HL Deb 23 May 1973 vol 342 cc1232-84

4.22 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, I remember Sir Donald Bradman once spending three hours in the pavilion when he was seeing Mr. Woodfall and Mr. Ponsford making 168 runs. Eventually it came to his turn to bat, and he hit a boundary off the first ball. While I cannot hope to emulate that feat I hope that we can recall ourselves to the main subject of to-day's discussion, which was not this Statement, but adult education. We have had three memorable speeches and I hope that they have not passed from your Lordships' minds because of this rather overlong discussion which has just taken place. The noble Baroness, Lady White, has placed us in her debt. While we are all well aware of the noble Baroness's own knowledge of adult education, she also did well to mention the great services of her father to adult education in Wales. The noble Baroness introduced the subject most effectively. She was followed by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, who has fled from us, but who is extraordinarily well qualified in this field; and also by the Minister. It must be a record that the first three speeches should be made by ladies. One finds that encouraging. Nearly half the total number of speakers are ladies, which is even more encouraging.

I regret in a way, though feel a certain sense of relief, the absence of the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, who was here earlier. There is no Member of this House, male or female, who has had longer and more intimate experience of adult education, both as an organiser and tutor, than she has. I have recollections of her when she was a young and gorgeous woman, 40 years ago. She is still gorgeous, but not quite so young. I see that the noble Baroness is now in her place: I was just recalling that when she was young and gorgeous, and in charge of adult education at London University, I sought a job under her. Unfortunately, I had made my application on the notepaper of the Carlton Club —which I may say I was then entitled to use. I had not, as it were, "pinched" it specially to make that application. When I saw the noble Baroness, young and gorgeous but forbidding, she put a single question to me: "Do you think that writing on the notepaper of the Carlton Club is the best way of making an application for a job in adult education?" I, suitably abashed, fled from the room, and did not get the job. I may say that for many years after that I would not have been allowed inside the Carlton Club and there was no member of it, except the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, who would have dared to take me back. But the noble Viscount did venture a year or two ago to give me dinner in the Club, after all those years. I recall that incident only to show that in those days it was very difficult to get into adult education. At the same time it was very valuable experience for some of us from Oxford to realise that we could not, to use the words of the poet, Auden: Descend like a dove, like a kindly Papa, But descend, oh descend. We could not just come from above, from the Carlton Club, as it were.


My Lords, will the noble Earl allow me to say that I hope he is not suggesting political prejudice? I might say that there were other eminent persons, notably Mr. Krishna Menon, whom we had difficulty in bringing on to our staff.


I am sure, that I, like the doctor mentioned, was disqualified on other grounds. But looking to the dear friend of the noble Lord, Lord Morris—and I refer to our late colleague, Lord Lindsay—I was more fortunate and obtained my first work in adult education in the Potteries. That must give me my excuse for taking part in the debate to-day.

I shall not try to cover the whole field again; that has been done so very effectively by the noble Baroness, Lady White. I want to speak from one angle only—though not officially representing: I mean the angle of the W.E.A. I am not of course under the impression that the W.E.A. is adult education as a whole. Quantitatively it is quite a small part of adult education, though qualitatively one can hardly overestimate its influence—past, present and, I hope, future. The Russell Committee pay a generous but well-qualified tribute to the Workers' Educational Association which it describes as unique among the voluntary bodies. It has for many years"— say the Russell Committee— been a pioneer not only in bringing university quality adult education to a wide public, hut also in the teaching methods it has fostered "— and I emphasise this particular point which is referred to by the Russell Committee— and the degree and kind of student participation it has encouraged. The Russell Committee go on to summarise some of the main aspects of the work of the W.E.A., and then they say this: These considerations have led us to the conclusion that the roles of the W.E.A. as both promoter of adult education for the universities (and other bodies) and provider of its own programme of classes should continue with grant-aid. So the Committee totally reject the idea that the W.E.A. has had its time and should now go peacefully to sleep. Indeed they go a good deal further than that. One gathers from the figures given by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, but putting it more broadly, that between now and 1980 the total amount to be devoted to adult education under the Russell Report would he about doubled. I think that is roughly right. But in case I seem to be too preoccupied with the W.E.A., let me say emphatically that I personally, like the noble Baroness and others, strongly welcome the Russell Report in its wide bearings and I urge the Government to honour it to the full. I tried to make out whether or not the noble Baroness had accepted it for the Government, and I think that the answer to that would be, "Yes and no". At any rate, I do not think that it was clear what the Government's attitude was, except that they are going to consult with everybody about it They are suspending judgment of it. That is really the actual situation, is it not? I think that the House should know whether I have misunderstood why.


My Lords. I shall be speaking at the end of the debate but I think that the noble Lord is on the right lines.


I take it I have put it correctly. In other words, the Government are not to-day going to tell us whether they have accepted or rejected the Report. I gather that is the position. I am not blaming them, and certainly not praising them; I just want to be sure that one has it right. I personally, at any rate, agree with most of the recommendations, perhaps with all, but I cannot say that I understand the bearings of all of them, and in particular I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady White, in stressing the need for the Development Council for Adult Education for England and Wales. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to say something about the Development Council. One does not have to ask thousands of other organisations to know whether a development council is favoured. I hope that he can say something on that point. May I plead with the noble Lord to give us some indication about the Development Council at least?

To return to the W.E.A., I am advised, although the Russell Committee does not exactly spell this out, that if the total allocated to adult education is doubled between now and 1980, the amount going to the W.E.A. would be a good deal more than double. Not only perhaps for that reason, but for that reason among others, the W.E.A. have given the Report a warm welcome. It seems in fact to embody a good many of the recommendations that the W.E.A. themselves made, both in relation to their own work and more widely. However, the W.E.A. are aware that this is not a kind of carte blanche for the future; this is to he regarded as a challenge and a stimulus, and I am sure that that is how they will set about tackling their work.

At this point may I throw in a few observations of my own, a little anti quated, and yet they can, it seems to me, be related to the present situation. I was in fact an active tutor for three years, 1929–30, 1930–31 and 1931–32. For the first of those three years I lived in a working class house in Stoke-on-Trent. I taught adult education classes in the evening and during the day I taught in what would now be a primary or secondary school. In the course of those three years I became a member of the Conservative Research Department; that was on the right hand. On the left hand, I became engaged to my wife, who was also by that time a W.E.A. tutor. I became engaged to her in the waiting room at Stoke-on-Trent station while we were both working for the W.E.A. So your Lordships will understand that I feel sentimental about the Workers' Educational Association.

I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek is not in the Chamber, because he was a colleague of mine in those days. The special duty of the W.E.A. in those old days, their special claim for themselves, was that the classes were a sort of mutual education. It was not simply a question of the teacher and the taught; it was a process of mutual education. This is still recognised by the Russell Committee though not regarded now as unique to them. If I was told once I was told a hundred times, when taking W.E.A. classes, that the students were teaching me at least as much as I was teaching them. In fact they made no bones about it; they thought they were teaching me a good deal more. They said that to all their tutors in those days. Looking back, with my personal circumstances, coming from a very different world, I do not doubt that that was so. I do not know whether it was true in every case, but it certainly was in mine.

Wrapped up with this conception of mutual education was the inspiration that came from the W.E.A. being in some sense or other, as the noble Lord, Lord Morris, will remember so well, a working-class affair. After all, it was called the Workers' Educational Association, and a meaning was attached to the word "workers". It was not just an adult education association. Not unnaturally, there was considerable suspicion of its political flavour in Conservative circles. Great intellectual leaders like R. H. Tawney, A. D. Lindsey and Archbishop Temple, all, of course, Socialists, made sure, to the best of their ability, and I think they did in fact, that the standards of genuine intellectual integrity were preserved. There was always suspicion, not unnaturally, because the leading figures in it were of a Socialist kind.

Now I come to the present day. We must face the fact that the whole modern ideas of class are now, so to speak, fluid; that it is difficult to speak in the old rigid terms. I do not think that to-day and in the future one can expect this particular working-class aspect to provide as large a share of the inspiration as it did forty years ago. Yet it is interesting to notice that the Russell Committee selects as one of the areas of W.E.A. inspiration what it calls working in an industrial context in workplaces, with the T.U.C. and individual unions. I do not think that the representatives of organised labour to-day would wish to claim any kind of monopoly in the W.E.A.; yet I hope and believe that the organised workers will always feel that in some undefined and yet important way it does reflect the aspirations of their members. One has, on the one hand, to avoid being regarded as a class organisation, but still some special strength does come from it having this working-class inspiration.

I have one last point to deal with before I sit down. It arises in connection with one of the particular areas, though it may also arise in connection with others, picked out both by the W.E.A. and by the Russell Committee as being suitable for special W.E.A. expansion. They call it, education for the socially and culturally deprived living in urban areas. I do not know whether they deal with this, but I would certainly hope that the black population would here be very much in mind. The Committee say that, The approach should be experimental and informal, requiring new forms of activity and unfamiliar techniques. All that is fine. I think everybody discussing it here this afternoon or discussing it elsewhere must agree that this is a highly desirable development, and if it can be achieved it is just the kind of pioneering work that the W.E.A. might be asked to undertake.

The real question is whether the students one is aiming at will in fact be attracted in the substantial numbers that one hopes for. I heard Lord Soper quote yesterday from John Wesley, and, although I did not take down the exact words, they were to this effect: Go to those who need you and go first to those who need you most". The trouble is, as I and others have so often seen in youth work, that those who need help most are the least likely to come for it. Many of them are utterly distrustful of official bodies and almost as distrustful of unofficial ones. The real difficulty in the old days was not getting finance but getting students. That has always been the problem in the Workers Educational Association. The first class I took was in Longton. It was the last year of a three-year course, and there were eight students, all very intelligent. Some were manual workers—one or two of them afterwards went on to university—and one or two were miners. But there were only nine of us there, with all the, so to speak, machinery that one could wish for at one's disposal, with a splendid book list and all the rest. There were myself and the eight students. This has always been the great difficulty, to reach enough students. In my eyes, the achievement of the W.E.A. over the years has been much more effective in qualitative terms than in quantitative terms. I think one must accept that. It is one thing to provide more adult education, but how on earth are we to persuade—whether through the W.E.A., or otherwise—far more people to take advantage of it than ever before; and, especially, how are we to persuade those who need it most to take advantage of it?

