HL Deb 06 June 1944 vol 132 cc7-68

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I regard it as a privilege to move that this House should give a Second Reading to this Bill. I have spent much time during the morning trying to reduce to the minimum the amount of your Lordships' time that I shall have to occupy this afternoon in view of the very large number of speakers, but I hope you will forgive me if on a subject of great detail I at any rate endeavour to do justice to the Bill which is before you. The Prime Minister last year foreshadowed a four-year plan of social advancement after the war. This Bill is the first of the Government's major measures of reconstruction. It has met with the general consent of members in another place and it has won widespread support in the country.

The object of the Bill is to ensure a fuller measure of education and of opportunity for young people. It seeks to provide the means for all to develop the various talents with which they are endowed, and if in its administration it fulfils the hopes of His Majesty's Government, then the machinery that is here provided will have enabled the life of successive generations of this nation to be vastly enriched. Whatever may be the wealth or the material resources of this country, our greatest national asset lies in our children. Our hopes for the future greatness of Britain depend upon them—depend, firstly, I believe, upon their characters, and secondly upon their mental and technical capacity. The object of this Bill is to make such provision as will secure those ends. There can be no doubt of your Lordships' approval of the objectives we have in view, and I hope you will consider the proposals that my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Education has presented to Parliament are adequate for their purpose.

They have certainly been very carefully considered. From the day when my noble friend Lord Soulbury was President of the Board of Education, a series of negotiations have been conducted with representatives of local authorities, with the teachers, with the Churches, with unions, with co-operative societies and with all other interests that might be concerned. Continuations of these conversations have informed the Department; they have involved many modifications in the original and in succeeding proposals. They have led to the production of a Bill which can be said to be something more than a Government measure. My right honourable friend Mr. Butler called it a "national measure" which the political Parties, the local authorities, the Churches, the teachers, the unions and the public at large have all helped to frame. In another place the Bill has been pulled together, and improved, and the Government now ask your Lordships' help in making this Bill the great Education Act of 1944. I submit it to your Lordships as a measure conceived in a bold and generous spirit. I believe it to be the desire of the nation that it should pass into law. Boldness in planning for the future is in accord with the spirit of the time. During these last few years we have given up so much, we have made so many sacrifices, so many of our old cherished convictions and privileges have been abandoned in the new unity that has bound us in a struggle for life and freedom, that we cannot be content to see the planning of the future after the war shackled and fettered by conceptions of government that have become worn out. New times give birth to new ideas and this Bill is a fitting measure for the new world into which we are moving, even although in the characteristic British way we move so quietly as to be scarcely conscious of the boldness of our adventuring.

The very title of tins Bill is significant. It is "an Act to reform the law relating to education in England and Wales." Previous Education Acts have been associated with the names of Mr. Balfour and Mr. Fisher. This Act will be, I think, gloriously associated with the name of Mr. Butler, to whom, I submit, this nation is greatly indebted. This Bill involves nothing short of the complete reconstruction and reform of the statutory system of education, and it provides for very wide extensions in many directions. At the present time the only obligation placed upon parents in respect of their children's education is to cause them "to receive efficient elementary instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic." Those words, which you will find in the Act of 1921, were taken verbatim from Section 4 of the Elementary Education Act of 1876. This new Bill makes a totally different approach to the problem from that of any of its predecessors. It is an act of reform born of the recognition that the plain fact is that our public system of education is no loner adequate to meet the needs of the nation. In origin, this present system is a system for the compulsory provision of elementary education, on to which there was later imposed, by the Act of 1902, a permissive system of secondary education. Despite the fact that the elementary school system now covers part of the secondary school stage, the two systems are still rigidly distinguished in Statute regulation, and the disparity between the two is emphasized in a number of ways—differences in standards of accommodation and amenities, in the size of classes, in the salaries of teachers, in the charging of fees and in the units of administrative control.

I do not know how many of your Lordships have read that most fascinating paper published by the Committee under the Chairmanship of Sir Arnold McNair, Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool University. That Committee point out in their Report that the atmosphere of the Poor Law and a trail of cheapness lay across the elementary schools right up to the end of the nineteenth century, and the elementary schools still remain the cheap part of the educational system. And yet these are the only schools which the great majority of the children of this country attend. Under the proposals now before your Lordships the present division of education into the two fields, elementary and higher, will come to an end. Instead, under Clause 6 of the Bill, the system of public education will be organized as a continuous process, conducted in three successive stages—primary, secondary and further—and each local education authority will be required by Clause 7 to contribute towards the moral, mental and physical development of the community by securing the provision of efficient education at all three stages. The term "elementary education" will disappear, and with it the notion that we have one type of education—elementary—for one section of the community, and another type—secondary—for another section. In the future all children will have a secondary education.

That is not to say that every child will have the sort of academic training of the type now provided by the grammar schools. One of the greatest disadvantages of the present system is, as the White Paper pointed out, that too many of the nation's abler children are directed into a type of education which prepares primarily for the universities, and for the administrative and clerical professions, and too few find their way into the schools from which the design and craftsmanship sides of industry are recruited. The result has been the quite unwarranted and, I believe, thoroughly pernicious belief that the black-coated worker is a better person than the artisan or craftsman. In the future, the secondary stage will be designed not only to provide academic training for the selected few, it will be designed to give equivalent opportunities to all children over eleven years of age of making the most of their varying abilities and aptitudes.

Clause 8 of this Bill, which imposes on authorities the general duty of securing that there is sufficient school provision for primary and secondary education in their area, lays it down that the school must afford for all pupils opportunities for education offering such variety of instruction and training as may be desirable in view of their different ages, abilities and aptitudes. It thus looks forward to Clause 34 of the Bill which, recognizing that an education in the three R's only is no longer sufficient for the future citizens of a great modern democracy, makes it the duty of the parent of every child of compulsory school age to cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude. The school-leaving age will be raised to fifteen, and to sixteen as soon as, in the words of Clause 33, "the Minister is satisfied that it has become practicable to raise to sixteen the upper limit of the compulsory school age."

All types of secondary school will be conducted under a single code of regulations, while under Clause 59 (1) the prohibition of fees will be extended to all secondary schools for the maintenance of which the local education authorities are responsible. It has been suggested that the policy outlined here will lead to a lowering of the standards in the existing grammar schools and to a numbing uniformity. This is a matter that certainly deserves very close consideration, because it is, I know, of particular concern to many of your Lordships who are governors of some of the older grammar schools up and down the country. I myself take some pride in being the governor of one of these schools which was founded in 1515, and therefore I have taken some personal interest in this question. The key to the problem, I think, is to be found in Clause 16 of the Bill. That clause provides that every county and auxiliary secondary school shall have a governing body constituted under an instrument of government, and shall also have articles of government setting out the functions of the local education authority, the governing body and the head teacher. The clause represents a very great advance, and it is to be noted in particular that subsection (5) provides that in framing the articles of government for an auxiliary school regard is to be had to the manner in which the school has been conducted heretofore. In the course of debates in another place, the President of the Board of Education announced that conversations were taking place between the various parties concerned. These have now been embodied in a White Paper entitled "Principles of Government in Maintained Secondary Schools" (Cd. 6523). It is a matter of satisfaction that the various interests concerned have arrived at agreement on general principles.

The reconstruction of the statutory system of education entails two further reforms about which your Lordships will expect me to say something. The first is the reform of the dual system and the revision of the present system of local educational administration. In, dealing with the long-standing problem of the dual system, I do not propose to lead your Lordships into the subtleties of Clause 14 and Clause 15, nor to deal with the minutia of Clauses 22 to 30. I think it would be more acceptable to your Lordships if I dealt with the matter much more generally and briefly. It is not always realized that one-half of the public elementary schools in England and Wales have been provided by voluntary bodies, and that these schools house about one-third of the total number of pupils. Many non-provided schools have so few pupils that their efficient and economic organization is impossible. Most of them are in old buildings; nearly 92 per cent. of them date at least from 1902, and most of them from very' much earlier. In general, non-provided schools are markedly inferior in the matter of premises and amenities to the provided or council schools, and this disparity would obviously become more marked as educational standards in such matters as the size of classes were raised.

If a real educational advance is to be made and the children in the voluntary schools are to enjoy physical conditions and facilities comparable to those offered to children in the council schools, to say nothing of equal educational opportunities, it is manifest that there must be a revision of the existing arrangements, which date back to the year 1902. Without further financial aid than the Act of that year and the recent Act of 1936 provided, the Churches cannot bring their schools up to the standards which will enable them to play their proper part in these reforms. A number of attempts have been made in the past to deal with this problem, but for one reason or another they all broke down. The proposals in this Bill, which are the outcome of very long, very patient, and very careful consultation with all the interests concerned, have commanded a far greater measure of agreement than any previous proposals. I am not suggesting that everybody is satisfied; no one body got everything that it wanted. In a matter of this kind, where there are obviously so many divergent views, there must be give and take.

As it is, the various denominations have, I think, fared very much better than at one time they would have regarded as possible. Speaking in the debate on the White Paper, the most reverend Primate said: If it had been suggested to us ten years ago that the State would offer 50 per cent. of the cost of renewal and maintenance and still leave the school in the hands of the denomination that controls it, it would have been regarded by us as beyond our wildest dreams. He will no doubt be telling your Lordships later on in this debate what view he now takes of the Government's proposals, which you will find in Clauses 97, 98 and 99. The last-mentioned in particular, I am bound to say, goes further than any member of the Government would have been prepared to contemplate this time last year. The Archbishop of Westminster has acknowledged that, while the Roman Catholic community abide by the principle that all the expenses of Roman Catholic schools ought to fall on public funds, the measure of assistance for which this Bill now provides goes a considerable way to meet many of the objections to our original proposals. Positive steps have also been taken in Clauses 26, 27 and 53 to redress the old Nonconformist grievance of the single-school area, which for the first time finds some sort of statutory definition in Clause 99 (3). Nor do the changes benefit only the Church schools. The obstacles to reorganization and the existing hindrances to the great mobility of teachers will in large measure be removed, whilst the introduction of controlled status will substantially reduce the fields of religious tests for teachers.

I said earlier that in a matter of this nature there must be give and take. I should not like to leave your Lordships with the impression that what I may call the religious provisions in this Bill are the outcome of hard and reluctant bargaining. The provisions in subsections (1) and (2) of Clause 25, that the school day in all primary and secondary schools should begin with a corporate act of worship, and that religious instruction should be given, give effect to two of the five points put forward to the President of the Board shortly after he assumed office by a deputation of Anglicans and Free Churchmen which was led by the noble and most reverend Lord, Lord Lang. It would be wrong to regard the provisions of Clause 25, or of Clause 72, which gives effect to another of the Archbishop's five points by enabling the syllabus instruction to be inspected by His Majesty's inspectors, as concessions wrung from an unwilling Government. The Government have from the very beginning had the conviction that all education ought to have a spiritual background. This Bill makes provision for religious instruction and for the corporate act of worship.

Like the arrangements for the conduct of voluntary schools, the present arrangements for the local administration of education date back to the year 1902, or really to the year 1896, for it is quite clear that the framers of the Act of 1902 had in mind the fate of Sir John Gorst's abortive Bill of 1896, which entrusted the administration of all types of education to the councils of counties and county boroughs. Until the present Bill, no attempt has been made to deal with that problem, although the passage of years has led to the most glaring anomalies and has shown more and more clearly how educational progress is hampered by a system which in county areas assigns some of the stages of a child's education to one local authority and others to another. The proposals embodied in Clause 6 and in the First Schedule are designed to achieve a proper unity in the local administrations of education, while affording ample scope for the exercise of local interest and experience. These proposals have been criticized. They have been criticized by the protagonists of the smaller authorities on the ground that they will destroy local interest. They have been criticized by the representatives of the counties on the ground that so much is assigned to the boroughs and the urban districts that the counties will become mere precepting authorities. The fact that such diverse criticism can be made of the same proposals is, I think, ample proof of the President's success in resolving the dilemma that confronted him. Moreover, in the divisional executive he has effected an innovation in the world of local government which has big possibilities, and may well lead to the long-needed revival of enthusiasm for local government matters generally.

