§ 3.5 p.m.
§ BARONESS WHITE rose to call attention to the Russell Report on Adult Education; and to move for Papers. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. If all the noble Lords who were kind enough to write to me expressing their regret at not being able to take part in this debate had been in their places we should possibly have been continuing until after midnight. Perhaps fortunately, some noble Lords have not been able to be here, although we much regret that they will not be able to make their contributions. I hope it will not be thought invidious if I mention only one whose absence I particularly regret; namely, the noble Lord, Lord Boyle of Hands-worth. He would have made a particularly valuable contribution to our debate.
§ My Lords, it may seem early to be debating a Report which took almost four years to produce and which saw the public light of day only on March 27 this year, but I believe it is none too soon to begin stirring up the Department, drawing the attention of the Ministers concerned to the recommendations of this Report and asking them for at least their first reactions. Sir Lionel Russell. the Chairman, and his colleagues who produced this document were themselves in no doubt that in this particular sector of education the lead must come from central Government. They devote a whole section of their Report to this topic and, I believe, with good reason; for while justification for their demand is firmly based on the provisions of the 1944 Education Act, unless the present Secretary of State is prepared to give a clear lead there is some danger that the Report may be regarded as largely a waste of effort.
§ The reason why I say that is simple. It is that while the Report, to my mind rightly, opts for a continuation of the partnership between statutory and voluntary bodies, the resources required for pump priming in this field must come largely from the centre. Neither the voluntary bodies nor the local education authorities can generate these resources 1205 unaided, so a lead from the top is essential. This is not just a matter of cash, important as that is; it is also a question of recognition—of status, if you like. Adult education has been for all too long the Cinderella in the educational world and it is surely time that that attitude was changed. I understand that some steps have already been taken within the Department. I hope that either the noble Baroness or the noble Lord—and I am delighted that both are to take part in the debate—will confirm the point made in paragraph 160 of the Report, that part of the general uncertainty about the priority accorded to adult education derives from the fact that it had no obvious place in the administrative structure of the Department. I hope that this point has been, or is being, met. I hope also that the same can be said about the strengthening of Her Majesty's inspectorate referred to in the succeeding sub-paragraph. I have given the Minister notice that I would raise this point and I hope, therefore, that I shall have specific answers on these particular matters.
§ I think it would be fair to say that the Report generally has had what might be termed a rather tepid reception. One should differentiate between what one might call the "trade Press", which is more clearly aware of its undoubted merits, and the generality of newspapers, who wanted a great State Paper and did not find one. After Crowther, Robbins, Newsom and Plowden, I think they felt somewhat let down. Nevertheless, we have concrete evidence that there is widespread interest in this sphere of education, and there can be no better proof of this than the fact that the first print of the Report, 10,000 copies, was, I understand, sold out within the first couple of days and a second print of 15,000 was immediately put in hand. That, I am sure, must have been gratifying to the members of the Committee who for so long laboured to produce it.
I must admit that on reading the Report I was reminded of the quotation from William Blake, used recently by Dame Margaret Cole at a Fabian dinner in her honour:
He who would do good, must do it in minute particulars.
§ This seems to have been the motto of those who drafted the Report. There are certainly moments when one wishes that they had switched to Emerson and hitched their wagons to a star. It would have been more exhilarating. There are advantages, when engaged in selling a product, in making the customer feel that he is buying something exciting. What the Russell Committee have concentrated on is assuring the customer about getting value for money. This they have done very successfully, and herein lies the merit of their careful and thorough analysis, their costing, their refusal to look in detail too far ahead and their determination not to be lured into anything remotely resembling romanticism.
§ For those who already know something of the value of adult education that makes this Report peculiarly satisfactory. One can rest assured that, within the limits set by the Committee's rather narrow (as I think) terms of reference, and by their own approach, what the Russell Report says can be relied on. It is, as its authors intended it to be, a sound base for administrative advance, both departmentally and at local level. The truly remarkable conclusion which they have reached, given in outline in paragraph 4 of their general recommendations on page X, is that we spend on adult education barely 1 per cent. of the national education budget and that this amounts to less than £10 per head per annum on the 2 million or so adult students currently attending classes. I hope that the Minister may be able to give us more up-to-date figures than those that were available to the Committee, but according to their calculations this expenditure has been running at about £16 million per annum by the local education authorities and about £1.4 million per annum by the Department of Education and Science.
