them to be worthy citizens of this great country? Certainly it must be that. But is that all? It must be a development of the whole personality, body, mind, and spirit. We should ail assent to that. Indeed some of us would think it a mere platitude. But what we have forgotten is to ask which of these three elements in personality is to be regarded as the highest, which is to be entitled to guide and control the others. If we give that question a little consideration I do not think we can doubt that the answer must be that the highest, the chiefest, the one that receives most care 857 must be the spiritual element. I use the word spiritual in this context in the widest sense as that element in the human personality which decides motives, standards of value, conceptions of the good life, and it is I am sure true that hitherto we have paid far greater attention to body and mind than we have paid to the spirit.
§ It is here that we inevitably enter the realm of religion. In this sense if a nation is really caring about the spiritual development of its children, every school must be and ought to be religious. Bat of course the religious spirit of the school must find its centre and focus in some form of religious teaching. The question is, in our country, what is that form of religious teaching to be? I think we should all naturally answer: "Among our people it must be Christian." It is from the Christian tradition that our nation has drawn its standards of life for long centuries. It is, I think we shall all agree, deeply implanted in the minds of our people that we are still, in profession, though alas! not very fully in fact, a Christian nation. That this is teaching that corresponds with the wishes of parents may I think be regarded as proved by the fact that in all classes of schools the withdrawals from such Christian teaching as there is, on the ground of conscientious objection by the parents, are always and everywhere negligible. Now, at this present time, I need not remind your Lordships that in this world struggle we are contending for a Christian against a pagan way of life, and thoughtful men recognize that the better order of civilization for which we are hoping, and of which, perhaps, we speak too often, must be founded upon the Christian faith.
§ But if all this is, true, then surely it becomes a question of vital importance: What is the Christian education in our schools? What education is given to-day? What importance is attached to it? I know what the difficulty is: obviously it is which of the many presentations of the Christian faith should be adopted for teaching in our State schools. But that difficulty really is much less now than it used to be, partly through the growth of a more tolerant spirit, and partly in view of the menace now confronting every form of Christianity. All the various Churches are coming to realize that, after all, what unites them is much greater than what divides them, and that where 858 they are at one is not simply in accepting the same vague common denominator but in something that has real, positive and definite value in itself. I have had one piece of evidence of that in the remarkable growth of what are called the agreed syllabuses adopted by the local education authorities throughout the country as the result of conferences between the authorities themselves, the various Churches and the teachers. Many of them, as your Lordships will know, are entirely admirable in their contents and character. But I think even more impressive evidence of this change of spirit was afforded by a deputation which I had the privilege of bringing to the Board of Education a few months ago.
§ I suppose I have been concerned in all the deputations to the Board of Education about these religious matters in the last thirty years, but I have never known a deputation such as this. It was wholly unique. It was not a case, as so often in the past, of the Church of England and the Free Churches approaching the Board of Education apart with their different desires and their different demands. They came together to make the same demands. There has never been anything like it, and it is, I venture to say, a sign that a new wind is blowing, scattering many of the old mists of controversy, misunderstanding and suspicion. The object of that deputation, the character of which I have just described, was limited to the elementary schools, naturally, perhaps, because it is there that the great majority of our children must learn the first elements of religion, and also because it is there that the old controversies found their centre. What the deputation did was to ask the President of the Board of Education where and how far he could accept five points which had been indicated to him in a letter from the three Archbishops.
§ I am not going to dilate upon these five points, they would take us too much into detail, but perhaps your Lordships will allow me just to indicate their general character. Their object is to ensure both the importance and the adequacy of Christian teaching in these schools. The first point in order to secure adequacy of the teaching is that it shall be taught in these schools by teachers who are competent and willing to teach it; competent in the sense that we shall surely 859 not expect in a subject of this importance any less training in knowledge than would be expected in the teaching of any other subject; and willing in the sense that willingness on the part of the teacher must be accepted as a sign of sincerity. Knowing the objections to tests for teachers—and I speak cordially for myself on this matter—we are willing to trust the teachers; we are willing to accept that no one will wish to teach where unwillingness to teach will bring about no sort of prejudice to the professional career; that no teacher will be willing to teach unless he, or she, is sincere.
§ The other points are less fundamental. One is that where in any school there may be teachers who are not duly qualified, the prescribed time-table shall be so rearranged as to make it possible for the same teacher to teach different classes at different times. Another is that in order to show to everyone the importance of the subject, it should be—at least in its method—within the inspection of His Majesty's inspectors or other duly qualified persons, and that to express the religious spirit of the school, there should be everywhere—as happily there is almost everywhere now—an act of worship on the part of the whole school at the opening of the school day. These are very modest proposals and in so far as they were granted they would, I think, really increase the effectiveness and right spirit of religious teaching in our schools. What I want to ask the Board of Education and the noble Lord who will reply for it, is what is its attitude now towards these proposals? I venture to hope that the new wind about which I have been speaking will—shall I dare to say, blow away some of the old conventional difficulties and obstacles which are lying in the pigeon-holes of the Department?
§ Your Lordships will have observed that I have said nothing about what is called the dual system. I have clone that deliberately, because to deal with it would take us too far. Let me say only this. The Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church rightly value the schools which are under their own management and control, subject to their satisfying the State as to the adequacy of their general teaching. They value them, among other reasons, because they ensure that the school is expressly and throughout a 860 Christian school, and because the Christian teaching in them leads to its proper end, membership of a worshipping community, of a church. I cannot believe that it is impossible to fit these schools more fully into the national system for purposes of administrative convenience, so long as they are not deprived of their specific character. Speaking for myself, I understand that there are some proposals before the Board of Education now which I think would furnish a more hopeful approach to the solution of this old problem than any that I have seen.
