HL Deb 08 March 1962 vol 237 cc1201-42

3.30 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Hailsham, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The Bill does two things. First, it provides statutory authority for the better arrangements for grants to students which were embodied in the Government's decisions on the Anderson Report; and secondly, it reduces the number of school-leaving dates in the year, as recommended by the Central Advisory Committee in the Crowther Report. The Bill extends to Scotland as well as to England and Wales. The detailed provisions are slightly different for the two Kingdoms, and reflect the differences in their educational systems.

The Committee which sat under the chairmanship of Sir Colin Anderson made a comprehensive survey of the system of awards to university students and students attending courses of a comparable level at other institutions. Their task was made more difficult by the strongly held differences of opinion among the witnesses. This occurred not only where these might have been anticipated—for example, between local education authorities and the National Union of Students—but also within bodies which might have been expected to present a common point of view. The members of the Committee could not themselves reach agreement on all questions, notably the difficult one of the means test. A similar division of opinion persisted throughout the subsequent consultations and negotiations which my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Education undertook after the Report had been published. It was therefore impossible to produce a Bill which would please everybody.

There were, however, two fundamental issues on which there was no dispute. The first was that, provided a student had acquired the appropriate educational qualifications and was also offered a university place, he ought to be assured of an award. The second was that students everywhere should be treated alike when being assessed for the amount of their grants. I will refer to these two principles as "automatic awards" and "uniformity of treatment." It is the main purpose of the first part of this Bill to give statutory sanction to them.

The full significance of the principle of automatic awards becomes apparent only if it is compared with the system which it replaces. As things are now local education authorities have discretionary powers to make awards, but they have, quite naturally, taken the view that in exercising their powers they ought to satisfy themselves of a student's suitability. This has meant that a student has had to achieve two things: first he has had to win the offer of a place at a university and he has had also to satisfy his own education authority as to his suitability. It is true that nowadays nearly all local education authorities accept standard arrangements, so that, in practice, nearly all students obtain awards on the strength of their acceptance by a university. But it is still possible, and it happens from time to time, for there to be difficult cases in which a student is refused an award even though he has been offered a place by a university. The Government have accepted the view of the Anderson Committee that this process of double selection is wrong.

Accordingly, in Clause 1 the Bill imposes a duty upon local education authorities to make awards to students who have been accepted by universities for first degree courses, provided that they possess certain minimum academic qualifications. These qualifications are to be prescribed by my right honourable friend, and it is his intention to take two "A" level passes in the G.C.E. as the standard. This duty will extend to certain courses at technical colleges which are equivalent in standard to degree courses. Again, the qualifications for entitlement to an automatic award will be prescribed by my right honourable friend.

The scope of this duty to make automatic awards will have to be defined with some precision. For instance, it would not be right to compel local educational authorities to give grants to the same student for successive first degree courses, or to give grants to students from overseas who come to this country solely for the purpose of obtaining higher education. Clause 1 therefore empowers my right honourable friend to specify conditions and exceptions. This does not mean that students who fail to qualify automatically will be deprived of any chance of an award: in such cases authorities will still have powers to make awards at their discretion. These powers will, for example, enable an authority to help a student wishing to enter a university outside the United Kingdom.

In recent years a considerable advance has been made towards uniformity in the main elements, other than tuition fees, of a student's grant—by which I mean such things as board and lodging, cost of clothes, books, travelling and other day-to-day expenses. But there are other items, such as grants to attend courses during vacations, and grants for the dependants of married students, where the practice of authorities has varied widely. Consequently students in similar financial circumstances and attending the same course have found that their grants differ in ways which they cannot explain and which cannot be defended, even though the extent of the variation may be quite small. In the view of the Government, the time has come to lay down comprehensive standard rules for the assessment of grants in all their aspects, and Clause 1 enables my right honourable friend to do so by regulation. Some of these payments will still call for the exercise of an authority's judgment in an individual case, but a very close approach to uniformity can be achieved.

Arrangements giving effect to these two principles have been in force since last September. At the moment they rest on the co-operation of the local education authorities. This has been most willingly given, and very few individual cases of difficulty have been brought to the notice of my right honourable friends. Nevertheless, if these arrangements are to continue, as it is desired that they should, they must have the legislative backing which the Bill is designed to afford.

The question which naturally arouses the greatest interest and controversy is whether the means test should be retained or abolished. Indeed, I suppose it is true to say that most people associate the Anderson Report with this issue and nothing else, and they ignore the other important matters of principle about which I have just been speaking to your Lordships. This question can be argued from many points of view. Those in favour of retaining the means test say that to make university education completely free would be to cheapen its value and undermine the sense of parental responsibility. Those who argue for its abolition point to the burden which the present test imposes upon some parents. They also emphasise that our expanding universities are more and more recruiting the children of parents who have no previous experience of advanced education, or no appreciation of its value, and who may therefore be reluctant to contribute towards their children's maintenance.

Students themselves, we are told, are increasingly averse to remaining dependent upon their parents. Frequently that used to be said to me by student constituents of mine when I was in another place, and I always used to say to them, "But you do not mind being dependent upon other people's parents". I got no satisfactory answer to that. I mention that point only because it seems to me that this particular argument in favour of abolition is one of the weaker ones, and that there are so many which are much stronger. However that may be, there are many arguments on both sides, and they are clearly set out in the Anderson Report. In the end the Committee came down in favour of abolishing the means test by a majority of about 3 to 1, and the balance of opinion generally has followed much the same ratio.

In considering how far they could go at present in that direction the Government had to weigh the cost of complete abolition against the many other educational improvements which were competing for the money available. They decided that the time had not come for abolition, but that legitimate complaints about the effects of the present means test ought to be, and could be, met by a radical revision of the income scale used to determine how much parents are expected to contribute. Accordingly, a much more generous scale was worked out and introduced last September, at the same time as the other improvements I have mentioned to your Lordships.

This scale raises the starting point for contributions, with the result that the parents of 40 per cent. of students, instead of 25 per cent., as formerly, will now be entirely exempt from contributions and the grants will cover all expenses. Contributions from other parents will be substantially reduced. For example, a parent with an income of £800 and no other dependent children, who formerly was expected to pay £43 a year, will now have his contribution reduced by £30, to £13. For a parent with £2,500 a year and another child at boarding school, the reduction will be from £220 to £121—in other words about £100 less. Other improvements have been made. A minimum grant of £50 is now paid to all students, however well off their parents may be, and they are allowed to retain up to £100 of private income, including income from scholarships and prizes, without reduction from grant.

The statutory basis for these changes is in Clause 1, which empowers my right honourable friend to specify by regulation how grants to students shall be calculated. The revised income scale will be applied more widely than was envisaged by the Anderson Report, for the Government have decided to use it also for the assessment of grants to students who train as teachers. All these improvements will cost a good deal of money—£10 million this year—bringing the total cost of awards to students to £45 million. This figure will rise as the number of students in the various forms of higher education continues to grow. To abolish the means test now would add another £10 million, in round figures, to the cost; rather less if the income tax child allowance were withdrawn as the Anderson Report proposed, and rather more if it were continued. Before leaving the means test question, I should like to make clear that the Government's present decision does not preclude its ultimate abolition, and that the Bill has been drafted accordingly.

Clause 2 continues the power which the local education authorities already possess to make awards to students not following university first degree courses or comparable courses. All other courses of further education at lower levels are covered by this power, as are grants to post-graduate students. Grants to teachers also come under the Clause, but in practice this will not mean that they will not enjoy the advantages which the Bill confers upon university students. The two classes of student are dealt with differently in the Bill merely because local education authorities have for several years accepted the principle of automatic awards and uniformity of treatment for students at teacher-training colleges. They have a very definite interest in these students, since they run the majority of training colleges and employ the products. The present arrangements are working most satisfactorily, and there is therefore no need to impose a duty upon authorities.

