HL Deb 26 January 1967 vol 279 cc708-46

5.0 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. In doing so, I am thinking of a small voluntary school in which I taught during war time. By modern standards it was not a good building. It had no hall and, as I recall, it had no staff room either. But what it did have was a wonderful head teacher, a deeply religious woman (who, I am sure noble Lords opposite will be glad to know, was a high Tory) and a wonderful staff. The education was good and the children were happy. I recall asking the head teacher, when I was first interviewed by her, whether she was not a little concerned that, as a Roman Catholic, I might confuse the children in a Church of England school. I can remember now her reply. It was "My dear, it is not what you say; it is what you are. Christianity is a living thing." I shall always have before me the picture of this as the kind of school that we are talking about in the Bill this evening.

The need for the Bill arises out of the increasing financial burdens which face the denominations, in particular the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, in connection with their obligation under the Education Act 1944, to bring their school buildings up to standard and their desire to make further provision to meet present-day needs. As noble Lords will recall, under the 1944 Act provision was made for two main types of voluntary school, aided schools and controlled schools. Both are maintained by local education authorities and both form an integral part of the State system of education. The distinguishing mark of the aided school is that the managers or governors are responsible for providing a building that is fully up to current standards, in return for a majority vote on the managing body, and they control the appointment of teachers and the religious worship and instruction given in the school. To help them meet the cost of bringing their schools up to the much higher standards imposed by the 1944 Act—or replacing them, where necessary—provision was made for 50 per cent. of this cost to be met by Exchequer grant. This grant was, however, not payable in respect of new places, the cost of which had to be borne entirely by the denominations.

Since 1944 it has become clear that the terms of the 1944 Act were too limited in scope to meet the demands imposed by post-war conditions. So three changes have been made since 1945. In 1953, the definition of "displaced pupil" was extended to cover movements of population due to housing or town planning policies. In 1959, new secondary schools drawing their pupils from existing primary schools became eligible for grant, and, also in 1959, the rate of grant went up from 50 to 75 per cent.

Last year, the Minister met representatives of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church—and on this occasion they had the full support of the Free Churches—and they pointed out to him that they face still heavier burdens which could not have been foreseen and which they are unable to meet without further financial assistance. These burdens have arisen, they argued, because of the rapid and continuing increase in the birthrate; because people were changing homes more frequently and moving from one district to another, and because building costs and standards of school provision were continually going up. They pointed to the old unsatisfactory school buildings that they were still having to maintain, and they argued, further, that the voluntary schools must play their proper part in the tremendous educational developments going on and in prospect, among them the raising of the school-leaving age and the change in the pattern of secondary education. And, finally, they said that the increasing complexity in the situation has steadily blurred the distinction between new places on the one hand and places for displaced pupils, matching places and so on, on the other, and that this has made it essential to simplify the present administrative arrangements. The Government, after close examination of these arguments, accepted their validity and have introduced this Bill inconsequence.

Clause 1(1) of the Bill increases from 75 per cent. to 80 per cent. the rate of the grant payable in respect of the categories of building work that are eligible for grant under the current law, and subsection (2) extends these categories to include all new places provided in aided or special agreement schools, whether in the form of new schools or enlargements of existing schools. This abolishes the distinction between new and existing places and achieves the administrative simplification which is desirable, and it will make some contribution towards the additional costs which the denominations are facing. Clause 1(3) simply preserves the Secretary of State's present powers by enabling him, in assessing grant on new schools under subsection (2), to take into account the proceeds of sale of the sites of schools which have been closed. This is a continuation of his existing powers in relation to substituted schools and does not introduce any new principle.

Subsections (4) and (5) of Clause 1 deal with consequential changes in the provisions of the earlier Acts. Subsection (6) defines the date of application of these new provisions. On the assumption that the Bill becomes law by the end of March, the provisions of Clause 1 will apply to major building projects approved for inclusion in the 1967–68 and subsequent school-building programmes, and to minor alterations and repairs approved on or after July 4 last year, when the Bill was first introduced. Work for which individual approval is not required will also be eligible for the higher rate of grant if it started on or after July 4. This procedure is the same as that adopted in 1959.

There are two matters arising out of this clause on which I should like to comment. The first is the size of the increase in the rate of grant, which some will perhaps regard as too small to give assistance on the scale that is needed. Ii will certainly not solve all the financial problems which face the denominations, but, taken with the extension of eligibility to cover all new places, it does represent a real advance during a period of national economic difficulty when so many other forms of public spending are being curtailed. There is, too, the feeling, in some quarters, that a bigger increase might undermine the whole idea of the voluntary school and in this way bring the dual system itself into question. There is no evidence of any general desire to raise these difficult and complicated issues at the present time and to do so would certainly not help the voluntary schools or the children in them. In the Government's view, the Bill represents a reasonable compromise, offering a fair contribution to the financial difficulties of the denominations without running the risk of disrupting the existing framework of the 1944 Act.

The other comment I want to make relates to fears that have been expressed, by humanists and others who do not believe that public money should be spent on denominational schools, that the increased grant, and especially its extension to new places, will lead to an inappropriate increase in denominational school provision. They are particularly concerned, I believe, with the position of aided schools in single-school areas. I appreciate their difficulties, although I believe that the proposals in this Bill for a modest increase in grant are not an appropriate target for their criticisms, which might more properly be aimed at the provisions of the 1944 Act dealing with religious worship and instruction. The fear of a vast growth in aided school provision is quite unfounded. There will, of course, be some increase where a need for additional places is shown, but all proposals for new or enlarged aided and special agreement schools must show both that there is an overall need in the area for additional places as well as a denominational need, and that the proposed school will fit into the local system of school provision. All such proposals will require notices under Section 13 of the 1944 Act and a decision by the Secretary of State under that Section—as well as a decision to include the project in a building programme.

I have some sympathy with the concern over single-school areas. This arises only in relation to aided schools and usually in connection with village schools where there is no alternative county or controlled school to which the pupils have access. But it does not seem at all likely that this Bill will lead to an increase in the number of single-school areas. It is worth remembering that the number of children in aided Church of England schools is now only 5½ per cent. of the total school population, and by no means all of these will be in rural schools; considerable numbers of village schools have in fact been closed in recent years and this seems likely to continue. Nor are all voluntary rural schools aided; many of them adopted controlled status after the 1944 Act so that the question of denominational provision arises only if parents of particular children request that it should be provided for their children. So long as these schools remain in existence—and as I have said, we are not dealing to-day with fundamental changes in the dual system—it would be quite wrong to discourage the managers from fulfilling their duty to bring the premises up to modern standards. Particular care will be taken to ensure that building designed to increase to any significant extent the number of children accommodated in such schools is treated as a statutory enlargement and made the subject of notices under Section 13. This is a delicate matter which I believe the Church of England has handled with great responsibility and in consultation with the Free Churches. Perhaps the spokesmen for the Church in this debate would wish to make their position clear.

