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Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £27,900,000, be granted to His Majesty to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1923, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Board of Education, and of the various Establishments connected therewith, including sundry Grants-in-Aid."—[Note: £17,000,000 has been voted on account.]
The Estimate for the Board of Education, which I have the honour to introduce, differs from its predecessors in two main particulars: it is a rationed Estimate and it is a reduced Estimate. Last year we estimated our probable liabilities and asked Parliament for the wherewithal to meet them. This year we begin by determining the amount available, and we require the claims upon us to be adjusted thereto. We impose a limit on education authorities as to their expenditure in respect of elementary education and with respect to higher education, and we announce that expenditure in excess of those limits will not be recognised for grants. We do not discard the percentage grant system, but we subject it to limitation. The limits are for elementary education £62,450,000 and for higher education £13,000,000; a total of £75,450,000. Within the limits of the £62,450,000 there are certain interior limitations—of £12,000,000 for administrative and other expenditure and £3,400,000 for special services, including the School Medical Service, and a limit of £300,000 to the expenditure on the provision of meals which forms part of the special service of which I have been speaking so far.
It is a limit. So far I have been speaking of the expenditure of local authorities. Now I come to that part of the total expenditure for which provision is made by way of grants. As the Committee will see on reference to the White Paper which has been circulated, the amount provided for grants in aid of elementary education this year is £35,068,343 and for higher education £5,693,000. I pass on to the second feature, which distinguishes the present Estimate from the Estimate of last year, and that is there is a net decrease of £6,104,653, which results from a comparison of the total Estimate of £44,900,000 which I am now submitting with the Estimate of £51,014,665 for 1921–22. Let me invite the Committee to pause for a moment to consider this reduction of £6,100,000. To many Members of the Committee so large a drop in the Education Estimate may give rise to feelings of anxiety, because while there is a very strong and fully justified desire, not only in this Committee, but in the country at large, to effect economy in every branch of public expenditure, there is at the same time a strong feeling here and elsewhere that, in the case of a reproductive social service like education, the pruning of expenditure must not be carried to such a point as to endanger the sap and life of the plant. Let us examine for a moment this figure of £6,100,000. It will be observed in the first place that £1,205,683 of this reduction is due to the diminution of a service resulting from the War. It is due to the fact that many of the students who have been undergoing a course of instruction at the universities and other places, with the aid of grants from the Board, have now terminated their course, and have gone out into the world. This, then, is a reduction which will have no prejudicial effect on the education which is given to the children in our schools. Then the Committee will observe that £2,300,575 of the total reduction in this estimate, is represented by the Appropriation-in-Aid and will be derived, if Parliamentary sanction be obtained—as the matter will need legislation—by a contribution from the secondary and elementary teachers in respect of their pensions. I do not propose to enlarge upon this part of the Estimate here. The matter will come up for consideration when the proposals of the Government are laid before Parliament, and that will be the most convenient opportunity for discussing the subject. I will merely draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that £3,500,000 of the total saving of £6,000,000 is represented by savings which will have no effect in abridging the educational facilities enjoyed by children, or in diminishing the efficiency of the public service of education.
There remains some £2,500,000 of difference between this year's Estimate and last year's, and that is the reduction which will principally concern those who have the educational interests of the country at heart, though I presume that to the Chancellor of the Exchequer all savings, from whatever quarter they may be derived, are equally refreshing. I can understand that some Members of the Committee, who are engaged in the task of administering our Education Acts in county or borough councils, may feel some anxiety even at, this reduced figure. They may say that the bodies whom they serve have entered into all kinds of commitments—they have contracts with their teachers, with their inspectors, and with builders, and furthermore, during the last year, they have engaged on a course of stringent economy: and they ask, that being so, whether they will be able to bring their expenditure within the total desired without making sacrifices which they would greatly regret? I think I am able to dispel apprehension on this score. My view is that most of the economies required to keep the expenditure of the local education authorities within the totals prescribed in this Estimate have already been made or are being made. The fact is that the Board have been in a position to make a surrender of nearly £3,000,000 on last year's Vote. How was this large saving effected? It was the direct consequence of the Circulars of December, 1920, and January, 1021, which were issued by the Board to local authorities throughout the country, enjoining upon them the necessity of adjusting their expenditure to the financial stringency of the time. To this call the local authorities so responded that, instead of spending over £51,000,000 last year, the Board's expenditure barely exceeded £48,000,000.
I am bound to admit that it has not been a pleasant task, either for the Board or the local authorities, to make these economies. We have been compelled to postpone the overtaking of many of the War arrears in building and repairs which have been accumulating for the last, seven years, and also we have been compelled to forego many developments which in happier times we should have been glad to have seen undertaken. But the Committee must not suppose that, in enjoining these economies, the Board advocated a blind or inconsiderate policy of retrenchment. We were careful to point out to the local authorities that the schools were not to fall below a tolerable standard of efficiency, particularly in respect of adequacy of accommodation, staffing, and attention to the physical condition of the children. Some of the arrears which have been accumulating during the War in staffing, repairs and equipment were to be overtaken, and some provision was to be made for actual and prospective growth in the ordinary services of education; and it is worth adding that, although nearly £3,000,000 was saved on the Estimate, our expenditure last year was nevertheless £2,500,000 higher than in the previous year. So much, then, for this economy of £6,100,000. I hope 1 have said enough to reassure those who are engaged in the task of local administration that they should be able to keep within the totals fixed in this Estimate without serious loss to the educational system for the local administration of which they are responsible, and I trust that in the course of the next month I may be able to give them more exact information as to the position in which they stand.
And now may I say a few words with respect to the larger scheme of economy which was recommended to the Government by the Committee on National Expenditure which sat under the chairmanship of Sir Eric Geddes. It is perfectly true that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer explained to the House on a previous occasion the reason why the Government found itself unable to accept most of those recommendations, but I am in receipt of so many communications which are obviously drafted under the impression that all the recommendations of the Geddes Committee have in effect been accepted, that I think I may, perhaps, occupy a little of the time of the Committee in explaining, perhaps more fully than the Chancellor of the Exchequer did, the reasons which induced the Government not to accept some of those recommendations. As the Committee will remember, that distinguished body of business men recommended a reduction in the expenditure on education amounting, roughly, to £16,000,000 for England and Wales, and £18,000,000 for the United Kingdom; and they proposed to effect this result partly by the exclusion of children under six from schools, partly by enlarging the powers of the Board to close small schools, partly by the transference of a considerable sum from the taxes to the rates, partly by a great reduction in teaching costs—to be arrived at either by a cut in salaries or by a wholesale dismissal of teachers, or a combination of both methods—and partly by requiring a contribution to the teachers' pensions. There were other minor reductions which we need hardly consider in this large context.
After careful consideration the Government came to the conclusion that it could not accept the suggestion that children under six should be excluded from the schools. It may be true that the amount of formal instruction which a child of these tender years can gain from school teaching is slight. It may be true that any little instructional advantage which a child may derive from entering upon school life at the age of five, when compared with the child who enters a year later, tends to become less and less apparent every year, and finally vanishes altogether. All this may be true, and yet at the same time, having regard to the character of our urban population and to the housing conditions in our large towns, there is an overwhelming case for securing to every child over five years the right to a clean place in a clean school. I agree that the home is a better place than the school for a little child, but one room makes a poor home, and when the mother goes out to work she does not leave much homeliness behind. According to the census of 1911, the number occupying one-room tenements was over 254,000, there were over 57,000 families of three or more persons living in one room, over 135,000 families of five or more in two rooms, and over 130,000 of seven or more in three rooms. I do not imagine that the housing conditions are better in this respect now than they were in 1911. The Government then came to the conclusion that it could not accept this recommendation, but at the same time we are of opinion that parents should have the option of keeping their children at home until the age of six. In so far as that option is exercised, there is reason to expect that economies will result.
Then I come to the proposal of the Geddes Committee to strengthen the hands of the Board in procuring the closure of small schools. There is a great deal to be said for that suggestion. There is very little doubt that were we able to carry out a judicious policy of amalgamation it would result in improved education for the children and in saving to the taxpayer and the ratepayer. There are some parts where small country schools have been closed and the children have been brought to a neighbouring school by motor car and there has been a considerable saving and also considerable improvement in education, and that process has been carried on to a very considerable extent in some States of America with advantages both economical and educational. On the other hand, there are very serious difficulties in the way. There is first of all the sentimental objection which is always raised when a proposal is made to close a small school. People get attached to the small school. They do not like to see it go. It is a centre, of life, and whenever I take any steps to close a small school, however inefficient, however deplorable, I am always overwhelmed with protests from the neighbourhood. Then again there is the geographical difficulty which in some cases is considerable. Lastly, and this is much the most formidable difficulty, there is the denominational obstacle. For these reasons we have felt it is impossible to accept this proposal. Neither could we accede to the suggestion that the grant system should be so altered as to transfer the sum of £3,000,000 from the taxes to the rates. The rates press more hardly than the taxes.
There remain, then, two large proposals for economy—a reduction of teaching cost, either through the dismissal of teachers or a cut in salaries or a combina- tion of both methods and a contribution to pensions. The Government does not deal directly with the teachers, but it has an engagement with the local education authorities, who are the employers of the teachers, and it has in effect said to them, "If you are prepared to pay the teachers salaries upon the scale allocated to your respective districts by the Burnham Committee we will recognise that expenditure for grant subject always to the conditions and stipulations imposed by the Board when the scales were accepted," and on the faith of that undertaking local authorities have made contracts with their teachers. The contract of London with its teachers runs till 1923, the contracts of other authorities till 1925, and the Government, in view of these circumstances, is precluded from going back upon its decision so recently taken to pay grants on these scales. Nor would it be possible to accept the suggestion of the Committee to insist on an average standard of 50 pupils to a class, partly because of the large number of small schools in the country and partly because the structural conditions of many schools are such that to insist on such a rule as this would necessarily involve classes of a size so unwieldy in other schools as to sacrifice the educational interests of the children with the consequent waste of the money expended on them. I do not deny that some economy can be effected in staffing, and this in three directions, firstly if the head teacher of every school of 250 and under is made responsible for the teaching of a class, secondly by a revision of the staffing in certain areas where it is upon a somewhat lavish scale, and thirdly if the practice of staffing infant departments in urban areas by certificated and uncertificated teachers is modified. As regards the first method, I think there are educational as well as financial advantages in establishing a more uniform rule of practice. In some areas the head teacher takes a full share of teaching. In others the head teachers do too little, and this is bad both for them and for the schools, even making full allowance for the miscellaneous administrative duties which they have to perform. When we consider that, in general, the best teachers or the better teachers are promoted to be the head teachers, it is a deplorable waste of educational power that a head teacher should, on becoming head teacher, withdraw from teaching. It would be a considerable saving of money and of real educational advantage if the head teachers continued to teach.
With regard to the second method, namely, reducing the staff in those areas—there are not many—where it is on a somewhat lavish scale. I understand that some apprehension is felt as to the consequence of the review of school staffs which authorities are undertaking in those areas. Teachers fear that if they lose one post they will be unable to obtain another. I know that teachers are not very mobile. Many naturally prefer to work in towns or near their homes, and in areas to which they are accustomed. It is a fact however that at the present time there are considerable numbers of vacant posts, especially in county areas. I do not, therefore, apprehend that much hardship will result from these measures, and I anticipate some financial saving from them. With regard to the third method, the staffing of infant departments. I am the last person to undervalue the advantage of training for teachers. Other things being equal, a trained teacher is always better than an untrained teacher. I should always hope that the infant department of a large elementary school would be under the direction of a trained teacher, but it is not necessary, certainly not in these times of grave financial stringency, that every assistant in an infants' department should be a trained teacher or a certificated teacher as in London, or even an uncertificated teacher. I believe there is room for economy in this quarter by staffing classes of children under six years with women chosen with regard to their personal suitability and aptitude for the work than to academical qualifications, and that if judiciously carried out and watched this method will not be found to be injurious to the interests of the children. So much for the savings recommended by the Geddes Committee which the Government have felt themselves unable to adopt.
Now let me pass to a brief review of the sub-heads of the Board's Vote. The first two sub-heads refer to a branch of educational expenditure on which I should like to dwell for a few moments in view of the misconception which appears to exist about it. I am often told that expenditure on education to-day is not grudged of itself, but that there is plenty of room for large savings in the money spent on Whitehall and on useless and unnecessary inspectors. There is a great deal of misconception on this point. For instance, not many weeks ago a distinguished headmaster wrote seriously to the "Times" suggesting that there might now be about a thousand clerks at the Board of Education checking school registers, at a cost of £200,000, and probably even double that sum, and he strongly recommended the abolition of this. The facts are that the full time of 12 clerks is devoted to this tedious but necessary process, at a total cost in salaries of £3,000. The process is necessary because as some grants depend upon unite of attendance it is obviously necessary to check these units of attendance in order that we should not pay less or more than the Regulations lay down. The headquarters' staff of the Board at Whitehall is not more than the work requires. The total cost of the Board's administration and inspection amounts to only 1.87 per cent. of its total expenditure. That is a very reasonable business proposition. The total expenditure is actually £7,000 below the figure recommended by the Geddes Committee, and the Geddes Committee had no extravagant views in favour of the Board and its works. It is quite true that if you take the numbers of the Board's headquarters' staff for the current year there is an addition of three when compared with the numbers of last year. That increase is in the lower grades, and is due to the additional staff required for the administration of the School Teachers (Superannuation) Act, 1918. The higher staff of the Board shows a reduction, and a further reduction is in contemplation. If the arrangements at Whitehall are to be criticised, then it must be admitted that there is not quite enough first-class work for the number of first-class men in the office, and for that reason I am contemplating a gradual reduction of the higher administrative staff, and that will result in economy.
I would like to ask the Committee to consider the magnitude and complexity of the task which the Board bas to undertake. It has to deal in the first place with 317 Local Education Authorities. These Authorities are vigorous and active each with their own local problems and difficulties, which have to be considered in relation to the central policy of the Government. Though the Board devolves as much as it can upon its inspectors resident in the districts, and though much correspondence is saved in that way, enough remains to make very great demands upon the headquarters' staff. We have to deal with 20,000 public elementary schools with nearly 6,000,000 children on the registers, with over 1,200 secondary schools containing more than 360,000 pupils; with technical and evening schools, schools of art, university tutorial classes, continuation schools, etc., over 5,000 in number with nearly 1,000,000 students; and with over 100 training colleges and departments for teachers, with about 14,000 students in training. There is also a great deal of work in connection with charitable trusts for educational purposes, with teachers' pensions, with grants for the higher education of ex-service students, with the great and growing school medical service, with special schools for the blind, the deaf, and the physically and mentally defective. We have also to administer the Victoria and Albert Museums and the Royal College of Art. When all this is taken into account, I do not think that it can really be urged that the staff at headquarters is in any way excessive, or that the money spent on the Central Department's administration and inspection is wasted.