My Lords, in addition to the awards made by local education authorities, my right honourable friend makes a substantial number to young people who enter universities through the State scholarship scheme. The Anderson Committee reviewed this scheme and concluded that it was no longer needed and should be abolished. The Government have accepted this view. State Scholarships will therefore be awarded for the last time this summer, but the Government will maintain all the scholarships current at that time until the holders have finished at the university.

Clause 3 provides for the continuance of certain other direct awards by my right honourable friend. First, there is the small scheme of Mature State Scholarships. This provides an avenue to the universities each year for specially selected candidates who did not have the opportunity to go to a university at the normal age, but who have had the enterprise and persistence to pursue their own education to the point at which they can profit from an honours degree course. It is right to maintain this special opportunity for these admirable people. Secondly, my tight honourable friend intends to continue offering post-graduate awards in arts subjects to a number of exceptionally promising students each year. These are people known as State Students, who deserve encouragement to pursue further study or research in preparation for academic careers. Thirdly, my right honourable friend will continue to make direct grants to students who train as teachers at university departments of education after obtaining their degrees.

Thus, my Lords, the first three clauses of the Bill establish the future structure of the system of awards to students. The great majority of awards are administered by local education authorities, whose responsibilities will increase when State Scholarships are ended. They are already incurring additional expenditure through their voluntary operation of the new arrangements. The Government therefore intend to adjust the general grant for the current period 1961–63. This will be done under Clause 7. The grant for subsequent periods will be negotiated in the normal way.

In Scotland the main principles I have described—that is to say, automatic awards, uniformity of treatment and a revised income scale—will apply equally as in England and Wales. The main difference is that, by general agreement, the grants for university, teacher-training and advanced further education students are being handled by the Scottish Education Department. So far as Scotland is concerned, it is only necessary in this Bill to amend somewhat the existing powers of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and of the Scottish education authorities, and to provide for a reduction in the general grant in the current period in recognition of the transfer of expenditure from Scottish local education authorities to the central Government. The Bill provides accordingly.

Before I leave this part of the Bill, I should mention that the Government have accepted one major recommendation of the Anderson Committee which does not call for legislation. This is the establishment of a Standing Advisory Committee to keep under review the rates of grant and other relevant matters concerning students' awards in the United Kingdom as a whole. The Committee was set up by my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of Education. My noble and learned friend the Minister for Science subsequently joined them, so that the scope of the Committee could be widened to include postgraduate students receiving awards from the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. We have been fortunate to obtain as Chairman of the Committee Sir Francis Hill, who was a member of the Anderson Committee and has close links with universities and local government. At the Government's request the Committee has worked hard to submit a report quickly, and I understand that it has just done so.

I come now to the second part of the Bill, which deals with school-leaving dates. Clause 9, which relates to England and Wales, gives effect to the recommendation of the Central Advisory Council for England, under the chairmanship of Sir Geoffrey Crowther, that the number of leaving dates in the school year should be reduced from three to two for those children who want to leave school as soon as they reach the upper limit of compulsory education. At present a child can leave at the end of the term in which he reaches fifteen. Under Clause 9, if he reaches fifteen in the five months from September to January, he will have to stay till the Easter holidays; and if he reaches fifteen in February to August, he will have to star till the summer holidays. Thus, the age at which a child can leave school under the Bill will vary between fourteen years, eleven months, and fifteen years, six months. The variation is inevitable if leaving dates are to be linked to school terms, instead of to birthdays.

The object of this change is to make the fourth year of the secondary school course more effective. With children leaving every term the fourth year is difficult to plan. If the children are grouped according to their abilities and attainments (a method which is sometimes called "streaming") the loss of part of the group each term unsettles the rest. If they are grouped according to the dates when they are likely to leave school (sometimes called "batching") the teacher has to deal in the same class with children of widely varying capacities and attainments who have probably moved up the school in different forms.

From the point of view of school organisation, it would be best to have one leaving date in the year—that is to say, the summer holidays—but it would create difficulties of other kinds. It would mean that more than half a million children would be looking for jobs at the same moment. It might not be possible to find jobs for all of them quickly, and the ones hit hardest would be those who were least able to look after themselves. It would also mean a very wide variation in the age at which children could leave school. With a school-leaving age of fifteen, half of the age group would be nearer sixteen than fifteen before they were free to leave; and if the school-leaving age were raised to sixteen, half of the age group would be nearer seventeen than sixteen before they could leave. On balance, therefore, the Crowther Report recommended that there should be two leaving dates, rather than one. The Government have since consulted both sides of industry, through the Joint Consultative Committee of my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour, and they have unanimously endorsed the Crowther recommendation.

My Lords, the effect of Clause 9 will be to add about 120,000 children to those in school in the spring term, and 80,000 in the summer term. The peak load for secondary schools occurs in the autumn term, and as there will be no change in the numbers in school in that term no extra accommodation will be needed. Nevertheless, as the schools will be very hard-pressed next year, when no teachers will be coming out of the training colleges because the course is being lengthened from two years to three years, the change will not take effect until September, 1963. This will have the incidental advantage of giving plenty of time to prepare parents for the new arrangements; and undoubtedly success for any scheme of this kind is conditional upon parental support.

Clause 10 makes as nearly as possible the same provisions for school leaving in Scotland. There has not been a Report in Scotland quite comparable to the Crowther Report, but my right honourable friend the Secretary of State consulted the local authority associations and the teachers' organisations about that Report, and it was generally agreed that an attempt should be made to reduce the number of leaving dates each year to two. It was obvious, however, that this might create difficulties in some areas. Some of them would be cutting down from six or seven dates a year. This would be much more drastic than in England and Wales, which have to cut down from only three. Moreover, difficulties might be found in placing school-leavers in employment in some areas of Scotland where economic conditions are not so satisfactory as we would like. It is therefore proposed that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State should have the discretion—to be used as little as possible—to allow any school to have three leaving dates instead of two.

My Lords, there is one other small change which I should perhaps mention. As I have explained, Clause 9 fixes a child's obligation to stay on at school by reference to his age on certain fixed dates, instead of making it dependent, as now, on the start of the term at his particular school. This will give the schools more freedom in planning their holidays, which becomes increasingly important with the growing congestion in the holiday months. But the main purpose is to make leaving dates correspond with local education authorities' arrangements for transferring children from primary to secondary schools. At present, with a fixed date for determining transfers from school to school, and variable dates for determining a child's obligation to stay on at school, there are odd variations in the length of his secondary school career. Under Clause 9, no child will have less than three years and two terms in a secondary school, and most children will have four years.

At the present time, two out of three children in England and Wales still leave school as early as they can after their fifteenth birthday. On the other hand, my Lords, there is virtually unanimous agreement among educationists that the great majority of early leavers would benefit more from another year at school than from their first year at this young age in a job. This view necessarily presupposes that the schools know what to teach the average and below-average children in their last terms in order to retain their interest and counteract any grievance that they are being denied the chance to go out into the world and earn good wages. This is not an easy problem, but much thought is being given to it. Certainly, it is clear, and accepted by all teachers, that a planned four-year course from eleven to fifteen is the basic requirement. That is why it is important to stop leaving at Christmas by children who may have had only three years and one term in a secondary school.

My Lords, those are the main provisions of this Bill, and I hope that I have explained them clearly. I commend the Bill to your Lordships' House, and I beg to move that it be now read a second time.

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

3.57 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure the whole House will be indebted to the noble Lord for the very clear way in which he explained the provisions of this Bill. This is really a "footling" little Bill, in relation to the many facets of education which demand urgent attention. The Bill deals with only two of them, as the noble Lord said, and, in our submission, it deals with them inadequately. It really manages to run away from the main issues of the educational system in this country. The Minister of Education in another place said that the Bill provides for modest advances in two directions. It seems to me that the advances are so modest that it is difficult to discern any movement at all.

