HL Deb 23 March 1960 vol 222 cc149-244

2.52 p.m.

LORD SILKIN rose to call attention to the Report of the Central Advisory Council for Education (England): 15 to 18; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to bring to the attention of your Lordships the Report of the Central Advisory Council for Education. I am sure that your Lordships will wish me as my first task to express the thanks of all of us to Sir Geoffrey Crowther and his very distinguished Committee for the most exceptional, outstanding Report which we have received. In the last week or so I have noticed a considerable number of Members walking about with this heavy tome—some of them have even purported to read some of it. I have never known a Report which has met with such popularity as this particular Report. It is one of the great State documents, ranking, I think, in the field of education, with the Spens and the Hadow Reports, though I hope it will have a better result. In the field of planning it ranks with the well-known Reports of Barlow, Scott and Uthwatt.

It is a long Report but it is most interesting. As a matter of fact, it has been my bedside reading for the past few weeks. Happily, I found it so well and lucidly written that it did not require a great effort. It deals with a great many educational problems, and is such a mine of thought and information that one finds it difficult to make a proper selection from the wealth of material that it contains. I feel like the lady of somewhat limited means, who goes into an expensive and luxurious shop and sees one article after another which takes her fancy, realising that she cannot buy them all and finding it exceedingly difficult to make up her mind which she would like to acquire. Fortunately, my choice in selecting topics for discussion has been somewhat assisted, first, because there has been a debate in another place this week on the Crowther Report and a number of matters were dealt with and disposed of, all of which I feel that this House would not now wish to discuss further.

May I say, in passing, that we had a most remarkable speech from Sir David Eccles which has gone a long way together with this Report, in bringing education into the non-controversial field. I do not for a moment say that Sir David Eccles did not say a number of things which were not controversial, but at any rate he did try—and I think he succeeded to a large extent; and it is right that I should say so and should pay a tribute to him—to take it out of the field of Party political controversy. Education will always be the subject of controversy, of course: different people have different views about education; and it is right that those views should be expressed, and expressed strongly. But at any rate the debate in another place has eliminated a number of aspects of the Report which I might otherwise want to deal with. I am also assisted in the selection of my topics by the fact that my noble friend Lord Lucan has down a Motion of his own on the subject of further education, and he has kindly agreed to discuss solely the question of further education beyond the age of sixteen and, I believe also to deal with the financial implications of the Crowther Report. So I propose to discuss further education up to the age of sixteen, and to take up a few limited questions.

The Government have accepted the principle of raising the school-leaving age to sixteen. That is nearly a reaffirmation of the acceptance of the principle contained in Section 35 of the Education Act, 1944. I do not know whether the Government have really gone further than the proviso to Section 35. Perhaps I may read it, because I was myself a participant in the debates on this Bill, before it became an Act, as, I believe, was the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. Section 35 raises the school-leaving age to fifteen: Provided that, as soon as the Minister is satisfied that it has become practicable to raise to sixteen the upper limit of the compulsory school age, he shall lay before Parliament the draft of an Order in Council. … and so on. Although that is not a direction that the Minister must in the near future lay before Parliament such an Order, it is a clear indication that the Minister was under the obligation to move as quickly as practicable towards the ultimate obective of raising the school-leaving age. I felt that the statement of Sir David Eccles in another place the other day did not carry the matter very much further.

I realise that the school-leaving age could not be raised to-day, or in the immediate future. The Crowther Report talks of 1966, of 1967 or 1968; and the very fact that the Council leave so much elasticity is an indication that a great deal remains to be done before the school-leaving age is raised. I thought that their case for suggesting these three dates was pretty convincing, because those are the dates when the school population at these ages will be at its lowest; and having regard to the difficulties of raising the school-leaving age, the difficulties of teachers, of accommodation, of reducing the size of classes, it would be most easily done at a time when the school population was at its lowest.

But the right honourable gentleman the Minister of Education in another place suggested the possibility of doing so in 1970, and I should be prepared to settle for 1970, though reluctantly, if that were a firm date—having in mind, of course, that no Parliament can pledge future Parliaments. If, however, the Minister were prepared to say, "That is our objective—1970" I should say that there was a good deal to recommend that particular date. For one thing, it would mean that every child of five who entered school this year would be entering with the knowledge that it was going to stay on until it was sixteen; and every parent who entered a child in the course of 1960 would likewise know that that child was there until it had attained that higher age. If, therefore, Her Majesty's Government were prepared to pledge themselves, so far as they legitimately can, that they will strive as hard as they can to secure that this date will be a firm date, then that, at any rate from my point of view, will be reasonably acceptable.

We are much obliged to the Crowther Committee for having reviewed this question of raising the school-leaving age. I should be the first to admit that in the days when the Education Act, 1944, was passed we were living in times quite different from the present. We were in the middle of a war and we had high hopes and dreams of what the post-war world was going to be, though what we had hoped and intended was not altogether realised. I believe it was right that the whole problem should be looked at again; and it has been looked at, most exhaustively, by the Committee. And it is comforting to know that their conclusion that the school-leaving age ought to be raised to sixteen is the same as that which was arrived at in the days of the war.

As I have said, there is a great deal to be done before that becomes practicable and I do not propose to enlarge on such questions as the supply of teachers, the supply of suitable accommodation, reduction in the size of classes, and so on with which most of us are familiar. Apart from such questions as I have enumerated, however, I myself attach the greatest importance to the use which the children will make of the additional year, both because of its intrinsic value and because it is essential to convince parents and perhaps employers (the majority of whom themselves left school at the age of fourteen) of the value of the additional years of school life for their own children.

The case is easily made for the bright child who earns a place in the grammar school or is in the secondary modern school and doing well and whose parents hope will profit vocationally and materially by the extra year or more at school. But it is more difficult to get the case over to parents and to convince them of the value of the additional year's education for a child who has no particular academic capacity, whose parents themselves left school at the age of fourteen and whose background is lacking in books or serious conversations or interests at home.

What is the purpose of keeping such a child at school and what do we do with him when we have him at school? This brings us to the question: what is the general purpose of education? It is certainly not simply to train a child for a career, though of course it often helps. The Crowther Committee threw some light on this question. They said (and I am more or less quoting) that the purpose was to stimulate the intellectual curiosity of boys and girls before they have exhausted their capacity to learn; and they say that we have often failed to do this, and that where we have failed we must, to some extent, at any rate, attribute the failing to the kind of education that has been offered. Now if we regard education as partly for the purpose of stimulating the intellectual curiosity of a child, it must obviously be done in a number of varying directions. We cannot stimulate every child's curiosity along exactly the same lines, and therefore different treatment will be required for every child. This applies not only to the most backward section of the child population but to all sections, including the brightest.

In order to get the best results, our purpose should be to stimulate the child's desire to know something about something, whether it is in practical subjects or academic subjects or a combination of the two. Once we have aroused the desire, we have begun to educate; and I would suggest that until we have aroused the desire to learn we have not really begun to educate but are merely, at the best, pumping into children's minds information which they very speedily forget. Indeed, most of us who in order to pass examinations have had to cram for them will know that perfectly well. I assume that most of us who have been successful in our examinations would have found it difficult to pass the same examination a week after it had taken place. I say "most of us". The noble and learned Viscount is, of course, the exception, but I would say that that applies to most people.

While I would not make an issue of that—and perhaps the noble and learned Viscount may think I am overstating it—I would say that very soon after the kind of examinations that most of us have had to take in the past, we have completely forgotten what we have learned, and I say that that is because our desire for knowledge has not been completely stimulated. We have merely had to acquire the knowledge in order to pass an examination or satisfy somebody. In the last resort, therefore, I would say that an educated person is one who seeks the truth wherever he may find it and wherever it may lead him; and if we carry that through logically it may mean the end of the Party system.

There are, of course, other aspects of education in which we hope to succeed with our children. There are the moral, the ethical and the spiritual sides of education—how best to instil in the child a sense of right and wrong. Perhaps that may be regarded as the prerogative of the Churches, but I believe that the schools and the teachers have a great part to play—and the parents and present-day society itself. I am afraid that one of the evils of the present day which is affecting our children is this attitude of "I'm all right Jack, and never mind about anybody else." That seems to me to be the spirit of the age, and we can hardly expect children to rise above that spirit when that is prevalent in our present-day civilisation. I should like to see children, while at school, having inculcated in them an appreciation of the arts, of music, of painting, of poetry, of the joy of reading, of the love of history and an interest in places both in this country and abroad; and I believe that with the right kind of teaching this is quite possible. Indeed, ii would go further and say that there would be a surprising number of children who would actually practise these things as distinct from merely reading about them or studying them.

It is a matter of considerable satisfaction to find the large number of young people who are attending classes for painting and trying their hand at painting pictures. I am not altogether happy about the kind of pictures that are produced in the present age, but at any rate it is a very good thing that people should try their hand at painting pictures, whatever pictures they happen to be. But there will be much research needed in the coming years to devise the best way of securing the results that I have put forward, and that indicates a great need for a further expenditure of money. At the present time I understand that not more than about £50,000 a year is spent on educational research. Whether we are getting value for that £50,000 even, I do not know; and, of course, merely to spend money for the sake of spending money on research is not good enough. We have to see that the right kind of research is carried out by the right kind of people. But I think we ought to be very ready to see money spent on educational research not only in this country but in sending people abroad and in not being afraid to send them even to untouchable places like the Soviet Union that seem to be making such a great success of their educational system—they seem to be, at any rate; and I think it would be worth while spending some money in finding out what they are doing and how they are doing it.

I have said that this kind of education is not only necessary in the interests of the ordinary child, the child who shows no exceptional ability, but also necessary in the case of the brightest children, children at the top of our academic field. There is a suggestion that there is a considerable amount of over-specialisation among children in the sixth form, and even in the form below that, and that is at the expense of a wider range of education in other subjects. Those who have read the Crowther Report will understand the two terms that have been invented where it is said: that those who are studying science and mathematics are in need of greater "literacy", and those who are studying the arts are in need of greater "numeracy". I think that those terms are self-expressive and one need not define them. But we need in both categories, among both the people studying arts and the people doing science, the ability to express oneself. I find it remarkable that so many young people who are exceedingly proficient in the subjects which they are studying find it difficult to express their ideas in ordinary simple English and speak in confused terms.

I feel also that we have to learn various ways, better ways, of teaching certain subjects—for instance, modern languages. How many of us have spent years of our lives in studying at school a language without being able at the end of the day either to speak it or to understand it? I think most of us who have spent five or six years learning French, say, can just about get by, with a dictionary, in reading a French newspaper, and when we go abroad we can probably make ourselves understood in a restaurant, although we should probably be understood better if we spoke in English. At any rate, that seems to me the extent of our knowledge of modern languages which most of us acquire at school, and I feel that we might usefully carry out some research into more effective ways of teaching a language so that we can at least understand and converse with people from abroad in the language which we have learnt.

It is the same with such subjects as history and geography. We learn history; we learn probably a particular period; but we have no idea (at any rate, it was so in my time) as to the relationship of that particular period with the general history of this country or the general history of the world. After all, we are a part of the world, and merely to learn English history without reference to world history is, to a large extent, meaningless. And, of course, the kind of geography that is sometimes taught—I am glad to say that teaching is improving—is just a feat of memory and nothing else. So we have a great deal to learn in the way of ascertaining what is the best method of education.

I have referred to a considerable extent to the brighter boys and girls in our schools, those in the sixth forms who have high hopes of going to a university, and I should like to say just one word about that. In the days when I was of the appropriate age there was, in effect, for most of us, only one method of going to the university, because going to the university and paying was out of the question: we had to get an open scholarship. If we got an open scholarship we went, provided we could scrounge the rest of the maintenance required, and if we did not get an open scholarship we did not go. But to-day there are many more people who are qualified to enter the university and who could benefit by a term at a university. The number is far beyond the numbers available for open scholarships or admissions at Oxford and Cambridge or at any of the other universities that now exist—although of course there are many more places too—and large numbers of young people qualify by virtue of their knowledge and attainments to enter a university but find it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to get in.

What happens, very often, is that young people go round, hawking themselves from one university to another—a most humiliating procedure—sometimes finding, at the end of the day, having spent several years of their lives preparing to go to a university, that no university will take them. Of course, as I have said, if they are fortunate enough to go to the Manchester Grammar School, under the supervision of the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, they stand an excellent chance of getting one of these open scholarships. But those of us who are less fortunate and who have to rely on the General Certificate of Education, and such attainments of that kind, and on a personal interview, do have a very rough time. I have known young people who possess all the qualifications for going to a university. They have passed all such examinations as are necessary, only to find, after an interview, that they are not selected and must give up any idea of eventually going to a university.

That state of affairs, I submit, is quite wrong. I believe that there is room for considerable discussion and collaboration between the universities—all of them—and the representatives of the grammar schools, and even of the secondary modern schools, to secure a reasonably uniform method of going to university. Obviously, for a long time to come they will not be able to take all the pupils that are qualified, but at least there should be a recognised method of entry to one of the universities; it should not be a matter of chance. Certainly these young people should not have to walk around from one university to another, and their acceptance or non-acceptance should not depend upon the casual effects of an impression made at an interview. I believe that something of the kind is being done. I think we are slowly moving towards it, and I hope that we may be able to discuss this matter in much greater detail in the debate which is being initiated by my noble friend Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, I believe sometime after Easter. But it is a very important aspect of education in the grammar schools to-day.

Now I want to say a few words about the method of separation of children as between the grammar schools and the secondary modern schools. We have had debates on this question, and I do not want to press the matter too far to-day. But I think it is almost universally recognised that it is wrong to take children at the age of eleven, and, on the result of one examination, a written examination mainly, to decide what is the child's future and allocate that child to one school or another. Admittedly it is theoretically possible to get a transfer at a later age, but the number so transferred is so small as to be almost negligible. Apart from being unfair to the child, particularly the late developer, it creates a sense of inferiority in the child at an age when the child ought to be protected from that sort of thing. It creates unhappiness and it is wasteful and inefficient; because experience has shown that, of those who are selected to go to grammar schools, about a quarter are eventually found not to be entirely suitable for that kind of education. On the other hand, of those who are left behind and who go to the secondary modern schools, about the same number of children is found eventually to be of such quality that they would have benefited from having gone to a grammar school.

Many attempts have been made to find an answer. One way is to keep all children together up to a higher age—say, up to the age of thirteen or even fourteen, when selection would be easier; and I am bound to say that, by raising the school-leaving age by one year, it would be possible to raise the age of selection so as to ensure that, so far as possible, we avoid these mistakes. One method of doing this—that is, selecting at a higher age—is by means of the comprehensive school. Unfortunately, the comprehensive school has become bedevilled by political prejudices, both ways. On the one hand, there is an objection to comprehensive schools, as such, as being evil things; as interfering with the grammar school—as being calculated (though they are not) to abolish the grammar school; and their objects have been misrepresented. On the other hand, they have been held out as the solution, the one and only solution, to all our difficulties, regardless of the fact that time and experience may show that there are other ways of dealing with this problem. But this problem has got to be dealt with if we are to have an effective educational system in this country.

Now, my Lords, I have spoken for a long time, and I want to summarise what I have said. I am afraid that my remarks have bon somewhat scrappy, and I would ask your Lordships' indulgence. But I gave my reasons for this at the outset. I would urge the Government to decide upon a target date for raising the school-leaving age to sixteen. If it were 1970, I would accept that as a tentative date, while still hoping that it might be earlier. I am bound to say that, reading the speech of Sir David Eccles in another place, I came to the conclusion that he had not really made out a case for 1970. On the facts he presented to the House, I thought that it would be quite possible to make that date somewhat earlier: but I would accept 1970 for the reason which I gave earlier—that it would at any rate bring in the child who enters school to-day. But it will need a great deal of preparation if it is going to be effective, and the Government will have to be prepared (as I understood from Sir David Eccles they were prepared) to face the heavy financial implications.

May I here say just one word on the financial implications? I do not want to go into it at all deeply, because my noble friend Lord Lucan is doing so in more detail, but I gather that the total cost of implementing the Crowther Report is estimated at £250 million. It is true that, apart altogether from the Crowther Report, a very large sum of money will have to be spent—far more than £250 million—if we are going to reduce the size of our classes, increase the number of teachers, provide satisfactory buildings, both to teach the children and to train the teachers, and so on. But speaking to-day only of the implementation of the Crowther Report, the total figure of £250 million would be regarded in these days as a relatively small one.

I would therefore ask the Government, as a matter of urgency, to formulate a ten-year programme for the achievement of this object, which I believe we can achieve either within that time or earlier. I would also ask that arrangements be made immediately for discussions between the universities and the schools so as to ensure that what I regard as the dreadful state of affairs which exists at the present time, so far as boys and girls designed to enter university is concerned, is alleviated at the earliest possible moment. I would also use the time that is available before raising the school leaving age for intensive research, both at home and abroad, into the various educational problems that I have described in my speech, about which we need to know much more if we are to make a success of the venture on which we are embarking.

I am most hopeful of achieving what we are striving to bring about; that is, a really educated democracy, each individual feeling himself an integral part of the community, but capable of standing on his own feet, with a wide measure of cultural interests, the ability of self-expression and with a high sense of moral values and purpose. In this case time is on our side. More and more of our population are realising the purpose and advantages of education, and more and more young people are staying on at school beyond the compulsory leaving age. And these numbers will grow. Even when we have raised the school-leaving age to sixteen, the number of children who will stay on beyond sixteen will grow when we get a new generation, many of whom have themselves, as their parents have not, experienced the advantages of a long stay at school. In this movement the Report we are discussing is playing, and will continue to play, a noteworthy part, and we are most grateful that we should have our minds and our thoughts stimulated towards a consideration of this subject so vitally important to the future of our people. I beg to move for Papers.

3.33 p.m.


had given Notice of a Motion "to call attention to further education; and to move for Papers." The noble Earl said: My Lords, when, many weeks ago, my noble friend Lord Silkin put down this Motion for debate in your Lordships' House none of us thought that there would be this unique conjunction of debates in the two Houses, in that there was a full debate in another place two days ago, and, moreover, that on the intervening day there would be a major speech by Sir Geoffrey Crowther, the Chairman of the Central Advisory Council. It is not uncommon in your Lordships' House to have contributions from people who have taken a part in compiling the Reports that we debate, and we are not surprised, but altogether glad, that the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, is to speak this afternoon.

