§ 3.2 p.m.
§ Lord Glenamara rose to call attention to the erosion of educational opportunities under the present Government, and the adverse effect this will have on economic recovery; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, debates on education usually turn not so much into a war of words as into a war of statistics. It is important to bear in mind at the beginning that what we are talking about today are children and young people; the immature members of our community to whom, I believe, we owe a very special duty. It is a duty for which, once we neglect it, we can never make amends because our children have only one childhood and one youth. If the opportunity is missed then, it is usually missed for life. We in the party to which I have the honour to belong believe that every child, irrespective of social class, irrespective of the interest or lack of interest of its parents, and irrespective of creed or colour, has an inalienable right to the opportunity to develop to the full whatever talents are latent in him.
§ It is a major function of Government to provide that opportunity for all our children. For three decades before this Government came into office we steadily progressed under all Governments towards this goal. The three great measures which propelled us along this way were, first, the Education Act 1944, the authors of which were a Conservative President of the Board of Trade, as he was called then, and a Labour Under-Secretary of State; secondly, the Robbins Report of 1962; and, thirdly, the formation of polytechnics in the mid-1960s.
§ All three measures commanded bipartisan support. Since 1979 the objective of the 1944 Act has clearly been abandoned, and that of the Robbins Report, as I shall show, is about to be abandoned. So in a country which is self-sufficient in oil, which has coal supplies for a thousand years (if we count the North Sea) and which can go to war at the drop of a hat, we can no longer claim that every child will be given an opportunity to develop his talents to the full. Pride in our self-sufficiency in fuel and justifiable pride in our victory in the Falklands has to be seen against the running down of our education system and the consequent diminishing chances of our children and young people, not only for employment but also for a decent education. That is our indictment of the Government today. That is why the Labour Peers have put down this Motion for debate today.
§ As I see it, the object of politics is very simple. It should be to enable people to lead fuller and happier lives, and every Government function contributes directly or indirectly to that end. But surely no function is more relevant to this than the organisation of an effective and comprehensive education system. Apart from its importance to the individual in helping him to lead a better life, it is equally and increasingly relevant to our performance as an industrial nation.1417
§ If we are to maintain, let alone improve, our living standards in Britain, we as a nation must be at the leading edge of industrial growth—of sophisticated industrial growth—and development. The kind of industry which alone can ensure our future demands very much more highly trained and educated manpower at board level, executive level and managerial level. It also demands better educated people at the workbench. It demands the operative who knows his algebra and geometry; the secretary who knows a second language; and the salesman who knows several languages. I believe that we as a nation are not nearly well enough educated. That is a rarely recognised reason for our relatively poor industrial performance compared with many other nations. The Government, who should be producing a better educated nation, are doing no such thing—quite the reverse. Just as they are destroying our manufacturing industry, the Government are also undermining and eroding our education system, which should be contributing so much to industrial recovery of the right kind.
§ Wherever we look at the system, at every stage, it has been run down and demoralised. It is not only failure to provide the necessary resources about which I want to speak but also the ludicrous attempts by the Secretary of State and others to apply the theories of a market economy, as being the best possible device to provide for human needs, to the organisation of an education system. I often think that Adam Smith must be rotating in his grave when he listens to some of the speeches made by the Secretary of State.
§ We heard about the latest piece of nonsense on breakfast TV on Monday; that the Secretary of State has appointed a new special adviser who has never set foot inside a state school. No doubt we shall now be getting a lot of even zanier ideas on the organising of the education system in the near future. I now turn from these more esoteric aspects of the Government's record to their failure to provide adequate resources. Your Lordships will have read harrowing stories in all the local newspapers of our country of wounding cuts which local authorities are being forced by this Government to make in their education systems.
§ I will say a word about the three most important physical resources required by schools: premises, teachers, and books and equipment. The stock of buildings is in a worse state than it has been for many years. Many of our school premises are literally falling apart. Many have not been painted for 10 years or more. Maintenance is woefully neglected. One delegate at a teacher's conference last summer described how the teachers in his school had to undertake the maintenance of the school building. This is happening at a time when it should be possible to have the best stock of school buildings ever and to get rid of all substandard buildings, because the fall in the birth-rate has now reached schools and school rolls are falling rapidly. Of course, there is the need to amalgamate schools and the need to close many schools, as many of your Lordships who are familiar with rural areas will know only too well.
§ Not many of your Lordships will have read or heard about the illuminating report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools, which is quite independent of the DES. These inspectors prepared a report, which 1418 was published last year, on the effects of the cuts on the educational service. I shall make a number of references to their report. They commented in detail on the deterioration of school buildings. Many of the worst are in inner city areas, but not by any means all of them; there are many in rural areas. It is clear from this report of the inspectors of schools that our stock of school buildings is falling very rapidly into a dilapidated, deteriorating state, at the very time when they should have been better than ever before.
§ Equally, the falling number of children in schools should have made it possible for the supply and distribution of teachers to be better than ever. Any sensible Government would have taken advantage of the drop in the number of children to ensure, for example, that no class in the country had more than 30 children. Instead of doing that they are allowing 38,400 teachers to be out of work. Those are the figures I received a few moments ago—38,400 teachers unemployed. I know it is easy to point to the pupil/teacher ratio. It may be the Minister will do that, and it may comfort the noble Baroness. When I was at the Department of Education and Science and I complained about an oversized class of which I had heard, the officials would say, "Ah, but the P/T ratio went down by 0.1 of a pupil last year, and that is very good". That may comfort the officials and it may comfort the Minister, but it is not much comfort to the half of the nation's parents whose children are in classes above the median.
§ This was put very well indeed by a press handout given by the Leicester teachers when they were commenting on conditions in Leicester. They commented on the number of classes over 36; they said there were 21. They said that that figure may be regarded by some as relatively insignificant—unless it is your school and your child in that school. The staffing cuts are being enforced by the Government with a ferocity never seen before; and, of course, they greatly exceed the cuts in numbers that could be justified by the cuts in the school population. For example—I could give many examples—in Kingston-on-Thames there has been a 2 per cent. reduction in the number of pupils in three years but an 8 per cent. reduction in the number of teachers.
§ This has had a number of effects. First of all, it has led to a very great increase in the number of mixed age groups. Sir Keith Joseph reported on education in Liverpool early last year, and he talked about the detrimental effect this was having on attainment in English and mathematics. I am not talking about small village schools where there have to be mixed age groups; I am talking about larger schools as well. For example, there is a school in Gainsborough about which I have a report. This is a school of 252 pupils. At the beginning of last term they faced the loss of two more teachers, so that the pupil teacher ratios are now 25 per cent. worse than they were in July 1980, with the added problem that most of the classes are now mixed age groups. The average class size at the top of the school is 35 or 36. I know the Secretary of State will say that that is an individual case, but the administration of education in England and Wales consists of individual cases. It is so easy to lose sight of the Gainsborough County North primary schools of this world in a mass of generalisations, as it is so easy to lose sight of children in a mass of statistics. That is the 1419 first effect: the great increase in the number of mixed age teaching groups.
§ Secondly, it is causing the dropping of very many worthwhile subjects. The HMI report has pointed out that because of staffing problems subjects like economics and homecare, and, for less able pupils, very often language courses, have had to be dropped. They say—this is their figure, not mine—a third of the local authorities have reduced their courses in their secondary schools in a way which has affected all pupils, but the less able most of all.
§ Thirdly, it has affected the supply cover which can be provided when teachers are absent from schools. Some local authorities are now providing a supply teacher only when a teacher has been absent for six weeks or more. Hereford and Worcester are two authorities which are doing that. Others provide a supply teacher after two weeks (Manchester and Gwynedd, for example) and some (Durham County) none at all. These are only statistics, but they are not so good if my child or yours is left without a teacher or with makeshift teaching for six weeks or more. And this is being done when 38,400 teachers are on the dole.
§ Fourthly—this is the saddest effect of all, and I hope the noble Baroness will comment on it—again from the HMI report and from many reports throughout the country, it is leading to a great reduction in, and sometimes the disappearance of, small remedial teaching groups, which have been, I believe, one of the most worthwhile kinds of teaching to emerge in the last few years. It is a sad reflection on Government policy that those in greatest need have suffered in this way. Small remedial teaching groups are disappearing when there are 38,400 teachers out of work.
After buildings and teachers the next important resource is books and equipment. The Bullock Report in 1975 told us what we all know: that books are an integral and vital part of the educational process. Here, the picture is just as bad as in the case of buildings and the supply of teachers. Even the Secretary of State himself recognised this in December 1981. He said:
Local authorities have substantially reduced their expenditure in real terms on textbooks.
§ He said he would make £20 million available to restore the level of provision of textbooks to the 1978–79 level by 1982–83. I am glad he has recognised it, but after four years of his Government he hopes this year to restore the number of textbooks to where it was in the last year of the Labour Government. All the evidence since then indicates that the position about books is not improving but is getting worse.
§ We are grateful for the Secretary of State's acknowledgement of the problem, but there is really no way he can ensure that that £20 million is spent on books. Under our educational law it is impossible for the Secretary of State to make a specific grant. There is no guarantee that it will go into education at all, let alone books. But there is a second reason. Because of the machinery by which money is channelled to the schools every head teacher has a per capita allowance for each pupil. This always covers books, but if often covers other items as well. The practice has grown up in the last few years of including very many other items 1420 as well as books. To give just one or two examples, Sutton, for instance, includes, in addition to books and stationery, education equipment, office equipment, educational visits, PT equipment, printing, speech days, repairs, postage, first-aid and a great many other items.
§ Local authorities have pushed one item of expenditure after another into the capitation allowance in recent years. So the amount spent on books is getting less and less. Primary schools and secondary schools are being starved of books and equipment. This is producing the craziest results. For example, GCE and CSE students in Croydon have to pay a £10 deposit before they can take a textbook home to do their homework. In some schools in Merton, where incidentally the amount spent on books and equipment has been reduced by 16.9 per cent. in three years, children are not allowed to take textbooks home at all. The shortage of books is having a highly adverse effect on homework as well.
§ I can give many examples of London authorities who have reduced expenditure on books and equipment but I shall not take the time of the House by giving very many. Let me just quote one or two on textbooks. Barking and Dagenham have reduced expenditure on books in primary schools by 17.4 per cent. in three years; Enfield by 18 per cent. and Harrow by 11.6 per cent. In secondary schools, to take them at random, Barnet has reduced by 14 per cent., Bexley by 11.6 per cent., Brent by 37 per cent. and Ealing by 25 per cent. I must say that in all this the one bright spot in the whole area is Richmond which has considerably increased its expenditure, but most of the others show very great reductions.
§ There have been three wholly unwelcome side effects from this starving of the schools of books and equipment. First, there is a widespread growth of often illicit photocopying by teachers. Teachers are extremely conscientious and in order to provide some printed material for their pupils they often photocopy parts of a single issue of a book. Of course, after the recent case brought by the Music Publishers' Association there is a great deal of concern in the schools about that.
§ Secondly, this has led to a rather remarkable change in teaching methods. Because of the shortage of textbooks and very often of exercise books—I understand that many Surrey schools are using computer paper instead of exercise books—the teaching method has gone back 60 or 70 years to "talk and chalk" with far less practical work and far less use of the printed word. It is much more didactic than it has been for many years.
§ Thirdly, there has been a remarkable growth in parental financial contributions to the capitation allowances. The HMI's report commented in detail on this and the figures I give are all from that report. It states that in 1981—I believe the position is now much worse—in half the local authorities in England and Wales the contributions were moderate or considerable and often exceeded the capitation allowance. The report states that in one rural school parents contributed £12.50 each per year to the school. In a large London primary school £9,000 a year is produced by parents. In a large metropolitan grammar 1421 school £15,000 a year is contributed. In a shire primary school £1,000 is contributed. In some cases even the parish councils are contributing.
§ The Advisory Centre for Education has drawn attention to the fact that this practice—the reliance by local authorities on parental contributions to pay for essential equipment—is probably unlawful under the Education Act 1944, which forbids a local authority to charge either for admission to schools or for the educational provision in them. Parental contributions, of course, have been encouraged in terms by Ministers at the Department of Education and Science, but I would point out to the noble Baroness that with 3½ million people unemployed there cannot be any significant parental contribution in the inner city areas or in poorer working-class areas where there is a high incidence of unemployment.
§ So the gap widens, as it always does under a Tory Government, but never more markedly than under this one. Therefore, the gains in equipping and the staffing of our schools, and the improvement in teaching methods over the past 50 years, are being drained away by the Government and the disparity between the better off and the less well off areas and children is increasing.
§ But the Government cannot allow the physical environment of education to go to the dogs, as it is doing. They cannot allow the supply of books to diminish to far less than 1 per cent. of educational expenditure, as it has done. They cannot allow the contraction of the curriculum which is taking place. They cannot reduce the chances of the less able, the poorer and backward areas to catch up, without seriously affecting the morale of the schools and the educational achievement of our children, particularly at a time when vast numbers of young people in schools can only look forward to a long period of unemployment after leaving school. It is estimated that only one in three school-leavers this year will find jobs. I do not want to dwell on all the tragic problems posed for education by youth unemployment. I greatly welcome what the Government are doing, while wishing it could be more, but I point out that it is not a substitute for jobs.
§ I issue a word of warning. A familiar phenomenon during periods of high unemployment has appeared. There is pressure, and the HMI referred to it in its document, from employers to shed some of their training costs on to the education system. As I said, it is a familiar phenomenon in times of high unemployment and is perfectly understandable. I believe that the Government should resist this so far as the schools are concerned. The schools are not in the business of vocational training. That is not snobbery on the part of the teachers; it is because of a desire that schools should do the job for which they are trained—to develop the basic skills and the acquisition of knowledge required for living in a modern industrial society. The schools should be concerned with moral training, with cultural subjects and generally with our national heritage. That is their function, not to train fitters, bricklayers or typists. I look rather apprehensively at the extent to which the Manpower Services Commission is impinging on the schools. The MSC's function is in further education and not in the schools. 1422 During Question Time recently, after a Question by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, I said that in my view the age of 16 is early enough for a young person to start doing the job he is to do for the next 49 years.
I turn now to the higher education sector which, as your Lordships know, consists of the universities on the one hand and the public sector—the large polytechnics and the small local authority colleges, of which there are about 350—on the other. The public sector caters for roughly 209,000 students. The Conservative election manifesto in 1979 stated:
Much of our higher education in Britain has a world-wide reputation for its quality".
The manifesto went on to pledge the Conservative Party,
to ensure that this excellence is maintained".
§ Having been elected on that, the Conservative Government reduced the recurrent grant to the universities, which is the major part of their income, by 8.5 per cent. over the three years to 1983–4. If to that is added the loss of subsidy for overseas students, there has been a total loss of income to the universities of between 11 and 15 per cent. for 1981–82 to 1983–84. That has come at a time when the number of 18-year-olds, and the number of 18-year-olds with sufficient A-levels to get to university, has reached an all-time peak. The University Grants Committee, which had to administer these cuts and which euphemistically refers to them as "restructuring", warned the Secretary of State that such a reduction would necessarily damage the quality of teaching in higher education and the research base. In spite of that warning from the UGC the Government went ahead with those two cuts.
§ If we look at the way in which the UGC made the cuts—or advised, which I think is what they do—it appears that Oxford and Cambridge suffered relatively little, but the more technological universities such as Salford and Bradford were cut by as much as 30 per cent., despite their vital role in the country's technological and industrial development. It is estimated that 4,000 academic and academic related jobs will be shed by the universities in this three-year period at a time—again I quote the figures—when there are 3,222 university teachers on the dole. That is how the excellence is to be maintained.
§ The result of this, of course, has been a greatly reduced intake of students by the universities this year. The Sunday Times, has carried a survey which it published recently. It says that science and engineering recruitment has gone down by 7 per cent. last year and by the same figure over 1979. Business management and accountancy have gone down by 5.5 per cent. this year, and the study of English, which is perhaps the most important tool of all, has gone down by 10 per cent. Incidentally, classics have gone up by 15.5 per cent. That is to staff the Foreign Office, no doubt.
§ These are some of the almost criminal results of Government policy. On the other hand, while this has been going on, the polytechnics and the local authority colleges have been cut to the bone. May I say that I have the honour to serve on the governing body of one of our largest, which is bigger than most provincial universities—I have seen all their figures and been through them with a small toothcomb. I have seen to 1423 what extent they have cut out everything which could be cut out of administration, cleaning, maintenance and so on. But by good management and becoming very cost-effective they have been able this year to take up the shortfall by recruiting an additional 13 per cent.
§ Therefore, the Robbins objective, which is that there should be a place somewhere in higher education for all who are qualified for one and prepared to take it up, is still for this year intact. But, in their White Paper on Public Expenditure, the Government also decree that there has to be a further cut of 10 per cent. in the public sector, in polytechnics and colleges by 1983–84. They have all been required to prepare plans, which they had to do by 31st December, to show how the cut could be made in their own cases. They have to submit them by early spring to the new national advisory body set up by the Government. The body will formulate an overall plan for the Government to put into effect their determination to make a further 10 per cent. cut in the public sector. The Government say this is going to be done. Bearing in mind the annihilation of a major part of our teacher training facilities in the past three years, if it is done, in the autumn of this year there is no way of avoiding drastic restrictions on recruitment, which would mean that for the first time since 1962 the Robbins objective, of a place for everybody who is qualified, will have been abandoned. I must tell the noble Baroness that there is no way of avoiding that if her Government stick to their determination to make the further 10 per cent. cut in the public sector of higher education.
§ Up to 20,000 pupils—this is very clear—who are now in the sixth forms or the higher forms of our secondary schools will find no places anywhere in higher education the universities, the polytechnics, the colleges or in teacher training. The only way in which it could be done, and to avoid that happening, would be to cobble together a new substandard sub-degree two-year course; but this would be done at the very time when the polytechnics and the colleges were being forced to close down excellent degree courses. My own polytechnic in Newcastle, in its 10 per cent. plan, has been forced to propose the closing down of two excellent degree courses. To set up any other kind of substandard qualification when that is happening would be educational lunacy. But, more than that, it would be the betrayal of a whole generation of young people who are now in the secondary schools who, like all their predecessors since World War II, feel they have a right, as surely they do in this great rich country of ours, to have their educational potential developed to the full.
§ That is why I said there was no credible alternative, if the Government are to go ahead with their 10 per cent cut. I challenge the noble Baroness to tell young people in the schools, to tell your Lordships, to tell the parents now, whether or not she will guarantee, for everybody who is qualified and willing to take it up, a place in higher education this year and next year, or whether after 20 years what I say is correct and the Government are going to abandon the Robbins principle.
§ I have described the situation in the schools. I have warned about the imminent abandonment of the Robbins objective. I have not mentioned the position 1424 with regard to a great many other aspects of the education system. I have not mentioned nursery education, school meals, school milk, the 16-to 19-year-olds or many other aspects of the Government's policy where the position is equally worrying. No doubt many other noble Lords will talk about those matters. But I hope I have said sufficient to show that this Government are doing major harm to our education system, and quite irreparable harm to the lives and chances of our children and young people, to an extent that we in this party believe merits the censure and condemnation of the House and of the country. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, I must first apologise to the House that, because I have to attend a Committee of your Lordships' House later this afternoon I shall not be able to be here throughout the course of the debate, but, judging from the length of the list of the speakers, I shall certainly be able to return long before the end of it.
It is common ground between the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, and myself that all is very far from well with education in this country. What I found missing in the speech of the noble Lord was any suggestion that some part at least of that educational malaise can be laid at the doors of the educationists themselves. Those of us who listened with interest and apprehension to the evidence from educationists, given before your Lordships' Committee on unemployment, were deeply disturbed at the failure of the schools adequately to prepare young people for the world of work after they leave school.
I recognise, of course—and the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, dealt with this to some extent according to his own view—that it is not the job of the schools to provide vocational training. Of course, in the narrow sense, many of us would agree with that. As one interpretation of vocational training, I would most emphatically agree with it. But it is surely part of a school's job to prepare youngsters for life. That is what they tell us, and quite rightly so. It is their task to prepare them also for that part of life which involves work.
When one is told, as we were told then, of the 40 per cent. of youngsters leaving school with nothing to present to the labour market to enable them to earn their living, one wonders what sort of criticism is being applied inside the educational service as well as the criticism, justifiably levelled, at what the Government have been doing in this field. For my part, I should say that any of us who has been involved in teaching knows perfectly well that it is not the subject being taught that determines whether it has educational value or not; it is the way in which it is taught and the relationship between teacher and the young person which develops in the process of education. There are some times, perhaps many times, with children of less academic ability, when one could rightly look to the critics, as a vocational subject being taught is, in fact, for that youngster, properly taught, the most educational way in which the young pupil can be developed. I am not sure what one is meant to call them now. I have heard some people refer to pupils of 11 as students. I get my terminology a little confused.