§ The Committee's detailed proposals, for which they undertook, I think, a very careful exercise of costing, extending over the next five to seven years, would involve an increase to a figure of the order of some £38 million for local education authorities and to around £2.65 million for the Department. All these costings which I have given are in terms of 1968–69 prices. For this proposed very modest increase, taken in relation to our total expenditure on education, one 1207 could double the number of beneficiaries, and in the view of Sir Lionel and his colleagues, which I believe to be very well founded, we could thus secure one of the best bargains in terms of value for money in the whole field of education.
§ I fully recognise that after Mr. Barber's razor cuts announced on Monday this is hardly the most propitious moment to ask for more of anything, but I firmly believe that the Russell Committee were right. Education for those who left school at 15, or even younger, is an essential element in our social fabric which I believe we shall neglect at our peril. Rising economic benefits can turn into Dead Sea fruit if people have not the range of skills and interests needed to enjoy and develop their more prosperous lives. People whose jobs are less than satisfying need to find achievement outside their work or they will prove either troublesome or apathetic at work. Management and workers need enough common background of knowledge to be able to communicate intelligently. Our community life calls more and mare for men and women with enough knowledge and understanding to be able to put forward grievances, and proposals for remedying them, articulately and convincingly. They need to be capable of putting a case in terms which will compel attention.
§ At present, community activities are far too much the prerogative of the middle classes who become spokesmen without always understanding the true aspirations of those whose needs and wishes they seek to represent. I think this was brought out most strikingly by Mr. Jack Jones, General Secretary of the Transport Workers' Union, in a notable address at the Workers' Educational Association Conference in Harrogate ten days ago. He emphasised that the vast majority of ordinary people find decisions being taken for them by other people who do not always know much about them, leading to the perpetuation of the "us" and "them" division in our society. The only way to break this barrier is to give working people greater skill and hence greater confidence in themselves, and this I believe to be the main and primary job of adult education.
§ But there is also a compensatory aspect. In recent years the emphasis in educa 1208 tional circles has been strongly on the deprived child. In the urban aid programme and the designation of educational priority areas, in the recent move forward in nursery and other pre-school age provision, the disadvantaged child has been in the centre of the stage. But surely, my Lords, the main lesson of the Russell Report is that the deprived child grows up into the deprived adult. Newsom spoke of "Half our Future" in that most graphic Report on the children of what were then the secondary modern schools. My Lords, we have with us at the moment far more than "half our present" among the adults who have not had the full benefits of education which some of us have enjoyed; and throughout life, not just during the school years, the deficiencies which one has failed to make good in childhood persist. Therefore one of the objectives of adult education is to repair, so far as one is able so to do in later life, these disadvantages of the earlier years.
§ There is another group of people, not perhaps noticeably disadvantaged in their social or family background, who are simply late developers. At the right moment in school, or possibly later in life, they are just not ready to take advantage of opportunities offered to them. Later on they wake up and realise what they have missed. Then there are those who have specific disabilities for which special training for long periods of life may be required. So in terms of social investment we need adult education as compensation for earlier deprivation, for disability or as a second chance if one has let the first chance go by.
§ Finally, my Lords, there is the wider concept of education as a continuing process for everyone—"permanent education" (and I quote from the French expression) does not seem to me a very happy phrase in English, but it surely does not take a very great effort of imagination to realise how much richer and happier the lives of many men and women could be if from time to time they could immerse themselves in learning or improving skills or interests connected with their working lives, their community lives or their domestic lives. There is a good deal of discussion going on internationally, at the I.L.O. and elsewhere, among representatives of the more advanced industrial countries about the need sometime during 1209 one's working life of the equivalent of the academic sabbatical—in other words, of some interlude of paid study leave not necessarily directly related to qualifications for one's job. This is a fairly recent idea, but I think it is one which may well prove to be a testing one for our progress in civilisation.
