HL Deb 23 February 1966 vol 273 cc217-332

2.30 p.m.

VISCOUNT ECCLES rose to call attention to the future of the Public Schools and Direct Grant Schools and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the Motion which I am submitting to the House calls attention to the future of the public schools and the direct grant schools. I put it down in the hope of enlisting your Lordships' help in pressing Her Majesty's Ministers to tell us exactly what they mean by their declared policy of integrating these schools with the State system. In this context it is important to make clear, as Mr. Crosland did in another place, that the State system which the Government have in mind is not the maintained schools as they are now, some secondary modern, some comprehensive, some grammar, but a single system of comprehensive secondary education. Mr. Crosland has drawn a sharp distinction between his treatment of the public schools and his treatment of the direct grant schools, but as both categories are to be prodded to become units in a comprehensive system the distinction is of doubtful value. I am happy to leave the particular difficulties and anxieties of the direct grant schools to my noble friends Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, Lord James of Rusholme and Lady Brooke of Ystradfellte. I shall therefore confine myself to the broad question of whether, and how, the public schools should be brought into some kind of alliance with the maintained secondary schools.

In the State system no fees are chargeable. The teachers must accept the pupils who are sent to them. Everything of importance is done under the eye of authority, so that the distinguishing feature is a concentration of power in the hands of the politicians and administrators. It is true that the teachers are allowed a modest say in making the policy, but there is little or no place for the parents. In sharp contrast, a public school depends for its very existence on the opinions and support of parents. The governing body charge fees and are their own masters in the appointment and, if occasion arises, the dismissal of staff. They are equally their own masters in the admission, education and discipline of the pupils. These are the essential characteristics of independence, and I think I can show that, on the evidence we have, the Labour Party, if they get their way, do not intend any secondary school having these characteristics of independence to survive.

This afternoon noble Lords opposite will probably try to divert our attention from their Party's ultimate objective by pointing out that the Newsom Commission is composed of very respectable persons and has been instructed only to take a step towards abolishing all fees and removing the right to control the entry of pupils. But it is the first step that counts; in this case a step that would go on to a process where, in the end, every independent school would have been nationalised—unless, of course, before the Commission gets to work, the Government will give us an assurance that the independent character of these schools, as I have just defined it, will be preserved. And it is for that assurance that I am asking this afternoon.

Your Lordships will have noticed a remarkable inconsistency in Socialist policy. Whereas the Labour Party have changed their minds about the principle on which industry is to be organised, they are still stuck with their old ideas on education. We remember that the heart and fire of primitive Socialism was the nationalisation of all the means of production and exchange. But how many of those who voted for the Government at the last Election believed in anything so drastic? All Parties now support a mixed economy. At the same time, most of the managers of our big firms are advocates of closer co-operation between industry and the Government. They see many modern advantages in a working partnership, but nothing but trouble and inefficiency if the versatility of private enterprise were completely subject to State control.

Why is this pattern not to be followed in education? The good sense appears very great in allowing the maintained schools and the independent schools to grow in grace alongside each other, while at the same time encouraging the overlap between the two systems, in standards and in recruitment, and doing this without sacrificing the essential and valuable characteristics of either. The public school headmasters and headmistresses to whom I have talked want both to keep their independence and to forge a closer link with the maintained system, which is just what most managing directors desire, and are getting, for industry.

Unfortunately, this is not the position of the majority of the Labour Party. Even if we confine ourselves to the printed terms of reference of the Newsom Commission, it is surely clear that a public school cannot progressively abolish its fees in order to become fully integrated with a system of comprehensive education unless it has been, to all intents and purposes, nationalised. I wonder how noble Lords opposite will argue for this, which is their Party's declared policy. They cannot argue on educational grounds. They can neither pretend that the education in the public schools is so poor that it requires State intervention to put it right, nor go to the other extreme and say that in the 'sixties and 'seventies the education in the public schools will be so superior that it is a shame and an injustice not to offer the places, without fees, to children who can derive more benefit from this education than many of the middle class who now attend these schools.

Even so, I think it possible that the superiority argument will be pressed as a basis for action. In that case the Newsom pupils, if they are to benefit from the education in the sixth forms of the public schools, will have to be selected on academic tests at least as severe as the 11-plus; and then how could the schools go comprehensive? Or, alternatively, if the non-fee-payers were drafted in on the comprehensive principle, without regard to their academic ability, the education which had been extolled as so superior would have to be drastically changed to a much lower standard, because the majority of the public schools are far too small to make viable comprehensive schools.

This is the dilemma which is inescapable on to-day's facts about the educational standards in the two systems. But, of course, many members of the Labour Party, as is their custom, are not thinking about to-day's facts: they are harking back to the time when the education in the public schools was indeed superior to that in the maintained schools. Fifty years ago the public schools and the ancient grammar schools were in a class by themselves; but recently, as your Lordships know well, the sixth forms in the maintained schools have been catching up, and this is vividly proved by the latest results at "O" and "A" level in the G.C.E.

I put it to your Lordships that what is really significant is not the degree of overlap which has already been achieved, remarkable though that is, but the rate at which the maintained schools are, and will go on, improving their academic standards. One can only deplore the prospect that this levelling-up will be retarded if all the grammar schools and direct grant schools are plunged into an ill-conceived and ill-prepared comprehensive system. I should be truly sorry to see the marked superiority of independent education return. On the contrary, I look forward to the time when the differences will have so far disappeared that parents can choose between the two systems on other grounds.

But, my Lords, we shall be disappointed if we expect the Labour Party to make a serious educational case for doing away with the public schools. Their main objection has always been frankly political. They bear these schools a grudge. For years they have looked on them as potent and baleful instruments for the division of society. Those who now desire to deal the public schools a mortal blow assume that these schools still, deliberately and effectively, create an officer class, while the maintained schools are left to produce the other ranks from which it has been, in the past, much harder to rise to positions of command.

Once again I must say that this description of the power of the public schools would not have been unfair at the beginning of this century, when they did provide, almost exclusively, the candidates to fill the posts of influence and responsibility in the community. In those days, the public schools were more or less co-extensive with what is usually called the governing class. But anyone who believes that they are in the same degree divisive to-day cannot have observed the social changes which have been taking place as the result of two world wars, the Welfare State, full employment, the multiplication and distribution of family incomes large enough to bring about a vast improvement in the cultural and educational standards of the people.

Three of these social changes, I think, are important for this debate. First, the middle class has burst its seams and is now far too big to be identified with the governing class. Second, the proportion is steadily dwindling of those occupying positions of influence who have been educated at public schools. And third, the public schools themselves, with few exceptions, have become open and broadminded communities in which the feeling of class superiority has all but gone. Here and there it lingers on, but where it does, if the boys and girls could have their way, it would disappear altogether. May I take these three changes in order?

The number of families who can afford to pay the fees for boarding (and the fees keep on rising) has increased, as anyone who reads the Budget White Papers will have expected, much more rapidly than the number of boarding places available. As a result, not only have most of the public schools long waiting lists, but more than half the parents of the children on those lists did not themselves go to a public school. So we see that the capacity of these schools to take in new blood is strikingly evident; and I, for one, would not have it otherwise. The waiting lists would be even longer—I am inclined to think they would be out of hand—were it not for the fact that a considerable number of young parents who could afford these fees, are coming to prefer day education. These are the parents who have not pushed their children away in the nursery but have brought them up themselves. The believe that their boys and girls will be better prepared for the world as it is if they spend more time with older people, of both sexes, and are introduced earlier, and in the family circle, to the pains and freedoms of adolescence. I am quite sure, from talking to the younger generation, that the independent schools are going to be under increasing pressure to provide more day places and more weekly boarding places.

In this change of view as between boarding and day education, and in many other directions, young people in the middle classes, as they are called, are adopting novel, non-traditional attitudes, quite different from those which your Lordships and I, when we were young, would have thought proper. This is apparent in the way they dress, in the way they behave, in their tastes in music and painting. While this is going on, on the other side, in the maintained schools, differences in speech and accent, and unfamiliarity with the arts are fast disappearing. So the two systems—or, if you like, the two classes—are, quite naturally, coming closer and closer together. It is therefore far from the truth, and in my opinion wrong, to call the public schools socially divisive in anything like the sense they were fifty or sixty years ago.

This change is still more striking if we look, not at the whole great sprawling middle class, but at the more limited number of men and women who occupy positions of considerable responsibility in our country. Whether one takes the annual entry to the higher grades of the central and local government services, the Armed Forces, business, the professions, teaching, what you will, it is surely obvious that year by year the proportion of those educated at public schools gets smaller. If, then, the public schools no longer divide society, either by manners and behaviour or by the jobs which their pupils fill, the only other charge against them would lie in the deliberate teaching of social superiority. I am bound to say that as recently as 1918, when I went to my beloved Winchester, we were encouraged to believe that England was a man's country, run by men for men, and that the best men to run it were Old Wykehamists and Old Etonians. It was not our teachers' fault if we did not conceive a lively desire both to be worthy of our privileges and to keep them to ourselves.

But, as your Lordships know, the atmosphere of the public schools is wholly different to-day. Why has this happened? The schools themselves cannot claim the credit: they have had to respond to outside pressures. Society has been remaking the schools, not the schools remaking society. The most powerful of those pressures, I suppose, is that women, somehow of other, have become equal with men. It is this female explosion which has shattered the old monastic mould of the public school. Rules and regulations have had to be relaxed, not because the headmasters and headmistresses thought that it was a good thing to do on their own—certainly not—but because boys and girls at boarding schools will not be treated so very differently from their contemporaries in the day schools. I have been struck by the absence of envy shown by sixth-formers in the maintained schools for their opposite numbers in the public schools. When the two meet, it is the grammar school boys who do the commiserating; they are genuinely sorry for the public school boys who have to spend so much of each year shut up in those damp, ancient buildings. If your Lordships were to question the grammar school boys, I think you would find that the desire to transfer to a boarding school is wholly absent. But the old preoccupations with class differences still exist in the minds of Socialist politicians.

I now turn to the most appropriate example of this thinking. What is Mr. Crosland's leading argument for the policy of making all secondary schools, including the public schools, units in a single comprehensive system? He starts by saying that a child's home background is just as important in forming a child's character and outlook as the school; and that inevitably a good home helps a child to do better at school and helps the school to do better by the child. So far we can all agree. He then distinguishes the quality of British homes by reference to the two classes into which he claims we are so disastrously divided. The middle class provide the good homes and the working class the bad homes. In parenthesis, I must say that this is contrary to my experience, for I have found good and bad homes in all ranges of society. But, accepting Mr. Crosland's view that two distinct classes exist providing better and worse homes respectively, he then goes on to claim that it is unfair that the effect of the better homes of the middle class should be further accentuated by segregating so many of their children in separate schools—in grammar schools and direct grant schools. Since he is determined that this doubling up of advantages should end, he has decided that all schools should become comprehensive schools, in which the proportion of children coming from these two classes should faithfully represent the country at large.

At Harrogate on January 7 he underlined his determination to achieve an accurate social mix in all schools, and I quote his actual words: Most grammar and still more direct grant schools are predominantly middle class. They do not become classless merely by having a small working-class contingent. On Mr. Crosland's definition of a classless society that is true enough, but the Minister who wants the working class to predominate in the grammar and direct grant school must also want the same predominance in the public schools. This is implicit in the terms of reference of the Newsom Commission. I am sure your Lordships should take the Secretary of State's argument seriously. It rests on the assumption that in Great Britain there are two distinct, mutually hostile classes and that we should use the schools to obliterate the smaller of the two—that is, the middle class. Whatever soft words Government spokesmen may use in this House, this is the objective of the Labour Party in another place, and I could prove this from their statements as well as from the Commission's terms. In my view, the sensible and natural policy is precisely the reverse. Of course, we should use schools to try to shape society, but we should use them to extend to as many families as possible, and I hope eventually to all families, the advantages and opportunities which up to now have been possessed by only a fraction of the people.

So I come to the more congenial theme of how we should plan the vast resources which are becoming available for the improvement of secondary education as a whole, including the independent schools. We have to decide upon the principle of organisation which will direct the use of all these new buildings and the thousands of three-year trained and graduate teachers who will soon be coming along. Broadly speaking, we must choose between uniformity and variety. In a case like this, it is not open to us to be neutral or non-political. Politics is a sham and a waste of energy if we do not have an idea of the kind of society towards which we wish to work. We must be clear when we debate educational policy at what kind of society we are aiming. One in which children are to be brought up and educated to be as like each other as possible? Or are we thinking of one in which home and school work together to identify, cherish and develop the individual excellence in every child? Do we want our children to be like themselves or like other people's children? That is the question.

We can further distinguish these two types of society by noting that where uniformity is the goal the parents' freedom to choose their children's school must be at a minimum; whereas, where variety is the goal, parents' choice will count for much, and as the nation grows richer could count for more and more. In the past only a small minority of parents have had the money to choose carefully and wisely the schools which suited their children. Now, when for the first time we shall be able to extend this choice from the few to the many, what reason can there be for doing away with it in favour of a uniform comprehensive system? To this question Mr. Crosland and the Labour Party can only give a political answer. They desire to use the schools to manufacture a classless society, and to do this not by levelling up, but by levelling down. This is the stuff of politics, and we ought to consider it over the widest possible field.

I have always understood that it is the mark of paupers, and quite certainly of slaves, to have to live more or less the same kind of lives. I have always understood that wealth and rising incomes bring freedom to do what you feel you are capable of doing, to go where you want to go, to pursue your private bent, and to help your children as you believe they ought to be helped. I cannot think it right to limit this freedom in the way the Party opposite wish to limit it. I cannot believe it right to tell a man that, if he works harder, if he puts his back into Mr. George Brown's National Plan or some other national plan, he can buy a house or a car, he can take a holiday abroad, can enjoy what kind of entertainment he likes, but he must not spend his money on his children's schooling: whatever hopes or anxieties he and his wife may have for their children's future, to the same kind of school they all must go.

If we reject this political doctrine and prefer variety, what should we do? Well, we can make parents' choice effective if we use our resources to build up the widest possible range of secondary schools, both in the maintained system where I should be glad to see some, but not all, organised on the comprehensive principle; and, of course, among the independent schools where many will retain the particular characteristics derived from their foundation. Parents who cannot afford to pay the whole of the fees, but believe that the child would benefit from a boarding education, either in an independent school or in the maintained system, should have the financial handicap removed. I think that help with grants in this way would be part and parcel of a policy of variety and choice.

With those considerations in mind, how should one advise the public schools to meet the advances of the Newsom Commission? In my judgment, they should first ask for guarantees that their independence, as I defined it at the beginning of my speech, will be permanently assured. They should stand firm as a rock on the control over the entry of pupils and the right to appoint their own staff. On the other hand, they should agree to modify the conditions of entry, particularly in the boys' schools, so that a child who has been to a maintained primary school has as good a chance of gaining a place as any other child.

Having cleared out of the way the difficulties over the conditions of entry, the public schools should—and I am quite sure they want to—enlarge the area of their recruitment. Subject to the following provisos, I favour admitting, without fees but with a means test, a substantial number of boys and girls who could benefit from the kind of education given in the particular school. First, the governors should not be required to take either such a number or such a category of non-fee-payers as would inevitably and radically change the character of the education they are accustomed to provide. Secondly, each school should form and stick to its own view of its obligations to its founders and, indeed, to the parents on the waiting list. If the governors think it right to enlarge a school in order to take in non-fee-payers, the Department of Education should pay the capital cost of the new places. Thirdly, the governors should give the most sympathetic consideration to offering day places and weekly boarding places. Nothing would do more to make these schools acceptable to those families who are in the minds of the Party opposite.

I suppose that I should add a fourth proviso, though it is extremely obvious; that is that the Minister must be sure he cannot do more for more children by spending the money on the maintained schools, rather than on buying boarding places. Five years ago, when I considered this question, this was the real difficulty. To pay £500 a year for a boarding place, when I had so many primary schools and secondary schools which needed attention, made it impossible to consider, on priorities, the buying of these places.

If I had time I would draw your Lordships' attention to the special categories of children who benefit from boarding education—children who have difficulties at home, health and so on. I am sure that if the governors of the public schools are consulted on the numbers, it will be readily possible to open their lists to these children—provided, of course, that the children are up to the academic standards at the school. You destroy a school if you admit categories of children who cannot take their place in that school.

The danger to the public schools is that the Government intend, step by step, with the Newsom Commission as the first step, to compel them to become comprehensive, in the strict meaning of that term, or sixth-form colleges within a State comprehensive system. In either case, their traditions would be broken and their character destroyed. This would be a revolution. I hope that they would resist it, and I hope that Parliament would support them in their resistance.

In conclusion, I can very shortly sum up the view which I have been too long putting to your Lordships. The political Parties have accepted a mixed economy, and for the same reasons they should accept a mixed system of education, preferring variety to uniformity, building as wide a range of secondary schools as they can, welcoming experiments and helping parents to profit by them. In this mixed system there would always be a place for independent schools, and to the latter I would say that they should first negotiate a charter of independence, and then open their doors to the entry of non-fee-payers. In thus wishing parents' choice to play a large—indeed, a much larger—part in the structure of the schools, I am aware that some parents do make mistakes about their children, and perhaps especially about the level of their academic ability. This will always be so. But is it likely, in this age of growing opportunity into which we are entering, that British parents as a whole would make as many mistakes about their own children as a handful of politicians and administrators would make for them? That is the real question we have to answer, and for my part I shall work for the day when all parents have the desire, the knowledge, and the means to choose well the schools to which their children go. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.6 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we are all very much obliged to my noble friend Lord Eccles for introducing this vital subject of the public schools and the direct grant schools. I feel it would be premature to make any final remarks about the future of the public schools while the Commission is sitting, and I should certainly wish to read the evidence before it before finally making up my mind. But I have been closely associated with this question for a great number of years, and 25 years ago I appointed the Fleming Committee with a view to bringing about a closer association between the public schools and the State system.

This Committee made some suggestions about the taking of scholars from the State system, but they were either not followed up or ineffective. So we have now, I think, to make some progress from that state of affairs.

Not only have we had the efforts of the Fleming Committee, but if we study the charters, rules and regulations of many of the public schools we find it is laid down in a variety of ways that they should take what in the old days were called "poor scholars". Therefore it will not be a great departure, either from tradition or from recent practice, for the public schools to open their doors a little wider than they do now. I know about my own school, Marlborough, which is taking boys from Swindon, and after discussion with several of the other public schools I know that they are thinking on the same lines. We shall have the opportunity of hearing the noble Lord the Provost of Eton telling us his own views on this subject a little later in the debate.

I used to discuss this problem with Sir Will Spens, than whom there was probably no greater educational expert, before the Education Bill came in. He always felt that there was no easy solution of this problem, and so I beg your Lordships not to think that this is going to be an easy problem to solve. He could not see any solution on the lines of free entry, such as we have at my college at Cambridge or in any modern university. He thought that such a widespread system would upset and destroy the spirit and character of the public schools, and I must say I am inclined to agree with him. If we are to see clearly what we can now do to enable public schools to take in more people, I think we must realise, first of all, some of the changes that have taken place in the public schools since my original conversations took place with Sir Will Spens.

First of all, the standard of entry is now extremely high, and this idea of letting in Buggins's son and only the old boys' boys has largely gone by the board. It is really quite difficult to get a young boy into a public school now, thanks to the level of the entry examination, and I should like to make quite clear at the opening of my remarks that I hope the standard of entry will not be reduced in any changes that are brought about.

The second big change that has taken place in the last 30 years in the public schools is that the expenses have risen astronomically. It is now very difficult for anybody to pay these expenses except out of capital. That will affect the whole solution which this Commission is supposed to set out to achieve. If these schools are to have scholars from the maintained system there must be a quid pro quo, and I should like to warn the authorities, whether it be the Government or the local authorities, that in that quid pro quo there are going to be a great many quids to pay. It is going to be a very expensive thing. Will authorities or the central Government want to make a big financial contribution? Here I sympathise with much of what the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said—namely, that it may well not prove worth while paying these large sums, and that the money should be used for other objectives within the State system itself.

The more I look at the public school question the more I feel that the difficulty is less likely to arise from the public schools themselves than it is from the authorities and State—and I think it is rather important to make clear that the public schools are themselves willing to make a forward step at this time. I would agree with Lord Eccles in making it quite clear that, for the sake of the schools, the first need is for the preservation of the individuality of the school itself. The second need in any solution is to preserve the quality of the schools. It is really quite mad, for social reasons, to destroy the best education there may be in the country. The third main consideration is that the ultimate control should be vested in the governing body of the school, so that it knows where it is. Under such conditions, in my opinion, entry could be made more available to young children between the ages of 11 and 13.

This leads to the vexed question of the 11-plus; and, in passing, I should like to make quite clear that when we passed the Education Act about twenty years ago we had no definite desire that there should be a fixed bar at 11. I remember making speeches myself, with which I could bore your Lordships if there was time, indicating that there should be a choice kept open between 11 and 13; and those speeches were made as much as 25 years ago. In this connection, I would ask how it would be possible to make very much progress with the comprehensive system or with the direct grant schools, or yet with the public schools until we get the Report of the Plowden Committee on the age of entry.

Without the Report of the Plowden Committee, which seems a very long time acoming, I think we must take it that for entry into the public schools there must be elasticity between 11 and 13. The public schools can perfectly well take young children up to 12 and, if necessary, 13. Adjustments to the curriculum would of course be necessary, both in the preparatory schools and in the public schools. The question would arise whether Latin should be essential, since, if it were, entry from the maintained schools would be difficult, if not impossible. But Latin could always be taught later, after arrival at the public school; and, in any case, I do not think Latin ought to be a bar to progress in this direction. Therefore, provided that we approach this problem calmly, I see the public schools adjusting themselves, with some pain, but with just as much pain to the authorities and the State as to the public schools themselves.

However, I consider that the situation has been made considerably more difficult by recent ministerial action. First, the Minister has, in his own words—infelicitous words, in my opinion— fired a warning shot across the bows of the the direct grant schools". He has even gone so far as to say that if the schools were unable to co-operate with the system of comprehensive education, the whole future of the direct grant schools would inevitably come into question. And, having done this so as thoroughly to alarm the direct grant schools and the public schools, the Minister has refused to include the direct grant schools in the public schools inquiry.