Clause 2 of the Bill deals with the enlargement of controlled schools. It has long since been found necessary, in the interests of sensible school organisation, to alter the 1944 Act which, probably by an oversight or perhaps simply because of the failure to anticipate the post-war rise in the birth-rate, failed to make any provision for the enlargement of controlled schools. Since 1946 it has been possible to enlarge them if the purpose of the enlargement was to provide accommodation for pupils from other voluntary schools which had closed or were no longer available, and in 1953 it was made possible to enlarge a secondary school if this was in the interests of school organisation in an area, on condition that it did not amount to the establishment of a school of a new character. This condition is now an obstacle to the adoption in a number of areas of a scheme of comprehensive reorganisation, and is holding up negotiations between local education authorities and the Church authorities. If it were removed, it would be much easier to fit the smaller controlled secondary schools into a comprehensive scheme.

It is also desirable that primary controlled schools should be capable of enlargement in certain conditions. As I have said, they can be enlarged at the moment only if they are to provide for children coming from some other voluntary school, but this causes considerable difficulty in rural areas where extra school accommodation may be needed because of small housing developments, but where the number of additional children expected does not justify the establishment of a separate county school. In such circumstances a small addition to the existing controlled school is often the only reasonable and economical answer, but a t present this cannot legally be done.

Clause 2 of this Bill therefore proposes to extend the Secretary of State's powers to cover these two cases. It does this by enabling him, where a proposal of this type is put forward with the agreement of all concerned, to direct the local education authority to pay the cost of the enlargement. I should like to say here, in order to remove any possible misapprehension, that this direction is needed only to determine by whom the cost of the school will be met, and it cannot be used for any other purpose. It can certainly not be directed against the managers or governors of a school to persuade them to do something that they are unwilling to undertake.

Clause 3 of the Bill is concerned with the establishment of new controlled schools in one particular set of circumstances. A number of authorities are considering the adoption of three-tier school systems with a middle school having an age range of 8 to 12 or 9 to 13. It may happen that a major part of the primary school provision in such an area is in voluntary schools which would lose two or three age groups of children to the middle schools, and it has therefore seemed reasonable and equitable that controlled schools should be enabled to play a part in the middle school provision in the area if all the parties concerned agreed that this is desirable. This is a new power, limited to middle schools, and notices will require to be published of the establishment of such a school even if no new building is involved. It will be necessary to show that a substantial portion—but not all, as at present—of pupils will come from voluntary schools. The changes in the amount of controlled school provision as a result of these two clauses are likely to be only marginal, but necessary in the interests of sensible school organisation. It is not intended that they should lead to a substantial increase in controlled school provision.

Clause 4 would enable my right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for Education and Science, to make available Exchequer loans to the governing bodies of voluntary colleges of education to help them to meet their share of the capital costs of the continuing expansion of our teacher training facilities. In this expansion the voluntary bodies have played a full and very important part, and this has been done in spite of the considerable strain which the capital expenditure incurred has placed on their resources. The new facilities would be similar to those which have been available since 1945 to the governing bodies of voluntary schools. The voluntary bodies have agreed that the use of the facilities should be reserved for cases of genuine difficulty where the governing bodies could not otherwise raise the funds on reasonable terms. I am confident that all Members of this House will welcome the provisions in this clause.

I will not fall into the trap of saying that this is a simple or non-contentious Bill, as I have seen on several occasions that this invites noble Lords to prove the contrary. What I will say is that this is a modest Bill, which does not seek to make any fundamental changes in the present system of education; but it goes as far as possible in the present economic circumstances to ensure that children in voluntary schools are not penalised, but able to enjoy opportunities equivalent to those open to children in county schools. While we must always bear in mind the words which open the Plowden Report: The heart of the educational process lies with the child. No advances in policy and no acquisitions of new equipment have their desired effect unless they are in harmony with the nature of the child", nevertheless, I am sure that your Lordships will agree that those children in voluntary schools should have the same opportunities as other children. There has been a marked degree of goodwill and co-operation among all concerned with this Bill, and as I believe there is a wide measure of agreement and that it represents a necessary development at the present time, I commend the Bill to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Baroness Phillips.)

5.18 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Baroness said that she was not going to fall into the trap of saying that this was a simple and non-contentious Bill. Well, I suppose we shall discover whether or not it is contentious and, if so, to what extent. I certainly agree with her that it is not a simple Bill but a rather complicated, although short, one. That makes the House all the more grateful to her for her very clear and lucid exposition of its terms.

As the noble Baroness explained, this is in fact the third Bill since the Education Act 1944 to increase in one way or another the financial assistance which the State gives to church schools. Unlike the 1959 Act, which raised the rate of relevant grant from 50 to 75 per cent., this Bill, I think, is supported by all the denominations. Like the other Acts—the Acts of 1944, 1953 and 1959—this Bill, so far as I can make out, certainly arises from a broad basis of all-Party agreement. It happens to fall to me this afternoon, and I greatly welcome the opportunity, to say that my Party supports the Bill. There is no particular Party line, so far as I am aware, on these matters, so I must ask your Lordships to regard my opinions, such as they are, as being my own and nobody else's.

Everyone who knows anything about education knows that we have in this country what is known as the dual system. I am not going to fall into the trap of trying to define exactly what that means, but we all know broadly what it means. I think we still have this dual system for the simple historical reason that the churches were first in the field in pro- viding schooling. Indeed, they were the pioneers of education long before the State got round to it. However, in the great Education Act 1944 the State required the aided and special agreement schools to provide educational facilities which were equal in quality to those provided by the county schools, and to that end there was instituted, as the noble Baroness told us, a grant at the rate of 50 per cent. By 1959 that rate of grant had become unrealistic, and that is why it was raised to 75 per cent. In its turn that rate of 75 per cent. has now become unrealistic, too, for the reasons which the noble Baroness explained to us and which I do not think I need repeat. So we have the rate raised by this Bill to 80 per cent.

I imagine that the churches would have liked the rate of grant to be raised even higher. It is a fairly open secret that Roman Catholics, at any rate, would have liked it to be put up to 85 per cent., and I know some individual church people who felt that the grant ought to be at the rate of 100 per cent. I used to get that request when I was a Member of another place, particularly during General Elections, but I did not think then and I do not think now that 100 per cent. should be granted. If people want something special, in education as in anything else, I feel that they should pay at least something towards it. Perhaps I may now be permitted to offer respectful congratulations to the Roman Catholic churches on what seems to be the successful manner in which they have faced their problems in recent years—problems which probably exceed those of the other denominations.

The noble Baroness said something about the fears which have been expressed—outside your Lordships' House, of course—concerning the general philosophy of the Bill and of those Acts which preceded it. I think it is a very good thing that the noble Baroness pointed out that this Bill most certainly will not open the door to the creation of new aided schools. As she explained to us, all the existing hoops will still have to be gone through before that can happen. No doubt one of the right reverend Prelates will correct me if I am wrong about this, but I have understood that the Church of England does not want to establish new aided schools.

In addition, this Bill is not, so far as I can see, going to add to or detract from the problem of the single-school area. Occasions will continue to arise when, for economic reasons, it will be necessary to enlarge an existing school, whether it be an aided school or a county school, rather than build a new one of the opposite character. I should have thought that when this happened, provided the arrangements of the local education authorities were flexible enough, they ought to be able to cope with objections which individual parents might have.

Even so, I personally fear that there will always be some parents who will not be able to send their children to an aided school, just as, unless we put an end to the dual system once and for all, for a long time to come some children will have to go to an aided school when their parents would wish them to go to a county school. In so far as that wish is due to the belief that facilities are generally better in county schools than they are in aided church schools, that seems to me to be at least a powerful argument in support of the Bill.