A Report of 500 pages that represents three years' work by a number of distinguished people is a considerable document. My noble friend Lord Silkin used the metaphor of the shop counter, but various other metaphors occur to the mind, such as puddings, stews and so on. The document is so enormous that it is almost inevitable that each of your Lordships who speaks will pick on some different facet of it. I propose to talk only about further education. In case there is ambiguity about that phrase—and I think there is—I would say that I propose to deal only with that part of education after secondary education and before the age of eighteen. I do that because have for some time had the privilege of being on the governing body of one of the seven day colleges in London performing precisely this function of further education.

I was particularly interested in that section of the Minister's speech in another place about the county colleges, and one can be glad that he expressed the intention of exploring the possibility of some measure of compulsion; that is, compulsion on an employer to release for education, one day a week, any of his employees who wishes to be so released. That is certainly a step that is likely to lead to more day release and more education for the sixteen to eighteen-year-olds. I think it is fair to say that that was precisely the suggestion made in the Labour Party pamphlet brought out by Mr. Gerald Gardiner and others: that young people in employment should have the right to demand release on one day a week to improve their education.

There are, however, to my mind, certain dangers in that. There is the obvious danger that an employer will prefer a young person who will give him five days a week to one who will only give him four days, and this will introduce a bias against those young people who want education. Then there is the question of penalising the small employer, as undoubtedly it would, in that a firm employing only a few people would find it harder to release them. I think we should be warned by the history of the day continuation movement after the First World War, which, after introducing compulsory day release between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, apparently completely broke down after a few years. Among the causes that led to this breakdown were, first, differences between different areas of the country; and secondly, a lack of suitable teachers and no planning for producing a body of teachers to staff the schools. Thirdly, there was the makeshift nature of the buildings, which made attendance unpopular; and, finally, there was the fact that public opinion was not ready for it and was not behind the Government. So the Act fell into disuse.

I suggest that there are lessons to be learned there for the present time. This also is carrying on a post-war wave of enthusiasm for education. We must make sure that we have the staff, and the right type of staff, and also that we have the premises. Now, far more than in 1920, young people expect decent modern buildings to live and work in. If I may say a word about staff, I think the feeling has been expressed that to attempt to find the staff for a great increase of further education would make it more difficult to find the staff for secondary schools. I suggest that that is not a very serious danger, because I believe that those who teach in further education are those who prefer to teach the older children. They are often men and women of more mature years and greater experience—experience very often outside the teaching profession—and they are attracted to the task of teaching the older boys and girls, as opposed to those of secondary school age. I do not believe there need be any great difficulty about recruiting staff, provided that the necessary inducements and the provision for training are offered.

As I have said, the question of building is of far greater importance now than it would have been a generation ago. One of the reasons why any decision to expand education must be taken a good many years ahead is to allow time for the necessary building. That applies even more to the training of staff, because it is necessary to build the colleges in order to train the teachers who will teach in the new colleges. So it is a very long-term affair; and that is one of the reasons why we are disappointed that no date has yet been fixed by the Government for these further steps forward.

I think we should go back and remind ourselves what the present position is. Looking now at the Education Act, 1944, one is filled with admiration at the faith and imagination of the Parliament which passed it. I should like to read subsection (1) of Section 43, which deals with county colleges. That says: On and after such date as His Majesty may by Order in Council determine, not later than three years after the date of the commencement of this Part of this Act, it shall be the duty of every local education authority to establish and maintain county colleges, that is to say, centres approved by the Minister for providing for young persons who are not in full-time attendance at any school … such further education … as will enable them to develop their various aptitudes and capacities and will prepare them for the responsibilities of citizenship. That is what Parliament passed all those years ago. Cannot we even now say that on such-and-such a date in the future we will carry this out? There cannot be any dispute about the need for education for people of this age. I know that we may hear later this afternoon that a number of children of those ages are not capable of benefiting by academic education. But the Act does not say, "academic education." It says: … such further education, including physical, practical and vocational training, as will enable them to develop their various aptitudes and capacities and will prepare them for the responsibilities of citizenship. There may be a few children who do not benefit by any sort of education after the age of fifteen, but I doubt it. I would ask only this of your Lordships: Which of you, having a son who was not academically gifted, and who was not doing well at school, would say that he should finish with his education at fifteen and send him into the world?

If we keep in mind what the 1944 Act says, it is quite clear that it is our duty to set up education facilities of this kind as early as possible. I might remind your Lordships of what my noble friend Lord Greenhill said last week in this House. He talked of the need for an educated democracy, an educated citizenship, all the more in these days when we are exposed to what some call "brain-washing", or others call the mass media of communication—anyhow, those influences which attack all our senses at almost all hours of the day or night. In face of that onslaught an educated citizen is better able to keep a sense of proportion and a sense of balance than somebody who has been thrown out into the world when he is only half mature. So, my Lords, the case for further education is unanswerable.

There are a number of speakers this afternoon, and I do not wish to take up too much time. Most of the emphasis recently has been on technical education. That is understandable, because we often receive shocks from the other side of the Iron Curtain and from across the Atlantic when we hear of the progress being made in those countries with the development of modern technological civilisation. I was glad to see that the Minister in another place brought us back to a proper perspective on that, when he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 620 (No. 81), col. 55]: … education is the response which a free society makes to the claims of each individual child to be cared for, not for what he produces, but for what he is. I should like to emphasise that. Technical education and vocational training are excellent, and we must have them. The Crowther Report gave a little too much weight to the wastage on the ladder of technical education. We know that only one in four of those who attempt the ladder get the ordinary National Certificate, and only one in nine in the standard time. I suggest that it is wrong to class the others as failures, individually or collectively. A boy or a girl who does his best to pass those examinations and still has not the capacity to do it has 'benefited by what he has gone through.

Even more is that true of the general education side of further education. Any child of those ages benefits by one day a week in school. Obviously the curriculum and the methods are suited to the particular level that is being taught. Nobody suggests that you teach a group of people who just fail to get into a grammar school in the identical way to those who have only just learned to read and write. Obviously there has to be common sense. But the general education is where I think the chief value of part-time day release lies. Let me go back to the Minister's statement: … the claims of the individual child to be cared for, not for what he produces, but for what be is. For that the further education establishments are doing a good job in providing courses and general education.

On the strictly technical side I am not sure that the picture is so good. The Minister said he was very pleased with the progress that had been made with the technical education scheme over the last four years, but I would ask the noble Viscount whether he really is satisfied. Remember, the White Paper (Cmd. 9703) of February. 1956, said: The Government are resolved that the system of technical education shall fully match the needs of modern industry and offer to every boy and girl the chance of seizing the opportunities which scientific progress is opening before them. Is that so? The Crowther Committee expressed doubts as to whether the part-time day release provided the time necessary for boys and girls of average ability to pass up the steps of this ladder. They emphasised the fact that this technical education is a partnership between industry and education, some of it paid for by industry, some by the taxpayer, and of course the apprenticeship system is essentially part of that scheme.

I know that the Report of the Carr Committee fell in the field of the Minister of Labour and not the Minister of Education, but there are one or two conclusions to which the Carr Committee came which seem to me to have a bearing on the whole present method of technical education as it is working out under the White Paper. There seems to be some discrepancy. Firms which are not now doing so should release their apprentices for day-time study at technical colleges. Such study should have a vocational foundation. Care should be taken to allocate boys to courses within their educational capacities. There should be closer co-operation between industry and those responsible for further education. We do not want to go into questions about technical training which are for the two sides of industry, but the subject has a very close bearing on the question of further education, and I should like to hear from the noble and learned Viscount whether he is satisfied that the scheme launched by this White Paper is in fact going well.

I should say, before leaving the technical side, that it is clearly found by the Council that the day release is not so good for technical reasons as the block release or sandwich courses. These seem to offer the best hope of improving the technical education. The block release is roughly a proportion of 1 to 3 or 1 to 4 in school days to work days; the sandwich course is a long period of several months followed by an equal period of work in the factory; these offer the best means by which boys can achieve these national certificates and diplomas.

Finally, on finance, it is a matter for surprise that the Minister so firmly rejected the idea of fixing a date for the extension of the school-leaving age. In fact, reading his speech it seemed to be a non sequitur. He argued so powerfully and so effectively the value of education, education for its own sake as well as for the national economy, that I really could not see how he could argue that "a growing slice of the national income" should not be devoted to education. He thought, apparently, that our provision for education should be static. If my arithmetic is right, going by the figures the Minister gave and adding the figures that the Crowther Committee estimated would be needed for their reforms, we get to a figure of something like £1,500 million a year for education in the 1970s. We hear a lot about the prosperous state of our country. We are being strictly nonpolitical here. We are told that the country is highly prosperous and affluent and that our standard of living is going to double in so many years. We know, in fact, that the national income is going up by something like 3 per cent. a year. If that goes on to the 1970s and the national income becomes something like £24,000 million a year, then the £1,500 million a year for education represents only 6 per cent. We are now spending nearly 4 per cent. of the national income on education, and this is merely an increase from 4 per cent. to 6 per cent.

I believe that in terms of cash it would be an increase of something like from £17 to £25 per head of the population per year on education, and that the figure given in a paper not long ago was that the United States spend £39 per head of the population per year on education, and the Soviet Union spend about £43 per head of the population per year on education. If we are jibbing at spending £25 or £26 it looks as if we have our priorities wrong. If education is as valuable as we all believe and as the Minister puts in such admirable words, expenditure on education is an investment; it is an investment in human material, and it is high time that we committed ourselves to a definite date to carry out these advances on the 1944 Act.

4.0 p.m.


My Lords, my excuse for addressing your Lordships twice in the same month is that even more important than leisure is the education which enables one to enjoy it. Like the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, I have in my time been accused of not being serious, but I hope that my urgent ideas about education will not be so considered. The noble Viscount looked a little provoked, I thought, at the time; but he must remember, and I am sure it will console him to think, that the accusation of frivolity is always extended to people who are not dull. The first thing that I learned at school was how lamentably untrue was the French revolutionary slogan that "all men are equal". For nearly 200 years the French have misled the world, shouting from the rooftops, and writing on the walls, "Égalité, égalité, égalité!" Surely now the time has come to pull it down and to put up instead "De Gaullité"!

Of course it is annoying to discover that other boys are more clever and intelligent and attractive than is oneself. Lord Vansittart writes in his memoirs that whoever is on top, most of the people all the time will be underneath. We have to recognise that there are barriers and grades of superiority that we shall never pass—like the barrier that divides me from my noble friends here on the Front Bench. For many years the Labour Party have been engulfed and floundering in the morass of the psychological facts of life. For long they thought it was money that produced these obvious superiorities in human beings. But when poverty was removed the differences remained. Now they think it is education—and they are wrong again.

I firmly believe that character and talent, of which there is abundance in this country, in every class in the community, are the sole elements of superiority in human beings, and that we are walking up the wrong path in some of our educational efforts to find and develop them. Just as we want a Liberal Party, we also want a liberal education, and what we are getting is a labour education—hard labour education based on examination. To my mind, this generation is hag-ridden by examinations. On every side, the "swots"—the "saps" as we used to call them at Eton—the clever chaps, are the favoured ones; our education is just a machine for turning out civil servants and scientists. If you cannot pass one of these wretched examinations which dog your footsteps from eleven upwards, you are considered no good; you have no future; you are a failure, and your family and your schoolmasters combine to produce in you a most unfair sense of inferiority—a feeling that there is no place for you in the world and no useful work for you to do.

I am making a plea for the dunces of this world who have done such great things in our history. I remember how my heart leapt up when I opened the life of Sir Winston Churchill and read the first chapter heading, "The Backward Boy". He is our great leader—the leader of the dunces; proof enough, I think, that they should not be bullied and harried and frustrated as they are in these days. But there are many others besides Sir Winston. Wedded as they are to their wretched curriculum, only conventional schoolmasters think that all dunces are low-brow. For instance, Yeats, the poet, could not learn to read. Herbert Spencer could not pass his examination into Oxford. Charles Darwin was the despair of his parents. Maurice Baring, who knew four languages, was refused by the Foreign Office because he could not do long division. Your Lordships will remember Byron's famous words about Harrow: Goodbye, Horace, whom I hated so. No doubt the Front Benches of your Lordships' House could deal quite easily with an examination paper in logarithms and higher mathematics, but one of the most popular poets and one of the most erudite critics now writing were both considered perfectly hopeless in their early twenties.

We spend to-day quite a small sum on education compared to what we spend on armaments—only £600 million a year. But a lot of it is wasted by cramming the unfit. We are trying to produce silk purses out of innumerable sows' ears. We seem to have forgotten that the most important thing about a public school is the free public life that you live there; and the most important thing about the university is the universal quality of its contact with life. At the end of the nineteenth century, when I was there, I thought that Eton had the best education in the world—it was what is now called a comprehensive school: that is to say, there was no limit at either end to the brilliance or the stupidity of the pupil. You got a place in it soon after you were born, and no one was excluded by the entrance examination, which was only for grading purposes. There were 60 scholars who were expected to be clever, but of the remaining 1,000 only 1 per cent. were in the sixth form. It was up to you entirely whether you did any work, and what sort of work you did. Nobody cared, and you could develop in that free society—a microcosm in the world, as it were—your character and your natural intelligence.

I think that the time is ripe to give the nation at large these civilised privileges; for it is only by the correct development of education that we can solve those problems of leisure and delinquency that your Lordships were recently discussing. What I may call the Eton average persists. Let me quote Mr. Langford, President of the Incorporated Association of Headmasters, who seems to be reasonably enlightened on the subject of a grammar school education for all. He writes: The most sinister aspect, however, was the danger that it would persuade the general public that the curriculum of a school, and that alone, could transform any boy or girl into a don, a poet, a musician, or a research scientist. For about three-quarters of the school population a purely academic training, centred as it must be in books and writing, would be a form of cruelty which, if imposed … would produce effects on the mind comparable to … mediæval tortures. What do we find? Three out of four children fail to pass the 11-plus examination. Only the top 20 per cent. of our school-children can get into the grammar school, and of these 50 per cent. never reach the sixth form.

It is clear from the statement of the right honourable gentleman the Minister that now, when money has not got to be considered, is the time, over the next few years, to extend and improve our educational system. Smaller classes, better teachers and the compulsory school age raised to sixteen, is an excellent programme and one of which, I think, everybody must approve. I do not know how many of our legislators have read this volume, 15 to 18, before they have considered the debates in another place and in this House, but I understand that a certain lassitude overcame the other place during a debate on education last Monday. Education is getting increasingly subject to Parkinson's deadly law. The humanity of the subject gets buried under a mass of statistics, formulæ of curricula and examination objectives, and I would implore our very clever Minister of Education to observe that his prospective plans up to 1970 will be wrecked unless he dispels the miasma of psychological frustration that surrounds the 11-plus examination in the eyes of both parents and children.

Surely we could spend the first £500 million a year that is coming to us as the prize of disarmament on modernising the secondary schools. Not only large sums of money but vast empty buildings like the Duke of Westminster's Eaton Hall and Knightsbridge Barracks will become available. We must not let them fall down. Mr. Burke Jones, the President of the National Association of Head Teachers, has said that the secondary modern schools were in the eyes of many acknowledged as "the schools of the failures". It is essential that they should be given status and prestige and that the pupils should be given hope and self-confidence.

I was talking last Sunday to a girl who is a prefect in one of these schools, happy in her work and position. She said that the buildings were perfectly frightful, with no playing fields and a total lack of beauty and tradition. "You could not be proud of such a place", she said. It was going to be made into a comprehensive school, of which she much approved as it would link up with the universities and provide older and more experienced prefects to govern the school—because, as we all know, it is not the master but the prefects who govern a school.

The 11-plus examination would then become, as it was at Eton in the old days, an entrance examination for grading purposes; and the stigma of it would be removed. We know that lots of children develop their capacities after they are eleven. I believe that the dividing of the two streams of wise and foolish pupils at eleven is fatal to education. The splendid schools that we shall build to-morrow with all this money we are coming into must be put on Etonian lines, on a comprehensive basis. We can do a lot with this £1,600 million a year.

The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Hailsham, although unfortunately a Conservative, is a very intelligent man. He made it clear in his speech on defence a little time ago that he knows that the game is up. Mr. Khrushchev, although not so distinguished as the noble and learned Viscount, is just as clever, and he knows, also, that the game is up. He will make £8,000 million a year out of disarmament, but he has more leeway to make up than we have. During the coming years, as the long discussions about disarmament move to their inevitable end, we can plan the complete education needed in the Welfare State. Very soon the generals and the admirals and the air-marshals—so glorious in the past but with no future in front of them—the armament tycoons and the Pentagon will be swept away and disappear, and we can use the £1,600 million a year that these people cost us now to develop the character and the talents of the nation.

4.20 p.m.


My Lords, we have heard three somewhat different speeches. The noble Viscount who has just resumed his seat said in his prospectus that he was not going to be dull—and he fully kept his promise. Whether or not he was frivolous I am not going to speculate. I have always wanted to know what was the Liberal policy on education, though I still do not know what they think about the Crowther Report. But, my Lords, I am indeed grateful, not only to the noble Viscount, who always delights us whenever he speaks—and he need not have apologised for speaking twice in a month; I hope he speaks twice next month, too—but also to the two noble Lords who preceded him for introducing our debate this afternoon. I was particularly grateful, if I may say so, to the official representatives of the Opposition for the non-polemical and objective spirit in which they spoke.

It is, of course, perfectly true, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, told us, that education is a controversial subject. It could hardly be anything else, because in the educational world there are as many opinions as there are men. But I would agree with him that it is not, on the whole, best suited for Party controversy, partly because whatever Government is in power must remember that it is trustee for the parents of the nation, who belong to very different kinds of opinion from those of us who exercise the responsibility, and we must therefore seek to obtain their confidence, which cannot be done by doctrinaire or violent approaches; and partly, of course, because the variety of opinion is such that there is no absolute unanimity amongst Members of any one Party on educational subjects. Indeed, if we were to wait for unanimity on education we should never make any educational progress at all. We can lead a free people in this matter only by expressing opinions with which not everyone will agree.