It is no good saying that we are going to provide all sorts of classes—whether in the W.E.A. or in any other way—for the bottom 25 per cent. educationally in the country. We have to persuade them to come to these classes which, after all, are voluntary. That is the essence of the matter. In any particular area—I am thinking of the W.E.A. for the moment—we have to rely on all sorts of volunteers; we have to rely on tutors, and we have to rely on a new race—new since my time, anyway—of men and women development officers with a good organisation of regional and national headquarters. Without going into details, I conclude that the Russell proposals will go much further to help all this development work, as has been explained by one or two speakers. It will help the promotion of classes, and that means very largely, in practice, the attraction of students. I am quite certain that relatively small sums spent in this way will justify themselves many times over, and therefore I welcome particularly the extra help with development work which the Russell Committee recommends.

I shall not continue. There is a danger that if I speak for much longer I might become philosophical, or, even worse, sociological, or, worst of all, semantic. There are many questions that I have not touched on, and I would mention only one which one never puts very far from one's mind. How can the special glory of the W.E.A., its flavour, its whole creative impulse of mutual education, become an effective instrument in awakening the large sections of the population who are at present least open to education of any kind? It is all very well for me to talk of the eight wonderful students with whom I discussed political theory in 1930. But how can we get hundreds of people to take part in equally valuable discussions at the present time, amidst all sorts of counter-attractions? That is the crucial issue yet one does not want to make an appeal to the masses, which loses the most essential element of the W.E.A. I believe that there is an answer here, but it is not one which is simple and which can be applied everywhere, according to some sealed pattern. I hope I have said enough to express my reverence to all who dedicate their lives in various fashions to adult education. I hope that I have said enough to indicate my own devotion and gratitude to the W.E.A., and to express my solid congratulations to the authors of the Russell Report, and my enthusiastic support for the noble Baroness, Lady White, in pressing the Government to give effect to it even more rapidly than they seem likely to give effect to it at present.

4.43 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to take part in this debate with considerable enthusiasm be- cause, although I have not read the Report from cover to cover, I have read much of it with great interest, and when I was chairman of an education committee running adult further education classes I had some experiences which I found exceedingly interesting. I would endorse what the noble Baroness, Lady White, said about adult education so often being the Cinderella of the education service, because whenever there was a financial crisis—which I suppose we all admit has happened many times in the last 20 or 30 years, under a variety of different Governments—it was always adult education which one had to cut down on, because obviously one could not cut down on ordinary education. I remember fighting very hard indeed on one occasion for certain classes and for certain teachers and being unsuccessful simply because there was then a "squeeze" and there was not enough money to do all that was required; so that adult education went by the board.

I absolutely agree that adult education should not be treated as the Cinderella of the education service, because it is one of the most important aspects of education and it can, and does, cover a wide variety of both people and subjects. Adult education need never end in people's lives, because when one gets to a certain age one does not have to give up a subject which one is interested in studying at adult education classes. It is something which can go on for all time, and it is therefore something which we should all want to support most wholeheartedly. I can remember in my very early days, at some time between 1921 or 1922 and 1927, meeting Albert Mansbridge, who was, I suppose, one of the greatest founders of adult education, and being immensely impressed by that very remarkable man. From then, I have always had a keen interest in the many different aspects of what can be done through adult education.

The Report is most comprehensive, but I should like to stress the nontechnical side of education—the opportunities for all ages to try something new. Paragraph 64 on page 21 states: It must also be a service rooted firmly in local communities, responsive to local variations of need and opportunity, and with the active involvement of the local community in planning and management. I am sure that that is exceedingly important and, as the noble Earl, Lord Longford, has said, that brings in a whole variety of people in the community, of all classes and of all interests. Furthermore, paragraph 66 recommends using part-time tutors and teachers whose many different skills and many different experiences in life are just the kind of teaching which adult students will enjoy. I am not now talking about those who want technical education; I am talking about those who want to study ad hoc subects of their own choosing. To study the variety of classes provided in colleges of education is to see a really wide kaleidoscope of different subjects which is fascinating and encouraging to us all.

I do not want to discuss the whole Report, but I should like to pick out those matters which have interested me most. Paragraph 178 describes how practical some of the classes can be, even though they can be termed mundane and utilitarian. It is in classes of that kind that the quality of life is improved by outside experience, and it does not involve a great deal of expense. Because of the simple skills which raise the quality of home life, that type of utilitarian and simple class is one which appeals to many people, particularly in the country. I should like to spend a few moments on the subjects described in paragraphs 187 and 277 to 285, which deal with the ways of helping handicapped people to enjoy the informal and stimulating experience of adult education. I believe in the principle of handicapped people sharing these facilities with the able-bodied. I have had a little experience in the world of youth clubs of helping to start clubs for physically handicapped and able-bodied young people together. Those clubs, which are known as Physically Handicapped and Able-Bodied —PHAB for short—have caught on enormously throughout the whole country and, indeed, throughout many countries abroad. With this combination of the physically handicapped and the able-bodied working together, studying together and playing together, all in an atmosphere of learning and of community life, a great deal has been achieved on both sides. I feel sure that wherever educational authorities (and voluntary organisations, too) can adapt their methods to cover both the handicapped and the non-handicapped together, remarkable results can be achieved.

But the success of this will depend on having the kind of premises where the handicapped can be accommodated. I am sorry to say that we in this country lag behind in the provision of this type of building. I was horrified to discover not very long ago in my own county where a new technical college had been built—it was not a very big college; but it is not a very big county—when in my capacity as chairman of the Social Work Committee I wanted to send a handicapped person to evening classes, that the building, although it had been built only recently, had not got the kind of facilities to accommodate, particularly, people in wheelchairs. Had I realised this defect when the building was going up I should have taken steps to remedy it; but I was not at that time the chairman of the committee. In a great many parts of the country improvements are needed to be made in buildings designed for adult education so as to enable the handicapped and the non-handicapped to work together.

I am making a small contribution on these lines because I am at the moment engaged in establishing a college of further education which is to be called "Prospect Hall" and which is being built at this moment, among further education colleges in Birmingham, at Selly Oak. This college will be unique. It will take both very severely handicapped people—even those in iron lungs —and non-handicapped people in a 50/50 proportion who will be able to study the wide variety of subjects which are available and about which your Lordships, who are more expert on adult education than I am, will know. The whole atmosphere will be that of non-handicapped education, since the Selly Oak colleges are themselves colleges for the able bodied from a variety of different walks of life.

I mention this because in the Report there are quite a number of paragraphs about adult education and about what are called the "disadvantaged". That includes the physically handicapped and the mentally handicapped, in so far as they can benefit from this type of work. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will study this side of adult education, because I think it is one which can be developed much further and one which would serve a useful purpose in the social work side as well as the educational side of our present local authority work. I hope that the noble Lord, when he comes to reply, will indicate that the Government feel that it is important to bring the physically disabled or the "disadvantaged" into our adult education field—not by themselves, not in isolation, but in the ordinary life of the community; because today the physically handicapped can play a great part in ordinary life, far more so than was the case in any other generation that I can remember. I should like to see them being encouraged to come to classes of this kind and I should like to see us providing such accommodation as to enable them to share in these experiences.

In paragraph 193, the Report refers to youth work being essentially of a social character and to bringing youth into adult education activities. There is an entertaining paragraph which someone with great knowledge in these matters has written in which is described the importance of young people's being able to make a noise. They do make a noise. I am anxious at times that they should not make as much as they sometimes do; but in the matter of adult education it is important for the younger age groups to be provided with accommodation which will enable them to undertake what they believe to be of educational value—although some of us might find it rather trying if we did not know of its importance. But I hope that we shall encourage more young adults and young people to enjoy adult education in a more sophisticated and artistic world, as well as in the perhaps less sophisticated world of youth clubs and so on. I should like to see practical classes which might bridge the gap between age groups, so that there is not this segregation which I myself find so trying. I really think that young people do not like being cut off from young adults and adults do not want to be cut off from the young. I hope that in our adult education we shall plan for a wider range of age groups as well as for a wide range of facilities, so that these young people can share the work of the slightly older ones.

I hope that the principle of community enterprise—for the young, for the old, for the handicapped and for the nonhandicapped—will be the governing idea behind the implementation of the Russell Report. If, as I believe, our future is going to contain more leisure and more time for doing things, that leisure could be used to much better effect to improve the quality of life if the kind of experiences described in the Russell Report were available to all individuals. I urge the Government to implement these recommendations and to bring them into the lives of people to-day. I am quite sure that it will be money well invested from the economic point of view and I am certain that it will be greatly appreciated by the present generation, a generation who I think are much more interested in the work done in adult education classes than have been generations in the past. I heartily commend the Report to the Government for their active consideration.

4.59 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first to thank the noble Baroness, Lady White, for initiating this very important debate and, secondly, as is customary, I wish to explain my own interest in the debate. I am currently engaged as a staff lecturer in Biblical and Religious Studies in the extra-mural department of London University.

One could begin by speaking of the great debt that men and women in this country owe to the various departments of adult education since its inception: the W.E.A., the University Extra-mural Departments, the L.E.A.s. This cannot be denied; but one must look to the future, and I shall confine myself therefore to the future. I shall not attempt, either, to try to cover the whole range of adult education. Rather, I shall confine myself to a few proposals, some of which have been indicated in the Russell Report, which I believe, and I am sure other people believe, to be important.

First, I hope that the Government will accept the recommendations of the Russell Report as it stands, as I believe the Government of the day accepted at an early date all the recommendations of the Robbins Report. I appreciate, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has said, that time is needed to digest the Report which has taken several years to compile; but all the bodies concerned have given their approval to it and the Government should not delay too long in giving their approval as well. Secondly, I am certain that it is essential that more funds be made available as soon as possible. An opening passage of the Report reads: All areas of education will be enriched if demands for the education of adults are met. Yet adult education is very much, to use a phrase that is perhaps becoming rather hackneyed now, the Cinderella of the educational world. Only 1p out of every £1 is spent on adult education, as the noble Baroness, Lady White, has emphasised. This tiny proportion of the total educational budget must be substantially increased, and the Government should give a clear indication of their intentions.

