§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HEALTH (LORD NEWTON)
My Lords, no major debate in your Lordships' House on education could really be complete without a contribution from my noble friend the Leader of the House, and indeed for many years there has not been one in which he has not spoken on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. In his unavoidable absence I am the inadequate substitute—I will not say say understudy—but your Lordships will have been relieved to learn that my noble friend Lord Dundee is to wind up from this Box.
I have become fairly accustomed to the problems involved in answering for Departments other than my own, but I find speaking about education particularly difficult, for two reasons. The first is that at any moment of time many nuances of educational policy reflect in an important degree the philosophical ideas of whoever happens to be Minister, and it is far from easy to expound another man's philosophy. The second is that on a subject such as education one is bound to have one's own personal views. However, I shall try hard to prevent my own personal views from obtruding.
§ LORD NEWTON
Because I am speaking on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, not on behalf of myself.
§ LORD LINDGREN
Tell us what you think of the Government.
§ LORD NEWTON
The noble Earl, Lord Longford, has framed his Motion in wide terms; indeed they could hardly have been wider. I have no doubt that your Lordships will take legitimate advantage of this situation and that your oratory will range freely. I propose, and I hope this will have your Lordships' approval, not to deal specifically with higher education—in fact to say very little about it—but to leave that to my noble friend. On the other hand, I should like to say something in reply to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, since he asked me to do so, and also because it is a subject—the supply and training of doctors—in which I do have a Departmental interest.
723 The noble Lord talked about the Willink recommendations, and I ought therefore to remind your Lordships that in 1961, nearly two years ago, the Government felt satisfied that the prospective demand for medical services would justify a rise in the intake of 10 per cent. over the level which the Willink Committee recommended, and accordingly the University Grants Committee were asked to consider the possibility and cost of such an increase. The University Grants Committee's view was that the increase could be secured from the existing medical schools and that there would be no need to develop new schools. However, they did recommend that additional capital and recurrent grants should be made available over and above the main grant authorised for university expansion, and the Government accepted the Committee's advice that the recurrent sums to be provided should rise from £135,000 in 1962–63 to £245,000 in 1966–67, in addition to capital grants totalling about £100,000.
In the event, the intake increased in the autumn of last year by more than 16 per cent. over the Willink figure and by more than 14 per cent. over the intake for 1960–61. Indeed, the number of doctors in the hospital service in England and Wales has been increasing steadily. Between 1949 and 1962 there was about a 51 per cent. increase. In the case of junior staff the increase was about 64 per cent., and the number of consultants has increased by 70 per cent. As far as general practitioners are concerned, the total number has increased every year since the Health Service began, and apart from 1959–60, when a number of doctors were retired on qualifying for National Health Service pension, this increase has always been greater than the corresponding increase in the population.
In December, 1961, a memorandum was issued to hospital authorities setting out the action to be taken to implement the recommendation of the Joint Working Party on Medical Staffing Structure in the Hospital Service, and the Boards were asked to undertake a review of medical staffing in their hospitals. This is the first comprehensive review to be undertaken since the early days of the National Health Service. The Boards were asked to assess the 724 number of doctors needed at each level, both immediately and over the next five years, and to report their conclusions to my right honourable friend. A similar review is taking place in Scotland. Those reviews are going on. To summarise what I have been trying to say in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, about this question of doctors, it would seem that the current estimated need for medical students in Great Britain is being met by places in existing medical schools, but the position will be kept under review, and if there has to be a revision the suggestions of the noble Lord will, of course, be considered with others.
§ LORD AMULREE
My Lords, may I just intervene for one moment? Does not the noble Lord think that my suggestion that more doctors might be coming here from the developing countries will mean that a new medical school may be necessary?
§ LORD NEWTON
I have not at the moment any evidence which would justify me in departing from the recommendation of the University Grants Committee.
My Lords, no Government can frame its educational policy in a vacuum, and by this I mean that the amount of money available is not, and never will be, limitless. There are other deserving competitors, and your Lordships will not be surprised if I say that the National Health Service is one. It is no good anybody trying to ignore the fact that educational advance is now putting a considerable strain both on central finances and on local government finances. I would ask the House to realise that in recent years spending on education as a whole has been rising two or three limes as fast as the gross national product, as the noble Earl himself recognised. The figure set by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the current year is only £100 million short of the figure which the former Minister, my noble friend Lord Eccles, speaking in 1960, thought would be reached in the early 1970's.
A sharply rising trend in expenditure like this cannot be painlessly absorbed, however it is financed. But my right honourable friend the Minister of Education has recently declared that the expenditure on education should rise rather 725 faster than the gross national product; that personal construction should rise a little more slowly; and that the Government are prepared to face that situation. It does not follow, of course, that those who will have to foot the bill, under any Government, whether as ratepayers or taxpayers or both, will necessarily agree. Therefore, I think it behoves all of us who believe that the standards of the educational service should go on rising to be articulate about our reasons.
Are we achieving the aims of education and what are those aims anyhow? Those are questions which have continually to be asked, even if they can never be finally answered. I dare say that this afternoon some of your Lordships will ask them, and the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, certainly gave notice that he was going to ask them. They are questions which are capable of endless academic argument, but they are far from purely academic questions. The answers which one gives to them have a direct bearing on such essentially practical matters as the 11-plus examination and the school-leaving age. If, to give an extreme illustration, one held the authoritarian view that the purpose of education is to produce in the right numbers men and women sufficiently qualified, and no more, to do work which the State would assign to them, then the most rigid system of selection and streaming would be justified. But, of course, one does not hold that view about the purpose of education.
At the Annual Meeting of the Association of Education Committees in Belfast on the 5th July, my right honourable friend Sir Edward Boyle stated what he thought the educational service should be trying to achieve. He said:Education is about children. We have to be concerned with every child, the intelligent and the stupid, the bad and the good, the eager and the reluctant. We have to do our best by each one of them. We have to keep reminding ourselves of the individuals behind the statistics, the personalities inside the streams.Some people think education is about class and snobbery, or about power and political rivalry; others think it is about getting on, or getting in. I believe that if we separate children at any stage we must do it because it is better for them that way, not because it pleases their parents, and not because of any social or class—or, let me add, colour—distinotion.Later in the same speech he said:If I were asked to put as shortly as possible why I attach such importance to 726 education, I think I would give two main reasons. First, the most valuable assets we have in this country are the potential abilities of our young people; and secondly, as a matter of social policy, I do believe we should work towards a situation in which every child has an equal chance of developing its interests and personality to the full.Those statements by my right honourable friend seem to me to explain very clearly the Government's view of what the aim of educational policy should be. They do not, of course, answer such questions as whether it is my right honourable friend's purpose to produce good citizens. I would certainly agree that a system of education that produced only bad citizens would be a bad system, but anybody who maintains that educational policy should be framed by the Government with an eye to the production of good citizens is presupposing that the Government knows best what a good citizen is, and that is not a proposition that appeals to me.
There can be no doubt that good schools can do much to draw out from children abilities that are latent in them. Because he recognises this, my right honourable friend has explicity stated that he does not start from the assumption that potential intelligence and ability are distributed very unevenly among different sections of the community; rather does he assume that there is a very large potential reserve of ability still to be tapped. I do not suppose there are many who would dispute that, but it does not mean that all children could ever do equally well at school. This brings us up against the 11-plus examination, about which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, gave us the philosophy of his Party.
Those who demand its abolition mean one of two things: either that there should be a different method of selection for secondary education, or that there should be no process of selection at all. To those who mean the latter—and I fully understand the force of their arguments—it is necessary to point out that, however long one postpones the moment of truth (and much can be said in favour of postponing it as long as possible), the moment will surely come, even if one is educated in a comprehensive school. One cannot for ever opt out of competition: sooner or later one has to learn that one is stupider than one thought, or than 727 one's parents thought. I learned that lesson nearly thirty years ago at the feet, metaphorically speaking, of the noble Earl, Lord Longford.
I am not, however, suggesting—far from it—that the 11-plus examination is immutable: indeed a number of local authorities have got rid of it or modified it, mainly because of its bad effect on the curriculum of the primary schools. As your Lordships will know, my right honourable friend has expressed his opinion that the strictly educationalist case for moving away from formal methods of selection is now well established. And that case is the one that matters. Its premise is that, compared with other animals, human beings mature relatively late and that a child's performance at the age of 11 is not necessarily a pointer to what he will be capable of a few years later. One must remember, too, that some children start at a disadvantage—I am thinking especially of those who are members of large families and may be growing up in overcrowded surroundings: we must see to it that they also rank for the best that our educational system can provide. That is in the long-term interest of the nation as well as their own.
So far as selection procedures are concerned, my right honourable friend has no wish at all to interfere with the experiments of individual educational authorities. The 11-plus exam does cause difficulties for many primary schools and it is only right that individual local education authorities should resolve them in the manner that seems best to them. The Government have no hostility in principle to the establishment of comprehensive schools—indeed quite a number have been established with the Government's full approval, especially in new housing areas and in rural areas which are sparsely populated. There were 86 comprehensive schools in 1958, and in 1962 there were 152. How ever, in my right honourable friend's opinion, it is important that in every comprehensive school the academic element should be strong.
Certainly the Government are not prejudiced in favour of any particular pattern of secondary school organisation. It is too early to be dogmatic about what will be best for the future, but my right 728 honourable friend does not consider that the bipartite system should be regarded as the right and usual way of organising secondary education, compared with which everything else must be stigmatised as experimental. Wherever there are grammar and modern schools, children just on either side of the line will be virtually the same as each other in terms of ability and potentiality and will need the same kind of education. Not only, therefore, must there be opportunities for transfer; both types of school must also recognise their special obligations—the modern schools to do their best by their ablest pupils, and the grammar schools not to concentrate only on their most promising scholars. There is room for more overlapping between the courses provided in different types of school and more opportunity for children to move freely within the secondary school structure as they develop at different ages. Those who demand the complete abolition of selection have got to understand that it could not be brought about without closing the many well-established grammar schools all over the country. They have got to face that. My right honourable friend would certainly be opposed to a wholesale slaughter of the grammar schools. He prefers to accept the need for a degree of selection for secondary education, provided that there is wide provision of overlapping courses and ample opportunity for pupils, of all secondary schools to rise to the limits of their capacities.
I should now like to turn to building policy. The school building effort since the war has been one of great magnitude (and I think the noble Earl recognised that), but it is, of course, easy enough to make a case for more school building. Half our schools date from the nineteenth century and do not conform with present-day standards. And we have to meet the needs of a school population which, having already increased by 2 million since the war, is now expected to rise by more than another 2 million by 1980. In the face of problems of this kind, it is clear that more school building will be needed as far ahead as can be foreseen and that there will be good reason to build at an increased rate.
Only this month, my right honourable friend announced the allocation of a 729 further £5 million for school building starts in 1964–65. But educational building in the period beyond 1964–65 is now has main concern and a new policy is being formulated. It is necessary to decide how much building will be required to accommodate both increased numbers of children and shifts of the child population through new housing schemes. And there is the related question of how much can be spared to replace and improve our schools. The inadequacies of existing schools and the cost of remedying them are now much plainer as a result of last year's survey: a report on this will be published in the autumn. Thus the next phase of building policy will be related more closely than in the past to ascertained needs.
The claims of school building will, as always, have to be weighed against the many other claims in the public sector; already these have caused the level of all public service investment to rise from £735 million in 1959–60 to £1,095 million this year. First, in the educational field itself, there are the pressing needs of higher education, which are certain to be given greater emphasis by the publication of the report of the committee under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, this autumn. Outside the educational field, everyone agrees we need more housing and more roads. And, of course, the long-term plans for more hospitals and the development of the health and welfare services must go ahead. Your Lordships will not expect me, I hope, to agree that the claims of the Health Service should be denied, even in the interests of education. Moreover, the size of the task ahead must not be allowed to obscure the very considerable achievement in school building since the war. More than 3 million new school places have been completed and 3½ million have been started. Projects started since the war total in value £900 million for building work alone, and well over £1,000 million if architects' fees, furniture and equipment are included. More schools have been built than in any comparable period of educational history. And when the 1964–65 programme has been completed no all-age schools will remain. Well over £100 million will have been spent on replacement during the five year period 1960–61 to 1964–65, 730 and £200 million worth of improvements to schools are currently being undertaken.
These achievements in terms of quantity have been matched in terms of economy and quality. Mainly through the example of the development group in the Ministry of Education, new schools to-day cost, at constant prices, little more than a half their cost in 1949; yet they provide an environment for teaching and learning which is the envy of other countries. This very good story of value for money has been told before, and I make no apology for telling it again. It is doubtful whether many people in this country to-day realise the impact which our new schools have made abroad. In 1960 the top award at the Milan Triennale went to a three-class primary school system which is now being used in Germany and Italy. In 1962, 60 countries attended an International Educational Building Conference in London, and every year parties come from many countries to see our schools and discuss our school building techniques. This summer, for example, two large parties, headed by senior administrators, have come from France and several more from Australia. We are continually being asked to send experts abroad to advise the developing countries in particular.
Furthermore, the idea of the development group which originated in the Ministry of Education and under which the user, the administrator and the architect work closely together has spread to all the other forms of public building in this country and to many countries abroad. Spectacular savings in school building costs have already been made, but enlightened development work in educational building still has a valuable contribution to make; and the Ministry's development group has some very interesting work under way.
One interesting project is the investigation of the needs of maladjusted children and the design of a boarding school for them. As the special schools programme gathers pace, an appreciable number of such schools will be needed, and the experience of designing boarding accommodation will be of general value. Thus quality and value for 731 money are engaging a great deal of attention, and so are the problems of quantity and a fair share of public resources. A long-term effort is still needed to modernise our schools, but there is a firm base of past achievement, experience and current work from which to proceed.
My Lords, I want now to say something about the important question of teacher supply. In the period 1952 to 1962 the supply of teachers more than matched the huge increase in the school population. During this period the school population increased by 18 per cent. and the supply of teachers by 27 per cent. As a result, the proportion of pupils in oversize classes dropped from nearly a half to nearly a third: from 47 per cent. to 34.6 per cent. The biggest improvement was in the junior schools, where the proportion of pupils in oversize classes fell from two-fifths to under one-fifth. The current school year has not been an easy one since, as a result of the lengthening of the training college course in 1960, output into the schools was very much reduced last summer, and gloomy forecasts were made about the disasters which were bound to happen this year; but, in the event, the schools are weathering the situation much better than many people had feared.
A number of factors contributed towards this. First of all, the training colleges offset the reduction in their regular output by recruiting more older students who qualified for shortened courses, and were thus available to the schools in the autumn of last year. Secondly, a campaign, begun in 1961, to attract married women back into the schools as teachers, in anticipation of this year's difficulties, gathered momentum and recruited some 10,000 teachers in the first two years. Thirdly, many teachers who were contemplating retirement stayed on for another year to help the schools out of their difficulties. Fourthly, the quota system which had brought about a much fairer distribution of teachers since its introduction in 1956, ensured that the areas which find it most difficult to attract teachers were protected from any serious setbacks in their staffing standards. We are now in the middle of a major expansion of the teacher-training colleges on which we embarked 732 in 1958. The intake to the training colleges in the autumn of last year reached the record total of 17,000, which was a fine response to my right honourable friend's appeal to the colleges, in the spring of 1962, to step up their intakes by taking more day students and by other emergency measures. On present information, recruitment to courses beginning next autumn will exceed 20,000.
My Lords, this indicates the progress already made in carrying out the current expansion programmes of the training colleges. These programmes would have increased the training college population from some 28,000 in 1957–58, to 65,000 by the second half of the present decade. But they have now been superseded by the Government's decision, announced in January this year, to set a new target of 80,000 to be reached by 1970. This will represent a total expansion of almost three times the size of the training colleges only five years ago. It will enable colleges each year to take in over 25,000 students on three-year courses and still leave some room for their other functions, such as offering training to graduates and further training to teachers already qualified.
In order to achieve such a rapid rate of expansion we shall require further capital investment. For this the Government have authorised another £7 million, to be spread over the next three years, and this means that the value of building starts next year will be £9 million, compared with £6 million this year. There will also have to be measures for increasing the productivity of the colleges by more intensive use of their facilities. Since the Government's announcement, individual colleges have been considering and reporting to the Ministry their own plans for the further stage of expansion.
My Lords, this programme of further expansion was the Government's practical response to the long-term forecast of teacher supply and demand made by the National Advisory Council on the Training and Supply of Teachers in May, 1962. Their report showed that, although conditions in the secondary schools were expected to improve quite substantially, the really severe problems would lie in the primary schools. This was because those schools rely most heavily on women teachers: all teachers in the infants schools are women. It is the increasingly rapid loss of young women, 733 either on marriage or, more commonly, to start their families, which is the main factor that limits the growth of the teaching force and largely counteracts the measures taken to increase the annual recruitment of teachers.
However, since the National Advisory Council's report was published, official forecasts of child population have been revised upwards. We have now to reckon with 750,000 more children in the schools by 1980 than was earlier forecast. The latest evidence about the loss of women teachers (your Lordships will notice that I am trying to avoid the word "wastage") also suggests that it is increasing more rapidly than had been assumed. Both these factors, though they may testify to a welcome spirit of optimism among our young people, add to the difficulties of staffing.
If these losses and the birth rate continue to rise, even mare of our teaching resources will have to be devoted to holding current standards, with correspondingly less to spare for improvement. In this situation it is not sufficient to tackle the staffing problems of the schools simply from the angle of teacher recruitment. It is just as important to examine how the available resources of professional skill, experience and wisdom among the teaching force can be deployed most effectively. This entails a readiness to re-examine many traditional assumptions and practices about the organisation of our schools. Some of the main issues which will arise were put by my right honourable friend in his recent speech at Belfast to the Association of Education Committees. He posed these questions:Is there not room for more flexibility in the sizes of the groups to be taught? What are the limits of an acceptable balance between men and women in the different stages of the schools system? Most important of all, what are the true functions of a highly trained teacher? Are their skills and experience at present being dissipated in tasks which might well be delegated to other hands? If so, has not the time come to provide the schools with helpers of the right kind, in the classroom as well as outside it, to enable teachers to concentrate on work which demands their professional attention?My Lords, I would suggest that these are questions which will have to be discussed in future by all who are concerned with education.
Meanwhile, efforts to recruit more teachers from every possible source must 734 continue with vigour and with persistence. The campaign, conducted jointly by the Government and the local education authorities, to persuade married women to return to the profession, has met with a welcome degree of success, and the schools are adjusting themselves to assimilate the growing number of teachers who are willing to give their services if they can find part-time posts. Much of the initiative for this kind of recruitment must rest with the schools and the local education authorities. But the Government can help, particularly by commissioning research into the obstacles to be overcome and into the most fruitful lines of development. To sum up the situation I should like to remind your Lordships of what my right honourable friend said the other day:No Minister of Education, with the best will in the world—and whatever his political Party—can offer anything but painfully slow and dauntingly costly progress towards the goals we all have at heart—many more and better qualified teachers and much smaller classes all round. The world of teacher supply that we have to live in contains two brutal and stubborn facts—the birth rate and wastage. We shall be deceiving ourselves if we say that these are merely excuses for not getting on faster,My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, talked about the sizes of classes. I should therefore like to tell your Lordships that, to get all class sizes down to 30, we should need 110,000 more teachers. Because of the loss of young women teachers to which I have referred, even the decision already announced to work up to a capacity of 80,000 students by 1970 will mean a net addition of only 5,000 teachers during the decade. So, my Lords, in the face of that, I think that to suggest that, in the immediate future it is possible to have another 110,000 teachers in the schools or anything like it, is a rather unreal promise.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I did not make a promise for the immediate future.