I am sure we are all in agreement that we—and by "we" I mean the country—must do all we reasonably can to try to achieve equal standards as between aided schools and county schools. But, standards apart, what about those people who feel strongly, as a matter of principle, either that there should be more denominational schools than there are or that there should be no denominational schools at all? For the former—that is to say, those who think there should be more—I cannot see very much comfort. For the latter, it seems to me that the statistics are interesting.

As I understand it, more than 84 per cent. of children in maintained schools—that is to say, schools which are not independent schools—are in county schools or in controlled church schools. As the noble Baroness told us, a controlled school is one in which the religious instruction is exactly similar to that in a county school, unless the parents expressly request that their child should be given denominational instruction, in which case he may have it for no more than two periods a week. So less than 16 per cent. of children in the maintained system are in aided or special agreement schools, the prevailing charac- ter of which is denominationally religious. Of those 15 to 16 per cent. a considerable number will be Roman Catholic children, whose parents would not have it otherwise, and they would wish them to be in denominational schools; and presumably the same could be said of at least some of the remainder of this 15 to 16 per cent. So it seems to me that the number of disgruntled parents cannot, mercifully, be very large.

I have a great deal of sympathy with those people who would prefer their children to go to a county school and then find that they cannot, but I have even more sympathy with those parents who cannot get their children into a denominational school when they want to, and to explain why I feel this I must declare my interest. I am a humanist; that is to say, I am a student of human affairs and a former student of the classics. I am also a practising member of the Church of England, but was not always. For the middle third of my life I was a rather militant non-believer, and as such I had to make up my mind what I should do if I married and had children. I decided that if possible—and I thought at that time it would be difficult—their education should ensure that they had the fullest knowledge from which they could accept or reject, as I had done, the serenity which religious faith can give to those who possess it.

Everything that I have said so far has been in the context of the provisions of Clause 1 of this Bill, and before I leave this clause I would give a special welcome to the Secretary of State's decision to end the distinction between completely new places on the one hand, and existing places and matching places, on the other. When I was the Minister of State in charge of the schools in the Department, this particular distinction seemed to me to be pretty futile in practice; and, moreover, one which would put an unnecessarily heavy burden sometimes on the officials who had to give Ministers the right technical advice.

My Lords, as to the rest of the Bill I welcome Clause 3, not least because I had the pleasure of introducing the Education Act 1964, which was the one which provided for the establishment of these middle schools. Clause 4 gets rid of something that I think is an anomaly. It seems to me absolutely right that loans should be available to help the denominational colleges of education meet their capital costs. I think that is all I need say. I believe that this Bill will make a significant contribution towards improving the standards of the church schools. I hope that the House will give it a Second Reading and that, in general, it will have a speedy passage through all its stages.

5.31 p.m.


My Lords, it is my privilege, on behalf of the Churches, to welcome the Bill which the noble Lady has moved so lucidly and, if I may say so, so convincingly; and, in so doing, I should like to express our thanks to the Secretary of State for Education and Science and his colleagues for the understanding way in which they considered the problems of the Churches when they were presented to them. It should be emphasised, as has already been said, that at all stages in these discussions the Churches acted together. We did not, as had happened on previous occasions, see the Secretary of State in three separate delegations or in two, but in one; and in the discussions with the Secretary of State, as well as in a very large number of private discussions between the representatives of the Churches, there has emerged, through a very frank expression of opinion, a common line and an identity of purpose on all important questions of principle so far as religious education is concerned. This, I believe, is a gain both to our contribution to education and, perhaps because we have done it in the context of education, to our understanding of each other.

We welcome this Bill above all because it will enable the Churches which have voluntary schools to maintain them and to develop them in ways which are educationally sound. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, said he was not going to fall into the trap of defining the dual system. It is rather a lengthy thing to define, as I find when I am entertaining educationists from other parts of the world, who simply cannot understand how we ever make such a system work without constant friction and trouble. We do make it work because, I believe, the essence of the dual system is one of partnership. The partnership between Church and State, historic in origin but maintained now because we believe it to be valuable, plays a valuable part also in our whole educational system—a system in which I believe, as a nation, we can take pride, and which I know is the envy of educationists from some other countries.

But if we are to maintain the dual system, in which the Churches believe so strongly—and perhaps some Free Churchmen who thirty years ago would have opposed it violently are now beginning to see that it is not without its value and its advantages—and if we are to make it effective, we know that there must be an ever-increasing and sacrificial effort in order to make our schools what they should be in comparison, as to their buildings and their equipment, with those of any other school.

We have welcomed everything that has been done since the war to improve our national system of education, though every change has imposed fresh burdens, financially, upon the voluntary bodies. The 1959 Act, for instance, increased the Churches' net expenditure on church schools by a very considerable amount; and the net cost of maintaining and developing Church of England schools at the present time is running in the neighborhood of £1 million a year. I have not the up-to-date figures for the Roman Catholic Church, but I know that they are certainly not lower, and are possibly greater, than our own. Though it is much too early to comment in detail on the recommendations of the Plowden Committee, I think this should be said: that if the Churches welcome the Committee's desire for increased facilities for primary education, they do so in the full knowledge that its effect will be further expenditure by the voluntary bodies to comply with those recommendations.

We see this Bill, then, as an enabling piece of legislation and one which will give to the Churches perhaps a greater measure of administrative justice. It is a great encouragement to all of us on the Churches' side that this is, as has been declared by the noble Lord, Lord Newton, essentially a non-Party Bill. It is also a Bill which is in principle accepted and agreed by all on the Churches' side. An increase in the rate of grant to 80 per cent. will not—most emphatically not—remove the financial problems of the voluntary bodies. It may possibly enable us to keep pace with rising costs and increased demands. I doubt very much if it will do more than that. But the Church leaders have accepted 80 per cent. as a fair balance. It is true, as has been said, that there are those who would have liked to see 85 per cent. Indeed, there were some who worked out a most elaborate calculation which arrived at 83⅘ per cent. as being that which was administratively and socially just. There were others, of course, who would have liked 100 per cent.

I myself am not included in the number who would have liked 100 per cent. I believe very firmly—though I speak here for myself—that the dual system, as a partnership, depends upon both partners being active, and if one partner in this dual system, the Churches, were a sleeping partner to the extent that it made no financial contribution at all, its slumbers, I fear, would very soon lead to a termination of life. As official leaders of the Churches, we have accepted 80 per cent. as a reasonable compromise and a fair balance.

Perhaps the most valuable part of the Bill will prove to be Clause 1(2)(a) and (b), which make grant at the full rate available for all school places—new schools as well as transferred schools and enlarged ones. It is obviously a great simplification of the existing situation, which at times can be described only as a jungle of legislation and of regulations through which it is very difficult even for the experienced officers of the Department of Education and Science to cut their way. This gives us a clear, simple procedure, and I believe it will make for the flexibility which is needed because it recognises, as was suggested by the noble Lady, that we cannot operate any longer as if we were in a static demographic situation. In our judgment, the increase in population and the movement in population since the war fully justify the addition of grants for new schools as being within the spirit of the 1944 Act.

I would not perhaps go all the way with the noble Lord, Lord Newton, in saying that the Church of England did not intend to provide any more new schools. What we want to do is to get our schools in the right places, and this Bill will enable us to do so. We do not anticipate, however, that there will be any great overall increase in the percentage of Church of England aided-school places, and I think that is probably what the noble Lord really had in mind.