§ Your Lordships will now understand why, as I said at the beginning, I wish to consider this subject of Christian teaching not as something apart but in its setting in the whole field of education. I should have liked, had there been time, to say a word about another most important sphere of education, and what is indeed the coping stone of the whole system: I mean what is called adult education. Plainly, the real test of the value of this immensely impressive fabric which we have reared is whether those who have come under it emerge with a real desire for fuller knowledge themselves. The problem of leisure among all classes, and not least among the working classes, will become one of increasing importance. A wise man has said that the aim of education is not to teach a man how to get on, but to teach him what to do with his time when he is not engaged in getting on. I think that there is great truth in that observation. I trust that increasingly adult education will be regarded as constituting the real test of the value of all the education which has gone before, and that every effort will be made to enable men and women of every class to enter in the fullest way into the heritage of the knowledge, the literature and the thought which has been bequeathed to us by the best minds of our race.
§ I have to ask your forgiveness, my Lords, for the length of these remarks, but the subject is one not only of the deepest interest but of the most farreaching importance. You may perhaps be the more disposed to be forgiving when you reflect that my familiar place in your Lordships' House will shortly know me no more. I hope that the noble Lord who is now going to speak for the President of the Board of Education will be able to assure us that the 861 President of the Board has in mind large schemes of educational advance for the future. And let me add the hope that he will be less of a transient phantom than many of his predecessors in that office have been, and that he may live to see his plans accepted and carried out. It is certainly vain to think that a great democracy can wisely meet the problems that will confront the nation, and indeed the world, when this tremendous struggle has been brought to a victorious end, unless it is in the truest sense of the word an educated democracy.
§ Moved, That there be laid before the House Papers relating to the plans of His Majesty's Government for the education and training of the rising generation, with particular regard to Christian teaching in the schools of this country.— (The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.)
§ LORD ADDISON
My Lords, with the permission of the Leader of the House, and with the assent of the noble Lord who is to speak for the Government in a moment, and whilst expressing the intention not myself to intervene in this debate in great detail—a responsibility which will be undertaken by certain of my colleagues—I have been asked on behalf of my friends, as well as on my own behalf, to pay on this occasion our tribute of deep respect to the most reverend Primate. This is, I think, the first occasion after the announcement of his coming resignation on which he has addressed your Lordships, and he has intimated that perhaps it may be the last occasion on which he will address us as Archbishop. He has decided, whilst still endowed with very remarkable energies, to hand on his office to a younger man, looking forward to the great labours and responsibilities that must inevitably devolve on his successor.
He has had a long term of office. He comes, as we all know, of a very hardy stock. He can perhaps look back and recall the feelings which he must have had long years ago, when he was called to his present office. He is a human being—and this is what perhaps endears him so much to us—as well as an Archbishop. It must have been with regret, I think, that he decided to take the step which he has taken. He is handing on the cross—it is a fiery cross in these days—to his successor in the fierce struggle which is being waged against a crooked cross. We know 862 how difficult will be the task of his successor. We have seen what a short period of ten years can do in the persistent distortion of the truths of history and in the abnegation of the highest principles of human dignity and liberty, in the case of the children and young people of Germany. There is, indeed, a great undoing before us all in Europe, and a great human upbuilding of the foundations of faith and character as a dominant need before the world. I think that no nobler and no more inspiring subject could have been chosen by the most reverend Primate to be brought before your Lordships, and to mark in this splendid way his departure from the high office which he has occupied with so much distinction.
§ THE PAYMASTER-GENERAL (LORD HANKEY)
My Lords, before addressing myself to the question before us I must associate myself with what the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, has said, and add, if I may, some words on my own account. Some forty-five years ago, I used to bicycle on Sunday evenings from Eastney barracks, where I was then quartered, to the great church at Portsea, where the new vicar was attracting great congregations. Little did I dream that some day I should have the honour of replying to him from the Government Bench when he spoke as Archbishop in your Lordships' House, and on a momentous occasion, momentous for the reason that the noble Lord, Lord Addison, has given—namely, the recent announcement in Convocation. Whenever the retirement is announced of a great national figure who, as in the present case, has for many years filled a most responsible office in exceptionally difficult times with dignity, distinction, and fearless devotion to duty, there is always a widespread sense of public loss; but to your Lordships the retirement of the most reverend Primate, who has taken so notable, conspicuous and frequent a part in our proceedings, and who has besides been such a good friend to all who have sought his help or guidance, the loss is more than public, it is personal. I can only express the hope that his Grace will be long spared to enjoy his well-earned retirement, and that he may retain the vigour of body and mind of which he has given such remarkable witness to-day.
Coming to the Motion before the House, my previous contributions to our 863 war-time debates have been on subjects indisputably connected with our war effort. To some education might seem an exception. I do not agree. As we are constantly reminded, the war is being fought on great moral issues; it is a Titanic episode in the eternal struggle between right and wrong. In such a conflict, especially when the whole population is engaged, the spiritual and moral aspect of our war effort is no less important, I submit, than grand strategy or supplies. And one of the principal means by which those moral principles for which we are fighting are handed down from one generation to another is our educational system. Now it seems to me that that thesis gains point from the fact that in 1938, the last complete year before the war, out of a total population of England and Wales of over 41,000,000, no fewer than 7,000,000 were under instruction in one or other of the various grades of education, and of that 7,000,000 no fewer than 5,600,000 were in the public elementary schools or secondary schools, where they were most accessible to Christian teaching. Consequently I propose to come first to Christian teaching and answer the points raised by the most reverend Primate, but before I resume my seat I am hoping to show, in dealing with the secular aspect of the plans for the education and training of the rising generation, that the Board of Education are also making an invaluable material contribution to our war effort.
Coming to Christian teaching, to one, like myself, who has had few opportunities in recent years to keep in close touch with this question, the most interesting and hopeful feature on returning to it is the extent to which the bitterness of former days seems to have died down. That this is not due to lack of interest is shown partly by the large number of speakers who have put their names down for this debate, and partly by a debate in another place last autumn. But I am under no illusions that the smouldering fires could not be rekindled by ill-considered speech or action. My own conviction is that this easing of the situation is due mainly to those national principles and traditions to which I have just referred. In their working out, earnest, hard-headed people have got together here in Parliament, in London, in education committees all over the country, 864 and in the schools themselves, and they have hammered out solutions to a number of questions which besmirched the whole educational system in former years.