I referred earlier to the fact that some 90 per cent. of the children of this country cease their education at the age of fourteen. The raising of the school age to fifteen, and subsequently sixteen, will do something to remove the defect of what the White Paper calls "under-exposure" to education. But those measures will not be sufficient in themselves. If the youth of the nation is to be given the mental, moral, manual and physical equipment to make the best of life, both as individuals and as members of the community, the work of the schools must be carried on into the period when young people begin their industrial and commercial life. Provision is therefore made in Clauses 41 to 44 of the Bill for a system of compulsory part-time education for all young people of fifteen to eighteen who are not in full-time attendance at school, or who are not receiving suitable alternative part-time instruction for an equivalent number of hours. The substance of these proposals was contained in Sections 75 to 79 of the Fisher Act. As your Lordships will be aware, those sections have fallen everywhere into disuse with the notable and proud exception of Rugby.

The Government have naturally sought to profit by that tragic failure, and the Bill embodies several important changes from Mr. Fisher s proposals. To begin with, the Fisher scheme was probably prejudiced to some extent by the use of the words "continuation school," which suggested to many a mere extension of the education provided by the voluntary school. What the Government scheme now envisages is not a going back to school, but an entry into a new phase of life, with preparation for the needs and the responsibilities of manhood and womanhood; and instead of being called "continuation schools" these new institutions will bear what seems, at any rate to me, to be the attractive name of "young people's colleges." In the second place, a definite target date is fixed for the establishment of these colleges. Section 41 makes it the duty of local education authorities to establish and maintain young people's colleges not later than three years after the school-leaving age has been raised to fifteen.

In the third place, there will be a single appointed day. The Fisher Act allowed different appointed days for different areas. The starting of continuation schools in particular areas, and especially London, without regard to what was happening in neighbouring areas, led to acute difficulties in regard to employment, since two boys living in different areas but seeking work in the same place might be available, one for five and a half days in the week and the other for four and a half days in it. Fourthly, the obligation imposed by the Fisher Act to attend for a specified number of hours a week is replaced by an obligation to attend on one whole day or two half days for forty-four weeks each year, or, where continuous attendance is more suitable, as it may well be in agricultural districts, for a continuous period of eight weeks or for two periods of four weeks each year. This scheme will make big demands on industry and commerce, but industry and commerce must meet these demands if they are to be fitted to hold their own in the post-war world and I, expressing a personal opinion, believe that industry and commerce will welcome these proposals. Our principal asset in the post-war world will be the quality of our people, and we must develop to the full the skill and the capacity of the young people from whom industry and commerce will be recruited.

This brings me to the subject of technical education, which forms an important part of the field of further education. It is the third stage of education defined in the Bill. Now here is a very noteworthy change. At present the provision of technical education is under Statute a power, not a duty, of the local education authority. Many authorities have exercised their power with enlightenment and with great profit to their citizens, but it remains the fact that our technical provision is uneven, and in many areas, and in particular aspects, it falls far behind the needs of to-day. Much of our accommodation and equipment is inadequate and is less than ought to be available in a highly industrialized country such as this. The truth is this country was the first in the field of industrial development, and was happy in the possession of distinguished and competent inventors, natural resources, and an aptitude for craftsmanship among its people. But these advantages for too long obscured the fact that, with the advance of science, technical training as well as natural aptitude was essential if we were to keep pace with our competitors in the world's markets. The situation was reviewed shortly before the war and a programme prepared involving the capital expenditure of some £12,000,000 for new and extended premises, but only a start had been made when the war began.

Under the Bill what was a matter of permissive power will now become a matter of duty; and it will be the duty of the local authority to prepare schemes of further education in which full provision will be made for technical education, and when such schemes are approved it will become their duty to put them into effect as and when required by the Minister after consultation with the local authority. Related to this are the proposals for compulsory part-time education of which I have already spoken. While this part-time education will in part be devoted to the continuance of general education, including physical training, there will be a considerable measure of practical work for all and, for those who can benefit by definite vocational training, substantial provision will be possible within the compulsory hours. These things are a preparation of our citizens for the future. We ought, after a time, to have working in industry young workers more adaptable, better equipped and better developed, offering better material for the more advanced technical training which the march of science will demand.

There are many important aspects of the Bill on which I have not touched at all, such as the highly important change in the functions of the central authority which we find contained in Clause 1, and the provisions in Clauses 66 to 71, for the registration and inspection of independent schools. But I know that many of your Lordships wish to speak and in the time that remains at my disposal I should like, if I may, to concentrate on three aspects of this problem in which I am particularly interested. As part of the general scheme for improving the educational system of the country, the Government are concerned to see that the best provision is made for the health and well-being of the children, and also for the care of those who are handicapped by physical or mental disabilities. They propose in the first place to extend the powers and duties of local authorities in regard to the medical inspection and treatment of school children. Under Clause 46 the authorities will be under an obligation not only to provide for the medical inspection, at appropriate intervals, of all children attending primary and secondary schools and young people's colleges maintained by them, but also to see that any child will be enabled to obtain, free of all cost to the parents, any form of medical or surgical treatment, except domiciliary treatment, he or she may need. Medical inspection will be compulsory, but parents will, of course, retain the right to decide whether or not their children should receive treatment. The school medical service is primarily concerned with the maintenance of the health of school children and the treatment of defects which render them unable to benefit from education, but local education authorities are also responsible for the children who are temporarily or permanently disabled in body or mind. Under the Bill the authorities will have the duty of ascertaining all children in their areas who suffer from such disabilities and of providing suitable education according to their several needs.

I come finally to the matter in which I have perhaps the deepest interest—the provision of school meals and school milk. It is, indeed, if I may for a moment strike a personal note, a matter of great satisfaction to me that during the war I have had some opportunity, in association with my right honourable friend Mr. Butler, of helping to build up these services on a large scale. Development now is continuing apace. Our aim is to have complete provision, and the Bill makes a corresponding legislative change. In place of the permissive enactment of forty years ago, we propose under Clause 47 to place a duty on authorities to provide school meals as part of the ordinary facilities of a school. I believe that this important step in nutritional policy will do more than anything else to ensure that the children of this country enjoy good health and attain sound physique. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, who played a conspicuous part in placing the Act of 1918 on the Statute Book, described that Act as an attempt to create a new source of national wealth in a race of men and women sturdier in physique, richer in intellectual accomplishments, more efficient in technical skill, stronger, wiser and happier than those who have preceded them. That was the noble Earl's commendation of the Act of 1918. I submit that if we want to judge of the measure of success of that attempt which the noble Earl then so eloquently described, we cannot do better than look around us to those battlefields on land and sea and in the air, and to the factories, fields, and offices, where throughout the last fifty-seven months the boys and girls who passed through the schools and colleges of this country since 1918 have shown their mettle and put their qualities of body and mind—and most of all of character—to the most searching test that unhappy circumstance can provide. They have given conspicuous proof of gallantry, toughness, adaptability and self-sacrifice in a common cause. National character has been weighed in the balance, and it has not been found wanting.

My hope and belief is that, if this Bill becomes law, new opportunities never provided before in the history of this country will be offered, and not only offered but taken by, the people on whom all real educational progress must depend—the mothers and fathers who make the homes from which the children come, the men and women in the teaching profession who make the schools and colleges, the men and women who serve on the various bodies, both local and central, through which the educational system is administered, and last but most important of all, the boys and girls and young people themselves. We are moving into challenging times. We shall have made great sacrifices for the freedom and the opportunities that these times will present. Whether our hopes are realized will depend on the character, on the spiritual outlook, and on the mental capacity of our people. Let us then, in our time at least, give them the best training and equipment that lies within our knowledge and within our power, and then, hope being justified by effort, let us pray that they will use their qualities in mutual service to one another and to the community is general so that they may make this a happy land, worthy of the ideals and the sacrifices that have placed the Britain of to-day in the forefront of leadership among the nations of the world, placed it to-day at the highest pinnacle of its long and glorious history, and given us still higher hopes for the great to-morrow. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Woolton.)

House adjourned during pleasure, and resumed by the LORD CHANCELLOR.


My Lords, it is hard to follow the massive statement to which we have just listened on this massive Bill. It must have been a great satisfaction to the noble Lord, the Minister of Reconstruction, to place before your Lordships to-day a measure which is itself a great foundation stone of the whole fabric of reconstruction. It is true that he has not himself laid this stone, though there are others from his hand which we shall be discussing later. He has paid a just and generous tribute to the Minister who, with such order and skill, has actually been responsible that the foundation stone represented by this Bill has been well and truly laid. I believe that the democracy which ceases to have faith in more and better education soon ceases to be a democracy at all, and I welcome this Bill because it shows once more the faith of democracy in education. It is not only, as the noble Lord said, a great Bill, a complex Bill, but to my mind it is an exciting Bill, and I envy the opportunity of those in whose hands will lie the implementing of its manifold provisions.

It is no part of my intention to-day to attempt to examine the far-reaching proposals that this Bill contains. Some of them have been sketched by the noble Lord opposite in his opening speech, and I do not claim to have any of that special knowledge which is required to pass an informed judgment upon the crowded list of reforms in the administration and organization of our schools contained in this measure. After all, it must in the nature of things be the broad principles of this Bill that we must debate to-day and exercising the gentle art of selectivity it is upon certain of these principles and their implications for our people and our future that I want most to dwell this afternoon. There was once a publication of my Party called Labour and the Nation, and if I had to give a title to the observations which I am to address to your Lordships to-day it would be The School and the Nation. As I see it this Bill has a double purpose. On the one hand, its high purpose is aimed towards the goal that all our people should receive the training needed to make them, one and all, good citizens and servants of the nation. On the other hand, the aim is to make use in that training of all the nation's resources both of material and of mind. If these objectives are achieved and extended—it will take much time and much effort still—then our schooling will cease to be a separate sideline cut off from the main stream of national life, confined to a few brief years of childhood and adolescence and conducted by men and women, too few in number and faced with baffling difficulties, living too much out of touch with the surge and swell of life outside and divorced too often from experience around them.

Let me explain what I mean. Broadly the intention of this Bill—the Butler Bill as it must of course be called, setting the name of Butler side by side on the roll of Parliamentary fame with those of Fisher and, before him, Forster—is to complete the circle of schooling. I know that in the effort the Minister would himself commend the assiduous help he has received from his Parliamentary Secretary, Mr. Chuter Ede. Completing the circle of education, there is first the development of nursery schools; then there is the determination to make a reality of properly articulated post-primary education available to all children of all classes and incomes, freely, and fitted to the talents of each; and there is the intention by means of adolescent education in the young people's colleges and by means of improved and enlarged technical education so vital, as the noble Lord has said, to our industrial future, to close the fatal gap after ordinary schooling, the gap which has been more responsible than any other single factor for whatever waste or frustration there may have been in our system of schooling hitherto.

But that is not all. The gap after ordinary schooling is in fact too often a lifelong gap. The young people's colleges, once established and then as we may hope extended in their scope, can with the technical institutions prevent zeal and talent from running to waste in the adolescent years. But the adult years follow and education properly conceived never ends. Between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four, when some young men and women are at the universities, others are striving for their footing in society and life. They are starting work; they are mating; they are setting up homes; they are taking their compass bearings on life. Then, when they have found their work and started their homes, when they are on the way, their need is no less great. Adult education, adult schools, technical training on the broadest lines, the freest possible choice of all subjects which have to do with the community's life, work and culture—all these are needed and in the greatest possible profusion. And there is a pointer towards all of them, if no more than a pointer, in this Bill.

Education, as I have said, is unending. The kind of education that will be given at successive ages must differ in its subjects, in its methods, in its teachers. Such experience as I myself have had in these matters has been with young people who have left school and look forward to work and life, and my observation and experience have shown me that it is instructors they need and want at that period of their lives rather than schoolmasters. They want to get to know the world in which they are going to work and live. They want contact with the kind of people and the kind of experience that they are likely to encounter. They want the older people as well as the younger people, the volunteer as well as the professional. For myself I do not much like the sound of this new profession of youth leadership. Youth leadership does not lend itself readily to a profession and I do not like the term "youth leaders." After all, the war correspondents from Italy have told us, the sullen young Nazis captured on the Italian front described themselves, most of them, as being in civilian life "professional youth leaders." In a democracy, leaders are not made like that, they arise by the free choice and acceptance of their fellows, and what these young men and women want in their colleges or their institutions is help and guidance. They want, it is true, organizers, but above all they want the utmost possible contact with the main stream of national life. I look forward to seeing in the young people's colleges and the technical schools on an increasing scale part-time as well as whole-time teachers and instructors drawn from all walks of life and experience, to help to bring these young people into a closer knowledge of, and sympathy with, the nation they belong to.