The Bill is really a poor product of the two excellent Reports to which the noble Lord has referred, the Crowther Committee Report and the Anderson Committee Report. Both are outstanding Reports and, from all the wisdom and guidance to be found in them, the Government can only distil the inadequate provisions of this Bill. In fact, the Government have decided to adopt not the Majority Report of the Anderson Committee, or even the minority Report, but half the Minority Report. Then from the Crowther Report they have taken only one minor suggestion and have avoided the main conclusions.

As the noble Lord said, the Bill provides that local authorities must give grants automatically where a student is taking a university degree course or a comparable course, and where he or she has two "A" level passes. In this the Bill follows the Anderson Committee recommendations and is a step forward. But most authorities do this already, and it will merely regularise the present situation. It is no great advance upon what is the present situation. In his speech on the Second Reading of the Bill, the Minister of Education said that most authorities adopt this as their minimum standard. He went on to say—and I quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Commons, of November 13 [Vol. 649 (No. 10) col. 37]: We do not expect the new system significantly to increase the proportion of students at universities in receipt of awards. This is one of the "modest advances" referred to by the Minister of Education: nothing very substantial, as I have said, though an odd injustice here and there may now be avoided. For all those who do receive grants, the Bill provides that they shall conform to standard regulations laid down by Parliament—that is to say, a student will receive a uniform grant from whatever part of the country he or she may come; the same in amount and the same in the conditions attached. This, too, will remove a sense of grievance from some students, and is, if I may say so, very much worth while. However, as the Minister of Education himself admitted, pressure by successive Ministers over the years has achieved a considerable degree of uniformity among local authorities; and, here again, this provision will not have a very wide practical effect. The Bill gives local authorities full discretion, as the noble Lord said, in making awards for further education courses other than first degree courses. This includes not only those taking full or part-time further education, but also those training to become teachers. The Minister of Education claims that one of the two fundamental principles on which the Bill is based is uniformity of treatment, to which the noble Lord has referred; but is it, really uniform treatment that all university students shall receive the same grants when those training for teaching, for example, will continue to receive different ones, depending on the part of the country from which they come? A person taking a course in engineering at Coventry may well receive a grant of one order while someone in Leicestershire may receive a different one—or, indeed, may receive none at all. The reason the Government give for not extending uniformity to this type of course is that they vary in standard and entrance qualifications. But do teachers' training courses really differ so much in standard from one part of the country to another? Do they really differ more than, say, university degree courses? Perhaps the noble and learned Viscount will enlighten the House on this matter when he speaks later in the debate.

I come now to a few observations on the means test. As the noble Lord has said, the majority report of the Anderson Committee was clearly in favour of abolishing the means test altogether. The arguments advanced were very cogent. Wherever the line is drawn between those parents who have to pay part of the fees and those who do not, it is bound to be arbitrary. As the Committee pointed out, over the years the system of public awards has been so extended that it now includes income groups who cannot be described as "poor". The Committee said—and here I quote from paragraph 167 of their Report: In our view to retain such a vestigial relic of the old conception of hardship is neither reasonable nor worthwhile, and we therefore advocate complete abolition of the parental contribution". The fact that parents have to pay for or towards the university education of their children unquestionably prevents a number of well-qualified persons from going to the universities. Considering the shortage of graduates in this country, this is a waste of potential talent which I suggest, my Lords, as a nation we cannot afford. Britain has a smaller proportion of its population trained at universities than almost any other modern country. Only Ireland and Norway have less, I understand.

The Minister of Education does not apparently contest the validity of the majority view of the Anderson Committee. He said he had found their arguments convincing. He also said on the Second Reading of the Bill—and here I quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, of November 13 [Vol. 649 (No. 10), col. 39]: It is hard to deny that, if education is free for the school child, it should be free for the whole-time student. That is logical. Why, then, do the Government not implement the Majority Report? The Minister of Education argues solely in terms of cost. Yet, in fact, if the children's tax allowances were altered, as the Anderson Committee recommended, the extra cost would be in the region of no more than £10 million. This is just over 1 per cent. of the total education bill. The Minister claims that half a loaf is better than none, and relies upon the relaxation which it is intended to operate. In fact, the Government are giving nothing like half a loaf. At present, only 25 per cent. of the students receive the maximum grant. Under the present Bill, the figure will be 40 per cent. Thus, 60 per cent. of students will still receive less than the full grant, and their parents will have to pay something towards their university education—a pretty unequal half of the loaf.

But having failed to implement the Majority Report of the Anderson Committee, the Government then fail to accept the implications of the Minority Report—having it both ways with a vengeance, it seems to us. The most cogently argued case in the Minority Report is that of Professor Brinley Thomas, who said that if extra money was to be spent on grants it should be spent on students in the sixth forms, for it was here that the heaviest burden was often placed upon parents. Professor Thomas therefore recommended only an easing of the means test, not its abolition, on condition that at the same time substantial sixth-form bursaries were introduced in the maintained schools. What the Government have done is to adopt the half of the Minority Report which saved them money and reject the corollary, which was to spend what they saved on maintenance allowances for older children in secondary schools. The Government have not made any announcement that such allowances would be available. Perhaps the noble Viscount the Lord President of the Council will be good enough to say something with regard to that matter when he speaks.

There is no doubt at all that the waste of ability at the age of fifteen and sixteen plus is very serious. My Lords, 92 per cent. of the children of unskilled workers leave school at fifteen years of age. None of these children has the chance to take the "O" level of the G.C.E. at school. This proportion compares with the figure of 34 per cent. in the professional, managerial and clerical classes. This wastage is partly due to our secondary school system. It is undeniable that many children who have failed the 11-plus could have acquired the capacity for sixth-form or university education if they had had an equal opportunity to develop their talents. The much-maligned comprehensive schools are proving this to be the case year after year. Over one half of the children in London's comprehensive schools stay on beyond the statutory school-leaving age, and this compares with the national average figure of one-third. It is undoubtedly true that the waste at fifteen and sixteen is, in part, due to financial difficulties. This again can be seen from the Crowther Report, which showed that children from large families stood a much smaller chance of staying on beyond the statutory school-leaving age. Family allowances ought to be reorganised. They should be graduated according to the age of the children, with a particularly steep rise for those remaining at school after the statutory school-leaving age. In this way the maintenance allowance now paid by local authorities, subject to a means test, could perhaps be discontinued.

In this Bill, as the noble Lord has said, the Government have met even less of the Crowther Committee's recommendations than they have those of the Anderson Committee. The case for raising the school-leaving age to sixteen is absolutely overwhelming. I have already referred to the waste involved in early leaving and this cannot finally be ended until the school-leaving age is raised. The influences on children encouraging them to leave school early are so strong that, unless a longer school life is made compulsory, able children will continue to be without the education they deserve, the education they need, and the education which the nation needs that they should have. Raising the school-leaving age to sixteen will not simply be adding one more year to the school life; it will be something very much more than that. As the Crowther Committee stated, the fifth year of the secondary school course was probably the most valuable of all.

The Committee said that at present children were leaving school precisely at a time when the law of increasing returns was operating. The Committee maintained that the present alternative to full-time education—namely, day release and evening classes—was very wasteful; and they were not the most efficient way of educating children. Moreover, they could not be really effective until a child had received an adequate education at school, which really involved a five-year secondary school course. The Crowther Committee also emphasised the dangers to which immature young people were exposed by the mass media and skilful advertising techniques when they left school so early. The Committee said: There seems to us to be no social injustice in our community at the present time more loudly crying out for reform than the condition in which scores of thousands of our children are released into the labour market". That is what the Crowther Committee said, and who can question its validity, and, indeed, its significance?

The Committee recommended that the decision to raise the school-leaving age should be taken immediately. This, my Lords, was two to two and a half years ago, and the Government have still not taken a decision. It really cannot be deferred much longer, otherwise it will not be possible to train sufficient teachers in time. The Committee recommended that the school-leaving age should be raised between 1967 and 1969, when there is a respite between the two bulges in secondary school education. If this period is missed, it will be a long time before another like opportunity will occur. To delay this is to put our future as a modern nation in peril.