So far as the allocation of funds in the adult education field is concerned, there are certain priority areas on which attention must be focused, although this should certainly not be taken to imply that other areas may be neglected. First, the provision for adult education must be made within the framework of the further education building programme, as the Russell Report indicates. There should be an identifiable building for adult education at least in every area. If there is not, a project should be started. Provision therefore must be made for capital expenditure as well as for current expenditure. The second vital area where new funds must be made available is that of appropriate salaries for part-time lecturers. I believe that this applies to all lecturers contracted by the various bodies; local authorities, W.E.A.s and university extra-mural departments.

My Lords, the Russell Report recognises that the vast majority of tutors in adult education have been employed on a part-time basis and that this is bound to continue. Further, the Report recognises that both the quantity and also the quality of adult education will/always depend on the part-time tutor force. The Report stresses that part-time tutors' salaries should be swiftly adjusted whenever full-time salaries are increased. I would submit, my Lords, that this is not enough. Part-time salaries have progressively fallen behind comparable rates for full-time staff since the end of the war. If we are to attract tutors of the right calibre, part-time salaries must be substantially increased now and thereafter kept in line with salary increases for the full-time staff.

Part-time staff are not in the adult education business solely for the money. They are dedicated to their work and, furthermore, are invariably called upon to conduct their classes in the evenings in winter, frequently having to travel long distances in order to do so. It is a matter of justice that they should receive adequate remuneration for their work. My colleagues in the extra-mural department of London University, at any rate, will understand when I speak of the difficulty of getting well qualified part-time tutors to conduct our courses. There are a number of reasons for this, and so far as the internal university lecturers are concerned an important factor inevitably is pressure of university work. If we were able to offer adequate salaries this would go some way to ease the difficulty of obtaining the services of part-timers. One wonders what would he left of adult education without the support of part-time staff.

Thirdly, my Lords, funds must be made available to allow part-time and full-time tutors to be adequately trained for the job and then to undergo subsequent refresher courses. The principle that teachers in primary and secondary schools must be trained to teach has long been recognised. This principle is beginning to be recognised in the field of adult education as well. But too often it has been assumed in the adult field, particularly at university undergraduate level, that scholarship itself is an adequate qualification to teach. This is nonsense. Unfortunately, academic brilliance and teaching skill are only too rarely found together, and teaching skill has to be acquired somehow, usually through hard experience and at the expense of the student.

This skill could be acquired much less arduously and painfully if adequate facilities were made available for adult teacher training. If existing facilities are inadequate, funds should be made available to provide one or more staff colleges to train tutors to teach in adult education. A college of this nature also could initiate and supervise research into adult education generally. It would complement research which should be encouraged in every university department for adult education. In addition, such a college, together with area adult education centres, could provide resource centres for audio-visual aids and other teaching facilities and could provide advice about the use of such equipment. The availability of these types of teaching aids is still very limited. They must be seen as an integral part of the adult education lecturers' equipment. This has long been recognised at school level, but it still needs encouragement at the adult level.

Fourthly, my Lords, I believe that funds should be made available to allow students to be released to attend day courses for, say, one morning or one afternoon per week. I have recently been lecturing at Southwark for the Southwark Ordination Course. Ordinands of this course study for our diploma in religious studies on a part-time, evenings only, basis, and in many cases they travel from far afield in the evening and return home late at night after a full day's work. If students, of whom those attending at Southwark are one example, were able to attend their vocational courses through day release, some of the hardships and difficulties inevitable in working full-time, followed by evening study, could be alleviated. I fully agree with the suggestion of the noble Baroness, Lady White, of paid study leave as an alternative, or complementary to, day release.

Lastly, my Lords, a national development council needs to be set up at an early stage, as the Russell Report indicates. This could survey the whole field of adult education and develop co-operation between the various bodies. It would be able to keen the recommendations of the Russell Report under constant review and amend them as necessary. One way, it is said, whereby more funds could be made available for adult education would be to put up the student fees. It seems that this is the Government's attitude. I refer to paragraph 78 of the Russell Report, which notes that the last major positive statement about adult education was in 1963, on accommodation and staffing. Since then, it appears, there have been a number of administrative memos and circulars about the desirability of increasing student fees. I do not believe that this is the answer, and I quote from paragraph 83 of the Russell Report: It is firmly believed by many closely associated with adult education that increased fees cause a further decline in the proportionate representation of the lower socio-economic groups". In other words, this sort of policy merely discourages both social groups who would probably benefit most from adult education.

Finally, my Lords, I feel it almost unnecessary to stress the reason why adult education should not only continue to be supported by the Government but should be the recipient of much greater support than it has been given in the past. One could refer to such features as the rise in population numbers, and with the lowering of the age of retirement the need for ever-increasing opportunities to study and even retrain. One could refer to the certain fact that the task of the schools is greatly eased if parents of the children they educate are themselves articulate and well-informed on a variety of matters. Vocational education must continue and increase but non-vocational education must not be neglected. It must be regarded as equally important and worthwhile in itself, although, as the Russell Report so rightly indicates, a sharp line between vocational and non-vocational education cannot be drawn. If this is acknowledged and life-long education is recognised as deserving Government support, then through the richness which this must bring to individuals in every walk of life the whole quality of their lives could change for the better. Values of inferior or transient worth will be matched against those which are more enduring and worth while and the former will be found wanting. But above all the individual will be enabled to realise his or her full potential. a realisation which might otherwise be completely frustrated.

My Lords, it has been said that in the Russell Report we have only a mighty mouse, but in the field of my own particular interest. Indian religions, the mouse is very significant. it is the vehicle upon which the great Hindu god Ganesha rides. Ganesha is always depicted as an elephant and hence the symbol of strength and the remover of obstacles. Appropriately he is the god of wisdom. The simile I think is appropriate. The Russell Report may be a mouse, but if its findings are approved and acted on, it too could become a vehicle—a vehicle whereby men and women, taking advantage of the richness and diversity of adult education could be helped to overcome at least some of the obstacles in their day-to-day lives and lead to an enrichment of those lives. It could launch them in an entirely new direction—a new career opening up visions that at one time must have seemed like pipe dreams.

5.13 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful for being allowed to speak not too late in this debate because I have to go to a memorial service for the late Lord Cohen of Walmer, a distant relative who was a much respected and, in fact, beloved Member of your Lordships' House. therefore hope your Lordships will forgive my apparent discourtesy if I have to leave the Chamber even before the next speech, that of the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, to get to another part of London.

I welcome Sir Lionel Russell's Report, first because it is a valuable review of all existing widely ramified provisions and, secondly, for its recommendations for the future. I should like to concentrate my own remarks on one aspect, the Open University, already mentioned by my noble friend Baroness White. I have had the opportunity to visit it several times, and I consider it to be a unique combination of four hitherto separate educational practices. Other bodies, both in Britain and abroad, have used correspondence courses. Other people have organised seminars outside university walls. External examinations for B.A. degrees were first introduced a long time ago; and, most important of all, radio and television adult education programmes have been admirably developed, both by the B.B.C. and in other countries. Now, for the first time in any country of the world, all four practices have been combined to form the Open University. Correspondence course students of the Open University actually meet their tutors in seminars on campuses throughout Britain during the summer vacation when university buildings are unoccupied. Special broadcasts, both for television and radio, have been devised by joint teams of B.B.C. producers and Open University faculty members and are broadcast for one hour each day, accompanied by very attractive illustrated brochures produced for each course. These are so successful that they have been syndicated all over the world— as also, I may mention, have the ingenious chemistry sets in polythyrene boxes lent to students which have been bought by African Governments for their own elementary schools.

Lastly, the final B.A. examinations of the Open University enable all students without formal matriculation, if they work hard, to obtain a first degree. This even qualifies students to enter a graduate school for a higher degree later, if they wish. They have caught up—which after all is the purpose of all adult education.

When the Open University was planned it was assumed that it would appeal primarily to housewives. Actually they are so busy that they have little time to undertake adult education. But it turned out that one-third of the intake consisted of elementary school teachers with diplomas from teachers' training colleges. They wanted a full university degree which would qualify them to teach in secondary schools.

My next point is somewhat political. It is interesting to note the conversion of the Conservative Party to the idea of the Open University. When it was originally planned the Conservative Party were in Opposititon and some leading members pooh-poohed the whole idea of an Open University. When the Party came to power there was considerable doubt in the Open University whether the essential Government grant would be forthcoming. I am glad to say that the present Government have supported the idea. They have, in fact, supported many important Education Acts, the most important perhaps being the Balfour Act of 1902, over 70 years ago. Education is not primarily a Party matter. But some modern Conservatives went even further. They suggested that since the Open University started so successfully, why not lower the age of admission to 18 and induce some under graduates to enrol in the Open University and not in regular universities? In this way, they said, the Government would save vast sums by not building more classrooms and hostels. I am glad to say that wiser counsels prevailed, and the Open University continues on its original path, taking students after university age. There is room for both types of university: the traditional university, with students concentrated on one campus, whether they live at home or in hostels; and the Open University, with the student body diffused over the whole country.

The third point, my Lords, concerns the future. The Russell Report suggests widening the range of courses offered by the Open University and introducing more specialised subjects; and it also suggests joint courses with other universities. Here I should like to utter a word of warning. There is much interest in the Open University, both in this country and abroad. Several American universities are considering Open University-type extensions, and even in Israel the idea is being taken up. But I personally think that much of this is premature. The proposers do not realise that it is essential to combine all four of the components that I have mentioned, which are at present in carefully calculated proportions to form the Open University. Unless there were these proportions another Open University would not result. For example, correspondence courses on a large scale require elaborate machinery for handling. The busiest building on the Open University campus at Milton Keynes is the Post Office branch—they have their own post office—which handles the incoming and outgoing mail from all over Britain. Then, widespread seminars throughout the whole of the country require the co-operation of many other universities. Television and radio broadcasts can be done only by some public institution, and that is not easy in a country such as the United States, where nearly all television and radio broadcasting stations are in commercial hands. The trouble is that if one omits only one of these essential components one changes the whole concept. The organisation that emerges may result in a useful contribution to adult education, but it is not another Open University.

