HL Deb 19 March 1952 vol 175 cc786-860

2.40 p.m.

LORD SILKIN rose to call attention to the need for further development of the educational system of this country; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I believe that there has been no debate on our educational system as a whole since the Education Bill of 1944 was introduced in your Lordships' House. My purpose in initiating this debate to-day is to try to assess the progress in education that has taken place since the 1944 Act came into force; what still remains to be done, and whether we are on the right lines and getting the best possible results from our efforts. The Education Act of 1944 was one of the landmarks in the history of education in this country, ranking with the 1870 Act, which introduced elementary education, and the 1902 Act, which established State responsibility for secondary education.

The Act of 1944 made a number of revolutionary changes in our educational system, but it had as its main purpose, in my view, the removal of class distinction in education and the advancement of the idea of equality of opportunity throughout all the various stages, from the nursery school to the university. That Act was passed during the war by a Coalition Government, and it was in the charge of two excellent Ministers, Mr. Butler and Mr. Ede, Mr. Butler having been a Cambridge don and Mr. Ede having been an elementary school teacher. It was at that time a mark of our faith in the future and of our sincere desire and intention to build up an educated democracy by means of an educational system so good that every parent would be willing, and indeed anxious, to send his own child to a school within that system. Therefore, every child would be able to attend the school—primary, secondary, university or other institution for higher education—of his choice and the one most suited to his particular capabilities, temperament or circumstances.

I was a Member of the other place at the time the 1944 Act was introduced, and I took part in the discussions, both on the Second Reading and in Committee. Like many others, I have frequently asked myself what I expected would be achieved as a result of the passing of this revolutionary measure. What did I understand by "education"? I think that what I looked for then (and I still do) was something like this: that education must develop the mind, body and character of the child—I am not putting these in order of importance, because I feel that they are all one unit, and that one without the other is bound to be a failure. By the development of the mind, I mean the development to the fullest extent of the capabilities of the child, whatever his bent may be. This is, I believe, intended by the terms of the Act, which refers to the provision of such variety of instruction and training as may be desirable in view of their different ages, abilities and aptitudes … including practical instruction and training.… The Act provides for the care of the body by the provision of school milk and meals, and school medical and dental services, including clinics; by the improvement of the standards of accommodation in our schools, and by the provision of adequate playing fields.

The development of character is more difficult, and in my opinion not enough attention has been given to it. Religious education goes part of the way, but that is a very controversial subject. It may be said that there is not enough religious education. I have in mind particularly the inculcating in the child of such qualities as honest thinking—to make him what the Psalmist describes as one who speaketh the truth in his heart"— the courage to follow such thinking in public affairs and to declare his thoughts, wherever they may lead and however unpopular they may be: and broadmindedness and tolerance for the views of others. I attach also the greatest importance to training for citizenship—instilling the idea that life consists not merely of rights and privileges but also of duties to one's neighbour and to the community. Such training requires teachers of the highest quality, with adequate time to devote to each individual pupil. The teacher must be able to influence each child in the manner which will make the greatest appeal to that child. It cannot be done by mass teaching or by classes which are like public meetings. Lastly, children must be taught the right use of leisure. Much child delinquency would have been avoided if only the child had been taught to use his time properly. Now such an education would produce an efficient, healthy, dignified and self-respecting democracy; a people who, by reason of their high technical training and skill, would be capable of raising this nation to the highest level of output and production, and by reason of their character and temperament would be looked up to as the natural leaders of a progressive and civilised world.

That is my conception of the purpose of the 1944 Act. Seven years have passed since it came into operation. How far have we gone towards achieving that purpose? There was an immense amount of work to do. We had to build new schools and extra classrooms to carry out the reorganisation which had been recommended in 1926 in the Hadow Report. The recommendations made in that Report provided for a break at the age of eleven-plus, and the transfer of the child to another school; the building of secondary schools to give accommodation for all children attaining the age of eleven or twelve who are now entitled as of right to secondary education; to make good the destruction of schools by enemy action and to improve the standard of existing schools. We had also to provide for a large increase in the child population over a relatively short period—what is known in educational circles as "the bulge." The raising of the school leaving age and the declared policy of reducing the size of the classes, where excessive, meant, of course, more teachers. These had to be trained, and more training colleges were necessary; and in some cases they had to be built. Since the end of the war we have trained some 35,000 additional teachers.

All these developments had to be carried out in times of shortages of labour and material, of financial stringency and increasing prices. A vast amount of courageous and imaginative thought has been put into the preparation of the educational development plans which the Act required to be submitted within three years. I should like to pay a tribute to the officers and committees for the devotion with which they have addressed themselves to this task. It has been a colossal task. I know that on the whole much has been done, and done extremely well, but I should be grateful if the noble Lord who is to reply could tell the House how may development plans have by now actually been approved; they must all have been submitted by the local education authority—they should have been sub pitted by 1948. Large and increasing sums of money have been spent by local education authorities on capital expenditure schemes—sums which were unprecedented in pre-war times—and much has been achieved. Many fine new schools have been built, schools of which we may well feel proud. They are visited by educationalists from all over the world, and they will, I am sure, enable children to be taught in happy and convenient conditions. We have, however, had to improvise a great deal. I would mention, for instance, the H.O.R.S.A. scheme for using huts for educational purposes where it has been impossible to build new schools. Even our improvisation and simplification of accommodation has been a remarkable achievement.

In the field of higher education, particularly in the universities and technical schools, I feel that we have clone remarkably well. The Barlow Report stated that we should need twice the number of scientists of high calibre within ten years from the end of the war. And, in fact, the numbers of science students at the universities doubled in the course of seven years, while the population of our technical schools has also very substantially increased, and equipment has been provided. I feel sure, therefore, that on the whole, in this field of higher education in technical schools, colleges and universities, we have done pretty well. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer has recently increased the amount allotted to the University Grants Committee, and I feel that in every sense the increase has been fully justified. Yet we still have a very long way to go.

Starting at the beginning, we have today about 22,000 children attending nursery schools, which represents about 2 per cert. of the population of children within the requisite age. No new nursery schools have been built since 1945. I attach the greatest value to the nursery schools. I feel that in many areas they have benefited the child at the age when he or she can be most influenced, by instilling in to the child good habits, teaching it a community life and giving it facilities which in many cases it does not find in its own home; but above all, perhaps, by bringing the parents into the educational system and getting them interested in the welfare of the children by close association with the schools. That association is very valuable; it is half the battle in the child's later life to have the parents really interested in what is going on in the school. I feel that a great deal of the handicap which we suffer in primary schools is that so often parents are not very interested in what is going on. The child receives little encouragement in its work at home. Therefore I feel that the nursery school is most valuable and that it provides a sound foundation for the whole of the education system.

Here I may perhaps interpolate one point. I believe that one of the reasons why so few nursery schools have been provided since the war is that the cost of educating children in them is out of proportion to the cost in the primary and the secondary schools I understand that, on an average, it costs over £200 per annum for every child attending a nursery school. That, of course, is fantastic. It arises because of the, in my judgment, unreasonably high standard that is laid down for them. If only the local authorities and the Minister of Education had been content with a somewhat lower standard of facilities in the nursery school, if they had been satisfied with something simpler, then I think more children would have benefited by being able to attend secondary schools later.

In 1925 the Board of Education prepared a black list of primary schools which were unfit for further use as schools. To-day, twenty-seven years later, 598 such schools are still in use. Many primary and secondary schools are overcrowded. In the primary schools about one-third of the classes in England and Wales have on their register more than the regulation number of forty pupils per class. In the secondary schools nearly 60 per cent. have more than the regulation thirty-five children per class. I regard that as one of the most important problems in education. If one can draw a distinction between the best type of education in this country—namely, that provided in the best public schools—and that which is provided in primary and secondary schools, it lies in the individual attention which the child is able to receive in the public schools. If I may reminisce for a moment, I may say that I sent my own boys to preparatory and public schools. My main purpose was to obtain this individual attention. When I had problems with my boys, as every parent does with his boys, I was able to go to the school and discuss them with the headmaster and the masters, feeling absolutely satisfied that they knew my boys as intimately as I myself did. They knew the boys' characteristics and we were able, therefore, to talk on equal terms. They were able to give me that friendly help and advice which a parent so often requires.

If a child has been taught in a class of thirty-five or forty, it is impossible for the teacher to know the characteristics of each individual child. A great deal of damage can be done, and in fact a great deal of harm probably does arise from the fact that the teachers are unable to get to know each child sufficiently well to be able to exercise a real influence on him or her. Nor are the children, incidentally, able to get to know their teacher, for their teacher becomes merely a disciplinarian and not a friend. So I feel that in this effort to reduce the size of classes to forty or thirty-five, which is not really a very ambitious one, we have a long way to go if one-third of our children in the primary schools are still being taught in classes that are too large, and if in the secondary schools more than 60 per cent. are so taught. We have not yet been able to provide separate secondary schools as required by the Act; many of the secondary schools are being conducted in primary schools. It is very important psychologically that a child not only should receive secondary education but should know that it is receiving it. The most effective way of ensuring that a child realises that is by taking it away from the atmosphere of the primary school and giving it a sense that it is beginning to grow up by sending it to an entirely new school where it commences its secondary education.

That is the conception, and of course the intention, in the 1944 Act, but we have gone a very little way towards separating the secondary schools from the primary schools. Indeed, in many parts of the country the provisions relating to secondary education are still on paper. The public schools, both day and boarding, are still almost entirely preserved for those who can pay. Equality of educational opportunity in this respect is as far off as ever. I am not in any sense attacking the public school; I have a very great admiration for it. I believe that the education it gives is the best in the country. Nevertheless, I do feel, and it was the intention of the Education Act, that this accommodation should be made available to those who can most benefit by that education, regardless of the ability or otherwise of their parents to pay. It should not remain, and must not remain, for all time the prerogative of those who can pay. A small number of children have found their way to the public schools. Their fees are being paid by the local education authority, but far too little is being done in that respect. It is farcical to talk of equality of opportunity in education until access to all types of education is made available purely on the basis of those who can most benefit by it.

May I say, in passing, that perhaps the universities have made the greatest progress in this direction? I understand that to-day over 75 per cent. of the university population consists of people who are there simply because they are most able to benefit by that education. I know that the universities are trying hard to ensure that the people who go to the university to-day are those who will derive most benefit. Indeed, it is becoming very difficult to get a young person into a university except on the basis of ability to profit by a university education. I have referred to the fact that the universities have doubled their population and in that respect they are, perhaps, more advanced than other types of education. I would exempt from that remark, however, the women. There has been very little increase in the accommodation for women, either in the universities or in such institutions as medical schools. There is a great shortage of such accommodation. I feel that it is wasteful not to be able to provide women, as well as men, with the education by which they would benefit.

Then, too, little has been done for the handicapped children, both physical and mental, for whom, under Section 33 of the Act, special schools have to be provided. Over 22,000 such children are on the waiting lists for admission to special schools. This represents about one handicapped child in three, and there appears to be little hope of accommodating these children. Circular 245 requires that work on the provision of special schools should be deferred, and I would ask the noble Lord who is to reply what he feels will happen to these 22,000 handicapped children who are waiting for admission to special schools. We are still lamentably short of school playing fields. That, again, is one of the things which has been covered by the circular. Yet I feel that playing fields are an essential part of the education of the child, and certainly the provision of playing fields can playing a great part in reducing the child delinquency from which we are suffering.

On the whole, therefore, we are still a very long way from realising the high hopes with which we started on this educational journey in January, 1944; and it may well take many years before we arrive at our goal. And yet the Government have chosen this particular moment to call a halt to our educational progress, and perhaps even to set the clock back. The Minister of Education has recently issued a number of circulars. The first of them calls for a reduction of 5 per cent. in expenditure in forecasts under main grant services. She does not expect reductions which would impair the essential fabric of the service, but in many cases the circular is being interpreted in a way which will undoubtedly injure the fabric of the service. Let me give your Lordships a few examples. A number of local education authorities are reducing the school dental service, and a number are deferring repairs to schools, which, in the long run, is a most extravagant thing to do, because you never save money by putting or repairs. You only put off the evil day, and the day comes when you have to spend more, as I am sure many of your Lordships have discovered for yourselves. A considerable number are reducing the number of scholarships and aids to students, in spite of Circular 247, which asks local education authorities to continue help at the same rate as before, while others are reducing the number of teachers.

Again, some are cutting down on physical education, on school equipment and on school transport, especially in areas where there is an extremely scattered population and the children have to travel long distances. I do not want to trouble your Lordships with the names of the particular education authorities who have made these decisions, but I am perfectly willing to give to the noble Earl who is to reply the names of the authorities, if he so desires. He may take it from me that that is what is happening. Even so, however, the large majority of the educational authorities cannot reduce their expenditure on main grant services by as much as 5 per cent. And that shows how tight the estimates already were. Of course, the more economical a local authority were in preparing their estimates, the more difficult it is for them to cut down. Indeed, the call for this reduction is making education exceedingly difficult, and is creating a bad psychological outlook among the education committees. I should like to know: Does the Minister approve these cuts? If not, what is she going to do about them? Is she merely going to accept them where they undoubtedly injure the fabric of education, or is she going to send them back to the local education authorities and say, "This is not what I meant at all. This will definitely damage our educational fabric. Will you please restore these cuts?"

Circular 245 relates to building programmes. Apart from work which had been started, the programme for the great part of the year 1952–53 is virtually being suspended. Shortage of steel is given as the main reason for this step. I understand that about 30,000 tons of steel would have been required to permit these schemes to proceed, on the basis of the 1951–52 programme. That is a very small amount of steel in relation to our total output of about 15,000,000 tons and the 1,000,000 tons that we expect from the United States. It means that we shall be saving about one in 500 tons of the steel that will be available. For the sake of that small saving we are proposing to jettison an essential part of our educational programme. The position is urgent, especially in view of the rapidly rising number of school children for whom places must be found in the next few years. Unless we are to send our children into the streets and tell them we haw not got accommodation for them, these building operations must be started at once, and the necessary preliminaries must take place at this very moment. Yet this moment, when we are facing a large prospective rise in the school population. is the moment which has been chosen to curtail, even to put an end to our educational building.