One objection that the Government could have raised is that we have not enough teachers. But not long before he died, the late Professor Tawney made a sharp comment on this argument. He said: Of course there aren't enough teachers. They said that when people wanted the age raised from 12. You will never have enough teachers while you turn all these children out of school before their time and deprive them of their chance to become teachers or other useful beings. And there is a good deal of wisdom in that. However, the Minister of Education did not choose to make his case in another place on those difficulties. He said on November 13 last [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 649 (No. 10), col. 45] that raising the school-leaving age makes an assumption that we know what to teach the average and below-average children up to the age of 16. He went on to say that that is not easy to do. Is the Minister really suggesting that we cannot learn how to teach children up to the age of sixteen in the five or seven years before the date at which the Crowther Committee proposed that the school-leaving age should be raised? Is that the attitude of the Minister?

The Government have resolutely failed to do anything about the Crowther Committee's major recommendations, but they have brought forward a trifling alteration of the leaving dates. At present a child can leave school, as the noble Lord said, at the end of the term in which it is fifteen. Thus, many children leave at Christmas in their fourth year in secondary school. This means in many cases that schools attempt only a three-year secondary course. It is apposite here, I think, to mention that, before the Crowther Committee reported, the Labour Party recommended that there should be only one leaving date instead of three; in other words, that children should stay on at school till the end of the school year in which they become fifteen. Now, nearly four years later, the Government have gone only part of the way towards that objective. If the Government will not announce the decision to raise the school-leaving age, they should, in our submission, at least have inaugurated a single leaving date at the end of the fourth year. The problems of industry can surely be overcome if sufficient thought and purpose were given to the problem.

My Lords, this Bill represents a missed opportunity. It is now eighteen years since the last major Education Act of 1944. The time is ripe for another major advance in the field of education. Much of the Act of 1944 still remains unimplemented. Two-thirds of our secondary school children are still educated in classes oversized by the limits set under the 1944 Act. The section of the Act providing for county colleges has never been implemented. The whole secondary school education system needs overhauling. The 11-plus is recognised as a failure by more and more education authorities. In fact, it has become a nightmare not only for the children but also for the parents. Selection at eleven is inevitably arbitrary. It penalises those who happen not to show promise early and it penalises particularly the working-class child. What is worse, it emphasises the class structure. It divides education unnaturally into two or three watertight compartments and involves great waste of talent.

The university system, the whole of our system of higher education, is woefully inadequate, is ill-organised and is beset with privilege. In the face of all these known difficulties, the insufficiencies and, let it be said, these inequalities of our educational system, the Government offer this miserable little Bill with its miserable proposals. We shall not impede its Second Reading. We shall seek to improve it as a measure by way of Amendments. I should say, as the noble Lord indicated, that the Bill also applies to Scotland, with certain differences of procedure as regards the payment of grants and the number of leave days; otherwise, I think that I am correct in saying that my observations would generally be applicable to Scotland as they are to England and Wales.

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to begin what I have to say by congratulating the Minister of Education and the Secretary of State for Scotland for at last having dealt with the very difficult problem of awards to university students. I know how complex that problem is, and I know that for some time many Ministers have tried to see what would be the best arrangement. A circular was sent out (No. 263), in March, 1953, which gave local authorities guidance and suggestions for securing more uniformity in their way of giving awards and in the amounts of awards. This circular also suggested two "Advanced" level certificates in the General Certificate of Education as the minimum requirements. Since then, we have had the extremely interesting reports of the Crowther and Anderson Committees, both of which have given us a great deal of information.

I have not the same opinion as the noble Lord, Lord Latham, who said that this is a "footling" Bill; that our education system is a nightmare, and, so far as I could make out, that everything was wrong. I am more optimistic, though I think that there is still a great deal that needs to be improved. Although this is a small Bill, dealing with the structure of education in two particular ways, I believe that it is of importance, and I welcome it. I have some doubts, however, about the second part, dealing with the school-leaving age, which I will try to describe.

As the noble Lord, Lord Newton, pointed out, the first part of the Bill provides for uniformity of treatment and automatic awards. The burden of selec- tion for university places, and therefore for awards, is being put where I believe it ought to be, as the Anderson Committee clearly lays down: entirely on the universities. This is going to be an extremely difficult task, and in both Reports there is a good deal about how it should be done. But no doubt the universities will be deciding for themselves what is the best plan. I think that it will lead to a greater linking up of the schools and universities, because it is not simply a case of seeing the marks for the examinations which would-be students have passed. It is more than that. It is a selecting from the many would-be students who seem to have the same academic prowess, but cannot all go to universities, those who can go forward and take their places.

We have to bear in mind that for some time there will not be places for all who wish to go to universities. The number is being increased rapidly, and it will go on increasing as the result of the more generous awards now being given. The great advantage I see about the proposal in the Bill is that the responsibility will be solely that of the universities. It will do away with the anxiety of the student, who has to find out if a university can give him a place, then find out if the local authority will give an award, and perhaps attend two interviews. Now he will know clearly that, if he has the necessary two "Advanced" level certicates and has found a place in a university, he will get the award.

Before passing on from this point, there is one question I should like to ask, and perhaps the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, will be able to answer it when he winds up. Will any assistance be given to students about applying to a number of universities? Can student "X" get a place in such-and-such a university? Should he try several at the same time, so as not to lose time, or should he wait to hear from one and then try another? I believe that every single student has this worry. I am not saying for a moment that all university places should be pooled, and that there should be a clearing house dealing them all out, but I would ask if it would not be possible to have a clearing house that could tell students that there will be no more vacancies in a particular university, that it is "house full", and they need not bother to apply. This would give them some guidance. I feel that when we are making things easier for these would-be students, we should be able also to look into this matter.

I come to the amount of the awards, from which I shall come to that controversial point, the means test. As we all know, the grant is made up of two sections. One is the payment of university fees and the other is maintenance, which, us the noble Lord, Lord Newton, pointed out, includes board and lodgings and allowance for clothes, books, incidental expenses, travelling and all the rest of it. Probably in most cases, local authorities pay the fees direct to the university and therefore this is separate from maintenance. When people talk about whether education at the universities is free or not free, they should take into account that the whole of the grant is not payment for education. It is also payment for the maintenance of young men and women who are living away from home and who are not in employment and cannot maintain themselves.

In passing, perhaps I might say one more thing about the maintenance award. I know that at the present time the Advisory Committee are considering how much the award should be. I hope that it will be made clear that the maintenance grant should really fit the circumstances. When Circular No. 263 was sent out in 1953, the Department obtained exact budgets from various universities. I think noble Lords will see in the Report that the country was divided into three, because expenses were different in different places. The expenses in Oxford and Cambridge were higher; the expenses in some other places were less, and the cost of living at home was even less still. I hope that we shall have a scheme. We want uniformity; but we want the maintenance to cover what is really maintenance. I want the students to have sufficient, but not to have too much: that is no good to the student, and it is not fair to the taxpayer. Some local authorities and some people in the past have suggested that these maintenance grants should be divided up and a definite sum given for, say, books; in fact, the Anderson Committee talk about £25. And some authorities, particularly those in Scotland, wanted to have vouchers, or to see receipts, so that they would be sure the money was spent on what it was given for. On other occasions we were told that the maintenance, the board and lodging money, so to speak, should not be given for the whole term, but should be given out weekly, because people might spend it all at once.

I hope that nothing like that will be done. These are young men and women growing up and they ought to be responsible. If they spend their money wrongly, then they will have learned to spend it better in future; and if they learn the hard way, they may remember longer. If they have an allowance of £25 for books, and instead of buying hooks they run a motor cycle with it, then the university will know. They will not be able to plead that they cannot do certain work because they cannot afford the books, as the university will know that they have had a grant for the books. I would leave it to the universities to look after this matter and treat these young men and women as responsible people.