Before I leave this subject, let me add one word on the Inspectorate. It is very fashionable to blame the Inspectorate. The object of the Inspectorate is to provide the Board of Education with eyes and ears, to enable the President of the Board to come down to this House and to give an account of his stewardship, and, so long as Parliament votes money in aid of education, it is necessary that there should be a staff of inspectors to see that the money is properly and effectively spent and that the country is getting value for it. It certainly affords no assistance to the cause of economy to disparage the invaluable work which the Inspectorate are performing throughout the country. What is the case with regard to the Inspectorate? The paper establishment of the Inspectorate is the same as last year—413. There will probably be a saving of about 20 posts as the result of not filling 20 of the 40 vacancies which now exist. If these vacancies are left unfilled, the numbers will be brought down very nearly to the 1914 level. There will be 393 as compared with 385, and that in spite of the very great growth of the Board's work. I think every member of the Committee will agree with me in saying that it is not an extravagant demand to expect that the President of the Board should receive a report on every elementary school once in three years. Our Inspectorate is based upon the principle that we should be able to have a report once in three years, but I regret to say that it is very difficult to get even a triennial report on every elementary school. I think that will give the Committee, more clearly than any other figure that I can supply, a very just idea of the difficulty which confronts the Board in educational inspection. Our Inspectorate, so far from being overstaffed, is in my view under-staffed. I should be very glad if financial conditions did permit some slight increase in this respect.
I am not asking for a very much larger inspectorate. I said that a slight addition would enable us to get a report on every elementary school once in three years.
The right hon. Gentleman says that inspection of the elementary school takes place once in three years. How many similar inspections are made by the local authority?
I am afraid that I have not made myself quite understood. I did not mean to say that the schools were visited only once in three years, but that we got a report only once in three years. Of course, if you are going to get an adequate report, you want the inspector to make several visits to the school. The hon. Baronet the Member for London University (Sir P. Magnus) has raised the question of overlapping, and that no doubt is an important question. We have our own inspectors, and the local education authorities have their inspectors-We endeavour so far as we can to avoid overlapping. It is quite clear that we must have our inspectors, and it is also quite clear that the local education authorities must have some means of knowing what teachers deserve promotion and what teachers do not deserve promotion, because it is the local authority who promotes. Therefore, they must have people whom they can send into the school and who can report to them as to the progress of the school. But I think I may say that we have been successful in avoiding overlapping to a very great extent. It is a matter which is engaging my most careful attention, and I can assure the hon. Baronet that everything will be done to avoid any waste in that particular.
Yes, I mean that, and I also mean this. Most of the work done by the local inspectors is not inspection in the educational sense of the term. The inspectors of the London County Council are very much on the lines of the Board's inspectors, and consequently we have car-lied out very great economies in our own inspectorate in London in order not to overlap with the London County Council inspection. I will pass now from that subject to Sub-head C of the Board's Vote. The elementary school is the cornerstone of our educational system, and an analysis of the Estimates shows that by far the largest part of the cost of the system of public education is occasioned by the requirements of our elementary schools. It will be seen by reference to the White Paper that the grants to local education authorities for elementary education amount to £34,983,693, and that grants to bodies other than local education authorities amount to £84,650, and that the public moneys, whether derived from the rates or taxes, available for elementary education, are expended by the local education authorities under four heads, namely, teachers' salaries, loan charges, administration and other expenditure, and special services.
About 70 per cent, of the total cost of education is accounted for by the salaries of teachers, and these salaries will be increased owing to the operation of the Burnham scales in the current financial year. The assumed total for 1922–23 exceeds the local education authorities revised Estimates for 1921–22 by £1,232,000. I will pause for a moment on this figure, because it will seem to many Members to be an anomaly that, while everybody else is coming down in wages, teachers should be going up. In many parts of the country this anomaly is commented upon with some severity, and it is argued that the salaries of teachers should fall with the fall of prices. That is a point which is also taken by the Committee on National Expenditure. I will not stop to consider whether the teachers would have strengthened their claim upon public sympathy by offering to forgo their increments under the Burnham scales during this grave period of financial difficulty. I will merely ask hon. Members who may be inclined to take a censorious view to bear in mind four facts. First of all, the teachers were greatly underpaid before the War; secondly, during the early years of the War they refrained from pressing any claim for increased salaries through patriotic scruples; thirdly, they are generally required to submit to a three years' carry-over before they reach their correct position on the allocated scale; and, lastly, the scales of salaries will come up for revision, in the case of London in 1923, and for the rest of the country in 1925. If it be assumed that the scales are liberal and that the Burnham Committees, working in an atmosphere of high prices and taking into account, as I think they were bound to do, the rate of remuneration which was then being received by skilled labour in every department of the industrial field, were inclined to treat the teachers generously, it must also be remembered how important it was at that time, when there was great unrest all over the labour world, to bring peace into the elementary schools by a settlement, agreed on the one hand by the teachers and on the other hand by their employers, the local education authorities, which would have the effect of giving teachers a greater measure of comfort and independence than they had hitherto enjoyed.
I would like to take this opportunity of explaining that the Burnham Committees were in no sense Government Committees or Committees of the Board of Education. Though the Board helped them so far as they were able by supplying them with facts, that help, as Lord Burnham has explicitly stated, in no way committed the Board to accept the Committees' recommendations. I think the establishment of these Committees, whatever criticisms Members may be inclined to pass upon their work, was in itself a good step. I have always thought that, although our system of local government is itself admirable, it is lacking in coherence, and, when a national service is locally administered by 317 separate authorities, the consequences of incoherence may be serious. I would like the Committee to realise what the situation was when these Committees were set up. There was great unrest all over the labour world. There was great unrest in the elementary schools. There were returned officers—because the elementary schools sent 21,000 teachers into the Army, many of whom, most of whom in fact, I believe, got commissions—finding it extremely difficult to live on their pay. There was great pressure on the local authorities to advance the pay of teachers, and the pay was being raised in a most sporadic, erratic, and irregular way in different parts of the country. In some parts of the country teachers were receiving large additions to their salaries, and in other parts of the country nothing was being done. The divergencies between one part of the country and another were becoming greater and greater, with the result that they dislocated proportionately the educational system. It seemed to me then that the right thing to do was to try to get a settlement of this national question of salaries by bringing the representatives of the local education authorities into contact with the representatives of the teachers to see if they could not hammer out an orderly and progressive solution of the salary problem. I know that their work was very laborious and very exacting, and I am grateful to them and their distinguished chairman.
I pass to the loan charges, the second item of expenditure on elementary education. Here there has been a small increase of £146,000, but this is no more than can be justified by a partial attempt to overtake the large mass of arrears which accumulated owing to the suspen- sion of all building during the War. It will be remembered that the Commission on National Expenditure realised that no reduction could be expected in this particular field of educational expenditure. Practically speaking, the loan charges have remained unchanged since 1914, but it is fair to remind the Committee that apart from the ordinary demands on all secondary and elementary schools there are heavy arrears of building work which must be dealt with very soon. There are far too many school buildings in the country which are inconvenient and quite unsuitable for their purposes. It is not fair to compel children to attend in them or to ask teachers to work in them, and at the earliest possible moment they must be repaired or replaced.
This evil is not confined to voluntary schools, but it is conspicuous among voluntary schools. The managers cannot raise funds to improve them, and the local authorities cannot spend money on improving them. I do not underrate the value of the work which is done in the voluntary schools, or the services which they have rendered or are rendering, and I appreciate the grounds on which many people attach great importance to their continuance. But the dual system is up against very hard facts, and unless some way can be found of effecting a, reasonable settlement of the ancient controversies which have clustered around it we shall find ourselves in a position of intolerable embarrassment before many years are over. I ventured to make a tentative suggestion for a settlement by agreement. It was merely a suggestion for the purpose of encouraging discussion. I am bound to say that I have not been very much encouraged by the reception with which that suggestion met.
I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that it would not be in order on this Vote to discuss proposed legislation or suggested legislation. Of course, an allusion would not be out of order.
I bow to your ruling. I merely wished to emphasise the fact that if an agreement upon the religious question in the schools, cannot be arrived at I feel that circumstances will in a few years compel a solution. I was not intending to suggest legislation.
The expenditure on special services which will be recognised for grant to the extent of 50 per cent, of that expenditure is to be limited to £3,400,000, which is less by £754,000 than the local education authorities' revised Estimates, and this reduction will be accounted for chiefly by a diminution of £730,000 in the provision of meals, which in 1921–22 reached the abnormal figure of £1,030,000. It is no part of the Government policy to curtail any expenditure which may really be necessary to preserve our child population in bodily health. That would be the worst and most ruinous form of waste, and we do not suggest it. But it is our duty to realise that so vast an expansion of the eleemosynary treatment of school children as we have witnessed recently is not, correctly speaking, an educational function, the cost of which should fall upon the education rate or upon the vote of the Board, and so we propose to limit the sum chargeable on the Vote in respect of the provision of meals to £150,000, which is more than sufficient to meet the normal claim in a normal year. Abnormal claims arising from great waves of unemployment which unfortunately we have had in the past should be met out of other funds. Though I fully admit that the work of arranging school meals may be carried on as before by the local educational authorities in the schools, so far as the normal staff enable them to cope with it, yet the truth is that the inspectors of the Board of Education are not trained to check this kind of expenditure. They are trained for a very different kind of work, and I hope the Committee will agree in the view that it is right to relieve the Board's Vote of Expenditure which it cannot control adequately, and which is not germane to the primary purpose of the Education Vote or of the Education rate.
I now come to the medical service proper. In view of the great importance of the school medical service, and its admirable work, I should be very sorry to see any damaging economy either in the sphere of medical inspection or in the treatment or management of our special schools. When I remind the Committee of the fact that the school medical service inspects over 2,500,000 children every year, while the attendance of the children at our clinics runs to many millions annually, and the cost to the Exchequer of all this work amounts to about 2s. 6d. per head of the 6,000,000 children in average attendance at public elementary schools, I hope that it will not be regarded as an extravagant service.
As the Committee knows, it has increased in cost, but it has also increased in the volume of its work. I am sorry that I cannot give the Committee complete figures for the country, but I have figures for 24 areas, including the London area, and these, I think, will be instructive. If we compare the number of attendances of children at school clinics in these 24 areas for the years 1914 and 1920, we find that in 1914 the attendance was a little over 700,000, and in 1920 a little over 3,000,000. This will give the Committee a measure of the great increase of work done by this branch of the education service, and it is not too much to say that, as a result of its work, there have been an improvement in the cleanliness of school children amounting almost to a revolution, and a great and progressive improvement in regard to dental defects and defects of vision, while hundreds of thousands of children have had their physique and powers of resisting disease improved, with the result that in the case of some 500,000 children vast masses of subsequent disablement, sickness, and mortality have been prevented. Therefore I am happy to think that it will be possible for the local education authorities to keep within the expenditure which will be recognised for grants without any real injury to the service. There is, as I have said, a limitation of £3,400,000 on the expenditure for special services.
Most of the reduction will be in the cost of feeding in schools. Page 4 of the memorandum shows that there is a decrease of £754,000 in respect of special services, and page 5 shows that £730,000 of that is accounted for by a reduction in the recognised expenditure for school feeding. That leaves £24,000 of economy to be effected in the other branches of these services.
No, I do not in the least imply that. What I do imply is that the Board have no adequate control over this expenditure. For that reason it is very difficult for me to assume responsibility. It is not the work of our inspectors. Medical inspection is done by medical men.
I now pass to the special schools. I do not say that there is no field for economy here. I am carefully examining the matter, and the Board will shortly publish revised regulations which will have the effect of facilitating a reduction in the cost of schools for defectives, without lessening the number of children who benefit from this form of care and treatment. In this matter I place the schools for the blind and deaf in a special category.
I am dealing now with the blind and the deaf. I put these schools in a very special category. It is true that the schools are very costly. The average cost per unit of the blind school is about £80 per child. That is very high. I do not think that we can expect much diminution in the expense of these schools—though I am looking into the matter carefully—having regard to the minute and individual attention on the part of highly trained teachers which is essential to their effective working. Some of the most beautiful teaching work that is done anywhere is the teaching in these schools. The effects which the highly trained teachers get with the blind and the deaf seem almost miraculous. I would recommend anyone who is sceptical of the value of education to go into one of these schools and to see the marvellous results which are produced. I should, therefore, be very sorry to see any damaging reduction of their work.
I did issue a warning to local education authorities that they must in effect await the Estimates. I did not wish them to plunge into new expenditure without seeing where they were. As I have said, I place the schools of the blind and deaf in a very special category. There is perhaps no form of education which yields so definite a return in happiness and wage-earning independence. In the other special schools, very important no doubt, the staff can be arranged on a more economical basis than hitherto. I know that in many quarters of the House there is great and legitimate sympathy for the admirable work which is done in these special schools, and a great desire not to see that work crippled or reduced. But let me remind the Committee of two things. First of all, the supply of these schools is at present inadequate to the needs of the community. We have not covered all the children who ought to be covered by these schools, and one of the great obstacles which has impeded the development of these schools has been their great expense. If we can find means now of abridging the normal expenditure of these schools we should no doubt be able to increase the sphere of their operations when financial circumstances permit.
I pass to the fourth head under which expenditure on elementary education is arranged—administration and other expenditure. We propose to limit the local authorities to £12,000,000, contrasted with their revised Estimates for 1921–22 of £13,213,000. The expenditure on local administration naturally rose with the devaluation of money. Everything became more expensive—school furniture, books, note-books and everything which the authorities have to use. At one time n copy-book which ordinarily costs a 1d. could only be obtained for 7d. The authorities will be assisted in bringing their expenditure within the total named by the fall of prices, and as this form of expenditure attracts only a 20 per cent, grant from the Board, this reduction will involve the least disturbance of the finances of local authorities.
I now pass to that part of the Estimate which affects higher education. The Committee will note that the Hoard assume a total expenditure of £13,000,000 by local education authorities for 1922–23, or £1,000,000 less than the assumed figure upon which the Board based its Estimate of last year. I wish to comment for a moment on this figure of £13,000,000. It is about £2,000,000 more than the estimated total of the expenditure in 1920–21, and if the Committee will look at the figure on page 5 of the Memorandum they will see that this £2,000,000 is accounted for, as regards £1,000,000 by an increase in the cost of secondary education, and as regards £600,000 by an increase in respect of technical education. That is where the great increases are found.
In accounting for these increases we have to take into account the fact that the work has increased—more schools, more children in the schools, longer school life of the children—and also the fact that the salaries of the teachers have been increased. Just as the Burnham scales have had considerable effect in the sphere of elementary education, so they have exercised a parallel effect in the sphere of secondary education. The Committee on National Expenditure commented on the rapid growth in expenditure on higher education. They were doubtful whether the money was being spent to advantage and whether young people were receiving education which was suited to their capacities. I note that those doubts are shared by some hon. Members. I am aware that it is very necessary to watch narrowly the quality of the entrants into our secondary schools, and I am now considering whether more system cannot be introduced into the arrangements for selecting children for admission to secondary schools. I quite agree that it is a waste of public money to give a secondary education to a boy or girl who cannot profit by it. But I wish to make one observation. There is no financial economy involved in a closer examination of the intellectual claims of children desirous of profiting by our secondary education, because we could fill our secondary schools over and over again with children who are quite able to profit by secondary education up to the age of 16. Our supply of secondary school places is far short of the effective demand and short of the standard which is required in the most civilised and advanced countries in the world.