The loss to the child is irreparable. After all, the child has only one school life, and anything lost during the ten years of schooling cannot be made good afterwards. The loss to the community is equally great. We cannot afford to have a partly educated people, particularly in our present critical situation. May I quote from a leading article in the Evening Standard, which appeared, I believe, in January last? It says: If the children of to-day are not given the fullest opportunities to develop and broaden their minds, then inevitably the men of tomorrow will be less ingenious in tackling Britain's problems than they could be. Whilst I cannot agree that these cuts are in the public interest, I feel that an objective survey of the education which is now being provided would be of advantage. The local education authorities are to-day spending on education something like £300,000,000 a year. In addition, there is the amount spent on university and other adult education outside the scope of the local education authorities. While this £300,000,000 may be regarded as not very significant in relation to our expenditure on defence (it is only about a quarter of what we are spending on defence), it is, nevertheless, a pretty big sum. I have tried to work out what it means in terms of cost per child. On an average, it represents an expenditure of about £60 a child per annum, or, for the ten years of school life, something like £600 a child. My Lords, that is a pretty substantial capital investment, and it behoves us to make quite sure that we are getting full value for it. I think it is time we looked around to see where we are going.

I referred earlier in my remarks to the nursery schools. I would invite any noble Lord to go round and see some of the nursery schools that exist in London. Are we really getting full value for the money we are spending on the nursery schools? Could not we spread that money out and give more children the benefit of it? Are the young people of to-day getting anything approaching the type of education which I defined earlier in my speech? Are young people and the nation getting value for the extra year at school? I supported the raising of the school leaving age to fifteen, and I should be quite willing to extend it to sixteen. But I want to be satisfied that the children are making profitable use of that extra year, and, so far, I am not satisfied. I think the onus is on the education authorities. There is no point in a child staying at school for an extra year merely for the sake of postponing the day when the child could be doing some useful work. Are we getting appreciably nearer to the equality of educational opportunity? I have given my views on that matter earlier. Are we attracting the right type of teacher? Are we paying enough to attract teachers of the right type? I believe the answer to that question is, No. Are the voluntary schools providing satisfactory education? I think they are as much under review as the council schools. Is the education received by a large number of our children in the voluntary schools at all comparable with the education to be obtained in the council schools? In short, are we producing a better educated people?

There are some grounds for doubt and apprehension. Judging by a recent Government publication entitled Reading Ability, illiteracy has certainly not diminished, as compared with pre-war years. Indeed, there is rather more illiteracy to-day than there was in the years before the war. Child delinquency is as great as ever, and moral standards show no sign of improvement. Only physically is there any obvious sign of beneficial results from what is being done in our schools. This is obviously not a Party question and I am certainly not seeking to pre-judge what the answer to such an inquiry may be. One gets certain impressions which, of course, may be quite fallacious. I feel that the best chance of effecting economies, in the true sense of the word, lies in seeing that we get real value for the expenditure that we undertake, and I believe that that can be obtained only by having an investigation such as I have proposed. I hope that the Government will consider my suggestion very seriously. I would conclude by emphasising once more that the survival and prosperity of this country depend on the efforts, the skill, the output and sense of responsibility of the men and women, of all grades, in field, factory, workshop and office. They must be given the training to make these things possible, and the moral incentive which a full acceptance of the principle of educational equality can provide. I beg to move for Papers.

3.20 p.m.


My Lords, I think all your Lordships will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for having given us such a comprehensive and full review of the results that have been achieved since the Education Act was passed in 1944. With a great deal of what he said I agree. In particular, I feel that his remark; on obtaining the interest of the parents, the personal touch in schools, the lamentable situation created by the numbers of pupils—amounting in some cases to thirty-live and forty, or more, in classes—were absolutely true. I will also go a long way with the noble Lord—in fact many of my remarks are on the same subject—in regard to what he has said about obtaining value for money. But there is one point I should like to make upon which I am not so sure that I am fully in agreement with him. It may be that I misunderstood what he said. He suggested that at many of the public schools entry is still to some extent determined by the means of the parent. I entirely agree with him that that is not the only criterion which should determine whether or not a child gets to a good school, but I attach the utmost importance to the doctrine of parental responsibility for the upbringing of children.

The ether day a man who earns between £7 and £8 a week came to me to ask for advice on getting his son into a technical college. The boy had left school and had taken an examination, but he was not quite high enough in the list to get into the technical college. The father said to me: "Is there no way by which I can get my son into the technical college? He is keen to be an engineer, and I want him to get on. Can't I pay for his training at the technical college myself?" That man had worked hard and saved money, but there were apparently no means by which he could get his son into the college because the lad was too far down the list in academic ability. That is the other side of the picture, and it seems to me a very important side. If we take away parental responsibility, and the incentive to parents to work hard and save for the benefit of their children, we may lose all, and certainly more than we gain by the improvements which have been made in education in our schools.

The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has already referred to the importance of education in our present democratic system. It is important for the prosperity of the country; it is important for the formation of the character of the children and for their happiness when they grow up. The noble Lord has already listed some of the attributes to which he attaches importance—honesty, and the others that he mentioned. With what he said upon that I entirely agree. These are hard times and the noble Lord's question as to whether we are getting full value for money seems to me to be one of the utmost importance. When I look at some of the schools that are being put up in this country I sometimes wonder whether we are not going rather far in the building of new secondary schools, as Lord Silkin suggested we have in the nursery schools, in providing over-lavish equipment, recreational facilities and other things of that sort. It occurs to me that perhaps that is particularly the case in the country. Is it really necessary to provide elaborate swimming baths at country schools as is sometimes done? There are other recreational facilities which are not difficult to obtain in country districts, though I fully agree that in towns, where there are not the same natural facilities at hand, it may be necessary to provide such artificial ones.

The large classes to which the noble Lord has referred are surely due mainly to lack of teachers, and lack of teachers is due almost entirely, I should say, to the lack of adequate salaries. If we could divert some of the money which is spent on the construction of rather complicated, rather elaborate and lavish schools to the salaries of the teachers, I believe that we should do far more good. Many noble Lords will, no doubt, remember their own schooldays. They will recall that the schoolrooms in which they were taught were nothing to "write home about," yet the quality of the teachers, together with the close personal touch and the smaller numbers in classes, more than made up for that deficiency.

I wonder, too, whether we are getting full value from that last year at school. I am pretty sure that in some of the village schools, where it has not been possible to transfer the children over the age of eleven to separate secondary schools, we are not. Sometimes those children are kept at school for the last year against the wishes of their parents, and, so far as I can see, with very little benefit to themselves. I know that the educational authorities are well aware of the difficulty in this connection and are doing their best to put matters right; but, in the meantime, would it not be possible to allow parents to take their children away from these village schools at the age of fourteen when the educational authorities themselves do not consider that full value is being obtained for attendance during the pupils' last year? If this were done it would save money, and perhaps some of that money could be diverted to enable better salaries to be paid to the teachers.

That brings me to another point and a very difficult one. It is generally agreed, I think, that it is desirable that children should migrate from small village schools to better-equipped and rather more centrally organised secondary schools. But, in my view, there is a real danger that the personal touch, the human touch, and the contact with village life that is lost by centralising in this way, may be a serious loss. I wonder whether it would not be possible, instead of having these very large secondary schools which are now being built in country districts, to have rather smaller units. I appreciate that it is not possible to give good secondary education in village schools with one, two or three teachers. But are we not sometimes being too ambitious, trying to create units which are too large, thereby causing children to travel long distances from their home villages, with the consequent additional expenditure on travel and all the disadvantages which follow their being separated from their home surroundings? In primary schools also, I think, the requirements of the Ministry of Education—or, I should say, of education authorities—are occasionally rather too lavish. Sometimes when there is a church school in a village the education authority decide that there must be new washplaces, a new staff sitting room, a new staff dining room—and these, perhaps, at an establishment where the staff numbers not more than two or three. And in the case of church schools, where those who have responsibility for meeting, I think it is, half the cost, find it impossible to do so, the school passes from being a church school to one controlled entirely by the local education authority. I think that many of your Lordships will feel that that is an unfortunate state of affairs.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Viscount but I think that he said—no doubt by accident—that a controlled school passed out of the range of a church school. May I say that a controlled school is still a church school? There are two kinds of church school—an aided school and a controlled school. The other schools, which are county schools, come entirely under the education authorities.


I am grateful to the most reverend Primate for his intervention and I apologise for having made a slip. What I should have said was that control over church schools by the Church was reduced as a result of the inability of the church managers to find the money required. It seems to me that in many cases a slightly reduced standard would be satisfactory. It would save money and enable the schools to remain under the full control of the present governors.

All these points are covered by the question: are we placing too much emphasis on materials and too little on the personal touch? If we could divert some of the money spent on the materials to teachers, we could get better teachers, more of them, and more of the personal touch. In the Memorandum that accompanied the Education Estimates I see a reference to adult education, and there again I wonder whether this adult education, however desirable it may be, is not rather a luxury in these hard times. By all means, let it be provided; but would it not be more appropriate in these days that such educational facilities which are described as cultural and recreational should be paid for, at least in part, by those who benefit from them? I believe that at the moment payments are either non-existent or merely nominal—half a crown, or something of that order, for a session. Obviously, it is desirable to have these activities, so that people may know how to use their leisure, develop their character and have greater happiness; but it is a question whether in hard times we can afford them, and I believe that a saving there might well be another way of providing better salaries for teachers.

I should like to ask the noble Earl who is going to reply for the Government whether the experiment of making a compulsory bar to the taking of the general certificate until sixteen years of age is proving satisfactory. To be fair, I have heard comments on both sides. Some headmasters believe it is a good scheme and is working well; others believe that many children who in the old days would have taken the old certificate at fifteen are being held back unnecessarily because it is not possible in small schools to provide a special class for those ready to take the certificate but not allowed to do so.

I come to my last point—that of technological education. Four years ago the late Government appointed the National Advisory Council on Education for Industry and Commerce. Their Report raised a good many arguments and the question was debated in your Lordships' House in February, 1951. The late Government announced their intentions in September, 1951. At that time it was argued that an improvement in technological education was of the utmost urgency. In the White Paper it was stated that The Government, therefore, accept in general the recommendation of the National Advisory Council on Education for Industry and Commerce arid will announce very shortly details of their proposals for making improved financial assistance available for selected colleges and courses. Unfortunately, nothing has yet been done. In February, 1951, in the debate we had in this House, the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, finished his speech by saying this (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 170, Col. 174): All I beg is that something should happen. Many people—I should think the majority—want some sort of technological university. Whether we found a new one or expand and transform Imperial College into one, or whether by some metamorphosis we change a provincial university in to one, or, finally, whether we translate (in the Shakespearean sense) a technical college into one, all I say is, let us do something and do it soon. Otherwise the exhortations to produce more will not carry great conviction. The present Government have been in power for some time now and it is disappointing that we have not yet heard what is going to happen to the proposals that have been made. No doubt there will be disagreement on whatever proposals are made, but what I feel is important is that some decision should be come to by Her Majesty's Government on this question of improving technological education. If we cannot be told to-day what the decision is, could the noble Lord who is to reply at least tell us why there is such a long delay in coming to a decision? Are more consultations proceeding, or is it inertia or inability to decide? I would press Her Majesty's Government to bring this issue to a conclusion at the earliest possible moment. Even if a decision were taken to-day, it would still be several years before we could feel the benefit of the increased output from the colleges.

3.38 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to speak about one particular aspect of education; therefore, I have chosen this spot from which to inflict myself on the House, but my opening remarks could have been delivered just as happily from the Opposition Despatch Box. I should like to join the last speaker, Lord Caldecote, who has addressed the House so thoughtfully, in congratulating my noble friend Lord Silkin, not only on initiating this debate, but on the thoughtful and statesmanlike address he has given us. As a professional educationist, as one who earned his living that way in the past and is beginning to find the necessity and also the great enjoyment of doing so again, I was glad that my noble friend Lord Silkin laid such stress upon the size of classes. I remember a good many years ago when I taught for a time in an elementary school in the Potteries, close to Stoke-on-Trent, and later in a secondary school. I used to wonder again and again why it was that the children who reached the senior school at eleven years were in the vast majority hopelessly handicapped compared with children who had been brought up in the way I and my friends had been. The real difference was in the size of class.

Later I taught for a short time at my old school, Eton, aid there the classes were a good deal smaller. It ought to have been an easier task for me and no doubt it would have been, except that in my class was included my subsequent friend Mr. Randolph Churchill, and that levelled things up. He equated the class of roughly fifteen to one of fifty. That just about made the difference. By and large what my noble friend said is absolutely right. In a big class a teacher has to be far more the sergeant-major than the teacher. All a teacher's energies are exhausted in keeping the little darlings—as they do not always seem at the end of a tiring term—in some kind of order, and you cannot begin to use your nervous energy in positive inspiration.

Before coming to my particular theme, I should like to break a lance with the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote. I felt that he had given great attention to his remarks, but I venture to differ from him on one point. The noble Viscount paid particular attention to the village school. I also live in a village and am interested in the children he mentioned—those who are often kept in the same school from, say, five to fifteen years, because the secondary modern school is not available for them at the present time. The noble Viscount drew the conclusion, which seems to me to be quite erroneous, that many of them are wasting their time in their last year and would do better to leave school at the age of fourteen. I reach the conclusion, that I know is in the mind of my noble friend Lord Silkin, that what we must do is to hasten the building of modern secondary schools.


Perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord. My point was that, until the secondary modern schools were ready for them, these children should be allowed to leave school if, in the opinion of the local education authority, they were wasting time.


I am ready to be corrected, but, judging by my experience, I do not think the noble Viscount will find many enlightened educational authorities who will say that these children are wasting time. Surely, then, the noble Viscount can join with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and most of us, I expect, on this side of the House, and elsewhere, in begging the Government to think again before imposing these cuts. It is these very cuts, or one particular part of them, which will hold up the achievement of just that object which the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, had in mind. I say to him: join us in trying to persuade the noble Lord who is to reply to cancel these cuts—because we all have the same ideal at heart.