The reason I am taking part in this debate is that I am concerned about these steps, for the following reasons. If you are going to seek an integration between independent schools and the maintained system and then menace the one sort of "half-way house" school—namely, the direct grant school—only one conclusion can be drawn, and that is that there is a movement afoot in Government circles and in the Ministry of Education and Science to bring about complete homogeneity, uniformity and centralisation of the educational provision of the country. And with that I disagree.

I was impressed by a recent speech in our debate on higher education made by the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven, who was for many years head of the U.G.C. I had expected him to range over the whole gamut of educational provision. Instead, he confined his speech to expressing the anxieties of higher education about the present set-up in the Ministry of Education and Science. If we are now to add the fears of the independent and direct grant schools, it will be seen that there is a risk that the whole base upon which the Act of 1944 was constructed—namely, local determination and variety—will be in peril.

I would remind your Lordships that the Act was passed by a Coalition Government in war time. Although my name is frequently connected with that Act, I was very much helped in dealing with it by Lord Chuter-Ede, whose passing we mourn. The Act was of a wide construction, so wide that many different types could live under its roof; or, as I recently described it, a temple so large that any form of activity or worship was permitted, nay, encouraged to be practised within it". Until recently I thought that this vital principle of the Act was being observed and respected, and it has been in that spirit that I have been watching with interest many of the perfectly sincere attempts made by local education authorities to plan and work comprehensive schools. Now recent developments, especially with regard to the direct grant schools, have caused me to think that responsible authorities in the world of education should be on the alert against the dangers of centralisation and mass homogeneity of schools, instead of choice and variety.

We shall no doubt be hearing from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London on the threat to aided schools, and here I should like to make my position quite clear. I support the aided schools and the direct grant schools. Concerning the aided schools, I would say in passing that I welcome the Government's decision to give 80 per cent. grant, which I think is a sensible improvement; but I must agree with Archbishop Beck, who referred in the Catholic Teachers' Journal in August last year to the immense expense involved with a new reorganisation of secondary education on top of what has already been started. It is vital we should not lose the aided schools and the religious teaching they provide. Bishop Beck refers—and I quote him—to the scheme of secondary school reorganisation which has not justified itself and which carries with it no guarantee of permanence. I now come, as my noble friend suggested, to the question of the direct grant schools themselves. A consideration of direct grant schools follows naturally from a reference to the aided schools, since one-third of these direct grant schools are denominational, and no fewer than 57 of them are Roman Catholic secondary schools. It must be made clear, my Lords, that Circular 10/65 imposes upon the direct grant schools the necessity of reconciling two opposites: first, the objective of ending selection and eliminating separation in secondary education; and, second, the duty of maintaining the schools as selective secondary schools under the direct grant regulations themselves. But I am glad to note that the circular says that we must attach importance (and I quote) "to preserving what is best in existing schools". Let us therefore look at what is best in the direct grant schools.

In all the controversy we read or hear about education to-day, it is interesting to note that something like two-thirds of the boys and girls admitted to direct grant schools, as late as 1963, came from the ordinary grant-aided primary schools. Of all the children, 27 per cent.—over one-quarter—were in the sixth form. We hear a lot about the social range of the comprehensive system, but there is probably a greater range of social representation of different sections of the population in the direct grant schools than in any other similar schools in the country. Moreover, the direct grant schools avoid the dangers of some comprehensive schools; namely, their immense size. When a school becomes the size of a factory, it ceases to be a school. None of the direct grant schools is so large as to lose that priceless relationship between the teacher and the taught which is the basis of true education.

Furthermore, the direct grant schools give a wonderful example of the fusion of liberty and control. There is contact with the Ministry and with local government. A further argument in favour of such schools is the percentage which go forward to further education: more than 43 per cent. of the pupils go on to full-time education for a degree, or its equivalent. Some of the direct grant schools take boarders, which makes it seem all the more of a pity they were not included in the terms of reference of the Commission on the Public Schools.

To sum up the value of the direct grant schools, first of all they provide an education for democracy; second, they provide variety; third, they combine individuality with conformity; fourth, they are accessible to all social strata; and, fifth, they provide for parental freedom of choice—and in this they carry out Section 776 of the 1944 Act which I remember drafting myself—namely: in so far as it is compatible with the provision of efficient instruction and training and the avoidance of unreasonable public expenditure, pupils are to be educated in accordance with their parents' wishes. The more we remember that in modern educational parlance and practice, the better. I hope that the direct grant schools will not, in fact, be menaced but will be able to make their contribution without fear or favour. They are fully aware of the changing secondary world in which they are existing, and I believe that it is their desire to take their part as best they can.

My Lords, I have not taken part for a long time in education debates, because I thought that we could rely on the principle of the Education Act being observed; namely, that local and national endeavour create between them an ever-expanding variety of provision. I always have been, and still am, on the side of progress and adjustment. I think that the public schools will have to adjust themselves further to the world we now live in. I think that the direct grant schools at present are a problem; but they will co-operate better with any new system if they are not menaced, if they are treated with understanding and if their essential quality is preserved. I said that I was on the side of progress, but variety is an essential ingredient of progress. In a society which seeks equality of opportunity we must preserve the freedom of opportunity and let all have a chance to reach out to those opportunities.

3.24 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first of all to thank the noble Viscount for introducing this Motion this afternoon; though, on a purely personal note, I am a little alarmed at his picture of some of the people who sit on this side of the House. I had not before thought of myself as a bitter Socialist filled with class-conscious hatred, and I hope that on no occasion in your Lordships' House shall I ever display such qualities.

It may be of some reassurance to the noble Viscount to know, again on a personal note, that I think I have unique experience. I was educated at an independent school, and my son was educated at a public school, deliberately chosen; and I taught at a State school. But what is significant to me is that when that child entered the public school at seven years of age, he was one of a class of ten picked boys, while I was teaching at a State school 44 seven-year-olds of mixed average intelligence. I feel, too, on a lighter note, that the noble Viscount should know that some of us feel that this is still very much a man's world. We are making inroads into this, even in your Lordships' House; but we still have a long way to go.

I hope your Lordships will agree that the time has come to do something about the public schools. Indeed, it is now over twenty years since the Fleming Committee said, "We are equally agreed that things cannot be left as they are" and recommended measures to bring the schools closer to the State system. As we have been told, the schools themselves are uncomfortable about the narrow social base of their recruitment, and in recent years many heads have expressed a wish to enter into a dialogue with the State about the position of the public schools. There is widespread public support for the notion that they should be reformed in some way in order to harmonise with the changing pattern of society. In 1961 the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, did not favour any Government notion to bring them into the State system. But he stressed mainly the desirability of closing the gap in quality, as he saw it, between the two systems, the difficulty of picking the children to be educated at public expense in the public schools and the problem of finding the money.

Your Lordships will agree that it would be undesirable for the Government to impose a solution of their own for the future of the schools. The main reason for this is that they are a very varied collection. The schools listed in the terms of reference of the Public Schools Commission, 288 in all, are very diverse boys' schools, girls' schools and one or two co-educational schools. Some are in Scotland; most are in England and Wales. Many of them are denominational: Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Quaker. There are boarding schools, day schools and schools which are a mixture of both. Some are in the depths of the country, others in the cities. They range from under 200 pupils to about 1,000. This diversity means that there is no possible single answer for the way in which they might be integrated with the State system. The Government have therefore implemented the policy set out in the Manifesto for the last General Election. They have set up a Commission to advise the Government on ways of integrating public schools with the State system. The Chairman is Sir John Newsom, as we have been told, and the membership is widely drawn and will bring a range of experience to the work of the Commission.

I feel I should outline the tasks of the Commission as your Lordships may have got a rather strange picture of them. They are set out in the terms of reference announced on December 22. It is only necessary to enlarge on two of these. First, to work out the role which individual schools might play in national and local schemes of integration. The Commission will have a free hand in the interpretation of these words, but it seems likely that the outcome will not be proposals in respect of every single one of schools named in the terms of reference, but rather a series of model solutions, applicable to particular sorts of schools according to their main characteristics—large or small, day or boarding, town or country, denominational character, et cetera. Secondly, to initiate experimental schemes matching existing provision with different types of need. Any such schemes, which will require the approval of the Secretary of State, will doubtless be concerned in the first instance largely with the problem of identifying the children who might be expected to profit from education in a public school. Some progress with schemes of this sort will probably have to he made before the Commission can formulate any model solutions of the sort just suggested. Although the Government have decided in the first instance to seek the advice of the Commission, the task is so complex, of such crucial social importance, provokes such a variety of views—some sharply contradictory—that it would have been an abdication of the Government's responsibilities if they had not laid down some form of guiding principles for the Commission to follow. These are set out in the form of a number of objectives.

The first is to ensure that the schools make their maximum contribution to the national need for boarding education. Not all the schools are boarding schools, but most of them are, and boarding is an ingredient in the generally accepted notion of what constitutes a public school education. On the other hand, boarding education has its place in the State system, where it has been developing in recent years. Some local authorities have provided boarding schools or boarding wings attached to day schools for some time, usually for pupils who live too far away from secondary school for daily travel.

In 1960, the Martin Report laid down the criteria for local authorities in assisting parents with the cost of boarding education. These criteria are now generally accepted. The Newsom Report of 1963 made recommendations about residential courses for children whose education had suffered as a result of difficult home backgrounds or socially deprived neighbourhoods. More recently, Dr. Royston Lambert, who is conducting research into boarding education with a grant from the Department of Education and Science, has drawn attention to the extent to which the State, in the form of the local authorities, is already involved in boarding education. Over 30,000 pupils are either receiving boarding education in schools which are financially maintained or assisted in some way by the State, or are getting direct individual assistance from local authorities towards the fees charged by independent schools.

All these developments are symptomatic of a growing understanding of the need for boarding education and of its value. It is right that the Commission should have the national need for boarding education high on its list of considerations. The crucial question here is what contribution should the public schools make towards meeting this need.

The next objective is a socially mixed entry. This will follow automatically to some extent from any measures to meet the national boarding need. But how to achieve the objective in the day schools will be a separate problem for the Commission. However, a broader social entry is something which the schools themselves have sought for some time.

The third objective, a wider range of academic attainment, will also come about to some extent when the schools are devoted primarily to meeting the national need for boarding education. But, quite apart from this, the Government were committed to this objective once they had formulated a national policy for the reorganisation of secondary education on comprehensive lines. At this point the Commission's task will be extremely complex. Once again the position of the day schools will be a particular difficulty and there will be the additional problem of seeing in what ways and how rapidly schools, which have in the past concentrated to a considerable extent on the attainment of high academic standards in the traditional subjects, can adapt themselves to the needs of a more widely-drawn intake.

The next objective singles out cooperation with local authorities. This is essential to the success of any plan formulated by the Commission. The local authorities are already heavily involved in boarding education. What is more, they have the statutory responsibility for ensuring that children in their areas are properly educated, and they must clearly, therefore, have some active part in any process aimed at getting some of those children into the public schools.

The final objective embodies the whole philosophy of the Government's policy. It is: To ensure the progressive application of the principle that the public schools, like other parts of the educational system, should be open to boys and girls irrespective of the income of their parents. These words are a deliberate echo of the basic recommendation of the Fleming Report. One of the silent revolutions of our society has been the progressive acceptance of the view that the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, their educational plant—the buildings, the books, the equipment—their human resources in the shape of the teachers, and their intangible assets of experience, tradition and high standards, should be open to all the young people of the nation and not to just a group able to use them by the accident of wealth. What we want Sir John Newsom's Commission to do is to find the ways in which an equally far-reaching change can be brought about in the public schools.

I conclude with two quotations. One is from the Minister for the Department of Education and Science. He said: If ever there was a country which needed to make the most of its resources, it is Britain in the second half of the twentieth century, and the chief resource of a crowded island is its people. The extent to which we are wasting good educational talent for what are in part social considerations was fully and horrifyingly documented with the Crowther and Robbins Reports. We are talking about equality of opportunity, and I would conclude with a different quotation from Milton. Lords and commons of England, consider what nation it is whereof ye are and whereof ye are the governors, a nation not slow and dull, but of a quick, ingenious and piercing spirit, acute to invent, subtle and sinewy to discourse, not beneath the reach of any point the highest that human capacity can soar to. My Lords, that is what the Government seek to do.

3.36 p.m.


My Lords, as Provost of Eton and thus chairman of the governing body of an independent school, I speak with direct personal interest in the question before this House. I should perhaps add, what is already known to the Secretary of State for Education, that I am a member of a Joint Working Party of the Governing Bodies Association and Headmasters' Conference, set up in preparation for a Commission which it was known the Government intended to appoint. With this sense of responsibility, I shall not say all that could be, has been or will be better said by others. I shall restrict myself of set purpose to the strict minimum at this stage.

First, I should make it clear what is our attitude to an inquiry into the question of boarding education in this country and the part that the independent schools can play, with others, in getting the best educational results for the country as a whole. It is that we should not wish in any way to object to or oppose such an inquiry. Quite the contrary. What is more, so far as this inquiry is concerned with the principle that the public schools should be open to boys irrespective of the income of their parents, we at Eton, for instance, are already committed. There are not only the Scholars of the Foundation, but since the war we have had a steady intake of boys under the 1944 Education Act from those county authorities which are prepared to work that scheme.

So far no difficulty of principle arises. But this is not just a general question of principle, of the need, as the noble Lady described it, for something to be done. We are faced with the particular terms of reference of the Commission which the Secretary of State has appointed. Here I must say that difficulty arises with the use of language in a way which allows for varying interpretation and therefore perhaps misunderstanding. The Secretary of State says—and here I quote: The main function of the Commission will be to advise on the best way of integrating the public schools with the State system of education No definition of the word "integrating" has so far been provided. The Oxford Dictionary suggests two quite different uses of the word. On the one hand, to integrate is defined as "to render entire or complete"; on the other hand, as "to indicate or register the mean value". The first would allow for wide variations of elements in completing a whole. The second suggests averaging all to a single common level. In so far as there is any indication in the terms of reference, it looks as if the second is what the Secretary of State, at any rate partly, has in mind, for he states that, in carrying out its tasks, the Commission will be expected to pay special attention to certain objects, to which the noble Lady referred, one of which is—to quote again: to move towards a progressively wider range of academic attainment amongst public schools, so that the public school sector may increasingly conform with the national policy for a maintained area. the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said, is What is that policy? Presumably, it is for comprehensive schools. Once again there is no definition. In ordinary parlance the word "comprehensive" is sometimes used in a social sense to mean that all classes and incomes are included. But from the section of the Commission's objectives which I have quoted, I take it that the Secretary of State has not here got this in mind, but is using the word "comprehensive" as a term of art to mean schools open to boys and girls of all ranges of intelligence, and, therefore, with a curriculum which also caters for those for whom academic education is not suitable. If so, it is again a strange use of language to suggest that a move from the education at present provided by the great public schools or grammar schools to a comprehensive education would be towards a wider range of academic attainment. A wider range of attainment maybe But the new subjects would presumably be of a practical nature, such as metalwork or woodwork or other such skills. I do not for one moment suggest that these skills are not of great value. I do say that it is a queer use of language to describe them as academic.

This is not a mere verbal point. It raises at once the question of what purpose the Secretary of State has in mind in talking about the main function of the Commission. is it to turn every public school into a comprehensive school in its make-up and curriculum, and dependent on a single local authority? Or is he, as I hope, and despite the language which I have quoted, using the word "integrate" in a sense that could mean completion by the addition of different parts? This would thus allow for variety, of the merits of which the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, has spoken, and would enable independent schools which have a long history of truly academic attainment to continue with these educational objects on a national scale.

Perhaps the Secretary of State is using the word "integrate" sometimes in one sense and sometimes in another. This is not unknown in politics, and as an ex-Government servant I cannot possibly pretend to your Lordships that I have never myself been a party to such double talk. Many a communiqué in foreign affairs, as in other things, has its example, and the English language, unlike French, for instance, is rich in words with various shades of meaning which can be used here in one sense and there in another.

If there is then a certain equivocation in the language used about the Commission, I think it may be useful if I say that while we, for our part, will approach it with an open mind, we shall also do so with a native caution due where language and intent have not yet been spelled out and are not yet clear. Further, in our dealing with the Commission, I believe that the purpose of all of us may be promoted rather than impeded if I set out quite simply the essential elements of independence which we consider should be preserved. They are principally six, and I have reason to believe, from my membership of the Working Party of which I have already told your Lordships, that they are generally accepted by members of the Governing Bodies' Association and Headmasters' Conference.

First, an independent governing body under an independent chairman. By an independent governor, I mean a governor who is not appointed as a representative either of the Department of Education and Science or of a local or regional education authority. This does not mean that independence is incompatible with some outside representation. Many schools, such as Eton, already have governors nominated by learned societies and other outside bodies. But such representation should be in a form which does not undermine the independence of the governing body as a whole, or its independent chairman.

Secondly, freedom to maintain the religious tradition of the school. In the case of a foundation such as Eton, this freedom cannot be a question of tradition alone, long though that may be. It means respect, also, for the avowed Christian intent of the founder. Thirdly, freedom to appoint and dismiss staff and to fix their remuneration Fourthly, freedom to allocate the available income of the school between different heads of expenditure. Fifthly, to refuse admission to boys who do not reach the minimum standard of ability normally required for entrance. What is important here, as intellectual capacity rather than attainment. This means that there need be no absolute insistence on all boys qualifying for entry by the common entrance examination in its present form. Sixthly, freedom for a headmaster to take or to refuse to take or keep a particular pupil.

Many other subjects will inevitably come up for discussion. Among these are the principles governing the academic staffing ratio; at which point the needs of sixth-form work and boarding school activities should be emphasised; the proportion of free or assisted places which a school should be required to offer, and the situation created by its existing obligations to admit boys to whom places have been offered. But, as I have said, I think it is helpful rather than the contrary if certain basic elements of independence are spelled out from the beginning.

There is another important issue. Ministers have been reported as being ready to preserve fee-paying education. If parents can pay, it would argue a right for them to choose the kind of school which their children should go to; and it would surely be quite illogical to restrict that choice by cutting out an arbitrarily selected number or types of schools. Otherwise, what is the reality of choice? Indeed, if this right of choice in such a fundamental matter between parent and child were to be restricted or removed, a blow would have been struck at our proud boast that we live in a free and not in a regimented society. I hope, therefore, that the noble Earl the Leader of the House, when he comes to wind up this debate, can say something on this issue of parents' choice.

In the end, the proof of the pudding is likely to be in the eating. Here again, I must express some concern, which once more I hope that the Leader of the House may be able to do something to dispel. Despite the urging of many well qualified to know, the Secretary of State has specifically excluded the direct grant schools from the purview of the Commission. The noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, has already spoken of the direct grant schools with far greater authority than I can. So no doubt will the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, who is to speak later. But let me at least draw attention to the fact that the Secretary of State has not so far given any reason in public for the exclusion of the direct grant schools, which, on the face of it, is paradoxical. At any rate, certain direct grant schools have not only long experience of boarding, but over the years have worked out a system whereby the public and the private sector have co-operated with acknowledged success. Why then the total ban?

Here concern is deepened by the objects which the Secretary of State has already set himself for these direct grant schools. Whether they have traditionally looked to one local authority or to a number; whether they serve one area or are of national importance; whatever their academic fame, they have all been told that they must work things out with their local authority, and have recently had what has been called, and has been referred to here as "a shot across their bows" to encourage them. This has been done despite the high academic attainment of many of them, and without the inclusion of any of their number in any inquiry, this or another. If this is the most recent example we have before us of gunboat diplomacy, what confidence can any of us have that any arrangement reached with the Commission will not later and in its turn be discarded without ado or further inquiry? Indeed, in the light of this and other experience, I hope that the Leader of the House will be able to assure us that this Public Schools Commission will be enabled to report before any new broadside is let off.

Let me stress, in conclusion, that I say these things precisely in order to provide the Government with the opportunity of giving some clarification on the points that I have raised; that is, on the meaning they attach to integration and independence; on their interpretation of parents' choice, and on the moral we should draw from the way in which the direct grant schools are being handled. Such clarifications could be helpful to those with whom the Commission will want to deal, and might enable a spirit of confidence to grow in the aims and objects of this Commission. The noble Lady gave some indications which might help in this sense, but I hope that the noble Earl, when he winds up, will be able to go further.

But I should be misleading the House if I were to leave any impression that independent schools will willingly give up their independence in its essential elements, and these, for the sake of clarity from the outset, I have sought to define. For my own part, I do not question for a minute the sincerity of the feeling for what in short is called social justice. But I should hope that this Government, indeed any Government in this country, would also concede that many who have given and are giving the service of their lives in independent schools have equally sincere convictions on independence in education and on the rights of parents to choose the kind of education which their children should have. If a way is to be found by agreement, account must be taken of both factors. In the end the Legislature is, of course, supreme. But at this stage I trust that we are all thinking in terms of willing co-operation in dealings between the Commission and the independent schools, and living in the hope that it may come about.

3.53 p.m.


My Lords, I am making my speech early owing to the courtesy of the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, for which I am most grateful. It is terrifying to think that I have to make a maiden speech after listening to four excellent and knowledgeable speeches. I am encouraged, however, because I find that everything I wanted to say has already been said, and if I repeat anything, as no doubt I shall, it yet has the advantage that I shall be very brief.

I have never been at a public school as a pupil, but I have been a governor of one for twenty years, also of a secondary modern school. For some years I was a governor of a grammar school and also of a girls' high school. I can only approach the subject by giving my impression of what is happening to-day, although I was never in a public school or in any way associated with a school until after I left the Navy. The chief thing I have noticed is the remarkable change that is coming over all the direct grant schools. The public schools are co-operating with the Government in modernising themselves and are becoming more and more modernised. The direct grant schools are aiming at a target set by the public schools, and we are rapidly reaching the position where there will be hardly anything to distinguish them from the public schools. The chief thing which will distinguish them is that the direct grant schools will have more day pupils, and the public schools will have more expensive bills to send to the parents. I myself can see no reason why, in deserving cases, the local education authorities should not assist with the fees of the public schools. In some cases it is being done now, but it is by no means universal.