§ LORD NEWTON
No. Well, I hope that after what I have said the Opposition will be even less inclined to make such a promise.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I am very glad that the noble Lord has at last referred to my speech. Up to that point I thought he could not have heard it.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I think I have dealt, at any rate so far, with many of the subjects with which the noble Earl dealt. After all, the noble Earl put on the Paper a very widely-drawn Motion; and, although I think that Motion is the noble Earl's property until then, once he puts it down it seems to me to be public property. I have no doubt that your Lordships will wish to discuss many aspects of educational policy this afternoon, and I do not really see why I am not entitled to do the same thing. These matters which I have been discussing up to now are, of course, relevant to the raising of the school-leaving age to 16. The Crowther Report pointed out the need for carrying out this reform towards the end of this decade. My noble friend Lord Eccles, when he was Minister, promised that the Government would make a statement about it during the lifetime of this Parliament. That is still the Government's intention; but more than that I cannot say to-day.
My Lords, I think it would be nonsense for anyone to pretend—and the noble Earl, Lord Longford, did not do this—that there has not been a very real measure of improvement in the education services during recent years. When this House debated the Crowther Report and further education in March, 1960, my noble friend Lord Hailsham looked forward to an expansion of public spending on education to the figure of £1,000 million by 1964. In the event, we have already passed that figure comfortably, and, with expenditure on universities included, have reached a level approaching £1,300 million in the current financial year. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, referred to the proportion of the gross national product devoted to education, and I think that is a good guide to the magnitude of our effort. Between 1951 and 1961, the proportion rose from 3.1 per cent. to 4.4 per cent. It is currently estimated, as he said, at 4.9 per cent., and it will undoubtedly reach, by 1964, the 5 per cent. which my noble friend the Leader of the House expected. Put in another way, the proportion has risen as much in this Parliament as in the previous two together, and nearly as much as in the previous three.
Sixth forms have been growing, and so have the standards of achievement, as measured by examinations, both in the 736 schools and in the technical colleges. The number of boys and girls staying on beyond the statutory leaving age, in all types of secondary schools, has continued to rise steadily, and more and more of them are passing on from the secondary modern schools into more advanced courses, either in the sixth forms of the grammar schools or in the colleges of further education. I am not here this afternoon to say that there is not still a long way to go before we can claim that the 1944 Act has been fully implemented, but I am saying—and I hope your Lordships will agree—that there is much progress of which to be proud.
§ 4.44 p.m.
My Lords, I rise to address your Lordships briefly on one question only—the question of raising the minimum school-leaving age. This is the first occasion on which I address your Lordships' House. I took my seat only six weeks ago, and had intended to wait until the next Session; but, when this debate on educational policy was arranged I thought that it was perhaps a suitable opportunity to make my maiden speech. I must confess that, having finished one career as a colonial civil servant, I have been for the last fifteen years a university lecturer and professor, in widely differing countries overseas—in the United States, in South Africa and in Israel.
I feel that my late father would have approved my "cutting my teeth" on this subject. It is not an exaggeration to say that he was a great parliamentarian. He was also a very kindly man; and before he died he told me that he had bequeathed to me his Parliamentary robes. He told me that, when they were made a quarter of a century ago, he had purposely arranged for them to be let out later, as I am somewhat taller than he. But, even in its original size, his mantle is too large for me. He was a man of stature. I regret that I cannot follow him on the Liberal Benches. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rea, for much good advice on how to take my seat We are old friends of 50 years' standing; and, as the respected Leader of the Liberal Party in your Lordships' House, he did his best to persuade me to sit on the Liberal Benches—and I think that perhaps he has still not given up hope.
737 My noble friend Lord Longford mentioned many educational problems that face this country—the 11-plus controversy and the problem of comprehensive schools, and also that of technological training and the universities. All have claims for attention; all have their protagonists. I shall speak on only one problem—that of raising the minimum school-leaving age. The minimum school-leaving age was, of course, raised by the Education Act, 1944, to 15, and that Act gave the Minister of Education power to raise the age to 16 when it was found desirable. My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Longford said, nearly twenty years have passed since 1944; and still the age has not been raised. The only change was made last year—to abolish school-leaving at Christmas. Even so, boys and girls stay on, at the latest, until they reach the age of 15 and 6 months, and some leave at the age of 14 and 11 months.
In the Government White Paper of 1958, Secondary Education for All, the Government's declared preference was to encourage voluntary staying on after reaching the 15th birthday; and certainly a great deal has been achieved. The Minister of Education recently stated in another place that two-thirds stay on after their 15th birthday; but that is not for the whole year. The actual figure is that in England and Wales last year 266,000 15-year-olds stayed on voluntarily until their 16th birthday. That is excellent. But half a million children did not; and that is not so good.
I admit that some children would not benefit from education beyond the minimum school-leaving age. They go happily to work, and they increase the productive labour force. Some benefit by day release; some go to evening classes. Others would benefit; and their parents are willing. The children are bright but bored; and boredom, my Lords, often leads to juvenile delinquency. In this connection, it is interesting to note that the peak of juvenile delinquency is always one year before the minimum school-leaving age. Now why are teenagers bored? The type of teaching they receive is often unimaginative; many resent the strict school discipline and, in particular, having to wear school uniform. I suggest that more attention should be given to the problem of teenagers in school: how to capture their interest and to retain it—and I am confident that it can be done.
738 Then there are bright school children who want to stay on but whose parents are not willing to forgo their wages. In this age of affluence there is a strange paradox. There is instalment buying, often with instalments in arrears, and many parents still have instalments due on the "telly", on their washing machines and on their "fridges". It is true that parents get allowances. But 15-year-old children often earn much more outside when they go to work; often too much for their own good; and the only way to cope with that problem is to raise the minimum school leaving age to 16. My Lords, these are the children whose cause I advocate. They need your special sympathy; they have no vote and they cannot make their wishes felt. It must be very frustrating for a bright child not to be able to continue his education after the age of 15. Fifteen is a very tender age. The noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, in the debate on the Peerage Bill, invited your Lordships to cast your minds back to the age of 21; I would ask your Lordships to do something more difficult and to cast your minds back to the age of 15. I think you will agree with me that the 15-year-old still needs some form of guidance; it is an impressionable age.
This country is now a Welfare State and the gap between classes is narrowing; there is social mobility upward. Ignorance no longer breeds ignorance, and the bright son of helpful parents can get right to the top in one generation. But this possibility imposes an obligation on the State to allow no talent to remain unexploited. It is not enough to wait for talent to show itself; we must go out to find it and develop it. That can be done only by raising the minimum school-leaving age. Other countries have done it; why not Britain? In the United States, 16 is the school-leaving age in many States; in some of them it is 17 and in a few it is even 18. The average is 17; and yet Britain still allows children to go to work at 15. The Government claim that Britain cannot yet afford to keep all the children at school until they are 16; that there are not enough teachers and not enough buildings. Is it not incredible that this great country cannot afford to keep all its children in school until their sixteenth birthday? This is not in the national interest. It is incredible, in my opinion, that Britain should lag behind.
739 My Lords, this is a competitive world, and many new countries challenge Britain's supremacy. We need every good brain available. We cannot possibly increase the number of scientists and technologists at the top without increasing the number of boys coming out of secondary schools; and it is essential to widen the base as soon as possible. But I must point out to your Lordships that we shall shortly be facing a new and even graver problem—technological unemployment; the result of automation in industry. This has already hit the United States, who are faced with a possible 25 per cent. unemployment rate permanently in their labour force in the next few years. This will be chiefly the unskilled labour, the Negro population, the Puerto Rican immigrants and the young. I fear that a similar phenomenon will overtake the United Kingdom later.
I should like, if I may, to read one sentence from a letter I recently received. It is from a member of the National Coal Board, who sent me some information about automation in the mines. He says:It is already apparent that the main job of the miner in the future will be that of a maintenance fitter or electrician.We are on the threshold of a great step forward as the result of automation; it is the Second Industrial Revolution. The machine will raise further the standard of living; it will reduce further the hours of labour; but there will be no place in this new world for the uneducated, and we must make desperate efforts at once to raise the minimum school-leaving age before we are overwhelmed. We must equip the next generation to take their place on the stage of the new world of automation. Recently when I was in the United States on a visiting professorship I saw teenagers being trained at school, not only in typewriting and in the use of adding machines, but in the ancillary skills for computers. Here, I find few local education authorities have ever heard of such a thing.
It is necessary to raise the school-leaving age not only to equip our children for the new age. There are two other advantages. Keeping teenagers in school will reduce the number of unemployed and the number of unemployable. Also, there will be more leisure. There is a great danger in leisure unless one is 740 trained for it, and teenagers need to be trained to handle leisure wisely. They must be provided with intellectual resources on which they can fall back, or their leisure will mean more looking at the "telly", more loafing around and mischief. My Lords, these are compelling reasons for us to take bold steps forward now to raise the school-leaving age to sixteen. When I say "now" I mean within the next five years; and there will be a golden opportunity when the dip in the size of the age group will come into effect between 1968 and 1970. But the decision must be reached now. An immense amount has to be done: more school buildings, more teachers, more teacher-training colleges. All that is in addition to reducing classes to 40 and 30, which, in itself, demands more teachers and more teacher-training colleges. A great deal has, of course, been done by the present Government. Twenty-four thousand extra places have been provided in teachers' training colleges; 5,000 married women, ex-teachers, were recalled. But still not enough has been done to raise the school-leaving age to 16 in the next five years. A really superhuman effort is needed.
Your Lordships will recall that during the Second World War Britain turned out tens of thousands of fighter pilots and bomber pilots at short notice; and teachers can be turned out in numbers if we want to do it and if we decide to do it—in other words, if there is a high enough priority. Raising the school age to 16 is ultimately a question of money. Every Ministry needs more money, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Newton, has said, health, defence, roads, all jostle with education for money. Even within the education budget, the cost of raising the minimum school-leaving age must jostle with the needs of university education, technological training and adult education. Great Britain already devotes a large proportion of the gross national product to education. The figure has already been mentioned; it is 4.9 per cent. But several European countries are spending more: the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway and Finland all spend between 5.2 per cent. and 6.3 per cent. Why should Great Britain spend only 4.9 per cent. or even 5 per cent.? I claim that any country can afford to educate all its children to any 741 standard if it really wants to. It is a question purely of priorities.
My Lords, I come to the end of my modest contribution to this debate. I would only mention that the Minister of Education in another place undertook to make a statement on education policy before the end of the present Parliament. I only hope that he will find room in that statement for a declaration now that the Government are raising the minimum school-leaving age to 16 within the next five years. I know I am not supposed to be controversial in a maiden speech, but I cannot omit to say that I fear that the Government have not much time left. Do they want to leave this important reform to their successors? This is not really a Party matter. Everyone wants better education for the children of this country. The only question is the speed of advance. I urge full speed ahead. Time presses.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ LORD ECCLES
My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has done the House a service and himself great credit in choosing to address your Lordships for the first time in this educational debate. Long ago, when I was at the university, I learned to admire the wisdom and statesmanship of his father and I am sure that that remarkable man would feel that his robe, whether altered or not, had this afternoon been well and worthily worn. I think that your Lordships will wish to hear the noble Viscount often in our debates.
I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for introducing this debate. I do not know whether his speech was good politics; perhaps it was. But I have some critical remarks to make upon its educational content. I thought it was likely that the organisation of secondary schools would occupy a central place in his speech and in this debate. This is a problem that raises a great conflict of political principle, which those who are for and those who are against the comprehensive system should, I think, try to face more directly and, if possible, more objectively, because we have here a very great dilemma.
Men have always desired equality, sometimes for good reasons and sometimes 742 for bad, but in our generation, by one of those contradictions which make human nature so fascinating, men are also exhibiting an unprecedented passion for education. And education is civilisation's most formidable engine for discovering and enhancing the inequalities between man and man. In the days before there were any schools at all, I imagine that your Lordships' ancestors were distinguished by physical strength and natural cunning, but education, when it came, put us all in a long order of trained ability and skill, and this process, whether we like it or not, goes on inside every single school. It is quite true that when children first arrive they are put into the same class, and that for a few years they are kept together in their age groups, but it is not long before it is patently unjust, both to those below the average level as well as to those above the average level of intelligence, to go on teaching them the same lessons in the same class. And so the able are given their heads. They draw farther and farther away, and the better the methods of selection—and they are becoming better all the time—the more efficiently will the sheep be separated from the goats.
The authors of the Education Act of 1944 did not try to belittle or disguise education by reference to ability as the basic principle of the secondary schools to be provided under that Act. Indeed, they laid upon the Minister—and Parliament fully agreed—a specific duty to see that every child is offered an education suitable to his or her ability and aptitudes. That obligation is just. We should be ashamed if every child were not treated as an end in himself—that is to say, as a person who has a right to be educated to become as different from any other child as his gifts and application will make him. Once this is accepted as fundamental, then secondary education has to be organised on a selective principle. In theory, it would not matter whether the selection is achieved by some kind of examination at 11 or 12 leading on to different types of secondary school, or by promoting the able child out of turn inside a comprehensive school, such as Kidbrooke or Eton. But there is here a very big proviso. We should have to be sure that the quality of education offered 743 to children of different levels of intelligence was the same under the comprehensive system as under the tripartite system or in the independent schools.
I do not doubt that anyone who has first-hand knowledge of the maintained secondary schools in England and Wales, of their staffs, of their buildings and of the child population in every area would agree that a rapid changeover to the comprehensive system, even if it were desirable on other grounds, would damage educational standards. Only experts could measure the damage in each area. We are very fortunate that my noble friend Lord James of Rusholme is to intervene in this debate, because there is no one in this country who knows more about this complex subject than he. Out of my small experience, I cannot help observing that the preparation of children for the sixth form and the growing range of subjects which nowadays should be offered to children in the sixth form involve problems of staffing and organisation which could not be solved in any rapid changeover to the comprehensive system. But, of course, that does not worry the extreme advocates of the comprehensive system They tell us that the social effects of preserving the grammar schools and independent schools are so injurious that we should accept some lessening of standards in sixth-form work as the price of getting rid of these schools.
I remember receiving a deputation from a county borough, one which had long been in Socialist hands, who wished to abolish their grammar schools and go comprehensive. They did not advance one single argument to show that the children would be better educated, or even as well educated, if their proposition was accepted. They rested their whole case on the divisions and jealousies among parents, which they said the existence of grammar schools created in their city. That, of course, was not an adequate argument to bring to a Minister of Education, who has a statutory duty to look after and provide for the children. But it is also not an argument to be brushed aside, lying as it does at the very heart of the conflict between doing justice to every child and meeting the desire for greater equality. We have to try to resolve this conflict, and I hope that I can show 744 your Lordships that we can make progress to the extent that the desire for equality is charitable in origin; by which I mean, that it is a genuine wish to treat every person as an equal and a friend.
Of course, if everyone were to feel like that about his neighbour, then the able would never despise the stupid and the stupid would never be moved to resent the able. But, as your Lordships know, the desire for equality is not always a Christian feeling: it is often founded on jealousy and resentment that anyone else's child should go to a better school or have a better start in society than one's own. This kind of pressure for equality plays havoc with educational standards. Instead of putting all their energies into raising the level of the maintained schools, and into bringing closer together the two systems, the independent schools and the maintained schools, some people, in their impatience (and I am sorry to find that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, is one of them) would like us to get rid of the grammar schools, and the independent schools, perhaps, by an Act of Parliament.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I did not actually deal with the independent schools. I do not know why the noble Lord thinks I said that. I left that to my noble friend Lord Attlee.
§ LORD ECCLES
I beg the noble Earl's pardon. But it is bad enough to get rid of the grammar schools.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I did not say "get rid of". The noble Lord is reading something into my remarks which I did not in fact say. If he will stick to what I said, he will get on very well, and I will reply at the end.
§ LORD ECCLES
The noble Earl said that he wished to have an entirely comprehensive system, and he can decide for himself what would then happen to the grammar schools.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Will the noble Lord give way again?
§ LORD ECCLES
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I explained that you might proceed along the Leicestershire line.
§ LORD ECCLES
Well, we will see. My own comment on this policy of 745 levelling down, done one way or the other, is that it would recoil upon its sponsors. For one thing, it fails to take account of the wishes of a great many parents. I discovered, when I was the Minister of Education, that British parents are very ready to call for a system of education which offers equal opportunities to all children except their own. When it comes to their own children, they want, and want with a passion that goes beyond reason, something more than a fair share. One saw parents going to any lengths to get a place in the favoured primary school in their area; others pressing the local authorities with the utmost conviction—and, in my view, rightly—to increase the number of denominational schools; and others pinching, scraping and denying themselves luxuries in order to have the means to ray fees at an independent school.
My Lords, this instinct for the family is deep and sound; and if in the field of education it sometimes finds expression in ways which preserve or create social divisions out of keening with the kind of free and open society that we should like to see, the remedy is not to prohibit parents from doing what they think best for their children, but to widen the choice of schools, where discipline and good manners are good, and where parents can be convinced that the instruction is suitable to their own children. A satisfactory choice of good secondary schools need not be anything like so difficult to attain, or take so long, as many people still fear. Of course there is a great deal still to do—we all agree about that; and perhaps nobody knows more about what is still to be done than I do. But the rate of progress, if one looks at it in comparison with what we had before the war, or across the Channel, is striking; and I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Newton for the excellent way he put the record right.
Educational reforms are bound to take time to bear fruit; that is in the nature of this service. The principal Act was passed only in 1944. Since then the expansion in school places and in the number of qualified teachers has proceeded at a pace (and I know this from having conducted the administration) which would strain any organisation, 746 however well-founded. Less than twenty years ago there was not a single secondary modern school as we know them, in existence. Now they are everywhere. As my noble friend said, year after year these schools are keeping more children after the age of 15, and turning out thousands and thousands more boys and girls capable of going and willing to go on to some kind of further education. The story of academic success in the grammar schools is the same. I do not think that the next generation of children—the children of those now coming out of the maintained schools—will, when they grow up, have much difficulty in meeting your Lordships' children and grandchildren on any ground where education counts.
Nevertheless (and this is my next point) the independent schools to which most of us here—and a good many members of the Party opposite in the other place, as well—send our children should not sit back and wait for the maintained schools to catch up: they ought to go halfway to meet them. Much thought is being given, and with much good will on all sides, to the problem of how to make entrance to the boys' public schools—the position is not too bad for the girls—easier for a child who has been to a primary school. Children mature a whole year earlier than they did before the war. Very few public schools today, admitting, as they still do, their boys at 13, can get a single treble voice for their chapel choir. Therefore, I should like to see the dates for leaving primary schools and for entrance to public schools coming together, around 12, and the public schools entrance exam, containing no subject which would be a bar to a boy who had been to a primary school. All that is now being thought about, and I hope that action will follow. In fact, if we continue to raise the standards of the maintained schools, as is happening now, and set about removing the artificial barriers between the two systems, in quite a short time a great and salutary change will have been effected.
I want to turn now to a serious and intractable problem. The improved opportunities for education are creating another social division which I take to be more dangerous than the remnants of snobbery to which so much attention is given. It would not be the first time in 747 our history that the results of science and engineering had divided the people. Disraeli deplored the two nations, the rich and the poor, who were thrown into such hard relief by the spread of manufactures and inventions during the Industrial Revolution. Disraeli insisted that stocks and shares, like land, carried obligations; and he charged the new moneyed men with failing to do their duty by their neighbours. I wonder what obligations he would have attached to the form of wealth which is growing so fast in our generation, and which is not money or property, but university degrees, diplomas, professional qualifications and all those career advantages which the clever children are now deriving from a system of free education.
Just as in the nineteenth century nothing could stop the Industrial Revolution from creating a great many new fortunes, so in our day nothing can stop education by selection from creating a superior and growing minority of qualified people. Each year it is going to be easier to identify the academically unsuccessful. How will the two new nations, the commissioned officers with their bits of paper in their hands, and the non-commissioned be able to understand one another? Indeed, now that all the bright boys have been picked out by selection and put on the moving stair to the university, one may well ask from where will come the men able and willing to take responsibility on the shop floor?