§ My Lords, in preparation for this debate I wrote to every member of the Russell Committee (except Sir Alfred Owen who is so gravely ill that he is not able to deal with correspondence) and I asked for their reactions to the comments made since publication of the Report. One recurring theme in the replies which I have received was that one should scotch the notion that all the Report does is to propose ways and means of securing a little more of what we have already. Of course more of what we have already is needed, and the Committee has put forward very practical suggestions of how it can be achieved at minimal cost, particularly if the fullest use is made of existing and newly designed buildings and equipment. But, though couched in sober language, the Report also shows full awareness of the fresh thinking and experimentation which in the last few years particularly has become evident, though so far often confined to a few places where local enthusiasts have blazed the trail. The term "adult education" (and I wish we could find a better one: I find it off-putting, but we know what it means) covers every gradation from the Open University and the degree equivalent standard of some university extra-mural classes to local community groups concerned with pre-school playgroups, tenants' associations, women's institutes, Oxfam or what ever it may be.
§ One recent trend is the recognition that much of our expensive infant and primary education is partly wasted because parents, particularly mothers, who in the early years see most of the child, simply do not know how to reinforce the work of the schools or how to foster and encourage youthful interests. If ever educational investment could be expected to pay dividends it would be through education, however informally arranged, of mothers of disadvantaged children. Even a cursory glance at the National Child Development Study, From Birth to Seven, which is, I am sure, familiar to many of your Lordships, 1210 shows how desperately far we are from being one nation in this matter of childhood opportunity. Concentrating on the children is not enough. We must also concentrate on the homes.
§ As someone who has been a supporter of the Workers' Educational Association all my adult life, but not actively in touch in recent years, I have been much encouraged to receive up-to-date information which shows that this great pioneer body is at length bestirring itself and recognising that its conventional pattern of classes, which has become more and more beamed to the professional or semiprofessional person, is not enough. It is now trying energetically to move back into the workplace, at any rate in London and Oxford, as I have no doubt the noble Baroness is aware, with industry-based branches, and trying to meet many groups on their own chosen ground of interest, such as branches of the National Association for Mental Health and the Child Poverty Action Group.
§ These moves, to my mind, are admirable, but one does not have to read far between the lines to sense that such enterprises are still very thin on the ground. I hope that the Minister will refer to the grant arrangements, by which more resources could be made available for development work of this kind, without differentiating too closely between actual teaching, organising and informal development work. I believe that the pattern of grant might make a great deal of difference to the kind of advances that could be made: and the current regulations, as I understand it, do not entirely fit the case.
§ My Lords, I should like to refer now to one particular sphere of interest of my own, a small, but I think important, sector of adult education; namely, the long-term residential colleges, of which I suppose Ruskin College at Oxford is the best known. I have strong personal links with our Welsh equivalent, Coleg Harlech. This was founded by my father nearly fifty years ago, and I believe was the first to use the phrase, "the college of the second chance". My father, while still a full-time civil servant, as Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, put his great energies into starting this college, with the help of his more wealthy friends, because he felt so passionately that while he, after some years in industry, had been 1211 able to reach university, so many gifted young people had no hope of doing so. This he felt was a great loss to the nation, as well as to themselves.
§ Nowadays, it may be said that the pattern has changed. There is a broader road of opportunity. But our experience in the residential colleges shows that there are still many adults who have ability but who need the intensive tutoring given by the residential colleges to enable them to jump the gap later in life if they have failed to take the straightforward path earlier on: and this failure can be due to all kinds of complex circumstances. Such people cannot do all that is needed simply by going to the local technical college or polytechnic; nor can everyone cope with the pattern of study of the Open University, admirable though that is for some people. So I was much encouraged by the tribute paid by the Russell Committee to the small band of residential colleges. They are few in number, but serve an essential purpose of very high quality teaching: and I would support the view of the Committee that a further college is needed to complete the picture in the North of England. I hope that the Government may also be willing to support this proposition. I wish, frankly, that the Russell Committee had come down much more strongly in favour of mandatory student grants for these residential colleges, as the preent system of discretionary grants leads to the most gross injustice as between one student and another. At the very least, I hope that the Government will pay attention to the proposals put forward in the Report for the pooling of money for student grants for these colleges.