The most reverend Primate has rather taken the words out of my mouth with the examples he has given. There is the very notable one of the syllabus. I have taken a little trouble to see it in operation myself both in voluntary schools and in council schools. In both sorts of school the same syllabus was being used. I found not one single case of a child being withdrawn, and I have even found cases, not uncommonly, of inspection by diocesan inspectors in council schools. The other great example of course was the remarkable deputation which was received by my right honourable friend, the President of the Board of Education, on 15th August last. In introducing it the most reverend Primate used these words. He said that it was "the fruit of the collaboration of the Church of England with Lire Free Churches," and that the deputation was unique in that it represented agreement between them, and not controversy. It is quite true that this formation of a common front was due to a grave cause—namely, a widespread conviction that the Christian tradition was in great danger, both from ignorance and from the world-wide menace by which it was confronted. But I submit that that grave reason does not detract in the least from the significance of their coming together.
My right honourable friend Mr. Butler expressed himself in complete agreement with the deputation in their desire for effective Christian teaching in all schools. On most of the points, however, he reserved a final opinion until he had been able to consult with the authorities and the teachers. He warned the deputation that this would take a little time, but he explained that in the long run it would save time and was the most hopeful line of progress. As these consultations are still continuing, I am debarred from saying a great deal about the five points that have been presented, but I should like to make one or two observations on them. In connexion with the first and last points—namely, that in all schools Christian education should be given and that the school day should begin with an act of worship—Mr. Butler was able to tell the 865 deputation that religious instruction and observance were almost universal. This led me to make some inquiries about the nature of the act of worship with which the school day begins in practically every one of our 20,910 public elementary schools. I am assured by people who have opportunities of knowing that in these schools—very widely at any rate—the service carries a conviction of devotion and sincerity which is none the less impressive because of its simplicity.
I come next to the question of the development of courses of Christian knowledge which was part of the programme of the deputation, and is in the third point. I am glad to be able to inform your Lordships that the Board of Education issued a Circular last October which has been very well received and has resulted in very considerable activity. In the first place the Board themselves are arranging three short vacation courses, to take place this year between April and August, for teachers and others concerned in the education of young people. In addition several local education authorities have already arranged or are planning short courses for teachers or youth leaders, or both. Finally, various teaching establishments, including some universities, intend to conduct rather longer courses in term time. I am assured that a good deal more could have been done but for the fact that in the present difficult circumstances of the schools the teachers cannot be spared very freely while the school is in session.
The third observation I would make is that four out of the five points require legislation, and there is pretty general agreement, among those who have given thought to this subject, with the view of the President of the Board of Education that if, in the light of the consultations which are going on with the authorities and teachers, it is found that: legislation is called for, the necessary changes can best be made when the time comes for legislation affecting educational reforms as a whole. That is in line with some words that fell from the most reverend Primate in his speech. As to when the proper time for such legislation will be, I do not think that can be determined until the many inquiries and consultations required are further advanced, but I can assure your Lordships these are being pursued without intermission.
866 At this moment I had better just say a word about what the most reverend Primate said as to the future of Church schools. I am sure your Lordships will have heard with the greatest interest the observations which fell from him on this subject. It is recognized on all sides, I think, that any educational advance—and indeed the completion of the existing policy of reorganizing the elementary schools—is impossible so long as the statutoy provisions relating to voluntary schools remain as they are. The only trouble is that there is a difference of opinion as to the appropriate solution. Your Lordships will not expect me to say more at this stage than that the solution outlined by the most reverend Primate will receive the most careful and sympathetic consideration of my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Education.
I come now to the secular aspects of the question of education. All plans for the immediate future must, of course, start from the war conditions which prevail at present, and I must just say a word about these. First I must make a mention, however brief, of the very remarkable exodus which took place at the outset of war from the towns to safer places. One and a half million people were evacuated, of whom 750,000 were school children travelling in school parties under teachers and with voluntary helpers. That great achievement was planned and carried out by the Government in connexion with the general scheme of air-raid precautions drawn up before the war. Hardly less remarkable was the re-establishment of education in the new surroundings—a task which challenged the ingenuity of local education authorities and teachers alike. In the early days the pessimist was heard to say that education was the first major casualty of the war, but if we look at the balance sheet I do not think that that is at all justified. It is quite true that in some cases there has had to be a diminution of the hours devoted to formal instruction, but on the credit side of the balance sheet there is the improved health of the children and the mental alertness which goes with it. Teachers also benefited from it through having to devise new methods under unprecedented conditions. Before leaving the sphere of elementary education there are some observations of the most reverend Primate on which I must comment. There is first the question of the school curriculum. That, of 867 course, is a very great problem, and it is receiving the most careful consideration by Mr. Butler's Department. So far as the secondary schools are concerned, I can only say that the subject is under examination by a Committee presided over by Sir Cyril Norwood. All that the most reverend Primate has said will be carefully taken into account when the Norwood Report is received and considered.
Now as to the school-leaving age, your Lordships will remember that under the Education Act, 1936, the age actually was raised from fourteen to fifteen, but that provision had to be suspended by the Education (Emergency) Act, 1939. In spite of that a good number of children stay on until fifteen or even sixteen years of age voluntarily. This question of the raising of the school age is very much in the mind of my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Education. At that point the most reverend Primate mentioned the public schools. With one or two exceptions those schools as we know them to-day grew up in response to a particular social and economic demand which made itself felt in the nineteenth century. For the most part they are independent foundations and each has its own governing body, and a large proportion of the pupils are boarders. The last ten years, culminating in the war, have brought difficulties to the schools, as many of us know well, and there are signs that steps are being taken to deal with them. The setting up recently of a Governing Bodies' Association is a first step towards co-operation in the face of common difficulties, and that will be watched by everyone with interest and good will.
There is one other aspect of the question. In the course of their history the public boarding schools have been successful in creating a remarkable instrument of education based on corporate life and training, and there are many who believe that boarding schools should enlarge the part they play in the service of the community, as suggested by the most reverend Primate. I have no doubt the schools themselves are giving consideration to this aspect of the question, and the Board of Education are keeping a very close watch upon it.