I pass now to the subject of the means test. The noble Lord, Lord Latham, quoted some words of the Minister of Education in the Second Reading debate in another place, and I too had noted them. They were to the effect that education is free for the school child, so why not for the whole-time student at the university? He said that that was being said by many people; and we all know that it is. But it is not correct. The education of the school child is free, but the parents pay at any rate for the maintenance of the child up to the time when it enters for secondary education, when they may get a maintenance grant; and remember, my Lords, that they pay for school meals. Therefore, the maintenance of the school child is the responsibility of the parents. But there are no fees to pay. Later on a maintenance allowance is given on a means test.

I am going to put something forward to the Government which I am sure the noble and learned Viscount in reply will inform me the Government could not possibly accept. The Government have no doubt made up their minds, and I am sure that my suggestion (it was turned down by the Anderson Committee) will be turned down now. As to the means test, I should like to see the fees for university education free for everybody. Part of the grant is for the university fees and part is for maintenance, and I feel that we ought to look at each part from an entirely different point of view. I think our education at universities should be free, in the sense of people not having to pay fees, as fees have to be paid now in the same way that they are paid for schools. But it is a different matter when we come to maintenance, and it could well be argued whether the taxpayers are to give board and lodging and an allowance for clothes and the other things that have been mentioned to parents who perhaps have ample to pay for these things.

I know that the Association of Local Authorities put to the Anderson Committee the idea of having the fees for all students paid for them, and that was turned down. One of the reasons given by the Committee was that it would make so little difference to the parents, because, after all, the big burden was the maintenance. But I am not looking at the matter like that. It might make very little difference to the parents, but I think, logically and from the point of view of justice, we should have no fees in our schools (those who wished to pay could go to fee-paying schools), and young men and women should go to the universities and have their fees paid. I know I am on very delicate ground, but, no longer being the Minister and having no responsibility, from the Back Bench I can put forward ideas which I know are difficult of achievement. I cannot think that a scheme could not be arranged under which either the Government pay the fees or, if I dare suggest it although I think it would be even more unwelcome, they should be paid through the University Grants Committee.

If this cannot be done; if we are to have a much more generous arrangement for parents' contributions and 40 per cent. are to pay nothing, then the one thing we return to is the £10 million. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Latham, I think we have to consider the £10 million and use this taxpayers' money to the best advantage. I can quite understand the reluctance of the Minister of Education and the Secretary of State for Scotland to take £10 million of the taxpayers' money for maintenance grants when there are so many other things in the educational sphere they want the money for. Knowing how difficult things are to arrange in the educational sphere, I cannot press that the £10 million should be used for maintenance; but I would urge that the matter should be looked at from the point of view of the fees.

Before I leave that part of the Bill which is mostly to do with Clause 1, there is one question that I should like to ask. Clause 1 (1)(a) says that the local authority can make awards to people who are ordinarily residents in the area of the authority. I should like to ask the noble and learned Viscount whether he will see that the position of the children of Service people, and those who are perhaps working in the Dominions or the Colonies and are temporarily out of the country, is made absolutely clear. I am sure it will be the wish to look after those children in exactly the same way, but I know that very often the parents do not know to whom to apply, and there is a great deal of discussion between one local authority and another as to which area the parents last lived in before they went away. If that point could be made quite clear, and the parents and the authorities knew what has been arranged, it would be of great assistance.

I am sorry that State scholarships are to be given up. I quite see that now that the full award is being given there would not be any financial gain. I do not want to take up your Lordships' time unduly, and I will not go into the matter, but I agree with much that has been said by Professor Thomas in the Anderson Report. State scholarships gave a sense of prestige. It meant something to the students that they were working for the top prizes, and I do not think there is anything wrong with that. In addition, students who won State scholarships knew that they were certain to get a place in one of the universities. With the tremendous difficulty there will be of selection, as I see it, I am sorry that these scholarships are being given up, whether it is simply because there is no financial benefit in connection with them or (and I hope it is not this) there is an idea that everybody is the same and two "A" passes is sufficient. I wonder whether it is going to be sufficient. My fear about it—I do not think I can get round it—is that it may reduce the effort for some to get three "A" passes and some to get more, because they will naturally say: "How is the university to select "X" and not "Y" if they all seem exactly the same?"

As to Scotland, I should like to say only this. I am glad that their changes are greater, because they have not linked their awards as much to the actual maintenance of the place the student goes to as they have in England. As far as I gather, in future their awards will be to provide maintenance suitable for the university of the student's choice, or where the student has been accepted by the university. As I have said, the amounts vary. Of course, this will go on costing more. We see the trend now—and I am not against it; I am for it—of more and more young men and women choosing to go further away from home to a university rather than to stay at home and go to the university in their own city. Naturally, the expense is greater. Until now Scotland has not been taking that into account. I am glad the trend is like that, because I think it is good for these young men and women to get away. I think there is nothing more pathetic than for a young man or woman starting his or her career to be away from home for the first time in his or her life. They had far better go at the earlier stage if they want to do so. So Scotland will certainly be making a great change in their arrangements.

I come now to the second part of the Bill, the changes in school leaving. Here I have some doubts and fears. I confess at once that I am entirely against—I hope the noble Lord, Lord Latham, will not be very shocked, but I am afraid he will—raising the leaving age to sixteen at the present time, and for one reason above all. He said that people give the excuse that there are not sufficient teachers for them. I think there is nothing worse than to compel children to stay at school until sixteen; not to teach them well; to have the classes even more crowded than they are now; to have the teachers harassed, not being able to arrange their classes or streaming as they want because there are too many children with too few class-rooms and too few teachers. I think that would be far worse, because at the moment we are getting on with the voluntary arrangements. We are more and more persuading parents to keep their children in school, and that is all to the good. But we shall not persuade parents to go on keeping their children in school if, before the compulsory age, they find they are not getting good tuition, that they are not doing well and that the children themselves do not want to stay.

I think the Minister is doing absolutely the right thing. I think he has great courage. It is so easy to say, "I am so keen on education that I want to see the school leaving age raised, and I am going to do it". It is a temptation to us all, but I call it educational snobbishness, because you will not give those children better education. If we could get the numbers in the classes down, I would rather have the children stay two or three terms less in school but be in smaller classes. I think it would be very much better for the children.

As to this arrangement of leaving twice in the year instead of three times, I would point out to the noble Lord, Lord Latham, that the Crowther Report was clearly in favour of two occasions for leaving school, not one. The noble Lord, Lord Latham, thought it ought to be one. I will not bother to make more quotations from the Report, because I am sure the noble Lord has looked at it very carefully. The Crowther Report was entirely against it. But they were in favour of two. I have my doubts. I wonder if in some cases we should not still stick to three. The Crowther Report says: It is of overriding importance that boys and girls leaving school should be able to find employment". I put this as the first difficulty. Can we be absolutely certain that if we cut down school leaving times from three to two in the year we shall be able to find employment for the school leavers? I know there have been consultations. In Scotland, because of the extra difficulties and because, as my noble friend Lord Newton pointed out, in some cases they could leave seven times in a year, the Secretary of State is keeping the power to have three school leaving times in the year if the education authority ask for it. I wish the Minister of Education had that power, too. I feel that this is experimental. If we find there is unemployment, as far as I can see we cannot make the change without legislation, and I wonder why the Minister of Education has not that power which the Secretary of State for Scotland is keeping, and, I think, wisely keeping.