§ My Lords, I will not detain the House on the particular references to Coleg Harlech in its Welsh context made by one of the members of the Committee, Mr. Tom Ellis, M.P., in his personal addenda to the Report, beyond saying that we have always recognised the College's particular duty to Wales, that the number of Welsh students has been consistent, but that the proportion has dropped somewhat recently with the overall increase in our numbers, partly because certain English L.E.A.s are generous with grants and certain Welsh ones are less so.1212
§ In conclusion (and I am leaving a wide untouched field for noble Lords who are to follow in the debate), I come back to where I started, to the responsibility of Central Government in this matter. I know only too well as a former Minister how the shadow of expenditure cuts can blight the most progressive of Departments. But these things pass, and one must always be prepared to seize the opportunity swiftly when the cloud lifts. If one is not prepared, the shadow is likely to descend again before one has made the desired advance. It is in this context that, on behalf of the whole adult education movement in this country, statutory and voluntary, I urge the Secretary of State to come forward with an unequivocal commitment to the cause of adult education. The right honourable lady knows as well as anyone that there are areas where advance is essential if we are to maintain the quality of our community life, and, if I may say so, if the dialogue between Government and the working people of this country is to have any chance of successs. Fully responsible citizens cannot be produced even with a school leaving age of 16. Much more is required.
§ As an earnest of intent, I hope that we may have to-day an assurance that, while it is too soon to expect acceptance of the Russell recommendations in full, or even maybe in part, there will be acceptance of what the Committee members assure me is crucial; namely, their recommendation for the setting up of a National Development Council for Adult Education. I would hope, in passing, that there could be special, but not entirely separate, provision for Wales. This will not cost money; this is not affected by the Barber cuts. But it is an essential prerequisite of any real move forward. Given this declaration, consultations can proceed with the bodies concerned. Without such a declaration, the whole effect of the Russell Report may be stultified. I give notice that this request will be forthcoming. I confidently hope that either the noble Baroness or the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, in addressing the House will be able to give us the assurances that we seek. If we have this assurance as a preliminary, as I have said, as an earnest of intent, then I think the members of the Russell Committee will feel 1213 that their work has been worth while; those who labour in this field will be encouraged, and we shall be able confidently to proceed with our efforts to build a more civilised, a more equitable and a more progressive society in this land. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ BARONESS SEEAR
My Lords, before speaking to this Motion I ought I think to confess an interest. I am proud to be the president of Hillcroft College, an adult college for women, and also chairman of the Morley College Council, a literary institute just the other side of the river, and therefore I am speaking in this debate to plead the cause for adult education with an unashamedly partisan approach. I shall also, if your Lordships will forgive me, illustrate what I have to say by incidents of a more personal kind than perhaps are normally used in debates of this sort.
I welcome the Russell Report, although like the noble Baroness, Lady White, I am aware of its limitations, part of which are due to its terms of reference. I welcome it because it asks for a national development council for adult education, and perhaps most important of all because it asks for more money. But, my Lords, I am a realist, and even if there had not been the cuts of this week I know that claims for more money for adult education have to compete with claims for more money from many other sectors, within the education system and outside, and I do not believe, powerful though the advocacy of the Russell Report is, that there is very much hope of getting the money that is needed for adult education unless there is a change of view as to what adult education is really all about and what the function of adult education is within the educational system and in our society as a whole.