It is many years ago now since parents were allowed to choose the religious education of their children—there has been no interference with that for many years. I cannot see why parents should not have the same privilege over the secular education of their children. Why should you distinguish between two educations and, as has already been said, regiment the secular learning, and yet allow parents to choose freely the religious education of the children? It seems inconsistent. I should like to stress again the rapidity with which the State-aided schools are overhauling the public schools. I have seen this happen before. Many years ago, when Britannia ruled the waves, the Admiralty introduced into the Service a number of public school cadets The naval authorities said, "This is no good. These boys will never catch up with the cadets who have been trained for four-and-a-half years before they became midshipmen." That did not turn out to be the case. The public school cadets had a target to aim at and, if possible, to surpass. In many cases they did surpass it, and I do not think they would have been such good naval officers if they had not had the target which they were determined to beat. I beg your Lordships not to destroy the target at which these schools are aiming.

Public schools will assist in this endeavour as much as they possibly can. They are already trying their best, but their standards are high, and they can be maintained, as has been said, only by the independence of the governors in being able to choose the type of boys who are suitable for the school. A modicum of patience is all that is required. But do not let us destroy the good in order to try to improve that which is, at present, not so good.

3.58 p.m.


My Lords, it is a great pleasure that a change in the order of batting gives me the opportunity to congratulate a Member of your Lordships' House on a maiden speech. It is a particular pleasure to do this when that Member chooses to make his maiden speech on one's own pet subject. So it is with all sincerity that I say how much we have enjoyed hearing the noble Viscount, Lord Daventry, and how much we hope to hear him again in the future.

In what I want to say this afternoon, I am going to restrict myself entirely to one half of the subject we are discussing, and concentrate my remarks on the direct grant schools. I do this, not because I am indifferent to the vital, if intractable, problems of the independent schools, but because these have been dealt with, with great clarity and knowledge, by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, and by other noble Lords. We owe to the noble Viscount a great debt of gratitude for initiating this debate at all. Further, the special Commission, under the Chairmanship of Sir John Newsom, will, I am sure, produce some constructive proposals about their future. At any rate, if I know my friend Sir John Newsom it will be an interesting Report.

I am going to concentrate most on a group of schools whose position in the public system is less understood, whose contribution to the public welfare I believe to be out of all proportion to their numbers, yet whose whole future is in doubt. And underlying my reasons for concentrating on them is, of course, a personal one. For sixteen years I was headmaster of a direct grant school. I would not have changed that headmastership for any other in England. That is not a manner of speech, it is the literal truth. Why? I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I am personal enough to try to explain why, because the answer to that question lies in the whole character of the direct grant system.

Let me remind your Lordships, if I may, of the regulations under which these schools in fact operate. The noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, mentioned the important things, but because manifestly so much less is known about these schools than should be known I may perhaps repeat some of the basic facts. Twenty-five per cent. of the places in those schools have got to be free, and awarded to those who have been for two years in a primary school. Another 25 per cent. can be claimed by local authorities as part of their free provision of secondary education. The remaining places are nominally fee-paying, but because a grant from the Treasury is given for every pupil the fees are in any case low and, more important still, are graded according to the parents' income, so that in fact a nominal fee payer may well pay no fees at all.

What is the result of this system in practice? What sort of school does it produce? In the school I know best it meant a number of things. It meant, first, a saving of money to the taxpayer and the ratepayer, not simply because parents who could afford it contributed to their children's education, but because the school itself had to pay for any new buildings. Do your Lordships know that, since the war, 57 direct grant schools—the 57 belonging to the Headmasters' Conference alone, apart from the other 130—have done something like £12 million worth of educational building out of funds raised entirely by themselves? Surely that money is worth saving when we all know the financial difficulties that lie ahead—difficulties which will make many of our comprehensive schemes either just plum unsatisfactory or else completely unreal.

Secondly, the direct grant system of course meant a very high academic standard, for, to be frank, the school was good enough to attract some children who would otherwise have gone to an independent school, while at the same time it was accessible to the poorest, so that in some years over 60 per cent. of the pupils might be paying no fees at all, either because they had free places or local authority places or because their parents were poor. Is not this the promised land that the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, was sketching for us? An opportunity State for the poorest? But, because of that, anything up to 2,000 boys would try for entry to 200 places, and the only criterion of selection was intellectual ability, measured by a test as fair as we could make it. This test, incidentally, proved itself by the subsequent performance of those it selected. This academic selectivity was shown in the vast majority of boys going on into the sixth form, with 75 per cent. going to the universities, which made it possible to have really viable groups of 20 or more in the sixth form, so that one could economise in that rarest of all resources in education, first-class staff capable of teaching to the highest levels.

Let me digress to forestall a criticism and to answer those who say that we teach too much in our sixth forms anyway, and that such a very high standard is unnecessary. I point out to them that, with the shortest university course in the world, which is what we have, and with universities already bulging at the seams as they are, any decline in sixth-form standards of our schools is something we simply dare not contemplate.

The direct grant system means two other things of even greater importance. The school is within the State system, and proud of it, and yet it feels free. Representatives of four local authorities, of the fifteen or sixteen local authorities which I served in that dense conurbation of Lancashire, sat on my governing body, but I was ultimately responsible to none of them. I was ultimately responsible to the Minister—"my Minister", as I was proud to call him or her, whether it was Miss Ellen Wilkinson, or that fine man Mr. George Tomlinson or one of my two noble ex-masters who are here in this House—at least, one of them is an ex-master; I am not sure whether the other was ever my master but he may have been. I would say to your Lordships, with all the sincerity that I can command, that the direct grant school is an example of that reconciliation of economic freedom with public accountability that is at once an example and a stimulus to those of us who experience it. It is a bridge between the two main strands in our education, the completely independent school and the school controlled by the local authority.

Finally, and most important of all, the school achieved, to a remarkable degree, utterly unself-conscious social mixing. I wish I could convey to your Lordships in words how unself-conscious and how complete that was. It did not of course comprise a statistical cross-section of the population; no educational institution can ever be that, certainly not the comprehensive school in an urban area. The child in the slums of Manchester or Salford is underprivileged, to use that horrible word, and always will be under-privileged so long as slums exist, and some children Will be under-privileged as long as bad homes, whether they are rich or poor, exist. The fact that social background affects academic performance will not be altered by any schemes of reorganisation or seeking of new roads. It is not the discovery of modern sociologists. It is part of the experience of every good teacher, and was realised so acutely by Plato over 2,000 years ago that it led him to the most fantastic suggestion in his greatest work. But, given that basic fact of inequality, not all children are casualties through unfavourable environment, and the school was able to do much for those that it received. If any noble Lord wants to read an account of that process in an earlier age, he should read Ernest Barker's account in his autobiography of Manchester Grammar School opening the doors of Greek tragedy to a boy from a rural slum.

The greatest pride of the school that I served (and once again I must beg your Lordships' indulgence for being personal) was that we had learning and playing together, camping and climbing mountains together, making music together—on the one hand, the sons of a Member of Parliament, a Vice-Chancellor and a Bishop, and others better off than any of these, and, on the other hand, the sons of a fitter, a cotton operative, and an un-employed invalid widow on public assistance: and this, not as some experiment, not as the result of a commission, not done in any conscious way (for I expect these facts were unknown, and in my case would have seemed supremely irrelevant to those concerned) but as a simple matter of course. The link that united them was more important than class: it was that they were all doing roughly the same work and had roughly the same ability. I used to claim that Manchester Grammar School was the most socially heterogenous school in the Western World. That may have been a bold claim, but I could defend it. But whether it be literally true or not, noble Lords will at any rate understand my irritation when one of the weeklies hails the offer of a small independent school to take 30 per cent. of its pupils from primary schools as a major step towards social integration.

Let us suppose—just have a real flight of imagination—that in the fulness of time the Newsom Report suggests that Eton should abolish fees for over 50 per cent. of its pupils, grade the fees for the remainder, and choose the whole of its entry on merit. How revolutionary and acceptable to progressive opinion this would seem! And yet this is precisely what the direct grant schools have been doing as a matter of course and a matter of obligation for years past.

Now if direct grant schools are as I have described them, what is wrong with them? Why do they need this warning shot fired across their bows—although whether that very maritime exercise is associated better with the Royal Navy or with the pirate captain it is perhaps at the present stage of affairs tasteless to ask. The first reason is, I suppose, that they are administratively untidy. That is true. But are we so convinced of the eternal virtues of all the present local authorities that we cannot allow any alternative kind of system within the State system? This surely cannot be the case at the very time when a Royal Commission has been set up to review the whole structure of local government, or when in higher education we are praising the idea of a binary organisation. It can scarcely be held, either, that the direct grant schools are expensive, for, as I have said, they actually save taxpayers' money; they are about the only form of educational organisation that does. The real difficulty is, of course, that administration of a direct grant school inevitably involves selection, and if that word must be excluded from our educational vocabulary then the difficulty is very real, and we in the schools and those in the Government who are wedded to the pure milk of the doctrine are both, if I may say so, in a tough spot.

And here I think we have to be exceptionally clear and exceptionally honest about what we say. If we are to keep any vestiges of parental choice in the public sector and not simply restrict it to religious reasons, there must be selection. I know that there is a lot of cant talked about parental choice. I know that no real choice exists for a very large number of parents. But is that a real reason for destroying such choice as we possess, can retain and can extend? If 2,000 parents want their sons to go to Manchester Grammar School—actually it is 4,000 parents—and there are only 200 places, what is one to do but select? I remember on one occasion I asked the noble Earl who is going to reply this evening what I was to do, and he said, "Build another Manchester Grammar School". That was an answer given off the cuff and I think it was scarcely worthy of the answer he will give to-night. But if one selects, on what principle is one to select but that of ability, if the school happens to be geared physically and in its organisation for the gifted child? In any case, what system of selection is more just? If we do not have that, what do you want?

Of course, the difficulty of selection goes deeper than the question of parents' choice; it concerns our whole view of society. As soon as we seek to make scarce facilities available on grounds of justice and need, and not simply those of chance or money or birth, then there is a problem of selection. A hundred years ago there was no such problem about secondary education, just as there is no problem to-day in selecting who shall have a Rolls Royce. It is only when we say, "Here is something that shall be decided by fitness and need and not by purse or family" that we discover the difficulties. It is because the process of selection for education by merit is so novel that we are so muddled in our thinking concerning it, and it is because we are so muddled that even members of the same Party and even the same Government make such contradictory statements.

I have heard the noble Lord, Lord Snow, admit the possibility, and by implication the desirability, of early selection on grounds of high mathematical ability, and I agree with him. I have also heard him say that he did not wish to impose his views on education on other people, and I agree with that, too; it is an admirable statement. I heard on November 16 the noble Lord, Lord Champion, answering questions about entry to the public schools, say: I think that ability should be the test, not necessarily money. This, I believe, is a factor that is of tremendous importance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT; Vol. 270 (No. 5), col. 462, 16/11 /65] I am sure he is right. He is defending selection, defending the whole principle of the direct grant school. We should all, I think, believe in sending children with high abilities in music or dancing to appropriate schools to develop their special skills. Even special opportunity for those gifted in athletics was recently recommended by implication by the noble Baroness, Lady Burton of Coventry, in a splendid speech, and she was right, too. Yet the whole policy of the Government which they support is that all selection on intellectual ability must be abolished. Where then do we stand? Why is intellectual merit a dirty word—or rather two dirty words? I am never sure whether it is "intellectual" which is the dirty one or "merit".


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, who is making a most interesting and quite hard-hitting speech, but may I ask one question about these all-perfect direct grant schools? Does he want the same principle applied to all the public schools?


If you press me on that I would say that I think it would be an admirable principle. But I am going, at a later stage, if I may, to point out that what I believe may well happen is that you will abolish the direct grant school and rediscover the principle and apply it to the public school. I think it would apply broadly to many public schools, but i am not making a speech really about the independent schools; I am sticking to the direct grant school at the moment. If they sound as good as all that, might you not think about it?

I was asking why the words "intellectual" and "merit" were both so dirty, containing as they do so many letters. That is why the position of a direct grant school, where there are more applicants than places, presents us with a problem that seems obscure, if not insoluble. Such a school can take the easy way out and go independent—and here I may be touching on the point raised by the noble Earl. It would then presumably come under the Newsom Committee and wait until that Committee rediscovers, as it well may, the direct grant principle and applies it to the independent schools. Meanwhile, hundreds of boys and girls from poor homes will be denied an education best fitted to their abilities and aptitudes, or find it only if they are exceptionally lucky in non-selective schools at far higher cost in staff. It could become a comprehensive school, a task which would involve misapplication of its staff, for which its buildings are unsuitable, and which would usually involve a much diminished social mixing. It could become a sixth form college, involving once again very large expenditure, in addition to the technical educational difficulties which such an organisation raises, which I will not go into this afternoon.

Here is the real crux of the problem. We have a number of schools whose chief reason for existence is to promote high scholarship while being socially heterogeneous; they are told that the only just way they can imagine of saying who shall or who shall not go to them is ideologically unacceptable. What are they to do? The only guidance they have had is that they must make ad hoc arrangements with local authorities. But that gets us little further. Nevertheless, many of them are attempting this, with all the ingenuity and sincerity they can. I would emphasise that they are, in the main, only too anxious to co-operate. They realise that they are a part of the State education and, as I myself have said on many occasions, that fact has been to them a matter of pride and opportunity. They have had for years close association with the local authorities —though, if we are frank, we shall admit that there are L.E.A.s and L.E.A.s. I am sure that they would be prepared to go a long way to seek a solution, any solution, to this problem—for example. this problem of selecting without selection, by raising their age of entry to 13, or by replacing an examination by a system of allocation from primary schools, though this might easily lead to great injustice.

Those that have preparatory schools of their own would, I think, be prepared to abolish them, as I did myself at Manchester Grammar School, if it was felt that the existence of such schools gave an unfair advantage, as it has sometimes done, to the better-off parent. Let me assure the Government that I have had letter after letter from the heads of these schools showing the greatest anxiety to co-operate, in so far as their circumstances allow, so as to make possible the general policy of abolition of selection on overtly intellectual grounds. Some, which happened to be in the areas of friendly local authorities, are meeting with some measure of success in devising means by which they can achieve this curious end of selecting their entry without employing selection—an end which would seem to be semantic rather than educational. Others are facing a dead-end of uncompromising opposition.

But the plain truth is that this is not a local problem, for many of these are not really local schools. They are national schools; national in the literal sense that many are boarding schools; national in a broader sense that many are of national reputation; national because they are ultimately controlled by the Secretary of State, because I was able to speak of "my Minister". Because they are the responsibility of the central Government, then that Government has a duty to give them guidance as to the future. The solution I would wish to see is clear enough. Ideally, I would ask the Government to think more deeply about their whole philosophy of the unconditional abolition of selection, particularly in urban areas, at a time when we know that in many cases there will simply not be the money available to make non-selective education moderately efficient, or even viable.

I speak here as one whose sympathies are, on the whole, on the Left on most issues, except that of education. But if I were an arch-Tory, by which I mean a man who in his heart of hearts believed in the preservation of the existing class structure, who believed in maintaining the existing privileges, I could devise no more effective educational policy than that of my friends in the Government who propose the abolition of selection by merit, and thus make the world still more safe for the Etonian or the Harrovian. Your Lordships will notice that I have left out the Wykehamist—a pious gesture! But I know that such a radical rethinking is, presumably, far too much to ask.

I would ask, then, whether, since high ability is certainly identifiable at 11 or 12, and I believe before, we cannot make some direct grant schools what many are now, schools for such able children, whatever their class, and give the future scientist or historian the same chance that IA e propose to accord to the pianist, the ballet dancer or the athlete. After all, even the United States, with its comprehensive high schools, admits the necessity for some such highly selective institutions. And if that, in turn, is impossible, then I would say, let us look at the future of these schools in a more leisurely and constructive way, and on a national basis. Why cannot they be considered by the Newsom Commission, for many of them are greater and less local possessions than some of the institutions which that Commission will consider? And if not that Commission, cannot we afford another?—for there are, after all, 179 of these schools with totally different needs and, in some cases, totally different problems; and to set up a Committee to consider their future is surely not too much to ask.

But what we must not do is what we are doing now: to allow the character and the future of some of the best schools in England, and indeed in the world, to be destroyed by local haggling and hasty compromise. Here we have a group of schools that save money, that produce results (and I do not mean simply examination successes, although some of them do that, too); that produce more than their share of that skilled and educated manpower that we so sorely need; that show that an institution can be within the State system, yet generate an atmosphere of freedom: schools that may be forced from this association to an undesired and undesirable independence; schools that mix classes and backgrounds, not as some hothouse, expensive and artificial experiment, but as the inevitable presupposition of their daily lives. These schools are national assets, not pawns in local politics. On every ground, be it economic or educational, academic or social, let them be treated as such.

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, I am glad to have the privilege of associating myself with the congratulations paid by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, to the noble Viscount, Lord Daventry, on his maiden speech. He and I have had converse with each other on many occasions on the governing body of one of the schools which we are discussing this afternoon, and I hope we shall hear him on many more occasions in your Lordships' House. It has been said a number of times already this afternoon that this opportunity of discussing the educational aspects of public schools is one of great importance. I, too, am grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, for giving us this opportunity.

We have been reminded already that English public schools differ so widely from each other that it is almost impossible to generalise about them. I believe this is something of which we should not lose sight in our discussion. They are extremely individualistic. That, perhaps, is one of their educational merits. As the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, said, they vary so widely that they really have to be treated individually. But however they differ in type, they are, as a whole, good schools in the general sense of that word. In fact, if they were not, I doubt whether the Secretary of State for Education would be so anxious, to use his own words, to achieve a genuine democratisation of them". If they had not distinctive qualities and characteristics, they might be allowed just to fade way. But obviously they are desperately important for our national educational system, and their distinctive qualities include their breadth of curriculum and their wide opportunities for developing individual tastes, interests and aptitudes.

This is something which one finds perhaps to a greater degree in a well-organised public school than in any other part of the educational system, although let it be said that there are many county and day schools which have these same educational qualities. And though most of the public schools benefit from being boarding schools, with all that flows from the opportunity of life together in a close-knit community, they do not have any monopoly of the advantages of boarding schools, for the boarding schools provided by local education authorities display a very similar quality of life.

It has been said in this House this afternoon, and it has been said by, among others, the Chairman of the Headmasters' Conference, how anxious the public schools themselves are that the kind of education which their situation and history have enabled them to develop should be more generally accessible to those who could profit from them, and that the boys and girls in them should represent the social life of the nation as a whole. There is indeed, as would appear from what has been said this afternoon, very little difference about the object of the exercise. The problem is how this is to be achieved. There is also the problem of achieving this opening and widening of the public schools in such a way that their distinctive educational contribution is not lost.

The noble Lord, the Provost of Eton, touched on the freedoms which the Headmasters' Conference and Governing Bodies' Association regard as fundamentally important and as part of the public schools' contribution. It is not necessary for me to repeat those freedoms which he mentioned, but can the essential element of freedom be built into new arrangements: freedom of heads to choose staff and, on occasion, to get rid of staff—a freedom which is not always necessary, but is sometimes very important; freedom to experiment, and freedom, if need be, to be different. We do not want in our system every school to look exactly alike. We want our children to have the opportunity of developing their individuality. With that goes a freedom of parents to have a real choice of the kind of school they desire for their children; freedom, if they wish, to pay for it, if they can afford to do so; and freedom of other parents who cannot afford to pay fees to choose a boarding school education for their boys and girls. I believe that that freedom is essential to the whole value of personality in our society.

I should like to turn to the point, to which reference has already been made, that a number of the public schools—and, I would add, the direct grant schools also—are on religious foundations. Of the 277 schools listed for consideration by the Public Schools Commission, 92 boys' schools and 65 girls' schools are Church of England foundations, or else so closely connected with the Church as to be virtually the same. When one adds to these the Roman Catholic schools and the schools which are on Free Church or Quaker foundations, one finds one has included almost all the schools listed for consideration. The Secretary of State for Education said on December 22 that the Commission will respect the denominational character of these schools—and indeed, in our society, could he have said anything other? The Churches will watch with great interest how this works out in practice.

The policy of the Churches as a whole is to co-operate to the fullest extent of their ability with central and local government in the development of education, seeking to bring their own particular contribution through the institutions for which they are responsible. We believe that the value of this was recognised last week when the Secretary of State announced that the grants for aided schools would be increased by 80 per cent. and that a number of legislative changes, possibly of greater value than the 5 per cent. increase in grant, would be made to enable the aided schools to play more fully their part in the reorganisation of secondary education. For that the Churches are very grateful. It is perhaps worth remembering that the negotiations throughout were conducted by the Churches acting together. At no point was there any difference of opinion between the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Free Church Federal Council on what we desire to achieve or on the importance of the Churches taking their share in educational work as a whole. We see it as a religious as well as an educational responsibility on our part.

But when one comes to the public schools, the Church of England has no authority over the public schools which are on Anglican foundations. That is part of their independence which we respect. Should a Bishop seek to give instructions to the headmaster of a public school in his diocese, they would be listened to with great politeness; they might even be acted upon because the Bishop knew what he was talking about; but they would not be acted upon because there was authority which was exercised over the public schools. That, again, we value and respect. We, as Churches, are deeply interested in the development of the public schools and in their being made more accessible to all boys and girls who would profit from them. Because of the religious element in the foundation of so many of them, it may well be that the Churches together may have something to contribute to the thinking of the Public Schools Commission, although they have neither the right nor the desire to trespass on the independence of their schools.

Along with the freedoms which have been mentioned, we must surely preserve the freedom of parents to choose a school for their children on religious and conscientious grounds—and equally the Churches would respect the freedom of parents not to send a boy or girl to a school with a religious foundation; and the freedom of the schools to continue to provide the type of education enjoined on them by their founders. We are anxious that in all this the public schools, like the aided schools for which the Churches have a direct responsibility, should be as fully socially integrated as possible.