I do not stress this coping stone of adolescent and adult education because I underestimate the essential foundation of schooling proper. Indeed, I believe that the first essentials are elementary and secondary schools, primary and post-primary, in which children can be properly taught and teachers can teach properly. I believe that to be the first essential. I believe that this Bill, by the raising of the school age and by the complete revision of education after the primary stage, can make possible immense strides towards the right building of the right foundations. The reason that I do emphasize these later stages in the scale of education is this. I believe that if they are not made and managed properly, much, if not most, of what has gone before runs the risk of running to waste. It is not the fault of the schools that so many people lose their aptitudes and their curiosity in later years. It is the fault of the system which brings education suddenly to a stop. It is because of this gap which allows, almost encourages, boys and girls to forget and to go backwards. It is especially true of education that the end crowns the work.

We have all of us observed that there is a tendency to decry the progress that has been made in education, but I believe that is very much misguided. I believe that shortcomings which arise from the absence of later schooling have been put down too often and quite wrongly to the faults of earlier schooling. But, my Lords, the achievements since 1870 are taken for granted. It is the shortcomings that are magnified. It is true the reconstruction of post-primary schooling and the development both of adolescent and adult education have not gone forward to the extent that was promised twenty-five years ago. It is true that because of this gap between schooling and manhood and beyond a great deal of the work has gone to waste; but that is not the fault either of the schools, the teachers or the education authorities. It is our fault, the fault of Governments, the fault of Parliament.

People ask: What is the use of education when boys cannot acid and girls cannot spell and cheap mass amusements dominate their lives? I see sometimes, occasionally, the symptoms, but I disagree with the diagnosis. The cure is more education, not less. In the old days all democrats believed in education, and it is still as true to-day as it was when Disraeli said it seventy years ago, that the stuff of democracy is an educated people and an educated electorate, just as the stuff of a successful industrial nation is an educated industrial personnel. It was Lord Haldane who said of Imperial Germany that he did not fear their armies but he did fear their education. Can it be said to-day, of all days, that the signal achievements of this country in battle and in the factories during this war have been a poor advertisement of our schools? I join with the noble Lord opposite, if I understood him correctly, but certainly for myself I say emphatically, No.

What is happening on every battlefield and in every factory at this time is a splendid tribute to that devoted band of men and women, underpaid, often slighted, who have devoted themselves as teachers to the schooling of the soldiers and sailors and the airmen of to-day. I ask you to consider the difference between the Army of the last war and the Army of this war, and when I use the term "Army" I use it to indicate the Forces at large. The Army of the last war was indeed divided into two nations, the educated and the uneducated. There was a great gulf between them in speech, ideas and manners. That is not so now. In a war which has thrust men from all classes closely together in small units, in bombers, in tanks, and on gunposts, forced them together more closely than ever before, the fact has been proved by daily contact that this has become, or is in rapid process of becoming, one nation with the same language, the same ideas, very much the same speech and the same manners.

If I may, I should like parenthetically to refer to a modest experiment I have myself carried out in recent years, beginning shortly before the war, which from quite another angle demonstrates the same thing. I thought it would be useful, interesting and rather important to know what young people were thinking in the difficult days which, in 1938, it was obvious confronted us. So I offered a prize for essays for boys from a mixed group of half a dozen public and secondary schools, and I was so fortunate as to be able to enlist the support of the Headmasters of Rugby and Stowe, of my own old school, St. Paul's, of Emanuel School, an old Elizabethan foundation, now one of the United Westminster foundation schools, and of two London County Council schools, the Bec School and the Wandsworth School. Perhaps your Lordships will be interested to know what I suggested they should write about. This experiment extended over a period of five years, last year being the last of this particular series. One of the subjects was "After the war there must be a new world order: what sort of a world order?" Another was "Totalitarianism, its cause and cure." Another "The effects of the war on English habits and institutions." Another was "Winning the Peace."

I mention those subjects to your Lordships because you will see that they are topical subjects directed to instigate thought on the part of any young fellow who was going to write an essay. I am not going to tell your Lordships the order of merit as between the schools—I think it would surprise you—but the outstanding fact to which I wish to draw your attention, and which I think is most interesting, was that these young people in the immediate pre-war period and during the years of war, have been thinking about very much the same things on very much the same lines, no matter from which school they came or what were their home conditions or by whom they were taught. I think myself that was most significant and encouraging, and the war has proved it in a multitude of other and much bigger ways.

Thus I say that this Bill is necessary not because of past failures but because of past successes. Surely it is education more than anything else that has been responsible for this moulding of a nation which is becoming one nation, one community, despite all the serious differences which still exist. Full employment, social security and the rest are essential, of course, to continue the process, to get rid for good and all of these two nations, for without education continuous in extent and common in content—that is the key—these other measures will not do their work. Education is the touchstone by which we are free, by which we prosper, by which we discover our common nationhood. But I must not be too eulogistic about the past. There have been many failures, there have been grievous gaps to fill. To build upon past successes, shortcomings must be remedied. The chief gaps are the failure, so far, to raise the school-leaving age, which must be done promptly and to time-table; the failure, in a very large percentage of cases, to recondition the schools themselves; the failure to reorganize post-primary education, largely due to the historic accident which has caused so many schols to be run, in fact, by poor religious bodies; the failure to continue education adequately beyond the school.

In this Bill, as I read it, a definite promise has been given to remedy these shortcomings. But surely we ought to have some specific time-table. Surely the onus should be laid on the Government to explain why it cannot—if it cannot—do this and that. Surely this Bill, in many more of its particulars, should be obligatory, not permissive. That would justify the Minister being given more binding powers over local authorities, and the counties and county boroughs being the one all-purpose education authority for large areas. But there are two lions in the path. One is money, the other is men. One is rates, the other is teachers. It is imperative, if the cost of the new education is to be tolerable, that there should be some reform of local finance; a readjustment between central and local finances. I referred to this subject when addressing your Lordships on the White Paper on the National Health Services. I mention it again now in order to say, as I said then, that my noble friends on these Benches regard this reorganization of finance as between central government and local government, as a matter of first importance, and will seek an early opportunity of raising it again as a separate and pressing matter.

It is essential, if the process of schooling from the cradle to manhood is to be made effective, that the right kind of teachers should be available in sufficient numbers at every stage. We need not only more teachers but also teachers who are more differentiated, teachers with experience more broadly based and, in a sense, more skilled and more worldly-wise teachers. Personally I regard the McNair Report on the training of teachers—to which the noble Lord did little more than refer—as the key document of the New Schooling. It is here that the school and the nation are to be brought closer together for the benefit of both. To my mind, it is, in its way, an inspired, as well as an inspiring, document. Faced with the need for more teachers in a very short time, it has the courage not to suggest a dilution of teachers' training. On the contrary, it suggests an extension of the normal period of training from two years to three, with the invaluable addition of an entire term's continuous teaching practice in the schools.

Nor is this just wishful thinking. The extra numbers will be got, according to the McNair formula, by widening the net of recruitment to bring in men and women of all sorts and ages, of all sorts of qualifications and experience and of all sorts of attainments. The object will be to tap the entire life of the nation for would-be teachers. Once again, the school and the nation! The immediate need for, perhaps, 70,000 teachers when the war ends, and the school-leaving age is raised, will be met by special emergency, intensive methods. They, too, will be based upon the McNair formula of wide recruitment. The teachers will come largely from the Forces, whatever their previous background. They will do their intensive course of training, they will go into the schools and learn their jobs. They will, at the same time, in the two years after training, acquire fresh education in education so that they will be at no disadvantage compared with the former normally trained teachers.

Thus, as regards the prospects of the New Education, I acclaim these two fundamental principles for the procurement of the right numbers and the right kind of teachers. Draw them from every point in the national life where good teachers may be found and, having got experienced men and women, give them the utmost practical knowledge of the schools and the actual problems of teaching. Let them know the world they come from, and let them know the schools to which they are going. It is this principle of continuing contact with the community which is the new principle of the New Education: equal opportunities for all citizens not only to learn all their lives, but also to help in a thousand ways, in the schools, the young people's colleges, and adult education, part-time and full-time, in the process of teaching, and in the guidance and leadership of the young as they grow up and when they have attained the full stature of manhood and womanhood. What I look for is a communal effort, in which all the community will learn and all the community will teach, too.

This Bill will be what we all make it. The noble Lord opposite in the concluding paragraphs of his speech, said that this Bill must have a spiritual background, that education must have a spiritual background. I subscribe to that statement. Those who are now fighting and working and striving for us, the school children of the past, have gone a long way towards fulfilling, and this Bill will enable the children of the future more completely to fulfil, the precept of Mr. Gladstone with which John Morley closed his great biography: Be inspired with the belief that life is a great and noble calling—not a mean and grovelling thing that we are to shuffle through as we can, but an elevated and lofty destiny.


My Lords, this Bill will, I am convinced, be received in all quarters of the House with cordial welcome, and by none with greater satisfaction or greater cordiality than noble Lords on the Liberal Benches, for the Liberal Party, during its history of more than a hundred years, has ever placed in the forefront of its policy and its programmes the widest and fullest possible extension of the education of the people. Now, to-day, we welcome with the utmost warmth this Bill, presented by a Conservative Minister of Education in a Coalition Government—perhaps the finest Education Bill that has been laid before Parliament since the Forster Bill of 1870, under which was established a national system of education compulsory and universal. It has been said that nothing great is ever achieved without enthusiasm. Mr. Butler has brought to his task enthusiasm, and he has in this Bill achieved something great. If some future historian were to try to select one thing which more than any other would typify what is best in our British civilization of the present age, he might well put his finger on this Bill.

I propose to say nothing on what used to be the very vexed question of religious education; I am aware of my own disqualifications. I cannot refrain from recalling, however, that I was first elected to Parliament in the year 1902, when a great controversy was raging throughout the country on Mr. Balfour's Education Bill of that year, and that I made my maiden speech in another place on the Third Reading of that measure. I am happy to remember that I urged a wide and impartial provision for religious education, and for a settlement of the controversies which were then raging. Forty years on, I am glad to be living in an age when a better atmosphere and a more tolerant spirit prevail, and to see another Bill laid before Parliament on the same subject receiving a very different reception from that accorded to Mr. Balfour's Bill of 1902. Well is it that that should be so in the present age, for there can be no doubt that the troubles of the world are due more than to any other thing to the rebirth of paganism and to the absence of any agreed moral standards. Politics and economics are means only, and not ends; they have to have their ends set for them by the moral law, and in our European civilization it is the ideas embodied in the Christian ethic which can alone supply that moral law. It is right, therefore, that the system of British education, subject to due provision for conscientious objection, should give full recognition to that fact and effective application to that principle.

Coming to the proposals of this Bill, two years ago, in July, 1942, I moved a Resolution in your Lordships' House calling attention to the need of expansion after the war of the national system of education. That Motion received very cordial support from all sides in this House. Everything that I asked for on that occasion is now to be found in this Bill, so far as it can be dealt with by legislation. The provision of nursery schools, the extension of the school age, part-time further education, the encouragement of the youth movement, care for physical training, for better nutrition and for health generally, registration and inspection of private schools, a wide access to secondary education, provision for adult education—all those things are here, and many more as well. Naturally, therefore, I for one give this Bill a very cordial welcome. Perhaps in passing I may congratulate the Government on the draftsmanship of the Bill, which is free from the legalistic jargon of which we have so often to complain. It has to be in its clauses elaborate and detailed, for it has carefully to weld together the three factors which must be co-ordinated in all our social legislation—the State, the local authorities, and voluntary organizations and private effort. For that reason the Bill is necessarily complex, but it is easy to understand, and, as I say, superior in draftsmanship to most of the measures which come before us.