This brings me back to the heart of educational policy. Your Lordships have heard already in this debate—and you will hear a great deal more outside in the next few months—about the urgent need to expand higher education. Of course, noble Lords opposite cannot have it both ways. They cannot both say that our universities and technical colleges are far too small to offer places to all those who deserve a place, and then go on to say that the secondary schools are a failure. The truth is that the extra pressure which is producing this critical situation in higher education is due to the fact that the number of passes in G.C.E. in the secondary schools steadily outstrips the rise in the school population.
§ LORD TAYLOR
My Lords, the noble Lord is attributing thoughts and words to this side of the House which have 748 never been uttered. Nobody has said that the secondary schools are a failure. Everybody knows that the present problems of higher education are due to the successes of the secondary schools.
§ LORD ECCLES
We have heard nothing but tales of the bad record of education. Also, we are told all the time—the noble Lord need not shake his head—that we ought completely to reorganise the secondary schools. Would anybody want to do that if he thought they were not a failure?
I was talking about the expansion of higher education. All Parties will join in accepting the arguments for that, and very large sums of money will be voted. Thus we shall set in motion a further powerful instrument for sorting out the able from the rest. Of course, it will be right to do this. This expansion will be both just and useful—just to the young people and useful to the nation. But we cannot leave it at that. I want to ask the Government to accompany the expansion in higher education with action to bridge the gulf between the new rich and the new poor; between those who have been given and those who could not be given a higher education. What parallel action could we now take? Nothing can replace the charitable desire for equality which makes a clever man feel that his neighbour is his equal and his friend; and whether it is a question of two people, one with brains, and the other not, or of someone in authority having to deal with those under him, what counts is the will to communicate and the manner in which the communications are made.
There is also a great deal that we could do through educational policy specially to help young people who have left school early and gone into employment. Technical and adult education began as attempts to make up to those who had been to the old elementary schools something of what they had missed in school. Since those days, secondary education has improved out of all knowledge; and many more boys and girls now leave school interested in various aspects of education, and wanting the chance to go on enjoying what they had been enjoying in their last years at school. Surely, in this field three excellent meeting grounds between the able and the not so able 749 are waiting to be developed, to great advantage: adult education, sport and the arts. It may be said that adult education languishes to-day. If that is so, it is not so much because Governments have not had a regard for it, but because the techniques are fifty years out of date. The future is with television, with week-end discussion groups, and with other new methods.
§ LORD GREENHILL
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, may I say that numbers in adult education are steadily rising? And those who are taking advantage of adult education are of a higher educational level than ever they have been before.
§ LORD ECCLES
My Lords, I used to study the budget for adult education, and it was my great regret that, while the costs went up, the numbers attending did not do so in anything like the same way. I am convinced that what is now needed is a real reform in the approach to adults who wish to improve their skills or hobbies.
I do not wish to keep your Lordships much longer, but I should like to refer to sport, which includes all outdoor activities. Sport is a great mixer of the able and the not so able, and I know that my noble friend the Lord President of the Council has that very much in mind. I put in a plea also for the arts. Take Coventry Cathedral. Only a handful of men and women, with very special talents, designed and decorated that great church; but every day thousands of ordinary people—and by "ordinary people" I mean someone like myself, with no particular creative gift—go there and enjoy the artists' work. The traditional love that we have for flowers and gardens is to-day being extended to many other forms of beauty. Who are chiefly responsible for this? My Lords, it is the secondary modern schools. Three-quarters of all the children in the country are now taught art in the secondary modern schools, but their parents had no such advantage. We can begin to see, in appreciation and taste, the results of this revolution. Can anyone imagine a better or a broader bridge than the arts between the intellectual minority and the large majority who could not enjoy the full benefits of higher education?
750 In conclusion, therefore, there ate four great aspects of educational policy which seem to me at present to be outstanding. The first is that we should go on improving the level of the maintained schools; the second, that we should bring together the maintained and the independent systems by removing all artificial barriers between them; the third, that we should expand higher education; and the fourth that we should devote, to adult education, to sport and to the arts as much care and resources, as we shall to higher education. If we did that, we should go a long way to fulfil our public duty towards the less able members of the community. That, in itself, would encourage the private citizen to entertain not a jealous but a charitable desire for equality.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ EARL ATTLEE
My Lords, I should like to join with the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, in congratulating the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, on a very interesting and well-informed maiden speech. I hope we shall hear him very often. I want to offer a few considerations on a subject rather outside the general run of education, that is, the public schools. At one time, our Party regarded the public schools as nothing but hotbeds of snobbery and privilege, and many people have said we should abolish them. I do not think that is so to-day. It is not our habit in this country to abolish old institutions—we merely transform them slightly, and change them into new uses. At the present moment it is anomalous that you should have a system quite outside the State system altogether. Historically, it grew up, apart from the oldest established public schools, largely as a product of Victorian England and of the rise of the middle class. Public schools have many virtues, and no doubt some drawbacks, but I think our object should be to see how we can carry the virtues of the public schools into our new system of society.
What are the characteristics of the public schools? Apart from Westminster and St. Paul's, very largely the first characteristic is that they are boarding schools. The second characteristic is that most of them are essentially national institutions and not local schools at all. Eton does not depend on Buckinghamshire for its pupils, Harrow on Middlesex, or even Haileybury on Hertfordshire. 751 They draw their pupils from a very wide range, and that is a distinctive contribution to our society. When I was at my own school, 60-odd years ago or more, our boys came from every single county in England, a great many in Scotland, Ireland and Wales and also a great many came from overseas. That gave it a particular flavour. And every public school, of course, has its own traditions and its own distinctive characteristics. That, again, is a great advantage, because I think that one of the dangers in the world to-day is too much uniformity, and the more we can get individuality into it the better.
That being the case, what are we to do now? Public schools are essentially class institutions. Shortly after the First World War efforts were made to see whether we could not rather broaden the basis of public schools. I think they broke down for two reasons. First, because there was then a rather strong prejudice among working-class people against the middle and upper class habit of sending children away to school at an early age. I suppose one can trace that back to the Middle Ages when young nobles were put out into other nobles' establishments to learn the way of life. But there was that strong and invincible prejudice. The second reason of course was the expense and the natural dislike or disinclination of a local authority to put up scholarships for their boys to go to a particular institution. That well-meant effort to broaden the basis of public schools broke down; yet in other spheres to-day there has been a remarkable break-down of class distinctions.
When I was young and at school the country's civil servants and Army officers all came from the old-established public schools, and Oxford and Cambridge were mainly filled with people from the public schools. There has been a remarkable change in that. I looked a few years ago at the heads of the Civil Service and noted that there were only two who came from the old, recognised public schools; one from Eton, the other from Hailey-bury. The others were almost all from grammar schools—and none the worse for that. It is the same if you look at Oxford and Cambridge athletic teams. In my day all the members were from the old public schools, but now it is very 752 difficult to find one. A few squeeze in, but the others would be mostly Indians from overseas. In my day—and I think it is true to-day—the public schools also had boys from the Commonwealth, which proved a very valuable link. In the case of my own school we had particular affiliations with India. There were always Indians in the school, and I also remember some Siamese.
This brings me to the consideration of what should be the future of the public schools. I do not think they can be woven into an educational system which is based on the county and the county borough, because they have this particular national character. On the other hand, I think they could be worked in particularly to have both a Commonwealth and an international outlook. It is here that the boarding school system gives a great advantage because that is what is wanted when you have people coming from abroad. I know that there are already exchanges between the Commonwealth and Britain, and between the United State of America and Britain, and I should like to see them extended because in the world to-day, where we need to be more closely linked, one of the best ways is by common education.
I remember, when I was at Oxford, the starting of the Rhodes Scholarship Scheme, which I think has been immensely successful. I was recently over in the United States of America, where I was entertained by the younger members of the Administration, and among whom the number of Rhodes scholars was particularly high. I think we must get the same in the Commonwealth. I think that what we want for the public schools to-day is something comparable with the Rhodes scholarships. I should like a kind of Rhodes scholarship system for our public schools, not only with the Commonwealth but with other countries abroad and also with schools at home, in order to get a proper mixture of backgrounds of people who come to our public schools. That will mean scholarships; and I mean national scholarships. It cannot be done with local scholarships. There is no reason why a locality should want to put its people into a particular public school.
I think it is a national need to broaden the basis of the public schools by making 753 them more representative of the community as a whole, helping to fuse classes, and also to bring in boys both from the Commonwealth and from abroad, because I hold that we in this country have certain traditions and certain institutions that are of great value to the world, and it is to our credit that we have spread certain British ideas widely over the world, particularly in Commonwealth countries, as we see to-day when they become independent. I think we can still provide that service and doubtless profit by it.
I think it is true that, with a broad view of the public schools, not as local institutions but as national institutions, Commonwealth institutions and international institutions, they can continue to perform the kind of service which they did most notably during the nineteenth century when the need was particularly for skilled administrators. The public schools supplied so many of them, and the tradition of service all over the world. We are not now supplying rulers to other nations, but there is still the need for advisers, for sympathetic friends, technicians and other workers; and I think the background of a public school, with those old traditions, can still do extremely useful work for this country, the Commonwealth and the world.
§ 5.40 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF NORWICH
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for introducing this subject of educational policy and for introducing it in wide and general terms. The growth and change in education in the last twenty years has been one of the most significant and most remarkable post-war developments in this and other countries. It has, on the whole, been a liberating movement. It has opened up opportunities for the children of this generation far wider in extent and diversity than their grandparents could have dreamt of as being possible. We are in debt to those who designed the 1944 Education Act and those who carried it through with the backing of the nation. Many benefits have emerged from that Act, implemented by a wealth of thought and care by the Ministry of Education, the local education authorities, and of course principally the teachers themselves.
But whilst there has been this undoubted advance in the range and 754 character of education in schools, colleges, universities and further education, and whilst we are debating, among other things, the character and speed of future developments, there is one feature in our educational system, a very important one, which gives grounds, I contend, for great uneasiness and anxiety. This is difficult to define in other than very general terms, and it would be easy enough to instance many individual exceptions which could be advanced to disprove this contention. So many young people have zest and ability and openness, and this must, at least in part, be credited to those who taught them. But over too many important issues, issues of right and wrong, issues of personal relationships, issues of the end and purpose of life itself, a large number find themselves, or so it would seem, in a state of considerable confusion and uncertainty. In the past there was sufficient of a common mind in society for those responsible for education to be fairly sure what were the values for which society stood and which would be recognised as acceptable. There was a unity of purpose in the national life and in education which was far-reaching in its implications. But that is not so now. I believe at present the greatest need is to look for and to commend a unity of purpose such as may give direction to an educational policy.
In urging this, I am not concerned to argue that the standards of to-day are lower than they were. I do not think the position could be properly stated in such a form, if that were true. It is easy to exalt the simplicities of a bygone age to the reproach of the present one, in which such simplicities do not and cannot exist. My argument is not one of reproach. Indeed, some of our difficulties are due to our trying to achieve so many good ends and to obey so many demanding concepts at the same time.
The current debate on scientific and technical education, on over specialisation in sixth forms and universities, and on the over-domination of education by examinations, reflects our need and intention to keep up as a nation in a world rapidly passing through another technological revolution, to which the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, referred in his maiden speech, to which I listened with such admiration. This requires us to concentrate our resources on educating 755 the potential specialists upon whom our future economic prosperity will depend, and, in a world still relying politically on armaments, our national defence will also depend. This is a legitimate purpose and it appears to be forcing us more and more into a conception of education which is essentially one of the imparting of knowledge and the training of mind and body in the use of techniques, an education for the able.
At the same time, the extended sense of humanity, which is such a characteristic of our time, drives us to an increased concern for those who are the reverse of clever—the mentally backward, the educationally subnormal, the severely and grossly handicapped; and I listened with particular interest to the references made by the noble Lord, Lord Newton, to future plans for some of these children. We are conscious of an educational obligation towards these children all the stronger because we know now how much we can give them and how much we can help them by an education suited to their needs; and this sort of education is not fundamentally concerned with the imparting of knowledge and technical skills. It is not directed towards giving the nation potential producers to any great extent at all. It is directed towards giving some of the potentially least productive members of society the elementary equipment for a satisfying life within it, and this for no other reason than that we recognise their fundamental right as human persons to such a life if it can be given them.
Those are the two educational extremes, each requiring the provision of specialist buildings, institutions, equipment, and, above all, teachers. Each is costly; and a unified educational policy is needed to meet that cost. It would, of course, be a disastrous simplification if it were assumed that we educate the gifted for their potential service to the State and the handicapped simply for themselves alone. There is an important sense in which every child has to be educated for himself alone—this I believe to be commonly recognised—and equipped to live as a human being in a human society, or, as I should prefer to say, a child of God in a world which God has created and which is subject to His sovereign rule.
756 But here the confusion of our purposes becomes more evident. Perhaps in this field of educating children for life as a whole we have gone too far in our retreat from the imparting of traditional ways, standards and beliefs, and the training, as a deliberate act, of character and the will. If we have retreated, the reasons may be complex; an uncertainty—understandable enough in view of the rapidity of the social changes of the last seventy years—about what our traditional ways, standards and beliefs really are, or a weakening of our conviction in them, if we understand them; and an uncertainty, in the light of many conflicting hypotheses, about what training in character and the will really amount to, what this implies or demands; an uncertainty, indeed, whether such training is either possible or desirable. We are living with these uncertainties, and I hope we shall soon find a way through them in order that this part of our educational work, this equipping of men and women for life, may regain direction and momentum.
Many of your Lordships must have welcomed an assertion made in this House by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, in a debate on the Second Reading of the Children and Young Persons' Bill, that [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 244, col. 819]:the training of children of school age in the way they should go is fundamentally an educational and not a penal matter.I would endorse at least the positive assertion in that sentence, without entering now into the ramifications of it in the context in which it was delivered. And this is the main point of what I want to say. True education has an inalienable moral content. But if we accept this as a proposition, we must concede that at the present time there is great uncertainty as to what this content should be, great uncertainty about what is the way children should go.
I have alluded to our reluctance, or inability, or failure to commend our traditional standards and beliefs. We face great confusion to-day about what I may call, for the sake of discussion, the normal—that is to say, the average on the one hand, and the norm of conduct on the other. We could, with due allowance for error, establish the statistical normality of certain aspects of conduct if we wanted to. But this 757 concept of normality is not the same as the concept of the norm of conduct, a belief that because man is man and the world and society are what they are one particular mode of conduct, the norm, is proper to man; and that departure from it is in itself an impropriety—an act or default improper to man. It is in this loss of a norm, loss of a conviction that we know the way the child should go that our major uncertainties lie to-day.
The confusion is aggravated by the facility with which we publicise not only deviations from what Christians at any rate would call the norm, but also deviations from what any empiricist would reckon as normal or average. And I believe that we add enormously to the difficulties of our educators by the publicity which our society showers on the deviants. We exaggerate the incidence of what I must call "evil". We make it more difficult for the young to get either the normal, or the norms of life, in proportion. For the norm, the things that make for the fulfilment of man's proper end and purpose, gets confused with the normal, or what most people actually do. From there it is not a long step to thinking that what most people do is, in fact, the right thing; and the distinction between what man is and what he ought to be, is lost.
We have, furthermore, become incredibly apologetic about the moral values which we do possess, and, in particular, about our public witness to them. There are no doubt occasions when it is entirely proper for a judge, or a magistrate, to affirm that his court is not a court of morals. There are senses in which that dictum can be true; for it is no more in the public interest than in the interest of good morals itself to equate the sphere of the criminal law with that of morality. But this assertion can be made too lightly and too often. The administration of law is a function of justice; and we should be in a parlous state if we said there was no positive relationship between law, justice and morality.
It was said in another place earlier this month that "it is no function of the Criminal Law to articulate the conscience of society." Generalisations of this sort help us to build up the notion that there is no necessary connection between society and its good ordering, on 758 the one side, and the private conduct of individuals, on the other; that morals, so to speak, are a private affair and not society's business. I believe that this is a confusion which brings great difficulty to those who are engaged actively in education. This, together with our reluctance to make dogmatic assertions, or to try to impose our beliefs on anyone else, has meant that there has been a tendency to profess a new virtue of ethical neutrality. Yet what society has ever held together without a stock of common beliefs, without the will and conviction to hand them on from generation to generation, developed and enriched, certainly, with new knowledge and new insights, and with new sympathy and a new application to the changing conditions of life?
In the higher realms of knowledge, in what I might call the exact sciences, as well as in philosophy, we all know the degree to which morals, accepted by the worker as a personal discipline, are built into the very pursuit of truth; built into the scientific method itself. There would be no science without it—without convictions about the absolute obligation owing to truth, about the duties which scientists owe to one another and to their craft. But, my Lords, there is another danger here. It is so often assumed—and not necessarily, or even especially, by scientists themselves—that ultimate truth is an abstract, impersonal thing, to be arrived at by the empirical method, as in the natural sciences. We can take part in this process, without in a sense being involved in it. Only occasionally does it present us with moral choices involving the whole of our personality. And yet it is when we are presented with these choices which call for action that we are in a difficulty: for moral truth is not wholly susceptible to this method of investigation. Since the empirical method is so frequently held to be the highest, moral considerations are too often given a second place.
The morality of society rests very much upon expectations—what people may legitimately expect of one another in their social and personal relationships. In a stable society there is a general expectation that in given situations people will behave, by and large, in predictable ways. Without this expectation, and without its realisation in some degree, security—psychological, social, legal, political, and, 759 indeed, family security—are, in turn, undermined. Uncertainty about these expectations is, I suggest, a mark of our society to-day. I know how easily this concept of expectation can degenerate into moral stagnation. I recognise the futility of pleading for a return to the stabilities of the past in the same form they once took, or by the same presentation of the sanctions, by which they were commended. But I believe that we must work through to some new pattern of common expectations of social morality; and I believe that in so doing we may well create a new sense of the unity of purpose in education, and in political and national life.
Here, before I close, I would suggest one means by which I believe this can be given at least some effect within our present educational provision. For twenty years since the Education Act, 1944, was passed we had affirmed by Statute that our education must have a religious content. This principle, on a non-denominational basis, might have been expected to commend itself to those who, while finding Church dogma unacceptable, believed in the Christian ethic, at all events for the young. But is seems that we have got it the other way round: religious teaching has been given, but without ethical content. I do not believe that the majority of agreed syllabuses for religious education have, by and large, proved satisfactory for secondary schools. I believe that there is need for radical revision of the form in which religious education is presented in secondary schools; and I am thinking particularly of the maintained schools, and not of schools which are under denominational allegiance.
I do not think that the only reason why this subject has so often become the most boring, instead of the most interesting and exciting of all subjects taught in schools, is due simply to lack of qualified teachers, or to lack of effort by the teachers. I believe there is much to be said for the main contention of Sir Richard Acland's book entitled, We Teach Them Wrong, in pleading that religious education for the adolescent be presented more on the lines of "religion and life", with discussion, than with formal factual teaching, so that it may become apparent to the child that this subject has to do with the things which 760 are of particular interest and consequence to him personally and to his own world and experience.
I do not propose to develop this argument, as I have already spoken long enough, except to say that, as I understand it, the recently devised Certificate of Secondary Education, by its approach and its flexibility, and by the fact that it is child-centred rather than subject-centred, should make possible the kind of experiment (even at the risk of making mistakes) in the field of religious instruction which may help children to a positive grasp and understanding of standards and values of which, in many cases, they are often largely ignorant. Clearly, however, the problem of finding a unity of purpose in education cannot be resolved simply, or mainly, by Governmental action. What I do contend is that it is of the utmost importance that these larger issues about which I have ventured to speak should have Governmental, political, and departmental understanding.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR
My Lords, I hoped, when the right reverend Prelate rose, that he was going to chastise the noble Lord, Lord Newton, on the subject of the medical school for Norwich, which I notice the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, missed out; but the right reverend Prelate gave us something much more interesting and, I must confess, rather more difficult to understand. He was dealing in very deep waters indeed. His is perhaps the first speech which has got down to deep fundamentals. I must say that when I see young boys and girls reading to-days newspapers, and watching to-day's television, I contrast it with my own youth, and I believe that in a way they are much more fortunate. They learn about things that I had great difficulty in learning about. My youngest boy is 13, but he knows what a prostitute is, and I think that is a good thing.