Is it practicable that these freedoms can be secured from the outset and on a national scale? Within that framework the problems of selection, the problem of providing for parents who cannot pay fees, might be easier to solve on an individual basis. There is an urgent need to remove some possible misunderstandings as soon as the Public Schools Commission sets about its work. In the light of the experience of what happened to the Fleming Report, perhaps we could be assured that if a national policy is to be adopted it will be financed nationally, and will not fail, as some of the Fleming recommendations failed, because they were not made mandatory upon the local authorities to whom the responsibility was transferred. It may be—and I think this is probably important—if the freedom of parents to choose a school on religious grounds is to be respected, that this will require not merely a grant in aid of fees, but payment of the fees in full, just as this would be necessary if there is not to be a social division.

There is one other point. Perhaps too much has been claimed for the public schools as training grounds for leadership. Sometimes almost can has been talked about them. But every generation needs new expressions of social service and new forms of leadership. In the past, the Christian traditions of the public schools have made their contribution to this. The Christian traditions of all our schools can make a contribution in the future, and it is by a much closer association with the national system that the public schools may be able to help in showing how the traditional Christian values in leadership can find their place in a technological society. For the Churches would not seek to defend any privilege of class or wealth in education. They desire that all that is good in our educational heritage should be made available on the widest scale.

We realise, speaking from the Churches' side, as we have discussed this together, how intractable some of the problems are going to be in practice. The noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, has spoken of the problem of selection which is not selection, and that comes somewhere into the public schools question, because on any conceivable reorganisation of the existing public schools there will not be anything like the places for all those who would desire to occupy them. But if there is acceptance that nobody wishes the public schools to be divisive, that those concerned with the public schools are themselves only too anxious that the best they have to give should be given to the whole of the nation—if we start from that and never lose sight of it, then perhaps even the most intractable of these problems will give way to good will, not of compromise but of something creatively new.

4.43 p.m.


My Lords, so far as the Liberal Party are concerned, there are two schools of thought. First, I think, there is the classical Liberal feeling, the "Leave it alone" school of thought, which believes that any scheme for widening the entry to the public schools, to alter their social bias, is a diversion of resources, and that various methods of integration, of change of function, are a waste of effort. Such a school of thought would, of course, say that to abolish the public schools would be illiberal, as indeed any other Liberal would say; and it would also say that any change of function ought to come from within and not be imposed from without. Therefore, this school of thought would say "Leave them alone", provided, of course, that they were up to the standards of the Ministry of Education.

This particular school of thought starts from the proposition that the main object of Liberal policy should be to try to improve the maintained system, and that the issue of the independence of public schools is a diversion from this main purpose. In taking that view, which is, after all, a perfectly reasonable one, it is not implied that no action is called for because there are no defects; nor is it necessary to promote the abolition of the public schools by the back door, as it were.

I think all Liberals regard abolition as politically impracticable and unacceptable in principle. It would create an entirely new crime, the crime of keeping a school, which so far is not known on this side of the Iron Curtain. It is probably true that some Liberals of that school of thought would expect that the public school system might wither away, and I dare say that some of them who hold to that view might even welcome it. But I do not think that this is the prevailing view, at any rate on these Benches; and certainly the last two Liberal Assemblies have moved away from that belief, and no longer feel that the best policy is to leave the public schools alone. They want greater integration, and, indeed, for that integration they would be prepared to accept a quite fundamental change.

The second school of thought, which I suppose one might call the social engineering school, hopes that it might be able to preserve the good while eliminating the bad. I do not think it is necessary for me, in your Lordships' House, to emphasise the good points, because nearly all of us have in fact opted for the public schools for our children: and that does not apply only to people on this side. Indeed, as I think the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London pointed out, the Minister of Education himself accepts that the average standard of quality is, for various reasons, higher in public schools than in the maintained schools. Dr. Robert Bolt wrote a rather interesting letter to The Times the other day, suggesting that they were so good they should be abolished forthwith as being socially disruptive.

If it is unnecessary for me to dwell upon the good features, I think that possibly the bad features are equally well known to your Lordships' House. In fact, they seem to me to boil down to this question of class stratification. I do not think that this is quite so bad as it is sometimes made out to be. Nevertheless, the view is held that they are promoters of stratification in class, and the very fact that this view is held is in itself socially disruptive. I think it is true to say that boys going to public schools do tend to come from a limited class background, but here again I am inclined to think that more is made of this than should be.

Lastly, and in my own eyes possibly more important than either of the previous two points, is the feeling that society owes the public school man a social and economic position because he has been there. That kind of feeling is, I think, worse in some public schools than in others, but at any rate it seems to me a very important point and one that needs looking into. On the other hand, is this not possibly saying, in different words, that you expect to get the kind of job you were trained for? One can look at it either way.

There are, however, two other points which I feel are of very considerable importance. The first is that influential people have opted out of the maintained system, and if they had not opted out they would have seen to it that that system was a great deal better than in fact it is. I am not sure about this. The evidence from America seems to suggest that all that has happened there is that in certain localities the quality of the maintained schools has been better than it would otherwise have been, but it has not had any great effect on the general quality.

The second point is that it may be that the public schools enable rich people to buy a better chance in a competition for a nationally provided good—and when I say "a nationally provided good" I mean, of course, the ultimate, when higher education is entirely a State matter. My Lords, this is true up to a point, but I am not sure that attempts to remedy it might not bring about injustices which are worse, because I do not believe that it is either possible or desirable to prevent people from spending their money as they wish. This, I think, is a point about which a great many Liberals feel very strongly. I, on the other hand, have certain misgivings about it.

In saying that a person should be allowed to spend his money as he likes, I think one must be very careful to ensure that he is not using that money to buy something which is in short supply. A man should not be allowed to use his money in such a way that it puts a strain upon the national sector; nor should he be allowed to use his money to buy a stupid child a place which is above its station, as it were. A great many middle-class people, of course, have skimped and saved in order to send their children to public schools; and who are we to say that they should not? Nor does this apply only to middle-class people; there is many a working-class man who has raised himself by his bootstraps, by forgoing a great deal, in order to educate himself—and there are many remarkable examples of that. Here again, can we say that a man should not be allowed to spend his money in that way if he so wishes? As I say, you can argue this either way. For myself, I have vague misgivings about that particular argument, but, none the less, I think it is a valid one, and one which is very important to members of my Party.

I cannot help feeling, also, when one is thinking about how a person should be allowed to spend his money, that, in the last resort, if we all really cared about education as much as we pretend we do, we could very nearly pay for the very best education for everybody out of what we spend in betting; and, if betting would not cover it all because that is an internal exchange of money, what about cutting a bit off the "booze" as it were? People forget that it is not only Governments which have priorities: we ourselves make our own private priorities, and we must be careful that we do not create an injustice where we seek to remedy one by making other people take priorities which they would not otherwise take.

There are various suggestions which the Liberal Party have thought about. I do not think all of them are entirely unique to the Liberal Party, and I am sure that most of them are propositions which will be considered by the Public Schools Commission when it sits. At any rate, we think that some sort of social engineering could preserve both the independence and the identity—and the identity is a very important point—of these schools, and, at the same time, bring about changes in the class structure, and certainly provide closer links with the national system. We think this, even though it might mean changes of function which could possibly be very great indeed; but it would certainly cost money, and, again as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London pointed out, the recommendations of the Fleming Committee fell down in fact because the money was not there—or, at any rate, the local authorities did not think it was there—and that was that.

These are the four propositions which I throw out on behalf of the Liberal Party without necessarily saying that any of them is peculiar to itself. The first one concerns the question of boarding and whether possibly more use might not be made of turning the public schools into direct grant boarding schools. Now a great deal has been made of the necessity for boarding, first of all by Sir William Alexander and now by Dr. Royston Lambert, who is producing a report on the need for boarding. What I shall be even more interested to see (because this one affects one's own ideas as to the education of one's own children) is the report which he is preparing and which is coming out next year as to the effect of boarding on children. At any rate, boarding is something which is very much needed, by overseas parents, the Services (all ranks, by the way), mobile families, widows, orphans, separated parents, broken homes and, indeed, isolated homes, where there is a long distance to travel. All these people need some sort of boarding, and the boarding is not available.

Could some way be found by which the public schools could do a great deal more of this particular kind of boarding than they do now? I do not quite know how you would overcome the point at which the Fleming Report fell down, that of paying for it; but could it be worked on a scheme something like this? So far as the boarding itself was concerned, the local education authority would pay what it pays at present for a maintained school, and it would also recover a certain amount from parents on an income basis. The gap—and there would be a gap; for my suggestion would not cover the whole cost—might possibly be made up by the public schools themselves. As the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, pointed out, in many cases they were founded for poor scholars. Could not some part of their original endowments be used to fill this gap, on the "poor scholars" principle, as it were?

So far as tuition is concerned, which is separate, the local education authority could pay the recognised out-county fee for tuition which it pays in the case of a secondary grammar school. That fee, which they are paying now, is within £20 of the present average cost of tuition in a public school, so the gap here is not a very big one, and I see no reason why the Ministry should not make it up. If there were still a further balance to be made up, I do not see why tile public schools themselves should not make up a bit. The amount would not be large; and, in any case, in spite of what one noble Lord has said about the fees having risen astronomically, they have not, in fact, done so. If you take the cost of the public school fee-paying education now, as compared with what it was before the war, you are getting it for "nowt". It is very cheap: it has not gone up in proportion to everything else. In any case, this system would be of great benefit to the public schools themselves, and I dare say they would be quite glad to "ante-up" a bit I believe that such a scheme works in America (I am not quite sure where), and I think, also, that it has been tried out in England.

The usual objection which is made to direct grant schools is that they cream off the best of the grammar schools. The beauty of this particular arrangement would be that there would be no "creaming" at all, because entrance would not be by any kind of academic excellence: entrance would be based on the need to board, and that would widen the scope very greatly—though, as a proviso (and I think a great many noble Lords have stressed this), one must not take away from the headmaster his right, in the last resort, to say whether or not he thinks any particular child would benefit from such an education.

The next of the four propositions might be the idea of the sixth-form colleges, but I am very wary of this, because the Headmasters' Conference have rejected it so very strongly. They are opposed to it on educational grounds. Nevertheless, there is no reason why some of the public schools should not do this to some extent; indeed, I believe that it is already being done at Croydon and at Stoke-on-Trent.

I suppose the argument in favour of it would be that it means having later boarders, so that the awful business of going away from home as a little boy to board is overcome. I think another reason is that in very sparsely-populated rural districts there are not enough children to form a viable sixth form, and this would be one means of getting over it. At any rate, it would not be a complete break with the present public school system and it would not damage the corporate identity of public schools, for some of them could be, as the noble Lord suggested, weekly or fortnightly boarding, and, indeed, co-educational. Thirdly, there is the plan that seems to have been tried out at Leicester under which you might convert some of the public schools into senior county high schools with ordinary age ranges of 14 to 19 years.

The last suggestion which has been put forward, not only by the Liberal Party, is that some of the public schools could become an undergraduate department of a university. The names that are linked together, obviously, are Eton with King's; Winchester as the undergraduate department of New College; and Rugby with a new university, if it were formed, at Rugby. This I think is a more dangerous idea, because it alters the whole conception of a public school and it would cease to be a school at all. It is, I think, tantamount to abolition. Nevertheless, there is no reason why some part of all four of these different suggestions should not be incorporated into some or all of the public schools. I should be very surprised if when the Public Schools Commission sit they do not come up with some of these ideas for use in some form.

At any rate, we all welcome the Public Schools Commission very much indeed. I understand that the last time it sat was in 1864. I am rather sorry the present one did not start to sit in 1964, which would have been its exact centenary. Nevertheless, I cannot think of anyone more capable than Sir John Newsom and his radically-minded board to produce the right answer to this problem. I know that one or two noble Lords have suggested that the terms of reference were not exactly what they would like. I do not think this matters in the context. The term? of reference seem to be all right for what is being asked of the Commission, and I have every confidence that they will come out with the right ideas.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, in opening this debate the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, made great play with the freedom of parents to choose the kind of schools to which they want to send their children. This has been one of the main threads in the debate over the last century. I will not dwell on the fact that freedom to choose, at any rate as regards independent schools, is a freedom which is enjoyed by only the 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. of the most wealthy persons of the population. This is a cliché not worth the labouring. Yes, there is freedom to choose; but only if you happen to belong to that percentage. I want to raise a less familiar point: the freedom to switch from one system of education to the other there most emphatically is not.

I deprecate personal reminiscences in your Lordships' House, but I should like to tell you what I have found out from the experience of having five children, all at the moment at school, and from having pushed them around to every sort of education there is, with one exception—we have not sent any to boarding school. We like our children too much to send them away. But we have sent them to every sort of day school in London: independent schools, direct-grant schools, maintained schools, and I.L.E.A. comprehensives. We have found it is easy to switch from independent to local authority schools or even to direct-grant schools, but it is impossible to switch the other way, because of the gaps, the difference in custom which is maintained, whether by accident or design I do not know, between those schools and the others; and particularly the gap between 11 and 13 years old which, if I understood him aright, the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, told us he was trying to get closed twenty-five years ago. There is no sign of its changing though pious words do not lack. There is still the problem, if you want to send your child from a council primary school to an independent school, of what to do with him or her between the ages of 11 and 13. Secondly, there is the question of Latin, this self-perpetuating business. The independent schools teach Latin and so provide teachers of Latin, and they find it most convenient to give the children who seek entrance to them tests in Latin; therefore they grow up teaching another generation Latin, who become Latin teachers in their turn. All this is vitiated by the continued existence of closed scholarships in classical languages, particularly at Oxford and Cambridge. This is the barrier between the two systems.

There is a barrier also on the sheer question of the timing of holidays. The independent schools have a continuous term and long holidays; the State schools have short holidays and a week's half-term holiday in the middle of every term. For families who would like to have their children on each side of the "great divide" this is a disincentive; it is an inconvenience. In the presence of that picture we need not sophisticate too far on what the Minister of Education means by integration or on what the duties of the Royal Commission would be. I should say that there is a great distance to go in closing a vast gap before we could begin to talk of what sort of integration we had in mind when we got to it.

My Lords, what is a public school? I think we shall delude ourselves if we think it is merely the presence of the name of the school on the list of members of the Headmasters' Conference. We shall delude ourselves if we think it is old bricks and stones, or even a great historical tradition or a name with all the associations which jump into the mind when we say, "Eton" or "Winchester". We should delude ourselves if we were to think it was boarding education or the existence of fee-paying places in a certain proportion. A public school is a given collection of teachers. Any school is a given collection of teachers: that is its nature. What distinguishes the public school teachers from other teachers is that they are academically more successful and more proficient in getting their pupils into a university; and especially into Oxford and Cambridge. For that reason they command higher salaries. That is a fact of life.

I believe we shall not make sense of the public school question until we stand back and ask ourselves the ab initio question: What is the proper deployment in a national education system of those teachers who are most proficient in get- ting their pupils into universities? I think myself that we shall not make sense of a truly democratic educational system until we admit that such teachers will always command a higher salary and will deserve it. I think, therefore, we may have to go so far as to look to a comprehensive school in the future where certain teachers will have a higher salary, irrespective of their seniority, than others, because they are teaching children of different intelligence and teaching them different things; but always under the comprehensive roof.

I do not know what kind of integration I want to see come out of the Newsom Commission. I suspect that most of its members do not know yet themselves. It is a long time since the last full-scale inquiry. I think we should consider, though, the difficulties and dangers of one type of integration which is widely canvassed; that which we associate with Fleming, tried and failed, and with Mr. Dancy, headmaster of Marlborough, and the Swindon experiment he is at the moment conducting, whereby a proportion of children judged to need a boarding education by the local education authority are taken at the expense of that authority into an independent school. If I am right in saying that the essence of a public school is a collection of highly qualified academic teachers commanding a high salary, what is the sense in sending to those teachers children who have only one thing in common: their need for boarding education?

It seems to me that the two do not meet up. You could as well send them children all of whom had red hair, or whose names began with the letter "A" through to the letter "D". It is possibly fanciful to say this, but there may be a certain danger in it, because what is the common element among those children likely to be judged as deserving of a boarding education by local authorities? It is absence of parents from the home or the fact that the home is unstable. I think that we should be rash indeed if we were to give a specially good academic education to children from broken, absentee and unstable homes, in preference to other children.

If I may take issue with the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, about intellectual merit being a dirty word and about the abolition of selection being part of the policy of the Labour Party, it is certainly part of Labour policy, as I understand it—and I hope it may be put into effect—to get rid of selective entry into this or that school. But that is not to say that selection on intellectual merit—which, incidentally, is for me an extremely clean word—should not be exercised within a school. As I understand it, the comprehensive ideal in education is simply to transfer the selection from the threshold of different types of school to the inside of a large school where every sort of education is available.

If I do not bore the House, I have a friend with four daughters all of whom failed their 11-plus. Being a man of substance, he was able to purchase the services of the highly qualified academic teachers of an independent school and in due course all those girls gained open scholarships to Cambridge. The point is that if he had not been a man of substance, he could not have done that and these girls would have petered out at the age of 16 from secondary modern schools, unless they had had the good luck to be in a neighbourhood where some of the very small number of charitable places in independent schools were accessible. The purpose of the comprehensive ideal is to ensure that those children who look no good at all at 11 are in a place where, if they begin to burgeon intellectually, they can be swiftly transferred from classroom to classroom and from teacher to teacher by cross-setting and the whole system which is now so well developed at comprehensive schools, and will leave school at 18 with the educational training they have deserved on their intellectual merit and without the help of parental money.

I would take issue also with the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden. I heard him say, apropos comprehensive schools, that when a school becomes the size of a factory it stops being a school. If the noble Lord were in his place, I would invite him now to come with me round some of the London comprehensives to see whether this judgment would stand the test of experience. I think it is indeed a strange thing—if I may say so with respect as a junior to an elder and in his absence to the master of my own, college—that one who has done so much to improve our educational system during the last 25 years should be so greatly out of touch with developments in comprehensive schools at the moment.

The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, in opening the debate, said that if one earns, enough and backs Mr. George Brown's National Plan, one can buy a car or a house or go for a holiday where one wants—why should be not also be able to buy an education? I submit that one should not be able to buy an education of a given type, because education is not the same sort of thing as a car, a house or a holiday. Six hundred years ago we were not at all averse to selling places in heaven. There was a rapid trade in indulgencies. You could buy your way in. We abandoned the habit after a time because we thought it was unjust. Two hundred years ago one could buy a commission in the Armed Forces. We suppressed the habit, because we not only found it unjust, but we also suspected that it caused us to lose battles. At the moment, one can still buy a high academic education. I would ask the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, whether he considers that an education belongs more closely with salvation or a commission in the army or with a house or a car or a holiday. I believe that education is a kind of commodity which is not subject to brute financial values. In conclusion, may I associate myself with all noble Lords who have wished good fortune and wise conclusions to the Newsom Commission in its assault on our great independent national dilemma?

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, for initiating this debate, and I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Viscount, Lord Daventry, on his maiden speech. Though I have some sympathy with the views that the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, has expressed, I am going to concentrate to-day on the public school, because I am not really clear as to what the Government are going to do about the direct grant schools. Though, as I say, I go some way with the noble Lord in so far as he wants to reconcile ability among pupils of different social classes, I believe that we in the Labour Party wish to go one step further and mix up children of different abilities and different social backgrounds, because we believe that this will lead to the best education for the greatest number. But I am not clear about exactly how we achieve this.

When we come to a discussion of the future of the public schools and of the direct grant schools, we cannot isolate these any longer from the future of the whole of our educational system. Up till now we have been able to leave them on one side and concentrate on improving the State system, but not now. In Britain, we have a pattern of education which is unknown in most advanced countries. We have a distinct caste system—public schools, grammar schools, secondary schools and technical schools, grading downwards. I do not know how many of the people of this country wish to maintain the system, but many people in all three political Parties feel uneasy about the social injustice and the economic results of such a system and are anxious to see something done about it. though few people are clear as to the exact changes that should be made.

It is not feasible in a democracy to prohibit all private education; we know that. We could hope, if incomes became more equally distributed and the State system of education improved, that the attraction of the public schools would perhaps wither away, but the tenacity and readiness of the middle class to make sacrifices for investment in public school education makes this a very optimistic approach.

The third way of dealing with this problem is to try to integrate the public schools into the State system, as the Fleming Report suggested. I myself believe that the Fleming Report could have been implemented more successfully than it was. Although local authorities were reluctant to take on the expense of boarding school education, I am told that where they have done this it has been very successful. Grammar schools are also rather reluctant to pass on their best pupils. But, in spite of these two drawbacks, if the Fleming recommendations had been adopted on a reasonably large scale, and if they took into account merit plus the need for boarding school education in selecting pupils, this could have been some kind of solution. Meanwhile, so long as the ability to pay the fees is the criterion for entry into a public school, I cannot see the justice of allowing public schools any relief on the rates which a great many of them have from local authorities, nor any tax relief for private covenants for education.

There is, I am told, a greater demand for boarding schools than can be satisfied, and if this is so the public schools could continue to perform a useful function, and a desirable one, so long as they were made more democratic. What is it that makes public schools so desirable to-day, in the eyes of so many people, for they are not all good, or of equal excellence? It is the label that a parent can buy; the passport to a leading position in the Civil Service, the Government, the City and industry. Much is made of this "training for leadership" principle. Personally, I have reservations about it. Manners may make man. I am not sure that I believe that, but I think that they do put a gloss on him.

Let us consider for a moment the life cycle of a public school boy. He is segregated at public school from 13 to 18. But there is also the chrysalis stage at the prep. school, to which he is sent at the tender age of 8. So from 8 until 18 he is segregated and indoctrinated with ideas of superiority to become a member of an élite. He enters the closed shop of Oxford or Cambridge, where intellectual freedom is still not synonymous with social freedom, and the public school and grammar school undergraduate cliques remain separate. Surely all this does not make good sense. And it springs from the competition. For opportunity is not based on ability, but on money. Here the key that opens the door to greater opportunity is a golden key.