Reference has been made to this question of single-school areas. It is a difficult question; but I want to say with all the emphasis that I can—and since this refers more particularly to the Church of England I can say it on behalf of the Church of England—that we have no intention whatsoever of creating any single-school areas as such; indeed, we are making every possible effort to remove any hurdle of conscience to existing single-school area situations. As has been suggested, the number of those is, in fact, not large, and in the last two or three years the number of instances in which there has been friction, or expressions of dissatisfaction, has been very small. The Joint Educational Policy Committee of The Anglican Church and The Free Church Federal Council was set up very largely to deal with single-school area questions of dissatisfaction. We have not had on our agenda for two and a half years a single instance of this kind. In fact, if we had not other more important things with which to concern ourselves, we should have gone out of business. We are not concerned merely to provide schools for our own children to be separated from the rest of the nation's children. We are, above all, anxious to make a worthy contribution to the whole national system.

Clauses 2 and 3 are, of course, of special importance to the Church of England because they deal with controlled schools. The Roman Catholic Church, I believe, as a matter of policy, has not thought it right to have any controlled schools. The removal of restrictions on enlargement and change of character of controlled schools will be very useful. It is only an enabling clause; it does not in any way weaken the power of the governors of schools to make their own proper decisions about the character and nature of their schools. But it does make it possible for them in certain cases, as has been pointed out, to take part where they wish to do so, in reorgainsation schemes, which would otherwise have been impossible because of the limitation in the 1953 Act. Clause 4 will also be very helpful. The colleges of education, the voluntary colleges, are straining every nerve to respond adequately to the pressing need for more teachers; and expansion in that particular field of education is very costly indeed.

My Lords, it is our hope that this Bill will receive an unopposed Second Reading and that we shall soon see it on the Statute Book. With its help, and with the encouragement it will bring, those responsible for church schools will be able to make a fuller contribution to the national education and, therefore, to the helping of the nation's children. We believe that contribution to be essential in itself and also because it enables us, in co-operation, as partners again, to assist those responsible in the field of religious education in county schools. But we are all well aware how necessary it is that religious education, the most vital part, and possibly the most difficult part, of all education, should be constantly developed and improved. We do not believe that it is anything like as effective as it should be, or as it could be, in our own church schools. We are giving much thought to its improvement.

The Church of England Board of Education is in process of setting up a very strong professional group to advise it on the improvement of religious education. I understand that a number of Roman Catholic teachers are considering a similar process of investigation, and the British Council of Churches will shortly be issuing the Report of a Group which has for the last two years been working on the significance of some of the latest educational thought in the field of religious education. With this information and this constant thought, the Churches will be more than willing to co-operate with the Government if and when the Government feel that a thorough-going review of religious education is timely and appropriate. Then we will do everything we can to cooperate. In the meantime, we will do all in our power to make church schools good schools, in every sense of the word. We shall continue to make sacrificial efforts on their behalf for the sake of the children who will be taught in them; in order that they may grow up to be good citizens and, in their turn, we hope, good parents. Because we are convinced that this Bill will enable the church schools to play their part more effectively in the nation's life we trust that your Lordships will support it to the full.

5.46 p.m.


My Lords, it seems appropriate that a Roman Catholic, other than the noble Baroness who introduced the Bill, should speak on this occasion. But the very statesmanlike speeches to which we have listened leave me with nothing very new to say. I am grateful to all the preceding speakers, to the noble Lord, Lord Newton, for his kind words about the efforts that Roman Catholics are making to improve the standard of education in their schools, and to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London for a thoroughly statesmanlike discourse on the problems of the dual system. The right reverend Prelate is quite right in saying that the Catholic Teachers' Federation are to institute an inquiry into the meaning of the words "Catholic school", what that school should be, how its Catholic character can be fully expressed. I am quite sure that other bodies of Christians are equally concerned with these fundamental matters. Until these investigations have been made we have to adapt ourselves to the present position, and we consider that the present Bill offers us a very reasonable and proper compromise in the matter of payments.

My Lords, in planning a new town, an overspill town, or a large housing estate, the planners consider first, I suppose, those amenities which everybody requires: a shopping centre, a community centre. They then consider the needs of the minorities and try to satisfy those needs so far as they properly can. There is a minority that cares about the game of bowls, and the planners provide them with a bowling green. There is a large minority—but still, I suppose, a minority—that is keen on reading; and the planners consider a branch library. Then they realise that there will be a minority of Roman Catholics coming to the new estate or town, and that perhaps it will be a rather large minority. The aim of these new estates is to relieve congestion in those overcrowded districts where Roman Catholics tend to abound. They face, therefore, the problem of satisfying this minority also, and they know that what this minority wants is its own schools.

Here I would say a word about the emotive force of the words "our schools" in the mouth of a Roman Catholic, and I would take your Lordships back for a moment to Victorian times, when parish schools were provided by nobody outside the parish, but by the parishioners themselves, by the people whose children would go to those schools when they were built. I would pay a tribute to the astonishing efforts by which the lowest-paid class of manual workers, immigrants and children of immigrants. raised funds to provide their parish school as could be done in those days of cheap building. It is those of whom we are thinking when we express our determination to have "our schools".

My Lords, the newcomer to the housing estate wants, quite reasonably, the same kind of school for his children in his new surroundings, and the planners are willing enough to meet him. They get in touch with the Roman Catholic Bishop and discuss their problems with him. The Roman Catholic Bishop hears this suggestion with somewhat mixed feelings—glad, of course, to provide for the needs of his flock, but increasingly worried about finance. He knows that he has to face certain expenditure in connection with comprehensive schools. He knows that many of his existing schools are overcrowded, and one factor that leads to overcrowding in those schools is that a sizeable proportion of West Indian immigrants profess the Roman Catholic faith. He knows that many of these old schools, proud though we are of them, ought to be rebuilt; and he knows that, though our credit is good and he can borrow money, interest rates are very high indeed.

The right reverend Prelate gave some figures regarding expenditure that faces the Church of England, and here I would quote from a brief which I have been given. it is impossible to give precise figures, but it can safely be said that the gross cost on building work completed or in progress is in excess of £100 million and that the share falling on Catholic shoulders is in excess of £40 million. Since much of this has to be paid for through loans, the eventual cost including interest will be substantially higher. Current indebtedness for loans of one kind or another is probably approaching £20 million. As regards future commitments it is not possible to make very precise estimates, but if the school building programmes of the next few years arc taken as a basis, Catholic liabilities could, even under the new arrangements, be between £20 million and £30 million per decade at to-day's prices.

My Lords, I almost hesitate to mention such minute sums to a House that is used to the magnitude of Government expenditure. But these millions of pounds frighten my community very much indeed, and we are most grateful for the relief that is given in the Bill. We are not a wealthy Church. The gorgeous vestments which your Lordships see at our services cover many a badly frayed, and very shiny, pair of clerical trousers. Faced with these financial circumstances, the Bishops were becoming increasingly alarmed, and some very glum faces were seen round the big table at Archbishop's House when the Bishops met.