1425 The second criticism I should like to make is of the educationists themselves. I know this will be a very unpopular thing to say, particularly among my old colleagues in the academic world; but I think it needs saying. There are cuts taking place in colleges, universities and schools. Having worked for 30 years inside the higher education system, I know that there is room for both economy and change and that it is not altogether a bad thing that changes are taking place, although not necessarily in the way in which they are today and certainly not to the extent to which they are taking place today.
However, I question whether in the world of education, as indeed anywhere else—except for dealing with the short-term emergency—to rely almost exclusively on voluntary redundancy is a responsible way in which to handle cuts. It is of course always the job of the unions to look after the interests of their individual members who are becoming redundant. But it is essentially the job of managers and of the people running the educational institutions not to think only about the wellbeing of the people working in them. That of course they must do, but at the end of the day their primary responsibility must be to ensure that they have the most effective organisation able to do the job with which they are charged.
It is obvious that, if one relies indefinitely on voluntary redundancy, one is creating a position in which the ablest people and those most needed in the colleges and schools will leave, and one will be left with the people one could well do without because they are those who will find it extremely difficult to obtain employment elsewhere. I consider it essential that the schools and colleges should grasp this nettle and be prepared to face the fact that they must reorganise in a way which will enable them to do the best possible educational job that can be done.
Having said that some of the criticism must be levelled at the educationalists themselves, let me say that there is an educational crisis or emergency. That, alas! suggests that it is short term, but it is not short term: it is long term. We have a serious educational problem about which we have too little sense of urgency. I fear that too many of the English—it may be that this is a racist remark—do not, in their bones, take education seriously. I say "English" deliberately, because I suspect that this does not apply to the Scots and the Welsh. Very few English people at any level of society are ashamed of being ignorant—this would not apply in a great many other countries—and in fact, they are almost proud of it. So there are always reservations about our approach to the needs of education.
I would argue that, in the present economic situation, nothing, but nothing, especially if we take a long-term view, is more important than that we should be reorganising, reshaping and revitalising our education system in order that we can give people—and I am referring not only to young people, but to people who have lost out in the past, because many have done so—the opportunity to take advantage of whatever is going to come in the future.
We have said that we know that the opportunities for people who lack skills are bleak in the extreme. As I have said in your Lordship's House on other 1426 occasions, it is a reality that there may well be youngsters leaving school today who, because they are unskilled and because they have got so little out of their schooling, will never have a regular job between the time they leave school and the time they reach retirement age. That is surely horrible to contemplate. So we need—do we not?—to work now on building much better bridges between industry, education and work and to have in the schools people who really understand what that means.
It is not just a question of putting a few people into schools who have had a week or two exposed to industry so that they begin to understand something about the matter. We need a radical change in education and we need it to be led by the best teachers we can find, giving special training to enable them to do it—teachers who will command the respect of their fellow professional teachers. Surely now is the time, with teacher unemployment at its present level, to put money into the training of teachers who can really tackle this job properly. It is not being done at present.
Anything that the Government are saving on education through cuts should not be a saving overall; the money should be for reinvestment in a better educational system, a more relevant educational system—relevant not only for the economy but for the youngsters, many of whom are totally bored by what they have been getting in the schools up to now. That means money invested in a new type of training for teachers. I beg the noble Baroness, to say what is being done. If not enough is being done—as I am sure is the case—I hope she will consider looking again at the way in which this matter can be given much more serious and urgent attention as we have so often asked in the past.
The Government have embarked on the Youth Training Scheme, and that is in my view entirely to be desired. But it is an opportunity which we must not let slip. We have the chance now to do something to redress the balance between ourselves and our competitors in the highly industrialised world who give far better and more relevant education and training to their youngsters than we do. As I have said previously in your Lordship's House, 44 per cent. of youngsters leaving school in this country go either into unemployment or into jobs with no training at all. The figure for Germany is 9 per cent., for Belgium 4 per cent., and for France 19 per cent. If that situation continues when industrial recovery world-wide returns, it will be those countries, plus the Americans and the Japanese, who will take advantage of economic recovery and we shall be left trailing behind.
However, we cannot take advantage of this opportunity unless we can use this year that the Government are financing through the MSC for the Youth Training Scheme to build in every way we can better education complementing and supplementing what has been done, or not done, in the schools, and appropriate training. It is an enormous undertaking. We are asking for the collaboration of the colleges of further education to enable us to do it. How can they be adequately prepared to take on this task unless, as a matter of top priority, the Government are seeing what resources are available for them and are giving every possible help so that they can reorganise themselves sufficiently to take on the education and 1427 training aspects of the Youth Training Scheme? It is a very big and expensive task and it is in that direction that such resources as are being made by economies in the schools and colleges—some of them in my view long overdue—can best be used.
When we talk about ensuring that people receive the relevant education to enable them to take opportunities that are coming and to do something about the state of the economy, will the noble Baroness also say something about what is being done to ensure that the maths and science teaching of girls is given far more attention than it has been up until now?
Those are the immediate and urgent matters—the crisis matters—that call for attention at once particularly before the Youth Training Scheme really gets launched and tackles its huge responsibilities and takes advantage of its huge opportunities as it comes into force.
I should like to raise two other matters. As the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, has said, many of us find it incomprehensible that, when the cuts were made, many of the universities which were doing what appeared to be a most relevant and useful job—I refer particularly to Salford, Bradford and Aston—suffered the heaviest of the cuts. I have asked and other noble Lords have asked before in your Lordships' House how those cuts came to be made for universities which were working on the technological and engineering side, which had built up the best possible contacts with industry and whose students were sought after and were obtaining jobs in the labour market even in the present depressed conditions. We were told then that this was a matter for the UGC and was not something in which we should interfere. In the crises of education and of the economy I do not think that that is a good enough answer. Your Lordships are entitled to know why valuable leading experimental institutions of that kind were curtailed in the way they were.
Finally, may I say—partly because my own experience was very closely associated with this and that gives me the right to say how valuable I think it—that I cannot comprehend why the Government (indeed, it was started by the previous Labour Government) have persisted in their attitude towards overseas students? Those students have enriched our colleges and universities educationally, but not only educationally. As I think I have said to your Lordships before, when the London School of Economics built its magnificent new library my colleague and your Lordships' colleague in this House, the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, went twice round the world visiting old students in order to raise money for that library. Without those overseas students it would have been a long time before that library went up. That just serves as a symbol of how overseas students, as they go into positions of great responsibility—and some of them go alarmingly fast into positions of alarmingly high responsibility as viewed through the eyes of the people who taught them—can influence, both economically and politically, the attitudes of developing countries towards this country. How can the Government be so short-sighted as to throw away all that goodwill?
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, before turning to speak 1428 for the Government in this debate this afternoon, I should like to say how much we are looking forward to hearing my noble friend Lord Pennock make his maiden speech, and to wish him well. The noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, has sought vigorously to make out a case for his criticisms of Government policies in education. I should now like to state the Government's proposals and policies on education and to show that a dispassionate examination of facts and circumstances will not, in fact, take us down the same road as the noble Lord who spoke originally in this debate.
The keynote of the Government's education policy is the good management of scarce resources. At a time when demographic factors are forcing changes on educational institutions at every level, it is essential to ensure that money is not wasted, but is instead directed to the growth-points which will be of most relevance in achieving economic recovery. It is inevitable in this approach that hard choices have to be made as well as difficult adjustments. Change is often painful, particularly so in an area which affects so many people as intimately as does education, and where local traditions and loyalties are so strong. But it is the task of a responsible Government to grasp these nettles.
What then is the "erosion of opportunities" which the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, alleges has taken place? In almost every area the proportion of the relevant age-group participating in education is higher than it was under the previous Administration. The percentage of three and four year-olds in nursery and primary schools has risen by about 3 per cent. since 1978–79. The percentage of 16 and 17 year-olds staying on at school after the minimum leaving age is also rising. And the age-participation rate for 18 to 20 year-olds in higher education last year was over 13 per cent.—the highest for several years—despite the fact that the size of the age-group was growing as well.
Nor should anyone underestimate the extent of the Government's financial commitment to education. In the current year we shall be spending a total of more than £14 billion on education in Britain—more than on our national defence. This has been sufficient to ensure a record level of spending per pupil in our schools. In England alone we have spent more than £7 billion on the schools, which works out at an average of more than £900 per pupil. And this spending is reflected in record pupil/teacher ratios: in England there is now one teacher for every 18.5 pupils.
What the nation's children need above all is good quality teaching—a point I thought very well brought out by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear—good curricula, a dedication to high standards, and high expectations on the part of the teachers, the parents and the pupils themselves—matters about which I shall say more in the course of my speech. One thing is certain: they cannot be provided merely by an expenditure of money that the nation cannot in any case afford.
Educational debate today must be seen against the background of the dramatic decline in pupil numbers from 9 million in 1979 to 7.5 million in the late 1980s. This is a massive drop. It is equal to the current pupil population of the whole of Greater London plus the cities of Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle. This presents the educational 1429 service with a set of challenges, not the least of which is to convince the public that there is a problem. How, after 20 years of extending and expanding opportunities by building new schools, does one explain the sustenance of quality and opportunity by closing schools? This is a challenge which must be met because educational quality and opportunity will certainly suffer if the number of school places is not kept in line with pupil numbers.
There are two different problems here. The first is misunderstanding. Taking surplus places out of use is represented as a means of cutting back on public expenditure. On this presentation, "no cuts" means "no school closures", which, to those holding this view, spells harm to the pupils. But no apology is needed for the fact that taking surplus places out of use saves money. But prompt action on falling rolls can mean a better protected and better delivered curriculum in both primary and secondary schools.
The second problem is more difficult. There is apprehension among governors, teachers and parents—especially parents—about changes involving the closure of a school. I believe that it can only be eased by emphasising to all concerned four points: first, that the school is not merely a physical entity; the substance is the school community and the education provided. It is no use saving the shell if it is no longer able to provide the right substance. Secondly, change may become inevitable because of developments like demographic changes which are quite outside the control of the governors, the teachers and the LEA. Thirdly, timely and sensitive rationalisation, preceded by adequate consultation, can provide positive advantages in terms of quality of education. Fourthly, people are rightly convinced that "their" school is a piece of social or community capital. This applies just as much on council estates and in the inner cities as it does in rural villages. In each case where changes are to be made the use to which that capital is to be put should be carefully considered and explained.
A further problem which results from demographic factors and arouses similar sensitivities is the contraction of initial teacher training. Over the past 10 years, Governments of both parties have recognised the need to bring about a substantial reduction in the overall scale of the initial teacher training system. In 1971 such training was undertaken in 42 universities and 184 public sector institutions, producing about 40,000 newly trained teachers each year. In 1977 the Labour Government reduced this to 31 universities and 76 public sector institutions, producing about 39,000 initial teacher training students at any one time.
The present Government have continued this rational and well-established trend. Following advice from the Advisory Committee on the Supply and Education of Teachers, it was concluded that planned annual admissions to initial teacher training courses should be reduced from some 20,000 in 1981 to 15,650 in 1983. However, in the last three years the level of recruitment of teachers of shortage subjects has greatly improved—particularly in maths and the physical sciences—and has been helped by special Government schemes designed to attract more well-qualified people into teaching. In particular, 1430 recruitment to postgraduate certificate of education courses in mathematics and physics is now at a high level. Our plans for the number of places in initial teacher training next year allow for these high levels to be maintained, and the signs are that this will be reflected in the level of enrolments.
Furthermore, as this improvement in recruitment comes at a time when the overall demand for secondary teachers is falling because of falling secondary schools rolls, it means that schools will be able to appoint specialists in shortage areas where they may have had difficulty in the past. New teachers well qualified in these key subjects will give greater educational opportunities than are now always available in the schools. When I was myself a Minister in the Department of Education I took a particular interest in, among other matters, the education of girls; and I hope that the opportunities, particularly for maths and science which will follow not only from the increase of teachers but also on our proposals on the school curriculum will mean that opportunities for girls are improved in both those subjects.
Another recent development is that the general quality of those wishing to train for teaching has improved dramatically. The introduction of O-level requirements in both mathematics and English has ensured at least a basic minimum competence for all teachers. The certificate of education has been almost entirely replaced by graduate qualifications, which has meant that all students are now required to hold a minimum of two A-levels before embarking on an undergraduate course. Additionally there has been a marked movement by students away from undergraduate courses to the PGCE, with the consequence that the quality of the undergraduate work is known before potential teachers are selected for training courses. And in the past few years it has been possible to be far more selective when choosing graduates for these courses. The result of these factors is that the quality of those entering the teaching profession has probably never been higher. This, I think, must be a cause of satisfaction to us all.
I turn now to say something about higher education. I welcomed what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said in expressing her belief that in higher education there was room both for economies and for change. In higher education the Government have faced up to the challenge of trying to produce a more efficient and cost-effective system, more attuned to the needs of the country and the economy. Despite the savings being required of higher education, in the 1981–82 academic year more young people entered than ever before, and as I have said the 18–20 year-old age participation rate in higher education was over 13 per cent.—the highest for several years. The evidence suggests that young people who were suitably qualified and wished to enter higher education were able to do so, although naturally not always at the institution of their choice or in the subject of their choice. That, however, has never been possible. We do not yet have final figures for this year, but we expect that the participation rate will remain at about 13 per cent.
The universities are demonstrating both courage and determination in adjusting to their new levels of funding. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Eduction and Science has announced in 1431 another place his intention to make available some £100 million extra to the universities in 1983–84 to help them meet unavoidable additional costs, to assist in the restructuring process, to boost activities in information technology and ensure the continued recruitment of young able men and women to these institutions. These initiatives provide for some 70 additional university posts in information technology subjects, and some 230 "new blood" posts, mainly in the sciences, in the academic year 1983–84.
We have also made clear our view that we wish to see universities becoming less totally dependent on the public purse, and have said that income gained from external sources will not lead to any consequential reduction in UGC grant. This will strengthen universities' links with the industrial and commercial community. This year the universities will receive over £1,280 million from the Government through the UGC, and in addition over £450 million will be spent out of public funds on maintenance payments and tuition fees for university students.
Local authority higher education—now offered in some 400 polytechnics and colleges in England—has also expanded rapidly in the last decade and has for some time been recognised as in urgent need of coordination and management at the national level. The Government therefore established the National Advisory Body for Local Authority Higher Eduction last February to advise my right honourable friend on the provision to be made in local authority institutions and the consequent allocation of the funds available. The advice of this body should allow the effective rationalisation of the sector so that the best use is made of the available resources. It will also contribute to a rational approach to planning for higher education as a whole. In the meantime my right honourable friend's distribution of the resources available for 1983–84 as announced just before the Christmas Recess is designed to secure the greatest economies from the most expensive institutions while protecting those that are most cost effective. Perhaps I might answer at this point one of the points the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, made on this matter and say that the advisory body's planning exercise in asking for plans based on a 10 per cent. reduction in resources in real terms between 1982–83 and 1984–85, is within the savings as originally planned and not additional to them.
The Government are not narrowly concerned with economies but they are concerned to provide new initiatives to increase educational opportunities. We have wanted to identify those areas where a special initiative or injection of resources can contribute to dealing with the nation's economic weaknesses at their roots. An outstanding example is the new Technical and Vocational Initiative announced by the Prime Minister in November. We believe that the 10 pilot projects—nine in England and one in Wales—will give new insights into the best ways of organising and managing the education of many of our 14 to 18-year-olds.
We must in particular provide these young people with the technical skills and personal qualities which will help to make industry and commerce more efficient and competitive and, of no less importance, increase the self-fulfilment and self-respect of young 1432 people as they reach adulthood. We believe this can best be done by offering four-year courses which combine the essential elements of a good general education with those specific vocational skills—enhanced by integrated work experience—which are needed in the modern world. The Government have asked the Manpower Services Commission to take the lead in setting up the projects so that as many as possible are operational by the beginning of the next school year.
We have been much encouraged by the expressions of interest and support that the intiative has received—from local education authorities, schools, colleges and others. We are confident that the combined efforts of the MSC, the education service, industry and commerce, will eventually result in a better equipped and more efficient labour force.
Further developments intended to ensure that the education offered to children in schools properly reflect the changes that are taking place in society as a whole are the Micro-Electronics Education Programme and the Micros in Schools Scheme. The Micros in Schools Scheme has resulted in there now being at least one micro in 95 per cent. of secondary schools, and, as required by the scheme, LEAs have provided a basic training for at least two teachers per school, or some 10,000 teachers in connection with it. As noble Lords will know, the scheme is now being extended to primary schools.
Under the Micro-Electronics Education Programme it is expected that by the end of this financial year about 14,000 teachers will have received training on different aspects of the use of micros in schools, with a further 10,000 to follow next year. Some 350 educational software programmes have also been produced, with many more to follow, and a regional information network has been established to provide information on the uses of the new technology in education, both to schools and LEAs. In this way the Government are building on work undertaken by LEAs from their own resources, and are stimulating further activity. Although designed on a £9 million programme overall, the Government are now funding around £4.5 million a year on the programme, and are also considering an extension beyond the current finishing date of 31st March 1984. It is clear, therefore, that in this area educational opportunities have significantly improved during the lifetime of the present Government and that major steps have been taken to ensure that the new technologies are being taught, used and understood. It is an area where Britain leads the world and the Government are proud of what they are doing to prepare young people for the future.
The Government also continue to recognise the need for and importance of training opportunities for teachers in service. In the coming year, provision has been made in the rate support grants for local authorities to continue programmes of in-service training at the same level as in the current financial year, and the Government also intend to introduce a new scheme of in-service training grants. These grants will be paid to local authorities towards the extra teaching costs incurred when eligible teachers are released to attend approved courses of training in the priority areas which will be included in the scheme.
1433 I have already mentioned the provision that the Secretary of State announced last December 1982 for "new blood" in the universities and information technologies. These are some examples of the developments which will in the years to come both widen and increase the quality of educational opportunities, and at the same time direct attention to the areas which must be strengthened if we are to meet the challenge of economic recovery and change.
Education is an enormous subject, and in the course of one debate there are many issues one cannot touch on at all, and one is only too conscious how briefly one must go over many important matters, important both to the country and to the individual children about whose future we are talking. But, speaking as one of the Ministers who was involved in the creation of the Education Act 1980, I believe it made a number of significant steps in extending educational opportunities. With the assisted places scheme, it restored the opportunity for children from poorer backgrounds to enjoy the best that independent schools could offer.
In maintained schools, the Act provided, for the first time, for parents to have the right to express an informed preference as to the school they wished their children to attend. We have given that responsibility to the parents. The greater interest and involvement parents have in schools as a result of this, and the Act's new provisions for parent governors, can, we believe, only be to the benefit of educational opportunities generally. In an important sense, it gives parents the opportunity as the Secretary of State said in his recent speech to the North of England Conference, to act as "agents of change" for the better within the schools in their communities.
In order to make parents more effective as agents of change, we have increased the amount of information available to them. Under the 1980 Act, schools must provide, on request, information about curriculum, results and methods. And, in the last few weeks, this process of opening up the schools to public scrutiny has been taken much further. The Secretary of State has announced that all HMI reports will from now on be published. This will, we believe, prove to be a measure of the utmost importance.
Throughout this speech I have emphasised the folly of a narrow concern simply with uniformity, quantity and money. The consistent programme of this Government has been to emphasise diversity and quality, to promote choice and to ensure that the already very large sums spent on education are used effectively and to the greater benefit of all our children.
§ Lord Glenamara
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, may I ask her whether she intends to respond to my invitation to give an assurance to parents that there will be a place in higher education this September and next September for all who are qualified and want a place?
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, I have already said a great deal about the numbers who are going into higher education. The noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, is too old a hand in politics to expect me to be drawn into 1434 answering a question which begs so many other questions. We have not defined what we mean by "qualified" or "courses"; the only firm part of that question would be the numbers of institutions, and I think it would be most unwise to give categorical answers to a general question like that. All I can tell the noble Lord, and I reiterate it, is that we believe that the proportion going into higher education will be at least as high as it is this year, which is one of the highest on record.
§ Lord Glenamara
The House and the country will note that the Minister refuses to give that assurance.
§ Baroness Young
If the country is taking that great an interest in this exchange of questions on the subject, my Lords, it will realise that it is very dangerous to answer such very generalised questions on the spur of the moment.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Chichester
My Lords, we must all be most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glenmara, for providing the occasion for us to debate this important subject of the state of education in our country. It is the concern of all of us, and particularluy of those who have children still at school or university, or who have responsibilities in higher education—and I speak as one in all those categories, having a child still at school and a child at university and a child who has just left university and is unemployed, and being also chairman of the governors of an institute of higher education. I speak also because the Church of England has a long-standing concern and responsibility in the field of education, through our own church schools and in many other ways; but I wish to emphasise that we are not just concerned with RE, but with education in the broadest sense.
Before coming to the detail of the matter, I wish to make a general comment about the philosophy of education which is suggested to me by the two parts of the Motion; that is, the tying together of the cuts in educational opportunity and economic recovery. I believe there is still much wisdom on education to be found in the philosophy of Aristotle, but there is one sentence in that great thinker's writing which has always seemed to be a serious lapse from the nobility of his arguments. It is the sentence in which he says:The citizen should be moulded to suit the form of government under which he lives".I sit in opposition to that view. The primary purpose of education is to help each child and young person to develop to the full the abilities and individuality that God has given him.
