Education.

Part of National Expenditure. – in the House of Commons on 1st March 1922.

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Photo of Sir Robert Horne Sir Robert Horne , Glasgow Hillhead

Now I turn to the other matter in connection with education, namely, the question of the exclusion of children from school under the age of six years. It is perfectly true that in this country we take children to school at an earlier age than in any other country in the world, and it might be contended that in these times of great monetary stringency it would be justifiable to alter that system and prevent children coming to school at so early an age. But we must all recognise what are the social effects of what we have done. There is no question at all that the health of the children of this country has been immensely improved by reason of the medical treatment and care which they get at school at these tender years, and at a time like this it would be nothing less than a great injury to very many homes in this country if, where you have women battling with the difficulties of life, and trying to support their children, they were forced to keep their children away from school, where they at present get the only mothering and the only attention which is by any chance available. For these reasons, the Government has felt it impossible to recommend to the House that the proposals of the Geddes Committee in this matter should be adopted.

The reductions in the realm of education which we adopt amount to £6,500,000 out of the £18,000,000 which the Geddes Committee recommend. That means that in the Education Department we are short of the recommended reductions by an amount of nearly £12,000,000 sterling. The main element in the £6,500,000—I shall only mention one, because the others are spread over the whole sphere of education in this country—is a contribution by the teachers to their superannuation fund. At the present time the teachers make no contribution at all to their superannuation fund. It is fair to say that the teachers' superannuation scheme was founded at a time when teachers' salaries were low. Since then the salaries have been very greatly increased, and the Government think that under present conditions, at least, it is only fair and right, looking to the stringency of the position, that the teachers should contribute a sum towards those funds which provide them with a pension when their work is done. The proposal is that this year, until the matter is further investigated, they should contribute 5 per cent, of their salary, and that works out in the aggregate to a sum of nearly £2,000,000.