I can well remember, when I was about 16, looking up in the Encyclopœdia Britannica, 1911 edition, trying to find out what a prostitute was, and not being able to discover what on earth it meant, because nobody had the courage to put it into ordinary simple words. I do not think it is bad that these things should be published—that, for example, children should know about homosexuality. But when it comes to their own behaviour 761 they do want new yardsticks, and simple Christian yardsticks. They want to know why: "Why should I behave thus?" And if it is a matter of sexual behaviour, you must explain either to the boy or to the girl that there are risks of pregnancy. Then you have to tell them that if a young girl is seduced by a boy it is very likely she will fall in love with the boy, and that although it may be easy enough for the boy to go off and leave her, it is a dirty trick on her. That is the simple, practical approach to these things that the young person understands. I find that the young are as decent and honest as ever they were, but they do not accept automatically Christian teaching, Christian ethics and Christian morality. I have said quite enough about that subject—perhaps more than I meant to say; but the speech of the right reverend Prelate was a very important one.
It is a good rule, when noble Lords are speaking in a debate that they should stay on to the end. I am going to break this rule to-day, for which I must apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Dundee. I have a long-standing engagement to lecture at London University to-night which I cannot break, and therefore I shall not be staying to the end of this debate. I do not think that I have ever done this before, and I hope that I shall not do it again. Incidentally, it is one of the ways to keep our number of speakers down, to make it a very good rule that we will always stay to the end; and I hope that we shall go on doing that.
I want also to add my congratulations to those of noble Lords who have spoken before me to the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, on his admirable maiden speech; and I was particularly pleased that he spoke about the problems which automation must increasingly present to us in the field of education. This will be the the great change in the next twenty or thirty years. The work of the factory operative is going to change very much; it is going to become that of a rather dull machine-minding job, with very little craft in it at all: all the skill will be in the designing and the maintenance of the automated machine. This change of pattern is going to present an educational challenge.
Two years ago I rose in this House to call your Lordships' attention to the 762 shortage of doctors. That shortage still persists—in fact, it is getting worse. I was amazed, after I had slipped out for a minute, to come back and hear the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, say that the noble Lord, Lord Newton, had stated that the number of doctors had increased by 16 per cent. I do not think that Lord Newton said that it had increased by 16 per cent. I think he said that the number had increased by 16 per cent. over the Willink cuts. In fact the Willink cuts were a 10 per cent. cut in the number of admissions to medical schools. They were never fully carried out. Therefore, the Government have, in fact, restored the 10 per cent. cut and increased the entry to medical schools by about 6 per cent., or 8 per cent. at the most—but certainly not 16 per cent. over the pre-Willink figure. This is simply not good enough. However, it is not what I want to talk to your Lordships about to-night. We do, of course, need three new medical schools, as the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, said; and I should have thought Norwich a very good place for one of them to be placed. I should have thought also that one or two of them might be opened in the North of England, because that is where a very great supply of potential patients is to be found.
I hesitate to add one more to the concatenation of crises facing the Government, but I want to suggest that the shortage of university places is even more disastrous than the shortage of doctors. The Government can claim, and with some fairness, that this crisis is of their own making and due to their own success. They have been very successful in improving the achievement of sixth forms, and this crisis is the result of that improvement. My noble friend, Lord Longford, in his very wise and helpful introduction to this debate, quoted Sir Eric Ashby. Sir Eric is a very great man. The first time I came across his work was when I read his book, Scientists in Russia, written, I think, when he was Scientific Attaché to the British Embassy in Moscow during the war. It is a first-class book. He was at one time Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University, Belfast, and I think that at the moment he is Master of Clare. On the 15th of this month he told the Congress of Commonwealth Universities in London:In Britain there is no pretence that university education is open to all who can 763 benefit from it. Even in the Government's plans for the 1970s only 5 to 6 per cent. of the age group will become full-time university students. We have evidence that 12 per cent. could successfully pursue university courses.In terms of human need this crisis will hit the Government, I think (I speak subject to correction) in the middle of September. And there will be an even worse crisis in September, 1964, whatever Government are in power. We cannot put this matter right as quickly as that, for it is in early September that the matching of the "A" level results and university vacancies will be complete.
Early this year the Universities' Central Council on Admissions received some 50,000 applications from sixth-formers for 27,000 available autumn places. I speak subject to correction; and if I make a mistake I hope that the noble Earl will correct me at once, because, as I have said, I cannot be present to hear him later. Therefore, if he wants to "have at me" I shall be only too pleased to give way. Of these 50,000, many will not get the minimum two "A" levels required, so the gap will not be 23,000 but perhaps 12,000, and nobody quite knows what it is going to be. Of those 12,000 people who have the minimum qualifications but for whom there will be no place, some may get into colleges of advanced technology, because the C.A.T.'s probably have some vacant places. I believe and hope that the Universities' Council on Admissions, which is doing very good work, will co-operate with the C.A.T.'s to see that that is the case. Nevertheless, there will, I estimate, be 7,000 to 8,000 boys and girls who will have achieved university entrance qualifications but who will be turned away this time; and, as I say, there will be a much bigger figure next year, and possibly the year after.
Now here is a human tragedy. It is a tragedy of aspirations unfulfilled, the like of which we have not seen before. The young people have, as it were, been led up to the gates of the university by the State educational system and then been turned away. It is a national tragedy and a national failure, because we are wasting our most precious asset, our resources of human talent. It would be less of a tragedy if we could be sure that the best had been chosen and the 764 less good rejected. At least everybody could feel that that was fair. Perhaps in one way it is best to feel that it is unfair. You can argue that you feel it is unfair, and that you feel that you may be of the best. That is certainly the position now because selection is by interview. We all know that the interview process is little, if at all, better than random selection, given people with corresponding qualifications; and this is a tragedy. But I think that is universally recognised, and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, will correct me if I am wrong about this. It is a very, very difficult thing to do, except to pick out the most brilliant. One can pick out a Goethe—
§ LORD JAMES OF RUSHOLME
My Lords, I think I ought to point out to the noble Lord that in fact some universities do select without interview and are severely criticised for doing so by some of the noble Lord's friends.
§ LORD TAYLOR
Not by me, my Lords, because I think that the interview is really a process which is not worth going through. Is the noble Lord agreeing with me on this? I will not say it is not worth going through, but it is not likely to yield a healthy assessment of a person.
§ LORD JAMES OF RUSHOLME
What I should really like the noble Lord to tell us is what is the proper method of university selection.
§ LORD TAYLOR
I can help the noble Lord there a little, although I am sure he knows as well as I do. I think our American colleagues, who really have studied this matter in enormous detail, have found that far the most valuable single factor, apart from ordinary examination performance, is the assessment of the child's school teacher if it is properly and decently set out. I think it is the general finding of the American universities that the highest co-relation in subsequent university performance, given equality in examination performance, is in the report of the child's teacher. I think it places a great burden on headmasters to do their assessing properly and to consult fully when they are making their recommendations on university entrance.
I do not know what the Government are going to say about the problems of 765 universities, and about the situation of these people who are not going to find their places although they have earned them. I do not know whether they are just going to tell us that it will be all right because the Robbins Committee will report in due course, and that they have in fact done something. Of course they have done something, but they have done much too little and much too late. If I may say so, I worked in a New Town for a long time, and it was obvious ten or twelve years ago that we had to have many more New Towns if we were not to have a housing crisis. It ought to have been obvious ten or twelve years ago that we had to have many more universities if we were not going to have a universities crisis. And now, right at the last moment, we get these new universities and the Government cannot act quickly enough.
It did not need a Royal Commission to establish these facts. I should have thought they had been obvious to everybody for two years, and should have been obvious to the Government long before that. The most important section of the Government ought to be its Department of Demography—and, so far as I know, they do not have one—prodding all the other Departments to be ready to meet the obvious human needs of expanding population. There is apparently not such a Department, so each Department has in turn been caught unawares and by surprise. On May 22, Sir Keith Joseph said to the County Councils Association:We now have to expect an even greater increase in the population than had previously been thought. The population of England and Wales will grow by well over 7 million in the years 1961–81"—I wonder whether he has told the University Grants Committee about this—… in the succeeding twenty years it will probably be even greater."—10 million, he estimates.
But, of course, there is more to it than this. I have tried to think of the real division in the matter of higher education which separates the two sides of this House, and on which the electorate will in due course have to pronounce, and I believe that it is the choice of the five or the ten philosophy. Sir Eric Ashby has said:After twelve years of Conservative rule, 5 per cent. of the children born in 1945 will be able to go to a university.766 I think he is pretty accurate. We think the minimum figure ought to be 10 per cent. in terms of human justice and national need. In the Labour Party report, The Years of Crisis, which was published last March, we laid it down that:All young people should be able to receive higher education to whatever extent their capacities fit them for it.Of course, this means much more than a university education. The noble Lord, Lord Eccles, was right to stress the needs of the less gifted children, but I do not think he should suppose that every gifted child necessarily wants to go to a university. Many gifted children, thank goodness, do not want to go to a university. They want to go into all sorts of other careers and do them very well. The university is not the only road to a happy, successful and useful life.
Those of your Lordships who come from Scotland, particularly the more northern parts, may say that the aspiration that all young people should be able to receive higher education to whatever extent their capacities fit them for it, has been realised already. Strangely enough, it is more true in Aberdeen than anywhere else in the British Isles. Aberdeen is almost unique among universities in that it has a clearly defined catchment area, and in that catchment area there is a population of about half a million. It produces about 7,000 school leavers a year, and the intake of the University of Aberdeen is about 700 students a year; in other words, it is just about achieving the 10 per cent. figure which we are advocating, instead of the 5 per cent. figure which is now general in Britain. In fact, in spite of that the University of Aberdeen is going to go on growing. It is going to grow from 2,000 to between 3,700 and 4,000 students. I have no doubt it is somewhere along that line. That is because it is starting to take students from the rest of the country. I may therefore have slightly over-estimated when I said that it is dealing with 10 per cent. of the catchment area, but I am not far out. The people of the Aberdonian hinterland, apparently, can benefit from higher education to the extent of 10 per cent. I really think the rest of Britain can, too.
767 Let me return for a moment to Sir Eric Ashby. Here I am going to repeat a little of what my noble friend Lord Longford said. But it is the next sentences that really give the nub of the matter. As my noble friend Lord Longford quoted:… a Canadian child born in 1945 would have a one-in-six chance of becoming a full time university student, an Australian child a one-in-nine chance, and a Londoner a one-in-20 chance. No one would suggest that the difference lay in the ability of the three countries to pay for education, or in the comparative intelligence of their children.Our failure, my Lords, is a studied failure. We have failed to provide more than 5 per cent. of places in the universities because that is what the Government have presumably wanted. Again I quote Sir Eric Ashby:In Britain those selected for university education are believed to be a small intellectual élite. From this social philosophy of education other consequences flow"—and here is a good consequence—a much lower wastage rate of students than in Australia or Canada … and a preoccupation (if this were a provocative talk I would call it a pedantic obsession) with specialised honours degrees more suitable for the 8 per cent. of students who became academics themselves than for civil servants, industrialists, and B.B.C. executives.Now, my Lords, it is popular, or fairly popular, on the Government side of the House to pour a certain amount of scorn on American education and American universities. I would say that, of all the great achievements of the United States, one of the greatest is their educational system and their universities—and I would commend to the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, the American comprehensive school. I do not think it is a bad school at all: in fact, I think it is a magnificent school.
Of all their great university achievements, none is greater than the achievements of the State of California. Thirty years ago, 80 per cent. of California's wealth was from agriculture. It was the No. 1 State of America for agricultural output. To-day, it is still their No. 1 State for agricultural output, but agriculture is the source of only 9 per cent. of the State's wealth. Of all the new industry that has come into California during that time, 40 per cent. has been directly brought in by the University of 768 California. It is what the Americans call the "spin-off". And by that they mean the attraction of scientists and of technical workers to an area where there are other scientists and technical workers who can work with them on their projects; the readiness of the University and its institutes to advise them; and the vigour and the application of these professors in practical as well as theoretical problems—and remember, my Lords, this is to-day one of the great academic centres of the world. As to the cost of this great University, 52 per cent. comes from State taxes in California, 25 per cent. from Federal taxes and the rest from fees and contributions from industry.
My Lords, I want to say that the size of a university is not a bar to its greatness at all. My noble friend Lord Francis-Williams made a very good speech on this subject not long ago. The University of Princeton is a very small university, but it is a very great one. Harvard, which by our standards is a very large university but by American standards is a medium-sized one, is also a great university. Berkeley, with 25,000 students, is a great university; and so is the University College of Los Angeles. I would direct your Lordships' attention to the University of Minnesota, which is, I suppose, one of the great universities in the world. It has 27,000 students on one campus, and by 1970 the number will be up to 47,000. It is the greatest centre of heart surgery in the world; and probably the greatest centre also for the study of iron ore utilisation. It is certainly one of the world's great agricultural centres; and it is a great centre for economics. Walter Heller, who is chairman of Mr. Kennedy's Economic Advisory Commission, is head of the Department of Economics in Minnesota.
I wonder whether your Lordships know the University of Ann Arbor, Michigan—one of the most lovely places in the world. It is set in lovely wooded land. It was given its name because two fellows went and settled there, and both had wives called Ann. So they called it Ann Arbor. That was 200 years ago, and the University has been going for 150 years. It has 26,000 students, of whom 44 per cent. are graduates, including medical students. It has a wonderful 769 music library, with about 60 or 80 desks, each with a gramophone, where students can plug in their earphones and do their music lessons; the most lovely undergraduate general library; a lovely law school; a school of public health; and a school of mental health. They spend more on that school of mental health than we spend on all psychiatric research in a year. It simply makes one green with envy. They have done it because they wanted to do it: they willed these things to happen. We can do it, too. When I look at the future of California, and the master plan for higher education in California, I think, "Why have we not done this for our universities?" We ought to be doing this. Just as we have a Hospital Plan, we must have a ten-year plan, which we adjust regularly, for each university region. It is impossible to do the whole lot: it must be done regionally—as indeed, we have pointed out in this little book, The Years of Crisis.
Between 1960 and 1975 the population of California is going up, from 15.8 million in 1960 to 25 million in 1975—and that is about the time the Government's present plan peters out. It will not be 6 per cent. of their students who will be at university, as here. In fact 12½ per cent. of this enormously increased population will be going directly to a university; and 33⅓ per cent. will be going to State colleges, which are upgraded teachers' training colleges that have been turned into colleges where they teach not only pedagogy but also science and art and other subjects for first degree. Then of those people, at least 3½ per cent. will go on to the university proper. So they will have well over 15 per cent. going to full university in California in a period when their population is increasing by nearly half. They are going to achieve this. Our proposals, my Lords, are for 10 per cent. of our young people to go to universities instead of 5 per cent. I should have thought that was modest enough, but, by Conservative standards, it is a revolution.
I want to say one word about the size of universities here. I do not think a university of 3,000 is going to be a maintainable proposition, much as I should like it to be. It cannot be, simply on economic grounds; and that is the only reason, I think, why we must be prepared 770 to face much bigger universities. There is a division of opinion within my own Party as to whether the maximum is in the area of 8,000 to 10,000, which view I hold, or whether it is up in the 20,000's, which view some of my colleagues hold. They have very good technical reasons for this view, but I hold the opinion that if a university is going to get as big as that, it ought to divide, and that it is much better to have two universities than one. There is nothing wrong with having two or more universities in one great conurbation. Those of your Lordships who know Boston will know that on one side of the River Charles there is Harvard and M.I.T., and in Boston itself, on the South side of the River Charles, there are four or five other universities, one of which, at least, is a very famous university indeed.
There is nothing wrong with having several universities in one great city, and I sincerely hope we shall be quite radical in our division, our polychotomy, of the University of London, which is, in my opinion, far too big. There are going to be thousands of problems and difficulties in doing this, and I am certainly not going to rehearse them all; they are all set out in this hook. If your Lordships have not read it, I have a few spare copies and I can hand them out. The noble Lord, Lord Eccles, has one, and I am glad to see that the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, also has his copy. It deals with all the difficulties—and they are going to be terrific.
One of the difficulties, for example, is the question of how much teaching can be done by means of teaching aids. A lot of university teaching is didactic teaching, and with that kind of teaching it does not really matter whether you see the lecturer in the flesh or on a television screen. There is a famous American teacher called Mark Hopkins, and some American educationalists say that the university consisted of Mark Hopkins on one end of the log and the student on the other. Now they say it consists of Mark Hopkins on one end of a co-axial cable and the student on the other. This system has been tested out, and they find that, for imparting facts, it is just as practicable a method, and even more effective, strangely enough, than sometimes listening directly to a 771 lecturer. None of these difficulties is insurmountable.
One of the great problems is going to be accommodation for students, and that really is going to be a headache. We shall have to do as California does—that is, say to students, "If you want a university place, some of you must go to a university near where you live, and live at home, because we cannot build universities quickly enough for you all to have residential places, as much as we want you to have them and nice as it would be if you could." But if the choice is that or no university, I am sure that is the right choice.
I am equally sure that the sooner we take the U.G.C. away from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary the better; simply on the grounds that the Department of the chief controller of spending is likely to be a bad spending Department itself. I will not enter into the argument whether U.G.C. should be under the control of the Minister of Education, of the Minister for Science or a Minister of Higher Education. I do not think it is of vast importance. What I do think is vastly important is who that person is and the degree of energy he displays.
I am sorry I have kept your Lordships so long, but I want to say a final word or two about the nature of a university; because many people accuse us of wanting to create a lot of technical colleges—although they are very good things. A university is not easy to define. It is not determined by the subjects taught. You will find there are universities in this country teaching domestic science, glass technology, brewing and dairying. There is no reason whatever to include medicine as a university subject and to exclude machine-tool design. A university is never a one-subject place or a one-faculty place. One of the great features of it is that it sets no limit in depth to the subjects taught or to the quest for knowledge on the part of those who work there. This excludes purely practical crafts or techniques, and rightly. It excludes the practice of nursing; and it is right to exclude that as a subject; and I think the Americans are wrong to include it and they suffer thereby. Nursing can be a university subject if you want to study the theory of nursing and how 772 to teach it. The university is a centre of research as well as teaching; it grants degrees and it is a self-governing body of scholars. But public support involves not only privileges for those scholars but also duties and obligations to supply the people that society needs.
The university is more than any of these. In the rush to impart knowledge of literature, of the arts and of science or technology there is something else much more important: it is the three priceless years when young people learn together to think clearly and to judge wisely on any problem that is put to them. It is this capacity to think and to judge generally and to apply their knowledge, not merely to the subject they are learning but to any subject, which is the most valuable gift of all. In a little while the country is going to have to decide whether these three priceless years should be the privilege of a small minority or should be open freely to all who can wish to benefit from them as a right of democratic citizenship. I do not think there is much doubt about what the country is going to decide.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ LORD JAMES OF RUSHOLME
My Lords, the field opened by the Motion this afternoon is so wide that one is tempted to indulge simply in large and woolly generalisations. I shall attempt to avoid that and concentrate my remarks on a few matters on which I feel strongly and about which I have some first-hand experience. But, first, I would echo the tributes that have been paid to what, in fact, we have accomplished since the war. Any noble Lord who read, for example, the remarkable account of English schools given by Admiral Rickover to a sub-committee of the United States Senate must have experienced a deep feeling of satisfaction and pride that so acute and knowledgeable an observer should have been able to pay that kind of tribute. I make this point not so that we may feel in any way smug, but so that we can get matters in perspective. It would be Unjust to the teachers, administrators and architects who have laboured to such good purpose since the war to say otherwise. And there is another, still more important, point which makes me introduce it. Our system at every level has been traditionally concerned with excellence; with quality rather than quantity. 773 If, as I believe, we should now attempt to make available the values hitherto often restricted to a tiny majority to a much larger section of the population, then it is vital that we should realise all the time just how high the quality is that we have attained in certain directions, so that we may be on our guard and not lightly allow it to be diluted or degraded.