Finally, as the right reverend Prelate has explained to us, we felt it wise, after the friendliest possible consultations with our brother Christians, to go to the Ministry; and they have given us this Bill which will enable us to carry on. In matters that depend so much on factors beyond our control no one can ever speak of complete and final settlement. I can only say that it is our sincere hope that this settlement will last for a long time, and that we shall be able to continue to play our part in the national system with ever-increasing effectiveness.

5.57 p.m.


My Lords, this short Education Bill before your Lordships' House to-day may well be described by some as a mini-Bill. It may be "mini", but it manages to cover up quite a lot. It has been welcomed both by those who have spoken in this Second Reading debate to-day, and by those who took part in the Second Reading debate in another place on November 4; and so far as it makes more money available to voluntary schools I, too, welcome it. I am venturing to speak to-day in order to give voice to the feelings of some of those who are governors of aided schools; of those who teach in aided schools and of those whose children are being educated in aided schools.

My Lords, it is often thought that the aided schools are all of them church schools, Church of England or Roman Catholic. That is not so. There are about a hundred aided schools throughout the country which are not church schools with a religious foundation. They mostly date back to generous benefactors in days long gone by, when the State had not yet recognised the importance of wider education, but individual citizens had. I have the privilege of being Chairman of the Governors of one of these schools, the Godolphin and Latymer Girls' School in Hammersmith, a wholly non-denominational aided school about which Her Majesty's Inspectors, when they had finished their report about this school, said last year: By any computation this is a very good school. Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to quote from a letter in The Times of December 5. It was written by the Chairman of the National Association of Governing Bodies of Aided Grammar Schools, and said: It will not be easy to find places for these schools in plans for reorganisation if the comprehensive principle is applied too rigidly by the local authorities and the Department of Education and Science. Many aided grammar schools are ancient endowed foundations which have served their localities well in the past and are anxious to adapt themselves to changing circumstances. There are, however, limits beyond which governors could not go in contemplating changes. If negotiations between local authorities and governing bodies reach a point of complete breakdown, aided grammar schools may be forced out of the national system of education or completely submerged so as to lose their essential natures. The country could ill afford at this time to lose any of its good schools, or to see them become independent fee-charging institutions, open only to those who could pay for the education they have to offer". At the moment there are no fees charged in any voluntary aided school. The running expenses are provided by the local education authority. Each school has its own governing body. Two-thirds of the governors are foundation governors, and under Section 114 of the Education Act 1944 they are appointed for the purpose of securing so far as practicable that the character of the school as a voluntary school is preserved and developed and, in particular, that the school is conducted in accordance with the provisions of any trust deed relating thereto. The remaining one-third of the governors are representative governors appointed by the local education authority.

The governors collectively are responsible in respect of the capital and income of the school endowments. The local education authority have a statutory duty to finance the running costs. The governors are responsible broadly for the structure of the school premises. A 75 per cent. grant towards that expenditure comes from the Department, a grant which this Bill seeks to raise to 80 per cent. The rest must be met by the governors from endowments or by raising funds by appeal. If I may take one moment of your Lordships' time to tell you of the nature of an appeal which took place in my own school to provide extremely good laboratories, two small girls from the Upper Forth form arrived at the headmistress's study one morning with 25s. 6d. towards the appeal fund and she said, "Do tell me where this has come from?" They replied, "We made toffee and we made our form buy it".

Voluntary aided schools are shining examples of a workable fusion of liberty and control. The independence of the greater part of the governing body gives the school autonomy over its own affairs. This has a subtle effect on the character of the school. It produces an atmosphere of liberty without bureaucracy, coupled with a sense of responsibility for the school as a unit, and it affects staff, parents and pupils. There is free choice in admission of pupils. They are selected by the school as being likely to profit by the kind of education which the school gives; and there is a strong feeling of co-operation as the parents have exercised their right of choice of school. There is an extraordinarily wide range of social backgrounds from which pupils come, and also a wide area which the school serves. In that sense the school is comprehensive in a way in which a purely local school generally cannot be comprehensive.

Voluntary aided schools have used their endowments of land, buildings and trust for the benefit of the country's educational provision, and since the 1944 Act they have raised and spent millions of pounds on buildings and improvements which would otherwise have had to be paid by the taxpayer.

Judging from what was said in another place, those representing religious denominations appear to be prepared to accept the 80 per cent. grant, with all that it may imply of obedient acceptance of the local education authority's plans for secondary education. In Mr. Driberg's speech in another place on November 4, 1966 (col. 866 of Hansard), he quoted from a letter—


My Lords, if the noble Baroness is thinking of quoting from Mr. Driberg, I would remind her that, as she knows, on the whole we try not to quote from another place.


My Lords, I wonder whether I can help my noble friend? I understood that she was about to quote from a letter received by Mr. Driberg, and not from his speech.


My Lords, I quote from a letter which Mr. Driberg received from the Secretary of the Schools Council of the Church of England Board of Education, Canon Eric Wild. He wrote: Although the Bill is not directly related to comprehensive secondary education it will in fact enable us to co-operate with the local authority in the plans that would not otherwise have been possible. As you will appreciate, it has not always been easy to find ways in which church secondary schools, and particularly smaller ones, can co-operate in schemes of comprehensive organisation. I am sure you will be glad to know that negotiations with local authorities and with the Department officers are proceeding in a most friendly and co-operative way, and have little doubt that all our schools will be integrated in local authority plans in due course. Without the legal easement offered by this Bill, it would have been very difficult to see how this could have been achieved in a number of situations. If I may say so, it would appear that the Church of England has sold its birthright of independence for a 5 per cent. mess of comprehensive pottage. But even though the Church seems to have surrendered, and seems to be prepared to take its educational thinking from the State, non-denominational aided schools would rather be without this additional 5 per cent. grant if it is going to take from us the independence we have always treasured. To increase the amount of the grant from 75 to 80 per cent. may well be a sop that is going to secure for the Department of Education some more control over some of the voluntary aided schools.

Originally, in 1944, the grant was 50 per cent. It was put up to 75 per cent. in 1959, to help meet the increased cost of all building work. But away back at the time of the passing of the 1944 Act many of the aided schools which could not satisfy the Ministry of Education that they could meet out of their endowments the cost of the new buildings which would he required of them had to accept controlled instead of aided status, by which they preserved a measure of their religious freedom but gave up their general educational independence.

Now, just over 22 years later, the voluntary aided schools are being offered 80 per cent. towards the cost of alterations and external repairs, and towards the cost of buildings transferred to new sites. Whatever the motive, one cannot help seeing that this is going to make it easier to force governors to move to a new site in order to amalgamate with some other school to form a comprehensive unit. It will be that much less easy for governors to resist such a move on the financial ground that they cannot afford to move. I ask those who believe that the future of this country is bound up with the universal establishment of comprehensive education to accept that those of us who believe that the future greatness of our country will suffer damage if aided grammar schools of outstanding quality are brought to an end are equally sincere. To achieve theoretical equality one can pay too high a practical price.

In the face of so much gratitude expressed by noble Lords who have spoken before me, I may seem ungrateful for what has been offered. If this Bill were designed solely to help efforts of the aided schools to continue their unique contribution to education in this country, with no ulterior motive hidden away in the golden handshake, I should he as grateful as any. As it is, I should not be honest if I were not to voice my doubts, because it would be unworthy of all the teaching of a really good school to jettison its liberty for money.