My Lords, last week, when we were discussing adult education, I referred to our educational system as defective, and I do not think that I would wish to qualify that this afternoon. I should however like to make it plain that when I said so I did not mean that it compared unfavourably with any other existing system. On the contrary, by and large, I think that when I said as Minister, as I did, that it compared favourably with any at present existing in the world, I was not making an exaggerated claim. But I think "defective" is not an unjust term to apply to it if, instead of comparing ourselves with other people, we compare our actual achievements with our present practical needs and capabilities; and that, after all, is a fair test to set ourselves. I can remember saying when I was Minister that I thought it would take 25 years of peaceful progress to iron out the defects which I then saw in our system. Three of those years have now gone by, and the publication of the Crowther Report gives us all an opportunity to consider exactly what the deficiencies still are and in what priority they ought to be tackled. I am sure I shall be forgiven if I add my tribute to that of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, both to Sir Geoffrey Crowther and to his collaborators in this Report, and say, as I think all noble Lords have done, what a pleasure and privilege it is going to be to hear the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, discussing that Report as one of those who were responsible for its production.

The most important feature of the Butler Education Act, at least in my judgment, is the underlying conviction contained in the whole of it that for the first time in English history secondary education should be provided for all, and (subject, of course, to the usual qualifications) should be provided, in effect, without being inhibited by the financial cost. This is the philosophy, to my mind, underlying the whole of the Butler legislation. This, of course, involved the disappearance of the all-age school; and were I asked now the most serious defect of our present educational apparatus, I should, I think, be bound to say that the worst was the continued existence of the all-age school. There are places, especially in the North, where children still do not get secondary education, properly so-called, at all at the present time. But, my Lords, it would be right to add that this deficiency is local, limited and disappearing. The back of that problem will be broken by 1962, and I believe that by 1965 it will virtually have ceased to exist.

So I go to what, apart from the all-age school, is at the moment by far the greatest defect of the present situation, and to what is certainly, by any standards, by far the most urgent and the most universal; that is, the continued existence of the over-size class, the class—if I may expound it, although it must be well known to your Lordships—of more than 30 in secondary, and more than 40 in primary, schools. These are the modest limits which are set by the regulations, which are not observed.

A very great advance has been made in tackling this problem. Between 1950 and 1959 the percentage of pupils in primary schools in over-size classes fell from 40.3 per cent. to 24.2 per cent. But—and this is the relevant point to our present discussion—during the same period the figures for over-size classes in secondary schools remained almost stationary; indeed, they slightly deteriorated. It is fair to add, of course, that there has been a very heavy increase in the secondary school population—nearly 40 per cent.; 750,000 pupils in the period I was mentioning. But pupils in oversize classes rose in secondary schools from 62.1 per cent. to 64.2 per cent. and I think must regard ourselves as fortunate that it was not worse in the circumstances. This is a serious matter—serious indeed, because I would say that, had I been asked, as Minister, to which of the two provisions I attached more urgent importance, I am quite certain that I would have said the reduction of over-size classes rather than the raising of the school-leaving age to sixteen.

I am bound to confess that in one respect, at least, I increased my successors' difficulties in this matter, because I was the Minister responsible for raising the length of the teacher-training course from two to three years. I still think that this decision was right, and on the whole I would claim to have been supported by educational opinion. I must, however, confess that when I made that decision I was using forward estimates of the future school population in 1962 and thereafter which, for several reasons, have since proved to be considerable under-estimates. One reason was that the Registrar-General under-estimated the desire for parenthood of the English people.

At the present time it would require about 60,000 additional teachers to eliminate over-size classes, and even then I beg your Lordships to remember that in primary schools the number of pupils would be down to 40, and I think that in an ideal world we should find very few educationists who would say that 40 was the ideal number for a class in a primary school. As I say, it would require 60,000 additional teachers to eliminate classes above 40 in primary schools and above 30 in secondary schools. Up to 1957 the net increase each year in the number of teachers had been running at about 7,000. Since then, the net increase has dropped to about 5,000, largely as a result of a sharp increase in the number of women teachers who have left the profession to get married or start families. In 1962 there will moreover be the so-called "year of intermission", when there will be no normal output from the training colleges, owing to the introduction in 1960 of the three-year course. On those figures, my Lords, the oversize class will be with us for many years to come.

To meet this deficiency my successor, the present Minister's predecessor, Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd, obtained the agreement of the Government to a greatly increased scheme for teacher provision. Even if, as I hope one day will be the case—and I think we must really try—we can substantially increase the proportion of graduates among our teachers, at the present, and for a very long time to come, this means a greatly increased provision of teachers from the teacher-training colleges. On present plans it has been decided to raise the capacity of the colleges from 23,000 places to 39,000 places. But is this enough? I have to say that on those plans, on the increased provision to 39,000 places, the present teacher force will have been increased from 264,000 (which is the 1959 figure) to 332,000 in 1970. Startling as that rate of growth is, even that would not be enough to eliminate over-size classes before about 1972; and if, meanwhile, the school-leaving age had been raised, we should not have completed that task before about 1975. If we reversed the order, of course, the dates would be approximately reversed, but the final date for both processes would be the same.

It follows, of course, that we must, if we can, train still more teachers. The Minister of Education sought the advice of the National Advisory Council on the Training and Supply of Teachers on this problem, in the light of the Crowther Report which we are discussing this afternoon. Their advice, received towards the end of January, was that the current programme of training college expansion should be brought forward to completion by 1963, and that a further 8,000 training college places should be provided to be completed in two instalments by 1964 and 1965. My Lords, we are accelerating the current programme accordingly, and we have also agreed in principle that a further 8,000 training places should be provided. How soon this can be done will depend upon a number of factors. But I can tell your Lordships that if we do all this—and we have agreed in principle that it is right—and if all goes well, oversize classes should be cut out by the end of the decade.

My Lords, that is the reality of the situation. I must say frankly to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and to the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, that when they talk—as particularly Lord Lucan talked—as if the limiting factor here is one of money, that is simply not the case. The figures which I have given show absolutely plainly that the limiting factor is the provision of teachers. The rate at which you can expand any human force of skilled personnel is limited by the potential rate of growth without destroying your standards. And I must say this absolutely plainly to the House: that it is quite vain to think that if we were to declare, as we have been asked this afternoon to declare, some date by which an Order in Council would be laid, we still should not be able, so far as I know, to take any decision to do anything which we are not already doing or which we have not already agreed to do.

Therefore, I would emphasise that when these plans mature we shall be, or ought to be, in a position to do two things: we could take the process of reducing class sizes right to its conclusion; or, if we thought that the time had come to do so, we could raise the school-leaving age without more than a temporary and tolerable postponement in attaining our ends. Both are limited by the supply of teachers: neither, at this stage, by the question of money.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount to cover one point, though I have no doubt that he intends to do so? Will he explain why the Government are not able to accept at least the kind of date for raising the school-leaving age suggested by the Crowther Report?


My Lords, I thought that these figures were at any rate the beginnings of such an explanation.


It may well be.


This is exactly what I have in mind. This is what we are talking about. I am saying to the noble Lord that unless he can find more teachers than I have indicated on the very precise figures which I have given, the logistic basis of doing what is asked would not be possible. That is not the whole answer, but it is at any rate a very substantial question to be faced.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount why, in view of what he told us a few moments ago about the underestimate—the very bad underestimate—of the rate of growth of population, which was from a Government source, he should assume that the figures he has to-day and the reasoning that he is now giving for the benefit of this House, in order that it might reach its conclusions, are more sound than those before the members of the Crowther Committee itself?


I do not necessarily assume that at all. All I say is that a responsible Government must draw its figures from a responsible source, and this is the information which we are given. Of course, it may be wrong. It may very well be much too optimistic a calculation, as was the last one; but we must plan on the figures we have and not on the figures which we should like to see. Indeed, speaking for myself, I should not like to see the school population reduced for that kind of reason.


Is the noble Viscount saying that the Crowther Committee, in coming to its conclusions, had not before it figures which were at least as reliable as the Government now have?


What I am saying is that these are the correct figures so far as I know. Of course, if the noble Lord has any reason to question them, in debate or otherwise, they must be examined again. All we are seeking to do is to put before the House the facts of the situation as we know them to be. Of course, we may be wrong.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Viscount on this point, but may I say that the Crowther Committee has been sitting for a very considerable time studying this subject. This Committee—which, as everybody knows, is composed of competent people very experienced in education—should, in the nature of things, have had before it all the information which is at the disposal of the Government in order to reach its recommendations. The point I am trying to make is that there are here two quite divergent opinions on an interpretation of those facts—one of the Crowther Committee and one which the noble Viscount is now giving us.


I do not think it is necessarily so at all. What I was saying to the noble Lord was that these are the figures as regards teacher provision. On those figures we have taken the best advice that we can take, and we have accepted them in principle. If it should turn out that these figures are too pessimistic, it would of course be possible to act more quickly.

If I may emphasise this to the noble Lord, it illustrates the wisdom of the Government in not declaring in advance exactly what is going to happen in the Parliament after next, which is what the noble Lord is pressing us to do—because it may well be that our views are too pessimistic. No one can foretell with exactitude the degree to which people will conceive and bear children, upon which the whole of this calculation rests. But I must tell the noble Lord that, just as our last attempts were too moderate as regards the school population, that may turn out to be the case here too. What we are doing is surely the right course—that is, to make all the preparation we can by way of teacher provision, that being the limiting factor. Then if, by any chance, we find that the school places are not taken up because of a shortage in pupils, that will assist this particular operation in proportion to what we have overestimated. It is, I should have said, precisely this kind of argumentation which has led my right honourable friend to the conclusion that what he has to do is to provide the logistic basis of policy for his next successor but two, and not to commit his next successor but two to a particular date on which no real reliance could be placed in the Parliament after next.


My Lords, before the noble Viscount leaves that point, may I ask if his argument is based on the assumption that you cannot raise the school-leaving age until there is not a class left in the country which in the primary school exceeds 40 and in the secondary school exceeds 30?


No. I think it will be plain already from what I have said that I am not making that assumption by any means; and I think it will become even more plain as the argument develops. I hope I have said enough to remove two important misconceptions.

The effect of the measures which I have been describing by way of teacher provision is to accelerate the two processes simultaneously by concentrating for the time being on the elimination of oversized classes. We are not thereby excluding the possibility of raising the age; and it is not true, as has been suggested, that if we were only to name now a date for raising the age we could by some magic bring this reform nearer than would otherwise be possible or desirable. The limiting factor is teachers, and we are doing what is logistically possible to produce these.

I think that this is probably the appropriate moment to say a word or two, as the noble Earl did, about finance. When I was Minister I got into a great deal of trouble with a large number of people by saying that we were spending too little on education. My period of office was a period of very considerable inflation, and these opinions came in for a good deal of adverse criticism. I received a great number of abusive letters, anonymous and otherwise, and a smaller number of black looks from some of my friends. I said that we ought to spend a minimum of 5 per cent, of the gross national product, instead of about 31 per cent. What I said was not intended as an exaggeration but as an endeavour to understate the case; and what is often taken to be an exaggeration is merely intended as a prophecy. I now tell your Lordships that, even without the 8,000 additional places in teacher training colleges, about which I have spoken, or any other improvements in our educational system except those already announced, the cost of education by 1964 will have amounted to about £1,000 million. On the usual assumptions, that would make about 4.3 per cent. of the estimated gross national product, and more than 5 per cent. with university education and certain other provisions taken in.

This considerable rise in expenditure will of course be competing with claims on our national income from roads, National Health Service, pensions, railways, civil aviation and private investment and consumption, even if we do not press, as some people have pressed me, to invest another £100 million or so in space research. Of course, it is quite wrong to regard these figures as implying that money is the limiting factor. Money can be printed—at a certain cost in public morality and the value of our currency. The real limiting factor in full employment is men and materials and public confidence, and the danger is not bankruptcy, but inflation.

If I may develop the educational argument, the next most important weakness in our educational system is undoubtedly the fact that by far the greatest number of school pupils go out of full-time education at the age of fifteen. The view of the Government, as I think of every competent educationist, is that this is not right. For some years past it has been our policy to encourage pupils to stay on after the age of fifteen and in suitable cases to stay on until the age of eighteen, and to go on thereafter to university or technical college. I myself would agree with the authors of the Crowther Report and with the noble Earl who spoke from the front Opposition Bench, that by far the most serious loss of talent occurs at these ages and in this way. But the policy of voluntary encouragement has met with a considerable measure of success. During the last three years the proportion of fifteen-year-olds remaining at school has increased from one-quarter to one-third; and that means an additional 70,000 young people in England and Wales enjoying full-time education at school. I nevertheless agree with the authors of the Crowther Report and, for that matter, with successive Education Acts, that, in the long run, the policy of voluntary encouragement is not enough. I reaffirm, both personally and on behalf of the Government, the necessity in the end to apply compulsion to the laggards. The question is when, in what order of priorities and how this requires to be done.

Like the authors of the Crowther Report, I do not think that this is a question of money. But I do consider, and I must record my view, on purely educational grounds, that to let loose a flood of ex hypothesi unwilling, perhaps C and D streams of pupils of the secondary modern schools against the will of their parents on the educational system of this country would be one of the most disastrous single acts which a Government could commit at the present time. Speaking for a moment from my standpoint as Minister for Science, I cannot conceive of anything less in the interests of the teaching of science and technology to the able. From the point of view of the less able, I can think of few more ineffective policies than compelling them to stay on against their will before we had devised a curriculum suitable to their need.

If I had been asked the question as Minister of Education—and I sometimes was—I should have said that, quite independently of this Report, the first thing was to make sure of your teacher provision; the second to get rid of over-size classes; and the third to encourage voluntary staying on until eighteen, if possible, and to experiment with the provision of extended courses for leavers of sixteen; and that then, and not till then, should a Minister prepare an Order in Council to raise the compulsory age to sixteen and compel the laggards. That could take place on existing plans for teacher provision at any time—but the Minister must exercise his own judgment, not mine—provided that the teachers were made available in sufficient numbers and he considered that the educational price for such a staff were not too high. I should myself have said that ten years was a realistic time to allow for this preparation in whatever order you take its component parts—and that is obviously a matter for discussion as they go on—and I should regard twelve years as a reasonable performance. In coming to this conclusion, I am not conscious of haying yielded to instincts of parsimony or of having allowed financial considerations to influence my judgment. My conclusions, so far as I am aware, are based on educational arguments.

The Government agree with the Report in thinking that raising the school age to sixteen should have priority over county colleges. This means that there could be no question of applying compulsion to students in part-time further education until the mid-1970's. This, as we all recognise, is a long time ahead, and we think it is best to keep an open mind on the question of compulsion until nearer the time when it could become a practical proposition. In the meantime, we clearly have to press on vigorously with the expansion of further education on a voluntary basis. When I said "compulsion", I should have made it clear (and I think I did) that I was talking about compulsion on the pupil. There was a suggestion by my right honourable friend in another place, which I think has been well received, that day release, at any rate, might be a right enforceable against the employer, but when I was talking about compulsion in this context, I was talking about compulsion on the pupil.

May I pause there for a moment and say this to the noble Earl? Although I would absolutely agree with the noble Earl about the need for continued education, I think some people—and I thought perhaps the noble Lord also—are a little apt to underestimate the maturity of a boy of fifteen who has his own views and will give some effect to them. I think that to some extent even the authors of the 1944 Act did not foresee this extraordinary maturity which has grown up with full employment among our young men and women. We must examine how far and at what stage in the process we can hope to achieve results if we do not carry them along voluntarily with what we are trying to do.

We intend to press on vigorously with the expansion of further education on a voluntary basis. We intend to encourage experiment with the less vocational type of course which large numbers of the sixteen and seventeen-year-olds will require if compulsion is ultimately to be applied. Already this type of work is being developed in a number of the ordinary local colleges of further education. I think experience may well show that it is better to mix vocational and general courses in these colleges than to try to build a whole range of new establishments to concentrate solely on the less vocational work. In this way, the drive towards county colleges will become part of the drive to expand technical education which began in 1956.

I had intended to give some figures to the House of the progress in this, but perhaps I had better move from this side of the matter to say that I was very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, devoted so great a part of what he had to say to questions other than the two major questions of the school-leaving age and the county colleges. For, in my view at least, in the long run it may well turn out to have been one of the great merits of the Crowther Report to have uncovered major educational issues which Governments and Parliament have not had the courage or, perhaps, the power to handle or discuss. I often wonder just how many people in this country are aware that there is no single body within the Kingdom that really looks at school and university education as a single whole.

There was a time—and not so very long ago—when, if the Minister of Education had shown what would have been described as an unhealthy interest in the universities, a chorus of assembled dons would have made the sign of the Evil Eye, uttered the word "Hitler!" and disappeared in a cloud of smoke. I am glad to think that this situation is improving.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, of course, is responsible for the universities through the University Grants Committee, whose admirable work in this field is universally admitted and applauded. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer has no direct dealings with the schools. The teaching profession and not the Minister is, of course, in charge of the school curriculum. But the teaching profession would candidly admit, if one put it to them, that the school curriculum is itself partly dictated and, perhaps, partly distorted by the necessities of university entrance requirements. But the fact of the matter is that this is an issue which cannot be burked much longer, because education is a continuous whole and ought to be looked upon as such.

No doubt freedom from Government interference is a rightly prized and cardinal feature of our system of education. I think we should all assert it in this House and elsewhere. But that does not mean that curriculum must never be inquired into, still less that the relationship between school and university should never be discussed in Parliament or outside. For the truth is—and it is one of the great merits of the Crowther Report—that the Report establishes that all is not well on this front. The school curriculum is overburdened. The best pupils are over-specialised, and over-specialised too early and too narrowly. There is a serious deficiency in mathematics and science teachers, and it is growing worse, especially in girls' schools if we except biology. Above all, the grim competition for university places and the excessively and increasingly demanding character of university or, in the older universities, of college entrance requirements, distort the curriculum and discourage width of vision and expansiveness in teaching.