I would draw attention especially to the value of Clauses 46 to 52, which deal with matters which used to be regarded as outside the purview of the national system of education—medical inspection, nutrition, clothing, cleanliness and so on. In particular I would mention Clause 51, giving facilities for recreation and for social and physical training. When so many of the children from the great cities were evacuated in the early years of the war, people were shocked by the condition in which many of those children were, educationally and physically. After seventy years of national education, and in what an indignant orator once called "this so-called twentieth century," many of these children came to the villages in a condition which was generally felt to reflect a great stigma upon the nation as a whole. Those defects will no doubt be largely dealt with when this measure comes into full operation.

Clause 59 is also of great importance, abolishing fees for higher education. It is likely to do very much to substitute for what was called the educational ladder—a term which implies something precarious, and even dangerous—something in the nature of a broad staircase, up which the boys and girls may rise from the primary to the secondary schools and onward to further education. I welcome also very cordially the provision for young people's colleges, although I cannot altogether share the satisfaction of the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, with regard to the name given to them. It has been subjected to a good deal of criticism which seems to me justified, and I have no doubt that the people as a whole will before long give them some more suitable, colloquial name, though I should not like to suggest what that name will be.

I have in fact no amendments to propose to this Bill, though I believe that some of my noble friends on these Benches may submit particular points for the consideration of the House. I would mention only two matters, both outside the framework of the Bill, and necessarily so, because they raise questions of administration rather than of legislation; but I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, whether the Government could, at the end of this debate, make some statement of policy on these two points, because they are matters of fundamental importance. There are many educationists who see the greatest defect of all in our present school system in the excessive size of the classes. Before the war, one-third of all the classes had more than forty pupils, and 100,000 children were in classes of over fifty. That must defeat the purposes of any education system. It recalls the methods of mass production and the assembly lines of aeroplane and motor car factories. Each child, so long as you have these immense classes, is simply being passed along from class to class and from school to school, and each teacher is required to put in his own little piece of specialized knowledge, and at the end a finished product emerges, perfectly standardized and fully conforming to the specification.

That, however, is the very antithesis of a good education system. We are dealing with human beings, with living minds, and the purpose of education should be to keep them individual, striving, original, knowing above all how to learn and having a desire to do so. The matter depends very largely, of course, on the adequacy of the supply of teachers, and the Ministry is trying to increase that supply; but perhaps the noble Earl who is to reply at the end of the debate may be able to make special reference to this question of the size of classes, for without a radical reform in that matter the hopes which are founded upon other improvements are likely to be disappointed.

The second point on which I would venture to put a question relates to the use of the clauses which deal with adult education. Here I would reinforce what has just been said by my noble friend Lord Nathan. In this matter of adult education we are in this country backward and belated. The White Paper that was presented before this Bill was produced said very little about adult education and there was much criticism on that ground. The President of the Board of Education made further reference to that in Parliament, and the Bill is more expansive than the White Paper. But I was sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, in introducing the Bill, although he necessarily had a very wide field to cover, said no word on the whole of this broad question of adult education. When financial proposals were laid before another place, this was linked with technical education and a provision of only some £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 a year was to be made under this Bill. To my mind the two ought not to be united. Technical education and other forms of adult education, whether in the universities or by voluntary associations like the Workers' Educational Association, the University Extension Movement and other forms of instruction, should be dealt with by separate authorities. There is always a certain competition between the cultural and the vocational, in which the cultural is likely to prove the earthenware pot which may be broken by the brazen pot in the fable.

There are many who are very ready to use our education system as the means of teaching our young people how to make a living rather than for teaching them how to live. The human is more important than the technical, just as the man is more than the work. I trust that the Government will give far more attention than at present it is indicated that they will do, to this subject of adult education in general. It is recognized now that the boys and girls in these schools at the age of fourteen have an entirely inadequate education—an education that is not sufficient to make them really good citizens. All the more reason, therefore, that we should make up for that defect in the past, which is irremediable because they have left school—for all the adults of the next generation are already out in the world—by encouraging in every possible way their further education. Also the universities during these years of war are able to give degrees, except in technical education, to hardly any of the young men, though still to a certain number of young women; and consequently there again there will be a deficiency of leaders in politics and in all forms of national life which can only be supplied by further facilities for adult education in other ways. Let us remember that here we feel the whole brunt of world competition. In the American universities—and I know it is true that their standards are on the average not quite equal to ours—there are more teachers than there are students in the whole of our universities.


It is a bigger country.


I know, but the difference is not so great as that. They have three times our population but about ten times our number of university instructors. I speak from memory and perhaps my figure of ten is not correct, but it is of that order. The universities under this Bill, and by this Government and future Governments, will have their independence fully respected, and that is vital to the whole of our education system; but that they should receive adequate support, financial and other, is also essential. To secure the spread of adult education among the people and to make up for this lost ground it is necessary tthat there should be a special stimulus—propaganda, organization; and I doubt whether, if that is left only to the Ministry, it will be found to be adequate. With all respect to the Ministry, or to any other Government Department, I do not think you are likely to find there quite a sufficiency of zeal and energy and readiness to go out into the country and propagandize in such a cause as adult education. I would suggest for the consideration of the Minister that some special agency should be formed, partly composed of officers of the Department, but partly of outside persons, who should have the special duty of building up throughout the country a great system of adult education separated from the movement aiming at fuller technical education.

Can we afford it? Well, this is largely a matter of finance. I have mentioned previously in debates in your Lordships' House that the national income has vastly increased; and not only the paper income, but the real wealth of the country, owing to its increase of productive capacity, is likely to be greatly enlarged compared to what it has been in the past. A wise parent, after providing the necessaries of life for himself and his family, will make great sacrifices in order to secure good education for his children; and a wise nation will do the same. Not only is the treatment of the young the test of a nation's civilization but also there is no expenditure which is likely to be more remunerative. In our complicated society, with its industry, its agriculture and its commerce such as they are, it is essential that the people should be fully educated, and with a democracy it is vital that our citizens should have a wide range of knowledge and the highest possible intellectual standard.

Hitherto in our population of some 45,000,000 we have derived most of our leadership, whether in politics or matters intellectual or in industry or commerce, from the well-to-do classes. There can be no statistic, but perhaps 5,000,000 out of the 45,000,000 have in fact provided, not indeed all, but the vast majority of the intellectual power for the whole community. Now if we have equality of opportunity—and equality of opportunity is the opportunity for people to show how unequal they are in abilities and in capacities; which is quite right, for no one is so foolish as to think that all are equal in their abilities—if we have equality of opportunity, bringing those who are unequal, because they are superior, to the top, the nation may draw upon the whole of the 45,000,000 and not only on the 5,000,000, or whatever it may be, for those who will be the moving agents in its life and its progress. I am very glad indeed that the Government have introduced this great Bill, and also the health proposals and that others are in prospect; that they have not listened to those of little vision who say with a sneer, "How can we expect during a great war to give thought to making a new heaven and a new earth?" We can give thought, not perhaps indeed to making a new heaven and a new earth, but at all events to making a better social system, breeding a finer people.


My Lords, it is surely a good omen that our debate upon this subject takes place on the very day on which, as we hope, the liberation of Europe is commencing. Those two things may well be linked together in our minds, and give us great courage as we look forward. But I should like my first words to be an addition to that chorus of congratulation that has been addressed to the President of the Board of Education on his achievement in framing this Bill and in carrying it so far. He has displayed not only enthusiasm and untiring energy, but great patience, great sympathy of mind, and a readiness to take account of what has been presented to him from various quarters. As one of those who have been engaged in urging upon him what could only be the aims of a particular group, I wish to acknowledge here the readiness with which he, as always, heard what was put forward, the fullness with which he has allowed for it, and as I think, the great success with which he has struck a balance that almost all of us are ready, perhaps with very minor changes, to accept.

I am glad that the noble Viscount who has just spoken has referred to the vital importance of administration in connexion with this Bill, for, of necessity, it leaves very much to be determined, after its enactment, by the spirit in which it is taken up in the various localities. It had been my intention to say something at the outset about what seemed to me the two most urgent needs of education generally—namely, the raising of the school-leaving age and the reduction in the size of classes. The noble Viscount has already expressed them, and there is comparatively little that I would say. The reduction in the size of classes is an administrative and not a legislative matter, and it would be a great encouragement to many of us if, in the course of this debate, we could have the assurance that it is the intention of the Government to do all they can to promote advance in the matter of reducing the size of classes. It is simply impossible to teach, in the proper sense of the word, a class of fifty children; you can only entertain it. The skill which teachers show in keeping the attention of this mob of children is, to somebody who has, after his own fashion, been engaged in efforts actually to teach, is frequently astounding. No doubt to keep the attention fixed on any object for any length of time at all is an important element in the educational process, and has a high value; but it is a cruel burden to place on teachers eager to do their utmost for the children in front of them that they have to spend so much of their time, in fact, in merely striving to retain their attention.

The grounds for raising the school-leaving age have been stated, and it is not necessary to repeat them; but among them I would put the immense importance of maintaining children in some form of society to which they belong, and which they feel belongs to them, instead of throwing them out at that exceedingly ill-formed period of life into the rough and tumble of the world outside. Then there is the fixing of what has been already learnt. The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, has already referred to this. I am perfectly sure it is true that the schools are often blamed for failing to teach well what was in fact well taught until fourteen, but has since been forgotten, because it is a really established principle that whatever is learnt until fourteen, if it is thereafter neither learnt nor practised, will be forgotten by twenty. I first came into contact with boys from very poor homes about forty years ago in the Oxford and Bermondsey Club. There we found that at that time the majority of the boys of eighteen had already almost forgotten how to read. There had already been universal compulsory education in this country for thirty years. They had all been in schools, they had all been taught to read, and boys of thirteen and fourteen could read, but the boys of eighteen could not. That would not be true to the same extent to-day. The intervening period has carried us very far forward, and our people are enormously more literate than they were.

It still remains true that a good deal which is learnt at school, however, is neither studied nor practised thereafter, and is in consequence forgotten. This has itself a great and important bearing on the main interest with which I approach this matter—religious instruction—for I am sure that here, too, the raising of the school age will prove to be of enormous importance in securing that the young men and women of this country will retain what they have been taught as a result of their being kept longer under the influence of that instruction. Besides that, there is health. The statistics are very serious with regard to the decline in health, and even the rate of mortality, that follows the school-leaving age. To retain our children at school, and therefore subject to medical inspection and care in those further periods from fourteen to fifteen and then to sixteen, will again, of itself, bring an immense improvement in the health of the whole community.

The other general topic on which I would ask leave to say something before coming to my main concern is that of adult education. After what the noble Viscount has said I shall be very brief. Adult education has been near my heart for a long time. I was the first President of the Workers' Educational Association and held that office for sixteen years. I have never ceased to be deeply interested in it. I believe adult education to be of the most urgent importance at this time. The Army has developed most valuable educational methods. We have not always been wont to turn to the War Office for intellectual inspiration, but I believe that both in the A.B.C.A. provision and in the "British Way and Purpose" provision there has been set going in and through the Army a current of intellectual interest which will not, of course, entirely survive the time when it no longer appears on the orders of the day, and many of those who have felt its influence have become detached from it; but many will be eager to go forward if the provision is there.

If adult education is to thrive there must be much more care as to its provision. Over and over again the places where adult education classes meet are such as would damp the ardour of all but the most enthusiastic. For adult people to sit at children's desks for a couple of hours while they are lectured or engaged in discussion is itself a daunting experience. We need centres provided for adult education. I believe that what the Bill now offers—a great improvement on the White Paper—is likely to be sufficient for what most local authorities will be ready to take up, but it is of the most urgent importance that we should allow proper weight to those considerations which, in the period that follows the war, will be of great importance in helping towards the social stability of our country in what is bound to be a difficult period.