That brings me to the continuation schools. I can assure your Lordships, and 868 especially the most reverend Primate, that the proposal that elementary and secondary education should lead on to some form of day continuation of education is one of the reforms most in the mind of the President of the Board, and there is no doubt that the suggestion that has been made, that attendance at day continuation schools could be carried out better on one day a week than on two half days, is in the right direction.
In close association with continuation schools I am brought to the question of the Service of Youth which the most reverend Primate mentioned almost in the same sentence. In spite of their preoccupations with the exodus from the schools and the re-establishment of schools in new surroundings, the Board of Education managed to launch the Service of Youth in November, 1939, and the latest development, as your Lordships are aware, is the registration now in progress of young people of sixteen to eighteen years of age. That enables the authorities to make contact with those who have left school, and to encourage them to associate themselves with one or other of the youth organizations or some form of service if they have not already done so. I am sure this recognition that young persons up to eighteen fall properly within the educational sphere, in the wider sense of the word education, and that their training should not be cut short on leaving school at fourteen or fifteen, should correspond to the most reverend Primate's line of thought and be generally welcomed. As to the proposal for an actual linking up of the Service of Youth with continuation schools, that is a problem of co-ordination that will require and will receive very careful consideration.
Now I come to the technical side of education, and that enables me to bring out what the Board have done for our war effort. The first point I should like to mention is the training of workers for war industry. A great many people have been trained. At the present moment the output is at the rate of 30,000 a year. At first they were mainly men, but now women form the large majority. In addition the technical colleges have a certain amount of production—namely, production incidental to training, and the manufacture of high-grade gauges, tools and jigs which makes quite an appreciable contribution to our national effort. In 869 March, 1940, the Board introduced a scheme for training Army tradesmen. In less than a year the total number of soldiers in training was 12,000. Among the trades covered were blacksmiths, carpenters, coach trimmers, coppersmiths, electricians, fitters, instrument mechanics, turners, welders, and those concerned with fire control and radio. On the radio side, the demands from the three Services greatly increased during 1940. This was due largely to the new science of radiolocation which, thanks to the brilliant work of British scientists, was expanding in many directions. Industry was playing its part splendidly. Apparatus was coming forward in great quantity, and in particular its operation was found to require a very high degree of technical skill. The need, therefore, was very urgent.
I was asked by the Ministers at the head of the Fighting Services to help them to find men with the necessary skill and I established an Inter-departmental Committee to assist me. To meet immediate needs—because there was a big immediate need—we scoured the country for every possible source of supply—the Post Office and the British Broadcasting Corporation (who gave us some very good key men) and all the likely branches of industry. But we had to be very careful about industry, because we did not want to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs, and that they were golden eggs which industry was laying is proved by what has happened in night fighting. We decided, therefore, that for future needs we required training facilities. These were to be of two kinds—ab initio training to give the necessary foundation of electrical knowledge to men and women, and thereafter the more specialized courses which would be provided by the Services.
For ab initio training we turned to the Board of Education where we met a very ready response. With their aid we approached the technical colleges and they started their courses with an absolute minimum of delay just over a year ago. Even our original demands were large in comparison with the pre-war capacity for technology of these colleges, but by the most extraordinary efforts of the local education authorities and the colleges themselves their training capacity has since been increased twenty-fold. There were all sorts of difficulties. Firstly, we had to find men and women with sufficient 870 technical knowledge to take the courses. In the end we got most of them from the Services themselves. Then there was the provision of qualified instructors and the great difficulty of finding the necessary scientific apparatus for the colleges and universities. All these difficulties, however, were overcome by co-operation between the Government and the colleges, and, I should add, the Radio Manufacturers Association. I would like to give just one example in the matter of instructors. A great many of these came from the secondary and elementary schools. The London County Council alone by the end of 1941 had transferred eighty-three elementary and secondary teachers to the colleges for this work and had recruited twenty-two instructors from the trade. That is just typical of the whole country.
I am glad to say the result has given great satisfaction to the Forces. The numbers trained and training ran into tens of thousands. No less than eighty-three technical colleges are engaged in the work, many of them working double shifts. By this means skilled personnel has been applied to serviceing the radio and wireless apparatus. In addition, personnel of higher technical knowledge was required for the specialized categories—officers, research and industry. Here we turned to the universities at the peak of the educational pyramid. We approached them through the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of the Universities of the British Empire, and they responded with the greatest alacrity. As a result the universities handed over to us last summer many hundreds of well-trained men who were allotted between the Services, research and industry and who are giving every satisfaction.
Last May the universities were threatened with a shortage of science students, who for economic and other reasons were not coming forward in sufficient numbers. In order to ensure the country's war needs the Board of Education with the approval of the Treasury instituted a system of State bursaries under which young men and women of the requisite educational standard—that is, the higher school certificate or its equivalent—are granted an allowance sufficient to pay their university fees together with a maintenance grant. The bursars now number some 2,000 and are additional to students in science entering the universities 871 in the ordinary way. Their quality is of the same high order as last year's output to the Services and to research and industry from the universities. From the first the bursary scheme was extended to engineers and chemists. Last summer my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour and National Service asked me to preside over a technical personnel Committee to deal with technical personnel of what is called professional or approximately professional standard, which means for practical purposes the officer in the Services and the corresponding category in industry. We are working much on the same lines as in the case of radio. In this case the Central Register plays the principle role, but I should like to say that the Board of Education again are rendering yeoman aid because we have had to turn once more to the technical colleges and the universities. I ought to add that the Dominions to whom we appealed at an early stage have given us much help in this matter of skilled personnel. They too have established their courses in universities. Canada has sent us hundreds of men for this purpose and is sending more. The other Dominions require most of their output nearer home. We have also received some valuable help from the United States of America.