If the Treasury could provide all the money we need to improve our education to-day quickly—to get all the teachers we need, all the buildings and facilities—private education could be allowed to continue undisturbed, perhaps until it priced itself out of the market. But this is a time of scarcity, and there is a great need for expansion. I do not think the Secretary of State, Mr. Crosland, could have taken over at a more difficult time, when shortage of money is combined with the usual resistance to change. Teachers in State schools are rationed, and it is therefore especially unfair when public schools get more than their share. And to-day they do get more than their fair share of teachers.

Considering the whole problem of education to-day, when we are in a hurry to educate as many of our children as we can, and not just a small élite, we must conic to the conclusion, as the Minister of Education has done, that comprehensive education, even with its transitional difficulties, and even with some of its mistakes, is the only answer. Any other system is unjust and wasteful of our limited resources, and keeps our society divided. No one particular class should have a monopoly of opportunity. The 1944 Education Act, which promised to make secondary education universal, has not yet fulfilled that promise. Not all our ordinary children enjoy a good primary and secondary education. The low quality of parts of the State system prevents this from happening. Of course I agree that we should not destroy any of the good schools that we possess—they are our educational capital. But I believe that we can use them to better advantage, and for more of our children. I cannot believe that the Commission which the Minister of Education has set up to review the public schools will not come forward with some good and reasonable plans. To change and adapt them to modern life is not to destroy the good schools that we have at the moment.

None of our schools should remain hothouses of snobbery, where citizens are cultivated and brought up with a sense of superiority. We are not going to win the present economic battle of Britain by maintaining the public schools as bastions of privilege. We suffer from the kind of image of Britain that they helped to create. I have noticed that many of the titles inherited or bestowed on us in this House—the labels that we bear—have in countries like America passed into the language as Christian names, such as Duke Ellington, Marquis Childs and Earl Gardiner. I look forward to the time when great names like Eton and Winchester will survive with the label "comprehensive" attached to them.

5.27 p.m.


My Lords, we are a small nation inhabiting an island off the coast of Europe, a mere speck on the globe. Compared with our population of 54 million, America has 180 million, Russia 230 million and China perhaps 750 million. We have few natural resources other than our brains and "know-how" and our national character. What stands out from that comparison is that our children, each and every one of them, are our greatest asset. And this debate is not really about schools: it is about children and the future of our children, arising out of an educationally bad circular that seeks to instruct local education authorities to eliminate completely all forms of selection and separatism in secondary education. I hope that we shall have enough local authorities sufficiently resolute to make up their own minds about what is best for the children in their area, and not to take dictation from Curzon Street.

I want to limit my speech to the future of the children who have hitherto gone to direct grant schools. The direct grant schools, the aided schools and the independent schools, have long formed a bridge, universally commended up to now, between the State system and the independent sector. As your Lordships know, the direct grant school enjoys a freedom of development which affords it its special quality. Be it for boys or girls, be it a religious foundation or not, be it a country day school with a boarding side, or one of the large town schools with an outstanding academic reputation, there are certain characteristics common to all. In all of them places are available to boys and girls from every kind of social background—a much wider range than at the ordinary localised comprehensive school, however large. As the Headmaster of Abingdon School wrote the other day in an article which your Lordships may have read: If there is a privilege attached to admission, it is a privilege based on merit and not on father's income. The son of an Air Marshal can rub shoulders happily with the son of the school porter or of a working housekeeper. The existence of schools like this alongside the schools of the maintained system provides for the parents who live within reach a genuine freedom of choice. This is the kind of school at which the circular strikes.

In the eyes of the Socialist Government, such schools have a fundamental fault: selection by merit. A Government which declares itself in this notorious circular for the complete elimination of selection and separatism in secondary education cannot, consistently with its policies, tolerate selection by merit. Selection by merit, which is the accepted rule throughout the rest of life, is not to be allowed to survive in the school system, no matter what the cost to the children, no matter what the cost to the future of the British race.

And how is the change to be made? The circular says that the Secretary of State looks to both local education authorities and the governors of direct grant schools to consider ways of maintaining and developing co-operation in the context of the new policy of comprehensive schools. He hopes that authorities will study ways in which the schools might be associated with their plans; that governing bodies will be ready to consider changes, for instance, in the curriculum and in method and age of entry, which will enable them to participate fully in the local scheme. He asks that authorities should open discussions at an early stage with the governors of direct grant schools in which they take up places. It may be appropriate, he says, for such discussions to be in consultation with any other authorities taking up places in the same school.

Your Lordships may be interested to hear an example of how that circular is being implemented in practice. For over fifty years a school for girls in one of the Greater London boroughs, an excellent direct grant school, had the most cordial relations with the Middlesex County Council. This school greatly appreciated these links, and between 1944 and 1964 Middlesex took up the full 50 per cent. of free and reserved places provided for by the Direct Grant Regulations. These places were filled by girls from a very wide range of social background, as well as from a wide area, stretching from Barnet to Staines. Changes in local government which took effect last year meant that the Middlesex County Council disappeared, and that the school's dealings, together with those of two other direct grant schools, one for boys and one for girls, would in future be with the borough in which they were situated and six other boroughs, and with the Inner London Education Authority—these being the far-flung areas from which the boys and girls come.

When Circular 10/65 appeared in July of last year, these schools were ready for discussions with all, or any of these authorities. In October, the borough of the particular girls' school to which I have already referred sent out the usual forms of application on which parents can state their choice of secondary schools to which their children should go on in September, 1966. This direct grant school was named, as usual, in the list. There was a footnote to the effect that it could not be assumed that the particular borough in which it was placed as education authority would take up places in any of the direct grant schools this year. There was no consultation with these schools at all.

However, the parents had mostly completed their list of preferences, when it was suddenly announced by the council that they had decided to take up no places in direct grant schools; and an official letter of intimation from the council was received on the day on which this decision was announced in the Press. The letter went on to say that the council hoped in due course to invite the direct grant schools to consider means of cooperation with the comprehensive system to be introduced in the borough. But it seemed an odd way of approaching co-operation: to tell the school that it might be invited to discuss co-operation, after it had been firmly told that its contribution was not wanted. There appeared to have been no consultation between this council and the other education authorities from whose areas girls came to the school, because the authorities all said they would continue to take up places, at any rate for the time being.

The reaction of the parents in this particular borough can well be imagined, when they suddenly learned that their daughters would have no chance of free places in a school in their own borough to which they wanted to go, whereas girls from other boroughs would have full opportunity to try for free places in it. Incidentally, it meant that the parents who wanted their daughters to go to a girls' secondary school, and not to a mixed school, had no real alternative choice. It was not until some weeks later that the three direct grant schools I have mentioned were informed by this borough that the council's reason for not taking up free places in them was because the council had some vacancies at one or two of the maintained schools in the borough, and they thought it would save money if they obliged the children whose parents wanted those children to go to the direct grant schools, where their elder brothers and sisters had gone, to go to the maintained schools.

So schools like this are left in the air. They are anxious for genuine consultation with all the boroughs whose children they have educated in the past, and they are still waiting for proposals from this particular borough. But consultation must mean real consultation, and not presentation with a fait accompli. Good will is being forfeited whenever the direct grant schools are not being given proper opportunity to discuss with local education authorities the part which they can play in the future. And at the root of all this trouble is this ill-judged circular, which implies that all selection by merit has to stop and, therefore, that the direct grant schools must be bent into whatever undifferentiated system of schools the education authority decides to adopt at the behest of a Government which seems to care more for uniformity than for quality.

The consequence is that many of those with great educational experience—the teachers of standing and reputation—are in a state of bewilderment. From outside their own profession, and from within, they are receiving contradictory and sometimes patronising advice. At this moment, there are too many theorists talking about things which they have never done themselves and which they do not fully understand. I should like, if I might, to interject at this moment the delight that i share with the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, in the great advantage we both enjoyed of teaching in a State school—though I must say that I was more fortunate than she, because I had not her academic ability. I had only twenty children in my class, to whom I taught domestic science.

Those who care deeply about the future of the children of this country would dearly love to see this circular withdrawn. Is it too much to hope that the noble Earl, the Leader of the House, when he comes to sum up this debate, will tell us the glorious news that the Department have decided to withdraw the circular? It is educationally unsound, unacceptable to vast numbers of parents, and damaging to the hopes of British leadership. Quite apart from its contents, it represents a wholly undesirable encroachment on the freedom and discretion of local education authorities—a freedom that has been well and imaginatively used since the war by the majority of local education authorities of all political colours.

I want to see it withdrawn and replaced by Circular 10/66, a historically more famous circular, which will restore to the local education authorities their freedom to give careful thought to all practical plans for securing a more rational school pattern in that area, if that is possible. It is surely common ground between us all that final selection for different schools at 11-plus is not acceptable, and that a great deal more needs to be done in many areas to improve the education facilities for the children of average, or a bit below average, brains, without levelling down the opportunities for the children above average.

The educational advantage which the direct grant schools possess, and prize above all else, is the independence and full responsibility of their governing bodies. I have the great honour and responsibility of being the chairman of the governing body of one of the finest girls' aided schools in London, the Godolphin and Latimer, at Hammersmith, and at this time I feel singularly conscious of the weight of responsibility which rests upon all our shoulders in trying to see how we can help and, at the same time, maintain the best in the education that that school has built up in proud terms over the past. It produces an atmosphere of liberty to develop and to experiment, coupled with a sense of deep responsibility for the whole future of the school as a living thing. This feeling affects the staff, the parents and the children. Comprehensive schools are essentially neighbourhood schools. A direct grant school cannot be a neighbourhood school, for it draws its children from a far wider area, providing a quality of education for able children from a poor neighbourhood such as they can never get in their own neighbourhood comprehensive school. But all this will have to cease if selection and (to quote the words of the circular) "separation of children into different types of secondary schools" are to cease. In education, is there not some virtue in freedom? Is there not some virtue in being able to try things out without committing anybody else to accept the same reasoning or to embark upon the same plans? In education, is not diversity of choice a good thing in itself? Does not the combination of the freedom of the direct grant schools, with their real sense of responsibility to the community for the future of their children, make a valuable contribution to the superlative diversity of Britain's educational system?

5.41 p.m.


My Lords, I am afraid that I can claim no educational experience in the technical sense, as so many speakers this afternoon have been able to do, and perhaps, therefore, I ought not to take up your Lordships' time in this debate. But, as any Bishop must, I have had, and have now, a close association with every type of school and with many educational authorities, especially that for the West Riding. Therefore I think I can claim to have some idea of what is going on in the educational field.

It has been recognised, over and over again, that this is clearly a period in our history when we have to be prepared for great changes. Developments now taking place, and developments easily foresee able, demand the readiness of all parties interested in the education of the young people of this country to co-operate as fully as possible; and we have all said what we want to do. It is quite certain that the declared policy of the Church of England is, and will be, to contribute as much as is financially possible to the effort which the State is making to give every child a schooling to which he can respond. It is just because this is such a formative period that it is so vital that we should not let the contemporary political, sociological, economic, psychological and philosophical ideas mislead us into thinking that we must write off principles which have held good in the past and should hold good in any period. It seems sometimes as though we are so scared of letting anyone gain any special privileges that we shall reduce everyone to a common level; as though we must be so egalitarian in our outlook that we cannot provide for excellence; as though in education we must inevitably let the same thing happen as W. H. Auden saw happening to conversation: All words like 'peace' and 'love', All sane affirmative speech, Has been soiled, profaned, debased To a horrid mechanical screech. We are concerned in this debate with the position of the independent public schools and of the direct grant schools in relation to the present State system and to what may very well become the future system. Integration without losing independence is what I should hope for. But one has to justify the independence of the public schools, which have often in the past, though in the present not nearly so much, helped to produce a privileged class. We have heard much about that. I suppose, as in Pakistan to-day, the public schools in the middle of the last century were scholastically moulded in such a way as to produce an élite who would form a governmental class, and it is not without significance in Pakistan that this should be done. It has looked, of course, as though the privilege was open only to those who could pay for it, and one still has to pay for a place at a public school, in spite of all that the Fleming Report hoped for. How can this he right when so comparatively few people can afford it? We have heard much about this.

There are good reasons. It is profoundly important that parents should have the right to chose what kind of education their children shall have. It is profoundly important that a school should be free to take a line about education which is not laid down in any Government circular, free to experiment, free to specialise. Not very far from Wakefield, where I live, there is the biggest co-educational boarding school in the country. It is a Quaker foundation, and the committee, in its report in 1946—a significant date—when it decided to go co-educational, declared: It has been said that a ' race preserves its vigour so long as it harbours a real contrast between what has been and what may be: and so long as it is nerved by the vigour to adventure beyond the safeties of the past '. That is the proper spirit of independence. That same committee also said: Those spiritual values which have made Ackworth what it is will, if we are true to them, drive us forward to the enrichment of our heritage, for spiritual atmosphere is not a thing apart; it is the medium in which things are done. That conviction, typical of the Friends, is not very different from the one which drives me to want to preserve our public schools and direct grant schools, so many of which have a religious foundation. I want to see them integrated (whatever that word may mean) as far as possible into the whole system, but without losing their special character. But this conviction is the same conviction which is behind one's defence of church schools of all kinds and, incidentally, of all denominations to-day—primary, secondary, grammar, the lot. At the end of the day it is a conviction about what education is ultimately for. And that, if I may try to put it briefly, is that education is for the life beyond this life. Not only for life in this world; it is ultimately an education for adoration. Sometimes—and indeed Cardinal Manning talked in these terms in the great debates in the last century—it has been described as "education for death", as though the life beyond this one only began after death and we are here to prepare for that life beyond. But for the Christian, eternal life begins now, and just because it begins now we expect all the more hereafter.

This does not mean that science and technology come second in importance to "R.I.", or that nothing is done about training for a career. Far from it. We take these things all the more seriously if we have our eyes set on the true end of man. Education must be for all sides of life and not just for some sides of it. Now it just is not possible for the State system to-day, given the percentage of non-Christians in this country, to provide all that independent schools with a Christian foundation can provide, nor ought it to try. It would be quite wrong for the State to lay down that education for everybody must have this theological end: It can say that all children in England should be given experience of the Christian tradition as it has formed our history, must be introduced to the biblical tradition which has shaped our culture; but it cannot go so far as the church school with a Christian foundation can to-day. There- fore, it is true that parents must be able to choose whether they want their children to have this education or the other.

Of course, it is true that there is no guarantee that the school will always succeed in achieving this ultimate aim of which I have spoken. In fact it would be foolish to shut one's eyes to what actually happens. Many have failed lamentably to live up to this intention. My own school—and I speak with great diffidence because the present Master is here in the House—was not very good at it at the time I was there. I do not suppose it was much better when the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, was there: nor that it was very much better later when Mr. Christopher Mayhew was there. Indeed, sometimes when I visit the excellent detention centre where the short, sharp treatment is given to naughty boys, three miles from where I live, I am reminded of my first two years at my public school, which might be described as "hell at the double". Nevertheless, the tradition and the intention behind the tradition itself made its impact, and no one could spend four years there without coming face to face with the dimension of a larger, fuller life beyond this one.

It is on the ground of this intention, not on the ground of performance, that I would plead for the continuation of public schools and direct grant schools, within the system but given their independence and freedom. Given this intention, you are to some extent now—and I should like to see it extended more, through some kind of direct grant system, perhaps to the public schools—making it possible for parents to have a freedom of choice of the kind of education they want their children to have; I would say that that is an inalienable right, and one which this nation throws away at its peril.

5.54 p.m.


My Lords, I am deeply grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his speech in which he dealt so well, so acceptably, with the spiritual values with which we are ultimately concerned in this matter. It would not become me to repeat or in any way to try to expand upon what the right reverend Prelate has said, but he will, I believe, understand that I am animated by the same principles as is he.

It has been a debate of many brilliant speeches, and let me say how much I admired the speeches of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, and of the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, and how very much I found in those speeches to agree with. I would also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, for the moderate, sensible tone with which she set forward the Government point of view. I appreciate that it is not always very easy for members of the present Government to be as moderate and mild in their approach to this question as I hope we all desire.

It is my intention to fill a very small gap in this debate by speaking from the point of view of the Roman Catholic public schools, and also to say a very few words on the subject of the direct grant schools. It is not inappropriate that the largest of the denominational minorities should be represented in any general survey of this question. In the first place, I think it appropriate to say something of the origin of the oldest among the Catholic public schools, because it illustrates some of the principles of parental choice and freedom, the principles of a pluralist society which have been mentioned in this debate. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth I it was impossibe for Roman Catholics to set up schools of their own in this country. To solve the difficulties which parents met in those days religious communities set up English schools in France and in Flanders. The Benedictines, Jesuits and two or three religious Orders of women established their schools and their convents, and it is notable that these schools remained on foreign soil for the whole of penal times; that is to say, for about two centuries. Strict laws prohibited the sending of children from England to those schools, but those laws were defied. They remained adequately filled with children and it is in no small measure due to them that the faith to which I adhere survived in this country.

Among the schools which descend from those overseas establishments and which have now come home are such famous public schools as Downside, Ampleforth Douai and Stoneyhurst. Douai in particular chose to remain abroad much longer than the other schools and only returned to this country about the year 1906; and there are also some convent schools for girls—schools of high class—which have a similar origin. The authorities of those schools may well say with Charles II, "I do not want to go on my travels again", and they are in hopes of being able to arrange with Her Majesty's Government such terms as will enable them as well as other public schools to flourish on English soil. They will very willingly accept a quota of non-fee-paying children, and in doing so they will be performing a great service to my co-religionists, for there are many parts of this country in which it is quite impossible for a Roman Catholic boy or girl to get a secondary education in a school of his or her own faith. It will be a splendid thing if such young people are accepted as scholarship pupils at some of these schools.

I therefore trust that, since assurances (which I fully accept) have been given of complete Government respect for the religious position of those schools, the other serious matters which are to be negotiated will not give undue difficulty. At the same time, it is perhaps well to remember that these schools were "born free". They were conceived in independence. They witness particularly to the desirability of a pluralist system; and I hope that that spirit of independency which withstood the Government of Queen Elizabeth I may not wholly be dead in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

There is one special matter which I should perhaps mention. These Roman Catholic schools are closely interlocked with the religious communities that own and manage them, and largely supply the teaching staff for them. The other public schools may be considered in isolation. You think of Rugby and Winchester as simply two schools. You can do that with some of our Roman Catholic schools. But one cannot take that line with all of them. One cannot consider Downside School in isolation from Downside Abbey. They are closely interlocked; one depends on the other. In any steps that are taken with regard to the school the abbey's interests must be remembered. One cannot separate Stoneyhurst from the Jesuit House among which it lives. I hope that these points will not give too much difficulty and that a reasonable settlement may be reached. I know that the authorities of the public schools of which I have spoken are most anxious, and fairly hopeful, that such a settlement may solve the difficulties of the present situation.

As regards direct grant schools—here I speak generally rather than denominationally, although there are a great many Roman Catholic direct grant schools—I hope that Her Majesty's Government will not construct a Bed of Procrustes on which all the direct grant schools must lie. There are many types of direct grant schools. There are those in a class by themselves, such as Manchester Grammar School. There are others that are almost as good as that. They range down to quite humble establishments, efficient perhaps in the technical sense, but not perhaps of great educational importance.

I would urge Her Majesty's Government to approach the question without too much tidiness, without too much regard for categories, but from the point of view of the educational service which each particular direct grant school is offering to its own neighbourhood. You may say of one, "This is extremely useful. It will be less useful if its financial quasi-independence ceases. Therefore let us leave it as it is." Or, "This other is not making a particularly valuable contribution. Perhaps it would be just as well if it were put in another category and became a local authority school." This treatment of the schools as individual establishments, each with its own particular part to play, is a wiser approach than the wholesale firing of shots across the bows of the whole fleet.

I have made a plea, then, for some degree of recognition of the plural society in which we live, and I beg that those rights which are connected with that whole concept of society, with the freedom of individuals, with the rights of parents and with the rights of religious minorities may obtain acceptance.

6.7 p.m.


My Lords, I have not the experience, either in teaching or in the administration of education, of many noble Lords who have spoken today. But I hope that in an educational debate the voice of youth may usefully he heard—the voice of someone who, as recently as eight years ago, was being educated in a public school, and someone who wants to look forward thirty, forty or fifty years to the time when his children and his grandchildren will be educated and brought up in a world which is more fair and just and is better than it is to-day. It is for these reasons that I address your Lordships.

I have often sat at lunch or tea in the Dining Rooms of your Lordships' House listening to your Lordships' conversation, and I have heard some of your Lordships say quite definitely that this country is "going to the dogs", that the Labour Government are destroying everything we hold dear. I repudiate these sentiments utterly. I believe that this country under this Government has the chance of becoming one in which every individual will be respected as an individual, and every man and woman, of whatever class or colour or social background, will have the opportunity to fulfil themselves according to their particular talents.

In the field of education and the public schools this conviction leads me to two conclusions: first, at a time when teachers and school facilities are in short supply, it is quite wrong for a parent to be able to secure more intensive teaching and better facilities—in short, a better education leading to better prospects in life—simply because he is able to afford it. I should like to make a few observations on this conviction. First, in this country there is a shortage of facilities in education; and, in my view, it is not a valid argument to say that the State system will be able to catch up. We are desperately short of teachers. We are thinking of raising the school leaving age very shortly. There is an increasing demand for education. We have to put up with hundreds of miserable, old school buildings and a shortage of staff. Yet some noble Lords have the complacency to say, "Never mind, the State schools will catch up some day."

Secondly, it is not a valid argument to say that rich men will always be able to afford good holidays, cars and homes for their children. I will not say more on this aspect, because my noble friend Lord Kennet has dealt with the point, and said exactly what I was going to say. Thirdly, the exclusivity of the public schools is all the more intolerable because they provide an education for the upper classes. I say this not because I have a guilt complex or a chip on my shoulder, but because, if we wish to build a healthy community in this country, it is absolutely inadmissible that the children of upper and middle class parents not only should live in, but should be educated in, an upper-class environment totally cut off from contact with the vast majority of children from other backgrounds.