I should now like to come to the question of religious education. There must be many noble Lords—perhaps the majority of the House, but perhaps not—who agree with me in thinking that religious education is the most important part of education—I would say, indeed, far the most important part of education. It seems to me that that is a conclusion which is reached by the majority of practising Christians and practising members of all the great religions, including the Jewish community in this country and elsewhere. I would add only that, in my personal experience, a great many people who, to their deep sorrow, are unable to hold Christian beliefs, are most insistent on seeing that their children are given a proper religious education. So much from the fundamental, moral or spiritual standpoint. But if we approach the question in the light of so-called modern psychology, I should argue just as strongly that the continuity between the home and the school is equally vital. If there is any kind of break or dichotomy between the moral or spiritual atmosphere in the home and what prevails at school, then I believe there is set up—and, surely, every psychologist will agree with this—the most undesirable and dangerous tensions. Therefore, we can add the argument from wise educational practice to the argument from fundamental principle.

I would submit, further, with, I believe, a considerable degree of acceptance, that religious education in school is not merely a matter of teaching one particular subject, whether it is called divinity or scripture, or whatever else. It is a question of the ethos, the whole atmosphere in the school, which in the case certainly of Christian children should, surely, be that of a believing child, coming from a home of believers and taught in a school by Christian believers. I would go further—because what I have just said seems to be a religious right—and say that, politically speaking, there is the right of all Christian citizens, as ratepayers or taxpayers, to be guaranteed a situation where the State does not discriminate against them. I cannot accept for a moment the argument that religion is a sort of gadget or an idiosyncrasy for which people ought to pay extra, as though they suddenly wanted to learn Russian or some subject which might be useful but was really quite eccentric as a demand from the average child. May I say, with all humility, that it is a great source of gratification that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury is going to address us later on behalf of the Church of England? I have no claims to speak on behalf of anybody. Though I myself am a Roman Catholic, I do not speak on behalf of that Church. We shall, of course, listen with the greatest deference to the most reverend Primate. May I still with all humility, express to him in particular my own attitude towards non-Catholic Christians? I would venture to quote what the late Cardinal Hinsley said to me just before he died about his attitude. He said: We must never forget that the devotion of many of them to Our Lord puts many of us to shame. Against that background (I speak from the Roman Catholic angle though without any special authoritative credentials) how far is it true to-day that Roman Catholic children have equal educational opportunity with the majority of their fellows? The position is broadly determined by the Act of 1944. I do not warn to rake up any embers of past controversy but I am one who regards that Act as not doing justice to denominational education, whether Roman Catholic or other. It seems to me an historic Act, and in many respects an Act of statesmanship; but it left a great deal that could have been desired. Apart from its abstract merits or demerits, which we could debate at considerable length, it has left behind it an unhappy aftermath in two respects that were not foreseen by anybody at that time, and certainly not by the authors of the Act. In the first place, building costs have continued to rise far beyond any expectations formed in 1944. On the other hand (this is a technical point familiar to the noble Earl who is to reply and many others, but I will not pursue it now), the conditions for obtaining a grant-aid for what are called displaced children—those children who have had to move, for example, when there has been some movement of population—have proved much more onerous than was expected at that time. So in 1950 we reached the position—I do not think it has altered much since, one way of the other—that the Government and the Roman Catholic hierarchy were in broad agreement that the total bill facing the Roman Catholic community over a period of years amounted to over £50,000,000, which I am sure it is fair to say is vastly more than anybody expected in 1944—perhaps it is three times as great, perhaps rather more than that. That is the position; and I am trying to test the application of the principle acceptable to most of us, that there should be no discrimination, against the fact.

Other religious communions—and I say this in no spirit of envy, but as a fact—are able in conscience to accept agreed syllabus religious instruction, supplemented within the terms of the 1944 Act. No doubt the Archbishop will tell us more about the Church of England position this afternoon. As a result, where that can be accepted, those communions can have the cost of their children's education defrayed entirely out of public funds. I am not saying that they like it in every case, but I leave it to the Archbishop to express their attitude. Catholics, on the other land, are unable in conscience to accept a compromise of that sort, and therefore they have to meet this very heavy financial outlay.

May I give one illustration—it is trivial enough in itself, but I know that the House sometimes likes a concrete example—of how this Act tends to be administered in practice? if you turn to an area very well known to the noble Earl who is to reply, East Sussex, where I myself now reside, and take the town of Battle, with which the noble Earl is no doubt very familiar, you will find that the Catholic children in Battle have to go to Bexhill (which is still better known to the noble Earl), a matter of about ten miles. I am informed that until two or three years ago these children—there are not many of them; less than ten altogether I think, but it is a concrete example—had their transport paid for them by the local authority. I have not been able to clear up all the facts about the past practice; I am informed provisionally by the local authority that it is not clear that a decision was ever taken, but that was the effect in practice. Now, apart from one or two survivors from that happy period, the children under eleven who go from Battle to Bexhill have to pay the cost of transport themselves. At the moment one or two children over eleven who go from Battle to Bexhill are still being paid for by the local authority, but we are told that there is no guarantee that that will continue. I do not want to make too much of one particular example, but we must test these great principles by the actuality. Justice is not being done at the present time, and I am apprehensive that still less justice will be done in the future unless the noble Earl uses his great influence on behalf of these children.

This, at any rate, is one of the points where the Ministry's Circular 242 gives rise to special anxiety. Circular 242 has a fifth paragraph—I will not detain the House by reading it, but I expect the noble Earl has it in front of him—which can be taken as an invitation to local authorities to reduce assistance in travelling expenses. I do not know whether that is the right way of taking it—I hope the noble Earl will be able to reassure us on the matter—but the paragraph says: "If the Minister finds it necessary to ask for a reduction on the expenditure of school transport"—and then, in the rather obscure way beloved by official documents, it calls attention to facilities under Section 55 (2), which may suggest an improvement on what was going on before but is much more likely to foreshadow some deterioration in the arrangement. I ask the noble Earl to give us an assurance about the provision of assistance for children who have to go some way to reach a suitable denominational school.

Circular 245 has a ninth paragraph which, on the face of it, seriously restricts Catholic school building already planned. I will not read that out unless the House desires it. I hope that later, if not to-day then on a suitable occasion, the noble Earl will be able to give us a firm assurance that when the time comes when we wish to provide for the Catholic children who are now willy-nilly in county schools, the local authorities will not be allowed to say that this is creating redundant places. There are bound to be suspicions of the intentions of this particular Circular, and I should be grateful if the noble Earl could give us some encouragement for the future. On the broader question of the costs falling on the Catholic community, the noble Earl is aware that before the Election the Labour Party intimated that it would be ready to sponsor an Amending Bill to give easement in various directions. I know that discussions are going on, and it may be that the noble Earl cannot say much more to-day. I hope he will be able to assure us, however, that the case is being studied with great sympathy, and that if not to-day then as soon as possible he will come to this House and tell us that the Government are able to go at least as far as the Labour Government were intending to go.

I will now draw to an end, but I should venture to say this, not, I hope, in any sectarian spirit, because that is not intended. The voluntary schools, whether Catholic or others, have made and are making a considerable financial contribution which represents a saving from the point of view of the taxpayer and the ratepayer. I should be the last to suggest that this financial contribution is the main contribution which the voluntary schools of this country are making. We are always discussing, and rightly discussing, the economic situation in this country, but surely we agree that behind the economic situation lies the moral situation. Does anybody in this House believe that we could for long divorce ethics from religion without meeting with complete disaster? I know that it would be simpler and tidier and administratively more convenient in every possible way if religion could be relegated to the periphery of the life of man; but I would venture to say that that can never be done and never will be done so long as human nature remains what it is—a Divine creation. I therefore feel that all we have suffered in the last two wars and the conditions we are experiencing now will not have been in vain if this one truth, at least, has been burnt into our brains—a truth that was never expressed better in my hearing than by that great Christian, Archbishop Temple: Only religious faith can make the world safe for freedom, only religious faith can make freedom safe for the world.

3.58 p.m.


My Lords, it is obviously most necessary that the Welfare State, in all its aspects, should be submitted to the closest scrutiny and review at the present time, when the economic conditions, on which its success must largely depend, have developed in a way so adverse to that anticipated. In no field is this more true than in that of education, and I feel, therefore, that we are indebted, to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for introducing the Motion before your Lordships this afternoon. At the same time, I confess to some surprise at the way it has been worded, as it seems to imply increased demands on the already overstrained resources, in money, labour and materials, to be allotted to the field of education. In view of the obvious difficulties in carrying out even the present programme, such a demand seems somewhat out of touch with reality, and what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has had to say has not entirely dispelled this impression.

I agree with the noble Lord, however, that the urgent point at issue before all others is whether the present education programme can be maintained, in view of the proposed cuts and the inevitable restrictions of the building programme for schools and county colleges in the next few years. The proposed 5 per cent. cut is likely to be even more difficult to put into operation than appears at first sight. As has been repeatedly pointed out, if can be applied only to a relatively small proportion of the total expenditure on education, some 30 per cent., since the remainder involves essential expenditure such as that on salaries, and so on. Moreover, of course, rising costs of essentials, such as paper, books and transport make it difficult even to maintain expenditure at the present level. As the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, has pointed out, the position with regard to teachers' salaries will still leave much to be desired, and it would be unfortunate if prospects of an increase were to be postponed indefinitely. It would seriously jeopardise the chances of an increase in the necessary numbers of teachers.

Economies in the field of administration, with its annual budget of £14,000,000, are clearly indicated, though experience in other fields has shown how difficult it is to pare the administrative machine once it has been allowed to become established and stabilised. As in hospital administration, the cutting down of administrative staffs of the central offices seems essential. The transfer into the hands of headmasters and governing bodies of a large measure of authority and control at present exercised by local authorities would not only result in economy but would stimulate a healthier state of initiative and sense of responsibility. Judging from experience in other fields, however, it seems very doubtful whether this could ever be brought about without continued pressure, and even the application of some measure of compulsion.

The provision of subsidised school meals and free milk to all children, regardless of the financial circumstances of the parents, however desirable it may be under normal conditions, hardly seems warranted at present. In spite of the obvious difficulties, it should surely be possible to devise a scheme whereby all but those least able to afford it paid more for these services. liven a slight increase in charges on school meals—say one penny—would, I am told, bring in £2,000,000 a year, though this increase must be to some extent offset by the recent rise in the cast of food and may, indeed, prove essential on that ground. By economies in these fields, and also in others, such as transport, the 5 per cent. cut might possibly be met adequately without impairing the essential fabric at the present time; but with the steadily increasing number of children of school age it would hardly seem possible to maintain it for long without a general all-round lowering of standards.

If the cut is difficult to apply to-day, and will be more difficult to-morrow, still more acute is the problem posed by the inevitable restriction on the building programme. True, the most recent Government statements with regard to this appear to be considerably more optimistic than those of a few weeks ago. Even so, the problem of providing accommodation in the next ten or twelve years for the increased number of children of school age is indeed formidable. The fact that to some extent it is likely to be temporary, being accentuated by the "bulge" in the birth rate, suggests that it should be met in part by temporary measures. However desirable it might appear, under normal conditions, to build enough new schools and county colleges to meet in full these increased demands, and to provide less crowded accommodation when pressure is reduced, it does not seem practicable at the present time. Nor is it justifiable if it is to be done at the expense of the housing programme, which surely must still be the No. 1 priority so far as social services are concerned. There are also the building requirements of the Health Service to be considered—the provision of new hospitals and health centres, which are such an essential part of the scheme but which are lagging far behind schedule.

I feel that for our new school buildings we may to some extent be clinging too long to standards which seemed reasonable enough in the immediate post-war years, but which are completely out of place in these days of enforced economy. For example, have all possibilities been fully investigated of utilising existing buildings as temporary schools? There must be many, such as church or chapel halls scattered throughout the country, that might be suitable for this purpose. If a suggestion were made that they should be rented to local authorities while the exceptional demand for school accommodation lasts, I believe that many would respond favourably, even at considerable sacrifice to themselves. In some cases it might even be sufficient to arrange for the loan of the halls during certain hours. The provision of such accommodation by the churches would materially assist in the promotion of an objective which they have very close to their hearts—namely, the fight against ignorance and the improvements in social conditions in general. Furthermore, many of them are in serious financial difficulties, and the rental would be of material assistance. Some church or chapel buildings might, for various reasons, no longer be required for their original purposes, and these might be taken over permanently. I have in mind, for example, the conversion of a large disused Baptist chapel in Leicester into an adult education centre, a description of which is given in the weekly journal, Education, of February 1, 1952. That affords an excellent example of what can be done along these lines.

Quite apart from the utilisation of these buildings, there must be many blitzed buildings which are suitable and which might be repaired and converted at only a small proportion of the cost of a new building. I believe that it is along these lines that we shall be forced to think in meeting what will become a more and more acute problem in the next few years. It may well be that, in spite of all our efforts, the increase in demand will outstrip the available accommodation. This increase, together with the probable enforced maintenance of the present cuts, and rising costs, may make a serious general lowering of educational standards inevitable if the present policies are adhered to.

What, then, must be done? I believe that a reduction in the total time spent at school will be the only solution if the last state of education is not to be worse than the first, however unthinkable this idea may appear to most people at the present time. Rather than the raising of the age of entry from five to six, as advocated by some as being the lesser of two evils, I would prefer as a temporary measure to see attendance at school made voluntary between the ages of fourteen and fifteen, as suggested in a recent broadcast by. I believe, Sir Edward Savage. At the same time, every attempt should be made to raise the general standard reached by the age of fourteen. There are strong arguments for going even further and restricting the extra year to students reaching certain scholastic standards. If this were done, it would in no way depart from the principles expressed in the White Paper that the nature of a child's education should be determined by his capacity and promise. No matter what happens, we must ensure, so far as possible, that every opportunity is afforded to the more able and willing student to continue his or her studies, and that, in particular, nothing is allowed to interfere with the supply and training of technologists who are so vital to industry and science.

4.9 p.m.


My Lords, as I had another engagement elsewhere I did not intend to be present to take part in this debate today, though I had expected that the noble Lord who initiated the debate would refer to certain matters with which I have some concern. Some of them, indeed, are very familiar to me and concern me closely. I, like the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, and others, would underwrite everything that he has said about large classes. I myself was a schoolmaster for twenty years. I do not believe that anybody can effectively teach a class of more than twenty-five, whether primary or secondary. I would add that while one ought to be able to cope with twenty-five secondary children, the primary classes ought to be smaller. In secondary classes one can rely more on the intelligence of the pupils, whereas the primary class has to be coaxed all the time. In my experience, the real trouble is the back row. I should hesitate to suggest that any of your Lordships were ever in that row—except possibly the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, about whose school career I happen to know something and who has been known to boast of having been in the back row. The real trouble is to bring in that back row. With twenty-live children you can do it, but with thirty-five, forty-five or fifty-five it is really impossible. It is utterly unfair to the teacher.