With that in mind, let me turn first to the highly controversial business of the 11-plus. This is a matter on which there is, I think, more woolly thinking than on any other—and, in the field of education, that is really saying something! The idea that we irrevocably decide a child's destiny on one day of puzzle-solving, inducing neurosis and family tension and forcing the primary schools into a mould of teaching English and arithmetic that they are anxious to discard, is now deeply embedded in our educational folk lore. Let us try to be clear what we mean when we talk about the abolition of the 11-plus. If we mean discarding the one-day test for a process of continuous assessment and teachers' reports, well and good. It has been done by many local authorities long since. If we mean removing any irrevocability about the selection by making re-allocation easy at 12, or 13, or 15, such procedures are necessary and admirable; they have been common in many areas for years. But if we mean the abolition of any and every kind of selection for the type of secondary education suited to the child, then we are proposing a revolution in secondary education which makes the grammar school, as we know it, impossible, and is incompatible with lip service to that school. And, to be logical, we must abolish the song and ballet schools and all the rest, since we must not segregate.
It may be right; but let us be honest and clear. Institutions are not changed by changing the label on the door. We must not give the parents the idea that not only are they going to get a grammar school education for their child if we abolish the 11-plus; but that, in some mysterious way, their child will become apt for grammar school education. Not at all; it will not happen. So long as different kinds of secondary school remain, some process of selection must be necessary. It may be wealth or birth and 774 some intellectual capacity, as for the independent schools; it may simply be the parents' wish, as in the Leicestershire plan—not, in my view, a good idea for a really forward-looking Party to adopt—it may be intellectual capacity, as for the grammar schools. The only alternative is the non-selective school and the abolition of—
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, would not the noble Lord think it rather straining language to put a system of selection by parents' choice along with a system of compulsory selection, which may be against the wishes of the parents? When one talks of selection by parents' choice, one means free choice; which is not selection in the same sense at all.
§ LORD JAMES OF RUSHOLME
What I meant is clear enough to anyone familiar with the Leicestershire plan. The kind of school to which your child goes at the age of 13 or 14 is determined by the parents' decision.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I am well aware of that.
§ LORD JAMES OF RUSHOLME
That is selection by parents choice, is it not? I should have thought so. I am not quite clear what we are quarrelling about. In some cases, particularly where the grammar school would be very small, the non-selective school is the right, viable and proper answer. Such an arrangement then would be necessary and very often works well; but as a general policy it would, in my view, be disastrous. Into all the arguments against it I have no time to go. Many of them involve long technical arguments about school organisation. In general, such a wholesale reorganisation would bring to an end the fine work that is beginning in an ever-increasing number of secondary modern schools; it is profligate in its use of scarce teaching ability—for example, in mathematics we should concentrate together those pupils able to pursue advanced work; and by simple statistics, it must lead to classes more heterogeneous in ability than in selective schools and must therefore involve a dilution of the principle of suiting the education to the ability of the child, a denial that is harmful to the dull as well as to the able. And for what? To minimise class 775 differences and to promote social solidarity. My Lords, that is the very last thing it would do; and to anyone who, like myself, cares more for promoting equality of opportunity than for any other educational principle, that is the supreme criticism of the plan.
Look at the league table of Oxbridge scholarship results. Set in the midst of those great independent schools, of ten above them, are the great grammar schools—Bradford, Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield and the rest. Destroy these schools by saying that intellectual selection is wrong, by destroying their concentration of able boys so that their kind of teaching becomes impossible, and you make the world safer for independent schools; and it is safe enough now. Much more important, the unselective school is a neighbourhood school, and here I think that those who defend it should read more American literature on this fascinating sociological debate. The unselective school very often draws from the homogeneous social group. Quite apart from academic questions, a plain matter to those who defend these schools on sociological grounds, can such a school provide the social mixing that goes on in a grammar school? There is no commoner confusion, I believe, than that which does not distinguish intellectual homogeneity from social exclusiveness.
Let me be personal for a moment. For sixteen years, I was headmaster of Manchester Grammar School. Its boys came in, paying either no fees or fees graded according to their parents' income. Every year nearly 2,000 of them tried for 200 places. Let me ask those who wish to abolish selection at 11 this direct and straightforward question: what was I to do? And I should like the noble Earl to answer that simple question when he comes to reply.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, the noble Lord caught me at a great disadvantage. These are the only words of his which I had not actually caught.
§ LORD JAMES OF RUSHOLME
Since it is a question of words, perhaps your Lordships would permit me to repeat them?
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I am extremely apologetic.
§ LORD JAMES OF RUSHOLME
My Lords, I was explaining the nature of Manchester Grammar School, its non-fee-paying character, the fact that every year I got 2,000 applicants of every class for 200 places in that school, and I was asking the noble Earl, as a defender of the non-selective school and of the abolition of the test at 11-plus, what would he have done, faced with these circumstances. How should I have selected them? By wealth? By birth? By the district where they lived? Would that have given as great a social mixture as the one I got, when in one school I had working together and playing together, camping together and acting together, sons of a company director and a bus driver, of a trade union leader and an unemployed cotton operator? How could I have selected them to get a greater social mixture than that? Your Lordships must forgive me if I become warm on this subject, but for sixteen years a school that believed in merit and in the mixture of social classes was my life.
§ LORD TAYLOR
My Lords, did the noble Lord select by merit alone, or how did he do it?
§ LORD JAMES OF RUSHOLME
By setting them an examination or series of examinations. I did it by merit alone.
§ LORD TAYLOR
And the noble Lord got the mixture of social classes in return, as well?
§ LORD JAMES OF RUSHOLME
That is what I did. I set them papers, but there were no interviews, because I was always afraid that an interview would be socially weighted. We added up the marks and did not in fact see the boys until they entered the school. I may say, since the noble Lord is interested in the techniques of selection, that we got not only a good social mixture, but a very successful cricket team as well.
It is far too easy to think that spectacular changes in organisation will bring about some educational or social millennium. The roots of opportunity and of class division lie deeper than that. We have to realise that education is but one of a variety of social agencies. We have to realise that what is needed for advance in the schools is not slogans and panaceas, but the pedestrian and fundamental requirements of more 777 money, and more and better teachers. We often speak as if this reorganisation or that will automatically make every teacher an Arnold and every school a beautiful and appropriate building. By itself, reorganisation will accomplish nothing but a change of label. And if selection is abandoned, it may also, perhaps, mean a discouragement of staff, a decline of standards, an impoverishment rather than an increase in opportunity. In place of a campaign about the 11-plus, let us see a campaign to raise the school-leaving age to 16.
How glad I was, as a member of the Crowther Committee, to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, in his maiden speech, say much better the things that I tried to say in the debate on the Crowther Report, when I was so disappointed to find the Benches on my right so discouraging about my efforts.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, that is a little hard on me, particularly as I supported that proposition very strongly in 1960.
§ LORD JAMES OF RUSHOLME
My Lords, I hope that the noble Earl will read the debate.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I have done.
§ LORD JAMES OF RUSHOLME
I was disappointed—that is all. We have the proposal to raise the school-leaving age to 16. It was embodied in the 1944 Act, and was recommended by all on the Crowther Committee; and there, indeed, is an obvious target for our reforming zeal. If we need any other target, there are the dark, insanitary and under-staffed schools, some of which are still here.
Now let me turn for a few moments to the other topic that obviously interests me, to the end of the secondary school career, and let me say something of the school-leaver. I believe that there is no field in which reform is more urgently needed, if we want reforms, than in that chaotic area which affects the majority of school-leavers—though it is not a field in which I am at all expert, and I hope that others with much greater knowledge and experience than I have will say something about this vital area, which clearly need reforming. In any case, it was debated in your Lordships' House not long ago. 778 I want rather to say a few words about what the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, was saying about school-leavers.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, since the noble Lord has cast a kind of criticism on this side of the House, perhaps he will allow me to say what I did say about the Crowther Report, when we debated it [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 222, col. 229]:… I hasten to say that I feel that on these topics the Report gives magnificent leadership, and I line up, if I may, with the noble Lord in his efforts to secure the raising of the school-leaving age.If that disappoints the noble Lord, he is hard to please.
§ LORD JAMES OF RUSHOLME
I am very grateful to the noble Earl. What I was thinking, if I may go back to this piece of history, was of the speech of the noble Lord who opened the debate on that side of the House, when he made the statement: "What shall we do with the extra year?"—a statement that was irritating to those who served on the Crowther Committee. But it is a minor point. I am delighted, at any rate, shall I say, that the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, chose that particular theme for his maiden speech, because it is one that is very valuable.
I want to say a few words about the school leaver of 18 who goes on to higher education. Here we have one of the great growing points of education to-day. If we are to do justice to its problems we must realise (following the noble Lord, Lord Taylor) that here we have something like the fourth educational revolution. After all, 1870 opened the way to universal primary education; 1902 opened the way to secondary education for the fortunate and the gifted, and 1944 opened the way to secondary education for all. Now, in the years through which we are living, and the years through which we shall be living soon, we can see the fourth educational revolution: that of the enormous expansion we are going to have in higher education. The reasons for that expansion are familiar enough: the sheer increase in the relevant population; the need in a highly complex and scientific world for more highly trained people; and the growing belief among new sections of people that higher education is a thing to be desired rot simply for reasons of economic or 779 social ambition, but because they see increasingly through education that growing appreciation of knowledge as a liberating and equalising factor between man and man. Those are the factors that are producing this amazingly increased pressure for higher education among those who are leaving grammar schools at 17 and 18.
What must we do to satisfy them? The usual answer now is to say: "Wait for Robbins". It is true, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said, that all our thinking about these problems will be focused and stimulated in the next few months by the Robbins report. But, meanwhile, we have to act; meanwhile we can still emphasise certain factors which must be borne in mind in considering that eagerly awaited document. The most important of these, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said, is a totally new sense of urgency. There are many things in the Report which the noble Lord has mentioned that I disagree with profoundly; and there are many suggestions in it that I think are wrong. But we are grateful to the noble Lord for producing it, because it does underline this entirely new attitude that this country needs towards problems of expanded higher education.
Our response to this approaching flow of well-qualified school leavers has tended to be timid and slow. The population bulge will be affecting higher education in 1965. If we consider simply that portion of the potential entrants who will be qualified to enter a university, we shall require 150,000 places in 1965 if the child is then to have the same chance of entry as his older brother or sister gets to-day. Our seven new universities will alas! be giving very little contribution by 1965. It will be the other universities that will have to cope with it, and it will be touch and go whether we do it at all. About the official target of 170,000 by the early 1970s, two things can be said. The first is that only this new sense of urgency of which I have spoken will enable us to reach even that; and, in any case, it is doubtful if it is nearly enough.
What are the reasons for this failure to prepare for what is, after all, not a disaster, but an immense national opportunity? Well, there are the usual financial difficulties—the financial difficulties that 780 I was thinking about as the noble Lord, Lord Newton, made his speech, from which one felt that the amount of money available for education was, as it were, laid down by Divine Providence, and in no circumstances could you alter it by priorities so as to get more. It is that sort of financial stringency which has made it inevitable that we shall be short of places. But it would be wrong to put all the blame for our lack of preparedness and our lack of urgency on any Government, or on this Ministry or that Ministry; we are all involved, and not least the universities themselves.
For many of us have had misgivings whether all this expansion is right; fears that it will involve inevitable erosion of standards and freedoms. In spite of the heroic efforts of many of our universities to expand in the post-war years, we all know that a good deal of university opinion has viewed the whole question with reluctance. No conference of academics has been complete without some reference to scraping the bottom of the barrel. I remember well, when the late Lord Simon of Wythenshawe was trying to mobilise opinion in favour of a committee on higher education—the committee which has become the Robbins Committee—what a poor reception he got, not in your Lordships' House, but in some academic quarters.
These misgivings, much as I disagree with them and deplore them, spring from important and excellent principles. It is true that expansion of numbers is not a good in itself. It is true that if it leads to an impoverishment of quality, to a diminution in stature of the whole idea of a university, to a loss of genuine and essential academic liberties, then we shall give to our expanded numbers something, in the long run, not worth having. But I believe fervently that these evils need not follow. We need not go into comparisons with other countries, with the inevitable ensuing wrangles about international comparisons. It can be shown with reasonable certainty on statistical grounds alone, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, implied, that any expansion of university population that we are likely in practice to achieve will certainly involve no diminution in standards.
Nor can I believe that our ideas of what constitute university standards are so certain that we can say that 4 per cent. 781 of the population can attain them, and the admission of 8 per cent. would disastrously erode them. I believe that universities have to learn to regard themselves as at the end of a spectrum of higher education, as places distinguished from others by the relative difficulty and originality of the ideas discussed and evaluated within their walls. But other places of higher education share their virtues and their spirit in varying degree, and by enhancing their standards, by enlarging their activities, we shall protect the universities themselves, as we know them, by the fact that more candidates can be justifiably and effectively diverted to other kinds of higher education.
If I cannot say that I have many misgivings about the decline of standards as we expand, I must also say that I as an individual have few misgivings, either, about possible loss of liberty. But it would be idle to deny that in university circles there is some anxiety on this score, and I must confess that there are passages in the Report for which the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, is responsible that lend a little colour to those fears. It is clear that expansion must involve far greater expenditure. It is no less clear that this greater expenditure will almost certainly involve an association of the universities with some departmental Ministry, although there is no reason why the present admirable U.G.C. machinery should not continue. Which Ministry it should be is clearly a debatable question. It is not a subject on which I shall enlarge, for I am in a tiny minority of university teachers and administrators whose long and close experience with the Ministry of Education leads them to regard that Ministry, not as an enemy, but as a friend and an enlightened counsellor.
But whatever administrative changes come about, it is vital that the essential liberties of institutions of higher learning should be defined by those who value them and respected by those who administer them. The liberties to think, to speak, to publish the truth as one sees it; to decide what are the standards to be maintained and the studies to be pursued; to follow the argument where it leads—these are the essentials of teaching and research at the highest level; and on their preservation depends the quality of that higher education that 782 some of us desire so strongly to see increased in quantity, as we have reached very often great heights in quality. But behind all these changes of policy comes this nagging question of priorities. Education has got to be a higher priority in our national life, so we must sacrifice to achieve for education. It would be optimistic to think we shall ever get much of that Platonic vision which saw education as the greatest burden and privilege of the healthy State, but unless we do it is difficult now to see how we can meet the economic, cultural or the human responsibilities.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, I wish first to associate myself with the congratulations to my noble friend Lord Samuel on his maiden speech. Even if, as he told us, the physical robe which his father bequeathed to him proved to be a little oversize, I am sure that the House has been greatly impressed with the distinction with which he has carried the moral and intellectual heritage. There is, perhaps, no subject which surpasses education in its capacity to draw fine words from those who speak about it, and there is, perhaps, no subject on which fine words and fine phrases win readier response and warmer applause. In the debate this afternoon and this evening we have had some very distinguished speakers and still more fine words on the subject of education, particularly from our friend the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, though sometimes I think, as I hope to show later, fine words devoted to an unfortunate cause.
I want to speak particularly about some aspects of secondary education, and I should like your Lordships for a moment to go back to the fine words that were spoken at the time of the passing of the 1944 Act, an Act which, in the words of the then Minister of Education, wasnot only to provide academic training for the select few, but to give equivalent opportunities to all children over the age of eleven"—note the word "equivalent"—for making the most of their natural aptitudes.On the Third Reading of the Bill which became the 1944 Act, the noble Earl, Lord Woolton, spoke in similar language in your Lordships' 783 House. My right honourable friend Mr. Chuter Ede stated categorically that it was no longer to be eight to ten times easier to get through to the highest forms of appropriate education in some parts of the country than in others. I should like to remind your Lordships how far we have travelled along that road.
The 1944 Act held out hope of a fundamental and important reorganisation. It was then called "Secondary education for all". It is still called that, even in the White Paper of 1958. The 1944 Act laid down, as one of the important elements in that reorganisation, that there should be a two-stage education, and that it should be conducted in separate schools. That is one of the few provisos as to secondary education which will be found in the Act, and which has not been evolved merely by ministerial or administrative policy. At the time of the White Paper at the end of 1958, there were still 150,000 children over the age of 11 in all-age schools, and the White Paper indicated that the complete separation of the primary and secondary bases of education, the end of the all-age schools, was to be the first priority for the next few years.
The noble Lord, Lord Newton, has told us that when (I think he said) the 1964–65 building programme is completed—I do not know whether he means the buildings which will be completed in that year, or the buildings begun in that year—that will be the end of all-age schools. But it is rather a depressing fact to think that in 1958 there were still in those schools 150,000 children over the age of 11 who were not getting the secondary education envisaged by the Act, and that after three years there were still nearly 100,000. If that rate of progress is maintained, it will be something like four years before we have secondary education for all, as the Act purported to provide.
Equally is it true that there are still grave differences in the educational opportunities in different parts of the country. Even if we except those local authorities which have developed a system of comprehensive, or near-comprehensive, schools, we find that there are still great differences in the chances of a child's getting a grammar school education, depending on the area in which he was born or in which he had his primary 784 education. It may be that the difference is not so great as when my right honourable friend Mr. Chuter Ede was speaking nineteen years ago. It may be that the difference is not of the order of eight to ten times, but it is still of the order of between six and seven times. I suggest to your Lordships, therefore, that the reorganisation which was contemplated in 1944 is by no means complete.
In the meantime, a second reorganisation has been implanted on it. It is one of which there is no trace in the Act; one which I am quite sure was not contemplated by the authors of the Act, and which was foreseen with dismay at the time by some—I refer to the reorganisation which has resulted in the bipartite system. Originally it was thought that it would be tripartite, but in fact it is now bipartite, a system which divides between the modern school and the grammar school type of secondary education—a system which has been aptly described as "an ugly name for an ugly arrangement." I reminded your Lordships some four years ago, I think it was, that at the time of the passing of the Act The Times Educational Supplement—not usually a very radical journal—indicated that it would be a disaster for English education if the reorganisation of secondary education resulted in different grades of schools with different exit ramps, leading to different grades of adult society. But this, of course, is exactly what has happened. Leavers from the grammar schools enter one class of occupation and one type of profession. Leavers from the modern schools enter a less-favoured type of occupation. There are thus exit ramps leading to distinct levels of adult society.
The Crowther Committee found that approximately one-quarter of the grammar school leavers go on to further professional training or to further full-time education. Less than one-third of them go into manual occupations. But when we come to the modern school-leavers, the proportion who go to professional training or further full-time education is described as negligible, while the proportion who go into manual jobs is over three-quarters. The difference, so far as unskilled jobs are concerned, is that about seven times as many come from the modern schools as from the grammar schools. There can be no doubt that there are these distinct ramps leading to 785 distinct levels. I should like to consider the effect that this has had on a school which has had little mention in your Lordships' debate; that is, the modern school.
The modern school, my Lords, was never promised parity of esteem. At the time of the Act, there was much talk of parity of esteem: it was forecast in the Ministry's pamphlet on new secondary education. The modern school was promised comparative conditions, but was rightly told that that parity of esteem it must win for itself. But it has not got parity of conditions. A very important parity was established in the parity of salaries in different types of maintained schools. Teachers in primary schools and all types of secondary schools were to be paid on the same scale, but in the years which have passed this parity has been whittled away by the distribution of special responsibility allowances, by the method of reckoning the size of a school for salary purposes, and by giving more points to children above a certain age, which means that the grammar schools, where children stay longer, tend to get more points, so that higher salaries are payable.
Not very many local educational authorities are candid about what they spend on different types of secondary schools, but those which are candid reveal that the modern school usually gets a lower expenditure for a child in school. Most important of all conditions, of course, is the condition of the size of the class. In the modern schools slightly over one-third of the pupils are still in classes of over 36. In the grammar schools the proportion of classes over 36 in number is under 10 per cent. No serious education can be done in a class of 36, 40, or even more children.