Of course, in part I am quite well aware that this is a feature, and to some extent a function, of the shortage of university places—and we may be discussing this after the Recess. To that extent, of course it cannot easily be remedied, except by expanding the universities, and what remedies can be prescribed in the interim are only palliatives. I have the feeling that present-day university entrance requirements accentuate rather than palliate the disease, and I have an idea that, within the schools, obsolete curricula have often the same effect. To give only one striking example, I was formally advised the other day by the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy that up to 25 per cent. of some school science curricula was pure lumber and could be scrapped to make room for more up-to-date material. The seriousness of this allegation can be gauged from the facts that physics and chemistry are virtually absent from many girls' school curricula, that there are some modern schools where there are only two science periods a week, and that science finds a very limited place, if any, in primary school education.

I would say with the noble Lord that the time has come for schools and universities to come closer together. For this reason I am glad to be able to assure noble Lords that all those problems—and they are problems discussed very eloquently in the Report—which jointly affect the schools and the universities, are now being vigorously attacked by the universities, the schools and the Ministry in concert. Let them determine to do what they can to get rid of over-specialisation and clear dead wood out of the school curriculum—not necessarily by eliminating unnecessary subjects, but at least by modernising the curriculum and making more attractive some of the methods of teaching.

What I have been saying affects primarily the more able and advanced pupils, but it is fair to say that they are an increasing proportion of the school population. By 1964, sixth forms will be nearly twice as big as they were only two years ago. The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, was quite right to stress that it is hardly less important to develop extended courses—although this its a phrase which sometimes comes in for criticism—for the less able pupils if in truth and in fact we are sincere, as we know we are, in our intention to make it possible for them to stay on an extra year at school.

I think I might be forgiven if before I sit down I ride one of my own Departmental horses for a moment—the provision of graduate teachers of science and mathematics. There is a general shortage of science and mathematics teachers, particularly of well-qualified ones. Girls' schools are generally worse off than boys'. In March, 1959, there were 5,100 mathematics graduates and 7,700 science graduates teaching senior pupils in maintained schools. At the end of 1958, all maintained schools which at that time had, or were expected to have, G.C.E. courses in mathematics and science at "O" level, were asked to complete a questionnaire about their graduate teachers in mathematics and science. This survey showed that there were 244 vacancies in these schools for mathematics graduates, and 261 for science graduates, a total of 505 posts. In addition, another 509 posts were said to be unsatisfactorily filled. This raises at once the question of quality. The Crowther Report draws attention to the falling proportion of first-class graduates and the rising proportion of holders of lower-class degrees. There is, of course, bound to be greater competition for high-quality graduates than there used to be, so long as industry and Government maintain or increase their appetite for the best graduates of the universities. But clearly we must do all we can to attract the highest quality of graduate into the schools.

A word for the future. In order to maintain 1959 staffing standards in 1970 we should need to increase the present 12,800 graduates of science by some 4,000 people, an average net increase of about 400 a year. At the moment we are probably increasing our numbers a little faster than this. But of course we must do far better. Indeed, ideally we need roughly to double the number of mathematics and science graduates in the schools and at least to double the average net annual increase; and I do not think we are likely to reach that target. The proposed expansion of the universities will result in a considerable increase, and we can look hopefully to the training colleges to make a significant contribution.

In the increase of training college places, we have very closely in mind the possibility of increasing the numbers of teachers of science and mathematics. In particular, we have created a number of specialist science wings attached to general colleges, with a total capacity of about 1,200 places. Up to and including this year, students concentrated on science for the two years of their initial course and then took a third-year supplementary course. From this September onwards these wings will be filled mainly by students following a full three-year course. The academic qualifications of the students on entering their courses will be high, and we have good reason to hope that before long all students will possess at least two, and a majority of them three, passes at "A" level. From those wings we can look forward to an annual output of about 400 highly trained science specialists. They will provide an invaluable supply of teachers to the schools, including those schools with G.C.E. "O" level courses which at present employ 3,250 non-graduate specialist science teachers. I would say, therefore, that there are some grounds for hope, although on the figures I have given little enough for complacency, in this field.

I should like to conclude with one or two remarks of a more general character. The more I contemplate the present educational system the more I am satisfied that a sincere, determined and persistent effort, continued over a generation, is necessary before we can begin to say that we have achieved an educational system really commensurate with our needs. The effort cannot be achieved, it cannot even be approached, without a public opinion far more conscious of educational requirements than that provided by the climate of opinion in which we live, and that has changed out of all recognition since the time when I first entered public life before the war.

But this education and this advance must take place within a society which is also advancing at equal speed to keep pace with the outturn of graduates, technologists, technicians and craftsmen from our colleges and schools. It is here, I would say, that some of the enthusiasts for education sometimes miss the mark. They are sometimes apt to speak as if the real limiting factors on the general advance were in terms of money, and as if the money cost could be provided if only the public opinion of which I spoke, or sometimes, they say, the Treasury, could be persuaded to loosen the strings of the public purse and provide what is necessary. I would agree up to a point. No doubt the need is such, for some degree of public sacrifice, consciously made, will be required if we are to achieve success.

But the problem in truth is more complex than this. Roads and hospitals cannot wait 25 years for the completion of our educational programme. Wages will not stand still while we are providing teachers. The demands of the taxpayer for tax reduction or tax remissions will not be silent for long. Nor will it be much good to provide science graduates and technicians if, side by side with their provision, the ordinary business of investment in factories and transport, machinery and laboratories, does not keep pace with our educational advance. Whatever one's enthusiasm, however disinterested one may be, it must therefore still compete with other priorities in this age which is hungry of capital and short of labour. It seems, I would say, that we must advance on all fronts simultaneously or not advance on any. What we can say, and what we must say, is that there is no claim on the national resources superior to that of youth and no requirement of youth which will reward the country that recognises it more richly than the requirement of a full, careful, well-balanced educational system.

5.7 p.m.


My Lords, as a member of the Central Advisory Council and a signatory of the Report we are discussing to-day, I must add my thanks to the noble Lords who initiated this debate, and thank them, too, for the very broad way in which they did so. This is a Report of such magnitude and scope that there is a very great danger that someone like myself, who has lived with it for two or three years and whose everyday work it concerns, may become a bore, may talk at too great length and in too great detail. I am going therefore to resist the temptations put in my path to move to one side. When the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, put forward his somewhat curious views of selection processes in English education my tendency was to join issue with him, but I will not do so. I should have liked to analyse at some length the educational philosophy of the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, but I will content myself by saying simply that the golden picture he gave of Eton was that usually held by Wykehamists.

I want simply to concentrate on two particular aspects that seem to me of immediate importance. About one of them, the raising of the school-leaving age, we have already heard a great deal this afternoon. But it seems to me to be of such crucial importance, both practically and psychologically, that your Lordships must forgive me if I travel over the now familiar ground. In my mind it is quite clear that the most important single recommendation of the Council is the clear and unambiguous assertion that we not only should but can raise the age of compulsory schooling to sixteen in the later years of the present decade. I think most noble Lords are agreed with that, at any rate in principle. But not everyone in the country is agreed. I think it is worth while, therefore, rehearsing some of the arguments which make it of such vital importance in the whole pattern of educational advance.

I hope that we (and by "we" I mean the country) shall not allow ourselves to be obsessed by difficulties or discouraged by horror stories. There will, of course, be some people who will not obtain any very clear or obvious benefit from another year at school: that is true for practically any school-leaving age we like to fix. It was an argument that was used when the school-leaving age was twelve. There will certainly always be bad schools, in bad areas, where there will be difficulties and dangers and problems. Of course there will. What is unfortunate is that it is those that tend to get the publicity, and not the many hundreds of very fine schools which already exist, even after such a short time. The young man who teaches for a year in a bad secondary modern school and then writes a book about it is more newsworthy than the teacher who works away with devotion and common-sense idealism, who creates a fine school. It is of those many secondary modern schools that we must think. It is those teachers whom we must ask and listen to about this problem; and when we do this we find that the vast majority of them give wholehearted support to a longer school life. It is they, who will have to cope with the problems, who believe that for the vast majority of the children a school-leaving age of sixteen will give a firmer basis to adult life.

Why do they feel that so passionately? First, of course, there is the sheer element of protection which the school affords. The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, asked, which noble Lord in this House would for one moment contemplate allowing his son or daughter to leave school at the age of fifteen? That is a good question; it is a fair question. We find the idea inconceivable, not because of anything that the child might learn in another year at school, but simply because he is manifestly too young, too vulnerable, for the world of the factory or the store. Our children come from stable, educated homes, from homes with firm standards of judgment and behaviour; yet it is the very children who possess none of these advantages whom we now allow to leave and whom we sometimes fear have nothing to gain from further education. We may say that that is not a very good question, because in fact there are few of us who would welcome a school-leaving age of as early as sixteen for our children. That is true; but at least anyone with experience of adolescents knows what a difference in maturity there is between the ages of fifteen and sixteen. It is the simplest social prudence to see that this year of rapid growth, of consolidation of standards, is spent in an environment as educative as we can make it.

That is if you like, a negative argument for raising the age, and raising it quickly. There are more positive ones. In a number of debates in your Lordships' House recently, whether on leisure or adult education or delinquency, the quite fundamental part that education has to play has emerged. How, in a world so rich in opportunity, yet in some ways so increasingly precarious, can one hope to arm young people to exercise discrimination, to be proof against the appeals to the trivial and the degraded that are constantly and, sometimes one thinks, increasingly aimed at them by mass-media? How, in a word, can we hope to produce anything like what has been referred to this afternoon—an educated democracy? It is a formidable task. There are times when, frankly, one feels it to be almost impossible—one feels that one is losing. There are certainly times when I, as a schoolmaster, say that the general public expect too much from the schools.

I have listened this afternoon to some of the attributes that it is suggested we should give to our children—the attributes that noble Lords wanted them to have, ranging from a knowledge of world history, to modern differentiation and skill with pottery. We cannot do everything in a school. We can try to do certain things. One thing is certain: the higher we set our standards, the more certain it is that nothing that we can call an adequate education can be attained by the age of fifteen. The gain in knowledge, in discrimination, in maturity, even in sheer literacy, of one more year would, I believe, be immense. Here let me say that it is wrong to imagine the raising of the age and the county college as competitors. The county college, when it comes—when we have the right teachers for it and a clearer idea of what we want to do with it—will be a different and a stronger institution if it can build on a foundation of education that is extended to sixteen.

What shall we do with the extra year? What shall we actually teach in it? That question was asked this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. It is a fair and fascinating question, but I fear that like so many educational questions, it is not capable of a straight answer. What one teaches will, and should, depend on the kind of children with whom one is dealing. In one area and with some children the problem may be simply to consolidate still further the essentials of literacy. In another school, with different teachers and different children, one may set one's standards much higher and teach contemporary history or elementary science. In one school the last year may have a vocational basis; in another the personality may be developed in a much more general way through æsthetic subjects, or what you will.

One of the reasons, of course, that makes the English teacher rightly proud of the Ministry of Education is that he knows that, although on the curriculum he can get all the help and all the advice he wants from a really first-class team of inspectors, he will never be told exactly what to teach. What is taught, and how it is taught, must depend on the children, the teacher and the social environment of the school. I would add this. It is, of course, wrong to speak of an "extra year". There is no more misleading phrase. It is not an extra year that we are considering; it is rather the opportunity to provide a genuine course of secondary education—an opportunity for teachers to work out by experiment, by argument, in every way open to them, a coherent course of study that has some unity and relevance to the development of the citizen. I know that the great majority of them not only will do it; they are anxious to begin doing it.

Now let me turn to the other end of the educational spectrum, to the abler children in the sixth forms of our grammar schools. The sixth form curriculum is a difficult and complex affair. It is, of course, of immense importance, both from the point of view of the individual and of the community, for it is from the sixth forms that come the administrators and the scientists, the teachers and professional men who, in the last resort, exercise power and responsibility and make the implementation of a Report like this possible. We all know the pressures to which their education is being subjected. On the one hand, we have a spectacular expansion of knowledge in almost every field, and particularly in the field of science. It is an expansion that has its main impact on the universities but which is inevitably transmitted to the sixth forms of schools in a tendency towards greater demands and hence, as the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham has said, more intense specialisation. On the other hand, we have forces which make us ever more anxious to secure breadth in our education. We have the complexity of a world in which communication between different kinds of specialists is increasingly necessary yet increasingly difficult; a growing realisation of the part which æsthetic subjects have to play in a balanced development. Above all, there is the responsibility laid upon the schools by a growing equality which makes higher education increasingly accessible to those with no cultural or intellectual background.

Thirty years ago, to get to a university you were either exceptionally able—and if you are exceptionally able you can look after yourself—or you came, on the whole, from a home in which there were books, there was conversaton and there was music. To-day, that is no longer true. We are getting thousands of people who are not in the top flight of intellectuals but who come from homes without these advantages. To these people the school must give all the culture—to use that, in some ways, unfortunate word—that they will ever have. Between those two broad pressures, the one the growth of knowledge that tends to greater specialisation, the other the greater amount that we think we ought to know that tends to greater width, the Report tries to hold the balance. The general tone of those very important chapters on the sixth form is an endorsement of the current English practice that behind the often tendentious word "specialisation" embodies the belief that it is right for the abler child, both for his own sake and for that of the community, to go fairly deep in subjects he wants to study, to encounter quite difficult ideas and by hard intellectual effort to understand them.

If noble Lords have any doubts as to the wisdom of these general principles they should read the writings of foreign observers on our educational system—for example, the recent evidence of Admiral Rickover before a Senate Committee on Education. It is to the high standards of our sixth-form work that foreign observers, including now even the Scots, cast envious eyes. But I know that many of those interested in education, whether in this House or outside, are concerned over this whole matter of specialisation, and, in particular, over the apparent division between science and the arts. It is a field of education in which, I suppose, there is more misunderstanding than in almost any other. The schools are doing much more than is often supposed to mitigate the danger of specialisation. It is certainly true, for example, that we are far less specialised than we were a century ago and a good deal less specialised than we were 30 years ago. The greatest danger, I would say, lies in too early rather than in too intense specialisation.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? If we go back a century we find that someone like Mr. Gladstone could take a first class in arts and mathematics. That would not be possible to-day.


My Lords, that example is often quoted, but Mr. Gladstone was a very remarkable person, and I would say that if any of your Lordships will read any of the lives of Gladstone you will find that he did practically no mathematics at Eton. The mathematics one did to get a first-class degree at Cambridge in those days was not very good mathematics, as the noble Lord will remember.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again, but I cannot allow him to say that Mr. Gladstone was at Cambridge.


My Lords, I was going to my next point, which was to point out that if we remember the great biographies of Macaulay we see how little mathematics one had to do, and that it was pushed into one. It may have been different at Oxford, but I think not. That does not really represent a genuine breadth of education at all, but a particular, limited skill injected into an education that was limited. The plain fact is that at Arnold's Rugby, practically nothing was learned except the classics and a little rudimentary divinity; and possibly French, from a visiting native every other fortnight.

I cannot believe that the nineteenth century curriculum was a genuinely wide one. There is, however, as I know, this very real anxiety over our specialised curriculum, and I was saying that I thought that the greatest danger lay in too early, rather than in too intense, specialisation as the Report says. I would say that one of our greatest reforms is to delay the time at which the fundamental decision between the arts and science has to be made. Nevertheless, I think we shall do great harm if we over-emphasise the gulf between science and humane knowledge.

In the debate on Adult Education, one noble Lord drew a very sharp line between science and culture; but is there such a line? Have Darwin, Freud, Sherrington or Einstein made no contribution to culture in any real sense of the word? Have they had no effect on the way in which we think and behave? And the Report recognises this by emphasising that if one of our objects must be to make scientists more literate, we must also try to make arts men more aware of the nature and results of the scientists' contribution to our civilisation.

This movement towards general education, this stimulus to mutual understanding between different disciplines within a framework characteristic of the English sixth form, is one of the most significant sections of the Report. It will not be easy; it will make great demands on the teachers in the schools; but its aim, that of providing scientists, technologists or historians who can hold their own in their particular fields with any in the world, yet have a breadth of interest that transcends limitations of special study or social background, is one that must commend itself to anyone who cares about education.

These questions involve universities as well as schools. Although universities were outside our terms of reference they cast their shadow back over the schools, and sixth forms look forward to universities, as my noble friend so rightly said. I was delighted to hear him say that co-operation was developing, not only between schools and universities—because we have had a good deal of that—but between schools and universities and the Ministry; because the Ministry, with its power and authority and with the trust which the schools feel in it, can prove a very valuable third partner in this very necessary consultation. I believe, for example, that if the universities would only simplify their entrance procedure by setting up a clearing house, the pressure towards over-specialisation would be greatly diminished, for there would no longer be the single-minded concentration on obtaining five or ten more marks at advanced level.

I believe, on a much more fundamental matter, that the problems of general education are so pressing to-day that we can no longer leave it entirely to the schools, but that the universities themselves must accept some responsibility for it. The truth is, that we cannot separate sixth-form problems and university problems. When the Minister in another place somewhat lightheartedly expressed his opinion that not more than 50 per cent. of available time should be given to specialist studies, had he, I wonder, not only considered what was the meaning of "specialist" in that context, but also consulted the right honourable gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Because if only 50 per cent. of the time were given, that would mean inevitably a lowering of the standard of sixth-form work, which must, in turn, inevitably lengthen courses, which in fact means expansion of universities already pressed to expand for other and totally different reasons.

The last thing that I want to say about the Report is this: it is a plan of action. It is based on beliefs and calculations not only as to what is desirable but as to what is possible, given the will. The fact that it has been criticised both by those who regard it as not Utopian enough and by those whose timidity makes them feel it unpractical, is in itself a commendation. I would emphasise to your Lordships that the majority of the actual teachers, the people who will have to put it into practice, have endorsed the Committee's findings. It is now for Her Majesty's Government and the community to translate those recommendations into reality.

It would be impertinent for me to talk of the position of education in our national life. As I have said, debate after debate on the most diverse subjects has underlined that importance. I listened to the debate on defence and wondered whether the country realised how dependent it all was on an adequate education in our sixth forms. I read the debate on leisure and its references to what the schools should do, and I wondered whether we are going to get the means to do it. Whether we consider our national affairs from the standpoint of the hardest and most intractable economic facts or from that of the most lofty idealism, the educational system is fundamental. The real question is not what we are all going to say, but whether we are going to mean it when we say it, and this Report gives us an opportunity to show that we mean it. The Minister has accepted it in principle; but that noble word "principle" has sometimes a menacing aura of delay in this particular context. Even supposing the date that the Council have unanimously recommended, 1967 or 1968, is implemented, it will still be 23 or 24 years after the age of sixteen was put upon the Statute Book.