Of course there are many informed persons and enthusiasts who know what is really happening and what needs to happen inside the field of adult education, but to the great mass of people I suspect that adult education still suggests the paternalist "do-gooding", the unashamed paternalist "do-gooding" of our Victorian ancestors; and of course somebody has to be the father, and I 1214 have never quite seen why it was wrong to do good. But nonetheless the constitution, now to be revised, ninety years old of the college with which I am associated, talks about the provision of education for the working classes, in a way which does not meet with great applause at the present time. Or if adult education is not seen in those terms, then to many people it means the jingling sounds of the country dance. And yet, my Lords, I would suggest that, on the contrary adult education has a function at the present time which cannot be fulfilled by any other instrument inside the educational service or without it. It is a cliché to say that we live in an era of violent and disturbing change: change at work, change within the family, change in human relationships, change in values and beliefs, and in these circumstances it is not surprising that many people lose their way. But while this is a generation of violent change it is also a generation of unprecedented opportunity, and the function of adult education is to enable people who have lost their way to find it and to find the opportunities that are all around them.
May I illustrate the kind of groups of people to whom adult education comes as a form of rescue and of enlightenment, and as an opportunity? I was talking a little while ago to a young man who had taken an honours degree in chemistry, and he said to me, "You see I cannot write"—it was all too obvious. He said, "In the whole of my university career I wrote only two pieces of written work", and indeed he had no vocabulary. Such a man, who will sooner or later fill a very responsible position in industry, needs educating as urgently as many a late developer who did not get to the university, to supplement the studies that he had had up to the age of 22.
Then there are the women who are at home for a period of time bringing up their families. It is a universal experience that they lose their confidence and their nerve while they are at home. They wish to keep up their interests, to return to work, but they do not know how to do it. For such people, there are the kind of classes that one of the colleges with which I am associated provides, mid-day classes, when the younger children and the husband are out, where it is possible for them, because we have a creche, to 1215 leave the children well cared for, to buy themselves a cheap meal in the college canteen, and to spend a couple of hours keeping themselves "in the swim", keeping themselves in touch with the adult world and adult thinking, keeping themselves in a situation which makes it easy for them to return either to the world of work or to civic or other responsibilities when they are freer from the family duties. Again, may I illustrate: a woman in her fifties who left school at 14, as is often the case, described to me how she had suddenly realised that there was such a place as an adult college for women where she could go for a year, where she could fill in some of the deficiencies in her general education, where she could discover that she had abilities that she had never known she possessed, whence she went to take a two year course at the university and is now filling a responsible industrial position. Then again, for people facing retirement, unexpected leisure at an earlier or later age, such colleges are providing specially devised courses which enable them to use the years of retirement as a period of opportunity rather than for it to be a period of wasting decay.
I would say that, much as I appreciate the point made by the noble Baroness, that adult education is an opportunity for people who are deprived of education beyond the age of 15, it is a good deal more than that today; indeed, it provides a remarkable outer conscious opportunity for the mixing together of people of many classes and backgrounds drawn by the common interest which they find provided inside the adult education college. In the college with which I am most closely connected you will find in the art classes and in the opera classes, which happen to be a speciality of that particular college, people who have had no education since leaving school; you will find in the same classes the wives of Ambassadors, and indeed a Member of your Lordships' House. This is because these are interests that they all share; it calls the bluff to much of the nonsense that is talked to-day about class, and it is a way of overcoming it. It makes it clear that there are values and interests that people with all manner of background are able to enjoy together. This is one of the great opportunities that adult education has to offer.
1216 My Lords, it is surely plain that work of this kind demands talent of a high and rare order among those who are responsible for it. It is, I submit, in many ways far more difficult to plan and maintain a successful adult college with the advantages but also the problems of so much freedom in the educational field, with no prescribed examination system, no predetermined course, the need to analyse what is wanted by your students, and to provide it and to keep changing the provision as the need arises. This requires people who have themselves a wide and deep education, and to-day people who have both a wide and deep education are not so very easy to find. It requires also imagination to understand what many different types of people are seeking; and it requires administrative skill and effort, as well as educational knowledge, in order to be able to provide it.