As time has gone on, I think we have become a little franker; we have changed the language. In the beginning it would have been anathema to speak of "passing" the 11-plus. The 11-plus was not an examination to be either "passed" or "failed". It was an examination which was merely intended to distribute on the same level the various types of secondary education. We have changed the language. We now speak very frankly of "failing" the 11-plus. We now have great anxiety about failing our 11-plus. We now speak of selective and nonselective schools; but there is no such 786 thing in the 1944 Act. This is an entirely new conception; and the Government spoke in the 1958 White Paper no longer of variation in schools to accommodate different types of capacity, but different ranges of capacity. So the end of the story has been that the modern school is the dump. It takes the rump and it takes the leavings; and no amount of fine words, of pretence or sentimentality, can cover this fact up. No fine words deceive the parents, or deceive the children who go to these schools. Not only is it, theoretically at any rate, intellectually, the dump, but it is, of course, socially, the dump as well.
In the debate in your Lordships' House on February 26, 1959, the noble and learned Viscount who leads the House and whose absence we deplore, though half-heartedly, because we are delighted with its cause, assured my noble friend, Lord Silkin, that he must put entirely out of his mind the idea that the pupils of the grammar schools of this country are selected from a different social class than those of the secondary modern schools. My noble friend Lord Silkin, as your Lordships are well aware, is stored with facts and his opinions are commonly based on facts, and if we look at the facts there is no dispute that the modern schools take the children of the manual working class and that the grammar schools take the children of the professional classes. The noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, spoke with pride of the social mixture which indeed he had in the Manchester Grammar School. He told us that many occupations were represented there. But he did not tell us what the proportions of the various occupations were; and he is speaking of a school which everyone knows has a very high national reputation and which is hardly comparable to schools as a whole.
The Crowther Committee found that the proportion of the Service recruits who come from the semi-skilled or unskilled classes, whose fathers were in semiskilled or unskilled occupations, predominantly had their education in the modern schools. The proportion from modern schools was two and a half times larger than the proportion of recruits whose fathers came from the professional or clerical classes. Predominantly, the modern schools receive the children of the manual workers, particularly the unskilled manual workers, 787 and the grammar schools receive the children of the professional and clerical staff. Yet the Minister of Education has only recently told us that he does not start from the assumption that potential intelligence and ability are distributed unequally among different sections of the community. That was in his Belfast speech. If he does not start from that assumption, the policy which he follows seems to make that assumption, and he certainly acts upon it.
I think it is interesting to see what has been the reaction of the modern school to this situation. There was, I think, originally a rather romantic idea that the modern school offered a unique opportunity. Just because the chance of rising to the higher professional level was not as great for its pupils, it was thought that an educational curriculum might be worked out which was less competitive, which paid less attention to getting on and which was broader, more flexible and more related to other aspects of life than success in professional advancement. There was a hope that the modern schools would work out some kind of philosophy of their own—not a philosophy of failure; not even perhaps the philosophy of the failed; but the philosophy of the less ambitious, of those who could afford to take a broader view because they did not have to concentrate so much upon their own professional advancement. This has not happened. The interesting thing about the modern schools is that under the pressure of the competitiveness of our society, particularly the competitiveness of our educational system, the modern schools have increasingly modelled themselves upon the grammar schools.
This competitiveness is, I think, the most striking change over a long period in our educational system. It is certainly the most striking change as compared with the days when some of your Lordships or myself, were at school. It seems to be a competitiveness, if I may say so, which is perhaps embodied in the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, and I find that in all parts of the educational system this is now cause for very great concern. My young friends in the grammar schools seem to spend—I was tempted to say "waste"—their youth 788 staggering from level to level; from O level to A level to S level. If you ask them how they are getting on and what life has for them, the kind of answer you nearly always get is, "Tommy is studying for his Common Entrance; Susan is working very hard for her O level; and Mary thinks she may have a chance of getting into Oxford or Cambridge". Their lives seem to be lived under this intense strain of intellectual competition. Indeed, it has now penetrated backwards right down into the primary school, where you may be streamed long before the age even of the 11-plus.
The modern schools have now come into this game. I think it was inevitable. It was a realistic appreciation that this is the kind of society in which we live, and that this is the kind of educational system which reflects that society. And so they have taken to extended courses, to putting in anything up to 40 per cent. of their over 15-year-olds for the General Certificate of Education. They have now acquired their own leaving certificate of education. They have in fact tried to make themselves into pale copies of the grammar schools, and of course in the result they have made a new set of rejects, not only the failures of the 11-plus, those who failed to get into the grammar schools, but those who failed in the courses now provided in the modern schools.
I am quite sure we have to get rid of this bipartite system. It is bad. It is bad because selection at 11 is wrong. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, spoke of deferring the moment of truth, but at 11 it is not the moment of truth; the evidence is that it is very often the moment of falsehood. The Crowther Committee again found that among the Service recruits to the Army as many as 22 per cent. had had the wrong type of schooling, and among recruits to the R.A.F. as many as 29 per cent. had had the wrong type of schooling. Even if one could make the selection at 11, even if the selection was right, the strain of the selection is much too great on small children. It is not only the one-day examination. Many authorities are getting away from that, and I am glad to see the Minister has said it is time for the Ministry no longer to be neutral about methods of selection. It is not 789 only that. However the selection is made, it is a tremendous strain on the child that at that age he is by one method or another going to be chosen or not chosen, and no amount of fine words will cover the fact that those who are not chosen are the failures, the rejects.
The Ministry is no longer going to be neutral about methods of selection, but it is high time the Ministry was no longer going to be neutral about any selection at all. It is bad, too, because it is snobbish. There is no doubt from the facts I have put before your Lordships that the selection works out as social selection. It may be rectified afterwards by transfers, but transfers are not the same thing as getting it right or making it flexible in the first place. It is snobbish and it is recognised as snobbish. It enables visitors from the Commonwealth, none of whom have it, from Europe and from the United States to open their eyes in astonishment and say, "Yes, in Britain there is still a class system and it is mirrored in their educational structure". And it is bad, too, because it is a blatant violation of Section 76 of the 1944 Act, which said that, subject to the requirement; of public expenditure and efficient instruction and training, children should be educated in accordance with the wishes of their parents. Few are the parents who want their children to be educated in what are known to be the schools of failures
I am sure we have got to do two things. We have first of all to get rid of the bipartite system, to have a flexible system, a comprehensive secondary school just as we have a comprehensive primary school. I do not know why the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, does not attack the primary school because it is not segregated by intellectual levels. He must go right down to the primary school and the nursery school. We have comprehensive primary schools. I am quite sure the Act of 1944, which says nothing about the modern schools and nothing about grammar schools—it was quite unaware of the coming of this bipartite system—never envisaged that we should be saddled with this. We have got to get rid of it.
The other thing we have to do is to re-think a good deal of educational philosophy. We have got to get rid of the stresses and strains of this exceptionally 790 competitive system. It is not a good thing that our young people at the age at which they go to the primary schools should be pushed and streamed and coached to pass the 11-plus. It is not a good thing that when they get into their grammar schools, if they do, they should be pushed and streamed and coached to pass their various levels. They miss a great deal in life because of this extreme, competitive concentration. But I am sure it is a reflection of society getting the educational system it deserves, a reflection of the values and standards of our society.
I think perhaps we should end as we began. It is easy to speak fine words, but there is a great deal yet to be done. I wonder sometimes whether the Ministry has a policy. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, told us, and the Minister has told us in his Belfast speech, that the Ministry is not against comprehensive schools in principle. Not against them, no; but not for them. The Ministry is no longer going to be neutral about methods of selection, but this does not mean there must be any interference with the discretion of local education authorities. I wonder sometimes what the policy is, except the policy which, as I say, is contained in fine words. But even fine words are getting a little more cautious. In his Belfast speech the Minister now says we must work towards a system in which every child has an equal chance of developing its interests and personality to the full. This seems to be a confession that, after nineteen years, we must work towards a system which we were led to believe we had already attained in 1944.
§ 7.26 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LEICESTER
My Lords, like others, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for initiating this debate. There has been only one thing the matter with this debate, and that is that it has provided us with an embarrassment of riches, a number of speeches every one of which would have been worth following up for the rest of the debate; but if we had done that the variety of colour in the spectrum would have been less. So I think we must be content with a debate which is a series of rather disconnected speeches, which we hope when 791 read together in Hansard will make an interesting set of essays on the educational problems of the time.
Education to-day is news; it is usually controversial news, but it is always news. Whatever criticisms may be made of the present adult generation, they cannot be accused of not showing a lively interest in the conditions under which their children are educated. During my ten years or so as Bishop of Leicester I must have given away prizes, I suppose, about sixty times. Every prize giving is well attended, usually crowded. The correspondence columns of our local newspapers are filled with letters on school matters. A meeting of parents and teachers which I attended concerning the future of only one school drew an audience of 400 people. These facts are encouraging. If education does not thrive in the 'sixties and' seventies of this century it will not be for lack of interest in the community as a whole; nor because the flames of controversial discussion have not been sufficiently vigorously fanned in the newspapers and other public media of our time.
I should like to begin by saying quite sincerely how much I think the Ministry and the local authorities deserve the gratitude and praise of the public for the enormous achievements they have been responsible for during the last ten years. It is, of course, easy enough to use achievement in one field in order to highlight failures in another—to point, for instance, to the work of the grammar schools in order to denigrate what is offered in the secondary modern schools (it would be very tempting to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, into these controversial and difficult fields), or to point to the fine products of our grammar school sixth forms in order to show the shortage of university places. But situated as I am in Leicester, at the heart of a typical ordinary English county and city, I cannot help being deeply impressed by what has been, and is being, accomplished.
I hesitated whether I should speak about one county and city, but after the enthusiasm with which my noble friend Lord Taylor spoke about California, perhaps Leicester is not totally irrelevant to our concern. In my relatively small diocese I see a modern university increasing 792 its membership by leaps and bounds, changing the face and skyline of Leicester by new, powerful buildings, sometimes controversial but always interesting. At Loughborough we have a College of Advanced Technology, where whole hillsides are being covered with new and fine buildings, and where, with the associated colleges, an educational community of university scale and stature is emerging. We happen also to have the National College of Youth Leaders. I should like to say how inspiring it is to meet there the men and women who are responding to the opportunities of service provided by the Albemarle Report. In the new training college for teachers at Scraptoft we see an example of that expansion whereby 48,000 teachers were in training in 1962 compared with 35,000 in 1961.
At least one of our new colleges, and probably many other buildings, have been erected on what is known as the CLASP system, which I originally thought was something to do with the way in which pieces were put together, but I find stands for the Consortium of Local Authorities Special Programme. In addition, there has been a vast programme of school building—small, of course, compared with what our local authorities would wish to see done; small compared with whit should be be done in order to bring all accommodation up to date and up to scale; but still enormous if looked at as a net programme of building achievement. It is far in advance of anything comparable in any other decade of our history—unless, perhaps, one were to think of the building of primary schools, mostly by the Church, in almost every village of England during the middle years of the last century.
I should like also to say how much credit is due to our Directors of Education and to their architects for the style and appearance of our many new schools. It is easy to gibe at what are called "glass palaces", but, having been at the opening of many of them, I think that we, as a nation, should feel nothing but pride that so many of our children are having their education in buildings which are full of light, colour and interest. It is a superficial judgment that says, "Look at the fine buildings, and look at the increase in juvenile crime". Whatever causes juvenile crime, I am sure 793 it is not the fine buildings. It may be a salutary reminder to us that fine buildings are not enough, and are indeed a challenge to us to discover just what it is that makes e new generation ready to accept and strive for the best in what has gone before, while not being complacently content with it.
Her Majesty's Government will not expect any speech to consist entirely of praise; they would be suspicious if it did. I want now to move into a field where I think there are some serious problems. I wish to refer to the complications which arise in education for third parties such as churches, where contiguous authorities follow widely divergent policies and when the Ministry itself is continually changing its priorities in building requirements. Your Lordships will not be surprised that I have especially in mind the local authorities in the city and County of Leicester. It is, of course, much too late in history to reconsider the general question of local government which arises from the rapid growth of a large town in the midst of a largely rural county. For more than a century the custom has been for the town to grow into a county borough—a circle with a hole in the middle, like a pineapple ring. I am not sure whether this was a happy development. Instead of allowing industry and agriculture to support each other, they fell apart; and as all towns have a tendency to grow, there has been in all such cases much bitterness from the inevitable encroachment of town upon country. In many cases the county has its administrative headquarters in the middle of the county borough. In Leicestershire, I often say that it is only the Church that has preserved the natural link between town and country.
We are concerned to-day with the educational consequences of these divisions. The county and the city educational authorities of Leicestershire and Leicester respectively are both forward-looking, progressive and adventurous authorities. I count both Directors as my personal friends, and I do not wish to criticise either them or their committee members, but only to draw attention to the difficulties which arise when a voluntary agency such as the Church has to co-ordinate its policy with two or more local authorities, and with a continually 794 changing policy in London. Our two authorities are pursuing opposite policies in one vitally important matter: that of the provision of grammar school places at the secondary stage of education. Both have the same ultimate object, the provision of the best education possible for the largest number of children.
The county is following the Leicestershire plan, by means of which all children may hope eventually to have a grammar school education if their parents wish it. This is a bold experiment, and I certainly do not wish to criticise it. I think it may well hold the secret for future developments. The city, on the other hand, is particularly concerned to raise the level of the secondary modern schools, and for this excellent purpose wishes to keep down the percentage of grammar school places, so as to keep up a better intellectual standard in large, united, secondary modern schools. There are obvious difficulties when this latter solution of the problem of democratic education is followed in an area where the opposite solution is sought in the surrounding countryside. I must say that I have found both authorities most solicitous for the welfare of individual children whose parents move across the border. But I wish to speak of the disastrous effect of this divergence of policy upon the Church's contribution to education, which has in some way to be adapted, with its limited resources, to two so different environments.
Here I must trouble your Lordships to listen to a short, but sorry, tale which has caused a great sense of injustice to weigh upon me and those concerned with me in the Church's educational work in Leicestershire. In brief, the facts are these. Nearly ten years ago, when I first went to Leicester, we embarked on our own development plan, intended to dovetail in with the plans of the two authorities. The principal point in it was that two Church of England secondary schools were to be closed and a replacement grammar school was to be built near the city and county border. Nothing has happened to arrest the closures; these have gone on inexorably. But we are no nearer to getting our replacement school. Disappointment owing to postponement of plans is common enough—the local authorities themselves 795 suffer from this every year; but the continual postponement of a Church plan presents different problems. It is so easy for the position to be that when one set of circumstances has become favourable at last, another set will have become unfavourable.
Our general plan was welcomed by the Ministry, and I hold encouraging letters both from the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, and the noble and learned Viscount the Lord President, both of whose tenures at the Ministry of Education began and ended while these negotiations dragged on their weary course. It was agreed that the new Church grammar school would count for grant. The Ministry and both authorities stated categorically that there was room for a school such as we proposed. At first the school was to be in the county. Then the Boundary Commission got to work, and years passed by because nobody knew in whose area the agreed site was to be. It was then thought that the better hope was the city, but it became clear that the city, while supporting the general idea, could support no Church school to the detriment of its own list of needed buildings. One more abortive attempt was made in the county, and then the ball fell back into the city court. By now the city has reached its new policy and just does not want more grammar schools.
I wish to make it quite clear that over wide fields the co-operation between the Church in my own diocese and the local education authorities is close and fruitful. It is clear, however, that while both authorities have welcomed, and almost demanded, the closure of schools no longer well placed or well planned, neither feels any obligation to ask the Ministry to give any priority to the replacement school. And one cannot blame them for this, for their own needs are not being met. It is, in my view, unsatisfactory that a proposed school which arises from the closure of others, as provided for in the 1944 Act, should get on to a building list only when a local authority is ready to forgo one of its own much-needed schools. It is rather asking for the impossible. But the Church, on the other hand, has planned its whole financial programme with the school in mind. It has made great sacrifices so as to rise to the task before it. It is 796 seriously handicapped by the continued postponement of authorisation.
In such circumstances as these I believe that the Ministry ought to act as an impartial umpire, and not allow a third party, such as the Church, to be tossed from one authority to another with no visible hope of gaining sufficient support to turn the scale at Curzon Street. Both the Ministry and the two authorities at one time agreed that there was room for such a school. It is only the irony of fate that by the time the school ought to have been open, or at least built, successive changes of policy, both local and central, put the Church completely out of court.
Practically all the existing grammar schools of Leicester were founded as Church schools. By various processes, every one of them has been diverted from the purposes for which they were founded. The 1944 Act gives a clear right to propose a replacement school in exchange for the two schools closed, and I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government whether there is any hope that this nine years' procrastination may be brought to a speedy end. In the London Government Bill the Government have introduced Amendments to prevent the new borough boundaries, and the divergence of borough policy, from strangling the voluntary schools. I plead that the same principle be allowed to apply to other parts of the country, where the accidents of history have presented the Church with such peculiar problems in the working out of its plans.
I was pleased to see that the Minister at the week-end opened a Roman Catholic grammar school in Essex. This, at least, shows that he sees a place for voluntary schools. At least one large Roman Catholic school has been authorised in my diocese, while the Church of England waits vainly in the queue. I make no complaint of that; it is the luck of the draw. But I do sometimes feel that the Church of England pays a heavy price for its desire to co-operate as fully as possible with the authorities. In pursuance of this policy we have agreed to the closure or reconstitution of countless schools. We are, in my view, entitled to reasonable consideration for the very reasonable demands that we make upon the funds and freedom bestowed upon us by successive Acts of Parliament.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, the noble Earl who opened this debate defined education as the means of fitting a child for life. I would qualify that slightly, and define education as the means of fitting a child for the life that he is likely to lead. There we come to the great division between two schools of thought. It is no use, in my opinion, trying to pretend that all children are of equal mental capacity: I do not mean from a social point of view or anything of that sort, but simply that they are just not of equal mental capacity—and nothing that any Government can do will make them so. Therefore I feel that the bipartite system, which was so roundly condemned by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, is necessary to a point, in that we must have schools which cater for the more mentally advanced and others which cater for those who are less advanced. On the other hand, I am not sure that I regard the present system as quite the ideal one, because, although the noble Baroness claimed that the distinction was purely snobbish, I do not think that it is snobbish in the usually accepted sense of the term. I think that perhaps there is a certain amount of intellectual snobbery, but I do not think there is anything else; because there is no doubt that, provided he or she has sufficient intelligence, a child of any parents in the country is capable of getting into a grammar school.
We have learned a great deal from the comprehensive schools which, to my mind, are having a great success. There children of all types and grades of intelligence can mix together on a perfectly equal status, and they need feel no sense of inequality. This has been so successful that it implies that the line between the grammar school and the modern secondary school could be made a little less rigid than it is to-day. But, as I said before, there is no getting away from the fact that some children have one type of intelligence and others a quite different type.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord a question, which may be a difficult one for him, and I do not want to spoil his speech if he feels that it would take too long for him to answer. What 798 I feel so strongly about is this. Noble Lords in this House do not consider two types of school to be necessary for our own children. It may be that if we have a very backward child we send him to some special school for backward children. I know at least one public school which caters for pupils who cannot get into an ordinary public school. But that is a rare case. Ordinarily we assume that the parents who can afford it will send their child to one public school or another. Why, if that is right for those who can afford it, is it wrong for the masses? That is the question we cannot get answered.
§ LORD SOMERS
I see the noble Lord's problem. On the other hand, one must also consider the practical problem. If all the schools were to be of grammar school status there would not be the teachers to fill them. If one were to make all schools of one status, one grade, I think the average teaching would fall to the level of the present secondary modern school, rather than rise to the present standard of the grammar school.
My own view is that it might be practicable to have a system something on the following lines. Some children are very interested in literature, history, languages, the arts, and so on; others have a definite gift for doing things with their hands—those who are interested in craftsmanship, science or engineering. Would it not be possible to have two types of school—one could call them classical and modern, or something like that—with no intellectual or social inequality between them? One type would cater for one kind of education, and the other for a different kind, and thereby this feeling of striving to get into a grammar school would be done away with.