I have listened with great admiration this afternoon to the way in which the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, has analysed the alternatives which we have. He has shown us that we cannot expect the staffing ratio to go on improving and improving, if at the same time we raise the school-leaving age. Of course we cannot. The year 1967 was chosen because that was a year in which it would be possible to raise the school-leaving age and cause only a moderately small bump in the curve of staffing ratio. We do not expect to have both things going on at the same time, an improved staffing ratio and a higher leaving age. But where it comes to the choice, I would say that most educational opinion would prefer a raised school-leaving age to a continuing diminution of the staffing ratio. I say that for two reasons, and I say also that I should hope that the Minister could bring himself to fix that date for two reasons. One is psychological. I believe that if that date is not fixed, that if this phrase "in principle" is the settled policy, there will be disillusionment in the teaching profession. The other reason is that I believe the teaching profession and the training colleges should be given time to think and work out syllabuses, to approach this problem of a more coherent course in the secondary-modern school. I should hope, therefore, that this Report—not only this section but other sections—would be translated into action.

Of course, it requires money to do so. The noble Viscount was very honest about the fact that education had to compete with other comparable activities for money; of course it does. But on the whole, my Lords, the amount of money required to implement this Report is not great, considering the return in national security, in prosperity and in individual happiness that we shall get. Secondly, and more intractably, we require teachers; and there is the crux of the problem or, rather, the crux of two problems. A great many more primary and secondary-modern teachers can be produced by expanding our training facilities as a matter of urgency and with all our effort. The problem there is rather to induce the teachers to teach in the right place and to relieve a desperate plight at Birmingham and the West Riding.

But if the sixth-form chapters of this Report are to be anything but pious aspiration, we need something more: a ceaseless battle to attract more genuinely able people into teaching. We can do more than we are doing in a number of ways: by publicity comparable with that used by industrial firms to attract recruits, by giving teachers a greater control over their own profession and a greater self-respect comparable, shall we say, to that recently given to chiropodists; above all, by that nebulous but real factor, esteem in the community. And there, my Lords, the third factor comes in. Besides teachers, besides money, we must have real faith in the importance of education. We must believe in it not simply to produce the scientists and technologists we need, but to produce worthy citizens. We have here a Report that makes certain demands on us, which challenges us to improve our educational system in certain plain and definite and practical ways. I believe we have to take up that challenge without timidity and without delay, and take the practical steps required to translate it into action.

5.36 p.m.


My Lords, I too should like to begin my speech by paying my own personal tribute to Sir Geoffrey Crowther and the members of his team for the unusual excellence of their Report. Everything that has been said in its praise this afternoon is, I am sure, very true. It is remarkable not only for the width and depth of its investigation but also for what is, I think, in a sense, perhaps not quite so important but more pleasurable: it is remarkable for its excellence as a piece of reading. It is a real pleasure to read the Crowther Report. It is only here and there that one gets a Report which it is a pleasure to read. One associates it with those produced under Sir Ernest Gowers which provided this type of pleasurable activity, and this is a very outstanding feature, if I may say so, of the Crowther Report. It ought not to be regarded as a Blue Book. I am very glad that it has not been published in a blue cover. It is not quite pink either, but it is going on in that direction, and I think that that is something in its favour as well. I am sure, my Lords, that it will become—indeed one might say that it has already become—an educational classic.

There are two particular matters, out of the many so admirably raised and discussed in the Crowther Report, on which I should like to comment this evening. Much the most important of these, as a matter of practical politics as well as in regard to its far-reaching effects, is this question of the raising of the school-leaving age. I am very glad indeed to find that the arguments which the last speaker has advanced to your Lordships are so conclusive in regard to this matter that he, quite obviously reflecting the views of the other distinguished members of the Crowther Committee, regards this aspect of their recommendations as much the most important. It is quite obvious that in his view there is an urgency about this matter which, unfortunately, is altogether absent from the reception of the recommendations by the Minister of Education and by the Government as a whole. This, I personally feel, is a national disaster. I do not think that that is too strong an expression to use. One of the things that appals me at the present time is the lack of urgency, the lack of a feeling of urgency, about so many of the things we are doing in this country. I wish we could take the famous slogan of the American Army when they landed in this country with the object of defeating Hitler: The difficult we do at once; the impossible takes a little longer. The noble and learned Viscount has said that it will take us a generation to put our educational system on to a proper basis. I would agree with him that, even if the Government were tackling these matters with a greater sense of urgency, it would take as long as that. But in the rather lackadaisical way in which they seem to be tackling them, it is going to take a great deal longer than one generation. I felt that the leading article in the Observer last Sunday put the matter very well when the leader writer said: … no single reform could do so much for so many as raising the leaving age by one year, and no other reform is so immediately practical. I should think that, if we really insisted on doing it, we could do it by 1965; and certainly, I do not think there would be any great difficulty at all in doing it by 1967, as the Crowther Committee proposed. Again, the difficulty is this lack of a feeling of urgency. It is two or three years since the Bill was passed through Parliament in regard to the Hyde Park improvement, and yet it was only the other day that I read in the papers that the contract had been let. I find it quite impossible to believe that this could have happened in the United States or in the U.S.S.R., or in any of those countries where a really dynamic outlook on the requirements of the population of a modern State is felt.

It seemed to me that, although from many points of view the speech of the Minister of Education was informed, and showed a sincere belief in the value of education, there was in his approach to this particular matter of raising the school-leaving age almost a feeling of insolence: the cool way in which he announced that the Government accepted what is already on the Statute Book of this country. Even The Times newspaper, which does not usually approach these things in a perfervid way, took him to task, and as I think very properly, in its leading article this morning. Indeed, this attitude is going to lead to a postponement of this vitally important reform to the time of the Greek Kalends. It is obvious that the arguments which were deployed before your Lordships' House this afternoon by the noble and learned Viscount are the same sort of arguments as are always brought up on this sort of occasion—how much better it can be done if only it is not done until some time in the distant future! Again it is the case of the better being the enemy of the good. It is this sort of attitude which frequently prevents the good from ever coming into existence at all, or makes it come into existence only at a stage when it is so late that it has almost ceased to be the good at all.

Of course, we all agree that smaller classes are very important and that better school buildings are very desirable. These are the arguments which I well remember were deployed when Miss Ellen Wilkinson was implored from what were then the Opposition Benches, and from many of the more cold-footed educationists un and down the country, to bring in a Bill to postpone the operation of the Education Act, 1944, so that the school-leaving age of fifteen should not come into operation. Very courageously, that fine-spirited little woman dug her heels in and resisted all this pressure which was brought to bear—and in doing so, of course, she had the unstinted co-operation and backing of the Government of the time. If she had given way, I think it quite likely that even the school-leaving age of fifteen would not be in force at the present time.

The fact is, as I have indicated, that I find no real enthusiasm on the part of the Government for getting on with this job. They are much more concerned with the improvement of technical education. It is very right that they should have a concern for this, but it seems to me that they are devoting all their energies to it. The money is going in on that front; and the reason, obviously, is the fear of what is going on in the U.S.S.R., where such astonishing and such unexpected progress has been made. But, my Lords, I think it is a mistake to feel that in the U.S.S.R. progress is being made only on the scientific and technical front. I do not think there is any question but that in that country education is advancing on the wide front to which the noble and learned Viscount referred.

It is interesting to find that even in the far-away collective farm in Kazakhstan, in Asia, a correspondent who had an article in the Sunday Times only last Sunday found that all the children stay at school until they have graduated at eighteen, except for some of the more clever ones who manage to graduate at seventeen and apparently then go on to the university. There are three primary schools on this large collective farm and one large secondary school; and 46 students from the 1,000 families now attend university, medical courses, agricultural or teachers' training colleges. The article goes on: They were so proud of these students that they kept repeating, 'forty-six students, and all from this one farm'. That seems to me to be typical of the enthusiasm for education which has been sweeping over the U.S.S.R.; and although it is not sweeping over this country in the same way, I think that there is a notable growth of enthusiasm here, and it seems to me a great pity that the Government are not taking advantage of this flowing tide. When the noble and learned Viscount was speaking to us pointing out the difficulties, and how large sections of the community were not enthusiastic to have their children stay at school any longer, and that sort of thing, I felt that that part of the community is decreasing and that with a real lead from the Government—and, after all, it is the Government's duty and job to give that lead—the situation might be entirely different. Therefore, as I said at the beginning of this part of my remarks, it seems to me that the decision which has been taken on this particular matter is no less than a national disaster.

The other aspect of this matter which particularly interests me is the problem of university entrance, which was touched upon by my noble friend Lord Silkin. I should like to congratulate the Government on having come to the important decision to provide the finance for a substantial increase in the late 'sixties and 'seventies in the number of students attending the universities. It is a most important decision, to increase the university population by from 30,000 to 40,000. Again I am afraid that too much emphasis is being placed upon science and technology. One of our troubles is that we swing violently backwards and forwards from one extreme to the other. It was only about 20 or 25 years ago that there was almost a complete lack of interest in encouraging science and technology in the universities. Now we are in danger of pushing that too far at the expense of other, equally important, studies. Again I say that we ought not to allow ourselves to be too much influenced by fear of what is happening in the U.S.S.R., particularly, but ought to approach these matters on the basis of what is really required in the educational interests of our people.

I find that the Crowther Report makes an understanding and sympathetic approach to the problem of university entrance. The Council are somewhat critical—and I think they are entitled to be—of the universities in regard to this matter. I agree with them that the university authorities have not tackled it as effectively as they might have done. I do not think that it would have been possible for them to tackle it with full success, in any event, because I agree with the Crowther Report when it says at page 290 that there is no satisfactory solution of this problem possible while the situation remains so "fiercely competitive"—and that is a most interesting adverb. The Council rub in that particular point quite properly and effectively at page 295, where they say: The hard fact remains that the competition to get into the universities—which is what chiefly affects the schools—is going to get more severe, and perhaps much more severe, than it is to-day, when it is already having a serious effect. So, whilst the universities must accept some blame for the present situation, I do not think that the principal blame can be put upon them, because the "fiercely competitive" situation to which the Report refers is really the fault of the Government. It is only within the last few years that the Government have awakened to the importance of this problem. In the university world we were perfectly well aware of what was going to follow at the end of the war. As long ago as 1944, the University Teachers' Association published an important report in which they made it clear that the country needed a policy under which every boy and girl who was intellectually capable of university education ought to be put into the financial position to receive such education. That is not a Utopian objective but one which we are now beginning to see must be put into force, and that within the coming generation.

One of the difficulties, as the Crowther Report points out, is that so much of the financial responsibility for maintaining the students at the universities has to be shouldered by the local authorities, whose resources vary according to whether they are prosperous industrial cities or sparsely populated country areas. Undoubtedly it is our experience that in the past few years substantial numbers of boys and girls who were fitted to go to the universities have been prevented from getting there as a result of financial stringency among the local authorities. There is of course in being—it has been in being a long time—a Committee under Sir Colin Anderson, whose Report I hope may be received before long. That Committee will. I trust, make somewhat radical proposals for getting over this difficulty.

Certainly I think the Government must accept the blame in that in the past they have not made available the financial resources to enable a substantial number of boys and girls intellectually fitted for university education to receive it. In these circumstances the universities have had to make use of not very satisfactory methods for weeding out from among the large numbers of applicants those whom they were able to take. The G.C.E. examination was not invented as a university entrance examination; and, as the Crowther Report points out more than once, it is not at all a satisfactory way of choosing students for universities: it is a blunt weapon, and I do not think the universities can be blamed for having failed to use it effectively.

I feel that one of the most fertile suggestions in the Crowther Report for handling this problem is that the schools should be brought into the picture more effectively than they are at the present time; and I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, elaborating that point a little. I have always felt that a capable schoolmaster is much better able to judge whether a boy is fitted for university education than anybody else; much better than the examiners, who are usually schoolmasters already tired with the term's work and who during the first part of their vacations go through thousands of examination papers and attempt to pick out those who are intellectually capable. If one looks at it in cold blood, it is really an absurd method of doing it. A schoolmaster who can be relied upon, as I think everybody who has ever taken any part in admitting students to the universities will agree, is much better fitted to make recommendations than anybody else. The Crowther Report emphasises this point at pages 297 and 298, and I feel that this is a matter which deserves a great deal more consideration and discussion.

If we could evolve some method by which each of the universities was in reasonably close touch with the schools working in its region (and, as the Crowther Report points out, it has been one of the great defects over the last years that there has not been sufficiently close personal contact between the teachers in the universities and the teachers in the schools), so that familiarity and knowledge between the two parties could be established and relied upon, then I think we should be able to get a local flow into the universities which would, to a large extent, solve this problem. At the present time we have a situation in which boys and girls are going all over the British Isles trying to pick up places that are not wanted. This is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs. I should not for a moment suggest that a clever boy, wishing to study his own particular subject under a professor who is an expert in that subject in some distant university, should be debarred from going there; but I feel that for the average student it is much better that he should go to a local university. And if the schools in the area were in close touch with the teachers in that university, I do not think there would be any great difficulty in solving this problem of university entrance. It seems to me that at this point the Crowther Report has put a finger on a most important way of getting rid of this difficulty. I trust that it will be gone into in more detail, because here I think we have the possibility of finding a solution to what has undoubtedly been over the last years one of the most troublesome matters as between the schools and the universities.

6.0 p.m.


My Lords, I came here to-day meaning to listen to others and not to say a word myself, but I felt bound to change my mind after studying the excellent Crowther Report and the most interesting speech made by the Minister of Education in another place on Monday. I can only promise all those to speak after me that I shall be very brief indeed.

I must begin by giving my reasons for not being much convinced by the reasons given by the Crowther Committee for raising the compulsory school-leaving age of fifteen to sixteen. The Committee did not convince me because they seemed content in paragraph 157 to rely upon the unanimity of educational associations. I should be surprised if any educational association did not support more education and compulsory education. Naturally they would do so. I ask myself at once: what about the people interested in other things—housing, conurbation or peace? My noble friend Lord Esher gave me the answer to that question.

I think any reasonable person who heard the debate in this House should be prepared to argue that, having regard to the growing quantity of leisure, better education for all was an urgent social need. In any case, the principle of raising the school-leaving age to sixteen laid down sixteen years ago was accepted by the Minister of Education two days ago in another place. He went on, of course, to set out the many practical problems to be solved—the provision of buildings, the training of teachers, the curricula, oversized classes, the increase of university places and so on, but he definitely accepted the 1944 principle. To quote his actual words, he said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 620 (No. 81), col. 56]: In this Parliament we will try to take the longest possible step towards carrying out the 1944 Act. Unfortunately, we are left to-day without even guessing material as to the length of step of this Government on this very important matter.

The Minister refused, as the noble Viscount who has spoken in this House has refused, to give a date for turning the Government's words into deeds. They are always a little weak on that, as I have suggested in some other connections. The reasons put forward by the Minister in another place were purely practical, and nothing to do with money. The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, in the earlier part of his speech also emphasised that money had nothing to do with it. But I think he said a good deal to show that money did affect his mind as he came to the end of the speech. He may not accept that, but that was my impression.


My Lords, I hope to correct the impression, and to say again that money was not the limiting factor. I gave a considered and careful reason to show that it was not, and I said that, so far as I was aware, it had not entered into my mind in the argument which I presented. But I did tell the House quite frankly the monetary practice involved, and I think the House wanted to hear that.


My Lords, may I come back to the really important point which I wished to make? I differ from the Government when they decline to indicate a possible date for bringing this raising of the school-leaving age into force. I do not do so, of course, from any knowledge of school education myself, except that which I suffered or enjoyed to the age of eighteen and a half; I do so because of some of my experience in the arts of government in this country. The contention for raising the school-leaving age, which has been emphasised by the Crowther Committee, is a central point of a complex educational programme, bringing in all kinds of education—universities, training schools for teachers, technical institutions, and so on.

It so happens that in my time as a civil servant I had a good deal of experience in bringing wide-reaching schemes of government, with many different sides to them, into force. Whether they were concerned with Labour exchanges, unemployment insurance or food supplies and rationing in the war, they all called for fitting different sides of the scheme to one another. I can assure your Lordships that the essential basis of making such complex schemes is having a plan with dates for everybody to complete his task. Do you really think you will get buildings more quickly by fixing a day, or by saying, "We do not quite know when we shall want them"? Do you think you will get more people deciding to become teachers if, when they ask, "When will you be wanting us?", you answer, "Wait and see"?

I suggest that the success of a vital plan (such as the Government, I am glad to say, have accepted in principle) depends on working out a plan with dates and providing for co-operation between all the different organisations concerned—that is, if you want to get what has been accepted in principle, the raising of the school-leaving age. We all know that the Crowther Committee suggested dates running from 1966 to 1969, with some differences of opinion among them, for this central thesis. That was admirably supported by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme. For my part, I should be quite prepared to accept a later date, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, would. I would rather put it not later than 1970. If you want your educational scheme to work together it must be planned together, and you cannot do any planning in government without dates. And that is what the Government are refusing.

Further, if you cannot tell people when they have to play their part, you cannot get the co-operation you need. May I suggest one point of co-operation which has not been mentioned but which exists? You may find that the getting of teachers is somewhat influenced by the prospect of their getting houses to live in. For that purpose you have to bring in the housing people as well as everybody else, and you have to say, "This is when we shall want them if we fix the final date for 1968, 69 or 70", or whenever it is. May I also suggest, on the side of co-operation, that it seems to me worth inquiring whether the universities could not receive additional funds for taking in people on condition that they were preparing to be teachers As one deeply interested in universities, the last thing I want is for them to lose their freedom of self-government; but they can combine that with freedom of co-operation in a great educational scheme like this, and I am sure they would do so.