Of course, that development must include learning how to live in a right relationship and right association with his fellows. But I hope that all who are concerned for a true and liberal humanism, whether Christian or not, would reject any attempt to determine educational opportunities wholly by the supposed needs of society. There seems to have been rather too much of that attempt in the educational policies of both main political parties, and that is the one reservation I make in supporting the Motion now before the House.
1435 I listened with great attention and appreciation to the positive remarks of the noble Baroness the Leader of the House about Government policy and what it is hoped will come from it. But I do not think that that can be allowed to cover over and obliterate the disastrous aspects of Government policy, and their effects upon long-term recovery.
I expect that many of your Lordships, reflecting on your own earlier years, would agree with me that one of the most important formative things in life is the influence exercised by particular teachers on their pupils: the imparting of standards of behaviour and a sense of values and responsibility by the influence of example and personal relationships. The possibility of this depends very much upon the number of teachers in relation to the number of pupils; and the size of classes in many of our schools makes this extremely difficult to achieve. I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, pointed out the very misleading character of the official method of computing the pupil/teacher ratio. There can be, in a school, a pupil/teacher ratio of 18 or 19 to 1, and yet there can still be classes of 30, 35 or, in some cases, even more.
One would have hoped that the falling size of school rolls could have been used in order to reduce the size of classes. Instead, financial pressure has made it necessary to reduce the number of teachers; so that, as well as missing a great opportunity to improve the quality of education, we now have a growing number of trained teachers coming out of our universities and colleges with little or no prospect of employment.
Other Members of this House will no doubt speak of the erosion of opportunities in a variety of subjects. I wish to mention just one area: that of modem languages. The 20 years following the end of the war saw a great improvement in both the quality of the teaching of languages and the range of them available. The standard of teaching, I believe, is still being maintained, but the range grows ever narrower. I was talking the other day to a parent whose daughter is very anxious to learn Italian and Spanish, but her secondary school cannot provide teaching in either. Most secondary schools manage to keep up French, though sometimes with difficulty; and where a second language is available it is rarely anything but German. This is a sad state of affairs when the world is being drawn closer together than ever before and there is a pressing need for the understanding of other cultures besides our own—an understanding which can best be achieved by being able to read and to speak their own tongues.
Let me give your Lordships a picture of the present state of things as seen by one educational authority—and that in a county which is overwhelmingly of the political complexion of the Government. It is a county in which expenditure on education has been for a long time very modest and, on average, below the figure set by the Department of Education and Science as what they would expect to be an appropriate level in relation to the size of the population. That authority now suffers for its careful housekeeping. It will be penalised if it rises above the average of its own expenditure in recent years and comes nearer to the figure that the DES thought was the appropriate target.
1436 The effect of a standstill budget in the education service is not only that improvements are excluded but that the relative stability achieved in many areas with great pain and difficulty over recent years is now put at risk. I pick the following phrases from the report of that authority's schools sub-committee:The reduction of teaching staff, even though it was based on falling pupil numbers, was having an adverse effect upon the curriculum of schools; some of the smaller schools particularly were having to contract the provision of activities which were desirable but not in any way extravagant. Developments in certain main subjects had brought about a substantial need for in-service training which it was impossible to provide at present … schools which had set up rural studies units were finding it almost impossible to maintain them".In the same county the increase in the number of handicapped young people wishing to continue in full-time education beyond the statutory school-leaving age is placing considerable pressure on the authority's special education provision and can be met only at the expense of other parts of the service. The provision in schools of facilities to develop work with microtechnology has been made possible so far only through the gifts and funds raised by parents' associations; and, as the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, has said, there are many parts of the country where parents are not in a position to make that kind of contribution. There is still a great need to provide training of staff to make the best use of teaching techniques.
My Lords, these are just a few examples of the problems of one authority—and that not an extravagant or rich spender. They illustrate what has come about through the de facto transfer of the control of educational expenditure from the Department of Education and Science to other departments, particularly the Department of the Environment. The noble Baroness made reference to the Manpower Services Commission and the grants being made to it. I think it should be understood that local education authorities very much resent large sums of money being poured out in this way when, if they themselves had anything like a part of those resources, they are in a position to attract more students to vocational courses of greater length and greater thoroughness.
Before I sit down there is one other matter to which I wish to refer. Chichester, where I live, lies halfway between two universities, the University of Sussex and the University of Southampton. As a diocese, we have had much to do with those teaching religious studies at the University of Sussex and, indeed, have contributed financially to help them. Our theological college students, along with those of three other colleges, Roman Catholic and Anglican, take the Certificate in Theology offered by Southampton. As a result of the Government cuts there is now no religious studies course at the University of Sussex. The university hopes for its restoration eventually, but for the present it is frozen. At Southampton, the certificate course has just managed to survive for the time being, but the posts of professor and lecturer are suspended and the work of the department is sorely handicapped.
This sort of thing is happening also in relation to other subjects at other universities, as I am sure many of your Lordships know. Just before I came into this debate I was talking to the head of one of the colleges, and he said, "The state among us now is that every 1437 vacancy that occurs is frozen". The universities and every other educational institution in this country now live in a constant state of anxiety. No one knows where the axe will fall next. That is not a condition that makes for good education.
This brings me back to the point with which I began. What is the philosophy of the Government on education? That question cannot be evaded by saying that the Government are only concerned to set limits of expenditure, to work within certain limits. He who wills the end, wills the means. The determination of financial priorities involves moral and philosophical judgments. I hope very much that the noble Lord who replies to the debate will tell us a little more about what really is the Government's philosophy on education.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, I speak in this debate this afternoon as a member of a long-standing teaching family. My mother taught virtually all her life for 60 years until she was nearly 80 years old. Both my sisters are teachers, and I have taught in every stage of the educational system from the primary school to the university, including spending some years as chairman of the governors of a large comprehensive school in London. So I am tempted to draw the attention of the House to the wide spectrum that has already been dealt with by previous speakers, and I am deliberately resisting that temptation in order to confine myself to one aspect alone of the effects of educational cuts.
That aspect is the effect on the rural communities of the cuts in grants to the rural schools. Unusually in this House, I expect to find a considerable degree of sympathy on the other side of the House with what I have to say. I know from previous occasions that a number of noble Lords whose ideology is vastly different from mine come from rural areas and therefore must have some sympathy with the decline which is apparent in every part of the country which is basically rural. It is on the part played by education in rural disintegration that I want to spend all my time this afternoon.
My Lords, let me tell you a true story. Like all the best short stories, it has a surprising twist in the end. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is not in her place at the moment; perhaps those who are making notes will draw my story to her attention, because I doubt whether she will believe the ending. In 1937 my mother and my family moved from the school on the Yorkshire side of the Pennines where she was headmistress because it was understood that that school was to be closed. I was privileged some 40 years later to be asked to open the gala celebrating the centenary of that same school. This was in 1978. Nevertheless, within two years I was acquainted by the parents' committee of that school that the decision had now been firmly taken to close it.
It was a decision taken quite a long way away because in the meantime there had been the reorganisation of local authorities and now the decision was taken in a city many miles away from the school itself, but it had been firmly taken. Fortunately, the parents of children in that school were sufficiently 1438 concerned to preserve the school to form a committee and to approach both the Member of Parliament for Keighley, Mr Bob Cryer, and me. This was one of the occasions on which Members of this House and Members of the other place can work together very well.
We agree to take a deputation from that parents' committee to see Dr. Rhodes Boyson, the Under-Secretary of State. I find myself entirely alien to the vast majority of the ideas of Dr. Rhodes Boyson. Nevertheless—and this is the twist in the tail—Dr. Rhodes Boyson was persuaded by the efforts of that committee to cancel the decision of the council in Bradford and to keep the school open. If it had been an inner city school it might have been different; but Dr. Rhodes Boyson sympathised with the case and told us that he himself had been brought up in a similar school just on the other side of the Pennines.
What is the lesson of this story? In this case it was not a village school; it could only be described as being at best in a hamlet. It covered a wide area of the moors on the other side of the valley from Bronté-land. Some children were walking three miles each way to school each day. That school was the centre of the community, and it was from that school that virtually all the social life of a very wide area stemmed. I remember that as a boy we used to have community meetings during the winter once a month always when the moon was full to make it easier to walk. We used to have lantern lectures and small orchestral groups, and so on. That was the only social activity.
Those parents who came down to see Bob Cryer and me knew that if that school closed not only would social activity cease, but a great deal of economic activity in the small mixed farming of the area would also cease and this would become an area for weekend cottages. I am sure that I am striking a chord in the minds of many noble Lords this afternoon in saying that that is still the situation today. I now live in Lincolnshire in a not dissimilar area. I have made it my business to talk to the local teachers about the problems that they are facing. They tell me that as a result of the cuts which have been made by this Government a number of things are happening.
We all know—as has been mentioned earlier in the debate—that we are approaching a substantial drop in enrolment. According to the teachers of the area in Lincolnshire in which I live, the cuts in teacher employment are far out of proportion to the reduction in the number of pupils to be taught. Instead of improving the teacher/pupil ratio, what has been done is to direct the cuts in expenditure to cutting the number of teachers.
What does this mean in the context of a rural school? It means, first of all, that you have larger classes now in the region, in this area, of 35 or 36 per class. But it means something else; and anyone who has had anything to do with a rural school knows this. It means that you are getting a wide range for age teaching for each teacher. Some teachers have to teach children from the age of five to the age of 11, and that spread has widened because of the reduction in the number of teachers, when, as my noble friend Lord Glenamara pointed out, there are more than 38,000 teachers unemployed in this country.
1439 It means something else, and again I will tell a true and more topical story. Only recently the inspector came round to the schools in the Spilsby/Horncastle area in order to find out what economies could or should be made. He said quite bluntly, "One school here will have to do without its peripatetic music teacher". The Lincolnshire authority has not yet undertaken comprehensive education, and so in Spilsby itself the choice had to be between the secondary modern school and the grammar school. What was done, on the authority of the inspector, was to end the services of the peripatetic music teacher at the secondary modern school and move him over as a replacement into the grammar school. I have asked a Question about this previously and got little satisfaction, although it gives some satisfaction in this area to know that this House will take time to consider such local matters.
This is not an isolated instance. Your Lordships may ask: is music one of the necessities in education? I would say "yes, most certainly" because if children are not introduced to music when at school, they are very unlikely ever to gain that enrichment of life which comes from musical appreciation later on. The central point I am making is that, as a result of the cuts which have been made by this Government, that school is now without the peripatetic music teacher it has had for many years; and therefore its school band has had to go. Fortunately, those concerned have come to a sensible arrangement, to have some facilities provided at the grammar school out of school hours.
If this is happening in the case of music—and I do not think that many of your Lordships would say that music is a luxury, above all for children—and if the Government say that it is a luxury which we must do without in hard times, let me go on to deepen the lesson that arises from this story, because it is not just music but also scientific equipment which is being cut. There are schools in this area which simply cannot afford to provide the scientific equipment for the teaching of their children, and that situation has come about over the last three years. Again the circle continues: Where is the money to come from? Parents are asked to contribute. Your Lordships will know what a rural area is like. There are some parents who could contribute the whole lot. But are we going back to that kind of feudal society, or are these not the essentials that should be provided by society for the teaching of our children?
My Lords, let us remember, too, that in the rural areas the mechanisation of agriculture over the last 20 years has led to a fall in population of agricultural workers. What we have tried to do in the rural areas is to provide alternative sources of employment; otherwise they will die. We have tried to develop small industries, for example; but you cannot get people to come into an area like that if the first question they ask—"What are the educational facilities like for our children?"—is to be answered by the words, "We are closing down schools here and we may have to bus children 10 or 20 miles away to get any higher school education". That is a prescription for the death of many of the rural areas in this country, and the running down and disabilities of the rural schools have a direct effect both on the preservation of rural 1440 communities and on their ability to diversify from the traditional agricultural occupations into the kind of industrial activities to which this Government have called our people.
May I just sum up, and hope that there is a great deal of support in this House for this case and that the Government will pay very special attention to what I fully admit is a form of special pleading for a particular area of the subject under discussion. If we are going to prevent the disintegration of our rural areas, and if we are going to preserve, extend and increase the prosperity of the rural and agricultural sector of our society, then special attention must be paid to the rural schools and to the provision for rural schools. Instead of just lumping them along with the schools of the urban areas in the generalised statistics that the noble Baroness gave us this afternoon, this is and should be a special responsibility of the Department of Education. They, and this House, should recognise that if this policy of attrition continues, we are going to undermine and finally destroy those rural communities on which a great deal of the renaissance of our economy depends.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Lord Pennock
My Lords, as a newcomer to this august assembly, I have become speedily aware that contributions to its debates are made by those who are experts, and often masters, of their subject. Being in neither of these categories, and making a maiden speech, I rise to my feet, therefore, with some nervousness and trepidation. I am, however, somewhat fortified by the knowledge that the subject is a many-sided one, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, for making it wide enough for me to take a deep breath, make the plunge and, hopefully. not sink in the process.
Much of the debate so far has centred on the alleged sins and omissions of the existing and previous Governments. I should like to turn to features of our educational system which are perhaps not the responsibility of specific Governments, but are possibly endemic in the system and have been with it since it was founded, as we know it, more than 100 years ago. These features are, however, vitally concerned with economic growth and industrial performance.
Noble Lords need little reminder from me that we live in a world of fierce international competition, which rides on the back of fast-moving changes in technology. We have seen rapid changes in chemical technology, in computer technology, more recently in information technology and now—the area where a company in which I am closely involved is working—in cable television technology. The word on everyone's lips in industry today is "technology" and the other word on everyone's lips is "change".
After 35 years in a fairly unusual position, as a graduate in history working in an industry where I have been surrounded at every stage and at every level in my career by chemists and engineers, and also where I have been engulfed in what has been perpetual technological change, it is now my submission from this experience that the demands of competition and technological change require more managers in 1441 business and industry who are graduates, and especially more graduates who are trained in science and technology. May I also make the plea, with some deference, that the need for more technically trained graduates should not be confined to business and industry. Might it not be that more of the leaders of our society should first be educated to comprehend the complexities of technological change and, recognising their crucial influence on our society, seek to stimulate their development still further?
If, then, we are to require changes in our human resource requirements, which I believe could be quite dramatic, how is our educational system at present geared to meet them? The latest figures produced by the Universities Central Council of Admissions revealed that, out of about 73,000 United Kingdom candidates currently accepted for first degrees, 25 per cent. will read social sciences—of which just little more than 1 per cent. is business studies—and 22 per cent. will read languages, literature and the arts. On the other side, about 25 per cent. will read science and mathematics, and only 13 per cent. will read engineering. So the bias in our university educational system still remains in favour of the arts.
What is even more significant is that figures supplied by the Department of Education and Science quite recently, which include other smaller miscellaneous categories, show that, whereas in 1972 the arts to science ratio was 46 per cent. to 44 per cent., in 1982 it is likely to be 48 per cent. to 42 per cent.—a bias still more firmly in the arts direction, and a bias, I believe, that continues, anachronistically, to pervade our society today.
Nor is this bias only a question of quantity; it is also one of quality. The same Universities Central Council of Admissions analysis shows that, for those seeking entrance to university today, medicine is the most difficult discipline and requires the highest academic level of attainment. Next is the law and, at the bottom of the list, the easiest subjects in which to secure university entrance are chemistry and engineering. In spite of this, this year, as I think we heard earlier, there are reports of substantial decreases in those applying for places in chemical engineering and mechanical engineering, which are the mainstay of so many managerial appointments in business and industry today.
Like many of the problems associated with our economic performance, this bias is not a new one. It has been incipient in our society for at least 100 years and, as in so many similar areas, it is the cold winds of current international competition and technological change which have brought it more clearly to the surface. As long ago as 1868, 1872, 1884 and 1895, there were a succession of Royal Commissions which reported on the inadequacy of our technical education and compared it sadly with the unified system of technical education which had existed in Prussia, and then Germany, from 1825 onwards. As late as 1913 we had only 4,200 science and technology students in England and Wales, compared with 24,000 in Germany. Even in 1939 there were still only 10,000 in these categories and, as a proportion of our total university intake, they had declined from 31 per cent. to 28 per cent. between the wars.
1442 In 1944, we had the famous Education Act, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, which pronounced the inauguration of technical and secondary modern schools to be situated alongside our traditional grammar schools. But, in the event, few of the former were ever created. In 1947, we had a new GCE system which replaced the old school certificate and, at the same time, narrowed the qualifications for university entry, so that specialisation in arts and science began at an earier age, thus further accentuating the division between them.
In the 1970s, as has been said, we extended the school-leaving age to 16, but the appropriate curricula and examinations to follow this extension have simply not come with it. Any investigation of the schools curriculum reveals that it is the examination system which lies at the heart of the matter. At A level especially, examinations are still used as a filter for higher academic achievement, and not to provide a syllabus which will prepare young people for life in the world outside. Much has been said about change and this may be the hour to achieve it. It is perhaps not impossible that the time is now ripe to consider the realignment of our educational institutions, because, surely, the implications of economic reality are certainly being thrust before us in a way not paralleled in the lifetime of most of us.
University professors are realising as never before that, if we do not equip more of our young people to apply themselves to wealth creation, the scope and standards of our educational system will decline in the face of economic stringency. Schoolmasters must be sad and reflective at the tragedy of school-leavers arriving in droves on the labour market without the prospect of long-term employment. Parents, and indeed the nation at large, must be recognising the dangers of too many careers centred on the distribution and spending of wealth, and too few directed at how to create it.
We should not forget that ours is a nation of great stability which, on the one hand, make us resistant to change but, on the other hand, once that change is finally accepted, we absorb it with good sense and wellbeing. At least three times in my life I have marvelled at, and been grateful for, the common sense of colleagues on the shop floor and their receptivity of the need for change once they saw that it was really necessary. No one is proud of our 3 million unemployment record, but, in spite of the extremists' forebodings, blood has not flowed in the streets. I would ask: if the impact of this shock can be taken with such resolution, could we not take in our stride any upsets which might come from the realignment of our educational system?
Finally, the last two or three years have seen quite radical changes in attitudes towards so many of our earlier accepted beliefs. Some of the attitude change has led to radical changes in our institutions. We are seeking at the moment to reform our trade unions. Some of our business houses in the City are being called upon to put themselves in order. There is scarcely a factory or an industrial company which has not made quite drastic changes in its establishments in recent years. Is it perhaps time for us to ask whether our educational system should not be moving more 1443 quickly to meet the needs and requirements of our competitive and technological age?
Socrates was right to nominate the teachers in Plato's State as guardians of society. There is always a danger that the guardians will not guard society but concentrate on guarding the institutions for which they are responsible. We urge them to look outside to provide new educational opportunities which will equip our society at large to meet the tests of competition and technology which face us so sternly today.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
My Lords, it is my privilege to be the first to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, on a thoughtful and thought-provoking maiden speech. The noble Lord is a distinguished past-president of the CBI, and has had a long and distinguished career in industry. The importance of the wide-ranging subject which we are debating is underlined by the fact that the noble Lord has chosen to make his maiden speech in the field of education. I am sure that I speak for all noble Lords when I say that we are delighted that he has jumped in, as he put it himself, and swum so successfully to the edge of the pool. We hope that the noble Lord will jump in again very soon.
The Motion is very wide, and I want to concentrate on two issues. The first is the relationship between the education service and the Manpower Services Commission, including their funding. The second concerns educational maintenance allowances. In June of last year I had the privilege of introducing in your Lordships' House a debate on the Manpower Services Commission's youth task group report. In that document it was proposed that 50 to 60 local training boards would be set up and that each would be coterminous with one or more of the 104 local education authorities which would be represented, along with employers, unions and voluntary and youth organisations, on these boards.
It was also envisaged—or so I understood—that a big input to the improved educational side of the training programmes would be made by colleges of further education. In fact, your Lordships' Unemployment Committee, in chapter 11, paragraph 9 of their report ventured to predict that:The youth training scheme … will bring about a major expansion in colleges of further education, equivalent to about 80,000 full-time places funded by the Manpower Services Commission".It seemed then that the best mix of local expertise and central resources was going to be used to rebuild "the broken bridge" from school to work.
It seems that something quite different, or rather different, is in motion. If the Times Educational Supplement of 19th November 1982 is to be credited, the Manpower Services Commission appears to be setting up,new institutional arrangements for technical and vocational education for 14-to 18-year-olds within existing financial resources"—that is, the Manpower Services Commission's 1983–84 budget—and, where possible, in association with the local education authorities".1444 I underline the words "where possible". This quotation was taken from the Prime Minister herself.
In her speech the noble Baroness, Lady Young, also referred to this scheme and claimed that it would provide "the essential elements of a good general education". I should like to ask the noble Baroness or, in her absence, the noble Earl when he comes to wind up how the Manpower Services Commission can expect to provide a good general education without the assistance of, at any rate, certain local education authorities in certain areas.