Now I turn to what must be my own primary interest in this Bill, and I want first to acknowledge the fact that it writes religion into national education in a way which has never been done before. The requirement for the universal, corporate act of worship in all schools, the requirement for the periods of religious instruction in all schools, including the secondary schools, is of immense importance and marks a very genuine epoch; but there are two things I should say about that perhaps by way of warning. One is that we should take note—and I am surprised there has not yet been very much public note taken—of the attitude of a large part of the teaching profession, especially those in secondary schools, to this requirement. The resolution of the Incorporated Association of Headmasters, deprecating the requirement of this universal act of worship, should not be lightly regarded. The majority of them are already conducting such acts of worship in their schools, but these join with the others in deploring the fact that it should become compulsory. They have a feeling that the note of compulsion is out of place in this connexion. I do not share it; I think they are fundamentally mistaken; but I would urge that as this is brought into operation great tenderness should be shown towards those who are already in a position of leadership and trust in our schools and who feel, to some extent, that the conditions of their service are being changed.

I do not think that Parliament representing the public should be swayed very greatly in its decision on such a point by the consideration of the wishes of those who are the servants of the public for the purpose. Let the public through Parliament determine what it wants, and then let the teachers enter the profession knowing what is going to be required of them. That must be the necessary process. I believe we shall be able to win the good will of the teaching profession if, as this is brought into operation, there is a good deal of tenderness shown for those who are already, as I have said, in these positions of responsibility and of trust but have not seen their way to introduce these acts of worship into the life of their schools. I should not be at all distressed if that became a provision that in fact took effect with every new appointment. But it is one thing to write religion into the national system, it is another thing for religion to come alive in it, and, of course, we entirely depend upon the teaching profession.

Tribute has been paid most justly to the McNair Report. It is a most readable document, far more readable than are most such reports. It shows a splendid grasp of the problem as a whole, but I am bound to say that its references to the subject of religion in the schools are disappointingly meagre. Just at a moment when a Bill is being passed which requires that there shall be religious instruction given in all schools, a great report on the training of teachers dealing with every aspect of the subject, mentions religion twice, and twice only, and those two mentions are these: We should add, too, that many colleges provided by voluntary bodies have chapels or rooms set apart for devotion, and these they greatly appreciate. That is one of the two references and it comes as an addendum to a paragraph dealing with the supply of laboratories, studios, workshops and gymnasia. When I read that I was very forcibly reminded of the headmaster's prize day speech in Lambkins Remains, which opens, some may remember, with the words: The moral and religious tone of the school are all that would be desired. I wish the same could be said of the inorganic chemistry. The other reference to religion in the McNair Report appears in Section 226, where they draw special attention to the fact that the Board of Education have announced in the White Paper that in future religious knowledge shall be an optional subject for the purpose of enabling a student to obtain a teaching qualification certificate. And that is all they say about it. There is not one word about qualifying teachers to give this instruction, and this is going to be the main part of the problem of bringing alive in the schools the religion which in this Bill is being written into the national system so effectively. That fact represents the need for a perpetual vigilance and eagerness on the part of those who care for this aspect of the matter, and the debate in your Lordships' House on the White Paper showed that this was one of the matters that was uppermost in your Lordships' minds, if we are to secure the good results at which the Bill is quite plainly aiming.

One of the great triumphs of the Bill is that it does offer a reform of the dual system such as has won a very large measure of assent and seems likely to avoid creating any considerable measure of bitterness in any quarter. That, considering the history of the matter, is a very great achievement. Of course I should wish that all education should be religious and that the word "religious" should include, because it is incomplete unless it does include, attachment to a worshipping community. Where you have in a village a virtually homogenous community in its religious tradition—and there are instances up and down the country—with a Church school working in close association with the parish church and where the whole of the inhabitants are entirely content, and indeed more than content, with what is provided from generation to generation, there the religious influence of Church and school is pervasive of the whole life of the community. But we know quite well that that cannot be so in all the circumstances of our national life because denominational attachments are so varied and are so diverse in different places.

What is the real value of the denominational school? Partly, no doubt, the syllabus, but I cannot regard that as the most important matter, especially in these days when we have syllabuses so good for use in the county schools—about that I shall say a word in a moment—partly it is the choice of the teacher, though in practice that does not work out in many cases as a very free choice. The persons available are often so few that the managers in effect are guided and are bound to be guided by the advice which they receive from the local authorities. And then there is the association of the school with the Church itself. That is to my mind by far the most important element in the life of the denominational school. Where they can be side by side, where it is easy to go quickly from one to the other without any waste of time, where it is felt that the school is a part of the activity of the Church as well as of the State, there you have something of quite enormous value provided that it can be conducted with substantial fairness to all those whose interests are concerned.

An expression was used by the President of the Board in another place with reference to another point (to which I must make allusion in a moment) to the effect that the loans which it is proposed are to be made available for the transitional work, that needed in bringing the schools up to standard, should not be so used as to perpetuate the grievance of the single-school areas. It has been made quite clear since that was not meant to be interpreted as a suggestion that the presence of a denominational school in a single-school area involved, and necessarily constitutes, a grievance. There are many places where it does not, and provision is taken in the Bill to secure that where it would lead to any grievance a loan should not at any rate be available for the continuance of that school. But the case is sometimes presented as though our concern for the rights of minorities in these instances should be allowed to obliterate the rights of the majority, and that would seem to me to be a kind of inversion of democracy of a rather serious kind. No doubt it is true that the acid test of true democracy is to be found in the rights of the minority. It is to be assumed that the majority shall have its way broadly speaking; but if it is argued that so long as there is any minority that objects the majority cannot have what it wants, that would be oligarchy of a new type.

Another anxiety that was expressed on this point was lest, if loans were available, the denomonational schools would perpetuate their existence to an extent destructive of the intended balance of the Bill. It is to be remembered that all schemes for the Church's action will be subject to the initial survey. The local education authority will make its survey and draw up a schedule of those schools which are to be retained, and there cannot in any case be any question—certainly, I should strongly oppose the Church attempting to raise the question—of retaining as a denominational school any school which, according to the survey, ought not to be retained either as a denominational or undenominational school. The survey governs the situation. The school then is anyhow to be retained. I suppose it is true that because loans are available a few more schools may be preserved as aided schools than would have been preserved otherwise, but there has never been any intention to use this as a means of trying just to save any school that was in any sense salvable, but to make effectively practicable the offer that the Government have made to us in the Bill.

If all the money requisite had to be found in a single lump sum that would mean an almost impossible demand, pressing most unequally on different parts of the country and on different areas within any one district. Moreover, if the various managers were to apply for loans independently there would be something like financial chaos at the basis of the whole of the planning of the future education system. By providing the channel of loans under the control of the Minister, this regulated order is brought into the whole system, and those of us who are concerned with the preservation of denominational schools on the basis provided for aided schools are deeply grateful for the provision introduced during the passage of the Bill in another place. Of course it must be our aim, where we can with full efficiency and with fairness to all concerned, to save the schools as aided schools. That must be the Church's policy. We should be turning our backs upon the whole policy we had upheld through generations if we took any other course. To that we shall be turning our effort as the foundation on which we are to build.

It is a great mistake to deprecate the value of the Church school in the status of the controlled school. That is done partly, I think, because there is a good deal of misunderstanding about the value of the agreed syllabus itself. I have heard various persons speak of an agreed syllabus as if it was impossible that it should contain any reference to the real substance of the Christian faith. That is partly because there is a confusion in many people's minds between the word "denominational" and the word "doctrinal." An agreed syllabus must not contain anything specifically distinctive of one denomination, but of course it may contain the whole of common Christian doctrine. The one most widely used in England is the Cambridge syllabus. It is estimated that it is used to teach 70 per cent. of the children in all elementary schools. One paragraph of that syllabus contains the statement that: the Christian faith is something definite, not to say dogmatic. In an age so untheological in its outlook as ours is, dogma is suspect, and sometimes rightly so. Yet a purely undogmatic Christianity is a contradiction in terms … the Christian religion is not a vague religiosity but a way of believing and living revealed in the concrete stuff of history.… It is not a colourless and inoffensive piety to suit all tastes but a Word of Judgment and forgiveness and blessing proceeding from a Person in history, to believe in whom is to believe in the living God. That statement is taken from the preface of the most widely used agreed syllabus and I think people's minds should not be confused by the suggestion that an agreed syllabus cannot be used to teach Christian doctrine.

My venerated predecessor, the noble and most reverend Lord Lang, has written to me a letter from which I should like to quote. He writes that I am at liberty to say that it is a deep regret to me that absence in Scotland prevents me from taking part in the discussion of the Bill, that if I had been able to do so, even though I think that in some details it might have been and might be improved, I would most certainly have supported you in your estimate of the Bill as a really great measure of educational reform; that as regards the voluntary schools, knowing as I do from long experience the special difficulties which have always surrounded that question, I consider that the Bill proposes to treat them with fairness and in some respects with generosity: and that I hope that those who are responsible for them will … rise to the opportunities which the Bill offers.… I turn for a moment to the question of secondary education and here there is a provision which I am most anxious we should understand clearly. I should like to ask the noble Earl who will reply if I am right in understanding Clause 25, taken in conjunction with Clause 24, as securing the right to parents of any denomination whose children are attending a county secondary school to have those children instructed in the tenets of their denomination within school hours, either outside the school premises where that is practicable or within them where withdrawal is impracticable, provided that the cost of this provision does not fall on the local education authority. That appears to me to be written in the Bill quite clearly, but it appears so little understood that I should be grateful for an assurance that I am right. If there is that opportunity in all secondary schools, remembering that secondary education is going to begin at eleven years of age, we have something which we must prepare ourselves to use vigorously.

There is one further point which I should like to put to the noble Earl. It is in connexion with the young people's colleges. There is frequent reference to religious instruction in other parts of the Bill but nothing with regard to the provision of religious instruction in young people's colleges. May one understand that the phrase used in the clause governing young people's colleges really makes opportunity for the provision of religious instruction, discussiongroups on religious questions and the like, if the young people attending the college or any considerable group of them desire that? I have been much exercised by the question whether it is sufficient to speak of religious instruction or whether we ought not to aim at speaking of Christian instruction. It is quite true—and this may be a sufficient safeguard—that the instruction to be given takes place in the denominational school or in accordance with an agreed syllabus drawn up by a conference on which the religious denominations are represented, but there is a body of opinion which is eager to interpret this as covering the instruction in the tenets of all religions, after which the children are to be allowed to take their choice.

The prospect of giving instruction in the tenets of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism and others to children under fifteen, leaving them afterwards to form a judgment upon their merits, is rather alarming to anyone familiar with the practice of teaching. I cannot believe that anyone would seriously undertake that. But there may be a study of comparative religion, or rather a comparative study of religion, because there can be no comparative religion, there are only people who are comparatively religious, and there is some danger that the comparative study of religion may take the place of instruction in Christianity. There is no doubt, I think, what is the intention of the Government. I have considered whether I should ask for it to be made clear by a definition of this point and if the noble Earl is willing I might meet him afterwards, or he may be able to give us such an assurance as to make it unnecessary.

The total result, anyhow, is that we have in this Bill a framework for a living organization of educational service, offering as much as a legislative Act could provide, but calling for a new measure of enthusiasm for the cause of education in all its branches, including religious education—a new measure, new both in quality and in extent, if all its promised benefits are, in fact, to be secured for the future generations of our people.


My Lords, my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Education has every reason to be congratulated on having secured what we all know as "a good Press." I doubt if ever before any Minister has been so successful in getting overwhelming support for his proposals as he has done on this occasion. A short time ago I was not prepared, altogether, to join in this general chorus of approval. I felt frankly disappointed that my right honourable friend had not gone out of his way to make special provision for our Catholic schools. It will not be disputed that long before any other public body in England showed any interest in education, especially religious education, the members of the communion to which it is my privilege to belong were insistent in making provision for the religious education of their poor. And let it be remembered that the children of the Catholic poor in England meant the children of the poorest and the least well-to-do of the population of the country. I confess that I should have rejoiced had the President seen his way—relying on his good Press and on his own personal powers of persuasion—to take a bold line, and make special and separate provision for the Catholic elementary schools. In this connexion, I deeply regret, as all your Lordships must also regret, the absence of my noble friend Lord Russell of Killowen, which is, I am sorry to say, due to very serious indisposition, and which will prevent him taking any part at all in this debate or in the future stages of this Bill. I know he has very strong views on the Bill, and I think his absence makes a distinct void and a blank which I am afraid none of us is capable of filling.