Although I am entirely in agreement with the view that, having regard to the existing circumstances, we must closely and narrowly watch the claims of entrants into our secondary schools, I cannot promise that any saving will result from the process. I agree, however, that it is possible and legitimate in some areas and in some schools to require an increased contribution to the cost of secondary education by way of fees. I do not wish to be too sanguine on this point. Many of the local authorities have already raised their fees, and many of them, I am persuaded, have already reached the limit of what parents can pay. Let me remind the Committee of this fact. The middle classes in this country pay the education rate like everybody else, and the poorer members of the middle classes feel the burden of the education rate perhaps more than any class in the community. The only way in which they can get a direct return for their education rate is from the cheap education—it is a cheap and excellent education—which is afforded by our newer type of secondary schools. I observe that the Committee on National Expenditure commented on the fact that some well-known secondary schools, such as Bedford and Berkhampsted, have come upon the grant list, and the Committee raised the question whether it was right that such schools should come on the grant list. I put myself into communication with those schools in order to ascertain the sources from which their scholars were drawn. I found that a very large number were the children of naval and military officers, not at all a wealthy class, but a class which certainly deserves to obtain the advantages of cheap education for its children; and I felt that we were justified in helping those schools. Otherwise they would have entirely changed their character seeing that they would have had to raise their fees to an extent which would have made them unavailable for their particular localities and for the particular classes which they were serving. I have examined very carefully the proposal of the Geddes Committee that the proportion of free placers in secondary schools should not exceed 25 per cent., but to lay down such a rule as that would be to ignore the differing economic structure and characteristics of different regions. A proportion which is fair and reasonable in Middlesex or Bournemouth may be quite inadequate in South Wales or Durham, but I agree that for the present the general proportion between free placers and fee-paying students should not be disturbed. We ought to remember that a large number of the ablest children in our secondary schools come up from the elementary schools with a free place, and a reduction in the number of free placers now available in any part of the country would create a deep and natural sense of dissatisfaction, would weaken the schools intellectually, and ultimately weaken the Universities and reduce the return which the nation expects in the form of trained ability for its expenditure of public funds on Higher Education.
I have occupied a long time, and I must apologise to the Committee, but we get very few opportunities of discussing educational subjects, and before I leave these Estimates, I will meet one criticism which has been made, not I think in this House, but outside. It is sometimes said: This Government has done a great deal in the way of subsidising public education. No Government has done so much or has approached it in liberality, but has it improved public education? Has it affected in any way the content of our education? Has there been any attempt to re-think the curricula of our schools, to introduce new studies and new methods in place of studies and methods which are obsolete, or has the Government merely given us a more expensive education? I think it is quite reasonable that this question should be asked, but I have no difficulty in meeting the implied criticism. Let me remind the Committee in the first place that a great deal of attention is given by the Board of Education every year, every month, every week, and every day to the character of the instruction given in our schools and in the methods of the teachers. The schools are subject to constant inspection frequently giving rise to fruitful suggestions. It is quite true that there have been no melodramatic announcements of changes of educational policy. I remember that after the War, the Prussian Minister of Education announced in a circular that henceforward Prussian children were to be trained in systematic amiability towards foreign countries. It must not be supposed, however, that because we have made no revolutionary changes we have made no changes at all. The short course for teachers, the introduction on a far more extensive scale of practical training in the later stages of elementary school life, the advanced courses in secondary schools which are being very carefully planned and are very largely taken—all these steps have affected and are affecting the content and methods of our education. Apart from that, we have, with the help of four expert Committees—two of them appointed before I came into office in the time of my predecessor. Lord Crewe—we have with the help of these four expert Committees surveyed a great part of the field of English education, science, modern languages, classics and English. We have got together a large body of Valuable doctrine, which is now available for practical use in each of these four great subjects of educational work. At the present moment the Board is engaged in correcting the conclusions and recommendations of these four Committees with the view of giving to them as wide an influence as they deserve to have, in the teaching of our elementary and secondary schools.
Then I am met with the opposite criticism that there has been too much innovation; that we are trying to do too many things, to teach the children too many subjects, and that the work of the schools is not as thorough as it used to be in the good old days. I am sure the Committee will realise that it is very difficult to make confident generalisations on the point of thoroughness because of the variations that exist as between school and school, teacher and teacher, region and region. I can only put before the Committee what the aim of the Board has been in the last five years since I have been connected with it. Our aim has been on the one hand to simplify the instruction in the elementary schools up to the age of 11 plus, in order to enable the children to obtain a firmer grip on what are popularly known as "the three R's," and at a later stage of elementary school life to introduce a larger volume of practical instruction—handiwork and the like. Any Member of the Committee who may like to acquaint himself with the character of the experiments which have recently been made to extend the scope and interest of elementary school life in its later stages might profitably consult the Board's report on the Keeping of Livestock in Elementary Schools which will shortly be published.
Of livestock in schools in country districts, I can assure the Committee there are some country districts where this has done extremely well. In Gloucestershire, for instance, very largely, I believe, at the instance of Lord Bledisloe, who has interested himself greatly in this matter, very large numbers of schools have got gardens, and we are informed that this practical work in gardening and the keeping of livestock has had a very refreshing influence on every part of the school work, including arithmetic and English composition. I think also any member of the Committee who may be interested in this side of our work would do well to consult the Board's memoranda on Promotion in Elementary Schools in London, published in 1919. So far, then, from it being true that the Board in the last five years has attempted to give an exclusively literary education leading up to the university, to every child in the country, the policy has been, just the opposite. We have endeavoured, in every way, to strengthen practical education. We realise, as I suppose every sensible man and woman who has given attention to the subject does, that education is not imparted only through the reading of books, and our object has been to give to the children in the elementary schools, not a course of vocational education, which would be quite improper, but such a training of the hand and eye as is most likely to engage their interest, sharpen their curiosity, quicken their sense of beauty and form, and give them a grasp of some few elementary scientific principles in relation to practical life.
The judgment of any single individual, however large his experience may be, on the general progress of education in the country is of very little value, but we have the, means at the Board of Education of examining a great body of evidence collected from all parts of the country. We have the great advantage of the wide and long experience of our inspectors who are in close contact with the work of the schools, and I can say confidently that the result of the evidence placed before us is to show that we have made steady and consistent progress, that the teachers are better equipped for their work, that the curriculum is more, interesting to the children, and that, with the multiplication of scholarships and the widening of the avenue leading to higher education, the current of intellectual interest and intellectual ambition runs much more strongly and vivaciously than ever before in the history of this country.
I will give the Committee a little incident—one in many—which came to my notice not long ago. I happened to be in a great industrial town in the North and I went into a voluntary day continuation school. The boys were doing chemistry—not an inappropriate subject— and I said to the teacher, "Do many of your boys travel long distances to attend this school?" He said, "Some of them do," and, pointing out a small lad, he added, "That boy has come a long distance and is a very sharp lad." I said to the boy, "When did you get up this morning?" and he said, rather shamefacedly, "Well, sir, I got up at half-past six, but I overslept myself." I asked him then, "When do you get up generally?" He said, "I get up at 4 o'clock generally, and I bicycle 30 miles every day to attend school." This, it may be remembered, was a purely voluntary school, and the boy was not obliged to come to school. That gave me an intimation of the kind of spirit that exists, not. I am afraid, universally or even generally, but very largely in the North of England.
I have had more experience of the young than the right hon. Baronet. I am afraid that in education I cannot promise miracles. There will be dull children and tedious pedagogues to the end of time. We cannot expect to treble the efficiency of education in a year, or even in a decade, but I can say with confidence that, even if all the hopes of the friends of education have not been realised in the last five years, even if we have had to submit to many disappointments and the postponement of many schemes to which we attach great value, there has, nevertheless, been in every part of the educational field, from the elementary school to the university, an increased activity and a greater receptiveness to new ideas, to new knowledge, and to new methods than has been manifested, so far as I know, in any other period of equivalent length in our history. Part of the increased interest in educational subjects is no doubt due to the War, part to a series of discoveries in every department of intellectual life, recalling the discoveries of the Renaissance, discoveries in physics, discoveries in Greek archæology, discoveries in almost, every branch of history and science—so that our text books require to be rewritten from beginning to end—but I venture to think that I am not far wrong in claiming that part also, and that no small part, is due to the liberal supplies with which this Government and this House have endeavoured to forward the work of education in all its branches.
I very much regret that owing to other calk I was not able to hear the whole, or indeed more than a very small part, of my right hon. Friend's statement, but what I heard myself and what I have heard from others gives me a very hopeful and encouraging view of the attitude which he has persisted in maintaining in regard to what I should think the most retrograde of all forms of disguised and perverted economy, the cutting down of expenditure upon our system of national education in any one of its branches or stages. I am sure there could be no worse or more misguided or more undiscriminating operation given to the very legitimate demand of the country for the reduction of Government expenditure than that we should cut into and undermine in any of its branches or stages our system of national education. I had the opportunity a few weeks ago of stating at some length my view upon the subject, confirmed and corroborated by the experience which I had gained as Chairman of the Commission on the two ancient Universities, and if I now interpose for a moment, and only for a moment, it is to ask from my right lion. Friend an assurance upon one particular point. It is proposed to reduce the sum which has hitherto been allotted by Parliament, not to Oxford and Cambridge, but to what we may call the local universities of the country, a proposal which I confess I regard with suspicion and indeed with hostility. It does not come. I understand, under this Vote.
What I want, if I can, is to get a definite assurance from my right hon. Friend that we shall have an opportunity, a real opportunity, of discussing this vitally important matter when the Treasury Vote comes on. We all know that towards the close of Supply, Votes are apt to be telescoped, and topics sometimes of vital importance are crowded out from the later days of Committee of Supply, and I am sure it would be a matter of very great significance to all friends of education—I am glad to see the Patronage Secretary of the Treasury there—if he could give us some assurance that this question of the reduction of the grants to the local universities will be afforded an adequate opportunity for real discussion when the Treasury Vote comes on.
The Minister of Education apologised to the Committee for the length of time that he took in making his statement, but I should like to assure him that those of us who are interested in this vast subject of education agree with him that the opportunities for discussing education in the House of Commons are so few, and that the time that we have at our disposal is so little, that he cannot be charged with having taken an excessive amount of time in which to lay this important subject before the Committee. I think also it is fair to the Minister to say at once that his references to the now notorious Geddes suggestions with regard to cuts in education are of such a nature, or have been of such a nature, as to lead us to suppose that we have in him a Minister of Education who places the correct value on education as a contribution to the life of the community.
There are three ways in which we can test the success of our educational schemes in this country. The Minister mentioned some himself in the course of his speech, when he was referring to some of the machinery of our educational system, but if we put them together we probably have as practical a test as can be found of efficiency in our educational system. Those three items are, first, the adequacy of school accommodation: second, the adequacy of our staffing arrangements, including both the number of teachers and the degree of training of teachers and the average size of the classes: and, third, the physical condition of the children. If, therefore, we find our educational machine operating in such a way that we have not, as the Minister himself has pointed out, sufficient accommodation for the children of the country—not only sufficient accommodation from the point of view of places in our schools, but buildings which, from the health point of view, from the point of view of one of the most delicate things in the school, namely, sanitation, are absolutely in many districts inadequate, buildings which the Minister himself has pointed out are in such a state of disrepair that if they are not speedily repaired the nation will be forced to incur much heavier cost in erecting new buildings—if it is therefore the case that there is that deficiency in accommodation, by the amount of that deficiency our educational scheme falls short, and it is the duty of this Committee to try to provide methods by which it can be made good.
So it is with the question of staffing. Incidentally, when I am talking about staffing, I might refer to the question of the teachers' salaries. The right hon. Gentleman apologised to some extent for the increase in the teachers' salaries, but I think he gave adequate reasons to the Committee why, of the professional classes, the teacher, as a particular class, has perhaps waited longer for adequate remuneration for his services than any other type of professional men. In fact, at one time, the most serious aspect of that question was that the supply of male and female students of the training colleges throughout the country was drying up because of the inadequate remuneration of the services for which they were certificated when they were through their colleges, and, more than that, the fact that of most professional classes the teacher has to look forward for a much longer time to occupying the empty places of those who precede him on the staff than perhaps any other professional class, and if there was one thing needed, and needed more quickly than another, it was an inducement to the man and woman, the boy and girl, with brains to take up the teaching profession, with a certain knowledge that for the future there was a much better and wider outlook in the profession than there had ever been at any previous time. Those of us who work together on this side of the House would deplore more than we could express any attempt to reduce the standard of the teaching material that we want to bring into our elementary and higher schools. The better the material we can use to fashion the brains of the youth of this country, the better the contribution we are making to the future of this country, and in maintaining the salaries at an adequate sum my right hon. Friend certainly has the support of those of us who act together on this side of the House. I come to the question of the wherewithal by which these things are to be achieved. The right hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) intervened at one point of the President's speech with the obvious question as to where the money was to be got. Of course we are in somewhat straitened financial circumstances.
I will go the whole hog, and say "straitened circumstances,' but that is largely due to extravagant expenditure in other directions by the Government, of which, unfortunately, the President of the Board of Education is a member. He is associated with a Government which has spent the money in directions which will bring no good to this country. [An HON. MEMBER: "Housing."] The particular item does not matter. Money has been spent which could have been saved for the purpose of improving our educational machine, and while we are quite prepared to face economies in the machine itself, wherever it can be achieved, we are not prepared to effect economies at the expense of educational efficiency. It is a question of working a ladder from the elementary school to the university. The rungs in that ladder are pretty close right up to the time when the pupil leaves the elementary school, but from that place in the ladder the steps are not nearly so close, and they are much more difficult to overtake. We want to make the rungs in that part of the ladder as adequate as they are at the lower part of the ladder, so that, without fee, the child of the British citizen—in this ease, particularly the English and Welsh citizen—will be able to move from the elementary school to the highest point that our educational ladder, with his or her brains and energy, will take him or her. That is the idea, and so long as you make that as free as possible, we are prepared to support a scheme which will enable you to do so. It fails at the point of the secondary school. It fails in the small proportion of free places in the secondary school compared with fee places. We want less fees and more frees in those secondary schools. It is probable that we require to devote very much more attention to this than to any other part of the educational ladder.
One would gather the impression from some of the interjections and remarks made in the course of the Debate that it is foolish to give our children so much education. It was suggested from below the Gangway by several Members that it was a waste of money and waste of public effort to give education to children who, we were told, were not fit to make a good use of it. I do not believe in that doctrine at all. I do not believe in the starving of the opportunity of any child at the time when it can receive practically the only equipment that it does not get by its own unaided effort. I think this argument will appeal to many Members. I have said we are in straitened financial circumstances. As a nation we are so to-day, but, as a matter of fact, our working classes are permanently in straitened circumstances, and, therefore, the only real contribution of great value that any parent can give to his children is the contribution of an effective education. There is no Death Duty on that. It is left to the child, and the child with its own brains, its own energy and its own enterprise can then probably make a far better use of its life than it otherwise would. It is up to us, therefore, to make that contribution to the child Perhaps I may again make an incidental reference. The President, in talking about schools for defectives, used some rather apologetic phrases about the expense of those schools. I think we owe more to that type of child than to the healthy child. The defective child is a result of our industrial and economic conditions. There are two ways of dealing with a defective child. You can put it out of existence, which would relieve you of the expense of maintaining it, or you must make up to it that of which society has deprived it in the circumstances in which it has been born. My right hon. Friend waxed eloquent—and rightly eloquent—about the blind and the deaf schools, but there are many other deficiencies in children which, perhaps, have not the same tragedy as blindness or deafness, but which are a handicap to the child in life, which the State must assist, because the State is in debt to the child. I am certain that everyone will agree with that statement. Therefore, I hope my right hon. Friend will not be afraid of expenditure of this type.