The decision as to which type of school each child would attend, could be reached, not by an examination such as the 11-plus, but by the mutual decision of the parents and the primary headmaster or headmistress. Personally, I am all in favour of the abolition of the 11-plus, though I do not agree with the noble Earl that all children are suitable for the same type of education. But I always think that the fewer exams, we can have, the better. We must have some, naturally, but they are not a very accurate 799 guide to a child's intelligence over a pretty wide range. One must remember that children are all individuals. In fact, the real genius of the good school teacher is in being able to discern not only the mental capacity but also the character of each one of his pupils.
That leads me to another point on which I heartily agree with the noble Earl, Lord Longford; that is, the frightful evil of these over-large classes. It is quite impossible of course—I can speak here with some authority—to deal with a class of over 30, and hope to give any individual teaching. It is on dealing with this problem that I feel the Government should try to spend the money, rather than on very magnificent school buildings. I agree that adequate buildings are necessary, but I do not think they need be more than that. I remember once being shown round a new secondary modern school in Berkshire, where all the fittings and all the upholstery were in the most expensive material. There was a beatiful oak parquet floor in the main hall, and everything was absolutely of a most luxurious type. But I also happened to know one of the masters who taught at that school, and he complained that they suffered there, as everywhere, from the same over-swollen classes. So I should have thought that a better expenditure of Government money—and I am not blaming the Government for this, because it is the local education authority which decides all this—would be on an increased number of classrooms and increased staff, rather than on magnificent furniture.
I also think that school life, apart from mere class work, should be more emphasised. Schoolboys and schoolgirls gain a great deal from that. It tends to make them feel that they belong to the school; it gives them a pride in it, and it makes them want to be a credit to the school. I do not necessarily mean organised games, or anything like that, but I believe that activities such as drama, nature study, and so on, which could be done outside school hours, should be encouraged.
Before I sit down, I should like to say a word about Lord Taylor's remarks on standards of education in America—I am sorry that he is not here to hear me say this. It was my misfortune (I can 800 describe it as nothing more or less than that) to have to go to school in America for three years between the ages of 9 and 12. I came back to England knowing practically nothing, except the fact that history began in 1776, and that George Washington could never tell a lie. When I got back here and went to an English prep, school I learnt all sorts of things that I had never heard of before—geometry, algebra, Latin, English history, Shakespeare; things that I had not the faintest notion existed. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, has ever read a book by one of a team of young Oxford debaters (and it is rather interesting to note that one of them was the present Lord Stansgate), who made a debating tour of American universities. That hook, Travelling Tongues, throws some ludicrous lights on some of the standards of American education.
The noble Lord was commenting in glowing terms on the enormous size of the universities. It seems to me that he is getting quite like an American himself, because they all believe that the bigger a thing is, the better it is. But size does not necessarily make for good educational standards. I can assure the noble Lord that the educational standard over here is about three times as high as anything you will ever find in America.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Before the next speaker addresses the House, and as the noble Lord is not here, I must, so to speak, dissent strongly from the last statement. Otherwise, it will go on record as having been proclaimed by the noble Lord, with neither the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, nor his noble friends, making any effort to argue. But I think perhaps we should carry on that discussion later.
§ LORD SOMERS
Yes. I am quite willing to do so, of course. I only wish that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, had been here. Perhaps he might have thrown some light on the matter.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ LORD LINDGREN
My Lords, I hesitated to put my name down to take part in this debate. Had I known that the House would be quite so empty as it is, I doubt whether it would have gone down. But the hesitation was due to the fact that I appreciate that I cannot bring to the House the academic knowledge and skill which many of your 801 Lordships who have spoken this afternoon can do. My approach to this problem is of one who appreciates his own lack of educational opportunity, and who, because of that, has tried to play some part in education administration and the improvement of educational opportunities in the county in which I live, Hertfordshire. Therefore, I enter this debate from the point of view of a local education authority, and of the mass of youngsters who have to pass through the State system of education in this country.
First of all, I think there should be a word of praise for the 1944 Education Act. It was a big advance in educational thought and in educational opportunity. I think, too, that there ought to be a recognition of the tremendous achievements in the implementation of that Act since the end of the war, though I am the first to admit—as I shall try to show later in this speech—that there is still a great deal to be done. But when I contrast the achievements in educational opportunity since the war, with the struggles that one had for grammar school opportunity between the wars, I do not think that the achievements since the war can be described in any way other than as remarkable.
I think there ought also to be a word of praise for the Labour Government from 1945 to 1951, which, in spite of all the shortages and the difficulties at that time of transferring our economy from war to peace, had the courage to raise the school-leaving age to 15 and to start the implementation of the 1944 Act. I am old enough and have been in local government long enough to remember the tragedy of the Fisher Act of 1918, when the Tory Government which followed the 1914–18 war scrapped the Act before any work at all had been done on it. Therefore, the Labour Government started this educational advance by their courage in raising the school leaving age to 15 and setting in motion the implementation of the 1944 Act.
In spite of what some of the educational theorists may say, and of even what some of my noble friends might say, I think that the secondary modern school has been a success, and to me, at least, the indications of that success are, first of all, the number of children who are 802 staying at school beyond the statutory school-leaving age. So far as we in Hertfordshire are concerned, one-third of the fourth year students stay on for the fifth year and take their "O" level G.C.E. My noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger referred to the secondary modern school aping the grammar school; but what worries me about some educationalists is that they seem to forget that at least school ought to be preparing children for life, and perhaps one of the tragedies of life is that employers require some recognised standards when youngsters go for a job. But at least these youngsters are staying on at school for the fifth year and are taking their "O" level—many of them; then staying on for a sixth year; and then, in Hertfordshire, either going on to the College of Further Education or even to the sixth form of a grammar school and taking their "A" level there.
There has been discussion on the 11-plus—and I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, is not here now. Whatever he might say as a very worthy and recognised authority on education, those of us who had to knock around with the ordinary youngsters in the ordinary schools appreciate that there is very little difference indeed between those who just get through the 11-plus and those who fail it. I think that perhaps the achievement of the secondary modern school, at least in Hertfordshire, has been that success or failure at the 11-plus is not now such a matter of life and death as it was fifteen years ago. Because, again, whatever some of these educational theorists might say, so far as the parent and the child are concerned there is now an appreciation that there is a two-way road leading up to the same top, either through the secondary modern school or through the grammar school. To whatever school luck, fortune or examination may take them, there is the opportunity; or it can lead to university, to training college, to technical college or to full apprenticeship.
I support the comprehensive system of education, and I should like to see the comprehensive school there: but those of us who are engaged in education administration have school buildings there and we have the youngsters there, and we must deal with the problem on our hands rather than talk "airy fairy" theory. In fact, I think educational 803 opportunity has been bedevilled by those who have been talking about this scheme and that scheme, and that none of them is really foolproof all the way through.
As I have admitted that we made great progress in the period from the end of the war to now, do not let the Government take that as too much of a congratulation, because this Government have been in office for twelve years and they have paraded the fact that we have never had it so good. Let me tell them that, in the depths of the problems that faced the country in 1945, the Labour Government had the courage to raise the school-leaving age, as I have said already. This Tory Government have been in power for twelve years, saying, "You never had it so good", and yet, so far as the mass of the working class children are concerned, 15 is still the statutory school-leaving age. I am glad that working-class parents are now much more courageous than the Tory Government, and are, on a voluntary basis, allowing their children to remain at school beyond the statutory school-leaving age. During this period, when we have "Never had it so good", the local education authority have been struggling against cuts in school building programmes, "Stops and Go's", economic crises, changes in Minister of Education and cuts in minor works programmes; and they have suffered, too, from rising costs, exorbitant prices for land, high interest rates and the rest. Whoever it is who have "Never had it so good" certainly it has not been the local education authority or those engaged in educational administration, because while this Government have been in office they have had twelve years of difficulty and frustration in the job that they have had to do.
I am sorry that there is quite so much emphasis in the discussions on educational theory and practice, because I think it tends to take the emphasis away from what is one of the major problems in education in this country—and it is something which the Government ought not to be allowed to forget. That is, there are still vast numbers of primary schools in this country which were condemned in the years before the war and which are a disgrace to this country, which prides itself on its educational system. While we squabble about educational theories, 804 it is still a fact that in our larger centres of population in this country we have got the four and five decker schools built by the old School Board, which overnight, under the 1944 Act, became secondary modern schools. Whether you call them bilateral or comprehensive, they are still the disgraceful buildings they were before, and they still create the same problems for those who have to try to carry out educational instruction within them. We do not have many noble Lords here to-night. Therefore, there is not likely to be someone standing up, as an old Etonian, and telling us that the buildings at Eton are old and difficult to work in. At least there they have got fringe benefits of playing fields, libraries and the rest, small classes and a proper teacher-pupil ratio—conditions which do not apply in these four and five decker schools which now have to be operated and which, as I say, were provided by the old School Board.
Before we can talk about being fair to all in education we have to spend a great deal more money than we are spending at the moment on bringing these black schools up to date, modernising and scrapping them; because, as I shall say later on, whatever we might say about universities, technical education and the rest, until we get the right basis in regard to primary and secondary education, a lot of money that is likely to be spent on the provision of universities and other such places will be wasted. Therefore I think we ought to press the Government more than they are being pressed for the modernisation of these old schools. It comes home to us very much in county life; for example, in Hertfordshire where we have glorious schools. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, referred to them just now. We have them also in our New Towns; and yet we cannot get money out of the Ministry of Education for the provision of water-borne sanitation in some of the Church schools to which the right reverend Prelate referred. We ought to have some sense of values in regard to these things.
Another factor of paramount importance is the provision of teachers; and, however you regard a school, or however clever are those who administer it, to me a school is neither worse nor better than its teachers and its buildings. The Government have now tardily agreed to 805 provide more training college places. Local education authorities have been asked to provide 80,000 more places; but I question whether the Minister of Education is really serious and—I was going to say "honest", but I do not want to imply dishonesty in any sense, so I will say determined—that we are going to get them, because the provision for the 80,000 places is £6 million. From £6 million expenditure the local authority derives 80,000 places. My mental arithmetic may not be good, but I think this works out at £75 a place; and that is not sufficient to provide the furniture for a student's room, let alone to deal with the provision of gymnasia, dining halls, libraries, and so on. I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, when he comes to reply, will make it clear whether the Minister really is asking the local education authorities to provide those 80,000 places; because, if he is serious about it, he will have to provide much more than £6 million.
My Lords, I should like to say a word or two about the Government's unfair treatment of the State schools as against the independent schools. I am not against the independent schools: let those who want them have them. I am concerned about providing good conditions for the mass of the children of this country; because the schools in many industrial areas and the teaching conditions in them are not good. Those schools face the problem of overcrowded classes; and they cannot get even the number of teachers which the Ministry of Education were prepared to allow them. Therefore the local education authorities agreed to the Minister's scheme of rationing of teachers. Throughout the whole of the State system of education we have rationing of teachers; but there is no rationing of teachers so far as the independent school is concerned.
I agree that if a commodity of vital importance and of national necessity is in short supply it should be rationed. But let us have rationing for all—not rationing for the State schools and no rationing for the independent schools. The independent schools have all the advantages; they have the best of both worlds. The Labour Government in 1945 gave the independent schools the opportunity of coming into the national system of superannuation run by the Ministry. I 806 am in favour of that; I agree that there should be better superannuation facilities for teachers. But the independent schools have no rationing for teachers; they have the advantage of national superannuation but they are not tied to the Burnham scale. I think we ought to have a great deal more fairness as between the State system and the independent system of education.
My Lords, I have heard no reference to-day to nursery schools—though I admit that I have not heard every speech. But I must put in a plea for the extension of the nursery schools system in this country. It has been cut down and mutilated by the Ministry of Education; and local education authorities are handicapped in their attempts to develop it. We must face the fact that a growing number of married women are going out to work. In the debate to-day we heard a plea for married women teachers to come back into teaching. But it cannot help that plea that there is developing, under very bad conditions, a baby-minding system which I think deplorable. It is happening in our new towns and in our industrial centres where the architects and planners, perhaps because of high land prices, are driving the mass of the people into flats. It is one thing for the mother at home in the villa-type house to watch two or three youngsters in the garden. It is quite another when she goes out to work, or when families are herded together in a set of boxes they like to call flats, where there is no opportunity for youngsters to develop. Because of social conditions, as well as their function as the basis of the educational system, nursery schools in this country should be rapidly extended.
Finally, I should like to say a word about the educational buildings and the provision of teachers. During this year we have had a White Paper on industrial training, and we are told that it is likely, if the present Government are still in power, that there will be a Bill on the subject during the next Session. If the Government are true to the White Paper the result must be a vast expansion in technical educational facilities. Let us be honest to ourselves and to future generations. If we are to have this expansion in technical training there will have to be a very high increase in the cost of education in this country. It 807 will have to be additional to what is now being spent, and what ought to be spent, on the bases of our educational system: the nursery schools, the primary schools and secondary education. I do not want to be put off with bluff and "airy-fairy" talk of our being regarded as dead as an industrial nation unless industrial training is provided. I agree that it should be provided; but it must be provided and paid for over and above the cost of the existing structure. Unless we make the basis right, unless we have adequate primary and secondary education, a large amount of money is likely to be wasted in technical and university education. I make a plea for the ordinary youngster. If we get the ground work right, then we can build a much superior structure to that which we have had up to the present time.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, I am afraid that I have had to be absent a good deal and I have missed a number of speeches this afternoon, so it may be that some noble Lord has already called attention to the latest report of N.E.D.C. It is a striking thing that the first sentence of this document, which is called Conditions Favourable to Faster Growth, says:Economic growth is dependent upon a high and advancing level of education.If a body like "Neddy" considers that our whole future and economic growth depends on spending more money on education, I wonder how Ministers can say that the lack of funds for education is because our resources will not run to it. It surely is a matter of priorities. I am no economist, but to the simpleminded person it seems odd that national resources can be spent on grandiose office premises and prestige blocks here, there and everywhere, and cannot be spent on essentials like education.
Do not let it be said that education has no tangible advantages to bring us, because "Neddy", on the top of page 2 of this Report, says,Such evidence as there is strongly suggests that increased investment in education may make a substantial contribution to growth, through the benefits, both social and economic, that it provides.So let us keep our priorities in mind when we talk about the admitted urgent needs of education.
808 I want to talk briefly, owing to the lateness of the hour, on one particular section of education that I believe has not yet been touched on—that is, the education of those who have left school at 15 and wish to continue, or should continue, their education until 18. I only wish that there were somebody here who could do justice to the subject better than I can, but I think it is worth saying that this field of further education is entirely neglected. Part of that field, that part which deals with technical education, has had a fair amount of public attention. The Government have given a good deal of thought to it and have taken steps to improve it. There is glamour in training people to be technicians and technologists to take part in the great industrial revolution which we are told is going on, but there is no glamour for the ordinary average boy or girl of 15 to 18 who has left school.
We are told—and it is encouraging—that 50 per cent. or more in London already voluntarily stay on at school beyond 15, and even 20 per cent. or so stay on beyond 16, but those are a minority, and the great majority leave school and go to work. What happens to them? They can continue their education on a part-time basis. In many cases far-sighted employers release them for one day a week or other periods of day release or for sandwich courses to continue their education, but that is mainly on vocational subjects, subjects which will make a young man or woman a more useful employee to the concern. There are other employers who are still more far-sighted and public spirited and who realise that young people who leave school at 15 or 16 need more general education in the ordinary academic subjects which in secondary schools they learned under great disadvantages, as we have heard.
The numbers who take advantage of this are encouraging, when we think of the obstacles that there are against them. The report of the Minister of Education for 1962 has on page 32 an interesting section on day release. From that it is clear that it is the Ministry's view that day release ought to be developed as much as possible. We know that the Crowther Committee placed second in priority, after the raising of the compulsory school leaving age from 15 to 16, compulsory part-time education up to 18 809 and the establishment of county colleges. I am afraid we can take it that, with the social view as it is, anything of that kind must be a long-distance objective that we cannot hope to reach for a long time. The Ministries have been examining the position for increasing the scale of day release. The number receiving day release rose between. 1959 and 1962 from 209,000 to 250,000, but even that figure was only 12½ per cent. of the total age group; and of the boys and girls in employment it was only one boy in every three and one girl in every ten who was receiving this type of education.
The meeting that the Minister organised with representatives of industry, local education authorities and technical colleges came to the conclusion that, setting aside altogether compulsory day release, even the grant of the right to day release was out of the question. They said that such a proposal could not be pursued for the present without holding back the prospects for other urgent educational development. But the Minister took a further step, about which, although I did not give him notice, perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, may have already decided to say a word. He set up a Committee under Mr. Henniker Heaton to report on what steps should be taken to bring about the maximum practicable increase in the grant of release from employment to enable young people under 18 to attend technical and other courses of further education. That Committee have been sitting since last November, and I think we are entitled to hope that some recommendations may come from their discussions. I know that they have brought into consultation local education authorities and have received their views on the subject. They have to find out what measures can be taken, short of a general right to day release, to improve the numbers.
Another Government publication has come out, and it is the work of another Ministry. One has a fear that co-ordination of the activities of different parts of Whitehall is not always all that it might be. I see that the Ministry of Labour issued a pamphlet on industrial training, Cmnd. 1892. That publication deals mainly with improving the training methods for skilled men, to provide the numbers of skilled men that industry needs if it is to carry on and take advantage 810 of modern methods. This publication is interesting, because it recognises that there are close links between industrial training and education. Of course that is the case, because much of the additional skilled training for which these industrial training boards will arrange will have to be done in the local education authority colleges. The last words in this White Paper are:In view of the close links between industrial training and education, there should be appropriate educational representation also.I should like to reinforce that view very strongly, because I feel that co-operation between the education authorities and the industrial training boards will go a long way to improve the situation. I think it is likely that, with the educational view given adequate weight on these boards, young people will be regarded as under a continuous process of education and training right up to the age of 18. That was laid down clearly by the 1944 Act; it is recognised, I think, by everybody, and it needs only enlightened and energetic action by the Government to bring it about.
Day release and further education will very much depend on the way these industrial training proposals are implemented. Training for skill and technical training is one thing. Anything that improves a person's capacity for taking a full part in his career in the walk of life he has chosen increases his value in the labour market and gives him the chance to attain higher technical qualifications. But there is something else that day release can and does provide. People who have left school as early as 15, or even 16, are not in any true sense of the word educated. None of your Lordships would willingly let one of your sons leave school at 15 or 16 and consider that he was ready to go out into the world. This is the opportunity before these young boys and girls, not only to to improve their general education but also, as some do, to go on to take G.C.E. at "O" level. Even some from the despised modern schools, who have been unable to pass it while at school, can go on to take it. This gives them an added interest in their spare time after work. Numbers of them also want to take other subjects, even without an exam, as the ultimate aim. Some like to indulge their hobbies, their talents and 811 aptitudes, and take up subjects like languages, music, art, handicrafts OT something of that sort. It is the enlightened employers who already realise that a young person will be a better young printer, postman, typist, electrician or whatever it may be, if he has more of a general education. That is what the further education system can provide.
This subject has received so little public attention, and there is so little propaganda to put this point of view over to employers that the rate of voluntary day release is very slow. What is needed is something from the Ministry at the top that will catch the imagination of the public, and of the employers, in particular, and encourage them to let more of their young men and women off for day release.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF DUNDEE)
My Lords, before I say anything else, I should like to offer our congratulations to the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, on a maiden speech to which we were all looking forward and which certainly did not disappoint us. Most of your Lordships who have listened to the noble Viscount will have known his distinguished father, both here and in another place. We had a deep affection for him; we all admired his statesmanship, his scholarship, his conscientious devotion to duty and his personal kindness. When the noble Viscount told us that the parental Peer's robe had been suitably altered so that the mantle of Elijah might fall upon the correct recipient, I felt this to be true in more than one sense; because I remember the last words which were spoken by the late Lord Samuel in your Lordships' House, which was not much more than eighteen months ago, in the autumn of 1961, when he asked a question about the scientific education of children. I thought how appropriate it was that his successor should make his first speech upon the same theme.