Is it not ridiculous that people doing this kind of work are regarded as very much the lesser lights in the educational field and are paid accordingly? In the college to which I have particularly referred, although there are over 4,000 registered students there are only four full-time members of staff. All the rest of the facilities are provided by part-time tutors; and anyone who has had anything to do with the provision of education knows what that means. We are asking from these people a quite exceptional service, but we are not regarding it as an exceptional contribution that we are making; nor are we paying it in this way. Therefore I am very glad indeed that the Russell Report has asked for more resources for building and for a quite new view of what is required in terms of staffing and salaries in adult education. I very much hope, with the noble Baroness, Lady White, that with a new name attached to it, and one that describes far better the contribution it is really making, out of the Russell Report, and out of the debate we are having to-day, we shall have a new vision of adult education and shall be prepared to pay for it.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ BARONESS YOUNG
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady White, has put us all greatly in her debt by introducing this important debate on the Russell Report on Adult Education. As we all 1217 expected, she has given us an informed and interesting speech. To-day we listened with great interest as she told us that her distinguished father was the founder of one of our best-known colleges of adult education. If I may say so, I thought that the sub-title given to it, "The College of the Second Chance", was particularly appropriate, and led in so well to the speech given by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear.
I should like to begin by paying tribute to the energy and conscientiousness of Sir Lionel Russell and his colleagues in carrying out the heavy task which they were given in 1969. His thoroughness is a quality which all those who have had the privilege of working with Sir Lionel have come greatly to admire, and his Committee's Report will for many years be an invaluable source document to all those concerned with adult education. As the Committee themselves note, the 1919 Report of the Ministry of Reconstruction on Adult Education inspired much of the work which has been achieved in this sector of education during the past 50 years, and I do not doubt that the Russell Report will similarly inspire and dominate developments in the years ahead.
During the weeks since the Report has been published we have been carefully examining its analysis and recommendations in the light of the rate of progress with the provision of adult education while the Committee has been sitting, and preparing the ground for discussions with the main interests concerned. Very understandably, as soon as a major Report of this kind is published, all those who are interested in its field of work press for instant action. But if action is to be practical, relevant and successful, its lines must be formulated with care and they must take account of current and planned developments. It will therefore be my main purpose to-day to give the House a briew account of our thinking since the Report was published to indicate broadly the present scale of provision and its projected development. The Committee took 1968–69 as the base-line for their detailed proposals regarding provision. Substantial growth in adult education has been going on throughout the Committee's life. We are now engaged in relating this to the provisions of the Report.
1218 The Committee emphasise that adult education is not a neat or well-defined sector of the education service and all concerned need to understand its diversity and range of provision and its context in the whole educational system. Indeed, although this lack of neatness presents difficulties in terms of identification and estimation, it is none the less one of the real sources of strength of the sector. The Committee expressed their surprise at the range and number of bodies which submitted evidence—and here I quote:presumably because they saw themselves as part of the world of adult education".This surprise must be shared by many readers of the Report, and it illustrates well the dangers of over-simplification implicit in the use of phrases like the "adult education system" or the "adult education sector". This variety in adult education provision reflects the wide range of needs which it is attempting to satisfy. These needs include the completion of the school's unfinished tasks, the filling-in of gaps left by specialisation at school or college, the opportunity to acquire qualifications recognised in adult life to be necessary—re-training, keeping up with developments in fields where knowledge is rapidly developing, education about education and counselling services. In terms of development of the individual, the provision made needs to offer opportunities for creative fulfilment, physical activity, self-discovery and self-expression and intellectual activity.
Whatever view may be taken of the concept of "permanent education", about which the Report has some interesting things to say, it emphasises the need to consider adult education as part of the whole educational provision. Not only are a variety of institutions involved in this provision; not only are the needs, aims, capacities and available time of the students different, but as school education and further and higher education themselves develop and change, the links and relationships which adult education has with each must change and develop, too.
The detailed proposals regarding provision which the Report makes for an initial period of some five to seven years will have the effect of doubling the 2 million students attending adult education classes in 1968–69 and rather more 1219 than doubling expenditure, at 1968–69 prices, from about £17 million in 1968–69 to about £40 million over the same period. This, my Lords, represents a substantial programme of expansion. However, we have not been simply "waiting for Russell" since 1968–69. Firm figures of student numbers for 1972–73 are not yet available, but I shall be surprised if they do not prove to be of the order of 2¾ million. Forecasting in any field, but particularly in this one, is a hazardous business; but it seems reasonable, looking ahead, to envisage some 3¼ million students by 1978—an increase of some 1¼ million over the ten years from 1968. On the present basis of staffing, this increase will attract about 700 more full-time staff and some 45,000 more part-timers. The Russell Report, of course, made a point of urging the desirability of more full-time staff, and this is certainly one of the points that we shall examine with care. But I am sure that Sir Lionel and his colleagues were right to assert that both the quantity and quality of adult education will always depend upon part-time tutors.