Such in bare outline is the main contribution of the Board of Education, the local education authorities, the universities, technical schools, secondary schools and elementary schools to the war side of education from which the future programmes must start. I have seen a great deal of their work and its result, and I can testify that nowhere is a more sincere, whole-hearted and efficient contribution being made to our war effort. It follows then that so far as the immediate future is concerned plans for education and training of the rising generation are necessarily influenced largely by war considerations which necessarily dominate the whole of the nation's policy. Everything possible will be done, however, consistently with the restrictions which war-time imposes to improve every branch of our educational system. Obviously the training schemes for the Services must continue as long as they are needed. The suggestions in the most helpful and constructive speech of the most reverend Primate will of course receive the consideration due to the exceptional experience and knowledge of their 872 author, and no doubt other valuable suggestions will be made in the course of the debate which I shall be careful to pass on to my right honourable friend. Beyond this it is too early to say anything of the distant future. Nevertheless the success of the war-time effort of the Board of Education and what I know—and I have taken some trouble to acquaint myself—of the intensive studies they are making over the whole period of education with an eye to the future, gives me confidence that their plans will be inspired by common sense and vision.
§ VISCOUNT SANKEY
My Lords, before beginning my remarks may I be allowed to say how much we shall miss both on public and personal grounds the leadership of the most reverend Primate? I hope, however, that we shall continue to hear his voice in this Chamber and to have the opportunity of listening to his advice. Sometimes we read letters in the daily Press saying that the Churches have missed their opportunity, that many of our schools are Godless schools, and that many of our children are pagan children. The writers of these letters then go on according to their individual views to blame the Bishops, or clergy, or the ministers of religion, or the teachers, for this unfortunate result. Give me leave to say that the Bishops and the clergy and the ministers of religion and the teachers are not the only people interested in or responsible for proper Christian teaching in the schools of this country. There are hundreds of thousands of Christian laymen who are neither clergy, ministers of religion nor teachers, and if the Christian teaching in our schools is unsatisfactory these laymen must bear their full share of the blame.
But before proceeding further, permit me to mention one personal matter. Many of your Lordships will be aware that there is in the Church of England a Central Council for Religious Education under the name of the National Society. It was founded by Royal Charter as far back as 1817, and has since then done its best to assist the elementary Church schools. By a new Charter of 1934 its functions were very largely increased with a view to the promotion, encouragement and support of religious education in accordance with the principles of the Church of England, among all the King's subjects living in England and Wales—a rather heavy burden to put upon any 873 society. I happen to be the Chairman of that society but let me make it quite clear that, speaking to-day, I am expressing my personal views only. It is always a difficult task to discuss matters where conscience claims to hold undisputed sway. May I endeavour, therefore, to set out some of the facts and then to submit to your Lordships the conclusions which we should derive from them? Here and today, thank God, we can consider the situation unencumbered by the passions with which it was once surrounded and the religious strife which has so very largely disappeared.
Now turning to the right reverend Prelate's Motion: Do parents desire Christian teaching in the schools of this country? In my view the confident answer is, "Yes, the overwhelming majority do." No one wants to wear his religion upon his sleeve but Christianity is the salt of our life, and there are as many opportunities for its unostentatious exercise in factory and workshop as there are in churches and chapels. People differ on the methods by which the message of Christ is expressed. With the Sermon on the Mount they all agree, but as the centuries passed and the Church became a living organization the simple ethics of Christianity had to adopt human methods. Churches had their accepted creeds, their determined traditions and practices, their doctrinal statements, and their systems of government. Upon many such matters men have different opinions. It would, however, be quite untrue to say that Christian teaching is not given in the provided schools of this country. But, if you were to ask: "Are parents satisfied with the present condition of affairs?" it is probable that a great majority would answer "No." This may be due to an unfortunate misunderstanding between the clergy, the ministers of religion, and the teachers.
It is not fair or just to say of the clergy and the ministers of religion that they have missed their opportunity. Religion can be taught, amongst other things, by setting a good example. Note what the clergy and ministers of religion have done in our great town parishes during the recent air raids. In London, Bristol, Coventry, Liverpool, Cardiff, Swansea and many other places they have been bombed out of their churches and homes, but they have stuck to their task, and 874 have cheered and encouraged the victims and the sufferers. Nor have the country clergy and ministers of religion been backward in their efforts. They have frequently found themselves with several hundred evacuated children descending upon their villages, and have given the greatest possible assistance in looking after these children away from their parents and their homes, and making them as happy and as comfortable as it was possible to do.
Now let me turn to the teachers. There are in the public elementary schools 166,000 teachers. To say that as a body they are not Christians, and do not desire to teach the principles of Christianity, is a slander on a great profession. It is probable that if you were to adopt church attendance as one of the signs of Christianity, the standard of church attendance amongst the body of teachers is higher than it is amongst the rest of the population. But owing to "old unhappy far-off things and battles long ago" some teachers may be anti-clerical, but they are not anti-Christian. They resent outside interference; they resent, quite rightly, any idea of tests. They think that the technique of education which has so vastly improved in the last thirty years is better understood by them than by the clergy and the ministers of religion. They point to the fact that many of the clergy do not teach in the Church schools. But, if one of their well-wishers may venture to say so, teachers are perhaps over-sensitive of any suggestion or criticism. It must be admitted that the present results of Christian teaching in our provided schools are not all that is to be desired. An endeavour first should be made to heal this breach between the teachers and those who criticize them.
The subject of the right reverend Prelate's Motion may be divided into two parts; firstly, Christian teaching in our provided schools; and secondly, the dual system of education. These two questions are quite separate and distinct. As to Christian teaching in provided schools, I do not propose to enter on matters which are probably better dealt with by the clergy and ministers of religion, but perhaps you will permit me to give two sets of figures only. According to the latest reliable returns—they are as far back as March 31, 1938—there were 10,535 non-provided 875 schools, with an average attendance of 1,374,000 pupils. On the same date there were 10,363 provided schools, with an average attendance of 3,151,000. The disparity in attendance is due to the fact that there is a very large number of small village Church schools. I am not now discussing Roman Catholic schools. It will be obvious that there are thousands of Church children in the provided schools, and thousands of Free Church children in the Church schools. The Churches should begin to get together. They are in fact beginning to do so. They all desire that the outline of the Bible story should be taught. To be ignorant of the Bible is to be uneducated; it is woven into, and has become part of, our national life, and should remain so. What would it profit us if, after winning the war, we found that we had lost our Christian faith?