Ten pilot projects were reported on in that article, each embracing 1,000 young people, at a total cost which could reach something of the order of £35 million to £40 million per year when the new schemes are fully developed. It cannot be right that such sums should be spent in the education and training field without any participation at all from certain local authorities.
It is not my intention to take up the cudgels on behalf of the education establishment against the employment establishment. All establishments tend somewhat to overstate their own case. But I seriously believe that we are in grave danger of falling into and institutionalising a dual system of funding education and training for those over 16—and, as the noble Baroness has confirmed, for some over 14—which will drive a further wedge between education and training precisely at a time when they need to be drawn closer together. On the one hand, emergency funds of very considerable magnitude are being pumped through the Manpower Services Commission into what may well become a separate, permanent system, while some local education authorities are going to find it increasingly hard even to meet their existing obligations under the 1944 Act. Is this sensible? Is this a balanced use of resources when education authorities have spare capacity and teachers as a result of falling rolls?
It is very important that we get the balance right of what we offer, not only to the 16 to 18 year-olds but also in schools before the minimum leaving age. I am certainly not saying that the education service is faultless here. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, had some remarks to make about this subject in her speech. Your Lordships' Unemployment Committee recognised specifically in its chapter 11, paragraph 3, that,The secondary curriculum does not cater sufficiently for the less academic 40 per cent. of children whom unemployment is more likely to hit".It also regretted the shortage of a,technical/vocational band in the schools to offer something of equal status",to the more academic achievements. But the words are "in the schools", not "outside" them, for those still under 16. Those criticisms are grounds for curriculum and examination reform and retraining of teachers. They are not grounds for further emasculation of the education service.
My party published only yesterday a White Paper titled Education and Training. The two are treated together. On page 1 there is a section called "Education and the Economy". The first two sentences read: 1445Educationalists have traditionally resisted the notion that education should 'serve the needs of industry' and have instead insisted on education's prime function of 'developing the individual'. We believe the dichotomy is now becoming increasingly irrelevant and that the barriers that have been erected between education and training have proved harmful to both".But the Government seem to me to be setting out on a course that will raise those barriers even higher.
Our document goes on to say:First, at national level, there must be a very much closer working partnership between the Department of Education and Science and those parts of the Manpower Services Commission responsible for administration of youth training".Our proposal is that statutory joint committees of the local education authorities and the area boards would be responsible for the development of training schemes in this area.
There are no doubt other possible formulae, but the important thing is the political will to end rivalries between the two departments of state most closely concerned with this very important training initiative. But we seem to be going in the opposite direction. I therefore want to ask the noble Earl to tell us when he comes to reply exactly what is afoot. Can he say when the training boards outlined in the task group report will be in place—I believe April 1983 was the date given in that report—and what their composition will be? Will the local education authorities be represented as of right? In view of the Unemployment Committee's reference to 80,000 full-time equivalent places in further education which might be expected to be funded by the Manpower Services Commission, can the noble Earl say whether those funds will be available for that purpose?
I repeat that I am not making any special pleas for the education service. The Manpower Services Commission has done a notable job in some respects. But we must be clear, as our White Paper recognises on page 1, that:'Serving the needs of industry' is no longer a matter of turning out dull wage slaves … such a way of life is fast disappearing … Rather, industry now needs far more people who can think independently and apply a range of skills in a versatile way".Therefore, job-specific training is a dubious proposition in an uncertain world, though conceptual skills and learning to learn will always be required, and these specifically are the province of education.
In pursuit of the balance I believe we need, I turn now to the question of support for those staying at secondary schools or in non-advanced further education after 16. It is right that they should receive support on at least three counts. It is right in equity; it is right in the interests of a better educated population; and it is right in that it would relieve some of the very heavy pressure that is bound to be exerted on the MSC's training programmes. At present there is a very strong disincentive for parents of poorer families to encourage children to stay on at school until their 19th birthday, which is their statutory right, as the family would in most cases receive nothing but child benefit, whereas registration for unemployment secures almost immediate entitlement to supplementary benefit.
[...]are strongly of the opinion that no one should be [...] off in education than they would be if unemployed and theoretically available for work that 1446 is not there for them to do. This was also the opinion of your Lordships' Unemployment Committee, which recommended in chapter 11, paragraph 48:Those staying on at school or college full-time should, subject to a means test, receive a personal allowance which equals the difference between the ruling child benefit rate and the supplementary benefit rate.My party, in this document, has come up with a somewhat different method whereby means-testing is carried out automatically through our proposed tax benefit scheme and the student or pupil receives the whole equivalent of supplementary benefit, but the cost would be much the same. Such schemes are invariably attacked on grounds of cost, and it is true to say that they look expensive owing to the deadweight cost of paying even a means-tested allowance to those who would continue in education in any case.
But now, of course, there are two new factors. First, the state is now paying out enormous sums for training schemes which cost much more per head than continuance in education. Taking a median figure of (on my calculation) £2,700 per annum for an MSC scheme and a marginal cost of £1,100 per annum for a school place (arising largely out of the new allowance) there would be a net saving of £80 million on the MSC budget if an additional 50,000 pupils stayed on at school rather than join MSC programmes. The saving would, of course, be very much higher for 100,000 pupils. I personally believe that this is about the right balance and that we should aim to encourage 100,000 more youngsters to say on at school, thus reducing the MSC's target figure from 460,000 (which would impose a huge strain on employers) to a more manageable 360,000 in 1984–85.
Secondly, if the money saved here were added to funds released by falling rolls (but not at present ploughed back by the Government into education, as the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, was at pains to point out) it would be possible very largely to finance an education maintenance allowance for all at 16-plus. The point is that the education system is there and is in place, is not perfect but can be improved. The MSC schemes depend either on employers and subsidies or on new facilities, and they are very expensive. I am sure that we need both, but we need a better balance between them.
In conclusion, we supported the youth task group report and still support the spirit behind it. But we fear that its recommendations are being subverted and we would like some reassurances on this point. I shall be most grateful to the noble Earl who is to reply if he will answer my specific questions under that heading. Next, we should like to hear from the Government what plans they have, if any, for making better use of educational resources released through falling rolls, and what, if anything, they will do to encourage young people at the age of 16-plus to continue in education in their own better interests and those of the country.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Jeger
My Lords, we are all indebted to my noble friend Lord Glenamara for giving us the opportunity of talking about education this afternoon. I intervene very briefly on one specific point. I want to ask the Government what has happened to the Education Act 1981. In case everyone, including the 1447 Government, have forgotten about the Education Act 1981, may I remind your Lordships that this was the legislation which was meant to put into practice the report of the Warnock Committee on disabled and handicapped children and all children in need of special education.
That Act was due to come into force on an appointed day decided by the Secretary of State. During the Committee stage several of us attempted to get a date written into that Bill because we felt that would concentrate the minds of local education authorities as well as the minds of the Government on this problem. On 19th October 1981 (Official Report, col. 581) the noble Baroness, Lady Young, in resisting our suggestion to insert a date, said:We hope that all the provisions of the Bill, or nearly all of them, will be in force in time for the early part of the academic year 1982–83; that is, in a year's time. That is the date to which we are working and that is the date by which I hope we shall see the provisions of the Bill implemented.Now, 1982 has come and gone.
So, kindly as ever, I put a very fair Question to the Government on 21st October, 1982, asking what progress had been made towards implementing the Education Act 1981. I received such a long Answer that I will not bore your Lordships by reading it all, but I was informed by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that Section 14 of the Act, relating to the discontinuance of maintained special schools, was brought into effect on 5th January 1982. That means that special schools are discontinued. That is clearly what the noble Lord has said. So of course, teachers and local education authorities all over the country are asking me, since special schools have been discontinued according to what the Minister has told me, in what sort of vacuum are they continuing?
Under the Act, the special schools were supposed to be integrated into the normal schools system. The first part has happened, but the second part has not happened. On 21st October the noble Lord the Minister told me that there was going to be a conference on 15th November 1982; perhaps someone will be able to tell me what happened at that conference. The noble Lord went on to say that it was hoped that the regulations would be ready in time for January 1983. So we abolished the special schools legalistically, but not in practice, in 1982; and still, by January 1983, we have not been able to bring the corresponding provisions into effect.
In honesty—and he is honest—the noble Lord, Lord Elton, went on to say, about January:This will not be possible and, in order to give the local authorities adequate time in which to take account of the regulations, my right honourable friends … now plan to bring these provisions into force at the beginning of April 1983.It is fair and right, and it is essential, that the Government should make some definite statement about this matter. Everyone who is working in this difficult field is confused and disturbed; they do not know where they are.
May I remind your Lordships that, according to the Warnock Committee Report, we are talking about 20 per cent. of the nation's children. I have listened with great interest to many of the speeches which have been made today, but it is very important to impres's upon your Lordships the urgency of making provisions for 1448 children who have special needs because of some handicap. As the years go by—the years may seem short to the Government, but they are final so far as the lives of these children are concerned; these years are never coming back—these children will have missed out on the implementation of the 1981 Act and they will never recover from that deprivation.
One of the most important provisions of that Act which I especially welcomed was that we were to take education down to the age of two for children with special needs and to take it over 16 for young people with handicaps. I should like to ask the Government how many local authorities have made provision for the education of the under two's. These were to be children—this is the Government's legislation—who were found by the doctors to have a special need, and it applied especially to deaf children, because, if deaf children can get some education from the earliest years, then they are much more able to overcome their handicaps. I do not know of any education authority which has as yet got a working scheme for the under two's. I think that this important part of the legislation ought to be brought to their attention.
I do not want to stray beyond the subject matter of this debate, but may I say that when I ask representatives of education authorities why they have not done anything about these provisions of the Act they say, "It is because the Government will not let us have the money". I will leave that there and not pursue the point. But it is quite clear that the restrictions on local authority expenditure are having a great effect on this field. Of course, it is much harder for a local authority, when it is trying to economise, to start something new than to try economising on something that is already in effect: priming the pump and starting up the new scheme and the new provision involves more expenditure. I hope I can get an answer to that question at the end of the debate.
Then I should like to know what increase in staff is being allowed to take account of the fact that our normal schools (if I may use that word) are expected now to take in an unknown number of disabled children. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, spoke about the falling rolls in schools, and I know that the effect of the falling rolls has been the unemployment of many school teachers. What I want to know is whether the falling rolls in schools are enabling the local authorities to enrol more teachers in order that all the children from the special schools who go into the normal schools can have, the extra attention and extra teaching that they need.
Some people may think that it is progressive in the world of education to close down special schools and put every crippled, deaf, dumb or blind child into the ordinary schools. My Lords, I say to you that that is cruel, that that child is going to be more lonely, more isolated at the back of a class in an ordinary school than if he were within the smaller community of a special school. If we take these children into the ordinary school without the back-up of help then we are not doing what the Act set out to do.
For instance, it is not only the question of having a high proportion of teachers if you have a class with a very variable intelligence achievement. There must be ancillary help. Children with spina bifida have got to be taken to the lavatory; spastic children have got to be 1449 fed at school dinners, and washed and helped. Unless a local authority has the money for this back-up staff then, again, they cannot carry out the Act which is the Government's policy.
I must ask whether the Government are satisfied with reports from local authorities on structural improvements. For some children the whole difference between going to a school that will be helpful and a school that will not be helpful is whether there are ramps or lifts. What monitoring is there of all this? Can one local authority decide that it cannot afford to do anything; or can another decide that it wants to implement the Government legislation and then get rapped over the knuckles by some Government Minister in the Treasury for overspending? These are questions that have to be asked, and I hope I shall get some answers this afternoon.
I was very hopeful about the Act, and I know noble Lords on all sides of the House welcomed it. The ideal of the Act, which we all support, was to try to maximise the potential of handicapped children by stretching their lives in company with normal children (whatever "normal" means in this context) and with children who might even be above normal, and at the same time to enrich the lives of the so-called normal children with the broad human understanding of and respect for children different from themselves. I think the change in attitude to the disabled must start at school. The friendships and the seeds of human wisdom and co-operation are very important, and cannot start too young.
So we must have a more diversified syllabus. Because we need a diversified syllabus these schools will need an increasing number of peripatetic teachers, and these are the very teachers whose numbers are being reduced. I will refer only to one subject—music. Some people think music is just a luxury extra, but I think it is a discipline of the mind and a dimension of a civilised education. It is also of immense importance to children who are restricted in other ways. It has been found that many autistic children have a feeling for and a response to music which they do not have to ordinary teaching or to the more conventional subjects.
Therefore, I do not want to stress the question of the disabled only, because I think these aspects of education are important for all our children and young people, just as swimming is important for the physically handicapped and for the physically fit as well. I am very sad to see as I travel around—and I have many contacts in the education world—that it is these things which are being reduced, rather as fringe extras. It is because of this that I think it very important for the Government to make clear that it is not their policy that these restrictions should happen, and that they are as dedicated as anyone in this Chamber today to the implementation of the Education Act 1981. In conclusion, all I want to ask is: When?
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down I wonder whether she could help me. We were all very involved in the Education Bill. Did I understand her to say that the special schools had closed; and, if so, under what jurisdiction were they closed? I think the intention of the Bill was that some special schools would have to continue, and I am 1450 somewhat alarmed, as a member of the Council of Barnardo's, because we run several residential special schools.
§ Baroness Jeger
My Lords, they are not closed in practice, but according to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, they are closed in effect. I read out what the noble Lord said to me; it is in Hansard of 19th October. He said that Section 14 of the Education Act 1981, relating to the discontinuance of maintained special schools, was brought into effect on 5th January 1982. I can only refer the noble Baroness to her noble friend.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, we are all very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, for introducing this debate, if only because it has enabled us to hear a remarkable maiden speech from the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, putting our current worries into an historical perspective, which is something we often fail to do, and also, if I may say so, demonstrating that a degree in history is not necessarily an impediment to progress in a variety of fields.
I cannot say that I am as grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, for his own speech as I am for his introduction of the subject, because I believe that it is, on the one hand, perfectly proper and right that we should be reminded of our responsibilities to the children and young people of this country and should take them seriously and, indeed, gravely, but if that is done one ought not to accompany it by what might be called the ordinary cut and thrust of party politics.
§ Lord Beloff
To claim an interpretation of the intentions or outlook of the Secretary of State by reference to a piece of, on the whole, incorrect gossip, either on breakfast television or in a Sunday newspaper—no doubt The Times Educational Supplement would have been an even less satisfactory source—is not to make progress. We have been asked by the right reverend Prelate—and I shall come back to that—to suggest a philosophy for the Conservative Party in the matter of education. Perhaps there is something to be said for the Secretary of State having access to a philosopher.
I should like to take some discrete and positive points. The noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, attempted, on the matter of higher education, to pin down my noble friend the Leader of the House to a precise undertaking in relation to the so-called Robbins principle. All of us suffer in these debates, and will go on suffering, from the ill health which prevents us from having, as we have had in the past, the contributions of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, himself on this important subject. But if he were with us he would be the first to admit that the Robbins principle, the accessibility to higher education for every young person qualified, is not, and can never be, a positive physical, mathematically calculated principle. It is not like the Plimsoll line, which can be drawn so that the ship is either loaded to it or is overloaded, because the opinions of what may be suitable material for the 1451 various and constantly varying forms of higher education will continue to differ.
I agree, and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, believes, that there are a great many young people in this country who ought to be receiving higher education of one form or another but are deprived by our lack of resources from receiving it. At the same time, as any university teacher knows—there are several of us in this House who have had that experience—there are also students who would certainly be much better employed doing something else, at any rate at that stage of their lives.
It is always a balance. The most one can ask from a Government in relation to higher education or further education in all except the basic compulsory years of school learning is to make the best possible use of the resources they have for the greatest possible number of students. That is bound to vary from time to time, if only because the educational budget, and the universities' sector of that budget, has to take into account not only overall numbers but also, as the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, reminded us, a more nearly correct distribution between particular subjects and the importance, not only to industry but to the nation, of the promotion of scientific research, some of which is provided by the research councils but much of which depends on universities. Therefore, it seems to me that to try to raise the Robbins principle to some kind of measuring rod is really unworthy.
My second point is one in which the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, rather to my surprise, appeared to share what I know is a very marked prejudice in some sections of the education profession against the idea of introducing vocational principles, or questions of vocation, into schools before the compulsory school-leaving age has been reached. In this respect I refer to something which was raised during Question Time a few weeks ago by the noble Lord, Lord Byers—the experience of the ORT schools which have done much to inspire Mr. Young in his efforts in the Manpower Services Commission. These schools have, as the noble Lord, Lord Byers, mentioned, a very long history. They were started in the poorer quarters of the Jewish areas in the old Czarist empire, in order to provide an escape for my co-religionists from their limited range of occupations by introducing them into the values as well as the practice of manual skills. Since then they have played an important part in a variety of situations in Israel, in some other countries in the Middle East—for instance, in Iran before the upheaval—and in France, as a part of the adaptation to French society of the large intake from North Africa after the independence of Algeria.
These are, if you like, vocational schools. That is to say, the fact that these children will have to earn their living is a part of the philosophy of education which prevails in them. But it has never been thought in those schools, and experience shows that it would be untrue, that an introduction to vocational skills at a relatively early age is an impediment to general education. On the contrary, the experience of these schools, which have been running in these different guises for three-quarters of a century or more, is that for many children, particularly when they have difficult backgrounds as, for instance, those who have gone to 1452 France, Israel or Switzerland as a result of the upheavals in the Middle East and the Mediterranean areas, it is through their realisation of the demands of technique that they come to understand and be motivated towards general education.
I should have thought that, particularly in our cities where we do know, as truancy figures and many other figures tell us, that, among other things, motivation in some children is difficult to create, a limited experiment of this kind ought not to meet with the conservatism that exists in some quarters of the teaching profession. I am glad to say that it has certainly not met with this in many of the local authorities, including those where the political control lies with members of the party opposite.
My third point is more general. The noble Lord, Lord Glenamara—and I have great sympathy with him—refused to pay too much attention to overall statistics and overall averages. After all, it was Mr. Gladstone who said that mathematics is no necessary part of the education of a gentleman. But there is the fact that, within the provision—and this provision, as the noble Baroness the Leader of the House pointed out, is not overall less than in the past, and in some cases can be regarded as being greater—there are enormous varieties of performance. However one measures educational achievement, performance does differ from one local authority to another and from one school to another. All of us know this. Indeed, it would be surprising if it were not the case. Therefore, the injection of financial resources on a larger scale, in certain instances, would no doubt conduce to better performances, but in other cases such additional resources might not be used to the best advantage.
A great deal of money has been put into the Inner London Education Authority. Some of the work it does is, undoubtedly, of a high standard, but some of this money has been spent, and spent quite recently, on the creation of new posts which seem to have only very marginal relevance to the needs of the children of inner London. So I think it is up to those who criticise the Government and their use of financial resources to accept, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, accepted when he held the high office of Secretary of State, that money is not universally available. There is a limited amount, even if we think the limit should be higher. There is some obligation to look at some of the ways in which over the years to which he pointed with pride money was not spent to the best advantage; whether administratively or for other reasons better could have been achieved. It would be interesting to know whether that is a consideration which has occurred to noble Lords opposite.
On one point I find myself in agreement, also I imagine, with the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara; that is, in taking the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. I think she is right to remind us again that we have not done well about overseas students. They are—and this is a universal view in the university world and the world of higher education generally—as the noble Baroness said, an asset, whether to the institutions themselves or to the country at large in their future roles as ambassadors. This does not mean, as I think is now generally accepted, that the extraordinary and uncontrolled expansion here and there and everywhere of a decade ago was a burden which the 1453 taxpayers and ratepayers ought to have been asked to adopt, because they could equally well have said that the money that was available, in some cases at any rate, could perhaps have been better spent on the education of those nearer and dearer to them.
I am not suggesting, nor I think is it likely, that a Government of any colour would not do something to restrain, above all to direct, the nature of our expenditure. The Overseas Students Trust has shown that with a relatively limited amount of expenditure—nothing like that which has been saved by the extra fees—it would be possible to satisfy the needs of certain countries, particularly Commonwealth countries, with which it is very important that our relations should be very close. The arguments for this have been put forward by a very powerful group of people. They are now before Ministers, and I would implore the noble Earl who is replying to this debate to give us some indication that when Ministers look at the quite modest proposals of the Overseas Students Trust they should realise that these proposals cany with them the support of all sides of this House, as well as all parts of the education profession.
Finally, philosophy. It is a pity, I think, and I can understand how the right reverend Prelate could have got into this position, that noble Lords on this side of the House, and Ministers in particular, have to spend a lot of time discussing the reasons for and the nature of the cuts or limitations upon expenditure that our situation creates. But I think it would be wholly wrong to believe that the Government and the Secretary of State do not themselves cherish one of the positive ideals that may be held. It is not an ideal which predominates in the writings and speeches of noble Lords opposite; but it is an ideal. It is one that suggests that it should be possible, in a country as varied as ours, to create an educational pattern as varied as that country needs, which would balance to a better extent than we have always been able to in the past the inevitable conflict, the unavoidable conflict, between the interests and, above all, the desires of the individual pupil and parent and the national needs to which the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, called our attention.