As regards the village school, I may say that there was a time when some local authorities, though not all, in preparing their development plans, were apparently minded to make almost a clean sweep of them. In one or two areas of England there was a great danger of that. Under the late Government, I and many others were most concerned about that matter. We approached the then Minister of Education and we have also approached the present Minister, and from both we received assurances that the Ministry will see to it that there is no unnecessary and unwise suppression of village schools in England. Those assurances were greatly valued. I am not talking about church or county schools. In every village the village school, whether church or county school, wherever possible, should be maintained, because it is the centre of culture and social and community life. Just as there must be a church, so there must be a school in every village.

I came here to-day because the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, kindly told me that he was going to refer to religious education, and I thought I should be here to state the position of the Church of England Generally speaking, the noble Lord said only two things: first, he made observations on the essential value of religious education; and secondly, he commented on some administrative matters. If I had known what the noble Lord was going to say, I might not have come, because all that he said about religious education I entirely support. I agree with every word he said, too, on administrative questions, although I shall have something to say on that matter in a moment. Even though the noble Lord did not deliver such a ferocious attack on the 1944 Act as I expected, I may be allowed to remind your Lordships what the general attitude of the Church of England to that 1944 Act was, because, whatever adjustments are made to it, I think it is important to remember what has gone before. The first point I would make about the reasons why the Church of England accepted the 1944 Act is this: that it was the first Education Act in the history of this country which was not the subject of bitter inter-denominational strife and struggle. Your Lordships will remember the 1902 Act. At each stage there was a ghastly procedure of internecine warfare between the religious denominations. I remember very well before the 1944 Act discussing some of the problems with a most co-operative Free Churchman. He pulled out a gold watch and said: "This watch was given to my father after he was released from prison, having gone there in 1902 for refusing to pay his rates." That will remind your Lordships of the conscientious difficulties, tensions, strifes and partisanships which were rife then. It must never be forgotten that the 1944 Act was the first Act which was free from that deplorable state of internecine strife between the different religious denominations.


I should like to say one word.


I think I am going to say it for the noble Lord. Perhaps he will say it after I have. It was in that atmosphere that the Church of England was content to accept that solution. Some of the points, particularly concerning religious education, had been worked out before and put to the Ministry. We were pleased to find them in the Act. As we saw it, this was the utmost that could be secured without re-raising in the nation as a whole the old educational conflict. I should add that no Church was satisfied for itself with the 1944 Act. I think that that is what the noble Lord wished to say.


No, not quite. With the greatest deference to the most reverend Primate, may I say that he is always under the impression that he knows what I am going to say? Earlier to-day, I offered to tell him what I was going to say and he said: "Whatever you say, I shall not be influenced; I shall make my speech just the same." I will not interrupt the most reverend Primate further except to say that the settlement was never accepted by the Catholic hierarchy. That was the point I felt it right to insist upon at this stage.


That is what I have said and I am going to say again: no Church was satisfied with that solution—not a single one of them. The Roman Catholic Church, as I was going to say, openly expressed its dissatisfaction, and the Roman hierarchy said that they could not accept it. The Church of England said frankly that this was not all that they desired. They hoped that, as things developed and the area of conflict and controversy faded, a better settlement would be possible, and that the Church of England would be given more of what it desired. I want to make it perfectly clear that the Church of England was not satisfied. I think the Free Churches also were not satisfied. No one was satisfied in this sense, that if the Roman Catholic Church, the Free Churches and the Church of England had each drafted the Bill themselves, the Bill would have been very different indeed from the Act which was finally passed. That is what I want to underline: that the Bill was accepted as a result of people in general feeling: "While this is not what we want, it is the most that can be got without reopening the whole field of internecine conflict and passionate controversy." The Church of England has from that day to this declared that in its view the time is not ripe to disturb the principle of the 1944 Act, for this reason: that, so far as they can see, there is no likelihood of reaching a greater area of agreement now than there was in 1944. The present position of this country is not one in which we want to have our attention distracted by a bitter educational and religious controversy. So our position is—and we have declared it again and again—that, unsatisfactory in many ways though the 1944 Act was, it was accepted as the best we could secure at that moment, and we do not think that the position is such that the principle could be reopened now without grave crisis.

May I just go one stage further, and point out that the Church of England regards the 1944 Act not as satisfactory but as tolerable, for that is what we find it to be? By its nature and history the Church of England has to consider two different groups of children. First, there are the children of the nation, whether of any faith or of none—all the children who go to the county schools and the schools of the nation. The Church of England must desire for them, and must do its utmost to secure, as much Christian teaching and training as is possible. That we felt earnestly from the beginning. Secondly—and here we are on exactly the same ground as the Roman Catholic Church—we have our own children to care for, and we do the utmost we can to secure for Church of England children Church teaching and Church doctrines. Those are the two problems that we have to consider.

As your Lordships will remember, the 1944 Act made religious worship and teaching compulsory in every school, primary and secondary. It became a necessary part of the State's provision of education. I would say that that is a triumph for the Christian cause. It does mean at least that every child going through the schools of the nation is brought into some kind of confrontation with the Scriptures, with the Relevation therein contained and the powers of Christian faith. The alternative to that would be secularism, in which in the schools of the country there would be no religious teaching at all. As your Lordships know well, that is the system which exists in the United States of America. As between these two, there is no kind of doubt that any Christian would choose the solution of the Act of 1944. At that time the nation (and I think it is still of the same opinion) rejected any idea of secularism and chose as the basis of education the broad principles of the Christian faith. That is one reason why we should deplore anything which jeopardises the general settlement of the 1944 Act. We would go a very long way to prevent any weakening of that building of the Christian faith into our educational system.

Then we have our duty to our own children. There the Act gives two possible courses. If it so wished, and if it had the money, the Church could have made all its schools aided schools. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was perfectly right in saying that costs have risen out of all knowledge. The Church has to provide 50 per cent. of the capital cost of making a school an aided school. All the other expenses, of course, are paid by the State. Incidentally, I may say that I am a little surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, wishing for some sort of comparison as between the efficiency of the teaching in voluntary schools and in other schools. I have never heard it suggested that there was any difference in efficiency between the two. After all, the voluntary schools draw their teachers from exactly the same source as the county schools. They are the same people, in the same profession and, I should have thought, equally competent in their jobs. The local authorities can well look after the matter. However, that is the position of the aided school.

This demand for 50 per cent. of the capital cost is a very serious matter. If the Church cannot afford to find the money to make its school aided, then it can make it controlled. That is why I intervened a moment ago, when the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, was speaking, to say that a controlled school was still a Church school. The agreed syllabus is not altered, except that on two days of the week the Church can provide, through a recognised teacher, its own Church teaching. I may say, frankly, that if we could have afforded it, the Church of England would have kept every single school an aided school. It recognised that this could not be done. However, the Church believes that there is great value in the controlled school. There, with other children, there is the teaching of the agreed syllabus, in the preparation of which the Church of England has played a large part, and twice a week there can be integrated with, and not separated from, that syllabus, the particular doctrine and practice and training in worship of the Church of England.

That is tolerable to us, so far as it goes, though the Church of England would be very glad if it could go further. But we recognise that if the whole basis of the Act were reopened, any changes might be for the worse. The position of religion in the schools might be weakened. The position of voluntary schools might be weakened. The other conflicts might be aroused again and, above all, a stop might be put to what I believe is the most healthy aspect of the whole thing—namely, the growing close co-operation and trust between the local authorities, teachers and Churches. I think the grandest thing that there could be for the well-being of education, particularly religious education, in this country, is that these different bodies which have been at loggerheads should now be working together with increasing understanding for the true interests of the children.

Lastly, my Lords, I have just this to say. I have outlined why the Church of England does not think there should be any reopening of the whole basis and principle of the Education Act of 1944. On the other hand, the Church of England has for a considerable time been pressing for adjustments within the scope of the Act—easements or alleviations, as they are called. We believe that there is considerable scope for making possible, without departing from the general principles of the 1944 Act, things which the rise in costs has made impossible. I am happy to say that I am in complete agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in regard to this matter. I have no doubt that he knows as well as I do that there are points where adjustment is desired and already being discussed. The Ministry of Education are in close touch with all the Churches and others interested in these adjustments. I have no doubt that the noble Earl who is to reply will confirm this statement. I think that by that means we can reach a very satisfactory conclusion, without reopening the 1944 Act, and without reviving the kind of troubles that once existed.

In fairness, I ought perhaps to add that if these readjustments give to a Church considerable facilities which were not allowed under the 1944 Act. then, as a necessary consequence, any arrangements already made by that Church under the 1944 Act must be open for revision. It would be altogether wrong to penalise those who acted on the 1944 basis and went ahead with their plans then. It would be wrong because they co-operated fully then, not to put them in an equally good position with those who now, rather late in the day, go forward with their plans. In my own diocese in Kent we have the closest relations with the local education authority. I think it is a year and a half since our development plan was settled. There the Church of England made such arrangements as it could in the light of the 1944 Act. If more liberal conditions are provided, then we must ask the right to revise what we hitherto agreed to, and to say that, under this new provision of money by the State, there are other schools which we should wish to make aided and not controlled, or whatever the particular point might be.

With that warning, I must say that I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, that all Churches have a common interest to go to the Minister and to say, "Under the working of the Act certain difficulties have arisen which really frustrate its purpose. Therefore, we desire adjustments which will make it possible, as it is no longer possible now, to carry out the original intention of the 1944 Act." I am very glad to think that in that matter the Roman Catholic Church, our own Church and other Churches may be associated in the discussions that are now taking place with the Ministry of Education.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, stress the importance of reducing the size of classes in the primary schools. I believe that the reduction in the size of these classes is the most important reform required to be undertaken in education to-day, and one that should have priority over every other educational commitment. If, in the early days, the Coalition Government had realised what would be the effects on many of our children of these large classes, they would have provided more training colleges for teachers and better salaries for those teachers. Not enough was done, and the mess was made worse by the late Government when they raised the school leaving age. Certainly, there was a demand at the time for the raising of the age, but I think that the Government should have stood firm and stated that the reduction in the size of the classes must come first. In my opinion, it was a clear example by both Governments of putting economy and politics before the welfare of the children.

This canker must be cut out. Many people see fine young lads leaving the technical colleges and going out into the world, and say and think that this country has the finest and most progressive educational system in the world, ignoring, or, perhaps, being ignorant of, this running sore which is eating into that very system. In the early '40s I was told on good authority that a quarter of the Scottish children left school practically uneducated, and that there was little difference in the rest of the Kingdom. There has been a slight improvement since then, but not much. I have here the figures for the City of Glasgow, which I think may interest your Lordships. Over the whole of the City of Glasgow the average number of pupils in a class is 39.5. That, I suggest, is not good. The number of over-size classes—that is classes with 45 or more pupils—amounts to 10 per cent. of all other classes in the City of Glasgow. In the County of Ayr, one-quarter of the children attending schools are in classes of 45 or over.

It is said, and I think with some truth, that the tremendous rise in juvenile delinquency is partly due to the over-size classes in some primary schools. There are many bad homes throughout the country where children are not taught the difference between right and wrong. That is not confined to any one section of the community—it occurs in all sections. In the old days this did not matter greatly, because the school teacher was able to take the children in hand. But now there are schools throughout the country with classes of from 40 to 60 pupils, and it is difficult—indeed almost impossible—for the decencies and even common honesty to be taught to the children. I do not want to exaggerate. Such schools are few and far between, but they exist. Why should any of our children be so badly handicapped in the battle of life when, by our spending a little money, the matter could be put right? Meanwhile, the trend is for some pupils to become that junior brother of the gangster—the juvenile delinquent. We all know that the main reason for these large classes is lack of teachers, and I have risen tonight to ask the noble Earl, who I understand, is to reply for the Government, whether he can give an assurance to education authorities throughout the country that in spite of the financial stringency there will be no diminution in the flow of teachers from the training colleges, and no lack of additional accommodation in the schools where this is needed to reduce the size of the classes.

4.36 p.m.


My Lords, this debate brings to my mind the name of one who would certainly have wished to take part in it had he been able to do so. I am referring to my old friend and teacher—he was the old friend and teacher of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, also, I believe—Lord Lindsay of Birker, who died yesterday. He spent his life in the service of education, mainly in the education of the young at Oxford, but latterly in the education of grown-up persons in the Potteries. I know that your Lordships would wish an expression of your sympathy to reach his wife and family. The regret we feel is shared generally; and that regret is accentuated by the knowledge that we shall not have his advice at this critical time in the development of our educational system.

It is some years since I last spoke about education in this House, and that was from the other side of the Chamber. At that time, I was the spokesman of the Minister of Education in this House. The impression I remember most clearly of discussions we had during several years—including a debate on a Bill to tidy up the administration of the 1944 Act—was the remarkable harmony that prevailed and the complete absence of criticism from noble Lords opposite who, at that time, sat on these Benches. I do not remember a single row during those years, and I do not recall another instance of that kind during the lifetime of the late Government. I attribute this harmony over education mainly to the fact that we were trying to carry out administratively the provisions of an Act which was not ours, but which we regarded as a landmark in the growth of our system of public education in this country. That view, I think, is generally shared, and it is shared also by those who regarded the Act as having certain serious shortcomings from the point of view of denominational education. Your Lordships will remember that this Act was mainly a Conservative Act—it was passed by the Coalition Government when there was a Conservative majority in the House of Commons. What we are doing this afternoon from this side of the House is this: we are asking noble Lords opposite to be faithful to the principles which they themselves laid down in the 1944 Act. We maintain that recent developments in educational policy are jeopardising the Act and may make it quite unworkable.