Your Lordships are aware that numbers of syllabuses are used in different parts of the country for the purpose of giving religious teaching. The one most used—forgive a statistic or two—is the Cambridge Syllabus, the latest edition of which came out in 1940. It was compiled by a committee upon which there were the Masters of several Cambridge Colleges, the principals of theological and Nonconformist colleges, headmasters, headmistresses and leaders of education, numbering twenty-one people. No one would say that they were not Christians, or that they would put forward a syllabus which they did not think satisfactory for the purpose of Christian teaching. There are about fifty of these different syllabuses in use, the Cambridge Syllabus being used by over a hundred local authorities, while the Hampshire, West Riding, and Lancashire syllabuses are used by about twenty authorities each. Out of the 318 local education authorities, only about sixty do not use one.
What is the next point? The next point is by whom religious instruction should be given. In my view, the answer must be "By teachers who are willing and competent to do so." By "competent" I mean competent from an educational point of view; that is, that they know and are able to teach it. If one of our fellow-countrymen was so competent, and said that he was willing to teach it, we ought to trust to his honour to do so. It is not necessary for me to go into the 876 details of the various suggestions which have been made by the three Archbishops in their letter of February last year, and which have been referred to this afternoon. They suggest certain modifications in the school routine. But let me say this, that the teaching of religion should be one of the principal subjects, and should not be regarded as an extra in an overcrowded curriculum. The first business of a teacher is to teach his subject, but he does teach and must teach a great many other things beside his subject. Still, if the Bible story and a proper syllabus are properly taught, by teachers willing and competent to teach them, we should see a great improvement in the results of Christian teaching in the provided schools of this country.
Let me now turn to the question of the dual system. This system admittedly causes grave administrative difficulties. The dual system of education, however, is no extraordinary thing; on the contrary it is part and one of the familiar facts of our national history and of our well-tried methods. Long before the State looked after the bodily health of the people, private enterprise established a hospital system. At first hospitals were closely associated with religious practices; later they become one of the forms of social service available for all of us, as meeting a definite social and national need. Then came the municipal or State hospitals, and so we had a dual system—the voluntary system on the old, accustomed lines, and the public authority system on new and rather different lines. It is just the same with regard to education. Originally education was the care of private enterprise—not merely of the private enterprise of the Church of England, but of the Free Churches and of the Roman Catholic Church. Its object was to minister not to the material and bodily needs of the people but to their educational and spiritual needs. Then, in 1870, the State began to take a hand, and so you get a dual system in educational services, just as you get a dual system in hospital services.
Do let us leave something in England to be done by voluntary effort! Why this passion for uniformity, or, if I may be forgiven for saying so, for creating a totalitarian State in England? There is an advantage in variety. The voluntary hospitals and the State hospitals have much to learn from one another. The 877 Church schools and the provided schools have much to learn from one another, and, above all, those who manage them have much to learn from one another. To maintain the Church schools has been a heavy burden for Churchmen, and it is still heavier now, having regard to the present taxation and to the possible reduction in incomes of those who have been their chief supporters. The situation may solve itself.
A very large number of letters reach me from Church people begging that every effort may be made to retain our schools. Let me adopt the language of the Archbishops in their pronouncement of February of last year, and bear with me while I quote four lines. They said:We regard our own Church schools as a trust which should be preserved for the sake of the ideals for which they stand even if it may be admitted that in practice they sometimes fall short of those ideals. We earnestly appeal to Church people to do their utmost to maintain them in real efficiency and to see that they hold a place in the national system of education worthy of their high aims.But, while those who support Church schools must strain every nerve to maintain them, we must not forget that those voluntary hospitals and Church schools are not ends in themselves. They are rather means to an end. The end crowns all, and until I can see some better means towards the end which Church schools desire to accomplish I at any rate shall do all I can to support and maintain them.
May my last words draw attention to what appears to be one of the great needs of to-day? We welcome, and rightly welcome, attempts to raise the school-leaving age. But supposing you raise the age to 15, one of the main difficulties in religious education is what to do with boys and girls between the age of 15 and, say, 19. What sort of religious teaching or observance is there for them either at home or at school? We want both Christian homes and Christian schools. If the Churches will devote themselves to a consideration of the Service of Youth, and if the State will foster the growth of our continuation schools we can look forward to better results from Christian teaching. I here we may always help, and help effectively.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, the most reverend Primate has by this Motion raised one of the most important questions of the day. Your Lordships 878 may say that religious instruction to children has nothing to do with the war. It may not actually have to do with the materialistic war we are now waging: this attempted grabbing by the aggressor nations of rich corners of the earth which for centuries have belonged to other peoples. It may not entirely have to do with that, but it has to do with the war against Antichrist, and to that extent it does show some similarity to the war we are now fighting. Let me get down to fundamentals. Do we want the future British race to have knowledge of God and the Christian religion, or do we not? If we do, then the youth of this country must receive the best religious instruction and be given a knowledge of the great truths in the schools, because if they do not get it in the schools they will not get-it anywhere else.
I do not believe it is generally realized how great is the apathy and indifference to religion in this country to-day, nor how many parents there are who do not take the slightest trouble to educate their children in the fear of God. I do not speak of any one class. This utter indifference to the one thing that matters permeates all classes. The Germans have set up a religion of their own. They say that their religion is the adoration of Hitler and of the German State. They desire that their worship of the German State and its leader shall be continued by future generations of Germans, so, with their usual painstaking efficiency, they do the one practical thing: they catch the children young. The British as a whole—and I do not agree with the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Sankey, in this—are no longer a God-fearing nation, so if we wish future generations to be brought up in the fear of God we must do as the Germans do, that is, capture the young. The great majority of the parents in this country tell their children nothing about religion, so they cannot be looked to for help. I have no use for those parents who refuse to give their children religion for fear of biasing their minds, and who say they can choose for themselves when they are older—quite a common practice. If God is left out in the early bringing up of a child, it is equivalent to imparting the alternative, which is atheism. It is also a cloak for indifference and laziness.