There is another question with which I would like to deal at once, because I think it was the worst thing that my right hon. Friend said this afternoon, and I hope he will retreat from the position he took up with regard to the feeding of necessitous school children. He pointed out that there was going to be a decrease of over £700,000, and he pointed out that, in future, the Board of Education wished to deprive themselves of the responsibility of dealing with the feeding of necessitous school children.
Not at all. I pointed out that we propose to limit the expenditure on necessitous school children to £300,000, half of which will be found from grants from the rates, that being a figure which is amply sufficient for dealing with the normal feeding. My point was that it was very difficult for us to control expenditure when there were great waves of unemployment, and when you have to spend something like £1,000,000 in feeding necessitous school children.
So far as I have misunderstood my right hon. Friend—if I have—of course, I apologise, but I take him to mean that while he, as President of the Board of Education, proposes still to be responsible for a figure which will cover the normal feeding of all necessitous school children, anything beyond that must be found by the boards of guardians.
Not necessarily necessitous. The main idea of the Provision of Meals Act was to provide school canteens for those children who, it was considered, might require a meal at school. The original idea was that in most cases the parents should meet that expense. But it was also realised that there were a certain number of children who were unable to profit by their schooling by reason of poverty, and it, therefore, became a common thing to provide for these necessitous children. We propose to continue the feeding up to a sum of £300,000.
I quite appreciate that, but my right hon. Friend knows that it is the teacher in the school who recommends the child for food on account of mal-nutrition, and if the teachers of the 20,000 elementary schools recommend that certain children shall be fed, it must continue to be the duty of the President of the Board of Education to look after that feeding, and to find the money for it, and he must not contemplate, in what he calls abnormal cases, resorting to the Boards of Guardians, because does not he see, and does not the Committee see, that the vicious result of that would be that the poorer districts of this country would be required to bear, as a contribution from the rates, the greater part of the expense of maintaining those children? That is a charge which, we think, ought to be laid on the back of the whole State, because if, through malnutrition, a child is unable to benefit from the teaching which the State provides, it must obviously be helped by everybody taking a share of the burden. I hope, if I have misunderstood my right hon. Friend, he or the Under-Secretary will, during the further discussion, deal with that particular point.
There is one other point. I was very much struck with the fact that my right hon. Friend was satisfied on the question of inspection with one report from each school inside the period of three years. This is a question which I have frequently discussed here and elsewhere. I have always regretted the fact that we passed over from examination to inspection. I believe it has a deleterious effect upon the education in our schools. It is quite true that examination in individual subjects may have prevented children moving up into higher standards from year to year, but I am quite certain of this, the system of inspection is open to criticism. Incidentally inspectors are not always practical teachers. There are far too many of the inspectors who never have had any practical experience of teaching in our schools. They have come straight from the British universities; men of the type referred to by the right hon. Gentleman who are first class civil servants. These men are put into these positions instead of the positions being open to the teaching profession, at all events more than they are to-day. Still, I believe the visit of men of this sort occasionally to the schools and to the teacher is of real value in ascertaining the intellectual progress of the child. If you test by the three R's, reading, writing, and 'rithmetic, I am perfectly certain the old scheme of examination, by which the children went up when they were able to achieve a certain standard in the elementary things that mattered, was a far better system and produced far better results than does the inspection scheme now.
I know you will not, and probably cannot, ban inspection, but I do suggest there is great room for combining the two systems; that while children may be moved up on the report of the inspector, and some children may be kept where they are with examination, these two things could be combined, and I think probably you would get better results. I do think that for the money we spend, and in view of the results achieved, we should certainly allow the Minister of Education a larger staff, so that we might ascertain what the children are getting for the millions we spend upon education. On this point I make this further observation. The right hon. Gentleman suggests that the headmasters, particularly in our small schools, should teach more than they do. I agree very thoroughly with that suggestion. I spent some years of my life in one of the biggest elementary schools in Edinburgh. I remember the headmaster—now dead, so that any reference I make will not appear to be personal—spent the whole of his time in the headmaster's room, taken up with routine work, keeping the log, answering questions from the departments of the local School Board, and he was the highest salaried man on the staff and supposed to be the best and most capabl1 teacher on the staff. Yet I, who was then serving as a pupil teacher, and had not even gone to the training college, was frequently sent by that headmaster, under whom I served, to take his class and to teach it while he was looking after all this paraphernalia in his room.
I thoroughly agree that in the small schools they have placed upon the shoulders of the headmaster what can be done by a clerk. That it should be so done, instead of releasing the headmaster to be an effective unit on the teaching staff of the school, is folly. I very much hope my right hon. Friend will pursue that question and the many others to which he has referred. There are many other things that one might refer to in a big subject of this kind, but as time is short and others desire to speak I will refrain. I should like, however, to close by saying this: that we on this side of the House take the view that education is the most effective contribution that we can make to the future of our country, that expenditure upon it is the finest form of reproductive expenditure that you could devise, and that while there are many other things possibly that people placed in better circumstances in life can do in regard to their children, there is one thing possible only to the great mass of the children of this country, and that is a fair chance, through the elementary and secondary schools, to, if possible, the university. It is the duty of this House of Commons, which represents the parents of these children, and therefore is the guardian of the future education of these children, to make it easy that what is asked should be achieved for every child in the country.
I venture to think that there will be very little disagreement in the country or in this Committee in respect to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down or in respect to the speech of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education. All those interested in education have looked forward to to-day, and my right hon. Friend, in introducing these Estimates, has given those broad views on the general principles of education which have been so fully repeated by the last speaker, and in which I think all Members of this House on both sides, and among all parties, entirely agree. Personally, I could not help commiserating with my right hon. Friend with having to discharge what I cannot help thinking was to him a rather painful duty. That was to give reasons for any economy what ever in the discharge of his duties as President of the Board of Education.
It is a great many years since we had anyone at the head of the Board who was so pronounced an idealist, if I may be permitted to say so, as our right hon. Friend the President. It is naturally very painful for him, and very difficult, to have to defend, as he has had to defend to-day, the economies which he proposes to introduce into the system. I was very much struck with the speech of the President—I do not know the occasion, so I cannot give him the reference—in which he said:
The education of the masses rests on the right of human beings to be considered as ends in themselves, and to be entitled to know and enjoy all the best that life can afford in the sphere of knowledge, emotion, and hope.
That is a very fine ideal. We all would like to be able to attain it, but we cannot help considering, in connection with an ideal of that kind, the means by which that ideal can be attained. I take it that when my right hon. Friend spoke of "the masses" he at the same time included "the classes," and all the other citizens of a great country. That is the difficulty that confronted him. He has been obliged to go back to a certain extent upon the schemes of general education which during the previous three or four years he has brought before the House. I think it has been a very great advantage to us that we should have had as
President anyone endowed with the ideas which tend to lift up the whole community as do these ideas of our President.
Directly we come to consider economies there are natural objections to every one of them. The only general statement as regards the economies which were suggested in the Geddes Report is that there is no greater fallacy than to suppose that the efficiency of education bears any direct proportion to the money spent upon it. That is an idea opposed to experience—the idea that if you doubled the salaries of the teachers they would give twice as much attention to their work. To my mind, that is not by any means the case. I believe what we want to find is enthusiastic teachers devoted to their wprk—I will not say teachers who discharge their duties altogether irrespective of the pay they receive—for we want them to be adequately remunerated, but the idea should not enter the mind of the teacher that his efficiency as a teacher depends entirely upon the amount of salary he receives. At any rate, that was not the idea that existed in times gone by. I believe that one of the charges made against the sophists in Athens was that they accepted remuneration for the instruction they gave. I have also read that it was the bounden duty of every father in ancient Judea to train his son in some trade or manual occupation in order when he rose to the highest possible position in the community, that of a teacher, he need not be dependent upon remuneration as a teacher. Be that as it may, I think one ought not to suppose that by necessarily increasing the cost of education you thereby increase efficiency. I was very much struck by a letter which appeared in the "Times" one day this week, written by Sir Alfred Hopkinson, a gentleman whom are know very well. He said:
It is the commonest, but the worst of heresies to imagine that by increasing the expenditure on any form of education you necessarily increase its efficiency. If the amount spent on education were to be suddenly trebled next year the education given would probably be less efficient than it is even now.
I only make this remark in order to refute the assertion made time after time, that we must not economise upon education, upon either its administration or the salaries paid to the teachers, because the more you spend on
education so much the better it is for the country at large! For that reason one must consider in detail what are and ought to be the economies that may be effected. I may quote another instance the result of my own immediate observation in modern times, and it is this: I do not remember ever seeing more efficient teaching in elementary schools than I saw some few years ago when examining schools in Dublin and in Paris, schools run entirely by Les Frères Chrétiens. In these, the teaching was of a most efficient character. The teachers were enthusiastic, and as far as I know, they received no separate remuneration for the work they did.
The tendency of the work of the Board of Education in recent years has been, if I may be allowed to say so without disrespect to the President, to discourage to some extent voluntary effort. I think what we want to see in our schools is as much variety as possible. Personally, I am not in favour of all our schools being brought under the direct control of the Board of Education. I would like to see a larger amount of responsibility thrown upon our local authorities because they consist of men who, to a great extent, give their services voluntarily in the cause of education, and they are the men who devote much time to it with the best possible effects. I have here a Report of the Committee on National Education and a memorandum of the Association of Education Committees in regard to the Geddes Report, and I cannot find that they approve of any single economy suggested. As regards secondary school grants, they say that
private benefactions seem now to be entirely diverted to modern universities.
I think of all the Geddes cuts the most unkindest cut of all was to assert that private benefactions are being entirely diverted to our modern universities, which happen to be represented in this House by the President of the Board of Education. There is no doubt that private benefactions to education generally are being lessened in consequence of the fact that the State is doing so much to assist education, My right hon. Friend referred to several schools which are prepared to accept Government grants or otherwise they
would have to raise their fees. I would like to say that the schools which have allowed themselves to come under the Board of Education are more numerous than the very small number which the President has suggested. I know of several schools belonging to city companies which have now agreed to take grants from the Board of Education.
University College, London, the school in which I was educated, has accepted Government grants, and has come under the Board of Education. I feel certain that the parents of the pupils in that school district could have afforded to pay higher fees, and I think the school might have continued to give the splendid education it used to give when I was a pupil, free from any control by a Government Department. That seems to me to be one objection to the general trend of public opinion at the present time. I will quote another passage from the letter written by Sir Alfred Hopkinson. Speaking of the tendency to place these schools under the direct control of the Board of Education, he says:
One of the causes of the downfall of Germany was the moral tone of much of the thorough and systematic education given to its people; but there seems to be a spirit abroad in our own land to-day that will lead, if unchecked, to a more deadly downfall from which there will be no recovery.
There is nothing in the past that I have objected to more than this tendency to Germanise the secondary education of this country, and I hope the people will take to heart the serious results that have followed from the complete control of secondary education in Germany by the State. As regards possible economies that may be effected, I find in a report of a Committee of the British Science Guild certain suggestions which are not in any way opposed to education. Most of the economies which the Guild have suggested could be carried out without any injury to its efficiency. Those in favour of economies, even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), are unwilling to do anything to affect the efficiency of our education. In their memorandum the British Science Guild say:
The allotment of 50 per cent, of local commitments has in practice entailed un-
expected and costly consequences, is subversive of the principle of local administration, and has led to an unnecessary multiplication of officials doing the same work with obvious unnecessary expense.
I hope that some remarks will be made with regard to the recommendation made in the same Report to the effect that—
The present scholarship system might reasonably be modified by limiting free places and maintenance grants for a time to those who have exceptional capacity, but whose parents cannot pay for their further education.
I understand that that is one of the subjects which will be further considered by the President of the Board of Education. I agree that the avenues to education ought to be made as wide as possible by which every child in the kingdom who is competent by circumstances and ability to profit by higher education should have the necessary opportunities; but to give this kind of education to children who are not likely to make any use of it is a great waste of money which we ought to endeavour as far as possible to avoid. The Committee of the Science Guild further say:
This free education should be available in schools of widely varying types, as recommended by the Departmental Committee on Scholarships and Free Places.
Here I think the Board have interfered in a manner which is not conducive to education, because they have limited their scholarships to children in grant-aided schools. The consequence is that the children of parents who are making great sacrifices for the education of their children will not have the opportunity of obtaining scholarships which are tenable in any university. The question of duplicate inspectorship has been discussed by the President in his very able speech, and he has promised to give the subject further consideration. He has said that the Board receive only one report from every elementary school every three years, but that inspectors visit the schools much more frequently. I suggest that there should be some arrangement between the local authorities and the Board of Education with regard to the inspection of schools which should not be too frequent. We should endeavour to secure competent and enthusiastic teachers and trust them and not over-inspect them. Certainly it is most inadvisable that too frequent inspection should take place by the Board's
inspectors and by the inspectors of the local authorities.
I would like a general arrangement to be made between our local authorities and the Board of Education, so as to avoid duplication of inspection. It would be a great advantage to many of our secondary schools if they could be regularly inspected by our local universities. I have thrown out these remarks, as it seems to me to be a duty on the part of those on this side of the House to criticise the work of the Board of Education because it is not likely to be criticised on the other side of the House. I do not know that there is any occasion on which the Estimates have been brought forward by a President in regard to whom there is more general agreement as to the deep interest which he takes in the education of the whole country, and the advantage, which I think for years we have not realised, of having as President a gentleman with such qualifications as the gentleman who now presides over the Education Department.
I remember with what enthusiasm I, and others outside, hailed the advent of the present President of the Board of Education to his present office, having regard to the reputation he had made in Oxford and Sheffield. I am sorry to say that all those hopes have been doomed to disappointment during the time which the right hon. Gentleman has been in office. I know of no more pathetic figure in British public life than the President of the Board of Education. The right hon. Gentleman has given expression to the very highest ideals in excellent speeches. Again and again we expected that he would "deliver the goods," but there is no proof in the speech which he has just delivered of realising the hopes which the right hon. Gentleman has stirred up in the minds of the people. We have to face the actual position which is put before us. I think the right hon. Gentleman would have done a very much greater service to education if, after enunciating his high ideals and putting them before the public, and finding the Government was unsympathetic, he had come out of it and let the public know that he was really in earnest. In that way he would have done a greater service, and he would have raised the enthusiasm of those interested in education to a much greater extent than he has done up to the present time.
