§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Ammon.)
My Lords, I wish to refer for a few moments to two points which I raised on the Second Reading of this Bill. The intention of Parliament clearly is to establish the junior colleges as soon as possible. That was the intention of the previous Government, and it should be our desire to make the period of postponement as short as possible. At the time of the Second Reading, I ventured to express doubt as to whether leaving the date indefinite was the best way to secure this object. I realise that I could have pressed the point by means of an Amendment, but I did not want to do so because I felt sure that the Secretary of State for Scotland had given careful thought to this Bill and that he had reasons to support his view that leaving the matter indefinite was better than fixing a target date. But I still have the feeling that it would be better to name a date one year or two years from now. Perhaps the noble Lord will say a word in reply on that subject, giving some reason, if possible, for the Secretary of State's decision.
The second point was that those in educational circles in Scotland are much concerned at the number of young people who, after leaving school, are not attending any kind of night school at all. The percentage is about 75, and a good deal of disquiet is felt on that subject. On the Second Reading of the Bill, I suggested that the Secretary of State might consider a measure of compulsion; pos- 171 sibly he might consider that there should be an evening class for young people on one night a week in the present premises. I realised that there were grave administrative and also psychological difficulties in pressing this suggestion of compulsion, nevertheless I felt that, as we are postponing for an indefinite period the starting of these junior colleges because there are no premises ready, we should consider using the existing premises which the education authorities have available to institute measures of evening school attendance in this way. If the noble Lord is able to touch upon those matters very briefly, I shall be much obliged.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ LORD AMMON
My Lords, in the first place I hope the noble Lord will understand that my noble friend Lord Morrison is not at all discourteous; he rather expected that these points would have been raised on the Committee stage and not now. If I may deal first with the question of the date for commencing compulsory attendance at junior colleges, I would point out that it was suggested in the Second Reading debate here and also in another place that a date should be fixed now and put into the Bill, instead of doing what the Bill proposes—to place the duty upon the Secretary of State of fixing as early a day as he considers practicable. This suggestion has again been carefully considered, but the result has been to confirm the conclusion previously reached. There is a great deal of work to be done in building new primary and secondary schools and in improving and modernising existing schools, in order that the size of classes may be reduced and full advantage be taken of the great opportunities given by the raising of the school leaving age to 15. This work should take precedence over the building of junior colleges. It is quite impossible at present to estimate how long it will take to do what is required for primary and secondary education. Any date which might be put into the Bill now would be pure guesswork.
But, as Lord Morrison told your Lordships in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, the Government are anxious to start compulsory attendance at junior colleges as soon as practicable. Preliminary steps are already being taken to 172 plan the provision of these colleges. Everything possible is being done to promote the day-release on a voluntary basis of young workers, and much experience is being gained which will be of great value when compulsory attendance begins. That is the reply that my noble friend asked me to convey on the first point which the noble Lord raised. I do not know whether he wishes to comment on it now.
§ LORD AMMON
In regard to the second point my right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for Scotland, has considered the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Clydesmuir, during the Second Reading debate, that compulsory attendance at evening classes should be instituted as a temporary measure until compulsory attendance at junior colleges can be started, but for several reasons does not feel able to adopt the suggestion. The plan in the Education (Scotland) Act, 1946, is that hours of compulsory attendance at junior colleges are to be part of the working hours of the young people concerned and are not to involve any increase in the length of their working week. The new proposal would involve either an extension of the total working hours or the transfer of some of the working hours from the day to the evening. For example, a half-day's leave from the factory or the shop might have to be given to make up for an evening's work at night school.
My right honourable friend does not think that either arrangement would be popular with the young people or would produce successful results. Nor is it likely that the proposal would be welcomed by employers. Under the voluntary day-release arrangements which we are encouraging at present much of the time is given to technical education, and even the less progressive employers can see that this has industrial advantages. Facilities are not, however, available for giving technical education to all the young people who would be affected by the new proposals, and all that could normally be given would be makeshift general education.
The practical difficulties in the way would be a serious shortage of suitable staff and accommodation. We are already short of staff who can give the 173 kind of further education required to young people attending voluntarily and we have not suitable accommodation. It would do great harm to the cause of further education to compel these young people to go back into day schools in the evening and to treat them again as school children—and, incidentally, put them in charge of tired day-school teachers who have already done a full day's work. I hope that this reply will prove satisfactory, although perhaps not all that the noble Lord expected.
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.