We believe that the changes that have been made in the universities, painful though they have been, and the changes now being looked at, very experimentally, in connection with the schools, have an ultimate purpose. Bit by bit, particularly if, as I believe it will, the economy recovers and resources can be made available on a wider scale and directed rather more positively than we have felt able to direct them in the past, I think that the right reverend Prelate will see that this Government, to which I give my support, have a perfectly convincing philosophy on education.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Baroness Stewart of Alvechurch
My Lords, as the governor of a large comprehensive school I am very glad to be here this afternoon to hear, and will read later, the views of those who are also governors or who have much to do with schools. I welcome this debate and the opportunity for learning and considering the problems through the eyes and ears of many different people.
I do not think I shall be able to make this speech. I 1454 noticed a reference made to parents. Being a school governor, I find that parents are quite invaluable and help to make constructive changes in schools. I think that is all I can say now. I am sorry.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Lord Vaizey
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, for introducing the debate. I join with other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, on a notable maiden speech. I should also like to take the opportunity of saying from this side of the House how much the educational world must appreciate the services which have been given over the years by that notable marital couple, Lady Stewart of Alvechurch and Lord Stewart of Fulham. I always think that the departure of Lord Stewart from the Department of Education to higher realms, as they might be thought, was one of the great losses of the first Wilson Administration.
This debate is about the erosion of educational opportunities. The greater part of my professional and personal life has been spent in taking part in arguments and negotiation for widening educational opportunities. If I thought that the present Administration were seriously eroding those opportunities, I should be strongly tempted to withdraw my support, something which my noble friends might think is lightly given and easily taken away in any case, in view of my changes of spot from time to time. Nevertheless, it is not lightly given. I can assure the House that I should be in even more constant correspondence with the aides of the Prime Minister if I thought that the position were as it has been described.
I have spent a great deal of my professional life trying to get the facts straight. When I first started investigating the educational system the then Ministry of Education—not I think one of the great glories of the Whitehall bureaucracy—had managed to count the number of children in the schools wrongly by a factor of half a million, but I always felt, "What is half a million here or there between friends?" Despite the risk of the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, feeling that all we care about on this side is dry as dust facts and figures, in my view the facts and figures are interesting and important and I wish to recite some of them. I assure the House that I shall do so not for purely party political purposes but because they lead to some of the points that I wish to make later in my speech and I think that they deserve consideration.
The central and overwhelming fact of the past few years has been the fall in the child population, and that was a matter to which the noble Baroness the Leader of the House referred. It is a very dramatic fact. It has inescapably led to teacher unemployment because teachers were trained for a very much larger child population. It has also led to substantial improvements in the pupil/teacher ratio. I have every sympathy with those who say that their particular education authority is suffering, or their particular child is suffering, or their wife is teaching in a school where the classes are of 90 or something of that kind. Indeed, I listened with some interest to the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester, who referred to a large Tory rural education authority. It did not take much brightness, on my part anyway, to discern that he might be referring to the County of West Sussex. I hared along to the Library, telephoned 1455 the Department of Education and Science and found that the West Sussex figures for the pupil/teacher ratio in primary schools in 1978 were 24.7 and in June 1982, 23.5—an improvement of 1.2; and in secondary schools they were 18.2 in 1978 and 17.4 in June 1982. I am sure that there are classes in West Sussex, taught no doubt by colleagues of the right reverend Prelate, where there are 35 or 40 on the roll. But the laws of arithmetic tell us that if that is the case there must be an equal and opposite number of classes containing fewer than two or three children.
§ The Lord Bishop of Chichester
My Lords, in that part of my speech in which I referred to the teacher/pupil ratio I was referring not specifically to West Sussex; it was later in my speech that I made such a reference. However, as this matter has been raised, may I say that in the years which the noble Lord has quoted, my wife was teaching in one of those schools and she was attempting to teach French to a class of 35, and I think that that was happening as regards other subjects.
§ Lord Vaizey
My Lords, I am perfectly aware that the right reverend Prelate was not speaking exclusively about West Sussex. Indeed, he is of course representing the entire panoply of the Bench of the Church in this House and it would be quite wrong of him to push the particular interests of his own diocese. But, with great respect, if he regards his wife as a typical case, then I point out that the laws of arithmetic show that that cannot be—she must be at the extreme of the distribution.
I am reminded of those who complained bitterly throughout the whole of my political and educational life that it was disgraceful that their children were being taught in classes in which the ratio was above average. It is in the nature of the laws of arithmetic that half the children in the country will be taught in classes which are above average and the other half in classes which are below average.
There are other signs of improvement in the quality of the education service. There is an increase in the rate of school attendance both before the age of compulsory school attendance and after the age of 16. There is no evidence whatever of a diminution in the proportion of those going on to higher and further education. There are welcome indications of an improvement in teacher quality. Indeed, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House gave an indication of that as regards the qualifications on entry of those taking initial teacher training courses, and that is most important. Perhaps what is even more important is that when I was a member of the Inner London Education Authority Education Committee that rate of teacher turnover in Inner London was unbelievably high. There were many schools in the inner city where the average rate of turnover was faster than the entire teacher population of the school in a year. One of the consequences of teacher unemployment is that if someone gets a job he now hangs on to it. I am tempted to say that however bad a teacher may be—perhaps that is an over-exaggeration—or generally speaking however poor a teacher may be, if he stays in the same school for three or four years 1456 rather than three or four months, he is probably better able to cope with the job. There has been an improvement in that respect, if not in others, as a result of the current economic situation.
I do not think that in the current situation it is fair to blame everything on the present Government and to imply that the situation has markedly deteriorated—it has not. Moreover, it is well known that the Prime Minister herself was a very distinguished Secretary of State for Education and she managed to raise the school-leaving age—something which had defied Secretaries of State for a good many years before she stuck to her guns and had the school-leaving age raised. Therefore, I do not think that it is a fair charge to levy against the Tory Government.
Nevertheless, having said that, there is clearly a widespread feeling that something is wrong. Part of it has to do with the second half of the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara. Clearly the state of economic depression in which we live must have to do in some respects with the general failing of the British economy. That seems to me to be common sense and common logic. I was one of those who always felt that the British economy would be stronger if we had a more highly educated workforce. The European figures, and above all the Japanese figures, tend to support the thesis that those countries which have on the whole a higher average level of training and educational attainment have escaped the worst blight of unemployment and it has been concentrated on the other countries. Nevertheless, there is a feeling that the education system has not played its part in preparing the country for the new economy which will be necessary if we are ever to get out of the present blight of unemployment.
I should like to give an example which may seem a long way removed from the problem of training for employment but which is in fact closely related. It was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, in what I thought was an interesting and important speech. I am referring to music. I was chairman of the committee of inquiry appointed by the Gulbenkian Foundation into the training of professional musicians. I had a very expert committee and a great many expert advisers and we went into the matter thoroughly. Even in the palmy days when money was pouring out of the local education authorities' ears, music was always the least favourite subject in the school curriculum in any survey carried out by the Schools Council or by the inspectors. There was no doubt at all that the attainment of the children musically was generally speaking appallingly low, and the quality of music teaching was deplorably low as well.
The question arises: if we are trying to rationalise our use of educational resources, what exactly would we do? Would we cut out one of the more popular subjects or would we cut out the subject which everyone knew caused mayhem in the classes and which the children loathed—that is, music? Would we make an attempt to improve the teaching of music? Such attempts are being made throughout the country, but one of the consequences of improving the teaching of music is that we get an increasing number of boys and girls going to the music colleges and to read music at the universities and polytechnics, and we get more and more unemployed musicians. We have the most 1457 highly qualified, but among the most highly unemployed, force of professional musicians in the world at the moment. One reason why the United Kingdom is a great centre of music—and it is a great centre of music—is that we have available very versatile people, produced by our education and training system, who can form our great orchestras and who provide the best reservoir of talent in the world for the recording companies. That is why a quite disproportionate number of records are made here.
I think the particular example of musjic that I have taken highlights a general problem which has been referred to by a number of noble Lords and, in particular, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. It is the question of the relation of education and training in this country. I think that what the Manpower Services Commission has been doing in The New Initiative and the new approaches which have been announced—particularly the new modular system in Scotland, about which my noble friend Lady Carnegy can speak with great authority—are very important breakthroughs. In the long run they may turn out to be even more important than the 1944 Act itself. But they have not been announced with a great fanfare of trumpets; they have not been particularly remarked and commented on or discussed in the press, which has been occupied with other matters. However, they represent a totally new approach.
It is very important to get the educational debate off the sterile question of "Are pupil/teacher ratios bigger or smaller?", and so on, and widened so that it covers the much more fundamental question: What is the relevance of higher education to providing a country which can make its own way in the world?
I should like to conclude by bringing the argument closer to the whole question of our higher education system, in which I have spent a great deal of my professional life. There is very much to admire in the higher education system, both in the university sector and in the non-university sector. I think that it has always been a very great pity that the two systems were divided, one from the other. I argued strongly and bitterly with my late lamented friend Tony Crosland at the time of the announcement of the binary system, saying that I thought it was a great error that we enshrined this division permanently, as it then seemed, into our higher education system, because it ultimately implied that we had universities for the clever, the scientific and, ultimately, in a sense, for the irrelevant—which was an absurdity because, after all, the universities produce the lawyers, the accountants, the engineers, the scientists and the people who make industry go—and the polytechnics, which produced the practical chaps, the people who kept industry on the road. As most of the people I knew at polytechnics were teaching classics or sociology at the time, this seemed to me to be a highly unlikely doctrine.
I think that at least the Department of Education and Science, under the present Secretary of State, has come to see the error of this particular way. I certainly welcome the creation of the new National Council for the Maintained Sector, which is long overdue, and I certainly hope that over the next five to 10 years we shall see a growing together of these two systems and a rationalisation of the use of resources.
When I was on the ILEA at County Hall I always felt 1458 very strongly that we were running a system with five polytechnics which contained virtually identical provision to that provided in the colleges of the University of London and, as far as I could see, never so much as a conversation took place between the two systems, although they were duplicating libraries, scientific laboratories, student residences and student health care systems. This was bound to be wasteful. The money all came out of the same pocket—the taxpayers' pocket. The aim was always the same; namely, the better education of our students, both home and overseas, in our great capital city. But why on earth was not all this brought together with at least discussions held on a regular basis about the best use of public resources? This is the issue and, despite the party polemics, this is what Secretaries of State of both parties have actually been doing over the past 10 or 15 years—some better than others. If they continue to do it, all I can say is, all strength to their elbow.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Lord Taylor of Blackburn
My Lords, I am pleased to take part in this debate today and also to pay my compliment to my noble friend Lord Glenamara for initiating this debate, because I reckon that he was one of the first Secretaries of State who got local authorities and people concerned in education really thinking about the future of education. I am grateful to be able to take part because of what my noble friend has done, and I pay him my compliment publicly for what he initiated while he was Secretary of State at the department.
I now turn to what the debate is about. It is about educational opportunities. This is something that many of us have forgotten in what we have been saying. Many of us who were around when the school-leaving age was raised thought at that time that we were giving youngsters an opportunity to know what was going on in industry, commerce and so on. But we have found that this has not been so. Many youngsters no longer know what is going on in industry, commerce, trade unions, and so on. I have found that many teachers themselves do not know what is going on simply because many of them go straight from school to college, from college to university, and then back into the teaching profession. When they go back into the teaching profession they do not know what the outside world requires of them. It is important that they should have an opportunity of knowing what is happening in the outside world.
I come across quite a number of young people who do not know what a cheque book is or how to sign a cheque, or what goes on in a building society. Simple things like that are, I believe, most important to them in understanding living as I understand living. Therefore, I should like to encourage more and more of my friends in the teaching profession to get to know what is going on. I know that many industrialists and many people in commerce would be very pleased to take youngsters for half a day a week and train them—indeed, not only youngsters but teachers themselves—and show them what is going on.
I do not want to raise my pet subject of what should be the link between the community and the school as regards governing bodies and so on; that is not really the purpose of today's debate. I want to try to impress 1459 upon your Lordships—and Secretaries of State must try to do this with teachers' associations, and so on—the relationship between the outside world and the teaching world in which these people live.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, I am thirteenth on the list out of 23, and all that I wanted to say has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey. But in deference, and because I so much respect the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, I propose to continue to say and duplicate what has already been so very well said. I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving us this opportunity. Education is not my subject; my subject is the social services. The social services have been given more money in the last few years in real terms than in the years prior to the time that this Government came in. Having said that, however, the social services need more.
I am interested in the education of delinquents; of those who are disturbed and deprived; of those who are in difficulties; and of the non-school attenders. While a great deal of money is being spent on this I would wish for more. Therefore, I look to see how best one can legitimately have more money in this country to spend on these children. Then I hear the quite outstanding speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, who talks about the realignment, I think he said, of educational institutions.
A short time ago an eminent vice-chairman of a successful nationwide business in this country who travels widely and also works with the EEC told me, together with a number of friends, that what was noticeable in industry and in commerce was the lack of technology and the lack of practical skills. He gave two places where he thought this should be dealt with. First, in the schools. He did not say—and therefore I fall between the two stools of the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, and noble Lord, Lord Beloff—that technology should necessarily be taught in the schools. He said that he felt that the point of view and the needs of commerce and industry were not put to the pupils when they were considering the future of their lives. While he would not want only commerce and industry and the needs of commerce and industry to be put to the pupils, he thought that there ought to be a fair balance between the arts and technology.
I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Platt, is going to speak. We all pay tribute to her for the post she has been allocated in the Equal Opportunities Commission, knowing that she, I think I am right in saying, trained as an engineer. Very few teachers recommend to girls, for instance, that they should go into engineering. It is always cookery. We all like cookery, but I think we can learn it from a book. The noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, has already spoken about the position that occurred with the late Mr. Crosland when he was Minister of Education. He, as the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, has already said, hoped to have the binary system by which the universities and the polytechnics complemented one another. For some reason which was not necessarily the fault of the Department of Education, this did not occur. Therefore, many polytechnics have given up, or at least not developed, the technical side of technology 1460 but have developed the arts side, which was already being carried out in many universities.
I come from Oxford where the technical courses at the polytechnic are extraordinarily good, but I noticed that the students in the arts at the polytechnic have a kind of feeling that they are doing an inferior course because they are in competition with the university. Therefore, one looks to see whether, as the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, has said, there should be a realignment and reconsideration of the role of the polytechnics. In this area I pay tribute to Her Majesty's Government who, while cutting back 10 per cent., at the same time have asked the chairman of the National Advisory Body for Local Authority Higher Education, the warden of Keble College, to look at the planning and funding of higher education.
The warden, in turn, has set up a special working party under the chairmanship of Sir Henry Chilver, the Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield, to advise on the services required for industry, business and commerce. I hope that this report will come out in the not too distant future, and that we will look at it and that it will help us to develop much more the possibilities and opportunities for those in the schools to go into higher education on the technical, commerce and business sides. It is here that money will be made so that this country will be put on a more stable financial plane, and so that I in my field will have the money to spend on the social services that we most need.
I should like to turn to the question of overseas students. Like the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, I bitterly regret, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said, that we are no longer financially able to take overseas students. It is financially understandable when we are in such difficulties that we cannot support the whole world. Nevertheless, I remember that I was very friendly when at university with an Indian woman doctor. I learned more about India, and understand more about the problems of India, than I would ever have done if I had not met her. As a member of the Swann Committee looking into the education of children of ethnic minorities, I look with gratitude on what she taught me of the needs of India. Had she not been an overseas student in this country, I would not have learned what I did.
Secondly, we are going to lose out in industry because many of the students who come to this country go back, as well as being ambassadors, as businessmen, as manufacturers, and business will not come this way. When one has to sit down and say, "We cannot afford it, families have to go without if they cannot afford it," we should remember that we have to go without the grant for the overseas students. But why should we go without? There is the Overseas Trust chaired by Sir Kenneth Berrill. This is supported by industry. If we all believe that the Overseas Trust is something which should help students from overseas to come to this country, should we not know about it much more widely? Should we not support it much more widely, believing that we should have overseas students in this country but acknowledging that at this point of time we have not the finance to pay for it? My Lords, if you cannot get a thing one way, surely you can get it another. Cannot we all support the Overseas Trust so that we can go back to having overseas students in our universities?
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Lord Perry of Walton
My Lords, I largely share the views of the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, about the erosion of educational opportunities that we have seen under the present Government, and I, too, see adverse effects on our national economy arising as a result. I have said on previous occasions in this House all that I really have to say about the ruthless and largely indiscriminate cuts in the educational resources that they have made, and I have nothing to add on that today. However, I wish to say something very particular about continuing education.
The noble Baroness the Leader of the House said she was proud of the Government's measures to provide more technological insight for children by installing micro-computers in schools. But that has come far too late. The school-leavers of five years ago should have had this kind of skill and insight. One must go further back in time in apportioning blame. I fear that one must attack Governments both Conservative and Labour for their failure to anticipate this need and, even more, for failing to anticipate the need for continuing education in the modern world, a failure that is certainly a factor that contributes to the recession and, even more, contributes to the inhibition of our recovery from it. Despite massive unemployment, companies cannot recruit people with the skills they require. It really is tragic.
Before 1968 I lived in the cloistered calm of one of our ancient universities and I was, I fear, lamentably ignorant of everything outside my own subject. I was then plunged into the jungle of adult education by joining the embryonic Open University, and within a few weeks I suffered a real culture shock; I became aware of the virtual lack of provision of updating courses, refresher courses and retraining courses, without which technically-based industry—and what industry is not technically based?—cannot keep pace with developments in the world.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said, and as the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, commented in a very notable maiden speech with which I almost completely agreed, high schools have venerated the professions, our universities have concentrated on the scholars of the future and even our adult education, starved of funds, has devoted itself almost wholly to leisure activities and has regarded examinations as a dirty word. Training has declined and has been left to private initiative.
There were, even then, in 1968, a few voices raised in protest, and I became another such. But we surely cried in the wilderness. In 1969 I said in public that the Open University, while it must first establish its academic respectability by offering a first degree programme of high quality, in the longer run would be, far more importantly, concerned with continuing education. In 1975, the university having achieved that respectability, it set up the Venables Committee on continuing education, which reported in 1976. That report made recommendations which closely resemble those of the Advisory Committee on Adult and Continuing Education, chaired by Richard Hoggar, in its 1982 report, Continuing Education: From Policies to Practice.
These things have been said for many years, but no Government did anything until growing 1462 unemployment forced the present Government to act. They did so, as my noble friend Lord Kilmarnock said, not through the educational establishment—not through the Department of Education and Science—but through the Manpower Services Commission. I am a great admirer of what the MSC has accomplished but, as has been said, was it the right body to choose to accomplish those things? In any case, the various measures introduced by the MSC can all properly be described as ad hoc schemes, however good, designed to cope with emergency situations. They are not—as they should have been—part of a coherent education and training policy and they were not—as they should have been—introduced early enough to act as preventives rather than as cures. It is a sad story. Neither Labour nor Conservative Governments listened to the warning voices. Neither provided any funds for continuing education, and that is a condemnation.
§ Lord Perry of Walton
Neither provided any encouragement, any leadership, for continuing education, and that, my Lords, is a far worse condemnation. I recognise that central Government cannot directly control education, which is a local responsibility. But it is their job to provide leadership. In my experience, they have shown great timidity, and I fear that has been because of their fear of offending the professional associations, unions and local authorities.
§ Lord Perry of Walton
That is the real lesson we must learn, from the present mess, my Lords, and that is why we very badly need a change of direction and a change of party in power.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, I wish to begin by thanking my noble friend Lord Glenamara not only for introducing this debate but for the manner in which he did so—the very able contribution he made. I wish also to thank the noble Lord, Lord Perry of Walton, for the frank admission with which he prefaced his speech; one can understand some of the absurdities he uttered and can forgive him in view of his admission that for many years he was isolated from the hurly-burly of ordinary life in the cloisters of some university. All he need do is to look at the facts and figures; the creation of comprehensive education was by the Labour Party and the biggest injection of cash in the history of the nation for education was made by a Labour Government.
§ Lord Perry of Walton
I was referring to continuing education, my Lords, not the whole of education.
§ Lord Molloy
I was aware of that, my Lords, but the noble Lord seemed to see no difference between a Tory Government and a Labour Government; and, of course, there are none so blind as those who will not see. However, I must resist the temptation to reply to many of the points that have been made. I have listened to what has been an extraordinary debate in 1463 many ways; I have listened in the spirit of a debater who loves debating. I listen to debates of this type in the hope that something factual will emerge in the end, and I must resist the temptation to reply to many things that have been said.