In listening to the speech of the President and the speech delivered by the last speaker (Sir P. Magnus), one was reminded that after all, when we have stripped it of all the verbiage, these gentlemen would carry us back to the condition of things called by the Committee of Council in 1839 education "suited to the condition of workmen and servants." In fact they want our education to be purely a class matter, setting up a class war and class differences amongst the mass of the people, making it more difficult for them to get on in a manner that one would expect them to get on. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said that you cannot estimate the value of the teaching wholly by the amount of money expended upon it. That is true, but you cannot draw a parallel between the condition of Athens and our commercial system where everything is valued on a cash basis, and all these high ideals have very little hope of being carried out. It is necessary that those who are engaged in the teaching profession, if they are going to give their best in training and directing the young, should be free from the burden and worry of economic necessities, and at least they should have a sufficient income to keep them above the border line of continual worry and distress. Even learned people make very great mistakes and contradict themselves in a short speech. While the hon. Member opposite was deploring the money spent on education and pressing the view that we have to economise, he went on to say that he believed that there should be a highway for every child to proceed to the Very best possible education. Yon cannot, provide that highway unless you provide the necessary money, and if you provide the money the importance of the expenditure in the view of those concerned with the education of the people is not to be measured so much by the amount of individual teaching, but rather by the greater number of children who are given an opportunity for a bigger and broader education. That is the case we want to put before the Committee. The President of the Board has told us of the economies that are going to be effected. They are enough, I am sure, to make anyone con- cerned with education weep and feel real regret at what it means in throwing back the education of the present generation and denying to many thousands of likely children—the potential wealth of this country—any possibility of the development of real education to help us win back our place and position in the world. If I understood the right hon. Gentleman correctly the money to be paid out to the education authorities is to be paid out largely in the form of block grants—a certain sum of money is going to be supplied and the authorities will have to keep their demands upon that expenditure within those limits. It is true the right hon. Gentleman said that on certain points they are not giving effect to the recommendations of the Geddes Committee. They may not be doing it directly, but there are other ways of doing it. Pressure has been brought to bear on education authorities which, if not directly, has intimidated them into cutting down their expenses. It has had the effect of reducing facilities, of overcrowding children in class rooms, and of making it possible that teachers will be dismissed.
All these things are happening. I was in a school yesterday in one of the poorest parts of this city. That school had not been painted for 16 years, and the authorities are told that they cannot hope to have it painted for the next year or two, because they will get no assistance and will not rank for the 50 per cent, grant from the Board of Education. That is typical of many schools. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is that a private school?"] It is a London County Council school. I went to Bedford the other day, and I found in that county some schools had been closed and others were overcrowded, and in one case actually the teachers were teaching two-classes in a room, the teachers being back to back with a gangway between them, and they were shouting against each other. That is part of the condition which is already being brought about under the right hon. Gentleman's administration and jurisdiction! It is well to remember, in regard to these matters, exactly where we stood a few years ago and where we stand at the present moment.
The report of the Departmental Committee on Scholarships and Free Places, in 1920 stated that there were no fewer than 75 per cent, of the children attending elementary schools who were capable of profiting by secondary education. The children who go into these free places from the elementary schools have to have a very much higher standard of education than those who are fee paying. We are in fact demanding from those who have had the least opportunities both by environment and by up-bringing to get the best education, a very much higher standard than we seek from the others, and yet in face of all that it is well to remember that, in 1920, 11,134 of these children were refused admission to secondary schools because there were no free places for them, and, in addition to that, there were no fewer than 10,076 children who could not be provided for because of insufficient accommodation. I have no hesitation in saying that the action of economising on education has been the biggest blow struck at the supremacy of this nation since the military attempt in 1914. It is one of the most disastrous things possible. We can afford to cut down almost anything rather than expenditure on the education of our children in these days, because, in spite of all that may be said, in spite of the criticisms we have had regarding the German system of education, the Germans are nevertheless going to be a most serious menace to us in the struggles we have to face, and their standard of education gives a much larger number of children a bigger share in Higher Education.
Having said that I want to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention, and the attention of the Committee, to the peculiar position that has arisen in London in consequence of the action of the Board of Education in refusing to carry out their side of the agreement, as it was understood, by the London County Council in reference to the salaries of teachers. I do not know whether I caught the right hon. Gentleman quite accurately—he will correct me if I am wrong—but I gathered he said that the Burnham Committee was not a Government Committee, that the Government were not bound by its decisions, and I think, too, he suggested there should be some sort of Committee set up to provide a national settlement on the question of teachers' salaries.
I am sorry I did not make myself quite clear. What I said was that the Burnham Committee was not a Government Committee. It was not a Committee of the Board of Education, but the Board allowed some of its members to attend the Committee, in order to assist it with information as to facts. Lord Burnham himself has fully admitted that the Board was not bound by the decisions of the Committee. Of course, when the Committee did report, its report was considered by the Board and, in conjunction with the Chancellor' of the Exchequer, we came to certain conclusions on the report. We accepted it with certain qualifications and modifications, which I stated in my letter to Lord Burnham.
But I gathered from the right hon. Gentleman that he expressed his own desire that some form of machinery should be set up to deal with the question of teachers' salaries.
I said I thought it was a very convenient thing to have the machinery of the Burnham Committee, and I hoped that that would be used for the purpose. I am sorry if I did not make myself quite clear.
The position which I find very difficult to accept is this. If the right hon. Gentleman had his own representatives attending the Burnham Committee, and hearing all the discussions, surely they were a party to a great extent to its report along with the representatives of the local educational authorities.
Again I am afraid I have not made myself quite clear. I am sorry to have to intervene. When I was asked whether I would allow any of the officers of the Board to be present at the discussions of the Burnham Committee, I made it perfectly clear that I could not permit any of my officers to be present at those discussions unless it was understood that they were not to commit my Board. That was understood by Lord Burnham himself, and by all the members of the Committee. It must not be said, therefore, that the presence of officers at the Board at the discussions of Lord Burnham's Committee in any way committed me or my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I merely allowed my officers to go there in order to be of some help to the Committee by giving it facts and figures.
I certainly have no wish to misrepresent the position of the President of the Board of Education in this matter. I fully understand and appreciate his point, but I still say that the right hon. Gentleman could not have representatives on that Committee who heard all the discussions and knew all that was going on, and then wholly divest himself of any share of the responsibility arising from any decision the Committee may have arrived at. I put that forward as my personal opinion, and I say it, particularly having regard to the fact that the report of that Committee has been accepted, to a certain extent, by the right hon. Gentleman. The position I want to put is one which has arisen in connection with the salaries of the elementary school teachers under the London County Council. By the block grant that has been carried this year, the London County Council must find themselves with a deficiency of something like £312,855. At the beginning of 1920 the relations between the London County Council and the teachers were considerably strained, and there was a demonstration outside the County Hall, where members of the London County Council were besieged, and the hon. Member for Fulham (Sir Cyril Cobb), the Chairman of the Education Committee, had to seek another way out of the Council Chamber so as to avoid being recognised by those who were demonstrating. If I remember aright the right hon. Gentleman himself was present at a meeting in the Kingsway Hall and suffered from a similar demonstration. We appear to be getting past that trouble now. Discussions were held, and the teachers agreed to accept the Burnham scale on the understanding that the carry-over should be in one year instead of being spread over two or three years. That was agreed to and put into force somewhere about April, 1920, and it had been in operation for some months without any intimation having been received from the Board of Education that they dissented from it in any way. However, after a period of six months it was conveyed to the London County Council that this arrangement would not rank for grant.
In the letter sent to the London County Council the right hon. Gentleman was not wholly correct in his history. Again and again he refers to the acceptance of the Report of Lord Burnham's Committee and to the agreement between the council and the teachers. Let it be remembered that the right hon. Gentleman's own representative was there, and knew what was going on, and although the arrangement was communicated to the Department in February, it was not until July of the same year—some months afterwards—that any intimation was conveyed to the council of any dissension as to the action of the council paying these salaries in the manner they were being paid. The position of the council now is that they will either have to break faith with their teachers—a thing no large public body would care to do—or they will have to cut down salaries, or they will have to dismiss something like 2,000 teachers. Of course, the last alternative is utterly unthinkable in these days. If this part of the bargain is not observed by the Board of Education, then it is going to throw an increased burden on the London ratepayers of £196,000. After all, the main issue is economy. It is ridiculous to suggest any economy like that when it simply means that you are ceasing to take the money out of one pocket and taking it instead from the other pocket. Further than that, you are proposing to take it out of the pocket of the people who can least afford to pay it. It does mean that the poorest districts are going to bear an increasing burden, because of their poverty and of the difficulties under which they labour. That will arise from the Minister of Education not carrying out his side of the bargain, which is perfectly clear.
The composition of the London County Council is similar to that of the majority party in this House, and they are unanimous in declaring that there is something approaching a breach of understanding between the Board of Education and the London County Council's Education Committee in this matter. The agreement we came to with the teachers was communicated to the Department, and they took some months before they gave a reply. On the basis of that agreement we arrived at a settlement with the teachers, and we ought to honour it and carry it out. I hope that, when the right hon. Gentleman comes to reply, he will at any rate give some assurance that in that particular case he is going to keep faith and meet the London County Council in this matter. Otherwise, one will be forced to the conclusion that it is not so much a matter of economy as of taking the burden off the shoulders of those who are best able to bear it and piling it up on the shoulders of the poorest people, at the same time putting the education authorities in a very difficult position with their teaching staff. I much deplore the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, particularly in view of his reputation and of the speeches that he has made outside. His speech was a retrograde one in every sense of the word so far as the education of the country is concerned. It is sowing the seeds of great economic disaster in the days to come, and really, in the long run, it means that ultimately the children are to be made to bear the burden and the cost of the War.
Sir J. D. REES:
No one would have thought, who heard the President of the Board of Education, that he was dealing with the dispensation of money collected with great difficulty from the almost empty pockets of the taxpayers and ratepayers of this country. Rather did I think he seemed to feel that, when the river of the rates joined the flood of the taxes, the mingled stream was sufficient, like the fabled Pactolus of old, to cover the whole country with gold. I have no intention of dealing with any particular items, except one with regard to which I put down an Amendment, in the hope that it would assure me a brief hearing this afternoon. Before coming to that, may I refer to one question upon which I think an explanation might be useful to other hon. Members besides myself? The Estimates for the year 1922–23 amount, as hon. Members will see, to £75,450,000 from rates and taxes. Adding to that £13,000,000, which is roughly the figure for Scotland, one gets £88,000,000 as the probable total expenditure in the current year upon education. Turning, however, to the Geddes Report, one finds a figure of £103,000,000. That shows a difference of some £15,000,000, the greater proportion of which—say £10,000,000— must be spent, if spent at all, by the right hon. Gentleman's Department. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, will he kindly say exactly what is to be the total expenditure on education up to the 31st March next? Is it to be £103,000,000, as estimated by the Geddes Committee, or is it to be the £75,000,000 of this Estimate, plus £13,000,000 for Scotland, that is to say, £88,000,000 together? I do not propose to go into the question at length, because there are many hon. Members present who may fairly be considered to be what is called technically more interested in education than myself, though none would be more glad to see a most careful and critical examination of expenture at a time when the country is in such serious financial straits.
I am only concerned with the Board of Education's Estimate, and that is the Estimate for the year. I do not know what are the other figures which the hon. Baronet has mentioned.
Sir J. D. REES:
I took them from the Geddes Report, and, as there is that difference, I think it might be worth the while of the right hon. Gentleman to explain it. I come now to the Amendment which I put down. In the Estimates before the House, there is a sum for the higher education of ex-officers and men at the Universities. Taking the figures given in this Estimate, the expenditure under this head, which was to have been £6,000,000, is now to be £8,000,000, and the selection of officers of the Army and Navy who are to benefit by this scheme has not ended, but was continuing up to quite recently. I have often brought this matter before the House, but have never obtained any support, and I feel that my voice is still the voice of one crying in the wilderness. I will not, however, cry very long, but will try to make my tears as short as possible. The theory, I believe, is that this £6,000,000—now £8,000,000—which is to be spent upon educating these officers will make up for a gap in the education of those who were previously in the habit of going to a university, and were diverted from the university for the far more important service of fighting for their country. I venture to suggest, however, that these officers were not people who required this public assistance. I do not say that without having endeavoured to find out. No nominal roll is published to show that these gentlemen, who are obtaining the most expensive education in the world, cannot afford to pay for it, or, indeed, that there was any necessity that they should have this education. In point of fact, it is not necessary for any particular individual to be educated at the university at the expense of the taxpayer. It is, no doubt, most desirable that those who are conspicuously capable should have this class of education, and means exist by which those with or without funds may get it. But here we have 30,000 officers sent to participate in this extremely expensive education at the cost of the general taxpayer, who himself cannot afford, except in very rare cases, to send his own children to these universities. We have 30,000 officers sent to enjoy what must necessarily be for the most part confined to the most well-to-do classes in the country.
If these gentlemen really are indigent, it is of very doubtful benefit to them to receive an education the hall-mark of which is a blend of intellectual arrogance and sentimental Socialism. I am not merely laying my own opinion before the Committee. One of the most able men in the City said that it takes five years to eradicate the evil effects of a university education. If young men are really indigent, if they are not able to afford this class of education, the worst thing that can happen to them is that they should be kept for three or four years away from practical life, obtaining education which is likely to be of very little use to them in the future. I confess that the character of the education given whets my appetite to put an end to this expenditure, but I maintain on ordinary grounds that it is unfair that the taxpayer should be put to the great expense of meeting it; and the ratepayer in Scotland is cruelly oppressed in order to provide his share. Why do not we have a list of the beneficiaries, so that the Committee may be able to judge for themselves—names are sometimes very tell-tale things—whether these officers are proper recipients for this eleemosynary education. I submit, even to those who really welcome expenditure on education, irrespectively of its object or results, that there is a case for the most careful and meticulous dispensation of the money collected with the utmost difficulty just now from the overburdened taxpayers and ratepayers, and not for continuing this experiment, which, as I think, is a piece of fantastic benevolence for a particular class. I have seen large numbers of these youths who are now crowding into the universities. They are there in their thousands at Oxford and Cambridge, and I protest that they are not people whose pecuniary circumstances are such as to require or justify expenditure upon them out of the taxes and rates.
I presume that the Act of 1918 authorised such a charge as this—I really do not know. I do remember that Act passing through the House. I was one of the 30 enthusiastic educationists who were able to attend! The Act was passed by a small handful of Members, of whom I was the only one who ever inquired into what it was going to cost. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I do submit that there is a case, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will explain why these officers cannot now be sent away from the universities to take that practical part in life for which this education is presumed to fit them. It is not the case now that they require a university degree in order to get a job. A university degree now does not obtain anyone a job. Very often it is an obstacle to getting a job, because it has given the possessor fastidious tastes and habits which may very well unfit him for the rough-and-tumble of life, though it may be that it fits him to sit on these benches. It was stated on one occasion, when I referred to this matter, that everyone who goes to the university shares in some, degree in the public assistance of social service funds. That is true to some extent, because of the grants of £30,000 a year which the older universities obtain. An hon. Member threw that at me, saying that I had participated in it. It would make no difference if I had, but I should like to say that I never was there, and that at the time when I should have been there I was already a wage slave in India. I do not wish to go further into this. I could desire that someone had charge of this reduction who had some power of invective and denunciation which I have not, to be able to impress upon the President of the Board of Trade that it is right and proper that there should be a reduction in this charge, which the taxpayer and the ratepayer cannot afford.