In another place on the Second Reading the Minister said that he knew that some parents were already saying that their children would resent being kept on. I have heard from people that they call this "putting up the school age by the back door". I do not suppose that many parents of children in our maintained schools read Parliamentary Acts. But I do not think some of them would at all like to find in Clause 9 that when their child has attained the age of fifteen he shall be deemed not to have attained that age until the appropriate spring. This is our method of adding on to the school year for the child. It is, as I know, and as the Minister has explained, to give children a further time in school—a four-year course. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, told us—I did not take down the numbers—of the number of extra children there will then be in school. Are we going to give up the thought of bringing down the numbers in the classes? I know that 1963 will be a good deal easier, but I am looking at the time not merely when we shall hold the numbers we have now, and which are said to be right. 30 to 40 (we have that number only because we cannot keep them any longer), but when we shall have really smaller classes and really good teaching, so that some of our more difficult children should have their chance. Some of them at about the age of thirteen, the non-academic, are not happy in school. They are frustrated, they get into mischief, and I am extremely sorry for some of the teachers who are struggling with them. Their difficulty is with some of those children, and others, in the very large classes.

The Minister said that some parents might resent it. He went on to say that it is up to the parents to see that the Children understand the value of the extra term. I think it would be a task for some of the parents because some children, and some parents, think they are not getting the value. Are we quite certain that, by more time in school, we are going to give them real value? I say this because, although the noble Lord, Lord Latham, said this is a "footling" and inadequate Brill, and all the rest of it, I think it is absolutely necessary to point out that there must be a tremendous effort in the next eighteen months to devise courses for these boys and girls in school, and to see the very best way in which tuition can be arranged for them so as to keep their interest. We are seeing so many children of school age coming into the juvenile courts. They are frustrated; they are rebellious; but it is probably because they have no interest. Many of the mothers will say, "He had far better get to work and do a good day's work under better discipline than he is getting in school. I want him to go on with his education, but I want the education to fit the child." And we now have this arrangement whereby children are deemed not to be fifteen when in fact they are, so as to keep them longer in school. We shall have more children in school, and I doubt whether they are really going to benefit.

There is another difficulty. I feel that when we are doing this we must make a tremendous effort to get the good will of the parents. We have built up the goodwill of the parents during the last few years, and that is why children are staying on: but unless we have this good will we shall find great difficulty when the age is raised to sixteen. If we lose the good will now we shall not regain it, because, as has been pointed out, when the leaving age is raised to sixteen some children will be compelled to stay on to sixteen and a half. So I think we have, so far as possible, to explain to the parents the reasons for this; to take them into consultation about the interests of their children; and to see more and more how, with their good will, we can ensure that pupils in the schools will not feel frustrated and antagonistic. When I am told that it is easier for the organisation of the school—which is so difficult for the teacher if children in the same class leave at various times—all I would say is that if you get one or two of these antagonistic and rebellious boys in a class, it is more difficult than if you had them out. So it is for the individual pupil at this particular age that I think we have to make a particular effort.

I should also like to ask the noble Viscount whether he can explain to me (I quite believe that my ignorance is due to my own stupidity) what is the meaning of Clause 9 (1) (b) as it would appear that we have to deal with children who have already left school? I cannot feel that that is the meaning. Subsection (1) uses the words: (a) he is a registered pupil at a school, or (b) not being such a pupil, he has been a registered pupil at a school within the preceding period of twelve months. I presume that paragraph (b) refers to a boy who has been in some other school, but I am a little uncertain, so I should be very glad if I can be told what it does mean.

My Lords, I have spoken for longer than I intended but the subject is of tremendous interest. When you take up this Bill and look at it, it seems to be very dry, and it is a voyage of discovery, going through it, to see how it will affect education for children. Nevertheless, I believe that this Bill may be a real step forward, if it is properly used. In conclusion I would ask that, in explaining our new scheme of awards to the would-he students and their parents, we do not raise their hopes by giving them the impression that there will be more university places immediately, and that, because it is easier to get an award, it will be easier to get into university. That is not so: there will be more competition than ever. So much for university students. I also ask for the parents of children who are to be kept longer in our schools to be given a full explanation, so that some of the fears and doubts which I have expressed this afternoon may, when the time comes, prove to have been unfounded.

4.54 p.m.


My Lords, I feel that the Bill is greatly to be welcomed and supported for the further encouragement it gives to men and women, especially young people, to undertake higher education, and because (as the Explanatory Memorandum says) it lays upon every local education authority uniformly the duty to make awards to students with certain qualifications attending university first degree courses or further education courses of a comparable standard. I feel that I can safely say that any widening of educational opportunity so that men and women may develop their God-given talents for responsible use in the community will commend itself to the Church and receive the Church's firm support.

Under the heading "Some General Principles" the Anderson Committee Report states: The nation urgently needs the greatest possible number of highly educated men and women. It is true that greater public emphasis is at present laid on the shortage of particular categories such as mathematicians, engineers, scientists and teachers in these fields. But, while we would not attempt to dispute their importance, we would not agree that this should be allowed to distort the system of awards so as to favour one branch of learning above another. We are convinced that the nation should not depart from the ancient and sound tradition that young men and women go to the university to become all-round citizens and not merely to learn a special skill. This conviction is also similarly expressed in the Crowther Report, and more than once.

My Lords, this Bill will enable the Minister to make regulations which will remove many of the inequities and anomalies as between one education authority and another in the award of grants for higher education, and we hope that some who have suffered under financial burdens, or have been deterred by economic factors from proceeding to higher education, will find these disabilities removed. But, as the noble Lady has told us, there still remains the important and uncompleted task of ensuring that those who qualify for higher education will, in fact, find places. By fixing two school-leaving dates in the year, in place of the present three, the Bill extends the school life of boys and girls beyond the age of fifteen, and this is a step towards the raising of the school-leaving age to sixteen. The value of it is seen in the high proportion of young people who at present voluntarily continue at school after attaining school-leaving age. At this age, especially, young people most need guidance and encouragement to find their true vocation in life and to discover their particular gifts and talents.

Clause 2 of the Bill we are told: replaces the present powers of local education authorities to make awards in respect of other courses of further education and the training of teachers. Here, I would take the opportunity to express our gratitude and appreciation for what a great number of local education authorities have done in making further education grants to students at our theological colleges. A very high percentage of authorities do make these additional grants, and it is earnestly hoped that in the new arrangements this kind of help will be increased rather than diminished. Your Lordships will be aware that the Church is deeply concerned with the education and the best possible training of the men who are to enter its ministry. I am speaking not only about the Established Church but also about other Christian denominations of long standing who have this same concern.

The great majority of universities in England, and also the University of Wales, offer an honours degree course in theology. In the Session 1960–61, 1,698 students were reading for an honours degree in theology in twelve universities. A further 290 were taking a general honours degree course in which theology was a main or subsidiary subject. In addition, 349 were studying for a second degree in theology—a genuine second degree and not an additional first degree. Who are all these students? Some of them, especially those reading for a general honours degree, are intending teachers. Many of them plan to go on to a theological college for professional training as ministers of religion. Some are already members of and residents in the theological college while they work for their degrees.

The Central Advisory Council for the Training of the Ministry (of the Church of England) has, within the past month, published a brochure called University Courses in Theology. It gives details of courses at thirteen English universities and at the University of Wales and Trinity College, Dublin. In a foreword the Archbishop of Canterbury urges the claims of theology as an academic education in its own right". He says: It includes the careful study of languages, the study of history, demanding insight into the methods of the critical historian. It includes the study of ideas. The Anderson Committee Report, on page 19, states: The guiding principle in making grants to theological students appears to us quite clear. Awards should be as readily available for theological as well as for other studies. The award making body must necessarily take account both of the abilities of the student and of the standing of the institution at which he proposes to study. We are told that at present grants to follow university degree courses in theology are treated by local authorities on the same basis as application for degree course in other subjects. It seems however, that greater variations of practice as between one local authority and another occur about courses at theological colleges than about other courses. In so far as 'comparable' courses in theology may be available at non-university institutions we recommend that they should be treated for award purposes on the same basis as 'comparable' courses in other subjects. The Report also specifically mentions at page 15 an honours course in theology taken after graduation in another subject". There are two reasons for giving strong support to this practice. First, a man of exceptional ability, for example in science or languages, probably ought to be encouraged to take an honours degree in these subjects before turning to theology. It is surely reasonable to expect that after this he should take his theological college qualification also at the highest level of which he is capable. Some local authorities express their agreement with this point of view by the award of grants for a second first degree. Others at present do not. The second reason is that many men make up their minds to offer themselves for the ministry while they are at the university. For example, in the figures I have already quoted, of the 186 men reading for a theological tripos in Cambridge, in 1960–61 only 27 were in the first year. The others had taken advantage of the Cambridge situation to change their course after Part I in another subject. The Christian ministry is a vocation not to be undertaken lightly or in an immature way. It is often not the uncertain but the mature who come to this decision after leaving school. My Lords, I submit it is a matter of concern to the whole community that this ministry should be both devoted and competent. The Church should be the last body to accept or seek assistance for a standard of training for its clergy which does not compare adequately with other forms of training.