I have a great admiration for the way in which the Roman Catholics have protected the souls of their children. Through 879 the non-provided schools they have kept their young flocks from being contaminated by the indifference to religion and the miasma of atheism and materialism which, in spite of all the Churches can do, threaten to engulf the Protestant population of this country. Priests have free access to the schools, and the children are well instructed. What is the position in other schools? And here I must pay a tribute to the Church schools, which have made and are making gallant efforts to stop the rot, but the trouble is that they are too few, and the clergy and the laymen who work with the clergy are not always the right kind of people to teach the young. With regard to the National or maintained schools, the present practice is to give from thirty to forty-five minutes' religious instruction daily. Scripture lessons are given, and educational authorities in various parts of the country insist on the teachers pointing out the morals of these Scripture lessons. They have also a certain amount of time for hymns and prayers.
All this instruction is given by teachers of the schools, and the objection to that is that many of them, not having faith themselves, do not impress the children because, although they may carry out the letter of the law, their work in some cases is perfunctory, and the children know it. The most reverend Primate did say in his speech that we should trust the teachers. Of course that is a very good answer. If we can trust the teachers it is a good reply to that, and I must admit that, from the reports of inspections I have seen, the teaching of this vital subject is in most cases sympathetically and conscientiously undertaken. I do not want to be misunderstood. The great majority of that fine body of men and women, the teachers of Britain, are convinced that the proper teaching of religion in the schools, including as it does the forming of character and all those things which go to make up a good citizen, is absolutely sound and necessary, and I am sure they feel as I feel that they have not had the backing of the Government which this very important subject deserves.
Your Lordships probably know that the National Union of Teachers object to the right of entry of the clergy into maintained schools, and under the present law the clergy are denied that right. I agree with this, but what I do not understand 880 is why the Government, as represented by the Board of Education, have not yet concentrated on the teachers' training colleges. I think the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Sankey, mentioned this. Under the present system religious instruction is often given by teachers who may be good teachers but who may not be qualified in that particular subject, as are the Roman Catholic priests. So that however earnest the teacher may be, he might not be able to impart the truths and comforts of our faith in the same way. I think the ideal is the instruction of children by parents who have the fear of God, but in the event of parents being unqualified, the best substitute is a teacher who has been trained to put religion before a child in the same manner as a loving parent. Teachers going through the training colleges need not take a course in religion or the instruction of religion, except as an extra, and qualifying in such a course gives him or her no credit, as it does not count towards the passing out certificate.
I suggest that instead of being relegated to the background, the religious course should be given a prominent place, and qualification in it should be necessary for the leaving certificate, subject of course to a conscience clause. I regret I have to say that. Why must this country be so injuriously free that we have to pay so much attention to conscience clauses? I know your Lordships will not all agree with me, but I do think that a man or woman who is a professed atheist should not teach in the schools. He may be upright, honourable, and moral in his life, he may be an excellent teacher, but the non-spiritual and materialistic atmosphere in which he passes his life is, in my opinion, inimical to the very young. Why should we not have a conscience clause for mathematics? I detested mathematics when I was young, and I cannot see why we should not have a conscience clause for that, though I realize now that if there had been a conscience clause for mathematics, and I had taken advantage of it, I should not have been fit to take up my position in life. Therefore I say that teachers who profess atheism are, in my opinion, not fitted to take up the position of teaching children. I am not setting myself up as a moralist or moral lecturer. Like many other people I have no shadow of saintly atmosphere over me. I am merely thinking of the children, who have.
881 There are other ways in which the Board of Education could go still further. They could extend encouragement to teachers who showed aptitude in instructing young children in religion, and in other ways help the raising of a large body of men and women teachers to whom it would be a patriotic duty, apart from anything else, to prevent the relapse into heathenism of the people of this country. There have been signs during the last few years that the Government are inclined to put materialism and political expediency before the moral aspect of certain questions. I hope than the noble Lord who replies will say whether he thinks some alteration in the arrangement of the curriculum in the teachers' colleges on the lines I have suggested might meet with the approval of the Board of Education.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, may I offer one or two comments upon the subject of the Motion by the most reverend Primate and on the reply made by Lord Hankey as representing the views of the Government? I am not without considerable experience of the administration of education from the point of view of the local education authority. I was encouraged to hear from Lord Hankey that the President of the Board of Education was giving anxious attention to improvements and developments in the secular side of the educational structure for which conditions after the war will urgently call. I would only like to say that it is to be hoped that decisions on these matters will be reached sufficiently early to enable local education authorities themselves to make proper plans beforehand.
As regards the raising of the school-leaving age to fifteen, whilst it may well be that that is the highest practicable age for the first step, I hope very much that the Government will have it in mind that it is only a step and that they will contemplate arrangements for raising the age to sixteen within a reasonable number of years after the successful operation of raising it to fifteen. What is important as regards education and the system of education in this country is not that there is a break at fourteen or that there might be a break at fifteen: it is that there is a break at too early an age. One is encouraged to know that the Government are contemplating a system of day continuation schools which will preserve the continuity of education until, at all events, 882 it is to be hoped, the age of eighteen. The Service of Youth aspect of education is a very difficult one. We must avoid regimentation of youth, whether apparent or concealed. We must remember that youth in all of us is a passing phase. It is a phase in which the romance of some kind of freedom from the irksomeness of school and its management comes to us, and it is well, in seeking to serve youth, that we avoid repressing it and do not seek to copy in any respect whatsoever the spirit which infused the Jugend movement in Germany. We must avoid regimentation of youth even though we may desire to serve it.
Most of the observations this afternoon have concerned religious instruction in the schools. I feel it only proper that I should, on behalf of the local education authorities generally, say that there is a good deal of misunderstanding and a good deal of ill-considered statement being made as to the "semi-pagan" or "Godless" children who are imaginatively supposed to come from the State schools of this country. It can only proceed, in my view, from an imperfect knowledge of the workings of the educational system and a limited experience. It is not wrong to say that the public elementary school structure of this country—the provided schools no less than the non-provided schools—constitutes the most important organized agency in this country for religious education, and that the local authorities are, almost without exception, carrying out not only in the letter but in the spirit the decisions of Parliament and of the law as to religious education in the schools.