Attention has rightly been directed this afternoon to the increase in the number of children of school age as being an important factor in our present difficulties. For it is this increase, in conjunction with the Minister's decision to stop new school buildings from being started in the first six months of this year (which I think is the most important of the policy decisions that have recently been taken in regard to public education), that will make it impossible for many local authorities to continue to carry out their statutory duties. May I remind your Lordships of the main duty placed upon local education authorities by the 1944 Act? I would refer to Section 7 of that Act. I shall quote a few words from that section; I shall not read the whole of it. It states: The statutory system of public education shall be organised in three progressive stages to be known as primary education, secondary education and further education.… I leave out a few words and continue to quote from a little further on: … and it shall be the duty of the local education authorities for every area"— and then the following words specify the duty in this way— to secure that efficient education throughout those stages shall be available to meet the needs of the population of the area. I take it that "efficient education" in this context means not only the provision of schools, teachers and equipment, the whole paraphernalia of organised instruction, but the use of those instruments in a way that benefits every single child of school age for which the local authority is responsible. It was generally recognised that the Act could be effective, with a rising school population, only if the local authorities were able to go forward with their school building programmes. But now their programmes have been halted. How can "efficient education." in the meaning of the Act, be reconciled with this suspension, even for a short period, of the school building programmes? There are two inevitable results of this step, both of which, I maintain, any impartial person would agree are inconsistent with "efficient education." The first of these results is that many children will fail to benefit from their school life because the classes they attend will be far too large. In the course of this debate, one speaker after another has said that children are bound to be handicapped, and handicapped irreparably, by having to attend too large classes at any period in their school lives. The second result is that some children will not go to school at all, because there will be no school at a reasonable distance from their homes. That is a new point, which I shall underline a little later on.

I should like your Lordships to consider the effect of this change of policy in London. I know that conditions in London are different from conditions in other parts of the country, particularly in rural areas, but the population of the country is mainly urban, and I think it is fair to say that something very like what we are expecting to happen in London will happen on a smaller scale in every large town. I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I deal with London in some detail as an illustration of an important urban education authority working under instructions which they have received from the Government in this matter. First of all, there is the reduction in the capital investment in school buildings over the period during which new building will not start. The capital value of primary and secondary school buildings which would otherwise have been started by the London County Council is about £2,700,000. But, of course, what really matters is the amount by which this economy will reduce school accommodation, and that is a point I should like to emphasise. The accommodation represented by this figure will mean a loss of 1,840 primary school places and 8,880 secondary school places. Now 1,800 places in elementary schools may not seem a large number, but the trouble is that these places are urgently needed in areas where new housing development is now going on. If the schools on these estates are not ready at the same time as the houses, some children in the younger age groups will have to stay at home, for children of five and six cannot be expected to cross roads and find their own way to and from schools at a considerable distance from their homes. I know of three places in London where this is likely to happen if new primary schools are not completed by 1953. That is the fulfilment of the obligation which I undertook earlier on, to specify the details for the statement I made in regard to some children being unable to go to school on account of the cuts in the school building programme.

The effect of the delay on the secondary schools will be particularly serious on account of the steadily rising secondary school population. It has been calculated that the number of school children attending secondary schools in London will rise from 150,000 in 1950 to a peak of 238,000 in 1960, so that accommodation should be found, and ideally would be found, for 88,000 more children in the next eight years. Postponing the age of transfer from primary to secondary school, as the Minister has suggested, will mean that children will be kept in primary schools when they should be going on to a more advanced stage. If they are transferred to secondary schools at the right age, the existing schools of this type will be severely, hopelessly, overcrowded, unless new school buildings are ready in time. Indeed, the most damaging effect of the loss of school places at all ages will be the expansion in the size of classes. As has been said on both sides of the House, school classes are for the most part grossly overcrowded, and any further increase in their size makes nonsense of "efficient education"—I quote again the words of the Education Act.

Again I should like to illustrate this point by reference to London. I suppose most school teachers know that classes in primary schools should not have more than thirty children. I was glad to hear the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury say that, in his view, as a former member of the teaching profession, no school class should exceed twenty-five, and that classes in primary schools should be smaller than in secondary schools. That is an extremely important view and I am sure it will receive most serious consideration in the proper quarters. But the fact is that the Minister has made a regulation prescribing a maximum of forty for primary school classes and has subsequently relaxed this regulation to allow an even larger number of children per class. In London at the present time 40 per cent. of the primary schools have over forty children in the average class, which is a higher figure than the average for the country as a whole given by my noble friend Lord Silkin in his opening speech. Let us not forget that the total school population in London is still rising and will not reach its peak until 1955.

The congestion in the secondary schools is equally serious. I think the orthodox view has been that the size of class at this more advanced stage of school life should be, twenty to twenty-five children, but, as in the case of primary schools, the Minister has prescribed a maximum larger than educational efficiency can justify and then has had to allow the maximum figure to be exceeded. Sixty per cent. of the London schools which take children at the secondary stage have more than thirty children in every class. More than half of these schools in London are already seriously overcrowded. I should again like to emphasise that the picture in London I have tried to draw can be seen on a rather different scale in every large town throughout the country. The fact is that the 1944 Education Act, in which we all believe as a charter for children, is breaking down because local authorities can no longer carry out their statutory duties. This breakdown will go from bad to worse unless the school building programme is resumed immediately after the present interruption. I do not suppose that at this stage the Government have made up their minds, but I hope that we shall hear at the earliest possible moment what are the Government's intentions regarding a resumption of the school building programme.

I have no doubt that the Government will blame the steel shortage and will point to other claims on our building resources. But while everyone will agree that there is not enough steel to go round and that other claims besides education have to be met, what is causing grave concern, far beyond educational circles, is the degree of priority that has been given to education. I am not attaching any blame to the Minister of Education in this matter. The question of priorities is decided between Ministers, and often it is the most deserving Minister who gets the scantiest attention for his views. But it is a matter for which the Ministers jointly, as the Government, are responsible. We should all agree that the requirements of defence and of essential industries and public utilities must come first; but what we should like to know is where education comes after these claims have been satisfied. In what order in relation to other claims are the claims of education being placed? It has certainly been treated as the Cinderella of the social services. Its older sisters, housing and health, have not shared equally in this reduction in the family capital.

If the Government spends more on education, there will, of course, have to be corresponding economies in other directions. The Government only can advise what these economies should be. We have not the facts or the information to be able to assess the different priorities. It would be helpful to know what degree of priority the Government attach to the claim of education on the building resources of the country. I feel convinced that people in this country are prepared to do collectively what they do as individuals in their own families. I am sure that the public would be willing, to make real sacrifices for the good of the rising generation. If the Government will tell the people what they must give up—and no doubt they will have to give up something—to maintain a decent standard of education for the country's children, I am sure that whatever sacrifices may be demanded will be willingly accepted.

4.51 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that I shall be forgiven for trespassing upon this debate, but there are some things I feel that I should say, as I have been associated for the past five years with education in the Army, in the first place running courses for men in India just before their demobilisation after the war, and more recently training the better educated men among the National Service men to be instructors in education. It would not be proper for me to pass any comment upon the progress of education in the Services, but having had some 1,500 men through my company in this time, I feel that I may be presumed, at any rate secondhand, to have formed some picture of what is going on in the schools. I usually hold an informal talk of about an hour with each man each evening, and during this time I have spoken to graduates of every university in this country, to men from most of the teachers' training colleges, and to a very broad cross section of men from the secondary, grammar and independent schools of the country. Most of the men I was teaching in India had left school at the age of fourteen and, therefore, had had their school life before the 1944 Act came into operation. So I will not say anything of them, except that they were, I think, surprised about their new-found interest in history and literature, derived, I feel, from their experience of travel and work, which they never knew at school.

I have always thought that one of the most promising developments of the 1944 Act was the creation of the county colleges, particularly for developing the person's right use of his leisure, to which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, referred, and one must regret that the economies have not allowed more progress to be made in that direction. We have these economies to face, but I feel that I can suggest some changes which would be possible without spending money on new buildings. Various noble Lords have spoken about the personal touch, and I should like to say two things about that. I am rather surprised to be told by quite a number of men that sometimes they were not known, even by name, to their headmaster until their last year at school. I find that difficult to understand. In the Service we are accustomed to having some 400 men pass through a company in one year, and I think that any company officer would be upset if a man were more than two or three weeks in his company without that company officer knowing his name. Headmasters have 600 or 800 pupils, but they have five years in which to learn all about them. I am told that the reason for this situation is that headmasters are now so largely administrators. I thought a commander should delegate administration to his second-in-command. It may be that some amendment of the Ministry's regulations is required to enable a headmaster to pass on some of the administration, rendering of returns, and so on, to other members of his staff, so that he can concentrate on what I am sure must be the first duty of every leader—namely, to get to know all the people in his charge, and thus to influence their personalities.

My other point is along the same lines. I meet many trained teachers and others who have done their student teaching mostly in the primary and secondary schools, and I ask them how often they have gone to see the parents of the children they are teaching. They say that it is really not done; that it would be a most unorthodox thing to do. We discovered in the Army that those men who are most backward in their education are often those who have had little encouragement given or interest taken in their school life in their homes. There is even the strange story of a man whom we found not only illiterate but with a definite resistance to learning. Then we discovered that while his father, who was rather a "bad hat" and had not treated his mother very well, could read and write, his mother, whom the man adored, could not read or write. The man had made this false equation in his mind. As soon as that was put right, as he was a naturally intelligent person he learned very quickly. But it should not be left to the Army to find out these things.

I know that there are these parent-teacher associations in which the parents get an opportunity to discuss with the staff generally problems of the school, and to meet the staff at school concerts and sports days. But I do not think that that is a proper substitute for the teacher going to the child's home and discussing die progress of the child individually with the parents in the home. Perhaps some such calls may be met by the front door being slammed in their face. A "big" person will not mind that, but will put up with it; and, in any case, I believe that the majority of parents would welcome such an approach, made, as it would be, in the proper spirit and in true sincerity. I hope that the local education committees and headmasters will encourage those teachers—there must be many who have recently left the Services—who have the courage to try in this way to bring the home and the classroom more closely together.

I should now like to turn to something rather different—namely, the method of selection of entry to the university. The competition is now getting so hot for these open scholarships, and even to get results in higher school certificate leading to a State or county award, that it is leading to a terrible amount of specialisation. I believe that that situation is worst among the scientists. I meet men who have read science in their last two years at school, and some of them have told me that in these two years they have not done more than one or two periods a week of any subject except science or mathematics. I suppose the demands of industry are so specialised that the universities must require these people to have covered a large syllabus before they begin their university course. I come to this conclusion partly from a reply which I received from one of our old universities, when I was recommending for admission to read science a man in my company. I pointed out that the man had wide interests in drama and literature, was a good all-round games player, and, I thought, a rather original personality. I received the following reply: …. and in the mathematical subjects in natural science, it is difficult for us to do anything other than prefer the men almost entirely in terms of their capacity in their subject. We take a very different attitude in such subjects as history, where, of course, the men concerned seek employment which requires their general abilities, and where their personality is of importance, but a mathematician and a physical scientist is employed as one without regard to his other capacities. I found that a very disturbing reply to come from one of our ancient universities, and I am wondering what the view must be in the provincial universities and the technological institutes. Our scientists to-day carry a great potential peril in their hands, and I trust that they will have a liberal education.

It is not so very different, I am afraid, even in the arts. All the men who come to my company have at least the school certificate, and many of them university scholarships; yet I find considerable gaps in their knowledge. I set each intake a general knowledge question, and I find men unable to express a quarter as a decimal or tell me the capital of India, men who do not know whether light or sound travels the faster. There was even one man in the history section (I was asking dates, but I was not fussy; I was giving a margin of twenty-five years for the correct answer and of a hundred years when we got back a century or two) who told me that the outbreak of the French Revolution was in 1670, that the Battle of Trafalgar was fought in 1765, and that Wellington commanded our forces at Blenheim. Yet this man was awarded a "distinction" in his higher school certificate for history, with the eighteenth and nineteenth century as his special period, by one of our university examining boards. Your Lordships must wonder how that can happen. The man told me that in fact he had just thrown in history as a special subject at the last moment, and had crammed up a few spot questions and was lucky. That should not be.

While I am speaking of history, I deplore the fact that in our grammar schools to-day the concentration is almost entirely on modern history. It seems that mediæval and ancient history are not even taught, and it is not possible to take ancient history in the school certificate except as part of a classics paper. I should like to read to your Lordships one or two commendations of the value of ancient history. Here is that of Mr. T. S. Eliot: The advantage of the study of Greek history … as a preliminary to the study of other history … is its manageability; it has to do with a small area, with men rather than masses, and with the human passions of individuals rather than with those vast impersonal forces which in our modern society are a necessary convenience of thought, and the study of which tends to obscure the study of human beings. Professor Toynbee says eactly the same thing: As a training ground, the history of the Græco-Roman world has its conspicuous merits … The surviving materials for a study of Græco-Roman history are not only manageable in quantity and select in quality; they are also well-balanced in their character. Statues, poems, and works of philosophy count here for more than the texts of laws and treaties; and this breeds a sense of proportion in the mind of a historian nursed on Græco-Roman history; for—as we can see in the perspective given by lapse of time more easily than we can see it in the life of our own generation—the works of artists and men of letters outlive the deeds of business men, soldiers, and statesmen. The poets and the philosophers outrange the historians; while the prophets and the saints overtop and outlast them all. A great many of these men, particularly in the grammar schools, are, I think, working too hard and are not playing enough games in their last year when they are working for a scholarship. They learn some ancient history without learning that Europe's finest intellect earned his nickname of Maro—broad-shouldered—through becoming the all-in wrestling champion of Greece.

The General Certificate of Education is now being brought in. It seems to me to give the examining boards a new opportunity of setting questions on broad lines, and I should like to ensure that every man who takes science as his special subject has also to answer a general paper on history and literature. Those who take the arts as their principal subject should have to answer a general paper on science. I should like to add that the Services have received the most remarkable courtesy and co-operation from the university authorities whenever we represent, as we do occasionally, that some man has been overlooked by them in his case for admission. They go to endless trouble often to interview the man at very short notice, before he goes overseas, and in sending examination papers overseas, and so forth. I also find that they usually seem to agree with our recommendations—so much so, that I wonder whether the university authorities and the selection committees who make the county awards could not occasionally defer their decisions in some of their borderline cases until they have the opportunity of a report on these boys from their Service commanders, as well as from their school headmasters. But I dare say there are too many difficulties about that.

I should like to say a few words about the Fleming Report. I know that this is a somewhat prickly subject and that that is perhaps the reason why the Report has remained in cold storage for so long. The result has been that the independent schools have been left to negotiate on their own with the local education authorities, and in this way have offered a number of places. Some of these have been taken up, and where they have been I believe that the boys have fitted in surprisingly happily and well. But I do not think the scheme has gone very far; certainly nothing like 25 per cent. of the places at the independent schools are taken on scholarships, which is what the unanimous Report of the Fleming Committee recommended.