May I end by expressing again a deep sense of gratitude to the many local education authorities who have shown recognition of the necessity for postgraduate students for the ministry to obtain additional training at a theological college and have made further grants for the purpose, and also have made awards to those who have gone straight to the theological college and not first to a university? May I also repeat the earnest hope that in the new arrangements under the Bill students for the ministries of the historic Churches in England will receive not less favourable treatment in the way of grants and awards from local education authorities than will he made to students in other fields, such as advanced technology, science, medicine and the like?

5.7 p.m.


My Lords, unless I am mistaken, this is the first speech that the right reverend Prelate has made in this House since he was translated to his present See, and I should like to welcome him in his new capacity. It is said that nothing improves by translation but I do not think that this necessarily applies to Bishops, and I can assure him that he is as welcome in translation as he was in the original tongue. I will, if I may, in welcoming him, seek to answer the point which he raised, before I deal with the more general issues which were raised by the other two speakers.

The position of the theological students is really entirely comparable with that of anybody else, and it is certainly correct that awards for theological students will be dealt with in the system established by this Bill in accordance with the recommendations of the Anderson Committee, to which the right reverend Prelate drew our attention and from which he quoted. They are in fact covered by the general framework of the Bill. Under Clause 1, of course, awards are established by the Bill in an automatic form for students attending a first degree course, and of course this would include squarely a B.A. (Theology) at any of the universities which offer one, or a B.D. at London University as a first degree course. The same is true of some other three-year university courses, as for instance the Associateship of King's College, which have the same validity. If they are not first degrees they would have to be designated as comparable to first degree courses under the provisions of the Bill, but in the guidance issued by the Minister for local education authorities to help them to operate during the current year arrangements similar to those em- bodied in the Bill, a comparable course has been defined as one intended for students of eighteen or over consisting of three years of full-time study or longer for reaching a university degree, a diploma or qualification accepted as equivalent to a degree in the Burnham Reports. The Standing Advisory Committee will not be bound by that definition, but they are unlikely to depart very far from it.

As regards the discretionary grants, which of course will cover all degrees undertaken after the first degree, since it is not the policy to give a second award for a second degree course or post-graduate course, it has for some years been the Minister's policy that local education authorities should make awards in suitable cases for postgraduate training of a professional and instructional kind as opposed to further academic study and research for which provision is made in the State studentship scheme for education which is still excepted from abolition under the terms of the Bill. On the whole, I think that these provisions for theological students should satisfy religious bodies. At any rate, without going the whole length and describing theology as the "Queen of the Sciences"—a view which has always seemed to me to be questionable, even before I was Minister for Science—I would certainly accept the view that it was very much an academic training worthy of consideration with other courses yielding degrees of a similar standing, and should be treated the same as anything else; and I think that the right reverend Prelate can rest assured that that is our intention.

My noble friend Baroness Horsbrugh addressed the House with all the authority which one expects from an ex-Minister of Education, and raised a number of questions, some of which I may be able to deal with in the course of my general argument, but some of which I must now take time over because they do not fit easily into any general framework. She asked me the meaning of Clause 9 (1) (b). I am not quite sure where her difficulty was, but I hope it will help her if I say that the object is to prevent parents from circumventing the law by taking their children away from school just before they reach the age of fifteen, thus escaping the obligation to keep them there as provided by Clause 9 (2) and (3). My noble friend also asked about the children of parents who, for some reason or another, are not easily defined as resident within a particular area—for instance, people in the Colonial Service. The Minister is taking power in the First Schedule of this Bill to direct in cases like this which local education authority shall have the duty to make the appropriate award. To some extent, this is only an extension of the present practice under which the Minister advises authorities in cases of doubt. At present, they normally accept his advice without question. He has now the power under the First Schedule of ensuring that they do so.

My noble friend also asked about what I might call compendiously an applications' clearing house for university students. This is a real difficulty, and she was quite right to draw our attention to it, although of course it does not, strictly speaking, rest with the Education Departments to provide a remedy. But my information, which I sought rather hurriedly when she raised the question, is that the universities are jointly engaged in working out admission procedures which will reduce the difficulty that students now encounter. No doubt they will have in their minds the problem which my noble friend has raised and will seek a practical solution, but I cannot at the present stage give her more information than that.

I turn now to the main speech from the Opposition Front Bench by the noble Lord, Lord Latham, who raised a number of points with which I will seek to deal. I was frankly disappointed in the attitude taken by the noble Lord. It is easy, and I think mischievous, to try to make Party capital out of educational matters. I have always tried to avoid doing so, although I personally have no doubt that on any fair comparison the Party of which I am a member has a reputation and a long record which would make it most profitable for us to do so. But the first thing to remember, I think, about educational matters—I speak as one who has been Minister of Education—is that we in Parliament, particularly Ministers, have to handle the children of all religions and all political persuasions in the country, and there really is only one way that I know of doing it—namely, applying one's mind quite seriously to the problem of giving every child, so far as we can, an education which would satisfy the parents of that child and one's own standards as being the best for the child in relation to its capabilities. To suggest that any general part of our educational system, such as the process of selection at eleven, which is not final, is anything in the nature of a nightmare, is really, I think, to betray oneself into causing anxieties in parents which really responsible people should not do.

Whether I be right or wrong in that, the noble Lord made a number of statements about the Bill and about the educational system generally which showed such a depth of incomprehension of the real issues involved that I cannot allow him to go unchallenged, even at this late stage of the debate. To take one of the smallest of the inaccuracies. I begin by pointing out that he was quite wrong in saying that teacher-training students will receive varying grants according to their place of residence. There really was no excuse for making that error, because in opening the debate my noble friend had explained that uniformity of treatment for teachers in training was achieved several years ago, in 1956, by agreement among the local education authorities. These students receive tuition and board from the college which they attend: their home education authority pays each student an allowance for books, clothing and day-to-day expenses; the grants are paid automatically and at standard rates. Students would be no better off if these arrangements were superseded by the imposition of a duty upon authorities.

I turn now to more important criticisms which the noble Lord has made, and I begin with his rather ungracious reference to this as a "footling little Bill". He made a number of individual complaints, and he ended up in a fine crescendo, suggesting, if he did not explicitly state, that there really was a case for a general Education Bill to supersede and take the place of the Act of 1944. This is plain educational nonsense, and the noble Lord has no excuse for not recognising it as nonsense. The defects in our educational system, such as they are—I do not think this is the occasion to go into them at any great length—to which he referred, such as oversized classes, the shortage of teachers, the inadequacy of our provision of further education, and the need for school building, as he knows perfectly well, are not things which can be dealt with by a new Act of Parliament; they are matters of educational administration. He has no excuse whatever for causing despondency and anxiety among the parents of this country by suggesting that in these respects education is being held up for want of a new Act of Parliament. This has no relation whatever to the facts.