Having said that, I am amazed at some of the remarks made by noble Lords opposite. If there is any subject ordinary people are talking about, it is not merely the corrosion of education, but the ravaging of education that is taking place by the present Government. Unfortunately, that is not spread across the newspapers. The noble Lord, Lord Pennock, made some interesting points and I am sure he knows that one will not find what I am saying spread across the sycophantic Tory national press of this country, which is about 95 per cent. of it. According to them, everything this Government do, whatever the disaster, contains some wonderful good points somewhere, and that is the sort of view we have had from the Benches opposite.
The debate is about the erosion of opportunities for all our people. There has been an increase in opportunities for the wealthy, and part of the cuts in education will make a contribution to the massive tax reductions for the very well-off so that they can send their children to private schools; and I am glad that I think I see the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, nodding in agreement. He understands. Noble Lords opposite should try to understand what I am saying. We are in the midst of a nasty bubbling cauldron. It is beneath the surface in the current situation in Britain. I have said in your Lordships' House before, and I repeat, that even among the unemployed, and those who might be unemployed, all the things we have seen in Liverpool and in London represent the upsurgence of a frustrated youth who will not be like we were in the mid and late 30s, when we had to wait for Adolf Hitler—not the CBI or TUC—to put us back into jobs. He put us back into jobs; when property was at risk, we were given the opportunity (for many of us it was the first opportunity in our lives) to have a suit of the same colour, a khaki one, and a gun to go with it.
The youngsters of today have probably had a better basic education, at any rate theoretically, than I had. I went to a very rough, hard school. What I am afraid of is not that one will see the day when miners, sea workers and engineers will march down from the Midlands, from the North and from South Wales to demonstrate in Hyde Park and singing their hymns (as I have said before in this House) to the strains of "Cwm Rhondda". The answer this time could be much more serious. These are some of the things we have to take into consideration when we are discussing the whole issue of unemployment. We now have—and this is the gravamen of what I am saying—young men or young women who have been very well educated in their secondary modern or comprehensive or grammar schools and who then through ability find their way to the universities where university teachers, like my noble colleague Lord Perry and other Members of the House, have devoted themselves to their further education. But, for what?—To join the ranks of the unemployed!
And that is part of education as well. It has educated them, I hope, never again to trust a Tory Government. 1464 One of the most heinous things that one can do is contemptuously to reject the top talent of our nation as not being required. I am sorry that she is not in her place now but we have had the contribution from the noble Baroness the Leader of the House who, quite sincerely, made the case of the falling rolls, because we have fewer children, being the reason why we should give teachers, or potential teachers, the sack. It scarcely ever enters the Government's mind what an opportunity this is to make some reality out of the proper teacher/pupil ratio. Do not sack the teachers! Give them more opportunity to exploit their ability! I should have thought that a backward child of about six would realise that—and, below that level, we have got the present Secretary of State for Education! I believe that the spending of money and the creation of fair opportunities is not merely an advantage for our children but a means of ensuring a better nation. When we are talking about any aspect of education, and about the future of all our children, we are then talking about the future of our nation.
There is another point that I should like to raise, which has been touched on here and there. It seems to me that the majority of the speeches in this House have been concerned (and rightly so) about technicians, technology, engineers, doctors and so on. I believe that part of education also means the enrichment of leisure. I want to see the day when all over this island of ours—and not merely in South Wales in the case of miners—working people are talking of some wonderful rendering of a particular opera or some fine performance of a ballet shown on television. I want to see this, as well as rugby football, as part of their normal conversation. I want to see that spread. I want the shop steward in some factory, or a London bus driver as well as his manager and as well as the chairman of his company, all wanting to go to see some gorgeous opera or be able to examine the recent work of some new poet. That is the society that I want to see; and I believe that in this island we can do it—given the opportunity. Within all that we have been talking about in employment, one has got to relate the effects of literature, the theatre, music and opera. This is all part of education. Teach it at the beginning and later the pupils teach themselves.
I want to make a brief comment about the remarkable contribution that we had from the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. Of course, it does not matter what this Government do, he will find that whatever they do is the right thing. I could not quite understand him when he talked about university students not being of quite the right material. I can understand that there could well be a case made out that not everyone who qualifies for a university education is suited for it; but I cannot understand the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, when he said—and I wrote it down—"Those who are not suitable for university education would be better employed elsewhere".
Where are these "elsewheres" that we have to which we can send our unemployed workers as well as these unemployed students? This sort of absurdity frightens me in a debate in this House, a debate that ought to be of the highest calibre. Talking about students, it is still the case by and large, but not as much as it used to be, that some students come from ordinary families who are very proud that their son or daughter has gone to 1465 a university. Those families were prepared (and are still prepared in many instances) to skimp and save to send a bright son or daughter to university, and to aid them when they are there. I do not want to see a return to the times when I went to university, when I got it fixed so that I could work nights in the docks or in the pits to be able to attend the university in the day and then work very hard over the weekend in making my contribution to a meagre family exchequer. I do not want to see those days return; but I can see them on the horizon, and this is going to have a sad effect on our teaching as a whole.
Many of your Lordships have given examples of what is happening in various fields of education. I have been close to the London borough of Ealing which has suffered pretty badly because, unfortunately, there always seems to be a massive loyalty in the Conservative Party's local government agents (masquerading as councillors for all the people) to the Government. When I look at the position today, I find it remarkable. Aneurin Bevan used to say that the only place where you could find total unanimity is in the Tory Party or in any graveyard. The same thing is happening now with local government and national Government. There are not enough protests in defence of their own people coming from Conservative councils that have been elected to do just that.
I should like to give the example of the London borough of Ealing, where the elimination of grants has resulted in cutting back play groups, groups for mums and toddlers; which has also resulted in cruel amalgamations of first and middle schools which will cause difficulties in the years to come. There has been a reduction in teaching posts. Instead of taking action to the advantage of the pupil/teacher ratio, as I have mentioned, there has been withdrawal of what is termed "excess accommodation". This in a borough where some of the schools are over 100 years old. Excess accommodation! As I understand it, they are going to knock down physically 132 classrooms. Of course, there has been a reduction in the teaching staff. With all these things, the caretakers and the women who look after the children at school meals will be pushed out of work to fit in with the parrot cry of the Government, which seems to be: "We want no more of you! To the dole! To the dole!" This, I believe, is something which is most distressing.
I found very interesting the speech of the noble Baroness. Lady Faithfull. She mentioned the need for us to have a better idea of foreign languages. I agree with her intensely. Therefore, I hope that she will back me against the Tory-controlled council of the London borough of Ealing who are going to do away with those who teach foreign languages, or do away with a great many of them, all in the interest of cuts. We have seen a reduction in the school meals service; further and higher education has suffered a 4 per cent. cut. The only increase has been in the adult education charges. All these cuts, following those of last year, come roughly to about £2 million.
Ealing, they used to say, was the queen of the suburbs. In a few years this Government have reduced it to the role of Cinderella. This sort of thing is going on throughout our entire nation, and I believe that it constitutes a grave danger for which we will pay a very severe penalty in the future. I should also like to 1466 comment, in the few minutes that I am going to take, on the interesting and formidable speech that we had from the right reverend Prelate. It was right of him to return to the principles of idealism and philosophy. I am going to close on that.
I want to preface my philosophy with these words: where there is no idealism, there is no education. You cannot aim high unless you have an honoured principle of philosophy. Therefore I believe in equality of opportunity and actual equality of influence among members of organised society. This is where the vital role of education comes in right at the beginning. I conceive the duty of the state as being responsible for seeing that all its members are so placed as to be able to seek without favour their own "best"; and so arranging things to bring to light each human talent, skill and ability wherever it exists. In such wise inequality, when it comes, will be justified: for it will be sanctioned either by the mysterious power of nature or the deserving merit of volition.
True democracy needs efficient equality at the starting point in order to produce at the finish that inequality which gives the palm to the apter scholar. Achievement will not therefore be stained or debased by the execrable privilege of class, caste or anything else. Neither will it be immobilised by being the preserve of any particular group—but rather be continually renewed from the living fountain of all the people. It is along these lines that I believe lies the primary tenet of Labour Party. It has not by far achieved it; but this is something which we have as our ideal and which can be of benefit for our nation. From this our practical endeavours will emerge. This is a policy which I believe will enrich the lives of our own people. We want to acknowledge very quickly the natural aristocracy of talent and virtue.
Therefore, I conclude by saying that there have been many exceptional arguments submitted in this Chamber this evening. What they all relate to in the end is the decency of an ideal, the decency of a good philosophy and in matching the practical estimates to fit into that high ideal as near as is possible. Only thus in my judgment will we get out of the morass that we are in and build a nation, and the building of that nation will be an example for generations to follow.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Baroness Platt of Writtle
My Lords, first of all, I must apologise to the House that I was not able to be present at the start of the debate on this important subject by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara. I feel, however, that there have been interesting developments in education over the past few years which will help to promote the economic recovery of our country, which we all want to see. The hour is late and I shall be brief. I think the most interesting development has been a change in attitude in schools, colleges and universities which, fortunately, has achieved all-party support. Some years ago, I think in the late 1960s, I remember reading the words:Education we believe no longer has agreed aims".Those words disturbed me profoundly as they came from the senate of my own University of Cambridge, one of our most ancient seats of learning, which I had always believed knew what education was about.
1467 I should now like to read from the Green Paper of July 1977:In his speech at Ruskin College, Oxford on 18th October 1976 the Prime Minister called for a public debate on education. The debate was not to be confined to those professionally concerned with education, but was to give full opportunity for employers and trades unions, and parents, as well as teachers and administrators, to make their views known.The speech was made against a background of strongly critical comment in the Press and elsewhere on education and educational standards. Children's standards of performance in their school work were said to have declined. The curriculum, it was argued, paid too little attention to the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic, and was overloaded with fringe subjects. Teachers lacked adequate professional skills, and did not know how to discipline children or to instil in them concern for hard work or good manners. Underlying all this was the feeling that the educational system was out of touch with the fundamental need for Britain to survive economically in a highly competitive world through the efficiency of its industry and commerce.That debate showed how important to parents and employers—and, indeed, to the whole nation—were the long-standing (some might even say old-fashioned) standards in education. This led on to a statement of aims, which I read:The majority of people would probably agree with the following … aims, though they might differ in the emphasis to be placed on one or the other:In my view this constituted an important turning point which was long overdue. It resulted in Circular 14/77 asking for a response from local authorities on the curriculum. Matters were quantified. Questions were asked about primary and secondary school curricula, and these questions were taken very seriously by local authorities. They had to make their response by July 1978. I hold in my hands a thick document which was the response from the Essex local authority, of which at that time I was chairman. These answers referred to basic literacy and numeracy; and the need for children to retain their core curriculum in such subjects as English, maths, religious education and science throughout their compulsory school life.
- (i) to help children develop lively, inquiring minds; giving them the ability to question and to argue rationally, and to apply themselves to tasks;
- (ii) to instil respect for moral values, for other people and for oneself, and tolerance of other races, religions, and ways of life;
- (iii) to help children understand the world in which we live, and the interdependence of nations;
- (iv) to help children to use language effectively and imaginatively in reading, writing and speaking;
- (v) to help children to appreciate how the nation earns and maintains its standard of living and properly to esteem the essential role of industry and commerce in this process;
- (vi) to provide a basis of mathematical, scientific and technical knowledge, enabling boys and girls to learn the essential skills needed in a fast-changing world of work;
- (vii) to teach children about human achievement and aspirations in the arts and sciences, in religion, and in the search for a more just social order;
- (viii) to encourage and foster the development of the children whose social or environmental disadvantages cripple their capacity to learn, if necessary by making additional resources available to them."
So far as Essex were concerned, we regarded the teaching of maths as an essential part of the curriculum until the age of 16. Whether it is an essential part of the education of a gentleman, I am not sure. We thought all secondary schools should offer at least one modern language to children entering them; and at that time, 90 per cent. of our children were taking at least one science option. I have checked, and those 1468 statements are still true today. There were many other statements, but I shall not go into those in detail as late as this in the evening.
These responses led to the publication in January 1980 by the right honourable Mark Carlisle, who was then Secretary of State for Education and Science, of a framework for the school curriculum. This emphasised the importance of a common core of subjects to be followed by all pupils according to their ability: English, maths, science, a modern language, religious and physical education, and preparation for adult and working life. That includes, of course, many other subjects—history, geography, the arts, craft design and technology, not forgetting careers guidance.
Over the last few years the school curriculum has developed further in this direction. Both the Department of Education and Science and local education authorities have made their contribution to this development. Nationally, money has been injected into the schools in various schemes to encourage children's familiarity with computers in all stages of education—a vital development if young people are to press ahead with applied technology in industry in the 21st century. There is a programme to develop more effective and practical education for the least able 40 per cent. of our children who take few public exams. There is the MSC and the LEAs' pilot scheme for full-time technical, vocational and general education for the 14–18-year-olds; and, of course, there is £1 billion a year for three years for the youth training scheme, which will guarantee to all employed and unemployed 16-year-old school-leavers and some unemployed 17-year-olds a year's training, which will do a great deal to ensure that young people are better prepared and more skilled, so as to help them get jobs.
Locally, education authorities have also pursued the same aims in different ways, which I hope will warm the heart of the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, who referred to this in his excellent maiden speech. In Essex, we have been encouraging schools to teach computer skills for many years. We set up an education in industry committee to bring teachers, councillors, employers and trade unionists together regularly to find much more common ground in educational terms and to help young people to get jobs on leaving school. We have invited the Industrial Society into our schools to ensure that young people in their last years at school discuss the real problems found in working life and start to seek solutions in a practical way.
Through the Understanding British Industry Scheme, and in many ways, schools and industry have been brought closer together. There are teachers seconded into industry; industrialists working with teachers in our schools; and close relationships with the schools and with science and educational organisations regionally so that project competitions are held in our schools to encourage young people to grapple with simple problems and with designing and producing practical schemes, and sometimes to consider marketing them. I was interested to see that in The Times money programme unit trust competition a schoolboy of 17 came first in the under-18 section, with three choices that were better overall than those of any other winning entrant, including the professionals.
1469 As there always have been, there are problems in the educational service which present a challenge to local education authorities in coping with them. Resources are short and priorities have to be set, as always in a real world. As Her Majesty's Inspectorate recognise, the effectiveness with which resources are used is of vital importance. The numbers in our schools are falling, and we have to rationalise provision to see that the curriculum continues to be sufficient to provide a good broad education, to be practical and to give children a sound basis for their future lives. However, I believe that the new attitudes and interests in our schools will do just that for our young people, and will prepare them well to help the economic recovery of our country.
§ 6..57 p.m.
§ Lord Irving of Dartford
My Lords, I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I deal with only one subject and indeed one institution tonight. It is a matter which concerns many of us and has an effect in respect of something about which the noble Baroness the Leader of the House talked to us this afternoon—the quality of teaching and the opportunity for training, in a particular establishment.
Just over 100 years ago, in 1881, a most remarkable Swedish woman came to London. She was called Martina Bergman, and she was only 32. She was asked by the London Schools Board to introduce to their classes the Swedish system of exercises for girls; and by 1888 she had taught 1,312 teachers. In 1885 she opened the Hampstead Gymnasium, a private ladies' college—the only place outside Stockholm to have theory and practice courses in physical education—with the object of teaching gymnastics and swimming in girls' schools, the conduct of outdoor games and the spreading of knowledge of physiology and hygiene during a two-year course. I do not think I need to tell your Lordships how extraordinary it was that this should even have been put forward in 1885, and certainly the curriculum was very advanced indeed. It included anatomy, animal physiology, chemistry, physics, hygiene, theory of movement, gymnastics, swimming and outdoor games. I can imagine many Victorian fathers holding up their hands in horror.
In 1886 she married Dr. Per Osterberg and became better known to us as Madame Osterberg. In 1887 she gave evidence to the Cross Committee on the means of improving physical education in girls' schools, in which she stressed the value of Swedish exercises and advised their use in training colleges to train more gymnastic teachers. She was subsequently instrumental in introducing women's gymnastics in other women's training colleges.
In 1895 she bought Kingsfield at Dartford and transferred her college there. By 1895 there were 25 students at Dartford and the local schools were used for teaching practice. She pioneered games for girls and first introduced basketball into this country following a visit to America. It is well established, as everybody knows, in girls' schools today as netball. She also introduced lacrosse into the United Kingdom from Canada, and this again helped to form the basis of training in girls' schools today.
More remarkably, she also ran a local clinic in 1470 Dartford for medical gymnastics and massage given by her students under medical supervision. I know of many children who benefited from this work, including one of my own. Again the curriculum was very wide indeed. Most students went on to work in secondary schools and others pioneered gymnastics and physical education in factories, prisons and working girls' clubs. Even more remarkably, the British Army and Navy exercises—notably the British Army 1908 Manual of Physical Training—were based on her Swedish exercises as developed by the London Schools Board. By 1913 her system was being taught in all principal training colleges and girls' schools in England and Scotland; and her students opened colleges and clinics worldwide.
On 29th July 1915 Madame Osterberg died, leaving the college to the nation under trust. For nearly 50 years it was managed by a board of governors appointed directly by the Minister of Education of the time. It was the only college in the country to be administered in this way. In 1920 the college course was extended to three years and in 1944 it changed its name from the Bergman Osterberg College of Physical Education to the Dartford College of Physical Education. In 1948 it became a constituent part of the University of London Institute of Education and student numbers had arisen to about 120. In 1953 college diplomas were replaced by teachers' certificates from the Institute of Education. In 1961 it ceased to be a voluntary body and a trust was set up, and later transferred to the LCC. Under Robbins, of course, it became a college of education in 1963. In 1968 a primary education course and a fourth-year University of London B.Ed. course was introduced. Men were allowed to take part with women in the primary course. At its peak, the college had 630 combined physical education and primary students and in 1976 an amalgamation took place with the Thames Polytechnic.
My Lords, that was a remarkable achievement and Madame Osterberg was a remarkable woman. She developed a centre of excellence from which for decades countless women qualified in physical education have gone far and wide, all deeply concious that they shared a remarkable tradition and that they had come from a very special institution.
What a shattering blow it was to hear last summer, without prior warning, that such training as they have benefited from was to stop entirely at Dartford. It is almost unbelievable that this Government, who have spoken so much about preserving centres of excellence, should be crudely extinguishing one with an unrivalled history of achievement at Dartford and which is still inspiring its graduates by its fine traditions. The successor to the college started by that remarkable woman, Martina Bergman—a person to whom women everywhere owe so much—is to go. The official reason is that in May, 1982, as I think we have heard today, the Advisory Committee on the Supply and Education of Teachers submitted advice on the initial teacher training system for England and Wales, and that the committee's projection pointed to a considerable reduction in the overall need for newly trained teachers. We know that the target of the cuts was 25 per cent. To meet this, the Secretary of State concluded that planned annual admissions to initial teacher training courses should be reduced.
1471 But what the Bergman-Osterberg Union, which is an association of its present and past teachers, and I want to know is: Why close the premier pioneering college in the country for the training of women specialist teachers of physical education, which has 100 years of experience in the training of teachers and which has maintained and developed a national reputation in women's physical education and, more recently, in primary education? The union feels most strongly that the time chosen for the announcement, which was the middle of last summer, was far too short to allow it to consult all its friends on the representations that had to be made. It also feels that the polytechnic's new B.Ed.(Hons.) degree satisfies all the criteria established at the DES conference in Leeds in April, 1982. Dartford enjoys the advantage of first-class indoor and outdoor physical education facilities on site, which will enable it—and this is important—without further expenditure, to meet the projected needs of secondary schools into the 1990s.
In more recent years, the polytechnic has developed as a centre of excellence in primary education. Its B.Ed. degree/honours course in primary education was one of the very first to be granted indefinite approval by the CNAA. It is also a professionally orientated course, which is especially designed to meet the present and future needs of primary school teachers. A particular feature of the course is the preparation of the student for work in inner city schools—and what could be more relevant?—and it has been given the full support of both Her Majesty's Inspectorate and the ILEA Inspectorate. In 1982, all the students who had decided not to continue with study leading to an honours degree obtained a teaching post, many with the ILEA. It is interesting to read on page 2 of the DES Bulletin of Statistics, November, 1982, under the heading "Employment of new teachers," that:in relation to numbers being trained physical education does not appear to have had particularly high unemployment".This is especially true at Dartford. What more powerful testimony could one have for the continuation of an institution of this excellence?
I hope that I might have the support of all of your Lordships, but particularly of the noble Baronesses, who will, undoubtedly, appreciate very much the excellence of the work done at Dartford and of the contribution made by Martina Bergman—more, perhaps, than the rest of us—and I hope to secure their help in appealing to the Prime Minister, who, of course, knows Dartford very well, because she contested the seat in the 1950s, not to allow the closure of such an excellent institution as the college at Dartford.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, we have all listened to that speech with the greatest interest. I most earnestly hope that, unless the Government's mind is already irrevocably made up, they will listen to the plea which was so eloquently put forward, because it appears from what has been said that they are in danger, for the sake of a minor economy, of destroying something of real value. Indeed, I am reminded—and this has occurred to me several times in thinking of the 1472 Government's policy towards education—of the phrase which somebody used, I forget who, that "He knows the price of everything and the value of nothing". There have been several occasions when the Government seem to have acted in that spirit, and this will certainly be another, if they persist in destroying this college.