Speaking personally, when I finished my education I was appalled at my complete ignorance, at my lack of any point of contact with people outside my social environment. I do not think it is fanciful to suggest that the lack of contact which bedevils relations between management and unions in industry in this country springs directly from this cocooned upbringing. I am convinced that this apartheideducation conditions the attitudes of many people in positions of authority; and that since it breeds ignorance of their fellow men, it can do so only to the detriment of society generally.

My second central conclusion is that any reform of the public schools must be based on the comprehensive system of education. This is not the time to discuss this matter fully, but I firmly believe that the implementation by the present Government of comprehensive education is one of the most important, most progressive, steps ever taken in the field of educational policy in this country. I reject the sneering remarks made by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, and by other opponents of comprehensive education that it will turn out children who all conform to a single pattern. This argument is a denial of the individuality of the human personality; moreover, it is precisely the comprehensive system which can and does bring out most effectively the individual potential and talent of each child.

This principle is aptly summarised by the Secretary of State for Education in a speech to the North of England Education Conference on January 7 of this year. He said: I believe this represents a strong and irresistible pressure in British society to extend the rights of citizenship. Over the past 300 years these rights have been extended first to personal liberty, then to political democracy and later to social welfare. Now they must be further extended to educational equality. In the application of this principle to the question of the future of public schools, it is not enough to admit a portion, small or large—or even a majority—of places to non-fee-paying boys selected by an examination. Selection at 13, 14 or 15 is no more just than selection at 11. These two conclusions are, for me, the starting-point of my consideration of the future of the public schools. Because of my adherence to the comprehensive principle, I reject Fleming, and what are known as super-Fleming, solutions. I prefer to consider the question along these lines. What special facilities do the public schools offer that the majority of schools do not? The answer is first, that most of them are boarding schools, and, second, that most of them have excellent facilities for academic and sixth-form education.

The next question is, who can most benefit from these facilities? No one in this House would deny that there is a considerable unfilled demand for boarding places. Mr. Dancy, in his book, esimates a shortfall of 17,500 places for boys and girls who need boarding education, according to criteria laid down by the Ministry of Education Working Party in 1960. These are boys and girls whose parents are dead, or abroad, or seriously ill, or mentally handicapped, or separated, or divorced. In addition, to these, there are boys from working-class families in sixth forms who need to study seriously at home and who are seriously hampered by the noise of the family, the television set next door, cramped space, and so on. This is a very serious point. Why should I, whose parents were well able to give me all, the opportunities and facilities, ideal conditions for homework, have had the advantage of a boarding school, when there were thousands of children who needed that peace and quiet which may make all the difference to their prospects?

It is almost humbug to suggest that one day parents will have free choice in this matter and that those who want boarding education will have a boarding education. Any reasonable esimate of the prospects of advance in education over the next 100 years cannot possibly lead one to the conclusion that parents really will have free choice. It will be free choice for those who can afford it, and very little choice for the vast majority of others. As for sixth-form education, there are many new schemes being started which suggest an answer for the public schools within the comprehensive system. There are many small schools which cannot be suitably adapted to fully comprehensive schools. Many local education authorities are adopting, and will adopt, a two-tier system.

The possibilities of this system are summarised by Mr. Robin Pedley, who is the most exciting writer on education I know. He talks about these higher secondary colleges, which he calls county colleges, and he says: I have already suggested that this county college can best evolve from the grammar school today, by our giving the latter the honoured place of responsibility for all higher secondary education in an end-on pattern. It would be the final link in a fully comprehensive chain. Mr. Pedley was referring to grammar schools, but in many cases I feel that there is no reason why the public schools could not equally suitably perform this function. I think also that many public school masters would welcome the opportunity to devote their time entirely to sixth-form teaching, and to work in the more adult atmosphere which would be created by the disappearance of the younger boys.

There are many problems which will have to be faced by the Newsom Commission. There is the problem of whether full-time boarding education is desirable for all or some boys; the problem of to what extent fee-paying education is allowed to continue in the future. There is the problem of whether public schools should retain their superior pupil/teacher ratio and the superior salaries. All these are problems of method, not problems of principle. Where there is a positive will for progressive reform, a way will be found. I am convinced that this Government have the will. I look forward to the day when my children will be educated in a comprehensive school, and will grow up in a society increasingly free from that snobbery and social division which to-day is such an obnoxious feature of society, and which stems, to a great extent, from this exclusive, privileged and highly influential public schools system.

6.20 p.m.


My Lords, I rose to my feet a little more slowly than the noble Lord who has just sat down. I resumed my seat because I thought it better that we should not both be standing at the same time.


I apologise to the noble Lord. I looked around, but did not see him.


My Lords, it is a strict rule that those who wish to address your Lordships should declare any interest in the subject under discussion, so I should like to start by explaining that I am the Treasurer of the Public Schools Appointments Bureau. In case some of your Lordships do not know what that is, the Public Schools Appointments Bureau was established some years ago with the object of securing for boys leaving public schools some satisfactory employment; and it has worked, I may say, very satisfactorily.

The objects of the Bureau are to give assistance to careers masters and members of public schools, to give up-to-date information on the method of entry into industry and to advise new boys on their choice of career. Perhaps it is of interest to mention that the Bureau's definition of "public schools" is: Schools whose headmasters are members of the Headmasters' Conference, or whose governing bodies belong to the Association of Governing Bodies of Public Schools, who are entitled on election to become either full or associate members of the Bureau. I shall return to that definition in a few moments. The Fleming Report, which I have in my hand, also gives a list of public schools, and it is almost exactly the same as the schools I have been talking about. But I would make it clear that girls' schools are not included in the Bureau's list.

This discussion, of course, started from the statement in Her Majesty's gracious Speech from the Throne that the Government would appoint a Commission to decide the future of the public schools. Nothing very precise was heard about that from official quarters until December 22, when in another place the Secretary of State for Education, the right honourable Anthony Crosland, spoke of the Chairman of the Commission, then of the general intentions, and, finally, presented the terms of reference for that Commission. He said: The Government are determined that the public schools should make the maximum contribution to meeting the education needs of the country, and that this should be done in such a way as to reduce the socially divisive effect which they now exert."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, (Commons); Vol. 722 (No. 32) col. 2107, 22/12/65.] He also referred to the membership of these schools which are under consideration.

My right honourable and learned friend and relative, Mr. Quintin Hogg, then said: there was an unsatisfied demand for boarding education in this country, but is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some of these schools, both day and boarding. … have very specialised and very distinguished academic records based on their independence …?" (col. 2111.) The Minister replied: I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman really sums up what will be the main task facing the Commission, to try to link all that is best in the schools, which people rightly wish to preserve, with the unsatisfied need and demand for the kind of boarding education.…" (cols. 2111-2112.) In the terms of reference of the Commission, we find this duty: To ensure the progressive application of the principle that the public schools, like other parts of the educational system, should be open to boys and girls irrespective of the income of their parents. I pass on now to the standards of education in public schools—and this is no doubt the crux of the whole matter. The standards of education in public schools draw boys from all over this country, and, indeed, from the world. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London referred to the fact that at these public schools we find each sect of Christianity represented, without any difficulty and without any division. He might have gone on even to say that the same applies in these schools to Jews, to Moslems and to other Eastern religions. That indicates, does it not, that public schools in this country are an attraction all over the world? The feeling that this country is the greatest in the world has already been described by my noble friend Lady Brooke of Ystradfellte. We are inclined to run ourselves down, and people think that it is quite a good practice to say how bad we are, when in our hearts we know that the traditions in this country have always been looked upon as something worth trying to achieve. The public schools are one of those institutions, dating back hundreds of years, which it is worthwhile for other countries, in spite of their greater wealth, greater population, and so on, to try to copy.

Boys come to public schools from anywhere between John O'Groats and Land's End, and they come together with others to form a community. They start at the bottom. I always hope that fagging will continue. It helps to get away from the idea that doing something for somebody else is a menial task, and it should encourage boys to feel that it is a privilege to do something for other people. As they go through the school, they can rise by their own efforts to leading positions of authority, and they realise that there is something which one can do for other people, even from leading positions of authority.

There is a great desire to make public schools available to those who have not been able to go there in the past. Something has been said about the "Fleming boys". My own experience of the "Fleming boys" was that some of them were exceptionally good. They rose to positions of authority in their schools, and were a great credit to all. The difficulty, certainly at that time, was that some of the parents would not put their boys forward under the Fleming scheme because they did not like the boys being away from home. To get people of a certain class to allow their boys to go away to a public school is one of the great difficulties, because they do not like them to be away from home and there is some fear that they may be influenced by others who have ideas which people from those homes think are undesirable. So there is everything to be said for trying something that will improve this position.

At the present time, there are a number of scholarships which make it possible for those with slender means, and even those with no means, to send their boys to these schools; and I can tell your Lordships that there are some cases where new scholarships are being arranged, without any support from the Government or from any outside trust, under which the payment will be so much as to cover, not merely the boy's school fees, but the whole of the cost of his being at school.

The subject of public schools was, of course, one of the topics of discussion during the debate on the loyal Address in reply to Her Majesty's gracious Speech from the Throne, and various views were expressed. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, in his usual most able way, summed up some of the things that had been said during that debate. He said that it was a late hour and that he would not say very much about public schools, but towards the end of his speech he said that he had had some conversation (I am not quite sure about this) with a father who gave his reason for wishing to send his son to a public school. There was some discussion, and finally the noble and learned Lord said, " Oh, you mean the snob value", to which the parent replied, "Yes, that's right". I thought that was a very good conclusion indeed, because if the boy had some feeling of snobbishness—sometimes quite a disease—when he got to his public school it would be very quickly washed out of him.

I conclude by saying that, if the object is to raise the general standard by enabling more boys to benefit from the public school influence, I am all for it: but if the idea is to abolish the public schools and to reduce the general standard, then let us fight it with every means at our disposal. I should like to say just one more thing. This Commission will probably not be able to report and make its recommendations for quite a long time. Its terms of reference are very complicated, and it has a vast number of schools which, presumably, it will have to look at. Then, when its report has been made, there will presumably have to be an Act of Parliament; so it will be a very long time before anything much can happen. One difficulty to overcome will be that practically all the public schools have a very long waiting list, and are committed to accept the boys as long as they can pass their common entrance exam—and that, I am sure, will be adhered to. A further point is that in the case of some of these boys the fees for their education in the school have already been paid; so it will be quite impossible to make room for the large number of boys contemplated under the provisions set out in the terms of reference.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, to sit at the feet of a Provost of Eton, a Master of Trinity and an ex-High Master of Manchester Grammar School, to say nothing of two right reverend Prelates and the latest addition to the ranks of controversial theology in the person of my noble friend who opened this debate, and all in one afternoon, is an intellectual ordeal from which I personally would normally shrink. I realise, too, that everything that can be said about this subject has been said; but I have always noticed on similar occasions that when other speakers have risen to their feet, as I do now, that fact has never prevented them from making the speech which they intended. The benevolence of your Lordships' procedures makes certain something which is not certain in another place: that, having prepared one's speech, one will always have a chance of delivering it. So, my Lords, having steeled myself to take this jump, I hope that your Lordships will be kind enough to allow me to do so, on the understanding that I will get off the course as quickly as I can afterwards.

I speak this afternoon, declaring my interest, as the noble Marquess did before me, not as a governor of three schools, but as a parent, because it seems to me that the kernel of the problem of the public schools at the present time is one of finance—finance from the point of view of the State, finance from the point of view of the schools, finance from the point of view of the parents. I think one of the notable aspects of your Lordships' debate this afternoon has been the fact that there has been very little reference to the social background to this problem, which has run through so many debates in so many places of this kind in the past. It always seems to me—and I do not want to be unfair in any way—that some of the members of the Party opposite tend to be fighting the last but one social revolution.

The fact of the matter is that a tremendous social revolution has taken place in this country over the last twenty years and more. That, fundamentally, is the reason for the increasing demand for public school education and—what is far more significant—for boarding school education; and I thought that the noble Lady who spoke first for the Government was absolutely right when she concentrated so much of her speech on the problem of the provision of boarding school education. The fact of the matter is that boarding school education is important, not because it is of advantage to what one might call deprived parents or to deprived children, but because as a system of education it has in itself tremendous advantages from the point of view of the child and the family alike. It is—let us put it frankly—a luxury, for the enjoyment of which we as parents regard it as our right, if necessary, to ruin ourselves.

I believe very strongly that the controversy over public schools should be seen in terms of the widest possible provision of boarding school facilities, and I know that that is the demand of an increasing number of parents who realise, not the snob advantages it can bring to the children but the great advantages it can bring, both to the characters of their children and also to the cohesion of the family. We all look back on those days when we were chucked out of the family home and sent to a boarding school for the first time. Some of the experiences we had, and perhaps remember best of all, were not particularly attractive; but, speaking now as a parent, I am absolutely certain that, however good the home may be, a normal child of about 13 can benefit from a boarding school education. That is so, quite regardless of the home background or of the conditions of the family front which he is drawn. Therefore it should be our aim—and this is the right answer, in my view—to try to extend as far as possible the facilities for boarding school education to as many children as we can in this country.

My Lords, this brings me to the financial point. Let us be quite clear. I believe—I may be wrong—that the Government cannot provide the money to take over the financial responsibility for the public boarding schools as they exist at the present time. There are immense calls on the resources of the State to provide improving education. It cannot provide the additional money which is required to meet what would be a very substantial bill. Therefore the individual parent must remain shouldering some, and indeed as much as possible, of the responsibility for the provision of boarding school education for his own children. In some cases he will not be able to provide any of the money; then the places must be free. In some cases he may be able to provide some of the money; in that case he will be partly subsidised. But in a great many cases the so-called sacrifice, if it is a sacrifice, of providing financial support for children at boarding school must be borne by the parents themselves. The alternative is going to be to cut down on the boarding schools available at a period in our history when, in fact, the demand for those places is increasing steadily.

So I think that we who have some responsibility for the government of these schools must apply ourselves to finding the means whereby we can reach some accommodation between ourselves and the State which will help towards a solution of the financial problem. The State must ensure that independence continues; not for the self-respect, necessarily, of the masters, the staff or the governors, but because, as I think my noble friend Lord Eccles said, there must be an element of competition in the educational system of this country. All of us who are interested in education know that the influence of the public schools, the independent schools, upon the State system has been profound. Indeed, one of the reasons why we have such a good State system and such a high standard of State education is the high standard set by the public schools over a long period of time; and this applies to the secondary schools all over the country. Therefore we must continue to have that element of competition in the interests of the good health of the national system of education as a whole.

Another reason for retaining that element is that, although governors and headmasters may, and do, make mistakes, there is under independent control a greater field for educational experimentation in the independent schools than there can be, by the nature of things, in the State system. The public schools, the independent schools, the boarding schools, whatever one may call them, can provide a field for experiment in a new form of education which I think is needed in this country. Our system of education, as far as the independent schools were concerned, was designed or evolved over a period of time to provide the country with a certain type of individual. I am not talking in a social sense; I am talking in the sense of the provision of public servants and of administrative cadres for running a great Commonwealth and, before that, an Empire.

It may well be that in future years what we shall require is not so much training for public service as training for leadership in industry. It was reported recently that one public school—I think it is Marlborough—is starting, or considering introducing, management education at public school level. I am not an educationist. I do not know whether that is right. But I should like to see that experiment undertaken on a small scale in a public school, because it may give us a guide to the sort of education we want to see in the future.

With great respect to your Lordships, I think that this debate has been carried out in an atmosphere different from that of previous debates which I have attended, and particularly, in another place, on this particular subject. There is realisation, I believe, within this House that there is not a social or other conflict between the public school system on the one hand and the State system on the other. There is a realisation that these two systems are complementary; that the relationship between them and the contribution they can make to each other is of great importance to the future health of the educational system as a whole. I hope it is within such moderate sentiments—and I believe it will be—that the Commission that is now to look into the whole problem of public school education will address itself to its task.

6.47 p.m.


My Lords, I am going to speak briefly about the public schools, in which I deeply believe. As has been said, there are only two types of school left in Britain: the comprehensive and the apprehensive. Among the latter are most certainly the public schools. Why is there this resentment of these places? I believe the objection is largely a snobbish and class-conscious one and is not so concerned with the superior education which the public schools are said to provide as with the social distinction and better opportunities for employment which public school education is said to give. I think, further, that much opposition derives from the belief that public schools are "snooty" places; that they inculcate a sense of social superiority; above all, that the old school tie puts a man above his fellows. I believe this to be a wrong impression. I believe that the day of the old school tie is dead. Speaking literally, I regard the object itself as faintly vulgar; and anyone who comes to me for an interview wearing one automatically gets a black mark.

But, speaking more seriously and metaphorically, I believe it could be a positive handicap to be a public school man. Certainly that is true of my own profession at least—that of popular journalism. I believe it applies generally throughout industry. Some years ago I spoke to a group of career masters about the prospects of a public schoolboy in journalism. They seemed to think that because of having been in a public school their boys would have the edge over those from the State schools. I had to disillusion them. I had to point out that, for instance, no single Etonian occupied any position of importance on the editorial side of any popular newspaper. They found it hard to believe; but it is true. Perhaps Etonians are too good for newspapers; perhaps the newspapers are too good for the Etonians. I do not know. I simply record the fact.


My Lords, would the noble Earl define "a popular newspaper"? If we take a great friend of many here, including myself, Mr. Michael Berry, who is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, does he not come into the reckoning?


My Lords, he is a halfway man. His papers look very respectable, and, indeed, are; but they have a popular trend all the same. I would call the Telegraph a quality newspaper.


My Lords, would the noble Earl tell us whether he knows to which school Mr. Cecil King went?


My Lords, I cannot answer for Mr. Cecil King's educational qualifications or his background. I think he went to Eton.

I know that in the City and in family businesses a public school education is still an advantage, and in certain primæval companies almost a necessity.

But those are silly places and the tradition is dying. Let us rid ourselves of the idea that in ordinary business and industrial life, in any competitive enterprise, public school men "have it" over the others. It just it not true. If we are going to dislike the public schools, let us dislike them for other and better reasons.

Next I want to remove, if I can, the misapprehension—a very popular misapprehension—that the public schools are soft and gentle places, that the boys are all spoiled and cosseted and that they have a lovely time. Surely nothing could he farther from the truth. One can only talk about one's own experience at one's own school, but I would say—and perhaps other noble Lords would agree—that at Eton education was, and still is, about the toughest thing on earth. Speaking for myself, a scruffy and unpopular boy, I was permanently hungry and permanently frightened. The classrooms and the bedrooms were cold to the point of freezing, the food was filthy—I remember a rabbit pie in which the rabbit had not even been gutted—and fear, for the younger ones at least, was ever present.

I am not saying that it was like Tom Brown's Schooldaysor the savage Stalky & Co., but there was a similarity. For instance, there was something called G.T., or general tanning—perhaps the noble Earl the Leader of the House will remember it—when all the small boys in the house, some 15 of them, were beaten up by the big boys for no reason except that they were said to be getting "damned slack"—six of the best and it hurt like the devil. There were other occasions when one was quite capriciously thrashed. "Why", one might be asked, "Why had one not played football yesterday?" The reason was usually a perfectly valid one. One had gone to a funeral or had a temperature. "I see", the captain of games would say, "All the same, you have to be beaten". The decision, of course, had been reached in advance. And the housemasters, except for a blessed few, were utterly unable to prevent these barbarisms, first, because they had not the faintest idea what was going on in their own houses and, secondly, because their training in no way qualified them to do their jobs. A first in Honour Mods. or Classical Tripos does not equip a man to look after those little savages known as little boys.

Your Lordships may think that I am telling these stories as arguments against public schools. In fact, I am not—exactly the opposite. What one learned in a public school—and what I am grateful to have learned—was that most bitter and vital of all lessons: that there is no justice. One learned to look after oneself. One was equipped for the remorselessness of life. That very gallant man from my house at Eton, Brigadier Sir Fitzroy Maclean, once told me that never in the whole of his life, not even when he was fighting with the Jugoslav partisans against the Germans, had he felt so afraid as in his first half at Eton. I believe he was not exaggerating.

I have put forward what may indeed seem a strange case for the continuation of the public schools, but I believe it to be strong. We are—and I firmly believe this—moving into a more compassionate age, but I doubt, human nature being what it is, whether we shall ever reach the time when "the meek shall inherit the earth". And if that is so, surely there is much to be said for a system which gives only minor educational privileges, which in these democratic and technocratic days carries with it few, if any, career advantages, but which will produce, as it has produced for centuries, a breed of tough young men whose character has been tried and hardened, who know what life is about, and who will serve their country well. The public schools are as illogical, absurd and anachronistic as is your Lordships' House, but, like your Lordships' House, they work, and work well. Let us not undermine, let alone destroy, them just because they are all wrong in theory.

6.55 p.m.


My Lords, may I start by congratulating the last speaker on his survival. I have survived something very similar but possibly not so picturesque, and it did me nothing but good. However, to return to the subject, I venture to suggest to your Lordships that we live in a very meddlesome age. Only last week we were debating in your Lordships' House the position of the Lord Chamberlain as the censor of plays. Everyone agreed that it was done in a first-class manner, but a Committee was appointed to see what could be done about this question. To-day nobody has suggested that public schools are not doing a first-class job, but a Commission has been appointed to see what can be done about them. I suspect that the motive in this case is the avarice of the Party opposite which wants to get its hands on to something good.

The public schools in this country are extremely diverse. This afternoon we have been generalising about them, and I think this is most unsafe, because in almost every case they are extremely good. I suspect that the reason why the Party opposite wants to get its hands on them is not only that they are good, but that it wants to increase the number of public schools. If it wants to do that there is no difficulty about it. Half a dozen, at least, have been started in the last thirty years. I have personal experience of only three of them, but in each case it has been extremely favourable. If the Party on the other side wants more public schools, let it start them and, for choice, let them be competitive.

But why interfere with the public schools which already exist and which were started by private enterprise and benevolence and are still doing a good job? I think it is quite intolerable that private enterprise and, as it comes to it, private property should be invaded and in large measure confiscated and integrated and half a dozen other "ateds", merely at the whim of the Party at present in power. I think that there is little more to be said on these lines, but a point which has not been brought out previously is that to interfere with the public schools is an invasion of public liberty.