Speaking for my own authority—the London County Council—we do so, and in some not unimportant respects go beyond what is required by law and practice and by the circulars, regulations, and decisions of the Board of Education. As regards the collective act of worship in the schools, so far as the London County Council are concerned, this is invariably the practice, and I know from my own personal experience of visiting many of our schools that that ceremony is impressive in character and informing in its spiritual content. It is unfortunate that the consideration of this problem should be clouded by these misstatements and these misunderstandings as to what, in 883 fact, takes place in the large number of provided schools in this country.
It is not often that I find it in my heart to commend a Minister for failing to hasten in the solution of a problem or in the declaration of a policy, but I think the President of the Board of Education is quite right not to be hastened into a too early decision on this very important matter. We all hope to avoid any recurrence of the sectarian conflict or denominational bitterness which prevailed some forty years ago. It is difficult to estimate how much education suffered from those conflicts. It would be a great pity, it would indeed be something amounting to a tragedy, if anything were done which led to a recurrence of those conditions. I think, therefore, that the President of the Board of Education is following a wise policy in being certain that the solution embodied in the five points supported by the Free Churches as well as by the Church of England would meet the reasonable mental and conscience requirements and reservations not only of the teachers but also of the parents. We must bear in mind that one of the four freedoms for which we are told by the President of the United States we are fighting this hideous conflict is the right to worship God each in his own way, and we cannot deprive the teachers of that right. We cannot limit that right as regards the teachers merely because they are employed by the State or a local authority as teachers, nor can we limit the exercise of that right on the part of the parent.
Assuming, as we all hope may be the case, that full agreement is reached in which the conscience and the liberties of all are preserved, there then remains the important question of how the agreement can be administratively worked, how far it can be knit into the administrative system of education. That working of it into the system is a very difficult and complicated problem. The President of the Board of Education is indeed wise to seek to find out how any modification of the existing law in the direction of the proposals of the five points can be applied administratively in a way satisfactory to the educational structure. All of us wish to avoid any embittered controversy, all of us wish to see collaboration and conciliation, all of us wish to see that in our schools the spiritual aspects of life shall not be overlooked. But we must be fair 884 to ourselves. Let us recognize the great progress that has been made in the last twenty-five years in our schools. If one compares the schools of to-day with what they were prior to the last war it will be found that there is a much more encouraging background of moral, ethical and spiritual standards compared with what existed twenty-five years ago. Great progress has been made notwithstanding the difficulties which arise from home conditions—for, my Lords, it is difficult to preserve the spiritual aspect of life in a slum in London.
Nevertheless, thanks to the work of the great body of teachers and the great body of laymen to which the noble Viscount, Lord Sankey, referred, the educational system has progressed in the sense that it has heightened the ethical and the spiritual background and outlook of the children coming from those schools. Let us remember that most of the men and women in the Services, in the factories, most of those who have already made the sacrifice and those who are willing to make the sacrifice, came out of the public elementary schools of this country, and their actions, their devoted loyalty, their patriotism are, I submit, additional proof that the spiritual atmosphere of the schools has vastly improved. In seeking to improve it further we must do all we can to avoid the slightest risk of throwing education back once again into the turmoil of sectarian conflict.
§ LORD GAINFORD
My Lords, I agree with a great deal of what the noble Lord has just said, but I do take some little exception to his reflecting on the religious education of twenty-five years ago. I believe I was longer at the Board of Education than any other Minister. I was there in a time of very great controversy between the two great Parties in this country in regard to Church schools and provided schools. I endeavoured to find a solution of those difficulties and at any rate during my term of office the antagonism between the two educational bodies in this country was to a very large extent abated. But in those days there was very much more Bible reading in the homes of the people of this country than there is to-day. The parents took an interest in the spiritual education of their children which, I am afraid, does not exist to-day when children live the first years of their life under the influence 885 of their mothers. That is partly due, no doubt, to the mothers' training and what I am most anxious about is that these children to-day should, in turn, be the fathers and mothers of families who will take care of the spiritual education of the children of a future generation.
I think there is some error in the idea that the Minister of Education, and that the Board of Education so called, has some great influence in regard to the subjects taught in the schools. Under the old School Board system—and I once served on a school board—members were elected by a cumulative vote, and those who were of the same religious persuasion voted en bloc for one candidate—that is to say if there were in all eleven persons on a school board our supporters could give one individual who stood as a candidate the whole of their eleven votes. In that way religions education was being taught in the schools of the Catholics, who secured one or two representatives on nearly every school board throughout the country. So it was that, in the old School Board days, religion played a much more important part than it does under our present system, which was changed under Mr. Morant, a very able civil servant, who, with Mr. Balfour as his spokesman, passed an Education Act which destroyed the School Boards, a body which was devoted to education.
We have now got local authorities whose members are elected for a thousand and one things of which education is only one. Unless the people of this country who vote for the election of persons to serve on local authorities see that they are persons who take an interest in religion, I am afraid religion will suffer. It is a great deal in the hands of the people. If they vote for persons simply to look after sewage and highways and a thousand other things, people who are not interested in education and not interested in religions education, I am afraid schoolmasters will be appointed who are in many cases apathetic and in many cases atheists—not the right persons to teach religion in the schools. I am all in favour of its being possible for the type of education wanted by various denominations to be taught in the schools. I believe that can be done with the assent of local authorities.
But please do not think that the President of the Board of Education is all powerful in directing what subjects should be taught in the schools, just as he likes, 886 or as your Lordships would like, or as the other House would like. In present conditions his powers are concentrated on inspecting schools, seeing that they are efficiently conducted and, if education is properly taught in them, seeing that they get certain financial grants. His powers are very limited. Responsibility remains with the people of the country to see that the right persons are placed on local education authorities and the right teachers are appointed in the schools.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.— (Lord Rankeillour.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.