I want to make a few general remarks about education and will later refer to one particular topic. Like the rest of your Lordships, I am much indebted to my noble friend Lord Glenamara for having initiated the debate and for giving us this opportunity. The case he made was bombarded, as we knew it would be, with statistics from the other side. But I have noticed in the course of the debate that it has not been possible to destroy the main case made by my noble friend about the unemployment among teachers, the neglect of buildings, the sometimes grotesque shortage of books and equipment in schools and the dangerous and increasing reliance on the generosity of parents to do things which it is the public concern to do. That last is particularly dangerous, because it can mean an increasing tilt at the education system, to the benefit of those whose parents are already better off, and that certainly will not help us out of our present difficulties.
There has been some discussion about the educational philosophy of the Tory Party. The present Prime Minister, when she held the office of Secretary of State for Education, once said that she conceived it to be her duty to look after remarkable people. Of course, one might take the view, and I think I would myself, that a Secretary of State for Education ought to regard all children as remarkable. After all, that is how their parents regard them. But I am not sure that that is what was in the Prime Minister's mind. The doctrine that, if you look after the remarkable, the rest will manage somehow can so easily become looking after the fortunate.
There have been several instances of the Government's policy which have shown that they have been moving in that direction. The pressure on the nation's own schools, partly through the Department of Education and Science itself and partly through the working of local government finance and the Department of the Environment, has meant that it has been increasingly difficult for ordinary children to get a good education, whereas other aspects of Government policy, such as reductions in taxation and assisted places, have made it easier for those who are better off to get a good education.
That, I am afraid, provides us with the answer to the question: What is the educational philosophy of the Tory Party? I must not proceed along those lines, or I shall distress the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, even in his absence, because he laid down the doctrine that this is not a matter for party politics, which means that it is perfectly all right to discuss education provided that you do not say anything which is critical of the Tory Government. We know of old that phrase about not bringing in party politics.
If I understood the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester aright, he was a little critical of the Motion for the combination of references to educational opportunity and to the recovery from unemployment. I think he was giving us a warning against taking too utilitarian a view of education. I 1473 have thought a good deal about the question: what ought education to be for? I fully accept the definition given some time ago, and read out by the noble Baroness, Lady Platt, of the purposes of education. To put it more briefly, I would say that what you want to do for the pupil in the educational process is to enable him to develop all the faculties that he has on every side of his personality. One side of his personality is that he is going to be a worker, unless he is extremely fortunate, although, in the end, it is unfortunate not to be under a necessity to work like the rest of us. He has to be a worker, he has to be a citizen and he has a right to be himself, and the purpose of education is to develop him to do all those things.
We cannot really cut education up into different parts and say, "This is for the citizen, this is for the worker", and so on. A boy at school who learns how to use his own language well and effectively is doing something that will make him more efficient as a worker, more efficient as a citizen and more capable of enjoying life and using his leisure well. This is so with almost every subject we learn, so we ought not to distress ourselves too much with the question whether education ought to be vocational. In some sense it cannot help being vocational. It would be very unreal if it were not.
Two extreme attitudes have been expressed about the vocational content of education. One was by Mr. Wackford Squeers who said, "W-i-n, Win; d-e-r, der: Winder. Boy, go and clean them winders". Now there is vocational education in its simplest form. I am awaiting the day when the present Secretary of State for Education recognises the depth of Mr. Squeers' philosophy and raises him to the proper status which he ought to enjoy in the Tory pantheon. The other extreme is that of the extremely learned man who, proposing a toast at an academic dinner, raised his glass and said, "To the higher mathematics: may they never be of any use to anyone". I hope we also reject that view.
In a recent article in The Times somebody argued that if a subject can be shown not to be relevant at all to everyday life that is a positive reason for teaching it. We must reject those views and, as I say, concentrate on the fact that the human being is, and is going to be, worker, citizen and individual, and that his education ought to equip him to be a more fully developed personality in all those fields. But at the present time, with the present level of unemployment, we are bound to give special consideration to the question: is what we are proposing about education going to help us to get out of our present economic difficulties?
Whenever we propose that more money should be spent on education we are told that it cannot be afforded because of the country's economic difficulties. It is therefore proper to consider whether or not a little more expenditure on education in certain directions might help us to get out of our difficulties. I believe that it would. It is still, oddly enough, in view of the amount that has been thought and written about it, something of a mystery why these cycles of boom and depression occur in the world. But we do know, at any rate, that we want our young people, whenever the more favourable wind begins to blow, to be able to take advantage of it. For that they need a good general education. That is why the dismantling of the 1474 education system which my noble friend Lord Glenamara described in his speech is so damaging. More and more people will grow up without the basics of education and very ill-equipped to take advantage of any turn in the economic fortunes of mankind.
It must also mean, reverting to the question of vocational education, that we give more attention than we have to seeing that young people are equipped for the increasingly technical world in which they live. I am not proposing that we should turn the schoolboy into a plumber, but I believe that it is good that more and more young people will be acquainted with what a computer is and what can be done with it. We want people to leave the education process with that general alertness of mind and dexterity of hand which will enable them to earn their living in whatever the kaleidoscope of modern industry throws up. It is all the more important not to make the training too narrowly vocational, because modern invention is always destroying some jobs and creating others. That is why education should be, in the old and strict sense of the word, polytechnic: equipping people for a variety of skills. That remark is made in one of the writings of Karl Marx. I hope that the present Government will not necessarily ignore it for that reason. Above all, education must provide the proper superstructure, the basic skills, the knowledge of one's language, the knowledge of the use of numbers and so on. It is for that reason that I return again to the indictment made by my noble friend when opening the debate, of the neglect, for reasons of penny-pinching economy, of certain essentials in our education system so that, with the best will in the world, teachers cannot turn out pupils as well educated, even in the most elementary sense, as they ought to be.
Finally, I want to refer to one particular subject: that of the special field of adult education. I am speaking of those who in middle age decide to pursue education. They can do this in a variety of ways: in colleges run by the local authority, in evening institutes, in the Open University. They may do it for vocational reasons, in the hope that it will increase their earning power. They may do it because they are unemployed and do not want, for that reason, to feel completely aimless and useless. It is valuable then in keeping their self-respect and dignity alive.
Another feature of adult education which we notice particularly in certain parts of the country is its usefulness in helping to promote good race relations. The evening institute can be a place where people of different races meet, where the immigrant obtains a more complete mastery of the language of the country in which he is living and where mutual understanding is promoted. That is why this part of the education system—although, if you like, a rather humble and limited part—is of considerable value at the present time. I have been looking at a study of education of this type in a particular area of the country which is not untypical. It shows disquietingly that in the last few years the number of people pursuing education classes of this kind has gone down and that the Government have produced this result partly by striking at the resources of the local authorities or colleges which provide it and partly by insisting on the raising of fees beyond the means of a number of those 1475 who pursue adult education courses. The result has been that those who have dropped out are the most vulnerable—the lowest paid and, very often, the housewives. I stress this point because it seems that the result which the Government are producing is not merely to reduce educational provision in general but to do it in a way which is particularly damaging to those who are most vulnerable, and to do it without regard for the real value of adult education in making our society more harmonious and more civilised. It seems to me to be another example of what I said at the beginning: a power to see the price of everything and the value of nothing.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, I have certain misgivings about taking part in these rather long debates when there is to be no vote at the end to keep Members here and to keep up the interest. Today, however, we have had an extremely lively and interesting debate, with many different contributions. I hope that the Government will take note of our debate. It has been particularly satisfactory to have had the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pennock, with which I find myself in very substantial agreement. In almost every area there is a need for change in our educational system. The Government's policies are not working out as they would really wish them to do.
I wish to say a little about higher education. We have heard about the reduced opportunities for young people in the higher education sector, the university sector, from my noble friend Lord Glenamara. According to the University Grants Committee figures which I have, there will be some 22,900 fewer places in the universities by 1984–85, so I do not know why the noble Baroness, Lady Young, did not answer my noble friend Lord Glenamara. It seems to me that in 1984–85, when we know that the age group concerned will be at its largest, there will most certainly not be the number of places that there have been in the past.
I also want to say a word about overseas students. This subject has been mentioned by the noble Baronesses, Lady Seear and Lady Faithfull, and by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. We cannot stress often enough how important it is to have overseas students here. The Overseas Students Trust, which the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, mentioned, wants £15 million. That is a comparatively small sum, and granting it would make such a good impression overseas. We already have a reduction of 17 per cent. in the number of overseas students, and we should try to improve on that figure and encourage more overseas students, both for the sake of goodwill and for trade and business contracts. For example, Malaysia has already taken positive action to express her resentment at our having fewer students.
I admit and agree that change was perhaps necessary in universities, and that a good look at what was happening was essential. The mistake the Government have made is in the speed with which they have set about doing this. They ordered the UGC, as their agent, to proceed at a very fast rate. I sometimes wonder why the UGC agreed to act in this way and did not resign en masse. The result of what the Govern- 1476 ment tried to put in train is that 11,200 staff, both academic and non-academic, are expected to leave over a three-year period. The losses in engineering technology, mathematics and computer science are much higher than the average among the staff, no doubt because the teachers of these subjects find it very much easier to gain other employment. A golden handshake on top of the chance of a new well-paid job must be tempting.
The result is surely not what the Government wanted when they set about chopping the university system, and it is surely not likely to help the training of those people needed to bring about the economic recovery of this country. The noble Lord, Lord Pennock, mentioned the decrease in entries to science and engineering courses, and that there was a decrease in entries to business management and accountancy courses, which are the particular courses the UGC said it was trying to protect.
Some universities have shed posts faster than they have reduced numbers, since the student/staff ratio has deteriorated sharply. Some universities have even got rid of staff so fast that they have overshot their targets and will have to start recruiting again, which is really an Alice in Wonderland situation. Figures of staff losses do not in themselves reveal the damage to a department when a particularly valuable member of staff leaves, or what courses may have had to be withdrawn, with the resulting impoverishment of the curriculum. The UGC has recognised that some universities will have to make temporary arrangements for teaching students whose courses are being phased out, and they are prepared to reimburse up to 75 per cent. of the salary costs of part-time appointments for this purpose. These may even be temporary re-engagements of redundant staff, and this really does seem to be a mad world.
While this painful exercise has been going on in the university sector, the maintained sector has had to accommodate many more students than usual to make up for those turned away from universities. The number of home students in these colleges has risen by 13 per cent. this year. But now, the national advisory body having instructed all 350 polytechnics and colleges that provide AFE courses to produce plans for reducing their expenditure by 10 per cent., these plans to be put into operation by September 1983, it looks as though that sector will reduce in numbers by possibly as much as 10 to 14 per cent. in a very much smaller space of time than was given to universities.
The noble Baroness said that the age participation rate was 13.2 per cent. and might even stay that way this year. Perhaps it may when the polytechnics and colleges can take in some more students; but according to the figure I have seen the age participation rate is expected to be 11.2 per cent. in 1984–85. The noble Baroness did not say that, but it is in the figures.
§ Lord Vaizey
My Lords, I wonder if the noble Baroness, Lady David, could give the source of that projection of 11.2 per cent.? I myself have never seen it, and I am sure it is not a DES figure.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, it cannot have been from the UGC. I have the source, but I cannot 1477 remember it at the moment. I will write to the noble Lord and tell him. It is not a figure out of my head.
In all this, in the higher education sphere, the Government have been directly responsible for eroding educational opportunities. In addition, they have been indirectly responsible for cuts forced on local authorities. Reduced grants to local authorities have already meant the removal of numerous courses for non-advanced further education and a reduction of staff there. The fall in the amount available for discretionary awards has also had an effect. I have some figures for my own local authority, which show that the percentage of successful applicants for awards in 1977–78 was 82 per cent. but that for 1982–83 it is only 65 per cent. Changes in council policy meant that awards were not given to those who had been established in careers, whether or not they had previously attended a course of further education. Nor were they granted to those who had begun courses previously but who had not completed them. That meant no second chance and no re-training.
With a reduced number of staff and courses in non-advanced further education, one wonders how the educational input—13 weeks for those on a youth training scheme—will be provided when the very colleges which will be asked to mount the courses have been forced to get rid of the very people best suited to carry out such training. There seems to be no logic to the Government's position. While the opportunities in higher and further education are being eroded, so are the opportunities for apprenticeships. Recognised apprenticeships have fallen to 60 per cent. of those in 1979–80, while the engineering apprenticeships this year are likely to be at less than half the 1979–80 level. It remains to be seen whether the Government are really going to tackle this problem by building on the youth training scheme and continuing the initial training to provide more skills at the next level, and so help us to catch up with our European partners, who are so much better at this than we are.
In the meantime, the abolition of the 16 industrial training boards makes me suspect that it is not the training and acquisition of skills by young people that the Government are into, but the cosmetic effects on the dole queues and the massaging of the unemployment figures.
My noble friend Lord Glenamara spoke about schools and the HMI report. The right reverend Prelate mentioned, in particular, modern languages, which from the HMI report we also heard were going to suffer, and from the report of the NASUWT, which appeared this week. There are also fears for craft, design and technology, and for keeping the three sciences in the curriculum as well. I want to mention the cutting of the modern language assistants. Their number is at an all-time low this year at 1,897—less than half those recorded in 1974–75. It seems to me very sad that a scheme started as long ago as 1904 by France and Britain should be mangled in this way 80 years later, when, as a trading nation dependent on our exports, we need good linguists so much.
I myself do not believe that language labs and cassettes can fully take the place of a face-to-face conversation with a native of the country. But, of course, to get rid of assistants is an easy way of 1478 economising, and stimulates minimum reaction from parents and ratepayers compared with other forms of economy, such as cutting down on books and equipment. The provision of modern language assistants needs to be organised on a United Kingdom basis as a matter of national policy.
The subject of remedial teachers has already been dealt with, but I believe it is very important that children who need remedial treatment should receive it. We may be building a lot of trouble for ourselves and for our social services in the future if we do not provide that necessary teaching. We hear all too often, also, of swimming and music vanishing from school activities. These are not so irrelevant to the nation's economic health as the Government appear to think. There was an excellent article, "Discord Spread by Cash Dirge" in yesterday's issue of the Guardian, which made a very strong case for music being an integral part of the school curriculum for every child, and not a luxury. Arts and sports are vital to the development of the whole child and a nation will achieve little unless its children are encouraged to become integrated, interested and creative citizens.
I turn to books. My noble friend spoke about what the HMI had said in their report about the lack of books in schools. I should like to say a word about books in libraries in universities, polytechnics and colleges. The report to the Minister for the Arts on library and information matters during 1981 said:Reduction to a dangerously low level of funds for acquisition and running expenses is leading to the erosion of many well-established libraries in both the academic and the public library sectors.It is claimed that cuts of 50 per cent. in spending have reduced provision to dangerously low levels. What effect will this have on the education of our students, and, from the country's point of view, what effect will a depressed home market in book buying have on the export market? Publishing is a major British exporting industry and depends on a buoyant home market; when that is eroded its export business is threatened. In 1980 42 per cent. of hard-backed books produced in this country were exported, as were 38 per cent. of scientific paperbacks. Can this be taken into account by the Department of Education and the Department of Industry?
My noble friend Lord Stewart has spoken of adult education, for which I have a special concern, and nobody can pretend that there has been no erosion of opportunities here. Government funds for it were cut by 25 per cent. in the year ending April 1981, and by a further 33 per cent. in the year ending April 1982. Those statistics come from the public expenditure figures. University cuts have led to reductions in their extra-mural work. Local authority cuts have led to reductions in both vocational and non-vocational classes and courses.
What I hope we shall have from the Government is at last a statement on their intentions after their 15-month digestion of the responses to the document, The Legal Basis of Further Education, which appeared in June 1981. I have asked repeatedly for this and was promised an early statement back in October by Lord Elton. All those devoted and enthusiastic people who work in the field of adult education want some sign that Ministers have some understanding of their work and that they care. If the Ministers need help there is 1479 a proposed amendment to Section 41 of the 1944 Act on page 41 of the Labour Party's discussion document, Post 18: Expansion with Change.
I was very surprised by something said by the noble Lord, Lord Perry. I see that he has gone, but I shall express my surprise and amazement at what he said. He said that neither of the main parties concern themselves with continuing education. My noble friend Lord Glenamara, when he was Secretary of State for Education, set up the Open University, and Lord Perry was appointed then as the first vice-chancellor. There must be something very seriously wrong with his memory if he could say what he said today. I think it was really quite shocking. Also Lord Glenamara fought for the funds for the Open University against Roy Jenkins, who I suppose was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and who is the Leader of Lord Perry's party, the SDP, at the moment. So I hope that somebody in the SDP will ask him to read Hansard tomorrow and put him right about this. I should also like to say that the Post 18 document, the Labour Party discussion document I mentioned, is almost entirely about continuing education, giving opportunities and access to those over 18.
I must say a word about the 14 to 18 suggestions. I am rather halfway between what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said about vocational education for work and what my noble friend Lord Glenamara said. I think there is room for some vocational education, certainly for learning about work when in school, but I think if that were the only thing they were going to do that would be disastrous. We need a general education to go with it, and I think those are some of the anxieties about the 14 to 18 proposals. Of course, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, spoke of this as one of the new ventures that her Government have embarked on. I look on it really as a sort of gimmick. We all know it was the brainchild of Mr. David Young. It was suddenly conceived and delivered before anyone at the DES knew about it, except just, I think, the Secretary of State. The Permanent Secretary was in Australia, and I understand that top officials at the department were in complete ignorance, as certainly were the local authority associations, who were justifiably furious.
The LEAs have not surprisingly been bribed by the £25 million on offer. Ten projects, involving in all 10,000 children, are to be started, we hear, in September 1983. Sixty-three LEAs have put in bids, and you cannot wonder at it when you consider the money involved. Now I am in some confusion about the money which is proposed to be spent on this. In an article in the Educational Supplement, David Young said £7 million this year or the following academic year; £25 million was mentioned in another Guardian article; the noble Baroness today said £9 million, probably £4.5 million this year. When I was talking to our chief education officer in Cambridgeshire last week and asked him about it, he said it works out at £3,000 per child. I should like to have these figures confirmed, or otherwise, when the noble Earl replies. The average cost of a secondary school pupil is £900, and at 16-plus £1,000, so there is a very sharp difference between that and what the MSC scheme is apparently proposing.
I also want to ask the Minister this: is that £3,000 additional to what the authority is already getting for 1480 each pupil through the rate support grant? I would ask the Minister when the MSC-DES are going to respond to the inquiries made by education officers in the local authorities—because I understand they have been writing in asking numbers of questions about what details are required in their submissions and applications, but they get no reply. Now it is over two months since the scheme was first mooted. Also, are there enough staff available for teaching the technical subjects? From the noble Baroness's reply to an oral Question I asked on 2nd December, it would seem that the qualifications to be studied for under the scheme are City and Guilds, Business and Technical Education Council, now BTech., and RSA—just exactly what many young people are now preparing for in our FE colleges, and indeed in some schools. What will be different from what is happening now, except the source of funding?
Can we have some guarantee from the Minister that the comprehensive principle is not to be breached? There is a direct implication that a secondary modern system could be reintroduced at 14-plus under the guise of vocational education, and that there could be a division between academic study with its minority provision and higher status, and non-academic study with its traditionally, and wrongly, inferior status and amenities. There is also the danger that the education of the so-called non-academic grouping will be taken out of the hands of professional educators and of democratically accountable LEAs. Can we please have some statement from the Minister when he replies, to allay these fears? Are students of all abilities to be among those participating? May we also hear what is intended to be the fate or the future of the certificate for the pre-vocational education 17-plus exam? It appeared to be getting approval and the go-ahead from the Secretary of State. Is it to be run in harness with the new technical and vocational initiative, or not?
Since this Government took office their policy has been to reduce public expenditure, and this policy has been pursued dogmatically, and I would say fanatically. I wrote down some of the first phrases the noble Baroness used when she started to speak. They were, "Good management of scarce resources", "Do not waste", and "The nation cannot afford". Instructions go out to cut back and local authorities, threatened with penalties from the Department of the Environment, have little choice but to conform, and services suffer. The implications of the cut-backs are not realised at the time the instructions go out, and nowhere is this clearer than in the education service. The numbers of students, staff, teachers and training are reduced. The reductions are to be made within a stated timescale.
I remember the debates we had in the House in the summer of 1981 when the then Minister of State, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, was challenged by many noble Lords working in universities to say what would be the cost of the redundancies that were to be sought as a result of the pruning of the university grant. Clearly there had been no costing. The result was that later £100 million had to be offered to pay the cost. Now there is the "new blood" money. The speed with which the number of staff had to be cut meant that there could be virtually no new appointments for a considerable time and no money for new 1481 developments. So in December last Sir Keith announced £100 million was to be made available over the next three years in order to make some new development and new appointments possible so that some vitality could be maintained in what might otherwise have become an aging and possibly ossifying academic profession. There is also to be another £30 million to stimulate the appointment of young academics in the natural sciences. Also, in December there was the £2 million extra funding for information technology for the polytechnics and the colleges. Then there is the £25 million for the new technical and vocational initiative. Money is to go into in-service training and training heads in management. Money is being produced for the new technology in the shape of computers in schools. Again, that is a gimmick. One computer for each school is totally inadequate. It is not much use having a computer if the capitation allowance does not permit the purchase of software and there are not enough qualified staff to do the teaching.