6.59 p.m.


My Lords, the House is indeed grateful to my noble friend Lord Eccles for having initiated this debate at what I believe to be a very suitable time, because public schools and direct grant schools are a topic of conversation at the present time for the good reason that the wages and salary structure of this country is very different from what it was 25 years ago, when I started the fo0ur years I spent at a public school, a school which has not bred many politicians. My father, my brother and I went to three different public schools. My father went to a public school in Buckinghamshire, I went to one in Devonshire, and my brother went to one in Perthshire. So we had quite a large geographical spread. I think that we all learned discipline, tolerance and, I hope, lack of pomposity.

I have given notice to the noble Earl who is to reply to the debate of two questions that I wish to ask. The first is whether he can give an assurance that the Commission under Sir John Newsom—for whom I have the highest personal regard, having known him slightly when I lived in Hertfordshire, where he was Director of Education for some years—will discuss fully with the boards of governors of public schools before taking any positive action. I think it is particularly vital that they should consult with the chairmen of these boards of governors, who are all public-spirited men with no axes to grind. Secondly, I should like to ask what is perhaps an unusual question: whether they will consult with the people concerned regarding the provision of school buildings, because school buildings are nearly always provided by subscriptions from old boys or old girls, as the case may be, from these schools. I have had some experience of this, having been on a fund-raising committee for my old school; and I am sure many of your Lordships have been in a similar situation.

The third question, of which I have not given notice, is whether the Commission will consult with local authorities with a view to obtaining more boys and girls from local grammar schools to take up public school places, provided that they can pass the necessary examinations. The school which I attended sets great store by this. There are currently several boys from Tiverton Grammar School in the day boys' house at this school, and the present headmaster has tried to persuade the Devon County Council to allocate more places at Blundell's School. At the moment they are not forthcoming, because there is a boarding school at Crediton which I understand is run by the Devon County Education Authority.

It is often said that public schools are monastic places. No doubt many years ago they were. I can only talk from experience of my own school, and the limited experience of having visited a well-known direct grant school in Rutland, where among the pupils is the son of the head chambermaid at one of the leading Oakham hotels, who I understand is doing extremely well there. So far as my own school is concerned, when I was there twenty-five years ago we carried out a great many tasks in the town. When floods prevailed, which is not unusual in the Exe Valley, a party of boys used to go out to help; and, in common with many schools at that time, we used to help with such jobs as potato picking and other agricultural tasks.

Currently a school fete is held annually, and some years funds go to the Marie Curie Hospital for Cancer or to a home for the disabled at Exeter. At Christmas, carol parties sing in local hospitals, and they take part in carol concerts at local churches. Where there are flood warnings a number of boys go out and help with sand-bagging and clearing out homes after the flooding. At least one school monitor is attached to a local primary school to help teach children road safety and to instruct children for police bicycle tests. They also help in old peoples' homes, and read to old people; and many such schools also help by pupils reading to and entertaining mentally handicapped children, a subject in which I have a deep personal interest.

I am not suggesting for one moment that it is only the public schools which carry out these tasks. Indeed, I happen to know that the grammar school from near my home carries out similar tasks; and I am sure that comprehensive schools do the same. What I am seeking to do is to try to answer the noble Lord, Lord Gifford (he is not in his place at the moment), on the allegations he has made about public schools in general. I do not think there are many people in this country who would say that the public schools do not need some changes and some investigation. But the question really is whether the Commission which has been set up is the right way of going about it. Whether or not public schools are integrated into the State system, the cost of teaching and of running schools has to be paid by somebody. If it is not paid by the parents, it has to be paid for by the local education authority, and eventually by the State.

As I said earlier, I should very much like to see more grammar school boys who have the right qualifications attend public schools; but, as has been said previously, it would be a great mistake to lower the standard of these schools. There are two things in which the public schools excel—one is discipline, which I always found scrupulously fair, and the other is religion. So far as I was concerned, some of my happiest moments at school were spent in the school chapel, because the headmaster was the predecessor of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry, Dr. Gorton, a man who was much revered in school circles and in Church circles, and from whom I and many of my colleagues learnt a great deal about life in general. A less snobbish person could hardly be imagined.

The Fleming Report of 1942 sums up this very well. I quote from paragraph 111: At this time "— it was in 1944, when the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, as he now is, brought in his fine Education Act— when the Government's Education Bill aims at making religious worship and teaching a part of the education provided by all schools in the national system, we feel this living religious tradition of the public schools has much value to offer. So far as I was concerned, the chief value which I got from five years at a public school was a sound religious background.

There is one final point I should like to make. There are those who believe that the public schools are the prelude to a career at Oxford or Cambridge, the Brigade of Guards, and then a life of luxury. I did not go to the university because of the war years. I joined the Army in the ranks and then went on to the Territorial Army in the ranks. I found one great advantage, in that having been to a public school, when I was shouted at by various sergeant majors, warrant officers and others, the shouts fell like water off a duck's back, because I had become somewhat used to it in foregone days; whereas some of my colleagues who had lived at home took umbrage at it. I think there is a moral here. I hope that this debate will be read as I think it is intended to be, as a non-political exercise, because I, for one, deeply regret the fact that over the past decade or so Party politics have infiltrated far too much into our educational system, which, with all its flaws, whether private education or State education, has served this country well.

7.14 p.m.


My Lords, at this hour, in view of the admirable opening words of the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Alport, I think it would be not only charitable, but not less educational, if I were not to venture on a comprehensive survey of education, but tried to keep myself to two points, which are really one and the same point, seen from rather a different angle, if that is a permissible geometrical simile. They are points which were made admirably (if it is not impertinent for me to say so of the Provost of my own school) by the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, both connected with the word "integration". I shall try not to be diverted by what the noble Earl, Lord Arran, said, which I think was very suggestive, in that it seemed to me to imply that the same sort of difficulty exists in trying to integrate public or direct grant schools into the educational system, as might well apply in trying to integrate your Lordships' House into a fully democratic society. Neither is an easy problem. Which is the more important, I do not know, but the word "integration" means, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, pointed out, two quite different things.

There are two ways of integrating a piece of a jigsaw puzzle into the puzzle. One is to find the right place in which it fits and, with as few modifications as possible, to fit it in. That is the difficult way. The other is to reduce it to sawdust, which is much easier. I should describe one as integrating it, the other as disintegrating it. I think that we tend slightly to confuse the issue by not only talking about "public" schools when we in fact mean private schools, but in talking about "integrating" when we mean disintegrating, without explaining each time exactly what we mean. I am not suggesting that the sawdust method is a wrong one. It was the method advocated, I think, in a typically brilliant speech, by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. It was a method used, I believe, by Siegfried, in Wagner's opera, in forging a sword by filing it into fragments; but he, of course, was assisted by the fact that, at least in the only performance I have ever seen, the stage manager tried his hardest to ensure that the anvil would collapse at the moment it was hit. Whether that would always happen in practice is more problematical.

What we must remember is that this is not a new problem. According to the Fleming Report it goes back to Canute, who invented the public schools, and who got over this problem of integrating Public Schools with State schools, by being himself the State, so that the problem did not arise. But we cannot do that to-day. Coming to later times, I notice that in 1809 a progressive Canon of St. Pauls delivered a slashing attack on public schools. (He had himself, I believe, been educated at the same great school as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles.) It was either 1809 or 1810; and he attacked them on two grounds, one of which we have heard, first from the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Wakefield, and then from the noble Earl, Lord Arran. What he said in 1809 was this. To give to a boy the habit of enduring privations to which he will never again be called upon to submit, to inure him to pains which he will never again feel, and to subject him to privations of comfort with which he will always in future abound, is surely not a very useful and valuable severity and education. His second point is a relevant one, and rather surprising: it is about the size of the classes. He complains that: The most important peculiarity in the constitution of a public school is its numbers. which are so great that a close inspection by the master into the studies and conduct of each individual is quite impossible. That is a problem with all education, and at the moment the advantage of the public schools, in spite of what people say about labels of public schools, is that one is able to get better teachers and more care, partly because it is possible to attract good teachers by paying them more money. The great difficulty and problem is how best to space out the very limited number of good teachers—because good teachers are, of course, extremely rare. I will not seriously suggest to your Lordships the logical answer, which has occurred to me only this evening; which would be to have a sweepstake. I do not think that suggestion would be very seriously received; though it would certainly solve both the economic problem and the problem of choosing who is to go and who is not to go to these schools if we keep them exclusive.

The problem of keeping them comprehensive but still exclusive seems to me, to put it mildly, a difficult one, and one which I personally will not go into. But if one is going to keep them exclusive, then we have to exclude pupils on some grounds, and I do not think it would be more unfair to exclude on the grounds of a lottery than on the grounds of the wealth of one's parents, and I am not sure that it would be more harmful than to exclude on the ground of brains. Of course, Lord Kennet's view was an excellent statement of the "aristocratic", argument (in the Platonic sense of that word) that the best brains should have the best teachers. That is perfectly logical. It was applied to cricketers at Eton in my time: if you were any good, you got good coaching; if you were had, you got none. In producing prize pumpkins that principle is admirable; but my feeling is that it neglects the interests of the pupil. The point is: are we wanting to turn out in our schools only brains which will compete with other countries, or are we trying to turn out something else?

That brings me to the second point concerning integration. The noble Lord, Lord Caccia, very clearly pointed out that the whole object of all education is to produce a whole man—one who is not just a brain; not just a hand which is good at handicrafts or cricket; and if the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, were here she would say that he must also have a heart. I believe that all three of those things must be developed, and the question is how can we decide the best form of education unless we have decided what a whole man is? I am not discussing the religious side tonight; and as the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, is here I hope I need not assure her that when I say a "whole man" I include also the whole woman, because the woman, in Anglo-Saxon, means a female man.

Leaving out a four-letter word which I know would shock the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill—"soul"—if I had to say what a human being is without talking about the soul, I would suggest two de- finitions, one of which I think may shock many of your Lordships more even than the word "soul" would shock the noble Baroness; but which, I think, is worth considering. Man has been called "the animal that thinks", or "the animal that makes jokes", or "the animal that uses tools". I would suggest that one might call him "the amateur animal", in that every other animal is a professional who does one thing extremely well. Man, at the risk of great criticism, I am sure, from dinosaurs and other creatures that he was doing the wrong thing, has tried to keep his amateur status by doing a number of things not so well. That is to say, he cannot swim as well as a fish, or make honey as well as a bee; but he can swim better than a bee, and make at least slightly more palatable honey than a fish. It seems to me that that is what education is for: to keep him an amateur; although in a competitive world, or indeed in this world at all, he has to have a professional side, which can be learned at a technical training college.

"Amateur" is, of course, a dirty word. We have heard the word "dirty" used, but few words are so dirty as the word "amateur". Why a word connected with love, or doing something because you like doing it, should be quite as dirty as that, when other forms of love are not thought dirty, I have never entirely understood. But I believe that, if one takes it from that point of view, one can discover quite a number of interesting things about what education fails to do, or has failed to do, in certain very efficient establishments, and what it sometimes does better in the lower grades. I have seen village schools where a whole education was given by people who were not scholars of the kind who would necessarily get fellowships of All Souls, but who were, none the less, good teachers.

If I had to give another definition it would be that a man is "an animal who asks questions." I think that is important, because a lot has been said about whether public schools produce leaders. They have certainly produced Leaders of your Lordships' House in large numbers; and even Leaders of the Opposition. Both our noble Leaders at the moment came from the same school. They are different in many respects, but they are alike in that they are both capable of asking questions (I do not mean merely political questions, but questions about what is worth doing and about life in general), in a way that many less independent people are not.

In a general knowledge paper set, I think, before intelligence tests came out, the question was asked: "What is the difference between an optimist and a pessimist?" and a small girl gave the ingenious answer: "An optimist is a man who looks after your eyes and a pessimist is a man who looks after your feet". That seems to me to be as good a definition as any, in that one wants somebody who has vision and can look ahead and also somebody who can keep his feet on the ground. I am not convinced that we have yet solved the problem of integrating in a way that we all understand, the kind of schools which have produced people like that with the excellent comprehensive schools about which I was hearing today from an ex-Captain of the Oppidans at Eton (if I may be technical), who taught, at a comprehensive school, Risinghill, until it was unfortunately closed down. He raised several points which I will not raise now, but I should like to raise later with the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. Until we are clear what we are going to put in the place of public schools or in what way we are going to alter them, I should be very sorry to see them losing any great prestige in this House. I apologise to your Lordships for having spoken so long.

7.29 p.m.


My Lords, it is not easy to speak at the end of a debate in which so many of your Lordships have contributed from all parts of the House, from such deep experience and knowledge of the subject. I feel rather like my noble friend Lord Alport, somewhat overcome by the tremendous weight. of educational knowledge and experience which has been expressed in this debate. It would be invidious for me to mention individual speakers, and therefore I shall mention only two. The first is my noble friend Lord Eccles, to whom I think every one of your Lordships is extremely indebted for having given us an opportunity to discuss this subject to-day, at a very opportune moment, and also for a brilliant speech in introducing the debate. Secondly, perhaps I may mention my noble friend Lord Daventry, and congratulate him on the most useful and helpful contribution which he made in his maiden speech. Like others of your Lordships, I hope we shall hear from him again often in the future.

I should like to make one point in general about the debate so far, and that is that we have heard expressed on all sides of the House deep anxieties about the Government's policy, in relation to both the public schools and the direct grant schools; and these anxieties have been on educational and not political grounds. They have come particularly from the Cross-Benches, where a number of most distinguished noble Lords have spoken, and also from the right reverend Prelates and others of your Lordships with deep experience of these matters. It was extremely significant, I thought, that the noble Lord. Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, speaking with his unique experience, explained to us that he had not taken part in education debates for a particular reason for a long time but that he was doing so now because he was extremely disturbed that the Government's present policy was endangering what had been successfully built up so far from his 1944 Education Act.

I think the main points, on both the public schools and the direct grant schools, have been put by those who have already spoken in the debate, but we have not yet had any help from the Government Benches. The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, was her usual charming self, but she did not make any direct mention of direct grant schools.


She was leaving that to me.


Of course I expected she was. But, as I say, we have not heard anything from the Government, and I hope that we may have some clarification from the noble Earl, at any rate on the subject of direct grant schools. Nor did the noble Baroness mention the problem of the church schools. On the public schools question, she rather left us in the hands of the Commission, and I hope that when the noble Earl comes to reply he will be able to help us a little further on all the problems that have been raised.

I am sure that if we were to sit down and draw up a blue-print of British education from scratch we should not devise the system we have at the moment,, Equally, if we were to set up a new Constitution from scratch we certainly should not establish the one we have at the moment—we might even go so far as to forget your Lordships' House. But our history is one not of revolution but of gradual evolution, though I think that the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, does not like it that way. I believe that we must build on the foundation we have inherited, particularly to-day, when our economic situation precludes us from overambitious plans and forces us to make the best use of what we have.

The public schools have a very proud heritage; and many of your Lordships have paid tribute to it. They are, in fact, the supreme achievement of the private educational system, and the esteem in which they are held is shown by the number of parents who seek to send their sons to them, despite the rising expense of fees and the fact that an excellent State education is available free. People do not spend money for nothing; they need to be convinced that they are really receiving full value for what they pay. I believe that this is a healthy economic state, and that the private sector of education sets a standard which can be seen by those who use the State system. It gives a freedom of choice, and it allows for greater experiment than in a fully State-run system. I feel sure that most of your Lordships would agree that a State monopoly of education would be wrong and that an independent sector is therefore of positive value. Moreover, it is a fundamental human right, embodied in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, that parents shall be free to educate their own children as they wish.

The Labour Party Conference of 1963 at Scarborough voted overwhelmingly against taking this right away from parents, although I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, does not agree with this. But Mr. Prentice, the Minister of State, reiterated the Government's adherence to this principle at Oxford on September 14 last year. Further, in this House on December 22 the noble Lord, Lord Snow, repeated that the Government did not intend to interfere with private education. But unfortunately, as the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, pointed out, there is a certain amount of double talk where educational matters are concerned. He appeared to make it out to be an art rather than a sin, but I am saying to the Government that in their case I consider that it is more of a sin than an art. Certainly when we were discussing the merits of the comprehensive system they maintained that it was possible to believe in a universal comprehensive system and, at the same time, not to destroy the grammar schools. This seems to me to be double talk. A universal comprehensive system would not destroy the grammar school buildings, but it would completely alter the nature of the grammar school, for the essence of the grammar school is selection and the comprehensive school is non-selection.

So we are entitled to ask whether an equal degree of double talk does not arise when the Government set up a Commission to integrate the public schools into the State system and, at the same time, say that they will not interfere with private education. It all depends, as other noble Lords have pointed out, on what is really meant by "integration". Mr. Crosland has already told us in his book The Future of Socialism that he wishes to see a proportion of free places at the public schools—initially of 25 per cent., rising rapidly to 50 per cent. and later to at least 75 per cent., with an ultimate objective of 100 per cent. And in a debate in another place on June 16, 1961 (when my noble friend Lord Eccles was Minister) he stated that he was very much in favour of doing something radical about the public schools, and went on to explain that this meant a minimum of 75 per cent. free entry.

What I want to know really is whether the Government, when they seek to compel all public schools to reserve 75 per cent. of their places for State sponsored pupils, do not consider that this is interference with private education. When the Public Schools Commission was announced in another place, my right honourable friend Sir Edward Boyle put the question as succinctly as it is possible to do, when he asked: Is the objective to give a wider range of children the opportunity to benefit by the excellent education provided (which we would all support) or is it to make fundamental changes in independent status and character? This is the whole crux of the matter.

It is quite clear that many headmasters and many of your Lordships would like to see the entry into the independent schools widened. But it is equally clear that most of us wish to see the independence of those schools guaranteed. I would say, with great respect, that the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, were particularly apposite on this score in defining the six points that we mean by independence. I think the matter was summed up very briefly by the Headmaster of Shrewsbury, at the school's speech day last year, when he stated: The public schools are ready to co-operate, though not in their own destruction. These are independent schools, and they should remain independent. But if their entry can be widened so that it does not necessarily depend upon financial resources, then I am sure that that will be welcomed on all sides of the House.

There is another aspect of the public schools to which attention has already been drawn—namely, the fact that they are mostly boarding schools. Perhaps it is true that they have a contribution to make to the State system in their boarding systems. The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, laid particular stress on this side of the public schools, and it may well be that there is something to be said in that direction. But I think it is wrong—it is a bit of a smokescreen—to say that the Public Schools Commission has been set up mainly for, or with particular emphasis on, this question of finding more boarding places.

It seems to us that this is what some of those who are of more friendly disposition to public schools on the Benches opposite fondly imagine it may be; whereas we hear some rather more threatening noises in the background from those supporters of the Government who really wish to destroy these schools. I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, certainly made some very friendly noises towards them; and there are other supporters, like the noble Lord, Lord Snow, who I daresay is too friendly towards them, because he has not been able to take part to-day. I am sure that if we can rely on those who speak with some good sense about dealing with the public schools in a way that will make some use of their boarding facilities, we may get something mutually agreeable which would at once, in a sense, integrate them with the State system and at the same time preserve their independence.

But it really cannot be argued that this Commission is primarily looking at the question of boarding places, because, if it were, there are many other directions in which it should be inquiring. For example, there are the boarding places already provided by the State; there are a number of boarding places in direct grant schools, and, perhaps even more useful to look at, there are enormous numbers of "prep" schools which provide boarding places. The Government have announced the setting-up of the Public Schools Commission. We can only await its eventual Report with anxiety, but at least we have one ray of hope in the good sense of its Chairman, Sir John Newsom, and the fact that it has some distinguished members. But, as a Welshman, I am a little upset to find that there is no one on that Commission with any knowledge of Wales, although we do have public schools in Wales. I wondered whether the Secretary of State, on whom the Government have laid great emphasis as coming from Wales, had been consulted, and whether he had put up any proposals for Welsh representation on this Commission.

I trust that there is some hope for the public schools, but, from my observations and from what has been said in this debate, there seems to be much less hope for the direct grant schools; and yet, as has been said by many noble Lords, and as was particularly brilliantly put by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, these schools are just as important to the community as the much publicised public schools. This is particularly true in the North, where there are fewer public schools and where the direct grant schools are highly prized.

The noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, pointed out that no class of school has done more for British education than the direct grant school, and although I certainly would not claim that all of them are of equal merit, the best of them are very good indeed and have a proud record, not only of scholastic achievements but also of general educational achievements. Moreover, as has also been mentioned, in their social mixture they are perhaps the most comprehensive of any school that exists at the present time. They do not suffer from the drawback of the public schools, in that there is no financial bar to entry to them. They do not suffer from the drawback of the neighbourhood comprehensive school, because they can draw on a wider area, and they have the advantage of a degree of independence. They provide parents with some choice, regardless of means. They give an opportunity for the best academic education to any boy, regardless of social background. And it really is astonishing to me, as it is to the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, that these are the precise schools that the present Government are threatening. They are threatened, as is demonstrated by the "warning shot across the bows", which has now become the most quoted phrase that the present Secretary of State has ever used.

What is the alternative that is now offered to these schools? First of all, they can go independent. Indeed, some of them are having to go independent, where the local education authority is finding sufficient places for comprehensive education without taking up the places that they have hitherto taken in the direct grant schools. But this means that they have to find the fees from private parents to keep them going. Or they can go comprehensive. If they go comprehensive, their buildings are clearly unsuitable for a full comprehensive school, and so, presumably, they are expected to form one part of one or other of the two-tier systems, as so many of the maintained grammar schools are having to do.

But this would not only completely destroy their significance and their independence, but utterly wreck those of them which are denominational schools. We should not forget that of the 179 direct grant schools in England and Wales, about one-third are denominational and 57 are Roman Catholic. Many of these schools at present deal with several local education authorities, one in the North with no fewer than seventeen, but it is quite common for them to deal with three or four local education authorities. How are they meant to satisfy all of these local education authorities, each of which may have selected any one of six different forms of comprehensive reorganisation satisfactory to the Minister in his circular? Or are they to deal solely with the local education authority in whose area they stand? In that case, if the school happens to be a Roman Catholic school. what happens to the Roman Catholic children from other areas which have been feeding into that particular school hitherto? There will not be provision for them. It seems to me quite clear that a full comprehensive system of neighbourhood schools which is the ultimate objective of the Government is quite incompatible with denominational schools.