We live in days of wishful thinking—and let me say, by way of parenthesis, that wishful thinking has come into its own during the last few days. I have already said that I was not prepared, a short time ago, to be very enthusiastic about the attitude taken up by my right honourable friend the President. But it has since come to my knowledge that at interviews with members of the Catholic hierarchy and others he has given evidence of a desire to meet some of the points brought to his notice. Therefore I am only too glad that instead of attempting to criticize him I find that I have to thank him—and I beg to do so most cordially—for the line he is now taking.

When we come to the Committee stage it will be, I think, quite possible and proper to introduce some Amendments which will meet with his approval, and, I hope, the approval of the House and enable him and his successors to make maintenance grants in such cases where they think it desirable to do so and thereby do a great deal of good for the preservation of the schools. In this connexion, I cannot help quoting, if your Lordships will allow me to do so, the opinion expressed in another place by Mr. Cove—himself not a Catholic—one of the honourable Members for Glamorgan. He is reported in Hansard as having said on the 9th of May— I am prepared to meet up to 100 per cent. clear and genuine denominational schools, but I am not prepared to give money to schools that do not meet that situation. Again on the 12th of May he said: . … if the State accepts the continuance of Church denominational schools, if the money is not enough, I, for one, am prepared to provide the money. I venture to commend those statements of the honourable Member to your Lordships, and I trust that they may also meet with the approval of your Lordships' House.


My Lords, the President of the Board of Education has received a chorus of congratulations—which is rare in the history of Education Bills—on a great plan of educational reform, and I should like to add my own. The main framework of the Bill has now been settled, we can take it. At the same time, there are certain matters on which it is proper to make friendly suggestions. Before anything else, I should like to declare how fully I recognize that it is with the teachers more than with any other agent or factor that the real work of education, and therefore of improved education, lies. Without their work, sympathy and cooperation, and without an addition to their ranks of the best possible recruits in increasing numbers, the most admirably planned legislation will be fruitless.

My principal comments will be on the subject of religious education and the dual system. I am in the unenviable position of taking a less cheerful view of these two departments than the most reverend Primate, who, however, I know, will forgive me. Perhaps it is not amiss that another point of view which is widely held—certainly in many quarters outside—should find expression in your Lordships' House. Much emphasis has been laid in the White Paper, and in debates, on the provision for universal religious instruction; writing it, as the most reverend Primate said, into the education system of the country. I am full of gratitude for the facilities given or promised for such education, but, whatever the intention of the President, I am very doubtful whether his hopes will be realized quite as perfectly as he believes. I want to call attention to some serious defects not in the principle of an agreed syllabus, on which I am wholly in accord with the most reverend Primate, but regarding the contents of religious instruction according to an agreed syllabus as contemplated in the Bill. Religious instruction is the only compulsory subject. Personally, I regret that it is made compulsory by Statute. It seems to me that it would be far better to trust the local education authorities and the teachers, and to rely on the continuance and development of what is at present an almost universal practice, and to give increasing attention to helping the teachers. Everything, after all, depends upon them. Under the Bill, religious instruction and an act of worship are compulsory. On the other hand, it is compulsory not to inquire of any applicant for the post of teacher in a county school about his religious opinions. We may therefore have the strange position in some county school that, while religious instruction is compulsory in that school, no teacher is willing to give it.

Then there is a more serious difficulty, to which the most reverend Primate has alluded. There is nothing to require that religious instruction according to an agreed syllabus should be in any particular faith. It is intended to be in the Christian religion, but intention is different from statutory obligation. The conference under the Seventh Schedule, called to recommend an agreed syllabus, has to be unanimous, and unanimity may be very difficult to secure in some areas. There are to be four committees, each committee, not each denomination, having one vote. One committee, representing the Church of England, has one vote; another committee, representing all the other religious denominations, chosen at the discretion of the local education authority, and which may include the Free Churches, Unitarians, Christian Scientists and Jews, has only one vote to represent the whole company. Then there is a committee of teachers, with one vote. The fourth committee represents the local education authority itself, also with one vote. That conference has to be unanimous in recommending an agreed syllabus. If unanimity is not obtained, there is no obligation on the Minister, or on the body of persons authorized by him, to provide a syllabus of a Christian character.

Religion in other European countries is an ambiguous term. I do not doubt the intention of the President, but why, with all due safeguards for the children of parents who are not Christians, should not it be laid down, as it has been over and over again in schemes under the Endowed Schools Act for fifty years or more, that the religious instruction given in the school should be in accordance with the principles of the Christian faith? Moreover, already 83 per cent. of the existing local education authorities have adopted some form of agreed syllabus; that is to say, out of 316 authorities only about 55 are without an agreed syllabus. Of these 316, 170 have adopted one of the four best, including 105 who have adopted the Cambridge syllabus. The total number of local education authorities will be reduced under the Bill from 316 to 146. Is it not a pity, therefore, to have this elaborate procedure which is laid down in the Seventh Schedule? I believe that there should be, as the Archbishop's first point says, a Christian education in all schools, but I would rather trust the local education authorities and the teachers and the existing practice, and withdraw the statutory obligation, about the later consequences of which I am rather fearful.

I turn now to the proposals regarding the dual system. The President has, as everybody admits, taken immense trouble, and he has obviously been, from what has already been said in this House, very successful in persuading the different interests to approve. He has certainly been extremely industrious and ingenious; but, sorry as I am to differ from what has already been said, in these proposals I see no lasting settlement. I see an opportunity for a comprehensive settlement of the problem of the dual system, in a far more favourable atmosphere than any of his predecessors had, not taken advantage of. I ask your Lordships to consider for what the principal parties in this situation of the dual system are contending. First of all, there is no doubt that the local education authorities, the teachers and the Free Churches desire a unified system—the end of the dual system—with school buildings and the appointment of teachers under the control of the local education authority. The Free Churches ask that in single-school areas their children should not be obliged to receive Church of England teaching. In the case of the voluntary schools, the appointment of teachers and the control of buildings are for them, I urge, a secondary matter; their primary concern is security for the effective continuance of the religious instruction and observance which they have been accustomed to give and to teach in their schools for their own children.

I urge that the proposals in the Bill fail to satisfy the local education authorities and the teachers. Instead of a unified system, and instead of the two types of school which at present exist, there are to be four different types of school—the county, the controlled, the aided, and the special agreement, with four different methods for the appointment of teachers and for dealing with buildings. Mr. Butler gambles on a very large number of non-provided schools becoming controlled schools. It is a big gamble, and there are signs, as the most reverend Primate has said, that a good many voluntary schools will seek to be aided schools, and not least in the rural areas, where the Church school is stronger on the whole than it is in the towns; but these are the schools in the single-school areas, and this will not be very satisfactory to the Nonconformists. What I am most afraid of is something which has not yet been alluded to in this House. It is that there may be as many, or more, voluntary schools which, owing to the financial provisions, cannot become aided schools, refuse to be controlled schools, and resist to the death being taken over or closed by the local education authority—not a very pleasant prospect for any one.

Again these proposals fail, apart from the single provision with regard to loans in single-school area schools, to meet the grievance of the Nonconformists in those areas. They fail to satisfy the voluntary schools themselves. That is, I know, a view that is not shared by many people more important than myself, but this is how I see it. The main feature of the Bill's plan is the controlled schools. But here very plainly that for which the voluntary schools care—namely, the continuance of the existing religious instruction and observance—is substantially affected. At present, in the 10,600 Church of England school departments religious instruction throughout the week is based on the Bible and the Prayer Book, linking up the children with the Church. In the controlled schools the agreed syllabus is compulsory for all on three days, and denominational teaching given to those whose parents ask for it on two other days. I am very far from questioning the necessity of teaching all children a common Christianity, a faith in which all Churches share. Obviously the greatest part of religious instruction to children in school must be of this character. But those who reflect on the meaning of religious instruction will see that some relation to a church is vital. Church connexion, whether for the Methodist or the Baptist, or the Anglican or the Roman Catholic Church, is more important than a distinctive formula. Any satisfactory reform of the status of non-provided schools must surely aim at bringing the Free Churches into closer connexion with their children in those schools, rather than merely reducing the influence of the Church of England.

But everything hinges on the teachers. So, taking the agreed syllabus and the denominational teaching as we find them in the Bill, let us ask what provisions are laid down in the Bill that they shall be competently taught in controlled schools, say in ten years' time, when the present staff has changed. One startling fact emerges after close scrutiny. Except for reserved teachers there is no guarantee that any teacher in a controlled school will be willing or competent to give any religious instruction at all. For, under Clause 28, the authority is not allowed to ask about religious opinions in a controlled school any more than in a county school. So, in controlled schools where there are no reserved teachers, when the present personnel changes, there is no security that any teacher on the regular staff will be willing or competent to give it. Thus everything turns on the reserved teachers. In no case are they to be more than one-fifth of the regular staff. But where the school has fewer than three teachers there will be no reserved teacher at all.

I doubt whether it is sufficiently realized that the great bulk of Church of England schools are small schools, and under the Bill in any case the Church schools will be small schools and in the main junior schools. Are there many schools likely to be in this category? There are, and there will be. The average attendance in all Church of England departments is 94. There are at present, according to Table 14, 2,894 schools with under 40 children in them. This, of course, means one or two teachers. Many of those schools may quite likely fail, some of them will disappear. But when reorganization is completed, including those I have mentioned I estimate that on the basis of Table 14 about 6,000 Church of England school departments, that is, over half of the total number, will be schools with fewer than three teachers. Therefore, if controlled, there will be no teachers on the regular staff about whom the authority or the managers are entitled to ask any questions as to religious opinion.

In passing, I would remark that the Church Assembly, by a unanimous vote last year, passed a resolution saying that they could not approve of a Bill which did not provide for a regular member of the staff competent to give denominational teaching. All I would say is that the situation, when you look at it with clear eyes, is very different from the present, and when the implications are understood, which they are not at present, it cannot be satisfactory to voluntary schools. And there is a final—I am sure unintentional—injustice to the reserved teachers. Under the Bill as drafted, putting Clauses 26 and 28 together, once a reserved teacher always a reserved teacher, and it will be quite legal for any authority to say that no reserved teacher may ever become a head teacher. But Mr. Butler may reply, "If you do not like controlled schools there are the aided schools," and here is this offer of 50 per cent. and the word "generous" has been used in this House to-day about that offer. What does it actually mean? Building regulations, published after the Act has been passed, will require a higher standard for school buildings. I have no quarrel with that. Children ought to have the best buildings, but the liability is unlimited. Building costs have gone up, I believe, as much as 60 per cent. since the war began, and to secure any adequate number of aided schools an initial outlay of millions, whether by capital or loan, will be necessary. And new alterations will be demanded as time passes, so that there is no end to the process.

But my objection goes deeper. I contend that the proposal of aided schools is wrong in principle. Why should the voluntary schools pay in order that denominational instruction should continue? There is a very strong case for more public control over the appointment of teachers and the alteration of buildings and the position of buildings on financial grounds, but there is no justification in principle for demanding large financial contributions to make building alterations as a condition of continued facilities for denominational teaching. It might be argued that there should be no denominational teaching in State-supported schools, but once admit, as the Bill admits, that this is legitimate, it is merely mercenary to suggest that the parents or their sponsors should get as much denominational teaching as they will pay for—everything in aided schools, less in special agreed schools, still less in controlled schools, and nothing in county schools. Why should the teaching of religion be put on a different footing from, say, the teaching of geography? If the Government genuinely desire religious instruction to be adequately given in every school, one of the first steps should be surely to encourage schools which already give their teaching according to trust deeds, and not to add to their burdens. I believe that very little experience of the working of the measure will show the necessity of an amending Act. We shall at last do what this Bill fails to do. I realize that the present Bill is not likely to be altered, but a final settlement must come some time which will not only do justice to what exists of the single-school area grievance, among other things, but also to the principle to which I have referred.