6.20 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to endorse the welcome that has been given from these Benches by my right reverend friend the Bishop of London, as well as by other speakers, to this Bill, which does not attempt to define, still less to debate, the dual system, and which has been welcomed as a measure which will enable that system as it stands to be carried out more effectively in future, with the additional provisions that are being made. Recognition lies in this Bill and has already been voiced, for it recognises the fact that the voluntary bodies—the Churches in particular, although I do not exclude other voluntary bodies engaged in education—have taken their part in education not merely by pious exhortation but by making sacrifices of their own. The example cited by the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, of "our" school in earlier days being erected for newcomers at local voluntary cost certainly would be balanced by a tremendous number of such schools, equally "our" schools, which sprang up in the last century before full-scale national education was introduced.

This contribution has gone on steadily, and the figures cited of what the present bill will be for the Church of England as for the Roman Catholic Church do not take into account how much has already been spent over the course of the last twenty years since the 1949 Act. The measure of Christian agreement about this figure which the Minister and all parties have acknowledged is certainly something to be thankful for. Not all agree to this figure. We have already been reminded that many Roman Catholics would like to see more. Equally there would be some Christian opinion which would resist more. But we would all say that this proportion of 80 per cent. does still preserve, and might make possible, a reasonable share by voluntary bodies in the partnership of education which now exists and which this Bill seeks to continue.

No question has been raised that rising costs and improving standards within that system lay an increasing burden on the voluntary bodies. It is perhaps difficult, except from within the system, to estimate quite what demands are made by a steadily developing pattern of education. There has been the transition from all-age schools to the pattern which was first introduced in full and based on the Hadow Report in 1944. There has been embarking on and developing of comprehensive education. There is the emergence already—and no doubt the Plowden Committee, which commends it, will persuade us further in this direction—of the middle school. There is, in the future, the raising of the school age. In all these there has been an increasing demand upon voluntary bodies, and they have sought—certainly I can speak for the Church of England—loyally to cooperate with local authorities in the plans they make to carry out national policy.

I noticed with some amusement and delight that the noble Baroness who has just spoken casts us here—I do not know whether the Roman Catholics and other bodies vie with us in this—for the role of Esau, selling our birthright in that way, and the Minister, or it may be the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, for the role of Jacob, exacting from us our birthright for a modest 5 per cent. increase of the total. I would, however, say that it is a poor exchange for our birthright if we thought that was being involved. It would certainly not constitute what the noble Baroness quoted—I do not think she used the words herself—obedient acceptance of proposals. In all there has been a genuine and loyal co-operation with local authorities which does not exclude negotiation and discussion to find the right way of working out local patterns. But I should certainly deplore the idea that this means a subservience to a particular educational view. We do not see it as such. We would see our duty always to take our own part as best we may within a national system of education. We have done so in the past, as we do in the present.

But when all this is added up, and on top of that is put the increasing costs and higher standards, the movement of population, and all the dislocation that this implies, then the intricacy and the cost of the whole operation of modern education, not only for the local authorities, which, after all, have the public purse behind them, but for the Churches, which must find their own share by private and voluntary giving, this is something that should surely command the sympathy and support of the country. It is therefore a matter of justice that the first grant has been asked for and has been conceded.

There is a further aspect of this—and I suppose I should declare a personal interest, as chairman of a schools council of the Church of England which is charged with taking counsel and advising the statutory diocesan education committees in 43 Anglican dioceses in this country and six in the principality of Wales. They have the burden and heat of working out the proper rights for the boards of managers, the proposals that can be carried out, and the ways in which they can find the resources for doing it. They would say unanimously that in all this they have constantly received immense help from the Ministry, and, for the most part, from local authorities. They would like me, I know, to acknowledge the degree of co-operation which lies behind this.

But I think that both local authorities and we ourselves would say that the present arrangements involve in terms of grants a tangle of negotiation, intensely complicated by these movements of population. These produce a most extraordinary, intricate process of negotiation and discussion, which we long to see cut through. Indeed, that is what this Bill does: it cuts through some of the old distinctions of grant, and makes possible assistance for new schools which are to find their statutory acceptance within the development plan. In this respect I would endorse what the Bishop of London said to the noble Lord, Lord Newton. There is common sense in this, and there is also common sense in the clause which recognises that existing controlled schools must be enabled to conform to new needs, whether this be in terms of enlargement or in terms of some change of character which educational policy might involve.

I am glad that the noble Baroness, speaking from the Government Front Bench, referred to the question of controlled schools which may arise in the creation of the middle schools of a new system. Educationally, these middle schools may well have a great advantage, but there is no doubt that their creation may often, through the loss of several age groups, bring great hardship, and involve ultimate elimination of some primary schools. And these schools, remember, have been maintained or have been reconstructed in all good faith within existing development plans. Therefore, I think the provisions in this Bill for these controlled schools, middle schools for the most part, so that they can enable us to continue our proper share, are something which we welcome both on terms of justice and in terms of encouragement.

I do not think I need refer further to the single-school areas. Again, they are difficult to define, and, I think, so easily safeguarded from, both by the responsibility of the local authority and, indeed, by public opinion. Certainly we do not regard this Bill, any more than the Minister does, as one that is intended to increase or encourage the promotion of these areas. But this Bill is, indeed, largely a bricks-and-mortar Bill, which enables the Churches and other voluntary bodies to provide their share within the existing framework. However, in the few moments that I hope to detain your Lordships further, I should not like it to be thought that our concern in education, any more than that of the Ministry, is really with buildings.

I recall a small school in the County of Sussex recently inspected by Her Majesty's inspectors. Next door to this little school is a very ancient and lovely church, going back to Norman and Saxon times. Although most of the housing round about it is quite modern, the school itself is, I will not say as antique as the church itself, but certainly of that old period which makes it clamour quite rightfully for inclusion soon in rebuilding. But, none the less, the inspector has given the most glowing report of the school and would place it in terms of quality as high as any school in the country. Its success has been due to a number of human factors primarily: to the interest of parents, the support and co-operation of the community around, and to the local church; but especially, of course, to the kind of leadership the teachers themselves have exercised within that little school.

Teachers have an exceedingly difficult task to-day. They are confronted with changes in educational method, with new knowledge and techniques; they very often have great pressures of numbers to face, and, above all, they must he sustained by their own high sense of vocation as teachers. And the Churches, I think, would always say that our greatest contribution to the whole national system of education, not just our part of it, must be in the provision of teachers who have been equipped both with the right technical skill or knowledge and also with a strong sense of the importance of their task and the value of the boys and girls who will be entrusted to them. Therefore, we greatly welcome that clause in the Bill, so little noticed, which gives some further encouragement and help to the very considerable part which the Churches are playing in their colleges of education in this immense expansion of teachers at the present time.

These teachers would be the first to recognise that the obligation of the Churches in this respect is not discharged when we have helped to put up school buildings for them. All the great reports on education which we have had in the past few years—not least the Plowden Committee's Report—have dealt not only with structure and buildings and ages, but with new approaches to all the different subjects of study contained within a modern curriculum. There is a ferment of new ideas in teaching which applies just as much to religious subjects as to any others: new ways of handling the knowledge we have, new psychological approaches to pupils and, above all, perhaps, an emphasis on the pupil-centred education, which starts where they are rather than from a body of knowledge we wish to impart to them. Within the field of religious education, we are very conscious of this new ferment. As we see it, the issue before us is not how much or how little religious education there may be—some people may put that question—but rather, by what means children can be brought to understand what their Christian heritage is, and be able to grasp sufficient materials and knowledge in this respect, so that they can later make some mature judgments for themselves and form their own religious and moral convictions.