So far as Britain is concerned, and the Russell Report recommendations for additional specialised courses, I strongly urge that the Open University be allowed to develop at its own pace. It should not diversify on any large scale before it has fully established its own image. I end by saying that the Chancellor of the Open University is my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner, and I am sure that the protection of the Open University from well-meaning but premature expansion is safe in his hands.

5.24 p.m.


My Lords, I have felt an increasing diffidence at intervening in this debate as I have heard the personal qualifications of noble Baronesses and noble Lords who have taken part before me, because my only qualifications for discussing adult education are that I ran a natural history society at one of Her Majesty's borstals for three years, and almost exactly 50 years ago, as a young subaltern in the Artillery, I was under instruction to teach the dates of the Kings and Queens of England to trumpeters and other junior recruits. The fact that I was more successful, I think, at the borstal than I was in the Army is something from which your Lordships are perfectly at liberty to draw such conclusions as you may wish.

The Russell Committee was set up nearly three years ago. It has been somewhat overtaken by events and by new thinking in local government administration brought about by the passing of the Local Government Act, and that raises a rather important administrative problem to which I should like to draw the attention of your Lordships, and particularly that of Her Majesty's Government. The terms of reference of the Russell Committee were: …to review the provision of non-vocational adult education … to consider the appropriateness of existing educational, administrative and financial policies …". Unfortunately, my Lords, the Committee did no such thing. They seem to have started with the assumption that any change in the administrative system of the educational world must be a bad thing in itself because two of the only three alternatives which they considered were dismissed in a couple of sentences —and I quote: Either would be divisive in its effect, and because there were involved a novel system of financing them they would be quite without precedent for an educational service and could be a disastrous beginning to a new era". As well as that, the Committee found it impossible to draw a clear-cut line between vocational and non-vocational education—and it is indeed difficult—in particular, because much of the evidence given to them was to the effect that if a certain course is taken in order to qualify for a job it is vocational, and if the same course is taken for the sheer joy of learning, it is non-vocational. In the event, therefore, what the Committee do is to recommend the mixture as before.

They make, as noble Baronesses and noble Lords have said, an admirable survey of the whole spectrum of adult education; and they make some admirable suggestions about improvements in the largely vocational side of adult education, with which other noble Lords have already dealt. But they make no attempt to consider what is the best system of administration for non-vocational adult education specifically. What they say (and I do not think this can be too strongly expressed) is that in times of stringency it is the non-vocational side of adult education which becomes—and indeed it always is—the Cinderella of the whole of the service. Those of your Lordships who, like me, have long experience of local government will know that when money has to be cut it is always the non-vocational side which is cut. If this non-vocational side is going to stand on its own legs, I believe we have to try to think out some new system of administration. And we get no help from this Report. I do not think it is as difficult as it is made out to differentiate between courses which are basically intended to lead to the economic advancement of the people who take them, even if some take them purely for the sheer joy of learning, and those which are basically intended to lead to the social, cultural and personal development of those who take them, even if some of them need those same personal developments in order to further them in their vocation. Indeed, the Committee does identify these last courses rather well as catering for each individual's creativity (and again I quote from it) involving the arts, music, drama, crafts and scientific activities, the individual's physical activity in games and outdoor activities and the individual's social activity in self-discovery and self-expression in groups with a common interest.

I must confess, my Lords, that it is in this last group that I am most interested, because I think the others are always in the forefront of everybody's mind. We tend to laugh at the people who come and want to get a place in, say, a painting class and then, when told there is no vacancy, say, "What have you got?" What they are looking for, and what they get in any of the classes of any sort that we provide, is that self-discovery within a group to which the Committee refers, and leading to that sort of creativity which is really one of the major joys of living. In fact, if you look at it it is more by history than by design that classes of that nature have come to be associated with the general structure of education. By and large, until comparatively recently, it was only to the education committees that Government grants were paid, and if the Government particularly wanted to encourage one particular aspect, like the Physical Training and Recreation Act just before the war, or if some local authority wanted particularly to do something, they tended to lump it on to the education committee because the Government felt it could pay grants and encourage it, and the local authority felt that that was one way of getting money which it would not otherwise get. This non-vocational education, as the Committee point out, should involve all the general cultural activities of local communities. I was sorry that the Committee should dismiss in a few sentences places like museums and record offices, looking at them merely as providers of static education in the way of exhibits for the curious and as perhaps places where some classes could be run.

The noble Lord who spoke last dealt at considerable length with the Open University, and I am surprised that the Committee did not suggest that local museums could do much to help, particularly I think in the biological classes of the Open University, by rearranging their exhibits so as to come into line with the introductory parts of the local university's courses. I think, too, that bodies like that should be far more outward-looking, and certainly in my own county the county archivist and the county archaeologist in fact run classes right out in the outback to a very rural county, teaching people to look when the land is first ploughed in the spring for signs of archaic sites, to find out more about the scheduled houses, the accounts of local tradesmen and the like. These are all things that bring people together and bring a fullness into their lives which they would not otherwise get, and which mean going right out away from the office, away from the museums, into their hinterland. In fact, what we want to do is to bring into this side of adult education drama clubs, poetry reading, flower arrangement, natural history, badminton, sailing and other clubs, and all the activities which are already being run by such bodies as the Council for Social Service, the rural community councils, the old people's clubs and the groups which are preparing people for retirement. It seems to me that those are much more closely part of the work which most local authorities are attaching to their new amenities and countryside committees than they are to the old regular education committee system of education. The great difficulty is, as we see from the Report of the Russell Committee, that the moment of inertia in local administration is very strong; some people would cynically call it the maintenance of existing empires. I personally feel that this is a problem which needs to be looked at very closely. The Russell Committee, I am afraid, has not been able to help us in any way, and I would hope that the Government would not be put off by that from making further investigations into this problem, because I am certain that if we leave things as they are we shall not be able to provide as good a service as we ought for those who are wanting non-vocational further education.

5.36 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady White for initiating this very important debate and for her excellent speech, which was very informative to me. My Lords, the Russell Report is a thoroughly painstaking document. Apart from the valuable evidence it has collected, the analysis of present-day adult education it presents is sound and in line with the approach to education generally of the Plowden Committee. The conclusions and the recommendations are kept within the bounds of realism, a word which has a faintly pessimistic ring when applied to education to-day. Because many of the ideas put forward by the Russell Committee are not particularly original and have been widely aired, they could have been expressed more as a précis than as a paraphrase—by which, my Lords, I mean that the Report is too long. But perhaps the evidence it has received justifies its length.

The emphasis in the Report is on the prevailing need for increasing and spreading educational opportunities in our society. This in fact is a recurrent theme in much educational research to-day. For myself I find the views of Dr. Halsey, the distinguished Director of Social and Administrative Studies at Oxford University, the most inspiring about the definition of adult education. He believes that only when every citizen is guaranteed a right to lifelong education can educational justice between social groups be achieved. My Lords, this may not be just a dream. When we consider that by the 1980s one in five of the 18-year-olds will be able to enter university, a polytechnic or a college of education, this leaves four out of five still denied opportunities for educational equality, and the resentment which this must breed will be aggravated as higher and further opportunities are extended. It has become a cliché that, especially in rich countries, the under-privileged groups require greater consideration and a greater degree of fair opportunity. The Russell Report, with its 300 closely printed pages and 118 recommendations, is well aware of the bad social results of an unequal educational system.

In discussing a Report of this length, it would not be popular for a Back-Bencher to try to cover all the organisations, the statutory and voluntary bodies which are dealt with by the Russell Committee. Therefore, I shall refer only to one of the most outstanding of the responsible voluntary organisations, the Workers' Educational Association, which my noble friend Lord Longford took as his main theme. This unique organisation gets a welcome from the Russell Committee, and it responds with a welcome for this Report. I have a sentimental feeling for the Workers' Educational Association because my husband started his working life as a tutor with the Association, both in Nottingham and in London, teaching economics.

The W.E.A. was a pioneer in bringing university-quality adult education to working people, trade unionists and, generally, to a wider public. It was one of the earliest organisations to realise that in order to educate the children of the less privileged members of our society it was necessary to start with adult education for the parents. This was done by the promotion of courses in liberal and non-vocational subjects of great variety for adults in the Association's thousand local branches throughout its 21 districts, covering the whole of the United Kingdom. It was a national organisation. It receives 75 per cent. grant-aid towards its tuition fees from the Department of Education; and the Russell Committee suggests some additional grants for full-time tutor-organisers and development officers.

In 1971 (I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Longford is not here at the moment), the W.E.A. ran over 7,000 courses and enrolled nearly 135,000 students. These figures are not astronomical, but neither are they negligible. The Russell Committee thinks that the W.E.A. should continue as a promotor of adult education. If the Secretary of State accepts this recommendation and increases the resources available to it, the W.E.A. will be able to expand and work among the more under-privileged groups, where it has been undertaking informal and imaginative projects of an experimental character. It had to do this because of the apathy among such groups. This is very good work, in spite of the fact that progress in this field is very hard to measure. The W.E.A. still remains qualified to play an important role in adult education, and this fact, I am happy to say, receives recognition from Russeil.

I should like to comment on the Green Paper—a report of a Labour Party study group. This is a 40-page document—none the worse for being short—which foreshadowed many of the recommendations and the suggestions contained in the Russell Report. In fact there are many similarities in both documents. They are both expansionist: they are both concerned for the under-privileged. Russell asks for a Development Council, whereas the Green Paper asks for a Development Commission. Both documents speak of diversification in educational institutions and of the need to provide for students of different levels of attainment. Mr. Anthony Crosland, when Minister of Education in the previous Labour Government, held this view, and I very much agree with him.