The right hon. Gentleman's speech has left an impression upon my mind of very considerable relief. It encourages the hope that the great work of national education will not be unduly thrown back and the educational fabric will not be seriously impaired, notwithstanding the difficult financial conditions through which the country is passing. But I must not spend time on mere generalities. There are a few practical questions to which I am anxious to refer. I believe every teacher in the country will concur in the view that the head teachers of schools should take a large part in the actual work of teaching. That is a proposition from which no one will dissent. But when the right hon. Gentleman goes on to say the head teacher shall accept responsibility for a class, that is a totally different matter. It will be practically impossible for a school of 250 to be conducted satisfactorily, when the staff of assistants may be of a very poor quality indeed, if the head teacher, who ought to be supervising the work of unsatisfactory assistants, is tied down to the work of one class. The right hon. Gentleman should try to achieve his object, not by tying the teacher down to a class, but by a larger insistence on the head teacher taking an active part in the teaching work of every school, which is really a substantial difference. Everyone engaged in the work of education realises that in many a school there is no certificated assistant other than the head teacher, or there may be one, and then after the one certificated assistant you have the uncertificated and the supplementary teachers. The only qualification of many of the latter is that they are 18 years of age and have had some approval from the inspector, who could not get anything better. These supplementary teachers require constant supervision, for they may do more evil than good in a school unless they are carefully watched, and the head teacher cannot do that if he or she be tied down to the work of a particular class. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider it, and also to reconsider the figure. I think 250 is far too high. It is the practice of some authorities to require responsibility where the school is one of 200. I think that is the case in the small schools in London. There it can be done, but to touch the figure of 230 or 240, I am afraid, will very seriously interfere with the efficiency of the school.
Again I agree with the right hon. Gentleman as to the desirability of inspection. The hon. Member (Mr. Hogge) recalled to my mind a scene I witnessed many years ago when the late Mr. A. J. Mundella stood at the Treasury Box submitting the Education Estimates for the year and gravely informed the House that the passes in arithmetic during the past year were 2 per cent, better than they were in the year before, that that was not very much, but that it was in the right direction. That was the estimate then, on examination in individual subjects, of the work of the inspector, and apparently the hon. Member is a survivor of those ancient days and would gladly revert to the system of inspection. I think he must be a solitary survivor, for there is hardly anyone engaged in educational work who would desire to go with him. The inspectors are necessary, but I totally disagree with the idea that it is necessary to duplicate inspection—that you should have one set of inspectors sent by the Board of Education and another sent by the local education authority. The poor teacher is worried to death. How can he serve two masters with different educational ideals? He can no more do it to-day than in biblical days. He is sure to offend one or the other. He generally succeeds in offending both. Some economy might be secured, some educational progress, some peace in the schools, if the duplication of inspection could be brought to an end. Inspection is necessary, but the inspector is not merely to be the ears and the eyes of the Board of Education. He ought to be very much more than that. He ought to be an expert adviser of the teachers in the schools, carrying from one place to another the best illustrations helpful to the teachers, and not merely a hostile critic.
I want to deal with one or two questions of wider public interest. It has been a great relief to me to hear that the Board will not propose to rigidly curtail the number of free places in secondary schools. One of the worst recom- mendations of the Geddes Committee was the limitation of the opportunities for higher education for poor children. My right hon. Friend says he is anxious to have more rigid examination of the pupils who enter the secondary schools. I agree. Will he go so far as to exclude those who bring the fees and cannot bring the brains? I wish he would. If the Geddes Committee are of opinion that there are pupils admitted to secondary schools who will not profit thereby, they are not always those who come in with "free places." There are many of them who come with their parents' money and cannot bring the brains with them, and I hold that they are filling places in the schools which might be more profitably filled by those who have the brains but have not the money. Therefore let us carry this principle right through. There is a serious dearth of accommodation in the secondary schools. There is a waiting list in nearly every large town, and this is going to be a very serious problem indeed. A child of 12, 13 or 14 has won a scholarship and cannot find a place. Months are passing and years slip by. The child has lost an opportunity for life, and I know full well what will be the attitude of that child through life and how bitterly he will criticise a state of society which left him a hewer of wood and a drawer of water when he might have filled, with profit to himself and the State, a higher position. The chance is lost because we are driven at present to limit the accommodation which the schools can offer. But if it be necessary to limit the accommodation, surely every place which exists, or which can be made, should be used to the very best advantage.
What about children who come into the secondary schools under the age of 10 or 11 and hold places which ought to be filled by boys of 13, 14, 15 or 16 years of age? One of the right hon. Gentleman's own secretaries in years gone by wrote, in a preface to the Regulations for Secondary Schools, that this admission of children to secondary schools under the age of 10 was a concession to social prejudice. I am not having any of that. I detest these concessions to social prejudice. What the country wants is the best brains of every child, whether rich or poor. Here are children going into the schools, filling places, using up teachers' time, spending national money, and but for this social prejudice the proper place for these children would be in the nearest public elementary school, and it would be a very great advantage to the State in years to come if the child of the rich and the child of the poor rub shoulder to shoulder in the public elementary schools, where they can now receive a thoroughly sound and clean education. There may have been some excuse in the days gone by, but the establishment of a school medical service has removed all that excuse. Let the right hon. Gentleman discourage the admission of children of tender years to the secondary schools. Let him not limit the possibilities for advancement to the children of the rich.
In this connection, may I draw special attention to a circular recently issued by him with regard to maintenance grants for children attending central schools. I have grave doubt whether ho is not acting ultra vires. Indeed, I have very grave doubt whether the attitude of the Board in saying "we will recognise this expenditure, we will not recognise that," is not altogether illegal. Take this particular case of maintenance grants. Under the Education Act of 1907 the local education authority was empowered to provide scholarships to children attending these schools, and under the Act of 1918, Section 24, the authority was empowered to grant maintenance allowances. Clearly, therefore, it is within the power of the local authorities to do this. But it is further provided by Section 44 that the Board of Education, not "may," but "shall," pay grants in respect of money lawfully expended by the local authority. Surely this money is lawfully expended. I hold that this expenditure on maintenance grants to children attending these central schools is lawfully incurred and ought to be met by a 50 per cent, contribution from the Board of Education. But I leave aside the question of legality, and ask the Committee to consider the facts. These central schools provide a course of instruction for children between 12 and 16. They are very largely secondary in their type. They are designed to fit a child of the age of 16 to enter the field of commerce or of industry. Some of them have a distinct industrial bias, others have a distinct commercial bias. They are always full. The demand for them is great. They were brought into being by petitions from the trade unions and borough councils of London. They have amply justified their existence. The parents of a number of children who come forward for admission to these schools are too poor to keep them there for the whole four years. They are willing to make great sacrifices, to give up the wage-earning of the child, and to strive to maintain the child to the age of 16; but they cannot manage it altogether, and we in London have been in the habit of making a small grant to the parents of these children to enable them to take up their scholarships and to attend these schools. What has been the result? We have found that the children in receipt of maintenance grants are able to remain in the schools 10 months longer than the children who do not receive the grant. Ten months in a period of four years is a pretty considerable fraction of the child's school course. This system has obviously justified itself. If we continue to carry on this work in London the whole of the cost is to be thrown upon the ratepayers. I hope that London will shoulder the burden rather than let the children starve educationally. This is being done in the interests of economy, but I see no national economy if the burden be thrown upon the ratepayer instead of upon the taxpayer. It reduces somewhat the Estimate that comes before this House. It is a few thousands of pounds.
I am not alone in making this protest, I hold in my hand a protest from 28 local education authorities against this action of the Board of Education, authorities like Bristol, Manchester, and some of the largest towns, Durham County, small and large communities, all protesting against this particular step of the Board in excluding from the possibility of advancement some of the children of the poor. The rich man's child suffers no loss under the Geddes Committee Report. The rich man's child suffers no loss under the action of the Board of Education. The whole of the losses will fall upon the children of the poor. I cannot resist the conclusion, and I do not think anyone can, that the children of the poor' will contribute in the future to national prosperity, if properly nurtured in their youth, as fully as the children of the rich. If the whole of our educational work were a charitable action, if it were an ordinary family domestic arrangement, I could understand the withdrawal of State grants altogether; but the whole raison d'etre of State grants is the future of our country, the training of these children as citizens, as competent skilled workers in industry and commerce. I wish that some of those who carp at the expenditure of national money upon education had the ghost of an idea of what the aim of the school of to-day really is. If they think that we are merely training the children in advanced mathematics or intricate problems of arithmetic, or even struggling to master the complications of English spelling, they have a wrong conception of the aims of the schools. The really strong, powerful, skilful teacher has citizenship and life's duties before his mind always, and it is that for which we bring the children into the schools, and for which we train our teachers and try to pay them adequate salaries. It is to save the State, and not to confer a benefit upon any individual. This Committee and the country will never realise the full merit of national expenditure upon education until it understands the objects for which that money is being spent.
I know that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education feels as strongly as any man on this subject. It would be seriously to misjudge him if I did not attach value to the past record of his work, and to the wonderful awakening that he has caused throughout the country on behalf of national education. I sympathise with him in the period of difficulty through which he has passed, and if I deplore some of his actions, or protest against them now, may I ask him to believe that it is not in any spirit of condemnation, but in order that I may encourage him to persevere in the great work which he has undertaken. I have many opportunities of ascertaining public opinion. I am not referring to the opinion of teachers, although I do not regard that as valueless, but to opinion that is gathered up and down the country at the many public meetings which I address on popular education, and I am absolutely convinced that if my right hon. Friend will go lull steam ahead with this work he will hive practically the whole population of he country behind him. There is nothing which appeals to an audience, whether it be in Grimsby, in Bradford, in the south-west of England, or elsewhere, so much as the upbringing of the children of the State with a view to increasing our national prosperity.
There is another side of the picture to which I feel driven to draw attention, although I do it with very great reluctance. I noticed that my right hon. Friend referred to the fact that there were repairs to school buildings long overdue, and that it was our duty to safeguard the health and physical condition of the children attending the schools. On a previous occasion I have drawn the attention of the Committee to the fact that there are village schools in this country in such an insanitary condition that they ought to be closed forthwith, and that it is nothing short of criminal to compel children to attend such schools. It must not be forgotten that if a parent refuses to send a child to school, even if the school be insanitary, there is prosecution and penalty. I am determined in some way or another to get public attention directed to this matter, because I am quite sure that if the facts are known the public will insist on the Board taking action, however stringent the financial conditions may be. I heard my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) ask who was to pay.
That is the sort of remark one constantly hears. I am certain that my right hon. Friend would never send a child of his own into buildings of this sort. He would never allow a relative of his to be compelled to send a child to a school of this character. I will say more, for there is a soft side in his character, though it is not often disclosed here, and that is if he knew the facts as they exist at this moment, he would be among the first to support me in the appeal that I am making. I will give a few instances. At a Market Bosworth Rural Council meeting a report was read respecting the insanitary condition of a school. I am prepared to give names, if necessary. The medical officer reported:
To be realised fully it must be seen, but I seriously doubt if more wretched and insanitary accommodation could be found in a school outside Soviet Russia. The whole place is most insanitary and is a direct menace to the health of the children, and I would ask the Council to issue a closing Order to take effect immediately. This course with regard to a school is, I am aware, an unusual one, but in the circumstances it is justifiable and necessary, as it
appears that the authorities responsible will do nothing to remedy this appalling condition of things, which is not only a disgrace to them, but to civilisation itself.
That is a Leicestershire school to which children are compelled to go. In November last I drew the attention of the President of the Board of Education to this case. He said the Board were aware of it, that they had been aware for some time that the premises were unsatisfactory, and that he was making immediate inquiries into the matter. I have never heard the result of those inquiries. I will give a Wiltshire case. I do so hesitatingly. I am prepared for full catechism in regard to these cases if I am pressed. I have a hundred of them, more or less bad. Here is an official report for which I can vouch. It is a report made in May, 1921, upon a school in Wiltshire:
The condition of the offices was in-sanitary and offensive; two offices for 125 hoys, and four for 111 girls and 40 infants. The receptacles overflowing, floors flooded. The drain from the urinal runs direct into a watercourse at the bottom of the garden. The contents of the offices are placed on a large mound in a field 40 feet from the nearest class-room window.
On the day of that Report there were 25 cartloads on the mound. Is that sanitary? Is it a fit place to bring children to live there?
The schoolmaster's house sanitation causes offensive odours, as the pit is only a few feet distant from the yard used by the infant children.
I telegraphed there this week to know what has been going on, and I find that the condition of things continues, that a scheme has been approved which will probably cost £700, that there is no earthly probability of getting the money, that the school is to remain open in the meantime. I have dozens of these cases, where there is no water supply whatever laid on to the school building, no separate accommodation for the teachers, although there are men and women on the staff of the schools. I have one case where the sole accommodation for the teaching staff is in the boys' offices, and there are women on the staff. Some of these cases have been known to the Board of Education for 20 years. I have called attention to them. I have one case where nine inspectors in succession have reported, but nothing has been done. The Church catechism has been the most expensive item in the educational system of this country.
Here is the case of a headmistress. I know the facts are correct, because 1 would not quote one until I had fully investigated it, and my right hon. Friend knows by whom some of the investigations have been made. Here is a school where the private and only road to the Church vicarage and infants' school was opened up for the purpose of laying on water to the vicarage. The pipe passed the school-yard gate, but it was not taken in to the school. The roadway has never been made up since. It is many inches deep in mud in winter. The children enter school in a fearful state. The playground is worse. The leaves from half-a-dozen trees remaining on the ground become a sodden mass, stopping all the drains. The children's offices are deplorable. There is no lavatory accommodation Slates are off, and The school wall for the teachers, gutter-pipes down. The school wall is now falling. Dampness is penetrating walls, and plaster falling off. The apparatus put in cupboards becomes mouldy and rusty. Windows have been broken for nearly two years, and have paper pasted over the holes. These children are to be brought up to lead decent lives in their cottage homes after that! Here is a little touch which, though homely, I think will appeal to some of us:
The class-room door cannot be opened from the inside as our experiment with a nail and a piece of string on one side with a hairpin through the broken handle on the other docs not answer.
They cannot even get the money to repair the door handle, and that goes on for months!