And when he goes on to complain that we have not accepted the Crowther recommendations in respect of the raising of the school-leaving age, the merits of which complaint I will take time to examine in a moment, the least he could have done was to point out that we do not need an Act of Parliament for that either. Therefore, to make a criticism of this Bill because it does not make provision for it is simply to ignore the fact that the procedure for raising the school-leaving age is a matter for an Order in Council in England and Wales and for Regulations in neighbouring Scotland. One really has no excuse, with respect, for making a fully-mounted partisan attack on a Government Bill without taking a little more trouble to make the criticisms well-informed.

Now, my Lords, I come to the substance of some of these criticisms—those which have some relation to the Bill. I think the noble Lord ought really to have pointed out that, whatever may be said about our system of education in the respect in which we are discussing it this afternoon, ours is probably the most generous system in the world—by a long way. I take as two extremes of the educational spectrum the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It is, of course, quite true—and I have never sought to conceal it from the House—that I should like to see the number of places available in our system of further education very greatly extended indeed, and we have on recent occasions debated the extent to which that is true. But in America there is no general system of grants such as we are discussing to-day, although, of course, the proportion of students receiving further education is very much higher. There is subsidised tuition and there are generous scholarships, but only about 10 per cent. of students hold them. Most students have to rely on loans or earnings.

To take the other side of the educational spectrum, the U.S.S.R., there is what I think to be a deplorable institution there of competitive examination for entry. Tuition there is free, as my noble friend would like to see it, but accommodation and meals have to be paid for. Students receive stipends and family help, but one has to point out that for favoured students there are differential stipends, something which would be revolted from here on every educational ground. There are both sticks and carrots for the student in Soviet Russia. The stipend is suspended for bad work; one rather wonders how the pupil pays for his accommodation and food during this period of disgrace. Sometimes, if the work is good, the stipend is improved, which means, I suppose, he can get something more. All that is quite foreign to our system; and I think that while he was seeking to cause anxiety in the hearts of parents about the provisions of this Bill, the noble Lord should have said, quite plainly, that our system in this respect is probably the most generous in the world, and probably educationally the best, whatever its defects.

Now, my Lords, I do not propose to spend very much time talking about the raising of the school-leaving age to sixteen, because it was only by ignoring the most salient facts about it that the noble Lord, Lord Latham, succeeded in introducing it in order to discuss it at all. I would, however, simply say this and I am to some extent repeating what my noble friend Lady Horsbrugh said—that although, like most people, I look forward to the time when the compulsory leaving age is raised to sixteen, I cannot imagine, speaking as one who, not very long ago, was Minister of Education, a more disastrous step for the education of this country than to introduce it at the present time. I cannot imagine anything more foolish than to let loose upon the educational apparatus a flood of unwilling secondary school pupils for whom there was inadequate provision in the "C" and "D" streams. I cannot imagine anything less likely to produce a proper supply of scientists, technologists and graduates of all kinds, or more likely to discourage the parents of reasonable pupils from keeping them on at school to sixth-form stage, or making them fit for the universities. It is, to my mind, absolutely irresponsible at the present time to use the kind of talk about the Crowther Report which was employed by the noble Lord. Although I say again that I myself would longingly look forward to the day when the compulsory age was raised to sixteen, it seems to me, in comparison with some other things, to occupy a lower rate of priority, and I consider that the priorities given by my right honourable friend are the right ones.

I must add this. It was particularly extraordinary for the noble Lord, Lord Latham, to make this complaint when he quite rightly saw that one of the main priorities at the present time is the reduction of the oversize classes; when he knew—as I think he does—that the recruitment of teachers is limited by the rate of expansion that is possible in the teacher-training colleges; and when he must be aware that no one has suggested that the output of teachers could be increased to any sizeable extent through those teacher-training colleges unless, of course, one took the reactionary step of abolishing the reform that I introduced when Minister of Education and reducing the course back to two years.

I turn to the next point made by the noble Lord. He complained that we had not completely abolished the means test for parents, as the majority recommendation of the Anderson Committee suggested. Perhaps I might spend a little time on this, because I should like the House, and also the noble Lord, to realise exactly what it is that he is impliedly asking the House to do. The noble Lord quite rightly pointed out that the main defect of our provision of further education was a shortage of places. This is a matter we have to put right before we put anything else right in that field. He did not point out that to abolish the means test, as was recommended by the majority of the Anderson Committee, would not provide a single additional place in any institution of further education in the country. When, therefore, he talks about the wastage of talent, I respectfully and regretfully agree with him, but the idea that we should do anything whatever to improve that situation by adopting the majority Anderson recommendation is something which does not bear a moment's scrutiny.

would agree with my noble friend, Baroness Horsbrugh that there is a distinction in principle between free tuition at school and free maintenance at the university. It is, of course, free maintenance at the university—which includes food, clothing and lodging—with which the noble Lord, Lord Latham, is concerned when he talks about the implementation of the majority Anderson recommendations. But, my Lords, it is not as self-evident to me, at any rate, that the children of millionaires should have free board at a university every time they get two "A" levels at school, and it astonished me to know that the noble Lord is solemnly putting it forward as a recommendation from the Labour Party Front Bench that they should. I wonder what authorisation he has from his Party for suggesting that it is self-evident that children of millionaires should be paid for in regard to their keep, their food, their lodging, out of the taxpayers' pocket. It may be just, but I only say that it is not self-evidently just; and I must tell him that the effect of this is not negligible.

We went into this proposal most carefully when we were considering the Anderson Committee Report. We found that 25 per cent. of the additional cost—that is, 25 per cent. of about £10 million, a sum which the noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite seems to think is wholly negligible from the point of view of public finance at this particular juncture in our history—would go to the one-sixth of the parents in the highest income groups. That may be a very good thing to do, but it is a strange doctrine, indeed, coming from the Labour Party—and this when some parents in the lowest income groups, had we accepted the majority Anderson recommendation, would have been absolutely worse off, and most of the middle income groups would have been substantially unaffected.

My Lords, this adds up to my own judgment upon the educational priorities involved. I myself would put first in this field the increase in availability of higher school education to all, levelling up to the highest available standards; and, on an equal footing, increased places at universities and in other spheres of further education, before you spend £10 million providing, as to 25 per cent. of the total, for the top one-sixth income bracket to keep their children at public expense. But that, my Lords, is because I have had to face the responsibility of being Minister of Education, instead of simply criticising educational policy from a Party point of view.

The noble Lord then referred to maintenance at secondary schools. Sixth form bursaries, as I think he called them, are given by local education authorities at their own discretion. I do not think there is any reason to suppose that they are not alive to their responsibilities. About half the local education authorities are already paying at higher values than those recommended by a Working Party in 1957, and all the rest are paying as much as, or more than, the Ministry recommended when I was Minister, at about the same time.

My Lords, my noble friend Lady Horsbrugh seemed to me to answer the remaining point made by the noble Lord, Lord Latham, which was that some four years ago, before they had the advantage of the Crowther Report, the Labour Party had recommended one school-leaving date rather than three. In this respect, at least, apparently the noble Lord was not accepting the Report, from whose recommendations he was complaining that we were departing. But as my noble friend pointed out, there is a very good reason bath for the recommendation in the Report, which recommended two leaving dates and not one, and for our decision to accept it. The reason is, of course, that it is highly undesirable to throw upon the labour market at one time the whole of the output of the schools. It is important to provide continuity of employment and, whether or not we are right in coming to this decision, we have the best of authority for doing so. The underlying suggestion that we were failing to do so for some obscure but clearly hinted at resistance to true educational doctrine, as I say, does not bear the smallest examination.

This Bill is, of course, not a large matter. The great issues of education are the provision of more places at universities and places of further education; the encouragement of children to stay at school, so that where their parents permit them they can take further education; the reduction of classes, and the completion of the provisions for secondary education con- tained in the 1944 Act. It is true that these are not dealt with by the present Bill, for the reasons that I have tried to indicate, and it is no defect of the present Bill that it fails to do so. The present Bill effects an improvement which can be dealt with only by legislation, and so far I think it has emerged unscathed from the criticism to which it has been subjected.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.