The principles on which a final settlement is reachable, as I believe, are the ending of the dual system and the continuance of the present religious instruction and observance with safeguards especially for single-school areas. I would place the conditions in this form: (1) Transfer of all non-provided schools, sites, and buildings to the local education authority, subject to facilities for use outside school hours. (2) Religious instruction and observance to continue in all transferred schools in accordance with the trust deeds, but syllabus instruction to be available to children whose parents desire it. (3) All teachers to be appointed and dismissed by the local education authority, but in order to secure the continuance of the existing religious instruction and observance the head teacher and the teachers responsible for religious instruction and observance shall always (except in schools in single-school areas) be approved, as regards their religious belief and character, by representatives of the denomination in whose interests the school has been conducted. (4) In schools in single-school areas—(a) the teachers responsible for religious instruction and observance to be approved as regards their religious belief and character by representatives of the denomination in whose interests the school has been conducted with the exception that at least one teacher be appointed for syllabus teaching by the local education authority; (b) the managers shall always include one or more representatives of parents and also of other denominations, if any, than that in whose interests the school has been conducted, and shall be consulted by the local education authority when a head teacher is appointed. (5) Where the local education authority is satisfied after inquiry that a new school of a denominational character is required, for example, owing to movements of population, provision should be made on suitable conditions for the building of a new school of a denominational character.

I would point out that this secures a unified national system, that all teachers would be appointed by the local education authority instead of by 10,353 bodies; that the denomination's approval of head teachers only applies where there are also county schools; and that the denomination's approval of those responsible for religious instruction and observance secures continuance of the existing religious instruction with an extension to meet the needs of other denominations, and it will be understood that in the case of schools of strongly homogeneous character a larger number of teachers responsible for religious instruction and observance would be required than in schools less homogeneous. Lastly, in single-school areas, the local wishes and the needs of the different denominations are carefully regarded. This is, of course, as many here know, not a reproduction but something on the lines of the Scottish solution in the Education (Scotland) Act, 1918, which has worked for twenty-six years. The White Paper issued on the subject last year by the Secretary of State for Scotland stated that "the provisions of Section 18 have worked on the whole with remarkable smoothness."

In the plan I have put forward there are very important variations from that plan to meet the different conditions in this country. It is not a hard-and-fast plan, but I believe that it may one day form a basis for discussion, and the result of discussion with friends of different denominations and interests is by no means unfavourable. I have no illusion that it will escape criticism either from the right hand or the left, but that it is unifying, that it is in principle fair to all parties and in the interests of the children and of religious education, and that something like it is bound to come in time, am just as sure. To achieve such a unified system all parties must pay a price.


My Lords, in the long run the prosperity of any country must depend primarily on the quality of its people. For that reason alone we would all wish to congratulate His Majesty's Government on putting first things first, in that the first piece of postwar legislation on any major issue is this Education Bill. At the risk of seeming a little monotonous, I should like to join in congratulating my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Education. This is a good Bill, as the most reverend Primate truly said. It is a readable Bill, and I should also like to congratulate the Board of Education on being the first Government Department to produce a Bill in readable English, which is most appropriate. It is a courageous Bill, it is sound and, perhaps most important of all, it is comprehensive. It gives evidence of a broad survey of a great and broad subject. Thanks largely to the tact, patience, and wisdom of the President of the Board of Education, it has been found possible to deal with matters of the deepest controversy in such a manner that, speaking broadly, we can say all sections and all parties accept the proposals.

I refer, of course, mainly to the subject, which I do not feel very qualified to discuss, on which the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Chichester, has just been addressing us. On that issue I venture to make just one remark. Both the right reverend Prelate and the noble Viscount, Lord FitzAlan, expressed quite different points of view, stating their disagreement with certain proposals of the Bill. I do hope that they and all others who are not entirely happy about the provisions of the Bill dealing with the religious issue will realize that this is a very delicate structure and that there are many others who also disagree with these provisions but have stretched their consciences very far in order to contribute to a most valuable compromise. I hope they will not run us into the danger of bringing the whole structure of the agreement down on our heads. If so, they will do something that would be disastrous to education and I believe very harmful to the cause of religion itself.

I am quite sure it is unnecessary to impress on the President the simple and obvious fact that this Bill, excellent though it is, represents the beginning rather than the end of his task. It still remains to be seen with what drive, energy and determination His Majesty's Government are prepared to press forward in order to bring its excellent provisions into operation. To what extent and at what pace is it going to be possible to recruit the 70,000 extra teachers that will be needed? I am not quite clear whether the figure of 70,000 takes into account the teachers that will be lost during the war. I rather think it does not. How are those teachers going to be recruited? How are they going to be trained? And if we are to get men and women of the right quality, how are they going to be paid? There is also the question of building priorities of labour and material. I am not quite clear from what the President said in another place whether he was prepared to be quite as pugnacious on that subject as it may well be necessary to be if he is to get a due share of labour and material. Then what pressure will he be prepared to bring to bear upon slack or recalcitrant authorities?

Finally, there is the question of finance. I do not want to go into detailed figures but I am not happy about the figures given by the President as to the amount required to bring this Bill into operation. I wonder whether it is going to be sufficient. Whether that is so or not there is one point on which I am very clear, and that is that the provision being made for filling the gap between the different authorities and their conditions is not going to be sufficient. This is a matter that is of most vital importance to rural communities. Take the extremes of, say, Westminster on the one hand and the whole of Wales on the other. In another place the figures were given. I have not been able to check them myself but they were not contradicted ministerially. It was stated that a penny rate for the whole of Wales raised £45,000 a year, the same amount as a penny rate produced in Westminster. When we realize those figures we cannot conceive how the President will be able to make such adjustments as are necessary by means of the 55 per cent. provision. But apart from that he is providing £1,000,000 a year to meet that gap and that variation, but I cannot believe that is sufficient. If I am right in that, then it means continued educational difficulties and continued poor education throughout our countryside.

There is one other point on which, speaking personally, I am not prepared to press the President very hard. He was pressed on this subject in another place. I refer to the speed of raising the school age to fifteen and then to sixteen. I regard the raising of the school age as vital to our whole educational system; nevertheless I think many of us have seen a great many children even between thirteen and fourteen years of age marking time and wasting time in the schools at the present time because the schools are not equipped properly to deal with them. Pressure for greater progress there must be, but pressure also there must be for making the necessary preparations. And there must be no taking premature action. The Government will not be fulfilling their duty to the children of this country simply by issuing a fiat that they are to stay in school another year. The buildings have to be provided and equipped and manned, and it would certainly be a tragedy if, in order to hasten the raising of the school age, there was any delay in that most important matter of reducing the size of classes. In all human activities, even in these days of mass production, there remain certain activities that still resist the criteria of quantity.

I know it is a platitude but none the less it seems to me necessary to say that education is in the foremost of any list of our requirements that one might draw up. Arising out of that there is one particular step the President is proposing in the Bill that I think we must all welcome. It affects the whole philosophy as I see it of our educational system. That is making in future one post-primary system of education and doing away with the distinctions that have been introduced in the past between the senior school and the central, secondary and technical schools. The snobbery that has attached—and this I think has been said in different words to-day—to the bookish education of the secondary school has all too frequently produced a type of person that was neither cultured nor indeed very useful. Do not let us use such words as "cultural education" and "general education." The secondary school on the whole has in the past been just as much devoted to what we may call the sordid object of getting on as was the more openly and frankly professing technical school. The School Certificate was not a badge of education but a means of getting a job on an office stool. One of the things from which we have suffered very much in the past was the extraordinary belief in the cultural and social superiority of the office stool. I hope that the step which the President is taking to bring together the whole of post-primary education under one head and giving it in future equal status will do something to correct what has been a tragic illusion in the past.

None of us, I think, would desire to see the system of post-primary education become vocational education, but I want to see it brought more closely into contact with life as the child sees it and is likely to be interested in it. One of the tragedies of the past, which the President is seeking in this Bill to rectify, was the sudden transition of the child, in the space literally of one day, from being a child into being an untended cog in the economic and industrial world. It is not merely that fourteen was much too early for this to happen, or that fourteen was for obvious reasons a particularly unfortunate age, but the whole principle of sudden transition whether at the age of fourteen or fifteen or sixteen is wrong. I would support very strongly what the President said in another place, that it is right straight away to start dealing with this important and vital problem. This is what one might call a character development scheme rather than pure education. It is a scheme under which every boy and girl, from the day he or she leaves school to the age of eighteen, can go once a week to someone who will look at him or her not as an employee or a worker but as an individual and who will give help and advice.

Incidentally, there is the importance of continued medical inspection and treatment. More good material has been lost in this period of life in the past than any other. The simple fact is that the child cannot become a man in a day, and if the social system tries to force him in that way the result is bound to be disastrous. I think the President realizes also how extremely difficult it is going to be to handle this important problem, and that neither the ordinary school nor the ordinary school teacher is going to be of much use in dealing with these young people. Apart from the educational aspect there is going to be a certain problem of discipline. We only have to cast our own minds back to this age, when we were at public schools, to remember that if there was a bad disciplinarian there was likely to be a state of chaos. I expect we all remember the two bricks trick—taking two bricks into the classroom, throwing one out of the window and dropping one on to the floor, and calling "Oh, sir, someone has thrown a brick into the room." But when we were at public school we at least felt that we were schoolboys. These young people will have the feeling of being adults because for four or five days in the week they are working in a factory.

I see that a proposal has been made that we should attempt to recruit some of the 70,000 extra teachers from the Services. I have no doubt that if we draw from that source, especially for this purpose, we shall get just the sort of men and women with the type of experience that we want Permanently in this sort of institution, so I hope recruitment of that kind will not be regarded simply as a temporary emergency scheme. There has been some discussion lately as to whether instruction in these schools or colleges—whichever they may be called—should be technical or cultural. I confess that such a discussion rather strikes a chill into my heart. It seems to me to point to the type of conduct that we want to avoid in these institutions. Surely what matters most is that the young people should be interested. One of the great tragedies of some of our younger generation is their apparent lack of interest in anything, their lack of hobbies, their lack of the habit of reading. Even the inevitable pictures are just a means of passing time. The first task of those who conduct these institutions should be to find out the interests of those who attend, and they should be more of the type of a club leader than of a school teacher. It may be that books will be used, it may be that playing fields will be wanted, or the interest may be in machines. In the country it may be animals or fields or garden crops, and particularly in the case of the girls the interest may be in cooking ranges or sewing machines. Those who like music may be provided with or taken to concerts and others could be encouraged to visit picture galleries. We had in the shelters an organization doing such work as this in connexion with music and exhibitions of pictures. The important thing is to develop what is the most precious gift in life, an active interest in some aspect of life.

It is impossible to touch on all aspects of this Bill, the chief merit of which is its comprehensiveness. I should have liked to say something about adult education, but I will refrain from that and will conclude by a very brief reference to the extension of nursery schools and nursery classes. I congratulate the Government on dealing with the vexed question of compulsory medical inspection and treatment, on their encouragement of the provision of school meals to which the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, referred, and in which he has been so greatly interested, on the increased powers given to the President—a very sound and wise development—and finally on the attempted rationalization of areas and powers of local education authorities. I content myself by saying that all those are sound reforms, and all of them are very wisely proposed and dealt with in this Bill. For the rest, I would only join with others in wishing the President God-speed with his Bill and, what is, perhaps, almost equally important, in wishing him the support of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his other colleagues in carrying through this great task that he has undertaken.


My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will not fear the tediousness of a comprehensiveness of treatment if I say one abstract word to begin with. I should like to ask why we all applaud and admire this Bill which has been so generally approved because it makes a great advance in secular education. Why do we value a great advance in secular education? Not, I think, because it promotes virtue. It is certain, I think, that advances in secular education do not promote virtue. The Germans are one of the most highly educated peoples in the world, but they are certainly not the most virtuous.

If you turn to the Renaissance, a period of great intellectual activity, when there was great educational and cultural development, you find that this development was often accompanied by profound moral depression. However much you examine contemporary life or past history, you will find no ground for saying that education promotes virtue. Neither do I think it promotes happiness. No doubt, indirectly, it may enable people to do things which, indirectly, give them pleasure, and in that sense, you may say it helps to promote happiness, but speaking of the direct effect I say that there is no ground for thinking that it makes people happy. Imagine a university town with a garrison of soldiers. Pick out twelve teachers from the university and twelve privates from the barracks. Make inquiries; ask which amongst them are the happiest. I think you will find that the soldiers are quite as happy as the teachers.