Rather than submit to that, I think the wiser course would be for the teachers to leave the school. I think these are very heartless interruptions. Hero are men and women who have slaved in these schools, loyal to their church beyond a loyalty I can comprehend, who have slaved on year after year, and can you wonder they complain? One man who sent me one of these reports has lost since Christmas one of his own children through throat disease and had another down with diphtheria. Medical men say it is entirely due to the insanitary condition of the premises. In another case, the only supply of water for school children is from a well which was condemned by medical authorities six years ago as impure. No accommodation for women teachers! We entice girls from good homes to spend four or five years in a good secondary school to train as teachers; we send them through the training colleges where they have many of the refinements of life; then they are appointed to some of these village schools, and are denied the common decencies of life. No financial stringency will justify a continuation of this sort of thing. I do not know how many cases there are. I know the Board has many a record of them, because they have beer, going on for years. Here is a school where an order has just been served on it for closing. I am told it will not be closed. Managers will not part with it. There are over 200 children in it. It is a church school. Only 12 families out of the whole lot go to church, the remainder go to chapel. There it is. The buildings are Crown property. If ultimately the local authorities persist in refusing to maintain the buildings they will revert to the Crown, and I trust they will transfer them to the local authority, and the condition of things will improve.
This is going on in village after village, and the children there have as much right to the common decencies of life as the child in the large town which is well provided. They have a right also to the sympathies of this House, and the right hon. Gentleman must not plead financial stringency as an excuse for allowing this to go on. This House will not much longer tolerate the denominational difficulty as an excuse for this. [HON. MEMBERS: "This House will stand anything!"] I do not think Parliament will long tolerate conditions of this sort. I have been into some of these schools. I have stood on the floor of a village school, and have had to shift my position because of the rain pouring through the roof. No money for repairs! I have the record of a school here—an infants' department. On four successive days in this last January what was the temperature of the room into which the little infants of six or seven years of age went? At nine o'clock the temperature did not exceed 36 degrees Fahrenheit. At 10 o'clock it had reached 38 degrees, and in the two departments of that school on only one half-day throughout the whole of that month did the temperature reach 54 degrees. It is atrocious to keep little children of six and seven years of age shuddering in the bitter cold under compulsion. Who is it that cannot afford the money to get them more than three oil stoves to heat two huge rooms? I do desire, not in the interests of teachers—because they can move—but in the interests of the children who, under our law, are compelled to attend school, that the Board of Education should take most energetic measures, either to secure the adequate repair or the complete abolition of buildings which have no right to be called schools because they are rather death-traps for the children who attend them.
I feel it exceedingly difficult to follow my hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down because he has made a speech which has visibly, and very properly, impressed the greater part of the Committee. I am sure he will forgive me and will allow me to say—in fact, I think he would be among the first to emphasise the fact—that there is some little lack of perspective in the picture he has put before the Committee. What I mean is that he has selected, very properly from his own point of view in order to make that impression on the Committee which he obviously has made, certain instances which undoubtedly bear a minute relation to the whole of our education system. [HON. MEMBERS: No!"]
May I explain that in my speech I recognised the limits of time, and throughout the whole of my statement remembered that they that be whole need not a physician, but the sick.
That is a sentiment to which I should take no exception, but I still maintain that if my hon. and gallant Friend suggests that the picture he has drawn is a picture which is true of the educational machinery of this country as a whole, he has put it in totally false perspective. I do not for an instant deny the accuracy of every case he has brought to the attention of the Committee, and I should be the very last person, as I think he would know, to defend any of these cases on their merits, but I do suggest that when we are discussing the Education Estimates for the year some sense of proportion and perspective should be maintained. After all, we are being asked to vote to-night the English and Welsh proportion of a total sum of, I think, £88,000,000. I hope very much that some portion of that £88,000,000, for I do not want to add to it, will be devoted to putting right the abuses which my hon. and gallant Friend has brought very properly to the notice of the House? Then I want to say just a word or two in regard to the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees), to whom the House always listens with such fascination. I hope that the five years or more which I have spent in this House will at any rate have obliterated some of the worst of the features of the University education which I enjoyed, but the hon. Baronet has taken exception to the spending of public money on ex-service men who have been sent to be educated at the University. Here, again, I do not for a moment deny that there are some cases in which that money has been very ill-spent. I admit there are such cases, but on the whole that was part of the debt which we owed to the ex-service man, and I think it is a debt which has not been too-amply repaid. I now pass to the substance of the speech which was addressed to the Committee earlier in the afternoon by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education. I am sure I am only speaking the sentiments of the whole Committee when I say that we listened to that speech as regards form if not substance with almost unqualified delight. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]
First, may I point out to the Committee a matter on which I think all parties may presumably be brought to agreement, that is with regard to the form of the Estimates presented to us. We do want to be in a position in this House, when we are called upon to Vote large sums of public money, really to understand what we are voting them for. The form of the Estimates which are presented to the House do not invariably convey that impression to the duller-minded among us, like myself. It is very difficult to put together from these Estimates the real aggregate cost of education in this country. One of the reasons is an obvious one, and is that in regard to services like that of education we only have before us a portion of the aggregate expenditure, only that which comes from the Vote of this House and is made good out of the taxes. Here, in passing, I would like to be allowed to express my gratitude to the President of the Board and to the Board of Education for the admirable memorandum with which they have provided us. But, of course, it is the Estimates which we are voting and not the memorandum, although the memorandum does help us to some extent to understand the position very much more fully than otherwise we should do. Take the question of the cost of administration, which will occur to many as an illustration. In the Estimates it is put down as £461,000 for headquarters' administration of the Board of Education, and £382,000 for inspections and examination, but if we are talking of the cost of educational administration of the country we must remember that we are dealing in these Estimates with only a fraction of that cost. Those figures are altogether exclusive of the cost of administration of the local authorities, which last year amounted not to £461,000, but to £2,814,000, and that figure is, again, exclusive of a further sum of £10,399,000 for rent, rates, taxes, insurance, fuel, light, cleaning, caretakers' wages, repairs to buildings, etc. I wish that a little of that £10,000,000 may be spared for the cases referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend.
That is my first point in regard to the machinery of these Estimates, which I admit it is very difficult to remedy, but that brings me to express my complete concurrence with the opinions expressed by the Geddes Committee on a point cognate to this. I notice that the Geddes Committee is not in fashion when the House of Commons is discussing questions of education, but I would suggest that they have brought forcibly to the attention of the House and of the country what is a very serious aspect of our expenditure on social service. It is this. They say in their Report:
There is one factor in administration which in our opinion has materially affected' the cost to the taxpayer and that is the
development of the percentage grant system. This system, which is common to education and public health services, has also been extensively applied in other Departments. Where in 1913–14 fixed or per capita grants were in force they now have been largely replaced by percentage grants while new grants introduced since that date have almost invariably been on the latter basis. Percentages vary from 20 per cent, to 75 per cent., the most frequent figure being 50 per cent. The advantage "—
as they go on to say—
gained from the percentage system is that it provides a stimulus to local authorities to improve the efficiency of the service. In fact"—
this is the point I want to impress—
it is a money-spending device. The vice of the percentage grant system is that the local authority which alone can really practice economy in these matters, loses most of the incentive to reduce expenditure, especially when the larger proportion is paid by the taxpayer out of the Exchequer. The deciding voice as to what money shall be spent is not that of the Government of the House of Commons, but that of the local authorities.
And they conclude, and I express my concurrence with them:
We consider that the percentage grant should be abandoned in the interests of economy and be replaced by fixed grants or by grants based on some definite unit.
I now pass to the Estimates as a whole. I find that the total estimated cost of education, including Scotland, which is nearly £13,000,000, is £88,000,000, of which sum £52,000,000 will be contributed by the State and the remainder by the local authorities. When I first attempted to call the attention of the House to the Report of the Geddes Committee—it was on the Debate on the Address—I addressed a warning to those who are zealous, as I claim to be myself, for education, that if they put themselves in an attitude of mere negation or pure resistance to the proposals of the Geddes Committee they might provoke such a reaction as would inflict great damage on the cause of public education. That appeal, which 1 made in all sincerity, has brought a considerable storm of criticism on my devoted head, but I feel convinced that my warning was amply justified. Only last month the National Union of Teachers issued, not a public but a private memorandum, but these private memoranda somehow find their way into the letter
bags of Members of Parliament. It is headed:
Memorandum for letters to Members of Parliament. The terms to be varied by each correspondent in his own style.
I can only say that my correspondents on the question have been very numerous and that they have varied the terms in their own style, but this memorandum has brought upon me and, I imagine, most other Members of the House, an avalanche of correspondence. Last week there was, as the Committee probably know, a conference of this very highly-organised trade union at Torquay, and an address was delivered to that conference by the president of the National Union of Teachers, in which he permitted himself to speak of the Report of the Geddes Committee in the following terms:
Its pages reveal a spirit of callous indifference towards the needs of young life—
[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I was quite prepared for that cheer. I got a similar cheer yesterday when I referred to the description as callous of people who desired the emigration of the best of our people.
Under the guise of economy the Committee are attempting to destroy our educational system. The Report embodies the hopes and the philosophy of our social and political reactionaries. The Report cares little for human values or for the agencies that create these values. The complete cynicism of the successful buccaneer"—
is that Sir Eric Geddes or his companions?—
is written across its pages. They"—
that is, the teachers—
would never agree to any cut upon salaries paid under the guise of contribution towards pension," etc.
The Committee may have noticed that that presidential address has evoked expressions of deep regret from some of the best educationists in this country. Within the last few days there have been two letters addressed to the "Times" by men who have held the very highest position in our educational system. One was sent by Bishop Welldon, Dean of Durham. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I do not know why hon. Members should groan at the mention of the name of a man who has been one of the really successful teachers in this country, at least as successful as some of my other
hon. Friend opposite in the teaching profession. The other came from the pen of Sir Alfred Hopkinson, at one time the revered head and, I believe, the first Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester, for some years head of the Owens College in that city, a man whose repute among educationists is second to that of hardly anyone in this country. Precisely the reaction which I ventured some weeks ago to predict in this case is revealed in the letters to which I refer. Dean Welldon asks:
Does this presidential address represent the true spirit of the National Union of Teachers?
I think that probably there are present in this Committee men who have belonged to that union. I wish that they would tell us, and I ask the question in all sincerity and with real concern for the future of national education in this country, if that address does really represent the true spirit of the National Union of Teachers?
he goes on to ask—
the demand of the Union that every department of public life should be subject to economy except that of the teaching profession? Does the National Union of Teachers dispute the urgent need of economy as a means of reviving and expanding the industries which ministers to the prosperity, indeed to the very existence of the nation?
Then Sir Alfred Hopkinson put a question which I will put to every Member of this Committee, particularly to my hon. Friends opposite:
Docs any reasonable being honestly believe that the Members of the Geddes Committee who gave their arduous services to the country voluntarily, were really actuated by a desire to destroy our educational system under the guise of economy? Do they really honestly believe that that was the underlying motive of the Geddes Committee?
That is the imputation of a wholly unworthy motive. I am not here to maintain the verbal inspiration of the Geddes Report, or to suggest that in regard to education everyone of its recommendations ought to be adopted. My point is, that if you have, as hon. Members have, a real zeal for public education, you can do no greater disservice to the cause of public education than to put yourself in a position of antagonism to all suggestions for national economy. I pass very naturally from that to what is, I admit, a very delicate question. I mean that part of our expenditure which is responsible, I understand, for 70 per cent, of the total expenditure we are asked to vote to-night. I refer to the remuneration of the teachers. I take it that in every quarter of this House it will be acknowledged that before the War the teachers in our elementary schools were grossly underpaid. Certainly that is a point which I desire to emphasise. Then came the Burnham Committee. I understand from the President of the Board of Education that 65 per cent, of the local education authorities have adopted one of the scales recommended by the Burnham Committee. What is the broad result of the adoption of those recommendations? The broad result is that whereas before the War the average salary of a teacher in our elementary schools was £104 a year, the average salary to-day is £241 a year. The cost of teaching per unit of average attendance' in the last year before the War was 60s. 10d. It has gone up in the last year to 166s. There were further provisions in the recommendations of the Burnham Report that the scale, which was to come into effective operation on 1st April, 1921, was to be maintained in operation till 1923, and in some cases till 1925, but was then to be subject to revision only, as I understand, in an upward direction.
I suggest that the Burnham Committee was somewhat over hasty, both in its investigations and recommendations. I remember my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education saying in 1918 that there could be no greater danger to the State than a discontented body of teachers, and I agreed with him. It was probably in something of the panic engendered by that remark that the Burnham Committee did its work. I have said that there is no question as to the inadequacy of the salaries before the War, and I want also to say that there can be no question either of going back on existing contracts made with the teachers. The State must honour and the local authorities must honour any obligations that they have incurred, but that does not preclude the possibility of a revision of contracts in future. In particular I draw attention to two items. One is that this year the provision for pensions will amount to nearly £2,000,000, and it is estimated by the Geddes Committee that in future the State will have to bear a burden of £10,000,000 a year for pensions alone. The other item is in regard to training colleges. I think the cost of training teachers, not wholly in training colleges, but mostly in training colleges, for England and Wales is put down at £1,150,000 a year. When we are considering the remuneration of teachers in the elementary schools, we must remember that the teachers have been almost entirely educated at the expense of the community. In regard to training colleges, I shall make what I am afraid will be a rather bold suggestion. I would like to see them disappear altogether.
I am glad to have elicited that cheer from one of the most respected educationists in the House. I would like to see the State rely for its supply of teachers on the open market.
I mean that, in seeking for teachers for elementary schools, the State should get them in exactly the same way that you get teachers for the public schools or any other schools or for the universities—that they should go into the open market for them, instead of training them specifically for service in the elementary schools.
If my hon. Friend will permit me to continue my argument he will see what I mean to imply. My objection to these training colleges is based mainly upon two grounds. First of all, I object very strongly to professional segregation. I want to see teachers educated with people who are not destined to become teachers. I do not want the segregation of teachers any more than the segregation of clergymen. I object to seminaries for the training of clergymen. Then again I object to something which I think is implied in the term "training college." It seems to me to suggest a false perspective and a mistaken ideal of education. When we are educating teachers, as when we are educating other people, I do not want to suggest the idea that education consists of the infusion of a given set of facts. I am sorry that the hon. Baronet who sits for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) has disappeared. I do not wonder, but still I am sorry. I am sorry, because I noticed that in his speech a few weeks ago he expressed the opinion that he owed nothing whatever to education. I must say that the hon. Baronet was either exceptionally unfortunate or exceptionally ungrateful or— and I think this is the probable explanation—he was so exceptionally endowed with natural ability that education could add very little to it.
I hear from many sides of this House and elsewhere some such expressions in regard to early educational training as this: "I have forgotten everything I learned at school." I do not very much mind if they have, because it is not the object of education to fit people out with facts applicable to all circumstances. I was wholly in sympahty with my hon. and gallant Friend who spoke last as to the general purpose of training and education; that is to say, we have to remember that we are not training our young citizens for specific occupations in life; we are not training them to be teachers or to be clerks or to be grocers or to be soldiers, or to be clergymen or anything else. I want primarily to teach them and to train them to be citizens, to take their place in the economy of the State. If we had boundless money I would not grudge one farthing of it that was spent on education, but once more I appeal to those who have the interests of education at heart not to prejudice those interests by putting themselves into a position of antagonism to necessary and inevitable economy.