So, having said that I, like the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, would accept a date not after 1970 for doing what was decided on in 1944, I must add that I should be most unhappy, and I think all people interested in education would, too, if no planned date was announced reasonably soon by the Government for putting on the map education and more education while young, leading to better youth, and a more civilised people through life. I would join in the moving appeal made to the Government by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, and ask the Government whether they cannot reconsider the decision they have given us hitherto. If they did so, they would establish themselves in history as a Government with the courage and vision to decide soon, not sometime, to give better education to all our people.

6.12 p.m.


My Lords, by courtesy of my brother Bishop, I am speaking in his place and he is going to speak in mine on the Order Paper. I should like to begin by reinforcing the appeal by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, and also by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, to the Government to consider further the importance of finding a date to work to. Where there is so much agreement on principle this becomes the more important. The Hadow Report of 1926 will not be fully implemented, I am told, till 1966; that is, a period of 40 years. We move too slowly in matters of education. It is very easy to find good reasons to say that we cannot fix a date because we have no statistics about teachers or about births, but it is extraordinarily important to fix one from the point of view of local education authorities. No local education authority can make its plans decisively and accurately unless it is told in no uncertain terms by the Government both the date to which it has to work and, to some extent, the choice of priorities. I hope, in spite of all the wise things said by the noble and learned Viscount for the Government, that this matter may have further consideration.

It is quite true, of course, that a prerequisite of both implementing the Education Act of 1944, raising the age to sixteen and reducing the size of classes must depend on an increase in the number of teachers. It is good to know that the Government and the Ministry are fully aware of this and are pressing it hard forward. But there is, as has been said, severe competition. There are other Ministries wanting to fish in the same pool: there is the Ministry of Health, concerned with social work; and industry itself, with very appetising baits, is also fishing in the same pool. But, notwithstanding all that, I hope this scheme can go forward.

I would, however, say one thing about larger classes and the need for smaller ones. I do not think the really clever boy or girl suffers enormously by the large classes. It is the very average boy or girl, the slowly developing boy or girl or the rather dull boy or girl who is terribly handicapped at the present time by these excessively large classes, and in consequence there are boys and girls going through our schools now who pass through with very little education inside their heads. There is a serious wastage in our urban populations, I think, due to large classes. Obviously when we have limited resources we have to balance our priorities and, so far as possible, go forward on all fronts. But this wastage of the large class is very real, and I think that some of the rapid deterioration following school, when boys and girls go into industry, and possibly even a small amount of juvenile delinquency, is partly due to the large class which is undisciplined and so boring to many youngsters.

I should like to add one or two points on the subject of further education. Here, again, one does not want to set one priority against another. But here, too, we are wasting opportunity. The Crowther Report, which is full of wisdom from beginning to end, underlines the serious gap between leaving school and the beginning of further education, this lack of continuity between school and college, and I understand that the Ministry itself is aware of this and is circulating a memorandum upon it. But, clearly, further education, to be successful, to achieve its objective, must be given more time and more data than that. I am glad that the Minister is prepared to put a little compulsory pressure upon employers at this point, because it is obvious in a big industrial area that some firms are co-operating 100 per cent. in this direction and are supplementing anything which the local education authority can do by admirable training schemes of their own, but it is equally true that there are a good many firms which are not co-operating, not taking advantage of what is offered by local authorities and not doing very much themselves. Sometimes, too, they tend to recruit their youth from those who have benefited by the training schemes of the firms which are doing the job really well. I think that only by putting a measure of compulsion on industrial firms shall we ensure that there is fair play between those who are doing the job well as against those who are not.

Then the Report rightly calls attention to the fact that as far as further education of girls is concerned there is a most unsatisfactory position; far fewer girls are getting day-time release and are helped in further education as compared with boys. This is unfortunate. It is important that girls should have the same advantages as boys in this matter, not: in spite of the fact of early marriage but because of it, because I think it is very important that they should be on the same mental level as the young men they choose to marry. The Report says in many places, sometimes with poignant phrases and eloquence, that education is not only a national investment but also a human right; and that we cannot afford to waste our most valuable capital resource, which is our young people.

As I see it the purpose of further education is twofold: it is both to provide industry with good tools and the country with good citizens and to provide the teenager with a training to earn his or her livelihood and also a training for life. It may be that a technical training, as well as a humanist subject, will provide the necessary mental discipline. But, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, pointed out, we must not be misled by competitive pressures from the other side of the Iron Curtain. From what I have read about the educational system in Russia, I gather that while they lay great stress on technical training, they do not neglect to give the growing generation a good ideological education, as they conceive it. We in this country should be doing ourselves a great disservice if, in order to compete with Russia, we said that we must concentrate in further education wholly on vocational training and leave everything else out. In fact, that is not what Russia is doing; and if they can supplement according to their lights, then let us supplement according to ours.

I do not think that this is just a matter of a more balanced education, important though that is. I am delighted to see that the Minister himself emphasised this in another place, and put a 50–50 relationship between more humanistic studies and specialised ones. But, as the Report itself says, whatever mental discipline we give to the young people and to teenagers to-day, they need also to find a "faith to live by"—that is a quotation from the Report itself—and they are not getting it. One good analysis in the Report was that passage, I think at the end of the third chapter, which looked at the changing family pattern, and pointed out that to-day you do not get large families with ages which run right up to eighteen, but tend to get a lot of children born in close succession, and then a long gap between them and their parents. That is one of the many causes why the teenager to-day, more than in other days, is a rather isolated person, and his contacts are more with those of his own age than with his elders. It is this change in the family pattern which is one of the causes of our troubles in urban areas.

The Report points out, quite truly, that education can function only within the broad directives of right and wrong which society gives, and if society is not giving youngsters that guidance, so much the worse—especially when to-day there is more unsupervised association than there used to be of boys and girls. On tap of that, we have what we now call the mass-media communication. Therefore, how important it is that in this process of further education we should help the teenager to discriminate! That can be done only through good education. They are at the most suggestible, most uncertain period of their lives, and at present they are being exposed to the full force of these mass-media communications as well as the economic pressures of industrial life. For that reason, I believe it is important, when thinking of further education, not only to think in terms of what can be done by local authorities and by industry itself in its training schemes, but for there to be co-operation in this field between bodies like the Church and industry. I think that in various schemes with industry and with local authorities we can help youngsters to get a philosophy of life—as the Report says "a faith to live by".

May I mention one thing that came to my notice only last week? A group of boys came from one of the Borstal institutions to share a week-end with a group of teenagers and one or two older people drawn from Christian circles. They spent the whole week-end in the country together, climbing and so on, talking and discussing in a free and friendly manner. I was allowed to see the reports made by those boys when they got back to their Borstal. What was of extraordinary significance, after one has discounted a certain amount of stuff written for the eye of the governor, was that that kind of experience of free discussion in an entirely friendly atmosphere, led by senior people but with youths of their own age, had made a profound impression upon them of friendly and good human relationship. It is much more along lines of that sort than by handing out so many ounces of religious instruction in a course of a vocational kind that we, from our side, the Churches and similar institutions, can inject into further education and training schemes in industry that emphasis on trying to give youngsters a "faith to live by" which will see them through a very difficult passage in their lives and in this period of constant change.

6.29 p.m.


My Lords, it is no exaggeration to say that this is probably one of the most important debates this House has discussed for many years, because education is a subject which must be constantly reviewed. This vast and most interesting Report, which takes some considerable digestion, though it is well worth the meal, goes a long way towards providing some practical solutions to our educational problem. Once again I find that I am perhaps the youngest noble Lord to take part in this debate, but I think I need make no apology for that because the implications of this Report will surely be felt by my generation—perhaps almost more than by any other.

The main problems which face our education system at present seem to me to be twofold: teachers and buildings. To turn first to the problem of accommodation, which does not seem to have been dwelt on very largely in this debate, I think it can be said that, by and large, the school-building programme of Her Majesty's Government is satisfactory. But if the requirements of this Report are to be adopted, even in the next 20 years, it seems that considerably more progress on school building will have to be made; and it must not be thought that there is complete freedom from slums in existing buildings. Recent correspondence in The Times gave some graphic descriptions of some schools in Somerset. Some of your Lordships may have read that correspondence. I have not seen these particular schools, but I have seen a few schools where, though the classrooms have been of relatively good standard, other types of accommodation, particularly cloakroom accommodation, has left a great deal to be desired—so much so that one might well say that the health of the children may eventually be impaired.

The problem of the teaching profession is a very great one. I do not think it is fair to say that teachers, when they start on their profession, are underpaid; but they are certainly not overpaid; and by comparison with his counterpart in industry the graduate teacher might be considered underpaid. It is true to say (I heard the honourable gentleman, the Under-Secretary to the Minister of Education say this to-day) that they have such compensations as long holidays and relatively congenial surroundings, but they also have a great deal of responsibility. A teacher, particularly at a grammar school or secondary modern school, seldom has to be only a teacher. He or she often has to exert discipline where necessary. Every now and again we read in certain sections of the Press of a headmaster or headmistress who has sent a child home because she has been wearing stiletto-heel shoes, an unsuitable type of blouse or something like that. But supposing we assume that the teacher is wrong in doing that, the odds are that perhaps eventually the child will get into some kind of trouble. Who is to be blamed, parent or teacher? I believe that there should be more harmony and co-operation between parents and teachers. All too often they seem to be pulling at opposite ends of the rope, pulling away from each other. If this Report is going to be the success we all hope it will be, the relationship between parent and teacher must be rather more harmonious than it often is now. Teachers tend to be a maligned body. Teachers have only to have the slightest shortcoming in school to have a ton of bricks fall upon them; and quite frequently parents could put that right, perhaps even before the child goes to school.

One great problem is the sufficiency of teachers in industrial areas and I would ask the noble Viscount who is to wind up this debate: what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government for encouraging teachers to go into areas like Stoke-on-Trent and Dudley, heavily industrialised areas where the population density is high and where the children are intelligent and worthy of a good education? While it might well be quite easy to get teachers to go to Worcester, it might be far less easy to get them to go to Warwick. One of the points made by the Crowther Report (in paragraph 95) was: It is encouraging to find that the demand for a longer education is greater among the boys and girls than among their parents. Only the other day my wife and I toured a girls' grammar school in Epsom, and we were greatly struck both by the standard of the teachers whom we saw and the children, and especially by their bearing and their manners. A great deal is said in these days about schoolchildren having no manners, but I believe that that is largely an unfair slur. Certainly what we saw in this school, which has over 700 girls and, I believe I am right in saying, 30 full-time teachers, bears out my belief. Here again they have their problems. They have a very good gymnasium for physical training but its size is inadequate; and physical training and gymnastics are very necessary for schoolchildren.

On the language side, the school is fortunate enough to have teachers for Russian, French and Spanish. I believe that it would be a very good thing if more schools had the opportunity of getting specialised language teachers. People travel a great deal nowadays, even the relatively young; and it has been suggested—I believe by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin—that children should visit countries like Russia. I agree. I think it is a very good thing that children should travel even to countries with whom we do not always see eye to eye; because the children have their future before them, and we ourselves are constantly trying to end the cold war. Surely, that is one way of doing it.

The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, also made reference to the teaching of more music in schools. Here again I think he has an extremely good point. At the school I visited they have, among their classes, one for music appreciation; and the violin, piano and other instruments are taught. Not all schools have those facilities. Here I put another question to the noble and learned Viscount—and I apologise for not having given him prior notice. The Arts Council, which is a Government-subsidised body, have been given a further grant of £300,000. Could not some of this extra money be devoted solely to schools, particularly for further education, so that facilities for art, music, and even visits to public galleries and similar places, could be increased? By such means a greater appreciation of the arts could be effected.

My Lords, the time is getting late and there are still more speakers to come who are far more qualified than I am to speak, so I will end by saying this. I think the Government are right not to set an immediate target and time limit for implementing the recommendations of this Report, but I hope that the time when it is implemented will not be too long delayed. We are a constantly increasing population; the birth-rate is increasing, and that means that there will be more children to be educated. And I, for one, support the policy of compulsory education up to the age of sixteen, although I think that, where there are really recalcitrant children, exceptions might be made, so that children who desire further education, the extra year, can get the full benefit. Then, of course, classes should be made smaller, so that the teachers can devote more time to each child. However, I should like—and these are my final words—a message to go out from this House (it has been said before in an education debate) giving a real tribute to our teachers, who are a real credit to this country, which I think has one of the finest educational systems in the world. And bearing in mind the money which we rightly spend on our other social services, such as the Health Service, we must remember that, in making the further grants to education, the old saying that we must cut our coat according to our cloth should be borne in mind.

6.44 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first to say how keenly this Report has been awaited and received by the Church of England. I assure its authors that our own Board of Education has been widely studying it and would like to commend it to as large a public as it can command. For, after all, this is something that belongs not only to educationists or Governments but to the whole public. It has been made easier for us by the way the Report has been written and the way in which the technicalities have been woven into so much good writing. And I could not help feeling thankful that the authors of this Report, involving so much technical detail, were themselves "literates" as well as "numerates".

Of course, in dealing with a specific age group, fifteen to eighteen, we all recognise that there is some artificial limitation. This period dovetails into both what goes before and what comes after. It is bound to challenge us, as it has already done in our discussions, to thinking about some aspects of our existing education up to fifteen. This point raises certain questions also about the universities, but it is dealing with that troubled middle period of the teens which has become so prominent in the public mind to-day. "The teenager" has become a term so distinct that it almost seems to describe a particular species of the human animal. That is why we welcome first in this Report the very strong and clear human note which it strikes all the way through. In all the mass of its detail it is speaking about persons, about real boys and girls, with their own lives to lead; and it reminds us of the many whose own native capacities are not receiving at present a full chance of development. I doubt whether the "village Hampdens" or the "mute, inglorious Miltons" will not get their chance to-day, but there seem to be many boys and girls, of good average ability, who lack the chance of normal development that we should like them to have. The Report recognises that it is not primarily a matter of economics or citizenship, important though these are, but of young human beings; and we must be very grateful for the way in which it emphasises in its own words the right of every boy and girl to be educated, regardless of whether there will be any return. I noted gladly that the Minister in another place spoke also in acceptance of our ideals of the all-round education which a free and affluent society owes to every child, for its own sake and not just as an answer to the Communists or, one might have added, because of the need for technologists, scientists, industrialists or any other conception.

Secondly, the value of this Report seems to lie in the way in which it reminds us of the responsibilities of the whole community. It quotes some words which we should all endorse: What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child the community must want for all its children. It fixes upon the whole community not just the educational system but parental responsibility, and the question must be whether, in fact, the community is aware of that responsibility or ready to accept it. Here it paints this picture of the stresses to which the young adolescent is subjected to-day in our shifting scene, and it is a very disturbing picture. There are so many influences at work outside school to-day which are educating children in one direction or another, and while most of the Crowther Report will be for educationists, I should hope that the early chapters, in particular, which deal with this changing world outside the school, will be studied thoughtfully by people generally—by parents, employers and industrialists, and by all who cater for the working hours or the leisure hours of these young people. If the community is to prepare itself for a vastly increased expenditure—and we have spoken, and been spoken to, optimistically in this sphere—it must realise that its concern for the younger generation does not end with providing schools for them, but in a much more critical examination of the conditions of society outside the school and the social and personal values which it is passing on.

In this field I should hope that the churches themselves are more active. One aspect in the changing situation of to-day which the Report barely mentions, though it implies it, is the decline in religious faith and practice. I suppose that the bulk of young people in their teens are growing up in an environment without much, or any, religious direction or pattern. That may seem to some an advance, and to others a retardation; but it has done a great deal more, I suggest, than merely weaken the sense of right and wrong, to which the Report refers. It has gone deeper, by contributing to the sense of insecurity to which young people are always prone and which is manifesting itself in many different ways to-day. The responsibility for this decline must clearly, in part, be accepted by the Churches themselves—their own divisions, and their own pre-occupation with something less than the interest of the whole community—and I should like to assure your Lordships that the implications of these chapters will be carefully studied by us.

But the Report does refer in part to this intangible, spiritual side of education. If anything, it tends to suggest that the importance of religion in education is primarily its effect upon morals. I note that in one phrase it classes religious instruction, for instance, as part of the field … of everything that contributes to the formation of moral standards … That is a good Anglo-Saxon attitude, but it is hardly adequate, for the issue is not one of behaviour or of moral agents but of people and the meaning of life. We should not, for instance, justify art (which is in this section rather coupled with religion) by its social effects, but as a means by which the individual begins to grasp one particular aspect of reality. Therefore, it must not only be taught, but be experienced. I doubt whether the spiritual heritage, to use their own phrase, will mean much to a boy or girl unless they have a chance, not only of talking about it but of in some way entering into it and experiencing it by their own worship and by their membership of a community that worships. What is needed, as the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Sheffield has pointed out already, is a faith to live by.

The Report goes on to say that the adolescent needs help to see where he stands and to know about life as a whole and man's place in the universe. I wish it had developed that a little more and had suggested ways in which it could be implemented. Quite rightly, the Report queries the, phrase "religious instruction", for the adolescent wants more than information or knowledge: he wants encouragement to make up his own mind, and that can happen only in a setting where there is the right kind of give and take and frankness and conviction between teacher and pupil. No doubt this is implied, but I think it could have been more categorically stated as being an important part of education, in order partly that the teacher himself could be encouraged to see the importance of his own share in the approach of the boy or girl to maturity of life, and partly, perhaps one might say, to show the importance of deciding where he himself stands.

My Lords, in our debate we have clearly been divided on some of the main recommendations of the Report. I would plead, with many others of your Lordships, that the most important thing is to recognise the urgency of its main recommendation—to raise the school-leaving age. That is urgent—very urgent—not because it is a piece of social advance at which we are aiming, but because of those conditions outside the schools to which the Report gives such strong definition. In an age of rapid change, it may be true that you have to go on running if you are going to remain where you are. Young people to-day, maturing physically more quickly than in the past; with more money in their pockets; with more leisure to spend; and with less parental control, are in some ways much more exposed than they were before, and every year's delay in advancing this period of regular schooling, with its discipline and its opportunities for them, makes the situation for one year's generation that much worse.