Therefore, I do believe that what we are all so enthusiastically engaged upon is not the pursuit of either virtue or of happiness. But it is, I think, the pursuit of efficiency. That is the great, the supreme virtue of education—that it enormously increases human efficiency. There is then this very important and very obvious—though often overlooked—distinction to be drawn. Whereas virtue and happiness are absolute things, efficiency is relative. You are efficient for a purpose. No one is generally and universally efficient in the abstract. He is efficient for something. And that is of a great practical educational importance—that truth which is so often overlooked. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said that education was sometimes divided—I think he said between cultural and vocational education. I would suggest to him that that is not really a scientific distinction. All education is necessarily vocational if you understand vocation in the full wideness of the natural meaning of the word. It aims at fitting the individual for, at making him efficient for, some walk of life or another, or some conduct of life or another. That is the great end of education—to increase efficiency for a purpose.

Now that also illustrates the truth that education is immensely selective. I consider myself a well-educated person, but there are vastly more subjects learnt and taught in various educational institutions all over the world than I ever learnt or was taught. The whole conception of education is that you select, out of a great number of things, certain things which it is worth while for a particular child to learn and for teachers to teach. Who is to decide that selective process? Who is to say what is to be the walk in life of the child, and so enable the authority, whatever it is, to give him the education that will fit him for that purpose, that will make him efficient for that purpose? I say, evidently the parent. The parent is the person who ought to be able to choose and I suggest that the idea behind the conception of education is that the State should offer to the parent educational facilities for any reasonable vocation that the parent likes to choose, and that, thereupon, the child should learn what is necessary for that purpose and is likely to make him efficient for that purpose.

There is, I am afraid, among educational authorities, a great deal of impatience at the conception that it is for someone to choose and that that someone must be the parent. There is apt to be disregard altogether of the parent's outlook. For example in this Bill it is proposed to raise the age of compulsory education at once to fifteen and ultimately to sixteen. I dislike every part of that proposal. I dislike the use of compulsion. I dislike quite as much making the standard of when a child should leave school an age rather than the progress which he or she has made in learning. I do not think that compulsion is defensible in a democratic system. When you allow every adult person to have a vote to determine all sorts of political questions of which many of them understand very little, on what ground can you, at the same time, deny them the right to say how the education of a particular child is to be conducted?—this being a matter which they understand perfectly, for they know a great deal more about that child than the education authority or the Minister of Education, and they are much more likely to be right about what the child needs.

The conception that parents are unscrupulous and not to be trusted, if true of a very small minority, is quite untrue of the great majority. The great majority are most earnestly, and even passionately, anxious to do their best for their children, and are perfectly to be trusted without compulsion to keep their children at school as long as it is in the child's interest to be kept there. Of course, there are differences of opinion on that point. You find these differences among working men, most respectable and hard-working people. In this connexion I heard a very amusing anecdote the other day. The wife of a carpenter said, quite sadly: "It does seem a shame to keep the boy at school now, just when he's old enough to learn something." She was thinking, of course, of his being taught by his father to become an expert carpenter. She thought that that was the vocational education most suitable for him. I cannot feel certain that she was wrong. She would be wrong, of course, about a certain type of child who might require a literary education in order to become a great man on different lines. I am far from saying That the fullest opportunity should not be provided for giving the most complete education that can be given when it is desired. I would have no fixed age for leaving school. I would keep the child there until he learns, first what the State thinks it is necessary for everybody to learn, and then what the parent wishes him to learn. If you are to have compulsion at all I would have it on that basis.

Then you ask: What would be your standard for the State? I suggest that a standard is to be found in a subject which is often treated as very elementary but is, in fact, very important. We often speak of the Three Rs—reading, writing and arithmetic—as if they all ranked together in importance. Nothing can be more mistaken than that view. Writing is, of course, a useful accomplishment, but I have known such a number of eminent persons who wrote exceedingly badly that I cannot believe it is a necessary part of a good education. As for arithmetic, simple addition is very useful; it is part of the gloomy apparatus of accounts from which none of us can escape; but I wonder how much arithmetic, members of your Lordships' House habitually use? Could you do a sum in Rule of Three? I wish that I knew how many of your Lordships could do that; I greatly doubt whether many of you could. You will be familiar with the story of the eminent statesman who, when offered a table of statistics prepared in terms of decimals, said with impatience "What do these damned dots mean?" I do not believe, therefore, that arithmetic ranks very high.

Reading, however, is the very essence of education; it is the vital thing. By that I do not mean reading as taught, I suppose, in an ordinary elementary school, but reading so that one can read for pleasure, reading which is absolutely effortless. That is the standard which I should set. No one should leave school until he could read a page of good English without the slightest effort, hesitation or difficulty, and until he could explain the more important words. I am quite sure that if such a rule existed there would be no illiteracy afterwards. People who get to the point where reading becomes a pleasure rather than an effort never go back. They never lose the habit of reading. It is to this clay and in ordinary experience the real test which distinguishes what we call an educated person from an uneducated person—whether he reads for pleasure or whether he reads with effort. That would be my standard, and it is a far better standard, I suggest, than a limit of age. A limit of age is bad in both ways; you keep some children at school for too long, and you turn a large number of others out too soon. It is far better to keep them there until they attain the standard which the State thinks necessary, which would, of course, vary from child to child, and then let them have as much more education as the parent wishes.

Now let me turn—and this shall be the concluding division of my observations—to religious education. I feel the force of what the most reverend Primate has said—that there are provisions in this measure which forty years ago would have been considered very generous to denominational education, such as the facilities for taking the children out of school for religious instruction. That would certainly have been greatly prized in 1902. Nevertheless, I feel that the Bill suffers, as all the preceding measures have suffered, from trying to combine two different theories of religious education which are essentially incompatible with one another—the theory of undenominational teaching, which merely aims at giving the child a certain knowledge of religious literature and religious subjects, and the denominational system, which aims at associating the child with one religious body or another.

I cannot myself doubt that the second is the efficient way of conducting religious education. Almost all the noble Lords who have spoken have dwelt on the extreme danger of forgetting, between the age of fourteen and the age of twenty-one, a vast proportion of what has been learnt in school. That is true in secular education, and it is just as much true in religious education. If there is nothing to continue the religious practice and interest of the child after he leaves school, the best possible agreed syllabus will soon be forgotten. I often think that these elaborate proposals for improving the syllabus of religious education might be cynically described as proposals for training children in the art of forgetting theological propositions. The more you teach them, the more they have to forget; and that is all that happens. If, however, you associate the child with a religious denomination he falls into the system of the denomination, his religious knowledge is made practically interesting, his religious life is continued and he does not go back. That is what we aim at doing; our aim is to make people first pious and then virtuous. We aim first at piety and then at good conduct. We are distressed by juvenile delinquency. Let us then bring common sense to bear and do what we recognize is necessary in the case of secular education, and have a continuous system which will create a religious sense in the child and keep the religious life and interests of the child alive. That can be done only by associating him with some religious body or another.

I greatly regret that some such system as the Bishop of Chichester outlined cannot be adopted on this occasion, but I would venture on a much more modest suggestion which would, I think, help some denominational schools a good deal, and, what is much more important, would help the general level of denominational and religious instruction. We have in the Bill aided schools and controlled schools—I am referring now to auxiliary schools. Why should not we have one other category, a school parentally managed? Why should not there be a school in which the foundation managers are elected by the parents? Every year there would be an election at which the parents of the children at that time in the school would vote, and they would elect the four foundation managers out of the six who would manage the school. Such a school might, I think, with perfect propriety have the whole cost of the education provided and of all the buildings borne by public funds, because I think that parental control is essentially the same and depends on the same principle as ratepayers' control or as the control of the Minister of Education.

We think it right and just that the State, through the Minister, should control the school, because a large part of the cost is borne by taxes. We think that the local education authority should exercise control, because a large part of the cost is borne by the rates. But there is one thing in the school which is provided neither by the rates nor by the taxes, and that is the children. There could be no school if there were no children, and it is the parents who provide the children. The parents, therefore, are perfectly entitled to control the school so furnished. If it is legitimate that the ratepayer who pays the rates should have some control, and that the taxpayer who pays the taxes should have some control, it is also right that the parents who furnish the children should have some control. I would give them control only by giving them power to elect the managers, and therefore to control the religious education. I would provide that a school so managed should be exempt from trust deeds and perfectly free to give any religious instruction which was desired; and, being an auxiliary school, it would not come under the Cowper-Temple clause.

If that provision were introduced into the Bill, it would relieve almost entirely the difficulties of the Roman Catholic schools, because the Roman Catholics would have very little difficulty in appointing managers of their own faith, and it would relieve a certain number of other schools. It would, moreover, recognize the most important and valuable principle that parents are the right and true people to have the authority in the matter of the religious training of their children and in the matter of the general management of the school, so far as it is not regulated either by the local education authority or by the Minister.

We shall make no progress at all, however, as long as this undenominational theory is still supported by great, important and justly respected bodies of public opinion. A heavy responsibility lies on the Free Churches and their ministers. It is they who support this theory expressed in the Cowper-Temple clause. As a matter of fact, the provisions of the Cowper-Temple clause relate only to formulas and catechisms, and not to teaching the essentials that lie behind them; yet that clause has created the impression which has operated so strongly, that religious education in a public school ought not to attach a person to any denomination, and that is fatal. That is to hamstring religious education and prevent it walking down the path on which alone it can make true progress. It is only by attaching a child to a religious body that you really will have religious practice and religious interest, and continue it a religious and pious person in the path of good conduct that you are anxious that it should traverse.

So that I feel that a heavy responsibility lies on the Free Churches because they have maintained this undenominational teaching. If they changed their minds the whole education question could be solved directly. If they could only be converted to see that what they are doing is in opposition to religious education—that the Cowper-Temple clause is really a charter of educational incompetence, because it is the efficiency of the religious teaching which is so hampered by that requirement—if they could be brought to see that, the whole situation would be changed. I do not know whether in this Bill so great a change is to be hoped for. One thing might be put in, I think with general consent, and that is to require those teachers who give religious teaching in any school to inculcate in the pupils that it is part of their religious obligations to attend in normal circumstances public divine worship at least once in each week, in accordance with the wishes of their parents and with the teaching and customs of whatever religious body those parents approve. I think that might quite well be inserted as a declaratory clause, as indicating to the teachers what is part of their duty as religious teachers. That would at any rate recognize the truth that you get no good out of religious education unless it is followed by that religious practice of worship which alone the denominations provide.

That is all that I wish on this occasion to lay before your Lordships. I feel that as long as the present friendly relation between public authority, whether local or central, and various religious bodies continues, as long as we have a President of the Board of Education like Mr. Butler, who really values religious education, it is very likely that this Bill will work more favourably than some anxious people are disposed to fear. But it all depends on that, I am afraid. If you imagine a hostile Minister and a hostile local education authority, if you imagine an irreligious movement running through the country, then indeed this Bill gives very little security, very little hope, of safety for the religious interests of the people.

We must face the fact that we live in a time of great religious crisis. The movement which has been so desolating Germany and Italy will certainly spread all over the world; indeed it has, in one form or another, spread everywhere. There is a widespread tendency to substitute the worship of man for the worship of God. If that becomes stronger and stronger—and it very well may—as happened in respect of the democratic movement at the end of the eighteenth century, when the defeat of the French Armies which was supposed to crush Jacobinism, did not in the least destroy that element of Jacobin-ism which was democracy—there might be a less desirable survival than took place then. It might be a movement of opinion definitely Anti-Christian, definitely setting up the conception of human perfection in place of the worship of God. And I think if that did happen, if there were such a movement, then the machinery of this Bill would be found to give no protection whatever for the religious life of the people. If we should have a hostile Minister and a hostile local education authority, we should soon pass into the Anti-Christian movement which would then be strong. I therefore greatly regret that there will be a danger of the denom- inational schools growing weak just at the time when we need all the strength of all the Churches put together to stop the attack which is threatened, the attack of a great Anti-Christian movement.


My Lords, on behalf of the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned.

Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Viscount Clifden.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and the debate adjourned accordingly.