Is the noble Earl referring to day schools or boarding schools?


All those represented on the Headmasters Conference.


A great many of them are boarding schools.


Yes; I include all the boarding schools. I am thinking principally of the boarding schools. I do not think that it is entirely the fault of the schools. They have made their offers, and they have not always been accepted. I believe that I am right in saying that Winchester offered fifty places to the London County Council, but that they were not taken up.


. To the country.


We have to consider why this is so. Of course, one point to make is that the schools have largely negotiated with the local education authorities in the county in which they are situated. This must lead to some discrepancies. For instance, Lancashire, with a population of 5,000,000, has only two boarding schools, with 700 places, represented at the Headmasters Conference, while Berkshire, with a population of only 400,000, has eight such schools, with over 3,000 places. There are, of course, various reasons why these places which have been offered by the schools have not been taken up. I think the schools feel that they have done what they can and can do no more. Perhaps some of their staff have heaved a sigh of relief, but I believe that the majority are genuinely disappointed that more has not been done. One reason is this obstinate problem of the age. A boy moves from his primary school to a grammar school at eleven, and it is only natural, if the grammar school is not anxious to lose a good scholar or games player, and not to cause the parents to make another change of school when he is thirteen, that there should be this reluctance to take up these places.

Again, there are many parents who, I think quite rightly, believe that their boy should not be divorced from home whilst he is still at school. I remember in one company, a large company of 120 men, a particularly outstanding boy whom I nearly selected as the best all-rounder of the company. He was a good games player, cheerful, sturdy and thoroughly independent; and it was not until near the end of the course, when I had a talk with him, that I found out, first of all, that he was an only child; secondly, that he had been to a co-educational school, and thirdly, that he had not slept one night away from home in his life until he had joined the Army. Yet no boarding school could have produced a more natural leader than that boy's home and school had done. The public schools have characteristics not necessarily, perhaps, superior to but at any rate different from the other schools. I am sure we are all in agreement that where a boy has talent he should benefit from those characteristics, regardless of what his parent's income is.

But I believe the real difficulty is a financial one. I believe that the local education authorities have got to convince the ratepayers of the value which is to be obtained from spending money on sending a boy to a public school. The ratepayer the ordinary citizen, is now quite satisfied to expend public money on making grants to universities; why not, therefore, on grants to public schools? Two reasons can be given. I think it is true that a rather larger grant is necessary: you can send two people for three years each to a university while you are sending one boy for five years to a public school. You can also be more certain, when the age is 18 rather than 13, that you are going to choose the right person to benefit. I believe that many people feel that in sending a boy to a public school you are sending him into a remote world on its own. I do not say that that is necessarily so, but many people believe that it is.

A great deal is being done, but I feel that the schools must try to associate themselves much more completely with the community in which they are situated. As I say, a good deal is being done: most schools run boys' clubs in the various big cities and exchange visits with those clubs; they send their pupils to see round factories and even go down coal mines; they arrange summer harvest camps. There is a school in the North that mans the coast guard stations and the lifeboats—a great piece of community service. But, on the whole, I think your Lordships will agree that the general rhythm of school life is rather i round of inter-house matches, field days with other school cadet forces, and so forth. These other efforts are just sporadic and occasional. I believe that what the schools must try to do is to arrange matches with local schools, with youth clubs, with factory clubs and with village teams. We all enjoy village cricket. I believe that they can in this way contribute much to the community. They could lend their sports grounds and squash courts to local clubs; and they could rent their boarding houses to the youth hostel associations, which are very seriously overcrowded in the summer holidays. These are ways in which they could contribute to their community.

I know there are objections. Many schools are situated in the depth of the country. But there are others—and they include some of the most famous names—which are quite close to large industrial centres. There are, of course, certain objections which may occur to your Lordships' minds, such as the cost of travel and of hospitality in the case of outside matches, the possibility of infectious disease, or of damage to buildings and grounds, if they are lent out. But I believe that the schools must consider such proposals collectively. Schools must make some such concerted effort to associate themselves with the community in which they are situated. It is left to the Army, or at any rate to Service life, to create the blend. Men from all kinds of homes meet together in the barrack room and put on uniform and are all equal in the sight of the sergeant-major. This is the Mint of which T. E. Lawrence wrote: Each of us is part of all the rest, as all the rest of us. We must hope that one day the world will settle down and the necessity for National Service will cease. I do not think we could then continue it just as an investment in mutual tolerance in our society, fine investment as it is. Then once again will a large number of our leaders, trained in the independent schools, miss their apprenticeship in getting to know the point of view of those whom they are going to be called upon to lead. That would be a sad divorce. I hope, therefore, that public schools will endeavour straightaway to bring about this closer association, this doter integration with industrial life, against the day when National Service ends.

There is just one more thing I should like to say. The pessimism of the last half century is best summed up in Thomas Hardy's poem God's Funeral. In that poem he spore rather wistfully of the passing of the age of assured faith which was caused for the majority of one generation by Rationalists who were fed on the early, but too positive, conclusions of nineteenth century science: How blest it was in years far hied To start the wheels of day with trustful prayer, To lie down liegely at the evening tide, And feel a blest assurance He was there. Hardy says he could not buoy the faith of the few who stood aloof to protest against this requiem mockery, and in the dark night saw upon the horizon a small light swelling somewhat: Thus dazed and puzzled 'twixt the gleam and gloom, Mechanically I followed with the rest. It was in this prevailing mood of agnosticism that those of my contemporaries at school between the two wars grew up. But one cannot work for three years among the men coming out of the schools and universities to-day without detecting a very different climate of opinion. There is not the same critical spirit abroad. Maybe the views of the later scientists, Jeans, Whitehead and Eddington, on the nature of the physical universe, now prevail. At any rate, these men do not seem to have the same category of intellectual doubts, and there are many, not yet a majority but certainly a goodly few, who hold their Christian faith with a simple conviction which I can envy but not, alas! share. Thomas Arnold's great son wrote of the sea of faith that was once too at the full, and eighty-five years ago heard the beginning of its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar. But I believe that the tide is at last on the turn, that we have passed the low-water mark and that the waters may yet flow back in time to refresh the generation of The Waste Land.

5.21 p.m.


My Lords, I personally am most grateful to the noble Earl for his speech. He has made it rather difficult for me to follow him because I am going to speak about the 98 per cent. who attend our elementary schools (as we used to call them) and our secondary schools. I should not have interrupted him if I had realised that he was an old Wykehamist, because I too followed with a certain amount of interest the giving of those fifty scholarships. I was wondering how the school had fared with them, so I paid a visit to see. I found a few of these boys and they were getting on splendidly because they had the temperament to settle down away from home. You could not have told one from t'other, as we say, without being told by a master or by the headmaster. The reason for this lack of interest with regard not only to this particular school but also all the others is the prejudice of parents, especially mothers, who do not like the idea of their children leaving home. I should like here to congratulate the noble Earl on the great work that he is doing with regard to these fellows who have left home on the orders of the War Office. I can say this from personal knowledge of the work that is being done, because I came across some fellows in khaki in the Lobby here and I thought I might be able to help them. They said they had come to see the teacher (they meant the noble Earl, Lord Wavell) adding, "and he will look after us." That was the personal touch.

Now I want to come back to this inquest we are holding on the working of the Education Act of 1944. Before I do so, I want to say this. The noble Earl, Lord Wavell, has given the greatest justification for further education, to which the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, tried to apply a cold douche, because it is when a boy reaches the age of sixteen or seventeen that he realises what education is, rather than when he was three or five. Therefore, I hope noble Lords will bear in mind what the noble Earl, Lord Wavell, has said and that the Minister does not misunderstand me—I suppose the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, will be coming back sometime; he is entitled to go out. I did not expect him to stay in the Chamber for me.


Why not?


But what I do want to say is this: that some of us here to-day had something to do with the 1944 Act and can give our meed of praise to that great combination, the Butler-Chuter Ede combination, which produced the Act. That brings me to the new combination. We were rather startled at the new occupants of the Ministry of Education. I do not know the right honourable lady who is Minister of Education. I have never spoken to her; I have never dared to—but that is by the way. I have observed her for years. I sat with her in another place for some time, and I came to the conclusion that she is one of our most able administrators. When I remember Dr. Pickthorn (I have sat under him at Cambridge for one lecture only, but in that time I got to know more about Queen Elizabeth and a few other things than I knew before) I believe that this will be a rather unusual combination. I remember the right honourable lady the Minister of Education saying: "I am a woman" (we knew that; and she is a woman with a good past, and not a bad one) "but if there is going to be any queueing up for the Treasury I am going to be at the head of fiat queue." I congratulate her on her spirit. Speaking from a recollection of my own experience when I was a member of a very progressive education authority somewhere up north, I think, perhaps, we shall get a better new set-up than some of the old set-ups.

I want to refer to the nursery schools. It was a long time, some twenty-eight years, ago, when we started them in the place from which I come. I believe that we were the first to start three of them. I wonder how many there are now. My noble friend Lord Silkin, I consider, was somewhat pessimistic. I think he is a pessimist at heart. I do not know whether he wants to have a sweepstake on it—I must not mention "betting"—but I hope that the noble Earl who is to reply will be able to say that under Mr. Tomlinson the work started by Mr. Butler, Mr. Ede and also by the late Miss Wilkinson has made some progress all over the country. I see that the Manchester Guardian reported that there were four nursery schools opened only last week, I think somewhere in Lancashire, which, of course, is a backward area. So I think we need not be too pessimistic about nursery schools. What I want to be ended are these nursery schools where they look after little babies while the mother goes out to work—I am speaking of cases where the husband also is in work. I think those schools should be abolished by the Ministry of Health. I do not think that is anything to do with the Ministry of Education.

I agree with every word that has been said about the overcrowding of classes. I have a grandson who is only live. He goes to a little village school. There are about forty or fifty children, and there is not much hope of the "personal touch." Generally he can tell me a little bit about his teacher, but there have been four different teachers in four months. I am afraid that that is inevitable, in view of the shortage, but the point is that our children in the primary schools are not getting a square deal. Of course, their numbers are great, but they are entitled to a square deal. I listened only last week to a broadcast from what we used to call a council school (I think they now call them county schools) from a mining village in Nottinghamshire. I hope some other noble Lords listened to this broadcast. Taking part in it were children whose ages ranged from four to seven. They were answering questions as to their likes and dislikes. One little child of four recited with a diction which some of us might envy when mumbling our speeches. They were asked such questions as "What would you like?" Not one, but many, said that they would like a hook and, in reply to the question "What sort of book?", we had the answer "The Bible." That broadcast came from a mining village. I mention this in passing so that we can take heart that this country is not altogether lost in moral fervour.

I went to school at the age of three. I won all four of my prizes before I was six. Your Lordships may not be interested, but I did get a cash prize of threepence for Scripture. And this, my Lords, was in one of the so-called "Godless schools." I got together another sevenpence by running errands, because I found that I could buy a Bible for ten-pence. I never won a prize after I was seven. I went in for four examinations, which in those days were horrible examinations. I often compare the schools of to-day with the schools as they were then, when our clogs had to be specially cleaned and shone, and when we were numbers for the day, wearing a ticket, while a dreadful person called "His Majesty's Inspector" examined us in reading, writing and arithmetic. If we did not get two out of the three subjects right, we were caned, because in those days, under the Board of Education, the school lost a certain amount of grant, which I believe was thirty shillings a head. We poor "kids" had to pay twopence a week for that education. I was glad to leave the school at ten and go into the mill, and graduate higher—or lower. Today, we have made advances. Mr. Churchill has spoken about an education ladder. That is out of date. We now talk about a broader highway. If we can prod the Ministry of Education, I think this new combination will be a great success. Most of the authorities in the provinces have taken the opportunity of preparing plans, and as a result they are prepared for anything that may come to them.

I turn next to the grammar schools, which are not necessarily independent. The only trouble about these grammar schools, as they are called under the Act, is the new set-up regarding examinations which emanates from the Ministry of Education. Instead of coming to my duties here yesterday, I attended as a governor a great semi-independent day grammar school, with 900 boys—which is far too many. The other governors and I discussed this question with the headmaster. Perhaps the noble Earl will take a note of what I was told. I was informed that some commissar in the Education Department tells the school how the examinations shall be conducted under the 1944 Act. It appears that a boy must be under the age of sixteen, and that if he passes rather easily he need not bother about distinctions. These are the opinions I collected. As one headmaster put it, that means that at fifteen-plus, the boy, if he has passed this sort of general examination, can look upon the slip of paper which he receives as almost a loafer's charter. I know the universities do not accept this. They want the older type of higher school certificate.

The point I want to emphasise, however, is that some of these boys are kept marking time, and if there is not an adequate staff, it means that there are perhaps twenty boys who now need not worry. We know that they think they need not worry, so we have a special master to look after them, to keep them up to the mark and to get them ready if they should want to go on to the universities. You can galvanise even an idle boy into some activity at fifteen-plus if he is not protected by this commissar—or, as one headmaster called him, "nanny"—in the Ministry of Education. Of course, I do not agree with that term. One of the reasons why I have taken part in this debate is to ask for a reconsideration of the question of the higher school certificate in regard to the present set-up in examinations. Is the Butler Act like the Law of the Medes and the Persians, something which cannot be altered or adjusted in order to provide for a reasonable level, without a boy having to jump too big a hurdle in order to get ready for the things he wants to do afterwards?

I should like to touch on one other question. The public authority, upon which I no longer serve, has already got out its plans. I believe that the Ministry of Education will have seen them. Amongst other items, these plans include the building of four satellite technical colleges which will be used for further education, in order to provide a feeding ground for what we hope will be a college of technology. Mr. Butler has given the University Grants Committee a sum of money to expend. That sum has not been cut down—in fact, I believe it has been increased. Mr. Butler said also that he hoped the University Grants Committee would take into consideration technical education and, in particular, technology. I also hope that that will be done. I do not know much about this Committee, but they seem to be a vested interest or a closed corporation. I do not know whether the Treasury have any powers over them, to see how the money is expended. I want to make the point that this money, which reaches the University Grants Committee, from the taxpayer, shall not be expended as it was hitherto, when there used to be a scramble for it by Oxford and Cambridge universities, whose members were certain to be in their place when this matter was under discussion. We do not want that rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge or, indeed, between the provincial universities, which are to-day doing splendid work. We want to dispel any spirit of competition, envy or jealousy between the schools, the higher technical schools and the provincial universities. I am asking the noble Earl if he will pose this question to the Minister: Can anything be done to find a solution whereby the three or four of these higher-grade technical colleges can be recognised in a more fitting way? That is a question to which I should like an answer, and if I get a blunt answer it will be better than an evasive one.