Therefore I cannot but regret it if the Government's decision—if, indeed, it is a decision—is that they will not commit themselves in advance to some date-line such as the Report indicates. It is true that we cannot advance fully from our present front until we have at least largely dealt with the present handicaps of large classes, incompleted buildings, and so on; but the urgency with which we tackle these immediate problems will, I suggest, depend upon the date-line we have fixed in our own minds, if not on paper, for further extension. We all know what delays may happen in a kind of corporate action if we are not in some sense committed; and I should think that, psychologically and socially as well as personally, there is so much to gain by a more definite objective. It would at least tell the country that we did not intend to tolerate this situation any longer; and prepare it for the expenditure and the readjustments that may be necessary in the process.

Of course, we all recognise that, more than anything else, this hangs upon the supply of teachers. If pupils are persons, so are teachers, and you cannot conjure them out of space. If, however, we are waiting in any sense to eliminate the immediate problems of over-large classes before the further supply of teachers is sought, shall we not impose a quite unnecessary delay? It is not just the supply of teachers: it is the supply of the right kind of teachers, and it may be that the teachers for one category, the older age groups, will be quite different in their training and in their calling from those needed in, say, the primary schools. Can we not in some way prepare for that advance? In the very forceful and lucid way in which the noble and learned Viscount put the difficulty is the problem in buildings; and, if so, are there not emergency steps that could be taken in that respect? Is it in teachers; and, if so, is it because we are sure that the teachers are not there in the community, or that we cannot lay hold of them? And does that not mean, in the second place, that some far more radical steps in the way of recruitment than have ever before been taken are called for?


My Lords, if I may interrupt the right reverend Prelate, may I say that the limiting factor is neither in buildings nor in the availability of potential recruits, although I am not saying that the supply of either of them is unlimited. The limiting factor is the size of the plant for producing teachers, which can only produce so many teachers as there are places in the plant once in every three years. That is the limiting factor. It is not one of buildings or of availability of recruits.


I am grateful to the noble and learned Viscount. What I was referring to in regard to buildings was emergency colleges for teachers such as were introduced shortly after the war. I confess that the Crowther Report seems a little optimistic in its estimate of the teachers available; but, after all, this problem of recruitment is something widely felt and widely tackled in industry, in some of the professions and in the armed forces. I suspect that what we need from the community is a much deeper consciousness of the importance of this calling. Teachers on the whole get a bad Press. The results of their teaching are there, but appear later, and are seldom acknowledged. Teachers are the object of the rather genial scorn or warfare of their own pupils. The satisfactions to the teaching profession, which are great, will appear in their own experience, but are not often referred to by them; they cannot often speak for themselves. Unless we can give, here and now, a much more definite and wide-scale emphasis to this utterly essential need, then it may go by default when the moment comes later for a further expansion of it. I hope that others who, with much greater weight, have stressed the importance of this main recommendation will impress upon the Government haw strongly many of us feel that a courageous step must be taken within this day.

7.1 p.m.


My Lords, we owe a debt of gratitude to the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester for the speech he has just made, and I only hope that I shall be able to add a few things which will lend further force to what he has said. I wish to confine myself principally to Chapter 4 of the Report, which is headed, "Changing Social Needs", and to another point which I have laboured in the past, and for which, indeed, the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, already knows me well—namely, parental choice, as I call it, or as some have it, parental preference. At the base of my belief lies a consideration for the fundamental rights of the family and the dignity of man, which I am sure all your Lordships will agree is for us one of our closest wishes. Far be it from me to criticise a monumental and industrious tome packed with the great learning of men devoted in life to a vocation more than a profession. I make no pretence to learning, and with humility would seek only to add to the stature of Sir Geoffrey Crowther and his confederates. The name of Crowther was a household word among schoolchildren when I was a schoolboy and of our nation long before the Crowther Report saw the light of day. I am sure that we all remember a rather unpleasant physics book with his name written on it—at least, I presume that it was his name.

Chapter 4 of this very full and excellent Report leaves me with the impression that matters which concern moral welfare and a healthy training for life in the growing complexity of our society are only of academic interest. I could only wish that more strength could have been lent to the basic principles of our Christian heritage which we hold as a life interest in the moral capital of our ancestors. We pay too much lip service to change without connoting the values held therein. I submit to your Lordships that denominational education is more and more the principal preserver of these age-old rights which are to-day constantly subjected to the questioning of shallow materialistic and destructive principles cutting at the very roots of society in the name of a democracy which is being perverted by licence. Parliamentary guidance in the fundamentals governing the cohesion of the family is a State duty. It is imposed by Christian moral law and can be denied only by the adoption of atheistic principles. There may be some of your Lordships who disagree with that—I do not know.

I should like your Lordships to ask yourselves how our ancestors achieved personal discipline. I think that you will then see that to build up the State at the expense of the family is to reverse the principles of the British way of life. To achieve unity at the expense of individuality denies the grandeur of creation and condemns the soul of youth to a barren desert: the process is akin to gaining temporary profit at the expense of soil erosion. Can anyone wonder, having read paragraphs 56 and 57 of the Report, that denominations wish to retain the opportunities of giving their children the kind of education which conserves their considered essentials and, above all, avoids a split in their loyalties to their home?

As I have already said, I do not wish to elaborate this point over much. It interests me most profoundly, at county council level, because I receive vast numbers of letters from people who are extremely worried by this matter of parental choice, inasmuch as they are unable to send their children to the schools to which they wish them to go. I have not yet heard one single argument which in any way makes it difficult for this parental choice to be allowed to these parents. I know that there are many problems involved, but I am sure that the noble Viscount will be kind and give me some assurance that this matter can now be looked into, perhaps by statutory instrument or in some way like that. This will at least give some chance to these parents who are most worried, as, indeed, any of your Lordships would be In a sense it means that you have one law for the rich and one for the poor if you cannot allow this.

In paragraph 57 of the Report we read: Rightly or wrongly, divorce is not only legally recognised; in growing sectors of the community it is socially accepted. We all know, my Lords, that many wrongs do not make a right. What we find in the paragraph makes it clear to us that we are in a lift and we are going downwards. Children are rejecting traditional authority. The dwindling of the family is encouraged by the social teaching of family planning, in spite of the U.N.O. Report on over-population, which says that even with our present scientific knowledge the world could support 50,000 million people; and I believe I am right in saying that the population of the world now is a little over 2,500 million people. Divorce, as we all know, is a hazard of every marriage. Convention and tradition no longer capture the imagination. You have only to walk through the public parks to see the lack of responsibility in the public concerning morals. Public money is spent on floral arrangements and decorations to provide a setting—and very beautiful it is, I agree.

The Government have a responsibility to protect and foster morals whenever this is needed, and the public have a responsibility to protect morals in the home. Parents have a right to choose the sort of education which they believe will best conform to this responsibility, and the Government should give them every assistance, without let or hindrance.

Another matter which causes grave concern is the nation-wide campaign of advertising which lends glamour to promiscuity; sections of the Press, and much literature, prostitute love, ridicule purity and deny honour; licence and violence are hailed as achievements, and the sacrament of marriage is relegated to the dustbin of sex; filial obedience is laughed at, and there is, in my belief, a conspiracy of silence enveloping Christian principles. The universal search for knowledge is a pilgrimage of man, but let us, at least, keep it in proportion. Knowledge is not the be all and end all; it is only a beginning, and we must know where we are going. Unless we solve our human relationships we shall be worse than savages. New codes will be no better than old ones unless they are based on the same fundamental truths which built our Christian society. So why not let us return to the old codes?

This problem of knowledge brings out another facet of society. There can be few of us who have not seen the strained faces and anæmic bodies of French schoolchildren. One has only to go to Paris to see it. The children going to the Sorbonne, for instance, have been forced in the hothouse of excessive learning to pass the Bascho. That is the great idea in any French child. It is a "must" if they are to achieve any reasonable employment. There I rest my case. I think I have said quite enough, and I have shouted at your Lordships in a rather violent manner. I hope you will forgive me.

7.11 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to express my strong sympathy with the general sentiments of the noble Earl who has just spoken. It must have cost him an effort to speak in public in that way, but I can assure him that, in the opinion of one noble Lord at least, it was well worth while. I should like to return to some of the moral implications of the Report touched on by the noble Lord and dealt with so faithfully by the two right reverend Prelates. But before doing so may I indicate my strong support for the speeches that have come from this side of the House? The noble Viscount was good enough to congratulate my two noble colleagues on the Front Bench on their speeches, and I should like to join with him in that. We have had so many good speeches from the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that he will not want any more compliments. But if one is allowed to address a Chief Whip in this way, I would say that we do not hear enough from our Chief Whip.

Before coming to some of the moral and, indeed, in the wider sense, political issues raised by this debate, may I say one word about a subject where I differ from the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme? I do so with great diffidence, because he has proved himself not only a great authority but a masterly speaker. In my opinion the Report is somewhat woozy.




I was trying to attract the author's attention. I said that the Report, in my opinion, is somewhat woozy. But in one connection it is clear enough—a kind of Freudian process seems to be preventing the noble Lord from hearing that one. I am afraid that. I am going to criticise the Report in various ways, but I do not criticise it for wooziness in connection with specialisation, because there it is clear. The Report says: We endorse the Principle of specialisation or study in depth. Then the Council go on to indicate certain forms of relationship. It is said that this was a triumph of the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme—I must ask noble Lords to allow the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, to hear me, because he might want to intervene. It is generally said that this straight pronouncement in favour of specialisation was the personal triumph of the noble Lord. That may or may not be so, but he certainly defended this proposition with great ardour and eloquence this afternoon. I will not pursue the matter further this evening, because we shall no doubt he going into it all again when we have our debate on the universities.

But I found myself in sympathy with certain things which fell from the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, and also the Minister in another place, if I am allowed to quote him. The Minister put the most kindly gloss on this statement: "We endorse the principle of specialisation" by saying [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 620 (No. 81) col. 521: Moreover Crowther wisely calls for less specialisation. In a sense that is true, but it is putting the most favourable interpretation on it from the point of view of some of us. Then the Minister went on to say: We can certainly agree about this. But does the Report here go far enough?"— and he expresses his own disquiet about specialisation as indicated in the Crowther Report. We shall no doubt come back to all this when we have the full debate on the universities.

I feel that specialisation is the curse of the best schools of our country, including the school where I was educated and where my sons are being educated, and also the magnificent school over which the noble Lord himself presides. If you ask: "Is it their fault?", I would say, primarily not. It is the fault of the universities who set these particular standards with which these schools have to comply. I am not casting the main blame on the schools, but on the universities. All that we can go into later. To me, the most interesting statement in the debate so far has been the statement from the noble Viscount that there was going to be, or was already, concerted action by the Ministry, the universities and the schools to deal with these problems. I do not know whether the noble Viscount will be able to say one or two words when he winds up to make that more specific. I gather it is more than just the general good relations which we expect; it is something more than has hitherto prevailed. I do not know whether they have yet formed themselves into a Committee. If the noble Viscount can add anything, it will be welcome, but even that was heartening news.

May I turn to another aspect of the subject upon which the two right reverend Prelates and the noble Earl, Lord Craven, touched and more than touched? I thought, if I may say so, that both the right reverend Prelates made speeches which will need to be read by everybody. Here, I am afraid, I find the Crowther Report most unsatisfactory. It seems to me that on fundamental questions there is grave doubt as to where the Crowther Committee take their stand. I should be inclined to accuse them of a moral vacuum, and if your Lordships ask me why I think that has come about, my answer is that I would say there are too many of them. So far as I can add them up—and I have done so quickly—it seems that there are about 30 members of the Crowther Committee. I think that was about 20 too many. If you get about 30 people on a Committee, all trying to state their fundamental moral beliefs, the result will be a pretty good hotch-potch; alternatively, nothing very much will be said. In this case I think nothing much has been said on moral questions.

The right reverend Prelate was rather kinder about this aspect, but I think that his speech, when it is read, will be found to come to much the same as I am now saying. I think the same will be true of the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Sheffield. There was a good deal of talk about this faith to live by, but we were not given any indication of what this faith was to look like. It was not made particularly plain whether it was to be the Christian faith or what it was going to be. It was just the general desirability of the faith that was stressed, and I am afraid that any young people reading the Report will not acquire any moral inspiration whatever. I am bound to say that frankly. But I will argue with no personal discourtesy with what fell from the right reverend Prelate and one or two others. In the Report prepared and produced by such an eminent Committee, who have given such unstinted labour to their consideration of these problems, it is to be regretted that we could not have had some clearer moral guidance. There is no attempt to give the nation and the young people any sort of moral lead. That, I feel, is the most distressing fact about the Report.


May I intervene just to point out that it was not written for young people to read?


I am afraid it is difficult enough for old people to read. I find it very hard myself.


The members of the Committee will have assumed that the older people have already established their way of life. We must not say that, because the young cannot get any moral guidance from it, the people who wrote it had no moral inspiration.


I did not deny that every individual member of the Committee was full of moral inspiration. All I said was that they had kept it a secret from the public. I did not say they did not possess it themselves. I was wondering who was supposed to acquire moral inspiration from this. I gather that the young would not be able to understand it and the old have got their moral principles already, so they would not benefit either. But do not let, me seem to criticise the moral strength of any individual member, which I am sure is far greater than that possessed by my unworthy self.

We come now to the side of the subject which is faintly connected with politics, although I think the whole subject has been discussed this afternoon in what is normally called a non-political atmosphere. Noble Lords will not accuse me of going to left-wing sources if I quote from the Daily Telegraph and The Times. The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, after the debate in the House of Commons, informed us that the Government had rejected the principal recommendation of the Crowther Report, and they go on to say, referring to the raising of the school leaving age, Now, it seems, the careful blueprint is to be scrapped". To be entirely fair, in case the Editor puts me right to-morrow, they say towards the end that the Government have unreservedly accepted the spirit of the Report. What that means is far from clear. I think that what it does mean is that if it had not been for the Crowther Report we should have slipped backwards; we have not advanced but it has saved us from a retrogressive move. That appears to be the meaning. At any rate the article announces that the Government has rejected the principal recommendation. Since I have been perhaps a shade discourteous to the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, I hasten to say that I feel that on these topics the Report gives magnificent leadership, and I line up, if I may, behind the noble Lord in his efforts to secure the raising of the school-leaving age.

The Times, which I am surprised has not been quoted, has a leading article to-day headed "Missing the Boat". It says: The House of Lords have the opportunity to-day of approaching the Crowther Report with a keener sense of urgency than the House of Commons and the Minister of Education showed on Monday. They go on to point out that this great affirmation of the principle of raising the age is a remarkable affirmation of something which was said in 1944, and I think it is a pitiful fact if we in 1960 congratulate ourselves on affirming something said in 1944. If it had not been for the Crowther Report, according to the Daily Telegraph we might not have had that aspiration affirmed, so we must be deeply grateful for the Report.

I feel that this is a sad occasion, that in 1960 the best we can do is to say that we are going to affirm these principles, the raising of the school-leaving age to 16, and the provision of county colleges. We are told by the Government that these principles are affirmed but no date whatever can be fixed. I appreciate that the noble and learned Viscount would be the first among his colleagues, and perhaps among all those concerned on the Government side with education, to raise the school-leaving age if he could; I am not indulging any mere personal criticism of him. But we are not promised any date whatever. In so far as any date is held out, I suppose we are left to hope that perhaps the school-leaving age may be raised, but not before 1970. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, asked whether we could be told it would be 1970, but we were told "No, that would be too definite"; so we must assume it will be after 1970.

As for county colleges, one wonders whether we shall ever see these county colleges at all. By the time they come it will be about thirty years after the time when they were held out to us, in the Act of 1944, and there will be so many other developments that by that time to affirm something that was a good idea in 1944 might not make sense; some other plan might be more appropriate.

What is the explanation? The noble and learned Viscount has been, as always, remarkably candid and helpful. He says the bottleneck, the limiting factor, is not sheer money. We all know that money is not unlimited. But he is saying it would be wrong to accuse the Government of parsimony in this matter. The problem confronting the Government is shortage of teachers now and in any future we can foresee. He intervened a little later—and perhaps he might say a word about this when he replies; presumably his intervention was unpremeditated—and said that it was not that the crucial shortage was a shortage of recruits, actual or potential, but a shortage of capacity for training them. I do not want to take him up on an intervention, but I gathered that was the most crucial shortage—the shortage of accommodation in training colleges, and, presumably, the shortage of people to train the teachers.

If that is the main shortage, I should have thought that very few of us would feel that that was insuperable. It is hard to believe that in the course of ten years we could not make sure of getting rid of that particular shortage. The building of colleges could be quickly disposed of, and if it is simply a question of having people to teach in training colleges I do not think that anybody would say that the whole nation was to be held up in its education because of that one shortage. But let us bear in mind also what he mentioned earlier: the shortage of teachers. We could talk about this for ever. We could say that you are far more likely to get the teachers if you fix the date of the plan. That is the conviction of many of us. It is open to argument, but I agree very much with what fell from noble Lords on this side and the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester when he said that a far more logical approach was needed. It was at that point that the noble and learned Viscount intervened and said that it was not just a question of recruits but also a question of colleges.

May I end by putting it in this way? I cannot believe that if this country were really conscious that it faced economic ruin if we could not get these few thousand teachers we should not make it a national priority to encourage the necessary number of young people to come forward. Still more, I cannot believe that if this country's existence were threatened in war, or by the threat of war, we would not, without any compulsion, exert ourselves from the highest levels to persuade these people to come forward as a patriotic duty. I do not believe, and I think those criticising the Government do not believe, that as yet this matter has been tackled with anything like the urgency required. It has been treated as one of those little technical problems in the Crowther Report. The Crowther Report is a long document and the matter is statistically complicated, and most people scratch their heads and say, "I cannot make head or tail of it". If it is really a matter of moral and intellectual life or death to our country, I believe the Government must show themselves far more energetic and far more imaginative, far more determined, in seeking these teachers. If they really do that—and they will have the whole country behind them—I believe that this splendid recommendation, this main recommendation of this memorable Report, will be put into operation far sooner than the noble Viscount and his colleagues suggest.

7.29 p.m.


My Lords, the hour is late and the House has already heard from me. I speak again only by its leave so I must not trespass too far on its patience. We have had a very interesting debate and we are now becoming quite a small company. I think I had better address myself primarily to two or three major topics. There were, of course, two specific matters about which I was asked by individual noble friends of my own. I deal first with the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Auckland. He will forgive me if I do not do more than compliment him on his speech, because a great deal did not require answer at this hour.