The noble Viscount decided to confine himself to one single point, a practice which I often wish could be followed by more of your Lordships. The single point which he chose was the desirability of raising the compulsory school-leaving age from 15 to 16, upon which I believe—in fact, I am sure— 812 all Parties have been agreed in principle since 1944. The noble Viscount advocated this with knowledge and moderation, recognising the difficulties, and putting the arguments in favour of the change with great force and eloquence. I particularly admire the four-dimensional tolerance with which the noble Viscount announced that when he said "now" he meant any time within the next five years. I am sure that would have been fully agreed to by Sir Arthur Eddington, Sir James Jeans, Professor Einstein and many other distinguished scientists.
The only reply that I could give would be of a three-dimensional nature. I could not go further than what was said by my noble friend Lord Eccles when he was Minister of Education a short time ago. He said that this question of raising the school-leaving age was one upon which a Government statement would be made during the lifetime of the present Government. That is less than five years now. On the other hand, Lord Eccles did not say what the statement was to contain, and neither can I. What I can say, with more assurance, is that we hope the noble Viscount, in spite of all his many other occupations, will come here often and will speak to us, not only now but again and again, during the next five years.
My noble friend the Leader of the House naturally regrets very much that he cannot be here to take part in this debate, as he certainly would have done if he had not been away in Moscow. He is perhaps the greatest authority on this subject in your Lordships' House, and I think he has taken part in every debate on education for a very long time. But, of course, it is fully five years since he was Minister of Education, and I am afraid that, whichever political Party is in office, under our Constitution there will never be enough Ministerial posts allotted to your Lordships' House to enable them to have one representative in every Government Department. Therefore we must all get accustomed in your Lordships' House, whichever Party is in office, to speaking on behalf of other Departments to which we ourselves do not belong. I have done this three times in the last three days for three different Departments, and maybe the noble Earl, Lord Longford, one day may have to do the same.
813 I thought the noble Earl, Lord Longford, was perhaps a little ghoulish when he referred to members of a dying Government saluting and contradicting themselves at the same time. My noble friend Lord Newton is very virtuous: he says that he never includes his own opinions in making a speech on behalf of the Government, which is a sound rule. I am afraid I myself am not so good. I am rather apt to intrude my own personal opinions, but I have always found that my colleagues are kind, understanding and generous about it. I hope any of your Lordships opposite who may one day be in office will find the same.
It would be great fun if one could start off a speech by saying, "I am going to talk purely about my own opinions, and any resemblance to Government policy is purely coincidental." I do not think any of us on this side do that, but I could not help remembering, when I heard the observations of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, that the last time I spoke in an educational debate in your Lordships' House, in 1960, there was a rather prolonged, violent and even noisy altercation on the Front Bench opposite between two members of it, one the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, and the other the noble Earl, Lord Longford, or Lord Pakenham, as he then was. The noble Earl had suggested in his speech that the Ministerial responsibility for universities should be transferred from the Treasury to the Ministry of Education, whereupon the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, got up and filled half a column, quoting from the Labour Party document Learning to Live which pointed out that universities owed their existence to Royal Charter and got their share of the public money from the University Grants Committee, for which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has the responsibility. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, continued the argument by getting up and saying that that was before the General Election, which altered everything. He said that in his view the Labour Party was still capable of thought, and he would like to change all this.
The Labour Party Study Group, under the Chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, has published this Report which recommends:We therefore propose that the Minister of Education should add to his responsibilities 814 those now undertaken by the Treasury in respect of university education.It goes on to say that,since the work of the new Ministry will be heavier than in the past, we recommend that there should be another Minister of State to assist the Minister of Education.So perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Longford, was right in saying that the Labour Party were still capable of thought. But I shall be interested to see whether this particular recommendation of the Study Group is accepted and endorsed by the leaders of the Party opposite.
So many of your Lordships have spoken in this debate and have made such interesting speeches that it would be impossible to try to cover one-tenth of what has been said, especially at this hour in the evening, in what I will try to make a very short reply. Most of your Lordships know far more about this than any of us who are on this Bench. I was particularly impressed by the speech of my noble friend Lord Eccles, who has just, so to speak, come fresh from school, and knows so much more about it than any of us. I thought he made a very powerful speech indeed.
I agree with what the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, said about day release. I listened to what he said about it and, speaking "off the cuff", I cannot find anything in it to disagree with. He also referred to the N.E.D.C. supplement about how the target of growth was to be attained. I think I would generally agree with the thesis it contains, that education is an investment in growth and of the highest importance. Of course, as in every kind of planning, you have here to consider priorities between education and other things. For instance, does investment in technical training yield a better return than more investment in primary schools? Or is investment in education better for economic growth than investment in roads, electricity, or new industrial opportunities in the depressed areas, and so on? There will be certain fields in which they may overlap and impinge on each other and in which you have to decide how much of the national resources you are going to devote to one and how much to another.
I was also very interested in the speech a few minutes ago of the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren. I agree with most 815 of the first part of it and was very grateful to hear it. There was a good deal in the second part which interested me, too, and to which, although I do not agree with it, I should like to reply, but it would involve a good many figures and perhaps it would be better if I were to correspond with the noble Lord about this. There are one or two other points I should like to go into with him but which are a little lengthy and technical.
The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, made a most interesting proposition about the public schools, that partly through the provision of scholarships they should be used for the secondary education of people from the Commonwealth and from foreign countries who might be educated here with great advantages to themselves, to the strengthening of links between the Commonwealth and to international understanding. He did not go into the precise question of who would pay for the scholarships, but I think it was an interesting suggestion, which I should like to acknowledge.
The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Norwich made a speech which I wish could have greater publicity than I am afraid it is likely to get. I am afraid that the only kind of speeches in your Lordships' House which are apt to get wide publicity are those which newspapers are able to describe as a "shock", a "sensation", a "bombshell", an "incident", or something of that kind. I wish we could have as much publicity for a speech like that of the right reverend Prelate, who, I thought, was so right in exposing the falsity of the idea that an ethical neutrality was a good thing, and also in his proposition that it would be better that children should be taught about religion not as a series of remote facts but as an interesting inquiry which had a constant bearing upon everything in life.
The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Leicester also made a speech for which I think your Lordships were grateful. In some ways it rather reminded me of the debates in another place, when an honourable Member gets up and makes a speech about his own constituency. I thought the right reverend Prelate did it very well and, as a result of what he said, my own opinion of the city and diocese of Leicester has gone up no end.
816 I sympathise with his difficulties about the grammar school due to divergent policies of county and city, and I quite agree that it is hard to find a basis for a Church secondary school agreeable to both. The present Minister of Education was glad when the Church very nearly came to an agreement with the county authority that one Leicester scheme grammar school should be a Church-aided school, which would have solved the problem; but, unfortunately, it was rejected by the county education committee. My right honourable friend the Minister has always been anxious to help. He cannot insist on either authority sacrificing the schools as they think fit, and while the claims of a limited building programme are as strong as they have been for many years, he cannot always put a school not urgently desired by the authority above others for which the authorities all over the county are pressing extremely hard. But I shall certainly convey what the right reverend Prelate has said to the Minister. One reason why I sympathise with him is that he spoke about nine years of procrastination. In the matter of the Tay Bridge, we were first promised it in 1921 and we have had 43 years' procrastination; so I know what it feels like to wait.
On this question of Church schools, there are two particular points not concerned with the general educational position, which was dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Newton, and which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, brought up. One was the right of parents to choose what kind of religious education their children should have. I can never understand why anybody does not agree with that. I think it is almost one of the fundamental human rights. So far as our legislation is concerned, I think that was more or less met in Scotland by the Act of 1918, at least in theory, for the Church schools in Scotland are now on 100 per cent. equality in regard to finance with State schools. Owing to different traditions and history, Church schools in England are not treated quite so well but they are, I think, treated better now, since 1944, than they used to be in the past, and I certainly hope they will play a larger part proportionately in the future of our education.
The other interesting thing, not in the main stream of detailed educational 817 policy (although it has a very great bearing on it), about which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, spoke was the birth rate. He said that parents upset a Government plan by insisting on having children which were not expected. He referred first to the big increase in the 1940's. In fact I do not think that that was unexpected. I think that everybody would anticipate that at the end of a war, when hundreds of thousands of men come back to their wives after a long absence, and many more hundreds of thousands come back for the purpose of marrying almost at once, there is bound to follow a very big, though temporary, increase in the birth rate, as there was after the first war; and that, of course, is what happened. The big post-war bulge was in 1947, which meant a bulge in primary schools from about 1952 and for the next few years; then a bulge in the secondary schools; then a bulge in universities, which we are now just beginning to get.
The rate went down in 1948 and 1949, as was expected, and remained very low; but the unexpected thing was that in 1957, for no special reason, it began to go up again, and it is still going up. That has upset the planning calculations of the statistical experts. We were talking yesterday about the way planning can be upset when the data on which the plan is based alter, and that is what is now happening, not so explosively or quickly as the 1947 bulge, but more slowly and gradually. The noble Earl mentioned that he thought for some reason this would come to an end in 1985.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
That is only where my papers come to an end.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I beg the noble Earl's pardon. I was going to say that I would not trust this anticipation so far ahead, but I am glad to hear that it was merely the end of the chapter which the noble Lord had reached.
The noble Earl said that he was leaving public schools to his noble friend Lord Attlee, and universities to his noble friend Lord Taylor, who was chairman of the Labour Party Study Group on higher education. Several days ago the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, was kind enough to explain to me that owing to this longstanding engagement to lecture at London University to-night he would not be able 818 to fulfil what he regarded as la very strong obligation, which ought to be the general rule, to remain to the end of the debate, and I am sure we all understand his position. At any rate, we agreed that I should in all probability have to say a good deal about him in his absence, which I hope I shall do with as much fairness as he spoke himself. He and I went together last Saturday morning to Bisley, with seven other of your Lordships, in order to shoot in the annual rifle competition between your Lordships' House and another place, and I am glad to say that for the first time in fifteen years we defeated the other place and won the challenge cup. I ought also to add that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, had a considerably better score than I did; he got more points, of which of course I was very glad, because we were on the same side. To-night we are shooting on opposite sides, but I think he scored a good many points, and I was very interested to hear what he said. I will try to compress it very quickly.
He drew a short comparison between university education in the United States, which is much larger in volume than it is here, and he said that people in this country were often very apt to disparage the quality of university education in the United States. That is the last thing I want to do; I do not want to speak of it in any disparaging sense. I would only make one or two suggestions. I was interested in this connection to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Somers, said about his own education in America, which did not go as far as university; but I think he would probably agree with me that although universities in America are very great institutions of learning, the ordinary undergraduate, from the age of 17 or 18 to 20 or 21, is more at the same stage as the sixth-former in our public schools; he is not quite so advanced as the undergraduate at a British university who is taking a degree. That is more apt to come in America in a post-graduate course. And it is also relevant, I think, to mention—again without any wish to disparage American universities; because I think this is probably entirely due to the fact that a far greater proportion of American young men and women go to a university than is the case here—that the wastage rate there is far greater. Nearly 50 per cent. of those who go to 819 university in the United States fail, for one reason or another, to take a degree, whereas in Great Britain the number who are either sent down or go down without taking their degree is only about 14 per cent. of the total.
Then the noble Lord made out a strong case, as one would expect him to do if one had read the report which he kindly sent to so many of your Lordships, that our progress in increasing the numbers of our own young men and women who go to university was not so quick as it ought to be. He gives some interesting figures, not only the gross figures of students which he thought should be aimed at, but the percentage of what is called the relevant age groups. And this is one point where the 1947 bulge comes in. The relevant age group means the number of children who will reach normal university age in any given year. In 1962–63, last year, it was 713,000; in 1966–67 it will have reached 921,000 for that year because of the post-war birthrate bulge.
When the grants for the five years ending last year were announced five years ago the number of students was 90,000. It was estimated then that the number in 1962 would be 102,000. In the event, the number last year was 113,000, and by last autumn it had risen to 116,000. As your Lordships know, a number of new universities are being established meanwhile, but only one of those so far has got the length of admitting students. Last year, when announcing the grants which were going to be made for the next quinquennial period, the Chief Secretary said that the Government hoped universities would try to reach a total of 150,000 by 1966–67 and 170,000 by 1973–74. This figure of 150,000 was not an arbitrary one; it was based on the universities' own estimates of what they could achieve without lowering standards. It represents the practical physical limits of rapid expansion in the short term. I am not going to say necessarily that we cannot find means of going faster, but that is the basis' upon which the figure rests.
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, very rightly talked about the other institutions for higher education, the ordinary technical colleges, colleges of advanced technology and teachers' training colleges, 820 which are doing very fine work for the education of our people, although this work does not attract nearly so much recognition as the work of the universities. This Report of the Study Group, of which Lord Taylor was chairman, recommends that all these other institutions of learning should be given the same status as universities. Whether that is a step which could be generally approved of I cannot at the moment say. It may perhaps depend to a greater extent on what may be recommended in the Robbins Report, which will not be published for a few months yet. But in view of the recommendation in this Report I thought I would give the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, the figures, not only for the universities but also for the colleges of advanced technology and the other further and advanced education institutions. The plan is that by 1966–67 there will be 150,000 students at universities and 137,000 students at the other institutions—some at teacher-training colleges, some at colleges of advanced technology, and some at other advanced technical colleges. So that the total of all students of that age in 1966–67 will be 287,000, of whom only 150,000 will be at universities.
With regard to Lord Taylor's percentages, I think they were correct. He pointed out that in the present year 5.2 per cent. of the relevant age group were at universities, and that in 1966 the proportion would be 5½ per cent. There is a much greater number, but then the population has steadily risen. The relevant age group has gone up from 713,000 to 921,000, but if you add on the number who were at the technical colleges, then the percentage rises from 5.2 to 9.8—that is, nearly 10 per cent. at the present time; and it will be 10.1 per cent., a little more, in 1966. That 10 per cent. was above the figure which he thought was ideal, although if he were here I daresay that he would say that he had taken that into account and intended his 10 per cent. to apply only to universities. But after 1966–67 the number is still going up. It will go up to 170,000 by 1973–74, and during that time the relevant age group will go down from 921,000 in 1966–67 to about what it is now, about 713,000 or 720,000 in 1972–73. So that then the percentage of the relevant age group of which the noble Lord spoke will be much 821 higher than 5½ per cent. at universities, and a great deal higher than 10 per cent. at all higher education institutions. Your Lordships will be relieved to hear that I will not go further than 1973. But the noble Earl, Lord Longford, will of course bear in mind that owing to the joyful changes in the procreative habits of parents the birth rate will start going up again so that we shall have that problem to consider.
There is a lot more which I should have liked to say, but I am not going to because it is so late. I will just conclude by reminding your Lordships, if you will forgive me, of one sentence that I said on the last occasion when I spoke on this subject, which was on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, who asked for a Committee, which led to the appointment of the Robbins Committee. What I said was that it is the policy of the Government to expand our universities at the highest rate which is consistent with the highest standard of teaching. What the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said, was something not quite the same, but that everybody who could benefit from university education should be Able to have it. Well, it may be possible to reconcile those two things. I hope that it will be possible. What emergency measures might have to be taken to reconcile the two, I do not know. But I hope your Lordships will agree that my own definition, whether or not it is reconcilable with Lord Taylor's, is a reasonable one, and that it is an important principle that the standards of our university education here should not be lowered.
What we want to do is nothing to do with financial considerations at all, but is to get the highest number of students which it is physically possible to educate without lowering the standard of university teaching. The Government, Parliament and the universities will have to judge whether this rapid rate of expansion can and ought to be increased still further when we have the Robbins Report. If that happens the great problem of resources, both human and material, will have to be solved, because the existing programme at the moment does not seem to leave much scope for further effort on conventional lines; that is, accustomed standards; but I would assure the noble Earl, Lord Longford, that we 822 are not using that as an excuse for not wishing to do a great deal more.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, there is a convention of doubtful validity in this House that the mover of the Motion does not make another speech in reply. Whatever may be said for it on other occasions, there is everything in its favour now, and I assure your Lordships that I will not keep you for more than a moment. I must, however, just thank all the speakers—some of the eminent ones have left—and I would in particular thank all those who are here now, and also those who have not spoken but have sat with us. They seem to me to deserve the highest praise of all as the silent sentinels who make an audience possible.
I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, in particular, and also other speakers like Lord Lindgren and Lord Lucan would wish me to thank the noble Earl for the careful reply he has just given. He will not expect me to be convinced by it; he would not be convinced by my reply to his reply. I think we have both said enough, so to speak, for the evening. I do salute him for his really heroic performance over these last three days. I should also like to thank Lord Newton who replied to me earlier. I hope I did not speak to him in an irritable way. The trouble about having tutored somebody is that one always hopes to be forgiven if one is irritable towards him, because there was a time when he had no right of reply. I hope I did not exploit that relationship, and in any case I hope that I was not too aggressive in interrupting the noble Lord who did everything that he could to help us.
I should like to join with those who have offered congratulations to the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. I said at the beginning that his father would be happy to see this day; and certainly, as he looks down on us, I am sure his father is remarkably happy after the speech itself, and after the reception that the noble Viscount has received. The noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, made perhaps the most vigorous speech of the day, full of passion based on experience. I will not attempt to reply to it. I cannot even answer his question as to what I should have done had I been headmaster 823 of Manchester Grammar School, except to say that I would have extended the school. That would be a short answer—that it was such a good school that it could have done with a lot of expansion. But I will not pursue that subject further. I was glad that a foe-woman worthy of his steel was available so rapidly, as I thought, to refute his argument; but he will realise that I am not a neutral judge, and I would be definitely refereeing there for the home side. Both the noble Lord and my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger made fine speeches. It was good of Lord Somers to take part in the debate so late in the day, and I felt that he was not so far from us at the end.
That brings me back finally—though I should like to mention Lord Attlee and Lord Eccles who brought distinction on us in different ways, and, of course, Lord Taylor and Lord Amulree—to the two right reverend Prelates. There was an occasion, when we were discussing education, when Lord Morrison of Lambeth asked, "Where are the Bishops?" To-day the Bishops might have asked, "Where is Lord Morrison of Lambeth?" I am afraid that would not get quite the same publicity. At any rate, I feel that the Bishop pulled a labouring oar to-day. I am sorry if, in some way, the Catholics in Leicester have got ahead of the Church of England. I am sure it is just an accident, and I hope and believe that they will proceed on the basis of parity of esteem and conditions, as we were told earlier.
Finally, I would say that, in my view, the deepest notes of all were struck by the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Norwich. Just to give one example of my own horror at the kind of exploitation or glorification of delinquents—and, as your Lordships know, I am immensely interested in the welfare of delinquents—I gathered from something I read in the popular Press that last Friday on one of the Independent 824 Television circuits there was an interview with one of the two young ladies whose names are so familiar to us in connection with the late Mr. Rachman. If that is not glorification of delinquency, what is? I think it is absolutely disgusting, and I hope that my words will reach somebody or the other. It is quite monstrous that that sort of thing should appear on television, which could not operate at all without the help of a Government contract; so there is a public responsibility. It seems to me that there is no way which would make young people who are a little doubtful as to what is to be admired in life and what is not take the wrong turning than the impression, so easily formed through seeing that kind of thing on television, that this kind of life is now accepted, and indeed applauded, by society. I agree entirely with what the right reverend Prelate said.
Perhaps, like me, he will feel that so much of our problem to-day when we deal with vice, knowing our own weaknesses, is that it is a problem all the time of hating the sin and loving the sinner. It is so difficult to strike this balance. I feel that what the right reverend Prelate said to-night will be of the utmost assistance. I am most grateful to all those who have taken part. I feel that this debate will be of real help to many who are trying to look after our young people in various ways. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.