I believe there is widespread agreement that up to now the universities have had more than their fair share of resources and that more should now be allocated to the polytechnics and colleges. Yet the Green Paper voices its disquiet about the philosophy behind the polytechnic policy. I simply do not understand this. I do not know why the polytechnics should not relish their share of the snobbery, élitism —call it what you like—that the various universities have enjoyed for so many years up to now. I believe that one should keep an open mind on the changes required in education. All the same, a fear of upgrading the status of polytechnics to-day is foolish. There are bound to be changes in the various institutions, as we continue the progress for more and more equality of opportunity. After all, Oxford and Cambridge had to lose some of their mystique when the new universities were established. So long as polytechnics are good, they have a great equalising and expanding role in education.

Finally, my Lords, I hope that the Government accept Russell. I gather that the amount of money involved is relatively small, but the ensuing benefits can be great. I read that one per cent. of the education budget would double the adult education provision for 1980.

5.47 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to begin by giving a short quotation from the Russell Report on Adult Education: In our changing and evolving society the explicit and latent demands for all kinds of adult education have increased and will continue to increase. Adults, in their own right, have claims for the provision of a comprehensive service which can satisfy these demands in appropriately adult ways: all areas of education will he enriched if demands for the education of adults are met. Within our community there exists an enormous reservoir of human and material resources: a relatively modest investment in adult education … could release these resources to adult education for the benefit of individuals and the good of society. No one can argue with this statement. However, a comprehensive service is one that caters for all the people, and this includes the handicapped who, in my view, merit special consideration and who are just as much entitled to benefit from adult education, according to their need, as any other person.

The term "handicapped" or "disadvantaged" (as the Report calls it) embraces a very large field; but I wish to speak particularly of the physically and mentally handicapped who cannot easily take part in adult education as normally provided. The Report states that more positive effort should be directed towards the disadvantaged. This is true. It is not enough to take the mentally handicapped out of their sub-normality hospitals and put them in hostels or community homes. Here, although their physical comforts are well catered for, there may be a lack of attention to their mental needs. One must remember, too, that although a mentally handicapped person may be adult in years, his mental age will probably be much less—which means that his needs will be quite different from those of others in his ordinary age group. While physically handicapped or subnormal or mentally ill people will be found in all classes of the population, they are likely to appear in greater proportions among the socially deprived. Therefore it will be necessary for the social services and other relevant departments to seek out these people and, after assessing their needs, join with the Department of Education in trying to cater for them.

Education is already expensive and, on the face of it, must be provided first for those who are able to make the most pronounced use of it—that is, the fit, the able and the industrially exploitable: in short, those who already have. On the other hand, so great is the deprivation of the "have-nots" that even a little more effort to extend educational provision to just a few disadvantaged people would be amply repaid. More specialised teachers are necessary, whether professionals, social workers, part-time paid workers or volunteers. Teaching techniques are improving all the time, but there must be planned exploration of new areas of work, especially among the disadvantaged of all kinds, and the setting up and evaluation of experiments in provision for them.

In some cases it may be possible to integrate the handicapped adult into normal activities, but there will be many cases which will need specific provisions, not only in teaching but also in premises, timing of courses, and so on. One example: it would be useless to arrange courses in a building and then find that owing to the structure of the building it would be impossible for a physically handicapped person, say in a wheelchair, to enter that building. This, inevitably, must lead to extra expenditure; but it will be money well spent. I agree, as the Report says, that there must be a much more positive effort to help the physically and mentally handicapped; but it is very important that it should be a joint effort of all departments concerned.

Some hospitals for the mentally subnormal have had their classes recognised as evening institutes by local education authorities who have then supplied teaching staff, or paid the staff of the hospital school who take on this duty in their evenings. In other areas, there has been difficulty over recognition. Voluntary organisations have done their best with the limited funds at their disposal, but with the help of further education resources much more could be done. The families of those involved with living with these people will also benefit from training to enable them not only to help the handicapped but also to ease their own burden wherever possible.

Then there is of course the all-important question of educating the public. The mass media has and is being a help here but it cannot change public attitudes; it can only help by information. Therefore, to be a real success there must be co-operation between all bodies concerned with the wellbeing of the handicapped. One must accept that, by normal standards, progress may be slow, but it will be rewarding. These people need a useful role in society to establish their self-respect—they do not want just to be tolerated—and education can help them to achieve this aim.

5.53 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, has just told me that unfortunately he is unable to address your Lordships, and he expressed great personal apologies. He has gone away for a commitment which he could not possibly avoid. Time is getting on and your Lordships will not want to be kept very much longer, even in this very profitable debate. I do not as a rule put myself down to speak about education or even about universities, although I have spent my life in them, because so many of my friends, colleagues and ex-colleagues who are more up-to-date with the affairs of the educational world are able to be here and speak. I feel it is better for your Lordships and for me to listen to them, but I have ventured to put my name down to speak in this debate. I have spent more than 50 years closely associated with the work of the Workers' Educational Association and the universities in adult education, and also to some degree with the adult education work of the local authorities.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady White—to whom we are all greatly indebted for raising this subject—I have been waiting a long time for the Russell Report with quite a lot of hope and, like other people I suppose, with quite a lot of anxiety. I must confess that my first feeling was like the first feeling of most people—the trumpet has given a rather uncertain sound. I do not know whether I would say that it has given an uncertain sound, but it has given rather a muted sound. I should have thought the time has come when permanent education, éducation permanente, should be given a trumpet call in this country. It has made a good deal more progress on the headlines of other countries who, if the truth be told, may not be doing as well as we are.

The Russell Report made a considerable claim, if I understood it correctly, that all the good things we think and speak about in adult education are covered by the great 1944 Act. But it also says that adult education is never mentioned in that Act. The Russell Report, if one reads it carefully, emphasises the importance of adult education in the scheme of permanent education. It says that it matters a lot to the primary, secondary and tertiary sections of education. Adult education not only matters a good deal to the adults; it matters a great deal to the next generation. The mothers of the next genera tion (and I like to think, as some of your Lordships may do, some of the fathers, too) have a considerable influence and bearing on the education and development of their children. I think mothers have exercised an enormous influence on the education system of the past 20 or 30 years. Be that as it may, the great 1944 Education Act is supposed to have covered all this, though it does not actually mention it.

The Russell Report thinks we are embarking upon, or have embarked upon, a new age. The world is changing very fast and people require education much more. One member of the Committee said in something I read the other day that people under 35 in this country have received far greater services in many respects that appeal to us nowadays than people who are over 35. The education system in this country has been greatly affected by adult education. We have been told by previous speakers that many of us as young dons went into the "game" when we were 22 or 23. We found we were in a new world and we were asked questions that our own education did not equip us to answer. I remember talking about the Greeks to a class of agricultural people in a village. I mentioned that the Greeks were tall, fair-haired people. One of the first questoins asked by somebody who had been engaged in the Gallipoli affair was: "You said they were tall and fair. The ones I have seen were short and dark. What is the explanation for that?" My education at that date put me in a poor position to cope with the question. I expect I said, "I must have notice of that". Nowadays my children and grandchildren are in a much better position to answer that type of question. Much of this is due to adult education.

Adult education, under people like Tawney and Cole, the noble Baroness who is now sitting on the Woolsack, and others, has taken in many new things. They changed the subjects of their research, or modified them; they changed their lectures to undergraduates. If we read a great number of books nowadays, especially about social history, regarding the things we have to look at to deal with the problems with which we are now concerned, though the historians have to pay a certain amount of attention—not in some cases very much, I am glad to say—putting right the smaller errors of their colleagues who wrote books a few years ago, we find that they mainly ask such questions as we would ask ourselves: about what the life of the bulk of the people was like before the Industrial Revolution; what it was like during the years of the Industrial Revolution; what it was like in the country before agriculture picked up. They ask all these questions because adult students ask these questions; and they had only to be asked the questions to realise that they wanted to know the answer as much as anybody else. And this has vitally changed a great number of the books and a great number of the lectures.

Adult education has greatly affected the whole body and scheme of education in regard to pupil influence. In adult education, especially in the W.E.A., which has been referred to many times, the doctrine, a doctrine which everybody tried to keep as practical and as realistic as possible, was that students should determine the subject and indeed choose and approve their tutor. The important thing is that they chose the subject. Years ago, if they knew what they wanted—and I have little doubt it is still true— a tutor was sent along to talk it over with them and between them they threshed it out. If the students said they were interested in something that was absolutely current, the tutor would be pretty sure to say to them: "You must do a certain amount of history. It will throw light on this." But the tutor would probably accept that they must start with something current; then in the second year go back to something historical, and in the third year come forward again and say: "Now, having looked at the history, what do we now think about it all in relation to the problem of the moment?" There was enormous student influence. It went on all the way through. Not only had the tutor to keep his students, all of whom were voluntary and all of whom had to do quite a lot of work in these W.E.A. classes—as they still do—and play a part in the discussions which really made the class; he had to pay attention to their views, even as the year went on and change his syllabus, and so on, to meet the students. This has become one of the latest doctrines for pupils of all ages: that pupils ought to have some say in what they are taught—and how right, no doubt, that is! But in so far as this has already invaded the system, it is due to adult education.

The muted trumpet call has two aspects which I must deal with extremely briefly, but they are the important part of what I have to say. These two aspects are quite cheering. The first is that I think it is notable that the section of the Report on the needs of adult education is a very good section. It is a splendidly written section. It reflects an enormous amount of thought and a tremendous amount of professional knowledge. Your Lordships can take it from me, as one who has spent fifty years in this game, that a great deal of knowledge has been contributed. But it is in a very subdued key. I found that, in spite of my fifty years of experience, I had to read a good deal of it two or three times to get out what was in it, and I should think that the majority of people who did not know much about adult education might have to read it at least three times before they saw the point.

Why did the Russell Committee think they could do this? They clearly thought that a great deal of the needs of adult education could be taken for granted. If we had been talking twenty years ago there would have been a great deal of appeal about the nature of adult education, what it could do, what it was doing, what it had done, and it would perhaps have had to get rather shrill in order to draw people's attention to it. But the Russell Committee seem to me to have thought that they could take it for granted; and I am told that only one of the papers produced the old jokes about hobbies and raffia work and country dancing—though I am not sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, did not produce what she hoped was a joke about country dancing, but I may be doing her an injustice. But the Russell Committee took it for granted that nobody would do that nowadays; that nobody would laugh when you said these things.