So, my Lords, I am not disheartened concerning the future of education. We have made great progress. I am not envious even of the great public schools.

There has been a great awakening at those institutions, as I, personally, have found out. At Eton wherever one went one found boys working with their hands—I am referring now especially to the war period. The boys of Eton college earned considerable sums of money by their work, and I believe they sent them to a club which they run in the East End of London—I am not quite sure where. Certainly, they did not keep the money for themselves. When I visited the college, it gave me great pleasure to see those boys with dirty faces and dirty hands, and I know it would have been possible to find similar conditions at another thirty great schools if one had visited them. This brings me to a point I desire to make regarding technical education. More and more the boys at these independent schools are turning their minds to science and the higher technical subjects generally. They are ready to be encouraged and, we should try to encourage them.

In the course of the discussions which we had not long ago with our friends in the North, we asked those teachers who had been in America how educational matters in the United States of America compared with those in this country. From what they said, it was clear beyond doubt that, except in regard to some of the wealthier American States, the comparison was such that this country need not apologise for its education policy. Also, in the matter of teachers' salaries this country showed up very well, especially compared with standards in States below the "Dixie Line." We are far beyond such places in our educational achievements. As noble Lords have already mentioned, we have our difficulties, some of the chief of them being due to shortage of staff. But that is being remedied. With regard to the young men to whom the noble Earl, Lord Wavell, has referred, if he will allow me to say so the work that is being done is going to bear fruit. I have come across some of these men who have become teachers, and, with the knowledge that they have as men of the world and, in some cases, men of affairs, they are making very good teachers indeed. In conclusion, my Lords, I should like to say this: we have a long way to go, and it is no use being complacent about educational matters. But I, personally, am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for introducing this Motion and giving us this opportunity to hold an inquest on a live corpse.

5.44 p.m.


My Lords, I join with others of your Lordships who have spoken in this debate in congratulating the noble Lord, Lore Silkin, on giving us an opportunity of discussing this most important matter. The noble Lord has introduced into your Lordships' House one or two very interesting subjects during the last few weeks. One of the subjects with which he dealt recently was that of the building of houses, but this form of building far transcends in importance the building of houses, important as that is.

I suggest that psychology has shown that the reservoir of national intelligence from which the brains of the future will come is in the class of skilled craftsmen. Their children are Britain's greatest asset. Can this asset be fully realised? It can, of course, but I am not convinced that it wilt, since, in my view, not sufficient attention is given in education to encouraging children to use their hands. The noble Lord who has just sat down referred specifically to that point, and I fully agree with him. The present system is coldly secular and academic and this tendency leads to the growth of the greatest evil of to-day—the enslavement of intellect. Therefore I feel convinced that the greater encouragement of craftsmanship is exceedingly important. Potential character is certainly not lacking, but there is a danger that the all-embracing State may suffocate it. I wonder whether the able of to-day or to-morrow can climb the bureaucratically designed and controlled ladder of education. I doubt it.

I should like to ask the noble Earl who is to reply on behalf of Her Majesty's Government why schooling starts at the age of five. I think ours is the only country in the world, with the exception of certain sections of Turkey, where children are sent to school as early as the age of five years. Is this considered educationally beneficial or is it regarded as a social service? I would say in conclusion, as the father of five and the grandfather of three, that five years is too early by a year for children to start school. I hope that the noble Earl when he comes to reply will give the views of Her Majesty's Government on this question.

5.48 p.m.


My Lords, I think we shall all be agreed that we have had an extremely useful and interesting debate, and we are much indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for having given us the opportunity of discussing a matter which, as I think he rightly said, has not been discussed in your Lordships' House for many years. It has become quite apparent from the way in which the debate has run that, in fact, there is considerable agreement amongst us on the way in which our education system should develop. Indeed, it would be fair to say that all Parties are now committed to the development of our educational system to the maximum degree possible in the difficult times which we have to face. Not only are we in accord upon that, but we are all agreed that, owing to the difficult circumstances of the last few years, the progress of what we have come to speak of as the "Butler Act" has not been as great in all ways as we could have hoped. I think that upon the whole the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was extremely fair. The noble Lord admitted that, although the Act had been in operation for only seven years, the Socialist Government had been in office for six of those years. They are, therefore, responsible for the present situation.

It is agreed on all sides that it is essential that our educational system should continue to be developed at the maximum speed possible, but that, like everything else in life, it is not sacrosanct. Perhaps the reason why noble Lords opposite did not blame the present Government as much as they might have done for what they call "the cuts" is that they know that, when they were themselves responsible, they had to impose severe cuts on the development of education. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, referred to what I regard as a tragedy—the fact that since 1945, with few exceptions (the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, referred to one), there has been a virtual standstill in the construction of new nursery schools. I would also remind the House that a cut, which I personally regret, however necessary it was, has been made in new buildings for the provision of meals in old schools. There has also been a cut in transport. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, referred to the unfor- tunate fact that a number of children cannot get from Battle to school at Bexhill, but he realised that that particular cut in transport had nothing to do with Circular 242, issued by my right honourable friend Miss Horsbrugh. It was imposed two or three years ago by Mr. Tomlinson.


My Lords, I doubt if the noble Earl could say it was imposed by Mr. Tomlinson. I should imagine it was a decision taken by the local authority.


There was pressure from the then Minister to economise on transport, and that certainly had some responsibility for the decision of the local authority. Then there was the great misfortune that during those years the price of school meals had to be raised from 5d. to 6d., and then to 7d. We have heard a great deal about cuts in capital expenditure. There is as much regret on this side as on the other about such cuts as there have been. Certainly there is no difference of policy involved here, because in 1949 the Education Minister in the late Government actually reduced the building programmes of local authorities and insisted on a 12½ per cent. reduction in the average cost of building. We can therefore say there is almost complete agreement between both sides on all questions that are before the House to-day.

Noble Lords opposite have talked a good deal about this Government calling a halt in development. In what was on the whole an extremely helpful and fair speech, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, nevertheless said that recent developments of the policy of this Government put the system in danger of becoming unworkable. He used the phrase, "programmes are halted," and said that some children would not be able to go to school at all. Let us be clear on the facts of the situation, because I believe that there is genuine misunderstanding on this point. First, let me remind your Lordships of the categorical assurances of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has stated that the essential fabric of education must be maintained, that the period of school attendance will not be altered and that it is not proposed to discharge or cease recruiting teachers. Let me go a step further, to Circular 242, entitled Educational Expenditure, which your Lordships all know. Your Lordships will forgive me if I quote a large part of the first paragraph, but it is important for a proper consideration of this subject. The Minister there says: The Minister does not expect reductions which would impair the essential fabric of the service. In the field of primary and secondary schools she regards it as important that proper standards of teaching should be maintained, and for this purpose she assumes that adequate teaching staffs will be employed and a supply of books, essential material and apparatus provided. The Minister would also deplore any reduction in the standards of efficiency in the field of the School Health Service and special educational treatment; and, in particular, every effort should continue to be made to strengthen the School Dental Service, which is seriously understaffed. Equally important is the maintenance and development of essential facilities for technical training and preparation for industry and commerce. I should have thought that that was a very definite instruction to local authorities not to cut essential services.

One noble Lord said that he had in his possession information about cuts which certain local authorities intended to impose. If these local authorities are exceeding their instructions from the Minister, then it is not right to ask the Minister to be responsible for what has been done. As your Lordships know, there have been three cases already where local authorities have suggested doing away with their nursery schools, and the Minister has refused to agree. If, however, final proof of the truth of what I am saying is needed, surely it is to be found in the figures of what was spent on education last year and what the Minister estimates will be required next year. Last year, expenditure by local authorities was £291,000,000. Next year, the Minister estimates, although she has not all the programme at her disposal, that £305,000,000—very nearly £306,000,000—will be spent. That is not only a higher expenditure than last year, but a larger figure than has ever been spent in the history of the educational system of this country.


Could I get this point clarified? The £291,000,000 is an actual ascertained figure and the £305,000,000 is an estimate.


That is so. The estimate shows an increase of £14,000,000. The Minister estimates that the increased grants to local authorities will be £10,000,000 and the increased expenditure by local authorities will be approximately £4,000,000. Therefore, she is actually budgeting to-day for an increase. Let me be quite clear about the 5 per cent. cut: it is not a 5 per cent. cut on last year's expenditure, but a 5 per cent. reduction on the forecast of the higher estimates for next year, which is a very different thing. Surely, all Parties can combine in an immense feeling of national pride that, at a moment of stringency such as this, the Government of the day is proposing that there should be an increase of £14,000,000 spent by the local educational authorities on our educational services.

I now come to the details of the services, starting with administration. It is not an uninteresting fact that during the last six years the cost of the administration of our educational system has more than doubled and now stands at the figure of £13,000,000 I cannot tell your Lordships how this particular figure is going to be affected, because the Minister is not in a position to inform us on that point at Vie moment. But, surely, when the coat of administration has gone up in six years from just over £6,000,000 to £13,000,000, it must suggest to all of us that something has been happening that, to sty the least, can be subjected to careful examination.

May I now deal with the matter of buildings, which particularly worried the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and, indeed, other noble Lords who have spoken today. I mentioned that this debate in your Lordships' House has been extremely fair, but I may, perhaps, be forgiven for bringing in here a document which is being used as a basis of Socialist propaganda in the London County Council Elections. What do they say about building? They say: The present Tory Government is holding up the staffing of a number of new schools. This will mean less new school places at a time when they are lost needed and it will mean crowded children in the fewer schools that will be available. What really is the position? The position is that the Minister has taken a very natural and obvious step—namely, that of deciding to concentrate her efforts on the completion of buildings. It is not the slightest use having a great number of unfinished buildings, more buildings than the authorities are able to get completed. The noble Lord referred to the London County Council. I am informed that the London County Council would not have been able to start their 1951–52 programme, anyhow, because they left too much to be started in the last two months of the year. We know full well what happens when you try to take on more than you can tackle in your building programme: you have a number of unfinished shells. Surely, the right honourable lady is right to say that she intends to concentrate on completing those buildings that can be completed in a reasonable time, rather than to continue starting new buildings.

The Minister's programme is that 400,000 new places will be completed in the near future, and a further 114,000 by the end of 1953. That brings us to a total of 1,150,000 new places by the end of 1953. I do not think noble Lords opposite can express dissatisfaction with those figures, because they are, in fact, Mr. Tomlinson's own programme. That is the programme with which he professed himself satisfied—or, at any rate, he agreed that that was as far as he could go. What complaint can noble Lords opposite have of the Government's programme in this respect, when, in fact, by the end of 1953 they are going to attain the very programme set for themselves by the late Socialist Government? Surely, that is the best way of dealing with this so-called "bulge," to get the right number of school places completed in as short a time as possible.

Later on, of course, we are going to have further trouble (this point has not been mentioned, but I think it ought to be) with regard to the provision, for instance, of secondary schools; because these children to whom the noble Lord referred—the "bulge" of the 1,700,000—will be growing up and will move into the secondary stage. What is our policy there? The Minister intends to use temporarily for secondary school children some of the primary school places that are now being built. It may be in some cases that a whole school will be taken, or it may be that only part will be taken. The Minister has, however, authorised me to give a definite assurance that, in all senses, the education received in those schools, although they may be the shells of primary schools, will be secondary education. This may not be ideal, but surely it is a common sense use of our limited national resources at the present moment.

But this is not the end of the problems, as many of your Lordships have made clear. We have to face not only a shortage of buildings, but a shortage of teachers. The National Advisory Council on the Training and Supply of Teachers has made the position there quite clear. Here the programme of my right honourable friend remains exactly the same as the last Government's programme—namely, 8,000 women from training colleges, 2,000 men from training colleges, and between 3,000 and 4,000 of both sexes from the universities: the target is as near 14,000 as possible. There is a wastage of about 10,000 a year, and that really gives us a net increase of only about 4,000 a year.

I think almost every speaker to-day has mentioned the size of classes. That matter must be mentioned in any education debate, because there is no doubt that one of the greatest limitations to education at the present moment and for many years past has been the large size of classes. No one can dispute for a moment a word of what has been said to-day about the tragedy and the waste due to the size of the present classes. I have to tell your Lordships that this programme of 4,000 new teachers net, which is our programme and was also the programme of the last Government and which is the maximum number of teachers it is considered can be recruited, would not in fact enable us to decrease the size of classes. No one can say that with greater regret than myself, and I am certainly speaking for the Minister in expressing that regret. What I want to be quite clear about is that noble Lords opposite will not, either in this House or outside, attempt to use this point against the present Government, because the target is the maximum which was considered possible, not only by this Government but by their own Socialist Government as well.

May I refer quite briefly to a number of other points which have been raised? There was the question of nursery schools. We were all interested in what the noble Lord said about this subject and the fact that there might have been more of this type of school if some of the standards for their provision had been simpler. I cannot help feeling that in this country we sometimes force ourselves to do without things simply because we set such a high standard that we find we cannot afford them. I will certainly bring this point to the notice of my right honourable friend. It is a slight comfort that, small as is the number—I think it is 22,000 pupils, as the noble Lord mentioned—there are in these schools at least four or five times as many pupils as there were before the war. However, the number remains sadly small. I am afraid that, at the moment, the Minister feels unable to modify the decision, taken in 1945 and 1946, to restrict further development. Unless there are very exceptional circumstances of female employment, more nursery schools cannot be provided. These circumstances do, in fact, exist in the area to which the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, referred, where three or four new nursery schools have been opened.