He asked especially about the difficulty of getting teachers in particular areas. That is a matter which has worried successive Ministers of Education quite a lot. Sir David Eccles, in his first term of office, bequeathed to me a plan for a more or less voluntary quota scheme which is imposed upon local education authorities in the more favoured areas. That scheme is still working. I cannot pretend that it is popular, but up to a point it is effective, and I think that it is the best we can do at this present time. From time to time, of course, various other more radical suggestions are put forward. If the present scheme is unpopular, they would be much more unpopular. I need not specify them, although they are probably well known to my noble friend. We might be driven to them in the end, but I hope we shall not. It is a matter of great importance, and the voluntary rationing scheme, the quota scheme, is the best that we can do at the present time.

My noble friend Lord Craven asked me a specific question about denominational education. I do not think that he realises quite what a difficult matter he has raised at this hour. The general situation as regards maintained voluntary aided schools was discussed quite fully when we legislated in the last Parliament, and, of course, under Section 76 of the Education Act, 1944, the parents' wishes have in general to be respected. The two conditions which are attached to Section 76 are efficient instruction and practicability. I do not think that the noble Earl made quite clear to the House what he was talking about, but it was clear to me and I think it was clear to him. What he was talking about was not the right of a parent to send a child to an aided denominational school; what he was really claiming was an unrestricted right for the parent, if he could not find a voluntary aided school of his own denomination, to have his fees paid out of the local authority rates at a private or independent school of that denomination.


I think the noble Viscount has not got it quite right, if he does not mind my saying so, because I really believe that already, in many cases, payments are made through the local authority to a private school. It is recognised by the Government and is pro tempore until there is a school built.


That shows that I was quite right in thinking that that is what the noble Earl is talking about. I was about to say that there is power in a local authority to give that assistance in suitable cases. Equally, there is power for a local authority to withhold it in suitable cases. There is power for the Minister to direct a local education authority to use that power where the authority is not playing fair with the rules. There is also power for the Minister to refuse to direct a local authority to use that power—indeed, the Minister must always remember that the local authority, and not he, is the education authority for a particular area. But if the noble Earl has a particular case in mind I can assure him that, if such cases are sent to the Minister, they are always most sympathetically considered. This is one of the most difficult classes of case which a Minister of Education has to deal with. I suppose he gets one or two such cases in the course of a week's post. But if the noble Earl is asking for an alteration of the rules which the Minister is administering, he is asking for something which I certainly cannot give him tonight, and I cannot offer him very much chance of his getting it.

When the noble Earl says that he has never heard a convincing answer about it, I must tell the House, quite frankly, that he is greatly over-simplifying this problem. The educational system of this country is based upon the provision of schools, free. Of course, any parent who cares to pay can contract out of the educational system of this country altogether, but the basic provision is for schools, free. The noble Earl and I, both partly for religious reasons—he probably more so than I, but nevertheless both partly for religious reasons—choose to send our children to denominational schools; and probably he, and certainly I, choose to send them to fee-paying schools for which we pay. Probably neither of us would ask the local education authority to pay those fees.

If one established a general proposition that local education authorities had to pay the fees of somebody who wanted to send his child outside the provided system altogether, one would very soon get a situation where the system would collapse. Indeed, inevitably one would find that if a relatively poor parent is going to have his fees to an independent convent school paid, there really is no logical reason why a relatively rich person who sends his child to Eton should not get the fees paid out of the rates. Really, the noble Earl must not assume that, because successive Ministers of Education have resisted this claim because schools of a particular denomination are not so readily available as some parents would like, they are necessarily going against Section 76 of the Act, because it simply is not so.


May I ask the noble Viscount if it would be possible for him to give me some assurance that he will lock into this matter at a later date, with a view to having something which is pro tempore while a school is being constructed, as has already been agreed to? Thus, the children can be sent to a school of parental choice just pro tempore and nothing more.


I am not sure what the noble Earl is asking for, but I do not think he is entitled to ask for more than I have already told him is the existing practice—namely, that all these cases when they come to the Minister are most sympathetically considered in the light of Section 76 of the Act. But what the Minister cannot be asked to do is to substitute his own discretion for that of the local education authority, remembering that the Act tells him that the local authority, and not he, is the education authority for the area. His function is to see that the local authority plays fair with the parent and with the educational system. If he thinks that a local authority is not playing fair, then it is his duty to direct the local authority. I am happy to say that it does not often happen that he does that, or that the local authority is not playing fair.

But what he has not to do, and what I cannot offer the smallest hope that he will do, is to make himself the local education authority for the area for this particular problem. This would be to transgress the Act, and would in fact be a major revolution in our educational practice. Having said that, I do not wish to qualify in the least what I told my noble friend: that in fact these cases are sympathetically considered. I know that I took a great deal of trouble with them, and I know that my right honourable friend will be taking a great deal of trouble with them at the present time. I am sure that if my noble friend has any particular case of hardship in mind my right honourable friend would be most glad to examine that case or series of cases.

I do not think that I can give much comfort to my noble friend Lord Auckland in regard to his suggestion that the Arts Council should provide money for schools. Music, art and such subjects are part of the integral curriculum of schools, and it is money for education. That money is provided by the Education Estimates, and if more is needed it must come through the Education Estimates. I myself cannot see any merit in the noble Lord's suggestion that the Arts Council should be the vehicle for providing money for schools, even for specific purposes.

I now return to the main subject of this debate, the Crowther Report. I must, with other noble Lords, say what a treat it was to hear from the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, who was partly responsible for the Report. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, referred to the Report in one of its aspects as "woozy". I was not previously familiar with the word, but my industrious noble friend who sits beside me brought me the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, which tells me that it is United States slang, 1879, and is therefore more familiar to the noble Lord than to me, and means "fuddled with drink, hence muzzy." I must say that I had never thought of being so harsh as that about a public document, and it ill becomes the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, to do so when his leader in this debate, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, had referred to it as one of the greatest State documents which had ever been produced.

But I felt that the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, if not actually woozy was a little unclear in some of his moral assumptions, because I thought he made a very unjust attack on the Report in saying that it did not prescribe a moral code. If it had, unless it had happened to coincide with his own, he would have been much more angry, and with much more reason. He, above all others, should recognise that in matters of faith and morals the Crowther Council are not the divinely instituted teaching authority. And I am more than surprised to hear a noble Lord whom I had previously thought to be a theologian of the utmost orthodoxy, of the strictest sect of the Pharisees, demanding that faith and morals should be promulgated by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, and a Council of headmasters and distinguished persons who do not in any way coincide with an infallible teaching authority.

On the contrary—and I would say this to my noble friend Lord Craven—I cannot share this implied condemnation of the general educational system of this country. There are people who speak as if the county schools were hotbeds of immorality and atheism. In fact, there has never been a time when so much Christianity, and such positive Christianity, has been taught in our schools as compared with the position before the Act of 1944. Anyone who is at all familiar with the content of what goes on in the county schools can only say that, whether it be right or wrong, children are given a positive Christian education.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble and learned Viscount, who is perfectly entitled to that view and to criticise me for something that I said, may I reply that I never said what he has just referred to. I made no criticism at all of schools in this country. I believe that the compulsory act of worship was a wonderful advance in the Act of 1944, and whatever else I said, I did not criticise the schools of this country.


My Lords, I may have been misled, for the noble Lord was a little woozy in that part of his speech—or, at least, he seemed to me a little unclear.

The only controversial subject which has been discussed in the course of this debate is the date of raising the school-leaving age and although it is late perhaps the House will forgive me if I say what I feel about the arguments which have been advanced.

First of all, I want it to be perfectly clear that Her Majesty's Government and everybody else believe that the age of fifteen is too soon at which to leave school. We are encouraging pupils to stay on voluntarily, and that is because we think they ought to stay on—and not merely some of them. We feel that they all ought to stay a little longer and some ought to stay not till sixteen, but till eighteen. There is therefore absolutely no difference of opinion there at all. It would be a tragic thing if there emerged from this debate the impression that some thought sixteen was the age at which a child should leave school while others thought fifteen was the age. That does not at all present the difference between speakers in this debate.

Secondly, the only point on which I venture to differ from the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, was when I thought he had been a little misled by a false point or analogy made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. Which of us, asked the noble Lord, would allow his child to go from school at the age of fifteen? The answer, I hope, is that nobody would. Let me say—and I have said it before in this House—that I have never accepted as a Minister, either of Education or in any other capacity, the theory that other people's children should have a standard of education lower than my own. If we were talking of the availability of education to the children of this country after the age of fifteen, that would be a perfectly valid point. But that is not what we are talking of—or anything like it.

Everybody is agreed that if a child, or a child's parents, can be induced to agree, by one means or another, that the child stays on, then the education should be there, it will be there and it is there now; and the child will receive an education—in some localities better than in others, but still an education. Therefore, that is not at all the point. The point which the House and the public have to face is that we are speaking not about parents who take our view on how long a child ought to stay, but about the child who does not take our view and whose parents agree with him. The question is: at what stage and in what circumstances and with what measure of public opinion behind us are we going to compel the laggards to catch up by the use of compulsory powers? And for that purpose the question whether we would allow our children to stay on becomes irrelevant except for the purpose of admitting, as we do, that children should stay voluntarily if not compulsorily, and that education should be available if they do.

Having defined this point there are one or two things I should like to say. It is not altogether irrelevant to point out that, so far as I know, we are the only country that even contemplates a universal, compulsory whole-time education of eleven years. It is true that in the United States of America a number of States have a school-leaving age of sixteen—


And seventeen.


Yes, and seventeen; but with so many exemptions and exceptions that the comparison is quite irrelevant, at any rate for the majority of this Report. It is also true that there children start school at the age of six, not five. It is equally true that the French are now embarking, rather tentatively, on a ten-year course, beginning at the age of six—which is still not up to ours. The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, said that the Russians all stay at school until eighteen, but, of course, they do absolutely nothing of the kind. Everything is compulsory in Russia, whatever you do; but it is not true that they all stay at school compulsorily until the age of eighteen. Some—the great majority—leave school long before eighteen. We are the only country in the world who are attempting a compulsory whole-time educational course of eleven years—or virtually the only country, for I cannot pretend to have studied them all in such degree of detail that I cannot be condemned in some particular.

Secondly, I do sincerely believe that those who have criticised the attitude of Her Majesty's Government on this have not done sufficient justice to the very careful statement about the teaching provision with which I prefaced my remarks earlier in the afternoon. I believed that Her Majesty's Government and the public are entitled to know exactly how many additional teacher training places they say ought to be provided, and how many they say can be provided, over and above what are being provided now. Let me remind the House of the figures. There were 23,000 places before the 16,000 addition made by Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd raised the number to 39,000. How quickly can we expand a human institution like that? We have not had a word of suggestion that that is not an extremely important and radical change.

My right honourable friend the Minister of Education, when he received the Crowther Report, handed it over to the National Advisory Council on the Training and Supply of Teachers—the authorised body to advise us. The advice we were given is for 8,000 places, beginning building in 1962—because it cannot be accelerated any more. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, now says that this is all nonsense: he cannot believe that it is true. The noble Lord says that our authorised constitutional advisers are talking nonsense; that of course we can go faster, and that the nation will be behind us if we do. It is up to the noble Lord to prove them wrong.


My Lords, may I ask the noble and learned Viscount one thing? He has still not explained why there is this difference between the conclusion which he and his colleagues reached and the conclusion reached in the Crowther Report. My noble friend Lord Citrine raised that point several times earlier. Are the calculations different now?—for estimates do change. Have the estimates changed since the Crowther Committee made their calculations?


My Lords, the estimates we have used have been based on the findings of the Crowther Report and other sources and, therefore, are likely to be better. But my impression was—it is always difficult to be cross-examined about the contents of a document of 500 pages—that the Crowther Report had not made this particular calculation in any detail. I think that, before criticising the Government, or giving the impression that they are holding back or showing lack of enthusiasm in any way, it is up to the noble Lord to show why the National Advisory Council is wrong, and why my right honourable friend was wrong to take their advice. Because I think that until he can do that he will not cut any ice on this subject at all.

It amounts, then, to this simple situation. The teacher numbers are known; the size of the existing teacher supply is known. We are told that 8,000 places will produce the result which I have stated. I cannot myself believe it is at all prudent or wise to suggest this is wrong unless there is some detailed basis upon which it can be put. Of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, put to me in the course of the debate, it is possible that the number of pupils at school has been over-estimated. I do not think that is likely, but it is possible. But the answer to that, as I told him, is that if that turns out to be true, the whole programme can be accelerated. The Liberals are always conspicuous for their criticisms, but when one comes to answer them they are always conspicuous by their absence; they never stay—perhaps that is why they do not last. But at any rate, it really is nonsense to talk, as the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, did, about its being necessary, in order to implement this programme, to have a definite programme of dates as to when, as between 1967, 1970 or 1972, we are going to implement this programme. The limit is not affected by the building programme. The buildings will be provided as and when they are required.

It is impossible, to my mind, to bind our successors to a particular order of priorities except in the light of circumstances which are not yet known. What we are doing is to agree in principle to provide the maximum number of teachers of adequate quality that seems possible at the moment. Of course it is true in a sense, though in a very ridiculous sense, that if we were faced with disaster in war, for which purpose we should stop our entire economy, we should conscript into the teaching profession, or bullyrag, into the teaching profession, for patriotic reasons, a lot of people who would not otherwise join it. But we are not in that situation and I hope we never shall be. As I tried to indicate before, we are advancing in a country in which our economy must wall: in step with our educational profession. It is no good providing graduates and pupils from the schools of a certain quality if we have so deformed our economy that the life they have to live is less worth living than the life they have come to expect. That will only bring education into contempt. Therefore I say that the Government have been right; they have justified the attitude they have taken on the Report, and I myself share to the full the gratitude of those people who have expressed gratitude to the authors of the Report. I should think it a wholly superficial and wrong view to say that, because we do not accept the timetable laid down in the Report, we had in any sense rejected it. The document, of this length and importance, has done nothing but inspire and help those who have the interests of education at heart.

7.54 p.m.


My Lords, I feel that we have had, on the whole, a good debate. I tried to introduce the subject in a non-controversial way, or rather a non-political way, for I recognise that it is bound to be controversial. I must say, first, that I am a little disappointed that I have had no response to the many suggestions that I made on the question of the contents of education. I thought that perhaps they were worthy of some consideration, if only to be rejected.


My Lords, I apologise if the noble Lord feels that I have been guilty of any discourtesy in that respect. I think it is difficult for a Minister to deal with questions of curriculum. I have been very much under the knowledge that I have been speaking a great deal to-day, but I agree with a very great deal of what the noble Lord said. I think it would be helpful. The only criticism I should have been inclined to make was that he should have made it clear that everything he said is current educational practice in the best schools at the moment.


My Lords, I would respectfully doubt that. I was not criticising the noble Viscount, however, because I realise he is not the Minister responsible, and in this House so many noble Lords have to answer for other Ministers that, unless they have notice of what one is going to say, they are in a difficulty: I was commenting on the debate as a whole. Nevertheless, I felt that somebody might have picked up this; point, possibly the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, who is particularly competent to deal with these matters. However, the debate has centred itself on the question of whether or not the Government should lay down a more or less specific date for implementing the particular recommendations on the school-leaving age. I think perhaps one can exaggerate the differences of outlook. If one accepts that the Government are sincere and really desirous of implementing this at the earliest possible moment, on that assumption I would say that it would be wrong to suggest that this is a major matter of difference of opinion.

My noble friend, Lord Pakenham, is perfectly entitled to argue, as I did, and as I think other noble Lords, except one, did, that the Government ought to fix a target date; and I think the noble Viscount is wrong in saying that those who say this are talking nonsense.


I did not.


Oh, yes.


My Lords, I did not say at all that it was nonsense to say that; it would have been very wrong if I had. What I described as nonsense—perhaps I should not have done so, as he is not here to object—was the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, that in order to implement the Report at all it was necessary now to have a dated programme. His suggestion seemed to me, quite frankly, to deserve that description, although of course I may be wrong in having said so.


That is what I am saying; that is just my point. Surely, it seems to me to make good sense to say that if we want to do a thing over a period of ten years we should have a programme. The noble Viscount has given his reasons why such a programme would not be appropriate. All right; we can disagree about that. But I do not think that those who take the view which the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, did, or those who take that of my noble friend Lord Pakenham or myself, are talking nonsense; nor do we deserve to be characterised in that way.

If I may try to put my finger on what is the real difference, it amounts to this—and I think I can reconcile the Crowther Report with the views of the Government. I think that in this particular respect—assuming they are perfectly sincere in their desire to bring about this improvement at the earliest possible date—the Government are being rather perfectionist. I think they take the view that until they have completely reduced the size of every class to the maximum of 40 in primary and 30 in secondary schools they cannot carry out the raising of the school-leaving age. I think I am right in saying that the Crowther Report expressly recognises that, even if this were implemented in 1966, 1967 or 1968, there might still be a number of schools where the classes were larger than that, but the position would be very much alleviated owing to the fact that in those particular years the school population would be lower than it will be later. Therefore, the problem is to that extent alleviated.

I believe that if the Government are prepared to give this matter further consideration they will probably come to the conclusion that the best is the enemy of the good, and that they might very well accept the advantages of fixing a target date, of working to it, and of letting the public know—and there is a great deal to be said for that—rather than leave the thing in the air, giving the impression that we have made no further progress than we made in 1944, when we had reached exactly the same position—namely, that "we will carry this out as soon as practicable." That is exactly what the 1944 Act says. My Lords, I have said this, and I hope that this debate may have had some advantage in clarifying the issues. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

8.2 p.m.


My Lords, I do not intend to move my Motion or make a long speech. I should like merely to say two things. The noble Viscount has not, to my mind, disposed of the argument that the Government, and therefore the country, are getting their priorities wrong in jibbing at a small increase in the proportion of the national income spent on education. Secondly, he raised a new point, it seemed to me: a doctrine that you can never embark on any plans that require more than five years to carry out because you cannot commit a future Parliament or Government. It seems to me that with long-term planning there is bound to be some element involving a future Parliament.

House adjourned at three minutes past eight o'clock.