No doubt the Russell Committee supposed that, with the big changes in public opinion, there was great sympathy with all the causes connected with the environment, with the view that man does not live by wage and salary earning work alone but has a great deal of his life in addition to that, and that he needs something fairly substantial to live on—within but not only within—and that people must be given what they want. If they want something seriously it is the business of the State, it is the business of the Government, to provide at least a framework in which they can have it; provided they seriously want something, and provided it would give them serious satisfaction, the Government must provide it. I think the Russell Committee assumed that the Government would provide it. I hope they are right. I am doubtful whether they were. I should think that a good deal of solid work has still to be done to convince people of the fundamental nature of the needs provided by adult education. But I must leave it there.

The other side of the muted nature of the trumpet call is that the Russell Committee thought we were doing quite well. They paid a good deal of attention, as we all do and have done, to other countries, but they thought we were doing quite well. They clearly thought that the great bulk, numerically speaking, of the work provided by the local education authorities, covering very nearly the 2 million students, was good, and that the public recognised it was valuable. If people wanted it, it must be there. If more of them wanted it, the money must he there for it. If more of them wanted new things, the money must be there for that. If it could be improved, it was comparatively cheap or very cheap and it ought to be provided; that is to say, the Russell Committee took it that the local authorities must be doing pretty well. I realise there is a serious case for the things about which the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, spoke regarding the form of provision, and I will say one word briefly about that in a moment.

The other part is that provided by the responsible bodies. I suppose the Russell Committee thought that in the early days there was a free-for-all competition in some spheres between the universities and the W.E.A. but nowadays each of them has its own clientele. The universities are very much concerned with pretty highly educated people who want to change their subjects to take subjects they did not take before; or they want to be up to date with some subjects, or to take some subject which will be very valuable for them to have some know- ledge of. They are fairly highly educated people who need adult education. I think that not enough has been said about this aspect of adult education. There are some subjects in which you cannot educate yourself except in a way relative to your age. I do not think enough has been said about this. There is the obvious point which I have ventured to mention over the last fifty years a number of times: that if you are talking to an adult class about Othello you frame your whole doctrine and all the questions you raise rather differently than if you are talking to boys and girls of 17 or 18, and differently again if you are talking to children of 13 or 14. There are points that you can take up and discuss with some reason which will be fully understood by adults; there may be really good discussion of them, which would not be possible at age 17 or 18.

Up to a point there are some subjects which need to he taught later. The obvious example is politics. The Greeks said that one could not study politics before 35; and the thing that attracted the young dons into W.E.A. adult education was the chance to meet students who had been in the game; students who were in the trade unions or in local politics and who had some experience of it all; students who knew how human nature functioned, who knew how political institutions affected people and therefore had something to go on: that part of quaternary education which all of us get at the appropriate age. We, as Members of your Lordships' House, get education from attending this House, some of which we should have got differently or not have got at all 40 years ago. Education has always depended upon age; people who do not remember that have forgotten one of the most fundamental things about education.

If the Russell Report is correct, and if I understand it rightly, the functions as between the universities with their own provision and the provision of the W.E.A., which is partly together with the universities and partly not, have settled down. The W.E.A. has a great tradition: it is one of the most famous educational institutions, even comparable in fame round the world with the public schools and with Oxford and Cambridge. It is one of the great educational institutions of the world. The world at large thinks that a high proportion of the Members of another place as well as probably the whole of some sections of the membership of your Lordships' House and a very considerable number of leading people in the trade unions, have been in the W.E.A. at one time or another and owe a great deal to the W.E.A. It is a leading and distinguished institution. It went through difficult times, along the lines mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, as to how it should adjust itself to the changing of the classes, and so on, but clearly it has picked up. One should not read too much into figures, but on the figures it has slightly passed the universities again whereas a few years ago the universities passed it on the total figures. It seems clear that it is again well on the up and up; it seems clear that it is doing the job in the traditional way and that the education really is education. Those in the classes play a very high part in the educational activity of the classes, as well as the tutor.

So if the Russell Committee is right—and I have little doubt that it is—we are doing quite well. The Committee says that the work is increasing, and it is vital. It is of course perfectly clear, and nobody knows this as well as the W.E.A. with its high standards and its stress on the hard work to be put into things by students, that not everybody is converted to higher education by reading the daily Press and looking at the "tele"; that to get people to see the satisfaction and value that they will get out of higher education is quite a problem. But it is going on well and the Russell Committee expresses the hope that it will continue to do so.

The recommendations are most important. I take it that the Russell Committee muted the sound of the trumpet and kept the recommendations comparatively small because it thought that the present Government might accept something like this. There is the Development Council for Adult Education. I know that Departments of State do not like these things, and therefore that probably will not come off; but if the Government turn it down I think that will be taken with a degree of alarm and despondency as an indication that the Government are not going to do very much about anything. The amount of money is comparatively small.

The local authorities and the voluntary bodies together only take the figure from the present £18 million to about £38 million or £40 million. These are minimum requirements.

The other point which should be mentioned clearly and firmly is that the Russell Report is fairly rude about the Department with regard to adult education. Previous speakers have mentioned this. It says that although no doubt this is not what is meant, and it is not what Ministers meant or what the Department meant, their public image has been of somebody who rarely says anything about anything except student fees, and the gathering together of little bits and pieces of money in the corner of the programme. But I feel that its important recommendation was that the Department should recognise the importance of leadership from the Department.

I do not interpret the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and I do not read the situation quite in the same way as the noble Earl, Lord Longford. After all, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, went out of her way to say that the £2 million to-day would be £3¼ million by 1980, and while the Russell Report says that they should rise to £38 million in five to seven years, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said that the figure would be £40 million in 1980. I think these are promising signs, and whatever we feel about the trumpet call from the Russell Committee, that Committee may have been right. The Government may produce this money. I believe the thing to do to-day is to emphasise that it is a good bet and that it is absolutely vital.

If the Government believe in the new life, by which you do not worry only about wage earning but about life, about social life, about the capacity of people to participate, and you rely on the free institutions of this country being capable of continuing to be run, then adult education is vital and these recommendations are minimal and absolutely necessary. I hope your Lordships will do everything you can to impress upon the Government that the recommendations really must be accepted.

6.19 p.m.


My Lords, I should also like to add my thanks to my noble friend Lady White for the opportunity to debate the Russell Committee's Report and for the interesting and delightful way in which she introduced this debate.

This document seems to me to be eminently workmanlike, and to point to short-term advances, at any rate. Indeed, I have had the opportunity of speaking to two of the distinguished members of the Committee, one of whom rather emphasised this aspect. Mr. Clifford Barclay's own view was that another committee would need to be set up in seven years' time. Since I understand that 50 years have elapsed since the last one was set up, another one in seven years would clearly be an advance.

As I understand it, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, outlined the existing structure of adult education, but I will make my comments on the existing structure of adult education from the report of the Department of Education and Science. I feel it sad that it merits only one page. Indeed, the total amount of grants given here to the outside bodies is so small that it seems to indicate to me the attitude that is often taken to adult education. I cannot claim to have spent 50 years in adult education, as some of your Lordships can, but I am actively engaged in adult education. I am the general secretary of a women's organisation that has 1,100 branches and 55,000 members. I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, is listening, because I can tell him that we have no difficulty in getting customers because we know how to set about it. We must ask why we need adult education. I also had this splendid quotation which the noble Countess, Lady Loudoun, chose, so I shall not go over it again. I felt that that personified what we in the adult education world are searching for.

We recognise that within our community there exists an enormous reservoir of human and material resources—with the emphasis particularly on the human. But in addition I selected from the Russell Report the very alarming fact that almost three-quarters of the adult population to-day left school at the minimum school-leaving age, and three-fifths of to-day's adults received their schooling before the leaving age was raised even to 15. That is the background against which the Russell Report made their deliberations.

The value of adult education is not to be measured solely by the direct increase in earning power or productive capacity. My own belief, strengthened over years of working in adult education is that far too many people never have their true talents discovered. The noble Viscount, Lord Combermere, I believe, said their "potential". I do not mind what it is called, but I am convinced that so many people die and their true talents have never been brought to light. They have been second-best all their life. Last weekend I had a group of 70 ladies in a training course where we had discussion groups, drama, poetry, dancing and craft. Your Lordships will gather from that that we did not give them a moment's rest from the time they arrived until they left. But I should like to tell Her Majesty's Government that this was the kind of adult education where they all paid for themselves. These courses are totally self-funding, and we receive nothing from either local education authorities or from the Government.

The needs of those in adult education must be met in various ways. The noble Baroness, Lady White, referred to the residential adult education colleges. I should like to pick up the one for which I have a particular affection—a nonresidential one, which nobody has so far mentioned: the Working Men's College in Camden. Here, they have for many years carried out the tenets which are now very fashionable, the value of the intermingling of members, the people taking the vocational and non-vocational courses; the space for social contact; the learning process continuing outside in informal situations; and indeed, the whole atmosphere of a college. They have many voluntary tutors, very able people, highly qualified in their own sphere, who give their time for this sort of college; and participation in the governing body.

The role of the W.E.A. has been emphasised over and over again. I remember that my early occupation as a voluntary tutor was in another now defunct group—I am not suggesting that the W.E.A. is defunct—the National Council of Labour Colleges, which did a very special and particular job in the field of adult education. I see the role of the W.E.A. as providing the special groups, the classes in prisons, classes in hospitals and work with the informal groups. But if we want a participating democracy we have to bring much more into our adult education sections the real action groups, the pressure groups and the interest groups. These have to be picked up in area organisation.

I am also interested in preparation for retirement, which was discussed yesterday under the Social Security Bill. We believe that this will come earlier, that people will have an opportunity to do something for themselves, and that it must be prepared for. It is really only a preparation for leisure. But, here again, this is a vastly expanding field of adult education and the more we have dull repetitive work—and that again, as I see it, cannot fail to be a feature of our society—the more we need not only rewarding leisure but recreation of our energies. That can come through adult education.