There is a mixture of totally inadequate foresight and planning and a distrust that the local authorities will carry out what the Government wishes. The Government's policy appears to lack all consistency. What can be more confusing for those in charge, whether in the university or the local authority sector, than to be forced to go into an elaborate, time-consuming, painful exercise, planning curtailment of the opportunities they are offering and later, when the powers-that-be realise the extent of the harm they are doing, to be thrown some crumbs and told to rearrange and plan again? How can a service survive and prosper when improvisation appears to be all that Ministers can offer? It is Government by whim.
I am sad for the education service. It was a proud and splendid service. Hopes were very high in the 1950s and 1960s when the 1944 Act was being made to work and when the Robbins Report was published, and different hopes were raised with the Russell Report in 1973. If one looks back to those in charge of education—Butler, Tomlinson, Crosland—they created excitement and promise. They believed in education for the whole nation. Even Mrs. Thatcher produced Framework for Expansion.
Now, since 1979, Secretaries of State have presided over the disintegration and demoralisation of the service. There is no doubt that morale is very low indeed. English education is in in a mess. There is no confidence in those in charge and there is no leadership. There was a very good analysis of the situation in The Times Educational Supplement on 31st December. I shall quote two paragraphs because they echo exactly what I have been saying:A great many politicians, from the Prime Minister downwards, have convinced themselves that the education system is incorrigible—doomed to perpetuate an anti-industrial, anti-commercial culture, for ever looking inwards at its own unreal, private world.No doubt Sir Keith really believes he can stand outside it, a baronet in shining armour, sent by an Iron Lady to bring it to heel. The reality is otherwise. Sir Keith is clobbered as the DES is clobbered, by this myth that the educational establishment has to be written off. Hence the progressive subordination of the Education Department to the Environment Department, while the initiative for educational innovation passes from the DES to the Department of Industry and the Manpower Services Commission …1482At some point he has to step out of his determined detachment and give up the arrogant notion that only those who are uncontaminted with any real experience of the system can see the wood for the trees. It means finding advisers who are a bit closer to the chalk face than the learned Lord Beloff and the extremely clever but inexperienced Mr. Oliver Letwin. Above all it means throwing in his lot with the education service—fighting its corner, not just in discreet tussels with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, but also in the infighting with other empire-building departments and, not least, in public debate".I do not know whether that is why we had the jibe at the DES from the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, earlier.
If there is not a healthy and happy education service producing a healthy and happy next generation of workers, innovators and creators who are rounded, whole people and not just technologists, it is a poor outlook for the economic and spiritual recovery of this country. We have thrived in the past because we were inventive and original and prepared to tackle new things. Our arts and our sports have both fostered our vitality as a nation and been a symptom of it. All these faculties need to be encouraged in all our young people if the nation is to prosper, and the finance supplied to make that possible. At the moment £11 billion is going every year in unemployment benefit. It is totally unproductive. If only some part of that could be put back into the education service, it would do an enormous amount for our young people, and indeed for our older people, too. What is the Government's philosophy? The right reverend Prelate asked that. I remind noble Lords of what my noble friend Lord Glenamara said when he opened the debate: if young people are neglected now, one can never make amends.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ The Earl of Swinton
My Lords, we have had a long, wide-ranging, and interesting debate, as I am sure your Lordships' House will agree. It is fair to say that perhaps we have not always agreed with everything that has been said, but I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, for raising the subject of the debate.
In the course of it a number of criticisms have been levelled at the Government. Where these have been informed by genuine concern for the condition and future of particular features of the education system or for the difficulties faced by particular institutions, we may respect them, even where we disagree. I hope that I shall be able to offer some reassurances to noble Lords who have raised such points.
I now turn to some of the specific points raised. The noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, made a lengthy point about the supply of books in schools. We have sought, both in last year's and in this year's rate support grant settlement, to signal to authorities that we wish to see this trend reversed. As I believe the noble Lord himself said, it is for the local authorities to decide what they do with the rate support grant they receive; we can only suggest that they use it on books.
The noble Baroness, Lady Seear—I am glad to see that she has returned—made a point about Salford, Aston and Bradford being particularly hard hit. The noble Baroness and one or two others referred to them as technological universities. That is, perhaps, somewhat misleading, because the majority of universities consider themselves worthily involved in teaching and research in these areas. The universities 1483 which were asked to make the greatest savings—and not all the former colleges of advanced technology are in this category—are by no means exclusively devoted to engineering. Much of the reduction in student numbers will fall on arts based subjects.
The noble Baroness and a number of noble Lords and noble Baronesses referred to overseas students. However much noble Lords and noble Baronesses may regret the need to ask overseas students to pay full-cost fees—I do not wish to reiterate the arguments for and against such fees tonight—the fact is that on provisional figures there are still nearly 50,000 students from outside the United Kingdom in our higher education establishments, including about 30,000 in our universities.
The work of our universities and the lives of our students therefore continue to benefit from the presence of large numbers of students from outside the United Kingdom and I have some news—I do not wish to raise any false hopes—that proposals made in a study by the Overseas Students' Trust on future policies for overseas students are at an advanced stage of consideration by the Government. So there may be hope. I would not say more than that.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester made a point about universities. I think he said, if I quote him correctly, that no one knows where the axe will fall next. He mentioned particularly the threat to religious studies. I should say that the universities are currently adjusting to the levels for funding indicated for 1983–84. The UGC has given general and specific guidance to universities to assist with this process. The additional money being made available to universities to meet unavoidable increased costs will help them avoid having to make further unplanned savings. The UGC has indicated that it will take action if provision for particular subjects is threatened nationally by the aggregate of decisions being taken by individual institutions.
A number of noble Lords questioned the Conservative Party's philosophy on education. I thought I might quote something here which is from the speech made by my noble friend the Secretary of State at the North of England conference held in Liverpool on 7th January:English education is properly ambitious. We aim to educate every child to his or her full potential and within this to equip him or her not only with basic literacy, numeracy and communication skills, but also with understanding and practical competence over a wide area, as well as self-reliance and a sense of the moral values of our society. The aim is to encourage the personal development of each child and to prepare each child for life and for work".I do not think that that is at all a bad educational philosophy. I am aware that perhaps my noble friend is not the most popular person, as seen from the Benches opposite, but I do not think there are many of us who could disagree with such philosophy for the education of children in this country.
I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, defending rural disintegration, depopulation and the closure of village schools. I was also very intrigued to find out some of the things he was doing when the moon was full, which gave me all sorts of marvellous ideas which perhaps I had better keep to myself. That is one subject that I know quite a lot about because I was the chairman of an education committee which 1484 had a large rural area. For many years we were faced with the problem of rural schools being closed; it is not a new one.
I always love the things that people can say when their schools are threatened. We had attempted to close one school which was three miles up a rather steep hill from the local large village or market town. We were told that if we closed this school and transferred the children to the little primary school down the road they would never get there in the winter because the road was always blocked. In fact, we in the education committee decided to close the school and the matter was taken to a full meeting of the county council where it was overthrown and the school was redeemed. Six months later the admirable lady teacher who lived in the house attached to the village school said that she wanted to retire and, frankly, she had had enough. We advertised to try to get a new teacher for this little school. We had great difficulty getting one because no one wanted to live in the schoolhouse. It was particularly isolated and was a fairly small school, anyway.
Eventually one admirable lady answered and we interviewed her. I interviewed her with various others of my colleagues, plus the vicar, who happened to be the chairman of the managers of the school. In the end she said she would take the headship on one condition—that she did not have to live in the school-house but would live in the little market town and travel up every day. I said rather brightly that I was sure that that would not be a very good idea because all through the winter the road was closed. The vicar said that he had been living there for 15 years and to his certain knowledge that road had never been closed once. Thus, one can see that it is very easy to prove anything, especially if one lives in a village community and atmosphere. On that question the village schools have probably had this for a long time as the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, rightly said. Rural depopulation has been going on for a number of years, and although falling rolls may be a novelty in some of the towns and inner city areas, they are something that the countryside has learned to deal with.
In fact, all statutory proposals are very carefully considered on their individual merits in the light of the educational and expenditure issues involved and on the views of the local people. My right honourable friend recognises the valuable part played by village schools in the life of their community and in providing for their pupils, but he has to accept that as school rolls fall it can be in the educational interests of the children concerned for some schools to be closed.
I was also delighted with the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Pennock. I may say to Lord Pennock, "Welcome to the club". I made my maiden speech on education and look where it has got me. He has been a very brave man for doing that. I might also say to him that perhaps he does not know, though the House may, that this is also my maiden performance in winding up a debate in your Lordships' House. As we bore with you, my Lord, I hope you at least will bear with me during the ordeal which I am going through at this moment. My noble friend made a remarkably interesting and worthwhile speech and we were very glad to hear it. He spoke about technology and about change. To embark at this stage on a 1485 completely new education Act would be somewhat ambitious. He mentioned, in particular, the need for more science graduates and the Government fully agree with the noble Lord about the need for more emphasis on science and technology in education.
In this context perhaps I might repeat that the University Grants Committee's student number targets envisage a shift in the arts/science ratio towards the sciences by 1984–85, compared with 1979–80. The Government are continuing to encourage throughout higher education an increasing emphasis on scientific, technological and vocational subjects generally.
The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, asked a number of questions on new technical and vocational education initiative and whether that drives a wedge between education and training, and finances the latter so much better than the former. A number of noble Lords were interested in this so I will give a fairly full answer to that. The resources available for five years through the MSC are intended as a boost to encourage LEAs to explore new ways of organising and managing the education of 14 to 18-year-old young people by enabling them to start vocational/technical training younger and to complete four-year courses by 18. Sixty-four LEAs have expressed their intention of bidding for inclusion in the 10 pilot schemes. The chances, therefore, of separate MSC institutions being set up, although theoretically possible, are very unlikely. The unit costs of the pilot projects cannot be assessed at this stage. No detailed costings have been submitted by LEAs. The total amount available through the MSC will also cover the MSC central team's costs, evaluations and so on. One would, however, expect the unit costs of technical/vocational education to be relatively high because of the capital equipment and consumable materials required. At the end of the five-year pilots, assuming that they are successful, those most likely to become a permanent part of the education system, financed through the LEAs, are those which are not disproportionately expensive to run.
The noble Lord also asked about the youth training scheme and the composition of the area manpower boards which are being established by the MSC to plan and promote youth training schemes in their areas. There are to be 54 of these boards and their membership is being settled after consultation with the CBI, TUC, local authorities and other interested bodies. There will be, as of right, an education service representative, normally a chief education officer, a representative of professional education interests, normally a college principal, and two or three local authority representatives, who may include educationalists. Boards may also co-opt additional members if they wish. The boards are now in operation or in the process of setting up to start work quickly.
The noble Lord went on to ask about the financing of further education or off-the-job training element of the youth opportunities scheme. Under what is known as mode A of the scheme, where employers act as sponsors, assisted by financial support from the MSC, I am glad to say that the CBI and local authority associations have recently reached agreement on the fees to be charged for the further education element in 1486 the scheme where this is to be provided by the fee colleges. Where training is commissioned direct by the MSC, under mode "B", the FE college contribution will be funded by the MSC at full cost. I hope that the noble lord is reassured by that information. He also mentioned financial support for 16 to 19 year-olds, and he pressed the case for specific financial support for 16 to 19 year-olds staying on in schools and FE colleges. This would take the place of child benefit which is currently paid to the parents for as long as the child remains in full-time education up to the 19th birthday.
Many argue that supplementary benefit for the unemployed and the training allowance paid to those on MSC programmes are disincentives to continue in full-time education. The fact of the matter is that there has been a marked increase in staying on at 16 in both schools and colleges since 1980–81, in spite of the supposed attraction of the Youth Opportunities Programme or supplementary benefit. This suggests that many young people are still prepared to put the attainment of qualifications above financial considerations.
The noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, referred to this increase in participation. We have always considered that an education benefit would mean a substantial increase in net expenditure. I am sure that the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, for offsetting savings will be examined carefully, In the meantime, cases of hardship can sometimes be relieved by means of a discretionary grant from the local education authority. Practice varies from area to area, it is true, but this source of possible assistance should not be discounted.
The Government's priority in terms of support for 16-to 19-year-olds in education has been to enable LEAs to cater for the increased demand for places in schools and FE colleges to which I have referred. In 1982–83, provision for additional expenditure by LEAs of some £85 million in this area of education was made in RSG. This will be carried through into 1983–84 and beyond.
We had a very interesting and caring contribution which was typical of the noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, who asked about the 1981 Act. I think that some of the things that she said caused some looks of surprise around the Chamber. As I was also someone who was very interested in that Act when it was going through this House, again I think that I can clear the minds of some noble Lords. The 1981 Act allows the continuance of special schools, and I can assure the noble Baroness that the Government foresee a continuing role for special schools. They have decidedly not been discontinued. The commencement order for the 1981 Act was laid today and will come into force on 1st April. Regulations governing assessment of special educational needs will be laid next week and will be followed by a circular of guidance. Provision for children under two with special educational needs will be a matter for development as time goes by, but I can assure the noble Baroness that the Government are very much aware of the particular needs of young deaf children.
The noble Baroness also asked about the special education needs in ordinary schools. This is one of the areas included in the Government's new scheme for 1487 specific grant for the in-service training of teachers. I am sure that this will be very welcome. One-sixth of available resources—more than £1 million in a full year—will be devoted to providing LEAs with additional funds to release teachers to attend appropriate in-service training courses. The inclusion of special education needs in ordinary schools in this new scheme is evidence of the importance that the Government attach to this area of education and their determination to prepare teachers to meet it.
I should like to thank various of my noble friends sitting behind me—the noble Lords, Lord Beloff and Lord Vaizey, for what they have said, and my noble friend Lady Platt of Writtle. I should also like to congratulate her on her recent appointment as chairman—and I think she said that she is prepared to be known as "chairman" and not "chair person" or "chairwoman"—of the Equal Opportunities Commission. I am sure that we are all very glad about her appointment.
I agree with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Blackburn, said. I am sorry to see that he has left the Chamber. He made the point about teachers going straight from school to college and back to school again without any industrial concern. I think that that is a point that was made in a debate the other day, and it also arose on a Question.
I was rather frightened when my noble friend Lady Faithfull started her speech because she began talking about money for social services. That took me straight back to my county council days and the terrible squabbles and fights that used to go on over the famous rate support grant, and how much went to education and how much went to social services. I though that she was going to start on that, and I thought, "Oh, Lord!". In fact she did not do so and I was delighted with what she had to say.
The noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford, mentioned Dartford College of Education. I am afraid that I have nothing but fairly gloomy news for him. I can explain the situation. The number of newly trained secondary teachers needed by schools will fall to about 4,700 a year in the years 1985–89. The present production of such teachers is more than double that number. Reductions have to be made and these must include some courses in physical education. Final decisions were announced on 8th November. These decisions will discontinue initial teacher training at the Thames Polytechnic, of which Dartford College is part. They will certainly not destroy the institution. It is inevitable when reductions of the size now necessary are being made, that some valued courses will be lost. This is the case at Thames. It is not that the course in physical education is not valued, rather that other considerations were overriding. However, I understand that there is to be an Adjournment Debate in another place on Monday.
§ Lord Irving of Dartford
My Lords, will the noble Earl give way? He made an interesting comment in saying that the institution will not be destroyed. I wonder whether he would enlarge on that, because so far as I am concerned it will disappear altogether in the tradition of Madame Osterberg and physical education.
§ The Earl of Swinton
My Lords, as I understand the situation, it will still remain part of the Thames Polytechnic and the whole Thames Polytechnic is not disappearing.
§ The Earl of Swinton
My Lords, I think that they will have to find something else to do with the building. We heard a very interesting speech from the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, who particularly concentrated on adult education, although his speech ranged over a large number of subjects. The Government continue to attach importance to a viable adult and continuing education sector. It has played a valuable role in the past and will make an increasingly important contribution in the future in helping individuals to develop their own potential, whether in personal or vocational terms.
The Government's expenditure plans for the coming year—1983–84—assume that the number of students in adult education courses provided by LEAs in 1983–84 will remain at approximately the same levels as the projections for 1982–83. In general, to the extent that fees for some courses are raised, it should be possible for the subsidy for disadvantaged group, such as the unemployed and old age pensioners, to be increased. Overall, if costs are contained, then the level of provision should be maintained. In the case of bodies grant aided by the department, such as the extramural departments of universities, workers' educational association districts, the Government's expenditure plan will provide, if costs are contained, for the level of support in 1983–84 to broadly maintain the levels sustained over the past four years. Also, the survey by the National Institute of Adult Education for October to November 1981 and 1982—it is a sample survey, but usually reliable—shows that there has been only a very marginal change in the level of enrolment since 1980–81 after a marked drop of 11 per cent. between 1979–80 and 1980–81.
Finally, we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady David, who asked me a number of questions at the very end of her speech. I am sure she will understand that as regards some of them it may be a great deal better if I write to her rather than try to give her some rather inaccurate information. The noble Baroness particularly asked about the legal basis of further education. I am sure that it has not slipped her mind, any more than it has mine, that she will be asking me a Question on that subject tomorrow, and it might be better to wait for that rather than to give her any information today. The figures that she gave and which she thought were on the technical and vocational educational initiative, were in fact the figures given by my noble friend Lady Young for the Micro-Electronics Education Programme. Therefore, I think that perhaps it might be better to wait until we see it all in Hansard before I write to her. I would also like to write to her on the new technical initiative, on which she asked for quite a lot of detail; and also on her related question on the 17-plus qualifications.
I have endeavoured to answer as many questions as possible of those that have been raised this evening. As 1489 your Lordships know, it is my first time at this Dispatch Box, so I hope that if noble Lords and noble Baronesses think that I have not done adequately, they will forgive me. I shall read with great interest all that has been said, and will try to answer those questions which I have not covered this evening. It is no secret that the country is at present facing very severe economic difficulties, and it is also inevitable that, to some extent, these will be reflected in the education service. I think it is only right and proper that this service, in fact, must bear its share.
One can say, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, said in introducing the debate, that school is a one-time thing, and if you cut school, you are cutting a lifetime opportunity. Perhaps you could argue this if you were dying and wanted a kidney support machine, saying that you had only one life to live and if you do not have the machine you have had it.
In fact, I do not think that in comparison the education service has suffered as enormously as have some of the others, but the Government cannot afford the luxury, so tempting to the Opposition, of seeking to solve problems by throwing money at them. Instead, they must seek to manage scarce resources so as to conserve them and free them for use where they will be most effective in promoting our economic recovery.
My noble friend the Leader of the House demonstrated in her speech that on the most essential measures—participation rates and staffing provision—standards have been maintained, and in many cases improved. She also listed a number of new developments intended to ensure that resources are available where they are most needed. The promotion of educational opportunities requires more than a willingness to spend the taxpayers' money; nor can it be the work of Government alone. It requires from local education authorities, from parents and from students and, indeed, from the public at large, the willingness to recognise where change is needed and to participate to make it effective. I most firmly believe that, in a context in which change is inescapable, the Government have set the scene for fruitful new developments in education over the coming years.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Lord Glenamara
My Lords, we have had an extremely interesting and, I think, very useful debate. May I say how very sorry I was that I missed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pennock. In mitigation, perhaps I may tell him that I was entertaining to a cup of tea a friend of his and I forgot to watch the annunciator, but I shall read his speech with very great interest. I should also like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, on his first major speech from the Dispatch Box. I think that I can congratulate him without agreeing with what he said. It is a pleasure to have someone there who has such a wealth of experience at grass roots level.
I shall not make another speech, but I shall make three one-sentence comments. First, I want to underline the fact that the noble Baroness the Leader of the House refused to give an undertaking that there will be places for all pupils who have the right number of A-levels to get into higher education from 1490 September of this year. Secondly. I hesitate to cross swords with her educational economists, but the arithmetic of the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, really was deficient when he said that when there is a pupil/teacher ratio, there are as many classes below as there are above—an equal number he said. Let me give him an example. If there were three classes of 35—that is 105 children—and one class of 15—making 120 children—taught by four teachers, there would be a pupil/teacher ratio of 30. There are three classes above it and one below, so his arithmetic was defective.
Finally, I would like to comment on the richest remark made in the whole debate. I am not referring to the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, that we should keep party politics out of education. Had I been commenting on that, I should have said: "Look who's talking!", but I am not. The richest remark in the whole debate was made by the noble Lord, Lord Perry of Walton, when, in fact, we took the biggest step forward ever taken in continuing education and appointed him to implement it. But my noble friend spoke about that, so I shall not talk any further about it. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.