The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, asked me how many development plans have been approved. There are 146 local education authorities, and the schemes of 104 have hitherto been approved. On the question of university State scholarships—I have forgotten which noble Lord opposite referred to this point—I should like to make it clear that the State scholarships will be of the same number as last year; and according to Mr. Butler, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Treasury grants to universities will be progressively increased. The Minister wants time to have discussions with the local education authorities on both the number and the value of the scholarships which they offer. She is most anxious not to impose uniformity on them, but on the other hand there is no question that some of the divergencies are very wide. One noble Lord referred to the question of technical and vocational education. If he looks at Circular 242, he will see that the importance of maintaining these services is strongly stressed. The Minister feels, however, that it is necessary, in certain cases where fees are abnormally low, that they should be increased. Again, there is a side divergence between what different local authorities are doing. There is also the case of the almost purely recreational class—such as ballroom dancing. One is always delighted that anyone should learn ballroom dancing, but I think that some of us doubt whether it should be done at one's neighbour's expense.


They are doing that now.


With regard to buildings for technical education, obviously we should like more, but £15,000,000 worth of projects are now being built, and another £3,000,000 worth are now being started. With regard to the problems of higher technology, your Lordships will remember that the last Government issued a White Paper on this very difficult and extremely important subject. I am afraid that I shall have to tell the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, that the Government have not yet reached a decision on the matter.


May I ask if the answer is "a lemon" or whether there is any hope?


The answer is that it is a very serious and difficult subject, arid it took the last Government quite a long time to make up their mind about it. This Government have had only a few months, and they have not yet reached a decision. In the meantime, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made it clear that he is envisaging both the continuance and the development of the assistance on scientific and technological work in the universities.

There is one other point with which I have omitted to deal, and that is the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham. The noble Lord has been called away on business which he could not possibly avoid, and he has apologised for not being here. I am afraid that there is very little I can say to him except that I will see that his remarks are placed before the Minister. I cannot say much more, because the Minister has already announced in another place that she is having consultations on the question of more help to the denominations on the particular difficulties which are now being experienced by voluntary schools. Your Lordships will agree with me, therefore, that it would be inappropriate for me to say more until these consultations have been completed.

My Lords, I hope that I have been able, in the few remarks I have made, to make clear our attitude to this great problem. We, as the Conservative Party, have a very good reason for safeguarding education. We cannot recommend expansion either of education or of any other service irrespective of our capacity to pay. That way lies bankruptcy and the worst blow of all to the social services. We can, however, assert that all Parties in the State, including ours, have helped to build up this great system of education, and we all appreciate particularly what the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, said on that point. It is not a new-found love. Going back as far as 1876 we can claim that we were responsible for establishing compulsory education. Some noble Lords have spoken to-day of the 1902 Act, which is the foundation of the present educational system. That was a Conservative Act. I remember with great pride that I co-operated with Mr. Walter Elliot, who was Minister of Agriculture, in starting what I believe has been a most important feature of the health scheme in our schools—namely, cheap milk. In 1936, a Conservative Minister raised the school leaving age. It was to take place three years later, but unfortunately the date for putting the Act into operation coincided with the date of the declaration of war in 1939. Then finally, of course, came the Butler Act. As a result of this and other legislation we have built up what the noble Lord, Lord Silk in most appropriately described as a great educated democracy.

We believe that society depends on human beings as well as on systems, and that it is the quality and intelligence of our people and their sense of values that really matter in building up this or any other nation. The children, who are the future nation, must be given every opportunity of developing their best in terms of health and of mind—and, as Lord Silkin said, above all in terms of character. I hope that your Lordships will feel, from the few words I have said to-day, that the policy of my right honourable friend the Minister of Education is a positive and progressive policy. She has to face practical difficulties, those of shortages of labour and of raw materials, and of the great "bulge" of children, and also—a point which few have mentioned to-day but which is very important—the shifting nature of our population. There are for instance, the great new towns and new centres of population that have had no provision at all in the past. I can only say on behalf of my right honourable friend that she is determined to see that, under her regime, the whole child population of this country is given its right and its full opportunity to develop. It is very important that there should go out from this House a message—a united message—of determined support for the continued development of the policy of the Butler Act, so that everyone engaged in this great task, especially the local education authorities and the teachers, to whom we owe so much, should know that they have united support behind them in the work they are doing.

6.24 p.m.


My Lords, I feel that it has been worth while for this House to devote nearly four hours of its time to debating the subject of education. We have had a number of very impressive speeches on the subject, and they give clear evidence that a great deal of thought has been given to it. I want to refer to just one or two points that have been made by some speakers and to say one or two things to the noble Earl who has just sat down. To the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, I would say that, while I agree with a great deal of what he said (as he did with a great deal that I said), I did not follow him on his suggestion that there should be increased payment for adult cultural and recreational facilities by the people who enjoy them. I thought it was an inherent part of our educational system that people should be given the fullest possible opportunity of developing their minds and characters in accordance with their bent; and that while we have got to be a scientific and technical nation, and have got to be skilled, we must not neglect cultural study. That is, I think, as important as the other side. I feel that to deprive people of the opportunity of enjoying cultural facilities and developing their bent in that direction merely because they are unable to pay for it is an offence against the whole purpose of the 1944 Act.

The noble Lord, Lord Stamp, who I regret is not here at the moment, and to whom, therefore, I can speak only through the OFFICIAL REPORT, seemed to stress the importance of educating those who had exceptional ability, the able and exceptional students. But the able and exceptional student is always in a great minority; and the future of this country depends upon the mass of its people. Our purpose should be to raise the general level. I do not decry the importance of assisting the outstanding people, but in the end it is on the general level of our people that we depend. Therefore I feel that I have not overstressed the undesirability of having large classes and the importance of maintaining the quality of our teachers.

I must now say one word to the noble Earl, Lord Wavell, who, I thought, made a most impressive speech. Alter this debate is over I propose, if he will allow me, to have a word with him and to ask him by what method he is able to remember so much and to make so many quotations wit lout having to refer to them. I greatly envy him that particular quality. There is so much in which I agree with him that there is no need for me to refer to his speech in detail. But I was most interested in what he said about specialisation in the last two years of school life in order to secure entry into the university. I rather inferred that the noble Earl was suggesting that this was something new, that it was one of the evils of modern days that we have to suffer. I assure him that things were very much the same forty years ago. In my day also we specialised, and once we had our matriculation we settled down to preparing for the entrance scholarship at the university. While forty years is a long time to look hack, my recollection is that most of my contemporaries who were mathematicians devoted themselves almost entirely to mathematics and very little else; and even then they did not always get entry into the university. Nevertheless, I agree with the noble Earl that we want to turn out something more than automata—something more than mathematicians or pure scientists, or even applied scientists. We want to turn out cultured and cultivated human beings. I thought that the idea of the former Minister of Education in insisting on sixteen as the age below which students could not take their certificate was an attempt to prevent undue specialisation. It may not have been a good attempt, but I think his motives were pure and unsullied, and he deserves credit for the idea.

Now I wish to say a word to the noble Earl who replied to the debate. I regret that, possibly through lack of time and possibly through my own fault for not giving him detailed notice of what I was going to say, he did not reply to all the things I said. In particular, I thought I had made rather a strong point of the need for an educational survey, a summing-up of the situation, to see whether we were getting value for money. I suggested to your Lordships that possibly the most effective way of achieving economy would be to look at the way in which we were spending the money and see whether we could not save something on the things we were doing. I instanced nursery schools as one example, but there are many others which would justify investigation. I thought that that was a more promising line than merely telling local authorities to cut down by 5 per cent.

Almost every noble Lord who spoke was concerned about the size of our classes. I was very glad indeed to have as an ally the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, who went even further than I did and thought that twenty-five was the maximum number that a teacher could properly be responsible for in a class, and particularly that there should be smaller classes in the primary schools than in the secondary schools. If we are to get value for our money, what is the good of going on teaching classes of fifty and fifty-five? It is no good just folding our arms and saying that we can do nothing about it. We must do something about it. Nor is it any good for the noble Earl to come to this House and say that the Labour Government were just as bad, or that the present Government are following on and merely doing what .the Labour Government did. I thought that the Party opposite were returned to do, and had suggested they were going to do, better than the Labour Party. I certainly expected that from them, after all they had said. But all they are doing now is saying: "Well, this is what the Labour Government did, and we are doing just the same."

I want to refer to one or two of the detailed points which the noble Earl made. I will not detain the House very long. In the very defensive speech that the noble Earl made, he compared Circular 210, which was issued by Mr. Tomlinson—


Circular 209, was it not?


Circular 210. Circular 242 is the circular of the present Minister. I admit that both the circulars called upon the local authorities to make cuts. There is a superficial resemblance between the two. Circular 210 does not lay down a specific figure; it does not mention any figure at all. It merely points out to local authorities the need to reduce expenditure and particularly to cut down cost where the structure of education was not involved. Circular 242 asks them to cut down by 5 per cent. and, as one of my noble friends pointed out, allowing for certain items which cannot be cut down, it means a reduction of cost of possibly as much as 25 or 30 per cent. of those items that remain. It also asks the local authorities at the same time not to do anything to impair the structure of education. They cannot do both. Many of them are threatening to go by deputation to the Minister to explain to him that they just cannot do both. They cannot cut down by 5 per cent. and also not impair the structure of education.

What the Government are, in fact, doing is making proposals for cutting down which do impair the structure of education. I have had many years' experience of local authorities and I know they are very law-abiding people. When a Minister asks them to do a thing they try to do it, and of whatever political complexion they are, they do their best. But the fact is that the Minister has given them an impossible task. The question I put to the noble Earl, which I am afraid he did not answer entirely satisfactorily, was: Where local education authorities in their desire loyally to carry out the terms of the circular cut down on such matters as will, in fact, impair the structure of education, will the Minister say: "No, this is not what I wanted. Will you restore it?" I gave the noble Earl a great many examples of cases where local authorities have gone beyond what I am sure was the intention of the Minister of Education.


May I intervene for a moment? It is obviously quite impossible to say what the Minister is going to do in quite hypothetical cases. What I did tell Lord Silkin was that there had already occurred on three occasions cases where local education authorities had gone further in economy than the Minister thought proper, and she had, in fact, refused to approve what they proposed. I should have thought that this was a much better and more definite answer than a purely hypothetical answer to a purely hypothetical question.


With great respect, this is not hypothetical at all. I offered to give the noble Earl the names of the counties and the particular services that they are proposing to cut. That is not hypothetical. I gave the type of service that they are proposing to cut. Assuming that these cuts are cuts which will impair the fabric of education, will the Minister say that they are not the kind of cuts that are desired? I admit that the noble Earl has gone a little way towards answering by referring to the cases of the three nursery schools. I want him, on behalf of the Minister of Education, to go much further and say that, wherever a cut is proposed which will impair the fabric of education, the Minister will not accept it.

I am sorry to go into these comparisons between the actions of the present Government and those of their predecessors. I did not open the debate at all in that spirit, but, since it is raised, I would point out that the noble Earl referred to the 12½ per cent. cut in building costs imposed by the last Government. I think that cut was a wise one to make, in the circumstances, because we were tending to build rather extravagantly and elaborately. I think I said so in my opening speech. Some of the school buildings that have been put up are remarkably fine buildings but very costly, and cost more than we ought to spend in present circumstances. The late Minister's circular was directed to bringing down the cost of the buildings that were going up. It was not directed to stopping buildings, which is quite a different matter.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again, but there is really a limit to the misrepresentation which I can allow to be recorded in Hansard without my saying something. I made it perfectly clear that in fact, so far from stopping building, we are intending by the end of 1953 to complete as many new school places as the last Government were budgeting for. How the noble Lord can suggest for a moment that this is a cut in building, I do not know.


There is no need for the noble Earl to lose his temper. I will state my case quite calmly and I think that the House will accept what I say as, at any rate, being fair, even if the noble Earl does not agree. The noble Earl raised the question of this 12½ per cent. cut, and I was explaining the difference between a cut in the cost of buildings that were going up and a cut which stopped buildings being started. That is a very different thing.


They are not stopped.


Circular 245 permits buildings to go on which have been started, but, with certain limited exceptions, stops for the time being new buildings from being started at all. Is that not true?


I prefer to leave the matter to a reading of the OFFICIAL REPORT.


So do I. When the noble Earl refers to the number of places that will be available, of course he is right in saying that all these places will become available through the completion of buildings already started. That is obvious.


It is the same programme continued at a different pace, going forward in a more orderly manner.


It is the same number of places as have already been planned. But my complaint is that new buildings have not been started. These new buildings will be vitally needed, and even if they are postponed for only six months or a year, we are rapidly approaching what many noble Lords, including myself, refer to as the "bulge"—that is, the peak period. If buildings are not started now, we are running into the great danger of not being able to house children at the time of the peak child population.


It is better to finish a building than to start it.


Of course you have got to finish a building upon which you have started, but you ha re also got to start building new ones. You have got to do both things. If the policy of the present Government is directed merely to getting the maximum amount of output out of our existing facilities and not cutting down, nobody will complain. We may argue about it and have a difference of opinion, but in fact there is no doubt that Circular 245 is designed not merely to achieve the speediest possible completion of the buildings that have been started, but also, for a time, to prevent the starting of new ones. It is that of which we complain.

Lastly, I want to refer to the comparison (though I think it is not a proper one) between the money actually spent last year on education—namely, £291,000,000, which I said in my opening remarks was a pretty considerable sum—and the amount of the Estimate for next year. We all know that the full amounts of Estimates are hardly ever actually spent. Almost invariably, there is a surplus. Sometimes one has to come forward with a Supplementary Estimate, but that is not usual. However, in comparing these two things, we must beau in mind that there are more children to-day than there were last year. We are budgeting now for an increasing population, at a time of increasing prices. Therefore, in terms of goods and material the actual amount that will be spent per child in the coming year, even if the whole £305,000,000 is spent, will be less than the amount spent last year. I see that the noble Earl did not follow that. I say that, by reason of the larger child population this year, and of the higher cost, the £305,000,000 for this present year is less than the equivalent of last year's £291,000,000.


I must confess that I have not been sitting down doing sums like the noble Lord. I am advised that his sum is wrong. I leave it at that.


Well, if the noble Earl has been so advised, somebody has had a very great prescience in knowing what I was going to say. However, this has been an interesting debate. I should like to assure the noble Earl that it was hoped that we could come down here to debate education without entering in a discussion on the relative merits or demerits of the present Government as against the last one. I regret that for a time we have digressed in this regard. I had hoped that I was dealing with the subject in a much broader way than the noble Earl did in his reply. At this time of night, however, there is nothing left for me to do but to ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at fourteen minutes before seven o'clock.