One section of the Russell Report refers to the direct provision given by the local education authorities, and I should like to emphasise the need to broaden their work. I believe that in the classes there is still too much registration, too much atmosphere of school. That is probably one of the reasons why there are not the numbers that we should like to have. I do not think we can be very satisfied with these numbers. We may have a higher number than in other countries but it is not a very good number if one compares it with the number of people going to the average bingo hall every night of the week. We cannot be complacent in any way. I do not find, unfortunately, that local education authorities are as imaginative as they might be. And, if one is a voluntary adult education body the difficulties involved in booking meeting places have to be experienced to be believed. I could write a report on that subject myself which I believe would be nearly as long as the Russell Report. First, one moves from the Director of Education, through the divisional officers, the further education officers, the youth and community officers, the head teachers and, finally, and most formidable of all, to the caretakers. If the caretaker does not want you to go into that school, you do not get the use of the school. There are a number of people with petty power who will stop the most enlivening and exciting aspects of adult education. If you are lucky enough to get into the school, you will be given a treatise on not scratching the walls or the floors, not using the canteen, not smoking, nor dancing. I sometimes wonder whether it would not be easier for the caretakers if the schools were not used at all; they could then be preserved as museums.

Having got in, you will be subjected to abrupt cancellations for parent-teacher meetings, for election meetings; and of course you have to conform to the holiday period. I say in all seriousness that our schools and college buildings, and, indeed, our parks and recreation fields, are closed for as many days as they are open, and until we recognise the fact that we must have much more flexibility, much more encouragement and much more elasticity, true adult education will not be able to carry out its full role. If I speak with some feeling, it is because I have constantly to battle with these people. I sometimes think that there are too many empire builders. Perhaps the system encourages that. If you ask adult education officers to produce results and figures, perhaps the voluntary organisation will not appear in their report. I endorse the Report in its plea that area centres should be part of the accommodation in local schools.

I should like to endorse other noble Lords' observations regarding a development council for further education. If that is to be an advisory body one hopes that the Minister will take note of the advice given by the advisory body and that this advice will sometimes be a nudging of the elbow for action. I hope that this body will not be used as what I can call a "fall-back", so that in the event of the Minister not wishing to do anything, he or she can say, "I am referring it to the advisory body for adult education". That must be an action body, a body whose advice is taken note of.

I should like to add my plea to that of the noble Baroness who introduced the debate, and to those of your Lordships who have taken part in this debate, for the acceptance of adult education in its own right. If the well-to-do are to have the privilege of paying for continuing education, then those less well provided for in our society are entitled to have it too. Upon education depends the wealth of our society and the true and ultimate happiness of all human beings. I hope that the simple and straightforward recommendations of this Report will be very soon implemented.

6.30 p.m.


My Lords, it was right, I think, that my noble friend Lady Young should say that the noble Baroness, Lady White, had placed us all in her debt by raising the important issue of this Report this afternoon. In addition, I would thank those of your Lordships who have taken part in this debate. Like the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Grasmere, on an earlier occasion in his career, I confess that I feel myself somewhat unfitted to answer the points made by the concentration of experience and of interest which has been brought to bear on this subject in this debate and which will be, I assure your Lordships, of very considerable help in the Governments' study of this Report.

Naturally, your Lordships would wish me to comment on the acceptability of the Report's many recommendations, but the noble Earl, Lord Longford, got it right. As my noble friend explained at the beginning of the debate, I cannot at this point in time give your Lordships answers to the recommendations in the Report; and I am bound to say that I am not entirely convinced that it would be desirable. Soon my right honourable friend will set in train a process of consultations with those involved in the work of adult education, and it may well be that, in the light of this wide-ranging Report, some of the organisations concerned will wish, at any rate marginally, to add to or place a different emphasis on their original evidence. In addition to that, I am sure that it is essential to consider carefully the line of action on the first Report concerned with adult education for fifty years, a Report which itself consumed four years of close study and careful deliberation, and which of course has covered such an incredibly wide field. But the Government are indebted to Sir Lionel and his Committee for their comprehensive survey, and I give the House this undertaking. We wish to know what are the reactions of those involved in adult education to the Report, and I have taken note of, and am going to report to my right honourable friend the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Grasmere, that to see what we could do would be, in his words, '" a good bet".

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary in another place has recently attended the National Institute of Adult Education conference at Bangor and is shortly to attend the Association for Adult Education annual conference dinner for teachers at Buxton. If I may reply to one of the noble Baroness's questions right away at this point, the one based on paragraph 160, the House may also be assured that the Department's administrative structure for adult education will be ready to cope fully with the requirements of the situation, and indeed the interests of adult education were one of the factors taken into account in the recent reorganisation of those branches of my right honourable friend's Department which deal with further and higher education. Similarly, we shall ensure that Her Majesty's Inspectorate working in the field of adult education have the opportunity and the time to provide a fully adequate flow of information and advice.

May I just add this to what my noble friend said at the beginning of the debate? The Committee, I think it is fair to say, had some difficulty in collecting statistics about non-vocational adult education, because the area covered so many types of provision in so many different types of institution. For example, the figure of 2 million students includes those attending courses in a wide array of establishments, including colleges of further education, evening institutes, village halls and community centres. Of course, we have had Members of the House, not least noble Baronesses, who have spoken of the contribution made by the voluntary bodies. It is fair to say that not all local education authorities were able to provide figures for courses in these and similar establishments, and as the Report itself says at page 186: It was evident…that many local education authorities had had to make estimates of the numbers enrolled". There were difficulties, too, in collecting other statistical information, not least that relating to expenditure. In those circumstances all I am saying is that, while the figures in the Report are certainly the best available, they should be treated, I am sure the Committee will not mind my saying, with a certain amount of circumspection.

My noble friend, in her speech, gave estimates of student numbers, and I think that these show the considerable expansion which has, we estimate, occurred since 1968–69. And if we are correct in envisaging that some 3¼ million students will be involved in adult education by 1978, then so far as numbers are concerned we shall be making at any rate good progress towards the Russell Committee's target of 4 million students to be achieved in a development period of five to seven years. May I say to your Lordships that I am not using that as an argument to say that therefore the Government need not do anything. I am simply trying to give you the estimates which we have quite genuinely and conscientiously been trying to make in the Department over the past few weeks. The noble Baroness, Lady White, has asked me if I can up-date the statistics given in paragraph 4 of the general statement at the front of the Report. I am afraid that this is not possible. The statistics in the Report were compiled by a special exercise, specially for the Report. But the bases for my noble friend's estimates are projections of some of the statistics collected by the Committee, supplemented and strengthened by those which we also collect, such as numbers in evening institutes and evening students in part-time further education. That is how we have arrived at our estimations. Having said all that, I therefore fully appreciate the reasons that led Sir Lionel and his colleagues to make recommendation 114, to the effect that the Department should review the information which ought to be available. We are now considering how the quality and flow of statistical information can be improved.

If the Committee's objectives for student numbers are to be achieved, then it is essential to have the necessary buildings in some form or another. I use that rather offhand expression because the Report itself asks the Secretary of State to make it plain that, public educational facilities need not always be provided separately whatever the age group. It is not reasonable to have the expensive capital facilities of secondary schools and colleges lying idle at times when they could be used by adults. Just as throughout the ages children have looked with longing through the windows of the sweetshops of the world, so to-day do many adults, and adult organisations in particular, view the new buildings of the schools and colleges which are the products of massive school and further education building programmes since the war. I have listened carefully to what the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, had to say about trying to make bookings for buildings. This, of course, is a responsibility of the local education authorities and not mine; but may I say this? I should like to pay tribute to the local education authorities who have grasped this very difficult nettle—because many of them have. At the same time, what the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, said also has truth in it; otherwise, of course, she would not have said it to the House. I remember very well, going back four or five years in my own part of the world in England, that a report was produced for my local sports council by a committee headed by a chief education officer on dual use, and one of the recommendations of that report was that authorities should try to get a drill so that it was quite clear how an interested organisation or individual could make a booking of an educational building. And whereas it would be deeply resented if my right honourable friend brought this sort of information to the notice of local education authorities, I hope that if the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, has trouble perhaps she will try this line of argument.

The Report, however, recognises that an increasing number of classes are being arranged during the day time, and I should be the first to admit that for these activities adult education needs accommodation of its own. The noble Viscount, Lord Combermere, has called for an identifiable building for adult education in every area. Many local education authorities have converted redundant premises to adult education use, while others which have lacked substantial cultural centres have, in building these, included provision for adult education. I noticed in this month's County Councils Gazette that there is an interesting article about a new community college which has been built in Leicestershire; and, as your Lordships will know, there have been some projects where facilities educational, medical and social have all been gathered together into one complex of buildings, which makes the concept of adult education more convenient, more practical and, therefore, more attractive.

The Report refers to the vital position in adult education of a healthy library service. This is something to which my noble friend Lord Cranbrook referred when he spoke about libraries, museums and other matters. I believe that the reorganisation of that service under the Local Government Act will make it easier for the needs of background reading to be met, and reorganisation should certainly make it easier to borrow without the restrictions on circulation imposed by the old library boundaries. Equally, museums should make an important contribution at all stages of education. I share my noble friend's feelings on this matter, although I do not think he fully reported what the Committee said about museums, and I, also, was rather surprised that a little more was not said about museums in the Report. This demand for the facilities of museums arises not only from school-children and students but from adult education bodies in connection with the courses which they are running—a demand which sometimes extends to the use of museum premises for organised classes in the evenings and at weekends. There is little doubt that recent television programmes have aroused a considerable interest in a number of subjects—for example, archæology and art history—and an increasing number of adult education courses are being provided in these and other subjects, in which museums can play a valuable part.