The hon. Baronet the Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees) said that it took a period of five years for a man to get rid of the effects of university education. When I listened to him I wondered how long it took to get rid of the effects of life in India, because if there is one class of men who should be the last to disparage the effect of university education it is that class of men who have had the experience of the hon. Baronet in India. I approach this subject from an entirely different angle. He is often the happiest man in life who, when things are not going well, can comfort himself with the reflection that, bad though things are, they might be worse. I am afraid there are many men like myself, interested in education, who have to fall back on that kind of philosophy at present when we are dealing with the policy which the Minister has been reluctantly compelled to accept in many directions. Reference has been made to the findings of the Geddes Committee. It may be that the members of that Committee look back with pride upon a good deal of their work, and I think they are entitled to do so; but I honestly believe that if there is one part of their Report, and work more than another upon which they should look back with misgiving, if not with shame, it is that part of their Report which deals with the subject of education. They have not been good enough to favour us with the evidence or the reasons which have led them to their melancholy conclusions, and it is therefore rather difficult to criticise them. But anybody who has read that part of the Geddes Committee's Report will agree, I am sure, that it is not only unsatisfactory but unsatisfying, because it does not enable us to judge of the reasons which prompted the decisions. When we read that Report and then hear the policy which the Government, at the instigation of the President of the Board of Education, has adopted, we can at any rate console ourselves with the reflection that things might have been worse in other circumstances and under other conditions.
I wish now to refer more particularly to some practical matters affecting education in Wales. Wales, I may be forgiven for saying, has always occupied a distinguished and honourable position in its efforts on behalf of education. Recently there was published as a Command Paper the report of the Board of Education under the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, and I must say that there are some parts of that report of a most disquieting character. I am not going to elaborate the points in any detail, but I wish to refer to two or three of them. First, there is the physical
condition of some of the secondary schools in Wales. Attention is drawn in the report to evidence which was given with regard to overcrowding, and apart from that it appears there is also evidence regarding the unsatisfactory way in which some of the schools are maintained. An hon. Member has already brought forward several very striking cases of the existence of this sore of thing in England, but he, as I understand, was referring to non-provided schools, and if that is the case I would ask my right hon. Friend to take drastic steps, and where that sort of thing is happening in such schools to withdraw the grant immediately until those responsible for the schools put them in proper order. In connection with this report dealing with intermediate schools in Wales, I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, who has done so much for education in Wales, to direct his attention to this point, and to go further into the evidence upon which the findings in the report have been based. In paragraph 12, page 9, of the report, there is another matter to which I would draw attention and which comes under the heading of "Language Teaching." It is a very grave disappointment to read that
The reports of the examiners of the Central Welsh Board on the work done in Welsh in 1920 contained comments that were of a very disquieting nature, but the strictures passed by the chief examiner in English of the work in English in 1921 are even more disquieting.
It is indeed a sad reflection on the-condition of intermediate education in Wales if the examiners can, in two successive years, make serious strictures upon the teaching in the one year of Welsh and in the other year of English. I think everybody will agree with me that there is no possibility of children getting education in the true sense of the word, unless they are enabled to delve into the treasures of literature, and they will never be able to understand literature and its beauties unless they first of all understand the language in which the literature is written. It is of the utmost importance in Wales that the teaching of English should be improved, and that there should be removed from it the strictures contained in this Report. I would also beg of the Parliamentary Secretary to see that, coupled with improvement in English, there should be an improvement in the
teaching of Welsh in order that the children of our own country may be able to appreciate and benefit from our own literature and language. I have had experience, even within recent weeks, as well as my experience when I was at an intermediate school in Wales, of what can be done in the promotion of real knowledge both of Welsh and English literature by enthusiastic teaching. I have come across two or three cases where a great deal has been done in that direction, and in view of what is contained in this Report, I earnestly beg the Parliamentary Secretary to devote a good deal of attention to the statements contained in the Report. I happened quite recently to be listening to a sermon, in the course of which the preacher was imagining what sort of replies would be given by the representatives of different nationalities to the question: "Who are the great men of your nation?" He went through a long series and finished up like this: "The Welshman, if he has not got a hero of his own, will probably say that it is Welsh blood in some great man which has made him great, such as Oliver Cromwell." That particular preacher knew enough of Wales to have been able to mention a good many great men. I am not at all sure that there is not some ground for fearing that outside political life—where everybody in Wales has a hero—there is a danger of the present generation in Wales not being as well-informed as they should be either in the language or the history of their country. I have read this Report with the gravest misgiving and I beg of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to give it attention in the near future.
In saying this, I should be very sorry if it should be thought that I was bringing a general accusation against intermediate education in Wales. I am very far indeed from either doing so or desiring to do so. I know the great work which has been done by the schools. I believe they are carried on efficiently, and they are carried on, according to this report, at a less cost per unit than is the case with the secondary schools in England. I do not wish to bring any sweeping accusation against them, but I hope this report will not be shelved without being closely followed up. My hon. Friend knows well that there has been for generations a great enthusiasm for education in Wales. That enthusiasm still exists and his efforts should be not to check it, but to direct it into the proper channels. Passing from Wales, I would wish to make one or two references of a more general nature with regard to the question of economy. I have never taken up the line that there should not in any circumstances be some reduction in expenditure on education. I am quite prepared to support a reduction in expenditure on education provided it can be shown that wasteful expenditure is reduced, and that our economical longings and yearnings are being directed to education last rather than first, as I am afraid a good many people wish to do. I was glad to hear the references of the President of the Board of Education to that part of the Geddes Report, which suggests that the compulsory age limit should be raised to six. Personally, I have never regarded this as primarily an educational question. I think the Government were well advised in turning down the proposal, but I would venture to press the President of the Board of Education at the same time to see if economies cannot be effected by ensuring that for these classes there shall not be employed highly trained and highly paid teachers when the work can be done equally well, if not better by other people possessed of the necessary qualifications. I am glad to know that he is inquiring into this matter.
In regard to the cost of administration, I cannot honestly say I found the speech of the right hon. Gentleman completely convincing. I agree with him as to the necessity of inspection, but I think in the present condition of finance he should see whether it is not possible to avoid some of the duplication of inspection, which is a pain and a trial to the teacher and from which, I very much doubt, if results are produced comparable to the expense as well as the annoyance which it involves. There are also small formalities with which teachers have to comply under Regulations issued by the Board of Education and the local education authorities, which are really a trial to them and which might be dispensed with. I think the right hon. Gentleman could take a little risk in this respect at the present time, because, as he knows, we have to-day a much better class of teacher than we had years ago. When the public system of education was started there was great need for inspection and for careful and close scrutiny. There is still need for the work of the inspectors, but I think the right hon. Gentleman could afford to take a little risk in view of the great improvement in the class of the men and the women who are adopting the teaching profession. There is another matter in regard to which I agree a monetary economy cannot be achieved, but in which an educational economy can be achieved, and that is in the more careful scrutiny of the children admitted to the secondary schools. I know it is extraordinarily difficult, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will try to ensure, as far as possible, that money is not wasted upon giving a secondary education to children, whether they be rich or poor, whether they be paid for by their parents or not, who are not going to benefit from that education. Coupled with that—and this is one of the difficulties which has been pointed out—he should be very cautious before he withdraws any facilities which enable poor children to proceed from elementary schools to secondary schools, and from secondary schools to universities. I have had experience in Wales of boys and girls who would never have been able, apart from the public system, to receive any great measure of education, but who, by reason of the education which they did receive with that assistance—and at the cost of tremendous sacrifices on the part of their parents—have come out with credit, not only to their schools and colleges, but with credit to the country to which they belong.
I happened to read in the paper this morning that there are in the Zoo birds which are said to mew like cats. I know there are many in this House and outside who are watching the President of the Board of Education with all the solicitude of a cat watching a bird upon which she hopes shortly to jump, but while the right hon. Gentleman has cats in his garden, he also has birds. I would like to be counted among the birds who are willing to comfort and encourage him, and although I have ventured to address one or two mild criticisms, I hope he will recognise that I am not even one of the birds which mew like cats. In spite of all that has been said, I believe the right hon. Gentleman has a great record to his credit since he first occupied the position which he now holds. He has shown himself a great educationalist. I wish he would also, from now on, try to show himself also, in an even larger degree than he has already done, a great administrator, in order to ensure that as far as the administration of his office is concerned, there can be no room for the charge of waste which is brought against him. In that way he will avert from his Department that suspicion, which is perhaps more general than he realises, and the existence of which at the present time, is unfortunately threatening to deprive him of the opportunity of carrying out his great ideals.
I want to refer to two matters which were very briefly touched upon by the President of the Board of Education. In one case the intimation is that before long, by its own weight, the dual system of elementary schools must in some shape or form come to an end, and that view was also taken by the hon. and gallant Member for Accrington (Major Gray). At the present moment there is a great feeling amongst the teachers that the profession is not an open one, that, while they all have a certificate given to them by the Government of the country, their treatment in the schools of the country is not at all alike. There are, roughly speaking, about 21,000 elementary schools in England and Wales, of which number rather more than 12,000 are denominational schools—those which belong to the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church—and those 12,000 odd schools are absolutely closed, as far as headships are concerned, to Nonconformists. When you consider that Nonconformists have to go through the same training as the others do, that they have the same certificates, and that they are of equal ability, bringing forward equal results, these teachers feel that it is not fair that this is the only public service in this country in which their religion debars them from obtaining certain posts. That is one of the results of the dual system, and one of the things we want to do is to see whether it is not possible to bring the dual system to an end on terms that are equally fair and honourable all the way round, so that teachers—never mind what their religion may be—shall have an equal chance to all the posts in the national service of education.
The next point is this. Again connected with the schools, you will find that it is impossible, as the Board of Education has already found out, to carry into effect the Act of 1918, in two respects certainly. In the first respect, we are told that there should be continuation schools and secondly that there should be central schools. Let us see what the difficulties in the way of carrying out the continuation schools are at the present moment. If you have a country district of England, and especially in the south and in the west, you will find that the denominational schools are something in the proportion of three to one of the council schools. That does not hold good of the whole of the country, but it is so in the south and west. If you take the county from which I come, Gloucestershire, of which I have a very intimate knowledge, you will find that there are something like 390 schools, of which 300 are denominational schools; in fact, 298 are Church of England and two are Roman Catholic schools. In our small country parishes, these schools are almost entirely Church of England schools, and you have in many places schools with less than 20 pupils in attendance. I myself, in a district contained within four miles, found one day one school with 16 on the books, two miles away another school with 11 on the books, and two and a half miles from the latter a school with nine on the books. How are you going to provide continuation schools in a district like that? You must remember that as long as the school is sufficient for the number of children in that particular parish, you cannot call upon the managers of that school to enlarge it in order to form a continuation school for the district surrounding, neither can you legally ask the ratepayers to enlarge those schools, as long as they are voluntary schools, in order to make them large enough for continuation schools or central schools.
Further, when we remember that the Act contemplates that all children from the age of 14 who have not had a secondary education or who are not undergoing secondary education will have to go up to the age of 18 to a continuation school—a day school, mind you, not a night school—and put in 320 hours in instruction, which practically means two days a week, just imagine the position of these schoolmistresses in the small country schools if they are going to have great lads there up to 18 years of age mixing with girls of 18. It would not be fit for the bigger people to go there, and it would be grossly unfit for the infants to be in the same school. Unless we can in some way do away with the dual system, and get all these schools under one authority, it is absolutely impossible to carry out the Act of 1918, and it is also quite true that a good deal of the money that is spent upon education is lost because we are not able to carry the education on in later years. If we are to get the full benefits of the Act, one of the first things that must be done is to concentrate those schools in the larger schools and see to it that facilities for education are brought home even in the most scattered country districts. The next point I want to call attention to is this, that the Minister of Education, speaking about a year ago, said we were paying an educational price for these religious difficulties, and the right hon. Gentleman then rightly asked, if that price was always to be paid. To-day we have heard him say himself that he thinks this dual school system will break down of its own weight. It seems to me that it would be very wise at the present time, instead of waiting until things come to a crisis, if the managers of the various denominational schools in the country would take counsel together and see if they could not come to some compromise, fair to all parties concerned, so as to abolish the dual system and have one national service right throughout.
The Minister of Education referred to the very high cost of special schools, such as those for the deaf, the dumb, and the blind. Unfortunately, that always will be so, but there is a class of school which costs even more than those, because if you take the figures which were given by the Minister himself in March last in this House, in reply to a question as to the cost, you will find that the average cost of a child who is in a school for mentally deficient or idiot children, or children who cannot avail themselves of the education given because of their defective brain power, is £95 per head per year. That is a very high price indeed, and the evil of the matter is this, that the number of those mentally defective, or imbecile, or idiot children—call them what you will—increases very largely indeed, if you compare them with the other population. If you take the ordinary population, you will find that for every three increase in the ordinary population of the country, those who are mentally deficient are as five to three. In this country up to now we have had spasmodic efforts to inquire into these things and see whether some remedy could not be found, but in the United States of America they have gone into this thing very systematically and very thoroughly indeed, and they have found this out, that many of the criminal cases are not so because the criminals do it out of sheer cussedness, but because they have got taints in them of this imbecility or those kind of things. I very often feel that it is very hard lines that criminals should be punished for things for which really they are not morally or mentally responsible because of some taint they have got in their character through those who were their ancestors. I hold here a book called "The Measurement of Intelligence," written by one of the most eminent professors of education in the United States of America, a professor of education in the Leland Stanford University, which is one of the finest universities in the States, and this book has an introduction from a gentleman who is equally well known in English educational circles, namely, Professor Findlay, and he recommends this book to be read by all who are interested in education.
As a result of thorough psychological investigation into the cases of the inmates of reformatories and so forth in the United States we come across the following, and the book is full of similar paragraphs. At the State Reformatory, Jefferson, Indiana, a professor, in an unusually thorough psychological study of 1,000 young adult prisoners, found a proportion of feeble-minded in some shape or form not far from 50 per cent. They give case after case and figure after figure, but let me give one or two cases which have been thoroughly traced out. He says one Martin Kallikak was a youthful soldier in the revolutionary war. At a tavern frequented by the militia he met a feeble-minded girl, by whom he became the father of a feeble-minded son. In 1912 there were 480 known direct descendants of this temporary union. It is known that 36 of these were illegitimate, that 33 were sexually immoral, that 24 were confirmed alcoholics, and that eight kept houses of ill-fame. The explanation of so much immorality will be obvious when it is stated that of the 480 descendants, 143 were known to be feeble-minded, and that many of the others were of questionable mentality. This was not owing to the father, because he married a respectable girl afterwards and brought up a large family, and out of all their descendants there is not a single sign of any of these things I have mentioned. Now I come to another case. We find here a family called the Nam family, whoso whole history has been thoroughly gone into, and that of their descendants. They give equally dark pictures as regards criminality, licentiousness, and alcoholism, and although feeble-minded-ness was not as fully investigated in these families as in the Kallikaks, the evidence is strong that it was a leading trait. The 784 Nams who were traced included 187 alcoholics, 232 women and 199 men known to be licentious, and 40 who became prisoners. It is estimated that these cases have already cost the State nearly one and a quarter millions of dollars.
It seems to me that we now should take some steps to set up a Committee of this House to inquire into these cases and see whether some means cannot be found to keep them in check. When I spoke of this question of education when the Estimates were up before, I asked the Minister whether he could not see his way to have a Committee to go into this matter.