Of course, the direct grant schools are an anomaly. They are awkward to fit into a rigid system. But, surely, it is better to accept their outstanding contribution to the educational system rather than to destroy them for the sake of a nice tidy organisation. They seem to incorporate many of the features which the Government wish to see in the public schools. But just as the public schools are about to be turned more into direct grant schools, the direct grant schools are being told by the Minister to go comprehensive as part of their local education authority reorganisation plans. I really think that the problem of the direct grant schools is extremely serious, and I hope that in his reply the noble Earl can reassure us on their future.

To sum up we on these Benches believe in a varied pattern of secondary education rather than in the rigidity and inflexibility of a universal State comprehensive system. We believe that secondary education should be considered in terms of the needs of each area, and we believe in providing parents with as much choice as possible in educating their children.

7.50 p.m.


My Lords, it is a pleasure to hear the last speech made on the other side by one accomplished Wykehamist when, some hours ago, the debate was initiated, quite brilliantly, by another accomplished Wykehamist; and in between we have listened to many fine speeches, including a maiden speech, which gave great pleasure, from the noble Viscount, Lord Daventry. I agree with those who thought the atmosphere of the debate had been very satisfactory. The noble Lord, Lord Alport, was kind enough to say that he was making the comparison with another place and not with this House, but this House may also have been in his mind. I would single out one agreeable feature in particular, and that is that very few noble Lords became sentimental. These debates tend to become opportunities for noble Lords to describe their love for the dear old college, coupled with a recital of their extraordinary sufferings. You are left with the idea that nobody but a man of iron could possibly have survived at all.

I am sorry the noble Earl, Lord Arran, is not with us. He was at Eton—he is a younger man than I, but not much younger—and he gave an unrecognisable account of the Eton of that period, as other noble Lords, like the noble Viscount, Lord Barrington, and a good many Etonians in the House would testify. I also disagreed with him when he said that it did not help you if you went to a big public school. He said that in certain walks of popular journalism there were not many Etonians, although even there he came unstuck rather quickly. If we turn to the last Conservative Cabinet (I must remember that this is virtually a non-Party debate) I think that nearly half of the Cabinet came from Eton, and there were, of course, Wykehamists like the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, and others. Even on this Front Bench, although not necessarily to-night, we often muster three old Etonians, which is more than we can for any other school represented on this Front Bench. So I do not think the argument that a public school is of no help to one in a worldly sense can be effectively sustained.

Taking the debate as a whole, I would not for a moment suggest that this was an occasion when the last speech was the important one. We have already had one most excellent speech from the noble Baroness. There have been contributions from educational pundits, and I do not think I would try to improve on their remarks at this moment when we are setting off on the work of the Commission. I would quote one sentence, I hope without any sort of blasphemy, from the moving book of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, which I and others have recently been admiring. He says this—I only slightly alter his words.




I think it is assumed that I am going to be ironical. It is the opposite. So I shall slightly alter the words again so as to remove any suggestion of irony. He says: Light and sight are the most desirable of all gifts in all circumstances. This is profoundly true, and all speakers, in different ways, have tried to offer light and sight in relation to these great problems. My noble friend Lord Kennet, who has apologised for leaving, used a very true phrase when he said that we are here facing a great national dilemma. I should have thought that most noble Lords, wherever they sit, and most people outside the House who take an interest in education, would agree that something quite substantial must now be done about public schools; that it would be a dereliction of duty on the part of the Government to take no step whatever.

The noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, whose name carries such a world-wide fame in educational discussions, and who addressed us in such an interesting fashion to-day, reminded us that he actually set up the Fleming Committee in 1940. But that, if I may say so, was one of the less fruitful initiatives taken by the noble Lord in education. In fact nothing came of it, unlike most of the activities of the noble Lord in education from which a great deal emerged. The Fleming inquiry, through no fault of the noble Lord's, was rather a failure, for various reasons that I will not go into now. I hope that everybody appreciates the great strength of feeling throughout a wide section of the country, which is not confined to the Labour Party, expressed by my noble friend Lady Gaitskell and the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, and by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, speaking from a slightly different angle and from a different quarter of the House. There is a strong, passionate conviction that public schools as they stand to-day represent a wide measure of social injustice and social divisiveness.

The dilemma arises not at that point, but at the point where we try to discover the way to modify them, so that the evils are overcome but so that their undoubted values are retained. The noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, spoke of need for preserving the individuality of these great schools. That, too, was in the mind of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, and many other speakers, including, of course, the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. That is the problem which is now being set the Newsom Commission: how to remove the evils, as they seem to many of us—at any rate, the deficiencies as they must seem to all—of the existing system, without destroying what is valuable and, if possible, enhancing the actual character of the schools concerned.

The noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen and Temair, put his finger on another aspect of this when he spoke about the, need to preserve what was there, rather than destroying it. It is a great question of evolution—if that phrase is acceptable to the noble Marquess. We on these Benches consider that this must be accomplished soon. It cannot be a question of years passing, and here a little change, there a little change, at some distant date. I recognise the need for continuity, but it must be rapid evolution. So we have hit on the device of the Commission. I would not find it easy if I were asked to say whether noble Lords opposite accept the idea of the Commission. It would not be easy to give an answer, for they have not been explicit on that point. At any rate, they have not rejected it. The noble Lord, Lord Caccia, did not quite say that his governing body welcomed it, but he said that they were not hostile to the work of the Commission and would co-operate with it to the extent of their powers. So the Commission starts with a good wind behind it, and the choice of Sir John Newsom seems to appeal to all.

We have been asked various legitimate questions, but I do not think that the experienced noble Lords who asked them expected very precise answers. They asked, for example, about the meaning of the word "integration", and how far I would be able to go on the phrases used by the Secretary of State. In the case of other observations which other Lords have made, they will be noted most carefully. I would submit to noble Lords opposite—and I hope that most of them will agree with me, as I believe Lord Eccles will—that there is a great deal to be said, in fact the arguments are overwhelming, for not tying down Newsom too closely. Tributes have been paid to him and his Commission, and the Commission have been given what might be said to be fairly strict terms of reference. They have certainly got to carry out their terms of reference, but there is, in fact, a very wide measure of discretion. Of course, the Commission do not settle the matter finally; they make recommendations. But there are large issues, many of them raised in the House to-day, on which the opinion of the Government has not been articulated and on which the opinion of the Commission will be all-important. When I say "the Commission", of course the Commission will not operate in vacuo. They will be listening to the views of the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, and those who speak for large bodies; and I am sure that if any educationists like the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, or the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, care to submit views, they will be warmly welcome. So there is a lot of work ahead for this Commission, and the more suggestions they receive the better.

I think I must try to say something—though I fear that it will not go as far as the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, would wish—about this question of independence. Of course, this is one of the matters—in some ways perhaps the most crucial matter—which the Commission will have to consider. Again, the Commission will recommend and the Government will have to decide. But this whole area, which was explored by the noble Lord so very forcefully and importantly in his speech, when he set out the requirements, will have to be considered most persistently and assiduously by the Commission themselves, and I do not wish to disturb them very much further this evening. I should have thought (and even here I may be too bold and may get into trouble with Sir John Newsom or somebody else; though I hope not) that if, in fact, the schools come to accept a larger proportion of children paid for by the State, the composition of the governing bodies would hardly remain unchanged. From something which the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, said, I gathered that he did not rule that out at all. To take his view of it, so long as the chairman was thoroughly independent, and the governing body as a whole could fairly be called an independent body, there was room for outside representation of one kind or another.


My Lords, as the noble Earl said, it already exists.


So I am not, in fact, saying anything very bold. I am only saying that if that process of nominating boys with State assistance to enter public schools is pushed further, one would not expect the composition of the governing bodies to remain quite unchanged.

I can only make it quite plain, particularly for those who are not so well informed as noble Lords in this House, that there is no question here of a take over operation, a sort of act of nationalising the public schools by some backdoor or sinister route. If we were thinking of nationalising the public schools we should not need Sir John Newsom and his Commission, and I am sure that that is not at all what they are going to recommend. So I think one can rule that out. I do not think any noble Lord here thinks that way, though perhaps some less important people outside this House may be assisted by what I have said. Perhaps it is just as well, as these remarks may be read as a whole, to make it quite plain that there is no question of making it illegal to start a new independent school. I am not saying that people will wish to, or will not wish to, but there is no question of making that an illegal act.

But while we all subscribe to this idea of free parental choice, it is obviously extremely difficult to know what the outcome of these deliberations of the Newsom Commission will be. I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, and the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, that one cannot say there is much freedom of choice in the country at the present time, leaving out the religious side of it, about which I do not think anyone need have any anxieties at all. But taking the rest, I do not think one can say that more than 10 per cent. of the country have freedom of parental choice now, and I certainly have no reason to suppose that the amount of parental choice would be diminished—I think it would be increased—under a more democratic organisation of the schools.

There were one or two points which I wanted to make before I said a few words on the direct grant schools. The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, asked me one or two questions. He was concerned about the buildings, but they will not come under the review of the Commission, so that that particular issue does not arise. I think he gave me notice that he was going to ask me whether there would be consultation with the governing bodies. I cannot promise consultation with the governing bodies of nearly 300 schools, but certainly I am sure there will be consultation with the Governing Bodies Association, and I have no doubt that if any particular school was pronounced upon, as it might or might not be, there would be close consultation with the governing body concerned. But I cannot give a blanket promise that every governing body of every public school will be consulted. I myself am under the impression that Sir John Newsom will be very slow to refuse to consider suggestions from any well-informed quarter.

The noble Lord, Lord Alport, went to the limit, if I may say so, in favour of boarding schools, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, questioned whether the interest of the Government in boarding schools was quite so great as was supposed. At any rate, he wondered whether all the members of the Government were equally interested in boarding schools. I think I can assure him that the Secretary of State, Mr. Crosland, is particularly interested in this problem, and if the noble Lord will look at the terms of reference he will see that the reference to boarding education comes in the first sentence. So I think I can give him an assurance that the Minister most concerned and, I should hope, all of his colleagues are very much exercised about this problem.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt. The point I meant to make was that if the Government are indeed so interested in boarding places, why does not this Commission, or some other, look more closely into all the other schools that offer boarding places—the State schools, the preparatory schools and the direct grant schools? This is only one aspect of the problem.


My Lords, of course—I do not want to be frivolous—there is no limit to the inquiries which one could undertake. This is an inquiry into public schools, and although it might lead one on to consider how boys in approved schools—and I know we are both interested in those—of a similar age are treated, I do not think one would really expect that to be undertaken as part of this inquiry. I feel that the task of Sir John Newsom is quite large enough without tacking on these other peripheral topics.

I was going on to put my opinion, which is contrary to that of the noble Lord, Lord Alport. I feel that this is one of those matters on which any noble Lord is fully entitled to come here and say—and I believe the noble Lord has himself been a teacher, so his opinion is particularly valuable—that all boys over 13, or almost all boys, ought to go into boarding schools, while other people can come and say, "I do not see why anybody should go to boarding school. It is against nature to send your children away for eight months in a year. It is an absurdity and nobody can prove otherwise." I have not seen any inquiry which proved that boarding schools were better than day schools.

If we confine ourselves to day schools, can any noble Lord undertake to tell an old public school boy who has been at a day school, such as St. Paul's, from a public school boy who has been at Haileybury—as Haileybury was mentioned? I do not believe in this tremendous difference between the effects of a boarding school and a day school education. I am quite ready to believe that there are a lot of people who would benefit particularly from boarding schools, and this is being gone into in this inquiry. But the sort of blanket eulogy administered by the noble Lord, Lord Alport, seems to me to be based on no evidence.


My Lords, I do not want to interrupt the noble Earl, the Leader of the House. As I understand, there is a survey—whether it is private or not I do not know—going on at the present moment and the Report will be issued next year. Secondly, I was trying to refute the argument that boarding schools are required only for what I call deprived parents or deprived children, when in my view they provide an extremely important element in education which, at any rate, is of value to a great many children.


In that somewhat moderated form in which the noble Lord now offers it, I am perfectly ready to agree with him.

The question of religious education should be dealt with by someone more competent than I, and at an earlier hour of the evening. I can assure the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield, and also my noble friend Lord Iddesleigh that, while I do not want to claim any special sanctity for any Government, I would feel that the attitude of Her Majesty's Government is completely satisfactory on this point, as I am sure (if I may say so) would be the attitude of either of the Opposition Parties at the present time. I feel that if any support for that proposition is needed, the attitude of the political leaders in regard to the schools just lately, responded to very favourably by the right reverend Prelate, is some evidence that a friendly wind is blowing. Therefore, I do not think there need be any anxiety on that score—while the problems remain. I do not think the absence of anxiety, so to speak, conjures away the problems, which are all too familiar.

I think I have dealt with most of the particular points, and now I must say a few words in reply to the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, who made what was the most vivid and exciting speech of the debate. Of course, he was speaking about a great school, which he himself did much to make still more honoured. His heart was in his speech. He certainly did not need any instructions from anyone else. Whether one can really eulogise a whole system in quite those terms is, I think, doubtful. I do not think one can pass these general votes of confidence in the public schools, the direct grant schools, the grammar schools, the secondary modern schools or any group of schools. I think they are all human institutions with many virtues and the occasional defect; but I am certainly ready to agree that the school over which the noble Lord presided for sixteen years is the most famous school of its kind in the world.


My Lords, if the noble Earl will allow me to interrupt, may I point out that I was not trying merely to say that Manchester Grammar School was a good school or a great school; I was trying to say that here was a system of school administration which led to certain social results which were claimed to be valuable, and which were in the mind of Her Majesty's Government. I am not saying that they are always realised in every direct grant school. But it is not a question of one good school; it is a question of a system of administration which inevitably produces certain results which this Government claim to think are valuable. Therefore, we want to know why we are threatened.


My Lords, if I may say so, the noble Lord is in danger of inventing the threat. We have several times heard these references to the "shot across the bows". This is one sentence, which may or may not have been said quite seriously, but which if we have heard it once we have heard half a dozen times this afternoon. I think the suggestion that the Secretary of State is out to threaten the direct grant schools—and, if I may say so, I shall fire a shot across the noble Lord's bows in a moment which he will not like at all—


I am sure the noble Earl will, but may I ask one more question? It is this. If one discards the threat, what we are really asking is what we should do, because the essence of this system involves selection. If we are told that we must on no account select, how then can we be anything but theatened?


I think the noble Lord will be clearer in his mind about the Government's attitude when I have given him the Government's views. I promised myself when I rose at this Box not to speak for very long—I shall not speak for much longer, in any case—and I also promised myself that I should make no debating points; but I think it is slightly more than a debating point if I point out to the noble Lord that his conception of independence is different from the conception of independence which was advocated with so much warmth by the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, on behalf of the public schools. So both noble Lords are going to the stake, but, as I understand it, they are going to different stakes. I think that must be made plain, because if you were to hear the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, speak you would think that the only way you could run an independent school was on public school lines. If you heard the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, speak almost immediately afterwards, you would hear quite a different system described in the same glowing terms. I must say that in passing, since the noble Lord has been, quite reasonably and in a genial way, controversial.


But, my Lords, I never said mine was an independent school. I have always taken pride at its being within the State system. If I may point it out to the noble Earl, he is himself using the term "public school" in a sense which is new. The term "public school" is, of course, a term of art. It was used by the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, in the Fleming Report as meaning a school represented on the Headmasters' Conference, and to that extent, of course, Manchester Grammar School is in fact a public school. I could not care less whether it is a public school or not, but I have never said that it was an independent school.


I take it that the noble Lord was asking me a question, but it did not sound like one towards the end. The noble Lord will remember that he fell into that trap once before.


I was merely asking the noble Earl what his definition of a public school was.


I am coming to the noble Lord's points, but the noble Lord does interlard these dialectical questions with little orations all on his own which are very agreeable but quite out of order. I should hasten to say that an equally powerful defence of direct grant schools was made by the noble Baroness, and I will only say to her that I am so glad she has spoken to the House to-night because, if I may venture to say so, she does not speak often enough in the House, and it was a special pleasure to listen to her, although her particular topic, I think, is one that I should prefer to follow up in more detail with her on another occasion. But to come back to the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, I was venturing to point out that he, apparently, does not call his school, or Manchester Grammar School, an independent school. Therefore, I think it is reasonable to give that, perhaps, as the first reason why a school of that kind, and direct grant schools generally, are not brought under the survey of Sir John Newsom. He is looking at public schools, and public schools in their independent capacity, among other questions. I think one must point that out. If the noble Lord himself does not even call his school independent, and says what a great tragedy it would be if it were forced to be independent, lie is so far from the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, that possibly he is entitled to the special inquiry he asked for later, but he certainly did not naturally come under the same review as the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, and other champions of the public schools.

May I give one or two reasons why the Government do not regard these schools as suitable for this inquiry? The Government have decided to regard these schools as falling within the scope of their policy for maintained schools, and the three main reasons for this decision are as follows. First, many direct grant schools, particularly the Roman Catholic schools, about which I am going to say one word in a moment, contribute too important a part to local authority educational arrangements to be detached from the maintained system. Secondly, direct grant schools are mostly—and I emphasise the word "mostly"—day schools, and they are not precisely similar to public schools in a number of respects. Thirdly, the best hope of achieving an early change in the position of the direct grant schools seems to be in persuading them and the local education authorities to negotiate directly with each other. That is to be done not under some threat, not under this famous "shot across the bows", which has been somewhat exaggerated, but the negotiations will be undertaken, we hope, with the object of finding ways in which the schools can play a part in the comprehensive system.

Now I must be allowed to fire one shot across the bows of the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, and, in a sense, across the bows of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. Lord Aberdare went a long way in telling us that this was a special blow at the direct grant schools which were denominational. I understood him to say that these schools, including the 57 Roman Catholic schools, would be completely wrecked, and that any policy such as that of the Government would be completely incompatible with the denominational system. He obviously is not aware that that is in no way the attitude of the Roman Catholic schools at the present time. It would be wrong for me to emerge to-night as their spokesman, but I have made inquiries and, in fact, they are perfectly happy with what is proposed, and they are now entering upon these negotiations in a spirit of considerable hope. So anybody who brings up the argument that this is a special blow at the Catholic schools is, if I may say so with enormous respect, wrong from start to finish.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt. The only thing I do not understand is, if you have a fully comprehensive system with one comprehensive school in each area, how is this compatible with schools which draw their pupils from a wide area?


My Lords, I will not go into details except to say that these are matters which are under discussion. And since the noble Lord actually mentioned the Roman Catholic schools, he must take it from me—and to the best of my ability I have made many inquiries for the purpose of this debate—that they are happy with what is offered and are not in the least desirous to make a hostile issue of it. I am afraid that that answer represents, if the noble Lord will forgive me, rather a crushing reply, perhaps more crushing than I like to deliver, to those who made a song and dance about the horrible effects on the Roman Catholic schools.

My Lords, it is 8.20 p.m. and the House has had a remarkable debate. I will end by thanking the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, and by saying this about the public schools. I have not offered any opinions about them very much myself, one way or the other. They have tremendous virtues—most of us who have been at public schools are much attached to our old schools—but they have weaknesses. I would say that the team spirit, though sometimes derided, is, in my view, a high moral virtue and is a quality not confined to public schools—as was proved with the R.A.F. during the war. Team spirit is a quality in which the public schools are entitled to a considerable pride. On the other hand, it is a spirit which often borders on arrogance; although many mild and gentle people, among them many Members of your Lordships' House, come from public schools. It all brings out the danger of generalising. I end with the prayer which I think will be shared by all here, that the traditions of the public schools, whatever new arrangements emerge in the future, however they may be set up, will continue in some new way to inspire the nation so that future generations will be enabled to make this country a still nobler place than in past times.

8.22 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank your Lordships very much for the extremely interesting debate, which has been in my experience the best discussion on the public schools and direct grant schools that I have heard. I should particularly like to join in congratulating the noble Viscount, Lord Daventry, on his maiden speech. It would have been excellent at any time; but for an officer of the Royal Navy to make so temperate a speech to-day, I think promises well for his future interventions in this House. I must also thank my noble friends, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, Lord James of Rusholme and Baroness Brooke of Ystradfellte, for dealing so well with direct grant schools. Having had the most admirable relationship with the direct grant schools when I was at the Ministry, it was really rather bad to leave them out; but I did not want to trespass on your Lordships' time. But their anxieties were very fully put forward.

I must say to the noble Earl who has just replied that I do not think he has dealt with the questions raised about the direct grant schools. That circular points inevitably to the fact that the kind of education they give must become comprehensive. This means a radical change in almost all the direct grant schools. I hope I shall not be offending anybody by saying that of the 100-odd direct grant schools there are 30 or 40 of a very low level of education—not as good as many grammar schools in their neighbourhood. Others are very good indeed. But if you are going to make the whole of these schools go comprehensive and fix the whole of their arrangements with the local authorities of the district where they happen to be, this will be a great change of character. It must be. I think the arguments put forward by my noble friends that this circular should be withdrawn, and one more easily understood and less likely to cause a really radical change—and not only change but deterioration—in their sixth forms, ought to be substituted for it, are right.

On the public schools, I must say that a number of speeches made me think that not all noble Lords have appreciated the great changes in the public schools during and since the war. They are not the same places they were in the days when this first great attack on them was mounted. We ought always to try to bring about a good end, such as closer relations between all people, without class differences, by natural and progressive means and not by revolution. That happens to be my point of view. But, I am afraid that if we have a comprehensive system as part of the maintained system we shall have more parents trying to opt out and shall perpetuate these differences which otherwise are disappearing.

I hope that the OFFICIAL REPORT will find its way to the desks of the Newsom Commission. I think they will find the speech of my noble friend Lord Caccia particularly interesting, and, indeed, all the speeches we have heard to-day. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.