All this involves—and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London has already referred to this—a reappraisal both of the material that has to be presented to them and of the ways in which it should be done. It means, of course, more in the later age groups, some understanding of how other religions make their answer to the issues of life. It will certainly mean providing some kind of basis, whatever their own religious convictions become, on which they can accept the moral responsibilities for their conduct as mature people. These are wider questions, of course, in this Bill which will be increasingly under discussion throughout our whole community.

But if we are to make wise answers to these questions, surely it is imperative that the Churches should be encouraged to make their own contribution to these questions as effectively, and from as wide an experience, as they can. As the right reverend Prelate has already indicated, there is much study going on in this field about the ways in which religious and moral truth should be presented to the younger generation to-day. But, if the Churches are to play their part properly, they must be encouraged in the two specific fields in which they are already operating: in the equipment of their schools to meet the "new looks" in education, and in the training, sometimes the further training, of their teachers, not only in new techniques, but in a new and sympathetic understanding of their relationship with the generation of children growing up. I believe that this Bill, modest though it may seem, will be of great and valuable help to us in this respect, and, therefore, my Lords, I welcome it.

6.26 p.m.


My Lords, I do not wish to detain your Lordships for more than two or three minutes, but in listening to the various speeches this afternoon I have been quite amazed to find how the Churches to-day, of different denominations, are able to deal with their school problems on a friendly basis and meet and discuss the problems together. As I heard these speeches made—and I know they are absolutely true—my mind went back to 1953, when I was Minister of Education, and we were bringing in the Bill which made things better in many ways, although we had the terrible difficulties of the displaced pupil, the difference between the new schools and the others, and other such difficulties. But at that time there was complete division between the various denominations. They were not disagreeable. They were perfectly willing to come and see me separately, but it seemed at that time that it was absolutely necessary for there to be a great ditch between each. To-day, we know that is all different. To my mind it seemed amiracle—the difference between 1953 and 1967. The whole outlook has changed.

Because of that, as I listened to these speeches I felt somewhat worried about what was said by my noble friend Lady Brooke of Ystradfellte, because it had been said to mea little time ago, and I had then taken the trouble to read the debate in another place on the Second Reading of this Bill. There is a feeling at the present moment that, after this Bill becomes an Act, there will be a great deal of discord on the subject of comprehensive schools. I have never been one who thinks there must be no comprehensive schools or that all schools must be comprehensive, which I think would be going too quickly. I hope it will be made perfectly clear that it will not be necessary, even that it will not be urged, that the denominational schools, the aided schools, should go forward with comprehensive education simply because it is wanted by the particular local authority and, as has been pointed out, because they are getting up to 80 per cent. grant.

The reason why I mentioned at the beginning of my speech my astonishment at the good will between the various denominations to-day is that, if possible, I want to see good will in the areas of the different local authorities between those who want everything comprehensive and those who do not. It has taken this very long time to get the various denominations to work together as happily as they are doing now, and I believe so firmly that, above all, patience is wanted in dealing with this problem, which is a very real problem, and that we shall succeed if we go very slowly before we finally decide between one type of secondary schooling and another. It may be there should be different types always. Personally, I think we could get an organisation that took in various types of school, but I hope and pray that we shall not, as a result of denominational difficulties and lack of friendship, get into further controversies between comprehensive and non-comprehensive schools. It appears that we now have the friendship and the co-operation of the various Churches. It has taken us a good many years to achieve that, so I would appeal to the Government not to precipitate a further difficulty in the divisions in the outlook with regard to the various schemes for education.

6.30 p.m.


My Lords, church schools are not really my part of ship, either as a member of this Front Bench or as an ordained servant of the Church of England, but I have a special reason for being glad to be winding up the debate, which so far has been a welcome for this Bill, from this side. That special reason is that I am a member of the staff of the Bishop of St. Albans, with particular responsibility to him for fostering better relations between the denominations in his diocese, and if my noble friend Lady Horsbrugh had not already just done it I should not have wanted to miss this opportunity of drawing your Lordships' attention to the quite splendid progress we are now able to make because the denominations are able to act in concert together in this and many other matters.

The advantages deriving to all concerned from subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 1 are cases in point. The previous Secretary of State in 1959 and in 1953 was not able to do all that he or she would have liked to do, just because the denominations were not able to agree about it. We are now in a happier condition and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, has explained in introducing this Bill, grants are available for new schools so that they can be applied where they are needed, instead of only where they were being applied before and where, in many cases, they are no longer needed.

My own diocese is a case in point. Under the inducements and incentives provided by this legislation we are now able to look at all our four secondary modern schools and to expand, or at any rate embark on negotiations with a view to expanding, all of them. We are also able—and this is a new feature—to look at the diocese, consisting of the two counties of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, as a whole, and, in negotiation with the local authority, to decide where it would be helpful for the Church to make a contribution in the form of new schools, something which hitherto we have not been able to contemplate.

I should like now to turn to the contribution of the Churches to the national system of education through the dual system, and in particular to refer a little further (if it is not improper for a member of the Church of England to do so) to the particular contribution made by the Roman Catholics in the past ten years. May I preface what I have to say by pointing out what I think is quite obvious: that when churchmen are providing, maintaining and building new schools they are doing something over and above what they are already doing as citizens. The contributions made by church people to their denominational schools are not things which they are doing instead of their contribution to the State system; they are doing it over and above.

And when we look at the Roman Catholics and consider what a relatively small proportion of the population they represent—certainly a fraction in strength of numbers, compared with the Church of England, by whatever criterion one judges the strength of the Church of England—and remembering that, compared to us Anglicans, they have virtually no endowments, and therefore have the cost of their own clergy and their own church buildings also upon their shoulders, I think it is very creditable that over the past ten years they have added another 150 primary schools—an increase of 8 per cent.—and, more remarkable still, 240 secondary schools. This represents a doubling of their schools in ten years, and a trebling of the number of pupils under secondary education in their care. It seems to me these are achievements which we ought not to pass over when an opportunity like this presents itself. I do not think it does anything to detract from the continuing and historic contribution of the Church of England to mention this remarkable achievement and to hope that it will be sustained.

I should like now, if I may, to follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester a little along the line that he left us with at the end of his speech. This debate in your Lordships' House, the debate on this Bill in another place, and the negotiations which gave birth to this Bill in the first place have, I am sure, all shown (and my noble friend Lady Horsbrugh has confirmed this from her much wider experience) that the fire has at last gone out of these dreadful debates and controversies that we have had around the dual system in the past. Not that the system is perfect now. I hope that as the years go by it will continue to develop and change, though the moment is not ripe for making any drastic changes. One hopes that any further developments and changes will go on outside the framework of Party political controversy and ecclesiastical politics.

I would suggest that the controversy is now shifting. It is a welcome shift to the central issue for all churches: that is, how to teach the Christian faith to our children in all schools, State and church, in the second half of the 20th century. This is a welcome change, and in this context the help offered to the voluntary colleges of education under Clause 4 is particularly relevant. The more discussion we can have, and the more we can have it together—and I stress the word "together"—between the demoninations on this cardinal issue of how actually to teach the Christian faith, the better for us. It will involve, and I am sure it should now involve, changes and modifications in the agreed syllabuses. It needs much more attention to the needs of the children at their particular stages of development, and particularly to the needs of the older children who are present now in our secondary schools in far greater numbers than was envisaged when the original Act of 1944 was drafted, and who will be present in ever greater numbers when the school leaving age is raised.