I could mention a number of examples of the practical co-operation between museums and adult education authorities, but I shall not because my noble friend Lord Cranbrook has already done so from his part of the world, which is also mine. My noble friend raised an entirely different subject. He drew attention to the diversity of providers in the field of adult education. As he perhaps implied there is for that reason a danger that sometimes the fullest possible co-operation is not attained in the interests of the students concerned. I cannot find myself, representing the Department of my right honourable friend, going along with my noble friend Lord Cranbrook to his conclusion, but I am sure there is a place for more thought over this matter, and it is something which I assure him we shall think over carefully. But the local education authorities are in a very good position to assess local needs and initiatives which need to be taken. This is a point which was put by my noble friend Lady Young at the beginning of the debate.

Having said something about the plant and resources needed in adult education, may I say a few words about those who are to use them? I think I am echoing the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Grasmere, when I say that I was particularly grateful to the Russell Committee for setting out so clearly in paragraph 58.1 the different ways in which adult education can offer equality of opportunity so that each individual can benefit from a continuing education. The noble Baroness, Lady White, and my noble friend Lady Young have both mentioned remedial education, what the Committee called balancing and second chance education—to which the noble Baroness referred in speaking about her father's work and Coleg Harlech—updating, counselling and, indeed, education about education. These are all different aspects of adult education listed by the Committee in that paragraph. Perhaps they ought to have added mutual education, which was referred to so vividly by the noble Earl and by the noble Lord, Lord Morris. Then the Report went on in the next two paragraphs to discuss these aspects of adult education in relation to the constant development of individuals and to the place of the person in society. I should like to reply to points made by your Lordships in this context.

The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, both mentioned retirement and pre-retirement. The effects of improved medical care and the tendency towards earlier retirement are certainly two factors which must be borne in mind very much to-day. There is a growing appreciation of the need for preparation for the conclusion of a working career, and a significant start has been made by a number of agencies providing pre-retirement education. A recent survey has identified about 100 courses provided by such bodies as the W.E.A. districts and by colleges of further education. There are also possibilities of experimental pre-retirement courses being conducted by some of the local radio stations. In pre-retirement education, co-operation between industry and adult education agencies is growing, and I think we should all agree could well be further extended. In an age when industrial reorganisation and industrial relations are becoming increasingly complex, it is vitally important that the resultant problems are studied carefully by both sides of industry. At universities, business schools and colleges of further education, post-experience courses in management education have been developed rapidly in recent years. Trade union education, both through the T.U.C.'s educational work and as a result of initiatives taken by the W.E.A. and university departments of extra-mural studies, have seen significant expansion in the last decade.

The noble Baroness, Lady White, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and others mentioned the special claims of women on adult education. Although nearly 70 per cent. of the provision is used by women, both my noble friend Lady Young and I cordially agree that we need new initiatives always to be kept in mind as to how the provision for women can be put forward, because for many the combination of job and home leaves little time for extended studies; but, obviously, there is a need for a mother to maintain and enlarge her educational experience, both for herself and for her family. It is because a married woman has so many calls on her time that she may feel unable or unwilling to respond to any publicity for adult education courses, and I notice that the Report observes that, whatever the providing body may be, its approach to people must be "imaginative and flexible".


My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord. I really do not think it is true that young married women with children would not respond to advertising. They have a real hunger, as soon as their children are old enough, to have education which stretches their mind, and I personally know dozens of them.


My Lords, I am delighted that the noble Baroness has put that point of view, because, obviously, if she says that, knowing the adult education field for so long through her husband, she knows that it is true. What I was going to say was that last Saturday evening I met the development officer of a large rural authority in East Anglia which has a lot of new town development. There he found that one of the dangers was that if mothers whom he was trying to interest in the running of play groups were approached with the usual approach that they were being asked to join a course, then he might get a "No", from many of them. But if he approached them informally and asked them to participate with him in discussions about how they could get a play group going he was successful. I shall not disagree with the noble Baroness. I shall just say that sometimes, according to the individuals concerned, there may be two ways of approaching the same problem.


My Lords, will the noble Lord forgive me? I am just trying to be helpful. If his Department would like a specimen of some of my very successful propaganda in new and expanding towns for bringing in young wives, I shall be happy to let him have a copy.


My Lords, I shall be grateful to the noble Baroness.

The noble Baroness, Lady White, led a whole list of your Lordships who spoke of the special claims of those who are disadvantaged in this field. Sir Lionel Russell and his Committee made the point very strongly that when they spoke of a comprehensive service they meant one which caters for all people, including those who are handicapped or disadvantaged in various ways, and they included those who are totally unaware of the cultural disadvantages from which they may suffer because of their inability to take part in any form of continuing education. As the Report says, many are reluctant to venture into experiences of which they have felt little need and for which because of their truncated education they have developed scant respect". I think it was the noble Earl, Lord Longford—and it was certainly the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell—who pointed out that to bring adult education to this disadvantaged group is a much more difficult and long-term task than to bring it to disadvantaged groups such as the old or the physically handicapped, whose problems certainly relate to timing, location and facilities but not to lack of incentive and understanding of any educational need or want.

However, my Lords, following recent research into the problems identified with educating those who can be said to suffer disadvantage in this way, new techniques are being devised and some experimental projects have already been undertaken. The Liverpool Local Education Authority and Liverpool University, for example, in association with the North-West District of the W.E.A., are making an attempt to interest a number of adults for whom education appears to have no attraction in undertaking various forms of outgoing activity. At Southampton University a project entitled "Adult Education in Areas of Urban Overspill" has now been completed; a further grant is to be given by my right honourable friend's Department; and the Inner London Education Authority has recently recruited staff specifically to explore new techniques in the teaching of adults. May I add here that the noble Baroness, Lady White, drew my attention to grants in the context of development work—the noble Earl also referred to this—and later on we shall certainly be considering what the noble Earl and the noble Baroness said.

Some of your Lordships may have read very recently in the newspapers—and this is only a newspaper report—that one in every six adult women will suffer a breakdown leading to hospital treatment, and that this applies to one in nine of men. It would be trespassing on a subject which lies outside my competence if I claimed that adult education provided an answer to the report of this distressing state of affairs, if it is accurate; but I think that anyone who has read the Russell Report will be grateful to the Committee for stating in paragraph 182 that tile good teacher is one who will try to ensure that the informal activities, such as clubs and societies, that often grow out of classroom, can mitigate the loneliness of many people and create opportunities for social contact which are important subsidiary functions of adult education.

My Lords, I listened with great care to what the noble Countess, Lady Loudoun, and my noble friend Lady Elliot said about the physically handicapped. I remember meeting not so long ago a deputation of people who were involved in providing music for people who are physically handicapped. One of the deputation was a girl who was in a wheelchair. She was, in fact, the secretary of the organisation which had come to see my Department. I should like to say that I entirely support my noble friend's desire to see the physically handicapped and other disadvantaged persons attend ordinary classes; and, like her and Lady Loudoun, I look forward to the day when the provisions of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 are able to relate to the modification of buildings so that the Act comes fully into force. It is perfectly clear from all the speeches this afternoon that the Report's proposals for the establishment of national and local development councils have aroused widespread interest, and I assure the House that we shall look very carefully at that proposal and at those proposals in the light of our discussions, to which I have already referred; but for the reasons I have given, I can go no further this afternoon.

There is one last field of adult education development to which the Committee referred where I believe that action which the Government have already taken is certainly in line with what the Report recommended. A wide range of audiovisual material and equipment is needed in adult education whenever possible. As the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said, perhaps the leading example of the systematic application of combinations of media in course materials is the work which is done by the Open University. In January, 1971, my right honourable friend appointed a Committee to recommend new arrangements for promoting educational technology in the United Kingdom under the chairmanship of Mr. J. A. Hudson, Deputy Secretary at my right honourable friend's Department. Following the recommendations of this Report, it is proposed to establish a new organisation to replace the existing National Council for Educational Technology. It is hoped that the new organisation will come into being in October, 1973, and I would expect that its more representative nature will enable the needs of adult education in the field of educational technology to be better understood.

My Lords, I do not want to sound in any way complacent, but I am sure your Lordships will agree that what is important in many ways is the range of opportunities which actually exist and people can use; and while no one would deny that there is room for improvement, I really do not think we ought to be overmodest in this country about what we have already achieved—and I say this when it is the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Grasmere, who has indicated that we have a record which compares with the record of other countries. There is day release, there is the scheme for retraining in occupational skills, there is the Open University, there is Birkbeck College—not exactly adult education, I appreciate, but unique so far as I know—there are long-term and short-term residential colleges; there is the W.E.A. itself; there are university extra-mural courses and a whole spectrum of courses available at day and evening classes in a wide range of institutions such as schools, F.E. colleges and adult education establishments, not to mention, of course, the voluntary organisations, which include work with women's organisations, work with the handicapped and work specifically with the arts—and, of course, it is the voluntary movement which we have to thank for the concept and the development of community associations. The variety of adult education in this country has, I think, been admirably portrayed and studied by Sir Lionel Russell's Committee, and this afternoon, if I may say so, your Lordships have developed many of the points dealt with in the Report. I repeat my assurance that the Government will be studying with great care all the views put forward, and I should like to thank once again the noble Baroness, Lady White, for initiating this debate to-day.

6.57 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that the number of noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, and their experience and distinction, will have given some comfort and encouragement to the members of the Russell Com- mittee, one or two of whom have in fact been most patiently listening to our deliberations. I should like most sincerely to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, which I am certain will be of great use to the Department. I think it will encourage the various organisations concerned in the consultations which I understand are about to take place. I was very glad to have confirmation, both from the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and from the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, that the Department is not going to waste time in starting these consultations, and we look forward very much to their outcome.

My Lords, there are so many things that I should like to comment upon, but it will not have escaped your Lordships' notice that my noble friend Lord Beswick has an Unstarred Question on the Paper, and long experience in political life has led me to the belief that it is unwise to stand in the way of one's Chief Whip if one can help it. So I am sure that all noble Lords will accept my collective thanks. Perhaps, if I may be allowed to single out one noble Lord for particular thanks, it is the noble Viscount, Lord Combermere, who I would suppose is the only Member of this House who is a full-time tutor in adult education. So we are particularly glad that he was able to take part in this debate. My Lords, with my gratitude to everyone who has taken part, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.