Then there is the matter of buildings. It is fortunate that, by the nature of much of the work in adult education, it is frequently possible for classes to be held in schools, colleges and other premises when they are not otherwise in use. This promotes the economical use of expensive capital plant at times when it would be idle and, by bringing adults into contact with schools and colleges, makes them more fully aware of the work done by these institutions, their nature and their goals. It is very encouraging that in planning new accommodation for schools and colleges many local education authorities have regard to the adult education needs of their areas and make specific provision for them. But the growing needs of adult education cannot, and should not, be entirely satisfied in this way. The service requires some building of its own, and local education authorities are starting work annually to the value of about £1¼ million. This is a modest sum, but the needs identified in the Russell Report were themselves modest.
Adult education, in its many forms, is provided, as the House knows, by local education authorities, a variety of voluntary bodies, notably the Workers' Educational Association, some residential colleges, and the extra-mural departments of 1220 universities. By far the greatest part of total expenditure falls on the local authorities—who provide for over 85 per cent. of adult education students in a wide variety of courses designed to meet the needs of their areas. I know from my own experience in local government of the variety and extent of this provision. It includes courses in basic arts, domestic and other skills, languages, general education and physical activities, and, increasingly, studies of a more academic nature, particularly in fields of local interest such as archæology and history. An increasing number of courses are concerned with social and community problems.
My Lords, it would not be right to conclude without some mention of what adult education has done, and will continue to do, for women. Many of the earlier initiatives were aimed towards groups who, through no fault of their own, were educationally deprived, as, for example, both married and single women whose lack of early educational opportunities and whose personal responsibilities had prevented them from developing fully their innate abilities. Women responded eagerly to these initiatives and it is noteworthy that to-day they form no less than 68 per cent. of all adult education students.
What I have said shows, I think, that the continuing progress of adult education is to a large extent in step with the recommendations of the Russell Report relating to scale of provision; and it is on this wider aspect that I have thought it right to say something at the beginning of our debate. It is of course essential to discuss with the representatives of the local education authorities and the other main interests concerned how they view the recommendations of the Report. Progress is substantial and will continue to be so. An exchange of views about this rate of growth in relation to the terms of the Report and in the context of further education generally is a necessary step, and it is to this end that our preparatory work is now going forward.
When this is complete—as it should be fairly soon—we intend to initiate discussions with the local authority associations, the relevant teachers' associations, and representatives of the other main interests in adult education. So much careful investigation, thought and arguwent went into the preparation of this major Report that it would be a great 1221 mistake and, indeed, an affront to the Committee if those involved in provision did not now have full opportunity to analyse the recommendations and relate them to the practicalities of the situation. There is no doubt about the vitality of the adult education service and the enthusiasm on which so much of its value depends. I believe your Lordships will agree that, for these very reasons, consideration of further action should be based on careful examination by the interested parties of the recommendations in the light of the development which I have indicated. This will be the basis of our consultations. They will not be narrow or restrictive but will be realistic and practical, and I am confident that they will be fruitful. My Lords, we shall listen with great interest to the views expressed by members of this House, in this debate. They will be of great interest to my right honourable friend, the Secretary of State, and to my noble friend, Lord Belstead, who will reply.
If I may conclude on a personal point, it is that I should never myself feel any sympathy with a tendency to underestimate the essential importance of the humane values which the adult education tradition represents within the wide area of further education. It was Sir Winston Churchill who said at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1948:No technical knowledge can outweigh knowledge of the humanities in the gaining of which philosophy and history walk hand in hand.This reminds us all that the values which so much of our adult education helps to foster and develop are an essential part of our prosperity as a nation and the quality of life each individual may enjoy.