Any modern catechism, or series of catechisms, must depend far less on handing out dollops of ecclesiastical dogma to our children, because the older children quite properly simply will not take it. I will not go into detail, but, broadly speaking, in my view (and I have had a little experience, as all clergy have, of teaching both in State and church schools) the way to teach the Christian belief and the Christian code of behaviour, particularly to older children, is to explain, together with their active co-operation, just exactly what life is about. They are intensely interested in this and also in how they are supposed to fit in with it. As the most reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester has just said, it is not a question of deciding that you want to impart this, that and the other bit of religious knowledge to children and hand it out to them; you have to start where they are, make things real and interesting to them, and go on from there.

I will say no more about this, because I am glad to see that my noble friend Lord Aberdare who, unfortunately, is not with us this afternoon, has a Motion down for a debate in your Lordships' House on the teaching of religious knowledge. I look forward very much to the day when we have that debate. All I will do now is to conclude my few remarks by stressing, as I am sure all noble Lords would agree, that no society must ever tire of trying to improve the systems by which it educates its children. I welcome the Bill on behalf of these Benches as a prudent, well advised, step to secure such an improvement. This Bill will go a considerable way to ensure that the Churches and all the other voluntary bodies responsible for running schools will not cease to make their full contribution to such an improvement.

6.42 p.m.


My Lords, I confess that I have found this an extremely interesting and, indeed, extremely satisfactory debate. Although this is a subject with which all those of your Lordships who took part in the debate are very familiar, the fact remains that it has provided a vehicle for the expression of a number of interesting views. I am personally grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Newton and Lord Sandford, for the welcome they have given to the Bill. I think it would be quite proper on this occasion to congratulate those leaders in the main political Parties, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Sir Edward Boyle, on the harmonious and close understanding and wisdom which they have jointly brought to bear on this subject.

I warmly agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Horsbrugh, about the really splendid nature of the change that has come about in relation to these matters, which have been previously the subject of controversy. Those of your Lordships who are familiar with the history of your Lordships' House will remember the violence of feeling that arose in relation, for instance, to the Liberal Education Bill in 1906 or 1907, when this was one of the bones of contention between another place and this House. Since we are giving credit where credit is due—and I do this in no spirit of flattery—I think we should recognise specifically the wisdom of the Church leaders. I have particularly in mind the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and Archbishop Beck; and those of us who knew both the Bishop of London and the Archbishop will not in the least have been surprised to see this evolution into a common position. A special measure of congratulation or acknowledgment is due to the leaders of the Free Churches, especially when one remembers the strength of the feeling of their predecessors and those who actually went to prison rather than pay the rate. To-day it has been possible for the Free Church leaders, Dr. Payne and Dr. Vine, to come along with their Roman Catholic and Anglican colleagues.

It seems to me that there is very little in this debate for me to answer. All the aspects of the Bill were fully and lucidly explained by my noble friend Lady Phillips, and in those areas which might need even fuller explanation for those Who, like myself, are laymen in the field of education, this information has been supplied with great clarity, and in a very ample form, by the noble Lords and the right reverend Prelates. I greatly enjoyed listening to the right reverend Prelates the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Chichester, and it was interesting to hear of the new look, the new thinking that is going on, and the detailed views of men who are carrying special responsibility for these schools. Once again I must, like the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, express my admiration for the way the Roman Catholic community are carrying a burden which the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, said might seem small to us, in view of the vast sums we normally talk about, though, frankly, it seemed to me enormous.

Having known the devotion that has gone into the support of Church education and its fundamental importance to the community, those of us who might prefer a tidier system of education—and from an organisational point of view there are powerful arguments against the dual system—must remember that it is absolutely essential in a democracy, where the influence of the State can be so great, that we should not regard the State as the special property of the secularist, and to that extent it is gratifying to see that this sensitivity is so clearly recognised.

There are one or two small points that I would mention. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London has already corrected one small point on which the noble Lord, Lord Newton, fell slightly into error. The Church of England, as I understand it, have only given an undertaking with regard to opening new aided schools in single-school areas. I think this point was particularly clarified. There was one—I hesitate to say jarring note in the debate: the noble Baroness, Lady Brooke of Ystradfellte, is so charming and expresses herself so beautifully that the underlying violence of her language is somewhat concealed. I was glad that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester answered her.

I must say, frankly, that I should not have thought this an appropriate occasion to debate comprehensive education, and I do not propose to do so, because this is a non-contentious Bill. I am amazed at the capacity, I might say of the Brooke family, to bring contentiousness. Indeed, I am a little worried about this sort of paranoic tendency that we have seen displayed twice to-day. There is the vision of a Machiavellian and wicked Secretary of State waiting with his trap ready for the innocent Church leaders—and let me say that the Church leaders may be innocent in certain respects, but they are not innocent in terms of politics and wordly wisdom—to be lured into this trap and all is going to be lost.

My Lords, I do not propose to say any more, beyond acknowledging—and we must acknowledge—that the schools of the kind of which the noble Baroness was speaking are ones of which the governors are very rightly proud; and there is no suggestion that this is not so. I must say that because our natural loyalties are such that we always believe that that which we work for and work with has a peculiar excellence. I would not go quite as far as the converse of what she said and assume that other schools, county schools with their governors and their devotion to education, do not also have a special excellence. I may perhaps say that there is a variety of excellence, and I can see the attractions of this view. But I do not propose to widen the debate any further. There will be other occasions, no doubt, when we shall hear either from the noble Baroness, or indeed from the noble Lord, on this subject.


My Lords, may I say that it was far from my intention to suggest that there were not other extremely good systems of education and extremely good schools. I think that the noble Lord is perhaps slightly twisting what I was trying to say.


Well, my Lords, save me from trying to twist what the noble Baroness was trying to say! She seems to have twisted quite a lot of her own thinking or she would not have produced her particular speech on this occasion. Again I say, in the friendliest way, that I do not want to spoil the atmosphere. I am most grateful to noble Lords on the other side, and to other noble Lords and right reverend Prelates who have spoken, for the way in which we have been able to establish a real measure of agreement. I am quite convinced that there is a real measure of agreement. There is also a great measure of understanding about the nature of the difficulties. There is such good will and determination in regard to this matter that I think it augurs extremely well for the future of the aided schools and of the communities who make such sacrifices to carry them on. Of course the noble Baroness was quite right to point out that aided schools do not all belong to particular communities. There are a number of independent (if that is the right word) aided schools of great excellence.

My Lords, I do not propose to spend any further time discussing the purposes of the Bill. I think we are all agreed that it represents an important easement, and that it introduces—this may be of even greater importance—a greater flexibility into dealing with the problems which the movement and development of our community impose on those who wish to have a special stake and a special interest in education. I do not think I need commend the Bill any further to this House. I believe that it is clear that it will have a satisfactory and swift progress through the House. I would only express my appreciation of the wise speeches that I have heard to-day.

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

House adjourned at six minutes before seven o'clock.